What do you get when four PCs are attacked by goblins from high atop a rocky outcropping? One hell of a tough encounter. Week 3 was another grueling session for the players at my table. They eventually defeated all of the monsters, but the toll on their personal resources was costly. If they thought encounter 3 was tough, encounters 4 and 5 will be nearly impossible without a significant turn of events.
There they were getting pelted from above when we took stock of party’s ranged attack options. Yuka, no ranged attacks. Phye, no ranged attacks. Shikirr, no ranged attacks. That left Barcan. The same Barcan with only 2 healing surges remaining. Barcan with the poorest defenses of all the pre-generated characters. After only 5 minutes we knew this was going to ugly.
The first attacks came from a goblin cursespewer. They hit Yuka right off the bat. This granted the other goblins combat advantage so the goblin cutters quickly jumped down from the rocks to engage in melee. Unfortunately a run of cold dice from Yuka meant that those pesky minions inflicted damage for three rounds before they were killed. Meanwhile the goblin archer and the other cursespewer concentrated fire on Yuka to help the minions on the ground. Yuka took a lot of damage.
After the minions were finally killed, the rest of the party, with the exception of Barcan had nothing to fight. The drake kept swooping down and stealing supplies. The party spent a lot of effort trying to hit the drake mid-dive. But since the drake wasn’t inflicting damage, just snatching supplies, this was not the best use of their attacks (easy to say in retrospect). They killed the drake, but they kept taking fire from the other ranged attackers in the process. Barcan was the only PC with a ranged attack so he tried to keep one of the cursespewers busy. The rest of the goblins stayed safely at the top of the rocks.
Finally Shikirr climbed up to engage the archer. Upon reaching the top of the rocks and learning that the brambles would inflict 5 damage at the beginning of every turn he knew he needed to handle things quickly. He used his action point to bull rush the archer off the ledge. The fall did more damage than any of the PCs. Phye was nearby on the ground and quickly attacked and bloodied the archer. Shikirr jumped off the rocks and landed on the archer. But that little goblin was tough and wouldn’t die. The cursespewers split their attacks between Phye and Yuka. Now Phye was taking as much damage as Yuka.
After finally killing the grounded archer, Shikirr decided to use the archers bow and return fire. But his attack scores were terrible. He let Yuka use the bow and moved closer to the rocks where the cursespewers were positioned. The PCs finally took cover behind the rocks and away from the cursespewers. One of the cursespewers climbed down and tried to take up a better position. Shikirr was fortunate enough to see the cursespewer running across the desert and made short work of him.
With everyone focusing on the remaining cursespewer things finally started going the party’s way. Barkan used Excise from Sight and tried to slide the cursespewer off the ledge. Unfortunately he made his save and grabbed the ledge. Phye decided that enough was enough and climbed up to handle things. It took her a double move to get up the rocks (thanks to a very fortunate Athletics check). On her next turn she bull rushed the cursespewers, knocking him off the ledge. One round later the goblins were all dead.
Here’s what the party looks like after being totally decimated for three straight encounters.
- 12 (of 29) hit points. 0 healing surges. 0 action points.
1 daily power remaining.
- 29 (of 33) hit points. 7 healing surges. 0 action points.
0 daily powers remaining.
- 26 (of 29) hit points. 3 healing surges. 0 action points.
1 daily power remaining.
- 9 (of 22) hit points. 1 healing surge. 0 action points.
1 daily power remaining.
- 6 (of 22) hit points. 0 healing surges. 1 action point.
1 daily power remaining. (did not play encounter 3)
- 23 (of 23) hit points. 6 healing surges. 1 action point.
1 daily power remaining. (did not play encounter 1, 2, 3)
I’m going to strongly recommend that they bring in Castri from the bench and let Jarvix or Barcan sit out the next encounter.
There’s been a lot of criticism about these characters and I’m going to add my two cents. How is it fair to create six character and not give three of them ranged attacks? At one point near the end of combat the PCs started looking for rocks to throw at the monsters. If not or some creative thinking by Shikirr to use the goblin archers bow the battle would have taken a lot longer and one or more of the PCs might have died.
My other criticism is about Yuka’s defenses. He’s got a Will of 10. The cursespewers used an attack that was +7 vs Will. If they hit the round before then the target grants combat advantage. So with two of them teaming up on Yuka they had combat advantage against him for almost the entire encounter. That meant he was getting hit on anything but a 1 and taking 1d6+3 damage every time. I was shocked when Yuka survived this encounter.
At the FLGS where we played there were two other tables and they both finished in about an hour. Our table took over two hours to finish. I’ll admit that fortunate (unfortunate) dice rolling had some impact on the outcome, but these characters and their questionable builds certainly factor into thing. I think one of the other reason my table is having such a tough time is that the players are all relatively new to 4e D&D. I forget that as the DM I need to provide some coaching regarding options. I’ve been trying to do this in such a way as to not play their characters for them. However, I’m not that familiar with the psionic classes so even my ability to suggest a course of action is limited. The players all say they’re having fun, even though they keep getting beat up so badly. So I guess at the end of the day that’s what matter most.
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How did encounter 3 go for you? Did your group have anywhere near the difficulties that my group did? What do you character’s resources look like compared to my groups? Are we beat up more, less or about the same amount as everyone else?