Kobolds

I finally ran my first session of the playtest (Caves of Chaos):

The Kobolds were horrifying. TPK in the common chamber.

I liked that. However, the Kobolds' "Mob Tactics" mechanic (as effective as it was) did not seem to represent the flavor I expected of kobolds. It entailed swarming the PC's in melee, which seems the opposite of cunning (i.e. Tucker's kobolds would never do that).

That said, I like the "Mob Tactics" mechanic in general for creatures that overwhelm you in melee with their numbers. It's truly frightening.

Update: ok, see how this might represent (from the Kobold article) "The kobold that ... directs the kobold swarms with the most effective tactics... can claim the leadership of a kobold tribe".

Still, they pretty dangerous for only 10 XP. Maybe the swarm bonus should be capped at +3 (possibly making ranged attacks and corridor fighting more important than pure melee in an open area).
I agree with you.

Our first TPK also happened in Area 6. Kobold Commun Chamber a year ago during the Friend & Family Playtest. Kobolds were slightly different then but still bring memories. Wink
R.I.P 

Melf 
Targon
FINGOLFIN
Regnak
Eiron

Yan
Montréal, Canada
@Plaguescarred on twitter

How many Kobolds did they fight in order to make it so challenging? When I put my group against Kobolds, they stomped the lizards flat in two rounds.
I'm not sure about the above poster's situation, but when I ran the initial playtest for my group, they fought upwards of 3 dozen kobolds in the common area.

The crafty wizard tried to put them to sleep, didn't get as many as he hoped.
The fighters (human and dwarven) were mobbed and slogged through a few in the first round.
The cleric healed the dwarf.
The fight wasn't in the party's favor who rushed in without thinking.

The wizard threw his burning hands. It incinerated some kobolds as well as the human fighter.

The remaining party members fled the caved, kobolds chittering and yapping behind them, but didn't pursue them into the bright sunlinght of the morning.


Once back in town, they drowned their sorrows and lifted a mug of ale to their fallen friend and nursed their wounds, fresh with the memory of the tenacity of the diminutive kobolds.

They can be pretty nasty, even as written in the original packet, in quantity. 
How many Kobolds did they fight in order to make it so challenging?

20

How many Kobolds did they fight in order to make it so challenging?

20




Ah, I used far too few. The bestiary really needs a way of defining how many should be in a group to challenge a party of a certain level.
Ah, I used far too few. The bestiary really needs a way of defining how many should be in a group to challenge a party of a certain level.

The Caves of Chaos playtest Kobold Common Chamber description says:
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"Up to forty adult kobolds and eight whelps (noncombatants) are quartered here. Half or more of the adults are out foraging, hunting, and raiding, especially at night."

The encounter took place during the day.
40 Kobolds is pretty much going to be a TPK.  I looked at it as all of the kobolds lived in that room, and subtracted the ones in the other rooms.  Then balanced it out a bit by changing out 2 kobolds for one dragonshield, until I was at 3x the number in the party.

Up to is pretty much key here.  If you want 40 kobolds to die, have your party run into a few foraging parties.  One other thing I used is having two foraging parties coming back after the caves were cleared out and re-populated the kobold cave. 
You put the characters up against 20 kobolds, got a TPK - and your somewhat surprised at that?

I'd say the first thing to remember that DNDN doesnt have 4E focus on continueed fighting, do a DM has to be more mindfull of how many/the strength of encounters he puts the players against.

Also another thing to remember is the adventure modules in the packet are either reworks of old D&D/OD&D/AD&D etc or written to feel like an old school module, and as such they dont provide absolute mathmatical guidelines for encounters, rather frameworks for a DM to create an encounter out of.

The key word in the decription is UPTO, personally I would have had the PC's against a tough encounter mainly using minions ( to get the sense of a large scale fight ) then i would have the chamber either repoulated by harder kobolds (after all the strong ones go out foraging/hunting)  or even have them encounter them in the tunnels/other areas etc.

