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 The Haunted Halls of Eveningstar (Spoilers)
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Returnip
Learned Scribe

213 Posts

Posted - 08 Dec 2020 :  12:18:20  Show Profile Send Returnip a Private Message  Reply with Quote  Delete Topic
This story is not in prose and is mostly a retelling of a group of players I DMd in their attempts to adventure in the Haunted Halls of Eveningstar. It will contain spoilers about some contents in the dungeons.

** SPOILER ALERT **

This story begins when I decided to update the Haunted Halls of Eveningstar to 3.5 edition. I decided to ignore the changes to the halls that were detailed in the new Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting and present the dungeon to my players as it was originally written for 2nd edition. I spent a long time meticulously rewriting every trap and monster to reflect the new rule set.

The players had asked for a traditional fantasy game, with swords and cloaks, and I decided Cormyr would be suitable. While considering what their first low level challenges should be I thought why not give them a good old fashioned dungeon crawl in one of the most famous or infamous dungeons of the realms? Said and done I got to work. The players made characters using the new material and among them was a Bedine Knifefighter, a wood-elf archer and two other characters whos' natures I've forgotten by now. You'll see shortly why I've wiped this experience mostly from my mind.

Preparations were concluded, the adventure started and I spent a lot of energy describing the lush forests, the picturesque little villages and towns, and the people of Cormyr to really get the players into it.

Fast forward to the dungeon crawl. The players made their first attempt and set off along the dirt trail from Eveningstar as directed by the locals. They had been told it was a stronghold built by skilled dwarven stonemasons, but ignored that tidbit of information and went into the first dark hole in the mountain side they could find. Feeling like they were on top of the world they promptly got ambushed by an owl bear and all died.

This was a set back. They were all upset that they died of course, and I reminded them that they were looking for a stronghold built by dwarven stonemasons. I decided to just roll back time, bring them all back to life and restart the game from them leaving Eveningstar to go find the famous dungeon.

Their second attempt brought them up the same trail, and as they discovered a cave mouth in the mountain side I pointed out that it looked like a natural crevice and not something built by dwarves. The players nodded knowingly at each other and said "We continue up the trail". A while later they approached a burnt down, old hut. I explained that that didn't look like dwarf craftsmanship either and the players winked at each other and said "We keep going up the trail".

Eventually they reached what looked like a gated entrance in the mountain side and I told them this definitely looked well made and would definitely pass as dwarven craftsmanship. The players decided to investigate and went straight to it.

Now, I can't remember exactly how far into the dungeon they managed to get before all being slaughtered but it wasn't far. Blundering about they set of every trap they could find and weakened by this they quickly got slaughtered by some low CR creepy crawlies. This time they were really dead and there'd be no takesies backsies.

They were mad as heck. They started pointing fingers at me claiming the dungeon was too difficult for their levels. Then they decided that the rules were dumb and I pointed out that there was no shame in being cautious and running if they encountered something they couldn't deal with. They would have none of that however, and angrily decided that they would all make new characters, all dwarves, reasoning that since dwarves have a bonus to Constitution the resulting extra hit points at level 1 would be the best way to beat the dungeon, and so they all set to making new dwarven characters except one of the players who created an elf character.

Attempt three began and the group promptly ran straight into a room with green slime killing three of the members (one of them decided it was too dangerous and backed out and thus survived). At this point they were so angry they vowed to never again play D&D. One guy was so angry he was shaking, and tore up his character sheet with his teeth. All this was clearly my fault and we all packed up and went home.

Fast forward to weeks later I get a phone call from the character sheet tearing guy who asks if we can play again. I pointed out that they'd all vowed to never again play D&D but he said they had changed their minds. I told him we could play again, but on one condition: They would let me guide them in making their characters so as to optimise while at the same time retaining realms flavour. They agreed, and we set to it.

Enter four quite powerful level 1 characters. I used every trick in the book to optimize without detracting from realms lore. The adventuring group consisted of a human fighter from a noble family. Not the sharpest tool in the shed, but really good in a fight (his family could afford the best trainers of course). He fashioned himself a knightly type and considered himself the leader of the group and while the others didn't agree fully with that sentiment they didn't bother to argue against it. Next in the group was a Tyrran cleric, hired by the noble born fighter's family to act as a lawyer to deal with any legal trouble their son would inevitably get himself into. Alongside them a rogue galant, fencer extraordinaire who would be able to take advantage of all the things that give a rogue an advantage. For example on their way to Eveningstar they were accosted by bandits, and before the bandits even had a chance to attack one of them had a quick drawn dagger planted firmly in his chest, and the rogue would be tumbling and feinting to get additional sneak attacks mid battle This was the party's DPS and he was designed to be good at it. Finally the group had a sun-elf wizard (Spellcasting Prodigy feat) who constantly flaunted his magical prowess by having his possessions in a big, wooden chest floating behind him (Tenser's floating disk) and when they set up camp his tent would set up itself (Unseen servant) and they later found him lounging in a pile of pillows while a bottle of fine wine poured itself into a glass hovering mid air.

