Saturday, April 18, 2009

First impressions DMing a 4th Edition D&D Game

I finally found some time to run my first Fourth Edition Dungeons & Dragons game during my mini-spring vacation last week. My daughter Emily had recruited a couple of her highschool friends to join us, so counting my three children, we ended up having a five person group. The party mix was fairly balanced, the group was composed of: an Eladrin Bard, an Elf Druid, a Goliath Warden, a Dragonborn Ranger and an Elf Wizard.

I ran the party through the introductory adventure "Raid on Loudwater" found in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide. Using Dundjinni mapping software, I created and printed out a map to represent the market square where most of the action was to take place. If you haven't used the Dundjinni software before I highly recommend it, using this application, I was able to create a pretty accurate representation of the map from the book.

My oldest son and daughter had already participated in a D&D Game Day event with me, but the other players were all completely new to the game. So I let them know that we would all be learning on the fly and might miss some rules here and there as we became more familiar with the game.

I noticed something in my game that I noticed when I participated in the Game Day event. Combat in 4th Edition takes FOREVER! It's nice that every character has a selection of powers and something to do on every turn, but for some reason it seems that damage just isn't lethal enough. The non-minion NPC's can hang around for a very long time.  Granted my memory may be fuzzy, but I don't remember 2nd edition D&D taking this long to resolve combat. In fact, I recall being able to clear half a dungeon in one night's worth of play. I am not sure this is possible with the current edition.

Of course there are some factors that may have contributed to the longer combat. Neither I, nor my players were overly familiar with all the powers, but I don't think anyone took an unreasonable amount of time to select and use their powers. There were a couple of times I had to quickly look up some rules, but I remember doing this in older editions as well. Also, I don't remember any players sitting around doing nothing (except for two that became unconscious towards the end of the battle, but even then, they were making saving throws.)

After the session, I had a brief discussion with the players and made some recommendations and observations regarding the battle. First of all, the party spread itself out too thin, with almost every character taking on a separate opponent. They also failed to concentrate on what I considered the most dangerous threat to the party, a high level controller (goblin hexer). I am wondering if it will become necessary for one of the players to switch to a striker character in order to add more of the firepower that seemed to be missing. I encouraged them to come up with power combos between their different characters that might enable them to quickly chain together their attacks and mow down more of the non-minion creatures they encounter.

It's still a learning process for all of us, but I think everyone had a good time (I know I did) and I think it will get better next time. I am letting them go back through the power selection process and discard or reselect their powers now that they've had a chance to see how the character powers work, hopefully with an eye towards useful combinations. 

I have read other blogs dealing with shortening combat in 4th Edition, but I really do not want to make any wholesale house rule changes to the system until I've run through it a few more times and see if the combat pace improves with experience. Stay tuned for the results!

On a side note, I have created a twitter account for this blog. You can find it at:

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