Thread: [D&D] First time Dungeon Master. Requesting tips...

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  1. #1
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    [D&D] First time Dungeon Master. Requesting tips...

    Hello my fellow roamers of Newerth,

    Recently my friends and I were bored and I suggested that we should play Dungeons and Dragons. Surprisingly all 6 were interested in trying it out. We were planning on playing D&D version 3.5 but unfortunately the local game store did not have those books and we went for D&D version 4.

    Since I was the only in the group who had experience with the D&D 2.0 ruleset (I thank to Baldur's Gate 1+2 and Icewind Dale 1 for that) and the D&D version 3.5 ruleset (thanks to Icewind Dale 2) I stepped up and offered to be the Dungeon Master. So, about three weeks ago we played our first game and everyone had a great time.



    We played a total of 3 games so far (every Saturday) and everyone is slowly getting the hang of it.
    Unfortunately, not everything is going as smooth as it should. Do you guys have any tips regarding the following topics:

    1) Original/unique quest ideas? The lower level modules (everyone just hit level 2) seem to be rather straight forward. Go to city, get ambushed, get quest from npc, random encounter, go in dungeon, fight, fight again, fight agaaaain, finish quest, return to city, get reward.


    2) This one has to do with the previous question. Since there are so many encounters in the lower level modules, how do I make an combat more entertaining?
    Right now -during a fight- the player and the npc throw a single d20 die and when the npc is successful I say something like "The goblin jumps up and attempts to slash your face. You notice him too late and you take x damage.


    3) When should I be giving out +X weapons, is that completely up to me? Is there like a general guideline for that?



    Example quest I made

    This one uses the famous Edwin Odesseiron a red wizard of Thay with a genius-complex. He talks down to everyone around him and it went something like this:

    *Edwin approaches the party inside the city walls*

    He says the following: "Go no further, I require the services of your group. (Yes, they will do nicely). Greetings, my name is Edwin Odesseiron, but you may refer to me as 'Sir' if you prefer a less syllable-intensive workout. I am the head of the Red Wizard clan and I have a package which needs to be delivered immedia- uugh, why do I even bother talking to these imbeciles...Package. Deliver. Quick. Understand? Stomp once for yes and twice for no."

    After the the party leader actually stomped once on the floor (which was freaking hilarious) and discussing the reward Edwin tells them that the package will be ready tomorrow by dawn in front of his tower and that it should be delivered to the dwarven mine which is located half a day north of the city.

    *dawn next day*
    The party arrives at the tower and after seeing the size of the package they realize that they didn't discuss the size of the package.
    (Package was 30 by 15 ft and another 10 feet in height)

    After knocking on Edwin's door he answered it and asked the party why they were still standing there like a bunch of chimps, that they should get to work and then he slammed the door shut in front of them.

    The party solved this by going to the local stables where they rented a few horses. They used used them to transport this elephant-sized box.
    They got ambushed by bandits a couple of times. Inside the dwarven mine they talked to the clan leader who was furious at them for being so late. They still receive a token of him as proof that they delivered it with success.

    After returning Edwin and giving him the token he replied: "Hmm, so you have delivered the package... Well, it seems that you have exceeded the exceedingly 'low' expectations I had of you, though just barely.

    *Gives 400 gold, 400exp and one banana*
    Last edited by Necroth; 03-18-2013 at 07:22 PM. Reason: typo

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  2. #2
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    The thing about low-level DnD is that there isn't much in the way of varying quests (unless you invent secret doors that can only be opened by Colour Spray and the like). The trope of MMORPGs applies here because you are literally grinding rats for XP.

    I'm not that familiar with 4ed, but I am/was a veritable 3.5ed encyclopaedia of knowledge (and munchkin, I'm afraid to say). Your writing skills seem absolutely fine and you give your NPCs a bit of character which is handy for maintaining interest. Your issues with combat are tied to your issues with quest variation (simply put there isn't a lot to do). Well, I'm probably being too blase (and showing off my like for high-powered campaigns), because you can achieve variation, but after a few you're stuck in a repeating loop of patterns.

    With regards to weapons, you're the GM. If you want to hand out loot, hand out loot. I'd keep the loot strictly ordinary for now, with master-crafted items as special rewards and perhaps a +1 weapon if a player has done exceptionally, performed in-character excellently or managed to get teamwork to a level that took a lot of effort. I mean, sure, you could give out +3 Keen Longswords of Flame and Badass, but you're then handing out weapons that double or triple a viable character's damage at the levels they are currently, making combat scenarios a piece of cake (unless you scale accordingly, etc, et al, power creep a-gogo).

