Just Say 'No' to the Alpha Strike

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I just got back from a long convention weekend. It was a blast but I made several observations that I thought I would share with the internet LFR community and see what others thought.

  • Righteous Rage of Tempus is still silly.

  • Dice of Auspicious Fortune need another beating by the nerf bat.

  • The sorcerer damage class feature is excessive at paragon (something I and others complained about when they were first previewed)


Besides the above mechanical issues (which each came up several times) the biggest 'fun-deterrent' for the weekend was the much loved alpha strike round. Yes, it is clearly effective but sometimes its not necessary and it just hurts the fun of other people at the table.

In one mod I was running for a six person table the first round went something like this:

Fighter moves up and attacks, crits, uses an action point.
Warlord moves up and attacks, uses an action point. 
Sorcerer AoEs to pull the enemies together, crits one, uses Dice of Auspicious Fortune to crit another one, uses an action point to AoE again.
Archer ranger Biting Volleys, uses an action point.

At this point most of the enemies are dead. There are two left: one with single digit hit points and the other mostly full but who needs 15s to hit the lowest AC in the party. The encounter is clearly over and I'm about the call it. I call the melee ranger's initiative and he looks to me frustrated because the battle is already over and he didn't have a single meaningful turn.

I ran into this scenario several times over the course of the convention and I realized the problem is more prevalent than I had thought. Most people just don't give a thought about other people's fun at the table. They understand well enough the mechanics of keeping their tablemate's characters alive but the concept of holding back so that other people can contribute is foreign to them.

I ask that everyone consider the following next time your turn comes up:

Do you really need to nova this turn? If the battle is under control perhaps you can save your standard action+action point+minor action attack+Dice of Auspicious Fortune usage for another turn.

Do you need to stun/blind/otherwise completely disable the monster(s) this turn? Perhaps if you saved your hard control power that you were going to use for another round someone would take damage and the leader would have an opportunity to shine.

Anyone else see this type of scenario recently?
I see this quite often when playing at the higher levels. But much more so at conventions. I even do it, though I try to save my nova for the second round or third so I can tell whether it is needed. On my striker. On my other PCs I don't have nova rounds so it isn't really that big a deal.

One thing I've noticed that seems to have been the result of an arms race is the initiative order. At Paragon, at least, I rarely have monsters go first any more. Between feats (improved initiative, danger sense), classes (warlords), and items (battle harnesses, helm of battle, timeless lockets, etc) monsters, even with their high initiatives, very rarely tend to win initiative.

And I understand why folks did it. They were tired of going after all the monsters. But it still makes that nova round even more gross.
This is related to my "let everyone have their moment in the limelight" on-going discussion with a mutual friend.

The premise of the discussion is to allow everyone at the table a moment that they can shine thus contribute and participate during the playing of the adventure.  The core of the discussion is how others may have to sacrifice some glory so that other may partake in some.

I personally, will allow other players to do skill checks that my character is primed to do because that other player is obviously having fun doing the roleplaying that accompanies said check.

I will also assess the perceived threat on the battlefield and make a determination on the level of risk I am exposed to which will prompt me to take an appropriate level of response action.  Fortunately or unfortunately, the majority of DMs running LFR mods make this risk level low hence I am able to do 6.6 second turns as opposed to 5 plus minute turns other players take.

But to answer your question,

Yes, I have seen this type of scenario recently as a DM as well as a player.  I must say it isn't fun for everyone at the table.

I also ask you to take this into account.  Even though gamers are not normally associated as being as ALPHA males, I do believe in human nature there is a need to rank ourselves among our peers and one way to rise in rank is to show how much damage one can do in combat hence the use of RROT and the other features you mentioned above.
A lot of me thinks there's a lot more to be done on the side of rules updates and adventure design than on requests to players there - sure, some people overdo it, but I'd much rather have a quick combat than a grindfest. If that means stuff dies before I use all my encounter powers - okay.

Now, I do object to people whose turns take _forever_, or who overdo it such that they can drop a solo on their own... but that's separate from the concept of having alpha strikes to turn combats into controlled situations.

Some examples:
* In LFR we get an AP almost every combat. That's not my experience in non-LFR.
* Minions are de-emphasized in LFR due to xp cost, reducing one of many possible impediments to getting to key monsters to nova them
* Encounters rarely have enough of an xp budget to work in phases or stages, with reinforcements coming in a round or two later

Certain powers and items are being toned down to make them all stack a little bit less well together, but honestly - any encounter that _could_ be won in one round is likely not an encounter worth the time invested into it. DME it harder, combine it with something later, or design the adventure differently. 
Keith Richmond Living Forgotten Realms Epic Writing Director
A lot of me thinks there's a lot more to be done on the side of rules updates and adventure design than on requests to players there - sure, some people overdo it, but I'd much rather have a quick combat than a grindfest. If that means stuff dies before I use all my encounter powers - okay. Now, I do object to people whose turns take _forever_, or who overdo it such that they can drop a solo on their own... but that's separate from the concept of having alpha strikes to turn combats into controlled situations.



