When we left our adventurers they were just getting back to the mess hall after there had been a dragon attack. During the attack, Bokken had rescued Cordin and Castillia from their barracks which was being dissolved by the dragons acid breath, gotten Barrai off …
We were back at it again last night with the third session of Tower of the Gods. Previously, our “heroes” Barrai, Bokken, and Thrain had gone through the test of the Tower with Steve as their fourth, unfortunately, Steve didn’t make it. Upon exiting the Tower with their new found powers, they were given a choice of schools to enroll in and get work from, they picked Strawgoh, the school of Dark Arts and Assassinations.
Upon coming there, they were informed as part of a test, that there were spies in their midst that they could get extra credit if they could figure out who they were by the end of the two years there. So, Barrai, Bokken, and Thrain immediately set out to figure that out. They determined that Dorin was a suspect and Barrai used his new found friendship with Domon, another Tiefling, to send Domon to accuse Dorin, which, they aren’t sure was successful.
In their barracks they had gotten matched up with Dorin, a Gnome Rogue who fancied himself to be the leader of their barracks no matter what Barrai, Bokken, and Thrain told him. During the time that our three main characters were talking to the other students, Dorin had gone through their stuff, but they didn’t find that out until after an introductory meal where Bokken considered breaking into a teachers office to see if there was more information on the students and who might be the spy. In the end, he didn’t break in, but had Castillia, an elf whom they trust and trusts them, start spying on Narius, a rich halfling.
They returned to their barracks to find out that there things had been gone through, but Dorin not being the brightest, hadn’t trashed his own things so they quickly caught on and accused him. Thrain, as a revenge when through Dorin’s stuff, including a couple of daggers and books that were written in a language that none of them understood, possibly because none of them speak gnomish. Needless to say, Dorin was pissed off, and Barrai decided to try and restrain him when he went to bed, but that didn’t work that well, so Bokken, instead took up just watching him sleep, since Bokken, as a warforged sleeps with his eyes open, however, Bokken wasn’t a great watch and Dorin snuck out.
Dorin went to one of the teachers and the next morning the Thrain, Barrai, and Bokken were confronted about how they had been treating Dorin. They gave a half hearted apology and Dorin said he wanted to transfer to another group. Tormin, the teacher, agreed, and the group was happy enough and really wanted to get Narius into their barracks to keep a closer eye on him, so Tormin presented them with a challenge. They could pick who they wanted if they, minus Dorin, could take on another barracks and beat them, otherwise, he would decide. They went to an arena and the teachers, keeping an eye on things, and other students watching the spectacle watched as Thrain, Barrai, and Bokken took on Castillia, Narius, Adris – a human, and Cordon – a dragonborn.
Barrai gets to act first and gives Bokken some inspiration and then starts to mess with Castillia, who, swiftly puts a stop to that with a wicked arrow shot dropping Barrai. He gets floated off by the teachers. Thrain then returns the favor to Castillia and the sides are down to two, Thrain and Bokken, against three. The fighting slows down after the first volley as Cordon, with her dislike for Thrain, immediately moves in to target him. They trade attacks with Cordon even using her lightning dragons breath on Thrain, but his stead volley of eldritch blasts eventually knock her down to the ground. Bokken, meanwhile, has gone and faced off against Adris, the fighter. They trade blow after blow dealing little damage to each other with Narius, who had claimed to be a great shot, struggling to hit Bokken. His frustration mounting and Thrain joining the fight, Bokken eventually falls to the two on one attack and Thrain is left to face both Narius and Adris. But, with a bolt form his crossbow, Narius is able to drop Thrain, and the Barrai, Bokken, and Thrain await their fate as to whom will join their barracks. Tormin gives them Parrag, an elf whom they had actually not talked to before. Castillia, after the fight assumes that they had wanted her to join their barracks.
After that, the bell rings, and having missed breakfast, they need to go and start their first day of classes with courses on Court Etiquette, Second Story Work, Poisons and Antidotes, Demonology as their core courses, but then they could specialize in a few different areas. Bokken chose Assassination and Thievery, Thrain – Curses and Necromancy, and Barrai decided on Conjuring/Summoning and Curses. Bokken had a few other people going into what he was looking at with the likes of Dorin and Castillia and more. But Thrain was the only student to pick Curses for their main focus, and Barrai the only one to pick Conjuring/Summoning.
That’s where the session ended with them finding out that they have two tests in the Tower that will determine most of their grades for the school year, at which point, thematically, they’ll level up.
So behind the DM’s screen a little bit.
This was a fairly scripted session. I knew that most likely the players would quickly figure out that Dorin was the one who had gone through their stuff and probably rough him up or threaten him a little bit. I also had thought maybe it would come to light that they had accused him through Domon of being a spy, but that didn’t happen.
The fight that they were going to have, depending on which barracks they picked it was either going to be hard or deadly, they got hard, which was still deadly at such a low level for them, mainly because of the numbers game.
I gave Cordon her dragons breath feature to use. I probably could have just used a spell to simulate that for her, but thematically it worked and did slightly less damage than the spell.
