Glad There's Plenty of RP Opportunities

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I'll openly admit that last season with Dark Sun was lacking in my opinion when it came to story and good opportunities for players to role play, but I'm definitely happy with how things are with this season.  The story is much more dynamic and the players can really delve into role play via the conversations with NPCs that are a regular part of the adventure as well as the twists and turns they will have to endure.   The whole thing seems more fleshed out, much more than even the first season of Encounters with Undermountain.  

The very first session actually has plenty of potential for the players to begin role playing, but of course there has to be some restraints since the first combat encounter will take up a good amount of time.  Our DMs for out local gaming store will probably limit RP to less than 30 minutes, if not less than 20 minutes due to an exact two hour constraint in our playing time. 

Anyway, just wanted to share my thoughts on this.

~Will 

I started DnD with Dark Sun, and I have to agree. This season is going to be much better all around. I didn't like how restrictive Dark Sun's Athas was, even though the restrictions were never really in play.  Plus with only a few RP opportunities, it was merely a team deathmatch every week, with very little presentable story.


This will be my first time DMing Encounters, and I have to say I am really looking forward to it.


Thankfully, we have 3 hours to do each encounter, so the RP in the beggining can probably last for as long as a player goes without asking to get on with it!

I'll openly admit that last season with Dark Sun was lacking in my opinion when it came to story and good opportunities for players to role play, but I'm definitely happy with how things are with this season.  The story is much more dynamic and the players can really delve into role play via the conversations with NPCs that are a regular part of the adventure as well as the twists and turns they will have to endure.   The whole thing seems more fleshed out, much more than even the first season of Encounters with Undermountain.  

The very first session actually has plenty of potential for the players to begin role playing, but of course there has to be some restraints since the first combat encounter will take up a good amount of time.  Our DMs for out local gaming store will probably limit RP to less than 30 minutes, if not less than 20 minutes due to an exact two hour constraint in our playing time. 

Anyway, just wanted to share my thoughts on this.

~Will 



Agreed.  This chapter looks extremely fun.
Yeah, I was pretty pleased with how much RP there was going to be. Well, actually, at first I was a little daunted. :P The first chapter is going to take a very long time, but after that I'm looking forward to it quite a bit! :D Should be a lot of fun for me and the players.
It is a little daunting ... I'm trying to make sure I'm hyper-organized for the first week. Combat was running really long in Dark Sun, so if we're adding a lot of roleplay before the combat starts ... I'm treating this as a way to up my DMing game.
It is a little daunting ... I'm trying to make sure I'm hyper-organized for the first week. Combat was running really long in Dark Sun, so if we're adding a lot of roleplay before the combat starts ... I'm treating this as a way to up my DMing game.




Quite true on the combat in Dark Sun being overly long.  The last game along took 3 hours for just the combat.  Looking over the encounters for Season 3 it looks like WOTC made combat a little easier this time around.  Still think the first encounter is a little too hard unless a DM has a good group, but that's my opinion.

Personally I can't wait to play Benwick ... although for some reason he's a halfling in my mind. 
If your role-playing or keep exploring runs a little longer than you anticipated before the combat encounter, just dial down the combat encounter. Especially if fun was had or much was learned during the setup to the encounter and you have a time limit.

I see some people suggest limiting the role-playing/talking part to a certain time limit and I think "Why?"
We're HERE for role-playing and this is something we want to foster in new players - especially since 4e/Encounters can be so easily perceived as lacking in this area (A false assumption of course, but it persists nonetheless and the past Encounters formats did nothing to alleviate this).

If things are going good with the storyline/role-playing, let it flow - if nothing is coming of it though and wheels are spinning and time is wasting, of course curb it and move it forward.

You can have a good combat that is short and sweet too, that will be just as memorable.

Suggestions for the newer DM's to abbreviate the 1st encounter if your talky-talky runs overlong:
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There are 7 critters here for a table of 5.

Suggestion 1: If you have 6 players, don't add another critter. I did this all through Season 2. Admittedly, in season 2, individual critters tended to be higher level than the pc's and they were rather hard, AND the encounters were further over XP budget than they likely should have been to begin with.

Suggestion 2: Eliminate the minions from the encounter. Fact is, more critters on the map means more time spent on combat. There may only be 4, but that's initially 4 more rolls for attacks, stealth, and 4 decisions on how to attack for each round they stay alive. If you're concerned about combat being TOO swift in this case, drop an extra dozen to 15 HP on each critter, as there will be less targets threatening the PC's, they'll drop sooner as they get focus-fired. Or maybe just more HP on the named NPC (D).

Suggestion 3: Strip out the monster labelled (G) for a similar reason to the above. Why? Because he adds little to the fight compared to the other critters except as a target. You want fights to seem dynamic and unique from one to the other, and the other 3 critter-types all do some fun dynamic things (I would never suggest taking out (T) for instance - he seems like a lot of fun given the terrain.). (G) is basically there to flank and help provide combat advantage, and he can soak up a lot of HP, slowing things down.
 

If the role-playing goes on too long at my table (I can see players going to the tavern for some info and staying to start a bar fight, or talking to too many npcs, etc.) I'm going to suggest they shuffle it along and let them know there'll be chances in future sessions to shmooze in town for more info/ role-playing opportunities. I'm going to try to keep the combat as-as, but I'm not going to curb people's enthusiasm for role-playing and campaign information discovery. Especially considering last season. People were begging to have things explained/rationalized to them, as much of the background was difficult to put forth to the players as written/implemented.

