Weak DMing Last Night
So, last night's game. No one complained. I guess there's that. But I came away just like that last picture, of the statue, face palm, on myself. Meaning I wasn't mad at my players, they did a pretty good job, I just came away feeling like I biffed it. Admittedly we were transitioning. We had been grinding away at a hexcrawl to get the players through to the next phase of the campaign. I decided to speed things up through the last day of that crawl and we got onto the town they were headed to.
Now several things were supposed to happen for the PCs to make their decisions on where they wanted to take the next phase. They were generally following the trail of the slavers and their two main villains, but didn't know how their current invitation tied into that. There was going to be a fire at the location of their invitation, which if they investigated would lead to the discovery of the slavers most recent raid. This could have led to a meeting with the watch commander, and or the mayor. If things developed they would uncover the watch commander's connection with their old contact from the Lord's Alliance and new information about the slaver's plot. They also needed to decide if they were going to pursue the slavers overseas or investigate things in town with the now compromised Lord's Alliance. They could put together that their old enemy Halia of the Zhentarim was actually acting as a slaver and was in the company of a suspicious drow. Finally if they decided to chase the slavers they would have to do so in disguise and have to book passage start the two day voyage through rather dangerous waters.
Whew! Yeah, well so much was going on, and I was in such a hurry to get things sped up that it began to feel a little "railroady" to me. I suppose that I didn't really railroad it, as give so much information to them so easily that it was pretty clear what the best course of action would be. Unfortunately things went sour on the voyage and they were hit by a storm and then the giant kraken-like beast that lurks in those waters. To make matters worse, only one had been on a seagoing vessel before and the majority of the party was suffering from seasickness.
There was little combat thus far--we ended just as the tentacled kraken rose up and attacked the ship--and the roleplaying was a bit rushed and thus less than satisfactory to me at least. Like I said, no one complained; even when they only earned 450 XP for this session, kind of modest for 6th level. But I came away feeling like I just hadn't performed up to par. I had prepped of course, but the session really required more prep than I had put in, as it required a lot more NPCs and roleplay than I had thought through. I could have taken my time and stretched the session out over two or three more sessions, but the hex crawl had already begun to drag on a bit. I also could have just compressed time and sped up to the sea voyage, or skipped the crawl altogether even though it was through a region known to be dangerous and monster infested.
Lesson learned? I'm really not sure. I mean I am not sure what I would have done differently. Stretching things out and taking out time could have been fun, but it also could have dragged on. Compressing things might have sped things up but strained verisimilitude and player choice. And many of the threads they were pursuing could have led in different directions based on which path over the web they took--I didn't want to take that away from them.
Any advice out there?