Game Night, Session 21 & 22, Dark Territory (Part ?)

Well, there have been two game night sessions since my last update on the story of Theren, Lysandra, Bran and Fang. Session 21 was a bit of a quickie and session 22 happened a couple of Sundays ago (Jan 12). The group’s been busy. The undead keep coming. But hopefully they might learn why and what needs to happen to stop the problem…

After a short rest, the group decides to head into the crypt to try and actually explore. They are prepared once again for a fight. They have little doubt that they will encounter more undead, but they want to find out why there are undead emerging from the crypt in the first place.

The space is cramped at the bottom of the stairs that lead into the crypt from the daylight above.  They are standing in a narrow tunnel of solid craftsmanship that leads left or right from the stairs.  As the group listens, they hear quiet movement coming from both directions in the tunnel.  A couple of them could swear they hear voices, too.

In short order they decide to take the tunnel direction to the right because it seems like the “right” thing to do. There is also less noise coming from the left. Bran, Theren, Fang and Lysandra agree that heading toward the “noisiest” portion of the crypt will help in clearing out the undead more quickly.

Walking single file, Bran is in the lead with Lysandra following to provide a light source for her and Bran (the humans cannot see in the dark).  Theren and Fang bring up the rear as they move down the tunnel seeking out anything to explain to them the source of the rising dead.  They think they hear voices coming from further down the tunnel and definitely hear movement.  They approach a pair of iron-bound wood doors located opposite each other on the tunnel walls.  One is slightly ajar.  A peak in the open door reveals a tomb for what were once probably army commanders or generals.

Unfortunately, as they are moving to check out the open room, they make just enough noise to get the attention of whatever is behind the closed door opposite them.  Before too long, undead in the form of Dark Zombies and skeletons are bashing down that door to get to the group.

As the first of the undead burst through the door, Bran quickly realizes how the tight tunnel is creating a tactical disadvantage for the group.  They carefully withdraw toward the entrance to the crypt bringing the pursuing undead to the surface where the group can deal with them from a more advantageous position.

In short order, the Dark Zombies and skeletons are no more. They are piled up with the zombies that the group destroyed about an hour before.  This time, though, the group decides not to rest. Instead, they head back into the crypt and back down that corridor to find either more undead or a reason for their creation.  A sense of urgency starts to come over them as they realize that evening and nightfall are fast approaching. The Dark Energy that changed some of the undead into Dark Zombies does not seem to be weakening with the destruction of the undead to this point, either.  They strongly suspect that there are still more dead soldiers from the long-lost battle to be brought back for nefarious purposes.

Bran, Theren, Fang and Lysandra make their way back toward the doors to investigate the now empty rooms. The room that had Dark Zombies and skeletons is now open for exploration. A short investigation reveals some items of possible interest, but noise from further down the corridor stops them. The group quickly agrees to come back after they have dealt with what’s next.

As they move toward the source of the noise, the corridor widens, and they can see light coming from around a right turn ahead.  With as much stealth as they can muster (which ends up being not much), Bran looks around the corner to see a well-lit room.  Standing in the center of the room is the silhouette of a man standing in a magic circle on the floor.  Another figure is moving about the room.

The two in the room notice the group taking up positions just outside the room.  The silhouette makes a gesture and disappears.  The other figure rasps out, “Erebus! Come back!”  The group is stunned hearing the name of their otherwise unknown assailant – the one who seems to have been orchestrating their struggles to date.  The worst part is that he was less than 50 feet away from them and then vanished without a trace.

Recognizing the other figure in the room before them as some form of more intelligent undead, the group springs into action.  Bran moves in to do what he does best with his halberd.  Fang calls forth druidic powers and calls down a Moonbeam.  He controls the radiant energy of Nature and positions it over the undead being.  Lysandra and Theren position themselves to prevent the vile thing from escaping the room.

What they discover to be a wight turns out to be no match for the group.  The wight is damaged beyond recognition in short order.  They watch what can only be called a “wisp” of Dark Energy leave what’s left of the wight; this is something they have seen a few times now.  The residual corrupted magic that brings the dead to life leaves the remains of the fallen when it can no longer take action against the living.

What they also notice is the oppressive feeling they have been experiencing is now less than it was.  Theren can now sense a direction for a possible source of the Dark Energy.  It seems to be coming from another part of the crypt.

The group spends the next couple of hours investigating every detail about the two rooms on opposite sides down the tunnel and this new room that was obviously meant to be a memorial to one or more mages that were involved in the battle 7 centuries ago.  They quickly discover that the mage’s tomb has had more recent use by Erebus.  They discover some potentially useful potions and a significant amount of money.  Bran fines some well-preserved pieces of armor that he can use to complete a set he has been wanting to create for some time now.  They also discover information in the form of messages to and from Erebus and a hastily written journal entry on a torn piece of paper.