I agree I would rather have quick combats than grindfests that go an hour over the time slot but I am not describing that situation.

There are times when pushing your actions to the limit is appropriate and there are times when it is not. 
If you get an action point every combat, and you have something valuable to do with an AP in the first round... then you can expect someone to use an AP in the first round. If you have six players, that means the DM can expect 6 APs thrown his way. Every combat.

If you face two or maybe three fights in a day, and you have 4 daily attacks and 2 daily utility/items of note, then expect 2-3 of them. With six players, that's 12-18 of them. Every combat.

If you've got an encounter minor action attack and an encounter immediate, that's another thing that'll often happen in the first round. Maybe six of those total, since not everyone has those.

That's not even a crazy nova alpha strike principle. That's just dividing the resources at hand over the combats you face.
 
Keith Richmond Living Forgotten Realms Epic Writing Director

* In LFR we get an AP almost every combat. 
* Minions are de-emphasized in LFR due to xp cost, reducing one of many possible impediments to getting to key monsters to nova them
* Encounters rarely have enough of an xp budget to work in phases or stages, with reinforcements coming in a round or two later
 



+1

 

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

LFR Myth Drannor Writing Director

Anyone else see this type of scenario recently?

I think one reason is a simple lack of trust.

Players unload in an alpha strike because they think they have to.  Oh, some of it is because it's fun to show off your character's abilities.  A good portion of it, however, is because you think you're going to get screwed if you don't.

I've rolled a 28 initiative in P1 and had my first action be a death save.  I have seen PCs start a combat stunned (save ends), and then not make the save for three rounds; or immobilized (save ends), in a zone that will re-immobilize them at the start of their turn even if they make the save

All it takes is one fight where you're dropped or rendered ineffective before you have the chance to act, for players to start taking precautions to make sure that doesn't happen again.  95% of the time, this won't be needed, but if the players feel they can't trust authors/editors enough, they won't take a chance by holding back.

I just had an obvious example this past weekend: A module with what, from the setup, looked like a pretty fun arena fight.  However, the rules for the combat were that a PC had to leave the combat if they became bloodied (which is a pretty lousy setup; the reason we got rid of 'save or die' effects was because it's no fun sitting there watching everyone play D&D for 40 minutes because you were out of the combat in the first round), and it was also from a region known for having tough combats.

By the end of the third PC's turn, the combat was over, without the bad guys ever having a chance to go.  My cleric used Strategist's Epiphany and rolled well, so the PCs all went first: the sorcerer unloaded on them, as did the two fighters (all three using action points), after which all of the enemies were bloodied.

We then kind of sat around sheepishly for a moment, as the DM (though he took it with good grace) had clearly been looking forward to running what looked like a fun encounter.

No one really wanted to take the chance, however.  Maybe the stated tactics would have required the DM to focus fire on the squishiest target and take him out in the first round.  Maybe the mage had a burst "you're out of the combat" (save ends) power.  No way of knowing until it's too late, and so, we lost out on a fun experience.

I'm not sure what lesson we're supposed to learn, however--after all, the next module in that particular series is DALE1-6, in which holding back in the first round pretty much guarantees a TPK.
This might be bending the rules a little bit, but if I'm able to, when running -

In encounters I some times don't have all the monsters placed on the map. Some of them might be in the next room or just through the portal. It really depends on the encounter, the mod, and the players actions.

So people that like to use those big alpha strikes might end up be drained of all their nice powers when bursting from a room is the main bad guy.

I agree with Matt12.  Why not just DME the monsters?  I thought if the players were making a cake walk of the mod, you were supposed to adjust to their play style.  Same if they are constantly struggling.  That's what I ususally do and everyone gets a turn.

Could we ask the DM to hold back on all the monsters uber abilities until everyone at the table gets a turn to attack?  No dominate, weaken, stun, grab, immobilize, etc. by anyone during the first round.  No hitting in the face or below the waist.

When I'm roleplaying my characters, I go for the quickest kill possible.  We are adventurer's, not diplomats.  We kill bad guys and take their stuff.  And yeah, I've had to make a Death Save or 40 during my adventuring career.  It's part of the game.

I've played both a damage dealer and a support class.  I've been in mods where I throw out a Saving Throw or Heal and that's about it.  That's my character's role with that company.  Any Healing I distribute, any "make a melee basic" command I issue, any Saving Throw I allow or any detrimental condition I drop on a baddie are all key to victories.  I may not have the killing blow nor may I even attack the thing, but I helped kill it just the same.

Also, if for some reason, I didn't get to do anything in one encounter, doesn't mean I'm never going to be able to help the team out.  Different encounters call for different strategies.  Terrain, flying or teleporting enemies or other mechanical effects can all be used to change up a team's tactics from one adventure to another.

I just came back from the same Convention as the OP. This particular Con I decided to play only Paragon adventures with the exception of a particular slot that I wanted to play a specific character of mine.

