Blog for Stephanie Bryant, a writer with too many hobbies and not enough time.

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D&D Chase Sequences

Last night, I ran one of the DDAL modules for Season 9. Season 9 introduced war wagons and has a very heavy Fury Road vibe to it with a lot of car chases. Tomb of Annihilation tried to do this as well with dinosaur races– those worked a little better, especially when they focused on the race, rather than adding combat into the mix.

As a result, these modules often feature a chase sequence, and this module does as well. In fact, it has a “45 minute” chase sequence that kicks off the adventure.

This chase sequence was chase+combat, took 3 hours, and nearly killed one of the PCs.

First, the chase starts out when the pursuers are 60 feet away from the party. The war machines have a move of 60′ (this is not statted, but implied by “taking the Dash action to move an additional 60 feet each turn….”) so the chase effectively starts when the chase is over and the pursuers have all but reached the party.

The party, meanwhile, has a movement rate of 40 and can Dash for an extra 40. So for the first 5 rounds, the PCs can get about 20 feet away, IF the war machine doesn’t dash.

If the party is underpowered, they also has an option to deploy some countermeasures, but these barely came into play because it costs an action to use any of them.

It is unclear whose action is required for the war machines to Dash. I said it was the driver’s, which left a gunner and a meleeist. The meleeist can leap onto the party’s cart once they’re adjacent to the party– which, as mentioned, pretty much happens in Round 1.

From then on, the enemies don’t need to do much to stay within firing range and keep shooting at the PCs while their boarding party rips them to shreds.

Here is the main problem with the chase rules in D&D: “On their turn, each participant rolls a d10 and consults the table to see if a complication arises at the end of their turn. If so, it affects the next participant in initiative order.”

OK, so I ran that part slightly wrong, but not in a significant way– I had it affect the current participant.

The problem is, there’s a table with 10 options. There are 6 war machines, 3 party members, and a party wagon. If I give the driver of the PCs’ wagon an initiative turn and the NPC they’re escorting, that means I have 11 initiative actions each turn (assuming I don’t give separate initiative to *each* monster on each war machine).

In the course of the 8-round chase, that’s 88 dice rolls of d10s. Any given number will come up 8 times. Most of the options were things like “moves at half speed” or “has 10′ of difficult terrain.” However, one of them was “Fireball! Dc 15 Dex save or take 8d6 damage.” LOL Wut?!

This means there were about 8 fireballs and many of them went to the PCs. Granted, a couple of the fireballs wiped out the enemies as well, but… it was not a good time.

And that’s on top of the slow grind of combat that is D&D normally. Did I impose disadvantage for fighting on top of a racing wagon? Disadvantage slows things down, so I absolutely did NOT do that!

3 hours later, here’s what I’d change:

Start the chase sequence where the enemies will need at least 1-2 rounds to close in on the party’s vehicle. During this time, the PCs can prep, ready the countermeasures, etc.

Simplify initiative! Each war wagon has an initiative– and all of their passengers share that initiative. In the module, pairs of war wagons had the same initiative, which makes sense if the first wagon’s complication role hits the next wagon’s.

The driver of the war machines can only do one thing– drive. His action is spend on driving, and there is no Dash for the war machines– they are already going as fast as they can. This gives the party wagon an opportunity to get away, as they might be able to outrun the war machines early, because on round 5, the animal-drawn wagon tires out and can no longer Dash, giving the war machines a chance to catch up.

Roll for chase complications for the drivers only.

Skip all of this entirely and turn the chase into an exciting montage. Don’t use the chase complication table except as a suggestion for things the DM can bring into the montage. You’d get through the chase in 15 breathless minutes and everyone would feel like they’d actually been in a fast-paced chase instead of a 3 hour game playing 2 rounds of Car Wars.

I realize these might be explained better in another module, and therefore maybe I’m restating the obvious. But this is a standalone module, and the DMG’s chase rules are no better.

Organizing a Public Game

I wrote an article on the ConTessa blog about Organizing a Public Game! It’s a bit logistics/nitty-gritty for organizers of Adventurers League and similar programs. Gleaned from the past 3+ years of organizing D&D at local game shops here in Las Vegas.

Go there to read it!

Shadows Over The Moonsea

I’m going to put a HUGE SPOILER TAG on this post because I’m going to talk about problems with a D&D module that I ran this weekend and which not too many people will have been exposed to.

Over the weekend, I ran DDEX1-3 Shadows Over the Moonsea, a D&D Expeditions module for Adventurer’s League.

Before I begin, let me give you the format of these adventures.

The DDEX series is the “Expeditions” series of Organized Play (Adventurer’s League) for the new edition of Dungeons & Dragons. In Adventurer’s League, there are many options for play, including:

  • Encounters: a 2-hour adventure in an ongoing campaign that is run in-store (using the Hoard of the Dragon Queen module, either the free short version provided to stores, or the full module sold as a book)
  • Expeditions: a 4-hour adventure, run in-store using the provided Expeditions modules (6 of them are currently available). There is no way to access Expeditions if you are not sponsored by a store.
  • Epics: run only at conventions. There is no way to play an Epic outside of a convention.
  • Home Games: held in-store or at home, using “any other officially published adventure,” which currently includes Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Lost Mines of Phandelver (the adventure in the Starter Kit).

All adventures have an appropriate level rating for the adventure. For example, most of the current Expeditions are for levels 1-4. If you are level 5, you can’t play that adventure. Characters can go from one format to another– as long as they were built and played using the AL guidelines and they track their play on their log sheet, you can take your PC to an Encounters game anywhere, play at home or in a store, whatever. And DMs get experience points for running the games, so my paladin gained 300 XP on Sunday, just by virtue of me running this module.

Although it’s important to prep, as a GM, for any adventure, the reality is that organized play GMs often do not have a lot of time to prepare the adventure and make adjustments. They never know exactly who will be playing until they sit down to play.

I have long maintained that all organized play adventures need to be written not for the great GM, who can save any game and make up a great adventure on the fly. They need to be written for the mediocre GM, who is learning or maybe not that creative (or maybe a little hungover… you know what I mean if you’ve ever played convention games!)

This adventure fell into the Expeditions format. It is approximately 4 hours long and should contain a complete story in one session. I don’t like to do a lot of prep for RPGs, so these modules really need to have everything in one place to work from (most of the time, they do). Some of these modules are very mediocre. Once in a while, however, you get one that is just bad.

This is one such adventure….

WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

Continue reading Shadows Over The Moonsea

Hoard of the Dragon Queen – sessions 4 and 6

01_Carousel3_ToD-Adventures_Background_140730_1At Empire Games Encounters last night, we ran Hoard of the Dragon Queen, sessions 4 (my table) and 6 (the "level/episode 2" table).

Typically, I take the new players or new characters to run them through part of episode 1. This week, I am down a DM, so I had recruited a backup DM (known as "Dad" in the Epyllion sessions) to help out. However, my backup DM had child care responsibilities, so we also had a "Jr. DM" ("Kiddo" in the Epyllion games) who came and role-played the blue dragon monster at my table.

We also had a 7:30 PM stop time due to the blue dragon’s bedtime. That makes a 90-minute session, which is fairly short, even for Encounters.

It didn’t matter– we had fun anyway.

Continue reading Hoard of the Dragon Queen – sessions 4 and 6

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