New DM seeking advice on visual aids.


Advice


Hey all. So I'm new to the forums, new to D&D, new to DMing... new to pretty much everything. But I finally bought myself a set of 3.5 core books for Christmas. And because I like a challenge, I've decided to jump straight in and run Legacy of Fire for a group of five players.

I've read the first half of the adventure path (which I have in print) and I'm pretty confident I can make it a fun experience. However, all but one of the people I'm DMing for have little to no D&D experience, and the last one has several years' worth, both as a player and a DM himself, so I have a couple of questions.

My biggest (and most important) question is this: what do you recommend I do about visual aids, particularly maps? Should I buy the map folio? Find the images elsewhere and print them to scale? Or should I draw them on a battlemat as we go? (Our experienced player has one, so it's not an expense, and we have a big enough table for it) Should I buy the bestiary box, so I have some pawns (and use a wonderful DIY guide I found to make more), or just use scraps of paper with "Pugwampi 3", "Gnoll 5", etc. written on them?

Two of the people in the group have absolutely no experience (and I have trouble keeping track of visuals in my head), so I definitely want to have visual aids so they can see where they are in any given room (particularly when we get to the House of the Beast), but I'd appreciate some input on a good way to go about it. So what do you experinced folks do, and what advice can you give to a newbie like me?

Cheers!


3.5 (and Pathfinder by proxy) are very heavily built around the battlemap. That said, you can certainly play without one and just keep most of the positioning and distance in your head, but I do agree that for newer players visual representations will help the learning curve a lot.

The map folio is helpful for when you need a quick glance without wanting to turn back through the module's pages, or when PCs could theoretically get a good view of an area before the fighting starts (Kelmarane comes to mind, as it is visible from the old monastery). But beyond that, its not that critical to have, in my opinion.

If you have time and the marker ink for it, using a yardstick to grid out and make your own "full size" maps on old cardboard can be awesome. I did that for the Kelmarane Battle Market, all three levels, and I used soda cans to space the levels apart vertically. 3d terrain is always more interesting when you can actually see the levels relative to each other. However, it took three peices of cardboard about 3'x3' each to make the levels. Gridding, drawing, and cutting them out took about 4 hours of work, and blew through about 2 marker pens of ink. Very much a "mileage may vary" task.

If your going to use a battlemat of any sort, you will need markers to represent things on. Scraps can be done, but they tend to be obnoxiously easy to blow off, jostle, or lose at the worst moments. If you want a placeholder until you build up a pawns/minis collection, use the caps from soda bottles. They are a little large for the 1inch grid (I think they are like 1 and 1/8 inches) so they can get wonky in a crowd, but for most fights, they work quite well, come in several colors, take to permanent marker well, and are easy to handle (compared to paper scraps). A little tape or glue can turn 3 into a reasonable large creature, or you can use other caps, like fruit juice bottles (large), Pringles lids (huge), or sour cream lids (Gargantuan).

Best of all, as you have more games, you should be getting more caps (unless nobody drinks anything at all). Draw some faces or names on the tops and you're pretty good to go! I highly reccomend little stick figures with a noticable difference over "Gnoll 5". It helps the immersion ever so slightly (and every bit helps) when you can say "missing-ear gnoll moves to flank you with the help of bug-eyed gnoll".

Hope this helps!


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I have used the following over the past 25 years:

- Originally, nothing, nada. All imagination-driven description. I ran my games from a couple of scraps of notepaper & the monster books. If the players wanted maps, they drew them as they went based on my descriptions.

Pros: massive imaginative input, keeps combat quick & creative (people are much more willing to try crazy moves), some players love mapping
Cons: massive imaginative input - if you or your players are on an off day, this can really miss the mark; lack of visuals removes one of the creative sparks for RP; doesn't suit a full interpretation of 3/3.5/PF combat rules very well; some players hate mapping :-)

- At the other end of the scale, in my main campaign at the moment I GM from a laptop and use digital maps (usually blow-ups of the piccies in module pdfs) projected onto a screen with black-outs (added in Inkscape) that I progressively remove as the players explore. I also project piccies of major NPCs, items, handouts etc. As I implied above, I find having well-made graphics to hand is a useful spark for RP & really adds to the feel (& builds the hate with the big bad when he's looming over the group for the epic fight!). It is a fair amount of work though, and I don't bother if I don't have some good digital material to hand (pdf of the module plus a bit of googling usually provides plenty!). At the tactical level, I use whiteboard marker sketches on a plain battlemap that I draw/erase as necessary. I use a mix of things for counters: generally in "feel" I find that a well-painted miniature > pawn > printed token with piccie > something less representative, though of course cost flows in the other direction! Mostly I make my own printed tokens; there's plenty of digital source material around & it doesn't take long (couple of hours, including digital editing, to make enough material do a full AP module that will last weeks of play).

