Homeward Stretch: Author's Notes re Encounters 3-3 and 3-4

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EDIT: Go look at THIS thread: community.wizards.com/dungeonsanddragons...

It has updated notes on enc 3-4, based on a playtest I did of it.

Good luck and happy sword-swinging!

Cheers






Hi,

In order to head off any typo issues that come up with the next encounters, I thought I'd come post them long before they come up. Also, DMs, check through these two encounters and let me know if you see any issues. Questions and clarifications are much better made here than on the day in question!

First, a couple general notes: 


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Virtual XP: Every PC in these encounters should be 2nd level. If the player does NOT have enough XP, it doesn’t matter—let him/her run a 2nd level character, and take care of XP concerns *afterward.*

Font of Healing: These last encounters have been grueling, so throw your PCs a bone and let them regain 2 healing surges if they have 2 surges or below. My best recommendation for this is to have the pools of water in H.10 (see page 40) be fonts of healing. They still inflict 2 cold damage at a touch, but they also restore 1 healing surge to each PC who braves the cold, or 2 surges to a PC who has 2 surges or fewer remaining. Each PC can only benefit from this healing once this season.


Notes to Encounter 3-3:


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XP typo: This encounter is actually worth 827 xp. Each PC participating in the encounter should receive 165 xp.

Scaling: If you have a weak party, drop one of the skeletons. If you have a strong party, add one skeleton. If you are concerned that the encounter as presented is too tough for a normal party (5 2nd level PCs), drop one of the tomb motes—this will require they all gang up on one PC to get their tomb tactics ability off, but that in itself is extremely deadly, so maybe they shouldn't!).


Illumination: Not a fix, but remember that the area is darkness except for what’s noted.


Treasure: It isn’t clear from this line, but the box marked “C” on the map is where the treasure is.


Notes to Encounter 3-4:


[sblock]Page 40: Make sure you refer to this page. The PCs should have a chance to see the cavern choker before the fight, and if they dispose of it—or even just hurt it—that will make the battle a lot easier.


Scaling: This is an exception to the scaling rules as presented at the beginning of the module, just because this encounter is so tough. It’s pretty much scaled for a strong party as presented.

If you have a weak party (4 or fewer PCs of any level, 2+ PCs in the party lower than 2nd level, 2+ players who are new to the game, or you lack one of the four party roles: defender, striker, leader, controller), then remove the deathjump spider or the cavern choker (your choice) and one of the elf archers.


If you have a normal party (5 PCs of 2nd level), then remove one of the elf archers to bring it down to a more standard level 4 encounter.

If you have a strong party, go nuts!


XP typo: The encounter is actually worth 950 xp, not 900, making it a tough level 4 encounter. Each PC should still get 190 xp for participating in the encounter.


Initial box text: There hasn’t been mention of a portal key before, so you should revise what Xeres says to this: “Come and die then, lesser creatures,” he calls. Then, in his other hand, he holds up a gleaming silver key similar to those you used in the chambers above. It glows brightly and you recognize it as a device to open a portal. “Or stay back and starve to death in this place, if you be cowards.”


Xeres's portal key allows the PCs to leave the dungeon and live to fight another day (after you read the ending, of course).

Development: Waking Fayne: Give your PCs some clue that helping Fayne can help them in the encounter. They should have figured it out by now, but in case they haven’t, there you go. Turning off Xeres’s aura makes a big difference in the encounter (see below for a further note as to the aura). And though it says “she does not take further standard actions”, you should feel free to have her intercede when necessary if you think it’s dramatic and/or appropriate.


UndergroundRiver: If a creature happens to be immobilized (such as from Xeres’ Lightning Binding) when it saves against the river’s current, it may still shift out of the river, and is just immobilized on the shore. The shifting does not represent actual movement in this case, but rather just pulling yourself to safety. Otherwise, a DM could interpret this to mean that a PC who is immobilized and dunked in the river might save against the river but still be immobilized and thus just caught in the current again at the beginning of its next turn—in effect, the PC has to make two saving throws *at once* in order to escape.


Waterfall Pit: The last line of this note regards if you want to expand the module with your group in later adventures. It does not pertain to the DDE series.


Xeres: His powers got a little typo’d, or at least they are unclear based on the MM2+ style of presenting powers. So here we go:


Offensive Warding (radiant): Add the following line: “If Xeres’s aura is ever deactivated, he suffers -3 to his AC until the end of the encounter.” This is to play up the swordmage flavor, and also as an olive branch to PCs who are having a devil of a time hitting him.


Vicious Broadsword: Damage is correct, but crit: 1d12+14 damage; remove the “and slide target 1 square” effect. (Sliding a PC into the river every turn is overpowered and, frankly, a bit silly.) If you still like the concept, nerf it to a luring strike: “1d10+4 damage, Xeres shifts one square and slides the target into the square he just left.” 


Sword Burst: Damage die is wrong; should be 1d6+4 damage, crit: 1d12+10 damage.


Lightning Binding and Hellfire do not benefit from the vicious weapon property. They could, but that would just be overkill.


