The Arias Chronicler – Session Seven
A behind-the-scenes, slice-of-life series based on the trials of a new Game Master.
When you’re transitioning from player to DM, you’re faced with a lot of unique challenges. Until you sit down to plan for the first time it’s hard to prepare yourself for the amount of work that actually goes into each and every session. Any experienced DM will tell you not to over plan and that you can never predict everything your players might do once the session begins. However, that’s something that almost every DM has to figure out for themselves. Even now months into my DMing journey, I know I continuously over plan.
If planning was the only challenge you had to overcome as a DM, then it might not be such a daunting affair. Putting those plans into action is what can be the most difficult and nerve wracking part. I’m still nervous before every single session. You’re putting a piece of yourself out there in the open, telling a story that you’ve spent so much time working on and hoping that your players enjoy what you’ve created for them. It’s like putting on a new performance every week, just hoping it’s entertaining.
It’s easy to get caught up in all of this, the planning, the sessions and worrying what your players think when it’s all over. Being a DM, it’s pretty easy to forget that you are also a player. D&D is a game first and foremost and even though creating something for your players is a huge part of it, you also need to make it something fun for yourself. Communication with your players after every session is something I can’t over recommend. Of course, you want feedback from them about what they enjoyed, what they want more of or less of – but you also need to give them your feedback.
I remember at the end of one particular session I just felt bad. I hadn’t enjoyed myself. It was the first time we had run up against anything like this and it was made worse by the fact that my players had a good time. I was so nervous to even address how I was feeling. Thankfully, one of my players is also my fiancé, so when we ended, I told him what I was thinking. I told him what hadn’t worked for me and we discussed ways to fix it. Afterwards, I felt so much better and we eventually brought it forward to the rest of the group. Not only were they completely understanding, they actively worked to make it more fun for me in the future.
I work to extend the same courtesy to them. When a player came to me saying that they felt their character’s skills weren’t being fully utilized we worked together to reshape their skills and I put in more obstacles with them in mind. When the party asked for more combat I happily obliged. When they told me what they found interesting or explained some aspirations for their characters in the future, I started to weave those elements into the story. D&D is a collaborative game of give and take, it’s a story that you build together and sometimes the prep work gets in the way of that.
Being a DM can be stressful, but it shouldn’t be. At the end of the day, it’s a game you are playing with your friends and it should always feel that way. If you are ever feeling burnt out, or not having fun, take that step back and evaluate why you’re feeling that way. Take steps to remedy it. Talk to your players and good luck out there DMs! I believe in you.