Encounter 1-3 Questions and Thoughts (DM Thread, Spoilers Ahoy!)

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Ya know, I had no problem with the first season of encounters.  Of course I have played pretty much exclusively in the Forgotten Realms since 2E.  I do like the Dark Sun Encounters game so far, it's really enjoyable.  I love the brutality of life in Athas.  I'm actually seriously considering running a game there now.

That being said, on to my thoughts and perhaps question about 1-3:

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I get the brutality aspect but this encounter is more like being locked in a saran wrap factory with Dexter.  With the terrain aspects to boot, the uh.. bramble weed? (don't have adventure in front of me here at work)... it's impossible to win this, or nearly enough.  Yeah, I know, I can just take it out. I get it.  I'm just wondering if there was some intent here that I'm missing.

I'm trying to work it in my head using perhaps creature motivation, but all I'm coming up with is that they are some hungry goblins that are rarely seen unless in times of desperation.  So this is either times of desperation or they caught them in one of their forays.  Not sure which.

If I'm being relatively nice to the players (i.e. give the characters a chance), I can assume they are being caught in their relatively normal act of foraging.  That would give me the motivation to quit the field fairly quickly.  If they are desperate I pretty much have to keep them on the field as written until the cursespewers get skewered.

With that bramble weed, they will just stay up there and wait for the adventurers to come to them.  Dispatch the cutters once the adventurers are in the brambleweed and it's game over.

I could assume a different tactical priority, that they need the fruit and will aggressively attack coming down from their perch but the tactics as written don't seem to support that.

I do like someone else's idea of the gobbies quitting the field, after negotiation perhaps, totally bloodless then letting a brown dragon wyrmling have a whack at them.  Probably won't do it, but it seems fun.  I do rather like dragons.

Anyway, thoughts from others running this?  The author maybe?  As written with tactics as written, this thing is just TPK.  I want to make sure I'm getting the right flavor on this.  One thing I don't agree with is heavy modification because a player might not have the same DM and vice versa through the whole season, or be switching between 3.  Using a common information pool keeps it a bit more in the story.

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Nick said he envisioned this as a negotiation encounter. Its dim lighting, the enemies all have Low light vision and supieror posistions. If the players choose to fight it could get very grim for them. Also the players could decided to bug out and run. There are many ideas in this thread on Week 3 community.wizards.com/dungeonsanddragons... as to how to handle it and some more insight from Nick on his view on the encounter.
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In response to Blackhat00

I wrote a fairly long response that somehow got swallowed by the forum without posting. I'll try to recreate it as best i can...

On page 13 of Chapter 1, I included a sidebar titled "Roleplaying Past Encounters" right before the summary of Session 3. This was intentional because i knew that Session 3 was designed to put the PCs at significant disadvantage. 

Athas tests adventurers in more ways than just physical prowess. D&D is more than just a tactical minis battle game. PCs have to be able to identify when they are outnumbered, outmatched, or out-flanked and adjust their approach. In Session 3, the goblins are not out for blood. They are much more interested in the supplies. They are highly mobile and have advantageous position. The PCs need to identify this early on. It is your job as a DM to present them with their alternatives for solving this encounter. That might mean lowering the combat difficulty, increasing the goblin's penchant for negotiation rather than conflict, or giving the PCs multiple chances to surrender their supplies throughout the course of the conflict. 

To address your point about presenting the story consistently, as long as you adhere to the overall theme of Chapter 1—the adventurers are harried through the wastes by an unknown enemy for unknown reasons—you are free to adjust the minor details as you wish. Part of the fun of DDE is in sharing your stories of how you tackled the week's challenge differently than your friends, and that includes different presentations of the threat by the DM. 

I hope this helps. I look forward to your reports.
[sblock=Another thought on Encounter 1-3]
Another specific thought came to me for how PCs might handle the disadvantage against the goblins:

Perhaps the brambleweed is very dry and flammable. Perhaps if they set fire to it, the smoke will obscure their positions in the valley and force the gobbos to retreat, negotiate, or at least come down from their perch. The point is, reward creative ideas from the PCs to deal with the situation and never say "no" to something they want to do. Instead say, "how do you do it" or "describe what you do".

Remember, the goblins are not interested in killing the PCs. They're just interested in getting their supplies. Everyone knows adventurers are tough, stringy, and poisonous to goblins. Now that kank meat they have, thems good eats!
[sblock=Another thought on Encounter 1-3]
Another specific thought came to me for how PCs might handle the disadvantage against the goblins:

Perhaps the brambleweed is very dry and flammable. Perhaps if they set fire to it, the smoke will obscure their positions in the valley and force the gobbos to retreat, negotiate, or at least come down from their perch. The point is, reward creative ideas from the PCs to deal with the situation and never say "no" to something they want to do. Instead say, "how do you do it" or "describe what you do".

