Sunday, June 26, 2011

Beware the man in red...

...He will bring death and destruction too all he is with. The players in my group have heard this or another form of the prophesy of the man in red who will appear at some point and bring doom with him. I have really only mentioned it in a few spots but they were telling spots.

The "High Septarch of Fallcrest" spoke of the man in red after he interrogated a captured kobold the party had captured. Some of the party talked to a Bronze Dragon while in the town of Gorbizabad while searching for the Slaying Stone hidden there. He also said to the departing group that they would encounter the Man in Red.

Seeing as how some of those party members are now dead and none of the current members know of the three's encounter with the Dragon they really do not know. Spoiler: One of them is still alive, is it the monk or the cleric? Spoilers!

That brings us to yesterdays game, and well to be honest the end of two sessions ago and the last weeks free RPG Day run. The party is in Harkenwold fighting the Iron Circle and they defeated a Dark Adept, Geoffrey the Porter and now fellow adventurer (he was a hireling who has shed his wages for a share in the groups fun) asked for a red surcoat from the adept. After some words with the group he gets the item and puts it on and makes the comment, "Red is the new style, It's cool"

To be totally honest I was struggling with, and still am, who this man is red is. I do not care if my party reads this and they totally think I am being deceptive that is fine. I like a little paranoia at the table from time to time. Thorm's player is totally suspicious and it is a hoot! (10 year old paranoia is funny) No I am not evil.

When they group was asking about the loot off the bodies and I saw Red Surcoat I was like "Geoffrey wants one" I wanted to have a little fun. He had been pulled and coxed into the battle by the Druid Thorm and it made him feel excited. So he all but begged for that outfit. I am now making comments as him about red is cool and giggling about it, my players dislike when I giggle it means I am up to no good.

Well they fought a Skeletal Mage in an old Eladrin sanctuary and found the body of one of their comrades who disappeared fighting Orcs. Geoffrey took a lightning bolt to the chest and they all thought "oh no the minion is dead" only to find out he was playing dead and he got up and helped them fight the mage and his skeleton troops only to take a sword from the "pointy" end and apparently take no damage. When he was offered healing he said "no thanks a good nights rest does the body good"

They seal themselves into the mages lair and rest, Upon waking in the morning they find that some bones of a dragon laying on a table were now animated but Thorm has a waking Dream and the Raven Queen tells him that he owes her for his life and that they must spare the Dracolich because it has work to do. He also notices that the same divine glow surrounding her is surrounding Geoffrey!

Now this is great, Thorm is a 10 year old player and he has been playing D&D for a half a year or so during encounters and he asked to play in my campaign. I agreed, he is also the same player who was killed via player actions after he ran off from the group a few months back. I have been trying to add in more roleplaying that combat to spice things up and to get him out of the one encounter after another mode. When I took him away from the table to talk to him as the Raven Queen about all of this it was special for him. He was also chomping at the bit too tell the rest of the party.

I was having fun because he was exploring his boundary's as a roleplayer with what he could and could not do, he wanted to make insight and perception checks to look at him. I told him he did not need to he just needed to tell me what he was looking for. It did take a few min for us to talk with him about all the little bits of information once he decided to talk to the other members of the party about Geoffrey and his suspicions about him being the man in red.

Right now things are fine, Geoffrey appears to be immortal as Thorm has dubbed it (love it) and they have gone off to war with him. Thorm keeps boosting the ego of Geoffrey so is that a good thing or a bad thing, hey also, I never did say he was a Human Man in Red now did I?

Like I said paranoia is cool

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Two for one Day: Table Mechanics - Initiative Order

Table Mechanics:
I have done a lot with tracking things on paper, the chessex battlemat and even a white board and a flip chart. The initiative tacker pictured here came from the Fortune Cards: Shadow Over Nentir Vale from Wizards of the Coast.

I just lay them out (in the order of initiative) with the player/character name and the initiative order and  other defense notes on it. Then as we go along during the turn I move the card in and out of its place to note where we are at in the order.

It seems so simple but I tell you that since I started to use this method I have not really had to tell people to pay attention to the order and they are ready with their turn right away. I have the card in sleeves so I can use a wet erase marker on them. I found any color other than black works well.

I will also be handing this over one of the players to keep track of now that we have it established as a table mechanic.

Another change to happen is the institution of the party leader role. Not just the character type but I have placed a player in this role to keep the party in order and so that the group actually has someone to say yea or nay on things. Prior to this we had issues with the Druid running off and getting beat down by Goblins and killed by the party's wizard or bickering about the direction to head in. Not a new mechanic but something needed to be done, frankly we do not even do that in my normal group I play in. It is mob rule at that table with taking the path the the most to argue for it. Some times the simplest things work

Table Mechanics: Will be a feature I do detailing things I use at the game table.


So a lot has happened since the last post. I removed a party member from the game. D&D Encounters is going well and I am hooked on HBO's Game of Thrones.

So the rescue mission happened, the adventure was called: The Musician, the Gardener and the Bear and some of the players who were in attendance had new characters. I introduced the Porter Geoffrey who worked for the ranger to carry her arrows.

