C2: The Ghost Tower of Inverness Encounters for 4th Edition #DnD #ADnD #RPG

As a follow up to yesterday’s post providing the converted pre-generated characters, I provide you the encounters for Ghost Tower of Inverness converted to 4th edition. Note that these encounters are designed using my dungeon crawl system for 4e.

Due to copyright law, only the mechanics of the encounters are presented. The only creative content you’ll find within is that which I created myself to update the encounters to 4th edition, but those are very few in number. This is the best adventure every written for D&D; it didn’t need my help.

Click here for C2: The Ghost Tower of Inverness

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C2: The Ghost Tower of Inverness Pregens for 4th Edition #DnD #ADnD #RPG

Don't say no.
Don’t say no to this guy.
Copyright (c) Wizards of the Coast

Any gamer that knows me well knows that Allen Hammock’s Ghost Tower of Inverness is my favorite RPG adventure of all time. Allen wrote it for the AD&D tournament at Wintercon VIII. I’m arranging to run my 4th Edition D&D conversion again, and that inspired me to post my versions of the pre-generated characters for that game in case my players, or anyone, wants to use them. As 4th edition is often played with 6 characters, I created my own character, Three, which I’ve provided as well. I also took some liberties with the races of the characters for the sake of stirring the pot and updating to the modern gaming community. These were created some time ago, and I’m no min/maxer, so you might want to make some modifications if you’re going to use them.

Discinque, Drow Rogue (Thief)
Hodar, Tiefling Wizard (Mage)
Lembu, Dwarf Fighter (Knight)
Li Hon, Halfling Monk
Three, Warforged Hybrid (Artificer|Swordmage)
Zinethar The Wise Half-Elf Cleric (Warforged)

If you’d like the character builder files, just let me know. WordPress won’t let me upload them here.

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D&D Next = Dungeon Crawl System, Second Edition: Validation!

I said this on Twitter, and I’ll say it again here. Based on what I’ve seen from the later D&D 4e products, the current season of D&D Encounters, and D&D Next, I feel like all the work I did on the dungeon crawl system was completely validated. (It’s a shame the Living Forgotten Realms living campaign writers didn’t follow suit, as it would have breathed new life into the campaign.) WotC basically took 4e in the direction I took it about a year ahead of time, and after processing the feedback from 4e players, D&D Next is looking like a “dungeon crawl system, second edition.”

Please note that I’m not suggesting they plagiarized my work (though I know they were aware of it), and even if they did, it’s not illegal. I’m simply pointing out that great minds think alike, and apparently I’m a great mind. 🙂

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Updating My “Bloodied” List for 4th Edition D&D

Image care of http://www.elfwood.com/~vibe/Deity-09-Aberration.3340270.html

In my post, Three Thoughts From Last Week’s Game, I presented a list of terms I use to substitute for “bloodied” (a term used in 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons for a creature who’s been reduced to half their full hit points). It gives the game a bit more flavor. Last night’s game had an addition to the list (care of Luddite Vic) for Aberrations. These are creatures from the Far Realm, which is a plane of existence that’s unimaginably confusing, resulting in insanity relatively quickly for any that visit (and somehow survive that long). The list is updated below.

Oh, and the session was fun. All we got through was two combats, but they’re two of the longest combats in the Hall of the Fire Giant King, and we’re talking high-paragon level. Compared to most 4e D&D games, my Dungeon Crawl System moves very quickly. I wouldn’t want to think about how slow it would have been if I were using the standard system for encounter design.

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Aberrations unraveling
Flame creatures steamy (as if doused with water to put out the flames)
Ice creatures watery, wet
Incorporeal creatures (e.g., ghosts) misty
Insects, demons, and devils ichory
Oozes, water creatures low viscosity

Three Thoughts from Last Week’s Game

I’m currently running my 4th edition D&D conversion of the classic AD&D adventure G3: Hall of the Fire Giant King. My players have run through G1: Steading of the Hill Giant Chief and G2: Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl, and assuming everyone’s interested, G3 will lead to conversions of the D1-2-3 and Q1 modules as well. The conversions have been performed using  my Dungeon Crawl system, which makes high paragon and epic level play much faster, but most importantly, the system allows for a more realistic approach to dungeon crawls, wilderness treks, or other DM stories that make the 15-minute adventuring day seem ridiculous in both 3rd edition D&D and 4th edition D&D (and probably others).

There were three things that came up in that game that I thought were worth noting here.

Surprise!

Here’s the set up: The PCs are opening a door. The door makes noise. There’s no way to stealthily enter without the NPCs being aware of their presence. However, there’s no reason for the NPCs to be on guard. They’re busy working in the armory, so the door opening won’t necessarily be alarming. They might not even look over, meaning the PCs could still get the drop on them (i.e., gain surprise).

Under those facts, whether the PCs gain surprise is really a matter of luck, which is always handled with a die roll. So, I reached back into my (fuzzy) memory and recalled that surprise in AD&D was handled with the roll of a d6. I told the players that I wanted a d6 roll, and on a 1 or a 2, they’d gain surprise. Knowing my tendency to roll low, they asked me to roll the d6, so I said, “Fine, but you gain surprise on a 5 or 6, then.” They said they’d accept that, because they knew my rolling curse wasn’t a matter of always rolling low, but rather always rolling poorly. I rolled a 5. The PCs gained surprise.

My memory was indeed flawed. AD&D surprise was determined by rolling opposed d6s. From the DMG,

Surprise is determined by rolling a six-sided die for each party concerned, modifying the result by using the most favorable member of the party concerned, i.e., a ranger, surprised only on a roll of 1, will represent the whole of a group of other character types. Note, however, the effect of dexterity as detailed below. The same holds for mixed types of monsters. Of surprise is indicated for both parties concerned, the party which has lesser surprise subtracts its result from the result of the greater to find the number of segments the latter are inactive. Nonetheless, it is possible for both parties to be surprised equally — with surprise having no effect.

