Session 9 Notes (DM Only)

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Session 9 ties up all the business with the feuding fey and prepares the characters for their assault on Soryth and Kalbon. The next 4 sessions will be pretty direct: enter the maze, enter the palace, ascend through the palace, fight Soryth.

My principal advice for this session is to read it thoroughly. There's a lot going on in the process of tying up this part of the adventure. Here's how the session goes:
1. The PCs arrive admidst the feuding fey
2. In one way or another (depending on whether Orlando is alive) they role-play peace bewteen the fey
3. They establish a plan whereby the PCs will attack Soryth
4. Soryth's pendant is enchanted in order to help the PCs defeat her
5. The PCs get attacked while resting--a preemptive strike on Soryth's part

Most of the session is role-playing. That's the focus. It's here to wrap up most of the adventure that came before it and get the PCs focused on the only goal that's now important: defeat Soryth, save Juliana.

Make sure you get a good handle on how the session flows so that you're able to improvise within that structure. While the last session of the game wraps up the season, this one wraps up the second act--that is to say, everything the PCs have been doing on the island since they emerged from the Crystal Cave.

Good luck!

Design Notes
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This was a strange session to design because at a certain point we realized that an additional session was necessary, but the structure of the adventure was already pretty well set and written. This part of the season was the only one that had room for an addition, so I shifted the "wrap-up" into this session, and included another branching path depending upon whether Orlando was alive or dead.

This was initially the session where Oran and Tiandra resolve their differences with dialogue taken straight from A Midsummer Night's Dream. Since the PCs have been working with Oakstaff or Rosaline (the treant and the summer nymph) to unite the archfey, those two are playing mediators as they do in this version as well. Also, the PCs have Porpherio's journal, which tells how he was tricked by Xacsoryth, how he cast off Caerwyn and lost his power over the island, how she killed herself and how he intended to follow. With all this revealed to the archfey, they realize how foolish they've been and determine to unite against Xacsoryth (although they can't enter the palace due to the very magic they wove to protect their children and the Fountain All Heal from the grasp of powerful archfey; the PCs have to do it). If Orlando is dead, his body is taken to the Palace of Spires and a funeral service is held. If Orlando is alive, he's put in charge of a secondary force of fey creatures that will storm the palace once the PCs engage Xacsoryth in battle. 

As always, let me know if you have questions (that I can answer). Smile 
This encounter takes place during the night, while people are trying to have their first extended rest in a while. When the surprise round comes, the first comment I'm confident I'll hear from my players is, "This was an extended rest, so I'm at full HP and surges."

I know I've beaten up on them and they're not really swollen with resources at the moment, but if I give the benefits of an extended rest as this attack happens, it would be like making the next chapter one session longer. And with the next chapter having the BBEGs - plural - that seems like it would be an unfair handicap to the players. However, a half-broken party facing darters and another netcaster could see some PCs drop, just for ending up with bad initiative.

There's also the option of letting them pick, and giving them enough rope to hang themselves with. But that could leave the players hanging somewhere, obviously.

Did anyone else spot this, or think it could be an issue? No one's denying them their extended rest, but the difference between if they take it during and if they take it after this encounter could be the big difference during 12 and 13.

58286228 wrote:
As a DM, I find it easier to just punish the players no matter what they pick, as I assume they will pick stuff that is broken. I mean, fight after fight they kill all the monsters without getting killed themselves! What sort of a game is this, anyway?

 

An insightful observation about the nature of 4e, and why it hasn't succeeded as well as other editions. (from the DDN General Discussions, 2014-05-07)

Rundell wrote:

   

Emerikol wrote:

       

Foxface wrote:

        4e was the "modern" D&D, right?  The one that had design notes that drew from more modern games, and generally appealed to those who preferred the design priorities of modern games.  I'm only speculating, but I'd hazard a guess that those same 4e players are the ones running the wide gamut of other games at Origins.

       
        D&D 4e players are pretty much by definition the players who didn't mind, and often embraced, D&D being "different".  That willingness to embrace the different might also mean they are less attached to 4e itself, and are willing to go elsewhere.

    This is a brilliant insight.  I was thinking along those lines myself.  

 

    There are so many tiny indie games that if you added them all together they would definitely rival Pathfinder.   If there were a dominant game for those people it would do better but there is no dominant game.  Until 4e, the indie people were ignored by the makers of D&D.

 

Yep. 4E was embraced by the 'system matters' crowd who love analyzing and innovating systems. That crowd had turned its back on D&D as a clunky anachronism. But with 4E, their design values were embraced and validated. 4E was D&D for system-wonks. And with support for 4E pulled, the system-wonks have moved on to other systems. The tropes and traditions of D&D never had much appeal for them anyway. Now there are other systems to learn and study. It's like boardgamegeeks - always a new system on the horizon. Why play an ancient games that's seven years old?