Pros: adds to the ambience; cuts down miscommunication; plays up to the tactical board-game that is a feature of 3/3.5/PF; sparks GM description riffs & RP opportunities if you're having a creative off-day
Cons: takes a lot of preparation; limits ability to go off-script seamlessly; can be expensive (if you don't already have the necessary bits); not everyone likes the board-game that is combat

- For recent one-shots, I've taken a half-way house. To keep things snappy, I don't run from a laptop - I use a whiteboard for sketches/party viewable info (initiative order, conditions, hps & the like); battlemaps (either premade ones if they exist, or just sketches on my blank board); pawns; & printed handouts/piccies of major NPCs etc. Seems to be quite a good compromise, I like not being tied to the computer when GMing, and I've found myself making flowing, creative rulings more which helps with combat pace. Preparation time's still pretty high though :-(


I use all kinds of stuff, depending on how much time I have.

I have a set of Worldworks games terraclips that I use for 3d terrain, it is definitely the best visual. I also have a flip mat that can be drawn on an erased. It is my least favorite, but easiest to use. I also have some stuff called gaming paper, which is really just graph paper with 1 inch squares that I use to make maps when I have time. An alternative to this, is to use the back of your left over Christmas wrapping paper, as a lot of it also has 1 inch squares.

I also use a laptop, plugged into a second monitor, I GM from my screen and project a power point to the second screen. I make opening credits that have pictures of all the PCs and a brief recap of what has happened, and then I put up other slides of pictures of the monsters the group encounters.

For minis, I have quite a few plastic ones that I have acquired over about 2-3 years. The best investment I have made, is that I bought a package of zombies intended to be used for warhammer. These guys have turned into my standard mooks. Then I have some Pathfinder minis, some D&D minis, some reaper minis etc. If I don't have a mini that is at all close, I have the 4e monster kit with all of the circle pawns. If there isn't anything in that, then i'll just cut out a piece of paper and write what it is on the front.


I've also done the gambit from nothing to 3D terrain and everything in the middle and have had success with all of them.

MAPS:
For combat its much less confusing and less arguments about distance/ranges using a grid based map. My current setup is basically a 30"x20" 1" grid easel pad. My wife is very artistic so I've got dozens and dozens of maps at my disposal that she has created for me over the years. Then when i need an improtu map, i just scribble on it with some markers :)

As mentioned above using aids can take away from the imagination required which does take out some of the magic. If you love painting a picture with your words, then very simple maps are better IMHO, if you do not or your players dont care, detailed maps with elevations, terrain obstructions etc work well.

Mini's:
I've played using dice (easy to keep track of mob 1/2/3/4/5...X), paper mini's and minis. All work very well as long as you can number them. Similar to maps though, i find when I'm using just dice i describe the mobs more and give it more flare vs minis its more of "you see one of these buggers".

Hand Outs:
These I love. I like to take paper and use tea/fire to make it look old. Wanted posters, notes left behind, maps, all manners of documents.
I've also found NPC cards to be useful (made myself but you can get pre-made ones). PCs can fill these up with information they have discovered on the NPCs so they dont forget key points between sessions.
Also when PC's find strange items or artificats or runes/inscriptions I like to draw these out in the form of a handout. Mainly this helps my players as they tend to forget things, but if your group doesnt need this, your flair with words may easily fill this void.

I guess it just comes down to what you enjoy and what your players enjoy its a spectrum of imagination to pre made. Try a few different ways and see what your group works well with.


Also, there is a new? company called Dapper Devil that has made some pretty cool little tokens.


I got some of the little bases you sometimes get in board games and the like, print off the monster I want on thin card, cut 'em out and use those. So long as you have a semi-decent printer it works well.

