D&D 4E Preparing the perfect D&D 4e introductory session


First Post
There is an upcoming games convention in my hometown and I want to run a good sample on what´s new and shiny about D&D 4e. I have some questions to share with you, as this would be my first 4e adventure either as player o DM.

(This thread might belong to the fan creation forum, not sure. Feel free to move it if it is so.)

Ok, I want to create an exciting, fast paced, about 4 hour gaming session. I was thinking about an rescue adventure: the heroes must rescue a kidnapped noble. I was planning on using the Frostsilver Map from Game Day 2007, having losts of goblinoids as build up encounters and a climatic finale with either a Green or White Dragon and maybe a Drow and a Duergar to use the nice Darkness area and spice up the final encounter.

So, my questions are:

* Assuming 6 players, which level should they be? I was thinking about lvl 5, so they have a nice assortment of powers, but Im afraid it might be too much for a showcase session.

* I want to include some non combat elements, specially some skill challenges, maybe like the sample negotiation. What would a fun skill challenge would be?

* What kind of encounters shuold I build? I was eager to show the minions in action, plus give them a chance to see how they perform a group tactically speaking.

* I definetevly would like to include some rituals...

* Should I plan for the heores to take an extended rest before the final encounter?

Ok, this is enough for starters. More questions and doubts will come to mind. Anyway, thanks in advance for your answers.


Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad


First Post
Level 5 is nice for introduction if you can prepare power cards with precalculated numbers.
That will make it a lot less overwhelming.

Umm, I'm very dubious about skill challenges, so someone else is better equipped to answer that one.

Almost any encounter is fine, but be sure to throw in a few environmental complications as well as staying away from 15-round combats.
Especially the 15- round combats. Those can put people off a game quickly.

No .. resource management for finale is part of D&D .. but .. if you're worried about them being ill prepared for the final, have it after a milestone and throw in a couple of items with daily powers and/or a few potions.


First Post
I would avoid solo monsters, 4e's strength is really in how it handles larger battles. Plus, the solo monsters are what has so many hitpoints.

As far as level goes, I'd actually vote for level 1, just because there are fewer powers for people to worry about. As long as you keep the fights short by including lots of minions and standard monsters, they shouldn't get bored by doing the at wills all at once.

A great skill challenge would be them tracking the kidnapped noble to where he is being held. This skill challenge would allow them to use thievery (breaking and entering the place he's being held), streetwise (rumors), diplomacy (police, authorities, bartenders, etc), intimidation, athletics (follow a suspected kidnapper), nature (if tracking), perception, insight, acrobatics, stealth, history (maps, etc). It would allow all the players to do something in the skill check, and be successful at it. I think that is the key to a good skill challenge, giving every player a chance to help the group succeed in it.

Finally, check out this thread for great tools for a DM with new players. I think the mats they suggest instead of character sheets really would make things easier for newer player.



First Post
* Assuming 6 players, which level should they be? I was thinking about lvl 5, so they have a nice assortment of powers, but Im afraid it might be too much for a showcase session.
That's too high, IMO. Go for 2nd level, so they have Encounter, Daily, and Utility powers, but still not too many.

* I want to include some non combat elements, specially some skill challenges, maybe like the sample negotiation. What would a fun skill challenge would be?
Skill challenges - RAW + errata - are do-able, but still need heavy tweaking. Build the PCs first, then see what types of skill challenges they'd be good at. I think a "Town Chase" skill challenge would be good, as you can use both physical and social skills.

* What kind of encounters shuold I build? I was eager to show the minions in action, plus give them a chance to see how they perform a group tactically speaking.
Yup, minions are fun. Try using them in the second encounter, so they already have experience moving their PCs around. Be sure the party has a wizard and/or dragonborn.

* Should I plan for the heores to take an extended rest before the final encounter?
Depends. Experienced gamers know how to conserve resources...but newbies often blow their wad early. :lol: Be flexible.


I would agree with Nail; I ran a game for 4th level PCs for a convention recently, because it was a fairly combat intensive scenario, and I wanted some tougher monsters against them, but 2nd is a good level for a mix of powers without overwhelming someone.

