I have an occasional Dungeons and Dragons game that meets about once a month. My vision for this game has changed since we started last spring, mostly because half the players dropped out (D&D wasn’t for them). After a few unstable player months, we played again last night to continue the adventure in Dragora’s Dungeon. There will be some module spoilers below.
The first order of business was to integrate the two pairs of characters. I suggested that the two newbies build in their connection somehow and they agreed. It was a relatively simple to have them run across each other in the module’s underground dungeon swamp.
This was essentially the second session working through the module. Since the group only meets occasionally, I decided to really try to focus. I had originally intended to include one more significant swamp encounter, but really, the point of this module is the adventure in the lost city of intelligent apes known as the Zain-Kin.
This brings me to something all dungeon masters should keep in mind: always be clear on the purpose of the campaign components, the adventure and the encounter. As your game evolves, the purpose may shift, but you need to begin with some clarity on the key components, then you can update as needed.
In last night’s case, I decided to focus on getting the player characters into the lost city without excessive railroading. The first encounter began when the party’s seeker (a controller class) triggered a pit trap filled with swarming snakes. This was simple enough, and the real purpose was to give the players a bit of a warm up. Two of them were playing new characters, and the group had never fought together before. With his low hit points, the seeker dropped into the single digits rather quickly – leading the shaman healer to have a fun ‘you need to tell me if you need heals’ moment.
After some exploration and an extended rest, the group came out above the lost city. And were harassed by little drakes. Here came a decision point for the PCs: would they kill the little flying lizards, or would they endure? The dwarven fighter is not the enduring kind, and battle ensued. Again, this was an easy battle. I could have increased the challenge by adding drakes or upping their level, but I decided against it. The purpose of the session was to contact the Zain-Kin, and the purpose of the encounter was to make them decide how they would enter the city. They did not enter the city quietly.
After the battle, and after their descent, they were met by a troop of armor wearing, Tiamat worshiping, ape man Zain-Kin. Objective achieved!
Negotiations began well enough: the group was generally willing to go with the apes, but when they tried to separate the warlock from the rest, things broke down.
While it would have been a blast to play that fight, time expired, so we ended on a cliffhanger. This brings two advantages: 1) it will be easy to pick up next time by rolling initiative and 2) I’ll have time to really optimize this encounter. To optimize this encounter, first I need to determine its true purpose…