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    Troll in the Playground
     
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    Default 4e Encounter Design- Is this normal

    I recently ran my first session with my group, and while we didn't have any actual casualties, we did have a lot of close calls. I want to make sure nothing is going wrong, and that this is just teething problems with the party/a result of having only 3 of 5 players (I did cut down on the numbers, but lacking the swordmage and the most tactically sound player of the group might have hurt us)

    Encounter 1 was a fairly simple encounter- 4 minions, an artillery, and a skirmisher on a relatively clear street. The minions got some hits in before being wiped out, while the archer only hit one out of two shots before fleeing. The real issue was the bandit skirmisher, who managed to put the rogue into the single digits before he turned and fled. I also learned a few things- This party is the type that will excavate a dungeon in search of loot- These particular thugs had spent their advance on booze. Furthermore, I learned that ethical dilemnas aren't going to work well, since every player was for executing the 2 goblins who surendered.

    Encounter 2 had a serious design flaw- the map I used for the ship was way, way to small for 3 PC's and 6 enemies. I shudder to think of what the full 5-6 players and the full alotment of minions and brutes would have done on this ship. As it turned out, the two brutes duked it out with the rogue and the cleric, who both took some serious damage, while the wizard sat in a corner and tried to lob spells over the melee at the minions who couldn't get into the fight.


    Any reccomendations for improving their playing experience? Or any tactical advice I should give them?

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: 4e Encounter Design- Is this normal

    What's the problem? You don't have to be afraid to kill PCs and you definitely shouldn't be afraid to drop them into negatives. In 4e a PC in negatives gets healed and pops right back up. Players get bored when they think their characters are immortal.

    How big was the ship, by the way?

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    Default Re: 4e Encounter Design- Is this normal

    Part of the issue is that your group doesn't appear to have a Defender. Defenders can't take all the damage, but they do make things a lot easier on the squishier strikers (like say, the rogue). To do without one you need either a skilled controller (and your players are new, right?) or very tough melee, and while clerics and rogues can be built tough it takes a fair bit of work. Also, remember that a 3-person party has a lower XP budget than a 5 or so person party. In general you should keep the XP per person about the same for different sized parties. It sounds like you're applying this, but it does bear mention.
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    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: 4e Encounter Design- Is this normal

    I fail to see what the problem is here.

    As long as the players are having fun, you're fine. Now, you may not want EVERY fight to be like this, but that's fine as well.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: 4e Encounter Design- Is this normal

    Re: Encounter 1
    Sounds like pretty standard fare to me. Minions don't last long in my experience, even at lower levels if the party has any hint of optimization. Skirmishers do their hit and run, and as they increase in level they tend to get powers that enhance their own mobility (which gives the defender a challenge in keeping them under control). Artillery need a wall of soldiers/brutes to hide behind, or else they tend to be ineffective, though they also tend to have high attack bonuses.

    Re: Encounter 2
    Putting aside for the moment the too-small area, brutes are supposed to be big sacks of HP that hit really hard but have very little defense. The fact that they dealt "major damage" to the cleric and rogue sounds good to me, they were doing what they were designed to do--and especially well given there was no defender to protect them.

    Re: General
    I personally think that "swingy" encounters that have a lot of close calls are more fun for players than anything else. It's good that the PCs feel they are in danger. See how the encounters go with the swordmage present, as the combination of a defender plus a controller will probably help to keep the squishy rogue and cleric (two classes not known for excessive durability) from taking too many hits.

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    Orc in the Playground
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    Default Re: 4e Encounter Design- Is this normal

    I think actually with healing surges, hitting 0 HP on a character should be pretty normal. It keeps things exciting, and keeps some risk in the system, which god knows 4e needs.

    Think about it this way: hitting 0 isn't "You've been beaten to a pulp with many wounds" it means "You have taken a serious wound. You might recover, but the wound at least has the potential to be fatal (death saves). The safe course of action is probably to get some healing attention to it ASAP."

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: 4e Encounter Design- Is this normal

    Expand your map a bit, but that seems to be the only encounter.

    On level encounters are silly-easy. Their level + 2 is a good benchmark for a typical encounter. Depending on their level of optimization, go up to +4 for normal fights, and toss a +5 at them here or there if you want something dramatic or climactic.

    Now, if they're in Heroic Tier, they'll have a huge challenge with this, but it'll be a lot of fun. After Paragon hits, and especially halfway through, they'll get a lot harder to drop.

