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Pregens vs Lvl 6 Gnoll Marauders (pics inside!)

Novem5er

First Post
Good morning, folks. Last night I ran a one-battle playtest... by myself. I took control of 4 pregen characters and pit them against 2 Gnoll Marauders. Yes, the pregens are only level 1 and the Gnolls are level 6. That was the point!

I wanted to see how this power curve works out for monsters; how flexible is the system? Is the DM really limited to putting his PCs against monsters of their own level or just one or two above?

According to our DDXP cheat sheet, the Gnoll Marauders are worth 250 xp each, making 2 of them a 500 xp encounter. I only used 4 pregens because I wanted to see how they'd do in a "tough" fight.

Also, from the beginning, I decided to avoid using Daily Powers if I could help it. Real players will have to choose wisely when to use their dailies, so I thought in this scenario, the players might have already used them or would try to save them for the next battle. . . After all, these were just 2 gnolls ;)

The pictures here show a snap shot of the START of a round.

The Set Up:
Kathra, Erais, Riardon, and Skamos versus two Gnoll Marauders (level 6 brutes), battling in a tomb.

INITIATIVE:

Erais – 12
Riardon – 10
Gnoll B - 9
Kathra – 8
Gnoll A – 8
Skamos – 6

Round 1: Fight!



Erais: Moves 5 into the room and attacks Gnoll A with Lance of Faith. I give the gnoll +2 Def for being behind the tomb. 8 + 4 vs Ref 15 (17) is a miss.

Riardon: Moves 6 into the room and marks Gnoll B with Hunter’s Quarry. He then uses Careful Shot to attack Gnoll B. I also give this gnoll +2 AC for being behind a tomb. Riardon rolls 18 + 10 for an easy hit, rolling for 9 damage (including the d8 for HQ).

Gnoll B: Moves up 6 squares to engage Riardon in melee. It rolls a 16 + 13 for its Spear attack, easily hitting, however Riardon sees he’s in trouble and uses his Encounter power, Fox’s Cunning to immediately shift back one step and make a basic attack. Riardon rolls a 16 + 6 for an easy hit and deals another 10 points of damage, leaving the gnoll Bloodied at 27 HP.

Kathra: Moves 5 into the room and engages Gnoll B in melee. She attacks with Tide of Iron, rolling 15 + 6 versus AC 17 for a hit, and Marking him. The gnoll takes another 8 points of damage and is shifted back a square, and Kathra follows.

Gnoll A: Moves 4 to engage Erais in melee. It rolls 11 + 13 to hit Erais’ AC of 16. Erais takes 13 points of damage (8 + 4!), leaving him with only 11. Ouch the gnolls sure can hit hard. The gnoll has a follow up attack again Bloodied opponents, but I rule that since Erais wasn’t bloodied when attacked, the follow up can’t activate.

Skamos: Moves 6 into the room and targets Gnoll A with Magic Missile. Skamos rolls an 18 for an easy hit, even with a +2 AC to the gnoll for remaining again behind a tomb. The gnoll takes 8 damage (2d4 + 5).

ROUND 2:



Erais only has 11 hit point so, as a Minor Action, he using Healing Word on himself, healing 6 (for his Healing Surge) + 6 more from the Prayer, for a total of 12 HP. Erais then attacks Gnoll A with Priest’s Shield rolling a 17 + 4 to hit. The gnoll takes 10 damage and Erais’ AC is at +1 until next round.

Riardon: Riardon turns his attention to Gnoll A to help Erais, now marking Gnoll A with his HQ. He steps backwards for 1 to put more space between him and any gnoll and then attacks Gnoll A with his basic ranged attack, rolling a 3 to miss.

Gnoll B: Attack Kathra with its Spear, rolling 12 + 13 against her AC of 19 for a hit. Kathra takes 13 damage (8 + 5) plus another 5 because the Gnoll is Bloodied! The gnolls have an ability called Stabbing Frenzy that gives them +5 damage when they are bloodied, thus Kethra takes a full 18 points of damage!

Kathra: Uses Second Wind as a Minor Action, regaining 8 HP. She then attacks the gnoll with her basic attack, rolling a 19 to hit. The gnoll takes 12 points of damage.


