Friday, September 16, 2011

ICONS Friday Special - Kaptain Amerika!

Continuing the theme of alternate takes on familiar characters or "messing with characters you shouldn't" we have another one of my alternatives (No theme song this time):

When he doesn't have the shield out he is occasionally mistaken for a certain speedster...
Roger Stevens was an undersized youth who wanted to join the military during the Worldwide Patriotic War of the 1950's. Rejected for his poor physical condition, he kept trying and was eventually accepted into an experimental program designed to create the finest soldier possible. The treatment worked, but only on him, and its creator and the facility used was destroyed soon afterward in an attack on the lab. Despite this attack, experiments in human enhacement would continue and some would succeed, but none as spectacularly as the Kaptain.

The Kaptain spent time training in many forms of unarmed combat, firearms of allies and enemies, languagesm tactics, and strategy. He was also equipped with a special and unique uniform and equipped with a shield made of a unique metal, symbolic of his role as "shield of the people", a protector, not an avenger. Within months he was in action both at home and abroad and the People's Republic of Amerika soon had its first true super war hero.

The Kaptain tests out a new environmentally sealed suit
 For fifty years Kap was the symbol of the best part of Amerika. The expeirment that created him also retarded his aging process, so that the passing of five decades touched him as though a mere 5 years had passed. Always forthright, always humble, duty pressed him onward. Even as his wartime comrades passed away he stayed true to the Republic and its citizens. Even as new heroes and new leaders sprang up with different values and priorities, he kept to his core beliefs. As the century drew to a close he felt somewhat isolated from the leadership of the Republic, their open greed and corruption grating against his sense of right and wrong and his sense of duty to the people. He kept going though, knowing that this was his place in the world.

Looks like the suit works just fine as Kap kicks a mutant where it counts 
Then one day news came theat a terrorist organization had acquired a nuclear weapon and was planning to detonate it somewhere in Manhattan. The gravest of threats demand the greatest of heroes and soon Kap was on the case. He pursued and destroyed most of the cell members. Bursting into the underground laboratory of the cell leader, he realized that something strange was in the works here - after all of his years of duty he knew what a nuclear device looked like and this machine was no bomb. As the leader leapt onto the platform, one arm still hanging useless, broken from an earlier hit from Kap's shield, he turned back, grimaced in triumph, pulled a lever, and things...changed.

Kap staggered, feeling a ... shift ... unlike anything he had ever felt before. His enemy yelled at him that it was a different world now, and though they were shielded from the change there was no place for him now. In reponse Kap bashed the leader with his shield, knocking him out. Feeling a growing sense of unease Kaptain Stevens rushed back outside and into a world much like the one he knew, but clearly not his home.Within a few minutes he realized the People's Republic was no more - he was lost, a man without a country, a hero without a cause.

On the edge of despair Kap acquired civillian clothing and set about learning where he was. He had some hopes of finding a way back home but as time went on he realized he couldn't be sure his home even existed anymore. As he learned more about this new place, indecision, melancholy, and a feeling of helplessness began to take hold of him for the first time in half a century. The language was largely the same, so he could blend in. The technology was quite similar so he was able to function within this strange society. It was not home, however, and he was unable to pull himself out of a spiral of depression.

Headed downward, he drifted to the edges of the city. He saw cruelty and violence here, much as he had seen it at home. One day though, as he saw a young mother and child under assault by some thugs, something stirred within him and he took action, much as he would have if he had seen these things at home. He kept at it over the next few days, thrashing a varierty of hoodlums and criminals and finally wiping out a local gang in a one-man war on crime. He realized that despite the drastic differences between his home and this "America" bad things still happened, he still had the means to do something, and the people still needed a champion. Donning his characteristic red uniform and bearing his iconic shield, the last survivor of the Republic took to the streets - Kaptain Amerika, Hero and Protector of the People, would not abandon his duty!

Notes: Kap is extremely concerned for innocent bystanders who might be caught up or injured  but is far less particular about the means used to deal with criminals or enemies - due process was more of a goal than a rule in Amerika. He has also been afected by the passage of fifty years of super-duty, not having been frozen in an iceberg for decades so he is not strictly a child of the fifties afresh.

