My 4e Campaign

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Hey all,

I thought it would be fun and interesting to talk a little bit about my lunchtime, Temple of Elemental Evil 4e game. I run the game on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the WotC offices. Between travel and work schedules, the first session was (finally!) last week. This campaign is the first I've designed that wasn't specifically for playtesting or for a demo. This is just for fun.

The first adventure is really open-ended. I'm using Gary's original Village of Hommlet as the starting point, switching things around to fit my tastes and keep things fresh for the group.

Here's my group, all level 1 PCs:
* Cornelius, a half-elf cleric of Boccob who carries a strange tome. He arrived in Hommlett a few days ago with Kot. Cornelius is absent-minded, but he always keeps an eye on his creepy book. He was enslaved by forces of Iuz under circumstances not yet clear to the rest of the party, and Kot freed him during a High Folk raid into the Old One's empire.

* Kot, a half-elf wizard and war hero from the High Folk. He fought in several battles against invading minions of Iuz. In his last battle, his commander was slain while on a raid into the territories of Iuz. Before dying, the commander whispered a terrible secret in Kot's ear. That secret has led him to Hommlett.

* Saman Bharat, a human fighter from Ket. Saman served in the Kettite army before an incompetent but highly connected officer led his unit into an ogre ambush high in the Yatil Mountains. He escaped to the south and found service wtih the militia in Sterich. While on a raid against a cave system housing a number of bandits and monsters, he stumbled into a weird temple. He found a sword that that looked as if it was carved from a single, huge piece of metal rather than forged. Hearing a number of troglodytes approaching the temple, he grabbed the sword and tried to escape through a curtained doorway. When he passed through the door, he found himself in an old, dusty, unused temple exactly like the one he was just in. He emerged from the temple to in the wilderness near Hommlett.

* Marken, a human fighter from the City of Greyhawk, is a taciturn mercenary. The group knows little about him, but each morning he bolts upright in his bed when he awakes, as if waking from a terrible nightmare.

(We have a fifth character, a tiefling warlock, who will join us in the next session. All the PCs have elements of their background that will play a role in the campaign.)

The current ruler of Hommlett, an aristocratic fop named Lord Geldon, hires the PCs on an emergency mission. Lord Geldon is expecting a caravan to arrive with a valuable cargo of his, but he has just received word that the North Gate, an old, ruined pair of towers along the caravan's route, is occupied by bandits. Since Burne's Badgers, the mercenaries who serve as town guard, are off hunting a marauding werewolf north of town, Geldon asks the PCs to ride out and help the caravan.

It doesn't take a genius to see that Geldon is up to something. When he approached the PCs at the Welcome Wench, he hadall the tact and subtlety of a hammer to the face. He blatantly forgot the innkeep's name, shooed some farmers out of a booth to make way for his meeting with the characters, and was clearly nervous, worried, and desperate to keep the caravan's arrival a secret. Geldon came to rule only when his father and older brother died in a plague a few years ago, and before that he was much happier spending his time (and money) in the city of Verbobonc. There, he could spend his time in safe, posh, splendor in his family's urban holdings. Here in Hommlett, he's on a dangerous frontier without any of the niceties of his old home. He supposedly accepted the move only because it was better than facing the many gambling debts he piled up in the city.

With that in mind, the PCs accepted his deal, but are on the look out for trouble. Opting for the direct approach, they rode out to the tower and decided to attack the bandits. They discovered that the North Gate is two towers that flank the rode, with a bridge connecting their second floors. In addition, only one tower has a door, and that door is set on the second floor. To get in, the tower's occupants must lower a rope or ladder down. Carefully scanning the area, the PCs noticed that there were several men on the bridge.

This is where things got interesting. I set up the situation to be as flexible as possible, leaving the players to come up with a plan. I had the bandits statted out and a general idea of their defenses. When the characters arrived at the tower, it was night and a light rain was falling.

The group's plan started like this: the fighters Saman and Marken would approach the towers under cover of darkness. Kot and Cornelius would wait in the woods for the signal to approach once the fighters had secured a rope to the side of the tower.

I used a skill challenge to represent the guards' state of readiness. The fighters' approach was louder than they liked, but Kot used a spell to distract the guards. Unfortuantely, the fighters kept making noise, prompting the bandits to send a few guards out to patrol the base of the towers. The fighters were able to secure a rope and climb to the top of one tower just as the guards made their descent to the ground from the second floor door.

Once on the roof, the Marken noticed that the wooden timbers were quite weak in several places. They spied on the bandit leader below and listened to him order several more of his warriors to walk a quick patrol. That's when the party's plan took a quick, 90 degree turn.

With the bandit leader left alone in his chamber, Marken sprung into action. A quick kick smashed a hole in the roof, through which he lept with Saman close behind. Saman slammed the door to the room shut and barred it, while Marken attacked the now trapped commander.

Meanwhile, Cornelius and Kot argued over what to do next. They saw the guards emerge from the tower and watched their allies leap down through the roof. Kot, as befits a war hero, emerged from hiding to blast away at the bandits with his spells. Cornelius followed, almost tripping over his robes as he tried to keep up.

While the fighters made quick work of the bandit leader, Kot and Cornelius were not quite so lucky. While Kot's spells made quick work of the bandits on the bridge between the towers, the bandits on the ground charged and knocked him unconscious. Luckily for Cornelius, he had a trick up his sleeve that let him turn invisible for a brief moment. One Bluff check later, and the bandits fell back to the tower, panicked that the robed figures they saw in the darkness were actually illusions. A second volley of spells from the cleric and wizard showed them the error of their beliefs, dropping one of the warriors. Unfortunately for Kot, a bandit archer hiding on the bridged popped out to knock him unconscious again with a lucky arrow shot. The archer had only a moment to celebrate, though, as the door to the second tower burst open. Marken and Saman, having slain the bandit leader, opened the door from the room, charged out on to the bridge, and defeated the archer. Cornelius healed Kot (again!), while the bandit on the ground scrambled up the ladder to safety.

At that point, the session ended. We had an hour to play, but got through most of the first fight. The bandits shut their tower tight, and now the PCs must force their way in.

So, that's what a (short) session of honest to goodness 4e looks like. We had some fun roleplay in the exchange between the fighters and the bandit leader, and Cornelius freaked out the bandits by turning invisible. Lord Geldon is a fun guy to play, and we had some funny moments in the Welcome Wench before all the swordplay.

As a DM, I find myself doing more random, kind of crazy things, like having a player make a Bluff check to see if the bandit mistakes him for an illusion, or using the skill challenge to determine the bandits' level of readiness (it ranged from barely paying attention to organizing a thorough search of the area; the PCs were about half-way to completely alerting everyone when they attacked).

Anyway, I thought everyone might be interested in seeing what a 4e adventure looks like. IMO, and I *am* biased, it felt a lot like a good mix of how I handled things in 1e/2e and 3e.
Mearls, how seemless would you say the skill challenges you used were in context to rest of the adventure.

Could you for example, have a partial skill challenge, and after say a failure enter a combat-situation then afterwards continue on with a skill challenge?

Also thanks for posting, always fun to read the campaigns/adventures the developers are having
Mearls, how seemless would you say the skill challenges you used were in context to rest of the adventure.

Could you for example, have a partial skill challenge, and after say a failure enter a combat-situation then afterwards continue on with a skill challenge?

Also thanks for posting, always fun to read the campaigns/adventures the developers are having

The skill challenge was completely seamless. As the fighters crept up to the tower, I told the players they were now in a skill challenge. That was the only diversion from the game and roleplay it involved. I asked for checks, the characters tried different stuff to remain hidden (like Kot's spell to distract the guards), and so on.

The repercussions of their failures were nice and organic, and I think that's key. For example, early on the guards on the tower argued over whether they had heard anything, and when the PCs climbed to the roof the commander was in the middle of ordering a guard patrol.

Admittedly, most of the players are in R&D and have experience with the game, but I think that most groups will hit this stage early on. The key as DM is to weave the effects of the challenge into the narrative. The first few times it'll be a challenge, but I think with practice it becomes more natural.

Skill challenges are designed to cover a wide range of time periods. For instance, you might create a skill challenge for a PC who wants to win membership of a guild. You might allow him one check per day to represent his attempts to earn membership, and things like completing adventures that help the guild earn automatic successes.

You could also build a challenge that allows for the chance of combat. For example, one challenge might be to disenchant an altar dedicated to Juiblex. If the PCs rack up too many failures, or maybe even after X number of checks, succeed or fail, a few oozes and jellies emerge from cracks in the temple's wall to attack the intruders. The fighter and wizard have to hold them back while the rogue and cleric work together to ruin the wardings that give the altar its power.

In many ways, the skill challenge mechanic is a new way to organize and handle bookkeeping for a series of skill checks. IME, it's very flexible. I'm really excited to see what sort of thing DMs do with it.
Thanks

I am hoping too that once my group and I get used to it, we can try using skill challenges without deceleration, using hints placed by me.

I like my horror/suspense based D&D-games, so deceleration would take a bit out of it. But I think I can pull it off, by having them notice things, react appropriately and keep that going (so they don't know how well they are doing till it finally ends).

I have done similar in my nWoD games, so I don't think it will be too hard to cross over to skill challenges, they really do seem to fit right into my style of gameplay

I am also thinking of bringing skill-challenges and combat into one-whole in some cases. Where they are fighting off things, while trying to do something that is part of a skill-challenge, ie: balancing or staying on a moving carriage/locomotive, fighting on horseback, etc.

I think it will really make my combat more interesting, so thanks again for introducing them
Thanks for the info, Mr. Mearls.

I myself am very much looking forward to dusting off some of the classic 1E modules to run in the new edition.

We've already done a 3rd edition Temple of Elemental Evil Campaign though, does anyone have any suggestions for a good low level vintage module?
Interesting read, Mr. Mearls. If your schedule permits, please keep us up to date on the adventure as it unfolds...
Ditto!

Thanks,
DZ
Where do we sign up for this campaign.
Thanks for the info, Mr. Mearls.

