D&D Encounters Field Reports (Week 10)

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Use this thread to discuss your experiences with week 10 of D&D Encounters. 

Please realise that both players and DMs read these threads, so do not put spoilers in your posts. If your post goes into enough details, then you absolutely must use spoilers. Enclose the spoilery bit in [*sblock=spoiler stuff][*/sblock]  (just remove the *) spoiler block tags so that players who haven't played yet don't have the surprise ruined for them. 

[*sblock=spoilerey stuff]

blahblahblah

[*/sblock]

will produce

spoilerey stuff


blahblahblah


once you remove the *.
Mudbunny SVCL for DDI Before you post, think of the Monkeysphere
Er... one thing in case some folks read this early:

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The Pacification Spores power of the Myconid Guard is listed as at-will. It's encounter.

Could make for a very obnoxious fight to do that all day.
Guardian Games in Portland has Wednesday and Tuesday tables. I'll report on my Tuesday table.

Overall, this can be a very tough fight. Our table had a lot of bloodied PCs, two PCs went down several times (our monk is down to one surge... so we spent some time talking about how to play like a Skirmisher), and there was a lot of fun tension.

A lot will depend on the DM. DMs that have run certain LFR adventures (in particularly one of the SPEC1-3 adventures) will have experience with these creatures. I had not run those, but I had played them and I was familiar with the strategy. The encounter actually served as a good way to promote the new Player's Guide book, as the information in it is perfect for helping players realize what took place.

As I posted on the DM Tools thread, I made some special cards that furthered the idea of the terrain.

More info and spoilers on session 10, encounter 3-2:

The key to this encounter is that the monsters can divide the damage. This ensures that they will be able to all be up for a long time, dishing out pain, without any of them dropping. With the rotpriests, even the minions can be kept up for a long time. The battle can look very horrible, with a lot of damage inflicted but all the myconids unbloodied, when suddenly they all become bloodied as a few blows make them all bloodied. Similarly, when one dies, it is usually the case that all the others are about to die. The halving of damage also tends to save an HP often, since 5 damage becomes 2 damage on two creatures. The rotpriests can regen, so knowledge checks are important for PCs.

This makes for an extremely difficult encounter unless the party is very strong on striker damage or has ways to reliable keep the foes from inflicting damage.

In addition, the positioning of foes is key. The more tactical DMs can have a field day ensuring that a minion dies only when it is favorable, which is when it will damage and heal in a very desirable way. The same is true of when the rotpriests die.

The slime can be very strong. It has very good defenses and can force one PC to be in a position of doing very little, especially a ranged PC. Knowledge checks can help the PCs know how to deal with this best, such as granting saves or readying Sacred Flame (a cool idea one of the players had at my table) for when it attacks.

There are a few things that keep the fight balanced. First, some of the bursts do not exclude allies, which either forces the monsters to spread out or to hurt their own kind. Secondly, the explosions can be very devastating to the creatures if they are positioned near the tables. Ranged PCs should be given a chance to exploit this.

A DM can pull punches by being less efficient with damage sharing, by letting rotpriests be surrounded by PCs while low on HPs (thus healing them) and by pointing out terrain/table effects. 

As I said outside the spoiler block, this is a good encounter for showcasing how rough an encounter can be if you can't focus fire. The Player's Guide book has a nice overview of how this works and may encourage your players to buy the book and support the store. The article is also on DDI.


One more thing regarding encounter Typos:
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The guards' core myconid Roots of the Colony power refers to Rotpriests. All mention of "Rotpriest" should be "Guard". The typo may confuse some DMs.


All-in-all a very strong but enjoyable fight. The monsters are cool and different, the terrain interesting, and the challenge left them eager for more!

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Two clarifying notes, DM'S TAKE NOTE:

There is indeed a typo in the module, which I think will be made pretty obvious by this statement here: The ridiculously awesome power is supposed to be an ENCOUNTER power, not an AT-WILL.

In case I need to be more clear:
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The myconid guards' pacification spores is an ENCOUNTER power, not AT-WILL. 'Cuz that would be ridiculous.


Also:

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Good catch on the word "rotpriest" listed in the roots of the colony power on the guards. Indeed, the guards should have that power, much like the rotpriests do. They do NOT, however, have "sacrifice for the colony," which is ONLY a rotpriest ability.
More info and spoilers on session 10, encounter 3-2:

The key to this encounter is that the monsters can divide the damage. This ensures that they will be able to all be up for a long time, dishing out pain, without any of them dropping. With the rotpriests, even the minions can be kept up for a long time.

The more tactical DMs can have a field day ensuring that a minion dies only when it is favorable, which is when it will damage and heal in a very desirable way.



alphastream, the above statements that i've emboldened from your spoiler are not correct. 
here's why:

the only way that the rotpriest could keep the minions from dying would be by using his 'Sacrifice for the Colony' ability to keep them from taking any damage, because minions die to just 1 damage.

if you read the 'Sacrifice for the Colony' ability, however, you will see that the rotpriest can only use that ability if any ally is trying to use their 'Roots of the Colony' ability to give him half of their damage.

Unfortunately, though, 'Roots of the Colony' is not an ability that the minions have.

alphastream, the above statements that i've emboldened from your spoiler are not correct. 



