This post is aimed directly at a newbie dm who may be DM’ing a set of newbie players through their first experiences with role-playing games…
You’ve got the books, you’ve played a few sessions, and you’re really digging it. Your players are getting more and more comfortable with the rules, your table management gets smoother every session, and everyone is having a good time. Great! The point is to have fun and socialize for a few hours.
But now you may have reached a stage where you want a little more, perhaps you guys are slowly easing your way up to more role playing, your finding different voices and getting looser with each session. But are your players? Role playing doesn’t come easy for everyone, and not all your players should be expected to be thespians at the table either, it’s an unrealistic expectation. One small way to creep them up to more RP’ing in an organic manner is during combat. Combat? Yes, the part of the game most called a board game or miniatures game by 4th edition critics can be one of the gateways towards more RP’ing from your group. In simple terms: keep them from ever mentioning their powers while telling you what they are doing. You’ll find that a simple change like that may open the door to more clever descriptions and characterizations.
In my opinion, power names are meant to be for reference and bookeeping purposes only. They serve no purpose at the table when dealing with an in-character discussion. Bob the Cleric doesn’t talk to other fellow clerics at the temple about the size of their respectives Lances of Faiths. Instead of Bob saying “I Lance of Faith his ass” when attacking the Kobold, encourage, or require a better description. “Divine Light radiates from my holy symbol, engulfing and searing the Kobold’s ass.” That sounds better. Over time this could lead to more in-character talk, interaction, descriptions, and ultimately, role playing nirvana.
I think the new power system in 4th edition grants players a greater palette from which to draw descriptions from. Back in the day, (and yes 3e lovers this includes you because I’ve been there) my dwarven fighter had a few options. 99% of these were to stand there and swing his axe on his turn. Oh yeah, then he got two attacks a round. “My turn? I swing my axe” “My turn again? Oh, I do a piroutte then swing my axe.” 4e powers grant more description opportunities for the players.
Cleave– “I smack the Kobold with my axe, laugh at him and then face the guy next to him and bury the business end of my weapon in his forehead.”
Reaping Strike-“The Goblin in front of me will look like diced ham after I’m done slicing and dicing him with my sword. I hit him! And I left countless open wounds in him.”
You get the point. Encourage more descriptions and less power names.
Remember, as a DM, you do not need to really know the name of the power they are using. Your concern should be what they rolled vs. your defenses. Well, unless your players are cheaters. Then having good knowledge of powers may come in handy. Let’s hope that’s not ever the case.