I myself am very much looking forward to dusting off some of the classic 1E modules to run in the new edition.

We've already done a 3rd edition Temple of Elemental Evil Campaign though, does anyone have any suggestions for a good low level vintage module?

I recently played in N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God and really enjoyed the adventure.

Plenty of good roleplaying opportunities and mystery to solve.
I recently played in N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God and really enjoyed the adventure.

Plenty of good roleplaying opportunities and mystery to solve.

Thanks...I'll see if I can find this somewhere.

Also, I wonder if I couldn't revive Birthright in the new edition. The rules seem ideal...
The skill challenge was completely seamless. As the fighters crept up to the tower, I told the players they were now in a skill challenge. That was the only diversion from the game and roleplay it involved. I asked for checks, the characters tried different stuff to remain hidden (like Kot's spell to distract the guards), and so on.

The repercussions of their failures were nice and organic, and I think that's key. For example, early on the guards on the tower argued over whether they had heard anything, and when the PCs climbed to the roof the commander was in the middle of ordering a guard patrol.

Admittedly, most of the players are in R&D and have experience with the game, but I think that most groups will hit this stage early on. The key as DM is to weave the effects of the challenge into the narrative. The first few times it'll be a challenge, but I think with practice it becomes more natural.

Skill challenges are designed to cover a wide range of time periods. For instance, you might create a skill challenge for a PC who wants to win membership of a guild. You might allow him one check per day to represent his attempts to earn membership, and things like completing adventures that help the guild earn automatic successes.

You could also build a challenge that allows for the chance of combat. For example, one challenge might be to disenchant an altar dedicated to Juiblex. If the PCs rack up too many failures, or maybe even after X number of checks, succeed or fail, a few oozes and jellies emerge from cracks in the temple's wall to attack the intruders. The fighter and wizard have to hold them back while the rogue and cleric work together to ruin the wardings that give the altar its power.

In many ways, the skill challenge mechanic is a new way to organize and handle bookkeeping for a series of skill checks. IME, it's very flexible. I'm really excited to see what sort of thing DMs do with it.

I started running a 3.5 campaign recently and in my planning for the next two sessions or so I found spots for two skill challenges. Sadly, the campaign is stalling due to schedule issues and we won't be able to play for a while, but I'm looking forward to running those parts of the adventure. I think the thing I liked best about the whole notion is that I don't have to figure out how the PCs are going to accomplish a goal!

As I reviewed what I knew of skill challenges, though, I wasn't overly impressed by the need for the easy/medium/hard difficulty selection by the players. In a sense, it seems like it would pull them out of immersion a bit further, and in some cases I'm not even sure what it would mean. At the moment I'm just opting for a system where the check DC is determined by whether the task at hand is highly relevant, relevant, marginally relevant or not relevant, with the last category not even getting a roll. (or a failure...they just waste time doing it) The DC spread for the three categories that have some relevance is 8 as I currently have it planned out I think.

If you're able to go into more detail without spoiling information we're not supposed to know, how do you handle things like retries? I went to D&DXP and played in Escape from Sembia, and at a point it seemed like the best option was to keep using the skill you were best at, which seemed lame. (I'm sure that this problem was partly due to the fact that we didn't know the system well. Incidentally I hated that skill challenge when I was going through it. There's definitely a wrong way to do these skill challenges in my opinion.)

Do you even allow retries of the same skill if the check fails? What if it succeeds? Does the system break down if you allow either? I'm suspicious that this is the sort of thing that needs to be handled on a case-by-case basis, but I'm curious to hear your thoughts.

Again, if you're able to answer, do you have any insight you could share with the easy/medium/hard mechanic of skill challenges? What was the primary justification for putting that in?

What if one of the players decides that they aren't good at any relevant skills or checks and decides to sit it out? In 3rd edition especially I can see this happening due to how weak some classes are at skills generally. Would you normally penalize sitting out of a skill challenge?
D&D rules were never meant to exist without the presence of a DM. RAW is a lie.
As I reviewed what I knew of skill challenges, though, I wasn't overly impressed by the need for the easy/medium/hard difficulty selection by the players. In a sense, it seems like it would pull them out of immersion a bit further, and in some cases I'm not even sure what it would mean.

The players' picking the DC thing is not part of the core rule, at least AFAIK. You can let players pick the DC if you like that or if it makes sense in the situation, but otherwise the DM sets the DC as normal.

For retries, you can try a few things. You might allow the party X number of tries, or you can rule that after Y failures the skill doesn't work anymore. For instance, in the skill challenge I ran I decided that Bluff could be used to create a distraction, but after three attempts it stopped working. At that point, extra distractions worked against the PCs, since the bandits would panic and sound a general alarm.

The easy/medium/hard mechanic is more of a guideline to let the DM know the spread of DCs he should use at a given level. There's a little more too it, but I can't give everything away (yet...)

Sitting out is not normally penalized. It depends on the nature of the specific challenge. In my campaign, two of the characters sat back and watched the others sneak up, and that didn't hurt the party. OTOH, if the challenge is to cross a burning desert, the entire party has to take place whether they want to or not. After all, the entire group is crossing the desert together.
Oh okay, hmm... Wonder how the idea of the players choosing as part of core got started.

