What Makes a Great Dungeon Master?
There is no one word of wisdom that makes a great DM. Great DM’s are made from a combination of attributes to make them great. When I first rolled those 3d6 for my DM attributes I had a few 3’s in there. Creative thought was an 8 or some atrocity very similar.
You need to be able to have fun and understanding your player’s wants and needs is your top priority.
Build and tell a story. I used to practice telling ghost stories around the fire. Your ability to create a story and let it unfold at the mercy of your players is its own reward.
The biggest advice I can give is build a “Story Tree”. Have a beginning and climax to each part of your campaign. I use story trees in all my games. Have a starting point and then draw out a bunch of branches which represent the different options the players may take that will all lead back to the same conclusion. This often means you need to really think on your feet. As a DM you must throw out the hook to catch the players and draw them into the story. What happens when the players don’t take the bait and decide they want to kill goblins instead of hunting down the Bandit leader? You need them too to continue along the line you have set up so be prepared for this. Story tree branch number 2 comes into play and now you can make those nasty goblins part of the story. With a twist that they are in an uneasy alliance with the bandit leader and the players find this by interrogating a captured goblin that conveniently surrenders or perhaps some sort of scroll detailing the plan.
The point is that no matter what the players do there will always be a way for you to steer them in the direction you need them to go. Doesn’t matter how many detours they take. I had a beginner party once that was dead set on going to a completely different city instead of taking the job of reducing the crime in the starting town by going after the so called bandit leader. So I let them leave with the next caravan heading that way. I then had the caravan attacked by the same bandits hoping the players would than enact revenge. One of the bandits also made off with the wizards spell book in the chaos of battle. There are always ways to direct players. Be creative and be able to adapt.
Don’t kill players. No one likes to see their treasured warrior who they have played for a year get backstabbed by a city rogue. This doesn’t mean go easy on them. You are the DM and thus, you are in total control of the player’s fate. I never roll dice in front of my players. So may disagree with this but, I’m building hero’s and not future zombies of the realms.
Invent memorable NPC’s. There is nothing more satisfying than sitting around with your players and listening to them talk about that annoying Jester or a recurring villain from a few weeks ago. This lets you know you are doing a good job.