Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Encountering D&D: 5-19 Yulbraxis

There are a few things going on in this session that are interesting for bringing back to your home games. The first is that Yulbraxis, Young Black Dragon starts the encounter already bloodied. The second is the introduction of Chandera, a half-elven priestess that is going to give Lord Drysdale some much-needed healing.

For both story reasons and mechanical reasons, I love that Yulbraxis starts the game bloodied. A level-four solo creature against a mish-mashed party of level threes is a bit much, but if you cut that creature's hit points in half, you might be able to get it done within the allotted hour. Also, it means that your players get to fight a big-ass dragon for the third time in the season without overdoing it on the resources lost before the Boss Battle next week.

The story reason for the dragon having been bloodied could have been a lot more dramatic, in my opinion. Something like this gives you a chance to join a combat in media res.

You come to a square just in front of the inner keep. The broken and bleeding bodies of dozens of men and women litter the cobbles as a battle rages on beyond them. Lord Drysdale fights alone against a cadre of lizard folk and an ebon-scaled dragon the size of a heavy clydesdale.

Drysdale plunges his sword deep into the dragon's shoulder and the creature spews acid and hatred into the square. It knocks the lord to the ground and lunges, burying it's claws in Drysdale's body before turning to look at you.

Two of the lizard men scurry off into the inner keep, dragging Drysdale's body between them. "It's too late," he hisses. "If the little lordling isn't dead, he will be soon." A cadre of guards arrives from the south, behind you.

"Ah good," the dragon whispers, licking its lips. "I was afraid this would be too easy."He roars, then charges.

Now, I know I don't actually give a shit about Lord Drysdale, but I think some players somewhere do, and to have him brought low right in front of you is a lot more dramatically intense than having the dragon offhandedly remark about how he's probably dead right now. Just saying. Plus, describing battle in D&D Boxed Text is a lot more fun than describing a black dragon that's just sort of... y'know... wandering around.

Chendera, the half-elf priestess that is hiding out in the alley, is an interesting addition to the adventure mostly in that I've always loved challenges that involve escorting less powerful characters through a difficult encounter. I mean, she has 35 hit points, and a couple of weak attacks, and she's supposed to survive DRAGON BREATH? Still, there is a nice chunk of experience reward for keeping her alive, so if you can make it happen, it's totally worth your effort.

I'm really loving the allies sub-theme in this final chapter of the season, and it seems that Mr Sims pulled out a lot of stoops in making it one of the more engaging and mechanically interesting chapters thus far. The role-playing opportunities touted for this season have been relatively solid, and it looks like the season is going to wrap up with a bang.

Good on you, Chris. You did a damned fine job putting this together.

In other D&D:E News!

We have some information about the new season, namely how the whole thing starts, and some rules changes that are coming into effect. It looks like we're going to be doing the "Y'all signed up with a caravan of settlers," thing. Which would be fine, if it didn't so closely resemble the opening to the car-wreck that was D&D:E II: Dark Sun. I do hope this Encounters season more closely resembles Sims' work on D&D:E III. I'm not at all familiar with Mr. Thompson's work as an adventure writer, so I can't say as I really know what to expect.

If you come in later in the season, you're going to be a first-level character. This is going to make some people happy (me) and others a little less happy (players who habitually forget their shit). If you make a new character for the second chapter, your new character is going to be first level. If your character dies, I'm pretty sure the Death Penalty is still an option, as opposed to rolling up a fresh character in the third chapter.

Characters are still using Essentials. I don't really have anything to say one way or the other on this. Essentials is their "introductory D&D product," and Encounters is an "introductory D&D event," so they just sort of... work together. There was an announcement about a hard-core D&D event that doles out the harshness later this year, and since it's aimed at more established players, I hope that it uses options from both D&D 4E Core and D&D Essentials. This is especially true if they want to try and convince us that Essentials is not D&D 4.5 (and I, for one, am not convinced).

Treasure distribution is getting shifted around. I can't say as I ever really cared for the way loot was given out in Encounters. To be honest, this is a lot more like the method of treasure distribution I use in my home games ("A'ight, roll me a d10, and I'll compare it to the packet chart"). I think it's a solid move, though there is a lot more room for maxing out your character's gear when you give the players the option to choose their own outfits.

The season will be using the Fortune Cards, both in the game and as rewards. Those cute reward cards you got during previous sessions are gone, replaced with a product that is going to need some serious reworking to be usable at most tables. I've already decided that I'm going to play the cards straight at my D&D: Encounters tables, but they will not be making much of an appearance in my home game. Unless the Game Master (me) is the one using them.

That's all I've got for this week, folks. Join me again next week, when we're kicking the crap out of Benwick (and I'll tell you all about how I shot him in the face).

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