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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Pixie in the Playground
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    Question DnD/DM Noob Seeking Advice.

    Okay so I am a noob, trying my hand at DMing with a bunch of other noobs. I and one of my four party members have dabbled in DnD in the past (very briefly 3.5e, then a few years break when that fell apart, then a less brief stint with 4e a couple years ago that fell apart in the end as well). The other three members of the adventuring party are completely new to DnD but intrigued.

    Basically the first time I tried to DM 4e, me and a bunch of friends who had never played DnD before all got together and tried to learn/play a game. The party was too big (6-7 adventurers + 1 DM, yikes) and 75% of the members didn't have the commitment to actually learn the mechanics or the attention span to wait for their turn. We would get together on and off for about of year, and although my players did complete one story arc it was a painful, slow learning process, and eventually it just lost steam.

    Now I, the sole survivor of that previous fiasco, and the three new players would like to try our hand at DnD again. And I could use some DM pointers myself, and some pointers to help my party.

    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?

    2) I was always unsure whether to run a homebrew adventure or a pre-made one.

    The pre-mades never really held our group's attention for long, especially since we of course started with the level 1 fare. Kobolds jump out of a bush this, kobolds that. Why? Because Kobolds. So eventually we decided to just let me try to come up with my own setting/adventure (aspiring writer, bluh bluh) and though they were far more interested in the story suddenly, I am of course a complete newb DM and had no idea what I was doing mechanics or balance-wise. Even going by monster manual and Dungeon Master's Guide guidelines I felt like most of my encounters came off too easy. And of course I sucked and need practice at dealing with improvisation. I tend to think of a story arc or story path, and gently guide my players there instead of railroad them, but when the wander off the path I just kind of freeze up and take a while to figure out what actually lies to the south of a town I've just planned out the north and east of.

    At level 1, you aren't going to be finding ridiculous magical items and as new players, my players won't be finding ingenious new ways to break the game and troll me or each other. They're still trying to get into the mindset of roleplaying in general. Thus I think its important that my players at least get an interesting story to start out their foray into DnD, because it will take some getting used to the mechanics before we can start to have fun in other ways. And like I said, story-wise, my group(s) have enjoyed my home made stuff much better than any pre-made adventure we have attempted. Game/mechanic -wise, I am not very skilled and unsure of my green DM ability to keep the game mechanically engaging.

    So like, as a newb DM with newb players should I even bother homebrewing anything, or just stick to pre-made adventures?

    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.

    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.

    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?

    4) Should I use a map and miniatures?

    We so far have been playing using a gridded map and miniatures. I can't tell whether these things are helpful or problematic to roleplay.

    On the one hand, the map+miniatures give you an exact idea of where your character is and any other creatures are in a given area. It helps you visualize combat in a way you otherwise wouldn't be able to, and gives the layout of the area outside of combat. However in some ways it can inhibit roleplay.

    Of course, if you have a bunch of goblins enter a room, but have no goblin minis, as a dumb example (I have a dozen goblin minis) then you have to just pull out a hound or something and say "oh, but this one's a goblin too." Or start whipping out pennies and other change. With large groups of enemies, or enemies that are all different kinds, it gets very distracting to have to use minis or tokens that are very clearly not the creature they are intended to represent. Further, I feel it gets my players thinking too linearly. It takes out the roleplay and inserts too much game, if you will. They don't think of creative ways to win encounters or use the environment or take non-combat actions: the second combat starts, its all about just moving their pieces so they can kill the enemy pieces. And that's what it really feels like the minis do to the game. It almost seems to me that use of miniatures takes my players out of the imaginary world their characters inhabit, and turns everything into game pieces on a game board. I'm not sure I like this, at all.

    So I have considered attempting to just nix minis completely. Maybe draw an area map, maybe not, but just carry the adventure out through verbal communication. "You enter the bar, around you are various patrons..." etc etc, without whipping out the minis and drawing a new map every time. Isn't this how DnD is sometimes, if not commonly, played? Even as recently as 3.5e? Besides, my map drawing skills are awful lol.

