DM Chronicles, Session 3: Of Pools and Crashes

Image Source: WotC D&D Miniature Game

After having skipped a week from our usual bi-monthly game, I was really looking forward for this week’s. One of our players, Stef, had to stay home because his Wife was away and he was with the kids. So I offered to move the game over there.

So I rolled all the battlemaps I had prepared, packed the ziplocked minis, the adventure, the USB key with DM Wiki, the Core books and a few Splatbooks (Wow, Wikipedia has a definition for everything!).

It’s 4:15 PM, I hop in the car, put on Muse’s last album, real loud, and join the traffic jams that plague the Suburbs of Montreal. (Montreal is an Island, I’m lucky enough to live on it, but all my players live in Laval, a Northern Suburban Island).

At 4h30, I’m sitting behind a Mini-Van and I notice the right lane being free, I switch to the lane and accelerate…. and the van does the same thing 2 seconds later and crashes into my new 2007 Honda Fit. Result: The whole left side of my car is scratched, dented and my driver’s door can only open about 1 foot wide.

Now in Québec, crashes with no victims or ‘Hit and Runs’ are dealt with a ‘friendly’ exchange of information on specific forms that all good citizen have in their cars (I don’t). Anyway, long story-short (from me? HA!) the Mini-Van’s owner had 2 sets, we fill out the forms, we both deny responsibility (as should be) and we go our way.

I just had a car crash but I also haven’t played D&D in 3 weeks. What’s my decision? Screw it, I’ll call the insurance from Stef’s place!

Just so you know, the last time we were supposed to play at Stef’s, there was an Ice Storm. When I got there, I had a message from my lovely wife informing me that I needed to come back pronto because a Tree fell on our house! (True Story!)

Anyway, we ended up starting to play at around 7h00 pm. As promised, I’ll skip on story elements as Yan will tackle them in his player log.

The adventure was about finding the source of a weird creature in Ptolus. The initial investigation lead them to the the slums of Ptolus where they faced a 10-strong street gang. I had the occasion to test the Hit Point Pool approach I stol… huh borrowed from Greywulf.

It worked perfectly! All the energy I usually spend keeping track of individual hit points was shunted towards very graphic descriptions of wounds and deaths. You should have seen my player’s faces when I described heads exploding and Manga-like slicing of bodies that crumpled slowly in halves to the ground. There were a few weird cases where a Thug took an electricity charged arrow in the face and fell from the building and survived only to have his neighbor die from a rather average hit (Oh by the way, the re-vamped Duskblade rocks!!!!). So this house rule is a keeper. It was the best fight of the whole evening.

The players continued their exploration and found a link to the creature’s origin and followed it (yet again) in the Sewers. They quickly discovered a huge natural cavern filled with offals. Since visibility was limited, I described the room in bits and pieces as the players explored cautiously. I ended up pointed out a huge mound of trash and an exit.

I must have mentioned the exit more than once because at that point a player went Metagaming on me and said something like ‘If Phil (that’s me) talks about the exit like that it’s because that’s where he wants us to go…’ Hmmmm that’s grounds for a -2 penalty on Spot checks don’t ya think? (and a warning that I must ‘control the message’ as my old bosses used to say). The penalty was just enough to miss the Otyugh creeping up in the garbage pile and striking the players with it’s filthy tentacle, screaming ‘Trespassers! Me EAT Trespassers’.

Short fight, I mauled the Duskblade pretty badly, I wisely ignored all instances of potential Grappling with the creature’s 4 tentacles. When the players applied various healing powers, I described how the creature seemed to be leaching this energy to heal itself. Yeah, they freaked a bit. Twelve Seconds later, there was Otyugh sushi on the cave floor.

While the Duskblade let his armour regenerate him (The Magic Item Compendium is sooooo cool). Stef went to search the garbage pile, to cries of disgust from the other players. He found some valuables! Oddly enough, no one asked for their fair share… Go Stef, the loot is yours!

We ended the evening with one last encounter, an ambush by some Gnome-like Fey while the party was squeezing in a tight corridor (well, not Lillie the Pixie, but the rest). We were getting tired and the fight was more mechanical than flavorful. The players won and got some sweet piece of magical loot, a Human-slaying sword.

Overall a very fun evening. Now I have to wait until Monday to book an appointment with my Car Dealer’s repair shop.

Lessons learned:

  • Hit point pools for mooks rocks!
  • Graphic descriptions of a fight makes it a lot better than the actual mechanics (duh! about time I learned that)

What players liked:

  • The gore and splattering of mooks all over the Slums.
  • My ignoring anything Grappling for once.
  • Yan loved that I worked the evil Feys into his backstory and gave him more info on the Big Bad than was warranted by the adventure.
  • The Duskblade chucking ranged touch Spell-laced arrows and casting swift spells.
  • Stef finding treasure where all others refused to go.
  • The story hooked some of the players and they want to KNOW.
  • Getting XPs for filling in the Player questionnaire! (I’m really looking forward to posting the other ones).

