What I've Learned: 4th Edition DnD and Why It Rules

edited October 2008 in Actual Play
I'm really enjoying 4th Edition right now and just wanted to talk about the game I am running right now, what we have learned in playing the game, and how the rules have impacted our thoughts on play.

Campaign Background
So the game started with a cleric, a warlord, and a warlock being run through the Kobold Keep in the back of the DMG. I was playing the Warlock at the time. We had just started and had this vague notion of a Sigil like city, which we fleshed out later.

So we wiped on the second to last encounter, which was a combination of the DM not getting how the level differences and the like work and us as players not fully getting how things work in a group dynamic, which is ironic since we all play MMOs together and are used to the team dynamic of raids and instance runs.

After the wipe, we kinda rebooted. First we fleshed out The City, as it is called. It centers on an Arabian Nights style core and it has been collecting the parts of otherworlds forEVAR... The idea is that it lands somewhere for a while (say a month), then when it hops to another world it takes a part of that world with it making a new neighborhood or part or fucking mountain or river or whatever.

The key commodity in the city is water. He who controls the water (the city center in this case) controls the city. The guys in the city center are rumored to have "doors" permanently open to the elemental plane where they get the city's fresh water.

So it is a kinda moving Sigil basically...

So our reboot is we got captured and sold by the Kobolds to the Shadar Kai... We do a little arena fight to prove ourselves and are given an impossible task to complete with no resources... A complete old school fucking. Shortly there after I took over as DM.

I started with the loose idea of fixing the mess that the first DM made. The game was not fun really and I wanted to bring the fun back. The whole super powered bad guy making you do what you want for no reward sucks so I started with fixing that.

Using my Warlock and his backdrop (he is the son of the Raven Queen, got booted and wiped, and is now trying to regain power to replace her), he introduced a patron, a powerful Eldarin lord of the city who has plots and plots throughout the multiverse. He hires all of them, sending the Warlock off on one errand and introducing the old DM's rogue to the group for the current job.

At that point I had no idea where the fuck I was going other than out of the city away from the Shadar Kai who would mop the floor with these underpowered 1st level fools. I gave them basic gear, basically what they had before the fucking without a reach around, and sent them through a "door" to another world to settle some trouble for the Eldarin lord.

I grabbed the Scales of War adventure path from Dungeon, grabbed the first two encounters, tried to mod them for my group's level difference, and went to the fucking races.

Comments

  • Encounter 1: Bar Fight
    So the first encounter is a fight in a bar. I liked this as a starting point because it had lots of minions, a raging fire, obstacles, and I could easily make it a good encounter by staggering the enemy in waves. I also so it and the second encounter as a good teaching tool for my players. Right out the gate I saw how DnD combat is similar to Mordhiem and the tactical nature of it, but the rest of the guys were stuck in the old school of stand up and fight toe-to-toe like Ali.

    So how it broke down is the bar gets jumped by goblins and hobgoblins. The goblins throw some exploding torches which set fire to a square, which then spreads at the bottom of each round in a random direction. The hobgoblin minions mix things up and there are waves of both.

    This worked great because it forced the players to think about spacial movement, shifting, opportunity attacks, and what their powers can do. They got a little fucked up and the fire kept them worried the entire time, but it was really a rather easy encounter.
  • Encounter 2: The Tank
    The second encounter I also lifted from the Scales of War. It is just genius. You take one 8 level Ogre, strap him to a wagon filled with exploding pitch, put two Hobgoblin archers in the back and you have a fantasy tank. Fucking genius.

    The problem though was that my group is three guys, and all these are 5 man encounters. Shit had to change. So instead of modding the actual monsters to make them weaker I did three things.

    First took a page from Saving Ryan's Privates, err... Saving Private Ryan. At the end of the movie the Americans use the narrow streets and destruction to fight tanks with an inferior force... So I redrew the map to reflect this... Made it harder for the Ogre to maneuver (and this is before the new vehicle rules in the Adventurer's Vault) and made it a two standard action move to get out of his harness.

    Second, I added two scripted events. One is the arrival of a militia at round 8 (level one human minions) with pikes. The second was a fighting retreat by the archers should the Ogre get to 1/3 his hit points.

