The two groups collide and fight with each other against evil water spirits in a daring boat battle. At the same time I struggle with issues of leveling and time consuming battles. This blog will address these issues and possible solutions.
Previously, both of the RPG groups of three were on their way to the Pure City by way of barge. One barge was passing the other due to the impatience of the barge boss (as he was so aptly renamed by the players). As the boat holding the paladin, fighter, and druid passed the other barge it was ambushed by a group of mischievous merrow. Although, these merrow were a bit less mischievous and much more blood thirsty.
The beginning of the fight was not so bad until people started getting harpooned and pulled towards the merrow whom would then gang up on the poor unsuspecting player. Thomas and his Paladin wiped the floor with a few using his smite and Matt’s gnome fighter flew off to get help (aka ran away).
The other boat tried to decipher what was happening on the other boat when the meek wizard Halfling was knocked overboard by a rather strangely out of place wave. He then proceeded to be strangled and drowned half to death by a water weird as the rest of his fellow companions were also set upon by merrow.
At this point the battle looked really bad… and I was beginning to realize an issue with my combat design. In order to level up the group before the next part of the campaign, I had to force shove monsters down their throat that were of more power than they could handle. But when you have a group of 6 which is inconvenient for monster power planning, and you need a quick level up, sometimes you have to risk sacrificing a few players.
This got me thinking though. For story based campaigns, unless your only versing monsters the entire time it is really difficult to level characters up based on experience from monsters. A much more direct version is just a level per session. But then you also run into an issue with people feeling like they are not earning their levels.
So, how I decided to get around this was to assign experience points to specific actions, such as uncovering a plot point, performing actions that aid or hurt the party, and developing your character. While this method sometimes is ambiguous and creates a bit of an uneven balance between the levels of characters in the group, it does fill in the gaps of monster battles.
Finishing off the battle, the Halfling was saved by the dragonborn barbarian. Kyro, the same dragonborn, then saved everyone else by using a magical item he had picked up. The items allows the owner to release a being from another plane whom will then aid the characters for 1 hour. The item also allows you to capture being from other planes and use them later. Essentially, it is a pokeball.
The other barge had taken serious damage and the paladin and druid moved onto the other barge and introduced themselves, soon figuring out they were heading to the city for the same reasons. Due to the bonds of battle, they decided to work together and pool information about the dark cult.
In the next step of the adventure, the entire party of six arrives in the gleaming white city and finds out the hard way how the city feels towards dragonborn. Others run into NPCs from past quests and the mystery of the dark cult unravels further.