This thread is for asking questions and providing feedback for ABER4-3 A Little Rebellion. This adventure has not been officially posted for download, but it has run recently at a convention and is available by e-mail for convention and home play.
Actually, unless I am mistaken, it is available for home play as well via E-mail. Undermountain adaptation certainly is
Wow, has no one been running this series yet? I have the only feedback thread of all 3 adventures and not a single post in over a month.
Im playing it on August 4th.
Will there be a comment thread for ABER4-2?
I just created this thread myself and authors usually do it themselves so I guess neither of the other two authors have done that yet. I thought there was one for ABER4-1, but it got deleted for no apparent reason. I suppose you could make one yourself, but I don't really know if there would be an objection to that or not.
I'm set to play the adventure in (probably) roughly a month from now, and when I do I'll post a detailed report on the combats and the RP elements.
I'm running this at Con on the Cob in 2 weeks (Hudson, Ohio). Con organizer sent me the module.
Drakkoth Venomshot-longbow attack inflicts poison vulnerability on a hit. Neither the module nor the online compendium says whether it is save ends, end of next turn, or forever.
Encounter 4b, Aquifer-the map page is blank. Could I get a general description of how the map looks?
The missing end condition is from official sources and that's why it was written that way. I hadn't realized it when I typed up the stats and apparently no one else noticed enough to correct it during editing. Here is my take on it:
1. Last forever? Ridiculous.
2. Save Ends? Reasonable.
3. End of Next Turn? Possibly, but I wouldn't rule it this way.
4. End of Encounter? Reasonable.
Given the above, unless someone makes an official ruling, I'd say pick #2, #3 or #4 based on which one you think works best for your group and how hard you want the encounter to be.
Now, as far as the map, if you're referring to the tactical combat map then it's definitely included in the adventure. I can't imagine why you got just a blank page. However, if you're referring to the vellum scroll map found in the pit, I had planned on providing a crude map of the area, but never got around to it. In that case, just make your own crude rendering as you see fit.
Just played this adventure and really had a blast. The encounters were challenging without being overwhelming and the story flowed nicely along.
Point of critique:
The DM mentioned that that the ship captain (not my character's very distant kin, the pirate captain) was also a rather major character in the module. We didn't notice, because he chose to understate him quite a lot, along with the mayor. I agree with the decision, since if you include them, you have four 'major' NPC's that are introduced in the final chapter of a major quest.
That's quite a lot and it could easily congest the adventure quite a bit. I would recommend somewhat less characters that are introduced in the finale of a quest. That's what you have chapter 1 and 2 for.
The Dragonbane Amber-infused Dragonslayer Sword (which we aptly named 'Rebellion'), is truly terrific. It has some very cool powers and the 'weaken dragon foe' power is very good (broken actually).
I'm just very dissappointed that it reverted to a 'normal' True Dragonslayer Sword, mostly because I don't feel that weapon has a very 'anti-dragon' feel to it. The resist is against a single damage type (while dragons really span the entire rainbow and more) and the encounter power, while neat, also doesn't make me feel like an awesome dragon slayer.
Using a dragon's own weapons against it, however that did make me feel like that awesome dragon slayer the weapon is meant to make you. 'Fearsome gaze' and 'Fire with Fire' were great and it would've been nice to have kept one of these powers on the weapon, even after the adventure. Would make choosing the weapon as a parcel feel more rewarding.
Past month I ran the ABER4-trilogy for a group of 4 players at AL 16: a Dragonborn Paladin (the above poster, actually), a Revenant Sorcerer, an Elven Avenger and a Genasi Warlord|Runepriest. You can read the report of ABER4-1 here (written by one of my players) and my review of ABER4-2 here. I will review the Dragonslayer path of this adventure from a DM's perspective, since that's the path my players took.
The Good Show
It's a fitting conclusion to the trilogy: almost every route lets the players deal quite a blow to the draconic rule of the Dusk Ports. If the players take the most heroic route possible, they will be great dragonslayers indeed!
