So I finally got to run the majority of the Christmas adventure I had created for the two gamers I began playing Dungeons and Dragons with, two gamers who had effectively retired from the game nearly a year ago. It really was a Christmas miracle for me, but after such a long dry spell, I was suitably nervous about it.
The idea started when I asked my friend, the one who in particular didn’t want to play any more having grown tired of the game: “So I know you dont really like DnD any more but would you be interested in playing a Christmas adventure?”
“Wait, really? You’re not playing with me are you?”
“No I’d like to play.”
(Herein began a conversation on what exactly turned him away from the game back then. Talking, being open and taking responsibility where it’s necessary is never a bad thing guys. In this instance, my friend was intimidated by the other gamer and myself. We took it a lot more seriously, he felt inadequate in his playstyle and he just wasn’t as interested as us in the game to change that, whilst we had grown a little frustrated with him that he never tried and didn’t take it serious. He apologised, I apologised, all was well)
“So what made you change your mind?”
“Oh I still like watching it, I just didn’t enjoy playing it as much because I feel like those people are better at it than me.”
“Don’t worry about that, and we’ll go at your speed, it’ll still be enjoyable, I’ve been adopting a more… Cinematic style.”
“Yeah, so I’ve been watching this show called Critical Role…”
Oh my word.
I’d been watching that show since episode 2, although I dropped off by about episode 15 because when all my shows restarted, I just didn’t have the 4 hours to spare. This was good. This I could work with. The three people who had come to make me realise what I wanted to be as a Dungeon Master were Steven Lumpkin aka Silent0siris from Itmejp’s West Marches, Chris Perkins of Wizards of the Coast and Acquisitions Incorporated and Matt Mercer, voice actor and Critical Role DM. Their style of cinematic gameplay, players above everything and putting challenge and fun in every encounter was just fascinating.
Fast forward through the adventure design process and to the day we could finally do it (we’re all busy people now with little time).
I had been awake for a full 20 Hours by this point though I’d managed to just take a half hour nap, which made the startup kinda slow, but that was a good thing, after all we were all rusty and needed to feel our way through the game again . Everyone was ready, we decided the team, starring the Hawk (Eagle) Totem Barbarian Goliath Taka and the Half Elf College of Lore Bard Codove, were sat enjoying dinner in a tavern. That was when they heard the sound of screaming and a mighty roar. Taka, turkey leg still in mouth, immediately went out to investigate.
At the centre of the small town, they could see a huge T-Rex going to town. “Godzilla” Taka shouted, and with the worry reaching their ears that the guards were being overpowered, they decided to go lend a hand.
They reached the main path that leads to the centre of town when from atop the roof of a nearby building, an Allosaurus leapt down and started snacking on running pedestrians.
Codove stopped to think if there was a way to bypass the dinosaur, Taka who had been following him waited, but with a low roll, all he could remember were dead ends and the Allosaurus had noticed them.
And so they rolled for their first initiative of the game and year.
Allie rolled highest with a whopping 7. Yeah it was going to be one of those games…
Allie leapt into action, literally, and with a claw, a failed strength save knocking Codove prone, and a bite attack with advantage, he immediately fell unconscious. Boy did I feel terrible.
But nevertheless, Taka jumped in to save the day. He raged, he threw Codove behind him and struck with Hawkshead, the magical weapon I made for him. Wow I hadn’t realised just how much damage Barbarians can do. With no damage roll below 10, as a level 3 he solo’d the CR 2 creature, though he did have to activate the magical ability of Hawkshead where once a day he can get a +5 to an attack and if he hits, damage roll too. At low health, Allie jumped atop a building to run away, and dodging an opportunity attack from Taka, she succeeded.
One thing they noticed from inside dear Allie’s jaws, was that she was made not of flesh and bone, but of metal and wood with weird vines pulsing white through strange viny veins. These weren’t just any old dinos, they were Robot Dinosaurs.
With that realisation, they continued onwards to the big daddy T-Rex.
Guards were whacking it but they were clearly losing. So the pair went to work.
It was a longer fight, with the 6 guards being picked off left right and centre and the T-Rex passing the saves incurred by Codove. Taka, apprehensive at first, decided to swoop in, hit for big damage then use his Hawkish abilities whilst raging to try and avoid the T-Rex’s attack next turn, yet would have been hit by a massive opportunity attack dealing 28 damage if it wasn’t for Codove’s cutting words.
With one guard left however, it would be Codove, finally hitting a Dissonant Whispers, that would end the T-Rex.
“How do you wanna do this?” I asked, for my critter friend’s benefit.
