Monday, January 20, 2014

Mooncrash Post-Game – Episode 51: An Urgent Summons

Disclaimer: As my weekly D&D resumed this Sunday, I thought I'd start chronicling my thoughts on each session here, as a means to examine my own DMing process. Mooncrash players? I ask you don't click the Jump Break below, for spoiler reasons.

Episode Title: An Urgent Summons
Episode Summary: After a half-year hiatus, The Nameless Company is summoned back together by Baron Zuss, their liege lord in Tojezen, who informs them their fortress, Bluffguard, has been covertly conquered by Prygor, the dreaded rival of the party's warlord. Hatching a plan to infiltrate the keep while the garrison is distracted by a local festival, the adventurers discovered a secret passage, containing the accursed tomb of Bluffguard's first Lord, and battle a cavern choker on the crude staircase.

Session Positives
  • Opening Credits: This session, I instituted a brief scene, meant to represent the "opening titles" of a blockbuster film. In effect a series of short scenes detailing what each character was currently engaged in, the opening served to energize to party, to remind them of the world, of their characters and peaked their interest in the activities of the other players. I felt this opening positively set the stage of the adventure that was to come.
  • Raven Deflection: During the parley scene with the Baron, a scummy black raven appeared at the window, seemingly apropo of nothing, and proceeded to pester the PCs for the remainder of the session, cawing and repeating the odd word they would say. While its initial introduction was ham-handed, I felt I deflected suspicion from the raven (a seed for a future PC) well, making the character humorously rather than suspicious, necessarily. A joke involving the party's wizard and a sugar cube went a long way towards convincing the players the raven wasn't the A-plot this time.
Session Improvements
  • Achievements: I instituted a series of Steam-style achievements, a la Crit Juice, into my D&D game for the first time this week. There are three active achievements each session, rolled randomly from a list I keep secret from the party, but all highlighting player choices, rather than dice rolls. While the players were initially excited, I fear that in my haste to distribute a few, I may have overly prompted a particular PC to complete achievements they may not otherwise have unlocked. In future, I need to ease of the eagerness of these somewhat and let them arise organically.
  • The Curse: Upon solving the puzzle on the tomb's front door, the players were each cursed with a nasty effect (automatic failure on all saving throws) while within the tomb. The session proceeded to grind to a halt as they puzzled over how to circumvent this penalty for advancing. As they invested a sizable portion of their time attempting to solve the problem, I felt unjustified in shutting their attempts down, but had also designed the following few encounters with the curse in mind. In the end, I relented, allowing the party to sacrifice a few daily powers to negate the curse effect. This option they decided against, wishing to face the tomb's challenges at full strength, but not before one character, with a high enough Diplomacy check and a common religion with the entombed, made an earnest attempt to alleviate the curse. I felt obligated and gave her personally the reprieve. This frustrated me, as the player hadn't really spent any resources to overcome the challenge, a challenge which would've made the ensuing encounters that much more exciting. I think, in short, I need to be better about putting my foot down about what dangers can be avoided with simple skill checks and which can't.
Overall Thoughts
  • I thought, in general, the session was a nice return to form. An exciting opening, some fun NPC interaction, a little overland travel, a little dungeon crawling and a monster encounter against a cavern choker (one of my favorite monsters); all contributed to making the session fun and engaging, overall.
  • The areas of improvement are, I think, in general just signs of my own rustiness. After a month off from DMing, I need to clock in these habits and skills a little more. I can only hope that, with more practice, some of these issues could be mitigated somewhat.

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