Having Trouble As A DM

Allistar1801

Villager
I'm a new DM who has only run one homebrew campaign before. It worked out pretty well and now we have a few legacies around the table and I was super proud. Later on though one of my players had to leave for about 7 months. Upon their return I decided I would dm again and they asked if I could do a pirate themed campaign. I said sure, but I'm not sure how well it's gonna go.

Anyways, we've been playing for 4 sessions 2 of which were improvised and 2 of which one of my players told me last minute that they couldn't make it. So far they've found a job, set sail, found and saved shipwreck survivors, defended themselves from a few sahaugans who tried to capsize the ship by using grappling hooks and tying giant boulders to them, and currently they're going through the sahaugans lair where I plan on putting them up against a few sahaugans and a sea hag that I'll probably give a few spells. My group seems like they're enjoying it, but I as a DM I feel like I'm not doing my best and I feel like like I just dont have any direction and none of my encounters have impact. I realize the point of a pirate campeign is that the enjoyment comes from exploration, and adventure but I'm coming up blank...

Anyone have any ideas of where I can go from here?

Edit: Thank y'all so much for each of your responses, you've shown me so many awesome things and given me so much inspiration!
 
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aco175

Explorer
There was some Dungeon modules in 3e where the PCs sailed from the mainland to the Isle of Dread. Several adventures were had in town and in Pirates Cove up the coast from the main city. Sailing to the Isle had several encounters, including getting stuck in a Saguaro Sea and had to journey to the center to defeat the undead living there in order to free their ship.

Eventually the PCs are going to want their own ship to operate. This means that you will need a lot of NPCs to operate the ship. These all can provide adventure and opportunity. Some may be fleeing something like a drunken father or an arranged marriage. Others want revenge on something maybe even another ship mate or PC. One may have a treasure map tattooed on his back or thinks it is hidden on the ship.

You can introduce a BBEG that the PCs encounter in town and make an enemy of. This can be a recurring threat until they travel to his lost island and finally deal with him.
 

aco175

Explorer
I also see you are new to the boards, most everyone here is well meaning and try to help. Have some XP to get started.
 

KenNYC

Explorer
I think you need The Isle Of Dread. That was module X1 in Basic D&D but Goodman Games I think recently transposed it to 5e and turned it into a huge book. I would go to that immediately if I were you. If you don't want to spend all that money just read the original first and decide what you think of the subject matter.
 

KenNYC

Explorer
Another thought just came to me. This was an actual product back in 2e

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I haven't read it, but this might offer some inspiration or actual adventures.
 

GlassJaw

Explorer
See if you can track down some of the the Freeport setting material from Green Ronin. It was originally for 3ed but a lot of the material is system-agnostic. It's one of my favorite settings for any system. It has a TON of flavor and oozing with ideas.

The setting was introduced with a module trilogy (Death, Terror, and Madness in Freeport). That's always a good place to start.
 

Allistar1801

Villager
Thanks for the recommendations, I'll definatly give it a look!

What I had been thinking before was while the party was off dealing with this hag, something would happen to their ship and the capitan (an elderly dwarf) would have either gone missing or gotten injured and once they got to the city that they were making their shipment to, the capitan would give them rights to the ship/ they would quest around a bit and buy it off of him. Main thing being, how fast should this happen and around what should I have them do once they get to that point?

In regards to the BBEG what do you think would make a good candidate? The party is level 3 and consists of 2 fighters, one is triton noble/cavalier who rides what is basically a reef shark with legs, the other is a bugbear mercenary who I think is going brute from UA, a Triton druid of the Shepard who has some ties to the elemental plane of ice and also a tiny elemental crab friend, and an arcane trickster rogue. I could do the tried and true kraken priests, but I want to spice it up a bit more than that.
 

The Big BZ

Explorer
Tomb of Annhilation set in Chult in the Forgotten Realms has a lot of cool coastal/piratey stuff in it including a ready made Port (Port Nyanzaru) which happens to be the best location yet made for 5e in my opinion! Could have a look there!
 

ad_hoc

Adventurer
Run published adventures.

It's much easier and you will learn a lot.

You can always put work in to modify, add, and remove bits to your liking.
 
