D&D or Nothing- Episode 1 or How to start a D&D Adventure

By Jeremiah Gagnon

Join us for the first episode of our Dungeons & Dragons podcast: D&D or Nothing!

Greetings and Welcome, the road is dangerous, allow me to be your guide…

Our story begins in the small farming village known as San-Torrekk. The party finds themselves inside the inn known as The Smelly Bard which used to be a front for an illegal fight club. They hear stories told over food and drink about a party of three strangers who saved all of the missing people a couple years ago.

One of the party members named Buffy, asked the others to search for vampires and, a being she calls The Master, one of pure evil, and try to reverse the vampirism of her friend Kendra who is a fellow Slayer who had been turned into a vampire. Buffy, Astra, and Krongle Bang, decided that the best course of action was to head east to start their search after learning about possible vampire activity in some place called Barovia.

While they marched the forest seemingly changed around them. The birds faded, the leaves on the trees changed from a deep green to a dead brown and then they were gone as mist overtook them. Not much later the fog receded to tree line next to the path and lingered there the forest looking more, and more dead. The gravel road leads them to a village, its tall houses dark as tombstones. Hearing a soft whimpering they eyed a pair of children standing in the otherwise lifeless street. The children’s parents had trapped a monster in the basement and fearing the worst they ran outside leaving their baby brother behind. They asked the group if they would rescue their baby brother. Wasting no time they head up stairs all the way to the third floor, the entire time hearing the cries of a baby always up and ahead of them.

When they first entered they saw the ghost form of the nursemaid as well as the crib. Buffy went over to the crib and picked up the swaddled cloth wrapped in the form of a baby. Astra, one of the other party members cautious about the bundle being a real baby, proceeds to poke the bundle with her sword only for it to deflate as if pressurized. The ghost nursemaid is there no longer. Looking around, Astra noticed a pair of eyes on a portrait hanging on the wall across from them. Poking the portrait with her sword, she found that it passed through farther than should be allowed if a wall was behind the painting. She opened the door and they walked up stairs and entered into the attic…

Last week in the Dungeons and Dragons we were given a servey on the newest “Unearth Arcana”, it is all about Feats for D&D 5e. Three notable feats are,

Gunner, if your DM allows it and you are a fan of guns in D&D then you will love this feat. Basically it makes you faster, you don’t have to worry about reloading and you no longer suffer disadvantage on point blank shots. “Oh what fun that will be for DMs everywhere.”

Piercer, you gain an increase to your STR or DEX by 1. Once per turn you can reroll one of your attack’s damage dice and you must take the new number, and when you score a critical hit that deals piercing damage, you can reroll one additional   damage die when determining the extra piercing damage.

Slasher, similar to Piercer with an increase to your STR or DEX by 1, you can also decrease the speed of the target by 10ft on slashing damage, and when you score a critical hit dealing slashing damage, you grievously wound them and until the start of YOUR NEXT TURN the target has disadvantage on ALL attack rolls.

These are feats I would absolutely play test as a DM with some of the more important NPCs and as Player, I would ask my DM to allow me to try these out. Always ask your DM before using any homebrew, even the official homebrew.

There is a new episode of “Dragon Talk” has recently released, they speak on “Mythic Odysseys of Theros” which if you for some reason aren’t aware of, is the newest release from Wizards of the Coast. There is a review of that book coming soon.

“Legends walk the lands of Theros, a realm shaped by deities and the deeds of heroes. From the temples of omen-speaking oracles to the five realms of the Underworld, the champions of the gods vie for immortal favor and a place among the world’s living myths. Choose a supernatural gift that sets you on the path of destiny, align yourself with one of Theros’s fifteen gods, then carve a tale of odysseys and ordeals across the domains of mortals, gods, and the dead. What legends will you challenge—mighty heroes, inevitable prophecies, or titans imprisoned by the gods? Where will destiny and immortal schemes lead you? And what tales will you leave behind, celebrated in the pantheon of myths and writ among the eternal stars? Set the stage for a mythic game. Play as new races, such as Leonin and Satyr, explore new subclasses fit for heroes’ tales,    including the College of Eloquence and the Oath of Glory. Wield god-weapons that set your character apart from common mortals. Embrace your supernatural gifts which give characters an ability score increase. Encounter mythic creatures whose power and renown make them fit to challenge the gods.

The newest edition of Dragon+, an online magazine on D&D created by Wizards is out. Some personal highlights include an article about the next D&D storyline set in the snowy northern regions of the Forgotten Realms, it’s called “Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden”.

The newest book by R.A. Salvatore called Relentless has gone on pre-order, they also released a stat block for one of the characters in the story.

If you would like to help out the young adventurere in your life to know Beasts and Behemoths better then you will love the article on the newest addition to the Young Adventurer’s Guides.

Are you wanting more content to try out? Well you will love the newest of the play test material feature subclasses for the rogue, warlock and wizard. The subclasses are as follows, Rogue – Phantom, you are essentially a stealthy Ghost Whisperer. Warlock – The Genie, you basically become Genie from Aladdin but not lesser. Wizard – Order of Scribes, basically your spell book becomes your friend and fights with you. I have never wanted to play a Wizard more than I do now.

Also they have launched a new dice set so all you dice goblins will be excited to get your hands on.

Are you looking for more encounters? Let’s face it; if you are like me then you are always looking to add more content to spice up your games to bring new excitement for your players. You are going to really enjoy this new chilling encounter “Shelter from the Storm. It is the fifth encounter in a series to help get you ready for the new “Icewind Dale: Rime of Frostmaiden” which is to be released later this year.

What not to do when you DM for the first time.

