CIVILIZED GAMING

Setting Expectations for Dungeons & Dragons

The Most Important Thing a DM Can Do At the Beginning of Any Game

4 min readJul 23, 2019

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A few weeks ago, I attended Origins Game Fair with three of my closest friends. (Full disclosure: All of us are fairly experienced DMs. Thus, we have a lot of opinions on Dungeons & Dragons. I consider myself a writer — first and foremost — and view any DMing as an extension of my desire to scratch that storytelling itch. But that’s a blog post for another time.) During our week at Origins, I played six sessions of D&D. The first night, Amy Lynn Dzura ran an adventure for us, which she had written. It was our best game experience of the week, by a long mile. Amy was great. The other DMs were all experienced and talented, and they each brought a different approach. But the experience wasn’t quite the same. Why?

Setting the Expectation

Amy did something the other DMs did not do. She started by saying (paraphrasing here), “I’m really looking forward to running this game. This is going to be fun.”

It’s amazing how this simple statement can improve the D&D experience. Let the players know that you’re happy to run this game and that you think it’s going to be great. I’m sure some of the other DMs were thinking this, but they never verbalized those expectations. Tell your players that you’re looking forward to the game. This statement requires little effort on your part, and it makes the biggest impact.

From some of the other DMs, I got explanations about how tired they were; I got reports about other events they were looking forward to; and worst of all, enthusiasm at the possibility of wrapping up the game early. What does it communicate to a player when you essentially tell them, “I can’t wait for this to be over?”

If you play a lot of D&D, maybe you’ve gotten jaded or bored? Another dungeon. Another dragon. Another group of players I will soon forget. In other words, I’m just here for the free badge and hotel room. While you might have run the same adventure over and over again, presumably, it’s new for the people at your table — and they are hoping for something amazing.

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David Hopkins

Writer of many things. Sign up for my newsletter and receive sneak peeks, fiction freebies, writing tips, and creative insights. https://thatdavidhopkins.com