The adventure I ran was one I had done before and it was not a difficult one to run, it was the broken tower from Dungeon Delves. It seemed like the easiest and quickest way to take a break from the Slaying Stone and insert it into the game as a quick way to get the players on a rescue mission. After some difficulties trying to get the group together they were off.

The difficulties did not end there though, have you ever had the moment were you are trying to get people ready for the encounter and people are talking over each other on what they want to do? So in Encounter 2 of the Broken tower is the floor that collapses, the ranger wants to run across it and moves midway and I back the player up. Here is where the confusion begins, he gets upset I did this and thinks I am setting him up. I had him step out on the first square and nothing happens and then onto the 2nd square and then it hits. Did I play it wrong? Here is the snippet from the adventure.

Unstable Floor: The 20-by-20-foot center of the room sags dangerously. The entire section collapses
under 20 pounds or more, dropping to area 1 below. Those on the unstable area when it collapses are attacked (+5 vs. Reflex); on a hit they fall 20 feet to the lower area (2d10 damage). On a miss, the character manages to move back to the safe square he or she entered from. Any character who is not  adjacent to a safe square when the floor collapses is automatically hit.
If the floor does collapse, mark the hole by placing two black 2×4 tiles in the center of the room.

After it is all said and done, it might have been played wrong. being on the second square means you are not on a square adjacent to a safe one so you are automatically hit. That is how I ruled it. What I did end up doing was collapsing the whole floor section only because I wanted it out of the way since I knew none of the other players would fall for it. The only real problem was that it involved the player for the Ranger.

Rather than make for the stairs he wanted to be different and try to climb the wall back up. I was flipping through the rule book as the athletics check was done, failed by more than 5? yep so turn ends and next in the initiative order. Well we were not done, he wanted to use his standard action to move up the stairs. So I quoted the rule, got an eye roll and a that is stupid comment (memory is faulty with the stupid comment) and he got up from the table when we moved to the next in order.

Several other events happened, a goblin was knocked down the hole by the bard and landed next to the ranger, since he did not have a melee weapon and did not want to provoke an OA (Opportunity Action) he moved away then was upset that the prone target now had cover for being prone. So he moved up the stairs and then he wanted to shoot at a prone target from up high thinking he would get an advantage. It did not work that way, but I was also trying to look up range penalties for being 20ft high and 20 feet away totally confusing 20ft for 20 squares.

The player then mutters I seem to always seem to be looking up rules for his character and I loose it in my head. Seriously? Now he has stated he was joking with those side comments, joking or not, I did not take it like that. Those comments were exactly what caused the Near TPK the week prior when he "joked" Frank is a killer DM. Only this time I did not lash out and become the killer DM though I might have felt better had I done so. I explained my confusion and even that was not good enough judging by the email I got later.

I still ruled for cover, at level two for a ranger a -2 is hardly a concern. I bring these up because out of all the people at the table I think this player did not understand that a Dungeon Master is the last word on a rule and in the end if it is a wrong call we fix it later. He has said he was afraid of telling me a rule was wrong and that I might take it the wrong way.

Here is what I take the wrong way, when you push back when I am sure the rule is right. When I quote it out of the book it is not me trying to do you wrong. It is not my fault as a dungeon master when you feel like you are not accomplishing anything. I want you to have fun I really do but not everyone is going to shine every week. If he is reading this take that too heart.

After that night I felt kind of bad he said that comment, and maybe I was picking on him. I felt I might have to many problems with his push backs as a player to effectively be a DM for him. I sent him a message that I wanted to talk with him about it. He sent me an email with a round by round account of that above summary of some of the problems. I wanted to talk to him face to face, not in an email, not on the phone. In person to make it personal not via text or even voice on the phone.

So I took that open letter and went for it. Explained everything and made the mistake of thinking he would get it even if I told him I had other players who had done similar things or expressed the same issues like feeling frustrated that they were not accomplishing anything. I received a news flash, he was a unique individual. It was disrespectful of me too compare him to other people. Consider this blog post tame to the one you could have gotten.

Here is my final email to him.

I am going to just say I am not going to be able to be your DM anymore. We can go around and around with this email and honestly I do not think I should say anymore.

I have only ever kicked one person out of my game, to this day I feel bad about it and I talked to my friend Kevin I would like to join us who would bring a great roleplaying element to the table and I bring this up because of him asking me if the one person I ever kicked from my game showed up in the store asking to play would I let him? I said yes.

This player was the second. Do I miss him at the table? I think so, yes I do. Honestly if I could look past his comments at the table he would be welcomed back but I think the result is better. We are making progress in the game sessions. If he came to me in person not via a message and asked to talk I would give him the time of day to explain things even better than just words can do. If he asked to play again, we would have to see how the conversation went that lead to that.

About Me

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I am Regional Coordinator for the Great Lakes Region for D&D Adventurers League. Worked for Best Buy as a Project Team Specialist were I did store remodels, support Vendor displays and set merchandising standards for the stores in the Chicago market. He also enjoys playing games (PC, Console, Board Games, RPGs and Miniature Skirmish Games), reading, watching movies and listening to music.