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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Scourge of the Sword Coast Session 3


Last week, I did not enjoy D&D Encounters. Was I looking forward to this week? Hell no! But there would be a twist tonight, my friend. Let us start from the beginning.

As I've mentioned before, 4th edition D&D Encounters sessions took about 10 minutes to prepare. These new edition ones take.. well.. endless amounts of hours (if you want to do it right, IMO). I am dead set against spending more than an hour preparing.

This lousy attitude nearly bit me in the butt tonight. The heroes had done a good bulk of the Julkoun section. I figured they'd maul their way through the dungeons, so I prepared what seemed to come next. The adventure says that the imprisoned villagers are taken to an overrun dwarven fortress called Firehammer Hold.

So, obviously, I skip to that section to prepare it. I start to wonder, why is this so far into the pdf? Is something else supposed to happen first? I start to worry, as I waited until the last minute.

This pdf is so weirdly organized. The main plot is in the front 15 pages of the book. Well, sort of. And then there's town descriptions and NPCs. After that, a bunch of dungeons/locations are detailed. Stats are in the back. It's one thing when you have to page-flip through a book during a session. It's another thing page-flipping a pdf using a tablet. Not cool!

This is why I write my own outline prior to a D&D session. It's all right there, I have the stats and all the important details, so I don't have to stop the game to awkwardly find some stat or room description or whatever. Honestly I almost wish they'd.. you know... publish an adventure that does that for you! Why are the stats in the back like that, anyway? Doesn't make any sense.

I flipped around in vain, before resolving to just do Firehammer Hold. If I made a mistake and it's out of order, oh well, I'll fix it in the following session.

Now 50% less crappy!
Firehammer hold has some kind of cool things (spoiler alert!).

There's statues of gods that actually give boons. Nothing major at all. But it's nice. The boon is a spell effect, like bless or aid. I have to go look up what those spells do on my own. Not cool, module.

There's a mass grave. That's pretty interesting! I don't think I've ever seen one in an adventure before.

And I really like the cool power they gave the duergar. They can use an action to grow a foot taller and get a damage bonus. This, I think, is a callback to the 2e adventure The Gates of Firestorm Peak and I really like it. It gives the duergar something to make them more interesting. It would be cool if some of them could even double in size (or even go giant-sized like in Firestorm Peak).

I've had a deep loathing for them since I ran the duergar section in the 4th edition adventure Thunderspire Labyrinth. That thing was so dull that it ground my campaign to a complete halt. It was so boring! And really, considering how dull the duergar are, they sure do get used in official d&d products a lot.

The only negative about the duergar "growth" power is that I don't like that it costs them an action to grow. That means they either have to hear our heroes in the next room, grow, and be ready for them, or spend the first round growing and likely getting slaughtered before the duergar get to do anything. I want the PCs to see them grow - that's the cool part. I think it should be a free action. I don't even care if it has a mechanical effect at all, it just looks cool and will make the combat much more interesting.

I had prepared pretty much all of Firehammer Hold. I went to the store, wondering if I had enough material. I did.

The two 30 year old guys didn't show up. Everyone else did, including the brony kid who was a bit of a problem last week. Here's the twist: a player brought his 13 year old sister. Do you know what 13 year old girls like? My Little Pony, of course! Brony had found a new friend and was much more mellow. In fact, all of the players were more mellow. It's funny what happens when you bring a female into a previously all-male group, even a kid. Everyone is much more polite and accommodating.

Welcome to my D&D Encounters game
Our heroes had been gravely injured last time, having triggered an entire town full of monsters to fight at once. I had an npc suggest a rest, and our hardy adventurers decided to do that... in a guard tower, in the village, right outside the dungeon entrance. Once the goblins inside the dungeon come out and see their dead friends, the first place they're going to look is the guard towers, where their sentries should be, right?

I was amused to say the least. So they go to sleep, thankfully having the fighter keep watch. The 12 goblins from room 23 (I think, it was 20-something) come out, and our warrior on watch opens fire on them, and we have a combat. Bad guys set the tower on fire, bloody battle is had, brony dwarf fighter is dropped 3 times and berates the party cleric for not having any cure spells (cleric used them all when the whole town was triggered, obviously).

Our heroes survive, rest for the night, and go into the cellar dungeon section. They mauled their way through it, taking much longer than I figured. The hobgoblin leader and his three elite bodyguards gave them a lot of trouble.

The treasure in this adventure is pretty awful. Just some gold, maybe a potion, and boots of striding and springing. That's it. It comes off to me real dry. Heck, the interior pages of the pdf even look like a cracker.

They cleared the dungeon and we stopped there.  Now I can wade through this pdf and see if I missed something. The party does want to go back to town, where 3,000 plot hooks can be dropped on them all at once. I had assumed that once the PCs learned that the people of Julkoun had been enslaved and were taken away, they'd immediately want to go save them, but you can never guess what a player is going to do. Part of the fun of the game!

I am going to shake off the twisted urge to plop a pony npc into this campaign. Tomorrow I am going to take a stab at converting a cult 80's movie monster into a creature for my friday group to meet. Clue: This monster peed on a priest.