Wednesday, February 1, 2017

A Return to Nordheim

I ran the Antagonizer's bachelor party D&D game again (twice) this past weekend. Its really somewhat satisfying running games again, as its both easier and you get to see how other groups react to things. Plus it was satisfying to take the hard work from before and reuse it, sharing something that I enjoyed with new people.

I kinda ran two different games, though, in how the groups proceeded. The first group was much more violent, befitting of Vikings. They basically followed the trajectory of the Antagonizer's group. I think I did the witch better, they did club one seal (though it didn't die), plus I was able to throw in some trolls to the group before they were largely slaughtered by Atulli and her brothers. I'll admit, I was searching for whatever stats I had used before and failed to find them, and threw four 5th-level PCs plus a henchman against two legit 5e Frost Giants and a mage. The final encounter was too difficult, plus I revised how they might find the seal rune.

I loved my rune mechanics this time. Once you had the insight to search for runes (from the giants, witchpukje, or trolls) you could voluntarily fail a death saving throw to make a wisdom saving throw. The difficulty was 15 to search for a particular rune, or 10 to search for a random rune). I did give out two runes for a nat 20 on the check. Upon learning a rune, you still lost 2 points of con (making it an anti-feat) and I allowed a hit die to be spent or a 2nd-level spell slot to power the rune.

Of course, this meant the first group was failling death saves in the middle of the battle with frost giants, which ultimately hastened their death. But I think they at least had fun with the risk vs reward aspect of it.

The second group was much more strategic and played it a lot more like D&D, expecting creatures to be their exact D&D counterparts. They asked about languages, which I realized I hadn't put info on that in my character creation doc. Languages are almost always useless in one-shots unless you specifically add them in. I usually let people swap for tool proficiencies, but those are also generally useless. Nonetheless, I should have put a list of Conan-inspired languages as options. I even foolishly allowed one to be a Kensai playtest monk. Three of the players were a bit more character optimization oriented, so the scout rogue and the beastmaster ranger (spell-less variant with a ridiculous cow companion) were maybe more powerful than the other group.

Second group also played it a lot safer, they bargained with everyone they could basically, avoided a fight with a troll, etc. Since they didn't go after Atulli, I opted to use the dragon plot a bit, with the dragon just not having woken up yet. They found his lair, murdered him with some ease, and brought his necropants back to Atulli who gave back their loved ones. They even tried to get the seal rune outside of combat, though the first attempt didn't work.

One big difference, I think, was the second group didn't really lose any resources. They took a long rest, and I should have made it so that some seals would be dying the longer they waited. The first group I think I did quite well whittling them down a bit, a hit die here and there or a spell slot that wouldn't come back till a long rest. Second group was basically at full strength for the dragon fight, and since it was a little impromptu I didn't give it lair abilities (the original game I bumped the PCs to 7th level for a modified white dragon, here I used a modified red dragon a little lower in CR) but gave it legendary actions/saves. The lair might have been enough to make the final battle harder, but it was also a con game and I take the time limit pretty serious. Didn't think I could have him run away all Moby Dick style for a second encounter.

But, I really enjoyed running that stuff again. I might still consider writing it up for a DMs guild style thing at some point, with clearer encounters for different sized parties and maybe a random encounter table for making it last a bit longer. Combining the two courses of action worked well, so the PCs could explore a few different ways of obtaining their goal. I also could have used a few additional notes on clues they might find.

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