D&D Encounters Field Reports (Week 4)

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as a player, I'm probably going to skip the rest of the season.  I'm just not having fun.  I doubt I'll sign up for another season of encounters, back to LFR and maybe squeeze in some different rule set 3.5 games.

Can you share your reasons for not having fun?

I can almost bet "not optimized characters" will be one reason. The other will be killer DM's

Well, don't get me wrong, I could be ok, if that's what you guys are looking for.

It seems to me that you guys are not, however. In that case your DM is doing it wrong and just being a prick. I could be wrong, since I am making assumptions, so forgive me if I am.

Thats not what I'm looking for, and I think he is doing it wrong and just being a prick. But its the only DDE option I have at the moment. I'm loving the brutal setting of Dark Sun and I really wanna keep playing it, since my main group is gonna start up a DS campaign in a few months. Plus, I really love Castri. He hasn't died yet, and I plan to keep it that way.

The one cool thing this DM did was allow us to make adjustments to our characters so they would be more effective.

I'm just gonna roll with it and try and have fun. if he wants it to be DM vs. players, I'm gonna play player vs. DM and do everything in my power to ruin his plans and try to get as many players on board as I can. Laughing
I wouldnt say "not optimized" is the problem as much as it is poorly designed characters. the elf marauder ranger is a very weak option in my opinion. if they wanted a melee striker kind of person i would love to have a constitution barbarian like perhaps a thunderborn. basically someone who was a lot tougher than castri. on the other hand a rogue might have been fun since for some reason wotc dislikes putting the iconic rogue into encounters. a con based fighter might have been fun to to add to survivability. the battlemind is weird in that it is a speed of thought with wisdom instead of charisma and has a reach weapon when its mark punishment only works on adjacent. i find no real issue with the humans other than the fact that the ardents powers seem so useless for the module. whenever my ardent alacrity has gone off we have either been immobilized or unconcious. whats the purpose of a bonus to perception if it cant even stop a surprise round.

i want to know if the characters and module were designed to work together or whether they were developed independently. if castri were a barbarian maybe he could survive the first encounter and still have surges remaining. and didnt they have a tiefling psion last encounters?

basically its not the lack of optmization i  dislike but rather the choices of characters.
yeah, castri (or Castrate as many around here call him) is by far the weakest PC. If nothing else, javelins instead of daggers man...
and a melee striker with an 11 con, low defenses and no toghness is painful. At least should have been a two-weaponer for the extra 5 hp.

All of the other alt suggestions for him would be nice as well, but all the 'high con' stuff gets boring after awhile. He's a gladiator: flashy attacks, crowd pleaser; not just stand there and get beat and beat back type. The whirling barb would be fun and relatively thematic for him though; or monk (?)

But just some alt changes to the original built would make him a much better and more interesting PC than he currently stands.

As for the rest, no real PROBLEMS with them. Could they be better, sure. Is it necessary, no.
hey im coming back to encounters after doing some of the last season.

just wondering in dark sun, is there no customization?

also: i want to get caught up, do these podcasts correspond to any specific week?

Selling MTGO collection. Ends Aug 18 http://www.ebay.com/itm/Mtgo-magic-online-collection-4x-Domri-Garruk-caller-kalonian-hydra-more/111143412594?ssPageName=WDVW&rd=1&ih=001&category=49195&cmd=ViewItem

Our  store in Edmonton had three groups. Two got TPK'd and the other only survived because I played the devils differently.

Good grief.  That's sick.  My table had a better time of it, thankfully.

Our DMs apparently decided to tweak the elementals' burst attacks, requiring a standard action "power up" before a second standard action to fire.  Only one had a chance to go off, and it was still murder.

