Articles & News >> Mastering Dungeons

In this blog column, veteran RPG freelancer Shawn Merwin looks at the field of RPGs from all angles: from running and designing games to navigating the pitfalls of the industry as a freelancer.

Mastering Dungeons: When Races Attack


I am delaying my planned post on pacing a game to talk about an issue that popped up recently with the release of the Elemental Evil Player’s Companion PDF for 5e D&D. This document, offered by Wizards of the Coast as a free download, supplies some new options for players about to take part in the Elemental Evil storyline, driven by the hardcover adventure Princes of the Apocalypse and the steady stream of D&D Adventurers...

Mastering Dungeons: Taking Initiative on Pacing


Last post looked at some of the immediate, at-the-table and on-the fly methods a DM could use to keep a quick pace while DMing. This time, I want to look at some pacing issues that crop up with more mechanical parts of D&D, particularly 5e. As I mentioned in the last post, initiative is one of the most pivotal parts of the game when it comes to pacing (and all the other parts as well). I...

You (and I) Are DMing Wrong (Part 2) – Pacing


Before 2000, I DMed almost exclusively for the same group of people using AD&D and 2nd Edition D&D rules. I knew their play styles by heart, and I could create and run with almost no effort the kinds of sessions and adventures they wanted to play. Since 2000, I have DMed mostly in the Organized Play programs of Wizards of the Coast -- most recently the D&D Adventurers League. That means most of my DMing has...

You are DMing Wrong (Part 1)


In the movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, the two main characters are in a car going the wrong way on a highway. The driver of another car, traveling parallel to them in the other lane, yells to them, “You’re going the wrong way!” John Candy’s character says with derision, “How would he know where we’re going?” Sometimes, when I am giving DMing (or other GMing) advice, I feel like that guy in the other car. I...

Why We Talk about Games


Some firsts are memorable. Others, less so. My first time was in 1979, and memorable. Over Winter Break from elementary school, my best friend Joe invited me over to his house for sledding and games. Joe’s older brother and his friends laughed and hooted in the basement, but they were in high school and didn’t want us mingling with them. They were playing some game that was apparently too old for Joe and me. And then...