I think the key as i said is that these modules are frameworks to generate encounters around, not specific encounters themselves - you still need to do some work to get the best out of them. 
40 Kobolds is pretty much going to be a TPK.

Here's the quote again:"Up to forty adult kobolds and eight whelps (noncombatants) are quartered here. Half or more of the adults are out foraging, hunting, and raiding, especially at night". To me this indicates that there would likely be 20 there during the day, and 10 at night. 40 is not really an option, given the text.

You put the characters up against 20 kobolds, got a TPK - and your somewhat surprised at that?

Nope. I'm surprised that:
- the adventure text indicates those numbers (as least during daytime forays)
- you expect playtest DM's to ignore the text
- the encounter design guide (DM Guidelines p.12) indicates that 20 kobolds is about right for the party

they dont provide absolute mathmatical guidelines for encounters

DM Guidelines p.12 does that though. Kobolds are 10 XP each, indicating that for a party of 5 first levels PC's:
10 Kobolds is an easy encounter
15 Kobolds is an average encounter
30 Kobolds is a tough encounter

Another example (since the adventure says "This cave is a challenge for a 1st- or 2nd-level party") -  for a party of 6 second level PC's:
24 kobolds is an easy encounter
36 Kobolds is an average encounter
66 Kobolds is a tough encounter

This forum seems like the appropriate place to discuss balance, so:
The current version of the kobold should probably be worth more XP (and thus the room should probably contain less). Or maybe the swarm bonus could be capped at +3 (possibly making ranged attacks and corridor fighting more important than pure melee in an open area).
I'm a DM who ran the encounter and the party ended up killing over 30 kobolds and all the rats in that dungeon. After taking out the rest of the rooms without rest, they had the option to take on the common room during the day and there were close to 40 kobolds in there. Instead they decided to rest for 8 hours in the kobold leader's room with the door pitonned shut.

The kobolds emerged to find that some force had come and slaughtered all of their guards and they couldn't open the leader's room. Assuming it was one of the other tribes, the kobolds replaced all their fallen guards, then half the remaining kobolds left to hunt and scout the other tribes. The 4 guards in the dragon shield room spent their time setting up basic traps in the long hallway to the lords room, then waited for whoever was in there to emerge.

The PCs moved down the hall carefully, searching out and finding all 5 traps I'd set, making it too the "dragonshield" room without incident. I had the kobolds terrified of what was in that room since whatever it was had walked through 20 kobolds, 4 dragonshields, a trapmaster, and 16 rats. The PCs, used stealth to get to the guardroom and jump those within, after a very short fight, they went straight to the common room, where there were only about 12 kobolds left.

They then took their time after clearing the common room, finishing off the rest of the replaced guards and returning to town very tired, but very alive.

I liked the high numbers because it caused the party to think ahead and make smart decisions about not rushing in and moving carefully.
..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />With respect to the Kobolds I like the mob tactics as a feature--more low level monsters need to be given abilities that key off large numbers as an option in the beastiary.  Otherwise they make really poor splats at any level other than 1.

Having played some Caves, the module does have encounters that definitely need to give more XP than no. of creatures X some value.
Some encounters are not meant to be "balanced" in purely mathematical terms and I feel running into a crowded cave of Kobold home turf is not one of those balanced encounters.  After all, one does not challenge the rotating drums of a wood-chipper to fisticuffs and expect a chance of success.

"I liked the high numbers because it caused the party to think ahead and make smart decisions about not rushing in and moving carefully."  --Mastervelles.

Instead of a Kobold-specific XP mechanic, how about a set of suggested bonus XP award guidelines to facilitate players not doing something terribly stupid?  Award this on top of the encounter XP and set it separate from the kind of monster.  Set it as 1/4 the per player encounter XP per level or similar.


