DDE Dark Sun Field Reports (Week 1)

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I had this thought on the Pregens..

[sblock A bit of spoiler...]
This is Athas, and your caravan was being surrounded by silt runners before the storm hit.  All the optimized characters were out there preparing to fight the silt runners, when the obsidian storm hit in full force.  So they were all killed...  These are the slaves or those thought to be non-combatants that were still in the wagon, unfortunately they're the only survivors...  And in Athas you work with what you have if you want to survive.
[/sblock]

Always a GM, never a player (not really but sometimes feels like it).

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I was DM for one of 2 full six player groups last night. Things went very well for both groups (as far as I could tell about the 2nd anyway!)

I want to thank all the people who did so much prep work for me in getting a proper intro together and providing the errata and all the other little things that took the evening from a possible ho-hum or disappointment and left us all with a great experience

I understand the frustration felt by some of the earlier posters in the things that seemed to be missing. I am lucky and came here before hand and had plenty of great stuff to walk into the game with. Also the Penny Arcade podcast had lots of great little additions that I used as well. In the Ask the Author thread, he has stated that he left a lot blank for DM's to fill to provide them the opportunity to make the adventure their own. I dont think our session would have been nearly as complete without all the support from the great posters here. 

My dice were super cold at the beginning of the combat and the characters were never in any REAL danger. I missed with every single one of the initial 4d6 spear attacks from the ragers and only once with their second chance they got when bloodied! As it was I ended up with 2 unconscious characters, the thri-kreen and the sorcerer. They came out of the encounter beat up but not really that badly and with a lot of supply days.

Everyone seemed to have a great time and I expect all but one to return next week for my group. (One on holidays!)

 All the best!
Bouncing In and Out of Nowhere The Watchmen- In the Trees
As a player, I was pretty impressed with this first session. The DM had implemented some of the errata (the glaring errors - he didn't change stats or builds). I'm familiar with Dark Sun from 2nd edition, and even recognized the monsters - it would have been nice if the setting had been set up a bit more. A description of the party leaving Altaruk, traveling with the caravan, and maybe even interacting with some of the other caravners would have been welcome.

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We fought 6 Silt Runners - 3 were using spears, 2 had blowguns, and one was a psionic controller/leader type. The DM made it clear that we could simply flee form the monsters as long as we let them get to the supplies - but then we would probably die in the desert. I liked the tension between fighting off the enemy and gathering supplies - when we figured out reinforcements were on the way, we really started sweating. It was a tense fight, with one character dropping well below 0 hitpoints, and another dropping to 1 or 2 very early. I was playing the Thri-Kreen, and he got slapped around quite a bit as well. I've seen mention of the shard storm actually damaging the party - the DM either chose to ignore it or forgot to implement it, I'm not sure.

The DM in me was a bit concerned with the monsters, though. The spear wielders were capable of doing a bit too much damage with their rechargable encounter power. The Darters also did a bit too much with their encounter power - particularly because it immoblized and slowed. I'm not sure this is a fault with the scenario author, but rather the design of the Silt Runners. I understand that monster design is more an art than a science, but the absolute max a level monster should be doing with a limited power is 3d8+3, and I would hope that would only be used with powers that don't recharge, are limited to elites, and so forth. We would have been in bigger trouble, but the party rolled well and killed one spear-wielder before he was able to attack, and bloodied another. They dropped the Mul fighter, but my battlemind rolled really well, used an AP and his daily (on his first activation!) to kill the other two. I know some other tables saw TPK's or near TPK's - I'm guessing the lack of a shard storm and very high rolls helped us out. If the spear wielders had gone first, it could have turned out differently (they didn't have a very high attack, though, it seemed).


Edited to sblock spoilers - mudbunny
I love having a group of players who pay attention to details...

 To start off the PCs exchanged standard actions to get a second minor action, to gather twice as many "survival days" per round. 
Then having noted that the best way out was through (BTW nice reference to Robert Frost) the NPCs ahead of them, the party took to one side of the map and killed the NPCs that were in the way as they made way past them. 

The PCs tactics were especially useful when the Twitter buff hit that gave them concealment from the NPCs that were more than 3 squares away, because it let them escape the NPCs (2nd batch in round 5) that were too far to join the battle when PCs used double moves to escape the elements faster; as they headed for the mountains.

**I must note that most of the party did use their second wind & almost lost Phye, but the dice showed the party favor when it mattered most.
Links that I find very useful, will be added here. http://community.wizards.com/vinciente/blog/2010/02/24/useful_damp;d_pageslinks

Had a huge turnout for our store this week.  Almost all new people with only a few returning from last season (most called to let me know they'll be there next week, just had life in the way).

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Awesome opening session.  I described something out of a disaster movie with the shard storm, killing the lizards, NPC's and everything around them.  When they exited, the silt runners were startled, not realizing there were survivors.

The party fought well together, with Castri and Phye really shining this week.  Castri critted with both his rolls on the throw and stab, nearly killing the silt runner inciter and saving Yuka.

No deaths, which was nice.  Also, the out-right laughter at the inciter's body being usable for supplies/food made the whole night come together well.

Can't wait for next wednesday.
I find the points of a lot of the apologists here interesting, but missing the point of some of the criticism others have.

1. D&D Encounters should be a self contained thing, a GM shouldn't need anything other than to read the encounters booklette to run it. They shouldn't need to come here and read up on things to gain insight on how to adjust the encounters for them to run well.

2. The characters should be better thought out. There should be more attention to why the characters are together and familiar with each other. The characters should be simpler and easier to use for newer players. One could argue they could be better built, but I think this may be a no-win area due to different people having different ideas on what a "good build" is. Most importantly they should have less errors.

3. The season should progress with newbies in mind. The first two encounters or so probably shouldn't have things like Challenging Terrain, stuff that requires saving throws, wierd enviornmental effects, excessive concealment stuff, etc. This is all stuff that should be introduced gradually. (Save Ends effects with Save Ends Aftereffects? Seriously? C'mon!)

Yes, yes, I know "Dark Sun is brutal!" and whatnot, and if this were a normal module or Dungeon adventure, I probably wouldn't be bothered by the difficulty. But this is supposed to be for noobies and introducing people to the game. It should be easy and clear to run and easy and clear to play, and if anything it is better to be too easy than too hard on somthing like this.

I'm thinking this adventure may have been better used as a Dungeon adventure than a Encounters adventure.
1. D&D Encounters should be a self contained thing, a GM shouldn't need anything other than to read the encounters booklette to run it. They shouldn't need to come here and read up on things to gain insight on how to adjust the encounters for them to run well.



I have to agree. Worse, the set up and the "plot" in this Chapter is missing a lot.

Also, I feel that -each- encounter should be largely self-contained.

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The cross week skill challenge is already giving me conniptions. REALLY? Across sessions? Someone needs a whack with the intelli-bat or the clue-by-four. I really can't put it more clearly than that.



2. The characters should be better thought out. There should be more attention to why the characters are together and familiar with each other. The characters should be simpler and easier to use for newer players. One could argue they could be better built, but I think this may be a no-win area due to different people having different ideas on what a "good build" is. Most importantly they should have less errors.



