The last session with the Imperium group involved them discovering a displaced hill giant tribe. Seems that the party’s would be adversaries destroyed the hill giants’ village for sport and ease of travel through this hilly area. The encounter started with a group of young hill giants trying to sneak up on the party, which had come across the tribe’s abandoned camp a few days earlier. Now sometimes this group has a kill it first attitude to things, but not this session. Instead they decided to be obvious and approach the hill giants. The rest of the night was spent having the party ingratiate itself with the hill giants and forming what could be an impressive alliance of displaced monstrous creatures to help against the armed forces of their enemies.
One of the players jokingly accused me of pulling on their heart strings. The hill giants had the very sad story of being attacked at night and driven from their village. Most of the male hill giants were killed, with the female chieftain and shaman escaping along with a large number of young hill giants. I didn’t respond, but my thoughts at the time were, you only found that out because you decided to talk to the monsters instead of just declare them prey. And I did reward the players with some xp for the night’s session, figuring that in the end, I need to encourage them to take different approaches to situations other than kill first, loot, and then try to figure out who or what they were.
Of course the cruel side of my DMing mind was they all had just achieved a new level and entered the paragon tier and were itching to use their new powers. Instead they spent the evening talking, though in reality they helped shape a new angle for their quest to take on the Grand Duke and save the Empire from civil war. One of the players actually had a cool interaction with the shaman, revealing parts of his character heretofore never seen by any of the players and really only known to me as the DM via the backstory he provided. There was something very special in that and I hope that his play inspires others to do so.
One of the newest players at the table came up with an interesting way for her character to spend time with the hill giants, trying to teach the sorely lacking young hill giants how to be stealthy via a game of hide and go seek. It added a bit of levity for everyone and it engaged the player in a way that a combat encounter might not have.
The next session will probably be more tactically focused, which will appeal to some of the other players in the group, as well as laying the ground work for an impressive showdown combat encounter.