If you are in a Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) campaign (or several, like I am), then the fun you experience week to week is because of the hard work and creativity of your Dungeon Master (DM) puts in session after session.
DMs don’t do this work for the praise or accolades, of course, but your DM is someone well deserving of a gift to show your appreciation for all the fun they provide.
At Twenty Sided Store, we have more than a few ideas to you celebrate Dungeon Master Master Appreciation Month.
If you play a spellcaster in D&D 5th Edition, then you know how tough it is to keep track of your spells, especially when you get to higher levels. Now imagine that, but with multiple spellcasters, and you have to keep track of the larger battle at the same time. That can be a lot of paperwork, or a lot of flipping back-and-forth through the Player’s Handbook, which nobody wants in the middle of your big boss fight.
The Gale Force 9 D&D Spell Cards take that bit of book-keeping off the GM’s mind, so they can focus more on making your battle memorable. Every spell in the PHB is printed on these cards, as well as the supplemental spells from the Princes of the Apocalypse storyline, so they’ll never be caught wondering what that spell does.
If you’re getting your DM their first set of Spell Cards, I’d start with the “Arcane” deck. That covers wizards, warlocks, and sorcerers: the widest swath of spells your GM is likely to need. If they’ve already started collecting the Spell Card decks, try a sheet of card holders for three-ring binders. It helps keep the Spell Cards organized by type and is infinitely expandable.
Truly memorable NPCs are hard to come by. The DM usually starts with nothing more than a one-sentence descriptor to inform their roleplaying, and that’s if they’re lucky. Like an actor studying for a role, the DM spends a lot of time thinking about their NPCs: their mannerisms, what makes them unique, and how they impact the world and the Player Characters. It’s hard work, and if you want to make it a little easier, give the gift of creativity, in the form of Backstory Cards.
Developed by Brooklyn Indie Games, Backstory Cards help players and DMs come up with a group backstory for almost any type of roleplaying game, solving the “you-all-meet-in-a-tavern” problem. While they’re great for players to figure out why they’re all together and adventuring, Backstory Cards can also help a DM come up with stories for factions, gangs, and other groups you might encounter in your adventure. The GM will have fun getting their imagination kickstarted, and you’ll benefit from having more fleshed-out, more real NPCs to color your adventures with.
WORLD’S GREATEST GAME SCREEN
Game Screens are awesome. They’re a symbol of the DM’s position at the table, and help keep the game organized and running smoothly. Branded DM screens are unique to the system that they’re written for. What if you’re running a D&D game one week, and next week have to transition into Call of Cthulhu or Pathfinder? Even simpler, what if you’re running multiple editions of D&D at a convention? You could get a specific DM screen for each system you want to run, but a simpler (and cheaper) solution is the World’s Greatest Game Screen from Hammerdog Games.
The WGGS is a blank DM screen made of durable materials with clear pockets on the front and back so the DM can slide in whatever artwork or game system info they need. This allows the DM with eclectic tastes to transition the same screen from game to game and customize it to fit their needs specifically. Even better, it comes in both portrait and landscape modes, for the DM that needs to see the table or the DM that wants maximum privacy.
CHAMBER BAND’S “DEITIES” ON VINYL
Has your group heard of Chamber Band? If not, they’re missing out. They’re a Brooklyn-based band (and friends of the store) that blends alternative, folky rock with nerdy themes. Their first record, “Deities” is of special interest to the role-player because it features songs inspired by the gods found in AD&D 1st Edition. But beyond simple fan-service, these songs stand on their own as fun tunes that span the gamut of raucous rockers to melancholy and sad. When I’m in my office, thinking about the next game, “Deities” tends to get at least one spin on the turntable.
Speaking of which, their album is available on vinyl, which makes an awesome gift for a DM that prefers their music in analog. As a bonus, every copy of the physical record comes with a download code for 8-bit a-cappella remixes of all the songs on “Deities.” Two albums for the price of one!
(Note: if Greyhawk gods and vinyl aren’t your DM’s bag, then perhaps they’d like Chamber Band’s second record, “Careers.” Instead of the D&D theme, the songs on this album are inspired by The Hunger Games, and it features a cover of “One Headlight” that is worth the price of the album alone.)
Or, if a physical gift isn’t a possibility for whatever reason, you can give your Dungeon Master the gift they will always love…
OFFER TO RUN A ONE-SHOT
Being a Dungeon Master is hard work, and DM burnout is a real thing. So, if you’re feeling very generous, do your part to help your DM’s sanity and offer to take the reigns for one game.
A one-shot can be anything: a supplemental story to the main story, a flashback, a focus on another part of the world, or a trip into a completely different world or system that would be a fun diversion. My D&D group is made up of people who are all very good Dungeon Masters in their own right. We rotate active DMs, but if our scheduled DM can’t make it for whatever reason, another DM steps in and we play a game that builds out another part of our larger campaign world. This means there’s always a game, and the DM doesn’t feel obligated to carry the entire game on their shoulders.
If you’re not an experienced DM and are nervous about stepping behind the screen for the first time, it’s okay. There are plenty of rules-light, story-heavy games that require very little prep can can be useful in getting some experience as a Dungeon Master while giving your regular DM a break. (We’ll talk more about those next time.)
Also remember, most Dungeon Masters started out their careers as players, and fell in love with the game on the other side of the screen. DM-ing can be very rewarding and creatively fulfilling, but it’s not the same as being a player. The best thing you can do for your Dungeon Master is to give them the chance to be a player again, to come to the game with nothing prepared and ready to have fun.
So those are our tips for celebrating Dungeon Master’s appreciation month this February!
You can find all of these products and more at Twenty Sided Store.