Phye (me, this week) had one round of actions before getting removed from the fight.  The battlemind was magnificent, though, darting up to the caster as soon as initiative was rolled and seriously weakening the enemies because of his presence and location.
We had a good time of this fight, and we're going in to encounter five with most characters down some HP with one surge remaining.  That should make for a tense final battle, assuming it's less instantly brutal than some of the other encounters have been.

as a player, I'm probably going to skip the rest of the season.  I'm just not having fun.  I doubt I'll sign up for another season of encounters, back to LFR and maybe squeeze in some different rule set 3.5 games.

Can you share your reasons for not having fun?

I can almost bet "not optimized characters" will be one reason. The other will be killer DM's

as a player, I'm probably going to skip the rest of the season.  I'm just not having fun.  I doubt I'll sign up for another season of encounters, back to LFR and maybe squeeze in some different rule set 3.5 games.

Can you share your reasons for not having fun?

I think there are a few reasons I am not enjoying it.  On the first day, there wasn't a class that I really wanted to try.  I currently have a Melee Ranger & a Brawler Fighter for LFR gathering dust at the moment, and the rest of the choices seemed just unintresting to me.  I ended up with the Battlemind.

Secondly, and I know this is a very small thing, the spiffy character cards had some errors on them.  At first we laughed about how could these go to press without being proof read? They aren't cheap to print  Then after a while, it became no longer funny, more sad than anything.  It just kind of rubbed me the wrong way I guess - eventually.  Just a little though - then again I make typos and errors when I type things out as well, including this post.

Thirdly, the game play.  I think this is what is killing the fun for me, and I don't think it's just one thing.  I have played a handful of LFR modules with the current DM of our encounters group and have enjoyed them, but something seems a bit off about this one.  Is it him or was it the tools he was given, I don't know.  My group, I have to admit I haven't played with anyone in my encounter group before, but there are some very experienced player and some beginners as well.  Something about the group seems forced, maybe it's the limited class choices, maybe it's the players, I don't know.  Perhaps it's the one encounter, and I'm spoiled be LFR, however I knew it was going to be one encounter and didn't miss a game for season 1 encounter play - Yet I had fun.  I'm also new to the Dark Sun world so perhaps I'm not adjusted to it yet.  The flow to the game seems a little rough as well.  Not sure why though, our DM keeps things going pretty good even in some pretty rough LFR mods.  Or is it how powerful some of the NPC & Monsters are, some of which can almost one shot a few party members.  However, I do like a good challenge, and starting my turn bloodied has happened quite a few times.  Anyway, I have yet to be KO'd on my battlemind, but next week our entire party is out of healing surges.  So I'm not sure how it's going to end.

Finally,  I play to have fun and for some reason I am not.  When last Wednesday rolled around I was like, "man, I have to go play encounters - bah."  When I got there I realized I don't have to play, and by the time we were done playing I just called it for myself.  Do I think Dark Sun is bad? no, I like the world, at least what I have read about it.  Do I think the DM or my group is bad? no, they've been pretty good.  Do I think D&D 4e is the devil? No, I love it and will continue to play it until 5e comes out.  Do I think this encounter season is bad? No, it's just not for me. 
. Now<--------------Very Soon--------Soon--------------->End of Time
Some comments, I've read the module involved and I got the chance to sit in on one of the encounters while I had a trip recently - the one described in this thread. Having read the module indicated to me it would be a merciless TPK and watching it in practice pretty much confirmed my suspicion.


I think the monster difficulty may be due to MM3 and may be an attempt to be "forward-thinking" with regards to the synergies PCs enjoy.

The Dust Devil is a monster from MM2 actually, they're just as ridiculous there. The problem is that the author or someone else put three of them into an encounter. That's just asking for a TPK. Monsters like that are great because you need one of them in the encounter for it to be effective. But if you go overboard then it's just too much, like the brutes in encounter 1. If you had one of them it would have been far better than if you had the numbers that were there.

