My players and I were recently able to get together again. We had a double length session, meaning we played for almost ten hours. It was a blast. During the course of the game they were attacked by savage orcs as they travelled the elven kingdom of Arenal. It gave me the chance to throw them into desert terrain. They then, at the behest of the elven rulers, battled warforged pirates off the coast.
There are a few things about this session that I want to talk about. The first is how quickly I noticed that our game is set by the props we use. You’ll notice in the pictures we didn’t have any of our normal miniatures, game tiles, or space that we’ve grown accustomed to. Some things can be considered a crutch, but I think we’ve grown too used to it. Having the different miniatures for the different monsters the players face was definitely miles better than using the cardboard markers. We don’t get the same variety from the markers that we get from out collection of miniatures. And honestly, my tiny improvised coffee table was nowhere near enough room.
I finished this session with an epic encounter. The kind I’d call a set piece. It had everything: multiple levels, a large group of enemies, a powerful magic artifact, and a dangerous villain. I used a poster map from one of the WoTC Lair Assaults. It’s a mass of wrecked ships, pushed together to form a multi layered battlefield. I repurposed the experimental warforged from an old published adventure to represent the Sea Prince Kal and his warforged lackeys. On the higher levels were minions throwing combustible pots that lit the ship on fire, these fires spread every turn, causing damage to any who stood in them. At the center of the map was a dangerous orb that leaked grey mist onto the ship. The orb messed with healing magics, but it could be controlled with arcana checks. It’s important to give your players these kind of challenges. You give them something that will become stories later, an experience that lets them see their characters in an incredible exciting light, and they’ll feel accomplished when they win. Video games have boss fights for a reason. Don’t be afraid to give your players something truly epic, even if it isn’t the end of a storyline.
And speaking of not being the end, I also wanted to talk about seeding the future of the game. You should never be afraid to give your players a small taste, in game of course, of what’s coming next. These hints and clues will come together to build tension and excitement so that your reveal will be all the better. But better than real hints are false hints. There is nothing better than hearing than hearing your players’ wild speculations about the false information you gave them. What I’m saying is don’t be afraid to lie to your players.
One final thing, if you haven’t seen this Kickstarter project, I think it’s one of the best tools for gaming I’ve seen in a long time. Hopefully it’ll get funded. I know I’m going to back it.