SPEC 1-3 Ghosts of the Past Duration

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According to my GenCon event catalogue, SPEC1-3 Ghosts of the Past has a duration of 4 hours instead of 8. I thought all specials lasted 2 slots instead of 1. Is this a typo or has that policy changed?
Starting with this special, they are going to be 1 round (4 hours) because there are essentially 4 completely different adventures, depending on the tier.
Having DMed the H3 and played the P1 now, you will need good pacing and keep focused to get done in 4 hours. There are more encounters than in a normal LFR adventure so they are a challenge.

Keith
Keith Hoffman LFR Writing Director for Waterdeep
In the case of the H3 and P1 versions, the PCs will not face every encounter. In fact, in H3, there is a real chance that trying to do everything will result in completely missing one (or both) of the objectives...

Survival could be classed as a third objective I guess!
Joe Fitzgerald | joerpga[at]yahoo[dot]com[dot]au LFR Global Administrator
In the case of the H3 and P1 versions, the PCs will not face every encounter. In fact, in H3, there is a real chance that trying to do everything will result in completely missing one (or both) of the objectives...

Survival could be classed as a third objective I guess!

we tried to do it all in our slot 0... and I believe the term "tactical retreat" was used in place of what we really did when we told the people who sent us on the trip what happened lol.
Blah blah blah
SPEC1-3 is written like a classical dungeon crawl, which means that a group of PCs plot their own course through the region. The adventures mostly provide a clear goal, and reaching that objective does not require the PCs to face all opponents. In fact, trying to do everything is likely to lead to failure. If you manage to do everything within the set time limit (there is one in game), you have earned yourself some bragging rights, but hardly more xp and gp. Personally I am proud of how the adventures turned out. I have had a lot of fun running them, and I hope my players had fun playing it.

On a side note: if you take LG and Xendrik Expeditions into account, 1 round specials actually are a lot more common then the first 2-round ones of LFR ;)
Oh, I long for the days of the 3-round Specials! :-)
Oh, I long for the days of the 3-round Specials! :-)

Hmmmm to be fair, SPEC 1-2 can almost take 3 rounds with those first two fights that it has... :P

Or so I've heard.

I'm hoping for a LOT more insubstantial in paragon, just so my inescapable force feat gets some good usage :D
Blah blah blah
Oh, I long for the days of the 3-round Specials! :-)

Well, I can start on a 3-round Special for GenCon 2011 now if you want... ;)

Gomez
Well, I can start on a 3-round Special for GenCon 2011 now if you want... ;)

Gomez

^^^^^
Make this happen sir.
THREE ROUNDS OF MADNESS. MADNESS YOU HEAR?!
-Pot Stirrer. -Because I can. Co-Author Neth 3-3 Seek and Destroy. (Now with 10% more diplomacy!) Author ELTU 4-3 Minutes to Midnight (Waiting on Release) ABSO 4-2. (I really am working on this I promise!)
Heh. If they would hand me the special... I have the perfect locale for utter madness...
Heh. If they would hand me the special... I have the perfect locale for utter madness...

Indianapolis?
Blah blah blah
Indianapolis?

Tempting, but no. I do want to rob my players of all their sanity... well not instantly anyway.
you will need good pacing and keep focused to get done in 4 hours. There are more encounters than in a normal LFR adventure so they are a challenge.

That strikes me as a serious problem. Remember the rumpus over BALD1-2?

A one-round event should fit within four hours, no exceptions, for any reasonable table. If it can't, and by the sounds of it, it has been deliberately written so it can't, then it should go to two rounds. Trying to squeeze a five or six-hour scenario into four hours is doing a grave disservice to both players and GMs.
That strikes me as a serious problem. Remember the rumpus over BALD1-2?

A one-round event should fit within four hours, no exceptions, for any reasonable table. If it can't, and by the sounds of it, it has been deliberately written so it can't, then it should go to two rounds. Trying to squeeze a five or six-hour scenario into four hours is doing a grave disservice to both players and GMs.

It's a special. It's called a special because it's special. It's especially challenging and especially fun (or at least designed to be). Not everyone is going to reach the objective in 4 hours. Some will. However, it's certainly doable with a focused, balanced, and efficient group. I recently ran a table that pulled it off in 3.5 (damn you, broken power I won't name here... DAMN YOU).

