D&D Encounters Dark Sun (Week 6)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on July 15, 2010

The PC began chapter two after an extended rest and a level bump. The desperation they felt during the previous couple of encounters was replaced with the confidence that accompanies power. Full hit points, maximum healing surges, better attack scores, better defense scores and best of all they’re out of the blazing sun and away from the obsidian storm. So began week 6 of D&D Encounters Dark Sun.

Before the combat began the PCs needed to overcome some basic survival hurdles. Being completely entombed in these catacombs meant that they had no light. They needed to create torches in order to see anything. Fortunately they (barely) made the necessary Dungeoneering check to fashion a torch from their gear. The adventure clearly indicated that the party has only enough material to make three torches, so the PCs need to use them sparingly.

The party ventured deeper into the cavern when there was an erry sense of déjà vu. Way back at the very beginning of D&D Encounters (the first season) the PCs found themselves on opposite sides of a gap, spanned only by a narrow bridge, with the villains on the opposite side. The PCs found themselves in a very similar scenario this week. The biggest difference this week over our experience back in season one was the presence of a ranged striker in the party. When we faced this scenario before, we only had melee combatants.

The party of four (Barcan, Phye, Shakirr and Castri) decided that Barcan should keep the torch and remain on the original perch while the rest of the party moved single file across the bridge, beginning with Shakirr. They did notice some movement on the other side of the gap as well as something shinny, possibly treasure. Shakirr proceeded cautiously. As he stepped off of the bridge the first Corruption Corpse arose and attacked him.

When the party identified the Corruption Corpse there was again déjà vu. These same creatures were part of our infamous TPK in week 8 of season one. Suddenly the players were really scared. Shakirr managed to take a solid hit before Castri and Phye ran across the bridge to help. Barcan remained safely on the other side of the gap and lobbed ranged attacks at the monsters.

After an initial onslaught on all of the PCs, the monsters hard a really had time connecting. Meanwhile the PCs scored two critical hits and before long the first Corruption Corpse was destroyed and the Grey Ooze attacking Castiri was in really bad shape. Upon learning that the undead were vulnerability radiant 5, Barcan used Blazing Starfall over and over again to its maximum efficiency.

The PCs found themselves in real peril when one of the monsters extinguished the torch. A round earlier Barcan attempted to throw the torch to Shakirr. Bacan is not known for his athletic prowess barely made the mark, but Shakirr fumbled the catch and the torch fell into the chasm. The intelligent undead realized the advantage of fighting in darkness and put out the torch on their turn. However, Blazing Starfall leaves the ground burning for one full round and that little bit of light lasted long enough for the PCs to finish the monsters before lighting a new torch.

When the combat was finished and the PCs took stock of their resources we were all very impressed with where the party stood. Phye, Barcan and Castir only expended one healing surge each. Shakirr used two. None of the PCs used daily powers and only two used action points. If this is any indication of things to come, the players at my table will be in very good shape for the next encounter, and likely the chapter. I realize that this is only one encounter, but after using these pre-generated characters for the previous five weeks the players are finally starting to get the hang of who these PCs are and what they’re capable of doing.

In last week’s post I mentioned that the DMs at my FLGS were going to tweak the pre-generated characters before running chapter two. I decided to have the players use the pre-generated characters as Wizards intended for the first week and then decided on how to proceed. After seeing this week’s encounter run so smoothly I’m likely to just have the players keep using the real versions of the PC. The other DM had revised versions of the PCs and let his players choose. They all opted for the revamped PCs. Over the next few games we’ll compare notes and see how much of an advantage the optimized PCs have over the normal versions.

The DMs kit for D&D Encounters comes with the adventure and a nice, full-colour glossy map. As a cheapskate who doesn’t own any dungeon tiles, I’m used to drawing all my maps by hand on graph paper. Until this week I felt that the presentation of the encounter has been top notch – until I saw the other table. The other DM pulled all the stops and put together a phenomenal 3D rendition of the map. It really gives the players a good sense of what the cavern looks like. No wonder I’m having trouble filling my table. I can’t compete with this kind of showmanship.

