Session 3 Dungeons and Dragons Adventure Pt 2

dungeons and dragons fighter bandit
In every Dungeons and Dragons Adventure, there should always be a villain and if there’s a villain, there are henchmen. Meet “Ogre”. A Blackskull thug of great strength and brutality.

The Dungeons and Dragons Adventure was about to come to a head.

Even having seen how well the boys, (Leroy-the-Ranger, Sherlock-the-Wizard, Brad-the-Rogue, and Honor-the-Paladin) had defeated the Blackskulls in the forest or cleared the ancient, dwarven dungeon below his home, Devon the halfling feared they would not be able to defeat the men inside his home. Even with surprise and magic.

All it would take is for one of the evil doers to be alerted to their presence and Devon’s family would die. All it would take was one mistake and the party would be overwhelmed and killed.

Undaunted, Honor eased the trap door into Devon’s home. There was no one in the storage room, though the Blackskulls had drunk all the wine stored there and smashed the bottles. Carefully moving the glass out of the way, the boys entered the room one by one, the smell of stale wine and hops from the barrels of ale heavy in the air. In the distance, they heard singing, and detected the smell of cooking meat.

Quietly, they crept into the next room, a food storage room. Horrifically, the Blackskulls had killed Devon’s dogs, skinned them and strung them up for meat.

Devon’s fear from his family turned to anger. “I’ll kill every one of those bastards,” he vowed, red blotches appearing on his face.

Easing the door to the kitchen open, they saw the singing Blackskull stirring a pot of stew, unaware that the boys had come in through the trapdoor.

They closed the door and came up with a plan. Using Sherlock’-the-Wisard’s illusions, they would distract the Blackskull cook while the sharpshooting Leroy and the deadly archer, Brad, shot him dead.

But like all plans in all dungeons and dragons adventures, it fell apart the moment the door opened.

Sherlock cast his spell, but Leroy-the-Ranger’s shot went wild. As did Brad-the-Rogue’s.  Even with the element of surprise. Even with taking a moment to aim properly. They both missed.

The Blackskull cook turned.

Everything depended now on how quickly the boys could reach the Blackskull cook because if he shouted out a warning, everything would go ‘pear-shaped,’ as my dad used to say.

As fast as he could, Honor-the-Paladin thundered towards the Blackskull cook, while Leroy notched another arrow, Brad ran to stab him and Sherlock cast another spell.

Before the cook could say a word, could even really open his mouth, the boys zerged him and he fell down about as dead as anyone could be dead, stabbed, frozen from a spell, and full of arrows.

It was an impressive takedown that any SWAT guy would have been proud of.

Then they planned an ambush for the others, using an illusionary voice to lure the other guards into the kitchen, shouting, ‘food’s ready!’

It almost worked.

In fact, it would have worked, but as Derrek Quickblade came into the room, two boys hidden under the table, two more hidden in the storage room, he didn’t fall for the illusionary cook by the pot and noticed the blood on the floor.

He drew his sword. He turned to the huge man behind him

“You know why Scar put me in charge, Ogre?”

“You’re a smart one, you is, Derrek. As smart as one of those book readers.”

“Right. We’ve got visitors.”

And, like that, it was on.

The two Blackskulls raced into the room, Ogre raising his huge axe, ready to cleave one of the boys in two, Derrek whirling his blades around like a guy who was seriously comfortable with sharp objects.

Brad, the nearest, dove out from under the table and threw chairs at the giant of a man, Ogre, running as fast as he could away from that axe. Leroy, shifting under the table, aimed and fired at Derrek’s legs, but missed. Honor, seeing his friends in trouble, roared into the room, his sword drawn, his shield at the ready. Behind him, Sherlock began to weave a spell.

dungeons and dragons fighter bandit
Every dungeons and dragons adventure needs a big bad. Meet Derrick Quickblade

Ogre split the table in two as he missed Brad, and Derrek spun away from Leroy to battle Honor. Like two legendary warriors, the two began to fight, Derrek faster than any warrior Honor had ever faced.

Faster. And more deadly.

Within moments, Derrek’s sword danced past Honor’s shield and drove deeply into the Dragonborn paladin, nearly killing him. Staggering back, gritting his sharp dragonteeth, Honor struck back, but Derrek moved with blinding speed, dodging Honor’s blade.

The two battled with brutal intensity, Derrek more skilled, but Honor brave and unyielding.

