You know what I’m really enjoying about D&D Encounters? Regardless of how long you’ve played D&D you get to experience a new aspect of D&D every week. This week I experienced my very first TPK. And so did everyone else at my FLGS.
After last week’s encounter, I was less than 100 XP from leveling. I was so close I could taste it. All week I kept thinking that after this encounter I’ve finally be level 2. It took eight long weeks, but after tonight I’d reap the rewards of sticking with my original character. And then I died.
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.
This week we had two tables running D&D Encounters. Both tables were full with six players each. The encounter for week 8 took the longest to complete so far and it resulted in two Total Party Kills (TPK). That’s right. All 12 PCs were dead by the end of the encounter.
This was the first time I’d ever had a character die in 4e D&D. It’s a very humbling experience. The thing that upset me the most was that the party earned 0 XP even though we killed a bunch of monsters. So if we choose to revive these fallen heroes and continue using them next week we won’t hit level 2 before the end of the 12 weeks. The break between weeks 8 and 9 was the final opportunity for an extended rest. So even though we may earn the requisite XP next week, we can’t level up until we have our next extended rest. I’ve been strongly considering changing my character for the past few weeks and the main reason that I didn’t was because I wanted to level up and take on the final few encounters as a level 2 PC. Now that’s not going to happen.
And to add insult to injury (literally) I won’t get the renown points for surviving 8 encounters. It’s almost like Wizards knew this was a likely scenario and that PCs would die so they dangled that 8 encounter threshold out there knowing that very few would actually earn it.
The encounter itself was very well designed, as the DMs discussed afterwards. It had a few minions, a couple of brutes, some artillery and a leader. The problem most players faced was that this “showcase” encounter came after three fairly difficult encounters. Everyone started week 8 with very few resources remaining. Not only were we out of daily powers, but most PCs had only a handful of healing surges left. Our Paladin had 0 healing surged before the fight started, so his Lay on Hands was useless. The Cleric, the Psion and my Monk each had only 2 healing surges remaining. So even though we were fortunate enough to have two leaders, their best healing magic was useless as soon as we used up those few remaining surges.
Being low on surges and other resources wasn’t our only problem. We had a real problem focusing our attacks. We brought many of the monsters down to half hit points quickly, but were unable to drop any of them. If we’d worked together to drop our foes one at a time it might have made a difference.
The other big problem was our lack of offense. We had two pacifist Clerics in the party. One player used the pre-generated Cleric provided with the adventure and the other player made an almost identical build on his own. Although they were designed to heal, neither had a lot of attack power. So a battle designed and balanced for six PCs really only had four PCs dealing damage. The result was that killing anything took longer.
The funny thing was that all the PCs dropped around the same time. We had 4 PCs making death saves simultaneously. It became a joke. Who would fail their saves and die first. I was second to die. But I didn’t have to wait long. Within two more rounds all but one PC was dead-dead. Four failed their death saves and the other two eventually took enough damage to bring them below their negative bloodied value.
When my table was done we quickly hovered around the other table. Two of the PCs were already dead, three more were making death saves and one PC was running for his life, with only a couple of hit points remaining. A few rounds later they were all dead too.
After the final character died, the two DMs looked at each other cried out “We won!” and did a few high-fives, a chest bump, a double fist pump and a whole lot of cheering. It was a very spontaneous and hilarious release. It cut the tensions perfectly. We all needed to laugh and their unexpected and clearly satirical celebrations did just that. This wasn’t a case of two jerks gloating; it was two great DMs who realized that 12 players needed to remember that they came out to have a good time with some friends.
The players all agreed that this was the most interesting and the most fun encounter so far. It took about two and a half hours to complete and we all enjoyed experience. None of the players or the DMs felt the encounter was unbalanced or too powerful.
So now I have to decide if I want to keep playing my Monk, as a level 1 PC for the next four weeks, or if I want to create something totally new. It’s going to be a long week while I play with character builder and see what other interesting level 1 builds I might enjoy playing for the next four weeks if I let my Monk stay dead.
D&D Encounters Season 2 is going to be set in Dark Sun. The season will run for 15 weeks (three more than season 1) and will feature level 1, pregenerated PCs. I assume that all of the pregenerated characters will include Dark Sun flavour such as new feats, races, powers, equipment and perhaps a new class. I’m sure Wizards of the Coast will release more details as the date gets closer, so mark June 9 on your calendar.
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.
Did anyone else experience a TPK this week? I was looking on the boards this morning and it seems that my experience was typical. A lot of PCs were killed last night. What are your thoughts on the week 8 encounter? Too tough for level 1 PCs? And what are your thoughts on the announcement of that season 2 is set in Dark Sun? Are you more or less likely to play because of the setting?