Saturday, August 21, 2010

After Action Report #3

I've had 2 more sessions of running my game, but I saved them both up to go in one entry. Quite frankly, my players have not made a lot of progress in those 2 sessions and there were a lot of issues to sort out. So there was little point in writing an AAR after each session. Previously, my players had cleared and explored through the Spiderweb Landing, rescuing one of the kidnapped citizens of Brindol, and were ready to continue searching for others.

Because I'd tried to make the enemies at least a ~little~ proactive, the Rivenroar Family Crypt was completely empty. The enemies that had been there previously attacked the PCs as they tried to rest. Of course, the players didn't know this so, they were really cautious and careful, expecting an attack at any moment. I, of course, played this up for all it was worth because I think it's funny to subvert player expectations. I called for several stealth checks, several more perception checks, and I rolled a lot of random d20s. Sometimes several at once, to make it feel more like there were hidden monsters lurking everywhere.

Eventually the PCs went down to the hallway to the Fresco Room. They were expecting an ambush from the rear at any time when they opened the door. Which is sensible of them and I hope they forget to do that at some point so I can do exactly that. :) The PCs were again very cautious, ridiculously so. The rogue scouted the room, but alerted the bad guys there and then retreated, apparently hoping that my monsters or I were stupid and would happily run right along into the readied attacks that the PCs had waiting.

Side note. My PCs seem to want to start fights like that. Have the rogue stealth in, attack once to alert the monsters, and then retreat so that the monsters are basically walking into an ambush. They've done this, or tried to, several times. It reminds me of nothing so much as pulling mobs in an MMO. Something which I know quite a bit about as I was a top-flight Hunter in WoW. As the GM, I've already gotten tired of it because, as I said before, it means that the players think that either I'm stupid or my monsters are. I'll play stupid creatures as they need, but many are going to recognize the PCs tactic for what it is. As these did.

So the PCs took several turns, hoping that the monsters would oblige them and run out. When they didn't, the PCs went on the attack. Sorta. The combat went poorly for the PCs. Part of this was just bad tactics/decisions on their part. Part of it was bad rolling for them. Part of it was good rolling on my part. The players really tried to downplay the bad tactics and decisions, but it really was the biggest part of how this very nearly turned into a TPK. Yes, I rolled well, but I also had one of the enemies (the one with the close blast 3) continually beat up his own allies in his efforts to hit the PCs. It'd be fair to say that one enemy did as much to win the encounter for the PCs as the PCs themselves did. In the end, I had 4 PCs down and dying with only the wizard still up. The wizard barely managed to take out the last monster and the players got themselves back up.

The PCs took another extended rest here. This time I was more willing to allow it. The reasoning being that Gomd, the blast happy goblin in the room, was notoriously cranky and wanted to be left alone. So any roving patrols would leave the PCs alone so long as they stayed in the Fresco Room. Is it a flimsy reason? Yeah, a little. But if I'd played monsters halfway intelligently in Rivenroar, my party would have died very early on. An alarm would have gone up and the PCs would have been swarmed with almost every remaining intelligent enemy as they tried to take their first rest. In the interests of fun, I let both of the extended rests go. Also in the interest of fun, I'm not doing another realistic thing and having some fights "respawn" when outside patrols and reinforcements show up (as they should be). Later on, in another dungeon, the PCs might not be so lucky. I don't want players to feel that once they have an encounter in a room that it's the only encounter they can have there and that monsters are going to sit around waiting for the PCs to show up and attack them.

Instead of moving up to the second floor, the PCs decided to check around the rest of the castle first. Eventually they ended up in the Mushroom Chamber. This fight ended up decently, but not as interestingly as it could have been. My PCs once again turtled up in the entrance of the room and tried to get the enemies to come to them. Feeling that the monsters would do exactly that, the fight ended up ignoring all the mushroom terrain in the room and it lost some of the unique aspects to the fight. I ended up deciding that there was a pile of bodies in the far corner, where the goblins were putting most of the dead villagers and farmers until they could be turned into undead. The PCs rescued the old woman in the next room and I had a lot of fun with her. I had her berate the PCs for not rescuing her earlier, insulting their manhood, their skills, their intelligence, and everything else short of their penis size. I had a lot of fun with it. The Paladin rolled brilliantly on Diplomacy and the old woman took a shining to him, so the berating of the players instead turned into comparing them unfavorably to the Paladin saying things like "Why can't you be smart like this lovely young man here?" and so on.

Next the PCs went to the Von Jallach Crypt. This... went badly. Really badly. I know I built the encounter to be very dangerous, but even I underestimated how brutal it really was going to be. The Paladin was dead first turn. Not down and dying. Stone dead. Eventually the Rogue followed him into death. The Runepriest was one lucky die roll from death (he had 2 failed death saves, but then rolled a nat 20). The Wizard was down to 3 HP. The Monk was down and dying. The PCs won, eventually, but at terrible cost.

After the encounter, I talked with some of the players. It was pointed out that I could have outright killed a PC every turn if I'd rolled well. In the end, I agreed to a retcon. If I'd dropped the damage that the tiles did to, say, 1d4 or 1d6 damage as I probably should have, the PCs likely would have one. I'd have still kicked their teeth in, I'm sure, but they likely wouldn't have had any outright deaths. So in the interests of fun for everybody, I declared that the PCs retroactively got their ass kicked but won. They'd lose at least 5 healing surges (plus any that actually got spent in the fight). If this brought PCs below 0 surges, they would be weakened until they had an extended rest.

So that's where things left off. I'm going to allow another extended rest, but at the cost of the remaining villagers being killed. The PCs will find the bodies, very recently dead. I've been generous allowing the players to take rests, but they should also realise that their choices have consequences. They might have to explain to families why those NPCs are dead, explain why they weren't saved. I'll pull some guilt tripping here later where the PCs have weeping families thanking them for bringing a body back when the PCs will know damned well that that NPC should still be alive. Further, they will not get the full reward in XP or treasure that they would have for rescuing everybody.