Tuesday, November 24, 2009


My gaming groups are typically smaller than what a typical 4E encounter usually calls for (3-4 PC's plus a DM). This in itself is not a problem, I find that I enjoy running games for smaller groups since things tend to happen at a much quicker pace. Scaling an encounter is not generally a problem either, since you can usually just drop a monster and everything will work out accordingly.

There is one thing that I do for my smaller groups, something completely non-standard, and that is award double-XP so that they may advance faster (I have yet to run a Paragon+ campaign in 4E, due to several unrelated events that will not have further mention on 1d4+5). That hasn't been a problem either; until now.

I'm running a module for my players, and at the rate they're going... well, let's just say that they're already of a high enough level for the rest of the adventure to not be a challenge. I have two basic options. One: I slash the XP awarded back to the standard 1x rating, which seems more like a punishment in some ways; or Two: build the encounters to match the PC's rate of advancement. I went with number Two.

I then had two general options for this plan. I could either simply add more monsters, or use the Monster Builder to level them up. I went with a combination of the two! For one up-coming encounter, I took the standard monster that is the threat and increased its level so that the PC's will have more of a challenge when they face it. Since I'm also designing encounters for a group of four rather than five, I have other math to figure in as well. 5 5th level monsters is a standard encounter for 5 5th level PC's, but for 4 5th level PC's its more of a challenge. Not exactly deadly, but certainly not any easier. In other words, just changing the levels to same isn't good enough, you have to make sure you keep things in scope. Especially when dealing with smaller or much larger parties. Remember, XP value alone isn't a good enough gauge when designing encounters. Despite the fact that a 5th level encounter for 10 5th level PC's is equal to 2,000 XP, that does not mean that an elite 14th level monster is a balanced encounter for those PC's.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ad-Hoc D&D

There isn't much that you can't do these days as long as you have the right gadgets. This became especially true last night, as I found myself in a situation where a couple of friends wanted to game but I didn't have any of the regular stuff one would need to run a small encounter (monsters, map, dice, DM books, etc...). That is when I pulled out a pair of devices that are rarely ever out of arm's reach: my iPod, and my phone.

There are 3 big iPod apps that I want to spotlight, though I only needed one of them last night. No DM with an iPod Touch (or iPhone) should be without these three apps. And any player who has either of those devices and is worth his salt will have at least two of them. The first is Dice Bag, which, as the name implies, is a simple dice rolling application. It has your d4 - d20, and also includes the percentile roll, and the standard 3d6 and 4d6 (drop the lowest) that one would typically use when creating PC's for a 3.X game (or perhaps Pathfinder; don't know, and honestly don't really care).

The next application, and I may have mentioned this in the past, is i4e. This app is a basic character sheet, with you always on your iPod. Its great for players to track their PC's in combat, but it does lack a few things that have stunted me in the past. First, it does not include Action Points. Secondly, it doesn't record gear. It records your weapons, but not armor or other items that you may have. The other thing that needs to be looked at by the designers is including power listings. I created a warden, I had to manually enter each and every power that my PC has. It didn't include my racials (which would've been useful had I remembered them myself - different topic, different day) and certainly didn't include any of my powers from PH2 or Primal Power. So designers, if you're reading this, FIX THESE THINGS!!! Otherwise, I love that app. "You want to hear about my character? Okay!" Of course, no one wants to hear about your PC, but again, different topic, different day.

The third app is DMs Tracker which is an initiative/combat tracking application. I haven't actually used this app yet, but from what I understand it works similar to Fantasy Grounds or Masterplan, but is really just a bare-bones approach. Because of my lack of usage of this app, I really don't have much to say about it at this time.

Those things are all on my iPod, and you can find them just as easily at the iTunes store. No jailbreak required!

Actually, the players had dice so I really didn't even need to use my iPod (but could have, that's the point). It was my phone that did most of the heavy lifting for me. Now, if I had an iPhone, or at least had been in a wi-fi zone, I wouldn't have needed the phone (I'm trying to say, would've only required one device -- overlooking the fact that the iPhone/iPod Touch will only allow you to have a single app open at any given time...). I didn't have any of my books or grids, but I did have my minis! So I needed an encounter.

Using my phone's Internet capabilities, and my D&D Insider Subscription, within minutes I had downloaded a module from Dungeon Magazine from WotC's website. Taking only another minute or two to find an encounter and get the basics in my head, we were able to play a quick session of D&D without any prep, or warning. The players grabbed up some PC's that were lying around, and we got to play some ad-hoc D&D. And it was good.

1d4+5 is an RPG blog with a heavy D&D (4E) flavor. It is updated once or twice a week without warning. Be sure to give me credit for any material that you use from my musings, and you can follow DM_Ron on Twitter. Keep rolling those 20's!!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Re-Flavoring your Flavor Text

There are those who say that there is not any role-playing in 4E. These same people are the ones who constantly make this other false argument; that all classes in 4E have 'spells,' mistaking Powers for general magic. I'm not trying to call anybody out or rekindle any old arguments (grognards, I'm talking to you), but I will give you a few more ways to make them choke on their fallacies.

