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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Dead in Thay: Monster Eggs

I prefer clicky pens
I've been getting more comfortable running this adventure pdf off of a tablet rather than relying on a print-out. Today, I got to the store... and I forgot to bring the adventure.

I did have my notes with me, and a printed-out map. Instead of driving home and coming back, I decided to see if I could run it with just that stuff, kind of to test my note-taking ability. I am proud to say it was utterly seamless. I didn't even need the pdf.

We had 7 players this time, which is a lot for us. It's so odd, the ebb and flow of player involvement. As a DM, my first thought when we have a bad turnout is that it's my fault. I assume that I've been running a lame game. But over time I've learned there is a much bigger picture. Low turnout could be because of a million things, most of which have nothing to do with me.

One trait I've noticed that seems fairly common among many D&D players is social anxiety. A lot of us are not comfortable around people - and playing a game in a store is definitely not ideal for people like this. Players are wrestling with a lot of things that have nothing to do with my presentation of the module.

So, for whatever reason, we had almost too many people today. There was a new guy from Long Island who is in town for a week and decided to try Encounters. He plays 4th edition. It is fascinating to meet real life people who run games. They always want to tell me their campaign story but I am more interested in their group dynamics and, in this guy's case, how his players feel about 4th edition.

This guy is running a version of Reavers of Harkenwold and he has a rules lawyer problem. Also, the fights are running slow (surprise) and a few players have complained. DMing is not easy and often very thankless! Poor guy.

He had a hat on it that said "Lesser Gnome". He said something about backing one of their kickstarters. Seemed like an interesting guy.
On top of that, the Free RPG Day stuff came in. The store handed me the DCC RPG Free RPG Day adventure - "Elzemon and the Blood-Drinking Box" so that I can prepare it to run on that day. It looks awesome and it should fit right in to what the group is doing.

I can't believe how slow our group's progress is through Dead in Thay. Once again, we finished only 3 rooms! I think it just has to do with the fact that some of the party is content hanging back and firing off a single crossbow shot each round, missing often and doing no damage. Another factor is the fact that these encounters are all sprawling fights with many opponents. The combat flows fine, it doesn't feel dull. It's just shocking when I look at the clock and see that we need to wrap up.

Room 20. This is a butchery. There's a dozen warriors and one wight slaughtering the pigs (from last week's epic room 19). There's two doors. The PCs did not expect the bad guys to come at them through the other door, effectively trapping them in the tiny adjoining hallway.

Room 21. Players LOVE monster eggs, and this room was full of them! There were skeletons and red wizards. To keep things simple, I just have the red wizards use a couple spells - magic missile and blight. That may sound like I'm going easy on them, but the fact is these are new players and they go down constantly. As I've mentioned before, they never learn from a mistake. The Hack and Slash Guy runs in, alone, every single time, and he gets swarmed and dropped every single time. The poor cleric spends every fight doing nothing but healing.

This leads to another situation. The adventure doesn't want the heroes taking long rests. The adventure has a few mechanics for punishing the players for taking long rest, through aging them 1 month for every hour they spend in their "safe house" demi-plane (The Seclusion Crypt) and some other stuff. I kept the aging and tossed the rest of the stuff. Our group pretty much has to take a long rest after every session. So they just age 2 years each time we play. I think it's really cool. I know it doesn't make sense within the context of the story, as the heroes are supposed to be tearing through the dungeon as fast as possible. But this is a "loose" game for young newbies with short attention spans.

Today I started having the red wizards cast magic missile using higher spell slots. 5 missiles that do d4+1. It adds up real quick! Through in some blights (8d8! Save for half!) and yeah, the "tank" goes down real quick.

The new guy used charm person to help cut this fight short, which was fine with me. They even questioned the wizard, who told them about the next few rooms, including one that holds a named red wizard - Thuvia.

Room 22. This one has magic cages full of young monsters like hook horrors (a monster that doesn't get used enough, IMO), wyverns (same), and basilisks. Tending to the cages are.. more red wizards and Thayan warriors. By the time this battle was over, the paladin and fighter had been dropped repeatedly. It was fun.

Everyone in the group is getting along. They are all pretty into the game. All in all it was a solid, above-average session. Not too shabby!

I am really impressed with these dungeon rooms. It seems like this kind of thing would get boring, but each dungeon section has its' own gimmick and almost every room has its' own slant. I wish we had time to do the entire dungeon! I'm going to have to keep my eyes peeled, and jump into the final section of this adventure once there's about three weeks left before the end of the season.

Oh yeah, players would never do something like that!
I am working on another "Hell" blog post. I am going through a Planescape adventure called Fires of Dis, and wow there is a section that made me really angry. I can't fathom what the author was thinking. There's a lot of cool details though, should be a fun one.

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