Running online D&D: Weekly prep

I’ve talked a fair amount on my blog about macros that I’ve programmed in MapTool for my online games and recaps of adventures that I’ve run, but I realized that I haven’t spent any time talking about the prep process. Preparing to run a game online has a lot in common with an in-person game with vinyl mats and minis, but it definitely has its differences.

1 week before the game

I figure out what I’m going to be running. For my longest-running online game, this is easy; we’re running EN World’s War of the Burning Sky campaign and have been for over a year. I do still need to make sure I’ve read far enough ahead in the campaign to know what’s coming in the broad sense, but I try to be good about staying ahead of things there.

For my other online games, this might mean picking out a one-shot game (like a Living Forgotten Realms adventure) or actually writing my own adventures (a topic for another blog post).

This is also the time that I reach out to the online players about any changes they need to make to their characters. For instance, if they’ve leveled up after the last session, I remind them to tell me what choices they’re making for their characters. This is a difference between an online game and an in-person game; online, I have to maintain the tokens for the PCs and add new powers, adjust stats, etc. I also talk about magic items that the party acquired in the previous session and see which PC is going to be using them (so I can update their tokens).

3 days before the game

I send out an email to the group, announcing that there will be a session at our usual time (6:00 PM Mountain Time on Friday night for me and the person in South Dakota; 5:00 PM for the person in California; 7:00 PM for the people in Indiana and Texas, 8:00 PM for the people in New Jersey and Florida, and 9:00 AM Saturday for the person in Japan), asking who will be able to attend. I usually get a couple of responses right away and the rest trickle in over the next couple of days. Sometimes I’ll get a “maybe” (there’s a possible schedule conflict, but they might be able to come – this is usually a “no” in the end). I have a total of seven players, and we usually have 4-5 show up each week. One of the seven is almost never there, and four are almost always there; the other two are there most of the time, but not all of the time. This works for us, though I know some DMs don’t like it if players are absent irregularly. This is why I have seven players! We can still game even if three people are unavailable.

1-2 days before the game

I do my actual prep work (sometimes I get this done earlier, of course). This involves a few things:

  • Updating PC stats if the players have sent them to me after a level-up
  • Updating PC treasure if the players have decided on what they’re using
  • Setting up the maps for the next few encounters (easy for War of the Burning Sky, since decent JPG versions of the maps are available)
  • Building monsters for the next few encounters using my handy-dandy monster construction macro

For some reason, I used to procrastinate more about the PC stuff than the map and monster stuff. When the PCs hit paragon tier, I actually canceled a session so I could use that four-hour time slot to work on their PC tokens. It’s gotten better since I’ve changed my PC properties to be easier to level up (defenses now scale automatically with level, for instance), but there was a time when I almost wanted to stop running online games just because of the extra layer of work on the DM to update PC tokens. It’s better now, though.

The new monster macro has made building the monsters way easier and actually more fun. I also enjoy the process of using TokenTool to create cool-looking monster tokens from images I find online. I’m sure lots of these images are copyrighted and such, but I’m only using them in my own game (this is part of the reason I don’t distribute lots of monster tokens on my blog – well, that and laziness).

The day of the game

Since our game starts at 6:00 PM my time, I go to work early so I can leave at 4:00 PM. It only takes me 15 minutes to get home, at which point I’ll chat with my wife briefly and help take care of household tasks (feed the cats, figure out dinner). This usually leaves me at the computer by around 5:00, giving me time for last-minute prep. If there are any monsters I haven’t done yet, I’ll try to put those together quickly. If I already have a good image for the monster, it tends to take about 5 minutes per monster type to assemble.

If all goes well, I like to spend the time from 5:30 onward re-reading the material I’ll be running that evening. War of the Burning Sky is a very story-heavy adventure, and I want to make sure I understand the various NPCs and the branching points of the tale so that it all makes sense during the game.