Gnoll A: Shift 5 to get a little closer to Riardon, but still remains in melee with Erais. The gnoll attacks Erais and rolls an 18 for an easy hit, dealing Erais another 12 damage.

Skamos: The gnolls are still too far apart for any area attacks to be of use, so he stands still and casts Magic Missile again. He rolls a 15 + 5 vs the gnoll’s Reflex of 15 for an easy hit. The gnoll takes 8 points of damage, bringing it down to 28.

ROUND 3:



Erais: Uses his standard action as a Second Wind to heal 6 HP and gain +2 DEF for 1 round. He then shifts one square back and to the side. THEN Erais uses his action point to take another standard action, which he uses to cast Cause Fear. Unfortunately, Erais only rolls a 5 (+4) and fails to beat the gnoll’s Will defense. Erais’ goal was to make the gnoll run through both Riardon and Kathra’s threatened squares and end up in the corner with Gnoll B, where Skamos could then pepper them with AoE spells. Alas, no dice.

Riardon: Moves 4 to get away from Gnoll A and then uses his basic bow attack against Gnoll A. 12 + 6 beats the gnolls AC of 17, so the gnoll takes 7 (+ 7 for HQ!) damage and is now Bloodied at 14.

Gnoll B: Attacks Kathra with its spear again, rolling 14 + 13 for a hit. Kathra takes 13 points of damage (3 + 5 + 5).

Kathra: Makes a basic melee attack, rolling 12 + 6 for a hit, and deals 13 damage, leaving Gnoll B with just 2 HP left!

Gnoll A: Smelling blood, the gnoll moves 2 to enter melee range with Kathra! The gnoll rolls a 13 + 13 for an easy hit and does 16 points of damage (6 + 5 + 5). Kathra goes down with -6 HP! The Gnoll technically gets a Follow Up attack on bloodied opponents, but I’m not sure if it applies to PCs that go down. What the hell, it’s a bloodthirsty gnoll! It rolls it’s follow up with 15 + 13 for another hit, dealing 11 more damage (1 + 5 + 5). Kathra is now at -17, which I think is dead.

Skamos: Not one to cry over spilled dwarf, Skamos casts Scorching Burst over Kathra’s corpse, which also affects both gnolls. Attack against Gnoll A is a miss (6 + 5 vs Ref 15), but Gnoll B suffers a crit and takes 11 fire damage, putting it at -8 and out of the fight.

ROUND 4:



Erais: Erais says a prayer for Kathra and then moved forward 2 to get between the remaining gnoll and the rest of the part. Erais then casts Lance of Faith, rolling 9 + 4 for a miss.

Riardon: Uses his Careful Attack on Gnoll A, and rolls an 8 + 10 for a hit. The gnoll takes d10 + d8 damage for a total of 9, bringing its HP down to 5.

Gnoll A: Turns and charges Erais, rolling a 6 + 14 for a hit. Erais takes 12 damage from the Bloodied gnoll, him with only 5 HP left.

Skamos: Needing a good hit, Skamos uses his Wand of Accuracy to gain a +2 to attack, and then casts Magic Missile at the gnoll. Skamos rolls a 16 + 5 + 2 (wand) + 1 (Bloodhunt ability) for a total of 24 and an easy hit. The gnoll takes 11 points of damage to the chest and falls slain.

Victory is at hand, but woe the loss. Kathra will be remembered.

END OF BATTLE PIC



Lessons Learned:

It was a pretty good fight! For being 5 levels above the PCs, the Gnolls still got taken out. However, their high attack bonuses ensured that they'd hit nearly every round and, once they were bloodied, the gnolls could really deal some damage. Because of their Stabbing Frenzy ability, Bloodied gnolls do d8 + 10 damage on a hit! I think Kethra would have survived if I'd used my dailies, or if the PCs would have bunched together more so they could focus their attacks on one gnoll. Skamos wasn't able to use his AoE until the very end, which basically made him a less-effective Striker.

