Things Get Played: DnD 4th edition, and The Band of Bakers

A bit over a year ago, a dnd group formed at work, with me running as DM. I thought I should share a few things I've noticed in that time, as I've found it pretty interesting, a lot of fun, and a great reason to hang out with a bunch of awesome people. Originally this post was bigger, but technology has decided against that. So here are some things I have encountered, especially in the last few months when we got an extra member, and everyone found their feet. I'll try to add some new ones when I get a chance, but I'll mainly do them one at a time.

WANT TO WIN? COMMUNICATE!
Seriously, dnd is at it's core a co-op game. The DM is there to guide the story and act as a rules marshal. The players drive the story. But more importantly, their teamwork can be the difference between a big win and a huge loss. The group I play with has mostly worked together for several years, being good at their jobs where communication is key. In game terms, that means that they act as a team really well. No one tries to be the hero. They all understand how the game works well enough to capitalise on a situation when it presents itself, but no on decides to overstep their bounds

Ok, so one time the rogue tried to tank, but there were special circumstances there...

Anyway, let me give you an idea of a situation from a few weeks ago. The Bakers (the group name with a backstory for another time) made it to the final encounter. After dropping the first line of defence quickly, they separated the big bad (a Halfling thief) from his bodyguard (I love dread protectors) and got rid of his meat shield. He surprised them with an ogre, and started dashing around jabbing at people with his sword and throwing poison knives at people. At this point, the wizard has become a thorn in my side, and I think I can get him making death saving throws if I focus on him. So during the course of my actions, I start waving pointed metal at him.

"I hit you with a throwing knife for some damage, and you get ongoing poison damage."
"Ok. It does 5 ongoing poison, and I have resist 5 due to a potion. I'm fine."
(Grinds teeth) "Fine, I run in and slice at you as well with a rapier. You take some more damage."
"I use my daily to knock you prone."
"I... Oh no..."

I had given the wizard a magic cloak that can knock an attacker prone once a day. I'd also ruled a while ago that prone targets they attacked were helpless, as they had very few options to coup de grace, and that's just fun. Now my bad guy was magically transported flat on his back. The wizard gets his turn next, and I can see him scheming...

"So, for my first trick I cast scorching burst up by the ogre. Darruk (dwarf tank) and Crouch (tiefling rogue), can you guys keep it locked down?" 
(At this point it is pinned in the corner, flanked, trapped by a fiery Minotaur shaped ball, and failing to hit the dwarf which has marked it. The two players holding that area consider this a good place to be.)
"I then shout to the other two: come help my hit this Halfling!"

At this point, I was really interested in what would happen. The Halfling still had a lot of hp left, so could weather a few auto crits. 
The cleric steps forward. Apart from a few poor taste comments every now and again, I wouldn't classify this player as a violent person, and tends to want to discuss issues rather than argue them...
"I use my encounter power while slamming my Morningstar into his chest!"
Ok, he's dazed and prone now, and possibly crying. Crying does not confer a bonus. 

Now it's that ranger's turn. The ranger player is one of the more peaceful people I have met, so I doubt that this will be -
"I run up and twin strike him with my bow while standing over him."
Ok, now the Halfling is seriously hurt... He got away later, but for a while three of my definitely not violent friends enacted Fight Club on a character being represented by Frodo Baggins. Roleplaying, it turns out, is fun when you can be someone else...

So, yes, communication helps. At first these players would just mill around and shout what they were doing. Now they have a near independent system in the group where everyone knows what each other is capable of, and shouts out the options. It's great fun watching them tackle problems in and out of combat, especially when they summon the wizard for random checks. But maybe I'll talk about that next time...

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