Monday, January 26, 2009

Kobold Ambush, Again

When the players leave Winterhaven, they're set upon by a kobold ambush. Yes, again.

Mearls and Cordell must have really liked the idea of a kobold ambush, because not only is it the first encounter in the book, it's also the second. On its sophomore outing the ambush has most of the minions replaced by a single spellcaster, but it's otherwise the same battle. It even uses the same battle map.

It would probably be a bit baffling for players who are entirely new to D&D. They may end up describing it to their friends as "that game where you get ambushed by lizards".

The repetition might have been a deliberate design decision. There is something to be said for letting people try the same thing twice, to make sure they have learned how to do it before moving on to more complex scenarios. Learning by repetition works best, though, when applied to small, short tasks, rather than forty minute combat slugfests.

This happens a lot in Keep on the Shadowfell. Later, a memorable encounter with an ochre jelly (a kind of dangerous ooze) is followed by an encounter with a blue slime (a kind of dangerous ooze). Putting two of these rare monsters back to back cheapens them both. Similarly, a horde of mindless zombies in a graveyard is followed by a horde of mindless zombies in a dungeon, a tribe of goblin mercenaries is followed by a tribe of hobgoblin mercenaries, and a climactic battle against cultists and high-level undead comes just before another climactic battle against cultists and high-level undead.

Nothing ruins a satisfying encounter like an immediate rematch.


Brian said...

There are a couple changes here in the revised edition:

1) We use the new easier skill DCs to detect the ambush (Perception 19 instead of 25). I expect there will be more changes like this throughout.

2) I don't think Greg addressed the kobolds' elemental affinity in any of his posts. As part of their design, Dragonshields have resist 5 to one element and Wyrmpriests have a ranged attack of a chosen element.

All of the kobolds in the original adventure are haphazardly assigned fire or acid. I've always thought that kobolds of the same tribe would share the same elemental focus, so I was surprised to see some of both. If there were any alterations in the new version here, I would have expected them to all have the same thing.

Instead, in this encounter we've changed a pairing of acid Wyrmpriest and acid Dragonshields to a pairing of acid Wyrmpriest and fire Dragonshields. In the process, we lose a nice synergy. It's hard to believe this change was deliberate, but it must have been.

Greg Tannahill said...

I actually think the DC 25 was more appropriate, given that it's something that everyone rolls on it and you only need one success. DC 25 is out of reach for characters that don't have training + a skill bonus, and it's even odds for a character with +9 or +10 (which you're almost guaranteed to have one of).

The lower DC would be appropriate in a situation where everyone rolls individually, rather than all gaining the benefit of the highest roll.

Rob said...

I realize I'm a day late and a dollar short, but the horrific stereotypes that keep cropping up in this module (and later H modules) leave me imagining a level 35 VP of Marketing for Hasbro reliving the epically uncreative dungeon delves of his youth (level 12 and 13) by meddling in the creative process of vastly more experienced writers at WotC. The whole campaign feels like a reunion tour of classic monsters of OD&D and AD&D. What say you?