Weekly GMing – Talky Sessions

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What do you do if you know that the next gaming session is going to be “talky” with little to no chance for combat?

For me this means two very different things in planning for the session. First, there is more opportunity for improve or different directions for the PCs to take, including that most hated/loved option – split the party. Talking doesn’t normally require all the characters to be present, so they can divide and “conquer” the encounters. I normally have all the discussions in the open, so everyone has the illusion of participating. Second, combat encounters take a lot of time, so no combat encounters means more prep because the players will accomplish more (or at least interact with more NPCs). Looking over my notes, there were more interactions with a larger variety of factions and people because we never dropped into initiative based combat.

One of the most serious downfalls of a “talky” session is it doesn’t offer the combat monsters much to do. I have at least one player that comes to gaming to fight and otherwise he’s distracted. I understand this. I’m the same way sometimes – a bad day (or week) at work and I’m ready for a session of wading through bad guys with a sword in my hand and a war cry on my lips. My solution is to focus on the player with something unexpected. In this case I had one of the NPCs become infatuated with him (who knew tieflings had a thing for hulking barbarians – or do they – stay tuned). This let the player play out some fun stereotypical actions/dialogue and keeps them interested in the session. Lots of similar options like this – bar patron encounters, intimidating villainous peons, even shopping for magic items.

One of the coolest things about a talky session for me is the opportunity for improve. Just letting the players talk takes your game in many unexpected places. As the GM, I need to know what’s happening in the background, and the motivations of the NPCs. After that, the PCs intrude and make comments, decisions, interruptions at their discretion. In the last session, I had to make up one bar, at least three NPCs, and two plot twists that I thought would be added later. It was awesome.

Some DMs say that their chance to play (their fun) is in the prep before the game. I don’t entirely disagree, but I really enjoy the time during the game when I have to think on my feet.

So talky sessions can be fun once in awhile. Stretch your improve chops. Make you and your players do unexpected things. Swords and bloodshed are inevitable, they just don’t have to always be the focus.

Sidenote:

I filled out a questionnaire/survey for Sly Flourish (slyflourish.com) about prepping and running games in DnD 5e. It is an honor to be included with such a great group of DMs. Please take a look and check out the survey link in the article.

 

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Spoilers

No surprise, a talking session.

The party got involved in a few different “opportunities”.

Zhentarim – Mel (the greatest thief ever) went looking for some equipment improvements and found a representative of the Zhentarim. He worked out a deal for stuff in exchange for future favors. It may have helped that the rep is now infatuated with Gratch the barbarian.

Sir Istval – Sorrow found that he is organizing troops for battle. He may not have the full support of the council yet, but better to be prepared.

Order of the Gauntlet – They are missingĀ  a paladin – to the Dark Kitten. They also provided confirmation on a Varam sighting (see below).

Lady Silverhand – Starting to be less cautious. Sending the characters after Varam (again see below). Has a new aide/guest.

Santana – A beautiful human woman (the most beautiful woman ever?) with a transformation enchantment. PCs think she is a dragon.

Harpers – brought the information about a sighting of Varam (White Dragon Mask wearer of the Dragon Cult). He was seen in a remote section of the Sword Coast with a small entourage – and no dragon.

Elves – Met with the Prince. He appears in over his head and doesn’t have much information to add – whether willingly or not.

Next week – a trip to the Black Kitten? And the pursuit of Varam.

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