The most important thing is that Qelline, repeatedly, pointed out that “Thundertree is a dangerous place.” She begged them to stay away. She pleaded with them. In doing so she met two objectives. The party knew where they needed to go to advance their main questline. She also convinced them they were not ready yet. The Accidental Heroes took the hint and set out to deal with some of the side quests first.
Tonight’s big challenge then presented itself. As the group set out towards Conyberry in the East, I had to deal with Random Encounters. I’d never used them till now and, this was my first time running theatre of the mind.
I brought up a map of the sword coast and placed a token which I let the players move around. I explained they could move 3 hexes each morning and 3 hexes each afternoon and, for each part of the day I rolled on the random encounters table.
As the party settled in for the second evening, Durin, who took the first watch, heard the sound of flapping wings amongst the trees. Bravely (or perhaps foolishly) Durin set out to investigate the noises and a horde of Stirges set upon him. They only have 2 hit points each but the stirges outnumbered Durin 8 to 1 and, as a result, I needed to approach the combat a little differently. Sure, I could roll for each attack but, for the other players, this is a pain to watch. I grouped up the stirges and for each round that Durin took, I just announced that he had taken an amount of damage which I considered reasonable.
Tip time. Do not make your players watch whilst you roll dice endlessly!
The stirges drained much of the life from Durin but he managed to cry out in anguish at which point the rest of the party came to his aid. I still chose not to run this as a traditional encounter but continued to treat the swarm of Stirges as a single entity. Look for opportunties like this. Huge combats with lots of NPCs aren’t fun and you can always find ways to make the combat shorter, and more cinematic.
I’d be interested in your take on a judgement call I made here – What happens if, whist resting, your party is attacked? The party spend the night watching the shadows. I gave them the benefits of a short rest but didn’t give them their spell slots back.
Conyberry and the Banshee
On arriving in Conyberry I was pleased to see that the party have been taking better notes since our talk last week and, without reminder, they were quite respectful to Agatha when she appeared. In addition, Lucius remembered that she was open to bribery and that Garaele had provided them with a silver comb to act as a gift.
Speaking in a sibilant hiss I offered my instruction “Ask your question, a solitary question, and I will answer!”
I was ever so slightly disappointed in what happened next but, knowing my friends, not surprised. They asked Agatha about Bowgentle’s Spellbook. Still, the roleplaying was good, and I could see they were making a better effort at thinking through puzzles.
At this point I decided to reward them and, amongst the ruins, they found their first magical item, a +1 Sword which they could have found if they had searched the trench beneath Tresendar Manor.
Remember. It’s your story and your world. It’s OK to move things around a little. Although this isn’t the perfect weapon for him, Corlan took the sword, Talon. As you’ll come to find out in a later post…this will pay dividends.
Agatha gave them one final tip before she vanished. “Speaking of books, young man, why don’t you ask the pretty Garaele about “Eireyeth var altarach deis”. I had to find a way to put Lucius’ personal goal back on the agenda.
The session ended with another random encounter with four Orcs on the road to Wyvern Tor. Lucius, keen to try a new tactic, charged into the fray and, yelling “Evaw Red Nuht” as he ran, cast Thunderwave on the group of enemies. The intended outcome was clear. He expected the Orcs to fly off in different directions and die. Instead, he shoved the Orcs backwards by 10 feet and this left him stood amongst them as their turn on the initiative tracker came round. As the session finished, Durin pulled Lucius back to his feet and the group levelled up to 3.
Amidst the corpses of the Orcs they found this. The plot thickens!
Not my typical scratchpad but more a collection of tips from this particular post.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your players. I did and this session was clearly an improvement. I saw greater problem-solving attitudes and more willing to talk to NPCs rather than charging in and attacking.
Things will go wrong. It doesn’t matter how good you are. Accept it, learn from it, perhaps take stock on how to proceed next. But don’t beat yourself up about it.
If your players are burning bridges and missing out on a lot of clues, you have to learn to live with it. It’s OK to accept that some mysteries are not meant to be solved. You don’t need to hold their hands or force the information down their throat. However, as a counterpoint, it’s also OK to have a chat with them about it and rejig the plot a little to keep things moving.
If your players miss out on a special item there is nothing wrong in introducing this in another way later on. Magic items are what makes your party feel special. Hand them out carefully, but do hand them out.
Make little handouts for your players. It took me about 5 minutes and a quick Google Search to convert Lucius’ profile image to a sketch and another few minutes to put that over a parchment background I found on the internet. If you’re actually making handouts, invest in a stack of A4 Parchment from Amazon.