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Old Oct 21st, 2020, 01:29 AM
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DM-ing is hard!

Well, this is something I've forgotten in the approximately 30 years since I last did it. It's also expensive.

The trinity (PHB, DMG, MM) is $90, and any additional books are about $30. The modules that used to come out in paperback and cost maybe $5, are hardcover books, about the same size as any of the others, couple hundred pages, and primarily "ideas-focused" instead of "this is your adventure"--allowing, I suppose, for more of a "sandbox" style than a "railroad", and costing the same basic $30.

Now, me, I've always liked the railroad style. Tell me what it is I need to accomplish, and I can start on doing that. This creature stands in the way of me doing that? It must be slain. I don't remember a lot of talking to the NPC's.

But anyway, I digress. Last Sunday, three of my players TOLD me upfront that they could not make that weekly session, so the game was on hold. Since it was advertised, I still showed up just in case we got any more players. I told them that I could not handle any more than 8, under any circumstances. They said that no one else had signed up, but none of those four players from the first day signed up either, they just showed up. And they want me to be adaptive enough to accept players post-session zero.

I expected that. Anyway, I've spent HOURS working on the adventure for the next time we play. Just writing down all the potential encounters that seem appropriate for a warren of tunnels underneath the city, the detritus and the denizens, the various entry/exit points to the city above. Basically, every major location should have access near by to the tunnels below. Definite encounters (if the party goes to this spot, they WILL encounter 1 of 6 creatures), and random encounters. I think I spent about five to six hours just transposing stat blocks onto index cards, so I will very rarely have to open the MM (some creatures are still too in depth to capture on a card). The maze, the other puzzles, NPC's, treasure. I have four full days to work on it, in between working and sleeping, and I'm hoping I can pull it off. (I just got lucky that we did NOT have a session last week, because I took the time to work on it more.)

Every maze...should have a minotaur. Or at least, a minotaur skeleton. And the world we're using, they have minotaurs as a race available to PC's who START there, as well as centaurs, loxodon, and verdalken. The drow there are drow in appearance only, nothing else about them seems particularly drow-like. They walk in the sunlight with no weaknesses, unlike another creature that we know from folklore, books, and movies.

I've even created a music playlist based around classical music to play and inspire me.
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Last edited by TADHG; Oct 21st, 2020 at 01:31 AM.
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Old Oct 21st, 2020, 06:00 AM
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Hey TADHG,

Congratulations on such a challenging endeavor! While I certainly don’t disagree with your assertion that DM-ing is hard (I know that I certainly have no time for it!) I wonder if there is some confusion about the “modules” that you mention.

Perhaps you are referring to what I’d call the “supplemental” or “expansion” books, such as Volo’s and XGtE, SCaG, etc., which certainly have low to zero “adventures” but instead provide you with additional classes, races, and/or lore.

For Adventure Modules, try to get your hands on books like Stormking’s Thunder, Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Tomb of Annihilation, Curse of Strahd, etc.

In fact, didn’t you say that you are volunteering weekly at a local game shop and accepting signups? You should consider running it by the Adventure’s League rules. That’s an actual thing made by Wizards of the Coast to standardize their Adventure Modules and make them transferable from one DM to another, player to player. Try looking it up!
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Old Oct 21st, 2020, 09:07 AM
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In the old days, a module was one short(ish) adventure, not the full length campaign detailed in Curse of Strahd, et al. I understand that concern. Each one is a greater investment, both in money and time if you want to play the whole thing. In the before times, you would get a 30-page booklet in its own unique foldout cover with a couple maps, and sometimes they would be followed up by a series, to do a full campaign. But you weren't obligated to get the whole thing in one go. You could get the first part, see if you like it, then choose to continue on as the series progresses.

I do think I prefer that route over the full volume thing WotC has now. What if you buy Tomb of Annihilation then find out partway through that you or your group don't really like it? Sure, you can tweak it as you like and rework it. You're maybe going to have to in order to justify dropping some 30-odd dollars on the thing in the first place.

