Help and Advice for Incredibly Clueless Players New To Everything

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Hey everyone Smile

You may or may not have seen my post here:
community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/758...

Esentially myself and a small group of friends wanted to try playing D&D, despite all being equally clueless and experienced when it came to tabletop RPGs Tongue Out

I have the Red Box and we played through an extremely small part of it after creating our characters. Happily, we all had an awesome time and everyone wants to play again! Cool

On the other hand, because we were all so inexperienced, the game went extremely slowly, and I have got a couple of issues that I'd really appreciate help on.
(Please bear in mind I've never played anything like this in my life before, so I might ask really stupid things! Tongue Out)

+ I was acting as the DM, and found it quite difficult when my friends wanted to do something that wasn't presented as an option in the books. I was saying yes and making them roll for most of the things they wanted to do (because THAT'S MORE FUN) but I was very aware that by the end I was just completely making things up. For example, my friend used the slimy transmutation spell successfully (flavour text says it turns the enemy into a frog) and then wanted to use mage hand to drop a nearby rock on the frog-enemy and squish it (which made perfect sense to me! Tongue Out
There's no information about dropping things / inflicting damage by rocks in either of the books provided, so I didn't really know what to do. What's the right way to deal with something like this? I know buying more stuff would likely help, but if possible, I'd like to avoid buying more things until we've finished the Box,. On the other hand I'm beginning to wonder if I can effectively DM without knowing how to deal with things like this (which aren't even particularly off-the-wall.) Other stuff they asked included "can we cut up the wolf carcasses and save on rations?" Again, cue me making up random dice rolls / being a terrible DM Tongue Out Would you say it's impossible to play further without investing in more D&D products?
 
+ Could someone explain to me how Passive Perception works (and other passive abilities)? Am I right in thinking those with higher passive perception notice more things about their immediate environment? Does this ever come into play in a significant way? Book says nothing, so I'm just having to infer here. 

+ This is probably me being *really* stupid, but in the DM handbook in the Red Box, it gives Initiative for the Wolves as +5 and Initiative for the Goblins as +3 (or something like that - I can't check as I'm at uni atm, and the Red Box is at home). But the Iniative in the box they give with all the monster stats wasn't the same! So how did they calculate the +5 and +3? I feel I'm missing something important, but I just couldn't figure it out!

Thanks for any help you can give me - I'm sure I'll be back for more advice when we actually get *into* the dungeon! Tongue Out

(Any tips/hints for us would also be massively appreciated, as we're all still extremeeeeely clueless! Tongue Out)
Howdy and welcome to the hobby 

1) The sort of action that you are talking about are called improvised actions.  Improvised actions are totally OK you were doing things exactly right.  When you do buy later books pick up a copy of either the Dungeon Masters's kit it has handy stuff like tables that should help with stuff like improvised actions.  Any sort of Improvised attack would generally be ability vs. Non-AC defense.  So in the case of the Magehand rock I would probably say Dex v. Reflex for coordinating the rock over the frog.  As for damage I would say something like 2d8+3, slimey transmutation automatically ends when the creature takes damage so the rock wouldn't necessarlly crush them.  I generally shy away from letting players kill monsters with Improvised actions unless the action can't be replicated (using terrain for instance).

2) Passive Perception and Passive Insight are what your characters perceive when they aren't rolling the check.  For instance if the party is about to be ambushed and none of the PC's ask to roll a perception check then you would roll the monsters stealth checks against the parties passive perception.  Basic rule of thumb is that if the PC is activly looking the roll the check and if they are just going about their bussiness they use the passive.

3) I always use the Monster statistic block in the encounter unless there is something really wrong with it (like a monster with 2000 health instead of a more resonable 200).  That being said it should work fine either way.

Hang in there, if these are the only problems you are having then you are doing a fantastic job.  Keep up the good work and come back if you have any more questions .  Also don't worry, things start going much faster when you get used to the system.
Sounds like you are having a lot of fun As what he said, just do what makes sense for you.

In general, when it comes to improvising, here's a good rule of thumb for damage.

Normal : 1W or 1d8 + Pri Stat. You probably notice that most attack damage is this.
Great : 2W or 2d8 + Pri Stat. Most Encounter Powers fall into this.
Awesome: 3W or 3d8 + Pri Stat.
Pri Stat refers to the Highest Ability Mod of the Player.

