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oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!




Just spent the last few weeks reading through the massive original thread. Hilarious stuff mixed in with some actually useful information regarding RPGs I have never heard of before.

So I figure I might try to contribute as well, and I did just get ahold of a copy of the Hercules and Xena RPG, definitely one of the more obscure games out there and (given the subject matter) it's likely to be utterly terrible or a work of pure genius.

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oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!






So, I picked this up a couple of weeks ago after rewatching the Hercules and Xena series on Netflix and I remembering just how terrifically insane and cheesy they were. So, needless to say I was excited at the prospect of trying out the RPG, based on West End Game's d6 system, but I honestly had no idea what to expect from it. Could this be everything I wanted Scion to be: The adventures of long-haired, barely dressed demi-gods as they battle gods and monsters and occasionally engage in spontaneous dance marathons? Then again, it's a late 90's licensed RPG...this could go really poorly.


The contents

This is a boxed set, it's got two books: The Hero's Guide and The Secrets of the Ancient World, three adventures (including one "solo" adventure), and a GM's screen...because everything had a GM's screen back then.

The set also comes with 6 custom dice, using chakram's and hydras instead of numbers. The set I bought didn't include them, which is fine since it would have been a pain to try and share them among an actual play group.



The Hero's Guide

The Hero's Guide starts with the usual "what's an rpg" section where we learn that, like just about everything else, the role-playing game was apparently invented by Salmoneus who serves as the "voice" of the game throughout the book. It gives the thing a goofy, conversational tone which is certainly appropriate to the subject material.

We then move on to character creation. You're given the option to simply select a "hero template" (basically a pregenerated character from the back of the book) and simply add a name, a Unique Possession, and 10 skill points. But lets take a look at the full process:

First, you pick a Hero Type. This is sort of like a class, except it doesn't actually do anything. I'm serious about that, nothing at all. Each one has a list of important attributes and typical skills but you aren't given any sort of bonus to these, or required to purchase any of them. You could make an Archer with no Marksmanship skill or a Warrior without any fighting skill...which may be considered very appropriate. However, there's about 7 pages of these Hero Types and most of them are just various synonyms for "fighter".

Next comes Race, which can be Human or something completely awful. Humans are completely average, receiving no bonuses whatsoever, but that still makes them better than the other races. Centaurs get superior strength and toughness and a big boost to speed and have to make a willpower roll every time they attack or go berserk and start trying to kill everyone around them, friend or foe. Nymphs are pretty but slow (speed, not smarts) and are tied to a specific environment (rivers and lakes, forests, seawater, etc) and within their environment they get bonuses, outside of it they wither away after two weeks. Satyrs are the best non-human race, they're only a little bit slow and they have improved awareness...oh, and a reputation as a race of hairy-legged rapists.

I'd suggest sticking with human.


After that we have Attributes and Skills and a brief explanation of how they're used. This the only d6 system game I've been exposed to but I understand it uses a variant of the core system anyway. Basically it's a dice pool system, you add your relevant Attribute and attached skill together, roll that many dice, and anything over a 2 is a success. You count those up and compare them to a static difficulty or an opposed roll. All rolls are open-ended because one of your dice will be a Wild Die, which explodes on a roll of 6, but on a roll of 1 it'll take away one of your other successes. So someone with 3D Reflexes and 2D Fighting rolls 5d6 to see if they hit someone. Simple enough.

There's 8 Attributes (Coordination, Endurance, Reflexes, Strength, Awareness, Charisma, Knowledge and Mettle) and boatload of skills. The skills are given a brief description, but none of the specific skill rules are explained here (that's apparently in the Secrets of the Ancient World book), except where they are (like Jumping and First Aid).

We finish up with a few extras: Body Points (ie hit points), Character Points (which can be used to improve your character or to add up to two extra dice to a roll), Fate Points (used to double the number of dice you can roll for one check), your starting Fame (or more clearly, your lack there-of). There's also mention of something called the Hero's Challenge (attaining the highest level of Fame by defeating a god or goddess in combat), some personality notes and a Unique Possession (which is really just a normal possession that you get for free).

Then we've got Specialties (ie focused uses of certain skills) and Special Moves (combat tricks). Specialities are pretty simple, you can just buy up a particular aspect of a skill at a cheaper rate (such as purchasing a bonus to Swords instead of a bonus to Fighting in general), while Special Moves are a set of pretty specific combat tricks that can be bought, based on actions we've seen in the show. Half of them are just "do half damage and knock your foe down", but some range from very lame (possibly inflict some fire damage or possibly injure yourself) to crazy powerful (double damage on an Archery attack or the ability to instantly KO an opponent if you beat their defense roll by more than 2-4 successes.

Then we've got Advantages and Disadvantages. They're optional and involve gaining or losing skill dice in exchange for a disadvantage or advantage. Much like Special Moves they're mostly mediocre with the occasionally overpowered (1-in-6 chance to be able to ask for divine intervention, without limit) or pointless (for 1 skill point you can buy a +1D bonus to a skill...whu?). Mostly ignorable.

The chapter ends with Deeds (feats that make gods more or less likely to like you) and rules for improving your character.

So...it was at about this time that something began nagging at me and I began to have a sneaking suspicion, one that would not be confirmed until the next chapter...The Ancient World (no, not the Secrets of the Ancient World, that's the other book, this is apparently the ancient world sans secrets)

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!






Part 2: The Wussiest Heroes

That suspicion I mentioned last time was confirmed almost as soon as I started the next chapter, The Ancient World, because this is where they have write-ups of NPCs and upon reading this I realized an awful truth:

Starting PCs are really, really lame.

The NPC section starts with stats for Hercules and Xena. The characters that this game is based off of and, presumably, the characters you were interested in emulating in play. Well trust me, there's no chance of that. At all. Both characters have truly ridiculous amounts of skills and Special Moves. However, it's amusing to note that their Attributes are built using the same rules as starting characters. That means everyone gets 24 Attribute Dice, with the minimum being 2, Average being 3 and human maximum being 5. So, that means that everyone, Hercules and Xena included, have only enough Attribute points to be "average" at everything, so if they're going to be superior they'll end up inferior in some other way. So that means that both Hercules and Xena are mostly average, and a bit stupid (Knowledge 2), and Xena is a weakling (Strength 2). Their massive skills make up for it in most cases but it's still an amusing flaw in the system.

Well, maybe I'm expecting too much. The two main characters are meant to be pinnacles of the game and maybe it's not unreasonable for them to be something to work towards rather than starting at that power level right out of the gate. So...what sort of character can we emulate as a starting PC?

How about Iolaus? He's a badass in his own right, heroic and competent. Definitely a worthy starting PC. Let's see his stat block...nope. Not going to happen. He's not Hercules, but he's still got over 15 times as many skill points as a starting PC.

uh...Gabrielle? C'mon, this was released during Season 3, she can't have gotten that competent yet...nope. She's much weaker at only 6 times the number of skill points as a starting PC. Next is Salmoneus, with only 4 times a starting character's Skill Points

So...is there anyone who is roughly approximate to a starting PC? Yes. Yes there is:



At only 5 points higher than a starting character Joxer The Mighty is only slightly better than your starting PC. So much for playing amazing heroes.


Well, how fast can characters advance? Perhaps it's a game where you can start as a fresh-faced farmboy and rise to be a great warrior before too long? Taking a quick peek into the Secrets book for the guidelines on gaining character point's it's suggested that each adventure should be worth 5-20 character points. Just for kicks lets assume you play once a week, complete one adventure every 2 weeks and are rewarded with 12 cp on average. Seems more than fair.

Raising a skill takes an amount of cp equal to the new total times 3. So raising a skill from +4D to +5D takes 15 points. Hercules has a Fighting skill of +12D. Assuming you start at +3D, that's a total of...((insert math here))...216 character points. So, just to equal one of hercules skills (and not including the Brawling Specialization he has, an extra 30 points) it'll take 18 adventures just to equal one of hercules skills. That's 9 months of fast-paced, non-stop play. The thing is, he still has a couple of dozen more skills, some of which are just as high or higher than his Fighting.

Starting characters have 10 skill dice (maximum of 3 dice in one skill)...Hercules has a total of 228, plus 6 specialty points and an arbitrary number of special moves. In order to begin play at something approaching his power level you would need to give starting characters between 600-1000 character points. Not only would character creation be incredible tedious and take forever, but specialized character's could easily break the system in half. Reaching that power level during play would take years of back to back weekly gaming.

So yeah, not only do you not start out nearly at the power level of the show's characters, but you have very little hope of actually reaching it.


Next: Finishing up the Hero's Guide and starting on the Secrets of the Ancient World.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!




Bedlamdan posted:

This is very important to me: are there rules for dealing with your evil goateed counterpart from another dimension?

Sadly, no. It's for the best though, given Hercules' stats the Sovereign would turn your PCs into a paste in short order.

Amusingly, a fight between Hercules and the Sovereign would almost certainly end up with a double KO. Hercules has a huge damage bonus, but not an incredible supply of Body Points (25 is the highest possible for humans) and a good Stay Up skill (letting him fight on after reaching 0 BP). So both will almost certainly take each other to 0 BP and then keep fighting until one fails their Stay Up skill roll, followed shortly after by the other.

So that's fairly accurate at least.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!






Part 3: finishing up the hero's guide

So there's not much left in the Hero's Guide. After NPC stats there's a short section telling you about the greek gods, and a section on gear. The equipment is kind of a mixed bag. It's got plenty of shout-outs to the show (like the breast dagger) and swords come in the short, long, serrated and squiggly varieties (squiggly is the best). On the other hand there's again a depressing amount of "realism" here. For example, the chakram has a chance to injure you on a bad roll and unarmed combat is probably the worst thing you could ever do. It's got no damage bonus, meaning anyone in armor will ignore most of your attacks and even if you can hurt them it will take forever to take down even a weak opponent, plus it's got no Speed bonus making it slower than even two handed swords. Stop getting your stupid realism in my RPG about models fighting CGI monsters!

The book ends with a set of pre-genned sample heroes (also featuring the only original art in the book).



--Secrets of the Ancient World--

This is the game-master's guide basically, it's also where the actual rules for fighting and skills are. The book starts with a section on running the game. It seems decent enough but honestly I haven't done anything other than skim sections like this for over a decade now, so I'm not going to delve into it now. After that we come to a few rules for running the game.

The first part of this chapter is rules for creating more experienced characters, on the level of Xena or Hercules, which is great! Also a bald faced lie! This alternative starts you out with 30D for skills, giving you still less skills than Salmoneus. Although since this (presumably) removes the 3D skill cap you can quite easily break the game by dumping all your points into combat or defensive skills (giving your character +15D to +20D Dodge makes you basically untouchable for instance), at the cost of being narrowly focused.

There's also talk of the Hero's Challenge, allowing you to become a demi-god (which really only means being really, really famous). It's here I note that Fame doesn't actually do anything. It's a measure of how well known you are but there are no rules governing how this influences people who know about you, or even how likely it is that a given person will have heard of you. Past Fame 30 the reputation descriptions stop being helpful (can you guess who is more well known: a Vanquisher, Vindicator or Hero?) and the number itself doesn't really mean anything unless you wanted to get into some kind of notoriety dick-measuring contest.

Then there's a list of possible Powers and vulnerabilities, like super-strength, durability, Achilles' heels, etc. There are no guidelines for assigning these abilities and the book flat out states that they should be given out purely at the GM's discretion. Again, this just doesn't seem right when you consider the source material...shouldn't there be actual rules in place for if a character wants to play a half-god, spirit or other supernatural being? Even some general guidelines would be nice.

Then we come to the actual skill mechanics. Most of them are unremarkable, although some are way too specific (such as Remember or Resist Disease) which is obviously an attempt to make up for the fact that you can't improve your Attributes in play but it just creates further problems given the relatively low amount of skill dice available to PCs. Many of the difficulties and examples are fairly arbitrary (did you know it's just one step below Heroic difficulty to craft leather pants?)