Agree on the errors. Agree on the melding of the backstories. Disagree on the builds. Of course, I had one kid last night moan a lot about the fact that there were no "bow characters". He's under 10 so I give him some slack but if I have to hear about this for the rest of the season I -will- eject someone.

I enclose this in spoilers because I feel like it might reveal too much ... you might want to edit yours as well....

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3. The season should progress with newbies in mind. The first two encounters or so probably shouldn't have things like Challenging Terrain, stuff that requires saving throws, wierd enviornmental effects, excessive concealment stuff, etc. This is all stuff that should be introduced gradually. (Save Ends effects with Save Ends Aftereffects? Seriously? C'mon!)

Yes, yes, I know "Dark Sun is brutal!" and whatnot, and if this were a normal module or Dungeon adventure, I probably wouldn't be bothered by the difficulty. But this is supposed to be for noobies and introducing people to the game. It should be easy and clear to run and easy and clear to play, and if anything it is better to be too easy than too hard on somthing like this.

I'm thinking this adventure may have been better used as a Dungeon adventure than a Encounters adventure.



Part of this goes back to what eriksdb said of the first season and I'm ok with it. It is harder to write an encounter that a DM can increase in difficulty, than it is to write one that a DM can tone down. I think you should treat this as a toolkit and use what you want/need to in order to make the game feel like a challenge. If you don't like the Aftereffects or they are causing too much trouble, then don't use them.


It is harder to write an encounter that a DM can increase in difficulty, than it is to write one that a DM can tone down.

Er, I disagree.  It can be hard to tone down an encounter without the players realizing it (bad tactics can be very apparent, as can a long streak of really bad luck).  It's much less important for them to not notice that you're beefing it up, because they're either bored (and thus welcome it) or having so much fun stomping on you they don't care...

"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

Chiming in from Santa Clara, CA

We ran 3 tables last night. I ran 1, my wife ran another (she's fairly new to GMing), and another judge Mark ran the third.

I don't know about mark's table, but I had mostly LFR vets with a couple "new to RPGA" people, but all had gamed before. My wife had 2 total Noobs and a couple vets (our judge from season 1; who had the hot seat: aka Castri; who was also nearly killed. Think Mark nearly killed or killed his Castri as well)

Overall, I think everyone had a good time. Might have been some initial WTFs when they saw how many dice were being rolled against them, but theyrallied and used their abilities to their advantage. I generally suffered a lot of penalties to attacks between the two defenders, the psion, and attacking through the cart for cover (think my max was a net -4 attack bonus on an OA; thats 1d20-4, not -4 to my attack). I think this REALLY helped the party.

Spoilers

For my table, it went alright in general. In round 1, the Shikira was bloodied and Castri was unconscious before any PC got to act. The PCs did a good job of trying to focus fire though and concentrated their AEs when they could, so I had 3 bloodied before the end of the round. Phye used both her minor action and augmented power to heal Castri. Both fighters spent their APs to second wind.

In round 2, the shard storm hurt some of the bad guys enough to were they were worried getting out of it (theid die the next round), so provoked from the sorcerer to try and get into the wagon...amazingly, Barcan actualy hit for the first kill of the night. Beyond that, nothing too exciting happened. A couple more runners dropped, and I hit and then critted Castri, dropping him to -9 (dead at -11, and he was outside in the shard storm). Phye used her last minor action heal on him to save his life.

In round 3, they dropped the last runner eventually. Between the minor actions they'd spent near the wagon, and knowing that the hunting calls of the initial runners were being answered and closing in fast, they decided to grab the last of the supplies, grab as many spears, swords, and daggers from the runners as they could (as well as the 1 dagger Castri threw), and high-tail it out of their, with everyone off the map by the middle of round 4.

They ended with everyone bloodied. After running away and letting the runners take whatever was left of the cart, they rested up and used Jarvix's ritual to replenish some of the PCs with surges from the 2 defenders. So, after all that, 3 PCs have 3 surges, 1 PC has 4, and the defenders have 9 I think. And NO ONE has an AP, but they all still have dailies.

We'll see what the afternoon brings in the wastes of Athas...

1. D&D Encounters should be a self contained thing, a GM shouldn't need anything other than to read the encounters booklette to run it. They shouldn't need to come here and read up on things to gain insight on how to adjust the encounters for them to run well.



I agree that a GM shouldn't need to come here for anything. And they don't. Most of the complaining has been from people who have admitted that their GM was ill prepared or inexperienced (seriously. Go back and count the number of posts that were complaints and didn't mention lack of prep or experience). However, saying a GM shouldn't need anything other than to read the booklet is a bit naive. To GM anything properly takes experience.

How well or poorly an adventure is written doesn't make a lot of difference if your GM doesn't have the experience to run it.

We had GM's run this adventure who have NEVER been on this site. Their tables had boatloads of fun. They were all prepared in advance though. they had read the mod and familiarized themselves with it.

1. D&D Encounters should be a self contained thing, a GM shouldn't need anything other than to read the encounters booklette to run it. They shouldn't need to come here and read up on things to gain insight on how to adjust the encounters for them to run well.



I agree that a GM shouldn't need to come here for anything. And they don't. Most of the complaining has been from people who have admitted that their GM was ill prepared or inexperienced (seriously. Go back and count the number of posts that were complaints and didn't mention lack of prep or experience). However, saying a GM shouldn't need anything other than to read the booklet is a bit naive. To GM anything properly takes experience.

How well or poorly an adventure is written doesn't make a lot of difference if your GM doesn't have the experience to run it.

We had GM's run this adventure who have NEVER been on this site. Their tables had boatloads of fun. They were all prepared in advance though. they had read the mod and familiarized themselves with it.



I'm wondering if you read my post?  My GM had the module as soon as it was released.  I play with him quite often and until I played Encounters, I always had fun.  Giving the bad guys the ability to kill the party like they are minions is just a bad idea. IMO.  I really don't know how your new GM's avoided killing the party without having cold dice.

Austino's LFR CHARACTERS Ander Darkfoot - 12 - Halfling - Rogue/Daggermaster Miget Lii - 12 - Dragonborn - Paladin/Champion of Order Belfire Ogrecrush - 13 - Dwarf - Weaponmaster/Dreadnaught Dragonheart - 5 - Dragonborn - Sorcerer Shadowflame - 4 - Drow - Assassin Big Daddy - 3 - Goliath - Barbarian Utua - 4 - Shardmind - Artificer Terminator - 1 - Warforged - Barbarian Bladyis - 4 - Elven - Ranger
It is harder to write an encounter that a DM can increase in difficulty, than it is to write one that a DM can tone down.

Er, I disagree.  It can be hard to tone down an encounter without the players realizing it (bad tactics can be very apparent, as can a long streak of really bad luck).  It's much less important for them to not notice that you're beefing it up, because they're either bored (and thus welcome it) or having so much fun stomping on you they don't care...



I guess it is a matter of taste/experience then. I feel like I can much more easily (and stealthily) tone down encounters than beef them up.
We ended up with three groups, one of which started late due to a DM's radiator causing issues. While we were aware of the official errata, on the site, and the lack of an actual introduction, we largely skipped the rest. 

With fourteen players and roughly 66% of them returning from at least one session of the prior season, we had a pretty balanced set of tables. Our third table was slightly biased as the DM's nephew was having his first game of D&D, and thus there was an impetus to not traumatize the kid by killing him outright.

