Last Sunday I finished off the delve encounter with the mind flayer. It proved suitably challenging, which is always good, but also ended with a character death - my first tabletop kill.
Technically, I didn't kill the character in question, another player did. The real culprit, however, was this:
Mind Flayers are nasty. They have a bad habit of turning their victims into thralls. Oh, and eating their brains. In this respect they resemble zombies, but in no other. They're basically highly intelligent calamari on a revenge spree.
Lulled by meeting two less than super-charged specimens in the early part of the dungeon, the group were unimpressed at the sight of yet another set of tentacles appearing behind a pillar. They resorted to their tried and tested approach of battering it into the ground before it had time to act. Mr Squiddy proved to be made of tougher stuff. He also had backup. Earlier visitors had already succombed and he had a team of drider and drow on tap to keep the gang occupied while he lined up his prime victim.
The optimal choice from Mr Squiddy's viewpoint was to enthrall the most destructive party member and turn him loose on the rest of the group as an enthralled slave. Amazingly, this went exactly as planned. Enter Midrath the goliath barbarian. Midrath is a nice enough chap apart from his lichen covered toes, but he takes more actions out of his turn than most players make from one end of a session to the other. He is built to interrupt and do massive damage. Normally he belts in and half the monsters drop dead before they have time to go "mwhahahaha", slain by the head-butting, spiked chain wielding menace.
He has one weakness. Low Will. Squiddy attacks versus Will. Setting himself up as an inviting target, Squiddy awaited the inevitable Midrath rush and took the damage. Then he throttled him, used an action point, bored into his skull and had his very own guided missile to send against the foe. It was at this point that the party realised just how bad things could be. Midrath is quite capable of killing all of them in two hits. A point proved very thoroughly on his ranger pal.
I've had issues in the past with some of 4e's encounter design, but this one was a honey. As it happened, the players did the normally sane thing of holding a choke point in a corridor. That didn't work against the drider who simply crawled over the ceiling and surrounded them. The monsters were nicely balanced. They had good effects that could be used together to cause mayhem. The players were genuinely in danger. It felt visceral and cinematic and exciting.
The fallen player will be revived. Unfortunately by her least favourite ally, Karolina the vampiric bard, but there isn't much choice. Karolina was brought up in the spirit of noblesse oblige. She will perform the ritual and never mention it again.
I do just feel I should mention that the good guys did win. Narrowly, but narrowly is really the best of all possible worlds.