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[COURT OF SWORDS // PRIMORDIAL ARC // E02] Blood in the Water

court-of-swords
q-and-a

(Twitch: Bitghost_) #41

Agreed on all fronts, especially with player knowledge of the rules.

There's always the option that the characters can ask "can I make a nature/religion/arcana/etc check to see if I know anything about this creature?" and if they get a decent roll Adam can say "you know these are dangerous slimes that viciously corrode any armor or weaponry when touched, you've heard rumors that they duplicate when damaged/split". Even that little bit of info can ensure the party thinks differently about the encounter rather than tackling it guns blazing like most times.

Also you can move past/through enemies squares if it's up to +2/-2 sizes larger/smaller than you. They could have chopped the one blocking the exit down and just ran away, in fact they didn't even need to do that since I believe it was only a large creature so only 1 size larger.

I certainly don't think the encounter was as difficult as it played out, I've thrown a few black puddings at a group lower level than them and they did fine, it's just a matter of knowledge of rules, tactics and when to say "you know what, fuck this fight, it'll drain our resources and it's not worth it".


(Olf_Himself) #42

In my opinion, and as some people might have already brought up, there's a difference between meta gaming and out of character strategizing.

I feel like in this episode, apart from the rolls that were just bad luck, a lot of the problems could have been solved if they'd just talked about the situation out of character for a bit. I mean the characters are better warriors than the players so I think discussing what could be the best thing to do in a given situation isn't really meta gaming.


(UmbraSanctum) #43

I don't think it's clear cut right or wrong. But you do have to balance how much fun the cast is having as well as entertainment value to the audience. When we see JP has clearly lost interest, we do too. A monster stomp might disenchant some, but a DM as seasoned as yourself can find methods to flavor a scene to make it interesting, highlighting some of the abilities the players have that they might not get to often use. I've seen you make otherwise mundane encounters into detailed and exciting scenes with your description and tweaks. People don't watch CoS bc it's hard, they watch it bc you DM it and our favorite streamers play. It's a bit of a trade. Like you said the dice control a lot of the outcome, and that can go poorly, but we can create the setting in which something takes place pretty extensively.

Who would be able to pull it off, if not Adam fuckin' Koebel? Nobody, damn right.

Edit: Remember the cursed breakfast scene? That was above and beyond. That kind of stuff would be perfect for the horror arc.


(Mardymarve) #44

So I just finished watching the episode, and while i enjoyed it as usual, I am left feeling more and more that D&D 5e just has balance problems the higher level the party get, both in what the characters can do and what creatures they face can do. Please note that I am unfamiliar with 5e beyond what ive picked up watching this and West Marches and the one shots.

The slimes in this episode did like 2d8 physical +4d8 acid damage on a melee attack? WHAT THE FUCK? That's more dice than the characters have levels. Average rolls will drop a PC in two hits?

The vampire lord in the last arc got free actions whenever a character had a turn? I assume this was 'lair actions' or whatever, but it seemed like horseshit to me.

Characters don't have the kind of damage output to deal with 'trash mobs', such as the slimes, having effective hp pools of 50+ and they don't have the defences to take the punishing amounts of damage they can dole out.

I would much rather watch a show that held back on having fights like these for special occasions. I understand that the 'game contract' as it were was to have a difficult game where death was around every corner, but i would enjoy it if there was some kind of story going along with the difficulty, with fights that mean something to that story. One of the major problems seems to be that the CR system assumes that every character is at full hp, has all of their abilities available and so on, and we hardly ever see that in CoS.

D&D at higher levels was always very silly with 'save or die' or huge damage attacks, but i feel that didn't come into the game before level 10 or so. These characters are level 5, have very very poor gear and seem underpowered for the battles they are in.

As i said, i have very little experience with 5e, but played D&D for about 10 years from the red box to 2nd ed. 5e CoS edition just seems very disconnected with those games as i remember them.


(Karamor) #45

They seem underpowered because they are.

Adam mostly doesn't use any encounter easier than hard.

Hard encounters by the book can "go badly" and have "slim chance" of killing at least one character. That is what the DMG defines hard as.
Mind you, that is for a rested (at least short rest) and averagely equipped party.

On the other hand these black puddings are slow as fuck. You can walk away from them when there's no difficult terrain to slow you down. In fact, even then Max could have run away by using Cunning Action to Disengage and then double moving and they wouldn't have gotten a hit in.
Their high damage is meant to immediately make you look for a way to range attack them as they're helpless against that.

The problem was that the party walked right into an ambush situation. That's not a balance problem.

Similarly the Lair Actions and Epic Actions of the most dangerous monsters.

In play they're actually quite ok, because what those enemies used to be able to do on their turn in older editions they often now get to do spread out over the whole round.
You actually get less one turn maulings and more chances to get someone who was dropped back up.

They're also meant to balance the discrepancy of one creature against a party and those mechanics do that quite ok.