Don't worry too much about making sense with this number.
The game itself actually uses these numbers, so sticking to it you can't get too far wrong

Many of the Powers are designed to be used "as-is", so when improvising with them you just have to adjust accordingly.
For example, one might argue that a Mage Hand, though a Minor Action, might actually take a Standard Action, as if one were using it to squish.
Let them improvise but it shouldn't be much easier to improvise or it may get too easy. Improvisation can always be "paid for" by the Player in the currency of Actions.

As for getting Products... given the way WotC is going with 4E, I'd give some serious thought to avoid that path.

I am Blue/White

Well it seems like they've answered everything. Except you initiative quest. Initiative is found by adding half the monster level to its dexterity modifier.

Also download and print this: slyflourish.com/master_dm_sheet.pdf

If some things don't make sense feel free to ask away. 

Come to 4ENCLAVE for a fan based 4th Edition Community.

 

Howdy and welcome to the hobby 

1) The sort of action that you are talking about are called improvised actions.  Improvised actions are totally OK you were doing things exactly right.  When you do buy later books pick up a copy of either the Dungeon Masters's kit it has handy stuff like tables that should help with stuff like improvised actions.  Any sort of Improvised attack would generally be ability vs. Non-AC defense.  So in the case of the Magehand rock I would probably say Dex v. Reflex for coordinating the rock over the frog.  As for damage I would say something like 2d8+3, slimey transmutation automatically ends when the creature takes damage so the rock wouldn't necessarlly crush them.  I generally shy away from letting players kill monsters with Improvised actions unless the action can't be replicated (using terrain for instance).



Why is it not simply an improvised Ranged Weapon attack?


Why is it not simply an improvised Ranged Weapon attack?



That works to.  I really just made it target Reflex because frogs don't have armor and made it do a bit more damage because the rock would hit the frog first even if it changed the frog back into a person after initial damage.

*shrug* 

On the other hand, because we were all so inexperienced, the game went extremely slowly,


     Because the player get a lot of choices, 4e is a slow game.  The basic way to speed it up is to make a poorer game.  Practice will help some, but you are pretty much going to have to live with it.
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+ I was acting as the DM, and found it quite difficult when my friends wanted to do something that wasn't presented as an option in the books. I was saying yes and making them roll for most of the things they wanted to do (because THAT'S MORE FUN) but I was very aware that by the end I was just completely making things up. For example, my friend used the slimy transmutation spell successfully (flavour text says it turns the enemy into a frog) and then wanted to use mage hand to drop a nearby rock on the frog-enemy and squish it (which made perfect sense to me! )


     Improvised actions are to be encouraged, but only to a limited degree.  They are by definition actions that would normally be inferior, but are the best you have at the moment, or the circumstances are special.  You grab a stick and hit the guy.  It is not going to hurt as much as your sword which is designed to hurt people.  So your improvised attack should do less damage.  Game wise, an improvised attack is letting the player make up his own rules, and is clearly very dangerous.  It adds spice to the game to let him do that a little, but if you don't set limits, and rather low ones, you are back to the playground "bang, I got you."  "you missed."

      Now with our frog and rock...  Falling damage is 1d10 per 10'.  So we hurt the frog no more than 1d10, [& in a low level game, that might be serious damage, so even that might be reduced.  Note how often you try to squash a but and it just walks away.].  No instant kills can be allowed.
    Hitting can also be a problem.  We have a 3 dimension problem, which means you have much greater problems in aiming, and you are doing so in a way you have not practiced.  So your chance of success should also be much inferior to your normal to hit.
     Then we have the point of "minor action".  Minor action attacks are highly prized.  They are a prime tool for those making crazy powerful builds.  Here, we have the possibility of dropping 3 rocks a round for 3d10 damage every round when 6d6 is enough to talk about a broken daily.  [It's not, but it causes talk and it is a daily.  So an action that can be repeated round after round must be much weaker.  So there is a clear danger of a game breaker here.]
     Improvised actions are to be encouraged, but you do need to ride herd on them and make sure they remain an inferior or emergency choice.


 I'm beginning to wonder if I can effectively DM without knowing how to deal with things like this (which aren't even particularly off-the-wall.) Other stuff they asked included "can we cut up the wolf carcasses and save on rations?"


      Again, we follow the same rules.  The choice is to be possible, but usually inferior.  Let's think of some reasons [or dream them up].  Our real PC would buy their food for the same sort of reasons we do.
It's safer and less trouble.  So we require the party to wait a day to cook the meat [and the party should normally be under some degree of deadline, like the princess is to be sacrificed at the full of the Moon].  Then we note that the normal party has no particular cooking skills, and we require a skill check [heal?] or they get sick or the food become spoiled.  [Eating wolf, or most meateater, is quite dangerous for the amateur.  The very tasty liver is poison due to excess vitamin A.]  All in all, we make it not worth their time except in emergency.
 


