Last Wednesday, instead of playing in D&D I ended up stepping in to DM. Now, I don’t mean to imply that it was last minute or that it got dropped on me as a surprise, I knew on the Monday before that I would be running a second table. The only unknown (if there was one) was whether or not everyone would so thereby eliminating the need for a second table.
But everyone showed and I ended up running a table with Michael, Eric and Jamie. Dan, Lori and Jason all sat at Beccas table. No, no favoritism there ;)
The module was DDEX1-7, Drums in the Marsh. The adventurers arrived in a tavern outside of Phlan trying to locate some missing townsfolk that had been kidnapped by lizardfolk living in the marsh.
The night was fun and there were a few moments where I had to steer things in a certain direction, most notably convincing them to search in and around the gravel bar that served as a dock for the three farms. I practically had to tell them point blank to search.
Right now, that is the biggest problem I am having with running a table. I have a desire to make sure the players have all the information so they can make a decision. It comes from wanting all the information as a player and getting frustrated when I forget to ask or search something and end up not making a good decision.
One really good thing came out of that night however. (not implying that the rest was bad, just that this part was exceptional to me). At one point, near the end as the players were looking out over the Kings Island and deciding what to do, Eric suggested that he sneak around and try to free the prisoners that were in each of the 3 cages, one on each peninsula of the tiny island. He made the first cage easily and talked to some of the prisoners there, getting information that had been lost by their earlier attempts to attack the transport raft. After settling on a plan with the captives he then moved counter clockwise towards the second peninsula. He made all his stealth checks (since he was a rogue and had high stealth) and relayed the information to the second group about the plan to attack the lizardfolk.
As he slipped into the water to make his way to the third and final peninsula he ended up tripping and making s bit of a splash (failed his stealth check badly). I imposed disadvantage stating that since he had made a noise they would be more likely to be on alert. I opted not to raise the difficulty level, though as it turned out it wouldn’t have mattered.
His first roll was an 18. The table tensed and Eric picked up the die again to roll the disadvantage roll. As the die tumbled across the table I could feel the excitement in the air. Honestly.
It rolled up a 19 and the table cheered! Michael let out a ‘Take that disadvantage!’ and Jamie whooped.
Finding a way to add tension into the game made it more fun. And something that will be remembered. Since I’m running again this week I’ve been looking over the adventure and trying to find places I can add a crisis or tension or something to get the players more invested. I’m looking at the situations and asking ‘okay, I like Y but what id they don’t do X so that Y happens? What other element can I add or tweak to give Y a chance?”
For example, lets say that the players find the body of a horse on the trail. If they search the horse they might find the brooch hidden in the saddlebags. They might decide to take the brooch hoping it might be worth something. Later on in the adventure the Big Bad sends an army of Needle Blights to attack the party while the rest. This attack only happens if they found and took the brooch (as it was a scrying focus) and only if they spoke to the druid.
If they decide not to search the horses then several interesting events later have no chance of happening. That seems like a place for a DM to modify the adventure slightly to still give those events a chance to happen. I think this week is going to be a blast :)