Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 28

Thread: First time D&D DM - few questions

  1. #1
    Guild Member Fuse's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Seattle, WA
    Posts
    82

    Question First time D&D DM - few questions

    So as the title says I'm a first time DM.. well maybe I ran one game before, but at any rate, I'm new to this.
    I've played quite a few games, but I'd really like to try my hand at running one.

    So I've made some maps, got quest ideas written, a few magical items created, and a general idea of how things could go.
    What I'm interested in is organization. Say for instance.. encounters, treasure, and events. I was thinking of making notecards with encounters/groups written on them so that when an encounter happens I can pull from my pre-made list of critters instead of thumbing through the monster manual to find something.. or coming up with something on the fly.

    Does this sound like the way to go? I really want to be on top of things, because in many.. MANY games that I have played, there were long delays and pauses for the DM to 'figure things out'. If I get a new player interested.. I don't want them to fall asleep of boredom haha.

    So basically I was thinking of doing the same thing for treasures, and events too. Treasures aren't that big a deal.. I can come up with that easily on the fly. It'd be nice I suppose to have some pre-gen stuff though just to be prepared. Also traps - it would be nice to mark my map with a symbol to denote a trap and just be able to pull a trap card from my notecards instead of devising something on the spot.

    Well, if anyone has any other organizational tips for making the game go smoothly and quickly - in all the right places - let me know!

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Guild Artisan Greason Wolfe's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Tigard (and Florence) Oregon
    Posts
    735

    Default

    Ahhh, I remember those days when I was new to being a GM. What fun they were.

    The note cards are a great idea, especially for random encounters. Although, when I set up my random encounter tables, I often included more specific notes (i.e. Hit Points and damage for "monsters" and the like). For "planned" encounters (i.e. dungeon delving) I would do a full write-up of the dungeon (cavern, castle, etc.) that included a "visible" description (what the characters saw) a "hidden" description (things like secret and/or concealed doors), any "monsters" encountered and any treasure that might be found. The other thing I would include, or at least bring to the table, was a quick reference sheet with any special notes about skill/stat checks and initiative factors that might play a key role in any possible encounters. Of course, there will always be those "what if" moments when you'll have to look something up, but those can't be helped other than to familiarize yourself with where the "rules" are for those moments in the various guides. It's also helpful to have a quick reference for the characters as well, including spells, special abilities (feats) and the like. There is no way to be 100 percent prepared for any possibility in the gaming session, but every little bit helps, and it sounds like you've already got a couple good ideas in the basket. The best thing I can suggest, in the long run, is to think of those things that were time consuming (at the table) when you were a player, and try to prepare for them.

    GW
    When nothing is going right and you can't find someone else to blame, start beating your head against the wall, 'cause it'll feel so much better when you stop.

  3. #3
    Guild Journeyer
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Cleveland, Oh
    Posts
    153

    Default

    Do not forget a list of random names and if possible short descriptions. Also remember to go with the flow and have fun if they want to do something crazy then give them a chance. Players will either follow the plot like sheep or blow up the whole thing just remember to have fun doing either.

  4. #4
    Community Leader Facebook Connected tilt's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Trelleborg, Sweden
    Posts
    4,657
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default

    yep.. pre-generated stuff is a must. I usually index the monsters manual for relevant monsters, or plain print the monsters stat on paper for easy reference. The same goes for NPC's, and the really complex NPC's I generate in Wizards Character generator and print them with powers and all (I play 4e).
    The treasure is always written up in advance too - cause I don't want to slow down the game by starting to roll on tables. AND sometimes you want your players to find neat stuff. Remember placing a cool bow on a npc some sessions ago - unfortunatly for the Ranger in the group - he got away *lol*
    A DM screen can also be a nice thing - and you can make your own if you haven't bought one - just write up important info and print those and use a binder or two for the screen. And of course nice battle maps and tokens for traps and ALL the monsters (with pictures) that makes the game so much more fun

    good luck from a 30 year GM'ing guy
    regs tilt
    :: My art on Deviant Art :: My mapping blog tilts fantasy maps :: My work Catapult - Perry & Gehrke - EasyTruckIT ::
    :: Finished Maps :: WIP Cartographia - Breakwater -Market -Lands of Twilight -Battle City :: Competion maps Iron Giant ::
    :: FREE Tiles - Compasses :: Other Taking a commision - Copyright & Creative Commons ::
    Works under CC licence unless mentioned otherwise

