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Why is the first adventure always the hardest to get 'right'?

Herobizkit

Adventurer
I'm getting back into the DM chair and rebooting characters from a campaign that kinda fell flat. I was running Kingmaker under 5e. At first, they told me the wanted a sandbox and to become rulers of a town - as time ran on, they wanted to do anything but explore hexes and gain the bounty from the villain in order to start their town.

I'm not sure this is the best idea, but I'm looking to introduce them to a classic module from my childhood, the infamous X1 - Isle of Dread. Checking its layout, I see that it is statted to be for characters of levels 3-7. I don't know if that's true in 5e 'currency', but I want to try it all the same.

I'm also considering running the Savage Tide series from Dungeon magazine.

My issue is two-fold:

1) I've homebrewed a concept that Humans Are The Bad Guys; the Human nation is made of technologically advanced crusaders spreading their Inspiration and quelling Arcane magic and "unbelievers". The High Elves are slowly educating the jungle-dwelling Drow and Wood Elves (who are at odds with one another), but now as an invasion looms, they are in need of allies. Enter the PCs.

2) Savage Tide assumes a lot, and while the adventure does end up on the Isle of Dread as well, I'm not sure that Sasserine "fits" my concept. I know I can change anything, but...

My biggest foible is that the intro adventure, the one that sets the tone for the rest of the game, is just... too hard to decide upon. I'm having trouble coming up with a concept that "fits" a first-level game (which I loathe, normally) that isn't a hundred variations of "bandits, kobolds and rats".

Finally, nothing is set in stone, but we're Skyping on Tuesday to discuss character concepts for a world I haven't even really solidified in my own mind.

Thoughts? Help?!
 

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You said the previous campaign fell flat after the party decided they didn't want to go sandboxy. Did they ever offer feedback on what they wanted instead? Some people find a blank piece of paper liberating. Others find it intimidating.

I've never played Isle of Dread but if it's for level 3 to 7 and you're at 1 could you not have the first two levels be about getting to the isle and figuring out what's going on? Sort of back fill what's going on up to the actual module?
 

Celebrim

Legend
If they don't like sandboxes, it would seem to me that the Isle of Dread would be a bad choice. The best part of the whole Savage Tide campaign is the sandbox leading up to defending/developing the outpost from attack, and in general, the best thing about the Isle of the Dread is the open ended exploration and hex crawling.
 

Herobizkit

Adventurer
I discussed it with the men last night and they seem happy to go with Savage Tide. For me, it's a huge relief to have an entire pre-fab setting with player notes. If there is a sandbox element, they'll have to suck it up OR I can always swap it out with another pre-fab chunk (probably from the 3.0 'Sunless Citadel' line, as SC is what I used to intro them to 5e as a warm-up to Kingmaker).

We'll see how chargen goes on Tuesday... might have a Drow "Gladiator", Eladrin Bard and some kind of warlock or sorcerer as the Main Cast.
 


Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
At first, they told me the wanted a sandbox and to become rulers of a town - as time ran on, they wanted to do anything but explore hexes and gain the bounty from the villain in order to start their town.
I will note that "sandbox" and "exploring hexes" are not equivalent. It is called a sandbox because a GM says, "You can play within these bounds (the box), but otherwise do with the sand what you will." In a proper sandbox, *maybe* they will go explore hexes. But maybe they'll just stay in one town and make trouble for the local thieves' guild. It is up to them.

So, it sounds like your players didn't want to do hex exploration.

Finally, nothing is set in stone, but we're Skyping on Tuesday to discuss character concepts for a world I haven't even really solidified in my own mind.
That's okay. Sometimes worldbuilding is an iterative thing. You get a couple things on the baseline. One or two of the players (who are good with getting a concept in a 'blue sky" mode), then choose a concept or two. Then you lay down more details that fit those concepts, and a few details beyond, then some more players do concepts, and so on.

Allow yourselves to feed off each other's creativity.
 

ksbsnowowl

Explorer
Savage Tide series from Dungeon magazine...

My issue is two-fold:

1) I've homebrewed a concept that Humans Are The Bad Guys...
Usually homebrewed concepts don't mesh well with published modules. Not to say you can't do it, but it wholly defeats the purpose of creating a non-standard setting. Why create a setting that has an unusual twist, if you aren't going to run homebrew adventures that explore that concept?

A year ago I started running a group through the Sunless Citadel adventure path. I just ran it in generic "Greyhawk-lite." There was no reason to invest the energy in developing an unusual world just to ignore it and run pre-published modules. Just my opinion; feel free to ignore it.

Finally, nothing is set in stone, but we're Skyping on Tuesday to discuss character concepts for a world I haven't even really solidified in my own mind.

Thoughts? Help?!
It might be worth making some minor tweak (humans as the "bad guys," so no Human PC's; or something else) to set the campaign apart, but I wouldn't invest a bunch of time in it. Just some simple concept that's easy to implement for the published adventure path you plan to use (no continent-sized land masses, just islands; dwarves live on the surface because the underdark was conquered by drow generations ago; simple stuff like that).

Save the unique, campaign-altering twists for a campaign when you'll create your own adventures where that twist is important.
 

howandwhy99

First Post
Being an island you sort of auto-shipwreck upon, X1 can be as limiting as Ravenloft in terms of design. It can be made better, but unless the players choose to travel to it, you're trapping them from minute one. It's not designed as a starting adventure.

IME, Session 1 is players creating characters, shooting around backgrounds with each other, and telling you want kind of setting they want and perhaps what published modules or kinds of modules they want to see during the oncoming campaign.

From that you can run a starting module that is customized to what they want.
 

At level one;
  • It is important to have Negotiate or Die encounters. Players must learn not all foes are bested by bloodshed.
  • Have encounters were the foes strike to subdue, whether because the foes are authority figures, have compunctions against killing or are Slavers. If PCs strike to kill after realizing this, that means THEY chose to make the encounter lethal.
  • Have bypassable encounters. Let players avoid some fights as long as they don't needlessly draw attention to themselves. Teach them why would someone take Burning hands over Thunderwave, even if it is the hard way.
 

[MENTION=36150]Herobizkit[/MENTION]

Thoughts:

Write an elevator pitch for your world in 1-5 sentences (max)?

Don't start at first level?

Ask the players what sort of adventure they want?

Start small and worry about the big picture later?
 

Rune

Once A Fool
You could take a cue from Dungeon World and have an intro session, during which you ask your players pointed questions about their characters' histories and roles in the world, followed by increasingly more specific questions. The answers to these questions should ultimately serve two purposes: they should help flesh out the world (or at least imprint the player's vision onto a piece of it) and they should produce some solid character-driven hooks.
 

Remember, the point of D&D is to have fun. If your group isn't having fun it's up to you as the DM to figure out why and fix it.
Nope.

It is up to the entire group to provide the fun. The DM is NOT there merely to amuse or entertain the players. In the OP, the DM gave his players what they said that they wanted, then they played as if they didn't want it. It is not the DM's job to try and guess what the players want and ignore what the players are saying.

The players have to take some responsibility for providing fun. Part of that is being honest about the kind of game they want. If I tell my DM that I want to spend most of my time exploring dungeons then proceed to act bored whenever I'm participating in a dungeon adventure that isn't the DMs fault.
 

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