Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Red Frogs, Session 3 (part 2)

Here is part 1 of this session. Hopefully these characters won't die so I don't have to keep posting new characters. Anyways, the player that couldn't make it tonight planned on making a Sorcerer of some kind, and he may or may not make a second character (though he will be running one, most likely Ghesh unless I decide to roll up a Knight for him to choose between the two).

The first encounter of the night pitted us against 3 Hobgoblins and a Bugbear. I was running all 3 of my characters, and the fight was more or less a breeze. Thorfin's SC strolled right up to one of the Hobgoblins, who spent most of the encounter attacking it ineffectually. He kept rolling low for damage, and couldn't pop the thing. Personally, if I were DMing I would have had him disengage from the thing after the first attack obviously did nothing, but that still would have bought me a turn since the World Speaker's OA stops movement. Direct charging paths were blocked. Lyra opened with Charm of Misplaced Wrath on the Bugbear, moving it 1 square from both Ghesh and Fang, who blocked a charge line to everyone else. I then had the poor sop attack himself, which hit. One of the Hobgoblins turned out to be an archer, so on Lyra's next turn she used Winged Horde to hit the Bugbear and 2 of the Hobgoblins (it was enlarged), allowing anyone to freely stroll past them and engage the archer in melee. Fang and Ghesh took the bait, and Lyra spent her 3rd turn immobilizing the other 2 Hobgoblins (which were melee) with Icy Rays. One was still whacking at the SC, the other couldn't do anything.

Thorfin engaged the Bugbear while Fang was off dealing with the Archer (Combined Attack), largely to keep it from getting at Lyra. The archer was quickly dispatched, after which Ghesh finished off the Bugbear. Mopping up the last two hobgoblins was a cakewalk. Fang didn't drop once the entire combat (though he did end it low on HP), and the only PC who needed to heal up afterwards was Thorfin, who spent 1 surge.

Next the party faced off against a young white dragon. It rolled low for initiative, so the entire party was able to spread out pretty well before it acted, in anticipation of its breath weapon. Lyra's initial attack turned out to be quite the blunder, as she missed with CoMW and even though the dragon did hit itself, it had resistance to cold damage, which its bite dealt. Needless to say she didn't even attempt to use Icy Rays during this encounter, which was an at-will spam-a-thon for her (Winged Horde was used to good effect one round, but other than that she just blasted away with Arc Lightning). This dragon has a trait (Instinctive Rampage) that allows it to act on 10+ its initiative check, moving through creatures squares and making claw attacks. It was already surrounded when the opportunity to do this came up, so it drew OAs from Ghesh and the SC. Thanks to the lovely World Speaker OA, the dragon was stopped in its tracks. Awesome power, even if it is 1/enc.

The encounter was otherwise unremarkable, with Ghesh dealing loads of damage, Thorfin using Fire Hawk and Combined Attack, and Lyra spamming away. I would like to point out that the dragon's Instinctive Rampage is absolutely awesome from a design standpoint. When fighting a solo, it's easy for the encounter to stagnate into a boring mess where the party simply surrounds the bad guy and everyone pummels away at each other. Instinctive Rampage guarantees the dragon excellent mobility (combined with some out of turn offense) every round, helps speed up the encounter via all of the OAs it draws (even if it does gain resist 5 during the movement), and keeps everything dynamic. A surrounded dragon that can only catch 2 PCs in its breath weapon can easily re-position itself to catch everyone in its breath weapon (alas, during this encounter the only time it recharged was the automatic use when it was bloodied). At one point the dragon pummeled through the melee guys surrounding it and went straight for the Wizard that had been pew-pewing it from the back of the room. It didn't have enough movement to move through the Wizard's space (so it couldn't use its claw attacks), but it definitely gave poor Lyra quite a fright!

