This was my first campaign and my first session as a DM outside of the mini-adventure I ran with my brother.
I had spent about two hours planning the campaigns and another three and a half starting some plot threads to keep the story going, presumably no matter which way the party chose to go. I never expected them to take my adventure this route…
The campaign opened with three of the four party members locked in a jail cell. T’Chak, D’Jee and Mikal. I gave them a little time to get their bearings, and threw my fourth character, Fips, into the cell with them. They overheard the guards talking about ‘her’ wanting them brought together at Lord Nibeney’s behest. They don’t know why the sorcerer king was interested in them, and didn’t ask. I suspect they don’t care because I doubt any of the party wants to stay under his scrutiny long enough to find out.
A high-ranking templar named Min-Suu offered them the opportunity to fight in the arena to survive and earn their freedom. The party, seeing little other choice agreed. What none of them realized was that the Nibenese arena contains a treacherous labirynth beneath the entrance, which prisoners are periodically let loose into to try and escape to reach the pit, fight the champion, and earn their freedom.
The first thing they encountered was the maze of the labyrinth itself, and fortunately they picked the right direction (they went left first instead of right), so they didn’t have to double back later. Their first encounter was against three burning devils and one pain devil. I thought I had balanced the encounter when I designed it, but apparently the pain devil waaay out-classed the party and had to be (unsuccessfully, really) scaled back. They did destroy the devils and moved on. Further through tbe maze, they encountered four stormclaw scorpions, which they fought very well against, despite being immobilized and grabbed at points. As they followed the footprints of former prisoners, they successfully found the ladder down to the next level and were for some reason stunned to realize they hadn’t cleared the dungeon yet. (A two-encounter dungeon? Yeah, right!)
Anyway, I was really nervous as we took a break to eat. After that unbalanced devil encounter and the scorpions, the party had been forced to take an extended rest. I knew their next encounter was going to be brutal, too. The party marched on, soon finding themselves nose to nose with a dragon. Admittedly, a red dragon wyrmling, but a dragon nonetheless. The party attacked, and slowly they whittled its hit points down well past bloodied. Then Mikal, played by Wes tried to intimidate it, and failed. It was such an amusing failure (he rolled 7 total) that I had the dragon try and intimidate him back. It failed so hard it almost looked cute (rolling a 1 and only getting a +2 bonus). So, before Fips could attack it again, Wes said offhandedly, “Well, if we can’t intimidate it, maybe we can use diplomacy.” It had -2 to it’s will thanks to an attack of Mikal’s that lowered the defence and Mikal invoked words of friendship. After all the bonuses, he rolled a total of 23 against the dragon to try and get it to stop fighting.
For level 1 characters, a “hard” Difficulty Class is 19 for a skill challenge. With a 17 (-2, so 15) will and the Hard DC in mind, he still calmed it down. I was laughing my ass off at the fact that they succeeded, just because of how awesome and off the wall it was! I made it coo, since as a baby dragon, I figured it would rather play nice with the party rather than attack and risk dying. Plus: awwww, isn’t it cute? They then decided they should try and tame it. And they did! T’Chak, our ranger, rolled well enough even without Fips’ help (though she did sucessfully ‘aid another’ for his nature check) to beat the hard difficulty that would allow him to successfully ‘handle’ the dragon. So they’ve tamed it. I was practically rolling on the floor laughing!
I had planned they fight and kill the dragon and leave the game session feeling badass for fighting the damned thing and winning. I never expected them to tame it!
I guess that’s the first lesson for all DM’s: you can never plan for every choice the players will make; they will always surprise you.
Even though we had planned on picking this campaign up the week after next, we’ve decided to pick up next week. They all want to know what’s going to happen with the dragon. I already explain that I’ll be making them make diplomacy checks with it every short rest until I’m satisfied it likes them or it tries to kill them, and both diplomacy AND nature checks to try and further tame it. Basically, it’s an elaborate skill challenge for them. A difficult but incredibly rewarding one if they succeed and disatrous one if they fail. Either way, looks like a lot of fun!
I have to come up with a bunch of details about the dragon now, which is both annoying and exciting. Red dragons are ‘always chaotic evil’ in my old Third Edition books, and I reckon that’s not going to change even in my Fourth Edition campaign, but chaotic evil has so many personality types with it… Will it be selfish, arrogent, or just willfully destructive? Is it going to be nice enough or an absolute monster? I can’t say, yet.
So, yeah. My first session of my first campaign… It was AWESOME! I’m so happy.