Field Report Week 5: The Test

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Well, this week's session was rather long as we had an overfull table, even with the holidays, and I really wish we had at least one more striker in place of one of the 3 controllers (but still, different strokes and all that). Honestly I felt 3 skill challenges was a bit much (assuming that one of them was not the DM winging something). I ended up winning the spidersilk sack (with some innuendo being tossed my way
'from a male spider?'
). We ended up going to Uma's camp and drawing some bears to Ragnar's instead of our initial plan to go to Ragnar's camp...

Oh well.
There only were only 4 players at my table last night.  I almost didn't know what to do with so few players.  Smile

They chose to visit Ragnar.  Upon arriving at Ragnar's camp they were greeted by the Satyr Robin.  The party didn't waste much time with pleasantries and asked to see Ragnar immediately.  Robin informed them that he can't just let anyone see Ragnar.  First they would have to prove their loyalty by vexing the witch Uma.  Uma has befriended two unicorns.  If the party could bring the Unicorns over to Ragnar's side they could have their audience.

Robin led the party to Uma's territory where the two unicorns were playing.  He gave everyone silk rope to lasso the unicorns if needed.  The Thief started out by carefully sneaking through the grass to get the drop on the unicorns.  The Knight and Slayer pretended to be dueling with each other to distract the unicorns.  Unfortunately their performance was lacking and the unicorns saw through the bluff.  Another round of fake dueling and the unicorns had become spooked.

Soon thereafter a dark haired nymph arrived demanding the intruders explain their actions.  Before a satisfactory answer could be given hidden pixie archers began attacking the party.  The Thief was dropped in the first round by a couple of well placed fey shots.  The Slayer ran over to the nearest unicorn and threatened to kill the unicorn if the nymph and pixies didn't back off.  His sincerity intimidated the pixies but the nymph became more enraged and commanded the pixies to save the unicorns.  They swooped in and threw pixie dust on the Knight and Mage dazing them. 

The unicorns didn't know how serious things had become and still thought it was all a game.  They gently played with the party by knocking them with their hooves.  The Mage attempted to honestly explain the situation to the unicorns but the unicorns were not impressed.  They believed the nymph and pixies were justly protecting Uma's territory.  Soon after the unicorns had enough of the party and started to leave.

The nymph and pixies fell back to form a line and protect the unicorns warning the party to leave.  Robin who was watching from the edge of Uma's territory yelled for the party to retreat.  The Dwarven Slayer and Knight were out for blood and charged Uma's forces.  They quickly slaughtered two of the pixies.  In a rare moment of compassion the Slayer decided to knock the nymph out.  The unicorns rushed in and healed the nymph telling the party to leave before further blood was shed.  The wounded nymph managed to climb on the back of a unicorn and they ran off.  The party did not engage.

Robin was shocked at the wanton bloodshed but still impressed with their fighting capabilities.  He doubted Ragnar would be happy about the slaughter but would likely want to meet with able bodied warriors such as them.

Upon returning to the camp Robin went to speak with Ragnar.  The party drank and celebrated with the satyr and wilden.  They recalled the story with the unicorns, leaving a few key details out however.  The dwarves began a drinking contest with the Slayer drinking the Knight under the table.  The Thief impressed the satyrs with his acrobatics so much they bestowed a gift of fey on him.

Robin returned with some magic armor for the party.  It was a gift from Ragnar who was ready to see them...

[spoiler]  The hamadryad served as nothing more than a bag of HP to wail on.  She missed with every single attack and was never able to recharge her spellbinding beauty.

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Designer note:

I'm enjoying the many variations I'm reading in regard to this session. Whenever I think about the encounters in this adventure, this is the one I think about the most. While the story is a bit different in the version I wrote (the verbeeg and the drayd were actually the Green Lord and the Summer Queen themselves!), what the adventurers do in this session is basically the same. The idea was to set up 2 very different "games" to play, which have different objectives from the standard combat encounter, as well as set up a series of outrageous events (and get the characters interacting with some fey at play). 

