I’m unabashedly excited about 4th Edition, for a variety of reasons which I will of course get into eventually. I mean, that’s why you’re here, right? You are here to listen to some dude blather about role-playing games.

With the impending release of 4e and amid all of the articles and blurry photographs, there’s a lot of material out there to drool over. From the fans, there’s the 4e Pre-release Rules Compilation and Monsters and More, among many other things. They were leaked some time ago, but eventually Wizards posted the D&D Experience character sheets as well.

With all of that material, there really is enough to run a game as long as you don’t try to level anyone. So, a few weeks ago, I did.

Let me say one thing right away. (SPOILER) It was a lot of fun! At least, I had a lot of fun. As the DM, I had multiple monsters on the board, each of them doing interesting things. I think I might like DMing just because I get to take more turns than anyone else! Also, people have to listen to me talk. Ha!

I wasn’t the only one having fun, though. Most players told me they really enjoyed it, and that was evident while we were playing.

All told, we had seven players, two of whom were ladies. Since we had one person in excess of the number of pre-generated characters, we had someone double up, so there were two warlocks.

The basis for the plot was fairly simple. This is mainly because I pulled the plot out of my ass: the group was part of a mercenary company. Peasants had been disappearing from outlying farms, so the party was paid to dress up like peasants, fight kobolds, and track them back to their lair. Is it me, or is this actually a decent hook for pick-up D&D? I’ll confess I was a little proud of myself.

The first scene was in the open field. Twenty or so kobold minions showed up. After that, the players followed a couple of the fleeing ones back to their lair. In the lair, they fought some about a half dozen kobold skirmishers and slingers each in a cave with a couple of ledges and lava. We had to stop after that, as it was pretty late.

Tangent: I have this part of me that I refer to as my “inner asshole DM.” He is a pretty sadistic jerk if you give him free rein, which is why he’s good to listen to if you want to run D&D. Part of the point of D&D is putting your players in unrealistic yet incredibly life-threatening situations and watching them fight their way out of it. There’ll be more on this asshole DM guy later, but let’s say for now that my inner asshole DM was very much put out after this game.

I messed up a few players in the second encounter, but the first one was cake. My biggest mistake was, arguably, that my kobolds didn’t use their Shifty ability. Ever. This is what keeps them out of melee, which is what prolongs their miserable, smelly lives. Kobolds should bunch up around you, make an attack, and then shift. If they don’t do that, they are basically extremely crappy and fragile fighters.

There was also lava (instant death in 4e) and none of the kobolds had the ability to push anybody. At least one kobold met his unfortunate end by being pushed in. Actually, lava is a really bad idea as a terrain feature: it turns out there are lots of abilities to push and slide people. In this case, my Game Balance Rule Zero comes into play: PC matter more than monsters. I’d replace the lava pools with a mild acid that does some ongoing damage rather than instant death.

Finally, my artillery didn’t uh “artiller.” My slingers were too far away, and I hesitated to bring them within range of the players. When they actually hit, though, they did respectable damage and nailed at least one or two characters with some status effects. My biggest regret here is that I tried to use fire on the goddamn tiefling wizard before I remembered that he has resist fire 5.

I did get a few people down to Bloodied, so it wasn’t all bad. I believe I messed up the wizard and one of the warlocks a bit, and the fighter at one point used his Second Wind. So I’d say a couple of kobold dragon shields in exchange for skirmishers, more shifting, and some tweaks to the initial layout of the scene probably would’ve been a much tougher fight.

I’m sure you can see where this is going: between now and June, there will be a rematch. This time it’s going to be ugly. Mark my words: there’s a raiding party of hobgoblins in my players’ future, my friends, and those guys are total assholes.

And if all else fails, there’s always the Chuul Juggernaut!

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