We had two rather crowded tables this week. I'm not sure how the other table did, but we had no trouble with the encounter. [spoiler]The overlevelled tentacle minions (a cool way to represent an utterly level-inapropriate kraken, I thought) were hard to hit vs AC or REF but easy enough to hit vs FORT, once the sorcerer figured that out, she started taking them out one at a time instead of trying to use burning spray. Magic Missle also proved very handy that way, but it was Bladespells that took out most of the minions. Our DM was nice and let a character grabbed by a non-adjacent tentacle attack the tentacle in melee (it is wrapped around you, of course you can hit it). The Slimes were nasty, but none engulfed a character for more than a round, and most of us were pretty good about not attacking until the engulfed character escaped (the sorcerer used a daily to finish off the last slime while it was still engulfing the paladin - it was funny, because if she'd done 4 more points of damage, the pally would've gotten the 'take 50 damage' renown). No one actually dropped, though some got close. The Bladesinger got to show off in this fight. Once the slimes showed up, giving him 'soft targets' (pi) with actual hps, he popped Blade Song and whailed on them - using a free action attack from the warlord on one turn, and an action point on the other. That's 4 tentacles popped by bladespells, one slime killed outright, and another taken from unbloodied to single-digit hps, in just two rounds, by one PC - assists from the Warlord readying to grant that extra attack on the Bladesinger's turn (so the bladespell would work), and the Pally for dazing the second slime.We finished off the second slime and piled on the third, after bladespells took out the last two tentacles, and the fight was over. We were surprised to find that the Sons were having second thoughts about the Heir, who has aparently been getting less rational, lately. (That's a strike against my theory about Seldra, who seemed perfectly rational, if distracted, the day before.) Again, we weren't as tight-lipped about knowing about the recent history of the crown as might have been prudent, and we shared the incident with the Thayan trying to do something to it in the cemetary - complicated by the fact we had a mix of players from different game day tables with slightly different stories. We hit upon the theory that the crown had been cursed by the Thayan, and was in turn messing with the Heir's mind. The Sons confirmed they'd never seen the Heir's face, and were given no evidence of his legitimacy beyond the crown. He's got some 'splain'n to do when we see him next chapter...
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We DM Rico, DM William, and I all have fairly stable players.
This session was by far my most successful in terms of presenting a real challenge to the players. And actually, I didn’t play it as tough as I could have. If I had, I could easily have killed the entire party. I had 6 players at my table.
The first player decided to try to intimidate the Dead Rat, and said, “You’d better tell us everything we want to know if you want to live,” and rolled a 20, which gave him a score of 32 I think. So I played the Dead Rat as begging for his life saying, “Please don’t hurt me. I’ll tell you anything. What do you want to know?” The next player asked him what the deal was with the lever and flooding the chamber. So I explained that when Rolsk set up the lair in the sewers, he had an engineer build in a mechanism for flooding sections of the lair in case they came under attack. Then they asked him about the alliance with the Sons of Alogandar, and where their headquarters were. So I gave them the information from the module. After that, no one else had any questions for him, and when I got to the last player, (playing a Bregan D’Aerth Spy) he decided to just kill him anyway, and shot an arrow at him. It did minor damage, so I had the Dead Rat double run to get away. The player proceeded to chase after him, shot another arrow at him and killed him. So much for gaining information.
The rest of the party moved down the corridor to around the first bend, where they spotted the corpses. I described them as long dead. The players asked if they could tell how they died, did it look like the Dead Rats or the Sons of Alogandar had killed them. I told them that from what you could see of what was left of them, it looked more like they’d just dissolved. One of the players (the same one who killed the Dead Rat) went over and checked out the corpses, where he found an amulet. That prompted a player to make a history check. That, coupled with having two Bregan D’Aerth Spies in the party, gave them all the information about the Kraken Society. He showed it to the party’s wizard, who did an Arcana check on it. There wasn’t anything in the module about it being magical, but I figured that made the most sense. So I told him, “Yes. It glows faintly with some low level magic. As best you can tell, it somehow allows the wearer to control the Kraken. The PC who found it decided to wear it. Then I told the wizard that out of the corner of his eye he notices something else glowing a few feet away on the ground. It’s another amulet sitting in a puddle of green slime. PC says, “Cool! I go pick it up.” Guess who got attacked by a slime. At that point I started the combat. The tentacles, with their high defenses were already a pretty tough opponent, but I also played them as 2-hit minions, which added to their threat. Because the first hit bloodies a 2-hit minion and the second kills it, the players had no idea how much damage they needed to do, which was great. Sometimes they’d do 18 points of damage on the 1st hit and I’d mark it as bloodied. Another time they’d do 4 points and I’d mark it as bloodied. On top of that, since the tentacles only had a move of 1, occasionally there would be no PCs in reach. So I would have a tentacle withdraw for a round and the reappear somewhere else the next round. This kept the players guessing for the entire encounter. I decided that only one tentacle at a time would grab a PC. However, there was nothing in the text indicating that this should be so, so if you wanted to have more than one tentacle grab a PC you could do some serious damage. (After this season is over, I may be running this adventure for a home group. If/when I do, I’ll have 7 PCs, so I will probably do that.)
