When you run a game, you have to wear a lot of hats. Story teller is a big one, Mechanics Foreman is another. And quite often I don my curly white wig of Player’s Advocate. But I’ve noticed that the hat I wear for my Wednesday Adventurer’s League Group is starting to change and its fascinating into what I need to become to make the story a success.
It has to do, I think, with tone. Most of the time, tone is generally set for a group. I am a jovial DM. I enjoy the jokes, I like to let the players win without too much outright contrariness. I don’t like killing players and provide a lot of help and opportunity for them to get away.
The problem is that Tomb of Annihilation (ToA) starts out rather simple, but ends up being lethal. At least for my AL table, as they came into the adventure at level 5 or so. Its possible the jungle could have been scary for lower level characters, but it never seemed to be for us.
But now we are in Omu and things are heating up. I came closer than I’d like to killing a player because he wasn’t used to things being dangerous and was suddenly fighting a CR 10 by himself. If I run the game the way I’m used to, this will happen often.
So what I need to do, the task before me, is to shift the tone from one of exuberance to one of caution. I need to put the fear of ToA in them. Sure, they are likely to achieve victory in any fight that comes up. Unless I cheat horribly, which I might do, not sure. The party would cakewalk through the King of Feathers unless I play mean and to the hilt. A few of the red wizards too, probably, unless I ignore concentration rules on a few spells. Nothing super broken, but a fight should not be made more unbalanced when you punch the squishy and they lose focus.
Anyway, my time in Omu is being spent retraining my party. I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve to make things a lot scarier than what they are. Image is an important thing. In my first swing in 5e, my ranger friend chose timidity instead of aggression against a group of goblins. They did a lot of hurt. If he had instead chosen to press the attack, the goblins would have easily fallen.
So my goal is to make the terrors the party will face in Omu larger than life, so they’ll flee instead of fighting.
Also, we’re getting into an area with traps and ambushes. A lot of the city is free form, but there are enough 1 room dungeons rife with traps and puzzles, which are a good warm up for the big dungeon which I think has like 3 traps before you even get into the thing. Then it really gets going with 70+ rooms of complicated mess I haven’t internalized yet. Fun fun.
So my hat has become that of the Trapmaster, of the Enemy, of the DM who doesn’t pull punches, because we’re in training for the hard parts of the adventure and scares now prevent death later.
It is an odd place to be. But it is not dull. That’s my thought for today.