    The third thing I did was brief the players on how toe-to-toe fighting is not going to work. I emphasized this with the first thing being the explosion of one of the Ogre's casks. They got a little in the face and saw the destruction first hand.

    With all this going on, it turned into a doorway-to-doorway, window-to-window, rooftop-to-rooftop fight in the streets. It was great. They caught on quick and had a tough but rewarding fight.
  • edited October 2008
    Encounter 3: Rainbow 3, the Super Encounter
    So before the session that was encounter 3, I had decided that the Scales of War, while filled with some cool shit, still suffers from some of the old school bullshit and some of the crappier parts of MMO design (I will get into that shit in another post), so using what I have learned playing the game so far, running it, and my experience with what makes a good video game encounter, I built my first encounter and started rewriting the adventure completely (which I will get into with a later post). It is what I call a super-encounter, where it is a bunch of small encounters that feed directly into a larger one.

    Back in the day, when Rainbow Six first game out for the N64, I played through the whole damn thing in 12 hours instead of going out to the bar. My friend came over, saw what I was doing and we co opted through the game until the sun was well up overhead. First time I ever passed up going out to stay in and play a game. I loved it and decided that it would be perfect for this game.

    So the players, being n00bs to town had their first skill challenge, convince the captain who had the building surrounded, but with limited resources since their was still fighting going on in the town, to let them handle the hostage situation in the council building (where their McGuffin is sitting). I am still working on how to best use skill challenges (coming in another post).

    They pull it off but not without seeing a Hobgoblin who seems to be in charge push a woman off the building to her death. He is a 8th level Hobgoblin Minion. A paper tiger, but they don't know that. They just think he is a bad ass and a boss.

    So, after the hobgoblins clear the roof, the Eladrin Fighter teleports to the roof and secures a rope (how the fuck do you resolve encounter powers with non-encounter events?). The other too sneak up, not without taking some fire though, but eventually get to the roof unnoticed.

    The sentry on the roof is how I introduce my first magic item to the crew, some fancy goggles that improve ranged attacks. I had decided on my own that magic items are like technology. If you can afford it you can have it. The town guards have two way communicators, the hobgoblin guard has fancy goggles, and I will continue to introduce mundane magic items.

    So they get in, and proceed to clear the first floor, freeing hostages and keeping quiet. Lots of sneaking rolls and surprise and searching around. They don't find the McGuffin on the 2nd floor of course and proceed to check out the 1st.

    I used the Fane of the Drow map from the DnD Mini's game, splitting it into two floors. The 1st floor is open with small rooms and alcoves. I had the McGuffin in the center of the room and other hostages through out, with minions, a big bad, two bodyguards, and the paper tiger. At first glance it looked impossible, but the sneaky build up led to some clever thinking, some good rolls and they overcame it, though it was tough.

    I can't tell you good it felt to reveal when they finally hit the paper tiger and he went down to see the shock on their faces and then the smiles at how I pulled a fast one on them.

    Next up, what I have learned about encounter design and 4th Edition so far.
  • Posted By: Keith Senkowskihow the fuck do you resolve encounter powers with non-encounter events?
    The idea of 4E 'encounters' is very mechanical, encounter powers are gone until you take a short rest (a term more clearly defined in the rules).
  • Oh I know that... But in this case we didn't have an encounter... it was really a skill challenge... an Elardrin has the teleport power he didn't have to climb and considering the nature of skill challenges (like taking ten) they can last much longer than an encounter... I have just decided that I am going to have to play it by ear with that shit... based upon how long shit takes.
  • Posted By: Keith SenkowskiOh I know that... But in this case we didn't have an encounter... it was really a skill challenge... an Elardrin has the teleport power he didn't have to climb and considering the nature of skill challenges (like taking ten) they can last much longer than an encounter... I have just decided that I am going to have to play it by ear with that shit... based upon how long shit takes.
    Sorry, my mistake. I thought you were questioning the "does an encounter basically become an at-will outside of combat" thing, because I originally had the same issue.

