He Rode In On A T-Rex And Got Buried

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #1002

Murder Hobos assembled once more Friday night and the session started with a bang (literally) and ended on a very interesting note.

Here’s a brief recap of the antics, followed by some musings and takeaways for improving my GMing next session that might also apply to you.

Hobo Princes S3E3: A Dino-Souring Experience

Last session the Hobos had defeated the death lord, resulting in all his minions turning to dust.

Curiously, the lord’s two children remained. Estrella and Jonas are very upset, and it takes Malchor the warrior a bit of effort (he builds a fort and puts snacks inside) and soothing words to calm them down.

Suddenly the portal in the basement opens and out pours a great warrior riding a t-rex, flanked by eight guards.

He orders the guards to capture a Hobo alive and battle ensues.

Highlights of the battle include:

  • The warrior fleeing through a rear exit and kidnapping Estrella and Jonas
  • The wizard Six ensnaring the warrior in a large, magical hand and holding him upside down while squeezing….
  • Calls for ceasefire, breaking the ceasefire, another call, another break
  • Roscoe the rogue kill-stealing five times with his crossbow
  • The wizard using two items for the first time that have been on his character sheet since first level

The lord turns out to be Lord Thistelbane I, father of Lord Thistlebane II who was the death lord killed last session.

And Jonas is his grandchild.

The Hobos take Thistlebane prisoner, find another henge key on him, and discover the warrior is undead.

They dig a 20 foot pit in the garden and bury Thistlebane un-alive as punishment for his evil pact with Orcus that might have been the cause of the weird henge-portal Groundhog Day loop the Hobos seem to be trapped in.

Meanwhile, the druid carves up the t-rex and renders its fat to make essential oils needed for casting a reincarnation spell.

Vargulf casts the spell and their beloved goblin paladin companion Gar is brought back to life. He’s unsettled by his new human body but ecstatic to be reunited with his wife and baby.

After a rest the Hobos gird their loins and insert Thistlebane’s keyrune into the Henge and are transported….

…Back into the monastery, surrounded by Duergar who demand the Hobos drop their weapons.

Unfortunately, by using an Orcus-cursed runekey, this trip through the Henge is unkind to Malcor, Captain Brine the Bard, and Six, who emerge with crossed eyes.

The Hobos defeat the duergar handily and we end the session with them trapped in the basement, exit above blocked by some large object.

Session Retrospective

The first battle was pretty crazy and had lots of roleplay.

Unfortunately, it took up 3/4 of the session time — much longer than I anticipated.

The duergar battle took up the last 1/4 of the session.

Watch My Energy Levels

At one point, a player who was getting tired of the constant battle suggested I take a lesson from my own course, Faster Combat.

The funny thing about people is we are like emotional batteries.

A charge goes in, and that charge must come back out at some point. It might take hours, days, or years, but that charge never goes away until dealt with.

Some charges are positive. Those come back out positive.

Some charges are negative. And, well, you’ve experienced that many times and know how those come back out in your life.

What most folks don’t know is we make each charge a positive or negative. How we frame and process an experience determines whether we let a positive or negative charge build.

Unfortunately, I took the Faster Combat comment as a barb, and allowed a negative charge to form. And it come out only just a little while later when I snapped at the player and shut him down tersely when I felt he was meta-gaming and trying to change already gamed actions.

My takeaway here is I need to watch my energy levels.

I was getting pretty tired by session end. Out of shape, perhaps, after a two-month break. Or it could have been from the nuts and pizza I kept munching on until I felt overfull and a bit gross.

When I’m at good physical and mental energy, my emotional energy usually stays positive.

Next session I’ll call a break and give myself a few minutes to chill.

I’ll also need to find something that stops me from constantly reaching for food.

And I’ll also brush up on my Faster Combat lessons. ?

Too Much Combat?

Now, the player was not wrong.

Let’s go back to the root cause here.

The whole session was combat.

That’s not my preference either.

And here’s my dilemma.

I’m letting the players make all the choices in these encounters.

The bad guys instantly make known they are intelligent beings and can parley.

During the first combat the foe called for a cessation of conflict.

In the second fight the duergar started surrendering.

Yet the Hobo attacks kept coming.

My view is we’ve got five hours to game each session. The players choose how they want that to spend that precious time.

I was ready for ruckus and roleplay. The players decide which.

The other thing is, the first two sessions were combat-heavy as well, on purpose. With the Hobos now at 10th level, I wanted a warm-up to the D&D rules, and to suss out the party’s power level.

Polymorphing, giant hands, 102 points of damage in a round, crossbow snipers, beastly summons — I’ve got a much better grasp now of party capabilities.

The Hobos will win a large proportion of fights moving forward without much risk.

I don’t level-match encounters. In a sandbox (well, in the future sandbox when players escape the henge-loop) I GM the milieu. Commoners and weaker foes abound.

And I expect experienced players to govern themselves. If they want to fight easy pickings and use session time for that, so be it.

Here’s where I’m wrong.

Putting on my facilitator-of-fun hat, I can see a couple players are bored with the fighting. And in a six-player group, it’s taxing for introverts to make their thoughts and feelings known.

It’s actually a risk for many people to share their opinions in an effort to make the game more enjoyable for them. Better to stay quiet and avoid embarrassment or failure. That’s just human nature.

So I need to have a quick chat with the group at start of next session. Create a safe space for opinions. Help everyone be heard. Help achieve a consensus. And, especially, communicate my so-far silent GM agenda.

Forgotten NPCs

A third takeaway for next session is to not neglect my beloved NPCs!

You know how much I like NPCs to help gameplay.

Because of all the fighting, and partly from GMing a larger group, I forgot all about my non-combatants. Estrella, Jonas, Marith. Even Gar the reincarnated paladin fell off my radar.

My solution here is to make initiative cards for them. That way I’ll not forget.

An Interesting Ending

The session ended with a small player conflict.

One side wanted less murder hoboing. The other side wanted to keep murder hoboing.

We’ll talk it out at start of next session.

And then I’ll take my cues from there. The Duskfall milieu can be murder hobo, politics and intrigue, classic old school crawls and discovery, mission-based, or a combo of each.

I think the players need to decide if their character arcs involve redemption. If not, it’s simple hoboing. If so, in Duskfall evil is winning, and the world needs heroes.

Overall, the session was a ton of fun. It had its warts. And I had my high and low moments.

But at the end of the night, we got a bunch of great gaming done!

I give it a 7/10 and look forward to improving next session.