How to be a good Host as a Dungeon Master
A Story to Begin
Getting folks together week after week is the reason I keep playing Dungeons and Dragons, and I have this habit of meeting new people and inviting them to my house or online meeting hub for a friendly game and evening of storytelling. Integrating a new person at the table can present some challenges to the current flow of the game, especially if everyone has been playing together for a while.
I present to you a few ways you can welcome a new player with ease without upsetting the current flow of the game.
Solve an Old Problem
The party has melded together in a cohesive force week after week, defeating monsters and sacking ruins, but they keep running into a similar problem involving a weakness within the party.
Common problems may include:
- Dropping to 0 HP and spending the combat unconscious.
- No melee fighters to ensure the rogue takes advantage of the sneak attack bonus.
- Many magic items, but no way to identify them.
- Constantly getting lost, losing food and failing to survive in the wilderness.
Now that you have identified party balance problems, perhaps you can guide the new player to solve some of those problems by taking on a certain class. Have the new player choose a healing class to keep the others alive, choose a brawny tank to assume the frontlines, choose a spellcaster with a utility spell that makes life easier, or choose a outlander guide to solve some of those overland travel problems such as rations, difficult terrain and becoming lost.
Notice the cooperation between the GM and the Player as they choose the class for the new character.
Overall, remember that players solve problems that the game master places before them. Even if you don’t have room for another at the table, you should always present more problems than the players can solve, because challenging limitations make for great adventures and fun times.
Introduce a New Problem
This advice calls for a little more flexibility and improvisation on the part of the game master and the existing players. As you welcome the new player, and realize their class or skill set they chose for their character, then you immediately introduce a new problem by which the new player’s character can solve.
- The characters receive a treasure map, but it leads into a hostile country’s territory.
- A character’s rival calls for a duel, but arrives by the message of a new character.
- An invading army attacks and a new character helps the party escape the war torn city.
- A ship has been gifted to the characters and they need a mechanic.
In each of these examples, the game master introduces a new quest or encounter, but bakes the new character into the encounter. Notice the cooperation between the game master and the new player.
Overall, remember that you can connect the previous actions and consequences of the party to the new player’s character so that a seamless welcoming can occur to hook the new player into the party of adventurers.
A Few Tips to Get the Story Moving
Roll Dice as Soon as Possible
New players can be nervous at a table of existing friends. I have found that roleplaying interactions can be awkward even if everyone already knows each other. You can bypass the awkward introductions by beginning an encounter that requires teamwork. I call them incidents – they happen TO the characters, in other words, trouble comes looking for them.
- A local gang vandalizes the tavern where the party and the new character meet for the first time.
- The party becomes captured by pirates along with the new character.
- The governing authorities summon the party and the new character to a special debriefing.
- A wildfire threatens to burn down the village where the party and the new character are living.
Each of the incidents drive the party and new character into the action and this means lots of dice rolls and skill checks. Now the nervous energy can funnel through the fun and then roleplay and storytelling will naturally happen as everyone relaxes.
Once the encounter is resolved, then ask the new player for a description of their character. At this point, after some fun dice rolls and dangerous moments, people at the table will have already been having a great time and then welcome the new character into the party.
Bake the Mission into the New Character
One of the best welcomings I ran involved a new player into a group of 4 existing players. The party was on a mission and found the new character also on that mission. They blended immediately.
I say this because it might be tempting to let the new player develop a backstory outside of the current party. This can be problematic since the new player might innocently drive the story away from the mission. It’s better to designate the mission to the new player so they will more likely blend with the current party goals.
Notice the cooperation between the GM and the New Player.
Overall, remember that cooperation is a key element in making tabletop roleplaying games happen, so practice cooperation with your new player as you welcome them into the party. It is perfectly permissible for you to ask the new player to exercise that same level of cooperation. If you set the standard for teamwork at the welcoming, it will continue on throughout the campaign and everyone will be happy.
Debrief the Session
At the end of your session, conclude with asking from each player a highlight moment in the game. Examples may include:
- A funny joke or pun another player said.
- A vivid description of a magical spell casting.
- A new use of a feature or maneuver in combat.
- A clever problem solving from another player.
- A rich and powerful NPC impersonation from the game master (we need encouragement too).
- A compelling moment where a player character reminded the party of a past encounter (I love when players remember things from previous sessions.)
- An exciting skill challenge and failed dice roll that resulted in a tense moment in the game.
- A character helping another character, especially in a noble or sacrificial way.
When you have 3-7 players and the game master going around the table expressing something positive about the game involving other’s player’s actions and descriptions, you are going to raise the value of your game. Each player, including the new player, will benefit from this increased value ensuring they will want to continue the participation. The next session will then hinge off of the last moments of the previous game which of course, ended in positive reinforcement through the players expressing their highlights. This is a great way to welcome a new player.
Tabletop Roleplaying Games have always been a way for people to come together, play and tell stories. Even though the players may have begun as strangers, eventually, they become friends. I’m grateful to the ones who welcomed me to their table and want to continue that hospitality. Become a gracious host to your table and welcome new players with ease and skill.
May your Story Continue