For our second module of the evening, I ran Songs of the Heart for Jimmy, Amanda, Hudson, Mark B., Jason B., and Susan. It’s a really fun roleplay module that I’d never encountered before – I ran it at Jimmy’s request, since he’s on the major quest it advances. Conveniently, this is one of those major quests that you can start halfway through. Thus, everyone’s on it now.
I liked running it. Any time I can do a lot of quirky NPCs, I’m pretty happy. The first fight was a breeze for the players, which is fine. The second fight was stone cold tough and I think it’s worth rambling on about it for a bit. But beware spoilers.
The big bad has a dominate (save ends) effect, which is all good. That’s going to happen at this point in the game. I elected to have her use it on Susan’s character, Ensa, since Ensa was up next in the initiative order and I knew Ensa could do decent damage. I figured I’d pick up Jimmy’s wizard next.
As random chance would have it, Ensa stayed dominated for three or four rounds. This meant I was able to have her whale on Amanda’s cleric, Shava, who went down after a couple of hits. That made the dominate way more effective than I’d expected. This was somewhat frustrating for both Susan and Amanda.
If I’d gone for the dominate on Perun (the wizard) first, I’d have been doing more damage, but there would have been more healing thrown around and I don’t think I would have dropped half the party before they managed to recover. So from a purely tactical standpoint, that was good. On the other hand, from a standpoint of game management, I deprived Susan of any actions. She hadn’t gotten a chance to do anything before her PC was controlled. So grabbing Jimmy might have been better there.
On the third hand, four rounds of dominate is really unlikely. You can’t plan for the minimal chance. So I can’t really feel that bad.
I think in the end I like my decision. None of the players complained, so I’m not worried there; I’m more analyzing it for my own edification. At high heroic and paragon tiers, I don’t want to pull punches. The adventures have to feel more epic to be satisfying. There’s a somewhat bigger question here: I am fairly certain that daze, stun, and dominate effects are part of how the difficulty of the game is balanced at those levels, and you could argue that’s a suboptimal design decision. Rather easily. However, if it’s necessary in the game, it’s necessary in the game.
Monster Manual 3 monster damage output might change things, though. I’ll have to keep an eye on that.
We finished up around 11:30 PM, which is late but it was totally worth it. A fun day.