Okay I ran this playtest this afternoon with my wife running the characters. The party was 6th level and comprised of a Assassin, Fighter, Warlock, Invoker and Bard. None of the characters were 'character op'ped'. I quick built them in the Character Builder then went in and tweaked them where they needed it to make them realistically built. Things like invalid weapon focuses or powers that didn't work well with the stat builds and that kind of thing. Â I also gave each one a 'reasonable' weapon and armour or implement and each one got some minor item that added to their combat effectiveness or recovery.
The set up was the party had been hired by a lord to track down and destroy a band of raiders that were destroying small villages with the usual results. The lord had lost members of his family to this band and the PC's were the fastest way to get after them while he raised a real fighting force to deal with them.
The party was closing in but at each village they trailed the raiders to they lost time searching for survivors and when they found them they had to deal with them. This was the third such village they'd come to and they entered it to check for if there was anyone hurt but still alive. Several huts were still burning or had collapsed into a pile of glowing embers. Bodies were scattered everywhere, a large pile of them in the center of town where wagons and small stands cluttered up the area. The town well's walls had been collapsed into it and bodies thrown in. It was not a pretty sight. The smell of burning flesh filled the area as did a pall of choking smoke from the fires.
The ravens had already arrived and were pecking at some of the corpses, watching the party as they entered the town. Â Some of the villagers had been strung up from the rafters gutted and left to die slowly.
As the fighter and bard led the group into the village they spotted movement among the pile of dead in the center and approached it, prepared to help or put out misery whoever was still alive.
Drawing closer they stopped as one of the prone figures stood and then turned to face them,Â a woman, eyes put out and a jagged gash across her throat, her front covered with her blood. She stared at the approaching party with sightless eyes and a savage rage filled expression contorted her face and she screamed, the sound a punishing blast of force that blasted the party backwards, hammering them with sound and knocking them down.
At the horrible cry bodies all around the village rose to their feet, hungry dead eyes lusting for revenge, fueled by rage and as one their heads swiveled toward the party.
The backstory is that the girl's death, a warlock in life, turned her into a demi-lich of some kind and now she's driven to protect the village against intruders, any intruders and has brought the other bodies back to un-life to help protect it.
Surprise round over we roll initiative and the combat is on.
The combatants included the five pc's and one Tortured Remains, 2 x Steel Thewed Zombies, 2 x Hanged Ones and 20 x Pyre Dead. Â This is obviously a seriously harsh encounter. As a result I kept a fairly careful eye on things and the undead didn't always use their most efficient abilities. That's part of my job as the DM, to keep things in check that way. I would rather dump in an extra 10 minions at the start and finesse their combat output of the encounter as a whole and have them if I need them rather than run 'light' and have a boring fight. Under normal circumstances this would have been a day ender anyway without a couple or three minor skirmishes leading up to with raider stragglers or wild life or some other natural hazard of the area.
The house rules that were in force consisted of these -
- -1/2 level to attack rolls and defenses and skills on both sides.
- +1/2 level in damage to one target of an attack and normal damage for the rest in the case of multiple targets
- +1/2 level to healing abilities like healing words, second winds and healing potions.
- +2 flat bonus to attack rolls
- And to try and reduce the impact of randomness, all attacks did average damage.
- PC's at dying used the Mostly Dying rule (which came into effect once)
To cut to the chase, the end results were within acceptable ranges and added to the game IMO. Yours might be different of course.
The fight went well, various AOE's dealt well with the minions over the course of the adventure which I fully expected which is why I was about to dump 20 minions into this fight. The Assassin's Heart of Dust worked VERY well when used against the Tortured Remains which was surrounded by minions. When the dot procc'ed it killed 5 minions. Add in the Invoker's Rebuke Undead and other multiple target attacks from the various characters and the poor minions died in droves the way they're supposed to. Â I did get more than a few hits on the player using the minions which worked well. The 7 damage a pop slowly ate away at their resources.
All the characters bloodied and most were brought to single digits at least once, all of them used their Second Winds and 2 used Healing Potions, each character was assumed to have one. The Bard used both his Majestic Words which since he had the Improved feat also granted 5 Temp HP's.
The Tortured Remains was able to keep various characters controlled, either dazed, weakened or immobilized, but the players never really lost their full turn. Even when the Invoker went down to 0 health she was able to use the Mostly Dying rule on her next turn to trigger her Second Wind and the turn after that was able to get back into the fight. Â Without that rule in effect that character would most likely be dead. Â The bard was trapped on the other side of the battlefield and would have most likely died from OA's trying to get to her and since both his Majestic Word's had been used the best he could have done was a Healing check to stabilize.
The Steel Thewed Zombies grab attack was successful a few times where they held a PC and granted CA for some of the other monsters and the Bard was tossed down the well once as a result. The assassin was also thrown into the well from the Tortured Remains burst with push attack which was funny, at least to me.
The assassin knocked the last of the minions down into the well as well with a pushing power which was only fair I suppose. The Assassin as a whole wasn't too impacting with the battle, he missed a lot but the one time he did manage a hit was with the daily and that cleared a big chunk of minions that would almost certainly have pulped the bard or the fighter on their next turn.
I believe in total the fight took 7-8 rounds and took an hour and 45 minutes. That might seem long (or maybe it doesn't) but this was an encounter with 30 total combatants and the characters were complete unknowns to my wife, she'd never played any of these classes before so she spent time looking them over each round to see what might be the best power. Something that one would hope wouldn't be the case with players who'd started with these characters and had played them up to this level.
Things that helped contribute to the pacing, hitting more often (10% more often due to the +2 static bonus), doing more damage per hit (an average of +3 damage per hit) and in all honesty not having to roll damage and using average damage for everything except critical hits (we only had one over the course of the fight) sped things up as well.
Although one test does not a conjecture prove, I would at this point be perfectly willing to continue with these changes in a real campaign, assuming I could find enough players to have a real ongoing campaign.