Our party stood on the top of Yesterhill, having slain the druids and reclaimed the first of the Wizard of Wines’ magical gems. Next on their list, Baba Lysaga, the Witch of the Wastes.
I’m actually going to start this post a little differently to discuss what I see as the role of the Game Master, as well as look at how I failed in that role during this session.
Roleplaying at its core is group storytelling, sure you have some rules and some dice to add structure and chance to it all, but it’s all about sitting around a table with friends and telling a story of mystery, action, and adventure. The DM’s purpose in all of this is to act as an arbiter of the rules, a narrator giving voice to everything outside the players themselves, and when needed the Game Master is also there to help deal with player issues.
Party drama is a wonderful thing in a game, it helps build out the story and provides players with more ways to interact with each other and the world. However, when that drama moves from the characters to the actual players you have a problem. And part of the GM’s responsibilities is to help prevent that and when possible help players work out issues when they arise.
In game, our party decided to head out in search of the witch, and knowing they would be passing the winery, a discussion on what to do with the gem in their position started. Initially, it was fairly standard, everyone trying to remember what exactly they knew about the gem and the about Davian, the owner of the winery. Our Paladin Asyrule believed that they should return the gem immediately, while our Tiefling Rogue preferred holding onto it for a time, not trusting anyone in this strange realm with something that appeared to have powerful magic.
The Knight mostly stayed quiet, and our Kenku rogue Chimer stepped in agreeing with Asyrule. I for my part sat back to let them discuss it, which was my mistake. Our Kenku player has over a decade of experience, and while the Paladin player is not as experienced he is very vocal. On the other hand, the Rogue player is brand new to the game and just starting to learn the rules while still trying to get a solid feel for her character. It also probably doesn’t help that being adults, we tend to drink while we play. So the discussion quickly became much more confused and heated then it should, and while it wasn’t intentional, our rogue was essentially forced back into her shell by two much more forceful personalities. Something I should have stepped in to help prevent. While she continued to play, our rogue was much more subdued for the rest of the session, and the experience soured her to playing in general.
All of this also resulted in the party temporarily refusing the give the Wizard of Wines the gems. I used this bit of in-game drama to show off the Wizard of Wines magical powers, which he had denied having when they first met him. Thus confirming some of the Rogues feelings of distrust and giving the party something more to think about as they went after the next two gems. Having left the wizard rather annoyed the party set off to the ruins of Berez in the swamps to the west.
Berez is a village abandoned by its inhabitants and by time. Slowly being absorbed into the swap that surrounds it. Its ruined buildings sinking into the mud. When the party arrived they were surprised to discover a pen of goats next to a large crumbling building near the town center. Goats which out party for some reason became very deeply attached to very quickly. I’m not exactly sure what is going to happen to them as the game progresses, but I know that our heroes are willing to die defending these goats.
Leaving the goats for a moment, however, our party split up to surround the mansion and then crept inside to investigate. Within they encountered a ghostly apparition and shortly after a strange Cleric dressed in black with a great hatred of anything undead. This is another new player who is also just starting to learn the game. While her grasp of the rules is a little rough, she played her character well, freaking out at the ghost and initiating combat, which naturally dragged in the party.
This encounter was unexpected, and also very brief. The poor ghost dispersed before he could do much more than howl angrily at the party. Of course, his howls scared the goats and then their bleating managed to attract a much more dangerous threat in the form of a pack of wolves. The party took a defensive position within the ruins of the mansion. Though not before running outside to snatch up each of the seven goats in the pen and bring them inside for protection. Which at the very least forced their enemy to come to them through a hail of arrows and crossbow bolts as the party attempted to kill the enemy before they reached their new four-legged friends.
The wolves speed quickly carried them past the arrows and into melee range. Though many of them died quickly once they reach the party, their hides already pincushioned. Nearly a dozen of the beasts fell upon the party and were dispatched. This fight left the party bloodied, and at least two members bitten by what appeared to be werewolves.
How that will play out remains to be seen. Especially, considering the player drama that I allowed to unfold. Hopefully, I’ll be able to entice everyone back to the table to continue our adventures.