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Thread: New DM

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    New DM

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    The DM of group the group I'm in has decided he needs a break, or were going to take a break for a couple months without games, he's just getting burned out. No one else was willing to try running a game so I steped up and said what the hell, I could give it a try. After talking with him we decided that he's going to run games every other week or so. I decided to start out with a mid lvl pre-built module, "Legacy of Madness" (made in 2001).

    Basically I'm looking for advice. I've only really been playing since last August, and I've only been in this group for the last 3-4 months(got out of the military and moved back home.) We have a couple long time vets including the other DM, and there are a couple newbies, they've played a little less time than me.

    Is there anything I should be on the look out for, anything that might throw a monkey wrench into my first session as a DM?

    Also, here are the house rules/books I set up for the game:

    Hey guys. Just wanted to say what's up and let you know I'm running the game this coming Saturday. I'm not going to change much, if any, of the house rules normally used. Still going to be a 36 pt buy, still going to use max HP each lvl for these next few games at minimum.

    As far as books allowed, the Core books, Unearthed Arcana(All SRD Material) + PHB2 + the Complete books, Tome of Battle, Tome of Magic & BoED/BoVD. No Psionics.

    All party members are neutral or good aligned, no evil and start at lvl 8. Instead of normal starting wealth though, you have 34000 GP, that's almost 25% more than normal, but you just might need it. >

    If you play a Ranger your effective druid level for your companion is equal to your Ranger class level, not 1/2 your class level like normal. I've hated that rule from the get go and all Rangers in any game I run that have a companion(not all do) will use this to calculate their companion. This doesn't change anything for a druid's companion.

    If you want to go into a PRC, let me know. I most likely won't have any problems unless it requires some odd entry requirement like for the Vassel of Bahamut(from BoED). No setting specific PRC's other than the Harper classes from Forgotten Realms.

    Races, let's stick to "Basic" races. No +LA races, no Warforged...But elf/dwarf/gnome/halfling variants are ok.

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    36 Point buy???? Hory Kow

    36 point buy is insane.

    The book suggest 28. We have always used a 28 and it is fine. Unless they do not get the level 4 and level 8 up stat increase. But even then that is pretty insane point buy.

    With that big of a stat buy system you could cut the starting money since you are giving them about 160,000gp worth of stat items if they had to buy them.

    Wow...

    Just wow.

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    The best advice I could probably give is to speak with Tesral on this site. He has been at it for a long time and is very knowledgable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Annshadow View Post
    36 point buy is insane.

    The book suggest 28. We have always used a 28 and it is fine. Unless they do not get the level 4 and level 8 up stat increase. But even then that is pretty insane point buy.

    With that big of a stat buy system you could cut the starting money since you are giving them about 160,000gp worth of stat items if they had to buy them.

    Wow...

    Just wow.
    Yeah, I know it's a lot, but that's normal PB of the group. The crazy thing is it's not a weighted buy, it's actually 36 stat bumps. So it's possible, under our system, to have scores of 18, 18, 18, 10, 10, 10...Yeah, I know it's a lot, but the baddies we fight end up being equally buffed.

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    Considering that you are running with higher level characters (I would recommend 1st for new DM, but oh well) you have to gauge the PC's by the characters they build and how they decide to work together.

    If they are seasoned players then you may find the combat challenges might be not so challenging at first (especially with a 36pt build). Adjusting foes takes time and bit of skill to bring them to the correct challenge level.

    But what is more memorable to a PC is the atmosphere you present. I don't know the Legacy of Madness Module and if others have run through it that may cause some of the "surprise" elements to be lost. Read through the material thoroughly and make sure you have an overview of the entire plot and mechanisms in the adventure--esp. if your party likes to wander about into areas not covered--forcing you to adlib. If that happens too often then have them wander into encounters/sections that are part of the module so you utilize all the material without having to dump it.

    and have fun.

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    Congratulations and welcome to the ranks of the eternally unprepared! Being a Dungeon Master requires you to be quick on your feat, discerning of what the players enjoy, an eloquent storyteller, good at roleplaying enemies, allies, and NPCs of all kinds and professions, a solid knowledge of the rules, etc. None of us will ever master all of it perfectly, and thus we are eternally unprepared

    All of this can be overwhelming, but being a DM also gives you a way to experience tabletop gaming that you could never have as a player. As a DM, you can really make any world come alive, and for one thing in your life have everything exactly the way you like it.

    The one bit of advice I'd have is to be humble. Let the players know that you are starting, and need their help to keep the story moving, and that you expect them to follow your rulings. Let them know you are in charge, but willing to listen.

