It’s Here! – Lair Assault: Forge of the Dawn Titan

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on August 30, 2011

If you’d asked me yesterday what my favourite D&D product was I would have really struggled to give you an answer. Today I can answer you immediately – Lair Assault: Forge of the Dawn Titan. This adventure is awesome! I’m even going to go so far as to say that it’s one of the best 4e D&D products released so far. Yes, I believe it’s that good.

I don’t want to ruin anyone’s first time though the adventure so I’m not going to reveal any spoilers. Instead I’m going to share things that the players will learn as soon as they sit down at the gaming table, as well as my thoughts on some of the more interesting aspects of the adventure.

One Encounter

This entire adventure is one giant encounter. The PCs have exactly 4 minutes in-game to get in, accomplish their objective and get out. In the adventure is says 4 minutes (20 rounds), but I suspect that this is a typo. If a round is supposed to be 6 seconds then 4 minutes should be 40 rounds and not 20. We’ll wait for a correction notice from Wizards just to be sure. In either case that’s not a lot of time when you take into account the time required to get from room to room, especially when doors are potentially locked and booby trapped.

Since this is one massive encounter initiative is only rolled once. The party keeps this initiative throughout the entire adventure. With the clock ticking any changes in the initiative order will eat away your time while one PC delays and waits for the others to act. This might give some players more or less incentive to choose feats like Improved Initiative or feats that improve the Warlord’s combat leader class feature.

Monsters and Terrain Features

Remember that every time you play through any Liar Assault things will change, including the monsters. Each time the DM sits down to run the adventure he can pick the monsters he wants to use from a specific pre-defined list. These include monsters ranging from levels 4-10. Yes, most of the monsters are more powerful than the level 5 PCs, including one level 10 creature. Keep this in mind when creating characters. Fighting everything to the death may not be the smartest way to try and defeat this encounter, but doing so will earn you the “Monster Slayer” general award worth 20 glory (but more on that later). Play smart or you’re in for a long, tough battle.

Players looking for a real challenge can try to tackle the adventure in “Nightmare Mode.” This gives the DM the green light to add more monsters to the encounter. If you manage to survive the adventure in Nightmare Mode you earn the “Epic Win” general award worth 20 glory.

Once again Wizards provided a spectacular map. And as an added bonus they provided terrain tiles for the DM to place each time he begins anew. Even though the dimensions of the room are constant, the obstacles and hazards within will change every time you play.

Character Creation Tips

I’m going to try and reinforce some general ideas here and not give away anything too blatant. Most of what I’m going to suggest is a lot of common sense stuff anyway.

The most important and often used skills are likely to be Athletics, Perception and Thievery. If your class doesn’t give you the option to train these skills then think about spending a few extra points in Strength, Wisdom and Dexterity to make up for it. Feats that add to these skills, including multi-classing feats and Jack of All Trades are good options.

Never underestimate the value of Stealth. If you can get the entire party on board, a group of PCs that can all move undetected through the dungeon might actually have a chance of accomplishing the objective before any of the monsters even know that the heroes are there.

When it comes to feats you’ll have to throw away some conventional wisdom. Normally I encourage everyone to take Durability, especially if they have a low starting Constitution, but since you’re not going to get short rests I don’t think running out of healing surges will be your biggest problem. I see Toughness as mandatory for everyone. Skill Training and Skill Focus should also be very high on everyone’s feat list.

Knowing that the adventure is called Forge of the Dawn Titan and the fact that there is a Tiefling and Burning Skeletons on the cover, everyone and his mother should immediately try to get items, feats and powers that will provide some kind of fire resistance. Be forewarned that there are mechanics at play that will gimp some abilities, including resistances. Keep this in mind when choosing race. If fire resistance was your only reason for playing a Tiefling, think again before committing.

Creativity and Tactics

There is a lot going on in this adventure. Don’t think for a second that you can walk in, kill all the monsters, accomplish the objective and walk out. It’s not going to happen, I guarantee it. Remember that you’re on the clock so every round needs to bring you closer to the objective. You won’t have enough time to kill all 10-16 monsters, disarm all the traps and find the hidden things.

The key to success is going to be knowing when to run and when not to run. There’s nothing that says you have to fight any of the monsters. Fight those that you need to but always ask yourself if defeating the monsters is necessary to advance. If the answer is no, then get moving. Bad things happen at specific time intervals so speed is as important as smart tactics.

Make sure you look around. There are a lot of Easter eggs in this adventure. Don’t be afraid to try creative and unusual things. Take nothing at face value. The designers are indeed out to kill your characters, but they aren’t completely heartless. There are some beneficial things places strategically within the dungeon that will help you. You just have to find them and realize that they are indeed helpful. None of the Easter eggs have signs indicating what they are or how to use them. Trial and error will be your friend.

