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


(KronoSpeed) #101

I mean how the necromancer became powerful. They ran away from the multiplying spirits resulting in the problem becoming way worse by using townsfolk to multiply. They left a little girl to die rather than rescue her.

In some episode there was a discussion about how they didn't have any magic items yet because they never finished an arc so they didn't receive the pile of loot. In a world this unforgiving risking pushing the edge of just barely surviving and having a chance at an item like the Apology is better than running away, surviving, and allowing the evil forces to regroup / scale with level. If they come back later the fight will be just as brutal and they may end up in the same position where they are near dead and they have to decide to tempt fate, or run away and face the same challenge again.

So by "punished" I could also say received negative feedback narratively, emotionally, and loot-wise.

Staying and risking death is not weighed as a negative when considering running or finishing a fight when every single fight quickly becomes risking death. Avoiding a fight would be a smarter choice in this world - but it is often not possible. In the last episode not immediately engaging the mushrooms was a tactical nightmare. The casting of pass without a trace was narratively awesome but it didn't allow them to accomplish anything (at least this time).

(VyRe40) #102

Also, difficult terrain makes running hard, and disengaging can kinda suck when you keep getting hit at the start of the next turn. Bonus action/dodge/move would give the most bang for your buck, unless your exit is blocked.

(Twitch: eyearcana) #103

I want to disagree with you but everything you say is not wrong. Leaving Thuy behind was really messed up but they were trained to believe that was their only option for survival. There were a lot of unfinished story lines that I would have loved to see flushed out more that were lost to the deaths of the party members. Originally I really enjoyed the intense difficulty but I wonder if it comes at a worse cost. I hope JP hasn't lost that initial spark of enjoyment he had with D&D. I'm not sure what the best solution to this is though.

(KronoSpeed) #104

I just want to clarify. I still love the difficult, intense fights. I am just trying to explore reasons why the party is not likely to be in a situation like the ooze fight and choose to run.

I think this death was extra hard on JP because it was 3 in a row AND it is harder to swallow a loss where you feel helpless and powerless. Something that would have come from being naked.

It is also easy to imagin him thinking "I never had a chance. I never even played my character" given the amount of time he spent debating over his equipment and never getting to use it.

(VyRe40) #105

I think the intense difficulty is still fine. The stories of CoS have become compelling because of the difficulty. Berg's whole life is a result of that struggle.

But occasionally, there's just bad moments. That happens in any game. The question is whether there was a mistake made in the moment or if there's a positive resolution to be had after the fact to account for "dice voodoo" sucking the joy out of the experience.

(VyRe40) #106

I think they genuinely would have run from the Oozes if they weren't blocked and waterlogged. They were talking about it a bit at the beginning of the fight when they saw the damage rolls.

(UmbraSanctum) #107

This is pretty spot on. Risk vs. Reward has been a constant choice where the PC's have ultimately only gained through choosing to risk it. Where they've fled before had only ended either neutrally or eventually in a negative light. It would be interesting to see ways the PC's could benefit outside of survival by picking the common sense choice to run in the face of being overwhelmed.

Only instance I can think of as an example of something like this getting close was Ramus trying to figure out a way to learn more about vampires after running away so he could have an excuse to use out of character knowledge to benefit in coming back to fight. That's a good way to reward living to fight another day. Recon & research.

(Thrishmal) #108

I feel like the lack of magical items is a big deal, especially in this world. This has only been exacerbated by the number of immune and resistant mobs we have run into recently. While I understand limiting magical items that directly influence combat power, I wouldn't mind seeing more magic objects make their way into the story that provide alternatives to the players and help create opportunities for creative thinking.

I think creative thinking items should be far more common for our players than they are, even if they are items made by Adam instead of being grabbed from the DMG. I think each of our players should have at least one such item upon creation, be it something that gives spider climbing once per short rest or a magical bell that dazes enemies within earshot once per long rest. The adventurers just seem so drab going against the beasts they are going against and the only character that really retains that cool factor is the one that happens to have two magical items.

Perhaps having a support item hidden at the half way point in a story with a really cool magical item at the end of a story would give the players more incentive to walk away if there is danger they think they can't handle. Do we leave half way through with our support item or do we push for the heavy magic item waiting at the end? If they leave, they still got something at least and feel somewhat rewarded for their journey, making it feel like a minor victory instead of an all out loss.