    I agree with Wizarddog that your first few sessions would be easier if you started with low level players, but thats a matter of choice. It will help that you are using a module, but that is quite a bit to chew on for your first time around.

    It sounds like the players like a solid challenge, so hold nothing back. Since this is a standalone module, you can let loose and if the PCs get killed, so be it (of course I don't mean trying to kill them, but it sounds like your group likes living on the edge of life and death). Be sure to change one or two things so you get a taste for the creativity being a DM allows and to make the module your own.

    Developer for Darkage Warlord, a Pen & Paper Games exclusive Medieval Wargame.

    If you are in the DC metro area and like to trade D&D minis (1.0 or 2.0), please send me a PM!

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    Garry's First Rule of Fantasy
    --All RPG is fantasy, even if it is not.
    --Do not change reality more than necessary to make your Universe work.

    This isn't likely to be a large consideration in a preprepared module. However it is something to keep in mind. If you run into a situation that is not covered, and physics gives you a simple answer, go with it.


    Write to your audience.
    -- Know your players.
    -- Ask what they like and what they want to see in the game.

    Again you are starting with a module, so the first hit is free. However you are going to be writing your own material, at the least judging which modules to use. I use modules. I don't always have the time to write a new from the start adventure.

    Discuss things. Ask what they want to see and what they expect from the game. I try to do this ever few session, a little meta gaming time to see what goals the players have for the PCs.


    The Rule of Yes.
    -- Unless there is a compelling reason to say no, say yes.
    -- A roll is not required for everything, even if a roll is required.

    Not much to add here. Don't lean on the dice too heavily. If the PC is looking for a green shirt in town, they find it. If they need five horse shoes, the blacksmith has them. Unless there is a compelling reason. If the town is impoverished and on the verge of starving out finding anything might be a task, but that is a reason.


    Keep encounters open ended.
    -- An encounter with one solution is bad.
    -- I do not write encounters with a solution in mind. I present the problem, and let the players tell me how it will be solved. Remember they are creative too. Use that.

    I cannot emphasize this enough. Frustrated players are bad. What to you might be an obvious solution might to the next person never come up. Look back to the Rule of Yes. Use any reasonable solution, be open to solutions you didn't think of. Remember that your players are creative people too, and the game is a cooperative effort. If you didn't want them writing part of the story, write a novel.


    BE FLEXIBLE.
    -- Don't script. Players will do the unpredictable.
    -- When that happens, punt. If an encounter is important, it can be fit in elsewhere.
    -- Only you know how the scenario is assembled. No one will smite you if you shuffle the parts.

    This again is very important. shuffle as required. An unused encounter can be recycled into another module. One of the things I love about computers is it make it easy to cut and paste bits from scenario to scenario. I constantly rewrite on the fly. Remember also Skippy's rules of engagement. "No plan ever survives contact with the enemy." Your plan for the game is unlikely to get through the first encounter intact. Know this, accept it and be ready to improvise as required.

    One of the physical tools is I only print my scenarios on one side of the paper. I'm not wasting half the paper, after I bind the scenario (which I do) I have that clean side to make notes and adjustments. I use them as well and refer back to them when writing the next part of the game. Notes are important, use them.

    Garry AKA --Phoenix-- Rising above the Flames.
    My favorite game console is a table and chairs.
    The Olde Phoenix Inn

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    Sound Advice

    I have to say that the above is probably some of the best advice you could be given.

    Also, the person who said start at level 1.

    Quote Originally Posted by tesral View Post
    Garry's First Rule of Fantasy
    --All RPG is fantasy, even if it is not.
    --Do not change reality more than necessary to make your Universe work.

    This isn't likely to be a large consideration in a preprepared module. However it is something to keep in mind. If you run into a situation that is not covered, and physics gives you a simple answer, go with it.
    As some of you know from my other posts, I am having trouble in a recent game.

    Some background.

    Not to toot my own horn but as a way to show how even vets can sour; My real name is actually printed in the DMG for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. I have met Gary and his son Earnie (I paid for lunch so they were nice to me). I remember going to Gen Con where we camped out at the Univ of Wisconsin and used classrooms as venues.

    I am playing with a group I have played with for over 26 years. And recently we have had a LOT of problems with being railroaded by the module.

    Everything Garry said is applicable to my not wanting to play this module any further.

    The Rule of Yes.
    -- Unless there is a compelling reason to say no, say yes.
    -- A roll is not required for everything, even if a roll is required.
    Learn it, Love it, Live it.

