When I first started running the boys game each week was a bit of a project. I had to really put some thought into what I was doing. And I spent a lot of time writing up elaborate adventures and encounters. And I had to constantly reference the books while I did that. But 2 things have happened, and I am now really seeing those make a difference.
Knowing the game and system
I am not a D&D 5E rules expert (yet.) But by now, about 8 months into the regular game I have done enough that it is becoming more automatic. And the same for the kids, they are beginning to really learn what they can and cannot do. They still make some odd decisions, and I don’t think it is possible for them to be more chaotic. But for the most part when I ask ‘what are you doing?’ they can tell me and know what dice they need to use etc.
This is a big step. I wouldn’t exactly say that we are all super experienced veterans with the system yet. I am not yet the best DM in the world, and I do struggle for the occasional rule or improvisational moment. But it is getting much smoother, I have made changes, adjusted for them and my overall style of play. The game is far more miniature based than when I started, it is more about stringing together combat encounters than dramatic role playing. But I think we are all having more fun with it.
No one is a rookie any more. I wouldn’t call the boys veterans yet, that wouldn’t really apply until they start playing in other peoples games and systems. And this is by far the longest consistent game I have ever run of any kind. My DM chops have gotten much sharper and smoother. I wouldn’t say I am a veteran DM yet, not until I start running games with other groups on a regular basis. But I am better.
It is becoming less of a game
While the individual sessions are becoming more a matter of stringing together encounters overall there is far more of a method to the madness. I have gone from the initial setting in Forgotten Realms and the basic adventure to a very different setting. And the group has gradually settled into more of a story structure.
And this has helped a lot in my planning. Things are becoming more consistent and organic, because I know where they are and what is happening in the bigger world where they are. While my story telling methods are not great, I would say that if you read the stories of what they players are doing it is sounding less like a monster of the week and more like an overall arc and plot.
My next step is to ask the players to tell me more of their story before each session. Make it a recap session, tell me what they did last time in their own words. And also encourage to think more about what is going on in the campaign. Which should help with them grasping that there is a method here, that they might not realize until they recount it all.