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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    ElfPirate

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    Default DMing for the first time, and for newbs. What do I need to know?

    My dad and my sister have been playing Divinity: Original Sin 2 (which I highly recommend as a D&D-like video game), and I was thinking of introducing them to actual D&D by running a campaign for them. 4E seems like the best bet, because I don't think they'd be into the character creation that's the highlight of 3.5, I'll be able to help them build characters so the 'easy to learn'-ness of 5E isn't a necessity, and 4E is my favorite edition when it comes to moment-to-moment gameplay. Also, I've heard that it's by far the easiest edition to DM, so my relatively limited experience as a DM (mostly in 5e) won't be such a disadvantage.

    What would be a good starting module for newcomers? Any books, classes, or rules I should be especially aware of? Anything else I'm missing/that would be good to know?
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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    ThePurple's Avatar

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    Default Re: DMing for the first time, and for newbs. What do I need to know?

    Quote Originally Posted by PoeticallyPsyco View Post
    What would be a good starting module for newcomers? Any books, classes, or rules I should be especially aware of? Anything else I'm missing/that would be good to know?
    I've never really liked premade modules, but, iirc, Keep on the Borderlands has an excellent reputation. It's designed for 4-6 players, however, which brings me to my first recommendation:

    If you can, *find another 2-3 players*. There are methods for getting around with just 2 players (DMPCs, allied NPCs, 2 PCs per player), but 4e is fundamentally a *team-based* game. In every situation, every player and character should be able to contribute to the success of the group; if you only have 2 PCs, combat tends to be fast but flat, since you're lacking the tactical complexity that having 4 different skillsets brings to the table. If you've got any other friends that are interested in playing, try and get them to join you; if you can't find people irl, if you're cool with an online tabletop I know people that use Tabletop Simulator, but, personally, I prefer roll20 (it's free and gives you access to a bunch of stuff with an understandable and easy to use interface that's in-browser; there's also groupfinding).

    On top of that, you want one of each role (Defender, Striker, Leader, Controller; "secondary role" doesn't count since that doesn't really provide function so much as flavor and Controller isn't *absolutely* necessary, but it's extremely nice to have) so try and get your party to work together when making their characters rather than doing it separately (interestingly, Leaders in 4e aren't just healers; they provide the healing, but they do it while also beating enemies up so they're not just heal bots).

    My second is that you don't really need premade monsters. They're useful for getting ideas, but the MM3 on a Business Card gives you all the math you need to make you *own* monsters that are custom made for the adventure you're running. This is what makes 4e such a beauty to run. If you make monsters based on that math, it's pretty much impossible to mess things up, which also means that, if you have an idea for a story, you can create the threats as you need without worrying whether they're gonna be too hard or too easy.

    Third, Skill Challenges, as written, are *terrible*, so I recommend against using them. There are methods to do it that require a bit more experience with the system but, for now, if you have a non-combat challenge that needs to be taken care of, I suggest doing it organically (e.g. let your players talk through it, let 'em make a couple checks that seem appropriate to what they're doing if it seems like they might fail, and repeat until the problem seems like it would be solved; if they fail, penalize them a little bit with a healing surge loss or lost gold, and, when they finish, give 'em some xp) rather than trying to run with a busted system (or creating your own as most of us have).

    Recommendations on classes gets kinda complicated since a lot of it depends upon what books you've got access to. The PH classes are all pretty good and reliable (except for Paladin which is a weak Defender without access to Divine Power; Warlock is decent but lacks the punch you generally want in a striker) so those are safe bets.

    Make sure you're up with the errata. If you've got the published 4e PH, a lot of the rules in there were changed as the game went on; certain mechanics were eliminated (like limits on daily magic item usage) and other were changed *significantly* (like Stealth and the DCs for skill checks).

    I'm certain that others have more to contribute, but that's what's immediately coming to mind for me.
    Last edited by ThePurple; 2019-11-20 at 03:38 AM.
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  3. - Top - End - #3
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    ElfPirate

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    Default Re: DMing for the first time, and for newbs. What do I need to know?

