Our in-person D&D group gathered yesterday for our second session in the Chaos Scar (first session at this link). I did indeed tweak Kern the Avenger a little bit so that he gave up some Dexterity for Constitution (a few more HP and surges seemed like a good idea), though I made it so the change wouldn’t go into effect until after the next extended rest. Otherwise, it would have been too hard to figure out where my hit points should have been (okay, so I have one more surge now, and each of the eight surges I already used should have give me one more HP, but wait, I have AC that’s one lower now, so I probably would have taken some more hits…).
We also added a new player, Blaine, to the group with this session. This brings us to five party members:
- Kern, the githzerai Avenger played by me (Michael) – a striker
- Zaaria, the dragonborn Runepriest played by my wife Barbara – a leader
- Keira, the human Monk played by Kyle – another striker
- Bullwark, the minotaur Fighter played by Nate – a defender
- Iskander, the wilden Shaman played by Blaine – another leader
We’re doubled up on leaders and strikers and we’re without a controller. That should be fine. It’s worth noting that Barbara’s Runepriest is definitely a bit of a defender, not just a pure leader. Also, Blaine’s shaman is at least trained in Arcana, which means we finally have someone who can identify magic items! We’re not a smart party – Iskander’s intelligence of 13 leads the party, with Kern’s intelligence of 8 bringing up the rear. Wise, yes; intelligent, no.
Yesterday’s session started off with a battle against some mushroom people who kept denying our PCs standard actions on their next turns – a real pain in the butt. Since Kern was so low on HP, I had him stand in the back and shoot Radiant Vengeance for the whole battle until the very last round, where I used my encounter power to shift into melee and finish off the last bad buy with my fullblade.
We then got to do some nice roleplaying. We had rescued a halfling slave from the temple of Torog in the previous session, so we decided to take care of him. Bree (our DM) had to make up a name on the spot and decided to call him George. With a few minutes to prepare later, she determined that George had been captured along with his sister and two brothers, who didn’t survive. He was from a nearby town, so we returned him to his father. Maybe that will be useful in the future!
Our next adventure hook was to help a goliath sorceror recover a staff of earthen might that one of his ancestors had created in a keep. The keep had been ruined and the staff broken when the meteor came to the Chaos Scar. The sorceror seemed to be on the up-and-up, so we took the job for the promise of the other treasure in the ruins of the keep.
On the way to the keep, we heard a horse whinny and some people shouting. We found a horse and cart, with the cart sinking into a hole. There was a lunatic on top of the cart who seemed to think this was our fault, and he ordered his minions to kill us. The battle was interesting, as some giant ants came out from under the cart (apparently the hole was the ants’ home) and attacked the minions as much as they attacked us.
Finally, we made it to the keep, where we faced off against some bullywugs – frog people. The setting was interesting (difficult terrain and the like), but the battle again was pretty easy. We found the trap door that leads down to the next level but haven’t gone there yet.
We had a fun session, and I’ll admit that I was pretty focused on playing and thus didn’t pay attention to a lot of DM lessons. Here’s what I picked up:
- I’ve heard it said before, but having a list of names on hand is a good idea – you never know when your players are going to want to get to know a throw-away NPC a little better.
- Monsters who take away the ability of PCs to do fun stuff (stunning, dazing, taking away standard actions) should be used sparingly, and it should be a big deal when they show up.
- Asking players for wish lists of magic items they’d like to have is a good way to make sure the items they find are useful. From the player side, though, I’m not sure how I feel about it yet.
- Thinking of fun in-story tie-ins on the fly is not easy, but it’s rewarding for the players (such as the story of George the halfling). Be flexible and creative as a DM, and you’ll be rewarded for it.
My online game is on hiatus at the moment as Lane, who is a newly-minted accountant, has to spend most of her free time studying for the CPA exams. Good thing I have in-person D&D to keep myself occupied!
Comment about the wishlist: I am trying to use this in my play-by-post games. I’m running “Thunderspire Labrynth”, and they have treasure statted there, but I figured I’d give loot that people actually wanted.
So far, only 2 of the five players have given me such a list, and I’ve responded by giving them items from it after our last encounter. The other three players howled… until I explained that me having to take the time to find something suitable would take much longer than looking up a list and copy/pasting it to the post. I’ll let you know if that motivates anyone.
Sure, it’s anti-climatic because the players don’t find anything (or much) that’s not been specifically requested, but, on the other hand, is it fun to find a +1 magic halberd when no one uses one?
Karl – you bring up a good point. The wish list is WAY easier for the DM. I think from a DM perspective I like it, and from a player perspective I’m a little torn on it. It’s certainly more work for the DM to have to figure out what items might actually be useful – and I’ll admit that I screwed this up once already, taking some chain mail with a neat enchantment on it and ruling on the fly that it was leather armor (since we have players in the party who wear leather but none who wear chain) and only learning later that the particular enchantment can’t legally be applied to leather. It’s a bit of a pain when the players are using Character Builder, but we muddled through.