My 1st time Running a Dungeons and Dragons Game.

After days of preparations, the first step of a journey begins for four adventurers. May the dice fall in their favor (please… it’s been rough so far).

Introduction

 I’ve talked about my history with Dungeons and Dragons. If you missed it, check it out. It might provide better understanding of where I am coming from as we dive into this campaign. Following, I get into planning out the adventure and starting the game with my players. It took a couple of sessions to get through the first dungeon. With so many “newbs” (including me as Dungeon Master), it takes us a while to get the engine going. But what it comes down to is the enjoyment of the game that matters.

As the adventure is a published adventure from Wizards of the Coast, there will be spoilers later in this post, so be warned.

The Dungeon Master

Planning the Game

The first thing I did was locate my starter set for D&D 5e. The included materials included the adventure I was going to run (Lost Mine of Phandelver) and the pre-made characters. I then took to YouTube and began looking up videos about running the game and especially those dedicated to the Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure. I loaded up my Watch Later playlist with videos from The DM Lair, The Dungeon Coach, Dungeon Dudes, Kristen’s Epic Adventures, Ginny Di, Bob World Builder, and a slew of other videos and content. I sought out guidance on Twitter, Facebook Groups, and searches on Reddit. Of particular help, they often directed me to Game Night Blog for a lot of resources.

Playing D&D
It’s Game TIme!

I began creating excel files to organize and track my game, anything that I could think of to help me with organizing and streamlining my first game. Workbooks of charts, lists, tables, homemade cards and character tabs, all filled in my excel file. I downloaded many resources from the Gaming Night Blog, including a Forgotten Realms Sword Coast overview and rules summary to provide to my players. Each player had a folder containing handouts.

I had each player sign up on D&D Beyond and create their characters there. Only one player selected one of the pre-made characters that I inputted. That was Jeff who chose a Human Fighter (Noble) named Xavier. Though he did reduce the conceitedness of the character as described in the background. His wife, Angie, created a Half-Elf Cleric named Araqwyn (acolyte of the goddess Lliira). Perhaps my first mistake as a DM was that I did not express any limitations in regard to classes or races. When it came time for my fiancée (who is mostly unfamiliar with D&D) to create a character, she chose to go with a Fire Genasi. I was hesitant to agree, wanting to stick to the standard races and classes, but she was insistent at that point. So, I agreed and made her character a rogue with a “soldier” background. I helped her in writing the backstory of the character. We also had some issues when it came to her name, but we settled on Suzah.

Finally, we needed at least one more player to round out the party. Some may say that my next move was my second mistake (and biggest so far) as a DM. Lacking additional players, I created a DMPC. A Human Wizard named Zam. I heard all the arguments against doing this and that it would be better to adjust the encounters or add hirelings or other NPC add-ons. However, I decided to give it a go and to reduce the chance that he would take over the party, I gave him a bit of a shy, awkward personality so that he would be the last choice to be a leader.

Half-elf female cleric, Araqwyn Tunebringer
Araqwyn Tunebringer – Halfelf Cleric (played by Angie)

So, in recap, we had Xavier (Human Fighter, NG), Araqwyn (Half-elf Cleric, CG), Suzah (Fire Genasi Rogue, N), and Zam (Human Wizard, NG). With the party assembled, it was time to get started.

Our First Session

WARNING: After this point, I will go into the adventure, Lost Mine of Phandelver, included in the Starter Set. While I may make some changes over the course of the campaign to fit our game, there will be SPOILERS ahead. Proceed with caution.

The Lost Mine of Phandelver book starts off with the characters on a wagon heading to the town of Phandalin, having already met with their patron, Gundren. I decided to start with each character being brought into a back room at an inn in Neverwinter where they awaited their host. Sildar stood in the corner as each character was brought in and seated at a table. This was a chance for the characters to introduce each other and left an heir of mystery as to what was going on. Eventually, Gundren entered and said that he wanted them to escort his wagon of supplies (currently being loaded) to the town of Phandalin.

