DM Workshop: When you V.A.L.U.E input

Hey all,

since we’ve been struggling a bit to fit all the players at tables, I’ve been trying to think of solutions for the issue: more players than DMs. What I’m gonna try to do is help folk who want to (or already do) DM to feel more confident and excited to DM. I’d like to try making a DM workshop focused on the failures and foibles of DMing, on the nitty gritty number crunching of CR, inter and intra personal of NPCs etc.

My plan would be to have some suggestions thrown my way what folk interested in DMing would like to hear, talk about and discuss, I’d prep some matieral and we’d spend an evening on the issue, how to handle it at the table and how to improve pre and post session.

Soooo, if anyone is interested, please do post :smiley: I’m more than happy to have the Workshop be Monday, Wednesday or Thursday evenings.


I’d be very interested in that workshop. I’ve been thinking on and off whether I should DM at some point. But I always get very nervous with that idea, I have very little experience with it and the few times I did it didn’t feel that good, or at the least I didn’t get the best of feedbacks, which discouraged me.

Will thursday work for you? Cause I’d be there

I would also love to join!

I plan on do it this Thursday, yes, 19:00 as stated in the title.

I’ll probably limit it to 5 people total, including me, as otherwise just too many people to effectively talk xD

Soooo, I’m happy people are interested, please drop suggestions for topics. If we have mostly people who are interested in DM basics I’ll plan a module “How to DM your first short campaign” for a brief overview of skills that can be handy.

If people want a specific topic on Thursday, more than happy to do that too.

I’d be happy with a very simple plotline to follow for a start. Doesn’t matter if it’s railroadey and/or short. It shouldn’t be just “go kill bandits, ok, you’ve won” simple, but a structure a la “Tavern → Point A → Point B → Done” I feel I urgently need. Most modules I find online, even the short and easier ones I find too complex as a non-DM. So yeah, that’s where we could perhaps start?

Edit: Also I’m not sure I know how to balance encounters at all, but that’s not a big issue I think. I’ll figure it out as I get into DMing?

I would love to join this thursday. I have been thinking of DMing VALUE since joining as a player ~3 months ago. Im already DMing my private group but we basically just started DnD or any TTRPG for that matter since december 2021. I am pretty good with the rules but i severely lack experience. The thought of DMing fridays at VALUE makes me excited but worried at the same time.
My main issues would be the time restraints of the friday night games and also encounter balancing for an unknown amount of players. My private party consists of 3 players. I have issues imagining combat for 5 to 7 playera.
If i would DM VALUE i would probably mainly focus on T1 since even my party has never gone past lvl5 yet.
Id love to pick your brain how you made your Lost Goblins of Phandelver adventures since I have DMed the original module.
Anyways i think this workshop is a great idea and i would love to learn from experienced DMs as yourself and possibly other VALUE DMs.
Also…at the start i probably wouldnt want to homebrew adventures for fridays for reasons above (mainly lack of experience) so some pointers where i can get some fun stuff would be appreciated. (If it costs some money…thats fine!)

Cheers Stracci

After having done the DM thing a while ago I’d be happy to catch up with 5e - both the intricacies of the ruleset as such as well as player expections and the campaign flavor that comes with the system.

I would also be interested but probably can only make it there by 8pm on Thursday, if at all. I can either drop in if I can make it or I’ll just let the others enjoy your workshop this time.

I’ve never DM’d but would like to try, so if there would be a “DMing for dummies” or “DMing 101” module in the future - maybe with fun one-shot recommendations - I would definitely join.

Thank you for doing this, it’s a great idea!

Okay, so I didnt expect this to fill up this fast xD

For now, I’ll say all the slots are full, I will be trying to do this weekly as long as there is interest and I’m not burnt out getting drunk twice a week xD Late comers are more than welcome, as its an informal discussion.

@Lux_Tenebraeque @Jackfruitchilli @Stracci @Mexikorn @Elenaaa

I’d recommend getting your hands on Lost Mines of Phandelver (WotC source adventure) it gives new DMs a good guide on how to run adventures and introduces mechanics little by little. I’ll be using it as a source for the discussion.

