Thursday, August 22, 2013
A2, A3, and A4 - More Thoughts on Nexting Them
A2 - If A1 was a raid on an enemy outpost, A2 is ... a raid on an enemy outpost. It's bigger and there are more guards, but there is still a fortified upper level and then a secret dungeon level where the link to the next adventure can be found.
The upper level seems to make the assumption that the entire party will be sneaking around looking for the dungeon entrance. I've never had parties that could do this for long, nor did they want to. If I remind them that this is like the death star part of Star Wars it might help but even that may be asking a lot.
The lower level is a mix of clever and ridiculous - not that unusual for AD&D dungeons but people are supposed to live and work here? I like some of the traps but I dislike some of the monsters and forced situations that are included here.
I'm not a huge fan of phantoms and haunts and some of the "haunted visions" that are included in this one. I think they distract from the main point of the adventure by trying to tell some kind of history of the fort, but it's not like this is a some famous landmark - it's a nameless ruin in the wastelands that are the Pomarj. No one cares about its backstory.
There's also a tremendous focus on one enemy character that the PC's won;t even meet until the very end. We get Markessa's this and Markessa's that - but she doesn't have any real presence in the place outside of her little suite of rooms. I would probably plant some seeds to at least drop her name ahead of the final confrontation but there's not much of that kind of thing in the adventure as written.
On this one I am torn - I can see it playing out like a lot of action movies and being cool as a whole but I'm not that thrilled about the parts that make it up. I think some small tweaks to the dungeon level could put it over the finish line for me. I think playing through some of the journey to the fort could make a difference too, introducing the boys to a little hexcrawling along the way.
A3 is a raid on an entire city. This has to be one of the earlier mapped towns in a D&D product and I didn't remember there being as much information in there as I am seeing now. Basically there's a cave sequence that leads to the hidden city, there's exploring the city itself to locate the enemy, then there's another small dungeon leading to the final confrontation.
The cave sequence is fairly short but has an ending that's, well, you don't get stuff like that in published adventures any more and I kind of like it.
The city itself is detailed enough that I could see it being a lot of fun, maybe the best part of the adventure. It's enemy territory but it is a city, not a fortress, so there's room to walk around and talk to people. I like the potential here.
The dungeon is small, much smaller than A1 or A2. The finale can go two ways - you can use the tournament ending and railroad them right into A4, or you can let the dice and the chips fall in a climactic battle with the slave lords themselves. I think that's the way to do it but I see two issues with it:
First, it's not like there are billboards up around the city with the names and faces of the lords on them, so your players are going to confront them without it necessarily being personal. I think that's a missed opportunity and I'm going to have to think about how to rectify it.
Second, letting the fight happen at the end of A3 likely eliminates the bulk of A4 as a usable adventure. The premise of A4 is that the PC's are captured and have to escape from the Slave Lords. I would absolutely hate that forced ending as a player so I'm not going to do it to mine. I think the second half of A4 could be used as the big escape sequence (following our movie analogy above) from the city.
A1 I already knew fairly well. A2 I have never run or played and my interest levels were dropping as I finished it. A3 completely renewed this, and A4, even cut in half, could make a decent ending to the story. I admit there's a part of me that says forget these, let's just run Isle of Dread and let them wander around an island sandbox.
Say they finish up the Keep at 4th, then A1 at 5th, A2 at 6th, A3/4 at 7th-8th depending on how things work out, this would work right into the G series which is where I want to go.
Alternatively I could go Isle of Dread which probably has 2-3 levels in it, then White Plume Mountain, maybe Ghost Tower, and maybe Lost City and then into the giants
Yes, I am interested in taking a "classics" tour for this run.
Then of course there is the option to go with the Temple of Elemental Evil, pulling it back from our 4E game into Next. Might have to discuss that one with the boys. The big issues with that and with some of the other options is that I don't have a full monster list or any kind of monster mechanics now for Next. I have full monster lists for the Caves, the Isle, and the Slavers. There's something to be said for using the tools you've been given.
I'm still thinking Greyhawk for the setting. I don;t really want to drop this plot into my homebrew world, and while I think there's a place for it in the Realms, probably around the Moonsea, it's really part of Greyhawk's lore and that's where it feels the most "right" to me.
Assuming we can manage an adventure/level per month then working into the G series puts us into next year and into the possible release window for Next which would work out nicely.
Now to get the operation on schedule!