~Dave
author of SPEC1-3 P1
Dave Kay LFR Writing Director Retiree dkay807 [at] yahoo [dot] com
My point is not that they should be special in terms of challenge and fun (I agree fully that they should be), but that they are almost always incapable of being run in four hours. Speaking momentarily from the point of view of a convention organiser (I was one for the best part of a decade), specials are a complete pain to schedule because they WILL overrun.

And yet, they continue to be advertised, and operate under the paradigm of being a one-round event. One-round = four hours. And this is obviously not the case. They aren't one-round, four-hour events due to their extra content. Its *almost* a case of false-advertising here.

To take a personal example, we played SPEC1-2 recently and stripping out all the RPing we still took 9.5 hours to finish it. There was just too much stuff to do to fit it into 8 hours. And that 9.5 hours is, anecdotally speaking, short compared to the normal duration that it runs (12 hours or so). I felt shortchanged afterwards because we missed all the RP (which is, I'm told, one of the best aspects of it).

Now, as it happens, the solution is simple. Make it obvious and make it clear that Specials take, say, one and a half-times as long to run. Mention it in the CCG or whatever. Put it in giant purple comic sans on the front cover. Do not still try and pretend that they run in one slot (or two). Manage the expectations of players, DMs and organisers better in this regard (well, start managing expectations really!)

You mention a focused, balanced, and efficient group doing it in 3.5 hours. Excellent. But the same group would shoot through a non-special one round event in 2 hours. And that is the problem.
Speaking momentarily from the point of view of a convention organiser (I was one for the best part of a decade), specials are a complete pain to schedule because they WILL overrun.

.... To take a personal example, we played SPEC1-2 recently and stripping out all the RPing we still took 9.5 hours to finish it. There was just too much stuff to do to fit it into 8 hours. And that 9.5 hours is, anecdotally speaking, short compared to the normal duration that it runs (12 hours or so).

SPEC1-3 is structured completly differently than SPEC1-2. MadFox talks a bit about this above. SPEC1-2 is a linear story and it is expected that PCs will go through all the encounters. SPEC1-3 is NOT a linear story (from what I've seen) and it is not expected that PCs go through all the encounters.

In addition there are certain in game story elements that will limit the play time of this adventure. In the part of SPEC1-2 that I am familiar with (H2) these limits will be clearly spelled out to the PCs at the start of the adventure.

Given these structural and story element limits, players may want to finish every single encounter but hopefully should not feel an absolute need to finish all of them. For those that want to experience all the encounters, there is always the replay rules.
I've been fortunate enough to playtest some of the SPEC1-3 mods, and none of them took us more than 4 hours. I think the biggest factor is having a balanced party, with people who know how to play their characters and who ideally have a general idea of what the other players are capable of. I can see groups having some trouble or not finishing in the time limit if they don't meet these conditions.

The SPEC1-3s are certainly designed to be challenging, as far as I can tell, and they all have some unique, interesting and fun encounters; my advice is to go into them with a positive attitude and not stress about the time contstraints, and make the most out of it. And good luck if you're playing at Dave's table (trust me, you'll need it).
I've been through each version except the 1-4. With the exception of the 11-14 mod we have been able to get though them in fours hours (and this is with an average to slightly below average group).

The paragon version took quite a while to complete.
My point is not that they should be special in terms of challenge and fun (I agree fully that they should be), but that they are almost always incapable of being run in four hours. Speaking momentarily from the point of view of a convention organiser (I was one for the best part of a decade), specials are a complete pain to schedule because they WILL overrun.

And yet, they continue to be advertised, and operate under the paradigm of being a one-round event. One-round = four hours. And this is obviously not the case. They aren't one-round, four-hour events due to their extra content. Its *almost* a case of false-advertising here.

You mention a focused, balanced, and efficient group doing it in 3.5 hours. Excellent. But the same group would shoot through a non-special one round event in 2 hours. And that is the problem.

Correct me if I'm misinterpreting you, but I believe your objection is not that the specials can't be run in their time slots- as they clearly can be. I think your objection is either that out-of-game time be a factor in the challenge in the adventure.

