This thread is for feedback and questions pertaining to the LFR module, ABER4-2.
Is this mod available for download somewhere? It's not on www.livingforgottenrealms.com and neither is ABER4-1, if there is one.
In fact, there is no mention of these mods on the LFR website at all.
So, there was a blog post about them back in May but they still aren't up on the LFR website?
Really starting to lose faith here, guys.
ABER4-1, 4-2, and 4-3 are listed in the things to do (scroll to the bottom of the page) of the livingforgottenrealms.com site. The list is pretty long currently.
My point what there is no description for them on the webpage. I didn't see them in the TODO list and that's cool that they are in there.
Note that while the to-do list talks about 'finalizing' the ABER adventures, they are finished and when you ask Greg for them you get a full package including story awards. It is just that they need to be uploaded to the website.
Now that the modules are more accessible, I'll bump my thread up in case anyone has comments/concerns/etc.
Past month I ran the ABER4-trilogy for a group of 4 players at AL 16: a Dragonborn Paladin, 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 ABER4-3 here. I will review this adventure from a DM's perspective.
The Good Show
The story that started in ABER4-1 continues here without interruption. This is rewarding for players who want to play the entire trilogy.
The trek though the jungle is a fun and flavorful encounter that rewards players for thinking ahead. The journal in the appendix does a good job of foreshadowing some of the things they will encounter and is well written, albeit too long (2 pages) for the players to read without slowing down the adventure. The use of Fatigue Points works well here.
The Bad Show
The mod seems to assume that most players didn't play ABER4-1 or that they went on a vacation for a few weeks after it, because it starts with a letter from Father Thorn asking the players to come to Marrauk. It would make much more sense if the players had travelled with Father Thorn from Tarsith to Marrauk. My players tried to save the lieutenants at the end of ABER4-1, which means they were wanted all over the Dusk Ports. I ruled this gave them a Fatigue Point at the start of the adventure, because they had been running for weeks from the Green Duchess' forces.
Why does the adventure start in Marrauk instead of Dusklan? The players fled from Tarsith to Dusklan at the end of ABER4-1, but the introduction makes no mention of that.
The journal makes a mention of a fourheaded firebreathing creature in the jungle and a red dragon. The former only shows up in boxtext without giving the players a chance to fight it, the latter doesn't show up at all. This is a lot of buildup (which my players anticipated and prepared for!) without the followup. I replaced the Chuul encounter with a possible fight with a Flamekiss Hydra to compensate for this.
The sidequest for Chalse Sprocketwench is extremely random. I would've skipped it if the players hadn't gone looking for a Shadowkiss member to buy potions of fire resistance from. After reading ABER4-3 I realize it's necessary to unlock the second adventuring path in that adventure, but the sidequest doesn't add anything to this mod.
The Ugly Show
The story is downright depressing. The players hear about a fabled lost city that holds the ultimate weapon against dragons. This sets the scene for an awesome Indiana Jones style adventure. But what do the players get? A random encounter with some Chuul, followed by the discovery of some lone outpost patrolled by Chimera that contains only a fraction of the promised treasure. Even Father Thorn is disappointed at the end of the adventure! How is that fun for the players?
I heavily modded the adventure to give the players the promised Indiana Jones adventure. In a nutshell: after trekking through the jungle for 3 days, they discovered Djerald Kusold which was huge and entirely underground. The city had been infested and boobytrapped by kobolds. The kobolds lured the players into a gauntlet of traps which they had to survive while the kobolds were shooting crossbow bolts at them from behind the walls. At the end of the gauntlet they discovered a vault which the kobolds hadn't managed to crack due to anti-dragon traps. In the large vault were 10 pieces of Dragonbane Amber, but the moment the players opened it, the kobolds swarmed the room to try and capture the Amber. The Chimeras also entered the room to try and eat the players while the kobolds were stealing the Amber. In the end the players returned with the remaining Amber to Marrauk and a happy Father Thorn, ready to forge it into a mighty weapon.
Verdict: unfun story, feels like a heroic tier adventure. Would not play without heavy DM modding.
I didn't see the same problems with unchallenging encounters, but I do share te story issues. There was a real missed opportunity in not having the red dragon and four-headed beastie involved. It's really, really unfulfilling to set up things like that, making, essentially, promises to the players, and then not to deliver.
I ran it as written, purely because I don't have the resources to DME heavy fights, not owning any monster books, but I would advise at the very least swapping the chuul encounter into the SC, and replacing it with a solo encounter with some sort of four-headed fire monster, to at least make good on that promise.
It's simple conservation of detail, it's poor storytelling practice to include elements in the prep that you don't use in the fulfilment.
My comments inside your spoiler blocks:
First off, I realize now that I shouldn't have said anything about the challenge rating of the encounters. I didn't run them as written, so I can't actually judge them. Apologies, I'll edit my earlier post.
Makes sense. Maybe a bit more emphasis on "a danger-wrought jungle where death can come at any time from any side" would've worked better? Or a collection of stories of the different threats hidden in the jungle, the Chuul among them? As written, it's easy for players to latch onto the idea that the jungle hides mostly hydras and dragons, so they should prepare for them.
Anyway, thespaceinvader already did a good job of putting those feelings into words.
Thanks for writing the adventure, it gave me great inspiration for a type of adventure I've wanted to run for the longest time (a take on Tucker's Kobolds). I hope to see more from you!
