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Old Jul 31st, 2021, 09:44 PM
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Advice for a newbie?

Hullo DM/GM mentors! I'm seeking some free advice from the experts here in the field. I was thinking of starting a story/campaign at some point. I'm learning D&D 5e so thought I would start there. I have some experience in pbp but am not overly familiar with D&D game mechanics and rules (although I am not overly inclined to follow them anyway lol). I'm also brand new here and don't want to step on toes. I've got an outline below of what I was thinking but wondering what elements might be important. Spoiler alert lol (the below has some details that wouldn't be disclosed to the players). Is it possible to have a co-DM or coach for story? Anyway, just a rough idea while I get my feet wet! If anyone wanted to run something like it I'd be happy to watch or be a player as well to see how it goes.

Any thoughts or comments would be greatly appreciated (raspberries, rotten tomatoes, or shots from the peanut gallery too )!

------

The Terror of Corflian Hollow


The kingdoms of Aswindung and Dolgilp have been at war for a generation. What started the conflict none can recall. Legend is that it was a dispute over a sheepfold but the exact cause is lost. What is better known is the growing butcher’s bill… although it too is approaching more than can be accounted for on a bookkeeper’s abacus. But of course the cause of war, on whom the blame lies most, the accounting and grand strategies mean nothing to the peasant whose barn is ablaze, the orphaned child, or desporite soldier.

You crossed the border with Dolgilp under Aswindung’s flag in force last year. The first weeks brought Aswindung success, capturing key forts and bridges with little resistance. Despite the rough ground the army made progress and occupied a large swath of their enemy’s territory. Infighting and risk aversion in the senior ranks slowed the advance however and within a month, Aswindung settled on consolidating their achievements. Almost immediately partisan forces made life miserable and perilous. Supply trains and stranglers would be ambushed and killed… or worse. Despite this the invading force held, responding with brutal reprisals against the local populace.

Disaster struck. Two days ago Dolgilp launched a powerful, sweeping, counter attack. For you, the day was lost. A bloody battle has ended in total defeat. What was an orderly retreat turned into a full route. Chaos on all fronts. No redoubt held, the retreats were flanked and crushed. Few choices remain for the fugitives. Surrender to a vengeful enemy is likely to result in impalement or starvation in concentration camps. This has left the remains of your army to form into scattered composite units fleeing east through mountains hoping to find some elusive rallying point or escape to the coast.


Plot
Being dismounted and without any hope of support the greatest threats to your survival are the enemy’s light cavalry patrols, partisans and fell beasts who lurk in the treacherous wooded foothills you have found yourselves lost within. Adding to the peril… an empty belly and a long uncertain road lies ahead.

Player 1: You were a Lieutenant, and the youngest of 12 children in a well-established military family. As the 12th child, any hope of an inheritance would be miniscule. Your fortunes appeared to change however when you found a bag of precious gemstones in the opening of the invasion of Dolgilp. While you have recovered a tidy fortune, living long enough to enjoy it is a grave concern. Your best hope is to run east to the coast. Your cousin commands a ship, the Ælfswiþ, that could take you home… but finding your way there through the wilds seems nigh impossible.

Player 2: You were part of an elite pathfinder regiment with access to maps and army intelligence. You know the fastest way to safety lies to the east and the coast but getting there will require traversing dangerous territory that can’t be accomplished alone. Should you make it… you will also still need to secure passage on a ship home, likely to be a challenge with so many fleeing.

Player 3: You were a former partisan and convict. Despite your heroic resistance, your own nation’s army expropriated your family farm and emptied your grain stores. Your young family did not survive the winter and you were imprisoned for resisting. You escaped recently in the chaos and fog of war. There is nothing left for you in Dolgilp now that you are a fugitive. But… war has opened another door. You might not know the direction the fleeing army is headed but you know this land well. In particular, you know the local dialects as well as the roving partisans that will need to be negotiated with and paid off by anyone wanting to traverse the perilous borderlands. Any fleeing Aswindungs will need you.

Player 4: The threat from partisans was eroding morale and threatening stretched out supply lines. Just before Dolgilp’s push, a clandestine plan was devised to use necromantic magic to raise ghouls to drive away the partisans. The tactic was kept secret as the prospect of roaming ghouls would not be well received by common soldiers or clergy. You had been accompanying a necromancer when your column was crushed in a heavy cavalry charge. The necromancer was killed along with most of the guard. You escaped with your life, the knowledge of this new threat, and a tool, an amulet, plays a tune if a ghoul is near. You find yourself running blindly west to the sea in hopes of finding some of your army and making your way to safety with them.

