• Justin Handlin

Dungeon Master Tips for Embracing DM's Truths

Updated: Mar 24


Dungeon Master opening door with magic
Art Compliments of Wizards of the Coast

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I saw a DnD meme some time ago that got me thinking. It said "GM Tips for Embracing DM's Truths". No normally I just keep scrolling, but the details caught me and got me pondering a few things. So I wanted to get the guys' perspectives and share my own thoughts on them. Below are a number of truths that underlie the process of running RPGs, and they’re worth the time it takes to regularly review them.


  • Everyone-you and the players alike-plays an RPG to have fun.

  • Players often don't care as much as you think.

  • Players want to see their characters do awesome things.

  • As the GM, you are not the enemy. A GM should always be a fan of the characters.

  • Players love breaking the game. You should too-and then let the game evolve rather than have a game-breaking scenario become the norm.

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Unearthed Tips and Tricks

Character Concept: Trym Lester, Male Human

Description: He is a physically imposing dark-skinned man. He dresses in collared shirts and wears a proper scarf over his head. He sports a long blonde beard, and similarly colored long hair. He is baby-faced.


Personality: He has a good heart but also a terrible temper. He will forgive often but not before yelling and berating someone for whatever they have done wrong. He cannot deal with unfamiliar people for more than a few minutes at a time and if they persist he will grow angry at them.


History: He was a bastard born out of an affair, and his mother always resented and mistreated him for it out of spite. He was part of a huge silver rush, which was taken over by a mining company. The company confiscated a lot of silver, but the shipment was lost. He has gone from town to town working and never settling down anywhere, but has fallen for a local Roofer. He hasn't told them the truth, but wants to settle down with them.


Motivation: To reunite with his absent mother; and he's looking for his big break


Monster Variant: Frigid Goblin

Origin statblock: Spy

Lost or changed features: Sneak attack damage becomes cold damage. Remove Hand Crossbow

Resistance: cold

Innate Spellcasting: Charisma

Cantrip (at will): frostbite

2/day: ice knife


Encounter: The Double Faced Gallery

In the city, there are rumors that workers for a local art museum, The Black Marble Gallery, keep disappearing. Most of the workers are that would not be missed are hired to do simple jobs for relatively high pay and the nobles that do so claim it is to help uplift the lower classes at the very bottom to help elevate society with the museum seen officially as a charity supporting the high arts as well as giving employment. The disappearances aren’t too frequent but enough has happened to have people ask questions. The PCs may discover this by hearing rumors, being asked to investigate on behalf of a missing individual, or simply applying for jobs at the museum for relatively high-paid downtime activities. Especially since an art showcase is premiering which has extra help being hired. During the showcase event in the main room, there are exquisite statues, paintings and, various pieces of fine art. The nobles then adjourn for food and entertainment telling those who are hired as guards to maintain watch among the exhibit and the doors to the room are closed. And locked. At the sound of a whistle, the artwork comes to life revealing them to be mimics that multiple nobles breed for a hobby focusing on their ability to adapt their shape, texture, trainability, and so forth and those in the room are on the menu.

Related Article: 5 Short Dungeons & Dragons Adventures You Can Bring to Your Table Tonight!

Magic Item: Wasp’s Thorn

Dart, Uncommon

This golden hairpin, crafted with a bumblebee motif, is topped with a brilliant emerald. A seemingly innocuous ornament. The hairpin is a customized dart designed to deliver poison. Nicknamed after the assassin family known as the “Wasps” it was passed as a family heirloom. The center of the darts shaft is hollow, which serves to deliver the toxin to its unsuspecting victims.

The hairpin's emerald will glow faintly in the presence of poison. When dipped into food or drink, as an action the user can depress a hidden release on the side to absorb any poisons that may be present. If the dart is empty, when pressed it removes a poison and purifies the food or drink, and charges the hairpin with the poison for later use. If the hairpin is full with an action the creature can depress hidden release poison into food or drink to inject the poison into it.

While the dart contains poison, the creature gains a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this dart and it counts as magical for the purpose of overcoming magical resistance. On a hit or miss the poison is released. While empty the wasp’s dart loses all magical properties.


Dungeon Master Tip: Party Backgrounds

At the start of a new campaign, work with the players to fit their characters into the world and the story you have in mind. Don’t be afraid to set some parameters for them. For example, let them know they are starting in the town of Ridgecrest, and you want them all to have grown up in that town. Or you could ask each player to give you a reason their character has come to Ridgecrest from somewhere else. Then ask the players to talk about how their characters know each other, to establish some relationships among them at the beginning of the game.


Those starting relationships can take any form the players desire. Perhaps two characters are siblings, or they’ve been friendly rivals since childhood. One character might have saved one’s life. Two characters might have served in the town militia before or worked as caravan guards together. Perhaps all the characters were born in a different town that was destroyed when they were young children, forcing their families to flee to Ridgecrest.


Relationships between characters can also mirror real-life relationships between players. If two players are related, for example, they might decide that their characters are related as well, or that their characters

are childhood friends.


Encourage each player to forge connections to at least two other characters. These connections create a network of relationships that gives the characters a good reason (in the game world) to work together as an adventuring party. These relationships also give them plenty of material to work within roleplaying and give you hooks for future adventures.

-Dungeon Master’s Guide Deluxe-


Player Tip: Ascend to Dragonhood

First for this to work, your character must be 17th level and have access to several core spells, wizard is the most obvious choice, but others have this option too. Once we’ve reached this level, you’re going to want to cast the spell glyph of warding at 9th level. Doing so, you will store the clone spell. Once you’ve recovered your spell slots from a long rest, you will want to cast true polymorph on your character, turning yourself into an Adult Dragon of your choosing. It’s worth noting, that while we are already ascended to dragonhood, this can be dispelled and removed. So we aren’t quite there yet. Now, trigger the glyph of warding that now starts growing a clone of your character, which is currently, an adult dragon. Now, the real stickler, is the clone takes 120 days to fully mature. Great use of downtime in between adventures or as a campaign epilog. Once your clone matures, you must let your character die, so that their soul transfers to the clone's body. Now enjoy as you are now among one of the most powerful creatures in the game. Have fun.


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