[guest author] Adventures in 4e DM-ing

Everyone wants to play the latest game hot off the presses and of course no game can match the molten lava power of the new D&D 4e. Even though we don’t play a lot of D&D or fantasy combat now, would we even be gamers if we weren’t curious about a new version of the staple of the gaming world?

To satisfy our curiosity, I’ve been running Keep on the Shadowfell, the introductory 4e module. Save an ill-fated AD&D game in college, I’ve never been behind the DM screen. I’ve also never been one for spending a lot of time statting characters (the longest series of games I’ve run used Truth & Justice) let alone dungeon-craft, so running the intro module was definitely the best way for me to get out of the gate and to the table. I am pleased to say, it’s been fun. But, I’m surprised to say it’s been really fun, and we all want to play more when I thought maybe we’d play once or twice and call ourselves educated. I’m even finding myself thinking about the higher level modules due to come out later this year, heh, heh, while the players flip through the PHB plotting their next level.

My job with this module has not been one of creativity. After all, it’s all there on a platter right down to where each monster is placed on the map. Instead, it’s been an exercise in restraint. There’s an agreement that the deal is to kill monsters on a battlemap and the players don’t need much of a plausible reason to do so, but it still can’t insult their intelligences. I’ve tried with varying degrees of success to eliminate the ridiculous elements of the module to keep it a reasonably serious affair. For the most part that means scrutinizing the town, townspeople and so-called town encounters. I’ve tried to keep people behaving and interacting like normal human(oid)s instead of video game barkeeps and merchants (“Good day to you, adventurer! Would you like to see my wares?”). Despite my best intentions, though, it’s been tough to get all of these things working well.

I think as a introductory module for 4e, it’s not bad and the encounters have been different enough and challenging for the players. 4e seems to offer a lot of choices for the players, and they have to coordinate to get the most out of their abilities. Speaking as a newbie DM, because we are all happy to learn the rules together, I thankfully don’t have the extra burden of having to teach anyone the system or police it alone. My job is to know the module, run the monsters and run the game. That’s complicated enough because the goal seems to be for every monster to be a unique star in the monster firmament. Every kobold has different powers and movement. This one shifts if someone moves near it, that one shifts if someone misses an attack. This one does fire, that one does acid. It’s not that it’s overwhelming even if sometimes I forget which one’s which, but it means that I have to be sure to understand each monster’s powers and what tactical and descriptive effect they have and how they work in a particular environment which also seems to be purposefully unique for every encounter. If you’ve seen one kobold in the wilderness, you really haven’t seen them all.

Guest Author: Ping | June 18th, 2008 | | 1 comment

[guest author] GoPlayNW, Go!

A couple of weeks ago, Ben and I went to Go Play Northwest, a small, mostly local roleplaying convention that focuses on indie games though given the timing there was some downright gleeful D&D 4e too. Besides meeting a great bunch of gamers and playing totally new games, there’s something very eye-opening about gaming with new people. You learn a lot about your good and bad habits that being in the same group for a long time might be masking. Sure, some games were much more fun than others, but I think that’s the grab bag of gaming and part of the con. Suffice it to say, we had a blast.

I have to tip my hat to the GoPlayNW organizers for making everyone feel welcome and making sure everyone had a game to play. Before each game slot, Tony would ask if anyone was game-less or if any GMs had open slots. If after that there were still stragglers, groups would just form ad hoc and play. Beautiful. One of the best things about many indie games is they’re designed so you can just sit down for a few of hours and play with no prep. I straggled a lot and played 3 ad hoc games, a teen slasher flick themed game of Geiger Counter and 2 sessions of In a Wicked Age, possibly one of the most fun, no-prep, quick start roleplaying games out there. Ben goes into more detail about the joys of IAWA in his Indie Exploration Kit article.

GoPlayNW won’t come around again until next year, but taking a look at the Meetups and Conventions thread on Story Games, there’s a lot of opportunity between now and then.

Guest Author: Ping | June 13th, 2008 | | 2 comments

[guest author] You are what you play(ed)

It just so happens that the 2 projects I’m working on are for single player character genres albeit from different angles. Even after some of my first ideas didn’t work because of that very reason, I still tried to find ways to fit in other player characters because virtually all of the games I’ve been involved with have been traditional single-GM, multi-hero games. I know that’s just not going to work here, yet I still find myself automatically drifting back to traditional roleplaying paradigms in a pinch.

Guest Author: Ping | January 15th, 2008 | | 3 comments

[guest author] Making the introductions

Hey, I’m one of the “we” and not so secret anymore!

I’m pleased as punch to be part of the lame mage development crew. I’ve had it easy, playtesting and having fun, maybe doing a little proofing and spell checking here and there, but now I’m working on my own projects and all I can say is, this stuff is hard! It’s hard to come up with mechanics or components that work for your genre or vision without turning it into a different game. It’s hard to remember what your vision is once you dig in and forget to come up for air. It’s hard to keep motivated and to remember what it is that even got you excited about the whole thing in the first place.

I’ve found that keeping a short bulleted list of what I think the game should be and what an ideal scene looks like helps. I expect that things will change, possibly completely, but I find that state where the ideas are just a crazy jumble of game mechanics, scene ideas and slightly different genres extremely overwhelming and not useful.

I’m working on a couple of ideas that I’ll write about soon, but maybe after a little more time in the oven. Unless, of course, I really need an outlet for that existential pain.

Skyla aka Ping

For Ars Ludi readers, Skyla was the name of one of my West Marches characters, arrested and exiled, but still my favorite.

Guest Author: Ping | January 6th, 2008 |