How is D&D these days?

I’ve definitely died twice in the first two sessions. The GM definitely fudged things to prevent himself from one-shotting me. The plan going forward is to have my squishy lil sorcerer just walk in a square surrounded by the rest of the party :)

edit: actually, the second “death” was from him misremembering falling damage rules in 5E and rolling d10s after an animated suit of armor lobbed me off the third story landing instead of d6s. So only one death was technically retconned :)

I’m running Curse of Strahd for our group but focusing more on the story & role-playing than combat. Just want it to be a good experience instead of having it be heavily roll & stat based. Sounds like it’s working out like yours, Wendelius! I feel constantly underprepared though, given the insane volume of info and details out there. I’m also incorporating some Strahd Reloaded stuff into it. Can’t believe how much user material has been created.

What killed you the first time? Are you still in the Friendly Jovial Good Times House starting area? I brought my folks in a bit higher than normal (they’re 4th lvl now) as we did another module beforehand. No one’s come close to dying for us yet but it’ll get a lot more deadly as they move along.

Our GM expanded/invented a werewolf raid on a caravan to start us off / push us towards the house. My character went to sleep for the night on the side of camp the wolves came in from. Turns out being unconscious and prone when a werewolf makes his attack doesn’t go well at 7hp. It was very much meant to be a “this fight can’t be won so you should run” type of situation, and it ended with a great high speed chase on horseback through the woods dodging formless horrors and monstrosities, but yeah, sleeping through a surprise round doesn’t do good things for your longevity. I kinda think he maybe underestimated the power of the foes he threw at us; like me, a lot of his D&D GMing experience is a few years old.

The second was while exploring the house. We’d encountered a bunch of NOT animate, murderous armor suits on lower floors, so I didn’t think much of walking by another one en route to look at a painting. GM did describe it well as obviously different; I’m just unused to the survival horror paranoia game of low level D&D, heh.

Knowing the GM in question as well as I do, I know it’s going to be a very story-heavy, cinematic game with great characters, but we kinda stumbled straight into super danger twice in a row to start off. Oops.

Edit: sorry for all the notifications. Making lots of little edits, heh.

Oooh, report back please, when you’ve finished with the House! I’m curious to see how it all ends in your world.

Assuming COVID actually goes away at some point.

Ravenloft, being a horror setting, also tends to discourage combat as a solution to monsters. Or at least, it did when it was a proper campaign setting. I haven’t looked at Curse of Strahd so it might not lean into that as hard.

The 2E material about the domains and the monsters was really quite cool and creepy.

Funnily enough I don’t really like rpg combat very much, so you’d think that would really be up my alley.

But truth is, my preferred rpg problem solving method is that classic YouTube channel, Will It Friend?

I’ve been playing off and on in my buddy’s Curse of Strahd game. I think he started two or three years ago. I started late, when the party was around level three or four, left the party when my kid came home from the NICU (my warlock character’s patron engulfed my character with a kind of cocoon, promptly confiscated by Strahd), and rejoined a year later. We’re at level eight now and we have been exploring a temple full of amber and dead things for a month or so. It’s sometimes still weird playing online, but since our party stretches in meatspace from sea to shining sea, it’s the only workable option. I love playing as a PC.

My other 5e game I’ve been DMing for years has been on extended hiatus. We’re just a session or two from wrapping up the climactic siege and battle in the Red Hand of Doom module, but babies in real life plus quarantine stopped the party cold. I haven’t been able to transfer from tabletop to Roll20 yet. Maybe sometime in the next few months – everyone wants to play, and I love DMing.

I don’t know that guy but it sounds cool. Is he related to Lois McMaster Bujold? Is that the “Curse of Chalion” setting?

Has anyone heard about or had thoughts about a/the Wizards of the Coast and 5e boycott on social media? This might be better fodder for the “Cancel Culture” thread in P&R than this thread, but certain folks on social media are furious about Wizards in general and Mike Mearls in particular. The beef arose when Mearls was chummy with, or appeared to be chummy with, a freelance writer and streamer who by nearly all appearances and testimonials turned out to be a piece of shit. Mearls and Wizards didn’t cut their ties fast enough. Also, Wizards hasn’t moved fast enough (according to the tweeting boycotters) in changing up their staff to reflect the race/gender/sex/class/backgrounds of their fans. I don’t find their arguments persuasive but I’m still listening to them.

Woops, spent all that time not fucking up her last name that I fucked up her first, instead!

So it’s the setting for The Sharing Knife series (AKA, Wide Green World), but Marisol, our GM for that game, seems to have implied a connection to the World of Five Gods setting of Curse of Chalion. I’m not sure how canonical that is, as I’ve never read either series, but Marisol’s a big fan of Bujold, so I assume she’s drawing from something.

Mind, we did stop the game before making real headway on that season’s major storyline, so I could also just be completely misreading the clues and drawing a connection that wasn’t meant to be implied.

Bujold is great. I think I’ve read all her novels. Didn’t know she has an RPG too.

Since I know a lot of people here are excellent roleplayers, I would love your input on something I am cooking up!

