First MapTool session

The D&D drought is over!  Last night, after Barbara and I returned home from our business trip to the east coast, we got together with Lane and Zach (our friends in Florida) to continue our adventures in the Keep on the Shadowfell.  This time, we did it with MapTool.  It was, quite simply, a success.

I’ve already written about how much I love MapTool, and my players seemed to really enjoy it as well.  They liked the attack macros (even Barbara, who loves rolling physical dice, even used the attack macros from time to time), they liked being able to keep track of their hit points within their MapTool character sheets, and they LOVED the way MapTool shows the path that their character is taking and the number of squares they’re moving as they drag their token along the map.  One quick tip for playing D&D Fourth Edition in MapTool: Make sure all of the players go to Edit – Preferences and set the Movement Metric to “ONE-ONE-ONE.”  If they don’t do this, MapTool will calculate diagonal movement incorrectly for them.

We played for about two and a half hours, yet only went through one encounter.  This was partly because we spent the first 30 minutes catching up with one another from our recent trips and partly because we had to make sure everyone knew how to use MapTool.  The encounter was the battle with the giant rats and the ochre jelly in the caves beneath the Keep.  I wasn’t quite sure how many giant rats I wanted in the battle – the original adventure calls for 13 rats, but against a party of five characters rather than the three that we have.  I decided I’d start with six rats and add as needed to keep things interesting.  I think this was exactly the right approach, and I ended up with 11 rats in the end.  The rats ended up not being all that interesting; they generally missed with their bite attacks, and they had a lot of trouble isolating one character away from the others.  I realized that this battle didn’t have any enemies with either ranged attacks or area/burst/blast attacks.  Every single monster only had the ability to attack a single character at melee each round.  This made them not especially challenging, although the moment that the jelly split in two when it became bloodied was pretty cool.

The battle was an easy win for the party, and Kana (Lane’s druid) did catch a glimpse of a pillar of white light off to the south, which disappeared before too long.  Hmm, what could that be?  (This is one of the ideas that I want to discuss on the blog, but it looks like we’ll have to wait and see).  When the battle was over, the party decided to take an extended rest, as they were getting low on surges.  Not bad for having battled through all of the goblin areas of the Keep, plus the rat/jelly cave.  Rather than heading back to Winterhaven or just staying in the rat cave, they decided to close themselves into the bedchamber of Balgron the Fat, with Zach’s Eladrin rogue trancing and keeping watch.

Since this decision has already been made, I can talk a little bit about the consequences that the party will face when they resume play on Monday evening.  See, they’ve left the goblin area of the Keep strewn with dead goblins everywhere.  Now, no other monsters have traipsed through this area while the party was exploring, but that doesn’t mean that no one will be passing through any time in the next six to eight hours.  It’s quite possible that other inhabitants of the Keep may pass through the area, discover all of the dead goblins, deduce that there must be enemies about and get reinforcements.  I haven’t challenged the PCs yet.  But this time, with the bad guys knowing what’s coming, it might be different!

Now, while the use of MapTool for the session was great, and I don’t plan to switch to anything else, I did learn a few lessons that I plan to implement before our next session.

  • I need a button for each character to be able to roll their own initiative.  While my macro that rolls initiative for everybody is cool and all, the players like to roll it themselves.
  • I need buttons for each character’s skill checks.  I think I’m going to implement this by adding skills to the character’s properties, but I’ll just have the number next to the skill be the number that gets added for training or any special skill bonuses (racial, item, etc.).  I’ll have the macro look up the appropriate ability modifier and half-level modifier from the character sheet so that I don’t have to touch the macros as characters level up.
  • I should allow the characters permission to edit the macros on their own character token.  I’ll trust them not to mess with the macros, but I want them to be able to look inside and see what’s going on if they’re interested (Zach is – he’s a programmer).
  • I need to figure out how I want to handle the bad guys’ tokens.  Right now, they use the same properties as the players’ tokens.  That’s not ideal, since it means that if I actually put numbers in for armor class, hit points, etc., the players would be able to see them.  I think I’ll create a separate set of properties for NPCs and make them invisible to players.
  • Similarly, I’d like to figure out how to hide the NPC macros from the players.  Strict Token Ownership might accomplish this, but I’m not sure yet.

All in all, it was a fun way to play D&D, and the players are psyched about playing again Monday evening.  Meanwhile, I played a Free RPG Day session this morning at my Friendly Local Game Store, and I’m playing the first session of the new campaign with my regular in-person group tomorrow.  The D&D drought is officially done!

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