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Welcome to the Intermission for Season 2 of Dawn of Dragons. Lets take a break to discuss the background of this season and where it came from at the table. Also answer a few questions about the game itself and offer a few tips and tricks to enhance your own tabletop game. Finally I’ll close with an actual play of the fastest run of the Infamous module S1 - Tomb of Horrors With Colten Janssen who normally plays Skotmir, and JD Rose who you haven’t met her character yet. So I will warn you all before we get to that part at the end of this show, if you ever want to run it as a player you may want to skip it as it does reveal some surprises.
I do want to take a moment to shout out to our latest Patrons Daniel Nichols and Corey Phauth for joining our team of supporters that make it possible to put this show out to you. Every dollar goes into the show’s production and improving its quality so a big thank you to you both.
This season as discussed starts with our first game in the city of Ellington. In our actual game we went from playing that custom game in a day to playing a separate run of the original Ravenloft I-6 module. I actually converted the original to 5e before Curse of Strahd came out haha go me! But towards the end of conversion as i was doing my victory lap i remembered House of strahd from 2nd edition and i did a quick google to discover Expedition to castle ravenloft which 3rd converts to 5th soooo much easier. Hahaha so oh well that was fun anyways. Joleen joined us for the run as Ireena actually. I made her a PC just to see what would happen as her story unfolded. We finished it and we went into our dawn of dragons world which as I’ve mentioned before had ALOT of influence from the dragonlance novels. Originally i wanted to do Dragonlance but i kept making things up that flew in the face of the original stories. Finally decided to just make our own thing for a while.
Well when i looped the story back to the first game and they met up with the original party we knew they needed to go get a great artifact. Well I thought it would be a great opportunity to try out a new freshly purchased 5e Module Out of the Abyss. So Starting in Episode 3 this season that’s when I thought I'd give it a try.
Well those familiar with the module can tell i can’t follow instructions well and though without getting into specifics it has much of the backdrop and some of the encounters but really the whole game traditional underdark here has morphed into more of an underworld from greek myth, almost another dimension all together, a statement that that will make more sense as we progress through the rest of the season.
So now lets answer some recent questions:
First one is from our latest patron Corey. He asked “What point did you all decide to take the Campaign and make it an Audiodrama?” So I was keeping all my notes and as we progressed more players joined or people came back from a break and needed to be caught up with the story. Well after a while there were so many ties and so much detail spanning the sessions that i was rambling for 45 minutes retelling the story everytime someone would come in. I started to fear messing up so i started a Blog. Well i realized noone but me was realling reading or referring to it so i needed something entertaining they could rely on. Nothing like going through a story arc and the reveal falls flat because the name revealed the players can’t remember. So i tried something different. Being an old AV geek and actor i thought i could do a session recap as a one person audiodrama with only my voice. That was alot of fun, I may throw it up on our Patron for those curious. So then i was hit up by some old friends that told me i needed to make a full show on it. One being Asha Hall. Well i looked at my blog entries and realized I had written these in a storybook format. Poor Grammar but storybook format. So i told the team I’m going to do the prologue as the first 3, and grab some of our acting friends to help me flesh out the world. I told myself, if it takes off yay if not well I captured the first part for kicks.
And well it did. As far as I’m concerned, you listening right now is the show’s success. Doesn’t matter if its 10 or 10,000 I’m just glad someone is enjoying our story.
So I sometimes get asked some questions around the game itself and some of those tips and tricks that work at our table. Now I’m in no way the wise old sage of tabletop gaming but these are some of the questions and answers i’ve given recently. For you to use or not use as you see fit.:
How do you keep your players together?
The easy answer to this is trust, and building trust doesn’t just happen at the table. It comes from years of friendship and sharing experiences with each other. SOme good some bad some stressful but all of which had elements of those crucible times in them. For those that may not be familiar a crucible is that melting pot where you put metals or maybe chemicals and subject them to extremely high temperatures. Many times this is changing them into something different. Well life and its experiences and those you are with act no differently. You take yourself and another person and put yourselves in a situation of high heat or pressure and you will become a different person and you will both see things differently. This action itself doesn’t have to be good or bad nor the results either. But you will be changed and what you take with you can effect that. With our table I have been fortunate to be working with some of the closest friends and family and that strengthens the bonds between all players and the game master.
