D&D Encounters: Keep on the Borderlands (Week 3)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on October 7, 2010

Sometimes it’s nice to play an encounter that’s just hack and slash. Show up, sit down, roll initiative and kill monsters. I’m not saying I’d be happy with this week after week, but it was a welcome change after two weeks with some heavy role-playing.

When last week’s encounter ended the PCs barely had time for a short rest before they noticed Ronnik’s bank was on fire. The action picked up immediately where last week’s left off. Sal cried out, “Ronnik’s trying to destroy evidence of his evil affiliation by burning his own shop.” The PCs rolled initiative and rushed towards the burning building in search of survivors among the flames or evidence of Ronnik’s deeds.

I decided that this week I would play a different character. After two weeks of playing Sola the Cleric I wanted something different. So I decided to play Eldeth, the Dwarven Slayer Fighter. In the previous two encounters this was the only pre-gen we’d not seen in action. When the other players arrived they each took one of the remaining characters: Quinn (Fighter), Berrian (Wizard), Merric (Rogue). The last player to arrive decided that he wasn’t interested in play Hagen the Cleric again so he also chose to play Berrian. Without a leader to heal, this party could face series hardship. So with the DMs permission I decided to play two characters, Sola and Eldeth.

I haven’t played two characters in a long time. In previous editions of D&D we always ran multiple PCs. It’s just the way things worked out. Some classes we so low maintenance that it was easy to run them along side another character. However, with 4e D&D each character has so many options available to them that it’s a lot more difficult to run more than one PC at a time. But I figured that since these PCs were only level 1 and they were built using the D&D Essentials rules (which simplify things considerably) it shouldn’t be too difficult. And it wasn’t.

The PCs arrived at Ronnik’s and had to pick the lock to the front door in order to gain entrance. Merric made an awesome Thievery check to get the lock picked and the door open. Quinn rushed in and surveyed the room. Fire elementals were reeking havoc around the room, setting all the furniture ablaze. In the middle of the room was a water elemental standing on top of an arcane sigil written on the floor. Quinn turned and charged the fire elemental closest to the door.

The rest of the party filed into the room and tried to focus on the same elemental – except Eldeth. I decided that any character built around charging must be a little bit reckless, so she ignored the party’s tactics and charged at the water elemental. A 19 on the die meant a solid hit. The 1 on a d12 meant minimum damage.

The fire elementals, realizing that we were a threat, suddenly had focus. They moved to attack the party, setting the room on fire as they acted. They didn’t hit hard, only doing ongoing 5 fire damage; however, the PCs quickly (and painfully) discovered that the elements also left squares burning at the end of their turn. Any PC who finished their turn next to a burning square took 2 damage. Not a lot unless you happen to have ongoing damage and find yourself standing next to three burning squares. Quinn was bloodied by fire after two rounds.

One of the Wizards used Beguiling Strands and Arc Lightning to deal as much damage to as many opponents as possible. The other noticed that the elementals, the water basin, the brazier and the sigil all seemed to pulse rhythmically in time with one and other. He also realized that the sigil on the floor was hastily etched and was likely drawn within the hour. He then moved towards the sigil with plans to disrupt whatever magic it was spewing forth. Using an action point, he rolled a successful Arcana check and slowed the pulsing, but more work was still required.

The rest of the party fought on. The Wizard in the combat used Charm of Misplaced Wrath to daze one of the fire elements. Merric put his backstabbing to use and easily destroyed the creature. Eldeth drew an opportunity attack from a fire elemental (which missed) in order to charge the water elemental. Another hit, this time the damage roll was a 2 on a d12. A Magic Missile was all it took to destroy the water elemental on the next round. Sola used Sun Burst to give everyone 5 temporary hit points which made the burning squares a little bit easier to handle.

Berrian at the sigil again made a successful Arcana check, weakening the magical energies. Sola, although untrained, decided her talents were better used trying to defuse the magic rather than fight the few remaining fire elementals. A lucky Arcana check provided another success.

The melee combatants made short work of the fire elements killing two more. Eldeth made an awesome charge attack on the last fire elemental. Unfortunately she rolled a 1. But, using her action point she tried again and scored a crit dealing 30 points of damage and soundly killing it. Quinn landed a devastating blow on the final fire elemental killing it easily.

