Labyrinth of Ruin recap, Part II

A second look at the Labyrinth of Ruin campaign, now that we’re halfway through, this time looking at the characters the party chose. This is one of the interesting parts of Descent: the mixing and matching of Character with Class, then how that is built, how it is used and how it compliments the other heroes.

This is a tough party to get firing on all cylinders because their abilities and strengths don’t necessarily compliment each other – at least not yet. There are a few heroes who are built to be team players and one/two who are more their own force-with-which-to-reckon. I suspect that as the campaign progresses and gets tougher, with more Lieutenants and big monsters, the party’s blend of slow, normal and large damage output may start paying off.

Players: pipe up if you have anything to add, insights to share, slights to refute.

Dezra the Vile, Mage, Hexer.

Jim is currently steering Dezra, one of two mages in the party. While Bryce’s Geomancer tends to favour obstruction tactics and dealing damage in chunks, Dezra is kind of a slow burn gal. The Hexer seems like a tough class to play: it applies small amounts of damage/debuffs to a few monsters at a time, but a favoured strategy in Descent is concentrating damage on one monster in order to knock them out the game. When played to full efficacy, the Hexer should be removing a few mobs at a time, after a time. That’s a tough thing to time correctly, especially without orchestrating one’s peers to high levels.

Jim has been adept at showing up for sessions where XP isn’t awarded, so Dezra’s a little behind the others, but her abilities are finally getting powerful. Her own abilities (she’s fast and benefits from being beside monsters – healing at the start of her turn if adjacent to a monster and her One Shot is to immobilize all adjacent monsters)  have been secondary as Jim has relied on letting the hexes do the work. Internal Rot and Viral Hex are good at multiplying the number of hexes laid on monsters, while Internal Rot and Plague Spasm cause the Hexes to help out in combat in new ways.

Dezra’s defence has been beefed up with the Baron’s Cloak, making her immune to the Pierce that a lot of LoR monsters have. Her offensive abilities aren’t great – The Staff of the Grave doesn’t put out a lot, but that’s bolstered by the Sun Stone a little.

From the Overlord’s seat, it seems like Dezra is going to be more useful as the game goes on, especially in big melees, but in the early game, it seemed like her abilities weren’t getting much of a run out.

High Mage Quellen, Mage, Geomancer.

A bit tougher than Dezra, Bryce’s High Mage Quellen has turned into a pretty great Magetank. He recovers fatigue with both of his hero abilities, his One Shot allowing him to increase his stamina to 8, use it up, then immediately get it all back, allowing a burst of effort at a crucial point. He is a skill specialist, shit Fist (strength) and great Book (wisdom, intelligence? never really learned).

Geomancer skills – being able to summon pillars of rock to block squares, move them around and have them shoot monsters – makes Quellen even more of a formidable manager of monsters and the additional skills Bryce has chosen makes them even more so. The stones can’t attack by themselves, (except when they first appear), but as well as blocking passages, they can be used to debuff/damage adjacent monsters.

Bryce really lucked out with items: His Rune Plate adds to his health and upgrades his armour die while his Teleportation Rune helps keep him out of harm’s way, just in case.

From the Overlord’s seat, Quellen seems like the pivotal tactical hero of the party. What everyone else does often revolves around how he can manipulate the map, which is cool, but that also means Bryce is the most Quarterbacked of all the heroes, with everyone having an opinion on what he should do.

Karnon, Warrior, Beast Master.

Matt’s yeti Beast Master has either an amazing game or a terrible game. Of all the characters, he is the absolute easiest for me to sabotage with the Overlord deck that I’m using. That makes him a weirdly glassy tank.

Karnon is a bruiser, with 14 health and 6 Might and while he is low on Stamina (3) he gets one back every time an adjacent monster dies. Since he is likely to be throwing himself into the thick of things, that’s not a bad deal and an incentive to use him like a battering ram. His One Shot is to change his dice to whatever he wants when he attacks – and while this seems pretty strong – it’s only good against minions, not Lieutenants… so sure, he’ll cream some monster, but chances are he’d be doing a lot of that anyway.

Matt chose to take Karnon down the path of Beastmaster and loaded up on skills that give him even more Health; Survivalist and Predator adding 6 health to Karnon’s already bonkers health. His Wolf Familiar also buffs the defense of any party member beside him. He upgraded Spears pretty early on, getting the Iron Spear, which has the handy-for-this-module Pierce. But the most useful weapon is surely the Beastmaster’s Skinning Knife, which gets a +3 surge if the target has already taken damage. This makes Karnon a pretty amazing second-man into melees.

Karnon’s big weakness though is that he never learned to read. His Knowledge is 1, which makes him an easy mark for several of my Overlord cards. His other, non-Might skills are only at 2 (although Matt picked up a Thief’s Vest to help with Perception). This makes it really easy (and effective) to pick on Karnon with Overlord cards. On top of that, 14 health is maybe two hits more than other people can take, so that’s good, but you can’t go overboard. Boosting it to 20 make Karnon formidable, but if no-one else is soaking up hits, it’s a matter of time before he goes down – the party’s healer isn’t good at restoring huge chunks of healing at once.

From the Overlord’s seat, Karnon should be able to deliver more than he does. He’s an obvious threat so I obviously go after him. And his big hitting style, though terrifying, doesn’t really work as well with Dezra and Ulma’s slow burn damage dealing…. yet. When the big monsters come out, Karnon’s big hit style is going to come into their own.

Ulma Grimstone, Healer, Apothecary

Ulma is actually a dwarf lady, not a gnomess, which I’ve always pictured…. because this is Sean’s character.

Ulma is maybe the weakest of the characters. Her Stamina is good, at 5 and that’s about it. She has a normal distribution of Attributes, Health, Move and two pretty shitty Hero Abilities.