At 5:45, I start up the MapTool server so that my players can connect. It’s not at all unusual for one or two people to be ready to go right at that time, and we might chat a bit in the text window of MapTool until start time, or they might say, “Hi, I’m here, but I’m going to be busy with something else for the next few minutes.” I also might say, “Okay, the server is up, but I’m still preppping! Please talk amongst yourselves. I’ll give you a topic: A half-elf is neither a halfling nor an elf. Discuss.”

At 6:00, assuming we have at least 3 players on MapTool, I’ll start the Skype audio call so we can talk to each other… and away we go!

Game on!

After that, we play D&D for four hours. Honestly, the online experience is darn near as good as the in-person experience for me. We still get to know each other out-of-game and chat as friends. Role-playing still happens. Combat is still exciting – and pretty quick, too, thanks to the software handling a lot of the math. It’s a ton of fun, and while I also enjoy in-person games, my online game is my longest-running campaign by far.

I’ll talk in later posts about the process of running a session, but I hope this window into the online game prep process helps to show you what it’s like. Give online D&D a try sometime – it’s a ton of fun!

How should a DM handle a monster who’s marked?

Most of my RPG experience so far has been with Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition, and I believe 4e was the first edition to introduce the concept of “marking” a monster. Defenders all have some type of marking mechanic, in which a marked monster takes a -2 penalty to attack anyone other than the defender who has marked it (unless it’s part of an attack that includes multiple PCs, and the defender is one of them).

Defenders also have some type of “punishment” mechanic attached to the mark, which will have an additional negative effect on the monster if it “breaks” the mark by attacking someone other than the defender. Sometimes the punishment is built into the marking ability itself; sometimes it’s a separate ability that says “When a creature marked by you is naughty, you get to beat it up.”

The usefulness of these marking and punishment mechanics depends to a large degree on the dungeon master and how the DM plays the monsters. There are two extremes the DM could follow (as well as points between): Ignore the mark, and always obey the mark.

Mark? What mark?

On this end of the spectrum, the DM has the monsters act as if they’re completely oblivious to the existence of a mark. Maybe they’ll attack the defender, or maybe they’ll attack someone else. The mark has no bearing on their actions. It’s a pretty stupid way for a monster to act, especially after it gets punished a few times, but hey, some monsters are stupid.

You must obey!

This other end of the “mark obedience spectrum” is where I fell when I first started DMing. In this mindset, the monster knows that it’s marked and that bad things will happen if it attacks someone other than the defender without also attacking the defender, so it attacks the defender. In this way, the defender is doing its job of keeping the scary monsters from attacking the rest of the party. Yay, right?

Don’t ALWAYS obey

Well, no. It was an article on Neuroglyph Games that got me thinking about this a few months ago. The author of the article ranked the Battlemind’s punishment mechanic as being outstanding compared to other defenders. The Battlemind, as you may know, has the ability to punish an adjacent enemy that deals damage to the Battlemind’s ally by dealing an equal amount of damage to that enemy. You hit my friend; I hit you. Bam.

Now, it’s true that this punishment mechanic can deal a whole lot of damage to a monster, especially compared to some of the other punishment mechanics out there. But the problem for me as a DM is that I had been running a game for several levels where the defender was a Battlemind, and her punishment mechanic never, ever did anything.

Why not? Well, she had to be adjacent to the monster in order to punish it. And if she was adjacent, the monster would obey the mark and attack her! The only time the monster ever broke the mark was if the Battlemind wasn’t adjacent, in which case there was no punishment involved.

It’s fun to disobey!

Defenders feel good about themselves when they protect their squishy allies, true. But they also feel good about themselves when they get to beat the crap out of a monster for daring to go after their allies. If the defender’s punishment mechanic never triggers, the defender’s player is having less fun than they could have. And I do believe that the DM should try to help the players have as much fun as possible.

The evolved approach: Role-play the monsters

So what’s the right answer? Remember that this is a role-playing game, and role-play the monsters!

