D&D Encounters - The good, the bad, the ugly (possible spoilers)

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If you have run, played or hosted Dungeons and Dragons Encounters and have something that went great, something that could be improved a bit, or something that went horrible, horribly wrong, post in this thread here.

Also, if you have a potential solution to what others are having trouble with, please post it here.

Keep all suggestions constructive, and do not dismiss someone else's problem as being unimportant.
Mudbunny SVCL for DDI Before you post, think of the Monkeysphere
Big shocker, our group has multiple players going for the 50 damage in a single encounter. In a teamwork game like D&D, forcing multiple players to be in competition to die faster is just silly, especially when it's at the expense of the healer's turn and resources, and the general fun of the rest of the party. I also saw a wonderful display of selfishness when our Dragonborn tried to kill ALL the minions with his breath, rather than enough to get his points.

I know there's really nothing that can be done about this, but these past 2 weeks have not been nearly as fun as they should have been, simply because players are being irresponsible and selfish.

It's also been unfortunate to see other players looking downcast during games, because they know that there are some accomplishments they simply can't hope to get (3 minions, taking 50 damage... one player is certain he can't even hit 15 damage with his daily), or because other players are purposely

In the future, if Wizards insists on encouraging this competition amongst players, at least make it something that actually FITS the game, such as reviving a dying ally, successfully performing a skill check in combat, go X sessions without reaching 0 HP, don't use a healing surge in combat, etc.

Big shocker, our group has multiple players going for the 50 damage in a single encounter. In a teamwork game like D&D, forcing multiple players to be in competition to die faster is just silly, especially when it's at the expense of the healer's turn and resources, and the general fun of the rest of the party. I also saw a wonderful display of selfishness when our Dragonborn tried to kill ALL the minions with his breath, rather than enough to get his points.

I know there's really nothing that can be done about this, but these past 2 weeks have not been nearly as fun as they should have been, simply because players are being irresponsible and selfish.


A healers job is to use his resources (healing powers) to keep party members alive.  I am not sure how it is taking his turn though.

And why would the Dragonborn not try to eliminate as many foes as possible with one of his powers?  Why should anyone be restricted in how they use their powers.  Less enemies means less problems for the party.

You are too stuck on the adventure as a competition. You will never have fun when you look at it that way.  I could care less about the cards being handed out and there are several of the ways to get points that my character can never accomplish, but that doesnt bother me.  Those rewards were more attuned to someone with another role than I.

It's also been unfortunate to see other players looking downcast during games, because they know that there are some accomplishments they simply can't hope to get (3 minions, taking 50 damage... one player is certain he can't even hit 15 damage with his daily), or because other players are purposely

In the future, if Wizards insists on encouraging this competition amongst players, at least make it something that actually FITS the game, such as reviving a dying ally, successfully performing a skill check in combat, go X sessions without reaching 0 HP, don't use a healing surge in combat, etc.



Once again you, and whomever you refer to as looking downcast, are taking the game far to seriously.  You are trying to be overly competitive.  Its not meant for someone to be able to attain all of the renown points.  I think you and the downcast crew need to refocus on having fun.  If you guys arent able to do so then perhaps this group/game is not for you.
The presence of those four one-point awards has created a feeling among many players that trying to score them is somehow expected. It may not be logical, but it's nevertheless pervasive, and it isn't limited to a gameplay impact: I've seen various people talking about Encounters character-building and referring to these four things that the character "must" be designed such that it can do (so you must have a 3+ target AoE, a reliably 15+ point attack, etc).

While I don't personally care one way or the other (especially since I'm DMing and can't collect points for anything anyway!), it occurs to me that structuring these types of rewards to be group-wide would mitigate the problem: either the entire group needs to meet an achievement - so it's a cooperative thing - or the entire group gets the reward no matter who does it).

If they're kept as individual rewards then I'd suggest that these sorts of rewards be made exclusive. You score a renown point for the season if you have achieve any one of those four things, but you don't get more points for having achieved more than one. This would reduce both the amount of gameplay conflict (as others described above) and 'design optimization' pressures.
Very well said, Neutronium.

Mith, you're proving my point exactly. Ordinarily, why shouldn't the dragonborn (or anyone) try to clear as many enemies as possible? But when you have other players upset because he's "stealing their kills," suddenly it's not about the team working together to defeat the enemies, but about 6 individuals who happen to be on the same side.

I don't know where you got the idea that I'm being competitive, or "taking the game too seriously." I personally hate the whole idea, as this is the only time I get to be a player, and the cooperative experience of D&D has been all but completely stripped away. I'm not upset that I'm unable to get every single renown point; I'm upset that Wizards is encouraging the 5 other random players at my table to spend the entire time metagaming.

