My players have picked up on the “descriptive bonus” of +2 in my games, and tonight’s special session was extremely well played. Players did more than hit things with their swords; they fought back-to-back, and defended the spell-casters, and one kicked a kobold down before running him through on his sword.
Normally we don’t play on Wednesdays. Wednesdays are long enough for me, really. But I wanted them to be 2nd level by Christmas, and I figured that meant two more sessions, one of which had to be today, given that we have a special holiday concert next week on our usual gaming night. So this was Special Session I.
The kobolds responded to the invasion of their main hall with a phalanx maneuver backed up with a hail of sling stones, with a trio of Svihanders holding the exits for the tribe’s escape. I didn’t make use of traps very much in this adventure, but I did use the kobolds’ small size to build shield walls and make use of cover, and to attack with both melee and ranged weapons. Thus I got the chance to do some damage and waste some party spells.
Following up on ‘s suggestions, I’ve in fact arranged for two escape routes… one for the body of the tribe’s non-combatants and a token force of defenders, and one for the leadership, in possession of the girl. This will make the tracking more satisfying to the ranger, and will make the information-gathering techniques of the druid more interesting.
All of my PCs, with the exception of the newly encountered druid, are now 2nd level, at least in name. I’ve decided I am going to do training times and training costs, though maybe not so high as the rules suggest. Since all of my players are also my students and are in need of writing practice, they will write about their training and their teachers and their experiences during downtime over Christmas break, as part of their advancement process.
I now have a fifth player eager to join, as well — one of the most unlikely kids imaginable. I think it would be good for him, and might draw him out of his shell a little. At the same time, I know that adding a fifth player tends to water down experience, and requires me to beef up encounters. He wants to be a pirate, as well, which suggests a rogue or fighter-type, rather than the cleric the group sort of needs.
I proposed a couple of solutions to this issue — troupe style play, for example, and also two competing teams, with a group of three doing on adventure, and a group of two doing another. No one thought much of that idea right off the bat. People preferred the idea of locking out the game at five players.
I remain in the basic tension between being a game master intent on a high-quality game, and a dorm master with a basic responsibility to the fun and education of the fifteen children on my dorm. If I run a game for four kids, I can provide a fun, challenging, and social environment for them; on the other hand, there are eleven free to do whatever they want. If I run a game for five kids, I am entertaining a third of my dormitory, but not engaging the other two-thirds.
Moreover, five was the tipping point last year — one of the ‘cool kids’ decided he wanted to play, and that drew in another three players who would not go away and leave us to play in peace. When four kids are doing something, that’s a clique. Five kids on a dorm doing one thing attracts others. That one of the kids is from off-dorm only highlights the unusual nature of the interaction.
Forrest is right of course. Interaction IS more important than existence. I may have created the world, but it doesn’t exist very well on its own without characters to inhabit the world. Those characters need motive players behind them. Their interaction — with each other, with the game world — is what makes the world come alive.
Accept a fifth player? Disallow? If I allow a fifth, how do I discourage the sixth and seventh? Could I run this as a MMPORG-style, with the quest of the Abbey performed by more than one group, with the groups interacting in town? Tricky. Presumably other GMs do not have hordes of would-be players knocking on the doors, but advice on this would be appreciated.
One thing I may do is use the pages from my DM’s Screen insert on designing communities to design a worksheet, and give three copies to each player. If each player is responsible for creating a community or two, and deciding on the basic traits of each NPC, then 1) they have a place to do their training, and 2) they have a town where they are expected to run an adventure at some point, an adventure they must plan for.
Thoughts, comments, questions, advice all welcome. G’night.