“It’s not fear! I’m cowering in intelligence.” — Bruais.
So last night we wrapped up the business of Grimstone Keep. Though there might have been some desire to go smack down the traitorous farmer who was bad at his job, we rolled in with quickly moving to the Keep to see what was what. It went well — I provided two fights, one rather challenging, but these guys naturally had plenty of tactical experience from video games that helped them out a lot. Some luck didn’t hurt, either, but when your players are saying things “We need to reduce the number of people who can hit us,” and they’re right, they’re on a good track.
Teaching points! Yep, there are always those.
Props Matter. On one of the towers of the keep one could find a ballista. I am pretty sure if that ballista hadn’t been there, the group wouldn’t have been as excited about scaling the walls to take out the sentry up there. Because, of course, then they could turn the ballista on the enemies. It wound up not working out so well for Perseus the elven ranger as he could have hoped, but when Bruais sent a second bolt to take out two of the stripped-to-the-waist Iron Masks with one shot, it was a high point. (They also asked about the control for the portcullis, but alas, it didn’t pan out right for them to use that until the fight was over.)
Sportsmanship Is Awesome. You see it in the way they delay actions to let someone else shine, how they make the best of a bad situation, or how they root for each other. Being a great gamer is in part about being a great sport. These guys were good about using both their successes and failures to entertain one another.
Gamer Superstition Is Not Completely Unfounded. Remember Bruais? The only player character to get sub-par stats when they rolled? Bru was the one who not only backstabbed the wight lord with a timely crit, doing thirty-some-odd points of damage in one hit*, he also managed to get the finishing blow on the villain later on. The dice made it up to him. Of course, the player was also pretty cunning, so it sure didn’t hurt.
*”If this doesn’t bloody him, I’m going home,” said the wizard’s player. I subtracted the hit points and asked him “Are you going home?” Elites, man. Nothing to mess around with.
D&D Is For Thirteen-Year-Olds. I don’t actually mean that in a bad way. Sure, one of the two observers who drifted by was a little embarrassed for us, maybe. (The other lamented he didn’t have time to try it out, what with having an infant and all.) But the Fountain of Youth was in full effect. Players both went into acting specifically on what their characters would know even if disadvantageous, and basic metagaming of the other sort. You know, once the rogue’s player declares he’s slipping away to look for treasure, other players start asking, “Oh hey where has the rogue gone?” They were super-thirsty for magic items, even as they were sportsmanlike about dividing them up. My producer Craig wound up shouting “I shall smite thee, evil fiend!” at one point. I don’t think it was ironically.
I heard today that Craig (the lone veteran, if you recall) is talking about doing another adventure for these guys, taking over now that I’m stepping down, and that’s pretty awesome. These guys kicked ass, enjoyed themselves, and entertained me greatly. Even as I look forward to having Monday nights free again, and devoting myself to more complicated settings exclusively, I’m a little jealous of ’em.
It’s funny. I have always credited the quality of my games of only playing with the right people, and being super-selective. This experience hasn’t really undercut that moral, because these guys were the right people. Beyond being awfully enjoyable, I do hope it taught them something about the roots of one branch of gaming, and why these tropes have endured over the years. I know I learned more than I expected to.