A mindless zombie or single-minded beast is likely to act stupidly or instinctively. This might mean attacking the closest PC or attacking the PC that hurt them the worst or going after the PC who hit it most recently. This monster will fall on the “ignore the mark” end of the spectrum to start with. However, after it gets punished once (or twice, in the case of a really dumb bad guy) it will probably realize that ignoring the defender hurts, and it will start focusing on the defender instead.

Most monsters won’t know exactly how a defender’s punishment mechanic work, and I run it this way even if the rules as written technically say that the monster DOES know (as in the case of a mark power where the punishment is part of that same power). Most monsters at my table will say, “Hm, that fighter is calling me out. But I don’t feel like trying to chew through that armor, so I’m going to eat this tasty-looking wizard instead. OUCH! The fighter hit me when I tried to eat the wizard! Well that does it – you’re gonna get it now, armor boy!” They learn what the punishment mechanic does after it hits them (or one of their nearby allies).

Now, some monsters will be intelligent and may even have experience with battling adventurers. If you have a master tactician going against the players, it can be reasonable for that tactician to instruct its allies to avoid breaking the defender’s mark unless it’s really worth it. If that’s the case, it’s important for the DM to role-play this out at the table. “Ah, I see that your pathetic warden has tried to convince my hell hound to attack it instead of the dazed cleric. Do not be fooled, my minion! Destroy that horrid Pelor-worshipper, no matter the cost!”

The bottom line

Throw the defender a bone now and then by letting monsters discover what the defender’s punishment mechanic can do. Allow the monsters to learn from experience. And if the monster is really smart, have it show the players how smart it is by only breaking marks when it’s advantageous to do so – and make it clear that this is happening because the ENEMY is a tactical genius, not because the DM is.

TactiCon 2011 – LURU 2-4 Need to Know

LURU 2-4 Need to Know – Spoilers ahead

The final adventure I ran at TactiCon 2011 was LURU 2-4 Need to Know. I had a full table of six players, including my friend Nate, another couple of players who I knew from Enchanted Grounds, a player I knew from other convention games, and a couple whom I hadn’t met before.

I began by asking the players to introduce their characters to one another, and Nate led things off by doing so in-character. This set the tone nicely for the rest of the table, as all of the PCs came to life. All of them mentioned their race (although the changeling in the party explained that she claimed to be an eladrin, hinting that she wasn’t really), though most did NOT mention their class. Instead, they let this become clear from the way they behaved in battle. One introduced himself as an actor (later revealed to be a hybrid bard-warlock), one as just an adventurer (later revealed to be a rogue), one as bloodthirsty bug (a ranger) and one as a princess (a hybrid bard-warlord).

The princess in the party is my favorite PC I’ve seen so far in an LFR game. She rode around on a Tenser’s Floating Disk and made excellent use of Direct the Strike to boss people around and make them attack. It worked really well. She was also able to leverage her “royal status” to bluff her way into a guarded city along with some of her allies during the adventure.

The best part of this adventure was the opening combat encounter, which took place in an inn that was soon set on fire. The growing fire and the lava elementals that arose from it were a ton of fun.

The final encounter was less fun, as it involved a beholder in a pretty boring 10 square by 10 square room (with an attached sewer area). Every time a player started their turn, they were subject to an eye ray attack (unless they ran into the sewers). They couldn’t flank the beholder, nor could they take opportunity attacks against it when it used its eye rays.

It got frustrating, but having learned my lesson from an earlier adventure I started changing the beast up a little bit. I tried to cut way back on the most devastating control effects from the beholder – the sleep ray knocked out the fighter for several rounds, and the petrification ray took away at least two PCs’ entire turns. The adventure made it clear that you need to go easy on those during the beholder’s turn, which I did, but when it rolls a random ray at the beginning of a PC’s turn, the odds are good that a controlling power is going to come up. So, I switched to more damage and less control later in the combat, even on the random rays.

Ultimately, everyone had a good time, and using MapTool and the projector to project the spreading fire onto the map in the first encounter was a big hit. It was a good way to end an awesome TactiCon.

