by Mike Shea on 5 June 2009
Below is an archive of DM tips posted throughout the month of may to my Sly Flourish Twitter feed. Enjoy!
Cut and fold 3X5 cards horizontally for init cards and vertically for status effect cards. #dnd http://yfrog.com/5ombnj
Don't take magic items away from players unless you've made it clear that you will be doing so - like artifacts. It makes them bitter. #dnd
Keep the background story light at the end of a session. Most folks are ready to go after the last fight. #dnd
Need a quick NPC? Think about a character in a movie you just saw. Use their background, mannerisms, and motivation. #dnd
Kalarel from Keep on the Shadowfell can make a great campaign-wide villain. Plan his level 1-30 story arc. #dnd
Dead or abandoned PCs can make great hooks for future adventures. #dnd
Need a quick attack or defense score? Try level+4 for a base attack and level+14 for a base defense. Use + or - 2 to tailor it. #dnd
Very much liked the idea of chaining multiple short 3/3 skill challenges together into a large meta-challenge. Thanks @mikemearls #dnd
Skill challenges don't always need to be big deals. Use three-step challenges for quick NPC discussions, traps, or in-battle action. #dnd
Take joy in the success of the characters. Take no sadness in the defeat of your monsters. #dnd
The new John Adams dollar coin can make a great prop. #dnd
Item creation is a great way to use three or five step skill challenges. Think back to Bruenor's forging of Angus Fang. #dnd
Lower level Dungeon Delves work well when you have fewer players on a game night. Just check the exp budget in the DMG. #dnd
Not every battle has to be a balanced kill room. Throw in a pair of soldiers or a geletinous cube as a small random hallway encounter. #dnd
Have an old villain open an abyssal gate in the sewers of your PCs' home town with Dungeon Delve 11. #dnd
Download glyphs and runes and sigils from the net as signatures for evil-doer letters and journals. #dnd
Ran Delve 11 with four 13th players using 3/4 hps and +1/2 level damage. Ran great! Fast, dangerous, fun. Don't take OAs from rogues. #dnd
Betrayal, deception, and paranoia are great for one-shot adventures but can suck for full campaigns. #dnd
Use large 1" graph paper sheets to pre-draw your battle maps. Great for transportation and quick play on detailed maps. #dnd
Don't have all your players? Run a one-shot adventure that shows some history or lore or off-screen action. D&D's show, don't tell. #dnd
When tracking hitpoints, add up damage from zero instead of subtracting from full. Adding up is far faster. #dnd
Did a player's character die or become incapacitated? Let the player play one of the monsters and take out their anger on the party. #dnd
Where do you get your D&D campaign ideas? http://tr.im/ktte #dnd
Combat going slow? Let people roll and tally damage before their turn and always let them know who is on deck. #dnd
Keep your old campaign notes, hand-outs, and printed pics from old adventures in file folders. You never know if they'll come up again. #dnd
#dnd tip: Build some background into your magic items. Where did that sword come from? How did it get to the dragons hoard?
Describe a room in voice before revealing your map or tiles to give your players a mental vision of the place before they see it. #dnd
Use handheld whiteboards for monster damage and save the environment! #dnd
The pick-up line "You're so radiant, I'm taking ongoing 10 damage" may work on your geek wife, but I wouldn't chance it anywhere else. #dnd
#dnd DM Tip: Have an Artemis Entreri style solo assassin? Give him a Crouching Tiger "light on feet" power that prevents him going prone.
Monster modding house rules don't need to be on every monster. Try tweaking one or two. 4e is modular like that. #dnd
Have players use 3x5 cards for their current damage and attack mods. Why muck up a character sheet? #dnd
Heading on a trip but want to bring some D&D with you? Bring the D&D starter set packed into a 1 gal zip-loc bag. #dnd
Buy a two or three dry-erase battle mats (http://tr.im/laE7) and pre-draw your night's encounter areas with nice colored markers. #dnd
Farm through the Character Optimization board for pre-gen character ideas. #dnd
Pre-roll init for monsters before you sit at the table to save a minute or so. #dnd
Have a player who can't quite make it to the game? Try running over Skype with a camera hanging over the battle space. #dnd
Have a small group and want to give your players a deeper view of your villains? Design a scenario where the PCs play the villains! #dnd
Use specific fantasy fonts to make identifiable handwriting for your big villains. Think what their handwriting would look like. #dnd
#dnd tip: Sudoku puzzles with runes or sigils instead of numbers can make for fun arcanic puzzles provided you have a player good at sudoku.
#dnd tip: Make skill challenge failure interesting and an opportunity for something new.
#dnd tip: Game going long? Distribute loot and exp in email between games. Add some good background or flavor text too.
#dnd tip: Want to get your warped D&D miniatures straightened? Put them in boiling water, straighten them, and put them in bowl of ice water
#dnd tip: reskin one of your big bad evil guys with stats from a Monster Manual 2 beast to see how it plays out.
#dnd tip: A cut up black t-shirt can make a great fog of war for your dwarven forge layout.
#dnd tip: Don't burn paper, soak it, and then microwave it. It will catch fire again and burn your house down. Learned the hard way. #dnd
#dnd tip: Don't underestimate a good ad-hoc skill challenge. What's the situation? What's the goal? What happens on success or failure?
#dnd tip: A few short skill challenges can show the players progress through a long journey. "Remember that time back at the Lake of Fire?"
#dnd tip: A black cloth tablecloth works well to hold dungeon tiles in place and doesn't distract from the map. Nice for bottomless chasms.
#dnd tip: Gnoll minis can make decent Rakshasa minis when you don't want to spend a mint on the Rakshasa minis. Cat warriors too.
#dnd tip: use sticky notes to post elite templates or modified hp / damage house rules right next to the stat block in your MM or adventure.
#dnd tip: Always try to run your party through four or five combats before they get a full rest or they'll power through things too often.
#dnd tip: Playing a high-level one-shot? Consider eliminating paragon paths and epic destinies to streamline and balance the character.
#dnd tip: want a movie with a great D&D-style storyline? Try Carpenter's "Prince of Darkness". The scariest villains are often unseen.
#dnd tip: Keep Dungeon Tiles separated by set to make it easy to find the pieces you need.
Great resource - NPCs from 1-30 of dozens of classes and races. Great for one-shots, or one-on-one games. http://tr.im/mKx9 #dnd
#dnd tip: bring out minions in waves of four to reduce the effectiveness of blasts. The cleric's Solar Wrath is devastating to minions.
#dnd tip: Combat is a poor failure condition for a skill challenge. It can add an extra hour to your normal game. Take surges instead.
#dnd I don't have specific rules for running battles without a mat in 4e, but the key is to leave it to the DM. Describe pushes and pulls.
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