I'm going to be running the D&D 5th campaign "Hoard of the dragon queen", and I'm relatively new to DMing. Playing a preconstructed campaign will make this easier, because the story hooks should be good, but I'm still very concerned with players running off in 'the opposite direction' or 'wandering aimlessly' or something else that takes them at least marginally outside the scope of the campaign. A few of the players a very familiar with forgotten realms, esp. the relative locations of important cities, etc. How do you reign players in and keep them on track without being as dramatic as "Rocks falls on the party and everyone dies" nor as boring as "You've continued walking, for the 500th day and STILL found nothing".
Also generic DM/GM advice welcome.
I'm running my players through HotDQ right now, and the best thing to do is roll with it if they get off track, but find a way to bring it back in through story.
Example: in the chapter after they rescue Leosin, he asks them to double back to the camp and get information regarding the cave's contents. Upon arriving and seeing the only people there (aside from the mercenary hunters) that would recognize them and destroy them completely, they decide to fuck off in the other direction and find something else to do.
Ok, well they run into the hunters as they are heading out to collect game to eat for the camp's remaining guards. The PC's stop them, recognizing them from earlier, and probe a bit, trying to learn about the camp cave.
They wind up challenging the hunters to a game of hunting, where our ranger was pit against their best hunter, and the reward for winning was information, the mercs not really caring about the camp's security.
As the hunt progressed, with the party and hunters waiting outside a forest as the competitors hunted deer for points, it turned out that the hunters had secretly recognized the PCs from a previous adventure and began to attack the party on 2 fronts when they let their guard down. Now, the ranger is running around in the forest in a 1 on 1 deathmatch against someone with his own skills, and the remaining party members get a fun fight instead of sitting around waiting.
Theu eliminate the hunters down to 1, and when the ranger returns, they all get the information out of their prisoner before letting him loose and heading back to Greenest.
Did they follow the premade campaign? No.
Did it work out in the same way? Yes.
Adapt and move on, but don't railroad for the sake of the book.
Wow thanks anon, this is exactly the sort of advice I was looking for. If anyone feels like posting similar examples I would appreciate it. Do you find that cheatsheets & note cards are helpful in this regard?
And yes, cheat sheets and note cards are a must. I like to have my players fold an index card in front of their seat that has their name, AC, and total/current HP displayed. This way everyone can see, less question asking, generally smoother play.
Also, even though it's a premade campaign, ensure you read through it fully before playing a chapter so you are prepared for scenarios as I described above.
It doesn't hurt to figure out which combat encounters are going to happen, and write them all down in a way where when the fight starts you can just pull the sheet out and roll as opposed to taking time to make a sheet with initiatives, enemey AC/HP, all that stuff.
Yeah, like anon said, the best way to adapt to players doing crazy shit is to LET them.
For instance, during our episode 1, when the dragon attacked, the players also got their first glimpse at the woman in purple on the hill. Well, they decided that the dragon was being controlled by this "Dragon-lady" (they were making a ton of assumptions and not asking any questions), they actually left the castle and spent an hour sneaking up behind Mondath and attacked her. I made a mistake and only put so many guards/cultists around her, thinking she would be stronger than she is. Thanks to clever tactics and kiting/archery, and a few good saving throws, they managed to capture her. The dragon totally wrecked the castle and Nighthill wasn't happy about that, but he was more happy that they had a leader in their grasp now.
Players will do stupid shit, but it's possible to continue the story, and you should let it happen. Them capturing Mondath got them less quest and rewards from the chapter, but the town was still thankful, and they managed to charm her into giving them all the information they could want. This is the stronger suit of D&D, and changing the story based on character actions is a major reason why you play this instead of something like Dragon Age where the choices barely matter, if at all.
Put at least 10 Guards around her and some ambush/guard drakes.
>D&D 5th campaign "Hoard of the dragon queen"
How do these campaigns 'work'?
I mean, if everything is predetermined, won't the players already know what is coming up?
What role does a gm play in a pre-made adventure?
None of the party members have read the campaign material. AFAIK this material is brand new, so someone would have to look explicitly for it, which is self-defeating in this case.
No, the DM should be the only one who reads the book. If the players do, they cheat themselves out of the experience.
And the DM plays the exact same role as if he himself had written the campaign. Storyteller/Moderator/Referee.
