On Introductory Adventures

My first real experience with a DM was with the adventure Keep on the Borderlands, a classic adventure that many, many players had as their first adventure since it was published with the introductory Basic D&D rules for about a decade.

The thing is: it’s not a very good introductory adventure if you’re a new DM.

Well, half of it is: the dungeon half. That bit is fine to run as a new DM. It’s not hard to run a battle against 4 orcs, and the dungeon is entertainingly laid out and gives a lot of opportunities for the player characters. An experienced DMs can do even better with it, but you don’t need to be one to run it and entertain your friends.

Unfortunately, the adventure does its best to make it hard for the group to get there. First the characters need to visit the Keep, which will be their home base. And the Keep has two major problems: none of the NPCs are named, and none of them are quest-givers. The DM needs to invent all of that themselves, which is difficult when you’re ten years old and new to this whole DMing business.

And then the group need to wander the wilderness looking for the dungeon, which isn’t that entertaining.

I ended up working this out eventually, and just skipped to the dungeon.

Now, with a lot of experience, I’ve realised there are two types of low-level adventure. You’ve got ones for experienced DMs, and you’ve got ones that teach how to DM. Keep is meant to be the latter – and does give a lot of good advice – but in those early days, designers didn’t have much of a clue about what complete novices needed – especially not if they were really young! The current D&D Starter Set is much, much better at introducing a DM to the game.

So, if you’re just starting out, be aware that all low-level adventures might not be written for you. Low-level adventures don’t have to be simple!

If you’d like to hear and see me ramble on about this, try this video below:

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3 Responses to On Introductory Adventures

  1. Kyle Maxwell says:

    Where does the 5e starter set fall in this dichotomy?

    • Alastair says:

      ” The current D&D Starter Set is much, much better at introducing a DM to the game.”

      I played through LMoP rather than DMd it. It’s a great adventure, and my bro said the module did a good job of guiding him through it. There were still a few frustrations at info being scattered about the module. But I sometimes question how carefully he read it beforehand.
      On the note of info being scattered, I have just started running Princes of the Apocalypse, and the info is all over the shop!!! Definitely not one for the starter DM!!

      • MerricB says:

        Princes is a real challenge to work out the path through it. Very easy to get into the wrong area and not know how to guide the characters out!

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