    Playing it by ear is probably best. Say yes or roll the dice, if it seems completely broken offer a smaller bonus instead.
  • edited October 2008
    Keith,

    It sounds like you had some pretty interesting, fun encounters set up.

    Are you going to talk more about how the D&D4e system helped make that fun? For instance, if you played through the same encounters in another system, what would NOT have been as cool?

    Edit: I think you are, based on what you've said. Just letting you know I'm looking forward to it.
  • Posted By: Keith SenkowskiOh I know that... But in this case we didn't have an encounter... it was really a skill challenge...
    Skill challenges are encounters. There are combat encounters. And then there are non-combat encounters, which are skill challenges, puzzles, and traps. If the time in between non-combat encounter actions is significant (like longer than 5 minutes) and there's room to rest (e.g. it's not a chase across Rohan, but a political debate over the course of days) then you could have them refresh encounter powers (if they can grab 5 minutes of downtime) or even daily powers (if they can get 6.5 hours of sleep/rest), although you should reduce the XP reward if the encounter is that non-intensive - although I don't know if there are any powers that would really help in a non-intensive non-combat encounter.
  • What I Have Learned So Far
    Now this maybe a little random in regards to the previous posts. I am not going into it in the order in which events occurred, but more in line with how it all relates to each other. So bear with me kids.

    Encounter Design: It's Easy as Fucking
    Really. It is. There is no excuse for not being prepared anymore. Seriously. Designing quality encounters is so damn easy. I've read and reread the DMG a dozen times now, and combined with the experience I have gained and some principles I follow it takes me all of ten minutes to work one up.

    I am sure that everyone reading this has at least an understanding of encounters in 4th edition so I am not going to go into that. Instead let me talk about some basic principles I have latched onto that lead to success with the game.

    The first is a simple truth: Learn from Video Games

    Video games have been creating interesting encounters for much longer than we have. For the most part role-playing games have really sucked at this for a long time. Most of the time an encounter is bland as shit. Select what you are going to do and roll some dice then someone narrates the outcome, be it a swing of a sword or some narrative nonsense. Even in games that use interesting tactics like Burning Wheel, something always seemed lacking.

    What it comes down to is three things taken from video games, in particular MMOs: environment, scripting, and and tactics.

    Environments
    I always start with the environment. Like with Lucas, each session I try to have two/three (depending on how long we are going to play) different environments... radically different if possible. You see this with good larger instance design. The mini-boss encounter is always very different from the big bad at the end of the instance. The mini-boss might require you to destroy objects to keep the waves of minions from coming and the big bad might be in a pool of lava where he tosses you if you get to close when he drops his bomb.

    With the battlemat and minis, the environment is easier to deal with than with other games. I don't have to try and describe all the options, they are all there for everyone to see. It is a matter of me selecting interesting things to be used, either by me or by the other players. It can be as simple as table and chairs, something moving like a fleeing crowd, something random like a blazing inferno, or something shit bat nuts like lightening arcs.

    What matters is that the environment is interactive and impacts the tactics of play. The reason Assassin's Creed works so well is that the crowd reacts, that you can knock shit over, climb walls, and push things in the way. That principle is a must when it comes to environment design.

    Scripting
    The next thing I do is look at the monsters I want to use, the environment and work up the scripts. Scripting is old hat if you play MMOs. Every boss fight has one and these days most monsters have some sort of script. Sometimes it is simple, like cast heal when at 1/4 hit points. Other times it is crazy complicated like the Balrog fight in LOTRO with tons of shit happening based on all sorts of conditions.

    If you have ever written code, you know this is an if/else statement based on conditions. This shit is important and I have not found it to work with other games. It is how I can make an impossible encounter possible, easy monsters hard, and it is what makes an encounter compelling.

    I think in conditions for several rounds when I do this (around 10 rounds). Who is there at round 1? Does anything need to happen at round 2? At what round should I use my daily power? Is a change in the environment on round 5 a good idea? Who runs away or surrenders at what point? (killing everything in the room isn't always a good thing) Answering questions like this turn a fight into an event.

