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If you've been with me so far, your journey through Dragonfire has consisted of the following:
2 Dungeon Crawls, one at level 1 and one at level 2
3 Campaign Adventures, including Wastes, Bodyguards and Unholy Presence.

That should have earned you at least 22xp, probably more if you had a few unsuccessful adventures along the way. Level 3's requirement of 30 is either very much within reach, or, more likely, you've passed into Level 3 already.

Level 3 contains two adventures you'll want to complete prior to getting the 60xp required to get to level 4. The first is your trip back into the Dungeon. The second is an exploration of the Catacombs, which is the Campaign adventure at this level. If you haven't yet defended Daggerford against the Portcullis breaching, level 3 confers the same rewards as level 4 in terms of Magic Items, and this level is probably the best time to tackle that adventure. Those three adventures will yield 15xp, and you have 30xp to do it in. That buffer of xp is built into the system. You are allowed to fail, indeed, I think its expected. Sometimes the randomly determined order of cards is just too much and overwhelms the party. That's okay, because you have plenty of room to fail. Use those unsuccessful adventures to re-examine your Feature load out and maybe purchase something else if your current plan isn't working the way you like. One of the biggest mistakes players of the game can make is assuming that they are locked into their Feature choices. You're not. You can 'cover' any sticker you've purchased along your journey. For those being purist, you'll actually be 'using up' stickers from the pool. For those who have chosen to use an alternatve method of recording feature choices, such as post-it notes, magnets, velcro or paper clips, you should be more than willing to experiment with your feature load out to find something that works for the adventure and your play style.

Every class has at least two potential focuses, and as you approach the 50-60xp benchmarks, if you've been thinking about multiclassing, it will be possible to take a subclasses feature and its prerequesite. There's also some very nice 'generic' abilities. Some charcters will be content to boost the trinity of statistics: health, wealth and starting hand. If you take all three of those boosts, you're looking at 10+15+20 = 45xp, 60xp if you are holding onto your background sticker.

When looking at your features, make sure that you're helping yourself or your team. One more starting card equates to a single point of extra damage in your first turn, which may be all it takes to defeat an obstacle one turn earlier. One extra starting gold may enable you to purchase a card that does extra damage on your first turn purchase, again possibly enabling a round one or round two takedown. A starting hit point may or may not tip the balance of when you stun out, and is probably the hardest stat boost to quantify. Other features might boost your overall damage. Any feature that you can use two times is probably better than a feature that applies only once. Make sure your choices are helping meet the goal of the adventure or are directly counteracting some aspect of the scenario. Each of the features at this level are still only providing small, situational or infrequent boosts. Maximizing your gain is crucial to victory.

When you get to 30xp, the first thing to consider doing is heading back into the Dungeon Crawl to fetch your first (most likely) permanent item. Magic up until now has been simple one-shot items that had to be returned to the deck after use. Sometimes they're valuable, other times they've just been dead weight in your deck, slowing down your access to those Market cards you paid good coin for. Uncommon items are more typically weapons, shields, armors or miscellaneous items like wands or musical instruments (you know, for those Bard types). Some of them may start and remain in play, like armors. Some may start in your deck but remain in play as permanents once found and deployed. Some of them, like the weapons and summoning gems, are more like Market cards in that they do damage and possibly have a special effect. Getting your first uncommon item should be a priority goal, as it may help define the path your character takes through levels three and four. Magic Item acquisition is random, but hopefully someone in the party will be able to make good use of any found items. I personally recommend working as a party to decide which character carries which items. An item sitting in someone's 'unused' heap that can be better utilized by another player absolutely should be. You and your teammates need every advantage you can get when you're out battling evil. More Magic will come, eventually.

