D&D DM Pro Tip: Know Your DM Style
There is no best way to DM, and the best way to be the best DM you can be is to figure out what kind of DM you are.
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It can be tough to be a Dungeon Master, and there are a lot of tips out there about how to be the best DM. What most of the guides out there don’t get is that everyone, even after years of experience, DMs differently. There is no best way to DM, and the best way to be the best DM you can be is to figure out what kind of DM you are.
Some of the first things you should know about yourself are the parts of your DM style that will inform how you interact with your players. The most obvious example of this is the type of game you like. Players that go into a game expecting a dungeon crawl might not like a game that’s focused on intrigue and diplomacy.
Other factors are less obvious. You should never feel like you are in an adversarial relationship with your players, but do know whether you want to challenge them or support them in their stories. A player who is expecting a supportive DM might feel like a challenging DM is too harsh, while a player who expects the opposite might feel like a supportive DM is holding their hand. Knowing what type of DM you are is important both for understanding what types of players best fit you and adjusting your own actions to match players who might have different expectations.
Even parts of your DM style that the players never experience are important to understand. Are you a plotter or an improviser? A plotter should plan in advance for side plots so players don’t feel like they’re being railroaded, while an improviser should make sure that they have some interesting plot hooks so players aren’t aimless. Do you fudge things behind the scenes? Make sure you invest in a DM screen so your players don’t feel cheated.
It’s important to know your players so you can be a good DM for them, but knowing your players means nothing if you don’t know your natural DM style. You may not be able to identify your style right away; it may be something you learn through experience. Still, it is one of the most important steps to improving the quality of the games you run.