What players disliked

  • The DM’s frequent breaks with immersion to joke around, bring reference from pass session and talk about his blog. (For my defense, I was dealing with a game and the shock of the crash… but I’ll be more careful henceforth).
  • The adventure hook was a bit shaky and players had a passive aggressive reaction to it like ‘no we don’t do it, come on boys’ I don’t know if it was that I wasn’t enthusiastic enough or what… (See Yan’s comment, he’s right…)

What’s next:

  • I’m not saying anything other than ‘we finish the adventure’.

Overall a great evening. For everything else, there’s Insurance.


  1. I might have an explenation for the passive aggressive part, at least for me.

    You gave us a setup of where we where and right then, the hook came, euh… i mean the guy arrived with the request for help.

    It came too quick and i was still in the blog/crash discussion feel and had not move into character. I fought the urge to say “Here comes the track guys”. 😉

    I was hoping for some role playing at the start of the session to at least give a little bit of story between our character. So far we’ve been in a lot of fight and we did not have the time to create any in-group chemistry.

    My perception the others might agree or not.

  2. This makes a lot of sense. You’re right that I rushed things. It was 7h00 PM and I wanted to catch up.

    Well noted. Give player some ‘me’ time at the beginning of an adventure…

  3. Man, I’m sorry to hear about that accident. I’m glad everyone was okay.

    The session sounds like it went fairly well, though, all told.

    Oh – I ran the ‘HP pool’ thing by my GM on the way down to our Lacuna game…

    “Oh, yeah, I totally do that for Ravenloft all the time. It works like a charm.”


    Yan, I can sympathize with your feelings; sometimes jumping in, in media res, is good. The beginning of a new campaign, sure – it really adds urgency to the introduction, and the players are involved from moment one. A session later, though, and we’re inclined to be chatty at the beginning of the session.

    (Man, I wish we could get started at 7:00 pm sometimes…we’ve been really chatty of late.)

    My problem (and that of a few others in my game) is that if we get into a really good RP groove, we often don’t want the DM to intrude! Not that we blow him off, or anything, but…we’ll be down there, arguing or doing or whatever, and there’ll come this voice; “Did you all hear what I just described?”

    We’re honest enough to say, “Uhhh…nope! Our PCs were chattering away, so, we missed it!” and move on from there.

  4. (Groan!)

    I so totaly see your groups as a DM of the Ring-like sketch where the DM’s droning in the background and we see word bubbles of RPing over the DM-text!

    Thanks for the kind words Noah. I will give the players more RP down time soon enough…

  5. Re: The car. Ouch. I reckon all the best sessions have to start with a bad happening in real life. I’ve lots count of the number of times we’ve had pre-game crises (hunt the runaway dog being a firm favourite) only to be followed by a wonderful gaming session.

    I guess all that adrenalin has to go somewhere, eh?

    Anyhow. I’m glad no one was hurt. That’s the main thing. Now, onto the game!

    It’s good to see Ptolus getting some love. Ptolus is, seriously, the bestest campaign setting ever (excepting possibly the Traveller universe). I plan to return to Ptolus with my players soon. First though I need to get them immersed back into D&D. One step at a time, eh?

    I told you hit point pools rocks! Heh. Glad they worked for you too. They certainly give you more room to think about the game, rather than think about the rules. I kinda like the odd times when a weak blow downs a foe who should otherwise survive – maybe he was weak from a previous fight, is faking death or the player got a lucky sucker punch. Life’s like that. If it doesn’t work for you, skip over his death and let the next sucker bite the dust instead. Dramatic appropriateness is more important than the dice, every time.

    Otyughs rock too. It’s impossible to run them without thinking about That Scene From Star Wars. My players are convinced I’m going to set the walls constricting when they’re around one. Maybe I will, one day 🙂

    I agree about the Grappling rules, and I’ve not found a good solution to them either. If 4E does nothing else, I hope they fix those.

    Oh, the and the MIC is great too. I’m fond of the “Mother of All Treasure Tables” from Necromancer Games too. With those two books I can create treasure for 1,001 adventures, and beyond – and they’ll all be unique and memorable. Lovely stuff.

  6. Greywulf,

    I Love Ptolus… especially since I did away with the whole Prison plane and Chaos cults thing.

    It’s been called the Lexus of RPG accessories and it lives up to its luxurious comparison.

  7. Alex Schroeder says:

    I find we use the first half of grappling rules often enough. Basically: If monsters have Improved Grab and some special sort of damage they do while grappling (Rake, Constriction, Swallow Whole) then I will do grappling. It’s fun because the tank goes down down quickly, but the monster is busy at the same time so the others get to slay the monster and rescue the tank. It worked very, very nicely a few times: Low level party, tank is grappled by a choker and two sorcerers and the cleric need to save him; archer and ranger are swallowed by the fiendish behir taking 30 points of damage every round, the dragon disciple is being grappled, and the cleric saves the day with a mighty swing of his flaming sword. What I hate is the crappy “Damage your opponent” rule because it involves looking up stuff. Basically what I like to do in these cases is offer grappled players only a small number of choices: Try to escape (win opposed grapple check), attack with their light weapon at -4, or cast a spell with only verbal components. Many of the other rules are bogus because they require you to win an opposed grapple check (eg. drawing a light weapon) or having something else ready (material components which take a full round action to ready). Usually combat is over far sooner, thus I don’t bother with the more detailed rules. We never join grapples, either.