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Recently revived campaign, I feel like I'm losing it. 
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Joined: Mon Sep 21, 2009 11:18 am
Posts: 9
Post Recently revived campaign, I feel like I'm losing it.
First off I just joined these forums as I see much advise being required in the future. That aside I'm running a 4.0 DnD campaign with a new party, they are about 2 sessions in, that used to be a 3.5 campaign with 11 players; death by 45 minute turns. From the old 11 there are from one to two players remaining in this new one which varies from five to eight players depending on a lot of factors that don't need to be delved into currently. The players prefer a more in-your-face fight intensive style of play, with the exception of one who is a reason for the aforementioned variables, so I've decided to embrace that with some retooling of the game and the world.

For starters they live in a world where every race is different from the book descriptions in everything from lore to, in a few cases, game terms. I don't want to go into too much detail about the customized world setting so I'll just leave it at that unless someone wants or needs more information. However the world itself does have one major quirk that readers of The Black Company will realize I stole a lot of ideas from: The Plain of Fear, please come up with a better name, dominates the Northwestern portion of the continent and has been expanding slowly for longer than anyone can remember. Recently Blood Storms, swirling eddies of misty blood which impair vision completely and house the monsters I've made up thus far, have been seen outside of the Plain itself and seem to occur more often all the time. The reason for this is an ancient warlock from the time when dragons still called this land home. The PCs just figured this out kind of due to an ancient gold wyrm taking possession of the halfling that had recently gained amnesia, I just realized how odd that sounds out of context but it's too long to explain. With the knowledge of the wyrm they have a rough understanding of what is happening in the town they have been trying to get to, good for now.

With this butchered world setting in mind I should lead up to my issue I suppose. I've lead them through a couple fights, but it just doesn't have any flare to it. It's as though I've lost my creative spark. They started with an iffy plot hook which was enlistment in order to squash any and all uprisings in the North, the army is currently fighting off invasion in the South, using any means necessary, but only wearing the uniforms if the actions would be deemed benevolent.

After the hurried plot they set off, found the road guarded by a couple hobgoblins, refused to pay toll, fight where I showed them what it's like to get crits in my brutal world, they noticed a bloody film on everything, the corpses came back together to form a Behemoth, this was 1AM and everyone was tired, so the fight with the epic monster passed as a tiring endeavor. So that was a bad foot to get off on.
Now I apologize because I can't remember if another fight happened before or after this one. Anyway they, at some point, stumbled upon Orcinos which are exactly what they sound like. They exemplified my high damage world and taught the party about broken bones.
Next was an outlying fort from which they were to actually depart. No one really wanted to roleplay so it was glossed over to save time, and they walked away with the mission of checking up on Col Goar which had gone out of contact some time ago. Um, did we have three sessions so far? I think we did so just assume that there was another fight of some caliber after they left town.
Upon reaching where the town was supposed to be they found a rather large blood storm residing over the area at large. They saw something over the mist get smashed by a giant blood tentacle and fall to the ground in the mist. Then they went in and I got to introduce them to the man eating bats they'd heard about, and the 50% miss chance for concealment that they hadn't. This fight lead to frustration and me deciding not to use the mechanics as often in the future, and almost killed the barbarian/monk. They also met imps which cast suffocation and took the cleric out of the entire fight. No time to rest for fear of more encounters. Orcinos and two imps this time. The fight was bloodier, besides being literally drenched in blood, and the barbarian/monk was once more almost dead though this time due to suffocation. Everyone seemed more into this fight, but it still just didn't do anything for me. It was nothing more than melee and chase the imps. By the end of it there were some broken limbs, the halfling gained amnesia, and, though not in this fight, the paladin's eyes had turned a sickly white. Thus the halfling ran away from the creepy man he woke up seeing, paladin, and ended up in the clearing where the flying machine had landed, clearing because the turbines pushed away the mist. Fight with orcinos, imps, and bats that had the party moving around for once and things looked grim, which is good. They talked to the Gnome and rested for the first time in a long time before heading out with intentions of retrieving the gnomes associate or his journal from Col Goar in order to fix the machine and head North to check out the source of the blood mists which has been revealed, as far as the gnome knows, to be the undead fields. They leave, someone said something about things being afoot, which was a perfect time for the reanimated black dragon to pop out of the ground and throw everyone away into the mist. As fate would have it the party very easily rejoined and went off to fight the dragon and skeletons. Nothing major as the dragon was still stuck in the ground, but the fight was difficult if not extremely exciting. We thought we'd killed the paladin, but he remembered his 'on bloodied' of gain 5 HP so he was actually alive. One more boneshard skeleton was alive, rogue charged it, explosion killed the dragonborn. Oops. It also removed one of the paladins eyes. They looted the underground cavern, halfling switched out one of his eyes for an ancient gold wyrms', though not on purpose, and the bardic cartographer who finds caves to loot, loots them, and then sells a map to adventurers under false pretenses, drilled in to join the group. Then they ran out as it filled with blood and went back to the gnomish flying machine to find the interior redecorated with blood. That's where they are now, and the next encounter needs to be epic. I know basically what I'm going to do:
There is a blood dome over the city, inside of which there is no mist.
The ancient order which worked for the gold wyrm which now is a PC and had built Col Goar, though no one knows that, in order to house the ancient dragon corpses and defend them against the warlock or other evils is currently under siege by the bloody forces.
Warlock is here and has taken the main temple with a small elite group, yeah a siege within a siege. He is working on reanimating the great black wyrm, but the group doesn't know that and can't get to it currently even if they wanted to.