Fang, Bran, Lysandra and Theren now have confirmation that Erebus, whoever he truly may be, is the one orchestrating the activities of Slythis, Kogan and the bug-like Mezzoloth.  He is also responsible for creating an item that helps funnel Dark Energy into the dead to re-animate them.  He has placed this item in the crypt somewhere yet to be found.  The group also realizes that this crypt/tomb likely holds a significant number of long-dead soldiers from a battle that took place many centuries ago.  There could be hundreds buried in here.  They must find the device and destroy it to prevent a mass uprising of dead…

More pieces of a puzzle about a group that works to destroy Mentari’s Secret…

Confirmation that Erebus is behind all the challenges the group has faced and that he is responsible for the growing number of undead beginning to awaken and leave this crypt…  Can they find the device before it raises possible hundreds of undead?

As always, if you like what you’ve read here, let me know by clicking that like button. If you have thoughts about this post, please by all means, leave a comment. I am very happy to have feedback and discussion. A dialogue is way better than a monologue.

Type to you later 😉

 

Game Night: DM vs Players? Something’s Missing

It’s game night, and the group has begun gathering around the table for another night of mind theater in the realm of high fantasy.  The DM sits behind his screen shuffling through his notes and organizing his thoughts about what he has planned for the players tonight.  He has a few encounters that will be challenging and possibly deadly.  He doesn’t want a TPK, but he is sure this time they will fear what he has prepared.  THEY are going to EARN every experience point tonight!

As the players arrive and sit at the table, the usual small talk begins, but it doesn’t take long for the subject to change to the email the wily DM sent a couple nights ago about some surprises for this game night.  They break out their character sheets and start double checking all their stats to make sure they have every advantage to take against the DM.  They won’t let him win, no matter what he throws at them.  They know he’s been scheming and trying to find ways to beat them, but it won’t happen tonight.  They will beat the DM and all his plans and schemes…

I’ve been participating in tabletop role-playing games for over 30 years now.  I have done this mostly as a Dungeon Master/Game Master, but I have extensive time as a player, too.  I have seen the scenario above play out quite a few times… from both sides of the tabletop.  I can’t say that it has ever created a very fond memory, either way.

Do you see what’s going on in that scenario?  The group has gathered for their RPG game night, and they are immediately getting adversarial.  They are trying to figure out how each of their respective sides is going to “win”.

I’m not judging those that like to play that way.  It’s all about having fun and enjoying the experience.  That (above) is just not for me.  I think there is way more to be enjoyed and experienced when your gaming group doesn’t get adversarial between the players and DM/GM.  I’ll explain…

Win?  Wadda ya mean, “WIN?”

Ah… okay.  It’s a game, and the DM is the enemy that the players are trying to beat.  The DM has an arsenal of tricks and monsters that he/she throws at the players in hopes of hurting or maybe even KILLING the players’ characters.  The players have to build their characters and eke out every advantage they can to defeat whatever monsters and tricks the DM puts in their path.  If the DM wins, the players lose treasure, power or even their characters.  If the players win, their characters gain loot and power.  They get to level up and receive more powers and skills so they can beat the DM on the next game night.

Really?  Isn’t there more to role-playing games?

Is that all a night playing D&D or Shadowrun or… whatever… means? In some cases, yes, that is exactly what it means.  And somewhere in that style of play, an adventure and/or story line might exist. But I personally think playing a tabletop RPG that way is seriously missing something.  There might be a little role-playing.  There might be some adventure.  But what about all the other stuff?

The DM/GM runs/referees/moderates the game.  He presents the world and all that entails to the players.  He describes the world and the situation the players’ characters are in.  He role-plays the people, etc. that are in the world for the characters to interact with.

The players create and play their characters in the world that the DM/GM presents to them.  They interact with the world.  They go on adventures presented by the DM/GM and advance in wealth and power as they go.

YES, the DM/GM presents challenges to the players to overcome.  Yes, he comes up with dangers and struggles that the players’ characters must deal with and defeat.  Yes, the players must develop their characters wisely so that they have the skills and powers to meet and defeat these challenges.

But there can be so much more to it.

There’s this whole story/campaign thing that you can “squeeze in”.  The players can have background stories for their characters and specific goals that might stem from those backgrounds.  Then all of a sudden there is depth and color. The world and the characters become a living, breathing thing in your imagination.

I know that “squeeze in” remark is a bit sarcastic.  But I’ll stand behind it because I feel a night spent around the table trying to crush each other with game stats and dice is seriously lacking.  Instead, I like to think about the drama and intensity that can come from the story and conflict that leads to the the attempt to crush each other.  I like to imagine the hero’s stats not as stats, but as the skills and abilities the hero has learned by facing challenges in his/her life.  How did that fighter learn to trip an opponent?  Well, on his previous mission for the king he and his friends were tasked to bring an outlaw in alive.  So, the fighter learned how to trip an opponent with his poleaxe rather than have to hack the outlaw to within a few hit points and hope he doesn’t accidentally kill the outlaw.  The wizard in the group learned the Sleep spell to help her ally subdue the outlaw.

It took the entire group to create this situation above.  The DM/GM worked together with the players to have that scenario play out.  To me, that is much more fun and memorable than the adversarial DM vs players style of game. Sure, the players chose those skills and feats for their characters out of the game rules, but now there is a reason and a bit of a story behind the choices.  The DM/GM and the players created a story that helped drive those choices.  Those stories are what bring the characters and the world to life.

And, in my opinion, this is what will keep everybody coming back to the table time and again.  This is what will create fond memories and fun discussions even years down the line.  I know this because I’ve lived it.  I still have conversations with a couple friends about some of our game nights and favorite characters. Some of those games happened over 20 years ago.

What do you think?  Am I wrong here?  I’d like to know.

Game Night, Session 20, Dark Territory (Part 2)

Wow 😲 !  We’ve had 20 game night sessions, and we’re still going strong.  I love it.  It’s great having a gaming group again.  It’s even better having a gaming group that’s into my original campaign.  Thanks, guys, for letting us tell this story.

This is a bit of short one.  I am suffering from the holiday illness that randomly picks its victims.  Unfortunately, I’m one of those victims this year.  AND the player of Theren Galanodel ended up with technical difficulties.  So, to keep any members of the gaming group from missing out, we cut it short.

So, we now know the group is no stranger to dealing with the undead.  But are they ready for what’s ahead?

The group has gathered around the doorway into the mausoleum.  The stairs that lead down below ground do not appear to simply stop in a small room where a corpse or two are buried.  Theren, having the ability to see in the dark, can see that there are quite a few corpses standing at the base of the steps and that there are is a T-intersection at the bottom of the steps.  The rest of the group spot subtle humanoid shapes standing in the light filtering in from the surface.

Lysandra, feeling no other alternative but to start this fracas, finds a small stone and tosses it down the steps.  This disturbs the zombies and they begin to come up the steps to find living prey.

The group is experienced in dealing with undead corpses and get to work to end the un-life and hopefully free some souls.  Bran seeing a tactical advantage calls for the group to position themselves around the mausoleum entry while he stands in the center.  He hopes to keep the zombies filing out of the mausoleum door one at a time and minimize the danger to his fellow combatants.

The zombies begin to fall to Bran’s halberd, Lysandra’s war hammer and the magic of Fang and Theren.  Fang summons a spirit totem to help inspire and protect the group as they try to lay waste the pending mob of undead.  Theren employs his access to eldritch energies and sends begins sending blasts of energy that disrupts and corrupts the magics and energies that give the small horde un-life.

The group attacks and defends well.  At one point, though, the zombies did manage to spill out of the mausoleum, but with mostly minor damage to their bodies, Bran, Theren, Lysandra and Fang stand triumphant at the entrance of the mausoleum with 16 scattered corpses either dismembered beyond function or reduced to smoldering piles of ash.

The mist, while disturbed from the chaos of the combat, still flows up the stairs into the former battlefield.  They know that this is only the beginning…

Unless the plague takes me down (I doubt it), Session 21, happening in a few days, will continue their foray into Dark Territory.

As always, if you like what you’re reading here, let me know by clicking that like button.  If you have a comment or question, please “speak up”.  I welcome the conversation.  Thanks for swinging by.

Type to you later.

Game Night, Session 18-19; Dark Territory (Part 1)

This is kind of a long one.

I decided not to post session 18 by itself because first, life got in the way a bit and second, I wanted a little more for the post. I thought session 18 was a bit short. So, we had session 19. I also wanted to organize some thoughts and details to help understand the situation the group is in and what it might take next in their search for the secrets held in the hidden Welandar library. So, the post grew a bit… well… a lot. I hope you enjoy anyway.

Lysandra, Bran, Fang and Theren make their way to the fort on the north end of the town of Braiton. The weary travelers consider themselves fortunate that they are in their hometown. While this is not Lysandra’s hometown, she appreciates the comfort of being someplace that is considered safe. They pass through town without challenge from the night watch since they are recognized. At the fort’s guard post they present themselves and the Krell, Urd, whom they rescued, interrogated and took into their custody.

 

Fortunately, Lord Perry Braiton, noble, sheriff, town leader and commander of the local garrison hoped they would return this way. So, he had left standing orders to keep watch for the group’s return and have them report to him or one of his lieutenants immediately. They are quickly escorted to the night lieutenant’s office.

