I loved it! We got obliterated in round one and I still loved it.
To be honest, I got in with generics with a buddy of mine who doesn't play D&D much, so my hopes of advancing were ridiculously low. We got paired up with two other guys who seemed nice but who we didn't know from Adam. Hey... thanks to all the folks at the tournament desk for all the incredible help, BTW. Our team met about 10 minutes before the round. We had only enough time to pick characters, discuss basic strategy... like, let's take it slow but not drag our feet, etc.
<<< You've been warned... there be spoilers galore below this line >>>
And a surprising thing happened... we started doing really well. It only took us maybe 2 hours to get through the first two rooms and with not too much damage. In room one I did use up
the best spell for my wizard... the flaming sphere, but it seemed like it was worth it since we got up the hill fairly quickly and illuminated + eliminated those damn crossbow goons. 2nd room we spotted the barrel trap early. Only one guy got caught in the barrels and he made his save. Then a lucky critical hit took down the enemy spell caster pretty quickly. At the end of room 2, we were practically at max hit points with plenty of healing left. We interviewed one of the slaves for good info AND found a very promising map on the wall. Surely we were kicking ass. Surely this was championship-quality dungeoneering. Had we just been lucky? No way. We were drunk in the confidence that we were superior gamers. Gamers who were finally going to be recognized for our brilliance.
A weird emotion came over me. I was actually confident we could advance in the tournament. Dreams of grandeur filled my heart. In my mind I could see myself accepting a trophy in front of throngs of envious on-lookers. "He was such an underdog," I heard them muttering under their breath, so jealous that they could barely speak.
And then we hit the third room.
Or should I say, the third room hit us.
We knew this room reeked of traps the moment we saw it. But the guard running away for reinforcements really rattled us. And the ledge above just felt wrong... we were convinced we would be quickly surrounded or pelted with ranged fire (which was exactly the case.) Call it an amateur mistake, but our team dynamic broke down and we argued too long on how to investigate the ledge vs. how to stop the fleeing guard from bringing down certain doom upon our heads. Precious time was slipping by and no one on the team had a good solution. In a rash decision, the rogue announced that he was attempting to scale the wall to investigate the ledge, hoping to eliminate it as a concern before we proceeded.
Did I mention checking for traps? No, I didn't and no, we didn't. We were so rattled and so busy arguing about the best approach that the rogue FORGOT... completely FORGOT... to check for traps in the most obviously trapped room in the history of dungeons scribbled on graph paper. And I don't blame him. We all forgot. It was the team's responsibility and we mentioned it but didn't follow through. We lost our heads. Kinda literally.
So, rather than climbing the wall as he intended, the rogue was instead captured in the sharp teeth of an iron bear trap, jerked violently into the air, stabbed repeatedly and then dropped to his complete and utter end. In two quick rounds, as the rest of us stood helplessly below with our mouths hanging open... the rogue went from full hit points to dead. And not just unconscious. He was totally, un-healable, roll-up-another-character dead. To the game designers I say bravo to you on creating a brilliant and elegantly deadly trap. For the record, I respect your skills and hate you all.
Our "brilliant" dungeon crawl quickly went spiraling down from there. With no rogue, we hit more traps. Did we hit them all? I don't know... it was hard to tell. The spray of blood each round obscured my vision. We were totally out matched by the three bad guys. But what can you do? We faced the ultimate meta-gaming decision. Should we quit early and hope to advance based on points? Sorry, but not our style. Boldly, proudly and maybe stupidly, we charged on.
Predictably, but still painfully, the paladin and the warlord died in the ensuing combat. However, surprising me as much as anyone else, my wizard was somehow able to survive with just a few hit points. There is probably a moral victory in the fact that at least one of us got to see the 4th room. But any joy was overshadowed by the taste of bile in my throat. Please remind me... why did I get my hopes up?
At least the 4th room was over quickly. It only took one step into the cavern to get myself pinned to the wall of the cave with a ballista spike, looking like a bug in a science fair project. At least I got to see the Manticore. Such pretty spikes, even when sticking out of my abdomen. And I think I saw some sort of hobgoblin mage... I think... things got blurry as my life force slowly dribbled out and my eyes closed.
So, in summary... I LOVED IT. What an experience. In less that four hours I experienced a year’s worth of intense emotions… exhilaration, pride, victory… consternation, trepidation, fear… agony, frustration, and eventually defeat. Not a bad ride for just the cost of a couple of generic tickets.
When can we expect to see the official tournament results posted on the forums? I'd really like to see how we did compared to others. We'll probably never know, but I would LOVE to see what our score would have been had we chose to withdraw and avoid the inevitable player kills.
Hey, how can I become a play tester? I think I would like that a lot.