Currently, I mostly use a battlemat, but we do have a 3-d terrain kit I intend to play with a bit.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Some Suggestions :

1) Go to Lowes or Home Depot, and buy a plexiglass sheet. Have them cut it down for you to fit your table top. This is relatively inexpensive (a 3 by 4 foot sheet is about $35), and gives you a great surface for drawing maps on (or for just dropping over maps you've done on presentation paper/etc, see below). I'd buy a battle mat, the plain ones with hexes on one side and inch squares on the other, these are about the same price for the same size as the plexiglass. So, for about $80 you have a reusable redrawable battle mat. It works well also if you buy any of the professional battle mats from Paizo or other sources, just drop them under the plexi and you can draw over the map without damaging it.

2) Check with sites such as www.TrollAndToad.COM or www.PopularCollections.COM, both of which sell mini's individually. The really common ones sometimes go for as low as 0.25 a piece. Also you can buy really really cheap warhammer mini's for about the same price. They're not perfect, they're a bit bigger than the standard WOTC/PF mini's but they work, and they're cheap. Usually you get reduced or no shipping if you drop a $100 on minis. This means you can do one big purchase and get a decent setup that covers most of your needs. I'd get about 60% monsters and 40% character figs.

3) If you really want to keep it cheap, go to Walgreens or Wal-Mart or CVS or Target and buy those big bags of green army men and a small can of model spray paint to repaint some of them other colors. use these for figs.

4) By the same token, you can get some use out of those cheep big bags of farm animals, lizards, dinosaurs, zoo packs, etc. The bags of small toys for 3-6yo's that have little plastic animals and creatures in them. Even the little alien creature bags can be used. They're not perfect, but if you want to you can cut out bases from stiff cardboard to make them the right base (1x1, 2x2, 3x3, etc) and glue the figures to bases.


My group started out with soda bottle caps on a battlemat for PC's, and Pennies for monsters. Gatorade lids are just about perfect for size Large creatures (also useful if anyone casts enlarge person).

Paper minis are a fairly affordable resource for monsters and PC's. I recommend taping a coin in the bottom of each one (dime for small, penny for medium, a quarter or a Sacagawea dollar for large).

Last year, we started pooling funds to buy the Pathfinder Battles minis as they come out. It feels like we have done it all over the last 2 years or so as far as how to handle the battlemat.

One of our DM's bought some plexiglass and predraws the map on plexi in water washable ink. Then he covers everything with pieces of black paper and moves them around to reveal as we explore.

When I'm running the game, I use a combination of flip mats and drawing directly on the battlemat with washable marker.

Advice: Start cheap (coins and/or bottle caps) and drawing right on the battlemap. As the group gets more gaming experience and gels, you can start using more expensive options like minis, etc.

-Aaron

Dark Archive

I have been a GM for around 9 years and I am currently running Legacy of Fire. I have tons of information for you, but at this moment I'm in a hurry.

Later!


Wow. I post something, go to bed, and when I come back, this happens! I wasn't expecting so many responses. Thanks everyone!

It seems everyone has a method that works for them, and hopefully I can find one after a few sessions. I'll go through these one at a time.

Bard: I really like the idea of making all the levels for the battle market. My mother's a teacher, so she'd be able to filch me a couple of big pieces of cardboard. I think I even have a metre ruler at home somewhere. And I'm unemployed at the moment, so time isn't a valuable commodity. I might try doing that. =) I also love the bottle lids idea - I'll definitely do that until I start getting pawns!

Elro: Only a couple of us have any experience with tabletop gaming at all, so I think a purely imagination-based game would be too much for us to wrap our heads around. I love the idea of what you're doing in your current capaign, and if I had a better laptop and a projector, I'd do that in a heartbeat! The tactical elements are what I'm mainly concerned with at the moment, and I like the idea of making your own tokens. I'd love miniatures, but I can't spare the expense at the moment. Plus, I live in Australia, so shipping is something I really have to budget for.

Ayrphish: I like the powerpoint idea. My laptop's capable of running slideshows; I may have to take that idea. I'll look into Dapper Devil, as well.

Spahrep: The guy in the group with DM experience has a 3x4' battlemat with squares on one side and hexes on the other. I'll probably draw the maps onto that, since we already have it. I love your suggestions for player handouts, too!

Jon: I found a guide somewhere that shows how to make Bestiary Box-style pawns. I might try using that once I've bought the box and have some bases. =D

mdt: I like the plexiglass idea. I'll have to go to Bunnings sometime and check the prices. It would be good to protect the borrowed battlemat. And I'll look into those sites when I'm more financially inclined - and when I know whether DMing is something I want to continue. Are there any particular minis you'd recommend stocking up on? I know I need a lot of gnolls for the game I'm running!

