First time DM, do I have everything ready?

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Ok, so about 2 weeks ago my friends showed intrest in playing D&D and came to me knowing I had played before. I became instantly excited because I used to love playing but I have not played in about 8-10 years. Last edition I played was AD&D 2nd edition. 

I offered to be the DM and since then I have been trying to get my hands on all the resources I can. I don't want to make the investment for the books before everyone decides if they like it or not.  

Here's what I have:
D&D Red Box - picked this up once everyone said the game was for sure a go.
Character Sheets - found one to print out online I know the red box comes with some but I wasn't a fan of those.
1 month subscription for the compendium, character builder etc.
Found a campaign to play - keep on the shadowfell.

My questions

1. Should I buy the DM tool kit?
2. Whats the most efficient way for us to create characters for new players?
3. The PDF has small maps of the encounters, not ones that I could print out and have for my players to see. Should I draw them out before hand? 

Also any tips, hints, tricks or advice you could give me?

 I want my friends to have a great first time experience. I don't know if they all share the same excitement and enthusiam I have towards the game. However, I hope to change that!

Thanks a bunch for all the help!
Welcome back  I came back to D&D after a similar time away around a year ago and wish I'd done it much earlier - hopefully you'll have the same experience.

Answers:

1. Initially, you can get by without the DM's Kit, but it might be worth getting a Rules Compendium.  It's a cheap book and invaluable as a reference during your game - especially while you're learning the rules.
2. I'd use the 'New' button in the Character Builder initially - the resulting characters are relatively simple, and you can always add more complex options as you level.
3. There's a great article here on mapping: wizards.com/dnd/Article.aspx?x=dnd/4dmxp...

Consider playing through the adventure in the Red Box before you run Keep on the Shadowfell.  It's a fun little adventure and you have all of the maps and tokens ready to go.

Good luck! 
Thanks for the tips! I checked out the 'new' button for characters thats really nice and easy! Definitley will just streamline them through that. I am going to my hobby shop tomorrow before we play to grab an extra set of dice(always remember needing more!) I will see if they have the rules compendium. 
Definitely get the rules compendium.  I absolutely love that book.  One great thing about it is the size.   It doesn't take up much room so you can always have it in reach.  

On the map making:


The article Litmus linked is a great read on how to use the dry erase mats effectively. My DM uses one almost exclusively. Whenever he has a complex location laid out, he'll draw them beforehand.


I started with a dry erase mat and I still lay it on the table each game.  It keeps my players guessing what kind place they may go to. Since my players like to derail the plot constantly and go places i never intended, it allows me to come up with locations on the fly.


I personaly love visual aides so I've been slowly buying tile sets. If I have a particular location I want to map out, I'll get out my tiles while I'm watching TV and create the location. I then take a picture of it so I can recreate it in game.


My game shop also carries paper maps that have specific locations laid out. Some of the campaign settings also come with them. I like them for generic locations. (All my roadside inns have the same floor plan for some reason) They're great for fully fleshed out areas complete with furniture if you don't have time to come up with something.


A few other tips:


DM screen Yeah they cost a few bucks but they have all kinds of useful information for DMs listed on the inside. It also gives you a place to hide your notes, monster stats and dice roles.


Know how to play your characters players. If you have time, read through each of your players characters and make sure you understand how their powers work. It will speed up the game if you already know how to resole their question of the difference between a close burst and a blast.


On that note, I took some pipe cleaners and shaped them into squares for a blast 3/burst 1 etc. It's a nice visual aide for the characters and you can lay it down on the map and see exactly what area will be affected.


I encourage my players to have miniatures that are similar to what their character looks like. I get an extra little bit of joy when I put my flail wielding minotaur on the table each game.


If you don't have the funds or access to miniatures for monsters, the tokens do work. However I prefer to use a method I learned from another DM. He used Reese's PB cups and Hershey Kisses as monster tokens. Whenever a player dropped a monster to 0 hit points, they got to "eat their kill" If you have someone diabetic or on a diet you can change the token to something they'd like.  


