Use this thread to discuss your experiences with week 11 of D&D Encounters Dark Sun.
Please realise that both players and DMs read these threads, so do not put spoilers in your posts. If your post goes into enough details, then you absolutely must use spoilers. Enclose the spoilery bit in [*sblock=spoiler stuff][*/sblock] (just remove the *) spoiler block tags so that players who haven't played yet don't have the surprise ruined for them.
We are still seating 7 tables and seeing new players each session. I had another 5 new RPGA cards this past week.
For this session, to be honest I was a bit worried it would not play well. The other judges were as well. The transition between encounter elements seemed prone to problems. We were all very pleasantly surprised to have this be a super-fun session. I do think it takes good prep and DM flexibility, but it can really be one of the most fun sessions of the season.
Intro The first part we worked on as DMs is having a smoother introductory transition between the end of the last session and the beginning of the skill challenge. As I wrote over on the other thread, it can play well to think through some RP. For my table, I let the PCs react to being encircled by spear-wielding halflings. Insight showed two halflings, each with distinctive bone nose rings (one a rune-carved circular disk, another a short pointed curved bone), as the ones in charge but clearly not the overall leader for the camp. Nature/history showed that there should be an Elder for the village and that they will probably be taken to them.
PCs had fun trying to RP a bit. I came up with a tribal language the halflings used and one of them spoke rough common. Two clever PCs made a diplomacy check to allow them to tie their own blindfolds and one of the PCs then made the bluff or stealth check to tie it loosely - allowing them to see glimpses of the trail and see how the halflings moved.
When the blindfolds were removed they were in a cage. Sort of a dome of wood rods tied together. Very thick and strong, extending under the ground. Perception allowed them to see ruins of a pyramid in the distance, various buildings, guess at some 60 halflings in the village, see the bed of coals with spits large enough to cook a man...
Skill Challenge Our DMs played this pretty fast and loose. Basically, we responded to what players came up with. One PC really didn't like to be enslaved (RPing the background well) and decided to break out. I explained it might make a noise, and the party discussed making a distraction but then went the diplomacy route. Jarvix used Send Thoughts to the halfling that was in charge of them, and he quickly went to summon the Elder.
When the Elder arrived there was some very good RP by Jarvix and then a strong bit from Yuka who has the background of wanting to come to the forest. It was pretty sweet and they convinced the Elder. I made the elder a fairly old crotchety old man - sort of the wild halfling version of the old man from Golden Child that picks his nose. The players could sense he was disappointed, and then he says "Shame, I sure you would be good eatin'." It was pretty funny.
One of the PCs came up with the idea that they could do a task for the Elder. The Elder informed them of the critters in 3-2 and asked them to remove that problem. Nice.
One of the difficult things with diplomacy is that you then have to explain why they don't get their stuff. One way to handle it is that they say "but we keep your stuff, good luck", then encourage the PCs to come back (have them make perception checks, insight checks, have the NPC say "Sorry, we will not give you your things, we will keep them in the storage shed and then give them out to our best warriors tomorrow..."
What I ended up doing, spur of the moment, is to come up with the idea that there was a second halfling tribe. The Elder's brother or other family member became tainted by some ancient fell magic in a pyramid and has taken a bunch of the tribe away. Normally, halflings do not fight amongst each other. The Elder explained that he hopes for peace, so he sent their stuff (being sure they would be dinner and thus not need their stuff) to his family member as an olive branch to begin negotiations for their return.
This gave them the perfect result - their diplomacy got them their release, now they have to raid the other camp for their gear.
The party actually spoke for a long time about how to approach the area of the camp. For a while they wanted to do a distraction on one side of the camp while others sneaked into the building with their stuff. I was going to split up the halflings if they went that route, but the changed their mind and had PCs try to stealth in. Yuka and Shikirr climbed the wall and Shikirr made noise as they rolled a bad stealth check...
Battle The fight is not particularly hard. This works really well with the premise - they have no weapons and no armor. Because the default party has two ranged implement options, they are further well positioned for this fight. It ended up being excellent. They were in danger due to their very low AC, and they did d4 damage with weapon attacks until they could recover their weapons.
