It’s Wednesday, and though that used to mean “New Comics Day”, it now means “D&D Encounters Night”! We played again at Aero Hobbies in Santa Monica and this experience was a little different from last week’s.
I showed up early this time, homemade character in hand (generated on the D&D Character Builder for those oh-so-important 5 Renown Points). I wasn’t the only one to arrive early, so our crew was all set and actually started rolling dice right at 7:oo PM.
There were lots of changes, not the least of which was a character I was way more comfortable with, and the DM who ran our last game was now a player in this session! This worked out well, as one of the players from last week couldn’t make it to this session. I imagine this will be a fairly common occurrence over the next 10 weeks or so.
Our group was now composed of 5 strikers and 1 defender. Now I’m really concerned about our healing ability. Looks like we’re on our own for healing surges, and will be counting on our party for group Heal checks for bandaging those wounds.
Only a few minor adjustments for our role call for the second session:
- Bewho, the deva barbarian
- Izy’ure, the elf seeker
- Vera, the halfling rogue
- Colbin, the human ranger/rogue hybrid
- Strakashtai, the kalashtar sorcerer
and my character,
- Koroth, the minotaur fighter
I love playing big characters. Half-giants, goliaths, half-orcs, you name it. I can’t wait for Dark Sun for this exact reason. Yes, I know it’ll be a re-skinned goliath. That’s not the point. I want to play a 4e half-giant.
In all my years of gaming, however, I’d never played a minotaur as a PC before, and decided to do a little research to get a good back story together. Turns out this was wholly unnecessary. While the DMs have a mini-conference, I explain to the players at my table that Koroth is a friend of the previous PC who was called away on a crusade to the Abyss.
Y’know, like it happens all the time.
So Koroth is a good minotaur who worships Tempus, the god of battle, and is hoping to find some answers about his heritage within Undermountain (as well as score some gold). It’s about as smooth a transition as we’re likely to get, and there is absolutely NO mention of why Bellum is gone and why Colbin is in his place. One human male looks much like another, I suppose.
Story is not just secondary in D&D Encounters, it’s virtually nonexistent. We’re on a dungeon delve. Period. It’s difficult to tie the players together in a limited run campaign like this, I know, but a little story might go a long way to encouraging players to show up the following week. I noticed there were far less people at this week’s session than the first.
The DMs come out of their huddle and we start off right where the last encounter left off — the team has completed a Short Rest and then we lower ourselves down the Yawning Portal and into Undermountain. No sooner does the last team member’s feet touch the floor and we send our ropes and harnesses back up, then we’re attacked by a band of humanoids and their pet scorpion. This is a good news / bad news situation, as we are attacked right away without a chance to get set up, but we also earn a Milestone (and thus an Action Point and a few Renown Points) because we didn’t take an Extended Rest between encounters.
Last time in combat (as the Paladin) I didn’t fare so well, so I was really looking to redeem myself this session. My first roll of the night is a 19 for initiative and I just know it’s going to be a good time. Tempus is obviously watching over me.
The battle starts, we begin dealing out (and taking) some damage. I take 17 in one hit (quite a lot when you’re only 1st level), but then our kalashtar sorcerer gets lucky and really unloads on a big group of the non-minion bad guys. Players high-five each other and we are sure we can finish these guys off.
Then the trouble starts.
Our sorcerer is downed on the bad guys’ next turn, and instead of going after one of the other 5 viable targets, the doppleganger sneak (disguised as a human rogue) moves through combat, provoking multiple opportunity attacks and performs a coup de grace with sneak attack damage on the unconscious, and therefore helpless, PC. She dies instantly.
This is where I have a problem. I know that there are different styles of running a D&D game, and that there are as many different styles as there are DMs. However, calling across to another DM at another table and shouting gleefully, “I GOT ONE!” does not make for good feelings among the players at your table. I can only imagine how this player felt as her character’s death was announced with joy across the room.
Apparently, the DM mini-conference before the game was about not taking it easy on the players.
Now I’m sure this DM is a very nice guy in his regular life. As far as I know, he’s a saint. I’ve never met him before this night, but I’m sure he pays his taxes, goes to work on time, and helps his landlady carry out her garbage. This behavior, however, is called douche-baggery and I’ve already talked all about it here, so I won’t get into a rant this time.
One of the concerns I have about playing in the RPGA is that it strongly encourages meta-gaming. There is a list of published Renown Point Awards for certain actions taken by the players in the campaign, and so some players know that they should try to “Revive a Dying Adventurer Ally” to get some extra points. It’s what made me switch from my pre-gen human paladin character to a D&D Character Builder minotaur fighter (that’s worth 7 points) so I’m as guilty of this as anyone.
There is also a reward called “Survive 8+ Sessions without Dying“. Apparently, the DMs are in a contest to not let any of the PCs achieve this. I call shenanigans. I could see if the reward was 10 points or 8 points or even 5 points, but it’s only worth 2 points. The same as hitting a milestone or for a “Moment of Greatness“, and is only achievable once per player per season. There is no point reward system for the DM, and that sucks. But trying in-game to prevent a player from achieving a reward out-of-game is just bad form. Shouldn’t we be trying to encourage players to stick around?
So, now the sorcerer is dead and we’re down a team member. The player has a couple options…
1. She can make a new character and play with that one next session. This sucks for someone invested in their character, but character death is never enjoyable.
2. She can use the same character with a “Death Penalty”. -This means that she’s at -1 to all rolls until she reaches 3 milestones (which is like 6+ encounters, give or take).- Correction: I’ve been informed that characters take a -1 to all rolls until they reach 1 milestone, as per special D&D Encounters rules. Neither option is super-appealing, but character death is a reality in this game.
Also, there’s a third option: she can just not play anymore. Which is really what the DM seems to be encouraging. This is a mini-campaign to generate interest in 4th Edition. Is this sort of vicious behavior encouraged by the RPGA for this adventure? I’m having trouble understanding this. What’s the point?
I’m glad that the DM had fun, and that he was enthusiastic about enjoying the game. But maybe next time he could concentrate more on making the game fun for the players, instead of having one of them sit out the majority of the encounter.
What are your thoughts? As a DM, do you relish the TPK? How far are you willing to go to achieve it?
As a player, do you hate it when your character dies? Do you create a new character or walk away?
Live Tweets every Wednesday at D&D Encounters: Undermountain on Twitter @4eDnD!