No one should get upset because the Dragonborn used his Dragons Breath.  Thats a problem with them not the player or the D&D Encounters.  They are taking it to seriously and need to step back and relax, or as I said, this group/event is not for them.
No arguments here, but that's been the general mood of the games. But still, I doubt people would be being nearly as selfish and bitter if teamwork were better promoted (or individual goals were less important).

I'm sure other groups have had more pleasant experiences, but a restructuring of the Renown Points goals/achievements would be a welcome improvement in an otherwise fun program.
> No one should get upset because the Dragonborn used his Dragons Breath.

I don't think they would be normally.

It's the presence of the "kill 3 minions with one attack" 1-point achievement which, because so many people (rationally or not) feel they must try to get, leads to them getting upset because the minions have just been wiped out by someone else.

It may be a good thing tactically, but the prevalence of 'renown point jockeying' is turning it into a point of contention, which is unfortunate.

That's why I feel that, for future seasons, those sorts of achievements should be structured differently so as not to encourage it.
I can only chip in and say that my group is having fun with the Renown Point system.

While there's fun at the table in players trying to get the "bonus points" (like 3 minions, or taking 50 damage), my players are well aware that these are primarily geared toward character roles.  If someone gets one that's out of their role, great - but if not, so be it.  For minion-slaying, they're also aware that there will be minions in future mods, so when StrikerA "called" the minions this week - they smiled and let him try for it (making it all the more humorous when he whiffed on one of the three he needed).

So, even while "competing" our group still found a way to work toward that goal together.  This week, StrikerA got a stab at the minion slaying.  Next time, StrikerB will get a shot.  That's still teamwork as I see it (and a lesson I learned in grade school about sharing and taking turns, but that's probably another discussion entirely).

Feedback

* Maybe it's because my group is having a good time with Renown Points, but while many others have lots of feedback here, so far it's working for us, and until the season is over, I'm withholding judgement. 

* I've read reports of stores (especially abroad) not receiving kits, even now - two weeks into the event.  While I understand WotC wants this to be a "physical" kit from top to bottom (and I love having a new adventure and maps to add to my ever-growing collection).  Perhaps a compromise next season is in order.  Mailing physical kits is awesome, but perhaps the Thursday before each session, e-mailing that week's adventure via PDF would be in order.  This controls the release of information in the digital space, while still helping ensure that all locations worldwide can run events (even if they don't have the prizes).  

* Adding a "Summary" of the story and mechanics (basically the first 8(?) pages of the adventure booklet) to the PDF DM Download packet (UND1DDE.zip) would have helped DMs and stores prep better for this season.   

* More information on edits that DMs are allowed (and even encouraged) to make should be highlighted - along with the limits on such power.  There are tales both of DMs rewriting the Encounters (making Session one about Kobolds attacking), and of DMs who won't go "off-book" for anything.  The latter will get better with DM experience, most likely, but better spelling out that freedom could only improve the experience for all involved.

* Having the module author (Erik Scott de Bie - my apologies, if I've butchered your name, Erik) chip in on the forums about his original intentions for the adventure, has been a terrific boon for myself, and it would seem the other DMs as well.  If future adventure authors could be encouraged to do the same, I think the community as a whole would benefit.  

I'm sure I'll have more feedback as the time progresses, but overall I give this first season a BIG thumbs-up.
 
 

 
WolfStar76 Community Advocate (SVCL) for D&D Organized Play, Avalon Hill, and the DCI/WPN LFR Community Manager DDi Guide

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My opinion (and just that) is that it may be the group of people.  The exact things you're quoting as problems were polar opposites for my experience. 

My party consisted of: a Monk, a Dragonborn Paladin, a Halfling Rogue, a Fighter (maybe Human?), a Warlord, and myself serving the role as Controller despite only having hybrid Invoker.  I rolled nearly the lowest initiative for the combat, and by the time my turn came around, my party was begging me to blast the minions that had swarmed them.  The fighter was set upon by the chained creatures, received a crit, and was in the running to receive 50 points of damage.  He wasn't as excited to get that 1 Renown point as he was concerned for his character's survival.  Most of the players seemed to have an encounter ability that could deal 15 damage, but it's not really that hard--you don't have to power game or necessarily use a daily for it.  Speaking from a Warlock's perspective, Eldritch Blast with a +3 and a curse is 7-19 as an At-Will.  Plenty of Encounter abilities deal 2d8+modifier.  Taking abilities that deal large amounts of damage is something I've seen players do long before any Renown system; players like dealing big damage.

If people are upset that the minions all died in 1 attack they must not realize that it means the party will be healthier for the next encounter.  If they're so hellbent on that 1 Renown point to hit 10 ASAP, they should look for other options.