  • Prowess - 8 (Amazing) Genetically enhanced, trainedby the best, 50 years of hard, direct experience
  • Coordination - 7 (Incredible) Genetically enhanced, trained by the best, etc...
  • Strength - 6 (Remarkable) Genetically...etc...
  • Intellect - 5 (Excellent) etc.
  • Awareness - 6 (Remarkable) Enhancement, training, experience...he has lots
  • Willpower - 7 (Incredible) There's very little that he has not been through, so not much phases him anymore

Stamina - 13
Determination - 1

Origin - Transformed

Specialties - Weapon (Shield), Acrobatics, Military

"The Shield of the Republic" - a unique weapon made of an indestructable lightweight alloy that both protects its bearer and can be thrown with stunning accuracy to strike at range
   - Reflection- 8 (Amazing) Using the shield defensively
   - Blast - 6 (Remarkable) Thrown Shield
   - Fast Attack - 6 (Remarkable) up to 3 attacks per panel with either fists (All-Out Attack!) or a thrown shield (Ricochet!)

"Patriot" - Even though his national affiliation is a little blurry and the world situation unfamiliar, he is still a believer in the land where he was (sort of) raised. If there is a threat to THIS America, he has resolved to treat it as if it was a threat to THAT Amerika. This is more of a strategic, conceptual thing - a cause.

"Defender of the People" - Kap will go out of his way, risk his life, and even sacrifice his life to protect the innocent. This is more of a tactical thing, influencing his decisions in combat RIGHT NOW.

"The Last Amerikan" - Kap was born and raised in a world where different choices were made in the 20th century. Culturally he gets a lot of what makes "America" but it is different from the "Amerika" where he grew up. This causes misunderstandings sometimes, especially with references to the past, history, and politics. It also means his standards and expectations are somewhat off from what is traditional.

"Flexible Ethics" - In contrast to the image of a similarly named hero, Kap is a lot less Lone Ranger, and a lot more Jack Bauer. He is far more interested in what is effective when it comes to saving lives and thwarting criminals than he is concerned with rules and policies and codes of honor. this can get him into trouble with other authorities, his own authorities, and can create revenge-driven enemies.

"Bullheaded" - After doing what he does for over 5 decades, Kap is pretty confident in the decisions he makes and it can be very difficult to dissuade him from a course of action once he has chosen it.

"Sucker for a Pretty Face" - One of the best ways to try and dissuade Kap from a given course of action is through an attractive female. He has had very few long-term female attachments, considering himself on permanent wartime duty.

Kap comes out to 62 Points which is fairly high. He's a pretty combat-centric character but his intellect and awareness give him a chance to contribute outside of that and his Challenges and Qualities should make life interesting too. I think the Fast Attack power is a little gamey, but the Cap we all know is rarely shown hitting only one guy - in some panels he's punching one guy, shield bashing another, and kicking a third, and I wanted to capture that. Tell the DM to bring some minions.

To drop him down a bit you could take away the Fast Attack power and drop his Willpower to 6. That lowers his cost to 55 which in my mind is an "experienced" character but keeps most of the "character" of Kap. If that's still too high then drop his Blast and he can rely on his Reflection to hurt people at range - his cost drops to 49 and his Determination goes to 2. This would be a younger Kap with less experience - maybe he's the replacement for the original.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

ToEE 4E DM Notes: The Moathouse

The Moathouse is a two level dungeon with an upper ruined area (that looks a little like something smashed up the keep from The Keep on the Borderland)s and a lower dungeon level that is not huge but is fairly nasty for low level characters. This is usually viewed as the "starter dungeon" part of the adventure and in my game I'm setting the ruins as a level 1 area and the dungeon as a level 2 area. By the time they finish clearing out the place I expect all PC's to be level 3. I added taking out the bandits as a major quest because it will get them noticed by the people of Hommlet - the first step on the road to renown!

Now I use the descriptions and flavor text from the original adventure so most of this discussion is 4E mechanics and the reasoning behind my choices - you have been warned.

