DDXP 2010 LFR Battle Interactive (ADCP 2-1) (massive spoilers)

I recently returned from the D&D Experience 2010 convention, where I played in ADCP 2-1 The Paladin's Plague, the first Living Forgotten Realms (LFR) "battle interactive". Here's a description of what happened.

This is going to contain massive spoilers for the plot and mechanics of the event. If you think you'll ever play it and you don't want to be spoiled, don't read this thread.

Part 1
[sblock]Let's start with the official description: "The leaders of Elturel are concerned about the plagueland a few miles outside the city, which has recently begun spewing out even more twisted monstrosities than usual. The paladins have put out a call for adventuring companies to send their best and bravest explorers to venture to the border, if not into the plagueland itself. The expedition's charter is to bring back any information about the horrors within and what might be causing the increase in Spellplague activity. This is a very dangerous assignment, but also one that offers adventurers the chance to make a name for themselves by braving one of the most dangerous and least understood threats in all of Faerun -- an active plagueland."

Also, ADCP 2-1 The Paladin's Plague chronologically follows immediately after the events from the SPEC 2-1 adventures, which entail helping the paladins of Elturgard with various tasks in preparation for the mission into the plaguelands.

By the way, for those who don't know, Elturgard (the country) is a theocracy ruled by followers of Torm. Elturel (the capitol) is a large city with one very important and instantly noticeable feature: a "second sun" that was placed in the sky as a gift from the god Amaunator. The "second sun" is called Amaunator's Gift, The Companion, and other evocative names.

The event began with groups forming and reporting to the coordinators for distribution to tables. I was playing Sseklah, dragonborn paladin of Amaunator -- a very appropriate character for this adventure. Sseklah wasn't a member of an adventuring company, so I looked for another group to join. I found some people advertising for "H3 need 1" (Heroic tier, levels 7-10) and joined up with them. As it turned out, that group also consisted mainly of Amaunator worshippers, so it worked out well from both a practical and a role-playing point of view.

The existing group's adventuring company charter was: must worship Amaunator (if a Divine character), or at least pay respects to Him, and no more than one character of each race could be a member of the group. Fortunately, they didn't already have a dragonborn! We later decided upon a name; behold:

The Morninglord's Many
  • Brother Solinus, human cleric of Amaunator
  • Lynetta, tiefling warlock
  • Star, eladrin ranger
  • Silvana, elf cleric of Amaunator
  • Ziz, warforged fighter
  • Sseklah, dragonborn paladin of Amaunator (me)
Unfortunately, I didn't write down people's real names, and I'm terrible at remembering them. But, in real life, Brother Solinus's player was the father of Lynetta's player; Star's player and Silvana's player were husband and wife; and Ziz's player was friends with the players of Star and Silvana. Also, in real life, Star's player and Silvana's player were Indian, and Ziz's player was Chinese, so we had some actual racial diversity in addition to the in-game racial diversity. :)

Mechanically, this group consisted of two strikers, two leaders, and two defenders. If I could have changed one thing, it would be to replace the warlock with a real striker, like a rogue or barbarian. Lynetta was a fine character, and the player knew what she was doing, but warlocks just don't output enough damage, nor do they impose the powerful status effects of a controller like a wizard or invoker. Come to think of it, a controller would've helped this group also, as you shall see.

Except for Sseklah at 10th level, all of the other characters were 7th or 8th level, so we decided to play the low-level version of the adventure. I think that was the correct decision. We were never truly in danger of anyone's PC dying, but we had a hard time chewing through the monster's hit points, and playing the high-level version only would have exacerbated that difficulty.

The adventure started with the PCs assembled in the Temple of Torm in Elturel. We were introduced to three important NPCs:
  • The High Observer of Torm, the head priest. (I didn't write down the NPC's actual name.)
  • Knight Commander Vessen, leader of the paladins of Torm.
  • Tirangal, a powerful mage of some sort, who "takes an unusual interest in the Plagueland", but is one of the Good Guys.
We were in the midst of receiving our final blessings from the High Observer prior to setting out on our mission when we heard a tremendous explosion outside the temple. All the Spellscarred PCs inside became limned in blue fire, and the temple itself started shaking as if in an earthquake -- church bells were torn loose from their moorings and crashed to the ground. The doors of the temple burst open, and a badly wounded young paladin arrived bearing grave news: the southern section of the city had been hit with a tremendous wave of spellplague energy, and various monsters were rampaging through the city, slaughtering innocent civilians.

Before the poor young man could tell us anything more, he succumbed to his wounds. All of his orifices (eyes, nose, ears...) had been leaking blue fire, and as the paladin finished his warning, he convulsed in agony as a tentacle erupted from his chest and his skull imploded, before he crumbled into ash. [The "flavor text" in this adventure was top-notch. And icky.]

At this point, we started our first encounter. Before I desribe that, let me go over a few things.

There were two mechanical elements of the battle interactive that weren't well explained. (At least, our DM didn't do a good job explaining them to us.) First, reinforcements. Apparently, if you thought your group was bad-ass enough, you could tell the DM you wanted the monsters to have reinforcements. I think you were supposed to decide upon this before the encounter began. I'm unclear how this is any different than simply choosing to play the high-level version of your level band.

Second, offering and receiving help. If your table mopped up the monsters easily, you could offer help to another table; or conversely, if your table was having trouble, you could request help. What would happen is that the table requesting help would decide how many monsters they wanted to disappear from their table and appear at the table offering help; the monsters would be appropriately leveled to the table where they appeared. For example, if an H3 table requested help and a P2 table took them up on it, then the monsters that appeared at the P2 table would be the (much tougher) P2 versions of those monsters, not the H3 versions.

There were a couple of other wrinkles. Each encounter was strictly timed, at 50 minutes. At the end of that time, the DM of each table would determine what degree of success the PCs at his table had achieved: failure, partial success, or total success. Those results (possibly plus other information) were reported to the event coordinators, who aggregated the results from all the tables to determine how the adventure would progress. You'll see examples of this effect in my write-up.

Encounter 1
Our goal was to rescue as many citizens as possible from the rampaging hordes of plaguechanged monsters.

Mechanically, this meant moving the citizens across the map to the Temple of Torm. As a minor action, a PC could attempt a skill check (Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, or whatever you thought up) to get one or more citizens to take a move action (shift, move their speed, run, and so forth). The difficulty of the skill check depended upon how close the PC was to the citizens and how many citizens the PC was trying to influence. PCs could also use forced movement, teleportation, or the like to move the citizens around. However, left to their own devices, the citizens would only stand in place and cower.

The citizens were "mega-minions": they could take two hits before being killed. Initially, 6 citizens were visible on the map. The monsters consisted of 4-5 artillery minions, 4-5 strikers, and 2-3 brutes.

