D&D at the Library - Session 2 - The Caves and the Circus
I run a D&D 5E game out of my campaign world at the local library's monthly Board Game Night. It's a great way to introduce new people into D&D, to introduce them to a decidedly old school way of playing and to have yet another game in my campaign world of Etinerra. Last night was session #2 as the heroes begin to explore the ravine of the Caves of Chaos, from the old B2 Keep on the Borderlands!
|Photo by Debby Daniels, used with permission.|
This game quickly grew to 8 children/teens and 1 adult. I started the scene with the party of heroes at the entrance of the ravine to the Caves. The party quickly encountered kobolds on the ground and in the trees and combat ensued. That's where I quickly ran into the biggest problem of the session, it was a handful to run for! We established an initiative order, but getting the kids to commit to an idea, to work together, to think outside a video game "click the button to attack" was a challenge!
I managed to soldier through, but it was one of the more challenging sessions I've ever had to DM. The entire session was a long running combat, as the party split up and kept running into kobolds!
- The kobolds acting like they were related to Tucker put three PCs into negative HP territory and the rolls for 3 death saves or failures. It was a mechanic that felt a bit like AD&D's "negative HP." I liked it.
- I managed to get some of the players to stop looking at their character sheet and "just imagine what you want to do and tell me! We'll see if we can make it happen."
- One of the littlest players was the biggest help, as she used a firebolt spell to set fire to a tree, allowing half of the party to escape! I made sure to tell her of the magnitude of her deed and she had a grin from ear to ear.
- Word of mouth about the game must be spreading as some people came prepared with characters from other campaigns!
Towards the end, the game teetered on the edge of a TPK. The party was disorganized and the kobolds were using the trees with their advantages of "hit and run." Eventually, the one adult (Dustin, who runs the board game night) managed to persuade the kids that they needed to retreat and come up with a better plan. Once the session was over with all of them safely back in town, I explained how D&D can be like a puzzle, and they needed to figure out how to get through the woods and past the kobolds to get to the cave.
I can't run future sessions like this, though. That was clearly too big of a group, for the number of children involved and for playing a decent game of D&D> With the nature of the Board Game Night being to get kids to play, I don't want to turn people away from my table! So I'm thinking about having two "episodes" per evening, at 90 minutes each. Those who are on time/there early get to play in Ep 1 - up to 6 players. Those who come later put their name on a list and will be able to play in Ep. 2.
It will force a mind-shift in how I run D&D, though. I'm going to have to do away with almost any sense of verisimilitude and plan "encounters." Give the players a choice of a couple of encounters and go from there. Or just have the Episode 2 players pick up from where the Episode 1 players left off. We'll see... I am going to fix this problem so that I don't have to turn people away, but can have a manageable table with a lot of high energy children!
If you have suggestions for running with large groups of children, though, I'm all ears/eyes!