My 4e Sweet Spot

Posted on July 27, 2010 by


I had been running a campaign since the launch of 4e with 7-8 people.  I figured with more people, I would always have a nicely populated table, considering there’s always someone who can’t make it, or his wife needs him for something, or whatever other circumstance will crop up.  If a few people missed a session, it wouldn’t matter.  My problem is that those issues never really came up too much, and I had an overcrowded table most of the time.

The game played slow, but I took steps to remedy the situation.  I had timers, laptop initiative tracking, pre rolled initiative for the monsters, great prep work, etc…  It was manageable, but I know there were some issues with party size and the speed of play in my group.  As the party made its way out of heroic and into paragon, those issues became more apparent and I took a brief hiatus from 4e for a little SW Saga.

Today, I made a few phone calls, and rebooted my D&D game.  Back to square one, with less people.  I had 4 people at the table, and we started from level one.  I ran the first level Dungeon Delve adventure, which seemed a little familiar to the guys because it is very similar to the Kobold Hall adventure, down to the white dragon boss at the end.  It’s what I had ready so it’s what they got.  We started our campaign two years ago with Kobold Hall.

So I mention a sweet spot.  In my opinion, and this is nothing more than my personal belief, our 4e sweet spot is in the heroic tier.  Everything just moves faster.  Combat and player decisions within it just move at a faster pace.   The kind of stories I like to tell in the D&D world are all mostly within the realm of the heroic tier, and I just enjoy running it more as a DM.

In fact, I was sitting at the table about to pick up where our campaign left off, at the Demon Queen’s Enclave, and I said, “You know what guys, let’s reboot.  Let’s go back to 1st level and start something fresh”.  Well, they didn’t hesitate to fire up the character builders and make new 1st level characters, and I didn’t hesitate to come up with a quick story to make them all be traveling together towards a dwarven mining town and into Coppernight Hold.

Tools of the trade.

Tonight we had a blast, although we lost one PC and almost lost another one to that white dragon down in the mines.  From here, we take off towards the Chaos Scar and the famous Keep on the Border-eh, Keep on the Chaos Scar.  I am excited:  new campaign, less people, short little adventures tied into a loose plot.  I tried to be Tolkien, grand, and epic, and it didn’t work.  Now I’m going to be episodic and light, lets see where it goes.

So I guess the moral of the story here is that if you are feeling a bit of burnout at your game, take a step back and look at why that is.

  • Is it the size of your party?  Cut it.  You are going to have to be the jerk that does it, but your DMing life will be simpler once you do.
  • Is it the game you are playing?  Take a break,  and play something else.  Your books aren’t going anywhere, so don’t worry about not playing with them for a while.
  • Is it that your story seems a little unwieldy?  Don’t be ashamed in dropping it and starting over.  None of us (I think) is a master storyteller, nor earning a living at this.  There’s nothing wrong with a reboot and a fresh start.
  • What do your players want?  It’s their game too, so talk to them.  They may want the same things you do and aren’t saying it.  D&D has to be a two way street between the DM and the players.

So here we are.  Almost two years to the date and starting anew.  At least we are still gaming, and that’s the important part.