Field Report Week 11: Hounds of the Usurper!

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We only had enough people for 1 table again this week (damn players vacationing in Thailand and having to be in the field, don't they know D&D is important? Cool)

I was glad to see the tie in from Gen Con. I thought it was very cool.
This week's encounter was a total bust for me. I had a table with 6 players. They turkey-gobble-stomped the monsters. First of all, I rolled crappy numbers for the monsters' initiatives, and the players mostly rolled really well. As a result, all but one of the PCs went before the monsters. They quickly moved up and created a road block so that the monsters basically couldn't advance out from between the two buildings where they started. As a result, only one Plague changed Grunt was on the other side of the party.

The first player (a mage) hit all of the monsters except that one with a Burning Hands spell. The next player (Paladin I think) moved up, activated his defender's aura and did a melee attack (I think, but I don't remember which power he used). The next player (a thief) had combat advantage. So he used Sneak Attack and Backstab to hit one of the monsters for 22 points of damage. The next player (another mage) moved up and hit the same group of monsters with another Burning Hands spell. Then, because he is a Dragonborn, used his breath weapon to hit them again for more damage.

At that point, they were all bloodied, which triggered the Wreches' burst attacks. They were more than 2 squares away from the PCs so the only creatures they hit were some of the Grunts (which killed them).

After the next player (a Warpriest I believe) took his turn, the monsters finally got a turn and managed to do a little bit of damage to one of the first Mage. The one monster that was behind the group moved up for a flank. Of course he, along with the other Grunt were in the Paladin's aura, so they took damage.

Then the last member of the party went. I think she was a Swordmage. She hit the monsters with Arc lightning.

That was the end of round 1.

Round 2 the first Mage used Beguiling Strands to push all but two of the monsters away. He tried to pushed two of them into the wells, and succeeded on one of them -- killing it.

In Round 2 I brought in another Grunt for reinforcement. But by Round 3 it was all over.

In all, I think the party missed a running total of twice. I only managed to seriously damage the first Mage (in fact, I think that was the only character I managed to damage during the entire fight) at which point the Wild Elf Warpriest moved in next to him, gave him a heal and used his Step Together power to teleport both of them out of danger.

So, this encounter did not prove to be a challenge at all for the PCs.
- Rico
We had two tables again at FCB Games. At the beginning of this session, I handled all the roleplaying stuff from the end of the last session. So, the PCs learned a bit more about the plot and had some of their questions answered. They agreed to help Arlon convince the Heir to back down from his plans to attack the Enclave, but only if they were there WITH Arlon, instead of just going themselves.

So, I had Arlon and 5 Sons of Alagondar accompany the PCs to the surface. Oh, Nix (leader of the Dead Rats) was there too, since the PCs insisted they bring him along, for added support.

They arrived at the meeting place and were confronted by the Heir. He demanded to know Arlon's answer to his "request" to join him, and Arlon refused. Before the PCs could intercede, the Heir blasted Arlon and the Sons with blue fire. Arlon fell to the ground, and the 5 Sons were transformed into the Plaguechanged Wretch and 4 Plaguechanged Grunts that the PCs were supposed to fight in this encounter.

The fight went fairly "by the numbers". No imminent deaths on the PCs side, and they cleaned up fairly easily. The only notable things... when it got to Nix's turn in the initiative, he just took off running behind the nearest building (so that the PCs couldn't blast him with spells or pepper him with arrows for his 'betrayal'). Arlon recovered by the end of the encounter, shouting for the PCs to pursue the Heir immediately.

Oh, and one PC noticed the peculiarity about the Heir's arm, so they're starting to piece together who the Heir really is. 

We didn't get any bonus materials at our store, so no tie-in to GenCon for us. 
Yeah, I probably should have had the Wretch's bluefire burst be enemies only--or better yet, damage and push enemies only, and slide allies. But alas.

@ScottyMet: The Sons being changed into the monsters was actually the way I initially designed the encounter. Well done!