So, my usual group of four players I run Descent into Avernus with, is missing one player next session.
I figured this was an ideal time to try making a one-shot game, where the players could try other classes and another setting, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to be something special.

So - Here is the basic idea - I wanted the players characters to die at the end - I figured, why not? This is the perfect opportunity to make that have some meaning and impact and a little bit of shock-value!
This is what I have so far

The players are heroes - returning from a 15 year war.
They are VERY strong compared to others- This means combat will be an easy out for them. Each have a secret that weigh on them, something they have done in the war
I only have about 3½ hour, which is what we normally play in.

1) On their way to the capital, still in enemy territory, they encounter a wealthy pig farming manor, and its owner, whose daughter has been kidnapped. He suspects the “dirty enemy” which so far has been described as “Evil, hut-dwelling, believers in old dark forest gods, and eater of children” and suggest a nearby encampment.
2) Enemy encampment IS dirty, smelly and bad looking filthy mess - PC’s are confronted by old warriors, who are EASILY dispatched by PC’s if fought. Some women kidnapped from them as well it turns out.
3) Trail leads into the mountains - Old shaman with two helpers travelling the mountain. Shamans killed a lot of people in the backstory I gave to PC’s. They are depicted as well. This is is mostly tired. Asks for mercy and help - Says if PC’s want to help him, he can be found on top of mountain, in cave.
4) Here, encampment of our heroes own soldiers, run by a wizard who has stolen the women. He wants to use them their souls in magic to unleash a devastating disease (Something that already has happened once) but on a larger scale, ending the “threat”.
Wizard offers money and bribes and appeals to sense of duty and honor. He has send most of his men out to scout for more victims, so PC’s can take the women and flee. Unless they want to help the wizard - Then they will get money, xp and fame, all they have to do is kill the shaman, who is messing with the ritual.
5) The Shamans cave.
Here the PC’s can either kill the shaman, or help him. IF the PC’s refused the wizard, and/or rescued the women, a small army is coming towards them and they have to stall them while the shaman works his magic.
During this fight, which is with a LOT of soldiers, but PC’s are WAY stronger than most of them, but there are a LOT of them, it turns out the only way to save the women from the ritual, is by sacrificing souls - This is done either covertly or openly as each PC dies in the defense.
At the end - The PC’s will have died, but the women are saved, the army is scattered, and the wizard is dead. OR of course, the shaman is dead, the PC’s are rich, but should be morally deplored by what they have enabled.

Anyways - This is what I have, and I kinda like it (Apologies to David Gemmel for the basic idea of the adventure) but I feel like I am missing a few key elements to really tell the story. I was thinking of giving each PC a secret, based on the war.

I would love some input on the above, and ideas to really hammer home the themes here, without becoming too over the top. I feel its close, but not quite too much yet.

Thanks in advance!

Alas, as far as I know, she doesn’t; my friend the GM has been homebrewing it all. A few years ago I held her run “season one” in Fate as a pilot for a GM mentorship program we wanted to run here in Raleigh, and for Season 2, she redid things in Chronicles of Darkness.

@Razgon the main things I’d caution on or at least suggest thought on are: if they’re new PCs entirely, expect to lose time to them figuring out how the characters work, and in general, “planned failure”/unwinnable fight scenarios sometimes make players want to Kobayashi Maru things and fight back against you :-)

The extra time thing is really two-fold: higher level characters have more options and abilities, AND they’re all stuff the players haven’t studied and learned at a reasonable pace slowly leveling up. It’ll just make each turn take a little longer, so fights will gobble up extra time.

The Kobayashi Maru thing: people often don’t like to accept failure and can get kinda destructively rebellious about it. They’ll fight longer than you counted on and sometimes get upset that they were “railroaded” when it finally becomes clear. Not everyone reacts this way, and the characters all being new reduces investment, but I’d very much recommend seeding in the idea of death being an inevitability early and often. Terrible omens and wise old NPCs speaking of a great and mighty death riding with the PCs (of course that can either mean the disease or their own heroic sacrifice), the wizard straight up saying, “there are too of us, you WILL die, so why not join me,” etc. This doesn’t guarantee they won’t fight back against you the GM, but ideally it helps setup the necessity of the sacrifice earlier and better. They’re still rpg players with clues, so it won’t spoil the surprise - players are terrible at clues!

Apart from that, I wonder if it might be one red herring too many, or one step too many? I’m just thinking from a pure satisfaction standpoint: they have these buff new heroes; they wanna hit some stuff! Having to keep delaying that gratification to do the right thing and talk and learn more much be too much for some groups!

With all of this, I’m speaking in generalities: you know YOUR players much better than I can! They might be super experienced, happy up sacrifice, and very into investigating! So do trust your instincts, too :-)

Fwiw, I would really enjoy playing that scenario myself!

That makes me so happy! Thanks!

I had two of them make their own characters just now (Gnome Barbarian is one of them, which is kinda funny :-D) so that should help offset the newness of it a bit.