The encounter began with the artillery monsters winning initiative. Each of them blasted a citizen, bloodying several. Surprisingly, Sseklah was the next to react. He rushed forward from the temple's entrance, double-moving 10 squares into a clearing between several buildings, where he was near all of the wounded citizens. Sseklah then spent an Action Point to use Invigorating Smite on a nearby striker monster, hitting it and healing all of the wounded citizens ("bloodied allies within 5 squares"). [I was pleased with this action, as it was both heroic and tactically advantageous.]

The way the map was configured, it was possible for the PCs to form a safe corridor in the middle for the citizens to use. We employed several different dazing effects to allow citizens to move past monsters without provoking Opportunity Attacks. Unfortunately, we ignored the artillery minions for too long, and they managed to kill one of the citizens before we could do anything about it. [A controller PC would have been helpful to blast away multiple minions in a single action. As it was, we had to kill them one by one.]

In addition to the 6 visible citizens, there were other citizens hiding in various buildings. At some point I realized that although the PCs were in no particular danger, we just weren't killing the monsters fast enough to save all the citizens. So, our table requested help, and gave away a striker monster and one artillery minion. That was kind of embarrassing, but necessary. In the end, we managed to save 11 of 12 citizens, which was considered a success.

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In between each encounter, the organizer would narrate what was happening in the overall story. We learned that although we collectively had saved many citizens in the immediate vicinity of the Temple of Torm, the southern fifth of Elturel had been completely destroyed by the spellplague attack, with over 4,000 dead. [Given the population of the city, this was a catastrophic loss.]

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Encounter 2
We were charged with the mission of heading into the destroyed southern section to see what was going on, and to rescue anyone if possible.

Along the way, we noticed the spellplague had warped the city itself, fusing buildings and people together into grotesque amalgams. Pockets of terrain and elemental energy from elsewhere had been interspersed within the city.

We encountered a patrol made up of 3-4 former paladins and guardsmen who had been changed by the spellplague into terrible monsters. This was on one end of a very large map, with the southern wall of the city at the other end. Atop that wall were 3 plaguechanged elf archers who peppered us with arrows throughout the fight. There were some areas of fog and trees in between us and the archers, where several PCs sought cover.

Defeating the ground-based enemies wasn't too difficult, but when we tried to spare a guardsman's life by knocking him unconscious instead of killing him, it turned out that he was too far gone. As he dropped to the ground, his body exploded with blue fire, blasting everyone nearby for automatic damage (no attack roll) and knocking us back. We eventually figured out (Arcana and Insight checks) that only some of the corrupted people could be saved; the others had to be killed -- not knocked unconscious -- to prevent them from exploding when they lost consciousness.

After taking care of the ground pounders, we ran across the map to the wall. Fortunately, there were some ropes dangling down that we could climb. Star simply fey stepped to the top. Lynetta used a pull effect to drag a couple of the archers down, but they made their saves to fall prone at the edge of the wall. Eventually, we beat them into submission, enduring some pain from another one that exploded when we misjudged whether he was capable of being saved. Still, we succeeded in our mission.

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Looking out over the wall, we saw a strange and terrible sight. Where the southern gates of Elturel had once stood was now a massive crater filled with chaotic spellplague energy. The great army that had been camped outside the walls, ready to assault the plagueland, was completely obliterated. Worst of all, dozens upon dozens of pyramid-shaped monoliths floated above the ground, blue fire streaming among them. The line of monoliths stretched all the way to the plagueland (a few miles away), and it appeared that those monoliths had been used to transmit the energy that had blasted the city.

Clearly, we couldn't give them time to charge up for another such attack.

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At this point, Tirangal (the mage who was "unusually interested" in the plagueland) proposed a ritual that could transform The Companion into a weapon against the spellplague. If successful, the ritual would cause The Companion to lose its anti-undead properties, but Tirangal considered that acceptable.

Sseklah considered it totally unacceptable. In his view, tampering with a holy gift from Amaunator was blasphemy. Although the ritual might very well work and make it easier for us to beat back the plaguechanged monsters, in Sseklah's views, the ends do not justify the means used to achieve them. He voted against casting this ritual.

At our table, only Brother Solinus also voted no. Lynetta was more than willing to see this blasphemous ritual cast (what can you expect from a tiefling warlock?). Ziz was a pragmatist and thought we needed all the help we could get. Shockingly, Silvana also voted in favor of the ritual. [I seriously questioned the player about whether her PC would do that, but she said yes.] Star cast the deciding vote... in favor. [If there had been a tie, my vote would have counted as the tiebreaker, because the players had previously chosen me as "table leader".]

During the voting, a couple of players stood up to make impassioned speeches either for or against the ritual. I thought the player of the Spellscarred PC, who argued against the ritual, made a particularly compelling case: he said that he was already afflicted by the spellplague and knew all too well its dangers; he didn't want anything to do with altering The Companion to attune it against the spellplague, for fear of what might happen.

In addition to voting for or against the ritual, each PC also had to decide how many healing surges he would semi-permanently give up to fuel the ritual in the event it was cast. At our table, most characters chipped in one or two surges. But Star said he would contribute none! So not only did he vote in favor of a dangerous ritual, he refused to give any of his personal power to enable it.

With a sigh, Sseklah said that if this awful ritual was to be cast, it had better work: he offered four surges towards its success. [Although Sseklah does have 12 surges, he goes through them rapidly, using them for lay on hands and for virtue (paladin utility 2, spend a surge to gain temporary hit points equal to your healing surge value). Going down to 8 surges would have cramped his style, a lot.]

As it turned out, the ritual was voted down, so no one had to give up any surges. Sseklah was greatly relieved.

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Encounter 3
We set out to destroy as many monoliths as possible.

The map consisted of a monolith in the middle, surrounded by areas of rubble (difficult terrain). The monoliths continuously spewed out "plague motes", which were minion creatures that dealt more damage when there were multiples of them adjacent to their target. There were also a bunch of undead wandering around: zombies (melee) and skeletons (ranged).

The two clerics in our group used turn undead to lethal effect. Ziz did a great job drawing many enemies to him and keeping them there. The monolith itself was the toughest adversary: not only could it generate more plague motes, it could react to being struck by blasting its attacker (damage plus push).

Eventually Sseklah managed to divine challenge the monolith, which deterred it from reacting to anyone else's attacks (as it would then take radiant damage from the challenge). Star, Sseklah, and Ziz all pounded on the monolith, while Brother Solinus provided healing and Lynetta and Silvana used skill checks (Arcana and Religion) to disable the monolith.

By this fight, our group started to find its rhythm. [And everyone's character started to unload daily powers.] We polished off the first monolith and allowed for reinforcements. This meant fighting another monolith plus some of its guardians. We killed them, too. Total success!