Surprise is usually expressed as a 2 in 6 chance for all parties concerned . . . . Each 1 of surprise equals 1 segment (6 seconds) of time lost to the surprised party, and during the lost time the surprising party can freely act to escape or attack or whatever . . . .

There’s more, including a table, but that’s the gist of it. Refer to the AD&D DMG for more.

DM Screen

At DDXP a couple of years ago, I was in an official WotC seminar. DDXP is great because the seminars are small but give you access directly to WotC personnel. (Whether this will change now that WotC has pulled out of the Ft. Wayne convention in January remains to be seen.) I mentioned to Chris Perkins that, despite the 4e DM screen being printed in landscape orientation, it’s still too tall. I like having certain information at my finger tips, but even an 8-1/2″ tall screen blocks too much of the battle map. If I can’t see what’s going on, I’d rather ditch the screen and just rely on a player to look up a rule if necessary. The one thing I can’t live without (for 4e D&D) is the DC chart, but as I provided in one of my Protection from Chaos articles, Protection from Chaos, Part IX: For My Conversion of an Adventure, What May I Publish?, I include that in the footer of my adventures.

Bloodied? How Boring

I’ve always used different words to describe a character as bloodied. (For non-4e D&D players, this refers to a character who’s been reduced to half their normal hit points.) For example, mechanical constructs don’t have blood, so it doesn’t make sense to call them “bloodied.” Instead, I call them oily reflecting that oil, not blood, is spewing from their bodies upon taking a certain amount of damage. Not all constructs, however, are “mechanical.” A stone golem is nothing by stone animated by a spirit of some sort, so stone golems get “gravelly.” Here are some of my favorites (YMMV):

Flame creatures steamy (as if doused with water to put out the flames)
Ice creatures watery, wet
Incorporeal creatures (e.g., ghosts) misty
Insects, demons, and devils ichory
Oozes, water creatures low viscosity

As you should always do, I’m just making the game my own. In my case, that means making the game a smart-ass.

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Dungeon Crawl System: High Paragon Level

Image © 2008 Jesse Mohn. All rights reserved.

As some of you know, I published an article entitled, How to Build a 4th Edition Dungeon Crawl for Heroic and Paragon Tiers, which sprang from my conversion of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure modules into 4th edition adventures. The “standard” system of encounter design (i.e., the one presented in the 4th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide) didn’t work. As I pointed out in the article, I could suspend my disbelief in fighting dragons, devils, and slaadi, but the “15-minute” adventuring day was too much for me to accept as applicable to a dungeon crawl or a trek across the wilderness. That is, if the PCs were in an underground dungeon consisting of 100 rooms, it was unrealistic on so many levels to think the PCs could go through those rooms at a rate of 3-5 per day (i.e., the standard system assumes an extended rest every 3-5 encounters). Every 30 minutes, they should expect their rest interrupted unless the DM provided some ridiculous deus ex machina to justify 6-8 hours of peace and quiet. Obviously, another system of encounter design was needed. My conversions started with C1: The Hidden Shrine of Tomachan (before Wizards of the Coast announced they were doing one), C2: The Ghost Tower of Inverness (which I adapted as an LFR MyRealms adventure), L1: The Secret of Bone Hill, S2: White Plume Mountain (available here), and G1-2-3: Against the Giants (again, before WotC announced their conversion). Not being a professional game designer, I didn’t have the luxury of extensive playtests, instead relying on my Loremaster blog to supplement the article as I continued to refine it. As I progressed, I realized that what I had written was really appropriate only for levels 1-15. Once the PCs reach 16th level, some new math was required, which would eventually lead to the proper math at epic level (necessary for the next phase of the adventure, the conversion of the Drow series D1-2-3 and Q1). One of my home groups started G3: Hall of the Fire Giant King last night. It’s my first attempt at the new math. The results were remarkably good considering they were the result of my rough estimates as to what the new numbers should be.

What Am I Talking About?

Let’s start with some context. For those that haven’t read the article, read it dammit! Oops . . . . Sorry. For those that haven’t read it, the basic premise of the Dungeon Crawl system is that each individual encounter creates less of a drain on party resources while maintaining the threat level on the party. Moreover, through the use of “thematic encounter templates” (TETs), the system can be adjusted very easily on the fly for the varying number of players that shows up on any given night (much more accurately than, for example, the encounter adjustment rules provided by the Living Forgotten Realms campaign). The consequences are two-fold. First, for parties of 4-6 PCs, the party can address 10-15 encounters before having to take an extended rest. Second, for parties of only 3 PCs, the encounters create the same threat and resource drain as you find using the standard system, which means you don’t have to cancel your session because only three players show up on a given night.

How It Played out

So, now that everyone’s up to speed on what the system is, let’s talk about last night. I had only three players, so it was “game on,” but the encounters should feel like they would in the standard system. We had a ranger, a paladin, and a warlord, all level 17. There was a lot of role-play and a clever avoidance of combat by the PCs, which means there were only two combat encounters. For those encounters, looking at daily attack powers, daily powers associated with weapons, and healing surges, the PCs went through 30-40% of their resources. Considering they went through 40% of the number of encounters they should expect to face before an extended rest, and things will get harder, this seems to be about right. I have only two data points, but the numbers worked out ideally, and it felt right, so I’m very optimistic that, at the very least, I’m on the right track. Give me a few more weeks, and I’ll be writing the second edition of the article, which will include support all the way up to level 30, though not in the way you might expect. 🙂