Quote Originally Posted by TheZoobler View Post
1) Combat seems very slow paced.

It would take quite a few rounds, with good rolls, to eliminate what should be easy enemies. This probably had a lot to do with the fact that people didn't pay attention or learn their character's abilities very well, but it seemed like even a fight against four or five level 1 kobolds could take ages to complete. Only to be met by more kobolds around the bend. Do DMs often run into this problem, or do my players just need to waste less time maneuvering around and looking up the power they just used five minutes ago to just hit the darn things?
This is a common problem with 4e, here are a couple quick tips I do in combat to help:
  • Avoid soldiers and too many controllers when building encounters. Also, use the Monster Manual 3 (MM3) and Monster Vault (MV) values for monster HP, attacks and defenses. Early material and soldiers in general had too much HP, defenses and low threat which bogs down combat.
  • More than 1 controller in an encounter and your PC's may end up losing a lot of their turns slowing down the combat.
  • Generally the PC's should hit between 7-13 on a d20 roll. If the PCs are not, lower the monster defenses right there during combat and maybe give an ingame reason why like the goblin dropped his shield or his armour got damaged; the beetles shell cracked; orc flies into a rage.
  • If the battle is a sure fire win for the PC's, find a way to hasten it. An example I can give is my party was fighting a beholder with an insane babbling wizard. The fight was very close to a TPK at one point but they got the beholder down and the wizard wasnt much of a threat without the beholder meaning the fight was over expect for 4 rounds of combat when the PCs have no risk of dying. I had the wizard kill herself by jumping off the tower after the loss of the beholder which it was attached to.
  • Intelligent monsters have no reason to die meaninglessly and often run when they know they are going to lose the fight. If you kill the goblin boss, the rest of the weaker goblins who were kept in line with fear run.
  • Minions are great to give combat a bloody and epic feel without being complicated to run and they die easy. I often throw in extra minions, in waves, at the PCs for them to kill.

2) I was always unsure whether to run a homebrew adventure or a pre-made one.[...]So like, as a newb DM with newb players should I even bother homebrewing anything, or just stick to pre-made adventures?
This is totally up to you but I would not discount pre-made adventures all together, they can be a great source of material such as maps, tips, monsters and individual encounters that may be useful in your homebrew. Homebrewing a game where the PC's are going to take down a Vampire and you need a torture room: the first module H1 Shadowfell Keep has a decent one you can use, just rename and maybe refluff the monsters.

3) How can I help my players get into the game?

My friends/players are all interested in DnD, but have a hard time wrapping their heads around it. I own a few 4e books (three core books, then player's handbook 2 and 3) myself and no one else in my group does. I'm sure they have the spare cash to cough up for their own player's handbooks, but they aren't sure they want to pick one up if they don't even know what they think of the game yet.
My players make their characters using my DDI subscription to make their characters and one or two of them have the rules compendium. This is all they really need to play. The online character builder pretty much gives you everything you need to play your character, plus maybe a couple notes on features that are not well defined, and the rules compendium book gives the rest in one small neat package they can bring with them. This works well for my group.

However, from my brief experience as a DM and newb DnDer and veteran DnD anecdotes, I think that they kind of need to show their own initiative for an adventure to be fun. They need to make their own characters instead of having me guide them through it, they need their own books to figure out the mechanics, they need to think of their own unique ways to solve problems and act in the game world instead of just the most obvious path all the time. No one is really inventive when it comes to the actions they can take, their character's personality and story, or use of the game mechanics. There's this whole big open gaming experience and I feel like sometimes they don't even know where to start.
This varies from group to group; here is what happens in mine:
G. is brand new to DnD but a life long gamer (video games only) and asked me to make him a character, he just provided the idea, an elf beast master ranger (he asked for a WoW elf hunter). Everytime we level up, I do it for him and provide the character sheet. He is invested and plays his character as quick and efficiently as the rest.
My fiance is very new to DnD and new to RPGs of any kind. I help her make her character and the two of us sit down and go through the race, class and powers. I steer her towards essentials characters as they have less to remember. She is the slowest at the table when it comes to her turn but is our strongest role player.
D. is the most experienced DnD of all of us, including me, and he makes his character and has his own books. He is a good role player and is quick at the table.
M. has the same experience level as me and also makes his own character but uses my material.

In our group we have the DM and one player who owns any amount of books/material.

They don't think enough about their character motivations, they don't know where to go unless I gently hint at treasure this way or story that, and they don't know how to roll their own characters really fully or understand the game mechanics, and they kind of look to me for guidance in all of it. How can I help them not be so noob at tabletop games when I am barely more than a noob myself, and what are some good ways to entice them to better roleplay and to really figure out the mechanics for themselves, instead of them just describing an action they want to take and leaving it to me to crunch the numbers and figure out how it all works?
Motivations take time to develop and when I play, it takes about 4 sessions for me to understand my character, who he is and what he wants. I find that if I come to the table with a character all figured out, often it doesnt mesh well with the other PC's and the effort is wasted. I like to start with maybe 1 strong feature when I make a character and roleplay that; after a couple sessions I can see how the game is going, what the other PC's are like and get a better idea of his motivations.

4) Should I use a map and miniatures?
I use tokens for combat only. If they are going around town, plop a drawing of the town on the table and let the players point at where they are going and who they are going to talk to. No need to draw the mayors mansion and put down minis so they can roleplay a conversation to get a quest to kill orcs or deliver a package. When the players are exploring a dungeon, I like to either draw it out on a dry erase battle mat or lay tiles down as they explore, without minis. Once combat starts then I have the place their minis according to how they were describing their exploration.

When you draw a map, use tiles or even a premade map, I like to describe the features and if possible attribute some to individual party members. "Exiting the tunnel you enter a large cavern dimly lit by a brazier." point it out. "Near the brazier is a table with a small statue. From Bill's training as a cleric, he recognizes it has the symbol of Ioun on it." Pointing at some difficult terrain "To the south lies rubble and our dwarf John with his training in Dungeoneering notices that this is from a recent cave in. He also sees that there are more loose stones above it." Pointing in the corner "the ever watchful rogue Jill notices something sparkling in the darkness". Now the players have something that gives the room meaning to them.

The best way I find to get and keep the players engaged is to reward good gaming, whether its roleplaying or rollplaying. If they roleplay a discussion with an NPC really well and come up with something thats cool or really makes sense ingame nothing says you cant let them auto succeed. During combat, if a PC does a cool interaction with the environment/monsters, you can give them a + on the attack roll and/or extra damage.