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How to be a better story teller as a DM





The Dungeon Master is ultimately a story teller, their role is to create a world for the players to inhabit, to explore and through their own actions to change in some way. A Dungeon Master (DM) is the person responsible for creating and controlling the overall narrative of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. The DM sets the stage for the adventure, presents challenges and obstacles for the players to overcome, and controls the actions of non-player characters (NPCs) in the game. As such, the DM is effectively the storyteller of the campaign, guiding the players through the story and shaping the events that unfold.


The role of the DM is central to the play experience of Dungeons & Dragons, as the DM is responsible for creating the world in which the players' characters live and interact. The DM must be able to think on their feet and improvise as necessary, as the players' actions can often lead to unexpected outcomes. Additionally, the DM must be able to present the story in a compelling and engaging way, using descriptive language and appropriate tone to bring the world to life for the players.



In addition to acting as the storyteller and controlling the actions of non-player characters (NPCs) in a Dungeons & Dragons campaign, the dungeon master (DM) has several other responsibilities. These may include:

  1. Managing the game mechanics: The DM is responsible for ensuring that the game is played according to the rules, and for interpreting and applying those rules as necessary. This includes rolling dice, keeping track of character stats, and determining the outcomes of various actions and events.

  2. Providing challenges and obstacles: The DM is responsible for creating challenges and obstacles for the players to overcome in the course of their adventure. These may include battles with monsters, puzzles to solve, or other challenges that test the players' skills and abilities.

  3. Setting the tone and mood: The DM is responsible for establishing the tone and mood of the game, and for setting the stage for the adventure. This may involve describing the environment, providing background information about the world and its inhabitants, and creating a sense of tension or excitement as appropriate.

  4. Managing player interactions: The DM is responsible for facilitating interactions between the players and their characters, as well as between the characters and the NPCs. This may involve acting as a mediator in disputes, or helping to facilitate role-playing and character development.

  5. Creating and adapting the story: The DM is responsible for crafting the overall narrative of the campaign, and for adapting the story as necessary in response to the players' actions. This may involve creating new plot twists, introducing new characters or challenges, or altering the course of the story as needed.

If you're new to DMing, this is a lot to take in, and it is important to see it as a craft that is learned gradually over time. You wouldn't expect any other art form such as performing music or drawing graphic novels to be something you could just do instantly, and DMing is an equally skilled activity. The good news is that as long as you like to have fun with your players, you can learn on the job and get things wrong as you get them right.


In this post we're going to focus on the art of story telling exclusively, as this is the glue that holds the game session together. If you can't tell a convincing story, there won't be much of a game to speak of. Below are some easy wins, along with some examples of how to put them into practice.


1. Use descriptive language: Describe the sights, sounds, and other sensory details of the environment and the actions of the characters to help players visualize and become immersed in the story.


Example:


'As the players enter the dark forest, they are immediately struck by the musty smell of damp earth and the sound of rustling leaves underfoot. The trees tower above them, their branches twisted and gnarled, casting eerie shadows on the forest floor. A cool breeze whispers through the leaves, sending a shiver down their spines. Suddenly, a twig snaps and the players turn to see a group of goblins sneaking up on them, their beady eyes glinting in the dim light. The goblins hiss and snarl, baring their sharp teeth as they close in for the attack. The players ready their weapons and prepare for battle, their senses heightened by the danger lurking in the shadows.'


Imagine you are describing to your players the movie that they are in, you are giving their imaginations tool clues, hints and prompts that they need in order to create a rich and compelling picture.


2. Create compelling NPCs: Develop interesting and well-rounded non-player characters (NPCs) with their own motivations, goals, and personalities to interact with the players and advance the plot.


Example:


Let's say the players are hired by a wealthy merchant to retrieve a valuable object from a dangerous ruin. The merchant, who we'll call Skaar, hires the players and gives them the details of the job.

To make Skaar a more compelling NPC, you could give him his own motivations and goals beyond simply hiring the players to do a job. Maybe Skaar is desperate to retrieve the object because it holds sentimental value to him and he's willing to risk anything to get it back. Or perhaps Skaar has ulterior motives for wanting the object, such as using it to gain power or leverage over his competitors.

In addition to his motivations, you can also give Skaar a distinct personality. Maybe he's arrogant and dismissive towards the players, or perhaps he's nervous and anxious about the potential dangers of the ruin. By giving Skaar his own personality and motivations, he becomes a more well-rounded and interesting character that the player s can interact with and react to.

As the players progress through the adventure and interact with Skaar, his motivations and personality can come into play and shape the direction of the story. For example, if Skaar is revealed to have ulterior motives for wanting the object, the players may have to decide whether or not they want to continue working for him. Or, if Skaar is anxious about the dangers of the ruin, the players may have to reassure him or try to calm him down. By giving Skaar his own goals and personality, you can create a more dynamic and engaging story for the players to participate in.

3. Establish clear goals and objectives: Make sure the players know what they are working towards and what they need to do to achieve it. Sometimes players just don't know what it is they are meant to be doing. They reach a moment which is similar to the experience of losing the plot of a convoluted movie.


"So why are we going there?"


"Why is the bad guy trying to do that?"


"What's the importance of doing this?"


Whilst having mysteries to unravel is a key part of DMing, having a party confused about what they're meant to be doing and why doing it is important is a real problem in game play and it leads to a demotivated group. Players who don't understand the objectives in the game stop seeing its relevance for their character.


Example:


The players are a group of adventurers who are hired by a wealthy merchant to retrieve a valuable item that has been stolen from him. The merchant tells the players that the item is a rare and powerful magical artifact, and that it was stolen by a group of thieves who are known to be hiding out in a nearby cave. To establish clear goals and objectives, you might give the players a list of tasks to complete:


1. Find the thieves' hideout: The players must gather information and use their skills to locate the thieves' hideout in the cave.


2. Infiltrate the hideout: Once the players have found the hideout, they must figure out a way to get inside without being caught.


3. Retrieve the artifact: The players must search the hideout and find the artifact, which is being guarded by the thieves.


4. Escape with the artifact: Once the players have retrieved the artifact, they must escape from the hideout and