The dragon was appropriately challenging for the party, as it did knock 2 PCs out of the fight at one point (Thorfin and Ghesh). Thorfin rolled a 20 on a death save which turned the fight back into the PCs favor (Lyra couldn't get to Thorfin to make a heal check during her turn), but Ghesh spent 2 rounds unconscious, and they were the last two rounds of the encounter. Thorfin healed him up, but the dragon was slain before he got to act (actually, I believe Thorfin's Fire Hawk finished it off). Actually, one huge advantage of Thorfin's that this situation brought to light was the fact that I could use Healing Word and Healing Spirit on the same turn. Normally a leader can only use a Healing Word type power once per round, but since HW and HS are two different powers Thorfin is able to supply some nova healing if needed.

For the third and final encounter of the night, the DM's sister joined us. She had zero previous experience with DnD and never expressed any interest in the game. She reluctantly agreed to try it out back in the 3.5 days, but I pretty much lost her as we were creating her Sorceress. The character never actually got played. With the Slayer's exceptionally simplified design, Ghesh was perfect for her to run! I quickly explained the core mechanic to her, pointed out her defenses, initiative, etc, and went over attacking a couple of times. I told her to assume that she was in the Berserker's Charge stance unless I otherwise pointed out that she should switch (I had all of the various charge bonuses written in the margin, so it was pretty easy for her to follow), and to use her 2 Power Strike's as early as possible.

The encounter was against several Lizardfolk, and she ended up one-shotting her first target with the help of an action point. At this point I explained the differences between the 4 roles, emphasizing that her job was to kill things fast. She hit with every attack, taking out the next Lizardfolk in 2 turns and severely softening up a third. Thorfin performed fairly well, though I wasn't concentrating very hard on my own characters as I was teaching the basics of the game, so I completely forgot about my spirit companion's existence until 3 rounds in. I also had Fang bouncing around a lot trying to keep distant enemies focused on him, which is normally what I'd have the SC doing. Because of this, Fang's aura wasn't where it was most needed for a couple of rounds. Oh well, the encounter was pretty easy so it wasn't too big of a loss. Lyra ended up getting pretty screwed in this encounter because one of the Lizardfolk was a mage that decided dueling with another Wizard was a good idea. It was 3 rounds in before the mage was engaged in melee, and even though it didn't deal much damage to Lyra, she did spend most of the encounter immobilized, and one round immobilized and dazed. Oh well, it's a good thing none of the melee guys were able to take advantage of that (indeed, Lyra did successfully hold some of them off with CoMW and Icy Rays). At one point early on I did use Beguiling Strands to bunch a couple of Lizardfolk up (would have been 3 but I rolled low vs the mage). My intention was to use Phantom Chasm on them with an action point, but for some reason I decided against it (I'll blame being distracted with teaching someone the game, lol). Instead, this was the turn I used Icy Rays which worked ok, but a) the action point was wasted because the enemies didn't need to be bunched up for Icy Rays, and b) I never ended up using a daily the entire time (with Thorfin either), which was a bit of a waste.

Just goes to show what I already knew: you have to pay attention to run a tactically advanced character like a Wizard (or tricked-out-for-summoning Sentinel). Speaking of which, with all of my characters I kept forgetting about little abilities that they had. Like Lyra's Stoneskin Robes...I never used a minor to gain the THP until after I got hit, several rounds in. Likewise Ghesh never used his Screaming Armor's power (or Minor Resurgence), and it would usually be a couple of rounds into the encounter before I remembered about Dragonfear. While I like the experience that comes with running multiple characters, overall I definitely prefer running just one since it's easier to keep track of everything. I guess that's just a disadvantage of running a 2 player group though.

Red Frogs, Session 3 (kind of)

We weren't going to let last session's TPK stop this campaign from continuing (such is the advantage of doing a rotating, merc guild style campaign). We did, however, roll up some new characters. Unfortunately, one of our 3 players couldn't play tonight, but I decided to run some of my characters while our next DM in the lineup threw some encounters at me (he's new to DMing 4e, and wanted to get some experience running it). Here were the 3 characters I ran (normally I'll be controlling 2).

