This post contains spoilers for The Keep on the Shadowfell, though not many. Consider yourself warned.
The other night I ran my second game of D&D 4. I'm running The Keep on the Shadowfell, with some changes. The big thing is that I'm scaling the encounters down in power a bit since I only have 4 players. The first game I ran I did not lower the encounter levels and it was rough. It was just the kobold ambush encounters, but they were overly harsh.
The characters are:
Bram, human wizard; Lyssa, eladrin cleric of Corellon; Ander, dragonborn rogue, found as a hatchling by halflings and raised by them; and Ivy, human fighter.
I used the "missing mentor" hook and personalized it by saying that Douven, the mentor, was Bram's uncle, and that his aunt Greta wanted Bram and his friends to find her husband. They went to Winterhaven, encountered the aforementioned kobolds and befriended some locals, most notably Valthrun the sage.
Ander, the dragonborn rogue really got to shine this time around.
The group were heading to the dragon burial site that Uncle Douven was thought to have gone to. Once at the location, they heard many voices, and Ander snuck up to the site. It was a group of human thugs led by a gnome.
(I had decided to remove the guardian drakes and add more human rabble.)
Ander was on fire with his stealth and athletics, sneaking and sliding down the slope into the burial site, but he stepped on a large dry branch, giving himself away. The jumpy gnome shot at him with his crossbow, a warning shot. Things were looking bad for Ander. A fairly large group of club wielding thugs surrounded him. Then he started to shovel the BS.
He told them that he was on a pilgrimage to visit the grave of one of his ancestral dragons. The thing is, Ander's bluff score is pretty crappy, +1. But, he pulled off a great roll and the gnome was not insightful enough to see through Ander's lies.
Ander knelt down next to the grave and began chanting in draconic. Bram, the wizard, knows draconic (Ander determined during his bluff that the gnome did not know the language by saying something to him in draconic and the gnome giving him a blank look). Ander began covertly telling Bram how many opponents they had, how they were armed, etc. Brilliant! Bram then used the Ghost Sound cantrip to relay this info to Ivy, who then whispered it to Lyssa.
Lyssa, our high perception eladrin, heard the gnome tell one of the thugs to kill this chanting fool so they could clean out (they had found what they were looking for), so Ivy shot the gnome with her short bow and all hell broke loose
It was cool and tense with Ander surrounded by thugs trying to bluff. The whole time he had a shuriken hidden in his hand, just waiting to throw it. In fact, once the shit went down, in one turn, he unleased his acid breath, killing two of the humans and using the shuriken to kill another with a throat shot.
The halfling slinger. who had been hidden the whole time finally revealed herself and started raining sling stones down on the adventurers. She did quite a bit of damage, and eventually escaped unscathed. Now I have a foe that might be back someday to try and get revenge on the group.
The gnome was shot a few times by Ivy, then Bram unleashed his Flaming Sphere, frying him. Lyssa finally finished him off with her Lance of Faith while he tried to escape.
Uncle Douven was rescued and the group has a few clues about the Cult of Orcus and the rift of the Shadowfell, but first they have been asked by Lord Padraig of Winterhaven to help stamp out their kobold problems, which is where they will start next time around.
All in all, I think this session went better than the first one. The first time out, I was trying to juggle and teach the rules, and rushed through things to get to encounters. This time I took it slower, had a lot more interaction with NPC's. Also, lowering the difficulty of the encounter helped a bit. The PCs still were taking some serious damage, but it wasn't completely overwhelming.
I'm really looking forward to the next game.
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“The big thing is that I'm scaling the encounters down in power a bit since I only have 4 players. The first game I ran I did not lower the encounter levels and it was rough. It was just the kobold ambush encounters, but they were overly harsh.”
I’m curious: How is an encounter overly harsh? An encounter is what it is. Instead of scaling things down, why not leave it to the PCs to handle the situation as they would if there was not an omnipotent DM looking out for them? (e.g. Get help or find a different approach.)
I'm sorry you felt my comment came off as disingenuous sniping. Whether you believe me or not, I am interested in your opinion.
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