So this week I had time to paint only two miniatures. The one we’re going to discuss today is Robin Hood.
The last time we discussed painting miniatures, my advice was just a pain miniatures despite how good or not so good You are skills may be. Today we’re going to discuss the tools of the trade.
It seems to go without saying, but you need a few good brushes. There are several types out there, but in reality you could do with five decent brushes. You would need a large brush for painting on shading, a medium brush for doing some larger areas, a small brush for smaller details, and then a very small fine detail brush for doing fine detail work. For me, I have a rather nice and large brush set that my wife purchased for me for Christmas. I use maybe four brushes out of the whole thing. mostly because they’re nice brushes, I use older brushes for things like slathering on shade. Now, I know some of these terms I’m using maybe foreign but will explain those later, at a different date.
In addition to brushes, you obviously need paints. there are several paints from various companies that you can choose from. Vallejo is one commonly trusted name, as are the paints from Games Workshop, typically used for Warhammer games, but work well for any miniature painting. Personally, I have enjoyed using the Army Painter brand. They are the same quality as the other brands, but come in droppers, which make mixing paints and measuring out just the right amount of paint you need much easier than with paint pots from other brands. Again, this is just my humble opinion. There are other brands of acrylic paints, but remember: you get what you pay for. If you buy cheap paints, they won’t likely last very long. Trust me, I know this from personal experience.
Next up, you’re going to need something to use as a palette. I use a specific brand of plant-based breakfast sausage cartons which work very nicely for me. You can, of course, purchase a paint palette from any hobby store. I think that’s a waste of money. You do you.
Having a container of nail polish remover is always helpful. Nail polish remover is great for taking off that dried on paint that you change your mind on which color was going to go on. It’s also helpful for removing paint from other surfaces. Just remember, nail polish remover will take varnish off of wooden furniture and surfaces.
Lastly, you’re going to need some kind of container to hold water so that you can clean your brush in between colors. Acrylic paints are water soluble. As such, you want to be able to clean your brushes off with water. My wife and I like to buy tea from a company that provides loose leaf tea in small half pint jars made of glass with a metal lid. These work perfectly for me. Again, find something that works for you. Keep in mind, plastic will get stained.
Now that you have assembled all your tools and your paints, it’s time to get painting!
Next time we’re going to talk about differing techniques in base coating.
So I’ve decided to do a slightly more detailed recap of my Tuesday game, as much of it won’t make sense on why they are doing what they are doing.
The party began the standard Mines of Phandelvin questline, eventually going to Old Owl Well to deal with rumors of undead. Of course, for any of you familiar with that module, there is a Red Wizard of Thay, specifically a necromancer, who is excavating the site for ancient artifacts of Netheril. When I read that, I got the idea for the campaign. So I changed some stuff up. Here’s how it changed:
The party, after defeating the necromancer and the zombies, having found the Netherese ring of protection that the necromancer had found, decided to check out the tower site more. One of them found an inscription. The druid/cleric, being an archeologist, immediately checked it out. The script was draconic, but it appeared to be gibberish. The gnome wizard in the group, with a sufficient History check, determined that it is actually Netherese, the language of Netheril (actually the lower Netheril, but they haven’t figured that out yet). Deciding to try pronouncing it phonetically, the member who spoke found themselves in a dark room. Unable to see, he stood there, doing nothing. The next was the gnome wizard, who tried to prank the earth genasai barbarian, without success. Next was the divination wizard. Meanwhile, those above were unable to figure out the pronunciation of the words and had no clue as to what is going on. Detect magic only shows that the whole site contains overwhelmingly large amounts of magic.
Below, a light spell is cast, and the three below see that they are in a 20′ x 20′ stone block room, with an inscription on the wall in the same language as the inscription as found beforehand above. There are also two large chests made of a strange metal they cannot identify, and a strange stone portal with draconic characters around the outer edge. Additionally, there was a staircase, although it was choked with dirt and rubble.
