The Razor's Edge
I’ll be the first to admit it, I haven’t DMd in many many years, and back then I was young and didn’t know what the heck I was doing. I plan to be quite a bit better now, but it will still be a learning experience for me. The good thing is I plan on having a lot of player input into the campaign. The “game” will be less of me detailing everything and more of “us” doing a collaborative story with fun interactions, DC checks, and combat. That’s my plan. If this doesn’t sound appealing to you guys and you want just a hack-n-slash, then it won’t be a good fit.
I’m completely new to 4e – I do have the 3 core books ( PHB1, DMG1, and MM1 ) and have read/skimmed them and have a decent handle on the system. There’s a lot for me to learn, though. As we go, we’ll learn more things about the whole system but we’re not going to get bogged down by ignorance. If we don’t know something, we’ll make up the ruling then go on. Someone will dig deeper later and figure out what should have happened and we’ll apply that the next time the same situation comes up.
Character creation: I’m going to be slightly-restrictive on character races / classes. I’d like to get the campaign going with some familiar things to make it easier to get a smooth beginning. I do ask if you do something outside of the PHB1 that you make sure I know well before we play so I can become learned on what you’re running. Also, please don’t go crazy. Maybe later we can deal with half-giant sorcerers, but not at first.
One of my pet-peeves is Min/Maxxing. From what I’ve seen, Min/Maxxing is even less needed in 4th edition since characters are so danged powerful even at first level. Characters are going to be created using the point buy system – 22 points. BUT! As an incentive to not Min/Max, you can do a 25 point character if none of your attributes are over 18 after all modifications ( race, etc. ).
‘The World’: I was going to run a pre-made at first to get into the swing of things, but now I’m leaning towards not doing a module. This means more work for me ( and you guys, since you’re also co-storytellers ), but I think it will be better in the end. Maybe. We’ll see. It’s still up in the air. Regardless, I will be using the maps from Greyhawk for the setting. Although the locations will be from the Greyhawk map, it’s not going to be “in Greyhawk”. What that means is although you may travel to Estgant in the Barony of Riverwatch, it won’t be the Estgant from the original Greyhawk lore.
Role-Playing: This will be a campaign with RP in it. That doesn’t mean throwing “thee” and “thou” in every sentence – what it means to me is when you’re playing, you’re in character. You talk as if it’s your character talking, you interact with the PCs and NPCs as if you are your character, etc. If you’re uncomfortable with this, then you may not enjoy the campaign because I will be expecting it. There will always be out of character interactions, but the idea is to keep them to a minimum. There’s no one more worried about looking weird for playing in character than I am, but I’m going to force myself past it. I’m all about joking around now and then since I’m rarely a serious person, but I really want the game to be the focus with distractions here and there. From what I’ve seen in the past, the distractions take up most of the game and the actual gaming is the exception to the rule. I don’t want to do a 6-hour session and at the end realize that all we did is talk about music, board games, and beer. Those are all 3 things I really like, but I can talk about those things anytime whereas getting people together to game only happens now and then so let’s use the time wisely.
I thought about giving bonus EXP to players who stay in character more or who pull off great role-playing moments, but while that may make that one player happy, it will just breed unhappiness in the other players. What I think I will do is do it as a group – if the group as a whole does a good job RPing then I will probably give out bonuses such as maybe +1 to hit throughout a whole encounter, bonus EXP, or even maybe bonus treasure. I’ll think of something.
Flaking: The RPG community calls it flaking when you start missing gaming sessions, usually for no good reason other than you really don’t want to play that night. I’m obviously not going to like people flaking nor are the other members of the group so let’s try to minimize it. Real Life always comes first, but if there’s something that keeps you from making the game, please let everyone know ahead of time. The one adage I subscribe to is “Communication is the single-most important thing in any relationship.” It doesn’t matter if it’s a work relationship, a spousal relationship, or friends. Communication is key. Also, if you don’t like how the gaming is going for any reason, let’s chat about it and see what we can do to make it better. Again, that communication thing. I’d rather change up how the game is run than to lose someone who could potentially be having a good time if things were tweaked just a little.
Combat: When I used to play D&D, it was all about combat. We never really did any RP at all. I lived it, breathed it, etc., knew every monster, their stats, every THAC0 and Saving Throw table by heart. You could name a monster and I could tell you what else was on that page in the MM or on the opposing page. I was a munchkin king! And really, it could have been a lot more fun. That aside, combat is fun! 4e has a lot of interesting feats, skills, abilities, etc. that make combat more of a tactical scenario then it used to be back in the AD&D days. If there’s a big problem with combat in 4e, it’s that it takes a long time to get through. There have been many ways to speed up combat, including tweaks to the system. I think the #1 thing to speed up combat is preparedness. I’d read about and heard about ( via podcasts ) how combat was very slow if the players didn’t put forth the effort to NOT make it slow. In the game I played in last week, it was my first time ever playing 4e. I quickly printed out a mostly-randomly-generated character from the Character Builder and showed up at the game. They were just starting combat and I was near last in initiative which give me time to look at my abilities, etc. When it got to me, I had already looked around to determine as best as I could what I wanted to do and was fairly prepared for it and my turn went very quickly each time. I think if everyone ( including me, the DM ) thinks about what they
probably want to do on their turn ahead of time, combat time can be cut down a bit.