When delving into the Level 3 Dungeon, be aware that the starting DFL is going to be at +2. This is the first level that 2p won't get any kind of 'break' (as the extra DFL offsets the -2 that 2p games enjoy). 4p+ games will start the first round with two rank II obstacles. Having the party define the priority targets is now more important than ever. Do you target the larger threat that pays out poorly, or do you focus on quickly defeating one of the rank I obstacles that will pay out handsomely to the party? Are the characters with lower values of hit points in danger of being stunned? Can that be prevented to allow them to continue to contribute to the party's total damage? Are there any obstacles that are dealing excessive damage (2 or, worse, more)? Can any of the obstacles be Weakened or forced to Escape? Whatever you decide, do it as a group, because managing your collective hit point totals is becoming more of an important part of the game. If you fail at the Dungeon Crawl, try again, possibly with a different mix of decks. Each one has their own flavor and favored Market cards that you are hopefully noticing by now. For example, what one Market card is likely the most valuable if the Adventurers II deck is in play, and why?

Exploring the Catacombs
Once you've cleared the Dungeon, it's time to face the Catacombs. Read another page of fiction and be horrified at the fate of an NPC you've barely had time to meet, let alone learn the name of, then head to setup.

This adventure has the party starting in potentially the worst of situations. You've been split up. The physical characters (Martial and Deception) start together in the Castle Prison while the Spell chuckers (Devotion and Arcane) start in the Cursed Ground. Both of these have the unfortunate side effect of causing anyone in them to discard cards on the first round. Discarding cards is a loss of first turn damage, so maybe you've selected your Features to have an extra card or two in your hand, or you've discovered that adopting a tranquil demeanor about discards will help restore your battle readiness. However you choose to meet the loss of 6 starting cards across a standard party, you have one round to try to break out of your respective starting places until the guards show up. Even if you do manage to 'disable' a location and prevent it from damaging its occupants, you still have to clear the obstacle that gets assigned to you in turn two. Note how the obstacles are picked and placed against the players, because it is similar to another adventure you've already completed. Just as it may have influenced your Market choices in that adventure, it might be wise to revisit whatever strategies worked for you last time. Once you've disabled your location and dispatched any obstacles, you can rejoin the party in the other location to speed up completion of scene one.

After you've rested and possibly purchased Market cards, everyone then moves on to a new location that can be pretty nasty. Though the likelihood of the location summoning new adversaries into the game is low, you still want to disable the location as soon as is feasible. Success may hinge on never having the location spawn new entities to fight. Walking into scene two with as many players having a full hand of cards as possible is probably a good idea, but balance that with the desire to keep the DFL low in order to avoid any additional effects from the obstacles. There's no race here, no mysteriously appearing level III obstacle, no choices that will go on your permanent record. The objective is to clear everything and only one person has to survive, so self sacrifice may be required. Keep working as a team, you'll get it.

When you finally do complete the Catacombs successfully, enjoy that second uncommon item when you draw it from the Magic Item deck and trade amongst your teammates smartly. Read the epilog fiction and form your opinions.

The Portculis is Breached
If you're not level 4 yet you should probably go attempt the Portculis adventure next, remembering to boost the DFL appropriately since you'll be over level.

The Portculis challenge is unique, because you can see your impending doom coming well before you actually succumb to fate. Maybe that's a little harsh, but the Portculis can be a bit swingy and if the shuffle is bad, you'll know you're going to lose well before you actually do. Luckily, that also means you'll know if you're on the road to victory early on as well.

The structure of the Portculis mission is for everyone to start with one combatant and then load two obstacles onto the Portculis. My group likes to think of this like a courtyard and a gate. Some obstacles sneak into the courtyard, they're what you have to be worried about right now. Eventually, enough evil will stack up against the gate that it breaks open. That's what you get to worry about later. The trick with the Portculis is to come into that courtyard swinging hard. If your party can manage to clear the first scene quickly, by defating all of the obstacles in the courtyard, you can kick open the gate and deal with anything that's accumulated up to that point. Market cards that group obstacles to face one person, and then area of effect cards that can hit them all at once should speed up the completion of the first scene. If you manage to be proactive about things, then you get a short rest (which can be very important), and you stop the trickle of obstacles breaking into the courtyard, instead storming the gates. If instead, at least one of each color of obstacle appears at the gate's waiting room, you get a forced breach and then everyone ends up facing all obstacles that match their own color. If you're 'lucky', you'll get a second turn breach, but the odds are low enough that it's better to force the issue if possible. That bit before about seeing your impending doom is when the first two rounds see only one or two colors stacking up deep while the other colors are void. If that keeps happening, one character is going to be in for a whole lot of simultaneous action. If you plan to win, that player needs to start focusing on building up their hand and let their teammates handle any obstacles that leak through to them.

