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My (Hopefully!) Glorious Return to Dungeon Master --- Need Advice
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TOPIC: My (Hopefully!) Glorious Return to Dungeon Master --- Need Advice
#35745
My (Hopefully!) Glorious Return to Dungeon Master --- Need Advice 5 Years, 3 Months ago  
Hello all,

I'm new to the forums and just recently purchased my first two sets from Dwarven Forge; I started with the Room and Room & Passage sets. I was the DM for the first time in about 17 years last week for a D&D 4e adventure and I really enjoyed it, although portions of the night felt clunky to me.

I'd like to improve and really get the most out of D&D 4e. For my first session, I noticed a few problems with how I set things up.

First, the combat encounters were too difficult. I believe I can easily change this but I made the error of putting monsters against the players that worked "story wise" but didn't match their level. I had some Level 3 enemies fighting Level 1 players, and it was a bloodbath. I could tell the players were frustrated because anytime they got hit, they got rocked with damage. Now that I have the Monster Builder through the DDI subscription, I can scale the monsters more effectively.

Second, I find the Skill Challenges a bit cumbersome. I think players want to simply roleplay those moments and forcing them to roll while encounting a NPC seemed to break up the action. Obviously, you don't have to go into a Skill Challenge for each NPC, but I had set up a major moment with a shop owner that needed more structure. I don't know, I'm still trying to figure those out and would appreciate any suggestions or advice.

Third, the pacing was off all night because the first combat encounter lasted much longer than I thought. I had a clear image of the final encounter of the night and I really had to rush through some things to get there (and we still ended up playing about an hour later than normal). My next campaign will jump from only three players to five or six players, so the combat will take even longer. I need to get a better feel for that.

Please let me know if you have any suggestions for the DM role. I will be running a new campaign later in the month with four to six players. Many of them will be new to 4e.

Thank you!
Swanton
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#35746
My (Hopefully!) Glorious Return to Dungeon Master --- Need Advice 5 Years, 3 Months ago  
It seems like you are just gettign used to the system, I can't figure out 4th at all, and haven't tried, but sounds like you have plan for dealing with problem 1, but one thing may have been that you only had 4 PC's that extra action can mean a lot and skew the combat one way or the other if is isn't there. The reason they have "solo" monsters who get more actions or else a party of just beats down the thing that can only act or attack one thing a round. You are losing a whole set of actions with three players.

The first thing I would suggest is don't force things to happen at certain times, if you don't get to something in the night who cares, as long as everyone is having fun the story/adventure are advancing if you don't get to point X like you though, it's no big deal, let it sit till next session and maybe it will be better as you have had more time to think about it.

The forceing concept applies to Skill Challenges as well, if you don't like them skip them. Some players love them others have them. We have a guy who can't put together a coherent argument to use against NPCs or even PCs and he preferes them as then his skills can be a fallback to still accomplish things, and we have another Player who would enjoy it if the entire game night were just that detailed conversation with the NPC. I borrowed the concept of skill challanges to use in a different system and set them up as the basis of the encoutner but if the Players want to get into it talking, I just put aside the mechanic of bet 3 challanges of DC 15 etc aside. As long as the PC's get the ideas across and make thier arguments wll enough, ie they succeded in convincing the NPC 2 times etc, then it worked. I only use the straight mechanic on the people who don't get into the RP. But if they try i'll give them a bonus on the dice roll.

To speed up combat use the cards and get everybody paying attention, but in the end combat can drag in any system if people aren't paying atention. And while it sounds harsh if someone is talking a long time, telll them act and then start counting down from 6, if they haven't done thier action they loss the action. Yeah you can answer questions on postion etc but still try to be quick and enforce them acting, they only have 6 seconds.
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#35747
My (Hopefully!) Glorious Return to Dungeon Master --- Need Advice 5 Years, 3 Months ago  
Sorry I can't help on 4e. I decided not to delve in another edition. I have to much money invested in other editions to justify yet another one.
As far as DMing goes. HAVE FUN!
Don't get caught up in all the rules the first few times out. If you miss something its ok just try and remember them next time. Don't let the rules get in the way of the game and having fun. To many times has that happened to me and the groups I have been in. If you don't like the way something is. Change it. Make it a house rule.