Many people will agree with you. Others may not, or could point out that if people want to play LFR specials in more than the time allotted, they can wait for it to be released for private play.

I've witnessed massive variations in the speed of combat encounters in 4th ed. There are various things players can do to speed up the process. In my experience, players that are actively trying to go quickly usually can. For instance: being totally familiar with their characters powers, having their attack/damage bonuses ready, avoding debating tactics discussions out of game, and thinking about what they want to do on their turn before it comes up. I think these things can become necessary in specials. Also, obviously, more optimized parties in terms of powers and tactics will defeat combats more quickly. Groups that don't focus-fire, for instance, will generally find that their combats tend to take longer than those that do.

I believe that the duress of the time limit can increase dramatic tension and thus the feelings of enjoyment & accomplishment at a special's completion. I also believe that having to stop before completing the adventure definitely reduces the amount of fun that people have.

Any significant challenge, however, repeated hundreds of times like an LFR adventure is going to have different outcomes. The more difficult, the fewer the tables will complete it or complete it in the normal time alotted. If tables weren't failing to complete specials they really wouldn't be challenging.
Starting with this special, they are going to be 1 round (4 hours) because there are essentially 4 completely different adventures, depending on the tier.

To what extent are these completely different adventures?

Can the same PC play each version when they reach the appropriate level, or are you limited to one version? (Ordinarily, I would just assume that one module code equals one play, period, but we have the example of the MYRE adventures, where the same PC can play multiple versions of an adventure.)
To what extent are these completely different adventures?

Can the same PC play each version when they reach the appropriate level, or are you limited to one version? (Ordinarily, I would just assume that one module code equals one play, period, but we have the example of the MYRE adventures, where the same PC can play multiple versions of an adventure.)

You can play all 4 versions of the special on one character. They are VERY different from each other and could have easily just been listed as 4 different mods, they are tied together by location and some other factors mostly from what I've seen.
Blah blah blah
Oh, I long for the days of the 3-round Specials! :-)

Hey, that first Expedition in the Xen'drik Expeditions campaign remains a highlight of my gaming experience.
Hey, that first Expedition in the Xen'drik Expeditions campaign remains a highlight of my gaming experience.

It was very fun to put together as well. Even though they can be unwieldy to schedule and write (and play for certain players), that many rounds really lets an adventure designer tell a full story. And there is something epic about sitting down at 8am to play an adventure and finish at about midnight with a lot of encounters completed. (And people can save all the jokes about SPEC1-2 being that long. I get it.) :-)

Shawn
You can play all 4 versions of the special on one character. They are VERY different from each other and could have easily just been listed as 4 different mods, they are tied together by location and some other factors mostly from what I've seen.

Is this an official ruling? (I only ask because I don't know who you are/what your source of information is ;)).

I would totally love to play this 4 times with one of my characters. His background is he wanted to join the militia of Myth Drannor but was deemed unfit and so is now adventuring to prove his worth. So proving his worth 4 times in Myth Drannor would certainly be neat.
Is this an official ruling? (I only ask because I don't know who you are/what your source of information is ;)).

I would totally love to play this 4 times with one of my characters. His background is he wanted to join the militia of Myth Drannor but was deemed unfit and so is now adventuring to prove his worth. So proving his worth 4 times in Myth Drannor would certainly be neat.

This has been stated numerous times by the global admins and as an author of one of the SPEC1-3 adventures, I can corroborate. I'm sure one of them will clear things up on this thread.
Dave Kay LFR Writing Director Retiree dkay807 [at] yahoo [dot] com
What everyone is saying . . .

You can replay each individual adventure within the Special with a different character. Also, you can play the same character in each of different adventures within the Special. I have been told that there are even special rewards for a PC that plays all the adventures.
I have been told that there are even special rewards for a PC that plays all the adventures.

Indeed. Story awards, mind you.
Dave Kay LFR Writing Director Retiree dkay807 [at] yahoo [dot] com
With the exception of the 11-14 mod we have been able to get though them in fours hours.

Now, I'm the world's biggest apologist/fanboy, and I love everything, but I'm still pretty disappointed by this exception.

I hope that we can find a way to have paragon adventures fit their assigned length, as we produce more of them.

