Monday, August 30, 2010


My first couples D&D was fun. It may have gone well, but I'm pretty critical of my own performance, so I can't be sure. Folks said they had fun, but the true test will be when I invite them back. I had two points on my agenda: one, run through a quick bout of combat to get them familiar with rules, and two, use that knowledge to build characters for our next session. We only got through point one!

Having played quite a bit, I think I forgot what it's like to be unfamiliar with the combat concepts and the plentiful options and rules for each character. When I play board games, I hate it when friends walk me through the rules because I learn better diving in and asking questions, so I took a similar approach to combat, assuming I could explain concepts as we go and get them familiar with the rules that way. I hope it just takes awhile to get the hang of things. Turns were slow and there were plenty of questions, but by the end of the game I felt like everyone had a perfectly good grasp of the basics, and were using the jargon just fine. They might still feel a bit disoriented, but things should be a snap, especially when they go through the character creation process and are intimately familiar with the build choices they've made.

The guys happened to pick support roles, so the girls got most of the action in combat. They handled it really well, but I think they preferred the stuff leading up to it more. I set up a simple scenario of a woman claiming kobolds stole her child and killed her husband. The party investigated and fought a bunch of the little dragonkin to save the child.

The whole night was strange to play out, though, because I put all of my preparation energy into building characters. I was excited to roll out an exercise where folks list various cartoons, TV, and films, and we brainstorm ways to warp them into campaign ideas and vote on them as a group. For example, if you write down Super Mario Bros. for inspiration, it might be about the king of a Dragonborn nation kidnapping your princess, and your group going on a quest through eight different nations to get her back.

There were some things I've never done before that went off really well. I folded 10 small strips of paper and on the bottoms of each, added numbers 1-5 on 5 of them, and had the players draw symbols on the other 5. To track initiative, the folded strips were draped over the DM's screen (the numbers represented the monsters). It blocks some of my charts, but tracking initiative is really plain and easy to reorder. I also liked handing the folded papers to the players to mark damage on them, since I found I often forgot to track it myself. I'm a little too spacey tracking things behind the screen, and need to work on that.

And I already have thoughts about changes after our first combat, but maybe they're premature. First, I think I need to have Jen next to me since the group is comprised of two couples and Jen, and she might have felt a little left out not having a nearby rules-buddy, since I was behind the DM's screen. Second, I really like the idea of giving someone a +1 attack roll token whenever they target and fail to hit anything in a round. It's such a bummer to do nothing in a turn. Third, I gave everyone folders, and I might paste some the various action charts on them to help them remember what kind of options they have. Maybe that will help.

I hope they're willing to come back. For another pot-luck dinner if nothing else; I have some damned good cooks in my group!


  1. Gabe of Penny Arcade posted a link to this on Twitter yesterday. Since you're playing some 4e I thought you might be interested. It looks like a pretty cool idea:

  2. I read that! It looked interesting. Thanks for the link! :)

  3. This sounds like a success to me! You had some nice innovation in there too. The first games are always a bit rudimentary and slow as people get used to the system and the environment, but then things progress almost exponentially. It seems like a really fun night, thanks for writing it up.