Saturday, January 9, 2010

Encounter in the Forest - Part 2 - The Grand Melee

The Grand Melee

This is the second entry in a short series dissecting a particular encounter I ran for a 4E campaign.

The monsters for this Encounter were taken directly from the Nightmare's Monster Manual entry:
1 Nightmare
1 Battlewight Commander
6 Battlewights

I don't often use the given encounter groups, as often I find that they include thematically disparate creatures, but here the flavor fit, so I went with it.

The Party:
So the two PC's were a Dragonborn Dreadnaught Fighter and an Eladrin Feytouched Warlock. The Dragonborn is a staunch defender, and his marking combined with the Dreadnaught ability to automatically save with a small self-injury meant he could stand toe-to-toe with the band of wights. The Eladrin had so many Teleports at his disposal, that not more than one or two enemies were ever able to target him in a round, leaving him open to pelt them with spells. The two companions were a Teleporting Shadow Hound (The Warlocks Pet) perfect for flanking and bonus damage. And a Warforged Defender/Controller who rolled so poorly that he was nothing but a damage sponge.

The Enemies:
One thing I have noticed about Battlewights (and most other soldiers) is that they are almost a one-trick pony. Even the Commander (an Elite) only had one interesting ability beyond the standard wight energy drain and immobilization.

This battle wasn't intended to be dangerous, so much as a sink for the players resources (namely healing surges) and yet towards the end the monster's turns became quite stale. It would seem that even monsters need a controller in the group. I made a note to be sure to include more varied monsters in subsequent encounters. Even melee enemies can do with a few controller powers dragged in to spice things up, and with the Monster Builder it is only too easy.

So how did the battle go?
I had originally intended for the Battlewight Commander and his Nightmare to strafe the battlefield with charge attacks while the Battlewights held the party down in melee. The Dragonborn was able to trip the Nightmare and it's rider, and through concerted attacks, the party downed the Nightmare in only 3 turns. I was happy to see the players success, but the fight after that became more of a slog than a tense melee. The PC's were still threatened by the Wights, as the Surge drain which they can inflict could get deadly fast. But at this point the enemies had almost nothing to do other than attack with their swords in melee. The Immobilized condition never stuck to the Dreadnaught (given his paragon ability) and the Eladrin was rarely within range for the Commander to use his ranged special attack which hinged on the immobilized condition.

All in all the fight was still a success, but it pounded home the need for a varied group of enemies in 4E. Only 1 or 2 types of monsters doesn't cut it. Varied tactics keep the battlefield alive. For the next set-piece encounter in this little adventure (beyond harrying in the forest by skeletal horsemen) there will be much more variety.

Next - Part 3 - Companion Characters

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