New to 4e

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I've been a player/DM for a long time.  Been using the first edition rules with some (mostly combat) rules thrown in from 2nd and 3rd editions.  Me and my players are now making the jump to 4e.

My question is, as a DM what should i know about 4e.  What are the things that people tend to tweak or complain about?  I've read that you have to use minitures (use them anyway) but also that the rules are simple and effective.
You don't really need to use minis. distance rules can be used or borrowed from other sources with relative ease. Some folks have even used the gridless rules from the 13th Age game to replace the maps in 4e.

Combat can take a bit to complete depending on the familiarity with the rules and how many OOTA's are being flung around. Lowering HP and uping damage on the monster's side is often a quick fix, but there are other options out there to speed up combat without taking away from it. As always, YMMV if combat slogs at all or not.

Feel free to voice any other questions you might have. We're always happy to help.

Good Luck, and Happy Gaming
Probably one of the biggest things that folks complain about is how long (in real time) the combats take, but in my experience that only is an issue once you get above 5th level or so, and is mainly due to the number of combat options increasing as you level up, which can result in some players being indecisive.  Also, the number of status effects that need to be tracked from round to round can compilcate things.  The number of statuses was reduced from 3e, but they tend to happen more often and expire more quickly.

One of the simplest and most effective things I've done so far to make combats swing along quicker is to use 13th Age's Escalation Die rule.  Basically, you take a giant d6 (if you have one) and put it on the table with the 1 up starting at round 2.  Whatever is showing on the d6 gets added to all players' (and only players') d20 rolls.  So at round 2 everyone adds 1 to all d20 rolls as an untyped bonus that stacks with everything.  At round 3 you add 2.  At round 4 you add 3, and so on, up to 6.  Believe it or not, it really does help.  And also, the DM then has the option of arbitrarily changing the number on the Escalation Die if the combat stakes suddenly get higher, or if the party is sandbagging or arguing with each other.

Abstract distance rules can work okay, but I advise against changing the rules in such a radical manner (since 4e depends heavily on knowing the exact position on the grid of each combatant, because it changes constantly and so many powers affect movement and positioning) until you know the 4e rules well enough to judge what should be changed and whether it will work better for your group or not. 

Another thing I do to help with status effects is to use the colored rings from 2-liter soda bottles to put over the minis, where different colors indicate different statuses.  I also use a dry-erase battle mat and/or plexiglass over a map and a dry-erase initiative tracker with moveable magnetic dry erase bits for each player.  That way you can move players up and down the initiative order when need be without erasing and rewriting, and you can also write "status ends at X" next to each combatant.  Another tip I have is to put one of the players in charge of tracking how much damage has been done to each monster.  I have them write it with dry-erase on a white poker chip and place it next to the monster.  So they don't know how many HP the monster has, but they know how much they've done, and I can easily see whether a monster should be bloodied and put a red ring on it, and then players know they've done about 1/2 damage to that monster (and yes, they have to know whether a monster is bloodied or not, since some powers can only be used on bloodied monsters.)

I live and die by dry-erase in this game.     

You can do other things too like play Essentials-only character builds, which by their very nature have fewer, but still fun and powerful, options, so the players won't spend so much time deciding what to do, or alternatively, you can do a 30 second shot-clock and give players bonuses if they come in under the shot clock X number of times (don't penalize them for going over time, though, that just frustrates people and hurries them along when they want to think). 

Other things people tweak are to give away Expertise feats for free (because some feel the math of the game works better that way) and to make sure that not every combat has to be a fight to the death, but instead has other conditions that could result in a "win" (which reduces combat time).  Many folks also have tossed out the magic item Rarity rules and instead use the old rules which limit the number of magic item dailies you can use each day, in exchange for being able to create any magic item you want if you have the resources.

And no, you don't HAVE to use miniatures, but you really do need to play it on a grid with something to mark everyone's positions (the starter set uses cardboard "pogs" with PC and monster pictures on them) since combat in 4e is very much about positioning and movement and lots of PC and monster abilities only work if you know the exact distance and whether there is line of sight and/or line of effect.  The grid makes this all easier and reduces debating and arguing; the grid is not a liability. 

And yes, feel free to ask any other questions you have.  We love new players.

OD&D, 1E and 2E challenged the player. 3E challenged the character, not the player. Now 4E takes it a step further by challenging a GROUP OF PLAYERS to work together as a TEAM. That's why I love 4E.

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"Keep On The Shadowfell" would be hailed as a brilliant, revolutionary triumph in game design if it were followed by the words "A Pathfinder Adventure Path by Paizo."

"Falling down is how you grow.  Staying down is how you die.  It's not what happens to you, it's what you do after it happens.”

