Session 1-4: DM's only please

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So, the store I play encounters at runs two a night every two weeks, so last night we ran 1-3 and 1-4.  I read a lot on the board about the difficulty of 1-3, but when it came down to it, the PCs didn't have much trouble.  There was no attempt to parley on their part, but it didn't end up mattering.  Once Shikirr jumped halfway up the cliff face, and used the brambles to climb up and marked both the Cursespewerers, it was the beginning of the end.   

Where I ran into problems was 1-4.  If I hadn't pulled my puches this could have been a TPK in less than a round.  None of the PC's had the requisite 20 passive perception to go in the surprise round, so the dustdevils used their move ability to knock everyone prone, and the ssauran hit everyone with his encounter power (since they were still clustered nicely).  Once the first round started, the dust devils went first (at 18 init) and after using one of the sand blasts I already had most of the party blind, two of them were dying, and the rest were badly injured, and they hadn't even gotten a turn yet.  

This is when I decided only to use one sand blast per round.  It wasn't the most effective use of my resources, but at +8 vs fort, I had a hard time missing.  I used their at-wills instead.  In the end, I still ended up with 4 characters dying at one point (all of them failed one death save, and some failed 2), and when they killed the ssauran I ruled that the Dust Devils (all 3 still around and barely injured) all went away without him to direct them.   

I just wanted to let DM's know what a nasty encouter this is.  You might want to consider expanding the starting area, lowering the perception DC for the suprise round, or allowing active perception checks instead of passive.  

Any other ideas?  Anyone think I should have killed everyone before they could act?  Wink 
for spoilers do this

[*spoiler] Spoilery hidden text stuff  [*/spoiler]

Just remove the asteriks for it to work.
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Thanks, I fixed it!
that's sounds extremely overly brutal (just like every other encounter this season).  thanks for the heads-up.
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  Keep in mind the 1st target should not be the PC's at all, but Ralo.  The PC's are secondary targets.  I plan on having Ralo drop down dying and have the PC's save him from the attack.
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Our group does the same as Tashannoc's, so we also ran 1-3 and 1-4 last night.  Our encounter started almost the same way as his, but went much worse - After the caster used his poison power and the 1st dust devil used his sand blast, Jarvix, Castri, Barcan and Rolo were all dying before getting to move.  Barcan and Jarvix failed death saves, then Phye brought them back with an Ardent Surge and a Heal check, but they just dropped again when the 2nd sand blast hit.  Phye brought Barcan back again after his 2nd failed death save and Shikirr with a crit on an augmented Energizing Strike, and almost killed the 3rd dust devil before he used his sand blast, but the devil lived long enough to finish off the party for a TPK.

However, an important errata - According to Monster Manual 2, the Dust Devil's encounter power is NOT enemies only.  So it would be difficult or impossible for them to use it without hitting each other.  Our DM didn't realize that until today, since the module is printed with the power being enemies only.

The encounter is still stupidly hard, and it's difficult to imagine even the strongest level 1 party living through the first round if the dust devils win initiative, let alone the gimped pregens of this Encounters.  Our group unanimously agreed that whoever balanced these encounters needs to be hit with a clue by four.

I also run the game two encounters at a time, every other week.  And that was exactly what happened with my group.  Having taken a closer look at everyone's stats after the game, I'm not sure what else was expected to happen.

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Dust devils get a surprise round and +7 init.  They hit Jarvix on a 2+ and do 13.5 damage on average with their encounter power.  Jarvix has a +0 init and 22 hit points.  Most of the time, Jarvix will go from full health to outright dead on the turn the monsters use their encounter powers.  And that'll frequently happen prior to Jarvix getting a single turn.

It doesn't help that dust devils are very accurate, aiming for the NADs at level+5, rather than the level+1 suggested on page 184 of the DMG.  And having them go after Ralo first doesn't really solve anything, because their encounter power (aka, their best Ralo killing power) hits everyone.

Looking at it, it doesn't look AS bad as you guys are describing...

still bad, but not AS bad

Of the 3 dust devils, only 2 start in a position to use their burst on the party in the surprise round (SR), and then only catching the outside row of the 'penalty box' with 1 overlapping square (maybe place Ralo in that square...). Since you get only 1 action in the SR, they wouldn't be able to move to a better position to Nova the party. Although admittedly they are effectively +10 v reflex since the PCs are granting CA if/since they are all surprised...so missing is unlikely.