    Possible ideas:

    1. Secret doors that require class-specific actions (i.e. Colour Spray because who the hell uses that in combat anyhow), or even better, multi-player combinations to open. Give a couple with prompts/obvious giveaways, then see how many others the players manage to figure out on their own.

    2. Read up on any moral alignment expansions. DnD historically sucks at this. Failing that, simply reward players slightly for being in-character, and reward players moderately for actions that are in-keeping with their alignment that aren't to the detriment of the party (had a few campaigns derailed because a Lawful Good player would be Lawful Obnoxious Dumb intentionally until I put him through a void rift or somesuch).

    3. Give impromptu combat bonuses for well-acted non-rulebook actions. Jumping at a goblin yelling an insult about his mother in Goblin, for example, would grant a flat-footed bonus against the goblin in question. It would require proficiency in said language, of course.

    Little things like that, until they get to higher levels where the variation in their abilities allows them to do more grandiose things

    EDIT:

    4. Puzzles.
    Last edited by Gorb; 03-18-2013 at 04:52 PM. Reason: spelling!

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  3. #3
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    I like to reward my players for being super unique and inventive.

    Gorb's Number 3 is huge here. It starts to make the game more than just a game and more of an adventure. You get less limited by ideas of what is right and what is wrong and more just what CAN be done. That being said, it can also apply to you.

    Instead of making combat on a flat field, introduce terrain. Introduce rain, making the mud of the ground slippery. Put some logs down. The more stuff you give to a player to fool around with (I break the branch off and use it as a Clubbing weapon to shatter the Skeleton's Bones), the more likely they are to get creative. Describe the chandeliers, describe the frailty of the wall, describe the wind blowing the flames close to the dry trees.

    As for number 1
    1) Original/unique quest ideas? The lower level modules (everyone just hit level 2) seem to be rather straight forward. Go to city, get ambushed, get quest from npc, random encounter, go in dungeon, fight, fight again, fight agaaaain, finish quest, return to city, get reward.
    You have to make them explore and learn. Taverns are great for quest hooks. If your party has Streetwise and stuff, make them hit a tavern and look for rumours. There is a story about a werewolf slashing up townies at night? There is a rumour about a king who is collecting young women and children? Make them feel like they discover the quest on their own. Make them feel attached to the characters that you create. Add in an NPC who tags along. A recurring character. Give him/her perosnality so when they die, your party feels the need to go save them They feel the revenge. Its more than just hack and slash.

    Give them problems to solve that have multiple solutions.

    A bunch of Alchemists planning on blowing up the parliament? How are you going to stop them? Run in fireballs blazing and risk blowing up everyone? Go in from the water channel? Break in from the top? Get your bard to disguise and sneak in? Create an illusion of the Parliament somewhere else? In the end, you do have a lot of unused material, but it helps to create that world.

    Making it dynamic is a huge task but has massive payoff.

    Make your monsters act like monsters. Kobolds should be cowardly, and fight in large numbers. Maybe they run away after you kill the leader (giving a strategic element), maybe they set up traps and tripwires. The skeletons should be resistant to poisons and thrusting/slashes. They needs their bones the crumble under blunt force, else they regeneration. Each combat should be like a small puzzle (not huge and not too intricate though) but have some little twist. Are the zombies reviving constantly but there is a chill in the air from a direction? Maybe there is a necromancer hiding in the brush; have their listening skills be put to use. When you fight a dragon, that dragon should be terrifying, he should fly, stretch his wings. There is almost no reason for a dragon to fight on the ground. Make them act the way they would (well maybe a Red Dragon would, they don't want to melt down the gear due to their greed).

    In combat, make the non-combat skills semi-useful. If a player midcombat decides to wait and listen, maybe they hear a rustling of incoming forces, maybe they hear rushing water nearby or the whistle of wind in a tight and dark cavern.

    EDIT: I would so be up for playing a HoN people DnD game using Roll20 online. But I am rusty as heck. Anyone wanna try?

    EDIT2: IDK if I can link directly here; but take a look.

    EDIT3: Added more stuff about monsters and things.

    EDIT4: I can go on and on and on, but don't want to overwhelm your players. In before Sanity, Shock, Diseases, Rusting of Weapons etc.
    Last edited by Hubaris; 03-18-2013 at 05:19 PM.
    I am the beast, the defiler, the source of all pain.
    The darkness will cover the lands once again.
    So make peace with whatever it is the gods worship, the end has come.

  4. #4
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    I tend to avoid sanity on the grounds it tends to kill people pretty quickly.

    Then again, I'm something of a bastard.

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  5. #5
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    kill people pretty quickly
    I love how you don't hide your desire to kill people at all.

