setting up a campaign Zero for myself and my players.

Hello everyone. I am a new DM and am currently starting a campaign zero for myself and the people that i am going to be DMing for. I have the mines of phandelver campaign but do not want to dive into a thirty hour campaign right off the bat. I am currently working on a home-brew campaign that i am going to do as a two to three session start up just so i can get a feel for being a DM. I have an awesome idea for a plot twist as well as getting a specific artifact that the players need to retrieve for a wizard. I am setting it in the Neverwinter and west march areas and am just trying to get things going. any help on how best to get creative juices flowing would be helpful as I have hit writers block and only have two pages worth of the campaign typed up on my computer. I am in the need of getting ideas for settings where battles will take place as well as what to put in chests in caves where they will battle bandits and other creatures of the D&D world in. Any and all help and insight would be appreciated. We are using primarily 5e stats and books for characters and my DMing so that I am familiar with those rules and stats myself. Again any feed back and advice will be taken into consideration and utilized to my fullest extent.




Update: I have decided that the artifact they are looking for is the Mask of Loki. and artifact that i have chosen at great length from a massive amount of movie knowledge and decided that there will be an abandoned house and a bandit cave the PCs can choose where to go however if they choose the abandoned house they must back track to the fork in the road and go the correct way through the bandit cave to see if the mask is there or not. if not which it wont be they will follow the cave through to an other town and possibly an NPC that may or may not be of use to them throughout this quest. I am making the mask of Loki atonement to any class but the negatives are that the wearer gets amnesia from wearing the mask. the positives for the mask is that you are able to make mischief on any one you choose in your vicinity but they cannot know you are wearing a mask it also provides an advantage to Chaotic Neutral Alignments that give a +2 to Charisma and a +3 to strength. it also allows the user to create weapons that the user has seen in its lifetime out of balloons and other inanimate objects once per long rest.

I have thought long and hard about what types of creatures that can be thrown at the PCs but have them battling three goblin bandits before they get to the initial meeting place just t throw a bit of experience their way and to find a lost knapsack with a few items in it that could be of use for them throughout the campaign. i have also made the wizard give them each an amulet that allows a bit of credit at some of the shops and vendors that they will meet throughout the campaign but the vendors do not have much in the way of merchandise so there is not much that they can get with the lines of credit that they each get for now. I might draw this out for about a month long campaign just so that everyone can have a good time with it and to see if i got the knack for drawing something out like this. I have also been looking into some of the old Norse mythology for some ideas for some of the items that the pcs could potentially acquire throughout the campaign and have only just skimmed the surface of weapons and items that i might put into the campaign.

Side note: Thank you all who commented on this post so far i appreciate the feedback and inspiration that you all have given to me here. It has not gone unnoticed nor has it gone unthought about these past few weeks of me rolling things around in my head to get on paper. if there are any who know how to get a free map for an abandoned house please let me know otherwise i have graph paper and can draw it up like i drew up the first part of the bandit cave that the players will have to traverse through to get to the next destination on their quest.

Update 2:
I am going to be getting this campaign started this coming saturday and have just a quick question for the Dms out there what would be some good items to have a mimic drop after combat in a graveyard type setting? i will award the xp between all the pc that are there and this is just to try to get through the first session of this campaign as i want to draw it out a bit over the next few months. this campaign is set in the old norse gods and godesses and will have loki and thor as well as possibly odin thrown into it to see how things go. i have planned from the start to use loki in the campaign and have figured out how to do that with a few of the npcs the players will meet through this one but i am trying to get most of the pcs to level up a bit during this first session but not be completly op to my creatures so i am hitting with a few waves of small level creatures that do not offer much xp but will give them all a small taste of what is to come later in the campaign. so any ideas are welcome and appreciated.
 
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Mort

Community Supporter
Hello everyone. I am a new DM and am currently starting a campaign zero for myself and the people that i am going to be DMing for.
Welcome to the boards, have some xp.

I have the mines of phandelver campaign but do not want to dive into a thirty hour campaign right off the bat. I am currently working on a home-brew campaign that i am going to do as a two to three session start up just so i can get a feel for being a DM. I have an awesome idea for a plot twist as well as getting a specific artifact that the players need to retrieve for a wizard. I am setting it in the Neverwinter and west march areas and am just trying to get things going. any help on how best to get creative juices flowing would be helpful as I have hit writers block and only have two pages worth of the campaign typed up on my computer.
From the players perspective:I like to do a session 0 (as you say you will be doing). The players can create their characters with a good sense of cohesion, so they know what everyone is bringing to the table. This is also a great time to have the party agree on a "theme" for the group - It's not necessary, but I've found it can really add to the campaign going forward. In the past the group has done themes like employees of Morgrave university (in Eberron) or members and associates of a temple in the city of Greyhawk.

From your perspective: I'd start with something simple and straight forward that will get the players into the setting. A robbery the players have to foil, starting in medias res, or a treasure the players find that seems awesome - until they realize exactly how many other people want it too (this has the advantage of bringing the adventure to them).

In your scenario you may want to have the wizard ask the party to deliver the artifact rather than find it, for example. This will bring the adventure to them - ambushes on the road, shady characters trying to talk them into surrendering the goods, etc.

Is this a new group, or have you guys been playing together for a while? With new groups, I'm not big on "twists." The most important thing to establish (as early as possible) is trust between the players and the DM. The players have to trust that the DM has their fun as a top priority. Messing around with twists before trust is established can make things very difficult going forward. Hence, I prefer straightforward initially.

I am in the need of getting ideas for settings where battles will take place as well as what to put in chests in caves where they will battle bandits and other creatures of the D&D world in. Any and all help and insight would be appreciated. We are using primarily 5e stats and books for characters and my DMing so that I am familiar with those rules and stats myself. Again any feed back and advice will be taken into consideration and utilized to my fullest extent.

Grab some free maps (available on this board and others), that should help get the creative juices flowing. Put in stuff that moves the adventure forward. Stock a chest with jewelry, for example, but have the jewelry be marked as belonging to someone - possible adventure hook to return the jewelry (rather than the typical sell for gold).
 
Well how I have it started is that the wizard has had this artifact stollen from him and as far as the plot twist goes he is also going to be the main villain in the campaign. He has orchestrated the whole theft and deception of the pcs. I'm just trying to figure out how best to continue with the story line. This is my first time as a dm and I've never played with these people before but they are all family and a few friends that I've come to know other than myself there is at least one other person who has played as a character before and that is my wife.
 

S'mon

Legend
Ideas - I like rolling on the wandering monster tables (eg Xanathar's) to get ideas for encounters flowing. :)
 

Mort

Community Supporter
Well how I have it started is that the wizard has had this artifact stollen from him and as far as the plot twist goes he is also going to be the main villain in the campaign. He has orchestrated the whole theft and deception of the pcs. I'm just trying to figure out how best to continue with the story line.
The employer/mentor that turns out to be the villain - that can work, but players tend to be a suspicious bunch!

Without knowing more specifics, the deception has to make sense from the wizards point of view - so is it to drive the PCs to specific locale? Is it to secretly get revenge on the people who "stole" the artifact, with the PCs as the mechanism for the revenge?

You can also just have the continuation be that this was "test" for the players (whether they know it or not) and if/when passed, the wizard has further use for the PCs - of an increasingly nefarious nature.

This is my first time as a dm and I've never played with these people before but they are all family and a few friends that I've come to know other than myself there is at least one other person who has played as a character before and that is my wife.
If they're new to the game, I suggest keeping it very simple initially. Lost mines of Phandelver is actually pretty good as an introduction - if you don't want to run it yet - I'd still suggest taking a good look at how it's structured and stealing some of the ideas.
 

collin

Explorer
If they're new to the game, I suggest keeping it very simple initially. Lost mines of Phandelver is actually pretty good as an introduction - if you don't want to run it yet - I'd still suggest taking a good look at how it's structured and stealing some of the ideas.
I echo this advice. And nothing says you have to run an adventure "as written". Take pieces from it, "mine" it for ideas to suit your needs.;)

As for a homebrew adventure ...
Don't overdo it with details as a DM. You will soon learn the players will find things and ways that you never thought of, and may take the story/action in a whole different direction. This can be a good thing, and in fact, if you are stuck on "what happens next", play a few sessions with what you have and pay attention to the players. They may very well give you ideas of where to take the story that you never thought of (or are better than what you thought of).
 

Brashnir2

Villager
I echo this advice. And nothing says you have to run an adventure "as written". Take pieces from it, "mine" it for ideas to suit your needs.;)

As for a homebrew adventure ...
Don't overdo it with details as a DM. You will soon learn the players will find things and ways that you never thought of, and may take the story/action in a whole different direction. This can be a good thing, and in fact, if you are stuck on "what happens next", play a few sessions with what you have and pay attention to the players. They may very well give you ideas of where to take the story that you never thought of (or are better than what you thought of).

Agreed on not getting too far ahead of yourself with details. Keep a broad outline of what you expect to happen, and know what the major pieces in the outline are, and how they'll react to the players, and then see what your players are interested in and what their backstories are, and mine those for details down the road.

I only ever really get into specific details on things that are expected to come up within the next session, or maybe two at the most. Everything else is broad notions and ideas.
 

aco175

Explorer
If you are starting at 1st level, and you should, the number of bad guys in the group can kill the PCs rather quickly. You only need 2-3 things like bandits or goblins to make a good fight. You could have something where goblins attacked the bandits and stole the treasure the PCs are after. The PCs encounter one bandit that ran away and was heading back to town. The PCs can use some skills like intimidation or deception to talk with him and get him to spill the beans on his friends and even lead the PCs to the cave where the goblins took the treasure. You can even use the bandit to become a NPC that follows and helps the PCs like a henchman.

You can have 2 goblins in the front area of the cave to fight. One can try to run and get help, but PCs most likely will kill him before he gets too far. A hall with a trap splits from the main tunnel allows for Perception checks to bypass a pit or something. It can lead to a room to rest or provide a shortcut to the main encounter. You can have a hobgoblin be the leader, but this is starting to sound like the first part of LMoPhandalin. You can make kobolds the main bad guys and give some giant rats or centipedes and spiders and such.
 
Hello everyone. I am a new DM and am currently starting a campaign zero for myself and the people that i am going to be DMing for. I have the mines of phandelver campaign but do not want to dive into a thirty hour campaign right off the bat.
My usual advice for new DMs is play a lot first, if at all play possible with a series of experienced DMs. Playing develops familiarity with the rules, and the informal process of play (and how much both can vary from DM to DM). It lets you see what DMs do that works and doesn't work for you and for other players. And, of course, it sparks ideas, though it sounds like you already have those. Sounds like you may already have done that.

I am currently working on a home-brew campaign that i am going to do as a two to three session start up just so i can get a feel for being a DM...
You might just want to run LMoP, then. You don't have to complete it, necessarily, and you can leave off at some point and segue into something original.

any help on how best to get creative juices flowing would be helpful as I have hit writers block and only have two pages worth of the campaign typed up on my computer. I am in the need of getting ideas for settings where battles will take place
as well as what to put in chests in caves where they will battle bandits and other creatures of the D&D world in.
I went to a lot of trouble with things like that back in the day, but just think about what kinds of victims those bandits &monsters might have ill-gotten their gains from. Peasants? Tools, a few coppers, carved wooden ornaments. Merchants? Trade goods - spices, preserved foods, wine, etc, etc - profits in the form of coin maybe even letters of credit or contracts. Nobles? fine (if damaged, now) clothes, jewels, showy weapons & armor, & coin of course. Other adventurers? Arms & armor, spelunking gear, iron rations, the odd potion. Or have these creatures been seeking out treasure in other ways? Mining, exploring ruins, crafting? Treasure could also be left hidden in a place now held by monsters who are unaware its even there.

Well how I have it started is that the wizard has had this artifact stollen from him and as far as the plot twist goes he is also going to be the main villain in the campaign. He has orchestrated the whole theft and deception of the pcs. I'm just trying to figure out how best to continue with the story line. This is my first time as a dm and I've never played with these people before but they are all family and a few friends that I've come to know other than myself there is at least one other person who has played as a character before and that is my wife.
Not the kind of plot I'd open with for new players and low-level characters (I'd say start with a published adventure & pre-generated characters), but, you never know where lightning may strike, and these are people you know - I'm used to running intro games for total strangers.
 

S'mon

Legend
I am in the need of getting ideas for settings where battles will take place as well as what to put in chests in caves where they will battle bandits and other creatures of the D&D world in.
There are good tables in the DMG to roll on for locations and plots. For monsters there are the XGTE tables or free online ones. For stuff, my players loved it when I said to roll on the PHB Trinkets table to see what they found.
 

Arvok

Explorer
Well how I have it started is that the wizard has had this artifact stollen from him and as far as the plot twist goes he is also going to be the main villain in the campaign. He has orchestrated the whole theft and deception of the pcs. I'm just trying to figure out how best to continue with the story line. This is my first time as a dm and I've never played with these people before but they are all family and a few friends that I've come to know other than myself there is at least one other person who has played as a character before and that is my wife.
This sounds like a decent twist, but you need to be prepared to answer the obvious question, "Why would a wizard powerful enough to possess an artifact fire a bunch of 1st level characters to recover it?"

You have an answer (the theft is part of the wizard's scheme), but that isn't one you can tell your players. Players should be suspicious of a high level wizard who hires them to do something he could probably do himself much more quickly. If this wizard is intelligent (as wizards are by definition) and crafty (as most good villains are), he might have orchestrated to have the artifact stolen while he was away. In this scenario, his nervous apprentice hires the PCs to get the artifact back before his master returns and discovers his "blunder". This also means you don't have to deal with a lucky natural 20 on an Insight check from a suspicious PC talking to the wizard or his apprentice--the PCs never deal with the wizard and the apprentice is honest.
 

Imaculata

Adventurer
Usually what I do to get the creative juices flowing, is to imagine my world as Disneyland. Every location should be unique and interesting, as should every character. Its kind of like going sight seeing. If there's nothing to be seen, then why should your players care? So I often start with a location that I'm interested in. If for example the players are hired by a wizard, then where does he live, and what is special about it?

No town is a generic fantasy town, and no wizards tower is a generic wizards tower. I want to be invested, so that my players are invested too. So this is where I would start. Where does this wizard live, and what does it look like? What is the wizard's motivation for the quest, and do his interests perhaps reflect in the look of his abode? Note that the home of a wizard in itself is a fantastic location where all sorts of magical stuff can happen, before the players even get to the quest. Have them freely explore in such a location, and you'll easily fill a whole session without ever getting to any battles or the quest... and that's fine.

But once the players get going, try to imagine what would be an exciting location to have battles in. What sort of environment embodies the feeling you want your players to experience? And is there perhaps a good reason why the wizard might not want to travel there himself? Think about dangerous terrain, and environments that affect the player's efficiency in some way (such as a foggy swamp, or an active volcano). But make sure that this location fits with the region.

Also try to think about what choices the players may make along the way. Do they have a good reason to accept the wizard's quest? Do they have good reason to trust him? What if they don't? Can the wizard convince the players of his good intentions? And what if they betray him? What then? My golden rule for this is, if you introduce a villain, be prepared to have him be killed by the players that very session. Can your campaign recover from that if it happens? If it can't, think of a way for the plot to continue without the villain. And never make the villain automatically escape! That is cheating, and your players will hate you for it. If you introduce a villain, his life is forfeit.

Lastly, if you have a plot twist waiting for them, think about how likely it is that the players guess the twist. If the wizard turns out to be evil, that is very cliche, and the players will probably anticipate that (I would assume the wizard is evil for sure). You can play with such expectations, by having the exact opposite be true. You can then purposefully feed the players red herrings to reinforce their false beliefs, to ensure a big surprise at the end. Or, which I do all the time, make the villain kinda evil, but also kinda good. I like having villains that are a bit in the gray. Sometimes the players may be put in a situation where they have to work together with the villain to fend off a greater threat. And maybe the villain has good reasons for his evil acts, that make the players empathize with him. It's always a good idea to sprinkle some doubt in the minds of your players. Also keep in mind that villains can switch sides if they have good motivation to do so.
 
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Telvin

Villager
I am not a new DM. I ran my first D&D game in 1982, strictly modules in GH (GDQ series, Temple of Elemental Evil, Age of Worms, and the such). Been away from D&D since 2008. I have been strictly running Pathfinder Adventure Paths since then. I am just getting back into D&D. I am currently working on my own home game based on GH (getting back to my roots).

The advice I am reading here is invaluable and I would like to thank all the contributors.

Love this thread.
 
As far as the plot twist goes I might have them do more quests for the wizard and if it doesn't go that well during this first campaign i might let the Players kill him off in the end when they find out that he deceived them. i haven't thought that far ahead yet im still in the planning and getting things down on paper first sage of this
 

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