#RPGaDay2018: Day 9 – How has a game surprised you?

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I’ve got two different answers here.

For the first one – my first session with the group I dropped in the swamp really surprised me because they were so much more interactive than any other groups I’ve experienced before. They were talking to the NPCs, asking questions, interacting. A couple of them even acted out playing cards while trapped in a lizard-folk hut overnight (the players didn’t have any cards, they were just making up their hands on the spot!).

It surprised me because I’m just not used to the players getting so involved in driving the story forwards.  But it also surprised (and pleased) me because it made me so much better at improvising having them to riff off.  Such a different style of play.

The other surprise I’ve had is moving to D&D 5e.

Coming from the BECMI set, everything is so much more detailed and complicated and there are so many more options and styles and details that I just can’t keep them all in my head. Players are so much more powerful so much more quickly and I can’t keep up with all the feats and keep the monsters challenging.  Even after a year I’m still under-estimating what it takes to make a seriously challenging battle, and I keep getting caught with class features I didn’t know existed.

As a recent example, I had a battle with a half-dragon who challenged (Hoard of the Dragon Queen). I allowed the characters to taunt the half-dragon into taking on both of the fighters simultaneously; these are 3rd level, a fighter and a paladin.

Both have the defence feat, so they can impose disadvantage on an attack against an ally within 5′. The fighter is also a Battle Master, so he seemed to keep saying “oh, I use this maneuver with my superiority die”.  I completely wasn’t ready for them – I actually accused him of making up things on the spot at one point, and had to go and read up about the maneuvers once the session was over.

And these are just fighters. There are 12 different classes in the base rules, with 9 races. All of these have variants.  And then Volo adds 8 more races, and Xanathar adds more class variants. It’s too much!

Next: How has gaming changed you?

2 thoughts on “#RPGaDay2018: Day 9 – How has a game surprised you?

  1. I’ve been DMing 5E for a while now. You are right that PCs are very powerful right from low level. In my games, I gave PCs a bonus feat at 1st level to allow for more customisation of the character. However, the game “balance” WotC were going for is to have 5-6 encounters per day (mostly combat) so a lot of the abilities would not always be available. My games rarely work out that way – 2-3 encounters and then there is rarely an in-fiction reason not to rest.
    I find that you can afford to throw deadly encounters at the party and as long as they focus on saving each other when they are “dying” they should be fine and feel challenged. To make it easier on yourself give some enemies Pack Tactics so they can attack with advantage some of the time. Focus fire on one PC for a while (if they have plenty of healing magic – otherwise the player gets unfairly left out for too long). Attack in waves, so that a single area of effect spell can’t lay waste to the whole encounter. I usually try to add some non-damage-dealing thing into the scenario – maybe an alarm bell that one of the enemy will run towards – if they can prevent it ringing they can prevent another wave.
    Obviously you shouldn’t be trying to win, but you want to challenge the characters and the players and make things interesting.
    You could also discuss with the players whether they’d prefer the optional gritty recovery rule where a short rest is 8 hours. It might turn out that they are all having a great time anyway and kicking monster ass is exactly right for that group.

    1. Hi Mick,
      Thanks for the response. After nearly a year I’m starting to get my head round the difference.
      As you say, it’s very rare for 5-6 encounters without a rest (although I have just had an overnight at the start of HotDQ which worked out at about 15 encounters with only one short rest), so I have reduced the impact of long rests. Not quite to the point of the gritty suggestion in the DMG – that just felt too far the other way, particularly given how much damage can be dealt on a single hit. What I’m trying at the moment is that after a long rest they get to roll their hit dice and divide by two to see how much they heal overnight.
      But the biggest problem I have is keeping track of all the different options. When the fighter kept pulling Battle Master maneuvers, I actually exclaimed at one point “you’re making this up!”

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