Anyway, I'm enjoying reading about the different ways each group handled the encounter. This one's weird, so kudos to the DMs for their willingness to improvise and allow for the crazy, and kudos to the players for thinking outside the box. Those moments always make for my fondest memories of D&D games.

We had 3 tables running last night at max (6, 7, and 7 players). One went to Uma, one went to Ragnar, and another due to their checks and the GM allowed them to go to both.

Our table went to Ragnar. They made their way to the glade and I let them spend the first few rounds interacting with the unicorn. Some tried to talk to them, others tried to lasso them, and then the Hexblade went, and the 2nd line of the night was uttered.

"I do twenty points of nonlethal necrotic damage with my Blade of Annihilation"

As the Hexblade thinks the easiet way to control the unicorns is to KO them. The players spend the next round trying to then KO the Unicorns until the Dryad shows up with the pixies and it turns into a blood bath. The Halfling Slayer Power Strike Crits the Dryad and KILLS her while the rest of the party kills the pixies. Meanwhile the Warlord walks up and uses his last heal on the unicorn and then makes a Doplomacy 28 checks to tell it we mean you no harm. The unicorn touched by this act moves up and horns him and the two walk off into the sunset.

I went over to the other rooms to see how the other tables were doing and then I hear:

"Roll a saving throw to see if the Saytr impregnated you."
Roll.....nat 20
"It's twins"

You see the Hamadrayd with a 20 CHA rolled a nat 20 to seduce one of the satrys away from the mead barrel and the two got frisky (might I add the Dryad is actully being played by a female).

I am not sure howmuch more wrong this game is going to go. For the record all but one of our players are over 20 and the younget is 15. We game with the dad who does not mind the subject matter.
I was ready to run a 7-player table when the running DM showed up, so we split the tables 3 and 4 to get prevent an 8 player table. The table I ran decided to go east to the pixies while the other table (completely without conversing with the other table) went to the Green Lord.

My table failed both skill challenges with luring the bears and the chase was on! Most of them failed the Endurance check and lost a surge. So they came to the camp and weren't doing too well defeating the satyrs or the wilden. Eventually, three of four lay dying and the bears ended up killing the baddies while the fourth... tried to pet the bears... Suffice to say, it was a hilarious time at the table! Finally, with the bears satiated with mead and heading off, I had the pixies enter the glade and lead them back to their home, explaining why they had to do the challenge to win the appearance with the Lady.

By this time, the other party had finished and notes were compared.

Apparently, the unicorn wrangling did not go well at all and the whole party was killed or captured. So now half of the party is welcomed back as guests while the other half is being held captive.

Meanwhile, my on-again-off-again Skald was sitting with the leprechauns only to find the rest of the party gone. Suddenly, he sees half of his party come from the east to the west, followed by the other half going from the west to the east, then after a time of deliberating which way to go saw the first group, bloody and beaten, moving back to the east. So he followed and will see what happens next.

"Roll a saving throw to see if the Saytr impregnated you."
Roll.....nat 20
"It's twins"

This. Is. Hilarious. 

Wow... I don't know what to say. Wow. 

Love Sior's description of his bewildered bard watching the bloody groups pass each other back and forth. Awesome stuff, guys.
we had two tables for our night. I ran a group and another DM ran the second.

I allowed the group to discuss their direction until it seemed everyone made their desires known, then rolled a die to determine who made the decision for the group. They went to Ragnar's camp, but it took a while to get them into the mischief. They wanted to stay out of trouble and move on to diplomatic talks between Ragnar and Uma until a player simply stated, "Guys, the adventure is not intended for us to be mediators to fix the agents; we are intended to join one side or the other and fulfill the tasks they failed. Ultimately, we are here for Orlando and Julianna, but we don't know why Ragnar and Uma are here." That got everyone lined up and they made their attempt at the unicorns. 