Glory

There are 20 awards worth up to 200 glory. A player can earn each award only once for this challenge, regardless of the number of times he plays.

General Awards Description Glory
Epic Win Defeat challenge on Nightmare mode. 20
I’ll Be Back You get 20 or higher on a death saving throw. 10
It’s Chrtmas You score a critical hit. 5
Monster Slayer Defeat every enemy creature in the dungeon. 20
Commando You complete the challenge without using magic items or consumables. 20
One Shot You drop a nonminion enemy from full hit points down to 0 hit points. 10
Racy Group Your party defeats the challenge with a group in which all the characters are the same race. 10
Tough as Nails You complete the challenge without spending a healing surge. 20
TPK Every character in the party dies. 5
It’s a Trap! You disable a trap or hazard. 5
Challenge Awards Description Glory
Dungeon Mapper Your group opens every door in the dungeon. 10
Give My Regards You knock an enemy off a ledge or into lava. 5
I Regret Nothing You fall off a ledge or into lava. 5
Lava Nice Day You die from lava. 10
Speed Demon Complete the challenge in five rounds or fewer. 10
Treasure Hunter SPOILER 5
Vell’s Foil Your group defeats the challenge. 10
Secret Awards Description Glory
Secret 1 SPOILER 10
Secret 2 SPOILER 5
Secret 3 SPOILER 5

Included with each kit is a poster for tracking glory at your FLGS. This is an excellent way to motivate people to try Lair Assault and an even better way to get players who have tried it once to try it again.

Glory Tracker

Glory Tracker Close Up

You can attempt to complete Lair Assault: Forge of the Dawn Titan beginning September 1. I’m really looking forward to running and playing this adventure. Once I’ve had a chance to run or play the Lair Assault a couple of times I’ll be sure to write another article sharing my experiences. We’ll try to record our sessions and post them as actual play podcasts so that you can listen to our experiences and hopefully learn from our mistakes. Good luck, everyone!

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1 OnlineDM August 30, 2011 at 10:23 am

Crap. Now I’m interested. :-)
OnlineDM´s last blog post ..Cover art: The Staff of Suha Cycle

2 Saxon August 30, 2011 at 10:46 am

I’m really not a fan of some of the glory points “achievements” — they’re encouraging uncooperative play. It’s apparently in my best interest to jump into some lava and roll death saving throws the whole game. That’s 5 points for falling, 10 points for dying then another 10 points if I can make my death save.

3 Saxon August 30, 2011 at 10:46 am

Oh, then another 5 for the TPK I just caused by being selfish.

4 Snarls-at-Fleas August 30, 2011 at 10:54 am

Damn! I want it so much!!!
Snarls-at-Fleas´s last blog post ..Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

5 Ameron August 30, 2011 at 11:50 am

@OnlineDM
I swear Lair Assault is going to be like crack – play it once and you’ll be hooked. I fear for D&D Encounters because I think people will be more interested in doing Lair Assault over and over again rather than play the ongoing weekly Encounters adventure. We’ll see soon enough.

@Saxon
I think you might be missing the point on a few of these rewards. I don’t actually imagine any PC would willingly do the things you’ve described. In fact, the way it was described at GenCon was like a consolation prize. “Oh, something bad happened to your character? Well at least you earned 5 glory for it so I guess it’s not all bad.”

In a program where Wizards expects 80% or more of the parties to be killed on their first time through they need to give you something for the effort, hence the rewards you’ve flagged.

@Snarls-at-Fleas
Oh, I know how you feel. I’ve only had the materials for 24 hours and I can’t get a group together to try it out for at least a week. I’m already pulling my hair out in anticipation.

6 Arbanax August 30, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Wow sounds awesome, shame I am not near anywhere to play and then what is worse is to hear you talking about how great this is, and WOTC drop out the usual line…sorry we’re not selling this because of FLGS etc.

Great to read about it, and will read with interest what happens next. But I so wish they’d sell these further down the line, to the many people who are not near a FLGS, especially in other countries like the UK which has so few anyway and even less who even participate in Encounters etc.

Ab

7 Al August 30, 2011 at 1:34 pm

It will be interesting to see how this plays out because Encounters has a more solo feel to it. By this I mean, you just show up and play with whoever is there. Whereas Lair Assault sounds like it requires pre-session organization to be successful. It will be interesting to be sure.

8 Kiel Chenier August 30, 2011 at 3:02 pm

Hey Ameron,

Depending on how many kits Dueling Grounds gets, as well as how many people show up for the first session, do you think there will be a need for an additional table?
Kiel Chenier´s last blog post ..D&D Encounters: Neverwinter Episode 1

9 Carda August 30, 2011 at 5:09 pm

I haven’t DMed in ages; I had previously sworn off running games because I enjoyed being on the players’ side of the screen more. But being the tactics nerd I am, I knew that I’d want to run a Lair Assault table as soon as it was announced. (And I was cackling with glee at a couple of the dungeon features. XD)

If Lair Assault takes off as quickly as WotC hopes it does, do you suppose it will find its way into regular convention play? Because I’m already developing an idea to run LA at the next local anime con, with a stack of premade characters (all based on popular anime characters!) for con-goers to use.

10 froth August 30, 2011 at 9:09 pm

Sucks for folks like me who don’t have stores that run dnd. Oh well I’m sure it will be on ebay in october

11 Kenneth McNay August 30, 2011 at 9:52 pm

If wizards had done as good a job on their previews about this product, I would have already sanctioned it. Now that I’ve read what you have to say, I’m going to sanction this right away and cajole some players to set aside a few dates to play. It is amazing what a difference the proper preview makes. Thanks for the clarity!

12 Kenneth McNay August 30, 2011 at 9:58 pm

or at least, I’d like to sanction it now. too late.

13 Lahrs August 31, 2011 at 9:53 am

We have three full tables of confirmed players for Lair Assault and I am quite excited to run our first session this Saturday. I agree with Ameron, this is a top notch product.

One thing we are going to try in our store is to turn Lair Assault into a tournament format. We are still working on how we want to do the payments, either a $5 entry fee for unlimited plays and prizes at the end for the top three players (Glory Points) or a $15 entry fee per table, per play, but the store would provide packs of Neverwinter fortune cards before the session begins and a small prize after each run.

No matter what though, anybody can still play for free, they just would not be eligible for prizes.

@ Ameron – I am also worried about Encounters attendance. I have a few players who have no interest in Lair Assault and prefer to play Encounters, but not many. Our game schedule is Encounters every Wednesday, and Lair Assault and LFR alternating Saturdays. I have a feeling though that LA alternating would be official sessions, but we may have a lot of unofficial sessions, especially if we run it as a tournament.

14 mbeacom September 1, 2011 at 12:18 am

Hey, where did you get the Glory Tracker? Was it packaged separately? I got a 16 page booklet, sheet of tokens, mini map and large double sided poster map but no glory tracker. WTH? Also, I love your write up but you pretty much tell people exactly what type of character to build, which kind of ruins the discovery IMO. Yes, it could probably be inferred with some inspection of the product and reviews, but by explicitly laying it out there, you’re kind of removing a savvy players ability to figure it out and feel the reward for doing so on their own. Maybe I’m overthinking it a bit. :/

I’ll agree though, I’m totally stoked to run this baby. My only disappointment is how much of the killer stuff is random as opposed to a punishment for poor performance. You could literally have a perfect character, do everything right and still die if things go against you. Also, you mention trial and error as far as finding easter eggs and little advantages. It should also be stated that the exact same trial and error can get you killed.
:)
mbeacom´s last blog post ..The Dungeons & Dragons of Tomorrow

15 Sunyaku September 1, 2011 at 2:13 am

I am very excited to run this, and I agree with you guys, this is an awesome mod. I think the biggest problem we have right now is with the player base. We have a lot of people interested, but there are no clear “groups” signed up yet… and I don’t think a party thrown together at the last minute will do very well. It may work OK for Essentials, but Lair Assault is serious business!
Sunyaku´s last blog post ..Lair Assault Strategy – Party Optimization

16 Carda September 4, 2011 at 11:53 am

Our store ran our first Lair Assault yesterday; one table beat the adventure by virtue of a last-moment critical, and the other two were TPKs. At my table, the party managed to bring the boss within 20 hp of death before succumbing to lava damage.

I’m thinking one of the players at my table (who wanted to DM but there wasn’t room in the shop, alas) and I might trade off playing and running so we can both try out the characters we’ve built.

17 greg September 6, 2011 at 1:25 am

the points for dying i think are so that it isnt as bad as it COULD have been. little bit of a consolation, i dunno.

18 David Schwarm September 6, 2011 at 2:28 am

Played this at So Cal Smack Down–got crushed in six rounds–it is really really hard & tons of fun.

Having not seen the adventure, how worried do I need to be on the WotC threads regarding ‘spoilers’–the talk of Easter Eggs have me worried–I don’t wont to be told what to do–like you know, take the fluid from here and pour it on this while saying the words found behind the third sconce type stuff–but I am interested in reading play reports.

19 Ameron (Derek Myers) September 7, 2011 at 11:20 am

@Arbanax
At GenCon WotC got a lot of questions about why they don’t sell (even as PDFs) the previous seasons of D&D Encounters or the upcoming Liar Assault. They kept saying that they need to offer stores this kind of exclusivity to keep people walking through the door. After all, we can get the books online from Amazon and Chapters at 30% off the cover price so the FLGS are certainly taking a hit. The hope is that if you’re there playing you’re more likely to buy something on the spot. I get it from a business point of view but if you don’t have a store nearby you’re really missing out on a lot of great stuff. I’d like to see the older stuff available for download after it’s a year old. I think that’s fair.

