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Dungeons and dragons new DM log: starter set

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Well I'm going to start a little series (maybe more) where I give my experiences with dungeons and dragons 5th edition. It is not going to be a regular thing since we don't play it regularely (yet) but we have played till the first part of the starter set.  I am a new player but it might also be interesting for the veterans to see something from a new player's side and maybe get some feedback. For the new/non-players, I hope I can inspire to start up on your own d&d group. So maybe I will start with a prologue with it started. So personally I played some d&d video games (dungeons and dragons tactics for the psp and icewind dale on pc) and I always loved the various character options and gameplay. So after a bit of youtube I reached some D&D channels and I got hooked.


So I suggested to my close circle of friends to play D&D and they weren't really against it but they felt they needed someone experienced (probably a DM) to help us guide through it. At first I aggreed with them but it didn't felt right to me. So after a while I convinced myself that some people must have started from scratch themselves. So at the bus to work on an impulse, I wrote in my friends facebook group that for our next activity  I was willing to be DM for a dungeons and dragons campaign to test the waters. See if we liked ir. I would do the initial costs with the exception of the dice. They aggreed. So I looked at the cost of some of the books and saw three books for over 100€ a bit expensive but not unacceptable. I also so caught wind of the starter set for 20€. After reading a review of the set I saw that the set was a very suitable for beginning players and I ordered that set. I also looked online for a pdf of the player manual online and posted it in my facebook group.


Now when we met up again, I talked with my friends over the potential of our adventures. In no amount of terms it completely derailed in a conversation of raping anything that moves.  I know that two of my friends didn't really aggree and one follows jokeingly. However one of my friends is a bit more extreme in his views and demeanor and can be a bit of a party pooper so my heart sank a little. It could be risky if we was being annoying because he couldn't get his way and ruin it for everyone else. Still I continued with my plans for our first D&D campaign.


So that's all for now. I might do one more today. What do you think?

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Well that took longer then expected. A bit too busy with other stuff. Also I forgot to mention that there will be spoilers for the starter set.


So when I finally got the starter set (after 2 orders, a refund, a blocked amazon account and a lot of customer support), I was pretty excited. The first thing I did was look at the character sheets. There were sheets for 2 warriors,  a rogue, a cleric and a wizard. The sheets themselves were very good, the front contained things like stats, hit points, saves, inventory, ... but also character traits, bonds, flaws and even known languages . The back contained a race description, a backstory, their goal in the campaign and a description of each level-up for the character. It was concise but detailed and looked a fantastic tool for the players.


To give a brief summary of each character: the first character washadfolk hero human warrior which had an obsession with becoming a hero and his destiny, following was a human noble warrior which lost it's fame and wealth through a volcano eruption and wants to reclaim it. The third character was a halfling rogue which was part of a gang but was betrayed and wants vengeance while having an aunt which didn't know of her criminal activities. The next was a dwarvenn cleric which had problems with his faith: he doesn't know if the gods care about mortals. Finally there was an elven wizard which was tasked to explore the outside world by his god and has an obsession with knowledge. The characters were good, they were distinct and you could quickly tell what their deal was but most importantly they were part of the world. My only gripe is that there are two human warriors which had a quest for glory.


Next I took the sheets made a copy and posted them in my facebook group. My friends then made a poll and choose 4 characters: the wizard, rogue and the two warriors. When I summarized their choice two of made a switch because one wanted a healer in the party and we settled with a cleric and dropped the folk warrior.


So those are the characters we chose but they aren't our charactets yet. That is a story for an other time

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So after I read the sheets and characters, I took the DM book and read it. It starts with an introduction of D&D followed with a description of the role of a DM. After that  they introduced the setting followed by the story:


The story goes about three dwarf brothers who found a lost mine. So while the brothers guard the mine, Gunter goes to do the preparations for opening the mine and hires a group of adventurers to transport its mining equipment to a nearby town while he goes ahead with an escort. Eventually the party find the horses of Gunther dead on the road and are ambushed by goblins. The party raids the goblin hideout, finds the escort sildar and  kills the goblin leader but no Gunther. The players then go to the town, gets harrassed by bandits and then eliminates them. After that the go to a castle to look for Gunther  (or do some sidequests) and find out about the one who ordered the kidnapping: black spider. The players then enter the mine, clean it out and defeat the black spider.