The group chose to ignore the archway in favor of the chests. The barbarian, in the absence of a rogue to detect and/or disarm any traps, opens the chest and falls like a stone (pun totally intended). The two wizards begin discussing what to do, as all examination shows that the barbarian is dead. In reality, he only appears dead, as an effect that causes one to mimic death hit him. Looking in the chest, there were thousands of 1″ diameter coins, shaped like a 4-sided pyramid, with runes along each edge. They were tarnished but still gold. The barbarian wakes up at this point, having no understanding of what just happened. The three realized that the air was getting mighty thin, and the barbarian began digging them out through the stairwell. The divination wizard, thinking something in the other chest may help, opened it and actually fell dead. Looking inside, as she was sort of useless for excavating the stairs, finding a rod, a wand, and a dagger. Seeing that nothing there will help, attempted to go about clearing rubble, eventually passing out from oxygen loss.
The barbarian enters a rage to increase his ability to dig.
The rest of the party was at a loss until Percell, the cleric/druid, cast a spell to communicate with digging and underground animals. The moles and other such advised him of the stairwell, so he and the other two got to digging. After some very narrowly good roles, they broke through to each other and those below did not die of asphyxiation. After identifying everything, they found that the rod is a rod of resurrection, the wand a wand of wonder, and the dagger is a dagger of returning. Using the rod, the party brought back Halen, the divination wizard, and took a long rest.
The party now had to find someone to translate the inscription…closest place to do that would be Neverwinter, but nobody wanted to go back there, so they decided to head to Waterdeep…
Well, that’s all I have in me to write today. I’ll post more of the prequel to Tuesday later in the week. I have my Discord game, Sunday, and Tuesday to do as they come, with these coming in between.
Last time, I wrote about running games as the best way to learn how to DM. And while that is true, you will eventually want to turn one of your cool ideas into an adventure or an ongoing campaign. Let me clarify some definitions for you:
Adventure: a one or more session story with a definitive beginning and end. Campaign: a series of adventures with an overall story or plot-line, linking the adventures together, even by way of “We are just seeking one adventure after another” (what I like to call an “episodic” campaign, as there is no overarching story, with the adventures being more like episodes of an 80’s action show)
Today I am going to write about adventure planning. Most folks and even the Dungeon Master’s Guide will tell you to plan small and work your way bigger. That’s cool an all, and I get that, but I don’t do that. At the beginning, I told you that I would give you my methods, so that’s what I am going to do.
I start with deciding what kind of adventure I am going to run.
There are several types according the the Dungeon Master’s guide (Chapter 3, beginning on page 71), which they label as Location-based (like a dungeon, castle, or other such place where things happen based on rooms or other such locations), event based (the villain stole the king’s royal crown or there is a crime spree happening throughout the hamlet the Player Characters are travelling through and they are blamed), mystery (the party is invited to a party and the host is found dead, or a strange creature is found terrorizing the townsfolk in the middle of town and nobody knows where it came from), or intrigue (the party is sent as a diplomatic envoy to the elven nation they are at war with, or the king is trying to name a royal successor, and a local noble wants the party’s help to get them named over the other prospects). Some can be a combination of two or more types, or even all four!
Think I can’t do it? I’m coming up with this on the fly as I write, but here it goes: the king has agreed to bestow a fiefdom upon anyone who can find out why an ancient temple (location-based) mysteriously (mystery) rose out of the ocean off of the coast of his kingdom. The party must race to solve the mystery before another adventuring party (event-based as things each party does can effect the other, even within the temple), hired by one of the corrupt nobles in the king’s court, hoping to curry favor with the king in order to be gain standing with the royal household (intrigue).
Don’t like it? I came up with it on the fly. If you think of something better, put it in the comments below. The best idea gets a shoutout next week from me.
In any case, after I figure out what type of adventure I am running, I begin outlining.