Encounter 1
You have been dodging the enemy’s cavalry patrols all day as they conduct mopping up operations along the entire front. Your lips and throat are parched but your canteen is nearing empty. Around dusk you slide out of a dry gully and spot a covered wagon turned over in a ditch at the verge of the road. Moaning can be heard… and a quick reconnaissance in the growing shadows reveals a man you know pinned under the cart... Captain Macée.

Player 1: You remember Lanfrid Macée from the officer’s mess where he was well respected and considered influential. You gambled and drank together a few times and you know him to be a generous man.

Player 2: Captain Macée provided your unit with support and information. Regarded as a capable officer, a generous and good person who didn’t put a lot of stock in rank or social status.

Part 3: Captain Macée was one of the few invaders you respected. You recognize him from an event where he defended a holy shrine near your hometown… going as far as to hang one of his own soldiers for looting. He provided food aid as well to the population.

Player 4: Captain Macée was attached to Headquarters Squadron. He was very much opposed to using undead thinking they would create perpetual conflict with the local population as well as threaten friendly forces. He was overruled, but did his duty faithfully providing accurate information to your unit. You respected the young captain who once gave you a replacement horse.

Macée is grievously wounded and very near to death. Beyond the help of all but the most powerful healing spells. His feet are kicking rhythmically… and you can see more clearly the full extent of his terrible injuries. His keen blue eyes are unfocussed but he manages a sardonic smile… “...is it too late to say I told you so. Tell headquarters that their silverware and fine plates are lost.” , he says to no one in particular. The officer’s breath becomes laboured and he coughs bright frothy blood…. His legs stop kicking. Inside the cart are bits of mostly smashed furniture, crates containing plates, glasses and cutlery that are either broken or scattered about.
- A barrel is slowly leaking water into the dry soil.
- Another barrel has broken open spilling millet.
- But miracles of miricles two large bottles of metheglin (fortified, spiced mead) and one of slivovitz (plumb brand) have survived.

The prospect of food and water is attractive… but you are on a road and you know enemy patrols are near.
Questions also arise… a cart cannot remain unmolested for long in this part of the world, it would either be stripped by peasants or partisans, or taken as your enemies. Time is of the essence.
One thing is for sure, there is safety in numbers.

Encounter 2
The stillness of the first light of dawn is broken by the howling and yipping of coyotes. They sound quite close at first but are moving away steadily.
Nature check: If successful, they are alarm calls.
The voices of the coyotes fade and are replaced by stillness…
Perception check: success will give the players more time to respond.
The silence is broken by horse riding at a gallop…
As it nears you see the rider in a Dolgilp lancer’s uniform… he is wiping his mount and frequently looking over his shoulder oblivious to you.


Character Creation

- Starting level: 3 [might be 5 as well?]
- Any class or race from any official published material (UA is ok).
- Stats: Standard Array++ (17, 15, 13, 12, 10, 8)
- When rolling for Hit Points when you gain a level, if you roll below the average result, for your hit die you may take the average result instead.
- Any alignment

House Rules


1. Players must respect each other out of character, follow the general rules of the server, and not be jerks (applies to the DM also).

2. A good story and the enjoyment of the game by all players is paramount and supersedes technical rules.
If there is potential content that may offend, trigger or otherwise make you uncomfortable as a player, please let me know, preferably in advance. I can’t promise never to give offence but will do my utmost to accommodate individual circumstances.

3. Limited but good-natured barbs are likely along with the occasional naughty word, reference to ale, grog etc. (within the confines of the board's rules), blood will be shed, BUT… sexual violence will not be part of this story in any way. If it is part of your character’s backstory, please be circumspect in your references as some players may have experienced trauma in real life.

4. Time is of the essence in a one-shot…. debate will be limited, rulings (right or wrong) will be made quickly and in good faith.

5. Flexing: Characters with a Strength of 13 or higher can use Strength in place of Charisma for Intimidation checks based on the threat of violence. +2 can be added to one intimidation check if a player posts a picture of themselves giving a convincing war face.

6. Exhaustion: Whenever you end a 24-hour period without finishing a long rest, you must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw or suffer one level of exhaustion.

7. It becomes harder to fight off exhaustion if you stay awake for multiple days. After the first 24 hours, the DC increases by 5 for each consecutive 24-hour period without a long rest. The DC resets to 10 when you finish a long rest.

8. You are hardened professionals: A long rest is 6 hours. A short rest is 3 hours.
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Old Jul 31st, 2021, 10:51 PM
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1. Make sure you're able to use the spoilerbutton coding if need be. Some players don't like rereading "walls of text" in threads.

2. You're providing the backstory for each player? Seems a little limiting. What's the plan, ask each applicant to state which Player Number story they want?

