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Keep On The Shadowfell: A New Beginning May 17, 2010

Posted by elopingcamel in 4e, DM, Keep on the Shadowfell, Narrative.
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With Group 1 (Jed, Matt, Jen, and Sierra) on a seriously long hiatus (sad), I decided to run Keep on the Shadowfell (KotS) with a different group and let the other group’s adventure be my own home-brewed one. Luckily, we hadn’t gotten very far in KotS, so Sierra didn’t have to repeat anything. For Group 2 (Joe, Jessica, Brian, and Sierra) I skipped the Douven Stahl side quest and began with the free RPG Day adventure Into the Shadowhaunt.

Robot Rollcall

To be honest, we didn’t really bother with doing much of any back story for these characters. Joe always puts a bit more into back story than others so he had some bits about his Goliath Bard being one of the lore keepers for his society (they store knowledge through song). His bard is out exploring as part of his journey/test for manhood. Everyone else is beginning with little to no back story.

Luna – Longtooth Shifter Warden (played by Sierra)

Thotham – Goliath Bard (played by Joe)

Katryn – Shadar-kai Rogue (played by Jessica)

Ronen – Deva Warlock (played by Brian)

The Adventure Begins

The heroes arrive to find the town of Winterhaven on edge; two local boys were recently kidnapped. They group is approached by Sister Linora–the priestess at the local temple and grounds tender at the local graveyard–who claims to have seen men entering the mausoleum at the graveyard. She says that she saw them go in but never saw them come back out. When she eventually worked up the courage to go into the mausoleum, it was empty. The heroes agree to go with her to investigate.

It Was Puzzling

Into the Shadowhaunt has a nice puzzle for the PCs to solve before they can find the secret entrance that leads under the mausoleum. For the sake of avoiding spoilers (at least as far as official, published adventures go), we’ll skip much of that aspect of this session and just comment on how impressed everyone was with Brian’s knowledge of medieval vocabulary and problem-solving skills.

Into the Shadowhaunt

Having solved the puzzle of the secret entrance into the belly of the mausoleum, the adventurers come to their first fight; hobgoblin mercenaries crouched behind oil-filled sarcophagi. The hobgoblins begin peppering them with ranged attacks while some of the PCs charge in. They get their first surprise when Luna tries to climb on the sarcophagus, only to have the lid break in on her, the flame igniting the oil beneath her. They eventually dispatch the hobgoblins and continue their search of the boys.

Traveling through tunnels, they come to an opening in the cavern below the mausoleum. They see a door with a large devil’s head on it and a passage forking off. They decide to investigate the passage first and soon find the man behind the kidnappings; an elf necromancer standing atop a high, glowing platform with an ancient tome open in front of him. He is chanting and involved in some sort of ritual. A fight erupts and soon the evil elf is joined by skeletons from an alcove to the side. The fight takes its toll on both sides but the elf seems to have the upper hand from his lofty position. Eventually Katryn and Luna work out a plan for Kat to crouch down a couple feet from the pedestal and for Luna to use her Form of the Fearsome Ram to charge toward the elf, leap off of Kat’s back, and slam into the elf mage. It works brilliantly, knocking the elf from his perch and just about killing him. They kill off the skeletons, loot the elf, and then find the boys in the room with the devil’s head.

They leave the mausoleum to find Sister Linora still waiting for them. She is ecstatic to see the boys again, but obviously nervous about Ronen keeping the elf’s book. The two boys explain that the elf’s name was Helvec and that he planned on sacrificing the boys to perform a ritual that would allow him to locate something called the Shadow Key. The heroes also find a note inside the book from someone named Kalarel. He warned Helvec against failure and said that he was sending someone named Ninaran to supervise Helvec’s attempts.

Enders

The session ended with the heroes returning to town. I really liked the way that Into the Shadowhaunt tied into Keep on the Shadowfell. The heroes got a couple of rings, Helvec’s robes and the ancient tome as well. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and it seemed like a successful first run of 4e with the new group.

New Blood May 17, 2010

Posted by elopingcamel in 4e, DM, Keep on the Shadowfell, The Brotherhood.
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Last night my step cousin and his friend (my friend as well, but I met him through my step cousin) came over to give Dungeons and Dragons a try. We spent the first hour or so going over the basics of the game and creating characters. Then I ran them through the first two encounters of the DMG mini-adventure Kobold Hall. It went really well and they seemed to truly enjoy themselves.

