Treasure from the past

As I mentioned in my introductory post, I had tried playing a little bit of D&D years ago, under Third Edition (3e) rules.  My wife and I bought the 3e starter kit and later the core books (Players Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, Monster Manual).  We played through some of the starter kit dungeons (I was the DM, she ran several characters) and had a good time.  One of the people she worked with was a regular D&D player, as was his girlfriend, and they were interested in playing with us.  We set up a session where I would DM and the three of them would play.

I remembered that I had run them through a pre-packaged module where they had quickly taken it off the rails, and I was unprepared as a first-time DM to deal with it, so that ended badly.  They also fudged their dice rolls to get extra crits, which I also didn’t know how to deal with.  That turned us off of D&D for years until we picked it up again in early 2010.

Now that I’m running my Fourth Edition party through the Keep on the Shadowfell I’m having a better time keeping my wits about me when the unexpected happens (and no one is fudging their dice, either, which helps).  I’ll admit that I’m starting to get a little tired of the Keep, though, and I’m thinking ahead to what might come next.  I had come up with lots of neat little ideas, trying not to put too much effort into any of them because I don’t know what direction things will go.  And then I remembered something:

Didn’t I do some prep work for my own Third Edition adventure way back when?

I found my old manila folders for D&D 3e stuff.  There was a folder full of character sheets for characters that both Barbara and I had rolled up.  I learned two things here:

  • Wow, we sure rolled up a lot of characters, especially without Character Builder!
  • I think the old way of rolling ability scores must have been overpowered – those characters had some amazing stats.

That was a nice trip down memory lane (ah yes, Barbara’s elf Druid named Lyssiah Stormwhisper!  I remember her…), but what I really wanted was in the next folder:

  • The printout of the ill-fated pre-packaged adventure that I ran
  • A map for a world of my own creation that I had drawn in colored pencils (two drafts, one on graph paper)
  • An arena dungeon with multiple levels that I had created myself (two drafts, one on graph paper)
  • A cavern-style dungeon with even more levels that I created myself (again two drafts, one on graph paper)
  • A typed, four-page write-up of a full-on adventure through the cavern-style dungeon, complete with monsters, traps, difficulty classes to find doors and so on, read-aloud text…

I was blown away by the amount of time I must have put into creating this stuff – and I never used any of it!  None!  The full adventure write-up amazed me.  It’s not quite up to the quality of a professional module, of course, but it’s not completely amateurish, either.  I remember devising this dungeon and the back story now that I’ve re-read it, and I remember that I thought hard about verisimilitude when I crafted the dungeons.  For instance, I thought about why these creatures would be living where they did, why secret doors would be hidden, where the creatures slept and spent their awake time, and so on.

The question now is, what do I do with this?  I don’t think I’d use the “published adventure” that I wrote as-is since it was customized for the characters who were in the party at the time.  I could totally see myself using the dungeon maps, though, just with new monsters and even the same general logic of what types of monsters can be found where.  They still seem like pretty cool encounter areas.

What do you think?  Is something like this worth re-using?  To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, I’ve put the world map that I drew below (click to enlarge).  If you’re interested in seeing the other maps and the adventure I had written, let me know.

Ervallen Map

My (very brief) history of Dungeon Mastering

My name is Michael, and I am a beginning Dungeon Master (DM) for Dungeons and Dragons, fourth edition (D&D 4e).  This blog will serve three purposes:

  • Chronicle my development as a DM, with a focus on the online aspects
  • Share my thoughts about how to be a better DM
  • Host my files for use in my online D&D games

First, some background.  I became interested in Dungeons and Dragons while in college around 2000, and I briefly played the game with my wife Barbara and some of our acquaintances. We were excited about the game, and I read all of the third edition rulebooks.  However, when it actually came time to play, we had a lousy time, largely because the people we were playing with were doing things like fudging their dice rolls.  “Cheating” at a game like D&D doesn’t make any sense to me – it’s not like you can “win” or anything.  So, that didn’t last long.

Fast forward to 2010, when my friend Nate talked about his and his wife’s adventures in D&D and offered to host a game.  Nate is a first time DM but a long-time gamer and professional game designer, so he’s a great dungeon master.  We’re having a blast with our campaign, even though we’ve barely gotten to level 2 with our characters.

I knew right from the start that, while I love playing as a player character (PC), I would also love DMing.  Strangely enough, I got my chance at a wedding.  One of our college friends was getting married in Florida (we live in Colorado), and since the wedding was at 10:00 AM, we had lots of free time in the evening to hang out with the bride and groom and some of our other friends.  I had brought the Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 with me (reading it for fun), and one of my friends noticed and asked about it.  Soon, he had rolled up a character, and the rest of the gang joined in.  We started playing a pre-made adventure right there in the hotel room, despite the lack of a printer, a battle grid, minis or anything else – and we had fun!  My friends asked if we could keep it going online, and that’s where things stand today.

That’s enough background for one post. I hope to share my thoughts and learnings about being a good DM, especially for an online game, with anyone who is interested.  I’ll be using a program called OpenRPG to host the game and probably Skype for audio chat.  Let me know if you have any suggestions or comments, either advice for me or things you would like to see me address.