February is DM appreciation month. It’s a chance for players to recognize the DMs who make the game happen and say thank you. Even though I generally DM during public play and at my home games, I’ve had the privilege and good fortune to play under some phenomenal DMs in my years of play. Throughout this month I’m going to write a series of blog post about some of the very best DMs I’ve ever had. It’s my way to give back to the gaming community and give proper praise where it’s due. I always try to say thank you to the DM at the end of a good session, but sometimes that’s not enough. DM appreciation month is my opportunity to go one step beyond a simple, heart-felled thank you.
A good DM will inspire the people at the gaming table. The players will get totally engrossed in the story and have their characters do what they think makes the shared story telling experience better, and not worry as much about the numbers and the dice. A good DM sets options before the players and lets them choose the path. The best DMs step aside and let the players lead as much as possible. The positive example a good DM sets inspires players to go on the other side of the screen and share their ideas and create the next epic journey for the party.
Over the years I’ve been the DM a lot more frequently than I’ve been the player. I’d like to think that over the year I’ve gained some proficiency as a DM and my skills have improved over time. I know that there are areas of my game that can certainly use some refinement, but overall I think I do a pretty good job most of the time. I’d better after 30 years! I’ve found that being a good DM requires two-way communication between the players and the DM. Listen to what your players say and accept their feedback. Ask players what they liked about your game, and ask them what you can do differently. It’s important to accept feedback and learn from it.
For me personally, I’ve made the biggest strides as a DM after playing under other great DMs. I see how different DMs do things and I learn from them. Sometimes I borrow or steal their methods and other times I see what they do and decide that I need to handle similar situations differently when I’m the DM. Talking to other DMs always yields some insight, so if you want to be a better DM talk to others who are doing what you do. By sharing our stories, methods, and secrets, we help train new DMs and make experienced DMs better.
So for all the DMs out there, for all the DMs who have allowed me to play at their table, and for all the players who aspire to be DMs, I say thank you. I say good job. I say keep striving to be the best DM you can be. Without you there would be no games; without the DM there would be no Dungeons & Dragons.
Give a shout out to a DM you appreciate. Maybe it’s the DM from your home game, the DM at your FLGS, or a DM you played with at a convention. Tell us briefly about something great the DM did that inspired you.