Be sure to pop in a minion battle of some sort, maybe minions, a couple of soldier or skirmisher types and an artillery behind them all to show them some tactics (kill the minions to get to the artillery).

If you do a skill challenge, make it a VERY simple one (four successes, tops). Personally, I wouldn't use the Errata skill challenge numbers, because they're WAY too easy, in my opinion. I would use the table in the DMG, but drop the "+5 for skills" note.

Allot for an extended rest to add in or take out, as you think best. If the party has taken a heavy beating, a rest might be good. If you would rather stress the danger of the system (some complaints make 4E out to be too easy on the players) then don't let 'em rest - put them on a timetable.

For that matter, don't forget the four MAJOR RULES of Convention Games:

1) Have a "narrow-wide-narrow" approach to the plot. Give them very strict confines in the beginning (strict orders, or start in the middle of a fight, etc.) then allow them some leeway in completing their goals, but figure out how you're going to get them back to the finale in the time allotted.

2) Make sure everything is spelled out on the pregen character sheets so there are as few ambiguities as possible. Nothing sucks more than having to figure out both how to play a PC, AND having to READ and UNDERSTAND a PC, in the middle of a game. Make sure it's not half-completed or illegible. Sounds like stupidly simple advice, but you just wouldn't believe what I've seen at major cons....

3) Don't skimp on rewards. If they want to do something cool, let them. It's a one-shot, and you're showing how great the game can be. Have a suitable reward at the end of the game - again, it's a one-shot.

4)Always be open for questions during the game; conversely, introduce game elements right in the middle of the game. Is there a new rule for grapple? Put a grappling enemy in one combat (like the Choker or similar). New Daily Magic items? save simple magic items for the pregens (like +1 weapons, if any) and introduce the fancy stuff in mid-game, so everyone can get a feel for it.

GOod luck!


First Post
* Assuming 6 players, which level should they be? I was thinking about lvl 5, so they have a nice assortment of powers, but Im afraid it might be too much for a showcase session.

* I want to include some non combat elements, specially some skill challenges, maybe like the sample negotiation. What would a fun skill challenge would be?

* What kind of encounters shuold I build? I was eager to show the minions in action, plus give them a chance to see how they perform a group tactically speaking.

* I definetevly would like to include some rituals...

* Should I plan for the heores to take an extended rest before the final encounter?

1. I'd say 1st or 2nd would be better, it is introductory, after all. Power interaction gets fairly complex. At 1st level, PCs will have between 4 and 8 powers as is, depending on race/class combos. 2nd level will add a couple magic items, which also have powers, and an utility power, and is really as high as I would go for an introduction. If you haven't played or DMed it yet, you will really be surprised about how full the gameplay is at level 1 compared to previous editions.

2. Challenges would depend on the story. A challenge to track the kidnappers or to stealth past the camps around the tower where the princess is being held, a negotiation/social encounter with the kidnapper near the end...

3. Encounters to show off the system - I would try to run the basic gamut - minion heavy encounter or two (throw 24 enemies at a group that hasn't played 4e before and they will crap themselves and love the encounter), a challenging encounter or two with good use of terrain features and a good mix of enemies (leader, artillery, brute, couple minions, for example). At least an elite towards the end, maybe a solo if it fits the story, a final guardian before they can reach the kidnapper or kidnap-e.

4. PCs can use basic rituals if a PC knows them, as useful, animal messenger to get in contact with their patron, for example. But if you want to build something around one, I've had my mind on the PCs having to get into a place they can't get into (perhaps where the noble is being held, in your case) and being given a passwall ritual to gain entry. Used under duress, against the wall of an enemy fort, with patrolling guards for example, would make for a tense encounter, perhaps a skill challenge with failure resulting in a combat in which the PCs have to protect the mage casting the ritual.

The Human Target

I would say have them be at level 3.
- A good monster selection.
- 2 Feats
-2 Encounter Powers (to my group Encounter powers are the bread and butter of 4E combat, and I know the game got a lot more fun for us when we hit 3rd and got 2 of them.)
-1 Utility

- Don't use a Solo monster. In my experience with 4E so far they take along time to battle, and while fun I don't think its great for an intro game. Use lots of minions, standard monsters, and for the finale use or create an elite monster. It will give the same "big bad evil guy" effect without as much of a struggle on both sides of the table. Plus, I generally think its best to end a promo type game on a high note (the PCs winning the day), and the group will have a better chance of that happening if they don't have to slug it out with a Solo.

