The Final Showdown
At this point since it was intended to be a short session and a couple of players were running short on time, all the plot had been thrown out of the window and the PCs just wanted to get their weekly dosage of 4E combat. In case, you had forgotten who the PCs are, here's a little recap for you.
- Zed, level 1 human rogue
- Durnkash, level 1 dragonborn fighter
- Narakh Nukem, level 1 dragonborn warlock
- Chant, level 1 tiefling bard
The PCs burst into the final room with a tough climatic fight ahead of them. This was what they were up against;
- 1 Hobgoblin Commander (Level 5 Soldier/Leader)
- 1 Bugbear Warrior (Level 5 Brute)
- 4 Hobgoblin Grunt (Level 3 Minion)
- 1 Hobgoblin Warcaster (Level 3 Controller/Leader)
Once initiative was rolled, the rogue and fighter went in first and wrecked havoc on the enemy lines, heading straight for the warcaster. This was followed by the warlock who hurled his dragon breath but it only managed to kill one minion while the rest of the enemies made their save.
The PCs were getting a big head start and things were looking well for them when I saw that they have penetrated the enemy lines, breaking their formation which ruined my initial tactical plans, separating the hobgoblins to benefit from their Phalanx Soldier ability. I certainly wasn't expecting the PCs to break through the lines and head straight for the warcaster which they assumed was the easiest to take out.
Then things turned out for the worse once I started moving my minions around, followed by the Bugbear Warrior and the Commander flanking the dragonborn and knocking him down in a single round.
The warcaster held up pretty well on its own despite being engaged in melee combat early on. Shock Staff was a real pain and I was surprised to see that it could deal so much damage.
Things pretty much went downhill for the PCs after that with them rolling badly and my dices were getting hot. Sad to say, despite the PCs efforts, the session ended with a TPK.
Post-Session Wrap Up
At the end of the session, I talked to the players about what went wrong and here are some of the reasons which I felt were the main factors of their defeat.
- Initiative Mess Up I was the one holding onto the initiative which I had written down on a notepad. During several rounds I messed up the order of who goes first, sometimes resulting in some characters having their turn skipped completely. Although I gave them extra turns to compensate for those lost turns, I think this was one major deciding factor which caused them to lost a tactical edge and the encounter overall.
- Bad Dice Day As weird as things like this shouldn't happen, it does. One of the players had just bought a new set of dices and while we were playfully rolling the d20 before the session started, it didn't roll any higher than 15 with most of the rolls being within 1 to 5. This carried over into the session and it was enough to get this player believe in dice superstitions. Hopefully he won't punish them in a microwave or something.
- Taking a Breath One question that I posed to them after the session was how ready were their characters for the encounter. Most of them were slightly wounded when they decided to barge in with just a few hitpoints shy from their total.
This was clearly my fault in the encounter and while I know there are many ways to overcome this, I will be looking for an alternative that best suits my group.
On the other hand, things could also get worse if the DM was having a good dice day. My minions went through two dragon breaths from the dragonborns in the party and each breath only managed to take down one minion. Damage dices rolled above average on average which dished out lots of damage with the bugbear warrior rolling d12 and the warcaster shock staff (which recharged on every turn btw) rolling 2d10s.
Thankfully this was only a one-shot but I have seen bad dice days ruining the mood and energy of the session and sometimes even cause the death of campaigns.
So, yeah. We pinned down one major factor of the loss to crappy dice-rolling.
I don't know if going into a tough encounter with just a few hitpoints away from your max makes you unprepared for combat but after how the session went, I'm inclined to think that a even a single hitpoint difference is going to make a huge difference. At least that's my theory.
Another underlying factor that I might consider is that the PCs didn't spend their Second Wind throughout the combat. I'm not sure if they were taken out too quickly to let them use it or they were aiming too hard to take down the warcaster or the commander. But forgetting to spend your Second Wind when things aren't looking good is probably one way to swing the combat your way so it's best not to forget using them.
It was still a great session in the end despite the TPK. I think the players have learned a thing or two about combat in 4E which seems to be more tactical than cinematic in the sense that the PCs would have to think more in numbers than in dramatic effects.
I certainly learned a bit more too and would think that the warcaster would make a good melee opponent without the commander.
After this one-shot, the group decided that we would like to play in a long term campaign. I proposed that we go through the WotC modules as I try to string them together into a campaign and we would be char gening this coming weekend.
So stay tune for our next adventure starting with H1 Keep on the Shadowfell!
If you have any thoughts about how this session went or have any suggestions on correcting any mistakes that we have done, please feel free to drop a comment! We would love to hear your thoughts!