Our ranger had darkvision (goggles of the night) and I could grant him RBAs with serious buffs without being able to see him. However it was a interesting mechanic, which does not get seen in many mods, as sunrod = win.
My group at AL20 consisted of:
18 Warforged Barbarian/Frenzied Beserker
18 Minotaur Fighter/Some racial PP
17 Gnome Pally|Lock Hybrid/Justicar
17 Dwarf Cleric/Luckbringer
In the first encounter the initiative was spread out and the butler went first. Completely dark and only one PC had darkvision. However, Butler went first and into total concealment and I just took 10 on all his stealth checks and just completely ignored the stealth check penalty. So first round all PCs were in darkness and the one PC with darkvision couldn't see the butler, who I removed him from the board and kept track of him on a mini-map. I spent his action point right away and double crit one of the PCs to set off Triumphant cry twice to get the Watcher and Abductor into the fray and put everyone in darkness and negate any teleporting. The PCs eventual killed of the Abductor first and I would convienently recharge certain powers. I never had the chance to dominate the Barbarian because he made all his saves. The PCs had enough burst powers to put enough damage and I just ignored the Pallylock's challenge/sanction in favor of concentrating on other PCs.
Second combat I scaled for 5 instead of 4. I changed all the locations of the traps because I had a player draw the map. I decided that the floor traps are friendly and since the Giants have fly hover, they are not touching the ground (DME). The Shadow Captain couldn't hit for crap, so until he was bloodied he was useless and always under total concealment. When he hit bloodied I turned him into the Butler from the first encounter with the Captain's defenses (DME). The Shadow Giants were temporarily held up after a useful and balanced Turn Undead and one was pushed past the barrier into the study taking him out for a round. Yder started off first, blasted every PC with his Close Blast 10 and convienently teleporting back into the room near the back (DME). He mainly targeted the Pallylock who had Shadowbane with what I called Slash and Blast, trying to maximize who is in his blast at the time. I made his big blast a recharge 5-6 (DME) and his Query a recharge when bloodied (DME). I also gave him an extra action point when he became bloodied (DME). I didn't bother to tell the PCs that he dropped to 0 at some point and just continued on until his last hitpoints depleted (DME). I made it so that the cages attacked any adjacent PC when they moved next to or started their turn and even bumped the damage up a bit. They also had to do a certain amount of damage to destroy the cage and the devil inside.
By having a Justicar, the PCs negated the fear aura of the Giants and Prince's Stare while adjacent to the Justicar, which was most of the time.
When I first read the encounter, I was glad I was given the chance to use a Prince of the Shadovar against my regular group. But I was so disappointed after looking over the stat blocks, which is why I had all the DME. I even had to break out my aristocratic vampire voice to be more cinematic.
Sounds pretty epic guys.
Hopefully the Neth story coordinator will let me write for Neth year 2, as I have some absolutely terrific idea's that spawned from all the back and forth. (Note, the following rant is based on what I was assigned from this module.)
Overall, I'm glad that the mechanics of the first combat have gone the way I envisioned them too. Pc's that have made item choices, etc are not punished, nor is the sunrod the end all be all. When I first pitched the idea. The first thing John sent back was. You have got to be kidding me. I however having played a lot of LFR, judged a lot more of it. Wanted to put together a really unique combat that brought the lack of being able to see into play.
Also, listening to Godsmack at the time I was drafting idea's. I couldnt help but latch onto one line from one of their songs which prompted the direction the combat went. I was listening to "Release the Demons" To which I promptly asked John. "Can I put Demons in this" John - No. "But this song has g..." John- Skip. No. Bad Skip.
Eventually the concept of the fight came from the lines. "What do you see when you're in the dark, and the Demons come." I simply replaced Demons with Shadovar, busted open my books and went fishing to find creatures to fit my concept. Thankfully the concept was kept intact, although the dominating monsters was my editors contribution, as well as a less detailed map. (Damn your self imposed restrictions! My first map was a thing of art!)
Overall I'd like to thank everyone who has given me feedback, and for being understanding this is my first LFR module that I have helped write, and I hope my next offering builds on whats here, and goes forward. Lee and Michelle also are really happy that the over all feedback has been good. The team is glad we were able to offer a solid story driven plotline for this years Neth arc.
Now, to potential writing directors out there. I have great turn around times, good communication, and if you have something you want done, I can do it. I come with good reviews. Or at least I better. /eyes John Dubois. I'd be glad to help flesh out, or even try my hand at a whole module this time!
-Because I can
Just ran it for AL 16. They had some challenges because they only had half a leader for their party of 6 (Drow Ranger|Bard).
I made the skill challenge a little harder than it was probably meant to be, in an effort to accrue some failures. I applied the penalty from rewards as a penalty to their social skill checks and stealth checks (but not to knowledge or thievery checks). Despite that, they only accrued 3 failures (and one of them was in the "gathering extra information" stage, so it didn't count as a failure for the skill challenge).
A Lantern of Revelation that the warlock had, made the first fight quite a bit easier when he used its daily, though a couple people still went down. First time I dominated the warlock, the bard transfered the condition to his wolf. Second time I dominated someone else, but they shook it off before their turn with some item or other I think. And I might have missed once. So no one other than the wolf was dominated (and the wolf's attacks were pretty pathetic). Since they were doing quite well, I upped the damage from the Defiler's implement to each enemy within 5, and 10 damage to scare them a bit (knowing half the party had resist necrotic 10 or 15, so it wasn't a huge deal). I think it had the desired effect.
In the last fight, they were facing maximum possible monsters, though Yder wasn't beefed up. It took a little longer than I would have thought, but that's probably partially because of my monster tactics. I was making an effort to cycle my front line monsters, so the damage was spread around. I knew the boss was coming back after he died, so I didn't mind people taking pot shots at him and ignoring everything else for a while. After a few rounds, when nothing had died yet, they stopped to think, and decided to start killing stuff. It was funny, as if that decision was all they needed, so stuff started keeling over dead as they more deliberately focused their fire. The fighter's Radiant Weapon, and a few of the swordmage's radiant attacks (not to mention attacks with Shadowbane) went a long way toward defeating the giants.
I forgot about the "half healing" aura of the giants the first round or two, but I think only one person had used a self healing power at that point, so it wouldn't have made a huge difference. I used the Shadovar captains as artillery more than anything else, just so I wouldn't have to think too much (didn't notice their range 5, was using 10/20). Had one of them climb on top of a book shelf so he could see everything. At some point, the warlock teleported up there too, and blew him to smithereens. The defenders were taking loads of damage, and the bard somehow managed to keep them up. Only the fighter went down I think, and even he came back up toward the end when he rolled an 18 for his death save with a +2 from his feat, he got to spend a surge.
The players definitely thought it was a tough fight, and they were happy with their success (as at one point, there was a brief discussion of retreat). I'd say the mod gave me all the tools I needed, to scale the challenge of the fight for the group. If a party had all the right tools, it might have been a simpler fight, but for my group, I think it was just about the right amount of challenge. The fighter kept saying "You made me use all my encounter and daily powers, that never happens".
I thought it was compelling enough...I have a hard time imagining Good/Lawful Good characters actually NOT making the deal.
Of course... Spoiler: Show
Whoever wields shadowbane will want to just kill him. (Especially any replayers who don't want their concordance to drop so they can get a shiny new rare item.)
Between the desire (from the whole party, really) to follow Shadowbane's goals and the fact that his notes and journals and everything were Right There for the taking, we didn't see much reason to parlay.
This plot point needed to show up earlier and with more/better information. We only knew that the guy was working on stuff in his lab rather than attending gov't sessions. And that he was far less aggressive towards neighboring countries than his fellow princes. But we didn't know What he was working on, that there was a problem that needed addressing, or anything like that.
