Adjustments for 1-5 *DMs Only*

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Any ideas for 1-5?

Use the following as per normal, just remove the asterisks and change the title:

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spoiler text

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My take on 1-5
We playtested 1-5 for 5 players and it seemed to go pretty well as is. One significant deviation was that one of the players suggested using nature to make the ankheg our ally. DM let attempts be made and it worked. We melee/ranged the lizardfolk down and the ankheg helped a little before finally turning on us once the lizardfolk were gone. Once the lizardfolk are down, the ankheg is a much smaller threat.

Things I noticed:

The concept of black sand is great; this makes for additional setting and backstory, and maybe even some roleplaying. What I hate about it in 1-5 is that, at least in our playthough, it played 0% part with the tactics during the fight. We didn't have to go out of our way to avoid it at all, and that seems kind of silly; working as intended maybe, but I want those terrain features to play a larger part of the tactical fight if they are being included at all.

Two things I'm thinking about trying:

1. More black sand. Either make everything but the rocks black sand, or make a wide strip down the middle between the lizardfolk and the party. Maybe putting a concentration all in the center between the party and the lizardfolk with scattered black sand further out? I'm not 100% on what to do but the fight needs more black sand.

2. Ankheg soccer. This seems a little rediculous but I think it could be great fun. Give the lizardfolk a competitive nature check to Castri's and have them fight for control of the ankheg. Maybe toss another ankheg in there just for good measure. Or not. I'm still toying with the idea of it and haven't worked out the particulars (not even sure if I'll do it at all). It just seemed too easy once I (Castri) had passed enough checks to get the ankheg on our side full time (pretty sure that's not explicitly 4e, but it was fun nonetheless). The World Cup comes to the finale of DDE S2 Chapter 1.




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Good post Flintlocke. The opposed nature check to control the ankheg is already in the module if you check.  I'm with you on the need for more or better located black sand
Any ideas for 1-5?

Use the following as per normal, just remove the asterisks and change the title:

[*sblock=title]

spoiler text

[*/sblock]

My take on 1-5
We playtested 1-5 for 5 players and it seemed to go pretty well as is. One significant deviation was that one of the players suggested using nature to make the ankheg our ally. DM let attempts be made and it worked. We melee/ranged the lizardfolk down and the ankheg helped a little before finally turning on us once the lizardfolk were gone. Once the lizardfolk are down, the ankheg is a much smaller threat.

Things I noticed:

The concept of black sand is great; this makes for additional setting and backstory, and maybe even some roleplaying. What I hate about it in 1-5 is that, at least in our playthough, it played 0% part with the tactics during the fight. We didn't have to go out of our way to avoid it at all, and that seems kind of silly; working as intended maybe, but I want those terrain features to play a larger part of the tactical fight if they are being included at all.

Two things I'm thinking about trying:

1. More black sand. Either make everything but the rocks black sand, or make a wide strip down the middle between the lizardfolk and the party. Maybe putting a concentration all in the center between the party and the lizardfolk with scattered black sand further out? I'm not 100% on what to do but the fight needs more black sand.

2. Ankheg soccer. This seems a little rediculous but I think it could be great fun. Give the lizardfolk a competitive nature check to Castri's and have them fight for control of the ankheg. Maybe toss another ankheg in there just for good measure. Or not. I'm still toying with the idea of it and haven't worked out the particulars (not even sure if I'll do it at all). It just seemed too easy once I (Castri) had passed enough checks to get the ankheg on our side full time (pretty sure that's not explicitly 4e, but it was fun nonetheless). The World Cup comes to the finale of DDE S2 Chapter 1.







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Any ideas for 1-5?

My take on 1-5

2. Ankheg soccer. This seems a little rediculous but I think it could be great fun. Give the lizardfolk a competitive nature check to Castri's and have them fight for control of the ankheg. Maybe toss another ankheg in there just for good measure. Or not. I'm still toying with the idea of it and haven't worked out the particulars (not even sure if I'll do it at all). It just seemed too easy once I (Castri) had passed enough checks to get the ankheg on our side full time (pretty sure that's not explicitly 4e, but it was fun nonetheless). The World Cup comes to the finale of DDE S2 Chapter 1.




More on Encounter 1-5

The ssuran has +9 Nature vs. Castri's +8, so the bad guys actually have a slight upper hand. This can be mitigated by having a second character assist.

The black sand area is small because it is meant to be a safe zone for PCs to retreat to if things go badly. As written in the tactics section, the ssurans will not stand within or adjacent to the black sand area. The tradeoff for the PCs is that healing powers only heal 1/2 hit points while in black sand. It's a tactical decision point. Expanding its area too much may make things too difficult or easy for the PCs. Expanding it a little might be okay. The PCs should be aware of the black sand at the beginning of the encounter, and an easy Nature check (minor action) could determine its exact properties with respect to the tactical situation. 


