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 Post subject: DCC #51 - Castle Whiterock - game report [spoilers]
PostPosted: Sat Oct 13, 2007 10:29 pm 
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I just finished running my first session of Castle Whiterock today! Our group, with many players I have not DMed before, intends to meet once a month for a good 8-hour or so game.

There are a total of five players; I gave each the option of running one of the pregens or creating a new character with the 32 point buy. The pregens have superior stats; the rub was that I required those running the pregens to play them as is, with no substitutions or modifications.

The pregens played:
Euphrosyne (the elven Diviner--terrible spells to start with, BTW)
Danicia (the half-elf rogue)
Cendrine (the human fighter)

The other two were:
Cressmar (a human ranger)
Cora (a human cleric of Soleth)

I started them at the Inn of the Slumbering Drake, where they met the various NPCs, including Quintus and Arien, who issued his warnings about the slavers.

Afterwards, they pooled their gold and bought a pack mule and rations, and set out on foot for the dungeon. The only encounter of note on the way was versus a group of five hobgoblins (one, the leader, a 2nd level Warrior with a +1 longsword). They dropped a number of PCs but didn't kill any; two got away, but two others and the leader dropped. It did take two days of rest and casting spells before the group was healed and ready to continue though.

Arriving at Castle Whiterock, they surveyed the area, and I gave them a player's map of level 1, showing the castle exterior, so they could strategize. They ultimately decided to approach late at night and assault the place at dawn. The only real departure I took from the complex was to make most of the keep's roof still intact, but crumbling and in bad shape.

Approaching via the trail, I decided the slavers in the guard post were asleep. They strung up some rope, and the ranger climbed to the tower, where a blood hawk went after him before being reduced to 0 hit points by an arrow and retreating.

The rogue got on the building roof and went through the trapdoor to unbar the door and let in the rest of the group. The slaver rogue made his Listen check though and awoke, getting the other two awake as well. The door got unbarred and all three were quickly dispatched, but not before the slaver raised the alarm, causing the slavers to assume "battle positions" in the building.

Here the players started to lose focus as a team. While the ranger slowly made his way toward the keep roof, the rest of the group moved in toward the front of the keep. The rogue, Danicia, peeked around into the room where the leader (Ikenvor) and his monk ally were sheltering in the rubble pit. She was spotted, and they double moved over the rubble and engaged with her.

She dropped, and the cleric then moved to heal Danicia. While she succeeded at this, she in turn quickly dropped to their nonlethal damage. At this point the PCs were spread out: the wizard was on one of the outer walls, shooting with a bow; the rogue was tumbling back and 5 foot stepping while being mobbed by the monk and two slaver warriors, and two more slaver warriors and the enlarged leader went after the fighter. Meanwhile the party ranger was still scaling the wall.

The slavers dropped both the party's rogue and fighter, though the two slaver leaders were wounded, and ultimately killed by the ranger once he made it to the rooftop. The remaining slaver warriors dragged the unconscious bodies of the fighter and cleric inside to the stairs to level 2. Outside, the combat attracted the attention of the giant praying mantis, who went after the unconscious rogue (left behind as an offering by the fleeing slavers, who did NOT want to take it on). After a sniff, she got grasped and decapitated. So much for Danicia...

With the slaver leaders dead and the minions fleeing to level 2, the two surviving PCs regrouped, searched bodies, etc. They were joined by the pregen paladin, Sir Torsten, brought in by the player of the former rogue, and together went through the secret door and fought the owlbear skeleton. They dropped it, but not before it reduced Torsten below 0 hit points.

Still hoping to retrieve their captured friends, the ranger and wizard went down the stairs to level 2. The ranger failed the save against the tripwire, fell to the bottom prone, and was swarmed by the glaive-wielding orcs. One dropped him below zero hit points, and the other two double-moved to where the wizard was, then dropped him below 0 in the next round.

FINAL RESULT OF SESSION
1 character dead
5 characters subdued/dropped below 0 and captured


At our next session they'll try an "escape from the slavers" attempt. I'll have to start thinking about what opportunities they might be given to try to make a break for it.

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Castle Whiterock Kills: Image x10


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2007 1:58 am 
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wow!!!!!!!! that;s some serious carnage.

(and is this officially the first whiterock report?!)

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2007 2:22 pm 
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761 pages of adventure... but it sounds like your guys made it to around page 15 before getting conked. Hopefully they'll have better luck in the next session!