It sounds like it is a very flexible system, but will there be lots of general guidelines for all the different uses? I can imagine some DMs feeling overwhelmed and just using the most basic skill challenges.
Sigil_Beguiler: Likely we thought it was core because it was in the first playtest games we saw of 4th edition. It was very natural to assume that everything you saw was Core.

Thanks for the reply, Mr. Mearls!
D&D rules were never meant to exist without the presence of a DM. RAW is a lie.
Where do we sign up for this campaign.

I'd offer to take bribes, but I don't think my boss would be happy. :D

I've been meaning to post about the last session, but I've been busy with a project milestone. However, let me talk a little about a trap I designed and how the party dealt with it.

The PCs ended up exploring some long abandoned chambers beneath the towers. They found a chapel dedicated to elemental evil, in which stood a pair of statues that rotated to look at the PCs when they entered the place. Each statue had gemstone eyes that flashed with arcane energy, slowly turning the characters to stone. Meanwhile, two skeletal dwarves emerged from a side passage to attack the PCs, and an altar in the room summoned two creatures formed of mud and a living mote of wind energy to defend the temple. These beasties were all monsters of my own invention, so don't be surprised when they aren't in the MM.

The party lacked a rogue, so here's what they did with the trap:
* Marken threw a cloak over one statue to prevent it from using its eyes to attack. The statued rotated back and forth to throw off the cloak, but Marken threw a rope around it to hold the cloak in place.
* Kot used mage hand to tie the rope in place, preventing the cloak from flying off.
* Marken bull rushed the second statue, damaging it and revealing a series of gears in its base that rotated it.
* Kot used mage hand again to grab the rope and wrap it around the gears, while Marken ran around the second statue, drawing its attention. As the statue rotated to attack Marken, it pulled the rope taut and tore the first statue off its base.
* With one final push, Marken toppled over the second statue.

All the while, the rest of the party fought the monsters. The PCs were able to resist the petrification attack, though Kot came very close to becoming a statue himself. Only Cornelius' magic saved him.

If I can goob about the game a little here, I felt like I had the best of the 2e/1e/basic D&D and 3e worlds. On one hand, I had a robust, flexible rule set, and on the other the players were thinking in-character about the trap, rather than looking at their skill lists or trying to figure out the mechanics behind the trap to beat it. One of the things we tried to emphasize in the 4e DMG is the idea of rewarding good ideas. If a PC does something sensible, clever, or imaginative, set a DC, think of what would happen on success or failure, and roll a die.

It felt like how I've always pictured my ideal version of D&D. As DM, I have full control over the rules, flexible mechanics I can fall back on in any situation, and a clear handle on the game. The players have clear rules, too, but they also approach the game as their characters, rather than as players looking to manipulate rules. Admittedly, part of that is this group (they're all good roleplayers), but I think the rules, particularly the DMG, do help foster that play style.

Anyway, we'll see in a few weeks if people agree with me.
I'd offer to take bribes, but I don't think my boss would be happy. :D

I've been meaning to post about the last session, but I've been busy with a project milestone. However, let me talk a little about a trap I designed and how the party dealt with it.

The PCs ended up exploring some long abandoned chambers beneath the towers. They found a chapel dedicated to elemental evil, in which stood a pair of statues that rotated to look at the PCs when they entered the place. Each statue had gemstone eyes that flashed with arcane energy, slowly turning the characters to stone. Meanwhile, two skeletal dwarves emerged from a side passage to attack the PCs, and an altar in the room summoned two creatures formed of mud and a living mote of wind energy to defend the temple. These beasties were all monsters of my own invention, so don't be surprised when they aren't in the MM.

The party lacked a rogue, so here's what they did with the trap:
* Marken threw a cloak over one statue to prevent it from using its eyes to attack. The statued rotated back and forth to throw off the cloak, but Marken threw a rope around it to hold the cloak in place.
* Kot used mage hand to tie the rope in place, preventing the cloak from flying off.
* Marken bull rushed the second statue, damaging it and revealing a series of gears in its base that rotated it.
* Kot used mage hand again to grab the rope and wrap it around the gears, while Marken ran around the second statue, drawing its attention. As the statue rotated to attack Marken, it pulled the rope taut and tore the first statue off its base.
* With one final push, Marken toppled over the second statue.

All the while, the rest of the party fought the monsters. The PCs were able to resist the petrification attack, though Kot came very close to becoming a statue himself. Only Cornelius' magic saved him.

If I can goob about the game a little here, I felt like I had the best of the 2e/1e/basic D&D and 3e worlds. On one hand, I had a robust, flexible rule set, and on the other the players were thinking in-character about the trap, rather than looking at their skill lists or trying to figure out the mechanics behind the trap to beat it. One of the things we tried to emphasize in the 4e DMG is the idea of rewarding good ideas. If a PC does something sensible, clever, or imaginative, set a DC, think of what would happen on success or failure, and roll a die.

