Well, it’s been a long wait since I wrapped up my 3.5e Ulek campaign, but today we got the chance to sit down and begin our first 4e campaign. My plan is to use the adventures published by Wizards for this initial run (whilst I run a Greyhawk homebrew on Friday nights).
Players are Sarah, Greg, Adam, Nathaniel and Josh, with Josh being the only new player to D&D; all the others are old hands now, having played with me for the past 5+ years.
We were playing at Nate’s for the first time, which delayed the start of the session as people tried to find the place! Then there was the regular joy and chatter of people seeing each other again, the net result of which was the session lasted somewhere in the order of 2-1/2 to 3 hours instead of 4 hours. That’s not too bad, as the group really needs time to get used to the new rules.
In that time we managed to get through the first two encounters and do some useful roleplaying in Winterhaven. I’m very fond of the set-up in Winterhaven. There’s good basic information about the important townsfolk and what they know, and a good DM will easily be able to turn that into something more. Both Josh and Sarah managed to talk to the townsfolk and learn interesting things, whilst Nate and Greg managed to band together to persuade the Lord’s guards to let them through after Sarah particularly flubbed her persuasion attempt.
In regard to the fights: hmm. I’m exceedingly fond of minions. They did their job very well, allowing the players to feel good about themselves. Unfortunately, that feeling didn’t last that long as soon there were no minions and a small number of creatures with a surprising number of hit points. Hey, I’m used to low-level humanoids going down with one hit! These guys certainly weren’t.
One of the legacies of my heavy DDM days is that I actually have enough miniatures to properly represent (or near enough) the number and types of monsters on the map. And the characters, near enough. Sure, Sarah’s tiefling was using the Inspired Lieutenant figure, but it’s such a good figure and hits the essence of her PC that it was a shame not to use it.
Oh, I love the little forest symbols on the map. Very useful.
So, the PCs entered both combat, they slew the minions, and then they got split up, each PC taking on pretty much one enemy. This is apparently not the best way of doing it in 4e: monsters really require some sustained hitting to take them down, so wolf pack tactics might not be out of line.
Josh’s dwarven fighter got into a fighter with another defender-type; they both hit each other and marked each other. This repeated quite a bit. Greg’s paladin likewise, although not quite so much. Nate, playing a Warlock, got into a shooting contest with a Controller, with Adam’s Wizard occasionally wandering by. Sarah’s Warlord (Yes, I have the three “W”s in my party, and it’s going to be confusing) began to be frustrated at how the party wasn’t staying anywhere near her and thus could use her Leader abilities effectively.
The second combat really managed to display their lack of teamwork, and my monsters took two of the PCs to 0 hit points and unconsciousness; I think Josh used 8 healing surges, during and after the fight, to recover totally. Ow. He did his job as a defender, though.
Teamwork? Oh, yes, this edition requires it massively.
Both combats lasted into their sixth round and took about an hour or so to play. I felt they were going fairly slowly, but I’m sure we’ll improve. Marking and conditions are things that I’m really going to need to improve my tracking of. For marking, I just took the viewpoint that we’ll keep hitting each other. Conditions for monsters are more of a problem. I use a scratchpad to keep track of their hp, and with more monsters on the table than in 3e (one of the things I really, really like about 4e), I need to pay more attention to which one is affected and the like. I really, really don’t want to be putting markers on the table – mainly because I can’t reach the battlemat easily. (My books are in the way).
Oh, I’d also like a new DM screen. There’s actually quite a bit of stuff I’d like reminders for (like what the common knowledge skill checks are) which would fit on there nicely.
For me, the jury’s still out on how it works mechanically. Flavour-wise, there’s a lot to like. However, the proof of this pudding will be in the playing and I haven’t done enough of that yet. There are encouraging signs, though.