Help Me Save My Game, DM's Only Please.

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My group has been falling apart these last few weeks and I have a plan stabilize it. I wanted to share it with you all so that I can get feedback or others can use it. There will be massive plot spoilers ahead so players should not read on. I've been doing recaps in the Dungeon's Master.com comments and here but I'll go over my problems briefly. We are using Next with an average of seven players. They are finishing up the Coran Interlude and moving into Stage 6 after they explore Mordencai's Mansion. -My players are trying to play all sides and failing. They trust no one and no one trusts them. -They feel like their actions are not having an impact and are resorting to straight up violence. They are bored and frustrated by the politics and plot. They want some clarity and combat. -They could not care less about the setting as the plot gives them no clear goals or villains. None have ever played the PC games. -There has been no real mention of Bhaal in weeks and the new players have no idea who anyone is. -They heard a rumor about Mordencai's mansion and think that this is a thousand times more interesting than the actual plot. -Some of them are feeling treasure starved and are not adjusting to this aspect of Next well and I don't want to reward their behavior with magic weapons. My solution is to take the party into the mansion as a method of revealing enough plot to give them an idea of how to move forward and who to trust. I am giving each faction a priest of Bhaal who is subtly manipulating the 'candidates' towards becoming the chosen with only distant divine influence. -Silvershield is being guided by Skoond and is too far gone. Killing Skoond will not change Silvershield's actions in any way but he will tell the players it did and that he is doing these things to stop other manipulated people. Also, discovering Skoond's lab may lead the party to believe he was influencing the Guild as well as Silvershield. Enough powder is already in place for Smokepowder Plot to continue. -Rilsa is guided by Musayed and can be freed by his death and the destruction of his alter to Bhaal. She will still be a ruthless Guild leader and likely try the Prison Break but not turn it into a bloodbath. -Ravengard is being influenced by his personal secretary who I introduced in the awkward bath house meeting. She has taken up residence in Mordecai's Mansion and is using it's magical aspects to conceal and protect her shrine. Killing her and disrupting the shrine will free Ravengard from Bhaal's touch. This will give the players an ally they can trust and a clear purpose so that they can be heroic. This will not mess with the stages too much. It removes the Kangaroo Courts and Public Executions. It leaves Marshal Law intact but it will be less of a hassle for the players. I may alter Closing Baldur's Mouth to give clues to the Kidnappings rather than the stupid follow the bird plot. I may just skip that one completely. If they continue to act like thugs, I can have Ravengard guide them to their best use. After he is freed I will have him tell them he has been too lax in preventing the Fist from acting like thugs but he will not tolerate it any longer. My players are going to go into the mansion and fight some basilisks and undead before discovering the priestess and her shrine. The mansion is enchanted so that each door leads to a random place inside and I will use this to control how they navigate the building. Arcana checks will help but not control the portals completely. This also means that every exterior door will put them in the basilisk room for a controlled fight. I am using the floor plans from Whitemarsh Hall for now but may use somewhere else if it gets too large to control. The altar will be a large room with murder victims placed around it like the drops around Bhaal's symbol and a skull painted with some of Ravengard's blood in the middle. I plan on having as many corpses as the stage the group is in. The priestess will only tell them that they are being killed for Bhaal. She has never seen the other priests and only met with Veikang. She had been working as Abdel's secretary to prepare for when either he or Veikang became the Chosen. There will be some actual magic items to be had here, which I will tailor to the most deserving players. The influence that the priests exert is not detectable by Detect Magic but Detect Good and Evil will indicate that something is strange about the manipulator unless they are casting a spell. It should be a hint, not an alarm. The influence is more a general feeling of rage and paranoia but Skoond has worked up to manipulating Silvershield's dreams. The general goal for all of this is to make them feel less powerless and give them a clean win. It explains the tension in the city and it will feel like less of a shock when events like the massacre and riot boil over. It provides a strong control over the group through Ravengard that I have been reluctant to use until now. They will be able to trust he is free of Bhaal's influence because they made it happen. They will also have earned rewards without killing citizens and Fist, which I want to encourage. I think this will give me a better footing from here on out and will satisfy my players in many ways. It also makes for an easy way to hook in new players. "A Murder God is attempting to be reborn in Baldur's Gate and only we can stop it!" is a better sound bite than "Baldur's Gate is on the verge of chaos and nothing can stop it!" I am worried that it will lead to direct confrontations. Because of their recent behavior the parliament and the High House will not listen to the players and others would intervene to prevent any action against Rilsa or Silvershield. It is easy enough to make any of these characters scarce for protection and they are both well guarded. There may even be other shrines to Bhaal influencing a player or NPC. If my players continue to rebel against the Fist then I'll just have assassins harass them and Silvershield pay them to hunt snipe in the sewers while the city burns. Ideally they will remove the other two priests with one week to spare so they will think Silvershield cured before the final festival. What do you think? Is this a workable plan and if not how can I improve it? Are there any glaring weaknesses I missed? I will continue to post my plans here as well as doing the recaps in the comments of DungeonsMaster.com. These boards and blogs have been a great help to me in this and previous seasons. Thanks for staying involved. I love the Encounters format and would hate to see it wither away because of one bad season. Sincerely, Kevin Myers

