Saturday, September 22, 2012, 12:52 AM
I love introducing people to D&D. There are few things that give me a greater sense of pride and accomplishment. I love the game and I want my friends to love it.
When I started my ongoing D&D game a year and a half ago, about half my players had never played a tabletop RPG before, and the other half had only ever played a few sessions here or there. None of them had played in an extended campaign before. I am very proud to say that I have gotten them all completely hooked since then.
Every once and a while, one of my non-rpg initiated friends will ask me if they can join the game some night. Sadly, with six level 24 players in 4e, I've got a pretty full table and adding another pc, especially someone new to the game, really slows down the session. It kills me to turn people down, but unless one of my regular players isn't there (which rarely ever happens), I just can't let them join in.
Thanks to the Next playtest though, I have been running 1-shot sessions roughly once every two or three weeks and I have used those sessions to play with friends who aren't in my regular group, including some who have never played D&D before.
Most recently, I ran a small session for a group of new players. The session went very well, and everyone had a good time, so I thought I'd share what happened!
Elf/Fighter(Sharpshooter)/Soldier/Magic-User, nicknamed "Twinkle" - This player wanted to be an elven archer who could cast some spells. Of the group, she had the least knowledge of D&D. She's into geeky stuff, likes playing games like Dominion and Settlers, but doesn't play video games. She was the one who asked me to run this session because she knew I played D&D a lot, but didn't really know what it was about. She played her character like "a badass who don't give no ****," and really enjoyed the awesome stuff her character could do.
Human/Fighter(Slayer)/Commoner(Woodsman)/Healer, named Omar - This player wanted to play a survivalist/woodsman character, so I used his background and specialty to make a ranger-esque character. The player has played tabletop rpgs in the past, but not recently. He was very happy with the flavor of his character and was very interested in the lore and story.
Halfling/Rogue(Thief)/Artisan(Cartographer)/Lurker, named Frauny - This player asked for a halfling thief, so character creation was straightforward. He had never played a tabletop rpg before, but has been playing MMOs for a long time, and had a solid idea of what gameplay would be like. He picked up the rules the quickly and got into mechanics more than flavor, but he participated in the story as well.
The party began in the town of Belfast located in the Kingdom of Renerth. Two days prior, Baron Buckner's niece, Sarella, went on a picnic with some friends and never returned. The town crier announced that the Baron was offering a reward to anyone who could bring back Sarella, or some word of her.
The players decided their characters were already acquainted, and together they went to the Baron's Seneschal for more information on Sarella's disappearance. Seneschal Huff explained that Sarella often went on daylong picnics with her friends at a lake, about two hours from town. On her most recent trip, she went without guards, and no sign of her or her friends has been seen since. He gave the party a map of the area around the lake, and a small down payment when they promised to investigate.
The party decided to try to spend some time around town gathering more info. Twinkles got a very high local lore check, and remembered hearing that one of Sarella's friends has a little brother who follows the girls around sometimes. They found the lad, Sammy, playing with some friends. Twinkles immediately yelled at the kid to tell them everything he knows. Frightened, Sammy took off down an ally. Twinkles chased him down, tripped him, then used a Cha check to calm him down and explain that they were trying to find his sister. Sammy told the party that he had tried to follow the girls on their picnic, but they caught him and forced him to go home. However, before getting caught, he had overheard them talking about meeting someone named Brock, but he had no idea who that was.
***DM's note: Normally I would have in-game consequences for a player yelling at and running down an 8-year-old boy. I let this one slide because it was Twinkles' first real interaction with an npc, or using any of the game mechanics. She was able to try her intimidate skill, make an attack roll, and then a Cha check. After she realized that the boy was going to act/react like a real kid would ("His eyes well up with tears when you trip him, he looks at you and says 'Please leave me alone! I don't know what you want!'") she started treating him as such. When they parted ways, Twinkle gave the kid a hug (which he wasn't too pleased with) and apologized for yelling at him and tripping him. I was happy with how it turned out.***
Next, the party went to the local inn to see if they could find out anything about this Brock fellow. Frauny eavesdropped and listened to the rumors and gossip around the inn, and heard someone say, "if you ask me, I think 'that old priest' did something with them girls." Twinkles asked the speaker if he knew this priest's name, but he said he didn't. She then tried to seduce the man, asking again for the priest's name. The man told her he just couldn't remember the priest's name, but that the priest lives in an old cottage up in the hills behind the lake the girls were visiting.