    I think this is the biggest problem my group faces.The combination of long combat slogs, being overwhelmed by all the game's mechanics, and focusing on where our little game pieces are on our little game board all serve to take us out of character and into "this is a game" mentality. It's a lot to deal with as a noob DM, with new players! Is there any advice you guys could offer on any of these points?

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    GAThraawn's Avatar

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    Default Re: DnD/DM Noob Seeking Advice.

    One of the things you will find as you GM is that one of the keys to success is finding your own style and one that meshes well with your players, so take all the advice you get in this thread with a grain of salt. We can tell you what works for us and our group, but not necessarily yours. That said, what can I suggest?

    Worldbuilding:
    Be clear on what your group wants. If they are all new to the game and the system, they may not know what they want, so you might want to try some different approaches, or even just sit around for a while and discuss it amongst yourselves. Some players really enjoy the tactical elements of DnD, especially as it has so many mechanics and related techniques and possibilities for leveling, comboing, etc. I've played with groups who see the "talking" parts of the game as mere bridges between epic, hour long combats, which is what they enjoy. Others, such as myself and my playgroup, enjoy the roleplaying and storytelling aspects of the game far more, to the point where we have abondoned DnD for other, more rules light systems, where tasks and combats can be resolved faster and more simply.

    It seems like from what you're said that you, as an aspiring writer, and your group, with no previous experience, are likely more interested in the creation of a story than the application of tactical, blow-by-blow fights and magical abilites. Now, I'm a biased source as I abandoned DnD a long time ago, but I've always found that its basic structure (not that you can't make fantastic adventures that don't adhere to that) revolves around going on scripted missions with liberal amounts of level-balanced combat (your typical "dungeon-crawl", if you will), and many pre-gen adventures you get will have that as an underlying formula. If you find your group enjoys that, great, you should have lots to start from and work with, but if your group found the level 1 slog of fighting Kobolds for no reason other than they were there, and livened up when you added story, I imagine that they will be invested in richer worldbuilding than that.

    Now, there's two types of larger story you can use to involve your players. One is a linear narrative you construct before hand (the typical "man approaches you with a quest"), and the other is a more open and reactive world. Both have their benefits and difficulties. A linear plot you craft, much like a story plot, can be well thought out before you ever play, which means you will have prepared what comes next for your players long before they encounter it. You will always have something for them to do, and for new players who often seem lost, it gives them a clear sense of purpose and something to strive towards. If it's thought out to give everyone some motivation for participating in the quest, and there are challenges for everyone to overcome, each player gets to feel like they contributed something and got something out of the adventure.
    However, there are drawbacks. Once, not when, your players go "off the rails", you can find yourself at a loss, with hours of carefully scripted adventure thrown out the window, and if you are not good at improvisation, things can grind to a halt. If the players don't feel invested in the story, or feel they can't contribute, or decide they would rather do something else, they can get frustrated and create tension. And the plot does come across quite clearly as something you have constructed for them to embark on, which can sometimes lead to the feeling that they are merely doing what you've already decided for them to do.

    The other option is to attempt to craft a wider world, with independant characters with personal motivations and goals and schedules. Dropping players into a world where they are free to interact with anyone and attempt to do anything can be very exciting for your players, and give them the sense that they are truly controlling their own characters. However, it can also be overwhelming for new players hoping for a sense of direction and purpose. If you want to go this route, instead of coming up with one story, create 3-4 characters with motivations that don't rely entirely on the players (a villian with his own plans, a noble who is trying to stop him, a crook with plans to take over the underworld, a farmboy with plans to kill his parent's murderer, a plot to overthrow the monarch, etc.), and perhaps a handful of ideas for quests if you need them (Farmer Edric got kidnapped by Orcs, there's something spooky being seen in the graveyard at night, the brewmaster needs a new shipment of barley that hasn't come, etc.). You can roughly frame out what your characters will be doing to one another over time, just as you might lay out the plot for a novel. Then drop your players in the middle and let them go. If they have no inclination and no direction, you have plot hooks ready to go ("help, help, won't anyone save my uncle?", a beggar stops you and asks you if you're here for the prince's tournament, someone warns you not to stay in that in, people keep going missing from it, etc.). If they find something interesting, or have a character story they want to pursue, let them go about it, and every so often update them on what else is happening around town. If you have an evil necromancer trying to raise an army of the dead and a nobleman trying to field a party of heros to stop him, don't drop that story just because the players declined his offer. Mention the parade given to the adventurers that are setting out to face a great evil, make note that the bartender's sister is looking after the inn while he's away, maybe even have them encounter a great battle as they're travelling across the land.

