So summer is pretty much over now here in the UK as the evenings draw in rapidly, and temperatures start to fade. The kids are back at school after a great holiday period, so life has returned to the school/homework/sport/activity cycle!
During the holidays, I’ve been running my Weekly Game Night Challenge, so we’ve actually been playing a fair bit of D&D! Being on a week-night, sessions have typically been shorter, so we haven’t necessarily been getting through adventures at a much greater rate. However, we’ve all agreed that playing weekly is a major improvement in terms of continuity, and definitely much better than our stop-start efforts over the last year. As my daughter put it: “I can actually remember what we did last time!” :)
Now that we’re back in the grind, I very much doubt we can manage weekly, but I hope we can shoot for fortnightly sessions. If we can achieve this, I’ll be thrilled, and it would definitely be the icing on a very successful ‘Game Night Challenge’ cake!! The prep routine I’ve got into has been working well, so I’m confident I can cope.
The main topic of this post, however, is a DMing mistake I made at the end of the last session which I’ve been reflecting on quite a bit:
To set the scene, the party was in Fallcrest, having a rest after a successful mission sponsored by the Captain of the Town Guard, and preparing for an excursion to Thunderspire Mountain. Returning from an evening meal at the Blue Moon Alehouse, they found an intruder in their rooms at the Silver Unicorn. The Dark Creeper, leapt out the window onto a neighbouring roof, and scampered off. A frenetic chase across the rooftops ensued, followed by a vicious fight as the Dark Creeper brought his back-up (undead and gargolyes) into play.
Throughout this fast-moving and fun encounter, the kids were pretty focused on capturing the intruder so they could interrogate him; however in the meantime they had dealt him a considerable amount of damage. I therefore had him try and escape the combat, using his Zombie troops and the two Gargoyles to block the PCs from getting to him. They however, were not to be thwarted: Xyana, the Eladrin wizard who normally hangs at the back firing off ranged spells, fey-stepped past the rear-guards, took an Action Point to leap off a two-storey building onto the Dark Creeper… and killed him with the ‘falling’ damage … at which point he exploded into strands of Shadow (as they do …Killing Dark…)!!
Cue pandemonium! The kids (and my son particularly) were incensed, as they had been expecting the Dark Creeper to fall unconscious, at which point they could capture him! They felt I had cheated on their plans…; whereas I guess in my mind I had never been expecting them to capture him, so just went with the rules! I certainly hadn’t expected this reaction!
On reflection after the session, I guess I am a little disappointed with my handling of this situation – it was clear from the play leading up to the incident that the kids wanted to capture the Dark Creeper; however I was working on the assumption that he would either escape or be killed, and they would follow-up the encounter with some investigation around the town that would eventually enable them to track him down. Essentially, I thought they would see this as just leading into the next challenge… guess I was quite wrong!
Unfortunately, in the heat of play (in my defence we were running out of time and I was trying to hurry the session/combat to a conclusion…) I failed to be flexible enough to accommodate the players’ actions – especially given the cool cinematic lead up (with Xyana). If I’d thought a bit more quickly on my feet, there were a number of approaches I could have taken:
- Have the Dark Creeper mutter a few words just before he exploded – which would provide a clue as where to investigate next.
- The PCs could have discovered some clues in his gear
- Just waive the rules and let them capture him
I think I prefer the first option as the best balance, but by the time I realised this, it would have been a bit false to go back to it. Thankfully the session finished at this point, so I still have a chance to rectify the situation with option 2; I’m planning on having the PCs discover a gold signet ring which fell on the ground when the Dark Creeper vapourised. This ring is intended provide a clue to finding out the faction behind the intrusion, and potentially where their main base of operations in Fallcrest is located.
- Definitely look at having more flexibility at the table to change things based on character actions! If the PCs do something cool, reward it, don’t punish it (albeit unintentionally)!!
- Remember that although my kids are getting older, they’re still kids, and don’t necessarily react/think in the way an adult would/might in the same situation.
The next session is planned for tonight, so roll on the action!!