 
So yeah...
if some of the particulars are already there, then that's less for me to mess with.

The thing about the black sand, and the writeup speaks to this, the lizardfolk will just go range on them. If players decide to do this during the first round, they'll face continued assault from lizardfolk who can keep this up for ~6 rounds with how much ammo they have, plus a hungry ankheg gnawing on them. That domination the Shaman can do could be devastating as well if it goes off early and saves late; his opening move can be a one step move then dominate around that corner.

By putting the players between the initial enemy and the black sand, unless the players fall back, no fighting really happens between party and lizardfolk; you'll never see the black sand mechanic in play here unless players fall back. Our party played it tactically but it's always a "move forward, put tanks on as many of them as possible, focus fire" in our sessions. Plus based on the description of the black sand, we had pretty much decided to stay as far away from there as possible.

Looking at the map right now, I think I might flip the pc start area and the black sand area; doing this the ankheg placement might need to adjusted too. This provides some tactical choices, do we cross the black sand or go around? Do we go to them, try to draw them to us, or run around the back of the rock and hide? Do we stay at ground level or do we climb up the rocks? I just think putting the black sand at the center of everything going on might spice up things a little.

The ankheg could surface just to the side of the black sand between the lizardfolk and the party and that moment could be the first nature rolls.

Edit: I'm picturing Yuka taking the last of the lizardfolk hostage with a grab and interrogating him by driving his head into the black sand when he won't answer questions. Who cares if they don't speak common and no one in the party speaks draconic? Sometimes the interrogation is about venting and with all the hassle the lizardfolk have been so far, the party might just let it happen. Better still, take all the ssurans alive and bury them up to their necks in the black sand; a shame I didn't think of when we playtested. :D
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I wouldn't change the blacksand area, the Idea is its a tactical retreat area.  If the PCs are doing bad goto the black sand maybe climb up the cliff to protect the backside.  Not everyone is going to do the same tactics we did.  When we played we had 5 PCs who knew what they were doing. But when we DM the new guys this could be a great retreat point.


My thoughts
—Guncici
Flintlook your evil.  Just thought you should know.

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I wouldn't change the blacksand area, the Idea is its a tactical retreat area.  If the PCs are doing bad goto the black sand maybe climb up the cliff to protect the backside.  Not everyone is going to do the same tactics we did.  When we played we had 5 PCs who knew what they were doing. But when we DM the new guys this could be a great retreat point.


My thoughts
—Guncici



Maybe then...
flip the deploy zone and the black sand area, but make the black sand area a little smaller so both ssuran and player can navigate it without stepping on it, but there might be positioning available to obligate either side to stand in it (consideration given that the lizardfolk grunts are not affected by forced movement). This spin on it might be overthinking it, but I just wonder how many parties are actually going to have extended standings on the black sand as is; I suppose we'll find out sundown Wednesday.

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So the XP does not add up right, do you guys think this was meant to be a lvl 2 or 3 encounter?  I think regardless of the fact that you can have the Ankheg fight with the party it is still a nasty beast to take out at the end, and if the lizardmen get control of him, it could be a very nasty fight.

So the XP does not add up right, do you guys think this was meant to be a lvl 2 or 3 encounter?



You might be right about the XP values, but this season of encounters has nothing to do with XP. It was written to ignore XP and auto-level at specific points along the way.

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I expect that he's more concerned about the encounter's internal balance, since that has been an ongoing issue with chapter 1.

Edit: At a quick look, the difference is half of the elite's XP value. I would surmise that this is because it's expected that it will spend some time fighting both sides (which will weaken it and the rest of the opposition).
[sblock= XP Value]

So the XP does not add up right, do you guys think this was meant to be a lvl 2 or 3 encounter?  I think regardless of the fact that you can have the Ankheg fight with the party it is still a nasty beast to take out at the end, and if the lizardmen get control of him, it could be a very nasty fight.

i made some modifications to the XP values based on the tactics of the encounter. And then i didn't bother to really track them closely because i knew they were auto-leveling. I wouldn't spend too much time analyzing the XP values of any of the encounters in this season.
I understand that XP values do not actually matter, but whether this is level 2 or 3 encounter is important to note when you have a party that is under 5 people or players choose not to use Castri.  In my opinion the XP values do matter greatly because they give us DMs a baseline on how difficult  the author expected this encounter to be.  I realize I have the power as DM to change things around and such but this is a unique case because these encounters are meant to include certain characters in regards to survival.

An Idea Then


If your intention was for this to be a Level 2 encounter with the Anhkeg bouncing between the two groups, then I think maybe the players could use an Intimidate check (only 1 assist) vs the Ssuran's Nature.  I view it as the players using the fear created to have the Anhkeg go after the  "weaker" prey.

