ICRPG Campaign Diary: The Shadowrealm

session-recap

#1

Hey shields,

my table group’s new campaign just started with yesterday’s session zero and I’ve got a very ambitious plan: After each session, I want to recap the session’s worst scene here in the forum in this thread and brainstorm about why I think it sucked and how to improve on it.

Hopefully that’ll be fun to read and useful at the same time. Plan on playing every or every other week.

Greetings,
glocke


#2

We should all do this! … capture great moments at the table or online, small write up on events or session bullet points or both!…

Great idea!

Game On!


#3

Learning from failure is a really effective path to improvement. Especially so the better you become at something. I’m a big fan of freestyle wrestling. David Taylor a world and Olympic champion wrestler from here in the USA has famously said that a loss at this point in his career is a rare opportunity for growth. When you consistently beat everyone else in the world, it becomes harder to know where you need to improve.
This mindset can be applied to most endeavors, and RPGs are no exception. While we’re not competing for titles, our art form can still be honed, and dissecting where things go wrong, seems like a really effective way to learn. I look forward to seeing this thread progress.


#4

interesting idea to improv on stuff you don’t feel good while GMing


#5

Session 1: The Forest Cave

In Session Zero, the PCs were sent into the OKARIAN FOREST to scout the forces of the SHADOWREALM which are reported to be there. After a couple of moments later they were ambushed on a clearing by a couple of zombies. They managed to escape and found a weird tree with solidified blood instead of bark. LAFAYETTE, one of the two PCs, fell into a pit and landed on a rock. He is alone, inside a deep cavern, surrounded by zombies. His friend HECTOR decided to climb down. The old tree falls and barricades the hole, trapping both PCs in. Session End.

Brief recap:
They fought a couple of zombies down there and finally found an exit into a way larged cave without zombies. Meanwhile, HECTOR screwed up some DEX rolls, bashed zombies toe-to-toe and managed to follow LAFAYETTE.


Later, after a fun dive - which turned out to be the player’s most fun scene, I’ll drop some notes on that at the end - they entered an old mine shaft. Here we’ll get into the session’s weakpoint, more later.
They traversed the entire mine (at least the part that isn’t collapsed). During that traverse they discovered a cave room which lead them back into the zombie cave. I had a hard time not to laugh, I’m such a dick :smile: Also because one of them dropped due to mushroom spores flying around which LAFAYETTE inhaled way too much.

During that traverse, the second weakpoint of the session was revealed to me. Turned out (as we discussed the session after its end) my players took the responsibility to them for “not deciding what do to”.
Finally, they ran into the one point of the cave I hadn’t prepared, because I thought it’s the least interesting. They managed to escape through that way and made it without dying to the town of OKARE, reporting to their quest giver. Session End

How they escaped:
The huge zombie-cave had a third passage sloping upwards. This was designed to be the zombies entry point to the cave. I did not anticipate my players to go that way, more at the end.
They bashed through the hordes: HECTOR cast a shield spell which provided him with a NEAR 1 HEART magical shield which the zombies tried to destroy by forcing into it until it collapes. They soon realized that constant DEF-rolls are not fun against the horde, so HECTOR went that way. In total despair (more later :slight_smile: ) LAFAYETTE found their original entry point and transformed himself into a swan, flew up to the hole and bashed it a couple of times until the gap was large enough for him.
HECTOR meanwhile reached to top of the sloping path and started to melt the metal gate with his burning glove. Zombies pushed him away, the shield was going down, HECTOR continued melting and made it.

What didn’t ruin as expected
First my prep notes on the mine shaft room:

My design idea was to let ZERGAS rage about how bad mankind is and that God sent the undead as punishment, just for the fun of variety after two very deadly rooms. Also the crates are supposed to contain useful things like climbing gear or dynamite.
Both PCs talked to ZERGAS, learned that they were trapped here when escaping zombies, and that they don’t know any exit but gave them some info about the mines. After that they headed north, regardless of the creates which I described last :smile: They slowly realized that they had no idea on what to do. Hence LAFEYETTE later decided to try something on his own and not joining HECTOR.

GM’s Reflection:
In recap the interaction with ZERGAS was borderline useless for my players. So my players ran out of ideas on how to escape, which led HECTOR to bruteforce through the horde later and LAFAYETTE fly as a swang (in darkness, without any light, just having the illuminated crack in the ceiling).