  5. #5
    Guild Master Gracious Donor Midgardsormr's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Los Angeles, CA
    Posts
    2,481

    Default

    I highly recommend subscribing to Johnn Four's e-zine Roleplaying Tips and the yahoogroup that goes along with it. And spend some time in the archives occasionally—there are literally hundreds of great tips on game prep and organization.

    I have a notecard for each combatant I anticipate needing in a game. The card has all of the relevant combat data, a space to mark initiative, and a space for keeping track of hit points and conditions on one side. If it's an antagonist, the reverse side has the experience point value of the NPC/creature and a list of its belongings. If it's a PC's card, it has my notes about what treasure I've given to that PC so far (in order to keep rewards level for all PCs). When a battle begins, I put the notecards in order by initiative and simply go down through the stack as the combat progresses. As the baddies are defeated, I hand the cards to whoever is tracking rewards. I also make cards for each magic item, treasure cache, and formal quest. If it has a reward attached to it, it gets a card. This (almost) completely eliminates my need to track treasure or experience during game time. The less paperwork I have to do at the table, the faster and more fun things tend to be. These notecards are stored in a small notecard box with internal dividers. PCs go in a section by themselves, and the other cards are divided into encounter sets.

    I do all of my map and visual aid management on a notebook computer attached via HDMI to the television. I use MapTool to display the map and character tokens, allowing the players to see an obscured map and me to see the full map on the notebook's screen. This allows me to use good, full color maps without the cost of having them printed or buying minis, plus I get MapTool's fog-of-war and line-of-sight tools, which are much better than trying to cover the parts of a physical map that haven't been visited yet.

    I preroll initiative for every monster and NPC, so the only cards I have to put in order at the start of combat are the PCs'. Let's see… I have two large 3-ring binders for each campaign. One is for the players' use, where they can take their notes and I can pass them world and rules information. The other is my GM's binder, which has the following sections:
    • PC Record sheets. I have a slash pocket where I store all of the original character records. If the players want to keep their sheet, they get a scanned copy. This ensures that I have the most up-to-date information on each character and there is no doctoring going on between sessions. (I haven't had a problem with that, ever, but I've gamed with people who have.)
    • The current session's script. Here's where I keep the meat of my plot. All of the relevant factions' likely actions are listed here, along with whatever events I have planned and scripts and characterization notes for NPC dialogue. I also have a list of planned encounters with a potential reward tally so that I can make sure I'm on track with XP and treasure rewards. If I'm running a module, I list the changes I have made to each of the module's encounters.
    • Session notes. Everything that I want to remember for the future goes into this section as it happens. No organization, just quick notes and details that I'll organize later in my post-game time (no more than a day or two after the session, while it's all still fresh in my mind). I keep this information in the binder until prep time for the next game, when I look it over then discard it.
    • Story notes. My relationship map for all NPCs and factions goes in this section, along with notes on long-range plots. Only things that are fact—histories, goals, and current events—go in this section. Potentialities go in my planning section.
    • NPCs. Every NPC the PCs encounter gets an entry, with personality notes at the very least. Important characters may get an entire page. A throwaway shopkeeper gets a single line.
    • Locations. Every location the PCs go to or hear of gets an entry. I'll list the filenames for any maps I use, the location key (if I have one), NPCs at this location, and any other pertinent data. Usually each location gets a page of its own to leave plenty of room for expansion from later visits.
    • PCs. Backstory and character history, along with my notes for personal sub-plots.
    • Treasure. I keep a page for each character to track what treasure they've been awarded and any items on their wishlists. I also have a few sessions' worth of treasure to be handed out, where I've seeded it, and who it's intended for. In addition, I keep notes on any legendary equipment that I've alluded to in here, along with random objects the PCs might encounter. This can be very helpful when it comes time to improvise.
    • Rules. Complete house rules, if I'm running with them. Also, reference charts for things that come up but I don't necessarily want to delve into the books for—conditions, diseases, poisons, suggested difficulty ratings for various endeavours, experience charts, and the like. These are things that are handy to have at my fingertips but not necessary to have in front of me at all times.
    • Planning. This section is for long-range planning. Things that I want to have happen but aren't likely to occur in the next session will go here. The overall plot of the campaign, along with notes on how to keep it on track in light of whatever unexpected things the PCs have been doing. World events outside of the PCs' control. Other potential story arcs and sub-plots. Worldbuilding information that hasn't been revealed yet (so it can still be changed if necessary). This section is likely to be the most chaotic, but it's also the place I'm likely to spend most of my time when I'm not prepping for an immediate game. This is the meat and potatoes of my personal gaming experience—the part that I enjoy the most as a gamemaster.
    • Supplies. Notebook paper, graph paper, empty sheet protectors, a couple of empty slash pockets, and a pouch containing enough pencils for all of my players and myself, a set of dice, and some blank note cards.