Itchy: Are you talking about the Paizo paper minis? They do seem pretty affordable. I like the idea of covering the map and revealing it as the players go. That would work on the battlemap, too. If I could convince other players to chip in for minis, I would, but I don't know yet if this is going to be a regular gaming group or not. If it looks like we'll be gaming together for years to come, we might start doing that.

Saganen: I'd LOVE to hear what you have to say! An experienced DM running the exact same path I'm about to start? I can only imagine what wisdom you can pass on! =D

Whew, that took a while. I never expected so many responses so quickly! Thanks again everyone! Now if you have any advice for bumping up the AP for seven players, that would be appreciated... one player's decided he wants to bring two friends, cheeky sod...


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
El Ronza wrote:
mdt: I like the plexiglass idea. I'll have to go to Bunnings sometime and check the prices. It would be good to protect the borrowed battlemat. And I'll look into those sites when I'm more financially inclined - and when I know whether DMing is something I want to continue. Are there any particular minis you'd recommend stocking up on? I know I need a lot of gnolls for the game I'm running!

Anything under 25 cents is a good buy. I'd suggest skeletons, zombies, gnolls, bugbears, hobgoblins, and orcs. Beyond that, anything that can be a generic character, especially bandits or city guard types. A nice selection of various 'pc' characters comes in handy, and can usually be done fairly cheaply.

Also you can watch E-Bay, sometimes you can get a good deal on a big batch of mini's, or watch for local auctions that specialize in gaming materials.

The other thing is, don't set out to own the bank. Just watch for good deals, save up, and buy in big lots when you find good cheap deals. You don't need everything up front. I've been collecting mini's for about 10 years now, and I have probably over 2500 of them overall (from various game systems).


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
El Ronza wrote:
Whew, that took a while. I never expected so many responses so quickly! Thanks again everyone! Now if you have any advice for bumping up the AP for seven players, that would be appreciated... one player's decided he wants to bring two friends, cheeky sod...

I would suggest asking one of the 7 players to please assist as a co-GM, honestly. I used to run 7 players, and it's exhausting and difficult. Especially for a first time GM.

Beyond that, I'd say you could add 50% to the number of opponents when they're fighting groups, or if it's a single BBEG, multiply his hitpoints by 250% (100hp becomes 250hp). If it's a mixed battle (one BBEG and 4 grunts) make it six grunts and double the BBEG's hp.


I like to put appropriate mood setting music on. Helps almost as much as visuals.


El Ronza wrote:


Jon: I found a guide somewhere that shows how to make Bestiary Box-style pawns. I might try using that once I've bought the box and have some bases. =D

Well, I went and bought a bunch of these plastic bases rather than grabbing the Bestiary Box (which didn't exist at the time) but they work pretty well. Print onto cardstock and the bases grip fairly well. I even have some hero ones printed out for one off or new characters, NPC's and the like before I make them a model.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Glad we could help :-) Also good to hear other's approaches - some fine ideas here (hmm... plexiglass over printed maps).

El Ronza wrote:


Bard: I really like the idea of making all the levels for the battle market. My mother's a teacher, so she'd be able to filch me a couple of big pieces of cardboard. I think I even have a metre ruler at home somewhere. And I'm unemployed at the moment, so time isn't a valuable commodity. I might try doing that. =) I also love the bottle lids idea - I'll definitely do that until I start getting pawns!

My wife & I made a 3D cardboard, printed map, bamboo cane, & string version of the wrecked ship from We Be Goblins! for a one-shot - took us all afternoon but led to an awesome & hilarious gaming session :-)

El Ronza wrote:


Elro: Only a couple of us have any experience with tabletop gaming at all, so I think a purely imagination-based game would be too much for us to wrap our heads around. I love the idea of what you're doing in your current capaign, and if I had a better laptop and a projector, I'd do that in a heartbeat! The tactical elements are what I'm mainly concerned with at the moment, and I like the idea of making your own tokens. I'd love miniatures, but I can't spare the expense at the moment. Plus, I live in Australia, so shipping is something I really have to budget for.

