We hit what basically amounted to the first big story point and some resolution of that this session. The players after spending so much time at school get into a nice fight in this session.
I want to continue talking about Dungeons and Dragons and what you need to bring to the table when you play a game. I talked about a lot of the physical things, who needs what books, everyone needing dice and paper and pencil. All of those things are good, but I think there is a more important thing that people need to bring to the table but less of a physical thing.
The first thing that everyone needs to bring to the table is fun. Dungeons and Dragons is meant to be a fun experience. Even if the game is serious and the stakes are high, it shouldn’t feel like work playing it. You should leave still having a memorable experience, and a memorable experience should be something that you want to tell others about and should be fun. Now, I want to say, fun doesn’t mean it needs to be goofy, silly, light-hearted, while all of those can be fun, so can a serious or darker game. But everyone at the table needs to help everyone else have fun while having fun themselves. As The RPG Academy says: “If you’re having fun you’re doing it right.”
Now, flexibility isn’t something that people might think about. And everything, really, ties into having fun. What I mean with flexibility is that as the Dungeon Master when the players find and almost kill the big bad guy or banish them somehow to another plane before you’re ready, you can adapt and change. When the Dungeon Master adds something to a player character’s backstory or a debt or obligation, the player can adapt to that.
Now, a Dungeon Master shouldn’t make a character do something that is out of character, and players shouldn’t be intentionally trying to punch holes into the story the Dungeon Master is helping the players weave. Those things, however, happen from time to time. Even when players and the Dungeon Master keep an eye out so it doesn’t happen, it will happen. So be flexible so when it does happen you are ready to adjust and adapt and keep having fun.
Preparation matters most to the Dungeon Master, and most to some Dungeon Master. I bullet point out a few keys for a session, and that is my preparation. For other Dungeon Masters preparation means that they spend hours planning out set piece encounters and building those set pieces, NPCs, and whatever else it might be. This also includes the campaign preparation of where the Dungeon Master wants to direct the whole of the game.
For the players, preparation means they know their characters. Also, when characters need to be leveled up, that is done by the start of the next session, if they don’t do it in the session. Knowing ones character entails the skills and bonuses that you have to stats, having an understanding or your spells or where to find what they do, knowing what new spells you have, how many spell slots you have, what various attacks do, and what your default is going to be on an attack.
Preparation isn’t fun always. I like figuring out the highlights for my next session, personally, but it seems like work at times as well. The reason we prepare goes back to having fun. Down time is not that much fun, a meandering story with little focus or changing focus is not as much fun. I put fun at the top for that reason, because having fun in the most important and everything else leads into it.
The RPG Academy really has it right here. Playing a game should always be about having fun. Getting rules perfectly right is less important than having fun. And attitude at the table should always be leading into having fun. As the Dungeon Master, you help people stay engaged by preparing and following the queues of the players. As players, you grab onto storylines and see where they go and give clear signs and directions to the Dungeon Master. You also don’t hog the spotlight from other players at the table.
What is the most important attitude at the Dungeons and Dragons gaming table for you?
It’s the holidays and the holidays have tons of stories that you can borrow from or steal for a D&D one shot, in fact, Acquisitions Inc. just did a holiday special that was A Christmas Carol, just with a whole lot more blood. So let’s …
After a Holiday break and before another Holiday break, we are back for some more D&D. But we had the full group of Bokken, Barrai, Thrain, and Kip back for one more time in 2020.
Last time, if you remember, our Bokken player was missing because he was feeling under the weather, so Assendial had tasked them all with figuring out who had stolen the scarab amulet/relic/thing from Tormin’s desk. He wasn’t supposed to have it there, but he’d been studying it. The group, minus Bokken, searched Tormin’s office finding the secret spot where he most likely would have stored it, but they didn’t really find any clues and were instead attacked by a mimic that was in one of the drawers to be security. They also created a list of suspects in the 2nd year students who were also around the school at the time as well as Parrag and Addruss having been seen there.
