Small Group Syndrome

It can be a challenge having a 1-2 player group which I’m sure each one of us has had at some point, unless your Dungeon Master Charisma score is extremely high.

There are many reason why you might have only 1 or 2 players. The reasons may vary from you just don’t have enough players or you’re leveling up a new player separately so they can join the main group. As a DM, setting the adventure stage with 1-2 players is not as difficult as you might think and sometimes having a small group can be a ton of fun. Just think of the benefits; like not having to scream at the top of lungs that there are spider webs covering the ceiling to the Wizard who is currently occupied with his dice and pencil at the far end of the table. You will become the story master for a single player who most likely will need help staying alive. Yes, staying alive depending on the class of the character will be a huge challenge. Strength in numbers has never rung so true, and not everyone wants to play the Bard who has access to multiple skills such as healing. So as a DM, the life of your adventurer is completely in your hands.

Running a group of 1-2 players can be extremely fun, and having less players to manage has its own rewards. The game will run a bit faster but you’ll have more interaction. The largest risk with a small group is death. If you are a fan of rolling dice in front of your players for combat you will soon find yourself spending a lot of time rolling up new characters. It doesn’t take much for a Goblin with a sneak attack to remove your player from the game. My main rule for any D&D game: I never roll dice in front of the players. Why? As a DM you are creating heroes and stories for them to experience and enjoy. One roll can turn your player’s mighty Barbarian into the next zombie they encounter. Killing off characters is bad for business. Your reputation as a death dealing tyrant will endlessly haunt you.

Some simple rules for the 1-2 player group. Give them items to help them survive. A couple of potions of healing from a benevolent quest giver can go a long way. Something as simple as a +1 weapon at 2nd level can improve their chances against the many foes you will have lined up. Use your imagination and set out adventures specific to the player(s). You can also add in your favorite NPC to boost the party. There is nothing wrong with playing the Wizard’s side kick, it can help drive the adventure course. If you have purchased a premade adventure, learn to adjust the number of nasties and abilities of the villains to match the number of players. It’s not fun for the single player who ends up getting charmed and it often results in Game Over.

Now it’s time to address the leveling of a new player to the group. I have done this very regularly for a number of reasons but I don’t do it all the time, it’s all based on the player. First and most important, I’ve never liked new players starting a few levels higher. They may be starting a new class that they have never played before, and leveling them from 1 onwards gives them a chance to learn the class and develop a character based on the decisions they make. 5e does a terrific job at skill/ability progression and the first 3 levels of each class are very important to the future of the character.

When you start a player off at a higher level, they often don’t understand all the wonderful things they can do and they have not developed a play style suitable to that character. By starting a 1st level character off with a party at a higher level you run the risk of character death. We all know of that young green dragon that uses his breath as a weapon on the party, and we know as a DM that the half damage save won’t do anything for the level 1 Wizard with 8 hit points. This results in a Wizard who is now dead in a cloud of noxious gas, and a player who is facing having to roll up a new character or reconsidering playing the game. This is why I’ve always run a separate session for the new player to level them up. By giving that character a better background to the adventure, you now have a player who has a better understanding of their character and class. The bonus to you as a DM? You almost never have to suffer figuring out how to save the character from certain death and you make it believable.

There are a few premade adventure for single players out if you care to search for them. Use them or take them as examples and create your own. Either way, go enjoy and build your stories.

DM’s bit of Wisdom

What Makes a Great Dungeon Master?

There is no one word of wisdom that makes a great DM.  Great DM’s are made from a combination of attributes to make them great.  When I first rolled those 3d6 for my DM attributes I had a few 3’s in there.  Creative thought was an 8 or some atrocity very similar.
You need to be able to have fun and understanding your player’s wants and needs is your top priority.
Build and tell a story. I used to practice telling ghost stories around the fire.  Your ability to create a story and let it unfold at the mercy of your players is its own reward.
The biggest advice I can give is build a “Story Tree”.  Have a beginning and climax to each part of your campaign.  I use story trees in all my games.   Have a starting point and then draw out a bunch of branches which represent the different options the players may take that will all lead back to the same conclusion.  This often means you need to really think on your feet.  As a DM you must throw out the hook to catch the players and draw them into the story.  What happens when the players don’t take the bait and decide they want to kill goblins instead of hunting down the Bandit leader?  You need them too to continue along the line you have set up so be prepared for this.   Story tree branch number 2 comes into play and now you can make those nasty goblins part of the story. With a twist that they are in an uneasy alliance with the bandit leader and the players find this by interrogating a captured goblin that conveniently surrenders or perhaps some sort of scroll detailing the plan.
The point is that no matter what the players do there will always be a way for you to steer them in the direction you need them to go.  Doesn’t matter how many detours they take.  I had a beginner party once that was dead set on going to a completely different city instead of taking the job of reducing the crime in the starting town by going after the so called bandit leader.  So I let them leave with the next caravan heading that way.  I then had the caravan attacked by the same bandits hoping the players would than enact revenge.  One of the bandits also made off with the wizards spell book in the chaos of battle.  There are always ways to direct players.  Be creative and be able to adapt.
Don’t kill players. No one likes to see their treasured warrior who they have played for a year get backstabbed by a city rogue.  This doesn’t mean go easy on them. You are the DM and thus, you are in total control of the player’s fate.  I never roll dice in front of my players. So may disagree with this but, I’m building hero’s and not future zombies of the realms.
Invent memorable NPC’s. There is nothing more satisfying than sitting around with your players and listening to them talk about that annoying Jester or a recurring villain from a few weeks ago.  This lets you know you are doing a good job.
Good luck