Great idea about the Kobayashi Maru thing - I was just a tiny bit cautious to not show my hand too soon in this. But its a delicate balance yes, and will be rather fun to try out for all of us I hope.
They are good people, and pretty much follow where I lead them most of them if they need a nudge so I think (hope!) I can pull it off.
I was thinking if they get into a fight, and it is easy for them, that may signal something to them, that fighting may not necessarily be the end answer to everything in this particular adventure.

Anyways - thanks a bunch for the feedback!

I DM more than I play and one of the reasons is I really dislike being in situations where I feel like control of my character is taken away from me for shock value. It’s happened enough as a player to make me push for DMing when we role-play just so I can avoid the negative feelings among friends.

Not everyone’s like me, of course, and if you have a set of players who are into playing the narrative the way it is presented, this sounds like a good way to do it. I like that you have a non-death way out, even if it’s the “bad” way, so that it makes players feel like they had some agency in choosing a heroic death.

If some of your players are like me, I have had heroic deaths be enjoyable as a player and DM (actually one of my favorite ways to go out of a campaign). These have all worked around players knowing it was going to happen. As a DM, if I was going out like this, I’d just tell the players up front: “I want to run a mission where your characters all have heroic deaths. Are you in?” It takes away the shock value, but it adds so much. First up, you have dramatic irony. The players know their characters are going to die, but the characters don’t. Also the player’s don’t know how yet. And because you agreed to it up front, they’ll be looking for and excited about the opportunity. It also allows players to know the level of emotional attachment appropriate for the character in the moments leading up to their death. This may seem obvious as a one shot, but if they didn’t die, they could show up in the core campaign as NPCs, and your players might be excited by that possibility.

I think Matt Colville’s video on killing PCs was good, but I watched it a year ago. Maybe worth checking for advice also!

I like the way your adventure ends because those characters could crop up in the main campaign as villains (if they side with the wizard) or remembered as heroes by local bards (if they side with the shaman). It wasn’t entirely clear reading through it why they should help the shaman, though. Those dudes sound pretty evil. I didn’t get a clear view of who the good guys were. I’d have a harder time sacrificing a character heroically for a morally grey reason.

Sorry - I did not get this across as well as I hope to do in the adventure - I want the PC’s to think at the beginning, that this is business as usual. They are good guys, the opposition are the bad guys. The things they know about the “evil enemy” is just that - propaganda, dehumanizing so that soldiers will fight and kill the enemy. I was going for a bit of wild west overall feel where the enemy are the natives worshiping gods the more civilized people the PC’s belong to don’t understand, hence, evil!

Something I try to be subtle about, is where the manor of the pigfarmer is. Its on the land of the enemy - and this war is about what so many wars are about - Wealth and land.
Really what I want is to gradually reveal that maybe the enemy isn’t quite as evil as they think, and maybe some of their own aren’t any better - or even worse.

I am not saying the PC’s are “really the bad guys”, only that exaggeration has been thrown around here, and the enemy is just like them, people.

The encounter at the dirty camp with the old warriors is supposed to show a beaten down people, where only old men are left to fight, with little strength. If they spare the lives of those old warriors, I am thinking those show up at the end as well to help / hinder at the last fight.

Thanks for the video link - I like Matt Colville and will be sure to watch it!

I get what you are saying about taking away player agency - I hate that as well! I figured two things here:

  1. This is a one-shot with characters that are more “disposable”
  2. They will be given the option twice to not die heroically - At the wizards camp, and later at the last fight. I did not mention this, but I think they will be offered their lives here, if they just walk away.

But it IS one of the things I worry most about, and I get the idea of saying it up front, but that kinda takes away the surprise revelations :-)

I am struggling bit with the backstories of the characters - I kinda want one of them have a child and wife/husband at home but it feels kinda forced - especially if I make it one of their secrets.

What I wanted with the secrets was give them something kinda like those Murder dinner party games, where they have something dark they can share or not, but that has a huge influence on the game.
Something like a PC murdered unarmed civilians during a night battle. OR maybe the PC left behind a child and spouse to go to war, because they would rather do that, than go home.

Again, awesome feedback - I am rather rusty as a DM, having been away from this for quite some years, but its rather enjoyable!

This set up seems ripe for having the PCs split. Which might be hard on those who side with the shaman if the heroic choice is moot because there aren’t enough heroic souls to sacrifice.

I kinda forgot I had written this here - They went in a totally different direction than I expected. And ended up killing the Shaman, thus allowing the extinction of the other side of people more or less. Two characters for against one against - Reasoning was mostly their background I had given each character. One reasoned after 15 years of war, and a girl and child he had never seen waiting at home, was reason enough to make sure he never wanted to go back to war again. The other (character) had slight xenophobic tendencies, based on religion (I know, bordering some P&R stuff, sorry!) and felt it was them or us, so to speak. The third was convinced by the two others - AND, here comes why this lengthy reply to you Mr @Madmarcus - The first one later revealed he would have fought them all if they resisted him :-)

I really did not expect this! But kinda fun and interesting that these normally embracing people took their character this much to heart - It was an interesting experience!