Tuesday, April 6, 2010, 10:00 AM
I don't like it.
It's a cool idea, and looks good on paper, but I haven't had it work well in practice. It seems that it can go one of three ways during a single encounter:
- The recharge ability always recharges
- The recharge ability never recharges
- The ability sometimes recharges
That seems fairly obvious, but that's two situations in which the encounter can be significantly different than the DM intends it to be. Recharge abilities are generally fairly powerful; the recharge is a balancing factor. So, if a recharge ability continually recharges, it can be devastating to the party. If it never recharges, then it has very little effect on the encounter, and it's too easy.
It seems to go against the general ease-of-use of 4th Edition monsters. If you're designing an encounter with a monster that has a recharge ability, you don't know the difficulty of that encounter. You expect a dragon to breathe on its enemies, but if it never recharges, then it doesn't have the impact you expected. If it recharges every turn, then you could be looking at a TPK. You simpley don't know, and the game suffers for it.
I don't know how to correct for this. Maybe replace it with a set amount of time for a recharge? So, Recharge 5/6 would become Recharge 5, and the ability would recharge in 5 combat turns. It's not statistically the same, as the former theoretically occurs once every three turns, but that could take into account the fact that a 33% chance doesn't necessarily mean that out of three sample rolls, you get one recharge.
Like I said, I don't know. But recharge makes it difficult to reliably design challenging encounters.
Thursday, March 4, 2010, 11:16 AM
For the past two sessions, the characters in my game have been "storming the castle." They have traveled to the stronghold (or, rather, one of the strongholds) of the evil Cult of Vecna, and have been attempting to gain entrance to explore and find what they're looking for.
Unfortunately, after two sessions, they've made two attempts at infiltrating by brute force (tactically retreating each time). They've also made a third attempt, gaining some intelligence from a captured guard, but mainly, I'd like to focus on those first two attempts.
This is a difficult situation. On the one hand, failed attempts take up time, and fighting similar enemies the whole time can have a serious impact on the interest of the players (and thus the continuance of the game). On the other, you don't want to reward the players for always taking the brute-force solution - they are, after all, attacking a stronghold. It should be, well, strong. It should be a challenge.
Hopefully, as in my situation, you'll be able to push a better solution on them. Something with a little more stealth - even if they're not a stealthy group. (For instance, I think the highest Stealth skill modifier any of my group has is a +2.) But even if this tactic comes after only a couple brute force attempts, you still have the rest of the stronghold to deal with.
At that point, it may be time to modify the "dungeon". A couple preliminary encounters - not too difficult, not too time consuming - followed by a large, tough encounter, which gives them access to the whole place, for the purposes of searching, finding plot hooks, etc. The purpose, of course, being that they already feel like they've been trying to crack the puzzle for a while, and this gives them the resolution they've been working toward without slogging through more minions.
And without resorting to the other solution, which, of course, is to make the rest of the stronghold trivial. If they've been trying to crack the place for a while, and upon finally gaining entrance, the place is a cakewalk, they'll be let down.
My final encounter should take place next session. I had a couple trap/hazard type things planned, but I don't know if I've made the solutions available enough to actually include them as anything more than an annoyance. They may work better elsewhere, rather than in a location that has already become something of a bore.
Sunday, February 7, 2010, 10:40 PM
This weekend was my home convention, Running GAGG. It was awesome. I ran a couple games, assisted however I could, ran around like a madman, and didn't get much sleep at all. Real life resumes tomorrow. I go back to my normal routine of work, and a little bit of gaming (as opposed to entirely gaming - I'm sure you all know the feeling).
Currently, I'm in recovery. As anyone who has been to any sort of convention knows, it can be an exhausting experience. The aforementioned lack of sleep and food that is, well, nutritionally sub-par, can leave you malnourished, and wanting to take a bit of a break. Eat salads for a week. Drink nothing but water and fresh fruit juice. Sleep nine hours a night. That sort of thing.
But then you get that IM. Or that call. From one of your regular players. "Hey, when are we getting together this week?"
I don't even want to think about planning a game right now. I had multiple sessions to plan last week, and am currently lacking the will to put together a single encounter, much less a four-hour adventure.
This is a bit of a catch-22. I know there are at least two of the five in my group that are feeling the same way as me, but there are others who I'm not so sure about. Not the least of which is the one that posed the above question.
I'll likely be scheduling the session for later in the week, and I have a feeling that I'll be more inclined to finish planning after I've had a good night's sleep and a chance to wind down.
In any case, even after a con, it's important to continue your regular games. Even as you're recovering, and even if you don't really want to work on plots and NPCs, at least make plans for when and where to meet next. It's easy to let those sorts of things slip, and once they do, players start forgetting plots and NPCs, and other plans start getting made.
This could potentially kill the campaign. So stay vigilant. After all, you don't want all your hard work and plot threads to go to waste.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010, 8:38 AM
Defenders are an interesting part of 4th edition. They allow the players a little bit more control over who's taking damage in any given encounter. But a lot of times, that makes things difficult for the DM. It's tough to challenge a party when the defender (with an AC of 21-ish at level 3) runs in and marks all of the enemies around him, forcing (okay, not actually forcing, but highly encouraging) attacks against him and him alone, and usually some penalty if they attempt to shift or move away. It can make encounters very controlled, and sometimes quite boring (I've actually had players ask me to up the difficulty).
