Dragora’s Dungeon, January Edition Part 2

My last post focused on the things that went well in last Saturday’s games session in Dragora’s Dungeon.  Now I’m going to dig into the bumps and other opportunities for improvement that I noticed.

As usual, the module’s layout vexes me.  I’m familiar with the content, so the stumbles were minor; in particular, the PCs asked for some descriptions of a key building, and while I remembered the overall features, I couldn’t find the tower’s exact description.  Like any good DM, I improvised, but I would have preferred to have the information at hand.

An aspect of the session that the players did suffer from was the escape from the big fight.  I can’t blame the module, since adding the flight option was my idea (hmm, maybe it should have been in the module…).  I hadn’t thought through all the details, so it was hard for me to provide them with clear options.  My group is pretty good at innovating with terrain, and some of them took advantage of emerging opportunities, but there was some frustration that I could have avoided with a bit more planning and clarity.

Around two thirds of the way through the session, the exploration of the city slipped into the un-fun zone.  The PCs had lots of options, almost all of them workable from my perspective, but they had trouble deciding.  This might simply be the way it is in a game like this.  They didn’t have enough pieces to put the whole puzzle together, yet smart players really want to make the best decision.  When I play, I do the same thing, and maybe that’s okay in moderate doses.  The Evil Hat game “Spirit of the Century” advises ‘sending in ninjas’ at times like those.  Let me tell you, I considered it.

I also have a few things that I’m still chewing on.  As a militaristic society, the Zain-kin are almost all soldier type monsters.  Lots of soldiers typically mean long combats.  This was no exception, but it didn’t seem excessive considering the scale of the battle.  Their high defenses did make them tough to hit, so even the minions hung around.  My point is to remember that encounter make-up matters.  Too many soldiers can be boring, and I definitely felt that potential in this encounter.

My initiative tracking system is still imperfect.  It worked for the most part, and this is only the second time that I’ve used Excel on my laptop to track it all.  I think I would have preferred to use a mouse (I left mine at home), and I’ll have to think of more ways to improve my process.  Maybe next time I’ll try some third party applications.  What recommendations do you have?

Not surprisingly, the last thing on my ‘things to hone’ list is the skill checks to travel through the city.  Originally, I had imagined a more complicated skill challenge structure that would require multiple failures before the PCs felt negative affects.  In practice, their chance of success for each check was quite high.  I have no problem with that, but if (when?) a majority of the group does blow their stealth check, there should be a consequence.  I have some ideas on tightening this up that I can try next session, and I’ll let you know how it goes.

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3 Comments

Filed under continuous improvement, Session Debrief

3 responses to “Dragora’s Dungeon, January Edition Part 2

  1. Mike V

    On the last point, re: skill challenges… one way to look at this is to try and figure a frequency of failure that you want over the whole adventure. Here we had a DC of near 10, 2 characters with stealth of around +10, and 3 characters with a stealth of around +0. Three characters had to fail their checks simultaneously for the group to fail. And we had to make about 4 group checks to get across the city.

    The two good characters really shouldn’t fail at all, and if that holds, all three bad characters need to fail to get a group failure, so you wind up with 1/2 x 1/2 x 1/2 = 1/8 chance of the group failing. If we have to make this check 4 times over the course of the adventure, we expect at least one group failure about 40% of the time. (This is just one minus the the chance of four straight successes.) That actually seems to be pretty close to what you wanted, if I understand what you wrote correctly.

    The problem I have with a lot of these mechanics is that if you do the analysis, failure either turns out to be near guaranteed, or near impossible, and the consequences don’t take that into account. (Remember the skill check to jump the lava creek, with failure resulting in death?) Here it turns out you actually have it pretty well balanced for “sometimes the party fails, and sometimes it succeeds.”

    Note that I don’t like “You will almost certainly make this, so the consequence of failure is DEATH!!!!” situation either; that leads to either chaos or lots of scrambling on the DMs part when someone loses a character due to a stupid roll.

    • Zobmie

      For being as terrible with math as I am. I do love reading about it in a context such as this. Entertaining and helpful. Thanks Mike!

  2. Thanks for breaking down the math, Mike. That helps me understand how the rules fit the mechanics.

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