Dungeons and Dragons 5e

The Role of the DM

This is my personal opinion and approach to tabletop play. It’s YOUR world, own it!

  • It’s YOUR rules – communicate house rules early and often
  • It is NOT YOUR game to play

As DM you are:

  • The expert (know the rules and when to bend them)
  • The coach (teach the game but learn the players)
  • The director
  • The narrator
  • The referee
  • The host

Only YOU know the bigger picture.  Know it from beginning to end before you start your campaign.  However you have it imagined taking place, forget it! Expect the players to do the unexpected so prepare ahead for the unexpected (especially with DC’s). If you have to improvise, make it canon. Remember YOU are responsible for fluid game-play because they will remember!

You WILL make mistakes…..communicate it outside of game but don’t change it.  Find a way to make it up to the players.

The Big Picture

  • Start with a general idea of the adventure path (plan ahead)
  • Do NOT railroad the players unless they make an incompetent decision
  • Say ‘yes’ a lot unless it breaks the game, then say ‘no’
  • Make the players feel good, reward them (inspiration points)
  • Paint a picture with descriptive scenery/scenarios (don’t forget weather)
  • Use voices
  • Keep the game moving, avoid stagnation

The Other Picture

  • Know the plot path but don’t be too rigid (plan ahead)
  • There are hundreds of ways to work the plot, let it develop
  • Adapt to your players – recognize boredom
  • Know when to bend the rules
  • Know the rules, never break the rules
  • Never let characters become too powerful
  • Deal with cheating players outside of gameplay
  • Know the characters, including NPC’s
  • Their AC, weapons, bonuses, spells, background, alignment, etc.
  • Helps you manage the players
  • Allows you to play realistic NPC’s (prepare a list of names also)


  • Typically the DM is the host location (plan ahead)
  • Be prepared with food, drink, snacks, etc.
  • Be prepared with extra pencils, papers, dice, etc.
  • Plan the next session before departing

As DM, the adventure IS NOT ABOUT YOU!!  When players recall portions of the adventure, you should never be mentioned. You should be the narrator that everyone knows by the sound of their voice but never a mainstay figure in the campaign. Allow your players to have fun and you will too.

-DM Dave

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