Beyond that, TADHG, it almost sounds like you're over-planning. Just be wary of trying to suss out every possible route and detail, because players will always find a way you didn't think of. Hopefully your preparation will pay off and your players (and you) have a good time, once scheduling becomes less of an issue.
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Old Oct 21st, 2020, 09:33 AM
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Yea I agree with Kingmonkey. While I am chronic at underplanning (even when I think I have planned enough), it’s all a bit of personal preference to how you prepare, especially for a live game.

For me The Angry GM has a bunch of good tips for preparing and running games. I focus on scenes and how they are linked over building out the whole dungeon. What I personally need to work on is things after the scene (ie treasure, exp, etc).
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Old Oct 21st, 2020, 09:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Strange2099 View Post
Hey TADHG,

Congratulations on such a challenging endeavor! While I certainly don’t disagree with your assertion that DM-ing is hard (I know that I certainly have no time for it!) I wonder if there is some confusion about the “modules” that you mention.
!
I have Out of the Abyss, but it does seem freeform. And I don't know how long it will take the players to get to that portion.

The plane shift will just get them back to Faerun, not back to the place they left it. But this portion, I had to develop on my own. I have a map of the city, and the hedge maze from The Shining, and I just laid one on top of the other. Makes some very long passageways. 3.5x5 miles.

Anyway, I'm not really complaining. Just wanted to shout out to all those DMs out there who spend time and money on the hobby to bring their party a fun adventure (hopefully it's fun).

The rules are the rules, but the DM interprets them.
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Last edited by TADHG; Oct 21st, 2020 at 09:55 AM.
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Old Oct 21st, 2020, 02:16 PM
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Also, I have zero idea what Adventurer's League rules are. There's a place that hosts it...but not yet. I don't know that I'd want to go there until they lighten up. They expect customers to wash their hands immediately after entering the store and wear a mask.
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Old Oct 21st, 2020, 03:23 PM
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They expect customers to wash their hands immediately after entering the store and wear a mask.
Given the current situation with coronavirus, that's the basic minimum I'd expect.
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Old Oct 21st, 2020, 03:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TADHG View Post
They expect customers to wash their hands immediately after entering the store and wear a mask.
It keeps the cheetos and doritos dust to a minimum on all the books and countertops.


Honestly, this is probably a rule i wish my tabletop gamers had back in the 80's.
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Old Oct 21st, 2020, 08:16 PM
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I look back on a campaign I ran years ago, and the very rapid decline of documented preparation. Session 1 had pages of tables and scripted scenes, but by the time session 4 came around I had basically given up all hope that anything I had prepared in detail would be of any value, so it contained less than one full page of prep.

In one of those early sessions, I found it much more fun and less stressful to tell my group to take five while I hastily sketched the map of the lord's manner they decided to..."investigate" (because I was too heavy on its description) than it was to railroad them down my carefully crafted plot.

Players don't want cut-scenes, they want to cut it up! It's more about being prepared to respond to your players' actions than presenting them with your perfect campaign, as satisfying as it may be to prepare it. Theofid's bit about linking scenes is excellent advice. It will save you an amazing amount of time and effort, and prepare you to deal with anything the players do in-between because whatever they do can lead into the next scene.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2020, 04:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Lemming23 View Post
Given the current situation with coronavirus, that's the basic minimum I'd expect.
Funny, because your hands are probably clean before you walk in there. The mask is one thing, the handwashing request is over the top. No one, and I mean, no one else asks that of you. Because they take it for granted that adults are going to be able to wash their own hands.

Which reminds of a story. A customer was standing in the bathroom, just hanging out, by the sinks. I walked in, just to wash my hands, because I had just got done eating something, and I needed to. He asked if I was an employee (Did the orange shirt with the company name on it give it away?), I said yes, he pointed to the sign on the door, which said "Employees must wash hands." I gave him a look, like "seriously, dude?" and walked back out.

