It’s late. I have to go to work in the morning. I don’t care, though – I’m excited, and I need to write about it!
This evening I put my projector setup into action for the first time. I ran a Living Forgotten Realms session at the local store, Enchanted Grounds. I had seven players turn up for a session of CORM 1-1 The Black Knight of Arabel. I had played this module in the first LFR game I had ever experienced as a player, so I was pretty comfortable running it as a DM.
I arrived at the store about 40 minutes before the game’s scheduled start time so that I would have plenty of time to find a good table, set up the rig, adjust the projector’s focus and so on. All of that went totally smoothly. By the time 6:00 rolled around, I was ready to go.
This would be the first time that I was using MapTool for the monsters and the map but not for the player tokens – the players brought their own minis for that. I had realized when putting the adventure together that, if I wanted to keep track of initiative within MapTool, I would need to have something to at least represent each player for that purpose. So, I created a set of seven generic PC tokens with their own set of properties. The image for each token was a number (1 through 7) which I assigned based on the players’ seating arrangement around the table. The name of each token is the character name. Their properties include the player’s name, their race and class, their defenses, their initiative modifier (for tiebreaking) and their passive Insight and Perception scores. It was great for helping me remember everyone’s name, character name, and character type. The defenses didn’t come up much, nor did the passive insight or perception, but it was nice to have in case I needed it.
The adventure began with a little back story of how the party came to be traveling to the town of Arabel – charged by the king in the capital city to investigate rumored Netherese activity involving shadow creatures and reports of a black knight. They began by helping a man repair his wagon, when they were set upon by shadow creatures.
The first battle was quite easy for the party, even though I made the minions into two-hit minions. They dispatched the shadow creatures with little fanfare, helped the wagon driver repair his vehicle, and set off after the dark rider they had spotten on a distant ridge.
At this point I turned off the projector as the party entered a skill challenge to track down the rider. This was a well-written skill challenge, and the players role-played it well, too. They ultimately came upon the rider in his camp and started disagreeing about whether to attack or talk. I allowed a little talk from those who wanted to do so, but the “attack” camp grew restless, so I called for initiative.
The not-so-bright fighter in the party (good role-playing, not a dumb player) decided to charge Dark Skull, narrowly avoiding some traps. Other players tried to convince Dark Skull to drop his weapon, and he said that he didn’t want to hurt anyone, but he wasn’t willing to drop his guard with the fighter standing next to him. So, the parlaying character decided to bull rush the fighter out of the way. Great plan – except that in her quest to get to the fighter, she ran over a pit trap! Oops.
Dark Skull teleported into the shadows, and the cooler heads in the party were eventually able to start a dialogue that led to an alliance with the falsely-accused knight (the skull was just a mask). They decided to go back to Arabel to find out who was really behind the dark goings-on. Since we were going into role-playing, I turned the projector back off.
Since we were doing fine on time, I decided to run a little bit of the Arabel skill challenge. The party repaired a broken obelisk in the town square, then went to the tavern where the innocent “black knight’s” father worked. The father had cursed his son, leading to his shadow powers, and so the party questioned the father. They asked about his family, and the father didn’t mention any adult son but told them that his wife and infant son were at his house some distance away (I made this up on the spot). The PCs decided to go to that house to question the wife. They found the house to be dark and broke in – no one was home, but the door to the basement was locked. They picked the lock – and found an empty basement. Clearly the father had lied.
The group returned to the tavern to confront the father about the lie, and found that he had left, heading toward the town square. Some streetwise checks confirmed that people had seen him go that way, with some young lovers (also made up on the spot) in the square pointing toward the theater as being the father’s destination.
Upon entering the theater, the party saw a bunch of cultists of Shar looking at the stage, where the father was making a speech and getting ready to sacrifice a baby. Again, some of the party wanted to talk, but others charged into action – the battle was on!
This is an interestingly-designed encounter, with the players having the option of either convincing the crowd to disperse, in which case they fight the leader and some shadow creatures, or not convincing the crowd to disperse, in which case they fight the leader and the crowd. Since the party had mowed down everything in their path, I decided to have them fight BOTH the crowd and the shadow creatures! Happily, the shadow creatures rolled low for initiative, so their entrance from behind the party made for a nice little surprise.
Even with the two-front battle, the players were able to win the day. They mowed down cultists with no trouble, and the shadow creatures simply didn’t deal enough damage to be a threat. The most interesting part of the battle was in round four, where I had the leader give up on fighting off the party and start trying to sacrifice the baby. He picked up the baby and got ready to slaughter it, so the players tried hard to stop him. One of the physically weaker characters in the party leapt down from the balcony and bull rushed the leader to make him drop the baby. Unfortunately, this left the baby next to the party wizard’s flaming sphere!
One of the fighters, who was prone at the base of the stage, made a DC 20 athletics check to pull herself up onto the stage from prone and charge over to bull rush the baby out of harm’s way, diving to the ground again to do so. The cult leader naturally picked the baby back up again, getting ready for the slaughter, so the party wizard hit him with an attack that caused him to lose the ability to take opportunity actions. There’s a little-known rule that says if you can’t take opportunity actions, you lose any grabs you were making. The baby gets dropped again (fortunately, I ruled that it was wearing a tiny little Amulet of Feather Fall as part of the ritual), and ultimately the cult leader was wiped out.
The session was loads of fun, and the technology ran without a hitch. The only minor issue is that even the 2,500 lumens aren’t quite bright enough in some cases – the altar on the stage was tough to see (black on brown). The solution there is probably for me to think a little more about contrast when I put the maps together.
I’ll tweak a couple of things for the convention on Saturday, but for the most part I am ecstatic about this rig. It’s loads of fun to run, and it makes the game go very smoothly. Thank you to my players for coming out to give this a whirl – especially to Andy, who told me that he reads my blog. That’s the first time I’ve ever met one of my readers without having known them in person first. It was a pleasure gaming with you, Andy, and with everyone else, too!
P.S. If anyone wants the MapTool campaign file that I used for this game (with my updated tweaks added), it can be downloaded here.