    Yes, I spend a lot of time on my prep work, but it's the part of the game I enjoy the most, so that's okay.
    Bryan Ray, visual effects artist
    http://www.bryanray.name

  6. #6
    Community Leader Facebook Connected tilt's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Trelleborg, Sweden
    Posts
    4,657
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default

    thats damn impressive... I'm more of the improvise and adapt type GM *lol*
    regs tilt
    :: My art on Deviant Art :: My mapping blog tilts fantasy maps :: My work Catapult - Perry & Gehrke - EasyTruckIT ::
    :: Finished Maps :: WIP Cartographia - Breakwater -Market -Lands of Twilight -Battle City :: Competion maps Iron Giant ::
    :: FREE Tiles - Compasses :: Other Taking a commision - Copyright & Creative Commons ::
    Works under CC licence unless mentioned otherwise

  7. #7
    Community Leader NeonKnight's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Surrey, Canada, EH!
    Posts
    5,025

    Default

    Well, first question: What Version are we talking here?

    1rst & 2nd D&D, Stat Blocks were sooooooooooooooooo easy (Orc: AC 7; HP 8; #AT 1; THACO 19; DMG 1d8+1) Sooooooooooooo Easy.

    Then Came 3rd Edition with it's BIG ASS TAKE UP THREE PAGES FOR SOME MONSTERS STAT BLOCKS!

    ORC; War1, Med Humanoid (Orc)
    HD 1d8+1 (5hp); Init +1; Speed 30
    AC 13 (+3 studded leather armor), touch 10, flat-footed 13
    Base Attack/Grapple: +1/+4
    Attack: Falchion +4 melee (2d4+4/18-20) or javelin +1 ranged (1d6+3)
    Full Attack: Falchion +4 melee (2d4+4/18-20) or javelin +1 ranged (1d6+3)
    Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
    SA—; SQ: Darkvision 60 ft., light sensitivity
    Saves: Fort +3, Ref +0, Will -2
    Abilities: Str 17, Dex 11, Con 12, Int 8, Wis 7, Cha 6
    Skills: Listen +1, Spot +1; Feats: Alertness

    *Phew!!*

    Finally in 4th Edition Stat blocks are again, somewhat large, but not the huge monstrosities of the previous edition:

    Orc Raider
    Medium natural humanoid, orc
    Level 3 Skirmisher XP 150
    Initiative +5 Senses Perception +1; low-light vision
    HP 46; Bloodied 23
    AC 17; Fortitude 15, Reflex 14, Will 12
    Speed 6 (8 while charging)
    Basic Melee: Greataxe (standard, at-will) Weapon
    +8 vs AC; 1d12+3 damage (crit 1d12+15).
    Ranged Handaxe (standard, at-will) Weapon
    Ranged 5/10; +7 vs AC; 1d6+3 damage.
    Melee Warrior's Surge (standard, usable only while bloodied, encounter) Healing, Weapon
    The orc raider makes a melee basic attack, spends a healing surge, and regains 10 hit points..
    Killer’s Eye
    When making a ranged attack, the orc raider ignores cover and concealment (but not total concealment) if the target is within 5 squares of it.
    Alignment Chaotic evil Languages Common, Giant
    Skills Endurance +8, Intimidate +5
    Str 17 (+4) Dex 15 (+3) Wis 10 (+1)
    Con 14 (+3) Int 8 (0) Cha 9 (0)
    Equipment: greataxe , handaxe x4, leather armor .