Whether this means reducing the XP budget, or increasing the suggested slot length, or some other fix I haven't thought of, I'd just really like the advertised time to match the actual time (for an average case).
Correct me if I'm misinterpreting you, but I believe your objection is not that the specials can't be run in their time slots- as they clearly can be. I think your objection is either that out-of-game time be a factor in the challenge in the adventure.

EXACTLY.

My beef isn't with the content but rather that it is too tightly packed in,
This has been stated numerous times by the global admins and as an author of one of the SPEC1-3 adventures, I can corroborate. I'm sure one of them will clear things up on this thread.

Thanks

I have been told that there are even special rewards for a PC that plays all the adventures.

Nice :D
I did the playtest on this. It should be a 2 rounder or at least a 1-1/2. The writter is trying to squeeze in too much in too little of a time frame. So much was missing from the playtest that I doubt nothing changed in the final draft.
[VCL Hat On]
Let's leave the personal attacks out of our posts.
[/VCL Hat Off]
Sorry WOTC, you lost me with Essentials. So where I used to buy every book that came out, now I will be very choosy about what I buy. Can we just get back to real 4e? Check out the 4e Conversion Wiki. 1. Wizards fight dirty. They hit their enemies in the NADs. -- Dragon9 2. A barbarian hits people with his axe. A warlord hits people with his barbarian. 3. Boo-freakin'-hoo, ya light-slingin' finger-wigglers. -- MrCelcius in response to the Cleric's Healer's Lore nerf
For what its worth, my adventuring company finished this one on the H3-Hard setting. We had some time, but not a lot at the end. We're an all-dwarf band with a great amount of experience together and sound tactics.

We had an advantage in that we were all level 10 at the time. Things were kinda iffy at times when healing got low, but things seemed on track.

We managed to level up, then get level 12 before the P1-Hard version of the mod. We requested and got a DM who thoroughly tortured us at the 2009 DnD XP to run us for that. Sadly, the mod ran long and we ended up having to stop just before the last encounter.

I enjoyed the flavor of it quiet a lot, but wished we could have finished. Our group loves getting in over our heads and digging our way out. The DM put it this way - we were a level 12 group doing an adventure designed for players with a fair amount of higher level resources. He also mentioned he hadn't seen a group get farther than us.

While it made me feel a bit better, I also kind of penalized in a way for pushing the envelope. But, time is limited at events like GenCon and we cannot monopolize a DM for that long, which I completely understand.
Tulkor, Ranger of Clan Beerbiter If its not Dwarven, its CRAP! Signature interrupted by rhesus macaque.
My table of SPEC1-3 almost got the last encounter. The DM told us at the start that the mod had a main mission and there was a side mission. It wasn't designed with finishing it all in one slot in mind. It's possible, but he said not to be disappointed if we didn't get through it all. So that helped.
Sorry WOTC, you lost me with Essentials. So where I used to buy every book that came out, now I will be very choosy about what I buy. Can we just get back to real 4e? Check out the 4e Conversion Wiki. 1. Wizards fight dirty. They hit their enemies in the NADs. -- Dragon9 2. A barbarian hits people with his axe. A warlord hits people with his barbarian. 3. Boo-freakin'-hoo, ya light-slingin' finger-wigglers. -- MrCelcius in response to the Cleric's Healer's Lore nerf
I've managed to get in slot 0s of this for PAX at H1, H3, and P1. H1 went well but was somewhat disappointing that we had to end it with side rooms un-faced because of the "you must leave now!" mechanic. Overall a good experience.
H3 and P1 both ran very long and a significant portion of this seemed to be from encounters designed to prevent the PCs from acting. Controlling effects can be good and interesting in moderation, but used to excess as they were they sap the life out of a table. Spending more than 50% of the combat rounds dazed and immobilized by effects that target the entire party gets really frustrating, even more so than it makes things difficult.

