Musings of a D&D 5th Edition DM

Last year I started playing D&D 5th Edition with one of my regular groups. Actually we just created characters and did a short introductory adventure set into a campaign setting of my own creation. Things went pretty well, everyone had a lot of fun and it was very easy to run D&D 5th Edition.

But my homebrew setting caused some issues. Initially I wanted to create an open sandbox for the characters to explore, but in the end things turned out differently. The frontier town turned into a metropolis and all the ideas I came up with were of the “save the world” variety. And the worst problem of all: it didn’t feel like D&D. I can’t really put my finger on it, but the setting just felt wrong.

My players didn’t mind changing the setting, since we just started, and I thought starting with “Lost Mine of Phandelver” would be a fun idea. Heck, I could even run them through the whole Tyranny of Dragons campaign.  So I did some research and found a lot of less than flattering reviews. Especially Hoard of the Dragon Queen seems to be pretty bad.

So while I can start with “Lost Mine of Phandelver” which will probably take us a couple of sessions, the question remains on how to continue. I could try to come up with my own adventures set into the Forgotten Realms. As an alternative I could get “Hoards” and try to fix and expand it if neccessary. Or at a last ressort I could always try to find a setting I feel more comfortable with – I am not a fan of the Forgotten Realms – and try to move the “Lost Mine” adventure to it.

One of the settings I’ve looked at is Bruce Heard’s Calidar. It definitely feels like D&D, has skyships and interplanetary travel – which is always a plus.  And from what I’ve seen the setting offers  huge amounts of adventure opportunities. I’m not sure if “Lost Mine” would easily fit into Calidar, because I haven’t read either book thoroughly yet. So what do you guys think? Shall I keep things simple and just run the WotC adventures – even if they need some fixing – or shall I pick another setting and shoehorn “Lost Mine” into it? Please share your thoughts below.

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

8 thoughts on “Musings of a D&D 5th Edition DM”

  1. One thing I’d actually like to do is get some conversions of B-series classic D&d modules, especially B2 Keep on the Borderlands, and develop a 5e campaign around them using the Keep and Threshold as a “base” that the characters (and players) can become attached to and grow over time.

    1. The B series, X series, and most of the gazeteeers, for that setting are all up on DriveThru. Shouldn’t be too hard to convert stats yourself…

  2. I agree that it might be easier to convert an old favorite rather than try one of the few D&D5e modules. One of my groups has run into similar issues with switching settings and modules vs. sandbox-style adventures.

    As long as you have a current Monster Manual handy and can scale encounters on the fly, a character-driven story is more likely to be satisfying and a proper demonstration of D&D5e’s potential. An engaging setting and fun N.P.C.s are more memorable than tons of splatbooks or prepackaged text

    I also think that it’s best to start small, with one dungeon, outpost, or city. P.C.s shouldn’t need to worry about saving the world until higher level, unless the role-players are so inclined. Happy gaming!

  3. I’m running Mines in my own, multi-decade campaign world, adapting it to a new setting isn’t really that hard. After that I’m planning on running the old Age of Worms adventure path for 3e, probably with a couple of old modules mixed in as well. I am not finding the process of converting old modules difficult – my biggest problem with 5e is that I find the monster creation process to be frustratingly unintuitive (and I know that it is supposed to be the opposite – but it is backwards from 1e, and that’s what I like).

    I bought the Tiamat books and wish I hadn’t. I won’t be running them and don’t even really see much in there to steal and adapt other than maybe a couple of magic items. They were both amazingly bad. You’ll have much less work adapting an old module than you would fixing one of these.


  4. I didn´t like the FR either, just started a low-fantasy-campaign in (Primeval)Thule. Should be working fine. I was never an enthusiastic Conan-Fanboy, but this setting got me from the very first pages.

    Just began to convert some things from PF to D&D 5.

  5. One of the groups I play with is running Temple of Elemental Evil, and in a different game Kyrinn Eis is running a couple of us through a starship delve in the Urutsk setting. Both games had converting to 5E, and from my perspective as a player both are none the worse for it.

    Funny you ended up not doing a sandbox though. I sometimes figured 5E would be my first attempt at running this type of game. Even started to piece together a frontier region spattered with dungeon modules new and old.

  6. I haven’t read Calidar thoroughly, but I have it… and I mostly like what I’ve read. The rogue planet I would have done as undead instead of green-skins … but otherwise, I have no complaints. But, like I said, I haven’t read it thoroughly yet.

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