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5+1 Things to consider when hosting a game

Written by Ace - Published on November 19, 2015

Owlbear… I never know how to begin so that takes care of that.  I am Ace, you’ll get to know about me as this column continues. I run a monthly D&D 5E game at my house. Turnover is low, drama (without initiative rolls) is nonexistent, and fun is high. I am always surprised by how many questions I get asked about how I can have it run so smoothly. So I thought it would start with how I run things. Different games have different needs. A 4 person theatre of the mind game will have much different needs than a 6+ person game with minis and maps galore. If you run a game like either of those options of something in between there is a lot of overlap.


Space: this is the hardest part, everything else you can fix but if you don’t have a good room it’s going to be a pain.  You have to keep in mind the purpose of what you are doing. Think of war rooms, or conference rooms, even classrooms…Focused.

I have a sunroom off the back of my house, it is pretty perfect for running adventures.  I have a small bar off to the side for putting food and drinks on keeping them off the table.  Three large windows let in natural light and I added a few lamps and lights for when it gets darker. There is space on the table for a mega map,  I added a slightly taller kitchen table to one end of the long table where I can sprawl out my DM stuff or be a bit tighter and add two more players (usually I have the newbies sit there so I can guide them till they can fly). Players are comfortable but focused as a group.


Atmosphere: This is one of the things that perplexes a lot of hosts. I know how much work it is set up and run a game but… To any person that has never played before to them you are having a party. What else are they going to expect, if they have never done this before?  Dude your house should be clean (especially the bathroom, ew), inviting, and for Pete’s sake make sure to slap anyone down if they are being racist, homophobic, or misogynistic. I always try to have a summary of events so far and a list of NPC’s known to players at everybody’s seat. It helps nervous newbies catch up and gets the old pros telling anecdotes, breaking the ice while filling in content. Speaking of newbies, always do a round robin introduction real name, then the 10 second history of my character.


Food: I always try to have some snacks set out, nothing crazy some chips or cheese and crackers. I’ve been the hungry guy sitting next to the dude snacking the whole game, it sucks.  I have a simple policy: bring a snack to pass and/or $5 for pizza.  I don’t deal with change or any of that. I purposely don’t count the money while people are there, I just set it in a pile of to the side. I always let people know that if there is extra money it goes for minis, maps, and various gaming supplies.  Some of my players throw me $10-20 as a tip or whatever for the game.  I don’t really comment on it because I don’t want anyone to feel that they have to do that, but it is a really nice of them.


Planning: Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Do it, you can’t complain about your players taking forever if you as DM take 10 minutes to run your turn. Respect rolls down hill, however long you take multiply it by 4.  That is about how long your players will feel they can take on their turn. I will add that I try to own everyones characters.  I have a Google Drive for our campaign and can print off character sheets if they get lost (and they always do) I don’t keep track of treasure and such so if they lose their character sheet then I guess they were robbed in their sleep.


Follow Up: We have a dedicated Facebook page where I: post polls, offer contests for players generating NPCs and locations for me, post shout outs for good roleplaying, and any 5E content I see that will help my players have more fun. This works two fold, I get tons of feedback, and since we meet once a month it keeps things fresh in their minds. Most importantly, it gives me and my players accountability. They can’t complain about the session being too combat heavy when they never chimed in on the vote of what you want to see more of.  On the same token, excessive DM storytelling can cripple the fun of a homebrew, so to check myself I have feedback on how to craft the direction of future sessions.

With new players I always send them a message directly and compliment something they did at the table, ask if they have any questions, and get a feeling for what they thought. New people won’t say or do as much as others at the table. Sometimes they will want to drop out because they feel like they aren’t contributing to the group. The people that feel that way are EXACTLY the type of people you want to have at your table.  These people are putting the group first before they even know what the group is. They will show up prepared, read your notes, consider your suggestions, and become clutch players very quickly. Just let them know that they did great and I usually saw the table loudmouth started the same way little joke and they are back next month.


X Factor: I am always trying to mix things up with my players. One week, we did an introduction where their characters came to a canyon they could not pass. On the other side was a mid-level enforcer with his Hobgoblin soldiers. They had surrounded a group of adventurers.  I passed out 1st level characters to everyone and let them try to fight their way out of it. I watched as they instantly became attached to these new characters fighting in vain for their survival. Then they all wanted to avenge them.  

In our next session the PC’s are trying to gather followers to remove the wizard that went all Palpatine on the region. At the same time, a former PC Druid turned NPC escaped before they were imprisoned and went to face off against the wizard alone (the wizard and the druid founded the Westerly Wizards group together). So while the PCs are running around the various settlements, I will hand out the druids character sheet. Once per round a player will play as the druid then pass the character to the next player going around.  The idea is that they will have a better idea of how to measure how much time they can spend gathering help.  Then charge up the mountain and try to save their friend and free the settlement.


I hope you enjoyed reading this and you found something you could take from it. I’d love to hear feedback from other DM’s and players. I always love to steal good ideas. See you at the table! -Ace

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Written by Ace

I’ve been gaming for about 20 years now. I run a monthly 5E game at my house. When I’m not trying to think like an Owlbear, I run a Teen Travel Camp for the JCC and substitute teach to cover the newest order of minis. I focus mostly on creating a table that is open for everyone. Oh and my mom says I’m cool.

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2 Responses to “5+1 Things to consider when hosting a game”
  1. Rock Stone says:

    Really good tips! I’m planning on starting a campaign that will run about once every five weeks, so the Facebook idea is golden.

    One criticism, though: spelling, grammar, and punctuation issues made this post a little difficult for me to read. Maybe a proofread?


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