It felt like how I've always pictured my ideal version of D&D. As DM, I have full control over the rules, flexible mechanics I can fall back on in any situation, and a clear handle on the game. The players have clear rules, too, but they also approach the game as their characters, rather than as players looking to manipulate rules. Admittedly, part of that is this group (they're all good roleplayers), but I think the rules, particularly the DMG, do help foster that play style.

Anyway, we'll see in a few weeks if people agree with me.

Well I'm not rich but I could bribe you with offering to play a rogue (go go Trapfinding) and help you beta test the D&DI table. Besides, what's a group without the idiot who takes an Str 8 rogue and completely fails at her job by trying to defender up as much as possible, especially when the group already has two fighters?

Failing that, well, I hope your players keep being brilliant or one of them takes that Trapfinding-as-feat option you guys were talking about back in R&C. (Hint: I hope that didn't disappear.)
If I can goob about the game a little here, I felt like I had the best of the 2e/1e/basic D&D and 3e worlds. On one hand, I had a robust, flexible rule set, and on the other the players were thinking in-character about the trap, rather than looking at their skill lists or trying to figure out the mechanics behind the trap to beat it. One of the things we tried to emphasize in the 4e DMG is the idea of rewarding good ideas. If a PC does something sensible, clever, or imaginative, set a DC, think of what would happen on success or failure, and roll a die.

I like that.
more, More, MORE! please....

I love reading about people's adventures
He who should not speak...
I just finished that latest session of Temple of Elemental Evil. Before I recount it, here's an amusing (at least, to me) little anecdote of my game last night.

We were playing 4e, and I had one of my older dice bags because I have most of my dice at work. In the bag I found two d20s. One, a translucent orange one, was my main die back in my 1e/2e days. The other, a solid orange die, was from a set I bought for GenCon 2000, to use at the launch of Living Greyhawk.

Throughout the night, the translucent die rolled high whenever I tried crazy things, and the orange one gave me big rolls on mundane stuff.

For instance: I walk into a goblin camp, use Intimidate to convince them that I'm a spy that's been sent to report to them, and then leap into an attack. The translucent die gives me a 19 on the Intimidate check (success!), then a 15 and a 17 on my two attacks (chop, chop!).

Yet, whenever I tried a plain old, vanilla attack, I rolled three 1's.

So, I would like to think that my translucent die was made from petroleum products distilled from a reckless, crazy dinosaur, and it's happy whenever I do something that's a combination of risky and violent. Considering my character is a cross between Jayne Cobb and the Punisher, it fits him very well.

Anyway, in today's session the group learned that not all doors are meant to be open. Last week, they learned from the bandits that one of the robbers had found a passage leading to a network of rooms beneath the towers. On a dare, he delved into these rooms alone. Soon after, the bandits heard a series of sharp screams that came to a sudden and decisive end. Throwing caution to the wind, the characters decided to investigate these rooms for themselves.

The group descended a stone staircase and found a chapel and a clue to the bandit's fate. Fresh blood was streaked on the floor from the chapel's entrance to a side passage, as if something was killed and dragged on the floor here. Before the group could investigate, they came under attack from the temple's defenders. They fought several elemental creatures, including two statues that almost turned Kot the wizard to stone. The PCs faced skeletal dwarves that alternated between reckless attacks and cautious defense, two mud creatures that flung rock and thick, oozing mud to slow their enemies, and a small mote of wind energy that kicked up stinging dust and threw the PCs across the room with howling winds. After a long, hard fight, the characters won but had suffered many injuries.

Searching the room, the characters found a black, rock orb inlaid with silver streaks, and a suit of steel scale armor with Dwarven runes engraved in its shoulder guards. The orb is a magical implement that can extend a spell's duration, while the armor is of Dwarven make. It can heal its wearer's wounds once per day. The group also found a strange statuette of a roughly humanoid creature holding a blue rock above its head.

The group had four paths from the chapel:

1. Back to the surface (Keth made it clear he liked this option).
2. Through a portcullis (nobody wanted to go this way).
3. Through a pair of iron doors with leering demons carved on them. The trail of fresh blood ran from the temple to this door, a clear sign that the bandit who died here met his end in the temple and was dragged through this door. (not a popular pick, either).
4. Through a pair of wet, waterlogged doors bound in rusty iron.

The party chose door #4. With a mighty pull, Saman yanked the door open and allowed the completely submerged room on the other side to dump several thousand gallons of water on the PCs, blasting them off their feet.

When the group got their bearings, a strange, living mote of water surged from the water to attack, followed by a three skeletons armed with rusty swords and bows.

The water mote swirled through the group, crashing over its victims like a wave and leaving behind smaller shards of water that forced their way into a target's mouth, slowly drowning him. The creature knocked out Kot and Saman, with Kot almost drowning from the water motes swarming over him. Time and again, the party attempted to surround and trap it, but the creature would turn into liquid water, flow past their feet, and rise like a wave to attack from behind.

At one point, Saman chopped the creature in half, only to watch it split into two, smaller copies of itself, charge across the room, and batter Keth the warlock into near unconsciousness by striking from two sides at once.