The adventure offers quite a lot of meaningful choice. If you have a group of players who, for some nebulous reason, don't want to fight dragons, there is a cool alternative route to ending the major quest in a satisfying way.
This adventure picks up where ABER4-2 left off, which is fun for players who play the entire trilogy.
The dragonslayer weapon is very cool. Incorporating a couple of level 20 dailies is awesome, as is the ability to weaken dragons.
The reward for finishing the major quest will entice a lot of players to play this trilogy!
access to the Ring of the Dragonborn Emperor
Captain Ghedrin is a pretty cool NPC/companion character for a 4-person party. Especially his minor action attack power is nuts. The players took an immediate liking to him just for that.
The Greenspawn Godslayer is a cool creature, and it is extremely effective against Dragonborn (as it should be). I could've spent an action point to actually kill the Dragonborn Paladin, which is a rare occurence (I didn't do it, for obvious reasons).
The Maroon Prince is back!! Seriously, as a DM I absolutely love this guy. Never in my career did I feel like I had that much power at my fingertips. He makes the final encounter of the Dragonslayer path truly awesome.
What happens at the very end of the adventure had my players clamoring for more adventures in Returned Abeir, since they wanted to see this thing through. That is truly the mark of a great ending. Well done sir.
The Bad Show
The Green Duchess, tyrannical ruler of the Dusk Ports and the terror of Dragonborn everywhere, is pretty weak in actual play. Two attacks per round, and no damagin minor or immediate actions doesn't make for a threatening solo. Only when the Maroon Prince showed up at the start of round 2 did my players start to feel scared. So scared that they all but ignored the Green Duchess to focus all their fire onto the Maroon Prince! Only when he was down 1.5 rounds later did the players go back to fighting (and soon after, killing) the Green Duchess.
The Talons of Tiamat have a rechargeable ranged dominate (save ends) power, which is very unfun.
Like SpacyRicochet says above me, there are a lot of NPCs in this adventure, both important and unimportant (the full crew of the Dazzling Courier, really?). I chose to downplay or not even mention most of them, if only for the sake of expedience.
An encounter should have interesting results whatever the outcome. However, I didn't feel the skill challenges in the Dragonslayer path had interesting failures. In the first one, the players either get a great weapon or a not-great-but-still-very-good weapon. In the second one they end up fighting a boss fight that's a lot less fun (in my opinion) than the one they actually want.
the Ugly Show
The map of the Green Duchess' fortress is too large. One floor already hardly fits onto a wet-erase map (or my gaming table, for that matter), but requiring a map for the second floor that's almost as large as the first floor is just unrealistic. The Avenger and Captain Ghedrin went to the second floor, where they fought two artillery on a small blank corner of the battlemap.
The adventure has more boxtext than any two adventures put together. Seriously, if I had read the introduction as written my players would've fallen asleep. Half a page of text where different NPCs start arguing with each other belongs in a novel, not in a D&D adventure.
The dragonslayer weapon incorporates two daily powers that need to be changed.
First, they're implement powers, which means that melee classes can't even use them effectively. An easy workaround is to let the dragonslayer weapon itself count as an implement for the powers.
Second, they have Wis and Cha as attack stats. This again excludes most melee classes from using one or both of them. I ruled that the attacks both use the wielder's main stat.
Getting acces to two additional rare items at the end of the trilogy forces players to make some hard choices. This may (and in our case, did) result in players not taking the legendary weapon they worked so hard to forge with them at the end of the adventure.
Verdict: a fitting end to the trilogy, and a fine stand-alone adventure for groups who just want to battle dragons. It's the best dragonslayer adventure I've seen in LFR yet (but I haven't seen all adventures). I commend the author for introducing and actually detailing two different adventure paths, which is rare (although I feel the second path will be played by only a minority of the groups). The adventure has a few small flaws, but nothing a decent DM can't work around. Would definitely play, and I actually hope there will be a follow-up for it (a SPEC maybe?) that lets players end the draconic threat to Returned Abeir once and for all. I might even submit a pitch myself.
