Setting A High Standard

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Hey guys! So me and my group just started playing D&D for the first time, specifically 4E, and we're gunna play a couple of games with pregenerated characters before we actualyl start a main caimpaign together. In those pregen games, we're gunna take turns DMing different adventures. I'm up first, and I want to set up a really good standard for them to follow, both as a DM and in terms of adventure/story. So I need you guys to help!

1. I DMed a little bit, but only for the Red Box adventure with my friends, so nothing major. I don't have much experience, so any tips as a DM would be more than welcome! I've read and watched a bunch of videos, but assume I didn't read/watch them and tell me your tips! Also, any links to tips and good info is more than welcomed Smile

2. Are there any level 1 adventures that you'd recommend for a group of about 4 players (give or take 1 player)? It'd be nice if they were not solely combat based, but also had some interesting combat.

3. What are some good ideas for twists in encounters or storylines that would be fun? I like to cause "Oh S***" moments for them because they really seem to enjoy them.

4. What are some good tips for me as a role player and descriptive narrator? I would like to be able to describe things well and be able to fill those boring gaps when a player is thinking with some info that is at lest interesting. I want this to be a cool story, not just a game of roll, slash, kill.

5. How can I encourage more roleplaying in the group? That has been a big issue when we played the Red Box; we'd start a session good at roleplaying, but then we'd just focus on tactics and ROLL playing.

Overall, the goal is for me to be as good of a DM as possible for when we play, so they have fun and they have a standard to live up to. That way, they can continue to get better and our games will get more fun!

Any other suggesstions that don't directly relate to my numbered topics are more than welcome!
Hey I'm a relatively new DM as well so I can give a few tips from my limited experience.

1 - be prepared to improvise. I'm not very good at this at the moment, but as far as I can tell it will be one of the most useful skills you ever develop as a DM. I can personally guarantee that your players will do something completely unexpected. Roll with it. It's good fun to see what they do. I quite enjoy some of the prep work but I'm always ready to try and improvise something that I'm not prepared for.
 
2 - I'm about to run Cross City Race this weekend. Reading through it it seems like something you may be looking for. As you have a DDI account you can find it here

4 - I only try to narrate important features of the area that may affect the PCs. If there's a rocky scree that looks unstable tell them. If they enter a mundane study just tell them it looks like a regular study. Now when the players ask specific questions about the study you can answer and they can build the room themselves.
 
3+ 5 yeah I can't help with these sorry, but I'm sure some the more experienced guys can help you out.

One point I will add and it's something I'm trying to incorporate into my own games. Don't make encounters about killing everything. Give the monsters a goal other than kill the PC's. There's a brilliant thread around with a list of ideas in it for alternate goals in combat. It can make encounters more engaging and give interesting results from failure other than "You all die" or "You're all knocked out and taken captive". Since I've started to do it my players are enjoying the game more as am I.


Edit - Found the Alternate Goals Thread
As to encouraging players to getting into character, the best advice I can give is lead by example. Don't push them into it, just show them how much fun they can have and they'll join at their own pace.

"Encouraging your players to be cautious and risk-averse prevents unexpected epic events and-well-progress at a decent pace in general."-Detoxifier

"Trying to make a logical argument about dragons is about as useful as making a logical argument for man-eating eggs."-CliveDauthi

"I've removed death from my ice cream."-Centauri

Hey guys! So me and my group just started playing D&D for the first time, specifically 4E, and we're gunna play a couple of games with pregenerated characters before we actualyl start a main caimpaign together. In those pregen games, we're gunna take turns DMing different adventures. I'm up first, and I want to set up a really good standard for them to follow, both as a DM and in terms of adventure/story. So I need you guys to help!



Welcome, and your "trial run" both as players and DMs should be enlightening before committing to a full campaign. So good on you for your group agreeing to share responsibilities in this regard.

1.
I DMed a little bit, but only for the Red Box adventure with my friends, so nothing major. I don't have much experience, so any tips as a DM would be more than welcome! I've read and watched a bunch of videos, but assume I have read/watched them and tell me your tips! Also, any links to tips and good info is more than welcomed


Forget what you saw in most videos... at some point. Even Chris Perkins doesn't run the game particularly well in my opinion. For now, those videos might be a decent guide. Google up CritJuice. I like that podcast because it's played by actors and comedians and they tend not to block like you see at most D&D tables. It's also really funny.

As well - improvisation. Learn to improvise. Check out the principles of improvisation that actors use. You will notice that they say, "Yes, and..." a lot. This means you accept the ideas of your fellow players and add onto them. You can and should do this in D&D since RPGs include a lot of improvisational acting. It makes for smoother play, more engaged players, and less prep for the DM.