Meanwhile, Marken fought off the skeletons with some help from Cornelius, whose turning attempt bought the party a precious round to focus on the rampaging water creature.

By the end of the fight, Kot was almost dead, Saman had been knocked out and revived, and Marken was barely standing. The party was thoroughly beaten, but not so badly hurt that they didn't take the time to enter the flooded chamber and search it thoroughly.

The interesting party of the fight was the water creature. I adapted a monster from the MM, changed its flavor, and used it as a simple elemental. The mechanics were one creature, but my description transformed it into an elemental. On a mechanical end, I only changed some damage types. It worked out well, and I think that's something I'll focus more on in the future.

The fight worked out much as I intended it. The water creature rampaged through the room, attacking a PC of its choice though sometimes taking attacks from the fighter to do so. The skeletals were caught in a bottleneck, the doorway into the room, but their presence forced at least two characters to hold them back while the rest of the party dealt with the far more dangerous elemental. Turn undead proved very useful, as it pushed the undead back and allowed Marken to set up in the hallway and hold back the undead by himself for a few rounds.

With the portcullis and the demon doors standing before them, the group is not sure where to go, and the "safety" of the surface provides a tempting alternative. However, something killed one of the bandits and dragged his bleeding corpse though the demon doors. There's no promise that retreating now is the safest option...
Wow. Just.... wow! Thanks for sharing that!
I enjoy the description of how you adapt creatures and monsters for your campaign. It gives good insight on what we can hope to do in our own campaigns.
Ditto!

Though my curiosity is getting the best of me and I have a couple of questions:

First, the 'waterlogged doors bound in rusty iron' (I love it!), did you set this up as a trap, or use a similar mechanic? The idea of a deluge of water pouring from the waterlogged door is very cinimatic, and I'm curious how you portrayed it in game. Did the players have a chance to open it without negative effect? Did you even bother with any negative effects/results to begin with?

Second, the water mote; The effect of cutting it in two only to have the separate haves continue to attack, descriptively I've done the same thing, freaking the PCs out a bit, yet all the time playing the creature mechanically as the same, single entity it was to begin with (I felt it was quite thematic at the time). The question: In this case was it just you being descriptive and spicing up the encounter, or is there an ability (mechanic) behind this occurance?

Either way I'm enjoying the read and finding your adventure quite thematic, cinematic, and entertaining! Keep'r up! ;)
He who should not speak...
1. The PCs could've figured out what was going on with Dungeoneering checks and deduction, but that went out the window when Saman walked up to the door and pulled it open with a Strength check of 23. :D

2. The critter has an ability built into it. It pretty much works as you describe, except it halved its hit points between the two of them.

Glad everyone is enjoying the recaps. One of my players told me that he likes the Gygaxian, 1e feel of the campaign, and I took that as a compliment of the first order. It's what I'm shooting for, and I'm glad to see it come through.
Today's session saw the characters finally open the strange, metal doors emblazoned with demonic faces. Beyond, they found something that boggled their minds: a beautiful chamber with walls and floor of pearly, white marble. A rectangular pool of clear water stood in the center of the chamber, surrounded by four statues of nymphs bearing water jugs. Red and blue silk tapestries hung from the walls, while the soothing melodies of a harp echoed from the chamber.

To the right, across from the pool, stood a canopied bed with white, silken sheets. A pregnant, beautiful women with honey blonde hair and golden skin slept on the bed.

As the party wondered at this sight, Kot and Saman slipped into a slouching, dream-like state. They shuffled toward the pool, despite Saman and Cornelius' best efforts. As they reached the pool, skeletons burst from its waters to claw at the adventurers. Corenlius drew forth his holy symbol of Boccob and channeled energy to turn the undead. As he did so, the beams of divine light burned away the illusions that draped the room.

Pearly marble gave way to dour, gray stone. The pool shimmered and disappeared, revealing a pit filled with human bones. The bed transformed into a moth eaten wreck, while the slumbering woman shifted into a gray-skinned hag clutching a human leg bone with chunks of bloody flesh still clinging to it. Her belly squirmed and shifted with a pulpy, rending crackle. A demonic child ripped itself from the folds in her flesh and snarled at the party.

The hag threw the bone aside and lept to her feet. "My lord Iuz sends me more fresh meat. His child shall dine well this day!"

At that point, we rolled for initiative.

This was a long, knock-down brawl. A ghost emerged from one of the statues to attack the PCs, while a skeletal giant crawled from the pit to attack. The party lucked out a little in that Cornelius' turning attempt destroyed the minions in the pool.

The hag was a particularly vicious foe. While she tore her victims to pieces with her claws, the child fused to her stomach cast lightning bolts and hurled spheres of radiance at the party, tossing them aside like rag dolls with each concussive blast. At one point, Kot and Cornelius were stuck next to the hag and her skeleton giant, while the two fighters were blasted almost back to the door.

After several rounds of hard fighting, the party had piled nearly a hundred points of damage on to the hag. Cornelius was down, Marken was down, Saman had less than 7 hit points left, and Kot was bloodied. The party was out of encounter powers, dailies, and action points.