Next we've got a section on creating adventures. Like the GMing section this fairly generic and not worth commenting on.

After that is the rules for combat. Fairly serviceable, although I absolutely hate any system that requires the players to declare their defenses ahead of time and take multi-action penalties in order to use their defensive skills. The battle rules do contain one great thing: the range chart. This game features my favorite range chart ever:



I love it, it's simple, easy to understand and quick to use.


Later I'll finish up the Secrets of the Ancient World with their gods and monsters section. I'll skim the adventures but I get the feeling they're probably fairly generic and not terribly interesting.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!




unseenlibrarian posted:

Wait, wait, wait. So the game about a show where the main character almost never uses a weapon except against CGI monsters and just throws mooks around bare-handed (Mooks who mostly wear armor, it should be noted), throwing armor-wearing mooks around bare-handed is basically impossible?

...I am just gonna go read the "Diana, Warrior Princess" RPG, as that's almost certainly a better Herc and Xena game than the Herc and Xena game, even if it is about Princess Di, her spunky sidekick Fergie, and features Teddy Roosevelt as an on-again/off-again romantic relationship.

Hercules can manage it mostly because of his obscene Strength (he gets a +10 to damage due to his divine strength) and massive Fighting skill. That lets him KO a 10 BP mook in one punch, or take down any other human in a couple of hits (the maximum human BP is 25). So it's fine if you're the son of Zeus, not so good for everyone else, who'll get a bonus of +1 or +2 to damage and otherwise just inflict damage equal to the number of successes they score on the attack (so between 2-4 damage on average, minus any armor. Leather armor takes off 2 damage from every hit).

Ironically, since they're based on actions in the show, the existing special moves are pretty much exclusively kicks and punches, and on top of that most of them inflict half damage in exchange for a knockdown. so brawling special moves might let you "stun lock" an opponent in exchange for never doing any significant damage. But constantly tripping your opponent while your allies stab them to death seems a little...unheroic.

The exception is the Head Bash (a headbutt) move, which not only has a base damage like a weapon (3), doesn't suffer any penalty to attack (unlike most other Special Moves), and if you inflict more than 5 damage then you instantly knock out the opponent for a number of turns equal to the number of successes you rolled on the attack. So, considering that everyone gets a +1 damage bonus from Strength that means that a successful Head Bash is an instant KO against anyone without armor (base damage 3 +1 Strength bonus +1 minimum success).

This means that probably the most successful H & X character is probably going to be Doctor Headbutt

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!






Prepare to get your rear end kicked: Gods and Monsters

So, first we have a quick overview of locations in the Ancient World which is useful but not worth commenting on.

Then comes Ancient Powers, where the book goes into more detail on the greek pantheon. This was the part that I was really hoping would redeem this book. After all, if you're going to have a hercules and xena game you're going to get into conflict with a god or two and some interesting or unique rules for divine abilities could turn this book into something useful, even if I never run it.

So, I read through it. There's a quick rundown on the different deities' status within the pantheon, their habits and personalities and some roleplaying tips. You know what this section doesn't have? Any rules for using the gods during play. Get into a fight with Ares? Handled by GM fiat. Being cursed by Hera, it's up the the GM what happens. The gods basically are just plot excuses for events, which is something that often happens in the show but at the same time they're meant to also be characters that can be persuaded, threatened, or even beaten. The game even acknowledges this with it's Hero's Challenge where you survive combat with a god...but there's no rules on how to fight a god, let alone beat one.

The only rules boil down to the following:
*gods aren't omniscient, and barring magical artifacts they're only aware of what they can actually perceive. This is presumably not strictly true, considering that the gods seem to be able to respond to people calling upon them (wouldn't be much point in the Blessed advantage otherwise would there?)
*They can remain invisible to any mortals they wish.
*They're omnipotent within their spheres of influence.

That's it. No rules (even vague ones) for getting into a fight with a god, surviving their wrath, or what a god can do outside of their sphere of influence.

Keep in mind that by this point in the series both main characters have defeated gods in one-on-one combat.

*sigh*


Oh well, moving on. Next we've got things we can fight: monsters. The monsters here are pretty true to the show, but I notice that none of them actually have skills. Monsters only seem to use their base Attributes. These can exceed human attributes, but given the lack of skills to back them up this actually means that most monsters will be far less dangerous than major human opponents. For example, a giant has only 3D Reflexes, which means that they'll almost never hit anyone successfully or successfully defend against anyone's attacks. Sure, if they happen to hit you it'll hurt like hell but the odds of that are pretty low. So fighting one is mostly just a matter of carving down their huge BP supply.

And when compared to the statted NPC characters the monsters are downright pitiful. Gabrielle could take down Pyro by herself and Iolaus could easily fight an Enforcer unarmed.

Still, when measured against normal PCs they're not too bad, just a little odd since the lack of skills means they can't be "customized" very much.


So, that's about it. The adventures are mediocre but serviceable and so that's about the entirety of the game.

Despite the criticism I think the system itself isn't actually bad, it's a simple and easy to use and I do like some of the ideas behind it (the Stay Up skill in particular is one I approve of). It's just completely unsuited for the characters and setting it was trying to emulate. It's low powered and it doesn't have the flexibility you'd need to play anything other than decently skilled humans. This is not the Scion-killer I was hoping for, I guess I'll stick with PDQ for my mythic hero gaming.

So as a low-fantasy or swords-and-sorcery system it's okay, but as an appropriate system for Hercules and Xena it is very disappointing

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!




Xena and Hercules went well, so I figure I'll try another game. Herc/Xena was pretty short so let's go the complete opposite...something that'll keep me posting until everyone's tired of me:



It combines massive size, terrible editing, minimal coherency, and a hefty price tag.

Sound interesting to anyone?

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!




Piell posted:

I started this and couldn't get past the intro - I can't wait for you to showcase some of the bigger dick moves in this thing (along with the terrible developer "advice")

Oh yes...the advice is awful. Especially region B's goblin "tactics".

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!




Arivia posted:

It is the epitome of "you enter a 10 by 10 room here. There is an Orc. You kill the Orc. You open the treasure chest in the room and collect 1d6 gp." Just repeat that once for every monster in the 3.0 Monster Manual, alphabetically by CR.

Except there's no treasure (the WLD is incredibly stingy) and even when there is, you can't use it for anything because the dungeon is designed to trap you until the entire thing is completed.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!







Just a bit of context, I was one of those idiots who bought this book back when it was the most expensive RPG book printed. My gaming group at the time was supposed to chip in on it, but that never happened. Oh well. But that might help explain some slight bitterness I have towards the book...but bitterness that is well deserved. Fortunately I'm also attempting to do something constructive with that and I've been tinkering with the WLD and trying to rebuild it into something usable and posting the "adjustments" on my blog. So at least I'm accomplishing the noble goal of making the internet a bit more full of words.

PART 1: The World's Largest Intro


--History--

So, the book starts with a fairly bland "history" lesson about angelic beings from the heavens sent by the gods to build a dungeon to imprison evil. The dungeon is an epic disaster of poor planning. First one earthquake rips the dungeon in half, letting in a river of magma, then derro come in and colonize it. After that, there's another earthquake this one allows drow in, plus tearing a hole in the dungeon's ceiling. Finally, derro cause a cave-in (apparently although the dungeon can contain demons, devils and undead it's not dwarf-proof), not only collapsing part of the dungeon but flooding it as well.

Needless to say the biggest question is "why?"

Why imprison these things rather than killing them?
Why pick such a terrible location?
Why, after disaster strikes, do the gods who ordered the place built not help the angelic jailers trapped inside the dungeon?

There's no answer and the designers are pretty straightforward in saying that they didn't care about logic or reason when it came to designing the dungeon.

--Ecology--

Next we have the "Ecology" section where the writers basically say that there isn't going to be any sort of dungeon ecology that makes any sense (especially given that everyone is trapped inside the dungeon) and they're fine with that. eh, fair enough I suppose. it's not like most dungeons (especially big ones) work out logistically.

What is annoying is they come right out and say that they don't expect you to actually run the world's largest dungeon as one big dungeon. Considering that's the only reason that anyone would actually buy the product I find that pretty stupid.

They also come out and admit that the they did not actually include every monster in the game. Just one of every "category" (so they have a sphinx, but not every type of sphinx, they've got dragons but not every single color, etc). To quote them:

quote:

Fanatic completism took a back seat to making the dungeon fun and useful

On the one hand I feel like it would be stupid to try and cram every single monster in the SRD in here and quality would be better than quantity. On the other, it's one of the main advertising points of their 100$ book so and it becomes pretty clear that they didn't deliver "quality" either and a lack of monster variety is actually one of the book's biggest problems.


--Dungeon Environment--

The intro states that the scale of the dungeon is 5x5 squares but then recommend changing it to 10 x 10 for some reason.

There's some discussion of things like the consequences of using artificial lights in the dungeon, how sounds apparently obey completely random rules and DMs are encouraged to use this as an excuse to arbitrarily screw players or justify the way it's possible to have a massive battle in one room without alerting anyone in adjacent areas.

They talk about justification for the sheer number of traps (to get around the immunities of the various entities that the dungeon was made to imprison). Nothing bad here but it becomes especially ironic after you read into the dungeon since many of the traps you'll find would not work on any of the creatures the dungeon is made to imprison (poison for instance).

Then there's a few standard rules regarding walls, doors and secret doors. Their rules regarding lockpicks are worth mentioning:

quote:

There are generally 20 tools in a given lockpick set. For each lockpick that is damaged or lost the PC suffers a -2 circumstance penalty to his Open Lock check. Thieves tools are generally so delicate that only a DC 25 or 20 (blacksmith or locksmith) check can fix them. usually a rogue just buys new tools. In the World's Largest Dungeon that may not be an option

Sounds like a useful rule to keep in mind...until you remember that the penalty for not having tools at all is only -2. That means that any lockpick set with a couple of broken tools is literally worse than nothing. But since there's no actual rules for breaking lockpicks there's not much to worry about.

--More Terrible Rules--

So, now we're at the "house rules" for the WLD. The first thing they mention is that no form of teleportation or extradimensional travel will function, except teleportation functions built into the dungeon itself. It waffles a bit with creature abilities and short range powers like dimension door, suggesting that they're limited to 100 ft and line of sight.

The terrible house rules really start with Experience Points. Apparently the design of the WLD just can't handle the normal XP system:



I love how they encourage you to not play their giant mega-dungeon as a giant mega-dungeon. There's also no guidelines on when during an adventure PCs should level up.


Next we've got lots of :words: summarizing the different regions, how to read room descriptions, etc.



--Encounter Conditions--

So, here's a great example of a good idea that the WLD writers completely screw up. Encounter conditions are essentially a list of keywords describing generic room conditions. Now, I will say that this is a great idea, it saves space reprinting similar traits room by room and collects these conditions in one place where it can be easily consulted.

However, in execution they manage to completely screw things up. Many of the encounter conditions are applied completely at random. And even when they might have a purpose there aren't enough details to be useful.

For example, a common condition is Concealment, giving all creatures a miss chance...but it's rare for there to be any explanation for why these creatures gain concealment: magical darkness, fog, smoke, weird illusions, etc. Which is pretty drat important.

Many of them are also incomplete when used in the rooms themselves. For instance conditions like Echoes X means that noise in the room penalizes Listen Checks by X amount...but most entries lack any actual modifier.

--The Rest--

There's a mention of the lava that flows through the dungeon, However, apparently it is not actually lava: it is being "fed" on by an everpresent horde of magma and steam mephits who absorb the heat and poisonous fumes, reducing the lava to a relatively minor annoyance, dropping the damage from 20d6 for full immersion to 6d6.