For a table of six I used two Wilders instead of one and kept the normal amount of warriors. This worked well, but I did take all 2dx attacks and make them 2d4 usually (every now and then I would use 2d8 on an unbloodied target). This worked really well for me. I had the Wilders focus on one target, but ignore bloodied targets because they expected their kin to finish them off. I had the runners split up and fight different targets. This kept the battle fun, fairly mobile, and manageable for both sides.
Melee PCs did their best to move in and get their gear. Phye used the teleport exchange power to swap with a PC that had already grabbed gear, then minor to get her stuff and standard to attack with her weapon... very cool. Implement users really shined due to their ability to do high damage without their gear. Several stayed on top of the walls, including Castri who was Twin-Striking with rocks and even crit with a rock on her quarry = 10 damage!
We did have one player that has been playing Barcan. He created a new Dray sorcerer PC and was very happy as he proceeded to roll really well on two reinforcements and then breathe and then AP and nearly killed them. It was especially sweet because when he came around the corner I had RPd the two halflings as arguing over which got to eat Phye (the only PC the halflings could see), when the Dray comes around the corner and just blasts them to near death. Moment of Greatness awarded.
Overall, this was a fun combat where not having weapons and armor worked really well with the enemies. The 2-round delay for reinforcements worked well. Lowering the d28s to 2d4 worked really well for me to keep this a fun combat... next week will be one I run harder, so I wanted this one to be less dangerous.
Edit: I forgot to post my picture of the encounter, including terrain from Naloomi's Workshop.
Basically, we glanced across the roleplaying part, and ended up at the encampment with our gear. That starts things off interestingly.
DM says the walls are only about 15 feet high. Shikirr rolls a 24 Athletics and leaps onto them. Not climb, leap. Rope is lowered and the group is now scaling the wall.
Reach the room with everyone in it. Shikirr sneaks around onto the inside wall. Jarvix sneaks onto the outside wall. Barcan takes 2 steps and blows his Stealth check. Shikirr thinks fast and immediately jumps onto "Clubby," spear down into face. Hits the attack and rolls for max damage, so Clubby is both shocked and in pain. Shikirr uses his ability and quickly moves to block the door - futile move. The 3 spearmen each stab at Shikirr then go shifting past into the other room. Come Yuka's turn, he decides to jump on Clubby as well, further injuring and shocking him. Castri attempts the same later, but trips on the way down the wall.
Barcan and Jarvix stay on the wall casting spells down. The group of 3 spearmen quickly die after receiving Mist Weapon Aug2 (turning it into a Close Blast 3), followed up by Thi-Kreen Claws and a Dishearten Aug2. Joke of the day became that Jarvix filled their minds with Justin Beiber, as he rolled max damage on 2 and managed to crit the 3rd.
Everything else dies just fine. On a random note, Barcan finds a "sharp rock - a very sharp rock." Running joke - Yuka was looking for a sharp rock 2 encounters ago failing to have anything to reach his target with, so he kept looking for a sharp rock to throw at something. Turns out Barcan found a spear head, who has now fashioned it onto his Staff end.
I've got to open by saying that the players and I are really enjoying the story and so excited to be making this progress in Dark Sun. It is a fantastic season when viewed in comparison with last season. everything elseShow
there are some things that seemed out of place.
the first topic is that of the DCs for the skill challenge and details of how the halflings would respond to several of these things. I have a bit of understanding, but I felt that I really lacked a complete understanding of hte DS halflings. The DCs for all skills was woefully low in light of how well they achieved every check they attempted. (i didn't tell them it was a skill challenge; occassionally i requested a specific roll from a player that was watching from the sidelines rather as others trumped the roleplay.) but, why, oh, why would the halflings not eat them fairly quickly? why would the elders want to speak with them?
