About a year ago, I made friends with a small group of D&D players on Roll20. We would play once every other week on the weekend, and we were all having fun – however I made an offer to DM my own campaign one week, while the other guy DM’d on the normal schedule. That way we’d be able to have some D&D every day. They were all like ‘Oh sure, we can do that’ and I was super excited. I was still fairly new to D&D as a player, but I’ve seen the campaigns made by Critical Role, The Unexpectables and TFS At the Table, so I felt like I had a good grasp of what people would want from a D&D campaign.
I built the setting to be very interesting – basically its a world that was colonized by people that traveled through a magical gateway from one world to another – but when the Gateway mysterious shut off, it cut the people off from their home empires. So the campaign was going to focus on discovering why the gateway shut down, and what was so strange about this world that many had begun to call home. Everyone rolled their characters – I had everyone start at Level 3 so they can beef up their backstories and have their archetypes. We had a Human Rogue, a Changeling Warlock/Rogue, a Half-Elf Warlock, Human Fighter, and a Centaur Barbarian. Of course there is the problem that no one was a healer, but I had a plan to fix that.
So session one: the group arrives to the first town – the Changeling (named Nix) was part of a Traveling Circus, with the Centaur Barbarian Odysstros and fighter Avos acting as guards. After meeting with the rest of the group, they went into town where they eventually met with the mayor of the town who had a job for them to help keep the town safe for the circus. Goblins have been sighted, and he wanted them to figure out where they were coming from. The group accepted, and went to town to gather up supplies and local info.
Going into town, I decide to help my players by putting in a simple Cleric DMPC, along with having the local general store overstocked with standard healing potions. This was to make-up for the fact they didn’t have a dedicated healer in the group. THe visit with the Cleric went good, but when she offered to join the group, the human Rogue (let’s call him Rick) convinces her to stay in town to help the people – and with a high roll on persuasion, convinces her. As the DM I was thinking: “Okay, they didn’t take the Cleric… but, they bought a bunch of healing potions – so they’ll be fine.”
So they go off to find the source of the Goblins – though they now have a bonus objective, because the Cleric (named Siri) asked them to find her friend, a Tiefling Ranger named Mel. On their way, they come across a sight of a Goblin raid, where they themselves are attack by mixture of Goblins, Hobgoblins and Bugbears. Battle goes… kinda good, though Rick gets pummeled in Close Combat and nearly dies – but is saved. Out of character, we were kinda laughing because I outright told them I made Siri specifically to support the party with healing spells, and they decided not to bring her. We all laugh at that though, so I think we’re still doing good.
So the party continues forward, and they quickly come across a large war camp that is hosted by Goblinoids and Orcs. Now, I set this encounter up SPECIFICALLY as a stealth encounter – because our Changeling Nix is equipped with a set of Glamored Studded Leather armor (I let everyone choose one Rare magical item as a starting item) which allows him to get the appearance of any form of armor, uniform or clothing. So in my head as the DM, I figured that Nix would use this chance to shine to help sew seeds of chaos in the war camp, as the Half-Elf warlock used her own invisibility and stealth skills to help him out, and clear a path for everyone to sneak in.
…this is not how things went at all.
Our Centaur Barbarian just decides to go out on his own – and pretty much charges a group of Goblinoids that were isolated from the rest of the group. I sigh, and tell them to roll initiative. I was confident that they were going to get themselves killed – I had placed like dozens of enemies in here, and I figured there was no way they could kill them all… unfortunately (or fortunitally) the dice gods were not on my side – as the enemies rolled poorly, and the Warlocks were pretty much setting the whole camp on fire burning Goblins and Orcs alike inside the tents – and used illusion spells to create the illusion that a herd of Centaurs were attacking by making the Goblinoid’s own horses look like more Centaurs. It was complete anarchy, but… they succeed in routing them, and saving the Tiefling Mel. However they discover that there is a cave that the Goblins and Orcs seemed to be guarding – and so they decided to enter their first Dungeon.
Now at first, the Dungeon encounter was simple enough – again, I was expecting some level of stealth here. There was a large door that they are confronted with, with two passag ways to the east and west. First, they went east… or rather, the Barbarian went east first – and kicked in the first door he saw…and do you remember that scene in Star Wars where Han Solo barges into a room full of Stormtroopers? Think that, only with a room full of Goblinoids and Orcs having lunch, only to stop and see the Centaur that had rudely disturbed them.
Initiative time again – as Oddy starts running back with a horde of Goblins chasing after him. However Rick has other plans. Now, I’d like to inform everyone: Rick is the original DM of the other campaign we were in. He had more experience than I did in D&D, so I respected him and what he did and assumed he would play fair… however he pulled a fast one one me, as he made it so on his character sheet was a scroll of Fireball. He said he did it to see if I would ‘pay attention’ to what he put down onto his sheet.
At first I was angry, but then I reasoned ‘Yeah, I probably should of looked at his sheet more carefully’. So as a form of punishing my own ignorance, I allowed him to cast the spell – dealing massive damage and causing a whole corridor to collapse, cutting them off from the attackers… for now. SO the part decides to go the other route – where they fight an Ogre, and find a Necromancer’s note about summoning an entity relating to some undead deity I was planning to become the BBEG of the campaign, but as they push through… at one point, Rick pretty much said ‘screw this crap, I’m out’ as his character decides he isn’t being paid enough for this and up and leaves – complaining that they haven’t found any viable loot for all their troubles. Then the goblins came back from another passage, and the party decides to GTFO and just blow up the exit.