----------

In all, the PCs collectively destroyed 28 monoliths. But there were 60 of the foul things, and we didn't destroy enough of them.

The remaining monoliths unfolded, revealing that inside each one were the twisted bodies of pilgrims who had foolishly journeyed to the plaguelands seeking the blessings of the Order of Blue Fire. Instead, their bodies and souls had been corrupted to fuel the monoliths. Those terrible creations now used the power of the spellplague to create a massive wall of chaotic energy, blocking our way into the forward.

Whatever intelligence was behind this attack had thwarted our progress, and we feared that it would not be long before another pulse of destruction turned all of Elturgard into an extension of the plaguelands. Weary and defeated, we returned to the city to rest and await the dawn.

[When the organizers announced that we had failed to destroy enough monoliths, a murmur of disbelief and disappointment swept over the room. There was a real sense of apprehension about what would happen next.][/sblock]
 
Part 2
[sblock]We rested fitfully that night, as reinforcements were rushed to Elturel from across Faerun. In the morning, we listened as Knight Commander Vessen informed us of our new task. The main force would hold the line while we -- the adventurers -- journeyed into the plaguelands to stop the incursion.

[At the beginning of the adventure, one of the main NPCs commented that he didn't know why the plaguelands had chosen this moment to strike. But to me, it was obvious: they saw that we were massing a force to invade, and they struck a pre-emptive blow. We barely survived. And now, it was time to do what we had originally gathered to do: go into the plaguelands to bust some heads.]

We trooped back to the southern part of the city and thence outside. The landscape was a scrambled mess, and we approached a rift in reality where the effects of the spellplague were so great that everyone spontaneously developed a spellscar.

[This was a nifty feature of the event. Each PC had to draw a card from the "Change Deck", which consisted of a large number of different spellplague effects. Some of these were purely cosmetic, such as your skin becoming translucent blue, while others had a game mechanical effect, such as granting you a bite attack or rendering you vulnerable 2 to all damage. If your character already had a spellscar, you got to draw twice and choose which card to keep, representing your partial control over the spellplague's energies.]

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Encounter 4
A group of slaads were gathered around the rift, marveling at the chaotic energy. As we approached, the slaads attacked. There were 3-4 flux slaads, 2-3 green slaads, 2 gray slaads, and 2 Large-sized red slaads (blood slaads).

This was shaping up to be a very difficult fight. We couldn't effectively close with the slaads, as they kept sliding us around and knocking us prone. Meanwhile, the gray slaads were scooping up handfuls of chaos from the reality rift and throwing them at us, causing significant damage.

But just as things looked dire, all of the slaad's heads exploded! Unperturbed by their lack of heads, the slaads moved towards the rift and jumped in. [I think the organizers decided we were running short on time and chose to end the combat early.]

Everyone looked around, shrugged at this unexpected turn of events, and pushed onwards.

----------

We made our way to the curtain of blue fire that the monoliths had created the night before. It was a solid barrier of chaos, and when one NPC paladin drew too close, energy lashed out at him, blowing him into chunks, each of which landed, quickly grew into a full body, and then immediately died with an expression of pure agony on its face.

Nobody went anywhere near the barrier after that.

[Everyone did, however, spontaneously develop another spellscar, meaning another draw from the Change Deck.]

Based on some documents captured from gnolls in the Reaching Woods (as part of SPEC 2-1 H2 Dogs of War), the ritual casters from Elturel informed us that each PC could call upon the protection of the gnoll god Yeenoghu. A handful of fools accepted this bargain, but none of The Morninglord's Many did so.

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Encounter 5
The ritualists now had to cast a powerful spell to destroy the wall of blue fire. Each table had to protect and aid a ritual caster while he chanted the words.

Mechanically, this was a skill challenge, but with a twist. In addition to assisting in the ritual (using Arcana, Nature, and Religion checks), the PCs had to defend against numerous plague motes that were attacking. A PC could use an appropriate skill check to do so (for example, Endurance to absorb the mote, taking damage but destroying it; or Athletics to hold it back), or could use powers to attack and destroy the motes.

We began with six motes. After each round, any that weren't destroyed remained, and were joined by an additional six, plus two for every round. So, eight more on the second round; ten more on the third round; and so on. The ritual caster had to survive for ten rounds to complete the ritual, if we didn't help him to complete it any faster.

This was another encounter in which having a controller with an at-will area burst would've been helpful, to destroy several motes at once. We quickly realized that there was no way our group could stay ahead of the growing number of motes, so we concentrated on completing the ritual as quickly as possible. We used Encounter and (a few) Daily powers to stem the tide of plague motes. At the last moment, Brother Solinus managed a barely successful Religion check to finish our part of the ritual, just before we were overwhelmed. (There were something like a dozen motes on the board at that point.)

We did very well in this encounter, keeping our ritual caster completely unscathed, for a total success.

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Collectively, the group kept enough of the ritualists alive to complete the spell. A massive, disembodied pair of gnoll claws appeared in front of the plague wall. Yeenoghu's Hands pierced the wall and pulled it apart. [Sseklah was uncomfortable calling upon a demonic god, but game-wise we weren't offered a choice in the matter.]

Beyond, we saw the center of the plagueland: a huge, pulsating heart covered in innumerable writhing tentacles. Many of the tentacles had pierced nearby earthmotes, and were holding them in place, syphoning energy into the heart. Some of the tentacles were topped with giant, mutated heads that seemed to be directing this abominable work.

With a great cry, the adventurers rushed forward.

[But not before drawing from the Change Deck again. At this point, Sseklah had two cosmetic spellscars, and one useful one, plague lash (a ranged 10 attack against Fortitude).]

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Encounter 6
Each group had to defeat as many tentacles and heads as possible.

The map consisted of two earthmotes, divided by a 2-square-wide chasm. [I'm not sure how we got onto the first earthmote; we just did.] The larger of the two earthmotes, consisting of about three-quarters of the map, held three tentacles, one at each corner. The smaller earthmote held the fourth tentacle in the remaining corner, along with a couple glowing sigils burned into the stone. In the center of the map, on the larger earthmote, was the tentacle-head.

Silvana realized that the four tentacles were empowering the center head, and that each tentacle we killed would weaken it. [Mechanically, the head started out with excellent defenses and resistances. For each other tentacle we destroyed, its defenses went down and it lost some of its resistances.]

Each tentacle was pretty tough, capable of slamming a PC for considerable damage. The tentacles that weren't in melee could exude a gob of mucous and hurl it as a ranged attack. Finally, the head in the center of the map could spew foul substances onto anyone who got close to it.

