With the Halloween session and the Blind Demon out of the way, it was time for our group to attend to some duties that they had signed up for in the past few sessions, and otherwise enjoy themselves while in the capital of Whitepoint. There was a three-day gap from the end of the goblin encounter until they were needed by the druids, meaning that the four of them had ample opportunity to explore the city, do research, or run some errands. Similarly, the twins who ran the magic shop had offered to provide some options for potions or poisons using the dragon bile that the group could commission once their spellbook came in, so the players had some options available to them for the start of session 6.
Caileth, truly a bookish, mom-friend style cleric, decided to go the library and do some research. The group had also taken several books from the DeMarcus household, so they spent some time poring over those tomes as well. Solomon did a bit of sight-seeing, while Lei ventured to the temple, spending some time praying to the gods to watch over those whom she cared for. Bel ventured off to a toy shop, finding a dragon toy that he sent back home as a present for someone special in his life. Finally, the group stopped by Augury and Alchemy to see what Nikolai and Simone had found for them. A type of poison that could be used on a blade was selected, and the twins gave them a timeline for when the poison would be ready. With that, the errands were done, and the adventure could begin again.
The PCs met up with the druids in the same place they had met them before, but this time they got to see that there were more than just the leader, his husband, and their bodyguards. Dozen of men, women, and children, all ages and races, gathered together to perform their annual pilgrimage. Elmyar, the leader, greeted the group cheerfully, reintroduced everyone to one another, and gave marching orders. With that, the druid tribe began their trek.
The trip to the tree and back was relatively uneventful. On the first day of the journey, the group did stumble upon what appeared to be an abandoned baby goblin. The little critter couldn’t speak common, and Lei and Bel were less than thrilled about the new companion. Caileth, however, remembered the goblins from the previous encounter, and eagerly accepted the goblin child. She fondly nicknamed him Chewy, after she gave him a leather strap to chew on and he eagerly dug in. Chewy for Caileth was a fond little part of the strange adventure.
After two and a half days of traveling, the troupe finally made it to the tree that held so much meaning for the druids. Elmyar explained that after the Great War, the land of Vrotha was completely devastated. Heartbroken that her homeland was so broken and dead, Denaria, a frost elf and loyal warrior of Severin, the god of nature and plants, sacrificed herself to Severin so that she could become a beacon for his energy, restoring the land to its former glory. Her body became the tree, and the magical energy from Severin is still channeled through her into the land to this day. The tree itself is magnificent and beautiful, limbs stretching out to reach the sky, and a blue gem embedded in the trunk. Despite the snow falling in the northern kingdom, a large periphery around the tree was completely dry, vibrant green grass visible several feet around the tree in a circle. The divine energy the tree possessed allowed it to be evergreen throughout the year, but in order to maintain the energy, it needed a time of renewal each year. Once every cycle, the druids would gather in a circle around the tree and use their life energy to maintain the land while the tree was able to cycle through summer, fall, and winter, all in the space of twenty-four hours.
It was the job of the group, then, to protect the druids in the circle while they allowed the tree to be reborn. They had no clue what would happen if the circle were to be broken; they only knew that the Glacius tribe had been tasked by Severin centuries before to protect the tree at all costs. Each and every druids’ life force was needed, forcing them to rely on outside help during the renewal ceremony. The PCs were to protect the group at all costs, though the druids would prefer it that they refrained from killing anything; this would allow the druid tribe to fulfill their duties. With that, the druids began to perform their ritual, leaving the PCs to their own devices.
Most of the night passed uneventfully; at one point, Chewy nearly got out of his harness and escaped into the forest, but Caileth managed to keep hold of him. At another point in the night, wolves surrounded the clearing, but the characters were able to scare them off with some scary noises and a good old casting of Thaumaturgy. Everything seemed clear until the last hour, when out of nowhere a giant began to wander into the clearing. With some quick thinking, the group managed to distract the giant, leading it back the way it had come. Eventually, it ran into another giant, and being territorial the two began to duke it out in the mountains, far enough away from the druids that they couldn’t cause any damage to the ritual. An hour or so later and the ritual was complete, meaning that the group could rest before making their way back home.