 

Of course, not all people who play and enjoy 4E fit that mould. I'm running a 4E campaign right now, and my long-time D&D players are enjoying it fine. But with the system-wonks decamping, the 4E players-base lost the wind in its sails.

An extended rest is 6 hours, so I planned for the attack to happen before they had rested for 6 hours of time. That means they will not have completed the extended rest and received their powers/surges/health back when the attack happens. After the battle is over, they can complete the extended rest and then have those things ready for the last 4 encounters. I believe this was the intent of the module, and falls in line with the chapter/session division for Encounters.

If you're concerned they may not survive this battle without a rest, you could give them partial credit for resting. A couple surges back, or a choice of daily power that was previously expended. Or adjust the monsters to compensate for their abilities. But I would still give them the full benefit of the rest before the next encounter, as they'll definitely need all the help they can get for the final encounters. 
The roleplaying kind of worries me, because it seems that the crux of the matter involves the two archfey agents arguing with each other, i.e. the DMing dialoguing with herself -- with interjections from Orlando. It reads like a long extended cut scene that drains all player agency away.

Caoimhe Ora Snow

Game Designer, The Queen's Cavaliers

5e D&D Stuff: Birthright Conversion

I don't have the mod with me at the moment, here's what I recall.

As for role-playing the archfey agents, the read aloud text sets the scene for the PCs to enter and take charge of it. The intent in the initial draft was:
"You suck."
"No, YOU suck!"
Enter PCs with evidence of the whole sham.
"Actually, you both suck," say the PCs.
Then the session is driven by them as they tell the archfey why they've been foolish, with the treant & nymph there to corroborate. Not sure if that helps.

Also, I remember making this encounter easier in the initial draft and giving the PCs their extended rest after. Can't recall if they got any other kind of boost apart from a slightly easier fight. At any rate design intent is definitely to send the PCs into the last chapter fully rested. It would be very unfair for them to have to deal with the BBEGs with fewer resources.
Alternatively, why not just give the PCs a couple free surges before the battle to represent the time spent resting... Since this is an extra encounter, let them kick some butt before the last chapter, even if that means giving them an extended rest before and after the battle. You might not want to make it THAT easy on them, but from a meta standpoint, knowing it's an extra encounter, if the PCs were feeling tired and beat down, I might kind of hand them this one. There's nothing too heroic about being brought low by xivorts after all...
So if I'm reading the battle correctly; 1) the logs start at the top of a hill, 5 squares away from the PC's camp/start area, 2) the logs have a clost burst 3 attack, and 3) the Xivort Slashers, on their first turns, are supposed to roll the logs at the PC's or their camp.

So if the Xivort Slashers go first (and since it's likely a suprise round, they will), they are supposed to impotently roll the logs half the distance towards the camp and be done with them? That seems so unfulfilling. I'm trying to think of ways to better handle the logs since they seem fun/different, but they just seem too neutered to be of any use at all. Maybe they just keep rolling until they hit something?
So if I'm reading the battle correctly; 1) the logs start at the top of a hill, 5 squares away from the PC's camp/start area, 2) the logs have a clost burst 3 attack, and 3) the Xivort Slashers, on their first turns, are supposed to roll the logs at the PC's or their camp.

So if the Xivort Slashers go first (and since it's likely a suprise round, they will), they are supposed to impotently roll the logs half the distance towards the camp and be done with them? That seems so unfulfilling. I'm trying to think of ways to better handle the logs since they seem fun/different, but they just seem too neutered to be of any use at all. Maybe they just keep rolling until they hit something?




I was wondering the same thing.  I'm just going to say they roll into the middle of the PC start area.  I'll probably just do one log.  I'll leave the other log there for the PCs if they want to try and use it.

@feetz_grande on Twitter

The enchantment on Soryth's Bloodstone. When they change the properties on it, to become this protective talisman, will it lose its original ability to be mounted into a weapon?

Players have the option of carrying items over from Encounters to LFR. An item that provides that talismanic protection on top of the magic weapon quality is something I want to make sure will transfer over properly, if my player wants to keep it.

He's with the archfey agents and oakstaff again. It wouldn't be hard for them to come up with a new Staff +1 for my table's dryad witch if the stone had to be removed.

How would you guys handle it, flavor- and mechcanics-wise?

58286228 wrote:
As a DM, I find it easier to just punish the players no matter what they pick, as I assume they will pick stuff that is broken. I mean, fight after fight they kill all the monsters without getting killed themselves! What sort of a game is this, anyway?