Two specific issues with the mod:
Say the original expedition is a Heroic tier party that is a 6th level party and the PCs are a 16th level party. Would a 4-headed monster that only managed to kill a couple of 6th level characters and not actually manage to stop them from continuing be a real threat to a 16th level party? The mod treats it as if it would be, when I think the answer is, no, they wouldn't. But now that a 16th level party is journeying there, they can discover the real threats in the jungle. If there's a real point about Bounded Accuracy in D&DNext, it is that threats shouldn't simply be leveled up just because the party is higher level - why is this jungle that much of a threat to the PCs? Have the party kill the 4-headed monster without a second thought without even putting it into an encounter, almost as if they killed a big wild boar or something similar.
I think there was a missed opportunity with Djerad Kusold and Returned Abeir. Returned Abeir existed before the Spellplague happened. What if the Dragonbane Amber existed before the Spellplague and only existed on Abeir? What if the city died a few hundred years ago? What if no one is actually knows if Djerad Kusold made the trip to Oerth?
I think there's the real mod that would be exciting and have a paragon tier feel. Last surviving member of expedition party manages to get journal into hands of Father Thorn and then dies. They found the legendary city and a tiny, insignificant grain of Dragonbane Amber, but were forced to flee for their lives! Father Thorn sends the party out, but spies for various parties know what's going on and with their own motives intervene.
Why are the PCs attacked in the 1st encounter? Because minions of a Dragon interested in getting its claws on all the Dragonbane Amber try to ambush them. Why is the jungle dangerous to the party? Because they gain information from that encounter that the Dragon has its own group out to get the Amber and that group is ahead of the party and the PCs need to catch up. At a fast clip, the jungle is no threat to the PCs. At breakneck speed, though? That's when accidents aka fatigue points happen.
Then I think as noted, give the PCs a chance to find the real city lost in the jungle, but then give the PCs some reason not to find everything - maybe only the tallest spires of buildings managed to not get swallowed. Maybe something nastier and more ancient than Dragons nows 'lives' there and the PCs can only stay a very short time before fleeing. A whole city died a horrible death - that seems a chance for something shadow, demonic, undead, etc...to show up as a result, not just a family of chimeras, perhaps with a surviving member of the Dragon group attempting to use that evil thing for its own purposes in the final combat.
Just some thoughts.
The major issue with the first point is that Spoiler: Show
nothing that the PCs find out indicate this this was a low-level party which went out - and a couple of bearers dying to the monster isn't really the same as a couple of PCs dying to it.
Nothing indicates it was a Paragon-tier party that went out originally. Therefore, they weren't. If they were, it is important to spell out that a rare group of extremely tough pilgrims went out and got slaughtered.
Because the mod didn't spell that out - a few capable swordsmen doesn't exactly scream paragon tier to me...and if they were paragon tier, why weren't the Dragonborn solving the Green Duchess/Maroon Prince problem themselves?
*shrug* they weren't paid to. Adventurers tsk.
It's not really consistently or accurately portrayed (understandably, because it's someone's diary, and paragon tier is a purely mechanical construction) but it seems poor storytelling to foreshadow something and then not follow through effectively (and I don't consider, in case it wasn't clear, a couple of lines of box text to be following through effectively ona monster which scared a party of adventurers and ate two or three people). That's my only point on that note, but it's been something of a problem through the entire series - either that, or not foreshadowing important things at all.
Paragon tier really isn't just a mechanical construction. It is also a convenient shorthand to say, "This character is probably not threatened significantly by a range of encounters that might be very deadly to lower level characters" and "Unless a particular character is called out as being supremely skilled and dangerous, they're likely not at that threat level as most people aren't at that level."
In that context, it isn't poor storytelling to mention the 4-headed monster and then not make it an encounter. What should happen is an encounter that advances the story at least as much as the 4-headed monster could have done. And a random encounter isn't the right choice imo. Making it clear the original party was not at the same level, fighting the 4-headed monster, or having to fight someone interested in getting the Amber for themselves all could work.
In a similar context, I'd point out why the PCs are getting fatigued. Fatigue Points are an interesting construct, but I think it is important to get the idea that the jungle is that challenging and not just thick or filled with bugs. Bugs that try to latch on and eat the PCs. Vines filled with venomous thorns that snap out when the PCs try to hack their way through. Etc...Make it clear that this jungle likely could outright kill a significantly lower level party.
You could fulfil the 4HM foreshadowing just as effectively by including it in the SC and having the party handily beat it using their skills, rather than just evading it (indeed, making it a central part of the SC could be quite interesting) - but one way or another, ahving something which took up a whole day in the... 5 days was it...? of diary, dealt with by a bare few lines of 'during the day you managed to avoid the 4HM but it was a bit tiring, so gain a fatigue point if you failed the generic group check for the day' was simply unfuilfilling.
Putting in some more detailed narration about mashing it handily using skills as part fo the SC, allowing the party to fight it off, but making it clear that this wasn't a combat encounter, would have been another and a different way to do it, and a good way to make it clear that the PCs are more powerful than the original party.
The random unforeshadowed Chuul encounter did little for the story, IMO. It only really seemed to be there for the XP budget. I'd've preferred a long SC and a single long fight, as with NETH3-2. Putting more into Djerad Kusold would have been awesome.
But I suspect we're going round in spoileriffic circles at this point.
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