So, yeah, not a hard choice. *shrug*
Yes. Our reaction was "Oh, all these notes are lying all over the place with all the important information in them? Ok. Well, we'll kill the BBEG and then take his notes and give them to some smart person who can figure them out." There wasn't a compelling reason that the shade prince needed to be kept alive or was the key.
Oh I know that personally. This brings us back to the question of relative player/PC intelligence (one of the reasons I dislike riddles and puzzles in LFR).
I'm guessing it's more DM dependent. It's spelled out pretty clearly that the PC's need to choose between the lesser of two evils. When running this, I think I made a fairly compelling argument from the shade prince PoV. But I also had to prod one PC with Shadowbane's desire. There was actually a brief pause as the players looked at each other and discussed, wait, are we supposed to kill this guy or not? Shadowbane's wielder pretty much made the decision for everyone (not that anyone was complaining). The amount of effort I put into the shade prince's arguments was enough to give them pause, but deliberately not enough to dissuade them from their path.
As DM, I could have pushed harder for parley, but honestly, the shade prince fight was a much more fun fight, than fighting the rivals during the escape. If it was the other way around, I might have tried to do more convincing with the shade prince. So perhaps next time designing two interesting combat encounters rather than one interesting and one average, could help the DM's efforts. And another reason I didn't try too hard, was because of XP. I felt it would be robbing them of quest XP if I steered them any more toward an agreement with the shade prince.
Just to throw in a random idea, if there is going to be a choice like this for choosing the lesser of two evils (or greater good, or whatever you want to call it), in a series of mods, put that choice in the first or second mod, where it doesn't affect the quest XP. Then in the third mod, depending on which path the PC took earlier, there could be different rewards that lead to the same quest xp.
The only problem I see with that is if it is not the same group of players doing the whole quest arc together. Then what do you do if some players started on path A and other players started on path B? I do agree with you that if there is supposed to be a legitamate choice, with either option being equally valid, that both options should have equal (although not necessarily identical) rewards (XP, treasure, and story awards). Otherwise it will feel like it's not really a choice and players who choose the "wrong" path feel like they're being punished for a roleplaying decision.
Yep, my ritual caster who has been fighting agents of Shar for the last couple thousand years immediately went, "Don't do anything that would destroy his notes or lab", then let Shadowbane take the lead.
I look forward to seeing the further destruction of Sembia in future modules
I have to agree with fugacityD. It is borderline bait and switch to present the adventure as an assassination mission (which in an of itself implies a certain degree of moral flexibility), and then try to turn it into something else.
The only bait and switch going on I think, is to check and see how blindly pc's will follow orders, without interjecting free thought.
This series is a monorail, that much is true. However the way and path in which pc's approach the missions are completely up to them. If you want to go in and Seal Team 6 the bad guy, no problem you can do it. If you want to do some recon, and see whats going on before you pull the trigger. No problem.
We cant please everyone; we arent trying to. But we put a little bit for every style of group in this series. Go in guns blazing, take no prisoners module? Check. Go in Learn the backstory, get an idea of whats going on - have something for your face characters to do? Check.
Give people a weird and ultimitely cool artifact, whether they align with or agaisnt people? Check.
If you went into this module, with a lets go guns blazing attitude, I think we delivered that expierence to you. If you went in, and said hey - things arent adding up, lets check this out. Blam. Got that done for you as well.
Its all about how you percieve things, or your ability to change gears on the fly.
It's not bait-and-switch - you can still kill him. Bait-and-switch would be something like a mod that opened up with you getting hired for some treasure hunt, and then it fast forwards you past that section to the part where you have to conduct the auction for the treasure.
I've run many adventures with grey choices and greater good concepts over the years (I run a lot of Cthulhu, where the greater good may mean kidnapping homeless people and trading their brains to Elder Things to keep an ancient god buried in the Antarctic, for example) and they are not easy to set up. I loved the series and look forward to more, but the reveal needed much more work. As it stands in the mod, it will not work:
1) it fails the rule of three. When you need players to understand something is unusual, you must give them three ways least to discover it. One they'll never find, one they'll ignore and the the final one to make them understand. This is a standard for investigation mods but is equally applicable to "things not begin as they seemed"
2) It contradicts the experiences of playing previous LFR mods. All previous shades have been straight out bad and untrustworthy. When you change direction, you need big, bright signs. 3-3 could be such a sign. Next mod could start with a scene making it clear that the choice was real and that keeping them shade alive would have been good.
3) it is not possible to keep him alive with a player in your group that has a chance of getting the weapon. Frankly, anyone who decides that they will screw the player out of a very flavorful artifact forth sake of potential plot is a bad player. The name of the game is fun, and the artifact is a known and definite fun. Letting a shade live is, at best, cool for 15 more minutes of play.
4) There is no obvious downside to killing him. I read that section of the mod carefully and when my players said that he might be right, but that it was safer just to kill him -- as they had promised to do -- and bring back his notes, the only potential issue was that he might be a moderate in Netherese politics. But wait, what use is that? The mod made it seem they'd never listen to him anyway!
Overall, An excellent mod, but a pointless non-decision at the end. GMs should not worry much about it and gloss over it. Probably best to treat it as a sign of things to come rather than a real choice.
Thanks for the feedback, Graham!
I have a few bits of response:
1) Rule of Three: The story arc for the year 3 Netheril adventures was constructed all at once, with adventures peeled off after. The "rule of 3" is definitely invoked over the course of the trilogy - I wrote part two and Spoiler: Show
my portion to the "investigation" aspect was actually in the caravan. Certain people - the changeling in particular! - give more background to just how messed up the Sand Kings are, while others - like the Shadow Caravan owner - can give the players a sense of how the Princes operate and that the shades aren't always the worst option.
I can see how you're referring to desiring the "rule of 3" in the scope of the adventure, though. The difficult aspect of that is that it would require a certain amount of role playing and additional encounters, and the adventures can already run long. Not that its a bad idea though!
2) Stay tuned for year 4. I have it on good authority that... wait, someone's at the door....
3) I hope they enjoy their new shiny. Like, *really really* enjoy it. Some evils aren't as great as they're made out to be, and who ever earned it should really keep that in mind as we move forward in the story line for next year and beyond.
4) Oh wow. See number 2! I love seeing responses like this.
Overall, I'm very excited to not have been a writer for year 3, but to be able to watch the plotline develop from here out. The fact that the admins are allowing us to use the players as such integral resources in the construction of the game's storyline is really cool, and the Netheril writing director has been very positive about using the player feedback in a way that informs players about the consequences of their decisions, as well as rewarding players for doing things "according to plan".
I'll give this the old college try.
The rule of 3. This could be applicable if we were going for hand everything out. We werent. We wanted people to not go into neutral and just glide through the module. In particular in 3-3. We wanted players to have paid attention to 3-2, and then ask questions in Shade about how things were going. If you didnt get it in 3-2, didnt get it in the skill challenge in 3-3 then we left the big bright sign when the Prince said. Hey this is whats going on.
Dont really know how much bigger a sign you need at that point.
Previous LFR modules. We didnt really want the same expierence as previous LFR modules. We wanted something fresh. We dont broad brush paint anything. Just because LFR has painted all potential shade's as evil before hand, dosent make the entire race evil. That is a misconception that people inflict upon themselves. We looked at it, as a way for adventurers to see the very best in humanity, instead of metagame that since its a shade it *must* be stab a granny, smack a baby, take your lunch money evil.