I said that the elder wanted to talk because of superstitions largely associated with the iron spear and crystal armor. that was something they capitalized on.
without equipment, Castri quickly got to work shaping a bone shiv. I told them the holding pen was 15 ft high and Shikirr started jumping just to show the halflings he could jump higher than their walls. he did it as a distraction more than anything else.
one of hte most interesting was Phye began to disrobe for the halflings to cause more distractions and improve the diplomatic efforts. Honestly, I imagine the halflings would have been thinking of what a great meal they would make of her, but the dice indicated that it was seriously improving the diplomatic efforts.
from there, Castri, Jarvix both snuck away. Then they decided to have an all out athletics attempt to break apart the pen and go running. Without wanting to have a fight with a split party I made the guards attending to the pen become minions which Yuka and Shikirr quickly killed.
The entire group began the assault of the small ruins. Shikirr did leap onto the wall (similar to what another poster mentioned). But with the roof stopping an overhead "death from above," they did have a fight to be worked out. They saw the bell and that became the key target; no one ran for gear, they simply started beating up halflings with improvised weapons and accepted the results. As logn as nothign could set off that alarm, they would keep fighting.
I did send in some extra halflings during the fight which had noticed their escape, but things were easily within the grasp of the PCs even by then. Despite Shikirr dropping below zero from ongoing poison, I could see htye wouldn't lose unless the dice went cold. In fact that gave Yuka the chance to offer a heal check that got Skikirr on his feet before Phye could offer help; he got a 'Revive a dying ally' award for that and was voted as his moment of greatness. It also provided Shikirr with greater than 50 enemy damage in one encounter.
overall, the group has now seen Phye get stripped down (except Barcan making it known that he was not going to check out his sister). That's pretty special right there I guess.
i wish that the DCs of the skill challenge had more bite and the info about just how to actually enliven the halflings had given more substance to that interaction. It was fantastic roleplay; everyone laughed and had a great time, but the skill checks were so easy that I'm surprised to think anyone gets eaten by halflings if getting away is that easy.
Before hand I had made cards for each of the characters with their unarmed/unarmored information. So they were all ready for if/when combat broke out as to how under-equipped they were.
The skill challenge went really good, like I've said before my table is a majority of new to Roleplaying guys, so this was really a first chance to get completely away from combat for a time. Phye went off to talk with the Elder alone, while the other 3 worked at getting out on their own. Castri snagged some tools from nearby (Thievery), Shikirr picked a fight with one of the guards (Intimidate instead of Bluff), while Yuka set to work on the bars (Athletics). Second round the guard had stormed off to complain to the other guards about the unruly prisoner, Shikirr kept watch (Perception), Castri slipped through the small opening (Stealth), and Yuka made the hole a bit larger for the last two to slip out (Athletics), Phye stalls for a bit to figure out exactly what he should say to the Elder (Insight). Finally Phye figures out what to say (Diplomacy), at least that enough that the elder finds it amusing to let the small human woman loose in the jungle by herself. Castri slips through a small opening (Stealth), Yuka and Shikirr climb the outer walls to get out (Athletics).
So this gets them all outside the camp now, but with the realization that they're pretty helpless without their equipment. But luckily as Phye was escorted through camp she saw where their gear was being taken. And they should be able to slip in the back side of the camp to retrieve it.
For the encounter, since I only had 4 and they were all of the non-implement armor wearing characters, I dropped the number of creatures.
A quick perception check, told them the area was mostly clear, but rustling and rummaging could be heard from the building. Also Castri spotted a brass gong set up in one corner of the area. So Castri begins stealthing over to the alarm to disable it. Shikirr easily climbs up the wall, and leaps across to the middle section, but absolutely fails the stealth check on his landing... So I give the last two characters their single move action to finish out the surprise round, and roll initiatives.
The combat itself went a lot better than I was thinking it would, I was especially worried about Shikirr with his 12 AC, but the group managed to keep creatures from ever ganging up completely on one player (entire encounter, I think I missed twice). Castri managed to use Thievery to remove the gong, and though the thought of using it as a weapon crossed his mind, the fact that it'd likely be the same as someone ringing it turned him against it. In the hut they found all their stuff within easy reach, but the halflings had been taking all their food, and survival days out to be moved elsewhere. So with 1 minor action to grab equipment, and another minor per survival day, I drastically reduced their number of survival days available (Shikirr got 2, the others all got 1 each). What was the most fun was the number of 1's the players rolled, and taking the reckless breakage. Both Yuka and Shikirr broke their starting weapons (Shikirr still has the Acidic Spear though), and Phye took the chance with her iron longspear (it survived). As the last of the halflings fell, I had another group wander into the area, just to keep the sense of urgency of getting out on them. And as they left an Athletics check for each, just to keep them running from the halflings (All passed, but I was just going to take a Surge away from anyone that failed).
Afterwards they were pleasantly surprised to find that one of the bags they grabbed wasn't their own, and instead contained an extra pair of Silt Runner Sandals. Also with some crude fashioning, they can convert the gong that Castri ran out with into a light shield.
Overall the players looked to be having a great time, despite their less than ideal circumstances. But they were very happy when they could finally take a short rest, and don their armor once more.
On Essentials: Everyone deserves to play a class they enjoy.
This was my favorite encounter of Encounters--both seasons--so far. The role-playing up front was long overdue. And the very interesting grab-and-go mission at the back end really mixed things up from the usual kill everything and take their stuff encounter. I wish I had recorded this session for posterity, it was so good.
The five remaining players (we started with 24 at three tables in the beginning of the Dark Sun season) all brought their own characters, including one who basically brought Yuka 2.0.
Two of the players brought half-elf bards. So the encounter began with one of the bards asking if he could perform for the village elder. The elder liked it and allowed the other bard to join him. The other three started trying to break out. As the bards performed the entire tribe showed up. The elder moved the party to a tribal moot in the middle of the jungle.
The elder was feeling great--surrounded by female halflings adoring him for finding the bards, full of drink and food (the remains of the pregens!) and smoke from some strange weed found throughout the forest--so he allowed the bards to be joined by the rest of their "troupe" for the final set of the night. The other three had not been able to escape from the cage.
In an act of charity he allowed them all to live because of their great performance. But they had to submit to being tied up and blindfolded in the middle of the jungle so they couldn't follow the tribe back to their hidden village and lead enemies back their. In the morning they were released by a sole halfling who bolted into the forest.
I then launched another impromptu skill challenge to track the halfling and avoid being lost in the jungle. The entire table would have three rounds of nature checks. Success meant that player kept sight of the halfling. As long as at least one player succeeded they kept the halfing in sight. A failure by a player meant they lost the halfling and they had to roll an immediate nature check to avoid losing the party. If they failed that they were lost in the forest. After three rounds, at least one player still had the halfling in sight as it ran into some ruins in a clearing. But a couple of players became lost in the forest. The other three had wisely started leaving a trail when the others were lost (rolled at least 10 on a d20 to give a +2 on the lost player's checks) so with just a little delay and panic the party reassembled in the start zone of the ruin map.
That fight was ugly. They dispatched the initial four halflings, but realized they were in deep, deep trouble when three more showed up in response to the alarm. In the storage room, I put 10 piles of stuff: half the piles were there stuff, half the piles were two survival days worth of stuff. It took a minor action while in a pile's square to pick it up and sort through it to see if it was gear or survival days (a die roll). If it was gear, another die roll determined whose gear they had found. This lead to hilarity and panic as they tried to find their stuff.
They all made it out alive, but it was very close. The vision of a naked dwarf running into the woods with his gear over his head screaming in panic from the halfling onslaught is one of my favorite from 20 years of playing D&D. The two bards were the last ones over a wall, and without a lucky heal check by one, the other would have been unconcious having fallen off the top of the wall. They made it out having killed the initial four halflings, but with nine reinforcements on the board and three more showing up the next turn.
The players ran off different sides of the board, so we'll have to deal with them finding each other and getting re-equipped next time.
It's important to note that I never told the players they were in a skill challenge for any of these, what skills were usable, how close they were to success or failure, etc. All of that mechanical stuff should stay behind the screen, IMO. You should just be describing the scene and npcs actions and the players should be thinking, roleplaying, and asked to roll skill checks when they try something.