 

The lieutenant takes Urd off their hands and, despite the late hour, sends word to Lord Braiton of the group’s arrival. With a quick response from Lord Braiton, the group is given rooms at the nearby inn with a request that they join Lord Braiton in the morning for breakfast at his place to debrief. The idea of a bed and shelter is agreeable, and off they go to rest at the inn until the next morning. Theren decides he wants to see his family and chooses to go to his family’s home with plans to meet them at Lord Braiton’s for breakfast.

 

The next morning finds the group in the dining room of a nice, but not lavish, home. Breakfast is served and Lord Braiton establishes that this meeting is to be informal, but productive. He wants to know about the group’s journey to Mert and any other events that happened to them since their departure about a month ago.

 

Fang takes point on relaying their story to Lord Braiton with the rest of the group adding details where needed. Lysandra is, of course, introduced and Lord Braiton is informed that she is another chosen of Mentari’s Secret. The group’s story unfolds for the noble and he begins to gain some insight into the danger that this Dark Tide is to the kingdom.

 

In turn, Lord Braiton lets the group know about the status of Welandar City. He tells them that they made a good decision by coming to Braiton first since The City is in virtual lock-down. Since the murder of the king a little over a month ago, the investigation of the murder has only raised suspicion that the murderer is still within the walls of The City. So, the city officials have locked down the entrances. Now traffic in and out of the city is subject to detailed scrutiny before being allowed to pass. This has caused inconvenience at best and near disaster for some – merchants and the like. The tension in The City is elevated and increasing as the difficulty for people to conduct business in and out of The City has become more and more difficult. He tells the group that he will take on the task of working on a means to get them into Welandar City quickly and quietly despite the overall situation.  It is obvious they need to find the secret library and the Welandar family journal that is supposedly there.

 

With all the information on the table, it is now understood that Theren, Bran, Fang and Lysandra must be very careful about revealing who they are (part of Mentari’s Secret) and broadcasting their intentions. By example, Lord Braiton informs them that the dining room they are sitting in has been both physically and magically enhanced to prevent spying or scrying of any kind. They now fully realize that The Dark Tide is looking for them and trying to, at the very least, track them. The group acknowledges that while they have been in mortal danger at times, there is uncertainty if their deaths have been the true intention of The Dark Tide. This Erebus character, after all, wrote a note specifically wanting the group “tested”, not killed. They consider the possibility that The Dark Tide is interested in discovering the Welandar family secrets as well.

 

Lord Braiton gives each of them a modest reward for their efforts to date. He puts some gold in their pockets and offers to handle whatever expenses they incur for shelter and supplies while in his town. Then he asks for their help while he begins working on a way to get the group into Welandar City quickly and quietly. It seems that just recently, a farming family on the outskirts was attacked and killed by what appear to be undead. There have also been rumors of movement in the woods at the edges of other farms to the east, near where this family was killed. He asks them to investigate for him and, if possible, eliminate the apparent threat. He says there will be additional reward for their help along with his gratitude.

 

After some discussion of the details Lord Braiton has about the situation, the group agrees to head out to the farm where the family was killed and begin an investigation. They make a request for a few soldiers to come along as reinforcements. Lord Braiton agrees but explains the reason he has asked for their help is that he has already spread his garrison a little thin by increasing patrols in the area and night watch in the town. He also admits concern that his soldiers might not handle undead very well. After all, undead aren’t common, to say the least.

 

Fang, Lysandra, Theren and Bran depart from Lord Braiton’s home and head east from town to find the farm that was attacked. A squad of 4 soldiers will be made available to them as soon as possible. The horse patrol will catch them en route.

 

The group arrives at the farmhouse along with the horse patrol. The soldiers are reluctant to even enter the farmhouse. One of the soldiers was with the squad that came and found the bodies of the family the week prior. They offer to ride a short patrol to the nearby farms to see if there have been any other attacks. Bran and Fang request that two stay nearby while two perform the patrol… just in case.

 

Bran and Lysandra decide to enter the house while Fang and Theren start taking a look around outside. Evidence of the attack in the house is easily found due to blood stains on the floor and obvious signs of a struggle. The rear door of the house is also damaged showing evidence of a forced entry. It appears that the undead beat down the door. All signs point to a surprise attack. It did not look like the family had time to prepare for a fight or escape.

 

Outside, under the covered stable that is attached to the side and back of the house, a severed arm is found. Closer investigation gets a startle as the arm twitches with some residual energy of undeath. The arm is likely human but appears changed. The ends of the finger bones are elongated to claw-like appendages and the “bone” in those areas is darkened. Theren senses some of the energy he has felt when near the presence of Slythis or Kogan. The corrupted energy that resides with them seems to be part of what animated this body. Did Kogan raise the dead body that this arm belonged to?