This all took part over the course of two sessions – and by then Rick’s Player had decided that his character wasn’t enough – and needed a new player that would be able to help the party more. Originally he wanted a Loxodon Cleric, and I was like ‘okay sure’. But then he said he wanted to multiclass him into something else from Unearthed Arcana. It wasn’t a class available on D&D Beyond (which I used as my go-to source for D&D stuff), but I decided ‘Ya know what? Sure – we were all friends. What’s the worse that could happen?’
The class he picked… was the Mystic Class. And over the course of the next few sessions, I learned just how Overpowering these guys were.
Now by this point, everyone was Level 5 – I had leveled them up to Level 4 after their first Goblin encounter, and then again after they escaped the dungeon. Looking back, I might of been too hasty with my decision to do that. But anyways everything was going on as normal – we introduced a new PC as a Minotaur Barbarian named Stronk, but she was only able to play one session, and couldn’t come back for the next session. But basically… this is where things began to take a turn for the worst.
You see, the Goblins were never stopped in their ritual – and succeeded in summoning a Lich, which caused the whole mountain to explode as the Lich left to gather the other ‘Lich Lords’ to help summon their dark master. Obviously the town mayer – who had paid the group to handle the issue – was pissed. So he sent people into town to gather everyone involved. I was hoping everyone would come willingly… but I learned the hard way that PC’s don’t exactly do what you expect them to. So I felt like I was forced to pull out mages to cast Hold Person on them to force them into jail. Looking back, I fear that this was the moment that sorta turned them against me – because later they would say I was being too ‘railroady’, which I guess I was.
But anyways, everyone is captured except for Nix – who managed to stealth away, and planned to sneak in to free the others. Meanwhile, the head priest of the local church decides to help free the group – having received a vision about what was about to happen – as a horde of Zombies attack the town. The group make their escape, told to head for the church where they would be safe. At this point however, half of the party decided they didn’t want to play anymore – since they felt I was being to railroady. I hated being called that, but I guess I was. But the Loxodon Mystic and the Centaur Barbarian still wanted to play, and they went on a killing spree of Zombies, Skeletons and Wights. Its here that I learn just how Overpowering a Mystic an be, with a huge reserve of Psi points.
Eventually, they’ve killed all the Zombies – but they need to get to the Church, so I incentivise them to leave by sending a Zombie Beholder to attack them, scare them into leaving… but Rick decides ‘Hope – Imma fight that Zombie Beholder’. Now I groaned, as I didn’t want to kill his PC, but I go with it. I figure after a few rounds he will turn tail and leave with the Barbarian… but then I learn just how stupid overpowered Mystics are as he kills the Beholder before it can even have its turn. ANd I am just sitting there agape going ‘…how did I allow this broken class into my game?’
After that disaster, half of the group just up and quit not just my game, but Rick’s game as well. I felt like absolute crap afterwards – as I felt like i killed their interest in D&D. I messaged about it on some Facebook forums about what to do, and where I went wrong – but Rick was also in those forums, and said I was an inconsiderate piece of crap when I called him and the Centuar ‘Murder Hobos’ which I probably shouldn’t of called them that. After making up, I decide to push on the campaign with the two players, plus a new third player – a good friend of mine who is a veteran D&D player, and is the guy who got me interested in D&D in the first place. He joined as a Rune Knight Fighter Earth Genasi.
So the encounter happens after the whole ‘Zombie’ thing, where Rick’s Loxodon manages to escape, but ends up separated from the others. This resulting in him meeting my friend’s PC, and the new PC that the Centaur player created because he realized his original character was causing more problems than solving them. At this point everyone was level 6 (yes, I know – I’m handing out level ups like candy, it was my first campaign – and I figured after killing a Beholder, they deserved a level up), they went to follow up on a quest to kill a pack of Gnolls nearby.
They go in, and things go about as well as I expected… that being our Loxodon Mystic almost soloing the entire encounter with his Psi points, and causing peoples heads to explode. However, I had created a contingency plan: the cave was an entrance to a new dungeon, owned by Duregar that were enslaved by a Mind Flayer, which controlled a swarm of Intellect Devourers. It was my idea that this would help ‘nerf’ Rick’s character a bit and provide him with a challenge… however the moment he saw the first Intellect Devourer, he decided ‘nope’ and turned around and left the cave.
That was the last session of my campaign – since at that point I didn’t know where to go, and his Mystic was just so overpowered I didn’t know what else I could throw at him. I was so angry about it, that I was plotting to have his Mystic be forced to go 1v1 on a Tarrasque, but I decided to just cancel my campaign before I did something terrible, and scrapped it – to make a new one. We did play a few more games together in campaigns of my design… but recently we sorta grew apart due to political reasons, which is a shame. However I also learned that apparently there was a lot of behind the scenes drama I didn’t know about – I even contacted the PC’s that left, and learned that the half-elf and human’s players moved out of Rick’s house due to ‘issues’. And thankfully they still play D&D to this day, and I hope to DM for them sometime in the future.
Now I still DM for a totally new group now – though my veteran D&D friend joined me as well, and we all play together, and I do everything in my power to avoid what happened to my first campaign.