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D&D 4E Running player commentary on PCat's 4E Campaign - Heroic tier (finished)


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Aravis

First Post
Apparently my "I have some surprises of my own" was to miss the same PC with 13 out of 14 attacks. Yes, that's right, folks; I needed a 10 to hit, and missed the same PC 13 out of 14 times. Nothing makes a solo monster angrier than that.

Even worse, 12 of those misses came in two consecutive turns. Each of those two turns it used a standard action that allowed it to take 3 attacks and used an action point to take the same action getting another 3 attacks per turn.

It was really pissed off at that character.

- Aravis

PS: I really wish we had video of PCat's face during this combat.
 

Sagiro

Rodent of Uncertain Parentage
Even worse, 12 of those misses came in two consecutive turns. Each of those two turns it used a standard action that allowed it to take 3 attacks and used an action point to take the same action getting another 3 attacks per turn.
The beholder had a 55% chance of hitting. The chance of missing 12 consecutive rolls, each of which has only a 45% chance of failure, is .00689%

In other words, the odds are 14,705 to 1 against.
 


The_Warlock

First Post
*sob*

I mean... hey, beloved players? Anyone want a free purple d20? Barely used!

Now now, you just need to show it who's boss. It's like the swearing parrot joke. Just put that die in the freezer for a little while, and it'll understand what happens to those polyhedrals who slide down the bell curve.
 

Piratecat

Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
With my players' permission, I'm going to share some of their edited email discussions before the game (with real names changed to ENW screen names). I think the strategizing is interesting. I'm tossing it in a sblock, though, 'cause it's long and not everyone will care about it.
[sblock]
Sagiro:
Can we avoid a TPK? Maybe. Maybe not. But let's talk about the situation we're in.

Alomir and I were discussing this last week, and both of us had independently come to the conclusion that we're in big trouble -- partly due to our atrocious die rolls, but also because we've been fighting on the monster's best terms. Basically (IIRC), the beholder gets free, devastating attacks on anyone close to it, every round, on our turns. AND, on it's turn it has some kind of burst tentacle attack. Basically it thrives on being close to all of us at once, which is bad because that's also how *we* thrive -- surrounding a foe and beating on it with melee. In this battle, having three melee strikers and a melee defender is working to our extreme disadvantage, and we're badly losing the war of attrition.
We're out of dailies. Bramble has little-to-no healing left to give. Caldwell has no healing left he can even receive. I'm not sure if Toiva has any paladin healing left, or if Logan has used his 1/day warlord heal, but regardless, we're already at our dregs and badly beat up. (Cobalt may actually be in the best shape -- he's taken almost no damage, still has his second wind, a healing potion, and a magic item that will let him spend a surge as a minor.)

We've got three basic options:
1. Stick around and try to win
2. Flee for our lives without trying to save the survivor
3. Flee for our lives but rescue the survivor

If we opt for the first of these -- a dubious proposition, but one which Cobalt will enthusiastically espouse -- I think our only hope is to scatter into as wide a ring around the creature as possible. If it's only damaging one of us per round, we have a chance, even though the rogue strikers will be doing crap damage with thrown daggers. (Bramble can mitigate this by using her at-will that grants one ally combat advantage each round.) Toiva is, logically, the person to engage the monster, though I'd feel better if she had ways to use her surges on herself. Perhaps she and Cobalt can try trading off who's close.

Anyway, scattering will cost us one round more of OA pain, but nothing worse than we'll suffer by staying clumped in its aura of tentacles.

If we opt for the rescue, it still makes sense for Toiva and/or Cobalt to distract and engage the monster while the others search for and free the victim. I'm not sure how we manage to out-pace the monster if it chases us while we're loaded down with a body -- Kevin, how far will we need to travel back the way we came, before we reach a place where the beholder won't fit?

I'm open to other suggestions, tactical observations, and resources your character has that I'm not considering.​

Piratecat:
To be clear: Gullet the beholder gets free attacks on everyone within 10' at the start of its turn, and it gets up to three bite attacks on its turn as well. It possibly has other special powers that it hasn't yet needed to use. The attacks on your turn came from opportunity attacks when you moved close to it without shifting. It's averaging somewhere around 15+ points of damage per attack; not too much actual damage, but the extra necrotic damage that comes with being bit by an undead blood-sucking beholder is deadly. It isn't bloodied, and really hasn't been hurt badly due to abysmal rolls.

The room has about a 20' ceiling, with dozens of drained and crackly bodies (about 60 lbs. each) dangling from heavy chains attached to the ceiling. Moving into one of these spaces is difficult terrain. I'm letting you shift through them, though, due to the swinging nature of the bodies. Gullet is currently hovering 2 squares away from a 15' diameter well in the floor of the cave. It's unclear how deep the well goes down.. it certainly isn't filled up to the brim with the water that constantly drains into it. If you were to turn and flee, you'd need to run about 50' to get to a spot where the beholder would have to squeeze through, and another few hundred feet before there's a side pipe that it can't fit through. (This is how Logan escaped from it previously.) It's unclear if there are other entrances or exits to the old smuggling cave.

There's definitely someone still alive in there; Nuntle and Eli are on their way to go and look for him, and have disengaged from the combat. Toiva, Logan and Cobalt are dangerously close; Bramble and Stron are at a distance. It can destroy Bramble's spirit companion with one hit of an eye tentacle.​

Blackjack:
> If we opt for the rescue, it still makes sense for Toiva and/or Cobalt to distract and engage the monster while the others search for and free the victim.

FWIW, I'd already started doing this when we called for the night.​

Aravis:
Toiva will not opt for number 2. I do not think we can succeed at number 1. So, I think number 3 is the only option.

My suggestion is the following:

Logan and Cobalt disengage and use their daily utility that gives someone a surge, if not already used, to allow Toiva to get a couple of surges in. Toiva will use her second wind.

Toiva will attempt to lead Gullet up on side of the cavern towards the back by using her challenge. Cobalt and Logan will provide a flank behind which Nuntle and Eli can get the body out. Bramble and Stron can provide distance artillery.

Once Nuntle and Eli have the body out of the room, we withdraw to the best of our ability to do so.

It is possible that if Cobalt helps Toiva this will work better, but the key here is that we have to get Gullet further towards the back of the cavern.​

KidCthulhu:
Stron has small but effective boom at-wills that work just fine from a
distance. He's out of dailies and encounter spells.​

Alomir:
This is from memory, but I think it's pretty accurate; here are Logan's currently available options:

* inspiring word - let someone use a healing surge, with 2d6 additional hp healed
* downward spiral - daily, knocks opponent prone
* action point
* one tethercord
* teleport-when-hit, a la Cape of the Mountebank
* blade vault - bonus damage

Logan is at 25 HP, and I believe he's right next to the bad guy; however, using my inspiring word on Toiva seems like the right call.

Question: should Logan make one last attempt to do serious damage before we call it quits? If I roll decently (i.e., above the 3s we've been seeing), I can do 40-50 points of damage and knock the thing prone - if that doesn't bloody him, then we know for sure that we need to get out of there.

Who has the remaining alchemist's frost, and the other tethercord? Slowing the beholder down would be a good thing.​

Aravis:
Ah crap. I totally forgot about using the tethercords. Yes, that is critical to our escaping.​

Sagiro:
Once we've decided to flee (with prisoner) instead of fight, the problem space becomes much different -- and generally simpler.

At this point, NO actions should be spent simply doing damage to the beholder. Every action should be an attempt to achieve one or more of the following goals:

- Finding and cutting down the still-alive prisoner
- Distracting the Beholder from interfering with that rescue
- Positioning ourselves so that the Beholder can only attack one of us at a time
- Restricting the movement of the Beholder
- Force-moving the Beholder to our advantage, in terms of rescuing and fleeing.
- Flee! Aieeeeeee!