The book is divided in 4 parts based on where the players are in the story which gives it a bit of structure. However the players can easily "mess this up". For instance they can interrogate the goblin and go rescue Gunther immediately, or they can go to the city after the ambush, skippiing huge sections of the book. This creates some uneasiness for me because you want to prepare for a session but you have to prepare 3 part at once. Another issue was the narrative focus of the book. The narrative focus makes it easy to read but is difficult to get an overview.

So I created a sheet which containd all the  stats and actions of the monsters and npc's for the first part, and encounter sheet based on which room/place we where in the story describing the enemies in the room and their stats. On thing I did too save time was pre-roll the monsters HP and assigned them roles based on that HP (low HP becomes archer/messenger, high HP becomes melee).

Meanwhile I asked my players on facebook too tie in my character with their patron: Gunther Rockseeker. As a little carrot on the stick I would gibe them an inspiration point if they made a good backstory. So my first player, which had the noble fighter, had an idea for their connection. Basically he his noble would be a liason between Guther and the nobility with his knowledge of etiquette, manirism. However he proposed that the nobles have a language of their own  and my player would speak with a french accent. This comes from our country Belgium were we used to have a French speaking bourgeoisie (rich class). So I looked at his language profincies and I saw common, dragonic and dwarven, it couldn't be better. I looked at the other characters that could speak dragonic and I only found the elven mage which is a knowledge seeker. So I basically said to him that this could work and that the nobles would be speaking dragonic between each other. So now I have to do less world building.

Then the player of the elven wizard asked who gunther was and what was his alingment. I told him that Gunther was a lawfull good character but not a paragon of virtue and justice. He is just an honest merchant that would give you a fair deal and appreciates honest work. The player then set up a backstory where he would be the slightly loremaster for gunther. Basically the elf and Gunther met at a marketplace where a shady merchant tried to sell a magical item to Gunther. However it was a fake. The wizard  and Gunther came to a deal that would benifit both side. The wizard verified all magical items and then was allowed to study them for a while.However the wizard may have botched some deals by doing some subtle mind control.  Iwas very fond of the idea but I looked at the spell list and there were no mind control spells but there was a detect magic spell and he was resistant to charm. So I informed him that mind control wouldn't work and that it might be interesting to make him a body guard against magic. The player then simply stated that he would change the mind control to making the items look haunted/cursed by using prestidigitation and mage hand.

After a little while I din't hear from any of the other players which worried me a bit. Especially since the first session was closing in. Still the noble warrior player posted on facebook, his backstory. Basically he was a noble with no wealth and wanted to gain it back. However he was tempted by the easy money and became addicted to gambling (which tied to his lust for money). However he only fell in temptation when nobody would be hurt by it. Eventually he heard of Gunther and Sildar, he took his last money and went to find them to offer his services as a liason. I had a few issues with it. First he kinda lost track of his nobility status which was a shame. Secondly I felt that his addiction should hinder his own morale which makes it a flaw. Finally the last problem I had was that he wasn't an adventurer but a gambler. he then told me that he would think about it.


So this was the entire preparation to the first session. Next time will be (part of) first session.

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So the day of the session was arriving but disaster struck our session : our country got in the small final of the world cup. So they wanted to watch it which means 2 hours down the drain.  I understood that it was a very exceptional event  so I didn't made a big fuss about it.  Still it worried me a little. So the day of the session has arrived and took my final preparations. I had packed: the starter set, my extra dice, a folder with my printed preparations including a map made in RPG maker, some figurins of monopoly,  a pencil with a build in eraser, a sharpener and a notebook. Armed with those and my experience watching dnd youtube videos, I took the train to my friends. Ready for my adventure as DM.


On the train I took the the time to reread the rules and the campaign/session setting. So when I arrived at my friends house , i was welcomed with a few problems: one of the players was still reading the rules and another one hadn't printed his character sheet, at least they all had their own set of dice. One even had bought the full manual, "if you go in, you go big.". Still I feared him flipping through all these pages.All these were bad signs on the wall, maybe it was stress, maybe I was right to worry. Still the match helped me drive those pesky thoughts away.