Topic to be discussed: How to prepare a short T1 campaign (4-6 sessions) with individual session planning

If you do this again, count me in. I was out of town this week, but I would like to join this workshop as well

Thank you all for coming on Thursday! I learned a lot about how to plan and run these workshops and hope to bring improvement to the next one!

I think I will be running these every 2nd week or so, as I neither my liver nor my wallet can handle drinking every Thursday and Friday xD

For those who attended, the outline is below, as I write and finish the whole guide, I’ll post here :smiley:

  • Prepping the Adventure
    • Set Expectations for Yourself
    • Prepare with Intent
    • Reduce Page Flipping
  • Session 0
    • Set Expectations for the Players
    • Introducing the Setting
    • Potential Encounters
  • Session 1
    • Introducing the Hub and NPCs
    • Introducing the Theme of the BBG
    • The Party are Heroes
  • Session 2
    • The Situation Deepens
    • Direct Danger to the Hub and NPCs
    • Guidance to the Plot
    • Cliffhanger
  • Session 3
    • Danger and Combat
    • Mini Boss
    • Consequences
  • Session 4
    • Escalation and Time
    • The Calm before the Storm
    • IT’S A TRAP
  • Session 5
    • The Confrontation
    • Is it the End?
    • Resolution

Prepping the Adventure

First and foremost: If the DM ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. Set some expectations for yourself. If you are reading this guide, the assumption is that you’re looking to improve a certain aspect of your DMing. So, ask yourself: What SPECIFICALLY do I want to do?

  • Get more comfortable with NPC behaviour and voices?
  • Experiment with homebrew monsters?
  • Improve the flow of individual sessions?

Take note of where you are and where you want to be at the end of the Adventure. Tell your players and ask aimed questions after sessions. ‘What do you think I could do better?’ is a horrible question and is counterproductive at best as it disperses the focus of your goal.

‘When I did X, how did you feel as a player and how did it impact your character?’

‘Which NPC did you want to see more of and why?’

‘What rolls had less impact on situations that you hoped?’

Now that you have a goal in mind, Prepare with Intent! Having a general overview of the Setting is important, but you want to focus on one aspect

For NPCs consider:

  • age and background of individual NPCs
  • tropes and memes could manifest themselves as personality traits
  • HOW do they do things

For Monsters consider:

  • Your body language
  • Sounds, smells and feel
  • What is its non-combat motivation?

For Flow consider:

  • Let them Role Play more or push for the next section
  • Would a combat encounter feel impactful?
  • Is failure in this situation fun?

For those blessed with a wonderful memory: this section isn’t for you, move on. Few things stop sessions harder than a DM flipping through pages, looking for notes or a specific rule. Prepare some cheat sheets: NPC names and descriptions, pull Monster blocks up during session prep, have maps on hand or pre-drawn. If uncertain, Rule of Cool and note what you did. Retcons should be avoided, but sometimes they are necessary to keep plot relevant.

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Session 0

Wow! You successfully managed your first hurdle, herding the cats into one room, at one time and everyone excited to fight the bad girl and save the good guy! But WAIT! Before the first words are spoken, before the first die is cast, SET EXPECTATIONS ! You know why you, the DM, are here, but what about the players? Doesn’t matter how good the steak and wine are if you sat down excited for pizza and ale. Tell the players what kind of Adventure you plan on running, what kind of DM you are, Do and Do Nots of your table. Ask them to consider why their characters would be in this kind of Adventure, why they as players want to play at your Table and ask if there are any Trigger Topics that should be avoided.

Example: “Hi, I’m Kaiser, I’ve played D&D for about 20 years and DMed for about 10, with the last 3 years being here at VALUE. I am a very improv heavy DM and will ‘Yes And!’ almost anything, so feel free to get crazy at my table. I’ll be running Lost Mine of Phandelver over the course of the next 5 sessions, which will revolve around protecting the town of Phandalin from Goblins and Bandits. Your actions MATTER and there will be consequences for your actions and inactions. Trigger warnings: I get very graphic with violence and don’t shy away from adult topics, but I do my best to keep the table a safe space, if something cross your comfort zone, do interrupt and say ‘Red Card’ to shut it down right away.”