Artifacts and you. This is where your arguement loses steam. As you basically say this isnt a roleplaying game anymore. This is table top Diablo. I'd say a player who plays his character true, because of the plot, because of their character is a great player. The player who misses out, a very good sport if they take it well, a very horrible player if they get upset.
Why is an item - swaying your decision? Is your character the type that lusts for power? Or is the player the one who needs to have the special cert? D&D has always been about story telling. Shiny's are just a bonus.
The Prince was a moderate in politics. But then again so are many other people. The only question becomes at that point. Why kill someone for the sake of killing him? If your players can agree that killing him is a bad idea, or maybe that he is right and holding off something big and bad. At that point they made a decision to commit an evil act. Let us assume the moral ambiguity of the situation. Sure they are hired to kill him. But now they have determined that he is infact keeping thousand of innocent lives from harms way. The decision to then go "ah screw it lets kill him anyway" takes them from a shade of grey, right into the big black gaping maw of evil.
If they had simply alpha struck him, I wouldnt say the same. But by listening to his plea, weighing the evidence, and deciding to kill him anyway, they went from being heroes to killers. It cant really be argued any other way. "I dont get phat loot 1 unless we kill him. Oh wait he is saving lives by keeping this storm away? Bah. I want my loot - kill him and take his stuff" Sounds more like munchkin, then D&D.
But thats just my thoughts. ^^
While I have no trouble accepting that the various Shade Princes have different personalities, priorities and personal agendas, that does not IMHO translate to everyone must or should agree to work with them.
When I role play my dwarven paladin of Selune, there is no williness to compromise or discuss with any Shade or lackey of Netheril. They are (fact) worshippers of Shar, an evil Deity, who is the arch-enemy of my Deity (Selune). Moreover, the goal of the Shades is to re-establish the Netheril Empire and rule the world (fact). In my paladin's viewpoint, that a given prince might be a "moderate," less interested in the corporate agenda and more in his personal outcomes, is interesting but irrelevant. Whether or not any given statement by a Prince is truth or falsehood is also interesting but irrelevant. They are at war and have been for a long time. There is no moral ambiguity in killing a Shade Prince when you worship Selune (a Good deity). My role playing the character is in no way related to the bennies of an artifact, xp, gp or other treasure.
Sorry, Skip, but none of us get to define Good and Evil in the Forgotten Realms, that has been done for us. (If WotC, TSR, and ultimately Ed Greenwood had not identified alignments for the deities, you might have an argument.) This is not Greyhawk where moral clarity is lacking. Maybe there is a practical, strategic or tactical advantage to working together on a short term problem (a convergence of state interests, like what too often happens in the Real World), but please do not attempt to recast that as being Good or Evil.
Opposition of a group, such as the Sand Kings to an Evil group does not mean they are defacto worthy or saints or even competent.
Not saying Unaligned PCs might see some advantage or wisdom is siding with the Prince.
Eh, just because the evil villain has studied his tropes well enough to deflect some attention doesn't make him not an evil villain.
If people show up to kill Szass Tam, for instance, I wouldn't call it evil to kill him even if he says "If you kill me, I'll lose control of the undead and they'll attack innocents all along the border of Thay." or even more direct "My death will set off a plague that will strike down all of the children of Aglarond. You may as well surrender, for you dare not attack."
Those innocents were only in trouble in the first place _because_ of him. If he was even telling the truth, which there's hardly enough time to ascertain. If you want there to be moral ambiguity at the time, instead of after the fact, it needs to be more setup. Take that as you will.
Having an artifact along for PCs to keep if they go along with it, or be potentially mind controlled into following if they don't... probably just further locks the deal, as a lot of tables are going to end up with someone there just to get a cool named sword.
I will start a new thread so as not to hijack this one.
Calling the Sand Kings "terrorists" is... is... well let's just say in this day and age you don't want to throw that word around lightly.
Is there ANY direct evidence IN AN LFR ADVENTURE that the Sand Kings have engaged in evil acts? (Let's put it that way, so as not to drag in real world issues.)
I am not aware of any.
(Rumors and innuendo spread by Shade Princes do not count as direct evidence.)
Some general thoughts on the recent commentary:
1. Words in my mouth, please don't put them there. While I'd have liked more time to get NETH3-3 in a place to make the choice a better choice (we were aiming for 50/50 and clearly missed), NETH3-4 was never on the table and I'm not sure how I'd have done a NETH3-4.
2. The goal for this adventure was *always* for both choices to be equally valid choices, and a choice between taking what may be your only chance to kill a Shade Prince and potentially putting the lives of many, many innocents at risk if you do. Clearly, as I said in point 1, we missed. We've taken notes.
3. NETH3-3 is not the only LFR adventure to feature agents of Netheril telling the truth. In all three NETH adventures, the only person working for Netheril who was dishonest at all with the PCs was someone who wasn't even working for Netheril (in fact, the allegiance was the main area of deception). If you're used to Netherese agents lying as an expression of their evil, get unused to it now or expect to be disappointed in future adventures (or at least warm up your Insight checks). Everyone knows Netheril is bad; lying and appearing to be good doesn't get them anywhere.
4. The PCs have interacted with few high-level agents of Netheril in a discussion setting, and none as high as Yder (and I'm 100% certain about the latter of those claims). Anyone who thinks otherwise is projecting player attitudes into their PCs, especially if they decide someone's lying without an Insight check.
5. The word "terrorist" was not thrown around lightly; it was intended to indicate that the Sand Kings were killing innocents to sow fear into the population of Netheril. They are, and there is direct evidence as long as you don't believe that every person who lives in Netheril is a lying servant of the Shades (and if you do, you're likely to be sorely disappointed by these and future Netheril adventures). NPCs in NETH3-2 and NETH3-3 have personal, mostly first-hand accounts of the Sand Kings engaging in acts of wholesale indiscriminate slaughter (in fact, between the two adventures there are three opportunities to learn such information); whether these acts are evil or not is debatable, but it is clearly established in each story that the Sand Kings are killing citizens of Netheril who are merely trying to make a living and not committing evil acts of their own.
6. In the end, while I hoped that the choice would be about 50/50, we decided that if there was any error, it would be in favor of the PCs killing the Shade Prince. We had future story plans for either contingency, as foreshadowed at the end of this adventure. I assure you, you will not need to wait long to determine the impact of this adventure (and some others).
Just to iterate at the top again: great series, loved it. Will run it again any time I can very happily. 12 hours of gaming and only one or two minor nits to pick is an excellent strike rate. I would volunteer to write for NETHERIL in a heartbeat except that I've just finished a 240 page technical book, got a rough first draft of a stage play, have committed to a chapter for a programming book, and am writing plots for a level 25 4e campaign and a Dr.Who campaign.
And I'm still half tempted becaue I think the series is that good!
To be clear, I think it became clear that the sand kings were not nice, at least at the end. Terrorists (aka freedom fighters) seems an appropriate moniker. However the shade prince does not come out as any better, really.
Things learned about Yder in 3-3:
- Yder is the head of a major worship site dedicated to Shar.
- If the players make not one, but two optional checks in the second skill challenge scene, they find that the general shade population generally believe he is true to his word when dealing with the common folk of the city.
- When you enter his mansion, you are expected by the denizens, who immediately attack without any attempt to talk. Yder later let's the party know he knew they were coming, so the assumption is he wants you dead, and is only now talking because his minions failed to kill the party.
- When you enter his workroom, the only unusual features are some caged demons.
- When he talks, he states only that he doesn't think NETHERIL should expand. He doesn't think its wrong or evil to enslave people, destabilize governments or even return conquered lands. All he states is that he thinks further expansion is a bad idea. Frankly, I would assume that he thinks they should consolidate their powe base for a century or so and THEN push to conquer e universe. There is no sense given that he thinks Netherese expansion is wrong per se, just that it's not a good idea now.