The first time we tried the Portculis, it was round six when the gate breached. Nine of those obstacles landed on one person. It was not pretty. However, instead of complaining about it, we got up, dusted ourselves off and tried again. There is no penalty for losing provided you're still within the desired level for the campaign. It's when you are gaining XP beyond the campaign that things can get tricky.

Strong play and a little bit of luck will conspire together to provide you with a victory and another Uncommon item to add to the bag.

Next Steps
With the Portculis behind you, the next thing to attempt is the final campaign scenario. You're going to want every advantage you can muster for the final adventure, and you really should have pulled 4 Uncommon Magic Items before taking on the final Campaign scenario (Dungeon III, Catacombs, Portculis and Dungeon IV, since that will be the first thing you do once cresting 60xp, right?) I'm not saying you'll end up using them all, but you want as many options as possible available to you.

By the time you hit 60xp, you should also have a very good sense of what Market cards are your favorites, or which ones you tend to pass over. That knowledge should inform you of which times you want to pack those common magic items for maximum effect. If you cannot see a reason to bring a specific card, don't do it on speculation. More cards in your deck will slow down your recurrance of good cards. Non-human races are already saddled with an extra basic card (or a loss of a hit point in the case of the half-elves), so be careful about what Magic Items you pack and have a plan for when to spend them. You are nearing the end of the first 5 campaign scenarios, so a willingness to spend your magical currency can help push past the tough spots. The nice thing is once you use up a common item, you have a chance to draw it back the next time you successfully complete a new-to-you adventure. You will have earned every Magic Item you possess, which will put you in good standing as you prepare for the final adventure contained in the Dragonfire Box.

The final scenario is, quite simply, a Pandemic of abberations. Scene one has a handful of 'normal' obstacles and then five specified obstacle cards pulled from the Dungeon I (1) and Dungeon II (4) decks. After each player takes a turn, unless they have completely wiped the table clean, they will get a new obstacle from what my table now affectionately calls the "Salad Bar". Any card (except locations, that is really, really important) that is defeated will go into the Salad Bar discard, and will come back again in the second scene, and a third time in scene three. These recurring obstacles mean two things. First, the party knows what's coming to an extent and can prepare for it, even though the programmed obstacles have some pretty nasty damage tracks. Second - there's a lot of money coming in each round as you defeat the ever growing hoardes of the Salad Bar. Clearing a scene early (by having nothing facing anyone during the end of a turn) will mean you don't have to do as much damage, but also won't see as much money.

Cards coming from the Salad Bar also cause the person who received a new obstacle to draw a card. I believe that the intent is that each obstacle drawn from the Salad Bar allows the draw of a card, because it isn't worded the same as Wastes which stated that 3 'or more' tokens allows the draw of a card. Don't underestimate the power of the card draw - thinner decks make the card draw more powerful. Holding onto junk cards in your hand to make a thinner discard to shuffle can also enhance the effects of a card draw. Obviously, players should play cards when they are needed, but sometimes holding a card or two can make all the difference.

When you finish the 5th adventure, you then have to decide if you retire or press on. Continued play beyond the last adventure is not really well defined in the core box. There are rules for a Level 5 Dungeon Crawl which are well detailed - and give you a reason to use those rank III obstacles you haven't touched yet. The leveling method for the Crawl doesn't translate well to other adventures though, so if you intend to explore the dungeons of Dragonspear or hunt in the Trollclaws, don't be in too much of a rush to get to level 5. Both of those adventures are level 2 and can only really be boosted to level 4. If you have gotten over 100xp and are level 5, running them at 4 (with the appropriate rewards) is really the only fair thing to do.

Personally, I have retired every character that runs out of adventures that will yield Magic Items. I feel that those items help define the characters somewhat, and leveling for leveling's sake isn't all that worthwhile. It is okay for characters to have run their course and will be ready to pick up the challenge again when the next Adventure Pack and Campaign Packs hit the shelves in 2018.
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I've really been enjoying your posts (almost as much as the game itself), but can you perhaps provide some clarity on the Slaadi Plague adventure?

