I haven't GM'd since the late 80s (back then it was called "DM") with Dungeons and Dragons. I haven't played RPGs since the early 90s. But, I've recently put together a group of all beginners and we're working our way through the Pathfinder Beginner Box "Black Fang" adventure. As we near the end, everyone wants to know, "what's next?"

We're all inexperienced and fumbling our way through the adventure, but we're having a blast. I have ideas for campaigns, but I still feel too inexperienced for that. I've looked at Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Beginner Box Bash Demos which seems like it will take us a little further. I've also looked at the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Beginner Box GM Kit but I can't tell if that's a complete adventure, or just tools for creating my own.

Further, I've found Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Beginner Box Transitions, but I don't understand how I'm supposed to use it. Are the characters we created "throw away?" Will this be enough for us to keep going? Where do we go next?

  • \$\begingroup\$ That role is still called Dungeon Master in D&D by both books and players. Other non-dungeon-featuring RPGs have simply also popularised the more generic Game Master term, which is now used interchangeably with DM in D&D. :) \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jul 22 '13 at 22:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ I believe 'Dungeon Master' was trademarked by TSR, and thats why other games used the more generic 'GM'. \$\endgroup\$ – GrandmasterB Jul 23 '13 at 17:31

I've also looked at the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Beginner Box GM Kit but I can't tell if that's a complete adventure, or just tools for creating my own.

This contains a similar one-shot adventure that you can use, but mostly contains more gear/creatures that are compatible with the Beginner Box rules. It also contains 2 pages of details/advice for using prewritten adventures.

Further, I've found Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Beginner Box Transitions, but I don't understand how I'm supposed to use it. Are the characters we created "throw away?" Will this be enough for us to keep going? Where do we go next?

The Beginner Box Transitions are to guide you from using the Beginner Box rules to using the full rule set (more detail on how to cast, attacks of opportunity etc.). Your beginner box characters are not throwaway, especially not if you and the group have grown into them, if you want to carry on with them and want to use the full rules, do you best to convert the characters from the beginner box character sheet to the full character sheet

I have ideas for campaigns, but I still feel too inexperienced for that.

Look at the structure of the Black Fang adventure, it's a mixture of combat, puzzle, RP encounters on a map with flavour text written for each area and scant dialogue for NPCs. It doesn't have a fully realised world or detailed plot.

You can build adventures without having to write an awful lot.

The analogy of a television series is very strong (campaign = series, adventure = episode, encounter = scene). You can think of your campaign ideas as potential story arcs; because as you play the group won't necessarily follow the stories in your head and each adventure, they will have their own ideas and all of that will feed into a collaborative story that you can continue to build on and change as you go.

If you listen to the Penny Arcade Dungeons and Dragons podcasts, it starts off without much to any of the characters, over the course of several adventures, Chris Perkins eventually writes adventures based around each of the characters. No-one could expect him to write an entire adventure about the characters, without first playing with them and learning about the characters, the players, what they like and how they play.

When it comes to creating adventures be as brave as you like, the GM book from the the Beginner box has a pre-drawn map and details of how to build encounters. There's plenty of formulas to build a balanced combat encounter, and you can uses your ideas to build story encounters.

I am still a relatively new GM and only halfway through playing my first home made adventure (using the map from the Beginner Box GM Guide), the group I play with are really keen, are all learning as well. More than anything they're grateful that I'm putting in the effort to try new things and write an adventure for them. As all of your group are thinking "what next?" they should be happy to try new things with you and hopefully should have plenty of patience with you learning as you go.

Sergut's suggestion of using prewritten adventures is good, this will give you a chance to continue playing without having to build adventures and get confidence and experience of what the group enjoys so you can tailor your homemade adventures to the group. When it comes to your homemades, don't be afraid that you'll make mistakes; you'll all be too busy playing and having fun to notice.

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All the resources you mention are good. You should also have a look at the Adventure Paths from Paizo, which are complete adventures that will take your heroes from level 1 up to high levels.

And there are many to choose from!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for your answer. Do you have insight into the "Beginner Box Transitions"? \$\endgroup\$ – mawcsco Jul 23 '13 at 3:08

Personally when I make my first PC in a game system they are somewhat flawed that I figure out somewhere in play. It appears that maybe your group is not similarly afflicted. Either way, I would recommend you chart your future course as follows:

New PCs or keep old ones?

Pull each player aside and ask them what they like about their current character and what they do not like. Each player should be able after this discussion with you to say "I want to keep going with Grog the Great" or "I want to retire Grog the Great". Either way they choose, let it happen. I've played some unusual characters over the years and really enjoyed them short-term, but longer-term I tend to prefer similar characters. Your players may be enjoying the game but not their PC.

Social Contract?

By now, the players should have distinct personalities in their gaming preferences. You should have a few ideas regarding what should be in the social contract (assuming you do not already have one). If you don't have one, I would recommend that you take a session to handle the rough ideas of a social contract. A few questions that should be discussed:

  1. What, if any, are plotlines that should be handled with lines and/or veils?
  2. If a player is really not having fun with a plotline, how should the group proceed? I play in a group that likes very dark plotlines, while I don't enjoy them. How much "suffering" should I endure before getting a lighter hearted plot? Can I ask a plot be wrapped up/stopped?
  3. logistical stuff, who hosts the game, who pays for the pizza, who brings soda/beer/dessert? It is amazing the amount of soda some groups drink. My DM's old group would routinely go through 2-2 liter bottles of soda PER PLAYER in a 4-5 hour game session.
  4. Lines/Veils. Lines are things that players don't want to play. If you have female players, rape is likely to be one of the lines (don't play it, the player will leave if it is a plot-line). Veils are something that players are ok with in theory but not in practice. Torture is a good veil topic. Veils are something that gets a 1 sentence overview, but then the group fast-forwards to after it. Instead of "the guard starts cutting on your [body part] asking about [topic]", a veil will handle it as "the guard asks about [topic] and is willing to use torture to get the information. How much do you hold out before you break, how much false information to give the interrogator, and if you don't break are you ok with rolling up a new character?"


Do you keep playing the box system rules? Transfer to the "full" version of Pathfinder? Play another system? Some groups like to play campaigns where every character starts at first level and then keeps playing until they are above 20th level (to use Pathfinder rules), other groups like to play little vignettes and swap systems/DMs. Based on what you say, they are happy with Pathfinder's system. Let's keep that. Now I see you have two decisions to make as a group: Full version or keep playing the box set? Keep current characters or start new ones?

The box set characters are compatible with the "full" version but there are more options that players can take advantage with the full version. New vs. old characters is really up to you all. If the group wants to continue but a few players want new characters, I would strongly recommend that you give them the starting level/gold that is comparable to the rest of the group.

Where does Grog the Great go from here?

One way to get these first PCs the rest of the way is with Adventure Modules. Paizo makes both single-shot modules and longer-form Adventure Paths (which take characters from level 1-20ish). If the players want to continue with their current characters, I would go with the single-shots that are level-appropriate. However, if the group would like to keep playing but wants to start from scratch with "full" Pathfinder PCs, then I would recommend an adventure path to get things going.

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