Justin Alexander's Comprehensive KOTS Kitbashing

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This thread is being used to repost a series of short essays originally posted to my website, The Alexandrian, which discuss Keep on the Shadowfell.

IMAGE(http://www.thealexandrian.net/images/20080525.jpg)




These essays start with my initial response to the module, work their way through prep, and will eventually continue with the results of multiple playtests I have planned over the next couple weeks.

Why am I posting them here? Because I think they might be of interest.

The essays are:

First Impressions
First Impressions (With Spoilers)
The Last of the First Impressions
Analyzing Design - The Dwarf Fighter
Analyzing Design - Traps
Analyzing Design - Remixing the Chamber of Statues
Analyzing Design - Rotten Cherubs (and continued here)

Remixing KOTS - Kobolds
Remixing KOTS - The Kobold Lair
Remixing KOTS - Bonus: Slyblade Hunter
Remixing KOTS - Arriving in Winterhaven
Remixing KOTS - On the Street in Winterhaven
Remixing KOTS - Winterhaven NPCs
Remixing KOTS - Winterhaven Developments
Remixing KOTS - Cultists in Winterhaven
Remixing KOTS - The Ruined Keep
Remixing KOTS - Kalarel's Ritual and the Dragon Burial Site
Remixing KOTS - The Three Clue Rule

Playtesting 4th Edition
Playtesting KOTS - The Kobold Lair
Playtesting KOTS - Running It a Second Time

Campaign Journal 1

With more to come. Comments are more than welcome.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS



For several months now my plan for 4th Edition has been to run the preview adventure -- Keep on the Shadowfell -- for my regular D&D group. My goal is to approach that experience with a completely open mind, see how it goes, and then use it to decide whether or not to spend the money on the core rulebooks. My current campaign, set in Ptolus, would stay 3rd Edition in any case. But if 4th Edition convinces me to make switch, then I'd probably use it for my next campaign.

A couple of days ago my copy of the module arrived from Amazon. I've now read through it, and have a few thoughts to share. So, on that note...

(1) The production values of the module are disappointing. It has a cover price of $30 and Amazon had been advertising it as a hardcover. It isn't. Two flimsy pamphlets and three poster maps are packaged in a lightweight cardboard folder. And when I say "flimsy pamphlet" I mean flimsy. The paper is of a lighter weight than that previously used in Dragon and Dungeon magazine and the "covers" of the pamphlets are of the exact same paper. I am extraordinarily gentle with my reading material, and after a single reading the ink is already being rubbed off the edge of one "cover". Frankly, I will be shocked if these last through a single session.

The poster maps are pretty nifty, although they follow the current WotC style of fetishizing light sources. Everything seems to glow: Walls, ceilings, furniture. These poster maps are lovingly rendered with computer graphics -- but they have no reality to them.

(2) The writing in the Quick Start Rules is abominably bad. For anyone who hasn't been played a roleplaying game before, the content here is completely inadequate for teaching them how to actually play the game. On the other hand, the writer has chosen to address the reader as if they had no idea what an RPG was. So the newbie isn't helped and the experienced player feels like they're being talked down to... who exactly is the target audience supposed to be for this pablum?

(3) The pregenerated characters, instead of being included on separate sheets (which the folder format would have allowed) are instead found at the back of the Quick Start Rules. This makes no sense.

(4) This may have been previously known, but it was the first time I realized that saving throws have a 55% chance of success instead of a 50% chance of success. (Instead of failing on 1-10 and succeeding on 11-20, they fail on 1-9 and succeed on 10-20.) I have no idea why they chose to do it that way.

(5) I am still annoyed that they undid 3rd Edition's fix to the critical hit mechanics.

(6) The streamlined actions (standard/move/minor/free) are nice to see, along with the accompanying simplification of the rules for charging and running. I think they were right to conclude that the complexity of full actions wasn't giving much in return. And I think replacing the concept of a 5-foot step with the idea of a "shift" (which doesn't provoke an AoO but does require a move action) also simplifies the flow of combat.

(7) It is completely impossible to play 4th Edition without miniatures. Unlike every previous version of the game (including 3rd Edition), the game literally does not function without a grid. I typically use miniatures, but this still annoys me.

(You will probably still hear people talk about how 4th Edition can be played without miniatures. But given the sheer number of abilities which are only useful because they allow for very precise movement on the combat grid, this is roughly akin to claiming that you can play Chess without a board. While it's true, it's only because you're explicitly imagining the board in your head. In 3rd Edition this wasn't the case: When I played without miniatures in 3rd Edition, I was imagining the game world and then using the mechanics -- which were all based on real-world measurements -- to adjudicate. The 3.5 revision weakened that connection somewhat by using squares as the default terminology, but the underlying mechanics of 3.0 were still essentially unchanged. 4th Edition embraces the grid completely and irrevocably.)

(8) The fact that you lose unspent action points when you take an extended rest reminds me of this blog post at Rampant Games. It's a mechanic that encourages players to push on without rest... unless, of course, they've expended all their accumulated action points. (However, I have been informed that you can only spend one action point per encounter. This rule doesn't appear in the Quick Start Rules, but if it's true then it obviates this advantage of the system entirely.)

(9) Contrary to the designers' claims, however, I doubt that the 15-minute adventuring day is going anywhere. This was inevitable, of course, because the 15-minute adventuring day had nothing to do with the system (except insofar as the system features daily-based spike powers) and everything to do with DMing style.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS (WITH SPOILERS)



SPOILER WARNING
The following thoughts contain minor spoilers for Keep on the Shadowfell. If you don't want to be spoiled, don't read it. And if you're in my gaming group then you definitely shouldn't be reading it.

You have been fairly warned.
THUS ENDETH THE SPOILER WARNING...

(10) The editing is atrocious. I can only hope they do a better job with the actual core rulebooks. For example, I'm pretty sure that the Empire of Nerath and the Empire of Nareth are actually the same thing.

(11) Unfortunately, these types of gratuitous errors aren't limited to the fluff content. The rules are also riddled with errors. For example, the quick start rules define two types of cover: Normal Cover and Superior Cover. These are naturally referred to in various places throughout the adventure: A treeline or a boulder or a piece of furniture will either grant normal cover or it will grant superior cover.

Unfortunately, some obstacles will also grant "cover" -- which is neither "normal cover" nor "superior cover". I'm guessing that I'm supposed to interpret "cover" as being "normal cover", but when you take the trouble to define a precise technical term then you should make the effort to actually use the precise technical terms you've defined.

(12) Other rules aren't explained properly. For example, when describing the rules for handling a pit trap, the module states "if a bull rush forces a creature into the pit, it can immediately attempt a saving throw to avoid going over the edge". Fair enough. But I've been led to understand from other sources that this is true for any type of forced movement that would cause a character to suffer falling damage. Almost all of the pregen PCs, in fact, have forced movement abilities. Why didn't they include the complete rule?

(13) Another example: Upon first reading the Quick Start Rules, I was annoyed by the fact that a dying character was doomed to die unless someone helped them. According to the Quick Start Rules, a dying character must make a saving throw each round. If they succeed, their condition stays the same. If they fail three times, however, they die. Apparently, I thought, no one ever wakes up on their own after being knocked unconscious in 4th Edition Land.

I have since been led to understand that, in other preview material, the full rule has been revealed: If you roll a natural 20 on your saving throw, you wake up with one-quarter your hit points. Why on earth wasn't that sentence included?

(14) Several NPCs in the adventure use rules (like the recharge rules and aura rules) which are never explained. This, frankly, is completely inexcusable in an introductory product.

(15) Making the rules even more confusing is the fact that there are actually two sets of Quick Start Rules: One for the players and another for the DM. At first I thought this was a practical piece of utilitarian design: The DM can have a copy of the rules for easy reference and so can the players.

But then I discovered that they were actually two different sets of Quick Start Rules. And for reasons beyond my comprehension, the player's Quick Start Rules don't include a lot of the rules the players will need to play their characters. (For example, they don't even include all of the rules necessary to understand the abilities on the pregenerated character sheets.)

So, for me, the entire player's Quick Start Rules packet is useless: I'll be xeroxing the pregenerated characters out of it (so that they can actually be used) and I'll be xeroxing the DM's Quick Start Rules so that my players will actually have the rules they need to play the game.

(16) The first two encounters in the adventure use the exact same map and the exact same concept (kobolds ambush the party while they're traveling on the road). The sense of deja vu was palpable even as I was reading it. I can only imagine the experience at the game table will be moreso.

What makes this design even more ridiculous is that the second ambush on the road doesn't make sense. The first ambush happens while the PCs are on their way to the village of Winterhaven. The second is supposed to happen shortly after they leave it. But after leaving Winterhaven, the adventure assumes the PCs will go to one of two locations: Either a dragon burial site or the kobold lair.

Neither of these locations lie on the road. The most direct route from Winterhaven to either location is, in fact, directly through the wilderness. So why does the adventure assume you'll be able to (essentially) reuse the ambush-on-the-road scenario when the PCs won't be on a road?

(17) "The tall hobgoblin calls to the others in Common: 'Don't kill 'em. We can sell 'em to the Bloodreavers as slaves.'"

This is apparently a bit of foreshadowing for H2 Thunderspire Labyrinth. Pity they didn't include any rules for dealing nonlethal damage.

