20th post! Told you.
I know we were in the middle of a series here, but not posting this old comic as post #20 would be like tvtropes without people being jackasses over trivial matters like the use of the word "I" or this blog without a hypocritical whiny snide remark at someone out of nowhere.
This is one of the older ones I did, from a campaign a looong time ago. Technically the first game I DMed and the only campaign I ever ran to completion (my changing university timetable tends to screw games over eventually), and a bit of a mess sometimes - more on that in a sec.
The party was climbing a wizard tower to confront the bad guy inside (no prizes for guessing the class). I try to make my boss encounters varied, and talkative if it's not awkward - there's sometimes one guy who would rather insist the bad guy opening his mouth means he can get a surprise round and a full attack, but most of my players were cool with it - but this time I decided to do something simple. Wizard sat on the far side of the room at his test, bodyguard beside him, and he'd get up to shout and fight when the PCs barged in.
I never pre-write speeches for this shit (in case the players really do want to just fight), so when the soulknife guy wanted to use his character's higher-than-normal speed to cross the room and get a hit in, I allowed it. Besides, he was actually a fair challenge for melee attackers, because --
Unfortunately for the wizard, one of the purposes of the natural 20 in D&D is to flip the other guy's AC the bird and tell him to spin on your crit. One 20+confirm later, boom, knockout!
Oddly enough, back then I used the deathblow house rule (natural 20 to-hit + natural 20 crit-confirm + second confirm = instant death), but eventually I decided I didn't like it and dropped it. The main reason? That same guy's PC got killed by random mooks. Twice. Tee hee.
I've been tempted to write about that campaign in this blog a few times, but there's one thing that usually stops me - the players. See, even though I'll gladly accentuate the negative about a lot of things, my players included (it's cathartic!), I sometimes worry that they'll stumble across it on the internet. It's not too paranoid - I basically stopped posting on the WotC forums after one of my players "just happened across" a thread I made asking strangers for advice on player problems I was having and decided to post in the thread and paste everyone else a link, and I don't write about my players on the internet because I want to hear fourty fucking minutes of five minute's worth of justifications for whatever bullshit they pulled.
But whatever, let's get it off my chest and talk about it.
It was my first campaign, so not particularly inspired. The plot can be summed up like this: There was a standard medieval-ish fantasy society, and it was being threatened by a lich called Dominique despite being male who was also one of the previous king's many wacky alternate personalities. He had already lost a war to take the crown ten years ago and was brooding in the mountains while sending his lackey Georgio (a halfling who was originally a throwaway mook during the first session which I brought back as an undead antagonist) to steal all the items, NPCs and knowledge he could get his hands on to give them an edge in the war he was planning to relaunch with the aid of the evil races of the land. Nothing unusual for the most part.
It lasted a few years, ending with the war itself - Dominique turned the mountain he brooded in into a floating fortress and brought it with him on the frontlines, and the PCs entered it and killed him. Still nothing too original.
In hindsight, that campaign makes me conflicted. On the one hand, I enjoyed it, I really did. But a lot of the game happened when I was a... newer DM, and made a lot of mistakes. One of the biggest ones was at the end, which doesn't help. And, of course, I DMed for a few shitty players. All in all, it was a good campaign, just one with a lot of fumbling.
I learned a lot of lessons though:
- The "D" in "DM" does not stand for "Doormat"
Don't. If you just let bad things happen like that, your game isn't going to be good.
- It doesn't stand for "Dickhead" either
Fucking no. That just upsets people who didn't do anything in the first place. Since then I have, I hope, found a happy medium between "too hard" and "not hard enough".
- Don't drag dungeons on
So if you take anything from this screed, make it this: don't make adventures too long;didn't play.
- Be prompt with EXP and such
So from now on, if I have a plan for when and where I give out EXP, I'm going to stick to it.
- Don't fucking railroad
So, one time, I had that Georgio guy show up to taunt and harass the PCs for a moment before escaping. Two problems: First, his method of escaping was very badly-defined, relying as it did on knowledge of the surrounding terrain and buildings that was next to impossible to communicate to the players properly without taking way more time than a reasonable explanation should have. Second: It came off as railroading. Hard railroading!
So, the players called me out. It took a while to convince me to undo it, too; I let them catch up and kill him, then revived him as an undead again when I needed him. I still feel terrible about that, and it's one of the reasons much of that campaign is an old shame for me.
I am told there were some positive points to my DMing style and I was very skilled at things like coming up with NPCs on the fly, and the players enjoyed the game immensely when fumbling bullshit wasn't going on in the DM/player departments. Most of them have also insisted that for the most part, I didn't railroad and ran a pretty open world, which is cool. Still, ugh. I guess everyone has dirty laundry, right?
Speaking of... I did say mistakes were made by everyone. Part 2 will be more fun to write...