Here is my 2 cents. To bad its not worth a nickle. :)
Good Luck.
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#35748
My (Hopefully!) Glorious Return to Dungeon Master --- Need Advice 5 Years, 3 Months ago  
to speed up combat i have been doing two things.

1) Tell the next person whose on deck when someone is taking their turn. I read it here and tried it for 2 nights now and it worked very well.

2) I give the players a maximum of 1 minute to take their turn when fighting. I use the stopwatch on my iPhone to time them all.
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#35749
My (Hopefully!) Glorious Return to Dungeon Master --- Need Advice 5 Years, 3 Months ago  
My first night DM'ing was more forced because it was just a side campaign and I probably will not DM for that group for another few months. So I wanted to get in the cool stuff I cooked up. lol

I'll be starting an ongoing campaign later this month so that will remove the need to force things to happen in an given order. I have a fun idea for when the characters reach the threshold of 10th to 11th Level, but that is a long way off. :-)

I appreciate the advice.

I had a general (and perhaps silly) question about roleplaying - how do you roleplay? Obviously there are moments in town "at the local tavern" or dealing with NPCs that warant roleplaying, but what are other examples of how you integrate this into games?

Yes, I agree with the timer issue. There have been moments while I was a player that the decision on what attack to use too too long. As a player it feels a bit strange to critique a fellow player, but I think you can do so as a DM in a manner that doesn't upset the apple cart . . . so to speak.
Swanton
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#35750
My (Hopefully!) Glorious Return to Dungeon Master --- Need Advice 5 Years, 3 Months ago  
I had a general (and perhaps silly) question about roleplaying - how do you roleplay? Obviously there are moments in town "at the local tavern" or dealing with NPCs that warant roleplaying, but what are other examples of how you integrate this into games?
It's actually really not a silly question, its one of those questions that gets asked alot by experienced and novice players a like becuase in some cases it has no specific answer. A lot of it comes down to the group of players and personalities. You have to find the balance within your group between taking a full 4 hours to go shopping as every action is described and every interaction is lavished over to the hand wave of "you have 200 gp, if its in the book you can buy it just write it down" and thats all there is to shopping.

I personally as a GM like a decent bit of "important" talk townsfolk or others that have information to the plot (or against it) where they can have an accent or personality, it can get overboard if everyone has a differnt accent etc, so I tned to go into stock accents for character types and species. Some gets handwaved but I like to have some interaction or i will just go play a computer game.

For me on a character level, I like to spend some time getting to know who my character is, motivations etc to get into them, the biggest problem I have is if I really develop something and it just totally gets ignored i tend to lose intrest in the character, and will start another.
Ghenghis Ska
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#35751
My (Hopefully!) Glorious Return to Dungeon Master --- Need Advice 5 Years, 3 Months ago  
I had a general (and perhaps silly) question about roleplaying - how do you roleplay? Obviously there are moments in town "at the local tavern" or dealing with NPCs that warant roleplaying, but what are other examples of how you integrate this into games?
That depends highly on your group. Some people approach this as a sedentary LARP while others approach it almost strictly as a miniatures game. The correct answer is as much or as little as you and you players like.

As an example, I recently ran an adventure at a Con that had a skill challenge. Several players were whisked off into confessionals and had to "confess". One person passed the skill challenge almost entirely with no rolls, it was role-played well. Another person was done almost solely with rolls, as he didn't "get" it. The other two were somewhere in the middle, with the result of their answers providing +/- to the skill challenge rolls.

It's acceptable to have a role-playing disparity even in the same group. As long as there is something in it for everyone, I don't think you'll have a problem. One person may want to spend 30 minutes role-playing, as the other people don't do much. But, those same people may then spend 30 minutes tactically planning an encounter later on in the same session.
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#35752
My (Hopefully!) Glorious Return to Dungeon Master --- Need Advice 5 Years, 3 Months ago  
How do you roleplay...