Strategy in Combat: Firstly, we’re going to be starting at 1st level. That means your character has some training in their skills but probably doesn’t have a ton of experience in
real combat. The natural thing to do as players is to talk to each other ( typically out of character ) and determine together what each of you should do. I would really like this to be kept to a minimum, especially at first. Your character is semi-new so it’s ok if you the player aren’t real sure what the best and most tactically sound action would be for you to do. If you do want to ask someone in the party what you should do, ask it in character and keep it very brief – remember, you’re in combat! If you take too long, it may burn a minor action or the like. The more you play, the better you’ll understand your party members’ abilities and you’ll be better at making decisions to complement each other. Just as your characters will get more “experience”, you will, too.
There may actually be times where your character’s turn is timed! This would be a rare thing and make sense in the scheme of things ( such as a ceiling slowly descending to crush you guys ), but keep it in mind. If you spend your time asking someone something, then that will be your turn.
After a combat is over, we can take time to discuss what may have been better choices in difference situations. When we first start, there will be lots to learn so let’s just do our best in the combat and then figure out later how to do better then next time. Assuming you’re still alive…. Muhahahahahaha… Uh, sorry. Just kidding. I’ll be willing at almost any time to take a break from the in-character happenings to discuss rules, abilities, system-mechanics, etc. I would prefer this not to be during combat, though. Try to get a grip on what your character’s abilities, feats, skills and so forth are before we game so we don’t have to do that as much during the game.
Rules in General: Sometimes, the rules will be bent or possibly even broken. If so, it will be by design and not because I want to screw you guys over. If for some odd reason a combat encounter starts and I say “Oh, by the way, no encounter powers can be used in this encounter and shifting DOES incur an attack of opportunity.” just go with it. There’s a good chance you’ll know why the rules have changed by the end of the combat or sometime thereafter. Then again, maybe you won’t. My goal will never to be killing the players or making them mad and I’m not a vindictive DM.
More on Characters: Your character will have a history and you’ll provide that to me. I won’t share it with the other players, but you can share as much as makes sense with them before the gaming starts and then let the rest unfold in game as you please. The more you provide me about your character’s history, the better. We’ll try to work in story hooks around your characters and their pasts.
- Where your character is originally from and where they grew up.
- Any mundane skills your character has, such as experience as a blacksmith’s apprentice.
- Who your parents are/were. This includes names and professions if that applies, along with where they are/were from. If you go with the “Don’t know” route, then I want to know why your character doesn’t know. There has to be a reason!
- At least 4 important people in your character’s life. A minimum of 2 of them will be people your character likes/liked.
- At least 1 person in your character’s past that you would consider an enemy or at minimum, someone you just don’t like. This person can be one of the 4 above. The more information on this person, the better.
- A description of an exciting thing that has happened in your character’s life. Exciting doesn’t have to mean good. The end result of that exciting thing may have been the death of a friend or the reason your character limps, etc.
- If we have 4 players, then your character should have at least some sort of tie with another character in the party. You could be siblings, or you may have shot in the same archery tournament years ago. Anything ( almost ) is fine. If we have 5 players, then having another tie with someone else would be good, but not required. If you really feel the need to play the cliche’d loner ranger that never comes in contact with anyone so you don’t have any ties, we’ll talk about it and make it work.
I encourage you to make your character with some interesting traits. Maybe your character has 6 toes on his/her left foot or is completely hairless. Who knows? Imagination w/o going overboard is a good thing!
You’ll need to make your history exist in Greyhawk somewhere. I’ll be providing maps of the local area so you can use that to help if you need it.
The stuff above is the minimum of what I want as far as your character’s history is concerned. Feel free to go even further with it. This is your chance to help set the stage for the story.
Meta-gaming = bad! Really keep the meta-gaming to a tiny minimum. You may know that your fighting a Kobold and it has X hit dice and Power N, but does your character know that? Stay within your character’s knowledgebase as well as you can. I’ll give out friendly reminders if players start meta-gaming.
Rules Lawyering: Mistakes will be made and I’m willing to bet I will make more than any other person. We’ll get past them and just make sure we do it right the next time. I don’t want to stop the game and look up things every five minutes then debate the semantics of something for 15 minutes. If getting something perfect the first time around is more important to someone then having fun
trying to get it right, then that person probably doesn’t want to play in our game. If someone dies or something real unfortunate happens because I blew a call on a ruling, then we’ll turn it into a role-playing opportunity and make a good story out of it! Again, I’m not going to screw anyone over, and if I do on accident because I mess up, I’ll make up for it as best as I can.
FUN FUN FUN! This has to be fun. If it’s not fun for someone, then let’s figure out why and get it fixed. Maybe it can’t be fixed, but we won’t know until we talk about it and try to fix it. If you’ve read this whole email and you’re scared that I’m some tyrant that has to have things my way, well, you’re right. Ok, maybe not, I’m kidding. A little. Maybe. I’m just trying to lay down some expectations before we play so everyone knows what the game is about. I’d also like to hear about your expectations. Again, this is going to be OUR world, not MINE that you’re dyin… uh, playing in! I want every session to end with everyone unhappy that it’s time to stop because we’re having so much fun. That’s a lofty goal, but hey, at least it’s a goal.
Technology: I do plan on having some part of our campaign online. Not the playing part, but maybe a Wiki and character blogs along with a forum for us to keep in touch out of game w/o having to email each other. I kinda know what I’m looking for in this regard, I just having chosen where it’s going to be hosted, yet.