New DM advice?

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Well, since there seem to be no already-existing group anywhere near me I'm having to make a group out of myself and my two friends, and that poses a few questions. One thing that I'm a little worried about is the fact that there's only three of us. Can a game be functional and enjoyable with only two PCs? Also, since there's only three of us I'll probably have to be the DM most if not all of the time, is there any way I can play my character and DM at the same time? And lastly, I've never played Dungeons and Dragons before, and neither has my group which means I have to learn how to play, teach and DM without any prior experience. Advice?
You can most definitely DM a game for any number of players you want, though it gets pretty difficult in large groups.  You'll have to adjust encounters based on fewer PCs making hits.  Think more weaker monsters than fewer monsters, though.  it feels a lot more heroic to carve through a group of monsters than to square off against two equal foes.

Can the game be enjoyable?  I'd say so.  With only two players you should be able to focus the story directly on those two, making them the center of attention a lot more of the time than if they were in a five person party.

Running your own PC?  that's iffy.  You can run the risk of having the DM/DM character's show, which probably wouldn't be a lot of fun for anyone for very long.  You could always round out the party by running a character of a role not already filled and just have that character be more of a background and support character.  it can be kind of fun to try and thwart your own plans, though I'm not sure for how long.
I have played with 1-2 PC's all the time, however you need tone down the difficulty just a little bit to compensate a lack of members. You can have NPC's travel with them to flesh out the rest of the group but keep them in the background. Your players can "Adopt an NPC" if their character dies.

The Pro's:

1. Less players = more time per player. Your players will "get more done" and "move faster" because there are less humans taking turns.

2. Less conflicts between players = Normally, with less players, you can set a quicker tempo. There are less mouths to feed, basically.

3. More characters per player = You can have 1-3 games ongoing at once with each player having a different set of characters. They can be in the same or different part of the world with the same or different factions and might have overlap or competition with other characters they play.

4. You can experiment more flexibly.  Do you have some "ideas" to test? Talk to them, and they might be happy to help you with that.

5. Your story will have more depth and less surfacing because less players means more depth per player.

The Con's:

1. Less diversity of ideas. Players can get stuck easier.

2. Less player ownership. Players might be more apathetic because they are accountable to less persons for their actions/behaviors at the table.

3. Less hook-in's. As per number 1, less players means you have less opportunities to hook in your players. As hooking one can get you the rest, you only have 2 to hook.

4. Less balance: Players might want more items, expect more wealth, have less players to divide treasure between and their abilities might lack the real punch without full team support.


Don't be scared by having less players. I enjoy less players than more, and three players is my "ideal number". You can easier convince them to roll new characters and test different areas of the world and give them "more control" over dialogue. You can also give them slightly more time to discuss plans because less players are discussing them so they will go slightly deeper because the same amount of time is being given to less players, allowing those players to cover more depth.

Good luck!

Within; Without.

Advice to a new DM:

First and foremost, the "rules" are guidelines.  The "rules" even say as much.  Especially with new players, you do not need to get everything right (according to the rules) 100% of the time.

Along those lines, when you need to make a decision regarding a rule, ere on the side of the players.  Let them do what they want to do (within reason).

Second, do not plan too far ahead.  If you plot out what the characters are supposed to do throughout the adventure/campaign then one of two things will probably happen: 1) regardless of player decision you will end up railroading them along that story path; 2) player decisions will destroy what you have prepared.

Last, always show an air of confidence no matter how nervous you might be.

Time and experience will handle the rest...good luck.

 

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My advice for encounters to guage the characters they are using with light combat encounters before having them fight against larger groups(of weak monsters). Keep monsters in reserve in case it turns out the encounter is too easy; for instance you could use a pair of Kobold Tunnelers to harass the characters, and then send in a Skirmisher or two later on if the Tunnelers are unable to pose a threat.
You'll make mistakes. Make them in the players' favor as much as possible. Good luck.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Good advice so far from the other posters.


One thing I would recommend, since you all are new to the game, is to ease into it. Much like a starting PC in the game world, tromping of to slay dragons and demons right off the bat isn't a great idea.


Start off with easier game play until you are all comfortable with the rules and the flow of the game. Maybe shorten the first session or two to just talk out of character about how things went and what you might do differently next to to make things run more smoothly. Review battle tactics that the players, or the DM, might not have taken full advantage of. If a Big Bad Evil Guy (BBEG) is fighting for his life over a vat of acid, and the hulky barbarian PC just needs to nudge him in, but swings his sword and misses instead, take the time to debrief him on how he might consider a bull rush action next time and how it works.
I like making use of a small "one-shot" before the real game. I simply have the level 1 player go through 5 encounters without continuity. This assumes I have already looked at the character sheet.

(1.)  2 out of 3 skill checks (same skill) required. You may sum the totals for a high DC for something that "takes a while" or you may apply the dice separately for something which requires multiple instances of use to finish a project.

(2.) One simple encounter. This can be a challenged duel, a burglar/bandit, a goblin/kobold or just an NPC who wants a fight. This will get you and the player used to battle. This battle if properly designed should last about 5 rounds. The enemy might deal non-lethal damage and have intentions other than killing the player such as selling them as a slave, humiliation or settling a score; maybe even just a bully.

(3.) Depending on what happened above, I let the player recover and give them a simple 2-room cave. The first room has a simple trap like an open pit the player can easily see. They should require one skill check to succeed. The second room should contain a reward. The reward should be something simple a low level player can use; maybe you will design (4.) to use this item?

(4.) Depending on what happened above, I have another battle. This might be against the same enemy as (3.), one of that enemies allies, or someone else. The player might want to settle a score or see a problem to lend a hand in.

(5.) Final Challenge! Make something fantastic happen. Maybe the player is on an airship from Town A to Town B. On the airship (traveling in a fleet) a pack of drakes attacks. The player has to jump from one airship as it falls apart to the airship beneath it. Maybe shoot some arrows and make reflex checks to dodge area attacks? Give the player a piece of battlefield equipment like a Rune Cannon that will let the player overcome the threat.

These can all happen "in the same day/week/month" or over the course of time. I like to have (1) and (2) happen at age 12, (3) happen at age 14, (4) happen at 15 and (5) happen at 16. This lets you give the player their first level up! They get to experience that, and the first real game will feature characters "one level better" for it.

You may also talk to your player and see if they like this character. If not, offer them a new one, pay attention to their play style. I once had a friend who wanted a battlemage, so he made a wizard/monk multiclass. He liked charging on the front lines and never really used his spells. I suggested he play a barbarian and he was in love. Point is, you might determine a more appropriate class for the player than they know of for themselves, especially if they are inexperienced. Don't be afraid to perform 2-3 "one shot" games of shorter length after the first to give each player 3 or so level 2 characters. Use the other characters as NPC's! The players will remember them and will likely be open to "Adopting the NPC" if their character dies.

Within; Without.

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