(DM only) Running Session 2

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So this is a thread to air concerns about running session 2, and also for me to give a few important caveats:

1) The dragon is a MAJOR threat:

If you ignore the text about having the dragon "throw the fight" and instead play it for all its worth, then unless your PCs are a really cohesive group, have saved dailies and action points, or get really lucky, it will probably massacre them. Don't make it too easy, though: you need to hit the right balance of threat vs. cakewalk.

Take it a little easy on your PCs. The dragon is really, really stupid, and doesn't make the best tactical decisions. You might have it focus its attacks on the last person who damaged it, regardless of marks/defender auras--what this means is it will always be attacking with a penalty and a defender will punish it often. Note what it says about failed attacks against the Lost Heir--that doesn't mean it doesn't attack him, quite the opposite. It means it should waste some of its attacks on the Heir. Also, pay particular attention to what it says about the breath weapon in the second normal text paragraph of page 16.


2) Weakening the encounter for a weak party:

The other encounters are easier to weaken, since they actually offer you a monster to take out. If you have a weak party, ease up the dragon by lowering its hit points by 15-25%. Alternatively, give them a guard NPC to help out.


3) Easy on the death:

If someone gets dead from this encounter, that character will have the death penalty for a LONG time. I recommend if things go really bad, you have the Lost Heir voluntarily "heal" them or pay for their resurrection (and have no death penalty).


4) Using Icingdeath:

If you have an Icingdeath mini (or maybe maxi is the right word, since it's a gargantuan white dragon), feel free to use it for dramatic impact. A few things to be aware of, however:

* Having a larger base potentially makes the dragon's instinctive rampage more deadly (it can catch more PCs), and you might have to improvise some rules for pushing victims of the rampage out from its space when it ends the movement. I recommend you use dumb tactics to limit the rampage to however many PCs a large version would have hit.

* Keep in mind that a creature that big can be difficult to move around and position.

* It should be easier to PCs to charge up to the gargantuan dragon than a large creature, since there will be more legal places to charge to.

* Layering a mark from the Heir and an additional -2 from some other effect (like a bladesinger power, for instance) can prove very effective for limiting the dragon's attacks. Keep in mind the Heir's mark only lasts the one turn, though, and doesn't otherwise tie in with some punishing-mark effect.


Other concerns?


Cheers
First, I just want to say how cool it is that the author of this seaon is taking time to interact with DMs and Players about the encounters. Thank you!

I'll be DMing this Wednesday and I have a question about Instinctive Rampage. The Dragon gets to move through enemies and use it's claw attack, but I'm unclear on if the enemies (players) get to then take opportunity attacks against the dragon if it moves past them. Based on the rules for an opportunity attack I would think they do, but does the ability itself negate that rule at all? Thanks again!
To clarify about the Instinctive Rampage power, because it's sometimes tricky for DMs who haven't used solos like this before:

The dragon rolls initiative as normal. When you put him in the list, however, add a *second* initiative count, which is his initiative result + 10, for "Instinctive Rampage." This is a little semi-turn where the dragon rampages across the field, hitting people as he moves. Basically, the dragon is going to act two times in each round. Daze does nothing to stop the rampage (it's a free action), but stun and dominate will both make the dragon not do it that round (though the effect goes away after stopping the rampage).

Nerfing the rampage power is actually a decent way to balance the creature for weaker parties, if you don't want to take one of my suggestions above. If you only have 3-4 players, you might either skip the instinctive rampage entirely, or make it a "recharge when first bloodied" power.

Cheers
First, I just want to say how cool it is that the author of this seaon is taking time to interact with DMs and Players about the encounters. Thank you!


I want to second that. The adventure for this season is the best one I've seen, and the level of support from Erik has been incredible. Wizards needs to take note; this is how to run the encounters program. The only thing I would change, and this in no way reflects on Erik, is to get the adventure into the hands of the DMs sooner. The more time we have to prepare, the better the experience will be for all players.

Thanks again Erik for all you're doing to support this season. 
- Rico
I love the fact that he (Erik) is initiating the dialog... the other seasons the writers took a more passive approach...


To the topic on hand...

You could always give the Dragon a -4 to the Rampage claw attacks and remember to move it through the Melee PCs and not the Ranged PCs...

Keeps the fight 'Heroic' and 'Cinematic', but greatly reduces the chance of a TPK.
@tedluck: Rampage does indeed provoke opp attacks, but note the dragon has resist 5 during the rampage.
Cheers
Options for making it a tad more difficult?

I'm reluctant to ask the party to tone down their damage, so I'm looking to make it a touch more difficult.

The big scary threat is actually a dwarven avenger with Dwarven Weapon Training and an Executioner Axe. Because of the house rules, it's legal (which I fully support) but his [W] damage is a minimum 1d10 + 4 and an additional 5 from wisdom. If you're aware of the avenger abilties, you could see why this is a dangerous threat.
@VileSin: add in 1-2 of those drakes from session 1 or up the dragon's damage by 4-5. You could also expand its crit range before bloodied 19-20 or it's breath weapon recharge (do 456).

Others?
I am somewhat torn between adding 1 drake and 1 maniac per extra player above 5 and just going for 6 maniacs per (that should equal out xp wise for a level 3 encounter). If I end up with a short table for some reason, I plan to make the dragon's breath not recharge.
I am somewhat torn between adding 1 drake and 1 maniac per extra player above 5 and just going for 6 maniacs per (that should equal out xp wise for a level 3 encounter).

These are good balancing techniques, though if you go for maniacs, try not to get them all killed by the dragon's breath or the Heir's aura. The dragon does not play well with others.

If I end up with a short table for some reason, I plan to make the dragon's breath not recharge.

You might make it recharge only the once, when the dragon is first bloodied. I think that's better balance, and probably more mechanical fun for you, the DM.

Cheers

As I said in a post on a different thread I've left my players at the end of the last session without the benefit of a Short Rest.  The plan is to have a bit of a skill challenge before hand to see just how well they can keep the dragon occupied while other members of the group try and catch there breath, heal up, and recover there Encounter Powers.  I posted the details on my blog.  I know a couple of the players I have do lurk on the forums.  I figured there was a slightly smaller chance of them seeing it there.

Randilin
betweentheticks.blogspot.com
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