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D&D 3E
Kinda new guy ... 
14th-Sep-2004 05:23 am
'ello ... My name is Jay or Cash or JC or Jeremy or whatever you wanna call me ... I am kind of a new member. I recently just re-joined, but I had been a rather active member last year under another username. I've been playing off and on for just about a year and have done a few different campaigns under four different DMs and the creativity boiling up inside me has just boiled over and I've decided to take on DMing since our current DM wants to play a character (a class which we've been working on for a bit).

So, I guess what I wanted to know was how did any of you DMs get started in DMing? And what are some specifics of your DMing technique you find helpful? I am working on a huge campaign setting and such for my guys because we've only done campaigns that we get to the 5th or 6th level at the highest with our characters without much story interest ... it's usually just hack and slash then quitting, so I'm wanting to make this a very enveloping story, which I can do. It's just the mechanics and tricks of DMing that I'm afraid will elude me. I'm the kind of person who likes to be doubly prepared, so any info that I can get or advise you can give will be awesome. This is a 3E campaign, by the way ... I've pretty much shunned 3.5 because I don't feel like shelling out $30 more bucks a book just to get a few different features. We're lucky our guys have PHs.

I have pretty much all the official Wizards of the Coast books (core rulebooks and supplements) and several other popular third-party supplements at my disposal, so anything you wanna point out would be awesome.
14th-Sep-2004 03:31 am (UTC)
I thoroughly recommend Roleplaying Tips.com. It's just chock full of the sort of tips and tricks you're after.

It's a big site but there's a Google powered search engine for it at GameWyrd's Cyber Nexus.
14th-Sep-2004 05:08 am (UTC)
Another great link: http://www.d20srd.com/

I don't know about most groups, but the more I DM, the more I realize that certain aspects of being prepared just don't work well. I used to try to be very prepared. I tried to think of every contingency and idea and somehow account for it. It rarely works. That doesn't mean I have to do everything off the cuff. For the main campaign, I created a basic outline:
- Where do they start?
- How do the party members get together?
- What is the adventure hook?
- What is the first main task

Then it gets really vague. I list various milestones I want them to hit, be them places or specific encounters, etc. "Visit city X to talk to NPC Y to get object Z." From then on it becomes a question of getting them from milestone to milestone. It may be direct or it may take them a long time. Usually it doesn't matter. Sometimes I don't even know how they will get from point A to B. They always surprise me and come up with a better method than what I would think of. I usually have a general idea or a recommendation ready in case they get stuck.

Another thing I do is pick a bunch of encounters and make them up in advanced. They aren't necessarily "random", but things I want the party to run into. Some are location-based (which may relate to the plot outline) and others are simply fun. "I want them to encounter maxed out kobold barbarians with strength potions." My current campaign has 3 encounters in the queue that I thought I would have in one place but have moved around to help the plot. Sometimes I even tell them when they mess up my plot, not to scold them but because I find it funny. Recently I needed a certain rogue that was following the party to be found and killed. It was critical to the plot. What do they do? They sort of befriend him then Charm him and bring him back to their rooms at the inn planning to let him go before the spell ran out.
14th-Sep-2004 05:15 am (UTC)
I agree. With the group I DM, nothing I do can prepare me for them. The answer for me is to prepare a broad range of peripheral settings, situations and characters, and be prepared to totally improvise. I've had to overrule a lot of rolls to guide them into the situations I've wanted them in.
14th-Sep-2004 09:54 am (UTC)
My best advice? Expect the unexpected. I am currently involved in two separate campaigns - one as DM, the other as a player. As DM, I came up with an on-the-spot way of torturing the Paladin (played by my husband), by having all the teenage girls in the village develop huge crushes on him. They followed him around, a couple of the more enterprising ones tried to sneak into his room at night, etc., etc. The other players thought it was hilarious, (and so did he, actually). If you come up with an idea like that during a session, don't be afraid to go with it. And don't be afraid to include humorous moments - they can really help make the characters real to you and to the players.

As a player, I know for a fact that I have screwed up at least two adventure plots that my husband was running (he lets me read the adventures after he's done running them). On one occasion, his villain blew a will save against a "Hold Person," and my fighter scored a critical hit...with a bastard sword...and the guy was already injured. Now, my husband could have pulled something to have the guy escape, but he decided not to, as he felt that we'd earned it. So he ended up doing an improvised plot that actually was a lot of fun and gave him a lot of hooks to use for future stuff. On another occasion, a guy was supposed to leave this village inn with two girls - only our characters were suspicious of the guy, and wouldn't let him leave. Again, my husband improvised and all was fine.

Just be aware that the players are going to do things you don't expect, and don't be afraid to improvise.
14th-Sep-2004 10:19 am (UTC)
I think my biggest asset in DMing is that I know these guys that I'm playing with and they're not exactly braniacs when it comes to D&D; by that, I mean what they are going to do are very predictable.

(you don't know these guys, but here ya go) In any given campaign, you can bet that Isaac is gonna wanna be a shady character, regardless of alignment, and he's gonna try to kill and steal from everyone because he's a bastard. Lee is gonna wanna get drunk and have a pig to throw. Randle is gonna not roleplay, but not metagame think either; he's gonna do what he think his character would do to the best of his ability. Ronnie (our normal DM) is gonna try to figure everything out in his head and let his fighter with a 10 intelligence be a fuckin' genius and figure everything out for everyone. And I'm gonna be the guy who forgets that my samurai should always have his sword on him even though I am the one that's always trying to propel the game forward and keep everyone on task.

I forgot why I loved this community so much; everyone is so willing to help. Wee for me.
18th-Sep-2004 02:28 pm (UTC) - My own two coppers...
First, some resources.

Kenzer and Co. have a fantastic book for making villians. It's called (surprisingly) the Villian's Handbook, and it's one of my favorite resources for creating master badguys -- even ones that are Lawful Good (and yes, it's plausible)

Now, forgive me for thinking like a writer here, but you need to come up with a simple theme/seed for the story arc that will drive the campaign. For example, the next campaign I'll be running (after I put my current one to bed) started with the words, "The King is dead."

As DM, it's up to you to find at least one "hook" for each PC. It can be simple or complex, and you don't have to use them all at once. Hooking one or two PCs is usually enough. As the characters play and grow, you'll find more hooks will become available to you.

Here's an idea: A troll (yes, just one) has been coming and going throughout the farmlands, and it's decided to change its fare to human flesh. Two children and an old woman have met their end, and the PCs are the only ones with the training/background to deal with it. However, they aren't strong enough to face the Troll. Not to worry, one PC knows of a place where they might find a weapon capable of defeating the Troll.

Now you have a seed and more than one good basic hook to get your players going. You also have more than one "module" to build your characters up in level, and they'll have to goods and power to take on one Troll (CR5, although you can beef it up a bit at this point to make it more memorable a fight).

Now for DM Advice:

In my time as DM, I've learned you can NEVER accurately predict the actions of your players. Dice alone can lead to sudden plot twists, and sometimes your players will give you a plot you never even thought of ("I drank what?")

If you're going to have a full PC for yourself in the party, make him a supporting character, not a primary. By Primary, I mean a PC that takes on a core role. You'll be tempted to use that character to "direct" the party, and players CAN and sometimes WILL resist it. A Bard or a Ranger who takes up archery are examples of a "supporting" PC. Let your players have their moment in the limelight.
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