DDE Dark Sun Field Reports (Week 1)

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I am noticing a lot of anger being directed towards jonandre in the thread, and I would like to ask people to stop right now. His opinions are just as valid as yours, and turning the forums into an echo chamber, whether it be due to the removal or the shouting down of undesired comments, does no-one any good at all.

If you think that what he is saying goes against the CoC, report the post to the ORCs. If you don't like what he is saying and are tempted to let loose your righteous wrath upon him in a forum post. DON'T!! Go for a walk, play some D&D, do something else.

mudbunny
Mudbunny SVCL for DDI Before you post, think of the Monkeysphere

The difference is the most powerful character can do 24 damage if they crit on their daily. On the other hand, one of the monsters you fight in the FIRST session can do an average of 12 damage using an at will power. Don't make me go into recharge or encounter powers.



Yes, it's a tough encounter. But impossible? Obviously, it's not. I think looking at it solely based on damage output is misleading as, clearly, tactics and die rolls matter, too. Moreover, the PCs have access to powers that, while not as damaging as the monsters, are more useful. For example, the monsters can't heal themselves or party members.

Seanchai

For those of you complaining about the difficulty of the module I have two points:

1.  The DM rules.
2.  The DM Guide is written with so much emphasis on playing for 'fun' and adjusting on the fly that to take ANY encounter literally goes against what the actual core rules dictate for running a game.  For any problems with the encounter I refer back to my first point.

My suggestion for those DM's with TPK's is to re-read their DM Guide, get a DM Screen and take control of your game.

Store owners/game organizers who are in the business of promoting the game with the intent of selling more stuff should recognize the necessity for participants to have fun.  This is directly correlated to your DM's management of the experience.  Therefore if your DM is a killer, talk to him because he is potentially costing you money.




I think the point is being missed by quite a bit. I don't disagree with your #1, and agree in #2 that fun and adjusting on the fly are key elements of DMing and what help make the field better than computer games, but a DM ought to be able to take a fair number of encounters literally or at least not have to make more than minor adjustments.

This is not someone's home campaign where advice can include sending them back to the DM's guide. This encounter needs to be runable and fun where the DM arrives straight from work and only has 15 minutes to look over the encounter.

I'd think that Wizard's has a two-fold purpose with these encounters. One draw in new players by getting them to play in these "easy to try out the game sessions". Secondly bring back lapsed players (or those with no group, etc) with these schedule friendly game sessions. Wizards hopes both buy more D&D stuff and that both become more active.

It is a really poor marketing decision on Wizards part to put out a season opening encounter with such a high TPK potential.....an occurence with a huge chance to turnoff the two groups they are primarily pitching too. The fact that many DMs across the country (myself included) eyeballed the encounter and made changes to have a fun encounter are no excuse for putting out a scenario with a big, big risk of turning people off the game.

Rather than the sniping between those defending the scenario and those who think as written it never should've gone out the door. Someone from Wizards well up the food chain really needed to have posted in this thread early on with a "ya know guys that really was tougher than it should've been considering how many new players could be in the game.....we promise to do better with the next chapter and we're going to issue a few suggested changes for the remaining encounters in this chaper"

Changes? yah as I'm wondering how groups are going to make it through all five encounters with their initial set of healing surges. A good number of groups that made it through the encounter have to already be worrying about this going into week two.
My group, Castri has 1 surge left...


My issue is solely that of a marketing, you don't interest many players by opening up tyhe season with an encounter that basically kills one of the PCs...

Unless the party cuts and runs, or the DM ignores the tactics, Castri is dead or lacks the surges to survive the 4 remaining encounters...

Mechanically, it seems Castri is better off dying... He gets his surges back...

Mechanically, it seems Castri is better off dying... He gets his surges back...




Really? How? If he is "raised" then in theory he still has all the same lack of daily powers, lack of surges, etc as when he was killed. He might have more hit points but he hasn't taken an extended rest (no comments about sleep == death etc).
Rydac,

I understand your complaints, but i honestly think Encounter 1-1 achieved the goals that i set it out to achieve. I haven't mentioned this before because i didn't want to deflect the criticism, but certain changes were made to the enemies from the draft DSCC i was working off of. Specifically, their damage output was significantly increased. I don't think that would have impacted my design of the encounter, however, because 5 Level 1 monsters still make a Level 1 encounter and the silt runners made the most sense in the context of what was happening in the story.

