I am about to embark on a new journey with my players. One campaign is coming to a close and we now get ready for a new campaign. For the first time in a long time I’m running with a pre-written adventure path. And what better way to learn about being a Game Master ( or Dungeon Master) than to learn from someone else’s experience? Much akin to the great DM Experience by the amazing Chris Perkins I would like to share my own experiences with you all. From before the adventure starts, all the way to the adventure’s end and beyond. This is not my first adventure with most of the group, but we do have one new-comer to the group and the game as well. It will be a learning experience for the lot of us. So, here it is, my first Epic Experience… Getting ready.
I called our last campaign to an end a bit early. Everyone knew my plan for a new campaign was coming around the end of summer. With my first kid now four months old, work, and just needing a bit more personal time; running my own campaign set in the Magic: The Gathering multiverse was just proving to tasking on me. So I began looking at other options. I knew I wanted to run an open seas adventure, pirate themed. We have been playing Pathfinder for quite some time. Personally, I’m looking forward to putting D&D 5e to the test. But, that would once again require additional work on my part, something I just don’t have enough time for. So I was able to narrow my search down.
I wanted; pirates, pathfinder, pre-written adventure. Maps were a huge bonus if I could import them into roll20 with ease.
I stumbled upon the Pathfinder Adventure Path: Skulls & Shackles. (I’ve only linked the player’s guide because the Skulls & Shackles page leaks out spoilers that I think are best avoided if you’re interested in the story or are one of my players! I’M WATCHING YOU PLAYERS!)
I had looked at a couple of these already. So I glanced over the story, it all seemed great. Checked out the web supplement and found out that, not only could I import the maps, I could import them without the secret GM markings on them! No photoshopping needed!
So, there I was, several months ago. I read through the entire series, loved it all the way through. Then I began to study it, figure out how my players were likely to go about things, what they’d find super fun and wouldn’t. It hit me, they’d find the entire thing fun. So I announced I was planning a pirate themed campaign to get them excited.
To be prepared I re-read it all a couple of times over, picking out characters, adding my own, making minor and sometimes large changes. Just because I am using a pre-written campaign, doesn’t mean I don’t have creative freedom!
I got pretty sick last week, causing us to miss a session of the last campaign. On top of this I realized I wouldn’t be able to draw any story conclusions to the characters. To me, this is a failure on my part. I am not sure what I could have done differently. As a new parent, I think I just bit off more than I could chew, and now some of it goes to waste.
Over the weekend, I gave my players the Skulls & Shackles Player’s Guide and the rules for character creation. Some of them were excited enough that they went ahead and picked up the Inner Sea Guide just to get touched up on the story, impressive. I told them we’d end the current campaign with a bang. Fast forwarded some time, let them go max level and max mythic; and just gonna send them to their doom. This allows me a bit more prep time for the new campaign, and some high fantasy excitement for my players.
We’re moving our adventure to a new night in the week, one that allows the newest player; and good friend of mine, into the game. Saturday nights, it will be interesting to see how it goes, I’m glad I always get to rest in a bit on Sunday! This is already a rather lengthy article but I want to share a bit more detail on what I’m doing and have done to prepare.
- The new player, they’ve had experience with online MMOs. They understand the stats of a role playing game, and I ran a single Dungeon World game for them and some friends. So they get the core foundation of role playing via table top (virtually in our case). But, pathfinder is a daunting system to any new player. So, I worked with them one on one for character creation, explaining each choice along the way and how it could affect their time playing the game.
- My wife also wants to play, but our newborn doesn’t exactly want us to not pay attention to him. So I’ve made sure she has a mobile set up to play and be able to have the both of us bounce back and forth as needed. With a kid, mobility is key!!!
- I am reading over the first part of the adventure path again. Granted I’ve read the entire thing front to back several times, it’s not memorized in detail. I feel like, as I move on to a new part, and after each session; I need to read over what comes next and what has happened. Typically I write what’s coming next, I have an overall plot in mind, and I also write any notes of stuff that has happened. My existing players are very used to me GMing very fluidly. In most recent cases I’ve gone in with little to no writing ahead of time. With them so used to me in “Wing it” mode, I have to be sure that this pre-written adventure feels very fluid.
- The players have gotten a separate and smaller guide written by me. It includes my requirements for starting characters. It lets them know that they are likely to start without most of their belongings. It also gives them several tips about the future of their characters, what type of spells may be useful, what sort of skills they should invest in. Too many times have I had a player make a character they love, and it turns out to be terrible for the campaign.
- Finally, I’ve given them all a specific time and date, several weeks in advance, to make sure they are fully prepared and excited for a new adventurer.
I look forward to writing more of these as the adventure gets underway! Till then, look forward to the next article here at Epic Heroes Online! ~Vexar