I am new to Pathfinder, I have been playing for about six months now and have enjoyed it. I wish to try being a GM. I have an idea for a long campaign that I have already asked for advice here http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2pvfo?New-GM-looking-for-advice-on-a-Pathfinder .
I realize that before I try a long campaign I should try some shorter stuff just to learn how to be a good GM. Any good recommendations for shorter level 1 adventures or modules.
'Souls of Smugglers' Shiv,' part 1 of the Serpent's Skull AP, is pretty good as a stand-alone, because the beginning ("You are stranded on a desert island") and the end ("You get rescued") allow it to pop into any campaign where there's a voyage by sea. Its one disadvantage for a new GM is that most of it is wilderness-based, which can be a little harder to manage than a dungeon when you're brand new behind the GM screen.
Hollow's Last Hope: a great 3.5 module that opens up a whole setting for you in the process of the game. This is ideal for crafting a whole campaign from the first game session.
Master of the Fallen Fortress: a fantastic primer for basic combat rules and some light dungeon hacking. It also leaves potential pathways for development.
Personally, even though I've been GMing for years, I always prefer to start my campaigns at level 1 and have used versions of these many times. I've also used an update of Keep on the Borderlands; a standard staple of many, if not most players' experiences from way back in 1st edition D&D.
Other than that, I'd say just wing it. Go through the bestiary or the SRD, pick out some CR 1/4 to CR 2 monsters that seem to go together (say about 6 of them) and make yourself a random encounter chart. Then just tell the players they're on the road in the wilds, looking for a settlement. Have them run into one of the random encounters, and see what they do with it. From there, make up an adventure.
1. 1d6 Giant Rats
2. 1 Sprite, 1D3 Badgers
3. 1d4 Goblin Warrior 1, 1 Goblin Expert (alchemy specialist) 3
4. 1 Mite, 1 Giant Spider
5. 1 Dwarf Ranger 2, 1d3 Wolves
6. 1d6 Vegypygmies, 1 Shrieker Mushroom
Let's say you roll a 3. The party encounters a bunch of Goblin Warriors being led by an Expert Alchemist. The Expert won't have mutagens and such like the base class, but maybe has a couple potions and some flasks of fire. After a tough fight, maybe the party finds a bunch of odd, red ribbons on the alchemist.
Why red ribbons? At that point give them a Perception or Survival check (DC 10). The ribbons are tied onto very specific nearby bushes. To what end? I don't know; marking a trail, an alchemy resource, or perhaps both. If the party investigates, make up a reason and that's your first game's plot. Otherwise, they loot the bodies and move on through the wilds.
On the choice of not investigating the ribbons you can instead either give them another encounter right away or give them some wilderness challenge. It might be as simple as telling them they're lost and having them get their bearings to as drastic as a terrible storm or flash flood.
As the party deals with this you roll with it, complicating the challenge with either their second encounter or another odd detail, like the ribbons. Maybe while scouting trails to get back on track they spot a lone rider off in the distance but when they attempt to make contact the vision is gone as fast as it came. On the other hand you might simply have them find a standing stone with a rune that glows every time thunder claps; touching it and surviving a Fort DC 12 save grants Endure Elements or something.
Finally they can either investigate this new phenomena, or simply trudge on to town. Here again investigation becomes your first game session; otherwise they arrive cold and tired at the settlement they seek. If they go to the settlement you can instead have them roleplay with residents in the market or inn. Depending on your play style you might either have them roll Diplomacy checks to gather info or just chat it out. Either way, they learn the following:
- Goblins have been seen a lot lately; at the same time the local wolves have grown very scarce. Currently the sheriff and his men are scouring the woods for these brigands. A bounty has been placed on the discovery of their hideout.
- There is an old ruined tower along another road leading out of town. Old Skregg the Teamster is looking to haul a load of supplies to a group of woodcutters just past it.
- Hervanya Stormswill, a dwarven brewer, claims her granther's recipes have been stolen. She's in the process of a delicate batch and can't go after the thief right now; instead she offers a cask of her finest ale for their safe return
The PCs can either take one of these jobs or try to learn more about something specific, like the tower or one of the NPCs mentioned. Either way, its a nice, simple, well-rounded intro to a homebrew with a lot of open threads for the players to follow.
If you don't mind using an online conversion for a classic module, you can try to track down N1: Against the Cult of the Reptile God or U1: Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, both of which were great starter modules back in the days of AD&D. (The second is probably a better choice, because a straight PF conversion for N1 would pit the PCs against an end-boss that has a pretty formidable CR.)
OMG LH, there's a conversion out there for Sinister Secret/U1? Please link if you have it. Otherwise I know what I'm searching on after work.
@OP: The Saltmarsh/U1 modules are a great old series as well. They set up a nice base of operations similar to Golarion's Sandpoint, there's plenty of action in the modules and then if you want detailed info on the town there's a wonderful writeup in the D&D DM's Guide II for 3.5.
I've used U1 or variations for a number of starts as well. Haunted houses, secrets, scooby-doo like effects...it is the bulletpoint to an entire generation of gaming. Another nice thing about using the Saltmarsh modules is that it gives you the potential for as much roleplay as action; a darn rare thing in those old mods.
Somebody out there probably has a public conversion, but I don't know of it: when I ran it for PF, I simply re-converted the conversion I'd done from 1st to 3.0. Saltmarsh is a little slow-paced at first, but it has lots of details that help sell the 'reality' of the location and the NPCs, and kind of encourages a new GM to maintain that level of 'realism' in his/her own adventures.