2 parties "wiped" on Steading of the Iron King S3 - too hard?

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Alright, I know I've seen the opposite concern ("too easy") in my searches, but I've not seen any discussion along the lines I'm looking at.

I'm screwing around with Gamma World, just "playtesting" through the Steading adventure for fun.  This means I'm "playing" each of the characters in the party, and really just trying to "beat" the combat encounters - simple, but a fun diversion for me.

Anyways, encounters 1 and 2 were... not so much "a breeze", but easy enough.  Encounter 1 is just not that difficult.  Encounter 2 saw the party dump two pretty potent Omega cards onto the Yexil, as well as keeping it blinded for most of the encounter.

But, when this first party reached Encounter 3, they wiped (TPK) - and hard.

This first party consisted of:
Isaguah, a Plant Hawkoid, with pretty good stats (lowest score was 11 Int).
Big Karl, a Mind Breaker Giant, who unfortunately had abysmal Constitution (6, so 18 hp - greaaat).
The Tims, a Mind Coercer Doppelganger, who was pretty average, and dominated S2 with a third arm and a pistol.
Urgrok, a Felinoid Yeti, and easily my favorite, even if he never did anything too impressive.

Now, right away, as I look back through it, it looks like SotIK is built for a party of 5 - whoops.  Oh well, they got through the first two.  It couldn't be that bad, right?

No.  Wrong.  Dead wrong.  And really, it just came down to one aspect of the encounter:
The fear wave power of the Badder Slave Drivers.

Yup.  Close blast 5, enemies only, vs. Will, with decent damage and - this is where it seems to go overboard - daze (save ends) as an effect.

The party just couldn't last against them, at all.  The game already seems to be plenty deadly, with the amount of damage that gets dished out - but then daze on effectAnd a room that deals 5 damage a turn (and heals the enemies)?  Even when the players discovered the machine's effect, it was already too late - the Slave Drivers popped their blasts, and really it was just a matter of mopping the remaining party members up.


But, hey, lethal encounter - I can dig that.  So, I roll up a second party of replacement characters (well, I had them already pre-rolled just in case... but I didn't expect to have to use them all at once).

New party:
Doctor Klein, a Plaguebearer Reanimated, tough as hell and pretty deadly.
Oswald the Slime, a Gelatinous Octopoid, which was less impressive than I expected (I did forget he started invisible, though).
Kat, a Precient Engineered Human, which was a neat character that I was eager to try out.
Firebug, an Arachnoid Pyrokinetic, but with a 6 Con, he was fragile as hell.

This one looked promising - Klein actually started with a mutation that let him push, slow, and give an automatic attack penalty (something about scent glands), which helped to make quick work of the initial badders.

But, as he lead the way into the machine room, it all went to hell.  The two slave drivers left him dazed, knocked him into negative hit points (with some help from the room), and dazed (and bloodied) a few other party members as well.  Firebug wound up killing himself with a failed Overcharge on the Empathic Healing power (machine finished him off).  Oswald triggered Klein's second wind for him, only for the two of them to get encircled, and Klein to fall to an opportunity attack when he tried to use his Move to get away from the machine.

At this point it's obvious that the thing needs to be destroyed - but there's no chance of that now.  Kat survives another fear wave onslaught (it recharged for one of the two slave drivers) with a lucky Alpha draw.  Oswald was wiped out by the same.  In the end, Kat "escaped" (ie - ran away), and oswald was left to (presumably) die.

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Alright, story-time over, here are my questions.

1. This adventure is built for a 5 player party then?  (Seems that it clearly is, now that I look.)
2. Has anyone else had trouble with the third encounter - especially compared to the first two?
3. I've been assuming that the players don't know the effects of the machine, until at least one of them goes within its range - should I be telling them somehow, and if so, how should I tell them its effects?
4. Badder Slave Drivers - what the hell were they thinking?
Feedback Disclaimer
Yes, I am expressing my opinions (even complaints - le gasp!) about the current iteration of the play-test that we actually have in front of us. No, I'm not going to wait for you to tell me when it's okay to start expressing my concerns (unless you are WotC). (And no, my comments on this forum are not of the same tone or quality as my actual survey feedback.)
A Psion for Next (Playable Draft) A Barbarian for Next (Brainstorming Still)
1.  Steading, Famine, and Legion are all designed for 5 players
2.  No,  this encounter was a cake walk for them.  Honsetly, not many encounters have been challenging for my players.  I've killed a few players here and there but have never came close to a TPK with the stock encounters from the books.  I'm going through Famine in Far-Go with 3 players right now and they are having almost no trouble with the stock (designed for 5 player) encounters.
3.  Any time the machine did something I described it as building up a charge which was visible and audible.  If the players were outside of the machines range I described the build up and how it affected the badders.
4.  My players quickly spread out so the blast effect was minimized.