The Alpha Strike for PCs can either be a metagame reaction to certain monsters on the map or, as some suggest, a way to show off their PCs. I feel this is true in both cases. I great example is when I was playing my Taclord Battle Captain and there was a Mind Flayer present, I told the multi-attack Tempest Fighter to go nova him. And so he multi-Crit our problems away. We finished the final combat of a P2 adventure in 2 rounds because of the Alpha Strike, so I'm not complaining. Everyone at the table had fun role playing and blowing things up and the DM had some fun despite being tired.

As a DM, I hate being Alpha Striked upon, especially when monsters have cool powers I want the PCs to be effected with. But this does go to show you that the best tactical decision a group of PCs can make is to unload on the most dangerous monster on the table. I don't blame them for it.

The best condition to put on a monster is dead.
I'm not talking about the PCs succeeding or failing. In the scenarios I'm describing the PCs clearly have thing under control. Nor am I trying to debate against the tactical advantage associated with this tactic - it's clearly very effective.

I am just suggesting that, when things are in hand, players show a little restraint so that the character who rolled low on his/her initiative or can't get in range on turn one be able to do something meaningful in an encounter. Your minor action attack/action point/Auspicious crit will still be there on turn two, three, etc. 
We played DALE2-2 (P2: 14-17) this weekend.  I had a Taclord/Spiral Tactician, Cleric/Divine Oracle, Wizard/Divine Oracle, Ranger/Battle Archer, Swordmage/Riposte Master, and a Wizard/Spell Tower.  Needless to say both Divine Oracles have Danger Sense and the Taclord can arrange some initiatives.  Init scores ranged from 35-47.  Can't beat that with monsters.  Everything died within a round or two.  A significant number of enemies died in the first round.  Mod was decimated and me, the DM, was left with very little to challenge the PCs.

Initiative at paragon+ is significantly important. 
When presented with a group like that - you can always ask if they'd like the module to be more difficult, and DME appropriately. Or just DME more aggressively, until combats last at least two rounds.

Or, just let them blow it away. Maybe spend more time on roleplaying.

I've been playing a game recently called King's Bounty, and I very much enjoy the combats in them, even though I basically never lose - but my goal is to actually win perfectly, with no losses, often while achieving other goals (extra treasure, killing monsters with specific spells, etc)... I've done something similar before, where I (a leader) challenged the other leader that neither of us would use any heals during battle. Obviously, we were never in danger, for us to make a challenge like that. But it was a hell of a lot of fun for us. Even if a couple of the other players whimpered a little (Whaa, I'm bloody, whaa)

Keith Richmond Living Forgotten Realms Epic Writing Director


Or, just let them blow it away. Maybe spend more time on roleplaying.




I am not talking about challenging the party. That is not the issue. No realistic amount of DME is going to challenge an even moderately CharOped party.

I am talking about leaving enough of the encounter in tact so that everyone in the party gets a chance to do something meaningful. You shouldn't need Improved Initiative just so you can have a chance to make an attack roll before the encounter is over.
The best condition to put on a monster is dead.

This is the problem. Right here. I'll quote it again.
The best condition to put on a monster is dead.

The problem with many combats in LFR is that this is true, combined with the fact that it's very easily achievable.

How many movies do you watch where the hero walking into a room and shooting the villain point-blank during the opening credits suffices to tell a good story? Few.

I think LFR authors need to reconsider their tack here. Some examples:
  •  A situation where, if the PCs kill the monsters before they trigger the macguffin, The Bad Thing happens.

  • A situation where all of the monsters cannot be damaged while PCs aren't standing in certain squares.

  • A situation where alpha striking on the monsters will let a retreating monster get away.

Sure, you can make combats harder, but I think that's a dangerous route to take. All it does is reinforce the behavior that's causing the problem.


First I want to say I have only been playing Dungeons and Dragons since October 2008, I have never played another Living Campaign or other Organized version of any other Roleplaying Game


The OP said so that the purpose here was to let the guy in the back of the initiative order do something meaningful in combat.


Now this has happened to me many times so trust me when I say it happens and it's not the same DM, it's happened at DDXP, Origins, Gencon, local Game Days.

Okay lets say you do that, 3 of the 4  players go first they get spread out attack leave the monsters alive, or don't even engage a monster, so after all of the other players go, it's the monsters Turn, they see that 3 of the players have gone and the 4th has not gone, what happens (at least to me ) Ohh look a PC who hasn't acted, Im gonna go ahead and hit that player who has not acted with Stun, Immobolize, Dazed, Weakened, Unable to take Standard actions, Dominate(Especially Dominated) etc.


The General consensus I have gotten as a player since starting the campaign is Any player who has not acted is fair game for the DM to prevent them from getting a turn/actions and as a player if my options are attack some monsters that are low on HP or Make a saving throw because I am controlled, give me a attack.


Now as for the Meta game end of it or I probably just play All Alpha Strike characters, I consider it roleplaying as to how each of my Characters re-acts in each Combat.