Then there's region "W" a series of empty, generic rooms that can be stuck anywhere in the dungeon. These will never be used by anyone, being universally bland and pointless.

There are sidebars scattered about pointing out how the inescapable nature of the dungeon ruins several core classes and spells.

*The designers claim that wizards get hosed by the dungeon (due to a lack of new spells as they level up) and also point out that spells like web or entangle should be banned as they're "too powerful" in a place like the WLD, claiming they've prevented monsters from having the spells (a lie, the first Region has a kobold wizard with Web). There's actually a decent number of spells, but the writers forget that there's no way for wizards to get those special inks they need to scribe their spells and the issue of material components is never addressed at all.

*druids get the real shaft and the designers just say that you shouldn't allow them at all. The main problem is that because of the anti-teleportation effect their summoning spells are either banned or one-way (summoned creatures come in, but don't leave and you lose any control over them after the duration ends). Also, no chance of any new animal companions in most of the dungeon (rangers have this trouble too).

The introduction ends with some of the worst advice ever:



Wow, there's not a suggestion on there that I don't think is stupid and most of them actively piss me off.

What's even worse is that without the ability to take 20 (let alone take 10), Region A is going to be hell for most players. Despite the fact that the Region is for level 1-3 characters it's full of magical traps...meaning that the DCs are in the mid to high 20's. Even a trap-focused first level rogue isn't going to have a Search bonus higher than +10 or so...meaning that the odds of them managing to find, let alone disarm, any of the traps in the very first region are low indeed.

That's the end of the intro, I'll start sifting Region A for some interesting tidbits (obviously we're not going room by room here).

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!




Mimir posted:

They've got the map of the dungeon on their website. Look at how weird and arbitrarily laid out it is. Look at those long, connecting passages. Look at how the tiles don't quite match up. This is an work of art.

The entrance is also in the lower left, the exit is the upper right (well, the main exit at least). Meaning that anyone actually playing through the map as it's laid out will almost certainly miss at least half the dungeon.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!






Part 2: Descent into Region A

Region A is the first part of the WLD and claims to be designed for starting characters. But before you get to that there's Region Z (for Zero), not technically a part of the dungeon it's a basic kind of "hook" to get the PCs involved.


Region Zero basically consists of the PCs stumbling across the corpse of a dead titan. The titan is decomposed but odorless and has a +5 Gargantuan Halberd and Chain Shirt (neither of which resize). The titan also has 500 lbs of notes in his pocket and scattered around. The notes are in a dead language that no one can read, so the authors don't bother including any details as to the contents (because apparently the authors of the WLD forgot that spells like Comprehend Languages exist and are available at level 1). This is something that they often forgot, because they love to fill room with ancient writings in non-human languages and completely fail to acknowledge the possibility of the PCs translating them.

The background (which will be completely lost on the PCs) is that this titan was assigned to guard this entrance to the dungeon and has died of old age while doing its duty. Seems like perhaps he might try and secure a replacement at some point...but whatever.


--Region A itself--

So, the backstory is basically that a were-rat sorcerer by the name of longtail who has put together a small army of kobolds, orcs and troglodytes and descended into the dungeon in order to find an extradimensional prison within that holds a horde of fiendish beings so that he can unleash them and conquer, yadda yadda yadda.

Upon arriving in the dungeon longtail and crew are, of course, trapped. Longtail abandons his army (why bother bringing them then?) to descend into the depths of the dungeon to find the prison. Meanwhile, without his leadership his humaniod army fractures and begins bickering among each other, dividing the area into different camps. Before it explodes into all-out war longtail finds and opens the prison but (shockingly) cannot control the fiendish monsters inside. The fiendish creatures swarm the Region and wipe out the majority of the humaniods. This about when the PCs are meant to show up: in the middle of a swarm of demonic creatures and paranoid and violent humaniods.

The PCs find their way down a tunnel and come to a huge, unlit room deep below the earth. It has two doors, both of which open into a pitch black, silent void. Anything that goes through does not come back out again.

Now, when you look at this alongside Region Z do you notice a problem? What are the odds of the average group of adventurers actually going inside the WLD during the first session. Both of these "encounters" just seem designed to encourage PCs to waste time. First we've got a titanic (literally) corpse, clad in hefty enchantments and carrying mass quantities of notes in an unknown language and then we've got a room with two doors, both of which open into an empty void and from which no one who passes returns. Now, the GM knows that the titan is just a bit of scene dressing and that both doors actually open into the same large room beyond and that there is nothing for the PCs to do but go forward. The PCs on the other hand will probably spend forever trying to puzzle out what the heck is up with the titan, trying to decide which door they should go through and searching the room for traps, secret doors or clues.

Before I get to the crappy stuff I will say that I actually kind of like the plot of region A. It's definitely a high point among the other Regions and it makes an effort to make the region more than just killing, killing and more killing. Many of the humaniods are paraniod and violent, but others are terrified, depressed, or reluctantly willing to negotiate. There's plenty of room for roleplaying and the PCs aren't forcible funneled towards certain choices or alliances.

That said, it's heavily outweighed by the bad stuff. First and foremost Region A is brutal. It is a hell of a meat-grinder. And not in the evil-funhouse sense of the Tomb of Horrors, it's just full of challenges that far outweigh most PCs abilities. Lets give you an example:

After passing through the dark rooms the PCs come upon the abandoned remnants of the orcish camp in the first rooms. There's a couple of weak, wounded orcs who are too tired to fight but too ornery to be helpful. There are two obvious exits from the camp: The first, to the north, has a burning hands trap on the door. Fortunately a d4 damage isn't going to do more than scorch anyone but it's going to be annoying to impossible to disarm due to it's magical nature. The burning hands trap guards a room full of rotted sacks and barrels that contain only black mold (that's right, have some Con damage!). The next room contains yet more containers full of black mold and an Acid Arrow trap. That's right, acid arrow against first level PCs: that's an average of 14 damage with a find/disable DC of 27! All of this guards a room that contains nothing but some crappy rope (and since it's a dead end the PCs will have to go back through at least one of the traps).

The other way out (and the only actual exit from the area) involves an encounter with a fiendish darkmantle (grappling + flight + magical darkness = very annoying fight). And then it switches straight from annoying to lethal with a fiendish rat swarm!

Yep, it's a CR 3 swarm right off the bat. Keep in mind that swarms take half damage from most weapons, can attack multiple opponents, and auto-hit. And since it's fiendish it can't be hurt by torches and is literally immune to most 1st level spells, and has SR 5. Oh, and since they're fiendish the writers replaced filth fever with Devil Chills, because 1st level PCs need all the ability score damage they can get!

And before they can make it into the dungeon at large there's another fun encounter, this time with Fiendish Stirges, because you probably still have some Con points left in you.


Now, some people enjoy a good killer dungeon. However, keep in mind that the selling point of this book is it's length. It's meant to be a single huge dungeon to get people from level 1 to level 20. Part of the idea is running your character from a scrub at the start all the way to an epic badass at the end...something that's severely undermined if you have to keep replacing PCs every few sessions. It doesn't help that since no one can actually leave this remote, mostly sealed dungeon, new characters are going to be hard to justify.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

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Part 3: More Region A

Remember how the dungeon starts off with a fiendish darkmantle, fiendish rat swarm, and fiendish stirges? Well, get used to it, because these are the bulk of the monsters in this section. Sometimes the rats are dire rats rather than swarms, and sometimes the darkmantles have more HD but you will get absolutely sick of seeing more of these three. They also significantly outnumber the humaniods in the region, each of which are clustered in small groups in the dungeon. Darkmantles especially make up the bulk of encounters

That's the most common complaint about Region A, the complete lack of creativity when it comes to monsters. And it's not like there aren't plenty of choices for low CR animals and monsters that could be used: wolves, dogs, spiders, centipedes, hyenas, boar, snakes, etc.

It gets so bad there's a series of rooms which are nothing but darkmantles of increasing size and HD. Starting with A88 you've got five fiendish darkmantles, Then you've got 7 more in room A89. Then you've got five more darkmantles, but these have 2 HD!. Then you've got 6 more in A91, but with 3 HD. Then, just to mix things up...boom! 4 regular darkmantles!

And remember what I said about being brutal? These are EL 6-8 encounters for a party that is (at best) level 3. Encounters that involve blankets of magical darkness and flying creatures with blindsight.


So...lets see if we can find some other notably bad areas...How about the troglodyte lair:



Keep in mind that troglodytes are pretty tough for low-level monsters: they've got 13 hp on average, multiple attacks, and decent AC. Now, add on a permanent -2 penalty to pretty much all rolls while you're in their territory. One of the PCs first encounters in this area is an ambush featuring 6 of these guys.

The cartography here is also exceptionally bad. There are two a33's in the adventure, one referring to the actual room a33 on the map, the other apparently referring to the 4-way intersection marked A, B, B. And rooms A31, 32, 35 and 36 where the stench is exceptionally intense? Well, except for the first one, each of those rooms are behind secret doors that the troglodytes have never found or entered.

Oh, and A31 starts out with 8 Fiendish Stirges. Because everyone loves more ability damage!

A34 is listed as EL 2, despite the fact that it includes a CR 3 opponent (incorrectly listed as CR 4) backed up by 4 wounded troglodytes.


A52 is also a real gem:



Now, if you touch the throne at all you must make a DC 14 will save or suffer a Confusion effect that lasts for 30 days - your Wisdom score. This takes effect any time you're under stress which is defined as whenever you're in combat or you must make a skill check. that's right, for over two weeks for most players you will now go insane whenever you attempt to do pretty much anything. This makes most any skill checks impossible and combat insanely difficult. It also has it's own, unique confusion table. You remember how with normal confusion there was a chance to act normal? not here. You'll either attack an ally, become nauesated, cower in fear, flee at top speed, or twitch uncontrollable (-2 to attacks/saves/skills/ability rolls). And again, for most people this is a 2-3 week affliction.

Of course, DC 14 isn't too high (unless you happen to be a 1st level fighter, rogue, ranger, or barbarian), what if you succeed? well, that means you sense "something strange" has happened. That's right, touch the throne and you're hit with an unavoidable curse which you probably will not be aware of. And of course if the entire party touches it then next time someone attempts to look for traps they'll go nuts, which will probably the the cue for everyone else's curse to trigger leading to them murdering one another or fleeing wildly into the depths of the dungeon. Oh, and since it's not technically a trap or even magical it's basically undetectable.


--Traps--


Region A loves deadly traps guarding absolutely nothing at all (or just more traps). For instance, A79 features a scorching ray trap (find/disable DC of 27 and an average of 14 damage) which guards several barrels covered in black mold. The only contents of the barrels are some vinegar. Yay, vinegar!

A83 features a 6th level fireball trap! It's a potential TPK right there and it guards....a completely empty room. At least there are some burned bodies here to warn you that the area is dangerous. This is not the case for the door at A87 which is trapped with not only a scything blade but also a lightning bolt trap (also 6d6 damage). This one guards a room full of mundane weapons and armor, a couple of doses of poison and the possibility of a couple of masterwork objects.

Later (A94) we have an empty chest guarded with a scorching ray trap. The authors make sure to point out the room is trapped, not the chest and anyone approaching to search the chest for traps will be targeted. Not that it matters since DC 27 is pretty far out of reach for low level rogues who aren't allowed to take 20.

A105 features another fireball trap (this one with no warning), but at least it contains some scrolls, potions and magic items. In fact, this small cache of treasure is the biggest in the entire region. The dungeon is extremely stingy when it comes to magic (or even masterwork) items, something that will really hurt the PCs in many encounters.

Room 106 is especially bizarre...it has a celestial rune that if a lawful or good PC stands on it they're healed 2d8+3 damage and cleansed of poisons or ability score damage. Chaotic or evil characters suffer 2d8+3 damage. Meaning chaotic good or lawful evil characters are apparently healed and damaged in equal amounts. There are similar rooms in the area as well.