    Worldbuilding like this is less work than it seems, as all you have to do is brainstorm half a dozen single sentence ideas, as I did above, and think each of them through only a little. If your players follow up on one of them, you can plot it out more, but the rest can remain just ideas in the background, making the world seem much bigger, but without really taking that much work. However, if you do this, best to make it clear to your players that they don't have to do everything you mention, otherwise they might think that they're expected to follow up on each and every plot hook. If they expect to be fed a story in this manner, you might be better off just coming up with a quest for them, as above.

    Character Creation:
    When I start a new adventure, I sit all my players down together during character creation and ask them what they want to do. There's no sense in investing time and thought into a plot that they will get bored of or refuse to follow through on. If they lack ideas, I brainstorm with them, telling them what ideas I've had and seeing if they like them. Furthermore, I always make a point of tying the story I'm going to make in to their character's stories. If Bob rolls up a high-charisma rogue and starts playing right away, what's he going to do when you ask him for his action? What does he want to do? What does his character want? If all he has to go on is the knowledge that he's a rogue, the possibilities are endless, and he has no way of knowing what he wants.
    "I go and steal something, I guess?"
    But if Bob wants to roll up a rogue, and you start asking the group questions about their characters, "Who are you? What do you want out of life? What do you like, what do you hate?", he can start to have some idea of who he is. Even if he can't spontaniously create a wholly formed character, he can write down what few things come into his head.
    "I...am looking for the man who killed my father. I'm a brilliant swordsman, I like pie, and I hate mimes."
    If your players have clear character ideas, great, they get to tell you them. If not, you get something halting and awkward like that, but if you make them write it down anyway, it gives them something to work from. It can always change later when they get a better idea of who they are. At least now, when you ask Bob what he wants to do, he can say:
    "I go and ask if anyone has seen a six-fingered man. And I buy some pie."

    Equally important is to understand why the swashbuckling rogue, the Cleric who won't tell anyone who he worships and always carries a spatula, the Dwarf with a compulsive gambling problem and a kleptomanical Druid whos animal companion keeps leaving droppings everywhere are all travelling together. Because if there are any personality conflicts (and there will be), they need some reason to not just go their seperate ways. Before you start plotting an adventure, make everyone tell you something their character wants to accomplish, and talk about what you could all be doing and why you'd be doing it together. If you all just want to meet for the first time in an inn so you can take a quest from a hooded figure, that's fine, but talk with your players and at least get an "okay, fine, whatever, I don't know." before they start bickering and trying to kill each other.

    You should find that even if the players don't have a clear idea on what they want to do, they can come up with a rough idea in broad strokes, and may even be able to play off each other to craft a description of the adventure they want. If they got together to agree on an adventure, they should be much more invested in following through on it, even if it's as simple as "You like treasure? I love treasure! You know what has treasure? A dragon! We should totally all go and kill a dragon, and then keep its treasure! That would be cool!"
    I have never regretted getting my player's input on what kind of adventure they wanted, and on weaving their character's motivations into the story.


    Whew! So, that's what I'd suggest before you get started. I'm going to do another post on other topics, as this got kinda long.
    Thrawn avatar by Oregano, Isard avatar by Introbulus.
    Quote Originally Posted by Mando Knight View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Noedig View Post
    Sounds good. And I wish you the best. Only heed this advice: No plan survives first contact with the enemy.
    Unless you're Thrawn, in which case no enemy survives first contact with the Plan.

  3. - Top - End - #3
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    Kurald Galain's Avatar

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    Default Re: DnD/DM Noob Seeking Advice.

    In short...