Languages: Xeres speaks Abyssal, not Infernal (which I’m pretty sure doesn’t actually exist as a language in 4e) 


Deathjump Spider: This monster is widely thought to be pretty overpowered, so consider making its “Death from Above” an encounter power or at least recharge 5 6, rather than an at-will.


Also, thanks to everybody--DM and player alike--for sticking with it. I know there were ups and downs, but I hope there were more ups than downs, and that folks had fun amongst the bloody mayhem!

Cheers

Thank you, Erik.  I will put this information to good use.
Thanks Erik!  You've been very helpful through this season.  I hope the future authors follow in kind.


A couple of thoughts on 3-3:

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How does something that is on fire hide in a darkened room?

Assuming the group perceives the enemies before they go down into the over-sized ditch, I can't see anything stopping them just staying on the top and relying on ranged attacks.
Hey Darrell, good questions! Answers below:

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How does something that is on fire hide in a darkened room?

It doesn't light itself until the encounter begins--Xeres has just "awakened" it by running through, but it doesn't "surge to life" until the PCs get there.

Assuming the group perceives the enemies before they go down into the over-sized ditch, I can't see anything stopping them just staying on the top and relying on ranged attacks.

That's assuming the PCs do see the enemies, which they won't necessarily, and even if they do, there's no reason you can't have the monsters climb up to get them at the top.


Cheers
Fair enough, that all makes sense, just want to run part of it past you:

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S have speed 5, so climb 1. This means four climb checks at DC10. STR is listed as +3, but wearing chain and carrying a heavy shield so climb should be +0, so a 25% chance of not climbing  and a 25% chance of falling with each check. Should be fun. Smile 

T
works out similarly, also having STR +0, but enough speed to only require two climb checks.

Obviously W has no problems with both climb 6 and a jump 4 as an at-will move ability, and B will just stay at range.
Darrell, good points and well made. I think DMs shouldn't necessarily feel bound to the conservative mechanics as presented (such as you're suggesting), though if they work for you, they work for you!

I think drama and gameplay should always trump literalism in terms of mechanics.

That said, if you want your PCs to have a distinct advantage against the monsters, or it works better at your table, then I definitely approve of Darrell's strategy!

Cheers
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I just keep having images of something similar to Jason and the Argonauts with the S keeping trying to climb up whilst the PCs desperatly kicking them back.

Of course this is all subject to the PCs not just jumping down.
Sounds good Darrell! Sounds like you guys will have a great game.

Cheers
I'm having some difficulty visualizing encounter 11...

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Is the area with the monsters above or below the area where the PCs come in?

Do the skeletons go down (or up) the wall to get to the PCs - according to the tactics section it looks like they should, but that would put them in a very bad position.

 


Lastly if the PCs survived last session but are in extremely bad shape you might hint or or outright tell them:

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They can take an extended rest before or after or even both of encounter 11.  But, remind them they are chasing Xeres who is kidnapping Fayne, however they won't do her any good if they die before they can rescue her.  They just miss out on something (the crown) which probably isn't worth anywhere near what an extended rest is here.



Regarding Justisaur's question on the walls:

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The area in the middle is a 20 ft canyon. I don't have the map in front of me to determine whether the PCs start in the canyon or at the edge, but I believe most of the monsters start in the canyon.

If your PCs linger back to take out the skeletons from afar, you can exercise DM's prerogative to move the skeletons up (have them spend at least a double move to get all the way up). 

Enc 3-3 is supposed to be less difficult than the previous one, basically giving the PCs a chance to breathe before the final battle.


As regards an extended rest:

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Technically, according to the rules, you can only start an extended rest after at least four hours of activity (or it might be more), and it's only been (at most) about an hour since the PCs came down below. But the mechanic is there, if you absolutely need it (the module makes provision for PCs who want to extended rest during chapter three). The main issue is that taking an extended rest causes two conditions:

1) The PCs don't get the crown of the apprentice for the last battle.

2) The PCs don't have the option of waking Fayne in 3-4 to have her deactivate Xeres's aura, which might make a HUGE difference in that fight.

It's pretty much balanced as to what the characters choose to do, but I highly encourage you not to have them extended rest.

I suggested elsewhere that you should consider spotting each PC an extra healing surge or two, which they might regain from touching the underground water in the room between 3-3 and 3-4 (it might have healing properties), or perhaps they find a healing draught in the wizard's laboratory, or maybe Fayne casts a healing spell that heals them to full hp without spending healing surges after 3-2. Or something like that!

I only recommend this because I *know* people have been wiped from 3-2, and this helps correct those typo issues.


Cheers
Just to be clear,
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the map shows the area as two climbs. The PCs start on the lower part, then the monsters, then the next area with a ladder.

The adventure text describes a canyon, and thus the first area is above the second and the climb is actually a climb down and then up to the third part.

This just seems to be a tile issue.

Given that I prefer to run as written and that the adventurers have been beat up, I intend to run it as is. The canyon will favor the PCs in most cases where they have some ranged PCs or PCs that want to avoid too much damage. The monsters may have to waste an action or two climbing if the PCs hang back, but that's ok this week.

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Dark Sun's Ashes of Athas Campaign is now available for home play (PM me with your e-mail to order the campaign adventures).