Moreover, we can debate whether or not a brutal introduction is appropriate for the DDE program, but Wizards wanted something that feels like Dark Sun. It is my opinion, but I think this feels like Dark Sun: you have to be good and lucky to survive, and sometimes that isn't even enough. 

Perhaps more could have been done by Wizards or individual DMs to explain to players that Dark Sun is a brutal place; not your typical D&D setting. You may survive one session (may), two sessions, three sessions, or more. But you shouldn't be discouraged if you don't survive. Death is common in Dark Sun, and just surviving to fight another day is a reward.

I like to compare Dark Sun to Pandemic, one of our favorite board games. When I play Pandemic, i don't get turned off to the game just because i don't win every time. Sometimes we lose brutally in the first few rounds as the cards stack against us and we have new players who don't know the strategies of the game very well. But nine times out of ten, those new players aren't turned off by losing; they come back for more challenges the next time, usually immediately after!

There is another silver lining, too. If you or your DM are concerned about the resource depletion as a result of Encounter 1-1, you have the ability to make changes yourself without official Wizards intervention. Just add something in to Encounter 1-2, 1-3, or 1-4 to give the group more resources to tackle the threats in those encounters. There's literally nothing stopping you from doing so. That's what's great about D&D, DMing, and the D&D Encounters program. The story (and game) is yours; you make it happen
Tirianmal by your argument, he is raised back to Dead.

He hasn't taken any rest, therefore, he still has the hit points he had when he died.


This is "Rasie Dead" with the listed changes... mainly that it can be done between encounters and the 'death' penalty lasts only one Milestone.

"The subject returns to life as if he or she had taken an extended rest."



Nicholas, I have explained to the players that Athas is a brutal world, but it does nothing to entice new players to have a massacre as their intro to the game. I plan on running the adventure again using non-pre-gen characters, I'm not to worried about them, but the pre-gens couldn't handle it...

Those players with few surges have half (or fewer) of their surges left, the Defenders have almost all of them left...

If you are going to have a PC specifically targeted for a kill attempt, that PC needs the surges to be useful later on...

Currently in my group, Castri could be killed by 
Show
the recurring weather and/or ongoing Skill challenge
Nicholas, point taken, at first i was wondering if i should return back as Castri as on paper he looked as good as dead, but then again i talked with people and me DM about it. i also reminded myself that Athas is indeed a brutal world and i have been given a serious, least say deadly, warning that this season of encounters is much less flully than the the first one.

Instead of complaining and thinking about quitting i now have decided to see how far i can come with Castri, turn it into a challenge, but not without the help of the rest of the group! More than ever we need eachother, although some may not have fully realised that yet, and the first encounter is definetly an eye opener for me now.

More so than the first season this one asks more of us players and the DM, ingame and outside of the game. And to be honest i am starting to like that more and more, it sparks more RP between the players and teamwork during the combat encounters. After some grumpy days i am not looking forward to the second encounter and what challenge it offers us as a group, players AND DM. ;)

Currently in my group, Castri could be killed by 
Show
the recurring weather and/or ongoing Skill challenge



If that is the case, come up with an interesting roleplaying situation to allow Castri to recover some lost hit points and/or spent healing surges. There's a perfect opportunity for such an interaction in Session 2!

Make the story your own.

Did your GM give any reagents for Comrade's Succor if so you can get healing surges from willing group mates. Usually the defenders have spare ones, sometimes the ranged characters have a couple too.
Nicholas, point taken, at first i was wondering if i should return back as Castri as on paper he looked as good as dead, but then again i talked with people and me DM about it. i also reminded myself that Athas is indeed a brutal world and i have been given a serious, least say deadly, warning that this season of encounters is much less flully than the the first one.

Instead of complaining and thinking about quitting i now have decided to see how far i can come with Castri, turn it into a challenge, but not without the help of the rest of the group! More than ever we need eachother, although some may not have fully realised that yet, and the first encounter is definetly an eye opener for me now.

More so than the first season this one asks more of us players and the DM, ingame and outside of the game. And to be honest i am starting to like that more and more, it sparks more RP between the players and teamwork during the combat encounters. After some grumpy days i am not looking forward to the second encounter and what challenge it offers us as a group, players AND DM. ;)



I'm second from the left in the picture.