I'm a new DM who has only run one homebrew campaign before. It worked out pretty well and now we have a few legacies around the table and I was super proud. Later on though one of my players had to leave for about 7 months. Upon their return I decided I would dm again and they asked if I could do a pirate themed campaign. I said sure, but I'm not sure how well it's gonna go.

Anyways, we've been playing for 4 sessions 2 of which were improvised and 2 of which one of my players told me last minute that they couldn't make it. So far they've found a job, set sail, found and saved shipwreck survivors, defended themselves from a few sahaugans who tried to capsize the ship by using grappling hooks and tying giant boulders to them, and currently they're going through the sahaugans lair where I plan on putting them up against a few sahaugans and a sea hag that I'll probably give a few spells. My group seems like they're enjoying it, but I as a DM I feel like I'm not doing my best and I feel like like I just dont have any direction and none of my encounters have impact. I realize the point of a pirate campeign is that the enjoyment comes from exploration, and adventure but I'm coming up blank...

Anyone have any ideas of where I can go from here?
Hey matey, I highly recommend you check out some of my resources. Look at Spell & Crossbones in my signature an old OOC thread I made for a play-by-post game – you'll find a wealth of piratical inspiration there. Also check out my pay-what-you-want Buccaneer's Bestiary, which includes not just monsters but 25 pages of layered encounter tables for ports, while underway at sea, exploring islands, under the sea, and even in the mythological nautical "abyss."

I also suggest writing down a bullet list of each PC's roleplaying info and backstory highlights. Then incorporate some of those elements in each session, ideally drawing on several PCs and intertwining these bullets into story arcs. Here's an example:

Yargle (goblin / knight / oathbreaker paladin / LN)
  • wants to civilize goblin tribes
  • on the run from his tribe, the Gouged Orbs
  • worships Meriadar (who was worshipped by Omuan slaves)
  • Personality: proud, respectful, defend the weak, bring people together
  • Ideal: redemption – there's a spark of good in everyone
  • Bond: holy quest to end Death Curse and reunite the goblin tribes like his ancestor Great Queen M’bobo
  • Flaw: gross, smelly, and overly trusting
 
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77IM

Explorer!!!
My group seems like they're enjoying it, but I as a DM I feel like I'm not doing my best and I feel like like I just dont have any direction and none of my encounters have impact. I realize the point of a pirate campeign is that the enjoyment comes from exploration, and adventure but I'm coming up blank...

Anyone have any ideas of where I can go from here?
What do you enjoy about DMing? What were your favorite parts of your previous campaign?
 

Fluerdemal

Villager
My solution for this is generally to gather up a whole bunch of older (in your case) pirate movies and steal shamelessly. I'll also watch more recent things as well, but old B&W films are short and you pop them down like Tic-Tacs and many players are often less likely to have seen them.

D.
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
What I had been thinking before was while the party was off dealing with this hag, something would happen to their ship and the capitan (an elderly dwarf) would have either gone missing or gotten injured and once they got to the city that they were making their shipment to, the capitan would give them rights to the ship/ they would quest around a bit and buy it off of him. Main thing being, how fast should this happen and around what should I have them do once they get to that point?
The best-case scenario here, is that the players become emotionally attached to the ship and its crew. So I'd give them the ship ASAP. I'd also give them the opportunity to upgrade it and personalize it. (For example: http://www.enworld.org/forum/rpgdownloads.php?do=download&downloadid=1466 ). And, create crew NPCs that the players will like. They should be loyal and genuinely helpful.

This way, the players will feel very motivated if ever the ship is in danger. They'll also (hopefully) be motivated to help their NPC crew members. This gives you a ton of opportunities to point the PCs towards the quests you want them to do.

In regards to the BBEG what do you think would make a good candidate? ... I could do the tried and true kraken priests, but I want to spice it up a bit more than that.
MERFOLK MAFIA
 

Ratskinner

Adventurer
Maybe I'm a little too into Black Sails, but political and eventually violent interplay between pirate captains and crews would make for rich ground here. Give them some rivals. I mean how cool would it be for them to hunt down a ship and find its already flying the black under some other crew?
 

