It's true—as much material as we can host on the D&D website, there's still no end to the glorious amount of advice, tips, tricks, house rules, and fan creations posted on other sites and blogs. Among this network, NewbieDM.com states that "chances are, if you have a question as a first time DM, I may have had it at some point as well and have probably tackled it here."
In an effort to help showcase D&D's community of sites and blogs, we wanted to ask the NewbieDM himself about his site, his experiences gaming, and his advice to first time DMs.
Wizards of the Coast: So, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions about your blog site, NewbieDM.com! Let's start with the name itself—why did you go with Newbie DM—to imply your status as a newer Dungeon Master, or rather that the site is aimed at newer DMs?
NewbieDM: I’d like to start first by saying thanks for reaching out to the blogging community. I think that D&D fans who haven’t discovered the amount of great blogs out there related to the game are missing out on some great discussions, ideas, and content for D&D. NewbieDM.com started off as a way to share my experiences as a new Dungeon Master—yes, the content is aimed at new DMs, but I am also one as well. So to answer your question, it’s both. The name applies to both me and the target audience—I’ve only been DMing since the release of 4th Ed… plus, NewbieDM has a better ring to it than The Cuban DM, which was my second choice.
Wizards of the Coast: What were you originally looking to get out of the blog (and has this since changed over time), and what sort of material were you (and are you) looking to create on the site?
NewbieDM: When I started DMing, I looked for blogs that would cater to my needs, mainly as a new DM looking for discussions, tips of the trade and other things that would make my life easier behind the screen. The problem was that I kept finding websites where the point of view was mainly from DMs that had been doing it for a long time, carried a lot of prior edition baggage with them, and were seemingly talking to longtime players as well. I had no experience DMing before, and I felt these sites weren’t really talking to me, so I told myself that if I couldn’t find what I was looking for online, I’d make my own. They say necessity is the mother of invention, and that’s what prompted me to create my site.
The goal of the site is to help new DMs find the answers to the questions they may have, no matter how insignificant they may feel it is. How do I print maps to scale? How do I make tokens instead of using minis? What is railroading, how do I avoid it? How do you track initiative at the table? All of these questions that I had at one point in time, I answered both for myself and for my readers.
Wizards of the Coast: What sort of topics are planning to cover in future posts?
NewbieDM: Future posts include more tutorials on mapping. I just launched a great tutorial series on mapping by guest writer Jonathan Roberts, a professional fantasy cartographer. I’m also reviewing 4th Ed. material all from the point view of a new DM, and my series “1d12 questions with…” is where I interview an industry professional. Some WOTC guys have been a part of that—in fact it was in this series James Wyatt broke the news that the 4E version of Dark Sun would have no new classes. So keep checking in, as there’s good stuff coming down the pipe!
Wizards of the Coast: Although you started DMing in 4th Edition, how did you get your start in D&D? And what might you tell us about the current campaign you're running? Any favorite sessions or encounters in recent (or earlier edition) memory?
NewbieDM: My earliest D&D memory involves the old red-boxed Basic set, the blue-boxed Expert set, and of course the cartoon. My brother and I were given the sets, and I remember reading them over and over again, but not really understanding what the heck they were. The concept of the game just didn’t click with me. It wasn’t until later when I got to high school, that D&D really took me for spin. I’m talking about late 80s early 90s, playing in a deadly 1st Edition campaign involving githyankis on army tanks and crazy stuff like that. It was a wonderful campaign, run by an amazing DM, and I think that’s what got me hooked on D&D. Having a good DM was the key.
After that, it was throughout the 90s with 2nd Edition, the Star Wars game, all until 3rd Edition hit and I was out of RPGs for most of that era. When 4th Edition hit, I got the itch again, so I rounded the troops and started. It’s mostly the same group of guys I played with back then, so it is like putting on a pair of comfortable jeans. It’s a 4E game in a homebrew setting, with a mix of original stuff sprinkled with some published material. We are having fun, which is the most important thing to do.
Wizards of the Coast: In previous blog posts, you've covered such topics as imposing a time limit on players, killing gods, and—more recently—having a pool of characters (for players, like myself, itching to try new classes). Do you find it's preferable to experiment with the rules in your campaign vs. the rules as written, or do you feel this is simply a natural process in the game? Have you ever tried any house rules that didn't quite work as intended (for better or for worse)?
NewbieDM: I think if you aren’t house ruling D&D in some way, shape, or form, no matter how small the tweak is, you are in the minority. Having said that, right now I tend to stick to the rules as written, mainly because the game has changed so much from previous editions that any minor change could potentially throw the system out of whack and I don’t really want to do that. This game was designed by a committee of designers much smarter than me, so I’ll stick to their design.
What I house rule is mostly stuff like letting players change a feat here or there, swap out a power, that kind of stuff. I don’t play with the math of the game. The game is much more balanced now than it ever was, mainly because there is a team of designers rather than one guy working on it.
Wizards of the Coast: Finally, as your blog is NewbieDM, what's the best advice you've ever been given, or would like pass on, to the newer DMs?
NewbieDM: The best advice, and it’s cliche but true, is to ignore the rules if you have to and just keep having fun. Rules are there as structure to the game, but they shouldn’t grind the game to a halt if they are being discussed at the table. Nothing makes the game come to a crashing halt faster than a rules lawyer arguing about the rules for long jumping. Roll the dice. Did the guy roll high enough in your opinion? Good, he made the jump. Learn the rules later.
Another good piece advice is to get out there and find the best D&D blogs on the net. A good place to begin is the RPG Bloggers Network. That’s where newbiedm.com got started, and that’s where the best RPG bloggers are waiting to be found. I highly recommend it. There’s also a lot of D&D talk on Twitter. Do a search for #dnd on Twitter and you’ll find a lot of people talking about the game. I’d also advice people to visit my site. I give away stuff every now and then!