10 Dungeons & Dragons Tips From Dan Harmon and His Dungeon Master

By Fred Topel in Daily Lists, Gaming, Nerdery
Thursday, April 10, 2014 at 6:00 am

5. Take Turns Being Dungeon Master

Dungeons and Dragons
Jason Coleman
Look at that exhausted Dungeon Master

Spencer Crittenden is pretty much full time DM for Harmontown, as well as his own private games. When you're that good at creating campaigns, everyone wants you to DM them. I used to feel bad for making other people be DM so I could just have fun playing, and Crittenden agreed I should feel bad.

"It depends because in all groups it can't happen," Crittenden said. "Some people are more equipped for it than others, but if there's a situation where you can cycle through DMs, that's the best. What you're doing is writing creatively and if you're writing creatively, regularly, for a long time, you can suffer from burnout. If you have people that want to do it, that are willing to cycle through, that's probably a better way to go about it but I don't think that's too common and it's not necessarily necessary."

4. Take Breaks

GenCon D&D Room
p med
The D&D room at GenCon

Like, not the hour-long breaks after every 4-6 hours of playing like Crittenden said in number 7. Take breaks from playing D&D altogether, or at least from being DM. Harmon realized Crittenden needed a break after being weekly DM for years on Harmontown. As soon as Harmon said D&D was not a requirement of Harmontown, Crittenden took him up on it.

"Spencer's taking a little break right now because he felt like he had to do it every week," Harmon said. "When he found out he didn't, he immediately took a break." See item number 5 re: avoiding burnout.

3. Listen to Your Players

Roll for Initiative
Dave White
Rolling for Initiative

Just because you're the DM doesn't mean you have to stick to the plan. A good DM loves it when the players rewrite the campaign with some clever suggestions and take the adventure in a whole new direction. Spencer Crittenden has learned to be open to the players.

"Players have really good ideas," Crittenden said. "As the DM you have the tendency to think your ideas are the best, but if you incorporate player ideas it actually makes for a better situation."

2. Avoid Combat

Gyla Shatterstone
Mark Campo
Gyla Shatterstone

Sure, everybody wants to slay a dragon, or maybe they just want to roll the 20-sided die, but fighting can be dangerous, and often unnecessary. The great thing about RPGs is there's more than one solution to every danger. As you may have suspected from the emotional bent to most Community episodes, Dan Harmon is a lover, not a fighter.

"Try to find a non conflict resolution before you draw your sword," Harmon said. "Oftentimes a monster might just be misunderstood, could be bargained with."

1. Play With Celebrities Whenever You Can

Dungeons and Dragons
Seth Dodson
Dungeons and Dragons

Okay, this rule only applies if you are the creator of a beloved cult television show, have a public show where you play D&D, and can invite celebrities to come play on a weekly basis. Jason Sudeikis was particularly enthralled by Crittenden's DMing, and he played along too.

"Actually, on the show he was into it," Crittenden said. "He was the pilot of an airship and he crushed up a pool ball and blew it into Dan's eyes. He was really getting into it and that was probably the best. They don't always know what they're doing or think they have that strong a sense of agency. Even that's really fun."

Previously by Fred Topel

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