This weekend, as we aim to do every few weeks , we played D&D. Due to personal constraints on various players this was our first real game in over 2 months where we continued our story. Yet , we were short 2 players . ( one if you consider that 1 of the players missing won’t be with us much longer anyway due to her planning to move 2 states away) .
However the one thing I observed right away. Well after the first little bit of pre-game socializing, and such. Once the action began, everyone was extra focused. I would say our group always has fun, but there is normally a layer of background chatter. As DM I tend to ignore it , as long as people act on their turn, I don’t get involved in it as much as possible as I feel I have to be extra focused on the game. But this night , that background layer was not there for the most part. Sure we did take a few brakes , talked , ate and so on ( we tend to play our games for 8+ hours ) .
What did this extra attention lead to ? or what lead to it ?
To begin with, the party began with a unique strategy , as they entered the encounter. Using ghost sound to imitate zombie sounds, as from a hostage they got they believe zombies to be elsewhere in the dungeon. Following that , the unique strategy continued. Setting tapestries on fire.
I believe this is 1 factor in why everyone’s attention was more focused. The players are new to 4E (some even new to D&D) . I am glad to see them looking away from “This Power” to Oh , I want to try this , this way. I love saying Yes. It felt good to see this happen.
The 2nd part of why the attention never faded I feel , was the reduced players. Turns came up fast, people did not have the downtime they otherwise do , to get distracted.
The 3rd part, and this is something I been doing for the last few games now is improvements I made as DM, to reduce the time I take in combat.
1 – Initiative cards. I love them. I have the players roll 4 rounds of initiatives as soon as they arrive, then I just reorder the cards between combats to the next on the list. It also lets combat start more fluid, rather then calling for a roll , and having to record all the results as well as roll myself.
2 – I roll my expected encounters Initiative’s during my prep time , (usually the night before or earlier that week) . I Prep more encounters then we typically do, keeping myself well prepared.
3 – Mini selection in advance. I have cups now , I toss the minis I selected for a given encounter in those cups, and then I have the mini’s I want for a given fight , ready in advance. Rather then trying to dig though my big bin o’ mini’s at the time of the battle.
In 3rd ed, I don’t think that slowed me down as much , because there tended to be less monsters in play in most battles. But planning the minis in advance helps me a lot with 4E.
As DM, I found the night even extra fun, because everyone was so focused on the game, because there strategies made me think more, and I was proud that we went through the combat encounters so much quicker than normal.
I do feel , focus is a big reason why it went so smooth, that over all other reasons made that week go better.