    I actually had to buy a house (I told the DM that I would look around for an abandoned house and occupy it and fix it up; only to be told to get the city scape book and find the cost of a home and roll for it. I rolled really bad and get a mortgage. Yes. A mortgage.) just to make things with my craft skills (I'm old and enjoy the non combat aspect of the game a lot; what can I say) Then only to be told that because the DM's husband took over 3 days to put together a prefab table, that someone who did it for a living could put together in 50 seconds, that I could not furnish my home in the 6 months that we had of artificial down time.

    That still annoys me a year later. I'm still upset about it.

    BE FLEXIBLE.
    -- Don't script. Players will do the unpredictable.
    -- When that happens, punt. If an encounter is important, it can be fit in elsewhere.
    -- Only you know how the scenario is assembled. No one will smite you if you shuffle the parts.

    This again is very important. shuffle as required. An unused encounter can be recycled into another module. One of the things I love about computers is it make it easy to cut and paste bits from scenario to scenario. I constantly rewrite on the fly. Remember also Skippy's rules of engagement. "No plan ever survives contact with the enemy." Your plan for the game is unlikely to get through the first encounter intact. Know this, accept it and be ready to improvise as required.
    Learn it, Love it, Live it.

    Again being old and loving the social aspect of the game, I took a bunch of Crafting skills; Crafting Carpentry and since it was a sea adventure I took Crafting Shipbuilding.

    I made level 9 and since we were on the island we were meant to be on, I took Fabricate for my 5th level spell so I could start making my estate.

    Well, apparently, the module puts a LOT of emphasis on the the players taking a LOT of time to build up the colony for an upcoming pirate attack.
    We are in a jungle.
    most tasks involve wood
    I am +14 Carpenter
    I am +15 Shipbuilding
    28 point build Intel 18 +1@4 +1@8 =20 = +5 on Intel skills

    My fabricate spell can make (after cutting down trees outside my range and bringing them in range) 90'x10'x10' of lumber. Which comes out to be 900 10'long 4x4s 6,300 inches of wood side by side = 500' of 10' beams per spell. The entire colony is only 800' by 800'

    I am sure the people who designed the module did not figure on the fabricate spell because it specifically mentions how much the spell Make Whole and Shape Wood can do in repairing a ship.

    So, what happened? A half hour of arguing with the DM saying: "The Module says you have to do this and it has to take several weeks for each tasks and you have to not be able to do all the tasks. You want me to throw out the whole Module?"

    She was mad so I did not say: YES throw it out.

    Keep encounters open ended.
    -- An encounter with one solution is bad.
    -- I do not write encounters with a solution in mind. I present the problem, and let the players tell me how it will be solved. Remember they are creative too. Use that.

    I cannot emphasize this enough. Frustrated players are bad. What to you might be an obvious solution might to the next person never come up. Look back to the Rule of Yes. Use any reasonable solution, be open to solutions you didn't think of. Remember that your players are creative people too, and the game is a cooperative effort. If you didn't want them writing part of the story, write a novel.
    Learn it, Love it, Live it.

    So we all know that we are being railroaded. We all know that NO MATTER WHAT WE SUGGEST the battle is going to go AS SCRIPTED.

    If I did not love and respect my DM, I was planning to bring a book to read at the next game session (Tomorrow).

    I have SO many plans that I want to do to prepare for an attack. Heck. I want to take the battle to THEM. We know they are coming in a month.

    I want to teleport to the major city (3,000 miles and 4 TPs away) and buy the spell Hallucinatory Terrain.

    Build a platform that blocks entry to the port; a 250' span (fabricate and several tonns of iron to anchor it [which I can easily get in a temple with dozens of iron statues of demons located just a teleport away] ) Then make it look like the beach so the pirates hit the dock/baracade and think it is the shore and disembark giving us a lot of time to counter attack.

    And a Hallucinatory cliff 50 high blocking the colony.

    But I know that none of that will happen because the module has the battle SCRIPED differntly.

    Look how much fun I had coming up with those Ideas.
    I thought and planned for several days about it before the last session only to be told that that is not the way the module says so we are not doing any of it.

    Write to your audience.
    -- Know your players.
    -- Ask what they like and what they want to see in the game.

    Again you are starting with a module, so the first hit is free. However you are going to be writing your own material, at the least judging which modules to use. I use modules. I don't always have the time to write a new from the start adventure.

    Discuss things. Ask what they want to see and what they expect from the game. I try to do this ever few session, a little meta gaming time to see what goals the players have for the PCs.
    It has basically come down to us v. the DM/module.