 

An insightful observation about the nature of 4e, and why it hasn't succeeded as well as other editions. (from the DDN General Discussions, 2014-05-07)

Rundell wrote:

   

Emerikol wrote:

       

Foxface wrote:

        4e was the "modern" D&D, right?  The one that had design notes that drew from more modern games, and generally appealed to those who preferred the design priorities of modern games.  I'm only speculating, but I'd hazard a guess that those same 4e players are the ones running the wide gamut of other games at Origins.

       
        D&D 4e players are pretty much by definition the players who didn't mind, and often embraced, D&D being "different".  That willingness to embrace the different might also mean they are less attached to 4e itself, and are willing to go elsewhere.

    This is a brilliant insight.  I was thinking along those lines myself.  

 

    There are so many tiny indie games that if you added them all together they would definitely rival Pathfinder.   If there were a dominant game for those people it would do better but there is no dominant game.  Until 4e, the indie people were ignored by the makers of D&D.

 

Yep. 4E was embraced by the 'system matters' crowd who love analyzing and innovating systems. That crowd had turned its back on D&D as a clunky anachronism. But with 4E, their design values were embraced and validated. 4E was D&D for system-wonks. And with support for 4E pulled, the system-wonks have moved on to other systems. The tropes and traditions of D&D never had much appeal for them anyway. Now there are other systems to learn and study. It's like boardgamegeeks - always a new system on the horizon. Why play an ancient games that's seven years old?

 

Of course, not all people who play and enjoy 4E fit that mould. I'm running a 4E campaign right now, and my long-time D&D players are enjoying it fine. But with the system-wonks decamping, the 4E players-base lost the wind in its sails.

I'm not sure about the talisman, since it's different in form & function from the original. I guess use best judgment...

As for the logs, the way I'm understanding the posts, there's nothing to draw the PCs to them. The logs belonged to the gremlin version of this encounter. They had tried to steal the bloodstone and their tactics were based around baiting the PCs to go after them. They hang out pelting the PCs from cover on top of the small hill; PCs give chase, gremlins rolll logs on top of PCs. PCs fall down, everybody laugh.

Not sure if you can mod that kind of thing in to this encounter, but that's why the logs were there, what the tactics were, and what they were supposed to do.
Considering how far from your original module this thing has gone, and how messed up it is now, I would sue Wizards for putting your name on this product.

In answer to the question about the bloodstone: Uma specifically says "until next moonrise" for how long it lasts. So it reverts back to the original when the adventure is over.

Role-playing multiple NPCs arguing (and, sorry Steve-- if you read the module as it's been edited, there's a LOT of the NPC's talking to each other) is a challenge for any DM. My plan is to hand out scripts and have each of the players take an NPC's part, like high schoolers at a Shakespeare play.

[spoiler]
In the prior version, Xacsoryth was a level 10 hag. Chris Perkins had wanted us to find ways to use fey creatures without changing their level.



This has to be one of the worst decisions I've heard yet about this module. Everyone who has ever even looked at a 4e module knows it's just plain different from previous editions of D&D. You just can't compare the power of a 10th level monster in 4e to a 10th level monster in 2nd edition. The math doesn't even work. GRRR!
Development didn't go that way ultimately, so it doesn't affect this adventure.

Also, let's try to keep things positive. Freelance work for WotC is work for hire; I have no ownership of this work. Also, while the mod I wrote was different, it wasn't developed and certainly was nowhere near perfect.

I'd like to ask that we please direct conversation toward ideas for running the mod and solutions to issues that come up in play.
So if I'm reading the battle correctly; 1) the logs start at the top of a hill, 5 squares away from the PC's camp/start area, 2) the logs have a clost burst 3 attack, and 3) the Xivort Slashers, on their first turns, are supposed to roll the logs at the PC's or their camp.

So if the Xivort Slashers go first (and since it's likely a suprise round, they will), they are supposed to impotently roll the logs half the distance towards the camp and be done with them? That seems so unfulfilling. I'm trying to think of ways to better handle the logs since they seem fun/different, but they just seem too neutered to be of any use at all. Maybe they just keep rolling until they hit something?

Probably too late for most people now, but just in case anyone has still to run this, just try to give the impression that the slashers are hiding behind the logs for cover, then have them ready an action or delay so that they can roll the logs down when one or more PCs get within range.  Yeah, it was kind of silly the way the tactics were laid out, but I never let an encounter's tactics section override common sense.

OD&D, 1E and 2E challenged the player. 3E challenged the character, not the player. Now 4E takes it a step further by challenging a GROUP OF PLAYERS to work together as a TEAM. That's why I love 4E.

"Your ability to summon a horde of celestial superbeings at will is making my ... BMX skills look a bit redundant."

"People treat their lack of imagination as if it's the measure of what's silly. Which is silly." - Noon

"Challenge" is overrated.  "Immersion" is usually just a more pretentious way of saying "having fun playing D&D."

