Sonntag, 13. Juli 2014

Interlude 1: The Imperishable Sorceress

Summary

A party of new adventurers, having found only death and plundered burial niches in the Barrowmaze, sets out for the mountain stronghold of an infamous witch. The characters avoid some barbarians, kill a giant insectoid with magic missile, and penetrate the fortress. Inside, they spend most of their time hacking to bits the witch's corpse and her vat-grown replacement body. They are attacked by some tentacles and find plenty of gems and an intelligent sword. The decide to leave after a few more rooms -- and then half the party dies in a gas explosion in the dungeon's kitchen. The survivors make it back to Hirot.

Observations
  • I ran the Free RPG Day 2013 module "The Imperishable Sorceress" by Goodman Games for fresh characters not embroiled in the main campaign. It's a great little adventure, oozing atmosphere and sporting another fantastic illustrated map by Doug Kovacs.
  • The gas explosion in the dungeon kitchen sucked:
    • There were no clues to its presence. By contrast, a secret chamber was trapped, too -- but that's something one might expect.
    • It had a large blast radius (20') and I decided it affected the entire party. That was a bad call, as we had played with lax positioning all night. I should have had everyone make a Luck check to see if he or she was in the area of effect.
    • It was very deadly, which is okay, but at [2d6, save for half], it left PCs with few hit points no chance at all (i.e. even a successful save could not save a guy with low hp).
  • I overlooked the traps problematic features when reading the module (which was poor prep on my part) and decided against modifying it once it was triggered (which was true to my credo of not pulling any punches).
  • The warlock's player used spellburn all the time and it was fun seeing the power of magic in action ... and waiting for things to go catastrophically wrong. That never happened, but it was tense. 
In a nutshell
A fun session that ended on a frustrating note. Sorry, guys!

Donnerstag, 3. Juli 2014

Evaluation of Sessions 1-12: A New Hope

The Good
  • Combat is quick, brutal and very tense.
  • Magic is powerful, dangerous and unpredictable.
  • Dungeon crawling does not kill roleplaying. Creative players find opportunities everywhere.
  • There were plenty of heroic acts, all the more meaningful because the risk of death is real.
  • The DM has no idea what's going to happen and is as excited as the players.
  • Due to the PCs' interactions, the village next to the dungeon is taking shape at a rapid pace, spawning opportunities for adventure and roleplaying.
The Bad
  • The Barrowmaze lacks the kind of sword & sorcercy atmosphere and sense of wonder I desire.
  • I dropped the ball regarding faith and religion. I failed to set the mood with the village priest and except for one player's initiative, these elements are largely absent from the game... 
The Ugly
  • Resource management, random encounters and using miniatures on a grid can be tedious at times.
  • Dying - especially dying over and over again - can be frustrating and strain player creativity and compassion. (The players are handling these challenges well, though.)
In a nutshell
The campaign is just like I hoped it would be! All sorts of challenges remain but I'm looking forward to every session. A big thank you to my players -- you're making it happen!

Session 12: Early Retreat

Summary

The characters carefully examine a room with mysterious holes in the floor. They are disturbed by giant beetles and unknown cultists and return to the village early. The characters sell some loot and some of them later examine the enchanted forest nearby, moving into it for a few yards.

Observations
  • The session was quite slow and few things happened: The characters spent a lot of time searching for traps, fighting minor random encounters, selling loot and debating whether to explore the enchanted forest or not.
  • A potential problem rears its head: The players are responsible for pacing and risk management and cannot rely on the DM to provide either.
  • That said, I should have asked them to either examine the forest together - or not at all. There are too many random factors for me to foresee how long various endeavours might take, so solo quests are not really an option. 
  • Grognardia has a nice article on the The Rhythm of the Old School that has a more positive view on some of these issues.
In a nutshell
A session that was too slow for my tastes.