The DM’s Little Helper Has A Campaign

Ran my first game in a long while, which incidentally is also the first time we actually had a game in a while. I was very happy with how it turned out: I wasn’t stammering throughout the plots or rushing players from encounter to encounter or constantly clearing out my throat to improvise. I came prepared and I made many off the cuff decisions to fold player spontaneity back into the adventure I had prepared for them.

My basis was the published adventure, Khyber’s Harvest, but I made up my own hook in which the goal was to hunt down a fugitive inquisitive, since they all declared that they were a bounty hunter-type party. Furthermore, like any responsible DM, I threw out some of the encounters and reduced the difficulty in order to streamline the amount of time spent in combat, which tends to bloat WotC’s published adventures.

Our party consisted of a changeling bow ranger named Tiq (played by Corinna) and a goliath druid named Hosso who spends most of his time in his polar bear form (played by Raymz). Girlfriend DM became a last minute addition and I quickly generated a warforged battle artificer at her request before she arrived. The party dynamic was essentially one bossy ranger who connives with the indifferent warforged to deny the druid of his share of the loot.

Highlights include:

  • Lots of role-playing and clue-searching at the start of the adventure to help the players to find their characters for themselves, instead of throwing them into combat and force them to deal with 4th Edition mechanics that neither Corinna nor Raymz have experienced.
  • Instead of using streetwise, Jammi the Girlfriend DM used the seek rumor ritual to query villager knowledge, which gave me an excuse to do creepy whispers as ‘thoughts’. This helped create a creepy vibe since it parallels some of the sinister voices they would hear later in the adventure.
  • Corinna made use of her shapechanging abilities to attempt to gather more information and trick a few orcs into getting pummelled by her fellow adventurers and try to sneak into a cultist ceremony.
  • Atmospheric details built into the adventure such as a hall of living words, creepy crawly symbiont equipment like tangler bracelets and tongueworms. While planning the session, the general icky-ness of the adventure didn’t really occur to me until actual play.
  • Corinna causing half a hall of cultists to fall down the stairs by inadvertently triggering a descending cavern into Khyber to open, then being totally awesome by making a sweet Acrobatics roll of 20.

We had to stop in the middle of the adventure, but it was fine. I merged multiple encounter components into one room: a pool of Khyber Blood, a creature of living darkness and some dolgrims. I’m already thinking ahead of where I want to take the players. The fun thing about creepy crawly scenarios for a novice DM is that the players have little difficulty wanting to explore alternatives to defeating the cult. “Hm, maybe they’re too far gone to really be reasoned with!”

Their supposed to bring the fugitive back to Sharn, but I’m thinking of creating a little detour into Droaam. It would be interesting to play off against that first adventure: from a town of paranoid orc villagers and crazy cultists, we go to a well-functioning town populated by monstrous folk. I think of it as like the Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen, except governed by a mind flayer. The mind flayer helps keep the players from doing something crazy like “I set fire to the church!” but the denizens are still well within the heroic tier.

We’ll see where it goes. In the meantime, I’m just happy I’ve finally found my stride as a DM. Even better, I’m hearing Girlfriend DM say that she’s started to miss being the DM.

3 Responses to “The DM’s Little Helper Has A Campaign”
  1. Congrats on getting back into DMing. Bridget ran Khyber’s Harvest a few months back, her first time DMing for a group of people besides just me. It’s a good adventure, but I agree that combat bloats it pretty bad. The hall of living words was probably the most evocative thing in the adventure for me.

    • I think it’s much better than most of the other published adventures which aren’t like a bazillion combats. Also, the Glyphs of Madness were rather pointless, so I threw those out. And I like the fact that it opens with non-combat stuff, which I deliberately stretched out to take up more of our adventure time.

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