DDEX1-10 Tyranny in Phlan GM notes and discussion

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Originally posted by Tyranthraxus:


This is a thread for DM's only. It is for discussing thoughts,issues and else that will arise about this scenario.

This Scenario becomes legal for Store play on the 1/12/2014




Originally posted by Tyranthraxus:


First thoughts:

Nice flow to the storyline and certainly a little more open than some of the previous scenarios.
I can see a lot of people reaching for the table to find out how much a Removal of petrification might cost
Great to see all these old npcs popping up. I always worry when someone gets a name.. that you might never hear from them again. This season has been very good to all its npcs.
Mulmaster is now a Town and not a city.
Im guessing we arnt going to have many more Scenarios set in Phlan
smile.gif


If the party DOES come up tactically with a better plan that what Aleyd offers, would you park her outside with her Lord Regent if the party needs to go inside to kill Spernik?


More thoughts to come.




Originally posted by Skerrit:


Tyranthraxus wrote:
If the party DOES come up tactically with a better plan that what Aleyd offers, would you park her outside with her Lord Regent if the party needs to go inside to kill Spernik?
I'd put her in the thick of it as much as possible, giving her the oppurtunity to be killed.




Originally posted by thanson02:


Well, here is a question. I am starting with Expeditions in December and I am looking at the adventures. Is there any additional sources of info for what is going on in the region so the DMs has an understanding of the bigger picture such as a regional campaign guide? Last I heard, Cormyr, the Dalelands, Sembia, and Netheril were all at war. Given the location of Phlan to the Dalelands, it would make sense that there would be some spill over.




Originally posted by Tyranthraxus:


Thanson: Luckily none of my players are familiar with the REalms to that point. We actually dont know much of what is happening outside of Phlan at this point. Hell I only just found out that Mulmaster has lost it's city status and become a town. Its like the population of the realms took a major hit.




Originally posted by TheBreen:


To answer directly, no. There is no campaign guide for the Forgotten Realms that has advanced to the current 5e year (1489 DR).

By the time one is published (IF one is published) the current AL season will likely be over. So about the best you're going to get is the AL article Phlan During the Tyranny of Dragons.




Originally posted by janosicek:


All adventures up to #9 are for levels 1-4 with suggested level mostly around 2.
Then suddenly for adventure #10 we get only levels 5-8 allowed, and suggested level 6.

What is the expected progression of players goint through the whole AL? Time their level-ups so that they switch from 4 to 5 exactly during the adventure #9, otherwise they will be forced to skip an adventure?

Did someone sum the minimum and maximum XP gains for all adventures 1-9? That would be interesting to see, which levels are reachable by a player playing in EVERY adventure.





Originally posted by janosicek:


I looked at all 10 published expeditions, and the maximum XP award for doing first nine is 5450 XP, which is still only level 4, and a character like that won't be eligible for playing the #10. You would need at least 1050 extra XP from somewhere else. And to reach the 'optimal' level 6 the needed XP is 8550 (!)




Originally posted by Raddu76:


janosicek, we expect some players to play in D&D Expeditions, D&D Encounters and not only play, but also DM. As such characters can easily be in the level range. As far as the suggested level the adventures are created with a specific level in mind for the life of the adventure, not just when it premiers. A level of 6 allows us to put in more suggestions for the adventure to raise or lower the difficulty, depending on the group makeup.

Edited for clarity, we expect SOME players....




Originally posted by HeresyDM:


Raddu76 wrote:janosicek, we expect players to play in D&D Expeditions, D&D Encounters and not only play, but also DM. As such characters can easily be in the level range. As far as the suggested level the adventures are created with a specific level in mind for the life of the adventure, not just when it premiers. A level of 6 allows us to put in more suggestions for the adventure to raise or lower the difficulty, depending on the group makeup.
That's a pretty unrealistic set of expectations. Most of the players in my Expeditions and Encounters store do not/cannot do both and are either new to D&D or just learning 5e yet they would be expected to not only play their characters in both (which, frankly, makes no sense with the continuity of HotDQ) AND be DMing? This just reeks of flat out poor planning.




Originally posted by Raddu76:


While the planning of the adventures might not work for your specific group, consider this. Players that DO play all of the Expeditions and play in Encounters are ready for 5th level play. If we didn't put out an adventure for level 5-10 those players would be upset because there was no content for them. The campaign has to consider how people play acrosse all levels of the campaign, from very casual players to the hardcore.