Throwing caution to the wind, Kot shifted forward, just beyond the grasp of the skeletal giant that had nearly chased him out of the room, and threw a spell at the hag.

And missed.

But, the spell had the effect of conjuring a field of force energy that did a whopping 3 points of damage on the target's next turn. As luck would have it, the hag's turn was next, she took the 3 points, and fell to the ground.

Her body turned black as the child within her drained what little life forced remained within her while draining the necromantic energy from the ghost and the giant. For a moment it levitated into the air, called out to Iuz, and then teleported away in a concussive blast of energy that nearly dropped Saman.

And so the party (barely) survived.

From a design point of view, this was a really, really hard fight. I decided to even things up by letting the party win solely by slaying the Bride of Iuz. On her death, the child she carried drained the undead of energy to teleport to safety.

The characters are now fairly certain that they have angered arguably the most powerful evil being on the planet. On the other hand, the caravan arrived safely at the towers, and a treasure chest at the foot of the bed contained several hundred gold and two healing potions. This, along with a magical suit of armor and a magical holy symbol the PCs found in the water temple, proved to be quite haul. Let's see how long they survive to enjoy it...
Monsieur Mearls, just a question like that - why Temple of Elemental Evil and not another adventure? Old-school classicism? The quantity of fights to fine test the battle system? Just a random idea like that?
Monsieur Mearls, just a question like that - why Temple of Elemental Evil and not another adventure? Old-school classicism? The quantity of fights to fine test the battle system? Just a random idea like that?

Part of it is classicism, since I love the original. I also love elemental themed monsters, and running a 4e game in Greyhawk sounded like fun.

Back when we playtested, we did convert a few classic adventures specifically to see if the "feel" of D&D carried over to the new game. James Wyatt ran Dwellers of the Forbidden City, and I ran an adventure using the sample dungeon from the 1e DMG.

- Mike
Mister Mearls

Please keep the reports coming, they help me to relieve my trauma of not having 4th edition in my hands!

Regards
Mister Mearls

Please keep the reports coming, they help me to relieve my trauma of not having 4th edition in my hands!

Regards

Seconded!
Simply amazing. I hope that maybe we will be able to see a write up of your adaventure Mr. Mearls so we at home can play and almost/deffinitly kill our partys.
Mr. Mearls,

Thanks for the write-up: seeing how a game of 4e plays is really interesting. . . as well as a bit reassuring that it still plays like D&D, and not Final Fantasy Tactics. Not that there's anything wrong with that, as I'd CRAVE an FFT roleplaying game and enjoy it immensely. . . but I digress.

One question.

As the party wondered at this sight, Kot and Saman slipped into a slouching, dream-like state. They shuffled toward the pool, despite Saman and Cornelius' best efforts. As they reached the pool, skeletons burst from its waters to claw at the adventurers. Corenlius drew forth his holy symbol of Boccob and channeled energy to turn the undead. As he did so, the beams of divine light burned away the illusions that draped the room.

I'm a bit curious about the mechanics of how this took place: Was it an actual power used by the hag, or was it a terrain hazard? Did the PCs have a chance to resist this (saving throws or attacks vs. Will) or was it DM fiat? Finally, how did the whole "slouching and shuffling towards the pool" work out: an old-edition type, "DM says you do it, and you can't help yourself," or more of the "Okay, your Will defense is 18, and she rolled a 20, so now you slide five feet every round until you successfully save," type thing?

I know the game isn't out yet, so details won't be forthcoming, but I'm mostly interested in how much of the illusion and mind control was in the monster/encounter stat block, and how much was DM discretion.
I'm a bit curious about the mechanics of how this took place: Was it an actual power used by the hag, or was it a terrain hazard? Did the PCs have a chance to resist this (saving throws or attacks vs. Will) or was it DM fiat? Finally, how did the whole "slouching and shuffling towards the pool" work out: an old-edition type, "DM says you do it, and you can't help yourself," or more of the "Okay, your Will defense is 18, and she rolled a 20, so now you slide five feet every round until you successfully save," type thing?

I know the game isn't out yet, so details won't be forthcoming, but I'm mostly interested in how much of the illusion and mind control was in the monster/encounter stat block, and how much was DM discretion.

I ran it as a very simple trap, and gave it an XP value for a minion. The trap attacked the PCs' Will defenses, and on a hit the characters were ensorcelled. There was no save to end it - instead, it ended when a PC was attacked.

I had the players roll initiative. On their turns, the charmed PCs simply moved forward. The non-charmed guys had a chance to try and stop them by grabbing them, but that didn't work out so well.
I ran it as a very simple trap, and gave it an XP value for a minion. The trap attacked the PCs' Will defenses, and on a hit the characters were ensorcelled. There was no save to end it - instead, it ended when a PC was attacked.

I had the players roll initiative. On their turns, the charmed PCs simply moved forward. The non-charmed guys had a chance to try and stop them by grabbing them, but that didn't work out so well.

Makes sense. Thanks

Holy crap, that was wild. And twisted. I can't wait to see what you come up with next.
I am curious how such a devious mind might have stocked H1 encounters.