That said, out of 14 players we ended up with 50% dead, including one TPK.

My own group started out the encounter listening to me explain where they were going and how a sandstorm had turned into a far more deadly sort of hailstorm and the wagon they were in got pulled off the road and out into the desert before finally coming to a stop, sitting at an angle. Immediately after the italicized text for the encounter, I had Castri, and Shikirr make Nature checks to realize the situation they were in, as they all had lots of experience in the wastelands of Athas and thus would recognize the dangers of traveling across them on foot.  This was further augmented when I explained that they had no idea where the road was, the storm had not stopped, and there were lots and lots of things out there moving closer. 

Then The Screaming Started
The actual fight itself began with Castri rushing headlong out of the wagon to engage the Ragers in melee. On his initial attack he managed to bloody one of them. Unfortunately he was then hit with a pair of poison darts,  which immediately dropped him to below zero. And thus began the dying of the light. 

Shikirr and Phye ran from the wagon and did their best to try and engage the enemy, while Jarvix and Barcan stayed in the wagon, using minor and move actions to gather up supplies between throwing out bolts of psychic and arcane power, respectively. Phye spent several rounds attempting to keep Castri up and alive, but between the steady rain of obsidian shards and a few well-timed spear thrusts, the elf simply could not make it. That left Phye the most eligible target for the Darters more than once, and Shikirr was also hit by both spears and darts.

Phye ended up collapsing next to Castri's body, both of them being flayed by the hail of obsidian while Shikirr charged after the last Darter. Unfortunately one more poisoned dart put him down, leaving three of the five characters dying or dead in the sands and one barely living Darter who was strongly reconsidering the logic of venturing into this storm, as opposed to waiting for it to kill off the survivors. 

One final burst of psychic energy from Jarvix ended the threat, and the players as a whole got about thirty seconds to congratulate themselves for surviving... at which point we reached the end of round five, and five new counters were placed on the map.

At which point Barcan and Jarvix gathered the last couple days of supplies they could before fleeing to safety.


I can't accurately say what happened with the other two groups, but our group of four were wiped out. The DM ran the encounter faithfully save for turning off the storm, which largely helped the characters. My group finished up first so I ventured over and discovered half the party dead, the other half bloodied, and the monsters not looking much healthier. Unfortunately for the group, that 'not much' ended up being enough, as the last man standing was a fleeing Barcan, who took a critical hit dart to the chest with 4 hp remaining.

The DM was nice and allowed the dying to try and stabilize, but one bled out and the other became conscious and staggered to his feet... only to discover enough time had passed that ten of the creatures were now in the area, and standing up wasn't such a brilliant idea. Very short-lived idea as well.

I believe our DM-with-nephew's group survived entirely, at least in part due to cold dice. I myself never rolled a critical, but it wasn't really necessary given the damage output on these things. 
Six players at Lost Legion Games and Comics: The Rifleman, Charleston WV. Mostly the same players from Season One, but we did pick up a new player who has never RPG'd before.

spoilerey stuff


I screwed up right off the bat by not compensating for the sixth player. I remembered and went to add a rager on the second round, but because the ranger had already bloodied and damn near killed one, I added two, because, ya know, I wanted it to be challenging. BIG MISTAKE. I forgot how much damage those things did. Once I realized I had probably doomed the party, I started looking for ways to compensate, starting by ending the storm and delaying the reinforcements. It turned out to be enough, everyone survived without using dailies, but we lost a lot of surges and action points. Some great teamwork, but they do realize they need to refine their tactics or the ranger won't survive.
Moment of greatness? Yuki finishing off the inciter with a standard, scooping up his body with a minor, and then running off the board while yelling "Them's good eatin'.".

I thought this was a great start. Can't wait for next week.
I'm starting to wonder if success was based on number of players and what characters they used.

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For example, we only had 4 players and no one took the Sorcerer or Psion so we essentialy had no real ranged attacks. Due to slowing and difficult terrain, it took some effort to get to the blowgun guys.

We had two defenders, which is nice, but of course neither is particularly tough, both being unable to generate their own THP or DR and the thri-kreen not having a shield.
I'm starting to wonder if success was based on number of players and what characters they used.

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For example, we only had 4 players and no one took the Sorcerer or Psion so we essentialy had no real ranged attacks. Due to slowing and difficult terrain, it took some effort to get to the blowgun guys.

We had two defenders, which is nice, but of course neither is particularly tough, both being unable to generate their own THP or DR and the thri-kreen not having a shield.



I think that is a big impact as to what happens. There is another thread about running for a small table, so you might want to check it out.
community.wizards.com/dungeonsanddragons...
I'm starting to wonder if success was based on number of players and what characters they used.



It seems to be a combination of characters used, dice, and tactics. I've noticed two consistent happenings in what I'm reading:

The aforementioned happenings
1. Run out to say hi, and you die. Players who charged out to meet the Silt Runners saw their characters die or get hurt badly. The ones who stayed in or near the wagon tended to do better. The combination of cover and safety from the storm seemed to be key- plus it encourages you to work as a group. Running outside invites scattering or dividing targets, while giving the enemy an opportunity to focus fire. 

2. Hit first, hit hard, and get the hell away. Groups that won tended to win quickly, eliminating the enemy before they could suffer a lot of damage themselves. The Silt Runners were largely glass cannons, with high offense and low defense; if the PCs get hit, they get hurt badly, but concentrating fire on a couple targets can drastically influence the damage output.


That feels very Dark Sun, given how 2nd edition discouraged heavy armor but had plenty of options for weaponry that dealt out full damage. It may not be quite what players are expecting from D&D, especially if they've just arrived on Athas straight from the depths of Undermountain- but then again, Dark Sun has never been the sort of place to let you get comfortable. 

Here were my (positive) experiences...

title

I had spoken to the owner of the venue the weekend prior to the event and asked about the first session of the second season. Since I’d missed the first season and since I always DM for my home group, I wanted to play for a little while. The owner said they’d only been getting 4-5 players a week for season 1, there should be room for my friend and I. There would also be a second DM there in case they needed two tables. I was told getting there a half hour early would be fine.


 Due to construction and traffic, I arrived only fifteen minutes early. One table was already full with six or seven players. I’ve played with that particular DM in the past (he’s actually the editor of the module, and he’s great!) and I was disappointed to think I might not be able to play. I noticed that the second DM wasn’t around, and I was sad. But the DM said he could add two more and I was relieved (I didn’t drive an hour for nothing!). He even handed me the second kit’s character cards, so I was able to grab the thri-kreen. Hooray!


  …and then players kept coming and coming. We ended up with fourteen players, as I recall. Fortunately, another gentleman volunteered to run the adventure cold. We had two tables of seven. I’m not sure how the other table handled it, but our table used the six pre-generated characters and one player had a pre-made character. His character was an avenger – for a setting with no divine classes! I kind of sighed at that, but the DM allowed it, and since he was running the game as a favor I didn’t argue. 


 Since he was running it cold he skipped a lot of the background information. He did read through the background on Athas section. I’d read the Dark Sun novels probably more than 15 years ago, so I remembered enough to get the idea. He had some knowledge of the setting, I believe, because he gave some answers and did a good job underlining the idea that the world is dangerous and brutal.


