Gaming Session IV

Not all games end well. I suppose that this is just a fact of gaming. Everyone enjoys a good game, but the one who gets blamed when a game goes badly is the DM.

The party has been macho in the past. They crushed the Moathouse in just a few short hours, they defeated the brigands who were in charge of protecting it in 3 rounds, in their own rights, this party is a bunch of super-heroes who did not act heroic when the time came to prove their mantle . . . or maybe it really was just my fault. I am frustrated.

The party made their way to Nulb, running into a random encounter of a bunch of Bugbears, which turned out to be the only rewarding combat of the game. Later they ran into bandits but they squished them very quickly.

They set up shop in Nulb, with plans to move any large quantities of cash over to Hommlet, as it is a safer base but just too far away to be utilized full-time. They made their way to the temple itself, and promptly failed the saving throw for the main gate. I had prepped as much as I could for last session, however that game was canceled because I was down 2 players, and we picked it up this game. I did as much prep as I could, however their is just so much that you can do. I focused my prep on best case scenario, they breach the main gate, explore the upper works of the Temple, and as far down as Dungeon Level 1. I had also prepped the tower incase they failed to break down the main door into the temple, which they did.

I had made a change to the tower, they have smashed everything up to this point with no trouble, so I added a gate that would close behind them before the trap would spring. All this would do was spook them and slow down their retreat if they attempted to back out. They also like to draw out their badguys, and since these guys were supposed to be the keepers of the Gate, I wanted them to call the shots and have the advantage.

The trap is simple, but brilliant. The good guys enter the tower, the gate closes behind them and the archers pelt them with arrows. They are fish in a bucket, the only light in the place shines on them! Well, they didn't act as a team. The fighter rushes into the darkness, leaving everyone else to take the archer fire. I let Rydan's attacks with magic missile succeed, even though he could not visually see his enemy. The fighters inside quickly picked the good guy fighter apart. Instead of having the good guys squish my badguys in 3 rounds, it reversed. The badguys quickly killed their leader, and forced a surrender.

Well, needless to say, I didn't prep for that. I had to stop the game because now the bulk of the party are sitting in some dungeon cell in the temple, and the only fighter in the party is dead. GREAT!!!!

Well, now I am stuck. I don't know if it really was my fault, or if it was theirs. I want to say that they got clobbered through bad gaming. They had several options open to them, the fighter could had lifted the gate and the party retreat so that they could rethink their strategy. They could have advanced as a team, the fighter drawing fire while the weaker members used the darkness for their advantage too. But the problem with that logic is that I really didn't give them enough time to think about stuff. This was supposed to be a very hard encounter, but my wife tells me that I didn't even give them a chance, and that I had set them up to fail.

They were 3rd level, my plan was to fight the party with archers to test them. The major characters just wanted to feel them out, and never intended to enter into combat themselves, nor did they. The encounter never strayed from their original plan, and the party fell right in line for what they wanted them to do.

Now the party is in prison, either set for sacrifice or for slavery I don't know yet. I don't know if they are strong enough to get themselves out of the mess that they are in. Shannon, who played the now dead fighter, was able to roll up a new character, this time he qualified for Ranger. I am just at a loss. I don't know if they really were outmatched, if they are still of an appropriate level to be able to complete the tasks that I ask of them, or if it was just a really shitty night.

What level are the other characters out there who have ran this dungeon? Is 3rd level just too damned low? I don't like doing do-overs, but if this is my fault then maybe they are entitled to a do-over?

8 comments:

SHARK said...

Greetings!

Was there no mage in the party or a cleric that could cast a *Light* spell? Or, at 3rd level, why did all of the party members not have either enchanted light sticks/rods/orbs--(if such is available)--or if not, why not prepped torches they could easily ignite and throw about into the darkness to create some light?

Conversely--how about a *Darkness* spell...or a *Fog* spell, to conceal themselves from the archery fire?

At 3rd level..why did the group not have a half dozen or so armored pikemen they could have sent charging up into the archers somewhere as a distraction, at least? Or how about half a dozen archers of their own to use some counterfire?

Failing that...why didn't each of the 3rd level player characters not bring along one or two savage war dogs *each*--that they could have released into the darkness...and had fun hearing the sounds of the enemy archers screaming as savage teeth leaped out of the darkness at them? (While that happened, the party could have vectored in on the enemy archers, and rushed them, and taken them out swiftly; or at least targeted them with ranged attacks of their own; or proceeded to add more confusion to the scene by pouring several dozen flasks of oil along the room, or along the stairways, and set them on fire, thus not only creating illumination, but also engaging the fear of fire, and creating smoke that would obscure line of sight, as well as caused general choking and confusion?