2.
 Are there any level 1 adventures that you'd recommend for a group of about 4 players (give or take 1 player)? It'd be nice if they were not solely combat based, but also had some interesting combat.


There is combat in D&D because combat is appropriate to the genre and it also represents a valid choice a player might make. Thus, don't look for adventures that "don't have combat," because what you'd be looking for is an adventure that takes choices away. This is something a DM shouldn't do. Not having combat is a matter of the players choosing it. (Don't be surprised if they choose combat more often than not because combat is fun. Combat is actually a reward to many players.)

3. 
What are some good ideas for twists in encounters or storylines that would be fun? I like to cause "Oh S***" moments for them because they really seem to enjoy them.


If you use the "Yes, and..." technique I mention above, you will find these moments happen organically on their own with no particular planning required. But a cheap trick on the tactical level is to send in waves of minions after round 1. The sudden arrival of additional numbers on the battlefield after the PCs are already engaged in a tough fight can serve to escalate the tension. Think of cinematic events that trigger at specific intervals such as when the villain becomes bloodied or the monsters accomplish some minor goal in the scene.

4. 
What are some good tips for me as a role player and descriptive narrator? I would like to be able to describe things well and be able to fill those boring gaps when a player is thinking with some info that is at lest interesting. I want this to be a cool story, not just a game of roll, slash, kill.


"The story" in an RPG is the thing we create by playing. While you're playing, it's a tale to be told. After you're done, you have made a story together. Roll, slash, kill is part of the story because it's a valid player choice. Don't discourage it. And never try to create "the story" away from the table.

Descriptive narration is tougher and is also part of learning to improvise. I find it's best to be concise with these interactions. A Twitter-length description full of possibilities you can flesh out later (preferably together) is better than a long, intricate description that nobody is going to remember 10 seconds after you're done reading it. I try to hit three "notes" when describing things: most memorable trait or feature, what's going on, why it may matter. Then as the scene unfolds you can add descriptive flourish to it as you become inspired by what's going on. Bulletpoint lists are good for these notes.

5. 
How can I encourage more roleplaying in the group? That has been a big issue when we played the Red Box; we'd start a session good at roleplaying, but then we'd just focus on tactics and ROLL playing.


Since you're new to the game, drop that whole "ROLL playing" thing. It's a total canard and usually used to be divisive.

"Roleplaying" is making a decision that your character would also make, given the context of the scene. So this includes both sweet-talking the princess and swinging your sword at an orc. Thus, roleplaying is very simple - just play as you think your character or NPC would act. That may well include combat. Accept that this will be the case.

There is a caveat to this, though: There are practically infinite reasons for your character to say "Yes" to ideas offered by other characters (because it's a fantasy world). There's only one reason something can't be: because you say it can't. So don't paint yourself into a corner roleplaying-wise and say "No." There's always a way for you to say "Yes, and..." It just takes imagination and improvisation. In the doing, you may discover something about your character or NPC you never knew before.

So, most likely, your group is roleplaying just fine because they're making decisions their character would also make. What you're probably hoping to see is more narrative flourish in their descriptions of their actions, thoughts, and dialogue. This comes with time and trust. I've noticed that players new to my games tend to clam up for first few sessions as they adjust. After they've gotten comfortable with it and realize that with the "Yes, and..." technique, nothing they can say is going to be "wrong" (provided it does not contradict existing fiction), they get into it. As well, as system mastery improves, you will find that the mechanics and rules will get out of the way, coming back in only as much as you need them to resolve outcomes.

My signature contains a number of helpful links for DMs. Best of luck and let us know how it goes!

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | The Art of Pacing (Series) | Improvisation Guide | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character
Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!
Check Out My D&D Next Playtest Campaign: The Next World

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Yes, "rollplaying vs. roleplaying" is a divisive misrepresentation, that misses the source of different modes of play.

You'll find that players stop acting in character and start acting tactically (which is probably also in character, but is less risky) when they're faced with failure they're not interested in. Combat is the primary example. Failure in combat is assumed to mean the death of one or more characters, which regardless of how the players feel about it, tends to bring forward progress to a screeching halt. No one wants to be responsible for that, so no one is going to risk making "roleplaying" choices that aren't about winning the encounter, and no one is going to spend time pretending to act when they need to be figuring out their turn.

