D&D Encounters, Season 3 - Ask the Author

97 posts / 0 new
Last post
This thread is to be used to ask the author, Chris Sims, questions about the various encounters, to hopefully allow DMs to get a better insight into the intent of the encounter that may not have gotten across via the module itself.

This is *not* for reviews of the session, commentary about D&D Essentials or anything else.

I will be moderating this with a fairly strict hand.
Mudbunny SVCL for DDI Before you post, think of the Monkeysphere
Thanks!

One major point on issues I've seen elsewhere: If it isn't in the adventure or the general D&D rules, and works badly for the characters, it doesn't apply. The Dungeon article on the keep is for expanded DM information, not to change the adventure for the worse. For example, I purposely ignored the part of the article that says the guards take the characters' weapons besides daggers. I would ignore that in my home campaign, and I strongly recommend against DMs using it. It diminishes some characters without affecting others. It's unfair and unfun, and bad for an Encounters session.

Also, there might be aspects of the published version that I don't know about, because I don't have a copy of the published version. I might have to say I don't know at times because of that.

Spoiler
For instance, in my original, Sal is always a female. Further, she was a participant in encounter 1–2's combat. Part of the fun of the original encounter was identifying and interacting with Sal, and winning the combat through fighting along with some noncombat shenanigans. Someone changed that after I turned the adventure over, and the fact that some of the old stuff remains and some pronouns are confused might  create a little confusion. Hopefully you can see past those issues.

Edit:
(Some changes to the spoiler for clarity.) Talking about the original doesn't mean I think you should alter the encounter back to what I originally wrote. This adventure was carefully playtested, resulting in much suffering and countless improvements.

_ C _

Welcome Chris, I was already thinking of ways to get them their weapons prior to 1-2 anyway but thanks for the clarification.  Now about that updated map...
Hey Chris, thanks for making yourself available for this.  It was a huge help in Season 1, and I appreciate the follow-on support.

I have not ever played/read the original Keep on the Borderlands, so this question could be obvious to everyone else...
Show

The cleric (starts with a 'B') is trying to set up the players to kill the Thief/Banker (isn't that redundant?) by saying he is a follower of Tiamat.  In the first chapter for Encounters, we have nothing saying where the Tiamat followers are coming from: is his set-up a real situation?  Does the Banker actually worship Tiamat, or Zehir, or someone like Avandra?

or...
Where would I track down a copy of the basis for this, if it is very different from what we have?
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
@ Atras

See ya in a couple hours...

Show

If you look on pg 4, it gives an indication that the Banker is not a follower of Zehir (if you imply that 'B' wants a Zehirite to be placed in his position). And regarding the cult, there is some talk on page 5 in booklet about that... (prolly not to your satisfaction, but there is some stuff there)
@Atras: Future chapters make it clearer. You don't need any familiarity with the original. ;)
In Encounter 1-2, the tactics block, "Sal", is an inconsistency. What enemy is this actually supposed to be talking about? I would guess the Halfling thief, since is is the only lone one, but I would like to know what was intended.
Thanks!

One major point on issues I've seen elsewhere: If it isn't in the adventure or the general D&D rules, and works badly for the characters, it doesn't apply. The Dungeon article on the keep is for expanded DM information, not to change the adventure for the worse. For example, I purposely ignored the part of the article that says the guards take the characters' weapons besides daggers. I would ignore that in my home campaign, and I strongly recommend against DMs using it. It diminishes some characters without affecting others. It's unfair and unfun, and bad for an Encounters session.



I respectfully disagree. Sure there are some players that would cry foul if that happened to them. And yes, if it's an Encounters game, it's probably best not to do that. Explaining to new players how weapon proficiency bonuses work and how you calculate your attack score for that matter might make the whole thing take ages and interrupt the game. But if it was my home campaign I'd do it without blinking. Mostly because my players trust me and know that I wouldn't purposefully screw them over. I always think that rules should bend for the story and not vice versa. I also don't think that diminishing some characters for an encounter or two and letting another one shine is a bad thing, as long as you make sure that in your story, the other characters get to shine on a different occasion. It's all about mutual respect between your players and the DM after all.

Chris, thanks for a great story.  Looking forward to future chapters.  As a DM, I would love a 10,000 foot view of the plot somewhere, something for future Encounters perhaps.

