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Barney’s Adventures: A Close November 10, 2009

Posted by elopingcamel in 4e, Barney's Adventures, DM, Narrative.
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I am going to write this from the retconned perspective that the only adventurers to enter or fight in the cave were our 3 heroes and Clarence, Barney’s man-servant. Also, it has been many months since this was actually played and I am having to rely entirely on my poor excuse for a memory. So this will be more summary than play-by-play. It should also be noted that I am combining the events of two game nights into one narrative.

What Happened

The Cave Entrance – The heroes found their way into the cave entrance behind the waterfall and gained a surprise attack on the few goblins there. As their skirmish escalated, the party could hear the very loud creaking of metal on rock, followed by the heavy footsteps of something obviously large. An orc captain came charging into the melee, giving the heroes their first taste of a sizable opponent (as opposed to foes whose strength came in their numbers). The fight dragged on for a while, but eventually the party dispatched their enemies and went down the passage from whence had come the orc.

Deeper into the Darkness – They found a large metal door leading into a system of well-constructed tunnels. They descended the stairs and entered a small cross section of the underground passages. They could hear some soft humming coming from behind one of the doors and cautiously approached. inside they found a small goblin humming and singing to himself as he gathered supplies from what was obviously a supply closet. They captured him and intimidated him into answering their questions. Despite his protests, they dragged him along behind them to guide them to the Dark Lady’s room, where she was holding the Bloodstone. With the goblin as their guide, they were able to bypass what would have surely been a grueling process of trial by elimination. The goblin led them directly and safely to the Dark Lady’s chambers. They crashed through the doors and began to battle the Dark Lady and her zombie minions.

The Final Battle – Things go decently well for the heroes at first, but it soon becomes apparent that the longer they stay there, the more danger they are in of being discovered and trapped–a few goblins had already heard the ruckus and come to investigate. Elfomoto decides that more direct measures are necessary. He finds enough space to make a quick sprint toward the Dark Lady, who is standing directly in front of the podium on which the Bloodstone rests, and successfully flips over her–dodging her attacks of opportunity–safely landing on the other side of the podium. Using the podium itself as a shield from attacks, he safely uses some cloth to pick up and store the Bloodstone. The battle rages on with neither side making strong strides toward victory. In a moment of distraction, Elfomoto is able to quickly climb atop the podium and perform a similar move as the one that got him where he is, and he gracefully flips over danger, narrowly missing the numerous swinging blades of his foes. He lands safely and yells to his comrades that they should flee.

A Sad Farewell – A few members of the party are pretty badly wounded by this point. Barney is very close to death and Clarence even more near that black end. Carlsberg and Elfomoto begin to make their retreat, helping Barney as best they can, but it soon becomes apparent that Clarence is unable to keep pace with them. Barney tried to get back to help him, but watches as his man-servant is cut down. Barney is heartbroken and fires off one last killing spell, buying time for him and his friends to flee down the hall and out of the tunnels. The three heroes return the Bloodstone, claim their reward, and Barney mourns the loss of his friend and slave. His indomitable spirit won’t stay down long, though… He already has plans for getting a better servant in the future.

Thoughts

This was the last night that my step-brother had to play before heading out-of-state for college. What happened well is that we had fun. What could have been better was for me to not try to put so much into that final session. I had tons of fun treasures and surprises for them to discover during their search of the underground lair. However, due to time constraints, most of those plans were basically set aside or left ignored. This makes me sad not because I felt like my hard work had gone unappreciated (which is a common frustration for DMs I have read–and therefore expect to experience), but because better planning could have let them discover these things in conjunction with their more direct approach to the game.

They didn’t even have or take the time to loot the bodies of the dead goblins, so even if I had been smart enough to just drop that treasure/loot in at the end, they didn’t stay long enough to grab it.

The truth is that I am not too worried because I don’t think the players know that they have not been receiving as much loot as is probably considered “standard” in the world of D&D. However, I do want to make sure that they are getting enough incentives to develop their characters. My hope is to incorporate their getting better treasure into the plotlines and hooks so they feel some real accomplishment in upgrading.