(Typoko) #109

I came here as there is no post show on Patreon and it's something i usually watch after 2 episodes on YT. I must say that i feel a bit dick for opening a discussion on "good plays" on the same day that this happened as i didn't intend to correlate it with character deaths as i haven't seen the episode. :expressionless:

As a DM I personally have deemed the splitting oozes to be extremely situational. Many of times the players have limited ways of dealing slashing or lightning damage to be able to split the oozes! I guess this time there was a lot of whacking with short swords and a hand axe? If the encounter really was 2 black puddings it wasn't unreasonable to think that no one would die. It's not like Adam tossed same worth of XP of Gibbering Mouthers and laughed at the despair of players. :stuck_out_tongue:

Well at least now i'm eager to see how the fight ended up going down. :itmejpgmleft::itmejpgm::itmejpgmtpk:

(Bossstream) #110

I wanted to bring up two points about the show and how they link back to the challenge level of the encounters. I'm coming at it from the angle of the player's experience (how fun and fair does this feel?). I felt like posting because JP's frustration was very evident at the end of the show, and it seemed to me like his frustration wasn't addressed by pointing out the challenge rating of the fight.

  1. The players familiarity with their characters and each other

This three-shot arc threw four people together with brand new characters that are pre-leveled to 5. By pre-leveling the characters, none of the players have learned all of the ins and outs of their character to allow them to play with maximum efficiency. This is compounded by the fact that most of the group is also new to playing with each other, although I think to a lesser extent. When I look at this new group of characters, playing with each other for the first time, and entering their first combat encounter; I think their estimated CR should have a handicap. If I was DM'ing I'd ask myself, is this group REALLY a functioning 4 member party of level 5 characters? Or are they still trying to get a feel for their group mates and their own abilities?

  1. The staging of the encounters

I mainly want to discuss JP's second character, his introduction to the episode, and his death. JP spent time creating a character with some sort of backstory, rolling stats, getting set to re-join the game, and was met with death an hour into the game. Early on in the episode, JP was prompted whether his character would be located inside of the cave or outside? JP gave a quick answer that he was inside of the cave having been captured by the mushroom creatures. After I watched the whole episode, I felt like this quick answer, which seemed like a roleplay oriented prompting, turned into a punishment for JP's character. If he had answered that he was outside the cave, would he have been naked without gear and spell components? Would the party have been ambushed without resting if they had retreated outside the cave? I don't get to see behind the curtain of the show, but as a viewer I felt like this little bit of roleplaying and DM/player-interaction turned into a harsh negative for the player. To get back to question of is this fun for the player, Should he have had to mull that decision over and made a roleplay decision with game-mechanics in mind? It seemed like JP was trying to push the action forward with the show in-mind trying to keep the players inside the area with action.

The group as players are also going to try to get JP back into the action as soon as possible. They proceeded through the cave to what ended up seeming like a trap. A new group, interacting under a time crunch from a broadcasted show, with new characters, trying to bring their fourth member back into the fold were ambushed by a deadly encounter, in a location that compensated for the weakest aspect of the monster, with the challenge calculated against four normally equipped 5th level characters, while the new character has been left un-equipped possibly due to an earlier roleplay response.

These combining points made the fight and the result feel... not fun? I felt JP's frustration as a viewer.

Re-reading my post, it sounds very critical. I'm posting this as a fan of the show who doesn't want to see it end due to mounting frustrations. I hope it can inspire you to think about the encounters and their presentation in ways outside of challenge rating numbers and the thought that this world is a cruel mistress that needs to kill, kill, kill. Should a new group get a bit of a soft-ball to learn how they interact and get a chance to use their abilities in the real action of the game?

(apepi) #111

I actually agree with you here. The group did not seem to know how to play their characters or even with each other. That is no mark against them, they are great. But it takes some learning on how to play a character in real time and how you are going to play together.

In the first fight, they were all over the place. It seemed like they were all split for most of the fight with them not really acting as a team. And because of that they seemed to not know how to interact the next fight. While the regular cast members know how to do this, these new ones might not, and it is a whole new dynamic.

I don't think that it would be a bad thing to have a medium tyoe of encounter so people learn how to play their character and act as a team. While it might not seem dramatic or entertaining, it might be needed with a new group/person to adjust, then you can throw harder encounters at them. Having a Hard encounter is fine...but is it really just a hard encounter if people don't know how to play their characters/act as a team? And this is while Adam is a great player and it is easy for him to get the npcs to work together as he is the one who decides that.(This makes me almost want to play/make a game where there is no gm and a player/players decide what/who the monsters should attack, could be interesting but could easily be done poorly)

To expect the same thing out of a new team of players from things Jp/Dan/Gassy has learned is a bit hard. Adam has been hard on them from the start, and from that they learned how to work together, but nor without having multiple character deaths and gaining experience from that. Some of these players don't have that experience and even though JP does have that experience he really couldn't use it with being gearless.