Huh, sucks, shipping is bad enough to the UK. I use a blank 1" grid in Visio and insert & resize pics into it, takes about 30 mins for a 10x7 token sheet (finding the art takes longer!). You could a) buy the paizo pawns as pdfs to use as picture cut n paste stock; or b) look at free token sets for fantasy mapping programs; or c) buy starter sets from people like Fiery Dragon. I have a combination of all 3; some stuff is also pretty responsive to googling. By the time I've added the piccies from the pdf of the module I'm running, it normally looks pretty good and characterful - in some ways, I prefer the result to minis/pawns as you get tend to get a better match to the big bads, but it doesn't look quite so dynamic on the board.

I would reiterate that it's really easy to get lost in the combat-boardgame, and it gets easier with more board-props. Now, one group I run for *loves* the tactical boardgame, so I go a bit overboard if I'm honest; but others mostly want to RP, and there is something to be said for speeding through combat by handwaving some of the square-counting minutiae. I've started using Beginner Box combat rules & a more descriptive combat style with this bunch, really speeds things up. Worth testing out a couple of approaches with a new group and evolving style towards what seems to work best for you - make sure you want 1 hr fights before spending too much cash! I can elaborate if you like...

Quote:


Jon: I found a guide somewhere that shows how to make Bestiary Box-style pawns. I might try using that once I've bought the box and have some bases. =D

Wine boxes are generally of sensible thickness cardboard for the pawn bases :-) I just glue paper prints to both sides...

Lantern Lodge

El Ronza wrote:

Hey all. So I'm new to the forums, new to D&D, new to DMing... new to pretty much everything. But I finally bought myself a set of 3.5 core books for Christmas. And because I like a challenge, I've decided to jump straight in and run Legacy of Fire for a group of five players.

I've read the first half of the adventure path (which I have in print) and I'm pretty confident I can make it a fun experience. However, all but one of the people I'm DMing for have little to no D&D experience, and the last one has several years' worth, both as a player and a DM himself, so I have a couple of questions.

My biggest (and most important) question is this: what do you recommend I do about visual aids, particularly maps? Should I buy the map folio? Find the images elsewhere and print them to scale? Or should I draw them on a battlemat as we go? (Our experienced player has one, so it's not an expense, and we have a big enough table for it) Should I buy the bestiary box, so I have some pawns (and use a wonderful DIY guide I found to make more), or just use scraps of paper with "Pugwampi 3", "Gnoll 5", etc. written on them?

Two of the people in the group have absolutely no experience (and I have trouble keeping track of visuals in my head), so I definitely want to have visual aids so they can see where they are in any given room (particularly when we get to the House of the Beast), but I'd appreciate some input on a good way to go about it. So what do you experinced folks do, and what advice can you give to a newbie like me?

Cheers!

A few miniatures and a battle map will really help to give you and your players a good visual representation - showing where everything is. I'd recommend getting at least a battle map and some coins/pogs/minis or whatever - to represent the different characters/monsters.

Also a quick 8.5x11 map of the world - showing where the PCs are located (with respect to their home-towns/ major capitols, etc) really helps.


mdt wrote:
Anything under 25 cents is a good buy. I'd suggest skeletons, zombies, gnolls, bugbears, hobgoblins, and orcs. Beyond that, anything that can be a generic character, especially bandits or city guard types. A nice selection of various 'pc' characters comes in handy, and can usually be done fairly cheaply...

So basically stock up on the "cannon fodder" minis? I'll keep an eye on the sites you mentioned, then. I'll ask at the first group meeting, see if either of the experienced guys wants to help me DM it. Cheers for the guidelines on bumping the encounter difficulties, though. Should I increase the treasure rewards throughout the path, as well? If so, should I just throw in more coins, or actually work out some extra gems, magic items, etc.?

Arizhel wrote:
I like to put appropriate mood setting music on. Helps almost as much as visuals.

I'm actually looking into some appropriate music for a few sessions in (when I feel more comfortable). I'm thinking of using bits of the first Assassin's Creed soundtrack for this adventure path, and I have some eerie ambient music that could work for the abandoned monastery.

JonGarrett wrote:
Well, I went and bought a bunch of these plastic bases rather than grabbing the Bestiary Box (which didn't exist at the time) but they work pretty well. Print onto cardstock and the bases grip fairly well. I even have some hero ones printed out for one off or new characters, NPC's and the like before I make them a model.

