…That’s what I called the skill challenge, anyway (in my notes!). This challenge went pretty well, all things considered. I had no idea how well the idea would be received when I announced it, since I’ve only run a handful of Fourth Edition games before, with varying degrees of success. I’ve had people who, during a skill challenge, just announce that they’re performing the same task over and over again… others really get into it.

I was really glad when one of the players suggested escaping through the ceiling. I’d been really careful to drop the hint that “you can see the room above you” when I described the ceiling collapsing in. I don’t know if my description helped, maybe I’m giving myself too much credit, but it always feels like I’m doing something right when a player makes a declarative statement about the game world (“we can go through the ceiling”) that agrees with my description, rather than breaking character to ask if something is possible.

Had I intended the characters exit via the ceiling? More than intending it, I was simply anticipating it. Based on the “pentagon design” I’d made for this particular group of encounters, the Arcane Lock was supposed to be difficult, but doable. If the players really wanted to make it happen, it was within their means. They chose another path, which isn’t railroading, it’s merely realistic expectation.

I’m curious, though, how easy it is to anticipate decision points like this one with the Arcane Lock: if the players know about it, can they take advantage of it? Can they second-guess me in a way that defeats the game? Ultimately, I think the answer to that is no, because I’ve designed the encounters to be mostly non-linear. They happen when they happen, and only when the players want them to happen (or cause them to happen).

Pursuing a particular chain of events might grant the characters a particular advantage, or it might not. I think I have enough experience with improvisation, that it’ll be difficult to “break” the game in any way I’m not prepared for to some extent. …Anyway, I think the players got into the challenge really well, and hopefully we’ll get the process down quite easily with future challenges. Fewer hiccups, or whatever. Less linear.

(di — quite a bit longer than usual, innit?)