I don't have any questions yet, but just wanted to post my appreciation and have a reference post I could go to if such questions do come up (e.g. Encounter 2, which has already been answered).
Question about experience for this season.  Are players supposed to track experience, or should everyone level at the same time?  Some people are thinking of waiting till Chapter 2 to create new characters (using the character builder), so should they then be half a level behind everyone else, and same for those who might miss a session or 2.

Always a GM, never a player (not really but sometimes feels like it).

Hex Grid UserPopcorn InitiativeAndroid UserD&DMapTools

DungeonScape

Extreme spoilers below.  Players should not read this.  Only DMs and author should continue!!

spoilerey stuff


I’m DMing this season and I’ve read through the whole first chapter of the adventure module.  What I’m struggling with a little bit is I don’t know who Ronnik is.  It seems to me the DM should know who Ronnik is so that he doesn’t accidentally say something that confuses players or mixes up a plot point.


Here’s what I know.  Ronnik is a banker.  Ronnik charges a high interest rate.  Ronnik has been in and out of the keep lately.


I also understand that Sal is a doppelganger.  So it wasn’t Ronnik who told Kesk to kidnap Gordi (1-1.)  And it wasn’t Ronnik who sent goons to jump the party (1-2.)  And it wasn’t Ronnik who made a map to the Well Hideout (1-3.) 


So the DM understand’s Benwick is playing the party to his own ends.  No problem there.  But correct me if I’m wrong – the DM doesn’t know anything about Ronnik?  If the DM knew who Ronnik was, good or bad, it would help me understand the story a little better.  Did I miss something? 




In Encounter 1-2, the tactics block, "Sal", is an inconsistency. What enemy is this actually supposed to be talking about?

Some editing problems in encounter 1-2 can lead to some confusion over Sal. The tactics referring to Sal are not meaningful in any way given the way the encounter is set up now.

@Nightwalker: That's a technical question that's better answered by the organizer or some other RPGA rep. Typical rules call for PCs to be at the same level and experience point total, which is what I'd do if I were running a game. Everyone equal makes for better predictability in play.

Extreme spoilers below. Players should not read this. Only DMs and author should continue!!

Spoiler Answer
The truth is, which seems clear from the version of the text I have, that Ronnik might not be the best guy, but other bad guys, which you know about from Chapter 1, have reasons to want Ronnik ruined or worse. Chapter 2 makes this clearer, I think.

Question about experience for this season.  Are players supposed to track experience, or should everyone level at the same time?  Some people are thinking of waiting till Chapter 2 to create new characters (using the character builder), so should they then be half a level behind everyone else, and same for those who might miss a session or 2.



We were told to track our experience, "that's why it's on the sheet." But it sounded like there were some stipulations to the effect of "you'll level up at the end of chapter 2 regardless."

XP values are listed in the adventure, so I'm tracking them for now. If we end up not needing them... eh. Whatever, no harm, no foul. 
-m4ki; one down, one to go

"Retro is not new. Retro-fit is not new." --Seeker95, on why I won't be playing DDN

|| DDN Metrics (0-10) | enthusiasm: 1 | confidence in design: -3 | desire to play: 0 | Sticking with 4e?: Yep. | Better Options: IKRPG Mk II ||
The Five Things D&D Next Absolutely Must Not Do:
1. Imbalanced gameplay. Any and all characters must be able to contribute equally both in combat and out of combat at all levels of play. If the Fighters are linear and the Wizards quadratic, I walk. 2. Hardcore simulationist approach. D&D is a game about heroic fantasy. I'm weak and useless enough in real life; I play RPGs for a change of pace. If the only reason a rule exists is because "that's how it's supposed to be", I walk. I don't want a game that "simulates" real life, I want a game that simulates heroic fantasy. 3. Worshipping at false idols (AKA Sacred Cows). If the only reason a rule exists is "it's always been that way", I walk. Now to be clear, I have no problem with some things not changing; my issue is with retaining bad idea simply for the sake of nostalgia. 4. DM vs. players. If the game encourages "gotcha!" moments or treats the DM and players as enemies, adversaries, or problems to be overcome, I walk. 5. Rules for the sake of rules. The only thing I want rules for is the things I can't do sitting around a table with my friends. If the rules try to step on my ability to roleplay the character I want to roleplay, I walk. Furthermore, the rules serve to facilitate gameplay, not to simulate the world. NOTE: Items in red have been violated.
Chris Perkins' DM Survival Tips:
1. When in doubt, wing it. 2. Keep the story moving. Go with the flow. 3. Sometimes things make the best characters. 4. Always give players lots of things to do. 5. Wherever possible, say ‘yes.’ 6. Cheating is largely unnecessary. 7. Don't be afraid to give the characters a fun new toy. 8. Don't get in the way of a good players exchange. 9. Avoid talking too much. 10. Save some details for later. 11. Be transparent. 12. Don't show all your cards. Words to live by.
Quotes From People Smarter Than Me:
"Essentials zigged, when I wanted to continue zagging..." -Foxface on Essentials "Servicing a diverse fan base with an RPG ruleset - far from being the mandate for 'open design space' and a cavalier attitude towards balance - requires creating a system that /works/, with minimal fuss, for a wide variety of play styles, not just from one group to the next, but at the same table." -Tony_Vargas on design "Mearls' and Cook's stated intent to produce an edition that fans of all previous editions (and Pathfinder) will like more than their current favourite edition is laudable. But it is also, IMO, completely unrealistic. It's like people who pray for world peace: I might share their overall aims, but I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for them to succeed. When they talk in vague terms about what they'd like to do in this new edition, I mostly find myself thinking 'hey, that sounds cool, assuming they can pull it off', but almost every time they've said something specific about actual mechanics, I've found myself wincing and shaking my head in disbelief and/or disgust, either straight away or after thinking about the obvious implications for half a minute." -Duskweaver on D&D Next
I have a question about Benwick...

