A Dungeon Master


An Article I Just Submitted To DiceGeeks

A Dungeon Master

by James Mahoney


When I was a kid in the 70’s, and a teenager in the 80’s, I often heard about people playing Dungeons & Dragons, and longed to play.

Having it show up in the movie “E.T.” (1982), and the cartoon “Dungeons & Dragons” (1983-85) only fueled the fire.

Sadly, I was a very shy kid, who missed a lot of school, and so I didn’t have many friends. And to be frank, the kids I heard that were playing it spent maybe 80% of their time arguing about rules, and at most 20% of their time actually gaming.

When I was 17 I came to the realization that the only way I was going to ever play this game, was if I ran a campaign myself.

So I purchased first Basic Dungeons & Dragons, followed quickly by Expert Dungeons & Dragons.

I admit, I wasn’t a big reader (Creative writing and math were my thing), so that’s what lead me to the Basic Game, as opposed to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.

However, the longer I played, the more I would slowly blend in rules from Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. I found it made the game more intricate, in a non bogged down kind of way.

Initially I played with my brother and his girlfriend, but quickly added my brother’s best friend at the time.

For me story was important, but the NPC’s (Non Player Characters) were what truly drove the campaign.

Also, I made sure that we used just enough rules to make it realistic, and focused less on rules that frustrated the players.

I found that I loved creating worlds (As opposed to using the campaigns they sold), and I loved playing, and creating voices of characters (But I am a writer, and love doing voices. Premade campaigns are perfectly fine).

My players were happy, and so was I.


Along the way, I decided it might be cool to ‘mutate’ some of the existing humanoids. Since Orcs were my favorite kind of characters to have them battle, I decided to create Red Orcs, White Orcs (Or Snow Orcs), Black Orcs, Fire Orcs and Blue Orcs.

Here are some basic descriptions of two of them;

BLACK ORCS – Black Orcs are stronger, wiser, more intelligent versions of the standard orc. They are primarily used, and/or renowned, for being Generals of orc battalions.

Prerequisites; (I generally write these guys out like Characters)

STR – 16 (Minimum)

INT – 15 (Minimum)

WIS – 13 (Minimum)

DEX – 9 (Minimum)

CON – 14 (Minimum)

CHAR – 13 (Minimum) They are leaders of armies

ALIGNMENT – Lawful Evil (They are honorable, before they are evil)

Black Orcs are noble creatures. Creatures of war. 95% of them serve as leaders of armies, under the control of some other humanoid such as a Warlock or other. They do not aspire to rule, only to lead in the name of rulers. The other 5% may be Player Characters, questing alongside other evil, chaotic evil, and/or chaotic party members.

RED ORC – Red Orcs are what I consider the Engineers of orc armies. Somewhat like Dwarves in that respect. They’re smarter, and stronger than the average orc. But their intelligence is solely focused on things like building, and operating catapults and ballista’s.

Prerequisites; (Also written up like Characters)

STR – 13 (Minimum)

INT – 13 (Minimum)

WIS – 9 (Minimum)

DEX – 8 (Minimum)

CON – 13 (Minimum)

CHAR – No Minimum

ALIGNMENT – Neutral or Evil (All they care about are machines, they care not for politics)

Red Orcs serve leaders of armies. They are not ambitious beyond Engineering. They generally are not used as Player Characters.


  • I often try to customize the Campaigns a bit towards the Players in the group. I’d say my Campaigns are 80% me, and 20% customization. Remember, the point of playing is for people to have fun, not just for the Dungeon Master to defeat the Party, and/or create something that is only interesting to themselves.
  • Let them defeat your Enemies. I’ve played with Dungeon Masters who, if their campaigns are figured out early, didn’t let the party defeat the main enemy. Instead the DM blew off the roof of the place, and the bad guy flew away. It was horrible. If the Party outsmarts you, they outsmart you. This is a good day, and should be celebrated for them. Back to the chalk board for the DM, such is the life of the Dungeon Master.
  • Pay attention to the Players conversations, and reactions to things. There have been times that characters have come up with better concepts than I had planned. This often occurs during ‘brainstorming’ sessions between the players. Sometimes it’s worth altering what you had planned, if what they thought might be happening sounds owe so much better.
  • Keep it realistic. I’m not into overpowered characters. When someone brings in a character they already have, I mute it down so that they are more or less within the same zone power wise as the group they’re playing with. I know that there are certain DM’s and Players that love to be like superheroes, undefeatable. And that’s fine. But for me, as a norm, I like to keep things realistic enough that the characters are truly afraid of the possibility that they may die. This creates much more intense, and well thought out strategies in the game.
  • Don’t use life draining abilities in monsters. This is just me… But characters work their A$$es off building their characters. To rip away a level of experience from them can truly depress them. Don’t get me wrong, you want creatures such as Vampires to be ominous, and scary… But you can do this in other way. Embellish things like his strength, and his dramatic nature. This is just my choice, but it’s worked out much better for my groups. (Amendment: Unless you’re familiar with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Restoration Rules; http://www.dandwiki.com/wiki/SRD:Restorationhttp://pandaria.rpgworlds.info/cant/rules/adnd_spells.htm#Restoration )
  • Eat together out of character. One of the most fun things that one of my later groups used to do, is get together a half an hour or so early, and eat together. We’d talk about our lives, and sometimes the adventure. This really created a great comradery, but it also got real life out of our system… As for the most part, it was a general rule that we didn’t talk about real life during the games. I have yet to run a game since cell phones became so huge, but you might consider having them on mute, and have breaks during the game that people can text, or call someone.
  • Make sure everyone is having fun… And if someone isn’t, or doesn’t appear to be, take them aside at some point during, or after the session, and ask them what’s up.
  • Don’t let any one player ruin the session for everyone else. This is very important. Be selective about who you let in your groups world. But, also, do allow people chances to change their ways. Sometimes, especially in new groups, people may come on too strong… Simply pull them aside, and talk to them.
  • Maintain balance. Easy for me to say, I’m a Libra, lol. But seriously, strive for balance within your worlds, and within the group.


For/To me, Dungeons & Dragons is a world of endless imagination. An opportunity to swings swords, cast spells, be/play characters in a wondrous fantasy. Make sure everyone is having fun. In some cases, some people aren’t truly into it, and you may have to ask them to leave the group. But for the ones that are into it, have fun… Be lively… Pay attention. With these things in mind, the fun possible is infinite.

PICTURE CREDIT – Dungeon Master