Hobo Princes S3E04 – Choppy Waters
Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #1013
We picked up our monthly game again and it took an unexpected turn as I thought this would be the session when the Hobos would escape Groundhog Day Mansion of Madness and finally land in Duskfall. Alas, things went sideways….
As an aside, the session start was choppy. That’s how I’d describe it. I could tell it would be like that because of how my day went.
I was fighting technology at work. And that carried through into the session as the digital world failed me.
An app crashed (OneNote) and was hard to revive. Another became opaque (D&D Beyond) and I could not find my monster stats (had to grab my 15 pounds of books). The bluetooth speaker wouldn’t respond (turned the TV on to a music channel instead). And HeroLab also became opaque (did I somehow suffer a concussion that day and didn’t know it?).
Then at session start I couldn’t get my words out. Marbles in the mouth plus brain wasn’t sending me the right words (mini-stroke?).
And when the Hobos started murdering I realized my crunch prep was incomplete (because the fight grew to 20+ foes all with complicated stats and abilities).
Oh, and I hit several bad luck streaks. I could not roll above 10 most of the session. I can’t complain though, as in past sessions I’ve had many hot streaks. Still, it was another thing not going right in the session.
The good news is I’ve been through this many times before! :/
In my experience, the brain just needs a bit of warm-up, like a car on a cold day. Only Friday was a very cold day. I wasn’t my regular lippy self until an hour into it.
All this to say, if you have one of those choppy game beginnings, keep at it. Be patient with yourself. And if the brain still refuses to lock into game mode, keep things simple and let the players make it complicated for themselves.
Caught Between Two Fronts
This will be a short report as the session became quite simple: survive being squished by two powerful foe groups.
Last session the Hobos defeated a handful of duergar and took one prisoner.
In Friday’s session the party interrogated the evil dwarf and learned some details about the foes in the upper level of the monastery.
Meanwhile, a duergar rescue mission was underway as foes began sneak around in the outer corridors and prepare an attack.
As soon as one group of dwarves started pounding pitons in the west exit to seal it off, the Hobos burst through the door and the combat was on.
The door-sealers were just a diversion. The main group, with leader and high priest involved, attacked from the other side.
The Hobos managed to kill the diversion and the force the main group to retreat. The PCs did not follow and opted to start a short rest.
However, the sunpigs above chose this moment to attack, figuring the Hobos were distracted and weakened.
And when that happened the duergar counter-attacked, making the Hobos fight on two fronts.
2,000 Points of Damage
This was the most exhausting battle the Hobos have fought in a long time. Spells were severely depleted. Feats all used up. No tricks left but to clobber until the end.
Some cool moments included:
- Casters on both sides being counterspelled, dispelled, and poorly spelled (it felt like a magical tug-of-war at times)
- Pushing and shoving foes into walls of fire, down stairs, and into waiting weapons
- Foes diving off a ledge into the fray to jump-attack from above
- Bard and rogue getting tactical with their powers to hem foes in
- Some good trash talk by the duergar and sunpigs
The Hobos emerged victorious. And I estimate they did about 2,000 points of damage through spell and sword to emerge on top.
Early on during prisoner interrogation the party learned the sunpigs had captured the duergar queen.
Battle over now, the Hobos search the place for the queen and find her waiting in the tower.
Turns out she is an eloquent troll with fine blonde hair. Two neck stumps indicate she had three heads at one point.
Some parley back and forth reveals she ate her “sisters” (several times, in fact) and consumed their intelligence to become smart.
We end the session there, will the Hobos about to perform a ritual to cure Vargulf of a curse and then plans to activate the magic henge once more.
Game Master Retrospective
As mentioned, the game started off choppy. Patience and perseverance paid off as my energy returned. However, my luck stayed below average the whole session.
Roscoe’s player complimented my combat props. I have a cool new aid, plus the usual ones, and he said it made all the difference in keeping the mega battle organized and flowing smoothly.
I avoided the junk food and felt great. One player brought a killer box of donuts. Another brought a giant bag of M&Ms. Both snacks top my favourites list. I mentioned to the group I was off sugar, and that helped me refrain from chowing down.
My NPC reminder worked! Last session I forgot all about the NPCs who are with the party. That bugs me because it creates dumb fiction. For this session I added a card specifically for NPCs in my initiative stack to remind me of their presence, and that worked well.
I noticed my players complimenting each other for good moves and ideas. That’s excellent. Keep it up, guys.
My foes were too complex. One player quipped, “Forget Faster Combat, Johnn, let’s just aim for Faster Game.” (It was said with love.)
My notes are scattered again. I’m still mid-migration of moving all my old stuff into Campaign Logger. I also had new ideas in Evernote and OneNote when I was on my ipad at work.
Players are getting impatient for treasure and experience points. It’s been awhile since the Hobos have acquired cool rewards.
Curate my Source of Truth. Before next session I’ll move my notes into Campaign Logger.
I will also add deep links to specific entries at D&D Beyond. Using the site’s complicated search foiled me several times. (Why do they have no less than 25 search fields to find monsters? Google seems to do ok with one.)
Use simpler monsters. I prefer to make many monsters and NPCs in 5E as characters. They have classes and whatnot. But at higher levels this creates too many options. And I’m finding Hero Lab’s unoptimized screen layout adds to the confusion.
I felt good overall about this session. Giving it a 7 as I’m still learning what high level D&D 5E is all about.
Next session the Hobos should finally leave the monastery!
What began as a one-session idea to kick-off Season 3 after a long hiatus has turned into four sessions of running combats interspersed with good roleplay and NPCs.
Next session I hope the ratio reverses.
And, fingers crossed, I get to GM my first game in Duskfall! (While The Demonplague takes place in Duskfall, it’s self-contained and focuses on the Luna Valley, whereas next session I get to introduce the full world experience as designed so far!)