What I could do better:

  • I maybe had to hint more at the crates, maybe by letting ZERGAS mention the dynamite while stating, that he is too afraid to use it.
  • The zombie horde didn’t play out as dangerous as intended. Mainly I played them less dangerous because we were like 4 hours in and my players had a hard time finding a solution. I didn’t want to TPK them there in Session 1 :smiley:
  • Maybe I should have described the (large cave’s ceiling) a bit more in detail (like emphazising those stalagmites at the ceiling) to give them creative fuel to bypass the horde with falling stuff or idk … and not sacrificing their idea to use the horde’s entry point as an exit.

Final conclusion:
Here are some goals for me when prepping and running my next session:

  • describe more terrain properties
  • let NPCs foreshadow/hint a bit more.

Hope it was fun and/or useful reading.

Strength, Honor and Beer

glocke


#6

Nice. Interesting to read, may have to steal the concept for my son and his friends :grinning:.
Sometimes if players are struggling to think of a solution but their characters may have an idea I allow an int roll (or just flat out tell them if it’s important to move the story along) to see if they think of looking more closely at the wooden crates in your case.


#7

I lke the meta-INT-roll idea too and use it if players do not remember previous sessions’ details, because their characters may remember more (or sometimes I just tell them, depending on circumstances)


#8

Session 2: The Negotiation

Last time, the PCs managed to escape a zombie-infested cave/mine and finally arrived back in the city of OKARE, where they had to report to general SATHARIM in order to fulfill their mission.

Brief recap:
They were expected to come to count WENARIM’s house in the evening, which gave my players to opportunity to spend some time (3 rounds in hours) in town doing their shopping stuff they desired. They picked up some torches and stuff, did some CHA rolls for a better price and finally went to the count’s house.
They were asked to report to SATHARIM and shortly after that, a discussion started after HECTOR (PC) suggested to collapse the cave system and trap the zombies within it. Different oppinions were played out and the heroes nearly managed to convince count WENARIM to be pro-attack. Unfortunately, they did not made it until the timer exceeded, so the scene concluded with an assassination attempt on count WENARIM. After LAFAYETTE (the other PC) found a secret passage from which the assassin’s crossbow was shot, the heroes gave chase to the assassin, who was assisted by a SWARM of bats.
Led downstairs, HECTOR surfed downstairs on his huge shield, screwing up the DEX check and crashed into a wooden door, which cracked open and gave access to a dark, mouldy basement room. The heroes explored that room and found out, that the assassin was still there, shooting at them from the shadow. That scene was concluded by the assassin escaping the room into the exterior.
Finally the heroes burnt down the door, which was hastely locked by the assassin, and confronted him in the foggy backyard, illuminated only by the moon. General SATHARIM arrived in attempt to arrest the assassin, but - after a couple of rounds of combar - he escaped: He pulled his cloak over his body. Both players meta’d the scene and one tried to capture him with his cloak. The assassin transformed - as meta-expected by the players - into a bat, rolled a nat20 on his attempt to break free and flew up to the sky. LAFAYETTE took his shortbow and gave it a shot: mod5. HECTOR pulled the shortbow out of LAFAYETTE’s hands, took a shot: mod7. Of course SATHARIM did the same and missed too.
After that SATHARIM invited the heroes for a chat, rewarding them for their attempt to pursue the assassin. SATHARIM also sent them to a secret mission to grab some explosives from an abandoned mine near the city and make the zombie cave collapse. On the way there, a minor improv scene happened with some wolves, where the heroes were able to test out their new loot (improved because they were a bit faster that session than anticipated and everybody was up for it). The session endet with an wilderness camp in from of the mine entrance. Wolf howling can be heard and glowing eyes can be seen. Session End.

Reflection on the social scene:
Both players had fun during the negotiation scene. They enjoyed seeing general SATHARIM jump up with “I’ll notify my forces” as HECTOR suggested attacking, while RAVENIR calmed him down. The post-assassination scene started as expected: the players were a bit overchallenged with helping the count and finding the assassine, but first they had no real clue on where to search, because the assassine was hidden.


General SATHARIM started to search the walls and LAFAYETTE joined him. LAFAYETTE was able to find a crack in the wall, revealing a closed secret passage. HECTOR searched the book shelf for dusty books and - of course - found the mechanism (and I had no clue where the passage was or how they open it, they came up with ideas on their own, which was great for everybody). The scene concluded with a SWARM of bats attacking them, when LAFAYETTE rolled his first nat20 for tonight: 21 damage total, absolutely going berzerk against those bats.

