Monday, March 1, 2010

Session Post Mortem

I'm realizing I never know what to call these posts, Post Session, Post Play and that most people have a name for their campaigns. I have no clue what to call mine, the Noob Meat Grinder? I haven't been able to place a tentpole dungeon yet which is what the campaign names often come from.

So, some reflections on play. I keep a file of tips I run across reading various blogs. Ben Robbins of ars ludi is right on the money when he says "let players see traps." Because my tomb complex is set up in a uniform fashion, my players saw evidence of a trap that had been set off centuries before. This caused just as much tension and drama as having a trap go off killing a party member. More so, I think. There is probably still a place for the awful surprise to a group of a fatal trap, but that is just an instant, and doesn't necessarily mean they understand why the trap went off, leaving them tapping 10' poles everywhere. Knowing there was almost certainly a trap in a certain location left the sense of danger and suspense but allowed for the party to engage the environment and try to find ways around the obstacle.

The statue puzzle was a success, but just barely. Some tips I gather from play, if you are going to have a puzzle with a solution involving steps:
  • make sure to signal that there is, in fact, a solution,
  • make sure that solution is relatively simple,
  • that solution is internally consistent,
  • that trying for said solution gives feedback to the players and,
  • there aren't too many steps in the solution.
I stumbled on the most important of those by chance, the feedback. I was perusing a list of tips T. Foster had posted on ENWorld about achieving "old school" feel in dungeons while designing this tomb. One tip was to have a puzzle that must be figured out, but more importantly another was a trick or puzzle that has permanent effects. What I did was make a semi-permanent effect each time the characters did a proper hand sign in the wrong order. So what happened was they got some feedback, remembered hand signs that caused something but knew something wasn't quite right about that sign.

A random assortment of observations:
  • Zepharia's player was a great player. Maybe a real natural. Of all the people I've DMed since getting back into the game she has been the best by far, careful but not cowardly, trusting there is a sense to my game world and trying to discover it.
  • At one point the players asked if there was a latch to release an iron bar trap. This was something I hadn't thought about at all. So I rolled for it and the dice said they absolutely did. Not sure how I feel about that. Related to that, they asked an npc about a treasure item. I ridiculously had not thought out what he might know, rolled, the dice said he knew everything about the item.
  • I had completely missed the exceptional intelligence rule for mages and realized both Zepheria and Ehud should be able to cast 2 first level spells! Huge power differential there. On doing so, made the off-the-top-of-my-head ruling that mages can't memorize duplicates of the same spell. Weird, why have I never heard of that option for Vancian magic? Seems logical and will cause mages to use a greater variety of spells.


  1. In the military, we referred to them as "After Action Reviews" or, if written, "After Action Reports." The purpose is for everyone to get together and critique what was done wrong, what was done right, what we wanted to do better next time, and so on. It cements the lessons learned (usually the hard way) in training or combat. The difference between training and combat is that in combat you have a tendency to pay a far higher price for the knowledge -- especially when it involves something you did wrong.

  2. Ah, that's where that term came from. I never did settle on post play or play post mortem for myself :) But I think it is essential for learning to DM. As much experience as I have I goofed up big time las t game I ran, mostly because I'm always trying to do something new, ah well, got to make mistakes to learn.