    I WILL NOT ARGUE WITH THE DM.
    I WILL NOT ARGUE WITH THE DM.
    I WILL NOT ARGUE WITH THE DM.

    I will not be railroaded,
    I will not be railroaded,
    I will not be railroaded.

    Tomorrow's session.
    Me: I teleport back to Sasserine
    DM: Ok. But that will delay the repair of the ship until you get back.
    Me: That's fine.

    DM: Your character would not do that. He is Lawful Good.
    Me: And yet he did. Perhaps his alignment is changing. Or perhaps he is only slightly more lawful than not and slightly more good than not. After all, he is not a Paladin or Knight.

    I WILL NOT ARGUE WITH THE DM.
    I will not be railroaded.


    Good Luck.

    Don't give out magic like it is Monty Haul.
    But don't make them buy a house and get a mortgage and then never have any time to use their Craft Arms and Armor Feat or other Feats.

    If you want People to roleplay,
    Don't make their non-combat skills and feats worthless.
    See above advice about knowing your players


    If you have someone like me, use e-mail to do all that non-combat stuff so you don't make everyone else bored with what they consider-out-of-game fluff.

    Have fun. But remember YOUR FUN DOES NOT TRUMP THE PLAYERS FUN.
    Last edited by Annshadow; 05-30-2008 at 05:07 PM.

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    Tesseral, Annshadow, I just wanted to say thanks for the thought out replies. The first few games I'm runnign are simply to "get my feet wet" in DMing, basically why I'm running a module and not the story that my friend and I have been working on for the last 2 months, and so I can get an idea what I'm in for with a homebrew game. I don't want to railroad them into anything, but I do plan on...lightly hearding...them in the way I'm trying to move the story. I have an end goal I want them to get to eventually, but the corse of each game is going to be influenced by what happened in the last game(s). There may be things that "need" to happen to move along the plot, but how they get there, and handle it once they get there, will be up to them. I've already made some, adjustments, to this module because knowing my group, what they had as fights for some of it would have been to weak. I think I'll be ok, but it never hurts to get the advice of people who've been there, done that.

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    All players know that they are supposed to take the "Hook."

    And we all know that when we "get a note from Lord / Lady So and So" that we really should go see her.

    But if the players get a bug up there butts and say ... naw I'm not going to go....

    Think of a way to get them to take the bait other than saying ...

    "you feel dizzy and suddenly you see Lord So-and-So asking if you would like something to drink"

    Oh and don't allow Ray of Stupidity and Blinding Spittle

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    Oh, they'll get there, but if it's delayed by a session, or half a session, then so be it. I'm not against having a session of "Hey, let's look for random dragon cave and see what's there." If they want a break from the plot, that should tell me something. Granted I'll find some way to work what happens in the adventure into the story, I hope, but I really hope I don't turn into a conductor.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Annshadow View Post
    All players know that they are supposed to take the "Hook."

    I think you need to buy your current DM a book on trains, really. Suggest model railroading as a hobby, instead. Little toy trains do not mind being told what rails to run on. You are MUCH nicer than I am.

    As to the rest yes, there is an implicit social agreement that the players take the hooks provided by the GM. After all the GM has placed a good deal of work into the game to be played. It is simply good manners. Likewise the agreement that the GM will run a game that is enjoyable to all.

    I attempt to keep the illusion that there are a limitless number of options open to the group. Tomorrow is an open session. I don't have a lot planed and I want to get the tenor of the group and see what the PCs want to do. They finished a truly major quest and I would suspect would be looking at some down time. We shall see.

    As to my Friday game, I have a 21 year old fellow that is doing an excellent job at DMing and I tell him so, frequently. We have to raise up the next generation if we old lags ever want to get some play time in.

    Garry AKA --Phoenix-- Rising above the Flames.
    My favorite game console is a table and chairs.
    The Olde Phoenix Inn

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    For a new campaign, or even new players to my game I like to start them at Zero. Then I give them points to build a character with about 20% more buff than an average commoner. Then they get points to spend on skills, again about 20% more than a typical commoner. Then they can buy more skill points by aging their character. At a certain age I start making them roll on the aging table. Since my game time can really fly to compensate for getting seriously wounded, and not having the cleric class that can instantly heal them so they can make their next attack roll, players donít generally age their characters much. Some even start their characters as young as 15 or 16 so they can get just a bit more buff for one who starts at 18.