So I want to have the group primarily running around the city to avoid capture with the end goal being something along the lines of giant dragon fight, this time it can fly and use it's 'good' abilities, involving two armies and said dragon. When, if I suppose, the dragon is slain the warlock will flee the scene, he is too weak after the ritual to put up a fight. Then the party will rejoin, lead as is the case for the dragon?, the zealot order.

I'll check this when I get home and rant a little more.
Sorry for ranting so much about a campaign that none of you have any real vested interest in.


Mon Sep 21, 2009 12:16 pm
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Joined: Fri Mar 20, 2009 12:43 pm
Posts: 412
Post Re: Recently revived campaign, I feel like I'm losing it.
Why is combat taking so long?

Do PCs have their bonuses precalculated and written down? If not, make them do this.

How do you mark status changes? Whose responsibility is it to keep track of initiative and status conditions? Assigning these to people other than the DM can speed things up drastically. My group has an "Init Master" and follows the rule: You are responsible for keeping track of the status conditions you inflict and the status conditions on your own PC. In many groups, with 3.x and 4e alike, the DM served as a bottleneck for information, which slows things down drastically.

If you use a writable surface as a battlemat, you can write the damage the PCs have inflicted on a given enemy (along with statuses) directly onto the mat next to them. Or the Init Master can write the total amount of damage the PCs have inflicted on each foe next to their entry on his Init Sheet, saving even more DM time.

Do you use monster entries straight out of the MM, or do you write brief versions out on scraps of paper? Flipping through books is a major time killer. Plus, monster entries are short enough that you can write them out in a minute or two.

Doing simple things like that typically cuts the amount of time it takes to get through a turn by between 1/4 and 1/2.

Other than that, if fights are boring enough that you can't remember them, then they're not a good idea. Throw out the idea of XP budgets and four encounters / day and just throw fights when it feels organic to do so.

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Mon Sep 21, 2009 6:20 pm
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Joined: Mon Sep 21, 2009 11:18 am
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Post Re: Recently revived campaign, I feel like I'm losing it.
Quote:
Other than that, if fights are boring enough that you can't remember them, then they're not a good idea. Throw out the idea of XP budgets and four encounters / day and just throw fights when it feels organic to do so.

I just have a terrible memory to be honest. I don't have a required amount of fights/day or anything, the last day they just fought one dragon and called it a day. I really like the rest of those ideas and will implement them next Sunday. 5 out of the 18 minutes, yeah one player timed it, was just one of the guys whining so he's not coming back. Mainly I just need some advice on how to get my groove back though. I've been DMing for 6 years now nonstop because no one else wants to or is good at it so I'm just kind of burned out to be honest. I need the next fight to be a smash hit though.
Have to go play Bang now but I'll beg for more help later.


