Cheat Sheet

This cheat sheet summarizes the most important points from the guide, and provides you with a resource you can keep beside you while you run your first game.

This is support material for a guide about running your first Dungeons & Dragons game.
To read the guide, start at the beginning.

Artwork Β© Dean Spencer


  • Don't panic. You will do this and have a lot of fun learning. You are destined to be a Dungeon Master!
  • You are not in charge of the fun
  • You do not need to know all the rules
  • It does not take a long time to run your first game
  • You do not need to be a great storyteller
  • You are not the adversary
  • Use tropes without apology
  • Embrace the beginner's mindset

Warm Up

  • Give a warm welcome and review expectations
  • Review the character sheet structure
  • Deliver the start signal
  • Tell the characters why they are here πŸ‰
  • Have each player describe their character
  • Deliver the strong start πŸ‰

Running the Adventure

  • Don't be afraid to pick up the pace
  • Take a 10 minute break after the first 2 encounters
  • Do not judge the quality of the game while playing
  • Address players by their character names
  • Only roll dice when there's a possibility of failure
  • Encourage player ideas
    • Add more with Yes! And..
    • Add interesting decisions with Yes! But...
    • Reveal other options with Yes! Or...
    • Soften the blow with No. But…
    • Introduce complications with β€œNo. And…”


  • Use the 5 senses πŸ‰
  • Show pictures of things you describe πŸ‰
  • Bring the characters to the action quickly πŸ‰
  • Make the world seem real

Social Interaction

  • Use voice acting or third person voice to bring NPCs to life
  • Give NPCs motivations πŸ‰
  • Roll dice when players want something to happen that an NPC would resist


  • Track initiative in plain sight
  • Describe the situation at the start of each turn
  • Describe monsters with visible quirks to help keep track of who is who
  • Think like your monster would πŸ‰
  • Give roleplaying opportunities
  • Bias to action. Keep the action moving instead of looking for the "best" move.
  • Combat can end many ways. You do not need to kill everything. πŸ‰

When you feel stuck

  • Remember the Core Loop of D&D: The DM describes a situation β†’ The Players describe what they want to do β†’ Roll dice to determine success or failure
  • Remember to slow down
  • When a ruling is uncertain, make a judgement call
  • When you are struggling to make a decision:
    • Ask your NPCs. What would they do in the situation?
    • Ask your players. They can help describe the world or provide suggestions.
    • Let the gods decide. Choose a number and roll dice to see what happens.

When your players seem stuck

  • Ask simple questions. "So what do you want to do?"
  • Put the focus on one player using body language. Help them ignore the distractions at the table.
  • Ask roleplaying questions. "What would you do if you were your character?"
  • Have NPCs prompt them with ideas

Wrap up

  • Summarize accomplishments
  • Leave them with a cliffhanger πŸ‰
  • Establish the time and place for the next game
  • Talk about the game
  • Take notes about what happened

Continue to the next section


Frequently Asked Questions we hear from new Dungeon Masters.

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