Saturday, March 22, 2008

Descent: Road to Legend PAIN...

In which our heroes were verily smote.

And then smote again.

Our first week went something like this:

"Oooh, a rumor says there's something good nearby!'s not nearby. It's far away."
"Well, let's go see this side dungeon first so that we can get experience and build up our characters."

"There's a dragon in this dungeon."
"But it's our first dungeon."
"Yeah... and it's kind of a boss dragon."
"Oh. But this is just the first level of our first dungeon."
"Yeah. Oh, and it's actually tougher than a regular boss dragon. It has more health and more armor."
"I see."
"Yeah. Oh, and none of you can do enough damage to hurt it."
"That's nice. Well, we're going to dash in, get some money near the exit and get out."
"Hmm, yes. Well, your problem with that is that there's six kobolds now between the heroes and the exit that weren't there seconds ago."
"Aaah. Well, we kind of have to kill them to get out."
"Yes you do. And, while you do that, the better-than-boss dragon will move twice and catch up to you."
"And it will breathe fire on you."
"That's bad."
"Oh, and it will breathe fire on you twice."
"That's also bad."
"Yes it is. And now you're all dead. And the overlord is now tougher because you died."
"That's even worse."
"Not for the overlord."

Cut to two hours later.

"Hey, we killed the skeleton boss of this dungeon level! We're doing pretty good."
"Yeah. Well, he actually comes back to life with full health."

Ten minutes later:

"There. Now he's dead."
"Yeah. Well, he actually comes back to life with full health again."
"Hmm. That's irritating."

Twenty minutes later:

"There. Stay dead."
"Nope. He comes back to life again."

Thirty minues later:

"There. IS HE DEAD YET?"
"Yes. He's finally dead."
"Okay. We open the door to the last level."
"Okay. Now you see that boss dragon again that you still can't damage."
"And there's also a boss demon with him."
"Of course there is. Why wouldn't there be? Well, we flee the dungeon."
"Okay. By fleeing, you automatically go back to the start town and have basically undone all the travel you've done over the last three weeks."

And here endeth this chapter.

Let's put this into context. This game is tough for starting heroes. Brutally tough.

Now, none of this is Ben's (the overlord) fault. He's playing exactly like he should, and exactly like any of us would if we were in his shoes. His job is not to make the game fun for us. It's to defeat the heroes. And I think I speak for Dennis and Chad when I say we appreciate the job that Ben is doing, because it's like referees in college basketball (which we watched after Descent). It's a thankless job. When he is successful, the game is less enjoyable for the rest of the players. When he's not successful, it's less enjoyable for him. And we all knew that before we started playing. It's just the way the game is. So we need an overlord who can take the sighs and gripes and continue to play. And Ben does that. So thanks, Ben. You're playing well.

And to be honest, I had a pretty good time. Honest. And I wish this post didn't sound so...despondent. The game looks beautiful, and the variety of things we've seen as we've played is an improvement that's head-and-shoulders above the original gameplay. But we're in a tough spot. The overlord has twice as much "conquest" as the party, which means he's getting tougher, and doing so faster than we are. We've actually got a decent amount of money. But XP is difficult to come by without killing bosses, and no XP means no training for extra dice or learning new skills, which basically killing the bosses.

And none of us are sure if there's a way to make the game competitive given the position we're in. We can't complete any of the beginning dungeons, partly because there's no such thing as a "beginning dungeon." They're all just crazy tough. That's a pretty demoralizing feeling. So, we put it away for the week and may take a look at it next week with fresh eyes and see what we can do.


At 9:59 PM, March 22, 2008, Blogger Dennis Ugolini said...

Heh -- I must have started typing mine just as you finished yours.

At 10:01 PM, March 22, 2008, Blogger Dennis Ugolini said...

Note also that Ben is doing a much better job as Overlord than the referees in Marquette-Stanford.

At 10:01 PM, March 22, 2008, Blogger Brian said...

It sounds nuts that if you fail a campaign during the first encounter that the boss gets tougher. (If you fail in the middle you need to toughen the boss or restart).

Still, it's always fun to watch Duke go up against the Overlord and lose. Brutally.

At 10:11 PM, March 22, 2008, Blogger Chris said...

Yes, the Duke game lifted all of our spirits considerably.

I think Dennis' NCAA bracket is about blown up, though.

At 10:24 PM, March 22, 2008, Blogger Dennis Ugolini said...

I'm still middle-of-the-pack.

Unless UCLA loses to A&M; then I'm competing with the "Go Big Red" guy.

