Since I started watching Critical Role a few months ago, I have become quite obsessed with Dungeons & Dragons. I quickly realized that while playing D&D is a lot of fun, what I really wanted to be is a Dungeon Master. It unites some of my favorite creative outlets: writing, drawing, acting, and directing. Despite my enthusiasm, it seemed quite daunting at first because there appeared to be so many aspects to it, so I started reading the source books and searching the internet for tips and advice. There is a lot of great stuff out there, so this might become a series of sorts, and I want to start today by talking about one of my more obscure finds—a series of YouTube videos titled Dungeon Master 101 by Acreletae. She has a lot of great advice on the basics of DMing: from organizing your notes and planning strategies for sessions and campaigns to creating non-player characters and cities.
I’ll be honest here, a big part of why DMing seemed so daunting to me at first is that all the popular D&D content I was finding out there, such as Critical Role, The Adventure Zone, and Acquisitions Incorporated, is led by male DMs. I mean, anything geeky being regarded as a “boys’ club” is nothing new, but I didn’t expect female DMs and D&D content creators to be so rare. So I was overjoyed when I finally discovered Acreletae’s YouTube channel, despite the fact that all the videos on it are more than a year old and the channel seems to have been abandoned. However, the content is still there.
Acreletae has a number of great videos breaking down different aspects of the DM’s work into discrete steps. There’s a video that’s literally about how to get started as a DM. She also breaks down dungeon, trap, and NPC creation. I like that she includes practical details, such as advice on how to keep notes, as well as little fun tidbits from her games to show what kind of stuff works well. My favorite video, however, is probably the one discussing creation of cities, as it seems one of the more complex DM tasks and one I have yet to undertake. Acreletae gives a loose step-by-step guide and explains potential mistakes to avoid. After watching that, creating a city doesn’t seem like such a scary task anymore.
That being said, being a Dungeon Master is kind of a personal thing and everyone has their own style, so not all advice will be applicable to or liked by everyone. I, for one, think that for a series titled Dungeon Master 101 there is a bit too much emphasis in the early videos on how important it is for the DM to prepare and know all the things, such the lore of the campaign setting, NPC voices and so on. For a newbie DM looking to make DMing seem less daunting, this isn’t the best message to get. It makes it seem like if you fail at any of those things, you will fail as a DM and it will be no fun to your players, which simply isn’t true. However, even though I don’t agree with all of Acreletae’s advice, it’s still great to hear the perspective of another female DM.
You can watch Acreletae’s videos here on YouTube. Her list of videos isn’t very long, so it doesn’t cover all the aspects of DMing, but it has a lot of good practical advice a beginner DM could use. So go check it out!
And meanwhile, do you know of any D&D or any tabletop RPG content led by female DMs? It can be actual play streams/podcasts or advice videos/blogs—I’d love to hear about it all!