Being a new game master PLUS being under-prepared is a recipe for a difficult and not very fun session.
Unfortunately, the date for my second session snuck up on me, and while I knew I wanted to start the Rise of the Runelords adventure path, I hadn’t had time to actually read up on it. So I ended up doing a ‘filler’ session with a few vague ideas for quests for the players to go on. While this gave them freedom of choice, it also led to a rather stilted session. My lack of experience meant that I had very little ability to improvise on the spot.
My players had rather powerful first level characters – a ranger, a monk and a sorcerer – so I made the mistake of making the enemies they face TOO tough, nearly killing the monk in the process (the result of some rather poor rolls from the players and a fantastic critical hit from the boss). While I’m not against player character death, it was not something I wanted to see in our second session.
Needless to say, I learnt a valuable lesson from this session. Preparation is key. Perhaps in a few years, I will be able to prepare more open-ended adventures, but for now, I would rather focus on preparing a few well-designed encounters. Trying to generate interesting dungeons and determining treasure on the fly is just too much for a budding game master!
And so, I planned to start Rise of the Runelords in my next session.