So last week, I made my WIDWAD article as a video podcast. No one told me if they like that better, so we’re back to text for Week 20 of Shop D&D (Or Week 4 of Season 2).
I spent my prep time this week working on the over-plot and neglected the actual question of what we were doing for the session. This, as I’m sure you can imagine, leads to the session quality starting at ‘mediocre’ and the DM is hard pressed to kick it into ‘decent’ or better. (No, I don’t have a scale written up. I should. Also, if this is a common problem in your games, Sly Flourish’s Lazy DM is exactly what you need.)
I am making headway on the over-plot. I just need to finish writing a fairy tale and hash out all of my factions. Know Your Factions is my first solid error. It is crucial in any intrigue based adventure. I also want to say it’s essential in any city based game, but that isn’t necessarily true. A city with one sole faction is just a lot more straight forward.
The second thing I did wrong was I failed to Commit To Combat. See, I do this thing where I have some mobs lying in wait, who just need the party to step out of line just enough to spring the combat. The problem is the players sometimes don’t want to fight. This leads to an encounter lasting a looong time for no real reason, with me waiting eagerly for the slightest provocation, the players cautiously soft-shoeing around, waiting for something to happen. Which nothing does.
The problem is that I think this is a very realistic encounter. An uneasy standoff is a scenario that I can see happening between any given intelligent creatures. No one wants to get in a fight, especially since so many fights in D&D are to the death.
I don’t have a solution, at the moment. Maybe in the future I’ll figure that out. I’ll just keep an eye on it going forward.
The third thing is I’m having a hard time running these games with a truly Open Table. People are supposed to pop in and out and be able to play with a quick synopsis of the story so far and a summation of the current situation.
Needless to say, this makes intrigue based mysteries a Bad Idea.
What I need to focus on is to Compartmentalize the Encounters. Or maybe the sessions. I need to stop worrying so much about Cause and Effect and work harder on making that night’s game as entertaining as can be.
In the realm of comics and comic strips, there is a challenge that print comics have faced for decades that us webcomikers can haughtily ignore. Essentially, the cartoonist has to assume that the reader has no contextual knowledge of the strip or any on going story in said strip. Maybe this is the first Dilbert they’ve ever read. Maybe the dog tore the last 3 editions of the Generic Times to shreds making it hard to know what is going on in Foxtrot. Maybe this hypothetical audience only gets the paper on Thursdays for some reason, meaning that one strip of Pearls Before Swine needs to have its act together.
These are the situations print comics have to be prepared for. They have to wrap the setting, the setup, and the punchline, altogether, along with any plot development. It makes trying to have an ongoing story an uphill battle, and why so many strips deal in stand-alone content, like The Far Side and Family Circus. Heck, this thinking is why a lot of the content is episodic. Sure, there may be a story line for a week or two, but, at the end, everything is back to the status quo and we’re back to dealing with the same context-less content. And even inside that short story, the first panel is normally a recap.
Us digital cartoonists have the beautiful advantage of that ‘back’ button, allowing the reader to gain instant context. If someone is lost in our story, they can catch up real quick.
On a side note to this apparent tangential diatribe, TV shows have also changed. Something like Lost would be impossible with out being able to ensure the viewers can watch and rewatch all the episodes. Netflix and DVRs have altered the game forever.
The point of all of this, if you didn’t guess, is insight into how my Open Table games should be run. Encapsulated, so anyone can be entertained by playing in just 1 game, letting the context be a treat for repeat players.
This is a daunting task, make no mistake.
Finally, I took an item from a player this week. That wasn’t the error. The error was EVER LETTING THE PLAYER HAVE THE ITEM IN THE FIRST PLACE AND BACKING DOWN ON TAKING THE SECOND ITEM!!!!
I have a lot to say on this point, so I’ll save it for a separate write-up on magic items. Until next time!