Last weekend we finished playing the Spell Jammer Module called ‘The Light of Xaryxis’
I haven’t DMed 5e for a while so I wanted to do a bit of a reflection. First about the adventure module itself. Second the style of play. And finally what I have learned or would change.
The final question is, will I ever play 5e again?
I really love developing plotlines. Sitting down and creating a story that I want to experience alongside the players. I used to develop quite complex story arcs but recently I have reverted to less involved ideas. That is not to say that my storylines lack involvement or interest. It is just that you don’t need an FBI qualification to understand and unravel them!
The Light of Xaryxis, at times, had me puzzled. Some of the encounters didn’t appear to link to the story at all. Some even appeared just to be an opportunity to get more combat into the module.
For example – Topolah, the great mage, asked the party to free her of a roaming monster. Yet she has spells such as ice storm and cone of cold. A wizard of her power could probably have dealt with the monster quite easily.
And then there was the knight riding the red dragon. She appeared and landed on the ship. Had an attempt at humour, dropped some oil of sharpness and left. I was left thinking, why on earth was that necessary?
Leading the way!
When I am GMing I encourage the players to lead the way. I create and share with them barriers or issues and then work with them to find a solution.
When the party lost their spell-jamming helm after a very brief battle with Hastain, they found themselves drifting into space. At this point, I would have usually asked the players to think of a way out of the situation. But with the module, a group of migrating whales appeared and provided a tow! There was definitely the feeling of, we don’t have to work on this since the adventure will provide us with the answer!
In a similar way, when the party arrived on the Rock of Bral, they were directed to meet Krux. There were even passages of text saying if they don’t come to the encounter ‘push them into it!’. Well not those exact words, but you get the idea.
I prefer to have a meeting they need to go to and then ask the party how they are going to progress and then work it into their plans. It would have been interesting to let them discuss and try out various tactics in order to progress. This would have led to some excellent role-playing and some use of skills other than combat. And before you shout at this part of the blog – do read the what I have learnt section below
Mythras is a ruleset where combat is involved and dangerous. Because of this, many times the party will do anything to avoid an encounter. This usually means some excellent role-playing or social skills.
With the module, it appeared to me that the main purpose of the adventure was combat. The majority of the character skills were orientated towards combat and there were several times when combat was the only option. To support this further there was a significant time delay between combats that allowed characters to regain their lost hit points and spells.
I think everyone, including me, was looking forward to the time when I would say roll initiative. This allowed the characters to excel, score those high rolls and pummel most things into the ground!
What have I learnt
Looking back on the adventure, I do think I should have taken a different approach. Rather than following the module precisely, it would have been better if I had added my own style or flare to it. Initially, I didn’t do this because I was not that familiar with the rules. I’m not sure if I had moved away from combat the party would have appreciated it. They seemed to be focused on the amount of damage they could do!
The setting of Spelljammer is something that I would like to explore more. I think the Rock of Bral is a very interesting base of operations and there is plenty of potential there even before the party leaves on a ship!
Jumping into the game with 5th-level characters did make life difficult for me as a DM. Coupled with this was the fact that everyone else appeared to be more of an expert on the rules than I did. I moved away from DnD 5e because of this. The players would be telling me the rules and say what I could or could not do. If I made any suggestions they would say -‘ but in the rules…’
If I ventured into Spelljammer in the future then the characters would start at first level. There are so many supplements to DnD that I would limit their choices to the books I have. I think if I could grow with the characters then I could understand their spells and actions better.
Coupled with this would be me engaging with the rules more. When DMing you need to make decisions and follow them up with clarification later on. Many of the decisions that were made by the players, would be made by me in the future. I would not be slapping on rules left right and centre. More just maintaining the balance between them.
Would I play 5e again? Well, the players appeared to enjoy it so yes I would DM it again. But there would be some limitations and alterations.
I guess it comes back to what kind of DM and adventures they want. I never like campaigns that are heavily based on combat so the role-playing and use of non-combat skills would be increased. I am sure that we could then work together to weave and develop some excellent stories.
Full sail ahead!