Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Second 4E Campaign - The Apprentices Take On 4th Edition

Last week's 4E game went really well and some of it was due to extra preparation on my part. Between that and the good feeling after the game I realized a few things.

1) I have achieved a sort of plateau with the 4E rules - I feel like I know them pretty well now. If I'm not sure my instincts are proving to be right most of the time. This is a big deal for a DM with a new set of rules as it means I can focus more on the other things and worry less about getting a call wrong. Plus, I don't feel like I am the slowdown with looking things up anymore so the game moves faster.

2) I really like the idea of the old-school campaign with multiple groups adventuring simultaneously in the same game world. Having picked up two new players through EN World's Gamers Seeking Gamers and with a 3rd inquiring about joining I decided 6 was my max for players for now. But...what if I started a second campaign? Place it near enough that the two groups could cross paths if they so desired and a lot of interesting possibilities open up. The main limiting factor here is time - I'm not sure I could schedule and run another regular weekly/biweekly session reliably and I don't want to try it and fail and waste a bunch of people's time. I am keeping the idea open though - if I decide to do it I will post in on GsG as well as here.

3) I like 4th edition. There, I said it. I've been running the apprentices through some Basic D&D modules and still love the simplicity of that system. I still intend to run a 1E Temple of Elemental Evil for whoever wants to play it. None of that changes the fact that I have always been a fan of multiple systems. The bookshelves next to my computer have 4E rulebooks, books for 3 versions of Star Wars, Savage Worlds, Mutants and Masterminds,  Hero System, Basic D&D, Space 1889, DC Heroes, Silver Age Sentinels, and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. 1E lives in a china cabinet in the living room. 2E lives in the garage with 5 editions of Traveller, Deadlands, GURPS, Battletech, a bunch of other RPG systems and uncounted thousands of minis. I have never been a one-game kind of guy and I'm not going to start now.Being immersed in 4E for the weekly game though means I look for other chances to use that investment - the time spent learning it, the mental energy devoted to planning it, and the $ investment in the books. Running a second campaign lets me play more of a game I like and get more out of those investments. It also exposes me to more situations and keeps me sharp for both games.

4) I started off wanting to create and run my own adventures as it's not something I did much of during 3E and it was a selling point of 4E that it was easier to build and run your own material. I have done that with my Return to the Ruins of Adventure campaign and I am very happy with the way it's turning out. For a second campaign I am interested in using some of the published adventures for 4E just to try them out and see how they work. I have avoided reading any of the adventures up until now but I have been picking them up as cheaply as possible in anticipation of running them one of these days and I am comfortable enough now to go ahead and use them in Campaign #2. (Campaign #3 will probably involve conversions of 1E/2E/3E adventures but I'm not there yet.)

Now my alternative to running a new game for new players came up after another round of 40K apprentice-badgering as they tuned and tweaked their armies for a game we ended up not getting to play. I like 40K quite a lot but it's a fairly big operation to pick out, set up, and play even at home. Despite more regular kid schedules things still come up on short notice that can wreck plans requiring 3 or 4 of us to be together for a multi-hour block of time. But...4E has a bit of wargamey feel to it in combat; the powers are somewhat akin to what some 40k characters can do, namely special rules that break the general rules; encounters can play out like short combat scenarios and don't take a long time to set up or play out - so let's try out letting the Apprentices play 4E again.

Some of you may remember  that's where my 4E experiment started and it didn't go well. A lot of it was that I didn't know the system and also that they didn't know how to play D&D. Now that they have been through all or parts of 3 old-school D&D modules and have read the 1E & 2E PHB's in addition to their Basic D&D rules, they are a lot more ready to try a new version of D&D and I'm a lot more ready to run it for them.  So the plan is to start them off in the Forgotten Realms and use the Nentir Vale material and Keep on the Shadowfell  as a starting point, places in the Thunder Peaks just south of the Dalelands which puts them close enough to the Phlan campaign to allow for some cross-party interaction if things go that way but keeps them out of each other's hair for now. Lady Blacksteel may join in too but that's still a little up in the air.

The Basic campaign will continue as will the d6 Star Wars campaign but the next few weeks will probably see more 4E than anything else to help get things rolling.


David Larkins said...

As far as running multiple groups in the same campaign area, are you familiar with the West Marches campaign set-up?

Blacksteel said...

Yes I am and it's a very strong recent inspiration. There was another person who specifically described a 4E game he was running that was inspired by the West Marches but I don't have my usual bookmarks at hand. I'm not going to get quite that ambitious yet but it is in the back of my mind. My ancient greyhawk idea may turn into something like this down the road or one other idea that popped into my head yesterday.