Did I REALLY think they’d Negotiate?

Some stuff went wrong in D&D last night.

Really, I don’t know why I expected it to be different.  Let me give the disclaimer now: A lot of this stems from the background of our campaign world, and my deciding to run P3: Assault on Nightwyrm Fortress. If you haven’t read or played through this module, and plan on playing in it as a character, consider this your !!!SPOILER ALERT!!!. You have been warned. ((My players can read this, since I’m only covering what they know.))


When we last left our adventurers, they had fought their way through the Gloomdeeps and crawled through a secret Shadar-Kai tomb to find a portal to the Shadowfell in order to investigate what may be disturbing the local Resurrection rituals from working. Lo! And behold! They came across to the other side to see a massive citadel with a shadowy vortex above it, swallowing up little balls of light that they concluded were actual souls. As we came back this session, they also had the joy of witnessing across the plains of this dark land, a bevy of Draco-Wraiths snatching loose souls up and flying them back to the fortress.

So this session was pretty much centered on the players attempting to enter the fortress. For those not familiar with the module, there’s an entire outer fortification that surrounds the main tower of the Fortress, and currently that’s where my party is at. The big thing here is, well, there’s sort of an important trick to get into the Tower. And running the module as it’s presented, well, you only have a couple opportunities to have the players get clued in on it. One of these opportunities involved a really cool encounter with, of all things, a Dracolich!

This module is hack’n’slash, dungeon crawl crazy. I was looking forward to the Dracolich encounter since it seems to be one of the only major chances to actually role-play in the whole thing. I read over the skill challenge involving Diplomacy, and thought this was going to be perfect for my group. I have a Warlord player who loves to RP and use his social skills any chance he gets. Earlier in the module, I actually let him combine some skill checks and in-character conversations to get past some Stone Golems (granted, with the help of the Wizard.)  I even used the dialogue in the module where the creature is toying with a prisoner, trying to get conversation out of him.

The halfling rogue sneaked up, peered around the corner, and saw the beast. She drew her dagger; in real life, the player started shuffling through her power cards to see what to ambush with. I gave the DM warning of “…you sure you want to do that?”  At which point, the Warlord announced he wanted to come up behind the rogue to see what was going on. He failed his stealth roll to peer around the corner with her; I had the Dracolich snap and sling around the corner. “What’s this? Company? Perhaps YOU can be better conversation!”

The Warlord drew his axe, and yelled “THE TIME FOR CONVERSATION IS OVER!”

I facepalmed, and combat ensued.

I Really Should have Known Better.

For fuck’s sake, the party has a reputation as the Dragon Slayers in my campaign. The entire campaign from Heroic to mid-Paragon was a war with the return of Chromatic Dragons. They fucking killed Tiamat’s Daughter! Earlier in the campaign, I had thrown at an offer for the players….a Red Dragon, who was not happy with the way things were, offered to “help” the PC’s enter a city they were trying to reclaim from the chromatic armies. The catch is: they had to pose as his slaves. Everyone was down for the plan….except the rogue, who talked everyone out of it.

So why did I think this was going to be any different?

So, the combat went on, and what really pisses me off is that they won. Granted, I had most of the party bloodied and near death, and that’s with a Warlord AND a Paladin in the group. But, damn it, I really wanted to emphasize this monster was a brute. The rest of the players would agree, especially the Warlord who almost saw his last breath, but the Rogue seems smug and the player has pointed out I’ve never killed these characters. I’ll admit I’m lenient in places, and would rather continue the story of these characters after a year. But, come on, to be ballsy enough to just flat out engage a Dracolich? In a WOTC module? I feel like I’m being challenged. I don’t want to become one of those DM’s who purposefully goes after a player……

But at least it hurts them in other ways. The Dracolich was probably their best insight into what was going on, and how to get into the citadel. Now they’re going to have to bumblefuck around and try to figure it out for themselves. As the rogue player grinned and commented she almost felt scared of losing her character….I reminded her they weren’t even midway through the module yet. She may not die right away…but I can tell the other players are nervous her attitude might get the rest of them killed.

We’ll see how this plays out. It’s going to be a long dungeon.

8 thoughts on “Did I REALLY think they’d Negotiate?”

  1. If the Dracolich was their first encounter of the day, you really have no reason to be susprised. 4e is all about the meatgrinding. The way you challenge players is through attrition. Unless the first encounter of the day is level +3 or better they will curbstomp it, particularly with pre-MM3 math. That kind of attrition-based challenge is one thing that annoys me about 4e.

    1. It was actually their 3rd or fourth encounter for the day, and the Paladin ran out of heals. The Warlord was 4 points away from death, and most of the front line was bloodied and stunned during most of the battle. Yet, they managed to nickel and dime the Dracolich.

      Of course, today I made a new discovery. I decided to sit down and copy my players characters so I can access them for “game prep.” As I began to assume last night, our Rogue is broken. Her character’s stats don’t add up, even at level 18. She seems to have magical bonuses all over the place, and I’m convinced on some of her attribute raises she dumped all of her points (ie, more than once at a time) into her Dex (which she took Melee Training in so she could use that instead).

      It kinda makes me bummed out; I’m proud of my group for not stat crunching and instead working on flavor and character development than numbers. Now I’m worried my friend’s wife is power gaming and fudging numbers. I’m just going to have to start using more conditions vs. Will and setting up some nasty traps that play off her personality.

  2. Their 3rd or 4th? Yikes. I didn’t think it was that bad when I read Nightwyrm Fortress, but yeah, it seems like it IS as bland and terrible a module as I thought it was.

    By the way if you want to go on to the epic level modules after, just don’t. The Orcus plotline is really, really laughable and all the modules are blandtastic railroads.

  3. I have the opposite problem. I can’t get my players to fight a dragon. They always negotiate. Often they end up giving up valuables as part of the negotiation. When you add that to the treasure left in the dragonhoards they ignore, I have to work overtime to make sure they can face the challenges presented.

  4. I now much prefer story-telling rpgs – but even with standard hack-and-slash games, I don’t think characters should ever die. But they should be able to fail. Are you making it possible for them to fail?

    1. Yeah, considering they killed off their best source to find out what is going on with the dungeon they’re on, they could easily fail. Of course, I’m not about sticking purely to the module as written, and since the Warlord and the Wizard are discussing a strategic retreat, I’ll probably allow it and prep for an alternate adventure based on that course.

      One thing, though: The story hook for this particular adventure is that something is going on in the Shadowfell (read: dark shadowy mirror of the campaign world where the death Gods hang out) that is making resurrection spells not work. Spooky deathlands, threat of not being able to revive players….yeah, if the option of death WASN’T there, it’d pretty much ruin the risk of the whole adventure in the first place.

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