I coached them on how to tactically approach a dungeon like the one they were up against. I explained that rushing in impatiently is a bad idea. Take your time, search for traps, cast detect magic, research the area by talking to the locals and so on. They did all this, and things were looking good. They did small forrays into the dungeon, fighting monsters, circumventing traps and grabbing loot before going back outside. There they'd regroup and rest, and at some points they had to return to Eveningstar. Either way, they were getting the hang of it. They even rescued Miior and brought her down to the village where she acclimatized, sold her jewelry, geared up and asked to go along with the group.

At some point they decided that they had cleaned out enough of the complex and after a climactic boss fight in the courtyard of the keep above against a Dragonkin, the leader of the Kobolds living there, we decided we were done with the Haunted Halls of Eveningstar.

The players later went on to attack the troll caves in the mountain, making sure to plan ahead and bring fire spells and alchemist's fire to get an edge, and did some other adventuring in the countryside, and I felt like they really were getting good at this.

Having gained a few levels they eventually decided to set out for new lands, and to travel west across the Stormhorns through the pass guarded by High Horn and down to the plains on the other side of the mountain range. I started planning the trip with random encounters, and specific, more interesting encounters. When it was time for the next session I made it very clear to them that these were dangerous lands, full of monsters and bandits and whatnot. They had been allowed to make camp within the walls of High Horn, and Miior was still with them. Unfortunately one of the players wasn't able to make it to the session, so they'd be short staffed already. I pointed out that I had created the encounters with four players in mind and following the rules for encounter difficulty spread in the DMG as per the players' request, and already that would be a challenge. I recommended them to bring Miior, or at least get some hirelings or coordinate with a caravan to travel alongside them for mutual protection.

Suddenly it was as if all their previous adventuring experience didn't exist. They said they didn't want to bring Miior, or anyone else for that matter because that meant they'd get less experience per encounter and they sure as heck wasn't gonna share. I said ok, and off they went. They managed to get halfway down the mountain trail before being attacked by a Peryton. With no magical weapons at hand (but overly much gold and magic items that they didn't use that I was assuming they'd sell and use their riches for perhaps a +1 sword or the like) they couldn't deal with the fly-by attacks, and eventually the wizard decided to use a scroll of polymorph self (that he had been saving to later be able to transfer to his spellbook) to transform into a Wyvern and chase the Peryton away. At this point they were low on resources, and decided to make camp to replenish and heal. Night time came and they decided on guard shifts to make sure they weren't surprised in their sleep. Unfortunately as the morning was approaching the Peryton from the afternoon before managed to find them again and attacked. Two of them died pretty quickly and the last one, the Tyrran cleric, jumped on a horse, took the reins of yet another horse and rode as fast as he could back to High Horn.

That was the last time I DMd D&D for that group. That was also the only group (apart from one of the players) I've DMd that was so stubborn, greedy and impatient. At the beginning I really scrutinized my work and tried to figure out what I had done wrong. I decided to give them more free information that they wouldn't otherwise have to help them make informed decisions. However at some point I realised it wasn't me, and I realised it wasn't worth the time it took me to prepare each game session.

On the other hand you have different fingers.

Delnyn
Senior Scribe

USA
748 Posts

Posted - 08 Dec 2020 :  14:11:11  Show Profile Send Delnyn a Private Message  Reply with Quote
What experience did this particular group have with Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder or some other pen-and-paper roleplaying game? I can understand the assumption from 21st video games that an encounter typically leads to combat. That said, FR is a whole lot more than Baldur's Gate or Neverwinter Nights.

It is not your fault the players made bad decisions. Maybe make them recite the Obi Wan Kenobi maxim: "There are alternatives to fighting." If they insist on kicking in the doors and charging in blindly, I heartily recommend Myth Drannor, Undermountain or the catacombs under Thaymount.

Nobody paid attention to your initial hint about dwarven construction. That sounds like the characters earned the Darwin Award.

My two copper pieces.
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Returnip
Learned Scribe

213 Posts

Posted - 08 Dec 2020 :  14:43:23  Show Profile Send Returnip a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Delnyn

What experience did this particular group have with Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder or some other pen-and-paper roleplaying game? I can understand the assumption from 21st video games that an encounter typically leads to combat. That said, FR is a whole lot more than Baldur's Gate or Neverwinter Nights.