In any case, we got to the first encounter quickly. (Something along the lines of, “You’re traveling with a caravan. An obsidian storm begins! Everyone dies! Roll for initiative!” There was a little more to it, but not much. Again, I’m not blaming the DM – considering the circumstances, he did a great job.) He gave free knowledge checks so we could understand that this was NOT a natural Athasian phenomenon. He also made it clear that we were now stranded in the extremely deadly desert far from provisions, and that the supplies in the cart were vital.


 
 The silt raiders approached. As the battlemind, I used Speed of Thought to quickly approach one of the enemies, hoping to hold off the foes until the other party members could grab supplies. The DM did a good job of providing suspense and reminding us that we didn’t have long by giving us glimpses of dark shapes moving through the storm towards us.


Combat began. It went pretty well. We had seven PCs and the DM didn’t add any more monsters, however. That being said, two PCs remained at the cart and did nothing but collect supplies (the sorcerer and the psion), so it was still fairly balanced. I was the first target since I was out in front. One rager missed with the nasty 4d6 attack and the other connected. The DM rolled slightly below average, but I was one HP off of blooded from the first attack. Yikes!


 
I went next and used my thri-kreen claws to attack both ragers (after marking both by augmenting Battlemind’s Demand). I crit against the first and hit the second! Sadly, it was my only effective round of the whole combat. The ranger and fighter moved in and we took out one of the ragers.


 


The inciter dropped his psionic zone on top of the cart, but it only affected the characters who hung back to gather supplies and it missed the other character (half damage). The ardent came in to heal my character at this point. The silt runners with the blowguns took a few shots but only one hit.


 
We quickly finished off the other rager (a crit from the ranged avenger) because it was nearly bloodied already. No one seems to have mentioned how low their defenses were. We were hitting more often than not. Then the fighter rushed between the two ranged silt runners and marked both. They both shifted and took him down in one round. The ardent arrived and healed him. The ranger barely ever missed, and she helped take down one of the blowgun silt runners.



I kept missing, but I absorbed a lot of damage by marking the last blowgun guy. We took him down, but our time was almost up. The inciter had been giving a lot of ranged attacks to the blowgun guys, and earlier they’d almost taken down our Tiefling. Four of us were bloodied, both defenders badly (and the 2 damage/turn didn’t help). The inciter went down in the second to last round. In the last round I was still immobilized from the last darter, and the fighter had to go into the silt to finish him off, so he was also immobilized. Fortunately, I made my save and ran (even though slowed) to the edge of the map. The party members who’d been grabbing supplies ran to safety, and I was the second last to leave.



The fight was challenging without being overwhelming. I used four surges (though I had 12 or 13, so no big deal) and the fighter used about the same (he hit 50 damage, I was close!). The Tiefling used 2-3, the ranger used 2, the ardent used 1 (I think) and the sorcerer and avenger were untouched (they’d stayed under the cart and took no storm damage). No one used dailies or action points. I think the only effect for not increasing the number of foes was that we walked away with 30+ supplies, plus the healing fruit. Awesome.



I thought it was a lot of fun and I’m excited to play again. I’m hopeful that we’ll get the chance to get more weapons (especially for the thrown weapon ranger and for melee characters who want to try weapon breakage). I’m hopeful also that future encounters won’t be so potentially deadly – our DM was very fair, but with other DMs it could have been brutal. I definitely agree that the encounter should be easier since it seeks to attract new players, but I don’t blame the author. I think the difficulty for D&D events is generally pretty tough and he was following standard encounter building procedures. The last few game days I attended and many LFR modules I’ve played were frequently very hard. I think these encounters are aimed at people who optimize their characters, and newbies and pre-gen characters really suffer. As long as I get flexible DMs in the future, it should be okay. Here’s hoping.


We had a nine player turnout in Luton, UK, which to be honest, might not sound very amazing, but it actually was, since the shop is very heavy on warhammer and yu-gi-oh with almost no roleplaying going on. And we are expecting more next week!. We had two tables, one with four players and the other one with five. I ran the four player table, all of them were seasoned DnD players, and my wife ran the other table, with one seasoned 4th ed player, a hardcore 3.5 fan who really enjoyed himself and three new players who all seemed to have a very good time. It was an absolute blast and I can't wait for next week. No TPK's unfortunately, due to horrendous dm rolls on both tables. My group breezed it with nobody falling unconcious, and the other table had two unconcious people. One of my players got awarded a Moment of Greatness. Yuka had one of the tiny buggers grabbed on one side of the boulder, and castri was on the other side. He climbed the boulder with athletics, rolled a stealth check to become hidden (i know, this goes against the rules slightly but i wanted to encourage that kind of playing), leaped down succesfully with acrobatics and landed two daggers into the silt runner. However, he dealt only 3 damage due to poor rolls. But they roleplayed it so well that I decided to give him the moment of greatness anyway.

and now for something completely different a.k.a. spoilers


I was really frustrated with not being able to deal any of the Runners super damage attacks. All of my hits failed apart from the very first one, and I rolled three 1's out of the 4d6. I really wanted to scare my players shitless for them to get a feeling of how brutal Dark Sun is, however, it did not work out that well. They beat it in three rounds, spent the fourth one looting the caravan and on the fifth round they ran away as soon as they saw more silt runners. One of my players has six survival days and the others have a couple as well. Only one of them has one. I really feel like i should make them suffer a bit more on the next encounter. Hopefully they don't do so well on the skill challenge. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to punish them just because. I just don't want it to seem like a breeze.

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DM'd at game Empire in San Diego. The fight was tough, but altogether fun. Ardent died-Sorc and Psion went unconscious. The storm was viscious. The real fun part was the explanaition-nobody had ever played DS, so hearing of rogue elves, mad halflings, and defiling magic surprised and delighted players. Can't wait for next week.
Shaman: "Why doesn't the squirrel shoot the wizard?" DM: "Because the last squirrel who tried to shoot the wizard missed, then was pulled out of his tree and incinerated." Wizard: "He has a point."
I think one problem my table had, and I've seen it time and time again in other encounters and adventure groups, it the lack of tactics by the party.  I see two problems occour fairly often, even with people who have played D&D (or other games for years)
1)  Players turn arrives.  DM: "What are you doing?".  Player:"Um.... hmmm... Is that a monster?   Is it hurt at all?  Hmmmm"
2)  Each player targets a seperate monster.  Result by middle of combat is multiple bloodied monsters and no dead monsters.

There are others, but these two are glaring.  I'm not a huge fan of books like the Players Stragy Guide, but recently I've felt a lot of people can benefit from the nuggets of advice and wisdom found within.

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  So if I were to play through the encounter and had some semblance of control over the other people at the table, I probably would have offered the following tactics. 

-Round 1, everyone take one minor action to gather supplies.  Defenders move to the front of the wagon, and if no Silties are in range, spend another action to gather supplies.  Ranged people target the closest Spear Silty and concentrate fire.  If you can't attack this round without moving, spend your actions to gather supplies.

-Round 2, everyone again take 1 minor action to gather supplies.  Defender block and attack incomming Silties.  Ranged continue to concentrate fire on what we believe is the most hurt especially if one of the defenders is now engaged in with it.  Any unsued actions should move behind the defenders, still close to the cart, or gather more supplies.

