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oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!






Region G: The Gods Must Be Stupid

map:



So, remember Region E? For those who don't recall, it was a "celestial garrison" where a large band of the original Celestial and Inevitable guardians of the dungeon are "under siege" by forces of evil vastly, vastly weaker than them. We're talking about a band of 4 Maruts who can't seem to handle about half-a-dozen shadows and a pair of 22 HD Leonals who seem to have trouble routing a couple of packs of Barghests. The Celestials of Region E couldn't be bothered to kill their own enemies, find their own "lost" artifacts (some literally only rooms away), or indeed to anything at all for themselves.

Now, if the Celestials of Region E seemed to have spent the last few centuries sitting around and doing nothing, the Celestials of Region G have practically tied themselves down to their chairs and blindfolded themselves instead of putting forth any effort at all to handle the evil that is overwhelming the dungeon they're meant to guard.

This region starts off with a big chunk of backstory which doesn't do a good job of fitting into the rest of the module. The original premise was that the WLD was, for the most part, setting neutral and could be dropped into any campaign setting or use no campaign setting at all (since the players will be trapped in the dungeon the entire time). Halfway through the book we're being told that just a few thousand years ago the world was ruled by a demonic overlord, angels taught elves and dwarves the ways of military combat and after the angels and demi-humans defeated the demon lord they imprisoned him in the dungeon (it's not clear whether the dungeon was already around before then, or if it was created to house this overlord and his minions). Because for some reason you can't just kill the bastard.

Really, this info dump serves no purpose. The PCs won't ever learn most of it, it's not particularly interesting and it doesn't really inform the plot of the region. It just boils down to "there's a powerful demon and his minions in this section. the minions are trying to break him out and the angels are trying to stop them". i.e. basically the entire plot of the dungeon.

Here the demons apparently destroyed enchanted crystals that fuel the lights, traps and wards in this region (note, this is the only region which seems to use this kind of power source, as there's never any chance for the PCs to fiddle with such things in previous regions), so the leader of the angels created a new power source using his own body, conveniently preventing him from helping out with the situation. Now, it's important to note that the angelic leader is a solar. That means he's a CR 23 badass, and the number of threats in the dungeon that he could not destroy by himself can be counted on one hand with fingers to spare. However, instead of simply wiping out the demons he decides to hook himself up as a power source to replace those enchanted crystals.

Oh, and just to be clear, the Solar is not the only power source available. You see there's an artifact called the Sacred Flame of Aranas which has the ability to fuel the wards and lights in this Region (by the way, just to be clear it is only this region that the Solar is keeping going, he is not sacrificing his life force to keep the whole dungeon contained, only the remaining traps in Region G and the prison of the demon lord). Now, keep in mind that a Solar has the spellcasting ability of a 20th level cleric and a crap-load of spell-like abilities. He has access to Wish and Miracle (the first is even a SLA, so it won't consume any XP). Even if the dungeon's anti-teleportation spells might be powerful enough to stop him from simply calling the artifact to hand it would be child's play for him to locate the artifact and there is literally nothing in the Region that could stop him from getting it.

But lets say, for the sake of argument, that its utterly unthinkable to allow any of the wards on the demon lord to weaken or lapse even for a moment. The Solar can't take the 5 minutes or so it would take to grab the flame and must immediately begin holding up the dungeon infrastructure himself. Now, the angels here know that the flame exists and that it can power the dungeon in place of their leader's life force. They've been here for centuries since the demons broke free. So, how weak are the forces of good that they cannot storm the demon's stronghold and return with the flame, and instead must rely on a band of 9-12th level PCs to help them? Lets to a quick headcount.


We've got...39 Hound Archons, including one with 4 levels of Paladin. Wow, that seems like a lot. And that's just the "stationary" encounters, not including the dozen-or-so that must be patrolling to account for random encounters. Now, that's a huge force of celestial badasses...but to be fair they're up against greater demons and committing their entire force to a battle might be too risky. It's understandable that these guys might just be barely able to hold onto a long-term stalemate...who else have we got?

Oh, look some Trumpet Archons. i.e. CR 14 celestials with the spellcasting power of a 14th level cleric on top of super-human stats and 12 Outsider HD? Each of whom easily outclasses any one of the PCs at this level? How many of them are there? 3 at least, I say at least because there are several random encounters that also include Trumpet Archons, meaning there are likely at least twice that number. And I'm not even including the Trumpet Archon stationed near the demon lord's prison helping to keep it stable. This is getting...less plausible...to say the least.

Now, finally, we've got a few Astral Devas. Despite also being CR 14 Astral Devas aren't quite as buff as Trumpet Archons as they lack the 14 spellcaster levels (but that's the fault of 3.5's CR system, not the WLD writers for once). So, how many is a "few". Why about TWELVE. And again, not including random encounters which can include up to 4 Devas per encounter.

So, we've got angelic forces consisting of the equivalent of 3 14th level clerics with super-powers, backed up by 12 super-fighters who have more spell-like abilities available than the party sorcerer has spells known and they're backed up by 3 dozen hound archons. How exactly are the celestials going to be looking for help from a party of humans who are just getting into double-digit levels at this point? What is there that they cannot accomplish that the PCs can? The answer is nothing, they simply seem content to let their leader die as they sit on their thumbs.

Oh, and to top it off the whole crew is led by the Solar's 2nd-in-command, a Planetar.

Now, how about the forces of evil that have broken free and the angels seem helpless to contain? There's a fair number of Dretches, but those things wouldn't even make the hound archons blink. CR 2 demons do not bear mentioning, especially when Astral Devas can lay down a 6d8 Holy Smite spell at will.

Well, there are a few Babou, who kind of fill the same role as the Hound Archons. They're marginally tougher, but there are only 17 of them and the 2-to-1 number advantage means that they don't really measure up to their celestial counterparts.

There's a handful of Vrock, about 5 of them. Needless to say that even if they were all working together its doubtful if they could measure up to even one of the Trumpet Archons. There's also a succubus who doesn't even rate consideration.

So, what about the major demonic lieutenants who have stolen the flame of mcguffin and are set on freeing their dark lord? Well, we've got one of each of the "mid-range" demons: a Hezrou, a Bebelith, and a Glaberazu. Only the Glaberezu comes anywhere near the power level of just one of the Trumpet Archons, let alone 3 backed up by a team of 12+ Astral Devas. The Planetar could potential take on all three at once, by himself.

And it's not like it would be hard for the angels to march on the demonic forces and take back the artifact. The Angels control areas G1-G33 and the demons G76-G97. Now you might think that sounds fairly far apart...but you aren't taking into account the World's Largest Dungeon's crappy cartography. Here's an illustration:



The blue is the celestial's territory, the red is the demons. The green line is the quickest path from the Solar's throne room to the location of the Flame (yes it goes over a river of lava, but everyone other than the Hound Archons can fly, and WLD lava produces no radiant heat or toxic gasses). For those keeping count the distance traveled would be roughly 700 feet. With a fly speed of 90 ft and sufficient buffs (no problem for a 17th level cleric) the Planetar could quite easily fly into demon territory himself, ignoring anyone trying to stop him and simply grab the artifact and leave...the whole process would take less than 3 minutes to go there and back.


And what about the demon lord himself? The guy buried in that huge cosmic bubble right in the center of the Region, the guy who once ruled the world and who this very dungeon may have been built to contain? He must be a truly epic opponent right? A Balor at the very least, if not one with extra class levels or HD, hell maybe even a custom-built demi-god demon? Someone that the PCs could be challenged by even if they faced him with the aid of numerous celestial allies.

Nope.

Lord Krasveshk is a Nalfeshnee, with 4 extra HD and the Improved critical feat, and that's it. I mean that literally too, the writers didn't even remember to increase his attack bonus to account for the extra HD. His stats and special abilities are identical. He's backed up by an unnamed Hezrou and Glaberazue that were apparently imprisoned with him. That puts this world-shaking evil two ranks down from the top of the demonic hierarchy. In fact, Krasveshk is not even the most powerful demon in this Region! There's actually a Marlith who, bizarrely, seems to be working for him rather than vice versa. The only reason I didn't mention the marlith earlier is because she seems perpetually occupied with scrabbling at a wall of force and is not located with the rest of the demonic forces.


So, to sum up, we've got demonic forces which would be extremely tough customers for PCs of the recommended level (which is remember, 9-12). However, compared to the celestials stationed here they're little more than a speedbump. And if the PCs either convince the celestials to get off their feathered asses and do something, or grab the flame on their own then they'll succeed at releasing a Solar. A Solar backed up by dozens of lesser celestials and his Planetar second-in-command. At this point the question becomes...what is the purpose of the PCs anymore? By the end of this Region they're pushing level 13 and that still makes them bloody useless compared to the vast celestial powerhouses here. If the PCs have already been to Region F and can hook up the two Celestial forces there really isn't anything to do but wait around while the angels clean house in the WLD because there is not a single thing that could possible stop them. Of course, the WLD's writers don't address this in the slightest and the assumption seems to be that after being freed from centuries of inaction and with their demonic enemies defeated all the celestials decide that they've earned a nice long nap.

oriongates fucked around with this message at 06:26 on Feb 6, 2014

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oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!