I'm playing Rules as Written / Intended right now for the sake of playtesting, but normally I would give bonus XP for clever decisions like when my party later raided the first few rooms of the goblins and killed the ogre, then dragged the ogre body and a couple goblins into the orc caves and made it look like the goblins hired the ogre to attack them. This thinned out the ranks of Orcs and Goblins/Hobgoblins.

On the flip side, had my players run into the common room of the kobolds and fought to the death against impossible odds (if they had attacked during the day instead of resting) because "Hey, it's just a game" I would have docked XP from any survivors for metagame thinking.

My favorite moments have been when they had moral discussions about whether to kill the children or let them live. They agreed to let the Kobold kids live and ended up regretting it later. Which made the discussion about the Orc children much easier.

I really love the faster pace of combat in DDN, in 3 sessions they're cleared the Kobold Den, half the Goblin Den, the first Orc Cave, and half the second Orc Cave. Ontop of that there has been plenty of in character talking to NPCs in town to get information, hire scouts to watch for movements while the PCs rest in town, and party banter and planning. Our sessions are only about 3 hours long. Back in 4E the party would clear maybe 4 fights in a session, 2 or 3 if there was a lot of in character discussion.
I'm playing Rules as Written / Intended right now for the sake of playtesting, but normally I would give bonus XP for clever decisions like when my party later raided the first few rooms of the goblins and killed the ogre, then dragged the ogre body and a couple goblins into the orc caves and made it look like the goblins hired the ogre to attack them. This thinned out the ranks of Orcs and Goblins/Hobgoblins.

By RAW you can award XP for overcoming creatures using unconventional means (other creatures, traps, environment, etc.).

On the flip side, had my players run into the common room of the kobolds and fought to the death against impossible odds (if they had attacked during the day instead of resting) because "Hey, it's just a game" I would have docked XP from any survivors for metagame thinking.

Not sure you'd need to here.
You put the characters up against 20 kobolds, got a TPK - and your somewhat surprised at that?

Nope. I'm surprised that:
- the adventure text indicates those numbers (as least during daytime forays)
- you expect playtest DM's to ignore the text
- the encounter design guide (DM Guidelines p.12) indicates that 20 kobolds is about right for the party

they dont provide absolute mathmatical guidelines for encounters

DM Guidelines p.12 does that though. Kobolds are 10 XP each, indicating that for a party of 5 first levels PC's:
10 Kobolds is an easy encounter
15 Kobolds is an average encounter
30 Kobolds is a tough encounter

Another example (since the adventure says "This cave is a challenge for a 1st- or 2nd-level party") -  for a party of 6 second level PC's:
24 kobolds is an easy encounter
36 Kobolds is an average encounter
66 Kobolds is a tough encounter



That's not quite true, the DM Guidelines for building encounters suggest that if your party is outnumbered 2 to 1, bump the difficulty of the encounter up one (easy->average->tough), and if they are outnumbered 3 to 1 bump it up twice (easy->tough, average->beyond tough, tough-> too much).

So for 5 first level PC's
10 Kobolds is an average encounter
15 Kobolds outnumber the PC's 3 to 1, which would bump it up to a beyond tough encounter.
30 Kobolds is just too much

And for 6 second level PC's
24 Kobolds outnumber the PC's 4 to 1, which would bump it up to a beyond tough encounter.
36 and  66 Kobolds are just too much.
the DM Guidelines for building encounters suggest that if your party is outnumbered 2 to 1, bump the difficulty of the encounter up one (easy->average->tough), and if they are outnumbered 3 to 1 bump it up twice (easy->tough, average->beyond tough, tough-> too much).

Ok. That seems much better. Thank you. So 1st level PC's really shouldn't be facing for than twice their number in kobolds (and 2nd level shouldn't be facing more than x3 their number).

fwiw: since the XP is still low per kobold, I can see another reason players will want to avoid them ;)
My players loved slaughtering the kobolds.  They loved the speed and carnage and had a lot of fun.  They leveled after the dungeon and enjoyed that too.  About thirty kobolds spread out and not all at once.  Didn't let roamers bring the whole dungeon no matter what.  Whose to say how far sound will carry in a highly padded dungeon?
Whose to say how far sound will carry in a highly padded dungeon?