To that end, we have (collectively):
- 5 Tethercords which limit a target's movement
- Cobalt has an Alchemical Frost, which slows(?) things
- Logan and Cobalt each have dailies which automatically knock the target prone for a round, which will slow its movement
- (You fill in anything you have left in this spot)
- The ability to improvise. I think this is one of those situations where we should be making vigorous use of the "Do Something Cool" power -- like swinging on the chains and just kicking the damn thing away from other party members, for instance, or throwing lit sunrods at its central eye (er... does it have a central eye?) to blind it. We don't care about damage, just states that hinder its movement or its ability to damage us while we effect our escape.

If Toiva runs out of hit points and has to drop back, I think Cobalt becomes the ad-hoc defender -- he's at full health, has plenty of Surges, and can trigger three of those surges himself (Magic item, Second Wind, Healing Potion). Logan should use his Warlord healing ability on the nearly-dead Toiva at the earliest opportunity.

Anyone have further/better suggestions as to tactics?

Blackjack:
> - Restricting the movement of the Beholder

Tethercord a hanging body to the floor; this will create a fixed column. If memory serves, the bodies are fairly tightly-packed, and the beholder is large -- larger than the gaps between the bodies. By strategically creating these fixed columns, we can either trap the beholder in a corner, or at least prevent it from following us out the door.​

Sagiro:
I don't have the text in front of me, but I think Tethercords target creatures, not objects. A 'corded creature gets a normal save to escape, and remember that the beholder, assuming it's a "solo," gets a +5 bonus to saves.

If Kevin allows us to target objects with them, that would at least be more reliable, since our chances of *hitting* the beholder aren't great. I'd guess that even if the beholder can smash past a body corded to the floor, it would be still slowed down while doing so.

(We may also be conflating our Tethercords with our Sovereign Glue, which almost certainly doesn't work on creatures, but which might be better at reliably attaching objects to floors. The main problem with the Glue is that it effectively takes a whole round to use -- you have to hold the two glued objects together until the *end* of your next turn.)​

Blackjack:
> I don't have the text in front of me, but I think Tethercords target creatures, not objects.

I don't see why you couldn't use one on an object, though. What, it's an item that only sticks to living things?​

Piratecat:
I don't mind you using the tethercord on objects! You may have some considerations, though.

a. if they were adhered to the ground, "targeted creature cannot move more than 3 squares from its 'stuck' square (save ends)" means that the beholder could presumably just push the corpses aside, since they'd have 15' of play.
b. the beholder is large (10' diameter) and fairly massive; that'd makes it easier to trap him, but he's probably fairly strong (and can fly)
c. the corpses themselves are dessicated, mostly, and not as durable as a regular body.

Then again, a religion or dungeoneering check will tell you that most of the damage the beholder is doing is necrotic damage, something not particularly good for ripping apart objects instead of just killing them. Maybe it's a toss-up.​

Alomir:
"Cannot move more than 3 squares"? Well, those things must be pretty darn stretchy - meaning that I don't think 'cording a body to the floor is going to do much to slow the beholder down.​

KidCthulhu:
I miss the plan of "mass haste, fireball, fireball, flamestrike, PE burst".​

Aravis:
No, it won't. I think that if we use the tethercords and alchemists frost, they will have to be used directly on the beholder. If even 1 or 2 out of the 6 of them causes a 1 round slow down at the correct time, that could provide the escape time we need.

I am starting to feel better about Toiva's chance of surviving...well, you know, I have raised her chances from 10% to 15%...​
[/sblock]

I'll also add stats for Nuntle the cloakmaker. Giving the PCs a minion as a sidekick was kind of cool in my opinion; they needed to think about keeping him alive, just as they would a real non-combatant, but he was still able to substantially contribute.

Nuntle, Human Grey Guard recruit Level 6 Minion
Medium natural humanoid XP 63
Initiative +10 Senses Perception +5
HP 1; a missed attack never damages a minion.
AC 22; Fortitude 19; Reflex 19; Will 18
Speed 6

m Long sword (standard; at-will) • Weapon
+10 vs AC; 4 damage

r Thrown dagger (standard; at-will) • Weapon
+10 vs AC; 4 damage

Cower Behind Allies
Nuntle gains a +2 power bonus to all defenses while at least two other allies are within 5 squares of him.