    (1) Combat in 4E is slow, yes. Expect an average fight of 5 players against 5 monsters to take between one and two hours. It does help, of course, if the players know what their powers do and have their sheet handy.

    (2) You'll really have to answer that for yourself.

    (3) That depends. If your players aren't interested in the world, there's some good advice for that in the DMG. On the other hand, if your players think the rules are too complex, they should try a more simple and rules-light RPG (there's numerous RPGs on the web with less than a dozen pages total in the rulebook and with faster combat).

    (4) In 4E? Yes, the game assumes and requires it, but only when you're doing combat. If the PCs are sitting in a bar, you don't need a map.
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  4. - Top - End - #4
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    GAThraawn's Avatar

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    Default Re: DnD/DM Noob Seeking Advice.

    Improvising:
    No matter how tight or how broad your preparation, your players are going to surprise you. You know it's going to happen. So don't worry when it does, and if improvisation is not your forte and you need to ask for a quick snack break while you figure things out, feel free. I've often found my players get sort of perversly proud when they do something I didn't anticipate and force me to make things up on the fly. A good tool for helping yourself with that would be to take a piece of paper and write half a dozen different items in a bunch of categories (land features, people you'd meet in a city, combat encounters, reasons so-and-so isn't home right now, and won't be til next year, etc.), so that if things go pearshaped mid-game, and any of those categories are remotely relevant, you can pick one or roll a die and have at least some idea of where to go from there. (South of the town is...a bear cave! The hooded figure is...Old man Wilkins! The Wizards' guild is currently...all chickens...terrible tragedy, that...)
    A good rule of thumb with regards to mechanics that you can't remember is that if you can't find it in the book after a minute or two, make up a rule that seem reasonable and play with that. If you find it later, you can amend it, but try and get your players to agree before hand that they'd rather play for two hours with the wrong rules than for twenty minutes with the right ones. Also, getting sticky notes or bookmarks and putting them in often-referred-to sections of the rulebook is a good idea. Lastly, make players responsible for knowing their abilities, and hold them to the same time rule. Thumbing open the book to the marked page to check how many dice you roll is fine, fumbling around for several minutes trying to remember which chapter it's in isn't, and should cause you to, after a fair warning, either forfeit your turn or use a different ability.

    Honestly, the amount of time necessary to resolve combat and handle intricate abilities and rules interactions is one of the reasons I gave up on DnD, so just remember that there are other systems that are less complex that can still let you roleplay as wizards and paladins. Just a thought.


    Roleplaying:
    If you are finding that your players seem lost in all things and are always looking to you for guidance, pick something that you feel is the most important for them to improve upon, and cut them some slack with the other stuff. DnD is complicated, and the freedom that comes with an RPG can be overwhelming if you don't know what to do. The fact that they're there shows that they're interested, but they are probably overwhelmed with choice. If you want them to get better with the rules, lend them your books, ask them to go over the rules, and then run some practices with them so they can get better (dream sequences for combat, or short, simple quests that drawn on various mechanics). If you want to encourage them to go exploring this wide new world, focus on their options and give them a hand when they need it to figure out the mechanics. They'll never get invested if they feel like they aren't doing anything right.

    I said above that I think character motivation is important in character creation, and I don't think it's something that should be skipped over. If someone has no ideas, brainstorm with them, make suggestions and encourage them to come up with their own until something sticks. Don't worry if you get mostly unimaginitive steriotype, people often fall back on archetypes they know well when they don't know what else to do, and it's a stepping stone. Let them explore your world, but feel free to give them direction if they need it. As both an actor and a writer, I can say that being creative is a lot easier when you have some restrictions in place, and your players may find it easier to be creative in the way that they sneak past the guards to rescue the princess than to simply be interesting without any goal.
    I've often found a good way to inspire my players to be creative is to present them with an obstacle between them and their goal that I haven't bothered to think of a solution to. I'm just careful to not outline it in too much detail, and then I allow my players to create the solutions themselves ("How high is the wall, can I jump it? Is there anything nearby to climb? Are there small cracks in the wall I can use to scale it? Could I jump across from the nearby building?" "Uh...yes, you do notice small cracks now that you look closely, and it does occur to you that the nearby building has stair you could climb."). Of course, if you just made up a problem for them, you need to let one of their solutions work, or be able to come up with some other way for them to succeed.

