D&D Encounters Field Reports (Week 12)

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Use this thread to discuss your experiences with week 12 (Encounter 3-2) of D&D Encounters Dark Sun. 

Please realise that both players and DMs read these threads, so do not put spoilers in your posts. If your post goes into enough details, then you absolutely must use spoilers. Enclose the spoilery bit in [*sblock=spoiler stuff][*/sblock]  (just remove the *) spoiler block tags so that players who haven't played yet don't have the surprise ruined for them. 

[*sblock=spoilerey stuff]



will produce

spoilerey stuff


once you remove the *.

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This week was a bit slower. We had one fewer table. I expect this is just summer variance, as players and DMs really enjoyed the previous week.

For 3-2, we made a few substitutions and house rulings. It was a fun and challenging session.

Spoilers for 3-2:

Our table was different in that they did such a good job with diplomacy the halflings that I had them get a mission from the Elder to take out some troublesome pests (this week's encounter) and then told them that their stuff had been gifted to another tribe. So, they took fought a different tribe and then came back.

As an intro to this session I had them walking through the dense jungle and adapted the boxed text that appears in the earlier part of the mod, stressing the idea that this area seemed strange. With skill rolls they could tell that there was somehow an intrusion of some sort, as if there was a dual-reality here. I never said "Feywild", disliking that concept for Dark Sun, but used terms like "a mist-world where nature is very strong".

Once in the encounter combat I rewarded the high rolls with a complete understanding of the fey ripple effect.

Swapping Monsters
In looking at the encounter, I really liked the idea of a solitary creature that came up to try to hunt a PC. But, the Fey Panther is all about charging, shifting back one, and then moving away and charging again. That doesn't seem like hunting. On the other hand, the Zairtail Bonebreaker is all about hunting.

As I mentioned in my planning thread, I swapped the Bonebreaker and the Fey Panther. I reskinned the Fey Panther using the complete stat block and calling it a Zairtail Charger. I reskinned the Bonebreaker as a fey cat and called it an Athasian Panther.

The Zairtail Charger was effective (Fey Panthers usually are), because they could constantly harass the PCs that were stuck near swarms or dazed. I usually hit, and then could shift away to easily repeat the process. Move, charge, and if you hit you shift one. This worked really well.

The Athasian Panther was very frightening and did its job well. I just had it come in as soon as some PC was a bit off to one side. I gave it the ability to ignore difficult terrain. The PCs were able to counter it, but it was a credible threat. I did get to hit and grab, and then the battlemind used Bull's Strength to push it and break the grab... except the ability to drag the creature with it foiled it awesomely (moment of greatness for the panther :-). I had trouble hitting with the Drag and many smart things were done by the PCs to foil the panther getting its meal, but to be honest that is just fine and as it should be. Another DM at another table did the same swap and said he had the same result.

Overall, I recommend the swap. If you want, you could action point just for a move so as to make it more intense, but just be sure you won't create a situation were everyone has bigger issues and they leave the lone PC to die! It worked fine as it was.

Fey Ripple
The encounter doesn't say where this is. I used a 3x3 zone (I have mini zone templates I made at low cost) and because of their good skill rolls they could sense it and also understood what it allowed them to do within it. I placed it near some foes, then rolled to move it 1d6 squares in a random direction, adjusting a bit for fun. If I could get a PC in it, for example, I would. The zone didn't see much use, but it was a nice element.

The combat was harder than I expected, partly because the PCs did not focus fire well. They took out one swarm earlier on, but then spread damage and bloodied everything. This led to a lot of damage on their end. The swarms were effective and the panthers as well.

I used the daze early and missed most PCs, so I used it again. This allowed me to move the swarm(s) where I wanted them and made it easier for foes to hit. But, it is also tough on players so I quit using it after a second use. This was a good call, I think.

The lone panther was a good variety to the combat and gave the combat multiple dimensions. I had the cat make some good choices, like having to decide if to keep going after its prey when the prey was next to a swarm. I also ran it independent. The swarm kept trying to get to where it was adjacent to as many non-zairtail as possible, including the panther. The panther took several blows from the swarm.

It was a fun session and I eagerly await the next. I have told the party to bring their "A game" and warned them not to spread out their damage.

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This was my second week playing D&D Encounters.  Last week, with the Halflings, I played the pre-gen character, Phye, and I really enjoyed how she worked.  This week, I re-tooled the concept for my own character and played a half-elf Ardent with many of the same abilities.  While last week’s encounter was an absolute synch, this week was tougher

Three of us made new characters between last week and this week, and little explanation was given for why we were all suddenly traveling together.  I suppose it wasn’t a big deal, but it would have been nice if the DM made a little effort, since we were all the same players.  In any event, battle started off with two big lizards and two swarms of smaller lizards.

Right off the bat, I suggested we try to concentrate our efforts on the more brutish looking big lizard, since I had a Battle Mind at-will power I could use once per encounter that gave penalties to an enemy’s attack based off of how many of us were adjacent to it.  Also, I knew the actual Battle Mind in the party had the same attack, and as many of us know, concentrating the party’s attacks on one enemy at a time is the most efficient way to go.

Well, my suggestion was all well and good, until the other big lizard looked at us funny and dazed everyone but myself and the Druid, and shortly thereafter, a giant fey kitty came bursting through the mists and toppled the Battle Mind over.  Ah, well; “The best laid plans of mice and men!”  Right then and there, it became obvious the enemies had divided us, and what followed was a long and painful struggle to simply not be conquered.