I admit, you COULD have all 3 use their move/prone power in the SR, setting up a position to burst in the 1st round, but I think that'd be a little overkill. I'm probably going to burst with the 2 that can in the SR, and do the move/prone action with the third guy, who will then burst in the 1st round, making sure to catch Ralo in it.

Alternatively, If one were to place Ralo in the square on the other side of the 2 that can burst in the SR, so they would spend their action moving to position, this might cause them all to use their move/prone power in the SR, and then nova Ralo in the 1st round, getting the PCs...so this probably is not the best place to put him now that I think about it...Or hint to place shikirr in the overlapping square, since he can move when init is rolled, so NO one is in the death square...(still think this is the best place for Ralo though, to at least get 2 of the AEs used before they can maneuver to get more PCs in their area).

Also, the mod lists their burst as enemies only, but the compendium does NOT, so I'm going to make sure to add that in, and since they are not super bright and only averagely wise, the 3rd guy who AEs in the normal round, if it means catching Ralo, isn't going to be SUPER careful about catching allies.

Speaking of the surprise round...the PP of 20 suggests that the devil's 'take 10' on a stealth. However, the ssuran only has a 'take 10' of 12. I think I'm gonna start him 'off map', arriving at the end of the first round, since he had to move into position and didn't want to give away the ambush, etc. This should help a little in not simply overwhelming the party at the get-go. This will also hopefully give the party a chance to spread a little before he pops his HUGE AE, possibly missing 1 or 2 PCs (if they are conscious still that is).

And I think I'm also going to try and give some hints about the devils 'weakness' to being slow/immobilized, since Yuka can grab one, making it a lot easier to hit for the others (assuming people are alive and can act that is...)..

Anyway, I think those are most of my ideas for still making this a messy encounter without simply TPKing everyone in round 1...:-p




My wife had another idea as well to help out a little BEFORE or after the fight (depending on your state of the table)
her idea

since Ralo is veiled alliance, give him some artificer (full or hybrid even), so he's got a little surgeless healing and/or surgeless temp HP to give out BEFORE the fight; or during/after once they heal him. I mean, the PCs don't really need to recharge his healing after this encounter :-p.
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Only the dust devils get a surprise round from what I gather. I'm going to roll initiative for each individual monster. That increases the chance that some PCs can act between the dust devils.
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I know it's not much, but hasn't Jarvix got a PP of 20?
No, Jarvix's PP is 14. With Phye's mantle and Castri elf bonus that brings it to 17. That's the highest PP you can get.
Posted in another thread almost the same as this one, copying here just to help any who might find it useful.

My spin on 1-4
Our DM group test played 1-4 just to make sure we have a handle on what  we are subjecting our players to and making any adjustments before hand.  To me, 1-4 did seem a little rough even with Ralo being their first  target.

Each DM will be able decide what compensation if any they do once Wed.  comes; I'm not sure what the other DMs are doing if anything, but this is what I'm leaning towards:

5 players: combine 2 of the 3 dust devils and make it elite. When  bloodied it will split into two bloodied dust devils with its encounter  spent and it's recharge power unrecharged (even if it is recharged before the split). Makes all the same xp on the  table, but reduces the initial damage that the monsters are capable of  as monsters will start with 3 monsters instead of the default of 4. I figure this puts it somewhere between the default setup and flatout removing one of them from the encounter, plus monsters that split and move stuff around is fun. I'm  thinking I'll make the dust devil split be a "immediate reaction when  bloodied: use d8 to determine shift direction, 1d4+1 squares. Any  players adjacent to shifting dust devils during this movement are pushed  2 squares. No damage".

6 players: same as above but instead of 1 elite dust devil and 1 regular  dust devil, upgrade the regular so that you have 2 elites. Once both  are bloodied, you'll have 4 bloodied regular dust devils.
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Our group does the same as Tashannoc's, so we also ran 1-3 and 1-4 last night.  Our encounter started almost the same way as his, but went much worse - After the caster used his poison power and the 1st dust devil used his sand blast, Jarvix, Castri, Barcan and Rolo were all dying before getting to move.  Barcan and Jarvix failed death saves, then Phye brought them back with an Ardent Surge and a Heal check, but they just dropped again when the 2nd sand blast hit.  Phye brought Barcan back again after his 2nd failed death save and Shikirr with a crit on an augmented Energizing Strike, and almost killed the 3rd dust devil before he used his sand blast, but the devil lived long enough to finish off the party for a TPK.

However, an important errata - According to Monster Manual 2, the Dust Devil's encounter power is NOT enemies only.  So it would be difficult or impossible for them to use it without hitting each other.  Our DM didn't realize that until today, since the module is printed with the power being enemies only.