Personal Intro

Captains Log…..

I wanted to start this blog thing off with a brief history of how it came to be.

In a galaxy far far away a child saved up some hard earned paper route money and purchased a Red Box set containing some rule books, a bunch of odd shaped dice and something called an adventure module.   The rumor on the street this guy named Gary Gygax had made some kind of new game and everyone was talking about it.  Armed with my new set of rules and strange dice I collected a group of likeminded friends and sat down and using some graph paper and pencils we made some weird characters.  With swords, daggers and a magic missile spell we set off for the “Keep on the Borderlands”.  The rest is history.

Our little group advanced through the years growing in size with new books and more advanced game play.  By the time we hit High School we logged thousands of hours of play.  War Games produced by Avalon Hill were introduced and our last year in High School we had achieved our school legacy with the War Games Club.  It still operates today but has mostly become a Magic the Gathering club.  Still, it’s still there after more than 30 years.

I moved to a different city across the country after High School and it didn’t’ take long to find people to play with.  College was a hug resource for all types of game players and I was introduced to even more games with the different groups.  By graduation I could have taught a course on tabletop gaming. Side note: might have to start this one day.

There was not a day that I didn`t have some sort of RPG/Tabletop group going.  With the internet in full affect getting access to information was even better.  Like all good things the internet brought with it some bad things as well.  Soon our close group of friends turned to the computers for entertainment.  Meeting at one of our houses became “you should go get this new online game (Example: GAG….Everquest) and meet us online for the weekend”.  Yes, I succumbed to the draw of grinding hordes of rats with the world to gain level 2.  Lost were the magical stories and unforgettable moments of problem solving as a group in imaginary lands we created in our heads and drew out of paper and pencils.  There were no town’s people to save, a princess in need and new galaxies to explore.  Just line up those monster so I can get to level 3.   I really missed the sitting around the table and not only playing as a group but solving the world’s problems at the same time.  We interacted with each other and laughed and joked and rolled epic fumbles.

It took a few years but eventually we all gather around the table once again.  Lots of new tabletop games were added to our collection and Dungeon and Dragons became a household favorite once again. Which brings us to present day.  I done a few odd things in my life and have often been referred as the geek of my working establishments. But I’m most noted for the Geek Dad.  I have two really awesome kids and they have both grown up with games. I’m also blessed with a really amazing geek wife who loves comic book villains and Tiefling Bards.  One of the promises I made to myself is that I would raise the kids with board games.  From UNO to Small World and now Dungeon and Dragons as well.   We have a strange household rule to most modern families.  We call it no Tech night!  Yes it can happen and all it takes is to have everyone to turn off phones, TV’s and game consoles, sit down at the table to play a game.  You would be amazed at the result in not only fostering your kids creative side and problem solving ability but how these games bring back family time and encourage family bonding.  The family game of choice of course D&D but we also play a lot of others as well too numerous to list.

My true sole mission is bring back family/friends game night across the world and turn off all the tech stuff and truly interact with each other.   There are far too many rewards that we miss out on that youtube and facebook don’t offer.  It is all too easy to invite a bunch of people over so we can all look at our phones.  Through this blog I hope to reach out to other families and groups of friends and encourage them to put a day of the week aside and gather around the table to partake in your own epic quests.

I hope that you all find that adding up your gold and experience is far more rewarding than counting “Likes”.

Intro Bio

Greetings and Welcome.

What this blog type stuff will be about is anything that comes to mind.  I’ll share my adventures and also review games that I have played and enjoyed.  I will post what has worked and what doesn’t and these will be solely based on my own experience and may not be useful to others.  Take what you want!

I’ve been a RPG and Tabletop gamer for almost 40 years.  I got my start with the original Red Box Basic D&D set and never looked back.   I’ve played numerous RPG with some the favorites being Traveller, Rune Quest, Star Wars RPG, War Hammer and the list goes on.  I have been a DM for over 30 years.  I’ve created worlds and destroyed worlds.  The most endearing qualities of RPG’s is the endless possibilities.  What I truly wish to promote bringing back family/friends game nights.