Help a somewhat disorganized dude be the best D&D 3.5 GM he can (hella long inside.)
Just to head things off at the pass: those of us who know what Pathfinder is both agree that we should switch, and agree that no one has the time to learn how. So we're sticking with 3.5.
So after, like, a decade of playing 3.5 on a regular basis, I'm confident I can run a fun campaign. I started making some world-building notes yesterday just on a lark, and the world just poured out of me. I ran it by the group before our game last night and everyone seemed fairly excited by the setting and that I was finally giving DMing a go. So, the group has confidence in me, I have confidence in me, and now I want to make running the campaign as smooth as I can for myself so that when my players decide to get back at me for using broken supplementary classes and barely-disguised minmaxing, I'm ready for it.
Outside of the standard stuff (battlemat, minifigs, etc.) I have the following equipment at my disposal and would like to make the best use of it:
- 2-3 laptops
- Access to any 3.5 supplement
- HeroForge, MonsterForge and SpellForge
So, a bunch of questions:
- What are some good resources for a long-time player and first- time DM with regard to keeping track of game mechanics? I'm not the most attentive of players. I still forget where attacks of opportunity are incurred, and had to have someone explain Spell DC to me last night. Fortunately, one of the players (the current DM) is very, very well-versed in the rules and (fairly and willingly) serves as Assistant DM when anyone else takes their turn. So, anything I should look into? We have a standard 3.5 DM screen and all the stuff I listed above. Forum threads, apps, programs, spreadsheets, anything at all to make the mechanics part (which is what I have the most trouble with)
- Resources on how to make a "realistic" isolated city. This is a heavily urban campaign, taking place mostly in a very isolated city on a cliffside. The culture is xenophobic and there are no horses or nearby waterways. I want to try to make it as inherent as possible that the players are't going to be leaving city limits often and not get stuck with "I want to go in the forest" "well you can't" railroading. At the end of the day, everyone knows that what the DM says goes, and there aren't any problem players (I'm the closest, honestly) so I'm not expecting problems, but I also don't want to make the players feel like they're on rails.
- Speaking of heavily-urban, how should I account for that in-game? I've banned druids, rangers have to cross-class (I'm removing any sort of penalties for cross-classing ranger with rogue) and there's going to be an equal emphasis on social situations than field combat. There's going to be conspiracies to uncover and murder mysteries to solve (I've got a great idea for a recurring locked-room mystery) and I've read more than enough books to make the plot work, but should I just depend on the players to get by without much prodding? In his campaigns, a friend of mine generally sends an NPC along with the party on every distinct chunk of the campaign, to make sure there's someone saying "okay, we should probably X" if players get confused. I'm thinking of doing that but other ideas would be great.
Mapping. God, I hate mapping. I have a really, really hard time with spacial orientation (I have to physically rotate a map to follow it.) I was planning to just use dungeon layouts from old Final Fantasy games, but are there collections of good dungeons out there? I'm sure I'll make a few of my own, but I don't want to lay out every castle, abbey and sewer we go into. That would just be tedious for me. Also a random dungeon generator would be great.
- Horrors from beyond the stars! Because of the isolated and urban nature of the campaign, most of the non-city creatures are going to be sins against nature let loose into the world by the Mage Academy, who basically develop and sell arms. Any good 3.5 supplements for weird creatures? Lovecraftian works, but so does stuff from non-Western mythologies. Basically I don't want the party fighting man-scorpions and owlbears and goblins and wargs all day. I'd also like to integrate stuff like the Oozemaster and Cancer Mage from 3.0; how heavily would I have to modify them to make them fit 3.5?
- Is there a list of Completely Broken expansion classes somewhere? I'm letting players use any expansion they want (with my approval, obviously) so I want to know if there's something as broken as, say, the monk-druid combination.
Okay, I think that covers everything I wanted to ask. Any other general tips and tricks appreciated! Feel free to ask for followups, I'll be watching the question.