    Tactics
    Tactics build on the scripts and the environment. Once I have those in place I build what each opponent is going to do. I work out three basic motivations for a lack of a better turn following these questions:
    1. What do I do when I attack?
    2. What do I do when I am hurt?
    3. What do I do when my allies are hurt?
    Most times I don't write this shit down, just keep it in mind or if I do it is on the post it note in my Monster Manual. Either way it lets me have a guide for the encounter and all the changes in the actions I reflect off those basic ideas.

    --------

    While all three of these things can be addressed to some degree or another in other games, no game has come as close to having a concrete way to create such interesting encounters/conflicts. DnD 4th Edition has successfully giving me a viceral platform to bring back the importance of the conflict at hand. More so than any traditional and any nontraditional game I have ever played to this point...

    Next time I will talk a bit about what is wrong in the adventure design coming out of Dungeon and how I fix the issue... The Grind...
  • edited October 2008
    Paul,

    So a very valid question and I'll address it in regards to the three encounters I described above.
    Posted By: Paul T.Are you going to talk more about how the D&D4e system helped make that fun? For instance, if you played through the same encounters in another system, what would NOT have been as cool?
    The first thing is the viceral nature of having the battlemat in front of you. You can see the fire spreading randomly. It isn't something I am trying to imagine without context. It is right fucking there in front of me. I can see how damn big that ogre mini (paper mini in this case) is compared to my halfling rogue. I can see the destruction he is creating with the building being erased and turned to rubble. I can see ways around a nearly impossible task. This is VERY important for any game that the environment and the use of it is important (like swinging from chandeliers). Plenty of games have stunting mechanics, but like improv, that shit works best with guidelines. The battlemat in DnD are those guidelines.

    The second thing is the structured nature of combat. Because I know that there are clear deliniation of activity (three action types a round, powers, ect) I can script for cool events based on conditions in a concrete way. This is a kind of freedom, it lead to anticipation, and gives me at the GM a goal to work towards in each encounter (take the high ground before round 6 when the lower area floods with mud from the avalance).

    Those two things alone make this game genius.
  • Keith,

    that was a great post.
  • Keith,

    Thanks! Awesome stuff.

    But I'm not sure I get it yet:

    Battlemats and structured combat isn't an entirely new thing in gaming. And it sounds like most of the fun is coming out of your approach to interactive encounter design. What does D&D4 do that's different from other games with battle grids and structured combat? Or is it just a particularly smooth/well-tuned version of stuff done before that you happen to like?
  • Posted By: Keith Senkowski
    Encounter Design: It's Easy as Fucking

    ...it takes me all of ten minutes to work one up.
    ...
  • Keith, this is mighty fine.

    I'd say one thing, though: As opposed to other roleplaying games, really cool encounters, ones that turn combat into a really dramatic, tactical, visceral thing, are easy to design in 4e. Even more than The Riddle of Steel, IMO, which used to be my standard for nail-biting combat. The tactics item is just too rich.

    A problem that I see is setup: Design is much easier, but setup is much much slower: Finding/printing that ogre paper mini. Prepping the combat map, etc.

    How do you feel about that? Any tips to make it easier/faster to set up encounters?

    Also, scripting? Genius. Did I miss that in the DMG? I don't remember seeing much on scripting as you stated (Event X happens on Round Y, etc).

    I've got an idea that might increase player tension.

    Plan a few "X happens on round Y" encounters.
    If you have index cards, on one side write down what happens. On the opposite side, simply write the Number of the Round where they go off. Turn them face-down, leave then next to the map for all to see.

    I figure that'll increase the tension, the players seeing that in 2 rounds, "SOMETHING" is going to happen, and they don't know if it's going to be good or bad.

    -Andy
  • Great stuff, and it really mirrors my own experiences.

    One thing I've noticed is that not only should the terrain be different in different encounters, it should effect the flow of battle in different ways. I ran my first real session of 4E a week ago (as in not from a published adventure), and I cooked up two combats, both of which were fun and the second was a real nailbiter. The one thing I realized afterwards was that both had given a big advantage to ranged combat, leaving defender types feeling a little less useful. One had an ambush with the real badguys on the ledge above the road, another had some fire creatures of a (moving) lava flow. They felt very different in many ways, but in the end both of them favored ranged combat. Sounds like you'r better at balancing that kind of stuff then I am, but it's something I've noticed.

