Questions for the author of the season

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Hey all,

Chris Tulach and Trevor Kidd recommended I pop into this forum and introduce myself, and answer questions you might have about the season as I have time.

First of all, I'm Rodney Thompson (duh), and I'm now the Tabletop Games Manager at Wizards of the Coast. That means I'm in charge of the team that produces the D&D board games (like Castle Ravenloft and Wrath of Ashardalon) and any other non-RPG games we might do. Of course, I only assumed this position recently, and up until that point I was a developer, then a designer, on D&D. I also worked on the Star Wars Saga Edition RPG as lead designer/developer for the line.

So, if you're running Season 4 and have any questions, feel free to leave them here. I can't guarantee I'll be super prompt, but I'll try to check the thread at least once a week, and get answers before the next session.

Thanks, and I hope everyone enjoys March of the Phantom Brigade!

Rodney Thompson

Advanced Designer

Dungeons & Dragons R&D

Wizards of the Coast

Follow me on Twitter: wotc_rodney

First of all, great work on March of the Phantom Brigade!  It's a very good adventure, one I would be comfortable running for a home game.  I do have a few questions, however.

1- I noticed that there are no monetary rewards listed in the adventure, simply a roll on the random treasure table.  I was curious about this design decision.  Was it simply felt that with a magic item awarded with each treasure that additional cash would let the party function 'over-budget'?  Or was this just simplifying things, since it's very likely a group will acquire superfluous items that they will sell?

2- Still on the topic of the treasure table, I noticed that there is a '+1 magic holy symbol' on the table.  While Warpriests can use implements, none of their powers (at low levels, at least) are implement powers.  Was this an oversight, or a holdover from when Heroes of Sword and Spell was still expected to be published during this season (which would give us the original Cleric for Essentials).

Also, would it be against policy to simply reroll this result if it occurs?

3- There is some discrepancy between the actual module and the character builder about what resources are available for use in making a character.  The online builder only allows material from Heroes of the Fallen Lands and Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms.

The module states that Dragon magazine rules that support those products are legal as well.  Which is correct?

EDIT: Thanks for the quick reply!

"You can always judge a man by the quality of his enemies." -The Doctor, Remembrance of the Daleks
Greetings Rodney,

Would it be possible to get a couple of jpeg or bitmap files of the 2 exploration encounters (the Keep in session 3 and the Forest in Chapter 2) to show to the players. A gray photocopy of the ones in the module don't reveal very much plus there are already notes on there.
My players are intereseted in Castle Inverness, specifically what caused its destruction, and who lived there last.

Is there a place to get this information, especially with the next session having a scholar who's supposed to be an expert on the place I don't have much to tell them.  Or if maybe its deeper in the packet (I haven't read everything yet) if someone could point me in the right direction.

Always a GM, never a player (not really but sometimes feels like it).

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DungeonScape

1- I noticed that there are no monetary rewards listed in the adventure, simply a roll on the random treasure table.  I was curious about this design decision.  Was it simply felt that with a magic item awarded with each treasure that additional cash would let the party function 'over-budget'?  Or was this just simplifying things, since it's very likely a group will acquire superfluous items that they will sell?

Mostly, it's due to not thinking there would be many chances for the PCs to spend their gold over the course of the adventure, so I didn't want to include the monetary treasure which would then spur questions on how they could spend it.

2- Still on the topic of the treasure table, I noticed that there is a '+1 magic holy symbol' on the table.  While Warpriests can use implements, none of their powers (at low levels, at least) are implement powers.  Was this an oversight, or a holdover from when Heroes of Sword and Spell was still expected to be published during this season (which would give us the original Cleric for Essentials).

Also, would it be against policy to simply reroll this result if it occurs?

As you have surmised, Class Compendium was on the schedule when the adventure was written. I don't know about "official rules" (you'd have to ask Chris Tulach about that) but I don't see any reason why a DM couldn't reroll.

3- There is some discrepancy between the actual module and the character builder about what resources are available for use in making a character.  The online builder only allows material from Heroes of the Fallen Lands and Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms.

The module states that Dragon magazine rules that support those products are legal as well.  Which is correct?

Unfortunately, I both have no control over that, and am not aware of the official stance on that.

Rodney Thompson

Advanced Designer

Dungeons & Dragons R&D

Wizards of the Coast

Follow me on Twitter: wotc_rodney

Greetings Rodney,

Would it be possible to get a couple of jpeg or bitmap files of the 2 exploration encounters (the Keep in session 3 and the Forest in Chapter 2) to show to the players. A gray photocopy of the ones in the module don't reveal very much plus there are already notes on there.