I wonder when we'll see a group actually take the alternate adventure path. To my knowledge, no one has yet to try that path. I personally think it's a very fun option.
The problem with alternate paths is that the players are more likely to go on the path that they're most familiar with. The party has spent a lot of time with the main quest-giver, so while they did have some encounters with the other faction, they probably wouldn't feel a lot of affinity with them.
I think the NETH3 trilogy did the alternate paths very well. The choices were sprinkled in the entire trilogy, which makes it feel more natural to switch between the paths too.
Once more, I was rather sadly unimpressed with this, as I have been with the entire series. More in the spoiler:
Overall verdict, most of the fights were reasonably well-designed and balanced, but there are some major, major issues. Wouldn't play again without significant DME. I liked the concept of the series, and when the writing was on form, it was really good fun, but there were just far too many issues with it to leave me satisfied at all. With some major editing and reshaping, it could have been a really good series, but it just didn't work for me.
FTR, we took the Weapon path, and it was the same party as previously (Drow Executioner 12, Vryloka Battle Cleric 11, LTShifter Fighter 11, Tiefling Darklock 13, with the addition of a human Battlefield Archer 13). They played APL 14, which was somewhat to their detriment.
The good points: I did like the choice being offered here - but it would have worked much more strongly if Zasheena had been properly introduced early in the mod series. There was plenty of room to do this int he first one, and the space to re-use her in the second - this would have given the PCs mre attachment to her, and made her more likely to be listened to.
The first fight was quite well done, although the Godslayer desperately needs a ranged option. Even something as simple as slowing him would make him utterly ineffective for the first round, given that he starts a good 25 squares from the party and has 0 ranged powers. Thankfully, on this occasion, he got out of the blocks and was able to fight effectively, but it was a close-run thing (1 player having one less speed, and he would have had to double-move-charge in his first round, which would have dramatically lessened his utility), given that the ranger got a surprise round and has Pinning Strike. But the fight went pretty well, and was about the right level of difficulty, and quite enjoyable for both sides.
Actually-challenging solos. The PCs should have been playing down, but had they been the finale would have been about the right level. As it was, it was VERY hard on them, and I could well have killed them had I been so inclined.
The lord of lylorn infiltration worked quite well, as did the forging SC, though a couple more skills (particularly Thievery, for inlaying runes into the weapon or something, endurance for holding out over long periods) would have given more people more to do - as it was, with the exception of arcana, a somewhat weirdly-justified History, and a single easy athletics, it was an entirely face-based SC, which is REALLY odd for a weapon-forging thing.
The bad points: A lot of me talking to myself. Zasheena talking to Thorn, Zasheena talking to Ghedrinn, Thorn and the random diplomat talking to the crowd, etc etc etc. This isn't a game about the DM talking, it's about the PCs driving the story. That's always difficult in LFR, because of the need to prewrite mods, but it was unusually so on this one.
Similarly, the appearance of the pirates was really rather random, and quite poorly explained - how would these people have heard about a plan that only happened the day before? Why weren't the Scions being more secretive? They're an underground organisation in a horribly hard country, yet they don't really seem to have much security at all. Ghedrinn was a fine character, and the PCs really liked his ship (my favourite moment of the mod being when one of them decided that the best course of action would be to swing over to THEIR ship and try to take it over in revenge. He promptly fell straight through the phasing ship into the sea. Glub.), but he felt very tacked on. With as cool a character as that, why not have him acting as their transport the whole way through the mod?
On another note, what stops the PCs just sailing (or, as previously mentioned, portalling) away right at the start?
