Kitacon Quest – DMing 101 The Panel

On Saturday the 19th of August at 20:00 I will be giving my second panel ever. Considerably less interesting than doing my first, but still kind of a huge deal from where I’m sat. I fully intended to bring back my confidence building panel with some rather necessary improvements, I can’t claim to have been all that organised, but sadly someone seems to have beaten me to the punch as I was declined on the grounds that someone had submitted a very similar panel before I got to it. Not to worry, I always have a fallback:

After fourty something articles on the subject of how to run a great game of Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, or frankly any other tabletop RP (I try and keep things genre-neutral) I feel like I should have more than enough material to host my own how-to panel. I won’t be the first, but apparently I’m the first to put the idea forward to Kitacon Quest… I mean, really? It’s kind of in the title.

So this leaves me with one hell of a conundrum, how do I condense all of that information into an hour? Where do I even begin?

I’ve been to a few panels that discuss matters like world building, player management, and at least one panel that descended into sharing old RP stories which actually worked just as well as a lot of the organised content. Truth be told, I’m not sure how deeply I want to go into world building as some people will run their games in real-world settings, and truth be told creativity isn’t exactly something that can be taught, certainly not in an hour. And – though many may disagree – it’s not the most essential part of a good DM’s repertoire, just something that comes either naturally or through practice.

The advice you give could differ wildly from campaign to campaign. A one-shot differs wildly from a story-driven campaign or an open world sandbox, and different genres, game systems, and even player groups offer their own challenges and pitfalls that a new DM might be unable to overcome. In an hour window it will be impossible to even generalise the possibilities, obstacles and hurdles ahead of an aspiring Games Master.

But that’s not exactly the point of it all. The reason why I’ve been able to attend so many panels that address all of the varying aspects of how to run a roleplay is that there is no correct way and that everyone must find their own unique style. All anyone can do to help someone find their style is to offer up their own, and for as many of us as possible to present new advice in new ways that will engage new DMs, make them excited to create, write and run their own games, and give the veterans chance to play once or twice maybe.

A question to all of you who have played the part of DM, GM, Storyteller or similar: What is the most important thing for a DM to learn? Is it essential to know the rules back to front and in every dimension? Is creative skill the key to a rich and engaging world? Do good writers make the best storytellers, or is it better to know how to act and improvise? How would you start a panel like this?

I plan on asking for volunteers.