Sadly, I don't have any control over this. It's something I will nudge those who do about.

Rodney Thompson

Advanced Designer

Dungeons & Dragons R&D

Wizards of the Coast

Follow me on Twitter: wotc_rodney

My players are intereseted in Castle Inverness, specifically what caused its destruction, and who lived there last.

Is there a place to get this information, especially with the next session having a scholar who's supposed to be an expert on the place I don't have much to tell them.  Or if maybe its deeper in the packet (I haven't read everything yet) if someone could point me in the right direction.

Castle Inverness is actually supposed to be something of a mystery, as well as a pointer back to the original Ghost Tower of Inverness module. There is some more information about Castle Inverness later on, but the only way you'd be able to come up with more info is by reading the original module. Suffice to say that one of the reasons Faldyra wants to explore the ruins of Castle Inverness is to try and find out more about them!

You may also consider using the module Ghost Tower of the Witchlight Fens for more information on another Ghost Tower within the Nentir Vale.

Rodney Thompson

Advanced Designer

Dungeons & Dragons R&D

Wizards of the Coast

Follow me on Twitter: wotc_rodney

My players are interested in Castle Inverness, specifically what caused its destruction, and who lived there last.

Is there a place to get this information, especially with the next session having a scholar who's supposed to be an expert on the place I don't have much to tell them.  Or if maybe its deeper in the packet (I haven't read everything yet) if someone could point me in the right direction.



The simple answer is that the Ghost Tower is being taken from another D&D setting. The simplest explanation, lore-wise, might be something like this:

Few recall the tale of Inverness, a keep said to have magically appeared one day in ancient times. Four massive towers and walls high did surround a great central tower. The tower was said to be the domain of a great wizard. If the tales are true, the wizard vanished and the people laid siege. In ruins did the fortress rest... but it was said that on foggy nights the central tower could still be seen. Time passed and travelers reported no dangers. The area is clear, the ruins can serve as building materials. Thus did begin to form the idea of settling the area once known as Inverness.

A PC with a hard history check might find that long ago an expedition was sent to the ruins, but it is not remembered what came of it.


If you want the real lore, read on. However, there is little reason to use this in the adventure.

Lore about Ghost Tower of Inverness AD&D adventure and LG adventure:

The Ghost Tower of Inverness was an RPGA tournament scenario from 1979, converted to a AD&D adventure (C2). The scenario is set in the Greyhawk campaign setting, but is here adopted for the Nentir Vale setting.

The tower is a small part of a massive fortress that existed in ancient times in Greyhawk's history (predating the Invoked Devastation and Rain of Colorless Fire, as well as the great migrations). The wizard Galap-Dreidel built the fortress, with the most prominent feature being the keep's inner tower. Within it was a "Soul-Gem", a great diamond that fell from the sky and that Galap-Dreidel made into an artifact. It could steal a sentient creature's soul and then force them to do the owner's bidding.

Galap-Dreidel filled the tower with monsters, warded it, and protected it such that it was invulnerable to the passage of time. At some point the wizard left, disappeared, and never returned. The people of the land (Flan peoples in the Duchy of Urnst), finally came together and laid siege. Though the fortress was razed, on foggy nights people reported seeing the central tower still standing.

In the original adventure, the Duke (manipulated by his sage, the Seer of Urnst) hires the party to explore the ruins. From the upper ruins they explore downward into dungeons, finding four keys. When brought together, these allow access to the tower. The tower itself is filled with fantastic levels (a jungle, and several other levels based on elemental concepts) and culminates in a battle against the Soul Gem. 

The adventure was redone for the Living Greyhawk RPGA campaign in 2003. This is an incredibly excellent adaptation by Creighton Broadhurst and Steve Pearce. It takes the adventure forward, explaining what has happened since the original AD&D expedition and adding more ideas to the background of the Seer and the tower itself. It was a badge of honor for many players to have PCs that were completely white, both in body and equipment, due to exposure to the soul gem.

As you can surmise if you read the Encounters version, the central tower is really more like a backdrop and its history (or how it came here from Oerth) would distract players rather than add to the fun.

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).

Hey all,

Chris Tulach and Trevor Kidd recommended I pop into this forum and introduce myself, and answer questions you might have about the season as I have time.

