My obsession with Dungeons & Dragons is still in full swing, and lately I have been striving to improve my Dungeon Master game. A while back, I talked about Acreletae and her advice for beginner DMs. Although it’s very nice to have a female DM voice, her channel doesn’t really have that many videos. So today I would like to introduce you all to a veritable goldmine of DMing advice—Matthew Colville’s YouTube series called Running The Game. Currently at 47 videos and counting, this series first goes through the basics of DMing and adventure creation before Colville delves into topics such as calendar creation, how to deal with or avoid certain mistakes, and how to make a game fun.
Colville made me like him and his DMing style with his very first video, in which he acknowledges that DMing can appear intimidating at first. He goes on to say that it really isn’t: you don’t need to read or know all the rules and you don’t need an elaborate adventure. Even if you’re not very good at DMing (and it’s natural that in the beginning you wouldn’t be), the players and you will still have fun.
The attitude that Dungeons & Dragons is about fun, and specifically that the DM derives fun from the players having fun, pervades most of Colville’s videos. That doesn’t mean that the DM should go easy on the players: in order to create a compelling story there needs to be tension and a certain degree of suffering, but in the end of the day it should still be a satisfying experience for the players. This is a philosophy I try to follow as well, and therefore I appreciate advice on how to engage different kinds of players, how to deal with slog or how to avoid pointless character death.
Another thing that makes me want to listen to Colville’s advice is that he is aware of his privilege as a white straight man at the D&D table. He addresses the importance of making people of different ethnicities, genders, and sexualities welcome in the fantasy land you, as a DM, create. That includes making sure that the player who perhaps often feels “other” in real life isn’t forced to play a character who is “other” in the fantasy land. Colville also bluntly discusses how sexual violence and rape has no place in a D&D game, especially when directed by player characters at other player characters. It’s important when people like Matthew Colville speak out about these issues because the white guy voice is still the prominent one in the tabletop role-playing game community and it can make others who don’t fit into this category feel unwelcome.
I highly recommend Matthew Colville’s Running The Game videos if you’re thinking about DMing but find it intimidating—the first few videos introduce you to pretty much everything you need to know to run your first game. Although the series is aimed at newbie DMs, there is also a wealth of advice that more experienced DMs might find useful as well, ranging from tracking in-game time to the role of information the players get. Through it all Colville makes sure to remind you that there is no “true” recipe to a great D&D game and that it’s most important that everyone has fun.