Paladin/Bard, Not a damage dealer, He has 2 roles 1 Defend/2 Let other Players act by removing conditions. He Usually goes first finds a monster and locks it down to the point where it is completly unable to make attacks that are not the Character or to the point that the Monster has a -4/-6 to attack anyone other than the Paladin. Also Has abilities to remove the nasty effects that Monsters like to inflict. However when I remove said conditions before the Character I made able to act is usually stuck in conditions again before they act again, it gets to the point I delay to the point before that character goes so they can get a turn.


Minotaur Barbarian MOOOOOOOOO-- He Moo's and he attacks the closest enemy to him. He considers himself the biggest thing on the field and should anything bigger exist he attacks it instead.


Warlord/Spiral Tactician -- Has a higher Int than Str has bonuses to Monster Knowledge checks items to find lowest defence/current hp etc and directs the battle


Sorcerer -- Causes as much chaos as possible and doesn't care how many ally's he hurts to do it. He's not the kind of Sorcerer who slides all the targets into a box and destroy's them he just causes chaos on the battlefield.


I know it's not a game of DM VS Players but alot of DM's are players as well and sometimes(I know it has happened to me  in the past, I've made it a habit of telling my players to tell me to stop being a Jerk) Is that they get that competitive edge and are so tired of getting the crap kicked out of them they try to win. It gets annoying out at Cons.

causing the problem.



Just so we're all clear, it is not a unanimous opinion that there is a problem.

As a DM, I loooove it when the players easily kick the crap out of my monsters.

As a player, I loooove to kick the crap out of monsters.  I also still have as good of a time if it is someone other than me doing the kicking.

As a player, I loooove to kick the crap out of monsters.  I also still have as good of a time if it is someone other than me doing the kicking.



So you're okay with never getting a turn in an encounter?

Unfortunately I don't think most people feel this way. What advice would you have for people that get frustrated when they can't get a turn because everything is dead when their initiative comes up? 
I'll agree with a basic premise of yours: not getting a chance to do something in a combat, due to the combat being over in less than a round, would be frustrating to many players, if it happened consistently.   If a "half-round combat" happened every once in a while, I suspect that relatively few players would have an issue with it.

So, my question is: how often does this really happen?  Granted, I have yet to play paragon-tier in LFR, and most of the folks with whom I play tend to not completely cheese out their characters, but...I've never, ever seen this happen in LFR.  Ferol, it sounds like you saw it several times in that recent convention...is that consistent with your general experiences in LFR, or is it an outlier?
"Of course [Richard] has a knife. He always has a knife. We all have knives. It's 1183, and we're barbarians!" - Eleanor of Aquitaine, "The Lion in Winter"
I have to echo bgibbon's comments.  I think it's in large part a reaction to the Dale 1-6's of the world.  If I have to go first and alpha strike to survive a module, you can be rather sure that my characters are going to have higher initiative modifiers, and that my first turn is much more likely to involve an action point.

One of our local powergamers has started building his new Heroic characters with deliberately sub-optimal races, as a handicap.  But his paragon characters?  They all tend to go first, and they don't have internal handicaps.

"Nice assumptions. Completely wrong assumptions, but by jove if being incorrect stopped people from making idiotic statements, we wouldn't have modern internet subculture." Kerrus
Practical gameplay runs by neither RAW or RAI, but rather "A Compromise Between The Gist Of The Rule As I Recall Getting The Impression Of It That One Time I Read It And What Jerry Says He Remembers, Whatever, We'll Look It Up Later If Any Of Us Still Give A Damn." Erachima

I'll agree with a basic premise of yours: not getting a chance to do something in a combat, due to the combat being over in less than a round, would be frustrating to many players, if it happened consistently.   If a "half-round combat" happened every once in a while, I suspect that relatively few players would have an issue with it.

So, my question is: how often does this really happen?  Granted, I have yet to play paragon-tier in LFR, and most of the folks with whom I play tend to not completely cheese out their characters, but...I've never, ever seen this happen in LFR.  Ferol, it sounds like you saw it several times in that recent convention...is that consistent with your general experiences in LFR, or is it an outlier?



In the grand scene of things this does not happen that often. I play a lot of LFR (I'm not kidding) and in the past six months this might have happened once or twice with my regular group. I suppose I'm fortunate in these regards as the only hardcore powergamer amongst my regular group doesn't often focus on damage and likes to break the game in other ways.

This convention was the first time I had seen the problem en mass and it was definitely specific to one particular group of players. They all had frost weapons/energy admixture, dice of auspicious fortune, etc. This happened at least three or four times at tables I was playing or judging for but I'm sure it happens more often and the victims just sit silent.

I understand the DALE1-6-phobia some people seem to have, but again I'm not describing a situation like that. In these scenarios the monsters often get a chance to act and they have shown that they are minimally threatening at worst. There is no AE stun or massive blasts of damage/pseudo dominate.
Clearly, based on your stories, we cannot count on players to "police" themselves.

This is a good example for DME.  Have 2 "reinforcements" show up part way through the round.  If the PCs have the combat well-in-hand, it gives the players at the bottom of the initiative order something to use their powers on.