Gah, you are right!
[spoiler]I misread the Sacrifice for the Colony power. Doh! I think I'll put the kid gloves on again for my next session to compensate...

Goes and sits in the "bad DM" corner... 
[/sblock]
Thanks for the catch... teach me to spend more time reading stat blocks and less time making add-ons...

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no worries.  it happens to all of us.
TPK at our shop.

These encounters would be challenging for an experienced group.

For a mix of pro and new players, they are too difficult.

tales of woe


Creatures that hit for up to 23 (2d10+3)?
Some of these players only have 30 hitpoints
shared damage, regen, big aoe's in a small room.

Altho, the look of Panic on the party's face when the warlock critted the previously damaged myconid for 35 and it didnt become bloodied was priceless.. Surprised



Anyway, our group wiped tonight. The DM plays the encounters as written, and lets the dice fall where they may.

The players had fun mind you, and are coming back, but they did ask me to express concern at the difficulty level of the encounters as written. 

I enjoy a challenging encounter as much or more than the next guy. But i have to wonder if encounters is geared towards introducing new players to the game then mayhaps the challenge level should be set somewhat lower.


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The slime was far too powerful to have been included in such a large group of already dangerous enough monsters in a very dangerous location. The normal monsters by themself would have been a challenge and then the slime manages to both disable and triply damage a PC? It was entirely absurd. It seems these encounters are becoming increasingly more balanced against the PCs surviving.
TPK at my location as well. The monsters all went before us in initiative, so we remained bottled up in the hallway. My swordmage and the party fighter, in the front line, couldn't use standard actions because the DM didn't realize that there was a typo with the encounter power listed at will - I literally attacked once all night long. Everyone was so crammed together that the rot priests' bursts hit us all, and when the slime dropped onto our psion and ranged rogue from behind that was the last straw. Both myconid guards died, but so did the whole party. The combination of an already difficult encounter with typos increasing the difficulty was just too much, even with things like the explosives on the tables (which we did use - the psion used her utility power to drop 8 potions and the table on the baddies at the same time, to almost no effect).
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A rotpriest, two guards, three minions and a green slime vs. four PCs (two of which were 1st level)?  Really?

Did these combats receive even the slightest amount of playtesting?
Keep in mind a couple of things. 1) These encounter are built assuming second level PCs. 2) The suggestion has been made that everyone be allowed to level up to second even if they haven't earned enough XP. This keeps things from being -completely- over the top...

That said, yes,
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this encounter is the most challenging, by far of the encounters. Even groups at our store that walked last week's encounter had trouble with tonight's encounter. I don't believe we had any deaths though I could easily have claimed a couple of bodies if I'd wanted to. I had someone at one less than neg bloodied and released the PC from the slime so it could attack another PC ... who I then nearly killed when someone charged the slime. *shrug*

The table I played at was 4 PCs, and we played the full encounter minus one rot priest (which would still have put it well above our challenge level) and I think we spent every ounce of healing, Action Points, Dailies and encounter powers we had and we ended the fight with everyone of us bloodied. Another table managed to crit the rot priest with an assassin and that fight was over in less than half an hour.

That said, I do agree that the combination of the fungus-among-us having the ability to stay standing nearly the entire fight combined with the slime was a very very challenging tactical situation. Almost as bad as a particular SPEC 1-3 fight I could recall.
These encounters have been pretty difficult.  The previous two encounters my party had some good luck  but that all changed on this encounter which was magnified by the area attacks in a small space with hot DM rolls = bad for the PCs.

Party: all level 2
Warlock Beliel (pregen); Cleric;  Aleun (sp? pregen paladin); Wizard
 
spolier
 
Paladin rushes in goes for the biggest perceived threat the Rotpriest.  Cleric and Wizard follow only to be dropped in short order.  Warlock whiffs on daily and whiffs with action point.  Has to get back to near doorway to use a heal potion on the cleric so he can get to healing everyone else.  Used Cloud of Darkness to give the group some cover while half of them were on the ground.

Paladin takes some bad shots gets near death.  It got so bad I had tried to bait the bad guys to hit the Warlock so they wouldn't take out the party members.

The DM took the slime out of the fight to scale the encounter down.  If he didn't we would've been toast.

Our party doesn't plan to rest and plans to continue on trying to catch the Eladrin but the party at the next table expended nearly every healing surge and ended the encounter with 3 of 4 PCs on the ground.


There is a large amount of errors on all the data for the game.  It is confusing to me because I'm new to D&D after not playing since 1989 then only playing ODD or ADD and with real loose adherence to the rules at the age of 11.  The cloud of darkness explanation on the pregen card doesn't mention the duration the card also has a Paladin at will power on it Holy Strike.  There are typos on other cards the this encounter obviously had some major errors that affected gameplay.  Encounters is fun and free so it is hard to beat but it makes me wonder about the quality control.
I just found this forum.  I have a question concerning this encounter and some of the character's powers.  It would be relevent to other encounters where this might happen.

spoilerey stuff


When a character is denied a standard action from the Pacifiying spores attack. If another character gives that player an attack, such as some of the Warlords powers, can they take the attack?  It sort of goes against the powers name but I allowed it to happen because the character that directed the attack to happen was not the one denied the standard action.