Now that the Table has been set, introduce the players to the Setting, keep things vague, as most details don’t generally matter. You’ll misremember them, the players will struggle to keep track of anything beyond closest major city and major points of interest. It can be beneficial to have a local map ready for the party. Ask questions about the characters and develop hooks or interactions for each character (one NPC, item or location per character is enough for a 5 session adventure).

Assuming you have enough time, run a small social and combat encounter. Have the players meet for the first time in a major town, all searching for a specific NPC, that NPC is missing, go find him. Abandoned building, 1 Giant Rat per PC, find the NPC, the NPC tells the party about their destination (Phandalin in this case) and says they will meet them there.

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Session 1

Once again congratulations are in order to you, the DM! Session 0 came and went, and you didn’t bail and the players showed up on time, mostly (you know who you are).

Now it’s time to introduce the hub for the Campaign, in this case: Phandalin! Have a town print out or two for the party, tell them about locations in town, the Inn, the Shop, the Temple, give them brief descriptions on the NPCs that run said locations, but it is best to introduce them via RP. For a short adventure, only keep 6 NPCs of function (Innkeeper, Shopkeeper, Misc Service, Positive NPC, Neutral NPC, Antagonistic NPC) with retinue being added as necessary. The trope of “Adventurers in an Inn” works great! Having a sociable Innkeeper who is impressed by the adventurers makes the Players feel like their characters are relevant and gives them incentive to interact and even posture in front of the other PCs. Spend 1-2 hours here, chatting, getting the Players used to their characters and each other.

WHAM!! The door flies open and an NPC rushes in, injured or panicked and brings disturbing news! Something bad happened! Thank the Gods there are adventurers in town to deal with the problem! In LMoP I have Sildar’s horse galloping down the main street and collapse in front of the inn. Worried Villagers recognize the horse and mention how Sildar Hallwinter had gone north to investigate the attacks on the caravans that had been happening recently, and ‘GASP!’ there are goblin arrows in the rump of the horse! Sildar must be in danger, please oh brave and trustworthy adventurers, rescue him!

At this point introduce the theme of the Big Bad Guy: goblins, zombies, demons, devils, weird creepy crawlies from the forest, pick your poison! As the Party travels from Hub to Location A (In this case, the Cragmaw Hideout), the journey should be an auto success, but the rolls should give you a narrative. Have 3 skill checks made by the party, each Character allowed to participate in one roll each. 1-9 poor success, 10-15 success, 16+ great success! They encounter these creatures for the first time on their way to Location A, this does not even need to be a proper combat, have the players easily overpower the 1-3 creatures and discover their enemies for the first time!

Arriving at Location A, let your players experience probing a dungeon for the first time! It’s dark, sounds distort in strange ways, voices and hints of the enemies ahead should give your party moments pause before they venture in. Be aware of the combat capabilities of your party, have the encounters start small, but feel free to have 1-3 enemies join the initial encounter if the party seems to be mowing through the enemies too fast. Your goal is a to have a medium encounter of 3-4 turns with enough enemies that the party feels in danger, but don’t drain all their resources, as you should be introducing the first powered up enemy of the theme. In case of LMoP, several goblins and wolves are being led by a Bugbear! Consider having two distinct camps within the dungeon, that would allow RP players to make the encounters easier by having the 2 camps turn on each other. In LMoP, Yeemik the Goblin dreams of overthrowing Klarg the Bugbear, this should not be forced and if the players enter the Hideout guns blazing then have the goblins come at them with no restraint. After the party has dispatched the goblins (or if the fight is happening right in front of Klarg’s cave) have a Sargent of the theme make their entrance. After a relatively difficult fight, the players succeed and find the NPC to rescue and make their way back to the Hub.

The players should arrive with a bit of fan fare and celebrations, rounds of drinks bought for them at the Inn, let them soak in victory and end the session with the players excited to interact in the Hub again.

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