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D&D 5E I am going to start DMing OotA in a few days- Any advice?

Zardnaar

Legend
Read the books Homeland and Sojourn (particularly the latter, though it only makes sense in the context of the first) by RA Salvatore.

They aren’t long books but they do a great job of showing what day to day life may have been like in the underdark. Those two books probably informed me of the Underdark as a setting and not just a big dungeon.

incidentally I’m not a massive Salvatore fan, I just think those particular books are excellent. The rest of the Drizzt books can take a long walk off a short pier.

If you have more time, the War of the Spider Queen books build on what was first expounded in the first books I recommended.

Doing a reread of WotSQ for my Drow campaign.

Using OotA as source material. Thought about running it. It's not good.

@Charlaquin you've basically nailed it about OotA.
 

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clearstream

Be just and fear not...
Supporter
Doing a reread of WotSQ for my Drow campaign.

Using OotA as source material. Thought about running it. It's not good.
Yes, I wouldn't advise the OP to run it as written. More as source material - great maps, many interesting NPCs, several useful set pieces. It underpinned an enjoyable two years of gaming for my group of six PCs, so we got excellent value on the purchase. We ran from the book start (imprisoned) to a variation on the end scene (as one might expect, given all that can come between).

It is important to decide what you want from the demonic incursion. In my campaign, I thought about the strategic and political implications and put things in motion accordingly. That took our narrative well away from the elements @Charlaquin didn't enjoy or found repetitive. The journey of my group through the Underdark was more a challenge in managing the opposite: a very great diversity.

Take the criticism of disastrous events that can't be avoided or prevented. The setting is cataclysmic. The demon princes are overwhelmingly powerful. So in that sense absolutely - how could the starting PCs or even the mid-campaign party possibly oppose them!? Except for the first scene with demogorgon (which announces the incursion and I felt just had to be retained) I made it a topic of urgent concern for denizens of the Underdark to have some idea where the demon princes were, with much speculation as to what they were up to. Standard foreshadowing really.

So there was much avoiding done on the part of the PCs. The payoff of course is in the turn-about: when finally they prevailed. If the demons were not so threatening, not so overwhelming for so much of the time, I think that just dilutes the narrative. "We beat a thing, that we were guaranteed to beat, and that we were able to avoid or prevent all the way through" - a challenge with these published adventures is to create a sense of doubt in the conclusion. And on the other hand, a DM needs to be sensitive to the nuances - the wedding is not the same at all as the creeping insanity in Gracklstugh - and even more different if you can distil for your players something about the difference in outlooks of the fungus people and the deep dwarves.
 

I'm just finishing it up. I estimate we took about 2-3 sessions per chapter. Some went a bit slower.

I largely found it difficult to give the party any reason to spend much time in any town and do much beyond make a beeline toward the next thing, whatever that was. Partly this was due to me usually being pretty tired, and partly due to my party being a pretty mission-driven sort that doesn't pay attention to side quests. But they have really enjoyed it, so what do I know?

My advice is

a) The writers didn't really understand that "bounded accuracy" does not mean that five gnolls are meaningful when you're 12th level. I had to continually up the difficulty of encounters. At one point, they face a single fire elemental before a somewhat nerfed stone golem. I made it two fire elementals and a buffed golem, and they were still fine.

b) The travel is boring, especially if you're, like me, not much of an imaginative narrator. Don't waste lots of time in overland random encounters.

c) I really didn't like milestone leveling for this one. I suggest that you use XP, and fill in the gaps with side quests.

d) Flesh out characters to make the non-combat stuff interesting and fun. Some of the meetings in Gauntlgrym are pretty boring if you just do them by the book, so make sure to spice those up.

e) Spend a bit of time in the prison area establishing some rapport with NPCs to avoid the "OH THIS RACE IS CHAOTIC EVIL THAT MEANS I MURDER STAB STAB STAB" mentality some players have.
 



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