Specifically pertaining to drawing from the Slaadi deck. Let's say we're on turn 1, after encounters have been dealt:

I deal with the encounter in front of me, but do not manage to kill it. Once my turn ends, i draw a card from the Slaadi deck, facing me.

My fellow adventurer then proceeds to deal with the encounter in front of him (or helps to finish the one i almost killed). Let's say he managed to kill the one encounter in front of me, at the end of his turn, he'll still have his original encounter facing him. He'll now also need to draw from the Salad Bar again.

If i understand correctly, this process will continue (i.e. at the end of each of our turns for the next round, more Slaadi will be added). Is this correct? This adventure's still unbeatable for us (we're at Level 4), and we're struggling to even get to Scene 2 since we just can't seem to clear all enemies fast enough to avoid more Slaadi pulling through.

 
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Everything you've said is correct.
Are you remembering to draw a card each time an encounter is flipped from the Slaadi deck?
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D’oh! Nope, such a crucial thing to miss, but yeah, that’s what we’ve been missing. Should make the world of difference - thanks for the help!
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I'm trying to come up with a good plan for the Slaadi Plague. We've attempted it once and didn't even manage to get past scene 1.

I think part of that is we just got a horrible initial encounter/dragonfire combo on the first round. A shrieker, combined with the Dragonfire card that added +1 to the attack strength of non-humanoid encounters. So that was a bit of a bust.

Anyway. My (very vague) plan is for each person to hold back some cards during their first turn, only playing down to 3 and then combine that with the replenish draw and the extra card draw from revealing from the Slaad deck to have a hand of 6. Obviously this means tanking some damage from the original encounters, but it would mean, for starters, that at least one person would be able to clear that initial 6 damage track on the Death Slaad in one go.

I also hope that the rule that states that locations don't go into the Slaad discard after being defeated also applies to the Slaad Planar Portal. So if we prioritise that above anything else, then (arguably) the biggest annoyance in the adventure is out of the way early.

It almost feels as if scene 1 will be the biggest obstacle, since that starts us off with just our starter cards and that scene 2 onwards will be easier due to the amount of gold coming in and the options available in our decks at that stage.
 
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Buffelbek wrote:
I'm trying to come up with a good plan for the Slaadi Plague. We've attempted it once and didn't even manage to get past scene 1.

I think part of that is we just got a horrible initial encounter/dragonfire combo on the first round. A shrieker, combined with the Dragonfire card that added +1 to the attack strength of non-humanoid encounters. So that was a bit of a bust.

Anyway. My (very vague) plan is for each person to hold back some cards during their first turn, only playing down to 3 and then combine that with the replenish draw and the extra card draw from revealing from the Slaad deck to have a hand of 6. Obviously this means tanking some damage from the original encounters, but it would mean, for starters, that at least one person would be able to clear that initial 6 damage track on the Death Slaad in one go.

Don't forget, each time something comes out of the "Salad Bar" that player draws a card from their deck.

Quote:
I also hope that the rule that states that locations don't go into the Slaad discard after being defeated also applies to the Slaad Planar Portal. So if we prioritise that above anything else, then (arguably) the biggest annoyance in the adventure is out of the way early.

Very much so. Once you find the portal, you just have to deal with whatever is 'roaming the countryside'.

Quote:
It almost feels as if scene 1 will be the biggest obstacle, since that starts us off with just our starter cards and that scene 2 onwards will be easier due to the amount of gold coming in and the options available in our decks at that stage.

Deck cycling is key.
Big, powerful cards are better than smaller, single damage ones.
Characters with a large starting purse have a better chance.
Once you know what the mix of primary-deck cards is, you know what to expect and can plan for it some.
 
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Have you ever won the Slaadi Plague scenario?
 
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lorien4 wrote:
Have you ever won the Slaadi Plague scenario?


