I have always been interested in running a Dungeons And Dragons game, but have been intimidated by the complexity of the rules. Third and second edition have so many different ways to play so many different classes and races that a game master would effectively need to learn how to play all of them to get by. Considering the scale of the job, the time required to master it all, and the price tag on getting all the book involved, it wasn't something I ever pursued.
However, with the introduction of fourth edition, the rules became much easier! I have played a few third and second edition games in the recent years, and by comparison, the fourth edition rules were a streamlined dream. I have participated in a fourth edition game as a player for months now, and it's got me re-interested in getting behind the DM screen.
Just a couple days ago, I finally had a chance to run a session! Two friends were gracious enough to play a pair of dwarves in a small game, allowing me a lot of leeway to experiment with the rules and try all the different mechanics involved. Going off both of the Dungeon Master Guides recommendations' the three of use did a plethora of collaborative world building, resulting in a setting and a couple characters that were well rounded with goals, relationships, needs, and flavour. As to the game itself, it went fairly smoothly for a first-time game, I believe. We play for about six hours and got through two situations their dwarves were assigned.
The first one was pretty role-play heavy and I made it all skill challenges. We got the hang of the mechanics pretty quickly, helped by the fact that both of the players had done skill challenges before. I simplified it by doing away with the primary-secondary skill setup, instead just playing it by ear and allowing them to use any skill as long as they had a good reason. Even with that, they were usually struggling to come up with ideas as to what skills to use why, so I discovered I had to prompt them a bit with that... but I imagine that would come easier with more practice.
The second I made a into two straight combat encounters. Those were pretty straight forward, as it gave me a chance to play with some stuff introduced to me by other GMs, like using index cards for initiative; that worked really well, and as it was only two players, I could lie them out on the table for everyone to see. This way, they could see how hurt creatures were (i counted up from zero, rather than down, so they didn't know the max HPs), and they could "mark" by putting counters on the cards. I found, with the low number of characters, bringing a larger group in waves balanced it out pretty well. I could throw a challenge at them that was dangerous, but by staggering when each set of guys came out, it didn't overwhelm them.
Everyone at the table seemed to enjoy the evening, at least enough that they want to play a second game to finish the "quest" they are on. I'll have to work on the pacing of events, though, as the multiple skill challenges were dragging on long without an encounter or something to punch it up a bit. The encounters went well; I knew the players involved, so I knew they would respond with all the colour and flavour I threw into the fight, describing the blows and hits and misses in vivid (and in some cases, comedic) detail.
Next time, I need to make sure I do better character prep. That is, at least have an index card with a list of generic first and last names handy to use. Also, I want to add in more of the collaborative elements we had in pre-game prep; when we sat down to play, I felt I wasn't encouraging enough of that, and the great creative buzz building the setting was diminished.
Oh, and as I side note, next time I should really remember to take my dice with me to the game. Oops :P