Yes, outlining. That is that skill you may have learned as far back as 5th or 6th grade that your teacher said would be important? That.
So, what are we outlining? The adventure, of course! A before, a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Now, since this is can be so daunting, I recommend using a template to help you along. Personally I use this one here (with a BIG thank you to the Welsh Piper for coming up with it!). Let’s take a look at it and you can see why I love it for adventure planning. There are others available online, but I really like this one so that’s what I will use for our example.
Let’s start from the top and work our way down, shall we?
See that grey box? I use that to put in the adventure name. If I know what I’m calling it, based on some theme or such that I’m making in the adventure, I’ll put it there. If not, I’ll leave it blank until the end.
Next we have “Hook.” This is the thing that gets the party interested in the adventure. Unless the adventure hinges on a specific hook (like, “A man walks into the tavern you are at carrying a sea chest, dressed as a sailor, limping on a cane, and falls unconscious as he enters!” or something similar), you can leave this blank for now. We’ll come back to it.
The next is the background and end goal. This is where we answer the question as to what happened before the party got involved in this particular narrative and leading up to the problem to be solved. Remember, D&D is a cooperative story-telling game! If you treat this like telling a story, it becomes much easier. And like we said earlier, a story has a beginning a middle, and an end. The only difference is that an adventure has background to give the antagonist (the “badguys” or other sort of adversaries, who may or may not be “bad” but whose goals are opposed to, in some way, the party’s goals) a reason for doing what they do.
As an example, let’s say your adventure is about exploring a dungeon. At this point you have to ask yourself: why was the dungeon built? Was it built to protect something like treasure or a specific item? Was it made to keep people away from something, like a dangerous magic item or to lock away a dangerous monster? Maybe it is a long forgotten tomb of an ancient wizard. This is all called background. This is otherwise known as everything that happened before the adventurers showed up.
In addition to this, this box is for including what the and goal for the adventurers should be. Should they destroy the ancient evil found beneath? Should they free whatever is trapped inside? Should they find all the treasure? Whatever it is, this is the end goal for the party of adventurers who will be playing this adventure.
The next box is the rewards. This isn’t the box to put down all of the individual treasures that the party will receive at the end, but to generalize. is the reward the everlasting friendship of the Duke whose son they rescued? Is it the treasure that they will get from slaying the dragon? Maybe it is information leading to another adventure. The possibilities here are endless but dependent on the type of adventure you’re going to run (as discussed earlier).
The epilogue is where I generally put how, if it is a campaign, the overarching villain or story runs as a result of what the party does. Even if it’s not a campaign, depending on how the party performs or what their actions are, towns can be on fire, dungeons can be collapsed, and all sorts of other, either positive or negative, consequences can happen as a result of the parties involvement in the adventure.
For the next section, You build the encounters that the party will have throughout the adventure. How do they get from point A to point B? If this is location-based, it is easy to number each of the rooms in the dungeon, Castle, whatever, and put whatever monster, trap, or other such obstacle down for each encounter. Of course, there are only eight slots on the sheet. This is why this is a template and not necessarily an all encompassing worksheet. This section, with eight encounters, is much better for encounter based adventures. It could also work well for mystery adventures or intrigue adventures (which, In my opinion, our types of encounter-based adventures). I simply write in the encounter and what sorts of things happen within the encounter. A short summary works just fine.
Now, as I may or may not have said, I play Dungeons & Dragons 5e. The specific columns under the “Foes” section don’t really mean much to me. For me, I write out what and how many of each monster or NPC is for each encounter.
I will discuss encounter building another time, but suffice it to say that this is where I list out the monsters, if any, for each encounter, numbered as per the encounters above.
You may notice that there is a large grid area on the top right corner of the sheet. If there is any significant locations or possibly even the map of the dungeon can be drawn up here. Personally, I like to draw larger maps on graph paper and attach it to the sheet, with a particularly significant encounter area in this corner grid area (just a note, you can download one with hex instead of grid if you prefer that sort of thing).