TactiCon 2011 – MyRealms adventures

MyRealms adventures – Spoilers follow

All day Friday at TactiCon 2011 was devoted to my MyRealms adventure trilogy: The Staff of Suha in the morning, Tallinn’s Tower in the afternoon, and Descent Into Darkness in the evening. I only had one player who played in all three adventures, but my tables were full throughout.

I feel confident in saying that these were a hit. I’m constantly tweaking my own adventures, and I was taking notes as I ran them, but they were all little things to tweak here and there – nothing that needed a complete reworking.

My favorite moment of the convention came in the final battle of Descent Into Darkness, which involves facing a beholder in a room that includes a river of magma. The party was doing their best to keep the beholder locked down, and at one point a rogue decided to jump onto the beholder’s back. He stayed aboard for four rounds.

In the first round, the beholder was stunned, so the rogue stabbed away.

In the second round, the beholder got up from prone and tried to shoot an eye ray at the rogue (tough to do when he’s on top of the beholder) and missed.

In the third round, the beholder flipped upside down and flew just over the surface of the magma, but the rogue made a great Athletics / Acrobatics check to scramble around the ball of eyes as it rotated and avoided the magma.

In the fourth round, the beholder had had enough of this nonsense, decided that it could handle the magma better than the fragile humanoid on its back, and dove into the river and back out. The beholder and the rogue both took 30 fire damage and ongoing 10 fire damage (save ends).

The rogue’s player asked me, “So what happens if that takes me below zero hit points?”

The whole table replied with “Oooooh….”

Yes, he fell unconscious while in the river of magma, which meant that he lost his grip and floated just below the surface. The beholder survived the bath, but the party ran out of options to rescue the rogue without killing themselves. Thus passed the short-lived rogue, may he rest in peace.

I’m not much of a killer DM, but PC do die at my table from time to time. In this particular case, it was worth it. I knew that was true Sunday evening when some players at a different game I was running said they had already heard that story about the beholder and the rogue and the magma river. When your players are telling stories about your games to their other friends at the convention, you’ve done something right! Well, unless they were saying, “This jerk of a DM killed my character…”

TactiCon 2011 – CORE 2-4 Lost on the Golden Way

CORE 2-4 Lost on the Golden Way – Spoilers Follow

I ran three sessions of CORE 2-4 Lost on the Golden Way at TactiCon 2011 – Thursday evening, Saturday morning and Sunday morning. My biggest worry was that there wouldn’t be enough players for the Sunday morning game, thus denying me the Iron Man achievement, but no worries there – I had a full table. Actually, the Thursday evening table was the only non-full table I ran all weekend (only four players). Saturday morning’s table actually had seven players!

I hadn’t run this adventure before TactiCon, but by the end I was quite a natural with it. It’s a fun little adventure, where the party has to track a missing caravan into the feywild, dealing with a thieving elf who accidentally got the caravan into trouble. They rescue the captive drivers and caravan workers from gnomes who were planning to deliver them as slaves to some eladrin – and then fight off the eladrin as they try to escape from the feywild.

The first table decided to take a different approach to the final encounter. Rather than dashing for the portal out of the feywild, they decided to literally circle the wagons and shelter in place. No problem – I adapted the existing maps I’d prepared in MapTool, and they fought from within the wagon circle.

The second table, with seven players, had four people who had never played LFR before. As my regular readers know, I LOVE introducing new people to D&D, so this was a great time for me. The highlight was when one player, having thrown his only (non-magical) dagger at a foe in an earlier round, decided to try to take out the enemy by springing off one standing stone to kick the bad guy off another stone. Good Athletics and Acrobatics led to success, with the PC standing atop the stone and the bad guy prone at its foot, taking decent falling damage, after which he was soon dispatched. Awesome.

The third table had my friend Nate as a player (yay!) as well as a father-son pair who had approached me on Thursday or Friday, admiring my projector setup and asking about the game. I told them that the Saturday morning and Sunday morning games would be ideal for new players, so they signed up!

