It’s a 15′ square room. Inside are two bunk beds and a rather ominous statue of a humanoid figure with a rat’s head. Oh, and 12 Goblins. The room looks like That Scene from Gremlins.
In 4e D&D terms the entire room is 3 squares by 3. That’s not enough room for the Goblin miniatures, let alone space for the players themselves. But we’re not using a battlemat and tactical grid be damned. This is retro-D&D with the 4e rules, and we’re having a ball.
We’ve been playing for just short of 2 hours and I really want this romp to last a single session. We’re pretty much on target so far. To keep things simple, all of these goblins are Minions – Goblin Cutters. It might not be the pinnacle of Good Encounter Design, but that don’t matter. Minions are Great Fun. They halve the number of dice rolled during combat, meaning more time can be spent on the descriptive narrative. Minions turn D&D into a storytelling game. How cool is that?
So anyhow. This is a tough battle. The Goblins are using anything they’ve got to hand, tossing junk and stones from the top bunk for 3 damage, or going hand-to-hand for 4 damage. Our Heroes (Hairy Bob the Fighter/Thief, Squidgee Yellowpants the Halfling Jester and Parson Jeffries the Half-Elf Cleric) battle as best they can, but 12 chattering evil goblin-things starts to take it’s toll. As they’re Minions, by the book each blow should fell a Goblin, but instead I use descriptive leeway and keep a karmic tally instead. In one round a Goblin gets hit by a flying Juggling Ball and turns, annoyed, and cracks the Goblin beside him over the head with his handaxe. Talk about taking it out on your friends.
Now, I’m not a big fan of Clerics. There’s nothing wrong with the 4e D&D rendition at all – in fact they seem just as well put together as all the other classes – but the class has never grabbed me, regardless of edition. I’m just not a Cleric kinda guy. Don’s playing Parson Jeffries brilliantly though; he’s a dour Victorian-style aged preacher who wields a Mace and black holy book with equal fervour. Mind you, I do love Half-elves. Taking the lead from 3e, the Fourth Edition Half-elves are displaced wanderers who start the game with a free dip into another class’s Power list. They’re multiclassed right from the start by design, and that’s backstory heaven. Incidentally, that also means it’s possible for a Half-elf to effectively start at level one as a Triple Classed character – I’ve got a kickass 1st level Half-elf Wizard/Dark Pact Warlock/Rogue to show off sometime.
In Parson Jeffries’ case his dirty little secret is that he’s an ex-Warlord stripped of rank due to a seriously failed tactical decision. In other words – he’s taken Commander’s Strike as a per Encounter Power.
“Don, this next attack has got to count or you’re most likely dead next round.”
“Hairy Bob, you up for a Commander’s Strike?”
“I’m behind the Goblin? Flanking?”
Now, let’s put this into context. This is a Cleric (who’s an ex-Warlord) granting a free basic attack on his turn to a Fighter (who’s a multi-classed Rogue). This is a Goblin Minion who’ll be killed with a straight blow to the head. The good Parson could probably just hit him with his Mace and it’s over, but instead be burns a per Encounter Power to let Hairy Bob do the honours. He in turn uses his per Encounter Sneak attack to unleash ungodly scimitar hell on the poor Goblin – 3d8+1 damage which neatly separates head from body in a fluid (literally) swipe.
Does this feel like World of Warcraft? Nope. Does it feel like D&D with the volume turned up to 23? OH BY THE GODS OF THE NINE HELLS YES!
Even with all this awesome, Our Heroes are fighting a losing battle and stage a fighting retreat with 5 Goblins to go. They’re low on Hit Points, down on Powers, and almost out of surges. Things are getting tough.
“We need the Wizard.”
Next time: Mahkra!