Scales of War – All sorts of updates

procrastinationSo, I should really have posted this a lot earlier than now. Sorry everyone. :( Graham posting again finally guilted me into posting.

ps. this is going to be long.

Anyways, things have changed since I last put up a DM Log; mainly that after we finished Rescue at Rivenroar, Graham took back the helm. He is now DMing, and I am back to playing.

The decision was made for 2 reasons: first, I was running into some mental blocks in trying to run a pre-written adventure. I write, so the main draw of DMing for me is, and always has been, the world-building and plotting aspects. I found that working with someone else’s story was sapping my creativity, both in-game and in my other endeavours. Long story short, my writing was suffering (ie. not happening at all), so I decided to drop the DMing to concentrate on the rest.

I do hope to DM again in the future. I found 4e was so much easier to work with mechanics-wise. Once we’ve had more experience with this edition, I want to run my own stories. For now, it falls to Graham to lead us.

Which brings me to the second reason: simply put, Graham has decided that he prefers DMing to playing (much though he likes creating wacky characters :P ). So he’s been more than happy to take over now that school has settled down this semester (relatively speaking xD )

As I mentioned above, we finished off Rivenroar (in mid-November I believe), and moved into the next adventure: “Siege at Bordrin’s Watch”. We’ve already finished that as well without ever blogging about it (a combination of me being too lazy to make my “no-longer-DMing” post and Graham being far busier in January than he expected to be). So I will take some time here to point out a few highlights from that adventure, then we can start fresh with Graham posting more detailed DM Logs starting from the third part – “The Shadow Rift of Umbraforge”.

First off of course, we said farewell to our faithful Warforged Swordmage Porth-OS to make way for my character. At the same time, the player that was unable to join us for the first adventure due to school finished that, and returned to play again.

He joined in as a Tiefling Infernal Pact Warlock named Wagmonger (shortened to Wag) :p

I decided to play a Shifter Ranger with the archer fighting style. Her name is Daciana, but Graham has taken to calling her “Bitey” :annoyed:

The adventure was fairly standard, with 2 separate dungeons to work our way through. Each had quite a memorable boss fight to contend with. In the first, the group got knocked around quite a bit, and three of us were unconscious. One was the warlord, so there went some healing, and the cleric was across the room and none too healthy himself (something like 1 hit point and no healing surges left :blink: ). But luck was on our side that day: either all three of the dying characters, or two of the three managed to roll a natural 20 death save! Which got us back to enough power to finish out the fight. :D (Having 3 Tieflings in a room full of spreading fire doesn’t hurt either :evil: )

The second boss fight was interesting for… different reasons. The objective was to flood the hundred-foot room to block the path of the orc-army advancing through the mountains. Of course, we had to deal with the advance guard. The encounter happened in a large room, with a catwalk running up around the walls and leading to the central pillar & a mechanism to flood the lower levels (our goal). We fought our way up, with some choosing to race up and ignore the lower enemies while others fought a rear-guard action.

By the time we were all at the top, we had a tough boss to face with low party resources. The idea at this point was to set off the machine and make our escape. Those of us with the appropriate skills worked on the machine, while the others distracted the boss, mostly trying to push him off the 70 foot ledge.

The machine was activated fairly quickly. The pushing, on the other hand…. didn’t work too well. Y’see, our various powers kept hitting the boss… but Graham’s damned DM dice don’t ever seem to want to roll a failed save… so the guy would just fall prone at the edge… over and over and over. :angry: That is, at least, until we were almost able to make a break for it anyways. This was when he was finally actually pushed off of the ledge into the very hot, rapidly rising water. And there was much rejoicing.

Well, that catches us up somewhat on the game. I’m going to make another post tomorrow to talk about a few other things.

23 Comments

lookintomyeyes  on February 28th, 2009

My only gripe so far in the campaign is that magehand has far too many limitations to EVER be useful when I want to use it! :P

Graham  on February 28th, 2009

Oh, c’mon. That’s just because you want it to be an auto-success button. :P

Sorry, Roberta, but while I’ll always let you try to pick someone’s pocket with Mage Hand, picking someone’s pocket with Mage Hand when the person is on the other side of a wall and you can’t even see them, let alone their pocket… just isn’t going to work.

lookintomyeyes  on March 2nd, 2009

I don’t want an auto success, i just want it to be a chance of success. :P
I like creative solutions, they are ever so much more fun than “i hit them with earthshock again. Or maybe thornburst this time.”

