Content of the article: "A disappointing end. Where could I have done better?"
I had a relatively short session planned. A three room cave with a summoning ritual finale. In my head (and the calculators) the whole thing could be finished by a group of 4 level 2s in about 3 hours. Things happened and we never made it to the finale and I feel as though I, the dm, am specifically to blame but I can't think how I could have done better.
First off, 2 of my players couldn't make it. So one of the guys who could make it wanted to use his lvl 5 fighter. I figured that probably maintained balance, so we played. The other player, a lvl 2 rogue, was my 1st time playing with him.
Room 1 was just a couple talkative guards. This was a place for them to get information and bargain or just kill the guards and move on. They get some info about a kidnapped noble and talk their way past, no biggie.
In the second room I left a glowing doorway further along the cave as big ole "Go this way!" They run into a mephit that is not immediately hostile, it begs for some shiny stuff (they gave him a silver) and then points them to a different path (toward a trap they never found).
At this point the rogue decides he wants to go back and kill those guards from the last room. Initiative is rolled and one guard dies while the other runs screaming through the cave.
Back in room 2 I added some tracks to the door they are supposed to go to, letting them know that is where the escaped guard ran to. However the players uncover the mephit's loot stash and get ambushed by 5 mephits. I had planned this. They get through that and I tell them they hear screams from the other room, but they don't care and set about scrounging around the rest of the room for more loot. They find a potential ambush (that trap from earlier), I made it clear they could avoid it and there was no real reward for killing the low lvl natural hazards. But the rogue insists his character hates these things and drags the fighter into a drawn out murder fest.
At this point I tell them there is audible chanting from the other room and they can feel the ground starting to vibrate. The fighter (who hasn't used his 2nd wind yet) says he's going to leave the cave and take short rest, a 1 hour short rest, rogue agrees.
This is about 5 hours in and I was tired. I tried to hint that time was short. I also couldn't justify why these cultists would wait another hour to commence the ritual after describing how it was already affecting the environment.
I described how the earth tremors were intensifying while they rested. They didn't care. So now I figure I could throw a powerful summoned entity at them (a scenario I was not prepared for) or end the session with them failing to stop the ritual and continuing later. I decided the cave collapsed and when the quake ended there was a loud terrible roar heard in the distance.
We ended there. The players felt like I punished them for taking a rest and I reminded them of the hints (and direct statements) about running out of time. I feel like I let them down and I'm disappointed that we never made it to my final room. Where could I have done better?
- Schrödinger’s PC, or How to Handle Players that Drop In and Out
- How to deal with players who don’t even show up to your sessions.
- How to encourage a new player to roleplay?
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