 

Theren decides to make use of Tolthas (his altered pseudo-dragon familiar). He commands Tolthas to fly out and scout the woods from the air. A short time into Tolthas’ flight, the familiar contacts Theren telepathically and relays what it’s seeing. Tolthas has flown over a small clearing in the woods a few miles east of the farms. There appears to be some grave markers and a slightly bigger structure there. Theren relays this to the group.

 

As the investigation continues, Theren realizes that he must return to his family’s home in town because he is lacking his weapons (forgotten when he departed for breakfast at Lord Braiton’s home). He borrows a horse from one of the soldiers to go retrieve his gear. Fang decides that it would be best if he performed a patrol at the back end of the farm near the woods. He wants to see if there are any signs of where the undead came from. He is suspicious of the possibility that they came from that clearing Theren mentioned.

 

Bran and Lysandra realize they are going to be there for a bit. They begin looking around the house and the immediate property for the things they need to prepare a meal and possibly spend the night. Bran decides he wants to fix the rear door to the house while Lysandra begins cleaning up and gathering ingredients to create a meal for the group and the soldiers. Bran heads out the back door and finds a shop building. Inside he finds a nicely constructed forge and workshop but with minimal tools and materials. It appears that the family was just beginning to set up the shop. Lysandra finds everything she needs and more to begin creating a good meal. They are both separately realizing that this place is actually very nice and potentially useful. Bran, especially, begins to wonder if it would be a nice base of operations for the group and a start to that mercenary company he’s been dreaming about for a while now. With the addition of some tools in the shop and refurbishment of the loft area for sleeping quarters, it could house the group easily. It would not take a lot of resources to create another outbuilding or two to handle additional personnel.

 

Fang heads toward the treeline looking for some sign of where the undead came from. He decides stealth and speed will be his allies and taps his druidic power to shape-shift into a black panther. It is not long before he spots a sign. He finds a zombie that’s missing an arm. It’s milling about a short distance from the treeline, and he decides to engage it.

 

As he predicted the abilities of the panther form pay off. Fang dispatches the one-armed zombie with minimal damage to himself. He resumes his search for signs of passage left by the undead.

 

It’s not long before Fang spots tracks coming from and heading back to the woods. It’s an obvious sign that the undead had come from the woods east of the farm house. In fact, it now makes good sense to Fang that the zombies appear to have come from the clearing that Theren’s familiar, Tolthas spied earlier. Fang decides to go down the treeline a little further until he is behind the nearest neighboring farm.

 

As Fang makes his way down the treeline, he spots two “people” moving from the woods toward a neighboring farmhouse. Based on the way they’re moving, he’s sure it’s a pair of zombies. Fang begins to move to intercept them as quickly as possible with as much stealth as possible. He hopes to surprise them.

 

His stealthy approach as a panther is a success, and Fang pounces on one of the zombies. A ferocious battle begins… a battle that Fang quickly finds out is going to be tougher than he thought.

 

Quickly reverting to his half-Faye form, Fang engages in melee as the zombies press their attacks. These zombies are more powerful and resilient than others that Fang has faced. He is suddenly concerned that he might not survive this melee.

 

Then a thought occurs to him, and Fang calls upon his goddess and evokes a thunderclap that blasts the zombies back out of reach. Fang takes advantage of this to put some distance between him and them…

 

…From the farmhouse, Bran and Lysandra here a peal of thunder. Knowing that it is not bad weather outside, they assume that Fang or Theren have unleashed a spell. As they run outside to find the source of the thunder, another clap of thunder is released a short distance away…

 

Fang quickly realizes that these corrupted zombies move faster than their “normal” cousins. He also knows that he needs help. Hoping that his goddess is watching and is willing to help, Fang calls forth another clap of thunder. The wave again blows the zombies back before they can attack with sword and claw.

 

By this time, Lysandra and Bran are sprinting toward Fang with weapons at the ready. Theren, who is just returning from town after retrieving his weapons, also hears the thunder on an otherwise sunny day. He sees Fang a short distance behind the neighboring farmhouse that he is passing on the road back and sets the horse to a gallop toward Fang and the pursuing zombies.

 

The group converges on Fang and the pursuing Dark Zombies. The tide is quickly turned. The only friendly casualty ends up being whatever ego Theren might have had. As he attempted to unleash a blast of his eldritch magic on the corrupted zombies, he quickly discovered that casting from horseback has its own set of issues. The battle is ended with the group giving Theren a hand out from under a very stunned horse.

 

They also realize that the Dark Zombies are much more trouble than “normal” zombies. Two of these corrupted undead were essentially too much for one member of their group. There is legitimate concern as they consider taking a walk toward the clearing Tolthas spotted for Theren. It only makes sense that is where there are enough bodies to animate like this. It appears to be some sort of cemetery. They also begin to wander how many bodies might be there, and how many of those could become Dark Zombies.

