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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    PirateGuy

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    Default (3.5) Advice for a New DM

    I'm planning on starting a campaign. I've never really run a campaign before, except for one Star Wars Saga Edition game that didn't go all that well. I want to use the Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk module, but don't really want to start right off there right off the bat. I like the idea of having a king on an unknown eastern continent send them in that direction on a fact-finding mission to work into the module, but I'm not sure exactly what level to start them at for journeying over there. I've told the players who've said they'd play to make level 5's, but the module starts at level 8, and that would mean a LOT of random islands and the like on the way over. I could maybe just start them at 8 and give them a little headstart, but I'm not sure. Advice?

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    AslanCross's Avatar

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    Default Re: (3.5) Advice for a New DM

    I recommend that you go straight into the module, but adding an "in transit" scenario wouldn't hurt. For example, I'm currently running The Red Hand of Doom. The adventure immediately begins with an ambush in the woods, but since I'm running it in Eberron, I wanted to establish the context and give the players a feel of the world.

    I began by having them summoned to the Cathedral of the Silver Flame (the religion that sponsors the de facto party leader, a dwarf crusader), and being sent to Elsir Vale, the area where the adventure itself would take place.

    Instead of the ambush in the forest, the first encounter was a train battle with a rakshasa assassin. Afterward I had them travel from the train station 120 miles to Elsir Vale, just to show it was pretty much in the boondocks and that they weren't going to get any help from Eberron's big cities. Only after that did I get them into the first encounter that the book described.

    A start-up scenario can be very helpful in establishing world context, but don't dwell on it too long. That way the players can segue quickly into the adventure proper. The risk of going through 3 levels before the actual adventure is time wasting and boredom. (To contrast, that's the amount of time it took my players to get from the start of Red Hand of Doom to its halfway point. It's a LOT of time.)

    It's a bad idea to have them wander around just to level up for the actual adventure. Start them at the level that the module says it's for.
    Last edited by AslanCross; 2009-10-12 at 06:00 PM.


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  3. - Top - End - #3
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Weimann's Avatar

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    Default Re: (3.5) Advice for a New DM

    First of all, check out this thread.

    Second, a few advice from myself. You can never be over-prepared in terms of general game knowledge. Even if you play a published adventure, knowing stuff about encounters and monsters off the top of your head speeds up the gaming something awful. Also, knowing how you want to describe and portray characters and situations in advance is golden.

    One of my biggest problems when STing was finding the right words, and if you know what you want to say and maybe even how you want to say it, maybe even practising once for your brother or for yourself, it really increases immersion and fluency, and makes RP more likely to happen.

    Edit: Of course, the adventure was in English and I'm Swedish, so even if I think I'm kind of good at English, the language was naturally a hurdle. you might not have that kind of problem.
    Last edited by Weimann; 2009-10-12 at 06:32 PM.
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  4. - Top - End - #4
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    PirateGuy

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    Default Re: (3.5) Advice for a New DM

    The advice not to have 3 levels of non-adventure is certainly very good. I think just starting at 8 and having a few encounters on the way to the module is best. Having descriptions and voices already practiced is another good idea. Thanks to both of you. If anyone else sees this thread and has general DMing advice, I'll gladly take it!

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
    Kobold

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    Default Re: (3.5) Advice for a New DM

    You can never be over-prepared in terms of general knowledge and familiarity with the game (If I were you I'd stalk a dozen forum games, since they're basically publically available game transcripts which are excellent for learning about how DMs rule on issues and how the game works)

    At the same time, I've found you can always be overprepared in terms of game preparation! "Winging it" is a really amazing feat every DM needs.
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  6. - Top - End - #6
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Temet Nosce's Avatar

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    Default Re: (3.5) Advice for a New DM

    Quote Originally Posted by shadow_archmagi View Post
    You can never be over-prepared in terms of general knowledge and familiarity with the game (If I were you I'd stalk a dozen forum games, since they're basically publically available game transcripts which are excellent for learning about how DMs rule on issues and how the game works)

    At the same time, I've found you can always be overprepared in terms of game preparation! "Winging it" is a really amazing feat every DM needs.
    Complete agreement here, while I generally don't put it this way the first kind of preparedness is necessary to skip the second. The more familiar you are with the system and setting the easier it will be for you to generate things on the fly. This isn't really necessary for your first adventure (as you clearly realize since you're using a module), but later on having a working knowledge of 3.5 will pay off.

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    PirateGuy

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    Default Re: (3.5) Advice for a New DM

    I'd also like to run one of my ideas for what to do after the module past you guys. The module ends around level 12 or 13, I think. I was thinking that the players could become dragon riders, like in Eragon. I know there are problems with this plan, like encounters becoming pathetically easy, dragons' aging time, etc. I could avoid the aging problem by either: A) have characters gain wild dragons as their mounts, or B) have dragons age while characters are on module (bond with dragons on eastern continent, sail over to western continent, adventure, come back). Any ideas on this plan? Alternate ideas for post-module would also be welcomed!