-Round 3.  At this point one or two of the silties should be bloodied.   All heroes spend a minor to gather supplies.  All movement and attacks should be geared toward dropping those one or two silties (which are probably melee).  Everyone should probably be at the front of the cart along the escape route.

-Round 4.  Spend one last minor action to gather supplies if you are adjacent to the cart.  All movement should be planned along one route that everyone takes.  If there is a Siltie in the way the party should group on (or close for ranged) to it and focus all fire on it.

-Round 5.  All attacks should be focused to clear off any silties threating a heros retreat.  Double move off the board if you can (run actions make it fairly easy to do this.

-Round 6.  Everyone leave with haste.  Shift and run if need be, or spend the action point to make it off.

Keep in mind the Silt Runners have 20-30 hps on average and each round they too take 2 shard damage.  With a few good hits a party should have 1-2 down by the second round, and 2-3 by round 3.  Of couse OA, Immobilization, and other snafu's can muck up any plan, but a good party can adjust around minor things as needed.


In short, and group going forward in Dark Sun Encounters should probably read over their powers and work together to have a solid strat each week.  Its not a game played by 4-6 individuals, it is a game played by a team of 4-6 people.  Each player should watch the whole round and know who hit what, and what happened to everbody and everything.  When their turn comes up they should have a pretty solid idea of what they are doing.  And its ok to ask other players for help or advice, or to shout out the general strats they believe the group should be doing.

There are many more horrors out there in the wastes under the Dark Sun... better get ready.  Its gonna be one #@$ of a journey.

However, saying a GM shouldn't need anything other than to read the booklet is a bit naive. To GM anything properly takes experience.

How well or poorly an adventure is written doesn't make a lot of difference if your GM doesn't have the experience to run it.


How are they then to get the experience to run this adventure???

Our GM was admittedly inexperienced, but he did his best.  He used the abilities the book told him to use, and he ended up wiping our table.  I've seen the encounter writeup, and it's not something to hand to an inexperienced GM -- but it was either that, or not play it at all.

Not many places have experienced GMs to run DDE; many places have to rely on inexperienced GMs who may be running the adventure cold, or worse yet, DMs who have no experience in being a DM at all.  DDE is meant to be an event designed to attract new players to the game -- and that includes new DMs.  Throwing special rules (like weapon breakage), and pages of background material that the book assumes the players are familiar with, is not a good way to get new DMs comfortable with running the rules -- in our case, it was the exact opposite experience.

As I've stated in another thread, this is a very poorly written adventure and should have been more heavily edited to promote gameplay for new players rather than provide a frustrating and disappointing experience that has driven players away from the game.

As I've stated in another thread, this is a very poorly written adventure and should have been more heavily edited to promote gameplay for new players rather than provide a frustrating and disappointing experience that has driven players away from the game.



I moved this post from the "Ask the Author" thread to adhere to my own request to stay on topic. 

My understanding is different, but perhaps i am incorrect. It is my understanding that the DDE program is targeting new players and experienced players who may no longer have their favorite gaming group to game with anymore because life intervened (lapsed gamers from previous editions). In none of my discussions with Wizards has the topic of DM training/recruitment ever been mentioned as a reason for the DDE program. In the case of this second season, it was designed to specifically target lapsed players who may have played (and loved) 2E Dark Sun, but never gave 4E a try (in addition to the overall goal of the program: to attract more and new players into local game stores). 

Where i agree with Jonandre is that this is not an adventure designed specifically for newbie DMs. At no point during design did i say to myself "i need to make this encounter simpler for DMs who may not be familiar with the material or are running this cold." Perhaps that was an error in judgement on my part, but honestly i don't think so. Any DM, new or old, needs to have time to prepare material beforehand. More experienced DMs need less time (but often take more); less experienced DMs need more time and benefit from mentorships with more experienced DMs. Unfortunately for everyone, these ideal circumstances do not always prevail and we're left wanting. 

Is that the author's fault? Maybe in part. Could i have used more space to describe situations in greater detail? No, i had the same page count as Season 1 with three extra encounters! Could i have presented the material more concisely and saved room for more DM tips? Maybe, but as you can see, the material is pretty concise already. Any further edits would have made the story even less apparent for the sake of repeating material already covered in the DMGs and in articles on DDI. 

I wholly agree that we need adventures to show DMs how to DM, but DDE is not that program. The RPGA and WPN have never really had that program. When i was an admin for LG, our region started a DM training program, but it never got off the ground. I have a vision for such a program; DDE is not it. 

DMing is hard. It requires a great deal of extemporaneous skill and imagination. And most of all experience. No amount of writing can correct for those three talents.


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However, saying a GM shouldn't need anything other than to read the booklet is a bit naive. To GM anything properly takes experience.

How well or poorly an adventure is written doesn't make a lot of difference if your GM doesn't have the experience to run it.


How are they then to get the experience to run this adventure???

Our GM was admittedly inexperienced, but he did his best.  He used the abilities the book told him to use, and he ended up wiping our table.  I've seen the encounter writeup, and it's not something to hand to an inexperienced GM -- but it was either that, or not play it at all.

Not many places have experienced GMs to run DDE; many places have to rely on inexperienced GMs who may be running the adventure cold, or worse yet, DMs who have no experience in being a DM at all.  DDE is meant to be an event designed to attract new players to the game -- and that includes new DMs.  Throwing special rules (like weapon breakage), and pages of background material that the book assumes the players are familiar with, is not a good way to get new DMs comfortable with running the rules -- in our case, it was the exact opposite experience.

As I've stated in another thread, this is a very poorly written adventure and should have been more heavily edited to promote gameplay for new players rather than provide a frustrating and disappointing experience that has driven players away from the game.




Ok. First off, Jonandre, stop whining.

A lot of the post I have read have been about how bad the game is, and how bad Nick did to develop it.  Developing an adventure that WotC approves of is not easy, things get lost in editing and over all, and stuff gets cut.  But everything that a DM would need to run this adventure is in the packet, your new DM didn't go over it well enough, that is his fault, not WotC and more especially, not Nicks.

I have never DMed before 4e for one reason: DMing is hard, 4e makes it easier, but it is still hard.  So if he keeps on DMing, and I hope you didn't scare him away from DMing, then he will get better but he will have to learn how to work to be a good DM.

Finally Jonandre, you are an "experienced" DM, so stop wasting your time about this and teach him to be a better DM.  If your back next week about how this failed again it will be your fault. Not your DMs, not Nicks.  You have an opportunity to help a new DM become a good DM. Take it and stop complaining.


 


—Guncici




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As I've stated in another thread, this is a very poorly written adventure and should have been more heavily edited to promote gameplay for new players rather than provide a frustrating and disappointing experience that has driven players away from the game.



I moved this post from the "Ask the Author" thread to adhere to my own request to stay on topic. 

My understanding is different, but perhaps i am incorrect. It is my understanding that the DDE program is targeting new players and experienced players who may no longer have their favorite gaming group to game with anymore because life intervened (lapsed gamers from previous editions). In none of my discussions with Wizards has the topic of DM training/recruitment ever been mentioned as a reason for the DDE program. In the case of this second season, it was designed to specifically target lapsed players who may have played (and loved) 2E Dark Sun, but never gave 4E a try (in addition to the overall goal of the program: to attract more and new players into local game stores). 