The dice rolled such that only one PC landed a hit; though the NPCs were about even between hits and misses. One PC is a tiefling which took the Diabolic Transformation via feat. As the tiefling 'hulked out' under the diabolic transformation, the pixies, drayd, and unicorns freaked out since this character started to look so much more like Kalbon.

In the end, the dryad saw very quickly these bumbling adventurers were not going to be a real threat. She called off the attack and told the group to surrender and leave. When asked a few questions, they were told to visit Uma's camp for better information than they would find at Ragnar's camp. The unicorns enjoyed the farcical game, but were neither captured nor convinced.

However, the other table received a far different experience. As the group spent too much time arguing about which direction to go, the DM formed an ad-hoc combat against xivorts. They started with a visit to Ragnar's camp and heard the request; a few PCs split to visit Uma's camp and hear the request there. Rather than regrouping, the two sub-groups of the party engaged both mischievous tasks successfully.

So, I expect that next week they will think that they may now leap into mediation between the two groups and make them best of friends again. They still don't realize that isn't their goal; they seem sidetracked from dealing with Orlando and Julianna for the playtime in the feywild.  
So we had 3 tables (six players at each) for Session 5. We should be back up to 4 tables after the holidays.

All three tables went to Ragnar and tried to get the unicorns to jump over to the Verbeeg's side.

The other 2 tables wound up fighting and getting pummeled.

My table consists of:

Gnome  berserker <------- my wife
Sayter of the Night hunter <------- Me
Pixie pyromancer
Pixie hunter
Human hexblade
Hamadryad witch

We meet the Sayters and Wilden and agree to party (well my Sayter folds his arms and refuses to be a merry man). We decide to help get the unicorns to defect to Ragnar's side so we can get an audience.

We attempted to first sneak up on the Unicorns and when that failed we negotiated. Our initial efforts were successful. My evil, unseelie Sayter of the Night (working for Baba Yaga to foil the upstarts plans) lies about wanting to be friends and how the Verbeeg has a better party (success!), the pixie pyromancer tries talking instead of burning stuff down for once (success!), the Witch uses insight to figure out what is going on (success!).

Now things start to go bad... the Berserker scares the unicorns and then pixie hunter fumbles his attempt to wrangle the unicorns (double failure). The hexblade succeeds (yay!)...

The Dryad tells us to go away and awes us with her Swim Suit Issue poses.

My Sayter tires of this game and whips off his grey rain cloak and impresses the unis with an offering of magical water. This prompts a response from the fey of the glade... The Dryad and the Pixies attack, my Sayter goes from healthy to pin cushion in the blink of an eye.

We gently encourage the unis off the map and lick our wounds. Now we are off to see the giant.

Bryan Blumklotz
DDE WPN Coordinator for Guardian Games


     VICTORIES OF VORDAL- 5. A Sweet Deal

I hope I have learned something of tactics and strategy this day, But I would have preferred to have had a less painful lesson.
The leprechauns advised us to seek out one of the archfey as allies in order to succeed in our task. Considering the matter, we chose the lady and headed to her camp. We were intercepted by some pixies who insisted we would have to show we were not allied with the other archfey. [It seems that the two archfey failed in their mission and like what you would expect of silly fey, are busy blaming each other rather that sticking to the mission like sensible dwarves would do.] To prove that, they insisted we harass the other camp.
This, they wanted us to achieve by means of a silly plan, but it at least had the possibility of nobody getting killed. We were to lure some bears into the other camp where they were expected to destroy barrels of honey mead. This would show we sided with the lady and, they insisted, might sober the drunks up enough so they would concentrate on the actual enemy. We had our doubts, but had every reason to expect similar folly from the other camp. So we started after the bears.
We had some difficulties luring the bears, but eventually they started moving in the desired direction, but when we reach the camp, things went painfully wrong. I was at least partly at fault here. Thinking the bears were starting to stop, I hit one with a sling stone to encourage it to come after us, which it did, and so did the others, all of them concentrating on me for my attack. The result left me unconscious for most of the fight and likely would have been fatal except that the honey mead was close and quite attractive.
I only learned later what happened to the others, which was mostly painful. But it seems that the defenders balanced my error with one of their own, tho their error was most painful to us. Ignoring the bears , they attacked us, correctly thinking we were responsible for the fuss, and most of us were soon badly wounded. And we were mostly busy pouring our honey on the barrels of honey mead to encourage the bears and so could give them little damage. Strategically, they should have tried to drive off the bears, who, once they were done with bashing me, were quite effecting at destroying the barrels of mead. So it was soon clear our mission would be “successful”, if any of us survived to celebrate.
Fortunately the defenders began to realize the bears were a greater threat, which allowed us to bind our wounds enough to stagger away from the fight. Most of us showed our talents as healers to the full, and most of us were very much in need of healing. Cyrus the elven ranger revived me. I managed to revive Kross the drow rogue. Merill the halfling rogue got Cyrus back on his feet. And Malcolm the drow ranger got Orla the elf rogue up. Even so, we were all badly hurt and so we fled as the bears continued to destroy the mead.
The pixies that put us up to this folly were pleased at least and have promised us an audience with the archfey.


