The battle was great! When I first read the encounter, it didn't seem all that special to me. I thought, "eh this is okay, but nothing to write home about." But man, in play, it was gorgeous. Props to the designer, again, because this really was a well put-together D&D encounter. So challenging, even at only a level 1 XP budget. I can't tell you how many lame, unimaginative, cake walk LFR encounters I've DM’ed and played, which all felt way too easy, too safe, and just disappointing in their simplicity. But this, this lovely little introduction to Athas . . . this was masterfully tough given the low XP budget. The terrain, the time limit, the need to gather supplies, the ongoing storm damage, the motivation to stay in the cover of the wagon in conflict with the motivation to escape the map and/or go chasing down Silt Runners who are hanging back shooting poison darts and blowing you up with psionics from afar. Just glorious. I dunno how it was for everyone else, but for my table tonight, this encounter just plain rocked.
The first creature to attack them was the Inciter, blowing them up in the wagon with his psionic explosion. I told the psionic characters that they could feel him using The Way, could sense the psychic energy being manipulated by this intently-concentrating Silt Runner. (That led to a brief conversation in which I said, "Well, I'm pretty sure there's nothing in the rules that lets you actually sense other creatures using psionics, but in all the Dark Sun novels they always talked about sensing each other using The Way and stuff, and it sounded really cool, so I'm going with it.")
The fight was hard enough on its own. It made it all the worse when I rolled three crits. (And I roll everything in front of the players, it's just how I like to DM.) All of them were on the big-damage encounter powers, too. Poison Dart crit for 23 was the very first Darter attack I rolled. Brutal Spear crit for 28 was shocking and scary. Getting hit for 28 by a 1st-level monster is not something these guys are used to! It was pretty terrifying. I also rolled a 1 at one point, and had the Rager break his spear and re-roll! After quite awhile, the players were having a bit of a rough go, and it was late (we started at 6:00pm, and it was 9:30pm, and the battle was far from over), so I called for another Nature check to glean additional insight into their foes, and then informed them that "Silt Runners are pretty skittish when their leader is slain. If this one who is calling the shots and inciting them to such a frenzy dies, the rest might lose their heart for the fight." So they gunned for him, and took him down just in time to avert a very probable TPK. It felt epic, and they were thrilled and relieved, and even though the second Darter and two of the three Ragers ran away and didn't actually die, they took it as a satisfying and hard-won victory, all the same.
My players were great though. They were soldiers. I hammered them, and they kept on fighting. I drilled them with the storm, which their foes ignored, and they didn't give up. They were champs when it came to getting survival days, too. At the end, they had 24 of the things! That's amazing. 24 survival days, and they managed to pick up a few extra weapons, and Shikirr even carted off the dead body of the Inciter as they fled. (He's going to eat it...)
A lot of great moments in this battle. Everyone got their chance to shine. Well . . . okay, everyone but poor, poor Castri. So, I knew he was doomed. I'd even pretty much made it clear to the player that Castri was doomed. I really pushed the "Silt Runners hate elves a LOT" thing, and he totally got it. In fact, the guy who played Castri was the best possible player for it. He's a big time old-school Dark Sun fan, too. So he was quite into the idea of the Silt Runners gunning for his elf, and he's also the coolest, most laid-back guy ever, so he was totally not bummed out by getting raked over the coals. And ultimately killed. Yeah, Castri died. I knew he would. When I playtested the encounter for myself, he did. It was almost inevitable. The player got that, too, and he was really fine with it. I don't think I've ever seen a D&D player take his character's death as well as he did. He's a great player, and just a really classy guy. (He's the one I mentioned who'd DM’ed some Dark Sun for me at one point.) So yeah, Castri died, but it wasn't a big deal, and it didn't dampen the fun or bring down anyone's spirits. It served to punctuate the brutality of Athas, make the encounter feel difficult and deadly, really support the whole lore thing of the Silt Runners, and yet it didn't ruin the game or cause a TPK or piss anyone off out-of-character. So really, as far as PC deaths go, it was the best possible PC death there could have been. He's excited to come back next week, death penalty and all!
Everyone else lived, and escaped the map in round four. With 24 survival days, some extra weapons, the box of goodies, the dead body of Castri slung over Yuka's brawny shoulders, and the corpse of the slain Silt Runner leader in Shikirr's greedy claws. Four of six action points were used, but no dailies, and no healing fruits consumed yet. The PCs spent seven healing surges in the battle, which is the same number I used when I ran the encounter for myself the first time. But they haven't done the rests after the fight yet, and they're pretty badly beat up, so they'll use quite a few more surges when we start the next session.
