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.
Tag: D&D Advice
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 …
So, one of the common issues when people are trying to play D&D is scheduling, scheduling is just really hard for everyone because, well, people have busy lives. Now some of this is something as you become older, if you’re playing D&D in high school, schedule was probably a bit more free. But for those of us who are into careers and out of college, have girlfriends, boyfriends, spouses, kids, and everything else that takes up time while growing up, scheduling can be an issue. So the question is, what do you do if everyone can’t make it?
This can be tricky for several reasons. You might be in the middle of a quest in a dungeon or a battle. The story might be focused on that character for a moment. You might have a smaller group.
But don’t worry there are some options as to what you can do. We’ll start with the simplest, just send that character off to do it’s own thing. If you’re in town, they are going to shop to resupply or rations for everything for the day while people are out adventuring, they are going to the temple of their deity to pray for the day, they are volunteering with the city guard because someone fell sick, just leave them out of what you have planned, send them off somewhere, and just make sure at the end of your session you end up back in town, and now they are set to join everyone again.
Next, if you want, you, as the DM, play that character or you pass them off to someone else to control. The downside of this is that as the DM it’s more for you to keep track of, or for another player to keep track of. Generally the reason for doing this would be, you’re in battle or in a position where it doesn’t make sense for that character to disappear. Basically, that character then drops into the background, you don’t role play or make decisions for that character, they are just there for combat and because you can’t make them disappear easily. Handing it off to another player makes the most sense because there might be a perceived bias of the DM running a character to aid in battle. I would go with this rule of thumb, if you have experienced players, hand it off, if you don’t, run them for combat as the DM.
You can also make something happen to that PC, magical sleep for the session. If you’re in a dungeon, and you don’t want to advance the main storyline too much, kidnap that PC, give the players a “safe” spot to rest, and just have that PC disappear, get knocked out, dragged away by some goblins or whatever is level appropriate and then to deal with. Make it a side quest of some sort. And with some of my other suggestions, unless what the players is doing is time sensitive in world, make it a side quest, spend a whole session searching for Timmy (he’s down a well), and have the players deal with goblins who might have kidnapped him and then workshop how to get Timmy out of the well, do something goofy or weird or different than what you’d normally do as a way to try out new things when someone is gone and you don’t want to advance the story that much, and maybe something surprising will come out of it.
This is probably for a more experienced group, but you can take the B-Team approach, you know about the A-Team, but is there another group out there? If there is, or if there would be some interesting people that the players could meat and interact with, or even a rival adventuring group, something, let the players play those characters in a one shot. More work for the DM here, but roll up new characters for the players at a given level, hand them out, and let the players just have fun doing what will probably be a completely different and less serious quest. If you want, drop in some information or some Easter eggs about something that the player characters, the main party, would want to find out, so that the players know, but their characters might not, or if you do it subtly it will come back at some point in time.
I’m sure there are more creative ways as well, but another thing to consider is just cancelling the session. This can suck, especially if it’s the last second. When I’d consider cancelling a session it’s because I’m missing a large enough percentage of the group. We’re adding a 4th player to the Tower of the Gods campaign, so in that case, if two people are missing we’d cancel, but before that, if one person has been missing we’ve cancelled because going from a dynamic of three players to two is greater than from four players to three. And don’t feel like you have to cancel the night completely. The one shot option basically always works, because you can do a completely random one shot if you want, even if you don’t tie it to the world, or you could play a board game, try a different RPG system, or video games, whatever your group does outside of D&D.
I would say that the last option is really about the last one that you want to do. I try and keep our game on a schedule, so theoretically players can let me know ahead of time if they can or can’t make it. But how do you handle this situation, how do you play your game if a player can’t make it for a session?
Now, this monster is a bit different than the other ones that I’ve talked about. This one is just a monster not with abysmal intelligence but with fairly low INT at 7 (-2 modifier), so it isn’t going to be your plotting or planning sort of monster. Now, that doesn’t mean that it’s dumb, the wisdom is actually fairly high. So let’s look at what this monster does.
A Behir is a monster that lives in the underdark and is a huge creature that lives in the tunnels, paths, and dark recesses down there. The advantage for the DM of it being a huge creature is what it has some fun abilities. It can swallow your medium sized PC’s no problem or wrap it up and constrict it. So it’s something different than your normal bite and claw attacks that you get. In fact, while it can certainly bite you, and needs to do so to swallow you, it doesn’t have a claw attack at all. Instead, it gets lightning breath which is something that the PC’s will undoubtedly appreciate.
Now, this creature is clearly not one to be trifled with, at a CR of 11, you are looking at a party of four at eighth level to be able to take it down in a hard combat. If you’re adding in any additional monsters, it is going to be even tougher to take down and you’re probably looking at a party of level 10 or so with a couple of additional opponents that aren’t just one hit cannon fodder.
In game, I think there are some good ways to use it and I would definitely recommend using it. Because it’s attacks are so different and it has a lot of HP and a decently high armor class, it’s going to be a challenging battle. The attacks are really going to add variety to your game with what otherwise might just be a standard hack and slash encounter. You can certainly use a behir as a random encounter, but I have some other ideas as well.
One idea that I like is to use it as a form of drow transport. It’s a huge sized creature so why not let it pull something. Going back to something I did in a game of mine, have it be a drow circus that the wagons are being pulled by a bunch of behir. This could really start off as a social encounter where the player characters interact with the drow in the circus and eventually find themselves are participants on it to find out that the main attraction is going to be them taking on a behir with some drow elite warriors or assassins not really partaking in the battle, but forcing the player characters back into the confrontation with the behir if they try and run. All while there is a cheering audience around them. As a side quest, I think it could be really cool, even just as something that the players find themselves in for no great reason other than their curiosity, it would give a nice standalone session of and something to do on the way to a larger quest point. I could see using the circus caravan as a way to move the players more quickly through an area to get to where they need to go, but also to have, then the circus battle happen, so not really plot related, but cuts out some of the down time with something more interesting.
Less of a combat encounter, but more of a how do we get away from this, have your players stumble across a pack of behir. Maybe, the players have been tracking down a group of duergar who have something that the players want, some information, ideally written down, and the poor duergar have stumbled across this pack of five behir. Even at level 20, 5 behir are deadly to a party of four, theoretically. So the question then becomes, for the players, how do the player characters get into the area where the dead duergar’s packs are, search the packs, and get back out without the behir killing them as well. Can they figure out a way to chase the behir away, or maybe they can somehow stealth in, or maybe it’s an attempt to out pace, unlikely, or outwit the behir. It could even be a way for them to lure a behir or two at a time and take them out, but give them the situation and see what they come up with. Though, I’d maybe have them run across a behir before hand so that they know what they are getting into.
Are behir a monster you’ve used in your games or seen used in a game? I know that Matt Mercer in Critical Role used a behir in either episode 27 or 28, sounds like introduced in 27 anyways. So that’s something to checkout for ways to use a behir as well. Would you use a behir in your game?
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