At 10:25 PM, March 22, 2008, Blogger Ben said...

To be fair, we're only 5% through the campaign (33 out of 600 total conquest required to the Overlord Keep assault), so its perhaps a bit early to throw in the towel.

I did have some extremely lucky breaks, such as drawing the toughest dungeon level in the deck for your first dungeon. On the one easy level you drew, you guys did outscore me 6-5 conquest, I believe, all with totally un-upgraded heroes.

I don't think we advance out of Copper until around 200 total Conquest, so pretty soon the party is going to have totally coppered out weapons and armor, plus a training token or two each, while I can upgrade a single creature type to silver. So... I think the game is going to get progressively easier as you level up, which is as it should be.

Come on, guys! Don't give up yet!

At 10:42 PM, March 22, 2008, Blogger Chris said...

Unless UCLA loses to A&M; then I'm competing with the "Go Big Red" guy.

WOW. That was CLOSE.
That could have been bad.

At 10:50 PM, March 22, 2008, Blogger Ben said...

Here is a session report on BGG where the party ran into the same Dragon as their first dungeon level:

At 11:11 PM, March 22, 2008, Blogger Chris said...

Hmm thats interesting. They had more success than we did. Should we be shopping more? Maybe.

At 5:23 AM, March 23, 2008, Blogger Ben said...

The party on BGG hit their first dungeon at week 10 rather than week 2 when you hit yours. I suspect they did some outdoor adventuring a bit first.

Thinking more about our game, its key to look at the score: 22 vs. 11. Remember that six of my points came automatically (i.e., one per turn). I scored roughly 10 points from the dungeon wipe. I don't think you guys score anything in this dungeon. That means you actually killed me in scoring on the second dungeon with 11 points to my 6. So... I'd advise sticking with dungeons and be ready to bolt if you get a bad draw. Eventually you'll be strong enough to handle anything at copper level.

At 9:23 AM, March 23, 2008, Blogger Ben said...

Okay, I had a couple hours to think about this game while jogging this morning, so here are some ideas:


1. Press on. See what happens.

2. Re-boot. You guys can pick your skill and character. Now that you know more about what to do on early turns (i.e., maybe skip the rumors, load up on potions, etc.) you should have better luck.

3. Re-boot plus pick a new DM. Not that I'm particularly good at this game, but I have DM'd 5-6 times, which does perhaps add a spoonful of difficulty.

What do you think?

At 9:59 AM, March 23, 2008, Blogger Chris said...

Hmmm...waiting on the first dungeon is something Ben had actually mentioned during the game but something I hadn't really thought of too seriously yet.

I guess my question about that is that I don't see that outdoor encounters are a way to realistically progress in the game. I mean, what are the rewards? Do outdoor encounters really give you XP or treasure? Or are they just hindrances (that was the impression I had--of course, I could read the rulebook, since I own it, and answer my own question.) I wish there was a way to churn for XP outside of the dungeons--I'm just not sure that there is.

One thing that's nice is the gold we've gotten from the dungeons. In the one outdoor encounter we had, we didn't see any gold lying around. Is there another way to get gold?

Bottom line, I'm interested in how the party in the session you read about advanced and what rewards they got from the outdoor encounters.

Another question to ask is who wants to continue playing. I would like to. I hope Dennis and Chad still do. (I think Dennis thought of himself as only a temporary sub, but the way I see it, since Chad and Dennis started these characters (and invested a fair amount of time doing so), they should be able to continue to play if they want, and other people can sub in if/when they can't make it).

Once we figure out if Chad and Dennis still want to play, then we can figure out who has input into Ben's options. The only thing I don't like about the way the game has gone so far is that those dungeons we fled are now "explored" and un-enterable again. I think that's pretty punitive. I think it would be a simple matter to mark down which cards made up which levels of the dungeons, and if you fled, then you could reconstruct the levels of the dungeons with those cards again (at least the "unbeaten" levels) at the time you chose to come back. Fleeing back to Tamalir is enough of a penalty. Making the dungeon permanently closed to me is unnecessary and takes out some of the fun of the game for no real reason.

And I hate that "fleeing to Tamalir" thing. I absolutely think you should have the option to flee to the nearest town. Otherwise, you could "flee to Tamalir" and travel most of the way across the board instantaneously just by entering a dungeon then fleeing on the first move, and this sounds like an abuse of the system.

