February 27, 2010

Lessons of D&D

It went well. A summary of the adventure is on the campaign's blog record: Part One, Part Two, Part Three.

Of course, it could have gone better. The biggest challenge to running a long weekend game was the difficulty of improvisation in DMing. I had only certain encounters prepared (most of which turned out to be too easy), so I had to put the story on rails to a certain extent. I used the same strategy seen in Mass Effect or Dragon Age in which the player is given a few tasks and can complete them in any order (with special events happening in between).

Characters were the best and the worst part of this module. The bit characters (the alchemist, the gnome dungeon keeper) were excellent and fun to play, but the more nuanced characters couldn't be developed or revealed naturally. The players weren't interested in rambling conversation, and the to-the-point conversation could only carry so much characterization in it. My biggest problem was with my villain. It wasn't clear that he was the bad guy from the start. I was counting on my players asking certain questions and getting a big reveal, but they didn't. That's my fault, not theirs.

I also had several encounters that existed mostly to provide interesting combat. When my players decided to engage their enemies cleverly (using Bluff or something), I was often not entirely sure of what to do. I improvised decently, sometimes letting the players off and sometimes driving towards a fight, but it was a lost opportunity. I could have used these encounters to build the wider story.

I'd be interested in carrying on with this campaign, hopefully on a weekly format. I think that if I handled it a few encounters at a time, the game could go in a lot more interesting directions.

February 18, 2010

Dungon Master

In two days I'll be DMing my first game of Dungeons and Dragons! I've been playing 4th edition for some time, and I get one weekend to see what the other side of the screen is like.

Creating a weekend adventure has been an interesting and unique design challenge. I'm trying to create a somewhat story-centric adventure, and making sure that things make sense has been difficult. I'm also trying to figure out how to offer the feeling of freedom while keeping the total number of story branches contained (I don't have much time to revise the course of the story on-the-fly). I've already railroaded my players somewhat by requiring no mercenary or evil characters, essentially demanding that they act out of the goodness of their hearts.

Still, I'm pretty confident that it will turn out all right. I'm very much looking forward to roleplaying some of my NPCs. I think my players will appreciate the characters I've dreamt up.