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This Wednesday marks the last week of the "Dark Legacy of Evard" story line for D&D Encounters, and I have a problem.
Prior to my assuming DM duties for this event, another DM who caused a lot of problems that I won't enumerate here (suffice it to say he was banned from the event) delayed the progression of the sessions by re-running games every time new players came aboard, and just generally not getting through scenarios on time.
As a result of this setback, I NEED to wrap up "Evard" this week in order to get the ball rolling for "Lost Crown of Neverwinter" next week. Unfortunately, to do it "by the book" I will have to cram four encounters into one night of play (Sessions 10-13).
Are any other 4E players here running Encounters and familiar with "Evard", or have experience with scaling back adventures to run in a shorter time frame? I can do up to three hours of play. I was considering stripping out one of the fights (either session 10 or 11) and using higher-level minions in place of the monsters given to speed up play. In past sessions, to gain ground due to time lost, I have halved the hp of monsters and added 2 or 3 points to the damage that their powers deal to balance that out - it makes play move faster without players feel like they're fighting pushovers.
Anybody else got any suggestions?
The ideas you have are good. Another easy option is to give the monsters Vulnerable 5 All once bloodied. It lets the early part of the fight feel just as challenging as it should, but once the bad guys start to go down, the "grind" of finishing them off is reduced.
I don't have my copy of the adventure with me, so forgive me if I get this wrong - but as I recall, the last two sessions are very good (Nathaire and Vontarin) but run a little long. (NOTE: Because we're going to GenCon, and we're the only GMs for our FLGS, my husband and I had to run both the final sessions this past week - and it took close to 3 hours to get through both.)
The two sessions before that are both actually fairly disposable (unnecessary side-trek to the crypts and then the random mooks fight in the ruins). The only purpose was to bring on night-fall and let the PCs know they needed to find the Library... and you could do that with the skill challenge in Session 10, if I remember right, though you may want to add in a couple of additional skill checks (e.g. History DC 13 to figure out that the Pelorans would probably have stored items taken from Vontarin's manor in the abbey Library; Perception DC 13 to spot tracks that seem to run to a specific section of the ruins, where the library is likely to reappear after nightfall).
So I'd actually recommend cutting both sessions 10 and 11, then running sessions 12 and 13 without cutting them down in difficulty.
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Cintra, thank you so much for your advice. I dropped sessions 10 and 11 and replaced it with a role playing encounter to drive the party toward the monastery. My group had a blast!
They faced off against the possessed Nathaire and knocked him unconscious without killing him - but as soon as he fell, the half-orc smashed the orb with his axe. Once Nathaire was revived, he helped them piece together a consecration and necromantic binding ritual that required all the party's mages and priests (including the paladin) to run a skill challenge while the pure martial heroes fended off Vontarin and the Shadowfell monsters.
They were flummoxed when the lesser monsters kept fighting on for one more round after the ghost died, but they all survived. =D