(lehark) #46

This is the inverse of how 5e works out: Level 1 is as dangerous as the game will ever be if the characters are fighting level-appropriate challenges and every odd numbered level the danger of the game scales down considerably.

I know this might seem confusing given the two recent examples you're referring to, but let's look at those.

  1. The Black Pudding does an average of 24.5 damage (1d6+3+4d8) when it hits and has an average of 85 HP. This sounds like a lot when the average Wizard has around 35 hit points. However, the Black Pudding is very slow, is bad at most things, and has only 7 AC. This means most attacks only miss the ooze on a 1, the ooze fails most relevant saves, and it can't keep in range to attack. Also compare that 85 HP average with player damage, each of whom should be dealing around the same damage as this pudding (some less, some much more). Yes, the ooze is expected to hit someone about half the time and when they hit to deal about half-to-three quarters of their HP, but it's also expected to only live about a round to a round and a half. The issue is when characters don't output damage they get more attacks and if they're done slashing damage their offense increases dramatically. This is assuming the players aren't able to keep distance (in a circular room 40 feet across, for instance, the ooze will never make more than 2 attacks).
  2. That vampire was not a level appropriate challenge and was not meant to be. Legendary actions, which is how it was moving after a player's turn, is how those types of monsters are balanced as the assumption is that they will always be outnumbered and still be threatening. It was the rough equivalent of asking level 1 characters to fight a hill giant.

This is also a big misunderstanding. CR does not assume this. What CR actually assumes is eight encounters per adventuring day. The Pudding was an Easy encounter, which means CR also assumes the players should be able to take on such a fight with relatively minimal risk. When you consider that you're expecting a Ranger to be doing 25-50 damage a round on average to a Black Pudding... yeah, that makes sense. No, these characters were not optimized and that complicates things. Yes, these characters were handicapped on equipment and that complicates things. However, looking at this fight and just running it against myself I'd only put it at Medium given those handicaps (meaning it required some resources to be "safe").


(Mardymarve) #47

When you consider that you're expecting a Ranger to be doing 25-50 damage a round on average to a Black Pudding

I only see casters using big aoes do this much damage in CoS. Going by my memory, everyone else does around 20-30 at 5th level. I think JP's hand crossbow guy could put out around 50-60 if he hit 4/5 shots, but his weapon wasn't magic so half that or regen that for everything in that arc. I actually think lack of magic items (weapons mostly to be fair, even a +1 is a better chance to hit so more damage more often etc) is severely handicapping the group. Berg has the hammer, but what has anyone else had for more than a session? Anne had the dagger and.... i don't remember any other offensive magic items they have had. a few utility things, but not much more.

Random stats and crunch about black puddings

Which the characters never know and can never form tactics to deal with them. Same with most things they fight. They will meet them once, then never again. Also, combat in D&D is heavily dependent on luck, with no real way to bump your defences beyond buying better armour or having more dex, giving most PC's about 18ac at most, so a 15% or better chance for anything to hit them unless they spend their action dodging (so outputting no damage).

So i have been told, but it seems that more and more bullshit creeps in the higher level you become, making the viewing experience, for me at least, to be an almost constant calling of 'well thats bullshit' or 'just how much hp does this shitmonster have?'

I dont remember a vampire having 6 bite attacks a round (doing hp damage and drain and lifesteal) and nigh infinite movement. It looks like horseshit to me. Vampires have always been horseshit though, level drain was on of the worst mechanics i've ever seen.


(Karamor) #48

First, that one was at least a level 13 encounter.
They have three legendray actions and those they can take after a player character goes.
Possible actions are move, unarmed strike, or bite, which costs two.

At most they do five attacks over the whole round: One unarmed strike and bite on their turn and then one attack after a player goes.

That's really not that bad for a boss monster.


(Mardymarve) #49

@karamor

I was talking about the editions of D&D that i have experience of, not 5e, which seems horribly balanced from where i'm sitting.


(Karamor) #50

And now you're getting told about 5th.


(Mardymarve) #51

Please, don't. I don't really care for it.


(lehark) #52

JP's "crossbow guy" is the norm, not the exception. That's what PCs are expected to be doing damage wise. Yes, he didn't look into getting some magic bolts, which meant he struggled. That said, the 20-30 you mention is more than enough to illustrate the point: A 4 member group is expected to be outputting 100 damage+ a round at this level. Against something that has 7 AC? Yeah, strikers are going to have Great Weapon Master or Sharpshooter and they are going to chew it up. Yeah, the old Fighter slashing a Pudding into 4 pieces so the Wizard can one shot the lot of them wasn't available for them, but the point stands.