I would like some clarrification on this matter in case it ever comes up again.  Thanks.
Hi, all-

This was by far the least fun any of us have ever had at an Ecnounters session. Two tables. One was 4 players and a TPK, the other we had to call at 9 PM when they had only killed 2 of the adverseries.

Did anyone else notice the OTHER Problem with this Encounter?

It's listed at the top of the page as being ~800 xp, but if you add up all the individual monsters as listed on the stats, it's actually north of 950.

That would also seem to be a major problem if you didn't notice this right away and adjust accodingly, but why would anyone think to check beforehand?

Design Flaws, I think...

Others have spoken on the problem with the Guards' powers being misprinted, and the difficulty of dealing with that Green Slime, but there were also real problems with layout, of exactly the kind that the DMG, both 1 and 2, hammered at new DMs to avoid, namely, a static Ecnounter that forced the PCs to sit and trade hits.

 The 'killbox' effect of starting all the PCs blocked in the doorway surrounded by bursts was a huge problem, and the high hit probability and painful damage output (not to mention pretty high ACs) were only compounded by their opponents' ability to distribute damage in a way that all the players found extremely frustrating. I didn't even USE the rotpriest's (only 1, we had 4 at my table) regneration and still got a TPK with only one of the guards taken down.


All in all, a real downer for what has been a pretty fun run so far. I'm open to suggestions on a fair (and 'Encounters-legal') way to try and reset some of the resources lost to this clearly problematic Ecnounter.

-Jim C.
Jim Crocker, Managing Partner Modern Myths, LLC Northampton, MA www.modern-myths.com
I narrowly avoided a TPK only with massive fudging, increasing table damage, lowering monster hps, and largely ignoring the damage sharing. Thank goodness I dropped one of the rotpriests. The majority of the party's surges were used, as well as all of our dailies and APs. Yowch! I hope they won't need those dailies for the last encounter.
I DMed a game and played it as the module said, no fudging of dice.  The party died.  I wish I knew about the typos before hand.  Honestly the group probably would have wiped anyway.  
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A rotpriest, two guards, three minions and a green slime vs. four PCs (two of which were 1st level)?  Really?

Did these combats receive even the slightest amount of playtesting?


I'm starting to think that they are just writing this stuff up and mailing it out straight.
Two of these issues were brought up in the errors thread and elsewhere over the last few days. A third one was noted, though it's not strictly an error.

There should only be one rotpriest for a 5-person encounter. [The encounter incorrectly lists the 6-person encounter template.]

The pacification spores should be encounter, not at-will. [This is an error.]

The minions can't be kept alive by Sacrifice for the Colony. [This is just a point that's easily overlooked.]


not very spoilery but better safe than sorry


Well. I used the stats from the compendium (yay incombat and Iplay4e!) which had the pacification listed as an encounter.

And hinted that the wizard remembered someone from wizards academy who after experimenting with some magic myconids, thought he had a 15th level fly spell and jumped off a bridge.
The party didnt stay out on that bridge too long.




so, even with the typos corrected, and getting out of the bottle neck tho.. was still a TPK for us :/

Again, everyone at our store is loving the format.. but the consensus is between the last 4 combats of constant aura damage, and tonights TPK, the encounter difficulty level is a bit high for introductory adventures

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i found that the bottleneck of the doorway was far too advantageous for the PCs. not a single one went inside the room until it was nearly cleared. they avoiced the slimey mess on the floor. not a big deal since the entire area seemed to be a danger zone.

a wizard used scorching bursts to explode the table and enjoy that bit of fun.

i kinda wish that i could replay ti and make the fungus creatures wait until the party had all entered and maybe even until some had walked out the other door before responding....could say they were resting from the fight with Xeres as he crashed through.

the slime wasn't enough of a threat unless it could get close, but with the party all grouped at the entry and using ranged attacks, there was little that the slime could do to become a threat. i was able to engulf the halfling, but the slime had been hit several times before that and it wasn't much of a problem. the halfling survived fine.
i am personally pleased that each week of Encounters could result in a TPK if the DM really plays carefully with each enemy monster or creature. It gives the feeling that 4e can be just as devastating without the save or die concept. also, if a party ignores that they can stabilize dying characters they really miss out on the chance to stay alive (and renown points).

Still, there are tactical problems from this encounter because of player choices that severely limited the actions of the fungal creatures.
BTW, last night I had a player -praise- the difficulty of the combats so far, saying that he had played a few RPGA games (I assume LFR) and he hadn't been at all impressed with their difficulty.
My LGS has three groups now, and honestly, this is just getting nuts.

The one run by the store owner he played more or less straight- after the first swing he came and asked us other DMs for advice because he was certain nobody would survive. We advised halving hit points for all the creatures. He did so. He also ignored six of the nine critical hits he managed to roll in the encounter. We were fully aware of the typos and other errors. His group was a mix of characters, most who weren't close to 2nd (which were advised to be leveled, as I understand it) and all run by new players save one. They all used daily powers during the fight. They were slaughtered to a man.

The other DM had his party reduced to a single person, at least in part due to some slapstick-y actions by some of the players. That one person would've been the only survivor if he hadn't handed the guy information on the remaining opponent's hit points and current status. He also secretly gave the entire party weapons that did radiant damage in order to try and help them out. This was a group that mixed experienced and novice players.

