Resurgence of an old past-time
D&D is experiencing a pretty significant uptick in popularity lately--which is a great thing! The only downside is that in order to play D&D, you need a Dungeon Master; and Dungeon Masters are in much shorter supply than players.
To help with this, I've written an adventure for D&D 5E, which is written specifically for brand new DMs to run their very first adventure for people who have never played D&D (or any other tabletop RPG) before. The adventure can be found here.
This adventure was written with new DMs and players in mind, but if you're an experienced DM, or if you're a new DM looking to run this for experienced players (for example, maybe you're a player looking to give your Forever DM™ a much needed break), you'll still have a ton of fun running this adventure.
What is the adventure?
The Silvyr Tower is a D&D 5E "one-shot" or "single-session adventure" optimized for a party of 4 or 5 level 3 characters. It should take roughly 2-4 hours to complete, depending on the party. It is a "Five Room Dungeon" style adventure, that contains enough fantasy tropes to feel comfortable even for new players, but isn't so cliche as to seem lame.
You can find the adventure HERE. This is a living document, and may be updated based on feedback and playtesting. You can run the adventure straight from Homebrewery if you'd like--or you can click the "Get PDF" button on Homebrewery, and save the resulting file to a PDF on your computer or tablet to make it easier to use at play time.
I also took several steps to make this adventure as easy to run as possible for new DMs, including:
- Every area of the adventure is contained to a single page of the PDF module, eliminating the need for scrolling and page-turning
- The module is filled with tons of tips to help you understand what to do if you're new
- Every area contains maps and read-aloud text boxes to help you describe areas for your players
- A pre-written mini-monologue to open the adventure with, and ease pre-session jitters
- A pre-written hook to send to players ahead of the adventure
- Included stat blocks for every single item and creature that will be encountered in the module
- (The one small exception here is the final treasure room is intentionally left with some room for additional treasure/loot to be added at the DMs discretion)
In addition to the above, I thought it may be helpful to create a 'companion article' for this module with some additional tips, full-resolution versions of the maps, and helpful links and videos that you can use to better prepare.
Helpful Resources for you to use
The good news is that D&D 5E is incredibly popular, and so there are TONS of great resources out there. Wizards of the Coast also make lots of resources available for DMs and players, such as the Wizards of the Coast - Basic Rules for D&D 5E. This PDF is all you really need in order to play your first few games of D&D -- although you'll probably want to pick up a copy of the Players Handbook eventually.
These rule books can seem massive and hard to understand at first, so the good folks at Critical Role have also created a YouTube series called Handbooker Helper to help out new players and DMs to make sense of the rules. I strongly recommend checking out at the very least the Dice 101 video, as well as the Ability Checks, and Combat Actions. If you're playing a spellcaster, or one of your players is playing a spellcaster, the Spellcasting Basics video is excellent. Finally, check out the Advantage and Disadvantage video. The rest are all very good as well, but these ones are pretty much essential. There are also quick-build videos in that playlist if your players need help with character creation (or you need help helping your players with character creation).
Finally, I've created a short (~8 minute) video that you can send to your players which explains the basics of "What is D&D" "What should my character be?" and "How to navigate a character sheet". This video was originally created for one-shots that I will be running, but I trimmed the fat and made it more generic so you can send it to your players as well. Note that this character sheet tour happens in dndbeyond, but everything contained therein still applies to paper character sheets, they will just be located in slightly different places.
Tips for new DMs
DMing for the first time is scary. Heck, I've been DMing for years now, and I still get nervous before sessions. Here are some helpful tips to make your DMing adventure just a little bit smoother:
- Be familiar with the story, but don't stress out about it. Whether you're running The Silvyr Tower, the adventure that I've written here, or another pre-written adventure, or even one you wrote yourself, there is no way you can predict every action your players will take every step of the way. Have a good idea of what should be happening, and don't be afraid to use your notes, but if things go off the rails, just roll with it and lead the players through a fun adventure the best you can. Being a good DM is about 50% being a good storyteller, 50% being able to make stuff up on the spot, and 20% being good at math.
- Be familiar with the rules, but don't stress over them. There are a TON of rules for D&D 5E, and as a Dungeon Master, you should be at least a little familiar with them. It may be helpful to watch a master-class DM run an adventure for a famous comedian but at the end of the day, when in doubt, just do what feels fair at the time and then move on. For example, there are very specific rules about exactly how far a player can jump vertically or horizontally.. but if a player wants to jump somewhere, and you can't find those rules, just make a decision based on how strong/nimble that character is, and how hard you think the jump would be.
- Remember the power of "Yes, and..." There may very well be things your players want to do that they just cannot. That's ok. But if your player wants to climb a fence and rolls poorly, the consequence might not be "you can't climb it" or "you fall and get hurt" but it might be something more like "You begin to climb, but feel your pack get stuck. You can continue on over the fence, but you feel that your pack may fall and you'll be without it. Do you want to continue?"
- Remember to have fun! Seriously. Have fun. The entire idea of D&D is to get together with people and hang out and play make believe and tell a story. If you're not having fun, you're doing it wrong. Relax. Enjoy yourself. Have a tea or a beer or a soda or whatever, and just relax with your friends.
How do I find a party?
Finding people to play D&D with will become immensely easier if you're willing to DM. It's about the same as being a healer in vanilla World of Warcraft. You can find a party as DPS, but if you're a healer, you will instantly be in a group--and that's the same with being a DM.
That said, there are lots of resources out there to help folks find other people to play D&D with:
- Dndbeyond Looking For Players & Groups forum
- Looking For Group subreddit
- Looking for Group community forum for Roll20
- Fantasy Grounds looking for group forum
- DWB D&D Discord Server
- The Tavern Discord Server
If you're still having trouble finding a group of people to play with, the adventure I wrote, The Silvyr Tower, should be fairly easy to adapt for a "Duet" (with just one DM and one Player playing together). That way, you can try it out with just one friend, or a significant other, or a sibling or child.
To balance the adventure for a Duet of lvl 3, remove all of the small "Spiders" from the first encounter, and have it be just the giant wolf spider, and then also remove the two Ash Zombies from the end encounter, cut the Nothic's HP in half, and consider having him flee in fear if he takes too much damage. Sentient creatures often have strong senses of self-preservation, and this change will not seem out of place.
Here are the full resolution maps for the adventure. I'll include both labeled and un-labeled versions of the map, in case you want to share the maps with your party (although even the labeled versions of the maps do not contain any spoilers or clues).
Note that you do NOT need to share these maps with your players if you don't want to. I tried to write the adventure to be relatively easy to play with "theater of the mind" (just picturing stuff in your head), and have included maps to give you a better picture of what you're describing. That said, some players like maps, and some DMs like to share maps, so I'm including the full-resolution versions here for your benefit.
Tower Ground Floor:
Basement storage area, AKA "The Puzzle Room"
Laboratory/Final encounter room (unlabeled version only, as there are no pertinent labels)
And that's it!
I hope you enjoy the adventure, and I hope you enjoy playing D&D! If you have any questions at all, or if there's anything I can do to assist you in becoming a DM or getting into the world of D&D, please don't hesitate to ask!
If you play the adventure and have any feedback, please feel free to let me know! I have written plenty of content for myself, but this is my first time putting all of my thoughts into an adventure formatted for others to run, so I fully expect changes will be needed.
Cover art from Fuugis on DeviantArt: https://www.deviantart.com/fuugis/art/Nothic-860986467
All maps are original creations of mlev
Nothic and Pseudodragon art in adventure PDF from Wizards of the Coast