If you don't want the game to become about numbers and optimization, you need to make it clear to find out what stakes the players are optimizing to achieve, and then take those stakes off the table, replacing them with stakes the players agree they wouldn't mind losing. If the players are worried about losing their characters and ending the game, take that off the table. The new challenge becomes something like keeping the monsters from getting past them, and the stakes are that each monster that escapes will slaughter one farming family. Or whatever the players think would be interesting. The PCs won't die, but they might still fail. Or they might die, but still win. You are almost certain to get more interesting choices from the players once they are bought into and engaged by what failure means.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

For combat, toss out the recommendation that a Lvl+3 encounter should be challenging but not impossible. With the increased damage of MM3, I find Lvl+3 encounters are too tough for low-level groups, especially for new players. Start with equal-level encounters, try one or two Lvl+1 encounters, eventually go up to a Lvl+2 encounter, and if they can handle that without breaking a sweat, then break out a Lvl+3 encounter each level.

I would also be wary of tossing Elites & Solos against them while they're in the low levels. While they're kind of a joke at higher levels, they seem much more difficult at lower levels. (I think it's because higher-level PCs have more powers that can lock down or cripple individual targets, while low-level PCs rely on killing 1 or 2 enemies quickly to make a fight manageable.)

I would also give them Healing Potions ASAP; a healing potion can mean the difference between life-or-death in the early levels.

From personal experience, I've found the biggest moodkiller in a campaign is to TPK the party in the second encounter. And I did that because I was more concerned about making the encounter difficult than I was about figuring out what the party can safely handle.
I've been saving little ideas I get from these forums in my signature line:



  • Gun Safety Rule #5:  Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you (and the players) are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)

  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully.  You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!

  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."  It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.

  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.

  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent.  Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.  (And, the reverse of both statements is also true.)

  • Failure is always an option.  And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!

  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse - for best results, put the dice and character sheets away for a little while, and deal with out-of-game problems as an out-of-game adult.



Published adventures generally focus on the combat, on the assumption (right or wrong) that balanced combat encounters, and the framework of a plot, are the things that DMs need the most help with, and the assumption (right or wrong) that putting rich, detailed, convincing non-combat NPC interactions in print is an almost impossible task.  (You're probably going to find it best to improvise on things like NPC conversations and so on... and it might be best to just delay developing that particular skill for a few sessions, until a time when you're comfortable with the stress and distraction of experimenting with it, and your players are comfortable with a new source of distraction and stress to add to the stress and distraction coming from all the stuff on their character sheets.)


Improvisation is one of a DM's most powerful skills, but, like any skill, you'll need practice before you can use it comfortably.  Start small, and work your way up from there.  I've been recommending this exercise for years now:


Whether you make your own adventures, or use published adventures, add one "mystery room" to the map.  When the PCs come across it, make up the contents on the spot, using anything as an inspiration... maybe something from a dream or nightmare the night before, or something you saw on TV that week, or something big that happend during the day, or maybe you see something in the room with you that gives you an idea.  And, set aside some generic monster stat blocks to use as the skeletons to hang improvised creature descriptions on (at low levels, I use Goblins, Orcs, and Ogres for this purpose.)  This room will contain no character, no treasure, no props, no description, until the PCs come across it.  Some things I've seen come out of this:



  • my first DM invented a surreal monster on the spot based on a doodle one of the players made of something that looked like a collection of random hooks and spikes and shards of broken metal jammed into a sphere

  • I took a small "koosh ball" toy from a player at the beginning of the game, saying "give me that!" in my best fake disgust voice... the player thought I was taking the toy away because it was distracting, but I took it away because I thought it would make the perfect monster to add to my empty room... the player's "a-HA! That's why you took it!" expression was almost as fun as describing the monster

  • my dreams and nightmares have populated my empty rooms with all manner of bizarre, frightening, mysterious, and eerie descriptions, monsters, and artifacts

  • TV and movies have given me a chance to put some unique things into the game

  • sometimes, something really off-the-wall will suddenly just pop into my head... like kicking down the door to find a refrigerator containing a frozen zombie in a samurai outfit... or coming across a room containing a pair of terrified Goblins running around in a panic covered in spiders... or discovering a small wooden crate containing the shapeless body of a spellcaster whose bones had turned to jelly... or a room full of stacked and sealed barrels packed with reanimated corpses... I never try to explain where these things came from, I have no time to come up with the back stories; I just leave it up to the players to fill in their own explanations...





[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
These tips are absolutely incredible! I'm really learning a lot guys! Keep 'em coming!

I'm actually currently getting everything set up for our first pregend adventure! We'll be playing in a couple days, so I'm gunna definitely check out some improv-acting tips and such