To Be a DM or Not To Be a DM

To DM or Not to DM

Do you consider yourself a story-teller? Maybe you want to play against your friends in an epic of chaos. Or maybe you just want to be a part of the chaos! Either way, you’ll be in for a thrilling adventure. In this article we’ll discuss what it’s like to be a player character and what it takes to be a Dungeon Master, or DM. The goal is to help make the options more enticing and your decision of what to play easier. To be a DM or not to be a DM? That is the question. In order to answer that question, we have to know the difference between the two options.

To Be a Player Character

A player character, or PC, is a character who is controlled solely by one of the players in a group playing Dungeons and Dragons. This player is in charge of every action and decision this character makes, good or bad. While many would consider being a PC easier than being a DM, playing a character still has its’ own difficulties.

Character Creation

The largest difficulty to being a player character is the character creation process itself. Character creation is where the player decides who their character will be. With so many races and classes to choose from, character creation can be overwhelming. But the fun part of D&D is starting new campaigns, so if multiple character-types sound interesting, you can always try something different during the next campaign.

Once the characters race and class are decided, the player must brainstorm a backstory for their character. Is this character’s family still active in their life, or did they lose them in a brutal attack? Maybe the character struck out on their own to find themselves and found chosen family along the way. The possibilities are truly endless when it comes to a character’s backstory.

To be a DM or Not to be a DM

Another important facet of character creation is a character’s stats. By rolling a d20, a character’s ability statistics are decided. Abilities are used to determine what a character is good at and how likely they are to pass an ability check when faced with an obstacle.

Roleplay and Combat – PC

When character creation is complete and the party is set up to play, it’s time for players to roleplay their characters in the campaign. Everyone’s roleplay tactic is a little different. Some people will change their voice and their energy to portray a character, while others will play the character as themselves. Most tactics are personal preference. However, if you are new to roleplaying in a TTRPG, check out this video from Crispy’s Tavern.

In the campaign, player characters will change and grow over time. Each decision, encounter, or combat simulation comes together to allow the characters to progress and learn new abilities. It’s important to know that with an increase in level and power comes an increase in combat difficulty and foe power. Player characters can die, but there’s always a chance to bring them back.

Combat is where a character’s abilities will prove themselves most useful. When a combat encounter begins, player characters will roll initiative. Initiative is when each PC rolls a d20 to see what the order of combat will be. The person with the highest roll will go first and the person with the lowest will go last. Initiative order can either really help you or really hurt, depending on who’s attacking first. This is because the Dungeon Master rolls initiative for every foe in the combat encounter as well.

To DM or Not to DM
Orc PC in Combat

To Be a Dungeon Master

Being a Dungeon Master is not necessarily an easy job by any means. However, anyone can be a DM no matter their skill level. The Dungeon Master is the game organizer, story-teller, and participant in charge of creating the details and challenges given to the party. They act as a referee to the party members while they explore the campaign. They determine the results of a PC’s actions and narrate what the characters experience in their encounters.

Preparing a Story

Before a DM gets into the adventure and storytelling, they must first prepare the story. They might decide to do a premade campaign from an adventure module. Or they might write their own story for their friends to navigate through. Adventure modules give the DM everything they need to know in order to tell a captivating story for their players to explore. This includes monster stats, NPC encounters, maps of the land being adventured in, and the story itself.

Some Dungeon Masters prefer to create their own campaigns. The prep and planning time for this could be a bit longer than what it would take to use a module. However, most times it’s well worth the time to create a fun and compelling campaign. In a homebrew, the DM is truly the master of the realm, creating challenges and obstacles for the PCs as they see fit. While a DM should have a story thought out and mostly planned, they shouldn’t expect everything to work out the exact way they want it to. Afterall, the PCs make the decisions and navigate through the story however they want. The DM is simply the host and narrator.

To DM or Not to DM
Inner Tower Construction Map

When deciding to be a Dungeon Master, the first thing most people think is that they need to know all of the rules by heart. The number of rules in the Dungeon Master’s Guide can be a bit overwhelming. It’s better to a have a good general idea of what each player’s character can do. However, this is not a test. DM’s can check through their guidebook at any point in the campaign if they want to be sure of a certain rule or action. There are also plenty of DMs who have house rules specific to their gameplay or campaign that aren’t going to be mentioned in a rulebook.

Roleplay and Combat – DM

A large part of a Dungeon Master’s job is roleplaying NPCs and monsters. If the party decides to explore a town and come across a tavern, the DM will act as any of the non-player characters that the PCs choose to interact with. One of the player characters could see a halfling barmaid and attempt to romance her. In this case, the DM would act as the barmaid and respond to the PC. Most DM’s will have their PCs make a persuasion or charisma check to see if their flirting attempts succeed or fail. Depending on the result of that skill check, the DM will act accordingly.

Roleplaying in combat is probably the most fun a DM can have. While silently rooting for the PCs to defeat the foe and move on to the next encounter, it can be extremely fun to give them a hard time at the very least. A DM can be the creator of chaos, and what’s more chaotic than a party of players surrounded on all sides by an army of the undead? Maybe the army is led by a necromancy Warlock who isn’t all there after years of working with an Eldritch terror. The DM could roleplay a kooky, cackling mess to portray the Warlock.

To be a DM or Not to be a DM
Necromancy Warlock

The most important thing is just for the Dungeon Master and player characters to simply have a good time. While one could be considered more difficult than the other, Dungeons and Dragons is a game meant to tell an enrapturing story. The PCs decide the direction in which the story goes, but there would be no story without the DM. The smallest choice could become a running joke throughout the entirety of the campaign. One of the players could even start their own cult while attempting to recruit the rest of the party members. Whether player or referee, the campaign should be fun for all.

So, are you ready to face a gang of ruffians with your friends? Or are you more apt to roleplay as a blob monster who is using the ruffians as pawns to lead the adventurers to their doom? This article explained both sides of Dungeons and Dragons in hopes of making the decision easier for you. Player Character or Dungeons Master? Whether you play a harrowed adventurer or take on the role of story-teller and referee, you’ll have an enjoyable experience playing Dungeons and Dragons.

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