> My question is, as a DM what should i know about 4e.

The most important thing to do is forget everything you 'know' about how the game works. Most of the problems that arise when people switch from older editions come from assuming that something works the same way it used to, or is structured around the same set of expectations.
> My question is, as a DM what should i know about 4e. The most important thing to do is forget everything you 'know' about how the game works. Most of the problems that arise when people switch from older editions come from assuming that something works the same way it used to, or is structured around the same set of expectations.

The biggest mental gearshift I've seen for most folks?  4e is meant to be played with a party of adventurers, who are roughly equal in power level, with more or less well-defined "roles", working together as a team toward a common goal, and the game is built around that assumption.  PvP or PvDM is not going to work well in 4e. 

Another paradigm shift (or not, depending on your played before) is that the game is also built around the assumption that the PCs are competent heroic adventurers from level one, remain roughly equal with each other in terms of capability throughout all levels of play (no more "quadratic wizards and linear fighters), can do cool, "cinematic" things right out of the box, are TOUGH from level one, and continue to fight against monsters that are consistently challenging throughout all levels of play.

Another design element of 4e, and this is intentional, is that the game is built around having well defined rules, particularly for combat and skill usage, and that this will free up the players to roleplay how they want and as often or as little as they want.  Game elements are strictly defined, but left open to be "refluffed."  IOW, the powers and attacks and spells, etc. do exactly what they say they do, no more and no less, but you are free to reflavor and describe them creatively since that part of the game, the part that is powered by your imagination, is left almost entirely open to you.  This is, in my opinion, very liberating for players and DMs, since it reduces the amount of rules arguments, questions and misinterpretations, and leaves all the rest of it up to however you want to imagine it.   

OD&D, 1E and 2E challenged the player. 3E challenged the character, not the player. Now 4E takes it a step further by challenging a GROUP OF PLAYERS to work together as a TEAM. That's why I love 4E.

"Your ability to summon a horde of celestial superbeings at will is making my ... BMX skills look a bit redundant."

"People treat their lack of imagination as if it's the measure of what's silly. Which is silly." - Noon

"Keep On The Shadowfell" would be hailed as a brilliant, revolutionary triumph in game design if it were followed by the words "A Pathfinder Adventure Path by Paizo."

"Falling down is how you grow.  Staying down is how you die.  It's not what happens to you, it's what you do after it happens.”

I've been a player/DM for a long time.  Been using the first edition rules with some (mostly combat) rules thrown in from 2nd and 3rd editions.  Me and my players are now making the jump to 4e.

OK.  You'll find it quite a change from 1e.

My question is, as a DM what should i know about 4e.  What are the things that people tend to tweak or complain about?

Very little tweaking, lots of complaining.  4e is a pretty solid game and you don't have to beat it into shape.  It runs pretty well as written (and, confusingly, /updated/, heavily).  I'd certainly try it 'straight' for a good while to get used to it, before deciding if you need to tweek it.  It took me several months of playing each week before it all started to really make sense.  Ironically, it's harder for "grognards" like us, who have played D&D for decades, to grok 4e than it is for completely new players.  I suppose you could say it's less familiar, but more intuitive.  :shrug:

Some DMs reduce monster hps to speed up combat, and increase monsters damage (and/or reduce healing surges) to keep the threat they pose creadible.  It's a little simplistic, but if you halve monster hps and double their damage, the fight will maybe go in about half the time with about the same damage incurred by the party.  Alternately, you can halve healing surges (number or value) and the attrition inflicted on the party by half-hp monsters would theoretically be about the same. In any case, the idea is to make combats go faster - for instance, if you have very limited time in which to play.

I've read that you have to use minitures (use them anyway) but also that the rules are simple and effective.

About like in 3e or 2e C&T, yeah.  The "have to" claim is based on the simple fact that distances are given in scale 'squares' (which are 5') instead of feet.  In 3e, for instance, you'd read that your spell had a range of 60' and divide that by 5 to get the number of squares.  In 4e, you see that it's 10 squares, and multiply by 5 to find out it's 50' (and, 4e ranges /do/, for whatever reason, tend to be shorter than prior eds).  That's about it. 

The rules for counting distance and area in squares are blindingly simple.  Each square is a square, diagonals make no difference and you don't measure scale inches like in old wargames.  Areas are all simply composed of squares.  So angles make no difference, fireballs are cubes, and pi is 4.  ;)  It's a not-too-granular abstraction, and it does ease play noticeably compared to counting diagonal squares 1-2-1 and aplying area templates, or using strings and tapemeasures.  FWIW.




Want to see the best of 4e included in 5e?  Join the Old Guard of 4e.