Content with that information, the party leaves for the lake. The path leads them to the lakeshore, but it doesn't continue around to the other side. Omar and Twinkles spot an old raft tucked in some reeds, and the party paddles it across.
Upon reaching the other side of the lake, the group starts hiking up a narrow path leading up the hill. About halfway up, Frauny sees some goblins hiding in the trees waiting to ambush the party. Frauny starts sneaking around behind them. Seeing Twinkles and Omar stopped along the path, the goblins start trying to creep forwards through the trees. Twinkles uses ghost sound to make it sound like more people are approaching from the side, causing the goblins to pause long enough for Frauny to get into position for his own ambush. A surprise round with longbow volleys from the fighters and a solid sneak attack from Frauny drop half the goblins. After two more rounds, the party kills the remaining goblins, sustaining no injuries.
***DM's note: I feel very strongly that everyone's first d&d fight should be a goblin ambush. Just sayin'.***
Frauny scouts ahead up to the top of the hill, and spots what must be the priest's cottage. He sneaks up to the house, and peeks inside to see it has been trashed. The other two reach the cottage, and Twinkles kicks down the door when she learns the inside is torn up. She barely avoids being impaled by a spiked swinging log trap. Inside the house, the walls, ceiling, and floor are covered in dried blood, and all the furniture and cookware has been destroyed. They find three bloodstained dresses, but close inspection reveals the dresses are not ripped or cut at all, and look like they were actually just dipped in blood.
Frauny searches the room, and finds a trap door under the broken furniture. The party lights torches and follows the stairway down into an earthen tunnel. They follow the tunnel until it ends in a sturdy wooden door. They take turns trying to kick it down, and hear someone beyond say, "You all, stay here and guard the door. You, come with me," and then hear another door slam. Frauny takes one last running jumping kick at the door. He manages to finally knock the door down, but falls prone in the process. As a result, the goblin crossbow bolt that flies out of the doorway misses Frauny, instead slamming into Omar's chest.
There are five goblins in the chamber, one crouched behind a tripod-mounted crossbow, and the other four readying their shortbows behind flipped over tables and chairs. Twinkles wins initiative and crits the goblin holding the crossbow, hitting him in the neck for nearly ten times his max hp, decapitating him with an arrow. She then charges at the other goblins screaming "I'ma **** you up, bitches!" Covered in the blood of their buddy, the other goblins promptly drop their bows and surrender.
The party ties up the goblins and do a quick scan of the room. The chamber is circular with a fire pit in the middle, with small shaft in the ceiling to vent the room. There is one other door leading out of the room, directly across from where the party entered. There are benches and stools around the fire, and several long tables around the edges of the room. The walls are covered in tapestries depicting the god Darmuth (for all intents and purposes, Bacchus) in luxurious scenes of feast and revelry. There is a decanter of wine at one of the tables; along with four half full goblets of wine. Frauny frisks the goblins, finding a pouch of coins, while Omar questions them.
***DM's note: in my homebrew setting, it is only legal to worship the god Azeron. The ruling high elf empire has suppressed the worship of all other "dead gods," such as Darmuth, although there are those that still do so in secret.***
The goblins reveal that they work for the priest, who they refer to as Brock. He feeds them and pays them in exchange for their services as scouts and guards. They tell the party that Brock left through the back tunnel, which exists out into a cave. When asked about the three girls, the goblins say that Brock took his "wives" with him when he fled.
The party kills all but one of the goblins, dragging the bound survivor with them as they progressed down the passage. They reached another circular chamber (Frauny picked the lock this time, this one with a giant, raised four-poster bed in the middle of the room. Again, there is another door opposite where they entered. The bed is covered in pillows, silk sheets, and furs, and surrounded by dozens of containers full of wine. The walls are covered in tapestries, this time depicting Darmuth in sexual and romantic scenes. Twinkle gets a good Int check, and recognizes that several of the wines are worth a bit of gold, and grabs the most expensive ones. The other two grab a couple of bottles to drink later.
