First 4e session

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.


  1. keterys

    I was doing fine with tracking marks until I acquired a warlock, and she’s cursing 0-2 people every round. That really threw things off. I haven’t been too happy with how fast certain players are taking their actions – others seem fine, but some people it’s like ‘Oh, it’s my turn? Well, let’s see, I have 5 power options and 3 possible opponents so I guess…’ and a minute later maybe they’re set, but with 2 or 3 times as many rounds of combat that really starts to add up. Especially when just doing an at-will quickly is a perfectly fine action to take and will keep the pace going better.

    Not sure what I want to do about that yet.


    • merricb

      Warlock’s Curse didn’t bother me that much because it didn’t affect their actions at all – it wasn’t a mark. Marks are trickier, because they *do* affect what they do.


      • keterys

        True – but she’s tossing little colored rings we use for conditions on everything to track it, which is new and definitely silly looking. I agree that from a DM perspective only the mark actually matters. I’ve been okay for that so far, but I only have one defender, not two.


      • asmor

        Since a warlock’s curse is essentially permanent (unless it gets overwritten by another warlock), why not just keep track of what’s cursed in the same spot you’re keeping track of HP? Of course, not practical for minions…


      • keterys

        I think it’s so she can keep track, for targeting purposes and when to claim her temp hp. If it’s on my hp notes, I’ll know but frankly I don’t care. Barring a few exceptions I doubt I’d care if we just assumed she’d cursed everything she fights. I know I considered just making the curse like an ‘aura 5’ so anything that died within 5 squares she could just claim and apply her damage to.


      • asmor

        That’s actually a pretty cool idea. Changes the curse functionally, but in both good and bad ways, mechanically. The flavor seems different too, implying almost that the warlock is sucking the souls of those who die around her.


  2. asmor

    I usually leave it up to the PCs to remind me who they’ve got marked.

    For keeping track of conditions, I use IceHouse pieces. For example, if something’s on fire I’ll stick a red piece next to it, if it’s got acid from an acid arrow it’s got a green piece, dazed might be purple or whatever I’ve got handy, etc.


  3. charlesatan

    Alas, for keeping track of marked targets, I resorted to cheap red poker chips (the blue ones became action points and white ones became healing surges).

    Keeping track of non-minion monsters was also a bit of a hassle so you might want to use either unique, identifiable minis for them (i.e. when you have a bunch of goblins, you start using Snig the Axe, Goblin Sneak, etc. without repeating).


  4. botrytis

    “Both combats lasted into their sixth round and took about an hour or so to play.”

    Once you get to know the rules better, do you see the time per round reducing?

    One of the problems my group has is that we have limited time to play (about two hours) and combats that occur in the latter half of that can be problematic for us – leading to several games where we’ve frozen the game (recording locations on the battlemat) and resuming the week after. I’d been hoping that 4E might see speedier combats…


  5. tallarn

    When it comes to players marking things, I’m going to insist that the players are the ones who remember it. This will also go for ongoing damage (eg – the wizard sets someone on fire, the wizard has to remember it!)

    I think it’ll take a bit of getting used to, but it should really help. I’m also planning on asking them to roll attack and damage together – I’ve DM’d and played the starter adventure (Into the Shadowhaunt) twice over the weekend and found that everything went very smoothly.


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