What I am proud of is that my first time running 4e I did not have to rely on pre-made adventures. I actually want to try one, but I may wait until I start school again to do that, just because I have the time to plan some good ones while I am out of school right now.

Barney’s Adventures: Lessons Learned November 6, 2009

Posted by elopingcamel in 4e, Barney's Adventures, DM.
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I learned a great lesson about DMing the other night; there are limits to how many people you can let play in a game. I have frequently heard (read) that 5-6 players is the ideal or target number. If your gaming group meets the following requirements that could easily be true: (a) all, or maybe most, have played before and are thus at least semi-experienced–so as to keep the game from slowing down and becoming boring; (b) everybody actually does want to play. I had a night that was pretty homework free, so I acquiesced to run another game for my bro and friends. I was very excited, because I had planned further in advance for the last time we got together and had thus already done quite a bit of the prep work. I could spend time on further encounters and on fine-tuning the ones for our session. Things looked good until…way more people showed up than expected.

Instead of the 6 that I had planned on (mind you the largest group that I’ve ever run was 4 and that was the very simplified 3.5e Basic Set version), we had 8 people show up (only 7 planned on playing). To top it off, my little bro didn’t tell the three people he brought what we were playing, because he thought they’d say, “No,” because… well, let’s face it; D&D does not always have the greatest reputation amongst the general populace.

Things actually did not go nearly as badly as they could have. It seemed like most everybody had fun, but not everyone had fun for the same reasons (i.e. because they actually enjoyed the game). What was worse is that, once my wife and her friend got back from playing tennis, it was pandemonium. It was very hard to get everyone to focus on the game, because it felt like a half hour for each round to go by. One of the girls in particular grew tired of the wait (or the game)¬† and began to take that mentality of, “If I’m bored, then the only way to have fun is to sabotage the game.” She decided to attack my little bro on her next turn, and rolled well, dealing a ton of damage. Luckily, everyone really was having a good time, and, even thought my little bro was totally upset at being attacked, he thought it was funny and played into the idea that everyone would be ganging up on the traitor that had just turned on the group.

The three newbies had to leave right after her turn it turned out, so we just retconned that whole attack scene, got rid of some PCs and monsters (to make it balanced for the lower levels) and carried on our merry little way. The whole “add 4 PCs to the party without any making it fit story wise, and then taking those same 4 PCs away mid-battle” could easily make quite a few players unhappy and/or annoyed, but in all actuality, the core guys that I have getting together weren’t bugged at all. They are just starting to grasp the idea of an overarching storyline that exists between and connecting the little one-shot encounters that they thought I was putting together. Now it is starting to sink in that these encounters can expand to cover multiple sessions and a continuous storyline. They seemed excited about that.

So for now I have decided that my preferred PC count is 4. 3 works out pretty much just as well as 4 for me, but 4 allows me enough room to bring in some fun foes for them to face without making it too tough, and it still keeps a great pace to the game. Once my little bro leaves town again to go back up to school, then I’ll try to get my wife back intot he little group of my other three friends and that ought to be perfect.

Barney’s Adventures: The Cave Entrance November 6, 2009

Posted by elopingcamel in 4e, Barney's Adventures, DM, Narrative.
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It has been a while since I have played D&D. Life will do that to you I guess. Anyway, I have a few of these recap posts already drafted on here, so I will revise/finish those and put them up. So, here we go.

When last we met, the adventurers had just dispatched a nasty pack of wolves in the forest and then rested for the night.

The next day the three adventurers (and Clarence) take to the road again, but only briefly as they soon decide to veer off into the woods. Soon, as they wander along, heading West, Carlsberg spots a small wooden watchtower, well-hidden amongst the tops of the trees. He also sees a small goblin peering over the top with a crossbow trained directly at him. He breaks off into a run, trying to get some cover and circle around the tower, but the goblin (sharpshooter, lvl 2) gets a shot off that deals some heavy damage, and two goblins (runner, lvl 1) step out to block his path through the trail. One of them lands a nasty blow against Carlsberg, immediately making him change his plans. Barney, having no desire to enter a battle while crossbow bolts are rained down upon them, casts Mage Hand as a minor move, grasping the light crossbow and yanking it from the hands of the goblin before he has any clue what has happened (I was so impressed with my little bro’s cleverness in this that I had to let him do it. I did roll, but I made the strength check the goblin gave have a penalty due to the surprise–the roll was so low it wouldn’t have mattered anyway). Barney then moves toward the two goblin runners and casts Cloud of Daggers on the one that had landed the blow on Carlsberg. The goblin takes some significant damage.

