Our First Game -- What some non-RPG fans Learned that they want to share!
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  1. #1

    Our First Game -- What some non-RPG fans Learned that they want to share!

    Yesterday I ran my first-ever 4th edition game for a bunch of us, as a test-drive for the system to see whether we liked it enough to consider starting a campaign.

    This wasn’t an RPG group. In fact, it wasn’t even an RPG-friendly group, and therein lay my problem.

    Some of the players had tons of experience with classic D&D (and were reticent to look at 4E), and one was already playing in a 4E campaign and knew how to play. Some had no RPG experience whatsoever, and my wife hated D&D with a passion because she felt that it was a ridiculously limited rules-set. We had a wide range of tastes and experience, but we wanted to see if 4E would work for us.

    So I wanted to give it the best shot possible, but I had my work cut out for me! Not only that, but I had to teach everybody how to play, get everybody up to speed, and also make sure we all had fun doing it!

    I took the opportunity to put together every possible trick, change, alteration, and paradigm-shift possible. I had to throw out some of my mental baggage from over 25 years of gaming, and change some of my ways of doing things, but I’m really grateful that I did.

    In the end, everybody agreed that the game worked, that we had fun, that the system flowed, and that we’re going to start a campaign. We hit it out of the park.

    So what did we do?

    a) No character sheets. Use them only to calculate your numbers, then put them away.

    b) I made “Game Mats” with spots for only the calculated adjustments, and put them in clear-plastic report-covers, so that people could write their numbers down with wet-erase marker overtop. Thus, each player had a main page-sized plastic-covered printed laying on the table, designed by me with sections for the various numbers they'd need. (with some modest graphics to make it easy to look at)

    That way the numbers can be adjusted as we progress. Thus, anything with a calculated number (attributes, Defense values, Init/Move, Perception/Insight, Skills) merely has your final calculated modifier listed. Roll a d20, add your modifier, and go to town.

    So if you asked a player what their strength was, they might not know. But if you asked them what they added to strength, they'd look down at their mat, and see that they added +3 ... which is all that is really important anyway!

    (and, I did slide the character sheets underneath,

    c) For the three sections that require upkeep and record-keeping, we use tokens/gems. These sections on the "Game Mat" had large boundaries printed off to hold tokens (of various denominations, cobbled together from other games, and/or from game-gems from a dollar store), used for the record-keeping aspects of the game.

    Hit-points are done with two sides to the section – when one half is empty, you’re bloodied. Healing surge tokens have their own section, as do action point tokens. Everybody agreed that this made things much quicker, more fun, and somehow more exciting.

    d) For powers, we had power-cards printed off and sleeved, again with boxes for final calculated values (don't just print off cards that show the formulas, but instead use cards that include a final box where you write in your calculated value!).

    Edit: Link to Grandpa's Power Cards, here on EnWorld

    Don’t be re-calculating everything each and every attack. Instead, look down and know that you roll a d20 and add 8, and then move on. Fast, clean, efficient.
    Even better, because of the power cards, nobody ever had to crack a book during the entire game. Not once, for 6 new players!

    e) Each player had a side-sheet, which had a section for short-hand notes (just a few last-minute sentences containing anything which needed noting, like “+2 vs. attacks of opportunity” or “Adds +1 to allies perception within 5 squares”) and their basic attacks. 4 sentences, total!

    The other half of the page has a printed-off, point-form summary of every active form of skill-use, meaning that once again players never had to crack a book to look up a rule. If they wanted to actively use a skill, they could look at their cheat-sheet, and move on.

    f) Floating around the table I had a few copies of the page with all of the “conditions” and their effects listed on it. Thus, when somebody became “dazed”, they just grabbed that page and glanced at it, to remind themselves of what the impact was.

    g) While they might not technically be “powers”, I included powers for things like Sneak Attack, or Hunter’s Quarry, etc. Anything which you might tap into often. I also made cards for Second Wind (and included the healing value calculated right there in a box) as an encounter card, and thus people knew instantly whether it was tapped or not, and how much to heal.

    h) Some foamcore rectangles covered with contact-paper became wet-erasable name placards, each with a magnet behind them to help them stick to a giant initiative-order board. Once the initiative order was set, everybody (and the monsters) went up on the board, but could easily get slid to a new spot in the order, thanks to being on a magnetic rectangle. Even better, because they were large and visible, there was never any question as to who went next, and things sped along easily.

    i) My favourite wet-erase vinyl square-grid is worth its weight in gold! Thank you Chessex! However, add a few old game discs with contact paper on them, and these become perfect wet-erasable tokens that you can throw on the board as labelled miniatures. And once again, those coloured gems from the dollar store are priceless as “marked” tokens, etc.

    Now, it is tempting to say that all of this is merely a different presentation style. It is tempting to say that you aren’t actually changing the way that you’re playing the game. Who cares, right? You could just use a character sheet, like normal! You could just use your old system.

    After all ... I'm an old gamer, and I've seen it all before. I've been doing it for years, and you're not really changing anything ...

    But hold on …

    I put it to you that you are actually significantly impacting the playstyle of the game, the presentation of the table, and the impact of the rules-set on the group of players by allowing it to integrate more smoothly.

