What’s the Crock Pot? Just a simmering bowl of lentils and herbs, with a dash of DMing observations. Don’t be afraid to dip in your ladle and stir, or throw in something from your own spice rack.

Death-proofed PCs

Everything I’d heard about Fourth Edition D&D was how hard it was to kill first-level characters — they’re resilient, they’re loaded with offensive capabilities and they’ve got a batch of hit points. If that’s true, they’re probably Troy-proof. It’s unlikely I’ll kill a single PC when I take a turn behind the DM screen for a crack at the new game.

Well, that’s what I told myself.

My hobgoblin longbow is awesome

I see no reason why a second hobgoblin archer should gain a +2 attack bonus on an identical target if his fellow archer scores a hit — but that’s the rule. To all the PCs I skewered this way, I’m sorry.

To Kill a Marking Bird

I kind of like this marking ability, but for the life of me I can’t keep the marked opponents clear from the unmarked ones — and we’re using minis! (That’s because I love minis!) First thing Wizards of the Coast needs to do is produce a game aid — some kind of disk or chit — that lets me indicate which minis are marked. And they need to do it fast. (Otherwise, I may be forced to house rule marking to games rule oblivion.) I want to avoid conversations like: 

PC: This one’s the one I marked with my paladin’s Divine Challenge.

DM: You mean that one over there. 

PC: No, no, this one over here.

DM: I could’ve sworn you said that other one, instead. 

PC: No, I was clearly pointing at this one. 

DM: Whatever …. he’s marked. And he will attack the wizard.

PC: For attacking someone else, he takes damage. That should be enough to kill him.

DM:  You’re right. He’s dead. And that means this entire exchange was for nothing. Who’s turn is it next?

Spending Your XP budget

I built every encounter according to Encounter Components formula on pages 56-57 in the DMG. No more Challenge Ratings, just figure out the XP for a typical encounter appropriate to five PCs of that level and plug in the monsters until you reach your target. Easy as pie. In fact, this system makes designing encounters go very quick.

So what happens when the PCs forge ahead, and the monsters from the first encounter sorta get rolled into the batch of monsters lined up for the second encounter?  You get a giant melee on the first floor of the watchtower against which first-level characters are clearly overmatched.

It was a slaughter, plainly put. The hobgoblin soldier, his goblin minions and the goblin sharpshooters proved to be too much. Heck, the hobgoblin archers from the first encounter really didn’t even enter the fray — and the minions were too busy fighting over the dead tiefling’s backpack like some strange “Dora The Explorer” episode (Backpack! Backpack!) to be a factor, either. 

Total Party Kill. Right out of the gate. And I played fair, darnit!

Clearly some adjustments are in order.