D&D 3e/3.5e/d20The forum for conversations specifically related to the rules and procedures of Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition, 3.5 Edition, or any fantasy game using the d20 system or a variant thereof (commercially published or not).
My friends and I are very excited about d20 role playing, but inexperienced. Particularly, we're very attracted to the notion that while there are published adventures and source material that exist, ultimately, everything is subject to our collective whims. If we think it would be cool for dwarves to be 30 ft tall, then so be it, because who's to stop us if we agree on that? That's a terrible example, but you get the picture. However, I did mention we're inexperienced. We don't really know what a well designed, exciting, role playing adventure looks like. I've been nominated to be the DM and we've had a blast just doing whatever we feel like. Fortunately, the group is composed only of the very best of friends and we aren't picky, so despite being self-taught role players with incredibly haphazard organization, we greatly enjoy each others company, and would never dream of criticizing each other with any degree of hostility, even if something incredibly stupid happens. Nevertheless, I'm honored to be the DM and I want to strive to make our campaign as fantastic and memorable as possible, but sometimes world building, creating encounters, balancing... whatever feels daunting and way over my head. I'd like to get more practice and experience in order to be a good DM, but don't know where to look or how to start. I have access to some game mastering books, core rule books, bestiaries, etc. but like I said, reading it all feels daunting. This may be a generally broad question, but does anyone have advice for an inexperienced DM on how to create a memorable, exciting session?
As far as i can tell you're doing admirably. So long as everyone is having fun you are doing things right.
As far as making your game feel more memorable, you know your friends better than us. If they like the sandbox feel and have a blast playing in a game that does not lead them, then play on that. If they are not serious players and are in it for the giggles then make sure they can do that. By no means make the game trivial or easymode, but keep in mind the mindsets of the players and try to take them on in ways that they will be talking about in years to come.
Edit: In terms of getting a setting together, try a D&D videogame or two. Most are set in particular game worlds (Baldurs gate, Icewind Dale and NWN are in Forgotten Realms, Planescape: Torment is in Planescape, DDO is in Eberron) and offer other's views of those worlds without trawling through books to get a feel. Pick one that fits your playstyle (FR is good for big, interconnected, already-set-out games, Eberron is a Magitech paradise and Planescape is the realm of coincidence and concepts) and jump into the parts you are comfortable with.
For setting, it's good to start small. Maybe some orcs are threatening a village. After the players stop that problem they hear about undead attacking a town nearby. After that's dealt with they move to a city. My players liked it best when multiple adventure hooks existed in the big city.
As for the actual content of the adventures, Kane0 said it well. You know what your friends want best. Give it to them. You may need to experiment a bit before you find out what that is, but that's fine.
Okay, that makes sense. I do know my players, and they're pretty zany. It's reflected in their characters pretty well, too. One is a sorcerer who thinks he's a wizard, due to poor training. Another is a guy who acts like a happy go lucky chaotic good bard (has skill in perform) but is an oracle who gets his powers from a mad, lawful evil goddess, so he's haunted. The last is a goliath, natural born lycanthrope barbarian. Unbalanced and dangerous, but exciting. I think I'm going to stop worrying about the history of the world and focus more on scenarios where their peculiar natures get them into ridiculous trouble