My group was seasoned and worked together as a cohesive group. They planned carefully, supported one another, used flanking and pure luck helped out more than once to prevent the monsters from using their full potential. Save for one player who joined up last night, the entire group was level 2. I also ignored the possibility of explosions, had all monsters start out in the open, cut damage output in half, forgot about regeneration, forgot to include a minion, and largely ignored anything involving the word Colony in it. I also rolled horribly for just about every single attack. And every now and then, I offered tactical advice regarding positioning or timing- things that are old hat if you're comfortable with the rules for combat in the PHB.

My group barely survived. Three people dropped to negatives, they used up all their healing for the encounter, and I think only one person walked away from the encounter with hit points above the single digits. 

Honestly, this doesn't even come close to the guidelines set down in the DMG for what an encounter should be like. It also strikes me (and yes, this is solely my opinion here, not a fact) as inappropriate for an event meant to encourage players to join at any time to find out what 4th edition D&D is like.  I'm hoping at least some of the players involved in our TPK group read this and recognize events, if only so they understand better why they died, and don't think that either their DM or the game itself is sadistically-inclined. Otherwise it's entirely possible that we're going to lose most, if not all of the group from the hobby and the store, rather than just an encounter.

The other DM and myself have already determined we'll be showing up hours in advance of game time to more thoroughly review things and suggest modifications for the night's events. If for no other reason than the fact all three of us (him, myself, and the LGS owner) are very concerned about the odds of anyone surviving the rest of the season's encounters.  
Wow, I wish I would of known it was an encounter power and not an at-will. To make-up for the lost standard actions, I'm giving each PC their action point back, as well a one healing surge each...and applogizing for Chris Tulach's "editing." I want his badge & gun turned in!
My condolences on dead PCs and my sympathies for people having trouble. It's up to your DM to keep things fun and exciting without being frustrating, but I acknowledge that I bear some responsibility as well for writing the encounter as (at least potentially) really, really tough. Sorry if I hosed you in that regard.

On that note, I want to address the "play the encounter as written" thing: this is largely a myth. Every DM interprets every encounter differently, regardless of how detailed the author makes it. The tools are there in every encounter to TPK your party each and every time--the DM can and should use his/her best judgment in presenting each encounter in such a way that players have fun without being massacred.

Cheers
 I had some time to troll the forums before my event and learned about the errors. My players barely survive even with the fugded rolls due to some bad rolls in the first two rounds. We had a L2 minotaur bard,  L1 Human Paladin now L2 , a L1 Elf Rogue, a L1 Changling Warlock now L2, L1 Wizard and pregen Kalla played by a new player new to 4th edition(who earned the moment of greatness due to taking the leadership of the party and with good combat tactics kept the party alive.) The Paladin was engulfed and bloodied in the 1 round after stepping in the green spot thinking it would good thing. He now has only 1 healing surge left. I am hoping they all survive the next two encounters.

Our Assassin's blood is on your hands, Erik. I've been sworn to smack you and anyone else involved that I run across upside the head at GenCon.

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We had six people, having lost our best striker to scheduling conflicts. An Assassin, a Warden, a Warlord, a Bard, my Ardent and you know I don't remember the sixth guy's class. The Warden and Warlord are played by people who don't really know what they're doing. I told our DM of the encounter power issue at least. I dunno how the other table fared but I told their DM too.

It was miserable. Even with three leaders, we ran out of healing and spent the fight going up and down. It would have been a TPK without some serious rules bending since the DM wasn't pulling any punches. I went down twice and I've failed a death saving throw. (You don't get to spend a healing surge on a normal heal check. It happened anyway because we were dead without it.))

The Assassin died horribly and plans to come back next week... With a healing-focused cleric.

Most of us were still L1 including me and the assassin. I finally levelled after this, I think there's one or two people still L1. If it keeps like this I don't expect us to actually finish. This was miserably over-hard even with most of the group being experienced. It didn't help that I kept whiffing, half the table kept whiffing, and the DM kept using his houserule of people who roll a 1 getting an AoO against them. Naturally one person rolled like three of them. One person spent the ENTIRE battle engulfed in the slime. The monsters all kept sharing their damage so stuff lasted forever. Argh.


If I do season 2 at all, I refuse to do anything but DM.
It's spelled Corellon Larethian, not Correlon, Correllon, Correlllon, Corellion, Correlian or any other way of getting it wrong. I'm a total grognard and I still play 4E.
I ran 2 tables (concurrently) last night (our other didn't couldn't make it).  on previous advice from erik (the author), i let everyone auto-level last week to start chapter 3 at level 2.  that helped a little.

the twitter buff of all weapons gaining radiant helped a little more.  on top of those things, though:

 • i allowed the guards to have the same vulnerability to radiant as the rotpriest.
 • i ignored the sticky substance on the floor.
 • i removed the green slimes from the encounter for each table, as each table only had 4 players.

with all of these adjustments, it was very close to being a TPK at both tables.  the players were very unhappy with the difficulty.  one player was so mad, i don't know if he'll be coming back.  that group was hurt so badly that they had to take an extended rest and lose the ability to rescue the damsel in distress.
NC, I sympathize with the difficulties. This was an extremely tough encounter, not just XP-wise but also mechanically (see the article about focused fire that came out recently on WotC--link eludes me right now). It sounds quite a bit like your DM screwed you.