To be honest we have improvised much of the sessions this season using the printed adventure as a jumping board too, but I think that's one of the good points of this adventure. If this is what you think will rekindle your players interest then I say go for it mate. End of the day, as long as you and your players are having fun that's the important thing.

"Well that encounter was easy....er, guys, why is the DM grinning?" (party members last words)

It's not a party till the screaming starts!

Follow me on Twitter @Vobeskhan or check out my blog http://vobeskhan.wordpress.com/

Sorry for the block of text above. It ignores the spacing in all three text formats. I think it's an issue between the forum and my Nook. I am forced to add in the line breaks and paragraph tags myself so please excuse me if it is sloppy.



Only four players showed up including the newest player, a ranger who treats chaotic neutral as neutral evil. I did a writeup in the comments of Dungeon's Master. They had a hard time of the fights as the ranger kept walking in to danger and then failing every save. They are still having trouble making any decisions as a group. At the end they destroyed the alter and took the hints that implied it was linked to Ravengard. Next session is going to begin with a meeting between him and the group.


He will be giving them a talking to, demanding that they stop acting like thugs and letting them know that such behavior will not be tolerated from eith the group or any members of the Fist. He is going to have them recommit to the Fist and I hope they will. They need guidance and this will give it to them. I am worried that they will take the dueling as an invitation to kill anyone who is in their way. If they do this then they will find that some people have class levels and are not to be taken lightly. I am also putting together an arsonist encounter if they seem interested in persuing that. The were-rat subplot that other DM's have employed could give them another straight forward fight that will allow them to feel like they are accomplishing something if I tie it to the sewage slowdown that they had no interest in before.


Hopefully, these actions will get them intested in the setting and lead to them caring what happens. That has been my biggest obsticle, especially since no one in the current group has been there for every session. I can give them a platform for adventures but I cannot get them to give a sh**. Week eight n will tell me if my plan will survive. If not, then its going to be five weeks of killing Kobolds that will suddenly invade the undercellar while the city falls to peices.

Not all players will buy in to the (quite heavy) political intrigue of this season unfortunately (I have been lucky in that all of my players have thus far done so). If your group seems to be more inclined to mayhem and slaughter in the city why not use the patrols of Fist and Watch in a manhunt, though with everything else happening in the city their resources are spread thin, and with each death they cause they begin gaining favour of Bhaal themselves.

 

Dont be afraid to introduce aspects from the later sessions early as sub-plots too. Perhaps they earn enough reputation that the Guild want them to perform the kidnappings, of Silvershields agents approach them to incite the riot or the storming of the gates.

 

Maybe they decide to try assassinating one of the "big three" which could involve a stealth-strike mission into a fortified location.

 

Whichever way you decide to go, I hope you have fun with it.

"Well that encounter was easy....er, guys, why is the DM grinning?" (party members last words)

It's not a party till the screaming starts!

Follow me on Twitter @Vobeskhan or check out my blog http://vobeskhan.wordpress.com/

Vobeskhan wrote:

Not all players will buy in to the (quite heavy) political intrigue of this season unfortunately

 

This was the problem I had. To keep from losing players we dropped it and are filling in something else for 6 weeks. Hopefully next season will be more like a traditional Encounters season.

 

 

Bisonic – best of luck. I hope you're able to turn the ship away from the edge of the world.

After my car failed and I had to cancel week 8, we met on week 9 and it went alright. They met with Ravengard and got some answers but seemed reluctant to look into anything. The attitude of the group is one of, "Sucks for them, but what can we do about it." I did get them to clear out the sewers and it looks like they will be getting direct missions with clear monetary rewards from now on. The group has stabilized to four people and I doubt anyone else will be returning until the next season. I've figured out how to handle these players. They want to be told what to do, both in game and out. They never roll for skills unless I prompt them. They don't think about how they can effect the scene, they just want to know where to stand and what to hit. I prefer to speak in character while they prefer to say something like, "My character asks him what's wrong, but in a friendly way."  It's not my style but I can use it. It'll be alright until the end of the season as long as I give them tasks that are not intreague related. 

 

I am having trouble thinking about how to get to the final stage without any politics. They watched the riot happen and besides from an initial perception check they took no action to do anything. The riot is going to happen and they will just hole up and let it go by. They were a little shocked by the massacre but I don't think that will help them want to get involved in what is happening. I am considering using the Exile plot but they may just take the opportunity to leave the city and walk all the way to Waterdeep. I can link that in to Skoond and move to raiding Suskergates and then saving Parliment. I may follow that with the prison break or some other way to clean up the guild angle.  I think both plots using smoke powder will confuse them. The final session could go either way. 

It sounds like they have "bystander syndrome." Put short, it's "nothing I do really matters in the big picture, so why bother?" If that's the case, you may have to exagerrate their tiniest actions in order to point up the fact that, like it or not, they are integral to Bhaal's plot.

Look at it from Bhaal's point of view: he has identified (for whatever plot reason) that these mortals in particular (the PCs and Rael/Ravengard/Silvershield) could be useful to his plans, and attempts to subtly influence their choices so that they fit his bloody-minded, disporportionate-response-to-minor-setbacks mindset. His influence is felt by all the inhabitants of Baldur's Gate (which is why the theft of the hands ends so bloodily) but he is concentrating his efforts on these people, who are probably the highest-level people in town.

So, every action they take should have exagerrated consequences - exagerrated in effect, but still following from the initial intent. For example, in my game, one of the players killed the guards I put at Skoond's home when they tracked the smokepowder to the Seskergates. I have decided that the guards were off-duty Watch members. Most of the Watch members are related to one of the patriar families. Where under normal circumstances the PC could get off with just imprisonment and a hefty fine, the patriar families will probably want the entire group dead - and I'm considering them hiring assassins to do just that. I may bring back Barcero (evil Sembian mage with undead bodyguards) from last season to carry out the contract (he needs to build up his credibility after his failure in the Diamond Staff affair). Considering how the mage would carry out the contract gives me several more action scenes that I can now hit the PCs with.

So, more specifically for your example: don't let them ignore the riot! Put them right in the middle when it starts! Bring in alchemist's fire bombs and smokepowder bombs thrown by errant anarchists that hit whatever they're hiding behind. Consider Ravengard or Silvershield using them as sacrifices by putting the focus on them. Maybe Rael offers to hide them, but with a string attached - and the string is breaking her boy Mufasa out of the Seatower.

As the DM, your job is to embody the Universe, dispensing both justice and injustice when called for by the plot. In this case, be Murphy's Law Incarnate.

Just my $0.02.

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D&D Next: VALOREIGN Home Game Development, Kalani's Homebrew and Original Content | General Campaign Stuff: Bawylie's Budget Dungeons

"D&D is an elf from Tolkien, a barbarian from Howard, and a mage from Vance fighting monsters from Lovecraft in a room that looks like it might have been designed by Wells and Giger." -- TiaNadiezja

I had the same issue with my group early on. The group is made up of mostly good and tend to lean toward the lawful side.

