During the previous Vaults of Pahvelorn session (February 3), there was another PC death. In fact, it came perilously close to a TPK. The setup was as follows: there were two chambers, one external (pictured to the south in the map) and one internal. The external room was a makeshift shrine to demonic invaders and was guarded by several fanatical savage worshippers and a priest dressed in demon-lookalike armor. These foes were dispatched quickly but without great stealth.
Following that fight, the party went through the door leading to the inner chamber, and encountered a black armored demon warrior (actually, these creatures have armor as skin, much like an exoskeleton). He was positioned behind a heavy table on the northern side of the room.
Both sides were aware of the other, so there was no need to check for surprise. We went directly to initiative, which the black armored demon warrior won. I asked the players where all the PCs were to confirm that no characters had stayed behind in the previous room, and they verified that everyone was in the 10′ x 20′ hallway leading to the chamber. The demon warrior then discharged an energy weapon, which was 4d6 area effect damage (save versus spells for half).
All PCs and retainers were in the weapon’s area of effect. The damage dice came up 16 in total, so even those that made the save still took 8 damage. The PC Drona (fighter 3) was killed, as were two retainers (Eraria’s apprentice Genk and Drona’s retainer Gillim). Given that this was combat damage that reduced them to 0 HP, the various characters also got the standard death saving throw that I use to determine if 0 HP means true death or just unconsciousness, and those three mentioned above all failed that save as well (if I recall correctly, Eraria and a few other characters were also reduced to 0 HP, but made their death saving throw and so were successfully revived after the combat).
Session as recounted by the player of Drona:
The party returns to the barrow, which looks to have been fortified since their last visit. Tarvis and Darulin foolishly step into a snare trap, and the party are ambushed in the entry way. They make quick work of the savages that attack them, and charm their leader. The party makes their way into the barrow, led by the charmed man. Entering the second level, the party is ambushed once more. They make short work of the fellows and continue South. Beyond that path leads to a room full of more savages. A sleep spell gets rid of most of the group, and Fitzwalter gets rid of their leader. Drona and Gillum run the rest of the sleeping fellows through. Beyond the final door is a short corridor leading into a small room. At a desk sits a demon, similar to tangle. He shoots the party with a crazy magical crossbow. DEAD!
Final thoughts. Engaging in a frontal assault robbed the party of potential surprise. Also, approaching in a tight formation exposed everyone to the demon’s weapon.
|RIP Drona, fighter 3 (picture by Gus L)|
I think you’re really underselling just how close we came to a TPK, Brendan.
All told there were 7 or 9 characters present. (Three PCs, two hirelings for me, 1-2 for the other two PCs.)
Two of us lost every single one of our characters. Even when my apprentice Genk succeeded on his save, he was still knocked under 0 hp. I managed to save-v-death two of my characters, but everyone else was down. All we had left was one PC and one hireling; and after the first round one of those two went down as well.
There was seriously a moment where all but one member of the party was down, leaving only 1 guy standing, and a demon.
We survived by the edge of the dice.
It strikes me that when we first started exploring Pahvelorn we were extremely cautious about fights, doors and entering occupied rooms. There may be some hubris associated with having a few characters that can survive a normal weapon blow and the demise of Druna et al. should perhaps act as a wake up call.
Perhaps this is the trouble with and more than raw party – especially now that opposition is getting tougher.
While I perhaps agree we should be more cautious, I don’t think this was really an instance of that. In fact, this was almost *exactly* like our encounter with the Necromancer (where Margo died) except this time the dice didn’t roll our way.
Lune was rather devil-may-care also, as I remember.
I’ve been thinking about this type of thing lately. I noticed your use of the phrase “going directly to initiative.” When playing 3e we used to say “going to rounds.” I’m trying to reconcile this playstyle with early games such as OD&D and EPT that didn’t even have initiative rules. Even Holmes famous Dex based initiative rules seemed concerned only with the order of strikes rather than controlling everything.
I wonder how Dave or Phil Barker would handle this situation.
By “going directly to initiative” I usually mean skipping the surprise roll for whatever reason. I like the clean delineation between exploration mode and combat mode (there is a shift in temporal resolution there, too). Also, it gives players (potentially) a chance to flee before an enemy can act.
There is a really good thread at ODD74 about playing without standard initiative at all, and having all actions resolve simultaneously every round:
Why not simultaneous combat all the time?
It’s tempting, but there’s still the issue of information flow (actions declared last have the advantage as they can take previously declared actions into consideration). And all the other benefits of initiative mentioned above.
It should be noted that though initiative is not in OD&D, it is in Chainmail, and the line between the two is porous at best.
It’s not so much that OD&D didn’t have initiative, but that it was accidentally omited from the white box. Supplement I mentioned initiative, and the FAQ from Strategic Review #2 says:
“Initiative is always checked. Surprise naturally allows first attack in many cases. Initiative thereafter is simply a matter of rolling two dice (assuming that is the number of combatants) with the higher score gaining first attack that round. Dice scores are adjusted for dexterity and so on.”
The example that follows indicates that initiative is per faction rather than per individual combatant.
I’ve never heard “going to rounds”.
I don’t think I was clear in my original post. It was the rules on page 12 of U&WA that really got me thinking. The rule states that if the fleeing players are within 20 ft of the monster they can’t avoid the monster, otherwise the DM compares movement rates to see if the monster can catch the player. Now, that seems as if the DM is comparing the stated intentions of the players with those of the monster and trying to resolve what would happen in that specific situation. This method of resolution is identical to how you’d resolve a play-by-mail wargame such as those Dave ran for many years.
Compare that to a similar situation resolved using more modern rules; both sides would roll initiative and then if the player won, he would move his guy away. Then the monster would also move and if it’s movement was high enough, the monster would get to attack.
The type of die roll used doesn’t matter. Notice that in the OD&D rules, it doesn’t matter if the player wins initiative, he always gets attacked. The initiative die roll only determines the order of attacks, not whether attacks occur in the first place.
Does this make more sense?