Make a Damn Fine Cloak
Nuntle is a great tailor, and really makes good cloaks. He wishes that was going to help save him.

Alignment Good Languages Common
Str 13 (+4) Dex 20 (+8) Wis 14 (+5)
Con 15 (+5) Int 11 (+3) Cha 10 (+3)
Equipment Longsword, 2 daggers, really nice cloak
 
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Rechan

Adventurer
Or do like that one guy did: crush it up, put it in your Mt. Dew, and drink it in front of your other dice to show them what happens.

As a side note, when I'm rolling multiple attacks like that, I roll multiple D20s. Not only do you say "Purple one at Ted, Blue one to Andy..." but you can roll all the attacks at once.
 

Sagiro

Rodent of Uncertain Parentage
Yesterday's run saw our first PC death.

Although this is more Story Hour fodder for down the road, I'll give a brief summary of how things went, with some more observations. Other players and Piratecat should chime in, as I'm sure I'll forget some things, and get the order wrong in places.

We picked up with almost the whole party ahead of the beholder in initiative order (except for Cobalt, who had been last to go in the previous session). Doc Caldwell (out of surges) and Nuntle (minion NPC) went further back into the cavern to find the survivor among the hanging bodies. They didn't find a survivor – they found TWO. Which now meant we were going to have to haul two bodies out instead of one. At least they were both halflings, and so easily carried.

Toiva, engaged in melee with the monster, had 4 HP at this point. Bramble moved closer in order to use First Aid to trigger Toiva's Second Wind (and positioned her Spirit Companion “Thicket” close by to increase the healing done.) Logan used his Inspiring Word to further heal Toiva. And Toiva – she just started the taunting the beholder.

So, while some of the party had moved some distance away (and out of its reach 2), it turns out we were still in for a world of hurt. After getting free attacks on Toiva and Cobalt to start the round, it let loose with a large area burst attack that did massive damage to everyone except Caldwell and Nuntle, and also gave us all “dazed, save ends.” Crap! So much for an easy getaway.

Cobalt had gone from healthy to single-digits by the time it got back around to him; he healed himself twice (using an Action Point) but couldn't move away. Meanwhile Doc and Nuntle were getting the bodies down from the hooks. Toiva just kept mocking it, daring it to attack her. (She even used Diplomacy to keep it focused on her.) She was back up to reasonable health by then, but still: gutsy.

That's about when we started to turn the tide against the thing. For one thing, we started lobbing Alchemists Frost and Tethercords, restricting its movement and making it only able to attack Toiva and Cobalt. For the second, as Piratecat mentioned above, the creature just started missing. A lot. It also helped that Toiva's mockery made it HATE her, and it concentrated its attacks on her. It could have just as easily targeted Cobalt, and probably would have killed him, as some of the misses against Toiva's superior AC would have hit him. But against Toiva, it missed. 12 straight times, as it happens, over two rounds. It must have been too angry to think straight – Toiva just did not let up with the verbal abuse for the entire combat.

And while Toiva was knocking aside its tentacles with her shield, the rest of us were escaping. Doc and Nuntle executed double-run actions, with Doc burning an Action Point to move 24 squares in a single round. We had to weave among the bodies and stay to the edges of the cavern in order to not incur the deadly OA's of the beholder, but soon enough everyone was into the exit tunnel besides Toiva.

The exit tunnel, by the way, was just big enough for the beholder to fit in – 10' wide and about 12 feet high, I think. So Cobalt borrowed sovereign glue from Logan, gooped up the ends of his stout and trusty iron-wrapped 10-foot pole, and wedged it across the tunnel about half way up. Our escape was covered.