    I don't usually talk in character for all my NPCs, as I find it gets wearing and I stumble over what I'm trying to say, but I will jump in from time to time and address players directly, in character, to try to draw them in when they're describing their actions in broad terms. ("I ask the barkeep if he knows about dragons." "Oh, Dreggens, yeh say? Now whit would a good-likken fellah lik yersel be wenten with Dreggens, I wonder? Eh? Whit do yeh say, boy?") Expecting most players to keep up in character dialogue all the time is, in my experience, asking too much, but drawing them into it at good moments can enhance their involvement. Likewise, if they say "I pick the lock. Does it work?", you can either take the time to do a detailed description of the woodwork and the lock and the feel of the tumblers, with a prompt for them to narrate more, or you can just ask them to describe in more detail what they are doing, which is especially relevant in situations where other people might be watching them. Again, doing this too much will wear your players out, but demonstrating some good descriptions and them prompting them to provide their own ought to drawn them in more.
    Lastly, some players are taciturn and neither well suited nor inclined to giving detailed or creative descriptions, even if they are otherwise having a ball, and you may have to resign yourself to having a player or two who simply won't engage quite as much. As long as you are both able to have fun.

    There is also the mechanic of plot points, which you can steal from the other systems that use them. You can implement them how you like, but they are basically points that are awarded by the GM for good roleplaying, clever or inventive thinking or other actions deemed meritous, that can be cashed in to reroll dice or to subtly tweak the story ("No, I totally remembered to bring that seemingly useless scrap of paper." "Nope, definitely prepared Explosive Runes today. Yup." "Why, I recognize that fellow, he's my brother-in-law!"), of course such tweaks are subject to the GM's discretion and can cost many points, depending on the tweak. I also usually represent them with actualy sweeties, and thus allow my players to eat their earned plot points.


    On the subject of maps, I find they usually take some time and all of the group's attention to draw, so I only bother with them for locations that are both important and potentially ambiguous. A narrow tavern or the throne room ought to be easy enough for people to envision, so don't waste the time, just go with a good description. A chase through a crowded warehouse with a maze of heavy boxes, however, may require a diagram so as to avoid confusion. Likewise, miniatures are cool if you have them, but hardly necessary, and I usually just sketch the enemies onto a map if I'm drawing one, and again only if I feel a map is needed. Usually, most combat is linear enough that it is straightforward, or sprawled enough that it is hard to draw anyway.


    Hope some of that was helpful advice, and that you were able to make it through it all. Let me know if there's anything else I can say, or if any of this ends up being of any use to you.
    Thrawn avatar by Oregano, Isard avatar by Introbulus.
    Quote Originally Posted by Mando Knight View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Noedig View Post
    Sounds good. And I wish you the best. Only heed this advice: No plan survives first contact with the enemy.
    Unless you're Thrawn, in which case no enemy survives first contact with the Plan.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    ClericGuy

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    Default Re: DnD/DM Noob Seeking Advice.

    The bulk of combat (in my experience) is spent letting players make decisions. Monsters have a relatively simple "sheet" (barring Solo monsters), so they're easy to run. The problem is that players are often overwhelmed by their choices. I would recommend running the game straight until you're comfortable with its benefits/flaws, but here are some options (note: talk to your players beforehand about these, so they're on the same page), and don't try all of these at once:

    DM Side:

    1) Halve monster HP, double monster damage. This will ensure that fights are over quickly. This makes combat a lot swingier, but the players should be able to handle it nonetheless. Doubling minion damage makes them slightly more threatening too!

    2) End combat once it's assured that the PCs have "won". You'll get to situations where there are one or two non-elite monsters left who are bloodied. Or maybe the PC hits the monster and brings him to 3 hit points. Just end combat earlier! The monsters surrender, or you declare them "dead" despite having a handful of hps left.

    3) Standardize Initiative. Have everyone sit in accordance to their initiative "bonus", with the players with the highest initiative sitting to the left of the DM. When combat starts, that player and the DM roll off to see who goes first, turns proceeding in clockwise order. This cuts down on "whose turn is it?" a bit.

