The Absolute Bare Minimum Required To DM A Campaign

Emilee Geist

Although becoming a Dungeon Master can be intimidating, it does not take much to run a successful and engaging Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Mountains of notes, heaps of dice, and every sourcebook imaginable – these images have become nearly synonymous with the role of the Dungeon Master, yet none are […]

Although becoming a Dungeon Master can be intimidating, it does not take much to run a successful and engaging Dungeons & Dragons campaign.

Mountains of notes, heaps of dice, and every sourcebook imaginable – these images have become nearly synonymous with the role of the Dungeon Master, yet none are required to run a successful and engaging Dungeons & Dragons campaign. While the thought of running a campaign can be an intimidating one, would-be dungeon masters should not let a long list of pre-requisites deter them from stepping behind the DM-Screen. Here are the minimum requirements to run a D&D campaign.

Dungeons and Dragons is not a solo experience and, when planning a campaign, DMs should first find a group of players who will make up the cast of adventurers. Although a single player is all that is required to run a campaign, DMs should shoot for around four players. They should also consider that having more than six adventurers can make for a challenging dungeon master experience, as each player means more stats to note and schedules to consider. And while four players are ideal for first-time DMs, 5e allows for two players and even one-player campaigns with some amended rules and features like playable character cards.


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Before delving into the crypts of the campaign world, DMs and players need a dungeon of their own. The real-world setting of a campaign does not need elaborate decorations or mood-setting lighting, but when picking a place to play, DMs should seek a spot that is both comfortable and, if possible, private. D&D allows players to roleplay as powerful characters and, while the dining table may provide the most space for the campaign, players may feel awkward fully enveloping their character if non-questing roommates or family members are within earshot. In terms of bare minimum requirements, though, a regular table is just fine.

Dungeons & Dragons: Minimum Requirements To DM A D&D Campaign

DMs can also consider running their D&D campaign online. Several websites, like Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds, allow DMs to run their campaigns over the internet. Using a resource such as these also opens up the opportunity to run a campaign with players who cannot meet in person. In terms of physical items required to run a campaign, though, a pen and paper are all that is really needed. Granted, a DM should consider picking up a few sets of dice, yet they can very easily use a virtual dice-roller to emulate ability checks and attack rolls. In truth, a pen and paper may not be required at all, so long as the DM has a computer or other device with which they can take notes and plan sessions.

Buying the D&D sourcebooks is an excellent idea, but it is certainly not a requirement. Wizards of the Coast provides a free download of the basic D&D 5e rules. This free file also includes some helpful tools for DMs, including monster stat blocks and a guide for creating encounters. DMs could also purchase either the D&D Starter Set or Essentials Kit, both of which include rulebooks and beginner-oriented campaigns. 

Whether running a pre-written campaign or one of their creation, DMs should always have a copy of their campaign with them during sessions. This could be a physical or virtual copy of the campaign sourcebook or even a collection of notes for their homebrew campaign. Regardless, DMs should take the time to review the upcoming portion before the start of the next session. Having a strong understanding of the story and encounters will allow the DM to focus on the player’s actions, rather than worry about what comes next.  

When beginning a campaign it may be easy to look toward other DMs and feel the need to emulate their style or hold the campaign up to their standards. Although there is certainly a lot to learn from the likes of DMs like Matthew Mercer and Brennan Lee Mulligan, new Dungeon Masters should strive to become comfortable in their own style. Running a Dungeons and Dragons campaign is challenging and time-consuming, but DMs should worry less about everything that is needed to have a good session, and instead focus on enjoying their time at the table.

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