So, as I mentioned in a post a while ago, I haven't run anything for a long time, and I was feeling... unconfident about running again. I've posted a few times recently about an upcoming game I was working on, and today I ran that game.
My original thoughts were that I was going to run a customized Mystara - a setting intrinsic to "basic" D&D that later got moved to 2E AD&D - for Lamentations of the Flame Princess. After 2 newbie players - one who had subbed for the last session of our 5E game, and one who hadn't played at all save a single 5E game and a 2E game with a "bad DM" (as it was described to me) - were invited to the group, I decided that both LotFP and a customized HUGE setting probably wouldn't be a good fit. So, I fell back on a setting I'd thrown together years ago based on some highly evocative maps from the old D&D Map A Week archive. It's a very Earth-like, human-only setting, with magic and monsters, based in a coastline community in Angland originally settled and established by adventurers from Le Kingdome du Francony, just across the sea. For system, I'd recently realized that the 1991 D&D Rules Cyclopedia (the original BECMI book, not the 4E book) - my all time favorite version of D&D - was available for purchase in not only PDF but HC and SC PoD from DriveThruRPG. So, I decided to run BECMI D&D, using the 1991 D&D Rules Cyclopedia.
A good portion of the day was spent doing character creation; I baby-stepped the group through it, explaining the differences between "basic" D&D and 5E, how the related mechanics work, and how I used them as a DM. Also, this gave the group time to work together and get to know one another better. Before, after, and during character creation, I would introduce parts of the setting that were important to character creation at that moment.
It went REALLY well. The new players were really "clicked in" to how I was explaining the rules, the setting, and how the game worked. The experienced players - one of whom is a D&D grognard like me - were able to help by chipping in advice now and again.
They say that any assumption a DM makes about his players will be proven false. Today proved that. I assumed that the players would want to play characters from the coastal area I detailed and would probably all know each other. I wound up with an Anglish Celtic-like fighter from some clan up in the north who had been in the area for a few months, an Anglish cleric of the nature god from further inland who came to the coastal area to experience the sea (as he had not yet seen one) and had been in the area a few weeks, a Francish thief with a mysterious background who had only been in the area for 3 days, and a Francish fighter who had only been in the area for about a year. None of them knew each other except in passing (although the two Francs decided that they knew each other as teenagers but had not seen each other since, so there was a bit of a reunion).
There is a fifth player, but she was sick today and unable to attend. She will probably be playing an Anglish magic-user from the same clan as the Celtic-like fighter, who is her bodyguard.
I started the characters at 2nd level; we generated 1st level characters, and then I gave them enough XP to be 2nd level. That way they'd have some experience under their belt, and they'd have better stats and abilities than a 1st level character. Plus, the new players learned what it meant to "level up" before the game started.
Anyway, I had built several encounters on specific places of the map, planning on making it a sandbox-y game in nature. However, since the players were playing characters that didn't really know each other, I had to... force the issue a bit. I started them in the local tavern, and had several things going on in the tavern while they were there. The one that garnered the most interest among the players is, I figured, where I would lead the game. I had:
- A bizarre old fisherman, talking about the things he'd seen in the ocean lately, and how the "men what with gills and fins were calling to him",
- A "snake oil" salesman who was looking to sell his "miracle cure" to the unwashed masses of the village,
- A beaten merchant who had just arrived, complaining about bandits that beat him up and took the village's supplies, leaving the tavern without a stock of beer or grain for bread.
Of course, the players as a group all individually latched on to the third, because dammit, what good is a tavern without beer?
So, they took off at dusk to find the bandits. It was dark when they got to the area of the bandit camp and they were walking around with a lantern and a torch. Luckily for one of the new players' "Danger Sense" roll, they decided to extinguish those just before the bandit lookout was about to fire on them with a crossbow. The thief managed to sneak up to the bandit lookout and backstab him; unfortunately, he rolled a 1 for damage. A tussle occurred, resulting in the death of the lookout, but not until after he managed to yell out "SONOFABITCH!". The tussle took much longer than normal, because as with character creation, I was baby-stepping the group through combat because of system differences to 5E and the new players.
We ended at that point, it being quitting time for the session.
I know that doesn't sound like much, but the feedback I received was excellent. Everyone really enjoyed the setting and how easy it was to grok because of its inherent familiarity. They all really liked how I was going through and explaining the system, and were all really into the game and their characters. Most of them were actually speaking in character with faux-English or French accents.
I'm really looking forward to the next session. I figure that after they defeat the bandits, they'll have some cohesiveness as a player group and as a PC party. And I was very happy with my performance as a DM, so that's good too.