Tweetup Tour – Day 2 – Stoke-on-Trent

If I saw Day 1 didn’t end well for me, because my hotel was a dingy backpackers hostel, by the river/station, and drunks where out and around making noise till 3am. The gulls woke me back up at 4am, and the roadsweepers started at 5am… Luckily I was due on a coach around 7:30am, so fled the hotel, got a coffee at McDonalds and made my way up one of Glasgows many hills in the rain…

I wasn’t looking forward to todays travel – 5 hours down the motorway to Manchester, and only a 30 minute change at their to get onto my next coach. So you can imagine when halfway down the route we were running 21 minutes behind schedule that I was a bit tense… Both coaches were punctuated by heavy bursts of rain, often filling the motorway with 2 inch of water in the 10 or so minutes the rain fell for. What got me was in some places, you’d travel a short way further on and the road would be dry, no signs of any rain at all.

Stoke is a strange ‘city’… Its made up of several large towns and a weird road layout… The coach station is in Hanley the ‘capital’ of Stoke, and as such, I’d booked my hotel here. Whereas Glasgow’s hills are long and gently sloping, Hanleys are short steep bursts, that seem to defy logic, you can go climb one hill, go round a corner, drop down again, then go back up after another corner!

This time my hotel was a bit more upmarket… it even had a pool… (though I didn’t know that until after I arrived). I’d used a comparison website to make my booking 5 weeks in advance, but it turns out that the hotel never got the booking. Luckily they still had a room for me and upgraded my room only to bed and breakfast. Other people arriving when I did weren’t wquite so luckily and a couple of families had to be rebooked into other hotels.

The Stoke group had heard of the Tweetups via UK Games Expo, where it had been suggested to them that they get in touch with me. That might not sound like much, but its a big thing, it means conventions are talking about the UK D&D Tweetups. That kinda validates all the work i’ve put into the events over the last 3 years 🙂

Like glasgow, I offered them a choice, and since they were heavily into playtesting D&D Next, they opted for the 3 lair assault. I’ve posted on here about how it was made, but to give it some context, it weighs around 50kg and is normally carefully packed into a plastic tub and transported by car. By the time it got to the gaming location for day 2, it’d been on 1 bus, 3 coaches, up and down several towns, and a short car trip… I was expecting some damage from all that travelling, and had packed it tightly into a travel case with lots of bubble wrap. In the end, most rooms had suffered a wall breaking away at the doorways, a couple of rooms and weakened in the centre, and there were various small chips. Only one room is totalled and needs rebuilding.

Forge of the Dawn Titan was the first 4e lair assault. It features a 20 round limit to work your way through the dungeon, fighting off fairly tough foes and traps, before making it to the forge room with the BBEG and a demon idol. It was designed for level 5 pc’s but i’d accidentally told Stoke to build level 6 pc’s. On paper it basically equates to a +2 accuracy bonus, +1 skill and defenses bonus, and one extra utility power. in real life, it makes a quite substantial difference, especially in a party of 6. I planned on taking a few extra pre-gens in case they wanted a second run through etc, but as it was, the Stoke group lost the characters they’d planned on using and relied on my 9 pre-gens instead. This is quite an important thing, I knew what was in the dungeon, and that the best strategy for doing well in the dungeon is party synergy, and so I had built massively optimized characters, multiple healing options, multiple resistance options etc…

Before the tweetup tour, I was unbeaten using the 3d terrain, I’d run several groups through it, often slaughtering them in the first room. Stoke took this challenge seriously, having a pre-game huddle in the kitchen with the door closed so I couldn’t hear their tactics. In their end, their plan was to take the most direct route, and to focus fire on the BBEG. their plan, coupled with the extra level, and optimized characters worked, and they breezed through the dungeon changing after round 4 and the various monster threats, and the focus fire on Mordai Vell was the key. I’ve seen a couple of groups get to the forge room, but then get bogged down by the various monsters. by ignoring the additional threats, spacing themselves out to limit the other threats, and solely concentrating on the BBEG they beat the dungeon.

The Stoke group were really great people… they bought me a set of dice (which happened to be rolling much better than the ones i brought). They seemed to like the way lair assault played compared to their past 4e experience, and also were happy with playtesting Next and tried to tease my private playtesting secrets out… beyond ‘the sundering adventures rock’ they didn’t get anything of value.

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