BoLS logo Tabletop, RPGs & Pop Culture

D&D 5E Guide: How to Start Being a Dungeon Master

5 Minute Read
Feb 5 2024

DMing for the first time? It isn’t as scary as you might think. Especially with these helpful tips to show you how to get started DMing.

If you’ve ever wondered what life is like on the other side of the screen, even a little, now is the perfect time to get started. It has never been easier to find your feet spinning a mythic tale of heroism and adventure.

And while it’s true that DMing can seem daunting at first blush, there’s so much reward to it. You take on the whole world, creating an experience your friends won’t soon forget.

DMing means running an adventure, rolling with whatever it is the player characters try and do. A lot of responsibility can rest on your shoulders. And if you don’t know how to get started DMing, it can seem impossible to begin.


But we’re here to help. Here are some resources for any first-time DM. Check out these videos, and follow these tips and you’ll see how to get started DMing your first game.

How to Get Started DMing – Where to Begin?

If you’ve never been a DM before, it can be hard to even figure out where to get started. Doubly so if you’ve never played D&D. There are some great resources for total newbies.

Wizards of the Coast has their official How to DM page. Which includes helpful videos like the one linked above. You can also find a walkthrough of the first encounter in D&D’s new Starter Set, complete with a video tutorial for new DMs.


But if you don’t have the starter set, or want to try something different, there are tons of community creators who have guides for how to play D&D for the first time. Matt Colville has his Running the Game series. There’s the Crap Guide to D&D, which is a little more tongue-in-cheek but it’s extremely honest.

But these are all just places to learn. You don’t want to get too bogged down feeling like you have to absorb anything and everything in order to be ready.

All it takes is deciding you want to. That and knowing the rules. At least enough to keep the game moving.

Know the Rules (or at Least Where to Find Them)

Probably the biggest thing any new DM needs is a basic knowledge of the rules. You should probably know how attacks, damage, and hit points work. And the basics of what’s on a character sheet.

The rules in any starter adventure or the basic rules are enough. You don’t even have to have them memorized. Most people don’t. You just want to be familiar enough to know what player characters can do, and how to roll with it when they suggest things.


You don’t have to know everything, but you should feel like you can keep the game going. This is where those videos come in. But ultimately, it isn’t about having some deep, ingrained knowledge, it’s about having fun.

How to Get Started DMing – Find an Adventure

There’s no sense in making your work any harder than it has to be. And for DMs, that can mean finding an adventure you already like and having it ready to go.

That way, most of the work is done for you. There are plenty of starter adventures out there.

There’s the D&D Starter Set: Dragons of Stormwreck Isle which includes a hub of helpful video resources.

But there are so many other new adventures. In Tales from the Yawning Portal you’ll find the Sunless Citadel one of the best starter adventures WotC ever made.

Ghosts of Saltmarsh has the Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh.

Practice and Prep are Great, but Make Mistakes

Once you know what you’re going to play, it’s not a bad idea to take a little time to get to know your adventure. Even if it’s one you’re making up yourself.


Take some time to think about what your players might do. And the people they’re likely to meet. If you know there’s going to be an NPC innkeeper, maybe think about what they sound like. Practice doing a voice ahead of time, so you don’t have to juggle too much your first go-round.

But more than that, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. If you’re DMing for the first time, try things out and see what works and what doesn’t.

You wouldn’t expect to paint a masterpiece the first time you pick up a brush. But you’d be surprised at how much fun you can have even if it’s messy. Don’t let the idea of having a perfect game hold you down.

The most important thing is to have fun with your players.

Have Fun and Be Excited

This is something you won’t read in any D&D core book. But it’s vital to being a DM. Your job is to run the game, sure, but a big part of that is to have fun.

If you’re having fun, your players are probably going to have fun too. Your goal should be to have fun with your players. You might challenge them with thrilling monsters. Or reward them with great treasures.

Give them mysterious omens and ancient secrets to explore. If you’re looking into D&D, you probably like fantasy adventure. At least well enough to know what excites you about the genre.

Think about your favorite book or movie and what about it excites you. Then try and bring that to your adventure.

Good luck, and happy adventuring!


Author: J.R. Zambrano
  • An Adventurer's Guide To Shar, Mistress of the Night, Lady of Loss