Session 2 Field Report

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I missed last week due to my daughter being ill. This week we fielded two tables.

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We interrogated the dwarf spy Jarvin (jarrek?, something like that). Intimidate was written to be useless which kind of irritated me as I finally decided to try to experiment with an intimadatamancer hexblade. We did succeed using bluff, diplomacy and insight however. After determining that 3 of the villagers and Sir Arvine (sp?) were irreparably infected, we used the residuum from the spy to save Sir (Dame?) Arvine with the Father's Cure Disease ritual. The party at my table was already discussing mercy killing the 3 villagers rather than have them die in incredible agony or die in incredible agony and become a plague demon attacking their friends so we didn't argue against Arvine killing them "for the safety of the village". I now believe that we're going to find a pile of residuum large enough to have saved them at some point during the adventure and have to suffer some kind of karmic lesson (pure speculation on my part).

My daughter and I rolled high during the skills early in the session so our contributions during combat were less than great as we consistently missed again and again. Being in a party of 3 strikers and a leader didn't help much but we did eventually succeed in winning the fight.
We had 3 wizards at my table (thank you WotC, for making wizard the only option for bonus renown... *sigh*), one cleric, a ranger, and a knight.

The problem I had with this module, as a DM, is a problem I had quite a bit last season, and it has to do with the renown incentive. XP as an incentive is largely downplayed in Encounters, especially this season, where the mod implied leveling up between each chapter is the way to go. Gold is a minor incentive, but not much of one-- you're probably not getting a lot of opportunity to spend it on stuff in the dungeon.

Which leaves renown, which translates into a physical, tangible reward for players. And the renown system is somewhat well designed-- each role has a renown category that they're likely to reach.

If you are a leader, your renown is going to come from reviving a dying ally. That can happen pretty easily, really.
If you are a defender, your renown comes from soaking a lot of damage. Also, pretty easy to do, especially if you're "sticky."
If you are a striker, hitting for 15 points of damage is trivial. I don't think we've had a striker not get it at least once in a chapter.
If you are a controller, you can get it for killing 3 minions in 1 attack. Minion control is what area-attack controllers are great at.

Most encounters do not have minions. Unlike doing damage,  taking damage, or healing damage, the minion renown is highly circumstantial. Even if there are minions, it's hard to get three of them into a burst or blast area. And that's assuming the minions haven't been cleared out by, say, a Rapid Shot ranger before the wizard's low initiative goes.

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Last night's encounter had minions. But... the minions were spread out all over the map. I understand that, tactically, that's to make them more effective. However, the result is that it's a good thing two of the wizard classes get renown just for their class, because they certainly don't have a chance of getting it for their role-oriented bonus this chapter.


All that said, it was a good, challenging encounter that my players mostly enjoyed. As a DM, I appreciated the straightforward combat. Having 4 NPC groups made the encounter drag on a bit-- next time I have that many on the DM side of the screen, I'll group a couple of them together to make the combat flow a bit more.
Field report for D&D Encounters: The Elder Elemental Eye (Week 2) now available at Dungeon's Master.com. Check out our D&D Encounters Archive for weekly write-ups, actual play podcasts and new pre-generated characters.

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I hate it when they make skills like intimidate automatically not work. Whatever happened to "go ahead and try... just be warned that the DC is a lot higher"?
The interrogation went well for our group but once the fight started things went downhill rapidly due to a combination of bad luck on the dice rolls and poor tactics.  The heroes gave it their all but in the end they were all defeated, with the Acolyte and one of the Bolters remaining unscathed.  I rewarded the standard XP but no loot.

I explained how it works when your character dies - you can come back next week healed up to full minus four healing surges, which could put you at zero surges for the next encounter, or you can always make up a new character if you want, keeping your XP but not your magic items.  A few people thought they might make new characters but I think they'll probably change their mind and keep the ones they have since, for the most part, the PCs were more or less optimized with my help and most of the players don't even own a rulebook!

So next week will start off with a discussion.  I'm going to have the group take a few minutes to think things over if need be and then, one by one, we'll take turns sharing what we could have done differently and why, then spend a bit of time discussing it.  I'll try to spend maybe 20 minutes or so doing that because I think that it will help them for next time.

Also, I'm impressed with how some of the younger and more easily distracted players are learning the rules.  For example, one of the most easily distracted players used four actions in one round with an action point - he's learning to plan his turn and read his power cards to know exactly what he's going to do when his turn comes up.  Heck, I have adult players who've been playing for 2-3 years who don't do that most of the time.