(18) The skill challenges in this adventure are particularly lackluster. In particular, they continue to demonstrate the same railroading qualities that the sample posted to WotC's website did. It's possible that this is merely because this is an introductory adventure, but it certainly didn't do much to convince me that the core rulebooks are going to resolve any of the problems I have with the mechanics WotC has shown us.

(19) Speaking of skill challenges, let's talk about Sir Keegan. Sir Keegan was the last commander of the keep before being driven mad by the emanations of the Shadowfell Rift. In his madness he killed his wife and his closest friends before the garrison of the keep turned on him, drove him into the dungeons beneath the keep, and sealed the entrance behind him. In the dungeons, Sir Keegan regained his sanity and, overcome with remorse, poisoned himself. He somehow ended up as a sentient undead skeleton (the details here are vague), and dedicated himself to making sure that the Shadowfell Rift was never open.

Now, bearing that story in mind, consider how the PCs will encounter Sir Keegan for the first time:

The raised dais in this old crypt holds a single coffin. Carved on the lid of the coffin is a warrior in plate armor with a sword laid across his chest, the point toward his feet. The heavy coffin lid explodes in a flurry of dust. A humanoid skeleton girded in plate armor rises from the cloud. It holds aloft a longsword. "The rift must never be opened!" it croaks. "State your business, or prepare to die!"

Wow. Dramatic.

But let's take a moment and analyze this: Who, exactly, built this crypt for him? Did he just decide to have one built for himself on the off-chance he might need it in the event that he would be driven insane, go on a murderous rampage, and then be trapped in the dungeons beneath the keep by his own men?

Well, perhaps Sir Keegan was a master stone-carver. And, after being trapped in the dungeons without any food, quickly chiseled out a crypt for himself before poisoning himself. And, naturally, after dedicating himself to making sure that the rift was never opened again he would just seal himself inside that crypt and never emerge... even while cultists set up shop next door and begin working to open the rift.

Makes perfect sense... right?

Okay, setting those problems aside, let's turn our attention to the meat of this encounter: The social skill challenge that Sir Keegan triggers. A social skill challenge that will result in brilliant conversational gems like this one:

KEEGAN: You wear a fearsome demeanor. Are you really as formidable as you look?

PC: Yup!

KEEGAN: Awesome. Well, in that case I totally believe that you're here to stop the cultists. Would you like my magic sword?

... sound kinda cheesy? Well, perhaps you'll prefer this one:

KEEGAN: If you trust your senses not to betray you, tell me what you see before you.

PC: Umm... a dead guy standing in the remains of his crypt?

KEEGAN: Wow! You've got keen eyes! With eyes like those you must be here to stop the cultists. Would you like my magic sword?

Seriously. I'm not even kidding around. Keegan's first bit of dialogue in each example is lifted straight from the module, as is the suggested skill check. In order to succeed at this social skill challenge, the PCs have to make four successful skill checks before failing at four skill checks, with each skill check representing a Q&A exchange. (The PCs can also decide to go with straight up Diplomacy and/or Bluff checks if they prefer.)

(20) They finally fixed the encounter format they pioneered in the waning days of 3rd Edition. They're still using the useful and easy-to-access two-page spread for each encounter, but rather than splitting crucial information across two different locations (by having a keyed description in one place and the encounter information in another), they're using the encounter format for each keyed area.

I note, however, that the format requires every last square inch of a dungeon to be covered by an encounter. I suspect they consider this a feature: "After all," they'll say, "An empty room is a boring room."

But, of course, just because a room doesn't have a monster or a trap in it doesn't mean that it's empty or boring. More importantly, if the PCs know that there's going to be something exciting behind every single door that they kick in, it rather lessens the moment of anticipation.

The other thing I'll note about the new format is that the designers made a big deal in their pre-release publicity about how 4th Edition would be featuring multi-room encounters. I guess this is sort of true, but the only thing that's really changed is that they're drawing their arbitrary "monsters won't go past this point" lines in slightly different ways. I doubt I'll be seeing any meaningful difference in play, since my 3rd Edition campaigns already feature multi-room running battles on a regular basis. This is another one of those areas where my experience seems to have been considerably at odds with the "common wisdom".

But we'll see what happens in actual gameplay. It would actually be pretty awesome if I was totally surprised.

THE LAST OF THE FIRST IMPRESSIONS



My overall impression with the plot and structure of the adventure can be pretty much summed up with this: I kept flipping back to the credits page to convince myself that Mike Mearls and Bruce Cordell were actually responsible for this.

Bruce Cordell, for example, also wrote the inaugural module for 3rd Edition: The Sunless Citadel. The Sunless Citadel was a piece de resistance. I've played it once and ran it twice and I consider it one of the best D&D modules ever written.

Keep on the Shadowfell, on the other hand, seems rather lifeless and predictable. It's a paint-by-numbers D&D adventure.

Generic Fantasy Village #1 (a.k.a. Winterhaven) is lifeless, filled with cardboard cut-outs who are scripted with quests as if they were stock pieces lifted from Ye Local CRPG.

The Generic Goblin Encounters are uninspiring: Ambush. Guards. Barracks. Boss. Repeat.

Fight zombies in underground crypt. Fight skeletons in graveyard.

Fight Evil Priest in Demon Fane.

And I know that these are all classic archetypes that get used all the time. Heck, I'm using some of them right now in my Ptolus campaign. But you can use classic archetypes and breathe fresh life into them and you can use classic archetypes and end up with bland cardboard.

My impression of Keep on the Shadowfell, having read through it, is one of bland cardboard.

But this puts me in something of an awkward position. I still want to use Keep on the Shadowfell as a test run for 4th Edition, but I've only got one of two options:

(1) Run the adventure as written, despite the fact that I think there are fundamental adventure design problems that largely have nothing to do with the 4th Edition ruleset.

(2) Try to redesign the adventure.

The problem with option one is that the design problems could end up poisoning the well. If the session flops, is that because 4th Edition is a flop? Or does it just mean that the adventure isn't any good?

The problem with option two is that I don't actually know 4th Edition. If I go in and start mucking around with the encounter designs, I could very easily end up unwittingly sabotaging things that make 4th Edition fun to play in ways that 3rd Edition isn't. In other words, I could end up inadvertently obviating the entire point of the exercise.

So I think what I'll probably end up doing is something like a remix of the module: Leave the encounter design alone, but go in and futz around with the fluff text. Give the adventure a stronger backbone and a richer mythology. Flesh out Winterhaven to give it some unique character and depth. Maybe add a few more encounters to make the threat posed by the Keep a little more real and pervasive.

We'll see how that goes. I'll post an update once I've actually run the playtest. (Which, unfortunately, may not be for a couple more weeks. We had originally scheduled it for May 24th. But then the release date was pushed back and I didn't actually get the module until May 22nd, so that was out of the question.)

ANALYZING DESIGN - DWARF FIGHTER



I thought I was done talking about Keep on the Shadowfell for a bit, but as I was prepping the adventure yesterday I had some interesting thoughts that I felt like sharing. These should give you some insight not only into how I go about prepping an adventure, but also how I analyze game design issues (both in the design of the system and in the design of the scenario).

IMAGE(http://www.thealexandrian.net/images/20080528.jpg)



Let's start by looking at the pregenerated fighter character. As most of you probably already know, there are basically three different kinds of abilities in 4th Edition: At-will abilities (which can be used as often as you like); Encounter abilities (which require a short rest to recharge); and Daily abilities (which require an extended rest to recharge).

(Some at-will abilities will also recharge irregularly or in response to conditions on the battlefield.)

I've been kinda thinking of these different abilities like this: At-will abilities are the ones which define your character; encounter abilities are nifty; and daily abilities are awesome.

With that in mind, let's take a look at the at-will abilities that the pregenerated dwarf fighter has at 1st level: Cleave and reaping strike.

CLEAVE - Fighter Attack 1
You hit one enemy, then cleave into another.
At-Will - Martial, Weapon
Standard Action - Melee weapon
Target: One creature
Attack: +6 vs. AC
Hit: 2d6+3 damage, and an enemy adjacent to you takes 3 damage.

REAPING STRIKE - Fighter Attack 1
You punctuate your scything attacks with wicked jabs and small cutting blows that slip through your enemy's defenses.
At-Will - Martial, Weapon
Standard Action - Melee weapon
Target: One creature
Attack: +6 vs. AC
Hit: 2d6+3 damage
Miss: 3 damage

I'm very impressed by the ways in which the utility of these abilities interlock with each other.

First, there is the obvious situational advantage: Cleave is going to be preferable when you're standing in the middle of a minion mob; reaping strike is going to be useful when you're facing off against a single opponent.

But, there's also another trade-off point that happens because reaping strike is more useful than cleave when an opponent becomes sufficiently difficult to hit. Here's the math:

The average expected damage per round for cleave is:

(3.5 + 3.5 + 3 + 3 = 13) x probability to hit + (0 x probability to miss)



The average expected damage per round for reaping strike is:

(3.5 + 3.5 + 3 = 10) x probability to hit + (3 x probability to miss)



If the probability to hit is 50/50, for example, then you end up with cleave doing an average of (13 x 50%) 6.5 points of damage per round and reaping strike doing an average (10 * 50% + 3 * 50%) 6.5 points of damage per round.