Baxder: Well, there is a treasure room in the dungeon, an armory, and a storeroom, each one tied to a different faction. So I had to figure out, ahead of time, what might be in each of those. There are six set encounters, but most of the encounters will be "wandering monsters". However, you are unlikely to find an orc and a dire wolf, hiding in the city's sewers. I had to determine creatures that would seem to be down there. At the same time, I don't want them to stumble in to something like wraiths at level 2. This would probably not be good. My goal is to get them up to at least level 4 by the end, if not level 6.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2020, 08:53 AM
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I would recommend the monthly dungeon in a box subscription. The physical version is $33/month and gets you maps and minis and an outlined adventure that is pretty easy to adapt to whatever.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2020, 09:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TADHG View Post
Funny, because your hands are probably clean before you walk in there. The mask is one thing, the handwashing request is over the top. No one, and I mean, no one else asks that of you. Because they take it for granted that adults are going to be able to wash their own hands.

You should probably read over this, and this particularly the bit about the importance of washing hands to stop the spread of coronavirus. You may have washed your hands before setting off, but you've probably then touched a load of things on the way into the shop and while at the shop. The key quotation from the latter document is "The single most important piece of advice health experts can give to help us stay safe from COVID-19 is this one: Wash your hands." Be safe, not sorry.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2020, 11:56 AM
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However, you are unlikely to find an orc and a dire wolf, hiding in the city's sewers.
You are unlikely, which would make their appearance all the more interesting I would argue. A small little hook you could play for later in the game. Maybe their leader sent them on a specific mission to fetch x/y/z or scout the area for the clan to attack $city from.

I suffered from the same over-planning phase when I started DM'ing irl, I've actually found it more liberating to pick a few encounters that might be loosely connected to the over-arching plot and deploy those. Has really helped cut down my prep time to just one evening - and even then mostly its just me pasting together the paper minis or drawing my map(s). Random encounters are boring since there is hardly any stakes outside life/death. Give them some stakes/reasons and they don't feel so random anymore.

This video (yt vid) also helped me relax a bit more and get my players more involved for the weeks where work prevented me from proper prep. Spawned a really great session last week where one of my players suggested to me "puzzle" and "OH GOD WE'RE IN A reference to the Lost Woods from "The Legend of Zelda."THE LOST WOODS!" was shouted at my table

Might/might not work for published adventures but it is still a tool at your disposal if needed
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Old Oct 22nd, 2020, 06:08 PM
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You should probably read over this, and this particularly the bit about the importance of washing hands to stop the spread of coronavirus. You may have washed your hands before setting off, but you've probably then touched a load of things on the way into the shop and while at the shop. The key quotation from the latter document is "The single most important piece of advice health experts can give to help us stay safe from COVID-19 is this one: Wash your hands." Be safe, not sorry.
Not to inject politics into this, because I'm apolitical and would have the same view no matter who was in office, but if the government and media tell you something, then it's a lie. And that's where I stand. Until I physically encounter proof of its existence, I won't believe in it. There are books and tales about fantasy creatures but I don't automatically believe in them. To my knowledge, elves, orcs, gargoyles, and dragons aren't real, but if I met any, I'll change my view.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2020, 06:27 PM
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Not to inject politics into this, because I'm apolitical and would have the same view no matter who was in office, but if the government and media tell you something, then it's a lie. And that's where I stand. Until I physically encounter proof of its existence, I won't believe in it. There are books and tales about fantasy creatures but I don't automatically believe in them. To my knowledge, elves, orcs, gargoyles, and dragons aren't real, but if I met any, I'll change my view.
I'm going to stop this here. First, if you have to qualify a comment with "not to talk politics but" and that's against forum rules to discuss politics, you probably shouldn't be posting that comment. Second, I really don't care what you agree with or not, but I'm going to object to anyone bad-mouthing protocols designed to protect us all from a very nasty disease.

Please get back on topic, thank you. DMing is a hard undertaking, but it's a worthwhile one in my opinion.
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