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Felixc-91
2012-06-20, 10:26 PM
My little brother has asked me to run a d&d 3.5 game for him and his friends on his upcoming birthday (I have about a month and a half). I decided to try it; Iíll be working with 4 or 5 12-13 year olds. I have never DM'd before, but I have played as a character a few times. My players are all also very green with little or no experience. (It sounds like a potential recipe for disaster to me, which is why I came to you guys).
Ok, what Iím looking for here: help building my campaign and general new DM advice. I have like 50 3.5 rule books including the core 3 (a friend gave them to me a while back) however for my first campaign I think I should stick with the basics (player's hand book, DM's guide, and monster manual). Letís see, I have looked through my playerís handbook quite a bit however Iím still working on familiarizing myself with the monster manual and DM's guide.
I'll summarize what I have right now for the campaign in the first post and update it as we go. Thank you for any and all feedback you give.

Felixc-91
2012-06-20, 10:27 PM
Ok, Iím starting off dropping the characters (via boat) on a continent that I created myself. At this point it is little more than a general map and a few ideas. Itís got a great variety of terrain (mountains, farm land, tropical and temperate rain forests, deserts, 5 large cities, etc.) however Iím not focused on the overall geographical aspects because i expect this to be a short campaign. What i have been focusing on is the large city the players land at and the surrounding area. The city is right at the center of the large temperate rain forest on the east coast of the continent. Iíve decided to make the city memorable; it's going to be run by a trio of arch druids and have been constructed using 95% druidic magic. I've named the city Sanctuary ( for now) and its mostly above and below ground level, with building grown into the sides of massive trees that use intertwined branches as walkways to get from tree to tree. There are also extensive underground caverns lite primarily with bioluminescent flora. Any living creature is welcome there as long as they don't try to kill anyone inside the city. Just to be clear that includes usually evil humanoids and non-sentient creatures native to the local forest. And thatís my basic setting.
Ok, plot (kinda): what I have so far is that a faction of druids and rangers inside the cityís government (but not lead by one of the arch druids) has decided that only those who respect nature (druids, rangers and people who think like they do) should be allowed inside sanctuary. They have decided to take any steps necessary to make this happen. the players will be drawn to the plot by hearing reports of the forest becoming more dangerous of late with small groups of people and occasionally entire caravans being attack and killed (with no know survivors) in the surrounding wilderness. Also, if they don't bother to stop and get acquainted with their new surroundings before leaving the city, they can first encounter the story by being one of the groups of people attacked.

Saintheart
2012-06-20, 10:34 PM
Honestly, I'd recommend finding a straight prewritten module and running that first. If you're a first-time DM, and they're first-time players, you don't know if (a) you're going to like DMing or (b) whether they're going to like playing and (c) whether they're going to get all the rules from the start.

Start small. Pick up The Sunless Citadel or The Forge of Fury. Sunless Citadel has a reputation as a perennial favourite as well as being pitched at low level parties. And like most of WOTC's prewritten stuff, it was written principally with core in mind and without any optimisation shenanigans to worry about. If you've got a campaign world written already, just shoehorn the adventure into it.

Running a prewritten module gives you a sense of adventure structure at least. When first designing -- or, I'd venture, even designing with experience -- it's easy to get lost in the minutiae of deciding what monster for what encounter and thus lose a sense of where the story is going. There are some times when a straight out dungeon hack with no particular backstory or high concept is going to be what your players want, but as with most forms of art it's better to master the fundamentals first before going on to transcend them.

JoeMac307
2012-06-20, 11:22 PM
I agree with Saintheart. Start with a published adventure. Get a feel for the players and what they want, and how much depth they can handle.

Do they just want to murder things and get kewl stuff? Do they want to build a story and get to know about the campaign world and develop memorable relationships with key NPCs, whether they be recurring villains or star-crossed love interests?

Most likely it is somewhere in the middle, but with 12 and 13 yr olds, I would guess they are more into killing and hoarding and being really supercool heroes.

Don't wear yourself out putting in a lot of details (and work) into the campaign setting if no one will notice/care, unless you really enjoy that sort of thing.

I'm a sucker myself, always developing pantheons and political bodies and criminal organizations and then never using half the #%^£, but making that stuff up is almost as much fun for me as actually playing.... If it isn't your cup of tea, and/or you don't have a lot of time, don't go overboard.

