New to Sly Flourish? Start Here!

Easy Tricks from DMs on Twitter

by Mike on 2 August 2021

In July 2021 I tweeted the following:

"What simple and easy tip or trick made a dramatic improvement in your #dnd game?"

Many of the answers were outstanding and I wanted to share them. Here they are!

Asking for feedback after a session can be helpful. But listening mid session (And in post session general chat) can also be super helpful for figuring out what players want more of. - @GarethThomasson

1 real day = 1 game day. - @BrianRenninger6

Actually reading the spells my players are using (very new dm) They didn't inform me about all the details - @Gob_the_goblin

Throw away the plan. At least the overly detailed parts. - @Lazy_Spade_

Switching my notes to spreadsheets - @Cayen123

Less emphasis on xp gained per kill/encounter and more xp earned via rp/exploration/learning about the world. Takes the focus away from mindless grinding and lets the players spend more time enjoying the little things/different aspects in life/their characters - @Imyourpaladin

Only one drink per hour. - @DorianCrafts

Don't ask for rolls unless you have a consequence for failure. Also, let 'em ride. Don't keep asking for new rolls unless the circumstances have substantially changed. - @brodiehodges

Mass initiative for groups of monsters. It's an ubiquitous concept now, but when I was first DMing every DM I knew rolled initiative individually. When I saw one moving all his skeletons at once it blew my mind. - @NovemberPines

Adopting collaboration at Session Zero - @civstreet

Being unafraid to tell the players "Hey, that's a really good idea!" When they're discussing plans/tactics. - @RobertKendzie

Pack of cards for initiative :) - @Connors707

Don't ask for Perception checks. Just describe what you want them to know and use their passive Perception as much as possible. Let the players decide when they want to make Perception checks and the game goes far faster! - @BarbaricSpace

Variant skill check rule from the DMG. Let's the DM get creative with skill checks, and let's the PCs pitch ways to handle a problem that their character might try. - @m0dredus

Bookmarking my spell descriptions - @BaileyCheshir13

Asking how the character feels - @dm_zilla

I roll initiative before the game and at the end of combat. Makes a seemless transition between rp and combat. - @critacademy

Faking dice rolls - @SecretNerd6

Randomising everything I reasonably could. Like most DMs I am NOT as creative or original as I think I am. Randomising things forces you to push these boundaries. - @Wolfenight

Only plan on detail about 1 session ahead. Let the players choices on that session guide your planning for the next session - @Tempus_6

Went back to face to face games after a year and a half of online. Instant major improvement. - @Charkomangus

If you go down in combat and are brought back, you add a level of exhaustion, definitely makes the more squishy members of the party think about their placement and not just relying on the cleric to bring them back all the time with no consequences. - @dice_giant

Let the players make shit up about your world in the first session. It provides automatic buy-in and gets you used to being thrown curveballs early, often, and forcefully - @EmDeeEssEff

Using poker chips for spell slots and popsicle sticks for limited use abilities to help remind players of what they could do - @Kaotyk525

Telling my players the Monsters armor class. They can pre-plan their turns. Combat is so much faster and I find my players spend more time describing their actions. - @Thenuinn

Add a child. Love this trick! - @GethOverlord

Remember it's just a game and enjoy embracing how hilarious natural ones are - @Fwooshie

Yes and. - @JCFoxpox

You only need a map if you're fighting -- even then, if you can theater of the mind it, do it. - @Robbie_LandisCP

Prep the enemies turns while your players are taking their turns. There is a lot of dead time - rolling, strategizing, looking a character sheets - that you can use to plot your actions during a big fight. - @KaleStutzman

Farm out initiative tracking to a player - @MichaelChadd

Sending a survey before the campaign and periodically throughout with questions about character motivations, goals, and desires. As well as player preferences, experiences, and suggestions. Really helps adjust the campaign to ensure everyone is having fun and staying interested. - @cctechwiz

No combat. Hot NPCs. - @TJ_Witherspoon

Asking the players to recap the last session - @jeboyt

Prep Situations, not Plots. A Plot can go "off the rails". A situation has no rails - definitionally, whatever the players do IS the plot. Know who the bad guys are, what they want, and what resources they have. Repeat for NPCs, and the setting itself. - @ThomasJOHara2

Prerolling the initiatives for known encounters/ painting the bases of different enemies different colors to track damage and turn - @JRyan57789219