My cousin (Tyler) decided to be a Wilden Druid and his friend (Ben) went with a Human Paladin who worships Ioun. The encounters weren’t very challenging but I mainly wanted them to get a feel for how the game works and how terrain can function in a 3D way, providing cover and helping/hindering them.

The plan right now is to incorporate them into the game I had been running previously for Jed (Carlsberg Torres). The rest of that group is not really interested in pursuing the game besides Jed, so I will start where he left off and add in Tyler and Ben, as well as another friend named Michael who wants to come give it a try. I’m going to break off from the Keep on the Shadowfell, though. I started running a different group through that one and I don’t want to do it twice. So, this will really be my first time having total and complete free reign in making up a world and campaign, all for new players. I have DMed long enough now to feel comfortable doing so.

Anyway, from now on the Keep on the Shadowfell write-ups will be about Group 2’s adventure and Group 1’s adventure will get a new name. For now I will call them the The Brotherhood, but that will likely change as the game goes on.

Consider yourself updated.

Another Shift May 13, 2010

Posted by elopingcamel in 4e, DM, Keep on the Shadowfell.
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I am getting good at changing plans. The 3.5e group that I was playing with (remember young Fetalus? Of course you do) finished our campaign (not really, but we finished the published adventure we were doing) and decided to try our hand at 4e (I admit to using my powers of persuasion to try my best to influence them to try 4e. It actually wasn’t that hard to be honest. Everyone was more than willing to give it a go in the end). So, I decided that I will be running them through Keep on the Shadowfell. This will mean two things: 1.) I will be changing my other group’s adventure so that they are not running Keep on the Shadowfell any longer and 2.) I will be liberally chopping up, removing, and replacing bits from the adventure to tailor it to this new group.

My reasons for doing this are that my first group that was running through it are a little easier to prepare for in my way of thinking. They are all very new to the game, they have not experienced much of the game and they are more of a hack and slash group anyway. Minimal story/plot lining is necessary and winging it is really easy. With this new group I will be DMing, some of them are old pros. This is a little intimidating for me, so I thought it would be beneficial to run something pre-made and then just tailor it to them.

So, I will finish the first group’s adventure with them finding Douven Staul (which was a side quest anyway) and then have them move on to new and totally original adventures (thus giving me the much desired and needed experience of creating my own adventures without the stress of having to make them mind-blowingly good for guys who have seen it all already). The second group I will run through Keep on the Shadowfell, but I will not use the Douven Staul storyline at all (as my wife is in both groups and I don’t want her to have to repeat anything). I am going to insert instead the adventure module from Into the Shadowhaunt. I am going to tailor some of it though, so that Helvec and Ninaran are lovers and are both working for Kalarel. Helvec is working underneath the Mausoleum looking for a relic that will allow Kalarel to open the rift to the Shadowfell (as well as Helvec performing his own sadistic rituals for his own private purposes). My hope is that this will accomplish the following things:

1. It will give an early and easy intro for everyone into the world of 4e with one of the Game Day adventures.

2. It will introduce key NPCs and villains from the get go as well as needed information.

3. It will create a strong motive for a later encounter with Ninaran who is very bitter about the murder of her lover.

4. It will create some interesting Skill Challenges (specifically I am thinking of one where Ninaran steals the relic that the heroes recover when they kill Helvec and the heroes chase her through the market and town via a Skill Challenge).

We will start next weekend, so I have some preparation to do before then, but I think that things are off to a great start so far. I’ll give info about the PCs next time.

The Brotherhood: Session 2 December 10, 2009

Posted by elopingcamel in 4e, DM, Narrative, The Brotherhood.
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Well, for maybe the first time in my brief DMing history, I had the exact same group of people for two weeks in a row. That certainly helps to bring a greater sense of cohesion to the story. I am a fan of that type of gaming set up. Anyway, on to the meat.

Heavy Roleplay

I introduced a heavy amount of non-encounter roleplaying this session. Beginning with the arrival in town and discussion between the party and the gate guard and ending with the characters interacting with the townspeople in the local tavern, the first hour or so of our game session consisted entirely of roleplaying.

I actually had a lot of fun with it at first, but I could tell that it was dragging on for my players before too long. None of us are experienced tabletop RPGers, so I think it was a little uncomfortable for my players. At times they seemed to enjoy the accents and voices that I would do, but at other times they seemed a little put off by the “scene” that I was creating. More than anything else, it just seemed like they had no idea what to do without¬† map and visuals at which to look.

