Worldwide D&D Game Day – Monster Manual 2

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on May 23, 2009

wwddgd-mm2I once again had the pleasure of participating in Worldwide D&D Game Day at 401Games in downtown Toronto. The adventure was called Journey Through the Silver Caves. It was designed for five, 5th level characters. The event attracted a lot of familiar faces as well as a few new ones. I had a lot of fun and would like to take this opportunity to share my thoughts about how Worldwide D&D Game Day went this time around.

The Good

Simple Adventure

The adventure was short, simple and straight forward. I saw this as both a plus and a minus, but for now let’s focus on the positives. The adventure consisted of four encounters: three combat encounters and one skill challenge. The plot wasn’t unnecessarily complicated and the objective was very clear from the outset. It was a great introduction for people who have never played 4e or D&D before.

Fast-Paced

The two sessions going on at 401Games both managed to finish in about 4 hours. This had a lot to do with the lower power-level (all the pre-generated PCs were 5th level). Since each PC had only two daily powers, two encounter powers and one utility power, it reduced the amount of choices and kept the game moving at a good pace. Plus the monsters had reasonable amounts of hit points which meant that the combat encounters were each completed in about 10 rounds.

Presentation

The adventure contained minis of all PCs and monster, pre-generated character sheets with power cards, and full colour poster maps. Wizards of the Coast knows that these events will draw some first-timers so they pull out all the stops and provide a very slick package. I knew what to expect and it wowed me. It also made a very favourable impression on a couple of the guys at my game table who had never played before.

The Bad

Simple Adventure

The problem with the simple style is it was more about roll-playing and less about role-playing. The one skill challenge felt forced and tacked on. The DM for my game sort of talked us through it without asking for rolls which I think was a good idea. I have since read the adventure (I’m going to run my regular group through the module tomorrow) and I don’t really see how it added value to the game.

New Monsters

Since this Worldwide Dungeons & Dragons Game Day coincided with the release of the Monster Manual 2, I was expecting to see a wide variety of monsters from the Monster Manual 2 peppered throughout the adventure. I was very disappointed. There were only nine different monsters used throughout this adventure and only three of them were from the new book.

  • 2 creatures – Monster Manual
  • 3 creatures – Monster Manual 2
  • 4 creatures – Other/Unique

Surprise – Rust Monsters!

I don’t think many of use were surprised to encounter a rust monster during this adventure. After all it was used in most of the online advertising. And for those particularly astute gamers, you may have realized something was up when you were equipped with additional weapons and armor.

The Ugly

Magic Item Mulligan

As we’ve already discussed, the PCs faced a rust monster. And as we discussed all of the pre-generated PCs had spare equipment just in case the hungry metal munchers destroyed a suit of armor or a magical blade. And this is indeed what happened with my group. But that’s part of the reason a rust monster is worth the listed XP. You’re practically expected to loose something during the combat. If a group of PCs employs exceptional tactics then they are rewarded by surviving unscathed.

So when the PCs moved on to the encounter after fighting the rust monsters and were presented with an opportunity to acquire new magical items in place of the ones they just lost, I felt cheated. Why put this kind of obstacle in the module if there are no consequences for failing? I know it sucks to be the striker who looses his magical weapon or the defender who looses his magical armor, but suck it up. The PCs all had back-up items.

Since the PCs got all of their lost items back the final encounter didn’t seem as challenging. It was tough, but not as tough as I was expecting for the final encounter. Some of the PCs didn’t need to use their daily powers or all of their encounter powers. I don’t think that would have been the case if they were using regular weapons or had a lower AC.

I think Wizards put themselves in a bad spot. They wanted so badly to showcase their new rust monster, but didn’t want to ruin the fun-factor that comes with Game Day. Taking the time to provide back-up equipment seemed to me like a smart and appropriate move on their part. But getting re-equipped with magic during the very next encounter was just dumb.

The Verdict

I had a lot of fun and that was without a doubt, the point of today’s game. The lack of role-playing didn’t really bother me that much since I play every week anyway. I’m not sure that people trying the game for the first time this weekend will get a true picture of what D&D is all about, but I think they’ll be treated to enough of the good stuff that they’ll want to come back for more. Shortening the adventure and lowering the power-level from the last Worldwide Dungeons & Dragons Game Day seemed to make a big difference in a positive way.

I’m looking forward to running this game tomorrow with my regular group. As experienced, hard-core gamers I think they’ll have a lot of fun. Having pre-generated character will give them a license to try crazy things that they’d never do with their usual characters and I think that will add a lot to the game.

Did you participate in World Wide Dungeons & Dragons Game Day this weekend? What were your experiences like? Do you agree with my assessment or did things go differently at your gaming table?

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Suddry May 23, 2009 at 9:49 pm

From my side of the table I must say I agree with your review 100%. At an event kicking off a new monster manual I REALLY think that module should have went out of its way to showcase as many of the new foes in the book as possible. I mean, its not like they were going for sensible encounter make-ups anyways! An animated ballista with 2 rust monsters, and 2 stonetrap scarabs? (The scarabs are not in MM, MM2, or the Compendium.) Forget the artillery in this case. Add in a Green Slime or Dimensional Marauder as Lurkers. Or add in a few Myconids. They live in caves – especially a damp one with a river.