One of the general rules discussed when 4E launched was that one encounter does not equal one room in a dungeon. I agree with that in general, but for this level and this map it pretty much does. The inhabitants are fairly well separated and spread out so that it's easy to make each one a spearate encounter and that's what I did. Remember, it's a starter dungeon so let's not overwhelm the new players (or the new DM) with complicated multi-stage, multi-room encounters just yet. Let's give them some straight-up fights and skill checks to ease them past the "which dice do I roll?" stage.

I did add a single optional encounter for each level and I use these as a strictly optional...option. If the party spends the night in the ruins, this is what might attack them. If they leave for a day or two and then return then this might have moved into one of the previously cleared areas. It's good to have an extra encounter ready, just in case. The original wandering encounter tabls have a lot of "strange noise" entries and those can be fun too - especially if only one character is on the ruins...

The Moathouse

Level 1 Major Quest - wipe out the bandits in the Moathouse, bring back evidence - 500 XP

Upper Level

Random Encounter (used if/as necessary)
4X Common Bandits [MV 170] 500 XP
Treasure 20 gp, 40 sp

1 The Pool - Level 1 encounter
5 Thornskin Frogs [MM3 Pg 90] 500 XP
Treasure: 100 gp gem inside one of the frogs (7)

2 Rotting Drawbridge
Ignore the fallthrough chance

3 Broken Gates
DC13 Perception Check to notice signs of human-sized footprints in the dust

4 Tower - Level 1 encounter
2X Deathjump Spiders [MV 302] 350 XP
1X Spider Swarm [MV 301] 150 XP
Treasure: 30 gp, 100 sp (10)

5 Littered Steps
DC9 Perception Check to notice signs of activity

6 Great Hall

7 Brigands - Level 4 encounter
1X Bandit Leader [FRCG 34] 150 XP
3X Common Bandits [MV 170] 375 XP
12X Human Goons [MV 170] 375 XP
Treasure: 100 gp gem, 100gp necklace, 20 gp, 100sp, potion of healing (5&9), +1 Deathstalker Bow (Lv4, AV p67)

8 Stairway Up

9 Littered Room
DC19 Perception Check to find Fine Broadsword behind bed
Treasure: +1 Luckblade (Lv3, AV p71)

10 Empty Bedchamber

11 Salon

12 Corner Room - Level 1 encounter
2X Deathrattle Viper [MV 300] 400 XP
Treasure: 130 gp, Potion of Healing (6)

13 Storeroom and Stariway - Level 2 encounter
6X Dire Rats [MV 298] 600 XP

14 Trophy Room

15 Domicile

16 Kitchen - Level 2 encounter
Instead of a giant tick:
6X Stirges [MV 259] 600 XP
Treasure: 50sp, +1 Armor of Acid Resistance (Lv 2, AV 41)

17 Barracks - Level 1 encounter
Instead of a giant lizard
Fledgling Black Dragon - use the fledgling White on MV 64, change all “cold to “acid”, breath does ongoing 5 acid instead of slow 500 XP
Treasure: 100gp, 150 sp (8), Power Jewel (Lv 5, AV 176)

The Dragon was recently wounded and has been hiding out here until healed up, which it is now, and is neither thrilled about the activity in the moathouse nor strong enough to do anything about it. If beaten down to under 20 hit points the dragon is likely to flee by flying out through the partially collapsed roof.

4500 Monster XP, 500 in am optional random encounter, 500 for the major quest.   - That's enough to get a 5-man party to 2nd level.

Dungeon Level

Random Encounter (as needed)
5X Dire Rats [MV 298] 500 XP

18 Stairway Arch - Level 1 encounter
3X Green Slime [MV 221]  525 XP
DC 13 to spot to avoid surprise

19 Door
DC 9 to notice new lock,  DC 13 to pick lock
Normal Gear as listed in text

20 Door
DC 9 to notice new lock, DC 13 to pick lock
Normal Gear as listed in text

21 Corridor and Cells - Level 3 encounter
4X Grasping Zombies behind the pillar [MV 293] 400 XP
10X Zombie Rotters in the 5 cells [MM1 274] 380 XP
Treasure: 100 gp gem in northernmost cell - DC 13 to notice loose stone 8A

22 Torture Chamber
DC 13 to notice recent use
DC 20 to detect secret door in pillar

23 Littered Storeroom
DC 13 to notice greased hinges

24 Large Room  - Level 1 Encounter
Lubash - Grizzled Veteran Ogre [MV 216 + Template on DMG2 127] 500 XP
(Effectively he becomes a Level 1 Solo)
Treasure 20 gp, 500 sp, Cloak of Distortion (AV151) 8b, Lv4

25 Oak Door
Prisoners are so happy to be relieved that no skill roll is required for gratitude. A DC 13 Diplomacy check will gain the stated reward from each. The merchants are from Sembia, the Gnome is from Myth Drannor and the ring could be a Harper pin to make things interesting (saved from his dead companion)

26 Undetected Trap
DC 20 to notice the portcullis is the party is looking up, otherwise they miss it.

27 Recruits - Level 4 encounter
4X Bugbear Thugs [MV159] 700 XP
1X Bugbear Backstabber [MV159] 200 XP
Treasure: 170 gp 7

28 Door
Sets off trap - see text

29 Odd Side Room - Level 4 encounter
Instead of Gnolls:
6X Orc Savages [MV 226] 264 XP
2X Battletested Orcs [MV 225] 300 XP
2X Orc Archers [MV 226] 350 XP
DC 9 Insight to realize their hearts aren’t in it, DC13 Diplomacy to negotiate, 100 or more gp offered give a +2 bonus to check, lead characters to passage, DC 20 gains info on master
Treasure: 30 gp, 300 sp 10

30 Pool - Level 5 encounter
1X Giant Crayfish (Chuul downleveled to 5th and then solo’d) 1000 XP
Treasure: 100 gp gem, 600 sp 6a

31 Burial Crypts - Level 3 encounter
4X Ghouls [MV128] 800 XP
Treasure: (31a) 10 gp + Potion of Healing 9

32 Passage Out

33 & 34 Room and Corridor and Barracks Chamber- Level 6 Encounter
Guards: 18X Human Goons [MV170] 558 XP change club to sword, otherwise equipped as in text
Sergeant: 3X Human Town Guards [MV171] 450 XP
Lieutenant: Elf Noble Guard [MV 113} 150 XP
The Master: Human Noble [MM2 148] 200 XP
Treasure: 400gp, +1 Staggering Mace (AV 78), +1 Mithril Plate Armor (AV 48), Boots of Free Movement (AV 126) 5

This is a tough encounter but a) the groups will engage in smaller chunks as outlined in the text and b) it’s the climax of the adventure so it should be big!

6779 Monster XP + 500 in another optional random encounter - more than enough to get a 2nd level party up to 3rd.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

ToEE 4E DM Notes - Levels and Treasure

This fighter's mark appears to be quite effective

Here's how the levels break down for each part of the adventure:

  • Moathouse Upper Level  - Level 1 (it's the starter section of the adventure and should let them get to Lvl 2)
  • Moathouse Dungeon Level - Level 2 (the party should be level 2 before they hit this)
  • Nulb and the surrounding countryside  - Level 3 (High enough to be dangerous for a few more levels but low enough to be ignored as the PC's ascend. I may stick a higher level young dragon or wyvern out in the woods too as a side trek in case they get tired of dungeon crawling.)
  • Ruins of the Temple - Level 4 (Party could be level 3 or 4 when they get here
  • 1st Temple level  - Level 5 (one level deeper = one level tougher)
  • 2nd Temple level  - Level 6
  • 3rd Temple Level  - Level 7
  • 4th Temple Level  - Level 8
  • Elemental Nodes - Level 9 (gets nasty here with some planar stuff leaking in, could be enough material to pick up two levels if they spend time in all four nodes)
  • Final battle - Level 10 (PC's should gain enough XP to advance to 11 when this is over. Paragon, here we come!)
This applies to the experience totals for each encounter on each level although the creatures will not be restricted to this level only - many will be stronger. A typical level will have the requisite 10 encounters but some may have a few more and some may have a few less - conversion means that things don't always line up perfectly. They might also miss some things as "1E Adventure" means lots of secret doors. Having only 4 characters will probably take some adjusting too but we'll see how it goes.

