Search for the Diamond Staff Feedback (Sessions 1-3)

So after playing the first 3 Sessions in the Encounters using the DnD Next rules we have seen a lot of little things.  Our party consists of:
Human Cleric (Magni) - PreGen
Halfling Rogue (Mr. R) - PreGen
Halfling Rogue (Kaelon) - Skill Monkey with all feats set for Skill Training, Crossbow user
Halfling Barbarian (Pansy) - Broadsword Weaving Fanatic
Dwarf Fighter (Thoradin) - Shield and Battleaxe
Dwarf Cleric (Terra) - Storm Cleric with Warhammer and Shield
Elf Ranged Fighter (Ivy) - Longbow
Elf Wizard (Ygritte) - Area Spells
Elf Druid (Jing) - Spell Slinger with a snake

As you see it is a large party.  we were thinking of spliting it up but I wanted to try it out with a larger group and with a lot of differnet types of people.  Also not everyone was available for each session and I will point that out in the breakdown.

Session 1:
Since this was new rules and some people had not played D&D I ran a starting session.  Everyone was a guard on a caravan heading to Hap and they all had to defend the caravan.  I had 10 bandits attack and it was a great start to help people learn how to play and what they could do.  Also they spent some of there spells which was good to see.  Since the DM package said they could get a magic item on creation (which I did not let them) I had them all roll to get a magic item from the caravan leader.  This was great because people got odd things and were trading between people.

The RP time with Imani was good and the Kaelon shined as he was able to squeeze everything out of Imani and a little more.  The funniest thing was Mr. R really wanted just 82 GP while Kaelon was able to get 100 GP per person (pre adventure fee).  So everyone got 100 except for Mr. R who got his 82.  We all had a good laugh.

Now first real encounter was the Orcs and Wolves.  Well first I doubled the encounter enemies to challenge the party.  Thanks to Jing, he entangled most of the enemies and really they swept the battlefield in a matter of 3 rounds.  The front line fighters (Thoradin AC 19, Terra AC 20, Pansy AC 16, Magni AC 18) really made it almost impossible for the enemies to hit.  I needed to roll a 14 or higher to hit Thoradin and Terra which just made the Orcs worthless (since I could not save and they were all entangled).  Everyone had fun but really my bandit attack was more damaging then the Orcs.

- Town was very bland.  Some RP but really they just heading right to the inn.
- Bandit attack on the way to Hap the party did do a lot or RP and even captured the bandits to turn them in.  That was fun.
- Orcs were 1 shotted most of the time.  Relentless helped them but after the first round most were dead.

Session 2:
So off to Imani's tower.  We had the same group and no rest so some minor damage.  Now again I wanted to show off some more of DnD Next and had them slowly approach the tower (checking for traps and enemies).  They made it to the tower and were scared about the giant golem swinging at the Orcs.  Now in this session I created 3 Orc groups each lead by an Orc Leader (with battlecry).  Group 1 and 2 were in the tower and consisted of a leader and 3 orcs.  Group 3 was outside approaching the tower with a leader and 2 Orcs.  I also had the body of Imani on the ground to show the party what was happening.  So the Orc leader snatched up the diamond staff and tried to run for it while the other Orcs opened a path for him.  So this started spliting up the party and allowed the monsters to shine some.  Both Rogues headed around the tower to the back of the wooden shack while the others came through the front door.

One of the Orcs broke down the shack's door and the leader ran though the shack.  Magni went and healled Imani while the others took a beating from the Orc Leader and Battle Cry (causing a lot more damage and making the Orcs scarier).  The Golem was worthless the whole battle.  It hit 3 orcs and 1 person.  Each attack did on average 7 points of damage.  It was so weak that everyone just ignored him even giving him opportunity attacks to run around him for the Orcs that were dealing around 11 points of damage a turn thanks to battlecry.  So the Rogue's moved around the corner and right into the last Orc group.  They beat up the Rogues and the Orc Leader inside the Shack handed the staff to the other leader and he took off through the woods.  The Orc Leader in the Shack took down the Elf Ranger and Dwarf Fighter and just manhandled the party (I finally started to roll some 20s).  They finally took out everyone found the healing potion and chased after the last Orc (after talking to Imani and getting the Human cleric to use all his healing).  The skill challenge was a major let down as they all passed easily and really did not understand why they had to do it anyway (even after me explaining).