Region M: Whole Lot of Nothing



The second Region within the mid-level range, designed for levels 9-12. It's tucked away in the upper left corner of the WLD, and honestly odds are pretty good that most groups won't find it. After looking through the WLD you'll find that there are really only two types of Regions: There are the claustrophobic regions consisting of 100+ rooms, connected by corridors and put together with the same amount of planning as a randomly-generated dungeon and then there are the Regions that consist of a huge, mostly empty, space, with occasional caves or rooms scattered around the edges. Region M is the second type.

Region M is basically one huge cavern, which is somehow still a part of the dungeon. For some reason, after carving elaborate hallways and structures throughout the bedrock in the rest of the dungeon the celestials apparently just decided to frak the hell out of this area, leading to a huge, unused section of the dungeon, full of rubble and rocks and the source of the lava flow that has split the place in two since the various disastrous earthquakes.

This region's pretty much just kind of "here". there aren't any significant threats to the safety of the WLD or the world, any special treasures or prizes to be won. This is pretty much just space filler because they needed another region to complete the 4 x 4 grid.

For some reason the designers of this section decided that entries should be numbered starting from the NW corner (the only part no one can enter from). Just to make things more awkward.

The Great Lava Flow
As mentioned waaay back in the intro (http://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3541453&pagenumber=12#post414640051), the lava isn't really lava...or it sort of is, sort of isn't. It's basically just a big mass of magma and steam mephits, constantly rubbing up against one another in an inappropriate fashion. Depending on how you interpret the extremely vague description the mephits either make up the lava entirely or they simply live inside of it and somehow the presence of hundreds or thousands of these burning hot imps make the lava colder and safer rather than the other way around. This means that a 9th level party with Resist Elements cast on all of them will likely be able to swim the lava river with only a few minor burns. Throw on a Protection From Evil and the mephits won't be able to bother you either.

There are a few minor places of note along the lava river: the source (which is about a mile off the edge of the map), a lava whirlpool, and, believe it or not, whitewater lava rapids. Given that the lava is so mildly dangerous and the fact that they decide they need swimming hazards for lava you have to wonder why not just make it a river? That way they wouldn't have to come up with some bizarre reason why it's "safe" and they wouldn't have to shove all the water-themed creatures into a couple of regions where no one is likely to go.

There are also a couple of islands in the lava. Refuse Isle: an island where the drow magically dump their trash. Because apparently its easier to pile your trash on an island in the middle of a lava river rather than just tossing it into the lava itself. Apparently this island in the center of lukewarm lava is the ideal place for a pair of shambling mounds to thrive. Then we've got the Eternal Beacon where Earthblood flows up and is ignited by the lava ("you mean oil?", "I mean Earthblood!"). The fumes generated by this are several times deadlier than the lava itself. Finally we have Static Island where we have 12 shocker lizards who have, according to the text, been trapped here for centuries. You know, I know they decided not to worry about anyone having to eat or drink in the WLD but they never mentioned that it makes anyone ageless...meaning that these must be the most inbred lizards ever.

The Valley Of the Demon Wind
This dramatically named section is the portion of the cavern on the far side of the lava river. This area is full of high winds that apparently are actually the product of a crazy air elemental named Aphnitern. Apparently Aphnitern was some kind of evil air elemental godling that was trapped in the dungeon and has since gone insane. This fellow is an Elder Air Elemental with 48 HD. Keep in mind that the PCs are supposed to only be around 10th level at this time. This qualifies as probably one of the more lethal encounters in the whole dungeon, compared to the PCs level. Just like the longtail encounter from Region A the only thing that makes it remotely survivable is that the "tactics" suggested by the writers are among the worst possible. There's also one 32 HD roc and two 26 HD rocs. Because apparently 3 normal rocs was just too easy an encounter for a group of PCs climbing a cliff.

And of course, the WLD continues its fine tradition of not understanding that PCs need magical equipment in order to be remotely effective. For instance, there's a treasure cache in the valley which includes a rusty masterwork short sword, a broken ruby (both pieces worth 250 gp now) and a non-magical ring with the name of an ancient king on it that would be worth 10,000 gp to a historian...which makes it completely useless when trapped in the dungeon. There's also a 5,000 gp diamond that at least might be used for a spell component...if you happen to search in just the right place in this huge open expanse. The only real reward for these extremely over-buffed encounters is a decent magic battle axe and a suit of enchanted leather armor.

Despite the name, the main feature of the valley is actually a mountain, the Dark Crown, where a Cloud Giant Cleric lives with a group of Arrowhawks. The cloud giant isn't instantly hostile and apparently is looking for a way out of this Region. How he has failed to find his way out of what amounts to a single giant cave that takes up maybe 1 square mile is not explained. It's worth noting, if the PCs do fight him the only treasure is another masterwork weapon, a few 50 gp gems and a wand of mirror image with 11 charges.

Finally we've got 6 Greater Air Elementals, former followers of the "demon wind", making this another extremely tough encounter for PCs who are probably just stepping into level 10. As a reward there are a few random gems of minor value, a suit of +1 chainmail and a masterwork shield.

Ledge

There's apparently a ledge here. There's not actually much indication of where this 80 foot ledge is supposed to be, what it separates and why we care. There's the ruins of a watchtower which serve no purpose but to waste time, something explicitly stated in the description. There's a pile of rubble with a leather lace hanging out which only serves to lure people there so it can collapse. Despite the fact that this trap could only have been placed intentionally the rubble trap guards nothing, has no purpose and is not even close to anyone or anything that might have set it. It's just a bit of utterly random "gently caress you".

Death Canyon
Quite the name. Looking at the map it's worth noting that their depiction of a "canyon" is basically identical to the mountains nearby. Can you find the canyon?



Despite the dramatic title the only things here are some random monsters: some belkers and achaierais. One of the achaierais has 18 HD, because adding more hit points long ago replaced creativity in the WLD. Their lair contains art objects that are, as always, worthless to anyone trapped inside a giant dungeon plus some even more useless coins. The only actual "treasure" is a scroll of fireball and web (hey, remember way back in the intro when the designers said web spells should be banned and claimed there wouldn't be any in the dungeon?).

There's also some Xorn's (who have 21 HD, just because) protecting a "spring" of Earthblood, which is basically the mountain crying because the celestials hurt it so much making their dungeon. Although the earthblood itself is caustic and mostly worthless (it'll burn as a torch for days at a time...woooo) However if you ignite a large enough quantity of the stuff it becomes pretty much the most toxic poison gas known to man (DC 32 fort save or you take 6d10 damage +2d6 con damage).


The Open Plain

Apparently this area extends several miles to the north, making it larger than the entire rest of the dungeon. It contains absolutely nothing other than random encounters, some more belkers, some bones, and a 30 HD xorn.

The Barrows

This area is the home to a "city" of driders and their drow slaves. However, it basically takes up about 1/5th of the whole region, making really more of a glorified summer camp of spider-people, at least compared to all the other settlements in the WLD. Basically these guys are the remnants of the drider and drow from Region I. While the open areas to the north are full of overpowered monsters with inflated HD this area is fairly boring, with just regular driders, some invisible servants and a few drow.

The one thing you would hope to find at a place like this might be some nice loot, unfortunately the WLD continues to disappoint here. The most valuable object are daggers of venom carried by...oddly enough...drow slave-guards. The driders themselves use mostly non-magical equipment but apparently they arm their slaves with magical armor and weapons. At least their most "trusted" slaves. There are a few nicer magical items here and there...but I've got to say I hate it when designers of mega-dungeons throw in enchanted weapons of the type least likely to be used by characters: enchanted longspears, greatclub, or double weapons are all excellent examples of this annoying trend.

For the most part though I found this area even less compelling than the big empty wilderness. You've got a a group of evil monsters who have enslaved...a bunch of equally evil humaniods. They sit in this distant corner of the dungeon, bothering no one else and just slowly dwindling in population until eventually they go extinct. The only reason to get involved is just a general "kill them, take their stuff" mentality or perhaps a desire to just put the whole lot of them out of their misery.

This also has one of the longest freaking room descriptions in the dungeon: M65, the laboratory of a drider sorcery. describing it takes four drat pages. If it takes that long to sum up the contents of a single room then you are over-complicating things.


Finally the developers mention that you might decide to include a way out here. Seems a bit anti-climatic considering that at this point PCs are just getting into double digits...and if you do let them leave good luck convincing anyone that they should go back inside.

oriongates fucked around with this message at 11:06 on Apr 21, 2014

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!






