My experience with Nikon speed lights is that auto does very well.
Make sure the settings on the strobe match the camera settings, if this is done the subject the strobe sees will expose properly. Bare bulb or not.
There are several wild cards that can bite you.
First the strobe's sensor is a "reflective" meter; if the main subject is a bunch of people in black it will over expose, all white dresses means under exposure. With a bit of practice you can manipulate the camera or strobe to compensate.
The other wild card is your ability to bounce.
I regularly bounce off of things behind me, if you can put a large reflector or two above and behind yourself it will help. Bigger the better.
Bounce and/or big reflectors will mitigate what many people call flash over exposure. What you are doing is simply "bringing up the house lights". A good share of the strobe's light is simply filling in the dark areas so that the properly exposed subject will be in a nice room rather than in a black pit.
One more tip, use the widest aperture that you can, this let's the real house light "help".