Start It Up!

We’ve started up our Eberron game again after a bit of a sojourn down into the Tomb of Horrors and last night was the first session and my first time running this group of characters in a campaign that already has a fairly long history.

The interesting part of the first session lay in gathering all these people back together again from all parts of the world. Some of the older characters with many connections were no longer in the game – Rob’s Kendras was dead, my rogue Nina was retired to NPCdom and Herzy decided to swap his monk for a shifter-rat-ranger-rogue-action-hero-cigar-chewer. This left Atarra as the only character with connections to Cull – Andrew’s character – who had become an NPC during his run and no connections at all for Herzy’s Slade other than maybe with Gris’nak the Druid who might or might not have gone into the Tomb of Horrors with Slade.

But I had Attara! The same girl who had departed the material plane at the end of the last story, on a student-exchange program in the Plane of Fire to take her first level as an elemental savant…

Thankfully Andrew had hung plenty of meat on the story that led her into the Plane of Fire and I was able to get her back out fairly easily.

Then, I wound up stringing a few coincidences together in order to get the party started again (so to speak, with an actual party in honor of Volund the Priest and Atarra the Sorcerer!) and cooking up reasons for Slade and Cull to attend. That left me with room to introduce a mild conflict with plenty of down-time for socialization to let the new characters feel each other out a bit.

We missed Joe’s druid Gris’nak who might have made for the last connection between Slade and the party a little less jagged but it worked out alright. This part of the game is usually the hardest for me, I always try for an organic connection between the characters and last night it worked out – all the players were eager to jump in and take the initiative and interact each other which is half the battle.

What tools do you use to get a group started, either for the first time or to introduce new characters?

*sits at the bar waiting for the obvious player character types to show up*

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List ‘Em!

So what are the games that you want to try this year? I know that this is probably more of a New Year’s type of post, but I’ve always thought of August as the REAL New Year anyway, and I think that this year will be the best year of High School ever! (sorry, taken back to a time of dashed hopes and paisley shirts).

What do you want to play? Either as a GM or a player. What’s on your bookshelf or pre-ordered already?

List ’em folks! List ’em!

For DM’s Only! (That is, for Keeley if he wants it)

The new adventure path kicks off in Dungeon Magazine today! Rescue at Rivenroar is up!  It’s part one of The Scales of War campaign that will continue in each issue for many months to come.

Could be fun!

Party Starters

You’ve got a system, you’ve got a setting, and you’ve got players. Now how are you going to get this disparate group of characters your clever players have created together to form a cohesive group? As a GM, this is the thing I’m usually the most worried about with a new game. Now if you’ve got good players who are good friends (as your players should be), then you don’t need to worry too much. You can usually handwave something together and they’ll run with it. But this party gathering happens in the first session and usually sets the tone for the rest of the game. So it’s a big deal.

When I first starting GMing, I forced the players together with a geas from a deity and linked magical rings that didn’t let them get more than half a mile from one another without making them sick. Rookie mistake. I wish I could say I was young, but this was less than 10 years ago. I’ve learned a lot since then. You’ve got to make the start of the adventure personal to the characters.

Which is why, for this 4e campaign, I am proposing that the characters grew up together in the same small town. They might have left to find their fortunes or to train their skills, but now they’ve all returned for some important occasion. And, of course, they’ll find the town is being threatened by…something. I reserve the right to determine that something whenever I think of it.

How does that sound?

Fourthwright

In less than two weeks, I’m going to be running my first D&D 4e game, and while I have some trepidations, I am a little excited about it.  Any time I try running a new game, I get a little excited. New rules! New characters! New adventures! New problems!

Anyway, in anticipation, I think I should go through a little checklist of things I might need to do or get.

  • Read the material

I’ve read through most of the Player’s Handbook and bits of the Dungeon Master’s Guide. I’ve also flipped through the Monster Manual to admire the artwork and to see what kind of monsters are available. Dire bulette!

  • Players

Yeah, I got five awesome players lined up, no problem there. Some of them have even made characters already.

  • Adventure

Hmm, I’m still not sure what the evening is going to entail. Will I just run a couple of encounters from Keep on the Shadowfell? Or will I throw together my own thing? It’s supposed to be easy to put together encounters in the new edition, so I might have to try that out. But I’m still at a loss for theme, setting, etc.

  • Grid map and minis

I’ve got a wet-erase grid map (and handfuls of Dungeon Tiles) as well as maybe two dozen minis. Maybe I can just base the adventure on whatever minis I have…so how do an ice giant and a priestess of Lolth end up in the same dungeon anyway?

  • Other game aids

Now I have something that helps me keep track of initiative, but should I get those color-coded counters that help the group keep track of their characters’ and the monsters’ conditions? I’m also thinking about giving everyone index cards on which they can write their at-will, encounter, and daily powers. That way, it’ll make the powers easy to reference, and they can just flip them over when they are unavailable. But is that too much work? Is it too nerdy?

Did I forget something?

It’s all about initiative

20 . . . 19 . . . 18 . . . 17 . . .

We played the third session of our Star Wars campaign the other night and I’m really liking this system more and more.  It plays fast and furious, handling the pulp sci-fi action of the movies as well as can be expected in a d20 game.

Except for the damn initiative.  Talking with one of the players afterwards we both agreed that the 20-plus rounds system, further complicated by the tedious bookkeeping required by actions such as “holding actions/ready actions”, just slows the whole thing down in a real way.

Now I admit this could very well be a GM fault on my own part – other GMs are good at multi-tasking those pesky little rounds while making rolls and moving little plastic mutants around the grid – but I am not.

So I’m looking for options to clean this up.  One I came across is the use of index cards with the names of the heroes and enemies on them, stacked in order of action.  Another is the possibility of making the players responsible for their own initiatives – I would call out the rounds by number and let the players alert me when it was their turn.  Cleans up some bookkeeping on my end but I would still have to count down through all 20 or more rounds.

Any thoughts?  Any GM tricks you’ve used/witnessed in d20 games?