Region K and L: All the water monsters have to go somewhere right?

Region K map:



Now that we're in the mid-levels, there aren't enough inter-connected monsters for the developers to keep making Regions themed on creature type or races (excepting one "undead" themed region that's still to come), so now they're taking a page from video-games and starting with "elemental" themed levels. Regions K and L are both watery areas and here you will find every single goddamn monster with the aquatic subtype crammed into two sections. Region K is levels 10-12 and Region L is levels 12-14. You may notice that the level ranges are starting to break down as Regions no longer interconnect neatly and the developers make no attempt to block or restrict access from one Region to another. For instance, if you head west from K you'll run to Region J which is for levels 13-15 or if you go north you'll drop right into Region N (the undead one I mentioned) which is for 14-18. You can even easily head NE without passing through other regions and drop right into Region O for levels 16 to 20.


Anyway, both Regions are big open spaces like Region M. Apparently derro miners managed to break through the ceiling of the Region into an underground lake, collapsing the entire space and flooding it. Celestials are great for looking impressive and delivering holy messages from on high, but apparently they suck as contractors. You'd think someone would realize it's a bad idea to build underneath a lake...on top of a fault line...miles under the earth.

This led to many of the demons and devils imprisoned here drowning to death (making the derro far better than the celestials when it comes to defending the world from evil), however their evil corpses turned into corrupt sediment making the place mildly evil. Apparently if you have a big enough body of water creatures with the aquatic subtype will simply begin to show up out of nowhere. In addition to a green dragon and some hags there are apparently both Merfolk and Tritons living in Region K. Presumably because of the evil mud in the water both are somewhat douchier than normal, but not outright evil.

Just like Region's A, B, E, F, G, and probably more to come, this region is divided up among multiple feuding factions currently stalemated against one another and the PCs come in screaming "Wild card, bitches!" and screw everything up. This region does actually have a bit of a further twist, in that forces from Region L are actually preparing to invade and screw things up as well. There's even a countdown that begins as soon as the PCs arrive in Region K, in just about a week a massive force of sahaugin and merrow led by a half-fiend Kraken are due to invade and reshape everything in this region! Of course, this is mentioned nowhere in Region K. The timeline of the invasion is found as a Sidebar for room L18, so unless the GM reads through all of K and all of L as soon as the PCs enter the Region they'll be unlikely to spot it.

K1-K10: Hag Lair
For some reason the numbering starts in the Northern part of the Region, even though PCs are meant to enter from the West or the South. This particular stretch of beach is home to a coven of hags. They seem to mostly stick to a small selection of rooms that survived the deluge, which is important since they can't really leave. Anyone standing on the beach is in sight of the green dragon Thorodin and supposedly can see him as well (it's not clear how, there's no mention of lighting and thorodin's lair is quite distant). The green dragon will spot them (technically there's a spot check, but the DC is 25 + the lowest Hide score in the group. Thorodin's Spot is +23.)

This is the case for all the stretches of beach K1, K46 and K65, so unless the PCs just happen to enter the region from the one entrance that doesn't exit onto the open beach one of their first encounters is pretty much certain to be a fight with a oddly-buffed Adult Green dragon. I'll go into more detail on Thoridon later, but suffice to say they didn't do a great job.

So, the Hags (who will attack the PCs immediately if they kill Thorodin, since they'll be obviously at their weakest at that point) inhabit this small areas on the NW side of the dungeon. The beach sections are just a few traps, a water naga and (randomly) a pair of ravids. The ravid encounter mentions that they'll use their powerful animate object ability...except it never details what objects are actually in the room that might be animated. The one exception is a ring of shooting stars which they state has a 20% chance of being animated and spraying sparks in a random direction, the writers forgetting that animate object only works on non-magical objects.

before continuing, here's a perfect opportunity to showcase yet more lovely WLD cartography:



Take a look at K3 and K4, by simply wandering a few feet south you suddenly end up in K25, and then if you decide you want to take a dip, you jump to K13. Note, there are no barriers between these areas.

next we have room K5, which is almost comedic. You see, the has apparently got their talons on a bronze dragon when she was very young and have been keeping her here for decades, presumably waiting for her to grow old enough to challenge Thorodin. They have her permanently dominated through a special ritual and artifact, and for some reason put an enchantment on her that makes her take the shape of a human. As a result she's gone insane and believes that the other hags are her sisters. She sleeps on a ledge in this room and the only thing that keeps Thorodin from noticing her is some vines blocking his vision (apparently he's never bothered to investigate in the decades that the bronze dragon has been here). The enchantment is set to be removed should anyone other than the hags come into the room.

So, as soon as the PCs enter, a ledge above them crumbles as she involuntarily shapeshifts into full bronze dragon size, collapsing the balcony she's resting on and falling on anyone below. Although she's totally insane, she's still basically good and if the PCs try and avoid conflict she'll talk with them. Apparently the hags stole her eggs (even though they got her as a child...and who's the father?) and traded them with the drow wizard who created Region I, however they claim that Thorodin stole the eggs, so the bronze is willing to team up to take him down. Not that it matters, because short of mass invisibility it is basically impossible to get to this area without Thorodin spotting the PCs and attacking. Makes you wonder how the hags ever come to visit their imprisoned bronze dragon.

This area also contains two new magical...well, things I guess: The Crystal of Vile Attraction and Necrojade Poison. The first is a magical crystal buried under the sand on the beach, which attracts people to it at varying ranges. Once you're within 10 feet you have to make a DC 25 Will save to avoid doing whatever you can to possess it. This would be kind of a neat magical trap if it's effects weren't quite so strong. DC 25 is an extremely high DC to throw at mid-level players (a 10th level fighter's base will save is +3. If he's invested a fair amount into it, it may go as high as +6 or +7...meaning only an 18 or a 19 on their roll will succeed. even a 10th level sorcerer/wizard probably doesn't have a bonus higher than +10, meaning a 75% chance of failure). That means that as soon as the party comes across this object then anyone who isn't a cleric, monk or paladin is probably going to start murdering one another. Of course, someone might try and dispel it...but the WLD writers never included a CL for the item so there's no indication of the DC for dispelling. According to the write-up, there isn't any duration on the effect or any "re-rolls" for the save. Once you fail, to all indications, you permanently become willing to kill to possess the crystal.

Necrojade Poison is a part of an extremely over-elaborate prison for what is described as a "zombie lord" (who apparently died long ago, as there is nothing but bones in the room). The door is sealed with a magical lock that can only be opened with a DC 30 use-magic-device check. The room is a perfect sphere with a 3 foot deep layer of mist. The bottom of the sphere is blocked by a wall of force to make a floor (because apparently it's easier to carve a perfectly spherical room and give it an enchanted floor rather than just carve it flat in the first place). Hanging from the ceiling is a set of manacles that are enchanted to grapple anyone who comes within 10 feet and begin melting them with acid. Once the manacles snatch someone blades along the wall begin spinning and continue spinning for 100 years. Avoiding these blades (which automatically knock you back into the room) takes a DC 25 jump check (keep in mind, most people who don't have jump as a class skill have probably an average of +0). Now, this would be ridiculous enough but it gets worse. The gas filling this room is Necrojade poison, I'll let the designers describe it for you:



Done reading it? Are you weeping yet? If not, let me explain the key points. Angels designed a poison with the explicit intent of immobilizing undead, that just so happens to also be extremely lethal and turn the living into wights. Because, forces of good, amiright? On top of that, because of the way the poison is designed it doesn't work on undead. It's penalties to speed and athletics abilities is based on how much Constitution damage the target suffers. Even if the poison gets around the immunity undead have to both poisons and fortitude saves, they have no Con score and thus never take any Con damage and never suffer any penalties.

So, we've got a room with a set of regenerating, acid-producing animated manacles, a circle of spinning blades that will keep going for a century and magical gas intended to (but not actually) reduce an undead creature to immobility. All of this is meant to imprison a zombie lord, and the traps are designed to (quoting) "...play upon the zombie lords insatiable hunger and plodding mobility." Of course, they could have gone a much simpler route and just stuck the drat zombie underneath the invulnerable and permanent force wall that they used to make the goddamn floor!

This most stupid of rooms is extremely lethal for PCs. The manacles have an extremely high grapple score and a most people will die if trapped more than a few rounds within the necrojade poison. Even if they are proof against the poison in some way it's still extremely difficult to escape, since a DC 25 jump check is out of reach to most characters of 10th level without a Jump spell or Boots of Striding and Springing. The one saving grace is that the traps are extremely easy to detect, so hopefully the PCs will open the door, notice the traps and decide that the non-magical suit of plate mail that is the room's only contents is just not worth the effort.

