The student is now the master

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My wife is DMing her first D&D game. After years of playing games I’ve run, and years of ones our friend Jon ran before that, she’s absorbed the most important lesson of Dungeon Mastering: A.B.C. Always. Be. Cilling PCs. Okay, Killing. But ABK doesn’t sound as good.

It doesn’t help us one bit that she’s running the Tomb of Motherfucking Horrors. So it was dubbed by the one member of the party who lost his favorite Elven Wizard to the Sphere of Annihilation trap back in the day. He’s now playing a Rogue tricked out with the sickest combination of stealth and trapfinding powers/feats the game has to offer. He insists on progressing five feet at a time, checking every square for traps. The rest of us frequently blast on past him into the middle of newly discovered rooms, much to his chagrin.

She came very very close to a TPK in the second session. We were down a player and so had only 4 instead of 5 PCs there that day. Rather than play the 5th, our Elven Ranger, as an NPC (we’re already doing that since there are actually only 4 of us playing – each phase of the game we’ll have a different Companion Character) she decided to give each of us a very nice boon just for the one session: once per round we could re-roll attacks like Elven Accuracy or we could attack with the same power against the same target twice, even Encounters or Dailies. I was worried this would be too generous. But then we went left instead of right and our understaffed band of lvl 10 characters wandered into a lvl 13 encounter.

I really think the difference was not so much in the damage output we had but in the number of bodies able to absorb damage. The fact that we were in a small room with baddies that had damaging auras didn’t help things at all either. In retrospect we may have been doing things wrong and making life harder on ourselves. I’m trying not to spoiler the encounter here, but we were up against a Solo and another creature or two. One did 10 damage to anybody starting their turn next to them, the other did 8 (both untyped, I think). For most of the combat my paladin was between the two, and either Stunned or Dazed so she couldn’t get away. They also had attacks that dealt ongoing damage and I was frequently under both ongoing 10 and ongoing 5 (different types or untyped. Can’t recall for sure) I couldn’t make a save to, well, to save my life. The few turns where I was actually conscious I was trying to Lay on Hands myself to stay upright and maybe do something the next round. Then I’d fail my ongoing damage saves and take 33 damage at the start of the next turn, plus whatever attacks I’d taken during that round, and drop again. Wheee. I think I went through 7 of my 12 healing surges in that fight, and I maybe actually dropped one or two attacks. Don’t think I ever had a spare minor action for Divine Challenge. But then it was hitting me every turn anyway.

Oh, and did I mention that both of these critters had something similar to Insubstantial? They took half damage from ranged and melee attacks. Double from area of close attacks, though, that was a nice thing. But guess what we didn’t really have any of. Yeah.

tl;dr – it was brutal. Probably the most brutal combat I’ve been in yet in 4e. We should have by all rights wiped. We got lucky though, because when the Solo finally got bloodied our ardent was able to drop an Intimidate check on its ass and get it to surrender.  We all agreed, it’s not a rule we particularly like and definitely not one we’d use often but in this case I believe it was really the only thing between us and a TPK.  It certainly prevented another hour plus of grueling combat before it was resolved one way or the other.

We kind of made up for it in the next encounter where we faced some undead, and thanks to the boon we had I was able to toss out Rebuke Undead twice in one round and vaporize 3 of the 5 baddies. That felt goooood.

Still, this is going to be a looong campaign. I don’t see it being sunshine and roses for us at any point in the future.

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2 Responses to “The student is now the master”

  1. John Says:

    “Yeah, I used to be an adventurer once… its a tough racket… PUT. THAT. POTION. DOWN. Potions are for closers only. I am not fucking with you. I am here on a mission of mercy from the lower levels of the dungeon. Oh, do I have your attention now?”

  2. Len Says:

    Yeah, that was nasty (and to be honest the DM was kind to us). But help is coming, oh yes. Soren v2 came here to heal people and chew bubblegum. And I don’t think D&D actually has bubblegum.

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