New DM looking for advice for MiBG

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Morning everyone!

I have always been the backup DM for out encounters group but have only had to ever DM a few times (the game day a few weeks back and maybe 1 or 2 other times). This time around the DM asked if I would like to take the helm for this season, which I eagerly agreed too. I ran the kick off event and felt I did a fantastic job (and the group agreed as well) and am excited for the rest of season but have a bit of hesitation due to the major format change from basic encounter book to an actual campaign guide.

As of now, my group has decided to meet with Rael (although it was nearly a 50/50 split with Rael & Silvershield). I have read all the information of Stage 1 but still feel like I am not prepared enough. I know a decent amount of background information about the city (have played through BG I & II about 5 times each and read a lot of the lore books in game) but not sure how much information I should prepare. I feel that I should read the entire campaign setting book so that I can give my group the best experience as possible, however since the encounters format was previously not very role play geared I am not sure if this is a waste of time or not. I made it through the how the city was formed and basic intros to each level of the city but didn't get into the details of each building. Should I bother with this right off the bat or just read bits as my group goes on?

Also, any input on how to do the amount of enemies for combat? We are using NEXT rules (which I greatly prefer over 4th  ed.) and have a table that normally has 5 players but some weeks will push 9 (not on a constant basis).

Lastly, how are people doing the battle maps? I have a few maps from the previous encounters but I really like to have maps that match the actual discription of the areas. I debated buying a dry erase battlemat but I REALLY like have detailed environments over the basic looking battlemat. I know there is some software out there but don't know if it is actually worth it or not.

Thanks in advance for any input,
BW
I feel that I should read the entire campaign setting book so that I can give my group the best experience as possible,

The degree to which a DM pushes themselves to prepare, and the amount of enjoyment a group experiences are not that closely related. The players can't choose every path, and unless they're heavily railroaded there's no guarantee they'll choose any prepared path, so most and possibly all of your preparation will come to nothing.

however since the encounters format was previously not very role play geared I am not sure if this is a waste of time or not. I made it through the how the city was formed and basic intros to each level of the city but didn't get into the details of each building. Should I bother with this right off the bat or just read bits as my group goes on?

I don't think you should bother at all, because I bet you and your group could improvise a better game than anything Wizards published.

Any preparation you do is a waste of time, unless you enjoy the preparation for its own sake. I enjoy reading setting books and fantasy novels, and watching adventure movies, and just generally learning about interesting things, and this prepares me to run fun games. When I've run prewritten adventures and felt that I had to cram, understand, and modify what was written in order to "prepare," I've gotten very burnt out and didn't enjoy the game as much. I would find myself saying "No," and limiting player choice in order to keep to what I had prepared, because otherwise I'd wasted my time.

Also, any input on how to do the amount of enemies for combat? We are using NEXT rules (which I greatly prefer over 4th  ed.) and have a table that normally has 5 players but some weeks will push 9 (not on a constant basis).

For this, the edition doesn't matter. For any edition, and really any RPG, what matters is that both success and failure in a given situation are both interesting. If you ensure this, which you can do by creating or customizing the encounters with the players, then you basically can't go wrong, and I recommend overestimating what the players can handle. If they lose, it's still interesting, and if they win it's much more impressive.

I can't recommend playing with 9. That's two groups, not one. But if you're playing at a game store and trying to help out, I can understand how that might arise.

Lastly, how are people doing the battle maps? I have a few maps from the previous encounters but I really like to have maps that match the actual discription of the areas. I debated buying a dry erase battlemat but I REALLY like have detailed environments over the basic looking battlemat. I know there is some software out there but don't know if it is actually worth it or not.

It's not. Eventually you and the players will want to be able to greatly change the appearance of the battlefield during encounters, and a drawn map lets you do that. Drawing the map also lets you collaborate on the fly with players. A collaborated map is generally more evocative than the most detailed printed map, because everyone is well invested, and helped come up with the details.

Good luck.

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