Sunday, October 9, 2016

Reflections on a Session: 9 October 2016

  • Time spent: ~6 hours
    • DMing: ~4.5 hours
    • Presession, Ethan chargen: ~1 hour (I missed Drew's message that he couldn't make it)
    • NPC Plotting: ~0.25 hours
    • Writing cryptic messages to players: ~0.25 hours
  • No new areas mapped
  • No rooms restocked (but some monsters reorganized on the fly)
  • Dungeon areas explored in 4.5 hours of play:
    • 1 lair cleared
    • 1 monster
  • Game-time elapsed in dungeon: ~2 hours in two expeditions
    • Random encounters checked: 3 
    • Random encounters missed: 3
  • Party composition:
    • Beardwin the Optimist, Craftpriest 2 (KIA)
      • Clever Paul, Dwarven Delver 1 (mortally wounded)
      • Kendra, Spellsword 1? (very KIA)
    • Dora, Explorer 3
      • Gertrude, War Dog (KIA)
      • ???, Fighter 2?
    • Brynja, Bladedancer 3
      • Crapahildis, L0 torchbearer hired for her amusing name and total lack of standards in employers.  Likes to roll poorly on morale.
      • Spike, War Dog
    • Clarence of the Stone, Craftpriest 2
  • Mortal wounds taken: 4
    • First expedition:
      • Clever Paul opened the door to a room full of ready ratmen, who charged him with spears.  He was hit once, and I rolled max damage which was doubled for spearcharge.  Party cleared the room he had fallen in, took an injured ratman prisoner, and got out.  Blinded, subsequently RL&L'd but needs a month of bedrest.  In addition to his imp, he is now at -10% XP until he levels.
      • Following PC attack on the ratman village, the ratmen executed Binhildis the Paladin, whom they had captured during the previous session.
    • Second expedition:
      • Kendra advanced too far ahead of the rest of the party in pursuit of fleeing opponents, spearcharged for max damage.  Killed instantly and messily, some of the lowest mortal wounds modifiers we've ever seen.
      • Gertrude moved to cover the party's flank / rear and was spearcharged for almost max-damage, slain (we didn't actually roll dog mortal wounds...  maybe we should next time)
      • Beardwin also moved to cover the party's flank and was behind Gertrude, caught a max-damage spear charge cleave on a natural 20.  Fell onto a torch as his last action, which ignited the oil in his pack, blocking the ratmen's advance against the party's ballistae (yes plural, and yes in the dungeon).
    • In conclusion: charging with spears is very dangerous, especially when I am rolling high.
  • Loot recovered:
    • Ratman throne of beaten copper worth ~1kgp
    • 4 gems worth 150 gp total
    • Ice Sword, Boots of Elvenkind, and Potion of Heroism lost on 17 September were recovered
    • One unidentified potion
  • Traps triggered: 0
  • XP from monsters: ~270
    • Loot pretty close to the 4:1 intended ratio
Other notes:

The wizard couldn't make it today, which was not really ideal timing for assaulting the ratman lair.  Especially irritating because I used the severed head of his late favorite henchman as a message-delivery mechanism before the session; I'd've chosen someone else's dead henchman if I knew he wouldn't be there.  All about that emotional investment, you know.

The players did a number of clever things.  The Darkness spell was used to great effect to limit the ratmen's ability to observe the party's actions and fire on them from the rooves of buildings.  A prisoner was taken, interrogated, and eliminated from consideration for the assault ("Friendly advice, make sure you and your gang are out hunting tomorrow afternoon, instead of at the lair.").  He provided a rough map of some areas the party hasn't explored yet.  Military oil was employed to good effect, to close some ratman avenues of attack.  The party brought two light ballistae (one repeating) into the dungeon on mules, and set them up to cover their ingress into the lair (using Darkness to conceal this preparation from the ratmen, during which the thus-alerted ratmen readied their troops).  They also had a plan to destroy the ballistae if they had to retreat, to deny them to the ratmen.

Nevertheless, the ratmen mounted a fairly effective elastic defense, spearcharging advance elements of the party (door-openers) and then retreating, and circling around to attack the party's middle.  Most ratman casualties were to ranged firepower (the Explorer and the ballistae), including the chieftain.  I'm not totally happy with my ratman tactics - I failed to develop an effective counter to the Explorer (who was previously marked as "priority one in future engagements") or to the Darkness, failed to utilize military oil obtained from the slain and captured party members last session, and did not take advantage of the roof of the portal building to ambush the PCs.

The party also made a few mistakes, all of which were basically overextensions.  Clever Paul and Kendra both advanced too far too fast, and got stabbed.  The melee elements of the party also separated from the ranged elements during the second expedition, and the ratmen tried to get into that gap (but then it was full of dwarven fire, and they were badly shot-up during their retreat).  Kendra's loss was particularly bad because she had an uncast sleep that could've prevented the two casualties from that central counterattack.  Live by the spellsword, die by the spellsword.

I did a good job rolling morale and asking for henchman morale rolls where appropriate.

Rules mistakes: we almost certainly mis-played the ballista attacks; I wasn't expecting siege weapons and didn't prepare for this at all (frankly, even after re-reading all three of ACKS Core's, DaW:Battles', and DaW:Campaigns' sections on artillery, I'm still not clear on how ballistae are supposed to work against creatures).  I expect they'll see use again.  Likewise ballista setup time (though given that they're light ballistae, I think one turn to setup is probably more reasonable than whatever DaW's guidelines would be) and light ballista ammunition costs.  I wasn't totally clear on the "closing hit" rule for spears and kind of winged it to give Kendra a dying shot, but it looks like I was pretty close.  While re-reading the init section to discover this, though, I realized that we've been doing ready/delay wrong (there is an option for it, when we thought there wasn't).  I also winged Fighting Retreat when those came up on ratman morale.  I doubled the treasure ad-hoc (in accordance with my old resolution), which turned out to be the right thing to bring it closer into balance with monster XP, so I feel good about that. Winged the rules for splash-hits with military oil, did less damage than it should've, and couldn't remember the burn duration for areas covered in oil.

Social/soft issues: we ordered food and it took forever to arrive.  People were getting tired and hungry around the middle of hour three, as the assault on the lair was in progress, and then we broke to eat in the middle of that action as things were looking grim.  Not ideal.  As usual, the mapper took charge of planning; efforts were made to involve other players with some success, but they were hungry.  I took a long damn time to produce the sub-map that their prisoner drew for the party, which depending on how you look at it either destroyed pacing or provided a nice lull between the reconnaissance raid of the first expedition and the ballista-supported assault of the second.


  1. Thanks for posting these; they're a different angle on what goes on than typical after-action-reports from party members, and shed light on the rules and on how you DM.

  2. Glad someone besides me is getting some use out of them :P