View Full Version : [4ed] DMless DnD: A work in progress

2010-10-22, 01:28 PM
So, my normal game is on hiatus due to various players on business trips, so the remaining 3 of us decided to experiment with DMless DnD via the rules in the back of the DMG 1.

I spent time making a spreadsheet, going through the Adventure tools, and creating a harrowing adventure of a modified Skull-Lord obsessed with fire, called the Hunger Lord, burning everything in his path, trying to take over the vale in which the PCs live. I selected undead and fire monsters according to the DMG's guidelines for a DMless random-gen dungeon for level 3 PCs.

Session 1: Only 2 of us showed up. 1 of us played a hybrid Warlock/Swordmage, the other a hybrid Wizard/Warlord. The first encounter was at a farm first being overrun by the Hunger lord's forces. We drew our monsters: Card 1: 2 Ashgaunts (level 7 soldiers), Card 2: 2 Tainted Zombies (level 1 brutes). We got schooled. HARD. The only way we ever damaged the Ashgaunts was with magic missile and other un-missing wizard powers and Armor of Agathys. The Zombies died quick, but not before they could do big damage to us. TPK. We thought maybe it was a fluke, and that Ashgaunst are too powerful. We reset with the same PCs and drew a new encounter. Card 1: Rotwing Zombie, Card 2: Rotwing Zombie. This fight was actually fun. We gave as good as we got to the Rotwings, but a series of bad rolls led to the demise of the Warlock/Swordmage. The Wizard/Warlord was able to finish off the bad guys, but not until the Warlock/Swordmage failed his 3rd death save. We called it a night. Conclusion: 2 people are too few, and you need a full-blown leader to make life work.

Session 2 We had all three people there this week! Our new PCs included a Fighter (grabby), a Bard (melee/valor), and a Ranger (beast/bow). We started over at the farm encounter. Card 1: Specter (Lurker 4, so we drew +1 card) and 2 Phantom Warriors (Soldier 4), Card 2: Deathlock Wight (Controller 4), Card 3: 4 Burning Devil (Minion 4). The enemy outnumbered us 2 to 1. We were able to get most of the Burning Devils out of the way quickly (though their explosions hurt us badly). The Deathlock Wight was eventually killed by the Ranger. We absolutely could not do enough damage to the Phantom Warriors or to the Specter. They took us apart. First the Bard went down, then the fighter, and finally the ranger ran away, letting his pet die. We had a leader, we had 3 people, and we had a great bow-ranger, built to perfection for damage. We just didn't have good enough math to deal with the problems. Suspecting something was fishy, I reviewed not only the DMG's DMless rules, but I compared them to the DMG's encounter building rules. In encounter building, it says to use monsters PC level-4 at the low end, and PC level +5 at the high end. In the back of the DMG for DMless DND it says to use PC level-2 at the low end and PC level +7 for the boss. I realized that both sets of guidelines give a range of the exact same size, but two levels off! We made new PCs of level 5 to attack the next session. Conclusions: DMless DND can work if the PCs are +2 levels (or the monsters are all -2 levels).

Session 3 We show up with a team of level 5s. The PCs: A massively revised version of the Swordmage/Warlock, a leveled up version of the Beast/Bow Ranger, and a melee Cleric. We go to the farm yet again. Card 1: Blazing Skeleton (Artillery 5), Card 2: 2 Skeleton Troopers (Soldier 1), Card 3: Deathlock Wight (Controller 4). We had this fight. It was tough wrapping up the blazing skeleton, but we were able to mow through the skeleton troopers and the wight. Encounter 2: A burned out village. Card 1: Young Blazewyrm (Elite Brute 4), Runeflame Skeleton (Skirmisher 6), and 4 Burning Souls (Minion 7). This fight was a lot harder, and we ended up blowing most of our Daily powers to survive it, but we were able to handle it pretty well. Most of our problems came from our Archer Ranger's inability to roll higher than a 6. We found a mystically protected inn and slept there, getting an extended rest, and discovered a hidden passage into the Hungerlord's keep. Encounter 3: Card 1: Firebird (Level 2 Solo). This fight was a joke. The Cleric lost less than a dozen HP. No one else was touched. Overall, a successful session. Conclusions: +2 level works great. The smaller the group, the more it hurts when one player rolls poorly. Solos need to be at the level of the PCs or get a +1 buddy or something.

Session 4: We climb to the top of the secret passage and bust through the walls of the outer keep of the Hungerlord, surprising some undead. Card 1: Runeflame skeleton (Skirmisher 6), Card 2 2 Skeletons (Soldier 3), Card 3: 2 Tainted Zombies (Brute a2). Another fight we were able to manage, though the Archer quickly got separated from the party by the Runeflame skeleton and took lots of damage. Also, he rolled very poorly again. The Cleric also took some damage from good rolls by the Skeletons and Zombies. The Warlock lost a few temporary hit points. Encounter 2: Rather than climb to the top of the tower in order to see the lay of the land, we opt to leave the tower and see what we can see. We bust into the courtyard of the Hungerlord and fight some of his monsters, milling about. Card 1: 2 Corpse Rat Swarms (Soldier 4), Card 2: 2 Ashgaunts (Soldier (Leader) 7), 2 Skulk Zombies (Skirmisher 3). The Ashgaunt aura that upgrades undead, and then upgraded each other, made life pain. They very quickly surrounded the Cleric, draining his healing surges and dropping him, then continued on to the Swordlock, doing the same. We threw every daily we had at them. The Archer rolled poorly (again), but needed VERY high numbers to hit the Ashgaunts. We were able to take out the Zombies and Rat Swarms, and even take down 1 Ashgaunt before it was all said and done--but Armor of Agathys was the main reason we could do any damage. Our conclusions: Soldiers/Brutes that are also (Leaders) should NOT be doubled-up. They make life tough. We won't do that again. Ashgaunts may be broken. Don't let the guy who can't roll worth crap play the main striker. You can never have enough healing.

We're playing again Tuesday, trying a new module using some of the stuff we've learned. What have your experiences been like? Have you tried DMless DND?