Our next actions were over my protests, tho I did not protest loudly.
When we woke, the leprachans advised seeking out one of the great fey as an ally. The vote was for the male and so we went. We soon met up with several satyr, who advised us their boss would only see us after we proved our worth, by stealing two unicorns from the other fey. That was not an idea I liked, but we were advised the other fey would likely have some trickery we were to play on them if we tried to get their favor, And they claimed there was some chance the trick would get the quarreling fey to talk and then unite against the witch. So again I was outvoted.
Finding the unicorns and approaching them was not difficult, tho Tam Lin the pixie barbarian and the tiefling warlock were not as sneaky as they though, However, we found the unicorns were not as alone as we thought and a dryad and several pixies started objecting to our plans to take the unicorns away.
Complicating the picture was that we had been warned that attacking any guards might make our job harder, and of course we could hardly morally kill those who were innocently doing their jobs in any case. Petunia the wizard did forget and wounded one of the pixies, but for the most part, we had to ignore all the arrows shot at us [Happily they were poor shots.] while we sweet-talked the unicorns into going with us. [My own sweet talk is rather limited, but fey are easily amused and so I managed to get the unicorns feeling friendly towards us,] Violet the pixie bard, Bin the changling psion, and joined Tam Lin and Petunia in trying to persuade the unicorns we were nice guys and we would show them a good time at the satyr camp. Eventually they proved sufficiently persuasive.
However, the most impressive part of the battle was Taragdin the satyr thief charging the dryad and hitting on her rather than trying to hit her. She hit him and took him prisoner. However he did not seem interested in being rescued as we left.with the unicorns. [Nor were we shocked when he appeared at the satyr camp with absurd tales of his romantic poweress. The other satyrs seemed to believe him anyway.]
The satyr seemed quite pleased and impressed with our exploit, and soon arranged a meeting with their boss. Of course, they also insisted on our entertaining them. [Not my best time as I fumbled some juggling.] So we seem to be making some progress.
This almost turned into a cluster f-bomb. Here's what happened...

The players have my handout detailing what the leprechauns shared with them overnight. As everyone leaves the tree, the leprechauns encourage the players to seek out one of the archfey agents for the information and aid they might be able to provide. The table made me choose (random die roll) which of the archfey to visit since they were split down the middle.

They roll up on the Green Fey Camp, and ask to see Ragnar. Nobody asks about what happened before, or why. They're a very goal-oriented group and just want Juliana and Orlando back, and think the agent can help them. Robin (who they took a little time warming up to, but I had a chance to remind them that he was a really good fellow :: ) gives them the spiel about needing to prove themselves to Ragnar before the big man will grant them an audience. They hand out lassos to each of the players who want them, and then set them free in the glen.

