New Series for Beginner Game Masters.

I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time. I have written nearly 900 blog posts, most of them about my experiences as a Game Master. I’m quite proud of the latest ones I write, yet I noticed that many them were a reflection of  how advanced I had become as a Game Master. I thought there would be an interest for a new series aimed at those with less experience or thinking about becoming Game Masters.  Some of these back to basics lessons and insights would likely be of use to more experienced GMs willing to see gaming through a different perspective than their own.  That’s how I realized, 10 years ago, that after 20 years as a GM, I still had so much to learn about the craft.

I still do to this day.

I love the craft of preparing and running roleplaying games. I want to encourage people to join the ranks. I hope this series helps GMs both new and experienced.

Given that D&D and its direct offshoots are the entryway games for many new players, I plan to focus on them when I use examples and case studies. I’ll also dig into other games when circumstances call for it. Many, less known but no less excellent RPGs exist out there. Some may even be better suited to the natural styles of new GMs than D&D.  Of course, I’ll also link back and quote from my own material… I’m not going to let so much go to waste.

So here’s a quick intro to the series.

Zen and the Art of Dungeon Mastering

D&D may have been published 40 years ago, not all DMs have refined their craft for that long. Every week, new people work up thier courage to take on the mantle of the Dungeon Master but often feel at a loss about where to look for help in the sea of forums, blogs, wikis and community pages. This column offers to be a welcoming entry to the art of DMing through real-life stories, significant DMing lessons, core concepts and insightful “Top X”-like article.

Leveraging over 30 years of experience as a DM and 5 as an established renowned blogger, I plan to infuse the series with cheerful enthusiasm and a laid back, conversationalist tone that humanize the DMing experience. I’d share my good and painful lessons and that of other DMs I know or would talk to.  Guest bloggers would come and share their own stories on subjects they care about.

All posts would be in the 500 words range, some possibly broken in multi-part series. The target audience would be new DMs and lapsed DMs including those who want to start playing with their children.

Example subjects:

  • Before you buy a game
  • Your first game
  • Choosing published adventures
  • Building a campaign (Series)
  • The Rule of Cool (Revisited)
  • Animal Farm (Giving players control of the story)
  • You are not as bad as you think you are
  • You are not as good s you think you are
  • DMing authority: What it is, what it isin’t
  • Introducing your kids to RPGs
  • Playing games with children, tweenagers and teenagers
  • The 7 habits of highly efficient DMs
  • Walking in their low soft leather boots (Seeing the game from a players’ perspective)
  • When games go bad
  • Dealing with difficult Players
  • When Real Life Interferes With the Game
  • Introversion/Extroversion, how does that factor in as a GM?

Please don’t hesitate to give me suggestions for further subjects and let me know if the concept of such a series would be of interest to you or friends of yours.


  1. I am an old GM looking to get back into it. I haven’t played since AD&D 2E but am looking to start my own PBP campaign in D&DNext. I’d be very interested in this series as it seems like it’s all new to me as I read up more and more on it.

  2. Sounds pretty cool 🙂

  3. Gargs454 says:

    I agree that this could certainly be a good series. I know that even though I’ve been GM’ing for over 10 years now, it still sometimes helps to have the basic reminders. Often times we spend so much time trying to do something clever that we forget the basics. :p

  4. @John: Do you have any particular concerns about going back to the craft? What do you think has changed in a decade that might require you to shore up your skills?

    @Eric: Merci!

    @Gargs: Duly noted! I will keep in mind that experienced GMs will also be reading this. I will also ask you guys your opinions and additional info/insights/links in the comments to complement my posts. Thanks

  5. Sounds like a GREAT series. I’ve been playing for a couple of years now and I’m considering getting into DM’ing so I’d be very interested to learn from your experience! One subject I’d be particularly interested in how much prep to put into each session. I want the players to have a good experience but I also don’t want a second job. In that same vein, some tips on improvising when the players want to go somewhere completly different than where I’ve planed on going.

    Looking forward to it!

  6. I would love to see this. I am new to RPGs and am interested in being a DM.

  7. The issues I foresee are not related to story but implementation. For instance, putting together a challenging encounter. I’ve seen posts about the number of NPC’s per number of levels above the average party member, etc. but I can’t believe that scales well (granted, I read that PC’s in D&DNext are a bit overpowered). Also, large scale encounters are also an unknown to me however I know I want a lot of wars between ruling families in the campaign I’m creating. I am about set on Obsidian Portal for its base however opinions/reviews on other sites would be helpful. I have tons of ideas but not sure how much room I have in the comments here!

  8. Looking forward to reading this, Chatty. It’s good to see you back in the blogger seat.

  9. highbulp says:

    Very excited about this project Chatty! Now I’m just frustrated that the articles aren’t already written and available yet! 😉

  10. Chatty,

    I too am looking forward to this. Your enthusiasm, and experience will serve this topic well. As someone who has been running games infrequently and is always looking to up his game…I welcome the chance to read your work and try to bring your ideas into my toolbox.

  11. Wow! I’m amazed at the interest garnered by this post so far and the appearance of so many new/returning commenters. I wish to welcome you all!

    It’s good to be back! I plan to publishing the next post from this series early next week.

  12. Woot, I am experienced, but I just like reading your stuff. 500 words, though, seems pretty short, especially for some one as Chatty as yourself. Let yourself ramble my friend, we will lap it up!

  13. Joe Masucci says:

    That sounds like a great idea. I would be very intertested in reading these posts. Thanks in advance.

  14. This is so time-appropriate for me. It looks like I might be drafted as the GM for our group of newbies (I have the 2nd most experience, which isn’t much, and the current GM just had his first kid).

    The topics listed above seem like exactly the stuff I’m thinking about right now.

  15. Sounds great! Maybe when it’s done you could compile this into a book.

  16. Trinite says:

    This sounds like a great idea!

  17. B.J. Morgan says:

    I just DM’d my first game last week! I would love to read more about the craft as a beginner.

  18. Venerable dm says:

    Chatty- please consider emphasizing land mines that we old school Dm types stepped on and giving examples. Think like Tacitus “their drills are bloodless battles and their battles bloody drills.”

  19. Like many people here, I am just starting out. I also DMed for the first time last week. I have been playing D&D 4e for about one year now and I love it. My last group fell apart due to real life/time management problems. I have formed a new one and taken on the DM mantle.
    I just wanted to say that this column looks like it is going to help me out a lot and I really appreciate it. I am anxious to learn, and it is amazing to have such a good starting point. The internet can be overwhelming sometimes….


  1. […] you need help with your GMing skills? Check out this new series for beginner GMs from The Chatty DM @ Critical Hits. I’m looking forward to reading all the “Zen and the Art of Dungeon Mastering” […]

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