In this session they continued that investigation. They waited for all of the 2nd year students to leave as they filled Bokken in on everything that was happening and what they’d been tasked to do. Once the 2nd years left, they went to the second year barracks. Unlike there which are open communal sleeping areas, the 2nd year students have their own rooms. Barrai, who last time decided to see what second years stood out, starts them down the path of looking for a few rooms, one that looks like it has Flink the Tabaxi in it, rooms for the twin dwarves Snickle and Fritz, a room where the giant Nafitl is using, and the room of the half-orc Lisanial.
They push open a few doors and find one that has bunk beds in it, which they decide must be the room of Snickle and Fritz. Going through that room, they find that it does appear to be their room and that either Snickle or Fritz has a girlfriend and the other one doesn’t. Besides that everything in the room, for either Snickle or Fritz is a mirror image of the other, so if one has their shirts going from left to right dark to light, the other is flipped so the room is very symmetrical. Barrai finds the picture that seems out of place and then a pile of letter held together with a ribbon which he takes two of the letters at random. Thrain moves around two pairs of shoes so that the room is no longer symmetrical, but there’s nothing else of interest.
Next they find Flink’s room, they can tell where she’s been sharpening her claws. While her bed and dresser also fail to lead any interesting clues, they do check on the three suitcases that Flink has set by her dresser. The top one appears to have several brown paper packages tied up with string that have a smoky and salty smell to them. They guess that it is a smoked/preserved fish, and don’t bother opening them. The next one is full of climbing gear and the bottom one is empty. Not that interested in the suitcases, Barrai looks for loose floor boards and finds one that is slightly loose. He pulls on it, but nothing happens, Thrain gives it a go, nothing happens. Bokken steps in and has no problem breaking the board to get it up, but reveals just a solid floor beneath it, not even enough room to hide any of the fish. Bokken puts the board back and Thrain casts mending on it.
They next come across Lisanial the Half-Orcs room. This room is a mess, but it is jam packed with tossed down piles of weapons, a lot of them, multiple suits of armor, boxes, a dresser, and a bed. Barrai starts going around the room, putting in a little effort, sorting stuff as he looks through it to see if there are any clues. Bokken finds a pile of shortswords which Lisanial has labeled “throwing sword” and one longsword, “throwing longsword”, and takes one of the short swords. Thrain decides to grab one of the breastplates to get it to a black smith to get turned into his size. And then he goes through the drawers of the dresser. He finds a lot of messy clothes in there, and six bags with money in them. He grabs a couple of coins from all of them but stops at the sixth one because he can tell there is only a thin layer of coins on top, inside it is a scarab.
Bokken takes a moment and inspects the scarab and realizes that while similar, the metal looks a different color and the body of the scarab is different. Then Kip grabs it and looks it over to see if it looks magical. He thinks it might be magical so Barrai casts detect magic on it, he can tell that it’s magical and some sort beacon or something, but doesn’t fully understand the spell. Bokken grabs it back and takes off running with a siren noise and lights blinking that Kip has cast on him. Thrain takes this moment to grab five of the six money bags and another set of armor. Barrai and Kip rush over to the window and try and get the best vantage point possible to see if a dragon is coming from the tower. Barrai is pushed out of the way by Kip who sees what looks like a dragon. And Thrain using Thaumaturgy, amplifies his voice so Bokken can hear him over the siren noise that Bokken needs to ditch the scarab because a dragon is coming.
Bokken instead, being extremely obvious, rushes towards the watch tower where Sanphire is on watch, and passes him the scarab. Linken the one remaining teacher on campus comes out of the teachers quarters and is passed the scarab as well. No one knows what to do after Linken tries to dispel magic on the scarab and it doesn’t work, he does turn off the siren and lights on Bokken. Bokken grabs the scarab back again and throws it as far back towards the dragon as possible, which causes it to land and clink nicely onto the top of the barracks that Barrai, Kip and Thrain are coming out of. They book it towards the watch tower and towards the mess hall grabbing Bokken who is assuming that the dragon will deal with the scarab and then leave like last time. Turns out that Bokken is basically right, but doesn’t count in how long a stream of acid the dragon is letting out, and Kip, Thrain, and Bokken get caught in it.