Next time I'll check on some of the awful NPCs in Region A.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

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Majuju posted:

This is in there, just in area F(UCKYOUADVENTURERS). Also every hallway leading to or from the room is packed with gelatinous cubes.

I mentioned before that I'm trying to basically re-write the WLD into something vaguely worthwhile. Well, Region F deserves special mention as it's the first area so far I deem completely beyond saving. Details will have to wait, but lets say it involves random teleportation and status effects as a common feature of exploring the area.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

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Part 4: Region A NPCs

So, last update I showed just how brutal the traps could be in Region A, now is the time for the NPCs.

There are 4 major NPCs: the three humaniod faction leaders and longtail himself.

Now, Yrkak (the trog leader) isn't so bad. He's a 2nd level cleric and would be a decent 1st level "boss" fight if it weren't for the unavoidable sickness effect that fills his section (and the lethal ambush that's found right outside).

Next we have Boyikt, the kobold leader and 4th level wizard, who I actually approve of. He and his kobolds (4 2nd level warriors) are shacked up behind heavy cover and are a pretty deadly fight. The upside is they're pretty willing to negotiate and they aren't going to be chasing anyone down. So PCs fighting him will end up with bloody noses but if they talk they could get a very helpful ally.

But then the WLD craps its pants with the orcs. Now, orcs are a time-honored low-level opponent, but the WLD decided they apparently just weren't tough enough. The orcs are basically a trap encounter, you encounter them holed up in a couple of rooms at the end of a long hallway. Once the orcish guards spot anyone approaching they retreat out of the hall and basically sit out of sight with readied actions to take down anyone who comes in.

This is the first part of the trap. PCs who expect the orcs to be a decent, low-level fight are going to be in for a nasty surprise. There are 8 orcs waiting in that room, 7 of them are 3rd level warriors and the 8th is a 3rd level barbarian. Anyone who rushes in to attack is going to be basically carved to pieces.

So, the obvious answer is negotiate right? The orcs aren't coming out and they should be willing to talk. Indeed they are, but all they'd be willing to do is allow passage into their small territory to speak to their leader: Orghar.

Now, Orghar is not willing to negotiate. And the moment anyone mentions teaming up he'll attack. Orghar is a 5th level barbarian, so raging he has over 50 hp and can do enough damage in one attack to cut down most first and 2nd level PCs in one hit (if he's power attacking he'll be doing 1d8+8 to 1d8+13 damage).

Oh, and if the PCs are wounded or seem at all hesitant or weak then the other orcs join their leader in the fight. So, to reiterate: that's a 5th level barbarian, a 3rd level barbarian, and 7 3rd level warriors. Up against PCs of levels one to three.

So really both fighting or negotiation will probably lead to a dead PC or four. Basically the only answer is just walking away and leaving the orcs be.



Then we've got Longtail himself, the wererat sorcerer.

First, let's cover the rooms leading to Longtail. The first is a fiendish owlbear that makes Orghar look tame. As a fiendish creature it's got DR 5/magic (there's perhaps 2 magical weapons in this Region, one is Orghar's axe), energy resistance, and SR 10. As an owlbear it's got 3 attacks and improved grab. This alone would be an impressive boss fight, but it's just the appetizer.

You see, next is the chapel where all these fiendish monsters come from, it's currently inhabited by longtail's familiar: an imp. Now, that may not sound too awful, but an imp is actually an extremely lethal encounter for low-level PCs. Invisible, flying, fast-healing, and packing damage reduction, an AC of 24 and a poison sting. It would take forever, but the imp could probably take the entire party on by itself.

But the imp doesn't need to ping the party to death, because longtail will take care of that. Longtail is a natural wererat and a 7th level sorcerer against a team of 1-3rd level adventurers. The one saving grace is that he's incredibly poorly "built" as a character. He has only a single offensive spell (magic missile) and the tactical suggestions (casting shield, expeditious retreat, and eagle's splendor) are terrible (as opposed to casting shield, fly, and invisibility or blur).

However, if he's played with even a sliver of intelligence by the DM then the encounter is going to go incredibly poorly for the PCs. Longtail may have only magic missile for offense, but he gets 4 missiles per casting and can cast it 6 times per day (assuming he's cast shield). Even if 24 missiles aren't enough to deplete everyone's hp he could let his imp and his cantrips finish them off.

Defensively he's a tank. With shield his AC is 23, concealment from the blur spell, and and with flight he can stay out of melee reach and his DR makes him immune to pretty much any ranged weapons PCs will have available unless they manage a critical hit.

Of course, the designers knew that the "boss" of the region was a werecreature, surely they put some silver weapons around the place for PCs? Perhaps some of the humaniod leaders had some made for insurance or payback against Longtail? Nope. There's exactly 3 silver weapons in the entire region. They're all daggers and all located inside one room: an airless, pitch black chamber.

So, basically unless you play longtail as an utter moron (which seems to be what the designers assumed...or maybe they're just not that smart), he can easily wipe the floor with most parties and even if he doesn't he'll certainly manage to escape (and maybe leave some lycanthropy as a parting gift).

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

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Piell posted:

Aww, you didn't mention the room of many stirges (A80)! That's my favorite room in section A.

Anyway, WLD was never playtested.

You're right A80 does deserve mention. It's a room filled with 22! fiendish stirges. The one saving grace of the room is that the stirges won't attack unless the PCs enter the room themselves.

But that's balanced out by the glowing ring sitting in the dead center of the room and just begging for the party to come take it. (if it's disturbed all stirges attack). It's a ring of warmth (because apparently the writers forgot that they're supposed to be writing for 3.5).

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Mar 14, 2013

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ThisIsNoZaku posted:

Exactly what I meant. Is it bad because they just don't know what they're doing or is it bad because they're "old-school" and think they don't need to know what they're doing, even though 3.5 is so complicated the result of that way of thinking is almost always an enormous clusterfuck?

given the general quality of editing, cartography and intelligent thought put into most of the dungeon I would place my bet on "stupidy" rather than any attempt to be "old school"

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Mar 14, 2013

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Tatum Girlparts posted:

Please tell me the Ring of Warmth grants protection against cold magic or something, and it's there because Region B is to frost monsters what Region A was to fiendish?

The ring of warmth technically doesn't exist in 3.5, I think when they started the dungeon it was being made for 3.0 but I'm not sure, errata clarifies that it's a ring of lesser energy resistance (cold).

Region B is not cold themed (that's actually the very last region, Region O), it's goblin themed! goblins, (hob)goblins, and bugbears).

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

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Not to mention that this is only a problem is you literally run a single group of playtesters through the entire dungeon from start to finish. The dungeon is explicitly meant to be modular, each Region is self-contained. You can use one group of playtesters (of appropriate level) per "block" of the dungeon.

Now, sure, it'd still be time consuming and expensive (but see the dungeon's 100$ price tag, it was the most expensive RPG book published at the time). But A) most playtesters aren't paid anyway and B) even a very cursory playtest would catch many of the glaring errors (vastly overpowered traps and enemies for instance, as well as rooms with incorrect or mislabeled encounter conditions).

It doesn't help that so far (from what I've read) Region A is by far the worst when it comes to both the quality of the editing (encounter conditions that aren't properly labeled, some that don't even exist, incorrect stats, CRs and ELs not matching, etc) and the deadliness of the encounters. In a later Region it might be more tolerable, but Region A is the introduction to the dungeon, it is the one Region that is not optional (every other region could potentially be bypassed or moved around), and it is terrible.

After the WLD was released many blogs and websites sprung up devoted to chronicling people's adventures through it, but the majority (of those still online at all) peter out during Region A.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

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MalcolmSheppard posted:

Let's see: You're adding at least $120,000 in labor (two people working full time at 30K each for two years) and probably more, since the truth is that AEG would not have the money for that, and would probably employ freelancers willing to hold off on part of the payment for more money to cover taxes and expenses. And of course, we can up the materials costs for notes and sundries, and management costs for regular feedback. So let's actually bump this up to $200,000 for your thoroughly playtested megadungeon.

Now let's estimate the basic cost of the book, before we do all your playtesting. It's about 840 pages. We're gonna assume we got some guys to write and edit on the cheap, for maybe 5 cents a word, combined (it's probably more, though). At about 500 words per page We're looking at $21,000. Three buck a page layout is $1800. If art is the super-cheap rate of $100 per page and we assume the equivalent of 10% of the space being devoted to illustration (which is less in the actual dungeon, but the huge colour maps probably lead to it actually being more, we're paying $8400 for art.

So now we're at $31200 before we do all that playtesting. Let's at %20 for materials and project management again. So, $37440.

So, to get a fully playtested WLD we're looking at something in striking distance of quarter of a million dollars, before printing costs. without counting that, we need over 2000 sales gross just to break even -- but of course, we won't be getting gross sales. Through retail distribution, and waving our hands about other fees for a sec. (we won't even get into warehousing, shipping, handling and paying inventory taxes) we'll just pretend they get 20 bucks a copy free and clear. So the 2000 sales required to break even just became 10,000 sales in a market where an average successful run is 1000.

When we don't playtest, and stick to the other costs, we need under 2000 sales, which is an achievable point for a company like AEG heavily pushing a premium supplement.

Or you could do what most RPG companies do and find volunteer playtest groups willing to tackle a single region and send in any problems they find. This would take a few months and cost nothing. It doesn't replace proper editing (which the WLD is in desperate need of), but it would catch many of the more glaring errors.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

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Part 5: B is apparently for Goblin

So, Region A had a fairly interesting premise and lots of opportunities for the PCs to roleplay with the various humaniods but it was brought down by extremely uncreative encounters and several that were waaay out of the league of the expected number and level of the PCs

Region B is the zone for levels 4-6 (one of two, the other is Region E to the north of Region A), and like Region A it has a theme: goblins! Because they've got to stick them somewhere before the PCs get too high level. Like Region A (and indeed many Regions) this area features multiple hostile factions that have recently suffered a shakeup prior to the arrival of the PCs. Fortunately, it doesn't feature the overpowered magical traps or the high level boss encounters, but it makes up for it with stupid ideas and general lameness. Lets lay down the backstory:

So, originally this was apparently a place where experiments were performed by angels on the inhabitants of the dungeons, to better understand the nature of good and evil. Apparently this was approved of by the LG and NG angels, but CG and LN ones were fine with it so they went ahead and allowed it to continue. Because that sounds plausible.

So, after the dungeon was ruined gobliniods moved into this area and basically fought among one another for centuries but never managed to completely kill any other group off. The goblins mostly dominate through sheer numbers but they never have the opportunity to really take over due to the superiority of the bigger species.

Recently the goblins have undergone a religious awakening, discovering a new god (Norendithas Stoneshaper the quick thinking, smiter of foes!) and ousting their old king and forging an alliance with the hobgoblins which allowed them to push the bugbears to the edges of their territory. However, rebel goblins still dedicated to the old ways have splintered off and carved out a chunk of the region of their own. So now there's the holy goblin empire (w/hobgoblins), the rebel goblins and the remaining bugbear forces.

Confused yet? Well, it gets worse.

You see Argliss the new goblin king is actually a doppleganger! And the new religion is a fraud! Now, compared to your average goblin a doppleganger is really drat charismatic, so it's not terribly shocking that he managed to lead a rebellion and overthrow the old king. It's the details that make it mind-numbing. Here's the history:

You see, apparently at some point a cocatrice from Region C wanders into the NE portion of Region B where it encounters a goblin hunter and petrifies him. At some point later, the stoned corpse of the goblin hunter is found by other goblins. Now, keep in mind that this is just a statue of a regular goblin caught just before he died. The one significant feature is it's extremely lifelike stonework. Now, this inspires the goblins to form a new religion, eventually leading to the overthrow of their king and a civil war.