Remember, the goblins are not interested in killing the PCs. They're just interested in getting their supplies. Everyone knows adventurers are tough, stringy, and poisonous to goblins. Now that kank meat they have, thems good eats!



Kank Meat
  Except every Athasian knows that Kank meat fouls within moments of a kanks death, and almost no one eats it!  Go farm some Crodlu!

I did allow my groups to salvage some Kank honey globules off the kanks drawing the small merchant caravan, and one or two from the wild kanks...

Yes, I'm being an original Dark Sun snob Cool

Thank you!  I knew I had to be missing something!  Looks like I was more or less on the right track, just needed a swift kick to put me firmly on the right path.  This just reinforces my liking for this encounter season and for Dark Sun in particular.

I really should report, eh?  Afraid things aren't all well at our tables.  We seem to be a little disorganized and I signed up for the whole DM thing at the last second so I have no idea what official reporting is being done or isn't being done.  I think the game is listed under another DM who plays at our store but isn't present this season and I can't figure out how to put myself down as a DM who runs at that store at all, no permissions.

This season we're running two weak (short handed) tables.  A handful of new people, that's a good thing.  For the players showing up, it seems to be fun.  I'm having fun running it and the other DM is enjoying it also.  The veteran players are really happy to see Dark Sun coming back as most of them played it in earlier editions.  We've had some genuine emotion over things like the weapon breakage rule, etc...  it's been good stuff and the adventure really is fun.  Lots of quick tactical huddles, it's making them think, make choices, sacrifices, etc...
I was wondering something:  In the role-playing sidebar, you mentioned Nature might be useful a skill during the negotiations.  I have been racking my brain for the past week trying to come up with a rationale, but I've got not reason to include it.  How exactly does Nature help during negotiating with them?
Nature skill

Nature skill may be useful in identifying sources of sustenance in the desert for the goblins. The characters may not have time to pursue the fruits of the desert fully because they are harried, but giving their knowledge to the goblins may help to negotiate a way forward through this encounter.

That's just one idea. I'm sure your players can come up with many more themselves. Be creative!
 
Why in the world would advise for handling 1-3 be placed in a sidebar labeled "Roleplaying Past Encounters".

As a DM, and a current Encounters DM running this adventure, I would never read that shaded box unless I had a new player joining post session 1 or an existing player coming back who died last session.

In my opinion, this encounter was poorly written—granted, likely as a consequence of way too few pages granted to this chapter, but still...—and should have been presented as a skill challenge that devolves to combat if failed or to something even more awesome if succeeded. What would be more awesome? I don't know. I'm not the author.

My table (including a father a son who have never played D&D before and a player who played once back when 3 was first released) is very, very, very lucky I found this thread via a link from another forum.
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Nick said he envisioned this as a negotiation encounter. Its dim lighting, the enemies all have Low light vision and supieror posistions. If the players choose to fight it could get very grim for them. Also the players could decided to bug out and run. There are many ideas in this thread on Week 3 community.wizards.com/dungeonsanddragons... as to how to handle it and some more insight from Nick on his view on the encounter.





*face palm* As usual.

I would refer all current, past, and especially future WotC Encounters authors to look up on the internet a certain article. It outlines things you should and should NOT do when creating a mystery adventure. I know there aren't mystery adventures, but many of the rules are applicable to any adventure and are being ran-over roughshod during Encounters to the point that I can't read the "intent" of the authors without wanting to bang my head on my desk and explain to them why that isn't going to work for a variety of reasons


Please start here: www.thealexandrian.net/creations/misc/th...


What's even worse, honestly, is that the authors aren't trying to railroad the players. They are trying to railroad the DMs - apparently through mind control because they are failing to recognize that not every DM is going to interpret their written encounters (especially after editing) the same way they do; therefore, a problem presents itself in that the difficulty of the encounters scales with how the DM interprets the encounter as written relative to how the author intended it.
While I don't consider the module to be a loss -- my players are having quite a bit of fun, despite some misgivings about Dark Sun due to its twinkish reputation -- that link is truly great: 

www.thealexandrian.net/creations/misc/th...
 
This has been a problem in many game sessions, where the players were just not ready to commit to a contrived puzzle or mystery in our play sessions.  There's a tricky balance to be found between "roll the dice and get the solution handed to you" and expecting the player to know everything in real life that his character knows in game terms.   
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