First of all, I'm Rodney Thompson (duh), and I'm now the Tabletop Games Manager at Wizards of the Coast. That means I'm in charge of the team that produces the D&D board games (like Castle Ravenloft and Wrath of Ashardalon) and any other non-RPG games we might do. Of course, I only assumed this position recently, and up until that point I was a developer, then a designer, on D&D. I also worked on the Star Wars Saga Edition RPG as lead designer/developer for the line.

So, if you're running Season 4 and have any questions, feel free to leave them here. I can't guarantee I'll be super prompt, but I'll try to check the thread at least once a week, and get answers before the next session.

Thanks, and I hope everyone enjoys March of the Phantom Brigade!

HI Rodney I just wanted to say I love the Ravenloft board game and Can not wait for wrath ....are there plans for future expansions????? Also my dog ate a ghoul ...no really.... any chance of buying another
What's the thought on giving 400 - 600 XP during the RP section of the first week, without rolling a die? Is that intentional or a misprint? It works out to about as much as a level 1 encounter. Only one player in my party even presented an opinion, so I didn't quite know how to run this.
The thought is that the characters will level faster, so its more "participation xp".

Otherwise if the players were only getting 100 xp each per week, they wouldn't hit level 2 until probably the 8th encounter (quest exp added)... This way they can reach level 2 by next chapter (I think, I haven't checked totals yet).  As to not having a skill roll... These aren't really challenges, they are just opportunities for the players to affect the story without having to do a skill challenge. 

Always a GM, never a player (not really but sometimes feels like it).

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DungeonScape

Well, first of all, as a point of general philosophy, I think an encounter is an encounter, even if it's a roleplaying encounter. That said, there's some artificial inflation of the XP given out, on account of the PCs needing enough XP to level a couple of times over the course of an Encounters season. If none of the players participate, you could choose not to reward the XP...but then the players won't know why they didn't get XP unless you tell them.

So, in short: it's to help with levelling over the course of the season, and reinforce the idea that a roleplaying encounter is still an encounter.

Rodney Thompson

Advanced Designer

Dungeons & Dragons R&D

Wizards of the Coast

Follow me on Twitter: wotc_rodney

HI Rodney I just wanted to say I love the Ravenloft board game and Can not wait for wrath ....are there plans for future expansions????? Also my dog ate a ghoul ...no really.... any chance of buying another

Sorry to hear about your dog...or about your ghoul...or whichever one is worse for the wear after that experience. We just announced a third game/expansion in the series, the Legend of Drizzt, at D&D XP. As for anything beyond that, well, I am not allowed to speak about anything that hasn't been officially announced yet.

Rodney Thompson

Advanced Designer

Dungeons & Dragons R&D

Wizards of the Coast

Follow me on Twitter: wotc_rodney

they are just opportunities for the players to affect the story without having to do a skill challenge. 



Personally, that was the thing I enjoyed the most in the 1st session. Lots of good roleplaying.
- Rico
Well, first of all, as a point of general philosophy, I think an encounter is an encounter, even if it's a roleplaying encounter. That said, there's some artificial inflation of the XP given out, on account of the PCs needing enough XP to level a couple of times over the course of an Encounters season. If none of the players participate, you could choose not to reward the XP...but then the players won't know why they didn't get XP unless you tell them.

So, in short: it's to help with levelling over the course of the season, and reinforce the idea that a roleplaying encounter is still an encounter.

Great, thanks! I was conscripted to DM at the last minute, so I probably could have been better prepared for it. Given the chance to do it again, I probably would have made up some more information (territorial lizardfolk in the woods vs. hungry griffons in the mountains) or something to make the players have a little bit more reason to argue about each choice.

Or perhaps maybe make it SEEM like one of the routes will favor one half of the party, and the the other route will favor the other half. Either way, I was trying to get them to debate the decision, but only one player took the ... um, bait. I like it when players argue in-character.

Encounter 1.  The PCs are guarding a caravan as it crosses a stream.  Why are they all standing in a clump and watching?  Next time I guard a caravan, I will be clamoring to start outside the penalty box.
Rodney.

For Session 5, are the PCs supposed to be at level 2? And Session 9, are the PCs supposed to be at level 3?

"Ah, the age-old conundrum. Defenders of a game are too blind to see it's broken, and critics are too idiotic to see that it isn't." - Brian McCormick

Rodney.

For Session 5, are the PCs supposed to be at level 2? And Session 9, are the PCs supposed to be at level 3?