We focused our attacks on a single tentacle at a time, rapidly downing the first. [Let's call it the northwest tentacle.] Star then rushed over to the northeast tentacle and landed a spectacular flurry of attacks on it, including a critical hit, dealing over 90 points of damage all told -- and dropping the thing in a single round. But as the tentacle withdrew from the earthmote, whipping around like an angry snake, it dropped off four smaller tentacle minions that tried to block our path.

As each tentacle "died", it left behind a patch of ground infused with magical energy. By standing on this ground, a PC could draw upon its energies to empower himself. [Mechanically, you could regain a healing surge's worth of hit points without spending a surge or regain an Encounter power -- each of these only once per patch of ground.] Star recovered one of his better Encounter powers before joining the rest of us at the southwest tentacle.

Meanwhile, Lynetta had used Arcana checks to determine that the sigils near the southeast tentacle (on the other earthmote) would allow one to more effectively fight the center tentacle-head. [Mechanically, you could crit it on a 19-20.] So it was in her interest to get over there. Star decided to join her, as he had ranged attacks in addition to his melee attacks.

Everyone else polished off the southwest tentacle, and then began laying into the head. [We decided to ignore the southeast tentacle, figuring that weakening the head by three-quarters was enough.] A single enemy never lasts long against the concentrated attacks of six PCs, and that was the case here. We downed the first head, allowed for reinforcements (which brought in another head and two more tentacles), and destroyed those as well. Another total success!

But would it be enough? Against the monoliths, our table had done equally as well, but the group as a whole failed....

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With the climactic encounter over, everyone waited anxiously for the results to be tallied. When they were, we learned that there were 28 tentacle-heads that needed to be destroyed. And collectively, we had defeated... 35!

The room erupted into cheers as we realized that we'd done it. Across the plagueland, the blue fire was dissipating, and the souls of those unfortunates who had been captured and made to serve were streaming towards the heavens, there to be judged by Kelemvor.

Except for one. We saw a particularly powerful soul, in the shape of a female elf and garbed in wizardly robes, refuse to ascend. With a shriek of rage, it sped deeper into the plaguelands. All we could do was shake our fists in impotent rage as it escaped.[/sblock]

Part 3
[sblock]The triumphant adventurers returned to Elturel. Our spontaneously generated spellscars fell away, to the great relief of most.

In the Temple of Torm, the heroes sat down for a celebratory feast. The High Observer stood before us, flanked by Knight Commander Vessen and the mage Tirangal. The High Observer spoke words of praise and thankfulness, commending us for our perseverance in the face of horrible enemies. But as he neared the end of his speech, the High Observer suddenly staggered forward and clutched at his chest -- where three feet of steel had impaled him.

Knight Commander Vessen wrenched his sword out of the High Observer's body, which slumped to the floor. As the shocked assemblage looked on, Vessen's eyes blazed with the all-too-familiar blue fire of the spellplague. He shouted a command, and around the Temple, dozens of hexagonal portals snapped open, while hundreds of enemies teleported in to attack.

Including a dragon.

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Encounter 7
Beset by enemies within what we thought was a safe haven, we had to defend the High Observer and his underpriests, defeat the foes, and close the portals.

[Only the P2 tables were actually defending the High Observer, who somehow survived being stabbed through the chest. Other tables were defending lesser priests.]

The portals were being held open by sharns (aberrant humanoids that share a group mind). The enemies included more plaguechanged archers and spellcasters on balconies above us, a handful of melee-focused enemies on the ground, and the dragon. If the table was lucky, it was merely a plaguechanged white dragon. If the table wasn't lucky, it was a dracolich.

[In a previous special adventure, QUES 1-1 Black Cloaks and Bitter Rivalries, adventurers had infiltrated the Zhentarim. Some of those adventurers may have failed to prevent the Zhents from creating a dracolich, and if enough PCs with that failure were at a table, then the dragon was in its upgraded undead form. At our table, those who had participated in QUES 1-1 had successfully prevented the undead monstrosity from being created.]

[I have to give props to our DM for a great bit of misdirection. Throughout the adventure, he had been using pre-drawn paper maps. Because the paper had been rolled it kept wanting to re-curl, so the DM used his large-sized minis to hold down the edges and corners. So in multiple previous fights, he'd tell us, "These monsters aren't really here; they're just to hold down the paper." He told us the same thing prior to this encounter: "This white dragon isn't really here." When it turned out that it was, Silvana's player was mildly offended. "You lied to us!" she said. "Yes, I did," the DM replied.]

The dragon reacted first, leaping forward onto Sseklah and rending him with its claws and bite. (As I put it: "Time for some hot dragon-on-dragon action.") Across the room, an enemy moved to menace the underpriest we had to protect. The archers and spellcasters shot us up, and a few of the hexagonal portals activated and blasted us, too.

Sseklah assessed the situation. His blood boiled at the sight of the warped dragon, and he longed to take revenge for the savage wounds it had delivered. But Sseklah knew that if someone didn't defend the priest, the plaguechanged enemies would kill the helpless NPC.

Raising forth his holy symbol, Sseklah called upon the name of might*, which thundered forth, dealing the dragon a grievous wound [critical hit for 40 points of damage] and slowing the beast so that it could not simply rampage around the temple as it wished.

* [Just as I was making this attack, the lead organizer was passing by our table. When he heard me use name of might, he shouted, "Yeenoghu!" But I yelled back, "No, Amaunator!"]

As the dragon staggered back, Sseklah raced away from it and towards the banquet table at which the priest was sitting. Narrowly avoiding the dragon's parting swipe (Opportunity Attack), Sseklah roared a divine challenge to the nearby enemy, then (Action Point) charged forwards, leaping onto the table (Athletics check) and smiting his shocked foe (charge attack culminating in virtuous strike, which can be used as a melee basic attack).

This battle was frantic, closely fought, and epic.

Brother Solinus brought forth a spirit of healing, which kept Sseklah and Lynetta alive -- the latter because the enemy archers focused their attacks on her, repeatedly bloodying the tiefling warlock. Star fey stepped up to one of the balconies, where he slaughtered enemies and closed a few portals. On the other side of the map, Ziz used come and get it to drag foes off the balconies and next to him, marking them so that they could not easily get away. And Silvana tirelessly battled anyone who threatened our fragile NPC charge.

About 35 minutes into the battle, we finally killed the dragon -- everyone cheered. I stood up on my chair and shouted out, offering help to any other table that needed it. (We'd come a long way from requesting help to defeat minions!) A nearby table took us up on our offer, sending us their barely wounded dragon.

Fifteen minutes to kill a fresh dragon -- which by the way, got upgraded to the high-level version of our H3 tier. It was a near thing. Daily powers, Action Points, and magic item uses flowed like water. The dragon was on its last legs, but unfortunately time was called before we could land the killing blow.

[So... close...! It had 18 hit points left.]

