New DM needing advice


Advice


My husband and I have played pathfinder for almost ten years now with my brother in law and I have always wanted to run my own game. I've never had the confidence to make up my own campaign and instead wanna try running CotCT.

What i'm curious is among other DM's and experienced players, what is it you do to prepare for running a game? Aside from reading the whole AP or world creating lol.

I feel that as I read and try to jot down notes to myself that i'm missing key information that when I go back to clarify I cannot find the information and I am beginning to feel al little overwhelmed and doubtful that I can even run a game that others would enjoy.

Thank you forever one who can help me or give advice. I really want to make a memorable game rather than a train wreck.


Speak to your players, session 0 is a must for many. Set the tone, the expected power levels, the acceptable materials, and party composition. If everyone begins with the same expectations there will be fewer surprises later. Discuss all home rules, nothing sucks more than finding out you and your Gm differ on a particular ability.
Plus you can find out if your players are compatible with the party and the campaign, which helps avoid gillman in the dessert syndrome.

Making a cheat sheet is a good start. A GM screen is your third best tool, covering it with sticky notes full of relevant rules is better, having a supportive party is best though.

Limit your players to what you know works. It is tempting to allow everything, but not all 3rd party material is created equally. Stick to at least 1st party published, your players will likely appreciate boundaries to work in that they know aren't going to create conflict with the system.

Put monster stats onto note cards, have abilities on those note cards then you cant forget them. When the monster is done, so is the card.

Make extra of every monster or NPC at that level for when the party says "lets go over there instead". A cheat sheet with a few NPC names/features/stats make you SEEM more prepared than you are for deviations from the published path.

Trust your players to know their own characters. They will have only so many abilities/powers/spells/equipment pieces to draw from. If they are experienced they will know theirs and the relevant rules so you don't have to. Then just know what each of YOUR monsters do in a given session, the stat blocks help if players are affecting stats, just adjust accordingly.

Come to the forums for advice, plenty of threads already exist for most conflicting issues or clarifications, chances are your question has already been answered.

Published adventures are a great learning tool, but don't be afraid to jump the rails as they say. You as a GM should have a few side events ready to go to reward player exploration, but remind them there is a ticking clock. If they are a good group most will say enough side quests, back to the mission at hand. Events can include social, combat, and skill challenges. I also use Oregon trail travel tables we use when moving between set pieces, they roll on a table varied by favoured terrain, if the percentile dice come up, event, otherwise its another day of regular travel.
I find that players make their own memorable moments, all the GM has to do is "Rule of cool" them down to a dice roll. The rogue wants to roll past the enemies, cut the chandelier rope, ride it to the top and leap next to the gloating badguy? Absolutely, but if you fail make it memorable too, let them tell you how it fails so it fails exactly how they want.

Finally, trust your dice. We use randomizers for a reason, to add fate and chaos to an otherwise narrative experience. Critical threat behind the screen? Roll them in the open to confirm, let the player know death is coming! Even misses will be memorable when the GM sets the screen aside and sighs dramatically.

As an experienced player with likely at least one other experienced player you will at least know the game so speed should not be an issue. And you don;t need to know every rule, just the ones that relate to the player characters and the session. Its not as daunting a task as you think, and nothing is stopping you from saying ok it works like this for now, but between games we will look it up and decide for certain, when a rules question comes up.
Happy GM-ing and welcome to the ranks of evil overlords everywhere!


Some little advice that might be helpful. The night before a game re-read the section coming up. Make sure you have notes for the creatures you expect to use. Figure out what sort of stuff the random nameless creatures have so when the party loots them you have answers instead of questions.

Actually adding in some random bits of trash rewards keeps player's interests. Stuff like "a smooth grey river rock", or "a feather and string luck charm" adds flavor without adding gp. Some players really get into it. It keeps the monster from feeling like cardboard cut outs.

That might be more work than its worth. /shrug

Also when you want to say "no", stop and think about it for a moment longer. Sometimes you still need to say no, but other times it wouldn't hurt to set a DC and say "roll". It is usually more fun to let players try and fail than it is to just say "impossible".

Oh, and generally speaking I let players know the DC after they try once unless its something that should be obvious before they try or really mysterious so they'll never know. The more experience they have with something the more you should let them know about DCs. (or honestly, the more they should remember)


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

The first advice I'd give is don't worry about it so much. These are your friends and family, and they aren't going to disown you if you don't run a perfect game. You will also probably actually run a better game if you don't stress about it being perfect anyway.

The second is, practice makes perfect. Over time you will get better at running games, and figure out better what particular prep methods work best for you. While getting advice can help, by and large their is no substitute for practice, so expect that at times things will be rocky as you are learning and understand that your games will improve. Remembers the first point is also helpful during this process.

