[DM ONLY] Final Session: I lost Players (not characters)

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We ran the final session last night, due to scheduling issues next week. This session is an utter drag. The first part is fine-- a skill thing, some gargoyles, ok.

 

It's when Kazit Gul shows up that it becomes painful. Kazit Gul is a save-or-die trap that can fly. He barely does damage, so everything the party owns to mitigate damage is not so useful. The party would have to do 160 hit points in non-save damage to defeat this guy-- very difficult to do in the one round before the killed PC's body disintegrates into dust (dust means no resurrection). The saving throw isn't too bad, for a Wisdom-heavy party (mine was very Wis-heavy), except that one unlucky die roll means death to one or more PCs.

 

We ran three tables last night. One of them TPKed and the players did not have fun. Part of that is probably the GM-- I'm going to ask him and the players today what happened. Part of it is simply "save or die" is a terrible thing to do to a party, even when they're facing the uber-lich of liches.

 

At table #2, the party defeated Kazit Gul and joined my table to finish off the 2 aspects there (table #3 came over to us). I believe the GM at that table probably pulled punches; he has a tendency to do so.

 

At my table, the party defeated the first gargoyles, and then Kazit Gul showed up and killed their monk in round #1.

 

This is where I cheated. The monk had made a deal with Baazka in session #1 to "die last," and Baazka wasn't going to let some upstart lich steal his kill. I scribbled down the stats for a pit fiend on an index card, and gave it to the monk's player and told him "your motivation is to get the monk's soul from Kazit Gul." He wasn't exactly an ally to the party, and didn't care about friendly fire, but the player was able to stay in the game and have fun.

 

Even with a pit fiend throwing fireballs as an at-will spell, the party lost their druid to the trap-the-soul (though that was from the other aspect from Table #3), and needed the help of Table #2's party to finish up.

 

The problem with Trap The Soul is that it isn't fun. There is nothing you or anyone can do once you're trapped to mitigate it--there's no saving throw. There's no remove curse. There's nothing except grind down a monster who is immune or resitant or avoidant of all damage types. The player is removed from the game. This can happen early on in the session, making players angry and frustrated and not causing a fun experience for anyone.

 

My advice: When you run this fight, next week or whenever, try to think of creative ways the PCs can undo Trap the Soul. Can a called shot take out a gemstone and release the soul? Can remove curse work? Resurrection? If they continue to focus on the phylacteries and destroy those and the gargoyles, will Kazit Gul relinquish the soul? Can you summon an angry devil (that one's probably only story-appropriate for my group, but maybe one of their other monstrous allies would show up for this showdown)? 

Wow, I had just read through the final section last night and was brain-storming changes to the Aspect's stats. Thank you for posting this!

 

The thing that really got me was the fact that the body turns to dust in one round. One thing I am thinking is:

 

Soul-trapped PCs don't rot. They just lie inert. When the gem is smashed, they are back in the fight.

 

Or maybe make the soul trap a progression of saves, like in 3e, with progessively worse effects. As in:

 

Fail 1: You have disadvantage as your soul begins to leak from your body

Fail 2: Restrained as you fight to keep your soul

Fail 3: Soul trapped!

 

If I run this as-is, I think my whole group will die. I really appreciate the heads-up!

 

Did you like this season aside from the final battle?

Good idea on having the players need to fail multiple times in order for them to be soul trapped. I took your idea and added a bit about being able to smash gems when the aspect is still "alive", reduced the damage of a successful save by 1d6 and added damage for each stage of the failures.

 

Trap the Soul.   The aspect of Kazit Gul chooses on creature within 30 feet of it that it can see. The creature must make a DC 14 Wisdom saving throw.

 

Failure 1: The creature has disadvantage on all checks, attack rolls and saving throws as its soul begins to leak from its body along with 11 (3d6) necrotic damage

Failure 2: The creature can no longer move as it struggles to keep its soul along with 14 (4d6) necrotic damage

Failure 3: The creature’s soul is trapped inside one of the aspect of Kazit Gul’s eight gems (two in the eyes, 6 in the jaw)

On a success, the creature takes 11 (3d6) necrotic damage, and if this damage reduces the creature to 0 hit points, its soul is trapped as if it failed 3 saving throws.

