Thursday, September 22, 2005

Interviewing Players


You will notice that I said it is important to find the RIGHT group of players for your campaign. It is tempting, especially if you can only find a few people, to accept any and everybody, but that can be a mistake. I would suggest that you conduct at least a short, informal interview with any
potential players.

There are a variety of questions you can ask, but make sure that any potential player understands the basics, including what campaign setting you will be using, what rulebooks you will allow, and when and where you are going to meet. It does a disservice to the player and to you for instance, if he only wants to play in an Eberron campaign and you are going to run your homebrew world. Here is an example of the kind of information that you might give potential players:

Campaign Setting: The Claw Valley (my campaign world)
Rules Used: Version 3.5 D&D
Books Used: First three core rulebooks only
Campaign Style: Generic fantasy with an emphasis on the action
Time & Place: To be announced (I would like to try and meet at least three times a month)

I hate to have to say this, but you should also make sure that any potential player is someone that you actually want to associate with. There is a wonderful diversity among roleplayers, but there are also some genuinely antisocial types that you might not want to spend time with on a Friday night. If someone appears to be disturbed or just creeps you out, don't be afraid to gently let them know that all your player spots are full.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Gathering Your Players


This post might seem a little premature since we haven’t discussed actually creating your campaign world yet, but finding the RIGHT group of players can be one key to your campaign’s success. If you don’t already have a group, you will need to find one. Also, your players’ personalities and preferences, and the type of characters they create, can offer you invaluable insight into what kind of adventures to craft for them.

There are several approaches that you can take to locate suitable victims (err players I mean) for your campaign. One approach is very simple. March down to your local game store and put up a flyer. This is the approach that I am trying for my latest campaign. Here is the text from the flyer that I put up at my local game store in good old Markham, ON.


I am looking for a group of players to start a regular DUNGEONS & DRAGONS campaign. I will be using version 3.5 of the rules (which is the latest edition).

If you are interested in playing, please come to an informational session here at HEROES WORLD on Friday, September 23rd at 6:00 PM. At that time, we will go over campaign specifics and discuss the time that is best for everyone to meet and play.

Please feel free to email me at if you would like more information. I look forward to meeting you!

Anthony Roberson

If this doesn’t work or if you don’t have a local game store, you might try putting up flyers (with the proper permission) at your local college or university. If you don’t have one of those then you might try your local community center. Another option to try, especially if you live in a small or isolated area, is the Internet.

There are several popular websites that have forums where you can post Player Wanted ads. The biggest D&D focused web site right now is probably ENWorld. Another popular roleplaying web site that you might try is RPGnet. I’m sure there are others as well. Make sure to follow each site’s rules for posting and put your ad in the proper forum.

After you have located a group of prospective players, it’s time to see if they are right for your campaign and if your campaign is right for them. You will want to conduct some kind of informal interview with them. We’ll discuss that in my next post.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Setting Up Your Campaign

Now that you have presumably purchased your rulebooks and started learning the rules, it's time to start thinking about what kind of campaign you are going to run. If you are a novice DM, I would recommend that you start off with a fairly generic fantasy world, something close to D&D's so-called 'implied' setting.

To be perfectly honest, a campaign setting is not a must, especially if you only plan to run a few one-shots or use published modules, but it is a heck of a lot more fun and satisfying if you have one and since this blog is about learning to be a good Dungeonmaster, building a campaign is a big part of the experience.


You have two basic choices when it comes to building your campaign world, use a published setting or create your own. There are pros and cons to both options and I will try to summarize them for you.

There are lots of good official published campaign settings that you can purchase. The oldest and still classic one is the World of Greyhawk, that was originally designed by Gary Gygax. Greyhawk has not been terribly well supported by Wizards of the Coast as of late, but Dungeon magazine did publish a beautiful four-part map for the setting that I have on my wall. Another classic option is Ed Greenwood's the Forgotten Realms. The Realms are available as a core book with a large number of supplements. The hot current setting from Wizards is called Eberron and I probably wouldn't recommend it to a novice DM. It has a distinct 'steampunk' feel and might not appeal to you or to a number of your players. If you are interested in it, at least read through the core book before making the investment.

Besides official settings, there are also a number of unofficial settings, via the d2o system license that are also worth a look. Sword & Sorcery offers the epic Wilderlands of High Fantasy box set, which is a real blast from the past. Kenzer and Company offers the Kingdoms of Kalamar setting (which is a licensed setting and technically more 'official' than the others) as a core book with supplements. There are plenty of others as well, but this should give you at least a taste of what is available.