    This game is on a silver standard for the characters, while commoners are on the copper standard and nobles are on a gold standard. I keep them poor so they have to work hard for all the goodies, but they eventually get some. In this game having a magic item makes they pretty powerful, even to nobles. And most all other npcís would mess their pants as they run from what the characters attack. They still feel good about their characters ability to entertain them. In this world of low fantasy even a pack of Orcs is a challenge. If I started them out at a high level and had shelves of magic items in the general store and toss powerful monsters at them right away, what would I do when they make 2nd level, toss a couple of red dragons at them? And at tenth level? Who wants to start out at the end of a story? All the fun is getting there!

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    Well, wanted to reply back with a "report" of the game.

    We ended up have a 7 person group, all at lvl 8. Around the room we had a rogue/sorc/daggerspell adept, CG vet player of about 10-15 years, "founder of the group", part time DM.

    Druid/Master of Many Forms, TN, liked shifting into large giants, normally firegiants. First game in the group but a 15+ year vet and part time DM.

    Fighter/Dwarven Defender, part time member of the group who's getting ready to leave thanks to military commitment. Played about 7 years Min/Max to some extent...maxed out AC against one enemy around 35-40...at lvl 8. Has ungodly luck with die rolles, we can count on one hand the times his results hit under a 10...

    Sword Sage, this is the other group "founder" and is the normal DM of the group. Min/Max's a bit, but intentionally doesn't break things.

    Full level Bard, has played for about a year or so, but has no real drive and has a tendency to "wander of track" from time to time.

    Monk, played for about 6-7 months and likes playing the idealist type characters. Does an amazing job of playing his character IN-character.

    Sorcerer, this was his first D&D game, ever. Got to reading the books a couple weeks ago at the instance of his friend(the monk player) and came to try the game. Was sorta lost, but was expected. Played his character, intentionally, as an absent minded but charming type, made it easy for the others in the group to suggest things for him to do IC to help out some.

    Started off ok, characters almost screwed the pooch and decided to attack the quest giver from the start(an Adult Blue Dragon), luckly two of the older players in the group(SS & MoMF) had a level head and nicely talked the others into taking the plot hook from the module(in character), disaster 1 averted.

    minor encounter on way to dragon lair, no problem but the lair it's self was another issue. MoMF and the DSM/Rogue scount a bit in the cave and find the mobs there, which was my one major change to the module. The mod calls for some random Ogre(3) & an Ogre Mage as the opponents. They would have decimated this in no time so I used my back up mobs I had made "just in case" as I didn't know who all was going to make it. 2 normal Minotaurs & 1 Minotaur w/6 fighter levels using a Huge Greataxe. Players made their plans and started combat. all ended up well, but almost started in disaster. The boss Minotaur's first action was to charge the MoMF who started combat shifted into a Fire Giant and came in taunting the Minotaurs. His charge attack, with a huge greataxe, crits, comfirms, and deals on the damage roll 105 damage, flooring the MoMFs in one hit. Luckly everyone get's max HP at each level and we don't use "Massive Damage", so the hit only droped him to -1...but I instantly though "Great...TPK possible on the first real encounter of the first game I run...GREAT!" As I said though, he only managed to hit the DD once, granted for a crit, but that kept him busy till his goons were toasted, then he was taken down by the party fairly simply.

    Rest of the game went ok till the end. Know how you said not to be prepaired for the unexpected...well, they did it. Got back to the town ahead of schedule so the Dragon wasn't there and managed to fortify the town some what. Built a catipult out of some wreckage from when the Dragon attacked first time making a giant net. They used it to snare the dragon(hit the dam thing with a CRIT on a catipult launch while he was distracted on the ground) and entangled his wings. The DD managed to draw agro by pissing it off and used combat expertise to raise his AC to about 40...the dragon hit him twice the entire encounter.

    Granted, there were supposed to win...but I never expected them to make a damn catipult out of the wreckage of a destroyed house, one of the guys actually had Craft Carpentery and got assisted from a few of the towns carpenters to build the damn thing, and he rolled 19 & 20 on his crafting checks with max ranks in the craft skill...ah well, what could I do?!

    Anyway, think it went over ok...we lost track of time and managed to not end the game till about 7AM this morning after starting at about 8PM the night before...

    Thanks for the advice guys, some of it came in rather handy and the guy testing our group asked to come back saying this was one of the better games he's been in in a while, especailly for a Module. I take it that means I did ok then?

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    these guys were 8th level?
    "well, g'night! dont let the flesh eating demon bed babies bite!!"
    facebook.com/houstonderek

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