“The heavy journey started lightly for Harbard. His trek south carried him through the beauty of the mountains he knew so well. Hunting daily, he met some kind travelers who directed him to his destination, the town of Gilrest. His journey was interrupted by some bushes come to life, which he ferociously cut down with his axe. Harbard’s trail deviated from the town, leading him to a cave. A small fire glowed from inside, and led him to a modest homestead. A hooded woman knelt by the flames, beckoning him in.”
So here Shawn and I were, sitting around our coffee table. Nothing was directly purposed towards this campaign. Shawn was using an old miniature of mine, while I was using maps that were completely for different areas(“Look just pretend its not a cave but a forest okay?”) but they had squares to move around in so I was good with it.
“What do you want to do?”
“What can I do?”
”I mean if it’s something stupid I’ll make you roll for it.”
Shawn started in his cave, and I asked what every DM asks his players: “What do you want to do?”. It was confusing I think at first that he could do anything but he caught on quick went with it. He went hunting, explored his surroundings before asking if he knew of any towns, and we kept continuing on, me asking him for skill checks every once in a while.
“Roll for Iniative.”
Then, I threw him into combat. This was the first real test for him as a player, and me as DM. He fumbled around which die was which, and learning each step of going through an attack. I made sure, that every hit and missed seem exciting, describing exactly how he tore through those magical bushes that were harassing him. I detailed futility of the bushes attacks against his Goliath body that was currently raging.
Why bushes? Well, they seemed the most innocuous of encounters for a single player. I’d only ever seen things for parties of four or five, and in my mind, with how DND and combat worked, a couple of goblins with forks could potentially knock Harbard out and eat him for dinner, so I went with three bushes that could be potentially be killed in one hit. I wanted him to feel heroic in the sense of a person strong enough to overcome numbers, not just a fantastic duelist. Seems more heroic to beat a bunch of magical plants, than just beating down a single bandit right?
I let him continue his exploration, and eventually his checks led him to spot an unusual cave off the path. This was my other goal for the session, an encounter where battle wasn’t the most ideal, which is to me some DND players should learn, and makes the world more immersive. Being a murder hobo is fun, but doesn’t always quite make for a realistic story. So I made a hag archmage who would offer characters power ups for character trades. I needed to show Shawn that every decision could be important, and make him wonder about the worth of things.
So I held it out, his dead daughter’s soul which still clung to him for power overwhelming. I smiled, waiting for him to be appalled, only to experience what I have experienced many a time since starting. He suprised me. He took the deal. I was amazed, so I rewarded him for his risk with a stat boost, but knew that if this campaign continued, I would haunt him with his daughter’s soul sold to a hag at a later time. Apparently he thought the same, telling me that if it went on long enough, he would just come back and reclaim his daughter’s soul when he became more powerful, plus “Harbard’s not religious, he doesn’t really believe in all that soul stuff”. I’ll show you some soul stuff.
And we continued our first session…
“The hag, Rama Po’Ur looked at the soul of the scared little girl abandoned by her father, and curled her tenderly in her arms, cooing her as her new mother. Physical form was no issue, as long as the soul remained. Harbard journeyed out, not realizing the weight of what he had done but determined to return once he had finished his vengeance. The blessing of the hag stained his soul, but also gave him the power he needed to fight Lothrok. Now, to find information.”