So, as of the past 2 weeks, I have been DMing for my friend group. It's all of our first times playing D&D and I've been having a little trouble with keeping track of stuff despite using a lot of tools. I made what I thought was a simple one-shot that has gone on into what will be 3 sessions now due to all of our inexperience. I made an NPC character to help them out of some rough stuff in the dungeon I generated and teach them to check for traps and stuff (one almost died to an ice dart trap like 4 minutes into the dungeon). I feel like some of my stuff like descriptions will improve with time, but I have had an idea for a full on campaign in my head and I want to know how I go about fleshing it out and prepping it.
For my current little thing I did, I used donjon to generate my tavern info using a few rolls and just remembering what I liked from each randomized tavern. I also used donjon to randomize shops and generate my dungeon for the quest they took. I tweaked some of the randomized elements to make them easier or harder, or changed rewards to be more along what I thought they deserved, thought up some puzzles for the dungeon based on either random inspiration I had or some random generated text prompts for the rooms. A lot of deadly encounters were generated (hence why I added npc support, while trying not to have them take glory from the players) and I used the DnDBeyond encounter builder to keep track of xp and rewards and give descriptions for the encounter, but I find that switching between 5 tabs and 2 or 3 windows is kinda hard to keep track of.
Is there any site that makes it a little easier to keep track of encounters and initiative in the same tab?
For my map, I took the player map donjon offered and then duplicated it into 4 layers in paint.net. 2 plain layers on top and bottom, and a trap/secrets layer, and an encounters layer so I could erase layer parts as players uncovered new things. This was a little frustrating to keep track of when I added in 5 layers for tokens for each player + the npc helper and made moving them around the map a little annoying. I also felt like it was a little boring for players to look at on screenshare so I feel like I will have to find some sort of map program for dungeons or maybe just add in art assets from online to a map layer to uncover some fun images as we go along.
This brings me to my second question: what mapping tools are out there to use to make fun maps for my players to look at while we play? Of course I am giving descriptions for their imaginations to work with, but I want them to be engaged with my maps too.
Finally, my campaign idea revolves around a quest given to them by an archlich who wants to die, but their soul is bonded to their magic journal that was stolen from them (I wrote a lot of info about specifics for the bbeg and the archlich story that I will not add here to save on space since I've already been rambling) by the big bad. The quest to find and return the journal to the archlich is the main point of the campaign, but what should I do about taking them places step by step and giving them side quests? I figure I will give then a chain of maybe 4 or 5 areas to visit for info before learning where the final dungeon is, then each place will have maybe 2-5 side quests if I can think of some good ones? This seems very overwhelming to me, but I want to do it, and let my players have a good time.
Sorry for the rambling or if I did something wrong with explaining or whatever, I was just hoping for some tips on building a full campaign because it seems really daunting.
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