Continuing my (rather public) journal on what I have learned while trying to DM for the Crusaders and others!
D&D can come in many different levels of play: certain groups love the challenge of role play and interacting with Non-Player Characters (NPCs). Other groups want to dive into combat discover new and challenging enemies. Others still fall somewhere in between. No matter where your group falls, and despite needing to provide a fun game, the DM also needs to provide the very real risk of failure.
Failure can come in many different forms. Let’s use our previous session with the Crusaders for instance. Up to this point there was no real risk of failure; they had decisions to make, but they are now in a very hostile environment. Not only is there risk from being away from civilization and in the wild, but undead stalk the jungles as well as creatures both big and small that could provide a threat. The Crusaders also came to discover that exploration of ruins or jungle could possibly end in failure.
While exploring the remnants of Camp Righteous, the first camp established by the Order of the Shield, they discover ruins from the long dead Kingdom of Chult. They use guile and intelligence to make their way through, but not without taking bits of damage and failing to solve a few of the puzzles and traps along the way. While none of the Player Characters (PCs) took enough damage threaten their life, it did provide a very real threat. Eventually they solved the riddle of the ruins, by imitating the pictographs on the wall and riding piggyback style through the ruins.
After leaving the ruins, the mystery of the dead sisters of Diane is solved as the Goblin King rides in on a Tyrannosaurus Rex claiming that they would destroy the “God Killer.” This combat was entertaining, fun and dangerous. When the T-Rex attacked Diane we learned that this monster provided a very real threat to the group. With one bite, this adversary knocked off more than half her hit points, and the players learned when she is released that this is a zombie dinosaur that can produce other zombies by vomiting them up!
This encounter and the puzzles of the ruins created a session that finally had some real danger and hopefully instilled in the players and spectators alike that this quest could possibly end in the failure and death of the entire group. These challenges required some unique strategies including the befriending of a baby Axe Beak bird, and even the use of abilities that causes friendly fire damage.
This encounter very well could have wiped out the entire party if not handled correctly. Not every puzzle, or every encounter with monsters or foes needs to be life threatening, some may just push the story along, while others may threaten the success of the quest. In many combat encounters you may even find that there is a non-combat solution to the encounter.
At the end of our session, we leave Diane passed out from her wounds floating down the River Soshenstar back toward Port Nyanzaru. Bryce, Alex and Undril have defeated the goblin and the zombies, including the T-Rex. What is to come of Diane? Will the rest of the Crusaders save her or is she lost to the wilds of Chult? To answers to these questions tune in to our next episode of Crusaders and Dragons!
-Manderson, the Son of Mander
Curious about our adventures? Check out the replay of the episode below!