This level also applies to the DC's for typical unopposed skill checks like picking locks etc to reflect the equipment getting better as you get closer to the leaders of the place.  Not everything is affected by this - monster knowledge is driven by the monster's level, Stealth checks are opposed by a monster's Perception, etc. as normal.

The original adventure covers levels 1-8 and pretty much assumes the PC's are level 3 before they head for the temple itself. As I recall 3rd level felt a little low when we ran through it, even in 2nd Edition. Characters in 4E are a little different so I think 3rd - 4th will be just fine. Old school adventures are not as clear on the level breakdowns for each level but things do get tougher as one descends - I might as well spell it out with this edition and aim for certain amounts of XP and treasure.

When it comes to magic items I am going to try and keep roughly the same items but there are a LOT of magic items in this adventure and I'm not sure I'm going to be able to work in every one of them, but I'm going to hit the high points - flaming swords, wands, staves, Fragarach - you know, the good stuff. I like having a party loaded up with gear - it means they have fewer excuses when things go poorly.

Monetary treasure is where things get off track quickly. I'm picky enough about this that I went through and added up the treasure and magic for the Moathouse levels. Here is what I found:

  • Moathouse Level 1 max treasure: 1,762 gp, 4X +1 Arrows and a +1 Shield
  • Recommended 4E treasure for 1st level: 720 gp and 4 magic items

Ok, that's not too far off. I can probably just leave the gold as-is, but 4E doesn't have magical arrows like that so I'll have to adjust it a bit. Besides, the way the treasue tends to be hidden in these old school adventures, they may not find it all anyway.

  • Moathouse Level 2 max treasure: 28,800 gp, Cloak of Elvenkind, 2X Scrolls, Potion, Phylactery of Action, Staff of Striking, +1 Plate Mail
  • Recommended 4E treasure for 2nd level: 1,040 gp, 4 magic items

Wow do we have a problem there! That's comparable to the total treasure of a 9th level party in 4E! The magic  items are not far off so that part is alright but the difference in the gold is huge. One quirk is that most of the loot is tied up in just the final "boss" encounter in the moathouse - over 20,000 gp and those last 3 items are all found there.

Now I haven't done this for the rest of the adventure but right away I know I have a problem in that the gold does not easily translate 1 to 1. So I can ignore it and hand out the gold as written, or I can use it as written at a certain ratio, say 1/10th of the original (in other words a lot more silver pieces), or I can ignore the original and put in what the 4E DMG says are standard amounts.

The funny thing is that the prices for normal equipment in 4E are pretty close to those in 1E:

  • 1E Longsword 15gp, 4E longsword 15gp
  • 1E Footman's Mace 8gp, 4E Mace 5gp
  • 1E Battle Axe 5gp, 4E Battle Axe 15gp
  • 1E Longbow 60gp, 4E Longbow 30gp
  • 1E Chainmail 75gp, 4E Chainmail 40gp
  • 1E Scale mail 45gp, 4E Scale mail 45gp
Most mundane equipment ends up being pretty close in price with the exception of Plate, which was 400gp in 1E and is only 75gp in 4E, an amount very similar to what it was in Basic D&D.

So if the costs of normal gear are comparable, what's up with the huge difference in gold awards? Well, in AD&D, gold = experience points.  Experience points for the actual slaying of monsters was pretty low - most of your experience points came from the gold that you recover after slaying said monsters, to the tune of 1gp = 1xp. Now this was clearly stated as a rule in the books, but a lot of people had trouble wrapping their heads around it logically and dropped it from their campaigns. These are the people who talk about how slow level advancement was in the old days. Those of us who kept the rule tended to level up at a fairly steady pace until somewhere around 9th-11th level where you would suddenly hit a wall and need something like a million XP's to advance to the next level - that could take a while. Looking at the Moathouse, 31,000 gold means most characters in a party of six would advance to at least 3rd level upon finishing that part of the adventure and putting 2/3rds of it in one room means that they have to beat Lareth to earn it! That's pretty smart planning. Analyzing it though makes it clear that the amount is based on 1E levelling needs, not any sort of economic concern. So I think that if we stick pretty close to the 4E treasure guidelines we should do just fine - and now I have my solution to the monetary treasure problem.