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2007 2:53 pm 
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This sounds like my parties first encounter with a DCC. Only myself as the Dungeon Master and one other player in our group has had more than two or three years experience and we were playing The Mysterious Tower. My party averaged 6th level and I was afraid it would be a cake walk. They made it to the second battle with the owlbears (after totally blowing their Move Silently checks to Coup de Grace the first one) and then we lost our sorcerer and our ranger. We lost our cleric to the Gelatinous Cube, and the fighter and the barbarian to the Ankheg. I had expected this to be a cake walk for them and instead it turned out to be a massacre. And then their second set of characters died trying to get out of the trapped Magic Mouth room. On of the characters actually though that they could escape if they jumped through the mouth.


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 Post subject: Session Two, 11/10/2007 - Escape from the Slave Pits
PostPosted: Mon Nov 12, 2007 12:39 pm 
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Last session ended with the capture of all PCs by the slavers and the orcs.

One of my players (the one running Sir Torsten Trueblade) decided he didn't like the paladin, and gave him up to play the half-orc Sheliak instead. Thus Torsten, now an NPC, ended up bleeding to death in the pit he was tossed into.

In addition to Sheliak, I had a sixth player join my game, running a character he built, a halfling rogue named Stubs.

The group started divided up in the cells, with the new PCs having been there a few days longer than the characters from last session. The cleric, Cora, was able to pray for spells (quietly!) and do some healing, to revive and heal lethal damage on some of the characters. Meanwhile the group talked to the other NPCs and got some information about the layout of the place and the creatures around.

They decided to stage a breakout before the shift change would bring them to the mines. The halfling rogue snuck out, heading for the room where their gear was stowed; rather than waiting for the halfling to return with their loot, the others started climbing out, and this caused the orcs to sound an alarm. Moving quickly, the PCs headed into the loot room, doing their best to barricade it and retrieve some of their gear.

Most of the orcs from the barracks engaged the PCs in battle, many falling to ranged attacks; one, however went off to let the orc ranger know of the breakout and to get out his trollhounds.

After killing the orcs (and having a couple NPCs drop--the elf sorceress and Hugin the fighter), they started motivating the commoners to try climbing out and fleeing, and some of them slowly worked their way past the portculli toward the exit.

About this time, the trollhounds and their master showed up. They hacked through the door (which had been barred against them), and braved some fire oil to engage Cendrine the fighter and Sheliak in battle. Meanwhile Minus had come out of his room, and threw his longspear at Cora, taking her down with one hit.

However, while the trollhounds did in Sheliak and Cendrine, their fight on a plank over a pit resulted in most of them falling into that pit; another one failed a Jump check (I rolled terribly), and also fell in! Their master, more concerned with them than the PCs, focused on getting them out. Meanwhile, the commoners bum rushed the minotaur; while one or two dropped from his gore attacks, the others grappled en masse, and managed to establish a hold and throw him in a pit! Go commoners!

Sadly, many of them fell in the next area to the six orc guards. Still, they delayed the orcs enough for the PCs to arrive and kill the non-archers, then make a break for the stairs lugging Cora and the elf enchantress NPC (who ended up dying from her wounds due to not stabilizing).

So the characters managed to escape, but at a terrible price, losing two of their own, plus two of the three more prominent NPCs (the gnome illusionist/rogue did make it out). About six commoners also made it out.

I had already decided that the slavers on level 1 were off slaving and recruiting, should they win free, so they were not molested as they escaped the Castle Whiterock grounds and rode for Cillamar.

Several days passed while they regrouped, recruited two new members (Darsus, the last pregen, and a sorcerer named Kory).

They then returned and decided to take on the tower first. Sneaking up the back side of the hill with Climb checks, they took on the rust spider on the ground floor (with Darsus losing all his metal gear). Rather than take on the birds they decided to rest and keep a lookout. Late that night, the slaver on the top floor lowered his rope ladder to head back down to the bottom in a shift change; the PCs noted this and started attacking him as he hurried down. Despite some bad rolls, they managed to finish him with ranged attacks in the dark (it was helping that he carried a lantern to light his way). Slavers at the bottom heard their fellow's cries of woe and went out to see what little they could, then ducked back inside.

Not wanting to stick around in the face of an unknown number of assailants, the characters retreated to base camp and set up observers on the far side of the lake. I had decided that the area was simply too hot for the slavers, especially with losing their leaders, and had them saddle up their horses and ride out, not to return.