:evillaugh
Part of it is classicism, since I love the original. I also love elemental themed monsters, and running a 4e game in Greyhawk sounded like fun.

Back when we playtested, we did convert a few classic adventures specifically to see if the "feel" of D&D carried over to the new game. James Wyatt ran Dwellers of the Forbidden City, and I ran an adventure using the sample dungeon from the 1e DMG.

- Mike

Oh, I see... Cool then.

Keep it coming!
How did the Warlock Keth join the party, and what is his(?) adventure hook?
I am curious how such a devious mind might have stocked H1 encounters.

:evillaugh

-Right!!!


18D;)

HAND OF KARSUS!

 

 

How did the Warlock Keth join the party, and what is his(?) adventure hook?

Keth is played by Steve Montano, a WotC employee in the finance department. He had a to miss a few sessions because of work, errands, and a few other things.

Keth is a tiefling warlock and a spy in service to Furyondy. He was sent to investigate Lord Geldon, and infiltrated the bandit gang in an attempt to figure out what is in the caravan that is so important to the Lord.

When the PCs attacked the towers, he betrayed the bandits and joined the group. He's the voice of reason in the party, in that he'd rather not stick his head into dangerous, monster-filled rooms.
Keth is a tiefling warlock and a spy in service to Furyondy. He was sent to investigate Lord Geldon, and infiltrated the bandit gang in an attempt to figure out what is in the caravan that is so important to the Lord.

Thanks for the info. Everyone else had such a good adventure hook, and it was bugging me not knowing.

When the PCs attacked the towers, he betrayed the bandits and joined the group. He's the voice of reason in the party, in that he'd rather not stick his head into dangerous, monster-filled rooms.

There always has to be a spoil-sport, doesn't there? ;)
Here's a quick recap of yesterday's session:

Having cleared the temple beneath the towers, the characters headed back upstairs for some well-deserved rest. As the hours rolled by, the rain outside grew heavier and heavier. Dark clouds gathered above, smothering the light of both moon and star. Finally, the caravan Lord Geldon sent them to protect came into view.

(At this point, without telling the players, I started a skill challenge.)

The caravan consisted of three wagons. Only two soldiers mounted on horses guarded it. A tiefling clad in thick robes rode on the lead wagon. He introduced himself as Xarn, and thanked the PCs for slaying the bandits.

At this point, Xarn managed to pique the characters' suspicions. The caravan was at best poorly guarded (successful Int check by the fighters backed this up). Xarn was seemingly irate at the characters' questions particularly when it came to the contents of the wagons (successful Insight checks), while the guards were clearly eager to recruit the PCs' help (more Insight checks).

The PCs talked Xarn into allowing them to help guard the caravan, mainly by indirectly applying pressure on him through the guards (successful Diplomacy checks) to complete the challenge. The interesting thing to me was that everything flowed through roleplay, with the occasional skill check. The players never knew I was running a skill challenge, but from my side of the screen the mechancis worked out fine to determine if Xarn would let them come along.

As the caravan headed to Hommlett, the characters tried to figure out what was in the wagons, but poor rolling (and the always... scattered... Corenlius) prevented them from learning too much. They did notice that the middle wagon was heavily laden with gear, moreso than the other two wagons.

Saman rode point as the group came to a small ruin at the side of the road. He paused for a moment, felt a strange, shrieking noise in his head, and cried in pain as he came under a psychic assault. Five whispy motes of psionic energy swarmed around him, battering his body and mind.

The party raced forward and swiftly dispatched the strange spirits, yet as they were engaged in the fight they heard the horrible scream of the two mounted guards. Some strange being of darkness and claws emerged from the night, killed the pair, and made a beeline for Xarn.

The PCs turned to attack the thing, but arrived too late to save poor Xarn. The creature hissed and howled at them as they fought, and when Kot landed the killing spell it shrieked in pain, turned into a sphere of grey mist, and rocketed away in the direction of Hommlett.

While the characters caught their breath, Saman realized that the thing they fought was a soul eater, a creature of shadow summoned by a mage to track and slay a specific creature. Worse yet, the soul eater tears secrets from its victim. Whoever sent it targeted Xarn and whatever he knew. However, the party does have one useful lead - a "slain" soul eater is not actually killed, but merely forced back to the Shadowfell for a time. Before it returns to its home, it tracks its summoner master to exact its revenge. If someone in Hommlett summoned the soul eater, the characters need only look for the signs of a recent battle.

That's where we ended the session.

The really interesting thing, to me, is how nice the one hour format is for planning ahead. I had no idea if the party would save Xarn or if they could even link up with the caravan. In a four hour session, I'd have to think on my feet to adjust things or have some ideas of the possible outcomes.

With only an hour, we play through a scene or two, and the results of that speak directly to my planning for the next session. I'm never doing more than a scene or two of planning ahead, which makes the story more coherent while also allowing the PCs' actions to be the real drivers of things.
Hey Mike,

I'm curious how you guys are handling XP for this adventure. Just take care of it when the characters get to a town or city, or award it at the end of each session? I'm also intrigued as to who is playing each character.