Her passive ability is that she and anyone close to her can keep searching through the treasure deck until they find a potion when they search. First potion they find, they keep. Potions are pretty much the worst thing you can find in the Search deck. You could argue that a hero on the verge of death could search when they weren’t going to, to find a Health potion. But there’s a good chance that they’d waste that action and get a Stamina potion. And both Stamina and Health potions are only worth 25g, which is poor.

Her One Shot ability is that she can refresh a potion card and everyone adjacent does the same. Woop-de-doo. At its optimum, that’s rad, but when people need potions a second time, shit has likely hit the fan and they’re almost certainly not all in a huddle. So it’s a lot more likely that Ulma gets to use a potion twice.

Sean’s utility as a Healer comes from the Apothecary class. The Apothecary has a short,  ranged attack that may poison, which is a good thing to throw at Monsters in the same way that Dezra’s hexes eventually pay off. In addition, her base class ability is to be able to throw small healing potions at her companions and have them drink them whenever they need to. Crucially, none of these things take actions. So while the healing is small, it can be relatively cost free and constant.

The other Apothecary skills debuff mobs or buff heroes and Sean picked up Herbal Lore early, which allows targets to lose conditions – vital when trying to work with a confused Karnon.

From the Overlord’s seat, at low levels of hurt, Ulma seems overpowered, able to dish out small heals at will. But she can’t do much against huge amounts of damage (yet) and can get outpaced by a few of the damage dealing monsters in Ruins (Volucrix Reavers especially). It’s annoying how much she can do, but once forced onto the backfoot, she can’t get enough back quickly enough to take care of anyone but herself.

Jain Fairwood, Scout, Wildlander

It wouldn’t be difficult to tell which character came with the base game – Rolland’s Jain Fairwood is more or less a straight up-and-down archetypal ranger. While there’s nothing unbalanced about her in the same way that Karnon is unbalanced, or complicated, in the same way that the other three are, Jain has some great utility abilities.

Jain has good Speed and Stamina and is otherwise average. Her special ability allows her to dump damage as stamina, which is a good incentive to keep her stamina relatively untouched. Her One Shot allows her to double-move and  attack as one action: given her good Speed that means that optimally she could  move up to 15 spaces if she had stamina to burn and then shoot something on the way or at the end, so that’s powerful on maps that require a lot of movement or are timed.

The Wildlander cards Rolland picked as Jain moved through the campaign supplemented her missile attacks and Strike First allows her to shoot a monster as it is activated on my turn, the nerve of it. Rolland upgraded her bow and gave her a little extra armour.

From the Overlord’s seat, Jain’s ranged ability works well to supplement the rest of the team – either pre-wounding targets for Karnon’s skinning knife or adding damage to the Dezra/Ulma smoulder. And given that none of the damage is preposterous, it’s easy to overlook Jain in favour of either easier targets or bigger threats. Rolland can and has used that big double-move blitz to good effect before, so it doesn’t pay to overlook Jain to much.

Raythen, Ally

Worth mentioning Raythen at this point, because even though he is an ally, he may have the best attendance record of all party members. As the campaign has progressed, Raythen has been used more as a combat asset, while during the first few maps he was their treasure recovery drone.

As a combat asset, his ranged probably-poisoning attack goes to the slow-burn playbook again. Since we are playing with usually 4 players, Raythen is scaled to be his weakest version of himself, but even so, has seemed useful. His Investigate ability uses his action to allow someone beside a Search token to search, without wasting their own action. So Raythen doesn’t get two attacks, but he lets the party members attack instead of searching, so it works out better.

Raythen – assuming he survives – grows up to be a real live adventurer who is available for selection for the next campaign. So that’s cool.


One Comment on “Labyrinth of Ruin recap, Part II

  1. Before the first night of the campaign, I took extra time in researching the ‘mancers and who gaming forum users thought was the best character when it came to a) not dying, b) not worthless in the effective strategic spells category and c) wasn’t an amalgamation of really good and really bad skills such that not knowing the good and bad would lead to some dumb yet decisive outcomes. I wanted to do magic, I wanted to help other team members and I wanted to be in the background of the battle yet wholly necessary for victory.

    For the most part all these dreams came true. In retrospect I would have spent more time learning to be more fluid in choosing what moves or timing would get me in the right place at the right time, and knowing how the friendly rocks best work together. Perhaps this can only come from experience, but Quellen is the type of character you look at thinking its only a short while until he cracks open the Earth and tornado dust storms everyone into hell. I’m still hopeful to get the XP I need to actually do that.

    He’s not called the High Mage just because he’s likely high – (I mean look at this guy, replace the robe with jeans and a sleeveless insulated vest and you got someone who’s got the best…stuff…dude) he’s the High Mage because he teaches young mages how to distract, manage and manipulate the other monsters in ways mere melee would just take way to long to do.

    Sometimes the rocks are distractions because I end up depending on them way too much. Sometimes I’m spending too much time wanting to turn everything into “nails” to hit with these hammers and lose focus on the end mission goal or the fact that I’m right next to a treasure pot. I mean they’re just rocks and they usually fade after a couple turns. I lucked out in this amazing armor I get to wear, which has actually lessened the urgency to stay out of line of sight, but I’d rather that opened up opportunities other than “oh look I can stand here, take the bullets, and get the rocks in the right spots while nearly dying”. (hey did I know I can teleport?)

    Also, gaining back stamina by standing near others that are losing it almost feels like cheating.

    I’m glad I chose this character for my first “real” Descent run and have no regrets with how he talks down to Rathen, or makes him go first all the time. He’s a mage who makes the tough decisions and doesn’t need to be the center of attention.