I can see how as someone not experienced with 5e that it might seem weird. HP on monsters is high, damage on both sides is very high and encounters can get pretty explosive, but that's the way it is. The reason level 1 is so dangerous is the maximum HP values. At level 1 the average character only has 10ish hit points and a random orc can crit for 27 and instantly kill them. At level 2 the average character now has 16 and that won't kill them. By level 5 you're dealing with around 40 hit points so that instant death threshold is now 80+. When you're looking at level 10 Barbarians or something you're talking about beefcakes with 130+ HP and take half damage from nearly everything, so you're looking at needing to do 520 damage to produce the same one-hit-kill. You're not going to find anything that dishes out that level of damage anywhere official. Yes, things get exponentially safer... it's weird, but that vampire you saw as so broken would be less threatening to level 11-13 party than an orc is to a level 1 party.


(Mardymarve) #53

So to extrapolate, Enoch was the only well built PC the game has seen? Or is he the only one who was what people would say was 'viable' meaning 'broken good tier'?

So numbers have inflated on all sides sine the old days, gotcha.


(Twitch: eyearcana) #54

I'm not sure what to think now. As a DM I know how devastating killing a character can be to a story. As a player I want a challenge and I would feel somewhat bored if it's too easy but on the other hand I know how shitty it is to lose your character. It's been a while since I've seen JP that pissed. I can't imagine losing three characters in a row for three sessions, I would be heated myself. You can't blame D&Ds CR system on killing JP even if the CR system isn't great. In other games of D&D you could pull punches if needed. I know this is originally the type of game JP wanted but I wonder if it should be scaled back slightly. In this fight maybe the oozes don't double split and maybe they slide away for a bit because they are super dumb.


(lehark) #55

In terms of strikers, yes, Enoch was (to my recollection) the only character who has taken the Feats that make strikers good (that is either Sharpshooter or Great Weapon Master). That said, not all players want to run strikers and not all players know how to build them. Berg, as far as I can tell, was meant to be one, but due to bad stats and weird choices is instead a meat sponge with a magic hammer.

Depending on your meaning, yes. 5e is balanced differently than say 3.5/Pathfinder due of where the number inflation happens (HP, damage) and where it doesn't (modifiers). Here's a quick comparison:

The 5e Ogre (CR1) has 59 average HP, 11 AC, +6 to hit and deals 2d8+4 damage.
The Pathfinder Ogre (CR3) has 30 average HP, 17 AC, +7 to hit and deals 2d8+7 damage.

Do note that the CR is a little misleading here. CR1 is a Deadly encounter for 4 level 1 PCs in 5e, whereas CR3 is a Hard encounters for the same setup in Pathfinder.


(VyRe40) #56

I can only speak for myself, not for what other people should do with their games, but here's my opinion: if the game isn't fun for someone, there's a problem. ["Fun" being a placeholder term for entertaining/engaging/what-have-you if you're running a more emotionally-intense game.]

It happens. Games aren't gonna be 100% fun for everybody all the time. CoS in particular is designed as a hyper-lethal campaign, just shy of a meatgrinder. But when something goes way over the edge of frustration for a player that's been fully engaged thus-far, then something might have went wrong. For me, as a DM in that situation, I might narratively hand-wave some sort of bargain for the dead character, which has happened before in CoS (Morgan's character ?Naka Ino? and Ramus). If I was a player that had his character killed for the third session in a row, I probably wouldn't have felt too bad about it just cause I personally enjoy char-gen and find it easy to let go of a character that I haven't burnt a bunch of sessions into, though I might feel differently if I was having a bad week altogether.

But I have no idea what's going through their minds cause it's not my table - JP might be okay with what happened after cooling down post-show, who knows.


(Twitch: eyearcana) #57

Agreed if it was real dice I would have pulled punches with the roll. If it got to the point of him dying I porbably would have had the mushroom God resurrect him right then and there. Once a player is not having fun anymore something went really wrong. I hope they figure something out, I feel bad.


(Joulupukin) #58

I feel that many of the problems would also be alleviated by slowing down the pace of the combat. Things move so fast players are missing out on important information and they end up doing things they did not meant to or even skip doing things things they could have because of this which makes hard encounters like this even worse. This is becomes worse when we are now at the lvl5 range and players with less experience of 5E join in as they have much to digest and should be given time to digest (which is hard in a 4 shot style short story I know).

Discussion (RP style) of simple battle tactics during fighting would also help so it would feel less like 4 people doing solitary things and more like a party of seasoned adventurers working through the encounters.

Add in the difficulty of party composition I would move CoS into a 4+1 cast show since it would allow for much more flexibility.

But these are just some of my thoughts after watching this latest episode.


(Twitch: eyearcana) #59

Just FYI it's a three shot now.


(K1mac) #60

I honestly thought that because of how much damage the slimes dealt it was one of those things where everyone was supposed to "die" and Adam was just gonna say "and then you all wake up next to a bunch of dead spores realizing you were simply hallucinating, could this be the work of the goddess?" . I feel bad for JP and I know Adam didn't do that on purpose but it sucks cause I was excited for that bard character he was so cool.