I am not Rodney but in this Season I believe that you track EXPS per character and Reknown per player.  So as soon as a PC has receicved enough EXPS to level then they should level at that time.
I'm aware of that. However, I'm curious about what Rodney has to say about how he wrote the adventure. The XP he grants in and out of combat should put regular players at that level. However, I'd like to inquire about how to deal with players who are behind the expected level, such as new players or sporadic attendees. 

"Ah, the age-old conundrum. Defenders of a game are too blind to see it's broken, and critics are too idiotic to see that it isn't." - Brian McCormick

Encounter 1.  The PCs are guarding a caravan as it crosses a stream.  Why are they all standing in a clump and watching?  Next time I guard a caravan, I will be clamoring to start outside the penalty box.

This is one of those areas where the designer cannot win.  If you do not put some sort of starting area on the map (and even if you take the time to describe it in the text), DMs complain that they do not know where the characters are supposed to be.  But when you do place a starting area on the map, inexperienced DMs force the players to begin in that area.

The best way to overcome this problem is to help the DM to become a better DM.  Take them aside after the game and explain that starting areas on maps are generally just guides.  Rather than force the PCs into the box when battles begin, ask the DMs if they can allow the PCs to show the DM where they would have been positioned, considering they were guarding the last of the caravan crossing the stream.

This is an age-old problem that can only be solved through education and experience, not through anything that can be added to or subtracted from the adventure.

Regards,
Encounter 1.  The PCs are guarding a caravan as it crosses a stream.  Why are they all standing in a clump and watching?  Next time I guard a caravan, I will be clamoring to start outside the penalty box.

This is one of those areas where the designer cannot win.  If you do not put some sort of starting area on the map (and even if you take the time to describe it in the text), DMs complain that they do not know where the characters are supposed to be.  But when you do place a starting area on the map, inexperienced DMs force the players to begin in that area.

The best way to overcome this problem is to help the DM to become a better DM.  Take them aside after the game and explain that starting areas on maps are generally just guides.  Rather than force the PCs into the box when battles begin, ask the DMs if they can allow the PCs to show the DM where they would have been positioned, considering they were guarding the last of the caravan crossing the stream.

This is an age-old problem that can only be solved through education and experience, not through anything that can be added to or subtracted from the adventure.

Regards,


As one of those inexperienced DMs I think that's a cop out. You've abrogated your responsibility as an author of adventures. It shouldn't be up to the players to confront the DM. How hard can it be as an author for you to put a note in your adventure that player starting positions on the map are to be used as guidelines, not hard and fast rules? That's exactly the kind of information that would help us to become better DMs.

- Rico
Encounter 1.  The PCs are guarding a caravan as it crosses a stream.  Why are they all standing in a clump and watching?  Next time I guard a caravan, I will be clamoring to start outside the penalty box.

This is one of those areas where the designer cannot win.  If you do not put some sort of starting area on the map (and even if you take the time to describe it in the text), DMs complain that they do not know where the characters are supposed to be.  But when you do place a starting area on the map, inexperienced DMs force the players to begin in that area.

The best way to overcome this problem is to help the DM to become a better DM.  Take them aside after the game and explain that starting areas on maps are generally just guides.  Rather than force the PCs into the box when battles begin, ask the DMs if they can allow the PCs to show the DM where they would have been positioned, considering they were guarding the last of the caravan crossing the stream.

This is an age-old problem that can only be solved through education and experience, not through anything that can be added to or subtracted from the adventure.

Regards,


As one of those inexperienced DMs I think that's a cop out. You've abrogated your responsibility as an author of adventures. It shouldn't be up to the players to confront the DM. How hard can it be as an author for you to put a note in your adventure that player starting positions on the map are to be used as guidelines, not hard and fast rules? That's exactly the kind of information that would help us to become better DMs.


Perhaps you are correct.  I do not want to speak for Rodney, but as an adventure author, you often have a very limited word count.  I would hate to have to use part of that valuable word count to say over and over again: "The starting position is just a guide.  Let the players start wherever they want."  I would much rather learn it once as a DM, and then forever understand that D&D is a game where the adventure, the DM, and the players have equal rights and responsibilities in making the game fun.

And I did not mean to imply that anyone should "confront" a DM.  Try this.  After the game, when the other players aren't around, say to the DM, "Hey, that was a great game.  You really did a great job.  I loved it when [fill in the blank.]  That combat would have been a little more realistic if we hadn't have been forced to start right in the square.  I was discussing DMing on a forum the other day, and there was a great discussion about how using those 'PCs Start Here' boxes are really just guides." 