I understand that XP values do not actually matter, but whether this is level 2 or 3 encounter is important to note when you have a party that is under 5 people or players choose not to use Castri.  In my opinion the XP values do matter greatly because they give us DMs a baseline on how difficult  the author expected this encounter to be.  I realize I have the power as DM to change things around and such but this is a unique case because these encounters are meant to include certain characters in regards to survival.

An Idea Then


If your intention was for this to be a Level 2 encounter with the Anhkeg bouncing between the two groups, then I think maybe the players could use an Intimidate check (only 1 assist) vs the Ssuran's Nature.  I view it as the players using the fear created to have the Anhkeg go after the  "weaker" prey.


Adjusting Encounter 1-5

Perfectly reasonable to allow another character to use an alternate trained skill so long as they justify it in some meaningful way.
 
I shared a few thoughts with the judges at our location. These may be of interest to judges.

Spoilers for 1-5:

Things to consider with 1-5:

- The skill challenge will be run one last time, and then concluded. They will either gain or lose a surge (or take dmg if out of surges) depending on whether they succeed or fail the skill challenge.

- For the environmental setback, treacherous terrain makes sense as they will move through boulder fields and rocky badlands when they approach the sheer cliff wall. Otherwise, use whatever environmental setback you have not used before.

- For the encounter, consider adding the description of the defiled area to the introductory description. Role-play the ssuran's reaction to this defiled area and note the tactics should the players stay inside - the ssuran do not enter that area! (Of course, the PCs will also get half-healing, so they may not want to stay in it).

- As with other encounters, it is easily lethal. Consider dropping the ssuran poisonscales one die from d10 to d8 and use the encounter power only when needed.

- The ankheg appears at the end of the first round. You do not have to give it an attack this round.
- Note that the ankheg is neutral. This is your great balance tool. You can have it go after a ssuran just as easily as a PC, though it plays best to start with the PCs. Encourage players to roll nature checks for knowledge (free action), with the minimum roll of 15 granting the name and also letting them know the ankheg is a wild animal and that they could try to encourage it to attack something else.
- Since it goes at the end of the round, in round 2 both sides can try to control it (one primary and up to two assists, vs. the one roll from the Ssuran Shaman). I would make these all minor actions for both sides. When the ankheg goes, it obeys the side that rolled highest. If one side succeeds for three rounds, they gain control from then out.
- Note that when one side wins, it then turns on the other side!

- Illumination is dim, so PCs will want to light a torch or similar. Otherwise, those without low-light are at -2 to attacks.

- The ankheg has a lot of HPs and can attack a grabbed creature twice - that is really the brutal part. You could make the minor action a recharge power if you want to be kinder. Consider using the Blast so it gets members of both sides... in fact, that could be a cool opening move to let everyone know it is neutral.

- The shaman is a strong controller. Note that the domination can only work once, but recharges if it hits. Dominating works poorly on a PC that has been having a tough time and works best on a PC that has been doing really well, giving others a chance to shine. Sun Curse is a strong power and might be best as 2d4 instead of 2d6.

- The map is fairly small. If you have the latest tile set you could consider making it larger. However, if run fairly it can work well in the current size (it allows the Ankheg an easier way to attack either side).


With regards to some of what is being discussed above:
Spoiler on terrain:

I think increasing the defiled area is fine. Because the tactics say the ssurans would not enter or be adjacent to it, however, it makes it a big deal to increase the size. To make it more present, I would instead have it be in a 2-square "border" around the large stone terrain where the cave is (the cave is presumably in the corner of the current defiled area).

By making it a 2-square border you create some nice dread about the cave, give a safe zone, but still encourage combat in the center of the playing field. This will give the Ankheg some better capabilities to switch sides.


Some additional ideas for the skill challenge:
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Ideas:
Start with giving PCs choice of ways to meander through rocky badlands. One has Spider or Sand Cactus, Nature+Perception to identify/spot. (Failure results in attack, success avoids the attack). Other has very difficult terrain, such as narrow stone bridge over deep gorge. Nature+Perception to assess the terrain's dangers. (Failure results in not seeing the delicate nature, PC almost falls through weak border.) 

Athletics or Endurance to bypass cactus or bypass difficult terrain. (Either the cacti or the narrow bridge). Can run past, can endure climb to secure rope for others to more easily get across, etc. RP based on what players want to do and their questions.

Then proceed to small clumps of bushes and cacti – Heal check (Nature can assist) to know that the cacti can treat sunburn while the bushes leaves will cut stomach. (If table is very weak, can use cacti to restore a healing surge or to act as a balm that provides resist 5 against first poison or acid attack.)

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As a follow-up, the above changes worked pretty well. I ended up being even more lenient on the skill challenge for a table that was really hurt and low on surges.

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