Where i agree with Jonandre is that this is not an adventure designed specifically for newbie DMs. At no point during design did i say to myself "i need to make this encounter simpler for DMs who may not be familiar with the material or are running this cold." Perhaps that was an error in judgement on my part, but honestly i don't think so. Any DM, new or old, needs to have time to prepare material beforehand. More experienced DMs need less time (but often take more); less experienced DMs need more time and benefit from mentorships with more experienced DMs. Unfortunately for everyone, these ideal circumstances do not always prevail and we're left wanting. 

Is that the author's fault? Maybe in part. Could i have used more space to describe situations in greater detail? No, i had the same page count as Season 1 with three extra encounters! Could i have presented the material more concisely and saved room for more DM tips? Maybe, but as you can see, the material is pretty concise already. Any further edits would have made the story even less apparent for the sake of repeating material already covered in the DMGs and in articles on DDI. 

I wholly agree that we need adventures to show DMs how to DM, but DDE is not that program. The RPGA and WPN have never really had that program. When i was an admin for LG, our region started a DM training program, but it never got off the ground. I have a vision for such a program; DDE is not it. 

DMing is hard. It requires a great deal of extemporaneous skill and imagination. And most of all experience. No amount of writing can correct for those three talents.




Nick, thank you for taking your time and showing us Dark Sun, it is a place I wish to visit again and again. I would also like to say thank you for taking your time and posting all this new flavor to what we can have at our table.

Thanks again Nick,

—Guncici
My understanding is different, but perhaps i am incorrect. It is my understanding that the DDE program is targeting new players and experienced players who may no longer have their favorite gaming group to game with anymore because life intervened (lapsed gamers from previous editions). In none of my discussions with Wizards has the topic of DM training/recruitment ever been mentioned as a reason for the DDE program. In the case of this second season, it was designed to specifically target lapsed players who may have played (and loved) 2E Dark Sun, but never gave 4E a try (in addition to the overall goal of the program: to attract more and new players into local game stores). 

Where i agree with Jonandre is that this is not an adventure designed specifically for newbie DMs. At no point during design did i say to myself "i need to make this encounter simpler for DMs who may not be familiar with the material or are running this cold." Perhaps that was an error in judgement on my part, but honestly i don't think so. Any DM, new or old, needs to have time to prepare material beforehand. More experienced DMs need less time (but often take more); less experienced DMs need more time and benefit from mentorships with more experienced DMs. Unfortunately for everyone, these ideal circumstances do not always prevail and we're left wanting. 

Is that the author's fault? Maybe in part. Could i have used more space to describe situations in greater detail? No, i had the same page count as Season 1 with three extra encounters! Could i have presented the material more concisely and saved room for more DM tips? Maybe, but as you can see, the material is pretty concise already. Any further edits would have made the story even less apparent for the sake of repeating material already covered in the DMGs and in articles on DDI. 

I wholly agree that we need adventures to show DMs how to DM, but DDE is not that program. The RPGA and WPN have never really had that program. When i was an admin for LG, our region started a DM training program, but it never got off the ground. I have a vision for such a program; DDE is not it. 



And all of this demonstrates some serious lack of foresight, excuse the bluntness. If you are suddenly getting interest from a lot of new players (which, believe me, you are) where do you suppose all those GMs to run games from them is going to come from? Because the "experienced" GMs just can't cover it, I assure you. Further, not all of the experienced GMs -want- to. Encounters is a niche that draws in some players and not others as you very well noted.

While I have yet to drag a GM into a game on the spot more than once, I have had several new people step up to prepare Encounters that had not GM'd -prior- to Encounters. And more will be in this season.

WotC -MUST- understand that if it is going to try to grow its play numbers it -MUST- do something to assist with growing its GM numbers TOO. Period. End of story.


DMing is hard. It requires a great deal of extemporaneous skill and imagination. And most of all experience. No amount of writing can correct for those three talents.



It can be ... and it can be made easier in some cases. However, everyone has to start somewhere as Jonandre points out. And it seems that Encounters will have to be that somewhere for many folks.
Finally Jonandre, you are an "experienced" DM, so stop wasting your time about this and teach him to be a better DM.  If your back next week about how this failed again it will be your fault. Not your DMs, not Nicks.  You have an opportunity to help a new DM become a good DM. Take it and stop complaining.



He does. And I do too. But we can't do everything. I'm already organizing, DMing, wrangling players and doing it twice a night. And it sounds like he wants to play, not be an advisor, and that's his right.

Our group does email about things to change, problems and how we dealt with them, but let's face it WotC can do more. I'm not saying they suck for not doing it yet, but if they don't understand the reality of Encounters means that new DMs can and will be running these games, then they are either overly optimistic about how many experienced GMs are running these games (in my area, it was 2 out of 4 ... now since everyone has one season under their belt I think I can call it 4 out of 6) or they are ignoring complaints like the above.



WotC -MUST- understand that if it is going to try to grow its play numbers it -MUST- do something to assist with growing its GM numbers TOO. Period. End of story.




Preach it Brother!
Agreed, but that program isn't Encounters.

I'm concerned by the thought that it should have been obvious to the GMs that the encounter needed to be scaled back.  It's not like there was a Beholder out there -- I'm told the encounter was actually scaled to first level.  Our DM thought he was doing us a favor by tossing in an extra blowgunner rather than another rager to accomodate the party of six.  Once those pieces are on the board, it's a real problem to do anything non-demeaning to nerf them, and the seriousness of the situation doesn't become apparent until the party gets dismantled in round one.

If it's obvious that the encounter was too tough, that should be addressed in the module (single point) rather than by every DM running every session of Encounters (multiple points).

If it's obvious that the encounter was too tough, that should be addressed in the module (single point) rather than by every DM running every session of Encounters (multiple points).



Reading through the reports in this thread, i think the challenge was appropriate for the majority of tables given my understanding of the threat level of Dark Sun. I don't think we'll ever resolve this debate with respect to whether it should have been easier for new players or challenging for Dark Sun veterans. I was told to write something that feels like Dark Sun, and this felt like Dark Sun to me. Luckily we have DMs who can adjust the encounter based on their opinions. That's what's great about tabletop roleplaying games!
My DM'ing experience for a table of four:

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I DM'd (been DMing for 16 years) for a table of four:

The Battlemind was played by a total newbie
The Psion was played by a total newbie
The Sorcerer was played by someone who'd just completed Season 1
The Ardent was played by a D&D Veteran

The reason that I wanted to come here and post this is because apparently my FLGS has a completely different type of player or DM or something, because with 4 tables we didn't have a single death.  One of the DMs was even DMing his first game, and was only 14.  

I believe that the overriding determinant of success was the strategy (or lack thereof) used by the players.  Every table in my store hunkered down inside the caravan, weathered the initial barrage from outside (cover was nice, as was avoiding the Ongoing 2 from the storm) and then hit back as a team.  They didn't leave the caravan until the 4th round, and at that point they'd gathered 15 survival days and killed everything on the map.  By the beginning of round 5 half the PCs were already "off the map" and the last two were a single move action away.