    As far as prep, here's what I've been doing:

    Get a grid map that you can draw on. I have a paizo double sided poster one, which is pretty good, it just doesn't lay quite perfectly flat, but it does support dry erase (which some other mats don't). Have markers and erasers handy.

    I draw out the most likely starting configuration for the badguys on a small grid on a sheet of paper (I have a template with four grids plus note space per page). This isn't set in stone, but it helps me decide what is smart for the badguys, so that if the PCs do mix things up I know what's advantageous for me.

    I have paper tokens I printed out from Firey Dragon ($10 or so for a PDF of all the MM monsters through 10th level). I print them on heavy weight paper (around 50 or so, Iif I recall correctly), printing only ones I think I'll need, and put them into encounter groups before play. I have similar tokens for the PCs, each PC also has a 'mark' color that we can use during combat to indicate marks.

    With all of that, plus a page of notes, combat's a sinch.

    Now, you probably don't need all that, but I've found it works for me. I like to plan, but if I plan plots I'm rarely as happy with the, so I sketch plots and plan encounters.

    One thing I've been working on is a good system for noting marks, conditions, and bloodied. I was working on a solution using 1 inch metal rings and electrical tape, but it doesn't work as well as I'd like. I'm dreaming of something kind of like a poker chip with a hollow center, in enough different colors to indicate marks, conditions, bloodied, etc.
  • There is some interesting stuff here, which ties into my own experiences, not with 4E (which I've not played) but with games like GURPS (where I have also used battle maps, miniatures, scripts, terrain and the like). Basically, preparation is good, and clear bonuses for things decided in advance can be a lot of help for running cool encounters.
  • edited October 2008
    Keith, that was a great little post, and it's given me the best ideas for my roleplaying/kung-fu-fighting game. Thanks!
  • edited October 2008
    Great posts and reminding me of things I know but that keep sliding to back of my head instead of front and centre.

    On tracking marking, I have up idea of using poker chips after i realized different size monsters made that problematic, switched to using different coloured stickies (the type used to flag a page). So deciding that red = bloodied, and other colours are marking by different PC's was easy.

    Rob
  • Posted By: AndyAlso, scripting?
    There's some automatic scripting provided with several monsters; both in "this happens when the monster gets bloodied" events and in the recharge of their special powers.
  • Posted By: xenopulseThere's some automatic scripting provided with several monsters; both in "this happens when the monster gets bloodied" events and in the recharge of their special powers.
    Oh yeah, I know about that stuff (mostly HP-based triggers), I was more curious about the "rack it up so on round 5, X happens" or "set up some pillars so that if they're knocked down, the hordes of minions are blocked from entering the field", etc.
  • Johnzo has been using an inspired system for tracking conditions and initiative in our game that I will share here on his behalf. Get a stack of index cards. Write the name of each combatant (or group) on a card. Roll initiative. Stack the cards in initiative order. Start going through the cards. If somebody gets marked/slowed/stunned/whatever, write it on their card. So when their card comes up, you know exactly what their condition is. If somebody delays, move their card in the stack.

    There may be other details to the technique, if so, hopefully Johnzo comes by and can detail it.
  • Posted By: Keith Senkowskihow the fuck do you resolve encounter powers with non-encounter events?
    By the rules, they last (if relevant) 5 minutes, and you need a 5 minute short rest to recharge them.
  • "Plenty of games have stunting mechanics, but like improv, that shit works best with guidelines. The battlemat in DnD are those guidelines."

    Well said.
  • Posted By: AndyI've got an idea that might increase player tension.

    Plan a few "X happens on round Y" encounters.
    If you have index cards, on one side write down what happens. On the opposite side, simply write the Number of the Round where they go off. Turn them face-down, leave then next to the map for all to see.

    I figure that'll increase the tension, the players seeing that in 2 rounds, "SOMETHING" is going to happen, and they don't know if it's going to be good or bad.

