Well, yesterday I had my very first experience DM'ing a game of Dungeons and Dragons. I'd played another tabletop RPG based on A Song of Ice and Fire, but this is my first foray into the granddaddy of the genre. We're using 5th edition (I haven't really looked much into the earlier ones.)
The story of my campaign is set on a world called Sarkon. The largest continent, Karsiya, has been under the control of the Lupinian Empire for about three hundred years. It's divided into three cultural subcontinents: Volpon, which is the home territory of the Empire, is the sort of classic Western European fantasy setting, but where dark magic is tolerated and there are necromancers and Liches who are prominent and respected leaders (and many among them are of a good alignment.) Gesenas is a large peninsula with several smaller peninsulas branching off of it and has a kind of Mediterranean feel. Gesenas is largely autonomous while still technically being part of the Empire, and is dominated by powerful trading companies. Sedsalaki, the southeastern, arid region, has a sort of Middle-Eastern, North-African feel. The city-states there are united by the Church of Yad.
Things had been pretty stable for a long time, but in recent years, people have begun to discover ruins from the legendary Parthalian civilization - and advanced society with technology that is far more sophisticated than that found in modern Sarkon. The result has been a rapid industrial revolution as people re-purposed and reverse-engineer these relics. Tension over the control of this technology led to an incident in Sedsalaki that precipitated a war - the Church has united almost all of the City-States in a rebellion against the Empire.
The city of Camrada, a place of debauchery and corruption that nevertheless was fighting on the side of the Church, was recently captured by the Imperial Legion. The "Sand Prince," the ostensible leader of the city but in truth a puppet of the various crime families that actually control it, was holding one of his weekly 6-day long bacchanalian parties. It's here that our heroes arrive.
They are a high elf Wizard named Haldrion, who is a member of a powerful family from Karkistos, one of the major cities in Gesenas, Liorenth, a gold dragonborn Paladin whose desert village in Sedsalaki was destroyed by orcish raiders when he was a child, and was rescued by the Imperial Legion and raised in the Volpic region known as Hymora, and Breakridge, a mountain dwarf Fighter who came down to Camrada basically to get in fights and party with the Sand Prince.
Liorenth's order has not been called up to fight in the war, as the Emperor is trying to prevent this from becoming a full-fledge religious conflict, and so has taken work as Haldrion's bodyguard. Breakridge and Liorenth know each other from their time in the Legion. Liorenth left it to join his paladin order while Breakridge was honorably discharged and decided he'd rather get drunk than be a career soldier.
All three know Ralak Al-Jalad, an NPC who has recruited them to start an archaeological exploration company - essentially to dig up Parthalian artifacts and sell them for great profit. He wants them to pitch their company to the Sand Prince to get him as an investor.
After having some interactions with various people, including having Haldrion get screwed both literally and physically by a Wood Elf who walks off with his coinpurse, they encounter a strange fakir named Mok-Cor, who gives them strange enigmatic prophecies.
They approach the Sand Prince, and he seems excited about the prospect of getting in on this company, but right after them, Mok-Cor approaches the Prince. The Sand Prince asks how long his great palace will stand, and Mok-Cor answers "No more than an hour."
In the stunned silence that follows, Mok-Cor chants out a ritual incantation, and a massive Tarrasque emerges from the desert and starts to destroy the city.
Ralak tells the party that he has a ship, but it won't run without his friend Jasmal. So the party goes to the bar where they've heard she's paying off some debt. Along the way, they find a guy looting a store. Liorenth chases him off, but Breakridge and Haldrion take what he had looted - a little gem (non magical) and a bag of holding. Inside, they find a pair of kobolds with a pet octopus in a jar. The kobolds tell them to go away. Ultimately, it comes to a fight, and before either kobold can do a thing, Liorenth and Breakridge kill the two reptilian gangsters. The octopus climbs back in its jar and screws its lid back on, so Haldrion stuffs it in his bag of holding.
They search the room and find a little trap door, which leads them down to a basement room. It's here that they hear Vadraz, a red dragonborn thug, who is telling Jasmal that they'll leave only when "Henrik" gets there.
Haldrion disguises himself as one of the kobolds and walks in, trying to convince Vadraz that Henrik wants him to take the half-elf with them. Vadraz refuses to budge, but not suspecting an attack, they all very quickly kill the thug before he can react. (It's at this point that I figure I need to maybe bump up the difficulty of the enemies I'm using - though they did get a whole surprise round.)
They find the key to the cage as well as a dirty shotgun on Vadraz' corpse, the latter of which comes as a bit of a surprise.
With Jasmal in tow, they run through the city toward Smuggler's Wharf, only to take a turn down Acid Alley and for Breakridge to run headlong into a gelatinous cube (I halved its health and reduced some of the damage it dealt, but I think they might have been able to take it out either way, given how easily they dispatched it.) As they killed the cube, the spire of the Camrada Cathedral crashed down, smashing the cube along with Breakridge's axe. They got to the boat the Ralak and Jasmal had fixed up and left the harbor, watching the Tarrasque throw another chunk of the cathedral at Vinderum Palace and watching it collapse in a cloud of smoke and dust.
So: a couple things I've learned:
1: Combat is way easier to run than NPC interactions. That's perhaps unsurprising, given that it's more automatic (though with more complicated monsters it might involve greater decision-making on my part.) Might avoid the kinds of NPC crowds that I had at the party.
2: You're going to have way more skill-checks than you plan for, so being able to improvise a DC is important.
3: It's not hard to communicate the basic direction you want players to go.
4: Kobolds don't last long. Thugs might last longer if they don't get surprised.