1-2 Encounter is Boring And Needs Spicing Up

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I and three other DMs that are running D&D Encounters at our local gaming store met up and played through some of the chapter to test it out.  The first session encounter was fine, but the second encounter was soooo boring.  The terrain is bland and the enemies are bland as well.  The halfling thief adds a little bit of fun if played well, but everything else really needs improvement.  

I personally would love to hear everyones ideas about how to spice it up a bit. 

~Will 
I and three other DMs that are running D&D Encounters at our local gaming store met up and played through some of the chapter to test it out.  The first session encounter was fine, but the second encounter was soooo boring.  The terrain is bland and the enemies are bland as well.  The halfling thief adds a little bit of fun if played well, but everything else really needs improvement.  

I personally would love to hear everyones ideas about how to spice it up a bit. 

~Will 



spoilerey stuff


Hey Will,

How long did encounter 1 take to play?  I'm concerned because there are two roleplaying portions as well as one combat.  Between setup, roleplaying, and the combat, there is no way our group can finish in 2 hours when the store closes. 


We skipped the roleplay and just did the combat.  It'll take about an hour to do the combat with a regular group I would think as long as you keep track of time and keep a good momentum.  I wouldn't let story and RP go for more than twenty minutes to play it safe, but then after the combat you can let the RP fill in the rest of the time slot.  It really is a lot of material to cram into one session I think.  I'm going to have to really stay on top of it so we don't go over our time as well.
Hey Will,

Good point - encounter 2 is sort of... flat.  I mean literally.  A big open space with a couple of terrain features at the edge of the map.

In the spoilers section is what i would do to spice it up just a bit...

Let me know what you think! Thanks!

SPOILERS! Ch 1 Encounter 2 revisions

  • The materials say it's raining (in both session one and beyond) and the map even has pools of water.  Three ideas to make that relevant:
    1. Say it's really slippery everywhere - if you get a natural one on an attack roll you fall prone after the attack is resolved.     

    2. Make the pools challenging terrain - if you move over one, Acrobatics DC 12 or you fall prone, ending your move.

    3. The entire area is lightly obscured (non-adjacent creatures have concealment).  


  • Make the buildings interactable.  Right now there's no information about them.
    1. Of course, the buildings are generally blocking terrain.  A combatant can make a DC 19 Perception check to gain line of sight through two windows to fire a ranged or area attack through a building.

    2. make the buildings 4 squares tall - that's two stories plus a bit of an allowance for crawlspaces, etc.  Hopping into any window provides cover (but may lead to an encounter with an irate resident), as does going prone on the roof.

    3. Athletics DC 15 to climb.  With windows, awnings, etc, it's about as easy to climb up as a rope, but the rain makes it slippery so +5 DC.   


  • My personal favorite and most controversially perhaps, add civilians and make the enemies blend in with them.
    • When the PCs pop out of their meeting with Benwick, put them on the battlemap and then put down a boat load of tokens for civilians - maybe as many as 4 per PC, plus the enemies who are getting ready to attack the PCs. Each civilian is a lvl 1 minion noncombatant innocent.  DO NOT reveal which tokens represent enemies.  For now, they are blending into the crowd.  Strongly discourage PCs from dropping large area attacks on civilians, as they will most likely be killed and the PCs will have legal issues which will not be fun for them.  A minion can be targeted by effects which cause forced movement, charms, etc but again that's probably still a very bad idea for them.

    • When it's time to run the fight, tell the PCs that they sense someone means them harm ("you feel as though you're being watched"), but it's difficult to tell for sure with the rain and the crowd.

    • The PCs can try to spot the creatures meaning them harm, but it's more a reading of intent than merely seeing the attackers. A group Insight check against DC 8.  
      • If at least one is successful, they spot the halfling trying to not look as though he's watching them.   If they saw him earlier, they can recognize it's the same halfling.

      • For each successful PC thereafter, reveal one of the PCs' enemies within line of sight of the halfling (the little guy's sending discreet signals and the like).  

      • If all PCs are successful, reveal every enemy within line of sight to the halfling, and point out that some of those enemies appear to be signaling to others who are around the corners of particular buildings (the attackers who are not within line of sight to the halfling).  (Note: I don't have the adventure in front of me right now - sorry if in fact all the enemies are within line of sight to the halfling).

      • Make a note of which enemies were IDed and which were not.  Easiest way to do this is to just replace the appropriate civilian tokens with actual minis for the ID'ed enemies.


