So, after roughly sixteen years of hemming-and-hawing, I finally ran my first game of Dungeons and Dragons today. It is, in fact, only the third or fourth time I've been present at a D&D game-- a grievous lapse in my geekery, to be sure. How did it go?
It went okay. At the start of the session, I tried too hard to set a certain atmosphere that ran counter to the rather goofy, rambunctious mood of the players; I also tried too hard to try and get them interacting with each other.
Things got better once they descended into the dungeon-- the Firepalm Mine in question. I made a few pretty questionable lapses in design that only became apparent roughly five seconds before they came into play: among them, the fact that, in giving them the quest to discover what was going on at Firepalm Mine, the mayor of the Firepalm settlement asked them to return with a bag of Firepalm Ore, and that said bag of ore was part of the loot on the body near the entrance to said mine. One of the players tried to convince the others to just go back to town at that point-- which was a nice bit of role-playing on his part that gave the others a foil to bounce off of. I could, I suppose, have just conveniently "forgotten" that that particular piece of loot was on the body, but I figured since it would come in handy in the big fight, it was better to let them find it. Of course, because it was something that was needed to complete the quest, they never took it out of the bag.
Speaking of fights, I had two of them. First, was a tense ambush encounter in which six gnolls (four level one, two level two) close in on the players from two sides, trying to pincher them in. This one was pretty tough, and took up most of the session in resolving. I figured it would be longer but far less challenging than the second encounter, which pit them against three "firedwarfs"-- that is, insane dwarfs who are constantly aflame and catch the players on fire with their melee attacks, made up of two level twos and one level three.
But the players never came close enough to the firedwarfs to be on the receiving end of one of those melee attacks, using a number of ranged attacks to chip away at what I thought were impressive health numbers. The other problem, though, is that I had given the players a custom-made Ritual Scroll just before this final encounter. And while, yes, I totally intended for them to use The Ritual Scroll of Blunderbuss Time, I thought it would give them a little edge in a tough battle. For some reason, it never occurred to me that giving the players two turns in battle for every one of the enemy's turns would make it ridiculously anti-climactic.
So: my enemies weren't tough enough, my loot was too good, and my ability to improvise-- which led to me pulling a last-minute and not-entirely-consistent-with-the-story-clues What-A-Twist finale pretty much out of my ass-- was kinda sucky.
But, the players seemed pretty satisfied with my dungeon-mastering, and everyone seemed to have a lot of fun (even if interest lagged from time-to-time). So, I'm very glad I did it, and I very much look forward to running my next (and hopefully improved) game a fortnight from now.