DM'ing for the first time, especially with experienced gamers, can be quite intimidating. But, if you know what you're doing, know the game rules well (not to say that being a rules lawyer is a good thing), then you shouldn't have much trouble. I was never much into White Wolf myself, but from what I've heard, the gaming experience for that system is based more on the storytelling aspect, as opposed to the actualy gnit'n'gritty (killing, treasure, etc).

A key element in this situation would have to be properly playing out the NPC's. I always loved doing the voices of the NPC's, changing tone and mannerism with each person. It's also good to encourage the players to actually converse, per se, instead of just having them say, "Well, I want Johnny to say 'sure baby, let's go back to my place'"

The most important factor, though, is to remember that there are basically three types of GM's:

  • The Game Master who wants the party to fail. These GM's will usually put the players up against horrendous situations and hordes of monsters (Once again, this won't apply much to the White Wolf universe, since it isn't much for hack'n'slash). In my experiences with these types of GM's, they were almost always sadists, as they loved to see the player's fret for their char's life.

  • The second type is the Game Master who wants the party to succed. Usually, they don't want to feel like a dickhead for killing off the party, so they'll usually cut the players alot of slack. This was how I used to GM, and it loses it's appeal quickly, especially for that joy you're supposed to experience for giving the players hell ;)

  • The third and most balanced type of Game Master is the GM who wants the players, and himself, to have a good time. Usually , these GM's will mix totally fucked situations (like having to fight a band of child-enslaving fast food workers), with excellent rewards for positive player performance(It's the three P's!). Don't be afraid to reward players, but don't let them get fat, because they'll start to bitch when you stop giving them all those +1, +2, +3 weapons (Once again, this doesn't much apply to WW ;)

    And, maybe this is just me, but I always loved a GM with a sense of humor. Good luck, kenata :)

Tips for first-time DMs (from an old hand):

  • Run your game on a simple system the first time through. Something like West End Games's Paranoia or something out of White Wolf. This keeps you focused on the game and not the rule set, and helps to keep you from becoming a rules lawyer.
  • Don't try to be mean. Killing the players quickly and painfully is not the goal. Many first-timers will cackle evilly as they send an armada of hover-tanks against a lone unarmed character. This will frustrate your players, and decrease the fun factor.
  • Reward your players. Another thing your PCs will find frustrating is completing a great task, and not getting much for it.
  • Don't over-reward your players. Newbie GMs will sometimes give their players stuff that's just wayyyy too powerful. This means you have to come up with something better for next time. You want to slowly give out stuff, not throw them a +17 Sword of Chopping Enemies Into Tiny Bits.
  • Use humor. A little levity can really take a tense edge off of a long fight. Even if the joke is bad, you can get some serious guffaws.
  • Reward your players for the right reasons. Don't reward the players for killing something; reward them for killing the enemy in character or in a creative manner.
  • Plot. The plot is all-important. If you want to spend your life rolling dice, that's fine, but there's plenty of great wargames already out there.
  • Having a non-player help you out can be useful. One of the key traits of a good GM/DM is that they can think on their feet. Co-running it will let you still have an enjoyable game while learning the ropes.
  • Over-prepare for your first game. I don't mean you should be rigid and inflexible (i.e., like Al Gore's posture or George W. Bush's mind), but think of as many things that your players might try as you can, and be ready for them. As you learn to adapt quickly, this will become less necessary.
  • Your first time will be pretty bad. That's a fact, you'll have to live with it. Therefore, don't worry about it at all. Loosen up.
  • Don't under-do or over-do descriptions. If you spend a half-hour describing a room, your players will get bored. If you describe someone as merely a "tall man", they seem like a cardboard prop.
  • Prepare in the physical sense, as well. Plan for at least one break in which everyone can go outside, sneak a smoke, or maybe even make a Quest To Go Buy Skittles. Have food/drink. Pizza and soda are preferred by some, other like chips and beer. Regardless, something like that is a necessity. Have pens, paper, dice, extra character sheets, books, chairs, a large table, etc. Have something unrelated for the players to do. I've got a pool table, and it makes a good diversion when I'm in a GM-PC conference, or while someone is still making a character.
  • Discuss your player's characters with them before starting. Maybe this would only take 5 minutes, but you gotta know what you're dealing with. Force the players to stick to the characters.
  • Have fun. Have fun. Have fun. There is no rule more important than this. Have fun. Did I mention that fun was the key factor here?

Anyway, I hope that's of benefit to someone.

One thing you should bear in mind: Your players will not do what you want them to do. They will befreind NPCs they were supposed to hate. They will bypass puzzles. Then they will engage the locals in an extended shootout. Somehow, they will do this in character.

I've sat on both sides of the table many times. I still don't know how it happens. Just be prepared with two adventures/stories/whatever. Make the second one extremely flexible, and just improvise. You and your players are on the same team, unless you'r playing Hackmaster or Paranoia.

And may the Gawds be with you.

My first experience as a Dungeon Master was, let's face it, a disaster. It was an AD&D (not to be confused with ADHD) campaign, my only experience was as a player, and my players (of which there were only two), had as little or less experience than I did. I did not know my material. I did not know how tables and stats worked. It was at about the time that I had first level characters come across a chimera and kill it in three turns that I realized something is seriously wrong here. We never did more than that one session.

Fast forward several years to my second attempt (the one I prefer to think of as my real first). This time, I'm running v3.5, and things are going smoothly. There are more players, some more experienced than I and willing to give me a hand, every so often, if I need it. I understand now the concept of hit dice and how they work. I'm more relaxed. The game is more fun. I get to enjoy the Player Paranoia induced power trip (even though I know that the darkmantle really did just get a good roll against the orc, I don't have to let on that such is the case).

What have I learned? Firstly, that it's much more fun if you have some idea what you're doing. Secondly, the players will never enter the rooms 'in order' and that they will do unexpected things, such as unleash one of your encounters on another encounter. Finally, being the DM isn't half as bad as I thought it would be.

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