Last weekend, at Mind Games in Greenville, NC, I ran the Game Day adventure for Wizards of the Coast World Wide Game Day promoting the new Dungeon Master’s Guide 2. Though I’ve been DMing for a couple of decades, I’ve only run 4th Edition about a half dozen times, so I was a little nervous. The format for this particular Game Day added a bit to my level of nervousness. For those who didn’t participate in Game Day, WOTC provided a map with 2 encounter areas, a pile of minis along with stat cards, and a basic outline with the adventure and encounter specifics to be worked out by a two groups of players on the day of the event. Then the groups would swap DMs so they could play in the adventure designed by the other group.
Unfortunately the store only had enough players for a single table. Fortunately, I’d looked through the packet and come up with a couple of encounters. This avoided a situation where the players designed and then played in their own adventure, though perhaps the folks at WOTC might have prefered that I’d done that, I think I managed to give the players a fun experience.
Four out of the five players had little to no 4E experience. I’m not sure if this made me more, or less nervous. On one hand, I’d hoped for a couple of experienced players to keep me from straying too far from the rules, on the other hand, I was glad not to have a rules lawyer nit-picking every ruling.
I planned the following monsters for each encounter:
Encounter 1: 3 Minotaur Thugs
1 Foulspawn Mangler
Encounter 2: 3 Duerger Guard
1 Duerger Cleric of Asmodeus
1 Foulspawn Hulk
They supplied a few adventure hooks, and based on one of them I decided a the cleric used the cave as a spot to summon the foulspawn creatures. Perhaps I should have ‘reused’ the guards for both encounter areas, but to give a little variety I chose to use the minotaur thugs, with the idea that the cleric either hired, or in some way mentally dominated them into service.
Nothing exceptional occured during the first encounter. Partly because this encounter served to help everyone learn the rules, and partly because everyone had horrible dice rolls, including the DM. This led to a very long encounter. Not sure if it dragged on quite as bad as I thought, but it certainly felt like it went on far too long so I decided the mangler would retreat down the pit to the encounter 2 area. Another reason things stretched on is that the players were afraid to use up their daily powers and so limited themselves slightly.
With the addition of the foulspawn mangler to the second encounter I feared it would be too difficult, and drag like the first, so I made an additional change. I demoted the guards to minion status. I did it simply by dropping HPs to 1, and there probably should have been some additional changes as well, so they were probably minions a level or two lower than the original guards. Quick math shows that assuming level 2 minion status for the guards places this encounter somewhere around level 6.5 vs. the initially planned level 7 encounter.
A combination of the players getting a bit more comfortable with the rules, the fact that they didn’t need to worry about holding back on daily powers, the slightly easier encounter, and perhaps even my own ‘settling in’ led to a much quicker second encounter.
We also had two very entertaining moments during the second encounter: In what was probably not the best of party tactics, the swordmage wound up in base to base contact with BOTH foulspawn creatures. While this eventually led to her being bloodied during the battle, in one round the hulk missed with his smash attack, while all 4 attacks from the mangler’s dagger dance managed to miss.
And in an action that may be against the rules, but was just far too cool not to allow to happen, the barbarian managed to hit with his brutal slam attack against the foulspawn hulk, pushing it 2 squares and leaving it prone. Because of the size difference between the two, perhaps the halfling shouldn’t have been able to pull off one, or both portions of that, but it was simply too exciting a moment to even think of saying ‘Let’s check the rules’. Even in a campaign, I’d probably have to let it stand the first time, unless we’d specifically discussed the issue prior to it occuring.
I left the game store feeling great. It reminded me why I love gaming in general, and DMing specifically. It was an amazing day, and one of the players paid me the ultimate compliment after the game when he said that he’d like to play at my table again some day.
So thanks to everyone: Rai (@Mind_Games), Warren (@wcrow), Kyle, Josh, and _____ (forgive me for forgetting this final name, but if any of the others can refresh my memory it would be greatly appreciated).