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.”

Our week 2 session write up


Spoilers



As our heroes took their dwarven prisoner back to the temple for questioning, the human knight took its leave and two more heroes arrived from Irieabor, a female dwarven knight and a male elf thief.


The party began to interrogate the prisoner, discovering his name was Jakairn of Clan Sabrak (the knight realised that wasnt a usual clan name, meaning Broken) and that the clan had taken over an abandoned temple in the Badlands. Without waiting for further relevant information the intrepid band set off.


Shortly a river blocked their path, after a short search they found a fordable area in a marshy area but as they prepared to cross they were ambushed!



A group of surly looking dwarves armed with crossbows, led by a crazy looking dwarf with a warhammer covered in black flames, stepped out of their concealment as two mounds of mud rose up to form man-like shapes at the edge of the river.



As weapons were drawn and spells readied, the halfling sorceror attracted the attention of one of the Bolters, and was soon laying bloodied on the ground. The dwarven knight Vestra, lands a blow on an elemental only to lose her footing and end up on her armoured-ass.


 


The rest of the enemy dwarves began to move in continuing to take pot-shots as they do. It was beginning to look grim for the heroes  the crossbowmen drew their hammers and moved into melee in support of their earth elemental allies, surrounding the party. With all four members taking heavy wounds and the thief being knocked prone after scoring a telling blow on the elemental before him.


 


But the fickle fates soon swing back in the party’s favour after a few well placed blows, with the dwarves beginning to feel the worst of it .


The party are shortly victorious, though at great cost in resources. The thief having been dropped to unconciousness and having to be revived by timely use of the halflings potion of Healing.


With little or no healing left available to them, the heroes gather what belongings they can find on their foes fallen bodies and prepare to continue onwards.


"Well that encounter was easy....er, guys, why is the DM grinning?" (party members last words)

It's not a party till the screaming starts!

Follow me on Twitter @Vobeskhan or check out my blog http://vobeskhan.wordpress.com/

I hate it when they make skills like intimidate automatically not work. Whatever happened to "go ahead and try... just be warned that the DC is a lot higher"?

Although I don’t have the adventure in front of me I’m pretty sure that Intimidate wasn’t an automatic fail. I seem to remember there being notes for the DM on how using Intimidate would work. The DCs were the same for Diplomacy, Bluff and Intimidate.


I find that Intimidate is one of those misunderstood skills. Most people assume that if you make a threat you have to back it up with an Intimidate check. Remember that Intimidate is a Charisma-based skill and not a Strength-based skill. Threats amounting to “answer truthfully or I’ll kill you” seem like more Bluff than Intimidate to me because it’s not like the PC will kill the subject.


In this encounter I saw Intimidate being used more along the lines of “tell us what you know or we’ll leave you at the mercy of Easting’s justice system which will certainly result in your hanging” or “we’ll make you drink from the well that you polluted so that you can suffer the same fate as those who died because of your deeds.” These to me are more the Charisma-based Intimidate checks I was looking for. Threats of force were clearly not going to be enforced and the Dwarf knew that.

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Guardian Games had 3 tables (5, 5, and 4 players).

There were at least 4 brand new players (the one sitting at my table had never played D&D before).

My table:
DM:
My Wife

Players:
Human Moteborn Cavalier Paladin of Torm (me)
Thri-kreen Scholar Cleric of ? (returning player)
Drow Hunter (Ranger) pre-gen (new guy)
Dwarf Earthforger Sentinel (Druid) of Summer (player who was at character creation, but missed 1st session)
? Moteborn Warlock (returning player)

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So we proceed to interrogate the prisoner form last session. None of us are trained in diplomacy and so it was hard to find a good cop. I tried to be nice, but my dim Paladin of Torm is more about dishing out Justice and less on coddling criminals. In the end I promised the dwarf I would spare him if he were to talk. The drow was uninterested in the prisoner's fate and the Thri-kreen was ready to eat him.
After successfully getting the prisoner to spill his guts on who was behind this fiendish plot (and getting him to fess up about the trap) we then turned our minds to the problem of the infected villagers and the contaminated well.