So we might want to consider house-ruling that fleeing a dungeon goes to the nearest town (or, more realistically, to the last departed town), and house-ruling that you can just mark down the cards that make up dungeons (say, 23, 40, 6) so that if you leave, you just whip out the cards of the levels that weren't beaten yet and rebuild it when you reenter. Thematically, this seems to make a lot more sense and seems like more fun without a lot of downside.

Just food for thought.

At 1:09 PM, March 23, 2008, Blogger Dennis Ugolini said...

I'd just like to know how the players in all of these session reports are damaging an armor 8 creature. I don't think Thorn or Silhouette did that much damage in a single attack all game without expending fatigue for extra black dice, which (a) only gives a wound or two, and (b) can't be kept up long. And I don't see how gear would fix that, since Silhouette already had a copper Pierce 2 bow (blue + yellow just doesn't do much damage).

At 3:03 PM, March 23, 2008, Blogger Ben said...

You fix it by using fatigue to upgrade your black dice to silver and gold. If you use a power potion (gives you five blacks), then use fatigue to upgrade them to silver, you're going to kick serious butt. No one did this in our game, so I wonder if we didn't discuss this? Its a new mechanic in RtL.

Of course the DM can do it as well. I think the rule is that I can use two surges to upgrade a die rather than collect a threat.

I think eliminating dungeon closure is a pretty huge change I'd be hesitant to make. The game, by design, forces you to explore further and further off the beaten path onto yellow and red trails. Still, if we just close the ones that you complete all three levels on, this seems like a reasonable house rule.

Porting back to the nearest town.... wow... I don't know. I'd be agreeable to this for outdoor encounters, as this would make sense since you're not actually glyphing. Dungeon retreats are glyphing, so it makes more sense to go to Tamalir, which is where the Master Transport Crystal is located. How does that sound?

At 3:14 PM, March 23, 2008, Blogger Ben said...

Silvers are essentially double black dice. Just test rolling five silvers a few times I was averaging around 6-8 hits and/or surges. If Chad's character added this to what he was already hitting, I think you could have taken just about anyone down you encountered.

So, summary of house rules proposed:

1. Pick characters
2. Pick starting skill
3. No dungeon closure unless successful
4. Flee to nearest town during outdoor encounters

Oh, Chris, to answer your question: Killing the boss in outdoor encounters nets you 100 gold plus 2 conquest. Plus, you get 50 gold for each red monster.

At 3:17 PM, March 23, 2008, Blogger Chris said...

I put a post on BGG about these "house rules" and they pointed out the same things you did about the fact that "fleeing" is a glyph, not an escape to the surface through a physical tunnel or such. I had forgotten that. I think if you keep fleeing to Tamalir then you have to close the dungeons after exploration; otherwise you can abuse the glyph transport system.

Fleeing an outdoor encounter doesn't send you back to Tamalir, though, right? It just ends the encounter, or so I thought. So no need to change anything there.

Anyway, I *might* be more amenable to a restart than I was a little while ago. I mean, now that we know the mechanics and such (I had totally forgotten about upgrading dice, and it's not exactly printed somewhere convenient--they need a player reference card or something to remind you of options for using fatigue and movement costs and such), we might be a little more committed about finishing the battles. I dunno- just a thought. But I still don't see another viable way besides dungeon delving of advancing the characters.

At 3:28 PM, March 23, 2008, Blogger Ben said...

Yep, you're right. Fleeing an outdoor encounter just sends you back on your way.

At 3:31 PM, March 23, 2008, Blogger Chris said...

You fix it by using fatigue to upgrade your black dice to silver and gold.

I think this is the key. I wonder how this would have changed the experience we had and now I'm ready to play again. (Ready for more pain, perhaps.)

At 4:02 PM, March 23, 2008, Blogger Ben said...


Mission accomplished.

At 4:09 PM, March 23, 2008, Blogger Chad said...

I'm reading through the rules right now and noticed something somewhat important. At the end of each week each character heals all of their fatigue. Also, at the end of each week you may use as many potions as you wish, so heading back to town to heal at the Temple isn't always necessary. We were doing it where you had to go to the Temple to heal fatigue after encounters. That might change things a little. You also get to roll four power dice for loot when it comes to outside encounters. You can only get cash from outside encounters, but it would be enough to buy some copper items in town.

Anyway, I'm all for a total reboot. And since Ben mentioned it as a possible option,I'd also offer to be Overlord if Ben wanted to switch over to being a player for a bit. Either way is cool with me.

At 4:21 PM, March 23, 2008, Blogger Chris said...

Dennis, are you still in if we restart?