Have only one skill challenge. And I myself would use the lowered errata'd skill DCs. To me PCs should win most skill challenges, just like they win most fights. The trick is to make it seem like they're having a hard time of it, even if they're not. The weight of a skill challenge's overall fun lays in the hands of the DM even more than it does with having fun combats.

- No Dragons! They're just to tough for new players to handle, no matter the level. I know I already said no Solos, but that goes double for dragons. Even the lowest level white and black are beasts.


First Post
Me = subscribing to this!

I'm planning on running my first ever convention game at Dragonmeet - Home at the end of November, and this sort of advice is brilliant!

The narrow - wide - narrow idea is a godsend, thank you. I'm certainly also going to have a very minion heavy encounter, just to see their faces (not sure if I'm going to get new or experienced players, but it should be fun either way), and a memorable elite villain as the boss (probably using a template from the DMG).


I like level 3 because of the two encounter powers.

Level 3 and 4 are about the same -- only difference being one more feat, and a +1 to two ability scores and all your attacks, defenses, and skills. No additional powers to keep track of.


First Post
Lvl 3 was my second option, yes. I would probably go for that.

One thing I forgot to point out is that I don´t have many minis, but I do have a young White and Green Dragon, and I think it will get the players quite excited when I place one on the table after some goblins and skeletons (the Green Dragon Mini is specially impressive). I´m all for delevelling or having the Dragon at half hit points if neccesary. I really like to have a big boss at the end. And this is Dungeons & Dragons, I think they deserve a good taste of both!

I was thinking about a starter ambush combat, two follow up combats: one minion heavy with a leader and one with more mixed soldier/brute/artillery and a final battle with the Dragon and a couple of secondary figures.

I´m certaily not giving them a normal character sheet, but a simplified, fluff rich, one line per power and such sheet. No math for them.


First Post
A few suggestions:

1) Levels 1, 2, or 3 are best. Avoid as much complexity as possible for introduction, as 4th ed is actually overwhelming to new players at level 1. I had two new players for my campaign who either hadn't played since 2nd ed or never played D&D at all, and it was a lot for them to keep track of.

2) Skill challenges I have made up myself and been happy with:

a) Run through a burning city from an army of orcs: athletics+acrobatics, sometimes stealth or bluff to lose their pursuers. Failures led to combat, successes led to getting to set up ambushes.
b) Lost in the woods: nature+perception, sometimes arcana when near parts of the forest linked to feywild. Every few rolls pick a random encounter, animals for failures, gaurdians of treasure troves for successes.
c) Campaign a town for evacuation: use streetwise, diplomacy, bluff, intimidate, etc. to convince the mayor and people that the city must be evacuated. also sometimes religion for the leaders of the temples in town.


First Post
I was thinking of 5th level - but looking at it again 4th would make more sense, I think, for my convention game.

Now all I need is a plot, some traps, and some monsters!


First Post
About pregen characters for this one shot presentation adventure:

In all the showcase games I run for any RPG, I always create several different characters, fully fledged, for the players to choose at the beggnining. For this game, guessing I will have six players, I was going let them choose among the concepts below with the only condition that all roles must be covered and that there are at least 2 defenders. Yes, many of this concepts are really cliché and stereotyped, and some not so much.

I always give them options to change any non rules reated element (like gender). Gender below is just related to the picture or image I´ll use in the character sheet in the first place.

I welcome any suggestions on building them at lvl 3, powers, feats, equipment, etc.