Originally posted by Pauper:


janosicek wrote:I looked at all 10 published expeditions, and the maximum XP award for doing first nine is 5450 XP, which is still only level 4, and a character like that won't be eligible for playing the #10. You would need at least 1050 extra XP from somewhere else. And to reach the 'optimal' level 6 the needed XP is 8550 (!)
Be aware that AL has a campaign-specific downtime activity where a level 4 character can spend 20 downtime days (and lifestyle expenses) to immediately advance to the start of level 5. ("Catching Up" sidebar, ALPG, p.6)

--
Pauper




Originally posted by HeresyDM:


Raddu76 wrote:While the planning of the adventures might not work for your specific group, consider this. Players that DO play all of the Expeditions and play in Encounters are ready for 5th level play. If we didn't put out an adventure for level 5-10 those players would be upset because there was no content for them. The campaign has to consider how people play acrosse all levels of the campaign, from very casual players to the hardcore.
Except only the most hard core players would be 5th in your scenario; the ones who had played in both (despite the complete break in continuity it would cause for their character in both campaigns) and possibly done some DMing.




Originally posted by HeresyDM:


Pauper wrote:
janosicek wrote:I looked at all 10 published expeditions, and the maximum XP award for doing first nine is 5450 XP, which is still only level 4, and a character like that won't be eligible for playing the #10. You would need at least 1050 extra XP from somewhere else. And to reach the 'optimal' level 6 the needed XP is 8550 (!)
Be aware that AL has a campaign-specific downtime activity where a level 4 character can spend 20 downtime days (and lifestyle expenses) to immediately advance to the start of level 5. ("Catching Up" sidebar, ALPG, p.6)

--
Pauper
Now that's a useful suggestion, players have been complaining that the downtime hasn't been very useful so far. Thanks!




Originally posted by Raddu76:


HeresyDM wrote:
Raddu76 wrote:While the planning of the adventures might not work for your specific group, consider this. Players that DO play all of the Expeditions and play in Encounters are ready for 5th level play. If we didn't put out an adventure for level 5-10 those players would be upset because there was no content for them. The campaign has to consider how people play acrosse all levels of the campaign, from very casual players to the hardcore.
Except only the most hard core players would be 5th in your scenario; the ones who had played in both (despite the complete break in continuity it would cause for their character in both campaigns) and possibly done some DMing.
You would be surprised at how many people are there. Yes, there is a break in continuity between playing Expeditions and HotDQ, however, that's not been an issue. With an OP program there is going to be some things that don't fit together perfectly, for example the magic item distribution rules would seem unnecessary in a home game and things like Faction raise dead, etc.




Originally posted by HeresyDM:


Raddu76 wrote:
HeresyDM wrote:
Raddu76 wrote:While the planning of the adventures might not work for your specific group, consider this. Players that DO play all of the Expeditions and play in Encounters are ready for 5th level play. If we didn't put out an adventure for level 5-10 those players would be upset because there was no content for them. The campaign has to consider how people play acrosse all levels of the campaign, from very casual players to the hardcore.
Except only the most hard core players would be 5th in your scenario; the ones who had played in both (despite the complete break in continuity it would cause for their character in both campaigns) and possibly done some DMing.
You would be surprised at how many people are there. Yes, there is a break in continuity between playing Expeditions and HotDQ, however, that's not been an issue. With an OP program there is going to be some things that don't fit together perfectly, for example the magic item distribution rules would seem unnecessary in a home game and things like Faction raise dead, etc.
So it's geared for hard core players and continuity be damned, got it.




Originally posted by Raddu76:


HeresyDM wrote:
Raddu76 wrote:
HeresyDM wrote:
Raddu76 wrote:While the planning of the adventures might not work for your specific group, consider this. Players that DO play all of the Expeditions and play in Encounters are ready for 5th level play. If we didn't put out an adventure for level 5-10 those players would be upset because there was no content for them. The campaign has to consider how people play acrosse all levels of the campaign, from very casual players to the hardcore.
Except only the most hard core players would be 5th in your scenario; the ones who had played in both (despite the complete break in continuity it would cause for their character in both campaigns) and possibly done some DMing.
You would be surprised at how many people are there. Yes, there is a break in continuity between playing Expeditions and HotDQ, however, that's not been an issue. With an OP program there is going to be some things that don't fit together perfectly, for example the magic item distribution rules would seem unnecessary in a home game and things like Faction raise dead, etc.
So it's geared for hard core players and continuity be damned, got it.
As Pauper mentioned there's options for 4th level characters to get to 5th with Downtime days, so I fail to see how it's catering to hardcore players.

In this instance we're choosing for the most people to have fun over continuity, yes.




Originally posted by janosicek:


But if the starter adventure (Phandelver) is allowed only for 1st level characters, won't it immediately disqualify several adventures from the Expeditions?

e.g. if you start with EX01, you cannot do Phandelver as you are L2
If you start with Phandelver you will reach L5 (as written), and that will close all first 9 Expeditions to you.

j.




Originally posted by Skerrit:


Actually if you play through Phandelver and get xp (not the milestone option), I believe you end up at the middle of 4th-level and could play several Expedidtions adventures.

I think we should find as many ways as possible to allow the greatest number to play and have fun.




Originally posted by HeresyDM:


Raddu76 wrote:
As Pauper mentioned there's options for 4th level characters to get to 5th with Downtime days, so I fail to see how it's catering to hardcore players.

In this instance we're choosing for the most people to have fun over continuity, yes.
It should have been made clear that players are expected/encouraged to play the same characters in both Encounters and Expeditions. We have 10+ tables for Encounters and 4-6 tables for Expeditions each week at the store I am DMing at and none of the players are playing the same characters in both, not only because of the ridiculous continuity problems but also because, as mostly new players, they are anxious to try a different class in the other campaign.

The downtime level bump will work for this but I always thought of it much more as a tool to help a player that missed a session or two because of real life than something that will be used by everyone in the group (which will be the case at all the tables in my Expeditions group) because the module level requirements outpace the experience available from just that campaign. As a player who was there every week and has some investment in the character I would feel it's a cheesy way to get to level 5.




Originally posted by Raddu76:


We encourage people to play multiple characters. Different characters could play LMoP and get up to 4th level and play a few Expeditions to get to the 5+ levels, or they could play HotDQ then just move into RoT, there are so many options. The main D&D AL page on the wizards site mentions moving from one style of play to another.




Originally posted by HeresyDM:


Raddu76 wrote:We encourage people to play multiple characters. Different characters could play LMoP and get up to 4th level and play a few Expeditions to get to the 5+ levels, or they could play HotDQ then just move into RoT, there are so many options. The main D&D AL page on the wizards site mentions moving from one style of play to another.
Was LMoP ever part of the official Expeditions or Encounter public play (and I am only talking about organized public play)? It never happened at my store plus playing and leveling in it would have eliminated the character from the start of both because of level restrictions on the first few adventures. If they did play different characters for Encounters and Expeditions (as you say is encouraged) it is impossible to keep up with module level requirement for Expeditions (without a lot of DMing or using the downtime 'catch up' crutch) while playing in both could very well have gotten them ahead of most of the other players in Encounters and also making the content trivial.

I just don't see how not having the XP rewards in the Expeditions modules high enough so that anyone playing a character only in Expeditions, without missing a week will have reached 5th level by the time they get to the module requiring that level is anything other than an oversight/mistake.




Originally posted by Skerrit:


Yes, LMoP is legal for DnDAL play. Yes, it gets you to the middle of 4th-level so you can still play some of the Expeditions adventures after playing it. As for why not more xp, its because we give xp based on the challenges in the adventures. If we did as you requested and put more xp in them, we would have to add more fights, puzzles, or traps, and add and hour or two to the adventure. We want the adventures to finish in ~4 hours, so that also doesn't work well.




Originally posted by Raddu76:


Yes, Lost Mine of Phandelver has always been part of the Adventurer's League, we talked about it before any of the other adventures were released.

Again, you're assuming that your style of play is in the majority and that's not the assumption we're working on. We assume people are playing home games or in store with the Hoard of the Dragon Queen. In addition, the events of 1-10 Tyranny in Phlan require higher level play.




Originally posted by HeresyDM:


Skerrit wrote: If we did as you requested and put more xp in them, we would have to add more fights, puzzles, or traps, and add and hour or two to the adventure. We want the adventures to finish in ~4 hours, so that also doesn't work well.
That's not what I requested. Simply adding one or two modules would have made the XP/level requirements add up to 5th level when it was required (and could have been skipped by hardcore players who are doing everything with the same characters.)




Originally posted by HeresyDM:


Raddu76 wrote:Yes, Lost Mine of Phandelver has always been part of the Adventurer's League, we talked about it before any of the other adventures were released.

