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The 6 A’s of DMing

Written by Expy - Published on June 11, 2008


Heading into a session with the right attitude makes a world of difference. Be mentally ready to improvise. Let go of your real life problems and focus on having fun and making sure everyone has fun.  Be ready to spend a lot of energy as a DM – at least to match your players’ energy level.  Acknowledge your players bright ideas and try to be just when whupping their dumb asses if they don’t think things through.


Or hopefull “aptitudes”.  Plural.  Know what your strengths are.  If you’re new at DMing, well, pay attention to what works for you and learn as fast as you can.  Knowing your comfort zone will help you run a smooth game.  It will also help you be better prepared when you get out of your comfort zone.


Who doesn’t like the organized chaos of the battlefield?  I know I do.  It is fun and eats big chunks of a game so it reduces prep time (most of the time).  D&D is based around combat mechanics – that’s all I need to know.  There will always be at least 1 combat every session.


I suck at acting, but I do what I can.  Namely, I roleplay caricatural quirks and annoying vocal habits.  Are you a good actor?  Then use your superior skills!  Just make sure you don’t larp.


Need a good guideline to know if the game you planned will rock?  Ask yourself: is it filled with awesomeness?  Yes – you’re good to go.  No – your game needs more red dragons!


Build up some D&D hype.  Talk about your upcoming game.  The best time to call your players to pump them up is when you sit down for your weekly (monthly, yearly) prep time and don’t feel inspired. Instead of procrastinating and cleaning your whole house, call your buddies and get pumped together!

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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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17 Responses to “The 6 A’s of DMing”
  1. baldorc says:

    Mmmmm…. Pretty generic advice. I like the catchy title though. I agree with everything except the “awesome” part. You can’t always drop a red dragons on your PCs. What if they’re level 1?

  2. Adalore says:

    Well then Bladorc, You have the Party become employed under the dragon some how, like getting Half the loot, but High gain missions. :P

  3. Fishercatt says:

    You’re absolutely right, Yax. You should never clean your house when you could be doing game prep!!

  4. Juan Navarro says:

    As far as the acting goes: crappy accents and even bad stereotypes go a long away. some times not saying tooo much but saying it in posh English voice will be enough to immerse your player and really get it going…

  5. Alphadean says:

    Red Dragons are acceptable at level 1. Its the perfect way to make player piss there pants and act right. Just have one do a fly by to ask for directions. Trust me it works to get the party in line when they get a little distracted. The other thing you need to have is a D20 of Discipline. Between the D20 and Red Dragons, you’ll have an AWESOME session

  6. Kane says:

    After I get done working on the next weeks session, I sit back in my easy chair, close my eyes, and go through the whole adventure in my mind, from a players point of view. This helps me to see if I have enough “awsomeness” included, or if I need to spice something up abit. The best part of my games, are the group interaction, for all that I plan, the players bring and add alot of “fluff”. One example is our human warlord, who during the creation stages, some how got changed into a female, who sounds alot like Dr. Girlfriend from the Venture Bros. Of course this opened up for alot of side roleplaying in the town inn, so our first session with 4E was a blast!

  7. Mad Willy says:

    Man I agree! I do all of the above, as well as have pics of EVERYTHING and every npc etc. I also do a weekly E-mail to get the party pumped. I am including this week’s email below for anyone to view:

    Once more into the swamp my friends….