Clarence grabs his cart of ale and heads for cover in the trees to the side and below the tower–the artillery no longer being a threat.

Elfomoto makes his way over to the melee, circling around the goblin runner (the same with the cloud of daggers over him) and makes a flanking attack against him, dealing some more damage.

Carlsberg makes his first sneak attack of the game on the goblin whose attention is now focused on Elfomoto, the obvious and immediate threat. He drives his dagger into the back of the neck of the goblin, dropping him immediately to the ground.

At this point, the goblin sharpshooter was climbing down the tower, fuming about losing his crossbow. Clarence sees him, picks up a rock and hurls it at the goblin, striking him directly in the back of the head, knocking him loose from the ladder to fall down and receive some fairly nasty damage to his head (both from the rock and from landing on it poorly). The goblin takes a couple of rounds to become undazed. By that time, the other remaining goblin runner had been grabbed as he tried to flee, and the party had surrounded the sharpshooter. They tied them to the tower, stripped them of their belongings, and began to question them, asking about how to find the cave entrance. They learned that someone the goblins called the dark lady was in charge and that the cave entrance was behind the waterfall.

They leave the goblins tied to the tower and make their way toward the waterfall cave entrance.

Barney’s Adventures: The Bloodstone July 24, 2009

Posted by elopingcamel in 4e, Barney's Adventures, DM, Narrative.
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Raids

The basic story was that the town they live in had recently been plagued by a series of attacks and thefts, culminating in the theft of a powerful stone from the mayor’s manor. The mayor was furious to no end and desperate to get back his stone. He offered this ragtag group of adventurers 400gp each to retrieve the dark red stone for him, paying 100 up front and the remaining 300 when the bloodstone (as he called it) was returned. He was very hesitant to give any information about the stone–what it was, where it was from, what it could do, why it was so valuable–other than to say that they must not touch it with their bare flesh. He was adamant that they not do this, warning them repeatedly.

They set off down the trail leading away from town to the West, looking for some caves that are rumored to be infested with some goblins (the mayor was confident that these goblins were behind the theft). As they travel along, Barney spots a flash of white through the dense section of forest to their South. He grows curious and decides–against the advice of Elfomoto (elf ranger)–to check it out. Both he, Clarence (Barney’s hired slave/caddy), and Carlsberg (human rogue) head into the forest, while Elfomoto tarries at the edge, debating whether or not it is worth it to go in after them. Right as they approach a clearing in the woods where they can see four wolves, both Barney and Carlsberg step onto dried twigs that snap loudly enough to draw the attention of the wolves. The wolves immediately move to attack.

Elfomoto hears the commotion and begins to make his way into the woods, while the others begin to battle. With one of the wolves being so obviously bigger than the others, Barney focuses his attacks on it (Dire Wolf). He casts Cloud of Daggers on the wolf, but it does not do as much damage as he had hoped it would (it missed, only doing half damage). The battle wages on with a bit of a stalemate for the first  round, with no one landing anything more than a minor blow against their adversary. Clarence decides to attempt a climb up the nearest tree, where he could both hide and hurl a rock down at the wolf attacking his master. He gets about 6 ft. up the tree when he slips and falls down, spraining his ankle. He spends the rest of the battle rolling around behind the tree, whimpering and nursing his pain.