5e really needs something like Wrecan's SARN-FU to support "Theatre of the Mind."

"You want The Tooth?  You can't handle The Tooth!"  - Dahlver-Nar.

"If magic is unrestrained in the campaign, D&D quickly degenerates into a weird wizard show where players get bored quickly"  - E. Gary Gygax

 

 

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I've been a player/DM for a long time.  Been using the first edition rules with some (mostly combat) rules thrown in from 2nd and 3rd editions.  Me and my players are now making the jump to 4e.

My question is, as a DM what should i know about 4e.  What are the things that people tend to tweak or complain about?  I've read that you have to use minitures (use them anyway) but also that the rules are simple and effective.


Well, I am, personally, a guy that started out Dming 1e and moved(eventually) to 4e, so I hope I can help here.  Above all, there is one thing I'd have you know.  More accurately, it's one I'd have you remember.  You've been using first ed rules and mixing things in for a long time.  You, presumably, have some considerable experience in taking the base rules and twisting and squeezing and changing things until you get what you want out of it.  Don't forget to do this with 4e.  A lot of complaints I've seen about 4e can be traced back to people forgetting that the game is theirs not the books'.

In a more general sense, though, feel free to PM me with any questions. 
Seriously, though, you should check out the PbP Haven. You might also like Real Adventures, IF you're cool.
Knights of W.T.F.- Silver Spur Winner
4enclave, a place where 4e fans can talk 4e in peace.
Don't forget that players from prior editions tend to save powers for later encounters. 

You should never use a basic attack if an at-will is aviable, and after all combats you should have spent all of your encounter powers.

Personally I have a hard time with this and new players Undecided

 
-Ask me about Sketch Combat.
Don't forget that players from prior editions tend to save powers for later encounters. 

You should never use a basic attack if an at-will is aviable, and after all combats you should have spent all of your encounter powers.

Personally I have a hard time with this and new players Undecided

 



Agreed Most older term gamers like myself are use to Multible battles in a day,  and dont like to expunge all powers right off the bat.  Why not just hold off just a wee bit and not spend all of your dailys on said battle?

I Can understand if they saved up most of the dailys and spent them all on said boss battle or such,  They where able to get past the rest of the battles in that day without dailys and such? Good for them They get the reward of spending it all and sometimes pwning the heck out of said mini boss or w.e of said dungion (Happined to me one rouge had a hard time playing in earlyer encounters but it was mostly to save up all the dailys to kill this cultist mini boss i had at the end of it, decided to spend it all on that battle and splurge we loved it <3 Got her reward) 
Don't be afraid to ask questions here.

oh, if possibly, buy the new rules compendium, as it has pretty much up to date rules, and the Dungeon Master's book from essentials has updated stuff as well.

Don't try using PHB1 skill challenges, for instance. They work great in updated form, but a lot of people had problems with them at first.


Other than that, if you don't have any real powergamers in the group, you shouldn't run into too many of the game's balance issues, and even then they aren't that bad.

Mostly, it's a really fun system.

Remember that combat is focused on limited use packaged abillities (powers) with some room for more freeform fun (read pg 42 of the DMG1, and feel free to improvise rules from there.), while the non combat rules are flipped, focusing on less strictly defined mechanics in skills and skill challenges, with some skill oriented non combat powers.

Some people have a hard time seeing that this doesn't mean that the system "barely supports non combat stuff", etc. It's just a matter of using different tools for the different situations.
I guess the main things I'd quickly recommend is you're coming from an earlier edition:

- When you're planning out what you want to do in a game session allocate extra time for combat. 4e combats seem to take longer than the older editions. (There's a few reasons for it but I won't get into all that here.) Expect your indivdual fights to take about 50% longer than what you're used to would be my guess, so if you are used to having three fights in a session you'll probably only have time for two, at least if you're anything like the 4e groups I've been in. (Don't get me wrong, 4e combat is fun, it just takes a while.)

-  Make sure you understand the basic 4e mechanics for At Wills/Encounters/Dailies and for monster refreshes, triggered powers, etc. It's not hard to learn but it is probably the newest part of the game compared to other editions.

- You'll probably want to figure out in advance how you want to keep track of status effects like immobilized, prone, poisoned, attack or defense debuffs, etc. There's lots of ways to do it, just pick your favorite methods. Personally when I'm DMing I have a rule of thumb that says whoever uses an ability has to keep track of its effects. So if the party's cleric gives the party an AC boost, it's up to the cleric's player to remind the other players about the AC boost when my monsters attack them. Likewise if my monster gives someone a -2 penalty on an attack roll, it's up to me to remind them about it when they make an attack. I find that taking personal responsibility for the abilities you use helps spread out the bookeeping and makes things run a little more smoothly than if I as a DM try to on my own remember everything everybody is doing every action.

