My posts about the D&D game I run have been generating a lot of mail. I’ve had quite a few DM’s tell me they’ve tried some of my ideas in their own games which I think is awesome. Obviously I’m still very new to this DM thing but I think that might be why I am coming at it from a different direction.
I try and make sure that each of my games has a “hook”. Sometimes the hook might be one encounter where the players are fighting a dragon in free fall, or it might be an entire night of encounters using mirrors and a laser. Even if it’s just for one fight, I always want to make sure I have something each night that makes the players put their cell phones down and lean in a little closer to the table. For my game last Monday the hook was “World of Warcraft”.
The story of our campaign has been building and building recently and the whole thing has gotten very serious. I think that’s great but I also wanted to give them a little break and have some fun. With that in mind I set out to build a night of encounters and quests full of inside jokes for my players, all but one of which are huge WOW fans. My players are currently stuck in the Underdark with a tribe of humans that they are trying to get some information out of. I decided that in order to get in the tribe’s good graces the party would need to do some good old fashioned rep grinding. They started off by taking a bunch of little quests from the different tribe members. All of these were pulled right out of WOW and tweaked just a bit to work in D&D. Here is an example:
A small squat man is hunched over a cooking fire. A fat stone kettle sits atop the smoldering blaze. A bubbling roiling broth is releasing a sweet, not altogether unpleasant smell.
-Hello there! My name is Barak, I’m the tribe’s one and only chef. As you can imagine, feeding a group our size from what’s available here in the caves is no easy task. I’m working on a pot of my famous Underdark Goulash but Sadly I have run out of my key ingredient. If you could bring me 10 helpings of crisp Phaseweb spider meat I could feed the entire tribe for a month.
This got all the WOW players at the table laughing and I wasn’t done yet. They also picked up a quest from the tribe’s healer, who wanted them to collect Kharolian crystals for her and one of the hunters wanted proof that the spider queen had been killed. I gave them all their quests on little cards and they set out into the Underdark.
I used my Dwarven Forge tiles to build a series of interconnected rooms and passageways that would serve as the night’s “zone”. I picked up some fake spider webs,LED tea lights and rubber spiders from the halloween isle at the store. I spread the webbing all over the tiles and used the spiders sort of like set dressing just to give the impression that they were constantly surrounded by scurrying bugs.
From the craft store I got a little bag of red crystals that I think are supposed to go in a floral arrangement. I distributed these throughout the dungeon for the players to collect.
When the game started I had the lights turned down so that the entire dungeon was lit just by the tea lights.
Gameplay wise I tried some new stuff as well. I had my players roll initiative once at the beginning of the night. I explained that they should think of the dungeon as an “open world” that they could explore however they like. However they had to navigate the entire night using their character’s movement and doing it in their initiative order. Essentially the dungeon was an elaborate game board, like a fantasy version of Monopoly and they were moving their pieces around it. I also let them know that if they tried to take a short rest they would be attacked by the spiders that were crawling all over the walls and ceiling. This basically made the entire night one encounter.
As they moved through the dungeon they were occasionally attacked by roving groups of spider minions. They also took time to harvest the crystals which ended up being more difficult than you might think. These crystals were extremely fragile and filled with a strange energy. Picking one required a successful nature,arcana or thievery check. If a character failed the check the crystal shattered and dealt damage. The invoker actually ended up bloodied just from crystal damage not long into the night.
I decided that the crystals if used correctly would have a healing effect. They could also use a crystal to recover an encounter power. Since they had no rests all night these crystals became a real life saver. However every one they used was one less they had to complete the quest. It made for some really interesting discussions and fun group dynamics as the Paladin slowly developed an all consuming addiction to the magic crystals. At one point very near the end of the night he actually begged the rogue to get him another saying that he “just needed one more crystal to get straight.”
The larger rooms in the dungeon contained the encounters with the Phaseweb spiders. These were the ones that they needed to collect the meat from and so I created what was essentially a loot table.
Each time they killed a Phaseweb spider they got to turn over a loot card. Sometimes it was white spider meat and sometimes it was a dripping mandible (vendor trash). I even put one “green” drop in the loot table but the players didn’t manage to find it.
They did collect all the meat though as well as all the crystals they needed. They couldn’t find the Spider Queen but at the end of the night they returned to camp, turned in two quests and got their rewards. They also got a bit closer to earning the trust of the tribe’s leader.
At the end of the night I asked them what they they liked and what they didn’t like. It turns out that they really enjoyed looting monsters so I’ll probably bring that back again. Almost all of them also said they loved that the entire night was one encounter. It really made them explore their abilities and play their character in a different way. Over all I’d say the night was a big win. Now I just have to figure out what the hell I’m gonna do next Monday.