Hey everyone, Jarred from Monsters & Multiclass again. Probably going to give a bit of a shorter update this time around. I am still trying to figure out a format that really works for these updates. Part of me wants to keep track of everything that happened, the other part of me just wants to mention big things. I don't think anyone is going to read this for me to lay out every single detail of the session. More importantly I'd be writing for hours and I may as well start recording the sessions at that point. Anyways on with the stuff you're here for.
Everyone always tells DMs to prepare as little as possible. It's not bad advice. At the very least it comes from the right place. But I like to take relatively useful advice and pick it apart. I think a large amount of prep is fine. Some weeks I prepare so much content that I am POSITIVE my party won't get through half of it. I write up huge backstories for NPCs, I make 10 different plot hooks and start down each of them. I have never once felt like that was wasted time.
This week was one of those weeks. This was the first time that the party was able to explore the city. One of the only two real cities in the entire "world". I had some history, some ideas of the atmosphere I was shooting for, and little else. I tried to coerce my group into giving me a heads up as to what they would do next week. I ask this question of my players a lot. They know things are more fun when I can at least think on them for a little. I encourage others to do this as well. You don't need them to tell you every little thing they want to do. But if they tell you "Hey I want to buy some new equipment" you now now that it's time to brush up on prices of items and make some interesting personalities for them to run into. Maybe even a shop or two that can be suggested to them. It just makes the process smoother and I have never found it ruins any mystery for the players.
So my players really were going to shop for some new equipment and then check out the newly started fighting pit. The half-orc has a gladiatorial background and was expressly invited to partake and was told that the buy in is a little cheaper with a group. My not so subtle way to get him to stick with the party. I had realized that I had no set ideas of where things were in the city though. Nor would I be able to explain it to them quickly. I made a list of everywhere I thought they might go in a day. The nearby churches for the Cleric, the fighting pit for the Eldritch Knight, the Town Hall for misc intrigue and rumors of the area, and of course, a trading area. They were quickly directed by the NPC who runs the adventurers guild. He now has an official name and accent so I have to remember him. I handed them the map and told them "The city is yours". The Cleric wanted to go right to the church before the others even woke up though. I was a little worried. The joke of not splitting the party is great advice for adventurers out on a mission. But it's even better advice for a DM's sanity while trying to keep the pace of a session.
I had some things ready for the cleric at the church and I worried it would take to long. So I quickly switched over to the other 3 in the party. Thinking maybe they could be brought together if I let them do what they need to long enough. This part was all pretty simple. They went into town, I introduced some local foods through food carts, they found some weapon and armor sellers, I sold them some goods. The main bit of advice here is something I stole from Matt Mercer...I think. Someone says he does this and I never confirmed it. I had them roll an investigation check to ask around about shops. Higher rolls meant more fair prices and more agreeable people and less time searching. First rolls were really poor. So when someone needed a 25gp long sword, I charged 45. They could have started haggling but they really just said "That's pretty expensive. Here's your money!" Looking for armor I had them roll again, this time a bit better. I only overcharged a little bit, once again expecting some haggling. None? Alright. I guess I didn't establish that this was a haggling town now that I think about it. Maybe next time they are in the area I will explain that the deals seem to take awhile as most people go back and forth on prices. After they finished their shopping I figured it'd be a good time to check in on the Cleric.
There was an important figurehead at the church. A high level priest who presided over the church. In preparation of this I went overboard and made a ranking system for the church. Made approximate guesses as to what each rank would do, then rapidly realized once she was at the church that 10 different ranks was entirely overkill! Oh well. I am stuck with it now and it gives me room to grow. Maybe no one has even made it past the rank of 6? Or maybe there are legends of a 9 who lives atop Ausex's Gift high in the mountains! Point is, I would rather have room to grow then say there are 4 ranks and feel like it's not enough.
The Cleric get's to the church and is greeted by someone of her rank. I used this to establish how low a rank 2 really is. They are tasked with greeting people at the door and taking donations. I was trying to give her the opening to start maybe asking about their particular powers and blessings that Ausex has bestowed upon them (Ausex is the water god. Not sure if it matters but here you go). She'd find out that not everyone has crazy divine healing magic and probably start to wonder what makes her so special! She instead gave a "hello" and walked on into the church. "Alright no big deal." I thought. "I'll just play up the high ranking priest. There's no way that won't drag her in!" So Eilenia the Cleric goes into a pew, notices the high ranking priest is talking with someone, says a prayer, and then leaves. She said she didn't think she had anything to talk about with the priest. Which is fair. I didn't dangle anything in particular over her head. But after talking with her later I found out that she plans on making this a daily ritual for her character. This is honestly even better. This tells me that it's time to give the doorman a name and have him start to recognize her. If she is going to keep coming back then even if she doesn't have anything to talk to them about, there are plenty of things they will want to talk to her about. I already have some hooks for when she asks. I can keep those in waiting until it feels like the right time.
So she left and had mentioned that she too had some things she wanted to buy. At this point the groups had been separate for about 20 or so minutes so I was more than happy to get everyone back together. I honestly felt bad that I didn't just run what she wanted to do really quick. I figured it would be a larger time suck.
Everything going forward went fairly smooth. The Cleric ended up taking the short sword of the Eldritch Knight (EK. I am just shortening it to EK. I can't keep typing Eldritch Knight.) and just needed to get it maintained as it looked awful and was extremely dull. This was an entire flavor interaction because they needed to go to a black smith in the Northern Ward to get it fixed up. They went to the place Kirt the guildmaster suggested, Garrack's, and heard it'd be ready in a few hours. I made sure to spend some time describing the area here. The North in here is mainly working class. Not so much poor, just a modest, simple life style. When they made their way South I wanted it to feel quite different. In the South there were street performers basically everywhere. I had an idea for one interaction that I was rather proud of though.
