Calling All Dungeon Masters (not a sex thread)

I am currently running a third edition Dungeons and Dragons campaign. In it, the PCs have joined a Thieves’ Guild in a large city and are running missions for the guild.

This is the first campaign I have ever run, and I am pretty much making up all the adventures and everything from scratch. What I’m looking for from you is:

  1. Guide to good online (or computer-based) tools for DMs to make adventure prep easier. I’m currently getting a lot of mileage out of the NPC generator located here.

  2. General DM tips, but I’ve been gaming for 20 years now, so I know a lot of the usual ones.

  3. Feedback/critique of what I’ve got. You can see the page I have for the campaign here:

There’s a “Behind the Scenes” part where I’m putting DM stuff. It’s password protected. Now I know at least ONE of my players occasionally reads this board, so if you are he or another player, you only hurt yourself by spoiling it and looking at the secret page!

The username/password for the page is: poobah/gizmo

Any feedback is welcome. Thanks!

I have links to some good DM tools on my homepage. Irony Games makes a good random map-maker, HeroMachine allows you to make character portraits, and the other links lead to vast amounts of information that could be used as a basis for adventures.

For 3rd edition, I limit myself to Neverwinter Nights- it takes a lot of DM headaches away, but replaces them with others. Still, it’s worth having a game where you don’t have to stop everything to discuss the limitations of a light spell.

Concerning Parathelian’s archery…it should be possible to do subdual damage with arrows, provided he uses fowling blunts. A fowling blunt is typically an arrow with a small metal ball on the end, intended for knocking down birds that a regular arrow would destroy. They would bruise a human, and hurt a lot, but it would be hard to kill someone with one. Suggested critical hit results:

“Ouch. Caught him in the temple with that one, and he dropped like a bag of rocks.”
“Ooh. Gut shot. Let’s try to guess what he had for lunch.”
“OK, he’s on the floor, making little ‘eep’ noises.”

However, if you want to make this option available, I would suggest just mentioning that Pardue has just gotten some blunts. He’s trying to get noticed by the wealthy hunting set. Let the player figure out that he can use them this way. (Maybe give him a few hints if he checked his brain at the door.)

Overall, it looks pretty good so far, particularly for a first effort at a campaign. The intersecting plotlines are nice, but don’t fall into the trap of making everything significant. Your red herring half-orc is a good start, but a little too extreme to do often. When I run a campaign, I make sure that the PCs find a steady supply of unimportant things so that they don’t go nuts making notes about every little thing they see. People carry all sorts of nonsensical things with them all the time. A guard may have a half-finished letter to his mother in his pocket. A goblin carries a vial of powdered mica because he thinks it’s pretty, and he calls it “fairy dust”. Things like that.

BTW, the “fairy dust” bit remained a running gag in one of my campaigns for ages–the PCs sprinkled it on everything, trying to find out what it did.

Outstanding. That’s some fun gaming you’ve got there; lots of neat little non-lethal stuff going on, make them use their skills.

Thanks for giving me some ideas for my next campaign!

For archery, you can also have trick arrows:

frog cutter arrows have U-shaped heads, with the inside edge sharped, and they fly points-forward. Used to cut ropes, like in the Guild test scenario (i.e., instead of having him shoot the dwarf, he could have taken out the bell pull).

There could also be whistling arrows to distract guards, tricky ones that don’t start whistling until a couple seconds after you fire them.

My 13 year old son just started up his 1st dungeon. Think they just got started after rolling characters.

I’ll check in on this thread to see what I can give him, but not being a gamer myself, so much of it is over my head.

Looks like you have a good set up and know what your doing. The table idea was really good. I miss playing :frowning:

Say, what’s the armour class bonus of a level 6 dwarf with an 09 dexterity using a purple tower shield in a subzone?

I always forget that one.

It has a plot generator, name generator and some cool fonts.

I can’t help you with regard to online gaming tools. When I run it’s all old school paper and pencil stuff. I would recomment getting the CD that has all the old Dragon stuff on it. Tons and tons of info in that!
As for tips, if you’ve been gaming for 20 years (as have I) then you probably have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t. What I like to do is mix sessions between skill/puzzle based and combat based ones. Different players like different things. I don’t plan as far ahead as you do, since my bunch of gamers seem to be stuck in Maximum Entropy mode. I have a general plotline, important NPCs and their roles in the plotline, and wing it from there. The fun part for me is in gauging what the players do vs. how the NPCs (almost always more powerful than the PCs) view their actions. Hope this helps! Looks like you’ve got a bunch of very good ideas. See which ones the players follow up on and save the rest for later.

I, too am impressed. Your game looks like a lot of fun. Neat ideas, too.

Balance, thanks a LOT for the fowling blunts idea. I didn’t know about those, and that will help a ton. I’m thinking they’d do 1d4 subdual damage and cost a touch more than normal arrows.