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Overall, the group was successful: the High Observer and his underpriests survived, the plaguechanged enemies were put to the sword, and the sharn's portals were smashed and closed. After tallying up the final results, the organizers announced several things. First, because we had wisely chosen not to use the ritual to modify The Companion, it remained brightly shining in the sky above Elturel. Second, everyone was granted substantial rewards. (See below.)

Third, the organizers gave public recognition to those tables that exceeded expectations and achieved multiple "total success" results. There were a lot of them, including The Morninglord's Many. We weren't the best table, but we did better than most.

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The rewards were nice: a large chunk of XP and GP, and your choice of any magic item up to your character's level plus two. In LFR, that's a big deal; normally when you get an "any magic item" bundle, it's only up to your character's level at most.

Everyone also got at least two cool story awards. Number one, in gratitude for each PC's service, the leaders of Elturel named or created something within the city for that PC. (Sseklah Street? Sseklah Plaza? A statue of Sseklah the Stupendous?) Also as part of number one, if the PC ever dies, his soul will automatically appear in the Temple of Torm, where it will be raised from the dead at no cost and with no death penalty.

Number two, each PC picked up a chunk of the smashed monoliths as a grisly souvenir. The plaguechanged rock sheds light as a sunrod and continuously morphs into different shapes. (Although as I put it, "There's no way Sseklah is carrying that thing around, unless it's in a lead-lined box.")

Five randomly selected characters actually picked up an extra-special chunk. I saw one of those Story Awards the next day: the character can gain a spellscar (even though you normally have to start with one at level 1), and the player is supposed to write down the names of everyone he plays with at a convention. Once a certain number of names are accumulated, the player is to show the list to a campaign organizer, at which time the special rock will change in some way. (Why do I get the feeling it won't be entirely beneficial?)

----------

I thought that ADCP 2-1 turned out very well. Everyone I talked to enjoyed it, and it was far different than your run-of-the-mill LFR adventure. Any quibbles I have are minor in the scheme of things.

I can't wait for the next one![/sblock]
 

davethegame

Villager
Awesome writeup! I didn't sign up for this (for a few reasons) but seeing it in action and hearing how great it was (and listening to a room offer a chant to Yeenoghu) makes the next one a must-play for me.
 
Thanks for the praise, and glad you enjoyed reading about it.

What's interesting is that on day 1, it seemed like most of the players opted for Yeenoghu's protection, so there were a huge number of people chanting to him. But on day 2, a much smaller number of people did.

The day 1 folks also voted in favor of using the ritual to change The Companion to be anti-spellplague. My understanding is that this had significant effects on the remainder of the adventure.
 

Thanlis

Villager
Thanks for the praise, and glad you enjoyed reading about it.

What's interesting is that on day 1, it seemed like most of the players opted for Yeenoghu's protection, so there were a huge number of people chanting to him. But on day 2, a much smaller number of people did.

The day 1 folks also voted in favor of using the ritual to change The Companion to be anti-spellplague. My understanding is that this had significant effects on the remainder of the adventure.
Yeah; as a day 1 folk I can attest to this. We got some nice bonuses.

The effects of the choices were severely modified between the two days in order to keep things from being predictable, though, so you might not have had the interesting stuff we got.

Oh, re: the waves of motes... our DM did not maintain living motes into the next round. I have no idea which way it was supposed to be run. I can note that the number of motes depended on party makeup, so if you'd had a controller you would have gotten more motes. Nice mechanic.
 

Marshall

Villager
As someone who played it both days(Day 1 H3Low, Day2 H2High) and then read this description, I'm shocked at the amount of table variation. Reading your description I recognise the flavor text but the mechanics you describe dont resemble either days game I played.
Never the less, I found the BI to be an entertaining Dungeon Delve like experience, with one exception.
The skill challenge was SO BADLY defined that the Narrarator had to correct the way our first DM was running it and the method our second DM employed(after supposed tweaking by the Admins) made it impossible to keep the NPC alive but ridiculously easy to complete the ritual anyway.
We started with 12 motes(3 Defenders, Two Strikers and Leader). At the end of each round any remaining motes auto-hit the NPC for 7-9 damage each(and died). At the start of the next round you got X+2 motes to try to stop. Even with move action skill checks, there weren't enough actions in the group to keep the guy alive past turn 4. This is a 4-7 group with 3 defenders, remember. OTOH, the move action skill checks meant that we had the ritual complete by the middle of turn 3. Its unclear if this should have actually ended the skill challenge or not. It didnt for us, so we just stood back and watched the next 80~100 motes crash into the corpse.
 
See, that's funny: I thought it was one of the more enjoyable skill challenges I've participated in.

Did the mechanics actually work? I don't know. If you are supposed to protect the NPC for all 10 rounds even after completing the ritual -- I think that is probably impossible. If you're just trying to complete the ritual before the motes can kill the NPC -- I think that is not too difficult.

As for table variation, of course there's going to be some. But as long as everyone is having fun, and the DM is fair, I don't see a problem with it. It gives us different stories to tell.

So, Marshall, tell us what happened at your table(s). :)
 

Herschel

Villager
Why would you want to swap out the Warlock? That's a character with enough control ability to mitigate needing a dedicated controller. This isn't a video game. "I Duz Damage" can be royally hosed by status effects.
 
Why would you want to swap out the Warlock? That's a character with enough control ability to mitigate needing a dedicated controller.
True, but the warlock is a striker, not a full-fledged controller.

"I Duz Damage" can be royally hosed by status effects.
When you have to kill N enemies in 50 minutes, "I duz damage" is pretty important. (Also, I am not sure how a warlock is any less vulnerable to status effects than anyone else.)

Anyway, it was just idle speculation. I noticed that our group had trouble killing monsters quickly enough, at first anyway. By the end we seemed to get into a groove.
 

Herschel

Villager
The Warlock has status effects and line-of-sight blockers to foil enemy artillery's status effect deployment. Your party was built to be able to do enough damage on paper if people play reasonably quickly and tactically sound. Clerics, fighters and Paladins all do respected damage if built even half-way well. The wide level disparity was likely more of an issue. I would prefer a true controller to the warlock myself but the Warlock's damage isn't bad when one considers what else they do.
 

Marshall

Villager
Did the mechanics actually work? I don't know. If you are supposed to protect the NPC for all 10 rounds even after completing the ritual -- I think that is probably impossible. If you're just trying to complete the ritual before the motes can kill the NPC -- I think that is not too difficult.