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

LFR Myth Drannor Writing Director

OK - I think we're getting to consensus here on a few things:

1) Yeah, this happens, but rarely to the point where a PC doesn't get to act AT ALL. In my experience, that particular situation is usually confined to either sets of powergaming parties or sets of weak monsters. Frankly, when that happens to me - I don't care so much.  At least my PC is alive. I've never seen that happen more than once in a mod anyway. I know I'll get to contribute somewhere down the road.

2) The "Alpha Strike" strategy comes from players' combined experiences of going after the monsters in initiative order and being blinded/immobilized/stunned/unconscious/nuked to death before they can even react in the fight.  ALL of those things have happened to me (some much more than once) and I can tell you, it makes you want to take out enemy spellcasters as FAST as absolutely possible, Even if you waste a Daily power and an action point by using overkill.  Doing nothing in an entire encounter because of the monster's own "Alpha Strike" is really not fun.

3) As a DM, if you don't like it, improvise. Remember that your goal is to ensure that the players have fun.  If it means using better taactics or using the terrain to better advantage or even thowing in a few scary-looking but fairly benign minions go for it.  Remember also, that it doesn't matter if the DM has fun.  It's all about the players and their experience.  Monsters are there to be beaten. Hopefully in a challenging way, but if all the players have fun taking them out in one round, who cares? (Personally, I like the idea of adding roleplaying to fill up time - but that's just me.) Above all, be flexible to match the players' style of play.

4) You must realize that there is no way that LFR players as a whole will voluntarily begin to "hold back" and not use their best powers and/or action points for the first two rounds. Mostly because of my point #2, past experience, but I'll admit that some people have other reasons. You have just about as much chance of convincing players to hold back for a bit as you would asking every LFR judge to "just wait - don't use the monster's really good powers for two rounds."  You know that the DM wants to "alpha strike" the PCs as well - otherwise the monsters may not be alive to use those powers later.  I'll guarantee you that the same thought runs through the players' minds, in regard to their PCs.

As a frequent judge, I make full use of (a) full, in-depth knowledge of the mod and (b) my best tactical maneuvers to keep up with PCs that are obviously superior to the monsters.  So far I've done pretty well with that.  Wink

- Kevin C.
Clearly, based on your stories, we cannot count on players to "police" themselves.

This is a good example for DME.  Have 2 "reinforcements" show up part way through the round.  If the PCs have the combat well-in-hand, it gives the players at the bottom of the initiative order something to use their powers on.



Counting on players to police themselves is laughable at best. (Believe it or not there are people out there with Warforged still trying to abuse Reparation Apparatus)

As much as I hate doing it I think using 'DME' to bring in reinforcements in this way is the best way to deal with this issue.

Judging by the responses in this thread asking players to hold back so that their party members can have fun too is almost as foolish as expecting players to police themselves.
Knee-jerk reaction: I want to see at least one P2 or higher mod where the monsters present are illusions, and the real threat exposes itself after the first round.

It'll never work of course, because this tactic suffers the same problem of every other time mod-writers try to solve this problem by taking matters into their own hands. The metagame cheese players who know the mod will decide, for once, to wait on their nukes until round 2, while characters who aren't familiar with the mod will get TPK'd.

Expecting players to police themselves in gaming is about as effective as it is in real life.  I.E, it isn't.
But as far as I can see, there are about 3 schools of thought on this.

1) People who nova because they dont want to hold back for fear of someone's death.(I usually feel this way)

2) People who nova because they want the glory of killing the BBEG.(We all feel this way atleast once in a while)


3) People dont like the nova-ing, because it means someone won't get a turn. (I understand this train of thought. I have lost initiative and not gotten to do anything meaningful because of it.)


I tend towards 1 because I have died too many times because someone held back(either me or someone else) in a normally easy encounter. But 3 is an issue im familiar with as well. I honestly hate DME for the most part because it generally will screw players more than it will help. As far as the nova problem goes, unless a monster can punish a PC for Nova-ing them, it will probably keep happening. Though I for one will try to keep it in mind when I play a PC who can nova. But if I die because of it, Im blaming Ferol.




Personally, from reading this thread, there is no solution.  The people that are upset and are proposing change seem to feel that every player must have fun in every encounter in every LFR mod.  I don't see anyone talking about fun across an entire mod, but on a per-encounter basis.  The bottom line is that it is up to the individuals themselves to find a way to have fun.  If you feel you need to have "fun" every single encounter of every LFR mod, well, you're setting yourself up for disappointment.

I enjoy optimizing my characters, and I play with other people who don't, and we all have fun talking like cookie-monster as 1/2 Orcs at conventions, where everyone at our table has a good time through the course of each 4 hour session.  I've never actually stopped to gauge if everyone was having fun every encounter, that seems like a silly waste of resources to me.  I just know that when we're driving home from the Con we all had a really good time.

Every single moment of every LFR session isn't going to be fun for every person involved (unless they, themselves, ensure that it is).  I guess it is neat that people want to hold things to that kind of standard, but your time might be better spent on other things.  You're going to get to do your own neat thing eventually.  Maybe not this encounter, maybe not encounter #2, maybe even rarely not for an entire mod...  Eventually.  And if you can't have patience for it, then you need to design a +300 initiative nova psycho so you too can play that game if it is that important to you.  You just can't have it both ways.