First off, I teleported and switched positions with the Battle Mind, so she was prone elsewhere, and I was standing next to the big cat.  I, then, threw as much of my augmentation as I could into an energizing strike and struck the darned feline for a hefty chunk of damage.  Also, I used the opportunity to heal myself back up from the previous damage done to me by the afore mentioned brutish lizard.

While the rest of the party tried in vain to save the poor psion’s unconscious body from being dragged off by the brutish lizard, the Fighter and I proceeded to take out the lizard with the gaze attack and, then, the kitty.  Somewhere along the line, one of the swarms was destroyed, but the brutish lizard still had firm hold of the Psion’s body, and it wasn’t letting go.  Meanwhile, the Fighter and I were on the exact opposite side of the forest clearing from the rest of the party, and my next turn, the swarm was going to rip me into unconsciousness.

Suddenly, the Warden killed the brutish lizard.  The rest of the party left the Psion to bleed out and used the fey ripple to teleport closer to the Fighter and me.  It became apparent that we had this fight in the bag, despite the high cost, as the last swarm had been bloodied by this point; however, as soon as my turn came around, I was going to drop.  And, that was when the DM looked at the clock, realized we had been playing for three hours, and decided he wanted to go home.

Game was called, we won the day, and I never died.  It was assumed, then, that we managed to save the psion, collect our treasure, and rest for a while to regain all our health.  All in all, it was a slightly frustrating session for both good and bad reasons, but I’d still call it a success.

This week was a bit slower. We had one fewer table. I expect this is just summer variance, as players and DMs really enjoyed the previous week.

Yeah, we are consolidating a couple tables due to drop off.  I have high hopes for season 3 to see a big surge back.  Just picked up a 4th DM so at a minimum we will run what we did last season.  I'd love to call WoTC and say we need additional kits, and I will be recruiting from the Red Box Gameday.

The scariest thing was the lizard with the vise jaws... I almost dragged someone off the map with him.  When that mayhem was happening the panther pounced on an unsuspecting spell caster who was standing at the back of the action.

The whole thing I ran as if it was Jurassic Park, that scene where the guy gets eaten by little spitting lizards.

Overall, a good encounter with terrain the bad guys could take advantage of. 
Just an OK week and an OK encounter. We have one new player at our table, and hopefully a couple more next week.

I just found out the FLGS owner hasn't been advertising the program at all. No wonder we haven't been replacing or gaining any players. Because we've been dropping players, we've also lost DMs. Season three will be starting everything from scratch again.

The table I ran was spread across the board by round two, allowing the bonebreaker to grab a fighter and drag him off into the woods. It didn't kill the fighter, but it was very close and he and the bard used up a lot of resources keeping him alive and killing the lizard.

The gazer (I called it googlyeyes) was a non-factor since the party was so split.

The swarms caused some pretty hefty damage to the two sorcerers who were left unprotected after the party split like that.

The panther came into play just as the party thought they were getting things under control. I ruled it could shift in the difficult terrain of the jungle to make it effective at all. I also had it run off instead of fighting to the death after they teamed up on it. I wish 4E had monster morale rules, even if they were optional. I often use the old basic D&D rules in my home games.
I ended up starting the PCs in the area marked. 

For the Ripple, I drew a diagonal line from the center of the cops of trees to the North East about 5 squares long. Anyone that was in one of the squares the line passed through, could use its effect.

I had no problem separating someone from the party. One of our players is playing a halfling sorcerer. He didn't want to take an automatic attack because of starting his turn next to a swarm, so he thought he would use his long range spells, so he singled himself out for the panther.
We seem to be bucking the trend in Nashville. We started with one table at six and one table at eight.  We now have two full tables at 8. Actually had 7 at my table.  4 Have been there since season 1, 2 have played most of this season, and one who it was his first time playing with us.

Here be Spoilers

   Last week our group had it rough, even given they had their armor and picked up weapons from downed halflings.  This week was rough on them too.
   I liked someone's suggestion and swapped the powers of the Bonebreakers and the Fey Panther.  7 players up against 2 Gazers, 2 Swarms, 2 Bonebreakers, and a lurking panther.  
  Turn 1 the swarms attack Yuka and Castri, moving into their square.  The Gazers dazed about half the party. Phye, a Goliath Barbarian, and a Human Fighter/Psion Hybrid start working on the bonebreakers.
  Turn 3 Castri goes down, and for the third game in a row rolls a 20 on his death save, only to promptly be eaten by the panther, who drags him into the woods, unconsious and bleeding.  Phye uses one of her powers to switch places with him, putting herself into the jaws of the beast. Now the party was split in two, half persuing Phye and the fay panther, and half dealing with a bonebreaker and gazer.
  In the end, Shikkir and Phye get moments of greatness, and Castri is down to one healing surge as we start week 3 of 5.
Good times.

Random story/mechanic idea for DMs who see their tables struggling:

spoiler for DMs:

Give them a perception check (or use passive, which is pretty decent). They hear something up ahead.

When they sneak up, it is two halflings excitedly talking about something they found. Most of it is a tribal language, but there is some plant name (jah-hadda flower, whatever) and they are very excited to have found it.

There are just two halflings, so they would flee if combat is initiated. If they flee, the PCs can make heal or nature checks to identify the flowers and how to use them. If the PCs use skills like Diplomacy or Intimidate, they can learn the information from them. DCs should be fairly low.

The flowers need to be crushed into a paste and the paste drunk with a bit of water. The result is whatever you think is appropriate (recharging a spent daily, gaining a spent surge, gaining some temp HPs, etc.).

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).

Our party of fearless adventurers took a beating!  Castri is down to ZERO healing surges and we have three sessions to go.  Full report in link.