I think that I need to find a way to ease them into it better. First of all, I will shorten the amount of time that they are required to spend roleplaying. At those times when everyone is just sitting around not knowing what to do, I will have an NPC come and directly engage them in a “leading” conversation. Perhaps for now, roleplaying for this group will basically consist of detective-style roleplaying, where the only times we actually sit down and force the roleplay is when information is needed.

What Was Good

Jed (Carlsberg Torres) seemed to understand immediately that roleplaying can be whatever he wants it to be. He immediately started having fun with his freedom to act out Carlsberg’s personality, ordering some drinks (he wanted to roll to see how many shots his character would do) and then heading to the piano to play some songs. As soon as I mentioned some of the other patrons in the tavern–and that one was a half-elf woman–he decided to go over and get to know her. I must also give credit to Jen (Phillip Rivers) for her wanting there to be a stage (like for karaoke) in the Inn. That was where Carlsberg got the idea to play a song.

Where We Faltered

It wasn’t until Jed started partying that the others began to see the light that there was more to this game than just simply rolling die. However, my other 3 players didn’t ever seem to fully embrace it like Jed did/does.

Even roleplaying in the sense as a plot-driving force for the game did not seem to fully make sense to them. So, I am thinking to re-explain the benefits of roleplaying as a form of detective work; it is the manner of information gathering. At least initially, if they can understand that there is a purpose to roleplaying, then I think they will be open to it (again, as long as it does not take up too much of the game time).

Another thing that made it difficult was that I did not always know how to appropriately convey information. I wanted them to meet the cast of characters so I introduced Eilian, Sylvana, and Ninaran in the tavern. They were all intrigued immediately by Ninaran’s sour demeanor and flocked to talk to her. I had decided to make her character very stand-offish (like the module describes her), but this form of response only intrigued them more. We spent a LONG time roleplaying a situation that was just really not going anywhere. They couldn’t grasp that she was unimportant at that time and that she would not offer anything of value to them (again, at that time). I imagine that this was my fault for not finding a way to make that more clear sooner or changing my approach so that she did suddenly become more engaging, because she realized that she could lead them all on a wild goose hunt or something. I don’t know.

“A Ha!” Moment

In the end, the party found lodging and, despite initial failure in talking Sylvana Wrafton into letting them stay there for free, found that saving Korg’s supplies and horses on the road brought an unexpected reward; Sylvana and Korg are good friends, so when Korg entered the Inn, shouting praises of the heroes exploits, the Innkeeper found plenty of motivation to treat the adventurers differently.

Another Kobold Attack

After gathering enough info and getting a rough map from Eilian (the old drunken codger), the party got a good night’s rest. The next morning they headed off to the Dragon Burial Site to find Douven Staul. A good ways down the road and outside of town, they were once again ambushed by kobolds. These ones seemed pissed and like they wanted revenge for their fallen comrades (the ones that the adventurers had killed on their way to town). The fight went well enough for the PCs, the kobolds never really offering that much of a challenge to the heroes. At one point Periwinkle the Eladrin Swordmage teleported on top of a nearby rock and cut his sword down into the skull of the kobold standing just below him. That seemed to be a highpoint for him on a night when far too many of his rolls just seemed ineffective.

That is all for now. I believe that it will be a little while before we are able to play again, so I may have some bits and tiddles from a different game before the next write-up. Good night.

The Brotherhood: Session 1 November 16, 2009

Posted by elopingcamel in 4e, DM, Narrative, The Brotherhood.
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Background Info

The basic story I have going for my players is that a wizard named Vellan the Mulleted (this picture doesn’t do that mullet justice; it is beautiful) has contacted each of them, recruiting them to join his secret band of do-gooders. His friend Douven Staul has been missing for a month now and he is hoping that these young heroes will be able to locate Douven, proving themselves worthy in the process.

Vellan also requested, as a personal favor to him, that the party help escort a half-orc merchant named Korg (idea stolen from here) to Winterhaven and assure his safe passage to and arrival there. Korg is a semi-crippled, trade-goods wagoneer and hardly worth anything in a fight. His half-full cart was drawn by a single large horse.

The party tonight consisted of four level one characters:

  • Carlsberg Torres (male human ranger with sub-class feat of rogue) who prefers to use throwing daggers/knives and attack from afar.
  • Joan Padraig, eldest daughter of Ernest and Vanessa Padraig (idea also stolen and then adapted from here – female human warlord with the inspire build). She ran away from home at the age of 16, so this will be her first trip back home in three years.
  • Phillip Rivers (yes, named after the quarterback) is the wizard of the party (female eladrin wizard, control build).
  • Perrywinkle is the last of the party (male eladrin swordmage, aegis of assault).