    Player side:

    1) Avoid situational math. There is a lot of fiddly bits in regards to 4e math; players can pick up feats and magical items that give them bonuses in very specific situations (i.e. "Add your Con bonus if you knock the target prone", "+1 to defenses if you teleport more than 3 squares" etc.). These bonuses can slow the game down, either as players try and add them up, or as players remember after the fact that a bonus should have applied. Encourage your players to take feats and make items that offer a relatively static bonus that they can account for easily.

    2) Have your power picked before your turn comes up. It's easy to sit back and watch other people toss dice, but that's a lot of time you could use to be ready to act when your turn comes up again. Granted, things change, but for every time some monsters burst in from behind and flank you, there will be other times where you successfully predict what will happen. In those times, you'll be ready to roll some dice.

    Play an Essentials character. The Essential's characters are (generally) a lot less complicated than their original counterparts. Especially if a player is new, I would recommend trying an "essentials" version first, and if they want something more complicated, let them switch to a "non-essentials" version if one is available.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Re: DnD/DM Noob Seeking Advice.

    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.

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: DnD/DM Noob Seeking Advice.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheZoobler View Post
    ...

    1) Combat seems very slow paced.

    ...

    2) I was always unsure whether to run a homebrew adventure or a pre-made one.

    ...

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

    ...
    1.) The slow pacing of combat comes inherently with 4e's plethora of abilities it gives it's characters, even at first level. I've been there too, with the starting of the adventures, first level characters, and not a single soul knowing what they are doing, the group may seen exceedingly slow. There are a few things you can do to fix this.

    - Hang in there. Once your players get the hang of their characters, combat will flow easier. The difference in the speed of combat from first and sixth level are like night and day. If you need something to help keep track of monster HP, powers they've used, or otherwise, there is a large market of DM apps that can actually control initiative for you. You could also try to ask your players to plan their move before their turn actually turns around.

    - Start the adrenaline flowing. Nothing is as gripping as when their characters are actually in danger. I may be exaggerating a little, but if the party has proven that they can handle 5 kobolds, why not see if they can handle 8. Slowly scale your difficulty up to the point that the players are actually evenly matched. Design monsters to directly oppose some common tactics of your players to force them to think outside the box. Place environmental factors that both hinder the party if they aren't creative and are extremely helpful if they can make use of it. (pools of greek fire or oil are good for this.) Just make sure that the combat poses an actual threat. If one of your players is not knocked unconscious by the end of a boss fight, you may be going too soft. (warning, this isn't for everyone. Some players may dislike the extra threat from this in the same way that most people avoid skydiving even though others have done it before.

    2.) It depends on what type of creative you are. I, personally, would be bored out of my mind with pretty much every premade campaign setting out there (with Dark Sun as a possible exception). Others prefer having the concrete rules about the mechanics of magic and the way society works to make a story around that. You say that most premade adventurere leave your players bored, so I recommend building your own story, and then the dungeons and combats to further the story.

    - Building a world is a lot of work. Imagine typing up the entirety of the Forgotten Realms campaign setting without the book next to you, while listening to Nyan cat. It simply can't all be done in one sitting. Pace yourself. Once a week write a little something about your campaign world. For a basic template I suggest reading the worldbuilding articles on this very site. (look to your left)

    - Give your world a twist. Why bother creating a world where all the rules in the book apply, when there are already so many of them? Perhaps the greatest power in the world stems from martial strength, not from magic, and those who practice magic are persecuted. Perhaps the world is long past the developmental point of Ebberon and have essentially coated the surface in magic-punk themed cities inhabited by Warforged. Perhaps the world is new, and your party and eight other people in a village nestled at the base of a mountain are all that exists in the known world. When you make something new for the players to play in, they can influence the world as much as you can, and players like that.