- Flesh Golem in DnD Next was really a wasted piece of flesh.  Tons of HP but not threatening to the party at all.  I ran at a different store this encounter in 4e and the Golem was the start.  It crushed the party so much (espically with the free attack if it got hit) that I was afraid I was going to TPK.  Someone healled Imani and he stopped the Golem.  Now that is what it should of been in DnD Next.
- Skill Challenge in DnD Next was not needed.  Have them track and other things but really you did not need the skill challenge.  It was lots of dice rolling for no real goal.
- Orc Leader's Battlecry makes an Orc into a fighting force.  Thanks to battlecry the battle went from an easy encounter to a bloodbath.  The party felt threatened and really had to spend a lot of spells to keep going.
- Where is the chase scene.  I think adding a chase would of been better then the skill challenge that was in the DnD Next module.

Session 3:
We ran this a day early because of the 4th and most people would be gone.  Even with that we lost Magni and Mr. R and gained 2 Pregen (Swiftwood Elf Ranger, Dwarven "Knight" Fighter Dwarf Fighter).  Yes you read that right he though the name of the character was Dwarven "Knight" Fighter so that is what everyone called him.  We laughted all night.  So I brought them in tracking the Zhent's to the cave and running into the other party.  They RPed the meeting and decided to help eachother.  While this happened someone escaped but with bad rolls they did not notice.  Since it was night and dark only the Dwarves could see.  The Elves saw a little but with no light it was tough.

Kaelon approached the cave and found all the tracks but could not see in.  Now I went back to my OLD DnD days and had a large square graph paper (so it could fit the miniatures) and we drew out the map as they saw the area.  It was great with them slowly moving and reveling more of the map.  Even running into the horses and barrels of goods.  Dwarven Fighter found one of the side entrences and went down there.  He saw the Orc slumped but though he was just sleeping (shoot it was dark) so he rolled and crited the orc really killing him, well again and releasing the spores which did 2 points of damage after all the resistance and saves.  He found something gliterning but said "I am a knight I dont dig though dirt" and ran from the item.  Terra decided she is fine with digging and braved the spores (1 pt of damage) to get the magic item which was a Warhammer +1.  The rest of the party found the other passway and worked there way up till I then layed down the map that came from the encounter package.  They snuck up and took out an orc without raising an alarm.  They flubbed on the 2nd Orc and the alarm sounded and it was time for the attacks.

The whole party but Jing and Ygrette rolled 17 or better so they moved though and killed off both Zhent soldiers, and 2 more orcs (I had added a 3rd Zhent solder and 8 more orcs).  When the War Mage was up he dropped a Stink Cloud (or should I say Cloud Kill) and hit everyone in the party.  I rolled 22 damage on my attack and it bloodied almost everyone in the party and koed Kaelon.  Again the Dwarfs and the Stout Halfling Barbarian weathered the attack easily thanks to poison resistance.  Ygrette dropped a Fireball doing 29 damage to everyone (except the mage that saved) and then Jing Called Lightning doing 24 damage killing off most everything else including the mage.  The Orc Leader that survived the last battle kept saving everything and stayed up.  He managed to take down Dwarven Fighter to 1 hp and just kept on killing.  Everyone attacked him but noone could outright kill him so he stayed up and took a total of 87 damage before his next turn came around and he took Thordian to 2 hp and expired.  Thordian just kept kicking the corpse and I allowed him to find a +1 battle axe on the leader which is why he was hurting him so much.

Kaelon was healed and found the note and the chest which he opened and found a cloak of elvenkind which he pocketed.  They also got out of the cave and headed back to Hap to heal up and get their supplies for the trip (and follow up on the clue).

