Thursday, July 10, 2008

Burnt Offerings

Some quick notes up front: this is all intended solely for the conversion of the content of Paizo's products to 4th Edition. This is not intended - nor will it function - as a substitute for the adventure itself. The Pathfinder product line, the Rise of the Runelords adventure path and all properties contained within are copyright Paizo Publishing. All materials published on this website not covered by the above are copyright myself, but I grant permission to duplicate and distribute such materials freely so long as they are not used for monetary gain.

Over the course of this project I will add notes on how I run my games, and suggestions for how the adventure should be handled. I won't offer advice unless I feel it is sound, and you can feel free to incorporate as much of it as you wish.

Burnt Offerings is the first Rise of the Runelords adventure. It takes place in and around the coastal town of Sandpoint in Varisia. The first thing you should do, before the campaign even begins, is to allow your players to get acquainted with the setting. The Rise of the Runelords Player's Guide is an excellent place to start. Make it clear that the mechanical information contained within does not apply to your campaign (this includes the feats and equipment sections). I may over the next few days update some of this to 4th Edition, though your campaign will not suffer if you simply remove it entirely. I strongly encourage you to allow all core races (the word "core" in this blog is used in the same manner Wizards uses it - anything published by Wizards of the Coast for 4th Edition in an official capacity is "core"). Dragonborn and Tieflings can easily be incorporated as exotic travelers from distant lands. At any rate, the more familiar your characters are with the land and its people, the better. That goes for you too. Make sure you've read the Player's Guide and the Sandpoint chapter of Burnt Offerings.

Sit your players down and help them through character creation. Make sure you have plenty of blank character sheets on hand along with enough pencils to go around. Again, I strongly encourage you to allow all core player options. There is no reason to disallow something entirely, and precious little reason to alter mechanics. Nine times out of ten, DMs do not have the experience and mastery of game balance to handle the task of "fixing" parts of the game. I certainly don't.

As a note: my group of players tends to hover around five people per game, which is the "target" number of players for 4th Edition. If you have more or fewer players in your game, simply use the DMG's encounter building guidelines to adjust the challenges accordingly. It's not hard.

When you're ready to start the adventure, the first thing you should do is set your workspace up. As a DM, part of your job is to make sure that the game runs smoothly. This means that you want to avoid cluttering up your side of the table while still having plenty of helpful information at your fingertips. Here's my preferred setup:

  • The room: Should be large enough to hold the table and all your players with plenty of room to maneuver into and out of chairs. Should be mostly free of distractions.
  • The table: Nice and large. Square or round tables are preferable to long, rectangular ones. You want the table to fit your battle mat evenly so that everyone has roughly equal access.
  • Battle mat: Don't kid yourself, you need one. The good kind is large (around 20"x20" at least), can be rolled up (always roll it up so that the 1-inch squares are on the outside) and works with washable markers.
  • Markers: Crayola My First Washable Markers. Not kidding. Go to the market and buy a pack. Do NOT use dry erase or whiteboard markers of any kind on your battle mat. The colors will sink into the mat and you'll be staring at a shadow of your first encounter for the rest of your gaming days.
  • Spray bottle: Small is good. I went out and bought a spray bottle of whiteboard cleaning fluid and emptied the thing out, rinsed it a couple times and refilled it with water. Works like a charm. You might want to keep some paper towels on hand to wipe the mat down with, too.
  • Minis: I use Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures. You should too, since you need minis anyway and it helps support the guys who make D&D possible. It doesn't hurt that they're of decent quality and designed for a 1-inch grid.
  • Poker Chips: Keeping track of marks, curses, quarries and challenges can be a pain without some way to visualize them. Poker chips of various colors work well, though they tend to be a little large for a 1-inch grid.
  • DM's Screen: A brilliant invention - keeps important information in an easy-to-access place and keeps wandering player eyes from stealing adventure secrets from under your nose.
  • Paperclips: To hang interesting things from the front of the DM's Screen for your players to look at.
  • The adventure: Woah, hey, really? Even if you have this conversion guide on hand in some form, have the published adventure with you. I don't care how familiar you are with it. Keep it behind the screen.
  • Dice: A full set or two.
  • Pencils: Players forget.
  • Snacks: Have easy access to both food and drink. If your games go on for a few hours, order pizza or what have you.
  • Music: Stick to instrumental pieces (or at the very least, pieces with no intelligible lyrics). Lots of great stuff out there, so spend some time browsing.
  • Core books: If you're running a 4th Edition game, have the 4th Edition rules there for goodness' sake. Player's Handbook, Monster Manual and Dungeon Master's Guide at a minimum.
  • Laptop: Or other computer. Not everyone owns one, and not everyone has a desktop computer in a convenient place, so this is optional. It helps, though. A lot. You can play music through it, search your digital copies of books, use the D&D Insider Compendium, grab online materials (like this guide), take notes on the campaign, etc.
A substantial list, but your experience will be better for it, I promise.

Make a note of each character's name. Try to remember them. Try really hard. It helps the immersion factor to call on players by their characters' names. I'm terrible about this but I'm working on it. Also keep mental note of their race, class and gender. Constructing a mental image of the character helps a lot - think of them as people and suddenly you'll find yourself recalling details much easier.

To kick the adventure off, drop your players right into the middle of the Swallowtail festival. None of this wake-up-in-the-morning, what-do-you-do-now nonsense. The festival is busy. Some of the player characters probably are familiar with the town, so refer to the townspeople by name as well as occupation. Your job in the first few minutes is to make Sandpoint seem alive. Its people are (save a few of its more sober residents) excited, jovial, eager to show off. Describe the scene vividly, using the information given to you in the adventure. When your players have had a suitable taste of what Sandpoint and the festival are like, go ahead and begin the first encounter.

No comments: