D&D Encounters: Keep on the Borderlands (Week 6)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on October 28, 2010

The show must to go on! Just because Ameron is on vacation is no excuse for Dungeon’s Master not to have a D&D Encounters weekly recap. I reached out to one of our loyal readers and he gratefully agreed to share his groups’ experiences with D&D Encounters week 6. Thanks to Rob Quinton (who you know as Lahrs, a frequent commenter at Dungeon’s Master) for his excellent summary of D&D Encounters week 6. Lahrs has been a player and a DM for the last twelve years and is currently running the D&D Encounters program at his FLGS.

Tonight we finished encounter 6 in the Keep on the Borderlands campaign and it was another satisfying encounter, though my table experienced a fair share of problems due to consistent poor dice rolling.

Last week, at the end of encounter 5, our group discovered a set of armor stashed after vanquishing the Kobolds and Oozes and I was excited to hand out the discovery this week. At our table, each player is assigned a number and then we roll a d6 to see who gets the item. Any person who already has a magic item is not allowed a second until everyone has one. Due to this, it is very difficult to plan ahead on what the treasure will be, but today our Monk scored a nice set of blood thread cloth armor. I love seeing the excitement one gets when a nice magic item is handed over. Unfortunately, that is where his luck for the night ended and the difficulties for the group began.

As our group exited the cave and into a large hall, they were greeted with Kobolds chanting Ixenstrix, which means “strong fire” in Draconic. Our Wizard, trained in Arcana, was able to see that the chanting from the Kobolds was powering a large rune and fires throughout the hall. The Wizard also understood the power of the fire would obey the commands of the strongest Wizard and so she began to chant back in hopes of gaining control of the fire rune. The dice would not be so kind and every roll throughout the encounter was thwarted by the Wyrmpriest who controlled the fire rune throughout the battle.

Next, our Monk charged in, brandishing his new armor and took a mighty swing at a Quickblade, but connected only with air and a gurgling laugh from the Kobold. The Wizard went next and took down two minions with her magic missiles. During the last season, I used the monster tokens Wizard provides in each kit. I believe they are great and help speed up battle. It is easier to keep track of Red Monster 2 rather than Kobold slinger… “I think it was that one,” but visually it is boring. On the official D&D Encounters forums from Wizards of the Coast, people have been posting standees which you can print. A color print on card stock from an office store makes for great looking 3D creatures. The point of this is my players no longer instantly know which creatures are the minions and my players treat each creature as if they were a real threat. In this encounter, the Wizard simply lucked out and picked the right monster type to quickly remove two enemies.

Our mighty Essentials Rogue, who has been able to do no wrong since starting in week two, continued his absolute dominance, obliterating any creature unfortunate to get in his way. The more I see Essentials in action, the more I love the concepts and the character builds. When I learned they removed Rogue daily powers, I couldn’t believe it, but seeing the at-wills in action, I understand their reasoning. D&D Essentials does what I believe standard 4e failed to do, it clearly defines roles and creates character classes that excel in their defined role. Rogues are excellent strikers and Wizards now more easily control the battlefield. In the case of our Rogue, his damage to one enemy at a time is unparalleled, to the point I initially thought the player was cheating. Nope, just a class well designed and well played.

Our Barbarian charged in next, creating havoc as he finished off the Quickblade with a blow that sent Kobold parts in multiple directions. The Kobolds were ready to retaliate and they did so with deadly precision. Quickblades are powerful with the ability to shift up to three spaces each turn which adds an addition +6 to his damage rolls. 1d6 +9 hurts, especially when the DM adds an extra Quickblade to make for a more difficult fight. The damage was spread out, so instead of dropping one player, three ended up bloodied and near death.

Out of all the available roles, I believe leader is the hardest to fill, so my table is extremely lucky to have two Clerics in the group. Unfortunately both Clerics rolled poorly all night with prevented either from hitting anything, but their heals kept everyone alive to continue the good fight. The Wyrmpriest was no slouch either, controlling both the fire rune and a deadly ice orb, elemental damage was being tossed with glee and a lot of damage.

The Tunnelers, being minions which the group was quickly clued to, went down fast and were barely in play long enough to be more than a nuisance, but the Quickblades and the Wyrmpriest continued to pound on the group. As I mentioned earlier, the players struggled with their rolls. Out of the seven rounds of play, our Monk only hit once and that was when he used an action point. The Wizard failed to take control of the rune and the Clerics continued to miss on their attacks. In the end, the strikers (the Monk and Barbarian) saved the group from a TPK, but they couldn’t take down the Kobolds fast enough to prevent some serious damage being spread to the players. With two encounters to go, a few are hurting on healing surges. I think next week I will take it easy on them.