    • Running the actual fight:
      • A PC can enter the same square as a civilian, but is considered to be squeezing when they do so.  The civilians still take up some space, but they're not fighting so they don't take up a full square.

      • The first time an unidentified thug or goon (or whatever) makes an attack, give them a bluff check vs that PC's passive Insight.  If the attacker succeeds, the PC grants combat advantage to them for that attack.  Once an attacker reveals themselves, they can't reblend.

      • PCs can make a DC 12 Intimidate check (minor action) in close blast 3.  If successful, civilians in those squares flee (just remove them from the board, but describe them as running away).  Blending enemies in the blast do not flee, and are thus ID'ed as enemies.  For more ambiguity, you might consider rolling the d20 for the PC's check behind the screen so that the PC doesn't know if they were successful or not.

      • At Initiative count 0, all civilians within 2 squares of a PC or ID'ed enemy flee the scene.  No one wants to get caught in the brawl.






Hey Will,

Good point - encounter 2 is sort of... flat.  I mean literally.  A big open space with a couple of terrain features at the edge of the map.

In the spoilers section is what i would do to spice it up just a bit...

Let me know what you think! Thanks!

SPOILERS! Ch 1 Encounter 2 revisions

  • The materials say it's raining (in both session one and beyond) and the map even has pools of water.  Three ideas to make that relevant:
    1. Say it's really slippery everywhere - if you get a natural one on an attack roll you fall prone after the attack is resolved.     

    2. Make the pools challenging terrain - if you move over one, Acrobatics DC 12 or you fall prone, ending your move.

    3. The entire area is lightly obscured (non-adjacent creatures have concealment).  


  • Make the buildings interactable.  Right now there's no information about them.
    1. Of course, the buildings are generally blocking terrain.  A combatant can make a DC 19 Perception check to gain line of sight through two windows to fire a ranged or area attack through a building.

    2. make the buildings 4 squares tall - that's two stories plus a bit of an allowance for crawlspaces, etc.  Hopping into any window provides cover (but may lead to an encounter with an irate resident), as does going prone on the roof.

    3. Athletics DC 15 to climb.  With windows, awnings, etc, it's about as easy to climb up as a rope, but the rain makes it slippery so +5 DC.   


  • My personal favorite and most controversially perhaps, add civilians and make the enemies blend in with them.
    • When the PCs pop out of their meeting with Benwick, put them on the battlemap and then put down a boat load of tokens for civilians - maybe as many as 4 per PC, plus the enemies who are getting ready to attack the PCs. Each civilian is a lvl 1 minion noncombatant innocent.  DO NOT reveal which tokens represent enemies.  For now, they are blending into the crowd.  Strongly discourage PCs from dropping large area attacks on civilians, as they will most likely be killed and the PCs will have legal issues which will not be fun for them.  A minion can be targeted by effects which cause forced movement, charms, etc but again that's probably still a very bad idea for them.

    • When it's time to run the fight, tell the PCs that they sense someone means them harm ("you feel as though you're being watched"), but it's difficult to tell for sure with the rain and the crowd.

    • The PCs can try to spot the creatures meaning them harm, but it's more a reading of intent than merely seeing the attackers. A group Insight check against DC 8.  
      • If at least one is successful, they spot the halfling trying to not look as though he's watching them.   If they saw him earlier, they can recognize it's the same halfling.

      • For each successful PC thereafter, reveal one of the PCs' enemies within line of sight of the halfling (the little guy's sending discreet signals and the like).  

      • If all PCs are successful, reveal every enemy within line of sight to the halfling, and point out that some of those enemies appear to be signaling to others who are around the corners of particular buildings (the attackers who are not within line of sight to the halfling).  (Note: I don't have the adventure in front of me right now - sorry if in fact all the enemies are within line of sight to the halfling).

      • Make a note of which enemies were IDed and which were not.  Easiest way to do this is to just replace the appropriate civilian tokens with actual minis for the ID'ed enemies.


    • Running the actual fight:
      • A PC can enter the same square as a civilian, but is considered to be squeezing when they do so.  The civilians still take up some space, but they're not fighting so they don't take up a full square.

      • The first time an unidentified thug or goon (or whatever) makes an attack, give them a bluff check vs that PC's passive Insight.  If the attacker succeeds, the PC grants combat advantage to them for that attack.  Once an attacker reveals themselves, they can't reblend.