Carlsberg grows frustrated with the slow, back and forth nature of the battle, and–having just seen Clarence attempt to use the trees to his advantage–decides that he would spice things up by attempting to climb up a nearby tree, flip off of it (over the nearest wolf minion), fling a dagger down into the neck of the wolf while in mid-air, and land behind it. Things begin well as he leaps up, grabbing the branch just over his head, and swings himself up and over the wolf, doing an incredibly graceful gymnastic-style flip (natural 20). As he flips over the wolf, he grabs a dagger and flings it down at the wolf’s neck, missing it by a good foot or two (rolled a 2), and then attempts to land directly on the wolf. Again, he misses the wolf by a good foot or two (rolling a 1), and takes some damage as he tumbles to the ground and ends prone.

Elfomoto arrives and begins his horrific destruction of the dire wolf, landing blow after blow of heavy damage. Very soon he has sliced both deep into the wolf’s flank and landed a terrible blow to the tender shoulder/neck area of the wolf’s left front limb. The wolf also continues to take small amounts of damage from the cloud of daggers. Barney dispatches the wolf minion closest to him by first dousing him with ale (Beer Splash – Minor Action that I made for Barney, given that his implement is a mug of ale) and casting Scorching Blast, which absolutely lit up the poor creature in a fiery ball of flames.

Down on the ground now, Carlsberg fends off an attack by the same wolf that he attempted to kill/mount, and then slashes his dagger across the throat of the wolf, immediately spilling its blood all over himself and ending the minion’s life. He debates taking the time right then to capture some of the wolf’s fresh blood in a vial for later experimentation (he loves his alchemy), but in the end decides that killing the last remaining wolf first is more important. He spends his move to stand up. The dire wolf makes an attack on Elfomoto, but as it does it puts too much pressure on its front left limb, stumbling down to the ground (rolled a 1). Elfomoto wastes no time in taking advantage of this situation, dealing massive damage with each of his blades against his now prone foe.

Barney hurls a small splash of acid at the obviously dying dire wolf, and between the acid and on-going cloud of dagger damage, the wolf does not make it long enough to attack again.

The party used a tremendous amount of resources (encounter/daily powers) during the fight, so they rest for the night before deciding to continue West toward the cave.

Barney’s Adventures July 22, 2009

Posted by elopingcamel in 4e, Barney's Adventures, DM, One Shot.
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This afternoon I received another text from my step-brother saying that he was in town and wanted to play Dungeons and Dragons again. I was more than happy to oblige the man. He came over along with two of my friends (one had played the 3.5e Basic Set module with me last summer when I was first trying my hand at DMing, the other has been my friend for a LONG time but had never expressed any interest in a game like D&D).

I am truly growing to love these random, very loosely planned, one-shot adventures that my little bro requests. I never have much time to plan them, and therefore they are never taken too seriously. It helps me to set aside the perfectionist in me and just relax so we all can have a good time. Plus, I am learning so much each time we play about what is fun (and what is not) for the players.

My friend, who had played a year ago, is much more into character creation and the role-playing aspect of the game–he would gladly take a penalty to a roll if it is due to a decision that his character would make in that situation. He came over with the idea in his head (remember, his knowledge of character creation in regards to mechanics–as well as the mechanics of gameplay–is minimal at best) of a sneaky guy that is not physically strong at all, but is very quick and agile. His character would use throwing daggers as his main weapon, but for up close melee combat, a form of a handaxe (he actually did not want a handaxe, but that was the closest we could find for what he was trying to describe) would be his weapon of choice. He wanted this character to be a potions master, who relied heavily on potions to augment and make up for his weaknesses. In my limited experience, what he was looking for was some mix between a rogue and an artificer. For the sake of time, we quick-drew up a rogue that would use throwing daggers and be a trickster build. As his melee weapon I used the kukri (that almost looks like a handaxe in a weird way, no?).

My other friend played a dual-blade wielding elf ranger. He was more than happy to just use one of the many many pregen characters that I had rolled up when I found DDI’s character creator freeware version thingie. The only thing he said when we first started to play was that he wanted an archer-style character (he was afraid of the up close combat to some degree I believe), but as soon as the first battle started, he abandoned the ranged style of combat and got up in the mix of things. So… go figure.

I’ll give a narrative summary of what happened later.