- Either Spells are WAY to powerful or HP need to be fixed.  The damage spells were doing just was staggering.  If I got to drop that 2nd Stink cloud the rest of the party would of been down.  Stink cloud is only a 2nd level power and does 6d6 20 foot radius.  Yep that is really powerful.
- Consitution is Primary ability for every class.  Kaelon has 10 Con.  Ygrette has 14 Con.  Kaelon has 22 HP at level 5, Ygrette has 37 (she also took Toughness).  In 5 levels that was 10 extra HP.  That allowed Ygrette to survive the stink cloud while Kaelon was koed.  The way damage is outpacing HP it really does not give someone with low Con the ability to survive in later levels.  Pansy has 54 HP to 22 for Kaelon... crazy.
- Saves vs. Spells is almost impossible in later levels.  Now at level 5 Ygrette has a 16 for save.  Most enemies have +0 for Reflex save (at least in the adventure) so I have almost no chance to dodge the spells.  Also PCs have maybe a +1 for their saves against 15 which again is very tough.  Spells are just to strong for the area it is affecting.

So that is what we have been seeing so far in the game.  What else has others seen?
Also I forgot to add these observations:
- Orc Relentless is VERY POWERFUL.  For normal Orcs (11 HP) it makes them a 2 hit minion more or less.  For Orc Leaders (32 HP) it is almost impossible to kill him before he gets his last attack. This also causes a lot of PCs to waste attacks on him since he wont go down.  Not sure if this is what was planned or if this is two powerful.  Also according to the Relentless power if there is a cleric around the Orc Leader could stay up indefinitely.  The Cleric could keep healing 1 HP and the Orc would then not go down.  Makes an Orc Leader stronger then a Dragon ;)
- Large Creature Damage.  I also ran a session of the Tomb of the Dragonlich.  Now the party was strong but still it took 2 rounds to take out the Dragonlich each time.  The Dragonlich just did not have enough of a chance to strut its stuff.  Seeing that and the Golem take a ton of damage but throw 6 points of damage a turn makes me feel that large creatures are worthless in the game.  It is better to take multiple enemies that can swarm then just a large creature.  So I think Large Creatures need some help to get better.
I only had a 3 person party (Shield Fighter, TWF fighter, ranger).

They usually do pretty well since they have magic and gold from Lair of the Dracolich.

Combat is swingy but I prefer a little more randomness so it seemed fine.  If the dice were hot it really swung the fight.

All 3 encounters worked pretty well although I did swap relentless for the Against the Slavelords version (DC 5+damage to stay up like the Zombie mechanic).  As a melee heavy party they dropped some and left a few standing (especially with the offhand attacks).

The flesh golem could have hit harder especially when the orcs were using Greataxes by comparison.

Stinking Cloud is crazy good if it weren't for having 2/3 party members be Dwarves.

Regarding DCs I think I would just start them at 5+ instead of 10+.  And then make sure more of the levelled spells have minor effects on saves.  A typical 65% rate (16 stat +1 Magic attack) seems a little high for as powerful as some of the spells are.
Hmmm... you seem to be playing a bit "incorrectly" (its D&D... not a big deal).

First of all, stinking cloud, call lightning, and fireball are level 3 spells, and they are pretty powerful. However, your players should only be level 4, so they can't cast fireball yet. The enemy mage is level 5, so thats why its gets 2 stinking clouds. 

So I think thats probably why you think the spells are too strong, your party wasn't supposed to have them yet. Though, I will admit, the area of effect spells are much better than single target spells in these situations. 

In terms of a comparison, my party was 3 dwarves and 3 elves, and we had a pretty good mixture of classes. We fought against a total of 3 orc leaders, 7 orcs, 2 humans, and 1 mage... it was super tough (I think the DM added too many monsters by mistake). We probably would have won if we had better tactics or if we got better rolls (we rolled a 2 six times in a row near the end), but as it was we just barely lost (one of us escaped). 

It was also lucky that the stinking clouds the wizard cast killed about 4 orcs for us as well. In the crampt quarters it was hard to land AOE spells without hitting your own team. 
Yea I am sorry I forgot to say that the Druid and Mage had played in the Against the Dragonlich RPG Day event so by the 3 Session they were 5th level.  The others were 4th.  And yes about the cramped quarters.  Dwarven warrior was in the apex of the fireball and stinkcloud.  He did take a lot of damage.  Still everyone loved the fights but I was just amazed with the damage that was done by area spells and how hard it is to avoid them.  I agree with JodyJohnson that if spell save started at DC5 vs DC10 it would make it a little more fair.