This was an encounter aimed at 2nd level parties, which the module makes exceedingly clear. I previously recommended the "virtual XP" thing on another thread, i.e., letting the PCs level anyway, regardless of whether they're short. For 1st level parties, it's more like a level 5-6 encounter, and would at that point be an encounter that is SUPPOSED TO wipe the floor with the PCs. And the OA on failed death saves is just ridiculously brutal. If DMs institute draconian measures and ignore advice on PC survivability, that's their prerogative.

I will say this, my main piece of advice to DMs: DON'T MURDALIZE YOUR PCs!

(Just because I gave DMs the tools to do so, doesn't mean they *should* do so.)

I think this particular encounter falls prey to its typos, and actually makes a very good learning experience for the Encounters program.

Cheers
Erik, here's my suggestions- and I hope you take them as such. They're meant as how I see things from my perspective, with the full understanding that there's likely mitigating factors I'm not aware of.

To begin with, the target xp value for a 2nd level encounter is 625xp. Particularly with the prior encounter and the next two, this really should've stuck close to that rather than pushing up to 800. The characters are in a hurry and they've got some real headaches ahead, to say nothing of week 9's quite literal ball of pain.

Second, I'm fairly certain that anything akin to the potential environmental damage in the encounter ought to constitute a hazard or trap- quite likely the former given the particulars. Meaning that it should have had its own xp value and been factored into the encounter, not in addition to. By extension there likely ought to be some sort of advance warning for PCs, such as a skill roll, to realize the threat and allow them to evade it outright or at least be aware of the potential malevolence.

 I know that miscalculations happen and there's really no help for typos other than errata, so I'm not laying those at your feet. But I'm also a bit cautious about the number of high level encounters in the season relative to the level of the players. I'm not sure if you expected players to arrive at the start and then remain through the whole thing, but in my case at least, we've had people consistently joining in and dropping out or missing weeks here and there. Our most regular players only hit 2nd level after week 9, and the majority are closer to midway through 1st. We've got a few who've restarted, going from pregens to new custom characters, but I'd guess our average character level at this point has been around 1.4-1.6 or so. 

Just some things from, as I said, my perspective. Hopefully they're useful, or at the very least, not irritating. 
Erik, here's my suggestions- and I hope you take them as such. They're meant as how I see things from my perspective, with the full understanding that there's likely mitigating factors I'm not aware of.

Absolutely, Stormcaller. I am very happy to see any and all feedback.

I don't know if you saw my other threads on this point, but there are several typos in this particular encounter--specifically, it's scaled for a 6 PC, 2nd level party, so one rotpriest shouldn't be there for 5 PCs. That said, it's still extremely difficult. The choice I made here was to write it as difficult, and let DMs tone it down as necessary as they played. It's much harder, in my experience, to go the other way and make encounters MORE difficult on the fly--at least without the PCs feeling like you're arbitrarily screwing them.

As for how I determined the encounter levels, I did it using dictated program guidelines. If they were higher than they should be, that's no one's fault--as noted, WotC has never done anything like this, so this is all experimental. From my side of things, when I designed the encounters, I tried to put together something that would please the most people and be the most adaptable that it could be. If I erred too much on the side of danger, well, lesson learned, and I hope that future seasons will go easier.

I also want to thank people for being guinea pigs for this. The first season of DDE is bound to make missteps, but IMO it's got more right than wrong. The more feedback you guys give, the better future seasons are going to be!

I want to note something on the XP end of things (and I've created an entire thread for this: community.wizards.com/dungeonsanddragons...): the PCs at this point should be second level, period. Even if they don't have enough XP to make the leap, the DM should grant them sufficient "virtual XP" to be 2nd level.

Or, if that's outside the realm of possibility, the DM should refer to the notes at the beginning of the module for scaling down each encounter in order to match PCs of insufficient level. It says very specifically that a party is considered a *weak party* (and thus the encounter should be reduced) if the majority of the PCs are lower level than the chapter level (which in Chapter Three, is level 2).

If a DM is using the rules for encounter scaling and notes the scaling issue in 3-2 (as written, it's an encounter for 6 PCs), then a 5 PC, 1st level-majority party will be facing ...

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the guards, the spores, and the slime

...which makes a HUGE difference.

Cheers
I never know how many players I'll have, so I always preview the encounter the night before and scale it for four to eight PCs, so I did know the misprint about the XP (800 instead of like 950). I scaled appropriately for the four PCs I had. It was a tough battle since I didn't know about the at-will/encounter misprint, but the players loved it! One died of massive damage, as did the beastmaster's companion (which strangely, the player doesn't care about--he thinks One Fang is "useless"). I remember one of the OD&D books saying something like, 'you win when you have fun. Even if your characters die, if you had fun, you still win the game.' So true.

