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If you were to ask Matt Mercer if he was at the peak of his DM skill, he would most likely tell you that he’s always striving to improve each and every session, so that he can become, and remain, the best Dungeon Master that he can be. Now imagine yourself, whether you consider yourself a new, or experienced dungeon master. Are you at your true potential? Is there anything you could be doing to improve your game even further and expand and enhance your skill set?
In earlier editions of the Dungeon Master’s Guide, there was an Appendix N, which contained other tools, works, and materials that can inspire DM’s to improve their story, writing, and other skills. In the 5th edition this is Appendix D instead, but many still refer to it as Appendix N by force of habit. Matt Colville has also talked about his own Appendix N that he uses. The context of your Appendix N doesn’t have to be a rulebook, novel, or website. It could be a video, a stream, a podcast, or something different entirely. Anything that helps you become a better dungeon master can be put in your Appendix N.
Let's go through some things that I recommend all dungeon masters add to their Toolkit, in their Appendix N.
1) Matt Colville
Matt Colville is by far my favourite Youtuber to watch for DM advice. His “Running The Game” series is immensely helpful, as are his campaign diaries, where he tells you about his own campaign, decisions (and mistakes, which all DM's make!). From my standpoint, he's a down-to-earth DM who, while experienced, wants to make DMs aware that it's easy and fun to DM, and that you don't have to be some kind of divine being to do it well.
Here are a couple of his videos on Bad Guys, Losing, and Alignment.
Reddit has a large selection of Dungeon and Dragon and other RPG communities. There are over 400,000 subscribers to the r/dnd thread, and that’s just the generic Dungeons and Dragons thread.
There are great subreddits for DMs at r/dmacademy and r/dndbehindthescreen on a regular basis. You can talk to the DMs there and get more tools on your belt. a platform for general DM questions, story advice, and any other questions that DMs may have. Behind the screen however, is a subreddit filled with lore, worlds, information, and other ideas for you to tweak and utilise for your own D&D games. It is a growing archive of hundreds of years of D&D experience, with contributors pouring thousands upon thousands of words from their own worlds and creations.
I'd also recommend to check out r/d100 and r/behindthetables for some extra random inspiration for cool things to throw into your sessions. These can be used as generators, or just to provide yourselves with some new ideas - for example I recently constructed stats for some CR30 enemies using demon lords from the r/d100 subreddit.
3) Angry GM
The Angry GM is probably my favourite DM tips blog, it's quite easy to read, and he presents things in a frank, rambling manner that can really shed some life on some things to try and adopt in your own game. Check out the below blog entries that are among my favourites of his:
Size and Scope
4) Critical Role
A lot of people have heard of critical role. A fair amount of people have not. And I’m not going to come out saying that it’s the greatest D&D group ever. I’m not going to say that Matt Mercer is the best D&D in the world, though he is a good storyteller.
I find watching D&D is a good resource in your downtime. Myself, I find that Critical Role makes for a great painting soundtrack. The fact that the whole group are voice actors means that you can witness some very cool interactions, and potentially be inspired by some of the events that occur during the show. Matt Mercer is an excellent storyteller, and good at putting on distinctive accents for his NPCs.
Sure, they’re a little rules-light. Don’t look to this group as “the way to play D&D”. Instead, take it as a fun, enthusiastic group playing D&D and making a cool narrative.
Link to season 1, episode 1
Link to season 2 character introductions
5) The Monsters Know
There are more ways for a DM to play monsters harder than to simply buff their stats. The Monsters Know is a website/blog which gives advice to DMs on how to play monsters harder, better, faster, and stronger. They also include tips on making some slight modifications to them to help make them that little bit more difficult or unique. Check out some of my favourite advice blogs by them, below.
Mind Flayer Tactics
6) Tucker’s Kobolds
I follow a lot of RPG subreddits, and I follow a large D&D facebook page. Every couple of days I see a post about low-level monsters being “boring” or “not even a challenge”. And in almost every thread, I see at least one person make a reference to Tucker’s Kobolds. This infamous DM is renowned for one thing - his terrifying kobolds, which were just plain regular kobolds, who utilised equipment and tactics which made them a dangerous threat for even a 10th level party.
If you have yet to read the small post on Tucker’s Kobolds, I highly recommend you to take a chance and read it now!
What’s in your DM Toolbox? What’s in your appendix N? Let me know in the comments! With any luck you will find at least one of these tools useful in the improvement of your own DM skillset!
Peter is an avid dungeon master, role-player, and story teller. When he's not running homebrew campaigns, he is creating new worlds, or he is reading and writing fantasy stories, forever immersing himself in the gaping black-hole known as the fantasy genre.
Picture Reference: http://www.syfy.com/syfywire/stuff-we-love-dungeons-dragons-critical-role
All blog materials created and developed by the staff here at High Level Games