If my schedule works out right, it looks like I get to be involved with a lot of D&D games this week. 4 different tables, with me only needing to run two of them. So of course I’m thinking about spinning up a virtual table. Anyway, one is already over and done with and of course, with a game run by me, there must surely be some mistakes. So, here we go!
Unlike last week, I went to Adventurer’s League expecting to run a game. I was not disappointed. Not only did I have a repeat of the table before, we added two new face, a kid and adult, presumably related, but I did not inquire, as it doesn’t matter. I’ll run for whoever.
1. Control Sound Pollution. There was nothing I could do about it at our venue. Due to summer coming upon us, the shop is getting busier and busier. This week, we had 3 D&D games with a full table of seven players each, as well as a Star Wars game of some kind and the usual slew of MTG players. This made for a bit of a loudish environment. My voice was actually getting a bit sore by the end of the night, for having to pitch up a bit higher to be heard over the throng. As I said, there’s nothing I can do about it, but it’s important to keep the environment in mind if you’re planning a game. Quieter is normally better, although you don’t want to have to be super quiet when playing. It’s tough in public, easier at home. Also, I took one ear around the room and confirmed the need to sit down next to the quietest player. Even with her sitting right next to me, I would have to turn my head and point an ear at her to hear her well enough.
2. Player made characters. I also noticed, a bit before the game, and definitely as we headed into play, that the characters brought to the table were… not held to rigorous Adventurer’s League Standard. Now, I’m a lot more flexible than the other DMs who have been playing AL with maybe only one new player at a time. I don’t have the luxury of one on one time for teaching, training, and double checking. So my basic method will be to correct where I can and not sweat it too much. I know that these are first characters for most of them. First characters are always a bit sketchy. You learn so much about what’s going on by playing. After a bit, you look back at your character and think “oh man, what was I thinking??” This goes back to what I said about last week’s Learning D&D bit. It is a TOUGH game to learn all the nooks and crannies. (After D&D, I got into a bit of an argument with another DM about the wording of an ability. I was proven wrong and now fully understand where my error was.)
One of the trickier things is figuring out if their HP is correct. Hit points are an odd number in D&D, as there are four different starting points, and each of those increases as a different rate.I’m fairly decent at being able to do the math, but no one likes to do math all the time. So I made a chart to make it a bit easier to find what you should be at. Quick enough to do.
Another tool added to my growing pile of papers I pull out each session and never look at, until it’s really really needed, and then I have it. An annoying stack to be sure, but oh so handy. Still, I’d rather have my printer stack than a DM screen. Not sure why.
As long as I get the players ready to join another table before they actually do, it shouldn’t be a problem is my table isn’t 100% AL compliant. And with how the other DMs have accepted me running the kids table wholeheartedly, I assume I’ll be running the junior table while we have one. Not that we’re that organized.
I might start doing character audits. Better to start getting them cleaned up while we’re at a lower level, so they don’t get used to badly made characters.
Should I write up a simple walkthrough that I could hand to people? How much could I cut from chapter 1? I know it’s an easily skipable section. Hmm. I might have to look into that.
*glances at the book*
Yeah, I could cut that down to a quick page of how to make characters. There would be a very slim window of players it would be helpful for, but I think it’d be good to have on hand. Can I do a second hand out in a Widwad article? Yes. Yes I can. (And did)
Okay, so with talk of character creation out of the way, let’s get into the actual game play and things I did wrong.
Maybe it was the noise or the new players or my lack of sleep or something, but I did not open the Game very well. Part of that might be Nightstone itself. If I ever found the time, inclination, and the thought-germ for it, I’d rewrite the whole beginning of the adventure. It’s a bit too free form for new players, it has some really odd roleplay moments, and, consistently for the city, I don’t have purple text where I need it. Some text to let me get into the swing of a location would have helped my early night a lot.
The main focus of the night was running the Ear Seekers, that Orc attack that I ranted about when I last ran it. I did try to modify it the way I had indicated, but I ended up pressed for time and, well, I know it was a bit better, but it still didn’t work as well as I’d like. It’s nice that there is a built in safety net, but this adventure just hasn’t been as satisfying as, say, the first two chapters of the Lost Mines of Phandelver.
I do think I gave Gurrash a lot more character. Thinking of him as a Klingon help cement what he believes in a lot. I also learned that his second in command has a name. Which is cool. If only he had a decent spell list.
I did the mind control bit again. I don’t even roll for it like I should. I just make it a feature of the battle. I know that unless the part is playing very oddly, they’ll stop the guards after one round. The problem is that after that one spell, he doesn’t have anything cool to do. So he just stands there, being a bit tougher of an orc, looking like a goof.
I assume I’ll be running this again, at some point, so I’ll have to see if I can’t make it work a bit better. I think I mentioned last time I ran this that it’d be interesting to see the city with more wreckage and more like a dungeon, as opposed to a big open space. I might have to put that to practice. There are definitely elements that make it dungeonesque, like the single entrance, for example. Not that I would remake ALL cities in the FR to be dungeons, as that is a lot of work, but the rest aren’t really used as encounter spaces. If I had the Cloud Giants lob down some trees or something, that would help block the streets.
Of course, I may have to draw some pictures of what the buildings looks like with trees in them. But that’s not a bad thing. That’s a cool thing.
It would also be interesting to defend a
city dungeon from the orc marauders. Especially if the draw bridge was broken so it was difficult to access, but was still open.
Hmmm… I should stop talking. There are eager guinea pig readers who jones for games who I can still surprise.
The last thing that I know I did wrong is I forgot how running games for a large group is. This article series started with me running for a huge group and it looks like, a year later, my numbers are swelling again. We have a bit more structure then I did before, but still, it’s a little concerting. I used clockwise initative, like I have in the past, but I didn’t take my monster turns right. I treated them more like environment than monsters. I dunno, this is just an odd encounter that I’m not happy with. The game will get a bit better, I think. I’m going to try to keep the story simple and straightforward. I remember failing to keep a complex story moving last time I had a large party (and the fact that I’m running for a bunch of younglings doesn’t help the mission objectives either. SKT might find that it’s concepts of distance are vastly abbreviated.)
Next week, we’ll be able to run through the Dripping Caves, which I hope to jazz up and do right by way of the Widwad FE article I still need to write. Man, running two games a week is really eating up my time. But that’ll be it for this week. Thanks for listening to me ramble (and thanks to Derek for troubleshooting some links of mine.)