For this I generally assume that if the creatures hearing the battle are rather arrogant (like Kobolds in VERY high numbers) they'll assume the sounds of battle are their own tribe killing intruders.
They leveled after the dungeon and enjoyed that too.  About thirty kobolds

How'd they level up after 30 kobolds?
Quest Story and Roleplay XP i guess ?

Yan
Montréal, Canada
@Plaguescarred on twitter

Ran fourth packet release.  Lvl two at 640 exp.  They've since raised it to 950.  Too bad.  Everyone loved the idea of quickly getting through the I'm almost going to die lower levels.  Guess it's a test variable.
Ran fourth packet release.  Lvl two at 640 exp.  They've since raised it to 950.

Actually, they lowered it to 250 (950 is for 3rd level).
My point is that each Kobold is worth 10 xp, which is divided amongst all the PC's. So each PC will likely get about 2 XP per Kobold the party kills (i.e. about 60 XP total per PC for the party killing 30 kobolds).

I think you might be forgetting to divide the XP.
5 PCs? I hadn't thought about the Caves of Chaos being designed for 5 PCs, I've been running it with 4. So far the hardest thing the Party came across was Clearing the first Orc cave, finding the backway into the second one, finding the 2nd Chieftan and ending up running like hell while carrying an unconcious cleric after dropping an Orog, then being chased by an Orog, Chieftan, and seven Orcs with bows.

They ended up holding a door closed long enough to get the cleric up, then kited the orcs with ranged attacks, dropping the chieftan in three rounds with some lucky ranged rolls and a Dwarf Cleric with a 19 AC holding the line.

I feel like DDN ends up telling better stories than 4E, since the threat of death is much higher in DDN, but not high enough to make the party feel like hiding and resting after every fight.
I've run today the Cave A complex with 4 1st level PCs ( or rather 3 PCs and NPC on Fighter rules ). Until Common Chamber all looked rather good. But when chrater were partially sneaking to Common Chamber and didn't stop to talk if they should persuade Kobolds, the 20 adults attacked. And it was massacre. The Mob Tactics made things logical for melee attacks with two dwarven fighters on first line to take damage from line of 5 Kobolds. But when I tried to somehow joined 2nd line of PCs to combat by using Sling of Kobolds in 3rd or 4th lines, the Mob Tactics almost killed our Cleric nad Sorccerer. The encounter would be TPK if not my players would loudly make an issue - and so I cheated in the favor. In they eyes the Mob Tactics for ranged weapons is too much and illogical in mechanics. Myself - I see them overpowered a bit. But don't know what to do with that.
I think the idea of the "Mob Tactics" is that there are so many attacks coming in that you can't quite fend them all off as well, which would work for ranged attacks as well, when there are a dozen rocks coming in at you from slings, it's harder to dodge than just a couple.
Mob tactics is a lazy ability. A mob by itself is scary enough, why do we need an ability that makes the mob exponentially harder? I hope it's just a placeholder ability for now and replaced later with something more interesting.
Mob tactics is a lazy ability. A mob by itself is scary enough, why do we need an ability that makes the mob exponentially harder? I hope it's just a placeholder ability for now and replaced later with something more interesting.

The "Mob Tactics" mechanic is interesting to me. The title just didn't seem to capture koboldliness, s'all.

That said: I don't have a problem if it merely represents crafty group tactics (like sending skirmishers in as a distraction while lobbing projectiles). Again though, this would probably be better represented with the max bonus lowered to +3 for the kobolds

I also don't mind the "Mob Tactics" title if it's just because other creatures (like cave rats) use this same mechanic. Perhaps some of them could have a different max bonuses too (to represent varying degrees of effectiveness as a swarm)?

(fwiw: the idea of Plague Rats that become exponentially more powerful in larger groups greatly entertains me.)