So, summing up. Yder serves an evil godess with a portfolio including unrevealed secrets, knows you are coming and has ordered his main servant to kill you without talking to you. He keeps caged demons around and doesn't think the general Netherese strategy and plans are wrong, just that now might not be a good time to expand. The artifact you spent adventures with, your employers and your characters pre-paragon experiences all tell you to kill him. If you are lawful, you also gave your word you would.
Set against that is the fact that, if your party had social skills and decided to hang around the city a little, you know some commoners think he's true to his word when dealing with them.
This is not a 50/50 decision. Look at it from the players POV and see the evidence they see. Write it down in list form and then look at whether you have given enough to the layers to make a true choice. I played 3-1 and 3-2 with a drow assassin who took the Lolth paragon path and even she had a hard time thinking there might be anything in what Yder was saying. What hope does the average good cleric of Bahomet have? Or an unaligned character, even?
This is an easy thing to do. I've written dozens of adventures where I thought as a writer I'd made something obvious, when it really wasnt. It's a hard thing to do. And, fortunately, it has pretty much no effect on the rest of the mod, so it's not a serious issue. This is more a note to say that (1) I like the concept of the quandary (2) I'd like there to have been a quandary. More please!
@skip: there is a big difference between wanting an item because it is powerful and wanting it for fun. You state "Why is an item - swaying your decision? Is your character the type that lusts for power? Or is the player the one who needs to have the special cert? D&D has always been about story telling. Shiny's are just a bonus" which is odd because I told you ... Because it is fun -- it IS for storytelling. It is cool and fun simply for the story aspect of it. It's not a killer powerful item, any more than the ELTU one is. Nice for some classes, yes, but way more nice for some characters because it makes their character more fun! I'm sorry you think the only reason someone might want an item is for power, but not all 4e players are like this. For my characters, they tend to have more loyalty to their friends then to an empire. If you like it is another grey area of decision making. I would argue that party cohesion and loyalty should be a strong force in the game. Asking both characters AND players to act against this is another strike agains the concept that the choice was 50/50
Iterating again that the length of this note should not be judged an indictment. The series, and this mod, were great. I strongly encourage and support more like it. I've just written a lot of non-traditional adventures and know that sometimes it is hard for a writer to realize that what the PCs see can be very different from what the writer expects, and that their decision-making process can be grayer even then a terrorist-tyrant decision ...
Anyway, finished NETH3-3 a couple of days ago...
I really like the mod and the series.
First combat was relatively easy. My character had Faervian foisted on him for evil character development reasons, has Goggles of Darkvision because he's a teleporter worried about not being able to see, and is an Evermeet Warlock who used Feylights(negates insubstantial and all effects of concealment). Needless to say, Naramus was not pleased to have me hanging around him.
The 2nd combat got short-circuited by our Wizard putting half the opponents into unconsciousness.
I agree with everything that Graham said about the motivation to ally with the Shade Prince vs. the Sand Kings. I think the basic issue is the assassination hook - if you're putting PCs onto the spot of assassinating someone(or fail to play the mod), there needs to be one heck of 'you really don't want to do this' on the other side. I would have considered a few things:
In Encounter 1, show Yder has actually pushed back against the Shade Princes. A "He got into an unusually public discussion about what the Netherese ought to be doing, arguing vehemantly that now was not the time for aggression. It isn't clear what happened except that afterwards, Yder has apparently retired to his mansion and the Netherese have halted some of their more ambitious projects."
Have the 1st combat offer some evidence that the PCs could be doing the wrong thing. A "There are the mercenary assassins that our Prince warned us about!"
The Shade Prince should have offered the same reward that the Sand Kings offered, or a near equivalent. If you haven't done anything with the Netherese, all you get is this Shade Coin. That's a far bigger problem than Shadowbane's Concordance score.
Then, the PCs are prepped to receive a 50/50 message. They probably still won't take it, but at least they'll feel guilty about it afterwards.
Like I said we had great fun in the series and loved this mod.
However on the particular wizards side, it's not just Oghma here but also that he's almost a Sage of Ages and therefore has that college of magi who he could also work with. And he's a cocky little SOB who believes his power is eternal espeially when combined with the resources of the Oghmaite (that's what they are isn't it?) and Sages.
You are right though that millenia of study from the Netherese is a powerful force but they BBEG had his notes right there. It wouldn't take a temple of Oghma long to pull it all together knowledge from those notes and combine that with the idea of the pathenon where Oghma could just walk over to Shar and use his domain of knowledge influence to get her to share some info.
Of course that all depends on how you believe the pathenon works but I feel that the gods have their domains and they rule across them (sharing rule with other gods of the same domain). Oghma has knowldege so has sway over the other gods when it comes to matters of knowldege, just like Shar holds sway over darkness (and knowledge), Bahamut justice, etc, etc. And given that Oghma is unaligned there is a chance that Shar would share knowledge with him to achieve a goal that she's obviously already supporting.
That's just how I saw it at middnight on a Sunday night though. And like I said, I loved the idea and the adventure. I just don't think it's a large enough pendulum for a good based party in a generally good based campaign to follow, particularly with shadowbane inside a PCs head.
While the characters likely do not know it, but Shar's ultimate goal is correcting the mistake she made at the dawn of time: creating the world
Anyway, I have no doubt that an epic level cleric of Oghma would eventually learn something that can stop the Maelstrom from growing (removing seems unlikely since why would it otherwise have existed for 100 years) it will take a lot of time even with the prince's notes. By that time it might be too late for a sizable portion of Sembia.
I'd point out the relatively obvious problem for the Sage of Ages character - not only might you be aware of the Maelstrom issues, but you're also likely to be aware of far greater threats that only you have the resources to deal with. Who cares if the Maelstrom eats Sembia if due to your lack of commitment, Shar unmakes the world?
As background info for this, my warlord has a Ring of Retreat, aimed at his estate in Suzail, in a special room where attendants are standing by with refreshments, expecting 4-6 adventurers to appear without notice (after the mod.) He had also gotten "stuck" with the Shadowbane, as his Eladrin Soldier feat gave him a heavy blade specific feat for the tiebreaker.
So, as we enter the fight, the DM has the Shade Prince monologue telling us to stop, we don't understand what's at stake, and innocent lives could be lost if there is a battle. Now I can't tell if people are lying or telling the truth, but Azure, our invoker, believed him, and I trust Azure. Knowing what the Shadowbane would do to me, if I resisted battle (+28 Arcana), I set about a course of action.
It started with me going first in initiative. Shadowbane sensed my reluctance, and tried to dominate me. Natural 1!
So, I took a standard action - Retreat! I materialized in my reception room in Suzail. Minor action, I handed the sword to an attendant, and instructed him to summon highknights and war wizards to take the blade safely to the palace. With my remaining move action....
...mmm, I ate a canape.
Over the past three weeks, marlofkark and I ran significantly modified versions of the Year 3 Netheril adventures. Our players (two separate groups of 4) greatly enjoyed the adjusted adventures, so we're sharing them with the world.
Yes, our adjustments go well beyond so-called DM Empowerment (DME). We modified the NETH adventures specifically to satisfy ourselves and our players.
We are indebted to the original authors of the NETH adventures for creating the framework upon which we built. We "stood on the shoulders of giants".
NETH 3-3 version 2.0
NETH3-3 “Seek and Destroy”
PRE-ADVENTURE: As the adventure begins, the PCs have just arrived back in the free city of Urmlaspyr in Sembia following the events of NETH3-2 and are waiting to speak with Ashurta, leader of the Sand Kings.