Yeah, it occurs to me now that the tiles are somewhat ambiguous.

The middle area is definitely lower than the ends of the room.

Cheers

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What about the ladder on the other side?  Doesn't it say it is difficult terrain and takes 4 squares to go up, implying a 10-foot ladder?  Does it not go all the way up, or is it non-euclidean?
Heh. The ladder is sort of self-contradictory, isn't it?

It's a 20 ft ladder that requires 4 squares of movement to climb, but it's considered difficult terrain in that you can't shift along it.

Cheers
Also, for those looking for a neat way to run encounter 3-3--particularly if your PCs stick to the high ground, and particularly if they're really hurting from encounter 3-2:

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Run the encounter as an extended trap. Some of the undead can come up the ledge to harrass the PCs where they are, but a number of them are caught down below. There's no reason for them to stand up before the PCs come down into the pit, much less for them just to stand around and take missile attacks, however--they can get behind cover, or at least make the shots really difficult, and wait for PCs to come down. Not to mention that they can't just stay on the edge forever--they have to get across after Xeres.

The PCs will have to come up with a plan to get themselves from one side of the pit to the other without being mauled by the undead. Controllers would come in the most handy here, readying actions to attack charging undead with forced movement and the like, etc. They have to think fast as well, because the ranged guy across the way is going to be attacking from cover.

In any case, if the PCs manage to pass the encounter with killing all the undead, that's still a victory.


Cheers

Is there anyway you can give us a summary post (maybe a sticky) that has all of the corrections in one place. I really would like to be able to make sure the players, who had been there for the whole thing, actually get everything they are entitiled to.

Thanks in advance,
-Vin
Links that I find very useful, will be added here. http://community.wizards.com/vinciente/blog/2010/02/24/useful_damp;d_pageslinks
I can't make stickies--that would have to be someone important who does that!

I would suggest that the first post of this particular thread contains all the suggested edits to Encounter 3-4. I didn't discover any particular typos or corrections--just a few points that would make it run smoother.

Cheers
Make the post and I will sticky it!!!
Mudbunny SVCL for DDI Before you post, think of the Monkeysphere
Here is a thread I made for Enc 3-4, which has some updated edits from a playtest I did of the encounter on my own.

community.wizards.com/dungeonsanddragons...

It would be cool if we put together a thread with all the corrections to the adventure (for every encounter), but I don't really have the time to go through it line by line. If other folks feel inspired, however, they should feel free!

Cheers
I didn't know what "Tomb Motes" were and could not find a description of them in the Monster Manual (maybe I wasn't looking hard enough?). At my table, all the bodies in the pit were disfigured- they all had their hands dismembered. Underneath the piles, the "hands" were waiting in concealment for PCs to hit the bottom of the pit before they attacked!

I was hoping the Dark Sun material would have more flavorful descriptions of the unique beasties, especially since the reference material is out-of-print. Alas, this is not the case. I hope my players don't ask what Ankheg LOOKS like. 
@criticalmircale

Having been sufficiently frustrated at the lack of descriptions, I use the power of Google.

Ankheg?
www.wizards.com/dnd/images/ccmmii/ankheg...
 
www.google.com/images?q=ankheg&um=1&ie=U...
 
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ankheg
 
www.d20srd.org/srd/monsters/ankheg.htm
 
If you have a DDI subscription, use the compendium or Monster Builder to quickly look up the monster and see what the original source is. Then, take a look at the book or magazine article.

Otherwise, yeah, image searches can be very good.

Follow my blog and Twitter feed with Dark Sun campaign design and DM tips!
Dark Sun's Ashes of Athas Campaign is now available for home play (PM me with your e-mail to order the campaign adventures).

Yeah, there just wasn't enough space to give the monsters the full description they deserved!

*Most* of the monsters in the Encounters series have come from the MM1, a few from MM2. Tomb motes, however, are described in Open Grave.

Barring that, Alpha's suggestion of using the Compendium is a must.

Cheers
Yeah, there just wasn't enough space to give the monsters the full description they deserved! *Most* of the monsters in the Encounters series have come from the MM1, a few from MM2. Tomb motes, however, are described in Open Grave. Barring that, Alpha's suggestion of using the Compendium is a must. Cheers



May I suggest that in future submission, the monsters/NPCs come with a source (and page # where applicable) included with the stats block. That would remove the lack of space issue & also allow DMs to have an easier time getting the info in a timely manner.
Links that I find very useful, will be added here. http://community.wizards.com/vinciente/blog/2010/02/24/useful_damp;d_pageslinks
Yeah, there just wasn't enough space to give the monsters the full description they deserved! *Most* of the monsters in the Encounters series have come from the MM1, a few from MM2. Tomb motes, however, are described in Open Grave. Barring that, Alpha's suggestion of using the Compendium is a must. Cheers



May I suggest that in future submission, the monsters/NPCs come with a source (and page # where applicable) included with the stats block. That would remove the lack of space issue & also allow DMs to have an easier time getting the info in a timely manner.



Excellent suggestion! Gotta say, I love the new easy-to-read Monster stat blocks.