Toiva, rather than flee with us (a dicey proposition since she was still engaged with the beholder) instead dove into the watery pit out of which the beholder had risen. The beholder couldn't follow, since someone in the exit tunnel lobbed out a flask of tethercord from which the monster could not manage to escape. (It missed 3 straight saves, and it gets +5 to its rolls!) Toiva shape-changed into an Eel, but didn't know if the rest of us had escaped or not, so surfaced one last time, both to listen for friends in peril, and to take a last big breath of air.

Alas, that selfless deed was her undoing. The beholder recharged its ability to pull enemies, and finally started rolling well. It lifted her up out of the pit before she could make a swimming getaway and made a quick, blood-sucking end to her while the rest of us fled. We could hear her final scream to her Goddess Aika before it cut off.

General notes:

- The alchemical items made a huge difference. Without the tethercords, alchemist's frost and sovereign glue, more of us would have likely died.

- Strontium's die-rolling was just as atrocious as Piratecat's. She was trying to harry it at a distance with spells, and I believe rolled 2, 2, 1 and 4 with her attacks.

- But still – I'd never seen a run of bad luck like that beholder was having. With even normal luck it would have easily killed Cobalt as well.

- Speaking of bad luck, the four of us who were hit with the dazing attack missed 5 of our first 6 collective saves to un-daze.

- Toiva at one point tried an excellent swing-on-a-chain maneuver to push the beholder away from some of the others, but missed with the attack.

- Nuntle, with his 1 HP, survived. Piratecat told us afterward that he had graduated up from Minion status.

- It's amazing in practice how far you can get with a double-run (or a triple-run with an AP). I know it comes with all sorts of penalties, but if you don't plan on rejoining the combat, it's pretty easy to get the heck out of dodge.

- We're all pretty upset about Toiva's death, even though it could (should?) have been much worse.

- Toiva's player (Aravis) is probably going to bring in a Sorcerer character to replace her, meaning we'll now have 1 Leader (shaman), 1 Controller (wizard) and FOUR Strikers (rogue, rogue, ranger, sorcerer). We'll be dishing out the damage like never before, and now we'll have a ranged striker to go with our three melee types. Of course, we'll have less healing and temp HP, and no defender, but that will just make things more exciting!

- We also learned Logan's tragic back story, which ties into some local Grey Guard politics. But I'll let Alomir or Piratecat talk about that.

- Oh, I almost forgot. Knowing that were were going to rescue-and-flee as fast as possible, Piratecat took great delight in telling us details about the huge pile of loot at the back of the cavern, which we had no time to investigate, let alone plunder. I may have said some unkind things about our esteemed DM, but I assure you that I MEANT EVERY WORD! :p

- On a related note, we plan to return tomorrow and try taking out the creature again, this time with our daily powers, a full complement of Surges, and a better knowledge of its tactics. We're Grey Guard – we can't just leave a big pile of treas... I mean, a dangerous monster free beneath the city.
 

Rechan

Adventurer
PCat, did you give the Beholder threatening reach? Otherwise it shouldn't be getting OAs unless folks are adjacent.

Also, the attack is usually at the beginning of an adjacent enemy's turn, not the beginning of the Beholder's turn. I guess you did that for convenience?

Since you guys are going back to fight the same monster again, PCat are you going to spice it up mechanically, or change something, or will it be another slog?
 

Iceman

First Post
- Toiva's player (Aravis) is probably going to bring in a Sorcerer character to replace her, meaning we'll now have 1 Leader (shaman), 1 Controller (wizard) and FOUR Strikers (rogue, rogue, ranger, sorcerer). We'll be dishing out the damage like never before, and now we'll have a ranged striker to go with our three melee types. Of course, we'll have less healing and temp HP, and no defender, but that will just make things more exciting!
While a character death is never fun, regardless, I am somewhat surprised that a Raise appears out of the question. Component of the campaign or how she died?

Although, I do have to give thumbs up to the choice of sorcerer for a replacement. I've been playing one off-and-on for a year now and am almost to 7th level now. The character (and the class) is a ton of fun.

