I was a little disappointed on how Friday's session went, mostly because of logistical issues. And I think those were mostly out of my hands (I'm still thinking about it all).
First, the woman who instigated the session and who I mentioned joking about having to wear a costume was a no-show, with no contact as to why.
Second, another player emailed an hour before, to say she couldn't come. That was a bummer because it 1) she was one of the people who had never played an rpg and 2) she was one of 3 women supposed to come. I'm always happy to get women players, I don't want my sessions to be some kind of poker night, men's exclusive.
Third, I had previously thought that with 9 people hirelings would be overkill. But with only 5 people present at start time I said, "Okay, hirelings if you want them." We made characters, started playing, and then two more gentlemen showed up (They had trouble finding the apartment).
One of these late arrivals is a Magic player, but neither had played an rpg. I'm very conscious of helping new players into the game. I try to design my handouts for that. I try to explain their choices clearly to them and give them time. But the situation here didn't seem to allow for that. I let the two roll up stats for two of the hirelings. I think they were a little confused and wonder if I should have just made the other 5 people wait while I spent some time introducing these two to the game better.
Anyway, then we were finally off:
Archon III (MU)
(note DP = Divine-Petitioner, my version of clerics/priests)
The party had heard of a temple the earth's movement had pushed up from a local bay. It had apparently happened months before they finally heard word of it. They set out to try and make their fortune.
The temple's exterior was completely covered in figures carved in relief and every single figure had had it's head removed. Inside the door they found a damp corridor with reliefs covering the walls: the same figures depicting what seem to be profane acts but difficult to tell with all the heads intentionally chiseled off.
Through a door they entered a medium sized room with a pedestal in the center. It held a verdigrised platter with a tongue-like pointer. From the ceiling a tubular gong. Connected to the pedestal by a sodden silk rope, a wooden mallet. They found the platter could be spun and had four iconic images on it.
Derek turned to one of the images and found nothing happened. Then he struck the gong and everyone saw him become suddenly thinner, by 15 pounds. Another spin and G suggested shooting the gong with an arrow. A door opened in front of the party. They passed through it.
They followed a straight passage lit by sconces. The passage was shaking and they heard something very large moving behind a door up ahead. A banging. Something LARGE. Shaking the whole HALLWAY. They decide to open the door.
In a large room, the floor covered with thousands of copper coins, they saw what looked to be an elephant with a giant fly's head. A GIANT FLY'S HEAD. They decide to go in to the room. Actually, Derek, with some difficulty, convinced his hireling to enter the room. John's trait being "abundance of loyalty" and having a decent die roll, I allow for it. On entering the room, he sees a stairway down and begins sidling towards it.
Derek and G enter the room and begin moving towards the stairs. The beast seems UNCONCERNED with their presence. G decides to shoot an arrow into it's eye. Battle commences. Gail still outside the door with Toral and his hirelings decides to slam it shut. Later they decide they need to enter and have difficulty opening the door again.
Molly asks for Sanctuary and begins filling her backpack with copper coins. A general melee begins. G is sprayed by acid, Toral sacrifices his shield to avoid certain death, and eventually darts, arrows, crossbow bolts and a few sword whacks bring the fearsome creature to its end.
The party hears a commotion from the corridor they came in from. A large group of cultists in black and red silk robes! They are screaming something about the "holy beast." One of the henchmen, wounded already dies as he lights oil poured in front of the door. Two of the cultists get tangled in each other's robes (simultaneous 1s!) and thus the party has an opportunity to flee down the stairs.
I'll condense the rest, they go through one room, into a huge room filled with columns, blithely trek into the center of the room, are surrounded by fly cultists and ultimately prevail in battle after losing, Archon, Toral, and most of the hirelings.
I am not a killer DM. My dungeon is not a fun house. Why, oh, why would a party intentionally engage a huge, freakish-looking creature when given several opportunities to avoid it? They got lucky with the creature itself, as my players always seem to do. But what happened is that they really depleted their resources. Divine-Petitioners in my world have diminishing returns on their miracle requests. Both DPs blew their 70% miracle on hiding during the combat. One of the two magic spells the party possessed, magic missile, was also blown in the combat. And the noise had me roll for wandering monsters that brought the fly cultists, cutting off their immediate exit.
Basically it was rabble go down into the dungeon, kill and get killed.
Part of the problem is player inexperience, but part of it is just the chaos of a random party of people. I'd tried to impose a caller early on, but the players were excited, assertive and kept forgetting the caller, so I let it slide. Maybe I should have been more firm.
I know the idea of meeting in a tavern before a dungeon delve is derided as the ultimate cliche, but I wonder if I could have helped these 7 people have a little more cohesion somehow. I don't mean letting them tell their imaginary backstories, as you can see from the fates of Toral and Archon that's a self-indulgent waste of time. What I mean is a way for these players to decide on a kind of real world hierarchy, or at least decision making process, and to think a little about their goals. I suppose I could have an NPC be the party leader, but I really don't want to do that.
Well, they seemed to have fun, there were some funny moments. I think I need to play again this Friday, to continue the emergent story and let them fully feel the consequences of their decisions if they are going to learn from them. I'll keep you updated.