Graham  on March 2nd, 2009

Hey, don’t get me wrong. I want you to try all kinds of crazy creative stuff. That’s why things like a Mage Hand pickpocket work in the first place.

But when you try picking someone’s pocket through a wall, I still have to tell you it won’t work. At least I tell you beforehand, so you can try something else, instead of being evil and just telling you you fail.

But if you want to try creative solutions, try them. You have yet to use any of your rituals, and have only used Prestidigitation once. And most of the party’s actions thus far have been a 3e “charge and hit them” mentality.

So please, try new and crazy stuff! I love seeing it, and I love the expressions when it actually works and/or works better than planned for the sole reason of me thinking it was a cool idea. :D

Tahakki  on March 24th, 2009

I’m trying to run this adventure path, without much success. Y’see, it’s planned for five PCs – we have only two. Yeah, I know.

TWO.

So, anyway, if I reduce the number of monsters to make it suitable for the PCs, the XP goes down. This means the players might just make it past level one by the end of Rivenroar. Do I have to just extend the adventure myself or is there another way of doing it?

Graham  on March 24th, 2009

The PCs (with a 5-man party) just made it into level 2 after Rivenroar. Halfway to 3, perhaps.

Lowering the number of monsters lowers the total XP, but it shouldn’t lower the XP per character. Remember that if an encounter says it’s worth 1000 xp, that’s only 200 xp per character in a 5-man group.

In the same encounter, you’d want to shoot for 400 xp, to give 200 to each character.

So, in Rivenroar, you’d want to multiply all the XP totals by 2/5 in order to get your XP goal.

For example:
Bar Fight! = 580*2/5 = 232 xp
The Ogre Bombardier = 650*2/5 = 260 xp
etc

This becomes tricky with 2 PCs, when you need to decide between, for instance, removing the ogre from the fight (probably the most interesting part of that fight), or something else. So make sure you’re familiar with the rules for reducing monster levels.

Reduce the Ogre to level 4 (175 xp), and put him alongside one hobgoblin, reduced to level 2 (125 xp). It’s more than the target 260 xp, but it’s close enough.

So, for that revised battle, the total XP is 300. Each PC gets an equal share of this, for 150 xp apiece.

Sound good?

Tahakki  on March 25th, 2009

Oh, I see. It seems I had the XP rules wrong. :blink:

My friends and I are teaching ourselves the game – far harder than learning from a player, or better, a DM. I’m DMing the thing, and another thing I’m not sure about is exploration. Do I still draw the room if there’s no combat? What about in a city, or outside?

Graham  on March 25th, 2009

No worries, man. That’s part of what we’re here for.

As for drawing the room, it comes down to personal preference. In our group, we don’t draw the room in town (or elsewhere that combat is unlikely) unless positioning is important in some way (or it makes the description clearer).

In places where combat could occur, I tend to draw the room if the PCs will be spending any significant amount of time in it. (I don’t usually draw hallways, for instance.)

The only place where the drawing is needed is for combat, but if you only draw it for combat, you become less able to surprise them. :p

Feel free to keep asking questions, and to send more extensive questions to the email at the top right, where I can answer them more fully. I may even place them in an article of their own. You aren’t the only group dealing with these issues, by any means.

Tahakki  on March 26th, 2009

So, I draw all the rooms inside Rivenroar to keep the players on their toes? :)

So, what about outside travel? Do I just say,
“You travel for 8 hours and arrive at _____.”

Or do I describe everything as the players move along? My impression was it’s just the top one unless it’s interrupted by combat, but after reading this blog I’m not so sure.

Graham  on March 26th, 2009

re: the rooms, yep, that’d be my advice. But you don’t want to waste your time drawing a room for 2 minutes when the players spend 30 seconds there. So if you’re going to do that for the less interesting rooms, you may want to draw them up on separate pieces of paper and just bring them out when they come to it.

And, like I said with hallways above, there’s nothing wrong with not drawing some areas. Especially the ones where you end up saying “And this room is empty. Doors north and south.”

As for description, again, it comes down personal choice. If you feel it should be fleshed out, then do so.

For us, if the players say “We’re going to X” and there’s nothing that would interrupt the journey to X or make it interesting, we often just say “Okay, you arrive at X. It’s mid-afternoon.” If it’s the first time they’ve been there, I’ll describe what the way is like somewhat, and what the place looks like from the outside. No more than a sentence or two, though.