Barcan used 0 surges, 0 dailies, 1 action point, and ended with 4 hit points. He critted the Inciter to end the battle with his encounter power Ray of the Moon, which was a huge moment and much needed. His player gained 4 renown.
Castri used 1 surge, 0 dailies, 0 action points, and ended up dead with no hit points. He kinda just got the crap kicked out of him, but he had lots of fun anyway, and is ready to come back with a vengeance next week. His player gained 4 renown.
Jarvix used 0 surges, 0 dailies, 1 action point, and ended with 8 hit points. He saved Phye from certain doom with a timely Excise From Sight Veiled Alliance power, and made great use of his twice-per-encounter Distract power, too. (Oh, and he even used Send Thoughts in battle, to secretly tell someone across the field to KILL THE INCITER!) His player gained 4 renown.
Phye was the MVP of the night, getting her Moment of Greatness when, in one round, she killed a still-tough Rager and brought three different allies up from dying. (Nearly maximum damage on an Augment 2 Energizing Strike plus granted a surge to one dying ally, then action point and Augment 1 Energizing Strike to grant 4 hit points to another dying ally, then Ardent Surge a third dying ally. The guy who played Phye tonight was very effective!) She used 1 surge, 0 dailies, 1 action point, and ended with 5 hit points. Her player gained 7 (!) renown.
Shikirr took heaping piles of damage, and very nearly died twice. He didn't get much chance to attack or use powers, but boy did he save his buddies a ton of pain. He used 3 surges, 0 dailies, 0 action points (the only PC besides the dead Castri not to use an AP), and ended with 18 hit points. His player gained 5 renown.
Yuka got a chance to use his Combat Agility opportunity attack AND his immediate interrupt Combat Challenge attack both against one Rager in one round as the stubborn brute refused to be deterred in his mission to attack the elf. He took it from unharmed to bloodied, and knocked it prone (and the team got a lot of mileage out of that prone), and in the second attack, he rolled a 1 and took advantage of the reckless breakage rule. I described the resulting hit as him actually breaking off one whole spike of his alhulak in the Silt Runner's body. It was a nice, brutal Dark Sun moment. He used 2 surges, 0 dailies, 1 action point, and ended with 8 hit points. His player gained 4 renown.
(Oh, actually I just remembered, Castri did get to do something cool before he died! He got the first kill in the fight, as a matter of fact. He threw a javelin from inside the wagon at a Darter who was taking cover beside one of the big rocks. Despite a -4 to hit from concealment and cover, he threw and hit, and did good damage with his javelin and Quarry, and killed the same Darter who had just critted him with Poison Dart for 23. I gave a detailed and epic-sounding narration of Castri's enraged and skillful gladiator throw. So yeah, that was a cool moment for him before he died. Yay! But this was also another shining moment for Phye, too, because actually, Castri missed that killing javelin shot by exactly 1, and Phye made it a hit with a timely use of her Adept's Insight theme power. So that was great teamwork.)
The battle was one of the most fun I've DM’ed in 4th edition, and without doubt more fun than anyLiving Forgotten Realms encounter I've ever DM’ed. (And I've run quite a lot of LFR.)
Overall, the session was a tremendous, tremendous blast, for me and the players, and I'd call it a huge and unqualified success. I am now super psyched about D&D Encounters, and feel so happy and lucky that I get to run this, and have this kind of fun with D&D, in my beloved Dark Sun, in a wonderful organized play program like this.
The store owner was happy too, as I brought six guys in who'd never even been to his store. He'd never had any sanctioned, organized D&D stuff at his store before (they pretty much just have a lot of Warhammer players there), and I was the one who specifically called him up and talked him into it. So another D&D venue is born, and hopefully this helps his business as well. What a great program!
Thank you again, everyone who made this possible! Chris Tulach, Nicholas Tulach, and Teos Abadia, in particular, you guys are my heroes. Big thanks to my awesome players tonight, and I can't wait for next week!
Oh, and I hope everyone else had a good time, too. (But really, there's no way that anyone else had as much fun as we did.)
Whew! That should do it. The short version is: I had lots of fun!
Well we had a huge (for us) turn out. We had 14 people (two tables of 5 and one table of 4) come out to the Ottawa University cafeteria (as our sponsoring game store closes it's doors at 5:30 on Wednesdays) where we've been holding the Encounter sessions. Next week we might even get three more players!
Everybody had a blast as far as I can tell. Over at the table of four, composed pretty much of all new players (even one woman who I talked into trying the game out for the first time) they managed to get a record number of survival days (25!) and kicked much butt in the process.
