So, I always ponder of how an encounter and/or combat could have gone better, or been more dynamic or smart. Part of the process of improving my planning, visualization, and improvisation as I continue my experiment in running games.
Usually, the "Why didn't I do that?" moment comes while I'm walking the dogs the morning after.
So returning to the recent "Something in the Water" session, I realized I could have played my bad-guy alchemist/water polluter way smarter. This being a pick-up, randomly generated session, I didn't have everything lined out, barely knowing what was in the next room before the PCs stumbled in.
On reflection, I had the elements of a much more dynamic boss-fight, with a greater chance of having the bad guy either win or at least escape.
Since I'd described the end-game as a remote "lab" in the cave, complete with bubbling cauldron and other vessels, I had all the pieces to make a much more cinematic fight: the baddie (with sanctuary spell), a couple of surviving kobolds, and a bunch of random chemicals.
After all, I'd run nearly the same scenario before, in my "Vats of Rats" con session. But in the moment of play, I didn't recall that scene, or even think of something as simple as having the baddies tip over the cauldron and bailing, leaving the PCs to either pursue or attempt to stop the flow of nasty alchemical concoction into the lake...
Which would have made a much more hectic moment as they watched their nemesis flee vs their concerns about the water and killer frogs...
So I would say that a takeaway from this is to slow down and imagine the space.
We are playing TOTM, with maybe a map sketched out on paper or mat, so pausing to visualize and describe the room will better support both the GM and player engagement in the scene. If I can say that there is a cauldron here, a rack of vials there, and the baddies are standing there, it will both mentally settle me in the space, and give cues to the players to interact with that space, as well.
In improv, we are often by necessity pantomiming props and objects as we develop the scene and other actor(s). So keeping a part of the mind on spatial awareness is key. Don't walk through a table. Remember that you have a drink in your hand. Take a moment to listen and "see" in order to keep the scene moving forward. Don't be afraid to pause and allow some silence.
The old adage, "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast" applies here. I think that we (especially old school players) focus on keeping things fast and light, occasionally to the detriment of engagement. I know that my players ask about options or actions during combat, especially for spellcasters out of magic, or even fighters wanting to do something besides sword and board. Giving a fuller description will let people "see" the space and think, "What would I do?" or possibly, "What would be cool?" :)
Anyway. More to consider...
|Still Life with Bottles and Earthenware, Vincent van Gogh|
That said, I figure everyone needs a random list of mystery bottles
to be found in an alchemist's lair or arrayed around in some forgotten room. Especially when things start getting knocked over or tossed about...
A portion of the list is borrowed from the previously mentioned Vats of Rats, with the rest being a half-baked list of potentially dangerous concoctions to end up in someone's face.
Also, I uploaded the revised "Vats of Rats" adventure to DTRPG and Itch.io as PWYW.