My biggest concern was the lack of professionalism (the errors) in this product in particular, since it may well be the gateway to D&D for so many players. I suppose only us greybeards really notice;  we're the ones complaining, and yet we're the ones who are best equipped to fix things on the fly. D&D Encounters seems very successful, and has accomplished three goals: It got me playing regulary, introduced me as a player to a new private group to play with, and made me a part of the Friendly Neighborhood Gaming Store's community. I've been invited to DM all day at the shop's 11th b-day bash by the Bossman! Roll 2d6 and get that % off at check-out!
Oh dear oh dear oh dear it all went a bit pear shaped last night, our first TPK, we didn't know about any of  the typos so we had all the monsters doing all their nasty tricks(5PC's& encounter not at will), the myconid guards won the initiative moved up and used Pacification spores then the slime jumped on to our fighter and began to slowly dissolve her(nice), admittedly a few of us managed to use a couple of powers before being hit most times by the myconid guards "at will power". To be honest I'm impressed we managed to kill one guard the minions and one rotpriest, although all of us apart for the wizard managed to get 1 renown point for taking over 50 dmg (I hold the record so far with a staggering 85 points of dmg in 1 encounter), but hay its good to die occasionally makes you appreciate the next ale(well so says Drummond Whitebeard Dwarven Avenger of Tempus).
Were be back next week for revenge
Oddly enough, both of my tables were fatality-free, despite my blood-thristy dice throwing WAY too many natural 20s.  I even let the players use one that threw two 20s in a row, but it stopped doing that when they used it.

Group 1 was a Shifter Runepriest, a Genasi Swordmage, a Wilden Shaman, a Human Paladin, a Sorcerer and the pregenerated beastmaster Ranger.
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This should have been the perfect set up for a TPK: the Swordmage got tangled up with the Fortitude-attacking Rotpriest, the Paladin got paired with the Reflex-attacking Slime, the Ranger got stuck in-between two minions and the table full of explosives, and the Runepriest backed himself into a corner, limiting his adjacent allies buffs.   When the rotpriest rolled a 20 on the Swordmage, doing 23 damage, I thought the fight would be nearly over right then, but he pulled through.  When he used a firey burst attack that missed one minion, but hit the other (and the table of beakers) the Ranger got caught by the blast from the minion, then the table, then the other minion that got hit by the table.  In one turn, he was 2 hp from death, but it wasn't too bad, since his beast could still act instinctively, and both Leaders were able to help him out.  Later on, that Ranger grabbed the two potions off of the table, moved to the Swordmage, and fed him one, getting him back to the fight.  On his next turn, he drank the other potion himself and helped out with the Guard/Rotpriest combo that the Swordmage had been fighting against.

I took way too long running this fight, trying to decide where to best place the damage.  After 80 minutes, I stopped shifting the damage around, plus all of the Mycondids were bloodied by then anyway.  I think the party might be running low on surges after this fight, but it was a good one.


Group 2 consisted of a pacifist Dwarf Cleric, a Minotaur Fighter, a Dragonborn Sorcerer, a Human Swordmage, a Tiefling Psion, a Hybrid beastmaster Ranger|Druid, and a Goliath Barbarian.
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I balanced the extra large party by adding two more Spore minions to the fight in the third round of combat, which worked well with how fast the Psion popped the first batch.  The initiatives were a little screwy in this case, so a lot of PCs were clumped in the doorway for a while.  I think I had 5 critical hits in this fight, but managed to not have any PC die, so that is a triumph.   The Swordmage pulled one Rotpriest into a gauntlet of doom with Lightning Lure, where it was prompty surrounded by PCs, making it hard to target its blast attack.  I had one Guard totally whiff on its encounter power, and considered making it Reliable, but decided against that.  There was a lot of very satisying confusion when a Guard would take 3d10 damage from the Barbarian, and the Rotpriest next to him would go bloodied, then flip back to unbloodied on his turn.  I think my favorite moment was when the Cleric was getting ready to heal all of his bloodied allies, when the surrounded Rotpriest got killed - healing 4 PCs to 1 HP above bloodied: that's right, a monster out-healed a Pacifist Cleric!  I would have given the moment of greatness to that Rotpriest, if he was still with us.

What makes me sad - no more compiled magazines: http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/27580349/Dungeon_and_Dragon_Magazine_PDFs&post_num=24#495423645
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I didn't have any trouble with the typo, as I used the Monster Tools versions, which didn't have the typo.

Our fight was interesting. The gas spores went first, and I moved a few in to block the area and hope for the big spore-cloud, hitting all players.

Unfortunately, when they killed the spores, they didn't move, allowing the green slime to move up and engulf the fighter. After that, the entire fight was held at the door. I even went easy and had a few just ready actions, hoping the party would attempt some bull rushing or movements into the larger room. It didn't happen.

On the plus side, the bottle-neck actually helped, since the defenders were up front blocking for the strikers and controllers. I did kill the ranger's animal companion due to some OA's, but no one else died.

Biggest moment of awesome came when the psion layed down a big AE attack and critted on two creatures, killing three of them with the shared colony effect.

All in all, everyone had a good time, though they're pretty heavily spent going into next week. The fighter's only got 3 healing surges left and almost everyone spent their daily.

