Among the plethora of perks of running Dungeons and Dragons for Baldman Games, which coordinates organized play at GenCon, DDXP and Origins, is the treasure trove of swag you carry away. With this year’s DnD theme being Rise of the Underdark, I scored enough Underdark maps, tiles and minis to shake a Doomspore at.
My GenCon tradition, after the Best Four Days in Gaming, involves a visit with my folks who live in Northwest Indiana, while I reside in NY. Sadly, this is the only time of year I get to see them for an extended period. Besides Skype chats, it is the only time I get to hang out with my brother and his sons. The nephews have been playing Star Wars Saga for a couple of years. After our last Skype session, they decided to try out Dungeons and Dragons. My mother purchased the eldest Crowe boy his first Red Box. She’d planned to give it to him after his first DnD session.
This year, I took the train to Chicago a couple days before GenCon and got to have dinner with the boys at the family’s favorite pizza parlor, Aurelio’s in Dyer, Indiana. The kids did not want to eat. They didn’t want to play the arcade machines. They wanted to know about Dungeons and Dragons. The youngest wanted to play a Dragonborn and have a pet cheetah-dragon hybrid. The middle nephew wanted to be a Drow rogue, a master of shadows. The oldest didn’t really have a character in mind. My best friend of 35 years, who’s never rolled a d20 in his life, joined us for pizza night and asked if he could play, both to spend time with me and to see what it is I do when I run games. He wanted to play a character like the Shoveler from Mystery Men. I quickly cast him as a dwarven miner fighter.
Only days later, GenCon was sadly behind me, and my family announced I had 36 hours to prepare for the DnD game with my nephews… and to spend quality family time. Being a GM who is all about over-preparation, this was not an encouraging way to start my vacation. But somehow, when I rolled into town with my gaming supplies, it was like Christmas for everyone.
I had returned with tons of Underdark maps and tiles, plus the Sting of Lolth Dungeon Command game. The session would definitely be Underdark and Drow-themed.
From the swag I’d earned, I would create a fun introductory Dungeons and Dragons game that would hopefully get the boys hooked on the system. I had less than 36 hours and felt the pressure. Let the Dungeon Mastering experience begin!
My first day out of Indianapolis found me at my laptop feverishly clicking my way through Broadsword, a freeware 4th Edition Character Builder. I love Essentials and will always choose to use those builds. They are great, especially for newer players. Unfortunately, DDI seems to have the only easy-to-navigate Essentials Character Builder in existence. So I built regular 4th Edition characters using Broadsword. Broadsword is regularly updated to include new books and information from Dungeon and Dragon magazines. It does not support Essentials. However, it is intuitive and makes wonderful character sheets and power cards, which I thought would be helpful for new players.
First, I built a Dragonborn druid who had a pet dragon-cheetah which could move around the map, make attacks of opportunity, and create flanking opportunities. That wasn’t from any of the builds or rules, just something I threw together to make my nephew happy. The druid of course transformed into a dragon-cheetah himself.
Second, I built the Drow. I figured a football-obsessed boy would favor a dagger-fighting rogue. Then, I built the “Shoveler.” I crossed out the fighter’s Great axe weapon and christened it instead “Great Shovel.” Finally, I built my eldest nephew’s character. I had high hopes this would be a character he’d enjoy playing so much, he’d want to become a Dungeon Master himself. No pressure! I recalled how in our Star Wars games the boys weren’t predjudiced, as some are, when they played a medic. They all made it a priority to help one of their own out, even when there was still “cool” stuff to do on the battle map. I decided to make him a dwarf cleric.
What kind of creatures should I use? Ones that were represented in the Dungeon Command box, of course. When I flipped through the Monster Manuals, I found those creatures were Paragon tier threats. No way was I going to run a Paragon tier game for newbies. The threats would have to be adjusted for a level 1 party.
I spent the next fifteen minutes wondering why my DDI Adventure Tools was no longer installed on my laptop. For those who aren’t DDI subscribers, Adventure Tools contains a Monster Builder. Not only can you make stuff from scratch, but the entire 4th Edition/Essentials library of creatures is at your beck and call. The best part is, you can scale those creatures to the level you’re playing. Adventure Tools was a download that didn’t go away when my DDI subscription lapsed, due to a personal lull in 4th Edition gaming. It wasn’t installed, so I searched the hard drive to see what Dungeons and Dragons freeware I had to work with.
Luckily, I found a copy of the DM’s Toolkit , which has a Monster Builder. All I had to do was retype the powers, choose what level, combat role and favored attribute to use, and it did the rest, producing a 4e-style stat block. For more on the DM’s Toolkit, check it out.
About that time my mother decided she wasn’t being the best of hosts, leaving me on the back porch for two hours working on my laptop. It was time for a trip to McDonald’s! Like many lunchtime excursions with my mother, the trek to the golden arches turned into a cacophony of errands. I could go over story and encounter ideas in my head, but there would be no more real work on the session until the next day, which of course was game day.
Add to favorites
This work, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.