***DM's note: obviously, the wine is enchanted, but they still haven't drunk any yet.***
They continue down the next corridor, which again ends in a solid door. Frauny picks the lock, and opens the door, which opens into a fairly large cave. The cave opens into the forest, and thick roots hang down from the ceiling and walls. Entering the cave from the outside are six goblins following a bugbear.
The party rolls for initiative, and Frauny goes first. He advances into the room along the edge of the cavern, trying to hide in the shadows of the roots. He rolls a good stealth check, but the bugbear crit his spot, and charges Frauny, luckily missing the halfling. Omar draws his sword and moves to engage the bugbear, but also misses. The goblins take cover behind some rock outcroppings, and split their attacks between Omar and Twinkles, and one crits Omar, who uses parry to soak some damage. Twinkles uses precise shot to take out one of the goblins. Frauny disengages from the bugbear and throws a dagger at a goblin, killing it with sneak attack since it had failed to spot him in the shadows. The bugbear again charges the rogue, growling "I'm gonna get ya, ya little ****," this time connecting, knocking Frauny out cold. Omar lands a blow on the bugbear, who is relatively unphased by it. Twinkles continues to shoot and kill goblins, who are able to get a couple of successful shots in on the fighters. After a couple of rounds, Frauny crits his death saving throw, stabilizing himself. Omar hits the bugbear again, injuring it, but takes another arrow that almost kills him. At this point there are only two goblins left, and Twinkles fires at the bugbear, killing it. Omar, uses a healing potion, grabs Frauny and dashes back towards the door. Another volley from the goblins drop Twinkles. Omar drags both his party members into the hallway and slams the door shut behind him. He hears the two remaining goblins run back out the cave.
Omar quickly tends to his companions' wounds. They debate chasing the goblins, but decide that they are too wounded, and instead barricade themselves into the room with the giant bed and rest, relying on Twinkles' meditation and keen senses to warn then of attackers.
The group decided to stop at that point since it was getting late, but they were eager to finish the adventure and track down Brock. We set up a time to have a second session in a few days.
All three of the players got involved in the game, and it really seemed like they enjoyed their characters.
I ran the game without a map, theater-of-the-mind style. In my opinion, Next is great for drawing your players into your game and world. Combat and exploration transition very smoothly, and combats are short but intense.
I introduced my weekly group into the game with 4e, and it actually worked very well, especially for those coming from an MMO background. However, I feel 4e has a predisposition to turn players into min-maxers, and it's always a challenge for me, especially in combat, to encourage role-playing over roll playing. In next, it was very natural to get even newbies to start getting in character and role-play, which was great to be a part of.
Sunday, March 4, 2012, 5:28 AM
My friend Charlie, who plays in my Monday night D&D group, just picked up the DMs mantle for the first time. He ran his first session last week and did an excellent job. This is the first time I've gotten a chance to play rather than DM in 4e. Here is a copy of my character's backstory:
“As my summary in the introduction of this text has hopefully revealed, the current historiography of the oft-referenced Archolme Conflict focuses almost entirely on the politics and major events associated with it. While this base of information is by no means inaccurate or false, in my own studies I have come to conceive of the conflict less as a cold struggle between princes and kings, but rather as a passionate conflict born out of the machinations of several fell entities and the many and diverse heroes who fought against them. It is my intention in this text therefore to investigate the personal histories and motivations of the significant players of the Conflict. Many will be readily recognizable names, and are unquestioningly considered central figures in the Conflict, but I will also assert the history importance of a handful of individuals who are not typically associated with the conflict itself. Because of the biographical nature of this study, I will give as much early history for each individual as is needed to exemplify the nature of their persons and character, in addition to any information that is relevant to the Archolme Conflict. However, these biographies should by no means be considered complete works on that individual. For that, I suggest any of the exquisite works by other authors I have listed in my appendix of sources and related readings.
“I will commence this study then with an examination of the early life of Captain Seraph Delierre. Captain Delierre was a noble-born Eladrin from the secluded realm of Quellistei. This Eladrin city-state lay in a small and isolated vale high in the mountains, and although it existed primarily in the Feywild, its maintained a strong connection to the mortal realm and travel between the two was quite easy for those who knew the proper roads. As such, Quellistei maintained a strong trading relationship with several human settlements on the mortal side of the veil.