Look back over your sheet, now that you have everything filled in. Congratulations, you have your adventure planned out!
You’ll notice that, in addition to not discussing creating encounters, I haven’t discussed describing rooms. I intend on covering that in another post as well.
In the mean-time, revel in the fact that you have, in fact, just created your first adventure!
Due to a family emergency, I was unable to run my table as normal this week, so I have an alternative post. Enjoy!
I’ve realized that I’ve done a considerable amount of describing this and that without talking about the individual players. This is mostly on purpose, as I value my players’ privacy.
That said, their characters are fair game. I will be dividing the characters into former and current.
Former: Iul the gnome war caster wizard (dropped due to school), Percell the druid (spore)/cleric (dropped due to table swap), Halen the elven divination wizard (dropped due to family issues), Calvin the human Ranger (dropped due to work schedule), Moe Spots the tabaxi swashbuckler rogue (dropped to DM another table), and Gra’ Kel the half-orc barbarian (dropped due to work schedule).
Current: Dexter the tabaxi blood hunter/sorcerer, Gram-gram the dwarven cleric/warlock, Severn the human paladin, the dragonborn sorcerer, the shadow Monk, and the kobold wizard.
Yes, there are names I can’t remember right now. My bad.
In any case, the party began with all of the former, but included Severn, then became the current over a month’s time, about the time August came around.
Before I begin, I want to say that I know, for some of you, the idea of taking the blank canvas of a miniature, and turning it into some sort of amazing piece of gamecraft that you are proud of is a truly daunting task.
I get that. I really do.
If you are not one of those people, I envy you. I am on the former.
Looking at a blank miniature, even worse, one that doesn’t even have primer on it, can be daunting as all can be. There are days I don’t even know how to begin! But don’t worry, today I’m going to talk to you about how to prep for painting minis.
Like most things relating to D&D, and dungeon mastering for that matter, It all boils down to your state of mind.
“But Daily DM,” you might say. “I get all anxious when even looking at blank miniatures.” So did I random reader. But you want to know how I got over that? I had, what you could call, a miniature hoarding problem. I have, literally, hundreds of miniatures. Easily half those have never had paint touch them. The worst part is that 2/3 of those actually have primer on them, as they either came pre-primed, or I’ve actually taken the time to prime it.
For me, especially since I have nothing better to do between blog posts, I have decided to paint. And paint I will do. I was discussing this very concept with a good friend of mine, whom I will call “A.”
“A” said something particularly profound. He said, “A blank miniature is like a placeholder. It’s not until you put paint that it develops a story.” Like I said, profound.
Do you know what I did, when I made the decision that my miniatures needed painting? I sat down, I prepared my tablespace, and I began to paint. Now, I won’t say my first attempt was great. I won’t say it was perfect. In fact, the shading job I did on it was pretty shoddy. Am I happy with the job I did overall? Absolutely. I painted a miniature. Granted, I still have to paint the base, but that’s fine. I’ll get to that eventually. What’s important is that the miniature itself has been given life, so to speak.
You may remember me having posted this before. As you can see, I could have done a better job with the shading. Oh well. But this is what I want you to turn your attention to: I put a lot of heart and soul into that miniature. The level of detail on the shield, the detail on the armor, the detail on the gloves and the sword. Here’s the back of it:
See the detail of the back of the shield, the detail of the dagger on the hip. The part where I’m apparently do not touch up the boot and dripped a little paint onto the boot. The detail of the hair.
Now, I’m not trying to brag by any means. I know that there are many people who could have done a better job than I did. But, it was the first miniature I had painted in over 25 years. And even then, I was too intimidated to consider the idea of painting a miniature in full. I had a half a dozen primed miniatures lying around. Most of them painted with gloss paint. I don’t prefer that any longer.