One more Arcana check by Berrian at the sigil was all it took to destroy the magic and dispatch the fire. The party searched the room and found an open wall safe. Inside were cash, jewels, magic and a map. Benwick, who arrived just as the fighting was done and the flames were extinguished, looked at the map and recognized it as part of the wall around the Chaos Scar. He pleaded with us to head to that location and capture Ronnik before he could escape. After a short rest the PCs will be on the road again chasing their suspect.

I really enjoyed this week’s encounter. It was simple and straight forward. The burning squares didn’t seem that treacherous at first, but after a few rounds of combat we realized just how dangerous 2 points of fire damage could become when cumulative. The party deployed relatively sound tactics focusing their attacks to drop foes quickly. The Wizard realized that his best action wasn’t fighting and gladly took on the skill challenge.

I did find it interesting that every character hit on their turn and made every skill check. The only miss was my charge, but I used my action point to gain a second attack and it resulted in a natural 20. I’ve never seen the dice roll so well so consistently. I’m afraid of what might be in store for us next week. You don’t roll that good and not see some bad rolls down the line to even things out. Karma’s funny that way.

Playing two characters was a blast. It made things really exciting for me as I had to really pay attention to what everyone was doing. I was glad that the characters were simple because when their turns rolled around I didn’t need a lot of time to decide on their actions.

After only one encounter I was easily bored with Eldeth. The powers are so boring. Talk about a one-trick pony. Charge, charge, charge. Boring. It was great that she was there to provide some much needed offense, but I can’t imagine playing this build in any sort of long-term campaign. If this was my first time playing D&D I might find this build appealing because it’s so simple. I could learn the rules of D&D while not feeling too overwhelmed by my own character. Other than this circumstance, I can’t see the appeal of playing the Slayer (at least as this pre-gen is put together).

Which pre-gens have you played? What are your thoughts? Which of the six do you think is the most fun to play and the least fun to play? Have you played Eldeth? Have you found her as boring as I did?

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1 Sunyaku October 11, 2010 at 11:08 pm

I was a little dissapointed that all of the tables at our LFGS, including my own, more or less ignored the skill challenge aspects (despite being heavily baited), and just focused on killing the monsters. In retrospect, I think the encounter would have been more interesting if the brazier/basin/sigil network provided some regen to the elementals, or perhaps if you could roll every round for a chance to respawn one of them… e.g. with a successful respawn on 4, 5, or 6, but then as pieces of the system were destroyed it would reduce to 5, 6 and then just 6.

2 Ameron October 13, 2010 at 4:07 pm

I think that if our table had only one Wizard (instead of two) that we would have focused more on combat and less on the skill challenge. I really like your suggestion to re-spawn fallen elementals until the skill challenge was completed. It would certainly place a little bit more importance on that aspect of the encounter.

3 Lahrs October 14, 2010 at 12:44 pm

We had two tables running in week 3. At the other table, they straight up killed the monsters without doing any skill challenges.

My group on the other hand won by using the skill challenges. At D&D game day, in the final fight with the dragon, there were two braziers of fire that were knocked over. Our mage remembered this, and knocked over the water brazier, at which point I had the elementals flicker. A fighter on the other side of the room, seeing this, ran and knocked over the other (taking a nasty attack of opportunity in the process) but succeeded and saw a second flicker. At this point the water elementals roared, as much as a water elemental can, and fell back to protect the sigil. The group picked up on this and engaged them while the mage, after a successful arcane check, began to siphon the sigil and after four straight successful, made the remaining elementals and the random flames disappeared. We had a lot of fun with the encounter.

I was amused though when the players found the map, showing where Ronnik’s hideout is, they kept questioning why a map would have a giant “x marks the spot” on it. Yet, in the end, they went there anyway in week 4, grumbling that they were walking into a trap.

4 Ameron October 21, 2010 at 2:32 pm

Our party has voiced suspicions about Benwick and his forthrightness, but all of that was forgotten when they found the map. No one questioned a map with an X in Ronnik’s wall safe. I guess the players see what they want to see. They find a map and assume it’s where they NEED to go.

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