“Captain Delierre’s lineage goes back for millennia, and his ancestors helped found Quellistei in the early days of the Feywild, long before the splitting of the Fey race into the three branches now known as Elves, Drow, and Eladrin. His parents both sat on the Council of Elders of Quellistei, and it was expected that he would follow in their footsteps later in life. When Delierre came of age, he followed the tradition for males in his family and joined the ranks of the Argent Host, the military legion of Quellistei. As was the privilege for a recruit of his heritage, Delierre joined the Host as a junior officer. And although he was certainly a capable combatant and proficient tactician and officer, his rapid promotions likely had more to with his bloodline than from any military genius or un-paralleled combat prowess on his part.
“It is worth briefly noting that concurrent to Delierre’s rapid military ascent, his personal life also was progressing rapidly. Within two years of joining the host, Delierre became betrothed to the maiden, Eleane Ardenel, who was none other the niece of General Veceri Ardenel, Commander of the Ardent Host. By all accounts, the General was quite pleased that his niece was to marry one of the soldiers under his command. It seems likely that the General was also happy to know it was Delierre specifically who had pledged himself to Eleane, as evidence suggests that he had a direct hand in Delierre’s promotions. We can assume that this was done to gain favor with the young soldier’s family, but in truth, there has been no hard evidence backing up that assumption.
“There is evidence, however, that suggests Delierre himself was aware of the true reason behind his promotions, and it seems likely he was embarrassed of the fact that he was not acquiring ranks by his merit alone, and he did try to reverse the trend. After his promotion to the rank of Sergeant, Delierre filed an official request to have the promotion revoked. That request has been transcribed below:
‘To General Ardenel of the Argent Host,
First I would like to express my gratitude for this recent honor you have bestowed upon me. However, I feel that a fair number of equally talented individuals, many of whom have seniority over me by many seasons, have been overlooked in regards to this promotion. Although I would certainly be pleased to receive this honor in the future, for the time being I would be more comfortable remaining at my current rank within the Host, that I might continue to learn from the many talented warriors who are my current fellows and commanding officers. Thus, with all due respect for your decision, I humbly request my recent promotion to the rank of Sergeant in the Argent Host be repealed.’
We are not lucky enough to possess a transcript of the General’s response, if he even ever wrote one, but we do know that Delierre’s rank within the Host remained that of Sergeant.
“Interestingly, it was due to Delierre’s own convictions that he received his final promotion within the Host, to the rank of Captain. By this time, Delierre was well acquainted with General Ardenel on a personal level, an unsurprising fact, considering that Delierre’s wedding was approaching within a season. Accounts indicate that one evening, while Delierre and Eleane were visiting the General over dinner, the General received word that a large warband of Orc raiders were on a trajectory that would bring them close to the borders of Quellistei on the mortal plane. General sent word to follow standard protocol, which included closing all passages between Quellistei and the mortal plane that could be closed, and stationing regiments of troops at all other weak points between the planes. Later in the evening, Delierre announced his disapproval to the General that no aid was being sent to the human settlements outside the borders of Quellistei. These settlements had no significant fighting force of their own, and would surely fall to a rampaging Orc warband. He told the General that he would rather risk confrontation with the Orc threat himself than sit by while innocent people were murdered.
“Whether it was because he was impressed with Delierre’s selfless idealism, or doing a favor for his soon to be nephew-in-law, General Ardenel sent a petition to the Elder Council of Quellistei asking to ignore tradition and procedure, and send a regiment of the Argent Host to the mortal plane to meet the Orcs in combat to prevent them from reaching the human settlements. The petition barely passed, and it should be noted that both of Seraph Delierre’s parents opposed the action. Nowhere in the official petition did General Ardenel indicate that Delierre had any connection to the plan, nor was there any indication of what he would do next.
“As soon as General Ardenel received word that the petition had passed, he created a new regiment made up entirely of soldiers volunteering for the mission, entitling it the Phoenix Brigade. Delierre was one of the first to sign up for the assignment, but as soon as the new regiment was full, Ardenel promoted Delierre to Captain and placed the Phoenix Brigade under his command.