There's two problems with this:

First, it's stupid. Unlike orcs, goblins are not any dumber than humans so while the statue might be noteworthy it's hardly worth considering it as a religious icon. Especially when you consider that there are two divine spellcasters among the goblins, both follow the old ways and are part of the rebel camp. This means that the goblins kicked out people capable of performing actual miracles to worship a completely mundane, but well-carved, statue of a life-sized, terrified goblin. Oh, and to top it off, if the goblins are really that into statues this region is full of them. There are three other statues (B16, B 34 and B45), created by the celestials and featuring actual supernatural phenomena.

Oh, and to top it off, the cartography of the dungeon makes it impossible for these events to have actually occurred. As I mentioned before, the statue is found in the NE of the dungeon, the goblin empire is SW. Lets trace the path:



The green area is the territory of the religious goblins. The aqua is the location of the statue. The purple path is the only route through the region to reach the statue. The first red X is a place called "The killing grounds" and features six ghoul paladins. The next is a place filled with bugbear traps (ironic since the bugbears wouldn't be able to reach the area either) plus a few locked doors between them.

In fact, B118 features a lowered portcullis which can only be raised by a lever in the room behind it (meaning that it's impossible for anyone from the goblin area of the dungeon to enter from that side without destroying the portcullis somehow). That not only makes it inaccessible to the goblins, but also to the PCs...in order to get to the statue at all they would have to enter Region C along one of the two SE passageways (both are controlled by the rebel goblins) and loop back around to get into B.

So, not only can these goblins not reach the statue they apparently worship, it would never have been discovered in the first place and indeed never been created at all because no goblin hunter would be able to make it to this area. Oh, and as a cherry on top: the cocatrice from C would have to have made it through several locked doors in order to reach this part of the dungeon to turn anyone to stone in the first place.

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Mar 14, 2013

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Zereth posted:

... Ghoul paladins? :raise:

Well, corrupted paladins. Sort of a weird homebrew "anti-paladin". it's probably the worst written of Region B's rooms mechanically, so it'll definitely be one of the highlights.

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Mar 14, 2013

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Part 6: Stupid Sideplots

Before we get to Region B's individual sections, there are some sideplots that deserve mentioning.

First is the halfling rogue Bartleby and his search for what is only referred to as "the artifact". Now, there are two conflicting stories behind this. The first states that during the rebellion and ousting of the old kind the doppleganger Argliss lost an artifact of his, it's not something he considers essential but he wants to avoid having it fall into the hands of his enemies. So he struck a deal with the halfling to search for it in exchange for protection. The second version of the story says that the artifact belonged to the goblin king and that it is in fact the entire reason for the doppleganger's coup. Unfortunately the king somehow hid the artifact and Argliss has sent the halfling to find it. Doesn't make a lot of sense when you consider that Argliss is a literal mind-reader.

Bartleby himself is one angry little dude. His entry implies that he doesn't have any intention of honoring his bargain with Argliss (odd that Argliss would choose to take his help when he is...again...a mind reader) and that he knows how to enter and leave the dungeon. But don't worry about your players finding this out from him, he'll refuse to answer any questions if captured (because it's not like spells like charm person or detect thoughts exist).

So, as the the artifact itself, what is it? Well, there's no definite answer, the book basically leaves it up to you but does provide some terrible suggestions:



*A clay golem would be a powerful tool for PCs, except of course even with the manual you still need half a ton of clay and 1,600 gp in rare ingredients which will be...difficult to purchase while trapped in a giant dungeon. Since it also requires a cleric to use it is of absolutely no use to Argliss (in fact, there are no clerics in the region remotely high enough level to use it).

*A medallion of thoughts is pretty much the definition of something Argliss doesn't need, the only thing more ridiculous would be him searching desperately for a hat of disguise.

*A necklace of adaptation could potentially be useful to the PCs in a few regions, but there's nothing to justify the fuss being made over it by the NPCs.

*A phylactery of undead turning is actually completely useless to anyone but the PCs in this region. Argliss is, again, not a cleric and in fact the only clerics in this region are evil and thus do not turn undead.

*The rod of cancellation is possibly the only one that might be considered important enough to everyone to search for, but considering how few magic items the WLD gives PCs I'd be very reluctant to give them an item whose only purpose is to destroy magic items.


-------

The other little sidequest is the Key. Apparently when the rebellion hit the Celestials tried to seal off the Region. What exactly they were trying to close off is unclear: Region F was a prison for minor demons so it hardly seems worth the effort, but if they were trying to seal off Region B then they kept the key on the wrong side. Of course, since the dungeon is a square it didn't actually seal anything off it just means you can't go directly from B to F and must detour (either A-E-F or C-G-F). The passages from B to F are sealed with unbreakable, unpickable and un-knockable doors (boy, perhaps they should be using these on all those demonic and undead prisoners) which will blast you with an 8d8 sonic damage trap (DC 31 to find/remove, out of reach of most rogues of this level). I can kind of understand that they want to make sure that PCs don't wander from one region to another freely so it makes sense to have a "quest lock" like this. But it's still kind of a dick move to blast anyone trying to pick the lock with a trap that the rogue probably won't find.

The upshot is basically that no-one is actually going to be moving directly between B and F, because the key is hidden in Region C behind a ridiculous number of traps and "tests of character". By the time the PCs have it (if they ever find it) they'll be already higher level than Region F is designed for, rendering the whole exercise rather pointless.

But, I think we can thank the designers for making it less likely that anyone will actually go to Region F at all, because that place is a huge pile of crap and best avoided completely.

Next we'll be doing the abandoned "testing" portion of the Region.

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Mar 14, 2013

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Part 7: The Abandoned Halls, B1-49

Okay, so remember how Region B was supposedly a celestial laboratory where they performed behavioral experiments on their demonic and undead prisoners. The place is full of so-called "puzzles" and traps (oddly enough, many of them mechanical and not nearly as overpowered as the traps in Region A). So after Region A this will probably be a chance for your party's rogue to actually do something for once. On the other hand they'll probably get really tired really fast.

There are plenty of problems with the this part of the Region, first and foremost the "tests" here only actually work if it's assumed that the demons are actually wandering freely through the halls which seems a tad...unsecure. Second, none of them actually "test" anything, except maybe pattern recognition, because almost every test has the same form: you enter the room, the door closes behind you, there's something in the room and if you dare to interact with it then you trigger a trap.

Let's do a quick summary of the notable rooms in the region

B5



Many of the room descriptions basically dictate what actions PCs will take upon entering the room (or even just opening the door). This one compounds that sin by attempting to make use of the word "circumambulate". The oddly high-flown vocabulary is at odds with the clumsy grammar in many of the room descriptions.

Now, within the room is a gem-studded idol and it is supposedly meant as a test of intelligence. The door is trapped (dropping a stone block), The floor is made of black tile with 2-foot wide strip of white marble down the center leading to the idol. If you walk along the white tile or step completely outside into the black tile a trap is triggered. The only safe path is walking along the border of black and white with one foot in both. There's no indication of this at all, but if you make your find traps roll you can determine how it is triggered. Third, the idol is trapped (indiana jones style pressure plate). Of course if you take the idol outside the room it turns to dust and all the traps magically reset and a new one appears.

That's it. That's the test. There are no clues or puzzles, just DCs for finding the traps. It's even more ridiculous in context: why would a demonic prisoner (whether one wandering the halls or deliberately placed in the room) care at all about some jeweled idol? Even if they had some reason to try and get it the final trap on the idol itself is a poison dart trap...one thing that every single entity the dungeon was designed to imprison (demon, devil and undead) would be immune to.

B6


despite the fact that this room claims to have 4 doors it actually features 7. It's also huge (80x50) and after all the doors seal themselves the PCs are trapped inside...until they find the hairline crack in one mirror in the NW corner. That's it. There's literally nothing else that happens or could happen in this room. Beyond intense boredom there's no danger in the room and there's literally nothing but time to search the massive room over and over again until the trigger is found. Unless of course the only PCs with a high enough Search modifier happen to be trapped outside the room in which case it will remain sealed for eternity because there is no method to open the chamber from the outside, no any timer that will eventually reset the trap. Again, the way this is meant to be a "test" is questionable at best.

B7
This room features a "path" of wobbly stone discs from one door to another. Navigating them is a DC 20 balance check (meaning most non-agile PCs will likely fail). Touching the floor other than the discs causes the doors to seal and the room to flood. This takes 2 minutes and in the meantime the PCs can try and find the release mechanism (surprisingly low at DC 17). Apparently the celestials felt the nature of evil could best be examined by testing the acrobatic abilities of demonic entities.

B8

Room has veins of gold in the walls (fake of course), which if touched will seal the room and release poison gas. The trap is disarmed by pressing a series of hidden buttons in sequence (ie a Search and then Disable Device check). Again, notice that the trap uses poison (something the prisoners of the dungeon are pretty much universally immune to) and seems to be based on the idea that evil outsiders and undead are irrationally attracted to shiny objects.

Thinking about it, these chambers would be much funnier if you assume that the angelic forces are simply baffled by Evil and designed the tests and traps out of some bizarre confusion.

:angel: The new testing chamber is almost built my lord...but how shall we design the test?
:sun: Well, Evil and chaos disrupt the natural equilibrium of the world, so surely it will show in these monster's attempts to balance themselves.
:angel: on wobbly stones m'lord?
:sun: Indeed! And is greed not also evil? surely upon seeing a hint of gold these abominations will snatch up picks and commence mining!

But really, the idea that these were somehow designed as tests or traps for the prisoners of the dungeon is ridiculous. They work fine for adventurers desperately trying to fine some clue as to the nature of the place, or scrabbling for treasure but that's not the purpose of the area.

B11
This room will seal itself if you enter it and inside is a set of iron chains which must be solved in order for the door to be opened. That's right, the celestial's amazing test is basically a big sliding ring puzzle



Again, this puzzle just wastes your time until it's solved (DC 20 disable device or 21 Int check), the one danger is extreme cold (something that again doesn't harm any of the intended prisoners).

B13
This room doesn't feature any celestial traps, but again shows there's nothing to be gained by interacting with anything in this section. It contains a well, which is trapped with an alarm causing goblins from B70 to possibly hear and come running, arriving in 4d4 rounds. Of course, B70 is faaar out of range of an alarm's alert (not even considering the many solid walls in the way). The path from B13 to B70 is about 1600+ feet, meaning the goblins will be moving at 20-40 mph.

B14
Come into this room and the door shuts behind you. Oh, with all of these automatic doors you may be wondering how long it takes for the door to shut (will it shut immediately after the first person steps in?) or what happens if a door is held or jammed open. These are excellent questions that the dungeon in no way attempts to answer. Considering that by now most PCs should have realized that over half the doors are going to seal them in they'll start trying to block or hold them open, it's a pretty drat important question.

Anyway, this is yet another "door closes, make a DC X check to get it open" and again, there is absolutely nothing beyond that: PCs go in and they keep rolling until they get out (or if their appropriate stat isn't high enough) they're trapped forever with no hope of escape. Makes you wonder why more of these chambers aren't permanently sealed with dead goblins inside.


B18
This room is also designed as nothing but a waste of time, just in a slightly different way. It has an illusion of an illusion. Anyone casting detect magic will find a faint aura of illusion magic...but anyone who succeeds at a DC 40 spellcraft roll realizes that there is no illusion! The text of the room makes it clear that the DM is simply intended to keep the PCs guessing about what this actually means (which is nothing).

Oh, and there's a pedestal with a fire trap scroll which will trigger a fireball trap.

B20

This room is really only worth mentioning because it features this amazing crime against descriptive language:


B29
This room is covered in wands hanging from the walls, dozens of them. Each has a fake magic aura and does nothing except for a single wand of burning hands with one charge. Any chaotic or evil creature touching a wand is cursed in an unspecified manner (screw you chaotic good PCs!).