Think about it: it takes 6 minions in 1 encounter for 2 players to get that Renown point, and the rolls have to come out perfectly (otherwise you'll kill 2 in a blast, and then be left without 3 more.  This is what happened in my group.)  4 players at my table hit 15+ damage without using a daily.  The Fighter kept rolling low damage, and the Monk only twice for moderate damage, but the Rogue, Paladin, Warlord, and Hybrid all hit their 15 damage early, and against different targets.  The Rogue (successful heal check) and Warlord both revived the Fighter on seperate occasions, and the Paladin revived the Monk, netting all three the revival point.  Once you've hit your initial 10, be patient on which session you nab your 3 minion kill Point.  It doesn't matter if you get it when you're in your 10's or your 20's.  It's like speeding past another car only to be stopped at the next red light together; it doesn't matter if you get there at the same time.  Seems like those players need to relax, have some patience, enjoy the game!

* I've read reports of stores (especially abroad) not receiving kits, even now - two weeks into the event.  While I understand WotC wants this to be a "physical" kit from top to bottom (and I love having a new adventure and maps to add to my ever-growing collection).  Perhaps a compromise next season is in order.  Mailing physical kits is awesome, but perhaps the Thursday before each session, e-mailing that week's adventure via PDF would be in order.  This controls the release of information in the digital space, while still helping ensure that all locations worldwide can run events (even if they don't have the prizes).



I'd like to add my vote to this one suggestion here. Currently I have an upcoming D&D Encounters event next Wednesday (31 March) at my local store in Hungary, which I am to DM. Together with the store manager we sanctioned the event on 18 March but there's no sign of the event kit on the horizon yet. Now, thanks to the terrific field reports, I managed at least to put together a map of the first encounter and after actually reading every single post on these boards (yeah, I'm a forum junkie :D) I also managed to get the lineup of the NPCs and I have a fairly good idea of what the first encounter is about. I'm now praying to the gods of D&D to hear my plea and update the D&D Compendium with the stats of the monsters needed (only Halfling Slinger is available at this moment yet) and if that comes to pass, I'll be almost all set. So if Wednesday comes, if all goes fubar, I'll still manage to run the first encounter somehow. We DMs are kinda creative when it comes to building a castle from practically nothing, but still it would be better if I could give the players showing up the "real deal" with the adventure in hand, real maps and counters on the table and not an encounter which I'm running based on hearsay and forum posts.

So in essence I'm very strongly with this suggestion, if getting the kits to countries abroad might seem to be a problem, please issue some kind of a pdf version of the adventure. I think the basic premise of the program will not be compromised, because the "retail store only" requirement could still stand, only the venue of distribution (pdfs instead of physical kits) would differ.
* Having the module author (Erik Scott De Bie - my apologies, if I've butchered your name, Erik) chip in on the forums about his original intentions for the adventure, has been a terrific boon for myself, and it would seem the other DMs as well.  If future adventure authors could be encouraged to do the same, I think the community as a whole would benefit.   

You're very welcome, Wulf. And no, no name butchery in sight!

Cheers,

Erik Scott de Bie (note the lowercase!)

One of my concerns was that some games would become more competitive between players with associated bad feelings. It does not matter that this is 'just a game' and people should 'relax and enjoy it', some people are just that competitive. Too many in one group can spoil the whole thing. Also since the handing out of the higher level cards is, somewhat, left to the local organizer they could have that the first X to hit 30 and Y to hit 50 get the cards at the end of the season. Finding a way to make sure that everyone who earns the renown point level can get 1 of the cards for that level might reduce this. Also assuring players that there will be other shots at earning these points might help.

In future games I hope that some of these players will give others the chance to earn these renown points - at least 1 shot. The minion slayer in particular will only come up occassionally and in the spirit of cooperation I would hope the players who have that renown point would at least give those who don't have it first crack at the minions. I know locally the ardent held off on a heal to give the wizard a shot at reviving the downed monk. As for the other 2: the 15 damage to 1 enemy will just happen or not happen. It all depends on the rolls. The taking 50 damage is something that can happen in any given week. In fact if the same players are always together even the squishy wizard will probably get his shot at this in an effort to conserve healing surges of the defenders & melee strikers.

I would further extend the 'DM tinkering' recommendations to add specific scaling recommendations for EACH combat like in LFR. It just makes life easier IMHO.

I also like the idea of a PDF version of the encounter even if it is sent out each week. I have concerns over loosing or damaging the mod. In 12 weeks a lot can happen.
my players are well aware that these are primarily geared toward character roles.  If someone gets one that's out of their role, great - but if not, so be it.

i'm having the same experience with my group.

There are tales ... of DMs rewriting the Encounters

this really bugs me.

* Having the module author (Erik Scott de Bie - my apologies, if I've butchered your name, Erik) chip in on the forums about his original intentions for the adventure, has been a terrific boon for myself, and it would seem the other DMs as well.  If future adventure authors could be encouraged to do the same, I think the community as a whole would benefit.

yeah, having erik here answering questions and explaining how to run certain sections, and what liberties should be taken, is very awesome!

overall I give this first season a BIG thumbs-up.

same here, i love it!

Maybe its just the crew i'm playing with, but the first two encounters were killer. We only have 4 players (swordmage, monk, cleric, and hybrid ranger/wizard) and we only survived the first encounter because the DM didn't want to be a jerk and the second encounter was a total party kill. Sure we had some pretty bad dice rolls and the DM had really good rolls (3 crits in the first encounter), but the bad guys seemed uber. Just about every hit made a PC bloodied, we burned all our dailies and action points in the first encounter, and those polearm guys from the second encounter knocking everyone prone every time they hit was killer. At least we all earned the 'take 50 damage' renown point and two people earned the 'revive an ally' one, but we didn't get the one for completing the second encounter.

I know we don't have a perfect setup as far as one of each class type, but if this keeps up I doubt i'll want to play much longer. Did we miss something?
Did the DM scale down the encounters for a 4-character group? They'd be unduly tough if they were left at the 5-character default.
From my LFR experiences, the adventure can never state too clearly the intention of the adventure with regards to difficulty and DM options. It should state explicitly that this is to be suitable for new players and direct the DM to provide a fun experience over a challenging one.

For encounters like 1-3, the adventure could better specify the latitude a DM has in changing things.

In both cases, having the authors on this board (plus help from VCLs like the ever-helpful WolfStar) really has helped clarify these things. Still, I really feel it is best to state these things explicitly.

If I look at the history of events designed to bring in new players, such as the Dragon (Dungeon?) adventure for Living Greyhawk, many LG intro mods, or some of the gamedays, they can often be way too hard for the new player. It would be preferable to have an easy design and then add options for groups that want a higher challenge. ("If your group wants a higher challenge, change the xyz's recharge to be one lower, add +1 to attacks, damage, and defenses to the creature abc, etc.")

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100% agreement with Alphastream1. 

There is a reason that D&D Encounters is limited to retail stores and is heavily promoted: to attract NEW players. New players tend buy products (books, dice, minis, etc.) they need to play, ideally immediately before or after the game being held within a game store. By scaling the difficulty of D&D Encounters to challenge veterans and, indirectly, discouraging new players you are harming your own FLGS and your hobby!

Seriously, people, this series is about having fun, introducing new players to D&D 4e and making them feel like heroes. Your veteran players should be there to aid you, as a DM, by gently assisting the new players with rules, tactics and, in general, how to play D&D 4e. It is not about accumulating as many Renown Points as possible, PC kills or TPKs. D&D Encounters is a marketing promotion -- not a competition.

I understand that challenge is part of fun but, from some of the reports I have read here, some DMs are trying to "win" at D&D.  Yell
It should state explicitly that this is to be suitable for new players and direct the DM to provide a fun experience over a challenging one.

If I look at the history of events designed to bring in new players, they can often be way too hard for the new player. It would be preferable to have an easy design and then add options for groups that want a higher challenge.


I think it was pretty well spelled out that Encounters should be expected to bring in some new players, and every DM I spoke with at PAX about it felt that it did a good job.  It is a set of straghtforward encounters, really no "gotcha" abilities, but it demonstrates a lot of ways in which this is both still D&D and not an old edition.   I have had a really large percentage of players at my tables (at least 60%) who have a good amount of 3.5 experience and almost nothing in 4E.  Most of them were blown away by the fact that Skills were useful in combat, enemies were dangerous, but only minions died in one hit.  I've had no fewer than 5 people say that they are really glad they gave 4E a chance, and I have had crazy good luck with my dice rolls.

I think the difficulty in this adventure, so far, has nothing to do with the adventure itself, I just think some of the enemies' attack bonuses are really high, and the halberdiers deal a lot of damage.
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
I think the difficulty in this adventure, so far, has nothing to do with the adventure itself, I just think some of the enemies' attack bonuses are really high, and the halberdiers deal a lot of damage.


Well, the damage expressions are part of what defines and adventure... you choose the monsters when you write an encounter. The dwarf(ves) in the first encounter and the halberds in the second will be a significant challenge for most tables. You then have additional foes (tiefling / sneak) that add solid above-tier dmg. Normal dmg for 1st-3rd should be 1d10+3... which the dwarf has but then adds a minor (rechargeable) for 2d6+1... that's a lot just the first time it does that. The sneak does a minor at-will so it is doing 2d6+3 and at +2 to hit. The halberds are 1d10+7 with reach and knock prone. The scorpion does 16+3+5, or 1d4+3+5 and then can use an immediate to do it again.