The couple playing the two eladrin are married to each other in real life. They played two sessions of the 3.5e Basic Game with me last year. This was their first time with 4e and third time playing D&D ever. They did very well. My wife played Joan and this was easily the most excited I have ever seen her for any semblance of back story or character development.

Combat Highlight

The party began getting ambushed by those dirty little kobolds. Carlsberg was up front and center for the initial kobold minion charge. Two of them hit him, decently damaging him before any PCs had a turn. Phillip was the furthest back and decided to play it safe by climbing a nearby tree. She then sent out a spell of icy terrain to hurt the kobolds and knock them prone (not knowing that they only had 1 hp). Unfortunately Carlsberg was standing in that burst as well. He was hit, suffering max damage, and knocked prone from the spell. Then, by the end of the round, the kobold slinger launched his gluepot at Carlsberg, immobilizing him. It was certainly a rough round for Mr. Torres. Yet, he survived it alright, laying a pretty nasty smackdown on some kobolds before all was said and done.

The Skill Challenge

The idea behind this one was simply that the heroes were to get Korg and his goods safely to Winterhaven. They did, therefore I gave them 75 XP (It was 3 successes before 3 failures in the end, which is less than Complexity 1). The kobold slinger–who was mercilessly being attacked by Perrywinkle–thought to escape by creating some confusion. He launched a firepot at the horse attached to Korg’s wagon. The firepot landed at the horse’s feet, causing the horse to rear back and then bolt forward, heading directly up the old King’s Road toward the heroes and the last kobold dragonshield.

Phillip, still hiding out about 10′ up in the tree, attempted to leap out onto the horse. Due to a low roll but clever story-telling/role-playing by the girl playing Phillip, we decided that she panicked at the last minute and spun around, grabbing the branch again. The rest of her turn was spent letting go of the branch and falling to the ground. This of course was the first failure in the skill challenge.

A whole round went by as the other heroes finished off the last two kobolds (the dragonshield’s head being lopped off by Joan and Periwinkle’s ferocious stabbing in the back of the slinger as it tried to flee) The cart continued forward, gaining speed just a few feet away from crashing into Joan and Carlsberg. Phillip ran alongside the cart, jumping/climbing atop it and grabbing the reins from the fairly useless Korg. This was the first success. Next, Joan leaped directly onto the horse’s back (she rolled a very high athletics check) to help rein it in. This was the second success. I counted the destruction of the kobolds as the third success and decided that it wasn’t worth dragging out that little scene any further. So I gave them some XP for successfully defending Korg and his goods upon their reaching the town of Winterhaven.

I really like the idea of the skill challenge. I can tell that I’ll need more time to get the kinks straightened out, but I thought it was a great way to add a different element to the encounter so the battle didn’t have to drag out as long. It also gave Phillip–who had not played as large a role in the fighting after the first round–a chance to shine and flex her creative muscles. I think she enjoyed that part of the game the most.

As far as XP goes, I am not sure if I short-changed them. It seemed like the skill challenge was a pretty easy one, so I didn’t think it was deserving of a ton of XP, but I want to reward the girls especially for stepping up to the role playing table and doing a great job. Any thoughts on how much XP should be awarded in this situation?

To End

The party arrived in Winterhaven as the sun was setting. The guards began to question them until one of them noticed the Lady Joan Padraig, returned home after 3 years of absence. He directed the other heroes to Wrafton’s Inn and we closed down shop for the night.

A New Page Turns November 13, 2009

Posted by elopingcamel in Uncategorized.
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This is the first new post that I will have started for many months. Recently I’ve been catching up on finishing old drafts that I had started but never finished.

This Sunday I will be running Keep on the Shadowfell for the first time. I have had a few practice runs with pre-made adventures now and for the most part felt like they met with success. I also learned a lot from them about encounter design and specifically terrain design.

The area where I know that I am the weakest is role playing. That is the part that interests me the most right now, but it is the part that I have experienced the least and therefore with which I feel the most uncomfortable.

My hope is that skill challenges will provide an easily understandable way for my players to begin down that path. Anyway, I don’t really plan on doing anymore write-ups for my 3.5e Eberron campaign. We are going to play again on Saturday (it has been a REALLY long time since the last time we played), but unless something incredibly noteworthy occurs, I feel like my time and efforts need to go more toward providing the most enjoyable experience for my players as possible. So, until further notice, Fetalus and friends will be silently adventuring, far far away from the interwebs.

