bits, books

Stuff to Get Started

While my local gaming group hasn’t quite gotten started yet, November was a great month because I was able to do a lot of prep work. In addition to doing a lot of reading and podcast listening, I saw some of my college buddies with whom I used to play D&D. We get together once a year and this year we decided to play a little 4e in addition to our normal geocaching excursions. We played 4 encounters I think, mostly out of Dungeon Delves. Our DM for the weekend has been playing in a regular campaign back home, and so he was a natural to introduce us all to 4e. We had a great time and I’m pleased to report that I enjoyed 4e as much as I thought I would. It’s actually very similar to the house-ruled game that we actually played in college based on AD&D… but that’s another post.

Tactically speaking, the weekend play experience gave me some great insight into what I needed (and what I wanted) for my local campaign. I’m not talking about the story or the campaign yet, but just the mechanics of introducing a new group to the game. Here’s what I came up with:

  1. Dungeons & Dragons Essentials Rules Compendium
    I actually bought this for the weekend, and I’m glad I had it. I may never accumulate all of the printed literature for the game, and certainly not all of it to get started. So the Rules Companion is the perfect summary for me, and the classes, races, feats, powers, and magic items we’ll pull from a couple copies of the PHB in the group and from D&D Insider. I considered the new Red Box Starter Set but, while I’m new to 4e, I’m not new to the game and felt that the Starter Set would be a bit too introductory.
  2. Dice
    Yeah, everybody’s going to want their own set of dice… but I learned a long time ago that one set of dice per person slows down a game. I picked up a Pound-o-Dice from Chessex and will have plenty to go around.
  3. A Dedicated Gaming Table (with a 1” grid and erasable surface)
    OK, that’s not going to happen… so I picked up a Chessex Battlemat. Very nice quality, unfortunate shipping practices… more on that later.
  4. Condition Tokens
    This is a big one for me. Our DM had these great little colored, wooden rounds that we could stack under our mini or token on the battlefield to indicated conditions like “bloodied” or “prone”. It really helped us visualize everything that was going on, so I knew I wanted something similar. But I had a hard time remembering what color meant what, so I thought an improvement could be made… that’s another post.
  5. Miscellaneous Encounter Bits
    There is no question that 4e is still a role-playing game, but I think Wizards was smart to introduce some elements from board and card games to enhance the experience. To that end, I’ve got a simple burst/blast template for quickly visualizing area of effect (thanks for the idea sLim) and an idea for a simple initiative tracker so that the players can all easily see where they are in turn order. More on that to come.

That’s about it I think. Oh sure, there’s tons more to prepare around the campaign itself, but don’t despair… we’ll get there.


Getting back in the saddle…

First, some history.

A friend introduced me to D&D (AD&D actually) when we were in the third grade. I’m not sure how closely we actually played to the rules in those days, but I loved reading the books and it was a great catalyst for what we should probably call “interactive fiction with dice”. I played with a variety of friends through Junior High School, and then maybe a little in High School.

Then, in college, I got involved in a game an upperclassman was running in my Sophomore year. We had a great time and by my Junior year, I was running a regular weekly game that peaked with 7 or 8 players. The party’s journeys were epic and there are moments that are retold to this day at reunions and picnics.

Fast forward to the present (I’m 38 in a few days) and I stumbled across the Penny Arcade’s Dungeons & Dragons podcasts… I’d never played (or even really heard of) 4th edition before listening to those sessions and they were a great introduction. They made me want to play again. So, with the help of a friend, we pulled together a few recruits for a new campaign. I’ve been working behind the scenes to prepare to DM the new game and we’re hoping to meet for the first time in December.

On this blog, I plan to do a couple of things:

  • First, I’m going to chronicle the party’s adventures for friends of mine that might enjoy reading their (mis)adventures
  • Second, I’m going to post thoughts/observations/ideas on the game itself and the things that I’ve been working on as a DM to make the play experience easy and fun for “grown-ups” that have a limited amount of time to prep and play

Well… I think that’s enough to get us started. First couple of posts will be about my prep work and I hope to have a report from our first session by the end of the year!