All of that is to say that we are above normal damage expressions for the tier. It isn't a huge deal, but I run LFR all the time and I pulled punches in ways I never do. You have new players learning the system, you have low tactics, and you have the normal 'swinginess' of 4E. All reasons for the adventure to state the DM's options clearly. For example, adding a paragraph under tactics on "If this proves to be too challenging..." because, let's be honest, a lot of the judges are new too!

I recall most unfondly playing the Mad God's Key and being just beaten repeatedly by that adventure. Just about every combat had tricks to thrash PCs within inches of their lives. Curtains giving rogues sneak, swarms, tricks as to where the foes are, etc. The new player at our table had been on the fence about LG, but this settled it - they never played anything related to LG again.

This adventure doesn't suffer from that, but it does provide more than enough challenge. I don't have a problem with the damage expressions being strong... so long as we all know to act appropriately with them. Tables with very low surge values, no dailies, and so on are very common... a bit too common for an introductory experience. TPKs are heard of more than I like. A TPK is not a good way to sell 4E. I look at the ideal experience for new players as being in a movie. In the movie you worry about dying, but the chance of dying (if you are the hero) is very low.

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To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that WotC is doing something like this. This is a series of encounters aimed directly at people who are new to 4E. The desired encounter level for players like that will be a little bit lower than that for players who have experience. I have heard it said that balancing encounters is an art. You want to make it difficult enough that the players, when they finish the enounter, have a definite sense of accomplishment, but not so difficult that they get destroyed. At the same time, you want it easy enough that the players have a good chance of winning, but not so easy that it is a cakewalk. It is balancing on the edge of a razor for the writer of the adventure.

Hopefully, with the field reports, WotC will know how to adjust upcoming seasons. For example, clear indication on how to adjust the difficulty level up/down before hand and on the fly is a great idea.
Mudbunny SVCL for DDI Before you post, think of the Monkeysphere
To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that WotC is doing something like this. This is a series of encounters aimed directly at people who are new to 4E. The desired encounter level for players like that will be a little bit lower than that for players who have experience. I have heard it said that balancing encounters is an art. You want to make it difficult enough that the players, when they finish the enounter, have a definite sense of accomplishment, but not so difficult that they get destroyed. At the same time, you want it easy enough that the players have a good chance of winning, but not so easy that it is a cakewalk. It is balancing on the edge of a razor for the writer of the adventure.

Hopefully, with the field reports, WotC will know how to adjust upcoming seasons. For example, clear indication on how to adjust the difficulty level up/down before hand and on the fly is a great idea.


Mudbunny has the right of it. When I wrote the adventure, I set out to produce encounters that were challenging without being absolutely deadly or absolute cakewalks. I did this by:

1) I didn't put in creatures with gotcha abilities (except maybe
Show
the beholder
, but that's another session!).

2) I tried to make things tactically interesting, i.e.,
Show
the dwarf and the bridge of death, the halberd-wielding bruiser twins, the doppelganger among the minions, the imp who goes invisible amongst his guards, etc.


3) I put in guidelines for scaling the encounter down for weak parties, and up for tough parties.

A lot of this is also going to rely on the DMs and how they interpret the adventure. The goal here is to have fun, not to terrify players with your prowess at running creatures, or sacrifice that heroic feeling in favor of slavish devotion to what's written. You are allowed/encouraged to fudge rolls, decrease monsters' hit points, and reward cool ideas. What you should *not* do is try to murdalize the characters just because I've given you the tools to do it (and oh, I have). If your players are making it a cake-walk, DM the encounters smarter. If your players are having a hard time, then lighten up, DM--gosh!  

Here are some ideas for adjusting difficulty on the fly (I'm paraphrasing lots of the DMG here--you should look in there for more ideas, these are just what work best for me): 

- You're the one who decides the monsters' tactics. You decide things like whether monsters trigger defender abilities or actively try to avoid that, whether they ignore targets in the way and thus provoke attacks of opportunity, whether they focus damage, whether they exclusively go after the squishies. If your PCs are having trouble, no one's going to blame you for making the monsters a little stupider.

- Fudge rolls--duh. The guard doesn't *have* to hit with his halberd every single round. You can turn one of those hits into a miss--particularly one of the crits.

- Award circumstance bonuses for good role-playing, brave actions (like charging the big guy even when you're below 10 hit points), and sheer coolness.

- Just don't kill characters. Fudge your damage rolls. Never ever make a monster do a coup de grace. If characters die outright or fail three death saves, just rule that they're out of the combat and will respawn at the end without having *died.* This should eliminate their chance to get the "survive 8 encounters" award, but at least they don't feel as bad.