We're excited for next week
I saw a few posts asking what you can do to lower the challenge. There are several things that a DM can do on the fly to change an encounter:

Spoilers for week 10:

  • First, when reviewing the encounter, make note of stat-block entries that can be an asset to the players. It is easy to review stat blocks and think only about the monsters and miss ways to help the players. There are a number of big things to help players in this fight. The Rotpriest and Guard's bursts will damage other monsters. Position them so they have to hurt each other and you help the players. Or, have them draw OAs while they move to where they won't hurt one another, which gives the PCs free attacks. This is particularly nice if a rogue, warlock, or ranger was hit by Pacification Spores and has not received their sneak/quarry/curse damage for the round. The Gas Spores burst will not hurt plants but will hurt the ooze. The Rotpriest's healing when it dies affects all living creatures... giving PCs 10 HPs is huge, and will bring a downed PC back from being unconscious! The power is like a built-in safety valve against a TPK! Combined with Sacrifice For the Colony, you can almost trigger it when you need it by having the Rotpriest die for the colony... and heal the PCs! Similarly, you can position the Rotpriest near PCs but away from other monsters so they are not healed. Positioning is the real key here. 

  • The tables can be a pretty huge boon to the party. Any PC can hit the table pretty easily and then get a burst attack. If you position the foes by the table, you can deal 10 damage (15 to the slime) that can make a big difference in the combat! In a pinch, you can allow a controller or ranger to hit several squares (Twin Strike turns into two burst 1 attacks dealing 10 damage to foes near the big table!).

  • Story-bending is better than obvious rules bending. A really bad miss (1-4 on the die) by the enemies against a PC could be cool if the monster hits beakers instead, taking some fire damage. The stuff really reacts to plants, but not to PCs...

  • Rules-bending is fine if done carefully. No one will notice a few HPs being shaved off or the monsters being inefficient with their powers. Maybe the monsters all get -2 to attacks when bloodied....

  • The twitter buffs are often giving a significant advantage to the PCs. By Wednesday East Coast time you should be able to review the twitter buffs and see which ones will make a big difference. Combined with knowledge checks, the radiant damage one alone should have made for a much easier fight given that 1-2 of the foes should be vulnerable to radiant.



Still a hard fight, for sure. So, if your players' PCs are all beat up, here are some ideas for next week.
Spoilers for future weeks, for DMs only:

  • Make sure everyone is 2nd level. Help them level before play begins if necessary.

  • Before starting, think through what will play best. Will the party appreciate another hard fight? Will they enjoy a medium fight? Will they enjoy an easy fight? Depending on that answer, employ one or more of the following.

  • Treat the party as a "weak" party as listed on page 7, removing a foe of the level of the fight. You can do this twice if the party is already a weak party (table of 4, for example). Alternately, apply a -1 to attacks and defenses to all monsters and remove 8 HPs from each monster.

  • If your players lost all their dailies, consider using the equivalent of the DMG2's Energy Node terrain power (p59). A free action arcana check can identify that the square(s) will recharge an encounter power with a minor action - this can make a big difference. If your party is really hurt, it could even be used to recharge a daily... but make sure this is needed.

  • Alternately, consider the above but to restore a healing surge... this can be very big if you have a monk, rogue, or similar PC that is very low on surges.

  • In encounter 3-3, be inefficient with the W and Ts. The Ts are a lot less of a big deal if they don't get their tactics off, as is the W. Encourage knowledge checks so the party can try to prevent this as well. Consider delaying B by a round or two, so as to lower the damage output. Alternately, delay the Ts by a round or two and bring them in as a surprise, but after the party has focused fire and hurt the Ss.

  • In encounter 3-4, you want this to be a challenge. Still, make sure the perception checks vs passive are used and encourage active checks to lower the surprise factor. Remember that forced movement into hazardous terrain or a fall can grant a save to avoid (and the PC ends up prone). Remember that F can be awoken and encourage this as needed. Stat block for F is on page 11. Pathetic Appeal could be a cool power to use to defend herself and help by blocking or helping someone out the river. Silver Deception could be used to have a foe do nothing for a round or just move, provoking OAs. Those two powers alone are a nice way to contribute but not steal the show.


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I just found this forum.  I have a question concerning this encounter and some of the character's powers.  It would be relevent to other encounters where this might happen.

spoilerey stuff


When a character is denied a standard action from the Pacifiying spores attack. If another character gives that player an attack, such as some of the Warlords powers, can they take the attack?  It sort of goes against the powers name but I allowed it to happen because the character that directed the attack to happen was not the one denied the standard action.




I would like some clarrification on this matter in case it ever comes up again.  Thanks.


The power says the target "cannot take a standard action". I take that to mean preventing one, even if granted by another PC. I also see it as preventing the use of an Action Point. It only lasts one round, so it should be ok. More debatable is whether a PC can take the standard action and convert it to a move... I am not sure about that, but I ruled against it at the table (which worked fine).

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when I designed the encounters, I tried to put together something that would please the most people and be the most adaptable that it could be. If I erred too much on the side of danger, well, lesson learned, and I hope that future seasons will go easier.



I certainly hope the swing isn't too much the other way. I think a lot of our PCs appreciate the challenge level—especially since most of them are D&D (if not RPGA) veterans. Making the fights too easy would make encounters a snoozer, and they would lose interest. I like that a lot of the fights provide tactical ways to lower the challenge.