My boyfriend took one look at those bases and said "Don't bother paying for them; they'd be easy to make." I told him to knock himself out. So I think he'll be making me some bases. :P He's apparently going to try making papier mache miniatures for when he eventually runs a game, as well. Crafty sod. You mentioned making models; do you make your own minis? How do clever people like you go about that? I'm not a particularly craft-minded person.

Elro the Onk wrote:
Wine boxes are generally of sensible thickness cardboard for the pawn bases :-) I just glue paper prints to both sides...

The boxes that hold bottles of wine, or the boxes that hold sacks of cheap nasty wine? ;-) I admire your dedication to the wrecked ship-building - that sounds impressive, and I'd love to see a photo! I've already started pulling art off the 'net to use for tokens. Even with the bestiary box on the way (the boyfriend said he'd spot me half and use it when he DMs a game), I'm going to need more pawns. The main reason I'm so concerned with having everything mapped out at the moment is so I can see what's going on, and it's easier for me to see what's going on, particularly for such a large group. My first time playing was with WotC dungeon tiles and a few minis, so that's what worked for me and stuck in my head. If I become more confident, and if the group wants it, I might try doing it on description alone. For now though, I'm certainly thinking maps and figures.

Haelow wrote:

A few miniatures and a battle map will really help to give you and your players a good visual representation - showing where everything is. I'd recommend getting at least a battle map and some coins/pogs/minis or whatever - to represent the different characters/monsters.

Also a quick 8.5x11 map of the world - showing where the PCs are located (with respect to their home-towns/ major capitols, etc) really helps.

It looks like that's what I'll be going with - battlemat with drawn-on maps, and a bunch of pawns. I hadn't even thought of a small world map, though. I'll see what I can do. Cheers!


If money is tight, you have to spend it on the right thing.
We got a cheap picture frame with a glass insert. Put the battlemap in that and you can use dry erase markers on it.

I second the vote for Ebay minis. I love my minis. But if you can't do that, there are many many online tokens you can print out in color or black and white. Most of the tokens are free. You can print on regular paper and glue them to cardboard if you cant print to heavier cardstock.

There isn't anything wrong with using pennies and nickels and such for monsters. Its a game, you arent putting on a professional show.

One group I heard from used candy for the monsters. M&Ms, gummi bears, etc. If you killed the monster, you ate the candy. Cookies for the bigger monsters lol. Incentive!

Pool the game group money and visit the local gaming shop to see if they have minis. Some have them in singles, and they can be very cheap.

You can also use blocks of wood for terrain. I built a bridge out of a couple of paint cans and a yardstick. The cans had graph paper on top, and the battle was fantastic, because there was a real sense of fear when you are fighting the dragon atop a narrow yardstick over a deep chasm.

Good luck!


I don't know all the rules for posting so this may be frowned on, but roll20.com is an excellent virtual tabletop. It's free and runs off the website so you don't have to download everything. My local group uses for our "in real life" games and it works great. (Think simplified maptool if you know what that is). It requires a computer obviously (which I assume you have since you posted on line and my friend hooked his up to a large flat screen TV so everyone could see but that's not vital. My other advice is, if you are new to gaming, run far far away from these forums. This is a place for jaded gamers to talk about how jaded gamers are these days. Run, enjoy the game while you can. Don't be like us.


Phrennzy. wrote:
If money is tight, you have to spend it on the right thing...

I've looked on eBay, and there doesn't seem to be much going at the moment. My local game shop sells the Pathfinder Battles minis in booster packs only, and I personally hate the idea of booster packs. I actually laughed out loud at the idea of using sweets to represent monsters - that's amazing, and I may just use that as incentive to get my sister to play!

Durngrun Stonebreaker wrote:
I don't know all the rules for posting so this may be frowned on, but roll20.com is an excellent virtual tabletop...

That sounds really useful. The only problem is I don't own a laptop, only a desktop, so I'd have to crowd eight people into my bedroom. I'll look into it anyway, in case someone else has a laptop I can borrow for the sessions. Cheers for that!


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
El Ronza wrote:
mdt wrote:
Anything under 25 cents is a good buy. I'd suggest skeletons, zombies, gnolls, bugbears, hobgoblins, and orcs. Beyond that, anything that can be a generic character, especially bandits or city guard types. A nice selection of various 'pc' characters comes in handy, and can usually be done fairly cheaply...
So basically stock up on the "cannon fodder" minis? I'll keep an eye on the sites you mentioned, then. I'll ask at the first group meeting, see if either of the experienced guys wants to help me DM it. Cheers for the guidelines on bumping the encounter difficulties, though. Should I increase the treasure rewards throughout the path, as well? If so, should I just throw in more coins, or actually work out some extra gems, magic items, etc.?