I am sorry if these comments upset people, but it just seems like such a trivial thing to be worried about.  You can't make all of the people happy all of the time.  I don't see how this is a fixable issue no matter what game you play. 
I hate to post because I do not have a possible solution to suggest currently.

However, I have to agree with ARlife, I believe DME to the situation is not the best course of action because once a DM mis-judges how much additional firepower he/she adds and the result is a TPK, I can only imagine the complaints that will come out of that.

Looking at the thread regarding DALE 1-6, I believe that the normal LFR player is not looking for a challenge, I believe they do want to Alpha Strike and kill baddies all day long.  That is how the normal LFR player has fun.

My only real suggestion is to find a home game Ferol.
Oh course they nova in the first round, thats the LFR way.  Its almost the 4E way in general, I mean, the game is built to facilitate such, so many players treat it that way.  We have one of the most cheesed out groups around in my area (I won't mention them by name cuz I hate that damn word and the fear the KOC)... but, they nova everything and that is what they like best about the game... so let them do it!  Asking them to give up their fun in favor of someone else's doesn't seem right to me.

Also, many people seem to fear not to nova because you do that or you get screwed in too many mods;
Not everyone may have seen it, but I have in mods at every tier, frequently enough that it can't be called a rarity!
Lose init... your stunned or asleep or whatever... so sit there for a couple rounds... until the fight finally ends... hence, not init'n up and novaing means you're the person who doesn't get to do anything!

That or a PC dies because people held back.  Thats the problem with 'holding back' so other PCs can do something; it means that the baddies likely get to do something to, which is not good!

Of my dozen+ LFR characters, maybe half can do megadamage in one round.  The other half tend to do very little in a fight anyway... so I look at it as 'meh, whatever... my paladin doesn't need to get to go cause he'll just do 20 or so damage anyway; my own choice do to the defendery social huge diplomacy build.'  Honestly, I think the only character I have that has ever broken a combat in the first round is my wizard... and my wizard is just plain sick if she gets init and the baddies are all bunched up (but that is only my fourth highest character).

Also, if you look at a fight in a game as a real fight; strait up, you put your foe down as HARD and FAST as possible.  "Holding Back" in such is a sign of arrogance or stupidity and the former typically implies the latter anyway.  Thats the only way to ensure your own safety and survival!  Cause getting hit with a bat is bad enough, a great axe to the guts would surely suck far worse!

My basic conclusion is "People nova the first round; so what! let them be!  People bemoaning the fact that others characters are 'too powerful' (which is what I consider this complaint to be - thought that is sheerly opinion and thus could be considered wrong as you see fit) is getting pretty old... if they have fun cheesing out their characters and trashing stuff as soon as the fight starts, good for them... I prefer to end the fights as quickly as possible anyway; that leaves more time for RP (which the long, slow, more then one round fights take away from). "

Ok, I've rambled enough. 
Unfortunately D&D seems to have turned into the "Who Wins Initiative" Game - which PCs will always win.

I have seen the situation you've described where the person with the lowest initiative either doesn't get a turn at all or the fight is essentially over by the time they finally get to go.  It is definitely unfun for the player(s) with the lowest initiative.  But it can also make the fight less fun for the other players as well (yes, I know, it depends on who the players are).

I don't generally build Nova characters.  But the first (only?) time I ever had a character Nova something - I was very excited!  I killed the BBEG in one turn, all by myself!  (Attacks on the Run desperately needs to be errata'ed...)  But I was only excited for about 30 seconds - until I realized that I had basically destroyed the entire encounter and made it unfun for everyone (myself included).  The BBEG I had killed was the only monster in the encounter that had any interesting attacks.  If I remember correctly, the combat lasted several rounds (since I was the only one who had Nova'ed), but it was boring for all of us.  We knew we had won and we were just rolling dice to go through the motions.  It ruined what could have been a fun and interesting combat. 

Nova'ing (especially mass-nova'ing) just emphasizes the "you win initiative so you win D&D" problem.  It's like playing Rock, Paper, Scissors instead of D&D - except D&D takes longer. 

On a related/side note - I was very excited about getting Fighter's Recovery for my LFR Fighter.  It's a daily power that lets you regain an encounter power after you've used all your encounter powers.  Well, I was excited about it until I played a few mods and realized that I could never ever use it - the LFR combats were always over too fast.  Or if the fight actually lasted long enough that I could use it, most of the monsters were already dead so it was pointless.

************************
I have seen some effective ways that encounters or DMs have been able to get around the Nova turn.  At a convention I played at a table with a really unpleasant power-gamer/nova'er who had the cheesiest and most optimized characters imaginable.  It was clear (to everyone but himself) that he was making the game less fun for all the other players at the table.  In one encounter he did a huge daily, action point'ed, and did another huge daily - completely obliterating one of the big monsters.  Surprisingly, the encounter was actually still challenging and interesting.  I found out later that the DM had just DME'd an identical monster to show up in its place.  (The monsters were all flying out of a pit, so none of the players thought it was strange when another one flew out.)  The DM made it so everyone got to have fun.  The Nova player still got to feel cool and show off his character (since he didn't know the DM just replaced the monster he killed) and the rest of the players actually got to play. 