Gundren and Sildar left the group to get an advanced start to the town and the party rested for the day after checking on the progress of the supplies being loaded. At this point, they pick up where the adventure begins in the book. After a couple days of journeying, the group comes across the scene of two dead horses along the road. They discovered goblins waiting in ambush and fought with them. Soon, three of the goblins were dead and one had surrendered, but the wizard Zam was badly hurt.

Xavier Griffin – Human Fighter (played by Jeff)

The party rested and interrogated the goblin while Zam was healed by their cleric. The goblin (affectionately called Gary Goblin) told them that he would lead them to their hideout. The party rogue, Suzah, rolled a 1 while searching for traps at a place indicated by the goblin and was caught in a snare. With more harm to her pride than anything, the group cut her down and they continued along their way past a pit trap and eventually to the entrance to a cave.

Across a small stream that trickled out from the cave entrance, two goblins lounged in a thicket. They were taken out quickly through tactical moves of the party. Suzah snuck across the stream and climbed some nearby trees where she spotted the goblins. She signaled to the rest who maneuvered into place to launch their attack. Suzah took her shot and eliminated one of the goblins immediately. The other tried to run for the cave but was swiftly taken down.

Suzah – Fire Genasi Rogue (played by Lexy)

Inside the cave, the sounds of wolves could be heard from a side chamber. They skipped past that chamber, having learned that the wolves were chained inside, and moved further into the cave. Gary Goblin warned the party of a lookout on a bridge up ahead. As the group reached a side tunnel, a rush of water came roaring toward them. Suzan and Zam made it into the tunnel unharmed. However, Araqwyn, Xavier, and Gary Goblin were swept back to the mouth of the cave, the goblin was left unconscious. So Araqwyn and Xavier left the goblin in the thicket to rest while they returned to the cave.

Araqwyn and Xavier returned to the cave and caught up with the others. They ventured further until they heard goblin voices coming from a room. Groans of a non-goblin could also be heard coming from the chamber.

Before they could continue, we realized what time it was and had to call the adventure there for the day. I knew that during the course of the session, I blundered a few times. It didn’t really matter. My players expressed delight over playing the game. They laughed at the missteps of their characters, like Suzah getting caught in the snare and when her player (my fiancée, Lexy) later suggested throwing the goblin into the chamber with the wolves.

Overall, they had a fun time and so did I. I winged a lot of my decisions (and I think they turned out for the better if I had taken the time to look up the rules and played them out properly). I was starting to understand what it was like to be a Dungeon Master. The maps I had of the cave were hand drawn and I only had one miniature (one I had used for a sorcerer a while back). To help, I substituted in some Lego figures that they players used, instead. The players really enjoyed the visual aspect of the maps and figures.

Zam Longbrook – Human Wizard (played by Sal)

Throughout the next week we would talk about the session. Before we meat the next week, they had ordered dice, miniatures for their characters (and Suzah’s as well… I was using the sorcerer to represent Zam), as well as some goblins. It was great to see how they were getting into the game.

Problems with Goblins

Saving Sildar

The first session was at our friends’ house. My father watched our youngest and we took our oldest daughter over to play with their son while we played our game. The second session, we invited them over to our place. It turned out to be a little more hectic with our dogs and youngest daughter. She did nap for a good portion of the time, but she was certainly a distraction, especially for Lexy who kept getting pulled away. It was a lesson learned, however.

A few D&D Miniatures.
Araqwyn and Xavier (miniatures)

When we got back into the game, a quick peak revealed a number of goblins surrounding a fire pit and one on a ledge above. As an attempt to give the edge to the low level players, I had Zam cast sleep, which knocked out all of the goblins around the fire. Suzah fired a shot that went wide (another natural one) and hit a makeshift shelf behind the goblin that contained potions (which crashed down and were wasted). The goblin grabbed the prisoner, Sildar and put a knife to his throat, threatening him. Xavier went out to negotiate with the goblin.

The goblin, Yeemik, knows that there is more than just Xavier lurking in the tunnel. He offers a deal that the human would be let go if they kill the hideout leader, Klarg, for him. However, the group doesn’t buy it. Suzah takes another shot, this time striking the goblin, forcing him to let go of Sildar and knocking him back to the cavern wall. Xavier follows up with a javelin that bursts Yeemik’s head like a balloon. By this time, the other goblins are waking up.