The fight was fairly standard in that it had an end goal because they were facing off and try to knock down and out their opponents, but the story beat to it was that they were deciding who got to be in their group. And the decision that was it was Parrag was a die roll, there were 8 options so 8 sided die, and it landed on him.
Dorin slipping away while someone was just watching him, that was the one part I wasn’t sure what would happen, I knew that he’d try, though. So I gave him disadvantage on his roll for stealth and he rolled a 15 and a 20, plus two since he’s sneaky, and that was considerably better than Bokken’s 10.
What has been hitting your table? What story are you a part of?
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Two weeks ago, I ran my first session in the Tower of the God’s campaign. We got back to it again this past Thursday where our main character, Barrai, Thrain, and Bokken have completed the trial of the tower. For more information on that part …
So, I got back into running some Dungeons and Dragons last night on Zoom. Three/four player game that I’ve named Tower of the Gods. I think I previously did a Friday Night D&D explaining the concept, but I’m going to do that here again and …
One of the parts of Dungeons and Dragons that people really love is leveling up their characters. You get more cool things that you can do almost every level or new spells you can use or even improved stats so that you can hit harder. To level up, you need to gain experience, but how/when do you gain experience or level up?
In the Players Handbook, Monster Manual, and Dungeon Master’s Guide, there is one primary way that the game is built for you getting experience, and that’s through combat encounters (and encounters of other types), but in combat, each monster has a certain number of experience points that they give you to divide between the party. This is the standard way, then comparing your total experience to that of the level chart, when you hit a certain amount of experience you go up a level.
While this is the classic method, I’m not a huge fan of it. First, it adds to me doing more math as the Dungeon Master when building an encounter and as players then when dividing up and adding in experience. Now, it doesn’t have to be difficult math, but if someone misses a session, does their character still get experience for it? If they don’t, that causes even more of a mess because now characters will not in sync level wise and since the game tends to be more combat focused when you are using encounter/combat based experience, that means that a character might be lagging behind with that. On the other hand, this is the classic way to do it, and for video game players, it’s how almost all RPG’s work there, so it is something that they might enjoy.
My preferred method of leveling up and experience is to actually not track experience and go with something called, event or milestone leveling. When you hit a certain point in your characters story or in the over-arching story, you get to level up. The advantages of this come from leveling up in those moments where the story becomes more epic, you become more epic with it. You also don’t need to track everything and keep count of kills and what was killed, instead it levels you at proper thematic points. The downside is that if there is a point in the game where you are grinding through a dungeon and things aren’t changing, there might not be that character milestone or story event launches you to the next level. Instead you are stuck at a lower level for a while, while you’re waiting to go up and take off into a new ability for your character. That’s something, as a Dungeon Master, when using this method, that you need to be aware of, not to let the levels sit too long and instead focus on creating those epic moments every few sessions.
But, a friend, introduced me to an interesting idea from a video he’d watched on Professor Dungeon Master Youtube Channel. This concept is that you get a few points that you are tracking for experience, if things go really well in a session, you get 3 XP or maybe 4 XP. If things go awry, you get 1 XP, if it’s just okay 2 XP. And when you hit 10 XP, you “level up”. But, instead of just getting the level up, you need to do something in game or in downtime between sessions to get your character leveled up. This could be a little mini quest, such as a paladin destroying a cults temple and building up one to their god, Professor Dungeon Master’s example, or it could be something that is more tied into the main quests of the campaign. So you’re tracking experience, but at a limited level. And then to actually gain that level, you need that epic quest/story moment for your character so that they have a reason to gain new skills.
Now, I think that is an interesting option that I’m going to want to try at some point in time. What’s interesting about it to me is that it gives the players something to track in terms of experience points, they can see how close they are getting to leveling up at the end of a session, but they and I don’t need to do a lot of math and figuring for the game. It’s just adding together single digit numbers until you hit 10, and then you start again. I also like, and this is something that’s bugged me with Dungeons and Dragons leveling, is that you could, theoretically, just because of a random encounter on a travel somewhere level up, and now the Wizard knows more spells, the fighter is better with their sword, and the Druid can change into more animals. So, while it can delay leveling a little bit, I like how a character needs to complete some sort of quest or mission for that character or the story overall. So we’ve talked about a Paladin, but a Druid planting a small grove and getting that started in an area, that could give you a level up, a fighter going and defeating some low life thug on their own to stop them from going after other people, that’s something that would work as well. But I think it gives a chance for players and the DM to be more creative in storytelling, and you can decide how much you want to spend in game on this, but you could also go between sessions as well for leveling up.
If you’re playing, do you have a preferred method? I don’t think that any of them are bad, I just don’t want to do the math, so I haven’t done the more combat focused gaining for experience. Would you try out another method other than your preferred one? Let me know in the comments below.
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Almost forgot to share this, it was a rush, but I go through nine different level 1 characters for Dungeons and Dragons. I was hoping that I could knock them out fast, but it took a little bit, but I got them done. And I …