    -Andy
    SO HOT. I am setting an alarm in my phone to go off when I get back to Portland and get to play with my 4E group again, just to remind me to do this.
  • I'll get to everyone's questions in another post. First I want to add this while it is fresh in my head...

    The Grind
    So, a big part of any level driven game is the process of gaining experience. Video games, and in particular MMOs have adopted this philosophy, but have taken it to another level. Grinding out levels... Killing things over and over again to gain experience (so you can go raiding like I am this week, Balrog here I fucking come).

    This sucks in MMOs and it sucks in DnD. The scale is different, but it is the same shit. In MMOs you kill a ton of shit to get your XP. People will move through a zone killing monster after monster after monster, return to town to sell the drops and then head back out.... For fucking hours.

    In Dungeons and Dragons you get the same thing but on a smaller scale. Traditionally we march are band of morons into a dungeon, moving from room to room clearing shit. It is tiresome, tedious, and often times mind boggling (why the fuck are the goblins living with a pack of stirges in their home?). This "tradition" continues today in modules, and if I ran my game like they create adventures it would take us months to get to the boss fight. I don't have that kind of patience.

    The solution is to cut that shit the right fuck out of the game. Clearing room to room maybe fine for an instance on an MMO where the computer does most of the heavy lifting (though that shit gets tiresome too), but for a table top game it is ridiculous. So I have said fuck it, no more Grind.

    Now this sounds simple and it is if you understand the ramifications of what you are doing. Cutting out the Grind means cutting out the XP that players want and emptying rooms in your dungeon.

    This being the case, after I work up a sketch of my series of encounters for my dungeon (dungeon is standing in for any series of linked encounters in this case), often building from some map I found somewhere, I look for the heart of the dungeon. What encounters are going to be fun, challenging, and worth going through? Which of these ten things bring something to the game, be it treasure, information, or satisfaction (as in we finally killed that fucker who had been after us since day 1)?

    Typically, this brings me down by about half. That leaves some empty slots, which need to be filled with something. You have a couple of options. There are traps you could lay in, but those should be used sparingly cause who wants to spend the night solving some dumb ass puzzle or get fucked Tomb of Horrors style (man did those old adventures suck).

    That leaves the roleplaying tool, skill challenges... Now skill challenges are tricky because they don't really flow organically with play all the time. I am trying a whole bunch of different approaches to get them to work better for us, but either way they work to cut down on the grind. Instead of fighting the wraith that is haunting the hallway, negotiate safe passage. Instead of fighting through that room, turn it into a rubble strewn obstacle course.

    Skill challenges are ways to mix things up as well as add new quests. Maybe those negotiations with the wraith mean he demands they avenge his death... by killing a high up member of the church of Pellor? Maybe failing to get through the obstacle course successfully means that the rubble slides blocking that avenue of retreat? If you work in possibilities and conditionals, this approach will free you from the Grind and open up options rather than close doors.
  • Posted By: Paul T.Keith,
    Battlemats and structured combat isn't an entirely new thing in gaming. And it sounds like most of the fun is coming out of your approach to interactive encounter design. What does D&D4 do that's different from other games with battle grids and structured combat? Or is it just a particularly smooth/well-tuned version of stuff done before that you happen to like?
    The difference is that 4th Edition not only takes full advantage of the battlemat out of the gate, the system is stream-lined to work directly with it. The entire combat system revolves around it. It is designed to work with it, rather than as an option (like in 3.x). I played the shit out of 3.x and not once did things flow as smoothly. Too much complication and bloat for too little reward.
  • Posted By: Andy
    A problem that I see is setup: Design is much easier, but setup is much much slower: Finding/printing that ogre paper mini. Prepping the combat map, etc.

    How do you feel about that? Any tips to make it easier/faster to set up encounters?
    Well I went out and got the Fiery Dragon paper mini's (Heroic Tier), printed them out, glued them to some card stock with a spray adhesive and cut them. Took me a little over an hour to do this, but now I have a box of minis for every encounter for levels 1-10. Well worth it.