The fact is this is the most sadistically designed level 1 module I've seen in a long time and gets to Irontooth levels of unfairness against the PCs. Especially when this brutality is combined with poorly designed pregenerated characters, it just exacerbates all the flaws with the design of these encounters. I do agree the DM should "pull punches" and similar, but at the same time I think it's easier to make an easy encounter harder than it is to pull back a TPK (which all of these are IMO) without the PCs noticing. It was pretty obvious to me, as I watched the DM pull back the dust devils from having 3/5 characters unconscious round one that he had underestimated what would happen. Given they basically get a surprise round for free (why?) and the PCs start in a penalty box formation (usually with the dwarf inside said penalty box as well - another flaw) it's just guaranteed to kill them.

Yes, I know the DM is supposed to read the module and then make sure things are fun. How many DMs are all very experienced? Shouldn't the point of DDE not just be to introduce new players but new DMs? If a new DM cannot run this module without slaughtering his party due to basic mistakes in the module itself with regards to severe scenarios against the PCs how does the game go anywhere? You need new DMs and new players. Wouldn't the logical thing to think is that "If I give this DDE a go with an official module I can get some experience DMing in a friendly environment". To me, where a new DM is almost certain to run it as written and 99% of the time TPK the party as a result that's not going to make that "friendly environment".

Perhaps I'm just naieve because I don't have the opportunity beyond taking a long trip to another city to participate directly in this series, but I am absolutely not surprised to read endless accounts of brutal non-fun TPKs. Personally I feel the DDE modules should be written to be "fool proof" and not require a massively experienced DM to avoid a TPK. A little on the easier side is okay, everyone can still have fun even if the game isn't going to potentially murder them every session and remember we're trying to appeal to new players. But basically requring GM experience (Or just a GM who isn't a sadist and enjoys TPKing his party anyway) is really poor design.

I really hope lessons are being learned here for Season 3 (which hopefully I will get to run!):

1) Reduce the sheer brutality of encounters - this is not fun and a lot of people I've spoken with (and what I saw for myself) won't be coming back for more.

2) No pregens. I know that Dark Sun required this as the rules aren't out yet, but I think Wizards jumped the gun here. Are people really wanting to play Dark Sun when their first impression of it is a merciless massacre week after week? I don't think so to be honest.

3) Write the modules so that they are moderately challenging and designed well enough that even a new DM can run them competently. That should be the aim of the writing of these modules - aim at new DMs and let an experienced DMs experience play into making them harder as required. Don't aim for the mountain in difficulty and hope your DM is experienced enough not to massacre everyone at the table. If you can't attract new DMs into DnD who are players going to play a game with?

After seeing it in practice and reading the module for myself, I really think this wasn't a good idea from Wizards for this season of encounters. I hope they learn and Season 3 is more fun, because I honestly believe they'll be turning more people off than they will be winning new players and DMs.
Six players again at The Rifleman, Charleston WV
Dawn of the Dwarf

I rewrote a lot of this encounter, with very good results. First, I nixed the map and used the one from week five instead. Second, I made Ralo the vehicle for finally explaining what was going on and made him a bit more useful than presented. I made him a Ley Wizard, having spent his life discovering and mastering the ley lines that criss crossed the table lands and using the power to perform amazing experiments, like the cactus bush he transformed into an Ambrosia Fruit tree. When the Magus and Dust Devil's attacked, I had him use his magic to project a part of himself into each of the heroes, resulting in each of them being able to use Dwarf racial abilities for the duration of the encounter, or at least until he was disabled. I also allowed the goblin and drake from the previous encounter to join as henchmen, though they didn't do much in the battle.

I wanted to give the players a bit of a break, so I didn't scale up for the sixth player or do a surprise round. Jarvix grabbed a MOG by nearly killing the Magus outright on his first turn. The group tried to protect Ralo, realizing what a valuable ally he would be, but he went down on round three, was healed, down again on four, healed again, and dead on five, only to be avenged on six. Very exciting.

My players were much more involved this week, they loved the RP and are now fully immersed in the story, now that they know more than "You are running from a silt storm that seems to be chasing you. Why? You have no idea.". Well, now they finally do and I think they appreciate it.