-VIC
 

blargney the second

blargney the minute's son
Alas, that selfless deed was her undoing. The beholder recharged its ability to pull enemies, and finally started rolling well. It lifted her up out of the pit before she could make a swimming getaway and made a quick, blood-sucking end to her while the rest of us fled. We could hear her final scream to her Goddess Aika before it cut off.
So, umm... did you know that forced movement in 4e generally doesn't move creatures vertically?
-blarg
 



Sagiro

Rodent of Uncertain Parentage
So, umm... did you know that forced movement in 4e generally doesn't move creatures vertically?
-blarg
This was an ability it had in lieu of a stun power, so we weren't complaining! ;)

Also, Piratecat described the effect as magic that literally moved your blood, so in some sense Toiva was being lifted up by her veins. Yuck.
 

Piratecat

Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
PCat, did you give the Beholder threatening reach? Otherwise it shouldn't be getting OAs unless folks are adjacent.

Also, the attack is usually at the beginning of an adjacent enemy's turn, not the beginning of the Beholder's turn. I guess you did that for convenience?

Since you guys are going back to fight the same monster again, PCat are you going to spice it up mechanically, or change something, or will it be another slog?

1. Yeeeessss. Yesss, I did. (whistles casually)

Actually, there are two parts to this answer. Part 1: threatening reach? What the hell is.. oh. Whoops. Part 2: While I didn't realize that reach is no longer commensurate with size, I pictured it as having threatening reach from the beginning. If I had known, this is what I would have added when I was customizing the monster; I would have added it in exchange for that problematic immediate interrupt that I removed. So I'm fine with my ruling. My DM ignorance aside, threatening reach was part of the monster build no matter how you look at it.

2. (rereads the aura description) No, I screwed up and read it wrong. My fault. I don't think it had any effect game-wise other than concentrating when damage occurs, and that wouldn't have helped Toiva because I missed so many times. I'll be playing the aura correctly next time we play.

3. It wasn't a slog this time! That was one exciting fight. I'm not going to say what will be different, if anything, when the group returns to kick its ass. I will say that I'm not going to change the beholder mechanically (other than playing the aura correctly.)

While a character death is never fun, regardless, I am somewhat surprised that a Raise appears out of the question. Component of the campaign or how she died?
Good question, Vic. A raise dead is definitely an option (with some story complications and consequences) if Aravis feels strongly about it, but I'm not emphasizing that as the best solution.
- Story-wise, life is cheap in the Grey Guard and most people die quickly. It's unusual (but not unheard of) to get raised.
- The Bressail Grey Guard's ritualist is currently hanging upside down from a hook in the beholder's lair. They'd need to find someone else.
- It was a GREAT death. Talk about going out on a high point.
- There are a lot of cool character options out there for the player to try, and I want him to have that option if he wishes it.

So, umm... did you know that forced movement in 4e generally doesn't move creatures vertically?
-blarg
I do. This was a deliberate exception; the beholder was using its bloodcall power to yank its prey around by the blood in its body. It wouldn't have been able to do this to Stron or Bramble, as they have no blood. I was careful to play this consistently the whole fight.
 

Aravis

First Post
While a character death is never fun, regardless, I am somewhat surprised that a Raise appears out of the question. Component of the campaign or how she died?

Although, I do have to give thumbs up to the choice of sorcerer for a replacement. I've been playing one off-and-on for a year now and am almost to 7th level now. The character (and the class) is a ton of fun.

-VIC
At this point, if they recover Toiva's body and I am given the option of being brought back, I am heavily leaning towards no. Don't get me wrong, I love Toiva and will be a little sad that PCat will lose the opportunity to make use of her back story. But, I feel like being brought back will cheapen the sacrifice she made.

As for the next character, I am actually torn over this right now and am heavily studying the options in the Character Builder. Sorcerer is a front runner, but Battle Mind and Barbarian both look cool too.

- Aravis
 

Rechan

Adventurer
That's a strange word to describe a particularly exciting and memorable combat!
Forget the word "Another". :) You guys seem to have avoided any grindiness.

Even so, you know its tricks, the full layout of the lair, and the PCs have all their big guns. So I'm left to wonder what might offer in some level of surprise/complexity.
 
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