Visibility and Terrain:
The basement scene played out to be harded for the players than expected: They heavily relied on light sorces (HECTOR’s flaming glove only illuminates CLOSE, while a torch works within NEAR). I set up the terrain as they discovered and took it off the board as they left things behind (or if their torch extinquished).


They explored nearly the entire basement room while being shot by the assassine.

Why the hell can he see something in that dark?!

HECTOR’s player asked. That was to be revealed later. After a game of hide and seek, they saw him or rather his robe while he dashed back into the shadows. That scene was kind of the climax.

The weakspot of the session:
The session’s weakspot was clearily the outdoor scene, when they were finally able to confront the assassine. Darkness, cold, fog… DC 18. The players were shocked and struggled fighting the guy. After a while they were able to wound him so much, that he had to escape. If the heroes decided to kill him, he wouldn’t be out there anymore, but they decided to capture him and gain more information, so they ran a bit easy on him.


They weakspot is in my opinion not that he was able to escape (I never planned how that scene would end). For me, the weakspot was a lock of terrain mechanics: it was basically going in circles around a single bush in the center of the map. There were not interesting mechanics to be used and nothing hinted for the heroes to abuse or take an advantage on.

Final conclusion:
Here are my goal for me when prepping and running my next session:

Plan terrain properties for each scene to inspire the players to make use out of it.

Hope it was fun again to read.

Cheers
glocke


#9

Session 3: The Undead Army

In Session 1, the PCs encountered an assassine in the town of OKARE. The heroes agreed with SATHARIM that the cave of zombies needs to be destroyed in order to decrease the undead army’s strength. So HECTOR and LAFAYETTE left OKARE to pick up some dynamites from an abandoned nearby mine and head for the zombie cave.

Brief recap:
Aided by the NPC companion NARGUT, who joined the heroes in general SATHARIM’s order, they managed to pick up some dynamite, encountered the remaining WOLF PLUNDERERs, a group of former bandits who seem to pursue different goals now. During that course, they saved NARGUT’s life a couple of times. The heroes got attacked by scouts of a skeleton army and escaped into the zombie cave (which they were going for anyway). Inside the cave, they realized that they didn’t manage to collapse the entrance yet, struggled against more undead, which finally led to the death of the NPC companion NARGUT. Finally the heroes found a group of starved peasants. Just as one of them rises from the dead with an appetite for blood, the session ended.

Planning terrain properties: Abandoned Mine
In the last recap, I set me the goal to provide scene properties for each scene to help my players’ creativity and decisiveness.


The scene at the ABANDONED MINE was planned as a dilemma with an implicit timer: They heroes want to pick up dynamite from inside the mine, which appears to be a dead-end, because further tunnels are barred. The narrow entrance to the mine is a trap: wolves attack from the woods and keep pressure on the heroes to do both: hurry in picking up dynamite and repelling the wolves to stay able to leave the mine. The heroes solved that by entering together to make grabbing dynamite a bit faster and using their NPC companion NARGUT as a guard outside. They figured out that NARGUT will not survive long enough, so they left the mine after they found a small portion of the dynamite.

Damn, we have to get out of here before more wolves appear.

Social interaction:
The next scene was planned (and initially) played as a social encounter: After getting away from the mine, the heroes took some rest in the forest and talked with NARGUT about his and their plans - since NARGUT wasn’t really briefed by SATHARIM about the mission details.


They fireplace attracted the former bandits led by RATUNIS, who revealed himself to the heroes, told them to extinguish the fire to avoid “attracting them”. Both players know RATUNIS from a previous campaign, but the heroes don’t. My players did great in avoiding meta stuff and mistrusted RATUNIS while the players knew that he could trust him. I didn’t expect that, so they ended up not joining him and were faced with the scouts of the undead army. After a while fighting them, they realized that the odds are against them and escaped.

Haste, fear, more dilemma:
The undead army forced the heroes into a ravine, which leads to a side-entrance to the zombie cave, which the heroes wanted to find anyway. The cave entrance was guarded by two skeletons, so the heroes decided not to rush it directly.