This was a solid little adventure, and I could see using it as a good introductory adventure for new players in the future. Also, I found myself using character voices in this adventure – something I don’t usually do much of as a DM. The thieving elf Harelahur somehow developed his own voice, which I think made the players feel a bit sympathetic toward him (they all let him run away instead of turning him over to the authorities at the end). The cold eladrin leader’s voice was fun to do, too. I’m not usually a big “voices” guy, but I could see doing a little more here than I have in the past, if the character is right for it.

TactiCon 2011 – SPEC 3-2 Roots of Corruption – Dark Seeds

SPEC 3-2 Roots of Corruption – Dark Seeds – Spoilers follow

I’ve already written extensively about my experience running this adventure at TactiCon. In a nutshell, it was a mostly-fun paragon tier adventure that my party decided to take on at a high challenge level. This came back to bite them in the final encounter against a hydra, which they eventually had to retreat from. This meant that they received a negative story award, which left them with a lousy feeling about the game. And it led to my only non-perfect DM evaluation scores of the convention (two people gave me a 9 out of 10).

I did learn later that the hydra’s attacks and defenses and damage should not have been scaled upward by 1 according to the adventure, so I made a mistake there (but the boss monster in the other adventure branch does have instructions to adjust his attacks and defenses and damage, so it was an understandable confusion on my part). And ultimately I should have changed whatever seemed unfun to me as we went along at the table (a lesson I took to heart in the last game I ran a the convention).

I guess I’ll have to shoot for perfect scores next time instead. 🙂

Annoyed at SPEC 3-2 Roots of Corruption – Dark Seeds

I’m most of the way through my attempt to Iron Man TactiCon (I’m running nine slots – 36 hours of games over a 72-hour period). I’ve had a lot of fun, and I’m especially pleased that the adventures I wrote myself were well-received on Friday.

This afternoon and evening (Saturday) I ran a two-slot game of SPEC 3-2 Roots of Corruption – Dark Seeds. This is a paragon-level adventure, and I ran it with a party of mostly 11th level characters and a couple of 13th level characters. They chose to run it at level 14 (so yes, they opted for extra challenge).

It was a fun and challenging adventure for the first four hours, and when we came back from our dinner break we went into the last encounter.

It was silly-hard. Spoilers follow.

In the particular path my party chose, the adventurers have to fight against a hydra and two spore demons at the end. The spore demons were mildly annoying, but not much of a real threat. The hydra was insane.

It can’t be flanked, much to the frustration of the two rogues in the party.

It makes ranged attacks without provoking attacks of opportunity.

It has threatening reach in a 2-square radius (on a Huge creature).

It gets two free attacks against any PC that ends its turn within 2 squares.

Now, the PCs had spent a lot of resources in the next-to-last encounter, and only two of the six of them had action points for the last battle. There weren’t too many daily powers left (though there definitely were some).

The party had a really hard time with this battle, and they eventually retreated and declared defeat.

My annoyance comes in that, by running the adventure as written, I made the players have a less-good time than they otherwise would have. The final battle ended in defeat, and the party got a negative story award because of it (it makes them more vulnerable to diseases in the future). It was pretty miserable at the end.

And I have to admit that part of my annoyance is that two of the six players docked me a point on the GM evaluation sheet for the question, “How much fun did you have?” I still got great scores, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care about the awesome possibility of getting perfect scores while Iron Manning the con. I really wanted that, and I failed.

Ultimately, this is on me. When the adventure as written has unfun things happening, I should deviate. I should follow my own judgment, and I didn’t. I should have had the hydra spread his attacks around more, rather than focus on one PC until it drops as the adventure says it should do. I could have changed things so that the hydra’s ranged attacks at least provoked opportunity attacks, or made it so that it only got a single bite attack against PCs that end their turns near it.

But I didn’t make any of those changes, and my players had less than optimal fun because of it. This doesn’t mean that every fight has to be a victory for the party, but if something feels unfair and I have the ability to change it, I should change it! I didn’t, and my players had less fun because of it.

Lesson learned. If something seems unfun, change it.

