There was a post on EN World asking how people have taught the rules of D&D Fourth Edition to new players. I shared my story there, and since it ended up being a pretty long reply, I thought it would make for a good blog post. I’ve told a little bit of this story in my first blog post, but here’s the extended version.
I was at a wedding in Florida (I live in Colorado). The wedding was in the morning, and the festivities were done by mid-afternoon. I was a pretty new D&D player at that point and hadn’t DMed at all, but I had brought the DMG 2 to read on the trip.
One of my friends, Zach, noticed the book and asked about D&D. He had played World of Warcraft and knew a little bit about D&D. I talked to him, and he was into the idea of playing, as was his wife, Lane. She had never played anything like D&D. My wife, Barbara, had been playing in a game with me for about three sessions at that point, so she at least knew the rules.
I helped Zach and Lane roll up some characters in the Character Builder on my laptop, guiding them through the process. Then the bride and groom showed up and wanted to play, too, so I had Zach guide the groom through character creation on his laptop (CB is a free download for levels 1-3, woo hoo!) while I helped the bride. Once they all had characters, I helped transfer their stats to sheets of paper in an abbreviated format (no printer, you see). My wife used her character from our session at home (which we saved on the laptop).
Zach drew up a battle grid (freehand) on two sheets of letter-sized paper that we had on hand, and we fished around for coins and little dried fruits to use for PCs and monsters. I found a free adventure to run (Keep on the Shadowfell), and we dived right in, right there in the hotel room.
So picture it: Six people seated around a hotel end table that’s been pushed to the middle of the room. Four are sitting on beds, two on chairs. There are a couple of laptops around, one of which is mine that I’m using to run the game. People are busting out their cell phones to use online dice rollers (we had no dice, you see). The PCs (coins) are attacking the monsters (little dried blueberries and pineapple chunks), enjoying the pleasure of eating what they kill (if you haven’t tried this, I highly recommend it).
As for teaching the game, it went something like this:
“On your turn, you have three actions you can spend – a standard action, a move action, and a minor action. Most of the time you won’t have anything that’s a minor action, but you can use it for drawing a weapon, for instance. Your standard action is usually going to be an attack, and I’ve laid out your options for those on your sheets of paper. Your move action can be moving up to your speed or, if you’re standing next to a bad guy, you might want to just move one square – if you move away from a bad guy at full speed, he gets to smack you.”
“When you attack, you pick which bad guy you’re attacking and which of your powers you’re using for the attack. You roll a twenty-sided die and add a number to it (the number is on the power). I’ll let you know if your total is high enough to hit the bad guy. If it is, your power will tell you to roll a different die and add another number, which will be the damage you’ve dealt to the bad guy.”
“You have a hit point total, which is how much damage you can take before you end up unconscious and start to die. You’re trying to wipe out the bad guys before they wipe you out.”
That was it in a nutshell, and it was enough to get us through two encounters. We didn’t do a lot of role playing, of course, but everyone seemed to get the gist of what they could do on their turn, and they had fun beating up kobolds and goblins. It led to a recurring online game after we went home to Colorado, so I’d call it a success!