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No he did not, but i will point it out to him. i have not heard our Jarvix player about this, might have slipped his mind. Thank you for the note!
Tirianmal by your argument, he is raised back to Dead.



Kinda.* Since the Character Death option isn't clear on that. However, if you're going to give it all the benefits of an actual Raise Dead, then yes, Castri does much better to simply die and return with all his HP AND surges and powers.

He hasn't taken any rest, therefore, he still has the hit points he had when he died.


This is "Rasie Dead" with the listed changes... mainly that it can be done between encounters and the 'death' penalty lasts only one Milestone.

"The subject returns to life as if he or she had taken an extended rest."



Since it is a "healing" power, one could say 0 HP. Or 1 HP.* And you can use "Raise Dead" between encounters ... between encounters that are 4-8 hours apart. Since the module doesn't specify a time frame between most encounters ...

*I'm not actually suggesting he return at 0 HP or something like that, but since the rules isn't clear, yeah, you could interpret it that way. Certainly, it doesn't use the words "Raise Dead" or ritual to specify what mechanic is being used.
Rydac,

I understand your complaints, but i honestly think Encounter 1-1 achieved the goals that i set it out to achieve. I haven't mentioned this before because i didn't want to deflect the criticism, but certain changes were made to the enemies from the draft DSCC i was working off of. Specifically, their damage output was significantly increased. I don't think that would have impacted my design of the encounter, however, because 5 Level 1 monsters still make a Level 1 encounter and the silt runners made the most sense in the context of what was happening in the story.

Moreover, we can debate whether or not a brutal introduction is appropriate for the DDE program, but Wizards wanted something that feels like Dark Sun. It is my opinion, but I think this feels like Dark Sun: you have to be good and lucky to survive, and sometimes that isn't even enough. 

Perhaps more could have been done by Wizards or individual DMs to explain to players that Dark Sun is a brutal place; not your typical D&D setting. You may survive one session (may), two sessions, three sessions, or more. But you shouldn't be discouraged if you don't survive. Death is common in Dark Sun, and just surviving to fight another day is a reward.

I like to compare Dark Sun to Pandemic, one of our favorite board games. When I play Pandemic, i don't get turned off to the game just because i don't win every time. Sometimes we lose brutally in the first few rounds as the cards stack against us and we have new players who don't know the strategies of the game very well. But nine times out of ten, those new players aren't turned off by losing; they come back for more challenges the next time, usually immediately after!

There is another silver lining, too. If you or your DM are concerned about the resource depletion as a result of Encounter 1-1, you have the ability to make changes yourself without official Wizards intervention. Just add something in to Encounter 1-2, 1-3, or 1-4 to give the group more resources to tackle the threats in those encounters. There's literally nothing stopping you from doing so. That's what's great about D&D, DMing, and the D&D Encounters program. The story (and game) is yours; you make it happen



Nicholas,
       You took the high road way to far my friend ....you absolutely should've deflected criticism from the start....you pitch'em under the bus and I'll drive. The increased damage output far exceeds what a first level monster should be doing, and is problem first and last with the encounter...I have a buddy of mine already joking that if I start a Dark Sun campaign he wants a Slit Runner Darter Blowgun!
      I agree that Dark Sun needs to feel different and should be savage as that's part of its charm. The best D&D to me is when players are pushed to the wall and fear they will die, but pull off a victory....and it doesn't feel rigged. I still say Wizards took way too big of a risk in turning people off by killing them in game one. I'm a big fan of pandemic too, but the difference between the two is the investment one makes in a playing a distinct character (even a pregen) with one chance at the encounter versus just re-setting the board for another go at saving the world.
     I think you did a great job with the chapter, appreciate the tone that is set and the tense pace...bravo its wonderful. Next time just bribe the people in typesetting to change the damage from TPK back to challenging
     Best of luck in future endeavours, looking forward to running the rest of the season.....and yes I'll roleplay in some healing surge recovery for the party.


Nicholas,
       You took the high road way to far my friend ....you absolutely should've deflected criticism from the start....you pitch'em under the bus and I'll drive. The increased damage output far exceeds what a first level monster should be doing, and is problem first and last with the encounter...I have a buddy of mine already joking that if I start a Dark Sun campaign he wants a Slit Runner Darter Blowgun!



