Saturday, February 17, 2024

Saturday Q&A (feb 17)

Maxwell in California writes,

Overall, the session went well despite a rocky start.

During character creation, there were technical difficulties with recent upgrades to my trade table; I made some progress fixing it on the fly, but couldn't finish, and I lost my cool a little. I asked the players for a few minutes to try and fix it, but after I couldn't, I calmed myself down and suspended proper equipment buying until next session, telling them that for now they could pick clothing, any two weapons each, a suit of armor, X lbs of food and so on. (This worked out fine; AP and carry weight weren't a concern in the night's gameplay. I'm excited about the upgrades; I'll say more about those after we've used them at the table next session. Since last night I've fixed them and have begun thorough testing.)

The Catholic paladin wisely chose to make his henchman a Catholic cleric. My GF made an elf mage, with a gnome thief as hench. I started them off in the paladin's last location, on the island where his original party had spent the entire campaign so far. After discussing whether to stay on the island or travel to a different one, they let the tarot cards decide. They drew The World, so they decided to travel. After quite a bit of roleplay in the port, and then on board ship, we ended the session with them a few hours out from Tenerife, and with trouble brewing on board (paladin detected malevolence in two of the other passengers, then the mage had her thief distract them while she stole something via an Unseen Servant...)

Assorted observations:

I'm slowly getting more adept at travel and landscape descriptions, but still haven't gotten the hang of detail-rich descriptions of urban environments. I habitually gloss over nearly all the sensory details of being in a town or city, whisking players to the POIs they want to find (if they're publicly known, of course.) The same goes for urban interiors: shops, government buildings, residences. I'd appreciate advice on these topics -- the general issue of giving too little detail and the specific issue of urban environments.

The most important change with a two-player group is that I no longer feel like I'm constantly fighting for players to pay attention to descriptions. With four or five players, there was rarely any dead air, but in a negative way. It was hard for me to seize the opportunity to speak up authoritatively, and I wasn't always able to get undivided attention. With these two players, I feel like I have the floor by default; correspondingly, they seem to hang on my words more, and eagerly await the moment when I deliberately hand control back to them with the phrase, "What do you do?" Whether this change stems from avoiding some negative phenomenon engendered purely by a larger group, or from refining my group down to the highest-quality players, either way I'm much more satisfied.

The players were satisfied as well. The mage had only played in one campaign before (over Roll20! Barely a real RPG experience, in my opinion as an expert on RPG-enhancement digital systems...) Her exact words were that that campaign was incredibly boring and its DM had a real-life Charisma of 6. She had more or less the exact opposite remarks after our first session. My GF is hardly an unbiased source, but it's good to be appreciated.

One more thing. After the session, I read them the section from your last post concerning the Nine of Swords tarot pull in your campaign. The size of the opposing armies you've described boggled their minds a little, especially the mage. She was showing signs of wanting to draw cards every session, possibly multiple times, and your cautionary tale may have given her pause. Still, I think I'm going to be scrambling to create interpretations for as many cards as possible so that I have something like your Swords chart to go on ...

Sterling in Maine writes,

Thought you might get a kick out of this. In the last session I ran the PC were reconnoitering an enemy advance and though I already had the weather (using historical weather for the location from 2013 as the weather in the game year), I hadn't expected them operating at night (which, while helping them avoid detection, hampered their assessment severely).

I made an off-the-cuff moonlight call a couple of sessions earlier and a few days before this session in in-game time. At the end of that session I called that my ruling over the lighting that night would of course stand, but that in future I would use true-to-life moon phase even if it conflicted with that call. In the after-session hour I figured the moon was just past last quarter on that date, and the moon would have not yet even risen at the time in question. I shared this with the players so they'd have a reference for game world moon phase too.

In this past session I remembered that previous research and quickly extrapolated the moon phase to be "just about new moon" moments before one of my players Googled "moon phase on September 4, 1478" and confirmed it to be 1% waning crescent. For the record, this player's character is a druid. I figure he's in tune with the moon.

In the future, I can ask my familiar ...


Not really "questions & answers" but I think that doesn't matter.  Sometimes, the writings here having a visible effect on how others run their game, and their enthusiasm for talking about that, is all that matters.  I'm pleased to be able to post the above in place of the traditional internet conflict resolution agenda.

If readers would like to reply to the above, or wish to ask a question or submit observations like those seen here, please submit  to my email,  If you could, please give the region where you're located (state, province, department, county, whatever) as it humanises your comment.

Feel free to address material on the authentic wiki, my books or any subject related to dungeons & dragons.  I encourage you to initiate subject material of your own, and to address your comment to others writing in this space.   

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