The main advantage of a published setting is obvious - you don't have to make stuff up. Reducing preparation time is a big advantage for busy adults like me and probably you too. There is also the advantage that if your players are familiar with the setting, you don't have to explain as much about the world to them.

The main disadvantage of a published setting is the expense. The core book is going to cost at retail anywhere from $30-40 and if the setting has many supplements, the cost can easily rise into the hundreds. Supplements are another disadvantage. If a setting is still being published, you can find yourself in the 'book of the month' trap where you continually have to purchase the latest releases to keep up to date on the campaign world. Your players can also buy the books of course and this can spoil some or all of the campaign's secrets.

If you decide to create your own homebrew world, my hat is off to you. This is the mark of a dedicated Dungeonmaster. Creating a detailed campaign world is one of the most rewarding things that roleplaying games have to offer. Of course the task can also take years of real time and most worlds are never really finished. In upcoming posts, I will try to guide you through the process of creating your own world in a series of hopefully logical steps. Stay tuned.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

More Rulebook Options

I wanted to mention a few more options for those of you that might be seeking a lower cost of entry into version 3.5 of the D&D rules. Mongoose Publishing offers the Mongoose Pocket Player's Handbook and the Mongoose Pocket GM's Handbook, which contain most of the essential rules that you will need as a DM. Both books are softcover and retail for $20.00. I own the Mongoose Pocket Player's Handbook and it is a useful backup reference. It is also light and compact, but it does lack the durability and completeness of the full v.3.5 Player's Handbook. I would still recommend, especially to a new DM, that you buy the 'official' books, but I wanted to make you aware of the alternatives.

This brings up the subject of the Open Gaming License (OGL), the d20 System License and the System Resource Document (SRD). To make a long story short, when Wizards of the Coast published the 3rd Edition of the rules in 2000, they decided to 'open' the system up and allow anyone to publish content for the game, as long as they agreed to certain stipulations. These stipulations are contained in the Open Gaming License and the d20 System License. The content that could be used is contained in the System Resourse Document and it is this document that was used to provide the content for the two Pocket Player's Handbooks. The Resource Document does not contain ALL of the content that can be found in the official books (and that is an important distinction), but you could actually run games using only the SRD.

You can actually browse the SRD for free in a nice hyperlinked format online at the Hypertext d20 SRD. This is a neat site and contains not only the core SRD rules (from the three core rulebooks), but also open content from other rulebooks. There is also another online version of the SRD available at You can also download the SRD for free HERE as a series of files in RTF format from the Wizards of the Coast website for reading offline.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

First Post - What This Blog is All About

So, you want to become a Dungeonmaster? If so, I hope that this blog will be useful to you. In upcoming posts, I intend to give you at least some of what you need to become a great DM. Your feedback is important and so please feel free to become a member of this blog and leave your comments. They are appreciated!


I am going to be using version 3.5 of the Dungeons & Dragons rules in my examples because it is the most current edition of the game. If you are using another edition of the rules, be aware of this, but most of the information that I cover should still be useful to you. If you are unfamiliar with v.3.5, you might want to check out the Wizards of the Coast website to learn more.

The minimum books that I would recommend that you own as a DM are the first three core rulebooks. They are the Player's Handbook, the Monster Manual and the Dungeon Master's Guide. I just ordered the Dungeons & Dragons Core Rulebook Gift Set from myself for a great price. You can also find them at your FLGS (Friendly Local Gaming Store), or bookstores like Barnes & Noble or Chapters (for my Canadian friends).

NOTE: Some of these links go to where I have set up an affiliate account. Not a big deal, but I just didn't want anyone to think I was being sneaky!

You don’t have to learn ALL the rules at once to be a DM, but you should at least be familiar with the most important ones, including the rules for Character Creation, Combat and Magic. If you are a complete beginner, you might want to check out the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Game and the Dungeons & Dragons for Dummies book. They offer the new gamer more of an easy introduction than the core rulebooks.

Another recommendation that I would make for you when you are just learning the rules is to (except for the Basic game and the Dummies book) buy ONLY the core rulebooks. There are literally dozens of official D&D books out there (and even more unofficial books thanks to the d20 and OGL licenses) and you get intimidated very quickly if you try to digest too much too quickly. In fact, I would recommend that you run at least one ENTIRE CAMPAIGN using only the three core rulebooks above before you even look at another rulebook. You (and your players) will thank me for it later

One last thing that I would recommend to you while you are learning the rules is to either play in another DM’s campaign or at least roll up a few characters yourself. Either method will give you a leg up on learning the rules in preparation for running your own game.