Thanks for the kind words, everyone, and the links. Good to know that I seem to be on the right track!

Legomancer, I just realized there are plenty of ways I’m sure the arrows could be modified for numerous non-lethal effects that could help out a lot.

Arrows tipped with “scentbreakers” for getaways.

Alchamists’ fire beakers.


Numerous powders such as sneezing powder and magic powders for interesting and useful effects.

Hell, tip a strong arrow with universal glue and you don’t even need a grappler to climb walls, etc. Or to make a ladder up a wall from a distance. Should be strong enough to support the halfling if not the elf.

There are one or two things I used to do to spice up a campaign.

[li]Different climates. Try putting you campaign in an arctic environment, instead of “the woods”. Or a vast swampland, traversed by poleing a punt. Or the desert. The adventurers will quickly learn to plan ahead.[/li][li]Try a Naval campaign. A fishing boat or a yacht can be a big assest for a group. It’s transportation, home, shelter, a place to keep their stuff, & a big fat money trap to blow their cash on maintaining. As a DM, it’s good for you, too. If you are using modules, you can take you group to widely different lands, just by sailing them from one island to another.[/li][li]Create a pantheon. Don’t just stick to Dieties & Demigods. This can give your Clerics something to do. Like religious warfare.[/li][li]War! Huh! What is it good for? Absolutely NOTHIN! Except your campaign. Have the war start when you group is out in the field. Imagine their suprise when they get back from weeks in the wilderness, only to find that the city has been sacked & looted. Or have them meet an advancing army, & let them play “Paul Revere”. Or draft them.[/li][li]Natural disasters. Hurricanes can make a simple orc hunt into something to be remembered. Forest fires? Obvious applications. Helping people escape the erupting volcano, or escape it themselves, is gonna be a challenge. And an earthquake? If you send one of those when they are underground in a dungeon, they’re gonna wish you’d sent a Dragon![/li][/list=1]

I love the “Bags on heads” shtick, I have to steal that one. And the theives’ test was great stuff. I also like the lower level adventurer’s group.

Afraid I can’t give much advice. The only thing I can think of is that you should name your Inn’s. Makes them easier to refer to, rather than “that one with the guy in it.”

I think Green Slime might have been reclassified as a disease, but I’m not sure…

BTW, if you want me to butt out and start my own thread, that’s fine. But, here’s my current campaign:
I’ll also take any advice the SDMBDM’s can give. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to password protect the dmpage, so there’s a lot of behind the scenes stuff that’s not up there, and I haven’t put the character backgrounds up yet. But, enjoy…

Excellent suggestion!

A ship also keeps a party together (mostly) and stops them scattering like a herd of cats, an advantage that cannot be underestimated IMO.

And of course ship combat rules will be out soon with the Equipment Guide due out in a couple months.
I’m dying to get that book.

Just remember that “Oops, you’re shipwrecked on an island, and this adventure is the only way back home.” is one of the biggest cliches in the book. :slight_smile:

Gee, skipper do you think the professor can figure ot how to stop that red dragon?

Speaking as someone who (ran a character who) recently had to fight a young red dragon from a tossing ship, that so ain’t funny. :slight_smile:

(Darn thing snapped our fighter’s arm off before dieing and sinking into the ocean with the arm in its mouth. I had to polymorph into a shark to go get it.)

I’ve recommended it elsewhere, but definitely check out In addition to the great messageboards (more immature than here, but still chock full of good ideas for DMs), there’s several pages with links to electronic gaming aids. Especially look for Jamis Buck’s line of generators: they’re a lifesaver in preparing 3E material.

You may also want to check out the Rat Bastard Home for Orphaned Children. It’s a site dedicated to twisty, strange, cliche-flipping plotlines, and it has an ongoing Iron DM tournament with some fun ideas in it. (I’m Pielorinho over there; my entries in the tournament start off strong and get weaker and weaker, alas).

My big DM tip is this: talk to your players, find out what kind of game they want, and cater to each player as much as you can. If one player wants a story-driven game, one wants lots of tactical combat, and a third wants to roleplay, roleplay, roleplay, you’ve got a juggling job – but you can gear plotlines around PC #1, design tricky combats in which PC #2 can excel, and create fun NPCs for PC #3 to interact with. And you may find yourself fudging the rules in favor of #1 and #3, butyou probably shouldn’t fudge in favor of #2.

For story ideas, you could definitely do worse than checking out the Story Hour Forum over there. If you’ve got some free time, read Piratecat’s ongoing story hour: it’s very well written, and he’s an award-winning DM, for obvious reasons. God, how I want to play in his game.

Dinsdale, you may also want to point your 13-year-old son toward The moderators there have an “Eric’s Grandma” rule: anything that would embarrass Eric’s Grandmother (foul language, hate speech, etc.) is verboten, and they enforce it pretty strictly. It’s very kid-friendly, as long as the kid is a big ol’ dork like me.