It is not your fault the players made bad decisions. Maybe make them recite the Obi Wan Kenobi maxim: "There are alternatives to fighting." If they insist on kicking in the doors and charging in blindly, I heartily recommend Myth Drannor, Undermountain or the catacombs under Thaymount.

Nobody paid attention to your initial hint about dwarven construction. That sounds like the characters earned the Darwin Award.

My two copper pieces.



Your copper pieces are appreciated.

I think they played some 2nd edition before, but I'm not sure to what extent and they had plenty of experience playing different RPGs than D&D. They had zero experience with the realms anyway, apart from the Baldur's Gate series and NwN.

Even though I realised that it wasn't my "fault" in the end I did learn a few things. Like having a thorough talk with my players as to what they expect, and what I'd expect from the game before preparing a campaign. I also learned that their preferred play style and my DMing didn't go well together. I think one of the problems was that they wanted to play the numbers game. They asked me specifically to not fudge rolls and such because they wanted a challenge. Since then I've gone back to making some rolls in secret as to be able to gauge the game a little more. For example I would now ignore the result of the second encounter with the Peryton, because it had a high chance of killing them and there would be other encounters later on anyway.

I've DMd other groups of players through the years, like I said. While they've ocasionally bitten off more than they could chew and died prematurely I've never encountered reactions like the ones in this group.

EDIT: Actually, now that I think about it a bit more I realise all four had actually been part of different other groups playing D&D 3.x in the realms with me as DM. Just not all four in one group until the end of a previous campaign (when they all ended up in hell with no way back after chasing a guy through a gate, or rather after a guy they were chasing cast gate and then hid behind a corner while they group ran past him and through the gate). And when I think about the previous campaign I realise that there were signs already back then. The guy who played the rogue in the above story was the same guy who played a wizard/lore master who always prepared maximized magic missile, saved his spells for "later" and lugged around a heavy crossbow that he half the time shot his friends in the back with. The guy who played the noble born fighter in the above story is the same guy who played a former gladiator who in their first encounter after he joined at level 2 charged a troll and promptly got ripped in two (later reincarnated as a badger by a friendly druid). And the guy who played the Tyrran cleric had previously played a Lathanderite monk who was very upset over the lack of good ranged weapons for monks and the price of shuriken (until I told him and the wizard to cast flame arrow on the monk's shuriken which allowed him to blow up three hobgoblins in one round). The last guy who played the wizard in the above story had previously played a ranger of Mielikki. The latter and the guy who played the Lathanderite monk and the Tyrran cleric are probably the only ones in the group who "got it".

On the other hand you have different fingers.

Edited by - Returnip on 08 Dec 2020 15:54:16
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cpthero2
Great Reader

USA
2263 Posts

Posted - 11 Dec 2020 :  06:13:15  Show Profile  Visit cpthero2's Homepage Send cpthero2 a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Seeker Returnip,

hahaha...that was an awesome and sad read. You did nothing wrong from what I can read there.

You can't fix stupid man. ;)

Best regards,





Higher Atlar
Spirit Soaring
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Returnip
Learned Scribe

213 Posts

Posted - 11 Dec 2020 :  11:31:16  Show Profile Send Returnip a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Yeah, but to be fair I think it was really just the crossbow wizard and the rush-in-and-die warrior that were a bad influence on the others.

On the other hand you have different fingers.
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cpthero2
Great Reader

USA
2263 Posts

Posted - 11 Dec 2020 :  19:39:34  Show Profile  Visit cpthero2's Homepage Send cpthero2 a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Seeker Returnip,

Well, I can recommend with good results: interview players 2-3 times before you sit them at your table. Man, it really takes care of the problem children. haha

Best regards,






Higher Atlar
Spirit Soaring
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Returnip
Learned Scribe

213 Posts

Posted - 11 Dec 2020 :  19:42:34  Show Profile Send Returnip a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by cpthero2

Seeker Returnip,

Well, I can recommend with good results: interview players 2-3 times before you sit them at your table. Man, it really takes care of the problem children. haha

Best regards,



Unfortunately I didn't have that luxury back then. Nowadays I know a lot more people with whom I have played RPGs and might be interested in playing. Plus there are better options for online play.

On the other hand you have different fingers.
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cpthero2
Great Reader

USA
2263 Posts

Posted - 11 Dec 2020 :  19:50:29  Show Profile  Visit cpthero2's Homepage Send cpthero2 a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Seeker Returnip,

Ah, well, for sure having online play happening opens up the options a great deal! Nice!

Best regards,






Higher Atlar
Spirit Soaring
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