View Full Version : (4E) A new DM with the Fallcrest

2008-12-11, 12:05 PM
I've been reading these forums a lot and rarely post :p

But this is my first time DMing, I am relatively new at playing but I feel comfortable with D&D (although not completely with 4E). I have a few friends that been wanting to get into D&D, so I happily agreed. I have the 3 core books for 4E (closing sale at a book store when 4E just came out :p) while I only have the PHB for 3.5, So I gave them the choice and they picked 4E (as I said 4E would be easier).

The reason of this post is I have very short time to come up with a decent campaign for my friends (with no character sheets mind you so its going to be low level). I am looking over the town of Fallcrest in the DMG. I want to add more and I wasn't sure if this has been done. I got an idea of what to add of my own personal taste, like my own characters (one even stated out).

I want to give them more options of what to do then just presented in the DMG. I'm a bit hesitant to actually create my own dungeon..not to sure why. I want to give them an open world to show them that D&D is where anything and everything can happen. Be real life like. So I don't want to railroad, but I think they might need some help in that aspect as well as using skills, etc.

Whats the standard wealth per level? I can't find a nice chart like 3.5...is there one?

Should I make them start at level 1? For the Kobold Hall? for my own Dungeon? The MM doesn't have that much for low levels, however I should keep it simple I suppose :smallredface:

Theres only 2 maby 3 of them, should I let them control more then one to have a party with every role? Or should I make them npcs and let them mostly dictate what they do?

If they like it, which I hope will happen should I make my own campaign, or use Fallcrest as the basis. I don't have real preference in the "core assumptions"

EDIT: The friends like story as well. They don't want a standard dungeon crawl :smallbiggrin:

2008-12-11, 12:10 PM
DMG pg 143 gives rules for starting at levels higher than lvl 1 :smallbiggrin:

Mauril Everleaf
2008-12-11, 12:17 PM
You should absolutely start them at level one. This is an entirely new system for you and for them, and 4e can be a little weird to get used to. I personally love it (having converted from 2e), but it took a bit to get used to.

If you have never DM'd before I would suggest running a pre-made dungeon. We did, and my DM has been DM'ing for years, just to get used to the new system. When we were comfortable with it, we started over with my DM's homebrew world.

Standard wealth is, as a general rule, one magic item of your level, one of one above and one of one below, and then gold equivalent to an item of your level. I would recommend just giving one or two items at level one, though.

Of the three campaigns I play in, there are no more than three of us, and one is a solo campaign. The key is to just adjust the "XP Budget" (as described in the DMG) to fit the number of players.

As far as "standard dungeon crawl", I am not a fan of those either, but I do recommend at least running a one-shot to get used to how combat works. Also, make sure to utilize the skill challenges. They are a nice way to let skills be more useful and to break up some of the "combattiness" of a one-shot.

2008-12-11, 12:19 PM
You can probably bump them up to level 2 or level three without losing much. It will also give them a few more options to work with, without overwhelming them. also expands your reach of what you can use in the MM. As for wealth by level, take a look at the DM guide. It has a loot table at one point. A lot of wealth in 4e is received in magic items of level X, so characters will be more likely to get equipment then straight up cash. Me and the other member of the group that co-DMs generally take a look at module loot, what level it is, and then find something more party appropriate to work with.

Also, remember that instead of the CR rating, encounters work on the XP budget now. I find it a lot easier to figure out how difficult the encounter will be. There's also very simple rules for scaling a monster (although the book suggests only scaling +/- 5 levels, as otherwise the abilities because under/overpowered)

edit- RE: skill challenges. I've been less then thrilled with them, but we've only been using pre-made modules currently, and have been unable to find time to home-make our own things. If you're making something up, I suggest making it more dynamic, so that each success and failure is somewhat exciting. The current skill challenges that we've had have felt more like we're attacking a defense with our skills instead of attacking a defense with our attack bonus. Basically, make something happen regardless of success or failure, and look at each skill and decide if you want to allow it, because your players are going to try every skill that they're trained in to see if it works.

As an example, I've been working on an adventure with the working title of 'The Celestial lighthouse'. At one point, there's a good deal of broken down machinery that they need to fix in order to progress to the main observatory. Activating it makes it start up, but then they notice that damage over time has rendered some parts broken, sparking, or outright missing. The skill challenge was them running around as parts of this machinery open up, attempt to activate, etc. I didn't tell them whether the rolls were a success or a failure, just what the end result was. eventually there was a missing part that the rogue couldn't jury-rig a connection around, and the machine sputtered, burned out another part, and shut down. They had to go around to some side areas where parts were to fix it, but they had more fun because they were actively running around this room and trying to do things, instead of just standing in a circle making skill checks.

