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  1. #11
    Echoing what others have said, I'd recommend walking before running as well. However, I've noticed that one of the most powerful tools to use when you arrive at the storyline part of your game is to develope a story or series of events that will unfold with or without your player's/pcs involvement. For instance, in my game, a mad alchemist has bargained his soul to a powerful chaotic god, who plans to escape his imprisonment upon collection of the soul. So you can see that despite what the pcs do in my game, things will happen that they will eventually have to deal with, one way or another.
    Last edited by Keenberg; Monday, 16th January, 2012 at 05:48 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rechan View Post
    Pregens would be my suggestion.
    I second this!

    Quote Originally Posted by ACGalaga View Post
    what are some "important need to know's" I should look over before we begin?
    The DC chart for difficulty by level, and the "average damage" numbers - which is 8+level for standard damage, +25% to 50% for big effects, and similar reductions for lesser or multi-target effects.

    With these in mind you can adjudicate a lot of stuff. One example from one of my early 4e sessions - the paladin want to speak a prayer to weaken an undead foe. Roll a Religion check - on a success gain combat advantage, on a failure take a modest amount of necrotic damage as the undead turns your prayer back on you as a curse.

    At least in my experience, 4e PCs - even at first level - have a lot of colour and "hooks" in them. And a lot of the monsters do too. And you can easily build colour and hooks into your encounters - terrain, relics of the past etc. Use all this stuff to push the game forward, and use the ad hod adjudication (of DCs and damage) to make it matter mechanically, and to get your players used to using the mechanics to play the game.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rechan View Post
    Pregens would be my suggestion. If they don't care enough to "do the work", then they shouldn't complain about a pregen. Once they've learned how to play and they get over the hump, then offer to help them.
    The added bonus to this approach is, the original poster will get some much needed practice building characters by making the pregens.

    Quote Originally Posted by Grandpa View Post
    My favorite DM'ing advice came from a Dragon column awhile back (don't remember the name), which was to invent two secrets about any noun (character, item, location) that you add to the game. They can be big or small -- up to you. Write each secret on a card and draw one before your adventure. Throw a reference (hint) to that secret in the adventure that night. Even if it doesn't have anything to do with anything, it adds interesting little details to the world that make it feel alive.
    Sounds like advice from Ray Winneger's (sp?) Dungeoncraft article from back in the 2e days. Good stuff. His specific advice was for world-building, (that is, every element of the world you create gets a secret that goes in the deck. Whenever you build a new element, pull out a secret and figure out how it is related), both to create verisimilitude and to plant plot hooks.

    For a similar shortcut with character backgrounds, just ask "why" twice to get a workable sketch of a character for the evening. Joe is a bartender. Why? He won the bar in a bet. Why? He took a big gamble when he had nothing left. He since resists gambling but has made some enemies. That last stuff just flowed.
    I really like this, although some players prefer to figure out their backgrounds (and other details) as they play the character. If you have this type of player, go with it!

    In addition to all of the superb advice above (and, I'm sure, more to come!), you might find some of the advice in this thread to be of use. It is not all directed toward a DM with your specific problems (more for the DM with very little time to prep), but much of the advice is stuff I would recommend for any DM (especially one running 4e). It all emphasizes a style of DMing that I call "streamlined sandbox."
    Last edited by Rune; Tuesday, 17th January, 2012 at 01:40 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rechan View Post
    BTW, I just checked Google Maps. @Dice4Hire is like 2 hours from you.
    Yeah, I sent @Dice4Hire a message already, but no response. Just trying to get familiar with the people nearby... although Nagoya is a bit of a treck. Osaka is much closer.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rune View Post
    It is not all directed toward a DM with your specific problems (more for the DM with very little time to prep), but much of the advice is stuff I would recommend for any DM (especially one running 4e). It all emphasizes a style of DMing that I call "streamlined sandbox."
    Nice! I'll go over this as well as all the other information given. There's a lot of great suggestions here and has certainly given a lot of ideas, thanks!!

    I'll do the 2 why's thing with the two not as serious players especially. I think they enjoy thinking creatively so this will add personality to their pregen characters.

    ------------------------

    Ok, here's another question. Some of us really want to get this game going. There's 5 people altogether but we're having some schedule conflicts at the moment. Would it be wrong of me to start with 3 players and the other 2 can join the next session? They could either be a little behind in xp or I could bump them up to lvl 2... I guess it's something I'd have to discuss with all the players.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ACGalaga View Post
    Nice! I'll go over this as well as all the other information given. There's a lot of great suggestions here and has certainly given a lot of ideas, thanks!!
    Thanks! Streamlining wherever you can will reduce the burden of learning the rules, building the characters, prepping for the game, and running the game.

    Ok, here's another question. Some of us really want to get this game going. There's 5 people altogether but we're having some schedule conflicts at the moment. Would it be wrong of me to start with 3 players and the other 2 can join the next session? They could either be a little behind in xp or I could bump them up to lvl 2... I guess it's something I'd have to discuss with all the players.
    Absolutely nothing wrong with that. Assuming that the two who wouldn't be playing in the first session are the two who aren't that interested, you should probably just assume from the start that they will only play occasionally. If that's the case, you will save yourself a lot of headaches by leveling them at the same pace as the others (but don't actually do the work, until you have to!).

    4e, in my opinion can support some minor differentiation in level among the party, but less than, say, 1e or 2e, or even 3e could. If the two players only play occasionally, they are likely to fall too far behind over the long run if you simply give the XP for sessions they participate in. Also, if they are noticeably less powerful than their allies, their interest in the game is likely to wane further.

    Your best bet with this type of player is to focus on making the session cool, and not on continuity (of course, your dedicated players will want continuity, but they'll probably also appreciate a focus on making the session cool).

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    Welcome aboard! Always good to have a new person, especially a new DM.

    Quote Originally Posted by ACGalaga View Post
    First: Is the 4E caracter creation more complicated than I remember?
    Possibly. They've added themes. And there are far too many feats in the game.

    Honestly, I'd make your first feat Expertise with whatever weapon or implement you chose (Heavy Blade Expertise, Light Blade Expertise, Orb Expertise, or Master of Arms if you like mixing weapons) and your second a multiclass feat.

    There also seems to be huge debate over whether 4E is any good or not, and is this complication one of the reasons or am I just a newb and it will get easier once I get use to it? (honestly I think 4E is neat so far)
    Perversely most people who vocally dislike 4e prefer a fiddlier alternative (Pathfinder).

    Second: I'm totally new to DM'ing (aside from a few rocky attempts in the past where I guest DM'd).
    It's fun! And you've picked an excellent system to learn to DM on. (Actually I'd say that this is where 4e truly shines). A few tips that might help:

    1: Roll the Dice or say Yes. The game is about the PCs and they should be given as much freedom to act (for good or ill) as much as possible. (Note: does not apply to violating the laws of Holywood Physics - which is what 4e runs under).

    2: Don't introduce DMPCs, however tempting it is. You get the world. Getting a party member too is just greedy. Likewise don't have many of the NPCs cooler than the PCs. The story is about the PCs. (Of course a boss as cool as Darth Vader is a good thing, but he shouldn't get too much screen time and should be defeated).

    3: Never give the PCs only one route to success. Give them the problem - the solution is in their hands. Far more fun for all concerned.

    4: A decent answer right now is much better than the "correct" answer three minutes later for keeping the game fun.

    5: 4e has formulas for dealing with daft PC stunts (damage by level) and daft PC plans (skill challlenges). Use them. If you want to encourage stunts, use the high damage by level expressions. To penalise give penalties to the actions and use the low expressions.
    5b: Remember the "bag of sand" rule. If sand in the face worked every time then fighters would carry bags of sand around rather than swords.

    6: Skill Challenges. First a skill challenge is not a skill roll. If it's pass/fail (e.g. picking a lock) use a skill roll. And never tell the PCs they are in one or just ask them to roll dice. Instead ask them what they are doing, and then tell them what to roll based on that. Keep the outcome on a couple of tally charts - and mark failures by introducing narrative complications (like a guard going alert or a child asking what's going on). These complications often open up more ideas for PCs to use skills. Skill challenges are especially good for "I'll distract the guards while you go round the back" plans.

    7: PC Plans. Your PCs will come up with insane plans from time to time. Roll with it. Just make a quick assessment about the level of PC you'd expect to try that idea and how complicated it is. So "Level 5, Complexity 3" or whatever. And ask them what they are doing and say what the world's doing, with occasional skill rolls when they call one out. The skill challenge will handle the difficulty and the pacing well - taking a lot of pressure off you.

