Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, February 04, 2014
The Favorites of Selune - Gardmore Abbey - Session 9

In the previous session the Favorites of Selune arrived at the back door of the keep in Gardmore Abbey in which the orc chieftain Bakrosh resides. The keep is a three-floor building, but the intermediate floor is just a gallery over the ground floor, so the whole keep basically has just two rooms. Which to nobody's surprise were full of orcs, meaning we mostly did combat in this session.

Now previous editions of Dungeons & Dragons had lots of "vanilla" monsters, having just a number of hit points, an armor class, a THAC0 (to hit chance) and damage. Combat in 4th edition has a lot more variety, because every monster has some sort of special attack. And there isn't just one "orc" entry in the Monster Manual any more, but there are different sorts of orcs with different levels and different special attacks. Meaning two fights against "orcs" will be notably different, which is good. The downside being that fights take more time in 4E. In the context of interactive story-telling, the clash between the powers of the group and the powers of the monsters tend to give each fight a very individual flavor.

Now the Favorites of Selune recently lost a warlord (tank/healer hybrid) and that player is now playing a witch (dps). Already before that change "I hide behind the priest" was a running gag in our campaign. But now the group has just one tank, one melee rogue, and four characters trying to stand behind and launching spells or arrows. That is already not an ideal distribution, and in the first fight the special power of the orcs involved by pure chance was one which wreaked havoc with that party setup: The orc rampagers had a power to shift three spaces and attack everybody in their path, going on rampage while swinging their heavy flails.

I asked everybody where they wanted to stand at the start of the fight, and most characters stood outside, around the corner from the door. One consequence of that was that when the fight started and the players drew a card from the deck of many things, the effect appeared next to one player around the corner, with no enemy in range. I think if they keep playing overly cautious like this, this will happen a lot, with them not benefiting from the card effects. The orcs weren't coming out of the keep, so eventually the group had to go in.

So the heroes entered the first room and found four orc rampagers on the ground floor, of which two were riding dire wolves. The warrior engaged two orcs and one wolf, the rogue the other two orcs and wolf. The other four characters stood behind and threw spells and arrows. Then another orc appeared on the gallery: An orc shaman launching an area spell into the group's spellcasters. The wizard was able to take out the shaman temporarily with a sleep spell, but the casters had to move out of the way of the shaman's summoned storm spell effect. And then the orcs started rampaging, repeatedly running past the group members trying to hide in the back and damaging them. Fortunately the orcs and wolves were lower level than the player characters. The new witch showed off a couple of nice moves which provided a certain degree of crowd control. But overall a lot of time was spent with characters scampering away, being chased around by orcs. Although the players managed to kill the wolves and orcs, except for the shaman who wind walked through a hole in the ceiling up to the next level, the overall effect of the fight was that the players were scared of the orcs.

That showed when after a short rest the group headed through a door on the gallery level, behind which were two stairs leading left and right into the same big room on top of the keep, where the orc chieftain with his companion and bodyguards resided. Nobody wanted to go into that room. Using either two move actions and a minor action, or by expending an action point for a second move, the characters ran up to the room, launched some attack, and ran back down the stairs immediately. They then tried to wait there, behind a corner, readying attacks to hit the orcs with if they came down the stairs. But the orcs didn't immediately follow. So now the players are afraid that the next character looking around the corner into the room of the orcs will get the readied attacks from the orcs, and are even more afraid to go up the stairs. It is a kind of a standoff, and because all this was taking a lot of time, we decided to leave the resolution of the standoff to the next session. Somehow the whole concept of storming a keep in defensive mode isn't working so well. I'd advise a change of strategy, but I'm just the DM and can't tell the players how to play their characters.

"They walked into a room and met 2 orcs riding wolves" ...that is why I really dislike the D&D random tables.

I mean who would ride around in a house?
Looks like enrage timer is needed... :-)
I mean who would ride around in a house?


Given that this encounter was written like than in the adventure module, we can't blame random tables for this. But I think it is the writer wanting to use mounted orcs in the encounter that is to blame for the whole floor of the keep being a single room.
Seems like pretty typical orc behaviour to me.

They are uncouth creatures.
Sounds like the orcs should start throwing flaming explosive barrels down the stairs. Or rappel out of a nearby window. :P
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Seriously, is your tank a bit soft?

Why isn't he charging up there?
Lol if you party still cannot find a bit of courage perhaps you could prod them in the right direction with hitherto unseen traps suddenly appearing behind them and flooding corridors with flames or arrows.
This is what happens when the existance of losing conditions is left to chance.
This is what happens when the existance of losing conditions is left to chance.

By definition there are only two possibilities: Either the existence of a loss condition is left to chance, or it is predetermined. If it is predetermined, why play? If it is up to the whim of a DM, why play? Leaving it to random dice rolls is still the best system that has been found for role-playing games.
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