This also opens the game up for scenarios and what would you do that could be uncomfortable with people you don’t know. Also opens it up to better AHA moments such as the dark spirit of Benedict at the table with Cordelia in episode 8 actually played out like that at the table. Joleen as a player was genuinely surprised and horrified that she had to attack one of her most trusted allies and family members in that moral dilemma.
For the dungeon master, game master storytellers out there. How do i speed up combat?
First you need to identify there is a problem with the players. You don’t have to flip the table and say hey John why are you so slow?! That doesn’t help build trust. Instead provide the data and look at it together. Use a stop watch in the first round. Write down how long each person takes before it goes to the next player. Be open to the realization your 15th level Necromancer fighting the party is the one holding things up. Now look at the times and think of a positive way to present it.
I made the observation we all took 5 minutes to decide what we were doing. So when you frame it that this is supposed to happen in 6 seconds everyone easily agreed there was an issue. That’s the key, everyone has to agree there’s an issue. Otherwise regardless of what you do they will still stick to much of thier old ways as possible. Its not wrong its human nature.
Then heres a few tricks.
Let everyone know they have 20 seconds to commit on thier action Fight, dash, cast a spell or dodge. If they take too long the go to is dodge.
They can ask 2 questions. This actually helps in the normal narrative as well for large groups. Roll a standing initiative for the whole session for everything but combat. Thats the order you ask each person what they are doing. As part of this they can ask you 2 questions about the environment. Then move to the next person and ask what they are doing.
Give everyone a note card to keep with their character. The only thing on it is those goto actions in combat. Attacking with two weapons at the same time or an attack and disengage combination or whatever. Helps to see the menu sometimes to know what to order, even when you know its going to be the chicken salad.
With Spellcasters have them design a Offensive and Defensive go to spell especially like a cantrip with the rolls required next to it. Too much time looking things up bam they just attack the closest enemy with Firebolt or cast mage armor on themselves. Also helps players realize the value of preparing a little outside the game or between turns.
On that note one of my less experienced players asked me I really want to be a better player what do I need to do. Well first off noone is ever perfect and if you are you are playing the wrong game. This is a game that shines when you explore the flaws in the characters while celebrating thier successes.But lets hit a few things i suggest to spice things up.
Instead of asking the Game Master “what do I see” better yet turn to a player and ask them even if you don’t know. Challenge the game master to describe it to the player you put on the spot and see what happens. Great way to spark roleplay and as you get to know each other brings me to the next point.
Stop trying to roll everything yourself. Your paladin stumbles across a locked door. He wants to open it. DON’T. Ask the Rogue standing behind you to do it. Better yet Eldrith Half Moon dost thou believe this door is locked or worse trapped by a nefarious evil-doer? Can you assit me? Hey DM canEldrith get advantage or a better DC if i help? Many DMs would rule yes.
The point is help each other shine. Players took thier mantles to stand out at something. Didn’t say good at as some want to be the bard who can’t sing or the slowest Monk in the world. If thats your table help serve it up to them and hopefully they will return the favor when opportunity arises. Share in the spotlight. Everyone should have a moment every session. Try to help make it happen. List everyones character names at your side and only refer to their characters. Make a check next to those that get a moment and try to help the others to as well.
And here is one final tip. Never say you can’t do anything or there is nothing you can do. Because if all else fails you absolutely can run. Running away to fight another day is one of the oldest story elements ever. Do it. And come back stronger to finish the job. Sounds like 1000 hollywood movies or bestselling novels. Just needs training montage.
Now is the final treat. We are ending with a recording of a the fastest run of Tomb of Horrors I have ever had the pleasure of running. This was done with two randomly generated PCs just for the run and it took about 2 and half hours before they met their end. Gain this may be spoilers to those wishing to run this classic so you have been warned.