Unfortunately the undead army was on their heels. The army’s timer clicked down and down, first scouts entered the ravine. HECTOR’s magical shield spell was bashed and destroyed a couple of times, LAFAYETTE used his storm wind spell to repell and/or destroy some of the skeletons… but the army came closer and closer. Meanwhile NARGUT, their NPC companion, was close unto death and saved a couple of times by the heroes. Also LAFAYETTE went down a couple of times too, so everybody at the table (including myself) was literally on the edge of his seat. Finally they made it into the cavern, not knowning for sure that this is the right cave.

Maybe that’s just a small cave and we run into a dead-end and die.
But if we stay here, we’ll die for sure

The dilemma trap has sprung, everybody was all-in.

Players don’t think vertically:
As the heroes finally decided to enter the cave, they reached a narrow ravine in the cave. The heroes were not able to see the ceiling but a small light at the top. Hordes of zombies ahead, an army of skeletons at their back. “What do you do?”


The idea was to let the light above to draw the heroes’ attention. They struggled a while in fighting themselves through the undead horse, decided to use their dynamite here to collapse the entrance (which let the army in). Unfortunately HECTOR decided to pick up the stick of dynamite with his burning(!) glove, didn’t made his DEX roll for being careful and… screwed up, took massive explosion damage but didn’t drop. Meanwhile LAFAYETTE transformed himself into a swan (after screwing it up with a nat1, giving him a bird jaw and feathers permanently (at least it seems to be like that, know know’s what the future may bring)… a swan, yes.
They had no idea where to go, so NARGUT yelled “Climp up to the light, I’ll distract them”. LAFAYETTE flew up, secured the rope and asked for NARGUT to start climbing, because HECTOR may be able to repel the undead with his magical shield. NARGUT climbs up and HECTOR casts his shield: nat1. His shield gets way too large and manifests in a solid glass sphere around him, hindering NARGUT to climb up further. HECTOR wasn’t able to climb up the rope too, because NARGUT was still there, so NARGUT offered to hold himself on the rock face while HECTOR climbs up but left his last(!) torch down there to have both of his hands free. In nearly pure darkness HECTOR climbed up, NARGUT tried to grab the rope for a couple of times and fell down into the undead horde.

Session Conclusion:
After realizing NARGUT’s dead, the heroes - meanwhile at the ravine’s top - decided to follow the weak light, leading them to a torch in another mine. They realized that this is in fact the cave/mine from Session 1. They navigated through the mine tunnels into a large room with dead peasants, calling the session’s end.

GM/Player reflection:
The session was designed to be dangerous, hasteful and deadly, because they encountered a skeleton army while fulfilling their mission. My players agreed in their feedback: they hated and loved the tension all at the same time.
My goal for the next session is to go a bit easier on them without rendering the undead army harmless. My players have already discussed their next steps and sub-goals to give me an outline for next session.

So my goals for prepping and running my next session are:

  • Give them huge agency to finished their lets-blow-up-the-cave-mission.
  • Confront them with a couple of non-combat (or at least non-lethal or not-so-lethal) obstacles to create some rhythm and variation.
  • Keep focus on the terrain properties approach enrich the overall experience.

Hope you enjoyed reading. Until next time :beers:

Cheers
glocke


#10

Very cool idea, glocke. Looking forward to the adventure!


#11

Session 4: The Undead Army (Part 2)

Last time on The Shadowrealm(playing an 80s title music)

In Session 3, the PCs managed to pick up some dynamite, struggled through the forest towards the undead cave, which they planned to destroy in order to lock the zombie hordes in it. After NARGUT’s death, they retreated to the abandoned mine part of the cave.

Brief recap
Our heroes LAFAYETTE - a homeless druid - and HECTOR - a battle priest - managed to enter the cave where a huge zombie horde lingers. In the abandoned mine, they encountered a group of dead bodies: former farmers, slayen by an unknown force. While discussion their next step, one of the farmers raised with a blood thirst, vampire teeth and a massive headache. Without longer hesitation, HECTOR and LAFAYETTE attacked him and brought him to an end by impaling him with LAFAYETTE’s spear.


