Questions on running a 1st level 3.5 campaign

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So I'm rather familiar with 3.5's system but its my first time really getting into it. My group has gotten together and we're gonna be running a campaign soon. My only qualm is that I picked up a premade campaign (expidition to undermountain) to kinda guide my hand my first time through. Now the groups about 5 players 2 of them a very compitent, one shows promise, one is a tag along whose not familiar with the rules just yet, and the last ones between "wild card" and bats**t insane type.

I began thumbing through the expidition to undermountain and I see that a lot of the encounters seem to be in the 3-4 EL(CR?) range and I'm not sure if the group can really handle that. They had trouble in the last system several times when I DMed 4e, the "wild card" went unconscious around twice per session.

TL;DR: Is a group of new guys good enough to try out expidition to undermountain?
TL;DR: Is a group of new guys good enough to try out expidition to undermountain?

I don't know, but it never hurts to plan for character death, if it's a possibility. Have them make a few backup characters, and come up with ways and reasons ahead of time for them to join the group and for the group to accept them. It's a huge dungeon, right? There are other people down there, possibly as members of other expeditions. An original character dies, and another shows up having been separated from or as a survivor of a different group.

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

Right. Don't hope they can live. Prepare for the possibility they won't. There are many ways to do this, depending on your group's preferences. Hope is rarely a good strategy.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | The Art of Pacing (Series) | Improvisation Guide | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character
Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!
Check Out My D&D Next Playtest Campaign: The Next World

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Alright, I'll keep that i mind but I dont plan on making my games character grind-y. I'm just wanting to make sure the setting in the book isnt steamrolling characters in two encounters.
Alright, I'll keep that i mind but I dont plan on making my games character grind-y. I'm just wanting to make sure the setting in the book isnt steamrolling characters in two encounters.



I too was in a similar situation, being a fairly new DM, having new players in my group and running a published campaign.  The best advice I can give in addition to the above is that you do not have to use the published material by the letter.  You can alter it to fit your party and what your PCs do.  If the PCs are getting hit to hard, or too often, reduce the bonuses the monsters have.  If a hit happens that will likely kill a player, call it a miss and then give them a round to heal the guy up before making the next miss a hit.  If there is a damage roll really high that would kill a player, make it a bad roll and reduce the damage to just barely keeping him up.  After a few encounters, you'll see what they can handle and adjust future encounters appropriately.  I am not really an advocate of pulling punches all the time jsut to keep players alive, I beleive death is real and should happen at times, but as you are feeling out the group near the beginning it can be an ok tactic.
Alright, I'll keep that i mind but I dont plan on making my games character grind-y. I'm just wanting to make sure the setting in the book isnt steamrolling characters in two encounters.

That's hard to make sure of. Challenge Rating isn't a science. Best to be prepared.

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

Despite what it claims, Expedition to Undermountain is NOT suitable for a 1st level party. The first adventure is designed around a 3rd level group, and a 1st level one will either have to spend time doing preparatory adventures or will pretty much be forced to retreat after every encounter IF they survive it, which is by no means guaranteed, and since the plot logic quickly breaks down in this circumstance, it's a bad solution.
Okay can you reccomend some simple adventures that I can use to get them to level 3? Or another solution if need be?
Just start at 3rd-level? Back when we played 3.X, we almost never started at 1st-level. Too much "turnover."

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | The Art of Pacing (Series) | Improvisation Guide | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character
Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!
Check Out My D&D Next Playtest Campaign: The Next World

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

If you think your group might be interested in something a little different, you might try looking around for the Pathfinder (modified 3.5E) adventures, "We Be Goblins!" and its sequel, "We Be Goblins, Too!"  

The PDF versions are free downloads, the first part is suitable for the pre-generated first level Goblin PCs, and the second part levels the Goblins up to 3rd Level, I believe.

It sounds like a wonderful series of adventures to start new players out on:  lots of character and a tremendous spirit of mischievious fun in the Goblins and their game world.
[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
The Players start in Hometown.

