Running my third homemade D&D4e adventure at the FLGS

Woo hoo – I finally got to run the third adventure in my Staff of Suha trilogy tonight! (Adventure one and adventure two have been previously published.) I ran it as a MyRealms game at my friendly local game store. This was the inaugural run of the adventure, so it’s still a work in progress, but it was so much fun.

First, I should mention that my players were awesome. I had a father and son at the table whom I’ve played with before (I love multi-generational gaming families). I had a new player who was playing his third game of D&D ever – super nice guy.

And I had a husband and wife pair; I had met the husband a few weeks ago at D&D Encounters when he was a brand new player, and I managed to kill off his character in that first session. We’ve kept in touch, and his wife was excited about playing, too. The wife made homemade gluten-free cookies for me and my wife (who’s allergic to gluten) to thank me for helping with their characters and getting them into the game tonight. How sweet is that? I really, really like this couple, and I’m hoping that I’m making some new friends here.

Anyway, the adventure itself started off with a little exposition, then moved into the first action scene. I won’t go into too much detail here; I’ll put up a full post about the adventure itself once it’s polished (after I run it at Tacticon over Labor Day weekend). Suffice it to say that the first battle began with the PCs in total darkness. I forgot some of the abilities I had given to the leader of that fight, but it was still a good battle. Lots of PCs were bloodied, but none fell unconscious. The party interrogated the leader, who gave them some information but then died in anguish (he evidently said too much). And the party discovered one of the three artifacts they were seeking.

We had some exploration after that. This was technically a skill challenge, though I’m running it as several scenes that each have their own success and failure consequences. I really, really liked this approach, and the way that the PCs worked together. I’m getting farther away from the formal skill challenge structure and closer to just scenes that use skills. This particular challenge consists of three scenes, followed by a combat encounter, followed by the final scene.

The second combat encounter began with some sneaking and spying and conversation, but erupted into battle when the assassin in the party had to be true to his nature and took a swing at a bad guy.

I skipped the final skill challenge scene because we were running way short on time, and just threw the PCs into the final battle with fewer minions than I originally planned. I was pleased that the party took advantage of two different terrain effects in this battle, and even though I forgot about a mini skill challenge that was supposed to be running during the boss battle, it was a cool fight. The boss wasn’t quite as interesting as I had hoped, but he wasn’t bad.

Enemy lair with ziggurat and magma river - no grid

I ultimately had to end the battle early because the store was closing, so I declared victory for the PCs and called it a night.

Lessons learned:

  • I need to shrink some of the encounter maps. One map has some terrain effects that work in blast areas; an overly-large map encourages the monsters to spread out too much, making the terrain effects less attractive.
  • Minions that explode upon death are fun, but only in moderation. I think my second battle is overdoing it. Maybe I’ll make them non-minions and have fewer of them.
  • If I’m going to give the PCs cool magic items to use during the adventure, I don’t want it to be too hard for them to figure out what the items do. I think I’ll have this auto-succeed during a rest (I was previously requiring an Arcana check).
  • Players are easily tempted by treasure. If you dangle something valuable-looking just out of reach (literally, in this case), they will move heaven and earth to get it.
  • Having an in-game time limit does a nice job of ramping up the tension (and provides an incentive not to take back-to-back short rests to maximize healing powers).

I hope to run this adventure once for my home game players before Tacticon. Once I feel that it’s polished, I plan to release it on the blog, and then I plan to release the whole trilogy (edited and updated) as a single big adventure. I’d like to make it look a little bit pretty, too, and I’d be willing to pay for some help with layout and maybe even commission some artwork. Does anyone have suggestions on this sort of thing? How do I find and hire a freelance layout person?

2 thoughts on “Running my third homemade D&D4e adventure at the FLGS

  1. “Players are easily tempted by treasure. If you dangle something valuable-looking just out of reach (literally, in this case), they will move heaven and earth to get it.”

    You mean I wasn’t the first to end up hanging from the ceiling over a trap, in pursuit of awe-inspiring treasure?
    It was worth every bit of the damage I took winning it.

    Thanks for a great game at Tacticon.

    • Heh. Gramps is apparently following in a growing line of greedy treasure-seekers. But if you can’t be a greedy treasure seeker while playing D&D, what’s the point?

      Thanks for playing in a fun session at TactiCon – I think that one has been my personal favorite so far.

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