This is the beginning of the Table Cadence series, a collection of posts aimed at both Dungeon Masters and players with tips for running flowing, organic sessions founded on the principles of establishing a cadence between DM and players.
There’s an elegant flow to Dungeons and Dragons 5e (D&D 5e) when the table is in sync and everyone is engaged. The Dungeon Master (DM) is on top of their game and the players are asking questions, interacting with the environment, and building off of each other. This is what I have dubbed “table cadence” and it hinges on an open line of communication between DM and party. This back and forth, this cadence, facilitates a smooth and interactive session.
In practice, the overarching structure of table cadence looks roughly like this:
- The DM describes a scene or a scenario
- [Optional] The players inquire further
- [Optional] DM supplies more information
- Players describe how they act in this scene, given what they know
- [Optional] DM prompts players for an Ability Check or Saving Throw, if applicable
- DM narrates the results, adjudicating as needed
Coincidentally, this lines up with the “How to Play” overview of Dungeons and Dragons 5e! Fancy that!