First session down! And it was particularly interesting because the one veteran we had planned to have riding herd couldn’t make it tonight — but he sent a message saying “Hey, go ahead and play without me — this is part of the D&D experience.”
Of course, he was the one planning to play a healer. Uh-oh! Would that prove to be a fatal weakness?
Turns out, not quite. The players managed to pull through a dangerous situation with flying colors, thanks to a couple of rather unlucky die rolls on the goblin pigs’ part (made in the open, I will stress; I did not fudge nothin’) and some decent tactics. There were a few reversals (such as heroism leading to “holy crap I am going to die I am down to one hit point”), and to my great delight, a natural bit of roleplaying with very little leading around by the nose at all.
So, what are the teaching points from this session?
Familiar Character Archetypes Rule. I knew this from character creation, but when you see in play how easy it is for someone to get into the basics of “scholarly elf wizard,” “dwarf rogue” or “mercenary with a conscience,” there’s no real room to criticize the basics of familiar, well-trod cliches like race and class. They are inarguably useful for newcomers. They are a common tongue. (Even if half the party has a penchant for talking in Elvish to each other a lot.)
Tabletop Roleplayers Need To Shut The Hell Up About Video Games. Yeah, I already knew this, too, but to see the proof firsthand? These guys came into D&D with a strong background in video games, many of them Bioware, but none of them had played tabletop before. They were great. Strong sense of cooperation (informed perhaps by their explicit decision to play “PVE rather than PVP”), good sense of proactive purpose in looking for quests, and they did just fine talking in-character.
Complexity’s A Mixed Bag. Honestly, it took a while to make characters (even using the character builder), and people didn’t really have a solid handle on all the things they could do, but on the other hand things like action points and dailies and encounter powers seemed quite welcome to add more reliable options to the table. People varied, of course; the Essentials thief didn’t have near as many power cards as the wizard.
Trust Your Players, Even If New. I thought a bit about how Chris Perkins at WotC tends to run games for newbies, giving them characters ahead of time and dropping them right into a dungeon. I let these guys explore the town of Passwall for a bit, not giving them any more predetermined info other than they’d been hired to escort a caravan to town and that now their contract was up. So without prompting from me, they:
- Found out about the two taverns in town and chose the more disreputable one
- Roleplayed the need for ale and food (and some flirting with the dwarven bartender)
- Confronted the drunk and rowdy civilian who was considering picking a fight with the fighter
- Bought him drinks and then found out about the murder of a farmstead by the vicious Iron Masks mercenaries, as well as the goblins moving into the area
- Made contact with a tiefling fence who offered them more information on Grimstone Keep and its curse, as well as the fabled horn and fabulous fire opal said to be there
- Found out about the spiders in Spindlewood
- Contacted town guards to find out about the bounties on the Iron Masks and the Gutknifer goblins
- Chose a plan of action: head north to scout the keep, maybe, but also hunt goblins while they’re there “as a warm-up”.
I railroaded not a bit of this; I simply gave them some clues, let them “survey the bar” a lot, and they were very proactive. It was pretty great.
Everything else was a lot of fun, even if more familiar. The ranger charged in to help the dwarf rogue from a goblin ambush (when said rogue rolled that inevitable natural 1 on a Stealth check), and then suddenly got really worried when the goblin pigs started hurting him and not dying very easily. (“I have one hit point! I’m going to die. I’m so dead.”) The fighter got to be a tank, and enjoyed it as one might expect from a player who’s tanked in other games. The wizard spent an action point to kill two minions with magic missiles, then spent another turn just magically cleaning the blood off his ranger buddy’s blade because he figured the fighter had things in the bag. The rogue shanked the hell out of some pigs and goblins, and got out with full HP.
It went well; heck, one of the players came out saying “Now I just want to play D&D all the time” today. Well, there are a couple more sessions to go, and next time maybe they can pick up that healer. I have a feeling he’ll be appreciated.