Most DMs I've played under love to talk about things like that, as long as it is done in good faith and with tact.  And it is probably better for everyone to just address the issue now rather than having it happen 12 more times.  :-)

Thanks for the discussion.  We all are or were inexperienced DMs once, so its these learning experiences that make us better.  I hope you enjoy the games.

Regards, 
How hard can it be as an author for you to put a note in your adventure that player starting positions on the map are to be used as guidelines, not hard and fast rules? That's exactly the kind of information that would help us to become better DMs.


Almost the entire module is a guideline.  DMs should feel free to alter parts of the module to make sure they're satisfied with what they're running.  Underscoring that in the module could eat up a lot of space.  

At the time, I just kind of went along with what the DM was doing, but afterwards, I wish I had spoken up.  If my PC is guarding the caravan, I ought to get some say in how we're guarding it.  Although now I have the perfect excuse!  "Remember that fracas last time?  Poor woman got her blood sucked out in 6 seconds flat.  I don't want that to happen again, which is why we're reorganizing the wagons."
Encounter 1.  The PCs are guarding a caravan as it crosses a stream.  Why are they all standing in a clump and watching?  Next time I guard a caravan, I will be clamoring to start outside the penalty box.

This is one of those areas where the designer cannot win.  If you do not put some sort of starting area on the map (and even if you take the time to describe it in the text), DMs complain that they do not know where the characters are supposed to be.  But when you do place a starting area on the map, inexperienced DMs force the players to begin in that area.

The best way to overcome this problem is to help the DM to become a better DM.  Take them aside after the game and explain that starting areas on maps are generally just guides.  Rather than force the PCs into the box when battles begin, ask the DMs if they can allow the PCs to show the DM where they would have been positioned, considering they were guarding the last of the caravan crossing the stream.

This is an age-old problem that can only be solved through education and experience, not through anything that can be added to or subtracted from the adventure.

Regards,


As one of those inexperienced DMs I think that's a cop out. You've abrogated your responsibility as an author of adventures. It shouldn't be up to the players to confront the DM. How hard can it be as an author for you to put a note in your adventure that player starting positions on the map are to be used as guidelines, not hard and fast rules? That's exactly the kind of information that would help us to become better DMs.


Perhaps you are correct.  I do not want to speak for Rodney, but as an adventure author, you often have a very limited word count.  I would hate to have to use part of that valuable word count to say over and over again: "The starting position is just a guide.  Let the players start wherever they want."  I would much rather learn it once as a DM, and then forever understand that D&D is a game where the adventure, the DM, and the players have equal rights and responsibilities in making the game fun.

And I did not mean to imply that anyone should "confront" a DM.  Try this.  After the game, when the other players aren't around, say to the DM, "Hey, that was a great game.  You really did a great job.  I loved it when [fill in the blank.]  That combat would have been a little more realistic if we hadn't have been forced to start right in the square.  I was discussing DMing on a forum the other day, and there was a great discussion about how using those 'PCs Start Here' boxes are really just guides." 

Most DMs I've played under love to talk about things like that, as long as it is done in good faith and with tact.  And it is probably better for everyone to just address the issue now rather than having it happen 12 more times.  :-)

Thanks for the discussion.  We all are or were inexperienced DMs once, so its these learning experiences that make us better.  I hope you enjoy the games.

Regards, 


I appreciate that you often have word count limits. But you don't have to state it over and over in each encounter. One sentence in the introductory section of the module stating, "Note, PC starting areas are just a guideline. Feel free to modify it." would be sufficient.

How hard can it be as an author for you to put a note in your adventure that player starting positions on the map are to be used as guidelines, not hard and fast rules? That's exactly the kind of information that would help us to become better DMs.


Almost the entire module is a guideline.  DMs should feel free to alter parts of the module to make sure they're satisfied with what they're running.  Underscoring that in the module could eat up a lot of space.  


As I stated above, it wouldn't have to eat up a lot of space. I'm talking about one sentence to help inexperienced DMs.
- Rico
It is a tough issue. Shawn and I have debated this before on the LFR forums.

On the one hand, it is true that you can't cover everything and that DMs should exercise judgment. Usually, the starting position won't hurt much and just helps as a guide. Even if forced, it is seldom a big deal.

On the other, sometimes it is a really big deal. It is because of this that I lean toward authors being specific. If the box is optional, I think authors should say that. The reason is that some encounters really need the box. I've written plenty of adventures where the challenge level is based on the monsters getting a bit of benefit due to the PCs' starting positions. I think writing "they must start in the box" when there is a box is more than a bit strange. I think it is better to do the converse and mention it is optional (or, in an adventure, say up front it is optional unless an encounter says otherwise and then note the exception).