The players approach the unicorns just fine and pass that part of the challenge with flying colors, so I put everyone on the map wherever they want to be, and give them a combat round's worth of skill checks, just to get it moving and make things faster.

Second round sees the archers and the nymph appear on the map, and attack. The unicorns spook, make one attack and get away from the players. One of the players manages to lasso a unicorn and another mounts it as part of the in-combat skill challenge. Unicorn fey steps and laughs at the two players. They are ~sore~ both in and out of character. In fact, they went so far as accusing the satyrs of setting them up to look like fools, just for the lulz. The rest of the table starts beating on the nymph and the archers, while the unicorns remind them to play nice, and move up to kick the players as a gentle reminder.

"The unicorns attacked first, what did you expect us to do?!" became the rallying battle cry of my table. They spike the nymph into the ground (proving they're more of a threat than the fey expected), and the archers start going balls out to defend themselves, while trying to clear off the map. I hand out some free insight checks to show that the unicorns ~were~ just competing because, based on their rolls, the bronies were pulling their punches (halving their rolled damage). Didn't I mention that? The satyrs acted like drunken frat boys playing pranks, and the players tried to convince the unicorns to come back to camp for, "This ~awesome~ mead party!"

Anyway... My table's all but certain they're burned the skill challenge, as far as I could tell and try to recover by potioning up the nymph and calling for a cease fire. The pixies are allowed to disengage as the nymph (a little puzzled) demands to know what they were doing with her unicorns. The table is more than happy to narc on the satyrs who they think pranked them, and left them high and dry in true (probably can't name the very famous image board here on the wizards site, but you all know it as the home of Anonymous) fashion.

The nymph gives them the chance to make right with just one question: "How do you feel about... bears?"

Our pixie witch (who now claims Soryth is a coward, because she ran away from the party) bypasses the first half of the skill challenge on the bears by using his beastmaster ability to just sit down and have a chat with mama bear. She's not bright, but a sample of our pixie's honey pot (this running innuendo would get sneakers on and marathon the rest of the session) convinced the bears to follow to the mead.

Needless to say, the satyrs were ~very~ surprised when the PCs came back to camp. With bears.

The two baby bears were led off the wings and straight into a couple of mead barrels without a single problem. When the sartyr brawlers closed in, one of them got dazed, and the block formation kept mama bear from being able to get around/through the party and towards any of the honey. If our berserker hadn't swapped spots, mama bear would have stomped someone into unconsciousness for their honey pot.

The bralwers served as obstacles to move around, but were soundly thumped before too long. One of the hunters got yanked from his tree and was dispatched very quickly by our thief. I think the other one fled the map through the tree canopy, once he knew he was flying solo. The remaining mead barrels were smashed to bits, and everything went reasonably smooth when they returned to the nymph to claim they made right.

General consensus was the players got an action point back for having worked their way through technically two encounters. Instead of handing out extra XP for the session, I would give my table a chance at the grab bag next session in recompense.

"Play nice!" has become a derisive meme at my table since that night. >_< Sometimes you just never hear the end of something... It's my own fault.

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.

My group at FCB games chose to go to the Dryads first, but after hearing their proposal, they went to Ragnar's camp afterwards. The player playing the human thief decided that they would do the test to see Ragnar, part of the logic being that if they did Ragnar's test, it would also satisfy Uma's want for Ragnar's people to get up off their butts and do something... and everyone else went along with it.

They approached the Unicorn Glade and failed the first skill challenge in the first three rolls. The Hamadryad showed up, demanding to know what they were doing, but she wasn't convinced when the player who came up with the whole justification tried to explain himself. She accused them of siding with Ragnar and attacked.

The group then managed to score all the successes they needed for the second skill challenge, one after the other. The halfling thief and human thief managed to jump on the backs fo the unicorns and convince them to leave the battlefield and head to Ragnar's camp. The story that the human thief came up with actually made sense to the unicorns, which helped them a lot. 

They managed not to hurt any of the fey, in fact, they hardly made any attacks at all.