One Shot Primal 4E Post Mortem

The Idea:

Next weekend we’ll begin another D&D Campaign. In the mean time, we decided to throw a one-shot delve for those who could attend last night. One of the big reasons I wanted to throw it was to introduce one of my buddies to the 4th edition rules. However, since I was also put in charge of character gen for the party, I didn’t want to do the standard cookie-cutter, balanced standard of Fighter/Cleric/Magic-User/Thief like I normally do. Nor did I want to run the same ol’ goblin-stomping delve I usually do for new guys. I still had members of my original crew playing, so I felt entitled to spice things up a bit. Besides, my amigo was pretty experienced in the 3.5/d20 realm, I wanted to show him the drastic differences — good and bad — that 4E was. No reason to sugar coat it….it is what it is, take it or leave it. All characters were level one.

The Setup:

The party consisted entirely of primal-powered heroes. Instead of blurbing out the classes, I made players select their characters based on the animal qualities of each character:

  • Ram: Ares, a Goliath Warden.
  • Bear: Berret, a Dwarfen Bear Shaman.
  • Boar: Torc, a Shifter Druid.
  • Drake: Wyrmrage, Orc Barbarian.

Things to note on the character side: Torc and Wyrmrage are adopted orphans of their tribal village. They regard each other as brothers despite their different races. They both took the Midnight Stalker tribal feat, which they developed after years of growing up looking after each other.  Torc, while treated as a Longtooth stat wise, takes on qualities of a Feral Boar more than a wolf. His Druid powers included Summon Fierce Boar, Cull the Herd and Pounce. Ares was the only character in the party with a deity, Kord, whom revealed himself as a “the Storm Ram” that lead him on his initiation to becoming a Warden. Berret, as suggested, is a Bear Shaman. He was one of the wisest of the shamans in the village, and was called upon to assist the young heroes in their journeys.

The unnamed village that the PC’s resided in was a mix of various races, whom generations ago fled to the mountains to escape their Giant captors in the jungles below. An age has past, and they have begun returning to lush and dangerous greens below. The village regards all of the families as a single tribe, and has a very tight knit sense of community within it.

The Adventure Hook:

The heroes are awakened in their homes in the middle of the night by the Chieftain’s guards, asking for them to meet with the elder. The Chieftain informs them of the disturbing news that a party of their scouts had been captured, tortured and eaten in the jungles below by a mad cult of cannibals. Only one survivor had made it back — barely — and he was afraid this cult would track him back up the mountainside to their village. He entrusted a quest to the heroes: Seek out and destroy this cult in order to protect the village!

The Delve Round Up:

  • Traveling: Following the broad details of the location of this cult, they spent a couple days traveling down their mountainside and into the lush jungles below. I used this as a Skill Challenge to introduce the concept to the new guy. I ran it without listing specific skills, and letting the players scheme up their own rolls and uses. I broke the Challenge into multiple parts…my favorite part was while they setup camp, allowing them to roll Nature, Perception and other rolls to fortify themselves. It worked to their benefit, as a trap was snared by a cannibal scout, alerting the party and sending them off into the jungles in pursuit. They managed to catch up to the savage, but due to his further hostility with them they wound up in a small combat round, splattering him to the ground.
  • The Cult Site (Level 1 Encounter/6 Minions, 1 Skirmisher): First major fight! The party tracked in the direction the cultist was fleeing. They came across a clearing near a river creek; and before them was a small campsite filled with cultists with an acolyte. The cultists were all minions, while the Acolyte was a full fledged NPC. The players had no problem leaping in and ambushing the cannibals; the initial attack began with the Druid summoning his Fierce Boar right into the middle of the campsite! During the surprise round that followed, the Goliath decided to leap off a nearby boulder and crashing into one of their tents, causing further chaos. They handled the combat fairly well, and I felt with all the minions it made for a good “breaking in” of 4E combat. The next encounters would not be so gentle.
  • Into the Lair (Level 4 Encounter/ 2 Brutes, 2 Skirmishers, 1 Artillery): After clearing the campsite, they discovered a deep hole in the ground that lead into a subterranean dungeon. It was a long journey down — about 40 feet — in a narrow space using a rickety rope ladder. After successfully climbing down the shaky ladder without incident, they found themselves in a dark temple, probably lost ages ago. They journeyed forward, toward some sinister noises of flesh being ripped and voices mumbling. They stumbled into a chamber where a few cannibals were busy scraping meat off of some corpses — and they took notice to the heroes! I used the stats for the “Eaters of the Dead” for the two butchers, and had them guarded by two elven scouts and an archer.  This would become an ass beating to the Barbarian of the party, who wound up getting wailed on by the scouts multiple attacks, the Eaters’ Horrific Bites, and the Archer unloading a critical shot to his back. The Bear Shaman, however, was keeping the party going (and kept bringing the Barbarian back up…over and over….) When the fighting was over, the players felt incredibly taxed on their abilities and healing surges, and had decided to retreat back outside to rest. While doing so, they took the rope ladder with them to ensure there was no pursuit. Why not? It’s just a one nighter.
  • The Poison Spike Trap (Level 4 Lurker Trap): Ran straight from the entry on the D&D Insider compendium. They approached a narrow hallway, the Warden looked but couldn’t see the trap tiles. Warden ends up falling into a 10′ pit with poisonous spikes. Luckily, the Warden stood over seven feet tall, and once the poison wore off he was able to pull himself up and out of the pit. The party made Athletics rolls to leap over the pit; ended up tossing the Dwarf a rope to yank him when he made his leap (an RP excuse to “assist” his roll.)
  • The Cannibal Shrine (Level 4 Encounter/ 2 Brutes, 1 Controller, 1 Artillery): Okay, maybe having the final boss fight consist of  a Skullborn Necromancer, a Death Cultist Mage and two Cult Fanatics might have been excessive for a party of level ones. I still think they could’ve triumphed, but, unfortunately the dice absolutely hated the players at this part in the game. Barbarian dropped — a lot. End result of this fight was everyone on their last limbs and healing surges running out the door and leaping over the pit to flee. The dwarf, unfortunately, had no assists and landed face first into the pit, and was killed on impact.  The Goliath attempted to climb down and retrieve his friend, and somehow failed an athletics roll to lift him (we blamed a deep impalement on the spikes.) Meanwhile, the Mage came running through the door, and managed to drop the Barbarian (again) with a magic missile. The dwarf failed his saving throws and died. The Goliath finally said “Eff this!” and crawled out of the pit, while the Druid used Thorn Whip to drag the Mage into the spikes (which the trap critted…and actually did enough to kill the guy.)

The adventure ended with them dragging the body of the barbarian back to the entrance of the dungeon, tying him to the end of the rope ladder, climbing back out and lifting his body up to safety. Now that they had the exit secured, they began tossing the bodies of dead cultists from topside down into the hole, along with trees and brush that was cleared out for firewood for the cult, and proceeded to burn the remaining guys out of their lair and killing off their oxygen supply.

Believe it or not, fun was had by all.

3 thoughts on “One Shot Primal 4E Post Mortem”

  1. Awesome one-shot! I hope I can do this well when I start DMing.

    Also, I just downloaded Masterplan last night – on your recommendation – and haven’t had a chance to test-run it. Does it allow for in-game map tracking? Like, so the DM can know where things are moving to that the players can’t see? You can email me: blu tracks [at] hot mail [dot] com – remove the spaces and fill the characters.

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