For several years now I have been a Dungeon Master, or DM, for several groups of adventuring parties in several different table top role playing games. There are several things that no matter what game system you run, be it Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, or even Feast Of Legends (the role playing game made by Wendy’s. Yes, THAT Wendy’s) that will help you to improve your craft at the table.
Do not be afraid to try things.
The rules to most every game I have run acknowledge that they are more of a guideline, and can be adjusted for your group. If you want a level 1 party to fight a dragon, let them fight a dragon. You will have to do some adjusting to the dragon’s power to make it a fair fight, but if you feel up to it, go ahead and do it. Adjusting monster stats is a good first thing to try, and most of the larger published materials have instructions on how they recommend doing it. It can not only be fun, but very rewarding to players when you try something that they have not yet done, and it works. It can also not be fun if it doesn’t work.
Don’t be afraid to apologize.
You are going to try things that fail. You are going to kill party members. If something you try doesn’t work, and fails horribly, that is ok. Apologize, talk to your players, and if needed retcon the encounter and keep going. Players are people too, and will make mistakes, and acknowledging this will help everyone to have a better game experience. But don’t apologize for everything, only gross miscalculations on your part.
Learn from other Dungeon Masters.
Nobody knows everything, that is just how it is. I have been doing this for years and still I learn new tricks from more experienced DMs. YouTube is a great resource for finding inspiration. To get you started here are 3 of my go to favorites:
You are God, the Devil and Bob so enjoy it!
You control the world! MUWAHAHAHA! So if your characters foolishly make a deal with Bael, one of the Dukes of the Nine Hells, it is you that gets to decide the terms of the deal, and how(un)favorable they are to the players. It is also you who the player will pray too before going into the dragon’s lair to complete a quest. At the same time, you are also random tavern sweep that the players decide is their best friend in the whole world, even though you threw him in there to have a convenient plot hook, but now you are stuck having to name Cecil, and make sure he interacts with the players when they are in town, because Cecil is now their mascot and they love him… it would be a shame if something happened to Cecil…
That’s it. Try things, apologize if they mess up, learn from others, and have fun! seems pretty straight forward, and it is. It is also super fun and enjoyable!
Buying all of the books and dice and miniatures and extra stuff can get out of hand, just ask my wife and bank account. So if you are looking to legally get started but don’t know if you will continue playing here is your start:
The first link is to a free RPG system that is funny, and well written. The second is to a web based dice roller that can easily be used if you do not own a set of dice.