On Friday we comb through our extensive archives to find an older article that we feel deserves another look. From January 4, 2012, Dungeon’s Master once again presents: Don’t Fight to the Death.
Doesn’t it seem kind of dumb for monsters – or PCs for that matter – to fight until they reach their very last hit point? Don’t any of the combatants in D&D have any sort of survival instinct? What ever happened to the flight part of fight or flight? In most combat scenarios the PCs beat up on the monsters and the monsters don’t back down until they’re dead. Unless the monster has good reason to fight to the end, why would they? The simple answer is that they shouldn’t.
Eventually all battles should reach a point where one side either surrenders or flees. Fighting to the bitter end is just stupid. Yet this is how D&D works. The PCs fight the monsters until one side (most often the monsters) is decimated. In those very rare occurrences when one or two monsters manage to flee the players will often complain that the DM robbed them of a totally victory (at least that’s been my experience). I think that we need to introduce a little bit more common sense into D&D combat and I know just the way to do it.
With the prisoners freed from the dungeon below the Sacred Stone Monastery, the PCs were free to continue their exploration of the complex. However, the Monks and other Earth Elemental cultists were aware that intruders were in the Monastery’s lower level causing trouble. The PCs eventually found an escape route that lead them deeper into the bowls of the Sumber Hills.
My table at Face to Face Games in Toronto had a swelling of three new players this week brining us to six. Two were players who’d tried D&D recently during a casual play session at our FLGS, and the other was a squatter from another table that didn’t have enough people to play this week. This certainly changed the dynamics of my table in a hurry. The party consisted of a Half-Orc Ranger, Dragonborn Rogue, Tiefling Paladin, Halfling Rogue and two Human Fighters. Only one players (the squatter) had a lot of experience with D&D. I’d guess the other five players had only played about 20 sessions between them.
On Friday we comb through our extensive archives to find an older article that we feel deserves another look. From October 21, 2009, Dungeon’s Master once again presents: Skill Focus – Diplomacy.
After Perception, Diplomacy seems to be the skill used most often in my games. Any time your PC finds himself in a social situation you know that you’re going to end up making a Diplomacy check. But Diplomacy is more that just talking the talk. It’s usually about knowing what to say and how to say it. Your PC’s body language can also have as much of an impact as the words coming out of his mouth.
Most skills are versatile on their own, but since Diplomacy is generally opposed by Insight it’s probably a good idea to take training in both if your class allows it. Any time a PC is engaged in a back-and-forth dialogue they’ll probably end up using both skills, so taking training in both will greatly improve your chances of success.
Whenever a PC speaks the truth the appropriate skill is usually Diplomacy. As soon as they start leaving out details, deliberately withholding information or outright lying it starts to tread on the ground of Bluff. If you’re trained in Diplomacy but not in Bluff (we’re looking at you Paladins and Clerics) then it’s up to you to convince your DM that a Diplomacy check is still the right one given the circumstances. Letting the Rogue speak only when the party needs to tell a lie is going to be a pretty obvious “tell” that you’ve trying to mislead the king or swindle the merchant.
It’s important to remember that in many circumstances you’re only going to get one shot at a Diplomacy check, so you’d better be sure that you make the most of it. You wouldn’t want to ruin a diplomatic dinner because you drank the lemon scented water that you should have used to wash your fingers.
The Half-Orc Ranger fled the Sacred Stone Monastery as fast as he could, hoping that the Monks who’d captured the rest of his party were not in pursuit. After a half-hour of running he finally stopped to rest in a shallow cave he’d discovered in the rocky Sumber Hills. As the adrenalin wore off he collected his thoughts and began to wonder how was he going to rescue his friends? Before he could figure out an answer he dozed off and fell asleep.
This week at Face to Face Games in Toronto we had fewer players than we’ve had in recent weeks. We ran four tables with a combined total of 16 players including two walk-ins. My group only had three players, the Human Fighter and Half-Orc Ranger from the last session and one of the new players who ran a Halfling Barbarian. This is only the second time I’ve run a table with the absolute minimum number of players allowed since we began using the 5e rules. It was quite a change from the huge tables of six and seven we’d been running only a few short weeks earlier.
One of the more difficult things that new players have trouble remembering is that moving away from an opponent will draw an opportunity attack. As soon as players hear that moving their character more than one square away from an adjacent creature will result in that creature getting a free attack, all tactics that involve moving are thrown out the window. It’s almost as if they believe that drawing an attack and possibly taking the hit is the absolute worst thing that they can do on their turn.
As an experienced DM I’m going to tell you that you need to be willing to take an opportunity attack once in a while. From a mechanics point of view all opponents know as well as you do under what circumstances they’ll get to make a free attack on you. If you move away they’ll attack you as soon as your back is turned. If you try to use a ranged attack while standing next to them, they’ll see the hole in your defenses and attack you. And if you try to crawl away while prone you bet that you enemy will kick you as you scurry away.
But so what if they do? In most cases a monster’s basic attack is just that – basic. It usually is a straight up weapon attack, be it a sword or claw. Yes, it has the potential to hurt you but you need to weigh that against the value of taking the action that draws the attack in the first place.