At my table they killed the opposition in the course of three initiative rounds (with the expendature of a daily or two...that's gonna haunt them later on) but managed to walk away with a 20+ survival days worth of supply. Heck in true Athasian fashion they carted off three of the corpses with them and I gave them three survival days for that! Mmmmm lizard, it's what's for dinner.
Resounding Success for us in Highlands Ranch, Colorado
4 tables, almost all full, 2 no shows who had signed up ahead fo time.
I made sure to use the errata and encounter adjustments Alpahstream1 compiled. Which I recommend to everyone that had a rough go of it. They really helped make it a brutal but not over the top encounter.
I wrote up a custom intro along the same lines that Bryan did and really help set the mood and tone of Dark Sun.
The players all really got into it. I put together some player packets, but felt like I let one of my tables down as the other DM showed up with Mood Music and Sound Effects...sigh....curse his little speakers!
Anyway no player deaths and everyone was psyched to come back next week.
As a long time organizer and DM the only advice I can give to all the people that are spitting venom, take a breath, look around at the forum posts about modifications and errata about the adventure and characters and see if you can impliment some damage control and make the next 14 weeks a much better experience for you and your players. TPKs always leave bad tastes in peoples mouths but while you can never repeat a first impression you can always strive to make it right the 2nd time you meet.
I took a long time describing the setting, cos like firesnakearies, I love Dark Sun. (I also hate divine classes so thats an added bonus for me :D) My players absolutly loved it.
They immediatly took on the idea that gather food is the most important stuff and getting the hell out of here was the way to go, which they luckily did.
I didn't change anything on the monsters (even though I read all the stuff here and the suggestions) basicly because I didn't have time (I just got the adventure yesterday). I was really pulling punches though
I only had one dead, because the mul fighter decided to run back one last time for more supplies (she was only gathering stuff the whole fight and ran away at 1 point) She ran back, spend a minor to gather, and then ran off again. This left her with the snipers and the leaders (the 2 brutes were already killed when the PC's fought their way through) The sniper used his immobilizing power (meh 12+ to hit and she hasn't yet, atleast she didn't tell me) I hit and rolled 9 and 10 on the die. I rolled open all die rolls the whole night, so I couldn't really fudge the roll. Bah she forgot to tell she was bloodied (we use markers) so that hit killed her
Anyways the ranger was bloodied once, the sorcerer was down at some point, and a dead Mul. It wasn't really that bad. All the players though the encounter was really cool (and they are a difficult bunch to appease or impress!) So kudos to the writer
We had two tables at our place, I was playing Jarvix at one of them. Both of our tables succeeded, I'm not sure to what extent for the second table, but our table did fairly well. We had 7 players at each table (we had an extra Phye), so next week I'm actually going to be DMing instead of playing probably.
But for our group, all the attacks were centered on Castri, Shikirr and Yuka, since Barcan and myself stayed in the wagon constantly gathering supplies while throwing out ranged attacks (through the concealment due to twitter). Castri was dropped in the first round (but not killed), luckily there were a couple of misses, or low damage rolls, so it took nearly every silt runner to drop him. The way the ragers were grouped though, Jarvix (myself) was able to drop a Dishearten for 11 damage on all of them (-2 atk). After Castri was brought up, nobody else was knocked unconscious, but all 3 of the aforementioned were brought to bloodied or more. Once the Inciter moved to the closest rock, Jarvix and Barcan focused on him, with Jarvix throwing augment 1 mind thrusts (-3 will) and distract (combat advantage), so that Barcan could use his encounter powers with the greatest chance to hit.
We had just finished dropping the first wave, when the second wave appeared. Jarvix and Barcan grabbed whatever else they could, and ran. Castri ran back to the wagon to grab just one more day, then ran out himself. So between Barcan and Jarvix they had 12 survival days, with most everyone else having at least 1 or 2 more on them they grabbed before entering the fight. Castri, Shikirr and Yuka probably went through quite a few surges (probably 3 each), but with the other half of the party only taking minimal damage from the storm Jarvix should be able to rearrange those surges to better use.
I look forward to DMing next week, though since I'll be a fresh table, it'll likely be fresh characters. I don't know if that'll be good for them or bad, since they'll have full surges, but only 2 survival days per character.
On Essentials: Everyone deserves to play a class they enjoy.
Our DM did a great job explaining how harsh Athas was and that we would need to gather some supplies in order to survive. He also did a nice job depicting that if we didn't gather our supplies and get out, more of those pesky silt runners would arrive and overwhelm us.
Luckily we PC's rolled extremely high initiative, which is a rare occurance for us (21, 20, 19, 19, 12).
