Just yesterday i had one of the coolest and most enjoyable D&D experiences in a very long time. Sadly, though, I have an extremely tough time actually portraying a good time and talking about D&D in any good sense. Maybe I’ll try and make it more of a habit. This week, though, it wasn’t only the D&D adventure, it was the communication that happened before the session even began.
I mentioned, back when I started running the game, that this was a strange an unfamiliar land I was fleshing out, and that I was doing it in a strange and unfamiliar way. The method of DMing I had been doing for years and years – that of a large, over-arching story that takes up a lot of time – was being suspended. Instead, I was going to tell a bunch of smaller, one off stories that would, eventually, weave together into a single cohesive land that made consistent sense and was resplendent with details that I would not have otherwise had the time or creativity to think up. This process has lead to two different realizations about Killbar that I otherwise would not have had.
1 – In Killbar there is a large Elven Minority. I’ve yet to figure out exactly why that is, but its a fact that I accidentally created by mentioning elves constantly when asked for the NPC’s race.
2- There was an ancient Dwarven Civilization where the lands of Killbar now stand.
This style of DMing was fun, and I was fully prepared to go further with it, when last week one of my players mentioned that it’d be interesting to see a multi-stage story, and also stated that they’d like to do some investigating deeper into certain parts of the world that exist at this point.
See, I couldn’t help myself. While I was ostensibly creating short adventures that had a delineated starting and ending point, I was building in hooks and plot points in case .. I don’t know. It turns out, I had created these possibilities because I just am better overall at telling stories, and felt that it was turning in that direction anyway. I had created a safety net for myself. If, at any point in time I needed to turn this into a campaign, I had outs. I had a lot of them.
It was with this in mind, and the discussion of the week prior, that I approached the group this week and asked a number of questions that would enable me to better understand what the group of players I am refereeing for wanted. While they could be specifically applied to the game I am running now, they are generally good questions to ask and answer in any given RPG. Setting, and then meeting, the expectations of the RPG party matters in every game.
1 – Do we like where the game is going? Are you, as a party, perfectly content to continue exploring the area in little bits and bites, or do you want a more unified story.
2 – How is the Combat to RP elements? Do we have more of one than the other? Would you like more of one than another?
3 – When combat occurs, do you favor the “Theater of the Mind” version we have been using, or would you like to return to a more miniatures and grid based combat system?
4 – Is XP coming along at a fast enough pace? Is it to fast? are you all ok with the pace at which the adventure is progressing.
Boiled down, these here are probably the most important discussions which a group can, and indeed should, have, and they should be public. They need to, sometimes, be moderated due to opposing opinions, but the DM should have the ability to read his players and see that they are either uncomfortable speaking or that they have something to say.
What is of interest here, to me, is that for the most part, the adventure was a big hit. The Combat to RP elements were balanced pretty well, but it had been a while since they’d gotten to stab some things. Theater of the Mind was cool, but fun, set-piece battles with miniatures were also desired, and XP was coming along a bit slow, but only just so. An easy fix.
The overwhelming majority of the players, and by majority I mean every single one of them, desired a greater story line. They wanted to take, now that they had had the bites, a larger serving of a sample that they had taken earlier. Being as I am a general storyteller and less of an adventure-writer, I am pleased with this decision. However, and I want to make this extremely clear, I would have been excited to continue to expand and define the lay of the land around Parminium and Killbar in general. Everything I’d done was interesting and fun, and it created a type of living world atmosphere that I want to continue with as the adventure progresses. I am extremely pumped to jump into writing a story, and to start seeing how the world changes as they wind their way through it. Their decisions, as I try with every adventure, will have rippled throughout the Island.
What, pray tell, do I have in store for them? Well, I cannot divulge everything here, but I can put the hooks out there that I have set.
1 – Despite two attempts at rooting out the goblins around Meturius, one in the Abandoned Mine and one at the Ancient Lake, it seems not to have changed the outlook of that town. Now, months later, they are still being attacked by goblins. This time, they are dark red and black, strange looking, and from the North-east, an area that the adventurers have not yet been to.
2 – The Brackwood, a terrifying and nearly living forest north of Parminium, has multiple legends relating to how and why it has its terrifying and unforgiving state. Some tales tell of a rift to the Iron Marches, some of a mad Wizard, and others still of a great sacrifice.
3 – A set of twins, Connor and Lucas, are convinced that they are on the trail of an relic of great importance, one which they have been looking for for a long time. They are convinced that here, within Parminium and the surrounding area, they will track down the last clues to its final resting place.
4- The Goat-men of the Horned God have landed and are raiding. They have sacked a nearby monastery and conducted a raid on Parminium itself which they were barely, and mysteriously, repulsed. There is a captian of the Guard that has some information on the raid that is looking to speak with the characters.
Each of these trails offers some awesome potential stories, and I will not neglect the other three that are ignored in order to advance a story. Other hero’s, other advanturers will succeed or fail at their tasks, and the events will come to some sort of conclusion that affects the area, but it will likely be less than the effect that the trail the PC’s choose to follow has.
And, though I am psyked to get to writing what is happening and how the world is going to start changing around the characters, I don’t know, as of this moment, which of the four stories the players would choose.
What would you?