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Caught in Galen Lessons: Sessions 5-8

Art from Volo's Guide to Monsters.

The Caught in Galen campaign has been going strong. Next week is its eighteenth session; I last spoke about it after session four! We have a lot to catch up on and a plethora of topics to discuss. Over the past few months, there has been battles in warehouses slicked with oil, interrogations of blathering white dragonborn, realizations about traitorous dwarves and scheming nobles, deadly combats inside shattered temples, brief excursions into the sewers beneath Galen, and much, much more. Let’s discuss and dissect the best parts of sessions five through eight, and see what we can learn.

Beggaton is Forged

An awesome moment of collaboration between me and the player of Jason Urso resulted in the creation of Beggaton. Once called the Beggar’s Town, now shortened to Beggaton, this slum in the community of Vorici’s Rest is where the impoverished and somewhat kooky magewrights gather to live as one and try to survive the madness surrounding them. Jason’s character has a history in the city, and knows its streets quite well, so when he needed a fast way to a certain location, we forged Beggaton. What ensued was a quick romp through a cast of colorful characters, only one of which was developed. Nonetheless, now this region exists in Galen and can be visited and built upon for many sessions to come!

What's the lesson? Collaborate with your players. The best time to do this isn't before the campaign begins or before a certain session: it's during gameplay! While everyone is wild around the table, minds turning, is when the greatest spurts of creativity leap from us. Don't let them go to waste.

Crates, Oil, and Combat

The first large combat of the campaign was set in the basement of a warehouse held by a corrupted gang. It started on a ramp slicked with oil and ended in a large room filled with stacked crates that formed barricades and small towers. The enclosed, trap-laden area forced the party to innovate and led to a few hijinks. Luna tried to clear the oil with prestidigitation, but much of the party ended up sliding down the oiled ramp to rush into the fray. Jason Urso used his whip to catch a torch flung at the oil, stopping it from being lit on fire. Ignis maneuvered onto the crate stacks with his wings and flung halflings and elves to the ground. I think the mix of barrels, oil, and chance for flame made the encounter exciting, and had my players critically thinking until their victory.

What should be learned from this? Always give your combats multiple parts. Sure, when you first begin running D&D, basic encounters with 6 goblins, an open field, and the party may suffice; soon after, though, you'll want to incorporate more elements. Add environmental factors. Give your enemies character. Pepper the encounter with secondary objectives.

A Warforged Ally

Deep in that same warehouse, the party made an ally out of an enemy. Instead of killing the poor warforged, they incapacitated and spoke to him calmly. He explained he was only here because of the coin, and wasn’t actually involved in the death of anyone. He simply made killers; he was an artificer who forged iron defenders. The party decided to convince him to come with them to their home base, the Faded Ember Inn, and start making a few iron defenders to protect the things they treasure. In addition, the warforged (named Blast) helped Luna learn a special type of sleep spell: it only worked on constructs!

What can be gleaned from this? Not all enemies need to be evil; in fact, they can become allies.

The Traitor Discovered

In a session that centered around meeting the entirety of one of the noble houses in Galen, House Coresaw, the party discovered a traitor in the family. I knew he was a traitor the entire time and while a few hints had flown their way, I never expected the reveal to occur in front of his entire family and to materialize so rapidly. Really, it was a flurry of events and an act of pure genius by the players and their characters. Using a combination of clever roleplaying, spectacular insight, touching the traitor’s buttons in the right way, and a perfect usage of zone of truth, they routed this traitor and sent him into the custody of Galen’s elite guard: the Eldritch Knights. Every moment their case built and built, with and without my help. They did a great job. The full scene was so beloved by me I gave the entire party inspiration after it.

How can you use this in your games? Go with the flow. Even if you planned for a key piece of information to be revealed far later in your campaign, let it escape early. If the characters are clever enough to figure it out, reward them.

Next Up with Caught in Galen

Soon, I’ll return and recount the remainder of the sessions so that we can catch up to the live campaign. Until then, check out the Caught in Galen Campaign Compendium. It’s a living document that recounts every session and every NPC in the campaign.

Until next time, stay creative!

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