It started with a tweet:
The traps got them twice tonight in Tombs of Annihilation. And now the ranger has a case of the butterflies.
10:18 PM · Jun 13, 2021·TweetCaster for Android
Very difficult dungeon..
I thought about it, and here's what I had to say.
It is. I've been unapologetically intervening (quietly, with a light touch) in the difficulty level because, well, since we've been playing for the past year+ it's the one time of the week we aren't thinking about severely stressful things.
Even as DM and having to do some extra work, it's as if the pandemic wasn't going on - just for a couple of hours. This has turned out to be very valuable.
We're so very fortunate to have a large enough family to pull off a regular in-person game.
Chult really can slay characters; after their beloved Druid guide was disintegrated by an undead Mind Flayer (horror!); after it was clear that killing characters wasn't going to be handled well at all, I tried hard to make it feel dangerous, but not as punitive as it could be.
We have enough other BS going on as a household. Just a long list of unfair crap and setbacks and hard work and shitty real-life dice rolls. It's still hard and there's been some close calls, but I have extracted things other than character deaths from this party this year.
Watching them deal with encumbrance rules in the field (which I usually ignore) has been entertaining.
Whatever the top encounter is, they get it. Whenever a trap could be there, it is. NPCs are not as easily captured or defeated. And wow their cleric - how are they still alive? LOL.
I think I met this character at Burning Man a couple of times and wouldn't trust them with a nail gun or let them in my tent.
There's a Warlock with an insane demon patron, an overeducated Wizard, and a betrayed Knight. With dinosaur steed. Jurassic Don Quixote.
The only thing wrong with this game is that I can't play it. I do get to "play" the NPCs, and there are a lot of them.
They have a one-armed Dwarven warrior guide, a damaged ranger rescue, Artus, and whoever they don't dispatch does tell them things.
Not the same as playing.
It does kind of expose my bad habit of being part of the infrastructure or volunteering to do crap rather than "just" enjoying something or "just" being a member or "just" consuming entertainment.
But, the game wouldn't happen if I didn't force some space for it and set it up.
And sometimes I have to remind/drag/insist them to the game, or reschedule, or listen to lengthy rants about why their character didn't get x or y or why they felt left out or that things are unfair. It's a lot of emotional labor to run a campaign like this.
And some of that isn't fun but it's super important to listen and make it as fun as possible and try and model the sort of collaborative play that creates the totally awesome magic of things like D&D. There is a level where it's not just a game.
Like Warhammer 40k: the 1st rule is that your opponent enjoys the game. You don't pander or roll over to each other. You create a great experience together, even if you are opponents.
This is the exact same rule in civil discourse. Put your opponent in the best possible light.
So if even a little bit of that sinks in, then all the work (and giving up the chance to run a character in some online campaign because I only have so much time) is totally worth it.
Plus, we have laughed so damn hard this past year. My household members are hilarious.
They are creative, emotionally invested, daring, craven, sneaky, clever, and unpredictable. What a joy to get this chance to see all of this.