Thursday, January 13, 2011

Dark is the Sun - January Ed.

So way back in August I decided that I would sunset my 4e home brew game and start up a Dark Sun one. Planning complete, we rolled the first dice of the campaign Saturday (1/8/11) evening. I started my players off with almost an hours worth of role playing before they ever stepped into combat. Which I delegated mostly to the Marauders of the Dune Sea module. In total they got through bunches of role playing and two bigger encounters for the night. All in it was a success.

Story vs. Combat
I have limited time to prepare as a DM and I usually prefer to spend that time building cool encounters and creatures. After a gajillion hours worth of video games I have a good idea of what makes an encounter or mechanic fun and challenging. I have a lot less experience as a storyteller. Using the canned module gave me way more time to focus on my plot and it panned out. I spent at least two weeks before Saturday helping my players work on their back stories and design hooks that would hopefully be meaningful to them. Sure I tweaked the encounters to make them more interesting, but most of my time was spent telling a tale.

Committing to a First Person Voice
I have been building the courage to commit to only using first person voices for the NPCs in my games since I started. I have dabbled to some success with it in the past, but never committed for all of them. I did just that for our first Dark Sun game. I slipped once or twice, but got back on course as soon as I relazed I had. I liked it. It still feels silly, but I think it makes the game better.

Halved Hit Points
Big high level monsters create challenge and put the fear of failure into the players. They also come attached with loads of hit points that can drag an encounter out for hours. Reading about on Robert Schwalb's blog months ago and then seeing it in practice when Ethan DMed sold me on the practice. Beyond bugging my players to keep their turns snappy, this is the biggest improvement to overly long encounters in 4e I have seen so far. Highly recommend it.

Skill Challenges
Maybe it was my own fault, but trying to run skill challenges the way WotC prescribes them is both confusing and boring for players. Achieve 6 successes before 3 failures using the following skill checks: Endurance, Nature...blah blah...BLAH! It doesn't make sense in the context of the story and it destroys any immersion already established. Marauders third encounter called for one. It's intent was to play out the players trip across the desert (Athas), but did so in the manner described above. So I changed it. I tried to wrap it in story and things they came across on their journey. It was not as bad as what I have attempted in the past, but was still the weakest point of the night. I think I am done with them all together.

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