The party assembled themselves at the end of the bridge that led to Welton, a small village in danger of being cut off from the rest of the world if the renegade elves who claimed the bridge had their way. Consisting of Morrik (dwarf invoker 2), Adrik (dwarf cleric 2), Liam Heartwood (“longtooth” shifter warden 2, who was descended from an ancient tree rather than the traditional quasi-lycanthrope shifter), and an unmanageable goblin rogue 2 named Hellyug, the adventuring company stormed the blockaded bridge.
Their enemies included four elven archers, an elven scout, and two gray wolves — a fairly stock encounter from the DMG plus two more elven archers.
The heroes were successful! They turned back the elven terrorists holding the bridge. A wolf and an elven archer were bounced off the bridge and plunged into the roiling river below. An elven scout burned to death. One wolf was laid low by divine disapproval and an archer was cut to pieces by the surly goblin. Two elves ran the hell away. Fine work, heroes!
But surely these weren’t the only elves who laid claim to the Forest Forlorn….
The map was built to give enough room for various characters to charge, but also had a few features to encourage some dramatic use of sliding and maneuvering. On either side of the bridge, a suspended platform allowed archers to loose arrows at those attempting to cross, and the whole thing traversed a valley in which a swift-flowing river coursed far below.
Things started of as anyone’s advantage, then the PCs suffered a critical setback, but then managed to fight their way back to dominance. An early bless gave the party bolstered offensive capability that benefited them throughout the fight. Unfortunately, a few exceptional rolls, including a critical, managed to fell the warden in the defender role. Concerted effort brought him back to his feet, and an ugly cluster-brawl at the center of the bridge saw most of the action. The elf scout used a reroll to his benefit early on, but made up for it by blowing his two-weapon attack during a pivotal point in the fight. Everyone had a kill except the invoker, who suffered from poor dice rolls early on but which increased toward the end of the fight.
Particularly enjoyable was the players’ use of the terrain to their advantage. The goblin rogue made a dashing leap up to one of the hanging platforms and relentlessly harried one of the archers. One of the wolves and one of the archers went careening off the bridge and platform, respectively, which I just love from a dramatic, gameplay, and visual standpoint. (I’m the kind of player who takes special abilities so his character can hurl dudes off things, and I just dig seeing it in play.) It’s my intent to always have some nifty environmental aspect to the play areas, because I think it’s exciting and I think it’s handled pretty elegantly in the 4e rules, so I have to challenge myself to keep those ideas fresh.
Notable Positive Experiences: Bad guys sailing off the architecture, of course. I liked seeing the warden in action. I also like the way 4e splits the “fairy” archetype into elves and eladrin. I’ve always liked the idea of elves as chaotic and untrustworthy, and I liked using them as bad guys without having to resort to stereotypical drow. Every player contributed something significant and had a chance to use cool powers.
Notable Negative Experiences: Nothing out of the ordinary. I think Morrik’s player, Ned, was a litle frustrated by bad die rolls that limited his input, but that’s part and parcel to a dice-based game. Link, playing Adrik, definitely enjoys a more narrative experience than I plan to deliver with the single-encounter lunch sessions — not that that’s necessarily negative, but I think his enthusiasm may be limited by the format.