It's been 2+ months since my last post. Mark is running our Sunday night games (read more here), plus I am back to full-time IT work, so my schedule has been a little topsy-turvy. It's nice getting a regular check again - I was finally replaced my ~9 year old desktop pc - but as I had mentioned previously with a schedule shift and not otherwise engaged in any DnD activities, I just have not been in a writing mood.
I did run a couple of delves for our Sunday night group this summer though. If Mark was out or just back from various work or family activities we used this as an opportunity to put together a one-night only dungeon delve. The Dungeon Delve book from Wizard really is excellent for this. I was able to tell the players to work up an X level character and then we used the X level delve from the book - easy peasy.
Our first one was for 5th level characters, although I used the 7th level delve and downgraded the monsters slightly to accommodate. I had a miniature for a Feymire Crocodile, so I took it as destiny and chose accordingly. For the sake of experiment I doubled the monster damage but halved their hit points to see how that would affect the speed of play. We only had five players this night instead of seven on this night, so between the two adjustments we were able to get through all three sections of the delve in one three hour session.
The first room went very quick - the players were rolling the dice extremely hot and the monsters never knew what hit them. In the second room two huge snakes slowed the players down, but this went pretty quickly also. The highlight of this encounter was Mark's Cleric running up and jumping onto the huge snake, and then immediately teleporting off the snake as part of his action. This took some discussion, as the writhing body of the snake wasn't exactly a stable platform, so we determined that there would be a chance of failure - which he overcame - and the move was successfully completed.
The last room was a hoot. The party surged in and started easily cutting down the minion defenders and Mark's cleric did a critical ranged hit to the big boss and killed him in one blow. In the middle of the battle Brian's character was eaten by the Feymire Crocodile. It went like this - Brian's character was standing at the edge of the platform when the huge crocodile raised up and bit/grabbed him. The crocodile then used its action point and successfully swallowed him.
The crocodile then made a break for the exit. The party members tried to slow it and to kill the beast before it escaped, but it came down to their absolute last chance to kill it before they were successful. Brian's character was "extracted" from the gullet of the crocodile, a little worse for wear, but still barely alive.
When you read the encounter description the monsters are often provided roles and actions, but a lot of times these plans are immediately disrupted by what the players do. It was particularly gratifying to see one of these plans actually be able to come to fruition, especially in a one time only situation such as this. Yeah, we'll be talking about this Brian and the crocodile for years.
A few weeks later we did a 15th level dungeon with 15th level characters. We had not played with characters of this level before, nor had I DM'd with characters of this level as well, so this made for an interesting challenge for all of us. I used the "double damage/half the hit points" model again for the monsters, and we had six players for part one of this encounter and then all seven for part two. We were only able to finish the first two encounters the first night, so we decided to finish the following Sunday. A mysterious additional encounter appeared before the party could reach the finale, so the DM allowed the reinstatement of one Daily power for each player since we really had originally budgeted for the additional room.
The first couple of rooms were pretty standard dungeon fair, but the finale was a really humdinger. Fire Giants, minions, and Fire Giant Minions all combined to give the players a real test and to push the characters right to their limit. Leo's character got caught between two of the giants and was knocked unconscious, and several others were getting close when the final opponent fell.
As the DM I don't necessary feel compelled to make every encounter a maximized test of character skill, but when this does occur I want the players to know it. This encounter certainly did that.