What I Learned Running a 1 to 30 D&D Campaign


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    What I Learned Running a 1 to 30 D&D Campaign

    Fan-fraking-tastic account of lessons learned running a 4E campaign for 2.5 years across 100 sessions from Mike Shea over at Critical Hits. Must read for 4E fans, IMHO.

    What I Learned Running a 1 to 30 D&D Campaign by Mike Shea
    The Meloran Gnomes are a fey people that historically lived along the banks of the Melora River and two of its tributaries—the Heart and Knife Rivers—approximately 150 leagues west of Fallcrest in the present-day Nentir Vale. Speakers of Gnomish, an Elvish dialect, the people developed a settled culture in contrast to that of more nomadic gnome tribes in the Great Plains region. They established permanent villages featuring large, round, earthen lodges some 40 feet in diameter, surrounding a central plaza. Primitive industry, agriculture, and trade with the bisonmen were key to their daily life.

    Approximately 15,000 strong at their peak, a plague outbreak has reduced their numbers to approximately 125.

 

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    Must spread XP before giving it to Tikkchik ......

  • #3
    Thats pretty cool. Im coming to alot of the same conclussions, and whilst we havent hit epic, the story is the same. Rules so ridiculously vast and wide there is bound to be some ways players can just eat enemies alive. its getting harder and harder to create challenging without "insta-wipe" encounters.

    Very interesting article

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    ø Ignore Aegeri
    He makes some interesting points, I made some comments on the blog but I'll reiterate some of them here.

    Criticals: Critical hits from PCs on multiple attacks are most adequately countered with triggered actions (no-action and free especially). Something that on a hit can whack back against a PC to knock them away, or lets the monster shift out of reach or similar. These powers can be countered - immobilize for example prevents a monster from shifting - so they aren't entirely cheap "metagame" tactics (plus they'll work on non-crits anyway). It means the party needs more set up and therefore, more overall tactics to make their big powers work. Instead of them being a given every combat.

    Stopping this sort of thing and making criticals not reliable "You're dead" is about terrain and monster design. Terrain makes getting into position more difficult, provides cover or concealment, allows monsters to heal or even get extra triggered powers (or whatever else). By epic PCs should be besieging their enemies in their own homes: But by extension that should mean the monsters have everything their own way.

    Monster Design: I noticed a lot that many were complaining they forgot monsters powers and similar. This impacts the encounter heavily and it's so vital to remember what your monsters do. The less you miss and better you understand how they work the better. This is more work though and is far from how simple heroic/paragon is in comparison complexity wise. But think of it this way: PCs have to remember a host of specialized conditions, bonuses and similar as well by epic. An individual monster can be complex, but 5 monsters - especially if you use the odd duplicate - isn't terribly complex.

    It's important to mix together complexity. Not every monster has to be complicated, but it's important that you have those strong monsters around to back up the others. Creatures from MM3 and beyond are brilliant, they are complicated enough they can put up a real threat while not being overly so.

    Solos and elites, who rely on keen understanding of their powers deserve extra time on their turns. Don't be afraid to think about what to do for a moment: You are not a computer. You are not expected to move as soon as your turn comes around as the DM. If you need time to think of what to do, check a monsters powers and such do so. It's better to spend a minute to recollect your thoughts and think about how a monster functions, than feel disappointed because that push 1 (if you'd remembered) would have stopped the Barbarians string of 4 crits after the first one.

    By far the biggest reason I see for post-MM3 solos not being challenging is DMs simply forgetting auras or triggered actions. These make up a very important part of current solo monsters.

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    ø Ignore wedgeski
    My communities:

    Quote Originally Posted by Aegeri View Post
    You are not a computer. You are not expected to move as soon as your turn comes around as the DM.
    This is a very good point. I DM a 5-player game every week and I'm constantly chivvying my guys along so that combats don't bog down and eat our precious game time away... they know this and take it in good spirit. However when it comes to my turns I often subject myself to the same pressure, when I really shouldn't.

    Players have the luxury of only having to know their own mind. They can do their best to set up tactical advantage or look for it from their friends, but when the dice are rolling, it's really only their own PC they have to worry about. DM's on the other hand are forging an entire combat, the fates of multiple monsters and minions in their hands, most of whom will have been selected for their ability to synnergise and make life as hard as possible for the adventurers.

    Sometimes it's even easier for the DM to forget this than it is the players.
    What do you want to do now?
    Chasing the DM - D&D blog/occasional soap-box (5E Player's Handbook Review Part 1 - First Impressions)

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    ø Ignore Prestidigitalis
    Quote Originally Posted by Aegeri View Post
    Monster Design: I noticed a lot that many were complaining they forgot monsters powers and similar. This impacts the encounter heavily and it's so vital to remember what your monsters do. The less you miss and better you understand how they work the better.
    This problem is aggravated by the "grind" issue -- when combat encounters take two or more hours, there is a strong temptation to hurry.