Some GMs like to add a lot of description to everything, some don’t. We do more if it’s interesting. Be careful just how much you do, as it can move from interesting to boring quickly.

Tahakki  on March 27th, 2009

I see. How about cities? Do I just show the players a map and they tell me where they want to go? There’s a suggestion in the Rivenroar adventure to let players explore the city first, did you?

Graham  on March 27th, 2009

Well, that one comes down to player preferences. Christine was running the game at that point and, while we could have explored, we didn’t.

For in a city, I tend to print out the city map as a reference to where the PCs are. I don’t tend to draw combat-scale maps in most locations.

But yeah, let the players explore the city if they want to. But don’t force the issue if they decide to just get down to business, either. Keep the city map handy (does it come with one? I don’t remember), just in case they decide to explore.

Tahakki  on March 28th, 2009

Ah, yes, that makes sense. Do I show the map to the players? Or just describe the area they’re in?

The Kruthik Nest encounter is optional, right? Does that mean if the players skip it they miss out on some XP?
I may be a bit obsessive about XP totals. :lol:

Out of interest, how was this blog made? Did you host it on WordPress?

Graham  on March 28th, 2009

The city map? Either/or, depending on if there are things on the map they aren’t meant to know. I usually will show the map, but if there’s a big red X marked “Bad Guy”, I won’t.

The Kruthik Nest encounter is optional, and yes it means the players miss out on some XP, but don’t stress about XP totals that much. If you feel like the players are struggling at any point (very possible, with only two PCs), bump up the XP they recieve for a while. After a battle that’s worth 200 XP apiece, for instance, give them 300. Or 400. If they aren’t struggling, don’t worry about it.

The blog is a WordPress blog, but we have our own hosting plan. It you’re thinking about starting up your own blog, and don’t have your own hosting already, wordpress.com and blogspot.com are both good places to start out.

Now, a question for you:

What are the two players playing? What are their characters?

Knowing the characters and their individual strengths and weaknesses will go a long way to making decisions about how to build encounters.

Tahakki  on March 28th, 2009

A fair point. :) They are a Half-Elf Cleric called Dalan and a Dwarf Fighter called MacDumbgull.

According to the players handbook, this is a good thing as although there is a lack of players, I still have a Leader and a Striker.

Graham  on March 28th, 2009

Actually, you have a Leader and a Defender. This is also good, but there are a couple things to note:

1) Brutes will be difficult, but not impossible. You don’t have as much damage as with a striker, but you have more hit points to soak it up. If he’s a Great Weapon fighter, you’ll still do decent damage, too, but just be wary when putting in brutes of a higher level than the party.

2) Minions will be difficult. You won’t have many area attacks, though Cleave (if the Fighter has it) can help.

Don’t avoid these outright, but make sure they don’t dominate the battlefield. If you have an encounter you’re deleveling, consider removing the brutes and minions first. If doing so would change the entire feel of the battle, you don’t need to, but consider them first.

I should also say here that, if the players are having trouble and need some help, it is okay to (with player permission) give them an NPC follower. In a group like this, I’d drop in a Striker (rogue, ranger, or warlock). You can either run this as a straight NPC, or allow one (or both, jointly) of the players to control his actions in battle.

But I can’t stress enough: do not do this unless the group is struggling AND you have player permission. (A much better option is to recruit another player, but I’m not sure if that is an option for you.)

In any case, a Leader/Defender team can do quite well. That’s probably the most survivable two-man team around.

Tahakki  on March 29th, 2009

Ah, I see. Recruiting another player may be an option. We did have a third player, playing a Dragonborn Paladin, but he left, saying, “You guys are sad!” and then promptly started spending every lunchtime in the bridge club. :lol:

D&D isn’t terribly popular here. I live near enough in the capital city, and there’s only one game store.

Anyway, thanks for the advice re NPC followers. Hopefully some of the prisoners in Rivenroar can help? Yet another option would be to let the players have two characters each, but I’m very against that as it would start them talking to each other.

Graham  on March 29th, 2009

I…see. That’s kinda weird.

But yeah, if you can bring in a third player, it might make your job easier. If not, don’t worry.

I’d recommend playing through Rivenroar as is, and judging whether you need an NPC follower for yourself after that. If so, there is a very convenient one in the next adventure, Seige on Bordrin’s Watch. Kalad the Paladin. Just remake him as a PC, and keep him with the group instead of having him leave.

