Encounter in the Forest
The following series will take a single encounter/short adventure I am running as a DM and focus on my experiences, and how I might do better in the future.
Campaign:So I am running an ongoing campaign for a number of friends. This game started when 4E was released, and has continued on a whenever-we-have-the-chance schedule since then. The players just hit Paragon Tier, and are enjoying a bit of open adventuring, having just completed their major quest for Heroic Tier.
The Players have been tasked with removing an unknown Undead threat from the woods surrounding an old dilapidated keep which was the site of one of their first adventures.
This keep belonged to the almost forgotten founder of the town where the PC's prefer to spend their time. While the 'Green Knight' as he is known has been relegated to bedtime stories, his ancient manor/keep has fallen into ruins within the woods which abut the town, and has become a favorite haunt for monsters.
The players had just entered the woods when they heard the sound of approaching hoofbeats. Around the corner of the trail thundered a Nightmare, bearing a Gaunt warrior upon it's back, with half a dozen more warrior running behind.
Bringing a location to life is important in getting the players to hold a vested interest in your world, especially since this campaign might take weeks to months between sessions. I chose to place an encounter near a previous adventure location for this reason. The players felt an investment in the location and genuinely wanted to cleanse the Undead, even beyond the lure of treasure and XP. Since they had cleared the area of monsters in the past, it was almost an affront to them that these creatures had moved into their turf.
It also helped that they had previously heard tales about the Green Knight around town from NPC's so the location was more than just a random ruin in a forgettable forest. I don't often manage to do this, but having seen the players reactions, I plan on trying to do it more often.
Another point of enjoyment I spotted in the players was just how much they enjoyed having knowledge to plan ahead. I had an NPC tell them that the threat was Undead in nature, which gave them just enough knowledge to do a small amount of planning, such as seeking out a source of Holy Water in the nearby town. But this NPC didn't give away to much, so they were still wary when travelling of just what the Undead threat could be. In this case Wights.
Having just the right amount of knowledge seems to have spurred the players on. In the past I have allowed them careful study of an enemy before striking... Which had it's charm, but there was a loss of tension to the battle. While simply dropping them into the middle of danger without a clue seems the alienate people.
This is all based on my own speculation, but seems to be inline with what others have told me of their games. I am endeavoring to balance these sorts of things better in the future.
Next - Part 2 - The Grand Melee