D&D Encounters (Week 11)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on May 27, 2010

As I sat down to play the penultimate session of D&D Encounters season one, I wasn’t sure what to expect. After 10 weeks, what could this adventure possibly have in store for us that we hadn’t already seen before? The answer – nothing.

Although I had a lot of fun playing this week’s game, it didn’t “wow” me. I don’t know if this was because I’m getting bored with the adventure, tired of my character or just burned out in general. But despite a relatively straight forward encounter I realized that the amount of effort you put in to D&D is directly related to the amount of enjoyment you get out if it. And in week 11 we certainly made the effort.

D&D Encounters is a 12-part adventure from Wizards of the Coast and it’s played out one encounter each week over 12 weeks.

Two significant things were different this week at our gaming table.

  1. All of the players advanced to level 2 before the encounter began. After reading the feedback from last week’s article and scouring the forums on Wizards we realized that despite our TPK in week 8, we should still level up. The DM agreed.
  2. With only enough players for two tables, the third DM opted to join the game for the first time. This brought a fresh PC into the mix. He had full hit point, an action point and his daily power. And since he knew he’d be the DM again next week he didn’t have to worry about holding anything back.

For the first time since I started playing D&D Encounters, we didn’t seem to struggle at all. If anything we completely crushed the monsters. It’s amazing what advancing a level will do for the party.

The only real challenge this week was the unusual terrain. The caverns in which we delved were at different elevations. Now I find that the dungeon tiles often make it challenging to realize which levels of the cavern are higher and lower than others. The majority of the map was the same level with a large section in the middle being depressed 20 feet. So to get across required a jump check DC 30 (6 squares) or two climb checks, down 20 feet on this side and up 20 feet on the other side.

Of course the monsters had climbing abilities allowing them to move up and down without checks and there was the obligatory artillery on the opposite side of the chasm. But despite these obstacles we still crushed these creatures and had fun doing it.

Our most memorable sequence came towards the end of the encounter. My Warlord had (unsuccessfully) climbed down into the pit. After dusting himself off he noticed a ladder on the opposite side. At least getting back up wouldn’t be as difficult. He grabbed the ladder and started moving it to a more advantageous position. But he only managed to move it a few squares by the end of his turn. So there he was standing in the middle of the chasm floor holding the ladder. The Rogue (played by the DM turned player) decided to do something awesome.

He declared that he was going to jump across the chasm, land atop the ladder and then, using it as a spring board, jump across the rest of the way. As if scripted by the D&D gods themselves, he rolled a 20 on his Athletics check to cover the jump and he rolled 16 on his Acrobatics check to successfully use the ladder to assist on the maneuver. He landed on the opposite side – on his feet – and then made a Stealth check in the high 20s.

When the monster came around the corner and used his ranged attack to shoot at the foes he could see, the Rogue took his opportunity attack and rolled another 20. Yes, these are the same dice that he used three weeks earlier when he killed off six PCs. It was nice to see them working for us rather than against us for a change. After that the battle ended quickly.

Next week is the big finale. I have no idea what the encounter will be like, but I’m expecting something extravagant. I’m going into it with a daily power and only two healing surges. At this point I’m just looking forward to season one ending. It’s been a fun ride, but I think 12 weeks is just a bit too long. With my home game we rarely play every single week. Something always comes up and after a few sessions we need to cancel for one reason or another. I can’t remember the last time we’ve gone 12 weeks without interruption.

D&D Encounters: Dark Sun begins immediately after season one ends without a break. It runs for 15 weeks. I think we’ll see a lot more people coming and going throughout the summer. Hopefully the allure of Dark Sun will keep a lot of players interested and that will keep the program alive. I’m awaiting the kit so I can start reading the adventure and getting ready to DM season two. As soon as I manage to get my hands on it I’ll share what I can about the pregenerated characters.

Visit the Dungeon’s Master D&D Encounters Archive for all of our ongoing weekly coverage as well as other great D&D Encounters articles and resources.

With only one more week to go, what do you think the last encounter will be like? Do you just want it to be over or are you just as excited now as you were during week 1?

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jason May 27, 2010 at 10:27 am

The witherling was the fun part of this encounter for me. When the PCs saw the skeletons in the pit they held back. The witherling ran up the wall and jumped through the party. Everyone attacked and missed so it got CA for the next round.

He did this a few more times before people started staying their weapons.

Overall it was a straightforward and fairly easy fight.

A good way to go when you know the main boss just ducked behind a corner.

A brand new player was given a level 2 barbarian and he smashed face with his axe dealing close to 100 points of damage with his encounter power and features.

2 Jeff May 27, 2010 at 10:29 am

I look forward to your weekly reviews on the DnD encounters since I am unable to participate. My friends and I spend about one Saturday a month playing DnD, but I’ve never played in the encounters mostly because my Wednesday’s are taken up with bowling during the winter months and softball during the summer months.

I loved the whole rogue using the ladder trick, that was amazing! I was just wondering if you could provide some more background on to how that whole scene went down mechanically. What were the DC checks used and how were they determined? How did the DM decide that he was able to springboard off the ladder and safely land on the other side (perhaps this will just be answered with the DC answer above? How did he get a stealth check immediately upon landing and what actions did each stunt take up? Was his whole turn all move actions? Did he ready an attack or just get and OA when the mob walked past him when he was hidden? Anything deeper on that scene would be greatly appreciated by myself as I am currently playing a Monk in our home LFR campaign. We just started the LFR and I/we just recently hit lvl 2 after our last adventure. These are the kind of things I look to do every adventure, but find myself lacking imagination on how to accomplish great feats of athleticism.

