Wednesday, July 1, 2009

First Session Post Mortem

I wanted morale rules, to be dispassionate I didn't want to have to make rulings every battle about who might run away. I had read about checking on first creature hit, and first creature death. So I used that as a rule of thumb and rolled over 12 on d20 to see if a creature stuck it out. But I'll take a look at Skathros' morale rules again and think about this.

There's been much talk lately on the forums about how underpowered fighters are and how overpowered clerics are. Well, I read it, I knew it, but it hadn't really sunk in that clerics don't get any spells at first level! Why did I spend time creating a handout letting players know what clerics are capable of -- when they aren't, not at first? I may have to just house rule that to one spell. It isn't like one Cure Light Wounds would have swayed the power balance that much anyway.

Also, after the TPK one player immediately went to the fighter class for his next character with a "I'm not screwing around any more" kind of attitude. Admittedly, he may have preconceptions of fighting types from video games, but fighters have the highest hit dice (he rolled the highest of the night) and he took a long bow. Aha, this didn't come up in the forums, the only real ranged attackers are fighters! So, the XP progression may need to be tweaked a little, but I certainly don't see the imbalance in survivability at first level- fighting-men are your best bet at staying alive.

Mages played out as expected, weak as hell with a one-barrel sleep shotgun.

One interesting thing, which I know I've read people talking about in blogs, is Clerics require the most back story. Magic is magic and no one asks where a fighter learns to wield a sword, but what god does a cleric pray to seems to be an obvious query. So, that one class had me giving a little cultural-historical background for my whole campaign to let them know it was similar to the Mediaval Christian hierarchy, with saint worshipping sects thrown in.

Winging it
I had a plan of the convent, an idea of its history, and a clear conception of its current inhabitants, but I hadn't keyed everything out. I wish I had, it would have made things smoother for me than they already were. But it was okay because most of the ruined old buildings are empty and the lairs were pretty evident. But, one big thing I should have done better was treasure placement. After the Stirges were killed there was a sense of anticlimax when they didn't find anything in the room. I was dealing with two problems 1) I couldn't think of any valuables that would have been spared the hundred years or so of scouring by bandits and humanoids, and 2) I couldn't conceive of any kind of treasure Stirge would have brought into their lair themselves. So maybe it isn't so bad, I can add the value of the stirge lair to treasure in rooms under the church which are harder to reach and haven't been picked clean yet.

I spent a few minutes making an encounter table with monsters that would likely appear, copied the stats for those from the monster compendium (that was handy to have as a doc file) and rolled up hit point for one of each encounter type. It wen smoothly, but could have been even better if I had the info all on one page-- maybe that's another project One Page Encounter Key.

Rolling for random encounters seemed to work well, they didn't occur often but players saw me rolling and had a sense of tension about being in the convent at all. I only ignored one roll: it was 11 bandits, which was far too many for my conception of the locale (bandits have been run out of there hideout by the ants and are hungry and struggling), there was no way 11 bandits would have been strolling through there.

When we resume play I may have a fewer number encounter them, because I wanted the players to have a chance to parley. That's something interesting, on first encountering the ants, the players curiously watched them walk up to the party, sealing their doom. That was fascinating to me and seemed realistic, if you saw ants the size of dogs, you might get a little nervous, but why expect them to attack immediately? The same thing almost happened when the party encountered the stirge, they were waiting to see what it would do until the mage cast sleep. I'm almost saddened that the ants were hostile, because I don't want to train the players to attack everything on sight. Maybe I should make sure to have some non-hostile creatures be encountered to try to maintain this uncertainty. But then, they saw 15 jackals run from them in fear and so that did happen later.

I would have felt better if I'd had some names and personalities thought up for hirelings, but I was able to use Steven Cook's Quick NPC Checklist to pick some quickly. His names didn't fit the culture of my area, but it forced me to come up with the explanation that these men from the far north had no family connections this far south and that was why they were struggling and willing to take on this dangerous job.

And I shouldn't expend too much energy preparing or fleshing out hirelings (at least until they've survived a few sessions) because they dropped like flies.

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