After a harrowing battle, the party finally puts down the goblins in the chamber. They take a short rest, reviving Sildar, and move back along the corridor. They reach the bridge and see the goblin on top looking toward the cave entrance. Suzah takes him out swiftly and they move along. When they reach the room with a pool (originally two pools, but one was already released), they find two goblins and make quick work of them.

Finding the Bugbear

At a short tunnel leading to another chamber, they hear the ramblings of a crazed bugbear. Determining that he is Klarg, the leader of this group of goblins. The party moves quickly. Araqwyn strikes with a bolt of light which barely phases the bugbear. The party fully engages, learning that goblins also lurk in the chamber and attack the group along with a wolf. They make quick work of one goblin and the wolf and wear down Klarg.

Map of the cave hideout for the Cragmaw Goblins
Cragmaw Hideout (1st dungeon for LMoP)

Finally, a noise alerts all in the room to a lone goblin charging at Klarg with a small knife. He manages to stab the bugbear, but not before Klarg grabs him and twist his neck, discarding poor Gary Goblin aside. Klarg is hurt by this point and the group finish him off, leaving him sitting in an upright position. When an arrow comes from the darkness, Zam casts a light there to reveal a goblin archer. Startled by being revealed, the goblin retreats to a hole in the back of the cavern. He tries to climb down but slips (Nat 1) and falls into the kennel below, breaking his neck and being jumped on by the wolves.

To end the second session, they receive their rewards of the treasure and find some provisions stolen from supply trains to the town. Before ending for the day, they look in the kennel, the wolves now content and full of goblin, where they examine a pile of hay to find two wolf cubs, one gray and one black. This is where the adventure ends for the second session.

As stated before, some lessons were learned during this session for both me (as the DM) and the players alike. Still, the general consensus was that the group had fun. We were starting to find our grove as a D&D group.

Conclusion

That ended the first leg of the journey. Next time we will take a look at sessions three and four where the group goes to Phandalin and seeks to right a wrong in the town.  Check back and see how the adventure unfolds.

Links

Reflections on Dungeons and Dragons – S. J.Serio (sjserio.com)

The DM Lair – YouTube

The Dungeon Coach – YouTube

Dungeon Dudes – YouTube

Kristen’s Epic Adventures – YouTube

Ginny Di – YouTube

Bob World Builder – YouTube

Lost Mine of Phandelver Campaign Resources – Game Night Blog

Some Tools (software, websites, and apps) I Use:

D&D Beyond – An official digital toolset for Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) Fifth Edition (5e) (dndbeyond.com)

ePic Character Generator | Overhead Games

DUNGEONFOG | Free RPG Battle map editor for D&D / Dungeonfog

Fantasy name generators. Names for all your fantasy characters.

Reflections on Dungeons and Dragons

How I became acquainted with Dungeons and Dragons and the road to becoming a Dungeon Master.

Introduction

            For those that have been following me, my life has been fairly busy lately. I haven’t even been keeping up with this blog because my primary focus has been working on my book and getting it ready for publication. Much of the rest of my days have been dedicated to raising my two daughters (one just entering 1st grade and the other about to turn a year old) while working a full-time job. It hasn’t been easy. So when I was approached about not only playing, but running a D&D campaign, I had some reservations.

            It’s not that I didn’t want to. When would I have the time? And I’ve never run a game before. That is an enormous commitment.  But after some time, I considered it. And I thought, what the heck. Afterall, I have barely had any time for recreation lately. Outside of the occasional movie or TV show binge, most of my recreation was limited to a coloring app on my phone. I have barely played any video games as of late outside the occasional Mario Kart or Switch Sports.

Polyhedral dice spread out over a map and book

            So, where to begin? Well, I suppose at the beginning, when D&D first entered my life. So that is what follows. I will go over my history with Dungeons and Dragons (and roleplaying games in general) so that you may better understand where I am coming from. Then, in a separate blog, I will go over my experience setting up the game and how our first sessions unfolded (at the time of this writing, we have already had about 4 sessions under our belts). Once I am caught up, I will attempt to update after each new session as we continue our journey through The Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure. It has been a fun ride so far.

