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: Dungeons and DRagons Tips
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?
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 …
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?
Took a few weeks, but we got back to it finally playing our zoom D&D game. So let’s do a quick recap in bullet point fashion.
- Players take the test of the tower to become adventurers
- Players enroll in Strawgoh, a school of dark arts and assassination
- They find out that there are spies in their midst
- They run into issues with one of their classmates who was supposed to be part of their group
- Player start their mid term going through the first real floor of the tower competing against the other squads
So that catches us up quickly to where we our. The player characters, Barrai, Bokken, and Thrain, along with the fourth member of their group, Parrag, have burst through the tree line and see the island, covered in moss with three of the professors standing on it. About 60 feet away from them, Castillia, Narius, Addrus, and Cordin have also burst through the tree line. Thrain fires off an eldritch blast at them, but misses, and Castillia draws her bow on him.
The Bokken decides that while a fight on the shore could be fun, it might be smarter to try and get to the island first, since that is the objective of the test. Glancing at the water he notices that there are some monsters moving around in it but he takes off towards the shoreline anyways. The other group decides that is a better plan and Addrus gets to the water first and dives in and he is immediately grabbed and batted at by some giant purple tentacles.
Barrai, the next up, decides to take a little bit of time to figure out what is going on and sees that the island is not actually an island. Instead it’s a giant monster that has moss growing on the top of it that is sticking out above the water.
Things go sideways when Bokken decides to take a running jump onto one of the tentacles and is hanging off of there. Barrai seeing that decides to try something fancy of his own and uses a great acrobatics check and his whip swings most of the way to the water. Unfortunately Barrai is not good at swimming and starts to sink towards the bottom. Meanwhile Bokken, seeing how that has worked, tosses a rope to first Thrain and then Parrag and tries to whip them across some of the water with varying degrees of success, but eventually the whole party is in the water, some of them having been grappled by tentacles.
During this time, Narius has been taking pot shots at the party from the shore while Castillia, Cordin, and Addrus are dealing with tentacle issues in the water. Thrain getting fed up with that fires off an Eldritch Blast at Narius and drops him in one hit and Narius starts making saving throws to avoid death. Thrain gets dragged under water by a tentacle and being annoyed he can’t cast Eldritch Blast on the tentacle underwater, when he surfaces shoots the downed Narius again and takes him out. When they all finally reach the head of the monster they are able to get up without issue and are the first group from their class to get there as Castillia’s group was still in the water and Dorin and Domon’s group had just come out of the forest.
The teachers commend the group on doing a good job and they level up to level 2, which gives them some new fun toys to play around with, including Barrai getting Dissonant Whispers. After they level up a teach suggests that they could have tried animal handling on the squid which Bokken never would have thought of. They also go to poor Narius who has been lying there and a teach casts reincarnation on him, causing him to come back as a Hill Dwarf and we ended the session there with them going back to school.
So behind the DM’s screen:
This was an odd session to run because I was controlling eight tentacles and four NPC’s throughout the fight. In the future, I should have written up a basic HP, AC, Attacks for the four NPC’s and handed them off to the players, but I was able to keep it moving quickly. It just would have been less downtime.
With the eight tentacles, at least the player playing Bokken assumed you couldn’t destroy them, because it was a giant monster, which is a fine assumption, they couldn’t have taken down the monster proper had they tried. But each tentacle had an armor class of 14, 16 HP, and +6 to strengh. But they didn’t do a ton of damage. The monsters attack plan was always to drag someone under water and drown them, which wouldn’t have worked on Bokken, but knowing the monsters plan made it easy and fast for me to run eight tentacles.
Finally, when Narius was shot down by Thrain, I wasn’t sure if I’d bring him back or not. But since the class size is fairly small decided it’d probably be worth it to do. I was going to cast something like resurrect or revivify, but I stumbled across reincarnate first. And I thought that would be more entertaining. And I like that the school would use that as almost a punishment if someone dies in a test or during a class.
So thoughts on the session, it was a good time, lots of things going on, would you want to play in a session like this? How do you handle a lot of bad guys in a battle?
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