The encounter is still stupidly hard, and it's difficult to imagine even the strongest level 1 party living through the first round if the dust devils win initiative, let alone the gimped pregens of this Encounters.  Our group unanimously agreed that whoever balanced these encounters needs to be hit with a clue by four.





Actually, not so hard. Check my post under "Thar be rocks ahead" (which I posted before realizing this thread talked about the same things.

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Since the Dust Devils get to act during the surprise round and can knock all (or at least almost all) the PCs down, they can then set themselves at the diaganal corners of the set up area. All three can hit the PC Start Area and leave east other untouched......



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I know it's not much, but hasn't Jarvix got a PP of 20?



No, it is 14. His Perception should be +4, his Bluff should be +10. They inverted the skill mofifiers, but the Passive listings are correct.
No, Jarvix's PP is 14. With Phye's mantle and Castri elf bonus that brings it to 17. That's the highest PP you can get.



Remember, Castri and Phye's abilities only work on Perception checks. Passive Perception is not a check.
Remember, Castri and Phye's abilities only work on Perception checks. Passive Perception is not a check.



PHB page 179. Check under Passive checks. Passive Perception is a check.

Remember, Castri and Phye's abilities only work on Perception checks. Passive Perception is not a check.




PHB page 179. Check under Passive checks. Passive Perception is a check.




THANK YOU! It never made sense to me that an Group Awareness didn't work on a group Passive Perception, but I have had two DMs rule passives are not rolls and I have never had a page reference. Now I do.

Based on that, only Barcan and Yuka didn't meet the 15 Passive Perception check last week. I inadvertantly made that encounter tougher than it needed to be... well, that and leaving the Cursespewer's hp at 68....

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And actually, the highest Perception in the group is Phye, as her bonus specifically states it affects her as well as her allies, giving her a 18 PP... still not enough for encounter 1-4, but closer.
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I know it's not much, but hasn't Jarvix got a PP of 20?



error

erroniously, yes.
As a 1st lvl PC with an 8 wisdom, it's impossible for him to actually have a passive of 20. they switched his bluff and perception in the skills area (affecting his passives); however, if you are playing with the fresh-out-of-the-bag PCs, then go for it :-p

Remember, Castri and Phye's abilities only work on Perception checks. Passive Perception is not a check.





PHB page 179. Check under Passive checks. Passive Perception is a check.





THANK YOU! It never made sense to me that an Group Awareness didn't work on a group Passive Perception, but I have had two DMs rule passives are not rolls and I have never had a page reference. Now I do.

Based on that, only Barcan and Yuka didn't meet the 15 Passive Perception check last week. I inadvertantly made that encounter tougher than it needed to be... well, that and leaving the Cursespewer's hp at 68....

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And actually, the highest Perception in the group is Phye, as her bonus specifically states it affects her as well as her allies, giving her a 18 PP... still not enough for encounter 1-4, but closer.



Although harsh they Cursespewers HPs were correct.  They are supposed to have the Elite Role in the stat block but do not for some reason.  Perhaps they will correct this omission at some point.
Although harsh they Cursespewers HPs were correct.  They are supposed to have the Elite Role in the stat block but do not for some reason.  Perhaps they will correct this omission at some point.

If they were elites, the encounter would have a total of 850xp, which is a level 4 encounter for 5 PCs, not the level 1 encounter advertised.

(But they are pretty clearly built as Elites, with that off-action attack, and multi-attack power.  I think just the XP and tags are wrong.)

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  Right, so... time to put in some sort of compensation during the pre-encounter for session 4, since encounter 3 ended up being much more of a drain than intended/advertised. Le sigh.
 Hey it seems the DM discussion has split into two threads this week. You will want to read this thread also.community.wizards.com/dungeonsanddragons...(Concerns_about_session_4)_***_DMs_only***
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And actually, the highest Perception in the group is Phye, as her bonus specifically states it affects her as well as her allies, giving her a 18 PP... still not enough for encounter 1-4, but closer.




That 15 on her sheet already includes the +2 from her Mantle of Clarity.  So she doesn't have an 18 passive Perception in any case.  She'd have 16 if she's near Castri.

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And actually, the highest Perception in the group is Phye, as her bonus specifically states it affects her as well as her allies, giving her a 18 PP... still not enough for encounter 1-4, but closer.






That 15 on her sheet already includes the +2 from her Mantle of Clarity.  So she doesn't have an 18 passive Perception in any case.  She'd have 16 if she's near Castri.




I stand corrected again... Thank you for pointing that out.
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