+1.

I've got another bus backed up behind yours. I plan on rolling over the targets twice. Once backwards, once going full tilt forwards.



What? Surprised

       You took the high road way to far my friend ....you absolutely should've deflected criticism from the start....you pitch'em under the bus and I'll drive.



I don't think it would have made a difference. I still would have thrown the same number at y'all. :D

I'd think that Wizard's has a two-fold purpose with these encounters. One draw in new players by getting them to play in these "easy to try out the game sessions". Secondly bring back lapsed players (or those with no group, etc) with these schedule friendly game sessions....It is a really poor marketing decision on Wizards part to put out a season opening encounter with such a high TPK potential.....an occurence with a huge chance to turnoff the two groups they are primarily pitching too. The fact that many DMs across the country (myself included) eyeballed the encounter and made changes to have a fun encounter are no excuse for putting out a scenario with a big, big risk of turning people off the game.



Where this falls down, in my estimation, is the idea that new players and players of previous editions expect balanced encounters. Or that they expect not to be killed. I don't think that's the case.

Seanchai

I'd think that Wizard's has a two-fold purpose with these encounters. One draw in new players by getting them to play in these "easy to try out the game sessions". Secondly bring back lapsed players (or those with no group, etc) with these schedule friendly game sessions....It is a really poor marketing decision on Wizards part to put out a season opening encounter with such a high TPK potential.....an occurence with a huge chance to turnoff the two groups they are primarily pitching too. The fact that many DMs across the country (myself included) eyeballed the encounter and made changes to have a fun encounter are no excuse for putting out a scenario with a big, big risk of turning people off the game.



Where this falls down, in my estimation, is the idea that new players and players of previous editions expect balanced encounters. Or that they expect not to be killed. I don't think that's the case.



Perhaps for some, entirely possible. Some. But for the majority I don't think that your view is remotely true. I base this on nothing but my own experience with people at games over the years.

Let's put it this way. You've never played chess before. Do you 1) ask to sit down with a grandmaster who will beat you in 10 moves and not show you how to play the game or 2) ask to sit down with a grandmaster who will play a 30 move game with you and show you strategies and how things are done?

In DDE, dying in round 1 of game 1 without really doing much is equivalent to #1. Dying round 2 or 3 of game 1 IMO is STILL equivalent to #1. Dying in game 3 or 4 of a season? A bit more like #2. At least by then I might have seen enough of the game to get interested and keep playing.

Dying is not (much) fun. I'm ok with my character(s) dying now, I've been playing it for a while so I'm used to the **** that 4E can do. I suspect I would not be playing it if the previews at GenCon had resulted in this sort of smacking around. Maybe I would have but I'm not betting on it.

I'm not saying that people want a cakewalk, but they do expect to be shown around the show floor a bit and given the soft sell. Give them the hard sell and show them how DMs and writers in D&D can smack them around? Not so much with the getting of new players I'm suspectin'.
Perhaps for some, entirely possible. Some. But for the majority I don't think that your view is remotely true. I base this on nothing but my own experience with people at games over the years.



My guess is that new players' expectations about the game will be based around experiences with video games and board games. Both of these allow for failure.

In DDE, dying in round 1 of game 1 without really doing much is equivalent to #1. Dying round 2 or 3 of game 1 IMO is STILL equivalent to #1. Dying in game 3 or 4 of a season? A bit more like #2. At least by then I might have seen enough of the game to get interested and keep playing.



Dying does not equal dead. Moreover, I'm betting that the chances of a new player dropping so soon, even with a tough encounter, are slim.

Give them the hard sell and show them how DMs and writers in D&D can smack them around?



Why would you do that to a new player? Why would you smack them around?

Seanchai

Dying does not equal dead. Moreover, I'm betting that the chances of a new player dropping so soon, even with a tough encounter, are slim.



I can't tell if you're deliberately confusing the terms but I meant dying as in the verb not the keyword. If you can't see how PCs will end up dead in the first round of Enc 1, then you're not trying or you're trying hard not to see.


Give them the hard sell and show them how DMs and writers in D&D can smack them around?



Why would you do that to a new player? Why would you smack them around?