As the two fought, the last Blackskull ran into the room, but LeRoy spun and put a crossbow bolt in his leg. Brad lept out from under the table, tripped the Blackskull and drove his daggers into the man’s back.

While Honor continued his epic battle against Derrick, the other three heroes focused on the massive man called Ogre who seemed to take every cut from a dagger, every wound from an arrow as if he felt no pain.

Finally, Sherlock was able to get behind him and unleashed a firebolt that caught the man’s fur armor on fire. But even burning, screaming, he fought on like something out of a story told to frighten children,

But in the end, the fire consumed him and he fell to the floor.

With that, the others raced to help Honor, who could barely stand, fighting against Derrick with fury. However, so fast was the fight, the two warriors spinning, dodging, blocking, attacking, that LeRoy couldn’t get a clean crossbow shot and Sherlock’s magic failed to find the mark.

Honor took another terrible blow, Derrek’s sword slicing deep into his side, but he had watched how Derrek moved, learned the man’s martial dance and took the wound, deliberately, so he could get his own opening.

With all his strength, he slashed as Derrek’s leg. A deep, crippling strike.

Derrek staggered. Surprise twisted his face. One hand, instinctively, went to his leg.

And that was when Brad struck, coming in low. One dagger took Derrek in the thigh while the other drove deep into Derrick’s stomach.

Derrek fell to the ground, dying. Pain contorted his face. His hands held onto his stomach.

He looked at Honor and before he died, he said, “You think you have won? Death will not stop us.”Death… is… not… the end.”

The boys had won!

They had beaten the Blackskull thugs and saved the hobbits! They had completed the first chapter in what I had hoped would be an amazing dungeons and dragons adventure.

How little did they know what Derrick said would come back to haunt them?

 

2nd D&D Session

D&D NPC character

D&D halfling NPC
Devon, their halfling guide.Why would anyone want to kill this cute little guy? 

Phandalin Adventure

Day 2

Once, again, I couldn’t wait to start my D&D adventure with the boys. I’d done my prep, printed out my handout, (even a very cool ‘weathered’ map), and bought enough munchies to feed an army of starving goblins.

But therein lay my first mistake, and it may very well be why this session didn’t go as well as I’d planned.

To recap, they had been told by their hobbit guide, Devon, that bad guys held his family hostage. Now that he told the group about last session’s ambush, he begged the group to help.

But as I set up the music and sorted my paperwork, the boys voiced thoughts of killing their guide, Devon, the one person they were supposed to help!!!

 Why? I have no idea, it seemed to come out of the blue, but then I had to start the session out by telling them what they couldn’t do. Or at least trying to dissuade them for doing something evil.

Then they tore into the candy like rabid dogs. Before their characters even reached the hobbit’s home,  they’d began to vibrate in their seats. Then they bopped up and down in their chairs. Then, I had to take a break so they could literally run around.

It looked like getting them to focus on the game would become, well, a bit of a challenge.

Their mission though was simple enough. Rescue the hobbit’s family by sneaking in via a secret entrance. But, they were told, the evil guys were expecting a rescue and would be watching the doors and windows, ready to kill the hobbit’s family.

Their hobbit guide, Devon, led them to the secret entrance beneath his home, (an old, underground dwarven forge, long abandoned), that the hobbit used to grow mushrooms – Lots of tasty mushrooms fertilized by the finest poo in the county.

Only one problem – The boys didn’t want to do go through the secret passage.

Full of sugar rage, they wanted to charge in and attack the evil, nasty bad guys. No matter who dies!

D&D NPC character
Buttercup, Devon’s oldest child, a girl. Why would they not want to save her?

My hobbit was horrified. His family would die.

However… The boys didn’t care. Like Vikings, they wanted to fight.

NOW!

Battle, battle, battle, battlebattlebattle, BATTLE!

But I, (playing the hobbit), managed to convince them to try to sneak up on the evil, nasty bad guys, and that’s where I made my second mistake.

Running a game like this means you give the players as much leeway as possible to do whatever they want, and I’d railroaded them into going one route.

Had they gone their route, it’s not likely the little hobbits would have lived, and that’s a consequence that maybe they needed to have.

But forcing them to do something makes it harder for them to be invested in the game. However, NOT forcing them would lead to the death of little kids, and in story-telling, that’s a HUGE no-no.

I was in a pickle. Or ,rather, I’d pickled myself.

Not super interested in their choice, it took an hour for the boys to focus on killing 5 giant rats.

