DM Tips #2: You Are Not the Enemy
This is one of the hardest things for many Dungeon Masters. While you may be responsible for playing the roles of all the monsters, as well as all the various people, the weather, the very land itself, it doesn’t mean you are playing against the players. You may be filling the shoes of every antagonist they come across, but you need to remember that everyone wants to have fun. It isn’t fun for players if the DM is actively working against them.
In many ways, you are like a parent and the players are your children. You are showing them this new world, letting them explore, and letting them experience new things. There may be times where some hand-holding is needed, and other times when you need to let them learn some harsh lessons. Everyone was a kid once, and at times it may have felt like Mom and Dad were being mean for no discernible reason, but most parents were just trying to prepare us for the world. A Dungeon Master is much the same.
This can all be quite frustrating at times. You spend a fair amount of time preparing some grand adventure for the players, and inevitably they will derail whatever you had planned out. They will kill the main villain too easily, or not take the hints that they should head south and explore that old castle the locals keep talking about. This is why being a good DM takes patience and resolve. It is easy to lash out at the players for “ruining” the adventure. You need to remember to stay calm and just see where the story goes. You are the narrator, but the story can always change, and ultimately it is the players who decide what road to take.
You need to find a good balance in the game. You don’t want to be too adversarial where the players feel like no matter what they do they cannot win. On the flip side, you still want to make it challenging enough where they won’t get bored because they know they will always win. Make it tough when it needs to be, but always make sure that if the players are clever they can find a way out of any spot of trouble they may get into. It takes time, it takes practice, it takes patience, and it takes care. You and the players are in this together, if the players win, you win.