New to DnD and DMing - Module suggestions

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Hello! So, I am completely new to DnD and am planning to DM a game with some friends I know online. Instead of making my own campaign however I thought it would be wiser to get some existing modules/campaigns as I don't feel confident enough in my writing or rule knowledge to make my own. Not yet, anyway.

I have already looked around a bit to find.. that there is a ton of them and from a lot of different sources at that. I was hoping to get some suggestions here on what modules are good and worth getting. I have got D&D Insider and I am willing to dish out some cash for a good module or two so feel free to suggest modules that arn't free to get.

Oh, we will be playing 4e and doing a Play by Post as the timezones vary quite a bit in our group. So I am not to worried about difficult modules to DM as I will have plenty of time to figure things out between posts if need be. 
If you are brand new to the game and to 4E, my suggestion would be to download and print the Chaos Scar adventure path from Dungeon. Since you have a subscription you've already paid for it, and it has some nice adventures and a lot of places to explore.

I mostly purchase the print paper modules for the maps. They are not the best adventures, with a few notable exceptions such as Slaying Stone, and some of the sandbox setting modules, like Hammerfast and Vor Rokoth.
I am fairly new to DMing as well, I DMed one campaign online that didn't make it past about 5 sessions either time.  I stopped playing for about 2 years and just decided to start another online campaign.  I have been running the Scales of War Adventure Path and it is working out great so far.  We just finished the second module, the players are loving it and it's given me a chance to get back into the swing of things and learn quite a bit on the way.  It really feels like the first 2 modules went a little easy, both on the DM and the player, and things are getting more complicated as things move forward, so it has a fairly nice learning curve.  The first 2-3 modules(I think) are available for free here, with the rest requiring an Insider account.  They are all in the Dungeon Magazines.

The Keep on the Shadowfell was also designed for begginers, both DMs and Players.  It's what I tried to run last time and it was also very straightforward and easy to pick up as a DM.  It's a little dated now though, and I think it came out before all the essentials stuff, but it's still doable.
Make your own adventures, it isn't that hard. Don't run adventures out of a bookie thingy, just make your own game.

Within; Without.

Make your own adventures, it isn't that hard. Don't run adventures out of a bookie thingy, just make your own game.

Modules can be good inspiration. Take bits and pieces out of them, as desired.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

Don't run adventures out of a bookie thingy



This and 

make your own game



Are not mutually exclusive.

@ The OP: I played in Keep on the Shadowfell a while back. It could have been better, but its a fine starting point for learning on both sides of the screen. Aside from that, you could look at Reavers of Harkenwold. That was actually enjoyable in my experience. 

He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. -Revelation 21:6

Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.-John Donne, Meditation XVII

My photo was found here.

I still use the villain from Keep on the Shadowfell. I have him send out ethereal messengers, fragments of himself, and the PCs encounter those every now and again, usually working with another Big Bad, just to keep his name fresh in their minds.

When I ran Keep I cut out the xp grinding sections where you were just killing monsters to level up. My group actually got bored during the module, which likely was my fault as I was new and didn't have the pacing correct, so when they started looking at other areas to pursue, I let them go with things unfinished.
Thanks for the suggestions people!

I think I will go with the  Scales of War Adventure Path for now and once I feel a bit more confident I will see if I am any good at making my own game.
Thanks for the suggestions people!

I think I will go with the  Scales of War Adventure Path for now and once I feel a bit more confident I will see if I am any good at making my own game.




Awesome, if you have the time, after your first couple sessions, come back here and post and let me know how it goes.  I am currently running it as well, so if you have any questions about it, or are unsure how something works in it, just ask, I'll be happy to help.  If you want to sit in on one of my online sessions as well to get a glimpse of what they will be running I would be happy to accomidate as well.  Hit me up on Skype if you want, search for my e-mail, lostwaldo @ _hot_mail_._com.(sure you can figure that out). 
Thanks for the suggestions people!

I think I will go with the  Scales of War Adventure Path for now and once I feel a bit more confident I will see if I am any good at making my own game.




Awesome, if you have the time, after your first couple sessions, come back here and post and let me know how it goes.  I am currently running it as well, so if you have any questions about it, or are unsure how something works in it, just ask, I'll be happy to help.  If you want to sit in on one of my online sessions as well to get a glimpse of what they will be running I would be happy to accomidate as well.  Hit me up on Skype if you want, search for my e-mail, lostwaldo @ _hot_mail_._com.(sure you can figure that out). 



I might just do that. For now I am just looking to see if there any good maps out there. The ones in the PDF's are a bit small and already have pogs and other things on them.

Edit: I have actually started making my own map. Atleast if something drastic happens to the terrain I can easily edit it. 
Thanks for the suggestions people!

