Caught in Galen Lessons: Sessions 13-15

We’re almost on track with the Caught in Galen campaign! Next week is session 19; this article reviews and explores the lessons learned and best moments of sessions 13-15. From explosive combats at a lovely little inn and player character robberies, to untimely death in a sewer pit and incredible revelations for major plot points, this stretch of Caught in Galen was extremely satisfying to run. Observing the players pit their characters against near impossible foes, overcome them, and then use the information they gleaned from those encounters is gratifying.

Introducing BARDCORE

Session thirteen started at the party’s home base, the Faded Ember Inn, as they waited for an important arrival. Sitting in the main room of the establishment, a popular band of their community ascended the newly-built stage to perform their greatest hits in front of an excited audience. You see, the Faded Ember Inn had been closed for almost a week and a half due to a fire beetle infestation and constant visits from iconic individuals; now was the time to jam out and make some profit for its fire genasi owners. The band introduced themselves and began their music as I, outside the game, started a playlist over the speakers we use during D&D. A few days before that session, I discovered bardcore, a genre of music that remixes today’s songs as performances by bards from medieval times. As song after song played, a battle raged in the inn, the party’s enjoyment of the music only deepened.

What can we learn? Unconventional music, even from our own era, can greatly enhance a D&D game, but truly, you should always use background music during your games! Use a speaker set or an iHome to play music during your sessions. It adds to the atmosphere, from lovely, relaxing music during overland travel, to rambunctious, discomforting music during intense action sequences. Be wary with your music management though; sweet & calm music can take away from exciting battles.

Turning Point

At the end of last session, the party discovered that one of their members, Flux, had been kidnapped and taken below the city. Finally, they were ready to head into the sewers. A plethora of sessions had passed between the first time they were going to delve below and the current. At first, they were too scared to go below. Then, others things popped into their heads that they thought they had to go and chase. All the while, the villain of the chapter continued to build their plans, piece by piece. Time was passing as they pursued these other ends through various means. Nonetheless, they all knew the true threat was buried beneath them, below the sewers and in the place known as the Jungle. No matter how I hinted toward these actions being taken or how I prodded them toward this place, they went after other quests; finally, when one of their own had been taken below, they decided to descend into the depths. Sometimes, that’s what you need to do to progress…

Is there a lesson here? I think so. Inaction can be a problem in D&D. The party may believe the path forward is too dangerous to pursue, so they go after other things in the world. That’s fine. I run my games like a sandbox: the party can do whatever they want, but the central tension continues to intensify and the villains they know about all too well continue to build on their plans and machinations. Sometimes, characters must be prodded into action gently; if that doesn’t work, force their hand. Alert them that if they do not act, there will be extreme consequences.

To Dust

After saving their party member in the last session, the party were faced with the opportunity to fight one of their primary antagonists, all of them against her and her alone. However, this pit the party against each other; some believed they should retreat to the surface, that they beholder-like being barreling toward them would be too strong for them to overcome. Others thought they should stand and fight, that this was their chance to eliminate a major opponent. After plenty of debate, they decided to battle this creature they fully knew was of extreme power. As they prepared the field of battle, they gained an ally — an old friend — and waited for the creature: Ixigana. The beholder-like expurgat blasted through the floor using her disintegration ray and fought the party. The battle was close and saw the disintegration of one of the party members. Alas, he was the main proponent to stay behind and fight; the battle was won and he was avenged, but he was dead. This traumatic death became the centerpiece the rest of the session. His leftovers — dust — scattered over an ally, party members enraged against the enemy, and people needed to be told of his demise (of import was a dear friend of the deceased, it was a touching moment). We need not explore the revelation that was made out of character because of his death: the trapping of all souls in the city.

This one is easy. Make death impactful in D&D. The demise of a character should be a memorable moment and it should deeply affect the campaign and the characters. Do not drag out the death, but reinforce the fact that the character was a part of the world and meant something to the creatures in it.

Up Next

The last few sessions of Caught in Galen were eventful. I am excited to explore them each with all of you as we continue to catch up to this D&D campaign of epic proportions.

Until next time, stay creative!

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Art credit, in order: Monster Manual (WOTC).

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