Affair at Somberfell Hall Playtest Results

Doomsday Dawn Player Feedback

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It has been awhile since I've reported on this sort of thing, between real life commitments, and actually having the motivation to type this sort of thing up, but since I'm in a bit of a lull (being sick and not having any major commitments at the time being the biggest factors here), I might as well do this.

This was ran using the 1.4 Update rules (so Wounded and such is a factor here now).

Party Composition:
The party followed the assumed guidelines. We had two Clerics (one of Desna, another of Sarenrae), a Paladin (Half-Orc), and a Halfling Druid (Me). Since we were the assumed party of 4, the GM did not have to boost the monsters (much to our benefit, more on that later).

Introduction and Exploration:
Combining these into one section for simplicity and because of how it was ran.

We approach the door, unsure of how to proceed. The person of interest could be dangerous or outright ungreetable, even if he has worked with us in the past. It seemed strange that we are sent specifically to search him out instead of having other forms of communication, so we had to be ready for anything; maybe it was overrun by enemies, maybe the professor went crazy from one of his experiments, it was really hard to say. Searching for traps (and not finding any), we simply knock on the door. What's the worst that could happen?

Being greeted by Lucvi, we explain our business and we are begrudgingly welcomed in. We take note of the strange lighting in this place, and eventually we are brought to the professor, whom stated he was indisposed of offering his help to us, despite us stating our case strongly. Eventually he stated to reconsider after the experiments he does tonight, and retired to the laboratory with the other researchers.

Afterward, Lucvi offered us bedrooms to rest for the night, but seemed worried about something. Once interrogated, she stated that the professor was acting extremely strange as of late, and requested that we investigate the manor in hopes of uncovering clues. At this point, the Halfling Druid made the snide remark, "Well gang, looks like we have ourselves a mystery!" And so we investigated.

We checked all of the rooms and once more interrogated the professor in the laboratory (to no avail). We found the trap door in the professor's room (but didn't open it), as well as the drop-down door to the attic (which was locked, but the Halfling Druid was trained in Thievery and possessed a Skeleton Key). Investigating the attic, we came across a dilapidated corpse that ceased being human, with some scissor-like object inbedded in the skull. Removing the object revealed the initials of the professor engraved on it.

With this evidence, we confronted the professor, causing the researchers and Lucvi to freak out, and finally we are told the full story. If we helped the professor with his problem, he would be more than willing to help us with ours; the deal was struck at this moment, but there was loud knocking and scraping on the door. The professor goes to answer the door; we tried to tell him not to open it, but it was too late.

Encounter 1:
The Ghouls. At this point, the professor reacts very quickly, and manages to run away behind us. The ghouls move toward our position and attempt to strike us, but fail horribly. They seemed overwhelming based on their approach and apparent gruesomeness, but in reality were fairly weak. We burned a single channel to decimate the creatures, and the rest was dealt with cantrips and simple melee strikes.

After the combat, the professor proclaims that the terrors of his problem are coming, and the others retire to their rooms, while we kept them safe from whatever monsters may come our way. With this time, we took chairs and other sorts of small furniture and built barricades to create bottlenecks in front of the bookcase tower that the monsters have to sift through (burning actions) or funnel through (making it easier on us) in order to attack us.

Encounter 2:
The Ghasts and Vampires. These creatures seemed a little more difficult, and actually managed to inflict one of our clerics with their Ghast Rot, but based on the time it takes for it to transpire, would not have any major effect on the module. (Which seems strange to me, doesn't really help us playtest the deadliness of their auxiliary effects.) We burned a spell point, but due to the chokepoints we made, we didn't need to burn any channels. The vampires were similarly easy to dispatch, despite being somewhat stronger.

Encounter 3:
The Wights and Poltergeist. This fight would not have been that bad if not for the fact that the Poltergeist being permanently invisible made it nearly impossible to fight. The wights managed to close the gaps and get a couple hits in, but our saving throws and offensive capabilities were strong enough (and focused enough, since we couldn't see the poltergeist until much later) to eliminate them before they became a real threat. If not for one of our Clerics coming prepared with a See Invisibility scroll, we could have easily TPK'd to this fight simply due to the strong stealth score of this creature combined with its equally strong offensive power.

