Running an online game for new players

I love it when a plan comes together. A couple of weeks ago I received a comment on my blog from a player who had never played a tabletop role-playing game before but who was interested in trying it out. Since I love to introduce new players to the hobby, I wanted to at least run one game for this prospective new player. So, I advertised here on the blog as well as over on EN World that I would be running a one-shot game for new players.

Getting this game set up went the way I originally expected setting up an online game to go when I first did it last July. For that game, I wanted five players so I recruited seven, figuring that a couple wouldn’t be able to make it. I ended up with eight. Oops.

This time I ended up recruiting six and only four were able to make it work (scheduling was problematic). That’s okay, though – four was plenty!

We gathered Friday evening on MapTool and Skype in the time slot that I normally run my long-running War of the Burning Sky campaign (my regular players were very understanding – thanks, guys!). I gave the new players some choice about what adventure we ran, and I ended up running a Living Forgotten Realms game – CORM 1-1 The Black Knight of Arabel (available here as part of a big archive file if you’re interested). This was, coincidentally, the first LFR game I had ever gone through as a player and one of the first I had run as a DM.

I specifically wanted to run an adventure I had run before in order to keep my prep time to a minimum (time was tight last week). Most of the prep time for this game went into getting the four PCs set up in MapTool. I did change the monsters in the adventure, too. First, I updated the damage expressions and defenses and everything to the post-Monster Manual 3 numbers. Second, since this particular adventure has the possibility of three fights with the same shadow creatures over and over, I mixed things up by bringing in some monsters from the Dark Legacy of Evard season of D&D Encounters that I’m running.

The group that gathered on Friday consisted of two new players (one of them in England – I somehow manage to attract players who are willing to play in the middle of the night!), one player who was rusty, and one player who at least hadn’t played online before (but he was looking for a game and I needed the fourth player to fill out the party). We had some minor technical difficulties at first, but soon enough we were all on MapTool.

I had created characters for the two new players based on descriptions they gave me – a tiefling cleric and a half-orc barbarian. The more experienced players created their own characters – an elf mage and a goliath warden. I started with some basics about how the MapTool program works and how the rules of the game work for the new players, and then we dove in.


The adventure began with the party on their way to Arabel to investigate reports of a black rider and shadow creatures. Near nightfall the party was approaching the city and came upon a wagon driver frantically trying to repair a wagon wheel before darkness came. The party offered to help, but just then the sun dipped below the horizon and some shadow creatures emerged. A battle ensued, using the Shadow Hulk and Shadow Seeker from the adventure, but using the Leeching Shadows from Dark Legacy of Evard instead of the Shadow Motes that were written. The fight was a little intense and the cleric ended up unconscious at the end, but the party stabilized her. They had seen the dark rider on a ridge in the distance during the fight and decided to go after him.

At this point, the party started tracking the rider through the woods and came to a steep downhill slope that was tricky for their horses. The barbarian ended up basically carrying his horse and then the cleric’s horse down the slope. It was awesome.

When the group came upon the rider’s horse, dead from shadow attacks, they started suspecting that the dark figure wasn’t commanding the shadow creatures after all. Eventually they found the dark creature and talked to him rather than fought. They learned that he was an exiled knight and that he was trying to fight the shadows, but that the townspeople thought he was commanding them. He also mentioned that his father had cursed him to an evil god. The PCs teamed up with him and tried to clear his name.

Next came a trip into town to confront his father, who wasn’t at his pub – but this didn’t stop the barbarian and the warden from starting a bar fight! I decided to roll with it and threw some brawlers at them. They fought for a couple of rounds and prevailed easily. Of course, they had to skedaddle because the barmaid went to fetch the guards (they DID start the fight, after all).

Ultimately, the group ended up at the theater where the cult of the evil god was meeting. They convinced the cultists (confused townspeople) that the cult leader was leading them astray as he wanted to sacrifice a baby to the evil god. The cultists left, leaving the party to fight the leader and more shadow creatures. This time I did use the original Shadow Motes but I paired them with the Dusk Beasts from Dark Legacy of Evard.

This ended up being an awesome battle, ranging all over the place. The mage used Mage Hand to pluck the baby off the altar, but the Dusk Beasts knocked him unconscious. The barbarian started raging and charging all over the place, twice getting knocked down to just one hit point. The cleric eventually grabbed the baby and took it up into a balcony for safekeeping, whereupon the warden smashed the ladder to the balcony to keep the cult leader from getting to it. Lots of damage, lots of heroism… it was a great fight, and the good guys just barely pulled it out in the end.

Everyone had a fun time, and I’m happy to say that one of the players has volunteered to DM the group through an ongoing campaign. Success!

This “game for new players” is something I would love to do on a regular basis, maybe once every few months. So, if you’re reading this post and are interested in learning to play D&D via an online game, drop me a line!

5 thoughts on “Running an online game for new players

  1. Ah you left out the mage convincing his horse to climb down the hill and how at the end the cleric healed up the mage in combat and managed to secure the baby up on a ledge where she protected the baby. (Monkey in the middle was almost a possibility except the failed arcana check!)

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