Wednesday, July 30, 2008

TPK, Near TPK, and the Memorable Session

After spending the afternoon defeating the 4e version of The Burning Plague, we discovered that the characters hadn't quite earned enough experience to reach level 2. The girls wanted to play more, so I broke out a tough encounter I had on hand.

Brief (hah!) explanation: Before I ran 4e for the group, Jen and I tried out the mechanics by creating some characters and running some combats where we each ran two characters and I also ran the monsters. I would build encounters based on the guidelines in the DMG, pull out whatever battle map I could lay my hands on, and away we'd go. We ran a few of these, and this was where Jen discovered that she didn't think running two 4e characters was very tough. (I thought running two characters and the monsters was a bit much)

Anyway, one encounter had resulted in TPK twice. The first time we blamed it on poorly-optimized character builds, so we rebuilt two characters so their classes no longer played against their racial advantages and tried again. After that try also resulted in TPK, we started to wonder whether the encounter was just too tough.

The encounter was:
1 bugbear warrior (level 5 brute, 200 xp)
1 hobgoblin soldier (level 3 soldier, 150 xp)
3 goblin sharpshooters (level 2 artillery, 375 xp total)
Map: Caves of Chaos from Fantastic Locations: The Frostfell Rift

It's my understanding that 725 xp worth should be tough for a 4-person 1st level party, but not a guaranteed TPK. However, the monsters used the central cave entrance on the map as a choke point, letting the two bruisers very effectively keep the PCs away from the sharpshooters. This turned out to be a pretty devastating tactic.

So, back to the girls, they were feeling like their new party was a well-oiled fighting machine after their success at Burning Plague. I gave them a story about how two parties of adventurers had met utter defeat at the hands of some goblins, but the lord of the town felt that the newly-minted heroes who had spared the town from plague could take them easily.

This is getting a bit long for my taste and I'm just past the setup. Fortunately there's not much left to tell. The girls slugged it out with the goblins, and in the end they were all still standing but with hit points in the single digits almost across the board. I can't remember a damn thing about that combat, and when I asked Jen she couldn't either. Maybe near TPK isn't a sure recipe for a memorable session. There goes the whole premise of my blog....

1 comment:

ChaoticBlackSheep said...

This is where the art comes in. A well-crafted combat that is close can be very memorable, but this was a random, thrown-together encounter. Sometimes the more random things can be memorable too, but usually for different reasons such as quirkiness, unusual or highly sought-after treasure, or specific memorable moments.