Let’s go back in time about 4-5 years all the way to 2016. In a factory building, sitting on a small table is a 20 year old     male with an open binder working on a hand drawn map with RPG notes scattered on the surface of the table and even on a nearby chair. His imagination running wild about this world he created and the adventures the players would go on in the coming weekend, ignoring passersby he doodles on, he is about to GM for the first time. A couple days later he is standing at the head of a table, sweat dripping down his forehead, his heart beating loudly hitting his chest like the kick of a shotgun. His thoughts that once held visions of grizzled adventurers destroying hordes of undead have been replaced with words such as “failure, not good enough, I don’t what I’m doing, how do I even play this game, they will laugh at me and shame me for thinking I could do it”. A forced smile on his face as someone asks a question he is unable to answer effectively. It didn’t help that the book had overcomplicated rules.

Like a sloth, the hours crawled by until finally everyone had their characters created and were raring to go. “You start off in the town called San-Torrekk. A female run mafia called “The Ohana’s” controls the town. As you walk to the town the leader and her body guard approach to meet you.” the GM narrates “Cool, I shoot her.” one player says “Y you d do what!?” GM stutters “I shoot the leader of the mafia in the head *rolls* 16?” he asks. At this point the GM’s eye’s grow wide, his eyebrows shoot up and his mouth hits the floor. ‘They just killed off someone important and I don’t know how to handle this, my improv skills have failed me’ he thinks as tears start to trace the sides of his face, eyes still wide open from shock. The next moment he falls backwards onto a pile of clothes and blankets. The entire table laughs at his expense continuing to justify their actions, all the while the GM is having a mental break down. The GM recovers several minutes later and carries on as best as he can. The session doesn’t last much longer since character creation took a few hours and they only had one book. Not wanting this to be the end of it, the GM shakes it off the best he can and prepares for the next session later that week.

This was a true story as best as I can remember it about my very first experience being a GM.

What did I do right and what did I do wrong?

Let’s break it down. Starting with what I did wrong. Firstly, the hours during character creation leading up to play were spent doubting myself and thinking negatively. Our thoughts have an impact on how we do things, the impact may not be very big but our thoughts will always have some kind of effect on us. It’s not fun to do much of anything when you are in a negative mindset and things feel more like work than fun. D&D is supposed to be fun and if you aren’t enjoying what you’re doing then it’s not very fun.

Secondly, the moment something went off in a direction than I had prepared for, I froze and lost it. The character they killed was only important to that town, she was a leader of a mafia, she wasn’t important to the overall story, and however I had not expected them to go murder hobo and especially right in the beginning. If you haven’t experienced anything like your players doing something completely out of left field, then just wait because it is only a matter of time. The question is, what will you do? Will you stand your ground and improv or will you follow in my shoes and (quite literally) fall under the pressure?

If you ask me, improv is as important to playing D&D as being prepared is. The topic of improv is a whole other episode, the basics of improv are “Yes and…” if you as a DM (or even a player) are able to improv believably then no one will ever be able to know if you were prepared for that completely off the wall encounter or not. It is important to be able to think on the fly, it is even better if what you improv makes sense to the story and/or what is going on at that moment in game.

Now, what I did right.

Firstly, I took every available opportunity to write in my RPG notes, I would world build every free moment I had. I have even brought my notes to work with me to get more done. I’ve been a huge nerd throughout my life and I take pride in being labeled a “geek/nerd/dork” so it never bothered me when someone would come up and start asking me questions or tease me about D&D in public. When you are passionate about something people respect that. I was also thinking about it constantly, I watched as many YouTube videos as I could find and as many podcasts I could listen to. This is something I still do to this day and it has yet to fail me.   Secondly, despite the train wreck of a first session I didn’t let it stop me from being a DM. In fact it made me improve. Granted having to go through it sucked and I wouldn’t do it the same way again if I had a choice. I learned harder, I started to write contingencies based off the different outcomes I could foresee. That first session has taught me a lot. Any session you play in whether as a Dungeon Master or a player has the possibility to go horribly wrong. What matters is how you handle the situation when it arises. The better you are at rolling with the punches the better your sessions you will have, and the smoother they will be. That being said, if you’re players do something and you have no idear how to possibly recover from it, it is perfectly acceptable to tell your players that you need a few minutes to figure things out. If they care about having a good time and are understanding that you may not have all the answers right away then they will be okay with it. Just don’t do it too often

Now there are ways to disguise the need for time. You can distract them with a random combat encounter while you pour over your notes. You can have the party get to know each other one night over the campfire. Often those moments where they players are able to have more leeway in the game can result in the most memorable moments. Having recourses to draw from will help out tremendously for this. We will discuss more on Dungeon Master Recourses in a future episode.

If you have any questions about what being a Dungeon Master is like, how to prepare, how to act, how to play, how to create stories, or anything Tabletop Role Playing Game related, I would love to offer any lessons I’ve learned over the course of my short time and continued experience of running Dungeons and Dragons games consistently this past year that continues to this day.

Take this inspiration. You will need it for the road ahead.

Referenced Links:

https://dnd.wizards.com/latest-news

https://dnd.wizards.com/articles/unearthed-arcana/survey-feats

https://dnd.wizards.com/articles/features/dratalk-jack-emmert

https://dnd.wizards.com/content/dragon

https://www.dndbeyond.com/

https://www.dndbeyond.com/marketplace/sourcebooks/mythic-odysseys-of-theros

https://www.dndbeyond.com/marketplace/digital-dice/archmages-favor

Jeremiah Gagnon is a happy-go-lucky goofball of a guy with a passion for all things Superheroes and Comic Books. He is also a Dungeon Master for an on-going Dungeons and Dragons game. Gagnon is an amateur Magician as well. He currently lives in Milwaukie, Oregon. You can follow him on Facebook, YouTube at PressXForAwesome, Instagram @unicyclezombie, and Soundcloud.

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