Allistar1801

Villager
[MENTION=12377]77IM[/MENTION]

My favorite parts of DMing the previous campeign was probably the crazy stuff the characters got up to. One time while adventuring back to the tavern where they got their first quest the gnome bard decided he wanted to play some travel tunes and asked if he could roll for it, and I said sure why not. He rolls a nat 20, I ask him to roll 1 more time and he rolls another nat 20. I ask him to pick a number between 1 and 10 and if I roll that something wierd would happen. I roll the number he said and then I had to come up with something on the fly. I decided on having an awakened shrub coming out of the forest and dancing to the song. The party took a liking and adopted him, naming him Lord Leafy III. Later when they were with some dwarves sieging a city that was being occupied by ogres and a hill giant, they tried to intimidate them into surrendering. I didn't think it would be so bad, so I let them try, the bard and leafy played a haunting tune while the tiefling druid chanted in infernal and summoned black fire and the silver dragonborn barbarian stood on the front lines and roared. There were 2 nat 20s rolled on that check, but when I rolled insight to counter them I got a 3, but then as the hill giant got there I had them roll again. This time i rolled enough to beat them and the combat started. Near the end of the combat everyone but the bard and leafy was down and the hill giant was at 6 hp. Leafy who at this point had only helped during the intimidation check looked to his "father" and said I'm sorry. He scrambled toward the giant and in a last ditch effort attacks him. He crits and deals max damage to this thing dealing exactly enough damage to kill it. This then spread the legend of Lord Leafy The Giant Slayer.

Other than that I had them go into an arc of espionage, black market deals, and fight pits where they made some connections to the underworld and saved the dwarven government from a doppelganger crime syndicate. That was about when that 1 player had to leave, so the campeign wasn't super long lived but we still have some pretty good memories from that game that we still reference today.
 
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ModernApathy

Explorer
Anyone have any ideas of where I can go from here?
Just a few ideas.

You could have a local kingdom hire mercenaries (or divert some of its war fleet) to deal with the growing pirate problem in the area for an on-going plot device.

Introduce a rival group of pirates, led by an albino Minotaur captain.

Reports of a ghost ship, (or ship full of undead) spotted off the coast whenever thick mists roll in.

Have the boat shipwrecked on a small island in a heavy storm, at which point you can really run any adventure you want and the PC’s will be extra motivated to complete it, fix their ship and get back on the ocean.

Explore new found lands at the edge of the map.
---

Overall, just keep building on what the players are enjoying, if you want to have them set up a small hidden port somewhere to give them a base of operations, have that as an adventure. Maybe they find a small deserted port along a particularly rough coastline (or small secluded island). But before they can call it home they’ll have to work out what killed/drove off the previous residents.

Maybe a side quest where they need to enlist the services of an air elemental to fill the ships sail and increase its speed.
---

You can also make a pretty smooth transition from a pirate campaign to Spelljammer if you wanted to really shake things up ;)
 

Jester David

Adventurer
My group seems like they're enjoying it, but I as a DM I feel like I'm not doing my best and I feel like like I just dont have any direction and none of my encounters have impact. I realize the point of a pirate campeign is that the enjoyment comes from exploration, and adventure but I'm coming up blank...

Anyone have any ideas of where I can go from here?
The DM paradox. Your players are having the best time, but all you can think about is "Are they having fun? How about now? Could they be having more fun? What am I doing wrong???"

Okay, first off calm down. You'll give yourself a complex.
Then tap your players for questions. Ask them for a list of 3 to 5 things they want to see in the campaign at some point between levels 3 to 10.

If you want to make it more overt, ask them what their character's goals are. Request two short term goals (which award xp like an easy encounter) and one long term goal (which award xp like a deadly encounter) and let them decide what those are.

Also, buy a package of index cards.
On each card write a rumour or place of interest or potential encounter. Nothing more than a couple sentences. Whenever you have an idea, write it down on the index card. Remember to include places that are just scenery and flavour. An interesting reef. A ruined lighthouse. A barren sandbar.
During the game, divide them into categories then shuffle the non-blank cards. Every time the players are in a bar and talking, give them a couple rumours. While travelling, put out a couple places of interests for scenes in the travel montage. When you need a random encounter, pull one of those.
 

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