Yesterday I made my first attempt to conquer the ultimate dungeon delve and failed. My party only made it through three of the six encounters required to win the competition. If I can get a ticket, I’m going to try and tackle the delve again before GenCon is over. I figure I can put my knowledge of the first three encounters to good use and not make the same mistakes twice. Until then, here are the highlights of my ultimate dungeon delve experience at GenCon.
So after all my declarations about having the ultimate character, I was talked into playing something else at the last minute. My original character design was a Cleric that was all about healing without expending surges and providing temporary hit points. I still like this build and think this character would work well, but the group I ended up in already had a Fighter and a Warlord, so they needed strikers. So I ended up playing a completely maximized archer Ranger. We recruited two more strikers, a Rogue and another Ranger. So the leader – defender – striker – striker – striker party was complete and we began.
Our tactics were solid. The Fighter ran into melee and marked the primary target with the Ranger at his side, while the Rogue moved to flank. The archer Ranger stood back and took out spell casters and minions. The Warlord provided second tier melee support and healing. Our lack of a controller didn’t seem to hurt us at all. We ganged up on one target at a time and had little difficulties killing everything.
The ultimate dungeon delve is different than a normal D&D game in many ways. The biggest difference I noticed about the three encounters we participated in was that the monsters came in waves. At the beginning of combat we had a few monsters on the board and then about three or four rounds in, more (often different) monsters with full hit points and different tactics entered the fray. This forced us to change tactics and be more mindful of positioning, especially for the archer.
D&D 4e is all about using terrain. Fights rarely take place in a flat, 20 x 20 foot room, clear of obstacles and hazards. The encounter in the delve have a lot of creative terrain and obstacles and not being mindful of these things hurt us badly. In one encounter a PC ended his turn adjacent to a fire pit which in and of itself wasn’t a problem. But unbeknownst to us, the monster had the ability to slide opponents. Next round the PC was in the fire taking a lot of ongoing damage. Another encounter took place on the edge of a waterfall. The water was difficult terrain requiring Athletics checks to move through and the monsters kept trying to push the PCs over the edge. My lesson learned is to be mindful of things on the map (other than the monsters) that may hurt you and do what you can to stay safe.
As everyone kept telling me that time is your biggest opponent in the ultimate dungeon delve. That is ultimately what did out party in. We completed the first encounter with 16:46 remaining on the clock. The DM was extremely impressed with our speed (and so were we). We only used three action points and two daily powers. We completed the second encounter with only 2:30 remaining on the clock. This time we only used one action point and two daily powers. We did not complete the third encounter.
With less than five minutes to go and only one monster remaining we started attacking it with everything we had. Daily powers, item powers, you name it, we did it. As the last minute ticked down we had our attack rolls and damage per-rolled and waited for our turn to come around. The clock beeped and we didn’t make it. Looking at how much damage was already pre-rolled we asked the DM if these next two attacks would have killed the monster. He said yes, it would have. So we missed out by less than a minute.
However, we expended all of our dailies and all of our action points to get as far as we did. Two PCs had zero healing surges remaining. So even if we made it on to encounter four, we would have gotten slaughtered.
The Learning Experience
Following my experience with the ultimate dungeon delve, this is what I’m going to do differently next time.
- Get a Cleric.
The Warlord was good as a back-up melee character, but I think the absence of a true healer hurt us. Healing surges we rarely maximized and that was costly.
- Take Durability.
The durability feat is your friend. If you can take it, you should take it. My Ranger only had seven healing surges. That was one for each of the six encounters with one left over. Not enough. Unless a PC can heal without surges you need durability.
- Watch the clock more closely.
We knew we were under the gun, but didn’t really pick things up until there were about five minutes remaining. You have to play the entire encounter like there are only five minutes left.
- Be more observant.
The hazardous terrain and the second wave of monsters really screwed my party. Next time I’m going to advise everyone to watch the board more closely and try to anticipate where additional foes might enter the combat.
All in all I had a lot of fun with the ultimate dungeon delve. Playing under a timer really makes you pay close attention to your character and what’s happening around you. I’d strongly recommend that if you have the Dungeon Delve hardcover that you try one of the heroic tier delves and keep your party to the 45 minute time limit. It’s a lot harder than you think and it makes for a very rewarding victory after every successfully completed encounter.