I have always been curious about dungeon mastering, but I only just recently had the opportunity to try it in a safe environment. That sort of thing makes me nervous. I worry about fucking up a rule or not being able to respond to some off-the-rails departure in a timely manner. I worry about maintaining the voices or really any kind of consistency. I should have worried less because it went well.
For my first ever experience as a dungeon master, I chose the one-shot “Wild Sheep Chase” by Richard Jansen-Parkes. I found it after googling to find a good “first ever” adventure for fledgling DMs. One of my players had already done the adventure, but I have never been the sort to do things exactly as written so I was less worried about that and more worried about what kind of characters the group wanted to throw at me.
They chose Team Rocket from Pokémon and it was kind of a perfect fit.
The premise for “Wild Sheep Chase” follows a wizard who has been true polymorphed for the last two years by his apprentice. His apprentice stole his wand of true polymorph and has been using it on mercenaries to guard the sheep wizard. It doesn’t make total sense, but it is a great excuse to have some fairly easy animal-based encounters with a moral dilemma at the end.
I started improvising almost immediately. For starters, I let my three players roll up level 5 characters, so a bunch of wolves were really no threat to them. I had a cool entrance for the animals though.
The players began in an inn and after the sheep exposited the plot, a half-orc, and local gang leader, summoned his animal friends to capture the sheep-wizard for his Mistress (I changed the apprentice to a lady for some romance angles). Bacon, a boar, jumped through a window behind the players before Meowth fried him in one hit with Booming Blade. Peeps the hawk came in through a young woman’s bedroom before being stabbed by James’s rapier. The wolf, Dagger, swallowed the knife he had in his mouth after Jessie blasted him for more than his HP.
The other wolf, Scarf, had a brilliant moment where he and James posed off and tried to look more glamorous than the other. Scarf felt like he had won, especially with the crosswind animating his scarf and the light reflecting perfectly on his eyes, and he left. This forced Guz to summon his backups, sibling bears named Ginger and Freckles. Similar to Bacon, Freckles exploded after a couple of rounds and another Booming Blade. One of those rounds included a critical stealth check by Meowth which resulted in him taking the perfect form of a chair.
This enraged his brother Ginger who proceeded to sit atop Meowth after critically failing the grapple contest and slipping on a piece of Freckles.
While Meowth and Ginger were battling, Scarf slipped in the back window while the players were distracted. He used his magic scarf to entangle the sheep-wizard, but Jessie summoned earthen tendrils shaped like an ekans to restrain the wolf before he could escape with their new ally. James used this opportunity to gloriously unravel Scarf’s scarf with his rapier which was the only thing tying his wolf head to his wolf body.
Realizing he needed to warn the Mistress that the sheep-wizard had strong allies, the half-orc fled the scene. James used his charms to try and convince Ginger to give up fighting. Ginger just wanted to go home to his mother who he missed though he realized since she was not a bear that might be a problem. Jessie successfully convinced Ginger to join their party and promised to undo the spell on him so he could return home.
After more exposition where the sheep-wizard revealed he had come onto his apprentice and she had turned him into a sheep so he could experience what it was like to be the prey, the party arrived at the wizard’s tower just in time to spot the half-orc warning his mistress that they were coming.
Surprising both me and the villains, the party ran out of the woods “guns a-blazin’” as they did not try and roleplay their way through this situation at all (we were running out of time). I still wanted the encounter to be memorable though, so after getting off their surprise round, the Mistress used her stolen wand of true polymorph to turn the half-orc into an elephant which she later enlarged.
The party didn’t struggle too much with the elephant, but it was scary for a time. Meowth ran up a tree to hide from him but the elephant rammed him out of the tree all the same. Jessie got a fireball off on the Mistress, but she was polymorphed into a lowly garden snake. James finally got the kill on the Mistress and Meowth finished off the elephant after some kiting.
All in all, I had a real blast. It was a unique experience as I had to balance enforcing the rules while sometimes bending them. I always tried to tell a good story, but not at the expense of fun or pacing. I also had to think on the fly and come up with new challenges to react to the player’s behavior.
I could see myself doing it again!