Seanchai



That would be the question, n'est pas? Yet that's the encounter that was written.
If you can't see how PCs will end up dead in the first round of Enc 1, then you're not trying or you're trying hard not to see.



There's a third alternative: I'm not offended for some reason by the encounter, thus looking for reasons to exagggerate it's lethality. Absolutely, it was tough. But having read it, run it, and read all the comments here (before they were deleted), it's clear that factors such as DM preparedness, runs of high or low rolls for the DM or players, and player tactics made a huge difference.


That would be the question, n'est pas? Yet that's the encounter that was written.



No. The encounter that was written said to go easy on new players by reducing the difficulty of the challenge they face.

People expect failure. They expect obstacles. That's how the world works. That's how games work. How the new player feels about said failure and obstacles has nothing to do with the encounter and everything to do with the attitude of the people around him.

If you have a table to people, DM included, who whine and complain about how hard the encounter is, how they shouldn't have to face anything tough, how heroes shouldn't have to run away, etc., the new player is probably going to share that attitude. If, on the other hand, you have a DM who, when the player character falls in the second round, turns to the new player and says, "That's okay. It was a big hit. I'm sure the healer will get to you soon, so pay attention and be thinking about what you want to do when that happens," the player is likely to thinking more positively about the encounter.

In the same vein, a table full of people who don't welcome the new player; who ignore him or her; who don't take a second to explain the game or choices available to him or her; who bog him or her down with extraneous details, such as why the Power on the character sheet isn't as good as a different one; who don't do what they can to make the new player feel needed or important to the success of the group; and so on are what's harmful in the context of DDE.

In short, it isn't the encounter makes the session special for a new player.

Seanchai


In short, it isn't the encounter makes the session special for a new player.

Seanchai



Couldn't agree more. It's not the mod, the edition, the game system, or the pre-gens that make or break a game. It's what the DM and players do ABOUT it that makes the game. If you are initially negative about something, and keep that attitude, of COURSE it's gonna suck, and those new to it are gonna grasp on to that attitude.

I guess my normal gaming group (not my encounters group) is just so use to purposefully building unoptimized PCs and adapting published mods to be fun-not-dumb that the pre-gens and "issues" people are finding are a second-nature fixes for some of us.

(still love the garbage compactor fight while escaping the Fire Knives fully operational battle station after rescuing the princess in a dragon coast mod...and the speeder arcane disk chase in the forests of aglarond.)

Like the author has said REPEATEDLY...
Make the adventure your own.

There's a third alternative: I'm not offended for some reason by the encounter, thus looking for reasons to exagggerate it's lethality. Absolutely, it was tough. But having read it, run it, and read all the comments here (before they were deleted), it's clear that factors such as DM preparedness, runs of high or low rolls for the DM or players, and player tactics made a huge difference.




Made a difference, sure. In the way that even a softball encounter can go hard if the DM rolls crits. But, that still makes it a softball encounter. Likewise a deadly encounter is -still- a deadly encounter even if your DM rolls 1s. Or adjusts tactics. Or reduces monsters' HPs. etc.

How it runs and how it is designed are two different things and you're only sticking to how it runs/can be run, and not how it is designed.



That would be the question, n'est pas? Yet that's the encounter that was written.


No. The encounter that was written said to go easy on new players by reducing the difficulty of the challenge they face.


I will repeat for you: "How it runs and how it is designed are two different things and you're only sticking to how it runs/can be run, and not how it is designed."


People expect failure. They expect obstacles. That's how the world works. That's how games work. How the new player feels about said failure and obstacles has nothing to do with the encounter and everything to do with the attitude of the people around him.




Your life is full of failure? You feel the need to share? Or are you really this cynical? I'm fine with a helping of difficulty in my games. Failure though?

You are absolutely right though ...


In short, it isn't the encounter makes the session special for a new player.

Seanchai




... it certainly wasn't.

Lest you think me someone who doesn't like Encounters, allow me to re-iterate something that would be obvious to most people who know me ... I like Encounters. I would -not- be doing it if I didn't. It is bringing a lot of new players and excitement to the game in my area. I just really think that if I see more of Season 2, Encounter 1, it won't be.

How it runs and how it is designed are two different things and you're only sticking to how it runs/can be run, and not how it is designed.