+ I was acting as the DM, and found it quite difficult when my friends wanted to do something that wasn't presented as an option in the books. I was saying yes and making them roll for most of the things they wanted to do (because THAT'S MORE FUN) but I was very aware that by the end I was just completely making things up. For example, my friend used the slimy transmutation spell successfully (flavour text says it turns the enemy into a frog) and then wanted to use mage hand to drop a nearby rock on the frog-enemy and squish it (which made perfect sense to me! ) 
There's no information about dropping things / inflicting damage by rocks in either of the books provided, so I didn't really know what to do. What's the right way to deal with something like this? I know buying more stuff would likely help, but if possible, I'd like to avoid buying more things until we've finished the Box,. On the other hand I'm beginning to wonder if I can effectively DM without knowing how to deal with things like this (which aren't even particularly off-the-wall.) Other stuff they asked included "can we cut up the wolf carcasses and save on rations?" Again, cue me making up random dice rolls / being a terrible DM  Would you say it's impossible to play further without investing in more D&D products?

Just look at the spell he was using.  Mage Hand, IIRC, says that it cannot be used to make attacks, so no using it to throw rocks at enemy.  Also look at slimy transmutation:  it doesn't change the target's hps, so it would be a supernaturally tough little froggie.
 
+ Could someone explain to me how Passive Perception works (and other passive abilities)? Am I right in thinking those with higher passive perception notice more things about their immediate environment? Does this ever come into play in a significant way? Book says nothing, so I'm just having to infer here.

When a monster or NPC under your control attempts to sneak up on the party, you use thier Passive Perception as a target to succeed in sneaking up unnoticed.    If you have decided that a certain hidden detail (like a trap!) has a DC to spot, and a PC has a passive perception that beats that DC, than he'll notice the trap.  That kind of thing.

+ This is probably me being *really* stupid, but in the DM handbook in the Red Box, it gives Initiative for the Wolves as +5 and Initiative for the Goblins as +3 (or something like that - I can't check as I'm at uni atm, and the Red Box is at home). But the Iniative in the box they give with all the monster stats wasn't the same! So how did they calculate the +5 and +3? I feel I'm missing something important, but I just couldn't figure it out!

That's likely just a goof.  It might even have been a typo.  In general, initiative is DEX mod + 1/2 level.  However, monsters can have higher or lower initiatives than that, arbitrarily, and PCs can have higher from a variety of possible bonuses, like the Improved Inititive feat, or a Warlord's Combat Leader feature.


 

 

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Thanks to everyone for taking the time to reply, being so friendly and offering so much help! The advice here is all fantastic (and has been really useful in better understanding how I should DM, and how the game should be working Smile)

Particularly massive thanks for everyone who gave me advice on improvised actions - I was a bit uneasy with letting them do everything just because it didn't seem quite right...and a bit too easy, even with my weird made up dice rolls Tongue Out Next time we play (tonight, wahey!) I'll be following your suggestions, which is definitely going to make a better/less confusing game. 

Although I'll probably be back with more questions at some point, haha! 

Felorn - That chart is fantastic! Thanks so much Smile 

DavidArgall -  I don't at all mind a slow place. I was just very concious I was moving at *glacial* pace due to all the book flicking/card reading/head scratching/urgent googling Tongue Out Practice should make perfect though! (Fingers crossed...)

Tony_Vargas - On the card that came with the Red Box, there was *definitely* nothing written on it that prohibited attacking (because we all checked it about five times over Tongue Out) and unfortunately I haven't yet got any other source of information. Thanks for the really clear explanation of passive perception Smile I assumed it was something like that, but it was never explicity covered!

Have your group chip in for a D&D Insider account. It'll give you access to the Online Compendium and the Character Builder. They give you all the info contained in all the books for 4e. Bear in mind that they're not perfect. If the book and the OC/CB don't match, defer to the book (you should get the Dungeon Master's Guide and Rules Compendium). There have been a lot of tweaks to the rules and powers over the years, so go here:www.wizards.com/dnd/Article.aspx?x=dnd/u... for the official updates.
I knew the Red Box had some errors and ommissions, but I didn't realize there were any that bad...

 

 

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