    Still a bit big compared to 1rst/2nd but.....for some monsters a lot more controllable.

    With that known, Most encounters in 4th can be written on a single sheet of Letter (A4) paper, double sided at times, with all the relevant info (stats, monsters, encounter map, etc).

    But then I am a bit of a control freak when it comes to my games. With the new minis from WotC, they all come with little cards with all their stats on them. Speaking of which I am SOooooooooooooooo glad I got my hands on this bad boy

    http://www.shopofmagic.com/index.php...ight&Itemid=58
    Daniel the Neon Knight: Campaign Cartographer User

    Never use a big word when a diminutive one will suffice!

    Any questions on CC3? Post them with CC3 in the Subject Line!
    MY 'FAMOUS' CC3 MAPS: Thunderspire; Pyramid of Shadows; King of the Trollhaunt Warrens; Demon Queen's Enclave

  8. #8
    Guild Member Fuse's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Seattle, WA
    Posts
    82

    Default

    Thanks for the suggestions guys. I do have another slight issue though.
    I am without a DM's guide or screen.. which isn't really that big a deal I suppose, but to make the game run smoother it would surely help.
    Haha, it's funny because the books I do have - don't match. I have a 3e monster manual and a 2e players handbook. Meh, go figure. I haven't played enough 3e to be comfortable enough to DM a 3e game.

    Long story short, along the way all the other books I acquired have been stolen or lost.

    Anyway, I'm not sure if it's an issue, but if someone knows of a place where I can get a printable DM screen for 2e that would be great. I don't even care if it's some home-brew thing. Otherwise it's time to hit up ebay for some books

    Thank you, fellow dungeon crawlers.

  9. #9
    Guild Master Gracious Donor Midgardsormr's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Los Angeles, CA
    Posts
    2,481

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by tilt View Post
    thats damn impressive... I'm more of the improvise and adapt type GM *lol*
    Well that's just the thing: With the style of prep that I use, I can wing it much more successfully if the players do something unexpected. Although my anticipated session is very tightly scripted, I have enough information available that if the PCs go off the rails, I can adapt and keep the game running with a minimum of fuss. Since I started this system, I've only had to halt the game for planning a couple of times. At least one of those was because I was using an experimental home-brew system that wasn't working the way I had intended (and it never did—near total failure), so it shouldn't even really count.

    Prior to making my binders, I was always having to scramble to keep up with sudden changes, and I sometimes really flubbed the difficulty level of an encounter. Also, I handed out far too much treasure because I wasn't accurately tracking what I was doing. However, my style isn't for everybody. I happen to really love the prep part of gamemastering, so it's not really much of a burden to do it this way.
    Bryan Ray, visual effects artist
    http://www.bryanray.name

  10. #10
    Community Leader Facebook Connected tilt's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Trelleborg, Sweden
    Posts
    4,657
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default

    yeah.. its all that preptime that'll take it out of me

    @fuse - nope... looked around and couldn't find any downloads for 2e any longer... not even on wizards page with free old stuff, so you'd better photocopy some pages instead
    regs tilt
    :: My art on Deviant Art :: My mapping blog tilts fantasy maps :: My work Catapult - Perry & Gehrke - EasyTruckIT ::
    :: Finished Maps :: WIP Cartographia - Breakwater -Market -Lands of Twilight -Battle City :: Competion maps Iron Giant ::
    :: FREE Tiles - Compasses :: Other Taking a commision - Copyright & Creative Commons ::
    Works under CC licence unless mentioned otherwise

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •