Monday, November 23, 2015

D&D Hoard of the Dragon Queen - The end of the Hunting Lodge

Usually this is where I recap my players' exploits and adventures from our most recent session. Something I learned this week is no one in my party is keeping track of what they are accomplishing, or what their tasks are.
No one is keeping notes, and when I asked someone to recap like I do every session, it was a rough outline with no real details. No one really bothered to remember what the point was, because I summarize everything on my blog after each session. As players, it is their job to remember the important things, and not judge what is important based on how much I focus on things in my blog. It can really ruin plot devices and twists.

When it comes down to it, my recapping is ruining my fun and my players abilities. They are all smart people, they can handle writing things down or attempting to remember.

So instead of a recap of the events, I will recap how I think things went in the game. This session - from a DM's perspective - sucked. There really was no other way to explain it. It wasn't fun for me, and I was so upset I couldn't tell if any of my other players actually enjoyed themselves.

This week, two of them were on their phones almost the entirety of the night. I could see in the other two players' faces that it was bugging them nearly as much as me. One of my rules at the gaming table has always been No phones, computers or tablets. It takes away significantly from all of us imagining the world together. Unfortunately, one of my players refuses to put their phone away, leaving it so the other player seems to think it is OK.

I have another player who is a pretty big powergamer and controller. Every character they make, they research a build online first. They try to put together features that will game the system as much as possible. One of the outcomes usually results in them controlling the party pretty hard in a few ways. One of these ways is the need to plan out every step the party takes. It isn't so much of asking the rest of the party for input, but totally making a game plan, and then asking the party in the end to just check "yes". Another way is by controlling the battlefield completely. Casting spells like fog cloud and sleet storm to regulate the enemies. It takes away from the rest of the players having fun, because they're all hack and slash players. Being prevented from hacking and slashing makes the game boring. One of the players already has a hard enough time staying interested in the game (probably the reason they are on their phone the entire session).

All my players have a problem with metagaming. For those unaware, metagaming is using knowledge your character would not be aware of while in the game. As a for instance, the party stays back while the rogue scouts ahead. The rogue gets ambushed from behind and knocked out instantly without a sound, and the rest of the party immediately rush to check on their friend because "maybe it wasn't good to let them go on their own like we do 10 times each session". That's metagaming in D&D. And it sucks. It takes away from the peril and the imagination of the game when the players are constantly using this knowledge when they have no reason to. Metagaming is one thing above all else in roleplaying that I HATE. I have intentionally metagamed once, and that was in a Star Wars game in which our party was on Hoth immediately before the attack on Hoth - the DM and I were trying to make sure we didn't fuck up the Star Wars timeline by killing Vader or something like that.

Metagaming is no fun, and all my players do it. I threw them for a loop this week. The wizard had cast fog cloud. The party was all outside the fog, all the enemies inside the fog. They attacked where they remembered enemies being (they could see them on the battle map). When it came to be the enemy turns in the initiative order, I immediately just passed it on to the next player in line, and left the monster figures on the map. They had no idea what to do. They kept attacking. I made them make attack rolls and damage rolls, just to keep them guessing. It was great.

Trespin the four-armed troll. This is who the party was fighting during the "Fog Cloud fiasco", with his 6 ambush drakes. The image comes from the HotDQ literature. 

But only for me. The rest of the party was upset about the fog cloud and other things. There was tension between my phone-player and myself, and by this point it was pretty much the two of us ignoring each other. Not good for a DM and player. Even worse for a husband and wife.

Despite all the issues, the players were able to finish the Hunting Lodge. Next they move on to Parnast, a small village where the flying castle - Skyreach Castle - is docked. I had really hoped to leave the fact there was a flying castle as a surprise, but the players had picked up on my hints a bit (probably due to the blog reminding them).

I feel I have a long way to go until I'm a good DM. I've been DM-ing for about 7 years now, and I feel like I'm not getting better. Even reading other blogs and sites doesn't seem to help me much. I'm starting to winder if I'm not cut-out for it. Luckily, Saturday should be our last session in my game, and then we're switching gears for someone else to DM for her first time. When this happens, I'll return to a recap,as well as opinions on how my wife is doing as a DM. Always constructive, of course.

As always any opinions are welcome. If it may contain spoilers, please contact me directly as my players read this blog.

~John