“Why aren’t we playing D&D?”
That’s the question that was asked of me as we wrapped up our second play through of Castle Ravenloft, at The Forge Herald Game Center. Frankly, I had no answer.
My response was some garbled mess of “because we don’t.” That didn’t bode well for the rest of the group.
So, after less than five minutes of cajoling me, we agreed to give it a try. We decided we would play the following Sunday. We would then play roughly once a month after that. I tend to have a busy schedule and wasn’t sure I could fit much more into it.
The following week we spent our normal game night rolling up characters. By the end of the night, we had a thief, monk, paladin, and a cleric ready to go. Or so we thought – we’ll come back to this.
I spent the next few days deciding what it is we were going to play – it was decided I would be the DM – and brushing up on my storytelling skills.
As for what we were going to play, I settled on Curse of Strahd. I love Ravenloft and thought it would be fun to introduce the players to it. Although I used to rely heavily on modules (my last foray into D&D was in 2nd Edition AD&D, so it’s been awhile), I wanted to try my hand at crafting an opening adventure.
I did a quick read of Cody Dube’s Behind the Screen series, watched the videos he referenced, and set about creating my opening adventure.
When it came time to play I had a few NPCs, a main story, and a side plot. I wanted to be prepared. I was even ready to tie it all into the opening of the book.
As the day grew closer, my nerves grew wore anxious. I really didn’t want my friends to hate what I had done. I didn’t want to ruin them on D&D.
We sat down that first Sunday and started playing at 2 p.m. as I wrapped up the adventure I looked at my phone and was surprised to see it was after 6 p.m. We had played for four hours. I couldn’t believe it. Four hours and they all seemed to be enjoying themselves!
Now some of you are probably thinking, “four hours is a short session!” You’re right. It is. But four hours is the amount of time we all felt comfortable committing to.
After we wrapped up, I asked the group when we wanted to play again. They all agreed my plan for once a month was foolish. Let’s do every other week! However, we must play next week because one of our party can’t be here!
<gulp> Ok… Not at all what I was expecting. But, I will overcome!
Remember when I said we thought we were mostly ready to roll? Let’s get back to that. It became painfully obvious that we were a novice group attempting to play in a complicated system. One of our players (Nolan “The Endruin” LaMears) was the only one of us who had truly read the rules so we were bombarding him with questions.
We discovered we put stats in the wrong spots, had no clue how to cast a spell, and combat was something we could only dream of. Thankfully Nolan, and even Zac, were able to guide us through our bumbling around.
As we gathered at our next meeting I was prepared. Or group had grown by one and I was ready to take my adventurers through the story. I relied heavily on the book for this adventure.
We finished four hours later and again the group seemed to be having a good time. Let’s meet every week!
Uh… every week? Ok!
Seriously, that’s how the conversation went. Thankfully I hid the trepidation in my voice.
We have since played multiple times and each time the sessions get better. We are no longer adhering to our four-hour deadline, either. Now, as long as the party is progressing the story, we keep going.
As for the story itself, I am still relying on the book. I do write quite a bit of story into the adventure, though. Which seems to be working.
My biggest focus is on the quality of the storytelling. I have watched hours of Critical Role and have drawn a lot of influence from Matthew Mercer. I am even playing around with voices.
The players are also developing. Every week I get more and more messages from the players expressing how they want to develop, what they want to do, what changes they need to make, etc. It’s been exciting watching them come into their characters.
Overall, this idea of playing D&D has turned out t be an absolute success. I am ecstatic we ran with the suggestion.
As we move forward, we will continue to play out the Curse of Strahd adventure and I will continue to tweak it to make the adventure suit my players.
After this… well, I wouldn’t want to give it away.
Patrick Cossel is the Publisher of the Forge Herald. He is a writer, gamer, father, husband, and level 1 Magic judge. Professionally, he is the Operations Manager for a family-owned newspaper. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2016, Patrick Cossel. All rights reserved.