D&D Encounters Dark Sun Week 6 – Map (picture 1)

D&D Encounters Dark Sun Week 6 – Map (picture 2)

D&D Encounters Dark Sun Week 6 – Map (picture 3)

D&D Encounters Dark Sun Week 6 – Map (picture 4)

D&D Encounters Dark Sun Week 6 – Map (picture 5)

D&D Encounters Dark Sun Week 6 – Map (picture 6)

D&D Encounters Dark Sun Week 6 – Map (picture 7)

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1 Lahrs July 15, 2010 at 12:11 pm

I have started working with dungeon tiles using some molds from Hirstarts, but haven’t put together a full dungeon. Still, I am very excited to get a finished product soon which will hopefully make for a much more immersive experience.

However, I was in for a mind blast of my own when nobody showed up for Encounters yesterday. I am not sure if everyone had the plague or something, but not a single person from either table showed up. I missed last week due to a prior engagement, so I am not sure if something happened in my absence… but wow.

I put out a plea for everyone to show up next week and I will run session 6 and 7. After looking overall the materials, it looks like the encounters are constructed much better than Chapter 1 and I was looking forward to running.

2 lev July 15, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Good write up, Ameron. The party I was in struggled a bit with the necrotic “ball” that would often be invisible, but we demolished the Corruption Corpses fairly quickly by keeping them penned in one corner of the map and letting Jarvix and Barcan nuke them with burst attacks. Overall the encounter was fairly easy so while I never want my character to die, I do hope the pace picks up a bit as we get deeper into the mountain.

My question is – why are your players struggling with light when four of them have Adventure Kits? This means they have *eight* Sun Rods for the whole party!! Each Sun Rod burns for 4 hours and lights Burst 20 around the holder. Also, how did your table decide to handle Phye’s “Comarde’s Succor” ritual?

I’m surprised that other DMs at your FLGS are tampering with the characters. I believe they are cheating both themselves and the players by doing so. Heck, if they think that existing characters are so crappy then they might as well create brand-new characters for their players and do away with the party provided by WOTC all together!

3 anarkeith July 15, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Learning to get the most out of the pregens takes time. It’s nice to hear that some groups are working out how best to use them together. In an age when it is easy to optimize characters, it’s kind of charming to take a less-than-perfect character into a game and work with your fellow players to get the most out of it.

4 Ameron July 16, 2010 at 9:08 am

We’ve noticed a steady decline in the numbers at out FLGS as well. I suspect that it’s a combination of many factors. The most common reasons are likely that people showed up to see what Dark Sun was all about and after a few weeks gave up, or that being summer people have other responsibilities that keep them from gaming regularly.

There’s a strong likelihood that we’re going to opt for an every two week approach at my FLGs too.

I kept forgetting to have the necrotic ball go invisible so the PCs were able to target it more easily. Most of the damage it took came from Barcan’s burst attacks, so being invisible wouldn’t have helped it anyway. The fact that it was insubstantial and only took half damage made a big difference.

I assumed that Dark Sun adventuring kits don’t have sun rods. They seem like something that would be incredibly rare in a world with so few resources. The adventure makes a very specific point about keeping track of light sources and saying outright that the PCs only light sources are the three torches they have between all characters. If they were supposed to have sun rods this excerpt wouldn’t make much sense. But I leave that call up to each individual DM.

As for the pre-generated characters there was a lot of discussion about making them better (see the comments in last week’s article). We’re not looking to ditch them all together, just tweak them to be more versatile. Again, this is a decision that each DM has to make for his table. I opted not to use the rebuilds this week, but that doesn’t mean I won’t next week. I’ll likely give the players the choice.

I’m all for playing a character with less than optimal stats and abilities. But when the adventure is a brutal as it’s been thus far, providing sub-optimal PCs seems like a low blow.

5 lev July 16, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Thank you for the response, Ameron!

I’ve yet to read the adventure, but what you say regarding light sources makes sense. I’ll check with our DM next Wednesday to see how we should handle this.

The benefit of the “ball” being invisible is that it could try and move away from its last known location to force the players into spending time trying to find it. Our “ball” rolled crappy stealth checks, but he would always try to mingle amongst the fighters to make it harder for the strikers to use their AOE attacks.

I understand what you mean in regards to tweaking characters. Ultimately if tweaked characters mean that the players are having more fun then I think the change was worth it : )

6 TomD July 16, 2010 at 10:49 pm

So I have to ask, did anyone remember that everyone has 3 sunrods and two torches in their adventurer’s pack…?

7 Sunyaku July 17, 2010 at 10:01 am

@TomD — See Ameron’s previous comment @lev (above).

8 TomD July 17, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Ah, Ok. Fair enough. 🙂

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