Sorry if I went on a little too long there. : )

(P.S. I'm working on something to help out us DM's with keeping track of all the NPC's if you choose to use the Keep on the Chaos Scar article. I'm going to try to have it up later tonight.)
Some quick thoughts on speeding up combat encounters:
  • Consider adding +2 to monster damage rolls but subtract two from their defenses. This means they will do more damage but PCs will hit more often and kill them faster. Skip the damage boost for powers that do large AoE or already have really high damage (2d6, etc.) since those powers don't need this. 

  • Monitor the combat for how much fun players are having with a particular foe. If they don't seem that interested in the foe, remove somewhere around 1/4 of its HPs at any point. (I usually do this after it has been bloodied). You can also lower their defenses when bloodied, making them easier to finish.

  • Feel free to "call a combat" when all of the cool things have been experienced and when the fate of the combat is clear. If the players have all used their powers, the main monsters are dead, and you just have a few high-HP or high-defense monsters left, summarize what happens and move on with the adventure. If unsure, ask the table whether they prefer you call the combat.


RP is a big reason why people stick with the game. I would not speed up good RP, or RP that is drawing out quieter players. It is really good to emphasize RP in the first sessions, since it lays the foundation for the group playing well together and having memorable interactions.

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Dark Sun's Ashes of Athas Campaign is now available for home play (PM me with your e-mail to order the campaign adventures).

Roleplaying is not the opposite of combat.

Consider roleplaying in combat. It might slow the combat down, but it might make it more interesting. All the best fights in movies and literature are more about the character interactions than the actual moves used.

Make your own story about how your group sticks together (or not) in a fight. In one Dark Sun Essentials game someone burned a rewards card to grant my doomed psion a saving throw out of turn, which saved him. The player just wanted to used his card for a fun effect, but it would have been very easy to put a roleplaying spin on that.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Roleplaying is not the opposite of combat.

Consider roleplaying in combat. It might slow the combat down, but it might make it more interesting. All the best fights in movies and literature are more about the character interactions than the actual moves used.



My human slayer: "I am an officer of the law -  and if you resist, I will be forced to use deadly force!"

DM: Okay, roll initiative.

*Rolls 19, goes first, deals 29 damage to the Dragonborn on turn 1*

Hahaha, the Dragonborn didn't even get to act.

Consider roleplaying in combat. It might slow the combat down, but it might make it more interesting. All the best fights in movies and literature are more about the character interactions than the actual moves used.


This is a really good point. As a DM or player you can start with just a little. Instead of saying "nope, AC was x, missed", you say something like "the blade whistles towards her, but at the last second she parries the blow."

Over time you get a lot more comfortable. As a player, you can have a lot of fun with your powers and have some "moves". You can describe how you cross terrain, do a barrel roll, come up under their defenses, etc. As a DM you learn what the PCs do and can respond in kind: "your necrotic energy washes over him, but he resists the effect. "Fool, you will pay for that, wizard!""

A recent example from Gen Con. The warlord PC was primarily a "lazy" build, where you have others attack. The RP schtick was that of a drill sergeant. He would grant you a move action and yell "Get off your butt, soldier! To the front lines!" or he would grant an attack and say "We need you back on line, artillery! Fire away!" It was hilarious and RP-rich.

The best part about this is that it then carries into the non-combat portions.

Follow my blog and Twitter feed with Dark Sun campaign design and DM tips!
Dark Sun's Ashes of Athas Campaign is now available for home play (PM me with your e-mail to order the campaign adventures).

Our group spent more time on RP and information gathering in the keep than we did on the actual combat. It's new and fun
AlexandraErin: If last season was any indication, I think Encounters is pretty much the elemental opposite of "organized" play!
Our group spent more time on RP and information gathering in the keep than we did on the actual combat. It's new and fun



Same at our table. I began with the classic opener of the Corporal meeting them a the gate and the scribe taking down their name, profession and business.

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After the dinner with Benwick, they painted the town red and cause all sorts of mischief with the NPCs before finally going to the grotto


We spent maybe twice as long on RP. I am loving this season already.
Same here... my table spent more time talking with Benwick and the Keep's denizens. They went to the Temple, Taverns, and even wanted to investigate the Bank. They all seemed to really enjoy that. Needless to say we had less time for the combat but in the end, the Dragonborn mayed some bad rolls and I allowed them to intimidate him into surrendering if they spared his life. The looted the grotto and took Gordi and left. I think it was okay, but will try to RP the combat a bit more in the future if that happens.

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All this roleplaying puts me in my DM element, even if I am stayiing 30-45 mins later. Totally worth it for me, considering I go home not feeling like a failure. 

In the first battle, the Dragonborn didn't even get to attack... he was taunting them and letting his hired goons do most of the work. Then rogues started climbing ceilings and dropping on him...

I had a huge surrender scene for him, where he nobly pleaded for his life against this obviously superior foe. He described himself as a smart mercenary, and perfectly willing to take the money and run. They did let him go, although one of the rogues grabbed his amulet of Tiamat from around his neck on the way out.

I hope I can find a place to bring him back later on.