The First Encounter

Last night was the first game with my new party. It was composed primarily of my friends (okay, I can deal with that), and nearly all of them (with one exception), were newbies. Slightly more difficult, but I can take it. And there are 8 of them. Oof.
To impress upon them the essence that is DnD, I made a short and sweet 3 encounter adventure, where the dwarven clan of Ashkoth tasks the party with clearing out a kobold stronghold that had been attacking their caravans.

Creating characters went by fairly smoothly: I decided that the best way to get everyone a character they felt attached to was to walk them step by step through the character creation process, except instead of forcing tons of rules and jargon like “3d6” and “that wouldn’t hurt a Flumph”, I decided to just briefly outline what everything did, and then have them choose (e.g. this attack deals less damage, but will slow down enemies). However, when it came to backstory, results became more than mixed. Responses to “you need a backstory” ranged from a 2 page typed response to “what?”, coupled with a look of incredulity.

 

At this point, the party’s composition is:

  • Goliath Fighter NG
  • Half-Elf Warlock NE
  • Human Bard CG (the lone experienced player)
  • Deva Wizard (alignment not stated)
  • Eladrin Avenger (alignment not stated)
  • Razorclaw Shifter Rogue CN
  • Half-Elf Ranger (alignment not stated)
  • Razorclaw Shifter Druid CN

Due to time constraints, I did not have my players come up with names when we made their characters, planning on having them come up with them on the day of the first session.

The first session comes, and it turns out only five people can show up. Well that’s too bad, the dungeon was built for 8 people. Oh well.

Those that do show up are the Fighter, Warlock, Bard, Rogue, and Druid, now named Tyroan, Etha, Masreal, Tasest, and Moonfury respectively. Because I was loathe to change the structure of the adventure, I made the mistake of assigning the missing players’ characters to other players present. This slowed down play a lot.

When it came to the hook, I played a dwarf with a Yiddish accent, to much laughter all around the table. So far so good. The players then asked for insight checks without my even needing to prompt them (okay, to be fair they said “I think he’s lying. How can I tell?”, but hey), and found that the dwarf was withholding the information that the Ashkoth clan also had a vested interest in obtaining the land that the kobolds were sitting on for mining purposes. This launched a 15 minute argument that ranged from “how much should we charge” to “let’s betray the dwarves”, to “let’s set up a long term arrangement to provide protection for that land in exchange for gold”. In the end, I pushed them along and said we would resolve the issue later. The players bought the hook.

The first encounter consisted of 3 parts, in a hope to get the strikers a chance to shine by forcing them to quickly dispatch solitary targets before they could call for help. While the players managed to do this with ease, the rounds began dragging on, and these were fights primarily featuring minions! By the time we got to the second encounter, I decided to scrap the extra characters, and to instead rule that if a character died, he would have extra lives equal to the number of players not in the adventure (It is worth noting that the experienced player was able to take control of the Deva Wizard in  addition to his own character, and kept using him for the rest of the adventure). Additionally, I reformatted initiative to start with the highest role and then proceed clockwise, something which saved far more time than I thought it would. Finally, I implemented a rule that each player had 5 seconds to make up his or her mind about a move, which would be coupled with a 1- minute tactical discussion before every encounter.

The first two encounters over and done with, the players came upon the final encounter, featuring a dragon. Immediately, Etha and Tasest claim it as their pet. In response, I have the dragon roar in their face, and combat ensues. Several turns later, the dragon has been subdued when its mother flies in and pins it to the ground, thanking the players for their assistance in finding her unruly son. As a compromise, I left the suggestion that perhaps the dragon would eventually donate an egg or two to the party. Maybe.

As an embedded hook in the adventure, I hinted that the kobolds were speaking Albinan (my world’s version of Common) as opposed to Draconic. Amazingly enough, the players went through with this and immediately demanded of the dwarf that he explain what was happening (I quickly made up that he had had no idea that there was a dragon; the dragon must have taken charge after an elven nationalist group left the kobolds alone).

 

In summary:

  • Circular initiative is a must
  • Never have players double up
  • Cellphones are allowed, but no playing Fruit Ninja
  • The five second rule is awesome
  • Dragons are not pets

It seems like my players are excited for next time! I can only hope they stay that way after next time.

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