“Once again we have evidence from Delierre’s own hand that indicates he did not feel his promotion was not regular or appropriate. In a letter left for Eleane Ardenel on the eve of Delierre’s departure, he stated,
‘I do not know if it was wise for your uncle to have placed me in command of this expedition. Although I do bear some responsibility for the mere fact that this undertaking is happening, I still feel there are other officers who would have been better choices to place in command. Of course I will not shirk the responsibility placed upon my shoulders. I believe that this action is noble and just, and I am proud that so many of my fellow Eladrin have taken up this cause despite our deep tradition of isolation. For the first time in our history we might truly earn the title of ‘friend’ that we have long claimed with the humans across the veil. I just hope my own capabilities live up our honorable task.’
Correspondence between Eleane and several of her close friends indicates that she shared her fiancé’s conviction regarding the importance of aiding Quellestei’s human allies, however she did not share Delierre’s belief that he did not deserve his designation as Captain. In her letters she repeatedly stated she believed that although Delierre was not the most experienced officer in the Host, his convictions and honorable conduct would than make up for that fact. Furthermore, as many of Eleane’s friends also had family within the host, we are able to learn from her correspondence that many of the soldiers under Captain Delierre’s command held a great deal of respect for him, for those same reasons.
“Due to the tragic outcome of the expedition, the only account we have of the Phoenix Brigade’s excursion comes to us second hand from a hedge wizard who nursed Delierre back to health afterwards. Delierre rarely spoke of the excursion later in life, so we are lucky that this unnamed magician recorded what Delierre told him. The following excerpt is the magician’s transcription of Deleirre’s tale:
‘Once we crossed the veil, we began hearing rumors from the local people that the Orc warband was much more dangerous than we had initially believed. Rumors circulated that these Orcs were moving under the direction of some fell power. Three days travel beyond Quellistei we encountered a small, advance raiding party and were able to confirm that there was indeed some Abyssal force at hand. The Orc shaman leading the raiding party uttered an Abyssal incantation that sent his already bloodthirsty warriors into a demonic frenzy far more savage than even Orcs are capable of. The Brigade easily defeated these beasts, as we vastly outnumbered that small group. However, I knew that if the entire orc force fought in the same manner as this raiding party, the Pheonix Brigade alone would be hard pressed to overcome their numbers and ferocity. As such, I dispatched runners to the three human communities within a day’s travel of our location with instructions to lead as many people as would follow back to the borders of Quellistei. The runners were instructed to use any means necessary to convince the regiments stationed at the border to allow the refugees across the veil until the Orc threat had passed. I then rallied the many brave soldiers under my command and marched to a defensible hill in the path of the Orc warband. We had half a day to prepare our defenses before the Orcs attacked. They attacked two hours after dark, and so we were already at a disadvantage, as these beasts were clearly well practiced at fighting at night, and their night vision, perhaps demonically enhanced, far surpassed our own. Regardless, we held our position through the first wave of attackers. Unfortunately, when the Orcs resumed their attack, their leader revealed himself, and with him, the source of their demonic taint. He was an immense Orc, wielding an equally large battleaxe that burned with dripping Abyssal flames. We could feel the corrupting presence emanating from the weapon, and it was clear that some extraplanar entity was influencing and encouraging the rampage of these Orcs. As our defenses began crumbling, I knew that our only chance of victory lay in killing the leader. I lead a charge into the midst of the most ferocious of the Orcs. I became surrounded by the howling murderous creatures, and was already grievously injured when I found myself face to face with their leader. I stood no chance fighting the monster on my own, and barely survived as his first strike crushed my shield arm. I was separated from my companions, but I desperately shouted a command for any who heard to target the bestial leader in front of me. The last thing I remember before being struck down by the monstrous Orc was the flash of an Eladrin javelin piercing his thigh. When I came to, hours later, for it was light out again, I found the body of the Orc nearby, with innumerable wounds from Eladrin weapons, although his fell axe was nowhere to be found. I wandered the battlefield for hours afterwards, but found no other survivors. By all appearances, the entire Phoenix Brigade was slain that night, despite succeeding at killing the Orc leader. You found me a few days later, wandering and barely conscious. I don’t know what I’m going to do now, but I know I cannot return to Quellisti. The Eladrin who followed me here deserved better deaths than the slaughter that occurred, and I cannot face Eleane or the General with the blood of my former companions on my hands. I have failed the brave soldiers of the Phoenix Brigade, and as such have failed all the people of Quellistei. I have no intention of returning there in dishonor as the lone survivor of my regiment.’
