I ran a one-shot of D&D 4th Edition last night. It was kind of a mixed bag for me for a few reasons. I think the PCs had fun, though, and I learned some things.

I decided to go with pre-gen characters rather than have everyone go through character creation for the first time simultaneously. I was hoping the D&D character creation tool would be up on D&D Insider so I could just crank ’em out. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.

At that point, I should’ve just used the Keep on the Shadowfell characters. Instead, Beth and I spent the whole afternoon making characters, which meant I didn’t get in as much prep & reading as I would’ve liked. In my haste, I also made a bunch of mistakes with characters, and the players ended up having to transcribe a lot of thier abilities during play. (Fortunately we had three or so PHBs between the lot of this, so it went fairly quickly.)

I prepared three encounters altogether. My half-assed plot was based off of Willow, which I’d watched the night before: the PCs are tracking down a halfling who stole something that belonged to the despot (e.g. the baby). Their first destination was a halfling village, and then I had a fight in a swamp with the humans that were guarding the halfling.

The encounters were ridiculously easy to prepare. I picked them out of the MM, and swapped out a monster or two, in one case because I thought it could lead to a TPK (needlefang drake swarms are terrifying) and another because I wanted an all-human group.

The first one ended up being fairly difficult, and probably would’ve been harder if I hadn’t made some mistakes, such as forgetting Halflings’ ability to force people to re-roll attacks. The second one, despite being appearing slightly harder, actually went pretty quickly by contrast. Of course, now that I total up the XP, it seems that the first one was worth more XP and was closer to a level 2 than a level 3.

In terms of the environment, I had some ideas of what I wanted and not enough time to spend developing them. This is what I get for trying to run the game so soon! Another factor is that I’m still hung up on figuring out what works best for me when it comes to making maps. Graph paper might be my best bet, though perhaps I could have some luck with a graphics program along the lines of Photoshop.

Speaking of figuring things out, when it comes to running D&D, I have a lot to learn. Here’s some of what I took away from last night’s game:

– I really, really need to read up on terrain and think about this ahead of time. Shit, I just need to finish reading the DMG before I run another game. Then I need to find my preferred way of prepping terrain. Improvisation only semi-works for me, and I know I can do better.

– Spellcasters seem kind of swingy at level 1. On the other hand, I noticed that all of my opponents were primarily brutes and soldiers. A poor mix of monster types may have contributed to this directly. (See previous point re: DMG!)

– PCs can take way more abuse than you’d think. The corrollary to this is that monsters can hit very hard. That’s because PCs have abilities like Second Wind, (Healing|Inspiring) Word, and various other abilities to keep them online. I felt bad about rolling d10s, and the party took plenty of damage, but nobody died despite me dropping people more than a few times.

– Along those lines, I learned once again that I have a really hard time being ruthless. I was a little bit better about this as I realized that PCs are far more sturdy in 4e. Still, it makes me sad when PCs take a lot of damage or when they drop. It also makes me sad when they miss.

– I’m still not settled on how to track initiative, but I know a whiteboard doesn’t quite work for me. A text file works best because I can easily rearrange via copy-paste, so I might go back to that.

That’s all for now. My next post will arrive shortly. :)

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