The ugly: There's no mechanism for deciding WHERE the crowd attacks in the final fight. It just doesn't seem to be mentioned as far as I could see. This is a fairly major omission, and I wound up simply leaving them out entirely, because the PCs arrayed themselves over the bridge on the opposite side from the market. They seemed very unfair to the non-flying PCs anyway. The final fight has very little between walkover and deadly for the right party. It's VERY easy to deal with the Duchess on her own, by immobilising her. But when the PCs had bloodied her in one round, and I brought in the Prince, it turned 180 almost instantly, and they wound up in a very bad way in almost notime.
The poison path option as a whole: the main reason the PCs didn't take it was the sheer lack of certainty about whether it was going to work at all. It was so full of ifs and buts and maybes that it was more or less discounted.
The ambassador guy: seemed completely tacked-on and pointless. it's nice story, but it's entirely irrelevant, given that AFAICT, the nation we're talking about is in unreturned abeir, and it's not even clear how he got there, let alone why he's bothered coming. The PCs almost entirely ignored him, as did I, because I'd already been talking non-stop for nearly 5 minutes at that point.
The dragonslayer weapon: it really should state in the mod which resistance it gives, particularly given that it's a bundle. I said it was poison, because of the Duchess, but strictly, as a 'DM decides' item, that part just doesn't work according to LFR rules. The formerly mentioned crticisms about the powers also apply. They should be highest-stat, and should either have some compensation for weapon users (i.e. you enhancement bonuses and expertise apply) or have proper (+6 at this level) scaling built in, or they mostly useless. And the 'stun-on-hit, nothing-on-miss' one is pretty poor anyway. I'd've liked Weaken Dragon Flesh to work straight away, too. It was just a bit of a pain to track. Also, it's a harmful condition on the Prince, so he could, by his rules, just shed it - I rules that he couldn't.
The duchess: her having a rechargable flyby that is the only thing she can do with her instinctive, is just weird. It means she has a ~50/50 chance of just failing miserably to use her extra pass each turn. A solo with only 1 initiative is pretty useless. Storywise, I can;t see ANY reason for the AL12/14 NOT to be Orrlarrakh. Her daughter is VERY clumsily written-in, and makes little story sense, having not been foreshadowed, or even mentioned, before now. I wasn't on the ball, or I would have replaced all reference to the daughter, with the duchess herself. It didn't help that about half of the mentions of her in the dialogue DIDN'T have an alternate option mentioning the daughter.
HUUUUGE maps: both of the maps were way too big. They could have been half the size and still worked fine.The fighting stayed almost exclusively limited to half the maps anyway. It's fine the acknowledge, particularly in the final fight, that big, mobile solos need lots of space to operate, but PCs tend not to move anywhere near as much, so smaller maps still work, particularly when the solos fly.
The biggest weirdness: why on earth did Melauthaur not just kill the PCs at the end? They've just finished fighter one or two solos at the end of a hard adventure, so they're basically out of everything, and he shows up, really angry, and instead of just... eating them... tells them to flee and he'll send agents to hunt them down. He's a freaking epic dracolich. He should have just munched them, and not doing is actually going to help the rebellion. Wut? There's no logic I could work out (and I've been trying since I first read the mods nearly two months ago) for why he takes the course of action he does. He's really holding the idiot ball on this one, and my players noticed it instantly.
On a similar note to previous points, the Shadowkiss just aren't used properly. They show up uninvited and more-or-less un-met by the PCs, and expect to be taken seriously. This hearkens right back to the problem in mod 1, where a guy you never met who thinks you're dead, likes you. this issue persists throughout, as most people think you're dead, but are for no apparent reason heavily on the lookout for you anyway.
Series-wide, this just doesn't quite feel like it's a mod series. It feels more like someone was trying to write a novel, and jam it into a mod series. There's comparatively little the PCs actually have agency or choice in, and there's an awful lot of NPC conversation and so forth. And yet, there are things which would have worked well in a novel setting, which just weren't done, in particular, effective foreshadowing.
And, once more, there were some fairly major proofreading and editing issues, many more spelling and grammar mistakes than usual.