    3.) Have you ever participated in a LARP or historical reenactment? As much as they are hated a good selection of people, the way they tell their story is unsurpassed. It's many times more engaging to be out in the world, experiencing the fatigue and exhaustion of traveling the wilderness, and actually fearing the "orc" that is chasing you with a massive wooden axe. Don't take this the wrong way, I'm not telling you to turn your game into a LARP. I'm telling you to follow that example and make your story so realistic and engaging that you weave a thick matrix of intricacy that your players believe that they aren't just watching a fantasy film unfold, they are part of it.

    - Use the player's senses to your advantage. Play to their sense of smell, taste, touch, and hearing. Instead of saying;
    "You are suddenly confronted by a large ogre, who angrily snarls as it attacks."

    say;

    "You suddenly find yourselves gazing upon the coarse hairy leg of a massive green ogre. A trickle of spittle drips to the floor before you out of it's mouth as it releases a low snarl into the echoing cavern. Almost as soon as you see it, the great lumbering mass of toned green flesh begins to thunder toward you. It's charging!

    By using sensory words like these, the players find it easier to visualize the ogre, instead of having to visualize it for themselves.

    - On the topic of playing to their senses, why not actually play to their literal senses through the use of props. Why simply describe the contents of a letter when you can easily print out the contents onto brown recycled paper in a script font, and burn the edges to give the players an actual sheet of paper they can examine for clues? Use thematic music to set the tone of an area. It's a big fight, so go ahead and play some dramatic combat music from your favorite movies. A good selection of music can be found in the Official D&D Soundtrack, by Midnight Syndicate. Don't forget to use other senses too. Samples of leather or sandpaper can help a player feel the texture of a monster's skin. You can find plenty of halloween scented candles which appeal to the many odors found in a dungeon. Samples of food such as frozen Alaskan fish, portobello mushroom caps, or roasted pork can put a sense of taste to your game.

    - And on a final note of getting your players involved, it's not a bad idea to let them put their ideas into the story. If you originally designed your game as an Indiana Jones'esque jungle explorer feel, and two of your players make criminals from the undercity, they're telling you they want a game based in a city full of crime, and it wouldn't be a bad idea to play to that instead, as long as your other players are okay with that. When your players are the axel that drives the wheel of the campaign instead of the pebble that gets picked up and pulled along with the wheel, then they are bound to be involved.

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    NecromancerGuy

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    Default Re: DnD/DM Noob Seeking Advice.

    As a fellow D&D noob, I'll give four tips that should help-
    1. As others have said, don't bother with maps unless for combat. Even then, an A4 sheet of drawn on squares is good enough. Well, maybe more than one will work better. For minitures, cuting out circles of card might work as additional troops. My DMs got all these cardboard circles that I think came with the monster vault, which are pretty easy to use except you can never find the ones you want.
    2. Don't be afraid to create your own stuff, just check it carefully against existing monsters. It might go horribly wrong, but it should help you understand the rules a bit better (and maybe saveyourself some money)
    3. To make powers easier, use something like this: http://www.dragonavenue.com/download...wers_Sheet.pdf
    It should mean the players write down everything they can use on a few sheets of paper and won't have to look it up, hopefully encouraging them to unleash some real might on their enemies. There's barely any space on the actual character sheets.
    4. I had this interesting (here meaning unproven, theoretical) idea to make character creation with regards to roleplaying much easier and automatic.
    What you do is get players to write down their parents, maybe any other family, their hometown/city/village or at least something vague about where they come from and their motivation (why are they adventuring ect?). You might think of some other stuff.
    My theory is it should get them thinking about their characters as people, and while you're not forcing them to do much they may work out more character details as they think about it.
    Also, you know some names if you want to do something more personal to a character, eg they have to save their hometown or rescue their brother. That would be a fun adventure!
    Roleplaying for the inexperianced!

    Anyway, the rest of the people here know what they're talking about. You'll be fine.
    Last edited by angroy; 2012-09-22 at 01:22 PM.
    I haven't really played much D&D, but I'd love to, it's just I don't have the time and friends required. Wait, that sound more pathetic than I intended.

  9. - Top - End - #9
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    Default Re: DnD/DM Noob Seeking Advice.

    If you're looking for cheap miniatures, go to http://iheartprintandplay.blogspot.com/. There are some great printable ones.

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