When I started writing session reports for my Lost Colonies campaign, one of the things I was interested in was seeing how a group of guys that were introduced into the hobby by 3.5 would react to old school rules, thinking and playing. As I recently reported, the reaction has been overwhelming — these guys now exclusively play older editions and retro-clones. Therefore, that impetus for writing session reports no longer really applies.
I can't remember now on which blog I read it (was it part of the how to do a sandbox meme that has been floating about the last month or so?), but someone somewhere suggested that those of us who do session reports do so from the perspective of how I play this game. In that spirit, I plan on going in a slightly different direction with my session reports in order to try and scratch that itch.
This session opened with a very interesting discussion that realistically could have ended the campaign. Hamlen's player was meditating on character death and had decided that he would rather move on with another character, lest character death be meaningless; however, this was not the message that he had given Dn. Goram via a Speak with Dead conversation they had at the end of last session. In the meantime, Dn. Goram's player was trying to take on the task of new party leader by adopting several of the prejudices (good and bad) of his dead brother…this included a ban on elves. Ahkmed's player then explained that his "dwelf" would have no interest in adventuring with a party that banned elves, particularly since Kavella, the NPC magic-user now reincarnated as an Elf, had approached him with the desire to follow a Bane-Bearer.
I did not interfere much, other than to adjudicate what was player knowledge vs. what was character knowledge and to keep everybody's timeline straight. My players are man enough to know the difference and where quite congenial as they discussed the possible end to their adventuring party and the campaign. Fortunately, everybody came to an agreement as to how they could justify character action that would result in moving foreword.
For my part, I tend to agree with Hamlen's player; however, from very early on reincarnation and raise dead have been part of the campaign (though not easy to get). Each has a price, and I had decided to offer the players an opportunity to raise their fallen comrades at a price (more on that later). Part of the reason I am comfortable with these realities in my campaign world is that in the Orthodox Christian world, making pilgrimages to holy sites (especially with those that have relics of the saints) in order to pray for healing is more than normal. Indeed, the miracles that have resulted are countless. My own wife was the recipient of one such miracle as the result of one of these pilgrimages.
When it comes to Wilderness Encounters, I only do them if the party is explicitly exploring, going into known wilderness or if I really want to (there are times when I'm in the mood to add another random element to the tapestry of my campaign or simply need a delaying tactic in order to give me more time to come up with something because the party has gone on a decidedly unexpected path). I especially ignore random encounters when I and/or my players are really intent on getting on with things — getting to where they need to be in order to accomplish/do what they really want to do. This was the case here — onto the Monastery of St. Urheim!
What then ensued would have been rather funny had not the evening began as it did — Dn. Goram's player had never had to lead and therefore had never paid much attention to the maps that the party had of the monastery. Those that knew where to go wouldn't help because the characters that would know were dead. Thus we spent a lot of time with the party trying to get oriented as per their map.
When running dungeons, I tend to only stock a few important rooms and then create some wandering monster tables. As the players begin to explore, I'll roll for every room they go by to see if there is a monster therein. This not only reduces prep-time, but makes things interesting for me because I have to figure out context on the fly.
These encounters were quite sparse over the evening. In part, because the die rolls deemed it so, but also because there were times when I just wanted to get on with things and the re-orientation process and getting lost was getting in the way of what everybody at the table was interested in doing — completing Dn. Goram's quest to return the Two Swords and seek the aid of St. Urheim with their deceased comrades.
Thus, when the party ventured into an area that they had cleared of evil influence (a spring that had been corrupted by dark fey and an evil, magical gem), and I rolled an encounter, I decided to have some fun. In the absence of dark fey, I deemed that the level was re-occupied by seelie fey that were inclined to tolerate and even help the party. Thus, they began to be followed by Tulip, a pixie who loves honey. After much chaos (including a short dice-fight among the players), the party managed to get enough information out of Tulip to get them going in the right direction.
This put the session back on track, and the party got down to exploring a part of the dungeon they had not yet explored. The most entertaining bit of the evening was when Tyrd (a goblin cook reincarnated as a magic user) managed to cow a bunch of gnolls with a phantasmal force spell of a troll. The party then had them lead them in the general direction they wanted to go (because the gnolls had no idea that there was a chapel any where on this particular dungeon level). They then encountered a group of werewolves led by a Golden Mask who were trying to open one of the secret doors to the chapel.
When I run combat, I don't normally use miniatures; however, when geography, the placement of combatants, etc. gets complicated and/or vital to the outcome, we do break out the minis and this allows the combat to move forward without the confusion that can ensue when I try to describe these complex situations. This combat was one of those, mainly because there were three different groups of combatants (the party, the gnolls, and the werewolves), there was a spell effect that was in place (the illusory troll), the party was interested in casting a lightning bolt and no one won initiative the first round. While it did take some time to set things up, it allowed for every body to clearly understand and communicate what was going on. It also sped up combat tremendously.
Upon returning the Two Swords to their proper place, Dn. Goram was able to have a short conversation with St. Urheim about his brother Hamlen. He was informed that his brother could be raised; however, there were things said and done that were preventing that from happening. If he so chose, either he or his brother could be tested in order to overcome this reality. If Dn. Goram took the test, it would be easier, but he would have to do so without his brother. If Hamlen took the test, it would be harder, but he would have Dn. Goram at his side. Dn. Goram chose to take the test himself.
I did not inform the players what this test would be, because I wanted it to be mysterious (and I hadn't yet filled out some of the details because I didn't know which direction Dn. Goram would go). Here is my thinking: both Dn. Goram and Hamlen have been rather prejudiced against elves. This is in part due to the player's own dislike for the race (both of them prefer dwarves and gnomes over elves) and is also born of the campaign itself. Most of the elves they have encountered during the campaign were either annoying or pathetic. The test either one would have to take would be to face down their own prejudice. Hamlen's would have been harder, because he would have had to walk a mile in another's shoes — he would have come back as an elf and would stay that way until such time that he travelled to the elf-lands in the south and do the bidding of the Elven king.
As it is, we ended the session with the party returning to Headwaters, where they found a contingent of elves waiting for an audience with Dn. Goram (they arrived about the same time Dn. Goram chose his test). His path will include investigating some undead coming out of the sea and a choice as to whether or not to help/allow the destruction of the Elven kingdom or make some kind of sacrifice in order to help them...
5 hours ago