Er-Eret Session #4 – postmortem

November 16, 2008 at 12:16 pm
filed under Roleplaying
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Hi, blog! I have good news: I finally got the group together for a session of Er-Eret, the primary reason behind the dearth of posts.

Let me tell you, blog, that I had a heck of a time preparing for this one. I just couldn’t concentrate, and I didn’t know what I needed to do. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’m not used to running dungeons. For one thing, I didn’t do any perception/stealth checks while people were tromping around. In retrospect: what? The formula for both encounters was 1) PCs enter room, and 2) combat begins. Tracking perception and stealth checks would emphasize that dungeons are dangerous, that monsters will poke around if they hear activity. 

The bigger problem is that I don’t know what makes dungeons interesting except in terms of flavor text (which I’m not that great at, either). I typically try to deconstruct or thwart tropes for my games, at least to some extent. For dungeons, I’m really not familiar enough with the play style to accomplish that yet, which means I should probably read up on other dungeons.

My prep sucked. As an outgrowth of the above, my prep was spotty. My excuse, I guess, is that I haven’t run a real session since, oh, August. This is also the first time I’ve run a dungeon basically ever.

So, yes, my ideas weren’t as fleshed out as they could’ve been. This dungeon makes sense and all, but I think I should’ve restructured it so that the PCs could’ve gotten the hook for it much sooner.

I also need to provide more “stuff” for people. I think dungeons should have kind of a mini-narrative to them beyond simply going from room to room and fighting things. I am not going to try to do anything super special this time, both because this is not the climax and because I don’t want to get too ambitious. But it would help to introduce PCs to this narrative sooner rather than later, or at least do a better job of it. 

On the other hand, I am not in a bad place right now: they’re down to a couple of surges, they are scared to rest in this place, but they can’t get out, so they’re looking for a place to rest. Tension!

Dungeon Tiles: good. I acquired a bunch of these off Amazon, via the remains of a gift certificate, and they are pretty good. If nothing else, they helped me focus on certain shapes rather than trying to figure out what belongs on a sheet of graph paper, and they saved me the trouble of having to draw that shit.

I don’t have a perfect system for this yet, but sketching out & labeling the dungeon on graph paper after building it out of tiles seems to work. Then I set aside those tiles before game time and it’s easy to build things. I think they added a lot to the game in the end.

Monsters die really fast. This party is particularly striker-heavy, with a 2h ranger, star pact warlock, and a brutal rogue. Notably absent is a defender, so I kept hesitating on the quantity of monsters, what type, and what they’d do. I don’t want a TPK!

You can see where this is going, I imagine. The first encounter was a breeze (although I have to say that I like regenerating monsters). The second one went better, in no small part because of a specter getting his Spectral Barrage off more than once. (Insubstantial monsters aren’t as bad as I thought they’d be.)

Of course, by “better,” I mean that it was more challenging. It’s easy to be a little disappointed that the monsters don’t at least put some people into danger. The PCs, on the other hand, did rather well. There were three or four crits last night, and the rogue, ranger, and mage really did run roughshod over my poor little skeletons. This is despite the fact that most people were out of daily powers.

I keep forgetting this, to the point where I should just have a post-it permanently attached to the Monster Manual: outside of solos and elites, monsters really only get a few chances to hit the PCs. They have good attack bonuses so that they do some damage in those few rounds that they’re alive, because PCs are incredibly resilient, and because monsters often miss.

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