3. Note this site and its games operate under a PG-13 environment.

4. Any alignment? Expect multiple evil aligned apps, and be prepared to sort out issues between good and evil.
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Old Jul 31st, 2021, 11:23 PM
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Thank you so much!

Can keep it PG-13 (thank you for the flag!) and will have to lean how to use the spoiler button... but I want to attract a text heavy audience if there's one out there.

I thought a lot about the roles. The idea was to have assigned roles but will allow for a lot of flexibility. The goal is to give the players a reason to meet and stay together as well as to have piece of the story arch. What I was thinking of doing (and I need to write) is an invitation to the players that discusses the roles in the most general terms. Essentially it would be to say that they have been born into a part of the world is at war for a long time and they have been sucked into it as a combatant. I'd ask for a general layout of what they want to play... class (both social and type), race, motivation and personality. With that, I could hand out the roles and to weave as they see fit into the backstories. I would have adjust the first setting perhaps but I think I could make it work.
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Old Jul 31st, 2021, 11:26 PM
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Just a quick note, the first big thing I learned GMing here is how much time is wasted asking for rolls. I lost three days rolling for perceptions for a pit trap I rolled off of a random chart.

That means two things: One, try and cut down on as many rolls as you can. Two, since you're considering D&D5, passive perception/investigation will be your best friends.

Another piece of hard won advice, games live and die on momentum. Make sure you set and keep your update schedule even if it's just a bit of scenery/set dressing while the PCs keep roleplaying. Along the same lines, don't hesitate to NPC someone if you're risking halting your momentum. Set your policy now and state it clearly with your advertisement.

Lastly, I'd recommend building your brand as it were. Head over to the general discussion tab, the open roleplaying tab, or the unofficial discord, and get your name out there, so when the time comes people are like hey it's that guy! And not who's this guy?

Good luck! And Happy gaming!!!
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Old Jul 31st, 2021, 11:38 PM
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Many thanks!!! That makes a lot of sense. I really do like to avoid rolling dice as much as possible. I am giving players an enhanced standard array and will adopt your recommendation 100% around perception checks... run off what what players have in terms of abilities to describe what they might discover... the barbarian with the 8 Int. isn't going realize the books in a library are all in the wrong language lol! Thank you again!

Branding... good call! Starting at the bottom!
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Old Aug 1st, 2021, 09:24 AM
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Some advice from me...

Do not confuse the quantity of words with the quality of them.

Yes, novels are hundreds of thousands of words long. But people do not come here to read a novel, they come here to be immersed in a world that they are part of... And if that can be done in three excellent paragraphs, then do so. If it takes five, or just one...

Quality shines and is attractive. It draws the best from other players.




FYI, my advice is known to be biased... I dislike large walls of text when smaller blocks would do the same thing, but allow interaction. Take it with the two grains of salt it comes with.
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Old Aug 1st, 2021, 11:33 AM
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All true! I imagine there are differences from free form RPGs and preferences for sure. But definitely noted and welcome advice! Thank you again!!!
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Old Aug 1st, 2021, 06:28 PM
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Quote:
Is it possible to have a co-DM or coach for story?
Yes, and I believe it's been done. But co-DMing with someone on a PbP game is a potentially years-long commitment; hundreds, or even thousands of hours. Don't expect someone to enter into that commitment with you unless you've worked to become a regular and respected member of the site community for at least a year, if not longer. This is like any other community--more doors will open for you the longer you're here establishing a track record of being a good, reliable community member who is kind to others and fun to interact with. I'm afraid there are no short cuts, but having made the journey myself, I can tell you it'll be loads of fun.
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Old Aug 1st, 2021, 06:46 PM
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Good show! Thank you Ruffdove! I think I am going to try to settle into a story as a player first and learn the ropes a bit more.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2021, 09:49 AM
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All the advice you've received so far has been great -- I would just add that DMing for play-by-post has its challenges, but it is pretty great for learning a system or just gaining confidence. The time between posts allows you to look stuff up, mull over judgments, and ponder choices.

Reading other people's games to see how they handle the mechanics and forward motion is a good way to get a sense of things. As a long-time tabletop DM I spent a fair amount of time here just going "how does this even work?" but reading around in existing games helped, playing the NPSG helped, and starting out by DMing a solo game was also really good.

Good luck!

-LC
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Old Aug 2nd, 2021, 09:59 AM
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Very good advice! Thank you so much! I have a fair amount of experience in free form RPGs (I was a moderator once a long time ago on a site). I have a reasonable grasp of the pace and timing of things. But free form has differences as I can see and my knowledge of D&D is wanting. This does sound like a great place to build those skills! Thank you Lostcheerio! It sounds like a great idea to run a solo game at some point! Thank you again!!!
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