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How to improve your DMing in 12.5 seconds

Written by Expy - Published on August 10, 2009

New DM trick made my games instantly better

I recently tried something new. Before a game I tell players:

“We are building a story together. You can make assumptions about the situations and encounters your characters are in and my job is to go along with whatever you’re assuming unless it directly contradicts something that was already established.”

I tried it twice so far and it has a major effect on my session. Players stop asking the DM for trivial information. If they’re in an inn, they assume there are sharp knives nearby if they need one. If they’re in a mansion, they assume there is a expensive art pieces and tapestries if that’s needed for their next smart surprise move to work. Whenever they need something from their environment, players are now free to add to the world, build the story, and move the plot forward without having to double-check minor details with the DM.

Do you have easy-to-execute DM tricks that make your games better?

Mythic Party at GenCon

Steve from AvatarArt and Justin from Mythic Design are holding an event called Mythic Party. Steve was gracious enough to offer his 1,000 square feet Mythic Party suite at the Hilton in Indy for my D&D zombie murder mystery game at Gencon.

There is a spot available in that game for a Dungeon Mastering reader! Here’s the game info and how to enter the mini-contest to win the last spot in the game

  • Nothing to prepare, if you’re the lucky winner you just have to show up
  • The game starts at 8:45pm on Thursday August 13 and ends around midnight.
  • Confirmed players: Nick from DungeonMastering.com, Vanir & Dante & Stupid Ranger from StupidRanger.com, Micah from Obsidian Portal, and yours truly.
  • If you’re interested, send me an email and tell me why you want to join us (keep it under 100 words). Include your phone number and I’ll be giving one lucky gamer a phone call on Wednesday.

I’ll see you in Indy!

PS: Follow me on twitter over the GenCon weekend: @dmyax

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Written by Expy

Meet Expy The Red Dragon

Expy is the mascot for DungeonMastering.com and the real mastermind behind Expy Games. He likes to hoard treasure, terrorize neighbors, burn down villages, and tell white dragon jokes..

No matter how fearful the legends claim dragons are, they always end up being defeated in 5 rounds by adventuring parties they encounter. That’s what dragons are – experience points for the heroes in your Dungeons & Dragon party. And this mascot is no different, hence the name Expy.

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13 Responses to “How to improve your DMing in 12.5 seconds”
  1. Olan Suddeth says:

    Excellent tip. I’ve done the same thing (though on a much larger scale).

    Years ago, I decided that I didn’t care for Forgotten Realms or Greyhawk – they were simply too “magic-y” for my tastes. I wanted a game setting where magic was, you know, *magical*, where divine miracles were *miraculous*. So, at the ripe old age of fourteen, I decided to start a new campaign setting.

    I decided to just paint the broad strokes, and let the players help me fill in the details. Eventually, I got a few other DMs involved, and the result is the world of Audalis, which is a pretty fun (and detailed) place to play, if I do say so myself.

    It’s amazing what players are willing to do if you simply allow them to do so.

  2. Yax says:

    Yeah, letting players do some world-building – by drawing a detailed map of places they’ve been for example, is a great and easy way to add to a game.

  3. halflingzombierunforyourlife says:

    That zombie murder mystery game seems fun. I hope I get the spot.

  4. Bald Orc says:

    Here’s my tip:

    I write my whole campaign on index cards. It forces me to focus on planning the important stuff and not fret on details. I save lots of time.

  5. Yax says:

    @baldorc: That sounds like a good idea. I’d do that if I weren’t running my games from my laptop. Maybe I can try to limit my notes to the essential and save even more time.

  6. WhitDnD says:

    I run a sand box campaign and in doing so i have an endless stream of locales and NPC’s showing up all the time.

    My biggest help so far is getting my PC’s to design my cities/towns/castles as the explore them, i take what they are looking for and place it where it makes sense. After the game i expand on what was encountered and save it for next time.

    The starting city started with a Hotel, an Underground Weapons dealer and a Private Watch Base (for the Nobles only). Now it has over 38 locales. If time was more available to me i would built the citiies before hand but its been exciting seeing these areas come to life in ways i never imagined and keeps myself as a DM interested which keeps my PC’s interested.

  7. Yax says:

    @WhitDnD: I think the way you do it is both efficient and fun.

  8. Nick says:

    Genius Yax! The mark of a selfless DM – I’d love to play in your game any day.

  9. Yax says:

    Thanks Nick.

  10. WhitDnD says:

    Thanks Yax, appreciate the encouragement.

    Keep up the awesome work

  11. dinkster says:

    I do something similar to what Olan was talking about. If a character is good enough to come up with a detailed (and somewhat original) history about themselves I’ll reward them by adding the details of that history (city names, NPC names, etc) to the world. If it contains a good subplot, I’ll work it in to the storyline. This really encourages players to participate more and gives them more of a vested interest in the game world and plot.

  12. AvatarArt says:

    Mythic Party is back for 2010, bigger & better. Check out our site for more info + follow us on Twitter for updates: http://twitter.com/MythicParty


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  1. […] How to improve your DMing in 12.5 seconds This is some great advice from Yax. The simple saying he starts his games with really helps put the players into a cooperative mood. Not just cooperating with each other, but with the GM as well. […]

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