Next up - Stocking The Moathouse!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

ToEE 4E DM Notes: The Big Picture

Some adventures are nice simple locations where bad things live and wait for player characters to come and slay them. Others are railroaded plot-heavy stories that are a game in name only. Some are mainly locations full of badness that only make sense if you understand what's going on behind the scenes and ToEE is one of these - otherwise it might be a little confusing as to why, after fighting through level after level of Air, Earth, Fire, and Water cultists, you end up fighting a giant fungus monster. Backstory - sometimes it's important!

So why are all of these elemental cultists gathering together? What is their goal? Who is their leader? Why is there infighting that the PC's can take advantage of in the lower levels of the Temple? Why did so many people in the old days think that guy in the Moathouse was a follower of Lolth? Is there a way to have all of these things make sense AND communicate it to the players? Let's dig in.

The original plot involves Iuz and Zuggtmoy (two lesser divine powers)  getting together to fool people with a new cult and gain worshippers they might not otherwise get - it's like a marketing plan to diversify their product line. Iuz is traditionally opposed by St. Cuthbert (who makes a guest appearance at the end of the adventure if Iuz steps in due to some bad player decisions). Lolth comes around after the initial fall of the temple and starts trying to restore it and subvert it to her own purposes - everyone wants to set up shop on the surface world, apparently. I could just follow this background and substiture some divinities: Torm would replace St. Cuthbert, Moander replaces Zugtmoy, Lolth is still Lolth, and maybe Bane replaces Iuz. This is the simplest approach, but I'm wondering if I'm going to move it to a canon-filled world if there is not some way to take more advantage of some of that material.

The Realms used to have a god for each of the four major elements of Air, Earth, Fire, and Water. Now for 4th Edition they have been reclassified as Primordials but they stil exist. There are also the Princes of Elemental Evil originally from the old Fiend Folio - Imix, Ogremoch and the like. I'd really like to tie these elemental gods of the realms to the elemental cult somehow. Maybe those moonlike objects in the elemental nodes are the incubation chambers for the elemental princes of evil, and destroying the links means that they open and the new princes awaken in the Elemental Chaos - that could stir things up, and ties them into the party for a possible showdown at Epic levels (they're level 30-something solo  nightmares in the 4E Monster Manual 3). PC's might be followers of the elemental gods sent to find out what's going on with this temple dedicated to the four elements but not to them.

In the G and D series adventures the Drow make their first appearance and there is a rivalry present bewteen two things worshipped by the Drow - Lolth, and the Elder Elemental God (also known in the Realms as Ghaunadaur). Since I'm looking to run those adventures after the Temple I would like to bring in those two gods now as well. They were demon lords in the original modules, but by the time of the 4th edition Realms book they are both Greater Gods. Lolth ascended by slaying most of the other Drow gods and running Ghaunadaur off into the divine wilderness. Ghaunadaur became the god of slimy lower life forms and over time regained enough power to ascend to Greater status. Perhaps he has decided it's time for a rematch?

We also have Moander as a replcement for Zuggtmoy, star of the original adventure and the utltimate adversary for the party.

So, sticking to the core idea, a particularly bright priest of the sort-of-dead god Moander hatches a scheme to gain a lot of followers and enough power to free and restore his dead god. He decides that Elemental Evil has more appeal to a broad range of miscreants than the orignal rotting and sliminess of Moander and so starts the TOEE. The followers of the various elements have never gotten along well which would make this deception relatively easy as they are too busy watching each other to pay attention to the ultimate leadership and figure out that the story is a complete hoax cooked up to pull in followers and resources. Things went well for a while but eventually the scheme backfires (years ago) and ends up with the last avatar of Moander imprisoned in the basement of the smashed temple.

I am aware that this is a pretty sophisticated scheme for followers of a fungus god so clearly Lolth was there from the beginning.