As for table variation, of course there's going to be some. But as long as everyone is having fun, and the DM is fair, I don't see a problem with it. It gives us different stories to tell.
Thats just it. Since the mechanics of the skill challenge were so poorly described, no one at either of my tables found it fun. My 7-10 table had 4 strikers and a cleric with enough area(or at least multi-target) attacks to blow through the, at most, 14 motes a round we faced. It was a boring, repetitive 10 rounds of dice rolls that actually got EASIER when the narrarator came over and corrected the DM. Blah.
The 4-7 table was worse, the whole party realized after the first round of motes that it was absolutely impossible for us to keep the NPC alive for ten rounds when over 1/2 of the TWELVE motes got thru in round one and FOURTEEN showed up in round two. We looked at each other, shrugged, threw what encounter healing would work on the guy and everyone who was trained in Arcana or Religion made the ridiculously easy skill check to complete the ritual. Then we watched the guy die and get pelted for 7 more rounds. Bad Ju-ju.

The worst part was the mods then asked for every table who lost their NPC to stand so we could get booed by the entire Con. Normally, I would take that with a grin and go on, but when I saw exactly THREE of the 40+ tables running the mod had lost him, I knew we weren't playing the same game.

So, Marshall, tell us what happened at your table(s). :)
Quick synopsis since the OP hit the RP points.
Encounter 1
Table 1 (Me, Two Warlocks, Melee Rogue and the Grim Reaper(Cleric))
Me. Storm Sorcerer/Bard goes first, seeing all the townsfolk threatened by various nastys and knowing we aint got nobody to go toe-to-toe in the party...I move up to the big honkin brute in the middle of the board, stop just short of him and blast him with my best encounter power(which bestows on me a glorious 1d6-1 temp Hp). AP and then use the best minion sweeping at-will in the game Lightning Strike. POP. POP. The rest of the party fans out and we end up bottle necking the baddies around me and the Grim Reaper. Believe it or not, this turned out well and the damage we threw out quickly wiped all the monsters with no civilian casualties.
The best moment of this fight for me was a clever use of Majestic Word to heal a bloodied civi and slide him out of the line-of-fire.
Table 2 (Me(Bard), Two Paladins, Fighter, Avenger and Sorcerer)
Roughly the same tactics as the first table, except this time I let the Defenders clog up the middle and I skirted the edges picking off minions and herding townsfolk to safety.
Encounter 2
Table 1
We wiped this up. The only difficulty was figuring out how to cross the enery stream in the middle of the map(again this is poorly described in the mod) since we were alternately told you could and could not jump over it, go around it, yada...The map had a lot of cool terrain..that everyone avoided. Best moment, Thunder Leap to the top of the wall and shove an archer to the ground.
Table 2
Very hard fight, no one in the group had the skills to climb the wall except the Avenger(Skill DC way too high for knotted rope) so we all just stood around and hoped he didn't die. I actually found this one boring.

Ritual Decision?
Both tables voted for it. Both times I voted against it(Neither of my characters will go near messing with an Artifact at this level), neither time did I contribute to it. The bennies were sweet for doing so tho.

Encounter 3
Table 1
We spent wayyy too much time clearing the mooks and nearly lost because of it. 'Course we managed to get in three rounds of concentrated fire in 10 minutes and blasted the monolith with literally seconds to spare. The fight was never in doubt, it was the time crunch that nearly got us.
Table 2
Oh crap, this was FUN. By round 2, I was down and both Paladins and the Avenger were bloodied. Fortunately, the reason I was down was the backlash from hitting the Monolith with Vigorous Cadence, a nearby Paladin dumped a Potion of Healing down my throat for which I rewarded him with an Improved Majestic Word and the rest of the party basked in the glow of the new healing battery. I'm pretty sure by the end of the fight I was still at 10HP and the rest of the party was at full...

Day 2
Neither slaad fight was worth mentioning. T1 crushed them, T2 took a lot of damage from exploding heads(silly way to skip and encounter)
Spellscars were somewhat annoying(-1 to speed, resist acid and encounter power) to forgettable(whistling wounds?) which I did.

Service to a Demon?
T1 NO WAY!
T2 Bard w/warlock MC? Whats the big deal?
Skill challenge? See above. Hated it.

Tentacle Battle
T1 just tore 'em to pieces, even when each tentacle died it left 4 minions behind and we didn't get the power-up motes OR the enhancement terrain.
T2 A little tougher and the Sorcerer falling into the rift not once, but TWICE was hilarious. Vigorous Cadence is realllyyyyy good.

Final Confrontation
T1 had the fight well in hand when the Convention Center kicked us out.
T2 I'm still confused how you're supposed to know that the portals are traps instead of just a power of the Sharn on the other side? We won anyway, just barely, with the Avenger, Fighter and a Paladin taking out 2(TWO) dragons(the DM went wayyy soft on us, restrained characters cant shift) after my Bard jumped up on the table and force the idiot NPC to get his stupid arse under the table and take cover from the archers. Sorry, my SOD fails at an NPC that needs to be told to take cover from arrow fire.

Conclusion
One character participated in the desecration of a Holy Artifact of Amawhatsis and the other is touched by the Demon God of Gnolls. I think my changeling will grow hair for his next adventure...
 

jdcash

Villager
I played on Saturday and found the event to be quite enjoyable. Some of the mechanics in the skill challenges were not as thought out as they could have been (as previously discussed), but I found the overall variety and the concept of one table being able to assist another to be really cool. I think that the organizers/writer learned a lot from this and DnD BI will just continue to be more and more THE event to play.
 

fba827

Villager
I think that the organizers/writer learned a lot from this and DnD BI will just continue to be more and more THE event to play.
So what is Battle Interactive exactly -- what was the format? Or more specifically, what makes it different from just any convention game, or game day adventure, or LFR adventure, etc....
 

fba827

Villager
The worst part was the mods then asked for every table who lost their NPC to stand so we could get booed by the entire Con.
*If* I ever go to a con, and *if* i ever get to play in a similar type game, I think I'd be upset if I had to "stand in front of the class and be boo-ed." I avoided social boo-ing as a child, I sure as heck don't want it now as an adult playing a -game-

It would have been much more meaningful (and non-upsetting) if they said "the tables that saved the guy, please stand for applause" but maybe that's just me.... anyway, sorry for the small tangent. carry on.
 

jdcash

Villager
I found the the boo-ing to be all in good fun and I was part of one of the unsuccessful tables. There was also similar recognition for accomplishments. I seriously hope that no one uses this as a basis to not try BI.
 
Thats just it. Since the mechanics of the skill challenge were so poorly described, no one at either of my tables found it fun.
A friend of mine showed me a copy of the adventure.

The skill challenge specifically states that it ends after 10 rounds or when the PCs have helped to complete the ritual or when the NPC dies, whichever comes first. But individual DMs may have minsunderstood that, or perhaps the organizers were changing it on the fly.

Marshall said:
Encounter 2

The only difficulty was figuring out how to cross the enery stream in the middle of the map(again this is poorly described in the mod)
No, it's described just fine. You CAN jump over it, although there is a (low) chance it will erupt and hit you dealing some damage plus daze.

Marshall said:
The map had a lot of cool terrain..that everyone avoided.
Yeah, that was a bummer. It would've been nicer if there were some hard cover to hide behind (so those @$#%^! archers couldn't shoot you willy nilly), or if some of the terrain had been beneficial and identifiable with appropriate skills.

Marshall said:
no one in the group had the skills to climb the wall except the Avenger (Skill DC way too high for knotted rope)
Um, DC 10 is too hard?

Judging by what you wrote about the skill challenge and the terrain in Encounter 2, it sounds like your DM may not have been as prepared for the adventure as ours was. That can definitely have a negative impact. Sorry, man.

Marshall said:
took a lot of damage from exploding [slaad] heads(silly way to skip and encounter)
Really no worse than saying, "You defeat the slaads after a tough fight. Everyone lose a healing surge." Actually, probably BETTER than that because some groups had ways to heal the exploding head damage without using surges.

I thought it was a fine balance between saving time (by not playing out the fight) and still costing the PCs some resources.

Marshall said:
we didn't get the power-up motes OR the enhancement terrain.
Again, that is directly from the adventure. Dude, your DM screwed you. :)

Marshall said:
I'm still confused how you're supposed to know that the portals are traps instead of just a power of the Sharn on the other side?
Skill checks? (Arcana, Religion, Insight, maybe Nature or Perception) Trial and error? ("I focus my Arcana skill to try to close the portal. Does anything happen?")

Marshall said:
force the idiot NPC to get his stupid arse under the table and take cover from the archers. Sorry, my SOD fails at an NPC that needs to be told to take cover from arrow fire.
Wow, the more I read, the more I think your DMs stank. The adventure says the enemies only will attack the NPC if there is "no immediate threat" -- which does leave it somewhat open to DM interpretation -- but I would definitely consider six PC adventurers a very immediate threat.

Having the enemy archers focus fire on the NPC is not very fair DMing, in my opinion.

So what is Battle Interactive exactly -- what was the format?
Umm... described at length in the first two posts of this thread.

fba827 said:
Or more specifically, what makes it different from just any convention game, or game day adventure, or LFR adventure, etc....
25-30 tables playing at the same time. Collectively what happened at the tables impacted the flow of the story, immediately. Double length adventure. Much more difficult combats (250% XP budget according to what the writer told us afterwards).

*If* I ever go to a con, and *if* i ever get to play in a similar type game, I think I'd be upset if I had to "stand in front of the class and be boo-ed."
Jeez, it was no big deal.

Heck, my table had to request help to defeat a minion in the first encounter. We certainly got ribbed for that. But it was all in good fun, and later on we redeemed ourselves by helping another table with their dragon.

But seriously, if you don't like public recognition of your successes and failures, then don't play a BI. That's part of the point of it.
 

Iceman

Villager
I played the BI on Friday, wasn't even thinking about replaying on Saturday, so have no clue about fixes and/or changes.

Interestingly, Marshall - I was almost at your first table (I think).
I had sat down for the H3 version with five others. Then an HQ-type person came by and asked us to yield one player for a new table being put together. I was the odd man out, so I went. But by the time I got to the table, I had discovered there were nothing but 5 strikers, and all but one ranged. On one hand, that sounds deadly, but no healing and no tank spelled trouble to me.
So I went over to the muster area and recruited JD, a released judge I knew - thankfully, he had an H3 cleric. Coming back to the table, it dawned on me that there were now 6 players here. I figured, better off without me (since the scaling rules would drop more baddies on us), so I went back to my original group.
I didn't feel too bad about it, but did kinda feel like the obstinate shmuck for not following HQ's lead. Hope I didn't come across too badly. :erm:

Anyway, my group consisted of an inspiring warlord (10th), a fey warlock (10th), a beastmaster ranger (7th), an ardent paladin (8th), an assassin (8th), and my archer ranger (10th). They called themselves The Fallen, since everyone in the group was either dhampyr or revenant. Interesting bunch. We played 'down'.

So, how things went for us, from a tactical viewpoint (I love the story/flavor in the OP, but have no voice for that right now):

Encounter 1 - We came close to losing several civilians, but managed to save each in the nick of time. The melee guys drew a lot of aggro and I illustrated to them how maneuverable Sam is (shifting and interrupting and so forth). Nothing jumps out at me from this encounter as noteworthy, but it was kind of fun.

Encounter 2 - We specifically wasted three or four minutes at the start of the encounter getting explicit descriptions of all of the terrain. Which mattered later as myself and the warlock went zipping through it trying to get to the archers (I could've stayed back, but figured why Not close - I could take my chances with the river). We did well enough here that when an adjacent table called for help, we stepped in and took over all three of their archers plus one soldier. Since we started the new battle where we had left off (everyone most of the way to the wall, two people on it), they were kinda pwned right from the start.
Oh, and my character and the cleric made all of the 'redeemable/not redeemable' checks for our original baddies - so we killed only the right ones and didn't have anyone erupt on us. The reinforcements/help fight was all 'need to be killed' baddies.

We voted heavily in favor of the ritual to change the Companion. Esp since we have undead in the group - they went from suffering penalties to having bonuses.

Encounter 3 - We didn't concentrate much fire on the monolith to start. I was tempted to do so, but the archers were really rolling well. So we nuked (two crits took out the zombies) three of the henchmen before most of us had turned on the biggie. Thankfully, the warlock had put up some effect that allowed him to roll off against the DM for every attack it made - and he canceled at least half of them that way. Figuring correctly that this was it for the day, numerous dailies popped out and down the monolith went. We considered taking a second one, but our DM hinted it would be a P1 challenge, so we settled for the one.

The BI as a whole defeated enough monoliths to be successful, so our characters slept well that night. ;)

Encounter 4 - The Slaad fight was kind of interesting, since the energy motes/rifts on the ground kept erupting and spitting out fire or thunder or what-have-you. By now, the warlock and I were a fairly in-sync duo, picking a target and burning it down each round or two while the meleers ran in and engaged. The start and end time of this encounter were less than clear, so we almost didn't finish - but there was only one beast left and it had just taken its turn, so the DM called for one attack from everyone and it fell hard to the concentrated fire.
One note about this encounter - it was the only one that really didn't impact or connect to the story much. With all of the other fights, there was a connection to the main plot. This one was the only one that felt "speedbump"ish, even if we had fun with it.

I was the only PC to offer tribute to Yeenoghu at our table. As a rough and tumble, live by your means kind of guy, it made sense for me.
The game mechanic - I didn't have to draw from the change deck, but could if I wanted. Eh.