In a sense, the Encounters series seems to be exposing all the strengths and weaknesses that D&D has ever had. A lot of it depends on how well you work with the rest of your group and with your DM, and it isn't always easy to get everybody on the same page, whether you want hack/slash, RP, or where you fall on the scale. And a LOT of it depends on the DM.

Cheers
Erik,

Great advice. Thank you for clearing up the intent of D&D Encounters (DDE).

Unfortunately some people have taken the DM latitude given in the adventure and gone a different route. I have been engaged in a running dispute on the LFR_RPGA Yahoo E-List with an DDE organizer that felt that getting a renown point for "surviving" 8 consecutive encounters was too easy and directed his DMs to try and kill one PC a session to make it mean something. It wasn't run the encounters hard, he actally told each of them to kill one PC a session.

To say that I was appalled is an understatement. I have publicly railled against his directive in no uncertain terms and if there were someone I could report this to that would make a difference, I would.

I hope most of the folks running this event have a better grasp of what its about than this clown.

Thanks,

Bryan Blumklotz
Guardians of the Gameday
www.warhorn.org/gaurdiansofthegameday
To say that I was appalled is an understatement. I have publicly railled against his directive in no uncertain terms and if there were someone I could report this to that would make a difference, I would.

Sheesh, Bryan, that sounds like a tough situation. 

It is worth noting that there are some seriously masochistic players out there--dice rollers who like it when their companions drop like flies. Maybe it gives them a sense of accomplishment just to survive--I don't know! I played Ravenloft a number of years, and even I didn't get that hard core.

(Anyway, I hope said organizer has consulted with his players and DMs before making such a policy--DDE is supposed to help the businesses that run it by bringing in new customers, not drive away frustrated gamers. And if he hasn't consulted with players and the DMs running his games, then that sounds like an example of tyrannical DMing to me. He should rethink that policy.)

I will say this, about DMing:

I've been DMing for fifteen years now, and my core guideline--the one I keep coming back to, the one you'll find at the core of every DMG ever--is "Make it fun."

Just like being the banker in Monopoly, if you choose to be the DM, you are choosing to do a service for the players--and it isn't an easy one, I know. People will bug you. Situations will bug you. The PCs will steamroll your carefully laid plans. They will laugh at your game sometimes (yeah, I'm looking at you, J. Campbell!).

But what you need to do is just smile and keep making it fun.

What's fun depends on your gaming group. As I said, some people like lots of danger, and they like to have that danger reinforced by frequent character death. On the other hand, some people are completely and utterly demoralized by character death. Either way, you need to make it fun!

If you aren't willing to do that--if it's not in your personality, if you're over competitive, if you're going out of your way to punish your characters or smack them down--then give up your chair, dice, and screen to someone who is willing.

(After all, the party can always use another striker! :D)

Cheers

- Just don't kill characters. Fudge your damage rolls. Never ever make a monster do a coup de grace. If characters die outright or fail three death saves, just rule that they're out of the combat and will respawn at the end without having *died.* This should eliminate their chance to get the "survive 8 encounters" award, but at least they don't feel as bad.



So, I've stayed out of this particular sub-thread because I have neither Bryan's view nor his "nemesis's" view on killing PCs. But this statement left me scratching my head.

IF the PCs die, even after fudging (or not) rolls, and the PCs do everything right, and they still end up failing three death saves ... then the PC is dead. Given the rules for death written into the mod, there's almost no penalty for dying -anyways-. Now you're saying ... "Don't make them dead, just make them ... sick." Really? I'm sorry, but if you'd wanted that, I think you should have put it into the mod.

Sorry, but I can't buy that.




IF the PCs die, even after fudging (or not) rolls, and the PCs do everything right, and they still end up failing three death saves ... then the PC is dead. Given the rules for death written into the mod, there's almost no penalty for dying -anyways-. Now you're saying ... "Don't make them dead, just make them ... sick." Really? I'm sorry, but if you'd wanted that, I think you should have put it into the mod.

Sorry, but I can't buy that.



I think what Erik has been trying to stress is the fact that how difficult/easy you make the module is very much up to the DM's discretion.

If you don't want to make it easy on your players to the point where dying is even more of a non-issue... Then don't. It's that easy. He was just listing off tips for keeping people engaged and interested in the game. If you find it objectionable to go that easy on people, then exercise your right as a DM to run the game as you please.


So, I've stayed out of this particular sub-thread because I have neither Bryan's view nor his "nemesis's" view on killing PCs. But this statement left me scratching my head.

IF the PCs die, even after fudging (or not) rolls, and the PCs do everything right, and they still end up failing three death saves ... then the PC is dead. Given the rules for death written into the mod, there's almost no penalty for dying -anyways-. Now you're saying ... "Don't make them dead, just make them ... sick." Really? I'm sorry, but if you'd wanted that, I think you should have put it into the mod.