@Gimper: Sounds like the dice were just NOT in the DM's favor this time, which happens (D&D being such a swingy game). Have no fear--the law of D&D probability dictates it'll swing back around.

I ran a 6:00 and an 8:00 session. The games manager of the store I run at had the DM Castle Screen out for me to demo. That thing is awesome and I will never get tired of dropping a die down a tower and having it spit it out at the bottom. Also, it seemed to make my attack rolls insane, much to the players regret.

The early session had 5 players. This is highly experienced group and they generally stomp over anything I throw at them so I always add 1 more non-minion.

The players had great initiave and all went before the monsters. The Assassin was up first and did what he did best, with a crit, with all his assassin bonuses and powers.... Pop went one Wretch. (70 Damage!!!... I said all that was left after everyone blinked was a fine glowing blue mist settling to the ground)

The fight went on and the party stayed huddled around the Druid's Bear so the goons closed in and grabbed and slammed and really wore the party down. After a couple of the party went unconscious the group spread out and killed them off with plenty of time to get their friends back to consciousness.

The later session had 4 players. This group I generally go by the guidelines for player to monster ratio.

I was playing whack-a-mole with the defender while the party tried taking out the monsters (defender gets healed and stands up - WHACK - Defender falls down again). This group had a lot more range and control and kept the monsters where they wanted them, alas they couldn't get their defender out. In the end the Defender survived, although I think he had failed two death saves.

Everyone seemed to have fun and is really pumped up for making tHeir target eat some steel. 

Some of these encounters get brutal on defenders. We had a paladin who did his valiant shield thingy where he takes someone else's damage--he went down to negatives four times in two encounters doing that.


Oh man, if only our defender (Swordmage) wasn't completely pumped for defenses. He got hit twice in the encounter (once by a friendly-fire Invoker ability) and took 22 damage out of his 50hp. 

One of the players has been a little disrespectful with the group, interrupting roleplaying with "yeah yeah yeah, carrying on". He's very firmly a numbers player, with little care for roleplaying (we disagree often, as my main game right now is WoD). However, he's the best technical DM we have, so I don't want to piss him off too much... 

So I increased the amount of enemies by roughly 50% for the group of 6, with 3 being what I would call "top-tier technical players". So while I barely touched the Swordmage, many were bloodied and our Ranger was within 2hp of being unconscious.  

Tee hee hee!

We were short our bard, and with the Cleric deciding to charge "4 gold up front for heals, cash on delivery!" we still did quite well. Highlights include the Minotaur Barbarian using a grappling foe as an improvised weapon against another, the Invoker running in to use his 2-blast fire zone power and causing a chain explosion of death, and the Cleric mopping up from afar with a second chain explosion of death. By mistake a made all of the (8 or so) baddies explode on hitting 0, which the characters used to surprising advantage. 

One of the most fun battles I've ever run, hands-down. And the players had an absolute ball.  
@Gimper: Sounds like the dice were just NOT in the DM's favor this time, which happens (D&D being such a swingy game). Have no fear--the law of D&D probability dictates it'll swing back around.


Indeed. If I remember correctly, in the first sewer encounter, one of the players never rolled higher than a 5 all night.
- Rico
It was a drab and rainy day in Peotone as we were getting ready for Encounters. Two players already called and cancelled. At 5:45 it looked like we were not even going to have enough people for one table let alone 3. Then in the span of about 10 min everyone showed up and we were able to run 3 tables. Our table was short the slayer so we had a Druid, Warpriest, Mage, and a Seeker/Cleric. So in other words no striker. This was going to be a long nite.

I had the players meet the Lost Heir in the run down part of Black Lake. Rather than him follow the flavor text I had him enlist the PCs to his cause and tell them that he would lead them to the Hall of Justice, remove Neverember by force and put his head upon a pike for all to see. Blade shaper stepped forth and said he did not want justice in this way and wanted nothing to do with the LH's plan. He and his allies were vaporized for their trouble. This brought on a WTF moment as one of the PCs asked if we could tell if that was a Daily he just used. They agreed to aid the heir and the warprist even followed him. However the druid who likes freedom called out the heir leading to combat. He made the comment "why is it me that always starts the combat".