So being that their strategy (communication, playing defensively while gathering, and focus-firing) clearly determined their success, I fail to see how that has anything at all to do with the author of the story making the encounter too difficult.  If anything, I was actually pondering moving the 2nd wave up a round because I lacked any antagonists by the fourth round.

Remember that, by-and-large, the groups that TPK'd and are complaining about difficulty have one action in common: They charged out of the caravan on the first turn and were subsequently mauled.  That's clearly a deficiency in strategy and team-play, two things that 4th Edition emphasizes; Not meaning to insult the players/DMs involved in those groups, but I fail to see how any other explanation is reasonable given the data.

Using every available resource and every possible advantage is core to Dark Sun; That is something I made very clear to the players (and is mentioned in the packet as well) and so they took advantage of the cover of the caravan and supported each other (we had two players use standard actions to grant another player a second wind) and then moved forward as a team rather than a bunch of individuals.

Just my 2cp. 

If your suggestion is for future authors to include more DM notes in the text of the encounters, i think you are making a mistake because the space provided for the encounters is already very limited. I would suggest emailing your suggestions directly to Wizards or contacting a Wizards employee through the community site. They do read these boards, but direct messaging is a lot easier way for them to filter ideas.



Will do. I'll comment though that there are -better- ways to format adventures such that DMs can more easily understand what is going on. I'm also for, even though space is at a premium, for there to be more info for DMs (of all experience levels).


On the other hand, if your suggestion is for Wizards to include more material for DMs along with the adventure content, i have to say that the DMGs are excellent resources. No one should DM without having read and reread those (even players should read this material in my humble opinion). And i don't think Wizards would like to spend their resources carving those books up into some sort of DM primer just for D&D Encounters. In fact, i don't think they need to.



You missed the part where DMs that are new don't always have those materials. And given interest and sometimes the time frames in which we need to recruit new DMs they won't always have 1) the time to read the DMG 2) the money or interest in -buying- the DMG. Just like print space is at a premium so are people's dollars. I do not expect that new DMs in my cadre will be required to spend 35 USD+ to get a DMG -just- to get the chance to assist in DDE. At some point it would be nice if they did, and maybe I'll lend them a copy as they spend more time at it and they do get rewards are our store, so chances are they can buy it eventually. E-V-E-N-T-U-A-L-L-Y.

So, if "No one should DM without having read and reread those" is the answer to new DMs needing help ... then sorry, but we're not getting new DMs.

I -do- get your point that there are many ways that others can help this process, but I just want to be clear that I'm not letting WotC off the hook for some responsibility either. They -wanted- the new players, they've got to help with the raising up of new DMs.


I can't stand a bad DM. I'd rather not play D&D. I will walk away from tables where the DM is poor. My friends and i have kicked bad DMs off tables and taken them over (cold) for ourselves in Living campaigns at cons.



I'll actually go back and refer you to a previous poster who suggested that players who are experienced DMs should be assisting in helping these DMs improve. Not always possible. And not everyone will want to do so. But ...


I applaud tirianmal's, Jonandre's and others's passion about this subject and you've made your points clear. Now the next step in the discussion is to propose some potential changes to make things better. I've tried to do that here, but that may not be the most appropriate place (certainly not the most appropriate use of my time ). 

Another piece of advice when communicating with Wizards employees: avoid hyperbole; it weakens your argument and won't be taken seriously.



Well, thanks for your time at least. We'll try to suggest changes to help.
Winnipeg Manitoba Canada

We had 15 players out this time including 4 first time encounter players as well.  Of the 15 only 4 surivived.  3 of them from my table (One was cared off the board by another party member), 1 from another table(He only had a single hit point left) and the last table was a TPK.  For the opening session it was brutally tough.  But by all reports Dark Sun is supposed to be insanely tough.  Our plan at this point is to have a survivor table next week made up of just the four players who made it through the first encounter.

I didn't get the chance to talk to everyone before they left but no one compalined about not having a good time.  Only time will tell if they are back next week.

Over all it was fun, not the experience I think I would offer for a first time play mind you but fun none the less.

Randilin
Not many places have experienced GMs to run DDE...



Did you take some kind of poll that I'm unaware of? My FLGS has had four DDE DMs, all of them experienced. Also, I was unaware that Encounters was supposed to be DM training camp. I can understand why an organizer might have to recruit new DMs, but I don't remember anything in any of the materials - online, promotional, in the kit - saying that it was a training tool for new DMs. For new players - absolutely. But not DMs.

Also, has your DM not played 4e before? While I can understand not necessarily having the experience to fix the problem, I do think experience being a player equips one with the necessary ability to recognize when things are not proceeding as they should.

And, to be honest, your complaint seems to me based more on your decision not to flee an overwhelming encounter than the experience of the DM. You seem to believe the PCs should never face overwhelming odds and have to flee. You're certainly enttitled to that opinion, but it doesn't seem to be one that WotC or others share.

I'm with the folks who think you've been heard and now it's time to either a) make a decision to not go back and move on; b) help out the DM; or c) step up and DM yourself.

Seanchai
Reading through the reports in this thread, i think the challenge was appropriate for the majority of tables given my understanding of the threat level of Dark Sun.



Nick I am one of your supporters for the mod in general, but if this is your take away from the reports on Encounter 1, you are getting it wrong.

And Here is why...
I had 4 tables running and the only reason I didn't preside over 4 TPKs is that I took my judges aside before we started and we downgraded those 4d6+4 damage attacks to 4d4+4 and in some cases didn't let the brutal spear recharge at bloodied (DM Table Call).

Even with my table instructions to moderate your encounter we have multiple PCs with 2 healing surges left with 4 more encounters to go with no chance of a long rest. Now I am forced to do damage control and figure out ways for folks to regain healing surges. Teos and I are batting around some ideas on that front. Back to the subject at hand...

You had two creatures (three if you are running a strong table) with the ability to do this level of damage for three rounds of what is essentially a 5 round fight. It might as well been an at-will ability to do that level of damage. This is before you factor in the 1d10 attacks of the other creatures and the sand storm.

As a very experienced DM I can tell you without any false pride that I could TPK any group of players you plop down in front of me with my C DM game, not my B or A DM game if I didn't make modifications to the encounter. I am talking about hardcore, battle hardened LFR players that have LG and LC experience. The only thing that would save them is if I rolled low the entire encounter and their dice were hot. Super hot.

That is not an appropriate encounter for DDE. Period. The fact is, DMs that didn't adjust this encounter pretty much killed their tables almost without fail.

Now, you stated that your intent was to bloody the PCs noses and then have the DMs back off and let the PCs get the heck out of dodge.

The Silt Runner Ragers were the wrong tool for the job. It would have been better to have the following attack:

Brutal Spear (weapon) • Reliable
Attack: Melee 2 (one creature); +6 vs. AC
Hit: 4d4 + 4 damage.

This gives you a big punch that doesn't go away on a miss but can only be used once. You can scare the piss out of them with a big hit to get their attention but it would be in a controlled fashion.

The other modification I would make would be:

Penetrating Spear (weapon) • Encounter
Requirement: The rager must be bloodied.
Attack: Melee 2 (one creature); +6 vs. AC
Hit: 2d6 + 4 damage, and the target gains vulnerable 5 to all
damage until the end ofthe rager's next turn.

