Unfortunately, I just didn’t get around to preparing materials as well as I usually do for D&D sessions. On top of that, the PC’s began exhibiting some problematic/difficult behavior for me to handle as a DM. I had to rely heavily on what improvisation skills I had, and the result, in my opinion, was a bit lackluster.
After dispatching the spiders, the team rushed back to Roy, the son of Gus and Eva Pendakkis who own the Prepared Outfitters store. Alyssa formulated a few bottles of anti-venom and used one to save the boy. The Pendakkis thanked the heroes and offered rewards. Lo-Kag wanted to learn to make potions, but Alyssa said that she would be too busy providing for the military and other townspeople. She said that she would make potions if Lo-Kag brought the materials.
The players then checked in with the generals and lieutenants at Blackmoor Keep. They reported that the Tanner’s Storehouse would provide food, and that they discovered a hidden tunnel and cavern beneath the Prepared Outfitters. Lieutenant Woodsoul, an Elf Wizard, rewarded the team with some more money and mentioned that the keep could use some new equipment from Goldheart Blacksmithing, the local smithy.
As the team was about to leave, Mystra entered and updated the team with more precise locations for each of the Tablets of Fate. At the same time, General Pegason received word that Asmodeus’ army had begun mobilizing. They estimated that he would arrive in a few months’ time.
The players decided to head to Pirate Isle, a haven for scallywags, first and then to Thay, a mountainous region. There was only one crew ready to leave at the time, so the team decided to tie up some loose ends first.
At Goldheart Blacksmithing, they met Holliela, a female Tiefling. She wa one of three blacksmiths that work there in shifts. She mentioned a missing shipment of materials. The team decided that the issue is not very important, and left it to her to find other help.
Back at the Prepared Outfitters, the team cashed in on their rewards and then headed into the hidden tunnel to explore it further. Following it to the end, they found that the tunnel opened up to the sea. There was a small dock with an old, broken dinghy, sunken into the water below. They found few barrels of fine wine too. Several spider tracks led from the cave walls to a door that seemed broken inward recently. Azai and Rapha purchase dmaterials from the Prepared Outfitters and sold wine for the rest of the night, making a tidy profit.
As the sun set, everyone except Alycstair decided to sleep outside again. The sorcerer tried to find room in the tavern, but there was none available. Alycstair decided to make the two-hour-long trek to the Tanner’s Storehouse to sleep instead.
I know. It’s not nearly as flowery as last time. It wasn’t particularly fun either. I started preparing the (expected) combat encounter for this session first and didn’t actually get around to the various “housekeeping” bits by the time the session started. Like I said, I began to improvise.
I decided to “upgrade” the town as a reward (discounts, potion shop opening later), but the players whined began to push the NPC’s for more tangible compensation. I underestimated the player’s (well at least, Lo-Kag, Azai, and Rapha’s) hunger for rewards.
Lo-Kag wanted to learn how to make potions. As far as I know, there is no built-in system for crafting in D&D 4th edition, and I didn’t want to make the alchemy shop obsolete. I told the players that they could bring ingredients to have Alyssa make the potions instead.
Azai wanted to trade his general store discount for a free item instead. Not having anything specific in mind, he simply asked for anything interesting. I didn’t know what to give him, so I apologized and promised to find something appropriate later.
The hidden cavern was a tough spot too. I had once considered putting something more substantial further inside, but decided against it because I thought the close proximity to town would break suspension of disbelief too much. Learning from the players’ previous greed behavior, I threw in the barrels of wine so that it wouldn’t feel like a complete waste of time.
The worst part about this “housekeeping” period was when the players decided to ignore the missing blacksmith shipment. I guess I spent all my prediction powers last session because this time the players reacted exactly opposite from my expectations. They left it to the authorities. Although I now have a plan for what will happen later, at the time, I panicked struggled to improvise plans for the rest of the session.
While planning during the week before, I thought, “eh, they might go to Pirate Isle, but I think it’s much more likely that they’ll investigate the missing shipment first.” Oops. I had started preparing some materials for what would happen while sailing, but I was nowhere close to finished. I called for a quick break while I made some quick preparations for the encounter.
REALLY BAD EGGS
Lieutenant Woodsoul had given the party the only available ship, and it was less than impressive. The crew looked fresh and young, and their captain did not seem experienced either. It seemed as if he was always looking at his compass, through his spyglass, or at his map every minute of every day.
Four days out, the crew spotted a smoking ship signaling an SOS using a sunrod. The captain ordered the ship closer. It was only after the first grappling hook landed aboard that anyone could tell something was wrong.
The flag changed from that of an allied nation to a black skull and crossbones. A man with a large fancy hat stepped onto the deck just as the smoke stopped. He pointed his cutlass at the hooked ship’s captain.
“Surrender or die gents! You’ll see no mercy from me or me crew,” shouted the pirates’ captain.
Onboard the team’s ship, the captain and his crew panicked and ran below decks.
“Gods, they’re useless,” said Rapha as he massaged his forehead.
“What say ye?” shouted the pirates’ captain, now addressing the party. Alycstair stepped forward to answer. His eyes glowed a piercing yellow and power radiated from his body in visible waves.
“We won’t be the ones who need mercy,” Alycstair said, glaring at the pirates’ captain. The pirates hesitated at his menacing display. Azai, Rapha, and Lo-Kag needed no further prompting and sprung into action.
Since the ships were fairly close, Lo-Kag ran and jumped onto the pirates’ ship. He attacked freely while his earthen-armored skin absorbed the pirates’ blows. Azai used his powers to knock the pirates around and into the water below, but also accidently ripped through the team’s ship’s sails. Rapha climbed up the nearby mast and onto the sail’s support. From there, he fired precise arrows down onto the vulnerable pirate scum. Alycstair focused on the captain, even managing to knock his hat off.
The pirates were outclassed and they realized it. With only the captain and two of his crew left, they began to flee. Rapha steadied his aim, focused, and loosed two arrows at the same time, each aimed at a different target. One of the fleeing pirates was impaled through his throat and fell into the sea. The pirate captain took an arrow to the knee was crippled by an arrow through his leg. The last pirate managed to swim away with his life.
With all threats neutralized, the party descended on the pirate captain. Alycstair attempted to throw the pirate captain into the sea, but the others stopped him. Frustrated, Alycstair returned below-decks.
Hastily put together, this encounter was not even remotely balanced. The pirates were converted from Human Bandits and Human Rabble. The Pirate Captain was just a buffed Human Bandit. I also hadn’t considered that climbing onto the enemy ship would cost the pirates much of their turns, which pretty much handed the players a free round.
Nonetheless, the players seemed to enjoy the novelty of the situation. They took advantage of the sea, the ship’s structure, and even boarded the enemy ship.
It was after the fight that a new severe problem cropped up: intimidation. Before the battle, Alycstair successfully intimidated the pirates. Not wanting to have the pirates uncharacteristically flee in terror, I lowered all their initiative rolls by 5 instead. After the battle, Alycstair wanted to throw the Pirate Captain overboard and attempted to intimidate his fellow team members in order to do so. He passed his check.
With some player feedback, we went ahead and outlawed this behavior because it meant that Alycstair could just bully the other players into doing whatever he wanted with his high intimidation skill.
After this encounter, I was all improvised out. It was 11:50 and I was ready to sleep. After saying my goodbyes and settling into bed, I konked out with new respect for “Who’s Line Is It Anyway?”.
Are you a DM that has to
put up with this bullshit adapt to odd player behavior too? If you’re not a DM, how does your audience affect your projects?