I've also liked some of the anti-Nova mechanics that have shown up in a few mods.  Like when all the mooks are giving the BBEG resistances and you have to kill them before you can effectively damage the BBEG. 

Lori Anderson

WotC Freelancer, LFR author

@LittleLorika

 

Dragon Magazine #412: Unearthed Arcana: Ships in Your Campaign

Calimshan Adventures (LFR): CALI3-3, CALI4-1, and QUES4-1

Epic Adventures (LFR): EPIC5-1 and EPIC5-3

Other LFR Adventures: NETH4-1, ADCP5-2, and MYTH6-3

 

 

 

 

I don't see a problem with a player going Nova. At Conventions I'd rather have a player going nova and I don't get a turn because everything is dead, then have to cut the adventure short because of time. We had a group that managed to stick together through the Discomfort, Pain, Agony major quests and had a very fun time with the adventures when it came to the actual role-playing aspect. And the folks I was with I play with rarely or only at Cons. I got the feel of the Dragon Coast, used my Noble status in Cormyr to get the job done and saved a pair of idiot twins from dastardly mustache Illithids in New Velar.

At home play or at the FLGS, we do hold back a little. But if someone calls out "Broken Arrow", everyone brings the pain no matter how easy or how 'in hand' the encounter may be.

Normally if players are making good knowledge checks and get info they don't like, someone always points to that particular monster and says it should die. Players normally listen to that and bring the pain. It's common meta-gaming for long time D&D players.

When you see a beholder, you expect players to run up to it and At-Will just to let you get a turn? No!

When you face Wights, you expect the Cleric with Turn Undead and Divine Power to just sit there and do nothing? No, he's going to go there and kill them so other players won't lose healing surges.

A good example is when I was playing at a Con earlier in the year and we were at the final encounter. We get attacked by a huge Aboleth Behemoth. I was playing my Cleric who has played almost every CORE adventure except the newer heroic tier adventures. In character he hates Aboleths because of CORE 1-4 and CORE 1-7, so I decided to 'Dismiss' it to the penalty box. No questions. Just go. Come back when you make your saving throw with a -7 penalty. One player didn't like it because he wanted to actually fight the Behemoth, which never made it's saving throw. I also wanted to fight the behemoth, but once I made my knowledge check and found out what it was I made the character decision to get rid of it. If someone didn't like it, too bad.

I don't see a problem with a player going Nova. At Conventions I'd rather have a player going nova and I don't get a turn because everything is dead, then have to cut the adventure short because of time.

Or miss the rest of the fight because I am dead. I agree, I'd rather see someone else winning the fight for my side without me needing to unsheathe my sword, than having to make death saving throws because someone thought it was a good idea to leave a baddie for me to beat up which then proceeded to beat me up instead.




I believe DME to the situation is not the best course of action because once a DM mis-judges how much additional firepower he/she adds and the result is a TPK, I can only imagine the complaints that will come out of that.



It seems that the conversation has gotten interesting, yet off of Ferol's original topic.

Yes, novas happen. Nobody is complaining that the BBEG/beholder/whatever spends the whole fight stunned/dazed/blind/prone etc.  The issue Ferol brought up is that sometimes the first round novas result in a player not even getting a turn in combat. This is not fun for a player.

After 4 players have acted in the first round and there's one creature left that's bloodied?  Using DME to have 2 more of the soldiers show up is NOT going to result in a TPK. It's going to result in one more round of combat (for a table that mopped it up everyone in the first round) and give the players at the bottom of the initiative a chance to do something meaningful - even minimally.  They won't need to nova, but they will get to participate.

 

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

LFR Myth Drannor Writing Director

Not always. There is the risk that the PCs used dailies and encounter powers that they don't have anymore. In that case adding more monsters is not necessarily going to lead to a TPK, but it does run the risk of turning it into a somewhat boring hp grind feast. I have certainly seen this happen when the PCs did go for the alpha strike attack, only to learn that the real threat was not even present at the map (which is ultimately the best way to deal with alpha strike builds).
I'd like to make a couple of points about some of the suggestions made.

1) While I do think that the illusion idea is an interesting one, it poses a couple of problems. The first being the perceived waste of resources. Many suggestions in both the books and in the various dev articles online suggest that players not be allowed to use dailies on minions, for example, as that would be both a thematically and fun-wise waste and may leave a bad taste in one's mouth. Second is that if we're talking about the true "nova" rounds, then many of these powers and combinations are much more powerful than merely daily powers -and- are not sustainable for the most part. As Madfox points out, this means that while a nova round can kill an Elite Brute on a single action, most such PCs are not going to be able to then bring down a similar creature without a long grind.