    Quote Originally Posted by ThePurple View Post
    If you can, *find another 2-3 players*. There are methods for getting around with just 2 players (DMPCs, allied NPCs, 2 PCs per player), but 4e is fundamentally a *team-based* game. In every situation, every player and character should be able to contribute to the success of the group; if you only have 2 PCs, combat tends to be fast but flat, since you're lacking the tactical complexity that having 4 different skillsets brings to the table. If you've got any other friends that are interested in playing, try and get them to join you; if you can't find people irl, if you're cool with an online tabletop I know people that use Tabletop Simulator, but, personally, I prefer roll20 (it's free and gives you access to a bunch of stuff with an understandable and easy to use interface that's in-browser; there's also groupfinding).

    On top of that, you want one of each role (Defender, Striker, Leader, Controller; "secondary role" doesn't count since that doesn't really provide function so much as flavor and Controller isn't *absolutely* necessary, but it's extremely nice to have) so try and get your party to work together when making their characters rather than doing it separately (interestingly, Leaders in 4e aren't just healers; they provide the healing, but they do it while also beating enemies up so they're not just heal bots).
    Right, knew I'd forgotten something in the post. I played 4E for a while a few years ago, so I know how important teamwork and covering each role is/are. I was planning to recruit/shanghai a couple of my friends, but they've also got some experience with 4E and more experience with 3.5 and 5E, so the advice for my family is less necessary/relevant for them.

    As for the rest of it; all good advice, and I'll keep it in mind. Thanks!
    Quote Originally Posted by Darths & Droids
    When you combine the two most devious, sneaky, manipulative, underhanded, cunning, and diabolical forces in the known universe, the consequences can be world-shattering. Those forces are, of course, players and GMs.
    Quote Originally Posted by OgresAreCute View Post
    Realism, the natural predator of D&D mechanics.
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  4. - Top - End - #4
    Troll in the Playground
     
    Yakk's Avatar

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    Default Re: DMing for the first time, and for newbs. What do I need to know?

    You should have a session zero. That is where you sit down and talk about the game you are going to play.

    For new players, these 3 are key:

    The Core Mechanic
    The PLAYER describes what they want their CHARACTER to do.

    The DM either (a) describes the result, (b) decides how hard it is, and asks for a d20 roll to do it.

    PLAYERS generally take turns.

    Conventions of Play
    It is often a good idea to use a funny voice for your character (both for the DM and Player). This makes it easier to tell when your character is talking and when the player is talking! And it is fun.

    Scottish Dwarves are common. High-pitched voice Gnomes. I personally like French-accented Elves.

    Combat vs Not
    Combat is usually more structured than out of combat. In combat, you roll dice to determine who goes when, and what you can do each "turn" has relatively strict rules.

    This is because Combat is a high-lethality environment that D&D simulates with high fidelity.

    Out of combat, you describe what you do more loosely.
    Last edited by Yakk; 2019-11-20 at 09:55 AM.

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    Titan in the Playground
     
    Kurald Galain's Avatar

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    Default Re: DMing for the first time, and for newbs. What do I need to know?

    Quote Originally Posted by PoeticallyPsyco View Post
    Also, I've heard that it's by far the easiest edition to DM,
    It depends on who you ask. Forum discussions suggest that most DMs find 2E and 5E much easier to run.

    Any books, classes, or rules I should be especially aware of? Anything else I'm missing/that would be good to know?
    Start with just the PHB1, that should be plenty for your first couple months. From the PHB1, avoid the paladin (which basically needs Divine Power in order to work), otherwise you're fine.

    Start at level 1, obviously. Make sure everybody has power cards. Teach your players that prolonging their turns to do a tiny bit more damage is not really a fun playstyle. 4E may lead to choice paralysis in combat (because rather than describing what their character would do, players must Pick A Power), so do your best to alleviate that and keep action scenes moving.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yakk View Post
    It is often a good idea to use a funny voice for your character (both for the DM and Player).
    Seriously? That would get you kicked off the table, in my area (regardless of who the DM is).