 

They at first wanted to meet with Rael since they were introduced as being the "neutral" party between two struggling giants. However, once they found out that she wanted to go about unlawful actions they wanted nothing more to do with the Guild. The next session they went and meet with Silvershield and felt that he was a bit too arrogant and "above them" (excluding a noble birth paladin) and opted to help him out one time but didn't want to pursue working for him. After, they met with Ravengard. Since this was the 3rd session and wanted them to really start picking a side (even if they were going to change it) so I spun Ravengard as a "for the greater good" type of guy but made it clear that Ravengard knew some of the things that he was asking the group to do was illegal but for the betterment of BG, which the group took to (and are still assisting in). However, I have also been making it clear that Ravengard seems to be slowly growing more distressed as the city gets more and more out of hand (at their last meeting I had him just stairing at the trebuchets along the Seatower before realizing the party was there).

 

I found that the players really haven't liked some of the larger events (the Massacure & the Riot) due to feeling so helpless and unable to sway the outcome. But they have enjoyed a lot of the smaller episodes. They have actually had some really good rolls & ideas and have been able to stop the guild at almost every turn.

 

To combat the "bystandeer syndrome" mentioned above I normally have at least 1 side event each week (which normally contains combat since my group feels a session without combat isn't worth showing up to). I used some of the event supliments which worked out well. It was fun listening to the group try to piece together the assassination attempt (Loose Tiles) only to get nowhere because they killed the attackers.

 

I also played on their distaste for the Guild and had Ravengard pursue the guild through the characters, thus giving them a chance to influence the city. They ended up getting Nine-Fingers arrested which I then used the next session to press the Guild (and combat) as the group going to route out a halfling group that is trying to sieze some of the power left by the arrest (which ended up with 1 character contracting lycanthropy).

 

As for loot, I have gave very little. During the session where the player contracted lycanthropy I gave them a single silver dagger to the player that contracted it. If he opted to keep the curse Ravengard would have gave a dagger to everyone in the group, however since the played opted to have it cured the daggers weren't handed out and instead Ravengard payed for the cure/remove curse. The group has also found the random healing potion here & there and gold. The Riot session was the first time I gave out a magical item, a ring that has 2 uses of Flare on reaction. I figured it was simple enough to not over balance the game play. The groups latest reward came from the Marshall Law session. The group was able to stop some arsonists from setting some boats (but not all) on fire and was rewarded by Ravengard with the title to the arsonists boat, The Salty Camel .The group also got 5 bottles of alchemist's fire each (Ravengard declaring that the Flaming Fist needs the rest). I will be using this boat as the tie to the next encoutner season, having them travel to Luskan via boat and then hear rumors of adventure in IWD and leasing the boat for the sailing season.

 

I know I didn't give suggestions as much as I have laid out a guide of how I kept my players interested. I just hope that it is in enough time to help your table.

I do appreciate everyone's thoughts and hearing about what is working for others. The group is doing better and I have found a play style that is working. It basically break down to improvised Deus Ex Machina and rail roading.

They now generally listen to Ravengard but actively avoid any responsibility he might put in them. I no longer let these things interfere with my plans. I just move the encounter I have built into their path. For example, I wanted them to find the smokepowder factory and fend off a Guild assassin. So when they holed up during the riot the assassin tracked them down and entered the building through the undercellar. After the fight, the street were too dangerous to traverse so they went into the place the assassin had come from. When they entered the tunnels afterward I showed them a tunnel that the Guild did not use but that had seen cart traffic and they followed it until they found the factory. I could have done all of this by having RG order them to go there, but they chose to mostly on their own. It is not my favorite thing to do to players but it works with this group.

My plans going forward are to have them follow the carters up towards Seskergates and into the upper city where the carters will get asploded when they drop the barrels off. Skoond will just so happen to jave been in the area and will brazenly ask the players to investigate 'how the Guild did it.' I will the prepare for either a raid of Seskergates if they suspect him, or a raid of a Guild safehouse where some familiar Guild people are hiding, namely 'Shady Joe', a guy who lied to them and arrange jobs, as well as Mustafa. Underneath the chosen location will be their second shrine to Bhaal and either Mustafa or Skoond to fight. Once the shrine is busted, the head of that faction will be freed of manipulation. The session will end with them hearing about the Prison Break. I want them to intervene in Parliment as next week's event so I will guide them towards busting up the Guild. Alternatively, they will do Parliment today and bust up the Guild next week.