    This makes me want to get back into D&D / Pathfinder after all these years.
    I am the beast, the defiler, the source of all pain.
    The darkness will cover the lands once again.
    So make peace with whatever it is the gods worship, the end has come.

  6. #6
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    @Gorb
    Rather funny that you suggested puzzles, especially since I've prepared a quest based on riddles for this upcoming week. ^_^

    One of the party members who is about to go to bed is going to feel cold all of a sudden en senses a presence inside his room. Obviously he's going to look around and after a while he's going to notice a shadow against the wall (other than his own) yet there is nobody there. At that point he's going to hear a cold -yet familiar- voice inside his head that speaks the following words:

    "Questions will be asked to the chosen few.
    Answer them right, answer them true.
    For they will result in death or pleasure.
    Answer true and I will bestow you my treasure"

    At this point that person is going to wake up wondering whether that actually happened or it was just a simple dream.
    The voice they heard was a dead relative from one of the elves, which they will find out later. This spirit will guide them to a remote place far from their current city. There they will end being locked up in a room. The only way out, is to do solve whatever they must do. They will have to figure out what they have to do.

    The room in which they are locked in will have 7 statue heads on the wall, all of them have open mouths. Also, there is a big statue in the center of the room.
    Right next to the big statue there is a container with 21 medallions. Each medallion has something written on it. (Candle, pride, good intentions, ect ect)

    Once somebody puts his/her hand inside the mouth of one of the 7 head statues, that particular statue will open further and will speak a riddle.

    The 21 medallions are the possible answers. If all riddles are solved, the door will open again. If they stick around for a bit the center statue will move start moving, which will contain a nice weapon for the person who solved the most riddles and a ring of protection +1.


    @Hubaris
    I'm leaving work now and I'll read your post once I am back home.

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  7. #7
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    @Hubaris
    What you say is good advice and also rather logical when you think about it. Except the main problem for me are two things:

    - The fact that I've never seen a real D&D game, let alone played in one (which means I have no form of outside inspiration except maybe from the D&D PC games I played)
    - Experience, obviously I'm still in a learning stage myself.

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    Oh I know, it comes with time.

    You just have to sort of think outside the box. What would YOU do as a player? What would your characters do? How would something act?

    Yeah I know its not easy on first glance to think "Well maybe the dragon would just spam Fire Breath and not give them a chance" but the more you play and the more you read up on the enemies, characters and stuff, the more interesting and intricate your encounters will become.

    Also don't be afraid to ask for advice and just try out stuff. Worst comes to worst, you DM Kill something if it proves difficult, or you make a freak snowstorm consume the monster they're having issues with.

    Read the encounter and try to play out scenarios in your head, its really just practice.

    If you need inspiration, just grab an archetype of an adventure you like (Copy the idea of Star Wars for instance) but adapt it to the game. Find a monster from a movie you like and adapt it to the game (You want a swamp thing from the Black Lagoon? Do it!), you can see how the monster plays out already. You can see the swamp or the fight.

    Think of it as a cinematic experience, it really helps.

    In the end though, you'll get it slowly but surely.
    I am the beast, the defiler, the source of all pain.
    The darkness will cover the lands once again.
    So make peace with whatever it is the gods worship, the end has come.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hubaris View Post
    You just have to sort of think outside the box. What would YOU do as a player? What would your characters do? How would something act?

    Carefully planning is actually hard as things usually don't even go slightly the way I want them to. Mostly because of two players in their party. Read on and you'll understand.

    The party looks like this:
    - Elven Archer Ranger, played by a girl
    - Eladrin Control Wizard, played by a girl
    - Half-elf Bard, played by a girl
    - Dragonborn Great Weapon Fighter, played by a dude
    - Half-elf Brawny Rogue, played by a dude
    - Human Devoted Cleric, played by a dude


    Now, the girls play rather nice and the dragonborn as well actually, but the rogue and the freaking cleric...well lets just say their characters are both jerks. They prefer killing and asking questions later. They assume everyone is a threat, even those without weapons.
    Hell, this one time the cleric even attempted to finish off one of the girls (wizard) who was about to die during a hard combat encounter. He blamed his actions on his low intelligence (which is 3). I have to admit, it's a dick move but at the same time it was hilarious.

    How should I deal with these two?

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  10. #10
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    Wildcards!

    Always fun. Sometimes its too much, sometimes its not. Players like this just do what they feel is right or funny for the situation. You have a few courses of action.

    1) You talk to them on the side and mention that their choices effect the fun of the party (not recommended)
    2) You let them do what they want, and shanghai your campaign (also not entirely recommended)
    3) You make your choices have massive repercussions.