1. Announce 3 zones of interest to the players, and for god sakes, not the tavern. Each zone of interest has a "scene in motion". If the players want to go to the tavern, tell them to explore the city until nightfall when the tavern opens. (Yes, and...). If they "want to wait" until that time, ask what they intend to achieve at the tavern. Maybe find some work, or collect rumors? Maybe they just don't know what to do, so the tavern is the "easy answer". Nothing wrong with either answer. Allow nightfall to come, the tavern opens, and the players find the parrot from scene 1c). The drunks think the parrot is "teh awesome", like a comedy act, and don't believe the parrot about its claims. However, this gives the players a way in to one of the scenes. You can also have the 2 paladins from 1a) at the tavern getting wasted drunk. If asked about their obvious non-paladin behavior, they claim to be servants of mammon. (god of money). This sets up scene 1a) such that the players will "recognize the 2 paladins from the night before, but they don't seem to recognize you. They were drunk." The foreigners from Scene 1b) can also be at the tavern, asking for something like milk or water, and getting made fun of for not being "ale pounders" by the locals.


1a). There is a family outside the temple with child cursed with the Pox. They can't afford the tithe. The cleric "happily" refuses to help, and guards demands the family to get the child out of town. (The players can respond any way they choose.) The guard is concerned about the Pox and is willing to kill the child. The cleric is a corrupter, guarded by two level 1 paladins. They are leeching money from the church. They should be exposed with diplomacy, bluff and intimidate checks. The players have to decide how to delegate this. Give them the freedom to choose any logical solution and allow it to work. The guard/family of the child/a good priest in the church will reward the players and sing their praises. If attacked, the cleric will cast inflict light wounds, one paladin will "protect" the cleric and the other will attack the party. The guard will allow the child to be placed under house arrest instead of being expelled from the city.


1b). In the market, there is a group of 5 foreigners from far away lands. The locals fear them, and the merchants refuse to sell to them. Only one of them knows the regional language. They are here on a pilgrimage. Describe them as Arab-Esque, Samurai-Esque for exotic flavor. There is a suspicious group following them looking to attack them, 5 or so level 1 commoners. The Commoners can be talked down instead of beaten up. Their leader might demand to fight no matter what however the rest of the commoners have conflicted looks about it. This cues the players that defeating the racist leader will disperse the crowd and maybe some diplomacy checks to inspire cultural acceptance of these strangers. The strangers are willing to take the group to their homeland when they are done with their pilgrimage. The racist leader will throw lamp oil and a torch to start the fight (against the foreigners unless the players interfere, then instead at the players).

1c).
The Third Scene begins with the group hearing a squawking  voice "Hey. Hey, over here...". They see a talking parrot who came to ask for help because his "pet druid" was turned to stone by a basilisk. The parrot needs the players to defeat the basilisk, and the druid is a town noble. Not your typical druid, this woman likes wearing peacock feather dresses and surrounding herself in colorful birds and "cute" animals. The parrot begs for help, promising reward. This basilisk is level 1. If you have 3.5 materials, it should be easy to scale it down. It should start battle with a stone gaze then charge in with bite or 2 claws. It should attack the "tank" and when defeated, any targets turned to stone are released. Because the players are already outside town you can ask them if they want to return to town for the other 2 scenes or if they want to go to a dungeon or explore the world. The druid will not only reward them but will feel inspired to go to Hometown. As a bonus, she rewards the players with a quest item, a set of 8 cure disease potions. If this happens before 1a), they will already have the potion to cure the child.


Hometown can be a good session zero follow-up. Everyone makes their character, then these 3 things unfold in the city. If the players walk away from a situation, "the bad guy wins". In 1a), the family is thrown out of town by the guard and the cleric begins to amass wealth. In 1b), the foreigners are killed by the angry mob who is arrested by the guard. The foreigners were of high nobility and Hometown will have a price to pay. Also, the residents will take a liking to excluding foreigners which might extend to elves, dwarves, half-orcs, half-elves, and gnomes. To add flavor, they might think halflings are just midget humans. Whatever players do in this rural town, the town will change in big, significant ways from it. They will impact the morality of the citizens, the cities disposition toward foreigners (impacting visitors and market prices and item availability), the ethics of the guards, and the direction of the church as honest/corrupt. Every action of the players is important, and the players should come out of this series of events feeling like they can impact every single sector of the game the way they did Hometown.


As for proper challenge level of enemies, and game pacing. I track days which adds to the campaign quite a bit with passing of seasons and giving the party a milestone timeline. I like to

Within; Without.