Damn. My fourth DW session as GM with my sortof-newbie-group was a big disaster. The players said they had fun (I have very nice players), but I certainly didn’t.
Because one of us couldn’t make it that night, I thought I’d do another one-shot ‘flashback’ episode based around a Joe Banner starter, this time Altai Keep (http://joebanner.co.uk/altai-keep/). That approach worked so great last time, but this time it just… didn’t.
A big problem was that the objective “find out what happened to the missing villagers” was ultimately not very satisfying: they pretty soon discovered the villagers had been desanguinated and turned into walking undead. But since there was nobody for them to rescue (because I didn’t think of that in time!), there were no stakes left other than dealing with this horde of undead (which the players did by setting them on fire — that at least was a novel solution that led to a nice scene) and searching for the “whodunnit”. I completely failed to keep the subsequent fight with the big bad vampire priestess from just turning into a ‘keep whacking until she’s dead’ grind. The other big reveal in the scenario (that she was in cahoots with some resurrected minotaurs) went even worse, partially because by then I had ran out of time so I had to hurry up and infodump a lot of information, partially because I could already see I was not going to be able to stop the fight with the boss minotaur from turning into another grind, and partially because my players were getting bored and no longer taking anything serious (you try to project an air of menace and atmosphere when everyone’s giggling).
I hope next time (when we’re back to the main storyline in our campaign) things will go better. But I fear for the worst, because there we have also just reached the part where they need to confront a Big Bad monster — and I now really worry about my ability to make a scene like that engaging. The smaller puzzles & combat stuff I’m doing okay with, but the bigger fight scenes remain problematic, no matter how often I reread the “16 HP Dragon” inspirational story.