My Brief History with D&D     

Early Awareness

I grew up in the 80s. However, I did not have any actual contact with Dungeons & Dragons at that time. My earliest memories were of the cartoon that aired on Saturday Mornings. And my brother had a game called Electronic Dungeons & Dragons. The game featured an electronic board with wall pieces and several pewter characters. The objective was to navigate the dungeon and find the dragon’s treasure without disturbing the dragon. It was neat, but that was the extent of my knowledge of the game. This was also during the time of the satanic panic and I don’t know how the full game would have been accepted in my family or among my peers. I didn’t really know much more about it at the time.

Dungeons and Dragons Computer Labyrinth Game
Dungeons and Dragons Computer Labyrinth Game

First Play

When I started high school, I started getting into deeper video games than the ones I grew up with. Among them were games like Dragon Warrior (Quest), Final Fantasy, The Legend of Zelda, and similar games. Little did I know that many of those games found roots in Dungeons and Dragons. After high school, I joined the Navy and when I was in my training school in San Diego (before the base shut down), I finally had my first chance to play the table-top game that had alluded me earlier in life.

I don’t have many memories of that first game. I don’t even think I got very far in it. But soon, I was introduced to other TTRPG’s, particularly, Vampire the Masquerade. That was an interesting variation that left the medieval fantasy setting behind for a modern horror setting. That game was expanded by a slew of other connected games, like Werewolf the Apocalypse, which came to be known as the World of Darkness (WoD). My friends and I, at one point, even set out to make our own Role-Playing Game featuring the WoD game system but in the setting of the Highlander franchise. Unfortunately, we never did complete that endeavor. But I was hooked.

Rulebook for Vampire: The Masquerade Tabletop Role-Playing Game
Vampire: The Masquerade Rulebook

After my Navy Training School, I would eventually leave my friends behind and go on to my first command, the USS Mount Whitney out of Norfolk, Virginia. I had my Magic: The Gathering card collection that I played but didn’t get back into D&D and was even introduced to a TTRPG based on comic books and superheroes. It was also at this time that I was introduced to The Elder Scrolls in the form of Daggerfall on the PC. This was like playing D&D on the computer for me and satisfied that itch.

Cover art of The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall computer game
Cover art of The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall computer game

Then I met my friends, Matt, Dave, and Mike. We played a variation of the traditional TTRPG known as Palladium: Fantasy Role-Playing Game. Some of my fondest memories came with those group of guys.

Maintaining Familiarity

 After I left the Navy, I was alone. I had a bunch of source books that I had collected over time, but no one to play them with. It was at this time that my interest in writing began. I had made several attempts at creating fantasy worlds of my own, but often got bogged down in the world building. But I became more aware of the world of Dungeons and Dragons in the process. I played the Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights games on my PC. I also got the books for 3rd edition of D&D when they were released.

After a few years, I went back into the Navy. Eventually, I would find myself on the USS Enterprise. While I never found a gaming group during that time, I did find the novels. Particularly, the novels of R.A. Salvatore. Over time, I would get familiar with the Forgotten Realms, particularly the Sword Coast and Icewind Dale. I also explored several other novels by Salvatore outside of the D&D world. While I was out of the game, I maintained a familiarity that would pull me back years later.

Covers for the first 6 books of the Legend of Drizzt series of books.
Covers for the first 6 books of the Legend of Drizzt series of books.

Back in the Game

Playing again

Around the birth of my first daughter, I decided to use my benefits from my time serving in the U.S. Navy. In particular, the Montgomery G.I. Bill. I started attending school with the objective of finally getting a degree. First, I attended Community College, then, after gaining my Associates Degree, I moved on to university. It was during that time that I started getting the itch to play D&D again.

With my daughter getting older, I was able to squeeze in some time aside to pursuit this endeavor. Utilizing modern conveniences like message boards, social media, and apps, as well as gaming store bulletin boards, I finally found a group to game with. They invited me in. They were in the midst of a game (not D&D but similar… for the life of me, I can’t remember the name) and I joined in on a couple sessions. When that completed, we looked at other options. First, one started a homebrew game of City of Mist, a superhero-based game.