Why do this? Because Celestials are dicks apparently.

B35
This room has a pedestal (pedestals are a very common feature of this region), which is empty. However, detect magic will reveal invisible arcane marks which are a puzzle. examining the puzzle for an hour and making a couple of intelligence checks will reveal how to open the secret door to B55. Which is great except there's no trick to opening B55, it's just extremely difficult to find...and there's no way the puzzle could reveal how to find it unless it also came with a map of the region (which would be much more valuable).

B36


Don't you love it when room descriptions take away control from your PC? Especially when it involves inescapable traps. This is another time-wasting trap. Just find the hidden panel to open the door.

By the way, apparently the sack actually contains holy water, it's never mentioned if the coins are fake, illusionary, or whatever.

B42
This room is full of rubble and claims that PCs will realize it's a great place to store supplies. It's actually the worst place to store supplies in the entire dungeon because it's the only place that includes an official chance for those supplies won't be here when they return.

B43

This room features two doors. When the inner door is opened the door you came in from originally shuts and locks itself and a giant spiked wall begins closing in. Amusingly this trap is absolutely no threat at all because only the door you came in from closes: you can simply step into the room you just opened and wait until the spikes close and retract (at which point the first door opens). Of course, even if you just sit there there's not that much risk apparently giant crushing walls inflict only 1d8+4 damage.

B48


This is probably the worst room in this section. The diagram on the wall claims to show the proper way to move on the floor (alternating tiles). It's a lie and requires a DC 30 check to figure that out (although this does not tell you what the correct order is). The correct order is to stay on the same color you start on. There are absolutely no clues or indications of this. Stepping on the wrong tile inflicts Dex damage, fire damage or reduces your movement speed depending on the color.

Success on this incredibly lame puzzle gives possibly the worst reward ever: if you pull down the tapestry and wrap it around your body it melds to you and becomes a permanent +2 ghost touch breastplate. You can sleep in it and it is half the weight of a normal breastplate. That might be good for a fighter...until they find better armor. For say...a bard, druid, monk, rogue, ranger, sorcerer, or wizard. Or even just a dex-focused barbarian or fighter.

The only way to remove it is a break enchantment spell. Remember this is a level 4-6 area, break enchantment is available at level 9 at the earliest. That means if say a wizard or sorcerer solves the puzzle they're "rewarded" with a 25% spell failure chance, -4 to attacks, strength and dex rolls and reduced movement for at least 3-5 levels!


The terrible decisions here truly boggle the mind and quite frankly I can't imagine anyone wanting to continue with the dungeon after completing this section. Next time I'll continue with the gobliniod camps.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!






part 8: Finally, some actual encounters!

So, the first part of Region B was trying desperately to be a sort of D-list Tomb of Horrors: lots of traps and "puzzles" with very few actual enemies. Of course it did not manage anything nearly as clever as the Tomb and ended up being just a lot of automatically closing doors and annoyed PCs.

However, if your players are still willing to talk to you after the first section then they'll come into the Region proper which, while still very stupid, is at least less dense with frustrating encounters.

The thing that stands out the most in this area is the absolutely terrible dungeon design. It really does seem like it was made with a random dungeon generator and then sub-sections assigned practically at random. I've already shown that the goblins for instance could not possible reach the statue that they're meant to worship (and in fact, neither can the PCs). Another great example are the bugbears and goblins.



The red is the northern portion of the goblin kingdom, the blue is where the bulk of bugbear forces are located, safely sheltered from the goblins, the purple is where the bugbear leaders and shaman live.

You may note...there's no direct connection between the blue and the purple region. That means that if the bugbears wish to see their leaders (or vice versa) then they must travel far to the East, loop around and head west again to reach the area where they've apparently decided to set up shop.

Now, also recall that the bugbears and goblins are at war, but there is practically no separation between the two...just one long hallway which features no traps, no barricades, no guard posts. There's nothing to stop either side from simply walking into the other's territory. And remember, since the purple section houses the most important bugbear leaders, there's absolutely no way for them to get reinforcements should the goblins discover the secret door their hiding behind (the one that they have to use should the bugbear leaders ever want to communicate with their followers at all).

Room 67 (the big one around the middle of the picture, is supposedly the bugbear's "last line of defense". It's a heavily trapped room and apparently the plan is to retreat there should all be lost and hole up in room 68.

So, to be clear, in the event that the goblins attack them and they cannot win their plan is to retreat towards the goblin stronghold and then hole themselves up inside an empty room with no escape instead of taking the exit to Region A, which as far as they know is empty and hospitable (as the humaniods and feindish critters arrived only recently). No wonder they're losing the war.

Next is the holy goblin empire, which deserves a whole post to itself just because of the monumentally bad advice it includes.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!






Region B: goblin zealots

So, the next part to Region B is the territory of the "holy goblin empire" which covers most of the southwest section of the Region. The individual room descriptions are pretty dull and the only NPC of note (Argliss, the "goblin" king) is pretty uninteresting (a 1st level doppelganger rogue). Most of the rooms are just full of various goblins.

What makes this section noteworthy (and terrible) is the tendency of the writers to give out free special abilities and ignore or break rules. They often assign feats without checking prerequisites and tend to give fighters the ability to rage like a barbarian, make random groups of goblins Fearless, etc.

The real kicker is the goblin troops themselves...you see part of the theme of the holy goblin empire is that they're expertly trained by hobgoblins to use military tactics and special skills.

The standard goblin troops are 1st level Fighters who have Power Attack and Improved Sunder, despite having a Strength of 12 (something the writing says is due to their training by the hobgoblins)...although considering a strength of 13 meets the prerequisites and has the same modifier I don't really see why they couldn't have just given the goblins that extra +1 instead of houseruling the feats.

Of course for 1st level fighters armed with shortspears (which are incorrectly listed as having 1d6 damage rather than 1d4) Power Attack and Sunder are quite possibly the worst feat choices available...seriously, with 1d4+1 damage how the hell are they going to sunder anything? They couldn't even manage to break own of their own spears. And Power Attacking when your attack bonus is only +3 is a pretty poor bet.

Their "elite military tactics" are even worse. You see, when the goblins face an enemy they form into square formation, 4 goblins wide and move together. This seems to a sad attempt by the writers to emulate "military" combat but they completely fail to actually think how it'll work during play.

You've got small groups of weaklings (the goblins) facing down a smaller group of powerful enemies (the PCs)...so rather than surround their opponents and take advantage of their numbers and teamwork the goblins apparently form into tight ranks meaning that only 3 goblins can attack a single foe at a time, they can't flank and any goblins not in the front row will simply do nothing. And they're sitting ducks for any area of effect spells.

Oh, and then comes the "tactics" section which...well every single one of them basically fills you with a boiling hate for the writers. So rather than comment I'll simply share:

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!




Father Wendigo posted:

"Well yeah, it is going to get kind of dull with nothing but wave after wave of goblins... so cheat! BLATANTLY! The party will be so pissed off at you, they won't even remember that they've been doing nothing but roll-to-hit goblins for the past six hours! Did we mention that you can give each goblin +2 to craft: sharpened stick for each fine AEG OGL supplement you own?"

It's like the distilled essence of the OGL, bargain priced at $99.99.

yeah, I love how they somehow think that a "properly run" fight should eat up basically an entire session and how their very first suggestion for "tactics" is to straight up fudge rolls. In fact, I don't believe a single one of the suggestions actually qualifies as tactics or strategy at all. it's all either add more monsters, cheat, or give the goblins permanent spells and special abilities for little or no reason.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!






Region B: The Rest

For the most part, the rest of Region B is fairly unremarkable. The hobgoblins don't have their own territory (in fact, there appear to be maybe a dozen hobgoblins in the entire Region, so one wonders how they were ever players at at all) and the only other faction is the rebellious goblins who are pretty much just as boring as the regular goblins.

Although the name of the section: "Heathen Goblin Rebels" is a great name for a band.

The North-East section of the dungeon contains theoretically "neutral" rooms mostly filled with monsters, but randomly some rooms will be under goblin control, others trapped by the bugbears despite the fact that neither team could reasonably hope to get to these areas. It's still pretty uneventful however except for B111, "The Killing Grounds"

B111 is like a perfect snapshot of what's wrong with the entire dungeon. It's poorly balanced, full of weird house-rules, awful editing, poorly implemented encounter conditions, little understanding of the rules, poor cartography, and hate for the PCs:

The room is a large chamber that blocks the way to the "untamed" section of Region B (and as mentioned it blocks access to the goblin's new "god"). The place itself has eleven!! encounter conditions:

Ambush, Concealment, Cursed [5], Desecration [6], Echoes [10], Fear [14], Fearless, Haunted, Hazardous Footing [16], Negative Energy, Unhallowed [4]

What does all this mean? Well, some are meaningless (for example, giving Fearless to an encounter that only includes undead) but essentially it boils down to this. Your enemies get +4 to Hide and Move Silently, all Will saves have +5 to their DC, undead get +6 Turn Resistance.

In addition, all PCs have to make a roll to resist being shaken (DC 14, turned to 19 by the Cursed effect), must move at half speed (or possibly suffer damage) and can't make free five-foot steps and clerics/paladins suffer -4 to Charisma rolls (mainly penalizing turning attempts even further). Oh, and if they stay in the room long enough they take 1 point of damage per minute. The concealment also gives all PCs a 20% miss chance against any non-adjacent monsters which can't be evaded because it's never actually described how it works (darkness, illusions, fog, etc).

If the room itself wasn't bad enough it contains six ghouls who are "corrupted" paladins. What's a corrupted paladin? Well, that's a good question because the writers don't seem to be very sure themselves. The ghouls have 4 HD, so it seems like they're 2nd level...but it's unclear what their actual class is.

They've got some inverted versions of the paladin abilities: dark blessing (Cha bonus to saves), Smite Good and detect good. They've also got an aura of fear, requiring PCs to make a second fear save upon entering the room except a DC is never provided (if it works like normal class abilities the DC would be 13, boosted to 18 by the Cursed effect on the room). There's no indication of the radius or duration of the effect either. However, they also have spellcasting abilities which a paladin shouldn't get for several more levels.

Because they haven't already screwed up the CR system enough, they apparently also have an additional +4 natural armor and Spell Resistance of 14. Despite all this they're supposed to be CR 3.

On top of everything they've got magical equipment: +1 unholy longswords and +1 unholy chain shirts (despite the fact that there is no such thing as unholy armor). So, in addition to everything already going against the PCs these guys have magic weapons that inflict +2d6 damage to any good characters. But hey, they could be really useful loot for evil-aligned players and even neutral character's wouldn't turn up their nose at a +1 weapon even if they never use it against a celestial. The WLD is extremely stingy with magic items so a magic sword, any magic sword, could be considered very valuable. Oh wait, never mind, their +3 equivalent magical weapons (and armor?) turn to dust after they die.

Because gently caress players, am I right?

Fortunately, there's no problem because this isn't an encounter the PCs could actually get to. The designers sealed this section behind a locked portcullis that they didn't seem to realize can only be opened from the wrong side and doesn't include any alternative passageways from within the Region.



So, what's next. Should I go based on alphabetical order into Region C or by level and go with Region E (the other level 4-6 Region)?

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!






Region E: Time To Feel Pointless

Have you ever had a game with NPCs so powerful and omnescient that you wonder why they even bother giving your party a quest? I'm not talking about having big, powerful characters who have to delegate smaller tasks so they can battle cosmic evils...I'm talking about seemingly all-powerful NPCs who send PCs out on missions while completely refusing to get off their own butts and do anything.

Well, that's what Region E is all about. This is the Celestial Garrison, where one of the remnants of the original Celestial guardians of the dungeon are hiding out...apparently doing nothing...for the past few centuries.