I'm impressed there's so much terrible material in just the first 10 rooms so far. I'll try and speed it up. Next we've got a room with magical doors that give different, random benefits depending on which door you go through, bizarre and very pointless. The next room is the hag's den which is basically the designers attempting to replicate a horror movie set with very mixed results. The hags themselves apparently sleep in stone pillars here, guarded by a merrow sorcerer. each of the hags (one of each flavor) is a sorcerer of varying degrees of ability. This is actually a pretty brutal fight since the hags can see through the stone of their pillars and cast spells while inside (the PCs would naturally have no idea), so each of them will emerge fairly buffed up with spells. There's also a gray render living nearby. And finally a group of merrow who serve the hags hanging out on the beach. Since its explicitly noted that Thorodin can see this area and will attack as soon as he spots someone, its unclear why the merrow aren't smoking puddles.

K11 to K24
The western underwater sections of this region is inhabited by a band of merfolk. They apparently went to a mountain lake to meet a lillend who was sent by their god to guide their people to a new age of enlightenment. apparently their god was too lazy to have its divine messenger appear anywhere near his people, but if there's one lesson the WLD teaches it's that gods are worse than useless. The lake collapsed just when the merfolk arrived spilling them and the llilend into the dungeon. The green dragon captured the lillend and the merfolk have just been sitting here inbreeding for centuries. The southern end is occupied by tritons, who apparently came here on purpose and plot to take down the dragon.

the two tribes are not hostile, but basically avoid each other, not speaking for centuries. It's up to the PCs to break this gridlock.

Which brings up another issue with this region: size. Now, the Regions of the WLD are quite big, for dungeons. However, when compared to any open area they're actually fairly small. A quick measurement shows that they're a bit less than 900 feet wide in both directions, which means they're roughly the size of a couple of city blocks

the merfolk and tritons inhabit the western "bay" area of the dungeon, which measures roughly 250 x 750 or so. For comparison imagine two communities of a dozen or so members each, living within (and never leaving) a single walmart super-center for centuries without interacting with one another.

Although theoretically a viable "faction", neither the merfolk or the tritons represent any significant power in the Region. The merfolk consist of only 5 warriors and 1 cleric, most of their members dead after the dragon decided to randomly attack one day. The tritons don't number much larger, only about 9 or so members.

The tritons have been mining yet another random magic "thing" here: Tanaa'ryl. It's apparently a mineral made of compressed demon bone. At first it seems kind of cool, it looks like glass with veins of glowing molten metal running through it. However, the benefits are extremely minor. weapon critical hit ranges are increased by 1 and armor will ignore the first critical hit in a fight. They'll also possibly ignite flammable objects on a critical hit (not much concern in a water-region). And the downside: growing madness. Every day it's used you have to make a Will save or take a point of wisdom damage, if your wisdom drops below a certain level (starting with 9 or less) then additional side effects crop up. The tritons are aware of this, but apparently think that tiny boost to critical hit probability is worth it and have been forging it into armor and weapons. The text explicitly notes that if they're convinced to be friendly with the PCs they might trade some of these with them, but will never reveal the side effects (because they're dicks apparently).

Of course this would be more of a concern if Tanaa'ryl was capable of inflicting more than one point of wisdom damage. The stuff inflicts one point of damage per day...which just so happens to be the recovery rate for ability score damage (twice that with good rest). So if your Wisdom is an odd number, you basically never have to worry about the side effects.

K25-42:The boglands

This is pretty much Thorodin's domain, since he can see everything in the area from his liar. Despite that it's pretty packed. There's a couple of outcast "heretic" merfolk (pointing out that their god has really screwed them over) living under water here. There's a pillar that randomly projects a magic circle against evil. A tendriculos hanging out with a couple of merrow zombies, some will o the wisps, a giant croc, and a chuul. There's also a mist that targets anyone touching it with a combo of chill touch, confusion, crushing despair, and an unspecified Suggestion spell. And a roper that's somehow disguised as a willow tree...because that's certainly going to be plausible.

The tritons have been trapping the bog with spear traps designed to launch spears at Thorodin. A valiant effort, if utterly useless given Thorodin's AC and DR. Speaking of it's time to address Thorodin himself.

Like I mentioned at the start it's basically impossible to avoid combat with Thorodin and he will inevitably be one of the PC's first combat encounters in this region. He is an Adult Green, which wouldn't be a bad challenge for a group of mid-level characters under normal circumstances. However, given the environment, Thorodin can easily slaughter most characters. The ceiling is high so he can fly freely through pretty much the entire Region, he has the flyby attack and hover feats meaning he can easily stay out of melee reach and hit and run spellcasters or melt them with his breath. Should he need to escape he simply can dive underwater or (since the entire region is pitch black) fly out of reach of the character's vision. So, needless to say he would be an extremely tough encounter for a group of level 9 characters who have just stumbled into the Region.

But of course that wasn't enough, so the designers decided that they would add buffs to Thorodin entirely at random. He gets a +4 to his strength bonus, his damage reduction is increased to 10, his spell resistance is increased by 3 (meaning a 9th level caster has a 75% failure chance against him), damage from his breath weapon is increased by 4d6, his frightful presence DC is increased by 4 and he has a host of immunities: fire, illusions, lightning bolts (specifically lightning bolts, not electricity), polymorph, mind-affecting magic, magic missile, and silver (???). These changes are completely unexplained and so terribly random its difficult to tell which are intentional and which might just be the writers making mistakes. But apparently all of these changes only deserve a +1 to his CR.

Of course, the designers can't make an overpowered "boss" without crapping themselves at least a little in the process. Thorodin's sorcerer spells are just about the worst possible choices. He's only 5th level so his selection is fairly small and he decided to waste it on some of the least useful draconic spells ever: enlarge (only affects humaniods), hold portal (useless for anyone), and shocking grasp (he's got daggers for fingers, why does he need a shocking grasp spell?), arcane lock (this and hold portal together? lots of preparation when you consider there are no doors anywhere nearby, let alone ones he would care about locking), see invisibility (already has blindsense), and whispering wind (he lives in a cavern that he can shout across and is too large to leave).

Likewise, Thorodin's tactics are equally poor but at least semi-believable if he's overconfident. Very likely he'll end up killing or driving off most PC groups as soon as they enter Region L, the area is just too advantageous for him and PCs are unlikely to have the firepower needed to take him down at this level (especially when you factor in his many immunities). The writers mention that he might be elsewhere when the PCs arrive but there really isn't anywhere else for him to go. The area is so small that all he can really do is decide to take a dip in the water near his lair which is hardly any further away. It's implied that the PCs might recruit the merfolk and tritons to help fight the dragon, but both groups are basically helpless against him and the best they could do is absorb one acid blast before turning to sludge.

And of course, as an additional "gently caress you" the only magical item in Thorodin's "hoard" is a ring of water breathing. To be fair, it's quite useful in this region but you kind of hope for a bit more than that.

I'll continue Region K shortly, then on to L.

oriongates fucked around with this message at 05:58 on Feb 6, 2014

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

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Nemesis Of Moles posted:

I just wanted to say I'm really enjoying this write up.

Thanks! It's easy to feel like stuff gets lost among all the different write-ups so its good to hear folks are getting something out of it.


quote:

Weren't they trying to charge like $90 or something like that? I remember seeing it somewhere, flipping through it, and thinking "this looks like someone printed off a randomly generated dungeon and bound it." This much more in-depth look makes me so happy I never bought it.

About 100 bucks. At the time it was the most expensive RPG book ever made.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!




Kai Tave posted:

Not to dogpile but I'm not sure how anyone could realistically have thought that a hojillion-page dungeon crawl using EVERY MONSTER EVER could actually wind up being anything more than an unfocused mess, d20 system or no.

I was young and foolish, I thought it would be a neat mountain to climb with my group in high school and the bastards promised to split the cost with me...never did. The bitterness over that 100$ is what still drives me to this day.

anyway:



Region K continued

This region blows its load kind of early. Thorodin is kind of the "boss" of the region and the hags follow as the second biggest threat. Both will be encountered very shortly after entering. Thorodin will attack as soon as he spots the PCs, which won't take long, and the hags will follow almost immediately, knowing that they're no match for anyone who can kill Thorodin but assuming the battle will put the PCs at their most vulnerable. Together they are almost certain death for a level appropriate group.

But if you're very lucky (or you wandered in from exploring several higher level regions already) then you might just be able to survive these two fights. That doesn't actually leave much to do. Thorodin had a few locoath servants who'll likely just flee if their master dies, the PCs can also free the lillend he has imprisoned.

The lillend is trapped in a gilded cage, unable to escape because a nearby altar radiates antimagic in a 50 foot radius, a former celestial security system. The entry for this room suggests that if the PCs destroy the altar the lillend can free herself, however the altar is quite durable (10 hardness, 200 hit points), although it is vulnerable to unholy water or tanaaryl weapons. When the altar is destroyed it explodes, hurting everyone nearby. Sadly, it didn't seem to occur to anyone that it might be easier for the PCs to simply break the bars of the cage, since the average iron bar has the same hardness and only 30 or so hp. It's not even clear how the lillend would free itself if the anti-magic field is removed, she can use the knock spell but there is apparently no door to the cage (otherwise the developers would presumably note the DC to pick the lock).