No. As I said, I read the encounter. Moreover, that so many groups didn't experience a TPK belies the idea that the encounter, as written, was fatal. It came down to, as I said, what happened at the table that made the session for that particular group either a TPK or not a TPK.


Your life is full of failure? You feel the need to share? Or are you really this cynical? I'm fine with a helping of difficulty in my games. Failure though?



Don't be a ****.

People experience failure all the time, particular in games. That's not cynicism, that's just a fact. For example, the object of the game Monopoly is to win. As there can only be one winner, any game of Monopoly produces a table full of other people who failed. That's just how games work. People understand that.


Lest you think me someone who doesn't like Encounters, allow me to re-iterate something that would be obvious to most people who know me ... I like Encounters. I would -not- be doing it if I didn't. It is bringing a lot of new players and excitement to the game in my area. I just really think that if I see more of Season 2, Encounter 1, it won't be.



I don't think you're a person who doesn't like Encounters. I think you're a person who has some vested interest in the encounter, rather than the participants, being responsible for what happened in 2-1.

Seanchai

How it runs and how it is designed are two different things and you're only sticking to how it runs/can be run, and not how it is designed.



No. As I said, I read the encounter. Moreover, that so many groups didn't experience a TPK belies the idea that the encounter, as written, was fatal. It came down to, as I said, what happened at the table that made the session for that particular group either a TPK or not a TPK.



Do you have these statistics handy? Perhaps you can mail to me the cross section of wins/losses and TPKs?



Your life is full of failure? You feel the need to share? Or are you really this cynical? I'm fine with a helping of difficulty in my games. Failure though?




Don't be a ****.

People experience failure all the time, particular in games. That's not cynicism, that's just a fact. For example, the object of the game Monopoly is to win. As there can only be one winner, any game of Monopoly produces a table full of other people who failed. That's just how games work. People understand that.



Said it before, and I'll say it again. D&D != Monopoly/Chess/Go/insert win/loss game here. That you don't get that is clear but I'll repeat it as long as I need to.

Incidentally, me calling you on your words, is quite a step back from where you went there, just so's we're clear.



Lest you think me someone who doesn't like Encounters, allow me to re-iterate something that would be obvious to most people who know me ... I like Encounters. I would -not- be doing it if I didn't. It is bringing a lot of new players and excitement to the game in my area. I just really think that if I see more of Season 2, Encounter 1, it won't be.



I don't think you're a person who doesn't like Encounters. I think you're a person who has some vested interest in the encounter, rather than the participants, being responsible for what happened in 2-1.

Seanchai



That response doesn't make any sense. Of course I'm a person with a vested interest in the encounter. This is the program I'm running. And if I was playing, I'd stiiiiiiill have a vested interest in the encounter. We all do. If I didn't have a vested interested in the encounter or the program, I ... would ... not ... be ... here. So, what's your point?

Do you have these statistics handy? Perhaps you can mail to me the cross section of wins/losses and TPKs?




Nope. Go read through the reports on the first session. That's where I learned a) many groups didn't experience a TPK and b) that many people, new players included, enjoyed it, even if it was tough. (Of couse, I knew that not all groups had a TPK because none of the three tables at my store had one.)


Said it before, and I'll say it again. D&D != Monopoly/Chess/Go/insert win/loss game here. That you don't get that is clear but I'll repeat it as long as I need to.




You're right - they aren't the same. That doesn't make my point is invalid, however: People are used to losing games. People are used to facing obstacles in games. People are used to failure in game, particularly when it comes to their goals and objectives.

Why someone who was new to D&D would come to the table expecting balanced encounters, an easy encounter, for their character not to take enough damage to drop him or her, etc., I don't know. If new players did have those sorts of thoughts - and, again, I doubt that's the case - how do you think they come by them? What made them believe that?

Moreover, let's get back to your idea that experienced players would believe that. What would put those sorts of ideas in "lapsed players" heads?

Incidentally, me calling you on your words, is quite a step back from where you went there, just so's we're clear.




You didn't "call me on my words." You started making personal attacks based on something I said.


That response doesn't make any sense.




Sure it does.

Of course I'm a person with a vested interest in the encounter. This is the program I'm running. And if I was playing, I'd stiiiiiiill have a vested interest in the encounter. We all do. If I didn't have a vested interested in the encounter or the program, I ... would ... not ... be ... here. So, what's your point?




