Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Next - Caves of Chaos - Session 4

I really need to think up a name for this campaign. We originally started playing Keep on the Borderlands a few years ago as part of their introduction to D&D Basic. They covered about a third of B2 and about half of B1 (I stuck it in the "Cave of the Unknown" on the B2 area map like many other people) before we decided to give 4th Edition a try, but we always intended to come back to it. I was having fun coming up with a new campaign world for it all and it does have a different feel than later editions. We used the Caves for our initial foray into next and it went poorly. We came back to them for this latest Next package and it has been much better this time around.

The party is now second level:
  • Wood Elf Ranger (Blaster) - mainly a two-weapon fighter
  • Human Cleric (Blaster) - sun cleric, mainly a ranged combatant.
  • Wood Elf Monk (Who) - two-fisted fighter aspiring to try the new airbender subclass
  • Human Rogue (Red) - sneak & shoot
  • Human Mage (Red) - enchanter sub-type but pretty free with the blasting so far
The Apprentices have explored (and massacred) the kobolds and the goblins so far and tonight they went after the ogre. It's fun watching them use what they learned previously, even though it's meta-gaming in a huge way and makes no sense that they would have it. They were a little fuzzy on the exact order of the caves, but as soon as they saw the "bear' they knew for sure the ogre lair was at hand. The fear of the one-shot character kill set in and suddenly there was a lot more sneaking around.

I had seriously considered a) swapping the ogre out for some other creature or b) having the ogre slip through the secret door and come after them by sneaking out and around and trapping them in his own lair. I decided against both because I don't really want to punish them for learning from experience. As it turned out it might have been better if I had. They took Mr. Ogre down in one round. The wizard magic-missiled him, the ranger double-sworded him, the cleric inflicted wounds on him, the rogue shot him, the ogre swung and missed, and then the monk double-punched him and dropped him to end the first (and only) round.

It's not so much that monsters in Next are weaker, though his AC is fairly low. The whole party is at 2nd level now so they are tougher, but their offense is quite a bit stronger compared to Basic PC's. The ranger and monk can make two-weapon attacks with few penalties (not even an option in original Basic), the rogue gets sneak attack damage even at range (unlike the old backstab move), the cleric isn't that much stronger but "inflict" is a ranged attack in this version, and the wizard gets 3 magic missiles from his spell for 2-5 each and it still autohits - certainly a stronger contender than it used to be. When the cantrips do 1-6 each the actual first level spells have to do more and this one does. I'm sure some will complain about power creep but they are all pretty comparable defensively to old school characters, they just have a few more options on offense - I don't think it's game breaking.

There was much celebrating after this and the requisite looting. They figured out the gold-colored copper coins pretty quickly and found the rest of the treasure. There was the traditional extended conversation over how to distribute potions at low levels but nothing serious. Then they decided to move on after a short rest.

Next up was the orc lair back across the canyon. As soon as they saw the heads they remembered their previous experience in this set of caves and I am pretty sure Apprentice Red was ready to play the same gambit if he had the chance. They moved in (and of course were spotted by the "head sentry") and went left towards the banquet room. The ranger just had to check out the Big Chair in the banquet hall but had made it back to the party when the first wave of orcs attacked.

Four orcs from the guardroom tried to sneak up on the group but didn't pull it off and charged, engaging the cleric and the monk. A few rounds later three more from one of the other guard rooms came down the northern corridor and circled in behind them. A pretty good fight broke out with casualties on both sides.

Orcs are notably tougher in Next: they average 11 hp so are less likely to drop in one hit, and they swing greataxes for 1d12+2. It's not ogre damage level but it's scarier when there are 4-7 of them fighting the party! The pair that went around the back of the party (one of the late arrivals went to the front to aid the fight there) tore into the rogue and dropped him in round 4, but the fight was over by round 5 and our party retreated outside the caves to attend to the rogue and recover.

We're aiming to work in another session this week - more to come if we do.

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