So I played some D&D yesterday, the first game I've had since... 2011? Can that be right? Alas, yes. It's one of the perils of growing up, and not really enjoying gaming with people I don't know. It's left me with a small playing group of people who have very full lives, so chances to game have been scarce.
As to the game itself, it's a continuation of a 3rd edition campaign that's been running on and off - mostly off - since 2004. The PCs just wrapped up all of the adventure hooks and subplots in the initial area (a wilderness fortress) and the goal for this game was to get them to a new area, the largest city in the world.
I haven't played much in recent years, but I've been thinking and reading about the game a lot, and I wanted to transition away from obvious pre-planned adventures and more into a sandbox style game. So I mapped out the city, the catacombs beneath and the wilderness. I came up with random encounter tables. I wrote brief descriptions of a bunch of other adventure sites that the PCs could pursue or ignore if they wished. To be honest I felt a little underprepared, but I'll have to get used to that if I'm going to keep things open-ended.
The first surprise to me is that the whole session went by without any combat, and barely any dice-rolling at all. I've never experienced this before, and after the game I felt a little guilty about it. There were certainly opportunities for conflict, and one scenario was right on the brink of it, but it just didn't happen. The players who showed up were the cautious ones. I probably shouldn't worry about it, because everyone was engaged and having fun, and interested in exploring their new home base. But it doesn't quite feel like I gave them a real game.
In addition to that, I could see them struggling with a lack of obvious hooks. I'm hoping they'll adjust in time, and become a bit more proactive. I won't rely on it though, and for the next game I'll give them a choice of maybe three obvious things to do. I've also told them outright that I don't care where the game goes, and that they should pursue their own goals both long term and short term. I'm confident it'll work out, but it's going to be an adjustment.
The only other issue we had was a small bit of debate about how the spell detect thoughts works. Does the target know that their mind is being invaded? In this case the spell was cast right in front of the target, so I ruled that he knew. In other cases, where the target hasn't seen any spellcasting, I'd rule that they don't know. I need to look into this to see if there are any specific rules, but it's not a huge deal.
Other than those misgivings, it was great to be back in the saddle, and I'm looking forward to more. The current plan is to make myself available to play once a month, regardless of who shows up. The groups might be smaller, but I'll settle for it. I'm not having another 6 year hiatus, that's for damn sure.