Again, you're assuming that your style of play is in the majority and that's not the assumption we're working on. We assume people are playing home games or in store with the Hoard of the Dragon Queen. In addition, the events of 1-10 Tyranny in Phlan require higher level play.
I am not assuming anything, I am telling you what 25+ players at my store will now be experiencing in Expeditions and I can't imagine that this is the only place that will be in this situation. The downtime catchup provides an easy out but it's still bad execution for Expeditions only players.




Originally posted by Napolean_Warlord:


At our FLGS many people (including myself) play both Expeditions and Encounters with the same character. We handwave continuity or expect that, as all the adventures are in the same general region, that somehow it all works out. I think it would be much less fun if we had to segment characters between the two play styles, but we only have the longer sessions 1/month at our store.




Originally posted by Tyranthraxus:


IMO to me it appears at least that they wanted the far majority of Expeditions characters to spend downtime in the way to get from 4-5. It shows how the mechanics of downtime works. IVe no issue with that as not one player in my AL table has spent any downtime.

Actually the Continuity of story in Expeditions has been top rate so far. Scenarios interlay with other scenarios , npcs are reused, locations are reused.

Id even go as far as to say that perhaps there is too much inter connectivity. A New player getting on at say the Scroll THief and playing on will be missing the names of some of the npcs, whereas the other players will be pretty first name basis with some of the npcs.






Originally posted by Spykes:


I'm a little confused about the Lord's Alliance side quest. What is to prevent the characters, after they defeat Farvnik at the Inn, from taking the dock, loading up all the people from the Inn and getting the heck outa there? Why would they risk the sewers when they could take a boat, assuming they get that quest of course.




Originally posted by Lord_Toast:


Spykes wrote:I'm a little confused about the Lord's Alliance side quest. What is to prevent the characters, after they defeat Farvnik at the Inn, from taking the dock, loading up all the people from the Inn and getting the heck outa there? Why would they risk the sewers when they could take a boat, assuming they get that quest of course.
The answer is 'it depends'. It depends on the DM on how to handle the situation when it rises. And it depends on how the players react to the DM ad libbing....if the DM chooses to do so. A side quest is just that in D&D. A little side track adventure that is purely optional.






Originally posted by Skerrit:


I think the main reason is that they agreed to meet Aleyd at the inn and when she gets back, she tells what she knows (and thus why they my want to stay). It also depends on when you go to the docks. The adventure does account for the docks as a way to flee without using the sewers.




Originally posted by Pauper:


Spykes wrote:I'm a little confused about the Lord's Alliance side quest. What is to prevent the characters, after they defeat Farvnik at the Inn, from taking the dock, loading up all the people from the Inn and getting the heck outa there? Why would they risk the sewers when they could take a boat, assuming they get that quest of course.
As Skerrit notes, they totally can! Though the escape might not be quite as easy as you describe...

--
Pauper




Originally posted by Tyranthraxus:


The Basilisk:

Okay.. anyone who can see the Basilisk within X gets to make a save. I get this.

A character can look away from the Basilisk. Its this a standard action or not? Also if the character is looking away, does that mean he or she cannot attack the Basilisk whatsoever? Attacks made with disadvantage? Can a monster force a character to gaze upon a basilisk?






Originally posted by TheBreen:


Tyranthraxus wrote:A character can look away from the Basilisk. Its this a standard action or not? Also if the character is looking away, does that mean he or she cannot attack the Basilisk whatsoever? Attacks made with disadvantage? Can a monster force a character to gaze upon a basilisk?
I would rule that looking away is a free action. However, because you now cannot see the basilisk, I'd also rule that any attacks you make against it are made with disadvantage. It seems similar in principle to being blinded or having an invisible opponent.






Originally posted by Kalani:


I have a problem at my table. Several of the characters participated in Courting with Fire, during which they killed Spernik and returned his head to the Lord Sage at the end of the adventure. I do not want to undermine their achievement by having Spernik be resurrected, yet at the same time he seems to play an important part in the adventure.

I am considering having Spernik be replaced with another captured Cult leader, but was wondering if anyone had other suggestions as to how to resolve this. I am finding this quite annoying, as Courting with Fire gives the option of killing Spernik, yet later adventures give no advice as to how best to adjust the encounter if Spernik was killed previously.