I think this would have been a challenging battle, but a survivable one, in a real RP session. I'm not yet sure how I feel about the slower power curve of 4e, but at least it gives the DM more flexibility in planning encounters. Just think, this could be a "preview" gnoll encounter for a party, establishing a little fear and respect for the beasts. Then, a few levels latter, the PCs could encounter a whole party of gnolls and start the battle with some perspective.

What do you think?
 

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Mostlyjoe

Explorer
Interesting. Placement has always been a critical part of minis play, but now a lot of powers seemed to need/no demand that the PCs think about where they are and what they're doing. I for one like this.
 

osmanb

First Post
Thanks for the write up (and the pics!). One quick question: it sounded like you used the Ranger's basic attack a few times. Was that just because you forgot to use Careful Shot? I can understand using the Fighter's basic attack (when there aren't multiple foes nearby, and Tide of Iron isn't going to be helpful), but it seems like the Ranger ought to use Careful Shot on every "normal" attack.
 

Flazzy

First Post
Well, it seems you used the stats off the minis card, which has different stats than those revealed in the sample PHB pages at DDXP. Amongst other things, Gnoll Marauders now have 84 HP, AC 18, Spear +10 vs AC; 1d8+6 (+8 while bloodied), followup +7 vs AC; 1d6+2 (+4 while bloodied), and pack attack +5 rather than +2 (not relevant for this fight).

So the new gnolls do less damage but take longer to die. Might have led to a different conclusion after all.
 

Novem5er

First Post
osmanb said:
Thanks for the write up (and the pics!). One quick question: it sounded like you used the Ranger's basic attack a few times. Was that just because you forgot to use Careful Shot? I can understand using the Fighter's basic attack (when there aren't multiple foes nearby, and Tide of Iron isn't going to be helpful), but it seems like the Ranger ought to use Careful Shot on every "normal" attack.

The ranger used his basic bow attack several times because it does more damage than Careful Shot. In the updated character sheets provided by WotC (after DDXP), Careful Shot is listed as being +10 to hit, but only d10 damage, as opposed to the normal attack which is +6 to hit and d10 + 5. Basically, Careful Shot sacrifices damage for a boost in attack. With these gnolls, I wanted to dish out some damage, so I took the risk!

Flazzy, I used the stats from the miniature cards... I didn't realize the MM pages were different! You're right, the gnolls would have lasted longer in the battle, but they wouldn't have hit as often or done quite as much damage. Hmm.... dang inconsistencies in print!

Thanks for the replies!
 

D'karr

Adventurer
Novem5er said:
Skamos wasn't able to use his AoE until the very end, which basically made him a less-effective Striker.

Skamos is a wizard, which makes him a controller rather than a striker.

Battlefield control is very important so it is vital for everyone to recognize what other characters can do, and accommodate to play to the strengths.

I think this would have been a challenging battle, but a survivable one, in a real RP session. I'm not yet sure how I feel about the slower power curve of 4e, but at least it gives the DM more flexibility in planning encounters. Just think, this could be a "preview" gnoll encounter for a party, establishing a little fear and respect for the beasts. Then, a few levels latter, the PCs could encounter a whole party of gnolls and start the battle with some perspective.

What do you think?

Yes, this battle is survivable. One thing I noticed when I ran Escape from Sembia is that a challenging encounter is still survivable. However, I had one group that kept rolling like crap in the Skeletons encounter and they had a much tougher time. One was killed and the rest barely survived. It was vital to their survival that they worked as a team. Whenever I had a chance to break their teamwork, things went bad for them quickly.
 

Flazzy

First Post
I'm also fairly certain that if your ranger takes a successful spear hit, even Fox’s Cunning as an immediate reaction won't prevent him from taking damage (there is no time phase between being hit and taking damage to be interrupted).
 

Flazzy said:
Well, it seems you used the stats off the minis card, which has different stats than those revealed in the sample PHB pages at DDXP. Amongst other things, Gnoll Marauders now have 84 HP, AC 18, Spear +10 vs AC; 1d8+6 (+8 while bloodied), followup +7 vs AC; 1d6+2 (+4 while bloodied), and pack attack +5 rather than +2 (not relevant for this fight).

