D&D General Struggling to get started

nevin

Hero
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?
go to the internet archive a look through the old Dragon magazine's great ideas there. Also just pick some age appropriate story like say the King Arthur or any other fantasy story really and start in thier home village and let them start out defending thier friends and famlies. Get creative. I once had a Dragon bluff a low level party with a fake locator spell and a threat of death if they didn't go into the cave and get her hatchling back out. simple is good at that level. One of my favorite low level adventures from 1e was Lost island of Castanimir. Easy enough to convert the encounters. IT was in the WOTC free downloads for a long time you can find it and a lot of other old 1e stuff out there. Some of it still free some of it you'll have to go to Drive thru or other places to find. If I use those I just go through and make sure change any encounters to match what version I'm running. But some Great fun stuff in that module.
 

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nevin

Hero
forget movies. at low level a lost child, a druid asking for help because something is killing animals or vegetation. A couple of Fairies have gotten into town and are causing havoc a reward has been posted to the ones that can get rid of these pests. Bandits, local leader child kidnapped, missing tax collector, whatever you start with let the interactions with the encounter's shape the story. If they run out the faeries for instance they may come back and trick them into the fey, and they'll have to find thier way home. If they make friends with them that friendship could grow till they share the location of a fey portal they can use. the Dragon could know a lot of useful things like lost magic items to search for, or become a high level patron who gives them jobs.

You said you've got a youngster make up a bounty hunter thing. Slick fingers mike has not returned the amulet he borrowed from a mage. someone has to go get it. Which requires dealing with his crazy family. Just think Dog the bounty hunter with magic, don't try to be perfect just have fun and grow the encounters with them.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
From an advice perspective.

Starting small and expanding (as a few have suggested above) is a pretty good way to go.

The published adventure modules ARE a bit of a mess and most are difficult to run, enough so that they don't REALLY save much time. Personally, I use them as inspiration for ideas instead of just running the adventures straight - especially when I was running for kids.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
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Mercury53

Villager
Thank you for all the extremely positive and helpful replies!! Sorry for the delay in responding to you all, I posted this as I left for work(which I’m doing again today lol).

I’ve read through most of the replies and I’ll try to get a more detailed post in once I get settled at work and get a minute. Last night was crazy.

If I happen to miss that opportunity until tomorrow, I have to say at the very least that the replies here have made me feel much better about my situation and have given me some awesome steps to act on moving forward. You guys are awesome!
 

Mercury53

Villager
Wow I had missed a couple of these as I read through on my phone at work, so I just caught up. Again thank you for the replies. So much to think about and so much positive debate, I love that. With the web becoming a cesspool of vitriol in recent years it’s awesome to see such positivity.

I do love the idea of creating adventures with inspiration from the books, but I agree with the several of you that said they books are a mess/hard to run/are good source material. So far running published adventures has proven difficult to prep and robotic at times running the session while I read prompts.

My wife is simply very uncomfortable with the role play aspect, but has not rolled her eyes at me. I guess I’m just a nervous person when it comes to roleplay. I feel a bit silly doing voices for someone who isn’t really into the game, I feel like I’m already having to work to keep her interest. She’s totally supportive vocally though, I think this is all in my head.

One thing I am certain she likes is mystery. The candle keep mysteries are actually pretty cool for the most part, and the way I ran them for some reason had my whole family questioning EVERY WORD I SAID as if it were a clue. They were all so excited it was awesome. My wife did seem to get into the solving portions by discussing clues with the kids.

I’ve saved a lot of the links posted here, and we have a 6 day vacation next week so I’m going to do some research.

Again, you guys are awesome, thank you for the advice.
 

A'tuin

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?
Hi Mercury,

This is a very sad post, but I completely hear you. The 5e campaign books are not really all that great. I think the problem is that they try to take you from 1st level to a high level too quickly and don't let you savor the small stuff. I hope you work it out. My best advice is to write your own campaign/story, and pick individual adventures from DMsguild.com or another similar site. Your family will love your story more than most of the WoTC stuff out there. It may sound daunting, but I promise it will come to you. As a DM, at the end of each adventure, you just have to imagine what should come next for your PCs (Player Characters). Have they earned any enemies? Are they just looking for more adventure? Playing campaign-style DnD is about creating a life for the players' characters.

Some other tips for new DMs and players:
  • Keep it low-level and savor character development. I would target no more than 3 levels per year, or perhaps faster up to level 5, and then slow down to 1 or 2 levels a year, with the climax of your campaign probably occurring around levels 10-12.
  • Develop the NPCs and their loyalties. Some will be for, and some against, or neutral to the party. Having great NPCs will help you develop your campaign world into something believable, and will constantly give you new ideas for directions your campaign might go.
  • Instead of having your family pick out the next adventure, let the characters' choices and the world events happening in your campaign guide it. The characters' actions and interactions with NPCs will tell you what direction to take the campaign.
  • Keep reading these forums for simple ideas that make your game more fun (don't forget that fun is one of the most important benefits of the game; the next major benefit is camaraderie, but it is hard to build camaraderie without the fun part).

These tips might help you get your family campaign into a sustainable rhythm. If I can be of any assistance to you in this matter, please don't hesitate to reach out.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
. . . Everyone is down to play if they have a character, but no on wants to make a new one at all.
Totally understandable. It's D&D.

I’m seriously considering abandoning the campaign books entirely and just spitballing my own ad lib encounters to get everyone playing.
That would make you an official DM, I think.

I feel like I don’t need to buy anything else, I should be able to create an entire campaign or more here lol.
Yup. You're ready for this. Game on!
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
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?
You might consider Tales from the Yawning Portal, starting with Forge of Fury. Good for level 4, good adventure. Easy transition to whatever you want to play after that.
 

Echohawk

Shirokinukatsukami fan
Something I do is attach the group to some other organization along the lines of The Harpers in the Forgotten Realms.
I want to second this suggestion. One of my most successful campaigns had the players be members of an adventurers' guild. Most games had a similar structure -- the players were given a mission briefing by the guild, went off do to the adventure, and then came back for a mission debriefing. This enabled me to throw a variety of different types and styles of adventures at them without needing to worry too much about hooking them all together. The debriefing at the end was also a useful tool for me to get feedback on what they liked best in each adventure. When you ask players (in character) to recount the adventure they've just been on, they respond with all the best bits.
That said, once, I threw in a shopping sidetrek. Initially mostly as a joke, but my wife enjoyed it much more than I was expecting.
What is it about shopping side treks? My players pretend to love combat encounters the most, but put a wily merchant with some interesting wares in their path and they can get distracted for half of the session. Haggling the merchant down in price becomes a challenge they cannot walk away from.
My wife is simply very uncomfortable with the role play aspect, but has not rolled her eyes at me. I guess I’m just a nervous person when it comes to roleplay. I feel a bit silly doing voices for someone who isn’t really into the game, I feel like I’m already having to work to keep her interest. She’s totally supportive vocally though, I think this is all in my head.
Please don't stress about having one player who struggles to role-play. I had one in my group who simply wasn't wired to role-play, at least in the sense of pretending to be his character. He described everything his character did in the third person! That didn't mean he wasn't having fun. He loved the overall story elements, was an excellent tactician and had as much fun throughout that campaign as everyone else. If your wife is being otherwise supportive, then throw yourself into the role-playing aspect as much as you feel comfortable doing. Do the funny voices, act out the body language of the lurking troll. Even if it feels a little silly at the time, nobody in the group will remember it as "silly". They will remember is as fun and engaging.
 

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