Yep, anything that can be either cannon fodder, or PC characters.

As to the treasure rewards, yeah, you should boost it some as well. But remember, you want to try to keep the WBL in tact when doing it. Nothing will make your game harder to DM than too much or too little wealth in the game. My suggestion is that every time people level, ask them to recalculate their current Wealth value (total up the value of everything they have on their character sheets). Then compare it to the WBL table. As long as it's within 20% either way, you're good. If it get's out of whack on the low side (they are under-armed for their level) then you can put out a particularly tasty reward (maybe even an RP reward, that kid they rescued from the slavers ended up being the local baron's daughter, who had snuck out to meet her commoner boyfriend and got caught up in slavers net, and he offers a small treasure trove of goodies). Alternately, if they're over WBL, just give them some encounters that don't end up giving treasure (animals or monstrous creatures like plant demons work good for this).


mdt wrote:
As to the treasure rewards, yeah, you should boost it some as well. But remember, you want to try to keep the WBL in tact when doing it. Nothing will make your game harder to DM than too much or too little wealth in the game. My suggestion is...

mdt, you're being very helpful. Thanks. =) The problem I face here, though, is that I'm running an AP, and being a new DM, I don't quite have the confidence to introduce new RP elements on the fly. The encounters are also set, so I can't really throw in some animals or plants, unless I swap out an encounter. If they fall below WBL, I was considering bumping up the value of the loot that's given throughout the path, but wasn't sure how much to do it by (or whether I should add extra magic items here and there, or just stick to bumping the value with more coins, gems, jewellery and the like). Since the AP's written for 4-6, I doubt 7 players would end up over WBL, but if that does happen... well, I'm not sure what to do then, either.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Ah, if you're running an AP, you're ok then. They are actually written to be fairly easy (lowest common denominator thing). I'd just give out the magic items that are in the AP, and maybe boost the gold here and there a bit to make up for it (25% boost every 3rd encounter or so) and you should be fine. Even if they end up a bit below WBL as easy as most APs are, that is not a major issue.

If it does happen to end up they are over WBL for some reason, just remove gold from future treasure hordes. Keep the items, but halve the gold portion of the treasure a couple of times. That should bring it back down.

EDIT : Lowest Common Denominator in this case meaning that the APs are designed to be of average difficulty for 5 relatively new gamers. So 7 mixed gamers should be fine even if WBL drops as low as 75% or so.


All in all, we have eight people: myself (the DM; a couple of sessions playing experience, long-time reader of the books; no DM experience at all); one player who's like me, minus the reading; two players with several years' experience as both players and DMs; and four complete newbies. So we've got an odd mix there. I know one of the experienced players, and he's a lovely guy, so I'm sure he'll help the new ones out. I think one of my bigger problems is going to be metagaming.

So, going by all the great advice you've given me for tweaking the AP, I should:

-Increase the number of enemies by 50% if fighting generic monsters;
-Increase HP 250% if fighting a single 'big bad' NPC or monster;
-In encounters of mixed 'mooks' and a big bad, increase number of mooks by 50% and double the big bad's HP;
-Keep magic item loot the same;
-Add 25% more coin value every 3rd encounter or so;
-Scale back gold rewards 50% a couple of times if party goes above WBL.

Right? Because that seems too easy :P


El Ronza wrote:


My boyfriend took one look at those bases and said "Don't bother paying for them; they'd be easy to make." I told him to knock himself out. So I think he'll be making me some bases. :P He's apparently going to try making papier mache miniatures for when he eventually runs a game, as well. Crafty sod. You mentioned making models; do you make your own minis? How do clever people like you go about that? I'm not a particularly craft-minded person.

Entirely true. But since about $10 or so, given current currency conversions, will get you 100 bases...and I can imagine that many people will wants 100 of them...I figured it wasn't worth the time and effort to even try and make my own. Not that I can work out how, honestly. Small wooden token with a very thin cut in it?

As for making full blown models, you can buy them from places like Reaper Miniatures and paint them up or literally assemble them from parts, if you have access to Warhammer miniatures (or any other models that come in parts with spares) and such. Of course, you can also convert the metal models Reaper sells if you have the tools and experience...which doing an entire 3500 point army of Grey Knights back in the days when they were all metal did for me.