They take a rest in the cellar with the other first year students before, as always, getting curious again. Linken comes and gives them all the update that the dragon has in fact left after one pass over the second years barracks but that the students should stay in the cellar until he comes back to get them. For Barrai that wasn’t soon enough, so he goes over to Dorin who looks like he’s in the midst of a panic attack, and causes him to panic even more, using an ability to seed doubt and fear into Dorin’s mind so that he turns against and is afraid of Cordin, the Dragonborn for an hour. Dorin screams about how Cordin is in league with the dragons and takes off running up the stairs. Thrain casts darkness over the rest of the students causing in more panic, and they all head out, Barrai, Thrain, and Kip through the secret tunnel and Bokken through the main entrance with him saying he was going to get Dorin back.
Once outside they go and find the scarab and go back to Lisanial’s room. Grabbing the scarab with mage hand Barrai and Kip determine it is likely not active anymore, though they do almost lose it to Kip’s squirrel Karl thinking the scarab was food when Barrai tossed it to kip. Back down in the room, they start going through everything, but it’s hard to keep track of it all because of the mess, so once they start to clear an area, Bokken dumps the stuff out of the window, and they continue to tear apart the room.
That’s where we ended the session. Normally we’d play in two weeks, but that’s on the 24th of December, so that’s not happening, and one of the players is gone leading up to Christmas, so another longer break.
So as always a little behind the DM’s screen.
I think it’s important with an investigation to try and not lock people into too much of what they have to do. This was a light planning session for me because of that. I knew that they’d find something in one of the rooms, hadn’t decided on what it was until in the moment. And I also hadn’t decided on whose room it was going to be. I actually used the dice to help decide that, not how well the players rolled, but some random roll behind the screen.
That’s it, that’s about all for the session, I hope it offers some interesting ideas.
Become those who songs are sung about in the epic dungeon crawler from Steamforged Games. Pros Quick to set-up Non-standard fantasy races/classes Dungeon crawl Session Length Campaign Game Price Cons Dungeon Crawl D20 based Very much D&D inspired Price The Page I think that they …
So, we were back to the virtual table last night for some Dungeons and Dragons. This session was a little bit different because we were down one player, but because we had three players, the game went on.
Last time the players had just finished up a test in the Tower which had gotten them up to level 3. It was a bit of a challenge as they had to figure out a number of different puzzles.
When they made it back to Strawgoh, Kip, Thrain, and Barrai were pulled aside by Assendial, the player playing Bokken was the one who couldn’t make it, in order to get their help trying to figure out how the scarab that had attracted the dragon had gone missing. Since they had previously found out the two spies, she entrusted this to them before the school year ended. She also told them to be more discrete about it, not to use their normal tactics, of theft, destruction, antagonizing, threatening, and general ignoring of people, rules, and common sense. But they had previous success which is why she asked them.
They started to dig into everything that had gone on while they were gone at the test. Three of the teachers, Assendial, Tormin, and Linken had all been with them for the test. So that only left Dadellous at the school. Plus Sanphire was keeping watch and all the second year students were still there as well. Plus Parrag had been there while he was sick.
Barrai decides to go and check with Sanphire first, see if he had seen anything from up in the tower. Sanphire, now incredibly bored because it’s been months since the dragon attack, was able to give them some idea. He’d seen a couple of second year students, Parrag, Addrus and Dadellous all around the building that has the teachers quarters and offices. But he wasn’t able to give them a ton of information.
Their next idea is to go and look at the scene of the crime. Tormin had the scarab in his office, even though according to Assendial something like that would normally have been stored elsewhere with other magical items and should have been when Tormin left to go with them for the test. However, he had left it in his desk. Kip decides, since it’s before dinner in the evening to knock on the door. He knocks, and knocks, and knocks, until the door across the hall, Assendial’s office, opens, and she unlocks the door for them.
