Hail, and well met.
August 2018 marks the anniversary of me discovering the wonderful game of Dungeons and Dragons. In my experience, I have accumulated a fair number of tales, as many others likely have.
Before I begin this tale, let me explain some terminology, as I know my user base consists of mostly gaming fans.
Player Character (PC): This is fairly self-explanatory, but it is the players within the game.
Dungeon Master (DM): The big head honcho that runs the game. They referee and guide the players along a story, reacting to their decisions and altering events as they see fit.
d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d20: These are the various dice used to complete tasks in Dungeons and Dragons. One usually rolls a d20 to decide ability checks or if they hit an enemy. There are tons of other uses, but dice make the world roll ’round in D&D.
Ability Check: Whenever a PC wants to do a task that requires a good amount of skill, they will need to roll an ability check for it. The ability, the score needed, and whether or not they have advantage or disadvantage.
Advantage/Disadvantage: When a PC rolls, depending on the situation, they could gain a benefit or a loss. When they roll with advantage, they get to roll their d20 twice, and take the highest number. But if they are at a distadvantage, then they take the lower of the two results.
Okay, now that that’s all cleared up, join me, as I relay to you, the most boring three hours of my life.
THE LONGEST EXPLORATION
It was a chilly, rainy November evening. I recently started DM’ing a few months earlier. As all Dungeons and Dragons groups go, nobody wants to commit to it unless somebody DM’s. Not knowing anything about what it entails, I volunteered. Of course, everybody became interested, because the hard job was taken.
My family and I decided to split the starter set between all of us, and I began to read the campaign, and basic rulebook. I thought the 30 pages of rules for the starter set was intimidating. Even scarier was the 60 page campaign book containing a long tale, sidequests, spells, items, and so much more. I was working full-time at another job, and all my free time went into learning The Campaign: The Lost Mines of Phandelver.
My family was new to the game as well, so it was a great learning experience for us. We all got every rule wrong, but we made it as fun as possible, which, is the beauty of D&D.
However, on this one, November night, where our noses were drenched in Pumpkin Spice lattes, and our noses filled with the fragrance of 3-wick lavender-scented-candles, it happened:
They entered their first Goblin castle.
This was a big moment for the group. It was the biggest dungeon they had faced up to that point. They wanted to be thorough and prepared. It was 5 of them against a potential army of Goblins. They scouted the castle, they readied their blades and spells, and ventured in.
They found a secret entrance. How advantageous. They got the jump on a large group of heaviily armoured Hobgoblins. Their defences were impenetrable, but my group persevered and succeeded.
The next room was a mess hall full of Goblins getting scrutinized for their horrible cooking. Ignoring their emotional trauma and embracing their inner murder hobo, they slayed the goblins without hesitation.
The inhabitants of the castle were still unaware of their presence. They decided this was time to stealthily loot and explore.
They scan the mess hall, making a multitude of perception checks. Smart play, as there are nice spices laying in the cupboards.
They retreat back into the secret entrance room, and scan for additional items or traps. They find nothing within the halls of this room, other than a door on the other side.
They then go back to the mess hall, and inspect it aga- wait what?
They then deliberate a plan on how to utilize the tables of the mess hall for cover in bringing out the goblins, and fortifying a base. Okay, sure, not sure how they will do that wit pots, pans, and a table, but it works.
All of a sudden, they decide that they need the door to create their table fort. Ser Pringles the Paladin is the strongest, and rips off the stone door. This reveals another room to them, but more importantly, fortifies their base.
However, once they discover this new room, it is time to explore again. I was an inexperienced DM, so I didn’t know how to handle this situation. I only went off what was in the book, and I was unable to branch off from that to make my own decisions. I let the fort get built, but I had no payoff for it.
Within room #3, there was literally nothing. It had some barrels in it with no supplies, but that wasn’t good enough. They made a perception check on the barrels. Nothing.
They made the Rogue pry it open with Thieves tools, nothing.
They made the Barbarian Smash the barrels open, nothing.
Deep down, I knew there was nothing in these barrels, but I didn’t know how to divert their attention from them. They just wanted in the barrels so bad, and I had to give in.
Eventually, through brute force, they made it into these barrels. And, lo and behold, they found nothing. However, they took their frustration out on me. “Why were these barrels empty, who puts an empty barrel there?”
A good DM would have made a change from the book to reflect this. But again, I was a wildly inexperienced DM. This was partially my fault that I let it go on so long, but I was paranoid about never breaking their immersion.
Eventually, they decided to search the secret Entrance room AGAIN for more materials for their fort. After finding nothing, AGAIN, they decide to camp out in their fort, and wait.
Now, this is where I panic again. The book never accounted for the players waiting, only for the goblins to be waiting. So they wait, and they wait, and they start to get impatient. Phones get pulled out, and I’m losing them.
So they decide to eventually get up, and explore the mess hall, AGAIN. Because something might have changed.
This lasted three hours.
There are over 15 rooms in the castle, and they wasted three hours exploring three.
The truly tragic thing, was that we could only really meet up once every month or so. We all had conflicting work schedules and busy lives, so each session was meant to be something special. We would get snacks and a meal, people would buy Starbucks drinks for each other, it was a grand old time. But that session just made me sad, because it was something special, something we were down for, just bogged down by my inability to change the situation to the players needs.
I wish I could search a room in real life as thoroughly as they do in-game.