I would like to note that despite Captain Delierre’s harsh appraisal of himself, he did in fact save many lives that day by insuring the nearby human communities could escape to the Feywild, at least temporarily. Furthermore, the axe that Delierre references in his account was Arathgor’s Crescent, an artifact infused with the essence of a demon prince who once led a demonic incursion into the mortal plane. As soon as it’s former wielder had fallen, the axe would have begun seeking a new bearer, and its power would have influenced every creature in the area, Orc and Eladrin alike, into a fight to the death for the right to wield it, which explains why neither side retreated after both their leaders had fallen.”
This excerpt was taken from the text Dramatis Personae: a Biographical Study of the Archolme Conflict, which was written some seventy-five years after the event by the scholar and sage Cornelius Richter.
Friday, July 15, 2011, 8:22 PM
I have recently begun to play D&D regularly again after about a 3-year hiatus, and I have noticed most people don't understand the game at all. As a game, it is way out there, and many people simply aren't aware of what it means to play an RPG. It's just not part of their reality and they have a difficult time imagining that we take 8+ hours a week and dedicate it to a game you can't win.
"Normal people," i.e., those who don't play Role-Playing games, just don't understand. I'm sure every D&D player has had the conversation with a parent, friend, or significant other, where we explain that "It's like acting, but you just explain what your character does, and everything happends in your imagination;" "It's like WoW, except your character can do anything;" "Each player controls a character, and the DM controls the world." Ultimately the person we are talking to to asks "How do you win,?" and we are obligiged to say that its impossible win at D&D, at which point we are met with a somewhat blank stare of misunderstanding, or if we're lucky the person will ask, "so what's the point?"
Even beyond the scope of that conversation, if someone understands how and why we play D&D, it is rare that someone will truly understand what it means to play with a consistant group. The Monday night game that I run is one of the highlights of my week, and I hope that it is as important to my players. However, unlike going downtown, playing a board game, or even a reletively nerdy game like League of Legends, don't require the same level of dedication as playing D&D. It requires a weekly (or bi-weekly, or whatever it is in your case) commitment from all the players, to an extent, and from the DM especially. It is like having a weekly class, or practicing in an extremely nerdy sports team (not that I would really know what that is like). "Normal" people don't get it when I won't bail on D&D at the last minute to go downtown, or won't cancel a week in advance to catch a movie. They don't really stand that I have a commitment to the game, and therefore to six other people.
Sometimes even people who understand more-or-less how the game works, and why we play it, don't truly understand what it means to participate in a regular session. I frequently get people who know I have D&D on Monday nights ask me if they can come down and play some night. Though I am loathe to turn down any potential D&D player, my Monday night group is at 6 players at the moment, and I don't really care to add any more to it. If I were to add someone to the game, I wouldn't want it to be someone who played for maybe a session or two before bailing.
Therefore, I've more or less opened the doors on D&D night, so that if anyone I know is intruiged at all, or just doesn't get it, they know that they can stop by to check it out. I have discovered that D&D night is actually a great enviornment for people to hang out. Some DMs may not like having the distraction to their players, but frankly, if my players are gonna be distracted, they'll be distracted regardless of whether or not there are other people in the room, and a good DM should be able to draw his players back in when they drift off.
So far I've had many people never stop by, a couple people stop down briefly and leave, a few hang out for a while to watch, listen, and join the banter, and I even have a friend who frequently comes down with a laptop to play League of Legends for several hours just to be a part of it all, even though he's not really interested in D&D itself.
Ultimately, I hope that opening my doors will hook me several new players that I could start a second weekly group with, but even if that doesn't pan out, it's nice to be able to remove the mystery of the game for as many people as possible, even if its not something they are insterested in for themselves.