Session 04 – When the dice don’t tell the story
Posted On July 3, 2020
WARNING. THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR WIZARDS OF THE COAST’S “LOST MINE OF PHANDELVER” INCLUDED IN THE DUNGEONS & DRAGONS 5th EDITION STARTER SET
It’s been a busy week. We did run through session 04, and I learned a lot from it, but it felt like one of the more clunky evenings. I went away feeling unsatisfied. I didn’t get a chance to update the diary though and, for those that are following along*, I’m sorry.
Last week’s session ended as the Redbrand Ruffians outside the Sleeping Giant Inn charged into the fray. Session 04 picked up as the fight began and we rolled initiative. I’ve started thinking more about how I end each evening and, although cliffhangers can become tiresome, my feeling is that it’s leaving the group ending the night wanting more, as opposed to just feeling tired.
The fight itself, was less than perfect – for two reasons.
The party recently rose to level 2 and I wanted to ramp up the difficulty but the fight was drawn out for several rounds when I couldn’t roll higher than a 7. It was quite thematic – the drunk Redbrand’s would not really be effective fighters – but it felt awkward. I threw in more reinforcements in an attempt to make the combat meaningful but my dice continued to fail me.
As more of the Redbrand’s joined the battle, one of my party asked, “Do I get some sort of bonus for flanking?”The combat ground to a halt as we all started looking for a rule that wasn’t there. This inevitably led to Google and, from there, to Optional Rule: Flanking on pg 251 of the DMG, a book I’d only received 4 days earlier.
This fight…was TOO DAMN LONG!!!
So what could I have done differently?
- I roll behind the screen. I think this is essential and it deserves an article by itself but, to summarise, this fight would have worked better if I’d fudged my roles a little and done some more damage to the party. At this point, I wouldn’t have needed to add unnecessary reinforcements. I’m going to put this down as Rule 6 – Roll your dice in private and learn when to fudge your rolls.
- Let me also provide a tip for newer dungeon masters; in your Session 0 you need to establish which books you will allow rules from. I should have specifically said, “I will allow standard rules, races and backgrounds from the Player’s Handbook only”. I could have (should have) ignored the optional rule completely.
With the battle complete I made an error and, to this day, I have no idea if it was a good thing or a bad thing. As the last ruffian headed toward the inn to call reinforcements the group gave chase. I described the veritable gang of hooligans and scoundrels inside. This was my party’s cue to run. They decided to intimidate the gang.
Now, let me be clear about this. The LMoP module calls for 4 Redbrand Ruffians here but I’d sent 6 at them already. I was now presenting them with 15 more. I found myself hitting the bottom of the hole I’d dug for myself and I just kept going. The party’s more experienced player stepped inside and tried to broker a deal but the whole scene was ridiculous in hindsight. After the session ended he explained his fall back plan was to cast Thunderwave. I sat there, glad it hadn’t come to that, knowing that to cast that spell would have been suicide.
After some more roleplay back at the Stonehill Inn, our party headed out the following morning, only to find themselves facing an angry mob and a child shouting, “There’s the one that broke into the Chapel!” as he pointed at Tsetung.
A session dominated by a single combat mainly but there were some key events.
- The party had their first encounters with the Redbrand but came no closer to finding Gundren.
- The group met the enigmatic Gabriella, my beautiful homebrew bard who will become a recurring character very soon.
- I rectified last weeks mistake as the party met with Sildar in the Stonehill Inn. Sildar reminded Durin that he had two other cousins, Nundro and Tharden. He also offered the party a reward if they managed to find Lord Iarno Albrek.
- Lucius established himself as being motivated almost exclusively by personal reward. Corlan has deadly business to settle with the Redbrand thugs.
- The Redbrand in the Sleeping Giant has made his instructions to Lucius very clear. Next time they meet they’ll speak only with weapons.
- The Accidental Heroes might just be about to be arrested. And they’re going to find themselves being toyed with.
- The party needs to understand that they cannot win every fight and that, sometimes, prudence is the better part of valour.
- I have another mistake to fix. The Redbrand are not a credible threat at the moment.
*And this is a huge surprise to me also but, looking at the statistics, some of you are actually following along.