I think I will go with the  Scales of War Adventure Path for now and once I feel a bit more confident I will see if I am any good at making my own game.




Awesome, if you have the time, after your first couple sessions, come back here and post and let me know how it goes.  I am currently running it as well, so if you have any questions about it, or are unsure how something works in it, just ask, I'll be happy to help.  If you want to sit in on one of my online sessions as well to get a glimpse of what they will be running I would be happy to accomidate as well.  Hit me up on Skype if you want, search for my e-mail, lostwaldo @ _hot_mail_._com.(sure you can figure that out). 



I might just do that. For now I am just looking to see if there any good maps out there. The ones in the PDF's are a bit small and already have pogs and other things on them.

Edit: I have actually started making my own map. Atleast if something drastic happens to the terrain I can easily edit it. 



Well, if this is for an online campaign I would be more than happy to share my maps and whatnot with you, contact me on Skype, though I may not be available tonight as I got home and my AC is out so it's 90 degrees in my apt.  Heading to spend the night somewhere else.

Thanks for the suggestions people!

I think I will go with the  Scales of War Adventure Path for now and once I feel a bit more confident I will see if I am any good at making my own game.




As a fair bit of warning, the monsters in it are all pre-errata. You won't notice it at first, but somehwere around level 5 you'll notice that the fights are either over far too quickly or take far too long.
At that point you'll probably want to start looking for the errata'd versions of the monsters (or finding similar post-errata monsters and reskinning them). 
FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis
Thanks for the suggestions people!

I think I will go with the  Scales of War Adventure Path for now and once I feel a bit more confident I will see if I am any good at making my own game.




As a fair bit of warning, the monsters in it are all pre-errata. You won't notice it at first, but somehwere around level 5 you'll notice that the fights are either over far too quickly or take far too long.
At that point you'll probably want to start looking for the errata'd versions of the monsters (or finding similar post-errata monsters and reskinning them). 



Not sure what you mean by this. I am guessing there are some differences between early 4e and late 4e? And where would I find the updated versions of the monsters in the module (Or similar monsters)? Might aswell replace them right away if possible.
The hit values and damage expressions were altered later in the 4E life cycle, chance to hit became more standardized and monster damage went up pretty much across the board. Monster HP and defenses also became more standardized. I used Scales of War with the wimpier monsters when I had a lot of new players and wanted to give them ample opportunity to learn without getting smashed too badly.

Monster Manual 3
Monster Vault
Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale

those are the sources with updated monsters
Thanks for the suggestions people!

I think I will go with the  Scales of War Adventure Path for now and once I feel a bit more confident I will see if I am any good at making my own game.




As a fair bit of warning, the monsters in it are all pre-errata. You won't notice it at first, but somehwere around level 5 you'll notice that the fights are either over far too quickly or take far too long.
At that point you'll probably want to start looking for the errata'd versions of the monsters (or finding similar post-errata monsters and reskinning them). 



Not sure what you mean by this. I am guessing there are some differences between early 4e and late 4e? And where would I find the updated versions of the monsters in the module (Or similar monsters)? Might aswell replace them right away if possible.



Yessir.
Monster Manual 1 and 2 were made with the "old monster math". Sclaes of War was written during that time period.
There was a huge update when they released monster manual 3 (May 2010), and everything afterwards uses the new math.

Monster Vault collected a lot of the "greatest hits" from mm1 and mm2, and republished them with new math, but wotc never went back and officially redid all of the old monsters.

If you check the online compendium, it wil show you the "most up to date" version of that monster. And i use that term loosely, because if the monster hasn't been updated since 2009, then it will show you the 2009 version of that monster.

If you want to avoid a ton of work, i'd just recommend looking up the monsters that you need and seeing if they have been updated, and use the updates if they are there.
But if you want to do the work, and the monster isn't there, look around at other monsters at the same level and swap them in (for example maybe you need a level 4 hobgoblin soldier, but in post errata the closest you can find a level 4 human soldier - it's probably good enough).  
FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis
I just remembered, the more recent DM screens have sample damage expressions on the back, you could just change the damage off of that and keep the mechanics of the older monsters. There might be newer damage expressions elsewhere too.

Generally a monster is level+5 to hit against AC, level+3 against NADs (Fort/Ref/Will).
Not sure what you mean by this. I am guessing there are some differences between early 4e and late 4e? And where would I find the updated versions of the monsters in the module (Or similar monsters)? Might aswell replace them right away if possible.

Better to alter the encounters. Focusing on the hits the monsters can take and dish out has far more ways to go wrong than just the time it takes.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

I just remembered, the more recent DM screens have sample damage expressions on the back, you could just change the damage off of that and keep the mechanics of the older monsters. There might be newer damage expressions elsewhere too.