So what did I do? I stripped every single miniature that I had previously done that wasn’t completed, and I began planning on repainting it. I’ll show you some as I get them done. This particular one was just an old pewter mini that I had inherited from my dad’s collection. He looked like he needed to be painted. And so, I took the better part of an hour or two and painted him.
So when I talk about how to paint a mini, you have to get in the right headspace. The headspace that says: it is okay not to get it perfect the first time. It’s okay to do it badly the first time. I mean, seriously, have you ever been picked up anything and been perfect at it the first time? You’re likely answer is no. So give yourself enough grace to be able to paint without judging yourself before you’ve even begun.
If you are really and truly worried, pick up something easy, or relatively easy, to paint. Like a pack of spiders or a gelatinous cube or something of that nature which doesn’t require a whole lot of paints but can still be very fun to throw down on. The idea is that you just start painting.
Now, if I get some requests to do more, I’ll do a couple of posts on my process for painting miniatures as I post pictures of the miniatures I’ve painted.
Just a reminder, you don’t have to be a continuous patron on our Patreon page to buy our merch. You can support us by buying a sticker, coffee mug, t-shirt, or hoodie, or whatever else is up there. First person to send me a picture with a piece of merch look at a free miniature painted by myself!*
That said, I have a wonderful graphic artist working on a new logo. Once I have that, all of my merch will change, so get your “vintage” DDMB logo merch while you can!
Everything started pretty normal, right? They continued from the strange room with the illusionary walls, behind one of which was a secret door that the kenku rogue found. Travelling further, they see a set of stairs going down.
Deciding that they had gone far enough and needed to make good on their deal with the fairy dragon, they headed back to the portal that would lead them to the castle.
Still, everything normal.
Gathered in the castle portal room, the kenku opens the door to see a skeletal human with robes floating in the hallway, looking at them. “Oh, look. A party of adventurers…” he purrs. “How…fun…” he says as he casts power word stun on the rogue. Initiative begins, and the party whispers/says/shouts an expletive as I write on my small board lich in the initiative order. Maddgoth came home to his castle, and was not happy to find intruders. The lich went first. The lich was in his lair. The lich has three legendary actions each round.
Now, trying to do a play-by-play of their encounter would be nearly impossible, but here is the summation of what happened:
The party wizard realized, via History check, that this was, indeed, Maddgoth, who is a serial killer, and his favorite targets are wizards. In fact, it is said that his desk and chair are made of the lacquered spellbooks of his victims. Lovely.
Maddgoth casts a spell, and the wizard cast counterspell on it, making the check!! Maddgoth was not…shall we say…pleased with the wizard. The party opens the portal. The party attempts to retreat through the portal. Magdoth used his paralyzing touch ability to paralyze the monk. The kenku, getting unstunned, grabs the monk and retreats through the portal. The wizard is the only one left, and Maddgoth cast finger of death on him, killing him instantly, then follows the party through the portal. The party try running, and the kenku, still carrying the monk, runs right into the lich, who somehow appeared in front of him. The lich cast power word kill killing the kenku, and then left the monk to deal with the rest of the party, who ran right into the lich. The party runs right into the lich and turns around. The lich casts fireball a few times, nearly wiping the party. Repeatedly. The party tries to go back through the portal (at this point, only the tortle cleric), only to find that the door the lich came through is shut and the wizard is laying dead. The cleric casts revivify bringing the wizard back. They head back into the portal, where the rest of the party is bleeding out, dead, dominated, or fighting with the dominated party member. Maddgoth comes into the room casting fireball.
This is where things get…interesting.
The dwarf barbarian is raging. Every time Maddgoth fires off an area of effect spell, if the barbarian succeeds, due to his taking half damage from raging, he ends up taking half of that damage, bringing the total down to a quarter. It nearly saved the party.
The damage from the fireball spell brought the barbarian out of being dominated. Good deal. The cleric tried to run back through the portal to find a squad of 8 mezzoloth with spears coming at him. Deciding that dying by lich is more preferable, he walks back through the portal.
