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Trash mob fights

Rolenet

Villager
In this thread, [MENTION=6704184]doctorbadwolf[/MENTION] said:

Doctorbadwolf said:
Also, I'll have very short, 1-2 round max, "trash mob" fights that string together with exploration skill challenge parts into an encounter.
Can you expand? Do you use some kind of minion? Does the fight integrate with SC results?
 

doctorbadwolf

Explorer
In this thread, [MENTION=6704184]doctorbadwolf[/MENTION] said:



Can you expand? Do you use some kind of minion? Does the fight integrate with SC results?
I would love to!

So, I do use some minions, but I also use "standards", and sometimes I'll have a brute surrounded by a couple three minions or just level-X standards, etc. so, let's imagine a hallway, with a few rooms on either side. Before entering the hallway, you encounter two guards, take them out easily, 1 round. Then, their keys don't unlock the door! It's got some kind of trick to it, so thievery, and perception, and a couple Int checks (because 4e doesn't have any kind of "Riddle" skill, or an Investigate skill. In 5e, there'd be a thievery, perception, and Investigate check), and finally an athletics check bc one of the Int checks failed, and the door is finegled open.
Next, you get ready for a fight. The rogue uses a mirror to see around the door without exposing herself, and there are 3 archers approaching the door, still a good 40 feet or so away, so the ranged weapons come out, and the Archer get taken down in another round, and the monk and Assassin sweep in to trap the bodies quietly and stash them.
The group makes a stealth check (same as 5e, and I count it as one check in the skill challenge), and start moving down the hall, rogue on point searching for traps and hidden stuff.

Now, already, you could argue that there has been two combat encounters, but that just doesn't make sense to me, so, instead, the encounter hasn't ended. After that they clear the first room with its brute enforcer and recruits, and spend time searching it, and tying up prisoners (this group tends to incapitate and immobilize if hey can, rather than kill). When they enter the room, a recruit thinks fast and tries to sound the alarm, but the rogue beats their initiative and I let her throw a dagger into the alarm mechanism, stopping it long enough for her to get to it and try to turn it off before it sounds (thievery), while the Swordmage deals with an intricate magical trap that is trying to go off and electrocute the rogue (Arcana), and the scholarly Warlord points out an odd bit of lore that helps solve what is basically another puzzle, making the other checks easier (History), all in the midst of a fight. The rogue and swordmage basically aren't in this fight, and so the monk, warlord, and and Assassin are basically on their own.

Now, at this point, I give them a short rest, encounter 1 over. Due to the need for speed and stealth, they expended more resources than the challenge would normally suggest, and other than the recruits, it was all at or above their level. The last fight took 2 rounds, and the hallway fight basically did, and every part of it included skill checks as part of the challenge of getting that far into the keep without triggering alarms or traps. So, I give xp as if it were a single challenging encounter, level +1.

The skill challenge I basically add in the xp budget as if every part of it (the door, the stealth/body hiding, and the trap/puzzle) are individual enemies. If the scene, instead, is mostly skill challenge with a little fighting, it's even easier, because enemies have an xp value, so I add that, and increase the effective challenge of the skill challenge by one step for a few at level enemies.

I've done longer encounter strings, too. One involved a chase, with multiple fights where the point was to clear a path and get away after their prey, while the baddie used terrain and his buddies to slow the party down and get away. It started with an investigation scene, and ended with one last fight that finished off the baddie and his friends, and involved a few checks to get him down without him blowing up a market with an alchemical bomb.

Making it multiple encounters, or separating the fighting and skill stuff, would have bogged the whole thing down immensely. Instead, it was fast paced, hectic even, and a helluva lot of fun.
XP budget and reward as a hard skill challenge, plus the xp value of the enemies.
 

doctorbadwolf

Explorer
The main thing is, I don't feel compelled to add more enemies or beef them up just to meet an xp budget the traditional way. Sometimes, it's more fun to hit that challenge level by complicating the encounter with elements of a skill challenge, and string the encounter parts into phases.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
, and string the encounter parts into phases.
Multi-phased encounters even full on combat ones rock in a general sense with big bads you can use dramatic scene shifts as part of it and introducing new environment features to interact with thereby.
 

doctorbadwolf

Explorer
Multi-phased encounters even full on combat ones rock in a general sense with big bads you can use dramatic scene shifts as part of it and introducing new environment features to interact with thereby.
Oh yeah, right now I'm prepping a 5e boss fight using a lot of 4e design principles, and the tricks we're talking about here. Multi-phase, dynamic terrain, skill challenge elements, etc.
 
Just to toss in my two coppers....

Sometimes it's nice for your players to suddenly encounter some speed bump encounters. Bad guys, monsters, guards what have you that were a pain a few levels ago are suddenly just a nuisance. It really helps the players feel like they've grown in power and that they're not just surrounded by weird bubble of CR appropriate monsters. ;)
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Just to toss in my two coppers....