One other thing I might suggest is having Adam hint at them that they need to take a short rest. They expended a lot of resources on the first fight, but it seemed like they are willing to go on. Knowing that all the encounters are hard or more maybe it is needed.

This is nothing to Adam, Jp or the other players, but to expect the same kind of show from different amount of players/people is very rough. Honestly this group seemed more interested in roleplaying than actually the fight encounters, perhaps use a different system? The combat wasn't fun for me to watch because the group seemed to be fighting things that they could not seemed to be able to handle. Instead of asking "What is wrong with D&D and how to fix it?" maybe we should be asking "Is this what we really want to play right now? Does it suite our needs? Do we really want to be playing hardcore D&D with a brand new group for just three sessions or could something be more appropriate?" Perhaps they could use a different system, like Dungeon World for example. While it is still 'Court of Swords', you could take a small break from it being super hard or even the D&D system all together. It almost feels like you are trying to shoehorn in Court of Swords being played even though you aren't playing with the same players just so it seems like it is still being played weekly. Perhaps you could just do a three shot of something else instead next time? I think all options should be on the table.

(Zace181) #112

Matt Colville made an interesting video on the topic of players surrendering (Running the Game #43) in a kind of adjacent way to what happened in the last episode. But the thing that stuck out to me was player mentality, you make a character, heroic ,strong, at the very least someone you root for, so when you encounter a.. encounter, fleeing is going to be low on your list to begin with.

More specific to what happened with the last episode of CoS, I think that's more down to two inexperienced players, be that in the setting or the game itself, combined with what I think is a mechanical/communication problem in the momentum from initiative towards staying engaged in combat.
It's been a while since I watched the episode but going from memory (flawed as it may be) once initiative was rolled and the enemies had been evaluated the party was split on whether to run or fight, but after seeing their positioning, with the first few turns taken and when no one had started a retreat the players set into combat mode, whereas the main cast of JP, Dan and Max have been through this sort of thing many a time and are on the same page about fight or flee more often than not, I think the surprise of the encounter, the unclear communication and inexperience of the team together, unconscious PCs, plus the blocked door and combat gated naked 4th member (dick move btw :stuck_out_tongue:) made it kinda inevitable they would dig in. Though that would be difficult to know beforehand.

As for fighting when they're in a bad way Idk, to me it seemed like they thought they'd cleared the dungeon of all major threats, maybe they were afraid of being ambushed while resting, they probably wanted to get JP into the game ASAP and figured they'd find him without too much hassle then rest, or perhaps they were just following each other expecting that someone else knew what they were doing.

Looking forward to seeing the live show though and the situation does add some cool possibilities for that! Can't help feeling a little sorry for JP though... :cold_sweat:

(SirKillsalot101) #113

Once in a while, I would really like to see them stomp some enemies.

(profnesbitt) #114

Yea but whether they roll a fight or not isn’t entirely up to Adam. One of the most entertaining fights where the players “rolled” was against the lizard people and their dinosaur and the only reason they rolled that fight was because they worked together, they had great tactics (and discussed said tactics ie. azriel going to break the shamans concentration) and the dice rolls went their way. And even with all that they could have easily lost Azriel due to heat metal.

This fight had some bad luck involved and it sucked that Jp’s character started out gimped but that wasn’t the whole reason it went poorly. This fight and the first fight against the spores would have gone much better if the players had communicated and planned. Their characters are better warriors and know their capabilities better than the players do. I don’t quite get why the players are so reluctant to out of character strategize. It was really sucky that the bard died here I thought he was an awesome character but in the first fight Ekishnugal caused his own death. He pulled several spores down a narrow hallway and instead of using any of the many area denial spells druids have (moonbeam, spike growth, flaming sphere) he decided to keep throwing beasts out of a bag instead. Adam is only a part of controlling the difficulty it’s up to the players to capitalize when given the opportunity.

(Twitch: eyearcana) #115

Of course it is, a DM can change the direction of a fight most of the time. A medium encounter would have been much more likely for them "stomp some enemies" than a hard bordering on deadly with the modifications. Environment and situation needs to be added into the mix as well. Difficult terrain with the exit blocked and one character with none of his items it's definitely a deadly encounter.

Adam has discouraged this out of game talk previously that is why. Metagaming is typically frowned up by the DM. I do agree if the game will always be this difficult that some out of game tactics should be allowed.

