The First Great D&D Adventure
I don’t think anyone in the universe prepared for a first adventure as much as I did.
I won’t lie, I was nervous about running a pack of 12-year-olds through a 5E D&D adventure. I hadn’t played this new-fangled version of the game, and being a DM (the guy who ran the game) meant I had to know my rules.
So, being me, I turned to the internet and found a great collection of YouTube videos on line that taught me the rules and gave me some advice on DMing.
Gosh, there was so much that was new, but after 2 weeks, I felt like I had a handle on most of the rules and I wasn’t shy about making it up if worse came to worse.
All I had to do was make it fun.
Well…. Not always.
Now, for those few people who have never played D&D, the basics are actually pretty simple. It’s a table-top role-playing game, played in person, with real people sitting next to you and tossing Doritos at you. To quote the designers of the game, “The core of D&D is storytelling. You and your friends tell a story together, guiding your heroes through quests for treasure, battles with deadly foes, daring rescues, courtly intrigue, and much more.”
One person ‘runs’ the game. That’s the Dungeon Master or DM.
And those are the critical words there. Have. Fun.
It’s not a game that pits one player against another like Risk. No, it’s cooperative, and that’s what can make it so much fun, but if the DM sucks or has to spend a ton of time looking stuff up, no amount of great story-telling will make it fun. It’ll be a disaster.
See, the stakes were high for me. I really wanted the boys to like D&D, to play it for years, maybe even meet their love of their life while playing, and form nerdy friendships that last forever. Heck I met my first wife, Margot, and my best friend through D&D.
I know I set a high bar for myself, but for me, I’d been known as a good DM 400 years, ago, so I wanted to keep my rep intact.
So, like I said, I prepared. (NERD WARNING!) I bought a DM screen, printed out maps, made maps on graph paper, created character backstories, researched all the character’s abilities, finished off the boys’ character sheets, made initiative cards, found pictures of the monsters and characters, made monster cards, made ‘condition’ cards, bought miniatures for each boy, painted the hell out of them, sealed them with indestructible sealant, made potions from bottles bought by my friend and fellow nerd, Sheila. I bought coins to be used as special tokens, I bought trees that could be used on the tabletop. I wrote out a world history, a local history and even, whew, a history of one of the pivotal non-player characters.
I even read through the Monster manual to find the best monsters for them to fight, read through the DM guide to find the perfect treasure rewards, and bookmarked the Player’s Handbook, so I could find things quickly.
I bought snacks, set up a table, moved all my D&D books to our new D&D rec room, set up lamps for better light, moved my painted minis to a shelf in the D&D rec room, fixed chairs that were broken, found more miniatures to use as villains, printed out pictures of all the non-player characters so the boys could put a face to a name, and found a jewelry chest that would remind players what their goal was.
Yes. I had prepared. I wanted to have a lot of visual aids because I felt the boys wouldn’t be keen on me talking for hours about a chest or the world or Buttons the halfling. I wanted them to see the battle, not just imagine it, to move their miniatures through a forest to fight the evil Blackskulls who terrorized the area. When they went to drink a potion of healing, I wanted there to be a potion that they actually drank.
After all, these boys were coming from Fortnite, GTA or Assassin’s Creed. They had been brought up on visuals so I needed to make it as visual as possible. Heck, if I could have programmed holographic maps with 3D characters, I would have done so.
But after two weeks of preparation, would it all pay off? Had I been overthinking this? (not that I ever do that.) Would the boys have fun? Would they become life-long players?
Well, at the risk of creating a spoiler, let me just say that, as if typical when you design and run an adventure, nothing quite goes as planned.
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