K43-45: the Abyssal edge
This is the easternmost section of the Region where the water gets deep (it's not clear why it gets deeper...even with the walls collapsed the dungeon should still have just about the same level in all areas. maybe the celestials decided they needed to carve a couple of basements here). There's a deep well where a "greater glaberazu" (why he's "greater" is unclear as his stats are identical to a normal one) who apparently absorbs memories and life energy through dimensional cracks and was imprisoned in a collapsing well trap...oh god, it just doesn't make any sense. Basically he's in a deep underwater pit and anyone within 20 feet suffers 3 negative levels temporarily. However, he doesn't actually want to fight. He'll try and trick the party into letting him travel with them by posing as a celestial and if they reject him or doubt him he'll simply teleport away and leave, presumably to be encountered again later.

There's also a sunken ship which apparently was dragged down here when the lake rushes it. It's a bit odd when you realize that the opening into the dungeon was wide enough for an entire ship to be sucked through intact...but there is no sign of it and no opening left to escape through. It can't even be that far from the surface, you'd think there might even be a bit of daylight.

oh, and a mutated gargantuan water spider with an acid spray attack that seems to have just been ignored by the other entities in the area.

K46-K74

This is the last intact piece of the original structure in the area. It's basically the result of someone jotting down random encounters which range from moderately challenging (4 gray oozes) to completely pointless (a single thoquaa). other encounters include a permanent acid fog, an angelic bedroom, a few traps, a dying harpy, some merrow, acquatic elves, and a huge scorpion. The rest of the area is more of the celestials overly-elaborate traps. Here's some examples:

*The Crystal Pits: This room contains two large pits, which used to house demons imprisoned underneath crystal caps. If the caps were ever broken the doors close and a giant stone roller rolls up and down the length of the room, crushing everything not inside one of the pits. When I say "crushing" I mean it inflicts 10d6 crushing damage. While that certainly hurts, it definitely would not kill any demon of significant power and while the doors are functionally impossible to open (DC 40 strength check) they do open automatically after an hour. Since the crystal caps have been smashed at some point in the past the trap will trigger whenever anyone goes in or out of one of the pits (which contains nothing).

*the chain cell: This door is covered in symbols (which require a DC 25 decipher script roll, because apparently celestials don't actually write in celestial) which provide a vague description of the former prisoner "gatarana, whose strength comes from the earth". The room contains 8 animated chains which will attempt to grapple people in pairs, and once grapped they will pull the victims into the air and stretch them until they die. This is quite lethal (together the chains seem to inflict 2d10 damage a round, and they have an impressive grapple bonus. escape seems to require breaking the chains, which will take quite some time (hardness 10, 30 hp)).

*Fire Cell and Ice Cell: This one is labeled "stenarri, creature of fire" and "abhonet, creature of ice". Basically each one is designed to channel heat and cold into the other, so the fire monster weakens the ice monster and vice versa. As far as celestial prisons go this one isn't actually that badly thought out. However, it doesn't actually matter since both inhabitants are dead, the rooms are empty and the only noticeable effect is that the temperature of both rooms will stabilize if the equilibrium is thrown off, at the rate of 1 degree per round.

*Blade Cell: This room is unlabeled, but apparently held a "flesh demon" (because that's totally a thing) which was pinned to the wall with magical daggers. the room is full of +1 daggers of different materials. These are : gold, silver, brass, cold iron, adamantine, holy diamond, lawful coral, chaotic granite, good wood, and evil opal. there is no further explanation for any of that.

*Water Cell (by the way, these are the titles of the room in the dungeon itself): This room once imprisoned "rifidar, creature of air", who escaped at once point (I think you'll see why). This chamber's door is blocked by a permanent Wall of Force effect, except it only targets free-flowing water, making it impossible to bring any water in or out of the chamber. After someone enters the room it begins to flood, the water held in place by the wall of force. After it fills the room the water freezes. You may ask yourself, "in what way does this help imprison a creature of air?" and "why not just make it an actual wall of force, one that might stop the air demon from just walking through?" These questions apparently never occurred to the designers.

*Empty Cell: This cell imprisoned a succubus. She's gone, but apparently her demonic stank remains producing an Emotion (friendship) effect on anyone inside. Because the writers didn't seem to get the memo that 3.5 doesn't have an Emotion spell anymore. also apparently they think a 10 lb cold iron chain is worth 3,000 gp (note, a 10 lb silver chain in one of the other rooms is only worth 500 gp).

*Chains of Remorse: another really elaborate prison. the celestials need to learn that simpler is often better. This is a circular corridor around a central room, the corridor walls are mirrored and anyone inside is targeted by a Confusion effect every round. if they attack someone randomly while confused they'll actually strike the mirrored wall which reflects the damage back to them. If they find and open the door in the central chamber then a gust of wind knocks them inside where they fall down a 100 foot spiked pit trap, although they might catch themselves on one of the chains that stretches across the width of the pit. The pit is full of demonic corpses chained here being constantly shown scenes of torment and horror, which causes anyone inside it to become Shaken and Staggered. The walls are completely unclimbable so only flight or levitation could allow escape. There is a 12 charge wand of cure moderate wounds at the bottom though!

*Unstable Cell: this one belonged to "baphon, lesser demon of the blighted realms" who was apparently a half-fiendish greater gorgon and it has been badly damaged by the earthquake. 2 rounds after the room is opened the ceiling collapses and any characters within are trapped underneath magically dense rubble. This only inflicts 8d6 damage but there's no indication of any way to free anyone trapped...so presumably they're just doomed.

*Eternal Charm: This cell contains the petrified remains of an erinyes, who got caught by that gorgon from the last room.

*Scorpion Cell: This one has a big scorpion, mutated by nesting in the rotting corpse of a demon. It's odd that the celestials imprison so many of these demons, it's made very clear that it's quite possible to simply kill them...but apparently this is better for some reason.

*Scales of Perserverance: This room contains a checkerboard patter of red and black floor tiles and a stone see-saw in the middle. red tiles weight 3 lbs, black weigh 5 lbs. When the seesaw is perfectly balanced the floor becomes electrocuted. This was apparently a "recharging" station for inevitables...who don't require "recharging" and who don't absorb or resist electricity in any way. so basically this is just a stacking game that electrocutes whoever wins it. If you decide to load all the red tiles on one side and all the black on another this opens a secret hatch revealing a gem of lightning, which basically operates like an electrically themed staff.

*gemsect lair: This room has a chest that's full of bugs that look like gems, called gemsects. This swarm has no actual stats however, the writers say it has the stats of a "summon swarm (beetles)" spell, which doesn't exist (summon swarm summons only bats, rats or spiders) and in fact, there are no stats for a beetle swarm in the standard srd.

That's it for Region K, since it's so closely interconnected I'll jump straight to L after this.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

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GenericServices posted:

I'd sure hate being a wizard in here. How many scrolls have actually gone by at this stage? You're hitting level ten (hypothetically, anyway) by these regions and I'm honestly not sure if you'd have found one scroll per level by this point. It's like they saw the whole "kick down doors, kill monsters, take their stuff" formula and stopped reading part-way through. Did these people even play D&D?

There are a couple scattered here and there, but at least half of them are divine, and there are very few higher level scrolls. Low level PCs might get ahold of the spellbook of Boykit (a 4rd level wizard), and you'd think it would be easy for the developers to fit a roughly level appropriate spellbook into each region, a dead adventurer, an enemy wizard, some ancient scholar's remains, etc. Region C's backstory features a powerful wizard, now dead, and you can explore his study where you can find his journal and two blank spellbooks, but as far as usable spells there is nothing but about 3 spells on scrolls. The vast majority of enemy arcane spellcasters are bards and sorcerers so there's no chance of getting any magic from them.

The only high level spellbook available is in Region I, which used to belong to Mahir. Probably the most valuable loot a wizard will ever find in the dungeon, since it has spells going up to level 7.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

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Region L: Because Water Levels Are Always The Most Fun

If there are any groups that have explored the entire WLD I would say that Region L probably ranks as their second most hated Region (and that's only because Region F gave me a new appreciation for just how terrible dungeon design could be).

While Region K was basically a large beach with some bays and bogs, Region L is 80% deep, open water. Also, since the Pcs are trapped in a dungeon that means they have no access to boats or rafts. Flight is impractical (fly only lasting for minutes, and overland flight only targeting the caster) and water walking would make actual combat with aquatic enemies difficult.