An.

Hour.

With their usual outstanding grasp of tactics, they defeated the rats quite quickly once the fight happened, but it soooooo wasn’t exciting for them. I could see that.

As soon as they won, though, they were hit by a sugar crash and acted like slow-motion turtles eating a leaf.

The session ended without a sense of major accomplishment.

That’s never good.

Would they run home and tell their parents, mom and dad, guess what, we killed rats, OMG it was amazeballs, rats, mom, rats. How cool is that?

No. Not cool at all.

Dammit, I’d goofed.

After I dropped them all off back home, I vowed to do better. However, being nearly impossible to predict what would actually happen in any given adventure, all I knew was that I needed to do 3 things better.

  1. I needed to control the sugar intake a LOT more than I did.
  2. I needed to find stuff they would care about, something magical and fun. Not fighting rats.
  3. I needed to create those epic moments they will talk about for weeks. Or at least hours.

Next week would be critical. I had to be a better DM.

 

Playing D&D Part 1

The First Great D&D Adventure

All players need a place to start

I don’t think anyone in the universe prepared for a first adventure as much as I did.

I won’t lie, I was nervous about running a pack of 12-year-olds through a 5E D&D adventure.  I hadn’t played this new-fangled version of the game, and being a DM (the guy who ran the game) meant I had to know my rules.

So, being me, I turned to the internet and found a great collection of YouTube videos on line that taught me the rules and gave me some advice on DMing.

Gosh, there was so much that was new, but after 2 weeks, I felt like I had a handle on most of the rules and I wasn’t shy about making it up if worse came to worse.

All I had to do was make it fun.

Easy, right?

Well…. Not always.

Now, for those few people who have never played D&D, the basics are actually pretty simple. It’s a table-top role-playing game, played in person, with real people sitting next to you and tossing Doritos at you. To quote the designers of the game, “The core of D&D is storytelling. You and your friends tell a story together, guiding your heroes through quests for treasure, battles with deadly foes, daring rescues, courtly intrigue, and much more.”

One person ‘runs’ the game. That’s the Dungeon Master or DM. That’sa me. It’s my job to make sure the players have fun. I’m the guy behind the curtain (or in this case, the DM screen.)

And those are the critical words there. Have. Fun.

It’s not a game that pits one player against another like Risk. No, it’s cooperative, and that’s what can make it so much fun, but if the DM sucks or has to spend a ton of time looking stuff up, no amount of great story-telling will make it fun. It’ll be a disaster.

See, the stakes were high for me. I really wanted the boys to like D&D, to play it for years, maybe even meet their love of their life while playing, and form nerdy friendships that last forever. Heck I met my first wife, Margot, and my best friend through D&D.

I know I set a high bar for myself, but for me, I’d been known as a good DM 400 years, ago, so I wanted to keep my rep intact.

So, like I said, I prepared. (NERD WARNING!) I bought a DM screen, printed out maps, made maps on graph paper, created character backstories, researched all the character’s abilities, finished off the boys’ character sheets, made initiative cards, found pictures of the monsters and characters, made monster cards, made ‘condition’ cards, bought miniatures for each boy, painted the hell out of them, sealed them with indestructible sealant, made potions from bottles bought by my friend and fellow nerd, Sheila. I bought coins to be used as special tokens, I bought trees that could be used on the tabletop. I wrote out a world history, a local history and even, whew, a history of one of the pivotal non-player characters.

I even read through the Monster manual to find the best monsters for them to fight, read through the DM guide to find the perfect treasure rewards, and bookmarked the Player’s Handbook, so I could find things quickly.

OMG.

I bought snacks, set up a table, moved all my D&D books to our new D&D rec room, set up lamps for better light, moved my painted minis to a shelf in the D&D rec room, fixed chairs that were broken, found more miniatures to use as villains, printed out pictures of all the non-player characters so the boys could put a face to a name, and found a jewelry chest that would remind players what their goal was.

Ready to go! Got my minis. Got my Rubbermaid container of dice. Got my character cheat sheets.

Yes. I had prepared. I wanted to have a lot of visual aids because I felt the boys wouldn’t be keen on me talking for hours about a chest or the world or Buttons the halfling. I wanted them to see the battle, not just imagine it, to move their miniatures through a forest to fight the evil Blackskulls who terrorized the area. When they went to drink a potion of healing, I wanted there to be a potion that they actually drank.

