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I just finished running a D&D Encounters season 3 ep 11 session, and I'm dissatisfied with how it ended; I want to fix it next week with a bit of retroactive play before moving on to the finale.

Note: spoilers for episode 11 ahead!

So, my party did not wait for the spectre to speak beyond an initial bit of yelling; Eldeth's ability and tendency to move + charge 12 followed by some brutal clubbing pretty much put paid to any conversation. As a consequence, they were uninformed as to where the dwarven artifact was.

My session ended with a frustrated search for the artifact, unsuccessful due to a series of crap Perception checks combined with not looking in the right place.

I want to start the next session with a bit of a rewind, to wash the bad taste of the end of this one out of our collective mouths. What's a good way to run it?

(I've already had a suggestion of a skill challenge, but I'm not very good at setting that sort of thing up; if someone more experienced / capable could help...?)

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This question runs very close to being "too localized." You're referencing a specific encounter in a specific adventure in a specific game system. I bet you'd get better responses if you described the general problem of "an encounter where the bad guy is supposed to spout out something important but gets murderized first," perhaps using this as an illustrative example (which would require explaining it more). –  mxyzplk Dec 2 '10 at 16:31
    
Except, I'm looking for specifically a fix to this encounter, possibly from GMs that ran it just now and had the same situation. If that's not acceptable, so be it, but there are enough people running these that I figure it could be useful. Plus, it'll generalize nicely. –  Chris R Dec 2 '10 at 18:08
    
I guess the big question here is: what are your goals? Are you looking for a way for them to find the artifact without the wraith's help? Are you trying to facilitate a more hack-and-slash feel than what's allowed by the books, or are you trying to rein back on the players' need to attack everything? Just trying to create a more satisfying ending than what you ended up with? Trying to restage the encounter with the wraith in a way that makes the characters less likely to attack? Trying to find a better way to tell the players they've lost something and to move on? –  AceCalhoon Dec 2 '10 at 20:38
    
I wouldn't say this question is "too localized" for this particular environment. However, it would better benefit the community if it could be more generalized to fit other, similar situations. –  Iszi Dec 3 '10 at 17:35
    
@AceCalhoon I'm trying to find two things: One, a way for the players to plausibly discover the item without recourse to the spectre; it's dead, but they might still be able to find the item. Two, if that fails, a good way to move them forward without dissatisfaction. –  Chris R Dec 3 '10 at 18:28

2 Answers 2

Are your players allowed to fail?

Were they given any clues that the spectre they killed had the information they wanted? Can they be informed of this after the fact?

Let the characters know they failed (or hint at it), and move on.

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They're allowed to fail, this is not a necessary item. As to clues... they're sort of "I hit it with my axe" type players, so there was not a lot of conversation going on; the spectre spoke, but it was ghosty, so they hit it. –  Chris R Dec 2 '10 at 18:07
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It seems to me that this is the perfect opportunity to make your players start using a little discretion in the future. Give them a clue that the spectre knew where the artifact was, and that they're aren't going to be able to find it now because they killed said spectre. From now on, they'll probably act more carefully. –  Mike Riverso Dec 2 '10 at 18:59
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Totally agreed with @okeefe and @veritasscitor; winding back and taking a different approach so the same bad play can still win is bad form. A proactive question about "how do I have monster types drop clues without being skewered in the future" would be fine, but this falls into "if they have to learn the hard way, at least let them learn - don't circumvent the game and reward poor play." –  mxyzplk Dec 3 '10 at 13:19
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Rewinding is bad. It removes the suspense of consequences for the game. Do not take that away from the players. Just for the record - One of the most blunt and useful ways I know to 'educate' players is to not award a portion or even all the experience points that would have been awarded. There is no XP awarded for croaking an ally, a non-combatant or failing on the mission. What you are basically saying is the party critical failed in this test. So be it. –  Acedrummer_CLB Dec 3 '10 at 14:45
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Want to agree with the rest. The specter of Greysen (I also am DMing Encounters..) only gives that clue if the party can get him talking anyhow. Allow for failure. Drive on. In the next scene, play Benwick up as pissed that the players couldn't find what he sent them in for.. and then.. the inevitable chapter conclusion! –  Peter Seckler Dec 3 '10 at 17:53

Based on your comment, it sounds like you generally approve of how the narrative went, but felt that how you mechanically implemented the search at the end wasn't satisfying. Redoing a purely mechanical section of play that didn't feel right seems fair to me, so here are some suggestions:

One is to structure the search similarly to trekking across the desert. Pick a target number, and have the players start rolling. They need to get X successes before they get Y failures. If they do, they find the artifact. If not, it's lost forever.

Some variety is added by using multiple skills. Perhaps insight is used to remember where the wraith was looking before the players entered the room; perception to search the room; thievery to check locked or inaccessible portions of the room and so on. Information on the details of the skill check can be found in the DMG.

You can also keep it simple. Give everyone a perception check at a set difficulty. If one of them succeeds, they win. If not, they fail.

In general, a prolonged skill challenge like the first two options will feel more satisfying (win or lose). But the important thing is to clearly lay out success and failure conditions ahead of time. Once the players fail, they're done and it's time to move on... Unless one of them gives you a particularly clever alternative. Either way, don't dwell on it too long.

Disclaimer: In the general case, I think that Okeefe et al have the right of it. Flat out tell the players they failed, and move on. In the future, quash any wheedling attempts to salvage the failure ("But I haven't rolled search for THIS square foot of the map...") unless they're particularly clever in some way.

That said... That's how I enjoy the game, but it's perfectly valid to enjoy a more combat-driven hack first and ask questions later kind of play. If that's what you enjoy... Rock on :)

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