It’s been a while since I’ve given a behind the scenes look at what I had planned during the sessions of my D&D Twitch shnow, This is How We Role. But with the current adventure finished, I thought it would be nice to talk about a few things.
So, if you caught episode 12, it had a big fight against a powerful opponent, a member of the First Born cult, which I had there as a good way for the new and old players to bond, as this cult has been a recurring threat for everyone, and it ties into the personal stories of a couple of characters. The episode ends with the party expelled from the manor, leaving Kardash behind.
Episode 13 kicks off with the haunting spreading through the property, its features changing as things are brought into being. The party must find three seals to open the way to the manor and they’re found in three places with different challenges:
- Graveyard: A Logic puzzle revolving around placing headstones in the right places based on clues about the people on those headstones.
- Garden: A skill challenge about traversing a maze and finding emblems.
- Training Area: A puzzle focused on finding inconsistencies in sensory memories.
Of the three, I spent the most time working on the graveyard puzzle and it worked quite well, I’m happy with it. The skill challenge for the maze was a disaster, I didn’t handle it as well as I should have and I know it led to a certain degree of frustration. I’m happy with how the last puzzle went, but it needs some refinement.
One thing I thought should be obvious from the start is how contrived the finding three fragments of a seal is, how it seems to be put in place to force the characters to learn of the property’s history and the families that lived in it. There is a reason for it of course and there is an intelligence behind that, one that wants the players to see the true history and eventually make judgements and choices. But the players never questioned it, never asked the important questions and I wasn’t about to cram the exposition down their throats. Some aspects of the narrative have to be optional, for those players and characters curious enough to figure things out.
Once they cleared the puzzles it was time to open the manor for them and here’s a fun detail how D&D is a collaborative experience and the players help shape the stories being told. In my plans, Kardash was not part of this adventure. The focus of this story line was Rynar Fleren and his family, to develop those characters and relationships further. But the players decided to bring Kardash along, and he’s not the kind of character to say no to a job. And because he rolled poorly, he became trapped in the manor when the rest were expelled.
The fact that the players brought Kardash along meant that I could use the opportunity to further his own arc, to present certain aspects of his life to them, particularly what Kardash is like when not in his bulky armour, and what it’s like for him to wear that piece of equipment. Where the players take things from here is up to them, though it’s not something they can simply ask and get answers for, as Kardash is not exactly the most open of characters.
Back to the plot, the next segment of the adventure focused on experiencing the fate of the five families that made up the estate. I’m not entirely happy with this section. I like the challenge it presents, on how to find out the details, but the transition between one time period and another needs work. For the game, once they’d explored all rooms, I put the challenge to them of answering a question, like in the first scenario, who killed the Cardoff matriarch? It added a little collaborative analysis to it, but it’s not what I had originally planned. Kinda worked, but I’m not super happy about it. Then again my original plan of a forced time limit was a bad idea I swiftly discarded.
Something curious happened during the first session in the manor. Because the Paladin’s axe showed the name Fleren, and the axe shows only the names of the guilty (sort of), the party pretty much ignored all evidence and overthought everything, coming up with crazy scenarios to make sure the Fleren were responsible for everything. It was a bit funny.
Of the three time periods, I’m the happiest with the last one. It had a nice rock-paper-scissors fight, one that went quickly and was just another puzzle, something I wanted to focus on for this adventure, instead of the usual hack & slash of things. It also let me go for some more emotional scenes, my priority was making the players feel something. I’m not entirely sure if I succeeded, but I did my best. It’s the only thing I can do.
When it came down to the final conflict, I had a combat encounter planned but for the sake of plot advancement and to keep combat out of the adventure, I decided to shift it to a more social encounter, a discussion that could devolve into a fight but wouldn’t so long as everyone behaved and meant that the “renaming” aspect of appeasing the ghosts didn’t have any danger associated to it as long as they behaved properly.
And then, once they solved the thing came my biggest surprise, Ando, the party’s fighter, decided to blame the possession victim for everything that had happened and threatened her. So she told him to get the hell out of her house while the rest of the group were welcome to stay. I don’t know what the hell the player or the character were thinking but, well, that’s tabletop rpgs for you, you never really know where things are going to go!
We’re playing again this weekend, and we’ll see how things go! Oh and I’m refining and rewriting this adventure and will make it available on the DM’s Guild for anyone to buy and enjoy!