That means swimming is more or less the only option. And let me remind you that swimming suuuuuucks. Fortunately by 12th level, most parties will have easy access to long-term water breathing (one casting by a 12th level cleric keeps a party of 4 sucking agua for 6 hours), but most PCs will not have positive swim scores, especially those that have been investing their skill points in a giant dungeon crawl. So lets review the basic swimming rules.

You've got to make a swim check to move, minimum DC 10. This is a 50% chance to not go anywhere at all for many PCs, and even on a success your movement is reduced to 25% (that's about 10 feet a round as a move action, 15 feet as a full move). And since most combat will take place with creatures below the surface you get a chance to experience the wonders of underwater combat:

1) pitch darkness, there's no light in this area at all to begin with, visibility is even lower underwater.
2) no effective ranged ability. throwing weapons don't work at all, bows and crossbows suffer a -2 per 5 feet of distance.
3) slashing and bludgeoning weapons inflict half damage.
4) almost everything you're facing will have a swim speed, meaning they will be blazing along compared to you.

And even better in many places the water is deep enough that pressure and cold become issues. spending more than half an hour at that depth is likely going to be lethal all by itself...and remember it takes you 6 seconds to move 15 feet assuming you succeed at your swim check.

The best you can say is none of this is directly the fault of the WLD designers. These are all standard rules and it sucks to hang out underwater in any version of D&D. But perhaps they should have considered this before making a Region that is 80% underwater.

They seem to be aware of this as they provide a list of different reasons for how the GM might convince and/or force the players to actually explore this region rather than just turning back. Ultimately though, I don't think anyone will be particularly enthusiastic about this place. PCs will hate it because they're basically crippled (and one dispel magic away from drowning), and DMs will hate it because tracking movement and encounters in 3 dimensions is a pain.

But of course, since it is the WLD, they had to come up with something to make everything worse. You see, the corrupted demon dirt is even worse in this region and it actively taints anyone in the area. Every 24 hours spent in the Region PCs must make an increasing Will Save (10 +1 per day), to avoid having their alignment shift one step towards evil. Once they become evil they begin carrying out random suggestions by the demonic taint, indulging in whatever monstrous act the GM decides. But that's, shockingly, not the bad part.

The bad part is the mutations. You see every time you fail a saving throw, you gain a random mutation and permanently lose 1d3, 1d4 or 1d6 points of charisma (irreversible short of a wish). If you just so happen to be a sorcerer or a bard, I hope you're ready to get poo poo on, because there goes your core stat. What's more, the mutations themselves range from pretty nice (+5 natural armor, +1d6 strength and con, spell resistance) to really, really lovely (you breath water but not air, 1d4 permanent negative levels, 5d20 damage).

You know, when you've got a structure like the WLD where everything is organized based on specific level ranges and characters are meant to be in it for the long haul, it would be a good idea not to wildly alter the party's power level completely at random. A fighter who gets lucky takes a hit to his charisma and might end up with +2d6 to strength and con after a couple of failed saves (of course he's evil now). A sorcerer who gets unlucky could lose access to their spells permanently. What is the character meant to do at that point? commit seppuku? there really isn't much alternative.

L1-L4

This is the lair of some sahaugin, who originally came here seeking a magical artifact called the watrazor, until they were beaten up by the bigger monsters in the region. now the remnants basically suck up to the kraken to avoid being killed. The sahaugin have been pretty much just sitting for 400 years, hoping to get ahold of the pieces of the watrazor. They've got one (a +2 spear) and know where one of the others is.

although it would be a pain to try and collect it, and it has a stupid name, the complete watrazor is a hell of a weapon. It's a 4-pointed trident (yes, I know) that is +5 aquaticbane (which would matter, except you need to have beaten pretty much every important aquatic opponent to get it) icy burst, wounding trident. It functions as a trident of fish command and 3 times per day you can cast control water, crushing hand and dismissal, once per week you can cast imprisonment if you're underwater. It also ignores any regeneration ability, always inflicting lethal damage.


L5-L8

This area is full of demon-bones and lacedon, some with class levels. Much of it will be completely ignored as it occurs on the lakebed which is 400 feet below the surface, apparently the celestials put all of their basements right here, or for some reason decided not only to build their prison beneath a lake, but also directly above a giant empty cavern.

The random encounters in this area really do a good job of illustrating the half-assed nature of the dungeon. Here are some highlights.

*a pod of 3 fiendish orcas with a tentacle sticking from their backs. This gives them an extra attack a round (no information on the attack's damage).

*12 dire bats whose sonar is so powerful that each group of 3 bats produces a sonic attack equivalent to a soundburst each round. (no indication if this takes an action, what CL it is or what the save DC is)

*breaking a demon bone can also have similarly poorly written effects: a fireball spell which "targets everyone in the area" and an Earthquake spell "affecting water as if it was earth"...which after reading the earthquake spell I can see it somehow knocks people down in the water and opens fissures in the water that remain for 1 round then close, killing anyone still inside (how one would stay inside is unclear).

L9-L18

This area is the territory of the Kraken Mahg'Gog, who fills more or less the same role as Thorodin in K, serving as the "boss" encounter of the Region. Amusingly the Kraken was once a perfectly normal freshwater squid, trapped in the dungeon after the lake broke through. Apparently it decided to make a nest inside the skull of Krukak, the most powerful demon trapped in the Region. The squid became possessed and over the centuries has continued growing larger and larger, taking the final form as a half-fiend Kraken.

I've got to say, I actually really like that backstory. The only downside is there is no reasonable way for the PCs to find out about it and I feel like the writers missed a real opportunity to have an artifact or ritual capable of banishing the demonic spirit possessing the kraken, turning it back into a tiny squid.

Mah'gog will spend a lot of time trolling the PCs while they're in this section, using his ability to sense them at great distances and control weather to make things tough for them.

L9 is a set of protective wards that would need to be repaired in order to cleanse the region of the tainted sediment. There's not much actual motivation to do this however, since it doesn't remove any of the dangerous inhabitants of the Region and they're the real threat. The sediment is a long-term issue that frankly the celestials need to clean up. For some reason this encounter occurs 800 feet below the surface. Keep in mind that until now the dungeon has been more or less level. For some reason this area is massively further down, and since the wards are down there they would have had to have been placed there when the dungeon was created.

Actually getting down here and repairing the wards is practically impossible. at 800 feet down the pressures are intense and according to the rules at the start of the Region, characters take 1d6 damage per minute for every 100 feet down you are, plus 1d6 cold damage per minute from hypothermia. Assuming the PCs can take 10 on swim checks (and assuming taking 10 would be a success, which is far from guaranteed for some) that's 150 feet moved per minute. going from the surface you hit 150 feet, take 2d6 damage (2d6 +1d6 cold), then next minute you take 4d6 (3d6 +1d6 cold), then 5d6 at 450 feet down, then 7d6 at 600 feet down, and 8d6 at 750, finally topping off at 9d6 when you hit the bottom. So just getting down to the bottom is a total of 35d6 damage (or an average of 123). Now, a healer obviously has time to patch people up in between rolls but that eats up time, which just means more damage (a 14th level cleric's Cure Critical wounds spell can just manage to wipe out 1 minute's worth of damage at 800 feet). The best bet would be to make it all the way to the bottom, then hit everyone with a heal spell (goodby all your 6th level spell slots) but good luck on having anyone without at least a d8 HD and a good Con score survive the trip to the bottom. Don't expect the party wizard to make it past 600 feet without a healing spell every minute. And of course if you happen to be in a party with a dwarf, halfling or gnome then the slower swim speed is going to make things even worse (that's 100 feet/minute, or a total of 44d6 damage by the time you reach the bottom).

Now that you're down there actually repairing the wards requires a ritual cleansing (which is completely undetailed) and the spells consecrate, dispel evil, glyph of warding and imprisonment. So you had better have reformed the watrazor, the only source of the Imprisonment spell at this level.

Oh, and you may have noticed that the 3rd spell on that list is glyph of warding, a cleric only spell with a casting time of 10 minutes. 10 minutes at 800 feet deep. that's 90d6 damage (not to mention 10 Concentration checks with a DC of 10+damage suffered, so an average of DC 41), while the party's healer is occupied. And to be clear, it's not a matter of just having the spell, the ritual demands that it be cast.

I don't want to say that it's literally impossible for a 14th or so level group to actually repair these wards, but if there's a way I can't think of it. Damage reducing spells like Stoneskin just don't get rid of enough damage, the nature of the dungeon prevents etherealness or similar effects and spells that would shield you from the pressure (like forcecage or resilient sphere) would also prevent the casting of the spell you need.