Show
Serpent in the Fold
Benwick plays the part of a jolly, fat friar who worships Avandra, Ioun, and Sehanine. In truth, he and his acolytes are servants of the evil god, Zehir. Benwick has grand plans of turning the keep into a citadel for the snake god's faithful. He's courting the local lizard folk for his plot. Most of the folks in the outer bailey are fond of Benwick, who is a subtle, entertaining critic of Drysdale's rule. He cheerfully feeds rumors that the paladin intends to impose Keep-wide worship of Erath is and to launch expeditions that might rile up the evil in the Chaos Scar. Benwick's allies include Kendon Longstrider and Chendera.

Does this mean that Kendon and Chendera are in on his evil plot?  Or are they just unwitting dupes who haven't a clue?
I have a question about Benwick...

Show
Serpent in the Fold
Does this mean that Kendon and Chendera are in on his evil plot?  Or are they just unwitting dupes who haven't a clue?



Show
The latter. Both just liked things better the way they were and Benwick is only too happy to feed their fears that Drysdale will change all that.

Question about encounter 3.

Show
Should Dragon Tooth Hill be indicated on the map found by the players as well as the location of the well hideout?  Wanted to do a hand drawn type scribble map but wasn't sure if the Hill should be included on it.


Thanks Joe
Yo Chris--

No questions as yet, just stopping in to say hi.

I think I'm actually going to get to play this season, which I'm definitely looking forward to. You know, after I got so defiled in your Dark Sun game. :D

Cheers
Here is a question from the first session:

Show
Was the trapper supposed to be able to use his immobilize power at-will or does it use up a net each time it is used?  I've read the stat block and although it is an at-will power, the monster only has 3 nets so there is an implication that he has to use a new net each time.

I'm curious since at our table, the DM used it repeatedly at 2 squares away against our Knight and Cleric, thereby preventing them from getting any attacks for the entire encounter.
Here is a question from the first session:

Show
Was the trapper supposed to be able to use his immobilize power at-will or does it use up a net each time it is used?  I've read the stat block and although it is an at-will power, the monster only has 3 nets so there is an implication that he has to use a new net each time.

I'm curious since at our table, the DM used it repeatedly at 2 squares away against our Knight and Cleric, thereby preventing them from getting any attacks for the entire encounter.



Not sure if this still counts as spoilery, but.
Show
I used my own characters rather than pregens. and made sure to purchase ranged weapons for when melee wasn't feasible. as far as not being able to attack, the answer should have been fairly simple for a veteran player, (not to say that you or the others should be veterans, more of a "for future insight") if the knight goes before the cleric, he should delay until after the cleric, since the cleric can't attack, he should use his standard to make a heal skill check and provide the knight with a free saving throw. Hopefully the knight would succeed and then be able to move in and make the attack on the trapper, and spread out from his ally as well.

I am aware this doesn't actually answer the question you asked, but I hope that it will help you for future plights that may be similar to this one.
Here is a question from the first session:

Show
Was the trapper supposed to be able to use his immobilize power at-will or does it use up a net each time it is used?  I've read the stat block and although it is an at-will power, the monster only has 3 nets so there is an implication that he has to use a new net each time.