This is one of the two possible routes following Region A, meaning that it's designed for PCs of level 4-6. However, like Region A, the designers seem to be completely unable to design appropriate challenges, the "hostile" encounters in the region are almost all at least EL 6, with most being EL 7-9. The "peaceful" encounters are far, far higher of course.

So, rather than go room-by-room I'll try and highlight some of the more ridiculous features of the place.

*The All-Door* Region E and F seem to indicate that the celestials have some kind of major "thing" for making transportation far more complicated than it has to be.
You see, there are several rooms in this region with no entrances or exits, instead accessible only through a magical door. This isn't an enchanted archway or gate...it's literally an enchanted door, not attached to anything at all, that must be carried around and activated by command word. This makes it perhaps the most awkward and cumbersome form of magical transportation ever...I can't imagine anything less convenient than literally carrying around a large doorway (it weighs about 150 lbs). And somehow the celestials still managed to lose this supremely important, irreplaceable magical doorway. Makes you wonder why they didn't just enchant a normal, immobile door...or used the Locate Object spell (at least one of the Celestials is a 6th level cleric and could easily cast it).
None of the above is actually necessary though, because it states quite clearly in the All-Door's description that all the Celestials know that the door was originally located in room E18 and checking room E18 shows that...it's still there. So it seems that the door isn't so much lost as it is simply that the celestials do not seem to car to wander down and pick it up.
Or it could just be that the Celestials just don't give a drat, despite what the description of the all-door states. Looking at the different rooms accessible by the all-door (most of which are mislabeled), there's not really much in them that's worth having. One room is a library containing a history of the dungeon, another is a room full of completely mundane adventuring gear, a third has some minor magical clothing (none of much value to any celestial, a room that is full of many, many potions which all become potions of poison as soon as they're removed from the room, a hidden bunker with some mundane weapons and a couple of non-cursed potions, and a room with trap-making supplies. The one room of any interest is a forge that allows the smith to enchant a weapon with a enhancement bonus of +1 to +5 for 24 hours by sacrificing a permanent hit point for each +1 bonus. Needless to say that won't be seeing much use.
So, considering the amount of effort and trouble to find the All-Door and discover the command words to its various rooms..there's almost nothing behind it worth finding.

*ward staves* One of the odd features of this Region is a set of Wards that block it from Region I. The wards ensure that any evil creatures attempting to pass through must make a DC 40 Will save. However, these wards must be constantly charged with magical ward-staves which keep the DC high (it drops gradually, 1 per day, if the wards are not renewed). This takes eight hours of concentration by an outsider or divine spellcaster and any attempt to charge more than one ward a day inflicts a negative level or requires a use of channeling positive energy. Since there are 8 wards and the celestials currently have only 4 staves they're forced to hand the staves off on a cyclic shift to keep them from exhausting themselves.
The staves can also "transport" the user...but there's never any rules for what this means.
So, these wards are clearly essential and it's very important that the celestials keep them charged...or else nothing will happen. The wards only protect intrusion from Region I, which contains nothing but drow and some minor aberrations, none of whom have the desire or ability to attack the celestials in Region E. Now, there are definitely some dangerous forces in other regions but none of them are laying siege to the celestials and even if they wanted to attack they could easily do so from the East or South.

*The bad guys* This place is overrun with small factions of monsters. You've got "the shadow king" and his group of...shadows. Not one but two competing packs of barghests. Some random vermin and a few NPCs: a necromancer and an "inhuman" wizard (whose race is unspecified and completely undescribed). In another region these might be dangerous and interesting forces at work (even if they're fairly small)...but here they're really out of place because of...


*The Good Guys* There are two main "celestial" forces (really only one, but the writers seem to keep forgetting that Inevitables are in no way Good aligned): the inevitables and a few random celestials of various types. The inevitables have strayed from the garrison's purpose (because again, they're not in any way Good) and have started recruiting warrior-slaves to aid in the dungeon's defense and competing with the other celestials for things like the ward-staves to keep things going. Thus they are divided, weakened and under siege by the forces of evil.
Or they would be if it weren't for the fact that these outsiders represent some of the most powerful beings in the WLD. There are four Maruts (including an enhanced 19 HD one) and two 22 HD Leonals. These guys could not only easily keep Region E clear of evil beings (it's especially egregious that there's a force of Shadows hanging out in the territory of a Marut titled "Slayer of The Unliving") but they could quite likely take on the entire WLD.
Even if you assume the rift between the Celestials and Inevitables is unhealable the celestials almost all have class levels (all are at least CR 10) and could easily defeat any opposition in Region E and the surrounding Regions, join up with the other celestial forces in Region G and take down pretty much every single challenge in the dungeon.

So...what are the PCs meant to do here. It's unclear. It mentions that the celestials will reward the PCs for retrieving items hidden behind the All-Door but there's no way for the PCs to find out the command words without being given them and the celestials already seem to know where the door is anyhow. They could find the ward-staffs for the celestials...but again that's easily possible for the celestials to do on their own.

Really the only thing that seems like the PCs might accomplish is pointing out that the celestials could just get off their asses and solve their problems on their own.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!




One of my best RIFTS experiences was actually using BESM, tri-stat version. It's already geared towards a lot of what RIFTs wants to do (giant robots, ridiculous power levels, etc), but it's a lot simpler. Of course it's also ridiculously easy to break and very abusable...but then again so is rifts and at least BESM is a lot simpler. Of course I played with players who were new to rpgs so I could be sure that it wasn't going to be gamed too hard.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!







So, it’s been a few months since my last post but I’m going to try and finish up my section-by-section review of the WLD. Region F certainly deserves mention because it is truly one of the worst ideas in the whole dungeon. Like I mentioned in past reviews I’ve been attempting to rewrite the WLD to make it more usable. Region F I decided was not worth saving and had to be scrapped. You’ll see why.

Monster-wise Region “F” seems to have a Greek theme going. The primary inhabitants are minotaurs, lots and lots of minotaurs. If you remember my reviews for Region A way back when you’ll remember that one of the biggest problems was that the encounters were extremely repetitive and just an endless parade of fiendish rats and/or darkmantles. Well, Region F makes it look downright creative in comparison. Like I mentioned they seem to be trying for a “Greek monsters” theme but didn’t realize until they finished that there aren’t really that many greek-themed monsters of an appropriate power level (not that this stops them from throwing in a CR 12 Rakshasha who doesn’t fit either the power level or the greek trappings).

So what you end up with are about 40 encounters with minotaurs about 3 encounters with a small group of harpies, a single shadow, an 8-headed cryohydra, a minotaur bodyswapped with an elf, a Gynosphinx, an assassin vine, a rakshasha sorcerer, a medusa fighter, a dragonne, and about four manticore encounters. That’s right, about 55 or so encounters, 80% of which are minotaurs.

If that seems like a small number of encounters for a dungeon of this size then you’d be right. In fact, this section has SIXTY! empty rooms. Not rooms that are detailed, but empty. I mean rooms that don’t have numbers, descriptions or anything. This section is so obviously unfinished that it’s really just sad. Hell, even if they wanted to stick with the greek theme there are plenty of level appropriate options that could have been used: chimeras, satyrs, centaurs, nymphs, etc. Not to mention the many, many interesting mythological monsters of greek myth that could have easily been statted with just a modicum of effort. Greek mythology is one of the best out there and D&D owes so much to it thematically, it deserves more than this half-assed effort.

There’s also nothing resembling a “plot” or purpose to this Region. There are two minotaur tribes that have recently undergone a schism (so basically just like the goblins of Region B), but they’re not actively at war, and frankly the distinction is pretty minimal. One tribe might trade with PCs (probably not), the other will basically attack on sight. That’s about it. And of course there are a ton of editing errors and bad encounter conditions. For example, most of the minotaurs appear to be randomly immune to fear.

But all of that pales in comparison to the primary feature of this region: The Warp Gates. You see, the celestials apparently weren’t satisfied with the all-door when it comes to needlessly inconvenient means of transportation. You see there are 10 doorways in the dungeon marked with extremely tiny magical glyphs (which seem impossible to interpret or identify, even if they’re found). Opening the door requires you to roll randomly to see which of 10 rooms the door opens into somewhere in the dungeon. Now there are two main problems with that:

1) First, according to the description the door will close automatically after someone steps through (there are no rules for what, if anything, can stop this). This means that the moment anyone has stepped through the party is likely scattered across the dungeon. If more than one person goes through then the situation is made even worse.

2) If anyone other than a Lawful Good characters steps through one of these doors then they get hit with a random "side effect"



As you can see, these effects range from minor annoyances to status effects that last for hours, to save-or-die effects. In fact, death is probably not even the worst option. You can fix that with a Raise Dead spell which your cleric might have access to at some point during this region's level range. No one will have the Heal spell you need to cure Insanity or Feeblemind for at least another 3 or 4 levels.

That's right. If you decided to make the horrible mistake of playing any character alignment other than Lawful Good you will be punished for walking through a door. Even if you are LG the party is going to be scattered all over the dungeon and many gates pop you out right next to dangerous encounters like that 8-headed hydra (imagine trying to fight that solo while still recovering from whatever the warp gate decided to do to you).

Even further proof of an incredible lack of thought put into this section: every single monster (like all those minotaurs scattered across the dungeon) is not LG and many of them are in places that would inevitably require them to use the warp gates. Why are there not petrified or insane minotaurs all over the dungeon? Some of them have the "warp keys" that allow you to set the gates to non-random locations but that doesn't protect them from the gate's side-effects.

All in all, I've got to say this is winning so far as the worst Region in the entire WLD...possibly the worst module (certainly the worst commercially available module) I've ever seen.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!




Plague of Hats posted:

Hey so I made a site to put F&F reviews on both in case of thread archiving, to make them a bit easier to read (site formatting aside) and to allow them to be read despite the paywall. It is currently sparse, but I can copy-paste with the best of them. I am interested in getting permission from reviewers, though I can also abandon all my heroic work in the face of stern disapproval. Suggestions and pointers on how to make things look better or more readable are also a plus.

I have no problem with it.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!




Down With People posted:

That's Eberron, isn't it? The big war that shook the world is over, and now everyone lives in magic super-cities with trains and robots and poo poo.

It may be the golden age of humanity, but the Age of Giants was the true golden age when the most powerful magic and artifacts were created. Even the warforged predate the current age.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!






Still slogging through the WLD, aka the money pit. Region F was a frothing mass of everything that could ever be done wrong in professional adventure design, so presumably things can only improve going forward. Going by level, Region C is next on our list, designed for characters of 7-9th level.

Region C: The Final Option

This entire region was apparently built to hold a powerful demon, a premise that will start to sound familiar because it is reused for Region G, N and probably others. The demon Falortuligo, presumably spawned by some sort of random name generator, was not let loose by the earthquake that rocked the dungeon, although minor demons in nearby cells were freed. About 50 years ago the goddess Myruun (a goddess of the ocean, travel and vigilance) summoned her small collection of holy warriors to the dungeon, leading them to this Region. They establish a garrison in this section and when the demon Falortuligo (try and pronounce it, I dare you) does break free they fight to the last man to slay it. The demon bashes his way through to Region B before the paladins finally slew it. This is all witnessed by Aurum, a wizard who came on his own, drawn by a vague premonition, and bore witness to the paladin's final moments.

Ridiculous name aside, I kind of like this Region's plot. Powerful demon breaks free and engages in an epic battle with paladins serving the goddess of lighthouses (which, if you think about it would be a great symbol for paladins to follow). It begs the question, since the gods are obviously aware of the dungeon why aren't they doing more about it...but then so does every other aspect of the dungeon's backstory.