So if my math here is correct, reaping strike is going to deal more damage to your opponents in any situation where you have to roll a natural 12 or higher to hit. (With a slight hiccup because minions aren't affected by missed attack damage like reaping strike.)

On the one hand, I'm impressed by how two distinctive fighting styles emerge quite naturally out of these probabilities. When you're using cleave you're swinging away like wild because your significantly superior to your opponents (you have a 50/50 or better shot of hitting them); in the other you're performing a variety of jabs and cutting blows against a more skilled opponent, trying to find the weakest spots in his defense.

On the other hand, I'm impressed because of the meaningful tactical choice that these interlocking utilities give you. Either utility, by itself, doesn't constitute a meaningful tactical choice: If one ability is merely better against multiple opponents and the other is better against solitary opponents, there's no meaningful choice to be made. If you're fighting multiple opponents you'd use cleave and if you're fighting a single opponent you'd use reaping strike.

Similarly, if one ability was merely better against difficult-to-hit opponents and the other was better against easy-to-hit opponents, there's no meaningful choice to be made. If you're fighting difficult-to-hit opponents you'll use reaping strike and if you're fighting easy-to-hit opponents you'd use cleave.

But once you combine the two, meaningful choices emerge. There will still be times when the decision basically boils down to running the math and figuring out what your best expected damage is, but in most situations involving multiple foes you'll actually be making a meaningful choice about what your immediate goal is and how you want to pursue it. (I also have a fair degree of confidence that, as tactical choices proliferate at higher levels, these choices will become increasingly non-trivial.)

Now, there is one caveat to this, which is that the minion rules pretty much muck it up.[i

For one example of this, let's look at reaping strike: Because minions never suffer damage from missed attacks, reaping strike is completely useless against minions. So if you're trying to hit a minion, there will never be any conceivable benefit to using reaping strike. The tactical choice has once again been rendered completely moot.

On other hand, if minions were damaged -- and, thus, killed -- by missed attacks, the tactical choice between cleave and reaping strike is meaningful: Do you use reaping strike for a guaranteed kill on one minion or do you use cleave for a chance to kill two minions? It becomes a trivial decision when you're only facing off against a single minion, of course (since cleave has no advantage over reaping strike) -- but that's true of any situation when you're facing off against a single opponent and minions are designed to come in large numbers.

(Of course, this change would make reaping strike more effective on average. And I hardly know enough about the complete panoply of 4th Edition abilities to know what other effects such a change might have.)

But, overall, these are well-designed abilities that give rise to a well-designed character. It'll be interesting to see what the other 1st level fighter abilities are and how they interact with cleave and reaping strike.

ANALYZING DESIGN - TRAPS



TRAPS IN 4th EDITION



One of the features of 4th Edition that has been widely touted in WotC's promotional material have been the new trap design focusing on active traps. Basically, the argument is made that traditional traps either (a) suck up a lot of time because they encourage players to make constant Search checks; (b) are nothing more than random dice rolls that deal out arbitrary damage; and/or (c) focus the spotlight on the player of the rogue while everyone else sits around twiddling their thumbs. The new 4th Edition-style traps will allow everyone in the party to participate in overcoming the trap.

This seems like a laudable goal, but the actual examples we were given turned out to be fairly lackluster. They still required skill checks to detect them. They were slightly more interactive than a simple pit trap, but were pretty tame compared to some of the stuff we saw in the Book of Challenges (a 3rd Edition supplement that came out back in 2002), Traps & Treachery (a D20 supplement from Fantasy Flight Games that came out in 2001), or Grimtooth's Traps (an entire line of supplements that date back to 1981).

(Which ties into one of the reasons I've been perpetually turned off by the 4th Edition preview material. They seem to be constantly shouting about how they've reinvented the wheel. I like wheels as much as the next guy, but when somebody asks me to get excited about them I tend to get turned off by the fake enthusiasm.)

As for the effort to make traps into something that everybody can take part in, that seems to have boiled down to: The rogue makes a lot of skill checks and, if that doesn't work, then everybody else can beat the crap out of it.

For example, here's the countermeasures for the Whirling Blades trap (the first example of their "innovative" 4th Edition traps):

- A character can engage in a skill challenge to deactivate the control panel. DC 22 Thievery. Complexity 2 (6 successes before 3 failures). Success disables the trap. Failure causes the whirling blades to act twice in the round (roll a second initiative for the trap).

- A character can attack the whirling blades contraption (AC 16, other defenses 13; hp 55; resist 5 all) or the control panel (AC 14, other defenses 11; hp 35; resist 5 all). Destroying either disables the entire trap.

Color me unimpressed. I mean, there's nothing wrong with that. But when you claim that one of the fundamental gameplay elements of D&D for the past 30+ years have "rarely had a positive effect on the game", then the examples you give of "fixing" the "problem" probably shouldn't look exactly like the stuff we've been seeing in our D&D supplements for the past 30+ years.

THE CHAMBER OF STATUES

IMAGE(http://www.thealexandrian.net/images/20080529.jpg)



Keep on the Shadowfell has a few traps: There's a bog standard pit trap. There are some runes that cause characters to flee in panic. And then there's Area 16: The Chamber of Statues.

The Chamber of Statues is a two-part trap, but I'm only going to be talking about the first part. In this section there are three statues, starting with a large titan statue in the middle of the room which acts like a monster. On its initiative it uses its sweeping blow ability:

SWEEPING BLOW (standard; at will)
Close burst 3; +11 vs. AC against all non-Evil creatures in burst; 1d6+6 damage, and the target is knocked prone

In other words, the titan statue picks a square in either its own space or immediately adjacent to its space. That square is the center of an 7-square by 7-square area. It then makes an attack against all non-Evil creatures within that area.

The titan statue is accompanied by two dragon statues, each of which use a force breath ability:

FORCE BREATH (standard; at will)
Close blast 5; +7 vs. Reflex; 1d6+6 force damage, and the target is pushed 3 squares

In other words, if you try to circle around the titan statue's reach the dragon statues will hit you with their force breath and push you back towards the titan statue. It's a simple dynamic, but it has a lot of potential to be fun in play. Unfortunately, there are several design problems here.

THE WALK AROUND: One of the ways you can work your way through the trap is to make an Athletics check to jump onto the statue. This allows you to avoid the titan statue's attacks. So you could potentially jump onto the statue, avoid its attacks, jump off the other side and head to safety on the other side of the room (without ever getting close enough to the dragon statues to get targeted by their force breath).

The problem is that there's absolutely no reason to do that: You can simply walk right past the entire trap. Why? The titan statue's sweeping blow isn't triggered as a reaction -- its an action taken on the titan statue's initiative. Nor does the titan statue have reach (which would allow it to take opportunity attacks). That means, once the titan statue makes its first attack, everyone is free to walk right past it.

LACK OF COOPERATION: As with the sample traps posted on WotC's website, this trap features the ability to either whack on it or disable it. This theoretically opens up a bit more interactivity than the website samples because, in this trap, there are multiple targets that aren't dependent on each other: The thief could be working on the titan statue while the other characters are whacking away on the dragon statues.

Only that isn't actually true, because there's no reason to go anywhere near the dragon statues (even if you don't simply walk right past the entire trap): If you stick to the west side of the titan statue you're completely out of their range.

LACK OF COOPERATION 2: This trap also introduces the ability for non-Thievery checks to disable traps: The dragon statues (but not the titan statue) can be disabled by either four successful Thievery checks or six successful Arcana checks.

Setting aside the fact that disabling the dragon statues is completely irrelevant, there's a deeper design problem here: The Thievery and Arcana checks can't be used in conjunction with each other. Either you disable the trap using Thievery checks or you disable the trap using Arcana checks -- you can't mix-and-match.

Based on other traps in the adventure, this seems to be a frequent (but not required) feature of magic-based traps. However, it always requires more Arcana checks than Thievery checks, which means that you'll always see the exact same dynamic in play with traps of this type: The guy with the Thievery skill will try to disable the trap. If he fails, the guy with the Arcana skill will try to disable the trap.

This doesn't actually make the trap any more interactive, nor does it actually get more players involved in the process. (At any given time, there's still just one guy making skill checks.) It just means that the entire thing takes more time and becomes a lot more monotonous.

WotC claims that one of the problems with traps in 3rd Edition was that the rogue made a Disable Device check while everyone else sat around and watched him. So explain to me how this is "fixed" by giving us a trap in which the rogue makes 6+ skill checks in order to disable the trap while everybody else stands around watching them work?

(Why 6+ checks? An Athletics check to jump up on the statue. A Perception check (DC 25) to find the access panel. And then at least four Thievery checks to disable the statue. So it will take a minimum of 6 checks, but given the probable skill modifiers of the pregenerated rogue PC they'll probably be making 9 or 10 checks in total.)

JUST BEAT THE CRAP OUT OF IT: But none of what I've described actually matters because none of these statues can move and none of them have relevant ranged attacks. This means that the PCs will stay in the safe area by the northern door and use their ranged attacks to whittle away at the titan statue's hit points.

THE BOTTOM LINE



So this entire elaborate trap which, at first glance, appears to be filled with interesting possibilities, will, in fact, be resolved in one of three exceptionally boring ways:

(1) One of the PCs will suffer 1 or 2 attacks from the statue and then they'll all walk out of the room.

(2) The rogue will make a half dozen or more skill checks and then they'll all walk through the room.