You may expect this write-up to begin in the Manticores’ lair where a group of adventurers were keeping the Manticore eggs warm while planning what to do next. That adventuring party played under a new DM this week. The group I ran began the session back at the Feathergale Spire where they were given a hot lead on the missing delegation from Miramar.
We had another great turnout at Face to Face Games in Toronto this week. We’re now running four tables. We had 18 players this week, which we could have squished into three groups but we’re laying foundation for the weeks to come when we expect our numbers to be up over 20 again. I took on the table with the newest players. This has made it quite challenging to get any sort of consistency or ongoing story established, but I continue to do my best to ensure everyone is having fun.
My table had four players; one was new this week, the other three had each participated in two previous sessions. The party consisted of a Human Fighter, Half-Orc Ranger, Dragonborn Rogue, and Elf Wizard. The adventure assumes that by episode 4 the average party level is 4. My average party level was 2 which meant I had to curb back some numbers to ensure the PCs weren’t killed as soon as they encountered their first hostile opponent or trap.
“Manticore! It’s on the move!” shouted one of the Feathergale Knight sentries. All the Knights stood as one, dinners left uneaten, and words from tales of their greatest triumphs left hanging in the air. “We should take this opportunity to slay the monster,” said Thurl Merosska, commander of the Knights. He then removed a gold ring from his finger. Holding it up he offered it as a prize to whomever could bring him the Manticore’s head. The Knights ran to the stables to get on their flying mounts and vie for the prize.
This week at Face to Face Games in Toronto we ran three full tables with seven players at each. I was again running the new kids’ table. A few players were not completely new as they’d participated in one previous week of D&D Encounters or one session of D&D Expeditions; the rest were brand new. The party consisted of a Dwarf Fighter, Dragonborn Fighter, Human Paladin and four pre-gens –Dwarf Cleric, and three Halfling Rogues.
Very few games I’ve ever played in or run spend much time worrying about what PCs eat, how frequently they eat, or where they get the food that sustains them. It’s not usually an interesting part of the game so we gloss over it. Obviously every living creature eats, but we just assume that meals happen behind the scenes. Food is not usually an important part of D&D. But it can be if we make it so.
I gave up trying to track rations back in AD&D 2e. We just assume PCs have what they need to survive or buy it or hunt for it. Yet, whenever the DM presents the party with a chance to have a meal in-game most players have their characters participate. They recognize that life on the road likely means terrible food for their PC. When the party finally arrives in town they usually look for a soft bed and a good meal. It’s during these times that the DM can make food fun.
Today we share new adventure hooks to inspire DMs. They all revolve around food in some way. If everyone eats then anything that threatens the food supply will be seen as a big deal by most. It shouldn’t be too difficult to get PCs to bit on these hooks and then bite on some delicious food.
Our story picks up a few days following the events in the Tomb of Moving Stones. The PCs have once again proven to the people of Red Larch why they deserve the title of heroes. Following their subterranean adventures in the last session there were still some unanswered questions regarding what they found in the caverns. They also still had a score to settle with some of the local merchants who had sent the PCs into an ambush a few weeks before.
Unfortunately our story took a bit of a detour. We’ve done a great job of growing the public play program at our FLGS and we’ve expanded into three groups from two. One of the players from my group volunteered to step up and become the DM. He’s been doing a great job running D&D Expeditions adventures so we felt it was time to get him to be a full time D&D Encounters DM. He took over my table since he already knew all the players, their characters, and the intimate details of the story so far. That allowed me to take on the table of newbies.
This week at Face to Face Games in Toronto my table had five players. Three were new to D&D Encounters, one had played a single session a few weeks earlier, and one was a vet I borrowed from my old table for one session. The party shaped up like this: Elf Wizard (new), Human Fighter (new), Dragonborn Rogue (new), Dwarf Fighter – greatsword (one game), and Dwarf Fighter – hammer (veteran).
I decided to just start them at the beginning of episode 3 so that the tables all remained more or less at the same spot in the story. This meant I had to provide a quick recap of the important plot points and introduce the new players to Red Larch. I dropped most of the threads that my previous group left dangling to keep things as simple as possible.
Our hears had made names for themselves in Red Larch and were enjoying some downtime in the small town. However, as they got to know some of the locals they realized that some NPCs were not as friendly or helpful as others. This made the PCs suspicious. At the end of the previous session the PCs were given a map and told they’d find the answers they were looking for in the Sumber Hills, a few days journey outside of town. What they found was an ambush that nearly cost the PCs their lives. Enraged by the betrayal, the PCs rushed back to Red Larch to confront the people they believed set them up.
We continue to provide recaps from our past few sessions while we get back into the swing of things and get back to sharing our weekly adventures one week at a time, as they happen. Yesterday you read our episode 2.1 recap and today we’ve got episode 2.2. Tomorrow we’ll share episode 3.1 and that will bring us in synch with where we actually are at our FLGS, Face to Face Games in Toronto.
We’ve finally found another full-time DM so we’ve split our groups into three tables. We’re still trying to figure out who’s playing at which table and under which DM, but for now I’m still running with some familiar faces. During this session my party of four consisted of the following PCs: Elf Bard, Dwarf Fighter (Hammer), Human Sorcerer (Wild Magic), and Human Monk.