Merric Blackman is an Australian Dungeon Master “co-opted” into community organizing. In addition to running lots of D&D Adventurers League games in Ballarat, Merric organizes Adventurers League for conventions in Victoria, Australia, including PAX. “I also write an awful lot about what I do,” Merric adds, and in fact, you might know him best as an avid reviewer and D&D blogger on his website, Merric’s Musings. He also writes D&D content published on the DMs Guild.
Merric has a knack for running AL adventures efficiently when the needs arises, such as in a convention setting, and he shared with us his tips for DMing on or under the estimated time.
Keep a Watch on Hand. AL modules come with an estimated time per section. Merric recommends getting familiar with these times during prep, and keeping a watch/clock behind the screen to stay aware of how much time your table has to complete the section or be nudged along.
Roleplay has the Most Swing. “Estimated times are funny,” Merric says. “They depend so much on the actual group.” According to Merric, this is most true for roleplay and social interactions. When time is an issue, Merric stays focused on using roleplay to advance the story, rather than learn about NPCs. If needed, he closes out a sequence to ensure players can experience the rest of the adventure fully.
Keep Combat Efficient. Occasionally, Merric offers a player combat options they can choose from right away (e.g. “You could run away or swing your axe”). This speeds decision-making and is best-suited for less experienced, unsure players still understanding the full extent of their options in game.
Invoke the Countdown. Dun dun dun. If a player holds up combat by not paying attention or waffling over decisions for minutes, Merric sometimes counts to 6 before announcing the character is wondering what to do and moving along to the next in initiative. “Don’t pull that trick out that often,” Merric warns. “But when you do, people figure it out soon and make sure they pay attention.”
Call for a Vote. When players start talking in circles about plans or what to do next, the Dungeon Master can jump in by succinctly presenting the options the characters discussed and calling for an immediate vote.
Drop Hints. If players seem to be stuck in an investigation or puzzle, Merric says it is OK to drop some hints. Allow players to earn clue through Investigation or Intelligence rolls, for instance. “Puzzles are very swingy in time,” Merric says. “Puzzles are there to make you feel good. The best ones are the ones you can solve quickly.”
The Adventurers League Community Spotlight features members of our community accomplishing cool things and sharing their tips to make your AL experience equally cool. If you know someone who makes your AL community better, e-mail [email protected] to tell us why they should be featured in the next Community Spotlight.