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.

Eberron: The Mournlands November 10, 2009

Posted by elopingcamel in 3.5e, Eberron, Narrative, PC.
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Failan leaves the party at the edge of the Mournlands and refuses any offers for additional pay to carry them in. Lia suggests that the party holds hands as they enter the thick mists that lay heavy over and throughout the area. This turns out to be a brilliant idea, because as soon as we enter the noxious cloud, all of us except for Lia are disoriented and can hardly see a few feet in front of us. Lia is able to maintain a clear head and directional bearing, though so the party, continuing to hold hands, begins their trek through what Fetalus is calling the Mournfog.

Soon they come across an older model of a catapult that looks to have seen use recently, but the war has been over for 4 years. The party begins to investigate, until they notice the corpses of soldiers nearby that look fresh. They were killed by a hailstorm of arrows that littered their bodies and the ground nearby. They begin to search the horizon and see in the distance a battlefield filled with corpses. They decide that the time has come to move on, but not until they discover some goods in and near the bodies that lay close to the catapult.

The party finds some pretty useful loot. Ana finds a symbiont sword that is willing to bond with her due to her elf heritage. Lia (I think) finds a pretty sweet little boomerang that should provide some fun for her, and Fetalus discovers a wand of magic missile. He giggles excitedly in his youthful manner at this wonderful find.

They continue their trek across the wasteland, soon encountering some nasty little skeletons that fight like they have a reason to care. During or soon after dispatching these bony foes, a massive corpse crab surfaces from the sand, ready to lay a thorough beat down to the heroes. The fight rages on for some time before they finally injure the crab enough for it to decide that killing the party is not worth it if it costs him his own life as well. He flees and burrows himself into the sand.

Continuing their trek, the party soon finds the cave entrance for which they have been searching. Despite Ana’s best attempts to calm Wolfie, he is inconsolable and will not enter the dark and creepy cave. The party leaves him above ground, hoping for his safety as they descend into the darkness.

Eberron: Useful Information November 10, 2009

Posted by elopingcamel in 3.5e, Eberron, Narrative, PC.
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This weekend we were able to play our Eberron campaign again. We ended last time right as Fetalus and crew were entering a large, glass-covered ruin to search for information on where to find the schema.

The Map Room

As soon as they enter they see a dwarf zombie, and two fighters (one of which is a female). Wolfie sprints into the melee, biting the dwarf zombie and tripping him to the ground.

Lia rains arrows onto the foes, dealing damage occasionally (her rolling was very hit and miss). Fetalus, thinking he understood flanking rules, decides to swing around the room to cast a spell at the female fighter, who it was becoming obvious was the leader of this little squad. The female fighter immediately sprints at Fetalus the first chance she gets and takes him on. He luckily escapes the initial melee without too much damage and begins to use fight and flight tactics, until Lia can manage to get in close enough to help out. Eventually, the zombie and male fighter are destroyed and the party takes the leader down–Fetalus happily dealing the final blow.

They find some excellent loot on the bodies of the room’s most recently dead persons. Then, the room itself is searched, where clues to the next schema are found. After understanding that the clues carved into the statues in the room relate to points on the giant map on the floor, the group discovers that it is in the foothills of Cyre that the schema will be found. They destroy the clue on the statue, to keep the Emerald Claw from following behind them, and leave the building. As soon as they step outside, they come across a vampiric-looking fellow who seems less than pleased to find adventurers exiting one of the buildings in his site (he is the head of the Emerald Claw crew). After some successful bluffing, Lia convinces him that the room was already destroyed when they went in and that they know nothing of a schema or whatever. A battle almost ensues, but instead the man disappears in a pissed-off flash, obviously intent on relaying information somewhere, despite his obvious desire to kill the annoying fools caught trespassing on his dig.

The party flees the scene and begins the trek to the foothills of Cyre (in the Mournlands). While traveling, Fetalus works with Prince Phillip (his familiar toad) to train him in a level of bard (it actually was just one bard-like ability: the Croak of Courage, which gives a slight bonus to Fetalus). This cost Fetalus some XP, but he was willing to pay it, because nothing sounded cooler to him at the time than Phillip belching out a Croak of Courage at some incredibly needed moment, when Fetalus has lost hope and is about to give up (you may be able to tell that this will not be a power or ability that gets too overused–it was a flavor thing, because Fetalus loves his little toad so much, that he is inspired to fight harder to protect him).

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.