Perfecting Your Craft 01 – Read, Read, Read

In the first in this new series, we’ll talk about the most obvious thing you can do to advance your skills as a Dungeon Master. If you really want to have fun with this post, take a shot every time I say the word “Read”*

As a new Dungeon Master there is a lot to read before you get started but the amount of required reading starts to fall off fairly quickly. So, let’s simplify things a little.

Let me state one assumption before you continue. I am a new Dungeon Master. If you’re reading this blog I am assuming that you are the same, or that you at least understand who it is aimed at. I therefore work on the basis that the DM is using a pre-written module. It is my opinion that a new Dungeon Master should not be writing a homebrew module from scratch and my posts reflect that.

What you need to read before you start playing.

There are three ways that you can start your career as a Dungeon Master.

  1. Purchase the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition Starter Set – Read pages 1 to 23.
  2. Download the basic rules free from the official website – Read pages 60 to 83.
  3. Buy a copy of the Players Handbook – Read pages 173 to 202.

As you can see, when you strip away the spell descriptions and character building rules that’s not actually a huge amount.

Where you do need to put some effort in is in reading through your content. If this is a small module then I’d recommend reading through the whole thing from start to finish. If you’re reading through one of the hardback modules then you should read through the first act completely. You can quickly skim through the rest so you know what to expect.

At some point, your players will present you with their character sheets. If you’re rolling your characters together do that in a separate session before you play. I recommend you ask for their character sheets a week or two before your first session. Then, you can drill into the specifics of what they are likely to have at Level 1. You’ll probably need to understand no more than 8 spells or abilities.

You DO NOT need to read anything else at this point, no matter what anyone tells you. There is no value in understanding any class which your players won’t be playing. You do not need to know what spells they get access to at Level 3 and certainly not what they get at Level 20. That is a waste of time.

In your Session Zero, you should specify where you will allow rules from, and you should limit that to the content you own or have access to.

*Don’t do this. Terrible idea!

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