The Usual Suspects
The game follows the D&D 4th edition rules closely. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:
The game is in classic 4e style: high fantasy, high magic, cinematic action adventure. You’re a world-saving hero with unusual abilities facing monstrous foes. Think Raymond Feist or The Matrix: lots of magic and over-the-top action.
Within this framework, the style of play is up to you. Players are currently emphasizing tactical action over roleplaying, but there’s room for both.
We only have a few hours to play each session, so it’s important you do any prep work beforehand. There isn’t much: just make sure your character page is up to date when you go up a level. (If you use the D&D Insider Character Builder, please upload your character file as well.) I’m happy to provide any help you need to get started.
To prepare these materials, you’ll need a copy of the 4th edition Player’s Handbook or a subscription to D&D Insider. D&D Insider is an excellent value—it provides a compendium of all official D&D “crunch” for between $5 and $8 per month, depending on subscription, and substantial new material comes out every month.
If you don’t feel like buying anything right away, I or one of the other players can help you out.
You can use any official D&D supplements you like, except for Monster Manual races (they’re not balanced properly). I’m also open to your using third-party supplements, but please check with me first. Either way, if an option you choose turns out to be overpowered or disruptive in play, I’ll ask you to swap it out for something else. (Here’s a list of supplements you might like.)
If you subscribe to D&D Insider, please “Scales of War” adventures and spoilers in Dungeon Magazine. That’s where the adventures we’re playing come from.
We’re playing a pre-published campaign, so from time to time I will tell you how the next adventure starts and I’ll ask you to come up with an in-character reason that your character is involved. I may also let you know if you’re going too far outside of what I’m prepared to run and ask you to come back to stuff I’m comfortable with.
That said, I do customize the world, game sessions, and encounters to your actions and character background. Your choices-
good and bad-have a real impact on the game world. If you do something unexpected, I’ll try to roll with it.
To keep the game moving quickly, we use a bunch of game aids at the table. The most important are “power cards” that summarize your character’s powers and items. I’ll print them out for you unless you want to create your own. When you need new cards (for example, when you go up in level), please tell me a week in advance so I have time to make them for you.
The power cards are color-coded. See the link for a description.
MAGIC ITEM WISH-LIST:
If you provide me with a magic item wish-list on your character page, I’ll take it into account when placing treasure. The wish-list should contain any items you’re really interested in having. If you don’t want to keep a wish-list, that’s fine too.
Please treat game night with the same respect you treat any social commitment. We’re pretty flexible-
we understand that people have work commitments, family visits, and so forth-but if you cancel frequently or at the last minute, it’s disruptive and unfair to the people who do come.
If you’re absent, your character “fades into the background”—he or she is technically present, but off camera. There’s no experience point penalty for missing a session.
Every quest is worth a fixed amount of experience points. You get all of the experience regardless of how many monsters you kill—so clever solutions are a good thing! I award experience points as the plot progresses. Everyone gets the same amount of experience.
Every adventure also has a fixed amount of treasure and magic items. Unlike experience points, you only get the treasure if you find it. It’s up to the players to decide who gets what.
NARRATIVE CONTROL & POWERS:
You have a lot of control over your character’s action and appearance. 4th edition distinguishes between “crunch” (the rules of the game) and “fluff” (what the game world looks and feels like). As a result, you can describe your character’s actions in any way you like, so long as the mechanical effect is the same.
For example, the hypothetical “Trip” power knocks enemies prone. That’s the crunch. The fluff is up to you: you can describe your character tripping your opponent, menacing it with your sword so it stumbles over some rocks, a gut punch that knocks it to the ground, a pro wrestling move, or anything else you want… so long as the end result is that the enemy is prone (and nothing else).
So… have fun! Come up with a great character concept and ham it up. When you use a power, tell us what your character does, not which power you’re using. (Examples here.)
NARRATIVE CONTROL & HIT POINTS:
The same narrative control applies to hit points. In 4th edition, hit points and healing surges are an abstract concept. Typically, hit points represent stamina, endurance, and ability to dodge. Being bloodied represents first blood. Healing surges represent that cinematic surge of energy movie heroes use when they’re beat up and backed into a corner.
However, you can describe hit points and healing surges any way you like. I’ll describe a zombie as slowly being hacked to bits rather than dodging. An armor-plated monster will have scales fly off as it’s damaged. Your character’s hit points can represent his shield and armor being beat up, his luck running out, or something else. Again, have fun with it! Use your character concept and describe your character’s damage and use of healing surges accordingly.
Similarly, when you reduce an enemy to zero hit points, the enemy isn’t necessarily mortally wounded. Instead, the enemy is at your mercy. Any cinematic effect you wish to describe-
such as a flourishing disarm, sword at the throat, knocking him into a chasm, etc-is fair game.
CHARACTER DEATH AND DM “CHEATING:”
I roll my dice in the open and I don’t fudge dice rolls. It’s possible for your character to die, but you’ll usually see it coming. If your character dies, the rest of the party can choose to pay to have your character raised, or you can create a new character.
Every situation you face can be overcome; not every situation can be overcome by fighting. Sometimes the enemy team will be more powerful than yours. It’s up to you to exercise the better part of valor when appropriate.
IT’S YOUR GAME
I may be the DM, but the game belongs to all of us… so have fun! If you’d like to change any of these house rules, or if there aspects of the game that you’d like to see more of (or less of), just say so. I’m open to any change that makes the game more fun for everyone.
Forced Movement: The DMG states that forced movement into hazardous terrain grants a save to fall prone. The PH simply says that forced movement over a cliff grants a save. We like forced movement, so we’ve made it simpler: if forced movement into terrain or a zone will cause massive damage (more than twice normal), then the creature gets a save to fall prone at the edge.
Fiddly Bits: We don’t track encumbrance, ammunition, or supplies in the standard adventuring kit. Your character is assumed to restock these items when in town. Please be reasonable and don’t carry unused weapons/armor/heavy things without reason.