Wednesday, August 31, 2011

D&D Encounters: Creative improvising vs. pre-designed storytelling


So, finished up Session Four of D&D Encounters: Return of Jafar. It consisted of some royal negotiations, followed by being ambushed by bandits, then meeting up with an old friend/nemesis (of my own design). A bunch of new players at our table this week, so things were good.

Also, there's D&D Lair Assualt...which is a thing, I guess. It looks kind of cool in a purely tactical/board game kind of way.

I had to run this session without a camera operator, so once again no footage was taken (I was away for session 3). So my video episodes on YouTube are gonna be taking a bit of a dive this season.

Episodes 2 and 3 will be up on YouTube soon (Have had to put them off again for work reasons), and If I'm lucky, I'll have a solution for Episode Four soon.

I'm thinking of making a bunch of illustrations, then posting them here along with a full text recap. The YouTube episode would consist of a link to the post here. It would be a lot like what Derek Myers does over at Dungeon'sMaster.com, only with funny doodles/pictures like the ones above.

Let me know if this is a good/bad idea, and if it's the latter, give me some suggestions for other creative solutions.

ON TO SOMETHING IMPORTANT!


So when I started D&D Encounters, it got kicked off with an intro adventure 'Gates of Neverdeath', which I stripped down and re-wrote in the interest of having a fun adventure instead of a cliched mess. You can read about it here.

In that, I introduced the plot device that all of those players that participated in it had characters who'd had a week of their memories stolen. This carried on into The Lost Crown of Neverwinter, where it turns out all of the PCs who's memories were taken had committed a grievous crime that they could not remember (robbing a bank, killing an innocent family, sleeping with the open lord's wife, etc).

All of these events are also tied to a recurring throwaway NPC Seldra, who's a half-elf spy aiding the lost heir. To the memory-addled PCs, Seldra isn't just a random person they need to converse with; she may be the key to how/why they're missing an entire week of their lives, and why they've done something terrible they can't remember.

All in all, I thought it was a clever story twist that the pre-written adventure didn't provide.

But here's the problem: I applied it ONLY to the PCs who'd taken part in the special Game Day event. All of the other players just have whatever generic backgrounds they're provided with, or stuff they've come up with themselves. This creates a both a player entitlement issue, as well as a story problem due to the nature of the D&D Encounters program.

You see, Encounters is set up so that you don't have to show up to every session if you don't want to. It's sort of a Laissez-faire 'drop-in drop-out' story where you just kill a bunch of monsters/bandits every week. Introducing a solid bit of continuity for a group of players (and not others) seems unfair to a lot of players. Likewise, some of the PCs who have the 'missing memories' plot thread, feel they shouldn't have to share something that was unique to them under special circumstances.

I'm not sure what to do. Do I accommodate everyone with a 'missing memories/wanted for random crime' plot thread (which would be a hassle, given that players drop in and out frequently), or just say 'Tough Shit' to those who weren't a part of the original group to receive such a plot thread (despite that by the time the finale rolls around there may only be one player at my table left who even has any connection to it).

By no means is missing memories or wrongfully accused PCs the main focus of the whole Season (the main focus is discovering the identity of the lost heir, also punching people in the head), but it's a nifty story thread that a few of the players really dig.

Just don't know what to do. As always, I'm open to suggestions.

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