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Carsten's D&D 4th Edition Solo Tips, Part 1

Carsten from Germany is back with some excellent tips on how to make 4E more solo friendly! Today, it's all about getting started as quickly as you can - a necessity for the solo gamer.

From Carsten:

As a regular reader of the Solo Nexus blog as well as other blogs that deal with solo RPG gaming, I have heard one comment a few times already: D&D 4th Edition does not work solo. There are too many things to keep track of. Too many rules, too many modifiers, conditions and what not. Also you need maps and minis and by the time you have everything set-up, your gaming time is almost up.

All of these arguments are very sound indeed. If you compare D&D 4e to other rules-lite games like Risus or the D6 System, for example, it might seem as if D&D 4e is a poor choice for a solo RPG. But I have found that to be true only at first glance. I have started two D&D solo sessions so far, one using the 9Q engine and one using a simplified version of the Mythic GME that I mentioned in my post reflecting on my Star Wars sessions. Even though both sessions are not finished yet, part of the reason being that my little daughter was born on April 8th, 2012 :-), I want to share a few tips that have worked for me going solo with 4th Edition D&D.

Prepare once, play often (or: The Portable DM-Kit):
While it is true that 4e requires some amount of preparation, that doesn't mean that you have to do all the preparations for every session all over again. Take your time once to create a portable "grab and go" DMKit that contains the necessities you need for all sessions. There is a good article on SlyFlourish.com that details and describes the content of a "walk-away" DM-Kit. I use a ring-binder in A5 format (a German page size roughly half of US-letter size) to save space on the table and printed the things I need two pages per page, folded in half. My DM-Kit contains the following in the ring-binder:
  • The excellent "Quickleaf's 4e DM cheat sheet" that you can get in the ENWorld forums (just Google for it). It contains everything a DM wishes for on 4 pages.
  • A printout of the 4th Edition quick-start rules that you can get for free on the Wizards homepage.
  • A copy of the "Treasure by Party Level" tables from the back of the Rules Compendium.
  • The DMG Errata page with the Monster Statistics by Role and Damage by Level table. 
  • My "instant monster manual" (more on that later).
  • My simplified GM Emulator.
  • Some custom random tables to create NPCs on the fly by combining random rolls on a class, race, personality and appearance column.
  • The "WilderWords" you can get from Risusmonkey as an idea generator.
  • The "DungeonWords" also from Risusmonkey as an idea generator.
  • Last but not least a copy of the monsters section of the Red Box starter GM-Book to have some stock monster statistics.
In addition to the binder, the kit contains three of each die type, Rory's Story Cubes "Voyages" (for random encounters), three wet-erase markers (black, blue and green), a plastic zip bag which contains generic wooden game board pieces in different colors and a wet-erase battlemat (more on that later).

Finally the miniature I use for my PC.

I have all this stuff stored in a small plastic box with lid. Whenever I want to play I just grab the box, get out the dice, roll out the battlemat, set up my netbook on top and off I go. So with a little preparation once, 4e is just as much "grab and go" as every other RPG.

Next, keeping it small to go big...

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