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Weimann's Avatar

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    Default Re: (3.5) Advice for a New DM

    There you have a typical case of planning to far ahead plot wise :P

    I'd say, don't worry about that right now. you don't know if they even get through the campaign, or if they defect into some totally unplanned territory. Even if they do, they might not want to be dragon riders, or some other plot hook might have conveniently presented itself. Of course, you can suggest it to them, but really, run this adventure first, before you talk about your continued plans.
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  9. - Top - End - #9
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    SoD's Avatar

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    Default Re: (3.5) Advice for a New DM

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Spoon View Post
    I'd also like to run one of my ideas for what to do after the module past you guys. The module ends around level 12 or 13, I think. I was thinking that the players could become dragon riders, like in Eragon. I know there are problems with this plan, like encounters becoming pathetically easy, dragons' aging time, etc. I could avoid the aging problem by either: A) have characters gain wild dragons as their mounts, or B) have dragons age while characters are on module (bond with dragons on eastern continent, sail over to western continent, adventure, come back). Any ideas on this plan? Alternate ideas for post-module would also be welcomed!
    You could say that the dragons of dragon riders age much quicker than their wild versions, due to the magic bonding them making them more 'human', in much the same way that the riders age much slower, due to the magic making them more 'dragon'.
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  10. - Top - End - #10
    Orc in the Playground
     
    root9125's Avatar

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    Default Re: (3.5) Advice for a New DM

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Spoon View Post
    I'd also like to run one of my ideas for what to do after the module past you guys. The module ends around level 12 or 13, I think. I was thinking that the players could become dragon riders, like in Eragon. I know there are problems with this plan, like encounters becoming pathetically easy, dragons' aging time, etc. I could avoid the aging problem by either: A) have characters gain wild dragons as their mounts, or B) have dragons age while characters are on module (bond with dragons on eastern continent, sail over to western continent, adventure, come back). Any ideas on this plan? Alternate ideas for post-module would also be welcomed!
    If your PCs are anything like the few sets I've had, it *will not happen*. They *might* finish the module according to plan, but once they're off the rails? Play it by ear. Fortunately by then you'll have some DM experience and will probably be able to deal with "We cast fireball on your puny plot hook!".
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  11. - Top - End - #11
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    PirateGuy

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    Default Re: (3.5) Advice for a New DM

    Quote Originally Posted by Weimann View Post
    There you have a typical case of planning to far ahead plot wise :P

    I'd say, don't worry about that right now. you don't know if they even get through the campaign, or if they defect into some totally unplanned territory. Even if they do, they might not want to be dragon riders, or some other plot hook might have conveniently presented itself. Of course, you can suggest it to them, but really, run this adventure first, before you talk about your continued plans.
    A) Not plan so far ahead? Thanks for advice, like I've said this is pretty much my first time DMing
    B) Ask them about it? Good idea, that was one of the first things I planned to do before introducing that plot element
    C) Not plan so far ahead? Important to remember, thanks again!

  12. - Top - End - #12
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    PirateGuy

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    Default Re: (3.5) Advice for a New DM

    Quote Originally Posted by SoD View Post
    You could say that the dragons of dragon riders age much quicker than their wild versions, due to the magic bonding them making them more 'human', in much the same way that the riders age much slower, due to the magic making them more 'dragon'.
    That would be pretty similar to the way it's depicted in the book, thanks for the idea!

  13. - Top - End - #13
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    Tyndmyr's Avatar

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    Default Re: (3.5) Advice for a New DM

    Agreed on the not having three levels worth of random encounters. Travel is fine, but make it meaningful travel. Sidequests, etc. There are plenty of premade modules available online, and some of them are even decent. Start with those, modify them as necessary, and in no time, you'll be whipping out whole adventures like a pro.

    Just remember, always have a backup plan in case things go to hell. They always do.

  14. - Top - End - #14
    Troll in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: (3.5) Advice for a New DM

    When you're not running a module series, it's best to have a couple of places to go and things to do just in case the players decide to lean on you for plot direction and campaign direction. You wouldn't want the session to stall out because no one knows what to do!

    But generally, once players have had a few months to develop their characters, some of them come up with goals of their own and begin to drive the story in the direction they want. Since, like all optimized DMs, you'll be taking "Winging It" as your 3rd level feat and "Rapid Improviser" as your 6th level feat when you level up, you'll be relieved when this happens. You'll no longer have the burden of coming up with something interesting to do, and your only remaining duty is statting up the interesting thing and figuring out how to describe it (and rolling saves for it when the players inevitably do something unexpected).
    Last edited by jiriku; 2009-10-13 at 01:02 AM.

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