If you discover that the party is REALLY having trouble while still in Rivenroar, there are two good option in one of the prisoners as well:
- Sertanian, in room 6, is an ex-soldier who might be persuaded to pick up a sword again. If you use him, make him younger than his picture suggests, and create a level 1 Human Fighter PC.
- Adronsius, in room 14, is an alchemist, but he can easily be statted as a Dwarf Rogue. While not explicitly a combatant, he is one of the most capable/coherent prisoners in Rivenroar.

I would not use both, however. One should make things easier on the party and yourself (lowering encounters to 2 PCs can be difficult).

An NPC follower is far from required, though. If you’re having fun without one, and the PCs aren’t having too much trouble, then don’t use one.

Tahakki  on April 4th, 2009

Stuck again! xD

The human rabble in Bar Fight!, are they allies or enemies?
To introduce the campaign to the players, what should I do? Read the ‘Background’ section, or come up with my own intro?
Have you any suggestions for how to bring the XP total in the first encounter down to two PCs?
And can you explain marking? I can’t find it anywhere in the core rulebooks.

I understand this is probably a lot of questions, so sorry for taking up so much of your time!

Graham  on April 4th, 2009

Not really either, but allies I suppose. They’re innocent bystanders that the goblins attack.

To introduce the campaign, it’s really up to you. The “Background” section is somewhat integral to the main campaign story, so I wouldn’t change it. But you don’t read that section out to the players, either, as that would give away most of the story.

To introduce the campaign to the players, I would read something along the lines of the following:

“While travelling, you stop in the town of Brindol. This area was involved in a great war against an army known as the Red Hand some years back, but has been relatively peaceful since then. As we begin, you are having a meal at the local tavern.”

Then let them go about whatever they want to do first, before the goblins attack.

.

For deleveling the encounter, note that only the goblins and hobgoblins add xp to the encounter. So keep all 8 human rabble (they do little aside from cower and die).

Multiply the XP for the encounter by 2/5 (your ratio of PCs to a “standard” party), to get 232 xp as a goal for building this encounter.

If you kept both Goblin Blackblades in, they would use up 200 of that xp on their own. Since this is supposed to be more of a “mob” feel, we want more than 2 monsters. So drop that to 1 Goblin Blackblade (100 xp).

We then have 132 xp left over for Hobgoblin Grunts. We can use 3 of them (total xp = 214) or 4 of them (total xp = 252). Either works well.

Alternately, you can remove the Hobgoblin Grunts, and replace them with 5 Goblin Cutters (Monster Manual, level 1 minion, 25 xp each), for 225 xp total.

All three of these options work fine.

Remember to divide the encounter’s xp by the number of PCs when you award it. :)

.

Ah, marking.

Flip your PHB to page 277, and never forget that page. Page 277 has all of the various conditions in the game, and what their effects are.

A marked creature takes a -2 penalty on attack rolls for attacks that do not include the creature that marked it.

So if my Fighter marks your Goblin, that goblin has two choices.
- attack my fighter, or
- attack someone else, but take a -2 penalty to the attack roll

If you use an attack that targets multiple people, however, like a fireball, then no penalty is incurred so long as the marker is one of the targets of the attack.

.

Don’t worry about it, man. But like I said, feel free to contact me via email for longer stuff.

Tahakki  on April 5th, 2009

Yeah, I’ll probably have a copy of that page! :lol: Apparently all the stats are on the inside of the DM Screen, that might be a useful addition to the game.

I think I’ll go for the goblin cutters – I used them before with some success, as they’re easy to keep track of – they basically hit stuff and die. xD

I think I’m near enough ready to run this adventure now. It certainly looks a lot more interesting than the one in the starter set, with terrain stuff – the spreading fire in the bar is cool. Red marker? ^_^

Anyways, thank you so much for all your help! I’ll be keeping a log of this adventure on m’blog, in case you’re interested.

-Tahakki
http://noobdm.comuv.com

Graham  on April 5th, 2009

Sounds good, man. The hobgoblins are nice, as they’re tougher and have a bit more in the way of tactics, but the goblin cutters are about as simple as you can get.

Adventures 1 and 2 of the adventure path are great, but adventure 3 has some major issues. I’ll be elaborating on these when I get the time to write a new blog post.

It’s shaping up to be a decent adventure path, still. We’ll see how long I actually use it, before getting sick of it and doing my own stuff. :P

Tahakki  on April 5th, 2009

Well, I’ve only access to the first three or four as I haven’t subscribed.

Yeah, I think that was mentioned in one of the updates?

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