Chad, thanks for volunteering to be the overlord. Whatever you and Ben decide is fine with me. I know *I* wouldn't want to do it (at least not yet), so I'm glad other people are open to trying it.

At 4:36 PM, March 23, 2008, Blogger Ben said...

Chad, if you think you'll be available to consistently keep the campaign moving forward, I'm cool with you trying out Overlord. I think a key to keeping this interesting is to play at least a little most weeks until we finish.

Two key rules that aren't yet official errata but make sense:

1. 1 Lieutenant per siege.
2. Only basic upgrade cards with the initial buy, i.e., no Lieutenant buys.

At 4:45 PM, March 23, 2008, Blogger Dennis Ugolini said...

Sure, I'll be in, though I'll still give up my seat to someone like Michael or Jon if they want it.

At 7:42 PM, March 23, 2008, Blogger Michael said...

This sounds intriguing to me.

I'm still in Baton Rouge and very sick right now. Stupid flu.

At 8:25 PM, March 23, 2008, Blogger Simon said...

Wow, this sounds a lot like my last game of Descent. I'm glad you are all handling it with much more tact than I did (i.e. whined like a baby).

I noticed in Dennis's session report he mentioned how he liked Doom more. I'm wondering if that has anything to do with house ruling. You see in any game I play of Doom, I add in about half a dozen house rules to even it up for the Marines (I'm not sure how prevalent these rules are outside the games I play within the group, though I do believe Jon uses them as well). That may be something to consider, since I chopped out a lot of the absurd and unnecessarily punishing rules like zero shotgun range, range "walks", and what not. Perhaps developing a few for Descent may help as well?

I also know I have a propensity to hold back as DM when I know the players are having it rough. THIS IS NOT A KNOCK AGAINST BEN. I know how un-fun it is to be totally demolished in one turn despite some great plan you concocted with your team. A little screwage of said plan is fine by me, but I hesitate on the wholesale destruction efforts. Maybe I'm just a softie. I view the Doom/Descent games as a sort of pen and paper RPG put to bits. It's more pretty and fleshed out, but in the end as DM - I'm just there to make it close and give the other team a chance (my fun vs. the group’s). Once more, THIS IS NOT A KNOCK AGAINST BEN. -Just my philosophy which is why I am in favor of house rules as they forcibly make things more even. That way there is no judgment call on the part of the DM - they don't have to worry and can do whatever they please.

I would be interested in taking up a character, but if this is a Saturday thing, I don’t think it will be realistically possible. I’m simply out of town far too often… Man, I’m going to miss this group when I move away… *single tear*

At 8:29 PM, March 23, 2008, Blogger Simon said...

Oh and undying is an unbelievably stupid rule and one which I will always campaign against for its' undeniable idiocy. That crap needs to get house ruled pronto. -Just sayin'...

At 11:02 PM, March 23, 2008, Blogger Ben said...

Undying is the best! The only monster I like better than the undying red sorcerer is the red ferrox with bleed, which is the best non-large tank killer in the game.

There are at least some weapons now that nullify the undying power, so it would be good to pack these along.

One thing to keep in mind when picking characters... if you're sensitive to dying a lot, at least early in the game, don't pick a 2 conquest mage. They are incredibly soft and easy to kill, and most of the combat in the game allows a monster dog pile on the weakest character in order to maximize conquest point yield. In our game I hit Chad's tank with 8 monsters, barely scratching him, while I could take down Silhouette or Dennis' mage with 3-4 good strikes.

One thing people are pointing out on-line is since monsters don't heal, its almost never worth retreating out of a dungeon. Even if you wipe, it may be better to re-spawn and go back in order to get the treasure and conquest points of all three levels. Remember the boss monster on level 3 is worth double cash and conquest.

At 12:13 PM, March 24, 2008, Blogger Dennis Ugolini said...

There's a session report on BGG where someone writes (paraphrasing), "The adventurers successfully avoid an outdoor encounter and reaches their first dungeon, for which they are awarded a conquest token." Is that right?

At 5:03 PM, March 24, 2008, Blogger Chad said...

I noticed that as I was going over the rules. Discovering a new dungeon nets you a conquest. No need to even go inside.

At 5:36 PM, March 24, 2008, Blogger Ben said...

Wow! Good rule catch.

This thread has a ton of good strategy tips:

Apparently, once fully stocked up with copper weapons the heroes are having luck taking down the first lieutenant. Several folks recommend upgrading the Tamalir market early, which seems to make sense if weapons are more powerful than skills early on.


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