Saturday, February 18, 2012, 12:04 AM
So if you're interested in playing Reavers of Harkenwold, this will have spoilers, but not much in this initial post.
The group was asked by the Lord Warden of Fallcrest to investigate the Iron Circle oppression of Harkenwold, and help out the people there if possible. He also wants them to track down a lost agent, San Humbolt, who also his wife's second cousin.
The group got to Harkenwold and stopped some Iron Circle brigands from burning down a farmhouse with the occupants inside of it. It was a pretty one sided fight. From there they went on to Albridge, the seat of the fledgling resistance, but stopped by the druid grove first and learned that bullywugs were harassing Tor's Hold back west.
They went to the Mallard Inn to get some rest, and some Iron Circle goons made the horrible, terrible, insanely stupid mistake of threatening the group. In one round the wizard simply vaporized two of the minions, and sent the one brigand flying against the wall, breaking many of her bones. The minotaur warden then took out the last minion and the the other brigand. It was messy, there was property damage.
This is where it went off script. They interrogated the brigand and learned about the garrison in the town (which I added on the fly) and set an ambush for them, drawing out most of the garrison to investigate the minotaur who was apparently rampaging around the inn wearing the heads of Iron Circle mercenaries as garish accessories (he is still, technically, evil after all). They made short work of the bulk of the garrison, then tracked down and slew the rest of them at their base.
It took forever for the game to get rolling, partly because we leveled up at the beginning, partly because we were "babysitting" my friend's 11 year old brother, who observed the first encounter or so. That's good, because I want to get him the new Red Box for his upcoming birthday anyway. But once the game got going it went pretty well, especially once the bar "fight" was over.
The PCs paid for the damages, but they went into full on post-Marvin Pulp Fiction, Erik dropped a really nice quote and they proceeded to clean up the bar, investigate the garrison, and lay the trap. I had to reward that with an encounter which, like many of them, they kind of walked through, but frankly they're supposed to be heroes, they're powerful dudes (and a dudette) and they should get to wreck **** from time to time.
Although one of my players expressed a desire to fight a big hulking monster at some point, so I might just have to give them that.
Tuesday, February 7, 2012, 11:03 PM
So last Friday we played our second session of my D&D campaign, which wrapped up the first adventure. Let me introduce the characters, since I'm planning on posting about this campaign a fair amount.
Syragus Trent: A human cleric of Ioun (goddess of knowledge and prophecy), Syragus has come to Fallcrest to build a library there, since there hasn't been a functional one in a century or more. He has recently run into some funding trouble, and things aren't going as well as he'd hoped.
Kieranda Leaftoke: An elf ranger, she's a deadeye with a longbow but isn't particularly motivated. She mostly tags along because somehow her and Syragus became friends.
Venison: A minotaur warden, Ven is technically evil, although he's working on redeeming himself, but he doesn't know how. Currently in chains and a captive of...
Caranthir: An elf avenger, Car used to be a bounty hunter until he dedicated himself to Corellon, god of the arts. He captured Ven because, well, minotaurs are evil, even though Ven has done nothing wrong yet and has been very helpful, albeit violent and weird. He has a vested interest in Syragus' library project.
Galed: A recently reborn deva wizard, Galed is obsessed with learning everything he can about, well, everything. Half of this party is of above average intelligence, but Galed is the clear winner in the knowledge department. He may or may not also be the subject of a prophecy and the chosen one who will defeat a great evil mentioned in said prophecy.
Gorram: A human shaman, Gorram stumbled upon Galed in the woods, and is convinced that Galed is the prophesied hero who will stop the unknown bad thing. So he's taken on the role of Galed's bodyguard.
The gist of the adventure, for those who don't know, is that the market green collapsed and some huge insectoid monsters called kruthik came out. After a decently bloody fight, in which Kieranda shot the minotaur who she thought was a monster, the PCs tracked the kruthik back to their lair. They soon stumbled upon a human alchemist who was experimenting on the kruthik, as well as a group of humanoids who seem to have been killing staff in the laboratory. They don't know who any of these people are, although they do have two pages of the alchemist's journal, and a list of names, all but one of which has been crossed off.
They then killed the kruthik hive lord, which would have probably been a horrible fight if Galed hadn't used his daily to put the bug(ger) to sleep. They then proceeded to murder it quite effectively.
The hive lord was too much to throw at them, but my philosophy on encounter design is generally to make fights more difficult and then ease up on them during the game. That would have been difficult in this because one of the problems was that the hive lord has some pretty high defenses, which would have made hitting him difficult, no matter how many times he "missed" the characters.
