D&D General Struggling to get started

Mercury53

Villager
Afternoon all!

I’m a fairly new DM trying to run campaigns for my wife and kids. We started with LMoP starter kit a few years back, but took a break mid-pandemic because we relocated and had to settle into our new life.

I rekindled some interest and bought a few campaign books, none of which seem to really scratch the itch for the party. Some background, I’ve played on and off as a PC in 3 campaigns(though I haven’t finished a single one, I’m pretty busy and committing to a group has always been problematic) my kids are now 11 and 14, and both love D&D for different reasons. My wife only plays to be part of family time, she finds the whole game rather silly. This makes me pretty self conscious when we’re playing because any role play at all seems silly in front of her. She loves watching the kids get into the game but that’s pretty much it.

So I keep buying these campaign books like Out of the Abyss, Ghosts of Saltmarsh, Rime of the Frostmaiden, and most recently Dragonlance Shadow of the dragon queen. Most of these interest me immensely but all seem so complicated for the family to actually play through. I did try Candlekeep mysteries as well, and we got through 3 of the one shots just fine, but I don’t want to just level everyone up every session and that’s what that book will do if you run all the one shots. Also some of the adventures are not suited to my youngest so I chose to stop that book. What I’m struggling with now is each campaign book seems to want the PC’s at level 1, their most recent characters are level 4. I wanted them to make new characters for Dragonlance and that’s where we stalled. Everyone is down to play if they have a character, but no on wants to make a new one at all. I’m seriously considering abandoning the campaign books entirely and just spitballing my own ad lib encounters to get everyone playing. Seems less complex and more focused on sitting down and playing. I’ve watched tons of YouTube videos over the years from the likes of Matt Colville and many others, and creating encounters is seeming less daunting than before. I have all the core books as well as Tasha’s cauldron, Xanathar’s guide, Volos guide, Sword coast adventurers guide, and Monsters of the multiverse. I feel like I don’t need to buy anything else, I should be able to create an entire campaign or more here lol.

Any thoughts?
 

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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Start small. A boring little town, a safe haven for the PCs, a place to buy stuff and long rest. The adventure doesn't happen here.

Where it does happen is in a dungeon nearby. Maybe just a small one to start, and there are just tons of them on the internet for free. Give it a theme. Fill it with 6 to 8 challenges your family will enjoy. Have a mix of combat, exploration, and social interaction challenges. Use standard XP and level up as it comes. Hide treasure behind secret doors, guarded by traps, not on monster corpses, so as to incentivize them poking around and interacting with the environment.

Somewhere in that dungeon is a treasure map. This leads to another dungeon, perhaps the same size or a little bit bigger, a bit further from town so it requires travel with the chance of difficult random encounter, but no need to camp overnight. Do the same as above, with maybe 9 to 14 challenges instead. Introduce a rival adventuring party in town before they leave for this location, who are also going for contents of the dungeon. They aren't hostile, but they are annoying, and they might get to the treasure first - or maybe there's a team up and a sudden but inevitable double cross!

Somewhere in this dungeon is a moldy old tome that notes the location of some lost temple or the like. Yep, it's another dungeon, bigger than the last and more dangerous, perhaps containing 12 to 16 challenges. This one is quite far from town, requiring several days of travel and some thought behind preparing for the journey and delve. Making camp to long rest will be needed, and it's a dangerous proposition. The dungeon contains a dragon that, once stirred, becomes a threat to the PCs' town. If they don't deal with it here and now, it will set upon the town with all its fury, perhaps leading to a fantastic showdown as the characters defend their home.

Depending on how fast your group gets through content, this could be maybe 10 sessions of play or more. Along the way, you'll get inspired by the events emerging from just playing together, and more adventures, NPCs, and devious plots will spring to mind. And maybe your kids have a few ideas of their own. Go with it, just don't over-prep, and don't worry about planning a months' or years' long campaign with a whole lot of depth up front. Break a large amount of prep into small bits that you can work on regularly (a challenge a day, perhaps). You can build it as you go and, over time, it will develop a lot of depth and flavor that sprung from your collaboration. You'll know what to do next once you get there.

Good luck, and have fun!
 

Afternoon all!

I’m a fairly new DM trying to run campaigns for my wife and kids. We started with LMoP starter kit a few years back, but took a break mid-pandemic because we relocated and had to settle into our new life.

I rekindled some interest and bought a few campaign books, none of which seem to really scratch the itch for the party. Some background, I’ve played on and off as a PC in 3 campaigns(though I haven’t finished a single one, I’m pretty busy and committing to a group has always been problematic) my kids are now 11 and 14, and both love D&D for different reasons. My wife only plays to be part of family time, she finds the whole game rather silly. This makes me pretty self conscious when we’re playing because any role play at all seems silly in front of her. She loves watching the kids get into the game but that’s pretty much it.