Sometimes it's nice for your players to suddenly encounter some speed bump encounters. Bad guys, monsters, guards what have you that were a pain a few levels ago are suddenly just a nuisance. It really helps the players feel like they've grown in power and that they're not just surrounded by weird bubble of CR appropriate monsters. ;)
Agree totally the DMG 2, I think even mentions something to this effect If I am recalling
 

Rolenet

Villager
I actually cannot fathom how one could play that way, especially what @doctorbadwolf describes.

It sounds ten shades of cool, exciting, and engaging at first blush. But when I compare it to the actual unfolding of a game session for the life of me I cannot see how I could make that work.

So let's start with one simple question, and I'll follow up.

doctorbadwolf said:
The rogue uses a mirror to see around the door without exposing herself, and there are 3 archers approaching the door, still a good 40 feet or so away, so the ranged weapons come out, and the Archer get taken down in another round
Q1) How come the party take out the three archers so swiftly? Were they all minions?
 

doctorbadwolf

Explorer
I actually cannot fathom how one could play that way, especially what @doctorbadwolf describes.

It sounds ten shades of cool, exciting, and engaging at first blush. But when I compare it to the actual unfolding of a game session for the life of me I cannot see how I could make that work.

So let's start with one simple question, and I'll follow up.



Q1) How come the party take out the three archers so swiftly? Were they all minions?
One daily power, some encounter powers, warlord support, and most of the team is strikers. At level standards, and fewer of them than the party, arent hard to take down in 1 round.

Not that it matters if it's 1 round or 2.
 

doctorbadwolf

Explorer
Just to toss in my two coppers....

Sometimes it's nice for your players to suddenly encounter some speed bump encounters. Bad guys, monsters, guards what have you that were a pain a few levels ago are suddenly just a nuisance. It really helps the players feel like they've grown in power and that they're not just surrounded by weird bubble of CR appropriate monsters. ;)
Agreed! My main thing is, I don't mess around with making these speedbump encounters into actual encounters, because it slows things down, and instead just keep the action moving forward with skill challenge mechanics, and more speed bumps.

They hit fewer milestones, but I just judge things by how much resources they've used, and will sometimes give a milestone anyway.
 

Rolenet

Villager
One daily power, some encounter powers, warlord support, and most of the team is strikers. At level standards, and fewer of them than the party, arent hard to take down in 1 round.

Not that it matters if it's 1 round or 2.
Well, it does, doesn't it? If it's two, the archers ring the alarm! Even if it's one, the whole party still has to make their stealth check AND win initiative to launch the 10 or so attacks that are required to take 3 monsters down before any one starts its turn... and rings the alarm.
(Also, due to damage vs. hp scaling, this stops working at mid-parangon levels.)

So I gather the PCs are basically alpha-striking. But that ought to be a very minor encounter, because pitting 3 low-level monsters vs. 5 PC (in a single wave, even without a rest afterward) is MUCH easier than 5 at-level monsters.

So maybe the challenge for the players is to prevent the monsters from regrouping. If the player do this, and alpha-strike each sub-group, they will prevail. If they don't the monsters regroup and they'll be toast.

But that makes protracted fights something they will have to avoid at all costs. This, in turn, disqualifies pretty much every power except damage-dealing. Defensive powers, in-combat healing, and very notably, defenders (marking a creature that's dead in two turn is pointless) and control (save ends and action forbiddance is useless if they're already dead) are useless.
It's not too surprising that all your PCs are strikers and -I presume- a taclord!

Is this really what D&D4 was designed for? Games with a simpler combat model, and long-term attrition, such as OD&D, would seem much more appropriate?
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
Is this really what D&D4 was designed for? Games with a simpler combat model, and long-term attrition, such as OD&D, would seem much more appropriate?
That's the advantage of a game with more robust balance, you can use it to do things it wasn't designed for and it doesn't break in 7 places. You can pace your campaign to a 5MWD or have 13+ encounter death marches, and everyone still has something to contribute...

For instance, I've run Temple of the Frog, straight out of Blackmoor, in 4e, using techniques something like the ones above. Skill Challenge for dungeon-delving, minions for low level monsters, swarms for large numbers of them, etc..
 

doctorbadwolf

Explorer
Well, it does, doesn't it? If it's two, the archers ring the alarm! Even if it's one, the whole party still has to make their stealth check AND win initiative to launch the 10 or so attacks that are required to take 3 monsters down before any one starts its turn... and rings the alarm.
(Also, due to damage vs. hp scaling, this stops working at mid-parangon levels.)

So I gather the PCs are basically alpha-striking. But that ought to be a very minor encounter, because pitting 3 low-level monsters vs. 5 PC (in a single wave, even without a rest afterward) is MUCH easier than 5 at-level monsters.