What I Learned
Mostly the above, that even though a higher level monster might technically fit into a suitable encounter for characters, you still have to watch for their defenses, etc. I also need to watch out for that Sleep spell. It can essentially end an encounter far easier than normal if used right, as we saw above. Not every monster will get knocked out by it though, so there's that. Sleep has always been a really troublesome spell for me, theoretically, because it does exactly that. I think this is the first time I've ever had a player cast it though. Since it's a first level spell, and a daily, it's not something that I feel right mitigating. Making monsters immune to sleep, or using lots of monsters that are, punishes Galed's player for taking a perfectly legal spell, and that's not fun.
I haven't started writing the next adventure yet, although I have it pretty well plotted in my head and have figured out the hooks. I'm going to try and run this one over the course of one session, for a couple of reasons.
1) The first adventure probably shouldn't have taken two sessions, but we ****ed around even more than we usually do, and we're not a group that takes itself very seriously.
2) I wanted to keep the adventures short anyway because we're only playing every other weekend.
3) I want them to be level 2 by the end of this next story so that we can start The Reavers of Harkenwold the next session. Bonus: That session will be the weekend before spring break, which means I can run two weekends in a row without having to drive back and forth twice (which is why we don't play weekly), which is really exciting. Especially because Reavers is a longer adventure, although it should break up into sessions pretty well.
Sunday, January 22, 2012, 1:20 PM
A little bit of backstory on me as a DM and the campaign that I'm running. I've been playing or running D&D off and on for about 15 or 16 years now, I've at least played every edition, and I've run a few short campaigns in 3.x. I've had the 4e core books since they came out, but only just found the time and motivation to actually get a game together. My group consists of three players, some of my oldest friends who unfortunatly live about an hour and a half away. I'm in grad school and one of the players is in law school, the other two are a chemist working full time and a self-employed cartoonist. So we only get to play every other weekend and we don't get to start our sessions till about 6pm on Saturday.
The session that I ran last night is actually a reboot of the campaign, originally we started with The Slaying Stone by Logan Bonner, but with only three PCs, they wiped pretty hard. Admittedly, they ran into the penultimate boss and I didn't scale the encounter back because I wanted to see how they could handle it. As you can guess it went badly. So we went back to the drawing board, and since more players is not possible for this game, the players decided that they should each run two characters. Now we've got two leaders, two strikers, a defender and a controller.
I brought all of this up on the What's a DM to Do? forum and the general vibe is that running two PCs each is a terrible idea. It will only end in tragedy, nobody will be able to keep track of anything, it will be awful. Generally though, nobody gave me any real compelling reasons why this wouldn't work, and no matter how much I assured people that my players could handle it as we all have wargaming experience and we've all GMed (D&D or Exalted or Deadlands or Star Wars or Men in Black) at some point, I was assured it would go bad.
Well the thing is it didn't go badly at all, it actually went really well. First off, I'm not running The Slaying Stone anymore, as it doesn't feel like a good introduction to the campaign, so I've designed my own adventure to start. I might still use The Slaying Stone, or more likely steal from it, because I think it's a really cool adventure, but I don't think it will work as well for introducing the campaign the way I want.
I've decided to run shorter adventures, hoping to get a single short story done in a session or maybe two, tops, although I do plan on running The Reavers of Harkenwold when they get to second level, but I think that can be broken into easily digestable chapters of a larger story.
The adventure we started last night consists of five encounters, and we got through three of them. They came out on top in all three of the encounters, the first being the hardest fought with almost half the party ending up bloodied, the second being a cake walk, albeit intentionally, and the third being easier than expected because they kind of jobbed the artillery, but one of the PCs still ended up bloodied and they're overall low on surges and have finally started getting into the mystery of the adventure.
There was one round where one of the players took actions for the wrong character, but we figured it out a turn or two later when that character's initiative came up. Not a big deal, and not exactly a problem that couldn't have happened with everyone only playing one character.
What I've Learned:
I've seen the PCs in action, so I have a better idea of how they play their characters and how their powers interact, so I can build more tailored fights in the future.
While I'm not saying that the advice I've recieved on the forum about my particular situation was bad, it wasn't exactly accurate. I think the issue is that people speak from their own perspective, and what works or doesn't work in one group is not going to be the same with another. Maybe some people have had bad experiences with players running multiple characters at the same time, but thus far my experience has been that my group can handle it, and I'm happy to keep on running for these six very interesting characters.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012, 6:57 AM
I'm not sure how much I'll use this blog, mostly because there's a good chance I'll forget about it, but I might use it to track the campaign I recently started, so here goes.
We're starting with "The Slaying Stone" with three players. The group wiped on the first encounter, so we went back to the drawing table and we're going to try again with each player playing two characters to round out the party. Should be interesting, although possibly a logistical nightmare. I've got a new MacBook on the way, so I'm going to try out 4e Turn Tracker once it gets here and see if that helps with combat.