Not Everyone Should DM

Here’s an unpopular opinion, not everyone should be a Dungeon Master. I don’t mean you shouldn’t try it. You should definitely give it a try. However, once you’ve given it a chance, there needs to be a moment of honest self-reflection and determine whether being a DM is really right for you.
What should you look for to help you determine your fitness as a DM? I want to persuade you that the feeling that you don’t have enough time to prep for sessions is an automatic disqualifier. There are many resources out there that can help you with prioritizing what you need to prep for a session and what you think you need to prep. However, you do have to make sure that you do have time to do some prep, as well as be able to set aside the time on a regular basis to play. Scheduling and missed sessions is probably the number one killer of campaigns.
The first thing that I think should raise a red flag for you being a DM is you don’t like it. Seems kind of straightforward, but some folks often feel compelled to assume the role so they can play. Honestly this is the wrong reason to do anything. Resentment is the likely outcome. If you find yourself being asked to run the game and you just aren’t into it, speak up and say so. No D&D is better than bad D&D. And in this age of digital tabletops and gaming forums, finding someone looking for a dedicated group of players shouldn’t be that hard.
The second red flag is you have a story you want to tell that you have figured out from start to finish. This isn’t a knock on plotted campaigns, those are perfectly fine to run. I’m referring more to where the story’s plot has no room for player agency. If your story doesn’t need or want the benefit of player interaction, congratulations you’ve got a narrative fiction to write. But you are a writer, not a DM.
The third red flag is your motivation for DMing is only to kill as many player characters as you can. Again not saying that every challenge the characters face has to be easy or even balanced. Make encounters that the best course of action is avoiding or retreating from. That’s a great way to show the players that the world of their characters is dangerous and there is always the risk of death. But the DM who just wants to find, in their opinion, interesting ways to kill the characters is doing the game a disservice. The game becomes not fun and sooner or later the players will leave. Plus, as the DM you’ve got several books worth of creatures and traps at your disposal to throw at the player characters in your quest to kill them. There’s no challenge and that’s not a win.
Say that you have done all of this self-reflection and you do find that you want to DM and none of the red flags have popped up, now what? Well that’s where the fun starts. But make sure that you keep checking in with yourself all the time. Burn out is a real threat and if you find yourself being only the DM, it is imperative that you find a way to avoid it. Find a game to be a player in, as I recommended here. I also suggest that as a DM you constantly read and I don’t mean reading rules books or adventure materials. I mean read works of fiction and non-fiction. Read items that aren’t necessarily in the fantasy genre. This will fill your DM fuel tank with new ideas.
If you do find yourself burning out, be honest with the players and see if there’s a way to step aside until you want to get behind the screen again. Letting your players know you need a break will be good for you and the group. It might be the catalyst to get one of the other players to take a chance to be a DM.


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