After that, our heroes made their way into the cave’s main chamber and escaped it without destroying any part of the cave. At that point both were convinced, that destroying the cave would lead to their deaths, since a skeleton army, led by another vampire, was around. That vampire (which have played a reoccurring role in that game, so let’s call him FOLGUR to make it easier, but the heroes never found that out) was attracted by the heroes’ attempt to kill a large batch of zombies - whilst those remaining zombies were led out of the cave by the undead. The heroes avoided the confrontation with FOLGUR and struggled out of the cave, through an opening in the ceiling. HECTOR rolled a nat1 while climbing and got a rope-will-tear-in-d4-rounds-timer - but luckily made it out.

During the heroes further escape, LAFAYETTE’s former horse (which was abandoned in session 3) was found: surrounded by undead. In attempt to rescue it, LAFAYETTE dropped and nearly died. HECTOR was able to stabilize his friend but in the meantime the horse was killed by a zombie horde.

Suddenly FOLGUR the vampire entered the scene with a clear command to his undead army: “Kill them!”. Right at the spot a will-o-whisp appeared. Torn between ignoring it (because it may be another threat) and following it (because it may be some kind of help), HECTOR and LAFAYETTE decided to follow the will-o-whisp’s white glow into the darkness of the TENEBI WOODS. They managed to cross several obstacles by jumping across a creek and climbing a crag, so they shake off FOLGUR and the undead army for a while.

Our heroes entered an ancient ruin in the middle of the forest. No timer there, just a set of ancient walls, stairs and pillars, overgrown. In the course of the scene, HECTOR found a set of holes in the stairs. He decided to put one of his fingers in and triggered a dart trap right in his face.
After a while, they discovered that a bear was roaming the ruins: walking on his rear legs. It turned out the bear wasn’t hostile but some kind of guard, who was able to speak single, simple words. Meanwhile a timer foreshadowed the arrival of vampire FOLGUR and his undead forces.

A combat flared up in which the bear aided the heroes. A couple of skeleton warriors and some zombie hordes assisted FOLGUR and made their way up to the ruins. Most of them got killed by the heroes. The evening was late and we rolled a session-end-die: 2. In the final moment of the session, LAFAYETTE pushed the vampire far back with a wind spell. His body was pushed up a tree and his heart got impaled by a tree branch. The bear transformed into human shape, yelled “Follow me, quickly.” and all three: HECTOR; LAFAYETTE and their new, mysterious friend ran across the forest into the swamp of GARLAS AGEA.

Huge agency on the cave mission
On of my prep goals was to make the cave more of a sandbox than a railroad. So I had layed out the cave for me with a couple of key notes (like that zombies are led outside to merge with the skeleton army). The agency in dealing with the cave was completely on the players’ side. Unfortunately they did not pursue their initial plan, saved their asses and accepted the zombies’ departure (which was made obvious over a couple of rounds). They cannot come back to finish their task later, since the horde is gone now. Who knows that those undead are going to do now! #consequences

Non combat encounters
My plan to create some rhythm and variation was totally screwed up :smiley: The first vampire scene was designed to be a RP one: He woke up with “I’m so thirsty” - “Oh my head… where am I? What happened?”… but my players decided to kill attack him first. HECTOR tried to use his Mind Control spell on the guy, but things didn’t turn out like he expected: Instead of controlling his mind, HECTOR’s and the vampire’s mind were moved into a dimension of pure black, where both were safe to talk to each other. The vampire didn’t detect the spell and demanded answer from HECTOR about what’s going on, where he is right now and what he (HECTOR) wants from him. My players were totally swamped with the opportunity to talk to that guy (they knew nothing, not even his name). Instead they waited until the spell’s effect faded and killed him in a brutal way. To keep him a bit longer alive (and offer another change for talking to him), I RP’d him way cleverer than my previous human NPCs: he used the darkness around him, tried to unarm the heroes etc.
Suddenly one of my players said: “I think the GM doesn’t want us to kill him, he’s invincible”.
That hurt.
But they managed to kill him anyway. So, on to the next “talky scene”.
In the ruins, they didn’t even try to interact much with the bear - mostly observed his actions and barely reacted on him. So the undead had to come to spice things up… at least that’s rhythm too :smiley:

Prepped Terrain Properties
I think my players are a bit overwhelmed by their options and limit themselves at the same time. The abandoned mine was described with lots of wooden support logs holding the thing in place. But I’m fine: they don’t have to follow my clues.
Most of the followup scenes were only prepped roughly because of the full agency described earlier. So the last scene had some prepped terrain features: elevation, reamed traps, ruined walls/pillars. Even after
HECTOR: “Hey, I bet the bad guy is knocking those pillars on us. Is that possible”
ME: “The look unstable and haggard”
They didn’t use them on their own (I hadn’t planned for that, was ready to give a hero coin for attempting that idea but nothing happened).