The safest bet is that DMs will implement the box, so I think authors should make that default assumption.

All of that said, a fun game is the responsibility of the DM. There are countless ways in which the game can stray from fun and the DM should worry about that more than what the author did or did not clarify. If the box hammered the PCs and ended up being unfair and un-fun, then take the next round to have the foes move around and do imperfect things. Once the fun has reset, go back to more optimal tactics. It can be surprising just how awesome it is when the monsters carpet-bomb the PCs and then take a round to high-five each-other! The players and their PCs will be angry as all get out, but then get to settle the score and the RP as that happens can be fantastic. There aren't that many ways to make a fight feel "personal" and that can actually be one of them.

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).

It is a tough issue. Shawn and I have debated this before on the LFR forums.

On the one hand, it is true that you can't cover everything and that DMs should exercise judgment. Usually, the starting position won't hurt much and just helps as a guide. Even if forced, it is seldom a big deal.

On the other, sometimes it is a really big deal. It is because of this that I lean toward authors being specific. If the box is optional, I think authors should say that. The reason is that some encounters really need the box. I've written plenty of adventures where the challenge level is based on the monsters getting a bit of benefit due to the PCs' starting positions. I think writing "they must start in the box" when there is a box is more than a bit strange. I think it is better to do the converse and mention it is optional (or, in an adventure, say up front it is optional unless an encounter says otherwise and then note the exception).

The safest bet is that DMs will implement the box, so I think authors should make that default assumption.

All of that said, a fun game is the responsibility of the DM. There are countless ways in which the game can stray from fun and the DM should worry about that more than what the author did or did not clarify. If the box hammered the PCs and ended up being unfair and un-fun, then take the next round to have the foes move around and do imperfect things. Once the fun has reset, go back to more optimal tactics. It can be surprising just how awesome it is when the monsters carpet-bomb the PCs and then take a round to high-five each-other! The players and their PCs will be angry as all get out, but then get to settle the score and the RP as that happens can be fantastic. There aren't that many ways to make a fight feel "personal" and that can actually be one of them.

Yep.  Like I said, it is a no-win situation.  My personal preference is to not supply a start box at all.  Describe the scene in the adventure, and then let the DMs and players work out the starting positions on their own, as it should be anyway.  That's how I do it as a DM, and that's how I prefer it as a player.  If there is potential confusion, I like to put "PCs Approach from this Direction" on the map instead of a box.

Another thing I do as a player is never place my mini on a map until I know the situation.  If someone else tries to put me on the map, that is my cue to say to the DM, "Could you describe the situation?"  :-)

Regards,
I just dont think an author has any realistic chance of guessing what a DM will end up needing as there is simply too much variation. As such a lot of things might end up in the "I don't understand why it is so hard to add X to the adventure" category for person A, while person B never misses it. Wordcount and other realities force choices and you are bound to find some stuff missing that you would have considered mandatory or nice to have.

To me, the awesomeness of a thread like this is that all the stuff you may want or need can be had in the form of advice from others and/or answers from the author. Even if sometimes it comes late(r) its all extra stuff to put in the personal DM's toolbox. In the end I will make te call as a DM, but not having to do that blind is a great advantage and imho improves my DM skillset.

Oh and Rodney? Good stuff I am enjoying the read and looking forward to see where they players take it.  
To DME, or not to DME: that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous powergaming, Or to take arms against a sea of Munchkins, And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;No more;
I am really looking forward to running The Phantom Brigade in the weeks to come: so many great RP opportunities! As a 40-something gamer I especially appreciate the nods to the original Ghost Tower! (My old group always remembered it as the module with the "Magic Shop"

Potential Minor Spoiler details follow.

Question

I know you did not control this issue, but I do have an observation about some of the maps. Maybe I am missing something, but a couple of the maps are not 1-inch scale. Specifically a snow map  and some of the Tower surrounding maps are smaller than 1 inch. I like to use the battle maps as a base and add 3d terrain pieces, but these maps are a bit small. Were they intended to be built at the table to allow for some variation I missed in my initial skim?
Inconsistency and procrastination...in practice.
Encounter 1.  The PCs are guarding a caravan as it crosses a stream.  Why are they all standing in a clump and watching?  Next time I guard a caravan, I will be clamoring to start outside the penalty box.