Sorry, but I can't buy that.



Tirianmal,

Actually you are more in line with how I DM. I don't fudge very often and I roll attacks and damage in the open (it ratchets up the tension). If a PC dies, he or she dies. I have killed PCs before (though not very often).

I gage my players and party composition and make adjustments behind the scenes to challenge them with the threat of death. If there is never really a threat that someone is going to die then it lessens the experience.

However, I want that death to mean something. Whether its someone paying the "stupid tax", fate or doing something incredibly heroic maters not to me so long as everyone is having fun. I think having a PC die because a DM has to reach some arbitrary quota set by an organizer is not fun.

So, I think you misunderstand my position. I am pro-death in D&D. Think of me as the Joss Wheadon of D&D (the death should have meaning and make you feel something).

Sorry, Erik, I don't believe you should do everything to keep all PCs alive. Without the credible threat of death it lessens the impact of survival.

Besides some player is gonna bring a pacifist cleric and then it will be all but impossible to gack someone anyway.

My Two Coppers,

Bryan Blumklotz
Guardians of the Gameday Organizer
www.warhorn.org/guardiansofthegameday

Bryan, most of my response was aimed at Erik's comment on not killing PCs ... at all. Or at least that's how I read his post.

Just sayin'
To say that I was appalled is an understatement. I have publicly railled against his directive in no uncertain terms and if there were someone I could report this to that would make a difference, I would.

Bryan, I've written and re-written several times trying to craft a reasonable response to what I feel is an irrational, uninformed and unwarranted attack. Please DM me off list if you'd like our store name and start time. Some first-hand experience would lend some credibility to your smear campaign.

You're also welcome to sign up to DM. We're having a hard time fielding enough tables to accommodate everyone that wants to play. This is the third week in a row we've had more players than can fit in the store, with almost a 100% retention rate.

The irony, of course, is that I too hate the hardcore "killer" DMs that you think we are. There are several people in my local area that I avoid playing with for exactly that reason. And while I appreciate Erik's advice, I disagree. I think that the key is not to always let the PCs win, but to ensure that—success or failure—their experience is epic.
What's fun depends on your gaming group. As I said, some people like lots of danger, and they like to have that danger reinforced by frequent character death. On the other hand, some people are completely and utterly demoralized by character death. Either way, you need to make it fun!



Erik said this best.

Point is DDE is a program aimed at bringing new people into the game.  Since you do not know all your players that well, as a DM to a mixed group of players with varied experience the best thing to do generally is assume that a player is not going to enjoy a character death.

Now if your entire table looks you in the eye and says, "We are an experienced group, don't hold back!" Then by all means stick by the rules and let them live or die.  But that is not the average DDE party.  A new player appreciates a little leeway, and will often be smart enough to recognize it for what it is.  Personally, I hope I don't kill a single PC, but I hope they feel the tension of being at risk of dying in many of the battles, but then avoid it by their own heroic actions or decisions.  That's D&D at it's best.

I haven't had to go as far as saying "You've just failed your last death roll, but X happens and you don't really die".  I try not to let it get that far.  I do things like make sure everyone knows the situation.  In one battle the cleric started making death rolls, so I called out to everyone that the cleric will die without assistance from a party member.  Then sure enough someone saved her before it got to death roll three.  But honestly, if it does come down to that last roll, I may intercede somehow - that decision will be heavily influenced by whether the character is run by an experienced and mature player and I feel they can deal with it fine vs. the first timer still trying to understand the rules and get a "feel" for the game.

Not "fair"?  Who gives a crap.  "Fun" (and that means for everyone) is the important word.


Ryan,

I am running 6 tables and will problably add a 7th soon. So I will beg off on joining your crew as I am very busy with my own. Also I am Portland, OR @ Guardian Games every Tuesday. I am very public with my persona here and on the LFR list. If you want to look me up I am available.

As to characterizing my opinion as a smear campaign. Really? Did I make up something you said. Am I mischaractrizing what you told your DMs to do? Does directing your DMs to only kill one PC a session make you less of a killer DM?

Don't get me wrong I agree with you that there has to be a credible threat of death to make survival mean something. I disagree with you on methadology.

If you want to talk with me off list, you have my email from the LFR list, email me. I am willing to listen to your explination why its ok to direct DMs to try and kill a PC with intent. I am willing to listen to why this would be "fun."

Bryan Blumklotz
Guardians of the Gameday Organizer
www.warhorn.org./guardiansofthegameday
Am I mischaractrizing what you told your DMs to do?

Yes. Repeatedly. In public. It's not appreciated.