Session Conclusion:
I look back at the session with a mixed feeling.
On one hand, they had huge agency and a couple of fights (both are important for them as they stated earlier, especially combat is a main part for my players), so I’m fine with it. On the other hand I was not able to implement my goals on the table: using non-combat encounters and helping them to take advantage from the terrain. I don’t blame anybody - just to make that clear. Overall it feels a bit unsatisfying - but may I’m judging myself way to much here. I enjoyed GMing the session and everybody agreed to play next saturday to continue the journey. So nothing’s bad at all :slight_smile:

So my prep/GMing goals for session are:

  • not to give up on non-combat stuff
  • include combat opportunities at the same time (but keep the difficulty a bit lower to give them more of a heroic feeling - they mostly suffer in combat :smiley: )
  • give NPCs a bit more detail
  • stay in huge-agency-mode (because they just entered the swamp and I wasn’t able to introduce another hook to them, hence I cannot predict their course of actions).

Hope you enjoyed reading. Until next time :beers:

Cheers
glocke


#12

Session 5: The Swamp of Garlas Agea (Part 1)

Last time on The Shadowrealm … (playing more 80s music)

In Session 4, the heroes HECTOR and LAFAYETTE escaped from the undead cave and fought against the skeleton army, aided by hordes of zombies and their vampire commander. With the help of an unknown druid they managed to overcome the vampire and escaped into the swamp of GARLAS AGEA.

Brief recap
After a hasteful escape across the swamp, they reached the druid’s hut and were aided by him. He goes by the name GORGET BEARSKIN and some chat was going on about who everybody is and what’s the business. GORGET introduced the heroes to the story about the seers’ chalices which are used by the SHADOWREALM’s commanders to communicate. During a day or two of rest, the heroes agreed to find the FROG FOLK and ask for help in order to steel one of those chalices.
The heroes went north, discovered an old tower ruins, fought a tree monster and had some conversion with the new inhabitants of the tower: the bandit gang called WOLFPLUNDERERS, led by the magician STREFELD. Things went pretty weird and when the heroes left the tower, HECTOR has got a alleged daughter and was on quest to help those bandits … one hand washes the other style.
The decided to go east and finally found the FROG FOLK without larger issues. After some chat with their shaman 'SLORM and rest, they returned to the tower and had some trouble with a roaming will’o’wisp. As they finally returned to the tower, the night’s session ended.

Planning the game
This time, I planned a way more open game with three fractions (GORGET, Frog Folk led by S’LORM, Bandits led by STREFELD) and a set of locations of interest (such as the druid’s hut, the tower or the frog’s camp). Each list of bullets was extremly short with a few descriptions and key ideas. That helped me to make the adventure less waterslide’y and give it a bit more depth. There was no idea about order of scenes, a final scene or even what may end up as a scene: the flow was 100% improvised based on those notes (which stands in contrast to my previous adventures). The tension was there, stakes were not so high but everybody was in.
Also we played a lot more in the Theater of the Mind using index cards for visited parts of the swamp.

At GORGET’s hut
Both heroes were low on health and had closely escaped the undead hordes. Somehow they were aligned with the idea of talking to the druid GORGET, so they got some useful information about killing vampires (in fact the vampire guy was probably not really dead yet), the ZURANI (an ancient culture once lifed in that part of the world) and about the seers’s chalices. They liked the idea of stealing a chalice from the SHADOWREALM in order to sabotage and spy. But of course HECTOR thieved the druid’s dagger from inside his hut when he was out for harvesting herbs. Things are never either black or white with that guys :smiley:

The tower ruins
As they decided to go north, they discovered the first threat of the session: endless swarms of midges. During the course of the night, those tiny bastards caused lots of DEX rolls and took precious HPs from both, HECTOR and LAFAYETTE. This constant threat, together with the bad quality of rest set the tone for the entire swamp: annoying and wearing. As they found a tower ruin, they didn’t made their WIS checks (nor did they pay any attention to the surroundings either) and didn’t see the tree monster coming. A huge, walking tree attacked them out of thin air. Fortunately HECTOR’s shield spell took most of the damage and LAFAYETTE was able to CRIT against that tree, hence routing it.