 

                The aspect of Kazit Gul devours any soul trapped in one of its gems for 24 hours. The soul is then completely gone.

 

                If the aspect of Kazit Gul drops to 0 hit points, it is destroyed and turns to powder, leaving behind its eight gems. Crushing a gem releases any soul trapped within, which can be seen as a glowing gem. However, the soul’s body must be within 10 feet of the crushed gem and in a condition to return to life, or the soul is released into the afterlife.

 

If the aspect of Kazit Gul suffers a critical hit or a critical failed saving throw one of its 8 gems shatter (roll 1d8 to determine which gem shatters). If the gem contains a soul of a creature that is still alive that creature regains its soul; if the creature is dead but within 10 feet of the destroyed gem and in a condition to return to life it does so; if the creature is dead and not within 10 feet of the destroyed gem or in a condition to return to life the soul is released to the afterlife.

Gems

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

Winterhaven_Regular wrote:

Did you like this season aside from the final battle?

 

I was "okay" about this season. I liked that the doomvault was very sandboxy, but the last 2-3 sessions felt more like the choices the PCs had made didn't really matter that much.

 

There's a lot of focus on random encounters, but we never used them. There was too much to do otherwise. My players went up against Tarul Var twice, and TPKed once. They were grateful at this session that I'd urged them to go get resurrected before the final session ("You won't have another opportunity. Meta-game, if you don't want your character to be undead, do it now.") Especially when they realized the pillars would have screwed three of them over, without affecting Kazit Gul.

 

If I were running this in a home game, it would have been more fun. As far as megadungeons go, it's not bad. I like the themed areas, and I had a lot of fun trying to carry their stories forward from one session to the next, by having them run into a demon they'd freed earlier, and bringing the devil from session 1 back during this fight. Those are "home campaign" style techniques that I don't often get to use in D&D Encounters.

 

Overall, I hope I get 2 people who want to DM Encounters in August, because I would much rather run and play other games this Fall. This season redeemed D&D Next in my eyes, but I'm still ready to play something else.

Sublime, that is fantastic! I will definitely use that stat block on Wednesday. Thank you!

 

Mortaine, we didn't use random encounters either. This adventure is over-loaded with material, there is no time to implement all of this stuff. I really liked this season, though, I think it is one of my favorites out of all of them. My group probably did about 40-50 rooms and most of the rooms felt different and clever. A few of those "Forest of Slaughter" rooms were a bit limp, though.

 

I'm glad you liked Next though. I think the new edition is really good.. My one complaint would be that I dont want skills anymore. Just let it all be stat-based rolls without the extra complication.

I was initially leaning towards simply having it work like the spell of the same name:  The body and all gear disappears - only to reappear if the gem is destroyed.  Although having the body decay quickly and be gone forever is potentially 'interesting' in a long-term campaign, in an Encounters game the difference between "We beat the demi-lich and your character is gone forever" and "We beat the demi-lich and your character gets to return and probably retire because the season is over" is non-existent within the game itself (although this will likely change with the new organized play approach).

 

But upon further consideration, I'm probably going to rule (logically imho) that Gentle Repose - which protects a body from decay  - stops the decay from the demi-lich's attack - and then I'll make sure that (if the cleric doesn't normally prepare it) they have access to it:  Perhaps a wand.  This lets the party stop the decay at the cost of an action by the cleric.  In fact if I'd planned further in advance, I'd have made a reference to that a bit of Lore and slipped it in.

 

 

Either way, I"m more concerned with finding something for the players to do while trapped.  I'm thinking about having them play one of the various NPCs (Jekk, Hadarr, Kelson, perhaps even a freed Chosen or some other potential ally.  Who knows - maybe the Aboleth will even float in.

 

As for the season overall, I liked the Doomvault in general but my group has spent the last few weeks in the Temples of Extraction and I don't find them as interesting - at least not in succession.  I think it would have been more interesting to make each of them isolated and only reachable from the black gate in a specific zone (for example, you could only get to the Temple of Ooze from somewhere in the Ooze Grottos). 

 

Carl

 

 

mortaine wrote:

 

 

Overall, I hope I get 2 people who want to DM Encounters in August, because I would much rather run and play other games this Fall. This season redeemed D&D Next in my eyes, but I'm still ready to play something else.

 

 

What other RPG are you thinking of running?

vegasmentat wrote:

What other RPG are you thinking of running?

