Putting spoiler in the title because frankly I don't want to code the spoilers into the post. You've been fairly warned.
So my table has been slow going in the Pkaytest. They only finished chapter 2 last week (and even then only because due to being 2 days early I ruled they beat the Night Heralds by enough to skip the final encounter), and this week will be character generation for chapter 3.
By chapter thus far, the following encounters have been TPKs, were it not for severe rolls fudging on my part, and/or unusual and occassionally stupid enemy tactics (though fun, I do enjoy playing up a scene).
Chapter 1: A3 Giant Centipedes
- Six creatures is six attacks on the PCs per round. I actually coerced my group into avoiding this encounter because there is no treasure, and it would have TPKd them as level 1 characters. Especially coming off of 2 prior unavoidable encounters, most groups including mine won't be thinking about leaving to rest for the day.
A7 So Many Goblins
- The Commando and the Pyro pretty much swing this fight. They're both really strong, and super mobile. If the players don't take them out first (which is very difficult in the room, not to mention the trap in said room, when they both get reaction steps) they'll drop the PCs with sheer numbers advantage attacks. My group opted to take their first exit of the dungeon after this encounter.
- I did not use any of his extra abilities, the Sneak Attack or his true form. His attack bonus was so high, he crit more often than not (average 15+ on roll would crit and 1HKO a PC), so adding to his damage was overkill. I had to lie hard on his rolls because he pretty much couldn't miss.
Chapter 2: B4 Manticore
- It flies, it has a multi-attack without penalty for 1 action, it has good AC. It nearly killed the party after 3 prior encounters whittling away at them.
C2/C3 5th Level Elementals
- I actually read the Water Elemental wrong when they encountered it, and didn't increase its size until midway through the fight when I noticed. Had I noticed, it would have been a TPK, just in raw damage it could deal. When they encountered the Fire Elemental in the other room, I actually swapped up the tactics to keep the players alive. Lots of shoves despite it having no Athletics bonus to push characters out of the way and go for back liners it couldn't reach. Between reach and the environmental damage, attack damage, and persistent damage it just poured damage on the PCs.
We start chapter 3 in two weeks. I've already heard of a few of the worst offenders for the late chapters, but what ones should I be really concerned about? And is this going to be indicative of the final product? I also play Starfinder as a player with many members of the same group, where we're 3 books into the first AP and the mentality behind the difficulty curve seems to be "be completely optimized for the task or go #&*% yourself". It's decidedly unfun for the min max player, who feels average, and the average player who feels worthless.
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It has been acknowledged by the design team that the math is off, making combat and other challenges overly difficult. This is, sadly, not something easily fixed in the playtest, though it will be for the final game.
Beyond that, I can't really help too much (though Sombrefell Hall is basically just escalating difficulty, with each encounter worse than the previous one). Of the encounters you list, only Drakus even came close to a TPK for my group, so our group's levels of optimization or tactical sophistication, or luck, or something must be pretty divergent.
We lost to the Greater Shadows in Sombrefell, and I have heard from people who lost to the final encounter. In my opinion the other Sombrefell encounters were more reasonable, and were more fun than the other scenarios we played. If you have limited playtest patience I'd recommend doing Sombrefell rather than any of the others.
But it's hard to generalize, because the system is very, very dicy. We lost to the Greater Shadows because they rolled well with their enfeeblement attack and got some critical successes against our channeling, and suddenly a fight that had looked okay was catastrophic. A group where they rolled more poorly, or we rolled better, might have had no trouble.
|Anon A Mouse|
How were the centipedes each managing to attack the players? Did the players retreat? When I ran it, because the room was so tiny, they were basically fighting only 2-3 centipedes at a time. My players also completely skipped the A7 goblin fight because they had a rough idea of where they were supposed to be going from the NPC goblin, and it wasn't in that direction. Their Drakus fight also went the opposite way because they got some lucky rolls, managing to get off maybe 2-3 crits in the first couple of rounds and thus killing Drakus pretty quickly.
For chapter 2, my players pretty much saw that the elemental fights were going to be really rough and just ran away from them. Since the elementals don't leave the room, it was fine. Then they just spammed dice rolls to try to beat the DC for the puzzle room. The manticore also wasn't too bad because it ran out of quills to shoot at people, resulting in flying down to an enemy, attacking, and then flying out of reach. Though my players also completely forgot that they had a scroll of fly.
My players didn't have too much trouble with Sombrefell, though they've also reduced the amount of channeling clerics have since then. Personally, my favorite chapter by far was chapter 4. The lake monster was almost a tpk, but they managed to kill the other couple of non-diplomacizable encounters pretty easily.
I'm running Doomsday Dawn for two different groups, and i'm expecting TPKs soon. One is in Sombrefell Hall and about to face the Shadows, and the other is at the river fight in Pale Mountain's Shadow and the party rogue made her society check to know things about the gnolls and asked me if she would know if they're usually evil and I said yes. So she gets closer and shoots one with an arrow. We didn't get any further because it was late and we had to call it a night, but with the river and only two party members (of 7) with ranged weapons it might not go well. Especially since I almost killed the other group there (mostly due to good rolls on my part).
The group in Sombrefell Hall didn't listen to me when I said "two clerics" so there's only one AND she got Enervated from the Wights (as did the Paladin). There's five of them there, maybe six if the other guy who usually games with us comes in. Enervated plus Enfeebled (which I plan to spread around) will hurt their chances of survival.
I'm not sure if I'm doing something wrong or what, but the pale mountain fights were drudgery with no real risk. The cleric could top people off more or less endlessly. The manticore got shot out of the sky having done very little to the party, and the elementals proved time consuming but also fairly weak, even with their acrobatics being high enough that they could ignore the party's placement and just walk to attack whomever they chose. The most resource depleting fight in the whole thing was the gnolls at the door.
Drakus was a pain in the ass, though I wasn't running that encounter. If we hadn't realized that each player was equally resilient and stacked in terrain in such a way that he had to chose alternating targets, we probably would have lost.
Thinking about it, if your players are attempting strategies that involve separate roles like tank and damage dealer, then they're going to have a hard time. Setting up a choke points is a sure fire way to get players killed rather than protect fragile players. I'd examine player tactics and see if they've adapted to the silly tactics reinforced by the game.