I was a DM for the first time yesterday. It was a lot of fun, and all things considered, I think I've made a pretty darn good first session.
It was, however, too difficult. I've based the various monsters in my session on mobs from the sample encounter from the Dungeon Masters Guide and changed the wording and descriptions to make them better fit the story I wanted to tell.
However, after a few encounters, it became apparent that:
- I think the enemies had too much HP or there were too many of them - also, this really prolonged the whole session by a lot without actually adding fun to it. This is despite lifting the enemies off the samples from the Dungeon Masters Guide and using the XP-budget appropriate for the amount of players and their levels.
- It took but a few better rolls on my part to hit the PCs, and it didn't take many hits to get them bleeding.
- One of the PCs, a cleric, was having way too much trouble hitting the enemies, as he decided to go with a more melee-oriented build, and had a bit of a problem getting past the AC of the enemies. With more experience I could probably foresee this (and either suggest that he changes his character a bit or adjust the encounters), but as it was, I had no idea he would have this kind of trouble.
- The warrior had some really bad rolls >_< (he had a +9 to his attacks vs AC, and most enemies had AC less than 20)
In the end the party did succeed, though one person almost died near the end.
Normally, from what I've seen, a DM is "hidden" behind a screen, and their rolls aren't visible to the rest of the group. I know it's generally frowned upon for the DM to cheat their rolls, but this is the easiest thing I could do to adjust the difficulty on the fly. In this particular case, if I could, I'd give the enemies some penalties so they don't hit so often or don't hit so hard.
Here's the thing, tho: we're playing online (most of us being from different parts of Europe) using RPG Table Online, and that site offers a nifty utility for automating rolls. I can make private rolls in the app, but then I cannot use the automatic process which would make things rather obvious! I fear that if I suddenly started making private rolls, then it'd be pretty obvious that I'm modifying the outcomes - and I don't think it's fun for the group to realize this, no matter if it's in their favour or not.
There's no fun in killing the party off (unless it's ACTUALLY part of the story). I suspect with more experience as a DM I'll be able to construct more balanced encounters, but until then... are there any suggestions to what I can do? How can I adjust the difficulty on the fly?