At this point, the lich is getting hacked on by the dwarf. A lot. The dwarf is hitting actual critical hits repeatedly. Frankly, I was very impressed.
That all said, it was a losing battle with the lich, as he was just too powerful, and the party perished. Or did they?
They had brief visions of waking up in individual coffin-like containers with connectors on themselves, and then darkness.
Upon waking, they found themselves in their room at the Yawning Portal Inn. After trying to figure out what happened, they go downstairs to find the infamous Portal bricked up!
Something was not adding up.
After trying to talk to Durnan, the proprietor, the barbarian realized something wasn’t right and informed the party. Turning to confront Durnan, they see him sitting on the bar.
“Hmm…you figured it out sooner than most groups…” he began.
Realizing that they were in some sort of weird illusiory Matrix-like thing, the party demanded to be let out. The entity only agreed after getting the party to agree to several things:
Helping the fairy dragon at Maddgoth’s castle as this helps them help him
Eliminate the Githyanki on level 16
Eliminate the Githyanki on level 17
After this, he says, still masquerading as Durnan, he will let them have safe passage through his domain on level 17, although if they make it that far, he will be asking another favor when they get there and meet in person. The party agreed.
Everything went black for the party and they found themselves back in the portal room in Maddgoth’s castle. Locating the homunculus they agreed to eliminate, they were offered, by the homunculus, to kill the fairy dragon, which was tormenting it and trespassing in its master’s castle. The party decided to kill the homunculus, and then loot the castle.
The party then made out like bandits, finding and destroying Maddgoth’s chair and desk, made of captured spellbooks, as well as several rubbings of a stone spell page from a statue of Maddgoth who was holding a spellbook open to a Mordenkainen’s Sword spell.
Heading back to the surface and selling their loot, the party planned on their next jaunt into the depths of Undermountain…
For reference: my Saturday game is my family game.
The party, having finish taking care of some bandits trying to steal the Duke’s coin molds capturing the leader, proceeded on to a port city having troubles with an alleged ghost ship.
The party, deciding to follow up on this based on the level of reward of 1,000 gold pieces each, looked around for a survivor of the ghost ship attacks. The survivor they found was a man who drank much ale and did not have a whole lot of information that was useful to the party.
Deciding that the reward made things worth it anyways, the party hired a ship set sale looking for this alleged ghost ship.
It wasn’t long and their voyage when the ghost ship attacked.the party fought a tough fight and found it on that these alleged undead were bleeding upon being struck and dropped from the attacks the party was doling out. The fight was hard one but the party came out on top. Having collected the treasure and taking a prisoner, the party said that sale with their new magical submersible ship back to the city of Koll.
You’re going to the heart master and collecting the reward, the Harvard Master was expecting the party to relinquish the ship as recompense for the financial damage that the pirates masquerading as undead had done.
The party argued that the contract did not stipulate that they were to give over any kind of or sort of ship. After threatening violence and deciding to take things to the magister, the party was able to walk away (or sail away, rather) with the ship, but with an edict of banishment for all times from the Port City of Koll.
Setting through the neighboring province, which also happened to be another nation, the party landed in the Port City of Red Fern.
Not long after docking their ship and entering into the market, looking at all the wonderful things offered there, a strange, wing and snake approach them with a scroll to attach to them marked “Open Me.”
Opening the scroll tube, the Party Warlock read aloud the note inside. Some sick and twisted person force the party into a game of finding fireballs frozen in stasis field hitting across the City. The party quickly went to work, solving the cruise, and collecting the crystals housing untold destruction.
Realizing that this city also has the infamous Bruce “Bruiser” Halloway, whom they were responsible for having been arrested in a previous adventure with bandits, the party quickly surmised that this was a distraction to break out Bruce.
