Archive for June 11th, 2009

GMing 4E and Experimenting for HBC2

2009 Jun 11

Finally going to be running 4E, starting next Tuesday at lunchtime. Dev and Eric are on board so far and I’m hoping at least one other person will join us. I’ve played the game a bit, but haven’t gotten to run it yet. It looks to be fun, but I’m still worried about the amount of time it takes to prep encounters and other fun stuff. The investment required is just enormous. So, to start, I’m going to take the encounters from Dungeon Delve and hack them into a narrative by tweaking some things and maybe even adding some modified skill challenges in between different sections.

Since I’m in the middle of outlining HBC2, I’ve also been thinking about how to bring some of those themes into this game, even though it’s a fairly light lunchtime game, not something long-term with huge plots and ornate backgrounds. I definitely know that the first encounter is going to involve gnolls instead of kobolds (I really hated kobold shifting in Keep on the Shadowfell because it was too complex to manage tactically for a GM just interested in trying out 4E for the first time), so I’m thinking about tweaking each gnoll or set of gnolls individually to give them some color and uniqueness. The cool thing about this, too, is that it allows players to make skill checks to try to identify information about their opponents before the fight really gets underway.

Frex, I’ve been thinking about some “ghost-faced gnolls” who are graverobbers feeding specifically on really old corpses. This is pretty bad nutritionally, so they look fairly gaunt and half-dead most of the time, but may also give them some special ghostly abilities from consuming the souls of ancient spirits. And they might have physical trappings, aside from their unique appearance, that might indicate their participation in the ghost cult, such as painting their faces and claws white, like certain African ritual societies.

I’ve also been thinking about whether Backgrounds (from PHB2 and FRPG) might be an interesting opportunity to bring Aspects into 4E, which is something Fred has talked about. I can imagine a GM offering an Action Point for a character to follow a certain background they’ve chosen or a player claiming an Action Point for playing to their Background. The latter might be a little tough with Eric’s hyper-competitive playstyle, but if it was more a GM-given reward, it would probably be manageable. This would add some needed crunch to Backgrounds, since, as things currently stand, you only get a mechanical bonus (usually +2 to one skill) for one of your Backgrounds even though characters are recommended to have three or more.

Of course, if you’re throwing more Action Points around, you might have to up the difficulty of encounters a bit, but honestly, the way folks have talked about slogging through to the end of encounters (which also happened with us, playing through KotS), that might not even be necessary.

In any case, applying HBC principles to adversaries, allowing player skill checks to provide cultural knowledge about enemies, and making Backgrounds more potent are three things I’m interested in trying out in the first session. Once I see how that goes, I’ll make plans for new things to try in the second session.