Seeing a half dozen slavers return, the characters returned to the ruins and explored them a bit, avoiding the hornets but taking out the giant mantis and the surviving blood hawks in the tower. They failed to spot the hidden cache of lore, the loot in the waterside ruins, or the stairs leading down into the water.

So at the end of the session, the group has managed to escape from captivity, kill a few orcs (but none of the major ones) and pretty much clear level one. Also, three or four of them managed to advance to 2nd level.

Skull count for the session: 3 (including the abandoned paladin who bled to death). Total skull count to date: 4.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Nov 12, 2007 3:18 pm 
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Keep the stories coming. That sounds like a classic fight with humanoids swarming from all directions (just like I designed it!). Despite the skull count, are the players having a good time?

Chris


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 12, 2007 3:46 pm 
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Hey, arlanni, any chance of getting a Whiterock report from the Gamer's Gambit event? ;)

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Nov 12, 2007 11:41 pm 
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I think the players overall are having a good time. At the end of the first session there was some discussion about abandoning the characters and just creating a new party, but I think they're overall happy they didn't.

They seem resigned to some degree to character turnover (one player in particular has gone through 3, including one he elected to abandon). I think it doesn't bother them so much because at least some of them have been playing with one of those soft DMs who always pulls back rather than kill off PCs. Overpermissive DMing can lead to a dull game, when there is no sense of risk!

I do think that part of the lethality, though, has been a certain lack of tactics on the players' part. They have a tendency to spread out or divide the group, which leads to one or two characters being swarmed and killed. A group that sticks together and plans strategically should be able to survive at least the first level without casualties, unless they are unlucky or push too hard.

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 Post subject: Level 2 Recommendation
PostPosted: Tue Nov 13, 2007 12:00 pm 
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One recommendation for DMs running level 2:

In the prison area (area 3), there is a walkway running in a U shape around the sunken area with the cells where prisoners are kept. I STRONGLY RECOMMEND placing a wall along the section of walkway between the two portcullises.

As it stands now, it is easy to simply step past or swing around the portcullises over the corner cells--so having the portcullises there is a near-worthless fortification. However, if you make the passage between them walled off from the cells, it means the area will need to be traversed the hard way when the portcullises are down.

Another possibility to add security to the cell area would be to add a second pair of levers over by the orc barracks. In order for a portcullis to be raised, both the correct lever in Minus's room and the corresponding lever on the opposite side would need to be thrown. Doing this should make it MUCH HARDER to escape using brute force or commoners as cannon fodder to win free.

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 Post subject: Re: Level 2 Recommendation
PostPosted: Tue Nov 13, 2007 9:59 pm 
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Damien the Bloodfeaster wrote:
Doing this should make it MUCH HARDER to escape using commoners as cannon fodder to win free.

** splutters **

Would heroes do that kind of thing (he asks sarcastically)?!?

No...never. :roll:


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Nov 14, 2007 3:46 am 
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Even though I have Castle Whiterock physically, I cannot open it until Christmas.

We did play Sinister Secret though. Twice. :D


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Nov 14, 2007 8:56 am 
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oh, rock! the pain. you're still not even past turkey day.....


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 14, 2007 11:15 am 
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Warduke wrote:
oh, rock! the pain. you're still not even past turkey day.....

I know. Thinking about it turns me into a gaming version of the Rain Man:
"Who'll die first? What's inside? I don't know what it looks like."
*rocks back and forth shaking his head*
"Definitely gotta play whiterock ..."


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Nov 14, 2007 3:57 pm 
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As painful as it is for you Charlie, imagine my kids. They know we got them an X-box 360, and they know they can't play it or the games for it until Christmas morning. :twisted:

40 days of torture! Muhahahahahaa!

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 Post subject: Session Three, 12/08/2007 - The Brutality Continues
PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2007 12:58 am 
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Last session, the group escaped from captivity and cleared the surface level of Castle Whiterock. A number of them had also made it to level two.

One of my players couldn't make it this time, so that PC sat out and one of my other players brought in a temporary character, a fighter named Ingrid, to add a bit of melee strength to the group. The party composition was thus:

Ingrid (human Ftr2)
Cora (human Clr2)
Darsus (human Clr2 - pregen)
Kory (human Sor2)
Stubs (halfling Rog2)
Euphrosyne (elf Wiz2 - pregen)

The PCs returned to the entry chamber of level 2, and got into a brutal melee. Those orcs with the glaives can do wicked damage. Darsus the cleric dropped below 0 hit points I think three times in the fight before the orcs were all killed--I had Minus the minotaur also show up, and he managed to be slain as well. Ingrid also fell during this fight. With the temporary fighter killed, another temp PC was brought in--Dame Torsta, the sister of Sir Torsten Trueblade.

