Friday Favourite: Embracing The Total Party Kill

by Wimwick (Neil Ellis) on May 30, 2014

On Friday we comb through our extensive archives to find an older article that we feel deserves another look. From June 18, 2010, Dungeon’s Master once again presents: Embracing The Total Party Kill.

It’s not something we like to think about, the death of the party, the end of the campaign. On occasion it is the right thing to do. Earlier this week we discussed Avoiding The Total Party Kill. This task falls jointly on the shoulders of the DM and the players. Embracing The Total Party Kill, falls on the players and is a decision that only they can make.

The rational for that is simple, no DM should be deliberately designing encounters that cause a TPK. It just isn’t fair to the players. The exception being if the campaign is a test of survival where the DM and the players are battling it out to see who will prevail. In these instances the PCs are normally disposable and there is little story to the campaign, just combat.

With a normal campaign, one that balances story, role playing and combat together the idea of a TPK is usually in the back of everyone’s mind. It’s locked up in the closest, best forgotten about. However, there are instances when a TPK just makes sense. The occasions are usually related to the story telling and role playing aspect of the game.

There needs to be a compelling reason for the players to justify a TPK and it’s rare that the whole party might agree on the issue. After all several players might really enjoy playing their PCs. After months of playing and levelling up a PC who wants to throw it away just for the sake of the story? I would imagine few players are truly willing to do contemplate this, never mind executing on the idea.

[click to continue…]

{ 3 comments }

D&D Encounters: Dead in Thay (Week 3)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on May 29, 2014

dead-in-thay-coverDuring week 2, our first session in the Doomvault, we discovered just how deadly this killer dungeon really is. Our party of seven spent most of the time running form monsters only to be forced into a fight with two Gorgons. The creatures’ breath weapons petrified two PCs leaving us with 5 PCs and two statues.

On the plus side one of the other parties exploring the dungeon found a master Glyph Key that was attuned to all gates (except the Temples of Extraction). They came to us, since the Gorgon fight happened within sight of a Black Gate, and copied their key’s magic into ours giving us complete access to the Doomvault. Now we have to figure out how to proceed.

This week at Hairy T North in Toronto we ran three tables: table 1 (DM: Craig) had four players, table 2 (DM: Hillel) had six players, and table 3 (DM: Tim) had seven players including me.

My party consisted of the following PCs: Tiefling Wizard, Human Cleric, Warforged Monk, and Halfling (Kender) Rogue, and Dwarf Barbarian (my character). The Gnome Wizard and Elf Ranger began the session stoned.

[click to continue…]

{ 4 comments }

On Friday we comb through our extensive archives to find an older article that we feel deserves another look. From January 5, 2011, Dungeon’s Master once again presents: Retreat Is Always An Option, At Least It Should Be.

A common belief among many D&D players is that if the party is balanced and the DM is doing his job properly, every encounter is beatable. This kind of thinking among players instills within them with a sense of invulnerability – an invulnerability that they do not in fact possess. However, with the way that the 4e D&D mechanics work, more often than not players should have a pretty reasonable chance of overcoming a balanced encounter. Thus players continue believing that they’re capable of defeating everything they face. It never even occurs to them that in some instances they’ll face an opponent they can’t beat.

Sometime, however, you’re fortunate enough to play with a group that doesn’t mistakenly believe that they can overcome every encounter put before them. When this kind of party senses that they’re in over their head they will consider retreat as a viable option. It’s not something that will come up very often, but when it does it can have a really dramatic effect on the game.

Twice in the past week I’ve had parties toy with the idea of retreat; once during a level 1 game and the other during a level 16 game. I have to admit that I was very surprised at how differently the two groups rationalized the situation and made their choices.

[click to continue…]

{ 5 comments }

D&D Encounters: Dead in Thay (Week 2)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on May 22, 2014

dead-in-thay-coverLast week’s session finished with a bang – literally. One of the PCs removed the broken blade from Baazka’s heart and the Pit Fiend rewarded the adventurers by destroying the Bloodgate. The PCs heard shrieking filling their minds as the Bloodgate was about to explode. The mental assault caused the PCs to lose consciousness, but those wearing the telepathic circlets heard a woman’s voice. “The nexus is collapsing in a cascade, but we can control it! Hold on!” The heroes were teleported to safety and blacked out.

This week we had a great turnout at Hairy T North in Toronto. We ran three tables: table 1 (DM: Craig) had five players, table 2 (DM: Hillel) had seven players including one player new to our store but not new to D&D, and table 3 (DM: Tim) had seven players including me. I also acted as the coordinator.

The table I joined played all of last season together under this DM. They have a shared history and their characters really know each other well. Although one of the other tables only had five players, I really wanted a chance to play with this group. The party consisted of the following PCs: Tiefling Wizard, Elf Ranger, Human Cleric, Human Wizard, Warforged Monk, and Halfling (Kender) Rogue. I played a Dwarf Barbarian, a character I’d brought from level 1-6 during the first three parts of Ghost of Dragonspear Castle.

[click to continue…]

{ 8 comments }

D&D Encounters: Dead in Thay (Week 1)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on May 15, 2014

dead-in-thay-coverThis week we kicked off the start of D&D Encounters season 18 at Hairy T North in Toronto. Dead in Thay is the sequel to Scourge of the Sword coast and picks things up a few weeks after the events from last season finish. The PCs are at the Floshin Estate. Sir Isteval, Sir Darfin Floshin, and Jekk are all there too and they’re ready to strike back at the Red Wizards of Thay.

A renegade Red Wizard named Mennek who opposes the Thayan lich lord Szass Tam has agreed to help the PCs strike a powerful blow against him. Szass Tam plans to use the portal beneath Bloodgate Keep to move his army of undead troops across the realms and ravage the Sword Coast. The heroes were gathered together so that they could make a preemptive strike and close the Bloodgate permanently.

The first encounter of this adventure is designed to be run as the Launch Weekend event. Unfortunately we were unable to run it on the weekend so we ran it as the first session of the season for our regular group. Despite a lot of regular players being away for this first session, we still had 17 players divided between three tables, all of which are using D&D Next rules this season. I acted at the coordinator and DM. At my table we had the following PCs: Half-Orc Paladin, Half-Orc Cleric, Dwarf Fighter, Elf Ranger, Elf Mage, Human Bard.

[click to continue…]

{ 13 comments }

D&D Encounters: Scourge of the Sword Coast (Week 12)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on May 8, 2014

scourge-of-the-sword-coast-coverOrder was restored at Firehammer Hold as the Duergar were defeated and the fortress put back under the control of the Dwarven Clerics of Haela Brightaxe. The PCs agreed to escort the captives taken from Julkoun back to Daggerford. We picked things up this week as the party arrived in Daggerford.

This week at Hairy T North in Toronto we finished up the season with four tables. The 4e table and the other D&D Next table each had six players. Craig and I had our hands full this week as the grand finale drew in a full group of 10 players for our super table. The party consisted of the following members: Half-Orc Paladin, Half-Orc Cleric, Half-Orc Mage/Barbarian, Elf Cleric/Rogue, Elf Ranger, Human Monk/Barbarian, Dwarf Fighter, Drow Paladin, Drow Rogue, and Gnome Druid.

[click to continue…]

{ 3 comments }

The Blogging from A to Z Challenge 2014: Round-Up

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on May 5, 2014

a-to-z-2014-survivorThroughout April Dungeon’s Master participated in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. This was our second year participating so you’d think we’d have known what to expect. We were wrong. The Blogging From A to Z Challenge was a lot of fun, but man, it was a lot of work. Certainly more than I remember from a year ago.

This time around we thought we’d pick a theme in order to make things easier for ourselves. Every article we ran in April was filled with brand new adventure hooks, something all DMs find useful. In retrospect focusing on just one theme tied my hands more that I thought it would, but we still managed to get through the full run of A to Z by month’s end.

I’d like to give a huge shout out to Joe Lastowski (The Average Joe). He volunteered to write a few adventure hooks articles for us and I don’t think I would have made it through the full month of 26 articles without his help. Thanks, Joe!

[click to continue…]

{ 1 comment }

D&D Encounters: Scourge of the Sword Coast (Week 11)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on May 1, 2014

scourge-of-the-sword-coast-coverAfter a tough battle with some nasty Duergar in the lower levels of Firehammer Hold, the PCs decided to take a short rest before facing more of the Deep Dwarves and pressing further indo the depths of the Dwarven stronghold.

As we near the end of another season of D&D Encounters we’re starting to see our numbers swell again. There were four tables at Hairy T North in Toronto, one using 4e and three using D&D Next. At the combined tables Craig and I ran we had nine players huddled around one massive wet-erase battle mat.

At the super table we had the following PCs: Drow Paladin, Drow Rogue, Half-Orc Paladin, Half-Orc Cleric, Half-Orc Mage/Barbarian, Elf Ranger, Elf Cleric/Rogue, Human Monk/Barbarian, and Dwarf Fighter.

[click to continue…]

{ 2 comments }

Adventure Hooks: This Place is a Zoo!

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on April 30, 2014

a-to-z-2014-zZoology is the scientific study of all things related to animals including their classification, physical characteristics and behaviour. In a fantasy gaming world this would naturally extend to monsters and other fantastic beasts. Those interested in zoological studies will often collect animals in a zoo, sometimes for the protection and wellbeing of these creatures, sometimes just to make them easier to observe and study by bringing them all together.

Throughout April Dungeon’s Master is participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge is to write a new article ever day in April, excluding Sundays. That’s 26 articles over the course of the month. To make things even more interesting the title of each article will begin with a different letter of the alphabet. This year we’ve decided that every article will provide our readers with new adventure hooks. Today “Z” is for zoo, and you’d better believe that a zoo in a fantasy game setting will be more wild and exotic than anything in the real world.

[click to continue…]

{ 2 comments }

Adventure Hooks: Yuan-Ti

by The Average Joe (Joe Lastowski) on April 29, 2014

a-to-z-2014-ySome of my favorite cult-related foes in the D&D world are the Yuan-Ti. Servants of a snake god, they often kidnap regular folks so that they can infect them with snakey parts. The more pious the servants, the more snake-like they become. This can create an interesting dichotomy between the Yuan-Ti who became so by choice, and those who were kidnapped into the cult and now have no other option.

Throughout April Dungeon’s Master is participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge is to write a new article ever day in April, excluding Sundays. That’s 26 articles over the course of the month. To make things even more interesting the title of each article will begin with a different letter of the alphabet. This year we’ve decided that every article will provide our readers with new adventure hooks. Today “Y” is for Yuan-Ti, the serpentine race of snake folk. Thanks to Joe Lastowski for another great contribution.

Growing up watching Conan the Barbarian, where James Earl Jones portrays the snake-like foe Thulsa Doom, the Yuan-Ti are exactly what I wanted to fight in my younger gaming days. And somehow, that desire has never changed. Ever since their debut in the 1981 AD&D adventure “Dwellers of the Forbidden City”, something about the Yuan-Ti just cried out to me. Also, there are a wide variety of D&D, Pathfinder, and generic RPG minis out there of snake people, so chances are you can populate a map fairly easily, too. Here, for your perusal, are some snakey plot hooks related to the Yuan-Ti.

[click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }