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!
My hobbit was horrified. His family would die.
However… The boys didn’t care. Like Vikings, they wanted to fight.
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.
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.
- I needed to control the sugar intake a LOT more than I did.
- I needed to find stuff they would care about, something magical and fun. Not fighting rats.
- 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.