Dungeons & Dragons: How To Help A New DM As A Player

Because D&D is a cooperative experience, DM included.

Dungeons & Dragons: How To Help A New DM As A Player

DMing for the first time can be daunting, in Dungeons & Dragons or any other tabletop system. Having the first session go smoothly is a great confidence booster, and a good player can help the process along. Roleplaying is a cooperative activity, so knowing how to help them will improve the quality of both your games.

The main challenge to being a supportive player is providing the DM with room for growth. You can't and shouldn't take over the game in an attempt to help, and each person is going to need to find where the boundaries are for helping out.

Helping A New DM Set Up A Game

Dungeons & Dragons: How To Help A New DM As A Player

A new DM can be in a lot of different positions that change what help they need from their players. If you want to help them out, talk over what they need and whether you can help them:

DM Type

DMing Issues

How You Can Help

Experienced Storyteller

A DM might be new to D&D but still have experience with other systems or similar improv exercises. This means they won't need help on narrative portions but might struggle with certain mechanics.

You can remind them of relevant rules as they appear. Alternatively, you can work together to make a cheat-sheet with the mechanics they need regularly.

Experienced Player

A DM with player experience will know most of the fundamental systems of the game but not know the tricks for balancing encounters and designing sessions.

Offer to help them with assembling encounters, navigating a virtual tabletop from the DM screen, or planning out session narratives.

Lacking Confidence

Some rookie DMs are fully capable but need to practice using their skills and prep work.

Suggest a test session with a reduced player count, where they can practice their skills prior to running a full game.

Be a rubber duck they can bounce ideas off. It doesn't feel like helping but makes a big difference.

Strict Planner

A DM might have a clear vision of what they want the session to be but not have a full concept of how to keep players within that vision.

Offer to be their inside man in the player group. Ask them beforehand what they want the players to do and then advocate for that in-character.

Some of these strategies approach the level of becoming a co-DM. If they ask for your help on narrative and plot, you'll need to restrict your actions as a player to not abuse the extra knowledge you have. If they don't want a co-DM, limit your help to other areas.

Being A Good Player For A New DM

Dungeons & Dragons: How To Help A New DM As A Player

Some DMs don't need or want help outside of the session itself, but this doesn't mean you can't still be a good player for them. Alongside the general strategies of being a good player, there are some points that are specific to supporting an inexperienced Dungeon Master.




Be Adaptive To Rule Changes

Most skilled Dungeon Masters are effective at making on-the-spot rules decisions or prepared ahead of time with a session zero that covers any exploits or class combos they are banning pre-emptively. A rookie might forget some of these or not list them ahead of time.

You might need to quickly change your spell list because they forgot to ban Create Food in a survival game.

Don't Dispute Their Authority

Sometimes a DM will give a ruling that contradicts the books or errata. They're allowed to do that, and you don't want to undermine them by pointing it out in the middle of play.

A mystery or puzzle might rely on a misconception of how a spell works. The spell works as the DM says it works.

Make No Assumptions

It can be poor form to assume the game follows a specific interpretation. Even if both you and the DM have played previously at the same table, you shouldn't assume they're running the same house rules and optional mechanics that you've both played under before.

Just because you both previously played in a game that allowed criticals on saving throws doesn't mean that rule is still in effect.

Give Feedback Afterwards

Feedback is always important for DMs but one's without experience are going to be more reliant on player testimonies to find what they're doing right and what they can adjust.

Make notes over the course of their session of points they did especially well at. These points where the game flows smoothly are easier to forget in hindsight, since they come across naturally.

Help Any New Players

A new DM is likely to have their hands more full than usual, meaning players will be reliant on each other for guidance.

You can take a moment to help a player navigate their character sheet while the DM is getting set up.

Don't Force Difficult Rulings

Most DMs know better than to allow certain combinations of material in character building or gameplay. New DMs haven't yet memorized the entirety of RPG stack exchange and the various rules debates held there.

It is questionably legal to use the Rope Trick spell to clip through floors, ceilings and walls, but nobody is prepared for that in their first time running a game.

As the game progresses and the DM finds their stride, you'll find a player routine that complements their approach.

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