An easy way to engage new players is to have a close fight early on end with the enemy escaping, especially if it is after the PCs used up a one use magic item like a potion or something that could be seen as a big deal at low levels, but nothing crippling... Now you instantly have a reoccurring villain that you can sprinkle into prepublished adventures for flavor.:smalltongue:

Derthric
2012-06-20, 11:26 PM
As has already been stated, finding a premade module would be perfect for you. Its how I started my first campaigns as a DM and it helped to be able to see how people responded to that adventure and tweak future sessions around that.

The other piece of advice I have is to contact those playing in advance and start them thinking about their character concepts so as to make creation go a bit faster. I don't know their level of experience but from what you have said I am assuming they are new to this. I know coaching people through making their first characters can take awhile. So having them aware of what type of character they want to be will help immensely.

Felixc-91
2012-06-20, 11:47 PM
hmm, cool. Yes, I have prodded people to start thinking about their characters. i was hoping that what i had now would be able to lead to either inner-city intrigue or an out in the forest 'dungeon' crawl; preferably a combination of both. (With the option of basing the actual story line off a prewritten campaign). I have a little bit more to add to my 2nd post so Iíll get back to it.
Before I do I just want to mention that I do enjoy creating stories and settings, itís part of why I decided to do this.

Saintheart
2012-06-20, 11:53 PM
Stories and settings are one thing (and all power to you!)

Mechanics for a D&D 3.5 adventure (assuming it's 3.5) are anothing thing entirely. Calculating what monsters you throw at the party, the treasure required for each, and the XP progression and then link it into the story are the type of thing that can make a DM disappear up their own bottom. :smallbiggrin:

Hence why I recommend a premade - it's there and already done for you, and it teaches you at least how to provide character rewards so the players level up at the 'right' rate (if there is such a thing).

Felixc-91
2012-06-21, 12:47 AM
Stories and settings are one thing (and all power to you!)

Mechanics for a D&D 3.5 adventure (assuming it's 3.5) are anothing thing entirely. Calculating what monsters you throw at the party, the treasure required for each, and the XP progression and then link it into the story are the type of thing that can make a DM disappear up their own bottom. :smallbiggrin:

Hence why I recommend a premade - it's there and already done for you, and it teaches you at least how to provide character rewards so the players level up at the 'right' rate (if there is such a thing). ah, now i get it. yeah, that kind of thing premade would save massive amoutns of time. i'll take a look at those campaigns you mentioned. um, how much flexability would i find in a premade campaign? i know part of the point is to reduce my work-load but if i have to take the encounters apart just to make them fit my setting it kinda ruins that aspect of why i would buy them.

newBlazingAngel
2012-06-21, 01:11 AM
I like both ideas. Running your own personal world has the possibility to be much more fun than something you had no part in. On the other hand, something premade takes a whole lot less effort and you could have more time to sit back and enjoy the game.

A few tips (despite the fact I have never DM'ed), to check an encounter, make sure you wouldn't have to roll a 15 or above just to hit. Make sure an attack a monster has doesn't have the possibility of breaking half the tanks health. Make sure you get a copy of each players character sheet.

Your setting sounds pretty awesome, and doesn't start in a bar which is a horrible horrible thing. :smalltongue:

Saintheart
2012-06-21, 01:47 AM
ah, now i get it. yeah, that kind of thing premade would save massive amoutns of time. i'll take a look at those campaigns you mentioned. um, how much flexability would i find in a premade campaign? i know part of the point is to reduce my work-load but if i have to take the encounters apart just to make them fit my setting it kinda ruins that aspect of why i would buy them.

That's a bit like asking how long is a piece of string - it depends how concrete your setting is and how close it lies to the D&D "standard". If your setting includes new and unique monsters entirely that you have to create from the ground up, then you're obviously going to go with just building yours from scratch. If your monsters are basically "gibblins" instead of goblins, then you just throw your gibblins' descriptions onto the D&D goblin stats and it'll run fine. If your gibblins, however, are breathing fire and can walk through walls, well, it's going to be more complicated at least.

Most of the time it's a matter of what's sometimes called "refluffing", i.e. turning the Grey And Forbidding Castle of McBlack into the Black And Forbidding Castle of McBrown.

If you're also worried about cost: Sunless Citadel and Forge of Fury I just mentioned off the top of my head. WOTC has a nice little archive of free D&D 3.5 short adventures (which I can't remember where it is right now...) Because they're usually short and self-contained, they generally can be slipped into an existing campaign world because they have to be generic; it's easier to adjust a bland recipe than it is a specialised one. All you need to look for is an adventure to suit a first-level party, of which I'm pretty sure there's a couple.