So, I'm comfortable saying that no average party is going to be able to get down there, repair the wards and live at least not without the DM coming up with some special spell or plot device to make it happen. Hmm..one exception, a cleric with Still and Silent spell polymorphed into a giant squid (polymorph does not specifically adapt you to the environment of the shape, but given it grants subtypes like Fire and Aquatic, a fair GM would probably allow it) could potentially make it to the bottom, cast a Stilled and Silent version of each spell and use the watrazor for imprisonment. They would probably just manage to make it near the surface before Polymorph's duration expires. so, I guess not technically impossible...just massively improbable.


Of course, there doesn't seem to be any way that the PCs would be aware of the ward's existence or the requirements to repair them in the first place, so a bit of a moot point.

Other than that there's a fight between a giant squid and a dire shark, a pod of evil porpoises led by an insane aquatic elf, and some scrag. There's a set of magic armor and a spear designed to function underwater (+2 hide armor with no penalty to Swim, a +1 buckler that gives +4 to swim skill, and a +3 spear that suffers no penalties underwater. however, these are all found around 800 feet below the surface, so anyone that far down clearly has no difficulty with swimming.

Then we've got Mah'gog. Mah'gog is fairly tough, he's a 2nd level Fighter, half-fiendish kraken. Just like Thorodin he's harder than his CR would normally indicate due to the environment. His reach with his tentacles is 30 feet (or 60 with his longest arms). Although he's pretty slow (swim of 20), he's still at least twice as fast as anyone but a monk or a character with freedom of movement. His Combat Reflexes, high attack bonus, long reach and relative swiftness means he can simply keep drifting away and hit people with his long tentacles, smack them around with attacks opportunity and never let them get a melee attack in. Ranged attacks are almost impossible for anyone outside of his reach (at 65 feet the penalty for ranged attacks is -26) and spells are going to have a tough time getting through his SR 32 (taking an 18 or higher on the spell penetration roll for characters of 14th level), not to mention his spell like abilities. If this was a landbound fight, or one from shore to sea, it wouldn't be crazy hard but Mah'gog has the luxury of lurking below and making anyone who wants to fight him come to him (and he has plenty of ways to make life painful on the surface if he feels like it).

Of course, the right party could be a game changer. freedom of movement is probably the best option, drastically upping both speed and damage potential. Mah'gog's AC is fairly low and with preparation this fight drops to just "challenging". I'm not going to say it's as bad as Thorodin or Longtail, at least the PCs are likely to have the resources they need to make this combat happen, even if they need to be pretty drat canny to put the pieces together.

And of course, although he has a vast supply of gems and gold, Mah'gog's treasure is pretty bare on useful magic items: a 1st level potion (enlarge), a lens of divination (there is no such item, but presumably they meant a lens of detection...a very minor magic item), a +2 chainmail sized only for a halfling (because so many halflings wear medium armor), a -2 cursed longsword, a divine scroll containing mostly the spells needed to restore those wards mentioned above, a wand of invisibility with 8 charges, a strongbox filled with gold and silver coins (not magical, I only mention this because the writers never actually say how many coins are in the drat box), one of the pieces of the watrazor, a hiltless blade that can cast dismissal once per day. And a cursed ring of clumsiness.

So that's one minor potion, a suit of armor no one can likely use, a barely charged minor wand, and a minor wonderous item. And two cursed items. Also, it takes 30 minutes per item and a search check to possibly find these (everyone rolls on a d20 table). The depth of mah'gog's lair is never established (which should be pretty loving important), but if it is even 100 feet below the surface the damage from the pressure will kill you before you can locate even a single piece of treasure. (30d6 pressure + 30d6 cold).

gently caress you WLD. gently caress you.

Oh, and in addition to Mah'gog's lair we get a sidebar here about the kraken's plans to take over Region K (something that would have been good to know back when you were actually still in K). Here is the timeline, counted since the PCs entered Region K:

3 days later: Mah'gog uses control water (he doesn't have that ability actually) to force a bunch of spherical traps (basically magical naval mines) into the merrow's coral dam

4 days: The sahaugin send scouts into the coral dam

5 days: the sahaugin plant acid bombs in the dam's foundation, opening gap. (it's unclear why this is done over the course of 3 days, you'd think it would be easy enough to do all of this on the same day, and far better).

6 days: the sahaugin plant more bombs, but the merrow catch them this time. The dam is destroyed but the sahaugin leader is killed. Simultaneously the kraken uses control water (which again, he does not have) to raise the water level in the northern swamps of Region K and the water elemental in his service will pull the muck and soil into the deep water, forming a channel to the northern tidal pools. Well, first and foremost given the fact that Mah'gog's darkvision only extends 60 feet, the kraken would have to actually be in Region K to do this, and there is no section of Region K referred to as the "northern tidal pools" or indeed as "tidal pools". Presumably this means that they intend to widen the channel that bridges the two main bodies of water in K. How this is meant to happen without interference from the hags or Thorodin is unclear.

7 days: Mah'gog attacks the dam, along with his locath and a dragon turtle (who is in a different part of Region L). Together they wreck the dam and the merrow surrender, agreeing to serve Mah'gog.

8 days: Mah'gog, lacedons, scrags, merrow and an aboleth and a dragon turtle all rush through the channel and attack the merfolk and tritons. The aboleth dies in the fighting, the merrow, tritons, merfolk and locath are decimated. The lillend and water naga are also killed.

No mention is made at all of Thorodin or the hags and keep in mind that the merfolk and tritons consist of about 14 individuals altogether, making this entire plan overkill. I've also been searching and there is no mention in Region L of merrow or any sort of "coral dam". The only merrow are found in Region L, in the service of the hags. They do not have a coral dam, and there are only a small handful of them as well.

Looking this over it's clear that this entire "invasion plan" was written for a completely different version of Region K. One with a lot more tritons, merfolk and merrow and one without the three hag sisters or the two dragons. What makes this worse is that this plan is threaded all throughout Region L. The place is full of aqautic warriors preparing tools and weapons for the invasion of Region K...and it doesn't work at all because K is now completely different. And let me be clear, these two regions are so closely linked that they might as well be one double-sized Region, they are that closely tied together and the editors still failed to realize that the two don't link up properly at all anymore.

Wow, this is probably the worst editing mistake so far. An entire plot for two regions is invalidated because the left hand wasn't listening to the right.

oriongates fucked around with this message at 07:18 on Jan 30, 2014

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

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Zereth posted:

That's loving impressive.

On top of that, is there like... a reason for the PCs to give a flying gently caress about this? The demon squid using abilities he doesn't have, that wouldn't work that way anyway, even if what he wanted to use them on existed, to take over more of a pond in a dungeon that by this point I'd just want to get the gently caress out of?

Theoretically you'd be saving the good aligned merfolk and tritons who inhabit region K, but frankly short of practically sterilizing the Region they're just so overmatched by the evil and/or hungry aquatic monsters that they're basically doomed anyway. And it's not like the PCs have any way of learning Mah'gog's plans anyway other than sticking around long enough to see it in action (highly unlikely, there just isn't enough to do in either Region for the PCs to spend over a week hanging out here).

For the most part the main problem with the whole "faction rivalry" the WLD tends to set up (goblins vs bugbears, orcs vs kobolds, drow vs drider, minotaur vs minotaur) is that both sides are unabashedly evil. Sure, the goblin rebels in region B are fighting against an oppressive false theocracy that overthrew their king and displaced their traditional religion...but that traditional religion they're fighting for is just as foul and cannibalistic as any other goblin tradition.

The one exceptions are usually the Celestial regions, but in those cases its glaringly obvious that the celestials are only having trouble because they allow it to happen. They're far to powerful to be "rescued" so really it just comes across as the PCs taking care of their job for them at best.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

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Region L Continued: The Big Wet Nothing

So, with the realization that the entire invasion plot-line is more or less invalidated by changes made to Region K, what is left in L?


L19-L27
This section is the lair of some Locathath, who are apparently actually Sahaughin who mutated into Locathath from the lake's taint. Because apparently it would be unbelievable for Locathath to have just stumbled their way into this underground lake like the sahaughin, tritons, merfolk, merrow, hags, aquatic elves, and scrag all seem to. 8 underwater races migrating to a single nearly inaccessible underground lake would simply be laughable!

Apparently these Locathath are actually led by an insane aquatic elven cleric who recently showed up and defeated their leader in single combat, taking over the tribe. Other than the elf, all the locathath are just 2nd level barbarians, making them practically a non-existent challenge. There's also a trapped pair of statues that come with some rather bizarre giberrish. I'll post it in the writer's own words because for the life of me I cannot figure out what deep message they're trying to send.



There is also at least one room where the writers seem to have forgotten that they were underwater, describing things like a foul stench filling the air at multiple points.

They also can't seem to decide on the alignment for the Locathath. The first few dozen Locathath are all listed as NE (although as barbarians they should be chaotic). However, the personal bodyguard of the elven cleric are all listed as true neutral (the standard alignment for Locathah, although again, they should be Chaotic). Their leader, the former chieftain beaten by the elf, is described as "Sha'ag...a strong warrior with a compassionate heart...", despite an earlier description mentioning that the locathah have no concept of personal names or property.