I cannot comment on P1 since I have never run it, but I never had that problem with H3 except for the final fight and even there it did not feel like a problem to the players. I fear that in regards to status effects it is very difficult to judge their impact. If the DM rolls well, and the players badly, they can dominate the game even if only one or two monsters manage to pull it off. On the other hand if either of the two (or even both) roll reasonably well, the effects tend to end quickly. The speed of the players (the less time a player needs for a round, the less irritating most status effects are going to be), the build of their characters, the build of other characters (status effects loose their power if there is a leader build around granting saving throws to allies) and the encounter setup can have a HUGE impact (being dazed in a small area is less irritating then being dazed in a large area with manouverable monsters) on how irritating the status effects can be. The most important factor though is the DM, because if he keeps an eye on the fun for the players (and not just his own kill count or "sensible" monster tactics*) he can target the right PCs to make sure everybody gets a go. So at times playtests do not reveal a potential problem, although in this case, the adventures have been extensively playtested and ran at GenCon and it is the first time I heard people complain about status effects (and I had expected them for H2).


* E.g some of the monsters in H3 can daze with an at-will, but that attack deals no damage and a dazed character can still damage so on the long run it really does not help the NPCs.

At one point in H3 we had the entire party inside a gelatenous cube. The cubes had over 240 HP each, could hit several of us on a natural 2 to suck us inside, dealing 15 damage/round and dazed and grabbed. Because of the daze, attempting to escape meant giving up your entire turn in the hopes that the monster will have to spend a standard action to suck you back in (instead of sucking someone else in?). Attacking had to chew through triple digit HP which takes a while (especially with my striker lacking move/minor actions to make off hand attacks and for that matter I never had an action available to quarry the second one). Meanwhile the BBEG dominated someone about every other round, which largely just wasted those turns (though in my case got me coup de gras'd, because the dominated PC had nothing else to do).

I will say I was pleasantly surprised that the traps in the (effectively) all trap encounter were able to be disabled as a single action rather than the typical skill-challenge nonsense. That encounter was a bit dispiriting due to the expectations that have been formed from earlier traps (especially in the 1-1 mods and such). I will note that two of us at the table had plans for My Realms mods involving a trap-centric encounter in each, and are both heavily reconsidering whether and how to do so based on that experience.

As for P1: Threatening reach 4 on a flying enemy out of reach of all melee characters (with very limited exceptions for reach characters) on a 10x10(x9) map? really? And close burst 5, enemy only controller powers on said confined map? We had a TPK (the first time my swordmage has gone unconcious since level 1), but it was backed out because the DM had forgotten to scale for our 4 person party.

At one point in H3 we had the entire party inside a gelatenous cube. The cubes had over 240 HP each, could hit several of us on a natural 2 to suck us inside, dealing 15 damage/round and dazed and grabbed. Because of the daze, attempting to escape meant giving up your entire turn in the hopes that the monster will have to spend a standard action to suck you back in (instead of sucking someone else in?). Attacking had to chew through triple digit HP which takes a while (especially with my striker lacking move/minor actions to make off hand attacks and for that matter I never had an action available to quarry the second one). Meanwhile the BBEG dominated someone about every other round, which largely just wasted those turns (though in my case got me coup de gras'd, because the dominated PC had nothing else to do). I will say I was pleasantly surprised that the traps in the (effectively) all trap encounter were able to be disabled as a single action rather than the typical skill-challenge nonsense. That encounter was a bit dispiriting due to the expectations that have been formed from earlier traps (especially in the 1-1 mods and such). I will note that two of us at the table had plans for My Realms mods involving a trap-centric encounter in each, and are both heavily reconsidering whether and how to do so based on that experience. As for P1: Threatening reach 4 on a flying enemy out of reach of all melee characters (with very limited exceptions for reach characters) on a 10x10(x9) map? really? And close burst 5, enemy only controller powers on said confined map? We had a TPK (the first time my swordmage has gone unconcious since level 1), but it was backed out because the DM had forgotten to scale for our 4 person party.


1) Gelatinous Cube: If you escape the grab, you are no longer dazed and can attack as normal.


2) Threatening Reach 4 guy in P1: There are a variety of ways to handle this situation. Most of my tables at GenCon had one. These range from push/pull/slide (which any cleric with Turn Undead can do to great effect) to blinding (which two of my tables used) to relatively obscure paragon path encounter powers (Sequester is the one that I recall best from my table).


3) Close burst 5 controller power in the same encounter in P1: The only close burst 5 power in that combat attacks marked enemies only and only deals a status effect on a hit. Granted, that status effect is mean, but it's not entirely crippling. The close burst 4 attacks, however, are pretty mean...