We put the "starting area" box in there as a guideline to help the DM. If the DM wants to rule otherwise, that's fine by me--especially given that the heroes have had ample time in the adventure to interact with the caravan, and make decisions about where they're going to be traveling in relation to the other members of the caravan.

The reason there's no sentence on "Hey, it's OK to change things" is because I assumed that's a part of D&D as a whole. D&D Encounters is supposed to be playing D&D with friends, not a rigid experience where the DM MUST run things according to our dictates or be lined up by a firing squad. As with all D&D games, it's the DM's prerogative and privilege to make changes to the details of the adventure to make it more fun.

Rodney Thompson

Advanced Designer

Dungeons & Dragons R&D

Wizards of the Coast

Follow me on Twitter: wotc_rodney

For Session 5, are the PCs supposed to be at level 2? And Session 9, are the PCs supposed to be at level 3?

I designed the encounters based on those assumptions, yes, but that doesn't mean you should artificially level someone up. I think it's perfectly fine to have a mixed-level party, even at this level, because I think that the difference between a level 1 character and a level 3 character is only significant in their hit points.

Rodney Thompson

Advanced Designer

Dungeons & Dragons R&D

Wizards of the Coast

Follow me on Twitter: wotc_rodney

Question

I know you did not control this issue, but I do have an observation about some of the maps. Maybe I am missing something, but a couple of the maps are not 1-inch scale. Specifically a snow map  and some of the Tower surrounding maps are smaller than 1 inch. I like to use the battle maps as a base and add 3d terrain pieces, but these maps are a bit small. Were they intended to be built at the table to allow for some variation I missed in my initial skim?

If you're referring to the exploration maps, it's simply a matter of them not being able to fit on a poster map. They were just too big for that.

Rodney Thompson

Advanced Designer

Dungeons & Dragons R&D

Wizards of the Coast

Follow me on Twitter: wotc_rodney

Greetings Rodney,

Would it be possible to get a couple of jpeg or bitmap files of the 2 exploration encounters (the Keep in session 3 and the Forest in Chapter 2) to show to the players. A gray photocopy of the ones in the module don't reveal very much plus there are already notes on there.

Sadly, I don't have any control over this. It's something I will nudge those who do about.


Not to sound ungrateful for your attempt to get something, but we'll need the first map by next week or it won't be needed anymore.

Also maybe have someone sticky this thread.

Thanks

I've poked the community leads about both the sticky and the map issue. Can you explain it again? I'm not sure I fully understand. Is this on the inside covers, in the adventure? Any page number or specific guidance may be helpful to get a resolution.

Thanks!

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Encounter 1.  The PCs are guarding a caravan as it crosses a stream.  Why are they all standing in a clump and watching?  Next time I guard a caravan, I will be clamoring to start outside the penalty box.



We put the "starting area" box in there as a guideline to help the DM. If the DM wants to rule otherwise, that's fine by me--especially given that the heroes have had ample time in the adventure to interact with the caravan, and make decisions about where they're going to be traveling in relation to the other members of the caravan.

The reason there's no sentence on "Hey, it's OK to change things" is because I assumed that's a part of D&D as a whole. D&D Encounters is supposed to be playing D&D with friends, not a rigid experience where the DM MUST run things according to our dictates or be lined up by a firing squad. As with all D&D games, it's the DM's prerogative and privilege to make changes to the details of the adventure to make it more fun.



Hey Rodney,

After a conversation with our local DM I feel I should bring some things to your attention:

1) Our FLGS is running Encounters to try to develop a better relationship with WOTC.

2) There appears to be some issue on the WOTC corporate side that is causing our DM not to want to vary the printed adventure outside adjusting it for party size so as to avoid excaerbation (sp?) of the issue.

3) When you put "PCs start here in the adventure" he takes that to mean "PCs start here!" full stop.

Basically, your last paragraph that I quoted is completely at odds with the truth as we percieve it at our FGLS.
2) There appears to be some issue on the WOTC corporate side that is causing our DM not to want to vary the printed adventure outside adjusting it for party size so as to avoid exacerbation of the issue.

3) When you put "PCs start here in the adventure" he takes that to mean "PCs start here!" full stop.

Basically, your last paragraph that I quoted is completely at odds with the truth as we perceive it at our FGLS.


It took some searching, but here is the article that the Wizards Play Network e-mailed to all stores during the second season of Encounters on the topic of what DMs can and should do to alter encounters.