    On average, my DM knocks 2 of us unconcious per fight, and we've totalled 3 deaths now that we're 16. We wouldn't have it any other way, it's so much fun seeing every fight as "the monsters or us".

    Well done! If you've already provided them with that much of a challenge, they must be having as much fun as my group and I up here!

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    Orc in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: 4e Encounter Design- Is this normal

    in 4e, since it's easy to heal up between fights, most encounters tend to be "close calls," at least in terms of hit points.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: 4e Encounter Design- Is this normal

    I would not worry too much, taking damage is par for the course. In my cuurent game, most characters get knocked down to at least bloodied every encounter. Last fight from my most recent game the cleric got taken down to negative hp before he even got an action.

    Small areas are fairly common in dungeons. The DMG has guidelines for encounter areas in dungeons, but use whatever works for you and your group in the context of the story.

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    Default Re: 4e Encounter Design- Is this normal

    We just started a new campaign, we are five sessions in and I am on my fourth character. Everyone else is on their second or third. Sometimes it can be brutal, but we are loving it.

    My first level paladin who just died took over 150 hp of damage in a fight against a black dragon. Level 3 encounter with some nasty terrain. He was the only one to die. But it was exciting. Finally I have a character with a con over 8 and an intelligence over 12 so I think the next one might last a wee bit longer.

    So I guess I am saying you should enjoy it. If your campaign is lethal it is fine as long as it is fair and you do not target some players but not others. If people know where they stand and they are having fun then go for it.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    PirateCaptain

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    Default Re: 4e Encounter Design- Is this normal

    Quote Originally Posted by Galdor Miriel View Post
    We just started a new campaign, we are five sessions in and I am on my fourth character. Everyone else is on their second or third. Sometimes it can be brutal, but we are loving it.

    My first level paladin who just died took over 150 hp of damage in a fight against a black dragon. Level 3 encounter with some nasty terrain. He was the only one to die. But it was exciting. Finally I have a character with a con over 8 and an intelligence over 12 so I think the next one might last a wee bit longer.

    So I guess I am saying you should enjoy it. If your campaign is lethal it is fine as long as it is fair and you do not target some players but not others. If people know where they stand and they are having fun then go for it.

    GM
    Wow that's brutal! But like you said, if you're having fun, who are we to say it's "too" brutal, eh? Sounds interesting! Hopefully it doesn't lead to a level gap.

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    Default Re: 4e Encounter Design- Is this normal

    Quote Originally Posted by Galdor Miriel View Post
    My first level paladin who just died took over 150 hp of damage in a fight against a black dragon. Level 3 encounter with some nasty terrain. He was the only one to die. But it was exciting. Finally I have a character with a con over 8 and an intelligence over 12 so I think the next one might last a wee bit longer.
    1) Black Dragons are hell incarnate if they're the MM1 version. The Vault version has this nasty acidic blood bit, but they don't chill out in clouds of darkness that basically prevent melee and ranged attacks from hitting while slashing at you for even trying...

    2) The paladin had over 8 Con, right? Con is a stat that I would never dump (10 or 12? Sure, if the class is already fairly tough or I'm mostly a ranged guy. 8 or 9? Never). The extra healing surge and HP is valuable.
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    Orc in the Playground
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    Default Re: 4e Encounter Design- Is this normal

    Quote Originally Posted by Mando Knight View Post
    1) Black Dragons are hell incarnate if they're the MM1 version. The Vault version has this nasty acidic blood bit, but they don't chill out in clouds of darkness that basically prevent melee and ranged attacks from hitting while slashing at you for even trying...
    I agree. The Adult blacks aren't so bad, because by those levels you have some tricks of your own. The really lethal ones are the Young blacks. Not a lot of ways to deal with their zone of darkness at level 4.

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    Default Re: 4e Encounter Design- Is this normal

    There are lots of stories about level 1 parties that got absolutely torn to shreds by an encounter with a Young Black Dragon.

    Brown Dragons are more acceptable.
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    Default Re: 4e Encounter Design- Is this normal

    Hey, these thing happens. I run a well-balanced party of 6-8 players, and the close calls we've had are many. And these are what make the game fun!

    Example: the wizard had about 11 hp left and was prone, the enemy (a statue construct) was going to hit him with a +19 attack and 3d10+11). So, despite the fact that he was pumped with temp hp, we all knew he was going to die...











    ...until I rolled abysmally on my damage roll, he just scraped throw with the skin of his teeth and we lived to fight another day. Gary was on our side, that night.
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