The slimes were great. The ongoing damage (especially the 10) was really killer. Again, I didn’t play them as tough as I could have. Instead of having the slime slam a player first and then engulfing him on the next round, I did one or the other. So the PCs only had to deal with one instance of ongoing damage. And splitting the damage done to the slime between it and the player it engulfed was brutal. At one point I had one PC one point away from his negative bloodied value, and taking 10 ongoing. He would have been dead at the beginning of the next round, but I decided to be merciful and had the slime move off of him and onto another PC. Oddly, everyone tried to attack the slimes, but no one (until I prompted them) even thought about simply trying to pull an engulfed PC away from the slime (I had the one PC who tried to do that take 2 points of acid damage since it made sense).
As it was, I had three out of six down and dying (and at least one more bloodied). One had failed two death saving throws. One had failed one. And the third got out of having to make a death saving throw because I ended the combat before he did. By the end, just before I had the Sons of Alogandar show up to rescue the party, one of the PCs was trying to get everyone just to run away. And he wanted to head back to the sewer pipe area where they came in instead of going forward, because he was afraid the kraken would keep attacking if they went further into the lair. And when the Sons finally did show up, I put a bunch of minis on the map and the players thought they were about to get slaughtered. So there was palpable relief on their faces when they helped them instead.
Once they got to the Sons’ lair, they did a little better questioning Arlon Bladeshaper. I really enjoyed this week, and I'm really enjoying this whole season, but I do have one minor complaint. Too often there isn’t a complete description of the area. Things like how high the ceiling is, is important. Why? Because when you have a Braegen d’Aerth spy in the party, who has the ability to fly “4 squares vertically and 1 square horizontally” he needs to know if he can fly above and over the tentacles. If you put the PCs in a sewer with running water, how fast is the water moving (that question came up in both sewer encounters)? In session 4 (the attack on the gate) there are areas on the map, up against the wall that look like they might be buildings, but no information is given about them. My PCs wanted to know what they were and if they could go in/through them to get to the bandits on the wall. Why are these things left to the DM to try to figure out? If you’ve got an experienced DM who’s good at improvising that may be fine. But one of the things WOTC touts about the Encounters program is that the DM doesn’t have to have a lot of experience. All he has to do is spend a few minutes reading through the encounter, and he’ll be ready to run it. So, give us more complete descriptions of the areas. If something appears on the map, tell us what it is. In this week’s encounter, what if a PC goes (jumps, falls, etc.) down the crevasse? There’s a kraken down there, right? How about giving us stats and some clue about how to handle that?
Myperspective. Does that answer the question?
2. How do you pick and choose details to include? Noteverything is relevant to every game. You brought up the drow levitating, butnot every game will have one of those. The ceiling height is completelyirrelevant to some games. I could include things like wind speed and direction,ambient temperature, what every building is on the map, what they're selling,what the specials at the tavern are, etc., etc., but eventually you run intotwo problems, 1) data overload (see #3) and the DM feeling disempowered. If theDM isn't able to be creative, 3. Too much detail is just confusing: It's easy tolose track of important details in and amongst the little things. Say you'rerunning an encounter with a running river, and you, the DM, want to figure outhow fast the river is moving and what DC check the hero needs to make to swimin it, climb out of it, etc. You look at the Environmental Features section, where you get wind speed anddirection, ambient temperature, the name of the tavern on the map that the PCscan't easily access, the NPCs in the tavern and their names and motivations,the specials at the tavern, the rules for chairs and tables at the tavern, therules for egress through the windows, etc., etc. You finally find the section marked River, but it's its own paragraph withwhere it comes from, where it's going, how high it is at what times of day, howmuch distance is between the docks and the water, how deep the river is, howfast it's going, the temperature of the water, boats in the river, trade usingwaterways, swimming in the river, etc., etc.The data you're looking for is there somewhere, but you have to put the game onpause while you hunt for it.
In Conclusion: There's a balance to be struckhere. When determining what detail to include, the best and only thing adesigner can do is think about what questions are likely to come up (beingdunked in the river is a good possibility) and provide rules for that. Adesigner also doesn't have the time or energy to craft every minute detail of ascene, and it's better to move on to the action.
Heh. You don't have to be NEARLY that polite when you disagree with me. Though I do appreciate it.
We have an optional renown reward called Moment of Mercy-- when they do things that support heroic goals, protecting the innocent, etc, they can earn an extra renown point, once per chapter.