The answer is different for everyone, and Ghenghis Ska and pfworks both make good points.

As the GM, you can roleplay by making sure that every time the players interact with an NPC (or a monster, out of combat) you give them something to interact with. Accents, stock phrases, impersonations of television or movie characters, and so on are easy ways to "flesh out" encounters. You can also use descriptive language instead of technical terms -- the wolves are spreading out to the left and the right, not taking up flanking positions; the dragon rears its head and draws a great breath, it doesn't prepare its breath weapon for the next round.

I'd encourage you to give bonuses for roleplaying, not just for good roleplaying. Not everyone likes to roleplay as much as everyone else, and not everyone is able to roleplay as well as everyone else. If there is a standard bonus for roleplaying at all and a possible bonus for roleplaying well, I think most players will roleplay to get the standard bonus and the real dramatic types will go for the extra.

Roleplaying can be encouraged in your players by contriving situations in which their characters have to roleplay. One night in Middle Earth, the Third Fellowship needed to infiltrate an orc encampment -- the characters put on big helmets and heavy fur cloaks, and the players limped and grunted and talked like Tarzan for darn near an hour of solid fun. Get the players to act out (or at least describe) their actions. How does the fighter sneak past the guard? What does the wizard tell the innkeeper to get out of the bill? How does the cleric distract the bandit king?

You can't force your group to roleplay, but you can encourage them and give them plenty of opportunities. You should also be mindful of their response to your efforts. If your group consistently doesn't rise to the occasion, then you might be better off approaching game night as skirmish miniatures.
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#35753
My (Hopefully!) Glorious Return to Dungeon Master --- Need Advice 5 Years, 3 Months ago  
As an example, I recently ran an adventure at a Con that had a skill challenge. Several players were whisked off into confessionals and had to "confess". One person passed the skill challenge almost entirely with no rolls, it was role-played well. Another person was done almost solely with rolls, as he didn't "get" it. The other two were somewhere in the middle, with the result of their answers providing +/- to the skill challenge rolls.
How did this work? Can you tell me a bit more about the purpose and execution? That sounds interesting.

I found myself using the same accent for different characters, and it bugged me as I heard myself. I know that is something I need to work on; I need to feel less self-conscious and just run with it. lol

The first group I've been playing with (mostly as a player) is not involved in too much role-playing. Most of the talk around the table would probably be considered meta-gaming, although there are moments when the characters kick into a higher gear. I've been hesitant to get into character for this reason, and also because I haven't played an RPG in many years. I'm out of practice!

The new group sounds like it'll be more roleplay heavy, which should be fun. I am not looking for three-act plays to take place but even staying in character while in combat and having those fun moments of interaction with the enemies is entertaining. The idea of giving out bonuses for roleplying is an interesting concept. I wonder how that would work in 4e?

I guess you could tell everyone ahead of time that "good" or "intense" roleplaying could earn benefits such as an extra Action Point or change for more loot in the future. One good idea I've seen elsewhere is that the NPC will give the player information about the quest at hand, but depending on the success of the skill challenge (or roleplaying), the NPC might send them into the teeth of the defense or through a secret and less-guarded entrance, etc. I could play around with that idea a bit.

Great discussion. I appreciate it!
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#35754
My (Hopefully!) Glorious Return to Dungeon Master --- Need Advice 5 Years, 3 Months ago  
Swanton,

One of the tools that I provide to characters are three defining "character moments".

Basically, a character moment allows the character provides the character a second roll - at anything, although the moment must be declared before the initial roll is made.

I find that these contribute to enhanced role-playing opportunities. They also help to mitigate extreme and potentially fatal situations for characters without the temptation (if any) to fudge poor/unfortunate/fatal dice rolls.

Such a roll can be used to (help) save their own character or in helping to save another. Sacrifice (and acts of heroism) can be great ways to improve comraderie within a party of adventurers. Alternately, self-serving or greedy characters may start to "appear" as who they are.

In addition,

Knowing that the players have such a tool at their disposal has allowed me to crank up the challenge level as well, in turn forcing them into situations that require them to cooperate more as a group.

You can also have character(s) fated towards a "greater destiny". This allows the DM to determine three occasions when a character would get a second roll (usually for a potentially fatal save or a crucial attack/damage roll), in hopes of having them survive to achieve their greater destiny. I usually provide this only as an option that has some "cost" in character development though. If the players deems it worthwhile of the cost, then great. If not, at least they had the opportunity.

PS

I don't know how this would work with 4E, as I use two completely different gaming systems.

WW
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#35755
My (Hopefully!) Glorious Return to Dungeon Master --- Need Advice 5 Years, 3 Months ago  
Swanton, I think you've had some good advice here so far.

With regard to your first problem, I think the Monster Builder will help you a LOT. Remember that monsters in 4E scale differently than in previous editions, and it's easy to level things up too much and have monster that's effectively unhitable. The Builder will help you avoid that.

With regard to speeding up combat, the most effective thing I've done is to cut monster hp down by 1/4, and double their damage dealt. They hit harder, but they go down faster, so it's a bit of a wash, but it does save time. IMO, 4E monsters have way too many hp, and just don't deal nearly enough damage. 4E is built around 10 encounters per level, roughly half of which should be cake-walks. That's crap. By beefing up monster damage, characters feel the need to work harder at combats and finish them quickly.

Also, as was mentioned, use the power cards. They can be printed off the character generator. Check the math, though. Occasionally it's not right. Once you have the cards, all of your attack and damage numbers for each attack are right at your players fingertips. That saves time.

Finally, if things start getting too easy for your players, deny them the ability to take extended rests. Keep your combats together within the story, and don't let the characters out of the cage. When their dailies and surges are depleted, they'll be feeling the anxiety. Also, if they move from one combat to another without taking a short rest, either by biting off more than they can chew or raising an alarm or whatever, pound on them hard. When all the encounter powers have been used and their lone second wind is gone, they'll start looking for a way out pretty quickly.
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#35756
My (Hopefully!) Glorious Return to Dungeon Master --- Need Advice 5 Years, 3 Months ago  
Swanton,

With regards to managing varying role-playing expectations, may I suggest the following: Keep the time (when the entire gaming group is together) strictly for party adventuring.

From my experience, the occasional individual or smaller role-playing sessions (outside of the group time) may be well accepted -providing the following:

Offer it to the entire gaming group during a full gaming session and at an opportune time during the campaign, (usually in town). This can be done either at the end of the session, or allow the group to continue adventuring (together) promptly and without delays.

Some players will appreciate avoiding a time-consuming delay from group adventuring while others may appreciate the opportunity to role-play further (at a later time) without being rushed by other players.

Explain (to all) that experience balance should not be affected. Then confirm that you expect any such side sessions to be primarily a role-playing (non-combat) exercise and are not side adventures.

Keep the focus (of side sessions) strictly to opportunities for the player to learn more about the campaign environment and to develop the character's profile (and character) to a greater degree. This is easy to do if you restrict the player from using most, (if not all) class abilities in such sessions. Don't worry about them acquiring treasure either, few characters should acquire wealth by shopping further. ;)

Most importantly, avoid having solo side sessions with the same player between every or even most group sessions as this will affect game balance perceptions. I personally prefer player-to-player role-playing side sessions to develop comraderie between characters. These can further be supplemented (from time to time) with the occasional solo session for the more dedicated role-players in your group, if you have the time.

I really prefer this approach as I can not stand being "pulled" in two different directions when I am running a campaign. I really appreciate it when some players show a further interest in both the campaign details and in their characters as well. I also respect the fact that everyone in the group has different demands upon their available time, so I like to make the time everyone has available for gaming as rewarding as possible.

Good luck.

WW
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