Next to a tree and a bench there was a sign that read "Try and find me". Between the two there was a hat on the ground with some coins in it. The Cleric and the Ranger were curious. They each took turns trying to find the person. One looking in the tree, another around the bench. I set a DC of 17. No particular reason other than I wanted this to be difficult. Both of them rolled under. Now the Druid and the EK had to take their shots at it. The druid cast detect magic. Nothing. This wasn't something magic would solve. Next the EK tried to get crafty. He picked up the hat full of money and began walking off. He was trying to bait the person into following him. He'd of course turn around, and say "I GOT YOU!". Ha. Too easy. This is a professional street performer. Losing a few hours of tips meant nothing in comparison to losing his entire gig! The EK continued to walk away. 50ft...100ft...150ft. The Ranger followed close behind and seeing nothing happening grabbed the hat from him. I asked the EK if he was resisting, he was not. Otherwise, opposing athletics rolls I guess? Anyways, the Ranger takes the hat and walks it back to where it was. When he places it down he hears a whisper "Thank you". The players face was hilarious. He immediately grabbed his coin pouch and threw in a few silver with a "You're welcome...man he's good." They really didn't end up looking too hard. But if they spent more time or got better rolls they'd have seen a wood elf painted to match the the angles from below. Once again, a professional! Guess I need to instill some laws around stealing from a busker though. Letting that get away from me may be an issue.
From here I will fast forward a bit. Some RP happened but it was mostly just a plot device to move things along. There isn't too much use in telling myself to just "be more descriptive" because I work towards that every week.
They went to the fighting pit, they met the EK's contact who invited them, and were given a couple of options.
Option 1: Fight some giants tonight. 300 gold buy in, 500 gold pay out
Option 2: Fight another group like yourself tomorrow. Not to the death, 300 gold buy in, 800 gold pay out if you win. None if you lose
They went with option 1. I gave them some free tickets and sent them on their way.
Most of this social interaction was about letting just a bit of the EKs backstory out. The person who asked for him was running the arena and had seen him fight on the other side of the country. He basically fan boyed for a few minutes as the party sat there stunned. Up until this time they thought he was a bit of a liar. Or a lot of a liar.
With some time to kill as it was still early afternoon, they went back to the adventurers guild for some lunch. There, option 2 walked in. A group of odd looking fellows. The PCs asked Kirt if these were "The Terkins" a name I quickly made up and have no idea why. But I'm just going to think of Turk Turkleton from Scrubs now. I hadn't really decided on a personality for this group yet. It's a standard party makeup. Fighter, Mage, Warlock, and Thief. I decided in the moment that they weren't going to be overly hateable. I think that angle is a little too easy. I want this group to feel like rivals, not like obvious enemies. That's not as fun to me.
So it ended with them basically saying "Good luck and we'll be rooting for you" in a way that made the group seem unwavered by the new kids in town. I quickly jotted down their names that I made up on the spot onto a note card. I always like to have some scratch paper around so that I can write down names and personalities to refer to later. Otherwise the same person feels like 5 different people. Another thing I am terrible at but getting better at.
From here they killed time until the fight. I let the spell casters re-prepare spells. I know that it's generally done in the morning but I didn't see any good reason to punish them. They basically had a full 8 hours to prepare anyways.
At the time of the fight I asked them for a party name. The EK, the one with experience, went by the stage name of Krush. Yes. Crush with a K. His real name is Krusk. Either way the group decided to go with The Krushlords. I sure do hope that changes because I sure do hate it!
From here we got to play out a rather fun fight. 2 Hill Giants and 2 Ogres. I drew up a quick arena with some obstacles for cover, structures to climb on, and rocks to throw! I let them out and put on my best giant voice. Both were throaty and booming. The Hill Giants were deep though, where as the Ogres were just Lily the Nightkin from Fall Out: New Vegas. I actually think I nailed that one.
The fight itself is simple. Ogres and giants are just bags of health and hit like trucks. So as 1 of each kind tried used their actions to dash and close the gaps, the other 2 moved up slowly and threw rocks and javelins. This let them close the gap without the PCs feeling too safe or wasting an entire turn. More importantly, the PCs can all do ranged with relative ease. It'd have taken awhile but they'd wear the group down.
The combat went exactly as I needed it to. By the end of it almost every spell slot was used, health was running low on the EK, and the ranger had spent the last 3 rounds getting Yo-Yo'd by the Hill Giant. If you aren't familiar that means they went down, got healed, went down again, got healed again.
Being an arena fight it was really easy to get the group hyped though. After the final kill I gave them some time to flourish a bit. The EK, used to the scene, cut off an ogres head and threw it into the crowd. A rather classy move. I made him roll an athletics check cause it'd have been hilarious if he couldn't get it over the wall. 18, he win's twice tonight.
I wrapped up the session quickly after. Marcus Zean, the owner of the arena, or...the Zeanrena invited them to an after party at the Tattered Marrow, a gastro pub in the South Ward. They all graciously accepted. This means next week I have to make sure some important people are there. They put on quite a show and I am sure there will be some interested parties who can put them to work.
I guess this wasn't as short as I wanted it to be. Oh well. Thanks for reading and see you next week!