    Last game, the party narrowly avoided being blown up along with the ship when the missiles inside the launch tubes finally touched off from the spreading ship blaze, causing catastrophic failure of the warp drive. This combined with the 7 fusion bottles in the power droids in the cargo bay and the hidden stock of 1000# of high explosive made for an impressive blast! A 2000′ hemisphere of swamp was instantly annihilated transforming it and the ship into white hot molecules and a 200 mph shock wave that traveled for miles into the swamp carrying mud, steam, vapor, plants, leaves, small animals, and hot metallic meteoric fragments raining down all over the place. The party having the forethought to be a little under 2 miles away at the time was only washed over by the tidal wave of mud and scalding vapor. A few minor burns, some scrapes, a mouthful of nasty swamp water, having all their radios, compasses, and the ultra expensive stealth suit shorted out to useless garbage by the EMP, and one ruined boat later, and the party was ready for action. If that action was a slow slog through the wee hours of the night, sleepy and hurt. After walking a few hours in the pitch darkness through stinking effluent, sucking mud, clouds of biting flies (merrily laying their tiny eggs in convenient PC’s hair/fur etc) the non-hearing impaired members of the party, heard the tell tale sound of a high altitude helicopter approaching. Given warning, the party hid amongst the varied foliage, as the chopper flew about using a searchlight to light up the jungle night. Luck was with our heroes, as they all succeeded in their respective hide checks! So to make it more interesting, Little Lilly decided to take a grenade out of her bag, turn invisible, and fly way way up to 1200 feet altitude where the roaming chopper was cordoning off the area in a search pattern. As she moved to intersect the beast she could see it was big. A huge black twin rotor heavy hauler outfitted with guns and various sensor arrays as well as a big ass spotlight scanning below turning night into day on the swamp floor. The thing easily could haul a squad or 2 of troops as well. trying to fly closer to it, Lilly could not fight the downdraft to approach close enough to gain access to the copter. However, the Techno magic assisted gunner did notice her ping his detect inviso alarm and opened up with his rotary 50 cal spitting death at 600 rounds per minute in her general vicinity. Lilly dodged her ASS OFF to avoid the dozens of high caliber bullets any one of which would have turned her instantly to taco meat. So down below, the party sees the helicopter spotlight waver and then machine gun fire spits out from the aircraft hundreds of meters above them. Though no bullets are shredding the general vicinity, the rakzashan tiger man ,Kadeku, panics and takes flight running out from cover under the bright spotlight and diving into the brackish water. This is noticed by the helo above, however, they are too busy turning around to get a bead on that pesky fairy to do anything about the newly found enemy below. Lilly decides to fly up above the copter where they can’t shoot her just as the sniper below decides to take a few well aimed shots at it as well. 2 lightning bright near misses tell the helo that the group below needs some TLC as well. So ignoring the invisible fairy for now (she’s so little, what harm can she be?) the chopper descends to get a better view. It costs them their searchlight as the particle beam rifle blows it into hot vapor. The crew try to radio home base, but their radio was EMP’d too . Meanwhile Lilly fights the downdraft of the rotor blades to get perilously close to the armored aircraft from above. 2 more particle beams hit and burn the copter’s fuselage as they descend further to bring the party below within the range of their rotary guns. Lilly descends too staying right on top of the helo ignoring the roar of its twin spinning rotors of doom. She positions herself, pulls the pin, and drops the grenade. It passes by the whizzing blades and explodes just below the belly of the copter. Metal fragments ping off the thick hull plates doing no significant damage. The same cannot be said for the 4th and 5th blasts from the PBR below as they burn hull plating and redundant avionics. The pilot says “Fuck this, I wanna live!” and pushes the throttles to the firewall to gain altitude fast. Like a beach ball held under water, the chopper soars straight up right into Lilly! The blades tear her up like pit bull with a wet paper towel, or at least they would have, had she not had a Fate Point to burn up instead.
    The party looked up into the dark night to hear the chopper limp away into the night.
    Some more marching later found them dropping exhausted onto a muddy island to get some well needed shuteye. 8 hours later, the party is up by noon and ready for a new day in the swamp. 3 PC’s have had the audacity to come down with the wet congested cough and splitting headache of Swamp Fever! Everyone is hungry, dirty, thirsty wet, miserable and covered with dozens of tiny new friends….

    This week:
    The party gets off their wet dirty duffs and hopefully puts one athlete’s foot in front of the other to move further (into? out of?) the swamp of perdition. The animals and monsters have had all night to get over their initial fear from the giant explosion last night, so they do not have to cower in their lairs any longer. Nope monsters gotta make a living too, and nothing satisfies better than fresh meat!

    Game ON!

    See you all Friday!


    Mad William OUT!

  8. Yax says:

    @Fishercatt: I sense sarcasm. :P

    @Mad Willy: Holy Xorn! That’s a novel!

    I have more red dragon goodies coming up this week. You won’t believe the amount of red dragon coolness I experienced yesterday. Stay tuned.

  9. Cyclone says:

    Hey Yax, what about Assets?

    Like props, dm guides, handbooks, die, etc.

    @ Mad Willy: Wow, that “recap” really got me immersed into the story and pumped.

  10. Yax says:

    I like it – Assets is the 7th “A” of DMing.

  11. Red dragons at 1st level? Pfft. I once started a campaign with an escape from a villain’s lair, in which the first level PCs had to sneak past the sleeping tarrasque. Those who’d played in my previous campaign should have remembered it’d be there, but did not. Mind you, there was no way they could have awakened it, but they didn’t know that…

  12. StingRay says:

    Having just been directed to the site by the latest DMing, I thought I’d share my favorite gaming story of all time. My party was exploring some caves that I had designed. They walked into one room and I described a pile of treasure lying on the floor, and then a high-pitched shriek as a red dragon leapt from a pedestal and dove at them. They were tripping over themselves trying to run away! Every single player yelped, jumped up (NO LARPING!) and started shouting that they were running away. It was fantastic.

    That was only the second or third game I’d ever run of D&D, and the party was all 3rd level. The dragon was only a CR 4, maybe 5, and as such would have been beatable, but all they saw was a red dragon, and they freaked! It was sweet.


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