I'm curious since at our table, the DM used it repeatedly at 2 squares away against our Knight and Cleric, thereby preventing them from getting any attacks for the entire encounter.



Similar to this question:

Show
Are the Poisonscale Needlers only supposed to be able to make 10 attacks each and then they're useless?

https://twitter.com/#!/Nullzone42

Are the PNs only supposed to be able to make 10 attacks each and then they're useless?



If they last that long the DM needs to end the encounter anyway because it has already turned into a "grind."

Mine ran away, through a narrow crack in the cave wall not shown on the map, when only 1 remained.
Granted that it would be a grind at that point and it shouldn't even last that long to begin with, I just wanted to make sure I was reading it right
https://twitter.com/#!/Nullzone42
I'd say you are totally reading it wrong...

After they get off their ten shots each, they then simply switch to melee attacks with their claws. Wink
Because, if any of those 4 minions can survive 10 rounds against a wizard with magic missile, they deserve the title of "Player Killer". hehe
Because, if any of those 4 minions can survive 10 rounds against a wizard with magic missile, they deserve the title of "Player Killer". hehe



In my home games, if a Minion "kills" a PC they instantly "level-up" and gain 5 temporary hit points (per tier) after a big cheer and a round of high-fives from all of the surviving Minions. 
Sorry, I have been distracted.

I have a question about Benwick...

The latter is correct.

Question about encounter 3.

You can include what you think the characters would know. I think that's neat.

Yo Chris-- No questions as yet, just stopping in to say hi. I think I'm actually going to get to play this season, which I'm definitely looking forward to. You know, after I got so defiled in your Dark Sun game. :D Cheers

Hiya!

Here is a question from the first session:

It sounds like the DM played it right, especially given the dragging ability. If the use of that power was finite, I'd think the stats would say so more clearly. I'm just sorry the results were as you say, because it doesn't sound like much fun.

Here is a question from the first session:

Good advice. Maybe all pregens should have ranged weapons?

Similar to this question:

When it's an issue of ammo, the answer seeems clear. So, yes, they can run out of ammo, but that doesn't make them "useless" does it? Likely they'll have some extra ammo scattered by reason of some pals being dead. ;)

I have a large scale story question:

Show

Approximately when in the overall story of this season does the real bad guy get revealed to the players? I'd like to be dropping a few clues to raise the players' suspicions that not everything is as it seems, but I don't want to go too far if the reveal isn't until several more chapters.


thanks!
I have a large scale story question:

Show

Approximately when in the overall story of this season does the real bad guy get revealed to the players? I'd like to be dropping a few clues to raise the players' suspicions that not everything is as it seems, but I don't want to go too far if the reveal isn't until several more chapters.


thanks!



I wouldn't give them any clues. 
Show

In my experience, players are extremely sensitive to any sign of betrayal.  In my own game, when Benwick told the PCs about his spy amidst Ronnick's guards, someone asked how a priest knows about hiring spies.  The bell has been rung, and now the party feels railroaded working for one guy they don't trust, searching for another that hasn't wronged them in any way.


Vampire Class/Feat in 2013!

I prefer Next because 4E players and CharOpers can't find their ass without a grid and a power called "Find Ass."

I have a large scale story question:

Show

Approximately when in the overall story of this season does the real bad guy get revealed to the players? I'd like to be dropping a few clues to raise the players' suspicions that not everything is as it seems, but I don't want to go too far if the reveal isn't until several more chapters.


thanks!


I'm not sure there is one because ...
Show

It looks like at the end of chapter 2 the Benwick storyline is over for now and the characters move onto a new one. Unless he makes a reappearance in chapter 5.





REALLY hoping that my Chapter 2 package is in.  The gaming store doesn't bother to contact me anymore, just mentions it when I am in to run Encounters.
I have a large scale story question:

To answer you:

Show
The real one is revealed, but I doubt the players need any clues. It's important those who are involved in the whole story feel it when the reveal happens.

I wouldn't give them any clues.

Weird

Show
Benwick has plenty of friends and loyalists. Planting Sal among Ronnik's people is nothing more than using his normal resources. The idea that Sal is a spy in a professional sense and that Benwick had to look somewhere special for her is pretty far out. In other words, it's not about hiring professional spies, it's about having a sympathizer among your enemy's people. That's something Benwick could reasonably do, considering his influence. Further, Benwick can explain it in this way if asked or if he deduces a lack of trust. Maybe you can use that to regain some trust. If not, it sounds like someone you're playing with is too sensitive for whatever reason.