[sblock In this fight]The rotpriests burst attack was *not* friendly, so it was a good way to whittle down the monsters' shared HP while still making a tactically defensible attack.[/sblock]

If you're going to make it easier, I would do it by providing more escape routes for the DM, and more environmental effects the PCs can take advantage of, not by making the monsters push-overs. DMs can ease up on the fight and no one will think less of them, but it's really hard to make it more challenging in a fair way.

I DMed a game and played it as the module said, no fudging of dice. The party died. I wish I knew about the typos before hand.  Honestly the group probably would have wiped anyway.

You didn't mention the most important thing: did they have fun?

The one problem I'm starting to see repeatedly in D&D, and this encounter is a great example is

[sblock Corridor Cramps]The PCs begin in the box o'death—I'm actually not generally opposed by the box, but I'm of the opinion it should always be at least 12 squares.

In this adventure, however, the PCs all begin in a 2x3 box in a hallway that enters a room. The monsters are scattered about the room. The monk, per usual, rolls ridiculous initiative and runs in and starts beating on things. The monsters, with average initiative, all go second, most focussing on him, the rest getting in the faces of the other PCs in hallway.

Now all the other PCs are stuck in the hallway. The ranged characters are protected and the melee characters can still attack, so they're not terribly concerned about it. And so the tactical miniatures combat goes for two hours with four of the six PCs not leaving the original 2x3 box they started in.

I really think both adventure authors and DMs need to be aware of corridor cramps and work really hard to avoid them, because the PCs really miss out on the fun environment with this set-up.
[/sblock]
On that note, I want to address the "play the encounter as written" thing: this is largely a myth.

How many DMs need to post that they just ran the encounters as written, before that myth is dispelled?

Sure, no two encounters are going to be run exactly the same way, due to different dice rolls and player choices, but when someone talks about running an encounter as written, what they mean is that they took the creatures that were specified, used the tactics that were given, and ran the creatures as using their abilities to their fullest extent to attempt to fulfill the creatures' goal in killing the party, and let the dice decide the outcome.

Many DMs killed PCs in this encounter.  Many DMs TPKed entire parties in this encounter.  I am willing to bet that in almost every case, this was not done because the DMs thought that it would be fun to massacre the party, but rather because their philosophy is that the party is supposed to objectively overcome the stated challenges in order to be counted as succeeding (challenges which are supposed to be balanced and fun) and the luck of the dice indicated the party failed to do this.

The default (which is what should be playtested) is that the DM takes your encounter and mechanically runs the creatures exactly as written, using their abilities to their fullest extent (within any stated limitations as to the creatures' tactics and goals), with the PCs' living or dying depending on their abilities, tactics and dice rolls.  If that was not your assumption when creating these encounters, then there is a pretty basic and fundamental problem with this module.

I want to note something on the XP end of things (and I've created an entire thread for this: community.wizards.com/dungeonsanddragons...): the PCs at this point should be second level, period. Even if they don't have enough XP to make the leap, the DM should grant them sufficient "virtual XP" to be 2nd level.

If that recommendation was made in the module itself, I'd appreciate if you'd point out where, so I can mention that to the organizer at the store I'm playing.

Otherwise, this will have to join such gems as "Creatures with a coup de grace power shouldn't be using it" and "Creatures with a minor action attack should only be using it once per round", as suggestions that really should have been actually included in the module.

For that matter, if this was a last minute realization, this is important enough to warrant an e-mail to all of those signed up as D&DE organizers, which is something that should be fairly trivial to accomplish in this day and age.

This is far from my first organized campaign experience, so I have no problem shrugging off a bad experience and moving on.  Whether the new player who showed up last night to play a 1st level PC in what was possibly her first D&D experience ever, and then promptly got massacred, will bother coming back is quite another story.
I just found this forum.  I have a question concerning this encounter and some of the character's powers.  It would be relevent to other encounters where this might happen.
spoilerey stuff


When a character is denied a standard action from the Pacifiying spores attack. If another character gives that player an attack, such as some of the Warlords powers, can they take the attack?  It sort of goes against the powers name but I allowed it to happen because the character that directed the attack to happen was not the one denied the standard action.




I would like some clarrification on this matter in case it ever comes up again.  Thanks.


The power says the target "cannot take a standard action". I take that to mean preventing one, even if granted by another PC. I also see it as preventing the use of an Action Point. It only lasts one round, so it should be ok. More debatable is whether a PC can take the standard action and convert it to a move... I am not sure about that, but I ruled against it at the table (which worked fine).



I decided that they could convert down to a move action at least. It prevented things from going completely to overbearing.

As for actions granted by another ... many of those powers allow the use of Basic Attacks as "Free" actions, or immediate actions, and thus I do not consider those to be Standard Actions. So I would rule that a Warlord could in fact get his striker friend to "Wake up, Lad! Hit him where it hurts!" and stab the enemy in the back.

ETA: and more importantly, the power prevents Standard Actions ... not -attacks-. Thus any power, granted or otherwise, that allows attacks should not be stopped. IMO.
If wizards of the coast new about the typos couldn't they have posted them on the twitters page? so we could of all know about them. I think that our party would have managed to defeat all the monsters, but it would of still been a hard fight instead of a depressing encounter, where all we could do is pray that the pacification spores would miss occansionly so we could use a standard action I might ask if the DM would like to run it again some other time with the typos,  anyway off to eat a mushroom omelette That will learn them (bloody fungi)