From the wiki:
If any deity in the realms can truly be called 'dead', it is Moander. However, there is still a tiny fraction of his power that still resides with his corpse which now floats through the Astral plane so theoretically, he could be revived, given enough worship.

What worshipers he had left could have been reorganized and concentrated once more had an opportunistic individual thought of it, that is, if Lolth had not already beaten them to that goal already. To the elves of Myth Drannor, Moander could corrupt individual elves and destroy their beloved forests, more so than Lolth ever could and also, since Ao instructed the gods to pay more heed to their worshipers, Lolth has realized that she may not be able to rely solely on those living in the Underdark to be her followers and thus, took up the alias of Moander to gain some more varied worshipers on the surface.
So this is how Lolth comes in - she's looking for a way to take a war to the surface elves and the corrupting power of Moander is it. Thus she is aiding the cult to bring Moander back but under her control. She is also thinking that it would be good to have another slime god in her camp to oppose the power of the EEG. Additionally, since the EEG has started making inroads on the surface world with his giants, she intends to have her own organization on the surface to work against him there as well.

So, the followers of Moander, aided once again by Lolth, have recovered enough to try again and are busy restoring the Temple and drawing in new followers. At some point a partnership with Bane comes into play too, so we're back to a trilogy of deities behind the scenes.

The deity involvemnt is important to nail down because one of the conceits of the original was that Zuggtmoy was imprisoned in the temple and the various magical seals on the doors (that the PCs break as they descend) are keeping her there. The climax of the adventure then involves an avatar of Zuggtmoy getting loose and the PC's having to take her down, and I think an avatar of Moander will work just fine in her stead (fungus deities have to look out for one another after all). There is a similar story in the Dalelands where Moander is supposed to be imprisoned underground in a remote part of the forest so it ties together fairly well with previous Realmslore. Let's call it a nod to canon, but I'm more concerned with getting the Temple right than I am getting the Realms history right.

Moander's curent state - Evil deities never die, they just wait for the next edition!

I really spent a lot of time going over this and I even went back through the adventure looking specifically at how the different powers fit in. I considered just going with Lolth and Moander but I really wanted to work Bane in and he fits the NPC's associated with Iuz much better than Lolth does. There are also some Zhent enemies in the 4E Realms guide that are really nasty and are fun to run So, he's in. The local lore of the Dalelands as far as enemies tends to involve Drow, Moander, Zhentarim (followers of Bane) and demons - I've managed to work most of those in with these choices so I feel pretty good about it.

For leadership there is a leader of each elemental cult, various guard captains, a high priest over all, and several agents of Lolth behind the scenes keeping things quietly efficient.

Now I at least feel like I know what's going on with the temple. Good, but how do I let the players discover enough of this to get a picture of what they are truly dealing with? One layer at a time.

First, the local rumors are about bandit raids and the general suspicion is that they are coming from the old moathouse and the PC's will be directed there. Within the moathouse they will discover evidence that the Cult of Elemental Evil is active again.

Second, returning to the village they can pick up some history in Hommlet about the temple and the forces involved. This will all be about the elemental aspect of the cult as that's all any of these people really know. Air-Earth-Fire-Water, evil priests, demons, devils, elementals, evil elemental creatures, and plain old humanoids were all known to be a part of their forces. The goal of restoring old powers to life is slightly less well known, but can be discovered by asking the right people, mainly those who fought in the battles back when the temple rose up the first time. Armed with this information the party can proceed to Nulb and the ruins of the temple.

Nulb is the first place where evidence of Lolth might be discovered as she will have an agent in the village to keep an eye on things and the agent will have some kind of symbol indicating their true affiliation. There may also be an easily discovered Moander cultist as well, probably presented as a warped druid. This is just foreshadowing, as there will be nothing to link either of them directly to the temple - perhaps its nothing more than evil cults keeping an eye on each other although the presence of a Lolth-follower above ground is unusual.