Once back at Whitepoint, the Glacius tribe paid the group and said their goodbyes. Chewy went with the druids, since he was significantly safer with them than in the walls of the capital, though Caileth was not happy about having to say goodbye to her new goblin child. The druids thanked them for their help and promised them they had gained friends if they were ever in need of some, before taking off into the wilderness. The PCs ventured back into the city, only to find that the city was celebrating King Esmond’s birthday. Games, food, and competitions were everywhere to be found. Lei tried her hand at an archery competition, Solomon competed with some musicians, and Bel played the Ring the Bell game (which he promptly broke with an extremely high roll, much to the chagrin of the game owner). Overall, the group had fun with the celebration (all of which was recycled from Session 1.5) and left with a few prizes to their name.
However, on their way back to the tavern, the group encountered someone crashing through a store window nearby. The person appeared to be a young woman, physically similar to Izzy, a fellow patron of the Lion’s Blaze Inn and Tavern. After a quick and eventful chase, the group traced her to the Onyx Barrel Tavern, a small and unassuming bar closer to the center of town. Upon entering, they found Whitley, the apparent bartender of the establishment.
There was no trace of a woman to be found, and despite their insistence that a girl came into the tavern, Whitley was persistent in his denial and refused to allow them into the back room. His resistance was met with some physical retaliation on the part of Caileth, but he maintained his resolve. Although the troupe was reluctant to give up, they decided that they wouldn’t be getting info from the bartender anytime soon and headed to rest back at their inn, thus ending the session.
This particular session was a bit of a wild ride; it was the second one in a row that had no sort of combat encounter, and allowed for a wide range of events and emotions to drift to the surface. It also went quite a bit longer than I had intended it to, with the group being extremely more determined to find out what the bartender and the mysterious woman were hiding than I had anticipated. Overall, it was an enjoyable session, one that I got to see my players flourish a bit more in and I personally got to flex my roleplaying skills a bit and practice an accent or two As always, I came away from the session having learned several things about my party and about DMing.
• Know the morals of groups in your world
When I had originally created the encounter with the giant, I had intended for it to be an action-packed encounter, one where the players might have difficulty taking down the antagonist but would still get a chance to show some of their awesome new level 5 skills off. However, when I began working on the druids more, both as characters and as a unit, I realized something important: the druids within the tribes believed that all life was precious and tried not to kill without a valid reason. As such, the druid leader Elmyar would likely tell the group that they would prefer the PCs to only harm or kill if absolutely necessary. Whether the PCs chose to align with that preference was their decision, but I knew that by putting the possibility out there, the chances of the encounter being a combat one had significantly decreased.
While this was perfectly fine, it made me realize that I probably should have considered this in advance of the encounter’s creation. Any PC of worth that you as a DM introduce should have some sort of moral code, some belief system (even if it is a total lack of faith and belief in anything), and knowing these things is important. This goes double for factions, tribes, and any other group you might introduce into your game. Not only will this give you a better sense of what your tribes are more inclined to do (and thus the characters within them as well), but it will also make your world seem real and whole, something that has had thought put into it.
• Be accommodating of those in your group who are not as comfortable with role-playing
Even though Dungeons and Dragons is considered a “roleplaying” game, there are many people who only get into the role-playing aspect enough to consider the actions that their character might do, and do not fully get into character the way actors like those on Critical Role do. And this is perfectly fine. The point of the game is to have fun and feel comfortable, not to constantly try to push your players for an Oscar. That being said, if you have a few players who are not as comfortable roleplaying as some of the others, pushing them a bit is perfectly fine as long as you consider everyone’s boundaries and comfort zones. Two of my players, my dad and Eli, have had theatrical experience, and although they have their limits too, these two tend to be a bit quicker to step into the roles of their characters than Reagan and Neli. The other two have told me that they want to get better with the RP aspect, but they are not quite comfortable just yet. Because I have a close relationship with both of them, I thought it might be a good idea to try to have a one-on-one RP opportunity with each of them to allow them to practice their roleplay.
