Tobold's Blog
Monday, February 06, 2012
A new beginning

Over the weekend the enthusiasm of me and the other players in my pen & paper roleplaying group for changing to Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition grew, and as a result we are starting to play tonight. The adventure is written, the battle maps are printed, everything is prepared. I'm very excited, although I'm a bit scared of the fact that I will have to DM in French. Well, I learned English with Dungeons & Dragons, so maybe that isn't such a bad plan.

The original idea was to ask players just for the power source they wanted to use, and have them choose their character class only at the end of the level 0 adventure, when they will level up to 1. But most players went further and already selected what class they will ultimately play. That is fine by me. Fortunately I had asked them for a first and second choice, because three of them wanted to play rogues, which could have caused problems. By asking some of them to rather take their second choice, the group became very well balanced: A warlord, a warrior, a rogue, a ranger, a cleric, and a wizard (or warlock, only player who still left his options open).

Only one player choose human as a race, which is probably a relic of experiences with previous editions of Dungeons & Dragons, where humans were a bit bland. In 4E the humans not only get good racial bonuses, but they are the only ones who get very flexible ones that can be customized. I kept Dragonborn, Eladrin, and Tiefling out, and restricted choice to the other 5 races, to keep a more classic feel to the campaign.

Assuming all goes well tonight, I will have to start preparing the campaign setting and the next adventure, for when the players reach level 1. I've been looking through the official D&D 4E adventures, but found them to be a throwback to the early days of D&D: Dungeon, open door, kill monster, get treasure, next door. At best the combat encounters aren't set in a dungeon but in some more interesting setting, but there is often very little opportunity for roleplay and exploration. And the stories are often unoriginal, of the "collect X parts of the magical artefact" variety. I think I'll have to write my own adventures. Well, preparation can be a lot of fun too!
Good luck! Six players sounds like a bit of a handful, but 4e is well-suited to bigger groups, in my experience.
Adventures from WotC aren't very good, they went overboard on the idea that a 4e party can handle multiple combats in a day. The flipside is that a 4e party can also have only fight per day without the wizard and cleric reducing the rest of the party to spectators, but that's not used much in official adventures.

I'm currently playing the Zeitgeist adventure path from, and I'd heartily recommend it. Lots of roleplaying and investigation, mixed in with very cool combat encounters with interesting environments. Always remember the place you are fighting in 4e, it brings so much spice to the fight.

Even if you're not running it I'd recommend taking a look at it to get inspirations for fight scenes.
I found humans to be ubiquitous in 3rd edition unless you had more exotic or specialized options. From a game mechanics standpoint, they were excellent, with simple but strong options.

Let's hope that last player goes for the Wizard. You already have two Strikers there.
Good luck! Hope it goes well.
Reavers of the Harkenwold is a great low level campaign. I ran it for my group after the red box, and everyone loved it.
Just started DND4E for the first time myself, but we quickly moved to MapTools from (free software) for it. We already have a vent server (from when we were raiding in WoW). Getting the java memory set up so that the framework wasn't constantly crashing was a (serious) pain, but once it started running, it was like the DND rules had been made specifically for this tool. I'm only playing with three PCs, but with all the combatants in the WotC adventures (where I am starting) it makes it so much easier, and more PCs can only make it more efficient. Combat goes MUCH more quickly once you start in Maptools.

I really don't think people are min-maxing anymore when they pick metahumans. I think people really just like the idea of not only playing a different person, but a completely different species.

Also, FWIW, I got access to the DND Virtual Table (VT), and while it has a prettier interface than Maptools, it doesn't come anywhere near close to it in usability. The only advantage it has is preloaded monsters from the canon, but frankly, once I figured out how to import monster blocks into the framework, that isn't even an advantage anymore. DND VT has a long, long way to go. If the WotC adventures were preloaded, it would be a no brainer, but with them being mega stingy with them (maybe that will change on release) it's not worth it.
Have fun! Can't wait to read how everything goes.
Nice job getting back to tabletop gaming. I've cut back on actual RPGs and fill the extra time with mmos because it is easier to fit into my schedule. You are absolutely correct about the differences. I enjoy WoW and Star Wars, but there aren't enough choices to make it really feel like you have control. What I like most about tabletop games is that you are encouraged to think outside the box and come up with unique solutions for problems.
Enjoy getting back to your roots.
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