I spent the entire encounter healing, stabalizing and collecting supply rations. I was only able to actually attack twice using Energizing Strike (it was actually in the same round because I used an action point to do it twice in a row with Augment 1 to revive people).
At the very end of the session we had 4 people dying. Luckily, I managed to stay out of the line of fire and got hit just once (for 9 points of damage). It took a while, but I managed to use a heal check on all of them and allowed them to use their second winds while Shikirr kept the silt runners at bay.
Just as more of them started pouring in, I did my last Heal check, we each grabbed one last supply ration and sprinted off.
I don't recall what our total supply was, but I managed to grab 6 of them, myself.
I thought this first encounter really captured the danger of the Dark Sun setting. Everyone had been knocked unconscious at least once in the encounter (except me). As the healer, I was pretty much on edge the whole time trying to decide who I wanted to heal, where I wanted to move, how many supplies would be enough, and how much time we had left before more Silt Runners arrived. I found the encounter very exciting and fast paced. And despite the fact that we were all beaten up badly, we all left really having enjoyed the session.
I can't wait to see what next week has in store for us!
I had the Darters use their Poison Dart on two of their group right off and the Rager's Penetrating Spear attacks first off. The group was gathering Survival Days packs as fast as they could during the fight meanwhile Yuka hit the dirt unconscious for a round. After Phye returned Yuka back to the battle, the group went on to roll saving throws and dispatch the rest of the Silt Runners with a complete round left to collect one more SD pack and hightail their **** out of there.
These guys are good. They collected a total of 23 SD packs during the fight. Let's see what next week brings!
Wow what a write up and what a fun thing you have done for your group.
I agree. Thanks for the great enthusiasm. I love DS, don't get me wrong. I made some things to hand out, no doubt about that. Honestly, I dont' think I got even close toyour enthusiasm and enjoyment of Dark Sun and DMing for the team.
Rich, the owner, didn't order the kits until last Thursday because I was the first person to ask about Season 2 after we finished Season 1. (I'm DMing this season after playing last season.) Rich called his WotC rep on Thursday to make sure we would still get the kits on time. The rep said absolutely, just register online and he'd make sure the kits got sent out right away. After they didn't show up yesterday, Rich called the rep back and the rep basically said, "what did you expect, you ordered them late"? But that's why Rich specifically called him last week!!! Ugh.
So, "boo" to Rich and his Rep for not getting us the kits. We'll be running two sessions back to back next week.
We did have a HUGE turnout compared to season 1 (which averaged 8-10 players at two tables). Fourteen players showed up, including four who have never played D&D before and one who hasn't played since the first year of 3rd. There were also a couple of regular 4E DMs who are really looking forward to having a chance to play. I hope we can get a couple more good DMs to handle this many players. I hope everyone comes back next week after the disappointment of not playing this week.
I was prepared for 12 players. I handed out player tracking sheets with the 10 Things about Athas info. I also had printed off two copies of the the pregens so they could take a look over them and think about who they might want to play next week.
How to Handle Pregen Disappointment A few experienced 4E players, especially those that played season one, were surprised and disappointed to find out they couldn't create their own characters. I think I handled this well by stressing two points.
Athas Is Deadly: Player's Handbook characters, even uber-optimized ones, at 1st Level will die quick deaths in Athas. The Dark Sun setting has introduced rules for Themes to augment the standard Races and Classes and toughen up your characters. We won't have the full rules for themes until the setting is officially released in August. So we'll use pregens now to give us a taste of Dark Sun before the books hit the shelves.
It's a Chance to Try New Things: I have a friend who only plays Human Fighters. And he plays that character the same way every time. Don't be that friend. Take this opportunity to try a new race/class combo you might not have considered before. Read your pregen's Background, Appearance, and Personality Traits and try to take on that persona in your role-playing. Use the Encounters pregens as a laboratory for trying new things.
Think of it Like This: If it helps, think of these pregens as a demo or an open beta of Dark Sun. When you play video game demos and betas, you only get a peak at the entirety of the game while still having a hella great time. The same goes for this season of Encounters.
Everyone who was upset or disappointed nodded in agreement and was satisfied after I put it like this. At the very least, they leaned their pitchforks against the wall and snuffed out their torches.
I shared more about Athas, the weapon breakage rules, and how encounters works. There were lots of questions about Athas, Encounters, Renown Points, and D&D. I think most everyone left with their disappointment about not playing tempered by being even more excited about Athas and D&D and looking forward to playing than when they arrived.
So I guess I'm left waiting for the kits to show up today or tomorrow, and looking forward to double the fun next week.