Haven't DMed in 10 years, but smoothing out combat with warning players they are on deck helped a lot. Having small side discussion outside of the game session helps the DM and PC to flesh out the story and helps the players feel safer with the RP aspect of gaming. - @SinisterSob

I ask my more shy players how their character feel instead of waiting for them to have dialogue improvised on the spot. sometimes their characters' feelings just become words naturally. - @tylereavey

I stopped worrying about balance and left it to the players. Once intiative is rolled, the fight is the fight. No numerical adjustments, no fudging. By not worrying about any of that stuff my mind is free to focus on making the fight dynamic and interesting. - @SammyTwoTooth

Simplify your plot lines. Everyone is still having a blast and you aren't chomping at the bit to see if they notice or throwing details at them to try to get them to make complex connections. - @dmleitchtweets

Track wounds not current hp. - @Letwookieewin

Parleying with enemy targets - @irunvillains

Dont write scripts, write bullet points. And learn from improv writing like Rick and Morty. - @CharlieWolfie96

I stole this trick from a meme, but I have found releasing a single bee into the room really spices things up. For extra spiciness, I'll also glue the bee to the back of a spider. Or yanno... Notes. - @mal_harrier

I have a mechanic I'm adapting into the ttrpg I'm making from a video I saw called dramatic HP. Basically, within the story you're telling, to up the stakes, there is a separate pool of hp with way less points. Works similar to vtm's system at that point. - @demi_dori

If there's a disagreement over rules, we don't hold court, DM make a ruling and we can discuss it further out of game. - @80sVillain

Create problems, not solutions to them. Don't try to anticipate what the players going to do, that's futile. More times than I can count, the players have come up with a much more creative solution than I ever would have. Roll with it! - @groshnik

Keep your sessions scheduled regularly and consider your less frequent attendees as featured players; that are mostly absent rear guard or camp keepers. - @joebelanger

Don't ever think that the DM is trying to beat the players - @SecretCollegeHL

Initiative tents on top of the GM screen. - @JesterOC

Be a fan of the players. Just cheer for their victories. Be sad for their defeats. Changes that mood right up. - @AbyssalBrews

Play with intention. Just be in the moment and invested in making sure everyone has fun. - @SolsRoles

Talking less. - @XvAgent

Fun facts (1gp reward) per session, a player does initiative (inspiration as reward, max 2) and recaps by a player (also inspiration) If someone incorporates a fun fact in session thats also inspiration. Allows the players to shape the story more due to heavy inspiration use - @Tim_du_nerd

Incorporated PBtA style investigation rules that trigger as the result of perception or investigation checks. (It's easy when you look at what PBtA rules work like.) - @joejoehasfun

Technically a house rule not just a trick, but very simple: PCs only get the benefit of a long rest in a place of relative safety and comfort, not when camping in the wilderness. Lets you run wilderness adventures like they were dungeons. - @AlexBro97829019

If someone read a spell/ability/rule wrong and already spent time to make something happen, rule it in their favor for the current session. They will be less disappointed and you won't need to have a rules debate until after the game! - @Sulicius

When a player fails a check, make something bad happen or allow success at a cost. - @errantcanadian

Round all damage to the nearest 5 at higher levels. Makes the maths so much easier. - @scrollforinit

1- listening to players more, taking ideas from them and using them on the fly. 2- having states of failure, meaning one dice rolling bad is not the end of the thing, for instance if someone is trying to persuade an NPC, rolling 1 or 2 fails just makes the npc act less friendly. - @Skinny__Bob

With my group, the players message me with the results of death saves rather than announce them to the table. That really makes 0 HP a more tense situation. - @MShades01

Don't count hit points for big bads. Just wait until someone does something epic and call it. - @ChrisMcLaugh1in

Always look smug behind the screen. Look slyly at a player opening a door. - @thecriticaldom

Delegating roles to the other players. Like looking up rules. Managing initiative order for combat. If a player makes a knowledge role. I don't tell the group what they know. I pull the player aside and tell them. This allows them to share in their own words and role play - @Michael63813

How do you want to do that? Or basically any call to describe a dramatic action during a tense moment, instead of me doing it - @mbuhtz

Not a trick or tip, but a piece of software called Foundry VTT. - @LeDungeonMaster

Adding a time limit to the turns; 15 seconds to decide what you do, applies to DM and Players. Worked wonders in my case; added tension and made things go by. This was added with the consent of the party. All my non-base mechanica are pre-approved by the party :) - @franatus

