Yesterday I got to run the first session for the second half of my group. This team of players were the more build / tactics oriented game, so I decided to see them hit the ground running. After a little bit of introduction (and some rather interesting party dynamics coming out from the first few lines the characters traded,) I put them into a goblin roadside ambush.
To be fair I decided to scale the encounter to the higher end of “Standard Difficulty” in the DMG. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but after a whole bunch of unfortunate circumstances, the party, which consisted of a Drow Rogue, an Eladrin Wizard, an Eladrin Warlock and a Tiefling Paladin, was soon reduced to the Rogue and Warlock. As the wizard fell first, and the paladin fell beneath the concentrated efforts of the goblins to take down the guy in shiny full plate.
With some fancy invisibility tricks and stealth tactics, the two remaining party members managed to hold their own and whittle down the numbers of the goblins until the goblins declared a retreat and abandoned the field.
If anything, this experience has taught the party about the intricacies of combat, the importance of teamwork, and how even Goblins of this level are a serious threat to life and limb.
- Terrain advantage is a big factor – Since it was an ambush the Goblins enjoyed terrain advantage and used it mercilessly to their advantage.
- There is no “I” in team – 4e characters are built to work together, going off solo destroys party cohesion and makes it easier for the opponents to pick off the party one by one.
- Players must establish ooc tactical dialogue with each other - Unlike in WoD games, where I usually make sure that the players avoid OOC tactics discussions in combat, D&D 4e needs this kind of planning when taking on threats.
- Leaders are valuable members of the party - If the team had a Leader (like they were supposed to), they would have had a lot more staying power in combat, allowing them space to make more mistakes without suffering for it.
- Tracking Conditions, Bonuses and Penalties is crucial - One of the things I noticed is that there’s a whole lot of bonuses, penalties and conditions flying around once the battle is engaged. That said, the GM has to set up some sort of protocol where he can trust the players to track their conditions, as he tracks the conditions on the monsters.
Overall it was a good learning experience for me and the players. Even those in the other team (like Heineken) took it as a chance to study how combat works and see how his character (a Warlord) could have reacted to the situations in the fight.