I was hesitant to run Out of the Abyss. Chapter 1 is a complicated hot mess to run. I didn't know if I could use what was given to establish a reasonable enough beginning to the campaign.
There is an urgency about escaping at odds with exposition of the supporting cast. Do you spend a little or a lot of time establishing the various of relationships between the NPCs?
There are 10 captive NPCs and 4 NPC captors (and their support staff). That's a lot of characters to both establish and juggle. All of this while the players are plotting and attempting to execute an escape. I also don't believe people want to spend more than a few hours building up to the prison break.
By the end of the session two NPCs were dead, with a total of 15 characters escaping with one or two supplies each. They have several shields, chain shirts, leather armor, and lengths of rope. That's it. No holy symbols nor spell books.
So I'm envisioning a few sessions of brutality on the horizon as exhaustion and resource management grind at them.
Prodding the characters along. Making sure to push towards “What's the plan? Are you doing it now?”
Showing that the drow are petty and cruel. There was an internal conflict through playing up the NPCs. Then having a fight between prisoners (PC and NPC) which devolved into breaking the spellcaster's hands and executing the elf prince.
The player characters fleeing with the most modest of equipment. I'm excited to see how the characters are going to dig deep to escape from their pursuit.
Having now run several timed convention games, I believe I'm more attentive to table and time management.
Where did I get stuck?
The awkward transition moment from “you are helpless captives” to “lets plan all the details”. As many may know, a session that involves lots of planning and deliberation gets rather crazy.
Juggling time between different groups; Some were left in the cages to rest while others performed labor. This meant the spotlight was shifting back and forth.
The layout of the camp makes it very hard for the characters to get their equipment and escape.
What might I do differently?
I would've prepared even more. The content in the book is hard to scan. So I will read through the next section with a highlighter and markers.
I would not have introduced two additional NPCs into the equation. There is already a large cast of characters. The ones I introduced tied back to the previous sessions that I ran.
A jail break with 18 prisoners was insane. Too many moving parts. And there were no NPC statistics for the friendly NPCs.
There was a pinch point that I should've cleared out as part of the distraction. By not clearing out that pinch point, it made it seemingly impossible for the party to retrieve their equipment. They self-assessed and opted to cut their loses.