This only gets run if the PCs spare Yder, which basically means they’re being evil (and stupid).
Here's what happened when we ran this.
Last night proved to be a satisfying ending to the story arc. We got positive reviews from both (the player of the paladin with Shadowbane) and (the player of the wizard, who is sometimes an annoying person, but we like her anyway).
There is no doubt it my mind that our polishing these three mods contributed significantly to the positive response. (Wizard's player) in particular shared her two big beefs with LFR writers: 1.) morally ambiguous plots with no clear good guy / bad guy (we gave them great clarity) or 2.) plots that fail to give you the chance to get the big bad (e.g. CORM2-2 Pain).
(One of the players from my group had to switch to marlofkark's group for NETH 3-3, taking his half-orc barbarian with him). This gave the party a very strong striker. Consequently, I ran both two combats as if they had five players (instead of 4 in reality), which worked fine.
(Paladin's player) ended up being a little frustrated in the courtyard encounter. His dice were just not cooperating and the others (even wizard) were the ones dropping the shadow creatures, thus preventing Shadowbane from getting a kill.
In the end, it totally paid off. (Paladin) finally decided to break off from the rest of the group to go after the guy on the wall (the defiler). It's described as a 7 sq. high, sheer, obsidian surface. (Paladin) took the direct route and rolled two high 30s athletics checks. I described it as (paladin) being the bad-ass driving Shadowbane into the extremely hard material and thus creating footholds for him to climb. (Paladin) totally earned the kill, with the shadow humanoid writhing in agony with each strike. Very satisfying. It also perfectly set up the unlocking of Shadowbane's new concordance power.
The other interesting element of that encounter was (wizard). (Wizard is) from Cormyr, and (the player) reminded us that he's here for king and country, which only coincidentally coincided with the motives of the their Sand Kings employer. Consequently, I kept asking her if she was sure she didn't want to do more in the first combat. (Player) replied that (wizard) was here to do a job and that his powers would be best used later.
I am shocked to report that (player) was absolutely correct. (She normally makes bizarre and usually ineffective combat tactic / strategy decisions.) She held her most effective controller powers for Yder and utterly redefined that combat. In particular, she made the most effective use of a firewall that I have ever seen. (Warlord PC) also managed to keep (paladin) in Yder's face.
(Paladin) , now with maximum concordance, once again proved to be the tough-as-nails, bad-ass paladin with one freaking awesome ancient sword. (He) rolled two crits and was otherwise rolling damage that easily equaled the barbarian striker.
I made sure Ashurta mentioned that they needed to kill Yder in such a way as to prevent him from being raised. As I described full Shadowbane concordance to them after the first encounter, they all immediately picked up on trapping Yder's soul. At the beginning of round three, (barbarian) chose to knock Yder unconscious (though it was paladin & Shadowbane who had done 90% of the damage), and (paladin) immediately thereafter drove Shadowbane home with an effortless coup de grâce. Yder never even had the chance to rise with his extra 78 hit points. An epic ending to an epic adventure.
And (wizard's) whole speech about Cormyr gave the final scene with the High Prince all that much more resonance. They all felt as though they had just woken a very ancient and very powerful sleeping dragon but would not have traded the opportunity to do so for anything.
I only had 3 players.
The (half-elf bard with Diplomacy +30something) blew through the opening skill challenge even with the Davisa penalty.
Both combats I ran as if 4 PCs, which made both go a bit long, so beware of that. Maybe trim some hit points? I wouldn't remove any monsters unless you have to.
First combat, the watcher only got 1 dominate off. That scared them so they killed it first. The defiler really should come down from the ramparts so it can use its pseudo-aura 3... an extra 10 necrotic every time it uses an implement power is a lot of bonus damage.
Second combat, Yder was a beast. I recharged his powers a bunch which helped. It actually was anticlimactic to have him return from the dead, so maybe skip that, especially if he goes down to a Shadowbane hit.
The shadow giant's aura is very nasty so be sure to get as many PCs as possible within 5. I would also say to use its mark-violation power as an Encounter if no one is going to violate its mark voluntarily, just because that is such a cool power.
Finally, don't underestimate the captain's damage output. She did a ton of pain just by flanking with Yder.
My players were also highly satisfied with the modified adventures. They particularly enjoyed beating down Yder to put an end to his trash talk.
Very interesting. I read the NETH3-1 adjustments and perused the others and I find some of your changes to be pretty cool. In your spoiler block here you state the following:
"There is no doubt it my mind that our polishing these three mods contributed significantly to the positive response."
It should be noted that we received a lot of positive response from the original adventures as written. So, there is no doubt in my mind that your "polishing" these three mods wouldn't have, in fact, made a significant impact in the overall response they would have received from the masses of groups that ran them. For your individual group? Obviously, yes.
First, I described my experience to Joshua at some point, as feeling as though he and I were polishing a fine gem. Our "polishing" satisfied our personal desires for these modules. Our tastes are not everyone's tastes. To all of original authors of the Netheril trilogy, there was never a question in my mind, at least, that we were dealing with gems, all three of them.
A second, more detailed comment to follow.
- Mark (The Marl of Kark)
Please also note that I have personally enjoyed running CORM2-2 on several occasions and will totally make an exception regarding my point one above in terms of the moral conundrums of dealing with the immediate villain. However, my players have almost universally expressed their frustration that they could not do more to taking down the second tier villain behind the scene. I guess I just want to have my cake and eat it too.
As you can also see, my quote had in mind a specific conversation with one of our players following NETH3-3 that specifically mentioned my two "criticism" with LFR in general, without my prompting her in any way to do so. This is why I was so definitive in my statement.
So, Tom, I totally commend you for so reasonably and politely making and following up on your point. Your criticism is well placed. On our end, it is certainly easier to criticize and offer suggestions AFTER something is written, when the lion’s share of the work (and all of the blood and sweat) has already been endured by someone else. Please temper our often blunt critiques through this prism. I, for one, am not volunteering all of the incalculable time and energy as you have. You have nothing by my utmost respect and appreciation.
P.S. All typos in the materials Joshua posted are entirely mine.
- Mark (The Marl of Kark)
Mark, thanks for the explanation. I'm curious if you've played through ELTU3-6 then? I am also guilty of writing that one and it has another big moral dilemma. However, it should be noted that in both cases I, and my fellow authors, were working from basic plot premises provided by our writing directors. Not that I don't agree with them, because I did enjoy writing them that way.
I've been trying to stay distant from the recent commentary on this series, in part because I know I'm personally attached to all three adventures, and partly because I don't want to discourage people from using the content we produce in their own way. However, after reading through the comments about this adventure (multiple times), I feel that I need to make a couple comments on the "modifications" discussed:
1. If you don't want to play in or DM a series that contains moral ambiguity, maybe this isn't the series for you, and maybe it's a better choice for you to run MYREs than to change the story content of an existing series this heavily. One of the major objectives of this series was to present the PCs with the dilemma that not everyone they'll work for is shiny and heroic - shades of grey do exist, especially in a region overcome by darkness. Screening that information out of the adventure takes away significantly from the flavor the authors and I were aiming for in this major quest.
2. More importantly, any venture of this type should be *very* wary of changing the conclusion or results of an adventure beyond what is listed in the adventure, as well as changing the motives of the NPCs involved. In this series in particular, what you presented to your players, in particular with your changes to the major NPC, not only goes in *direct* contradiction to what's written in the mod, but it makes parts of the next Netheril series completely unplayable to your group from a story perspective, as events in that series lead from some events in this series that no longer exist or make sense to your players.