 

Fate, Dungeon World, Urban Shadows, Timewatch (that's the one I'm running the next 2 weeks, prepping for running it at GenCon), Trail of Cthulhu, any number of one-shots I have available (there are about 300 PDFs on my ereader), a bunch of pre-release games I have from Kickstarter and from knowing people who design games, my own game to be playtested, etc. etc. etc.

 

With a username of vegasmentat, are you in Las Vegas? Have we met?

I ran it today. It went OK, not great. I can definitely say that if I had run the Aspect as written, the entire party would have died, no question.

 

I really appreciate the warning.

 

Overall, this season was awesome and I look forward to Tyranny of Dragons.

We ran the finale last night (write up here), and I made a change to the Aspects attack too, never have been a fan of the save or die effect.

"Well that encounter was easy....er, guys, why is the DM grinning?" (party members last words)

It's not a party till the screaming starts!

Follow me on Twitter @Vobeskhan or check out my blog http://vobeskhan.wordpress.com/

Vobeskhan wrote:

We ran the finale last night (write up here), and I made a change to the Aspects attack too, never have been a fan of the save or die effect.

 

The warning was good to have.  I revised the Trap the Soul to transport the victim bodily into an extradimesional gem space.  Within which they could still take actions, but would automatically take necrotic damage every round and have to save again lest they become paralyzed, and therefore probably doomed.  It worked well, no one actually died until the end of the fight, when Winter the Elven Ranger gave her life to destroy the Aspect.   I also let the, now less devastating, beam hit 1d4 people every round.

 

Fortunately, the cleric got Beacon of Hope off before he botched his own save (twice with advantage) and spent the rest of the fight struggling in gem space. 

 

On a sort of related note, I was quite underwhelmed by the gargoyles.  A lot of relatively weak attacks made them not as threatening as they could have been. Especially after the first one when the party was ready to pick them off one by one.   Its not that hard to get magical weapons, (or use the Magic Weapon spell) so they drop pretty fast.  We didn't even bother rolling out those fights after the second one.  In a module with a lot of interesting combats, this one was one of the least fun, as written.

 

 

I ran it with called shots to teeth at disadvantage. One rogue sucked into a tooth, everyone misses the called shot except the second rogue just before Kazit Gul's turn/the first rogues death. The second rogue needs to add a whole bunch of little bonuses (prayer and one or two other things) to just barely get a twenty.

 

That was early on - there's a bit of a death spiral if one party memeber goes down - ie, you do less damage, which means the monster lives longer, which means he kills more PC's, which means he lives longer - etc. It can be a vicious circle.

 

It's a shocking ending and so memorable in that way. But I think it's not quite in theme with the sandboxy dungeon that came before it.

"In the game there is magic" - Orethalion

 

Only got words in my copy.

 

Philosopher Gamer

mortaine wrote:

 

vegasmentat wrote:

What other RPG are you thinking of running?

 

 

Fate, Dungeon World, Urban Shadows, Timewatch (that's the one I'm running the next 2 weeks, prepping for running it at GenCon), Trail of Cthulhu, any number of one-shots I have available (there are about 300 PDFs on my ereader), a bunch of pre-release games I have from Kickstarter and from knowing people who design games, my own game to be playtested, etc. etc. etc.

 

With a username of vegasmentat, are you in Las Vegas? Have we met?

 

 

Yes.

I played in a few of your 4th Edition D&D games.

 

Do you have a schedule posted anywhere?

RPG? Location? Date? Time?

 

 

 

 

 

vegasmentat wrote:

Yes.

I played in a few of your 4th Edition D&D games.

 

Do you have a schedule posted anywhere?

RPG? Location? Date? Time?

 

I'm running/organizing at Empire Game Shop on South Rainbow now. Currently on Wednesday nights (skipped last week due to Comic Con). We muster for character stuff at 5:30ish, and play from 6-8.

 

Details and events calendar are on Facebook, though I haven't updated our calendar in about 2 weeks (again, because I've been in San Diego). Tonight, however, I'm running TimeWatch (time travel RPG), and I don't know who else is running something yet. We're very open to GMs to run any games, though-- doesn't have to be D&D.

 

EDIT: Oh, remembered the other DM's game tonight! Starting an AD&D campaign!

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