So I keep buying these campaign books like Out of the Abyss, Ghosts of Saltmarsh, Rime of the Frostmaiden, and most recently Dragonlance Shadow of the dragon queen. Most of these interest me immensely but all seem so complicated for the family to actually play through. I did try Candlekeep mysteries as well, and we got through 3 of the one shots just fine, but I don’t want to just level everyone up every session and that’s what that book will do if you run all the one shots. Also some of the adventures are not suited to my youngest so I chose to stop that book. What I’m struggling with now is each campaign book seems to want the PC’s at level 1, their most recent characters are level 4. I wanted them to make new characters for Dragonlance and that’s where we stalled. Everyone is down to play if they have a character, but no on wants to make a new one at all. I’m seriously considering abandoning the campaign books entirely and just spitballing my own ad lib encounters to get everyone playing. Seems less complex and more focused on sitting down and playing. I’ve watched tons of YouTube videos over the years from the likes of Matt Colville and many others, and creating encounters is seeming less daunting than before. I have all the core books as well as Tasha’s cauldron, Xanathar’s guide, Volos guide, Sword coast adventurers guide, and Monsters of the multiverse. I feel like I don’t need to buy anything else, I should be able to create an entire campaign or more here lol.

Any thoughts?
I made all my kids and wide's characters with input from them on Dndbeyond. I didn't make them all in one night, I just broke it up over a few nights. I can understand if you don't want to do this though.

I've got nearly all the campaigns but for my family group I've just been taken things I like from them and adding in stuff that centers on the characters background.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
My wife only plays to be part of family time, she finds the whole game rather silly. This makes me pretty self conscious when we’re playing because any role play at all seems silly in front of her. She loves watching the kids get into the game but that’s pretty much it.
So lean into it. It’s a silly hobby. Nothing wrong with that.
What I’m struggling with now is each campaign book seems to want the PC’s at level 1, their most recent characters are level 4.
Yep. They almost all assume new characters every time. It’s a big weakness of games with levels. If you’re good with building encounters you could just level up the modules to match your PCs.
I wanted them to make new characters for Dragonlance and that’s where we stalled. Everyone is down to play if they have a character, but no on wants to make a new one at all.
Nothing wrong with making characters for them. Just ask a lot of questions and build from there. And be open to letting them switch thing around etc.
I’m seriously considering abandoning the campaign books entirely and just spitballing my own ad lib encounters to get everyone playing. Seems less complex and more focused on sitting down and playing.
That’s a great way to go. Way cheaper, too.
I’ve watched tons of YouTube videos over the years from the likes of Matt Colville and many others, and creating encounters is seeming less daunting than before.
The hardest part is starting and you already did that.
Any thoughts?
Drop the campaign books and run your own stuff tailored to your group. Everyone will get a lot more out of it that way. Check out SlyFlourish on YouTube and his book Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master. Great resource. Also the Alexandrian blog. This one and a few others of his will help.

 

J-H

Hero
#1. You're on the right track. Nothing in your OP is incorrect! You can do it!

#2. The DM's Guild website has a LOT of adventures ranging from single-session one-shots to year-long campaigns in length. Look at the highest rated ones first. For a group with kids who enjoy some silly, Trap-Trap! is a fun kobold arena adventure aimed at characters around level 4. I printed the map on 36x48 or 24x36 (don't recall) paper for about $10 at a local FedEx Office.
 

Clint_L

Legend
It's going to be tricky if your wife can't buy in - it's nice that she will support you guys doing it, but it will be hard to immerse in the story when a player is not really engaged.

To work with that, I definitely suggest doing home-brew and keeping it simple. Instead of having the players go out looking for adventure, have the adventure come to them. This is because, in the situation you describe, it will probably be tough for them to initiate things because they don't really know what they are doing.

For example, start the next campaign with the players gaining consciousness locked into an underground cell - maybe they can hear some guards out in the hall, but they aren't sure how they got here. Their first task is figuring out how to get out of the cell. Then they have to get past the guard, perhaps using the opportunity to learn a bit about what is going on, but not too much (they're only guards, after all). Now maybe there's a dangerous passage they have to traverse, etc.

In each case, keep the problem they need to solve fairly straightforward, but pace it so that solving one problem leads directly into the next. That way, the focus will be more on tactics than roleplaying, so they will get a chance to learn their character abilities and how to play the game without having to do too much "acting" and feeling embarrassed. As they get into it, you can start throwing a few more RP opportunities at them, to see if they run with it - maybe there's a creature that could be helpful if approached the right way, or something.