I've also stopped worrying about going too far off the reservation story wise. I now have read Chapter Two and if Chapter Three throws any curves at me, I feel confident in my abilities to roll with them and adapt.

My players thanked me for the first time after this one. It felt really good to be back on top of my game.

I'm one of those "new players" being introduced to D&D 4E by playing the Encounters. I did play some D&D back in high-school but thats been decades ago (AD&D). Truthfully it was the fun I recalled having back then that led me to the only store in my city that even carries D&D. I've been to every session so far, playing the Elven Ranger Castri (session 1 was my first game in over 20 years and the first thing the bad guys say is "Kill the Elf".. sigh). We have an experienced GM who has not killed us off and even given us some ritual components to transfer healing surges around but thus far if it had been my only D&D experience I would have dropped it.

The DM is doing a great job, he has all the DM gear one could ask for and I even "Ooooh'd" at the pretty mini's he had for dust devils, but its obvious he's had to adjust the encounters and the story thus far is not very engaging. I think that much is lost in a one encounter per week game and so I've been trying extensively to find a DM in my area for a regular game. No luck.. I've found 3 DMs.. all three have 6 or more players already in an extended campaign and one of them even if he had room is an hour away.

The point is I went into the Encounters experience excited and hoping to gain a fun hobby. I'm glad I went, but with a poorly designed story (so far all we are really doing after 4 weeks is running from the same storm we started with in week 1) overly difficult battles, and no where to funnel new players toward (no DM's no games) it seems a waste to me.

So here I sit in Yakima Wa. reading about Dnd.. studing the books.. reading other peoples campaign blogs , attending Encounters each week and listening to every podcast made in the last 2 years but I cant even really play the game. So to WoTC I say, hey! If you want to attract new players, you gotta find a way to let em play the real thing because Encounters wont keep them around long.
After session 4 my party has decided they don't want to continue playing Encounters after this week (session 5). 

However given all of the griping above, let me note that this decision is for positive reasons. My party no longer want to play in a campaign which has an "expiry" date, they want greater ownership of their characters and... well they want all the stuff you get in a real campaign.

This is a party which has been together since the second chapter of Halaster's Lost Apprentice and to be honest, they now feel quite constrained by the Encounters format (which is focused on bringing in new players and not on campaign/character development.)

So we'll be staying at the same store, playing on the same night, but running an ongoing campaign. Players will truly own their characters and I'll have the freedom that comes from not having to DM to a plot that I don't fully control.

From my perspective our leaving it is in no way an indictment of the Encounters program, rather it's a reflection of its success. As a DM I now have a stable and experienced party with a regular routine of turning up for gameplay. The players get to have a greater sense of ownership and ongoing character development. And the store owner has an extra pack to start a new group in Encounters if the demand arises. 

So all good IMO. 
When not wasting time on the WOTC forums, I waste time on my D&D 4E Campaign website.

So here I sit in Yakima Wa. reading about Dnd.. studing the books.. reading other peoples campaign blogs , attending Encounters each week and listening to every podcast made in the last 2 years but I cant even really play the game. So to WoTC I say, hey! If you want to attract new players, you gotta find a way to let em play the real thing because Encounters wont keep them around long.

have you tried Living Forgotten Realms?

It was worth a shot but no luck. I will try posting on the LFR forums. If there isnt one perhaps I can convince one of the DM's I know to start one.

It was worth a shot but no luck. I will try posting on the LFR forums. If there isn't one perhaps I can convince one of the DM's I know to start one.

You can find the new LFR Forums here. The forums do not really address finding a group. For that, Meetup or a local Yahoo group (search for Washington and RPGA or D&D, etc.) or putting a post on a local store's forums or announcement board can yield other players. The store may even help you put a periodic game together.

All of that said, DDE has been really good for us in our area. While DMs have certainly had to make a few changes, I would say our new DMs are having as much fun as our experienced ones and there has been a lot of story at all the tables. Some of it is about prep time - any adventure needs a little prep time by the DM where the DM works on how to convey what is given and makes it work. A prime example is a skill challenge - 5 minutes of prep time will make a world of difference when it comes to the difference between rolling dice and walking players through a scene you made up that explains the rolls (see my review of this week or last week for examples). While many LFR adventures do provide a little more around skill challenges, some do not.