So when the match was over, we all took our place at the table. I took the word by saying my role as DM (narrator/judge) and that I had a few expectations of the game. I told them that since this was a simple starter set to test the waters, I hadn't the material too make stuff from scratch and expected too more or less stay on track. They could deviate somewhat but  they couldn't just abort the campaign goals. I also told them that I expected that since it was our first session/game I expected not perfect but at least some effort in roleplaying. I also asked if they had any expectations of the game. One asked how combat heavy this module was, I told them it was pretty combat heavy but there was some room for roleplaying and creativity as well.


I then started to ask the closed person to introduce his character. So our cleric is a male dwarf, a cousin of Gunther Rockseeker. He was part of a warband but was disgusted by their abuse of power and split off. Eventually he need to do odd jobs to get around and help the orphans. Eventually his cousin asked after  years of not meeting him if he wanted to do an odd job again. His clerical symbol was first going to be on his clothing but eventually changed to a signet ring. When I asked the player how his character became a cleric especially since he had a problem with his faith (not knowing if the gods cared about mortals), he didn't really had a answer so I told him to think about it. 


The next player to introduce his our character, which I feared to be the problem player, surprised me pleasantly. His rogue was a female halfling which was part of a gang named the redbrands. Eventually she was betrayed by them, and was forced to flee for her life, leaving herself with only her gear. She then heard of the job Gunther had, she made her application not by a meeting but rather by sneaking in and planting a solicitation letter. Needless to say she was hired. It was tep up from the criminal activities she had to hide from her aunt. Though the player set the aunt was suspicious. I kinda liked the backstory so I gave my player an inspiration point. I was very happy with the fact that the rogue did roguish things outside of combat. I told them this and also told them that I didn't want commoners in the street and warriors/wizard and rogues on the battlefields. 

So after that it was time for the noble human warrior, he had modified his backstory to being a young noble, which dressed in old but well made clothes, whose family lost all his fortune. So to win back the money he resorted to gambling something his father dissapproved. Eventually he wanted to reconcile with his father, broke (partially) with his gambling habbit and told his plan to assisst Gunther rockseeker as a liason. His father as a sign of his trust gave his son  the family heirloom: a greataxe. At first the player wanted that the father wrote thesolicitation letter but we convinced him that it made more sense that his character worth sens it with a carrion pidgeon. This let us to the discussion whether a carrier pidgeon would be a good way of transportation and even came to the conclusion that someone obsanely rich might have a carrier dragon (which must be epic). Stil the backstory was well thought out so I gave him an inspiration point. Still when I prodded into his flaw (asking if he had debts, enemies, would it affect his judgement), I have plans for it after all, he began to temper it in which I vocalized.


So eventually the cleric's player had his backstory planned and started on a spiel where one of the orphans got sick and he couldn't cure it. He then got approached by a shady person on the street. At this point I could see where this was going (a convoluted backstory whith the holy powers interfering) and interupted him.  After all it really didn't tie in with his flaw and said that to the player. My player really had  problem with this cleric, couldn't they just give him a simpler flaw like alcolism. After a small discussion about religion in dnd we decided for a far more fitting (and less complicated backstory): basically his warband just put everyone through the rites of becomming cleric and he succeeded for some reason.


Finally we were going to end with the elven wizard. The backstrory was the same as on facebook but still I wanted him to say it. However during this I remarked, that the other players were all not paying attention. So I paused the wizard player and told the others to pay attention to the wizard player and that it wasn't fair to him. They quickly apoligized, still I understood it was boring if you already read/heard and went through the backstory relatively quickly. So when discribing the elf we had a bronze skinned highborn elf with an arrogant streak. He was obsessed with knowledge but again wouldn't hamper the team ( I prodded there as well). When discribing him: he went barefoot had darkgreen silken robes on his chest, he had a scroll as the sign of his god .  I asked him if it was his spellbook which he said no, the spellbook was tied on his back. The spellbook/grimoire of an 'old' elf interested me, so I went a bit more in detail there (it was also his bond). We came to the conclusion that the book must tbe massive (I used the starter set box as a reference.  One of the players jokingly asked how big is his handwriting which the player said small and I as a dm gave him a freebie: he could use mage hand to help support the massive book which must be a hilarious/unsettling sight. He also got an inspiration point.


I noticed in character creation one genereal problem: My player's character didn't have flaws but rather minor inconviniences so I asked them for the next session to work out these flaws. Still we ready for our first adventure.


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