Question in spoiler blocks, just in case.
Show
Doesn't seem to be any mention in the text (at least not the text after WotC's editors got at it) for what to do if the characters don't keep any kobalds alive. They're just left with no clue as to where to go next. I had them head back to the keep and used Benwick as a handy-dandy Deus ex Machina, having "investigated" and found the information. Anyone have any better ideas?
Question in spoiler blocks, just in case.
Show
Doesn't seem to be any mention in the text (at least not the text after WotC's editors got at it) for what to do if the characters don't keep any kobalds alive. They're just left with no clue as to where to go next. I had them head back to the keep and used Benwick as a handy-dandy Deus ex Machina, having "investigated" and found the information. Anyone have any better ideas?



They find another one hiding who begs for his life.  Or Gordi's younger more cowardly brother.

Vampire Class/Feat in 2013!

I prefer Next because 4E players and CharOpers can't find their ass without a grid and a power called "Find Ass."

A bit late, but our kobolds had Dying Words and Last Gasps, and Teasing Taunts whenever they hit
AlexandraErin: If last season was any indication, I think Encounters is pretty much the elemental opposite of "organized" play!
Yeah, I put a bit of Hollywood style death prattle in.  The players said they enjoyed the bit of humor.
I'm still wondering about some of the larger scale story structure, if such information can be revealed in advance:

Show

In what chapter does the real bad guy get revealed? Is this something that doesn't become known until the climax of the story? Players who are only in the game a couple hours a week can easily forget story elements that happened months ago, so i wonder how long the mystery lasts.

Also, is the end of Chapter 2 the last we see of the Tiamat cult? Or do they show up again? I have some background ideas of my own about the cult, Mox, and the other NPCs, so I wonder how well they might fit in with what is to come.

Thanks,

As posted elsewhere, there appears to be a discrepancy between the map and the text for encounter 2-5. Can you help resolve it?

Show

The text mentions an Armor Square that contains the treasure for the adventure. Nothing like that appears on either the battlemap or the tactical map. While I'm sure I can place it wherever I feel like, but it would be nice to know.

As posted elsewhere, there appears to be a discrepancy between the map and the text for encounter 2-5. Can you help resolve it?

Show

The text mentions an Armor Square that contains the treasure for the adventure. Nothing like that appears on either the battlemap or the tactical map. While I'm sure I can place it wherever I feel like, but it would be nice to know.




If we hear nothing, I am thinking that they would be here:

Show
If we do not get the Author's intentions, I am figuring to put them on the upstream side of the partially submerged rocks.  I'm planning this based on somebody being washed downstream and fetching up there.
As posted elsewhere, there appears to be a discrepancy between the map and the text for encounter 2-5. Can you help resolve it?

Show

The text mentions an Armor Square that contains the treasure for the adventure. Nothing like that appears on either the battlemap or the tactical map. While I'm sure I can place it wherever I feel like, but it would be nice to know.




Glad to hear I'm not the only one wondering about this. Thought I was having a serious blonde moment when I couldn't find it anywhere! 

I like Dayffd's idea and I'll be doing something similar if I haven't seen anything here by tomorrow afternoon

Looks like I skipped a week checking here. Sorry everyone. By way of explanation, rather than excuse, it's not a normal part of my routine. I'll be better.

My version of the adventure makes it clear in the session notes where the characters might check after the well hideout. I don't know what the current version says, but I suspect it's in there, too.

As for the discrepancy in encounter 2–5, I can only assume the editors removed the square in question. Dayffd's idea is fine.
Out of curiosity (asking here since folks are actively discussing it obviously) any chance KotBL will be released in full after the event, pay or free?

I ask because my FLGS was unable to get in, and I was simply unable to DM every week.  My WPN rep suggested I "look online" for a copy, that I could run for a private group.  Before I consider such a move, thougth maybe some of the great minds here might be able to toss out an "innocent" ... just hang on or likewise.

"The turning of the tide always begins with one soldier's decision to head back into the fray"

Since I don't have my adventure with me, what was the treasure for Encounter 2-5?  Spoiler block the answer just in case, but I have been picking treasures rather than just saying it's a "level x weapon" or whatever.