So, I'm a semi-new DM running a campaign for some friends (most of whom are experienced with 2nd/3rd edition, one experienced with those and 4th, and one brand new to D&D), and the party right now consists of:
-Half-elf Cleric (ranged)
-Human Ranger (archer build)
Four strikers and a leader. No tank (aside from maybe the monk), no controller.
I'm running the Scales of War pretty much as written, but worry that Team Ranged will, well, get brutally massacred.
Any general (or SoW-specific) advice on how to tweak encounters to not TPK? That's not something that I look for.
Off controlling on the Cleric, Archer and Rogue, Monks often side as a defender, and either on the Sorcerer depending on the class feature choice. Seems fairly good to me. Scales of War being ran as presented should actually be a cakewalk for such a damage heavy party with that much off controlling.
When in doubt, give them healing potions and/or a companion defender with the companion character rules. Try to come up with ideas to make failure interesting and keep the story moving if it looks like they're bound to lose a fight. TPK shouldn't be risked in every adventurer, let alone every fight. If you have any other concerns or questions, swing on by again. We're always happy to give out advice
Hope this helps. Good Luck, and Happy Gaming
Unbalanced parties can work, as long as they don't behave the same way they would if they were balanced. They might surprise you. Controllers are pretty optional anyway, and a defender is less needed when you have extra strikers taking enemies down quickly. A leader isn't needed anyway, but that's a little tougher not to have.
Modify Raise Dead in such a way that it's more useable. Make it cheaper, lower-level, and with lighter penalties.
Focus on encounters in which the enemy can win without killing the PCs. I think that module has a few, and maybe you can modify the others.
Reflavor what "dead" means, to be something more like "taken out."
One of the players in my group opted to create a new character, going with a striker rather than the defender he'd been playing. That gives our party three strikers, one controller and one defender.
Instead of telling anyone no or saying they needed a different role, I just smiled and said "I'm eager to see how you'll do with this mix." It's absolutely doable, and I think after a few sessions they will get in a different grove than they were using before. I don't think I as a DM am going to change how I present the challenges, but I do anticipate the players will start changing how they react to those challenges, and that is part of the fun.
Let them play what they want to.
If there's no leader, consider houseruling Potions to be minor to pull and use, and deal Surge+Xd6 extra healing.
If you had a small party, I'd say consider running a companion character that's a lazylord. Give them an extra character to run that has 3 options:
melee basic attack, an attack granting option, and an encounter heal. Any player could run this extra character with ease.
More importantly, let them play what they want. Adjust your encounters accordingly, because they WILL surprise you with what can be done.
Remember, Alternate goals in combat can make things far more interesting than just kill all enemies.
If they're newish players and you're worried about them getting slaughtered by in-close skirmishers with no defender, you could always house-rule the death/dying rules as follows... 0 HP = weakened & slowed, but not down. Negative HS value = down & dying. Negative bloodied value = dead.
But the companion character is, I think, a better way to go. Since Paladins are defenders, I'd make this companion a particularly zealous paladin of a god who (he believes) has commanded him to do whatever Scales of War plot point is appropriate for that adventure. That way you get the sort of LEEROY JENKINS paladin who will always charge into battle, and while he'll take many of the hits, the party will need to still make sure he doesn't get killed so that they won't lose his healing powers. Make him a sort of innocent teenager, too... one that still believes in concepts of absolute good & absolute evil. That way maybe the party will feel like they need to mentor & look out for him, even when he decides that his god demands he run into the middle of the fray. And every time he survives, have him believe that it's due to his god's will (even better if it's the same god as your cleric or one of the other party members).
That'll force the rest of the party to eventually adjust their tactics to use his defensive capabilities while still drawing off some of the fire, or just focusing their own fire to take down big hitters... which will eventually teach them all the values of the different combat roles in 4e, which may eventually lead to one of them wanting to play a defender and/or leader.
If you're using SoW, remember to make sure your players know about the Born Under a Bad Sign & Auspicious Birth backgrounds from that adventure path, either of which let them use their highest ability score (instead of Con) for HP. That extra HP may help them survive a little longer as you go through the various adventures.
Keep in mind that you can also give out feats as awards after certain sessions, particularly from powerful beings (mages, fey lords, etc), so you could always give them all the Toughness feat as a bonus after the first or second adventure, if they seem to be struggling (CB will let you add on extra feats with the "custom" button at the top).
having all the roles on a 4e party it's usually recomended because it's very easy to have a functional party that way...but you don't need to have all the roles if you have great team synergy and can compensate the lack of certain roles by diferent means.
So I got home after midnight, and have to be at work early this morning... but thanks, everyone. Just a quick skim tells me there's a ton of good advice. Can't wait to read more and reply!
If you don't update the monster stats, then your party has nothing to worry about. Scales uses the old, bad monster math, where the monsters do very little damage and have way too many hit points. You might want to take a look at equivalent monsters in the monster vault book and upgrade.
In my experience, party make-up rarely matters. If healing is a problem, give them plenty of opportunities to buy healing potions. Usually if a party gets destroyed often enough, one of the players usually switches to a healer class.
You should read up on Scales of War. The second adventure is missing a crucial note from Modra which plays into the third adventure. You may also want to read around about Scales and add in some foreshadowing. A couple things you might want to do is have the PCs meet Captain Aerun (who is in The Temple Between adventure), maybe have the monsters linked to Sarshan wield Chaos Vein Ore swords (created in the Lost Mines of Karak) and also somehow foreshadow General Zithiruun, who just kind of pops out of nowhere in Temple Between.
Also, fix up Sinruth's stats! He's your typical lame solo monster. Maybe make him an elite and give him some allies.
Scales is really cool. That first encounter with the ogre pulling the cart is awesome.
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