- If you or your group can afford it I definitely recommend subscribing to use the DDi Compendium to look things up. Almost everything you'll ever want to look up is in the online compendium, as a DM I find it extremely handy. I also like the DDi character builder. 


I guess that's it for now. I'm sure there's plenty of other good suggestions in this thread above mine, I just tried to mention the things that popped to mind. Good luck, hope it works out for you! 
Make sure they realize that they can use EACH encounter power once per encounter, and EACH daily power once a day.


I've had players use one encounter and go back to spamming at-wills, even in prolonged battles.  
Don't forget that players from prior editions tend to save powers for later encounters. 

You should never use a basic attack if an at-will is aviable, and after all combats you should have spent all of your encounter powers.

Personally I have a hard time with this and new players Undecided

 



Agreed Most older term gamers like myself are use to Multible battles in a day,  and dont like to expunge all powers right off the bat.  Why not just hold off just a wee bit and not spend all of your dailys on said battle?



Nobody is talking about Dailies but you.

In the mean time, you *should* aim to spend all your Encounter powers each Encounter.
Confused about Stealth? Think "invisibility" means "take the mini off the board to make people guess?" You need to check out The Rules Of Hidden Club.
Damage types and resistances: A working house rule.
Lots of good advice so far. Re-learning what you have already learned maybe the toughest part, as well as accepting that you may never 'memorize' the game quite as well as previous editions.

  1. The game is split into three 'tiers' - Heroic (typical low-level D&D stuff), Paragon (the PCs will be a bit harder to keep down and probably well-traveled), and Epic (planeswalking and hobnobbing with the powers).

  2. The 'assumed setting' is vaguely Greyhawk-ish, but not really. The assumed setup of the planes is also quite different from what you're probably used to, but it's not difficult to just use whatever planar model you're used to.

  3. Adventure 'stamina' is still based on Daily spells/maneuvers, but also on your reserve HP (called Healing Surges). 4e embraces the idea that HP represent both stamina and health.

  4. Non-casters get fun, cinematic abilities that they can only pull out a few times a day (or maybe only once a day) - they're called exploits because they allow such characters to 'exploit' opportunities in combat.

  5. A good chunk of traditionally non-combat spells are now 'rituals.' Anyone can perform a ritual off of a magic scroll with training and the required material components.

  6. Monsters are built to take a serious beating, with combat healing more the purview of PCs. It's not explicitly suggested in the rulebooks, but not all monsters should fight to the death.

  7. The 'math' behind magic items are sort of integrated into the system (ie, PCs are expected to get a +1 weapon, armor, and cloak by 5th). There are easy, official ways to get around this, just ask if you're interested.

  8. Also, there is a new 'system' called "Skill Challenges." These have been written and re-written many times over; I'd recommend checking out the latest version and messing around with it. Skill Challenges can be notoriously difficult to implement, but fun if done well.

  9. As others have said, come up with a quick and easy way for your group to track status conditions. (I like having a player track initiative and conditions with a dry erase board, in conjunction with little markers to place by/on minis.)

  10. The Rules Compendium is your friend.

4e D&D is not a "Tabletop MMO." It is not Massively Multiplayer, and is usually not played Online. Come up with better descriptions of your complaints, cuz this one means jack ****.
As others have mentioned keeping track of lasting effects and conditions is important, some my group have used are pipe cleaner hoops placed over the minis. Red for bloodied, often blue or white for a paladin's divine challenge, often green or tigger stripe for a ranger's hunter's quarry and so on.
Also the plastic rings from pop bottles and milk jugs work well too. 
The sea looks at the stabillity of the mountian and sighs. The mountian watches the freedom of the sea and cries.
In the mean time, you *should* aim to spend all your Encounter powers each Encounter.

A good rule of thumb is to use a power when it seems like it'll be particularly effective/dramatic/cool.  Hoarding powers is often a waste.  But, so is cooking them off to little effect, even with Encounters.  Some encounters are situational (but awesome when the situation comes up), and not that potent when used 'off label,' so you don't always need to be used every encounter.  

If you find yourself thinking "this would be an awesome power to use right now, but..."  you probably want to use the power.  Being awesome is kinda the point.


Want to see the best of 4e included in 5e?  Join the Old Guard of 4e.

5e really needs something like Wrecan's SARN-FU to support "Theatre of the Mind."

"You want The Tooth?  You can't handle The Tooth!"  - Dahlver-Nar.

"If magic is unrestrained in the campaign, D&D quickly degenerates into a weird wizard show where players get bored quickly"  - E. Gary Gygax

 

 

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