You've got a player who's playing a brand new character, it takes some sessions to get warmed up to what they actually can do in a situation.

(profnesbitt) #116

Maybe I’m misremembering but I thought Adam was a huge proponent of more out of character planning. He was the one I got the paraphrased quote from of “your characters are better adventurerers than you, its assumed they discuss strategies so there’s no reason the players can’t discuss strategies in combat”. Maybe it’s from his roll20 DMing or someone else all together. I thought he was all for it and it was JP that was against the metagaming.

Yes but why is this on the DM and are you saying he should stick with medium encounters until the players get warmed up to their characters? And how long is a warmup period? Shouldn’t the onus be on the players to learn their characters before play. I can understand if they are brand new players but 3 of the 4 players have significant 5e experience and none of the classes are new to them. (Sorry if I sound snarky I’m legitimately curious of your answers and I love the discussion.)

I do believe there is a balance between the players and the dm has the major control of the difficulty but I think too much fault is being put on Adam for the character deaths. Balancing combat is hard in general and it seems like it would be impossible if the DM has to account for players not using their abilities effectively. (I do think JPs bard got a raw deal and don’t think there were really any serious player “misplays” in the pudding fight, just a lack of planning and a little bit of unlucky rolls.)

(Twitch: eyearcana) #117

They've talked about it many times before and been called out for it. Yeah I don't remember if it was originally brought up by JP or not.

The idea of D&D is to be heroes, in real life we can't take on a group of Orcs with a longsword and take them down. Yes it's the DM's job to set the stage appropriately and make sure the player's are having fun. If a player ends the session with so much anger he can't talk about it afterwards something went wrong. The DM's job is to make sure the players are having a good time. No DM is perfect and everyone has a bad session. I don't envy Adam having to DM in front of 1000s of people and then have people comment on every little thing, I couldn't do that.

I don't have an exact answer for this but yes I do think the very first encounter should have been a simpler one. Having JP not have his equipment took away his agency.

Sure I hear what you're saying but also these guys have ridiculous schedules, often they spend well over 8 hours a day streaming or editing. JP has never played a Bard, Ken mostly DMs and probably doesn't get to play as much. As the DM myself most of the time I constantly have to ask the players about their character abilities. Also Aurey has almost zero experience.

I know again it comes down to people's availability but I think going forward new players should get a one hour session alone with Adam playing through an encounter and have Adam give them tips.

Here are some different things that could be done in a situation like that and I know hindsight is 20/20.

  1. Have a wandering NPC step in and help out, Azure and Thuy have helped in the past. There is no reason another NPC couldn't have stepped in.
  2. Maybe there is a monster that hunts these oozes and eats one of them.
  3. Black Puddings are dumb as shit, they have 1 INT one of them could get distracted and wander off.
  4. Forget to have them split or use an ability to their advantage.
  5. Lower the hit points on the fly.
  6. Have the mushroom use divine intervention in some way.

No I don't think the above items are BS or taking it easy. If done right the player's have no idea you did anything and feel like "heroes" which is the point.

Not at all man, I enjoy talking about it too. I'm sure most of my points come across as me attacking Adam but it's not, it's just discussion about the show which I enjoy as well. I wouldn't spend so much time discussing this if I didn't love the show.

(Typoko) #118

I think people need a reminder that this is supposed to be a "horror arc" that really isn't the players feeling like heroes but rather coming by barely.

One of the saddest points here is that it actually felt that JP had put time in to learning bard stuff. He had things ready to go to explain his abilities and had an general idea what does what. I hope he doesn't get discouraged by this death. Usually DM has to ask about abilities of player characters as they only focus on one thing and they should know that one thing. As a DM you also see what works and doesn't.

All in all i think biggest problem for the players was that Adam got some sweet crits in and those are devastating when they are landed by a mob that has many dice for damage. Crits are usually the thing that cause the chain reaction that leads in to character deaths.

(Monstercloud1) #119

I think there's two problems with this. The first that is if we're looking at encounter design alone, it doesn't feel different to the main story; look at area, grab monsters that would be in said area, make encounter hard/deadly, and done. The second that I think is agreeable on some level that in good horror, you're lulled deeper into the "horror world" before you realize just how fucked and insignificant you are. AFAIK, characters that have taken upon themselves to heal the land/help the gods when they could of gone on with their "daily lives", seems more of a heroic task than anything else.

Maybe that will be explored more in the live show, but two character deaths in a three shot, I'm hoping the "horror" aspect won't feel rushed or contrived

(Karamor) #120

JP said last night on stream that he'll randomise everything for the next char, so...