Session 2 Field Report: Echo Cave

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I had a full table last night at FCB Games, with two new players... two boys, aged 6 and 7 (I believe). They already knew how to play the game, the older brother stating that he was best at playing strikers and controllers. We ended up with two thieves, a hunter, a ranger, a mage, a wizard, and two knights.

It was a rough fight without a healer in the group.

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I decided before the session that I was only going to bring the Ochre Jelly in to the encounter if the group was making short-work of the Echo Spirit. Such was not the case, though.

Given the flavor text, I decided that The Echo Spirit went first, but there wasn't a surprise round (due to high perceptions). It moved up to the group, summoned three Spirit Echoes, then hit three characters with Echo Barrage, sliding each of them so that they were adjacent to one of the Echoes it generated.

The party whittled down the minions, while the two knights flanked the big guy. When the second knight hit it for a lot of damage, it retaliated with Psychic Reverberation, scoring a crit on him, sliding him two and knocking him prone, and then vanishing. The Ranger realized that it was still there, but just invisible, and shot it, immobilizing it. With its plans thwarted by that, on its turn it generated three more echoes (one adjacent to tree enemies: the ranger and both wizards) and did touch of fear on the first knight, who was still adjacent to it, and I scored another crit!

They worked through the minions and kept chipping away at the Echo Spirit until it was bloodied, at which point it triggered Psychic Reverberation again. It kept several of the players locked down with the minions, but the group discovered early on that the echoes had no means to attack them directly. So, once they weren't afraid of opportunity attacks, the board opened up for them again.

I ended up dropping one of the thieves, and all but two of the rest of the group was bloodied by the end, so it was a good thing that I didn't bring the Ochre Jelly in. It would probably have turned into a TPK!
We had 5 players at our table and we all were killed, yes, killed, except one lucky player that fled the cave to save herself. This session seems to be way overpowered for level 1.
My 5:30 table was a very tough fight. One of the PCs went down the tunnel and fought one monster by himself, while the rest of us focused on the one with "friends." Nobody died, but it was a tough encounter, and the DM pulled punches with the friends. One PC was hit for a total of 49 points of damage through the fight.

My 7:30 table was close to a TPK, and instead we all fled before really fighting the monster down the tunnel.  In fact, what I found most amazing about this encounter for my table was the fact that the whole party made sure everyone made it out alive. At one point, we had exactly one PC still "up." Fortunately, that was the shaman, who used his actions to trigger a second wind and pull out a healing potion and drop it before moving to the next person to try and save. My character ended the encounter with 1 hit point (my characters  in both time slots are bladesingers with 30 hit points-- the earlier PC was only hit once, by the aura, for 3 points of damage). At this table, the stacking aura damage is what did us in-- our defender was taking 9 hp of auto-damage every round and just couldn't stay up with that kind of output.

Without a lot of DM modifications, this combat was OP for level 1 adventurers. On the other hand, last season's second encounter was a dragon, which was ALSO close to over-powered for level 1 adventurers. Last season, I ended sessoin 2 with 1 hit point (for both of my PCs). So *if* the next 2 encounters are kind of soft, then I think this was fair. But since we're at the end of encounter 2 and are only halfway through our XP budget (assuming that level progression is similar to last season, where we can expect to level after each chapter), then we have at least one more abusive encounter ahead.
This session seems to be way overpowered for level 1.



Absolutely! Even with the minions there was apparently no way to get out of their aura to avoid taking damage. I started my turn next to one so I took damage. I shifted one away to get out of its aura and as a reaction it pulled me back next to it and I immediately took damage again. The only choice was to stand there and take the damage, and try to attack them and hope you don't miss. That may be fine for a defender, but for a ranged controller that's brutal.
- Rico
Except they didn't have any melee attacks or any sort of oppritunity action to make against attacks or movement made against them, which you guys eventually found out. and if you move full speed they can only pull you 1 square, which doesnt put you back in their aura.
81259321 wrote:
My new rule for people who are obtuse is to just assume they're purposefully trolling. It makes me less sad for humanity that way.
The Fabulous Fairy Friends Forever also had a lot of trouble with this encounter.



Our team is not really built for combat & were loosing badly when the Ochre Jelly appeared--BRUTAL.

Cannot wait to see what next encounter brings!


Copyright does not protect the idea for a game

Except they didn't have any melee attacks or any sort of oppritunity action to make against attacks or movement made against them, which you guys eventually found out. and if you move full speed they can only pull you 1 square, which doesnt put you back in their aura.


