I’m voting Cthulhu anyway.
I listened to the Legend of Drizzt audiobook
over the last week or so. I should note here both my hatred for the character of Drizzt
and the fact that Salvatore never uses one word when three or even four will do. That said, the offer of the audiobook for free tempted me. Also, Ice T did some of the narration
and I really wanted to hear his take.
So it turns out that Ice T does a pretty good job, as you’d expect. I have trouble dissociating his voice from his Law & Order character, but that is more a consequence of far too many evenings watching SVU than anything else. “Weird” Al Yankovic also read one of the stories, and did a fine job, although once or twice I found myself expecting him to break into song.
But Wil Wheaton blew me away as a narrator. Seriously, this guy should go into acting or something. Maybe he might do some more stuff around D&D or even science fiction if anybody ever gives him a shot…
I recently read some useful discussion on /r/dndnext about the difficulty of encounters in the Hoard of the Dragon Queen published adventure. So I thought I’d analyze the Lost Mine of Phandelver from the Starter Set and perhaps try to understand the problems from that angle. While I’ve been running both campaigns to various levels of progress, and playing in HotDQ at my local gaming store Comic Asylum, I know LMoP a little better at this point.
To do this, we have to look at the Dungeon Master’s Basic Rules, a free PDF from Wizards of the Coast. On pages 56-58, it contains the guidelines for building encounters. In reality, though, they intend for us to use guidelines to evaluate encounters, not build them, as the text itself notes:
Once you’ve designed your adventure and placed monsters and other opponents as you like, you can determine how challenging the adventure is likely to be by examining the difficulty of the encounters. There are four categories of potential difficulty: easy, medium, hard, and deadly. – p. 56
For this analysis, I assumed that adventurers should be more or less at a given character level for each part. Part 1 presumes that the party has just begun its career. It thus gently introduces them to various game elements a bit at a time for level 1 characters. Part 2 introduces more choices and tougher monsters, catering to level 2 characters. And so on for parts 3 and 4. I also added another difficulty level, “OMG!!!!” for encounters that exceed Deadly.
WARNING: Lost Mine of Phandelver spoilers ahead.
My daughter’s rogue
In addition to running campaigns on Roll20, I also run a game at home with my daughter (10 years old as I write this). We’ve been making our way through the 5th Edition Starter Set adventure, Lost Mine of Phandelver. Of course, running with only one player-character requires a few changes to the normal approach to running a game.
- Nerf the NPCs. This should be fairly obvious, but in addition to reducing the size of encounters, I also generally don’t allow critical hits from the NPCs. I tried reducing their hit points, but that didn’t seem to increase the fun that much.
- Guide the player to an appropriate class and build. A Cleric built for buffing and enhancing party members will not shine in a solo campaign. She’s been running a Rogue and that has worked out well, with the ability to choose her fights and then hit hard and quickly.
- Focus on things other than combat. We’ve had a good time enjoying the roleplay rather than just the stabby-stabby. For a pre-teen, I can already see this working on several levels for her, because she’s learning more about interacting with different sorts of people and with different sorts of goals than she typically would have in real life.
- Find out what’s fun for the player. This applies to any campaign, naturally, but especially so in solo campaigns. In traditional party-driven play, part of the fun comes from the interaction among the players themselves. But here, that doesn’t exist and the world really does revolve around her (at least in some ways).
- Rule of Cool trumps everything. Since you don’t really need to worry about balancing power levels, let the character be extra awesome. Maybe that means fudging a roll here and there, or (for some people) that might mean allowing additional features and proficiencies and whatnot.
See what works for you, but this is what works for us. A solo game provides a far different experience than what you might normally get: much more emphasis on storytelling and individual action, plus a tightly focused adventure. I hope you have as much fun as we do.