Dungeons n Dragons. A Games Master’s Review

gamers gaming

This weekend just gone I went to Birmingham and the UK Games Expo.
Been to this event a few times now but this time decided to run Five Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition games. In doing this as a Game Master it granted me free entry to the whole weekend at the expo plus a room for two nights and expenses for food.

Of course I’m going to go for these options. All I had to do now was submit five 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons game ideas and hope all were excepted.

Within a day I had written five short synopsis for each of my game ideas. Within days they were excepted.All I had to do now was write them…

As I had gaming friends on twitter I took the step to ask two people who I knew and thought would like to write a game for me. This wasn’t a ploy to get out of writing it myself but a way to see how other people did it. I asked very nicely and both took the challenge and ran with it. It had to fit a criteria that I had already submitted. It wasn’t a problem and these amazing Game Masters in their own right got straight down to it.
This left me just three games to concentrate on.

So here is a review of each game I ran at the UK Games Expo.
I will not give too much detail of the game’s storyline as the two GM’s may use the games they wrote for their own use. So here we go.

Game one took place on Friday between 15:00 to 19:00

The Mattock of Mandabor.
Written by @DMSamuel.



Description, Description, Description. That’s what I asked for sand that is what I got. A beautiful piece of writing. Taking the players through a grand Dwarven city with investigation and intrigue. Set locales from temples to town houses.
This was a great start. Leading the players on a merry chase across vast distances and well developed scenes.

Each encounter was a joy to run and enough information was given that even these could be avoided with a little thought on the players part. Monsters were equally equipped to challenge the players be it in a fight or a conversation and as a GM all relevant info was written with ease for me to access.

Travel was covered with a fluid flare for details. Taking the sights and sounds of the word into consideration until bringing the players to a final battle and conclusion.
All together a perfect scenario for 4th Edition D/D.

Game two took place Friday at 20:00 to 00:00

The Ruins of Sarendeth.
Written by @TheAngryDM



The ingenuity of this game took me a back at first and I though I would never be able to pull it off with all its complexity and cleverly written challenges I even had an email conversation with @TheAngryDM just to put my mind at rest that I could do this game justice.

A task was set and the players took to it like ducks to water and as the adventure progressed I myself turned up the confidence that this was going to work better than expected.
Never split the party. Isn’t that what has been the words echoing down the hall ever since 4th Edition came out. Well don’t listen to it. If you write a great idea that the players believe is within their power to achieve then who are you as a GM to stop it. This game Does indeed split the party. Not only splitting it but sending each PC in a totally different direction. It works. It just does. Then follow the trail to a well planned and thought out final scene that you come to say. What was all the fuss about.

Great creatures great interactive cast of characters bring this whole story to life. Running this for the first ever time was a true honour to do. So if you get a chance. Don’t hesitate by its complexity. Its bark is worse than its bite. A total enjoyment.

Game three Saturday 10:00 to 14:00

The Shadows of Winterpine Fort.
Written by @symatt.

Its a shame as this was going to be epic but only one player turned up and so this event was cancelled.

Game four Saturday 20:00

The Gathering at Whispering Isle.
Written by @symatt.

Over the top action started this game and the players are straight in the action. Defence was the order of business and the players spent three hours of investigation before a weapon was drawn. Thus wasn’t an issue and the players interacted with Non Player Characters as often as possible. Information was everywhere and they took the time to look,read and talk to everyone. Locations were simple and yet players made every use of them.

The time scale of this story was over only a matter of three days as they rested and ate as often as possible as the fear of undead assault had every possibly. Keeping the tension high and them in the dark was a big part and using it to my advantage whenever I could from dark nights to dark Dungeons. There was very few outcomes to this Adventure but at no time would you feel funnelled or led to this conclusion. On a whole this went well but not as well as I had hoped .
With time being an issue in this game the final moments felt rushed. Not a great way to end a game but all in all still a fun time was had by all.

Game five. Sunday 10:00 to 14:00.

Storm Castle Nero.
Written by @symatt.

I put a lot of thought into this Adventure.
This was my finale and it had Epic written all over it. Could I pull it off. I knew I had the skill. I knew I had the perfect adventure.

Oriental was the theme and drama was my goal. I brought it in cart loads. The opening crash of thunder and an unseen battle the PC’s were already at a disadvantage and this was the plan. It worked a charm. Over the odds battles which ran fast and fluid to skill checks that required Action Points in the likelihood of failure.
This game had it all.
Multiple attacks were the order of the day and the players loved it. I fit 6 encounters into this game and it still took only 4 hours. Battles staying within story never slowing down once. Monsters death came swiftly but it never felt over powered. Creatively was induced in all with exceptional descriptive and inventive fight scenes provided by all.
The player worked as a team to take this story to the biggest climactic end I have ever had the balls to run.