As the players invade the undertemple and fight through the various levels, they will run across clues and hints that the elementalists are not the only religion being practiced down there. Bane's influence will be obvious beyond a certain point. Lolth's involvement will be sketchy but clear to those who know what to look for, while the Moander plan will only become clear near the end, probably on the final level of the temple and the last part of the campaign, perhaps through a supervillain-esque monologue by the true high priest, revealing himself at last and giving the players a brief warning about what they are about to fight. Since they are probably geared up to fight elemental creatures, it seems fair to give them a chance to discover that their big enemy is not really tied to an element. If not, oh well - 4E characters are pretty tough, right?

Now the best part about all of this is that it helps me understand things, but the players don't have to care at all! It's there for them to discover and dive into the lore if they wish, but it doesn't have to be found or acted upon to let the adventure continue. The bad guys do have an agenda but there's no plot-hammering timeline tied to it. In fact, the players can merrily smash their way through the whole thing if they wish to do so or they can go for some stealth and intrigue by playing the factions against each other and making and breaking alliances as they go - it's up to them!

Monday, September 12, 2011

ToEE 4E DM Notes - Placement and Conversion Notes on Hommlet

As I mentioned in an earlier post I have decided (after much waffling) to convert the Temple of Elemental Evil to 4th Edition and run it for the Apprentices. Knowing that the upcoming holiday weekend would be a good time to kick things off I spent some time going over my notes, rethinking a few things, looking over the maps one more time, and just doing some of that little tweaking that a 3rd look sometimes demands. I am using the original boxed flavor text so I mostly focused on mechanical things. In fact, my approach to running this is going to be to have the original adventure open for that text, descriptions, and notes on where the treasures are hidden and as a general guide for improvisation while I have my 4E mechanical details ready on another set of papers for skill checks, traps, and combat encounters.

The one non-mechanical area where I did go completely overboard was where to put the adventure. I have previously discussed setting it in Impiltur but upon looking at it again I decided the flavor just didn't feel right and besides I was planning to put all those Orcus-flavored original 4E adventures there. I needed some good solid farm country (for the village) near a major human kingdom (Furyondy in the original), a major elven kingdom (Celene in the original), some gnomes would be nice (Kron Hills -hah, good luck finding that kind of thing anywhere but Greyhawk), but it all needed to be kind of in the middle of things yet kind of outside the borders of any major power (Verbobonc in the original). So I spent several hours poring through old Realms material, chose and then discarded several options, and finally said to heck with it and put it in the Dalelands, Misteldale to be exact.

Yeah, I know, it's the most over-studied, over-emphasized, over-populated-with-high-level-characters part of the world - but -  while it was The Main Area for 1E and 2E, it was not really an area of focus in 3E material and is merely one entry among many in the 4E campaign guide. Additionally, most of those old NPC's (good or bad) are dead with the timeline advance, so the geography and general tenor of the place is still there without all the old heroes (and many of the old villains) cluttering things up. The layout is perfect with Cormyr taking over for Furyondy, the renewed Myth Drannor taking over for Celene, Archenbridge taking the place of Verbobonc, and while by the book it lacks the gnomish population, I can work some into the area if I feel the need. Also keep in mind that the Apprentices have never played or read any Forgotten Realms campaign material so it's not over-done to them - it's just a new area to explore where I happen to have tons of history just waiting to be discovered. I thnk that's important - it's "History" - not "Competition."

Not a gazebo in sight - clearly a safe area
For Hommlet itself I made no major changes. Most villagers are Human Rabble (Lvl 1 minions) with levelled villagers taking whatever human monster entry seems most appropriate at the time - there shouldn't be a lot of fighting here so I'm not going to set up any kind of balanced encounters in advance. If something goes wrong then Rufus and Burne will be dealing with it. Jaroo is a druid of Silvanus, The temple is a temple to Chauntea. Rufus and Burne (probably 8th level humans using the class templates from the DMG) are part of the Riders of Mistledale who are sort of a local sheriffs organization of 20-odd characters that the PC's could end up joining if they wanted to do so. They can buy gear in the store, have things crafted or fixed at the blacksmith, find rumors and stay at the Inn of the Welcome Wench, and generally do everything their 1E/2E counterparts did back when.

This is going to be a lot of fun.

Motivational Monday