So maybe the challenge for the players is to prevent the monsters from regrouping. If the player do this, and alpha-strike each sub-group, they will prevail. If they don't the monsters regroup and they'll be toast.

But that makes protracted fights something they will have to avoid at all costs. This, in turn, disqualifies pretty much every power except damage-dealing. Defensive powers, in-combat healing, and very notably, defenders (marking a creature that's dead in two turn is pointless) and control (save ends and action forbiddance is useless if they're already dead) are useless.
It's not too surprising that all your PCs are strikers and -I presume- a taclord!

Is this really what D&D4 was designed for? Games with a simpler combat model, and long-term attrition, such as OD&D, would seem much more appropriate?
So, first of all, I've no need or desire to justify the validity how I run a game to you. So, maybe tone that down, if you want a discussion.

Second, defender marking and control is quite useful in this mode of play, because denying actions and trapping opponents in a catch 22 is always useful. Esp when nearly every power also deals damage. Also, if the enemy survives round one, the defender becomes even more useful, because they can punish an enemy for trying to get away to get back-up. Swordmages are really good at preventing escape. And you have to get to an alarm to ring it.

And the Monk and Assassin actually ended up taking some control powers, to make up for lack of a controller, because sometimes you need an enemy locked down more than you need to kill it a little faster.

Lastly, a lot of stuff stops working without DM intervention in mid paragon. Ya learn to deal with it, or you focus on Heroic and low paragon play.


Sorry if you don't get how it works, but your assumptions and questioning the validity of what I'm doing don't exactly make me want to help you understand it.
 

Rolenet

Villager
So, first of all, I've no need or desire to justify the validity how I run a game to you. So, maybe tone that down, if you want a discussion. .
I do want one, and by answering, you did explain to me something I didn't get, for which I am grateful. I did not initially see how your initial description could actually run that way within the rules in my experience.

Sorry, indeed, if that came up as some form of comment, or abrasive - I could not just tell you "I don't get it" and needed to detail the issues I saw.
In any event, it obviously works for your table, so any critic would be pointless! And I think I see better how that would work now. I would even try, if I hadn't just ran my last game as a DM for the next year or so...
 

doctorbadwolf

Explorer
I do want one, and by answering, you did explain to me something I didn't get, for which I am grateful. I did not initially see how your initial description could actually run that way within the rules in my experience.

Sorry, indeed, if that came up as some form of comment, or abrasive - I could not just tell you "I don't get it" and needed to detail the issues I saw.
In any event, it obviously works for your table, so any critic would be pointless! And I think I see better how that would work now. I would even try, if I hadn't just ran my last game as a DM for the next year or so...
Fair enough. Sorry I came back so aggro.

Just ran a session like this in 5e tonight, and it works...fairly well. The hiccups comes when it's time to build the encounter, and when awarding xp. In 4e, i can look up how much xp a level+2 encounter should be, assign at level xp for enemies, and the rest for skill challenge, or whatever. I can look up the expected difficulty and complexity of a skill challenge, break it into parts like breaking a fight into enemies, and mix and match that within a budget.
 

Rolenet

Villager
In 4e, i can look up how much xp a level+2 encounter should be, assign at level xp for enemies, and the rest for skill challenge, or whatever.
So now I want to try it in a one-shot or something. If you prepare a "split-encounter", I would think you assign more xp/monsters than a "single pack" encounter (esp if some of that XP comes for SC): how much more seems appropriate? For example, would a level+2 encounter still be considered routine or rather hard?

As for 5e, I am puzzled by their changing the enc. building rule. The 4e system I always found so straightforward and much easier than 3.5.
 

doctorbadwolf

Explorer
So now I want to try it in a one-shot or something. If you prepare a "split-encounter", I would think you assign more xp/monsters than a "single pack" encounter (esp if some of that XP comes for SC): how much more seems appropriate? For example, would a level+2 encounter still be considered routine or rather hard?

As for 5e, I am puzzled by their changing the enc. building rule. The 4e system I always found so straightforward and much easier than 3.5.
I pretty much go by the xp value for the enemies, plus the complexity of the skill challenge when taken as a whole. But remember that 2, and 2, and 3, at level enemies, is easier than 7 of them at once. So, I don't try to award extra xp when I do this.

For 5e, it's a little harder, because the challenge system is bunk.

My session last night went better than I worried it would. There were only 2PCs, and a companion character.

There was a skill challenge involving magic circle that the wizard had to "hack" to get them out of, and the paladin used Lore (I added a couple skills) and her divine sense to help, and a couple times her Athletics came into play, and then break open a door, then Sneak up on some baddies to figure out their plan, and finally sneak up on different enemies guarding a prisoner, convinced two of them to go away, then a fight with a giant spider and her ranger, and then a bonus minor challenge/fight to chase down and stop the ranger, who had used an amulet to turn into a helmed horror, and flew off with the prisoner.

It was really fun, but judging the right challenge for them was definitely....challenging. :p
 

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