Our thanks to everyone who took the time to phone our DM Hotline, held between October 8-11. If you had a question about running 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, whether a technical rules quandary or simply to improve your DMing skills, this was your chance to speak directly with the folks at Wizards of the Coast! Expert DMs—including R&D's Mike Mearls and Rob Heinsoo—were on hand to field your calls on the DM Hotline.
Here are just a few of the questions—and our suggested answers—that came our way. Enjoy!
Caller: Can we place our halfling rogue in a bag of holding so he can jump out and sneak attack?
DM Hotline: Well it's dark in the bag, and someone will have to reach in, say his name and pull him out by the hair.
Caller: My players are ahead in levels going through Demon Queen's Enclave because we played through some side adventures. I want to shorten part of the module so they'll be the right level when they hit the end of it. What do you think about only using one or two encounters from part of the module to make it go faster, but take the highlights? And one of my PCs is playing with the mount rules and has a flying mount. I'm worried that he'll breeze right through this encounter.
DM Hotline: (What followed was a quick brainstorm session where I helped shorten a section of Demon Queen's Enclave into just the highlights, using the best monsters with the best encounter areas, tweaking the monsters so they could challenge the PC on a flying mount without negating that advantage, and building in ties to Assault on Nightwyrm Fortress.)
Caller: So I told my players that the local thieves' guild had been taken over by pixies. What does a pixie thieves' guild look like?
DM Hotline: Considering that the creatures can fly and are small, you may want to put the guild somewhere hard to reach that's off the ground. I can imagine a hive-like structure with small landing strips for the pixies, and small doors that are not convenient at all for non-pixie characters.
Caller: Almost all the creatures in the next adventure that I'm planning on running for my 18th level group inflict necrotic damage only, and my players have powers that essentially negate the majority of that damage type. What do I do?
DM Hotline: You may want to consider picking out choice encounters in the adventure, and "un-typing" all the damage for that encounter. You don't want to do this to all the encounters, because you want your players to feel cool when their powers work. However, to maintain a challenge you may want to consider removing the "necrotic" aspect to the damage to about half the encounters. Re-skinning the creatures with new names and appearances that don't totally break the theme will help explain their lack of necrotic damage as well.
Caller: I'm running a paragon tier game and my players have taken so many resistance magic items that my monsters attacks are not hurting them much. What should I do?
DM Hotline: I suggest using more untyped damage to bypass their resistances, but you will need to be careful when doing so. If you take it too far, you will move away from challenging your players and just invalidate their sizable investment in magic items that give them resistances.
Caller: What should I do when a player makes a great, impassioned roleplay speech for a Diplomacy check in a skill challenge, but then rolls a 2 for the check?
DM Hotline: You should always feel free to give +2 bonuses to skill checks for anyone that makes a good roleplay effort for their check, or comes up with an innovative way to implement their check. But in the case of an exceptional roleplay display like the above Diplomacy check, I would give the player an automatic success. The player shouldn't have to roll, because he's done his Diplomacy check by his roleplaying.
Caller: What about players who roleplay well, but with a character untrained in the skill or a character that it's inappropriate for (like an uncouth barbarian making a passionate plea for support)?
DM Hotline: In those cases, I would still make those characters roll their check. They would visualize themselves making the moving speech the player delivered, but they would execute it completely differently, based on their check results.
Caller: What do you do when the fight becomes a grind in which the PCs are using nothing but at-will powers?
DM Hotline: One possibility involves refreshing some, or all the characters' encounter powers, which is likely to speed the end of combat up rather then slowing it down. How you accomplish this from a story perspective is up to you.