Hole in the Oak, season 2
Alright, so I've started DMing for a bunch of newbies. I'm running them through Hole in the Oak, and I have some thoughts on that dungeon re: new players, but let's just quickly run through the cast (we're running with 5 torches deep, and I must say I am *not* a fan):
Thief/Assassin-wannabe. Parents tragically murdered. Outsider. Look, we all know the drill. We've heard this character countless times before. The player has played him before, too -- in the group's last campaign, even. Okay.
Halfling Zealot. Worships a duck god. "A bit silly." It's fine; I don't demand much from level 1 characters; it'll get fleshed out in time.
Mage. Lacks any kind of character, which is also fine.
I actually forgot their name, but it's another unremarkable character.
Aaaaand... action! (2 sessions)
(Oh yeah, and Oak spoilers from here on out, obvs)
The group starts at the Oak. Nobody brought torches. Mage and Zealot figure out that they can just use the "Illuminate" cantrip and sure, why not. If they continue with it, I'll start demanding concentration rolls with a failure meaning they can't use the cantrip again for an hour. I don't care that much, but the idea behind 5TD is basically "resource management" and if you sidestep that with a thing that exists on your character sheet I don't really see it as a win. But for now, whatever.
Group heads to the carpet hiding a teleportation circle. Adrian decides to check out the passage leading directly north. I ask if they just walk straight across to the other opening, which they do. Adrian is now elsewhere. Rest of the group faff about a little bit, then follow him through. Nobody knows where they are any longer so that's great (is it?).
Group checks out the room with stone seats arranged in a circle, and spends about half an hour of playtime there. Then they move west (toward bat cave). They try to force the door to the gnomes open, but the thief is weak af and the door isn't cooperating; the gnomes tell them to buzz off, they don't want any kind of shifty ppl mucking about.
The ask the moss faces for secrets, and learn that there's treasure at the beach. They then head to the faun's reception room, ring the bell, and a few of them drink the tea. Adrian falls asleep and Tomas pretends to sleep. The unnamed warrior asks what the hell is going on, but Ramius just laughs and says that they can either leave without their friends, alive, or they too can end up in a stew. The warrior refuses, but gets stabbed to 0 hp (from 3, so I mean... yeah) by Ramius's wives. Selina, having stayed passive, trades some of her blood for Adrian and carries the halfling away, leaving Tomas and Unnamed Warrior to the tender mercies of the fauns. Tomas tries to run away, but the fauns catches him fairly easy. Sucks to be Tomas.
Session over. I tell the players that they might want to roll up new characters, but Tomas's player refuses, he'd rather hope for the best.
New session begins with Adrian and Selina making plans. The Unnamed Warrior player makes a new character, a dwarf warrior named Thorin. Adrian and Selina makes their way back to the moss faces, then head north toward the Hall of Kings (iirc it's named that? I'm writing this from memory, without a map). They find a dwarf warrior where the body/trap would be, and Adrian decides "oh hell naw, we aint going that direction" because someone or something attacked the dwarf with a sleeping dart. That ought to teach me to never assume anything. Anyway, the dwarf apparently drank too much the day before, made a bet with someone, and somehow ended up down here and no, he has no idea how to get out either.
The group heads back toward the glowing moss/moss faces area, then head west to the roots. They look at the roots, then decide "I guess the way is blocked" and head back towards the gnomes. They ask the grumpy gnomes for the way out, and the gnomes, figuring that they can catch two flies or whatever, tell them that if they get rid of the ogre for them, they'll gladly help them find their way out. The group decides that that sounds too dangerous, and decide to instead check out the other painted doors (area 35). They see the fire beetles, decide that that's not something they want to poke at either, and head through the bull door instead.
Adrian spots something lodged inside one of the holes in the passage leading to the lizard shrine/altar, but decides not to chance anything. Adrian is very much paranoid right now, and only wants out. They pass through the lizard shrine, find the beach and dig around a bit (17 silver! the group decides to split the treasure between them). They then make their way to the gnome fishing beach -- there are no gnomes there -- and eventually find the fish shop. They're offered to be led through the gnomes' homes, blindfolded, and pointed toward where the ogre lives (word among the gnomes has spread that there are adventurers that might deal with the ogre somewhere in the Oak, and so the gnomes in the fish shop are aware of the offer), but the group declines -- they don't trust no gnomes. At this point about 10 hours have passed since they left the faun's place, in total.
They head back towards the bull door, but run into the ogre on the way. He's in a bad mood, but some quick thinking has Adrian offering a gnome to him if he helps them find their way out. That sounds like a good deal to the ogre, and the group sets up an ambush in the "HAIL KEZEK etc etc" room (the oval room between the fish shop and the lizard altar, I can't remember the number).
The players are having fun, at least, but damn they're... new, to this. I don't think Oak is a good starter dungeon for new players. I think it's an amazing starter dungeon for people new to OSR, but I don't think that it's a newbie dungeon. I'll write more about this later. Next session is on Thursday, so that's not too far away.
I think I need to change how I run the dungeon. Like, it feels like they've been blocked by all my ideas, but at the same time I'm not the one that planted the idea that someone hit the dwarf with a sleeping dart. I even pressed the fact that it was a trap that did it. But what's happened is that the players have, voluntarily, removed an exit from their loop. They also didn't bother to check the roots, they just assumed they're impassable. That's definitely on me. Better descriptions.
I think that they're very used to getting the story and what they can do handed to them. I've been keeping quiet because I want them to appreciate that they can do whatever they can imagine, but perhaps that's not working? I'll talk a little with them before next session.
Another issue is that one of the players is super shy (or just bad at talking, that's an option too). Like, can barely talk. I don't know what to do about that. I don't want that to be why he's not finding RPGs fun. I'll ask him in a private message, I guess.