(3) The PCs will engage in the most boring combat imaginable: Standing where the opponent can't possibly hurt them, the players will repetitively roll dice until they finally manage to rack up the magic number and can walk through the room unimpeded.

I honestly don't understand how such a lackluster encounter got designed. I also don't see how it could have possibly been playtested without such fundamental design errors being exploited by the playtesters. (And if it was playtested and the playtesters exposed its flaws, why weren't they fixed?)

Tomorrow I fix it.
I think someone really likes to see his on words on a page.

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/20.jpg)

I think someone really likes to see his on words on a page.

?

You don't like the review?
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?

You don't like the review?

It's not a review. It's an essay(per the OP).

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/20.jpg)

It's not a review. It's an essay(per the OP).

Nice dodge. Now could you answer my question?

What were you trying to say?
fo diggity Twitter: www.twitter.com/fodigg Comic Books You Should Have Read: http://tinyurl.com/ycxe9l7
I wholeheartedly concur with almost everything JustinA has to say in his review, and I very much appreciate the lengths h has gone to to make his criticisms clear and concise.

I am really very tired of people on these boards whos seem to surf them only to make snippy, snotty comments at other people's expense.

I think someone really likes to see his on words on a page.

One might make the same facile comment about the words on the pages of KotS. The key difference being JustinA's words are original and thoughtful, he didn't charge me $30 for the benefit of them, and they don't wipe off as I'm reading.
The essayist was looking for things to be wrong and by golly he found them. Then he got on a very large soapbox....

Lets take a gander at his first twenty, yes I said twenty, points.

1. the standard it's not what I thought it would be complaint. I don't know about anyone else, but I don't seem to have sweaty hands and rub my adventure like some genie lamp.
Call me crazy.
The 'light' sources around the object is for, shocker here, easy identification for all people playing.

2. I guess he didn't figure out that this is an introductory adventure. Should it come as a surprise that it may sound like it is reading down to supposed 'experienced players'?

3. Of course it makes sense. It's production sureties. Least amount of separate items that have to go into a product the more the quality control. I wonder how many adventures are missing some maps? Heck or are even missing the actual adventure. Now you want five separate character sheets to go in there as well?

4. Once he gets the rules maybe he'll know why?

5. 3e's crit system sucked. It fostered way, way, way too many cookie cutter builds. Thank the dice that it is gone.

6. Wow first item he likes.

7. No idea how you were able to play 3e without the grid, just too many feats, spells, ranges, etc. that required the grid. There is a number of people who are not able to visualize as well as others, giving them the grid helps in their understanding.

8. No comment until the rules are in my hand.

9. We wont know what happens with the 15 minute work day until the actual game is out for a while. Why even make a comment about it?

11. & 12. Instead of worrying about grammatical errors, it's not like this adventure is some grand work of modern writing, worrying if it's spelled nerath or nareth, is beyond me.

Meh this is getting to boring to even worry about.

Seems to me that the Op didn't read page 18, 21, 32, 35 These pages talk about how to embellish what is written on the page.
Of course he can't make all his points with the ideas in mind, then he would have something like six points less.

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/20.jpg)

I wholeheartedly concur with almost everything JustinA has to say in his review, and I very much appreciate the lengths he has gone to to make his criticisms clear and concise.

I am really very tired of people on these boards who seem to surf them only to make snippy, snotty comments at other people's expense.

How about the people that are long winded, just to be verbose? Blasting people with a wall of text just to complain about spelling errors.

Perhaps instead of worrying about grammar or paper quality or if the math formula is concise with the fighter. He could have looked at the map and seen that everything is within a mile of the village Yet no one knows that much about what is going on? That stretches my suspension belief to far.


One might make the same facile comment about the words on the pages of KotS. The key difference being JustinA's words are original and thoughtful, he didn't charge me $30 for the benefit of them, and they don't wipe off as I'm reading.

Is it the norm for humans to have severe sweaty palm syndrome?

I've used the adventure in four sessions already, had 6 different people flip through it and not a single ink smudge. I did fold a couple pages on accident.

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/20.jpg)

Right. Now you've made yourself clear, instead of just sniping.

But I would take issue with your very first point. (Delivered in a typical snotty fashion.) I don't have sweaty hands either, but the ink is coming off my copy of the book, front and back. Indeed, it's a very common complaint.

Quite simply, the standard of the physical product is below par. And the adventure itself is lacking in atmosphere and originality.

This is not explained by the fact that it is a 'beginners' adventure. If anything, a lack of drive to the story will make it difficult for novice DMs to focus their players and thus much harder to DM.

Your complaint that he - in a review - should ignore grammatical and other errors is simply ridiculous. It doesn't have to be a 'great work' to merit proper editing. In fact most 'great works' of literature cost a helluvalot less than this to buy and pack a damn site more words into their pages.
Sorry but sniping is what the essayist did.

We also don't know just how common of a complaint the ink is, we don't have the exact figures on how many have been sold compared to the number of ink smudging is occurring.

I've had more problems with the old style adventures with the cardboard covers, they all seemed to have the covers come off, except the ones that didn't even have their covers attached, but that was from 1e and 2e. This is my first premade adventure I have bought since The Night Below box set.

Again the adventure explains how to 'focus' the players onto the storyline. Truth be told the flow of the story is better than what I have witnessed from Dms who think they are really good at story telling and from the more recent products from third party publishers. It is also the one thing that people will always complain about. No matter what story they will try to tell there will be people who don't like it.

Like the age of wyrms from paizo. I thought the story line in that was absolute garbage and was a thinly veiled monty haul game, yet a chunk of people thought it was blessed bliss.

A critique is supposed to be objective. The Op has shown repeatedly that he is not.

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/20.jpg)

The 'light' sources around the object is for, shocker here, easy identification for all people playing.

When did walls and furniture become light sources?

2. I guess he didn't figure out that this is an introductory adventure. Should it come as a surprise that it may sound like it is reading down to supposed 'experienced players'?

What part of, "For anyone who hasn't been played a roleplaying game before, the content here is completely inadequate for teaching them how to actually play the game." Didn't you understand?

9. We wont know what happens with the 15 minute work day until the actual game is out for a while. Why even make a comment about it?

Because some of us are actually capable of critical thinking.

I was actually hoping that once the rulebooks were published, people would stop using the "don't judge it until it's published!" excuse. But apparently it's just morphed into "don't judge it until it's been published for some unspecified amount of time!"

10. & 11. Instead of worrying about grammatical errors, it's not like this adventure is some grand work of modern writing, worrying if it's spelled nerath or nareth, is beyond me.

What part of, "Unfortunately, these types of gratuitous errors aren't limited to the fluff content. The rules are also riddled with errors." Did you not understand?

Blasting people with a wall of text just to complain about spelling errors.

20 words were spent mentioning the spelling errors. It was literally one sentence offering a quick example of the editing problems. When did 20 words and a single sentence become a "wall of text"?

Perhaps instead of worrying about grammar or paper quality or if the math formula is concise with the fighter. He could have looked at the map and seen that everything is within a mile of the village Yet no one knows that much about what is going on? That stretches my suspension belief to far.

So first I complained about too many things, and now the problem is that I didn't complain about enough things? Which is it?

Also: The Keep is more than a mile from Winterhaven and even moreso if you follow the winding road to get there. Since (a) the module specifically states that the villagers avoid the Keep; (b) the other locations are in the middle of the wilderness; and (c) the villagers do, in fact, have some awareness of what's going on, I don't see the problem.

However, there is a problem with the overland map: Where are all the farmers? Winterhaven has a population of 977, and "the majority of villagers are farmers". (They'd have to be, the village only has about 20 buildings in it.) But there's no farmland on the map. The cleared area around Winterhaven is obscured somewhat, but it's no more than a quarter square mile -- scarcely enough room for 100+ large farm families to be plowing the land.

They might all be off to the west or east somewhere, but then the position of Winterhaven in relation to the farms doesn't make much sense. And, given the ambushes taking place, I would have to assume that Winterhaven would now be suffering from a severe food shortage problem.
Yes the ink smearing is a common complaint. It was also one of the first complaints we began to hear when the module began to show up at stores for preview. For many, covers coming off would be preferable to ink smudging (with many of the adventures, there was a map printed across the inside of the cover which necessitated its removal to use).

I will agree that the story does flow, however vapid the subject matter. Fantasy stories don't have to be deep and fulfilling. However save for the forked path at the beginning it feels a bit railroady (this is not in itself a bad thing, especially as an introductory adventure)
I am really very tired of people on these boards whos seem to surf them only to make snippy, snotty comments at other people's expense.

One might make the same facile comment about the words on the pages of KotS. The key difference being JustinA's words are original and thoughtful, he didn't charge me $30 for the benefit of them, and they don't wipe off as I'm reading.

I also don't understand what JustinA's essay/review is doing to offend Alyri.

The essayist was looking for things to be wrong and by golly he found them. Then he got on a very large soapbox....

Large? You were the first response. How large could it be? Also, it's not a "soapbox", it's a forum where posters are encouraged to share their thoughts.

snip
Lets take a gander at his first twenty, yes I said twenty, points.

1. the standard it's not what I thought it would be complaint. I don't know about anyone else, but I don't seem to have sweaty hands and rub my adventure like some genie lamp.
Call me crazy.
The 'light' sources around the object is for, shocker here, easy identification for all people playing.

