Public DM Rolls and Other Thoughts

Sarah Darkmagic - Posted on 02 November 2009

A fair number of people participated in a twitter discussion last week over public DM rolls. I happen to be one of those DMs who likes to roll on the table. There are two reasons for this. First, I only know the guys in my group so well, except for my husband that is, and I'm really concerned about the trust issue. I want to provide a real challenge to the guys, but I don't want any of them to feel personally singled out if something bad happens to their character. The second issue is that I'm a 5-foot tall woman. This provides me two distinct disadvantages when using a screen. The first is that I need to use the shorter screen if I want to be able to see and interact with the other players and, even then, I can't see the rest of the table. The second is that, well, I have less frontal clearance than a man would. This makes it really hard for me to reach over the screen to move my characters around.

Besides the issue of public rolls, I ran my first longer session that I created myself. I think it went very well although I was completely drained at the end of it. On the DM side, there was one particular incident of note. Due to how the story was set up, the players almost made a decision that made sense story-wise but could have killed them all game-wise. Basically, there was a comparatively high level oni who had taken over as leader of the local lizardfolk town. They figured if they could get her to reveal her true identity during a ceremony at the lizardfolk temple, those in town who were following her would realize their folly and dump her as a leader. So the group came out with guns blazing and were able to bloody her before she disappeared and ran for the stairs. They still had to deal with a normal level encounter and once they had dispatched the rest of the creatures, they thought they should go in quick pursuit of the oni as she was already bloodied.

I had a real dilemma on my hands here. If they don't take a short break, they don't get their encounter powers back and can't spend their healing surges. That is their decision to make, but I really didn't want a TPK. In the end, I assured them that she wouldn't use the time to heal herself (which also made sense story wise since she needed to collect her most important things and try to leave). I think some people would say that I should have just let them suffer the consequences of that decision but I didn't think that would be fun either.

Anyways, that's a bunch of what's been going on. I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Interesting...not knowing about the hippogriffs at the top, I figured that we had the Oni and maybe a goblin that has run away from every other encounter. I did appreciate the heads up and the chance to recover, as I'm sure we wouldn't have made it otherwise. But it did feel a little forced having that extra time. A few things you could have tried:

1. The elders could have said... "you rest here and we'll go get them" and then five minutes later someone comes running down, a little bloodied... "they're getting away."

2. As we get to the roof they are in the process of escaping and we have to chase them another day.

3. Some weaker guys block the way and occupy us on the stairs so they are able to just get away.

4. PCs get subdued and captured, maybe ransomed with the duke.

5. The fight goes on and one or two of us snuffs it and the rest retreat.

I think loosing a player in this case would have been okay b/c if we ran after them unhealed, it would have been knowingly put us in danger.

I don't know if you were holding back with the Oni, but she felt a little weak in the combat, most of the danger coming from the goblin's powers and the griffons' attacks.

It was also a weird with the mounted stuff as we weren't really familiar with the rules and what actions would and wouldn't work.

Overall it was fun set of encounters. I liked that my blocking the door paid off, and that I made it down to 1 hit point in the second battle, not having taken any in the first. Wouldn't have happened if I realized that I could have walked around instead of taking that hit to teleport.

The issue is that by the time we got to that, I was mentally spent. I had spent a ton of time trying to set up a situation that could be a little more cinematic and fun for you guys and setting up the situation so that, while the party's plan could still fail, it was a little less likely to do so. What I should have done is let you run into the dragon and its two keepers and they could have kept the party occupied while Clementime and the goblin escaped. I probably also should have a little less hesitant at killing or knocking out at least one of the PCs, but that's my failing. If I had allowed Clementime to do anything other than try to get away, I think things would have turned out a fair bit differently. I know this is a bit too much like finding out how sausage is made, but I do want you to know that I do try to provide both an interesting story line and a challenge.

Mmmmm.... sausage. What I said wasn't meant as a criticism, they were just off the top of head suggestions after a full night's sleep. I think we were all pretty mentally worn by that point. I do appreciate all the planning that went in, and the contest was pretty cool. I feel a good sense of accomplishment for having won the day and surviving.

Send feedback using the contact form or through twitter, @sarahdarkmagic.

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