 

But they need to know what’s in that clearing and if they can stop it or need to get help.

 

The group heads into the woods to find the clearing. Between Theren and his familiar they successfully navigate to the edge of the clearing. At first glance, it looks peaceful. There is a mist hanging low on the grasses in the clearing. They see some grave markers scattered around and a mausoleum opposite them near the opposite edge of the clearing. It looks like a peaceful spring morning in a nice old wilderness cemetery. The problem, though, is that it is no longer morning. It’s early afternoon, and there is a noticeable breeze. There should be no morning fog or mist low on the ground like this.

 

Steeling nerves, they step into the clearing… and wish the hadn’t. Instantly, chills and goose bumps course through and over their bodies. There is a sickening feeling of dread. And the mist looks like it’s trying to cling to their feet. The breeze and noise of nature in the woods is nearly silenced. There is something very wrong about this battlefield turned cemetery.

 

Yes, they recall history lessons that explain that this place was a battlefield some 700 years ago. It was one of the final battles between the humans of Welandar and the Faye during a time when they did not get along like they do now. The Faye had been concerned when the humans moved into the area and started settling what is now Welandar City. This concern led to a decision to try and push the humans out of the area. A few battles took place and this place was the last of them. The humans essentially won the very short war and a truce was achieved in this clearing. The cost to the humans was significant in this battle. They decided to create a memorial cemetery to bury the brave soldiers and officers who heroically fought here and mark the place where a truce had been achieved.

 

A memorial this place is no more.  There is evil magic in the area and the source appears to be the mausoleum.  The group cautiously crosses the ancient battlefield letting courage and determination shield them from the sensations of dread and evil that hang at the edge of their senses.  They approach the mausoleum and easily see that the door has been ripped off its hinges.  The source of the mist also appears to be the mausoleum.  They stare at a set of steps leading down into darkness.  The mist is somehow flowing up those steps from the darkness below.  They need to know what’s going on…

We’ll see what happens in Session 20.

As always, if you like what you’ve read here, let me know by clicking the like button.  If you have something to say or a question, please, leave a comment.  I’ll be happy to get back to you.  A conversation is always better than a monologue.

Type to you later…

Game Night: Session 17, Live and Learn

YAY!!!  We had a game night the other night.  It’s been a while.  That whole real life thing got in the way for a few of us.  People were either unable to get to a PC, or had a broken PC.  Since we play online using Discord and Fantasy Grounds, not having access to a PC was a bit of a problem.  But the stars realigned and we got a session in…

The session was a bit short, but I believe it was informative… as it was meant to be.

The group spend one last night on the banks of the Welandar River before being able to reach Welandar City, the kingdom’s capital.  They spend the evening recovering from the ambush by Kogan and his band of Krell soldiers that happened earlier in the day.  But soon the discussion turns to what they plan to do once they get in The City.  They have a mission, vague as it may be, and they are being pursued by creatures and humanoids with ill intent.

The group believes that there is something more behind Slythis, the “convenient” encounter with the bug-creature and Kogan’s ongoing pursuit.  Theren has felt the presence of “dark magic” during many of these encounters.  They are now convinced that many of these encounters have been orchestrated with information from magic and/or spies that are tracking them.  They know they need to change their tactics and make contacts that can help them change this situation.

Once they reach Welandar City, each member of the group has something in mind to do for themselves in addition to finding a way into a secret library in a secret location in or near the castle dungeon.  They want to help with the situation that is unfolding before them, but they also have goals and dreams of their own… some of which they hope will help with whatever is going on.

After a restful night on the riverbank, the group, along with the riverboat pilot start packing their things so they can head downriver to The City.  While this is going on, a couple of them spot what appears to be a body lying on the bank near the water’s edge a short distance upriver.  The group investigates and finds a Krell – dressed like the others from yesterday’s ambush – near death from brutal stab wounds to the gut.

The group realizes that this situation could produce valuable information if parlayed properly.  Fang successfully stabilizes the Krell with some first aid (they don’t want to waste magic on the enemy).  While doing this, he checks the wounds for signs of desiccation similar to what Slythis’ knife could do. Fang finds none… to the relief of the group.

With some “persuasive” comments,  the Krell, named Urd, begins to answer some questions.  They discover that Urd was part of yesterday’s ambush, but withdrew when he saw the magic being used by the group start to kill his fellow squad mates.  He decided that being killed here was not a good way to accomplish the mission of killing the group.  He thought reporting back to Kogan would be a smart thing to do.  The essentially fatal stab wounds in his belly, delivered by Kogan, has since convinced Urd otherwise…

Further questioning reveals that Kogan had been in contact with the bug-creature they dealt with in South Haven, but long before the Krell had even made it to Mert. Urd also reveals that Kogan had spoken with a Dwerg near Piketon reinforcing the idea that the group has, in fact, been tracked throughout their journey.