So, here are a couple possible tactics to make the rest of the party feel threatened.
Don't worry about the marks, move and attack as you please. Sure, the enemies will likely take a bit more damage, but it shows that they're unwilling to concede to the party's way of doing things. That in itself might make the party feel more threatened.
This worked fairly well in my last session. I had a primary group of enemies (particularly, a couple guards) as well as a secondary set of enemies. I allowed the party to engage the first set, and a round later, I brought in the second set. When it became obvious the guards were going to be defeated, I had the second set retreat further into the terrain, and it just so happens they drew some of the party with them, and away from the defender.
The striker, the controller, and the leader were drawn into combat with a set of enemies that the defender had no way of marking, and thus they were more of a threat. But the defender was still able to control the initial set of enemies, so his class features were still of use. It was a great balance.
In addition to the two sets of enemies described in that combat, I also had a multi-level complex laid out on the map. There were ladders, and tunnels, and rooftops, and walls, and it made things interesting from a tactical viewpoint. Initially, there were some ranged enemies set up on top of the roofs, out of reach of the defender. So they could pick at whoever they wanted, really.
The Wizard and the Sorcerer still chose, mostly, to attack the defender, considering he's weak in his non-AC, non-Fortitude defenses, but the rogue with the Hand Crossbow was able to fire at the leader and the controller a couple times.
Of course, mixing fights including these tactics with fights where the defender gets to control the situation is key. You don't want the defender's player to feel like his character is useless, so throw in some fights where the defender can mark everything, and is able to use his abilities, while the rest of the party wails away on the enemies.
Friday, January 29, 2010, 4:05 PM
Fantasy, while normally known for swords and sorcery, dragons and dungeons, magic and mayhem, also has a softer side. In nearly every fantasy epic, there is some element of it. The Lord of the Rings, the Earthsea series, Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia - all have an element of something that, stereotypically, isn't associated with Dungeons & Dragons.
Romance. Lust. Feelings.
And a lot of campaigns never delve into that realm. However, some do. Mine, in particular, has one of the players playing a promiscuous halfling druid. She met, momentarily, another halfling, and has since been having, well, shall we say, relations with said NPC.
The player is, before you ask, a girl. In fact, she's the fiancee of one of the other players, and a long-time friend of mine. So, when she started roleplaying dates and other encounters, I had a choice. Luckily, I had some time to devise exactly how to handle it, and I think it's been going rather well.
Now, I don't know if you've had this experience, but I have, as a player, also roleplayed crushes, flirting and, er... encounters. And it was Awkward (it deserves the capital 'A', believe me). It was mainly Awkward, however, because the GM (a friend of mine), had to roleplay the target of my in-game affections.
So, to prevent feelings of Awkwardness all around, I've resolved to holding these sorts of encounters in third-person narration only.
He tells you he missed you, and takes you to the bedroom.
As opposed to
"I miss you. Shall we retire to the bedroom?"
Thus far, it has worked very well. Non-relationship interaction with this particular NPC can still be done in first-person style, and everything is fine and dandy.
So, to sum up, third person distances the player from the character enough that roleplaying romatic scenes can be done without Awkwardness.
Friday, January 22, 2010, 11:45 AM
First, a little introduction
I've been roleplaying since third edition came out, first as a player, but I then got involved with running games. I started, of course, with D&D, but have run several different systems and settings, including Savage Worlds (mostly custom settings), Call of Cthulhu (Chaosium and d20), World of Darkness (mostly the new version), and Shadowrun 4th edition.
I like to think I've gained some experience in the past years, in terms of how to run a successful game, and I'd like to share my knowledge with the D&D community. I recently started a D&D 4th Edition campaign, in a custom setting that was created collaboratively by myself and some of my friends, with a system called Dawn of Worlds (which was a fun experience on its own, and resulted in an amazingly deep and interesting setting).
Now, on to my first insight...
Planning and Control
We had our third session on Tuesday, and it was, by far, the least successful session we've had. We were unfocused, and largely distracted, talking about things other than the game, joking about things, and paying very little attention to the game itself. (Joking, of course, is part of the game, but this was a little out of hand).
There were some mitigating circumstances, particularly the fact that one of my housemates came home mid-game. She's not so much into gaming, for the most part, and is rarely at home, so we all got to talking with her (this was during combat, not so much during roleplaying, so it wasn't too bad). That was definitely part of it.
But the biggest part, I'd say, is that I was largely unprepared for the session. In previous sessions, I had flowcharts, maps, and enemies prepared and had a solid flow for the session in my mind. This allowed me to confidently push the story forward, describe situations without leaving room for interruptions, and generally maintain control of the game.
On Tuesday, I had only a vague idea of what was going to happen; General ideas of encounter setups, the enemies that would be in the encounters, and the consequences of the encounters and NPC interactions. Many times, I had to stop to ponder player actions, and those are the times when distraction can happen.
So, the moral of the story is a DM must be prepared. Joking and discussion are part of the game, but if there's too much of it, it distracts from the event itself.