Encounter 4:
The Zombies and Greater Shadows. When we only saw the zombies, we had a feeling something worse was coming, and sure enough, the greater shadows came. While the shadows were menacing (and managed to pull 3 regular shadows out from the others, I avoided them entirely), they weren't so bad as to overwhelm us. I will say that this wave is where we burned the most channels simply to eradicate the shadows in a quick fashion. The zombies were a complete joke and really only served to desecrate our barricades (which were worthless at the time) and to throw off our focus, and were easily dispatched with cantrips and basic melee attacks similar to the ghouls. The Paladin was pretty weakened here, but was able to recover in time for the next fight.

Encounter 5:
Ilvoresh and the Vampire Spawn. This fight was tough and somewhat annoying, but it wasn't too horrible thanks to our party makeup. If anything, the Poltergeist encounter was more horrible since it was such a deciding factor between players who are and are not prepared.

I will say that when your highest level area spells are just as strong as your single-target spell point options (if not worse due to potential variations). My Spell Points were more valuable in this fight than my highest level spells, which really hurt my ego as playing a Druid. Don't get me wrong, my spell points were pretty cool (calling down 30+ damage on a creature is pretty nice), but when my 3rd and 4th level spells like Lightning Bolt and Fireball were hardly matching those numbers, it really put a damper as to how (and why) I selected those spell slots, when I might have been able to select other spells in their place and potentially contributed more.

Another interesting thing of note is that the GM let the Brain Collector have access to Phantasmal Killer as a spell (since it's a spell they acquire through the Beastiary entry), and when he cast it on one of the Clerics, they almost immediately died due to poor rolling. The sad thing is that everyone at the table wanted the spell to work, and based on reviewing the spell rules, it didn't. (It still really screwed up the Cleric with damage, though.)

Regardless, the players survived. We almost had a PC death due to bad rolling, but reviewing rules prevented it (to the dismay of the other players, too). We had very little power left (there was only one channel left amongst the Clerics, the Druid was out of spell points, and the Paladin was out of Lay On Hands). Without proper preparation and use of tactics, this was a for-sure death sentence.

A few things to take away from this playthrough:
1. Always pack See Invisibility in some form that anyone in the party can use. If you try to rely on Seeking invisible enemies, you're gonna have a very, very bad time, and you'll probably TPK because of it. Especially considering how extremely limited and unhelpful the Seek action is. Furthermore, it needs clarification for when trying to Seek enemies that are outside of the 30' foot range; does it just automatically fail? Does a success tell you that they are more towards another direction? This is helpful not only for invisible enemies, but also enemies whom are stealthed behind debris and are well outside the 30' range that the Seek action allows, and is an issue I ran into in the previous playtest adventure that I simply adhoc'd to keep the game flowing.

2. Channel Energy is pretty broken and needs revision. While I understand actions have already been taken in the future updates, they aren't the correct ones to take in my opinion, for obvious reasons. I've said my piece on this topic, and I'd rather not delegate this thread to become a vessel for that topic; it's just a note that I hope the developers take into consideration.

3. The damaging spells were disappointing compared to the spell point options. While I understand that the spells weren't used in optimal circumstances (Lightning Bolt and Fireball on single target enemies), the fact of the matter is that these spells are too difficult to properly utilize in combat with friendlies being intermixed, and serve better as BBEG/Solo spells, where the odds of being outnumbered are much greater. The damage also being comparable and scaling to spell points (which, the hierarchy of power is Cantrips < Spell Points < Spell Slots) means a revision of sorts need to take place. And it has, but not having actually tested it means I won't know for sure.

4. Mirror Image is still a major pain in the rear to go up against as a martial, and takes numerous rounds (based on average successful probability and attacks per turn) to remove, which it can then just be recast for 2 actions (and are probably in range to use one of its devastating attacks or abilities for its remaining action). I will expand upon this more in the next playtest adventure (since it's more apparent there for obvious reasons), but I will say that a creature having the ability to use this more than once (or even twice for a BBEG) is extremely frustrating, even as a solo creature encounter.

Overall, it wasn't a bad experience. It wasn't a great one, though, and at times it was frustrating (Poltergeist and BBEG in particular, due to Invis and Mirror Images, respectively), but considering that like most other encounters it was a one-off, it was one that we as players were accepting of having happened, especially since, by the end of it all, we succeeded. Would we want this to be the norm for combat? Doubtfully. (And this is especially true for Part 5 of the Playtest Adventure.) But hopefully the future changes will help reign this sort of thing in.

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