One-Shot Dungeon Delve

This past Saturday night, I ran a one-shot for a fairly large group. The organizer, a friend from work, wanted to introduce his wife to the game, and to try out the new system, so I agreed to GM, supply pregenerated characters, and the adventures. His job was assembling a group. I told him that the basic assumption in 4E was that the party would consist of 5 characters, but that it was possible to run with more or fewer. I also said that less than four characters could make things more difficult, because then all the roles wouldn’t be filled, and there would be very little in the way of back-up.

He put together a group of seven players, most of whom had very little (or no) experience with 4E, which was fine. I used the D&D Character Builder (which I love to death) to generate quick characters – one for each class, and spread among the races. Everyone picked a character, and I ran them through  Coppernight Hold, the level 1 delve from Dungeon Delve. Everyone seemed to have a good time, and I think the game went fairly well. Some observations:

  • In retrospect, I think it would have been better to stick to the PHB1 races and classes, rather than going for the variety I did. While there was a benefit to having the broader choices – one of my friends finally got a chance to try out a Warden, for instance – I think that the range of choices was a little overwhelming to those who were less familiar with the whole thing.
  • As new supplements are released for 4E, I have noticed an increase in mechanical complexity with newly-introduced material. This is reasonable and to be expected, as the supplements can be viewed more as expert source material for those who have achieved some mastery of the game’s basics. However, for starting players, it makes the characters that use the new systems (beast mastery for Rangers, the Shaman’s spirit companion, and the Monk’s full discipline mechanic, for instance) more complex to play. We had both the Monk and the Shaman in play on Saturday, and they took a little time to start fitting together their abilities. I’m immensely glad no one chose the Psion.
  • Monks are very, very cool. I want to play a Monk.
  • Monks might be broken, currently. I’ll have to take a closer look, but the Monk in the game unleashed an absolutely devastating combo of powers with the wise use of an action point that made my eyebrows rise quite dramatically. Further investigation is warranted.
  • Seven players is a big group. Larger than I ideally like, but not completely overwhelming. The simplicity of the adventure and the frame of the one-shot made it easier to handle than a regular campaign, but combat rounds took a long time, especially as everyone was trying to get familiar with what their pregens could do.
  • The Character Builder Quick Character feature is great, but it produces some odd results sometimes. There was a real preponderance of multi-classing among the characters it generated, and some strange combos of class and race, and some less-than-intuitive selections of powers and feats. Now, the idea of the optimal build for each class will change from player to player, but I feel comfortable in saying that none of the characters was really optimized.
  • We started late (around 10:00 pm), and had a large group of novice players, so I cut out the middle encounter of the delve, and didn’t beef up the encounters we did play to match the number of players. That let us get through the delve in about three hours, which is not too bad.
  • It was very foggy as I drove home, and I thought I might die.

As I said, the game went well, and I think everyone had fun. We’re talking about doing it again, and I’m up for that.

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