In short, it appears that you had good intentions in modifying an adventure series that you don't think your players would have enjoyed in a manner that you think they would have, but making modifications to the degree that you did in contradiction to the written text and motives of the NPCs is a very dangerous prospect, and quite frankly, I think it's inappropriate and irresponsible to post it in a public forum such as this and encourage other DMs to do so as well.
Part of the reason that gaining Shadowbane is difficult is because it asks you to do unreasonable things for it - there's no real reason to kill Davisa in NETH3-2. In fact, that seemed relatively unambiguous to me - why would you kill her? Yet the mods were altered in a way to make it significantly easier to get the cool toy.
I'm certain had my character wielded it, I would not have had a high enough concordance score to keep the lesser version due to the moral ambiguity. Had I played in modified mods, I potentially could have gotten it specifically due to the removed ambiguity and no other reason.
That's a problem for whoever was wielding Shadowbane in a modified mod if they go outside the original group.
"You have Shadowbane?"
"Did you kill Davisa?"
"Sure. She was evil and needed to die."
"Wait, that wasn't in the mod..."
I'm by no means saying that this was intentionally done, but that's a buzzsaw waiting to happen.
Yder Tanthul is at least 1,800 years old, a powerful arcanist and servant of Shar (I don't believe we have official 4e stats for him, but in 3e, he was a NE Fighter 11/Sorcerer 12/Shadow Adept 4/Divine Champion 4). He's the right hand of his brother, Rivalen Tanthul (high priest of Shar and an evil demigod in his own right). He's evil with a capital E. A century ago, his primary disagreement with the leadership of the Shades was that he wanted his family to be guided by the will of Shar more directly.
The claimed rationale for letting Yder live is that (a) he's a moderate who's against the expansion of Netheril and the religion of Shar, and (b) he's keeping the Ordulin Maelstrom from expanding.
If (a) is true (which is far from a given), his restraint is purely because he believes that such action furthers the cause of Shar and the Netherese (and when that's no longer true, he'll advise otherwise). It's not because he's a nice guy, but simply because he thinks that consolidating their gains first will be better for Shar and Shade in the long run.
The "moderates" in this case are the princes who want to use various machinations to set the nations of Faerun against each other so that Shade can swoop in and pick up the pieces without a fight. Yder himself was once involved in a convoluted plan in which he used shadow magic to possess the lord of Shadowdale and had him invite the Zhentarim in to occupy that region. His ability to come up with plots that allow the Netherese and Shar to gain more power without overt action isn't really a plus, and the fact that he's trying to sell that to the PCs is impressive.
As for the Ordulin Maelstrom, it is the product of a ritual performed by a powerful priestess of Shar to summon the Shadowstorm, something which has been described as having the power to raise Shar above all other gods. The Maelstrom has remained focused on the city of Ordulin for about a century.
If (b) is true (again, far from given), then letting him live to continue experimenting on how to bring this maelstrom of shadow energy under his control has the potential to lead to the Netherese having an unimaginably powerful weapon they can use on their enemies, and further increases their understanding of a ritual that is supposedly able to increase Shar's power. Yder isn't keeping the Maelstrom under control because he wants to save Cormyrian lives (assuming he's telling the truth about keeping it under control); it's because keeping it under control is beneficial for Shar and the Netherese.
As such, you either have the DM trying to figure out just how much the PCs know in-character about the guy who's trying to sell himself as being a poor misunderstood victim, or end up having the PCs fall for an epic bluff check which results in a rather anticlimactic end to the trilogy.
Neither sounds particularly fun, so I'm fine with getting rid of the ambiguity.
In default NETH 3-2, if you want to kill Davisa, you just do so. It's entirely "off stage" and there is not possibility of failure.
In our version of NETH 3-2, if you want to kill Davisa, you have to fight her. And it's possible she could escape -- if she can survive round 1, she has a decent chance of doing so.
Also, we didn't make this clear enough in our notes, but if you (the PC wielding Shadowbane) refuse to kill Davisa you really should take the Concordance hit *right then*. Even if Shadowbane afterwards ends up dominating you and forcing you to kill Davisa, it's not like he forgets that you refused his initial request.
Of course, tracking Concordance is up to the DM running the adventure, so it's ultimately the DM's call as to how strictly to interpret that.
It's still pretty easy to get full Concordance, though.
* NETH 3-1: you should come out of this at 11, unless you have a Shadow PC in the party or your fail the adventure somehow.
* NETH 3-2: you should get another +4 (if you kill Davisa) or +2 (if you don't *or* if you have a Shadow PC in the party), so you're at 15 or 13.
* NETH 3-3: you should get another +4 (if you kill Yder like you're supposed to), or +2 (if you kill Yder but you have a Shadow PC in the party), or you refuse to kill Yder in which case you automatically cheese off Shadowbane. So you're either at 19 or 17 or 0. 19 and 17 are both full Concordance.
My objections to the so-called moral dilemma is that it both comes out of nowhere and it not believable.
In both NETH 3-1 and 3-2, you have basically no evidence that the Sand Kings are anything other than what they appear to be: freedom fighting Bedines trying to reclaim their land from the Netherese.
Then all of a sudden in NETH 3-3, based purely on a couple of optional skill checks, you find out they are ruthless "bad guys".
Yeah. Sorry, but that is crap.
Also, as bgibbons points out above, it is utterly unbelievable that Prince Yder is somehow a force for good. He is Evil with a capital E, based on everything we know about him.
If you want to redeem a big-time villain of the Realms, there has to be more to it than just "he keeps his word" and "he's working on a ritual that may or may not help out at some indeterminate point the future".
Its sounds like you played a Myre based off the Neth Series, that had no shadowbane, and basic Myre xp, and rewards at the end.
It dosent sound like you played anything like the Neth series what so ever. I'd say your shadowbane for whoever got it, was invalid, and that you should adjust xp and gold, as well as bundles to typical Myre status. But then again I'm no one important.
PS. I told you they should have talked more trash John ^^
My two coppers....
I feel it's important as DM's and organizers to maintain campaign integrity where possible. It's not kosher to make modifications like this, because players who are playing in your area are welcome to pick up their characters and take them to conventions, online play, etc. They may even move to another part of the country and start playing with other groups.
If something isn't fun about a mod, it can generally be corrected with a scalpel, rather than a chainsaw.
Again, just my opinion.
I will also admit to making the following changes to the mod:
1) Yder, as a true Prince of Shade, cannot actually be killed - merely discoporated (which I beleive is consistent with 3.5 canon regarding Shades)
2) There is no copy of the ritual Yder is using to prevent the growth of the Maelstrom - if he is "slain", he will reincorporate at an undetermined later date with little inclination to continue the ritual.
3) Yder does this because Netheril would prefer to rule over an intact Faerun, as opposed to one ravaged by the Maelstrom (this should be pretty obvious, but I explicitly state this).
But these are small changes that do not alter what I believe to be the intent of the mod.
Eh, it's dangerous to argue that you should count modules as MYREs cause the DM ran it wrong. There's a thread in the other forum of players wanting to not count a poorly DMed run...
The changes viewed in a vacuum seem like good changes to customize the experience for your and your players tastes. Unfortunately in a living campaign there is no vacuum. As such I agree that this should probably be treated as a MYRE treasure wise...
Again, there is no vacuum. If the players were not aware up front of the extensive modifications made then just letting it be is probably the wiser cause of action. Just add it to the list of things to maybe formulate an "official" rule for.
Long story short from my group on the Neth series. Skill challenges were boring/pointless. Shadowbane was mostly more annoying than anything else. Combat was good. Not too harsh, but not to easy. That was fun.