2. I guess he didn't figure out that this is an introductory adventure. Should it come as a surprise that it may sound like it is reading down to supposed 'experienced players'?

3. Of course it makes sense. It's production sureties. Least amount of separate items that have to go into a product the more the quality control. I wonder how many adventures are missing some maps? Heck or are even missing the actual adventure. Now you want five separate character sheets to go in there as well?

4. Once he gets the rules maybe he'll know why?

5. 3e's crit system sucked. It fostered way, way, way too many cookie cutter builds. Thank the dice that it is gone.

6. Wow first item he likes.

7. No idea how you were able to play 3e without the grid, just too many feats, spells, ranges, etc. that required the grid. There is a number of people who are not able to visualize as well as others, giving them the grid helps in their understanding.

8. No comment until the rules are in my hand.

9. We wont know what happens with the 15 minute work day until the actual game is out for a while. Why even make a comment about it?

10. & 11. Instead of worrying about grammatical errors, it's not like this adventure is some grand work of modern writing, worrying if it's spelled nerath or nareth, is beyond me.

Meh this is getting to boring to even worry about.

Seems to me that the Op didn't read page 18, 21, 32, 35 These pages talk about how to embellish what is written on the page.
Of course he can't make all his points with the ideas in mind, then he would have something like six points less.

And here at least you're responding to his points instead of just being snide in brief, but the tone is still not one for a civil discussion.

How about the people that are long winded, just to be verbose? Blasting people with a wall of text just to complain about spelling errors.

You're right! We'll run out of internet!

Perhaps instead of worrying about grammar or paper quality or if the math formula is concise with the fighter. He could have looked at the map and seen that everything is within a mile of the village Yet no one knows that much about what is going on? That stretches my suspension belief to far.

Is it the norm for humans to have severe sweaty palm syndrome?

I've used the adventure in four sessions already, had 6 different people flip through it and not a single ink smudge. I did fold a couple pages on accident.

So your experience didn't match his. Say that, then. Don't imply that he's a liar.

Quite simply, the standard of the physical product is below par. And the adventure itself is lacking in atmosphere and originality.

This is not explained by the fact that it is a 'beginners' adventure. If anything, a lack of drive to the story will make it difficult for novice DMs to focus their players and thus much harder to DM.

Your complaint that he - in a review - should ignore grammatical and other errors is simply ridiculous. It doesn't have to be a 'great work' to merit proper editing. In fact most 'great works' of literature cost a helluvalot less than this to buy and pack a damn site more words into their pages.

Well said. I don't agree with JustinA on the severity of the issues, but to ignore these issues is ridiculous. I can enjoy my copy of KotS, happy for the purchase, and still read JustinA's review without getting riled up about it.

Sorry but sniping is what the essayist did.

Was he long-winded or sniping? Which is it? He's clearly taking responsibility for his review. He's not just anonymously blasting the product.

Also, you seem to be emphasizing that it's an "essay" and not a "review" when it is obviously a critique of the product. Is this so that you can call him a complainer for...oh I dunno...evaluating the merits of the product?

We also don't know just how common of a complaint the ink is, we don't have the exact figures on how many have been sold compared to the number of ink smudging is occurring.

It's not JustinA's responsiblity. He only has to give an honest evaluation of his experience.

A critique is supposed to be objective. The Op has shown repeatedly that he is not.

Why? Cause he evaluates things differently than you? Because he *gasp* doesn't like the product? You can evaluate something and not like it without blindly "bashing" it.

I was actually hoping that once the rulebooks were published, people would stop using the "don't judge it until it's published!" excuse. But apparently it's just morphed into "don't judge it until it's been published for some unspecified amount of time!"



Also: The Keep is more than a mile from Winterhaven and even moreso if you follow the winding road to get there. Since (a) the module specifically states that the villagers avoid the Keep; (b) the other locations are in the middle of the wilderness; and (c) the villagers do, in fact, have some awareness of what's going on, I don't see the problem.

However, there is a problem with the overland map: Where are all the farmers? Winterhaven has a population of 977, and "the majority of villagers are farmers". (They'd have to be, the village only has about 20 buildings in it.) But there's no farmland on the map. The cleared area around Winterhaven is obscured somewhat, but it's no more than a quarter square mile -- scarcely enough room for 100+ large farm families to be plowing the land.

They might all be off to the west or east somewhere, but then the position of Winterhaven in relation to the farms doesn't make much sense. And, given the ambushes taking place, I would have to assume that Winterhaven would now be suffering from a severe food shortage problem.

Sounds logical to me.

And even though I like my copy of KotS, it's nice to discuss these issues so I can "fix" them when I run the adventure.

(easiest fix is to just lower the population)

Yes the ink smearing is a common complaint. It was also one of the first complaints we began to hear when the module began to show up at stores for preview. For many, covers coming off would be preferable to ink smudging (with many of the adventures, there was a map printed across the inside of the cover which necessitated its removal to use).

I had smudging on the preview books too. I'm worried about the rulebooks themselves.

I will agree that the story does flow, however vapid the subject matter. Fantasy stories don't have to be deep and fulfilling. However save for the forked path at the beginning it feels a bit railroady (this is not in itself a bad thing, especially as an introductory adventure)

I think any pre-made adventure (and not a general adventure hook) is going to feel a bit "railroady", but I agree that this is a good thing for an intro.
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When did walls and furniture become light sources?

I double checked and sure don't see what your talking about. Every torch placement has shadows in the correct manner.

What part of, "For anyone who hasn't been played a roleplaying game before, the content here is completely inadequate for teaching them how to actually play the game." Didn't you understand?

Because this isn't about teaching them how to play the actual game. this is teaching them how to play this particular module. Perhaps maybe you didn't grasp that concept?

Because some of us are actually capable of critical thinking.

I was actually hoping that once the rulebooks were published, people would stop using the "don't judge it until it's published!" excuse. But apparently it's just morphed into "don't judge it until it's been published for some unspecified amount of time!"

Sure knee-jerk reactions is 'critical thinking'


What part of, "Unfortunately, these types of gratuitous errors aren't limited to the fluff content. The rules are also riddled with errors." Did you not understand?

Didn't you notice that I mention both points eleven and twelve at the same time or were you just itching to say did you not understand again?


20 words were spent mentioning the spelling errors. It was literally one sentence offering a quick example of the editing problems. When did 20 words and a single sentence become a "wall of text"?

Points two, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen all deal with grammar and editing


So first I complained about too many things, and now the problem is that I didn't complain about enough things? Which is it?

Also: The Keep is more than a mile from Winterhaven and even moreso if you follow the winding road to get there. Since (a) the module specifically states that the villagers avoid the Keep; (b) the other locations are in the middle of the wilderness; and (c) the villagers do, in fact, have some awareness of what's going on, I don't see the problem.

However, there is a problem with the overland map: Where are all the farmers? Winterhaven has a population of 977, and "the majority of villagers are farmers". (They'd have to be, the village only has about 20 buildings in it.) But there's no farmland on the map. The cleared area around Winterhaven is obscured somewhat, but it's no more than a quarter square mile -- scarcely enough room for 100+ large farm families to be plowing the land.

They might all be off to the west or east somewhere, but then the position of Winterhaven in relation to the farms doesn't make much sense. And, given the ambushes taking place, I would have to assume that Winterhaven would now be suffering from a severe food shortage problem.

You complained about trivial things in order to make a complete essay.

yeah complaining about light sources which, from my maps, I'm not seeing what your talking about. compared to actual distance. I know which I would comment about. It would be the later.

Or how about there's three roads going to Winterhaven yet on page 18 where Winterhaven is actually shown there is only one road going into town or that according to the townfolk the burial site is southwest of town yet according to the map it is south southeast of town or that there is a water source at the kobold lair yet no water is shown of the map

They also mention that the town has hunters yet the town doesn't know the full extent of what is going on around their own village? Where do these hunters go to actually hunt, the market square?


But instead of these types of complaints you would rather (point nineteen) embellish the encounter with Sir Keegan trying to make a point, which by the way the book covers on page 18, 21 and 32. I guess you failed to grasp that concept when you were so worried about the proper spelling of Nerath/Nareth.

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/20.jpg)

You're right! We'll run out of internet!

You laugh now, but just wait until the Terabyte Quota Wars of 2012.

Sounds logical to me.

And even though I like my copy of KotS, it's nice to discuss these issues so I can "fix" them when I run the adventure.

(easiest fix is to just lower the population)

I'm tempted to go the other way: Give the village a little farmland immediately to the southwest, but then add some information about how they've been cut off from the farms beyond the Gardbury Downs by the kobold incursions and food shortages are beginning to become a problem for the craftsmen living in the village: The local farmers are hoarding and the shipments they were expecting from Gardbury haven't arrived.

It helps raise the stakes, gives you some roleplay fodder for the village, and maybe even provides some material to develop additional encounters during the adventure.

This is why, BTW, I just kind of shake my head sadly at people like Alyri who seem to be filled with rage at the thought of anyone applying critical thinking to a module. Applying that critical thinking is the first step in making the game better.

I think any pre-made adventure (and not a general adventure hook) is going to feel a bit "railroady", but I agree that this is a good thing for an intro.