We played yesterday, everythign went great. They all seemed to have a lot of fun playing. After they found the scroll in the kobold lair saying there was a spy in winterhaven they all thought it was Valthrun. So they raced back to town and knocked him out and interrogated him, it was hilarious! 

thanks for the suggestions they really helped out. My local hobby shop gave me a discount on the rules compendium which was I definitley used for some clarifications.

After a little bit our combat seemed to pick up(slow at first for them to get the hang of it). It still took a while for the encounters to take place. We played through the first encounter in the keep of the shadow fell(gaurd room).  Then called it quits for the night since it was getting so late. 

For this one I just ended up drawing my own maps by hand and then using some risk pieces to depict the monsters and heroes. I will look into getting a battlemap since they all want to play again today!

thanks again 
If you don't have the funds or access to miniatures for monsters, the tokens do work. However I prefer to use a method I learned from another DM. He used Reese's PB cups and Hershey Kisses as monster tokens. Whenever a player dropped a monster to 0 hit points, they got to "eat their kill" If you have someone diabetic or on a diet you can change the token to something they'd like.  



Sounds cool at first glance, but then you'll always have players with characters who just don't kill much. Like, my current character is all about Illusions/debuffs/supporting the party. Everyone gets candy for killing the enemies I turned blind, I get nothing? Wut. :p
If you use PC/monster mini's (actual figures), one of the things my group does is we use rings to show conditions. We use the little plastic rings that detach from the top of 2 liter soda bottles. They fit nicely over the mini's.

Yellow ones are daze, whites are stun, blacks are blind, etc.
You sound like you're off to a good start. 

With my new players, I always restricted them to the PHB for their first character. That way they don't get overwhelmed by DnDs masses of literature before they get off the ground. 

Every DM develops their own "tools of the trade" as they progress. I never use a DM screen because the layout where we play puts me at a kitchen counter overlooking the table, giving me enough distance to provide privacy. However, I do have a pdf with all sorts of information that would be found on a DM screen up on my laptop during the game. Status conditions, skill check examples and modifiers for manouvers that are popular with my players are all examples of whats on there.

I also have a magnetic board with little magnetic pieces for tracking initiative and rounds. I use a whiteboard myself, but friend of mine has a mat that I really liked.

I also have a pad of graph paper filled with maps of everything from the world map to cities and towns and a bunch of "random encounter areas" that I use when my party inevitably wanders off-track and I need a map in a pinch.

I also have a little notepad that fits in my pocket that I use to scribble notes down, wherever I am. I draw a lot of hasty maps while out hiking this way, but if you're using a module I guess they'll have provided those :p

My players have taken to making lego character models, and it works for me. I use numbered tokens to represent the monsters. 

But if you take only one piece of advice from me, let it be this: Be flexible. You're party may wander off-course, so consider a few options to guide them in the right direction. It'll save a lot of headaches if you have backup plans.
 
Thanks again for all your help. I got a long sheet of battlemap that I started drawing maps for the encounters on yesterday. I will be re-reading that map making article to get a better understanding.  I am thinking about taking some chess pieces to the game this saturday to use as models as well. 
We found that we own (collectivly) about 20 sets of dice.  They make great minis I never have more then 5 types of monsters in an encounter and numbering them is easy.  Remember to say always say yes with a but for your players.

Mathius
If you don't have the funds or access to miniatures for monsters, the tokens do work. However I prefer to use a method I learned from another DM. He used Reese's PB cups and Hershey Kisses as monster tokens. Whenever a player dropped a monster to 0 hit points, they got to "eat their kill" If you have someone diabetic or on a diet you can change the token to something they'd like.  



Sounds cool at first glance, but then you'll always have players with characters who just don't kill much. Like, my current character is all about Illusions/debuffs/supporting the party. Everyone gets candy for killing the enemies I turned blind, I get nothing? Wut. :p




My players are really good about making sure we don't have to worry about it. If the striker is on it's 2nd-3rd-11th kill of the night, They'll often give it as an attaboy or to whoever hasn't gotten one already. 

That being said, I keep the candies in a jar next to me and everyone knows they are welcome to one at any time during the game not just as token kills.  
All DM's should give Sly Fluorish at least a glance for useful tips.

Give this a look and take what you want from the tips:

slyflourish.com/start_here.html

And good luck. 
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