Saturday, January 26, 2013

Stealing a Ship (Actual Gaming Recap)

Well, as part of my hope of being a better gaming blogger, I thought I'd share my own real-life experiences running a game, which for those of you who read this blog know is Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition.  You'll also know that it isn't my favorite game, but it is a good game and my group loves it and we have fun, and as I say in the tag line, that's what it is about.

So, who's the cast?

  • Revan, a Tiefling bard
  • Rogar, a Dragonborn sorcerer/elementalist
  • Yvanna, an Eladrin wizard
  • Aukan, a Goliath warden
  • Komos, a Githerazi avenger
  • Skyhawk, a pixie ranger
So, what's the story?

Previously, Yvanna was kidnapped by a lich necromancer called the Icicle King who was running a club for vampires in the PC's home town of Grimfest.  The PC's traveled to the Demi-plane of Ice to rescue her, but the Icicle King told them that he had information about a demon named Astaroth who killed off most of Yvanna's family.

Checking in with their quasi-patron the bizarre and ethically dubious Benalkazar, the PC's learn of a ship that can travel the dimensions, even the layers of Hell called the Marauding Dreamer.  The Dreamer belongs to a band of Githyanki slavers, and at the end of the previous adventure the PC's have just busted in and are about to kill as many slavers as possible before stealing a ship.

In last night's adventure, the PC's basically take out a large band of Githyanki running about the halls of the hideout.  They then went and freed four captives of the slavers: a ice gnome named Nim (whom they had met before); a diva named Riya; a hippopotamus-like humanoid named Paava; and a human named Slow Bob.

Then, the PC's defeated the red dragon guarding the Marauding Dreamer and, with the help of the prisoners, took off with the ship.

Illustration by Max Hierro

So what worked?

Since we hadn't played since before Christmas, it was just good to get the group back together.  For whatever it is worth, the group played together as a team well, although there is still a bad tendency of certain players to tell others what to do on the grounds that it is the, shall we say, optimal response.  That sometimes hacks off the other players, who after all this time feel ready to run their own characters.

I myself really wanted to do two things, mostly as a way to get me to enjoy this game again.  First, to get more NPC's in the game with which the PC's can interact.  Riya and the others all have distinct personalities and backstories, and will also on a utility level form the crew of the ship to watch over the Dreamer when the PC's are not aboard.  I also wanted to change the feel of the campaign a little bit, to make it a bit more sci-fi and less dungeon-crawling.  I wanted to re-inject a feeling a wonder into the fantasy so that the players don't always just start breaking down my story into tactical encounters.

What didn't work?

The encounters tend to continue to be way too easy.  An encounter using the formula and monsters from the Monsters Vault versus PC's carefully tweaked from material from the entire rest of the 4E canon don't come out apples to apples.  I think that "n+2" is going to have to become the norm for a "typical" encounter, or I'm going to have to start tweaking the environments to add an edge to the monster's side.

There's also still an issue about the strikers.  One PC, the githerazi avenger, doled out 160 points of damage in a single regular-action-plus-action-point barrage that he referred to joking as it "Nova Blast."  The sorcerer regularly does half that amount without trying, and the ranger is right behind.  When that happens, I hear the wizard start making snarky comments about just casting Magic Missile and moving onto the next person, and the warden makes self-depreciating statements about what they add to the team.

I think the answer is to find ways to highlight the other players' roles, either in or out of combat.

Anyways, as always, comments are welcome.

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