So what’s your style? Are you fast and loose with the rules, or a bit of a rule Lawyer? Do you carefully craft a world spending hours on prep, writing and researching your world? Or are you more likely to go in with no notes and make it all up in the spur of the moment? Or perhaps you sit somewhere in between. Are you out to kill each of your players or make them heroes? The more I meet both Dungeon Masters and Games Masters the thing I am learning is we are all so much alike and so vastly different at the same time. The best part of being a Games Master or a Dungeon Master it is there is no right or wrong; there is no hard & fast rule to what makes a good DM because a good DM comes down simply to what type of game you want to play and if you and your players are right for each other and the game style. Some players and Games Masters do not work together, nothing wrong in that – no failures here you learn and move on and up to new games.
Personally I’m the King and Hero maker type I want my players to succeed and become heroes, but only in my main campaign. I have spent hour’s thinking about the world and their journey and for the most part I would rather they made it to the end and got to save the world, stopped the bad, reached level 20 and receive their epic Boons. However, I am also not going to force that hand, hey if they die they die, just because the Gods have chosen them as Heroes that does not mean they have never ending lives. Also on that factor, bringing back someone from the dead isn’t, in this world, always going to be easy just because they have a Cleric, I might want them to be heroes but I don’t want to make thing easy and I certainly don’t want them to go through the campaign without suffering because really where is the fun in that?
In One-Shots it is a little different and my DM style is a lot more let’s see how much damage we can do and what fun we can have. It’s silly and ridiculous and about pushing the characters and the rules as much as possible. Although I will be honest as I have gained more experience as a DM that side has come out more both in one-shots and occasionally in my main campaign. When I started last year I pulled my punches metaphorically so to speak because I didn’t really know what the players would be capable of and what was achievable at the different levels. With more experience under my belt and a little bit of trial and error and a lot of talking to other DMs that knowledge is getting stronger and I am getting more confident.
When it comes to creating a world, a session, one-shots and the rules I play it pretty fast and loose. For the rules I don’t worry too much if my interpretation is right or wrong so long as the game runs smoothly the players over all have fun (because well it’s not always exactly fun, it can be terrifying being a player.) and that they players and myself agree (or at least they accept) my interpretation of the rules. We sometimes talk it through and if I make a ruling that they aren’t sure of I am happy to discuss and hear their point of view. As for prepping as much as I style myself of Matt Mercer school of DMing (and no not because he’s cool or well-known I just like his style and it works for me and my heavily story & Role-playing based campaign) that is where my similarities end. I wish I could be more like him in his in-depth planning and creating – with a variety of voices and accents I could reel out at a drop of the hat, however the truth is I am not and I do not think I could ever be. For me the impulsive, improvised element works, I get too stressed if I over plan and the story becomes to ridge. I create better and, I think, more interesting things if I think on my feet rather than spend time meticulously planning and writing things down. I really struggle with the concept of writing session notes, other than bullet points to trigger my memory on what the town is like, the people of course (mostly) key NPC names – until I have forgotten one that I’ve had to think up in the moment and then forget to write it down.
I will be honest my style doesn’t always allow for remembering intricate details and I don’t think my world will ever be as beautiful or as fully realised as say it is in something like Critical Role by hey this is a hobby that is good for my creativity, confidence and my mental health and therefore I am not going to stress if my bit of fun isn’t done the right way or I could be more in-depth – see that’s the point all are styles are different and nobodies is better or right. You DM you and I’ll DM me and so long as we all have fun and as a group of friends, laugh, cry, feel sacred and all the other D&D related emotions in between then you did right.