    8: Fights. Any fight needs three things. 1: A reason. 2: At least two types of monster (or a solo). 3: An interesting piece of terrain to use somehow (tables and chandeliers, pits, ropes, rivers or ponds, and others all work - something to use rather than to just stand there and hide behind). But after a few sessions you can do this on the fly.

    Note that I presented them as rules. They are guidelines and I've broken all of them on occasion - but that comes with experience.

    Third: Two of the group members aren't as committed as the others.
    Make them pregens. I'd suggest a knight and a thief - those being two simple but cool classes to play. The other three essentials martial classes (Slayer, Scout, Hunter) would also be good. Seriously, you can play either of the two I named while barely looking at your character sheet.

    I hope some of that helps

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    Ok, here's another question. Some of us really want to get this game going. There's 5 people altogether but we're having some schedule conflicts at the moment. Would it be wrong of me to start with 3 players and the other 2 can join the next session? They could either be a little behind in xp or I could bump them up to lvl 2... I guess it's something I'd have to discuss with all the players.
    What @Rune said. Nothing wrong with it, and limiting XP is likely going to make things worse.

    Honestly, I often don't even bother with XP. I say "You level when it's story appropriate/I feel like it", and the only people who object are those that love tracking XP.

    The only thing I will say is this: 4e can be ran with 3 players. It just takes a little prep on your part, and understanding how to do it. Advice on how to do it also depends on what classes (or really, what roles) you have among the PCs.

    So what are their classes?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rechan View Post
    The only thing I will say is this: 4e can be ran with 3 players. It just takes a little prep on your part, and understanding how to do it. Advice on how to do it also depends on what classes (or really, what roles) you have among the PCs.

    So what are their classes?
    Yeah... I'm also hopping this isn't going to be an issue.

    Three serious PC's are: Dwarven Cleric, Dragonborn Fighter, and probably a Eladrin Rogue.

    While the two others are: Elven Ranger and Human Wizard.

    It's should probably be ok, but my concern is if the 2 unserious players drop we don't have a controller in the group. The Rogue isn't set in stone (but I think he really wants to be a rogue) so I might suggest him to be something else? Dunno, feel weird making him do something like that.

    Maybe if the two drop I can find someone else to join and suggest they be a warlok or something.

    So, I really hope to get this game rolling none the less. If things go well we might have a session this weekend so wish me luck!

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    Quote Originally Posted by ACGalaga View Post
    Yeah... I'm also hopping this isn't going to be an issue.

    Three serious PC's are: Dwarven Cleric, Dragonborn Fighter, and probably a Eladrin Rogue.

    While the two others are: Elven Ranger and Human Wizard.

    It's should probably be ok, but my concern is if the 2 unserious players drop we don't have a controller in the group. The Rogue isn't set in stone (but I think he really wants to be a rogue) so I might suggest him to be something else? Dunno, feel weird making him do something like that.

    Maybe if the two drop I can find someone else to join and suggest they be a warlok or something.

    So, I really hope to get this game rolling none the less. If things go well we might have a session this weekend so wish me luck!
    A leader, defender and striker is a pretty good mix. Actually controller is one of the easiest roles to eliminate from a table with hardly any impact. The DM needs to be aware that some creatures (swarms) will be more difficult and adjust appropriately.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ACGalaga View Post
    Yeah... I'm also hopping this isn't going to be an issue.

    Three serious PC's are: Dwarven Cleric, Dragonborn Fighter, and probably a Eladrin Rogue.

    While the two others are: Elven Ranger and Human Wizard.

    It's should probably be ok, but my concern is if the 2 unserious players drop we don't have a controller in the group. The Rogue isn't set in stone (but I think he really wants to be a rogue) so I might suggest him to be something else? Dunno, feel weird making him do something like that.

    Maybe if the two drop I can find someone else to join and suggest they be a warlok or something.

    So, I really hope to get this game rolling none the less. If things go well we might have a session this weekend so wish me luck!
    A leader, a defender, and a striker are a pretty good group for a 3-person party. I've played in many (most, even) games without a controller. The party might miss out on a little crowd-control, but I wouldn't worry about it too much. Just go a little lighter on the ranged minions and you ought to be okay.

    I would recommend that you suggest the 3 serious players each pick up a multiclass feat to help round out the corners, but it's not crucial.

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