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I played the first Encounters at Raven's Nest in Marietta Georgia and we had an experienced DM though he didn't have much prep time. The encounters were brutal but we made optimized characters and used good strategy so it was a breeze. Even though I have almost no experience as a DM I felt that our DM should get to play a season instead of running so I offered to run season 2. Since we were getting an average of 3-5 players a week it was no hardship. Then we got hit with the double whammy of summer vacation and a CNN article highlighting D&D Encounters. (That's my hand to the left in the picture and Karr Doth says he was misquoted) We went from having to struggle to meet the table minimum often nabbing a Magic player for the day to having 7-8 player including Larry and Topher. For season 2 we were pretty sure we could get 2 tables so our season 1 GM Mike would need to run after all. I still figured that since I was the only store regular I would run the other table. As I said I have almost no GM experience and that was in 3.5 so I had to ask what the monster info meant but it was easy enough to learn. I had also found this forum and read everything I can. Here goes the time-line.

Prepping for encounter 1-1 I was handed the adventure but not the character cards. Everyone is talking about how bad they are and I'm hoping WotC gets the corrected versions out because my players are already unhappy about being forced to play premades and giving them gimped error filled cards will be a nightmare. WotC comes forth and says "Remove the Mind Thrust mistake. That is all." Damn. Fine gimped cards it is. The first encounter seems kind of harsh to me but what do I know. Luckily the author chimes in a day or two before the encounters runs and I realize his intent wasn't the stand up fight I expected.
Running encounter 1-1 Usual attendance for D&D Encounters 3-5 players. Today's attendance 12 not counting me and Mike. Looks like Mike will be running after all.
encounter 1-1

Most of my players have very little gaming experience and none of them have more then a passing familiarity with 4.0. I read the players primer to Dark Sun while they choose characters then we begin. I explain that they need to gather supplies quickly and escape the storm. (I forget that the storm is dealing damage to them) Round 1 a brute crits one of the defenders and he goes down, Welcome to Dark Sun. The author mentioned punching the PCs in the jaw then backing off so I flat out cheat many rolls to keep the players alive. I also give them perception rolls to see the second wave. I think I softballed it too much because while they took a lot of damage they beat all but one of the enemy. At this point one of the Psions uses his telepathy ability to offer the Ssuren Castri and the remaining supplies if they let the other PCs escape. Since he was being grappled at the time this seems like a perfect offer to him. The PCs get away with a few supplies (Despite my stressing the need for supplies most of them rushed out of cart right away.) and Castri manages to outrun a group of angry lizardfolk. Mike did not softball it but he has several experienced 4.0 players so only 4 players died. They didn't get a warning about the second wave.

So my players are feeling good but are lightly wounded and low on supplies.

Encounter 1-2 doesn't have any major play notes by the author but I use them anyway. Also decide to use initiative cards to speed up the encounters.
encounter 1-2

Even more players this time. Other then map funkyness this one is pretty straightforward. I still softball it a fair amount because many of my players are still new to 4.0 and their characters. Everyone lives though common sense suggest that once a big bug grabs someone they return home with the food.

encounter 1-3

We enlist someone to run if necessary but attendance seems stable so it is unnecessary. Even I realize that the players are in a bad spot in this one and the author's comments regarding bribing the goblins with supplies so they let the PCs go and offering supplies in exchange for the magic items is pointless as the group has about 6 total days worth. I confab with Mike and the store owner and the consensus seems to be run it straight and let them die. A couple of regulars don't show up but we get some replacements which alleviates the supply problem a bit. The fight is as brutal as I expected but the players are learning and they went all spider monkey and pinned down the casters. No one died but they are low on surges.