      • PCs can make a DC 12 Intimidate check (minor action) in close blast 3.  If successful, civilians in those squares flee (just remove them from the board, but describe them as running away).  Blending enemies in the blast do not flee, and are thus ID'ed as enemies.  For more ambiguity, you might consider rolling the d20 for the PC's check behind the screen so that the PC doesn't know if they were successful or not.

      • At Initiative count 0, all civilians within 2 squares of a PC or ID'ed enemy flee the scene.  No one wants to get caught in the brawl.









Really like the civilian idea...

SPOILERS!

...assuming the players make an effort not to intentionally cause collateral damage.  Knowing  my group they'll probably just use the poor civilians to try rationalizing the completion of their "Kill 3 minions with 1 attack" achievement that much sooner.  *sigh*


Really like the civilian idea...

SPOILERS!

...assuming the players make an effort not to intentionally cause collateral damage.  Knowing  my group they'll probably just use the poor civilians to try rationalizing the completion of their "Kill 3 minions with 1 attack" achievement that much sooner.  *sigh*




Well, point out to them that fireballing noncombatant civilians is the equivalent of fireballing a sack of rats. Except Lord Drysdale doesn't give a sack of rats about a sack of rats, and he does like building public support by arresting murderers.

Politically Ambitious Erathis-ites FTW! 
Oh, I understand and appreciate the sentiment.  I also know how devious my players can be... 

[sblock SPOILERS!]
I can already see the smug smile on one of their faces as they hand over their character sheet to me, grab the nearest pregen, and happily state "So worth it!" as they check off the achievement on their play tracker as I have their character escorted away by the local guard.

I also have visions of them panicing as the civilians start to scatter as the melee unfolds and shouting across the table to eachother, "Quick - the renown points are getting away!"

Tongue out
[/sblock]

My own group's shinanigans aside, I think your suggestions for the encounter are great and add quite a bit more variety.  I will most likely implement them.  Thanks aoirorentsu!
FWIW, if you read the original article about Restwell Keep (In Dungeon 176), they mention that all adventurers who are inside the keep would only be armed with daggers as the Keep's Watch will hold onto all weapons other than daggers.

That would also make for an interesting fight... Smile
FWIW, if you read the original article about Restwell Keep (In Dungeon 176), they mention that all adventurers who are inside the keep would only be armed with daggers as the Keep's Watch will hold onto all weapons other than daggers.

That would also make for an interesting fight... Smile



Thats certainly how I plan on doing it, it will spice Encounter 2 up a bit.  I just need to playtest encounter 3 and see if I need to find a way to get their weapons back by then. I guess mostly the Fighters, as the clerics can get maces from the humans.  
Don't forget they could always arm themselves with the weapons that the bandits drop...hell there shouldn't be anything unbalancing if the bandits are armed with similar weapons that the party uses.
Out of the pregens, its only a problem for Quinn and Eldeth, who will start 1-2 weaponless as written.  Minions would be dropping clubs pretty quick, just one or two uses of Beguiling Strands would do the trick, and then everyone can at least get a club. The mage has his staff and the thief his daggers.  
I think I'm going to run it as a skill challenge. That should reduce bystander casualties. Plus my table and I love skill challenges!
Out of the pregens, its only a problem for Quinn and Eldeth, who will start 1-2 weaponless as written.  Minions would be dropping clubs pretty quick, just one or two uses of Beguiling Strands would do the trick, and then everyone can at least get a club. The mage has his staff and the thief his daggers.  



Both the clerics use maces and javelins... which would also be confiscated.

That's 4 out of 6.

If this is what you're planning to do, I'd let everyone have a dagger (a belt knife is a common tool for everyone) so they're at least armed.

Otherwise, you might want to suggest to Merric that he quickly pass around some of his spare daggers to everyone. Everyone is proficient with daggers.
AlexandraErin: If last season was any indication, I think Encounters is pretty much the elemental opposite of "organized" play!
If you have a Thief...

How about Thievery to sneak in the party's weapons...
Rain Barrels sitting at the corners of the buildings (difficult terrain), or Easy Strength Check to knock them over.  Burst 3 - Level + 3 attack vs Reflex - Knocks the target prone.  You could also improv some other attacks for them as well, after the barrels have been knocked over.

Possibly do some areas of missing pavestones where the water puddles making difficult terrain...  Also any forced movement that ends there, the creature will slide 1 square in a random direction (d8).

Also maybe plan for a flash of lightning at the beginning of a specific round (1d4+1).  All creatures are blinded until the end of their next turn (can make a saving throw at the beginning of their turn to possibly shake it off). 