After all, these boys were coming from Fortnite, GTA or Assassin’s Creed. They had been brought up on visuals so I needed to make it as visual as possible. Heck, if I could have programmed holographic maps with 3D characters, I would have done so.

But after two weeks of preparation, would it all pay off? Had I been overthinking this? (not that I ever do that.) Would the boys have fun? Would they become life-long players?

Well, at the risk of creating a spoiler, let me just say that, as if typical when you design and run an adventure, nothing quite goes as planned.

So, hey, if you want to check out more pictures, see the instagram account or check out the pinterest page.

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BC to Alberta

rain clouds in alberta

Or How to Get There From Here.

We thought it would be an uneventful day, but as with any travel adventures, we ended up having two adventures we hadn’t planned on.

Dora the Explorer and the “I’m a Map,” dude. Along the road, through the forest, past spooky trees with faces and to find the house of death.

We’d planned to get to Calgary by 3 so we could see the zoo and the pandas. (If you recall, we had to book a viewing appointment with the pandas. Like they were kings. Or doctors).

So we couldn’t leave Cranbrook too late. It was over 4 hours of driving on the Crowsnest highway.

So, like Dora the Explorer would say, we had to go through the forest, over the mountains, and along the plains to find the city.

The-Youngest was oddly excited about actually crossing the border. I think he wanted gates, armed guards, and searchlights, but all we found were two signs. Leaving BC and Welcome to Alberta.

Not super exciting. Not even a bear or a scruffy-looking pipeline protestor could be seen.

So, feeling a little disappointed, we stopped for Timmies right across the border.

This became our first travel adventure for the day.

Tim Hortons. Mmmmm. Donut. Double double. Fast Service… or not

Now, I am, if nothing, a veteran Timmies guy, and this was perhaps the worst one I have ever, ever visited.

It was super busy, which is not unheard of, but the mass of customers waiting for double-doubles had broken the restaurant.

I’ve seen it happen on my watch in Toys R Us at Christmas time. The staff were simply overwhelmed.

One young employee stood there staring at a machine that stirs the ice drinks like he’d been shelled by the Taliban. A little old lady running the cash register got so flustered, she forgot how to ring in cash and just kept waving it in the air like the bill was on fire. Nearby, two sandwich makers bickered with each other about who had last used the buttering knife as a phalanx of sandwich orders hung on their station overhead.

Now, a good owner would take charge. Shift people if needed. Manage the crisis. Keep things rolling, but I swear to God, not a single coffee or sandwich was made in ten minutes while everyone panicked.

So it took a good 45 min to get a coffee.

It’s a weird thing when something like that takes so long. If someone said, hey Justjoe, it looks like this is going to take 45 min, I would have left, but after investing 10 min, do you give up?

What about after 20, cuz now you’ve invested even more time?

And then 30 min?

Well, Goddammn, after 30,  I’m sticking it out now!

Which I did. I got my coffee, fought my way out of the parking lot and we were back on our way. Minor delay. Major grumpy attack by me.

After that coffee disaster, the sky decided to echo my mood and turn dark. Like winter storm dark.

And with that darkness, came our second unexpected adventure.

rain clouds in alberta
Nothing like a good Alberta storm!

On the prairies, a dark sky either means aliens are gathering to attack, again, or a lightning storm was a’comin’. And sure enough, as we got into the foothills, a storm descended upon us with righteous fury. Lightning forked across the sky. Sheets of rain pounded on the car, making driving nearly impossible, and through it all, not a single boom of thunder.

How amazing!

Both boys oooohed and awww’d at the lightning, while The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World gripped the dashboard with a kung fu grip as we sped along a highway where we could barely see 2 feet in front of us.

Luckily, I found a gas station to pull into until the storm passed over us. We stood under a convenience store canopy and watched it roll towards the mountains. I won’t lie, I was still shaking from that highway drive and I think the-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World wished we’d stopped at the liquor store instead of a gas station.

thunder and lightning storm. alberta 2018
Storm’s coming. Alberta, 2018

But we saw a good, old-fashioned prairie storm. Something you just don’t see in Vancouver at all.

And both the Timmies catastrophe and the storm had made this part of the trip more interesting.

“Interesting?” The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World asked. “What next? Driving into a tornado? Dancing on a lava field? Boating in a hurricane?”

The three of us boys thought all those things would be amazing, but next up, those exciting, super energetic pandas, aka the wildmen of the bamboo forest.

******

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