2008-12-11, 12:20 PM
Starting at level 1 in 4e is probably best if none of you have much experience with it. 4e level 1 is significantly tougher than earlier editions, so you don't have 1-hit-kills anymore. Unless they're up against something way out of their league.
Fallcrest is a pretty good base for starting - lots of flavour, NPCs to work with, etc. Kobold hall is terrible if you want anything more than "kick the door, kill the monster, take the loot". You'll need to make something up. Don't worry though - there are several plot hooks available in the Fallcrest descriptions, and creating encounters is quite straightforward. The DMG gives some pretty good advice on the subject, and having monster types listed in the MM makes it easy.

2008-12-11, 12:21 PM
As an addendum to what Mauril Everleaf said, I've heard that Keep on the Shadowfell can be...unsatisfying as an experience. I'd look for some others if you decide to go this route.

2008-12-11, 12:27 PM
It's OK to railroad your players a little. Left to their own devices, I find PCs can't come up with anything better than drinking contests, starting barfights and seeing who can hold their breath the longest. (Unfortunately, there are no rules for holding your breath, so this lasts until I say "**** it. Everybody suffocates.")

2008-12-11, 12:31 PM
Thanks guys :smallbiggrin:

So creating encounters based around the Xp budget is a fine idea. I was not sure at all about that, makes making dungeons a bit better feeling.

Hows the trap design and skill challenges hints presented by the DMG? I want to have some of those. The Kobold hall doesn't have any skill challenges -.- but they do have a few traps I want to use.

I saw a few plot hooks, and I liked them. Also I have a npc I'm adding that can present a plot hook itself.

So should I toss out the hall completely or should I change it to fit better? Or is it not even worth it?

(Unfortunately, there are no rules for holding your breath, so this lasts until I say "**** it. Everybody suffocates.") Ok, I won't feel bad about a little bit, still hoping they won't need it however.

Mauril Everleaf
2008-12-11, 12:41 PM
Kobold Hall, as mentioned, is simply "wander in, kill some kobolds, drop a LBEG and wander out with some loot", so taking it doesn't really add much as far as plot goes. My first group ran it to get used to the combat. My DM tossed in some minor bits that made it attach to his larger world, which made it sort of nice.

As far as Skill Challenges, the basic idea is to run them the same as you would a combat encounter. They do require a bit more pre-planning though. The easiest thing to do is to treat them like a mini-quest. Have a clear goal in mind, and a few ways for the PCs to get to that goal. Decide what skills are supposed to be relevant to the challenge and their relevant DCs. Skill Challenges are rated two successes to one failure, and the the number of target successes determines the challenge level and therefor the XP gained. You can even run traps (and not just social encounters) as Skill Challenges.

EDIT: There are rules for holding your breath now! Yay! After 3 minutes (which is a long time...) it's a base DC 20 Endurance check and +5 per round after. A fail means that you either stop holding your breath, or suffocate. Your call, I guess.

2008-12-11, 12:42 PM
I've only worked a little bit with traps, but I've liked the design of them so far, especially the fact that they aren't only decided by a Search check and a Disable Device roll. The sample ones in the DMG seem OK to me.
Skill Challenges are a great idea with a really crappy implementation. Don't use them as-is from the DMG. Basically, when I want a skill challenge, I present the players with an objective or obstacle, and see what they do about it. (Make sure you have the errata for DC's by level - it's available free at the D&D site, I think). Try to think of several skills that might apply, and guess at what sort of results you'll get. I find it works much better as a loose RP situation than if everyone's thinking how they can beat the skill challenge.

I didn't like Kobold Hall for a couple reasons. One, it has no plot other than "go here, kill things, come back". Two, it's divided into 5 appropriate-level encounters without any reason for the kobolds to be divided that way, which grates on believability.
(Three, I've found a strong preference for playing without a battle grid & minis.)
I think it'd be easier to make your own adventure than it would be to fix Kobold Hall.

2008-12-11, 12:56 PM
one more addendum about KOTS: check all monsters against their MM counterpart. as KOTS was released before 4e was officially released, a few monsters are off-base, and are possibly overpowering (I'm looking at you, gelatinous cube). I had to fire off the retcon laser once or twice when looking up things in the MM.

And yes, KOTS is a bit unsatisfying as an example of 4e play, overall, but if you've got nothing else, it's sufficient.

2008-12-11, 08:26 PM
Thanks guys :smallbiggrin:

So creating encounters based around the Xp budget is a fine idea. I was not sure at all about that, makes making dungeons a bit better feeling.

I would say to keep in mind too that with 4e, you can pretty safely throw encounters of 2 or 3 levels higher at the party for flavor and danger (i would recommend against elites or solos in those unless you intend them to be boss encounters, and the players have all their dailies).

I'm DMing a party of 3 dwarves right now (defender, leader, and striker), and a party of 5 regular adventurers (2 leaders instead of a defender). Both groups are level 1, but both groups have taken out encounters of level 3 according to their respective hp budgets. I just had to shorten the number of encounters per day.