During these tactics, the party could have rolled the dice, and made a better attempt at charging the enemy and annihilating them, or at the very least it would have gained them a few more moments to think, and make a retreat to form a new line of attack, as desired.

These are things the party could have done.

You, my friend, as the DM, *must* remind them to think about things, take stock of their resources and supplies, and give them a hint or two about using their supplies/resources and tactics effectively. It is not only good, but also fair to remember that real people--trained in combat and such, akin to blood-soaked sword-carrying heroes...are typically able to make such salient decisions in a split-second...the players, as opposed to the characters, do not have this training, nor the *real-world vision* of the scene at hand...they must rely on that solely from you, my friend, so it is only fair and proper to give them extra time, and a little hint or two in assessing the situation.

Honestly, I see it--unless you can provide other salient details that I am unaware of--as a situation where you, the DM, didn't provide them with enough details of the scene, or the time and hints for them to properly and "realistically" assess the situation...and they goofed up by not already thinking or preparing the tactics that I mentioned above.

An alternative to staging a *do over*--perhaps you could have them manage to escape, and in the process, discover an ancient scroll that requires them to go to some sacred place or strange temple, and perform a special prayer and ceremony, where they can recall their fallen comrade back from the spirit world, and return their friend to the mortal realms? Such could be an interesting way to restore the player--who lost their character *partially* through DM mistakes--and at the same time, allow more roleplaying, some additional story elements to be woven in, and a sigh of relief and joy for the party...and one for yourself, as well...as a gentle reminder for the next time, to be thorough, and be fair, and also having fun being creative and *flexible*:)

I hope these comments are helpful to you my friend.

Semper Fidelis,

SHARK

Pingwin said...

I would never go for a do-over, the situation is gone and their current goal should be getting out alive. Regain their freedom.

You have shown them they live in a dangerous world, not just in general but also for themselves. They cannot just do whatever pleases them, they'll have to cooperate, think and 'work' to survive. If you feel you made it too hard well that happens too, dont sweat it, nobody is perfect and the story continues.

Perhaps some idea's you might find interesting:

- how about most of the other prisoners are from a nearby country (war) and are planning a prison break?

- how about they get stuck in a dungeon with a high ranking noble who really needs protection from the other inmates, until the day he can get out of here (politics) and repay them for their troubles.

Prisons can be totally cool places for sub-adventures, with their own inmate powerstructures, corrupt guards and whatever you feel like.

Mike... said...

I like the prison break idea. The fighter's player could easily roll up a new pc who happens to be amongst the prisoners of the nearby country. Or even a wandering vagrant who got captured and thrown in the cell after some mishap of mayhem.

Timeshadows said...

New characters to rescue the last 'team' sent in.

From what I remember, 3rd is a bit on the low side to attempt that module, especially if they do ont work well as a team nor use their gear and abilities to the utmost.

As far as blame, shoulder half of it (even if you aren't that much at fault) and then exhort the players to think more about equipment choices, tactics, and so forth (i,e., their part of the blame).

Best,

Ripper X said...

I'll have to talk with Shannon, he's the one that lost his character. I think that I can make that encounter a premonition of doom given to the cleric, who had a massive hangover and just showed up to be a trooper. I'll change the encounter slightly, but that will allow them to go fresh, and form some kind of plan on their own.

I'm still not sure, however, if 3rd level is just too low. I may prep a couple of side adventures to boost them up to forth. I don't know, I am still up for some ideas.

Mouse said...

I've always found ToEE very difficult to DM. 3rd level is about appropriate if the PCs are starting on dungeon level one but the guard tower is a pretty tough encounter for 3rd level players.

When I've run this in the past I always allow players to find a way into the main temple other than the front door so they can start on the first dungeon level.

From what I recall the guard tower spits the players out on third dungeon level. And that is certainly far too difficult for a third level party!

If the players can escape this will be a very exciting plot twist for them. They will be more cautious in the future and they will have gathered valuable information that several agents in Homlett would be very interested to hear about!

Zzarchov said...

I don't see how this is a problem, they lost. If its not going to be all stomp fests there is a strong chance of death or capture, at least they chose capture.

If the party wins all the time, then what is the fun in that?

Did anyone see the twilight zone episode where the gambler dies and thinks he goes to heaven because he wins every game he plays. Only grudingly does he realise he's in hell, because he always wins everything and there is no joy or risk. He can't even play pool because he sinks all the balls off the break.

Anonymous said...

You do know that the temple has two side entrances right next to the main door that the party can go through, right? What about the windows?

As far as the tower encounter, anything less than a solid team effort can easily turn into a TPK.

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