Actually, I don't think the adventure came across as particularly railroady at all. I mean, once the PCs arrive in Winterhaven, they're free to go to any of the three locales where the villains are hanging out. I mean, there's an implied sequence in the adventure -- but in practice, I suspect that sequence will vary a lot depending on what the PCs choose to do.

Now, one thing I'm planning to do as I kitbash this adventure is to make the locations feel more connected so that the choice of where to go becomes a little more meaningful: For example, I suspect I'll put a kobold guard on the approach to the Keep -- if the PCs root out the kobold lair, those guards will be pulled back and it will be easier to reach the Keep. Similarly, I want to develop a more robust explanation for what the cultists are doing at the burial site (which can give the PCs an additional path for finding out more about what Kalarel is up to).
Why? Cause he evaluates things differently than you? Because he *gasp* doesn't like the product? You can evaluate something and not like it without blindly "bashing" it.

Sure you can, but when you evaluate a product with snarky comments you are bashing not reviewing.

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/20.jpg)

Sure you can, but when you evaluate a product with snarky comments you are bashing not reviewing.

Only if your points don't have merit.
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Because this isn't about teaching them how to play the actual game. this is teaching them how to play this particular module. Perhaps maybe you didn't grasp that concept?

The Quick Start Rules aren't designed for people who don't own the core rulebooks? Then why was this published before the core rulebooks? And why are the Quick Start Rules included at all?


What part of, "Unfortunately, these types of gratuitous errors aren't limited to the fluff content. The rules are also riddled with errors." Did you not understand?

Didn't you notice that I mention both points eleven and twelve at the same time or were you just itching to say did you not understand again?

Actually, I didn't. I did, however, notice you mention points 10 and 11 at the same time. And that's precisely the reason I was wondering why you ignored point 11 in order to post your nonsensical "reply".

Points two, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen all deal with grammar and editing

But only 20 words actually deal with spelling errors, which is what you claimed was the problem.

Now, if you want to honestly claim that contradictory, confusing, unclear, and incomplete rules aren't a problem in an introductory product, then that's an entirely different claim than saying that I was "blasting people with a wall of text just to complain about spelling errors".

(Incomplete rules, in this case, specifically meaning the lack of rules required to play the adventure.)

You complained about trivial things in order to make a complete essay.

It's almost as if two completely different people are posting from your account. In one message you'll complain that I was "sniping" and then you'll flip-flop completely and complain that I was being too complete in my complaints.

Or how about there's three roads going to Winterhaven yet on page 18 where Winterhaven is actually shown there is only one road going into town or that according to the townfolk the burial site is southwest of town yet according to the map it is south southeast of town or that there is a water source at the kobold lair yet no water is shown of the map

... and then flip-flop back again to complain that the real problem is that I didn't list everything that was problematic in the module. Which is true. The point of this particular essay was to give a broad review of the types of problems found in the module -- not an encyclopedic cataloging of every individual fault.

As for this specific instance, however, there's not really a problem. The map and text indicate that Winterhaven was built as a defensive fortification on a hill. The logical conclusion is that the NE-SW road shown on the area map doesn't run through the center of town, but instead runs past the walled fortifications. The road shown on the detailed map of Winterhaven leads down to the crossroads between this unnamed road and the King's Road running away to the east.

I guess you failed to grasp that concept when you were so worried about the proper spelling of Nerath/Nareth.

And you can't seem to make up your mind about whether I was too exhaustive in complaining about the editing problems with the rules or if, in fact, the editing problem really just boiled down to a spelling error.

Tell ya what: You come up with a coherent and consistent critique of what I wrote, and I'll respond to that. As it is, I'm getting dizzy trying to figure out if your primary objection is that I was too critical of the module or that I criticized it too much.
Tell ya what: You come up with a coherent and consistent critique of what I wrote, and I'll respond to that. As it is, you appear to just be a fanboy randomly throwing out bitter, bile-filled hatred because somebody doesn't think that Keep on the Shadowfell is a perfect product.

See this is funny I gave you a number of things wrong with the the product, that to me has 'actual merit,' yet I am a fanboy who thinks it's perfect?

As it is, you appear to just be a critic randomly throwing out bitter, bile-filled propaganda because WotC failed to see that your that good of a contributor.

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/20.jpg)

See this is funny I gave you a number of things wrong with the the product, that to me has 'actual merit,' yet I am a fanboy who thinks it's perfect?

Remember, you're the one who started attacking his critique.

As it is, you appear to just be a critic randomly throwing out bitter, bile-filled propaganda because WotC failed to see that your that good of a contributor.

Der-what? Where are you getting this crap?
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Remember, you're the one who started attacking his critique.

Only because you asked me to. I was perfectly fine with my original statement of I think someone really likes to see his on words on a page.

Der-what? Where are you getting this crap?

Guess you haven't gone to his website? Maybe you should. Then perhaps you could make an informed opinion.

If you did you would notice that he has made a number of assumptions based on rumor and used those assumptions to make grand 'essays'
Plus, in 4th Edition saving throws are always strict 50/50 affairs -- there are no modifiers. So you can quickly calculate that there's only a 50% chance a victim who has been affected by the spell will fall asleep at all; and only a 0.9% chance that they'd stay asleep for even 1 minute.
See he has the wrong information but, already has solutions for nonexistent problems. Dwarves has a +5 bonus vs Poisons it's called cast iron stomach, right there on the dwarf fighter character sheet.

Which brings me back to this statement:
I was actually hoping that once the rulebooks were published, people would stop using the "don't judge it until it's published!" excuse. But apparently it's just morphed into "don't judge it until it's been published for some unspecified amount of time!"
You know that statement you thought was so funny you at it.
If, now this might sound strange to some, people would actually wait until the rules are out with an errata up if it's needed(mostly likely it will be) then go ahead and do what you think needs to be done.

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/20.jpg)

Only because you asked me to. I was perfectly fine with my original statement of I think someone really likes to see his on words on a page.

That, in itself, didn't constitute an attack, if not a personal attack against JustinA?

Guess you haven't gone to his website? Maybe you should. Then perhaps you could make an informed opinion.

My opinion is as informed as it needs to be. I have no obligation to seek out additional information to judge this thread other than what is stated in this post

If you did you would notice that he has made a number of assumptions based on rumor and used those assumptions to make grand 'essays'
Plus, in 4th Edition saving throws are always strict 50/50 affairs -- there are no modifiers. So you can quickly calculate that there's only a 50% chance a victim who has been affected by the spell will fall asleep at all; and only a 0.9% chance that they'd stay asleep for even 1 minute.
See he has the wrong information but, already has solutions for nonexistent problems. Dwarves has a +5 bonus vs Poisons it's called cast iron stomach, right there on the dwarf fighter character sheet.

Then maybe you should critique those points. You're saying he's being disgenuous because he doesn't have all the information?

Which brings me back to this statement:
I was actually hoping that once the rulebooks were published, people would stop using the "don't judge it until it's published!" excuse. But apparently it's just morphed into "don't judge it until it's been published for some unspecified amount of time!"
You know that statement you thought was so funny you at it.
If, now this might sound strange to some, people would actually wait until the rules are out with an errata up if it's needed (mostly likely it will be) then go ahead and do what you think needs to be done.

What I find humorous is that you're trying to shift the focus of the discussion from "review" to "essay" and now to "errata" to excuse your rude, casual dismissal of JustinA's efforts, none of which you were obligated to read.
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I would have like to have used this thread to engage in a sensible discussion about what can be done to improve this product and my players' experience of it. In fact... I still would. Justin - please continue to post your views.

Gentlemen, might I propose that we ignore Alyri's incoherent ramblings and inexcusable personal attacks, and retire to the billiard room for cigars and brandy?
I would have liked to have used this thread to engage in a sensible discussion in regards to improving this product and my player's experience of it. In fact, I still would. Justin, please continue to post your views.

Gentlemen, might I propose that we ignore Alyri's incoherent ramblings and inexcusable personal attacks, and retire to the billiard room for cigars and brandy?

You know, I guess I should make a more 'coherent' response just for you.

Oh I fixed you post to be grammatically correct(that's the red marks, in case you didn't know)

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/20.jpg)

What I find humorous is that you're trying to shift the focus of the discussion from "review" to "essay" and now to "errata" to excuse your rude, casual dismissal of JustinA's efforts, none of which you were obligated to read.

My second post stated that the OP stated this was an essay not a review I even mentioned again, a number of times. You have been the one saying it's a review.

Errata has nothing to do with what you are implying besides just another catch word to throw in the mix.

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Since I seem to have been labeled as rude and not contributing anything to this thread other than offensive remarks, I guess I need to expound upon the points brought up by the OP more throughly.

1. Quality of product:
My thoughts are different than the OP's. I like the soft cover. Having the soft cover enhances my Dming, by allowing me to fold over the adventure because I use multiple notebooks and scratch pads. I don't have to lay everything on top of each other.
I seem to be in the extreme minority of not having any problems with my ink rubbing off. I haven't tried to rub it off, but so far nothing has happened. I have already used this adventure book on four occasions already just mentioning that as a point of reference.
Regarding the maps and the glow effect. I have no idea what the OP is talking about. I see torches with shadow effects coming off the torches in the right directions, none of my other objects seem to have what he terms 'glows'

2. Writing:
It's a quick start rulebook. I've been around the block a couple times now. I don't expect brilliance in writing. I even gave it to my sons(11, 13) to read to see if they could follow along, they didn't have any major problems. Are there areas where it is vague? Of course there is. Can you still play with the least amount of weird looks going on? Sure you can. It depends on just how much you read the adventure before hand. If you give adequate reading then you will have spotted the weak areas and addressed them.
If you wait until after the release of the core books, this problem is moot.