2. How did Ghedrinn learn about the plot? Re-read the encounter because Ghedrinn makes an allusion to having a spy among Zasheena's ranks and it's quite obvious how he found out.
3. Why didn't Melathaur just kill them outright? How about, he can just leave them to the people of the region to deal with since the PCs just brought a death sentence on most everyone for defying him? Perhaps it's a test to see if the people of the region will obey and deal with the PCs? Maybe he just wants to get the dead body of the green duchess quickly away because he has a nefarious purpose for it and time is essential? I can think of other reasons, why can't you?
Perhaps I'll address other issues later.
1: I did. But if I need to paraphrase it that far in order not to dominate the mod by just talking the whole time, it becomes irrelevant to have it. What's the purpose of having two columns of box text to read if it's not intended to be read, why is it there?
2: True - but then, how did she find out? How are the Scions that terrible at keeping secrets>
3: You're clearly more imagniative than I am. But his actions made no ostensible sense, to me or to the players. If he wants the people to kill the interlopers, he should have commanded them to do so. If he merely needs the body, why does he bellow and threaten meaninglessly? Given the amount of space spent explaining the tiniest of side characters' motivations and backstory which the PCs never find out, explaining probably the single biggest and scariest thing in the mod's appearance to the DM would seem useful.
DME is all very well, but it shouldn't be required to make a mod work.
1. There's too much boxtext that looks like it needs to be read out aloud.
2. There are too many NPCs that don't add much to the overall experience, especially from the players' point of view.
3. An unclear hazard in the final encounter, where the DM has to figure out what squares are and aren't affected.
4. The badly written powers of the sword.
5. Silly use of skills in a critical skill challenge.
6. Too-large maps.
7. A wimpy endboss.
I think that there's a very good adventure beneath the outer layer of this mod. It's just that, if you run the adventure literally as-written, you're going to run into some stuff that you and your group might not like. And it's easy to become caught up in that.
Don't let these points of criticism bother you though, learn from them and use them when writing next adventure. I really liked the story and the encounters, and I hope to read more from you in the future.
First off, let me just apologise for coming across as a bit of a tool. I was having something of a gakky day, and was taking it out over lunch, for which I'm genuinely sorry. And you're right, I didn't have the prep time I would have liked for a mod in general - however, with that in mind, I really didn't have the prep time needed to do heavy DME. In the end, though, if you boil away the vitriol, I think there are some key points left:
1: Orrlarakh should be the end boss for the whole adventure regardless of AL, her daughter was a clumsy addition, and really doesn't work well. I should, and could, have DME'd her out, so leaving her in was my problem, but her being there in the first place, wasn't.
2: Melauthaur's dialogue at the end. It just doesn't make sense, and his goals in saying it aren't explained at all. They should be, or he shouldn't say it, because leaving the goals of what could well be a key figure in future adventures up to individual DMs, seems somewhat of a suspect idea.
3: The stuff Sven mentioned all applies for me as well, so I won't repeat it.
4: Generally clumsy writing - not telegraphing plot points early, or not using telegraphed plot points to good effect (fulfilling promises made to the players is vital in satisfying them, and, for instance, not having AL12/14 actually attack Orrlarrakh is bad form, so's not using the 4-headed monster, and including random Chuuls instead), introducing new NPCs instead of maintaining old ones, not giving the alternate Shadowkiss plotline anywhere near enough weight until right at the end etc etc etc, and frequently poor editing on spelling and grammar.
5: Another thing I just remembered, mostly because I prepped this part but didn't run it: the bottomless, save vs death chasm in the poison path: not cool.