Treat roleplaying a character like a joy ride. you're doing it to have fun, it's okay if you wreck it, don't play it safe and do the thing. this advice was given to me at @EmpireLrp and it's improved my enjoyment of every rpg and lrp tenfold - @ArtNolanis

Consider the motivation of individuals. - @wildepix

Music. Even if it's just for combat. Anything to set a tone. - @CalvinOreto

Only planning situations without any regard for what players will do, then rolling with the punches. - @pedroclima_

Always look your players in the face, unless you are playing an NPC who can't/won't. #dnd - @RJD20Writes

That's a toss up between your tip, "use static monster damage" and @dungeoncraft's tip "use group initiative, especially with bigger groups"... - @mrwalters

Say yes or roll the dice. - @Quimmaqui

For theatre of the mind, on a players turn, describe the last turn / what they are seeing through the PC's POV. Ask "what is (PC name) doing?" instead of "what do you WANT to do?" This help alleviate choice paralysis and helps players who might not have caught every detail - @Marcellus_Krowe

Give a recap before each player's turn: "Alright, the orc slashes at Fightergirl, barely missing her. He screams in frustration which is drowned out by the 3 orcs screaming battle cries as they charge toward you, Wizdude. What do you want to do? It keeps the narrative going - @BZBeezley

Calling for ability checks at the point of tension rather than before any action occurs. "You jump to a narrow ledge with barely a toe-hold over the sleeping frost giant below! Dexterity Check!" - @JoshSomers11

Steal everything you have in other board games. Cards. Figurines. Weird looking tokens. There is a lot of stuffs you can do and doesnt cost you anything cause you already have them. - @Carmelo_Sutera

Bottle rings for different conditions on miniatures. Roll one initiative for large groups or mobs especially in big army battles. - @GeekMovieHouse

Music and evocative art handouts - @Navy_DM

After the session, have a post-mortem and talk about what you liked and didn't like about the session - @andreas_mwg

Asking my players to describe why they fail at something when they roll a Nat 1. It gives the player control over a dramatic moment, it lets them scale what happens based on how they're feeling at the moment, and often gives amazing insight into the characters thoughts! - @OboeLauren

Let PC's die. Players understand it's a game. Your decisions & the dice will determine your fate. They tend to start working together better when they realize your a TPK DM. Less drama/self aggrandizing & more togetherness. - @Man_O_War_Speak

If your players struggle with RP, describe how you think they'd react to something: "the sight of the viscera makes you queasy and your hands shake." Players mostly go along with it. If they disagree, they'll let you know and tell you how they react, so it's a win win. - @PursuedByABomb

Listen to what the players say about what they like to do the most and make a point of giving them a chance to do that. Like if your monk loves running up walls or the rogue steals little shiny things, plan a moment every few games where they get a chance to do that. - @madfishmonger

Passing notes to players that they get to read and immediately have to hand back. Some of which are pre written. It could be important. It could be random - like, 'there is a faint smell of cinnamon'. It could be, 'Are you having fun?' Have them answer. Then move on. - @gasolinemoth

Electric tea light candles go on for concentration spells. - @GeekMovieHouse

Tie your story to places and not characters and try to have your events chronologically independent. That way your party has a harder time derailing your campaign. And remember that it's their story. You're only the narrator. - @GearforgedI

Keeping a "cheat sheet" for player Passives, who has Darkvision, etc. - @DanIsNotNice

For virtual games: As a GM making sure that people get a word in. It's hard not to talk over one another when missing body language cues. A simple "What was that -insert name-" after a missed cue gives more people a chance to talk and makes them feel safe doing so. - @ChichaxMorada

Having Prime actions as examples of alignment so there's always a certain line to guide players towards or away from an alignment choice - @SteelUrMind

Focus on listening instead of roll playing - @micahfaulkner13

Make sure everyone's included (even if you're not the DM) - @TheAngieVOD

Have easy fights, or hard fights - no medium resource-depleting boring fights. Choose PC awesomeness or PC jeopardy for each battle! - @milnermaths

Crit rules we changed in our games. Roll one set of your damage dice + the maximum damage of that roll + modifiers. Made crits really pack a punch. Works both ways so it's just as potent for DMs as it is for players. - @VanRilisdead

Announce whose turn it is, and who's turn is after that. "Eren, it's your turn. Lysha, you're on deck." Keeps people ready to play and action moving smoothly - @TrmntdByGnomes

Related Articles

Want More from Sly Flourish?

Check Out Sly Flourish's Books

Send feedback to