So the new gnolls do less damage but take longer to die. Might have led to a different conclusion after all.

those stats sound much better. My biggest grief of 3rd edition is the discrepancy between attack and defense.

+14 to attack and 15 armor would be the same as in 3rd edition (quite unreasonable for lvl 6 monsters (which get +3 AC just for beeing lvl 6. A chain mail would take them to 18, a hide armor at least to 15 or 16...)

I am still a bit concerned about the high HPs both for monsters and starting characters. A recent playtest showed: 30 HP are much if you just use basic attacks.
 

Rechan

Adventurer
Skamos, being a tiefling, gets an extra 1 point of damage against bloodied opponents, yes? I think he should've gotten more damage on the first gnoll in the first round, as it was bloodied in that round.
 
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Novem5er

First Post
D'karr said:
Skamos is a wizard, which makes him a controller rather than a striker.

Battlefield control is very important so it is vital for everyone to recognize what other characters can do, and accommodate to play to the strengths.

D'karr, I knew somebody would call me on that. I was trying to imply that the Wizard should be a Controller, but without his AoE spells, he ended up being a less-effective Striker. The way the battle worked out, the Elf Warlock would have been more effective :)

I definitely think that this would be a good encounter for a group of players who have already fought a couple battles together and have realized how teamwork is necessary. If this battle was fought perfectly, the ranger wouldn't have jumped out front, but would have rather delayed an action until after the fighter had advanced. If the cleric and fighter would have stuck together, the gnolls would have been concentrated and taken more damage.

@ Flazzy, I think you're right that once the gnoll actually rolled to hit, it would have been too late for the ranger to dodge with Fox's Cunning. However, this was my first time running it, so I cut myself some slack :) The point remains, though, b/c the ranger shouldn't be able to choose AFTER the attack has already hit or miss.
 

Rechan

Adventurer
BTW, thanks for doing this. I forgot totally how it's XP total = Encounter, not level. Given the way there are some sweet monsters around Level 6-8, I can throw them at younger parties.

(It also means that at an Elite can stand in as a solo for a younger party, or a regular monster for a real baby party).
 


Rechan

Adventurer
Also I'd say that if faced with foes this tough, SOMEONE might have used their daily. Especially the ranger, after it was clear these guys were nasty, and Kathra and Erias were getting the stuffing knocked out of them.
 

drjones

Explorer
UngeheuerLich said:
I am still a bit concerned about the high HPs both for monsters and starting characters. A recent playtest showed: 30 HP are much if you just use basic attacks.

None of my playtests have shown this. The pally, the fighter, the wizard, the warlock, the ranger all pretty much drop like a sack of hammers if you have several even low level mobs concentrating fire on them. I even found myself going easy on the players in some cases where the monsters could have really stuck it to them tactically.

Going the other way the only targets the players had much trouble with were solider types where a lot of the PCs could only attack AC so they ended up grinding against each other. i think this is good though, soldiers should be good at stopping PC movement and not going down in 1 round and from what I have seen they do that well.

And why would you only use basic attacks unless you are forced to?
 

Chibbot

First Post
Novem5er said:
I think this would have been a challenging battle, but a survivable one, in a real RP session. I'm not yet sure how I feel about the slower power curve of 4e, but at least it gives the DM more flexibility in planning encounters.

From what I've seen in the few 4e games that I've run so far, the PCs are really able to stand up to a significantly challenging encounter.

I ran a game which pitted 7 PCs (the 6 DDXPregens and a rogue elf) first against 3 gnoll clawfighters, then a short rest later against 2 marauders, 2 huntmasters, and a claw fighter.

After an extended rest, then went out and fought 2 gnoll marauders, 1 gnoll clawfighter, 1 gnoll huntmaster, 3 hobgoblin soldiers, 1 hobgoblin warcaster, and 1 gnoll demonic scourge. They didn't survive the encounter, but they managed to bring all but 2 or 3 of the baddies down by the time the tpk hit.
 

Rechan

Adventurer
I'd also like to see some interesting mixups or mashups. Like, a level 6 monster + 2 leven 2s.

