We continued our playtesting with 2nd level PCs (3rd time we’ve played this package)
Human Fighter (Protector Jack of all Trades)
Human Wizard (Sage Magic User)
Human Cleric of Pelor (Priest Healer)
Halfling Rogue Thief (Thief +3 skills cherry picked)
The group did lots of roleplaying in Blingdenstone meeting with Jalless and then Gurmadden, and since they had previously met Henkala and Kargien (and they were able to vanquish Ogremoch’s Bane to gain the gift from Henkala), there was some intrigue and mystery that the players tried to figure out. Should they get the crown for Kargien or for Jalless and her choice of Gurmadden? Should they go for the crown first or should they help Gurmadden get the crystals for the singing stones? This type of open form decision making is something my group and I like a lot.
Well, they decided to go for the crystals. They searched through the Wormwrithings for many hours (probably nearly a full day). They avoided 1 net trap and fought some kobolds. They found some cyrstals. They fought some more kobolds. They founds some gems. They found some more crystals. They fought some more kobolds, who just fired slings bullets and arrows at the party from hidden cracks in the cavern walls because they were afraid to join in melee combat with the party (seeing that their kin had been so easily slaughtered by the adventurers). Then, instead of trying to kill the hiding kobolds, the party decided to make a run for it back to Blingdenstone.
On their way back, the cleric stumbled over a trip wire and was caught in a net. 8 kobolds attacked and did some damage but within a few rounds, they too were vanquished. Then, I decided to have the Drow female and her bugbears enter the scene. The rogue caught a brief glimpse of the Drow and had the feeling that the party was being stalked. As the others went to the narrow passage back to Blingdenstone and began chipping rocks and preparing to seal the passageway, the rogue hid and then scouted back to see what was stalking them. He was able to close ground and see the Drow and two bugbears, all sneaking up toward the party slowly. The rogue fired a sling bullet back to his companions to get them to look his way, and the Wizard was able to see the rogue and one of the bugbears in the distance. The group snapped to attention and the fight was on. Since the bugbear and the Drow were sneaking, only 1 bugbear was visable to the party (perception checks did not reveal the other two). The fight was interesting because the enemy (and the rogue) were able to sneak around and move while hidden. Eventually the group was able to detect both bugbears and with attacks from everyone, the bugbears went down. The Drow kept her distance and retreated. Just before she ran, the Cleric fired a radiant lance into the darkness (firing blindly down the tunnel to where he thought the Drow might have gone). I asked the player to pick a spot as a target. Miraculously he picked the wall of the tunnel just 1 square away from where the Drow was hiding. I let him attack with disadvantage and he failed to hit, but I allowed them all to make another perception check. They saw the Drow, but she was able to double move and escape into the winding tunnels.
The group went back to Gurmadden and blocked the passage behind them. Collected their reward and helped Gurmadden attend to the Singing Stones.
Again, my players enjoyed the game, but I’m continuing to feel that the monsters just aren’t tough enough. I had already decided to add +2 to the monster “to hit” die, but even that didn’t really make them that tough. Granted, the party fought kobolds mostly, and if they were 1st level characters, this part of the adventure might have been more frightening. But even the fight with the bugbears didn’t harm the party. The bugbears didn’t hit and they were both dead in 3 or 4 rounds (some rounds they didn’t attack because they were hiding).
Fighting kobolds and bugbears as 2nd level PCs was not really a challenge. The players (and I the DM) felt that it was even less challenging because the PCs didn’t have single digit hit points anymore (and the fighter had 20). I guess I could have added a few more bugbear in the ambush attempt, but I decided to just go with what the adventure designed.
In the entire adventure, nobody lost more than 4 hp. Nobody needed healing. No rests were needed. No hit die of healing used. Only 1 daily spell cast (Ray of Enfeeblement at a bugbear…it missed and did minimal damage).
Really WoTC has to do something about monster vs. pc combat numbers. It seems that as the PCs level up, the problem only gets worse since they are going to be fighting similar monsters for a number of levels (bounded accuracy). Honestly, I think monsters should hit against PCs just as much as the PCs hit against the monsters. Maybe damage numbers should go down and “to hit” should go up. Maybe PC damage numbers should go down, or monster hit points should go up. This is really a numbers game that needs to be sorted out.
Next week we’ll play 3rd level PCs and I think my group is going to go for the crown. I may need to beef up the encounters to see how I can challenge them.
Also, with the rogue in the group, most of the traps are irrelevant. I only had the PCs roll dex checks vs. one net trap because they were running away from the kobolds because they didn’t want to waste time fighting them. When the cleric tripped over the wire, I had him get caught, but even that didn’t really harm the party.
I feel like I’m going to have to work harder as DM to make some encounters more dangerous. Once this issue gets ironed out, I think we’ll enjoy the game even more.
What do you all feel? Especially DMs or groups that have played 3rd, 4th or 5th level PCs.