Mon Sep 21, 2009 10:13 pm
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Joined: Mon Sep 21, 2009 11:18 am
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Post Re: Recently revived campaign, I feel like I'm losing it.
Ok, so I have someone who is going to be in charge of initiative and buffs/debuffs, it's the bard as he is the most computer savvy and the biggest buffer in the party. I think I mentioned that I want to run a pseudo chase as part of the next adventure and was wondering if anyone had any tips for doing such a thing. Instilling the idea that stopping will lead to death isn't a problem, but I don't want it to be a boring event that seems like filler. I want buildings to explode and dodges to be made, but I don't know if there are any good 'rules' for doing such a thing. I guess I'm just writing this down to brainstorm unintentionally, sorry.
Ok I'll go write somewhere else and check for advice later.


Thu Sep 24, 2009 9:10 pm
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Joined: Fri Mar 20, 2009 12:43 pm
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Post Re: Recently revived campaign, I feel like I'm losing it.
You could do it as a skill challenge.

If I were you, I'd get the PCs moving and reacting to the chase first. Get them describing what they're doing, and vary the difficulty based on the quality of their descriptions (I'd use regular DCs +/- 4, personally). The skill challenge can work simply: The PCs have to accumulate a certain number of successes each to get away (I'd use 6 or so, but trend towards the low side because of the sheer number of players you've got). Anyone who succeeds gets XP.

PCs can simply keep on failing - there's no pre-established maximum number of failures that ends the skill challenge (unless you want it to end with them being captured or something, in which case prepare for a combat encounter if they fail). When a PC fails a roll, I'd propose you do one of two things. The simplest version is just to have them automatically lose a healing surge as they cut their hand on glass, get hit by flying paving stones, have a wall collapse, fall into a pit, etc. That has the advantage of being quick. The more complicated option is to have them suffer an "attack" from the terrain, just as if it was a big trap. Vary the defense targeted based on what you want to happen - paving stones are probably Reflex, while having to run through a roomful of smoke is a good Fort challenge). You might even want to inflict statuses that will affect checks later - weakened, prone, slowed & immobilised are all good.

That's all just a suggestion, of course.

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Thu Sep 24, 2009 10:35 pm
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Joined: Mon Sep 21, 2009 11:18 am
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Post Re: Recently revived campaign, I feel like I'm losing it.
I really like all of the ideas you suggested. Eating through healing surges wasn't even something I'd considered before, but it definitely lends itself to a fast paced chase scene. I don't really want fights to occur, but it seems likely that they will at some point. It seems that the best way to prevent getting bogged down while keeping the chasers a threat would be to make any encounter a very few number of enemies and keep open routes to run by them. That said I do not know if the end result should be capture or not. If they are caught it would lead to more character interaction, albeit in jail, but, well, there has to be a but doesn't there? No, I shall not railroad, I shall not railroad. Ok, so I should allow for both capture and escape correct? Either instilling humility or boosting ego.

Thanks again for the advice. I'll stew on this a bit.


Fri Sep 25, 2009 11:07 am
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Joined: Fri Mar 20, 2009 12:43 pm
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Post Re: Recently revived campaign, I feel like I'm losing it.
No worries. If you're having trouble planning things like adventures, here's a post I made on Metafilter a couple months ago about how to plan a campaign. It'll relieve some of the pressure of having to have every eventuality planned for.

http://ask.metafilter.com/128881/Help-m ... gn#1844863

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Sat Sep 26, 2009 12:35 pm
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Joined: Mon Sep 21, 2009 11:18 am
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Post Re: Recently revived campaign, I feel like I'm losing it.
I ran the case scene today, and no one was captured. That said everyone had a blast. People kept asking that magical question of "Can I do this?" which I got to respond to with the better "Of course, this is not a computer game." Barbarian knocked a building over onto a phalanx of goblins, and it was just a jumble of falling into burning buildings without round structure or any concerns besides running.
Enter the set up for the holy army, almost kill two characters one of whom had lost a character the game before, and walk in on the forming of an ancient black wyrm. Now they just have to clean up and do some plot work before chasing down the boss that ran away.
In the end it was far and away more fun than we've had in a while. Thanks to all that helped me out.


Sun Sep 27, 2009 10:01 pm
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