The latest session with the boys went better. I am still figuring out the best ways to run a night that keeps them focused on the game, but is fun for me. I added some tools, getting a game mat so I could more effectively use figures again. I created a more fast paced night, with plenty of fighting and less dramatic interaction. I think it went well, and my informal poll of 2 of the players seemed to indicate that they enjoyed it as well. I just need to learn how to better handle Threat/Challenge ratings.
The obstacle is that at the level the characters are at now is like little scorpions or other insects. They are tough, with hard shells, and can dish out more damage than you think. But if you crack the shells they are pretty soft and squishy, and go down easy ( I put the halfling down in 2 different combats and the paladin went down too.) They just haven’t gotten tough enough to handle anything truly big, because the damage such monsters deal out, along with advantages to hit, that they would kill the party real quick.
This is one of those things I forgot about D & D. I am more used to ‘realistic’ systems like GURPS or Savage Worlds, where the starting characters don’t change a lot after the initial creation. In those systems you rarely have to cope with bad guys hitting much, or doing enough damage when they do to bother the players. I know it is possible to play those systems like that, but none of the people I have played with did so.
So it becomes a matter of learning to understand Threat or Challenge level. And then how to play the monster correctly, without giving too much away. Of course the fun part of D&D is that you can escalate the challenge rating as the party gets tougher.
‘Oh you all have magic weapons now? And high armor class? You think you are tough? Well let’s see how you cope with some nasty undead, or a bigger monster!’
Of course these kids are still learning, so they don’t really know how to help themselves yet. So there is some teaching. Like how potent the ‘Bless’ spell is, that just because the spell doesn’t do direct damage doesn’t mean it isn’t helpful in combat. Maybe a little training session next time before they start playing. We will see how it goes. I have already begun my planning, and it will be a whole new range and style of monsters.