    As for set up, it takes me all of five minutes to draw up on a dry erase grid thing I got from Paizo. I also have a sketch of the encounter listing the location roughly of where shit is, which I then mark in some fashion on the dry erase grid. Easy as fucking.
    Posted By: AndyAlso, scripting? Genius. Did I miss that in the DMG? I don't remember seeing much on scripting as you stated (Event X happens on Round Y, etc).

    I've got an idea that might increase player tension.

    Plan a few "X happens on round Y" encounters.
    If you have index cards, on one side write down what happens. On the opposite side, simply write the Number of the Round where they go off. Turn them face-down, leave then next to the map for all to see.

    I figure that'll increase the tension, the players seeing that in 2 rounds, "SOMETHING" is going to happen, and they don't know if it's going to be good or bad.
    So there are some power scripts in some of the monster descriptions and if you read through some of the Dungeon adventures you find shit like that. I don't remember reading it, but it only makes sense if you have ever played a video game.

    As for the count down timer, you are stealing my thunder. I already do it, and the idea came from a mod for WoW called BigWhigs. What it does is tell you a boss's special ability is firing in 10 seconds or what have you. I use chips, taking one away each round. I if I have multiple timers I just use different colored poker chips.
  • Posted By: sageOne thing I've been working on is a good system for noting marks, conditions, and bloodied. I was working on a solution using 1 inch metal rings and electrical tape, but it doesn't work as well as I'd like. I'm dreaming of something kind of like a poker chip with a hollow center, in enough different colors to indicate marks, conditions, bloodied, etc.
    I find the easiest thing to use is either change (Marks = Penny, Curse = Dime, etc) since it doesn't obscure the paper minis we use or different colored beads (which works well because you can get a zillion colors on the cheap at a craft store). Not the glass beads, but normal teenage girl stringing them together kind.
  • Posted By: rafialJohnzo has been using an inspired system for tracking conditions and initiative in our game that I will share here on his behalf. Get a stack of index cards. Write the name of each combatant (or group) on a card. Roll initiative. Stack the cards in initiative order. Start going through the cards. If somebody gets marked/slowed/stunned/whatever, write it on their card. So when their card comes up, you know exactly what their condition is. If somebody delays, move their card in the stack.

    There may be other details to the technique, if so, hopefully Johnzo comes by and can detail it.
    I found that doesn't work, marking the cards (which is what I use for initiative order too) because the players can't see them. They aren't on the battle mat, and everything concerning the encounter should be plainly in front of anyone. The tactics involved are too important to have them forgotten cause they are on an index card.
  • OK, I'll toss out an idea for marks and such, from playing Pirates TCG (I glue my ships together, and so I can't remove destroyed masts--but even folks who can, don't because they're fragile).

    Orthodontic rubber bands, like those used for braces (link).

    They can be hung on just about anything protruding from the fig (maybe not so good with chits or cardboard figs, though). Hunt around for cool colors (the link above was a speed search, just for example purposes).

    HTH--David
  • I;ve found that with Initiative Cards, people get the hang of it pretty fast (i'm not saying hiding it is bad, but rather pooing on the idea of inititive cards because they are not right infront of everyone is). You want to lay them out in front of everyone that's your business to.

    As for the bit about the grind, great you feel that way, oddly enough no problem with grind here. Some people just want to smash monsters in the face with an axe and sneak attacks.

    As for using the card, I use the style from http://www.thegamemechanics.com/products/initiativecards.asp , which i find helpful. If someone is screwed up or delaying you turn your card on its side so you go threw the stack once, and then go threw the turns at the end of the round if necessary.

    As for conditions rather than the beads/counters/ elastics / just damn well remember it method, I've been using name tags I found here http://www.dragonavenue.com/downloads/Condition_Cards_20080616.pdf its pretty hard to ignore the big blue standup nameplate, and everyone knows exactly what every conditions does without book look ups, its handy .

    Personally I'm interested in combining skill challenges and encounters (which oddly enough is supported in the rules thank the light) to create dynamic battlegrounds. Of course this means i have to think of my skill challenges more like encounters and vice versa but im happy with where its going.

    (pool of infinite froglings anyone?)