Elmyar, as the leader of the druids, took interest in Solomon, who is not necessarily the leader of the players’ group but the face of it with his high charisma. Thatoris, Elmyar’s husband and a blind wood elf druid, took special interest in Caileth, sensing a love of nature and an inner turmoil from her. Mirie, a human druid and a bodyguard of the couple, recognized Lei’s soldierly demeanor and initiated a conversation about their pasts. Finally, Krisvyre, a wood elf and another bodyguard, tried to connect with Bel due to her similar past, something that she was able to discern from his behavior, solitary attitude, and clothing. Each of the players had an opportunity to connect with an NPC, allowing them to practice roleplaying at a slower pace. The most important thing to consider when trying to bring players out of their shell is to take things slowly and to go at a pace that is comfortable for them, because the moment you try to push them too much, they are likely to close themselves off, leaving you as a DM with nothing to work with.
• Consider allowing multiclassing to have a story affect
Eli had been considering for some time multiclassing Caileth into a druid, primarily due to backstory reasons, but also because Eli loves druids, and the class’ reliance on wisdom makes it a convenient multiclass for a cleric. However, I didn’t want Caileth to just wake up one morning with druid capabilities suddenly, so I knew that I needed an opportunity for her to learn. Much of the druid storyline came about due to my desire to foreshadow a few elements for later in the story, as well as to drop in some world lore; however, one important part for me was allowing Caileth the chance to at least be exposed to druids again, to give her a reason to know and learn about this new class. This in particular is why Thatoris took an interest in Caileth. He encouraged her, attempting to teach her the Druidcraft spell and inspiring her to find her own connection in nature. Providing this path for Caileth to gain access to the first step of her druidic powers made the decision more cinematic and consequential, and helps keep the story of your campaign consistent. Although it might take some work, allowing those who desire to multiclass in your campaign to have a story reason will make them feel as if they are really in their character’s shoes and will allow you to keep control over the narrative.
• Potentially teasing backstory elements can create an amazing effect in your campaign
One night during the group’s journey to the tree, a cozy moment with the druids around a bonfire was interrupted when a bird swooped in and delivered some news. Apparently, the druids had been following a woman throughout Vrotha. The woman had been visiting small villages, poisoning the water supply, and holding the cure ransom. At several of these sites, the druids had been able to thwart the woman with their natural powers, and as such the woman had apparently decided to leave, venturing out of Vrotha and out of the domain of the Glacius Tribe. However, as Elmyar explained the situation, he described the woman in a way that was similar to a person that Caileth new from years ago. Although she couldn’t be sure, just hearing the description was chilling to Caileth, and witnessing her reaction to this moment was absolutely amazing. Whether or not this story element goes anywhere or rings true, seeing the look on Eli’s face, and subsequently the reaction from everyone else, was pure joy as a DM. This was the first opportunity I had ever been given to tease something from someone’s background, and I look forward to continuing to put to work the excellent backstories that my players have given me.
This particular session was a lot of fun for me, specifically concerning weaving lore and backstories together and getting to roleplay some of my favorite characters of the campaign (the druid husbands, whom my players even admitted they actually liked for once too). Having the druid tribe and the tree in the session allowed me to construct more of the world of Dracia, and gave me a chance to bring some of my friends out of their roleplaying shells. Although it might not have been the best of our sessions, it is still one that I consider monumental for us in some ways, and a new test of some of my DM skills.
Questions, comments, or concerns? Leave me a comment below or find me on Twitter @DandDDM.