encounter 1-4

Attendance has dropped sharply. We get 7 players total and instead of trying 2 tables of 3 and 4 players I decide to let Mike play and do a table of 8 half of them know what they are doing. I didn't add any enemies but for this one the gloves were off. No fudging rolls. I interpret the tactics to mean that the Dust Devils will go after Ralo and ignore the PCs unless the PCs interfere so no 9D6 to the whole group during the surprise round. Unsurprisingly the PCs did interfere and after a long drawn out battle where multiple death saves were rolled the PCs prevail.

encounter 1-5

By this point all of the new players have stopped coming. We still have a couple who are new to the store but they have been playing 4.0 awhile now. Mike gets to play again. and we get a table of 7. 2 of them playing different characters and treating them as brand new with full surges and HP. I had read the sidebar on adjusting difficulty but per it's wording that means adding a second Ankheg. 7 players all but one of which have now played a fair amount of 4.0 I ask if they want a real challenge. Majority says yes. So be it. They took out the Shaman first thing which blew the opposed check plan out of the water but 2 Ankheg meant they could only order 1 around. I dropped a hint that someone could try the second worm untrained like the slitherers were doing but no one got the hint. Much mutual grappling was done and there was only 1 fatality. Mike,

Final thoughts.
1. This was in no way shape or form friendly to new GMs. If I had not already been reading these forums I would have TPKd the party the first encounter and they would have no supplies. When I read the second chapter I cursed out loud. So complex.

2. There was a ridiculous amount of typos and flat out errors on the characters and in the adventure. Way more effort needs to go into play testing and proof reading. On a related note the nearly finished product should be given to the author before being finalized. WotC may have felt that changes needed to be made to Nicholas's adventure as written but he was one of the last to know what they were and if the WotC adventure editors and the writer had worked together instead of it being written then shipped things might have turned out better.

3. Week 1 we had 6-7 new players. By week 5 they all stopped coming. Some of this could be because I did not DM well but I'm pretty sure the encounters themselves are partly to blame.

4. Please. Go to the Charop forum and say "Hey who wants to sign a NDA and then read our next D&D encounters for typos?" Wade through the Me's and find one or two of the well respected ones. Have them send you input on any premades and the adventure itself. And the important last step, Listen to them.
This is part 1 of a 2 parter for I had to run both encounter for 1-4 and 1-5 tonight for I was 1 week behind.

I had a 5 player table.
Monk(penny arcade podcast character I swiped)

The players are down to 9 survival days from the last encounter and the group challenges.

spoilerey stuff

I ran the group challenge and it was high heat so everyone made it but the ardent. So therefore they had to suck up one more survival day to make up for the heat stroke she was suffering from.

I tell them they notice a figure in white that was travelling perpendicular to their route. The one player is trying to kill everything they come across for they need all the supplies they need. So he starts to rush to be within range to attack. The rest of the PC's dogpile on him so he won't start a situation where there is none.

The party then all starts to run towards Rolo all shouting for him to take cover from their mad party member. He hides behind the trees and doesn't come out until they can asurre him that he won't get attacked. SO that was a fun RP session.

It is that time that the Dust Devils launch and proceed to knock over 4 out of 5 players with the blow by. The tri-kreen takes on the Magnus and the rest of the PC's engadge the Devils. There were 3 natural 20's rolled by the PC's ,so the elf with his new acid axe made short work of the devils. The Tri-kreen pushed the magnus into the silt with his Bull Str power ,but took it as well as he got it from the posion attacks.

In the end of the fight the Elf was down to 0 healing surges, Tri-Kreen:5, Ardent: 4, Sorcercer:6 and Monk :5.

Rolo gives them the healing fruit and stonemeal biscut. The socercer gets the mystery of the alliance.

They part company ,Rolo wished them well on their travel.

Also forgot to say that 2 of my players attempted the reckless breakage rule. So the Tri-Kreen doesn't have his halbard ,but the Ardent still has her spear.
James Playing D&D since the Red Box of '83.
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