Starting my first in-person campaign

The day has come: I’m about to serve as dungeon master for an ongoing, in-person campaign.  I’ve been running my online campaign through the War of the Burning Sky via MapTool and Skype for nine sessions over the past few months, and it’s gone very well.  I’ve also run one-shot Living Forgotten Realms games in-person at my local store and at TactiCon.

This is different.  This is in-person and ongoing, playing with people I already know (including my wife).  We’ve played two short campaigns with this same group of people.  Nate ran the first one, which took our characters halfway through third level in a largely home-brew campaign inspired by some published stuff.  That one ended when my character died and everyone else just felt like trying new characters and a new person wanted to DM.

The second campaign was run by Bree (Nate’s wife) and consisted of several of the Chaos Scar adventures.  That took our characters from first up to third level as well.  We wrapped that one up this past Saturday, with Bree deciding to step down as DM because of her other time commitments.  I had previously offered to try my hand at running the game if she didn’t have time, and she took me up on the offer.

So, here I am.  I will definitely be using my projector rig and MapTool to run the games.  I love the rig, and I love MapTool.  The next question is, what campaign will I run?

I’m considering running War of the Burning Sky (WotBS) since I’m already familiar with it and I have lots of maps and monsters already built in MapTool (meaning easier prep for me).  The complicating factor there is that this new campaign is going to start with the characters at level 5, and WotBS starts at level 1.  This gives me a few options.

  • Drop them in the middle of the second adventure, when WotBS assumes characters are around level 5, hand-waving the back story
  • Start them at the beginning of WotBS but skip most of the encounters from the first adventure, increasing the difficulty of those encounters that I do run to be fun for fifth-level characters, eventually getting synched up with level and adventure sometime around level 6.
  • Run something else.

I definitely don’t like the first option – dropping them in the middle of the story.  That just feels wrong.  I’m torn between the second and third options.  The second option wouldn’t be too hard.  I already have maps for the encounters I want to run, and I would just have to create new monsters (or level up the ones that I have).  I can do that… but I’m trying to decide how much fun that would be.  I’d really like the in-person campaign to be more free-form than that.

I could run a different published adventure.  More Chaos Scar?  Maybe Scales of War?  Those leave me feeling a little cold, frankly.  Tomb of Horrors is interesting to me, but that’s for higher-level characters (hey, this group will level up eventually…).

If I don’t go with WotBS, I think I’m going full-on homebrew.  I mentioned a few months ago that I discovered a complete adventure I had written (but never run) when I first tried D&D Third Edition a long time ago.  It’s actually pretty well fleshed out with nice maps and everything, and I could probably use it for this game.  I’d have to pick completely different monsters, of course, not just because this is a Fourth Edition game but also because I wrote the adventure for first-level characters.  I can do that, though.  That one adventure would probably last a couple of sessions, which would give me time to start planning ahead.

The more I think about it, the more I’m feeling like the homebrew option will be more fun.  Of course, it will be a lot more work, too!  What do you think?  Go with what I know?  Or go with the treasure from the past?

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