Securing the scoundrel and moving him to another secure location, the party finished going after the crystals. After disposing of them into the harbor where it could harm nothing and no one, the party realized that there were eight explosions, and not the seven that they had expected. Realizing that there was a failed jailbreak happening at that moment, the party ran off to apprehend the bandit trying to break out Bruiser.
After some quick thinking from the sorcerer, who put him to sleep with a spell, the party the dude him and turned him over to the authorities. This guard of the favor of the Duke of Red Fern as well as a small reward.
As a capstone to their adventure, the party celebrated in style at the Duke’s estate with a feast.
Yeah, that’s me, the Forever DM. I rarely get to play at a table, and that’s okay. Recently, I had a brief conversation with one of my players after our game session:
Of course, Bubby is his character. His other character, Vaxis is in my monthly game and has the luck of a lodestone.
But I digress. This is what makes me enjoy DMing. Over the last quarter of a decade that I’ve been DMing, I have had some successful and some…not so successful campaigns. Some of the best long-term games I’ve had were ones that had an engaging story overall, with plenty of opportunities for each character to shine, and me trying to weave the background stories of each player’s character into the narrative.
Would it surprise you to know that I’ve only had a total of five campaigns actually make it to completion (sometimes satisfying for everyone, sometimes bittersweet).
The first was a more episodic campaign that didn’t have an overall story, but was a series of stories strung together. That was from back in high school into early adulthood. It was a great campaign and I had some good players. It predated the dawn of 3rd Edition, and was back when TSR was still a thing.
The second was my (in)famous “Pirate” campaign. That campaign lasted upwards of two years, and actually went from level 1 to 20, and that was back in the 3e/3.5e days. It had a very nautical theme, and I had one player, whose idea it was, as a plant (he was actually playing the sub-BBEG, if you can believe it), who betrayed the party at a penultimate moment in the campaign. Man, the party was both thrilled and totally pissed. I mean, it was that level of betrayal. Imagine, if you will, Luke Skywalker going through the whole series only to have it revealed that Han Solo was the Emperor. It was on that level of betrayal. I could not POSSIBLY have planned that better. It was a one-time campaign that I will never be able to reproduce. So much of it was finding pre-written adventures to string together with the narrative, with storyline in between. Of course, the storyline in between was memorable, but otherwise, it was cool.
The third was my Githyanki Invasion campaign. It was pretty cool, I guess. It was based on a total invasion of the githyanki into the material plane. This was also back in the 3rd Edition days. A lot of good friends, some new some old. Pretty fun with a somewhat satisfying conclusion.
The fourth highlighted the love I had for Dungeon Magazine (I know, I’m dating myself here), and their first full-length adventure path, particularly the Shackled City adventure path. It was easily one of my favorites, with lots of cool locations and highlights. Ended as it should have.
The fifth is my infamous Fallout campaign, using d20 Modern/Future/Apocalypse source books. It ended well, with the Paladin of the Brotherhood of Steel sacrificing himself and the party to stop the BBEG and his army, using a Fatman round rigged to explode when struck against the ground. It was an epic end to an epic campaign. When my family moved away, I received a super mutant Pop! figure signed by all of my players. I still have it proudly displayed in my game room.
I say all of that to say this: I love being the DM. I’m sure many people love playing and I know that many people absolutely hate being DM. Me? I love it. I’m not always great at it. Sometimes I get ahead of myself and don’t take my own advice and I don’t pace the campaign. Sometimes the story I am telling is not as cool on the table as it is in my head.
Despite everything, though, I love it. I love looking at everyone’s various story arcs get resolved, watching the party succeed and flounder, and I love most of all the fact that I can craft something and share it with friends that help make it even better.
Quick announcement: I’ve launched a Patreon in the hopes that, with support, I can expand The Blog and give you more and even better content. I feel I’ve made the awards attractive and I hope to see you all donate!
So many a DM has shared their processes and tips for this, so I am going to share my own.
Really, it boils down to one thing: run games.
Sure it seems that there is more to it than that, but for new and/or aspiring DMs, my biggest “tip” for you is to actually run games.