3. Pregenerated characters:
It's about quality control. The least amount of individual parts needed to make the product the more quality control can minimize the rate of which parts will be missing. No one wants to get the adventure to find out that the cleric and one map is missing. It doesn't take much to photocopy/scan the pages. Again, after the release of the core rules there wont be a need for the pregen characters.

4. On going saves:
Why you should go by official sources instead of what is leaked. This point doesn't really have anything to do with the actual product, it was a misconception on the OP's part.

5. Crit:
Again nothing to do with the product.

6. Completely agree with this point. See I'm not a completely rude.

7. Grid and minis:
I disagree that you could play 3e without minis. It's also a no-brainer not to include minis cross promotion is essential to any company. Look at the Miniature hobby. Notice how many of the successful companies also produce paints and brushes and basing material, even though their main emphasis is the miniatures. Yes I paint miniatures as another hobby, the inclusion of the grid and minis doesn't bother me in the slightest. I have seen people really start to understand the game better once they saw the minis and room size in the 'flesh'. Not everyone out there has the imagination to understand what is being said to them.

8. Action points:
This is one of them vague areas that really isn't expounded upon in the adventure. I personally don't like the concept of having, say, 4 action points sitting on a character. I have tried to influence the players to use them as much as possible, but thats a personal preference.

9. 15 minute work day:
Again nothing to do with the actual adventure. This will be completely dependent upon each particular group.

10. Editing:
My wife has a BS in English and a minor in professional writing, she worked as a proofreader and editor for six years at an advertising agency. I said that to paraphrase what she says about this concept. "I highly doubt there has been a book published that was error free". Yes they could've done a better job with editing, not denying that is it a deal breaker for having errors, I would hope not.

11. Cover:
I don't see them same problem. Whenever it says cover I take that to mean normal cover. Superior cover is special and I haven';t noticed any place (yet) them it would be ambiguous about which type of cover to use.

12. Forced movement and falling.
I haven't encountered a place (yet) where the rule needs to be further explained then what it is in the adventure. Is there more to the rule? Of course, but this is a quick start rules not the actual game.

13. Dying:
Quick start rules are not the complete rules. They have to explain as much as possible in the shortest amount of space. Yes things are going to be left out.

14. Recharge and auras:
Recharge is explained on page 6. It is assumed people would understand that when something 'recharges' it can be used again. The rat swarm entry on page 38 explains how an aura works.

15. Two quick start rules:
A valid point.

16. first two encounters:
My group didn't feel deja vu, or at least they didn't say anything about it. I did however turn the map around on the second encounter(kept the same positions on the map). we were doing a lot of roleplaying as the group was walking out of the city,that perhaps helped get rid of the feeling, but we are also realists and realize that there is only 6 maps for the whole adventure. The reason I gave for following the road was a map that Eilian drew for both places (Burial site and lair) used the road as a marker, you know follow the road until you get the the old oak tree that was hit by lightning turn left there...

17. Hobgoblin:
I think the foreshadowing was done nicely. It is mentioned and then forgotten. I do have a player that writes any unusual name or place down, yes it is fun throwing out red herrings just for him.

18. Skill challenges:
I put it in the category of introductory adventure and will wait for the books.

19. Sir Keegan:
I completely disagree with the point. Sure if you read verbatim, it can come across a bit stale, but that is why they put page 32 in the adventure. This is a no win situation, no mater what they wrote someone would find it silly, stale, juvenile, , etc.

20. Space:
4e is about movement. WotC has been stating that since the announcement. I like that it's not just one 20 by 20 room anymore but 3 rooms of different sizes all used for the same encounter. Groups that already use this concept wont see much of a difference. Those that didn't should.

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REMIXING THE CHAMBER OF STATUES

THE LAYOUT



We'll start by shifting the layout. I think there are two directions we can go with this.

CENTERPIECE: First, we can make the room larger, put the titan statue in the center of the room, and add some additional dragon statues.

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With this layout, whenever the PCs try to circle around the dangerous sweeping blow of the titan statue, the dragon statues will push them back towards the center of the room.

ILLUSION OF SAFETY: This layout has a greater similarity to the original layout and doesn't increase the number of dragon statues.

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With this layout, clever PCs will notice the limited range of the titan statue's attack and conclude that they can safely circle around it to the east. But if the try that, the dragon statues will use their force breath ability to push them back towards the titan statue.

NO CHEAP SHOTS



The dragon statues in the original encounter already have a force shot ability that interacts with the second part of this trap (which I'm not dealing with here):

FORCE SHOT (immediate reaction, when a creature makes a melee attack against a cherub statue from the exterior of the arcane cage; at will)
Range 10; +7 vs. Reflex; 1d6+6 force damage, and the target is pushed 1 square

We're going to make an adjustment to this ability in order to stop the PCs from getting to a safe distance and then taking pot-shots at the titan statue.

DEFENSIVE FORCE SHOT (immediate reaction, when a creature makes an attack against any statue in this encounter or when they can't use their force blow ability on their turn; at will)
Range 15; +7 vs. Reflex; 1d6+6 force damage, and the target is pushed 1 square

PROXIMITY SAFETY



We'll use the original mechanics from the encounter to allow a character to make an Athletics check to jump onto the titan statue or the dragon statue. But we'll add the following detail: The dragon statues won't use their defensive force shot against any creature in the same space as another statue (the designer of the trap didn't want to risk having the dragon statues damage the other statues).

So getting onto a statue makes a character effectively immune against the titan statue's sweeping blow and the force abilities of the dragon statues. However, there's a limited number of such safe zones in the encounter (particularly if you use the Illusion of Safety layout).

COOPERATION



By making the dragon statues an active part of the encounter that can't simply be ignored, we've already encouraged a higher level of cooperation: The rogue can only be dealing with one statue at a time, making it necessary for the other characters to deal with the other statues (or at least take actions to avoid them until the rogue can deal with them).

However, we'll go one step further and make it possible for more than one character specialty to work on a single statue at the same time. For the titan statue:

Thievery/Arcana: Eight successful DC 20 checks before four failures to disable the titan statue.

For the dragon statues:

Thievery/Arcana: Four successful DC 20 checks before two failures to disable one of the dragon statues.

Now the rogue and the wizard can work together to rapidly disable the magical statues through the combined use of their skills.

If you really wanted spice things up, you could even make it possible for the statues to be bloodied and then add the following:

Mechanical Ruin: If the statue is bloodied, it counts as 2 successes towards disabling the statue.

Now everybody in the party can work to disable a statue together. Instead of having the characters race against each other (will the statue run of hit points, Thievery checks, or Arcana checks first?), all of the characters can work together towards a common goal.

This also creates a meaningful strategic choice for the group to make as they try to deal with this encounter: Do we split up and try to deal with the dragon statues separately to clear a path to the exit? Or do we all focus our efforts on disabling the tougher titan statue and reach the exit that way?

In this last section, it should be noted, I'm not just talking about adjustments to this particular trap -- I'm talking about house rules which, based on what I've seen of 4th Edition to date, would appear to fundamentally change some of the basic ways in which the game works. But the reward appears to be gameplay which is both more interactive and offers richer strategic and tactical choices.
Gentlemen, might I propose that we ignore Alyri's incoherent ramblings and inexcusable personal attacks, and retire to the billiard room for cigars and brandy?

Ooh! I like brandy!
You know, I guess I should make a more 'coherent' response just for you.

Oh I fixed your post to be grammatically correct.(That's the red marks, in case you didn't know.)

Okay - I know I said I was going to ignore Alyri, but I just can't resist this:

1) liked - well done, I missed that.

2) '...in regards to improving...' You know, making something more verbose and legalistic doesn't make it grammatically correct. There was nothing wrong with my original sentence. Your change is much more clumsy and less coherent.

3) Like a pre-schooler, you have an obsession with commas. Both of the punctuation marks that you presumptiously altered accurately and deliberately conveyed the meaning I wanted to convey. Your commas, while not incorrect, remove that meaning.

4) And this is the best bit: you have made the classic mistake of putting an apostrophe in the wrong place. Your correction suggests I have only one player. I don't, clearly. Thus, players' (plural possession denoted by an apostrophe after the 's') is correct and your correction is wrong. Ironically, that's the very change I went back and made myself in my edit.

So out of the 5 corrections you ingraciously made to my text, only one (the most obvious - a typo) was correct. One was totally wrong. The rest simply displayed poor judgement.

If I was to go back over your posts and pull the same trick, I'd run out of red ink. (Red internet ink at that.)

I don't care what standard of education your wife has, mate - you can't write for sh**.
I would have like to have used this thread to engage in a sensible discussion about what can be done to improve this product and my players' experience of it. In fact... I still would. Justin - please continue to post your views.

Gentlemen, might I propose that we ignore Alyri's incoherent ramblings and inexcusable personal attacks, and retire to the billiard room for cigars and brandy?