I love 4e, but wish the Acrobatics and Athletics checks were designed to result in more fun and high flying visuals such as you described here and not basically to make a glorified move action. I miss using tumble to roll past defenders to avoid attacks of opportunity (to use the 3.5 vernacular).

3 Jeff May 27, 2010 at 11:22 am

Our Rogue did something almost as silly. She ran, launched herself off the cliff, and landed behind one of the skeletons getting CA and proceeded to smash him for 23 damage. We all agreed that she really landed on his head and crushed him, far more epic.

On the other hand myself I hit a couple things and then hid having 0 surges and only 15 total hp. I hit the actual level 2 experience though so I will come back more durable than before.

Season Two sounds like it will be a ton of fun, I cant wait for the Dark Sun setting.

4 Kenneth McNay May 27, 2010 at 12:59 pm

one of our three rogues lept down onto a skeleton. I allowed acrobatics vs ref to hit and cause a bit of falling damage in both directions. The successful hit finished off the skeleton completely.

I too am looking forward to the season ending. I’m much move excited for DS because the group has become very stable, the characters will be exclusively pre-gens, and the XP can be discarded for auto leveling.

By using Meetup.com I’m allowing the members to RSVP and claim a pre-gen each week. I’ll know how many to expect and I have a fair rational if I have to turn away players.

5 Lahrs May 27, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Our table all agreed, this was the most boring encounter to date. This was due to two things, first, coming off so many intense battles recently, absolutely steamrolling the enemies this week felt very anti-climatic. Second, we felt the setup completely favored the PC’s, which ties into the first point.

We started off with a successful perception check, and we tossed a few sun rods around to light up the darkened area. This fortunately prevented us from being overrun in the beginning. Second, we had fun using pushes and slides to keep throwing the skeletons off of the 20 ft drop while our wizard and seeker blasted the single artillery unit (flaming skeleton) from afar. Despite the flaming skeleton being a level 5 artillery, being only one without any area attacks proved to make it more an annoyance than a threat.

The main problem we encountered was the ongoing damage, fortunately the Warlord took the brunt, and with strong rolls and our Another Chance delver reward, they too proved to be more of an annoyance.

However, none of us created any exciting rogue moments. We also completed the Apprentice set, which also seems anti-climatic with only one more session.

The big excitement for the day was the local shop owner bought a box of old D&D material, which we had first dibs on before the rest went up on EBay. Scored some first edition AD&D books, FR box set, DragonLance Box set, D&D Basic set (Blue and Red book set), as well as the D&D Basic Rules Set 1-5. A few more pieces to add to my collection.

6 Dungeon Newbie May 27, 2010 at 8:21 pm

This is unrelated but… is there anyway to play D&D without the core books? I’m poor. If not, I’ll have to stick to figuring out the rules myself :(

7 rednightmare May 29, 2010 at 9:11 am

@ Dungeon Newbie
Sure enough, yes. Keep on the Shadowfell can be downloaded for free with some core rules on the D&D website: http://www.wizards.com/dnd/TryDnD.aspx.
Also, look around in their general archive. most adventure can only be accessed with a D&D Insider subscription, but some of them are free, you could probably go pretty far with all this.
Characters can be build with the character builder, which is free to lvl 3. it’s not perfect, but it’s a start.

8 Ameron June 1, 2010 at 1:23 pm

@Jason
This was a battle where strikers really had a chance to shine. Our Rogue dished out 50+ damage three time during the encounter. The Sorcerer wasn’t dealing insane damage, but he kept the main boss busy with ranged attacks.

@Jeff
Since the Rogue’s action were well outside of the normal guidelines there was no predefined DC. The Athletics DC for jumping was determined by distance, so that we could calculate that pretty easily. He needed to clear four squares so with a running start he needed to get 20 or more. He had a +9 modifier so he needed 11 or more on the die.

The Acrobatic part required agility and balance. The DM determined this was a hard DC even for a trained PC. The usual hard DC is 15 and I suspect the DM pumped this up to 17. But since the Rogue had an Acrobatics of +9 he still only needed an 8 on the die.

Any PC can make a Stealth check when they complete a move action as long as they have something to hide beyond. Since the monster had moved around the corner he couldn’t see the Rogue, thereby allowing the Rogue an opportunity to hide. The opportunity attack was provoked when the monster moved through a threatened square and again when he made a ranged attack with an opponent in an adjacent square.

Hopefully that helps.

@Jeff
I was planning to jump down onto the monsters with my Warlord, but they all moved up before I could be so reckless.

@Kenneth McNay
Now that I’ve read the Dark Sun adventure (I’m DMing season 2) I’m really getting excited. Beyond just trying out the new setting I’m happy that it’ll have combat encounters that aren’t confined to a small dungeon. All of the encounters take place in the desert.

@Lahrs
If the PCs had been at the bottom of a three tiered area, that would have been more detrimental. That’s what I thought was supposed to happen, but the DM assured us that it was level, then pit, then level. I know that every encounter can’t be perfect, but his one really felt like a step backwards.

@Dungeon Newbie and rednightmare
It seems that this was resolved nicely. Thanks for jumping in rednightmare.

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