Always a GM, never a player (not really but sometimes feels like it).

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DungeonScape

Anybody planning on dropping hints about the next encounter, you know sometime in the middle of the fight the smell of smoke and black bits of ash are drifting in the wind.

Not enough for the PCs to located the source of it right away, just enough for them to start thinking "Ruh Row!"
Or you can use hazard from One night in Weeping Briar

spoiler


Puddles: The rain is driving and the cobblestone
square is uneven in many places. Any PC moving
through a square containing one of the puddles
depicted on the map passes through an area where the
footing is particularly treacherous. The PC must attempt
a DC 20 Acrobatics check. If the PC fails by 4 or less,
he/she slips, but remains standing, and grant combat
advantage until the end of their turn. If the PC fails by 5
or more, he/she falls prone in that square and loses the
rest of his/her move action.




Show
I replaced two of the goons with Human Bandit Archers (level 2 Minion Artillery) and placed them behind partial cover of the chimney and window arch of building 2.  Also, because of the rain I'm planning on giving the players the option to treat the cobblestone (normal) as difficult terrain or make a DC 10 acrobatics check to move normally with the puddles being DC 15.  I've also changed it so that a light fog rolls in as the rain begins to die down and the PCs leave Benwick's offering everyone (PCs and NPCs alike) partial concealment.
Out of the pregens, its only a problem for Quinn and Eldeth, who will start 1-2 weaponless as written.  Minions would be dropping clubs pretty quick, just one or two uses of Beguiling Strands would do the trick, and then everyone can at least get a club. The mage has his staff and the thief his daggers.  



Why would they be weaponless?

Vampire Class/Feat in 2013!

I prefer Next because 4E players and CharOpers can't find their ass without a grid and a power called "Find Ass."

I and three other DMs that are running D&D Encounters at our local gaming store met up and played through some of the chapter to test it out.  The first session encounter was fine, but the second encounter was soooo boring.  The terrain is bland and the enemies are bland as well.  The halfling thief adds a little bit of fun if played well, but everything else really needs improvement.  

I personally would love to hear everyones ideas about how to spice it up a bit. 

~Will 

I decided on the following to make things interesting:

Show
I made the PC's surrender any weapon larger than a dagger when they arrived back at Restwell Keep.  There were sudden looks of horror on the faces of the players but the guard explained that there had been a number of fights lately and that Lord Drysdale had enough of it.  While it did tend to drag the fight out a little (I would guess one extra round), the players had fun with improvising a bit, either grabbing terrain bits or the fallen enemy's billy club.

Not only did this provide a bit more role play at the start of the session, as well as re-enforce the feeling that Drysdale was being overly oppressive in his management style of the keep, but it made the fight more interesting too.
 
Out of the pregens, its only a problem for Quinn and Eldeth, who will start 1-2 weaponless as written.  Minions would be dropping clubs pretty quick, just one or two uses of Beguiling Strands would do the trick, and then everyone can at least get a club. The mage has his staff and the thief his daggers.  



Why would they be weaponless?



I can't recall where I read it, if it's in the adventure or the Dungeon article, but somewhere states that weapons aren't permitted inside the keep.
Out of the pregens, its only a problem for Quinn and Eldeth, who will start 1-2 weaponless as written.  Minions would be dropping clubs pretty quick, just one or two uses of Beguiling Strands would do the trick, and then everyone can at least get a club. The mage has his staff and the thief his daggers.  



Why would they be weaponless?



I can't recall where I read it, if it's in the adventure or the Dungeon article, but somewhere states that weapons aren't permitted inside the keep.

The would be in

spoiler


p47: THE KEEP ON THE CHAOS SCAR  -- Dungeon 176

Ahh, see, I wasn't crazy!  Thanks for that, I recalled reading it, just not where.  I had this sudden horrible feeling that I made the players go through something I had read in a novel or something.
I was thinking a bit about this last night, but I think...

Show
Sal is going to have the players weapons, somehow obtained from the bailey, as a further trust building exercise.
 
I was thinking a bit about this last night, but I think...

Show
Sal is going to have the players weapons, somehow obtained from the bailey, as a further trust building exercise.
 



We were thinking along the same lines. :D  Just remember though, this would also mean that the PC's would be breaking the laws of the keep (having their weapons, and obtaining the weapons through blantantly illegal means.)

My party has a still alive halfling prisoner, and I was thinking he might try to buy them off with a weapon cache that he knows about in exchange for his freedom to leave the Keep.
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