Not a good way to find out. Normally, when an opponent is next to you, you shift in order to avoid an opportunity attack. The only way you would really find out that they don't have an opportunity attack is by accident. And by then it's often too late. PCs with lower defenses and fewer hit points would take a lot of damage before stumbling upon that bit of information, and you might actually get dropped before you find out.
- Rico
Well the rest of the season I'll remember to let you guys use arcana/dungeoneering/nature/religion checks on the monsters.*

*corrected statement
81259321 wrote:
My new rule for people who are obtuse is to just assume they're purposefully trolling. It makes me less sad for humanity that way.
I had a better week this week than last and so did the players.  No mis-interpreting the module text.

The players had a tough time of it but made it through without losing anyone.  4 out of 6 were down for some part of the encounter but there was enough healing to get them back up or stabilize them until the encounter ended.

We had 6 players at the table but about half were inexperienced, so I didn't run the encounter in a way to make it as lethal as it might have been.  The placement of the minions was not always optimal and I used touch of fear as often as I used echo barrage.

The fact that no-one in the party could deal any radiant or force damage made things a lot harder.  The minions were created 4 times and although they were dealt with easily each time, they still inflicted a fair amount of damage.

I think this was a little tougher than the encounter level would suggest but not outrageously so.   The party's resources are depleted, so the next encounter may be a difficult one.
My table wasn't too bad. Two of my players didn't get to act during initiative, and our only leader acted leagues before anyone, and put himself out in the open.

The Echo Spirit opened with minions, so everyone started their full turn in an aura pretty much. Leader opens with radiant damage, which is what made the entire encounter for them. It would have been rough without that opener from my players. He also immobilized the Echo Spirit as well.

The leader of the party was also the leader of the players, so he had everyone focus-fire the spirit. None of remembered that the spirit was immobilized until he touched the leader, forced him away and then came in to barrage everyone. That immobilization saved almost the entire party.

The jelly was just a peripheral threat, and was pretty much held off as everyone either made their checks (even the DC20 to dispell the minions didn't seem like an obstacle to my PCs) to pop the minions and move in to focus fire the Echo Spirit. After the Spirit cleared the party with Barrage and moved out of the corner and on to the other side of the map (to get away from the berserker and his aura), it was cleanup.

(An aside: I ~like~ dispell effects. I ~like~ seeing alternatives to just using your power cards, and all sorts of creativity. But 3 different skills for dispelling the minion? That seemed less like an alternative to combat and more like a "gimmie." 2 skills, with 2 action/DC options seemed like it should have been enough. Anyone else have an opinion?)

Rogue popped him off with tactical trick, and everyone pinned the jelly in a corner because it was dumb enough to keep going after the only bloodied thing near it (our leader).

It was an interesting encounter, and everyone seemed challenged and pleased about the experience. I don't know if that's a "this wasn't as cheap as last week, where everyone spent the combat grabbed and immobilized" or a "that was tough, but I had fun" encounter. In the end, everyone walked away pretty content, was my impression.

58286228 wrote:
As a DM, I find it easier to just punish the players no matter what they pick, as I assume they will pick stuff that is broken. I mean, fight after fight they kill all the monsters without getting killed themselves! What sort of a game is this, anyway?

 

An insightful observation about the nature of 4e, and why it hasn't succeeded as well as other editions. (from the DDN General Discussions, 2014-05-07)

Rundell wrote:

   

Emerikol wrote:

       

Foxface wrote:

        4e was the "modern" D&D, right?  The one that had design notes that drew from more modern games, and generally appealed to those who preferred the design priorities of modern games.  I'm only speculating, but I'd hazard a guess that those same 4e players are the ones running the wide gamut of other games at Origins.

       
        D&D 4e players are pretty much by definition the players who didn't mind, and often embraced, D&D being "different".  That willingness to embrace the different might also mean they are less attached to 4e itself, and are willing to go elsewhere.

    This is a brilliant insight.  I was thinking along those lines myself.  

 

    There are so many tiny indie games that if you added them all together they would definitely rival Pathfinder.   If there were a dominant game for those people it would do better but there is no dominant game.  Until 4e, the indie people were ignored by the makers of D&D.

 

Yep. 4E was embraced by the 'system matters' crowd who love analyzing and innovating systems. That crowd had turned its back on D&D as a clunky anachronism. But with 4E, their design values were embraced and validated. 4E was D&D for system-wonks. And with support for 4E pulled, the system-wonks have moved on to other systems. The tropes and traditions of D&D never had much appeal for them anyway. Now there are other systems to learn and study. It's like boardgamegeeks - always a new system on the horizon. Why play an ancient games that's seven years old?

 

Of course, not all people who play and enjoy 4E fit that mould. I'm running a 4E campaign right now, and my long-time D&D players are enjoying it fine. But with the system-wonks decamping, the 4E players-base lost the wind in its sails.

I'm sorry so many tables had trouble with this one. I can't speak to the combat encounter that you experienced in the session, but I'll say a few words about the initial work that inspired it. 