Of course, this glimmer of good writing soon craps itself and dies. You see, it turns out Aurum didn't come on his own, he was also called by the same goddess (for some reason named Merunda rather than Myruun). So, he comes down to the dungeon, meets Myruun's knights and decides to hang out around here doing his wizard thing, until his experiments with extraplanar travel accidentally bring him into mental contact with Falortuligo, who apparently is also called "Ash" sometimes...for reasons. The demon claims to actually be an angel who is imprisoned along with a within the dungeon (there was actually an angel trapped along with the demon, driven mad now by the torture of imprisonment...notice how overly complicated this is starting to get?). So Aurum befriends the entity, believing it to be an angel and they swap magic tips. One of them turns out to be a trick that ends up weakening the demon's prison. It breaks free and the followers of Myruun/Merunda die putting it down. So...to recap: the goddess knows the demon is down there and sends her followers to go down and die to keep it from escaping...but she is also the one who contacted the wizard Aurum and instructed him to travel there, presumably knowing that he would be the one to free the demon. So she sends her only followers to die unknown and unmourned under the earth and just to make sure it happens she sends along the guy who'll kill them as well.

I'm beginning to think that the entire backstory of the dungeon revolves around the gods being moronic asshats.


If PCs are coming from the level-appropriate direction, the first place they'll likely visit is the former garrison of the Order of Myruun. Unfortunately they're all dead, leaving this section painfully boring.

The first major "feature" of the garrison is a large zone created by the wizard's experiments, a field that covers several rooms and allows ethereal travel. Of course, there's no means for the PCs to identify this field, they won't have any spells or items that grant etherealness, and even if they trudge back here after picking up a spell like that then they'll find that it's completely pointless...there are no special rooms that can only be accessed via the ethereal, no traps or hazards to bypass or treasures to find. There's only one reason why this field exists...so that the ethereal filtcher from room C3 is as annoying as it can be.

This section really illustrates two things. First, the dungeon designers are still, amazingly stingy with magical items and supplies. Here's what passes for "treasure". The Ethereal filcher has a pile of quartz and colored glass with a total value of 55 gp. In a random room is a rod that was transmuted into wood via magic...the rod was originally a greater metamagic rod of silence but only a wish or miracle spell can restore its power now. In another is a pile of rusty weapons which includes a masterwork warhammer (keep in mind, the minimum level for this region is 7). Another room has a secret compartment full of duty rosters and work assignments. An atach guards a treasure hoard consisting of 5 10 gp gemstones. In a pile of ashes the PCs can find 13 stone arrowheads and a piece of obsidian that might be worth 50 gp if fashioned into a pendant. The most valuable objects in this section are a set of two stone chairs, each worth 1000 gp...which doesn't matter because even if there were anyone the PCs could sell or trade them to, they probably don't have the means to drag a pair of half-ton stone chairs through the dungeon.

In fact, throughout the entire region there are only a few pieces of actual, significant treasure. One is a longsword hidden under a DC 30 secret tile, with two DC 50 locks (and remember, no taking 10 or 20 in the WLD). It's a +3 anarchic, unholy, flaming, keen longsword so it's amazing if one of your PCs is chaotic evil...and kind of lame if no one is. The other is a necklace that is actually a circlet of persuasion...but it doesn't radiate magic so the PCs will likely think it's one of the dozens of useless trinkets scattered throughout the region. It states the PCs could cast identify on it to figure out its function...except they can't since there's no way they'll have access to the supply of 100 gp pearls the spell demands. Well, I tell a lie, since there are some gnolls toting some magic items, a couple of pieces of magic armor, a few 1st level potions, and a +1 throwing greatclub. Given that the PCs should be 9th level by the time they leave this region they'll be lucky if they each have a magic weapon by now, and there's basically no chance it'll match with their preferred weapon type. Oh, and there's also a -2 cursed longsword that is enchanted to identify as a +3 vorpal longsword. The one exception is the treasure horde of a young black dragon, which does contain some decent supplies...although many are annoyingly restricted like a necklace of health that only fits small characters, or a scabbard of keen edges that only works for longswords and as a final "gently caress you" a ring of wishes...with 0 wishes remaining.


The second is that it was a terrible idea to try and cram every monster into the dungeon. Aside from the mostly irrelevant backstory with the paladins, this region can be basically summed up as "random monsters". If there was a monster that the writers couldn't make fit into an earlier region its here. But since most of these random critters are not suitable encounters for a 7-9th level party, most of them have been arbitrarily decked out with extra HD. The ethereal filcher is 12 HD from its normal 5. A 14 HD cockatrice. There's a Dire Bat with 6 extra HD. a Large Rust monster of 14 HD (because who doesn't want to lose their weapons and armor?) as well as random monsters like an atach, hill giant, ochre jelly, gnolls, etc.

The atach encounter in particular is bizarre. The thing is 20 feet tall, which means that either the doors in the dungeon have suddenly expanded to gigantic proportions without the writers telling us, or the poor thing is having to squeeze its way through man-sized doors somehow.

Ultimately, this region is entirely pointless and just serves as a repository for misfit monsters. The backstory has no real effect on the area, and any events of significance have already occurred. This is little more than a place for players to wander the halls, fighting monsters and collecting pitiful amounts of loot. But at least its not Region F.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!







Before I get into Region I, I should mention that I'm noticing that the Level guidelines are beginning to become more and more wobbly. You see, the problem is that the dungeon designers decided to make the whole thing a massive square, aligning regions by a grid pattern. Like so:




Now, the problems with this should have been obviously, but apparently they were lost on whoever organized this. First, since the dungeon design isn't anything like linear, the players are likely going to miss huge chunks of the dungeon. There are two potential exits: Region O (the "official" exit, as the highest CR section) in the top right, and Region H, two regions down (below the lake). Depending on where the PCs travel they could end up reaching the exit in as few as 6 Regions, missing about 2/3rds of the dungeon.

And of course, the other problem is the fact that the level-guidelines are only loosely linear. So, if your players do manage to hit up every Region in the dungeon then a good chunk of them will be "underleveled" (there are about 9 regions that are redundant in terms of what level range they're designed for). Running around blowing around monsters dramatically weaker than you could be fun for a while, but it'll get old when its the majority of the dungeon. And the reverse is true as well. It's extremely easy for players to stumble into regions they aren't ready for. A third level party could easily go north from Region A, take a right turn too soon and find themselves in Region F, designed for 7th level characters by sadists. Likewise Region F connects directly to Region J, which means it goes from 9th level all the way to 13th.

Anyway, dungeon design rant over. On to Region I...the squishy bits

Region I: The Halls of Flesh

So, Region I is a section of the dungeon coated entirely with living flesh. Icky, but interesting at least. Needless to say, this regions "theme" is aberrations and oozes. The sticky situation is caused by...you guessed it: crazy wizard. This time, a crazy Drider wizard. You know the drill here. horrifying experiments, lots of awful creatures made from other awful creatures. Most of the drow and driders are now just eking out a meager existence in the region while the aberrations run amok.

I'd like to mention that the writing here is some pretty terrible purple prose, even for RPG writing, and it's kind of painful to read. That said, at least the concept is slightly more original than some of the other regions. There isn't a war or anything going on, nothing about some trapped demon that's now lose, or anything of the sort. Just a whole lot of awfulness.

It's also got the interesting feature that healing here is extremely fast: hp are recovered every hour rather than every day. However, people badly injured in the Region will likely suffer mutations and disease runs rampant through the place. This region is apparently also lit using continual light tiles...something that was conspicuously absent from the description of every other section of the dungeon.

i2-15

The Region is themed for aberrations, but those don't tend to fit neatly into it's 7-9th level range. So one of the first encounters listed are large groups of Chokers (CR 2) and Gricks (CR 3). For some reason the writer decided to compensate for this by spending 5 paragraphs describing the culture and concerns of these mutated chokers. Something that could have been done in one paragraph and didn't need to be done at all, since they amount to little more than fodder. It also doesn't take long for the WLD's terrible editing to strike, the very first encounter is with the "choker leader". This is its statblock:



Not very helpful is it? The room's description claims its EL 6...but that's all we know.

There are some bright sides though. There's a +1/+2 Axiomatic, Bane (shapeshifters) two-bladed sword, which might be a great find if there just happened to be a non-chaotic PC who decided they would use two-bladed swords. There's also an intelligent, 10 HD, babbling Black Pudding, which I have to admit is a far more interesting creature than just an ordinary encounter with extra HD.

After that is a handful of easy choker encounters. And another encounter with a "Choker leader". This one actually has a stat block. Presumably this is a different leader than the one from I3, since it's HP and damage don't match. It's also not clear if this is the choker leader (the intelligent, cunning one) that was talked about in the intro to the section because it has the same Int 4 as all the other chokers.

i16-i18
This is the Grick territory (all of three rooms, so hardly an impressive domain). Despite how small this section is the writers decided to give every grick a random mutation on a d20 chart and its own random encounter table.

Amusingly, one encounter involves the writer suggesting the GM take inspiration from the movie 28 days later. Of course this is an encounter with half a dozen tentacled worm monsters so I'm not entirely sure how it overlaps with a zombie movie.

It's topped off with an encounter with 12 4 HD gricks and a pair of Large 6 HD gricks. Despite their numbers this encounter is probably not nearly as deadly as the writer seems to want you to think it is. If the PCs are 7th level they'll have plenty of ways to deal with creatures this "dangerous"

Next we've got a Dark Naga (apparently actually a drow permanently shapechanged into a dark naga) who bosses around several Cloakers. Then there is the inner sanctum of the drider wizard. It's got a few objects of special stupidity. First is a chamber full of spell components. These components have been tampered with so that if you attempt to use them the spell goes disastrously wrong as determined by a 1d20 roll. Of course, if the PC spellcasters have already spent 7+ levels in the dungeon they're clearly all outfitted with spell component pouches so there's no reason for them to mess with any of these materials anyway.

The inner sanctum is also guarded by perhaps the worst security system ever. It's a magical lock that asks two questions. The first "who is master of this place", the answer is of course "mahir" the name of the wizard who lived here. The second is "how many of Mahir's brood still live within these haunted corridors" wow...that's a strange question...it manages to be almost impossible to answer now, but much simpler when Mahir was still alive. Of course, the PCs have no possible way of knowing the answer...but apparently with a Bluff check they can get the magical lock to spill the beans on how many of mahir's servants came to the dungeon, how many were killed in the disaster that created the flesh-halls and what happened to the survivors of the accident.

So, Mahir created a magical lock that is intelligent, capable of speech, capable of tracking the whereabouts and status of himself and any of his servants seemingly without limit...but did not make it intelligent enough not to give people trying to get inside clues to its own riddle!


Sadly, I've got to say this Region is actually probably one of the high points of the dungeon. Aside from the bad writing and the awkward encounters there's a fair bit of creativity here. The place isn't just a mass of plain stone corridors, the writer definitely encourages creative encounter design rather than the "open a door, here are some monsters" philosophy you see in a lot of other places and while there are some over-inflated low-CR creatures there's also a lot of heavily customized or custom creatures that involved actual creative work from the writer as opposed to copy-pasting stuff from the srd.

The "main event" of the Region is the Twins, a pair of major mutants who are essentially unkillable: both will reform in a matter of days if slain. They're interesting template fusions: a Fiendish Half Dragon Gibbering Mouther and a Fiendish Chimera (with a few extra random abilities thrown in). They're interesting, but although the region plays up their unstoppability, it won't really matter too much to the PCs. Players will certainly not be spending days on end in the region, and once gone they're unlikely to return. The only other inhabitants are drow and aberrations so there is no one to "save", and the only method of destroying either of the Twins involves a great deal of effort and risk (a magical ritual that can easily go haywire). Ultimately, the best solution is just to walk away and leave the region to it's craziness after you've thoroughly looted it.


So, Region I gets a solid C, and becomes the first Region in the dungeon so far to qualify as Acceptable!

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oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!




Rockopolis posted:


So, it's basically a level out of Doom that got dropped into the WLD.

Essentially, which works quite well given the dungeon's theme. I only wish the other Regions had anything nearly this interesting.

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