Every power has its own name. The name will give you a general idea of what the power does, but the real details are found in the power's flavor text (that line or three of fluff you'll find directly under the power's name but before the crunchy, mechanical bits). The flavor text is designed to give you an idea of what a power may look like when you use it. You don't need to follow it, exactly or at all, its in there to help you role-play in combat (ZOMGS!!1!!! yes, they really actually do promote role-playing in 4E...).

Anyway, I want to give you a few examples of how you may re-flavor a power's flavor text, so that every time you use so-and-so power, it doesn't always have to look exactly the same.

  • Sudden Surge (Fighter, Lv 7): Instead of the bland text provided, perhaps you cleave right through your foe; maybe change it to "you roll" past your opponent? One thing to keep in mind, the mechanics don't change at all, nor do they have to. Sure, to "roll" would imply Acrobatics skill usage which I would use should someone actually try such a move (and that of course would be a move action); but with this power, its just flavor. If it isn't game-breaking, no reason not to include it.
  • Eldritch Rain (Warlock, Lv 3): Who says Eldritch energy has to be purple? Also, instead of 'rays' as implied by the original flavor text, why not 'rain' as implied by the power's name? Sure, its a Ranged power (implies that it's source originates from your square), but for the sake of the power, you could say that the 'rain' originates from a square above the target's square, it doesn't change the power at all (to an area or zone for example), its just flavor.
  • Sunbeam (Druid, Lv 9): This is pretty tame, flavor-wise. You could say that the clouds part, for example. Or if you're indoors, perhaps the sunbeams shoot out of your eyes! Again, change the color (from the typical yellow that is obviously already assumed...) if you wish, personalize your sunbeam! Also, coming from the eyes reinforces one of the crunchy bits of that power, on a hit your target is blinded!
  • Angelic Visage (Invoker, Lv 10): This one is begging for your input! You transform into a death angel -- give us some details! How do your wings appear? Are they full feathers or perhaps sinewy, leathery bat wings? How about a halo? Is it a simple platinum ring or maybe a wicked ring of dark blue flames? Maybe your foe shrieks as he flees -- maybe, he cries like sissy girl. See, there is so much you can decide to explain how this power may look when you use it!

I'm always open for suggestions. If you've got some great flavor you've created for your PC's powers please feel free to share it with me. DM's, you can use these same ideas to better flavor your monsters in combat as well! Let me know, I'm interested to hear what you all come up with!

1d4+5 is an RPG blog with a heavy D&D (4E) flavor. It is updated once or twice a week (with an occasional bonus post here or there) without warning and on my schedule. If you would like to use any of my content, be sure that I am given the proper credit for its use. You can follow DM_Ron on Twitter, and keep an eye out for a 1d4+5 fan page on Facebook in the near future. Keep rolling those 20's!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Holiday Gaming

Tis the season... or so they say. With the holidays fast approaching I was determined to be the first to get this out into internet land before other, more widely-read blogs, beat me to it. So let's get this party started!

In the past, several game makers would create little one-shot adventures in the spirit of the holiday season. That's great but its getting kinda cheesy, having to go save Santa every year. If you want to give your game a holiday feel, no need bringing in the props (Santa, reigndeer, baby Jesus...). If you want to run a memorable, one-shot, seasonal/holiday game, there are a few things to keep in mind.

  1. During the holidays, most people spend the majority of the time with family. Now, if most of your family are gamers, you've got it a lot better than most of us in gamer nation. The ugly truth is, most of them are not. If you're going to be gaming with family, most RPG's are not going to be your best bet.
  2. With that said, a lot of families will play games when they all get together for the holidays, but they're playing Uno, or Yahtzee, or maybe Monopoly which, yes, all three are "games" by definition, but when we talk about gaming, our definition is much more refined (to say the least). Point is, you may already be "gaming," that doesn't mean you can't suggest something a little more... involved (for lack of a better word). I wouldn't suggest an RPG, but there are a lot of excellent, little-known board games that would be great for your get-togethers.
  3. Of course, if you're able to game with your friends during Christmas and you're feeling a bit sentimental, you may want to "Christmas-it-up" a little bit. As I've mentioned above, the "go save Santa," or "help the kids get their toys," sort of thing can be done, but its really cheesy and I'd avoid it for the most part. (However, there are still some creative ways of doing this that work, but that's a bit more advanced -- try these ideas first!)

I'd say the best way to do a holiday game is to give the game the spirit of the holiday (weather, decorations, seasonal smells, or anything else you can think of to give it that feel), but without the cheese (an old elf who gives hand-made toys to the children of Yon Village every year has fallen ill -- what will we do??? is not going to work well). Let's take a page from one of the best Christmas movies of all time, Die Hard. Does the movie really have anything to do with Christmas at all? Yes, but only minimally. The reason that it worked so well is because they left the holiday as the backdrop; it was not the real focus of the story. To sum it up, give your game that holiday feel, but leave the Grinch for the kids. ;)

1d4+5 Bulletin: 1d4+5 is an RPG blog with a heavy D&D (4E) flavor. It is updated once or twice a week (with an occassional bonus post here or there) without warning and on my schedule. If you would like to use any of my content, be sure that I am given the proper credit for its use. You can follow DM_Ron on Twitter, and keep an eye out for a 1d4+5 fanpage on Facebook in the near future! Keep rolling those 20's!