Or, if you don't have the time, knowledge, tools or simple desire to fiddle around and paint tiny 28-32 mm tall models, you can hunt down someone and get them to make them for you...hence why my gaming shelf has about fifty miniatures I've assembled, painted and customised over the years for various roleplays.

There also a fair few stock models out there, such as the old D&D ones or these from em-4 miniatures, although since I build so many of my own I can't attest to how good or bad they look. I don't get them.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
El Ronza wrote:

All in all, we have eight people: myself (the DM; a couple of sessions playing experience, long-time reader of the books; no DM experience at all); one player who's like me, minus the reading; two players with several years' experience as both players and DMs; and four complete newbies. So we've got an odd mix there. I know one of the experienced players, and he's a lovely guy, so I'm sure he'll help the new ones out. I think one of my bigger problems is going to be metagaming.

So, going by all the great advice you've given me for tweaking the AP, I should:

-Increase the number of enemies by 50% if fighting generic monsters;
-Increase HP 250% if fighting a single 'big bad' NPC or monster;
-In encounters of mixed 'mooks' and a big bad, increase number of mooks by 50% and double the big bad's HP;
-Keep magic item loot the same;
-Add 25% more coin value every 3rd encounter or so;
-Scale back gold rewards 50% a couple of times if party goes above WBL.

Right? Because that seems too easy :P

Anything but easy. :) But those are easy things to remember, and easy to implement on the fly. Which is the important thing. There's lots of tricks and tips that you'll pick up on to iron things out, but they require experience on the GM/DM side. Since this is new for you, these are the easy rule of thumb things that you can easily remember and do quick and easy. Once you're working comfortably with that, then you can come back and ask for advanced help. :) It'll get easier as time goes by.


If you are up for the work you can buy a large piece of plexiglass and then etch your 1 inch squares on there. A friend of mine just did this with a magnetic white board and its pretty sweet.

Also Paizo announced a while back that they are releasing "Game space". It will allow you to play pathfinder online with a Gm and your buddies... Although I haven't heard anything about it since it was supposed to be released last summer. :(


JonGarrett wrote:
Entirely true. But since about $10 or so, given current currency conversions, will get you 100 bases...and I can imagine that many people will wants 100 of them...I figured it wasn't worth the time and effort to even try and make my own...

Exactly, he was talking about making tokens out of balsa wood and cutting a thin groove in it. Not only would it be incredibly time-consuming (I'm going to need at least thirty medium-sized bases), it would actually cost more than buying the ones you linked. He and I have just gone halves in the Bestiary Box, but it doesn't have enough bases for our needs (we need nine bases just for the players), so I reckon I'll just drop a few bucks on a heap of those. It'll be worth it, and I'll have extra bases in case any go missing.

Maybe one day I'll get a few Reaper miniatures... maybe when I have a job. *sigh*

mdt wrote:
Anything but easy. :) But those are easy things to remember, and easy to implement on the fly. Which is the important thing. There's lots of tricks and tips that you'll pick up on to iron things out, but they require experience on the GM/DM side. Since this is new for you, these are the easy rule of thumb things that you can easily remember and do quick and easy. Once you're working comfortably with that, then you can come back and ask for advanced help. :) It'll get easier as time goes by.

Next time I need help, you're probably the first person I'll be bugging. :P But I think I might print out those rules of thumb and staple them to my DM screen. Also might pick up one of those Raging Swan "So what's..." books so I can make my treasure boosts sound interesting.

Mage Evolving wrote:

If you are up for the work you can buy a large piece of plexiglass and then etch your 1 inch squares on there. A friend of mine just did this with a magnetic white board and its pretty sweet.

Also Paizo announced a while back that they are releasing "Game space". It will allow you to play pathfinder online with a Gm and your buddies... Although I haven't heard anything about it since it was supposed to be released last summer. :(

It would be so cool if I could cover my whole dining-room table with a sheet of plexiglass. As it is, I'm not sure the battlemat is going to be quite large enough for some of the dungeons they'll encounter (House of the Beast, I'm looking at you). That Game Space thing sounds awesome, and if they actually make that happen, I'm doing it. I have friends living out-of-town who've been wanting to play for ages, and a play-by-post would probably go too slowly.

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