    Quote Originally Posted by ThePurple View Post
    If you can, *find another 2-3 players*.
    Skill Challenges, as written, are *terrible*, so I recommend against using them.
    And that, very much.
    Last edited by Kurald Galain; 2019-11-20 at 11:55 AM.
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  6. - Top - End - #6
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    DwarfFighterGuy

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    Default Re: DMing for the first time, and for newbs. What do I need to know?

    Quote Originally Posted by ThePurple View Post
    I've never really liked premade modules, but, iirc, Keep on the Borderlands has an excellent reputation.
    Do you mean Keep on the Shadowfell? (It's pretty decent as a starter, if not the greatest adventure I've ever run. It's also free and includes quick start rules and pregens.)
    Or the Encounters season: Keep on the Borderlands? (I don't remember much of it, but I think it was ok.)

    While I never got a chance to run it myself, The Slaying Stone is a very well-regarded starting adventure. I like what I've read, and recommend it if you don't want to go the quick start and pregens route.

    If you're really up for it, there are a number of adventure paths that will take you from level 1 all the way to 30. Keep on the Shadowfell starts a series of adventures like this, and I think culminates in fighting Orcus in the Abyss. There's also the Scales of War path from Dungeon magazine. Both are alright, though quality fluctuates in different adventures of course.

    .

    And of course, there's general advice that's applicable regardless of edition.

    - Don't sweat the rules too much. If you don't know a rule off the top of your head, feel free to make a ruling for the moment and check it later. If a rule is being annoying and you don't think it's fair for this circumstance, you can ignore it. If something seems like it will be cool and/or fun, then don't worry about the specifics of what the rules say. The group having fun is more important than any ruling.

    - Don't worry about optimization. If a players asks you to recommend a power or feat, give your opinion. Otherwise, let them choose as they want to. 4e definitely has options that are better than others, but a player could roll a die and randomly choose every power for their character, and still be mostly functional in 90% of cases. (And since I assume your players won't be determining all their abilities randomly, they should be fine with whatever they choose.) Sure, there's levels of power and optimization, but unlike, for example, 3.5e, it's actually pretty hard to make an outright useless 4e character.
    Just make sure everyone starts with at least a 16 (preferably 18) in their main stat, and at least a 14 in their secondary stat, and you'll be fine.

    - Let the players feel awesome every so often.
    While a big part of DMing 4e is usually figuring out how to challenge your players appropriately, not every encounter needs to be perfectly balanced for a level-appropriate challenge. Sometimes, the PCs will stomp a group of goblins, and that's cool. It's fun to feel powerful, like your efforts have paid off.

    - The counter to that is that sometimes an encounter will be overpowered compared to the players. Often, the players will still try to power through and eke out a victory, because succeeding despite the odds is also fun. Be careful just how powerful you make things, as there is a distinct possibility that a party can get wrecked if dice don't go their way. My advice (taken from 13th Age) is if the party is in trouble and they decide to flee, just allow them to do so. Maybe something bad happens, or the situation gets worse because they ran, but they should be allowed to retreat if they feel the situation is unwinnable.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    PirateGuy

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    Default Re: DMing for the first time, and for newbs. What do I need to know?

    For new players, Iíd actually recommend mostly making the characters for them, if not full on pre-gens. Session 0 is best used for veteran players getting on the same page. For new players itís a lot of time spent banking on a payoff they arenít sure theyíll get yet. Ask them for a concept and then do most of the legwork and number-crunching for them. Plug in stats and make up power cards. This seems like a good time for the friendly reminder that power cards should always have the number-crunching done beforehand. No Dex vs. AC.

    Now, if you want to leave a couple choices for the end, so they get a taste of character creation without spending some much time on fiddly bits, I suggest making a short list of maybe five feats that could be relevant to their concept. That way, they arenít hunting through however many books to find something worthwhile and they already have a list of options to use later when they level up. Plus, this means you can incorporate more books if you want to. If their character would work a whole lot better using material from PHB2, fine. As long as you have it and are ok with it, you can incorporate it without making an imposing stack of books on the table.

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