Content of the article: "My first 2 times as DM were 2 TPK’s – How to get back in the saddle (mines of Phandelver spoilers)"
Hey all, some info for context
I am a first time DM and I am following the Mines of Phandelver with 3 players. Two of which are relatively new, one of which is more experienced. I'll call it a MoP campaign from here for simplicity. I am DMing the MoP as it was easier to get into DMing quickly without first building an entire world, story arc and encounters. I would like to do those things in time, but I wanted to DM a premade adventure the first time around to get a grip on what DMing entails.
The first encounter in MoP is an ambush on our players by 4 gobbo's. The first time I rolled a crit on their stealth and nobody noticed them. Their Initiative rolls ended up being quite bad too, so this little encounter almost ended the party altogether. However, with some generous roll fudging and having the gobbo's make dumb decisions the party prevailed, barely. After which they spent some time in the village and got some info to get to the gobbo hideout. Both of the TPKs would happen in this first large encounter.
The first time one of the 3 players entered disguised as a goblin and did well enough on several deception checks to infiltrate the area unnoticed. the other 2 were supposed to stay outside and wait for intel but decided to push in regardless. The amount of enemies in this first encounter generally seems too high, so I nerfed their AC to a more manageable 12 instead of 15. Regardless, the 2 pushing in got downed and I had them captured by the goblins instead of killed. So that next session the players could opt to save them to give them a second chance at playing their original characters.
Today in the second session, ~1/3rd of the goblins had been removed before hand. Their AC was now mixed 12/15 depending on loadout and the flood released in one of the areas was nerfed so that the first one was now taken with advantage. Since the pool was only partially refilled sincec the last time they tried to clear out the hideout. The general HP on the goblins was around 7, so that it either took 1 good hit or 2 smaller hits to get rid of them. All in all it started out great. 5 gobbos had been rid off without much of a scratch. Their luck however would change at the encounter with the bugbear…
Only 2 gobbo's remained to start with, as well as the wolf and bugbear themselves. One of the goblins was taken out straight away with a sneak attack and the three remaining enemies were all surprised. Most of them got downed quick, but 2 of the 3 players had been put into an unconscious state due after taking take of the wolf and goblin. The bugbear was the only one remaining with 1 HP. This bugbear continued to be proned by hideous laughter, survive several attacks made with advantage, and managed to down the last party member all on 1 HP. It was, in essence, their second TPK in a row…
Even after having nerfed the enemies by quite a bit to my feeling, the players were not able to prevail. It was close, but in the end unlucky. We have agreed to get a 4th player to fill a slot and if unavailable make a 4th DMPC, or PC to get the party buffed up a bit. I am keeping the AC nerfs made to the goblins and reduce their overal numbers in some places to give them a better chance to begin with too. Yet, I am a bit put off after these first two sessions. I am completely new to DMing so some things like making DM rolls on Roll20 don't come to me naturally yet, whilest I definitely should have used them for this session. I want my players to be able to get that feeling of being on the edge and getting a deserved victory, without making it too easy for them. It was so close this session, but the second TPK in my second session as a DM haven't exactly made me enthusiastic to plan the third session and start the campaign anew entirely. While I understand that luck is part of the game, especially at 1st level encounters, I still feel that as a DM I didn't give my players or myself an enjoyable experience.
So, to get back to the title of the post, what can I do to lift the spirits of both my players and myself to start the next session and reset of the campaign on a positive note?
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