Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The a-ha moment

This past Monday my youngest son told me that the Back to D&D Basics campaign session from the previous night was his favorite to date. When asked why he responded that he had an a-ha and suddenly knew how to play his cleric.

Up to now, my 11 year-old has preferred fighter types when he played D&D he would charge into battle and hack and slash through the enemies. His favorite character to date is his Warforged fighter from my oldest son's Eberron campaign. But when we rolled up characters for Back to D&D Basics his stats seemed to lean toward being a cleric. So that's what he became.

During his rise through the first 4 levels he was lamenting various aspects of his character: no spells at first level, only healing and protective type spells, and (the most troublesome) no edged weapons. He frequently tried to push his way to the front of the battle, but was often relegated to the back because the dwarf and elf had the first rank covered. His sling stone attacked missed more often than it hit.

He had great difficulty in seeing what he was bringing to the party. He didn't see how his curative spells let the party adventure longer. He had picked up a magic mace from a Chaotic cleric that drained levels. I informed him that use of that ability would cause him to move away from Neutrality and toward the alignment of Chaotic. This frustrated him so much that last session I offered to let him roll up a fighter to swap out for the cleric.

But then they had an encounter with a captured hobgoblin. His cleric was the only one who spoke that language, but my son did not feel confident that he would ask the right questions, so the player of the dwarf offered to ask the questions to have my son's cleric repeat it in hobgoblin.

This could have been hand-waved and let the dwarf's player ask the hobgoblin (me) the questions and my son would not have had to do anything, but instead I said this (or something to this effect):

If you repeat the question exactly as the dwarf said then just nod your head, but if you want to ask anything different then ask your question. Once the hobgoblin answers, if you repeat it exactly as he says just nod your head, but if you want to say something different say what your character says.
The group suggested passing notes, but I didn't want to slow things down. I reminded the players to not let their knowledge of what was transpiring affect anything their characters did. So off we went.

The dwarf said:

If you answer our questions honestly we'll free you as long as you promise to never return here. If not, we will slay you as we did your chieftain.
The cleric said:

If you answer our questions honestly we'll free you as long as you promise to never return here. If not, we will slay you as we did your chieftain which will make my god cry.
Wow. I didn't want to disrupt the flow of play, but internally I was taken aback by his modification. Questioning continued and the cleric took charge of the hobgoblin prisoner. As the hobgoblin started leading the party through their cave complex they encountered more hobgoblin guards.

The cleric stepped up with his prisoner and told them that their chieftain was dead and the party was willing to let them leave peacefully if they promised never to return. I decided to let the hobgoblins' reaction be decided by a roll. The first roll indicated that the would not attack but that they would growl and wait one round to hear what the cleric had to say. Also the next reaction roll would be at -4.

The cleric spoke to try to discourage the hobgoblins from attacking. I changed the modifier to -2 to show that his talk had some effect and then I rolled the dice. With the modifier the result was a 2 which indicated the hobgoblins attack.The hobgoblins won initiative and opened fire on the party with crossbows. Two bolts found their home in the captured hobgoblin's chest. He fell dead to the floor and the cleric was crest fallen as the fighters of the group rushed past him.

This was his a-ha moment. He knew how to play his cleric now. I don't think we'll need to roll up a new character for him and I can't wait to see what he does next time we play. I'm so pleased I got to see this moment first-hand.

Follow Your Bliss,


  1. It's hard to describe how cool that moment was so I hope this came close. He's also been a bit of an inspiration as far as GMing goes. I'll be posting about that soon too.