Skill Challenge - yet another interpretation. ;)
We faced 11 motes. We had two options for how to spend our move action each round - a, help the ritual or b, use a skill that allowed you to intercede between the motes and the caster. Then we could use a standard action to attack as many motes as possible (one or two, generally). If any motes were left, they hit the interceding PCs first (one each) and then piled onto the caster.
A couple players were rather annoyed by the whole thing, seeing it as more of a healing surge sink rather than an unwinnable encounter. Of course, we kept the caster alive (by regularly putting five PCs in front of her) and got the ritual done in four or so rounds, so their opinion might be colored by that. :)
I didn't mind the whole thing, except for the part where we had to roll to hit, but they did not. So having a good defense (or defensive encounter powers) was no help whatsoever. It was only after the event that we learned the motes could be slowed or similar and that would have worked too (since they blow up no matter what, it's just a matter of whether they blow up next to someone).
I don't recall booing anyone. *shrug*

btw - for those who have seen the text, does it say anything about needing to be a ritual caster in order to Aid? I heard that PCs like mine (merely trained in Nature and Religion) should not have been able to help.

Encounter 5 - The visual we got was a little different on friday (than what is presented above). Chiefly, I don't recall any chasm, earth motes or head. Some terrain, yes, but nothing that exciting. Instead, there was a well-protected heart and multiple tentacles (eventually) and lots of minions. Luckily, the assassin had pulled an aura from the change deck, so the minions were much less effective against the meleers.
This was Sam's fight. First round, I hit the heart with Splintering Shot, to give it an attack penalty for the whole fight. Some dmg even got through its resistance. Second round, I used Attack on the Run to kill one of the tentacles (from full to gone) and an AP to bloody another (crit'ing with Biting Volley). It wasn't terribly spectacular from there on out, but the victory was never in doubt.
We finished early, offered help, considered reinforcements and ended up doing neither.

Final Encounter - Well, first, the Companion went dark. That was a baaad sign. Guess we shouldn't have voted in favor of the ritual, eh? :p
Then things started popping in, including the dragon. The warlock and I looked at each other, then the layout, then rest of the group. "He's ours. Save the priest." And it worked! We both got a crit in, and proved obnoxiously hard to reach and keep within reach that it went for the paladin after two or three rounds - and then He got a crit on it. Boom, no more dragon.
The rest of the fight, however, had not gone swimmingly for the rest of the group, as they had some cold dice. But things came around and just in time - we killed the final archer with two minutes to spare.


I had a lot of fun with this, very much enjoyed the flavor, and will gladly play one again. Especially if it's completely written a full week or more before the con (as opposed to completed on Thursday, sheesh).

btw - Two mvp's for Sam...
Lightning Arrow, which is a surprisingly cheap ammunition item that dazes on a hit (plus 1d6 dmg). Just awesome against things like the dragon and the archers in encounter 2.
Disruptive Strike, which got me free in-between-rounds damage in every encounter, plus had a decent chance of creating a miss. Our DM was very flexible about when I declared I was using it since he was moving through the bad guys turns as quickly as possible - so it was never a wasted effort (that is, RAW, you use it before they roll, not after, and if they skunk the roll anyway, oh well). I even recharged it once or twice using the energy nodes in two of the encounters.

-VIC
 

Marshall

Villager
A friend of mine showed me a copy of the adventure.

The skill challenge specifically states that it ends after 10 rounds or when the PCs have helped to complete the ritual or when the NPC dies, whichever comes first. But individual DMs may have minsunderstood that, or perhaps the organizers were changing it on the fly.
My second DM specifically told me that they changed the skill challenge between sessions. Apparently, it was way too easy the first time around.
I didnt see it that way. I do know that a few tables got a big kick out of it. My guess would be that with EXACTLY the right mix of PCs if could be fun, thats just near impossible to set up.

No, it's described just fine. You CAN jump over it, although there is a (low) chance it will erupt and hit you dealing some damage plus daze.

Yeah, that was a bummer. It would've been nicer if there were some hard cover to hide behind (so those @$#%^! archers couldn't shoot you willy nilly), or if some of the terrain had been beneficial and identifiable with appropriate skills.
I'd have taken soft-cover or concealment, as it was both parties charged for the lone tree and took the hits.

Um, DC 10 is too hard?
When 5/6 the party is tanked out and/or physically skilled challenged, yes. The way it was ruled for that party(it was irrelevant for the H3 table) was that DC10 was a 1/4 move speed cautious climb DC and it was closer to 15-17 to even get 1/2 speed. For 40' wall, thats a lot of skill checks so even moderately skill PCs have a chance of crashing.

Judging by what you wrote about the skill challenge and the terrain in Encounter 2, it sounds like your DM may not have been as prepared for the adventure as ours was. That can definitely have a negative impact. Sorry, man.
I know he was a little overwhelmed, but we had a player who was scheduled to DM and got freed up to play. Even he seemed at a loss for some of this.

Really no worse than saying, "You defeat the slaads after a tough fight. Everyone lose a healing surge." Actually, probably BETTER than that because some groups had ways to heal the exploding head damage without using surges.

I thought it was a fine balance between saving time (by not playing out the fight) and still costing the PCs some resources.
Could be. I would have enjoyed some form of "explode a peon" from the flux slaads more.

Again, that is directly from the adventure. Dude, your DM screwed you. :)
With what that table dished out, it didnt matter. Even with all the extra minions floating around we crushed the arm tentacles in a round each and popped the Heart soon after. If we'd have had the motes we could have gone after another, tho.

Skill checks? (Arcana, Religion, Insight, maybe Nature or Perception) Trial and error? ("I focus my Arcana skill to try to close the portal. Does anything happen?")
Maybe its just me, but when its described as "sharn floating on the other side of 6 portals throwing spells at you" I dont consider throwing Arcana at it as an option.
The scenario ended before it mattered in the first fight and the DM took pity in the second and let a "passive Insight" reveal that the portal were actually targets.

Wow, the more I read, the more I think your DMs stank. The adventure says the enemies only will attack the NPC if there is "no immediate threat" -- which does leave it somewhat open to DM interpretation -- but I would definitely consider six PC adventurers a very immediate threat.
Oh, no. Nobody actually attacked him in either fight. I just assumed it was because both partied made it their first move to get him out of the line of fire. I was just commenting that I didnt think it was fair to have to use an action to tell the guy to duck.

Jeez, it was no big deal.
I took it as good-natured ribbing. My real point was that I knew something was wrong with the way it was run when I saw only three failures.

Heck, my table had to request help to defeat a minion in the first encounter. We certainly got ribbed for that. But it was all in good fun, and later on we redeemed ourselves by helping another table with their dragon.

But seriously, if you don't like public recognition of your successes and failures, then don't play a BI. That's part of the point of it.
Its just a game, have fun.
 

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