What you missed is that we're all reasonable people who love the game and love sharing it with others, and how something sounds when read via e-mail and how it plays out at the table are apparently quite different. That's why I suggest you see for yourself before lighting your torch and sharpening your pitchfork.
Rcanine, Perithoth, to avoid this sub-thread completely dominating this thread, I would ask that you please take the discussion on the direction given to to DMs to PMs, or start another thread.

Thanks!!
Mudbunny SVCL for DDI Before you post, think of the Monkeysphere
Suggestion for next season (improvement for my community):

So, we're partway into the season now. My understanding of this system is that it is to encourage new players to join the hobby - a great idea!  I've found that offering this exclusively as Wednesdays only has the pro [players always know when this is available] and a con [the restrictive schedule cuts out communities that can't do Wednesdays - for whatever reason].

Also, by the very nature, a player who misses a week (or starts now) misses out on the beginning/introduction of the adventure, "jumping in" partway through.  To address this issue, I offer the following suggestion to the Encounters Administrators:

(1) Have a "no-restriction" first session.  "Meet the employer."  The first encounter of the first Encounters season works well for this.  However, this encounter could be played anywhere/anytime by anybody as a "hook."  If some magic players come early Friday evening, some folks wander into the store on Saturday looking to try D&D, I have some friends over for a game night and they want to give it a try - - we have one encounter to run them through and show the basics.   At the end of the session, these players are told - - if you want to see more, go to a local store hosting the event and you can play more on Wednesday evenings. 

(2) Structure.  For those familiar with LFR, it seems that the adventure BALD1-1 Flames of Initiation is a great model that would work well for Encounters.  The employer sends the adventurers on missions - each one lasting one encounter - then they report back and can get another mission.  This keeps each week's Encounter under the "story umbrella," while not losing continuity for someone who misses a week (or joins late).  Every 2 encounters actually played earns a milestone, every 4 encounters  earns an extended rest.

This model would provide a "flexible" introductory adventure, while maintaining the "community Wednesday" weekly structure of Encounters. Players would all get to play the Introduction, regardless of the actual time they join the campaign.  After that, they can enjoy some "loosely" connected encounters on Wednesdays. 

Dan Anderson @EpicUthrac
Total Confusion www.totalcon.com
LFR Calimshan Writing Director
LFR Epic Writing Director

LFR Myth Drannor Writing Director

I feel like I need to clarify something here.

I was suggesting ways you can go easy on the players IF YOU NEED TO, not as a policy of good DMing.  

Let me say it again another way: I was merely suggesting methods that you--the DM--can utilize in order to avoid people being discouraged . . . IF YOU NEED THEM.

I am certainly not one to advise DMs to be milksops as a policy. I killed two characters in my first Encounters session and left two more bleeding to death at the end of the combat. So clearly.

But not all players are like the players I had. You as a DM need to use your own judgment as to how to make the game the most fun it can be. Because *fun* is what we're after.

Cheers
paraphrase

Cool I can tell my players that the author said we should kill you all!

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
paraphrase

Cool I can tell my players that the author said we should kill you all!

Yes, you should definitely kill them all . . . assuming that's what's FUN for them.

Odds are it isn't, though, so you should probably restrain that rising urge to smoosh some PCs.

Cheers

Yeah, I was kidding.  I did have a party wipe in week 2, but they took it in stride, and I let them get some revenge in week 3.
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
PC's die in adventures.  Its not supposed to be a walk through the park.  How does that make Great Heroes? A sense of imminent doom or the sense of the dire results of making a bad decision is what makes a Hero great.

In most cases the GM can just have the monsters (if they are intelligent or being controlled by an intelligent being) knock the PC unconscious.

There is not much a GM can do about bad player dice rolls and bad player decisions. Unless its new players I cant see holding back on a group.  If its experienced players then they should know how to work together as a group to avoid or lessen the danger of bad die rolls and bad decision making. Thats why 4th edition shifted from the Army of One mentality of 3.x and went to a Army of Several in 4th edition.

It's all about having fun. Here is a very common sentiment for a player to have: "I appreciate seeing PCs die from time to time, because then I know the threat is there. It isn't fun when my PC dies."

That's a very important and real feeling many players have. Periodic deaths are dissapointing, but allow the game to have real teeth. But, they should not be so present that players are not having fun.

I used to be too hard as a DM. I pushed PCs all the time to the brink. I began to realize the players had a better time when I didn't. When I actually did, mainly at higher levels, then it was special and they had a good time with that particular challenge.

Follow my blog and Twitter feed with Dark Sun campaign design and DM tips!
Dark Sun's Ashes of Athas Campaign is now available for home play (PM me with your e-mail to order the campaign adventures).

Guess I got a good discusion started. Thanks for the info, especially from Erik, Its nice to have the author's point of view. This is the first time I've played with this group and DM so I'm still trying to figure out their play styles.

Thanks again all.
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