Lastly, cheat. I don't mean fudging dice roles (although personally I don't think that is necessarily wrong either) rather I am referring to your ability as the omnipotent deity of the world you are running to change things. Don't be afraid to make stuff up if you can't remember exactly what is written in a module somewhere. Fake it till you make it in other words. Obviously you want to understand the main arc of the plot and have combat stats fairly available, but if you can't remember exactly what Sir Red of Herring is supposed to tell the PCs, don't be afraid to wing it, usually that will work out better then pausing the game spending several minutes to look something up even if what you make up isn't 'as good' as what was in the module, and you might be surprised how often it ends up being better. With your all powerful abilities as GM, you can often make something you made up on the spur of the moment into a significant point or accurate foreshadowing later on.


If you're going to be running a premade campaign, there's not really THAT much to recommend beyond reading it and having an idea of whats going on. If you want to speed things along, you can pre-roll things like initiative for encounters (so you're not stuck rolling for half a dozen things at the table), reading up what all of the spells and abilities and feats actually do, etc, but mostly its just reading (both beforehand and to the players).

When it comes to a campaign you are making yourself, then it gets a LOT trickier. Trying to make it cohesive and all that can be a nightmare at times. The one trick I've found the most useful?

Throw out plot hooks like they were candy, if you have the slightest clue what you're going to do with them later or not. As in, do you have a random encounter with some thugs in a warehouse? Describe the leader as having a very specific tattoo (like "A 4 pointed star, surrounded by 7 ravens flying in a circle"), or name drop someone the PCs have never heard of before. Do that everywhere, and just keep basic notes on what you used and when/where.

Then over time, as things start to build up, the players will start to see connections and patterns that you never even put in there as they try to make sense of the random crap you've thrown at them.

Let them theorize and try to make sense of it, and when one of them comes up with a theory to tie it all together that you like, you can just throw your hands up and go "Welp, you figured it out! You got me!".

Will make it look like you've spent months or even YEARS setting something up, when in reality you just let the players write the arc themselves without realizing it.


Littlelari wrote:

My husband and I have played pathfinder for almost ten years now with my brother in law and I have always wanted to run my own game. I've never had the confidence to make up my own campaign and instead wanna try running CotCT.

What i'm curious is among other DM's and experienced players, what is it you do to prepare for running a game? Aside from reading the whole AP or world creating lol.

I feel that as I read and try to jot down notes to myself that i'm missing key information that when I go back to clarify I cannot find the information and I am beginning to feel al little overwhelmed and doubtful that I can even run a game that others would enjoy.

Thank you forever one who can help me or give advice. I really want to make a memorable game rather than a train wreck.

Well first off, it sounds like you've already been a player for a long time, so there's probably a lot of basics you've already got a handle on. You likely know for example how combat flows, how a few combat maneuvers work and the details of a few spells. That being said if you feel like you're missing info as you read the AP I'm guessing you feel overwhelmed by the grand scope of the plot as a whole.

We've all been there.

Try focusing on the plot in small chunks. Instead of reading the entire first book of the AP and memorizing it all, skim over the whole thing and then just obsess over the first chapter. Having note cards with key locales, NPCs or other plot points on them might help keep you organized.

Say you have a settlement NPC in the adventure who is a LN F Half-Elf Adept 2/Warrior 1 with a flaming longsword. You know the PCs will encounter her so stick an image on the card's unlined side with her name and quirks/personality under it, then on the back a stat block just in case one of the PCs decides they want to go toe-to-toe with the village sheriff.

Know your players. This can't be stressed enough. The only thing that's going to make this a "train wreck" is if your players don't have fun. Then again if you know what they like and provide that, it won't matter if you don't know the HP of the door they want to bash down.

Finally if you want to make this an experience for your players, try to make the fantasy world around them live. If you know your PCs are going to encounter some goblins jot down some silly things they might say before, during or after combat and pepper these things into play. "You miss the goblin" is way different from "As you miss the goblin he jeers "by the festering finger wart of Chief Frogsknuckle, you're worse with a blade than my Aunt Petunia, and twice as ugly!'"

Try not to sweat the rules so much. Remember the basics, keep a Core book or an internet device on PFSRD handy. So long as you're confident about what the players are going to run into and the way you want that to look/feel, the rest will fall into place.


Thank you everyone for all of this very helpful advice. I will work to prepare things slowly bit by bit so not to feel as over whelmed.

Thank you all again so much!


Read through book one and make notes, as you are doing. I like to mark skill checks and DCs in yellow. I make notes of whatever pawns, maps and props that I will need as I go along. Then, just refresh yourself on the next three or four encounters prior to each session. That's all there is to it.

If you're feeling overwhelmed at the lore, just start looking into it a little bit at a time. For instance, just start with the basic history of Korvosa and then Varisia. You can read about them on the wiki online, or if you have the book, the Inner Sea World Guide.

Understanding the background is an important element used in bringing the city of Korvosa and its current events to life for your players. There is no need to rush yourself into doing it all at once. Just take your time and prep yourself. Put off your first session for a few weeks until you get the chance to read all of the background information that you need.

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