2) Adding reinforcements, if it becomes de rigeur, will start causing -other- problems. It seems like a cop out, it -can- make certain players feel like they've wasted all their play only to have a DM make the game much harder than it was "intended" to be, and those players that are going late in the round may feel like their DM is playing a "pity" card. None of these is fun either.

I think it is best that players and DMs talk about what they want out of the game, even at conventions, so that with properly set expectations, perhaps more fun can be had by -all-.
Alpha striking is common sense. In just about any situation, hitting first and hitting hard early are big keys to victory. Holding back is only really useful when there is some trickery about or you are unsure about the target (minions, illusions, some strange defense).

The game is full of things that destroy the fun of the game if used too much - Voidcrystal weapons are an example where you can remove a really cool part of an encounter then complain the encounter was too easy... gee, I wonder why? A lot of the items that get nerfed are awesome except when used to break situations... and then they have to get nerfed and ruin normal uses (Healer's Sash, Timeless Locket, Boots of Eagerness, etc.). Alpha striking is both common sense and then sometimes really bad for the game. You generally have little concept of how many HPs a critter has, but just end up blowing it away.

Sure, restraint is in order. But, at the same time, the reaction is just very logical. I don't really see it as a reaction to difficult/unfair combats, but just normal nature like choosing feats that provide a stacking benefit. It is the obvious better path... until you won too easily (and the deal is done at that point). For my only really "broken" PC, my warlock, I deliberately chose the AoE attack everything path because it allows everyone else to still go. Sure, I may bloody a lot of things, but they get to kill them. And that's really (usually) worst case if I roll well.

As a frequent playtester, one of the main combat comments our group makes is around how the encounter can protect against alpha strikes (especially ranged but also from charges... charging just seems to be the thing these days in our gaming groups). Authors can look at trying to place monsters in cover or off-map until certain things happen. You have to be careful with that, but it is usually more fun than the alternative when the combat is supposed to be thrilling. Choosing foes that are not an obvious "this is clearly the thing to kill first" helps, but you can't always do that.

It is really a problem with very little solution. Some restraint is called for, some editing and authoring, and some DMing.

One thought is that maybe it is time to revise the DME rules. Maybe we are far enough along that we should give DMs greater latitude to adjust the encounter beyond changing levels and allowing things to work. Maybe it is time to allow a number of other things, with the clear principle of "fun"... perhaps requiring the DM to ask permission? Just throwing the concept out there.

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It feels like this problem with alpha striking encounters is more of a personal conflict with others' playstyles than anything else.

Some interesting quotes in this thread:
it doesn't matter if the DM has fun.

This convention was the first time I had seen the problem en mass and it was definitely specific to one particular group of players.

I made the character decision to get rid of [the monster]. If [another player] didn't like it, too bad.

I find public events to be very swingy. There seems to be a equal chances of having epic times, meeting new friends, running into death robot DMs and encountering players whose playstyle completely ruins your experience.


Alphastream1 is right. Alpha striking makes sense, but can also lead to boring games for some of the players. I would suggest being more selective with who you play with.
So you're okay with never getting a turn in an encounter?



Frankly, yes I am.  I only remember it ever happening once in 200+ adventures, and it was a very exciting time, with lots of whooping and high-fives - the combat still lives on in a "hey remember that time..." anecdote sort of way.  And I'm not a guy who optimizes for initiative - of my 4 Paragon PCs, the highest modifier among them is +10 (for the level 14 with a 16 Dex) so I'm not skewed into not noticing just because I end up always going first.

Even if the ratio was increased from 1 in 200 up to 1 in 5 adventures (a 4000% increase), I'd still be fine.  I suppose if it was more often than this I'd start to get tired of it.

It is really a problem with very little solution.



I still say that there is not unanimous consent that there is a problem at all.  I think it is a feature, not a bug.  If a very small (or even a fairly small) number of encounters end this way, it is fun.  And I don't really see anyone here claiming that this happens with any great frequency.

I would suggest being more selective with who you play with.



Hmm...this is a really slippery slope too. I hope what you mean is "avoid playing with people you know have a playstyle that disagrees with you." However, playing with people you don't know is something that should be encouraged. Yeah, it sucks when you wind up with a player or GM who sucks the fun out of the table, but meeting new people and growing the hobby and playerbase is worth it to me.


It feels like this problem with alpha striking encounters is more of a personal conflict with others' playstyles than anything else.




That definitely seems to be the case.

I started this thread assuming that the idea that the fun of the table was a group effort was a prevalent mindset. It appears my view is in the minority (or at least not as common as I had assumed). It seems to me that the majority of the posters on this thread (and at the convention I just attended) are of the opinion that the degree of fun had at the table is the judge's responsibility alone. Also, it seems many don't think twice about how their character's actions will affect the other player's fun or at least don't allow it to affect their actions.

I'm curious what kinds of results we would get from a larger sample. I'm going to create a poll with the following question.

For any given LFR adventure the fun of the table is:

The judge's responsibility alone.
A table-wide effort.
Not relevant. It's up to each individual to find his/her own fun in a module.