Dragonborn Male Paladin of Bahamut Sword & Shield
Dwarf Male Fighter Axe & Shield
Dwarf Female Paladin Hammer & Shield
Human Male Fighter Greatsword
Human Male Fighter Polearm
Human Female Fighter Axe & Shield

Half Elf Male Inspiring Warlord with Longsword and Magic Standard
Human Female Tactical Warlord with Poleram
Dwarven Male Cleric of Moradin
Human Male Cleric of Pelor

Halfling Male Ranger, 2 throwing handaxe wielder
Halfling Male Rogue dagger wielder
Elf Male Ranger Archer
Tiefling Male Rogue, Brawny build with Rapier and dagger
Tiefling Male Warlock (not sure wich pact would be best for starter)

Eladrin Male Orb Wizard
Human Male Staff Wielder (with some armor, like a War Wizard of Cormyr)
Human Female Wand Wielder
Half Elf Male Staff Firemancer Wizard (fire themed wizard)


First Post
I´m afraid I dont know what a Kobayashi Maru is, ad kobolds are fine, but I want more diverse foes.

Edit: found it in Wikipedia. No thanks. I don´t see how a no-win scenario, even if simulated, can be good fun for a presentation game. Just my opinion here.
Last edited:


First Post
I think everybody has given you some great ideas, but don't forget about time management. If you are running a 4hr block it is highly unlikely that you will actually be playing for 4hrs. Players going over the character sheets and picking which one they want to play, trying to figure out what their powers do is going to eat into that time.

Also if you have brand new players that have never played before, you are going to have to take time to explain the rules to them. The first combat will be really slow as they learn the system. Four combats and a skill challenge might be to much to cram into 4hrs. Overplan and then be prepared to trim out encounters on the fly as time dictates.

I would also recommend leaving enough time for the final encounter to be fully run. Nothing is more annoying than being in the middle of a huge final battle only to have the dm hand wave the ending becuase time is up.

The Human Target

Yeah, I'd say aim for three combats and a skill challenge in 4 hours.

If you have/want to go with a dragon, don't just drop its HP. Fully level it down to equal the parties level -1. It'll still be mean, but it won't be as much of a grind. You could even drop it down to an elite of the parties level, which I'd recommend the most. Add in a few minions and a standard monster or two and it'll still be a great fight for them.

I'd say to stat up 7 PCs myself. The less the players have to select from the easier/faster it will be for them to choose, and the more able you'll be to remember the PCs powers in order to help out when they have questions.

If you want 2 Defenders in your party, I'd say...

Dragonborn Paladin of Bahamut- sword and board with mostly STR powers
Dwarven Cleric of Moradin- focus on melee attacks and healing
Elf Ranger- Focus on range attacks and mobility
Eladrin Wizard- Leather armor, focus on area attacks
Halfling Rogue- Shortsword and Daggers, Jack of All Trades
Human Fighter- Greatsword, Plate armor
Half-Elf Warlord- go buffing warlord with powers like Furious Smash

I'd also limit the complexity of the magic items you give them. No more than 2 items per PC max, and only one with a daily/encounter power.


First Post
The 5-room-dungeon approach is excellent! Thanks a lot!

As I said in the OP, I will use the Frostsilver map from GameDay 2007:


So, the basic layout could go like this:

The Heroes are sent by the king to rescue an important noble (just to not turn it into another princess in distress...) They followed the kidnappers tracks into the mountains, and finally discovered their lair: an old abandoned temple.

Room 1: Entrance corridor and stairs. I will probably run an ambush at the corridor and stairs with some Goblins and maybe a leader. Concluded with a simply locked & trapped door.

Room 2: Skill challenge and Riddle. Probably using both the wicked floor painting and the fountain. I welcome any ideas for this.

Room 3: Bloodfest fight with tons of minions and some tougher brutes and soldiers. Both a bit of a softener and to get the chars overconfident. Probably assortment of goblins, hobgoblins and bugbears, including en enemy magic user. I will probably hide the 4 corner niche rooms and have the monsters spring from all 4.

Room 4: Traps and Omens: use the big pit as a trap, have them cooperate to cross safely. I welcome ideas here also. Afterwards, in the boneroom, if any of them pays some respect or similar to those dead, a friendly spirit appears with an omen and maybe a hint to help them in the fight ahead.

Room 5: Final fight. Big climatic combat against a "softened up" Green Dragon. Also, using the Darkess area not shown on the picture above, have the kidnapped noble inside the dearness with a Drow and Duergar or other enemy not afected by the Darkness. They have to deal with the Dragon and get the kidnapped out of the Darkness, taking care what they hit with area attacks!

So, how does it look?

Level Up: Advanced 5th Edition Starter Box

An Advertisement