Running Red Box at Gen Con

Sarah Darkmagic - Posted on 10 August 2010

One thing I love to do is to give back to the D&D community, especially since it has given me so much. While I do this in many ways, writing my blog, participating in podcasts, one of my favorites is judging for the RPGA at conventions.

So I made sure I signed up to judge a couple time slots at Gen Con. I contacted the organizer for the event and explained my background. He suggested I run Learn to Play which is something I really wanted to do at PAX East. As the con approached, I learned something even cooler, I would be running Red Box!

Although I've played for only a year and a half, I understand what Red Box is about. For many D&D players, especially the ones slightly older than myself, the original Red Box was their first experience with D&D. At PAX East, Wil Wheaton described in his keynote how that original little box changed his life. While I knew I was already initiated, by the blood of my character, into the fraternity of D&D, I still was full of excitement, wonder, and antici-pation over the new version of Red Box. I wanted that moment of wonder and fear that I had denied myself nearly 20 years ago.

When I was handed the box on Wednesday night, I couldn't wait to open it, to see the wonders inside. Most importantly, I wanted to know what adventure I would be running in a little less than 12 hours. I could tell right away that pretty much everything I needed to run was right there. There were two booklets (one for players and the other for dungeon masters) a sheet of tokens (both monsters and player characters), a few blank character sheets, a few sheets of power and magic item cards, a double-sided map and a set of dice.

After taking stock of the contents, I needed to prepare to run this thing for the next morning. I have to admit, I streamlined the adventure a bit to run it for the con. Preparing eight encounters on 4 hours of sleep was asking a bit much of me. With a fair degree of sadness, I decided to ignore half of them. My players didn't mind and it allowed me to work within my comfort level.

Something to note about the adventure is the abundance of opportunity to explore and interact with the environment. Runes need to be understood, crates need to be busted open, and bodies need to be looted. This sort of detail fills my heart with joy. Similarly, they present skill challenges in a way that promotes conversation and the integration of challenges within the story line rather than as something that pulls the players out of immersion.

Overall my players really enjoyed the adventure and I enjoyed running it. I'm still not sure if it's something that someone relatively new can just pick up and run, but I think a new DM would be able to run it with not much more effort. This is particularly true if they are willing to wing it and not worry about the rules too much, just the way most people did with the first Red Box.

So, the big question, is this 4.5? My answer is no. Nothing felt different about running the adventure and while the character classes definitely had a different feel, they did not feel foreign to me. If pressed, sure, I'll say it's similar to a point release or a service pack, something that improves the system, fixes a few bugs, but is still completely recognizable as the original system. To me, they are just new builds of some classic classes, full of the goodness that came after PHB1. The rules are streamlined a bit to help new players (something I wish I would have had when I started) but the game felt the same way there as it did at my weekly table.

So what questions do you all have? I only have Red Box (thanks Wizards of the Coast!) and I don't want to spoil too much for you guys, but I will try to answer what I can.

Edit: One thing I would like to note. The pregens used at the convention gave the wizard magic missile and the only power that required a die roll was his daily. As a result, the players just used magic missile the entire time and their turns were over rather quickly. I won't say that the speed of their turn wasn't fun, but I'm not sure they enjoyed the characters quite as much as say the people who played the rogues.


You mention (and they mentioned on the WoTC site) that skill challenges are done a little different/better.... Can you expand on that at all? (Or is that too spoilerish?)

I don't think I can talk about it quite yet but I will as soon as I can. What I will say is that once I got over the shock of not seeing it in it's "normal" format, I really loved it.

I'm curious about the Wizard. Did he only have Magic Missile and his daily power and his other at wills just bolstered Magic Missiles effectiveness like the other essentials buff up basic attacks?

we know from the preview on the Wizard site that the wizard got at will, encounter and daily and also very nice ones :)

greatest change is that he can change encounter powers along dailies and utilities

"roll", not "role", please!

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