I’ve run every Lair Assault except for Spiderkiller. I’ve enjoyed them all, but all the past Lair Assaults suffered from oversights that seemed to show insufficient blind playtesting.
For example, Attack of the Tyrantclaw failed to note whether the T-Rex would attack the other dinosaurs. The whole encounter turned on that huge detail. And then we had the Pixie Music Box problem.…
In Talon of Umberlee, if the players camped below decks, the Kraken could not attack and the sahuagin boss could barely move without squeezing. The module never accounted for this strategy. Can the bad guys start tearing down the masts and rigging to coax the characters out? Can they set the ship on fire? If I were the sea god, I would have sunk the ship first, and then seen how the thieving characters fared against my warriors, but that hardly seems sporting.
Kill the Wizard raised only one minor question, which I’ll mention later. So in my experience, the challenge ranks as both the best constructed and difficult Lair Assault. I’ve run it once, so far, at Dean’s Dugout in Naperville Illinois.
I loved having the players land in random places in the dungeon. The divided party adds a new strategic dimension to the challenge. When players suddenly find themselves alone, facing monsters, they feel a real sense of peril. Plus, the random element adds extra uncertainty to replays. I wanted to conceal the landing spots of players who could not see each other. However, to keep things moving, I simply placed all the characters in a room the first time initiative came up for any character in the room.
The scenario ran very long. In the store, neither of the two tables came close to finishing after 6 hours. We simply ran out of time. Perhaps if the players adopted a stealth strategy, the event could come closer to the advertised 3-4 hour running time. As it stands, I recommend doing everything possible to speed play and encourage fast turns. Next time I run this one, I may resort to extreme measures. If players start their turn by examining the map and mulling over what they want to do, I may just hand them their initiative card and tell them they’re delaying until ready.
Kill the Wizard explicitly forbids taking a short rest. The challenge presents no game-world explanation for this, but the dungeon master can invent a source of time pressure. Perhaps Variel’s key is magically linked to her life force. As soon as she loses possession of it, its power to open the gates begins to fade.
Without a short rest, the players cannot recharge encounter powers. The challenge does not spell out whether until-end-of-encounter effects survive the trip through the gate and carry on into the dungeon. Because the encounter never describes any delays that would cause effects to exceed their five minute time limit, I say that effects last. Bottom line, the characters need all the help they can get. The Drowslayer lives up to its name.
By the way, I notice all the Lair Assaults except Talon of Umberlee reward players for loading their characters with powers that buff until the end of the encounter. This makes powers like Wizard’s Fury very potent. I’m not fond of how the single-encounter design overvalues a class of powers. I liked how Talon of Umberlee rewarded more traditional character design.
I have a lot of miniatures and prefer using them over the tokens. I used the following miniatures:
- Variel – the Elf Warlock from the 2008 starter set
- Iron Defenders – Dungeons of Dread 36
- Etherik – Eladrin Pyromancer, Against the Giants 45
- Arcane Students – Tiefling Warlock, Dungeons of Dread 47
- Bar-lgura – Desert of Desolation 44
- Owlbear – Against the Giants 35 or Blood War 57.
- Flesh Golem – Aberrations 45 or Night Below 46
I created my own Drowslayer and black pudding figures, as you can see in my last post.