I think frustration is setting in with person playing the Monk. He has hit one time in two sessions, but I do not see what I can do to help. He has been good natured, but you can only roll so many 1s and 2s before you want to start throwing dice (disclaimer: no dice were hurt in the running of Encounters). Still, it appears everyone is enjoying themselves and there were plenty of laughs and smiles. One aspect I have enjoyed is the varying terrain, it may not seem like much, but after months traveling through a desert, it is nice to explore caves, ruins, hideouts and now a dungeon. The encounters are well balanced and I feel I can add monsters as necessary without setting up a potential TPK.

At the beginning of the season, I went against Wizard’s rules and expanded the available class and race list because four classes seemed a bit too restricting. Wizard’s claimed they were going to expand on it during chapter three since Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms was going to be released by then. To this day, the character generator is STILL not updated with the Essentials materials. With the release of Forgotten Kingdoms on the horizon and a few new players joining our tables, the other DM and I had a discussion on how we wanted to proceed with characters and character creation. In the end, we decided it was completely unfair to make someone change characters, so any non-Essentials character in play will remain, but once Forgotten Kingdoms is released, any new character would have to be an Essential build. Part of it is I am trying to help support our FLGS. The shop keeper built us a dungeon in the basement to play, free of charge. The other part is that Essentials is the future of sanctioned play.

We enjoyed this week’s encounter and my players are excited and scared about the next one. A captured Kobold was supposed to reveal what the party would see after the ascend the stairs next Wednesday, but since they were all killed first, save the Wyrmpriest who escaped up the lift, they found a scroll with instructions to the Kobold underlings (the ones the party just battled) from the group above. I won’t mention what is next for anyone who does not know what happens next, but it will definitely be a fun encounter.

With six encounters under our belt, how does everyone feel about Essentials? I am quickly becoming a supporter despite my strong initial resistance, but others still feel it is too restrictive. How about Keep on the Borderlands in general? Good, bad, ugly?

I look forward to reading your comments and enjoying the next encounter just a week away.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 David Schwarm October 28, 2010 at 8:53 pm

Great update–keep up the good work.

2 Sunyaku October 30, 2010 at 11:13 am

I’m still looking forward to running this encounter. Unfortunately, with the big storm in the U.S. midwest region last week, play was canceled. Hopefully with the upcoming holidays we’ll eventually be on the same schedule again.

As far as Essentials builds go– the only odd thing I’ve noticed is that it seems like the defender fighter at every table is getting hit a little TOO much. I wonder if the aura makes Quinn a bit too sticky. Sure, the healers keep his HP up, but he’s burning through surges at a pace of 3 or more per encounter. In the last chapter Quinn didn’t have any surges going into the last battle at my table, and fighter/defenders at both tables in my FLGS time slot appear to be on pace to not have any surges left at the end of this chapter as well.

3 Lahrs October 30, 2010 at 11:17 pm

@Sunyaku My first thought over the fighters aura was ‘how cool is this,’ stickier and one less thing to worry about. My next thought echoed what you are seeing, too sticky. The fighter at our second table is having a very difficult time, while we have two clerics, their table only has one and the cleric cannot keep up with the damage the fighter is receiving. I am not sure if the DM is going to change anything, but the fighter needs help.

At the same time, when my group is working well together, they completely control the field, except when dice rolls suck, as in the last encounter. The wizard has been the most important class in our group so far with beguiling strands and hypnotism. The control she (female player) uses on the battlefield has kept the party alive and successful in nearly every battle. If the wizard can lock down one or two creatures that are on the fighter, together they can neutralize a large amount of monsters. I haven’t seen it in action yet, but I can see it happening.

As far as surges, with two encounters left in the chapter, my whole table is hurting. We haven’t been close to a TPK, but they have been banged up pretty bad.

4 j November 1, 2010 at 1:06 pm

terrible that you are going to restrict the game to essentials only. i would quit your game if that happened to me

5 Lahrs November 1, 2010 at 3:16 pm

Considering Essentials was the requirement since the beginning, and I already went against it and expanded the class, I don’t think it is such a big deal that we are constricting it back to Essentials for new characters once the second book comes out. Expect all future seasons of Encounters to be Essentials only.

And I want to reiterate, anyone who already has a non-essentials character will be allowed to keep their character through-out the season. It only applies to new characters after the second book is released.

6 j November 3, 2010 at 12:55 pm

yeah its flipping the bird at classic 4e players, i get it

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