I also agree that the skill challenge really felt tacked on. Thank goodness our DM ripped through it quickly with minimal rolls. This is one time I’d rather have just had an additional combat encounter along the way – and I like skill challenges. As the barbarian striker who lost his Dynamic Greatsword +2 to that rust monster (don’t ask.. I misunderstood the info from the nature check) being able to get another one from some water-logged ghosts felt cheesy. Of course I took it anyways! It made up for the fact that the rust monster attacked my sword instead of the 840 gold I dropped on the ground as a decoy.

All that aside, I must say I had a great time playing and that is what matters. I guess I just expected a bit more from a World Wide Game Day module.

2 Feeroper May 24, 2009 at 2:02 am

I was also at 401 for game day (at your table as well, you gave me the card for this website. I was playing the Dwarf Paladin). I really enjoyed the game, but I can definetly see what you mean in terms of the simple design creating a more roll playing experience than role playing. I personally prefer the latter, but found it a little more challenging to get into that aspect of the game with this adventure. Although we got pretty creative in the beginning of the last encounter, as we approached the clueless Orc Terrorblade, most of it felt like more straightforward crunch.

I’ve always found that having interactive set dressing in the game can be a good instigator for role playing (ie: the coffins filled with kerosene lamp oil in the game day adventure from last year when 4e was just launching), but this adventure didnt seem to have much, with the exception of batches of mushrooms. However, the lack of role playing on my end also had a bit to do with the fact that I did not know anyone there, so I just kinda went with the flow.

I took a look through the skill challenge afterwards, as I brought a copy of the adventure home with me. I also agree that it felt too tacked on, and they just wanted to make sure there was a skill challenge in there. I think they could have definetly fit something there that was more condusive or creative in the context of the adventure itself, or even just left it out, since the game was based around the launch of the MM2. (Maybe we could of had a cool raft ride battle with a water based moster from the new book, as part of the skill challenge?)

However, I had a really good time overall, and found the adventure to work great for what they had in mind for Game Day. Plus, we were lucky enough to have a group of good tempered players with a good sense of humour as well. Although I was not as well versed in the rules as some other players, I didnt feel like anyone was talking down to me or getting frustrated if I needed any clarification on rules.

I think that another thing the game day will do for casual or newer players, is to show the benefit of DDI, or at least the Character builder. Although I take it for granted, as I always use the Character Builder with my group that I DM, I forget that not everyone is on board with DDI, or just dont know enough about it. Having those custom power/utility cards just saves so much time. I had previously not played a Paladin before, so the benefit of having the cards personalized for my character speeds it right up (and also some helpful advice from a certain someone who has had allot of experience with the class helped quite a bit).

Thanks for the good game!

3 j_king May 25, 2009 at 9:05 am

I was out of town during game day unfortunately!

Sounds like it was a lot of fun. I look forward to my copy of MM2 and hope that I’ll get a peek at the adventure eventually.

j_king’s last blog post..Hacking the Canadian Parliament

4 Ameron May 25, 2009 at 10:17 am

@Suddry
I’m glad you agree with my assessment of the afternoon. I think everyone had a good time despite the minor problems with the game.

@Feeroper
It was great meeting and playing with you. I’m glad you had fun. I like your suggestions for improving the adventure and may take a couple of these into account if I run this adventure in the future. I also agree with you on the benefit of the power cards. It essentially eliminates the need for everyone to have their books on the table which is a real plus when space is at a premium. It also speeds thing up because you don’t have to keep flipping back and forth between pages.

@j_king
You missed a good one. Be sure to visit Dungeon’s Master through June and July when we’ll be giving away complete WWD&DGD sets including the adventure, maps, pre-generated characters and minis.

5 j_king May 25, 2009 at 1:56 pm

Will do, Dungeon’s Master is in my feed list. :)

j_king’s last blog post..Hacking the Canadian Parliament

6 fireinthedust May 28, 2009 at 5:53 pm

I was at 401, and at the table, for the Game Day.

Comments: I would have liked to play PHB2 characters! I mean, a gnome or a sorcerer would have hit the spot really well. I played a Dragonborn Rogue, which was fun, but a PHB1 character class and race.

I think the treasure would have been better if there had been a list of items that were *not* the ones of the sheets that we could choose from. Like, a card that says “bag of holding” or “boots of walk on water” that we could just use for the adventure and not need numbers for. That way we get the benefit of the rust monster challenge, and we get to fight the monster and not die. I heard groups that did die fighting the BBEG.

Skill Challenge: Looking it over in the book, which I also have a copy of, I can see how it could have worked. First, don’t tell anyone it’s a skill challenge; describe “you’re going down the river, and the rapids toss the raft; quick, see if you fall in the river!” Second, dramatize the thing.
The session couldn’t have ended without getting to the next room, so obviously we don’t have the same freedom to get as random as in a normal session. That’s why it didn’t work in session, as part of the game day.

I had a great time, and wouldn’t mind playing again with any of the players there. Good group, and good times. I hope the next delve day comes soon!

7 Ameron June 1, 2009 at 8:27 am

@fireinthedust
I suspect that the reason most of the PCs were classes and races from the PHB (and not the PHB2) was because WotC wanted us to focus on the new monsters and not slow the game down by having to flip through the books to look up powers. The last D&D Game Day which had pre-generated characters from the PHB2 seemed to drag on because everyone had to keep going back to the book to see how their powers worked. Just my 2 cents.

I’m glad you had fun and I’d be happy to play with everyone from our table again. It was a get group and that always makes for a better game.

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