3 fully completed campaigns:

DC I
Wastes
DC II
Bodyguards
Unholy Presence
DC III
Catacombs
Plague
Dragonspear
Trollclaws

DC IV and DC V happened when appropriate (60xp and 100xp)
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byronczimmer wrote:
Don't forget, each time something comes out of the "Salad Bar" that player draws a card from their deck.


Yes, that's been taken into account with my calculations.

Though at the moment I'm in the position where one of our players will only be back to play again in a few months, so I'll probably be starting a new party and attempting it with a new set of characters once we get there.
 
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byronczimmer wrote:

Exploring the Catacombs
...
There's no race here, no mysteriously appearing level III obstacle, no choices that will go on your permanent record.

Isn't Nadir in the form of Rakshasa supposed to make an appearance in the Catacombs for the first two rounds of scene 2? (Campaign book upper frame, before the epilogue, page 11)

Edit:
Seem like an error in the heading at page 11, it reads:
"Play to the end of scene two, then read the following sidebar"
I guess it should be written "end of scene one"

 
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I'll double check.
 
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Do you have any suggested features to purchase for characters? I get that buying the bigger more expensive cards is important in this scenario, so it feels like features that give me either A) an initial influx of cash, or B) give me burst damage that I can use early to kill monsters to get gold would be the most useful. I'm thinking the burst damage would be more useful since it would also get monsters off the board. I was curious if there were any must haves like Caravan was for Wastes that I'm just overlooking.
 
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Slyght wrote:
Do you have any suggested features to purchase for characters? I get that buying the bigger more expensive cards is important in this scenario, so it feels like features that give me either A) an initial influx of cash, or B) give me burst damage that I can use early to kill monsters to get gold would be the most useful. I'm thinking the burst damage would be more useful since it would also get monsters off the board. I was curious if there were any must haves like Caravan was for Wastes that I'm just overlooking.


No Feature is 'must have', but some help more than others.

Caravan is very helpful in Wastes, as you noted.

When most teams run Bodyguards they don't have much XP yet, so I like those little 10xp boosts of +1 card, +$1 or +1 HP depending on class weaknesses.

Unholy Presence needs massive amounts of BLUE and GREEN, anything that lets you 'cheat' into those can be helpful. Bards do well with "Bardic Inspiration" to let others redo their one super-critical skill check.

Catacombs? You have 30xp (or more, depending on fail rate) to play with and you just became "Level 3". Some will gravitate towards two of the +1 boosts. That's legitimate, but those boosts are one time 'beginning of game' only.

The very first thing I look at is "Tranquility". Both starting locations in Catacombs drain your hand by forcing a Discard. Tranquility gets at least one of those cards back.

Training will also give you an extra card in hand to start, which is effectively the same thing. Both is better.

Next I look at how to produce more damage more than once.
Great Weapon Fighting Style turns all your Glory into BLACK/BLACK, at the cost of only being able to play one per turn. That's a lot of extra damage.
The following all also produce extra damage in various ways - find the ones that fit your playstyle, class or race...
Boon Companion
Double Move
Honed
Pact of the Tome/Chain (and a lot of the Warlock Invocation stuff)

And then I look at color swapping on demand.
Any of the focusing powers ((2)=>BLACK or (2)=>RED) - bolster what your team keeps needing
Sneak Attack II (discard a card to do any color of damage)

Usually by now everyone has used up available XP.

Some will look at the 'subclassing' type features. I avoid those at this point in a character's development. Most of those weaken your deck initially (or just color swap) and aren't valuable until you get one of the unlocked Features in addition. I typically won't look at the subclassing Features until level 4 or beyond. The three 'basic' Features are typically more powerful than the entry point for a subclass.


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Thanks for the tips! I should have been more specific about Slaadi Plague. Sounds like extra damage is the way to focus so that I can get money and keep things under control. I know its winnable, but the difficulty curve seems really steep to the other scenarios.
 
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Slyght wrote:
Thanks for the tips! I should have been more specific about Slaadi Plague. Sounds like extra damage is the way to focus so that I can get money and keep things under control. I know its winnable, but the difficulty curve seems really steep to the other scenarios.


Are you remembering to draw a card each time an encounter faces you from the Slaadi deck?
 
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