You would probably still kill a few PCs but it would be so overwhelmingly bad as the encounter as written was.


This encoutner was written too tough, period. There is no denying this. Dark Sun is supposed to be brutal but this was about 3 to 5 notches above that.

I know I am being brutally honest in my critique of this encounter. I really do like the entire chapter. I think that the threat levels are pretty high (as it should be in Dark Sun) but the rest are far better in terms of their balance (though with the healing surge problem my tables are having that might not be so true).

I hope this helps,

Bryan Blumklotz
Guardians of the Gameday Coordinator
Portland, OR



***** I played in Alpha's group and used Barcan. I was the first one he dropped. I think I got two attacks off the whole encounter. Overall, I had fun. As an experienced player and DM, I also think the encounter was too hard.

As to using Pre-Gens, I was actually excited. I wanted to see what cool stuff Dark Sun characters would have. Overall though, I was unimpressed. Why didn't you just use standard character sheets? Honestly. While those cards are cute, they are really confusing. My nine year old daughter is going to play next time and she is going to be the ranger. She's going to be lost even though she knows how to play.

Please please please ask WoTC to make standard, CB versions of these characters and give them out. I don't need a cool looking 8.5"x5.5" card to have fun. What I need is a character sheet I can understand and am used to using.

***** Brother Glacius
Portland OR
Reading through the reports in this thread, i think the challenge was appropriate for the majority of tables given my understanding of the threat level of Dark Sun.




Nick I am one of your supporters for the mod in general, but if this is your take away from the reports on Encounter 1, you are getting it wrong.



I'm also one of your supporters and like the overall tone of the module, but the first and second encounter as designed are almost impossible (imho) for a 1st level party, especially an inexperienced one, to survive unless the DM starts handing out big 'ole pieces of fudge.

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As an example, even if I toned down the Ragers big attack to one use for the encounter with the reliable trait, there are still the two darters? (sorry, don't have the module in front of me) that are doing 2d10+3 and half on a miss. Castri (who will likely go first among the PC's) when played by a new player will likely charge headlong into the fight. The text suggests that the silt runners will focus their attacks on him, if both darters and a rage attack him, he will be either bleeding out or dead on round one. As deadly as Athas is (and again, I like the overall tone of the module) that is not the way you want to introduce a new player to D&D.

Encounter 2 is nearly as bad. Level 4 soldiers will be very, very hard for the PC's to hit and the ongoing 10 poison will drop any of the characters fast in they miss one save. I agree with Perithoth that the six healing surges that many of the characters have will not be enough for 5 encounters. I've made two "Athas House Rules" to help. First, both the Ardent and the target of the heals roll any extra dice and take the higher result. Second, the healing fruits restore a healing surge +5 hit points is you spend one and 10 hit points if you have no surges left.


Also from Winnipeg, Mb. Two tables - one of six and one of seven. Both of us GM's followed the plan of bloodied noses followed by a hasty retreat by the players. Several characters were knocked unconscious but none were killed.

Just me 2 cp worth
The Alphadork 

We had three tables of almost full parties running it, 2 with experienced DM's, 1 with a relative newbie to 4e. In the end we all decided to pull our punches quite a bit as DM's to help the party survive..

Now they're battered, almost empty of daily powers and action points, and running for their lives..

Might be the right feel for Dark Sun, but some of the players were brand new and are seriously stressing. I'm half temped to allow really smart roleplaying of some kind of shelter building to allow them to survive a night under the beating of the storm and get an extended rest. For now I'm going to just try to let them be flexible with roleplaying options for handling the remaining encounters, such as using nature to 'calm' the kanks, and diplomacy or intimidate to negotiate with the goblins.. Maybe not to avoid the fight entirely, but reduce it's impact. Basically, winging it. 
I ran the encounter as a substitute DM at Blue Highway Games in Seattle. Since I'd read Nick Tulach's thoughts here on the board before running the scenario, I felt better prepared to communicate to the players information that clued them in to the designer's intent. Encounter One, as I understood what Nick posted, was not intended to be fought, but avoided.

I let my players know that Athas was an "old-school-style" environment. That is to say, they'd feel like they were 1st level wizards with 4 hp. I used the player's nature and history checks to reveal the nature of the environment and circumstances, and impressed upon them that this would be typical of what Athas would have to offer.

I'm glad that they took the warnings to heart and used their skills to find ways to survive and their actions to gather supplies (although, since I had put the screws to them about the urgency of the situation, they gathered a comparatively low number of supplies.) The encounter chewed hard on their resources, pounded some respect for Athas into them, and set the tension level to "high" for the encounters that will remain before they get a chance for an extended rest.

To get to that point I had to use the information in the module, the supplemental info that Nick and others posted, and my own sense of tolerable threat levels for the party. I had the impression the players left the game table satisfied with the challenge and looking forward to more.
Myopia: lack of foresight or discernment; obtuseness.
We had three tables of almost full parties running it, 2 with experienced DM's, 1 with a relative newbie to 4e. In the end we all decided to pull our punches quite a bit as DM's to help the party survive..

Now they're battered, almost empty of daily powers and action points, and running for their lives..

Might be the right feel for Dark Sun, but some of the players were brand new and are seriously stressing. I'm half temped to allow really smart roleplaying of some kind of shelter building to allow them to survive a night under the beating of the storm and get an extended rest. For now I'm going to just try to let them be flexible with roleplaying options for handling the remaining encounters, such as using nature to 'calm' the kanks, and diplomacy or intimidate to negotiate with the goblins.. Maybe not to avoid the fight entirely, but reduce it's impact. Basically, winging it. 



I love this idea.

However, saying a GM shouldn't need anything other than to read the booklet is a bit naive. To GM anything properly takes experience.

How well or poorly an adventure is written doesn't make a lot of difference if your GM doesn't have the experience to run it.



How are they then to get the experience to run this adventure???

Our GM was admittedly inexperienced, but he did his best.  He used the abilities the book told him to use, and he ended up wiping our table.  I've seen the encounter writeup, and it's not something to hand to an inexperienced GM -- but it was either that, or not play it at all.

Not many places have experienced GMs to run DDE; many places have to rely on inexperienced GMs who may be running the adventure cold, or worse yet, DMs who have no experience in being a DM at all.  DDE is meant to be an event designed to attract new players to the game -- and that includes new DMs.  Throwing special rules (like weapon breakage), and pages of background material that the book assumes the players are familiar with, is not a good way to get new DMs comfortable with running the rules -- in our case, it was the exact opposite experience.

As I've stated in another thread, this is a very poorly written adventure and should have been more heavily edited to promote gameplay for new players rather than provide a frustrating and disappointing experience that has driven players away from the game.




I would like to say that this is my first time DMing an organized event, save for a few one-shots, and that this adventure was exceedingly well designed. "Athas is deadly". That is the message to give. Dropping PCs, even killing one or two makes the players fear and respect Athas.

As they should. ;D
Shaman: "Why doesn't the squirrel shoot the wizard?" DM: "Because the last squirrel who tried to shoot the wizard missed, then was pulled out of his tree and incinerated." Wizard: "He has a point."
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