I ran Bloodsand Arena Part 1

June 21, 2010 at 9:00 am
filed under Roleplaying
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As I’m sure you already knew, yesterday was Free RPG Day! Although I was curious about many other I only picked up a couple. Supplies were running low by the time I got there, and I’d rather leave those things for someone who might be more passionate about those games.

I picked up the L5R offering. I played 1st Edition back in college and a friend of mine mentioned that they’d have a 4th Ed item out for Free RPG Day. It’s quadruple redundant to say that I also picked up Wizards’ Dark Sun offering, Bloodsand Arena. You know what else I did? I ran it. Last night.

I’ll try to keep it light on spoilers, but I can’t promise anything.

It’s been a while since I ran anything. Actually, I can’t remember what the last thing I ran was. I’m guessing it was something out of Dungeon Delve. Running a pre-gen adventure was pretty similar, and everyone was pretty excited about it overall.

I’d say it was pretty successful. Some people got frustrated with the raider encounter. I don’t think the raiders were particularly strong— rather, I think that people were missing a lot and I was rolling particularly well. In retrospect, I realize that since we weren’t playing with all six characters, removing a couple of minions and perhaps one of the regular monsters might’ve been more fair. Despite that, I was once again reminded of how badass 4th Edition characters are. I was afraid it was difficult as one or two people were bloodied pretty quickly. As it turns out, leaders can heal quite well and Second Wind is another last resort. I didn’t pull any punches and the party came out fine.

As a side note, I notice once again how reluctant people are to use their Daily powers. Like, amazingly reluctant despite the fact that they’re on a multi-day journey. I understand why. As a player, I seldom use my Daily powers, either. When I look back on it, though, I realize that seldom in my experience have we had more than two or three encounters in a row without an extended rest, both as DM and a PC. Maybe not everyone should go and use their daily, but I’ve begun to think that it’s better to use a Daily to expedite an encounter than it is to wait until the party is very nearly screwed.

As for the skill challenges, I’m not sure how I felt about them. Difficulty-wise, they were most assuredly not too hard, and I appreciated that. There were some failures here and there but for the most part, people got to roll their skills and do well. What I’m still not sure about is how to run them.

For instance, the PCs are traveling at some point, and there are various skills listed as appropriate. They have specific applications for those skills, too. Whether it came down to how I was running it or now the players were approaching it, it didn’t seem like they were approaching it from the perspective of “What skills can I use?” Rather, they’d start with “I want to do X.” I nudged them closer to what the adventure suggested, which was all right. I didn’t feel great about it overall.

I was worried about the encounter in the town, but it went quite swimmingly. We didn’t end up spending too much time on it.

As for the last encounter, well, that one was interesting. It was what you might call a mini-game. This was one of those situations where I had to balance the role of providing a challenge by not letting the PCs go completely off the rails while also letting the PCs do things that were awesome. It’s a balance, right? Overcoming an obstacle will feel more rewarding if the player feels they earned it.

In this case, it was pretty difficult to provide a challenge for the PCs, given how things turned out. About halfway through I figured out how I could square this with the plot in a way that would be satisfying to the PCs as well as myself. Based on comments from the players afterward, the last part of the game and the aftermath were probably the most enjoyable part of the game for everyone.

I should also add that people seemed to enjoy their characters pretty well, and people expressed some interest in possibly playing again. I told them I’d be happy to run the next part, and that it would be pretty cool to run off and on until the game came out. Given that I’ve still got some 2nd Ed Dark Sun material laying around, it should be possible to cobble another couple of runs together.

In the meantime, I’m not sure I’ll be able to wait until August. Well, all right, maybe I can manage.

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