No more Pathfinder for now

I’m officially done with my first Pathfinder campaign after just three sessions. I would have liked to have continued playing, but other things interfered.

The big one is that my wife’s health has not been good, and she just needs me around more. I have to cut back on gaming time, and since this was my newest campaign it was the obvious choice to cut first. I’ve also cut way back on Living Forgotten Realms games, but with the awesome DM Andy having moved to New Mexico, I wasn’t as motivated to show up to LFR as a player anyway.

I ended up missing this past Monday’s Pathfinder game because I had to take my wife to the emergency room Sunday night, and she still needed me Monday evening.

Then, one of the other three players ended Monday’s session by bowing out of the campaign. He decided that he really preferred playing 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons and was getting out of Pathfinder and d20 System games entirely. With only three players left, the game was looking shaky; when I bowed out, too, that was the end of the game.

I met with Phil, the incredible GM running the game, tonight at our local game store for coffee and a post-mortem. Why did this campaign fail?

  • Obviously in my case, it was my wife’s health (although I wasn’t passionate about this particular game)
  • One of the players decided that he just didn’t like Pathfinder
  • One of the players was a bit socially awkward and didn’t really fit in with the group
  • We only had four players to begin with, meaning that the game was almost impossible to run if anyone was absent (or dropped out of the campaign)
  • Phil observed that a game like Pathfinder really needs a rules wizard at the table, and we didn’t have one

Some reasons that I would have expected the campaign to make it:

  • We had a fantastic GM
  • The story was engaging
  • Three of the four players really clicked with one another

So, there are some lessons to be learned here for future campaigns.

  • If you’re not playing with an already close-knit group of friends or family, make sure you have at least one more player than you need in order to run a fun session (if you need four, have a party of five or six)
  • Screen players up front; if someone isn’t going to click with the rest of the group, it’s hard to fix that problem down the line
  • Make sure you have enough system mastery at the table – if not from the GM, then from one of the players (this isn’t a concern with a rules-light game, of course)

I feel bad for Phil, as he’s a great guy and a great GM, and I know that he poured a ton of energy into this campaign. The biggest change to make for the future is to make sure you have enough good players lined up before starting the campaign. It may stink to delay the start of the campaign by a few weeks in order to recruit another person or two, but it’s the right choice in some instances.

RIP Father Beren, my first Pathfinder character.

Magic item distribution: Random wish lists

I have some good qualities as a dungeon master, and I feel like I’m completely competent in most areas of running a fun game. But I do have a major weakness: Magic items.

Somehow, picking out magic items for treasure troves is a task that I put off and put off and put off and sometimes entirely forget about. Last week, I took the time to pick out a bunch of magic items to give to my Friday night players in my online War of the Burning Sky campaign… only to find out that I’d done a lousy job. I picked chainmail that nobody wanted. I picked a +3 rod for the warlock in the party, thinking that she only had a +1; I’d forgotten that she’d gotten a +3 the last time I’d given out treasure. Sigh.

Another option is wish lists, but I’ve never liked wish lists. I once had a DM ask us to put wish lists together, and it just felt… wrong somehow. When you just tell the DM “I want these things” and the DM later says “Here you go,” there’s no magic in the magic items. You know what’s coming.

One of my Friday night players suggested another option that I plan to try: random wish lists. I’ve asked each player to give me a list of three magic items they’d like. They’re at 13th level, so I’ve asked them to list a 14th, 15th and 16th level item (downgrading any spots they like). That is, items of their character’s level +1, +2 and +3.

I have seven players, so if they all participate I’ll have a list of 21 magic items. I’ll pad that out with a few of my own ideas (maybe an artifact, maybe a booby prize, maybe some coins) and create a table. When it’s time to hand out treasure, I’ll roll on that table (openly, in front of the players).

This way, almost everything I give out will be something that somebody wants (except the booby prize, which is intentional), but there’s no certainty that any particular thing will come up at all. I’ll ask for new items at higher levels, so some items may never come up. And if one PC keeps getting lucky, the party might swap things around or turn a few items into residuum to make new stuff (but only new stuff with DM approval). If I roll for an item that’s already been given out, I might roll again or I might give nothing.