John du Bois Living Forgotten Realms Writing Director, Netheril story area Follow me on The Twitter: @JohnduBois Follow my presence on The Intertubes: johncdubois.wordpress.com


1) Gelatinous Cube: If you escape the grab, you are no longer dazed and can attack as normal.


2) Threatening Reach 4 guy in P1: There are a variety of ways to handle this situation. Most of my tables at GenCon had one. These range from push/pull/slide (which any cleric with Turn Undead can do to great effect) to blinding (which two of my tables used) to relatively obscure paragon path encounter powers (Sequester is the one that I recall best from my table).


3) Close burst 5 controller power in the same encounter in P1: The only close burst 5 power in that combat attacks marked enemies only and only deals a status effect on a hit. Granted, that status effect is mean, but it's not entirely crippling. The close burst 4 attacks, however, are pretty mean...





1) That's true but they were upleveled (monster fort/reflex generally grows at twice the rate of PC Athletics/Acrobatics. Also they are high fort monsters to begin with, being brutes.) I admit I did not even try to escape, but with a +7 vs fort, my chances were looking pretty low. Again, trying to escape and failing means your turn consisted of taking 15 damage. My main point of course was that they are massive action-denial monsters. We spent an awful lot of rounds dazed and immobilized that day.

2) We were able to shut down his threatening reach for about 2 rounds with a push 4 + prone wizard power, but of course that provoked for 4 dice + mods of damage. We also had 2 people (including said wizard) get taken out by the trap which we were all restrained in before any of us got our first turn. One character was never able to leave the square he started the encounter in. One ended up back in the starting area (I forget how/why) and got restrained there as well, a third was a melee character forced to fight at range. My swordmage basically killed the reach guy with Shielding Fire.


3) I only played it in, didn't run it, so I'm not 100% up on which powers were close burst 4 vs 5, but I do know I was knocked unconcious 3 turns in a row by ongoing 10 psychic damage. (I realized too late I was in the worst possible place in initiative order: the first in the party. So every time anyone healed me, all the bad guys got to smack me before I could have a turn. Getting my bloodcut armor activated could have turned our TPK into a victory. As would having the encounter scaled for the number of PCs. (DM's fault, not author's. He awarded us a victory in the encounter retroactively when he realized it after the TPK.)


Anyways, I'm not saying the fights were unbeatable or unreasonably hard (for the burst4/5 enemies only/ threatening reach 4 in a small enclosed space, I am calling it cheesy) but because they were so controller/lockdown heavy that makes them take a long time (to say nothing of insubstantial: at least it's paragon tier, so attacks other than Magic Missile w/ a particular feat from dragon can do full damage (+1d10!) to insubstantial creatures, had we taken that feat at 11th instead of waiting for 12). Also elite brutes take a long time to kill. So these fights were designed in a way that tends to make them run long, which is not such a great thing for a mod that sports above average fights to complete (4 to win, 6 to be thorough in P1 I believe).

At one point in H3 we had the entire party inside a gelatenous cube. The cubes had over 240 HP each, could hit several of us on a natural 2 to suck us inside, dealing 15 damage/round and dazed and grabbed. Because of the daze, attempting to escape meant giving up your entire turn in the hopes that the monster will have to spend a standard action to suck you back in (instead of sucking someone else in?). Attacking had to chew through triple digit HP which takes a while (especially with my striker lacking move/minor actions to make off hand attacks and for that matter I never had an action available to quarry the second one). Meanwhile the BBEG dominated someone about every other round, which largely just wasted those turns (though in my case got me coup de gras'd, because the dominated PC had nothing else to do).

Well, the cubes are very likely to be the last fight and I did excempt that one in my reply ;) In my experience cubes tend to cause a panic amongst the players. They desperately try to get out, but being dazed that is not exactly the best of actions. Attacking the cube en-masse usually is better. The times I ran the adventure the players did panic, but in each case they managed to kill the cubes with enough resources left to still face the lich.

Note: I am a bit unclear about what you mean with your remark about the traps. The far majority of players *hated* the skill challenge disabling mechanism as printed in the XXXX1-1 adventures. Most people I spoke with loved the trap encounter. A few disliked it, although at the time I did not had the time to ask why.
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