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    Pixie in the Playground
     
    CaptainLhurgoyf's Avatar

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    Default Going to run a game for the first time, any advice?

    Hello everyone!

    I'm fairly new to DND. I was in a few games a long time ago, but I haven't really gotten into it as a hobby until recently. I've been playing in a group at my school for a while now, but lately I've started thinking about starting up a game of my own. I'm the most familiar with 3.5, so that's what I'll be using.

    I talked to some of the other members of my group, and they recommended opening up a thread here to get some advice before I start, so I thought I'd try it out.

    Firstly, my plans for starting. I was thinking of doing a simple one-shot dungeon crawl to get used to things before I start up a campaign. So far, my plan is to write up a guide in advance where I'd have information on all the rooms, encounters, and events I want to have happen and refer to that as I go, with some plans on how to handle a few potential directions the players could end up taking things. Sort of like a published module, only for my own adventure. Before I start writing that up, does anyone have an idea of what level I should have the players start as for a good-sized one-shot dungeon in which they'll probably be fighting demons fairly regularly? Should I just write all my plans out in advance, or should I gear it to the characters once I know what the party's going to look like? Also, are there any particular dungeon setpieces that you'd recommend using? For reference, this is going to be a ruined castle that belonged to a warrior king from a Celtic-inspired culture that practices ancestor worship.

    And in general, what tends to work for you as a DM? What are some mistakes to avoid? What should I keep in mind when I'm starting out?

    Thanks, and I hope this is in the right section. I wasn't sure whether this belonged in here or the 3.5 section, so don't be afraid to move it if need be.

    - CL
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    JustPlayItLoud's Avatar

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    Default Re: Going to run a game for the first time, any advice?

    I've found the most important thing new GMs forget is to test the waters with what kind of game the players want. I've had numerous attempts at running game die after a session or two because I came up with a game concept they didn't get like. They were no buying what I was selling. I find the first "adventure" doesn't matter as much. It seems like everyone expects the first one to be a little nonsensical and/or railroad-y as everyone feels out their characters. It's typically what happens to them after the adventure and where they are then able to go that is most important. If they emerge from the introductory credits sequence dungeon to a world that they think is stupid, it's already over.
    Last edited by JustPlayItLoud; 2012-11-16 at 05:29 PM.
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    Pixie in the Playground
     
    CaptainLhurgoyf's Avatar

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    Default Re: Going to run a game for the first time, any advice?

    If there's any confusion, this adventure wouldn't be part of a campaign - it's mainly a simple test run for me to get some experience running games, and I don't really plan to continue from there. I just thought it might be easier to manage than plunging head-on into a campaign.

    In any case, you do raise a good point, and it does raise some questions about the campaign I'm planning to run. Our DM wrote pretty extensive notes on his setting and gave us all a copy during our character creation session, so I was going to do that. However, with your advice I'm not sure if I should withhold setting information from the players to avoid spoilers or not. My idea is that the players would be members of a merchant guild, and they'd start out by doing general trade-related jobs (like guarding caravans, negotiating trade deals, etc.), but after a while, they'd get a job to travel to the setting's equivalent of China to essentially become this world's Marco Polo. I was planning on keeping this a secret from the players so that they'd actually feel like they're in a strange new land that they know nothing about, but now I don't know if that could be a turnoff.
    Ach! Hans, run! It's the lhurgoyf!

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    Geostationary's Avatar

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    Default Re: Going to run a game for the first time, any advice?

    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainLhurgoyf View Post
    However, with your advice I'm not sure if I should withhold setting information from the players to avoid spoilers or not. My idea is that the players would be members of a merchant guild, and they'd start out by doing general trade-related jobs (like guarding caravans, negotiating trade deals, etc.), but after a while, they'd get a job to travel to the setting's equivalent of China to essentially become this world's Marco Polo. I was planning on keeping this a secret from the players so that they'd actually feel like they're in a strange new land that they know nothing about, but now I don't know if that could be a turnoff.
    As a disclaimer beforehand, I'm a more narrative guy when it comes to these things.

    So, the general thrust of the story is going to be that the PCs are merchanty people doing merchanty things before they go off to explore the fantasy Orient and surrounding lands, so you should tell them this ahead of time- first, so that you know that it's what they want and second, so they can have some sort of engagement with the story. By knowing the general direction of the story you want to tell, they can plan motivations and whatnot around being the kind of merchant group that would embark on such a quest, and it can save you some headaches by ensuring that the characters have some sort of hook that would lead them to do such a thing, be it curiosity, greed, or some other motivation. The sense of discovery you want doesn't come from being ignorant of the direction of the plot, but rather ignorance of the specifics. They know they're going to the orient but they don't know about the demon-caravans, the glass cities of wonders, the opulent and learned courts of far-away emperors. You hook them with the premise and then reel them in with their encounters with the curious, the horrifying, and the awe-inspiring mysteries of the East (or whatever cardinal direction you choose).

    This also lets them plan ahead some- merchant groups don't just cavort around to the other end of the earth on a whim, so if the initial missions are preparations for the big trip to fantasy China, you can get them more invested in the plot, what with them gathering men and goods, and feeding them tales of the Orient and its wonders and terrors.

    As for general background, tell them the general stuff about their region and things they both want to and would reasonably know. It's fair to keep them mostly in the dark about the mysterious Orient, but you can also give them apocryphal tales of dubious accuracy to stir interest.

    If you want, the forum could probably go into more detail on higher-level planning than just the one-shot you have here. For the one-shot you have, I'd have the general rooms and layout planned, but I'd play the plotting by ear, because there's no telling what the players will get up to. Several general paths/contengencies is not a bad thing to have, but don't enslave yourself to them.
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    Pixie in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Going to run a game for the first time, any advice?

    After many unsuccessful attempts at DMing I have the following pointers for you.

    Don't be afraid to make things up if it's not in your notes.

    Never fudge the dice. Good rolls and bad rolls happen to everyone. If PCs kill your climactic boss battle in the first round or if the crappy practice battle almosts TPKs the group, accept it and keep going.

    Have a post it note in clear sight that says: Sight, touch, sound, smell, taste. Altenate between all senses to describe the surroundings as best as possible.

    Never have more than 5 PCs no matter what.

    Don't be afaid to say no. Players have an instinct to try and break the game. If you see it coming or notice it along the line, put your foot down and have a clear no. Never let the game get boggled down by discussing proper interpretation of rules.

    Have snacks, take a couple of bathroom breaks.

    Most importantly: Everyone is there to have fun, especially the Dungeon Master. It's a responsibility but you should be enjoying the game as well.

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