Hey, First Time DMs!

Last weekend, my younger brother and I played a quick one-session campaign with two of my other friends over Skype. After we were done, he told me that he had really enjoyed our campaign and wanted to learn how to make his own dungeons, lore, and stories. I was happy to oblige. Here’s how I explained it to him, being a first time DM.

I hope you find this helpful!

Helpful Supplies

Some things you just can’t go without while being a DM. Every campaign I run, I bring the exact same supplies to the table. Here’s what I use, but feel free to look up your own resources from other D&D bloggers:

  • Polyhedral dice
    • d4
    • d6
    • d8
    • d10
    • d12
    • d20
  • USB (+8GB)
  • 7 year pen, different coloured pens
  • Notebooks
  • PDFs
    • Player’s Handbooks
    • Monster Manuals
    • additional Rulebooks
    • etc.

These are all very important to have in your collection as a DM, especially if you have never ran a campaign before! I highly suggest that if you cannot find dice for purchase, there are some really useful dice-roller apps on the app store for free.

Setting up a Campaign

To set up a campaign is something of a hard task, it can take anywhere from four hours to upwards of 20. Depending on how descriptive and in-depth one want your campaign to be, the more time one must spend on it. Creating maps is always secondary, so don’t worry about creating terrain until later.

A lot of things are required for a campaign to run successfully, but most of all, as a DM, one needs good story-telling skills and a sense of how a plot should progress. Here are some important things to note while creating a campaign:

  1. Reminding your PCs of the goal keeps them interested
  2. Flawed characters are always the most interesting
  3. Don’t start your campaign without knowing your end goal
  4. Random encounters are okay, and actually good for story progression

The first important step in creating your adventure would be gathering a group of three or more people who are interested, and can meet on a regular basis! This is how one keeps the campaign up and running. If someone skips a session, or everyone picks the wrong day to meet – your enthusiasm for the game will die out quickly.

Creating Maps and 3D Terrain

There are a few ways to do this, whether it be with printed Dungeon Tiles from the internet, hand-drawn maps on 1″ grid paper, stackable Dungeons you have made yourself (tutorial here), or even made with house-hold supplies such as aquarium decorations and Lego blocks. There’s no wrong way to go about making a map for your upcoming campaign, so long as your players get the satisfying experience they came for!

You can choose to make maps for older editions, but before 4e, D&D did not use terrain and miniatures. Homebrew and house ruling your games is never bad, and is actually something I do all the time. It’s never frowned upon in the DM community. We love creativity!

Final Touches

These are just the very basics for setting up a campaign for your first time, but feel free to add in any other creative elements you can think of. I’ve played in campaigns where the DM has used music that fits the scene to add to the atmosphere, dimmed the lights, or even had us decipher codes in Dwarven to enhance our experience.

The game is yours to mould as you please! Have fun with it. And remember, practice makes perfect. Take advice from your players, and always listen for what you can do better next time.

Catch ya’ later, traveller.



1 Comment

  1. Until reading this post, I never realized that D&D was a game so open to creativity. The idea of making my own map and miniatures sounds enticing. I also like the small tips you gave, such as using a dice-roller app if I can’t find real ones. Overall, I think this will certainly help some new DMs!


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