The plague changed beings poured out of the ruins and attacked the PCs. The seeker shot the wretch in the leg slowing him (Grappling Spirits) while the grunts beat up on the Druid, Companion, and Warpriest. The Mage stepped forward and thanks to being an Envoker ghetto critted his burning hands on 3 grunts and the wretch causing the wretch to explode on one of his allies and vaporized the druids's companion.

The Dwarf was unable to break the grab and took heavy damage from the grunt. He even killed him, but the headless grunt continued to choke the life from him. The mage then for the next 3 rounds shot lighting at the grunts and missed a total of 5 out of 6 shots targeting thier worst defense as he was unable to roll highter than a 3. He and the Seeker played leapfrog with one aother so as not to draw agro from the grunts.

The party was able to fight off the creatures,but the Druid lost a total of 4 surges due to animal companion damage, but was able to get his 50 points of damge in when a grunt made his save and stayed up only to be mauled to death by the wolf.

Even with no Striker the party all was able to get their 15 points of Damage in and we gave the moment of greatness to the mage as a concellation prize. He also found a vicious staff on the body of the Grunt. Now they are off after the heir, although they are not sure if they want to.
@ScottyMet: The Sons being changed into the monsters was actually the way I initially designed the encounter. Well done!

Really? Cool.

I only decided to do it that way because I knew that my players wouldn't accept being asked to go to see The Heir without Arlon being with them. The rest just fell into place from there. 

We had two tables of seven here (and new folks keep showing up). A Half-elf cleric, two dwarven fighters, two drow rangers, and two wizards.
Thanks to the bridge fight, the players were scared to death of the Wretches. I've been running the wretches wrong (having them explode when they dropped to zero) so the end of the fight was a funny game of everyone slowly backing away from the last wretch while the cleric smacked it with his mace.
Yeah, I probably should have had the Wretch's bluefire burst be enemies only--or better yet, damage and push enemies only, and slide allies. But alas.

To me, that gets old real fast.  It's rare for a monster to attack 'creatures,' and, espcially for something as nasty as plaguechanged, it gets accross the feel of them being nasty, deadly /things/, rather than part of a well-oiled PC-fighting machine.  So, yeah, I liked the way you had it. 

And just, in general, creature-targetting AEs are more tactically interesting than enemy- or ally- differentiating ones, as they take some thought to place well.

We had two tables for this fight.  Aside from the Heir going so dramatically around the bend, it wasn't too much of a stand-out.  We'd fought the monster types once before, so we were able to use decent tactics against them, and, for once, they didn't start spread out from different directions.  Our mage (we had one at our table this week) was able to put some AE hurt on them early in the fight, which helped.  Our Bladesinger and Warlord combo'd to drop monsters quickly, and when the Bladesong ran out, the Warlord switched to teaming with the Theif.  Our Hunter wasn't exactly a slouch in this one, either, using his immobilize power to good effect. 


At the start of the next session, we played through the mercenaries offering us items in exchange for some unspecified favor.  Our leader types negotiated a little - the unnamed favor was OK, but it couldn't conflict with existing 'oaths' we may have taken (and we have a couple of Nobles who have presumably got all kinds of loyalty-to-Neverwinter oaths in their backgrounds). 

I have to say I was amused to see 'magic item cards.'  I've been predicting we'd see 'em ever since they put items on the same common/uncommon/rare scale as Magic(tG) cards.  ;)



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It's rare for a monster to attack 'creatures,' and, espcially for something as nasty as plaguechanged, it gets accross the feel of them being nasty, deadly /things/, rather than part of a well-oiled PC-fighting machine.  

On the other hand, in this instance it would make sense that the burst attacks enemies only, because the other plague-changed creatures should logically be immune to a burst of spellplague fire. So, it's not really a matter of conscious tactics on their part, or being "part of a well-oiled PC-fighting machine." It's in the nature of their current condition.

- Rico
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