Most new DMs will have a great story that they want to tell and will start right out of the bullpen trying to run or write their first adventure module or campaign, starting with the end and having an idea how it begins, but having zero real plans for the in-between. DO NOT FALL INTO THIS TRAP! This rarely works out.
If You have a story you want to tell, if you have a good idea for a campaign, write down some notes about it and hold on to it for later. Trust me.
What you really want to do is find a module that is already been written, known as I published adventure. There are many different sources for this. The first one, of course, are the ones published by Wizards of the Coast. They have a wonderfully large selection. Even better if you can purchase them via D&D Beyond, which is cheaper than buying them hardcover. That and it’s easier to take them with you to read.
Read through the adventure a few times, focusing on the chapter or section that your group of players will likely encounter in a session. Then do it again. And then again. Read over the stop blocks. Then do it again. Then read over the section and the stat blocks. See where I’m going with this?
If you haven’t guessed it, dungeon mastering involves an exorbitantly large amount of reading. Yes, reading. Writing will come later, but reading comes first. I’m not going to say that there aren’t dungeon masters out there that can pick up a pencil and the dungeon masters guide and the monster manual and sit down and write a module. Most of the people that can do those sorts of things have been storytelling coherent narratives for years.
Remember that Dungeons & dragons is a cooperative storytelling game. As a dungeon master, your job is to present the characters with the story that they play out. The more works that you put into the module, the more fun everyone generally has, or so my 25 years of experience with dungeon mastering has shown me. If you think differently, fight me.
In any case, back to the topic at hand: pre-published adventures. The other source that you can find these kind of adventures, even for free for those who are budget conscious, is the DMs Guild website (https://www.dmsguild.com). They have a wealth of information, to include adventures, new monsters, and short one shots, just to name a few.
Now, there our multiple reasons for running pre-published adventures to start out. The first reason is that it takes the guesswork out of most planning for sessions. All you’d have to do, as I outlined above, is read through the appropriate section a few times to make sure you understand the flow and the general nature of that section of the adventure, and roll with it at game time. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
The second reason is that it exposes you to different kinds and styles of adventure writing. More specifically, it exposes you to how good adventures flow. there are several different kinds of adventures and encounters, all of which you can find in the DM’s Guide. Therefore, I’m not going to outline them here, but having a balanced and buried number of encounters throughout an adventure session is generally considered important for player and DM sanity. This of course assumes that you understand what play style your players want to engage in. Are they the kind that likes to solve puzzles? Give them a few more puzzles than normal. Are they big into role-playing? Give them opportunities to role play, both with each other and with non-player characters. Are they really into kicking down doors and killing monsters and breaking people’s stuff? Give them those Sweet, sweet combat encounters where they can shine. But notice that I’m not saying to give them all one thing or another. People get bored with monotony. Give them a variety still. It’s kind of like your parents telling you that you can’t just eat the main entree, but you have to eat your vegetables. It’s good for a player to have a variety.
The last reason is that, especially for time conscious Dungeon Masters, there’s a lot less work put into preparing your campaign session. I know I’ve touched on this with both of the previous reasons but it cannot be stressed enough how much life can get in the way of session planning. I’ve seen websites, particularly one whose name escapes me for the moment, that posted a how-to guide on Adventure riding and campaign planning in 30 minutes. That is wonderful for experienced dungeon masters, but terrible for new ones. Why, you may ask? because if you don’t have the foundational skill set, one of which is just experience, a lot of that campaign writing counsel is not going to be much use.
The last tip I am going to share for DMing is to actually read the DMs Guide and Player’s Handbook. Now, you don’t have to read it cover to cover, either of them. But you should be at least passingly familiar with the various rules regarding combat and movement and the individual classes and what their abilities are. You don’t even have to read it all at once. These two resources are essential.
Well, those are my tips for Dungeon Mastering for today. I’ll have more tips next week.