And keep this initial adventure short - maybe 1-2 games - so that they don't get lost in too big of a plot. Maybe they were captured in a case of mistaken identity, but then work out that the real target has also been captured and is in a cell nearby, and will reward the party handsomely for help escaping. Something basic, not a complicated plot like Frostmaiden.

After they escape, that NPC could become a patron of sorts, which you can use to help guide the players to the next adventure.
 

Basically WotC's full book campaigns are bloated messes with too many moving pieces (and little cross-referencing) that make them way more trouble to run as is than they're really worth, and by time you adapt them to work for you, you've written half a campaign yourself. The one you all already started and lost the inertia with, Lost Mines of Phandelver is probably the strongest 5e campaign they've put out in terms of being a manageable scale, written loosely enough that a DM can easily insert their own material or adapt to whatever the group wants to do (not including all the entires in the multi-adventure compendium books). One official adventure that might be worth considering at some point if your family enjoyed their time looking for Phandelver is the Dragon of Icespire Peak from the Essentials Kit, which is a comparable scale, similarly written with less experienced DMs in mind, and takes place in the exact same region (so you can easily plop in content you never got to when you did Phandelver). Not that I want to sell you another thing... just suggesting a possible way to handle unfinished business at some point.

Which leads me to my other point about the campaigns, just because you don't run them, doesn't mean you can't get lots of use out of them. Read over them, find things that appeal to you, and pull locations, encouters, NPCs and other ideas out of them liberally and wholesale. WotC campaigns are messes, but I've yet to encounter one that wasn't full of great ideas for a D&D campaign, it's just that by time the reach a final form they are a random mess assembled by committee and not presented for easy consumption by a DM.

I don't know the Dragonlance book personally, but if that one really appeals to you that is something worth keeping in mind, and every complaint I've just made about official campaigns notwithstanding, you can probably also just play that one, liberally adapting the opening couple chapters to accommodate 4th level characters. It really doesn't matter if some encounters are trivial, as long as you pick some key ones to beef up into actual challenges. Several of the WotC books are actually written with the idea that you might skip the beginning to start at third level or so in mind, so it may be you can just start at the second chapter or something.

Personally I find "just spitballing encounters" is great for a session or two, but tends to overemphasize the monster killing part of the came over the roleplaying, the storytelling, the creative problem solving, the etc. However playing with no actual plot for a few sessions and not telling the players can be a great opportunity to listen to the metagame discussion, get a sense for what the players think or want the plot to be, and build a plot catered to what actually interests them as gamers. The stories that grow organically out of play are usually the most memorable ones in my experience.
 

aco175

Legend
I used to make adventures fir into a night's worth of gaming. We would tend to play for 3 hours, so I would make the dungeon last only that long. It tends to be mostly like the 5-room dungeon idea with a couple fights, a trap or puzzle/riddle and some roleplay. Some were message boards around the tavern or maybe a NPC comes looking for the group. After a couple levels, the town grew to look at the PCs as the problem solvers and the group became part of the town.

It mostly provided a closed game to play. Not sure if your wife needs just a few hours and then knows it is over and then you can do something else. My wife wants nothing to do with it, so you at least have something. Maybe some is the type of game or the style. Present some situations where there are multiple options and no obvious outcome. Maybe obvious solutions that could work. Example could be a lower level area where fighting can happen and a ledge on the other side with a prisoner or chest of gold. Getting across the pit is the goal and some of the PCs may focus on that, but a water chute could be opened and flood the pit making the fight easy. There is lots of options and some players will feel rewarded and smart for noticing or making these decisions.
 

Paka

Explorer
Start small. A boring little town, a safe haven for the PCs, a place to buy stuff and long rest. The adventure doesn't happen here.

Where it does happen is in a dungeon nearby. Maybe just a small one to start
Agreed.

Check out a One Page Dungeon or grab a Dyson Logos dungeon and write your own notes (you can get good town maps there too) all over it or one of the Trilemma Adventures.

I find WotC's hardcovers to be difficult to use at the table. I prefer things to be short and sweet and have the lore grow out of the game itself.

Hope the links help. Good luck!

P.S. If the group has gone through 3 one-shots with the same characters - level 'em up and if you aren't sure when to level, I've got an XP houserule that might work for ya (and might not).
 

Start small. A boring little town, a safe haven for the PCs, a place to buy stuff and long rest. The adventure doesn't happen here.
Ignore this. You have a couple of quite young kids and a reluctant player just along for the ride. They need quite strong direction, not a sandbox.
So lean into it. It’s a silly hobby. Nothing wrong with that.
This. Make it a comedy. Spelljammer and Wild beyond the Witchlight are the WotC adventures best suited to family comedy. Read and adapt Terry Pratchett stories.
 

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