“What do you mean?” my non-critter friend asked
“How do you kill it?”
“Er… Well I put a paradox inside his head that he can’t comprehend, so that his mind just shuts off”
“Alright then, the T-Rex looks confused for a moment and then his head explodes from the pain, showering Taka with gore.”
“Yeah!” Shouts Taka (he’s the Critter), “I love that shit”
Reinforcements finally arrived and proceed to take Taka and Codove to their Lord. It is at this point that I let them know the Lord has been becoming more and more paranoid, beheading and hanging supposed traitors recently. Nothing like a little suspense.
They reach the door to his manor on which lips appear. “What is it?” The lips ask.
The one guard that survived replies “My Lord these adventurers killed the beast at the centre of town”
“Is that so? Then I want them to find the perpetrator and bring me their head!”
“At once sir.” They begin marching to the known location of the dinos arrival to town.
“I’d just like to ask a question…” Codove says, “may we rest before-”
“No, no, no, no! I wasn’t their heads I want their heads!”
“Don’t worry,” whispers a guard, “you can rest.”
So to the Lords orange orchard they go, Taka tries to take one, the guards warns him to let it go if he doesn’t want to lose that hand, express orders from the Lord. (One of my friend’s characters lost a hand once and he still resents me me for it), the guard points them to a garden shed and let’s them take a long rest. I figured they’d need it with what I had planned.
Eight hours later, with survival checks they find T-Rex footprints leading to a small burrow. Taka did a perception check to find a beast he could use his beast sense on, rolled a crit:
“You see a field mouse, it’s snuffling about in the hedge, then suddenly, talons wrap around it and a hawk snatches it up. The Hawk goes to land on a tree and is shooed by the guards, so it flies over to the orchard tree atop the burrow where you are. Codove leads an investigation of the environment, using Speak to Animals on the hawk, which drops its meal. Taka snatches the mouse, strokes it and uses beast sense. The mouse scuttles into the darkness for about 20 minutes as it goes on and on. With the Hawk, Codove discovers “a green Man with pointed head and pointed teeth grew a big lizard like a tree”
“Thank you for your help”
The Hawk looks at him “you owe me a Mouse”.
Finally, into the burrow they go.
On and on for twenty minutes, down and down for an hour, then back for twenty minutes, they travel until they come upon a ravine with no bottom or top, the cavern glistens with ice and at its centre, an impossibly tall tree grows, with large, oranges growing, pulsing with white light. They can see frosty, hewn steps at the side of the ravine leading to scaffolding and a cavern entrance. Once in the cavern, a passed investigation check gives them the right passages through the maze like structure, avoiding all the random encounters I’d planned.
Finally they were at my favourite room.
6 twenty feet tall, makeshift wooden towers stand, a Goblin on each dressed in green and members of the Green Hats Gang. They are attached to bungee cords, jumping down, grabbing hold of the T-Rex’s they are building, hammering away, bouncing back up, grabbing different tools, going back down.
The party had aced their Stealth checks to spy on them, but Codove had a plan. Rolling a new Stealth check, he crit, went around pouring oil on the T-Rex’s and setting them aflame as he went. By the fifth Dino, the Goblins noticed the flame. With an opposed Stealth check, 4 of the Goblins noticed him and we rolled initiative.
Codove won, as his first action, he used Thunderwave on the weak tower. I ruled that 10 damage would be enough to knock them over. He rolled 12 damage, knocking the tower into the Dino, and the Dino into the one next to it, the flame had grown by this point and the first Goblin fell and burned alive.
It was a long battle. The Goblins bungee jumped from their towers, whacking with hammers or hurling explosives present bombs at the players.
“How many of these bombs do they have?” Taka complained.
“Lots and lots” I answered.
At one point Taka decided to knock down all the towers, one of them, the Goblin had been on his way up with his bungee cord when the tower fell, the cord snapped and the Goblin went up, and up and up and down and down and crashed into the burning wreckage of the two dinos that crashed earlier, next to his cousin. It was a tense fight with lots of damage shared between them and lots of crazy fun happening.
By the time the fight ended, it was 12am and we had to end the session. I had estimated the run-time to be about 2 hours long, but with all of the investigating they did, and one of the players tending to take a long time deciding what to do on his turns, we still hadn’t finished.
I loved how engaged they seemed to be, and whilst Codove seemed to be terribly unlucky throughout most of the game, which was definitely felt, he was also responsible for many of the key events, so I think it worked out well in the end.
Now however, all they have left to do is fight the big bad end guy. But we shall leave that for next time.