Generally a monster is level+5 to hit against AC, level+3 against NADs (Fort/Ref/Will).



The big difference is in some of the monster ac's.
There is a fight i remember from about halfway through the series, level 14ish, when the party is in a big iceburg maze thing. There is an encounter with 5x icetouched umber hulks, the things have 30 AC and their nads are 33, 28, 27 and my party could barely touch them. The fight slogged on for over 10 rounds (which took like 4 hours) and killed 2 pc's.
Admittedly this wasn't exactly a high op group, but the errata version of umberhulks now has their defenses at 28, 25, 23, 22 (meaning ac dropped 2 points, and nads dropped 5-8 points).
That's the kind of thing that is pretty significant and not easily fixed by adding some damage. 
FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis
If you have maps that are "small" you can open them in MS paint, and adjust printer properties to print a 2x2 page map instead of a 1 page map, which blows up the squares to size.

Within; Without.

I just remembered, the more recent DM screens have sample damage expressions on the back, you could just change the damage off of that and keep the mechanics of the older monsters. There might be newer damage expressions elsewhere too.

Generally a monster is level+5 to hit against AC, level+3 against NADs (Fort/Ref/Will).



The big difference is in some of the monster ac's.
There is a fight i remember from about halfway through the series, level 14ish, when the party is in a big iceburg maze thing. There is an encounter with 5x icetouched umber hulks, the things have 30 AC and their nads are 33, 28, 27 and my party could barely touch them. The fight slogged on for over 10 rounds (which took like 4 hours) and killed 2 pc's.
Admittedly this wasn't exactly a high op group, but the errata version of umberhulks now has their defenses at 28, 25, 23, 22 (meaning ac dropped 2 points, and nads dropped 5-8 points).
That's the kind of thing that is pretty significant and not easily fixed by adding some damage. 



If you scroll up you will see where I mentioned this some, and Umber Hulks were one of the worst old monsters, yeesh, I was reading a dungeon delve that had them or something, their defenses were disgusting, a good example for the problems that become exacerbated at higher levels. My quick fix to damage/hit is enough to get the new guy through rivenroar, but I didn't claim it would fix all the problems, which is why I listed the necessary sources in my earlier post.
Yeah, i completley missed that in my response (i even quoted that part, my bad).

It is true, as you get farther and farther from heroic tier the old math becomes worse and worse, lots of monsters were made 'harder' by becoming harder to hit, meanwhile their damage never really scaled properly. The end result is the 'slogfest' you often see people complaining about...

New monster math does wonders to fix this, but imo, the new expressions are still a bit high at very low levels (like 1-3).

All the more reason to keep to original printing for the first episode or two. 
 
FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis
Yeah, i completley missed that in my response (i even quoted that part, my bad).

It is true, as you get farther and farther from heroic tier the old math becomes worse and worse, lots of monsters were made 'harder' by becoming harder to hit, meanwhile their damage never really scaled properly. The end result is the 'slogfest' you often see people complaining about...

New monster math does wonders to fix this, but imo, the new expressions are still a bit high at very low levels (like 1-3).

All the more reason to keep to original printing for the first episode or two. 
 



Yeah, we just finished the second module, as printed, some fights were ugly though, I'm not sure if using new math would have fixed it.  Some encounters were just hellish, like the last one in the Nexus.  My party is very melee heavy though, so that area was far too cramped for them.  Hindsight 20/20, I would have made that ledge 3-4 squares wide instead of 2.
www.livingforgottenrealms.com is also a good source for inspiration. The adventures aim towards 4 hour convention play in a living campaign, which means there are certain assumptions and restraints to the adventures that you do not have in a home game. Still, I certainly copied complete encounters, puzzles and on occassion even a complete adventure into my own home games. The newer ones (especially the EPIC series for epic level characters) also contain alternate mechanics on skill challenges, and fights in addition to the more traditional approach.

Regardless, remember that a play-by-mail or play-by-post is different from traditional games. In all honesty, you might want to avoid complicated fights. They can be a real pain, especially in regards to speed. You might also want to allow your players a bit of leeway in filling the blanks when describing actions and even conversations. Still, my experiences with the type of game are limited, and you might get better advice on how to run them on other parts of the boards ;)
One thing you might notice with modules, they're never as detailed as you want, and your filling in the gaps might contradict something that happens in a later module.  Even in an adventure path or other series of modules, they're often written by different people independently of each other, so you might see some shifts in tone or see promising plot hooks abandoned.  They do have some interesting story, so feel free to use modules to get a feel for pacing and combat and good examples of what interesting encounters can be like.  But if you get more and more confused with where someone else's story is headed, feel free to cut loose quick and make your own story.