@feetz_grande on Twitter

Well, the third party made it through pretty easily, and I think I can point to a few culprits I expect explain the differences.

1. The Seismic Yeti character pulled a mutation that let him gain resist 10 against an energy type for the encounter - he used it the first time he was hit by a Slaver psychic attack, and was promptly immune to the machine (and most of the Slaver's psychic damage) for the remainder of the encounter.

2. The Saurian (forgot his second half) character had the ability to move-and-attack using a single standard action.  Helpful, given the Daze condition.

3. Generally higher stats, all around (a few low Wisdoms, but it was always paired with a primary Charisma).  Slightly higher defenses.  Much more consistent hit points.

4. Luck.  Luck was on their side this time.  The Slavers had some really low rolls with their Psychic attacks.  The players who needed both of their actions saved vs. Daze at the first possible opportunity.

5. "Tactics" - well, mostly some better party synergy.  Seismic characters are beasts - that burst 1 at-will proning attack is really potent.  Resist 5 physical is nice, too.  Kat (the engineered human) hit with her Bold Attacks more often than not.  The whole party kind of got "locked down" in the entryway, as well, fighting the first two badders - that really saved their butts, since only the Seismic character (whose mutation quickly made him immune to physic damage) wound up anywhere near the machine.

- - - - -

I don't think I was ready for how much the alpha mutations and omega techs can completely swing encounters around.  Difficulty is a bit more erratic than I would have expected, because of that, and random stats (especially hit points).

4.  My players quickly spread out so the blast effect was minimized.


How?  My party was within one of the blasts by round 2 - a 5x5 blast is pretty huge in general, and especially huge given the space.  The only space to "spread out" is around the machine - but that brings other negative consequences (and leaves them particularly vulnerable if they get dazed).
Feedback Disclaimer
Yes, I am expressing my opinions (even complaints - le gasp!) about the current iteration of the play-test that we actually have in front of us. No, I'm not going to wait for you to tell me when it's okay to start expressing my concerns (unless you are WotC). (And no, my comments on this forum are not of the same tone or quality as my actual survey feedback.)
A Psion for Next (Playable Draft) A Barbarian for Next (Brainstorming Still)

How?  My party was within one of the blasts by round 2 - a 5x5 blast is pretty huge in general, and especially huge given the space.  The only space to "spread out" is around the machine - but that brings other negative consequences (and leaves them particularly vulnerable if they get dazed).



I never had more than 2 players in the blast.  I probably could have if I played the badders as brilliant tacticians.  There were a lot of other factors to this fight like you outlined with your party.  The blast was never a big threat to mine.




I don't think I was ready for how much the alpha mutations and omega techs can completely swing encounters around.  Difficulty is a bit more erratic than I would have expected, because of that, and random stats (especially hit points).



This has been my biggest problem with encounters.  My players have freakishly good luck with Omega Tech recharges and have an arsenal of tech.  I've actually cut back on the tech the adventures give out to slow down the power creep.

@feetz_grande on Twitter

My party of 4 characters went through pretty easy.  But a couple of things helped:


  1. Our Shapechanger Android pulled out his Rocket Blaster (can't remember the real name) and destroyed the two badders at the beginning of the adventure right away.

  2. Our Regenerative Sauron used his charge to take out one of the Slave Drivers, after the had expended his fear wave.

  3. Our Radioactive Plant was dazed a good part of the begining, so he ended up staying away from the machine while others took the initial brunt.  Then he was able to help slay the final slaver

  4. Our Fungus Hawkoid got killed,  but really wanted to roll another character, so nobody stopped to help him and let him fail his saving throws (which did take many rolls).

The machine was a bit of pain, but after a couple of rounds, the team learned to move in and out of the range.
But if you want to scale the adventure for 4 characters,  there are some guidelines at boldpueblo.com/dazed/2010/12/unofficial-...