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March 21st, 2004

Some Important Concepts in D&D...

Alas, my poor players! They made a ton of classic D&D blunders last night, and it nearly wiped out the party. They were doing an assault on a band of bugbear bandits who were led by a powerful ogre fighter. The first half of the assault (last week) went more or less fine, but the second half (last night), could have been a TPK [1] if the chimera deeper in the dungeon hadn't been rolling so badly...

So here are some key concepts to remember when playing D&D, everyone out there in LJ-land...

When you've just had a big fight, stop and loot!
You say you have three hit points? Mmmm, a potion of cure light wounds would be tasty about now! Say, maybe the ogre has one in his treasure chest! The temptation to open just one more door has killed more adventurers than all the orcs in Isengard.

If you're in combat already, don't open any doors.
There's nothing further into the dungeon but more monsters. Kill the ones you've got in front of you first -- preferably before they can call for reinforcements. Taking on nine bugbears is easy, if you're fighting them three at a time. Taking on 12 bugbears and their FTR 5 ogre leader all in one combat, is much, much harder!

When a magic item gives you the creeps, don't pick it up!
Okay, so the ogre was talking to his club and asking what to do in combat -- and when he hit people with it, aside from doing a boatload of damage, it also cast inflict light wounds on them. That right there should tell you it's bad news. When the club also manifests the ability to cast dimension door multiple times, you should count to zero, scream, and run away. Not, y'know, pick it up, get mind controlled, and abandon the party to die fighting a chimera while the club uses you as a vehicle to conquer the world.

Big, empty, magical rooms have big, horrible, magical guardians!
The party knows that this dungeon was once a shrine, and that something really, really bad happened that made people stop coming to the shrine. Well, one of the rules of fantasy is that horrors linger -- so they had to know they'd encounter the horror if they kept poking around the dungeon. Of course, heroes poke horrors, that's part of the job description -- but smart heroes rest up and regain their spells and hit points beforehand! Particularly when their strongest fighter has been mind controlled by an evil club and is going to wander off. ;) The chimera in the shrine would have been a tough fight for the party at full strength ... they were just lucky that it kept rolling 3s, 5s, and 7s. There was at least one critical threat -- against a character who wouldn't have withstood a full critical hit.

In my players' defense however, I will say that they did use some very good tactics; the rogue opened up the first combat by using her cloak of elvenkind to get in and perform coup de grace on a hapless bugbear; the fighter ended up on the ground and instead of taking a ton of attacks of opportunity when he stood up, just sucked up the -4 penalty for fighting prone and started chopping bugbears' legs off; the ranger's animal companion wolf was a flanking machine, giving the rest of the party attack bonuses and sneak attack opportunities. The NPC monk/cleric even got into the fray very well, something he was never much good for in the 3.0 rules ... he used his tumble skill constantly to run from one end of the combat to the other healing downed companions (that wand of cure light wounds is almost used up), and even got a few good whacks in with his nunchaku.

The best part, IMO, was when they figured out how to anticipate the chimera's breath weapons, and dived for cover! I decided at the beginning of this fight that when the chimera wanted to use his breath weapon, he would fly away from the fray and land in a spot where he could get everybody on the turn before it recharged, then blast away with it on the next turn. It was probably not the best tactic on his part because it opened him up to attacks of opportunity (which eventually did him in), but was cool and dramatic -- and every time he flew away after the first, the characters would all scatter and dive for cover, which was a terrificly cinematic image.

It's also worth noting that the characters' rushing headlong into mortal peril was wonderfully in character. The fighter has a history of impulsively making bad decisions (don't attack a gray ooze with your beloved magic axe). The wizard has a history of being obsessed with magic (oh, the fighters can take care of those giant spiders, what do these runes say?). The ranger has a history of being a little more curious than is healthy (Well, we've taken a few big hits, we should probably think about heading for the surface, but what's down this hallway of the drow stronghold?). The only way it could be more classic for this group is if Camstone's now-retired rogue had still been in the group and gotten himself killed trying to rescue somebody! ;) Since Laurie has only recently taken over the role of party rogue, she hasn't had a chance to establish a history yet. :) It should be fun to see how she develops!

-The Gneech

[1] Total Party Kill in gamer parlance

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