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Have You Ever or Never as a D&D Dungeon Master?

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Over on Twitter I saw Nerdarchy friend Mini Terrain Domain Jake shared a graphic from Arcane Emporium with 20 D&D related scenarios called Never Have I Ever: D&D DM. The idea is for each thing you have done on the list, add one level and then see what level Dungeon Master you are according to these parameters. I thought it might be fun to share this here with y’all, and I’ll go through the list myself to find out what level DM I am after 30+ years of rolling funny shaped dice. Afterwards I fully expect you to share your results in the comments too! So let’s get into it and find out what I have and have not done as a D&D DM.

What level Dungeon Master are you?

  1. Killed a PC. Yes, of course! As a kid playing, our characters died a lot more often. In modern days playing fifth edition D&D with my home group, several characters died during our yearslong Spelljammer campaign. Some notable ones: a Void warlock intentionally died so he could be reincarnated thinking this would hide him from his patron’s gaze (it did not), and the wood elf monk was petrified, frozen and disintegrated at various times throughout the campaign. That monk was a really great example of risk vs. reward, being very capable and mobile but often in the kill zone of monsters.
  2. Nerfed an item. In a recent campaign the characters wound up with a cloak of displacement when they were only 2nd level. Long story, but I spoke with the player and we tweaked it a bit so it worked only when the hood was drawn up, and when he did this the character was blinded but they could see into the Feywild. So it became a really neat narrative device for the group.
  3. Used kobolds. I’ve run Sunless Citadel so many times so at the very least I’m quite familiar with Meepo and the kobolds there. If I’m honest I’m not a huge fan of kobolds and I don’t recall using them of my own volition. But in published adventures, whether adapted for my own purposes or ran straight from a product sure, I’ve used kobolds plenty.
  4. Been a player. Of course! Much more often than not I’m the DM but I’ve been on the other side of the screen quite a bit too. I like doing both in equal measure. If you’re a forever DM in your group, poke around online like Nerdarchy the Discord or the Facebook Tabletop RPG One Shot Group and you’ll be a player in no time. If you’ve never been the DM, what are you waiting for?!
  5. Fudged a roll. 99% of D&D players fudged a roll at some point or another and the other 1% are lying.
  6. Used a mimic. I have not! I know, crazy right? There’s a very interesting mimic scenario in Out of the Box and despite working with this material for literally years now and running many of these encounters, this is one I never have run. Frankly I’m surprised myself about this one.
  7. Questioned sanity while DMing. Uh, yeah. Pretty sure everyone can check this box off. Most notably during DND In A Castle 2019, I felt this acutely in the sense of “what am I doing here with all these amazing DMs?” But you know what, I did it and everyone had a great time, so I’ll happily take the “World Class Dungeon Master” honorific bestowed by the event hosts.
  8. Said “You can certainly try…” Yes and little known fact, DMs must send Matt Mercer a royalty every time we utter these words during a game session. (That’s a joke.)
  9. Used Counterspell. Actually, no I have not, neither as a DM nor player. It’s useful of course, but kinda boring in practice unless it’s a magic user duel, which would be awesome.
  10. Played more than one edition. Yep! I’ve played every edition of D&D, and each one I enjoyed more than the last. For those keeping track that means yes, 5E D&D is my favorite edition and 4E D&D is my second favorite edition. It’s a great edition!
  11. DM’d for children. This is a lot of fun! Kids are so creative and without any preconceptions about the game or game concepts they make very interesting players and fellow storytellers. My favorite experience was running a campaign for my friend and his family. They all played adolescent characters who woke up in their village to find all the adults missing. Then they discovered all the adult creatures in the whole world were missing so they went on an epic quest to find them.
  12. Ran a one shot. These days running one shots is about all I do, and I love it! I’d like to become known as the king of one shots. I learn a lot about the game, players and how to collaborate to tell a story together during one shots. It’s a lot of fun to revisit the characters and scenarios from time to time too.
  13. Ran a campaign 1 year or longer. Our Spelljammer campaign continued for almost 3 years and we still talk about this one the most. I would love to return to this campaign, which sort of fizzled out due to the group basically falling apart. Not in a dramatic way, just the way that keeping a group of busy adults together can tend to do. A bummer, really.
  14. DM’d for a party of 8+. I’ve done this twice! Once at DND In A Castle 2019, where Nerdarchists Dave and Ted and I co-DM’d an epic conclusion to the campaign with 18 players around the table at the same time! It went very smoothly, which we’d been nervous about. Also many years ago I was in a 3.5 D&D group of 12 people and we shared DM duties. I only ran a handful of sessions and it was clunky as heck. That many players and all the crunchiness of the edition meant not very much happened during a session even when we’d play for 6-8 hours!
  15. DM’d for a party of 2 or less. Many times. My girlfriend and I play a seasonal campaign with her character Rosemary Sage and sidekick Samantha the Cat. In my home group since it is so difficult to coordinate schedules I told them as long as 2 people show up, I’ll run a game. So we’ve played many sessions with only 2 players.
  16. Had big bad killed in 1st round of combat. Full disclosure: presenting perilous threats via monsters is not my strong suit as a DM. So this has happened many times for me. Maybe that is why my games have changed over the years to where there is rarely a “big bad.” Instead there’s simply situations the characters find (or put) themselves in and there are monsters and whatnot, but most of the time there is not a singular villain pulling the strings.
  17. Said “So you touch it?” Yes of course and along these same lines I’ll add a few. “You move within 5 feet of the object?” “You step all the way into the room?” “You’re speaking the words aloud?” These are all signs something will probably happen when you do the thing. But it’s a game where characters choose to go into dangerous places to do the things, so why not? When you’re an adventurer you gotta be all in. Side note: as a player I’m happy to be the one to touch it, move closer, step into the room and speak the words aloud. DMs can count on me!
  18. Used a dragon. Countless times! They’re big and bad and scary and I understand the notion of saving these iconic creatures for special occasions but at the same time, it’s right in the name of the game. Sunless Citadel and many, many official published adventures feature dragons for low level characters. When I run a game for new players I often try to squeeze a dragon in there somewhere. It’s cool, and fun, and scary and players love it. My Spelljammer campaign was all about a cycle of the crystal spheres coming to an end when ancient void dragons would emerge from the Void and reset everything, and those adventurers faced many dragons along the way. One of their earliest big moments involved a flame dragon they chased down in their ship and fought on a moon.
  19. Homebrewed. You’re reading this on Nerdarchy the Website. What do you think? This is like, what we do.
  20. Had a TPK. I have not! There’s been some close calls, most notably after the Spelljammer crew defeated a void dragon and the death burst sent several of them to the Nine Hells. But no, never wiped out a party and never been part of a TPK either. Does it count if a campaign hot start resulted in the 1st level characters dying in a battle to defend a town under siege? I’m gonna say no because it was part of the set up.

Now let’s tally up these levels and see where I’m at as a DM. Turns out I’m a 17th level Dungeon Master, according to these parameters. Now I’ve got some goals! I’ve got to use a mimic, use counterspell and have a TPK. The first two shouldn’t be very difficult but the last one isn’t something you can plan for, at least not without something like a “rocks fall, you die” scenario.

But I want to know about you! What level DM are you according to this? Let me know in the comments and share some of your memorable stories too!

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Nerditor-in-Chief Doug Vehovec is a proud native of Cleveland, Ohio, with D&D in his blood since the early 80s. Fast forward to today and he’s still rolling those polyhedral dice. When he’s not DMing, worldbuilding or working on endeavors for Nerdarchy he enjoys cryptozoology trips and eating awesome food.

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