As you can see from the picture above, this post is going to be a recap of my last adventure (where several things went incredibly, mistakenly right and wrong). Dang it, Jake. That also involves me talking about what I learned in that session. You’ll see in a second. I’m also going to going to discuss the second of my DMing hats. The Santa Hat. Lastly, I want to talk about more of my modifications I’ve made to 4th edition.
The Santa hat is a hat you wear when you want to show your players that you really care about them. The Santa hat is the hat that says, “I have lots of gifts to give you all, and they’re rad.” The Santa hat is someone who can look at their players and see that conflict is a gift that keeps on giving. Conflict is what drives a story. Any story. Conflict is what keeps it going. The gift of conflict is the wooden spoon that keeps that story stew stirring. As a DM, our jobs, no pleasure, is to don our Santa hats every week, not just Christmas time, in order to present our players with the gift of a great story that really pushes the players to a breaking point. The players need to be faced with the thought, “Oh man, my character could really die here. Their lives hang on this decision, and this die roll, and I need to do this because my character needs this.” If I can get my players to the point of desperation, then I’ve done my job.
I’ve found that when the stakes are highest my players have the most enjoyment. But being Santa is not all PC murderizing. There’s another side to it. Donning the Santa hat is about having fun as well. If your players come to you with a story idea, or something that can really help their character become what they want it to be, at least consider it. If the story idea doesn’t fit, table it for a later date. If that something they want will really help the story of their character develop, consider helping them out. The RP will increase, and the sources of conflict will increase as well. This way everyone wins. This is what it means to wear the Santa hat: to bring the gift of conflict, and cheer all through the year.
And who doesn’t want to be that Santa in the picture?!
The party sets sail towards a small abandoned city on the continent of Everice. Tasil is taking the party towards the city of Gala. This city is one that is used by the pirate princes for the purpose of councils. The party arrives and is greeted by a primordial who is bound by a spectral chain. The party learns that he is a butler of sorts that cares for the city of Gala while the pirate princes are away.
The purpose of meeting here is tied directly to Tasil’s plan to convince the pirate princes to form an alliance so that they can take down Ryger, the pirate king, and steal his greatest treasure–the All-Seeing eye. Remember, the party needs this All-Seeing eye to revive the heron princess, Saiya Phelheldra. Controlling Saiya is necessary because the heron family is essential for a pivotal ritual in the history of Eberron. That ritual involves the Day of Mourning–a catastrophe that leveled the country of Cyre. But enough about narrative.
Through the efforts of the party, and Tasil (who has now revealed himself as Link Linebrink), the party manages to convince all but one of the pirate princes to join with them. The princes know that Ryger is fully aware of their plans due to his All-Seeing eye. Linebrink though has been able to amass an incredible armada thanks to the efforts of the pirate princes. What this culminated in is an incredible battle on the Thunder Sea, such as has not been seen since the age of dragons.
The party navigates their way through an epic sea battle, boarding ship after ship, slashing their way through pirate wave after pirate wave. As the party nears the flagship of Ryger, they are battered, and nearly broken, but they hear a familiar song. Standing on the flagship of Ryger are the Echoes, Dekker’s mercenaries. They are aiding Ryger, and not dead like the party once thought.
Upon closer inspection of the flagship, the party notices that there seems to be some form of golden wings emanating from Ryger. It turns out that the Ryger is an archangel, 1 of 4 angelic beings that have been chosen to wield great power in the name of the dragon, Siberys. The party boards the ship and realizes that the Echoes are not trying to kill the party, but rather knock them out. The party decides to do the same to them, not wanting to kill adventurers who have helped them so many times in the past. The party focuses their attentions on Ryger. His might brings the party to their breaking point, and just as the party is nearing dire straits, Drizzt (played by Jake, and no, not that Drizzt), saves the day by dealing an incredible 204 damage with his finishing cut/questing blades combo. Drizzt breaks his axes on the archangels body, as the golden wings surrounding Ryger diminish.
Drizzt, realizing a battle is still at hand, immediately grabs Ryger’s sword, and is confronted with a rage filled presence that threatens his life. It turns out that Ryger’s sword is alive, and is the one that chooses who becomes an archangel and who doesn’t. The sword refuses to be held by anyone living who is not an archangel. The sword attacks Drizzt dealing 73 damage, nearly killing him. Drizzt immediately tries to let go of the sword, but he cannot. The sword tells him that he is taking him to see Ryger. Drizzt now has three options. I’m curious which one you’d choose, dear reader:
1. Have the other party members, Larry (Cody’s character), and Saiper (Lucas’ character), cut off your arm.
2. Wake up the unconscious tiefling Leander and have him make a deal with Asmodeus to free you.
3. Take the test from the sword to become an archangel.
Which would you choose?
Drizzt, who was genuinely afraid of anything that Larry and Saiper suggested, decided that his best option was to try to become an archangel. After he agreed, the sword said that he would either succeed and become an archangel, or fail and be vaporized.
I rolled the die to see if he passed the test, and lo and behold, by 1 point, Drizzt succeeded in becoming an archangel (lucky bum). The party recovered the eye, and got some answers from the Echoes.
Things I Learned Last Session
I learned that players must continually be evolving. I learned that as a DM, I shouldn’t be afraid to try and introduce ideas into the story that may not be necessarily orthodox. For example, when I decided Drizzt’s (Jake’s character) weapons broke after he killed Ryger the archangel, I wanted to see what Jake was capable of. I wanted to see what my players would do, if they were introduced into an unexpected scenario that they didn’t think was possible.
1. Jake reached a point as a player that he had never been at before. He became genuinely afraid for the fate of his character. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want my players lying awake at night petrified. I just want them to feel what they’re characters might feel.
2. Cody and Lucas were forced to decide to do something radical to help out their teammate. They were quite willing, almost too willing, to help Drizzt stay alive. In all honesty, they probably just wanted to slice off his arm, but it was nice to see that they were willing to do what was necessary to keep their ally alive. But seriously, they just wanted to slice his arm off.
And that’s it. Give the gift of conflict, and keep your players invested in the story. Decisions carry no weight in the game if they aren’t real conflicting decisions. A pivotal plot point is neither pivotal, nor a plot point when a PC can just walk away from it without making a decision. Pump conflict into every battle, and every key decision. The entire game is role-play, not just the story bits. Make it all meaningful, and your players will thank you for it.
Your learning DM,
Also, go here for great DMing tips. angrydm.com