Convert game time to game night
A recurring time slot that everyone agrees to in advance is the key to playing Dungeons & Dragons really well. It allows a gaming group to come together on a regular basis and get better together. Setting a recurring schedule also simplifies planning.
We recommend committing to a game at the same time, on the same day, every two weeks.
Run a couple more One-Shots
You can repeat the exact same process outlined in this guide and get more practice. It is a great way to gain confidence and experiment. Playing One-Shots will help you figure out who you want in the party and what type of adventures you enjoy.
Here is a list of One-Shots we recommend:
You can also browse for yourself on these recommended marketplaces:
- DM's Guild for official D&D 5e content
- DriveThruRPG for D&D 5e compatible content
- Open Gaming Store
Start a campaign
A One-Shot adventure is meant to be completed in a single game session whereas a Campaign is a connected series of adventures within a larger story arc. Campaigns can take months or even years to complete.
Before committing to a campaign, we recommend running a few more One-Shots because they teach you what you like.
You can get a sense of what a campaign looks like by reading through a published long-form adventure such as Curse of Strahd. We recommend using or adapting published work for Dungeon Masters who have time constraints. If you can make time for it, designing your own campaign can be truly rewarding!
Here is a list of published long-form adventures we recommend:
When you begin a campaign, there are two fun preparatory activities you did not get to experience in your first game. Those are character creation and Session Zero.
Session Zero is a game session dedicated to setting expectations for what kind of things the group wants to see throughout the campaign. It is a great way to get everyone on the same page and make sure everyone commits to the same experience. To learn more, read this article on Geek & Sundry.
Character creation can happen during Session Zero or separately. This is the process of assembling your own character from scratch. Players create their backgrounds, motivations, appearance, and moves. To learn more, read Part 1 of the D&D Basic Rules.
Try adventure writing and homebrewing
There is a good chance that you want to write your own adventures. Maybe you even want to build your own worlds. This is a big effort, but we get it - it is incredibly rewarding for creative people.
As a starting point we recommend springing off the events of your first game in The Green Blight. You already have a cast of characters and the beginnings of a larger world. You can use the plot hook in Part 4 to inspire ideas for your own story. You have already hooked the players into it!
You can use websites like Here Be Taverns to get inspired. Generate some interesting components you want in your adventure such as NPCs, locations, and monsters, then devise a story to bring them all together.
For writing, worldbuilding, and organizing your campaigns, nothing beats LegendKeeper. It's visual map features and intuitive design make it the best option for creative expression and organization.
We also recommend watching Running the Game, episodes 1 to 3 by Matt Colville. Like this guide, he shows how to prepare for your first game. He also includes more information about making up the adventure yourself.
Try using a Virtual Tabletop and Gridded Maps
We recommended avoiding Virtual Tabletops (VTTs) and gridded maps for combat for your first game for two reasons:
- Avoid added learning requirements to figure out the software.
- Improve your ability to visualize and describe the world.
However, many players and Dungeon Masters enjoy these tools. Now that you have finished your first game, you should consider trying them yourself.
Gridded maps for combat provide a visual element that helps people get in the mood. It also makes tracking positions during combat easier for some people.
VTTs allow you to load up a map and place tokens representing each character and monster. They have countless other features to help you run the game. If you are willing to put in the time to learn, you will find they are quite powerful.
For VTTs, we recommend trying Owlbear Rodeo because it is the simplest option and completely free. Roll20 is a very popular option so there is a good chance other players will already be familiar with it.
Check out the Extras
We created a list of Extras to make it crystal clear what resources you can safely ignore when running your first game. Now that you have completed your first game, go back and take another look at that list. It includes many resources you may find interesting.
In particular, we recommend that you consider investing in the three core books, in this order:
Those three books will provide you with the complete set of rules for the game, advice and strategies, and interesting options to include in future adventures.
Continue your learning
Being a Dungeon Master is rewarding because it is such a deep craft. You can continue to learn, experiment, and improve for the rest of your life. Many experienced Dungeon Masters generously share their knowledge online.
To continue your learning, we recommend the following resources:
- Matt Colville's "Running the Game" YouTube videos
- Icarus Games YouTube channel
- Sly Flourish Blog
Find your perfect game
As a Dungeon Master, you have an infinite universe of customizations you can bring to your games. As you learn more, you will continue to discover ways to create the games you dream of playing, and build the worlds you dream of wandering.
Dungeons & Dragons is only one of the Tabletop Roleplaying Games out there. There are many other systems, some with only one page of rules! Each one emphasizes different things that lead to different types of games. You can find your perfect game.
Want more guides?
If there is enough interest, we will be producing more guides and adventures for other systems on this website. If there is a system you are curious about, contact us so we can consider it for the next Quickstart Guide.
Continue to the next section
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.
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