Session Two – Or Ticket To Ride

So we had our second game night yesterday – and despite some tech issues on the voice side for a couple of people we had another successful go at it. My aim as GM this time round is to use this initial simple adventure to get everyone, including myself, used to the rules. I have two people (Lady M and myr s) who haven’t really played much D&D at all, while Mre B, Lady B, and Lord S have played but not in a group with any one else around our virtual table. There’s a lot of adjusting and settling in to do – not least of which is finding the right balance between roleplay and rollplay.

Rollplay is what I’ve started calling those parts of the game that rely more on dice results – things like combat for example – rather than the interaction between characters that allows people to inhabit the fantasy. My aim with this group is to allow it to have as much a say in the direction of the story as possible, with the aim of finding a happy middle ground that satisfies and still challenges each person around the table.

Last night saw the DDC using the tickets bought by the university to travel to Fort Light on the borders of Thrane. Even travelling in relative luxury it was still the best part of the week, and I would have been happy to have the whole session be just them talking nonsense and getting up to hijinx. Unfortunately we had enough voice disruptions due to network bandwidth somewhere that the flow didn’t really get started – so I moved the action along.

As they were travelling through civilised lands there wasn’t any form of banditry or disruption to the service on this occasion – indeed the biggest issues was that of characters who had never had gold before not being sure what the trade up values from copper and silver were for working out their change for bar drinks and meals. The journey across the border from Aundair did at least give me a chance to depict some of the lasting scars of magical conflict on the land, and set the stage for the cultural change as they moved into a theocratic nation.

Some quick bargaining by Alfonso got them a cheap ride to the village described by their patron, and they were soon able to locate one of the shepherds who had found the opening in the hill. With his fresh impressions and extra details in their minds, they had no difficulty finding the way in the morning – “past the blasted oak, through the gate, follow the path and sheep droppings to the top of the ridge and the opening will be below you on the other side where the landslip has left it bare.”

They were expecting a cave, but instead found an enormous hall, wet and cold with fungus and mould. A ramp led down to the floor below, and bodies could be seen between two enormous pillars. A forest of man-tall mushrooms was clustered near a hole in the ground below nearer the back but there was no sign of anything immediately dangerous.

The first body proved to be that of the missing shepherd, with his dog nearby, but as the DDC moved to investigate the second, they grew near enough the mushrooms to trigger a wailing shriek from them that roused skeletal human warriors in archaic armour to move to attack them. Nearer the back of the room, a fungal-covered orc zombie warrior in similarly outdated armour pulled itself out of the soil and began to advance as well.

The fight initially did not go well as the party was scattered, and Kerne the dragonborn sorceror and Caeluma the tiefling cleric were nearly pulled down straight away. It was only Briar’s quick thinking as a druid that turned the tide with a healing word and an entangle spell to buy them some time. Valenia and Alfonso managed to damage some of the skeletons, but Kerne was able to melt one and badly cripple another with an acidic dragonbreath exhalation.

At which point, as a cliffhanger, we paused the game.

So – we’re off to a start, and we’ll see where it takes us from here. I seem so far to be getting the balance right – in as much as there is terror and uncertainty but barring anything outrageous the DDC should be able to pull through without major harm.

Roll20 Experiment: Week Four

Just about squeezing this one in, mainly because it’s been a busy week and my brain seems to have become adept at turning cartwheels while remaining in place. Week Four’s big improvement was our GM managing to not delete anyone by mistake..! Unfortunately what we did have to cope with was a fair bit of fiddling around to sort out sound levels. This isn’t an issue with the Roll20 website, to be fair, but rather one brought about by complicated audio setups at our GM’s end (he’s been known to produce the odd bit of music here and there, so there are a surprising number of knobs to twiddle). Once our collective audioscape was a little calmer and sounding less like an apocalyptic rave party featuring Mr Snuffleupagus and some Slaanesh Noise Marines, we were able to start.

The previous session ended with a surprise encounter with a kobold – a sort of reptilian humanoid with a reputation for setting traps and being highly organised – weak on their own, but potentially big trouble if allowed to plan and gather numbers. Fortunately, this particular tribe had been native to the area before the goblins and orcs invaded, and had been rather overpowered by the hydra that we had just slain, so after agreeing to rid them of some unpleasant slimes that had moved into another area of their territory, the adventurers were able to negotiate passage through their area into the abandoned complex that was our main objective.

Mindful of stories of the dead rising during the invasion, our initial movements into the catacombs were cautious – which was just as well when skeletal warriors began to harass the group. Other, more powerful, undead began to be drawn to the conflict, and a wall of fire was used to barricade off their approach while dealing with the most immediate issues. Once the cleric and paladin got into the swing of things, the undead began to fall back or be destroyed by their demonstrations of faith – leaving only monstrous spiders to ruin the day of the unwary.

A session of epic battles and growing unease then, as we all start to get used to our respective characters and their limits. It all seems to be going rather well – and it is getting me thinking of running something myself as and when this adventure comes to a close…

Roll20 Experiment – Week One

A group of us have bodged together some AD&D first edition characters, dug out headphones and webcams and gathered around our respective laptops, PCs and fondleslabs (tablets for those who have never read The Register) to see if the old gamer chaos still lives and thrives within us. To this end we’re using the Roll20 website, which allows us to share maps and images in a virtual tabletop. You can employ scripting and all manner of upgrades, but we’re taking a fairly low-tech approach.

The Book That Started Many A Quest
The Players Handbook – First Edition

Our first attempt at a session, last week, didn’t really get off the ground, due to the GM having been taken unexpectedly into hospital. Not knowing this at the time however, we assumed that we had been rather spectacularly pranked, especially as phone calls, texts and instant messaging attempts were all met with stony silence… We weren’t put off however, and used the time to work out who was generating the most outrageous echoes and feedback loops so that we could name and shame them.

So our week one dawned in our second session this week – GM duly released back into the wild and five players (with another two AWOL due to work demands) assembled around the virtual table.

We’re running a group of eighth level characters, tasked with recovering artifacts from a temple complex recently overrun by an invading army of Orcs and other unpleasant entities. With our own small army of hirelings, henchmen and acolytes to hand, we have (so far), a mix of clerics, monks, rangers, wizards, and warriors – though no one who is admitting to being a thief – so the potential for mayhem is rather large.

The Important Book - The Dungeon Masters Guide
All The Nasty Surprises Hidden Here

Stats blocks and automation are being kept to a minimum, with scraps of paper all over the place, and an additional complication caused by rule books being split between several of us and our GM relying on a mix of memory and selective questions of the couple of people who managed to remember where their Dungeon Master Guides had been lying, covered in dust.

And… it was rather fun once we got going. There were some technical issues around microphone levels and some people had more spare bandwidth than others, but there was a certain free-wheeling approach that let us bulldoze straight through and overlook the fact that we were pretty much making it up as we went along. As is also traditional, beverages were drunk and junk food consumed, and yet a certain level of adult common sense somehow crept in, so that we didn’t go on too late, instead stopping at a dramatically appropriate point with one battle in thick forest complete, and an even greater one to come.

I think I might document the campaign’s progress on this site as we go along…