View Full Version : [D&D 4e] Tips for a 1st-Time DM with 5 PCs?

2009-12-25, 09:58 PM
A few friends and I have started planning out a campaign that started with 4 people, but has unexpectedly expanded to 5 to accommodate my girlfriend. My friend, the DM, is now concerned about the balance of a 5-player game which may not have a controller.
Part of this comes from the fact that he once played a 3.5e game in which 2 characters died in one early encounter- and that was with a role-balanced 4-person party. I don't want to be that jerk who messes things up by shoehorning someone else in, so I'm wondering how to make this run as smoothly as possible.
When my gf makes a character, I'll encourage her to play a controller, but each player being invested in their own character is also important, so we don't want to force anyone's choice.

The current party (not counting my gf) is:
- Gnome Artificer
- Shifter Warden
- Human Fighter
- Halfling Rogue

For most of us, this is our first time playing, and the others (including the DM) have only played a few times.

So, any tips for balancing out a campaign with 5 people, or possibly one without a primary controller? Any other good tips for beginners?


Inyssius Tor
2009-12-25, 10:18 PM
You keep saying "with 5 PCs" like it's this big problem. You do know that five people is the default in 4e, right?

Run a few games. You'll see. Don't expect horrible party-kills if you don't have the perfect complement of roles. PCs in 4e are robust, if they have a leader in the party--and doubly so if you have a surplus of really-durable defenders like fighters and wardens. In fact, I would nudge your girlfriend away from playing another defender more than I would towards playing a controller--you really don't need three of them, it'll slow down the game.

Here's what the DMG has to say on the subject:
No Controller: Not having a controller can free the defender up to move around more, since at that point the defender lacks a soft ally to protect. However, as with a striker, a missing controller means that monsters last longer. Large groups of monsters, and minions in particular, survive much longer in the absence of a controller who can damage multiple creatures with a single attack.

Really, don't sweat it too much. Again, 4e characters are harder to kill than 3e ones.

Guinea Anubis
2009-12-25, 11:43 PM
biggest tip i can give to anyone about 4e is make sure your player have power cards. it will make things go faster.

2009-12-26, 12:27 AM
The simplest suggestion, is to play things by ear. See how well your group handles combat encounters. If there's a huge mess for some reason, try to change the kinds of monsters players face, before changing the kind of characters players use.

Player enjoyment is a lot more important than adhering to a system's suggested specifications, if you ask me. A patient, considerate group, can work out this kind of problem, fairly easily.

Ultimately this doesn't seem like a big problem.

2009-12-26, 01:06 AM
It may be a bit slow in combat till everybody gets there head around the rules but it will speed up as time goes on.

Watch out about throwing that group against to many monsters with who can fight at range cos they are lacking in it.

All so as mentioned above Power cards will help alot.

2009-12-26, 01:22 AM
My 4e game had, for quite some time, 5 PCs and no controller. We had:

Human Paladin (of Torog for some reason)
Dragonborn Cleric (of the Raven Queen - can you see why lacking a controller was not our primary problem?)
Dragonborn Fighter/Warlord
Elf Ranger
Doppelganger Warlock

It wasn't really a problem. The main job for a controller, at least at low levels, is getting rid of minions quickly. So as long as your DM doesn't fill the xp budget of each encounter with mostly minions, you'll be fine. I'd honestly be more worried by the lack of a cleric - sure, all the leader classes can heal, but not as much. (My party of five managed to burn through the cleric, pally's, and warlord's combined healing just about every day.)

Really, though, 4e is a lot more flexible than it might seem at first. That's my big tip for newbie gamers, too - be flexible. People forget rules; just figure out something that makes sense, move on, and look it up later. It's a game, and you want to have fun.

Oh, and don't sit next to your girlfriend at the table. Make sure there's at least one person between you. I've learned this one from experience. (The experience being our 6 ft tall monk who closely resembled his character having to get between us when the stupid rogue nearly got us all killed again.)

This guy also has some great advice for newbies: http://newbiedm.com/ He's not really a newbie any more, but it's still the theme of his blog.

Good luck!

2009-12-26, 06:54 PM
A ranged striker would be a nice addition to this party, especially if it's a controllery one (e.g. sorcerer or warlock). If your GF likes archer archetypes, the seeker is a "controller ranger" and looks really nice as a class.

But as has been mentioned, she has a lot of freedom to choose classes in that group. The only thing that wouldn't work would be another tough melee type (defender or defense-oriented leader/striker).

Kurald Galain
2009-12-26, 07:00 PM
A few friends and I have started planning out a campaign that started with 4 people, but has unexpectedly expanded to 5 to accommodate my girlfriend. My friend, the DM, is now concerned about the balance of a 5-player game which may not have a controller.

It's not actually a problem if you lack a controller. The only role that makes a noticeable difference in gameplay if it's lacking is the leader.

The DMG advice is actually outdated. First, a controller is really not a soft ally to protect: the wizard has one of the highest ACs in the game even before considering Shield and Wizard's Escape. Second, minions don't survive longer without controllers - they survive longer without area effects, which most strikers and defenders also get. And third, it's really ok if minions survive longer because they're rarely the biggest threat on the board; when facing a big monster and ten minions it is usually a good strategy to focus fire on the biggie and kill the minions afterwards.

Moff Chumley
2009-12-26, 07:45 PM
Heh, my biggest concern for you is gaming with your GF... I don't know about your group, but in ours, the teasing is hardly worth it. :smallcool: