Field report for D&D Encounters: War of Everlasting Darkness (Week 8) now available at Dungeon's Master.com.
Wow! What an ending. This was a great session. I ran it once and played it once and had a blast both times. This is what D&D is all about (especially 4e D&D). We had so much fun.
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It was a great encounter. It ran long because we had no strikers in the party. I encouraged them from the beginning to explore everything on the map. In fact they spent their first 5 turns doing nothing but exploring the top 2 levels. Some of them had a disturbing interest in the corpses...
The fight was brutal. I had whittled away all of their healing options by the time they took down Danifae. If I had remembered the aura and retribution power every turn I think it would have ended much more deadly.
First off, let me apologise for the lateness of this posting but with the family commitments and the festive season it has been unavoidably delayed, but here we go with the season finale and review.
The early session saw a full table of players arrive at the spellcaves and immediately decide to share the relics of light so that each pc was carrying at least one. The kobold cavalier led the way, falling foul of the maw and being teleported into the nearest of the coldfire globes. The half-orc beserker was next, also being teleported but this time nearer the waiting drow big-hitters who were more than ready to let the solitary pc feel their wrath. The elven hunter and mage also fell foul of the maw but the drow priest managed to leap past unmolested to tackle cleansing the nearest artifact.
Amidst the brutal combat that ensued the half-orc managed to spy a fleeting glimpse of a woman in white within one of the reflectig motes at the rear of the cavern, but before he could investigate he was battered and blasted by the drow casters and despite him charging the drow wizard and his allies using the healing powers of the Tears to revive him it wasnt long before a pair of the stalkers used him as a pin cushion.
The two elves in the party fared little better, the drows ancestral hatred spurring them on to destroy their surface cousins with spell and blade, though the mage did manage to blast his wizard counterpart into the afterlife, the power of Lolth’s avatar proved too much for them.
All that remained of the heroes party was a severly wounded kobold cavalier and a relatively uninjured drow priest, as the kobold passed out from ongoing damage Lolth’s avatar gave the priest a simply choice – finish the cavalier off and join the glory of Lolth, or join his allies – in death! The priest tried to coup de grace the kobold (and missed!) but as it expired from its injuries he blagged it, claiming the kill and proffessing his loyalty toLolth.
The later session was even unluckier. Being down on numbers didnt help though their lack of some of the relics didnt then become an issue. The hexblade, vampire and hunter all suffered the attentions of the maw and the ensuing coldfire globes. They courageously sought to defy the onslaught of the drow casters but eventually only the vampire remained standing and faced with a choice of fight or flee, chose to go down swinging.
This session was brutal. It felt more like a Lair Assault than a session of Encounters. I think the ongoing vulnerability to everything was overkill, especially when coupled with the only way to stop it being the reflecting motes at the rear of the chamber (beyond all of the bad guys). I think this maybe should have been a save to end effect or that the motes should have been repositioned (it also wasnt as readily apparent to the players that the motes had this ability). The drow themselves were another thing, the avatar of Lolth is noted as being a solo controller and yet is served up with accompanying wizard and minions, add in the restriction that she cant be taken below bloodied until all the artifacts are cleansed and this really does seem to be overkill.
While the session itself is well written (as was the entire season) I feel that it doesnt really fit the Encounters mould of showcasing the best of DnD to encourage new players to try the game and hopefully continue to play. I know lots of people (my players included) have asked in the past for the chance to play higher levels than the standard 1st to 3rd that Encounters has been prone to do, but if we had had a walk-in new player trying to create and play an 8th level pc to run in this session, I sincerely doubt they would give DnD a second chance.
This season overall has been both a pleasure and a pain to run. I have enjoyed the story arc and the feel of “an adventure a week” with the exploration/interaction/action style sessions, what I havent enjoyed is trying to defend the seemingly arbitrary rulings of no resting and poor treasure/monetary rewards to my players when asked why is no-one sleeping during what the text calls a four day hike. Telling them its part of the game mechanic for the season just became very hollow after the fourth or fifth time.
I know for several of my players (and myself at present) Ecounters is the only organised and regular “dose” of Dnd available so we stick with it, especially after taking so long to actually get it off the ground in our city (many thanks tabletoptyrant.co.uk/) and so we chalk this one down as a win for the bad guys (and curse the dice-gods for letting me-the-DM roll good rolls).
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all my players this season (and throughout the previous ones) for sticking with it and taking the good with bad and hope they’ll be there for much more to come.
I would also like to thank all the people that work to create the Encounters program, from the scenario writers to the wpn staff that supply and organise the materials we use, all of which contribute to this great hobby in their own way.
So the bad guys won this one, chalk it up to experience, lick your wounds, roll up a new pc and prepare for battle once more – after all – tomorrow’s another adventure!
We never even finished the session. After 3 hours, we had activated all the crystals, the avatar of lloth was a few points from bloodied and the party (5 PCs) was in fair shape to keep going, not great, but I think we still had a chance. But we were already to the point of the shop closing. So our DM just told us how the rest would have gone. This encounter was just way to big.
I think one of the main problems was that we were very melee focus and it just took way too long, with the maw and the cliffs and all to decend to the point of being able to fight. There were way took many obstacles and terrain effects and all. Meanwhile the enemies just plinked away. Would have loved to have finished this one all dramatic and everything, we just couldn't do it in the time frame.
But the whole season was kinda like that. You want to go in thinking you will be done in 1.5 to 2 hours and it just stretches on. (Not that I don't want to play, I would love to have a chance play 4-6 hour sessions and huge campaigns but I don't have that kind of life). I'm there with 2 of my kids and its a school night. And there's other school age kids too. We need to get done and get home, its getting late.
Overall, I'd say that this season was little snapshots of what was really meant to be (or could/should have been) a whole heroic tier campaign. It was nice and great story, fun characters (I really liked Axelcrantz as our DM portrayed him) but not great for the short session format.
Huh. It's interesting that everyone had such a difference experience.
Half of my players unloaded their Dailies on the villians while the other half went after the artifacts. We got finished on time for a change.
Our group had an interesting experience in that we attempted the final encounter last week and failed, so the DM allowed us to try again this week instead of doing a Lair Assult.
The first time, we did a really good job of uncovering all the relevant information really quickly, and even got past the mouth in the floor without too much trouble due to an improvisation (I don't actually know the written rules, but thats my guess). We spent a few turns attacking the 2nd drow which was a waste, and also split the party, which slowed our progress greatly. The dragon helped us greatly, doing a large amount of damage to the boss but it wasn't really enough. We spent alot of time healing eachother instead and we basically died because we were out of healing. It didn't help that we didn't have any ranged attackers either, it was a party of leaders and defenders. We did a pretty good job of surviving, killing all the minions and clearing all the crystals, but we weren't coordinated enough to win. It didn't help that we only had 4 or 5 party members (i forgot exactly how many). It took 2 hours for us to get that far and die, but the boss wasn't bloodied yet.
The second session today went much more smoothly. We had 9 people at our table because the 2nd DM was sick, so it made things much easier since the only scaling was the number of crystals and the minions. Having a wizard to pop the minions was very helpful, and this time we got a blessing from Mystra which helped a good amount. I think the main difference was me re-speccing my character (a standard paladin) to have a really high will defence (24) as well as having some ranged attack powers. I was able to draw attention from all the bad guys but dodge about 75% of their attacks. Combined with the extra firepower from a larger group and my character doing awesome damage with a Radiant Longsword + sliding the boss into an orb. I tried the sliding thing last time but was foiled by being slid away myself. We didn't even end up using the dragon this time. It took us about 2.75 hours, which is really good for having so many people. The DM is pretty good about timekeeping (egg timer) and we also knew what we were doing and didn't need to spend much time debating strategy.
It was really fun for me, since I am more of a hardcore tactical player. I think the 2 new players that came tonight might have been overwhelmed a bit by having players talking over each other but they managed to get the hang of it and contribute to the battle. I am glad that they decided to throw in a challenging encounter, I think it was the first time someone got lowered to zero hitpoints the entire season.
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