Originally posted by Skerrit:


The adventure takes into account the overall critical events of the campaign. At the majority of premier tables, Spernik was captured and turned over to the Black Fist. That is generally how Organized Play adventures work and how we track critical events. The reason Spernik is in this adventure (and his effects on it) are solely because this was the will of the majority of players. If you would like to change his pressence for your particular table, I would still continue telling the players what you are doing so they realize that the campaign does track critical events, their tables outcome was unusual, and Spernik being alive is the "official canon" of the campaign. This is particularly valuable if you are having any outside players join in who were not at your original table.




Originally posted by Kalani:


Battle at the Gate
While I know that most tables will have Knight Ayled and her fellow blackfist draw off 23 of the guards, my table and I concocted an elaborate trap and managed to have it succeed with 90% success. Given how different our results were compared to everyone else, I thought I would share our success with you guys.

The best laid plans.....
The plan was to barracade one end of a nearby alley several blocks away, with only a small gap in the barracade for a single person to go through. The alley itself was covered in several barrels of pitch which we stole from the warehouses near the docks (one of our players knowing that pitch was used as a sealant on ships, and that there should be sizable quantitied stored somewhere at the docks).

We then planned on luring the guards into our ambush, after which our party ranger would cast a 40ft long wall of thorns behind them trapping them in the pitch-covered alley, which we would then set on fire. Most of our party took up positions on the rooftops either side of the ambush. One person stood at the end of the barracade to close it, while our party ranger planned to act as the bait, riding his horse near the guards and lure them into the ambush, before his horse lept the barracade and we set it off.

Never survive contact with the enemy.
While setting up the ambush, we were discovered by a random encounter of enemy blackfist. I cast hypnotic pattern on them, hypnotizing all but one of them (which we killed). We then removed their armor, tied them up, dressed them in normal blackfist uniforms (over the top of their bindings) and stood them at one end of our ambush, with weapons tied to their hands to look like they were making a defensive stand.

I then cast minor illusion to make it sound like the blackfist were rallying themselves and preparing a defense, calling out claims of "there is too many of them", "men, lets make a stand", and the like. Combined with the actions of the party ranger, this drew the attention of 16 of the 26 guards who came to investigate. The ranger made it through the barracade and we closed the trap. Unfortunately, the guards stopped at the end of the alley, having spotted the pitch (the DM rolled 20 on their perception checks). Rather than let them get away, the ranger cast his wall of thorns (or whatever the spell is), while I cast another hypnotic pattern on the assembled guards (our initiative was higher).

I managed to hypnotize 11 of the 16 guards. The remaining guards bolted through the thorn wall, managing to survive the encounter with 3HP each (approx). Rather than let them escape, we ran them down and picked them off before they could warn the other guards.

Once completed, we returned to the hypnotized guards, lead them into the pitch, tied them up, covered them in pitch, and set fire to the alley - killing the 17 guards in the alley (the 11 newly hypnotized guards, and the 6 previous ones).

16 down, 10 to go
The following week, we were all extremely short on resources (I only had my firebolt cantrip left) but we faced the 10 remaining guards, plus the cambion head on. We sent Knight Ayled and her fellows back to guard the civilians at the ruined tavern.

It was a major grind but smart teamwork prevailed. At one point, I absolutely stunned the DM when I decided to use my minor conjuration ability to make a small balsawood box with an automatically locking latch. I summoned the box adjacent to my character with the lid open, stepped inside, and closed the lid making myself a gnome-in-a-box. My reasons for doing this was for the following reasons:


  • I had an enemy adjacent to me, and did not wish to roll my attack with disadvantage, esp. in light of the fact I had been rolling poorly all night.
  • Had I disengaged, he would have simply followed me and attacked me, further separating me from the party, and effectively wasting my turn.
  • I toyed with the idea of using the Dodge action, which would increase my odds of not being hit, but I risked being hit twice regardless.

Instead, I relied on the gnome-in-a-box idea to guarantee that one attack would miss me and hoped that the DM would wiff on the guards 2nd attack. My plan succeeded. The first attack destroyed my conjured box, while the second missed me (despite having advantage for me being prone).

All in all, it was a very successful, yet atypical result for that encounter. We killed 26 guards, and 1 cambion without suffering any party or allied NPC deaths....

Time for a Long Rest - Gnome Style
The session wrapped up with us preparing a long rest on a nearby roof, all thanks to my character. I chose leomund's tiny hut as my other 3rd level spell. 10 minutes of chanting later, and we had a black opaque dome of force protecting us while we rested throughout the night. Next week, we will be taking on Spernik and getting out of dodge through the sewers (we didn't have a Lords Alliance member to trigger the dockside encounter).
 

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