    In fact, in our little de-briefing after our experiment, I was amazed at how well people had picked up the game without having read any of the books (having only played that one session), -- but the players themselves were absolutely stunned that people played the game *without* such implements!

    In fact, it was quite telling that the new players were correcting the veteran player’s mistakes partway through the game, and he owns the books and plays in another campaign! That’s right – the newbies were learning the game better than the guy who was already in a campaign, who came with his own character pre-made, and who understood the rules ahead of time!

    So, I think that these little accoutrements might be more than superficial changes.

    Thus, because they changed my wife’s hatred of D&D, and smoothed out the learning curve immensely, and it sped up play, and it showed us the holes in a veteran 4E campaigner’s knowledge-base compared with only a few hours for a newbie, I have to say that I am sold on the concept that doing a paradigm-shift on presentation-style and playstyle is a good thing.

    Trust me – it isn’t just cosmetic, or superficial. Something pretty significant happened.
    Last edited by Bodhiwolff; Friday, 17th October, 2008 at 08:21 PM.

  2. #2
    Spellbinder (Lvl 16)

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    Cool stuff! Got any pics maybe?

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    Acolyte (Lvl 2)

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    I have been leaving it to the players to organize things like they want. There are just too many times when a player would go "So I rolled a 12, and my.. uhh.. strength bonus. Half my level, right? Oh, and proficiency for that weapon is a ... +2. So that's an ... 18". So I'm definitely going to be stealing your ideas.

    The funny thing is that the people who do this are the ones who are not inclined towards math and arithmetic. The ones that do find doing arithmetic in their heads quickly have all the final bonuses for everything they can do pre-calculated, but those who struggle with adding up all the modifiers quickly in their head make themselves do it every single time they roll.
    Last edited by grickherder; Thursday, 21st August, 2008 at 09:28 PM.

  4. #4
    Great ideas! We already use some of them, but the rest I will be trying out the next time I run 4e.

    I also have an interesting group. All are long time gamers with lots of preconceived notions to over come. The biggest one I am seeing so far is that "we don't have all the options we used to", mostly based on the smaller skill list. I think possibly some of your ideas will help to show that to be incorrect.

  5. #5
    Wow...I am impressed at the work you put in to it, to say the least!

    One problem I've run in to is the persistence of old memes....players who are very used to 3rd edition spend a fair amount of time making rule calls that are no longer valid, and it's a bit of a game to catch them (him, one guy really) in the middle of some false assumptions.

    Still....I'll have to think about how to work out a set up similar to yours....

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    Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)

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    That's fanstaic! Care to upload some PDFs of your sheets?

  7. #7
    A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)

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    Your changes are awesome and I would really like to duplicate them and try them out myself.

    That said:

  8. #8
    Cutpurse (Lvl 5)

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    Quote Originally Posted by grickherder View Post
    The funny thing is that the people who do this are the ones who are not inclined towards math and arithmetic. The ones that do find doing arithmetic in their heads quickly have all the final bonuses for everything they can do pre-calculated, but those who struggle with adding up all the modifiers quickly in their head make themselves do it every single time they roll.

    Seen it sooo many times. I only play at clubs and conventions, so I see a great many gamers, and it is almost universally true. Folks who could handle doing the arithmetic from scratch every time are the ones who have it pre-calculated, and folks who can't don't.

  9. #9

    Bodhiwolff - I love your idea. And in exchange for allowing all of us to steal it from you I thought I'd have a go at doing it up a bit. I rearranged the components a bit hope you like it.

    If anyone has any suggestions for improvements let me know. Not going to promise anything but will certainly consider doing variations. Fonts and background image should be easy to change.
    Last edited by Goblyns Hoard; Saturday, 23rd August, 2008 at 10:20 AM.

  10. #10
    Goblyn's Hoard, that is beautiful stuff!

    Making it look like a rolled-up parchment was inspired! Very slick!

    I'm loathe to make suggestions after you made such a beautiful product -- but refinement makes for a better end-product, and if I throw in some ideas, maybe other people will throw in theirs too.

    I'm assuming that where there are two boxes, the one box is for a +/- sign, and the other box is for a number? (I realized that my prototype wound up with some oddballs where you would have an inked-in minus sign next to a pre-typed plus sign, which was very strange indeed!

    I wonder if it is possible to make the sign boxes smaller than the numeral boxes? It doesn't seem like they'd need as much room as a number would? But then again, maybe I'm wrong.

    I also found that it was important to have a (faded/watermarked/light-coloured) box inside the hitpoint boxes (and other boxes), to put the actual value in, as a reference point. Once people got going with throwing tokens in and out, they'd forget what their max was, so they'd have to refer back to the sheet to grab their max number of tokens.

    Is the healing-surge token space and Action Point token space large enough? The action point one only has to hold a few tokens, but the Healing Surge one has to hold quite a few. On the other and, the healing value is written on the power cards for the Second Wind, so you could consider saving some space there.

    But again, these are just refinement suggestions, because I really, really appreciate what you did.

    Just beautiful stuff!


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