Or a level 4, a level 3, a level 1 and 3 level 1 minions (I propose a Cavern Choker and a Hobgoblin Warcaster, + Human Guard and 3 kobold minions).

And since 500 xp = hard fight for 4 1st level characters, then wouldn't a Chuul (10 level soldier, Xp 500) qualify?

I want to see THAT fight. Even against 5 pcs.
 

drjones said:
None of my playtests have shown this. The pally, the fighter, the wizard, the warlock, the ranger all pretty much drop like a sack of hammers if you have several even low level mobs concentrating fire on them. I even found myself going easy on the players in some cases where the monsters could have really stuck it to them tactically.

Going the other way the only targets the players had much trouble with were solider types where a lot of the PCs could only attack AC so they ended up grinding against each other. i think this is good though, soldiers should be good at stopping PC movement and not going down in 1 round and from what I have seen they do that well.

And why would you only use basic attacks unless you are forced to?

You are probably right: now the default assumption is the coin flip chance of hitting, making hp more like stamina points. So you are hit on a regular basis.

Still: i am concerned... i am mostly sure my concerns are unfounded... still i need some time to get used to it. Also I am concerned about the lack of bard, because I recently play a lot with girls, who favour them... (and also they are my favourite class... yes, i have been mocked enough for that, thanks^^)

So I believe in the new edition... but I think i still need some time to get used to it. I played 3.5 a lot. I always preferred LVL 2-7 and fights versus multiple enemies, I began to hate 3.x npc building... but without houserules (only variants from 3.0 DMG), 3.5 worked fine in these low levels. I just had to watch a bit over my players and remember them from time to time, that balanced chars are more fun than minmaxed (either with words or deeds - minmaxed monsters anyone).

My main concern is: loss of one important roleplaying part: no need for "healers" because of too abstract hp (they go up and down a lot - probably no possibility for lasting wounds). High HP for starting chars are an indicator.
When I first read bloodied, i thought about a condition, when you start receiving real wounds... With 24 HP at the beginning but with some penalties once you reached half of that, I would have been more pleased... Still, i think my concerns are mostly unfounded but they are there...
 

Rechan

Adventurer
As I look for possible scenarios, what irks me is when I have an extra 75 or 25 that I can't just plug in with something. A minion just doesn't seem worth it to toss into the action, and if I upgrade to a higher level, I don't get the monster I WANT.

But this, I suppose, is where changing/leveling monsters comes in.
 

Rechan

Adventurer
drjones said:
None of my playtests have shown this. The pally, the fighter, the wizard, the warlock, the ranger all pretty much drop like a sack of hammers if you have several even low level mobs concentrating fire on them. I even found myself going easy on the players in some cases where the monsters could have really stuck it to them tactically.
This is the nature of a fight, in any tactical game. If you have 4 vs. 4, the best tactic is to have one side concentrate all their fire on one member of the other team. Usually that guy will go down fast, and then it's 4 x 3. So to defend against this, you have to draw fire, protect targets, etc.

Another way you can drive this point home is if the monster team is organized or not. If it's a well organized "team", they concentrate their fire, go after the squishy ones, etc. But if they're disorganized, not all in cahoots, or are just chaotic (like say, demons), then they're just a bunch of individuals together, and will just go toe-to-toe against whoever.

Going the other way the only targets the players had much trouble with were solider types where a lot of the PCs could only attack AC so they ended up grinding against each other. i think this is good though, soldiers should be good at stopping PC movement and not going down in 1 round and from what I have seen they do that well.
I'm looking through the "Monsters and More" packet, and I'm wondering, do all soldiers mark? Because I don't see anything that makes a soldier a good soldier, except their high DEFs. Where's the OAs/"Stickiness"/Marking?
 

Mirtek

Adventurer
Flazzy said:
I'm also fairly certain that if your ranger takes a successful spear hit, even Fox’s Cunning as an immediate reaction won't prevent him from taking damage (there is no time phase between being hit and taking damage to be interrupted).
I see it the same way, because the power doesn't talk about the attack being negated.

I also think that the gnoll A in round 1 should have been able to make the follow up attack against Erais.

PS: Nice description and nice pics.
 

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