Thursday, April 2, 2009

Guest DM

First blog post of 2009, yeah!

Allen is our new dungeon master, but I'm trying my hand at guest DM on occasion. I've found the pre-printed adventures to be less than inspiring. Part of this is the inclusion of mood breaking mechanics, like quests and other video gamish junk. So I'm trying my hand at writing my own material. I've been taking this in stages, and on reflection, this post might be helpful for new DM's.

The first stage was runnnig the pre-published adventures. The first two in the 4E series were written before the game was fully baked, so these can be forgiven somewhat. I found running them was helpful in learning the mechanics of the game and learning what about them I didn't like. The big problem for me is the reduction of D&D down to a skirmish miniatures game. I need more role-play. This is my only RPG, while I can see how multi-system players might expect some hack & slash out of their D&D, saving their RP for something more nuanced. As I've mentioned before, D&D is the only tool in my RPG toolbox, so I want it to do different things. In fact, I want it to do everything.

The pre-published stuff killed my enthusiasm, so I started over. There are many resources now for creating your own adventures using modular bits from various books. The DM books for 4E are specifically designed for this purpose. Each has information on its topic, followed by examples of application. Dungeon Delve has 30 levels of encounters for an evening. Draconomicon has dragon lairs and monsters with new applications. All of this stuff can be dropped in by just "filing off the serial numbers," as they say.

This filing off off the serial numbers is now starting to give way to more ambitious plans. I'm building my own traps, creating my own monsters, and just now starting to build NPC personalities. Ah yes, role-playing; I remember that. This process is the most time consuming, but it's also the most rewarding. My first trap was a disaster, for example, but I've been able to clean it up with some good advice from Michael. I'm still confused about monster creation. For example, some solo monsters have 500+ hit points while another of the same level has 150. I don't understand the process yet, and the Dungeon Master's Guide doesn't fully explain why this is the case. Are monsters created in a modular fashion or not?

The most fun part about creating my own adventures is developing the level of complexity I'm looking for. I'm used to urban adventures with many factions and half a dozen hooks at any given time. A clear cut dungeon delve seems a little boring. It's true that the party can only focus on one thing at a time, but the illusion of choice brings a richness to a world. Because I'm only guest DM, I need to stay somewhat linear, but when I eventually run my own campaign again, I hope to broaden the horizon.

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