Thri-kreen wanted to kill them all. I intervened and said that we needed to examine them and only grant them mercy if it was obvious that they were going to transform. My lawful good Paladin was adamant on this point. The rest of the party was all for "mercy" killing the four that were doomed either die or transform (we had used the ritual on the purple dragon knight in the previous encounter). In the end I prevailed, I think. The Thri-kreen plotted with the Dragon Knight to kill them when I had left the village.

On to the encounter. We met at the river crossing and my Paladin led the charge (meaning  I ran up and holy smited one of the Elementals) shouting "For Torm and Justice!" The driud ran after the sharpshooter that farthest away with her wolf and the warlock followed her, while the hunter hung back and peppered the elementals by clevershotting one next to the other, action pointing and then rapid shotting them both. The cleric cast some major mojo (basically I got an extra 9 hp everytime he healed me). We left all the minions on the board. My character got hammered by one elemental (the one I dazed) while the other walked away from me and attacked the Hunter, freaking the drow out. The big bad tried to lightning fry my brain (but he missed with that attack all fight). The crossbow guys lit into us.

The fight was pretty static for a bit until I took down my elemental and ran up to a crossbow dwarf. Eventually we wittled the opposition down to a single minion and the big bad and he unleashed his earth stomp power and critted my Paly twice with it in two rounds. Thank Torm for having a cleric and a druid in the party!

We finally took him down. I took 85 points of damage this encounter. Ouch.

It was a tough but fun encounter for us. We didn't play optimally but that was alright.



Bryan Blumklotz
Got a TPK, don't know how I did it but I think it's worthy of it's own thread.
I hate it when they make skills like intimidate automatically not work. Whatever happened to "go ahead and try... just be warned that the DC is a lot higher"?

Although I don’t have the adventure in front of me I’m pretty sure that Intimidate wasn’t an automatic fail. I seem to remember there being notes for the DM on how using Intimidate would work. The DCs were the same for Diplomacy, Bluff and Intimidate.


That is what I as the designer remember as well... I am usually pretty alert for things like this, having experienced it both as a player and a developer for LFR adventures. If it did somehow slip in, than I appologize.
That is what I as the designer remember as well... I am usually pretty alert for things like this, having experienced it both as a player and a developer for LFR adventures.



 To be honest, even when the module says "intimidate is an automatic failure," I ignore that when running adventures. Sorry-- I would say that of the 3 main social skills (diplomacy, bluff, and intimidate), intimidate is overrepresented among the PCs in my gaming community. If it's an instance where intimidate doesn't make sense to work, or where I want to disincentivize its usage, then I make it very hard (+5 above the DC for other social skills).

Unfortunately, those two times are usually very different circumstances. I want to make it unappealing to use intimidate against a small child, because I think that's a mean thing to do, and I don't envision heroes doing it. And yet, intimidate should be extremely effective against a child. This is where I want to put in different consequences (like a -2 when dealing with all other good-guy NPCs, or some notoriety, etc).

When I want it to be ineffective is when players try to use intimidate against someone who doesn't perceive them as a threat. You're intimidating Lord Neverwinter? Yeah-- that should never work, unless you just beat him in a fight and have proven you have the physical prowess to back it up. Use diplomacy, or get out of my throne room.

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Jakairn was a coward and so easily intimidated, the party basically got his surrender mid-combat. Intimidation should really work on him, but you could also simply handwave and say "it *already* worked on this NPC. That's how you have him where he is now. Unless you want to start pulling off his fingers--" which is usually followed by someone immediately pulling off the dwarf's fingers. *sigh*


 
At my table the players went straight to intimidate.  That didn't produce the desired result as the dwarf was basically in a catatonic state at that point.  After a few more minutes of boots and threats I gave them a little DM nudge.  "He is fully intimidated, maybe try a different tactic."  That was enough to move them on to a sort of good cop/bad cop routine that got the info they needed.
Our DM kinda sheparded us through the interrogation, allowing Intimidation, but suggesting not to overdo it.

As for the combat ... it's amazing what a Fire Elementalist can do when teamed with a Warlord with Direct the Strike. We basically made a two-man Artillery piece that erradicated most of the board. I literally rained fire across the board. 
I had the players using Intimidate a bit too much, so I asked if someone with Diplomacy could at least play the good cop.
My players used intimidate, actually resorting to knee-capping the poor dwarf. They only managed to get basic info out of him so set off as soon as they got a rough location of the temple - no warning of the traps and guards - their mistake Innocent

"Well that encounter was easy....er, guys, why is the DM grinning?" (party members last words)

It's not a party till the screaming starts!

Follow me on Twitter @Vobeskhan or check out my blog http://vobeskhan.wordpress.com/

As others pointed out, the dwarf goes catonic when facing physical threats, or he starts sprouting nonsense. The intent of the interrogation was that the players should give the approach a bit of thought and to make it a bit more than simple dice rolls. More subtle threats, and the good/bad cop routine would and should definitely work. It is mainly a RP encounter with the dice taking a support roll. Ultimately I hope I provided enough information on the Jakairn's personality, knowledge and clan history for the DM to adjust the encounter for the most fun of his group.
My players used intimidate, actually resorting to knee-capping the poor dwarf.



Knee-capping a dwarf? Talk about a low blow!
As others pointed out, the dwarf goes catonic when facing physical threats, or he starts sprouting nonsense. The intent of the interrogation was that the players should give the approach a bit of thought and to make it a bit more than simple dice rolls. More subtle threats, and the good/bad cop routine would and should definitely work. It is mainly a RP encounter with the dice taking a support roll. Ultimately I hope I provided enough information on the Jakairn's personality, knowledge and clan history for the DM to adjust the encounter for the most fun of his group.

I role-played him as very twitchy, like an informant for the cops. Nothing he said sounded reliable, even when he spoke the truth.

Keep 'em guessing, folks. 
My players used intimidate, actually resorting to knee-capping the poor dwarf.



I should have added that the priest then did his best to heal him, a-la good cop bad cop. As they had bloodied him in one blow in the previous session he was suitably cowed by them. But once they got the basics (clan Sabrak, temple in Badlands, spreading the plague) they unanimously decided to set off without getting further details.

Looking forward to how they react to the galeb dhur and drow respectively tonight.

"Well that encounter was easy....er, guys, why is the DM grinning?" (party members last words)

It's not a party till the screaming starts!

Follow me on Twitter @Vobeskhan or check out my blog http://vobeskhan.wordpress.com/

In my group Fargrim was the "bad cop" and Brandis the "good cop," and as Fargrim is a dwarf, I made Jakairn, in his crazed stated of fear, saw his brothers in him and panic. But then Brandis would calm him down and got the information out of him. He has been the Face of the group.
My players used intimidate, actually resorting to knee-capping the poor dwarf.



Knee-capping a dwarf? Talk about a low blow!



And I've been told that I make bad jokes.
most of the players don't even own a rulebook!


Ouch. It would be nice for the store if they could buy one! Has your store considered something like a discount if D&D material is purchased during the game? Another thing we have done is to hold a raffle with anyone that buys something over two games having their name put in. Winner gets a copy of an adventure from a previous gameday or Encounters session.

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Ouch. It would be nice for the store if they could buy one! Has your store considered something like a discount if D&D material is purchased during the game? Another thing we have done is to hold a raffle with anyone that buys something over two games having their name put in. Winner gets a copy of an adventure from a previous gameday or Encounters session.



Its taken 2 years to get any store in my home town to host Encounters, and this week they had their very first D&D product on the shelf (a single copy of Heroes of the Elemental Chaos), We are slowly getting our wedge into the predominantly wargaminess of the store and the store guys are great and really accommodating/helpfull.

Even had a couple of the wargamers come and watch the 'action' in between their battles.

"Well that encounter was easy....er, guys, why is the DM grinning?" (party members last words)

It's not a party till the screaming starts!

Follow me on Twitter @Vobeskhan or check out my blog http://vobeskhan.wordpress.com/

Talk to the store owner. Convince them to stock the core Encounters books-- the Rules Compendium and the 2 Essential Heroes books, plus a package of Fortune cards. If nothing else, special order one of the books, which will give them incentive to place a full order.

Buy and bring your own fortune cards to the game, play, and show people how incredibly powerful it is to have these additional "buffs" to your game.

Where are you located? Sometimes, the local community itself just doesn't have enough interested players. But more likely, you have people who would be interested if they could get into a game somewhere. Shops really can't afford to turn away not just new customers, but an entire new market segment.
Got a TPK, don't know how I did it but I think it's worthy of it's own thread.



We're playing this instead of Murder in Baldur's Gate (I have a very dungeon crawly group).


I got a TPK too.  Bad dice combined with some really potent to hits and damage.