"Falling down is how you grow.  Staying down is how you die.  It's not what happens to you, it's what you do after it happens.”

The enchantment on Soryth's Bloodstone. When they change the properties on it, to become this protective talisman, will it lose its original ability to be mounted into a weapon?

Players have the option of carrying items over from Encounters to LFR. An item that provides that talismanic protection on top of the magic weapon quality is something I want to make sure will transfer over properly, if my player wants to keep it.

He's with the archfey agents and oakstaff again. It wouldn't be hard for them to come up with a new Staff +1 for my table's dryad witch if the stone had to be removed.

How would you guys handle it, flavor- and mechcanics-wise?

I'd make the player (if any) who is using it for an implement have to choose between continuing to use it as an implement or as they newly upgraded item.  The choice is a no-brainer though, since the upgraded bloodstone is far more effective and potent for the party as a whole than as a simple +1 magic implement.  If the players don't understand that, spell it out for them either by roleplaying Uma giving that advice or just tell them outright yourself.

OD&D, 1E and 2E challenged the player. 3E challenged the character, not the player. Now 4E takes it a step further by challenging a GROUP OF PLAYERS to work together as a TEAM. That's why I love 4E.

"Your ability to summon a horde of celestial superbeings at will is making my ... BMX skills look a bit redundant."

"People treat their lack of imagination as if it's the measure of what's silly. Which is silly." - Noon

"Challenge" is overrated.  "Immersion" is usually just a more pretentious way of saying "having fun playing D&D."

"Falling down is how you grow.  Staying down is how you die.  It's not what happens to you, it's what you do after it happens.”

Development didn't go that way ultimately, so it doesn't affect this adventure. Also, let's try to keep things positive. Freelance work for WotC is work for hire; I have no ownership of this work. Also, while the mod I wrote was different, it wasn't developed and certainly was nowhere near perfect. I'd like to ask that we please direct conversation toward ideas for running the mod and solutions to issues that come up in play.



Fair enough. Sorry for my frustration.

So, how 'bout them dryads, eh? Pretty wild, if you ask me....
No worries, man. I understand your frustration, and it's okay to be frustrated--in the forums I just want to try to focus on things DMs can affect in the upcoming sessions. Heck, if you want to vent, feel free to PM me and go on at will.
My plan is to hand out scripts and have each of the players take an NPC's part, like high schoolers at a Shakespeare play.



Follow-up: This may turn out to be the most fun scene of this season. The players LOVED it. We put on the "play within a play" for all three of our tables, at the front of the game shop. Gave the part of Uma to the big bearded guy. Gave the part of Ragnar to the DM who's been absent for the past 5 weeks. Oakstaff was one of our quiet, dependable players.

It went well. One of the tables had had Orlando and Basal die, so their DM was warned to give them a short "that scene happens, with these little modifications." It was good that we didn't limit the play to one table, because their table was the only one where someone remembered getting the bloodstone.

For anyone wondering, the script weighed in at 2 pages, including half a page of "improvise to provide this information to the PCs."
My plan is to hand out scripts and have each of the players take an NPC's part, like high schoolers at a Shakespeare play.



Follow-up: This may turn out to be the most fun scene of this season. The players LOVED it. We put on the "play within a play" for all three of our tables, at the front of the game shop. Gave the part of Uma to the big bearded guy. Gave the part of Ragnar to the DM who's been absent for the past 5 weeks. Oakstaff was one of our quiet, dependable players.

It went well. One of the tables had had Orlando and Basal die, so their DM was warned to give them a short "that scene happens, with these little modifications." It was good that we didn't limit the play to one table, because their table was the only one where someone remembered getting the bloodstone.

For anyone wondering, the script weighed in at 2 pages, including half a page of "improvise to provide this information to the PCs."

that's pretty darned cool.  kudos!


The fight went pretty well for Team Hero, if a little underwhelming after all the exposition.  I let them level up to 3 and gave back a surge, but they knew they were in trouble when I told them they hadn't managed a full extended rest yet.  In a direct reversal to how the first encounter at the city gates went for my players, this time they dealt a thorough beating to Soryth's outclassed minions.  I like that it worked out to be pretty much the same monsters as the very first fight, but 8 encounters and 2 levels later the PCs are a much more potent and organized team than the ragtag rookies that showed up looking for work back in session 1.

Any session where the characters get to be awesome and powerful is a good session, especially after finishing more than a few encounters by the skin of their teeth up until now.

INSIDE SCOOP, GAMERS: In the new version of D&D, it will no longer be "Edition Wars." It will be "Edition Lair Assault." - dungeonbastard



Follow-up: This may turn out to be the most fun scene of this season. The players LOVED it.



Excellent. Thanks for sharing, mortaine.
Sounds like you came up with a fantastic way to run it. Rock on.
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