Its hard not to tell you the whole game and give it all away but it ran like a dream come true and never have I run a 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons Game like it before but I honestly think that this is the best way to run a game ever.

Here are a few things my players were kind enough to say.

@PinkBatgirl over on twitter.

Playing in @symatt’s D&D 4e game at UK Games Expo was a real highlight of the whole weekend.  I’d spent a few months before the Expo looking forward to it and it didn’t disappoint. Before the game even started, @symatt produced colour coordinated sleeved copies of all of our powers stats and APs so that we could organise them and use them so much easier and to our own personal liking.  I hadn’t seen this done before and wondered immediately why I hadn’t thought of it myself as it seemed so obvious then and I loved it!He also declared that APs would be awarded for particularly heroic things which was the first hint of how epic the game was to be. @Symatt then began by describing the scene and I have never before started a game and felt like I’d just beaten the boss in the first minute. The game started with us standing in cinematic silhouette in the middle of a battlefield having just won the battle and being one of the few left standing.  His descriptions really put you into the setting and evoke so many emotions, I was swelling with pride at the victory and could almost feel the adrenaline coursing through me, staving off what must also be exhaustion. I felt like this and we hadn’t even done anything yet, it was an incredible opening! The whole thing became more and more epic from there and the group worked together well and added their own imaginations to the mix.  @Symatt always gives a lot of depth to the story with his descriptions but he also invites the group to add their own flavour too.  In this case, the best way he did this was at every monster death asking the hero who dealt the killing blow how they died.  They descriptions from the group got more imaginative and more disgusting as the game progressed, each death being unique to the situation and manner of death so that no two deaths were the same.I always leap at the chance to be DMed by @symatt as I know I’m guaranteed to enjoy his adventures.  He is also very flexible towards the groups as some people want to role-play more than others, some come up with crazy ideas and some just want to bash heads.  He makes everyone feel just as involved and always manages to pull even a group of strangers together to a well-formed team.The only thing I would wish for more is  to be able to be DMed by @symatt for a whole campaign.

Andrew w. Player.

Hello Simon,
My name is Andrew, I played the ranger in your Storm Castle Nero game.  Pete (@pedr) has asked if I could provide some feedback on the game.
I have to admit that as I sat down I was rather nervous.  I haven’t played much 4e but I have run an awful lot of it, including a two year long home campaign (there is a rather long AP/Blog of it at http://aw4e.blogspot.co.uk/).  Our group had not used mini’s or mats before for any game and there was a lot of uncertainty about using them going into 4e.  What we found was that we loved them for that game and couldn’t see playing it without them.  Hence the nervousness about not using them in yours.
However it proved not to really be an issue.  It requires a certain amount of arbitrary hand waving but generally worked for the group.  The adventure itself was excellent with a very strong starting premise, a quick flow to it and delivered with enormous energy and enthusiasm.  You might have needed a bit more prompting with a less proactive group but that would be true for any game.

” I would particularly like to thank the GM running Storm Castle Nero on Sunday morning. 4th ed D&D without mat or minis (I was dubious, I ran 4e for 2 years with our lot and we took to the mat like ducks to water having never used them before). The game was delivered with an infectious level of enthusiasm and great skill.”

@laligin over on twitter.

Even though I’d only played a handful of D&D games before, I didn’t often feel out of my depth while Storming Castle Nero. Having the Action Points and Power Cards printed on separate colour-coded cards was a stroke of genius that made it a lot easier to keep track of things – at a higher level than I’d ever played before, with so many options, I’d have been completely lost with just the sheets to look through. I really enjoyed the cinematic style of things, with @symatt handing out occasional bonus Action Points for anything especially dramatic or innovative, which made all the players raise their game and go all out on their descriptions – something @symatt was well ahead of us on. Playing without marked squares gave everybody more room to be inventive, and kept the rounds moving faster, though since it wasn’t a system I was used to, occasionally it did lead to me forgetting to move out of immediate danger! Despite that, I had a lot of fun, and @symatt’s scenario and engaging style of DMing was massively entertaining, making it a brilliant end to the weekend.

@gmcarlplus5 over on twitter

@symatt was running Storm Castle Nero at the next table to me and my group stopped playing at one point to listen to how @symatt’s epic game was going because the energy coming off that table was huge!


  1. Great review, just makes me even sadder that I missed going (maybe next year). Having had the pleasure to take part in one of Symatt’s previous event games (UK Tweetup 3) I can honestly recommend taking part in one if you ever get the chance.

  2. Pingback: Dungeons n Dragons. A Games Master’s Review | Symatt

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