Thanks for the brief feedback, efutch; can you expand on that?
Even if you PM the authors anything would help. There's a lot of changing circumstances in each of the adventures and I know that I'd like to hear more specific information about 3-2.
I want to say that I enjoyed the Netheril series a great deal. It did help that we had an incredibly skilled DM that worked to get into the parties head. We went long simply from all the roleplaying and trying to figure out what the correct thing for the group would be to do in this very gray situation. I don't think any group could spend years and years fighting against Netheril and come out of the experience as paragons of virtue and light. I felt there were hints through all three mods that led to the group having to make tough choices about what they should do.
My character is an adventurer. She almost gets killed for the greater good or perhaps for treasure on a regular basis. She understands this comes with the job. Her concern, in her contact with Yder, were all those people who are not warriors by trade or by necessity. If this is Netheril with someone sort of tugging on the leash to keep them "civil" then how much worse could it possibly get with him gone? Was it her right to make this choice for people all over the realms? To plunge them into an even nastier world. It was very difficult to decide what to do. The back and forth between the group was lots of fun. It was more than simply, "I stabbed that bad guy lots of time for you. His plan is foiled. Gold now please."
Though in our case our hand was somewhat forced by one of the PCs getting in a tiff with Shadowbane and refusing to battle. So we ended up going down the less traveled path.
This is definitely a tough series of module to play. Thinking in completely meta terms there are characters I have who simply could not play these adventures. The moral ambiguity would simply be too much. So I won't play those characters if I do these again. There are plenty of LFR mods that are as black and white, ultra shiny good as Captain America punching Hitler in the face. These mods are not those kinds of stories. If you don't enjoy that kind of darker story then don't play them. I think it is at least a little disrespectful to the writers, and all their hard work, to totally change their story because I don't care for it. I don't enjoy horror movies, but I don't demand that they change them drastically so I can watch them. It would be a boring story if the teenager simply had their torrid, unprotected trysts and then no monsters showed up to hack or stab them repeatedly.
Hello! I recently ran all three the neth 3-x adventures for a local group here in the Netherlands, and if you're still looking for more feedback here are some of my thoughts on 3-3:
First off, the premise of the aventure, infiltrating Netheril to actually assassinate a shade prince, seemed very cool and managed to excite most of us beforehand based on uniqueness and by feeling exceptionally relevant even amongst the paragon adventures that manage to actually make you feel like a paragon adventurer. In my experience, not many paragon modules succeed in this (though they can still be very enjoyable, of course). I must admit that I'm not completely aware of how much liberty is given to writers concerning storylines and what is allowed to happen, but to whoever thought it up/allowed it, you get my thumbs up.
On to how the session actually went:
-party setup: level 12 monk, level 12 fighter x 2, artificer/warlord 12 (killswitch variant themed after santa-claus). Played at AL 14.
-Introduction: Not much to say here. There seemed to be a bit of a plot hole between neth 3-2 and neth 3-3, as in neth 3-2 the goal of the adventurers is to give the Sand Kings a one-time use of a portal into Shade Enclave. It feels a bit strange for them to send only the adventurers, even if they have completed the previous adventures. If the sand kings are truly backed by major powers such as cormyr, as indicated in the closing monologue, and the way in really is a one-time backdoor thing, why not use that portal to send more agents along or launch a larger scale attack? One of the PC's made a comment on this and I tried to cover it up by just replying that they weren't ready to strike in force yet, but the point was a bit moot since netheril is unaware of the backdoor existing, meaning they could just wait it out.
-skill challenge: I'm afraid that apart from the actual first check by the guards (which was rather amusing since all the PC's had fought netheril at least once/were infamous and did not have a shade coin, making the bluff really hard which lead to some fun role-playing), it felt rather dull and repetative (PC's have done this thing numerous times during heroic modules in more or less the same fashion). It might be my failure as a dm to stress how bad things would go if discovered inside the capital of Netheril, but I more or less immediately saw player interest drop very low when the goal of this skill challenge and the urban setting were made clear.
-Encounter 3: Since the pc's were smart enough to all buy ointments of darkvision, the darkness was no problem for them at all. With good focus firing on the party's only leader, the encounter was still tense regardless (the leader lost roughly 7 surges due to the monsters teleporting/critting and the party not having a controller to restrict their actions). One defender used speed 16 to more or less teleport next to the caster on the roof and eventually killed him while the others in the courtyard eventually got the monsters under control. If the fighter didn't have shadowbane's powers and concordance 17, along with all of the enemy dominates missing, this would have gone far worse. Overall a nice challenge.
The one thing that seemed odd to me here was the auto-5 necrotic damage on the caster; this should probably be higher as it is none-consequential and too easily resisted at paragon.
-Encounter 4: Yder's arguments seem doomed to fail. Upon skimming through the thread so far, most of the points I have about this have already been pointed out by others. It didn't really help that the fighter with Shadowbane had been role-playing the session as though shadowbane was already dominating him/deeply influencing his thoughts, so he charged the second Yder came into view. The rest of the party was too loyal to eachother to seriously consider Yder's proposal to leave him and abandon the mission, even though one of them actually did talk back.
Since the party had only had one short rest and no skill-challenge failures, the encounter started with just Yder, the guard captain and the shade giant. The leader used a radiant power on his first turn to remove the shade's insubstantial ability, after which the party more or less killed him in the same turn, leave only Yder and the guard captain. After a really-close struggle, the party was left with the healer bloodied and out of healing (though healing figurine was out) and most dailies and encounters spent facing Yder at full hp with one of his defensive utilities still unused.
At that point I had to call the adventure due to time-constraints, unfortunately. The challenge level for the encounter seemed spot-on for AL 14 and it was a worthy ender for a good series. If I had to change one thing though, I would have lowered Yder's defenses a bit for more HP since he was extremely hard to hit for anyone not using shadowbane at the +3 bonus (ref 33 and his other defensive powers while most of the monks targeted that defense made it rather frustrating for him, for example. I understand that it's high-tier and he's the final boss of the adventure line, but it seemed overkill).
Overall I would rate the adventure 8/10, for having a good premise and good combats, but a disappointing skill challenge and somewhat-limited role playing opportunities. I hope that wall of text above was somewhat useful
I just played in this mod today, and, being the high-concordant wielder of Shadowbane, chose to pick up the item. How would I handle this in the builder? I can't find it as a particular item anywhere. Would I just put a generic +4 item in it's place for determing the power cards?
Rivalen being the Chief Templar is something akin to Kalak Tithian being the High Templar of Tyr - I never took it as a sign of utter devotion, just a sign of his ability to silence the opposition.
I suppose it could be inferred that he's the most powerful of Shar's minions in Shade, but then we're back where we started all this: inference and rumor. They seem to be the hallmarks of each of the Princes
Netheril presents a plethora of story opportunities, and while I agree that Yder's influence could have been made more clear in NETH3-1 and NETH3-2, I feel that the focus of the area was less on Yder and more on Netheril as a whole, and an introduction; a foreshadowing (no pun intended) of the next several years of adventures.
EDIT: Not Kalak. I meant Tithian, prior to the demise of Kalak. Extreme pain + incessant prattling from one of my gamers + forums = stupid, stupid typos.
To me, there were three main reasons that the NETH 3-3 choice did not seem equally valid.
(1) There is no foreshadowing that Yder might be doing something beneficial (you CAN discover some hints of it in the skill challenge, but that's optional so many tables will miss that information). All villians are going to say "Wait, don't kill me!" when the adventurers have infiltrated his compound, killed all his guards, and are standing there about to defeat him. Because there wasn't really any foreshadowing from reliable sources, it just sounded like a villan saying whatever nonsense he thought might keep him alive.
