Postmortem Chapter One

Welcome to our first postmortem! It’s been awhile since we wrapped up “Ghostlight,” but I think it would be beneficial to look back and see how our comprehension of the rules system and the group’s ability to work together have improved over the past few months. If you’d like to add your own feedback about Ghostlight, please feel free to edit it in, or if you’d rather, leave a comment on this post. In the future, I intend to write one of these up after the party completes an adventure, so everyone has a chance to talk about what went right and what went wrong.

Ghostlight was a short, straightforward adventure designed to help ease everyone into the new campaign. The goals of this adventure were to a) give the group an incentive to work together, b) introduce the main town hub for the first tier of play and c) give the players a little peek at a major villain.

At this point, we had four characters in the group – Mythoric the half-elf cleric, Hellena the tiefling warlock, Grief the tiefling rogue, and Morgue, the ill-fated tiefling fighter.

The maps were completely custom, as were the encounters. There was one custom monster in this fight – the dragonborn champion Shival. We used the Hero Quest board for tactical combat. Ah, the Hero Quest board. How I miss it. Okay, not really. The fact that I hadn’t really settled on a good way to set up maps left us with something that was less than ideal. Simple square or rectangular rooms were a necessity, and the lines drawn on the board could get confusing at times. On the other hand, the simple maps gave us a chance to get our feet wet without having to worry about terrain concerns too much, and I DO kinda miss just being able to slap the board on the table and that was that…

This was a pretty short adventure, featuring 5 encounters – 4 combat encounters and a skill challenge. For the most part, I thought the combat encounters went really well. It was all a bit stiff and awkward and there were plenty of “Oh, whoops” hovering over the table, poised to strike. I sort of panicked a little when the group struggled a bit with a few minions in the first encounter. I convinced myself that without a controller, the party was screwed. Either that or I had to stop using minions, which wasn’t appealing to me (although you’ll notice there aren’t too many when the group doesn’t have a controller).

Still, the party pulled out okay, and moved on to the second encounter- the one with the bats. The shadowhunter bat remains one of my favorite monsters in the game right now. I’m going to have to find a way to bring him back when the group outlevels him. Anyway, this was a good, fun fight. I had to simplify it for my own sake; I had designed the room so the bats could fly up out of the group’s reach, but eventually decided on a patch of magic darkness near the floor, so they’d have an incentive to stay low. I was still shaking off the rust that had gathered over the part of my brain that DMs, and the bats had a very cool movement ability I wanted to make sure I took complete advantage of. It must have worked, because the next time shadowhunter bats popped up on the board, everyone groaned. That’s right, bitches! Bats, bats, bats. More bats in your future. Oh, and spiders.

Once the bats were dispatched, we moved on to the skill challenge, which turned out to be a big, boring mess. I feel like skill challenges as presented in the DMG need a lot of work, and apparently Wizards agree with me; they’ve been running a series in Dungeon the past few months trying to expand on and enhance the rules. They require some practice to get right, too, and this was our first, so I suppose I can still hold my head high. I suppose.

The library fight was really fun. More minions popped up but the group dealt with them fine. Grief pulled some slick acrobatic moves over the bookshelves; that was a memorable scene. And the group quickly figured out they needed to take down the mage quickly to drop the homunculi who were bound to him. This was our first fight in which we had a bit more of an interesting layout, with all the bookshelves to move around, and a simple twist in the combat: the advantage presented by taking out a specific target first.

I have to say it cracked me up that when you guys first saw this guy you thought he was a librarian akin to the friendly Custodian from the last room. One of the coolest (and scariest) things that happens to a DM is when he sets something up in a very particular way (“I’ll let them see him coming so they can ambush him”) and the players flip that completely upside down (“Oh, this must be the librarian! Excellent, let’s ask him for help”). I can’t remember what you guys DID exactly but I remember everyone was so convinced this was another ally like the Custodian, when in fact he was simply one of Shival’s cronies. I actually came very close to scrapping the encounter, but I didn’t think the librarian would have anything interesting to say (that I would be able to answer, at least!) that the Custodian couldn’t tell the group already. Not to mention, it would have been pretty boring to have two big dialogues right before the big boss fight.

I tried to make the Reliquary Gate look big and epic, with what little supplies we had. Man, how the game has changed. Still, I think the visual got across; everyone knew this was the big fight.

This was the highlight of the adventure for me (even though we were, sadly, missing one person). The encounter was designed to be difficult, and the group handled it admirably. Shival and his drake were just about as tough as I wanted them to be; I wanted the group to be pretty beat up afterward. Mission accomplished! It was a shame Grief kicked the bucket, of course, but those finishing shots from Mythoric and Hellena were appropriately epic. Everyone was on the edge of their seat, wondering if they’d be able to finish the job…and they did.

I came away from this adventure with a burning desire to replace the Hero Quest board as our de facto battle map, as well as the impression that the game would probably play better with at least one more person. The absence of a controller was strongly felt – the first battle went longer than it really should have, and a controller would have made staying in control of that last fight a breeze. I still wasn’t sure, exactly, how to go about finding another person. Did I just want to recruit off the street, or try to find someone already in someone’s social circle who might be willing to play?

Overall, I thought the adventure achieved its objectives well. The event that drew the characters together, while a bit awkward, what with it being our very first scene, accomplished this task, at least, and differentiated itself substantially from the stereotypical meetings – the barfight, the prison break, the mercenaries, etc. While the heroes never really got to SEE Three Points, they knew what it was about by the time they managed to restore it. And they did manage to get that little peek at a major villain…right in the nick of time, how about that. ;)

That’s it for now! What did you think of “Ghostlight?”

Postmortem Chapter One

Beyond the Veil echoshifting