In there is a fairly standard office. Tormin has a desk and some book shelves, a few pictures on the wall. Since the scarab was stolen from within Tormin’s desk, that’s where they started looking. Kip gives it a once over and sees that there are two locks that look like they’ve been used or messed with more than the others. He gets one open and sees some papers with a box underneath it. Grabbing the box, he is surprised when the box grabs back on and bites his hand. Turns out that the box was a mimic. A quick battle ensues while Thrain and Barrai attack, Kip tries not to die and tries not to cut off his hand. Whether or not Kip would have made it through the fight is questionable, but Assendial hearing the commotion casts a high level sleep spell knocking everyone out, including Karl the squirrel who has been with Kip. When they wake up Assendial is standing in the doorway shaking her head at them as she has put the mimic back into the drawer.
They are a bit more careful and Kip tries to pick the other lock that looks like it’s been opened more times. Try as he might the lock won’t open. He kicks the desk and there is a sound of a spring. He goes back to picking on the lock with Barrai’s help, bardic inspiration and enhance ability, and eventually gets the whole front of the drawer to fall off, only to find that it isn’t a front of a drawer, there is just desk behind it. Thrain then takes a look around the room and sees that there is a safe behind one of the pictures but no visible lock. Instead he also notices that the underside of the desks looks a bit off. On the right side where Kip had been picking the lock, there is a not a bit of a bump out. He pulls on it, it doesn’t move and pushes it and it pushes it back in. It clicks back into place. They try pushing on the desk, but they find that kicking it is a more successful way to get it to open. After spending some time poking around, Thrain uses mending and attaches the drawer front to it. They get it further open and then using some leverage manage to swing it open revealing a hidden compartment. In that compartment there is a small book that contains poison recipes, a statue of a toad, a necklace with 8 black beads on it, and a bag containing some gems. The gems, to Kips semi-trained eye, look as if there might have been some spell cast on them.
They are interrupted by Assendial again who reminds them that supper is coming up and that they should clean up this room putting it back as they had found it and go have supper as not to be suspicious. At supper, Barrai watches the second year students to see who stands out. There are twin dwarves, a half-orc, giant, and tabaxi who all are out of the normal, but no one seems suspicious. Most of the second years head off to their barracks to prepare and rest before their test in the tower tomorrow.
Two of them, an elf and a human, head off to Moody’s Bar. There they find a spot in the corner, and Thrain finds a spot at the bar to watch them. Barrai and Kip tag along as well and Kip spots Zaphir across the way. Zaphir seems very concerned about Kip and still very mad at Thrain and Barrai, not knowing which one of them robbed him after he started a bar fight with them. Kip decides to order a round for the two second years and goes and talks with them. It turns out, after a bit of persuading (casting friendship) that they are there to test out a theory to rig a fight. But he also does find out that theft has been up a little bit on campus over this year, which the students found odd, but not too concerning since it wasn’t there stuff.
The three, Barrai, Thrain, and Kip head out as the fights start. As they do, Kip makes it so Zaphir’s beer tastes like urine. Then they go back to their barracks and Bokken realizes that they had been gone for most of the time after the test.
Behind the DM Screen
This was a loosely planned session. I wanted it to be something that is important towards the main thing that has happened so far, the dragon attack, so it didn’t just seem like filler, but I also wanted it not to be so important that it wouldn’t make sense for Bokken to be there. I feel like logically Assendial would have known that Bokken was not stealthy from the dragon attack, but would know that Thrain, Barrai, and Kip definitely are and that Kip was part of the group already, which is why she’d go to them instead of all of them.
As for the desk, I decided that a puzzle door would be interesting to get into that one drawer. Basically whatever, unique or interesting thing that the players did with it, that would get it open, they just needed to do a few things. I like the creativity of trying mend on the door front onto the hidden door.
What do you think of this session? How do you run investigation in your games?