In the original draft the echoes were created by the party, given life and a fey semi-consciousness by the stream flowing from the Feywild into the Crystal Cave. They were an elite trap with far-reaching control powers that sent characters running down one of two caverns: toward the ochre jelly (which clung to the top of the passage waiting for a character to pass it before dropping down to trap that character in the cave) or into the sharp stalagmites in the opposite cavern. 

They were also a puzzle. The characters could identify the echoes as results of their own movements, and take countermeasures to make quiet attacks against them, or banish each echo with a Religion or Arcana check. They weren't undead or insubstantial, just echoes from the cave given semi-life from the latent Feywild energy that emanated from the lifegiving stream in the cave. Using quiet countermeasures, a clever party could make short work of the echoes--banishing each of them would put an end to the semi- life forms, and characters that made quiet attacks wouldn't set off their burst powers. Design-wise, I thought this was cool because when faced head-on, the encounter could be pretty challenging--the echoes were "tar babies" in that the more noise you made bashing them, the more the cave amplified it, deafening characters and causing damage; but a little observation/tactics by the PCs, and they could figure out a strategy to work around the echoes and just deal with the ochre jelly. An especially observant party paying attention to the story and narrative text leading up to the encounter could breeze through the trap in no time, then just deal with the jelly (in most situations the party would interact with the echoes at least somewhat before figuring out what to do about them). 

It may be that such a strategy would have rendered the encounter too easy, or that trap mechanics aren't preferable so early on. It may be that the decision was made to go back to the original UK1 module, where there are actual (undead) poltergeists in the Cave of Echoes, rather than my take on the animating Feywild energy. Or maybe my explanation of the echoes was too elaborate or too obscure. It could be the mechanics were wonky (noise generated more echoes; these echoes didn't gain attacks like minions, but were "origin points" from which the trap could make attacks). Heck, it may be that in playtesting it just didn't work.

I know it's cold comfort for those who experienced TPKs, but there's one take on one design intent, and I'm sure neither myself nor Chris intended so many TPKs. Hopefully things will run more smoothly this week.
Well rest of the season I'll let you guys use arcana/dungeoneering/nature/religion checks as a minor action



If you are making this statement in reference to knowledge or monster knowledge checks, you may want to note that such uses of the above-mentioned skills are 'no action' by default.
Well rest of the season I'll let you guys use arcana/dungeoneering/nature/religion checks as a minor action



If you are making this statement in reference to knowledge or monster knowledge checks, you may want to note that such uses of the above-mentioned skills are 'no action' by default.



Ah, sorry. Fixed to the intent I actually meant.
81259321 wrote:
My new rule for people who are obtuse is to just assume they're purposefully trolling. It makes me less sad for humanity that way.
The characters could identify the echoes as results of their own movements, and take countermeasures to make quiet attacks against them, or banish each echo with a Religion or Arcana check. They weren't undead or insubstantial, just echoes from the cave given semi-life from the latent Feywild energy that emanated from the lifegiving stream in the cave. Using quiet countermeasures, a clever party could make short work of the echoes--banishing each of them would put an end to the semi- life forms, and characters that made quiet attacks wouldn't set off their burst powers. Design-wise, I thought this was cool because when faced head-on, the encounter could be pretty challenging--the echoes were "tar babies" in that the more noise you made bashing them, the more the cave amplified it, deafening characters and causing damage; but a little observation/tactics by the PCs, and they could figure out a strategy to work around the echoes and just deal with the ochre jelly. An especially observant party paying attention to the story and narrative text leading up to the encounter could breeze through the trap in no time, then just deal with the jelly (in most situations the party would interact with the echoes at least somewhat before figuring out what to do about them).



Having never used these types of creatures I had little idea on how to handle these mobs.  Since the Spirits were classified as undead I ran them in that fashion.  I never even gave the players the option to banish them with skill checks because I just couldn't get my head around the mechanic to do that.  Probably inexperience on my part.  However, this info would of helped me greatly in running these mobs in the fashion they were imagined and really wish this paragraph was included in the module. 

Having never used these types of creatures I had little idea on how to handle these mobs.  Since the Spirits were classified as undead I ran them in that fashion.  I never even gave the players the option to banish them with skill checks because I just couldn't get my head around the mechanic to do that.  Probably inexperience on my part.  However, this info would of helped me greatly in running these mobs in the fashion they were imagined and really wish this paragraph was included in the module.



I'm sorry, I'm confusing the issue.
I was trying to offer some design tidbits, saying that I initially designed the encounter with a mechanic that let you banish or use alternate tactics; thus, when I ran a playtest the players didn't have much trouble. 

However, the final version of the encounter that you're playing works a little differently, and maybe that's why it's a bit tougher.

Anyway, you did everything correctly, and there was nothing else to know. Smile
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