After the battle was done, HECTOR decided to run to the tower asap, LAFAYETTE took a bit more care and was able to spot “a guy with a bow” ontop of the tower. HECTOR and his huge shield bumped into the tower’s wooden door with a loud noise, unfortunately not breaking the door open. More mosquitos plagued the heroes and finally, a voice could be heard from inside the tower.

HECTOR’s alleged daughter
After some “negotiation” (mostly intimidation), they bandits let them in. On their question, who they are and what they want from them, HECTOR replied with his usual inappropriate excuses. After some more chatting, whilst the heroes didn’t reveal any of their plans, the bandits asked “Is that slimy work S’LORM sending you?” and the heroes were clever enough to get some information about S’LORM being the shaman of the FROG FOLK in the east, who had lived in that tower earlier. HECTOR tried to hedge the frog folk topic with a weird but absolutely genius reply: He pulled out a flier about a missing girl (by the name of JASERICA, we rolled for that name, because HECTOR’s player had no idea about that name, because the entire story was improvised offhand). HECTOR claimed that girl to be his daughter, and himself to be on the search for her. They had some more negotiation about the bandit’s participation, because HECTOR was weirding some rich-looking jewellery. Finally the heroes agreed to prepay the bandits partially; the remaining part - in case the bandits find the “daughter” - will be paid by the heroes help at the bandits’ former cave (the undead forced them to leave their cave, so they captured that tower and expelled S’LORM and his tribe.
After that negotiation they had some trade with the bandit for provisions (bandages and torches) in order to clear their cave. The heroes left east but turned west, circulating the tower and heading for the FROG FOLK’s camp.

Shaman S’LORM
Earlier in the session, LAFAYETTE had found out that the frog folk may be able to enhance his knowledge about poisons (he’s able to poison a single weapon for some extra damage, and is looking for more options, which basically was planned as a milestone reward). Once they found S’LORM, they did both: (1) asked for help to steal one of the seers’ chalices and (2) enhancement on LAFEYETTE’s poison knowledge. S’LORM replied with a requirement: They want their tower back from the bandits. As a sign of good will, S’LORM prepared one of LAFAYETTE’s daggers with a sample of the poison he will teach him. Armed with that, the heroes left the frog camp, heading to the tower.

Will-o-Wisp
At that point, the heroes felt strong and unbeatable. When a strange light came closer, they encountered a will-o-wisp (just as they did before, which led them to the swamp in the first place). HECTOR was curious enough to touch it: ZAP! He got lightning shocked in response and both heroes started to fight the creature. Each time one of them was casting a spell on it, it immediately reacted with another lightning shock. After a couple of rounds, HECTOR and LAFAYETTE were busy patching up their wounds: The will-o-wisp didn’t do anything, it just floated around. Soon after that, the heroes continued fighting and were badly beaten up.


I recapped that there was a moment (for 2 rounds), when the creature did not attack the heroes. This hint led HECTOR and LAFAYETTE to stop their attack and observe the behavior for a while. Unsure if that was luck or not, they hastefully continued their journey to the tower and stood at far distance to it. Their initial plan was attacking those bandits, but maybe they are not so sure now.

GM/Player reflection
After asking them, my players told me that they had no idea I switched to another planning method. Sure everything felt a bit less hasteful, but they welcomed it. Altogether we had lots of fun - e.g. with the story about HECTOR’s alleged daughter. We’re looking forward to continue the session - unfortunately we’ll have a 2-week-break.

One thing that was clear to my (but probably not so clear to my players) was an “issue” with the transition between all locations: I hadn’t planned a thing for that :smiley: To make those transitions a bit tasteful I improvised a couple of things that were roughly planned: The tree monster and the will-o-wisp where kind of roaming monsters for that adventure. But to continue the adventure, I’ll need a bit more than plain combat encounters.

So my goals for preparing and running the next session are:

  • Create a short but powerful random table to generate some transition obstacles when the heroes walk across the swamp.
  • Stay flexible with the adventure (“no content is left behind” without railroading them).
  • Hit them hard, because the first half of the adventure was mostly a pony farm (but fun^^)
  • Plan 1-2 UDT scenes (improvising them isn’t that easy for me - everything looks quite generic, see above).

Hope you enjoyed reading. Until next time :beers:

Cheers
glocke