    Logos
  • Posted By: Logos7As for the bit about the grind, great you feel that way, oddly enough no problem with grind here. Some people just want to smash monsters in the face with an axe and sneak attacks.
    Sure. DnD is about smashing monsters, but if you look at a dungeon with 20 rooms with 20 encounters and if you are a busy adult playing once a week for 3 to 4 hours at a clip, it is going to take 10 weeks for one dungeon. That is far too long to hold interest. I play LOTRO once maybe twice a week for a few hours and it didn't take me ten weeks to get from 1 to 50 in levels.

    Killing monsters is great, but when it takes that long it is not so great.
  • Dude, I have been constantly surprised by peoples tastes and interests when it comes to dnd. I speak because I have had groups who have wanted to do nothing but smash threw 20 rooms, return to town and kitbash. Admittedly when a group is focused on something it takes a lot less time (they become very good and even skilled at smashing threw rooms) I really think your 10 weeks is talking out of your ass. (althought that group played twice a month for a little less than a year, that's about 20 sessions) and boy did they smash threw alot of rooms in that time.

    And yes these are intelligent, skilled , adults, without a whole lot of spare time on their hands.

    Your preferences are just that your preferences, I don't mind to give grief here, but



    Just saying, you can continue with your thread now

    Logos
  • This didn't come out so well in as many photos as I'd like, but:

    image
    See that guy with the red base near the top right corner? With the iron helmet? That's a Kobold Dragonshield who's being flanked by the party's Dragonborn Paladin and Halfling Rogue.

    The yellow thing stuck on his base is the Paladin's mark. If you look really closely, you can see a blue one on the Dragonshield behind the Paladin. That's where the Dwarf Fighter's marked that one.

    (The colour of the base is used to keep track of which one's which for hit-point purposes. I use a marker of that colour to write down the amount of damage that fig has taken on the battlemat near where they're stood.)
  • edited October 2008
    Posted By: Keith Senkowskihe is the son of the Raven Queen
    Damn, she is a popular lady. This is the third campaign I've heard of that is directly tied to her (well, counting my own.)
    Posted By: rafialThere may be other details to the technique, if so, hopefully Johnzo comes by and can detail it.
    Wil has it covered, though my monster cards have the complete statblock on them, like the Game Mechanics' initiative cards that Logos mentioned upthread. I screencap the stats from the source material, print them on 4"x6" cards, and laminate them so I can write on them with wet-erase markers -- hit point counts, initiative numbers, conditions, encounter power uses, etc. Eventually I'll have cards for the whole Monster Manual. It makes running combat so much faster when I have the complete monster in my mitt.

    Kudos to Wizards for making their stuff available in electronic format -- game companies that don't do this don't get money from me anymore, ahem, Steve Jackson.
    Posted By: Keith SenkowskiI found that doesn't work, marking the cards (which is what I use for initiative order too) because the players can't see them. They aren't on the battle mat, and everything concerning the encounter should be plainly in front of anyone. The tactics involved are too important to have them forgotten cause they are on an index card.
    So far I've been tracking all the conditions in the game on the cards, but for my own private use as the DM -- I figured I'd let players track conditions on the map in their own way, since there's such a huge incentive to do so. I'd be open to having a unified on-the-table condition-tracking scheme, though. Maybe I should buy some little rubber bands or girlie beads.

    I do hold the monster cards like a poker hand so that the players can't see their stats and powers, which feels weird since I'm all about the no secrets mode of play. Keith, do you keep monster stats secret or are the monsters open-book too?
  • This thread is totally githyanki. Andy's scripting cards are sweet. I'm way inspired by them.

    One of the next encounters in our Shadowfell game will be a big sprawling thing with a highly dynamic battlefield. I'm thinking of making a big stack of wandering event cards for it. Every time a player rolls between x and y on a d20, a card flips off the stack and the encounter transforms a little bit -- a key NPC appears, a minor XP-rewarding victory condition is revealed, the terrain changes, new monsters spawn, civilians take casualties, someone spots treasure...

    Deciding how big a change to make with every card, and how frequently I want to flip them, is the big challenge. The encounter does have a focal point to it, but I want the focus and the wandering events to provide the goodness in equal measure.
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