One of the reasons that I haven't been posting is that I've actually been running games! I had the opportunity to run 13th Age and Dungeons & Dragons both at Gen Con (subjects for future blog posts) and for friends.
With the launch of the fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons comes the Adventurers League, the official organized play program for D&D. I ran two of the introductory adventures at Gen Con, Defiance in Phlan and Shadows Over the Moonsea, as well as a table for the interactive epic adventure, Corruption in Kryptgarden.
I had so much fun running them that I volunteered to run the D&D Expeditions program at Ancient Wonders. Yesterday was the first session: a reprise (for me, anyway) of Defiance in Phlan. As the introductory adventure, Defiance in Phlan is a series of five 1-hour scenarios; an excellent introduction to 5th Edition D&D and the Tyranny of Dragons campaign.
A surprising turnout
I was unprepared for the initial turnout; we have 9 players, with at least two who had not played 5E before. Fortunately, the format for the adventures worked to my advantage. I rotated through players between the three scenarios, so that each player got to play two each.
The reception was positive; most of the players said they would come back next week, and the staff at Ancient Wonders are looking for a second DM in case we have the same turnout, or better, on the 14th.
The short format keeps you focused
With only an hour to run each scenario—at Gen Con, I only had 45 minutes due to the paperwork requirements—it keeps you focused on keeping the plot moving. The shorter scenarios usually feature one or two combats at most; one of the scenarios can be run with no combat at all. I hope that Wizards of the Coast does similar short-form scenarios for future Adventurers League campaigns.
With the scenarios at Gen Con and here, I used initiative table tents to track combat. It worked very well, but one downside is that it makes it hard to introduce new NPCs to the initiative order. I could try rolling "placeholder" spots, but players may know that there are more potential adversaries than meets the eye.
As has been my custom with 5E so far, I was running gridless combat. I used descriptions to flesh out what was happening, which kept the tactical analysis to a minimum and kept the players focused on story. As an experiment, I brought some Pathfinder Pawns and miniatures to represent the combatants, but I used them more for conceptual grouping (two pawns were set aside to represent bandits in a loft, for example) and to help keep track of which NPCs had taken damage. I found that it made it a harder to keep the narration going because I was looking at the pawns, not the scene in my head. I might hold off on using them for the next couple of sessions.
I will post later about some of the new things I'm trying with 5E, and I hope to keep the actual play analysis going.
Want to try D&D Expeditions?
If you are in the Portland area, I will be running Expeditions for Ancient Wonders every Sunday from 1pm to 5 pm. I have a Meetup event set up for the next adventure, Secrets of Sokol Keep. If you RSVP on the event, you will be guaranteed a seat in the event we have more players than DMs. Hope to see you there!