In which ol’ Greywulf tell you what he was going to do, then goes and does something completely different. Y’see, I was going to write a post about demonic encounters, listing four or five different encounter builds which I’m going to throw at my players during the course of the Endday campaign.
But I’m not going to do that.
I’m not going to do it because that gives the impression that the way to design adventures in 4e D&D is to create three encounters, bolt them together in order and call it an adventure. That is the BadWrong way of doing things, and it’s Yet Another 4e Myth That Needs Busting (YA4MTNB). It’s not the way any game designer worth his salt would do things, and it certainly ain’t this Wulf’s way neither. I suspect that not even the (excellent and under-rated) Dungeon Delve supplement was created this way, and that’s the ultimate three-encounters-make-an-adventure collection.
No siree. The way to make an adventure is to….. make an adventure. Outline the plot and think of each session as a chapter in the tale. Give that session a Reason For Being – something that the players discover, or an element which moves the plot forward. It might introduce a key NPC, or be the Big Bossfight or something as simple as giving one of the PCs a little limelight time.
Then (and only then) add in the combat and non-combat encounters to fit the storyline. This might mean there’s three combat encounters one after the other (as in the case of Dungeon Delve sessions), but they exist for a reason, and a theme ties them all together. Heck, there might be no combat encounters at all if the session doesn’t need ’em and the players enjoy combat-free role-playing action. Mine do, though YMMV, of course.
But anyhow. Back to Endday, with a little peak at what I’ve got planned for the first session. Remember that we’re playing High-Speed D&D where the characters level-up at the end of each session, so this is the one and only time when they’ll be 1st level. And what happens is gonna HURT.
Session One: Freeway to Hell
Our heroes are on the 405 freeway between Inglewood and Santa Monica. It’s gridlocked, and there’s a storm coming in from the Pacific. They’re in their own vehicles though fate has ordained that they’re pretty close together.
Then the storm hits.
Well, when I say storm………..
Inside the storm, visible to only the players and a select few others (ie, backup characters) are a whole horde of Dretches and Gnaw Demons and they’re looking for something to chew down on. The rest of the folks on the road (or, as I like to call ’em “victims”) can’t see what it is that’s dragging them out of their cars, and they’re scared crapless. As, I suspect, would you be if you’re in the middle of an apocalyptic storm being eaten by invisible demons.
Oh, and as this is the first session the characters haven’t got their Powers at the start (only Basic Attacks), they’re first level, and unarmed. Nice.
For a battlemat I’m going to roll out a length of screwed-up graph paper, place a load of Matchbox cars on it, smush them up a bit then scatter jelly baby demons down amid the wreckage.
Now, with all that in mind, let’s build a few Encounters that I can throw into the mix using just the Dretch and Gnaw Demons from Monster Manual II. Even though I’m not using XP they’re listed in XP order to show the relative increase in difficulty.
A Dretch Minion is a standard Dretch with 1hp that does 4 damage with its Claws and lacks the Frenzy of Claws ability. The Gnaw Demon Minion does 7 damage with its Bite and lacks the Pain-Induced Teleport ability.
Dretch (Level 2 Brute 125XP)
Dretch Minion (Level 2 Minion 31XP)
Gnaw Demon (Level 5 Skirmisher 200XP)
Gnaw Demon Minion (Level 5 Minion 50XP)
Sample Encounters for 4 PCs (400XP)
– 2 x Dretch
– 4 x Dretch Minion
– 1 x Gnaw Demons
– 1 x Dretch
– 3 x Dretch Minion
– 1 x Gnaw Demons
– 2 x Gnaw Demon Minion
– 4 x Dretch Minion
– 2 x Gnaw Demons
– 2 x Dretch Minion
And that’s just the beginning of the campaign. Ouch.
Next: So, how do the players get their Powers again?