For those intending to run the series, who have time to DME it, it could look something like this:
Mod 1: arrive in Dusk Ports, see the festival, meet the Scions, they ask (and/or offer to pay, depending on the PCs, natch) the PCs to help train them, and to help them to defeat the evil tyrannical dragon leaders. This gets the PCs invested in staying, rather than forcing them to by the nebulously-unexplained means by which they can't just sail or portal away - LFR is always on-rails, because people know that if they refuse the mission, they go home and don't play. But it's important to give them the illusion of choice, and this mod didn't do a good job of that. Go through the training/prep montage as a group, rather than individually, it's just easier to run that way. During it, run one of the two alternative fights from the end - the Banderhobbs could come up in a sewer-based encounter, whilst the Tarandar encounter could fit into stealing some kind of necessary supplies for brewing the potions. Once this has happened, finalise arrangements for the escape from the city - make this to extract important higher-ups from the Scions because of fear of discovery after the fight during the SC. Also during the SC, introduce Zasheena as the shadowkiss agent, and set her up as an alternate source of help. Also, introduce Nandrel Gostur and his kidlet. During the escape, the Prince attacks the city in a feeding frenzy. Run that encounter basically as written (but which kid is Nandrel's, really should be specified), but don't have him unexplainably teleport away at the end. Instead, have Orrlarrakh informed of his death by some sort of connecting magic (there's a 3rd level magic arms slot item which would do the job perfectly), and arrive with an army of guards to collect his body for raising - way more than the PCs and Scions together could hope to defeat (more on this story later). At this point, the sidekicks transform into the PCs, and go to die holding off the guards so the rest can make good on the escape - the PCs can at that point try to save them, and make it obvious that they're not the ones who died, or leave them to die, in which case, they are thought dead (if they do go back, it gives them time only to see that the NPCs are dead, they're able to escape again trivially). Remove the mimic-is-Drogan thing entirely, save for being a monster in the banderhobb encounter - if captured, he babbles about his plan to infiltrate the Scions, but it is clear that he probably wouldn't have succeeded.
Mod 2: Open with a note about a wanted poster for them - dead or alive, after all, death is not the end in the Realms (thus, why they still have to be careful about people knowing who they are). Then, play more-or-less as written except: Zasheena is there, instead of the Gnome barmaid, and reflavour the Chuul encounter as a four-headed fire monster (I think it could probably be done with the four chuul as four independent monster heads, connected to a mostly static main body under the jungle - but add some sort of means of keeping them from just fleeing, although, I'm not too sure what offhand - or make a new encounter.) The city should be a city rather than just a guard post, and should be a more epic encounter, probably an SC coupled to a fight, or followed by a fight, during which they find loads and loads of amber, but can't retreive much, and it takes a lot to forge dragonbane weapons/make dragon poison. They retreive enough for one, and the area can then become a long term source of weaponry for the Scions.
Mod 3: Run more-or-less as written (taking into account the crits above, particularly about the weapon), but give the Prince only 2 heads in the Dragonslayer end fight (maybe scale in a 3rd for 6 PCs), due to his somewhat botched resurrection following his death in mod 1. If you use Melauthaur, have him command the crowd to attack the PCs, then fly off - the crowd should make a desultory attempt, to avoid death by dracolich, but stop once he's out of view. I'd also be inclined to give the PCs the ability to turn the crowd onto their side - instead of making panicked attacks, an SC could lead to them throwing things at the dragons instead, possibly only once the Duchess is bloodied - after all, the whole point of the fight is to bring the general public to the view that the dragons ARE defeatable, and instigate a revolution; it might as welll start there. I'm less sure about the poison path, but I imagine it should work in a similar way.
Throughout: have Ghedrinn and his ship introduced as the escape mechanism in the first mod. Have him provide transport to the jungle in the second. Have him provide transport around the Ports in the third. He and his ship are very cool, and I'd have loved to see more of him, so would my players. Cut out his 'agent of the Tarandar' backstory, probably.
Much of this shouldn't take much extra prep, since I've tried to suggest mostly using the original encounters, and a lot of the original characters - but keep the cast low, to give the PCs more time to invest in them.
Tom: I hope this is a little more help and a little less harsh than the first time round. I'm sorry about that.
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