    In 3, you can (like in my other examples) make it so their character is shaped by their actions.

    For example in AD&D and many other types of D&D, a Cleric who kills an innocent without reason may start to lose favour with their God, and thus lose all of their blessings and prayers. A Cleric who is no longer Lawful (or sometimes Neutral) loses all class bonuses. This may be intense, but it puts the power in your players hands again and the repercussions that go with it.

    Playing with alignments (strictly) is a bad thing, giving it a numerical value. You can always punish / reward players who act in character. Would that Cleric actually do that? Would the Rogue steal from the party? Its totally possible they do, but make some repercussions happen. Maybe they can't enter the next town, maybe the person they stole from is a Witch who cursed them, maybe they lose a Gods favour. Let them do what they want (obviously to an extent) but make their choices, both good and bad have consequences.

    Also, I could have sworn intelligence has to be above 5 to be most classes? I could be wrong though.

    Its hard to judge because each group is hugely different.

    If all else fails, just say that you're still new to this and you have nothing prepared if that happens; and it will put the campaign to a halt. Be honest.
    I am the beast, the defiler, the source of all pain.
    The darkness will cover the lands once again.
    So make peace with whatever it is the gods worship, the end has come.

  11. #11
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    How the heck is the Cleric's Intelligence 3? Sounds like some extreme munchkin min/max abuse.

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  12. #12
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    Yeah I still think its a bit weird, you should check up on that :P

    Also, Gorb, wanna DM a group on Roll20?
    I am the beast, the defiler, the source of all pain.
    The darkness will cover the lands once again.
    So make peace with whatever it is the gods worship, the end has come.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hubaris View Post
    Yeah I still think its a bit weird, you should check up on that :P

    Also, Gorb, wanna DM a group on Roll20?
    I would like to be involved in this. I'm convinced that Dnd and roleplaying games are probably perfect for me, but I've never gotten into them or had friends who played.

  14. #14
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    FYI, at least according to 3.5 rules, 3 is the minimum intelligence for sentience/player characters. Hence why I suspect it's intentional griefbag munchkin abuse.

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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Apostate View Post
    I would like to be involved in this. I'm convinced that Dnd and roleplaying games are probably perfect for me, but I've never gotten into them or had friends who played.
    Check your PM's when you have time.
    I am the beast, the defiler, the source of all pain.
    The darkness will cover the lands once again.
    So make peace with whatever it is the gods worship, the end has come.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gorb View Post
    FYI, at least according to 3.5 rules, 3 is the minimum intelligence for sentience/player characters. Hence why I suspect it's intentional griefbag munchkin abuse.
    Hahahahah.

    Yes it's intentional.

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    I wanted to write a long reply about lots of things, but i guess they are already answered so i'll just give you a few tricks and tips i've picked along the way of DM ing. They are especially good for novice DM's as yourself.

    1. The most important imho, is never tell a player he can't do something. Always let him try. A lot of players are clever and try things that are not necessarily covered by the rules. Let them! Make up a DC or something on the fly and let the players attempt to do it their way. If it's something clever and they succeed, reward them!
    2. Low level combat is pretty random. 1 crit from an enemy can easily one shot a player. At low levels you should spice up the adventure with lots of Roleplaying encounters and story, to get them immersed in the world a bit.
    3. The main focus of the game should be FUN. Always see if the players are having fun. I know it sucks but sometimes they just don't like that dungeon you spent 10 hours making it and you have to try something else. The best way to do this is have an overall story arc, with a few predefined stages, but it's not recommended to force the players to do sth they don't want to. Sometimes they will go off course, that's where you have to make **** up! Don't worry at first, you 'll learn to make **** up on the way the more you play.
    4. Don't be a killer DM. Don't go with the mindset that it's you against the players and your job is to defeat them. This can be done if the players are experienced and want that sort of encounter, but for the most part try not to kill them. Make challenging fights and hard puzzles but don't kill them unless you really have to. If they get overwhelmed give them a helping hand, tell them to run or it's a perfect place to introduce heroic NPC that come to the rescue.

    5. There are a lot of pre made adventures available for free on the internet. Give them a try and modify them to suit your needs,but they are a great starting point to give you a feel on how you should design a good adventure. I'm currently playing Pathfinder using a heavily modified Rise of the Runelords adventure path. It's much better that making one yourself if you dont have the time and most of them can be easily modified to fit your party or you can even just take the encounters from them since they are balanced and use a totally different story.

  18. #18
    This seems so fun.. If only i had friends to play this with ._.

  19. #19
    didnt you just post on /tg/?

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