Oh, and if none of you have really played D&D before, then I wouldn't just throw out Kobold Hall. It may just be hack'n'slash, but it is pretty good for getting to understand the rules of the game. It has all of your standard stuff, allowing you to explain shifting, minions, and soloes. And it starts off slow to get progressively harder. Boringly, it is linear, but that also makes it a little easier for the players to rest if they make some tactical mistakes. Most importantly, it is quick and dirty.

In fact, you might even have a small skirmish with some kobolds long before the dungeon, so that players can learn the basics by doing, rather than reading.

2008-12-11, 11:34 PM
As an addendum to what Mauril Everleaf said, I've heard that Keep on the Shadowfell can be...unsatisfying as an experience. I'd look for some others if you decide to go this route.

I'm actually enjoying KotS quite a bit, but admittedly my DM has done his damnedest to personalise it for us.

I'm not suggesting it's a great adventure, but published modules (particularly low-level ones) rarely are. After all, The Sunless Citadel wasn't pure gold.

Like all published module it needs work to tailor it to your group.

2008-12-17, 02:37 AM
My group had been playing 2nd Ed. since we first met back in 2001. I was our original DM for the first few campaigns while they started learning the game and over the last few years it's been a different friend when we could even all get together to play. Earlier this year, however, we decided to switch to 4th Ed.

Since we're learning it as a group it's slower going, especially because we skipped 3rd Ed and are still occasionally saying things like THAC0. :p I'm using a pretty heavily modified Dragonlance Campaign and I ran the Kobold Hall adventure (with goblins instead) as if it was a ruined manor a few hours away from Solace and they were sent there on an errand by Hederick, not as a religious favour but a lust for gold and goblin ears. Since this is War of the Lance era and there are no clerics, gods, or dragons, I replaced the White Dragon in the basement with three Specter's that were holding captive a Dwarven Warrior's spirit. When the PCs managed to free the spirit, the Dwarven Paladin of the party swore a "beard oath" to lay the deceased's warhammer to rest in the forge it had been made in... which of course just happened to have been infested by all manners of nasty beasties. :D (Courtesy of Goodman Game's Forges of the Mountain King) The forzen lake shattered into a million pieces and underneath they found a tunnel with the Dwarf's body and hammer, as well as a passage to the Hall.

Last weekend we wrapped up the Hall and had them find their way to Haven where they met Elistan and are beginning to hear some dark rumors swirling about. We left off with Elistan asking the characters to investigate a temple robbery, but before they were able to leave a mysterious man clad in white appeared before them, held his hand out to the party's mage and tell him "It is time" before they both vanished into thin air. Those of you who are familiar with the Dragonlance saga can see where this is going...

Anyway, don't be afraid to make it your own and be ready to throw it all out the window and improvise if you need to. I'd also advise you to stick to debating the rules OUTSIDE of play time, as we have one player who likes to cause a big stink about it in game, get us severely off track and won't take "I'm the DM, this is how it's going to be until we wrap up and can discuss it" without throwing a temper tantrum. :smallmad: Also, we've instituted a small sand timer rule... once it's your turn you have until the sand runs out to act. No conferring around the table and trying to strategize and ask others players what to do at that moment... unless you can yell out your plan as a free action, combat is just too busy and heated to sit around and wait!

2008-12-17, 02:51 AM
Everyone else's advice has been good, but one thing I'd like to point out is that getting character sheets is something you REALLY should do. It, along with maybe even some index cards for each character's powers, makes things a LOT easier.

If you don't have them just because you don't want to screw up your book trying to copy them, never fear! You can download the official WotC sheet from HERE (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/charactersheets). Power cards are much easier - just have every copy their powers out of the PHB onto cards, and for encounter/daily powers, have them turn them over until they recharge.

2008-12-17, 03:16 AM
On Skill Challenges
Don't use the suggestions in the DMG. It's just wrong.

The proper way to run a Skill Challenge is to not tell your players that they're in one.

Present them with a situation (The Duke asks "why should I help you" or the thieves are chasing you through an ally) and then ask them what they want to do. After they describe an action, tell them what Skill that requires and roll against the DCs on DMG 42. Success or failure, describe the outcome to the PCs (The Duke looks at you sceptically; a couple of thieves get caught behind the cart you vaulted) and keep going until you get enough successes or failures to end the encounter.

Also: never put a Skill Challenge that the PCs must pass to continue. In such situations, the "failure" result should allow the PCs to move on, but at a cost (an ambush, healing surges, lost time, etc.). Otherwise, you'll be stuck with PCs asking what they should do next, and your only answer is going to be "um, try again?" It's not fun.

Oh, and have you read up on all the Errata (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/updates) yet? It's very important, particularly about Skill Challenges and Stealth.