The group then barricaded the door to the mines, and went back to the prison cells. There they encountered Goresh and two of his trollhounds. They took out one of the dogs, but Goresh and the other retreated to the kennel, where he got his third hound (the nursing female) up and the surviving hound healed to full. Dame Torsta also died in this fight, and was not replaced.

At this point the group performed a crucial tactical error, in spreading out and splitting up. The wizardly types went to the storeroom to get a ladder to free prisoners, and look for a longbow; Darsus went to Goresh's room and started searching; the halfling rogue lingered somewhere in between the two...and Cora went down into the kennels by herself after Goresh. She quickly got mobbed and annihilated by the two trollhounds and Goresh, who buried his axe in her skull. He then went up after the looting cleric; the hounds cornered him and took him down, while Goresh went on to engage the remainder of the group, who by this time had arrived.

Seeing which way the wind was blowing, the group abandoned their clerics, with Euphrosyne serving as rearguard engaging Goresh (the trollhounds continued to munch on Darsus's body for a couple rounds), while the others ran. Goresh finally took down the wizard, but the two remaining PCs made good their escape.


At this point, the two survivors returned to Cillamar to return the freed prisoners and recruit replacements. These included Flask, a half-orc barbarian, Lorn, a dwarven cleric, and Mikhail, a human fighter.

The group descended back to level 2, this time the halfling sneaking down on his own and checking for tripwires. I decided that at this point, the entry room would be guarded by only a single trollhound. The hound went after Stubs, tossing him around like a chew-toy, but wasn't able to kill him by the time the others came down and took it out.

I had also decided that the orcs would have abandoned the prison area, with Goresh relocated with his surviving hounds to the throne room. So the PCs spent some time searching the prison area, but found little of consequence. They did find the secret door in the torture room, but not the one leading back up to the surface in the small storeroom.

Finished with that area, they unbarricaded the door and started towards the mine. They checked out the larger storeroom, then encountered Chu-thuk, the half-orc sorcerer.

They were able to take out the sorcerer, but he did manage to prolong the fight a few rounds with his obscuring mist. Meanwhile, Goresh and his two surviving trollhounds, on patrol, heard the fighting and came up. The fighting was pretty brutal, but they were finally able to take out Goresh and his hounds. And this is where we left off.


Notes: The group is definitely starting to take a cavalier attitude towards dying in this game. For many, they seem to think that the adventure is so brutal they should EXPECT lots of PC losses each session. They did have a good time, but I think some of them started feeling disillusioned, and are not really trying to play to win. At least one player thought that the adventure as written is simply too difficult for PCs of that level. I can kind of understand that--those trollhounds are VERY nasty in groups, and the orcs with their glaives can easily drop first or even second level PCs--but I also think that if they applied more effort to survival and sound tactics, they'd have better luck. Certainly they didn't care much when the fill-in fighter types dropped.

I hate to do it, but I may have to "dumb down" some of the adventure, since I may start losing players if the massive death toll continues. I may also talk to a couple of the more thoughtful players, to encourage them to lead a little more, as the player group seems to lack a clear focus and direction.

On the other hand, they overall did seem to have a pretty good time, so I wouldn't say it was a bad game session. And I got five skulls to add to my count of PC deaths, which always makes a killer DM's heart warm.


Skull count for the session: 5. Total skull count to date: 9.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2007 9:25 am 
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yow. that's a tough one. ( :twisted: well played on the part of the dm! 'grats! :twisted:)

pcs definitely need to start playing with a fear of death. stick together, kids! (especially after chasing off a villain ... i mean, c'mon.) man, when the clerics get abandoned you know you are in trouble.

what about going the od&d route and encouraging the part to hire some spearmen to serve the party?

edit: reread your post and it sounds like you've already added the temp. fighters. :oops:


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2007 11:19 am 
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I think only one of the kills can really be blamed to dice rolls. Most of them were due to the group being too spread out, not thinking tactically, or not retreating when they should have. Also, the two temporary fighter types were played with little thought to keeping them alive.

What I may do is create a first level NPC adventuring group who has heard of the PCs' exploits and wants to join them. They can stay back in camp and keep an eye on their things, yet be tapped for one or two members to joined the more seasoned adventurers (the PCs) if needed. This should give the players a pool of NPCs to draw from for backup characters, or to fill in a gap should one of the players not make it to the game.

