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[4E, AP] The Players Go In Cold

Crazy Jerome

Retired User
This was our intro session for 4E, which I ran as somewhat of an experiment for new players. See here for where I asked for help a couple of weeks ago. (Some overlap with this topic.)

Characters were all pregens (by me). Since we had 8 of our 10 players, I looked at the class and race list (Gee, 8 each) and decided this was a sign. ;) However, I substituted gnomes for tieflings. Interestingly, the two players with the most tactical gaming ability were the ones that could not make it.

Team 1 characters: Dwarf cleric, Halfling rogue, Human fighter, Eladrin wizard.
Team 2 characters: Gnome warlord, Elf ranger, Dragonborn paladin, Half-elf warlock.

The team thing was mainly for roleplaying purposes, though for convenience when building the adventure, I often developed the encounters for two 4 person parties, instead of one 8 person party. The only major rules change was that each team had to succeed at a given skill test in order for the entire party to have a complete success. OTOH, each team got the full complement of 3 failures. I used the errata for skill tests, but then added 5 to all DCs.

The players were given a stack of envelopes. Each envelope had the race, class, team, and three keywords. I handed over the stack, told them we were trying out D&D 4E, and they could divide the characters anyway they saw fit. They decided to randomly draw, with trades afterwards. Only the ranger and paladin players traded. I then gave them character sheets, a combat cheat sheat, told them they had powers in the envelopes, and off we went.

The adventure was of my own construction, though as you will see, I borrowed liberally from the things everyone else has been doing. Consider this a version of Kobold Hall, rewritten from the ground up to favor our style and 8 PCs. (I wrote up my notes without reference to Kobold Hall, but I had read it).

Each person on a team had adventured with the rest of their team, and were currently about half way through 2nd level. I explained the Point of Light-ish nature of the setting. The local baron offers a commission to rescue some hostages. The local kobolds have gotten suddenly "saucy", and had the gall to send a ransom demand to the baron.

The party engaged in a massive deception with the baron's spymaster to "call off the reward", because of fear of spies. The spymaster informed them that an overgrown trade road ran to the rear of the Kobold range, and might be a way to sneak in unobserved. The party completely blew away the skill test, each team getting 5 successess with no failures. (The only blown rolls were on skills that gave a +2 or -2 to another check.) This was an easy skill test to get them started--very broad, with lots of primary skills. I warned them that it was an intro skill challenge to get their feet wet.

However, the party has now succcessfully positioned themselves at the Kobold back door, with complete surprise. I give one piece of advice: "4E is a team game." Other than that, all I do is answer rules questions. After some scouting, the party sends the ranger and rogue around the edge of the mountain to their right to cut off stragglers. Meanwhile, the wizard attempts to sneak into the dense woods on the left to create a diversion. The non-stealthy ones will charge the middle--hopefully running along the remains of the broken bridge or fording the shallow stream. The wizard rolls a 3 on her stealth check, which creates a different kind of diversion than they were hoping. :eek:

3 dragonshields, 4 slingers, and 9 minions are the enemies. About a third of them start through the woods on the left, when the wizard steps on a branch. The right flank engages the rogue and ranger, when those two launch early attacks. Meanwhile, the middle charge is complicated by some really bad skill checks, that sends the paladin prone into the stream and leaves the warlord threatened with being surrounded. The fighter, played by the social gamer in the bunch, spends the whole fight on the edges, instead of in the thick of things, but she does learn from this fight. OTOH, the rogue player suddenly clicks on different ways to get combat advantage. And the cleric picks up just how helpful some of her buffs can be. And the warlord has the longest bit of luck that I have seen in some time--and figures out that she can use shifting to get the rogue and paladin into very useful position. The wizard is very effective with her sleep spell, especially when the 5 kobolds she manages to slow have a dreadful time trying to cross the stream.

So the party wins the day, despite not much team cohesion. They now know about 2nd wind, damage, healing, etc.

Searching the bodies, questioning the two prisoners, and some scouting around the "back door" entrance convinces the party that a "beginner" green dragon is responsible for the ransom demands, and has no intention of releasing anyone. The party sneaks into the back tunnels, convinced they are meeting a dragon next. However, the wyrmpriest sanctuary, with its lifelike dragon statue, is actually the next fight. 2 wyrmpriests, 2 dragonshields, and 4 hidden skirmishers make up this fight. The kobolds are spread over three adjacent rooms, with balconies, stairs, dark corners, and the aforementioned statute.

This fight might have gone a little stale, because the players picked up on group tactics faster than I thought they would, and the eladrin got a 28 on her arcana roll to get more info on green dragons than I probably should have given out. OTOH, I had a series of high rolls for the kobolds, got multiple criticals, and had the 4 skirmishers attack from both sides with surprise, and really mess up the party formation. The headstrong warlord got caught in a double flank--which would have been messy, except her luck held for two rounds, and then she noticed her gnome "fade away" power. :D Here was when the social gamer figured out how fighters are supposed to work, jumped off the balcony to the warlord's aid, and preceded to experience the thrill of getting in the face of the foes.

So it was a fun fight. Initially, the party got beat up pretty good. There were no minions. So between difuse attacks and the wyrmpriests' boosting, the party was having a hard time putting down opposition. About halfway through the fight, with only a single dragonshield down so far, the rogue runs along the balcony rail, laughes at the OA from the skirmisher, and plants a nice backstab into same. Then the warlord criticals while using one of her encounter powers, setting up the cleric to attack. She hits (with Sacred Flame?), and boosts the paladin, who charges through the area vacated by the rogue to finish off the skirmisher. This set off a chain reaction, and 2 rounds later, the paladin is chasing down the last wyrmpriest.

We leave it here, as all five women are within a few months either side of their 40th birthday. So we have cake and socialize for the rest of the evening. :D

Comments from players and my feedback to follow.
 

Crazy Jerome

Retired User
Group consensus:

  • Fun game, worthy of our time (along with Arcana Evolved, 3E, Burning Wheel, and Fantasy Hero).
  • Having powers on the cards was very helpful.
  • Easy to pick up the rules.
  • Broader scope of skills was good.
  • "Team" aspect fit our playstyle.
  • Minions are great. Expecting minions but there not being any--also great.
  • Everyone wanted to keep their pregen character.

They also noticed some little touches which they appreciated: Passive insight and perception, changes to running, attacks getting different attack and damage bonuses from stats. They were not gushing about the way healing works, but certainly were not negative about it. More of a, "it seems to work well in this game so far, we'll see how it goes."

We are often a "develop in play" group. So they had no trouble getting attached to pregens and have already started giving their characters some personality. The "Team" thing might have helped, because with a big group, we have always had some intra-party rivalry. The teams made this explicit. It was mainly snarky comments (in character), but that gives lots of opportunities for the personality of the characters to emerge quickly. :cool:

We played approximately 5 and a half hours. We did 1 big skill challenge, 2 fights, and some roleplaying in town. I spent maybe 15 minutes explaining how things worked, spread out over the course of the game, as it became relevant. Edit: Forgot to mention that a full-grown, very friendly wolfhound was running around during about half the session. You ever tried to protect your dice from being eaten with one hand, write notes with the other hand, hold your drink with another hand, and move a kobold token with another hand? It's tough, let me tell ya--and I ain't no Marilith, regardless of what my players may say about my DMing. :)

When we started, no one but me had read a single bit of 4E information. Their character sheets were the first things they saw. Heck, half of them didn't even know there was a D&D 4E. ;) So this was about as "cold" as a group of experienced roleplayers could be.

The characters, despite being 2nd level, had 1st level starting equipment. The pregens had no magic items, and they didn't find any, until the liberated two healing potions off of the wyrmpriests (which of course, they didn't need to use). The dragon has all the magic stuff. :)

On my end, I had fun running it. I had fun doing the prep--except strangely enough, for the characters. Maybe the fact that I moved the week before had something to do with it, but doing 8 characters took a lot longer than doing the adventure(s). (I had actually prepared a followup adventure, because I wasn't sure how long we would play. We usually play about 10 hours.) One of the things that I did, which was great fun for me, was doing maps the way I did for Basic D&D and 1st ed. I've been using software for ages, but these I merely sketched out on graph paper.

We had one copy of each of the three core books. I kept the MM open during the fights, and ran the monsters from it. I think I cracked the PHB twice. Once was to look up some details on the bluff skill. The other time was to clarify something on a power card. Of course, I probably made some mistakes, but nothing that was so grevious it messed up our game.

If I can do that, with one copy of the rules and eight players, I think that just maybe a 14-year old me could have handled it for four players at least as well as that younger me did Red Box D&D. ;)
 
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Owesome2

Retired User
About halfway through the fight, with only a single dragonshield down so far, the rogue runs along the balcony rail, laughes at the OA from the skirmisher, and plants a nice backstab into same.
Ah, 4e rogues. Where would we be without you? Without a whole lot of win, thats for sure.

Also, Gnome Warlord? Two words I'd never thought I'd hear, ever. ^_^
 

Yook

Registered User
Validated User
Sounds awesome!

Mind shipping a few of these extra players over my way? I've got zero and you've got 8 (10!), c'mon... :)

-Yook
 

Crazy Jerome

Retired User
Mind shipping a few of these extra players over my way? I've got zero and you've got 8 (10!), c'mon... :)
Well, a lot of my wife's relatives are from Queens, but I think I'd better keep her in my player group. ;)
 
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