Hey I am DM'ing for the first time tomorrow and was wondering if you guys could share some tips that aren't obvious and would enhance our session
Don't listen to the people who shout "JUST IMPROVISE MORE!"
Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. There's a pretty good chance that the exact preparations themselves won't come up, but the process is invaluable, IF you do it right.
Don't make a long daisy chain of events, don't go
>First A happens, and then B happens, and then either C or D happens depending on which lead the players want to investigate, but both will lead them to E, the adventure boss, who has a few clues leading into the larger plot once he's been defeated.
That's bad, and vulnerable because the successive occurances are very dependent on the prior ones, creating a multiple fail situation.
Instead, you should prepare by plotting out loci of important NPCs and monsters and factions in the area that the adventure is taking place in, the geography, the culture, the politics. Have a good grasp of why people are motivated to do what they're doing, who they are and what they want. Once you have all those pieces in place, it's enormously easy to adjust things on the fly if the PCs do what you don't expect, because you've created a background and can derive new alternatives from it instead of just pulling it out of thin air.
I know some people will say that "If you're good enough at improvising, you can do that anyway without all the prep", but I personally have never seen it., and I've played for a long time. The ones who are "good at improvising" are also the same ones who put a lot of energy and effort into their games, and bring notes to the table.
Be very wary about using a DMPC. If there's a gap in the party that needs filling, like say they need a healer or someone to pick locks, sure, but make sure the character is very background. Don't use him/her to take the spotlight from your players, don't give them super overpowered abilities/equipment, etc.
They still want something. If they don't want anything they are shit characters and your game is doomed to fail.
Hell just give them a quest like "people are getting sick and you must journey to find medicine" or some other cliche crap.
Also, continuing from this:
Figure out what kind of players you have. Do they like combat more than social/RPing scenes? Do they prefer social/roleplaying over combat? Do they like both in equal measure? Are they very proactive, and look for plot hooks and the like on their own, or are they very passive/reactive and need nudges here and there (minimal railroading, basically)?
Also find out if any of the individual players are very active participants that like being in the spotlight, or if they like being more in the background. My first DMing experience, I had a player who rarely talked, to the point I thought she might be getting bored (but she was always ready when it was her turn to do something, and very obviously paid attention). When I talked to her about it, turns out she was fine, she just preferred to be in the background.
I think the biggest problem with the people who insist on more improvisation don't realize that there is a difference between total chaotic improv and "planned" improv within guidelines. Great GMs do the latter. Changing the elvish town that you spent hours working on and naming every NPC and giving a backstory to every landmark to a human town somewhere hundreds of miles away because your PCs decided they wanted to do something else is still technically an improvisational act but it's planned improv.
Names/items/encounters/stat blocks/etc. are all going to have to be made up on the spot without exceptions. But bringing a list of names/items/encounters and throwing them where they need to go is a sign of both good improvisation and good planning.
Dialogue is a different story altogether, never plan that; it'll come off somewhat forced and your players will notice.
This anon speaks the truth. If the characters didn't want anything, they wouldn't have become adventurers in the first place but stayed content as shit farmers and goat whisperers.