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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Scourge of the Sword Coast: The Spider Steeder Incident

Fire in the Hold! ... no? No good?
I had an awesome DCC RPG session this past Monday. The details are here.

This blog post is not about DCC, however. It is about the dreaded Scourge! You know, the D&D Encounters game for which I am motivationally-challenged.

I sat down yesterday and did some more pdf flipping. I also skimmed some session reports from other sites. Dungeon's Master is such a fantastic resource for D&D Encounters. If you ever run one of these things, you should definitely bookmark that site.

What I gathered from this half-assed research was that I messed up. Firehammer Hold wasn't supposed to be traveled to until "three other sites" had been adventured in. To me, when the heroes went to Julkoun, there's going to be some evidence of where the citizens were taken. I mean, you've got maybe hundreds of enslaved people tramping through the forest on foot, right?

I cooked up a little fix for myself. Firehammer Hold's final room is this device that you stick the Delimbyr Bloke into. So, I decided I would just have the heroes find that thing and realize they needed to get the bloke next - which actually they should have gotten first.

A quick "search" command of the pdf showed me that the bloke was in Harpshield Castle - a place over-run by orcs. So, I prepared it and printed out some color player maps with certain DM details photoshopped out.

I really like the dungeon locations in this adventure. The heroes are free to approach them however they like. The problem for me is that this style requires a lot more time and thought on my part.

I run two other games. Encounters is not a particularly rewarding experience for me. I often feel like I do not get a return on my investment. The last thing I want to do is to spend 6 hours preparing stuff that ends up sucking or being ignored by players who don't even care enough to bring dice or a pencil.

So I got to the store and people were in a good mood. It is getting nicer out and it makes people happy.
Like SUVs, steeders roll over with alarming regularity

Our heroes killed some duergar slavers, freed some prisoners, explored some caverns. We rolled along quite nicely until... the spiders.

Yes, some duergar had spider "steeders". Giant spider mounts! My players immediately wanted to "tame" them. OK, cool, sounds fun. Not an easy task, especially without a ranger in the party and especially considering our heroes are killing their owners right in front of them.

But hey, give me some good rolls and more importantly, clever ideas on how this could work, and it will happen!

So in the middle of combat, half the party is singing to the spiders while others try to knock them out. The singing doesn't go well.

They try feeding them. Not much luck there.

Then, the hack and slash fighter gives a spider a potion of healing, to heal its' wounds! Now we're talking! And on top of that, he sings to it. Another player does the same. It was really fun to see how excited the players were about this. Two spiders had been befriended.

Another player wanted to tame the third and last spider. He came up with no ideas at all, trying to just get a good Charisma roll for some vague action. I repeatedly tried to explain to him that I'd need to hear how he was going to convince a hostile monster to befriend him. But he didn't seem to get it.

He rolled his die a few times. All his rolls were bad. Finally he rolled a natural one. I told him at that point it seemed clear to his character that these spiders just plain hated him.

This player became weirdly furious. He told me that he wanted to roll again. I said the spiders had made their decision. He tried to roll again anyway, even though I told him it wouldn't count. He rolled low. He rolled again (things were getting weird at this point). He rolled low. He rolled again!! He rolled low!

He then walked into the bathroom and punched a wall.

Then he sat at the table and sulked while his uncle tried to soothe his jangled nerves.

This is a phenomenon I have.. ahem.. encountered.... over and over and over again in D&D. By my estimation, 25% of Encounters players can not handle rolling poorly. They get angry. Often they have a significant other with them who is used to this behavior, and tries to calm them down, which usually makes them angrier.
It's not fair! The DM knows my PC is afraid of snakes!

I have never understood this behavior. Why are you playing this game if its' basic conceit infuriates you? Who cares if you roll low? Indiana Jones "rolled low" all the time. He'd fall through a roof onto a pile of snakes. And then he'd stumble into an adjacent cart with a lion in it and whip himself in the face! Guess what? Indiana Jones is awesome!

It's like people want to "win" d&d. They want to hit every time. They want no chance of failure. The idea that their character would look "stupid" or "weak" enrages them.

It seems to boil down to three words: "It's not fair". And every time I encounter this, my reaction is the same. Yes, you are correct. Life is not fair. This is a game and you rolled a 3. Maybe soon you'll roll a 17. If not, who the hell cares? Do you really think the DM is going to let the entire party die on account of everyone rolling 4's and lower? Has that ever happened? And if it did happen, wouldn't the group talk about it for years to come as the craziest battle ever?

After this momentary set-back, our heroes rode their spider-steeders through the dungeon trying not to let the sulking bring down the mood. There were more fights, lots of danger, but our heroes were victorious.

The players really want to keep using these characters. I told them they could use them through the next one, Dead in Thay, if we leveled slower. The players were very happy with this idea.

Then they proposed the idea of having proteges that they could hand off some of their gear to for future encounters seasons. I love that idea (which is a Knights of the Dinner Table staple) and rubber-stamped it.

Next time - Harpshield Castle!

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