Cover Art for City of Mist Tabletop Role-Playing Game
Cover Art for City of Mist Tabletop Role-Playing Game

This is where the bug really started hitting me. I created a character, an orphan technomancer, and an elaborate backstory (along with a related character, my character’s younger sister who featured heavily in his backstory). Then, the dynamics of the group began changing. Due to the group growing, it split up. That game moved to another day which I couldn’t accommodate at the time. So, I joined a game of 7th Sea, an interesting game world that covered an Age of Discovery like time period with regions that were mirrors to real Earth of that time (with magical elements). After a few sessions of that, the game fizzled out and I got the opportunity to join a D&D game.

Historically, with D&D and other fantasy RPG’s, I played a thief, rogue, or ranger class of character. However, I felt the urge to try something new. So, I went with a Sorcerer. That campaign was odd as our characters were pulled into the past during a time when the world was ruled by Dragons. It was certainly an interesting campaign and not what I was expecting. But I enjoyed it. That campaign lasted for several months and ended with a conclusion after we completed the goal. We even got a bit of an epilogue that satisfied our characters.

Life Gets in the Way

That campaign ended in early 2019. It would be my last year attending Towson University. I was taking a class that would see the genesis of my first novel in the form of a short story. Then tragedy struck. My stepmother passed away that spring. The repercussions of which affected the end of my semester. On top of that, my GI Bill ran out and after that semester, I was unable to resume school. The changes that came led to me putting aside my recreational pursuits.

My primary goal was finding a full-time job. In an effort to get my writing career going, I published my short story, The Hedge Maze, on Amazon. If anything, it was to get my name out there. With no benefits from the GI Bill coming in and a family to support, I settled with one job which I hated, then finally another job working at a hospital as a patient transporter. Little did I know what was about to happen shortly after I started that job.

The closest that I came to playing any Role-Playing Game was a game I found aimed at young children called Amazing Tales. I “ran” a game for my 7-year-old daughter, but time was a major hurdle, especially with my schedule. Still, it was a fun game and it did peak her interest. Hopefully, I’ll be able to return to it with her sometime once my schedule becomes a little more regular.

A New Opportunity Knocks

Fast forward to the present, I still work at the hospital, but in a different position. As I mentioned, I had been working on getting my novel ready for publishing and earlier this year, I started my publishing company. Between working a full-time job, writing and editing my novel, getting my company up and running (still a major work in progress), and raising two daughters (one of which is still under a year old as of the time of writing this), it has been quite a busy year.

The friends that approached are the parents of one of my oldest daughter’s friends from school. My fiancée and I would often talk to them while we were dropping off or picking up our daughter at school. We invited them over for her 6th birthday last year and even entertained them at our house a couple of times for dinner and video game fun. We’d often talk about video games and TV shows. The mother, Angie, showed interest in playing D&D after watching shows like Stranger Things. Her husband, Jeff, had played before, but it had been a really long time and he had thought he would never play again. Despite my initial hesitation, I soon was really excited with the opportunity to play.

Stranger Things Logo
Stranger Things Logo

Conclusion

As you can see, my road to this point has been long and a bit bumpy. In my next post, I will dive into prepping up for my first ever game as a Dungeon Master and take a dive into the first session. It has been a crazy experience so far and I look forward to furthering the adventure. Hopefully, you will join me for the ride. Oh, and feel free to offer reactions, insights, and suggestions as the journey continues.

Links

Dungeons & Dragons Computer Labyrinth Game | Board Game | BoardGameGeek

Vampire: The Masquerade – Wikipedia

World of Darkness – Wikipedia

Magic: The Gathering – Wikipedia

The Elder Scrolls – Wikipedia

The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall – Wikipedia

Palladium Fantasy Role-Playing Game – Wikipedia

Baldur’s Gate – Wikipedia

Neverwinter Nights – Wikipedia

N.Y. Times Bestselling Author R. A. Salvatore (rasalvatore.com)

Forgotten Realms – Wikipedia

Cinematic Modern Fantasy Tabletop RPG (TTRPG) – City of Mist

7th Sea – Chaosium Inc.

The Hedge Maze – Kindle edition by Serio, Salvatore. Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.Stranger Things – Wikipedia