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After the talky drama we had at our last session, I thought I would reveal a little (long post!) of the thought and preparation that I do for a game session. My goal here is not

to be on the defensive. Rather, I hope that by seeing some of my thoughts, you can give feedback and improve the game. After all, we must remain true to our core mission: Have fun!

Putting it all Together
So let”s take the last encounter as an example. The Divas want to get into the Temple of Wee Jas and blow it up since their investigations have shown that Jasidian clerics are behind the assassination attempt, and because the new construction is blocking the rising solstice sun from shining on the Church of Pelor. The written scenario assumes the Divas will come to the Temple of Wee Jas, but also assumes: a) they are 12th level characters (they are 11th), b) they can break a DC 40 lock on the door (they have no rogue), and c) they have no intention of burning the place down.

a) Encounter Level – The Shackled City wants this to be Encounter Level 13. Using the Encounter Calculator, a party of 6 12th level characters would be 13.2, so this is reasonable. But my party is only 12.2, so I need to take this into account. I decide these are hired guards who won”t fight to the death. Their orders are to try to capture the PC”s, or draw them to the real fight deeper in the Temple. This makes the encounter a bit easier. Then, reading about Stone Giants, I realize their only real tactic is throwing rocks and melee fighting. Not good for capturing. But, if I make them Elders, then they get some spells and can use them to trap the PC”s. But this makes the encounter harder. So I lower the level of the fighters. In the end, I have a level 13 encounter using 2 Stone Giant Elders (CR9) and 4 half-orc fighters (CR6) to make my encounter. Challenging, but the fight is not to the death, so probably okay.

b) The Lock – I don”t have a rogue, so I make the front doors unlocked. But then I need to add some guards, so I do that. I make these half-orc fighters (CR 4) since they are there to deflect the attention of regular citizens. The Divas can certainly come in and get captured.

c) The Unexpected – I have a paladin who thinks the temple destruction is dumb, so she”ll be missing. Oops. Now we”re down a character. The Divas are planning to blow up the temple, so there may not be a “real fight” to draw them to. Oops. Need to adjust. After all the fun role playing, the encounter starts at 9:00. Oops. Too early to stop, to late to start. Well, let”s go for it.

Since they are going to blow up the place, I decide to make this encounter the “real fight” and scale down the following one. I don”t change the strategies of the enemies though since they don”t know the plan. Since I”m doing this at the last minute I add some extra fighters. And, since the Divas” plan is to bluff the guards away, and they”ll likely succeed, I add 2 more fighters, figuring they can bluff another two out of there. And even if they don”t, these are more people to question before blowing the place up.

Learning From Experience
There”s still things I would keep the same. Making the stone giants elders is something I would definitely keep. That mud geyser was fun. It”s also very fun that one of the giants got turned into a cat. It completely foiled the plan to stone shape walls around characters, then turn the stone to mud miring the characters, then turn the mud to stone trapping the characters, but hey, turning a giant into a kitten is hilarious! And, I would have still started the encounter one week and finished it the next. It was an experiment, and it”s good to know it”s doable. Not a good routine thing, but good to know.

To do things differently, I would not have added the extra fighters. Since the last battle was so epic, making another large fight right after was exhausting for everyone. Also, I misjudged the Divas. I didn”t expect them to really kill everybody. My fighters didn”t have a place to run. Worse, there was no one left alive to question. I should have kept the Divas on the original track to blow up the place. True, there was useful information and plot elements to find, so it”s good for them to search. But, in hindsight, they can blow up the place – there”s always another way to gain information.

Ah, live and learn.

The most important lesson here is this: Just because the Divas changed the scenario, doesn”t mean the scenario needs to adjust. Players should be rewarded for creativity, initiative, and zeal. They want to blow up the temple, they should be able to. Remember the brilliant plan to walk around the Lucky Monkey and go in the back door? I didn”t adjust that encounter and it was awesome. Remember the crazy idea to investigate Orak”s rat problem? Killing 30 goblins was a blast.

I”m awarding myself 4000XP for this encounter.


  1. Great post! Man, there’s a lot that goes in to DMing. It is good to see your thought processes. The discussion was good. We should do a follow up next session. Why? Because I love meetings!

    Comment by Indira — May 1, 2009 @ 5:32 pm

  2. Yeah, you just don’t know where the lines are until you cross them. Now that I know where this line is, I won’t be there again.

    Learning can be painful.

    Comment by Dyskko — May 1, 2009 @ 8:30 pm

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