@Al
As much excitement as there is around Lair Assault we’re finding that the coordination is really making it tough to organize public play. As you said, if five strangers show up to play they’re going to get slaughtered. There needs to be some advanced planning especially during character creation.

@Kiel Chenier
It would seem that Dueling Grounds did not order any Lair Assault kits. Considering the number of players expressing interest they may want to contact WotC to see about getting some soon; if not this season then the next for sure.

@Carda
I suspect that Lair Assault will become a popular staple of convention play. I’m thinking back to the Ultimate Dungeon Delve from a few years ago and it was immensely popular at GenCon. The event sold out fast and people did anything to try and get tickets.

@froth
I’m sure a few kits will make it onto eBay, but I doubt they’ll be cheap. Good luck!

@Kenneth McNay
I agree that Wizards didn’t really seem to do a good job at hyping this. I don’t think they realized just how appealing this would be. The forums are abuzz with discussions from people planning the best party make-up to horror stories of groups that got destroyed on their first time through. I’m guessing that season two will see a lot more publicity.

@Lahrs
If there’s enough interest at your FLGS (which from the sounds of it there is) then a pay-for-play tournament sounds like an excellent idea. Regrettably I don’t think there’s enough interest at my FLGS (yet) to go this route.

Regarding D&D Encounters, we’re thinking about running a session of Lair Assault on Wednesday nights immediately after the regularly scheduled Lair Assault. Considering the first few runs will likely be quick this should work and should generate buzz.

@mbeacom
The poster-sized Glory tracker was in the envelope Wizards provided. There were two kits and one poster. All of the stuff you describe was in the kit, so there were two of all those things.

I tried not to come right out and say make this or that kind of character, instead I just wanted to reinforce logical thinking and common sense. I’ve certainly provided emphasis on certain aspects of character creation but I’d like to think I didn’t outright spoil anything. At least this was not my intention.

I really like that the random elements can kill you even if you have the perfect character. I don’t think that any party or character builds should automatically guarantee success. The random factors are a way to level the playing field (as much as you can in this kind of adventure).

@Sunyaku
This is exactly what I’m seeing at my FLGS as well. I play at two stores and it’s the same in both places. I think it’ll be October before we finally get groups started with Lair Assault.

@Carda
Thanks for the update. Just because you’ve DMed this doesn’t mean that you won’t enjoy it as a player. You’ll certainly have an advantage but any group that plays it a few times will know all the tricks by then. So even though you’ve read the adventure there’s still so much that’s left to chance that you can enjoy it.

@greg
Agreed.

@David Schwarm
If you want a really clean experience the first couple of times through, I’d avoid the WotC forums. There is little respect for secrecy. The forums talk about items that will help which telegraph the attacks that monsters have. Play it a couple of times and then read the forums. For play reports I’d stick to the blogs and not the forums. The blog owners seem to show more care in keeping spoilers under wraps. As soon as we play a few sessions at my FLGS I’ll begin sharing our experiences.

20 Sunyaku September 7, 2011 at 11:03 pm

We ran Lair Assault for the first time last night. Two tables, two failures. I altered the default monster/statue locations of my lair to be even more devious… >:D

But I still have plans to be EVEN MORE devious in Nightmare Mode…
Sunyaku´s last blog post ..Lair Assault: Forge of the Dawn Titan

21 Faraz September 28, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Would someone who’s run this mind commenting on how long it takes?

22 Ameron (Derek Myers) September 28, 2011 at 3:02 pm

@Faraz
We’re playing this tonight at my FLGS. Friday’s article here at Dungeon’s Master will be a recap of our experiences. I’ll make a point of noting how long the sessions take.

I did play this last week and it took about two hours. However, the DM took it easy on us as there were a few players new to D&D. I suspect that an experienced DM with experienced players will take less time because the party will get killed. I’m actually predicting a first round TPK at my table tonight.

23 mbeacom September 28, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Took us 3.5 hours but we had a couple of slow people. We TPK’s in the last room so I think that time would have been about the same even if we had one. Note: Spoilery
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(we took the long way).
mbeacom´s last blog post ..Ranger’s Apprentice, Book 1: The Ruins of Gorlan

24 Astrolounge September 29, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Hey Saxon, if you thought the glory rewards for dying in lava discouraged teamwork, I think our group found one of the secret awards, and it’s even worse. I’ll try not to spoil it, but it involves directly screwing over another player. Then again, I suppose that’s why it’s a secret award, so that jerk players don’t intentionally try to get it.

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