"I think you're a person who has some vested interest in the encounter,  rather than the participants, being responsible for what happened in  2-1." I highlighted the part of the sentence that you apparently missed.

Seanchai
I finally read the rest of this thread.

Firesnakearies, thank you for the kind words. Wow, what a fun table! I truly wish I could be sitting at it. I am really impressed by what you did and by what so many have contributed. This is a testament to the Forums working really well for a program like this.


On the recent discussions, let's keep guessing what other people are like to a minimum. Let's keep in mind we all are here for the same love of the game. State your opinion, respect that of others, and keep it fun.

The encounter is way too hard. Take a look at the damage these critters do and compare it to similar monsters - it is literally off the charts (even compared to MM3). Nothing in the encounter lessens that... in fact, the encounter is very well created and the environment adds constant inescapable damage. We can argue how fair/hard it is, but the very argument's extent really proves the point. The reports for this session resemble those of the hardest sessions of Undermountan, a season most agreed was more than a bit too hard for an intro program designed to attract players to the game. That DDE Dark Sun started with an encounter on par with the harder ones of the last season is bad news for WotC and for a lot of gaming stores.

Nick had it right when he said it is cool to give the PCs a rough time and then back off. But, there are a few problems. One, this is an introductory program. Players seldom respond well to an intro game knocking their PCs unconscious (let alone killing them or keeping them from doing anything meaningful). DDE is still new, which secondly will mean it is attracting a new audience - including new DMs that don't know how to measure the difficulty in advance. Thirdly, many DMs (even experienced ones) believe in following the exact wording of the page or have little concept of how to appropriately tweak the challenge (we had DMs in Undermountain adding monsters and upping the damage of already brutal encounters). And, the game is just plain more fun when players get a chance to ease into the game, learn their PCs, and get a victory under their belts. Both seasons have started with encounters that were too hard for this to be accomplished.

There is a ton I like about this adventure and even this encounter, but the difficulty level was way beyond where it should have been. You don't need every poster agreeing for that to be true - you just need a decent amount of them. We have that. If the complaints were the reverse, with a decent number of posts reporting play was too easy, then we would have a nice result appropriate for an intro program. (And, yes, players want a challenge, but between the two possibilities and given the purpose of the program, too easy would have been far better).

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Whether this is a healthy tactic or not I leave up to the reader, but I often find myself waiting for Alphastream to post so I can just go "me too" and agree with what he writes.  Yes, lazy, but while I at times disagree with him, he captured my opinion on this particular issue perfectly.

Had I gone the "run as written" route on this encounter all the PCs would have been nothing but smudges on the poster map. Not that I believe in "run as written", but if you hand DMs an encounter this brutal while not wanting them to massacre players, save some space in the adventure to tell the DMs that up front. Otherwise you are banking too much of the players enjoyment on the experience level of the DMs. If DDE is even in the slightest way aimed at being a gateway (back) into D&D for players and DMs then this encounter should probably be marked as "too much" and used for future reference as such. 

Reality is just a continuous stream of failed pereption checks, the dragons are real!

I like to think of you as my editor. You usually sum up my long-winded posts in 1/8th the length, then pose a good question to which I really don't have the answer. So, come on, where is the question?

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

Hehe, oh allright;  the implied question in there is:

IS DDE meant to be a gateway? 

We are projecting that onto it something fierce and judging accordingly. If it is envisioned more as a diversion for existing D&D veterans then the brutality is a lot less out of place.
However if DDE was not started to be a gateway I would say it is turned in to one so the points made still stand. 

Reality is just a continuous stream of failed pereption checks, the dragons are real!

I know this is a little late, but I wanted to put in what happened to us.  We started off normally, but that's when everything went downhill.  At the end of encounter 1, half the party was dead.  We didn't like what happened, so our group gave encounter 1 another shot and changed tactics know we are now metagaming.  This did not help.  Half the party still died.  The DM did not change a thing for the second chance at encounter 1.  We decided right then and there that the DS encounters was designed to be player killers and it was no longer any fun.  We never tried to do any of the other encounters.

You have the free will to agree or disagree.
You have the ability to act freely on the above choice regardless of the consequences.

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