As the interrogation continues, the group learns that Kogan possesses a talisman he wears on a necklace.  By asking the right questions they realize the talisman is similar in nature to the knife that Slythis had.  This explains the feeling Theren has gotten when Kogan has been nearby… again similar to Slythis.  It also appears to have some influence over his actions and general behavior.  Urd reveals that Kogan has definitely become much more powerful since he got the talisman.  Of course this causes concern over what sort of transformation will occur in Kogan as he continues to wear the talisman.

Throughout the questioning, Urd mentions that Kogan refers to something known as “The Dark Tide” and how it is coming to, at the least, destroy Mentari’s secret.  Apparently, Kogan is either a part of this agency or is serving those that are a part of The Dark Tide.

Armed with this new information about their situation, the group decides that going straight to Welandar City and sending a message to Perry Braiton would not be wise.  They, instead, decide to take Urd and go to Braiton (the hometown of Fang, Theren and Bran) to report to Lord Braiton directly.  They also plan to turn Urd over to the local authorities.  It’s agreed that Urd should not be simply murdered by them since he chose to cooperate with them and is decidedly uncertain about his place in life.  The notion is that Lord Braiton might see fit to let Urd live and serve his time for crimes in the Kingdom as a member of a work gang.

At a bridge for a road that leads either into Welandar City or north to Braiton, the group parts ways with the riverboat pilot.  They make their way to Braiton with Urd in tow.  It is quite late at night when they arrive at the edge of town…

And that is how we ended the night.  The group now has a name for that which is pursuing them and trying to stop their efforts to reach the secret library… The Dark Tide.  They now know that their movements have been tracked since they began their journey.  This points out the fact that the Dark Tide has agents in many locations, and that they must become more covert in order to stop the pursuit.

What will happen next?

As always, if you like what you’ve read here, let me know by hitting that like button.  If you have something to say or a question to ask, please, leave a comment.  I’ll be happy to have a conversation with you.

Type to you later.

Game Night: Gotta Keep It Going

Pounding Keyboard How do you keep the tabletop

role-playing game campaign going?

A role-playing game campaign is rarely a short-lived thing.  It takes a while for the players to work their characters through the story created by the DM/GM.  Even one adventure in a campaign can take more than one game session, especially if the group limits a session to a few hours at a time.  So… How do you keep it exciting at the tabletop? How do you keep things rolling and not get boring? Those are interesting questions.  The answers are… well… hmm.

I’ve been running and playing tabletop role-playing games on and off for over 30 years now.  Even with that much time in, I’m no expert.  But I do know that you have to keep the players and DM/GM interested in the campaign to keep the campaign going.  Without that interest, the game is going to come to a halt… plain and simple.  This interest comes from excitement and pace at the tabletop.  The players and DM/GM have to be excited to find out what happens next in the story of their heroes.  The pace of the game/story must be maintained, too.  A slow game – for the most part, no matter how exciting, can kill a campaign.

Excitement – I think – is relatively simple.  Mystery, drama, new character abilities, danger in combat; all things to get excited about.  Now don’t get me wrong.  Creating those elements takes some effort, and without those elements, there’s no excitement.  Vicious loop? Not really.  It starts at the beginning 😉

What I mean by that is that getting excited about the campaign does not happen during the campaign.  If you’re not excited to get started, then you’re likely not going to start 🙂  The excitement has to be there when the campaign starts.  So, you create an idea for your campaign.  You discuss that idea with your players and they create characters they want to be part of the campaign.  The excitement builds and off you go.

Maintaining that excitement does require effort, but it’s not like what it takes to set up the campaign story and get the players excited at the beginning.  After that, it’s about generating scenarios and challenges that move the story along to its completion.  Inspiration for that is rooted in the story itself – something you already have – and the feedback from the players among whatever other sources of inspiration a DM/GM might use.

Pacing is a very important element for a successful campaign.  Pacing can truly make or break a campaign.  And what is pacing?

Pacing in a tabletop role-playing game is the “speed”, if you will, that the game moves and the story unfolds.  Pace is influenced by the story itself, the players & DM/GM and the game system being used.  And the kicker is that it does not remain constant.  It can even be slow… when necessary.

Pace can make or break a campaign (Stated twice now for emphasis).  The pace of any given game night must be appropriate to what’s going on in the campaign.  There isn’t a minimum or maximum pace.  There isn’t a prescribed pace setting to maintain for a campaign.  The game/campaign needs to move along at the correct speed for what’s going on.  Moving too fast in a part of the story/campaign that has a lot of important detail can cause players to miss things that could be key to the next challenge/adventure.  Moving too slow in a part of the story/campaign that should be upbeat and intense can cause boredom.  When the players are bored, the campaign suffers… a lot.