It also doesn't help that many players (myself included) aren't knowledgeable about realmslore and have never heard of the Maelstrom before. To me, it just sounded so way over the top (and coming from an untrustworthy source) that it didn't seem like it could possibly be a real threat. If I were a police officer arresting a mob boss and he said "Wait, don't arrest me. If you arrest me a bunch of atomic bombs are going to explode, destroying the entire world." .... I'd just roll my eyes and think "Yeah right, the world is going to end if we arrest you. Nice try. You really expect us to believe that? You couldn't come up with a more plausible threat?" And then I'd arrest him. The Maelstrom has never been mentioned in any previous LFR mods, so for players who are unfamiliar with this particular bit of realmslore, it seems like something that can't possibly be that big of a threat (that Yder is exaggering the danger). LFR mods have introduced players to all sorts of threats to the Realms - the Spellplague, the Queen of Thorns, etc. Since the Maelstrom has never even been mentioned before, if you don't know the history it doesn't seem like that big of a deal.
(2) Choosing to not kill Yder basically negates everything the players have done in the NETH trilogy and means the entire trilogy was a waste of the PC's/player's time. If the PCs don't kill Yder, the world is exactly the same as if they hadn't played the trilogy at all. A choice in a mod should be active - Do the PCs do X or do they do Y? The choice should not be "Do X or do not do X." Choosing to NOT do something isn't fun. It's not fun to end a mod in the exact same position you started - then it feels like your PCs are just hampsters running in a wheel (lots of effort without actually going anywhere).
Take CORM 2-2 as an example. Spoiler: Show
At the end of CORM 2-2 you have to decide whether to help the vigilante defeat the drug lord or whether to stop the vigilante who is breaking the law and (accidentally) killing innocent people. Regardless of what you decide to do, you are actively doing something and it feels like you are making a difference. If the choice had instead been between stopping the vigilante or walking away to go have lunch in the coffee shop down the street, that would have been much less interesting and satisfying.
(3) NETH 3-3 did not state clearly enough that the Maelstrom was not something the PCs could easily control on their own. When my table heard that his research notes were there, players immediately said "Great! We have all of his notes and we are (and/or have allies who are) powerful spellcasters. Combining all of Team Good's resources we should easily be able to stop this on our own. We don't have any use for this guy, so let's kill him." Again - this was made worse by many players not knowing the history or details about the Maelstrom. John - in this thread you have posted things like that the Netherese have been studying this thing for centuries and even epic-level beings struggle with it. (With the follow-up being that it's unreasonable for PCs to think that this is something they could handle.) Well - I didn't know any of that until you posted it. The fact that this was beyond the abilities of the PCs should have been communicated better in the mod.
Edited to add:
And finally..., an out-of-game reason. This is (supposedly) the climatic battle against the BBEG. At the very end of a module/trilogy, many players just want to kill some stuff. Players don't know that there is another combat if they choose to let Yder live, so it may seem to a player that they are choosing between a big climatic BBEG combat or the end of the gaming session.
Also, I do not think big decisions like this should happen during (or at the start of) combat. Once there is a battlemap and minis on the table, players quickly shift to "combat-mode" and are eager to roll initiative and start the combat. There's kind of a Pavlovian relationship going on here - gamers see a battlemap and their hands immediately start itching for some dice. If players had to make the decision before combat (or at least had a chance to give the possibility serious thought beforehand), it's more likely that groups would seriously and carefully think through the options instead of making hasty decisions ("Stop talking with this chucklehead - I'm excited to start combat! You're only delaying the inevitable...").
From another thread:
Personally, I think the thing that actually had to happen was... you got to pick which shade prince to kill.
After all that setup, we were finishing the mission, one way or another. I'm okay choosing which target though
NAramus did talk, a lot in encounter 2 in the drafts.
John had decided that a doorboy who dialogued was not a good thing. 8P
playing it even though I liked the story line and here's why: Spoiler: Show
I play an Assault Swordmage. With the ubiquitous "Anti-Teleport Field" I had two at-wills, one encounter power and one daily that worked and no mark enforcement. After the latest BI that also destroyed my abilities to function I'm really rather annoyed. I shouldn't have to completely re-train/rebuild my previously fully functional character at this point due to adventure design.
My other, potentially minor, gripe is the opening skill challenge. Basically, to make some of the initial checks you HAVE to have an optimised Bard (and some assists) rolling VERY well or go another way was a trouble spot for the other group (I played with the Bard, Resourceful Warlord, Charisma Rogue and Starlock). I'm not saying the challenge was necessarily bad (it was interesting to see his diplomacy skills challenged greatly for the first time) but most groups wouldn't have a chance.
The storyline, NPCs, etc. were all top-notch and the foreshadowing bit was really good so from a narrative standpoint it gets five stars and a thumbs-up. The mechanical side gets a - 7million though.
I'm gonna ignore the spoiler block, because I'm pretty sure it's not actually a spoiler...
Interesting, I did not read the module as I was not one of the DMs this time around but our group had two different people run it and at least three people read/reviewed the module independently and all came to the same conclusion.
Did your swordmage have a way of seeing in darkness? In both fights, there is no baseline illumination, and several of the creatures can combine to create patches of unnatural darkness, even if you have some way of lighting the area otherwise. You can't teleport if you can't see the destination square.
This could have caused your teleportation issues.
We had many different sources of light going, the issue was definitely outlined as teleporting does not work by the DM and was the way it was run when the other group played the module also. It's really weird that multiple people independently came up with the same interpretation though I most of us had been involved in the Myth Drannor BI run earlier this month which may have colored perceptions too and why none of us questioned it
That was my thought too, but we just chalked it up to "Module Cheese" to deal with later so we could get on with the game.
There's something terminally cool that did happen I need to mention too, even though it likely won't happen very often by "Accident". Spoiler: Show
I had wielded Shadowbane through all three adventures and in this one we were defeating Yder when he decided to run. As I'd been little more than a moderate-damage speed bump the whole day it didn't seem a great day for glory but I chased and charged, dealing the killing blow and I used the power of the sword to suck Yder's soul in to Shadowbane. That was rather awesome.
And B) was specifically stated by our DM who otherwise did a great job.
I'm not sure if this is the appropriate place to post this question but I had a question about the story awards in this mod.
If you have Neth01, 05 and 09 you are allowed to upgrade a magic item. If you have Neth 05 (I believe) you get purchase access to an uncommon potion or elixir. Can you have both the potion access and the upgrade magic, or does using the potion access use the NETH05 award so that you cannot upgrade with the NETH 09 award?
Thanks for your time.
BTW I did like the mods.
A question about the NETH10 award:
The current award states that the coin's power is the encounter-long darkvision. I'm very, very sure that I've read somewhere that the coin's power is a property that gives you darkvision 10 (I prefer this version, btw).
Which one is it? And if it's the former, how did I manage to read the latter?
From the forum posts 26 and 27:
EDIT: also, the Shade Prince's Coin described in the story award section has a different property (permanent Darkvision) to the one described on the award certifice (power, daily, darkvision for an encounter) - this could also do with clarification.
@thespaceinvader: In both of the cases you cited, the text of the certificate is correct and the text describing the story award in the adventure is incorrect. (As a general rule, this is always true -- text on the cert overrides text in the adventure, because text on the cert is the only reference the players get to take away from the table -- although obviously we strive to avoid having them differ.)
Dagnabbit. Back to Miser's Soul and a two feat investment for seeing in the dark.
No chance of errataing NETH10 back to the story award description text?
Get enough coins, and I think you can become a shade, and they get snazzy darkvision. ^_^
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