Monday, January 25, 2016

Friday night game recap: the end of (my) D&D campaign

I'm I had decided this would be the last time I would run 5E for the gaming group.  That meant they had to take out the last gang in Grimfest, the Parliament of Bone.  It also meant I needed as GM to do two things: have it go out with a bang, and navigate ten players (as it turns out, I only had nine).

So I came up with a plan, one I will admit made the game session seem more like a gaming convention than a typical home-based RPG session, but I had a big challenge.

First, I asked one of the players to co-GM for me.  Rob S. (not to be confused with me) had been running a mini-D&D game with his wife Rachel for a few months, so he had learned the tricks of the trade.  Then I devised a series of linked scenarios through which the PC's would move in two groups.

Scenario A had the PC's protecting lizardmen children (they had befriended the tribe awhile back, and the lizardmen were frequent NPC's) from an attack from the Parliament.  Succeed at the group would get a scroll of protection from undead.

Scenario B had the Parliament attacking the brewery the PC's had built in Grimfest in hopes of destroying the first batch of booze the PC's had created. Save both batches and the group gets a potion of hill giant stretch.  Save only one and the group gets a scroll of mage armor.

The PC's divided their eight members into two groups of four, and each group went through scenarios A and B both, with Rob S. running B, and I running A.  In the first rounds both group managed to win both scenarios, although one group only saved one batch of booze.

Then we had a bit of a roleplaying interlude in which a lieutenant in the Parliament of Bone comes to PC's to negotiate save passage from himself out of Grimfest in return for telling the group Marcellus' master plan.  The group agrees and learns the Marcellus has turned himself into a vampire and will be creating a whole new aristocracy of vampires in the city.  The lieutenant tells the PC's where to find Marcellus' tomb and then departs.  True to form, Sign the assassin escorts the lieutenant out of town, kills him once they are alone, and then makes it look like bears did it (a stunt she pulled on the very first session of the campaign).

So the group divides up in half again.  One half with launch a frontal assault on Marcellus' lair in an attempt to draw off as many of its inhabitants (Scenario C).  The other will sneak in the back, so to speak, and destroy Marcellus' tomb (Scenario D).  If the PC's succeed in Scenario C, they will automatically get a surprise round in the final boss fight.  If they succeed in Scenario D, it will have a significant impact on the end of the story.

At this point, I think it would be fair to say that everyone in the gaming group believes that they made a mistake.  The group in Scenario C had both "divine" PC's, a paladin and a cleric, and one of the secondary healers, a druid.  As a result, the group sailed through Scenario C thanks to a lot of uses of the ability Turn Undead, which is a heck of a lot more powerful in 5E than in earlier editions, since it is a Wisdom saving throw to resist it, rather than based on hit dice.  Add to that the wizard as the fourth PC in the group (meaning their "nuclear option"), and they were done in mere minutes.

The PC's stroll through Marcellus' front door.
The group in Scenario D, on the other hand, had a couple of close-in damage dealers (a fighter and a rogue), the other secondary healer (a bard), and a warlock.  This sub-group had a really difficult time in the encounter, especially dealing with the zombie beholder.  Some of the players chewed me out for how difficult the encounter was, but I pointed out that Scenario C had the exact same monster line-up, and that a lot of it came down to party composition.

In the end, the group hit the one-hour time limit I had set for each scenario, so it was a failure.

A long, difficult encounter. 
The group rolled into the final encounter on a mixed note, but felt good about getting the drop on Marcellus and his two thrall sidekicks.  It turns out that was all they needed.  The wizard dropped a twinned fireball on the trio (failed saves all around!).  The warlock tagged the vampire with chill touch, which does nominal damage but shuts down an undead's regenerative abilities for one round (surprisingly effective).  The cleric cast sunlight on a terrain feature in the area, and the paladin and assassin ran in and ground down the vampire's hit points to zero.  Normally a vampire would then turn into mist and slink back to the tomb, but on the vampire's first action in normal initiative order his mist form took 20 points of damage from the sunlight and that's that.  The other PC's had targetted the vampire spawn, so the entire encounter was over by the end of one turn.

An NPC hireling's stats written down on the back of a paper plate.
Ending my campaign on a big bang went pretty well.  We had a bit of a denouement at the end where everyone talked about what their PC's would do after liberating Grimfest and installing a new government (made up of members of the thieves' guild, but it was still an improvement).  The other Rob is strongly considering taking over the game and continuing to run it with the same PC's, which the group was enthusiastic about, and I'm glad to take a break and just play for a while. 

The victorious group

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