Lyra Cinderfield

Level 4 Human Wizard (Staff of Defense)
Initiative: +7

Str: 8, Con: 14, Dex: 13, Int: 19, Wis: 15, Cha: 10

AC: 20, Fort: 16, Ref: 18, Will: 18

HP/Bloodied/Surge value: 36/18/9
Number of surges: 8

Attack (staff): +9
Damage (staff): +7

Feats: Unarmored Agility, Staff Expertise, Enlarge Spell, Superior Implement Training (accurate staff)

At-wills: Arc Lightning, Beguiling Strands, Winged Horde

Encounters: Charm of Misplaced Wrath, Icy Rays

Dailies: Phantom Chasm/Flaming Sphere

Utilities: Shield/Spectral Image

Comments: This is pretty typical of how I like to build my Wizards. Control is the main focus, but I definitely like to be a decently competent blaster as well. She's rocking a Staff of Ruin with a Siberys Shard of the Mage, and she off-hands an Orb of Nimble Thoughts for the Initiative bonus.

Thorfin and Fang

Level 4 Dwarf Spring Sentinel
Initiative: +3

Str: 10, Con: 19, Dex: 13, Int: 11, Wis: 19, Cha: 8

AC: 21 (19), Fort: 19 (17), Ref: 15 (17), Will: 17 (17)

HP/Bloodied/Surge value: 46/123/11
Number of surges: 11

Attack (spear W/I): +11/9
Damage (staff W/I): +5/6
Animal Attack: +9 vs AC (+free CA); 1D8+8 dmg

Feats: Spirit Talker (World Speaker's OA), Versatile Expertise, Mending Spirit

At-wills: Animal Attack, Fire Hawk

Encounters: Combined Attack x2

Dailies: Summon Pack Wolf

Utilities: Barkskin

Racial: Dwarven Resilience

Commentary: Yes, I've built another Sentinel. And another spring Sentinel, at that. Honestly, I really want to gain more play experience with this class, so I won't let a character death keep me from doing just that. Thorfin has more of a summoning/healing focus than Albus did, which is represented mechanically by the fact that he has a spirit companion and an animal companion, will take mostly (if not all) summoning Dailies, and has Fire Hawk, which is a summon-flavored at-will. He should definitely be able to fill the shoes of party healer, given that he can use his own second wind as a minor action, has 2/enc Healing Words, and 1/enc Healing Spirit. Plus he can revive Fang whenever he goes down as a minor action. Where Albus used Grasping Tide to make Padfoot sticky and deal area damage (and exert action denial), Thorfin uses Fire Hawk to make Fang sticky and emphasizes single-target ranged damage. He and Fang will be absolutely devastating to artillery. Finally, with 3 creatures (ok, so the SC is actually a conjuration) being able to move with each move action I take (2 of which are superb damage sinks), Thorfin is great at holding choke points and advancing toward enemies that I want to stay put. I was torn between picking up Mending Spirit this level or Battlewise, because initiative is obviously going to be very important for this guy to move his minions into position before the enemy can move.

Ghesh Abraxus

Level 4 Dragonborn Slayer
Initiative: +5

Str: 19, Con: 12, Dex: 17, Int: 8, Wis: 10, Cha: 14

AC: 20, Fort: 19, Ref: 16, Will: 15

HP/Bloodied/Surge value: 45/22/12
Number of surges: 10

Attack (Gouge): +11
Damage (Gouge): +10

Feats: Weapon Proficiency (Gouge), Spear Expertise, Surprising Charge

Stances: Berserker's Charge, Duelist's Assault

Encounters: Power Strike x2

Utilities: Minor Resurgence

Racial: Dragonfear

Comments: I built this guy to hit like a truck. His gouge is a Vanguard weapon, and thanks to Fang's aura he can get CA for Surprising Charge fairly easily. Dragonfear is a great opener to gain CA from as well, in case Ghesh goes before Thorfin/Fang in the initiative order (or if he wants to attack someone that's not adjacent to Fang). My main goal with this guy was to act as a "backup" character that anyone could pick up and run, so the simplistic design of the Slayer made it the obvious class for that. Also, since I will likely be running Lyra and Thorfin the vast majority of the time, I wanted a guy that could dish out serious damage but off-tank as well (I figure with Thorfin's off-tanking and control abilities an actual defender probably wouldn't be as necessary.