Dungeon Masters: Know Your Enemies
Photo Credit Wizards of the Coast
I’ve been playing Dungeons and Dragons for nearly 13 years. I started with 3.5 Edition as a player, played a little bit in 4th Edition before realizing that about one in five players ends up being the Dungeon Master and my other four friends were not going to be it. So, I DM’d through most of 4th Edition and in the past year finally made the switch to 5th Edition. Even now after two campaigns and nearly 60 sessions I don’t always feel like I have a handle on 5th Edition the way I did on 4th Edition. A recent session taught me a very important lesson one that I’m a little embarrassed about given how easily I nearly made a mistake. It’s also a bit humbling to realize you’re not always going to know everything and there’s always room to learn.
So let me set the stage! I was in a hobby shop a few months ago and found a pack of creature cards by Wizards of the Coast. Over 70 thick, laminated cards with stat blocks, abilities and a cool illustration on the front. They ranged from challenge rating 5 to 17 but I don’t play in person so I wasn’t sure how useful I could make them. I decided to craft an encounter around these and came up with a coliseum event that would see the party pitted against one to three random enemies depending on what they thought they could handle. The more enemies they faced, the better their rewards.
They wanted to take on the maximum challenge of three creatures and so I had them roll some dice to see what they would end fighting against. They rolled up a Green Slaad, a Frost Giant and a Drow Mage, a relatively easy encounter based on what they could have got but still by challenge rating considered a deadly encounter. The Sorcerer came in clutch during this fight with a Polymorph on the Frost Giant and they dispatched the Green Slaad easily. To my surprise it was the 45 Hit Point Drow Mage that ended up giving them the most trouble and it’s all because of Matt Mercer from Critical Role.
When I drew the Drow Mage and saw his small Hit Point pool I was a bit disappointed, one or two good hits from our Paladin or Fighter would probably have taken him down. However, the week prior to this on Critical Role Matt Mercer’s famous magic shop keeper Pumat Sol used Greater Invisibility which unlike normal Invisibility allows you to stay invisible even after you’ve performed an action. When you look at the Greater Invisibility spell it doesn’t actually state that you stay invisible, it takes into account that you know the rules of normal invisibility which states that when you perform an action or cast a spell the invisibility drops. Greater Invisibility doesn’t state this, so at first when I was reading the Greater Invisibility spell I wasn’t readily aware of that difference and had I not realize how it properly worked from Critical Role would’ve elected not to use and the Drow Mage would’ve died quick and easy.
Instead, he ran around for nearly 6 rounds casting Lightning Bolt on an increasingly frustrated party of adventurers that did not know how to deal with him. The Sorcerer in his fit of rage even Fireballed the Fighter trying to find the Drow Mage. Finally through a clever use of Detect Thoughts and Detect Magic the party was able to locate the mage in a weird Battleship-type strategy and win the day. It’s an encounter the party won’t soon forget.
There’s also a lesson I won’t soon forget that’s to always make sure you know what enemies you’re using against your party. Also, there’s always room to learn and even as a Dungeon Master you don’t know everything.
You can also check out Robbie’s Dungeon and Dragon campaign 2d6 Emotional Damage by following CheckpointXP’s Twitch Channel and tuning in on Monday nights at 8:30pm EST.