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    ø Ignore Aegeri
    Quote Originally Posted by Prestidigitalis View Post
    This problem is aggravated by the "grind" issue -- when combat encounters take two or more hours, there is a strong temptation to hurry.
    This isn't so bad now that even level monsters are capable of threatening PCs (where before they were gigantic jokes at worst and a speedbump at worst). Post-MM3 and improved damage, powers and such my epic combats take 1 hour or so. Epic grinds were because a Level + 5 monster was required, just to live long enough to do a pittance of damage.

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    ø Ignore TikkchikFenTikktikk
    Regarding players calling out powers and feats you don't understand:

    1. Make them read the full power to you.

    They should have this at hand. It's 2010; everyone should either have access to a text editor or the character builder and a printer. Of course, this doesn't mean they didn't pull the power out of their butts when they were typing, but it gives you a chance to say "Whoa, that does what?" and a moment to reconsider monster tactics and strategy.

    2. Make them roleplay and describe the power to you.

    Sometimes it's hard to describe exactly what is going on with the more abstract powers, but they should have to try.

    I've heard fears that this will bog down combat even more. In my experience, though, what actually happens is this:
    * The player begins really making the character their own, putting their own stamp on how the powers' effects manifest.
    * Other players better understand that character's quirks, personality, and potential in and out of combat.
    * Players get brainstorms of more cinematic things to try as they think outloud and begin taking advantage of the golden rule (try anything, the DM will come up with a check and a DC).
    * Combats become memorable for player actions, not just the setting and the monster description. "Remember that time I ..." instead of "Remember that time the DM ..."
    * Combats take a bit longer but no one really minds because they really become a cinematic and essential part of the story.
    The Meloran Gnomes are a fey people that historically lived along the banks of the Melora River and two of its tributaries—the Heart and Knife Rivers—approximately 150 leagues west of Fallcrest in the present-day Nentir Vale. Speakers of Gnomish, an Elvish dialect, the people developed a settled culture in contrast to that of more nomadic gnome tribes in the Great Plains region. They established permanent villages featuring large, round, earthen lodges some 40 feet in diameter, surrounding a central plaza. Primitive industry, agriculture, and trade with the bisonmen were key to their daily life.

    Approximately 15,000 strong at their peak, a plague outbreak has reduced their numbers to approximately 125.

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    ø Ignore Dausuul
    Quote Originally Posted by Aegeri View Post
    Solos and elites, who rely on keen understanding of their powers deserve extra time on their turns. Don't be afraid to think about what to do for a moment: You are not a computer. You are not expected to move as soon as your turn comes around as the DM. If you need time to think of what to do, check a monsters powers and such do so. It's better to spend a minute to recollect your thoughts and think about how a monster functions, than feel disappointed because that push 1 (if you'd remembered) would have stopped the Barbarians string of 4 crits after the first one.

    By far the biggest reason I see for post-MM3 solos not being challenging is DMs simply forgetting auras or triggered actions. These make up a very important part of current solo monsters.
    How does taking more time on my (the DM's) turn help me remember auras and triggered actions, which happen on the player's turn?

    I mean, I agree that the DM should take some time to carefully note a monster's abilities before combat begins. But I think it's also true that many monsters are badly designed; too much reliance on triggered effects, especially when the triggers are not something you're used to keeping track of. If the players are taking their turns at a decent clip, you have a very small window of time to say, "Wait a minute, that triggers this ability." You don't get to stop and think; if you snooze, you lose.

    It's especially bad as you get into higher levels, where the players are telling you how they're using their Whirling Platypus Strike of the Seventeen Tidal Waves, and you're trying to figure out what the hell that means while they're already rolling dice.
    Last edited by Dausuul; Tuesday, 30th November, 2010 at 04:37 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by Agent Elrond
    As you can see, we’ve had our eye on you for some time now, Mr. Baggins. It seems that you’ve been living two lives. In one life, you’re Frodo Baggins, well-to-do scion of the respectable Baggins family. You smoke pipe-weed, you celebrate your uncle’s birthday, and you help teach your gardener’s son his letters.

    The other life is lived in the Wild, where you go by the adventurer alias "Underhill" and carry the most powerful relic of evil we have a name for.

    One of these lives has a future. And one of them does not.

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    ø Ignore Aegeri
    Players always ask me if they've hit or not usually: When I know what they are attacking, the power isn't the important part (and normally not too difficult to figure out if it is melee/ranged/close/area etc) - it's the target. I just look over the stat block of the monster quickly and look at the handy "Triggered" section. If they do anything that defies that I either bear it in mind and let them continue, or I stop them and use the action. Unless you tell your PCs the monsters defenses there should be plenty of time for you to react. They do, after all rely on you as the DM to tell them if their Whirling Platypus strike works.

    Incidentally, that would be a great power.

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