I think I'll also encourage the players to select a party leader to help keep them from losing focus.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2007 11:53 am 
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Splitting up happens in movies and ficiton all the time, but for dungeon-crawl D&D it just spells disaster every time.

I once had to explain to my home group the following:

"All encounters have these ratings that they are weighted by. Those ratings are based on an average, iconic party of four characters being present at all the encounters.

When you split up, you may cover more physical ground, but any encounter you have along the way becomes more lethal by a factor of how many of the four you are missing."

That got the point home, but really, it kinda blows that you can't be as cinematic as you'd like.

I'm FAR from a soft DM, but I sometimes play fast-and-loose with the placement of bad guys. If the lone rogue is scouting ahead and the scenario calls for 16 skeletons and an evil cleric to be around the corner, I might shuffle the cleric and some skeletons to a different, unexplored section of the same floor, or I put them in a "GM Bank" and drop them in when they think they've cleared everything.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2007 1:05 pm 
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I totally love that you're keeping track of the kills in your sig. :twisted:

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2007 1:37 pm 
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Jengenritz wrote:
"All encounters have these ratings that they are weighted by. Those ratings are based on an average, iconic party of four characters being present at all the encounters.

When you split up, you may cover more physical ground, but any encounter you have along the way becomes more lethal by a factor of how many of the four you are missing."


whiterock plays for keeps. double true.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2007 2:11 pm 
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It's hard to have much sympathy for the player. Before he went down to the kennel I TOLD him that he heard the sound of multiple dogs, AND he knew the orc went down there. And he's played plenty of D&D in the past, so he should know better.

He does tend to get fatalistic when the adventure gets tough, so I think he just stopped caring much if his PC lived or died and went for it anyway. And the orc was happy to bury his axe in the cleric's skull for his trouble.

(I actually had Goresh go out of his way to "finalize" dropped PCs each time with an axe-to-the-skull--three in all. Taking him down was definitely a high priority for the group!)


I don't blame just that player though. A group of characters is a team effort, and part of being a team is to shout out when someone in the group does something boneheaded. They still need to work on this, hence the thought of encouraging them to appoint someone as a leader.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2007 3:59 pm 
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Damien the Bloodfeaster wrote:
I actually had Goresh go out of his way to "finalize" dropped PCs each time with an axe-to-the-skull--three in all. Taking him down was definitely a high priority for the group!


:twisted: :twisted: :twisted: :twisted: :twisted:

nice touch.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2007 4:37 pm 
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Agreed...that's a great touch. Baiting the party like that is fun!

With all the dead hero bodies lying around, you could have their reanimated corpses come back later on...probably earlier than Narborg but somewhere around there.

Or if some hero (like the cleric) got short shrift from the party, instant ghost (and recurring villain).

Might be fun.

In any case, keep up the reports!

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Author: DCC #55: Isle of the Sea Drake, DCC #61: Citadel of the Corruptor, more to come....


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 29, 2007 4:18 pm 
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Ill-Fated Peasant

Joined: Sat Dec 29, 2007 3:57 pm
Posts: 5
Location: A shady alley, could be near you.
I like what you've done, I know if I went through and killed off my players like that, they'd get the arse and not talk to me for ages, so not a bad idea. :wink:

Do you think that the players find it hard because they are just five? I'm tempted to let people have the option to run two characters each. Or those that I think would be able to manage it. They'd have one main roleplay character, but then they'd have another to use as well in dungeon situations.

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I'm not looking for trouble, it just happens to find me more and more often of late. Maybe it's the target on my back, I don't know, but either way, here I am trouble, come get me.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 29, 2007 11:51 pm 
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Wild-Eyed Zealot
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Joined: Tue May 02, 2006 1:50 pm
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Location: Portland, Oregon, USA
Six players normally, only five last session, but we had one player run two characters, so there were six PCs.

I think their mortality rate had more to do with gung-ho charging in and not coordinating than with anything else. But no matter the cause, too many character deaths can be discouraging. Fortunately for them, they've killed off most of the threats on level 2, except the orc leader and his harem and dog. I might take out the armored trollhound, but I don't think the rest of the level needs to be dumbed down.

I'm also hoping that by now they're largely playing character classes they are comfortable with, and which will do well in the adventure. Certainly having 2-3 doughty meatheads is never a bad thing.

I've also encouraged the cleric's player to spend some time studying the class. Playing a cleric as a simple healer and secondary fighter is shortchanging their overall capabilities.

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