|Adventure: The Erstwhile Apprentice
||[Jan. 27th, 2007|01:49 am]
Jen's Sweetie and Code Poet
As posted by gaeming, I DM'd an AD&D game (set in the Forgotten Realms) this evening. I decided it would be fun to post my thoughts on the session here.
You can download my adventure notes, if you'd like to follow along at home.
Our cast of characters:
3rd day of Ches (March), 1369 DR.
The party meets with Marcus the Younger and agree to recover his stolen possessions from his runaway apprentice. His provides them with horses and sends them on their way with a promise of a hefty sum of gold upon their return.
They travel uneventfully until nightfall (~5 hours) and the more experienced members quibble with the junior ones over how best to stand watch.
4th day of Ches, 1369 DR.
They reach Archtassel (a small one-road, one-inn town) around noon. They realize that their quarry (who is traveling much more slowly with a caravan) is nearby -- Marcus contacted them the previous night with an update on his location.
They push on until evening, with Plick riding point (so the caravan isn't alarmed by an armed band rapidly approaching from behind.) Once they spot them, they fall back and tail them at a distance until they make camp. They debate how best to approach the problem (5 guards and the young mage, armed with an array of magical devices that he stole from his master).
It is decided to try diplomacy first. Plick approaches the camp alone and bluffs his way in to talk to Tolin (the apprentice). He yells for the guards, who send him packing (The apprentice is a paying customer after all).
They decide to try intimidation (they don't want to risk direct confrontation with the dwarf. Which is wise, she would have done some serious harm to them.)
They light many torches in the woods off the road (~60' from the encampment) and send Plick and Doreth in to "negotiate". The merchant, who has no interest in fighting when he can just be rid of Tolin, gives in without much effort ("A fugitive? Bah, take him. He's not my problem.").
When they go to apprehend him, his tent is empty. The party is quite puzzled by this (I was cackling with glee). They search the encampment looking for traces of him (possibly invisible), but find nothing. No tracks. No signs. Just vanished.
Before they leave (in a move that was half-luck and half-brilliance), they pay the merchant to apprehend Tolin should he reappear. Bhone remains hidden in the woods (now up a tree) waiting for his chance. The rest of the party heads back to camp.
10pm rolls around and Marcus reports that Tolin is somehow masked to his Scrying. This gives the spellcasters in the party the hint to realize that he is hidden in a pocket dimension created with rope trick.
Bhone, however, is way ahead of them. Four hours pass quietly, when the spell ends and Tolin emerges from his hiding place. Tired of fooling around, he calmly puts an arrow in him with his longbow. The apprentice knocks out one of the guards with sleep and then dives under the wagon with Neema for cover.
It is too late. When struck, he cried out and alerted the other patrolling guard, who woke his sleeping friend and apprehended the boy.
The party waltzed in, paid off the merchant, and took custody of the pair.
5th day of Ches, 1369 DR
They travel without incident. Tolin is bound, to discourage him from casting spells to escape. They have a long conversation about his options and suggest that he return to his master. Having no real choice ("Is the whole world like this? I was better off washing dishes..."), he agrees.
6th day of Ches, 1369 DR
They arrive without incident and return the apprentice to his master. Plick grudgingly returns all of the items that they recovered ("He won't notice if they got 'lost' on the way back right?").
I vastly underestimated the party's capability to do harm to their enemies.
My "fledgling gryphon" was dropped by a few arrows from range.
This encounter was tough to engineer. I had several factors working against me:
(1) I wanted an "interesting" encounter. I'm tired of goblins and brigands. It's really fun to act out a galumphing gryphon shrieking and charging across the field.
(2) It's hard to balance an encounter for beginning characters. Too much, and they get killed in seconds. Too little and they sweep through it.
(3) Thus, I made the gryphon wounded (1/4 remaining hp), young (half normal stats), and unable to fly. If I did it again, I'd probably retain his flying ability to give them less time to pelt it with arrows for free. My wife suggested that an angry mother gryphon should have shown up and chased them all the way to Arabel, which I liked even better :).
I vastly underestimated the party's willingness to do harm to their enemies.
When I created Tolin and Neema, I had envisioned a frightened couple fleeing from their (perceived) oppressor. Tolin is just a foolish boy and not really a threat to a group of armed adventurers. I neglected to inform the party of this...
His bluster was far more effective than I had thought. When he threatened Plick with his holster of wands ("I wouldn't mess with us, if I were you."), he upped the stakes and nearly lost his life in the process.
At first I was a little horrified at the directness of their approach, but as I thought more about it from Bhone's perspective, it totally made sense to pull the trigger:
(1) They were facing an unknown threat. They didn't know he was bluffing.
(2) Bhone is a half-orc barbarian from the wilds. He doesn't have the same set of standards as the rest of "civilized" humanity. He just picked the most direct route. ("Well, you said don't hurt him if you don't need to. We tried to be nice, now we need to. *sigh* Humans are so strange.")
(3) To be fair, he was potentially dangerous. Just not from a distance.
I really should have kept his threats in reserve (he could have just quivered in fear and called the guards). That might have changed their opinion to the "frightened puppy" that he mostly was. It would have made a direct confrontation much more interesting (his wand threat could introduce a stalemate at that point and we could have continued on a little further).
Plick and Bhone really dominated the game play.
They did a wonderful job, and I think everyone had fun, but I need to provide opportunities for everyone to shine.
The adventure depended too much on a "gimmick".
Once they managed to catch up to Tolin, the game was over. They outsmarted me at several points and there wasn't anything left to do (other than Deus Ex Machina, which would have been totally unfair. Sorry Tolin.)
If I had more practice, I might have come up with a good complication on the fly. Maybe he had the "Still Spell" feat that would have allowed him to cast charm person on Khent while tied up. Maybe he could have pre-cast Protection from Missiles (although Bhone would have just shot the girl instead, to similar effect).
Traveling didn't give me enough time to develop the flavor for an area
It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I think my quick "tour of the realms" had the opposite effect. I wanted to give everyone a feel for the geography, but everything passed by so quickly that it all blended together.
I dodged all of Plick's attempts at a social solution
I thought about some of the social solutions, but I had already settled on the path the story was going to take. Some of this falls back to my previous point about a single "gimmick". Tolin was stubborn and wasn't going to be convinced with mere words. (In the original plot, I had him scripted to change his mind when the party rescued him from orcs. But, putting an arrow in him actually had a similar effect.)
I think this was the right choice to keep the adventure running a little longer, but it was a little unfair to structure the adventure in a way where Plick couldn't really achieve anything with his special skills (the outcome was fixed). I'll have to come up with a richer model for social "battles" in the future.
The party came up with some fantastic ideas to outwit me
Ok, enough dwelling on what didn't go so well. We had some really great moments in this game.
(1) Going over Phaeba's head to deal with her greedy (and cowardly) employer directly. This allowed them to recapture Tolin very quickly, because he had no remaining alies when he reappeared in the camp.
(2) Attacking from range. Encounter distances are much greater in the middle of farmland.
(3) Attacking from hiding. Tolin had no chance once Bhone start firing from the trees. He couldn't see his attacker and his magical arsenal all requires a visible opponent (and close range). His ace card -- sleep and charm magic -- was rendered totally useless.
(4) A good bluff. They made their party appear much larger than it was with the old "torches in the woods" trick.
All-in-all, I'd rate this a success. I have a much better feel for the party now. I had a great time and I think everyone else was entertained as well.
[Here is a scene that I hoped we'd get to, but did not.]
The party enters the Thunder Gap, just as a ominous storm clouds begin to gather. They need to hurry or they will miss their last chance to capture their target. They are pushing their horses hard and feel like they must be gaining on him when they hear a scream in the distance.
As they round a bend, they see their quarry being menaced by a small group of orcs. The predictable slaughter follows, as the party falls upon the foul creatures. Having dealt with the immediate threat, they turn to their unlikely rescuees.
Before they can act, lightning crashes down. Lightning is the Thunder Gaps is a serious matter. Everything is pretty exposed, so travelers can easily be struck (and entire wagons burnt to cinders) if they don't seek cover. Bhone (who knows a lot of wilderness lore), leads them to a cave.
It smells pretty bad. Like dead things.
[An aside: our previous game with D. involved an encounter with an angry bear in its cave. I thought this was a nice tribute to that and a good way to scare the hell out of my players. ("Uh. Do you hear something moving?")]
Thankfully, the cave is really empty. Shaken by his encounter and glad not to be dead (or worse), Tolin decides that he isn't quite ready to head out on his own and agrees to return with the party. Maybe washing dishes for his quirky master and living a quiet life in Blackfeather Bridge isn't so bad after all.
2007-01-28 04:31 am (UTC)
Yay for the DM!
*sigh* I miss D&D sometimes.