The article was actually written in response to feedback from many stores where, as in your case, the DM refused to modify the challenge level to suit the table. This cost those stores players and created a lot of frustration.

I would provide that link to your store organizer. With the DM, I would try to be really calm with them and just let them know that for you, the encounter is more fun if it isn't as challenging or if the DM could modify the encounter as needed for a proper challenge level and more fun. If they are open to it, you might suggest they visit the forums here so they can see how other tables fare and what different groups do with the same encounters. Lastly, the DM Tips sticky thread has resources and further guidance for altering a combat encounter.

I find that saying something like "You know what I would find to be really fun?" Is a good way to open the conversation. If they say "sorry, I can't change the encounter", you can say something like "There was a WPN broadcast that allowed changes. Could I show it to you? I really liked the ideas in the article. They would make this game a lot more fun for me."

I also like to give praise on some other aspect of their game whenever I had to say something potentially negative to a DM. It lessens the sting. "I really enjoyed the tactics you used in that first fight..."

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).

I've poked the community leads about both the sticky and the map issue. Can you explain it again? I'm not sure I fully understand. Is this on the inside covers, in the adventure? Any page number or specific guidance may be helpful to get a resolution.

Thanks!



Next week's encounter and an encounter in chapter 2 involve the PCs exploring (next week is the ruins of the keep) in the adventure they printed a black and white map with some text of different locations in the ruins. I wanted to print up a copy to show to my players. I was hoping that somewhere in WotC they may have the original jpeg or bitmap file (hopefully in color) without any text that I could use.

Thanks, Alpha

I read two desires. Dlynch seemed to want a 1"x1" poster map, which I think we can expect will not be provided (the idea is to just know the overall location, and having that large a map would be a large cost for a low benefit to most tables).

For an overall map without labels you could show the players, that sounds cool. I've poked, though I don't have any say and I can see it going either way.

One possibility for both cases if you own the new dungeon tile master set is to use PyMapper. You could create the jpg fairly easily in there. If you really wanted, you could print a 1" version (lower resolution), and it certainly will export a jpg. If anyone takes the lead, they could provide a link to the small version (not sure if the larger one should be shared).

Then again, maybe WotC can provide the map. It may depend on whether they even have a version without labels.

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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).

I fear my previous post may have been more abrasive than my intent and that I may have made it seem as though my DM and I have an adversarial relationship which is not the case. I was trying to appraise Rodney as to why people may not have the same base assumptions as he does.

If I was offensive in any way, my apologies.

Jonathan
I read two desires. Dlynch seemed to want a 1"x1" poster map, which I think we can expect will not be provided (the idea is to just know the overall location, and having that large a map would be a large cost for a low benefit to most tables).

For an overall map without labels you could show the players, that sounds cool. I've poked, though I don't have any say and I can see it going either way.

One possibility for both cases if you own the new dungeon tile master set is to use PyMapper. You could create the jpg fairly easily in there. If you really wanted, you could print a 1" version (lower resolution), and it certainly will export a jpg. If anyone takes the lead, they could provide a link to the small version (not sure if the larger one should be shared).

Then again, maybe WotC can provide the map. It may depend on whether they even have a version without labels.



I certainly don't want or need a poster map, I don't even need anything with a grid, all I'm really looking for is something that I can print on 8 x 11 (colors would be great) to show the players. The file that they used to create the print that we see in the adventure. It's ok, I'll photocopy what we got in the adventure, I was just looking for something a little cleaner that's all.

Actually, I understand how unreasonable it would be to ask for a 1' x 1' map; that was not my intent.

Sorry.

I just wanted to be sure it wasn't a misprint, or to verify if I had missed something in my skim of the material (which I had).

I would like to support Jabba's request for something to show my players (in color if possible). I would be happy to print it myself from a pic file...

Thank you all for providing this support for we happy few DMs trying to give a good experience...
Inconsistency and procrastination...in practice.
I can understand the decision to remove gold pieces from treasure. However, I found almost immediately that I needed to put it back in to make the party happy and have the story work. Goblins without gold!? With the concept that the party are settlers of new community, they wanted money all the more as they actually had plans for the future that in many cases involved profit (and the need for a nest egg). Our Tiefling Warlock is working with a Dwarven Brewer to try to become Inverness' new Beer Baron. The Cleric wants to make a Shrine to Pelor to go along with the Temple to Moridin that is planned. The 1/2 Orc Knight wants to build a fortress and raise an army. Other characters have plans for making the new live in Inverness, which I thought was a nice touch and made this adventure different then most.