Feb 6, 2009

Playtest: There's a RITE way, and a wrong way

Goodness, how the time flies. It is Friday, and I will post fom my sickbed so that my excellent sextet of followers can receive their weekly marching orders.

Last week, I posted a skill challenge that I had planned to spring on my players. They had just defeated the mighty Mindripper, and were now faced with a summoning ritual gone horribly wrong.

While the first great beast had been defeated, now they were being swarmed by smaller versions of the same. This battle really put 4E through it's paces. With only one arcane character in the group, it was essential that he be protected from harm. Things started out simply enough, monsters materializing in the rift squares each round.

One thing they didn't really think about until it happened was that THEY COME THROUGH EVERY ROUND! Soon the room was filled with these critters, and the panic started setting in. About midway through, they were cornered around the ritual circle, trapped behind a wall of semi-translucent bluish proto-flesh from the far realm.

They did succeed. 12 successes and 4 failures. It worked out nicely :)

Afterwards, we talked a little about how things went, and I opened the book to the chapter on skill challenges in general. Tell you the truth, as written, they sound REALLY lame. In fact, it was queried after the game if it was possible to make ALL combats like this.

I've been pondering. And tinkering. And screwing around with it. I have to say no. Not only is it a lot of work to integrate into EVERY combat encounter, but SC's only work in the context of accomplishing a goal IN ADDITION to victory.

In this particular case, the enemies were literally never ending. There was no victory without unraveling the ritual. This brings a few thoughts to mind:


  1. These scenarios are very similar to rewards. Great risk = Great rewards.
  2. There must be a DEFINITE penalty for failure. In this case, failure would have brought another Lvl.8 solo controller through the rift IN ADDITION to the endless swarm of other creatures. This could easily have become a TPK or at best a total rout in their weakened condition.
  3. Be VERY careful not to hit the party too hard right on the heels of another encounter. I allowed them a "short rest" between to get their encounters back. If I hadn't, it would have ended badly.
  4. The riftspawn were needlessly complicated. Lose the enveloping ability, as well as the merge ability. It was useless and just wasted time.
  5. The sliding as part of a standard attack was AWESOME! and really helped keep the party on it's toes.

If I had the ability to do it over again, the only change I would make would be to make the room larger. The tactical aspect of the encounter was phenominal, and we got to see some pretty impressive fireworks!

My goal is to try and do this again (a hybrid skill challenge of sorts) every 5th encounter or so. Next up? I'm not sure. It is my suspicion that they are going to trace the path of the Dawnbringers before they were obliterated by the destruction of the Necromancer Shkrem.

Is there any nascent ideas you, my readers would like to see given the "TPK" treatment? Sound off, and the best skeleton will be fleshed next week.

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