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Tossing My Hat Into the Ring - Becoming a PbP 4e GM

   
Tossing My Hat Into the Ring - Becoming a PbP 4e GM

So, I decided not long ago to start reading through as much DM material as possible and try to put a game together for a friend of mine. I figured since the DMs of Myth-Weavers (more than likely) have a lot of experience in this area that a few of you could give me some pointers on how to start out well, instead of floundering around like a beheaded chicken.

Mostly the kind of advice/hints/tips I'm looking for are good ways to present maps, good ways to build maps and pacing tips. I already know being a DM is a big undertaking compared to being a player, so if there's anything you think a new DM would be unaware of going into things that they should know, I'd love to hear it.

Start with the MW GUIDES listed in my signature Vol 1-4. It will start off as review, but quickly you'll start to pick up a whole lot of exactly what you're looking for.

I highly recommend you do that ASAP and also continue in this thread looking for a 4e expert to help you with your first 4e game.

Battles in 4e can be exceptionally clunky. You will need to check after every post to see whether or not a quick, mechanical response is needed (someone slides your npc, etc). Also, monster HP is incredibly high, which makes pbp battles that much longer. There is a rule somewhere about lessening 4e monster hp and I think it is by 30%, but you will want to check that. Keep your battle maps simple enough (or layered, like a PSD file) so that you can edit them frequently. There is a lot of swapping/sliding/position change in 4e.

Building maps can be easy. Go to the Dundjinni forums, download the user created maps and symbols/etc. Use a layer enabled graphics program (Gimp is free) and pile your symbols/icons on one of the maps until you get what you want. Save it as a layered document so you can edit, then as jpg or png, and use an online image hosting site to link it to your players.

Alternatively, I think there a couple online mapping tools now, but I don't know what they are. the only problem with these is that all your players must be using compatible browsers/etc to use them.

Use Ditzie or Google docs for your maps (I used to use Google presentation, I've seen some people use Google Draw).. I prefer ditzie myself.. It's ultra simple to use.. It's nice for the players to be able to simply update their own positions rather than you having to do it at the end of each turn and post a new map for them each turn..

For making maps I use Maptool.. There's a great library of objects you can download, so you'll have lots of variety for tiles and objects. The tutorials they have are also very good, so it's not too hard to pick up.. You can use the grid and map coordinates in Maptool, then save a screenshot, do any other minor edits in whatever image editing program you prefer (I've gotten by fine with Paint for it)..

Many people use Combat Adjudicators through Google Docs to allow players to plug in their rolls and determine their own results, which can speed up play. I've quit using them myself. I'm on MW enough to be able to let them know the results and press on with my own monsters reactions if they have some.

Group initiative is always a plus. Allowing players in initiative "groups" to act in whatever order helps so you're not waiting on that one specific guy..

Some of it depends on the type of game you're going to run and the scope of your game.. Roleplay heavy or combat heavy? Are you looking to go levels 1-10 or more? That will take a LONG time using 4e's experience progression.. A majority of 4e's experience is garnered through combat encounters (read any module and you'll see how true that is).. Going through all the required combat encounters at PbP pace will take a very, VERY long time. I recommend you drop 4e's experience progression and just level them based on story need, so you're not running "filler" encounters to simply get them that extra XP they need. My first PbP campaign I ran was a WotC module called Touch of Madness. ToM features 12 combat encounters.. However, you can cut out probably half of those and still tell the same story. I even go so far in my new game to skip over levels entirely.. I want to play through a Heroic tier, then take my players into paragon challenges but I don't want to take five years to do so.

That was the plan actually: I was going to do away with XP entirely and award levels based on story progression. It's something Mustardo did for me when I started and something I noted that you've been doing, so I figured that would be the best plan.

Maptool sounds like a great program and I'll have to give it a look. If the tutorials are as helpful as you say, I should be able to put a nice map together in no time. Since this is my first time DMing, I'm doing more of a "by the seat of my pants" approach until I learn the ins and outs and what I really want out of it. That's how I've always worked and somehow it's always worked out in the end

I ran the math one time, and if you reduce monster HP by 2 per level it works out just fine. I forget what metric I was using for comparison, but that was what my results were (it's been a while.

I also run levels based on story progression. Levels in my game still take a while, but I start at Level 11 with practically everything so generally speaking you need to Do Stuff to real progress.

If you want any tips on improvisation, sandboxing, or letting players have control (and how much), those are my areas of expertise.

I haven't tried using Maptools, or GoogleDocs draw function. For maps I just use a spreadsheet with colors and letters for PC's/NPC's then take a screenshot--it's easy to manipulate, big as you need it to be, and it already has gridlines. May have to try one of the other ideas though just for a change.

Group initiative is a must if you don't mind my saying so. I've tried one or two combats on here using individual initiative and it took the better part of a month for a 1st level combat that only had 3 good guys and 3 bad guys. And people were posting almost every day too. I would also recommend you and your players put as many rolls into a single post as you can. E.g., roll To Hit and Damage at the same time, then adjudicate later. It does save time. Given how that works, I highly recommend story-driven experience as several others have already. But I'm biased towards a plot-heavy game instead of combat heavy.

Also, dice tend to get in the way of a lot of plot and RP, IMO. Don't forget that Passive checks are there, and perhaps consider using Passive Checks for Trained Skills to introduce plot details without having to wait on the entire party to roll a check on. It definitely speeds things up.

Be aware of how long it takes people to post, react to one another, and for you to get back to them. Large parties (6+) are difficult to deal with, as I've found out--running Eberron with 7 right now. Combat can be a nightmare, as are some conversations just due to RL often keeping people from posting more than twice a week, and others waiting to get in on the action. 5 in a party is a good round number.

Group initiative is helpful, but it does mess with "end of next turn" durations. A general fix is that an effect lasts until the end of the triggering PC's next initiative phase, and a given ally can benefit from the effect only once. However, we've both seen that standard initiative can work just fine, thankyouverymuch, with a dedicated group.

ditzie offers far more flexibility with 4E mapping than any other tool I've used. It was designed, after all, for gaming on Myth Weavers. I find GoogleDocs to be difficult to manage with large maps and with various layers. ditzie handles layers quite nicely, with the added benefit of having a fixed history of the maps.

I'm a fan of the passive skill checks myself. Like if something nature-y comes up and we have a druid with +12 to nature. I'll PM them the info instead of having them roll a check. Just gets rid of a one-line post and lets the game keep flowing.




 

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