JoeMac307
2012-06-21, 08:26 AM
hmm, cool. Yes, I have prodded people to start thinking about their characters.

It may be more work for you, but you may just ask the players to describe what they want their characters to be able to do, or what fantasy hero they are like (Conan, Aragorn, Merlin, Harry Potter, whoever), and build the characters for them... If they are first time players, they may not care.

Also, I have a Word doc that summarizes all the basic things you need to know to create a character, which I always give to first time player. It briefly describes the 6 abilities scores, AC, saves, hp, 11 core classes, 7 core races, all the skills, and alignments, with some examples where appropriate from popular fiction / mythology. It's not perfect, and I gloss over Feats because there were too many of them for me to type up (you could just refer them to the SRD for core Feat descriptions), but if you'd like to have it, I could email it to you.

Felixc-91
2012-06-21, 03:19 PM
@saintheart
Well, that should not be a problem; while the geography and maybe some of the culture I will be using is going to be unique, all the classes, spells and races are going to be drawn directly from the books. we could work on that refluffing process on this thread if youíre up for that.
Please tell me where specifically those short adventures can be found (once you remember of course).
At this point Iím thinking of letting my players start at level 5 ( not sure what you meant by low level), that way they will be less prone to 'rolled poorly twice and died' type problems. Also gives the players a better feel for what their class can do.
@JoeMac307
I like the idea of creating some of the characters for the players; we are only going to have a day, maybe 2, to play this campaign. With newbie character creation delays that could cut off 2-3 hours of our play time. If they decide class and alignment I could do most of the creation process. If I left things like feats and generally what they want to do with their skill points up to them the characters would still feel like their own. Iíd also like that word doc for people who would prefer to make their own characters, Iíll PM you.

JoeMac307
2012-06-21, 03:44 PM
At this point Iím thinking of letting my players start at level 5 ( not sure what you meant by low level), that way they will be less prone to 'rolled poorly twice and died' type problems. Also gives the players a better feel for what their class can do.


IMHO, level 5 could be a little high to start... lots of new abilities and rules to learn all at once if they take on a complicated class like a Druid (Animal Companion, Wild Shape, Spellcasting, etc)... level 3/4 may be easier?

Also, happy to send you the Word doc. Please let me know what you think. :smallsmile:

Leshy
2012-06-21, 05:27 PM
When I first DMed, I also did it on my own, having the same reason as you have: enjoying at creating world. As long as monster's power is concerned, you can just throw a couple of goblins and see how fast they beat them and according to that gradually increase monsters' power.

I encourage you to do it on your own, especially because it is more or less "the test group" and even if you screw up something game mechanics related it won't matter that much. And you will learn about DMing much faster when you are doing everything by yourself and not using already published works.

Saintheart
2012-06-21, 07:59 PM
@saintheart
Well, that should not be a problem; while the geography and maybe some of the culture I will be using is going to be unique, all the classes, spells and races are going to be drawn directly from the books. we could work on that refluffing process on this thread if youíre up for that.
Please tell me where specifically those short adventures can be found (once you remember of course).
At this point Iím thinking of letting my players start at level 5 ( not sure what you meant by low level), that way they will be less prone to 'rolled poorly twice and died' type problems. Also gives the players a better feel for what their class can do.

In terms of original adventures: drink deep of the cup WOTC hath provided. (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/oa/20030530b&page=1) Note it records the expected level of each adventure, so you'll find something for any level you choose to start it at. It's all generic D&D, too, so it should be straightforward enough to convert.

As to refluffing -- yeah, all right, I'll help you refluff once you've picked an adventure. We can do it here or in PM.

As to starting at fifth level -- I agree with JoeMac above; if they're playing stuff like a druid there's a pretty wide array of options that they have to figure out and remember. By low-ish level I was thinking one or two or so, which is why I recommended Sunless Citadel. Three or four is prrrobably a better place to start.

In passing, if you're concerned about survivability at first level, the solution I was taught is to make one houserule: have the characters work out their first level hitpoints, then triple it. For second level and onward they get hitpoints as normal, but that more or less ensures no crushing embarrassment as the buff, ultra-hard party fighter gets one-shotted by a housecat.

JoeMac307
2012-06-22, 07:54 AM
In passing, if you're concerned about survivability at first level, the solution I was taught is to make one houserule: have the characters work out their first level hitpoints, then triple it. For second level and onward they get hitpoints as normal, but that more or less ensures no crushing embarrassment as the buff, ultra-hard party fighter gets one-shotted by a housecat.

Another workaround, if you don't want to hand out a lot of hp right at the start, is to give them a lot of disposable healing / buffing magic items up front, like potions of CLW or even CMW, enlarge person, shield of faith +2 or +3, bear's endurance, etc. Depending on the party make up, some of these potions can instead be scrolls or highly depleted wands (with around 5 charges left).

This way, the party's initial survivability is much higher even at 1st or 2nd level, but you don't have to deal with any long range balancing issues by having characters with super-high hit points down the road.

It sounds like you may be running a one and done type campaign, so Saintheart's hp-boost solution is probably easier and maybe more appropriate, but I'd thought I'd mention my approach just because I'm a big mouth. :smallbiggrin:

Also, if you have to explain why low level characters have so much magic equipment, you can handwave it bunch of ways... I usually go with the patron that sent them on their mission gave it to them, but you could have them fight two weakling goblins who just happen to be sitting on a crazy cache of scrolls they think are worthless ('cause they're stupid), or if one of the characters is a neutral-type rogue, they could have just plain stole it before the adventure, or whatever...

Leshy
2012-06-22, 09:35 AM
And even if they fall in the battle, you don't have to kill them but make them slaves and give them a challenge to break free...

JoeMac307
2012-06-25, 03:29 PM
Heh, I was looking over the Word file I wrote up summarizing the basics you need to know for creating characters with core-only books, I realized I left out Gnomes. I guess I (not so) secretly hate Gnomes as PCs.

Man on Fire
2012-06-25, 03:59 PM
Three links you may find useful:

From 4chan Archives (http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/archive/17679146/) (warning, 4chan)

Dungeonmastering a Great game (http://spoonyexperiment.com/2012/03/27/counter-monkey-dungeon-mastering-a-great-game/) and Dungeon Master's Secret Weapon (http://spoonyexperiment.com/2012/04/03/counter-monkey-the-dungeon-masters-secret-weapon/) by Spoony.

Riverdance
2012-06-25, 06:01 PM
Honestly, I'd recommend finding a straight prewritten module and running that first. If you're a first-time DM, and they're first-time players, you don't know if (a) you're going to like DMing or (b) whether they're going to like playing and (c) whether they're going to get all the rules from the start.

Start small. Pick up The Sunless Citadel or The Forge of Fury. Sunless Citadel has a reputation as a perennial favourite as well as being pitched at low level parties. And like most of WOTC's prewritten stuff, it was written principally with core in mind and without any optimisation shenanigans to worry about. If you've got a campaign world written already, just shoehorn the adventure into it.


I like this suggestion but would like to add one bit of advice. BEWARE SUNLESS CITADEL! The first time I played it it was with a third level party and we died 5 times before completing it with heavy DM intervention. Admittedly we were highly dysfunctional and incompetent, but then again, so are most beginning players. :smalltongue:

ValhallaStreet
2012-06-27, 01:11 AM
Anything to keep in mind when running module for the first time, besides making sure you know the module extremely well? I want to run something on these boards when I'm more comfortable playing, but haven't run a game since my teenaged days, and that was frankly rubbish, as most teenager games are.

Any general tips are great.

Jukebox Hero
2012-06-28, 01:35 AM
Anything to keep in mind when running module for the first time, besides making sure you know the module extremely well? I want to run something on these boards when I'm more comfortable playing, but haven't run a game since my teenaged days, and that was frankly rubbish, as most teenager games are.

Any general tips are great.

That hurts...

Actually, I well aware of the low quality of my DMing, but there's this friend of mine....whew. Best DM I've ever had, including people twice, three times my age.

JoeMac307
2012-07-10, 03:17 PM
My little brother has asked me to run a d&d 3.5 game for him and his friends on his upcoming birthday (I have about a month and a half). I decided to try it; Iíll be working with 4 or 5 12-13 year olds. I have never DM'd before, but I have played as a character a few times. My players are all also very green with little or no experience. (It sounds like a potential recipe for disaster to me, which is why I came to you guys).
Ok, what Iím looking for here: help building my campaign and general new DM advice. I have like 50 3.5 rule books including the core 3 (a friend gave them to me a while back) however for my first campaign I think I should stick with the basics (player's hand book, DM's guide, and monster manual). Letís see, I have looked through my playerís handbook quite a bit however Iím still working on familiarizing myself with the monster manual and DM's guide.
I'll summarize what I have right now for the campaign in the first post and update it as we go. Thank you for any and all feedback you give.

So, did you guys actually play? How did it go? Any lessons learned / general wisdom gained worth relaying?