With the US still in the throes of COVID (although things are getting better, thank everything), GenCon changed up its procedures this year to run a fully hybridized convention. There will be a physical con with reduced attendance as well as a totally online offering, just like GenCon 2020 was.
While we're so happy to see the convention able to happen in person this year, the reduced attendance meant that they had to limit who could run in-person events. Unfortunately, we just don't have the staffing or funding to run enough events for enough people to meet that mark. But GenCon Online is our saving grace, and we will be making a return to GenCon 2021 in the form of several online events being offered!
In the past we've done two events each year, with each playtesting a different adventure. This year we will be changing that up and running Five Events!!!
This is because we are in the final stages of layout and design for one of the first adventures we set out to make, and by far one of our most ambitious: The Court of Seasons. We've playtested this adventure the previous two GenCons, as well as in small one-shots elsewhere online. After 3 years of writing, refining, and art commissioning, it is ready for primetime! We will be releasing The Court of Seasons on September 1st, and offering four events in total - one for each tier of play. That's right, this will be the first truly "Day 20 Style" adventure we will release because it can be scaled to play at any level. We're so excited to be bringing this story to bear, and we hope you can come out and play it with us at GenCon Online 2021, which we are using as a sort of "release party".
In addition to four sessions of The Court of Seasons, we will also be running a session of Terazul Returned, our first ever published adventure. It's geared specifically towards Tier 1 parties, and even more specifically at folks who are new to D&D (both GMs and Players).
We look forward to seeing you this year!
Also, since all of our events this year focused on finished content instead of playtests, the tickets to attend these events include a copy of the adventures - our gift to you in thanks for helping us to celebrate how far we've come!
Back in May of this year, Don't Be Board started a new series of videos aimed around getting small chunks of advice from multiple creators in the D&D space and combining them into mashup videos. They usually follow a singular theme, but each episode can contain advice or segments focused on anything.
Well the latest episode focuses on tips for people just starting out as DMs, and we're in it! That's right, we decided to dust off our old video-editing chops and submit some advice!
We're super happy to be a part of the group of creators there and look forward to taking part in more collaborations moving forward. We did need to edit down our original script to fit into the time frame though, so if you want a bit more advice, or just want to see our advice in written form, a transcript of our original script follows. Enjoy!
Hi everyone! This is Matt from Day 20 Gaming with some tips for those of you thinking about getting behind the screen and being a Dungeon Master for the first time. Tip 1. Get Inspired Find something that makes you want to DM, and focus on that. It could be a specific adventure, or a campaign setting, or maybe a movie you think would be good as a D&D story. Whatever gives you a spark, go with that. I think a lot of people go down a rabbit hole of "what makes me different?" or "how can I be unique?" This, to me, is just as unhelpful as when folks try too hard to duplicate the experiences of other D&D games they've seen on line. Don't chase that rabbit. Don't be so busy trying to be different that you don't let yourself have fun. As Matt Colville says, "If you like it, put it in your game." I have a friend of mine who was intimidated by the prospect of trying to come up with his own world. But then he read the Theros book and inspiration struck. The book made him excited and gave him ideas, and from there he was off to the races. If there's a book, a movie, really anything that gets you excited about a story you want to tell, even if it has nothing to do with quote "Standard D&D Fantasy", grab on to that excitement and let it take you somewhere. 2. Start small. Focus on a single "dungeon" or small quest, just to get comfortable. Rome was not built in a day, and sprawling narratives are not conjured over night. In fact, sprawling narratives are arguably not what D&D is about. D&D is just sitting down and telling a shared story with your friends, new and old. So when you're first starting out as a DM, focus on just that - a story. It should have a beginning, middle, and, importantly, an end. How long that story takes to tell is entirely up to you and your comfort level, but I highly recommend keeping it to no more than 3 sessions - about 6 to 8 total hours of play time. If this is something you love and want to continue doing, you can always add on more story later. 3. Use what's out there. For anything you're not confident doing yourself, use something off-the-shelf. One of the biggest advantages of playing 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons is the GLUT of content out there. It's why I switched over to 5e from a different system. I was spending so much time homebrewing the other system to have enough content that I was getting burnt out way too easily. So don't reinvent the wheel. There are SO many monsters, maps, and rules out there for you to utilize. If you need a small adventure to go with Tip 2 for example, the D&D Essentials Kit has a ton of super simple quests to get you started. And none of this is to say you shouldn't homebrew. Part of the joy of DMing is creating your own cool stuff that is unique to you and your interests. The key is not feeling like you have to do *everything*. Save your own time and effort for those things you really enjoy, and leave everything else to everyone else. 4. This one is a bit more specific. If your players are also new to D&D, do not explain combat rules. Not at the beginning anyway. Your first session should really be a Session Zero. Talk about the basics of the game, what the story or plot hook will be, and work together to make characters. Walk them through their character sheets and how to roll, but do not, under any circumstances, explain how to play through combat. This might seem odd for a game that heavily emphasizes combat like D&D, but there's two reasons I do this: First - combat is complicated. If you start throwing out bonus actions and reactions and attacks of opportunity at folks before they've even rolled a dice, their eyes will glaze over and all they'll hear is the Charlie Brown teacher voice. It's just too much to talk about in the abstract. And secondly - talking about all those rules will get your players into a rules-first mindset. Now that sounds like it might be okay, especially if you're a Rules Lawyer, but the problem is that now they are more worried about Actions than story. Instead of thinking about how their character would respond to a witty joke in the tavern, they are wondering if Talking is an Action. If you don't explain the limitations that occur in combat, then your players will be focused on the "you can do anything" mindset that is key to playing D&D. So instead of explaining combat rules at the beginning, wait until *after* the group rolls initiative for the first time. Now you can teach everything organically, and your players will be hyper-focused on ingesting this material in order to be prepared for the danger at hand. Give them the quick overview: you can do an Action, a bonus action, and move on your turn. And that's it! Let them take it from there, and explain the rules as they come up. The cleric tried to cast a cure wounds after a healing word? Explain that the spellcasting rules limit them to a cantrip. The fighter is hurt and doesn't know what to do on their turn? Remind them about the Dodge action, or about their Second Wind bonus action! And what better way to explain what an attack of opportunity is than by purposefully provoking one with your enemy? So how can you best prepare yourself for being a Dungeon Master? Number 1 - Find that spark of inspiration and follow it. If it's fun for you, then it will likely be just as fun for your players. Number 2 - Start small. Playing a one shot together is more fun than planning a campaign that never happens. Number 3 - Use what's out there. Don't burnout trying to create everything from scratch. And the last tip - if your players are new, don't explain combat before you need to.