I agree with this, Justin, I find them very interesting to read too.
In response to last of the first impressions

pg 21 under Questions Answered "You can either read each NPC's response out loud to the players, paraphrase the response in your own words, or offer a combination of both by roleplaying an interactive encounter between the adventurers and the NPC"

pg 32 under NPCs are People, Too "Adventurers regularly introduce several NPCs. Some are friendly, others unfriendly. The adventure text provides basic guidance on the motivations and personality of an NPC. However as a DM, you can offer more." Then you have the subheadings of Accent or Favorite Sayings, Favorite Things, Mannerism.
The final heading is Make Up Your Own Stories "Sometimes a game has innocuous events around which you can wrap extra story. This advice is related to the earlier recommendation that you shouldn't feel locked into the adventure text as if it were an unchanging script"

Would I say that these NPCs and encounters are cardboard cutouts?
In the sense that these are typical fantasy tropes, yes. Adding uniqueness is up to the group(which is why they mention doing this on 3 separate occasions). Again this is one of those no-win situations for WotC. No matter what they would put in someone out there will find it lacking in some way. It is better to give basic concepts that allows the more experienced groups to add in their own flavor then to have flavor that people have to take out.

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Dwarf Fighter

Something else to think about with the two at-wills.
Needing a 12 or higher does the cleave and reaping strike equal out? Cleave gives a bonus 3 damage and reaping strike does 3 damage on the miss? Does that equal out in the end?

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Traps


This one has me confused.

The chamber of statues is not 2 traps as you said but 3:
page 72, Traps "Traps can be as deadly as any monsters. there are three traps in this chamber" there is the Titan Statue, Dragon Statues, and the Cherub Statues. All are traps.

The activating trap is the Cherub Statues(the trap you didn't mention). It is in the small room to the south. Everyone will already be in the room unless the rogue is that far ahead, if he is, well the chances of him surviving is really, really low. Once the cherubs activate, there is a surprise round, allowing the titan statue and dragon statues to attack whoever is in their area of effect.

So we have one person in the Arcane Cage trap from the cherubs, getting ready to be whirlpooled to death. the rest just got smacked around by the Titan and Dragon statues. Now the players get to act.

There is only an eight square area for the players to be 'safe' at(the area directly south of the north door). Going to that area, signs the death warrant for whoever was trapped by the Arcane Cage.

Now what will the players do?

Again I will stress this, These traps are not activated until a PC goes into the area where the Cherubs are at.

I just don't understand why you are ignoring the actual activating trap for this whole encounter. Did you misread the whole encounter?

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Would I say that these NPCs and encounters are cardboard cutouts? In the sense that these are typical fantasy tropes, yes. Adding uniqueness is up to the group(which is why they mention doing this on 3 separate occasions).

If I hand you a book full of blank pages and say, "Write your own novel!" It doesn't mean that I've actually given you a novel.

This is just a variation on the Rule 0 Fallacy, only you're applying it to NPCs instead of rules. You're admitting that the NPCs are inadequate, but you're arguing that it doesn't matter because the book tells us to fix it.

So I'm going to ask what I always ask: Do you apply this same logic to other parts of your life? Do you actually say things like, "My brakes don't need to be fixed because they could be fixed."? Or, "This bucket doesn't have a hole in it because I could patch that hole at any time."?

The activating trap is the Cherub Statues(the trap you didn't mention).

Unsurprisingly, you have failed to read the encounter. All three types of statues have separate triggers. It is highly unlikely that the cherubs will be triggered first.

The chamber of statues is not 2 traps as you said but 3:

Unsurprisingly, you have failed to read what I wrote. I didn't say it was 2 traps, I said it was a two-part trap. I was talking about the fact that the encounter is divided into two sections: The first involves the titan statue and the dragon statues (which is the section I'm talking about here) and the second involves the cherub statues (which I'm not talking about here because there's nothing seriously wrong with the cherub section of the encounter).

There is only an eight square area for the players to be 'safe' at(the area directly south of the north door). Going to that area, signs the death warrant for whoever was trapped by the Arcane Cage.

There are two ways of interpreting what the cherub trap does ("create a wall of arcane magic to enclose the area between the four statues"):

(1) The arcane cage encloses the entire 4x6 hallway, including the cherubs.

(2) The arcane cage encloses just the 2x4 area inbetween the cherubs.

My first impression when reading the encounter was #1, but then I realized that the encounter talks about characters outside the cage attacking the cherubs -- which would be impossible if interpretation #1 was correct.

In neither interpretation, however, are you correct. In interpretation #1 the only characters who can attack the cherubs are those trapped in the arcane cage. There's literally nothing that anyone else can do, so they might as well stay in the safe area to the north.

In interpretation #2, OTOH, there is a 2-square safe zone between the two northernmost statues. (And once one of those statues is destroyed, another 4-square safe zone opens up along the wall of the hall.)

Again I will stress this, These traps are not activated until a PC goes into the area where the Cherubs are at.

Again I will stress that you are, unsurprisingly, completely wrong in everything that you are saying.
If I hand you a book full of blank pages and say, "Write your own novel!" It doesn't mean that I've actually given you a novel.

This is just a variation on the Rule 0 Fallacy, only you're applying it to NPCs instead of rules. You're admitting that the NPCs are inadequate, but you're arguing that it doesn't matter because the book tells us to fix it.

So I'm going to ask what I always ask: Do you apply this same logic to other parts of your life? Do you actually say things like, "My brakes don't need to be fixed because they could be fixed."? Or, "This bucket doesn't have a hole in it because I could patch that hole at any time."?

I look at it this way. 5 people need their brakes fixed. They can go to 5 different mechanics to fix their brakes. They don't have to go to the same exact mechanic to get their brakes fixed. Just like you don't have to go to an AMC movie theater to watch a movie or go to Wendy's to have a burger or go to Florida to go to the beach. There are options.

They gave a basic concept(like going to Wendy's for a burger) for each NPC and allow you to improvise or improve upon those NPC and story concepts to best fit your personal group's play style.

This is also why I said it is a no-win situation. They cannot make every NPC or encounter or obstacle to be completely compatible with all the various groups. It just cannot be done.

No I don't find the NPCs inadequate. They are fine just as they are (for my group)

I'm a realist in that this adventure isn't about the NPC or really even about the actual adventure itself. It's about what the characters can do, how they interact with each other and creatures, and how the system actually works.


Unsurprisingly, you have failed to read the encounter. All three types of statues have separate triggers. It is highly unlikely that the cherubs will be triggered first.

Your right. I was looking at my notes on that encounter and not the actual encounter in the book


Unsurprisingly, you have failed to read what I wrote. I didn't say it was 2 traps, I said it was a two-part trap. I was talking about the fact that the encounter is divided into two sections: The first involves the titan statue and the dragon statues (which is the section I'm talking about here) and the second involves the cherub statues (which I'm not talking about here because there's nothing seriously wrong with the cherub section of the encounter).

You can call it a two-part trap but the book calls it three traps. Tomato- potato.


There are two ways of interpreting what the cherub trap does ("create a wall of arcane magic to enclose the area between the four statues"):

(1) The arcane cage encloses the entire 4x6 hallway, including the cherubs.

(2) The arcane cage encloses just the 2x4 area inbetween the cherubs.

My first impression when reading the encounter was #1, but then I realized that the encounter talks about characters outside the cage attacking the cherubs -- which would be impossible if interpretation #1 was correct.

In neither interpretation, however, are you correct. In interpretation #1 the only characters who can attack the cherubs are those trapped in the arcane cage. There's literally nothing that anyone else can do, so they might as well stay in the safe area to the north.

In interpretation #2, OTOH, there is a 2-square safe zone between the two northernmost statues. (And once one of those statues is destroyed, another 4-square safe zone opens up along the wall of the hall.)

I put the Arcane Cage in the 2 squares between the northern cherubs. That allowed people on both sides to interact with the cherubs.


Again I will stress that you are, unsurprisingly, completely wrong in everything that you are saying.

Okay just how can I be completely wrong with what I am saying,(because I changed the encounter), yet somehow you are completely right when you change the encounter?

See I can admit when I am wrong.

But you didn't even comment on my interpretation of the Chamber of Statues. All you have done is belittle my mistake, I guess to try and score 'net points, instead of looking at what I did. You talked at length about not seeing that big of a change between the new and old traps. I gave a decent spin to this encounter. That does make it more suspenseful(which it was when my group went through it)


I don't understand what you wanting from people here.
With more to come. Comments are more than welcome.

Are comments more then welcome? Really? Or are you only wanting comments that agree with your interpretations? So far I have been the only person to actually comment on what you wrote unless this:
I wholeheartedly concur with almost everything JustinA has to say in his review, and I very much appreciate the lengths h has gone to to make his criticisms clear and concise.

is all you are actually wanting.

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There are two ways of interpreting what the cherub trap does ("create a wall of arcane magic to enclose the area between the four statues"):

(1) The arcane cage encloses the entire 4x6 hallway, including the cherubs.

(2) The arcane cage encloses just the 2x4 area inbetween the cherubs.

My impression is that a wall is created between the two North cherubs, blocking access to the North room, and containing the water which is being poured. The only possible connection the cherubs have to the trap created by the other three statues, is that when this trap is destroyed, the flow of water out of the suddenly missing cage knocks the PCs to within two squares of the titan statue, well within range of its attack.
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