I’m going to give this a try and see how I like it. At the very least, I won’t be scrambling to look through the Compendium to find cool items at the last minute (or beyond the last minute).

Have any of you tried anything similar? How has it worked out? Do you have ideas about how to make it better?

200 Posts: My favorites of the second century

This is post number 201 on my blog, so I thought I’d continue the tradition I started with number 100 of looking back at my previous 100 posts and picking out a few of my favorites. The OnlineDM Greatest Hits, Volume Two:

1. My players are smarter than I am. This post talks about my experience of using player ideas during a session. In this particular example, one of my players mused that he thought the bad guys would try to push a wall over on the PCs. I’d never envisioned that possibility, but it sounded like a great idea, so I ran with it. If your players give you ideas about what might happen and they’re good ideas, use them!

2. Creating D&D converts. Lots of us have friends or family members who we think would enjoy gaming, but it’s tricky to get them into it. This post describes my experience of introducing my brother-in-law and his wife to D&D via Castle Ravenloft and then some Living Forgotten Realms adventures when they visited over Christmas. It obviously worked, since I’m getting ready to run yet another session for them this evening over MapTool even though they’re in Texas. Their characters are at sixth level now, by the way!

3. Bonus points. Lots of DMs have used similar ideas; this is my own take on it. Basically, when one of my players does something creative or cool or especially in-character rather than just focusing on the numbers of combat and tactics, I hand them a bonus point that they can use in the future to add 1 to a die roll they make or subtract 1 from a die roll made against them. They’re great incentives to encourage the kind of play I enjoy.

4. Out of the gaming closet. In my first 100 posts, I had talked about the fact that I’m in the closet at work about gaming; I didn’t mention it to my colleagues out of fear of… I don’t know, ridicule? Well, I’m over that now, and happier for it.

5. Running an online game for new players. I’m really excited about how this particular game went, because I’m such a sucker for introducing people to gaming. In this particular instance, I had some people coming to me online, saying that they wanted to learn D&D but weren’t sure how to go about it. So, I recruited a group and ran a game for them. It was a lot of fun, and something I’d like to do regularly (maybe every few months or so).

6. Tallinn’s Tower. I’m including this post as a representative of my free adventures posts. I’ve posted two so far; Tallinn’s Tower was the second. The third is almost ready, and I’ve just finished a major revision of the first. I’m personally excited about this, although I haven’t gotten much feedback yet. I love free adventures, and I love to share them with the D&D community.

7. My first Pathfinder game. Yes, I’m branching out beyond D&D4e! I love learning new games, and since Pathfinder is so popular I really wanted to learn it. I think that so far I prefer D&D4e, but I do get the appeal of Pathfinder, too.

8. MapTool flexible monster creation. This continues to evolve for me, but I was quite happy with my take on flexible monster creation. I’ve been using this method exclusively since I wrote it, and it’s made monster building much faster. Also, I love the goofy damage dice I can use (2d13+16 for instance).

9. D&D Encounters. I DMed for the Encounters this summer and loved doing it, mainly because of the opportunity to introduce new players to the game. This particular session was great because it was my grand finale (I missed the final week since I was at GenCon), my wife played, and I met a new friend. Encounters was a lot of fun, and I hope to run it again next summer when my Wednesday night bowling league is over.

10. GenCon – D&D New Products Seminar. I have to include this one, even though it has no original material. This is my minute-by-minute note taking from the seminar at GenCon where WotC talked about their plans for the next year. To say that it was a popular post would be an understatement! I typically get around 300 hits per day on my blog; I topped out near 1,500 during the weekend of GenCon when this post was live. You guys love GenCon news!

Thank you all for reading Online Dungeon Master. I’ve really enjoyed having this way of talking to the D&D community and hearing from you, too. Remember that you can also follow me on Twitter as OnlineDM1.