So, over at The Tao of D&D the author Alexis Smolensk has delivered to us aspiring DMs some homework, it was actually this post that clinched it for me and made me want to start the blog I had been thinking of writing. Anyway, back to the homework,
Question 1 : Name five skills you wish you possessed that would make you a better DM.
Skill 1 - The ability to more eloquently deliver descriptions of the terrain or the surroundings the party is in, without detracting from what really matters in the situation.
This is the first skill as it is the one I struggle with the most. As an engineering student, I am constantly taught to describe things clearly, concisely and accurately. Extra description gets in the way of the message being delivered, it creates noise in the transmission that the receiver has to filter out, generally not as successfully as the transmitter would like. A good example of this is players getting hung up on some unimportant piece of the description that is just there for extra depth. They did not properly filter what you were giving them so they think it is important.
Skill 2 - The ability to better manage players who take to long in combat due to distractions, not paying attention, or disinterest.
Many of my combats have lasted over 10 rounds in the 15 games I have run in my campaign. These usually take about 3 hours, maybe 4 hours if it starts pushing 14-15 rounds. One of my main problems is not being able to tactfully bring players to act faster. If they are distracted, and need to look over the map before playing every round it slows combat down a fair bit, even if there is only one of them doing it. Also, I am in need of a better way to prompt players to action instead of thinking everything to death before commiting to an action.
Skill 3 - The ability to make dramatic combats short, without resorting to super powerful monsters
As stated above many combats go on for a few hours. And this is largely because I choose to use a larger number of lesser creatures such as orcs/goblins/kobolds than to simply use more powerful monsters. I need to work on using these creatures in a way that is both realistic in terms of their behavior but which would also make them deadly in small numbers so that there can be many quick, exciting battle in a game session as opposed to one larger battle.
Skill 4 - The ability to design maps with greater speed
I need to improve my speed of mapping my world, without sacrificing detail. The maps are the back bone of my campaign, with a key set up so that if there is anything interesting in a hex I know of it before the players get there. I rarely make up significant encounters on the fly, they are generally spawned by the players travelling to close to an area where danger is.
Skill 5 - The ability to recruit more people
One thing that I have found is that having new people play for me greatly changes the dynamic at the table. It shakes things up and makes me have to think in different ways, not to mention lets me introduce a new player to the game. If I had my way I wold be able to recruit a new person a month until I was at 6-7 players, and then have a roster of 2-3 people that would drop in on occasion to play an npc or a follower or some random for a game, just to bring a bit more variety to the table.
Those are the 5 skills I wish I possessed that would make me a better DM. Those are also the 5 skills I plan to work on the most over the next few months. As my priorities change, say I become better at mapping or descriptions, I will start working on other ways to improve myself.
The second part of my homework will get done later this week.