D&D Birthday Party
DMed for a group of 12 year-olds this week-end.
I had already been DM for them 2 years ago and have been trying to schedule something with them ever since. This game was a birthday request from the birthday boy himself – a request I find myself very happy to oblige.
I decided to run a quick level 1 scenario from the Chaos Scar (you can find it Chaos Scar D&DI) a simple kill evil creatures scenario.
Before we start the game, birthday boy told me:
Eric, this time, I’ll try want to assert myself and take a more active role
Fine, I thought.
This’ll be cool.
So, this is a group of 6 boys – I had to present the characters, the basic rules and a run over the powers without having their eyes gleam over and loose interest. I had to present the setting and get them to interact with the game… and I had a deadline – parents were coming to pick up most of the boys in roughly 4 hours. I sketched a plan to trim down the scenario by removing two encounters – keeping the two best encounters.
I sped them on their way towards the Chaos Car – these fine young heroes, looking for glory and a chance to vanquish evil. Garven (birthday boy’s Dwarven Cleric) quickly established himself as the leader and quickly steered the group towards the settlement’s Inn where they partook of a good meal and inquired for rooms.
The Innkeeper, knowing they were adventurers (who else comes near the Chaos Scar?) starts to chat with them, to see if they are looking for contractual work of if other reasons were bringing them there. When the discussion came to an end and the Innkeeper asked for payment for the food and room, Garven took out his weapon and threatened the innkeeper.
You give us all you own and you’ll keep your head
Now, I was at a loss… These boys played nicely two years ago and I had completely forgotten how my own games were panned out when at 12 years old.
Let’s not say “no”.
The innkeeper laughs at the cleric’s impetuousness and proposes this deal :
I’m a founding member of this settlement, and as such also act as Sherriff. I have a deal to propose to you fellows : merchants usually come following the wall when coming to trade with the settlement. Lately they’ve been attacked and that’s been bad for business. Surviving merchants described being attacked by giant frog-like creatures. I mean, with the Chaos Scar, everything’s possible. I’ll pay you 5 gp for each creature you kill (with proof) and I won’t charge you for the rooms and food.
To my relief, the group agrees – and tries to negotiate to get some supplies to go on mission before departing for the wall.
Another brick in the wall
Once at the wall, Garven decides he wants to climb to wall to see on the other side. Other players object – one saying he is better suited at climbing and could throw ropes to help. Other saying that they should look for tracks, or openings in the wall.
Nevertheless, Garven decides to climb the wall.
I know I’m bad at climbing, Garven said,
but I want to do it anyway
All right – who wants to help him climb and how? – I’ve been playing some Mouse Guard and Burning Wheel and helping now drilled in my mind.
Two players decide to help and succeed at their help roll. The other players sit in the grass to laugh at his inevitable failure.
Garven’s climbing roll fails, of course, but gives an opportunity for fun narration – birthday boy does not shy away from the spotlight and gladly takes the narrative from the DM to give his own vivid description of his failure. I absolutely love this!
Having now learned about skills, Erevan, the group’s ranger, decides to use his nature skills to try and find clues about the attacks near the wall. Picking up on the helping mechanics, two other players decide to help, describing actions fitting nature and perception skills.
However, Garven decides to further explore his sociopathic tendencies (he prepared for the game by listening to « Tom et ses Chums », his dad later reminded me).
While two fellows decided to help, Garven and another player decided to drop the quest and try to distract the ranger and prevent him from successfully using his skills.
I was a bit at a loss – I didn’t want to say “no” (though I think this time I would have been entitled to). I wanted to allow them to explore their play and resolve this within themselves – as long as the other players were having fun.
Instead of doing a reverse “help another player” test, I did an opposed check based on the player’s actions to raise the ranger’s target DC.
Erevan managed to succeed and led the other players to a hole in the wall where the group started to bicker about whether they wanted to go in there to kill creatures or just go back to the village and wreak havoc.
D6 Ex machina
I was loosing grip on the game at this point and was seeing clear signs of frustration from other players, one even vocally letting birthday boy know that his way of playing was making things less fun for others. Talk of splitting the party in two occurred – one group going hunting for their targets and another one to go back to the city.
Time for a distraction – one of the players hears something move in the bushes on the other side of the wall; I decided to introduce a second quest giver, trying to give them a stronger hook into the adventure.
A few players wanted to go see, but Garven didn’t want them to go see.
Leave it alone! It’s nothing! We head back to the city!
Another argument erupted about what to do with the noise. By now I had figured that he simply did the opposite of what the majority wanted to do, without much more thought to it.
Whatever was in the bush decided to run for it – running by the players and breaking for the city.
Garven immediately took out his throwing hammer and shot at the fleeing victim. Of course, he hits – which would have killed the NPC on the spot.
I decided to make him lie unconscious in a pool of blood instead – giving the players the possibility to heal his wound and talk with him.
Garven ran to him, wanting to finish him off.
By then, I’ve had my fill of sociopathic behaviour – I looked at the player and told him :
please remember that you are a cleric of Moradin. You are a healer and a defender. You like to demonstrate the power of the God of Dwarves by healing and showing compassion. So far, you have not really played in line with this goal.
Birthday boy took that in and cleverly meshed it with his role playing.
Guys, I thought he was a monster, but it turns out he’s human! We should heal him and let him go!
The other player’s growing frustration with his playing prompted them to react as he had played so far. Erevan decided that this new victim was about to die and should be but out of his misery; he took out his dagger.
How to handle this? I asked any other player would try and stop him and made both parties roll initiative to see if they made it in time to stop Erevan. Which they did.
Erevan and Garven started arguing about the victim’s backpack… while the rogue tried to steal it. Garven didn’t want the other players to look into the backpack.
These are the man’s belongings, it is not right to look into his belongings. We should let him go
But we must at least talk with him! What’s he doing there!
Eventually, miraculously, the group decided to help the victim and read the papers in his backpack, where they found a map to the giant frog’s lair and notes about a powerful artifact hidden in there.
They decided to push forward together and the rest was mostly classic D&D 4e.
Of course, this whole ordeal took roughly 3 hours and parents started arriving right in the middle of the second fight.
We cut the fight short when we got down to two players – the more obvious threats had by then been removed.
All players had fun –even through the rocky start. Birthday boy even said to me :
there’s not many greater birthday gifts that a D&D game
Once his friends left, we talked for a while – he wants to play on a regular basis and would like to build the stories with me with spaceships, teleporting devices and boatload of creative contraptions.
I think this one is ripe for his own DMG.