We all decided to start this D&D 3.5 game mostly because I sensed we were getting bored of Shadow Run. So I started prepping with little enthusiasm. I figured this would be another game people really didn’t take seriously (well… as seriously as you can take a game…) and I would spend hours a week prepping so we can goof off game night and not really use anything I had prepped. Not that I mind the goofing off, I rather enjoy the down time, but I feel a sort of drive to make use of my work. All of this was unfounded, however, since we had one of our better games that night.
The players we ALL interested, most everyone had their character sheets ready to go, and even the ones that didn’t actually had a DESIRE to do it right! Amazing. This did a lot to rekindle my passion for making awesome games. I’ll try to impart some of the design thinking into this text without giving too much away for the players.
The game was begun with the knowledge that each player had received a letter from Elonwy Owlseve (in case your curious) and each person was told that it was up to them how they ended up with it. I gave them complete narrative control. Two decided that they were the intended recipients of the letters while the other two chose to have stolen the letter off another hero and taken it off of a guy he beat down in a bar fight. Ridiculous and awesome at the same time.
With that stated, they started the game at the referenced Inn and woke up the next morning finding blood on their doors leading to the common room. There, King Jordan III’s body was found mutilated. I did this for one reason. Every time I drop a plot hook near my players, they ignore it and go somewhere else. This time, I dropped a plot meteor on them, leaving them no recourse but to respond. They escaped through a tunnel full of traps that, I must say, they bypassed brilliantly. Only one of them seemed to feel unimportant in this section, but I think he was just getting revved up and his character was spec’d for fighting anyway. I’ll have to find more ways he can be useful outside of breaking skulls. Note 1: Know your PCs abilities. I managed to get though this whole section with only seeing skill checks (most of which I didn’t expect) and class abilities. I was so proud!
They made it to the location they were supposed to go and met an NPC that they all reacted too. A half-orc, a bit larger than the ordinary breed, wearing a monocle with a book in hand. They made all sorts of jokes, which was the goal. It worked perfectly. I am a bit irritated at myself, though. This was a perfect opportunity to role play out an important figure, and I opted to skip it all. Maybe I was tired, maybe I was lazy, but either way I screwed up. Note 2: RP your NPCs at every opportunity. I absolutely loved the quick exchange that occurred with him, though. The PCs were being praised for killing the king by this massive half-orc and his organization. Three of the PCs began saying “yeah… that was great… that… happened… /smile” while the fourth kept asking why they were getting credit for something they didn’t do and was constantly shushed by the others. I really should have had the half-orc react, but I really didn’t want to ruin their sense of “we got away with it”. I’ll analyze this situation closer at a later date.
The PCs picked up a rather flimsy plot hook and agreed to go find some scouting party. I hadn’t really planned out how that talk was gonna go and it showed. I KNEW that I wanted to get some goblin fighting action underway, but I hadn’t thought of how to get there. In retrospect, I didn’t do TOO badly, but it’s something to remember. They went out, found the scouts were captured by goblins, and that’s when the REAL fun started. I had a broken down catapult, tents, cages with guys in them, and all sorts of other stuff in this small area. I hoped to have a dynamic fight where everyone could find SOMETHING that they could do and do well. Few of them chose to do the things I expected, but everyone found things to do that they enjoyed. Mission accomplished! They destroyed goblins left and right and had a blast doing it. I have only one regret in the whole scene. At the end of the fight, one goblin was left, unarmed. One PC wanted to do something over the top (like throwing him into the campfire or something). After it looked like they knew what they were going to do, I looked over and noticed that the catapult was not yet fired. So I narrated how he threw the goblin on that and got shot into the cliff. While that was sorta neat, I have to learn to keep out of the narration while the players have it. I want to ENCOURAGE them telling ME what happens, not discourage it.
All in all a wonderful start to a, hopefully, great campaign. Next time, I’ll add some pictures to the post :P.