The pace required for any given session must be quickly discovered and maintained.  A change in pace also needs to be picked up quickly, too, and the appropriate adjustment made. If you miss the mark, then the campaign, or at the least, the game session, can suffer.  It’s okay for it to happen once in a while.  Sometimes it’s tough to get a finger on the pulse of any one scene, adventure or session. Remember that there are many factors to consider to set the proper pace.  But missing the pace mark regularly will likely end a campaign sooner than later.  This is because the players miss things or get bored and the DM/GM gets frustrated trying to figure out why his/her campaign is taking a header for the toilet.

I know that last sounds a bit harsh, but it’s true.  When the excitement and interest in a tabletop RPG campaign drops, game sessions become more work than fun for the DM/GM.  The players become uncomfortable because they aren’t having any fun, either, and are likely trying not to say anything.  Nobody wants to have to speak up and call out out the DM/GM for a campaign that is no longer interesting.

So, pace is key.  Even if the story is a little lacking in danger, drama or mystery… you know… excitement 😉  Keeping the proper pace can really help get through a “dry spell”.  And vice versa…  With a really exciting scenario unfolding, if the pace is wrong for what’s going on, that excitement can be drained away so fast you can’t believe it.

Is keeping up the excitement and pace for your campaign a tough thing to accomplish?  Not really.  I think I handle it okay, so it can’t be that tough.  Learning how to keep a good balance comes with experience for sure, but paying attention during a session is the trick.  What do I mean by paying attention?

The group, DM/GM included, gets involved with the story, the game system or the socializing or any combination of those things when at the table.  That involvement is fun and interesting.  The problem this can create, though, is that not everybody in the group is necessarily involved in the same thing at the same time.  As examples, sometimes one or two members are socializing, either between themselves or on social media (distracted).  Sometimes some members of the group get caught up in some part of the story and want to discuss it in detail where others don’t.  When the group gets “out of sync”, it can create pacing problems.

It’s the DM’s job to keep the group on track when things at the table go off the rails a bit.  So, that means the DM has to always pay some attention to the group, campaign and game as a whole no matter the distractions at hand.  Do you see what I mean?  There’s the involvement in the various things going on at the table, and then there’s the overall pace and mood of the game session and the portion of the campaign going on in that session.  The job is to allow for a little of all of it, but not at the expense of the campaign and game as a whole.  It’s okay to let things go for a bit, but as a DM, you should always be guiding the group through the story and keeping everybody involved.  You have to set the proper pace to help keep everybody focused.

That’s where the experience comes in, and that’s what new DMs must learn.  Like I said, it’s not that tough.  You just have to be paying a little attention to everything going on at the table.  If I can do it, anybody can.

I hope this helps some of you gamer folks out there.  If this can help a group out there improve their game sessions and overall experience, then I’m glad I shared my thoughts on excitement and pacing.

Thanks for giving this a read.  If you liked it, please click that like button to let me know.  If you have something to say or have a question, leave it in the comment section or send me a message.  I’ll be very happy to talk to you.  A conversation is always better than a monologue 🙂

Type to you later.

Drive-By Blogging

I thought I would swing by and say, “Hi.”

Hi!

So… I’ve got a couple of Game Night posts brewing, but I haven’t gotten them finished just yet.  I’ve got a couple more tabletop gaming topics that I thought were worth discussing.  Those should be along shortly.

We have not had any actual game nights since my last post, either.  There’s been a mishmash of life events that’s kept one player or another in the group from being able to join us on our designated night. In deference to that, we simply have not had a game night since session 16.  While we have added a fourth player to the group, I have not felt like we could get away with having a “pocket character” with the other three for a night.  Things are going on in the game that need “all hands on deck” right now, and I don’t want anyone to miss any of it.

So, we all suffer…  O_o

Time to get busy, I guess.  The holidays are coming.  With my family and I, that’s always a little busy.  The obvious things like Christmas shopping and such are beginning to happen.  Also, now that Texas has been taken out of the oven, there are things to do around the house that the raging summer heat makes… difficult.  The weekends are now pretty active until June when the heat of summer comes back.

With the busier weekends, most of my writing, including my D&D campaign stuff, gets done during the week.  I also work full time.  So, that leaves me a few hours or less each weeknight to get things done (Unless y’all wanna pay me to write full time 🙂 ).  I have to be ready for game night.  And then there’s this here blog thingy.  Plus, I’m easily distracted and/or sometimes just tired from the day job.

Anyway, I didn’t want to neglect the blog thingy and wanted to let you know there’s more coming ASAP.  I hope you’re all doing well.  I’m doing okay.

As always, don’t forget to click the like button if you like what you’ve read here.  If you got a question or comment, by all means put it up here for me.  I’m always happy to have a conversation.  Thanks for hanging with me.

Type to you later 😉