The party couldn't decide a single course of action to deal with being in the halfling cage and so became their own worse enemies. Some players wanted to escape/fight, some wanted to negotiate, some wanted to settle down and join the halflings! Every time I tried to resolve things in a certain direction, a player would do something to mess that tactic up.
Yuka believed this was the land he has been searching for all his life and was insistent on staying. He wanted to open his mind to the halfling chief to prove his sincerity -- but Phye mind zapped Yuka with her daily to stop him. Then Barcan and Jarvix were having successes talking to the chief about their adventures, only to have Castri (who had escaped the cage earlier and hidden), come leaping out of the shadows, vault over the halfling guards, and take the chief prisoner (stabbing out an eye to prove he meant business).
If this had been my home game I would have rolled with the idea of the party joining the village (next session they would have probably been given a challenging mission to prove their worth), but the Encounters needs to more-or-less follow its own plot. To make it more complicated, I was only filling in for this table, since their regular DM couldn't get there early enough to run that night.
About 9:30 the store was closing, so I called the regular DM over (he'd arrived earlier and been observing) and asked him to resolve things, since he'd be taking it back up next week. The party managed to escape with some skill rolls, though still without gear, and some characters still wanting to join up with the halflings.
I think most every body had fun, but it was tough trying to lead it all to a resolution that would keep the game within the D&D Encounters campaign!
The whole area was fully open from the top. DM didn't specify there was a roof anywhere and it was played as such.
Yes, one of the guards made it to the alarm. Perhaps more of interest did happen, I suppose. Continuing from my previous post:
At this point, everything from the initial setup is dead. Yuka is currently laying on top of the Warden and was planning to use his body as a meat-shield. Instead, the plan changes slightly to avoid further conflict.
Shikirr has persistently had a torch affixed to the end of his spear (the poking end, that is) to save him a hand. He's evidently been turned into a minor pyromaniac, because even with it being daylight, so far as we knew, the torch was still lit. Yuka decapitates the Warden and chucks it up to Jarvix, who is still on the wall and has the highest intimidate score amongst us. Castri, on the ground, and Phye, who is also still on the wall, begin throwing stones at the oncoming guards and a vague reference to hamsters and Elderberries is heard from one of them. Shikirr holds his spear up so that Jarvix can reach down and light it on fire. He's now holding a lit halfling head. Shikirr then takes his spear (he's gotten the magic Spear from earlier) and uses the Reach 5 ability of it to poke at the next oncoming Warden. Another hit for max damage. Jarvix now throws this head towards the oncoming group of guards and lets off a warning of "This is what will happen to you." Role-playing bonus points takes Jarvix's check of 23 and boost it up to being a 32.
As our DM said, "The guards quickly turn and run away, leaving a trail of fecal matter behind them."
So yeah, it didn't get played exactly as the story probably should have, but we all had good fun. That's what really counts anyways. A story would be nice, but this was actually one of our group's more organized play sessions in a while. Organized in that we didn't just go in there screaming for bloody murder. We actually hatched out a plan and, more or less, followed it well.
I wasn't the poster, but in my case I went with a loose roof of widely spaced wooden beams, plus some minor efforts to place leaves over it. PCs could jump down through it as needed. It seemed more fun that way.
I have a bit of understanding, but I felt that I really lacked a complete understanding of the DS halflings. The DCs for all skills was woefully low in light of how well they achieved every check they attempted. (i didn't tell them it was a skill challenge; occasionally i requested a specific roll from a player that was watching from the sidelines rather as others trumped the roleplay.) but, why, oh, why would the halflings not eat them fairly quickly? why would the elders want to speak with them?
Halfling culture is complex. The savage wild side is real, but so is the side where they used to be the wise caretakers and rulers of the planet. It is valid to show flashes of both sides. I played the Elder as a wise man... who wanted to eat them but begrudgingly accepted them being allowed to leave... and who both feared magic and had insights into the history of the world. Specifically to why they were not eaten, I think they ate recently. The PCs are in the cupboard!