Our group of 4 players have been playtesting the latest packet for several sessions running the caves of chaos. We've been playing DnD in some form for years starting with 2nd and every edition since. We have all DM'd in the past so we're used to being behind the screen. Some of our players are familiar with this in previous editions as well.
We started at lvl 1 and have had a very tough time with almost every encounter. I've lurked on the forum and our experiences do not seem to match with what I've read. I think we must be doing something wrong if this isn’t being reported.
We've had a lot of TPKs, more than we're used to. Each time we’ve reset and tried again. We’ve replayed those encounters to allow for good/bad dice rolls to average out but it resulted in the same... unless the DM treats us with kid gloves or we metagame the encounter. We basically run it again and again until we get a success/escape. At the end of the encounter we discuss the set up/rational for the monsters choices. The choices make sense to us, but the monsters are deadly! We’ve reminded ourselves of our early edition experiences, remembering it was lucky if a character could survive to 2nd level.
Unlike previous threads I’ve read, we're finding the monsters too hard (kobolds, goblins, orcs and hobgoblins), especially when outnumbered. We do okay in encounters with 4-6 monsters. We’ll get hit every round, and if the Dice are against us someone will drop (usually the paladin), but getting him up burn resources especially if you roll a 1 on a d10 on your HD during a short rest… so you spend another, etc. In almost every encounter the paladin would drop, and if he didn't absorb the hits the rest of the party would go down (cleric, bow-fighter, wizard). Our cleric is built for healing (lifegiver deity), so they can get the paladin back up with the cantrip or use one of the bigger heals… However, the ‘tank’ just ends up going back down in the next round.
Our paladin (AC 17) and cleric (AC 18) take most of the attacks. On paper that seems good. However, roll enough d20s and you can hit it with the monster's bonuses (roll a 12 or 13 with a +5). That’s not too hard if 11 of them are rolling. If the paladin or cleric doesn’t take the attacks/hits, the other players who have less HP/AC drop faster. Armor doesn’t seem to matter with bounded accuracy; you’re going to get hit so just get more HP to take it. You can't improve with better armor either.
It seems that a low level party in this module has to go back to rest after 2-3 encounters of any difficulty. By that point we're out of Hit Dice, spells, and other resources. When we leave and come back, the monsters are alert for another attack.
Part of it has to do with using a light in the dark caves. It alerts the monsters to our presence so they’re ready/not surprised. We can’t get around that without building a party of dwarves (and that feels like power gaming). The module seems built for a kick down the doors adventure.
The first goblin encounter (the one where the ogre can aid), we’ve played 2-3 times. The goblins dropped our paladin in the first round. From there the party was taken out round by round so that when the ogre arrived there was one player left and the outcome was inevitable. I’d say we should run, but that involves leaving one or more players behind who dropped earlier.
Our thoughts were that lvl 1 would be like this, and once we got to level 2 and 3 we’d have more HP to absorb damage and go through more encounters per day. Our only experience with easier encounters was against the kobolds at level 2. The paladin could still get hit and go down, but he had twice as much HP to do so. We’re now into the orc/hobgoblin caves and are still getting trounced.
Orcs get one last chance to hit with their racial ability, and with their high attack bonus (+6!) they usually do. A hobgoblin can give his allies advantage against a target… so they can hit almost every round with a d8.
We were able to get to the encounter with the hobgoblin boss a few times (each time a TPK). They are alerted to our presence from a battle in the next room and a large group shows up in the next round or two. From there, they use their advantage ability and round by round another player drops.
The monsters have a better or equal attack bonus, and do the same damage as players can do. Some of the monsters can go down in one hit like goblins and kobolds, but in those larger battles it doesn't seem to matter if 1 or 2 are killed. The advantage system for the monsters just give them more d20 chances to hit.
This experience is not fun. After several session of this we want to see the next packet. We are looking forward to some changes and refinements with the classes and the monsters. Maybe its different at higher levels, but 1-3 has been more frustrating than fun.
But maybe its just us. If so, what are we doing wrong?