Adventurer's League. Basically official play. Wizards sends out little adventures that people can play in to certain stores, and they usually play on Wednesday nights. Anyone can come in, and there's a few extra rules, along with the ability to join factions, which will eventually get in-game benefits.
You basically make a character, but also have a record sheet and get assigned a DCI number. With that record sheet, you can take that League character to basically any League table and collect XP and Gold from any session, along with rare magic items.
You can also take them into official convention play.
Op here, I had fun with it (I hope the spoiler tags work on /tg/)
The first session almost two hours was dedicated to creating characters, despite 4 players handbooks between us.
Our party started in a tavern, where we had all been setup to meet a faction agent for various reasons. Since the majority of the party chose harper, it was a harper agent or at least acted /appeared to be one. He came to us with a request. They had intercepted a courier, who was going to pick up a black market red dragon egg. He needed one of our party, who just happened to look like the courier, to go and stand in to retrieve this egg. We got out there and managed to deceive our way past the she elf to make a trade, AND plant a marker on the courier. We traded her 'fake' diamonds for the egg.
Something was up, because a half orc ambushed us on the way back for the egg. We managed to defeat him, and make it back to the tavern where the harper agent was waiting. Upon examining the egg, he told us in not so many words that we had been duped and this was no dragon egg at all. Ofc he was walking away and so we couldn't ask him what it actually was. Made me regret not demanding a inspection check of the egg, but the trade with the elf almost went south anyway.
Overall I had fun.
Before you run it, be forewarned Hoard of the Dragon Queen has no encounters in it medium or lower. They're all Hard or Deadly if you work out the encounter math.
A healer is a must. I'm dead serious about this. Get two if you got them, there's plenty of ways to get it, feats, class abilities, spells, etc.
I have nothing but respect for you DMs. Just thinking about DMing gives me a headache.
Have a legendary Nugget.
Hm... you should do alright, but don't be afraid to throw them a hireling opportunity or two to get a real fighter mixed in there. Maybe a guard captain from Greenest or something.
IMPORTANT: familiarize yourself with what a DMPC should and should not be.
Yeah, just keep in mind that this is a stand in temp character, not an instrument for you to play the campaign. Keep his/her actions basic, and don't let him/her solve all of the problems. Remember that your players are the stars of the show.
DMPC != a hireling NPC
1. be of lower level than the party when possible, and unless they do a boat load of the work, should only get %50 of the XP earned (they count for a half share, so having one around detracts from the party total)
2. have their own goals and motivations. A hireling is someone who is paid, and hirelings should never risk their lives in the line of adventure. As such, they should stay out of dungeons, and stay back in fights. NPCs who are meant to be part of the battle (like a soldier when the party needs extra fighting soldiers) should do their specific job. They should never solve entire encounters on their own.
3. never adventure with the party longer than their goals are required, UNLESS the players themselves really like the NPC and want him around as the Party Pet.
4. have his own personality and a VERY humble story. Pick out some adjectives for his personality when he converses with players, and his story is NEVER more important than the PCs.
DMPCs are basically player characters run BY the DM, and are usually a bad idea unless they REALLY need a cleric or wizard with them, and should otherwise follow the rules above.
Fun things to do with NPCs:
1. Have them do stupid shit in dungeons or encounters. Like walking them forward into a dangerous area with traps without them bothering to look for them. Why do unskilled nobodies know the dangers of traps and ambushes, after all? (don't do this too much, or the players will quickly lose motivation to save that NPC and just let him die)
2. Have them insult the characters when they fail their rolls. Or become impressed when they roll really well.
3. Have them find items and doors players missed. It's a good way to make sure the adventure doesn't get stuck cause everyone rolled badly, and it also endears the players to someone for being useful.
Short of it is, they are a DM, PC.
As opposed to an NPC that's assisting the party.
The major difference is who's in the spotlight. If the DMPC is hogging most of the narrative, and completing most of the challenges himself, then it's not really you playing with your players, it's you playing with yourself.
And you really shouldn't play with yourself when others are in the room, it's kind of rude.
Some people might be okay to just watch and enjoy it vicariously, but most will either be mad they're not part of the action, or get disgusted with your antics and leave.
Short of it is, don't jerk off, literally or metaphorically, at the table.