The elven cleric has been preparing naval mines for the assault on Region K, made of shark hide stretched over bamboo (where the hell are these people getting bamboo?). The mines are enchanted with spells that go off when touched. Since they're extremely obvious (10 feet in diameter), covered in magical symbols, and do not move or trigger without being touched its not really clear what these are meant to do...if there were boats involved, or even giant monsters like whales then these spheres might serve as a decent barrier...but the inhabitants of Region K are all human sized swimmers who can move freely underwater and the only giant monsters are on the kraken's side (himself for instance). In fact, its not even clear how these spheres are meant to be moved into Region L since they basically explode on contact and no one on the kraken's side has any equivalent of telekinesis. Perhaps some kind of bellows to squirt jets of water at them? Squeezing squids?

L28-L35

This is the area the PCs are most likely to enter the Region from, it's kind of the miscellaneous zone. You've got a big whirlpool in the center, some giant squids, a mass of wooden planks floating on the surface along with some seacats, some dire sharks, etc.

It turns out the whirlpool is actually a greater water elemental who is just sitting in one place constantly transforming into it's vortex form for 10 rounds, waiting 10 minutes to recharge and doing it again. I'd say that's the most boring existence I'd ever heard of, but I have no idea what water elementals would actually do for fun. The description of the encounter states that the whirlpool will draw people down to the bottom here (about 500 feet), ignoring the fact that a greater water elemental's vortex is 60 feet tall at best. It's not actually clear at what depth the elemental is floating, which is pretty important since it'll attack if PCs approach within 60 feet.

A lot of these encounters seem to assume the PCs will be swimming along the surface of the water, which is actually fairly odd. If the PCs are going to brave this place they'll almost certainly have water breathing enchantments and swimming under the surface is much better at that point.

There's also apparently a stand of bamboo near an outcropping of dry land. There's no indication how it grows underground. I guess its cave bamboo?

L36-44

Somehow a chunk of the dungeon sank intact here and the enchantments keep the water from flooding in forming a series of air-filled rooms. This room contains something called "amberspore fumes" which inflict little damage but can cause your voice to go higher for 2 hours, giving you a spell failure chance.

The next room is covered in engraved scorpions, and apparently stepping on a scorpion's eyes will trigger what is effectively a poisoned caltrop trap. I've mentioned this before, but sometimes it bears repeating. What exactly is the purpose of this room? The damage is so minor that anything with DR can ignore it (meaning any of the demons, devils or undead the dungeon was meant to contain) and the poison delivered by the caltrops would also not affect a single entity imprisoned here. There's also a random key to some watchtowers in Region H. Since the key carries no identifying marks, there's no sign of who left it here and this area has no direct connection to Region H (let alone the watchtowers) this is basically just a tease.

There is a prison that held a demon with a vulnerability to jade, who was apparently crushed to death during the collapse (ie a far more effective solution than eternal imprisonment).

The next room contains tiny little carved eyeballs over each surface. There's 4 daggers stuck in the chest of a lizardman skeleton, victim of a trap that never reset. But the eyes target anyone entering with beams of fire, dispel magic and eyebite spells. Another room contains some spiked chains which once held a demon, now dead, which animate and attempt to imprison anyone who touches them. Another room is trapped with a Maze spell, which basically just means the PCs have to wait 10 or so minutes before they're popped back out.

There's also a celestial guard room with a rather bizarre trap (because all the other ones have been so normal, did the celestials outsource this section to slaad?): a table sits on the ground with chairs around it. One leg of the table is bolted to the floor and it is blocking the door of a cupboard. Now, the cupboard has an "obvious" fireball trap that triggers whenever someone touches the door. It's not made clear how this is "obvious" (the search DC is still 20), which also has an "obvious" method of disabling (a button under the table). However, pushing the button triggers a sunburst and causes the table to swing around, slamming the pusher into the wall. According to the description, the safest way to open the cupboard is to simply allow the fireball trap to trigger.

So apparently the celestials made a storage cupboard which can only be opened by allowing it to explode in their faces. I know most celestials are going to have no trouble surviving a fireball, but it still seems to be one of the worst forms of security ever, especially since anything that can survive a fireball could easily survive the sunburst and table smack and the door isn't actually locked in any way.

The cupboard contains a portion of the watrazor which functions as a +2 spear that ignores regeneration, which actually makes it almost as valuable as the completed artifact to most groups.

There's also a vault door that used to imprison some kind of demon prince, but now actually keeps the water from flooding in, so any attempts to open it cause the air-filled caverns to flood. Despite the fact that the door supposedly held a super-demon, the DC for its locks is only 20.

L45-L59
This area apparently held some kind of massive, hundred foot long demon, but like most of the other demons this one died under tons of rock, the rubble forms an island in the center of the lake. Apparently several hundred years ago elves from Region H invaded and attempted to wipe out the sahaugin, failing miserably. Apparently though they discovered a sacred sapling from their holy tree on the island and left a small detachment here to protect it. Since the place is so awful and dangerous they now use "sapling duty" as a punishment for outcasts and criminals. Most do not make it to the island, dying on the boatride over from attacks by the monsters here. It's not clear why Mah'gog tolerates their presence on the island, the place is utterly tiny, about 200 feet wide, and it would be utter simplicity to kill everyone here.

The taint in the area has been mutating the elves and its become even worse since they unearthed a huge, evil black diamond. The elves have become evil, insane and mutated so the whole place is basically full of elven Splicers. Most of the encounters are with random nutty elves. There's also a mine (because setting up a mine when you're on a tiny island in the middle of a lake is a great idea). The elves will basically creep the PCs out briefly before being messily slain, since they only have a handful of class levels each (the most powerful are one 5th level sorcerer and one 5th level fighter). The only real encounter of significance is the Aboleth who lives in the lake, lairing in a cave below the water, who has some sorcerer levels in addition to its normal powers.

There is one small group of relatively sane elves led by a 7th level elven sorceress who basically just wants to leave, but thinks everywhere else is too dangerous (too be fair, she's not too wrong).

The sapling itself is actually the remnants of a demon prison in the form of a tree (for some reason) that managed to sprout up from the rubble. Apparently the elven sages and clerics are too stupid to tell and just assumed that it came from the sacred tree because it glows.

I'm moderately impressed that the writers managed to link up Region H with Region L this well, or I would be if it weren't for one important fact. You see, there is no barrier between H and L, the southern shore of the lake is just a part of H. And H is one of the ways out of the dungeon, because there is a massive hole in the ceiling, allowing in sunlight in and nurturing the "nature" theme H has going. Now, the furthest edge of Region L is no more than 1800 feet or so from the hole in the ceiling, so when the sun is up there should be more than enough light to at least dimly light the entire region and the light should even be visible from Region K. Apparently the writers forgot about that (or maybe there wasn't a hole when they were writing L) and so the moment PCs cross the southern border of the Region they shift from pitch darkness to daylight.

L60-L70

This is the southern part of the Region are home to anything that didn't really fit into the rest of the place. You've got an elf with an insanely long name (Manipanilua Catchichotum). There's the final piece of the watrazor, buried under thousands of pounds of rock. Basically this would require help from some sort of massive creature or similar excavation ability. The author suggests move earth, because they don't know the rules and don't seem to be aware move earth only affects soil and clay, not rock. Transmute Rock to Mud would be effective though.

The writers in general seem to have only a shaky grasp of the rules. There's another encounter here with a Kyton hanging from the ceiling who plans to leap on any swimmers or flyers, grapple them and then sink to the bottom of the lake with them. The text indicates that the writers think that the devil doesn't need to breath and so plans on suffocating his victim. However, outsiders do still need to breath...meaning the kyton will likely drown as the chains drag him to the bottom. Another encounter features an evil shrine created by the kyton at the bottom fo the lake, which of course he never would have been able to do.

There is also what appears to be a waterfall, but is actually a zone of reverse gravity causing water to fall upwards, hit the ceiling and splash back down. Also some magical underwater lilypads with bubbles of air around them.

And a dragon turtle. He's not doing much, just mostly hanging out. Being a big turtle. It apparently really wants a black pearl (as far as I can tell, no such thing exists in the region). The dragon turtle also has a piece of the watrazor...wait a minute...

One with the sahaugin, one in the sunken air filled rooms, one in the hands of Mah'gog, one buried beneath the rocks and one with the dragon turtle. The watrazor was supposed to be in 4 pieces: a spear and 3 extra blades. They can't even keep track of the number of pieces of their own drat artifact. They've got two spear pieces. The sahaughin chief has a spear, and the air-filled chambers also has a spear, both with different functions and stats. This book is such a piece of poo poo.

Well, that is it for Region K and L. After this I'll go back to following level guidelines which conveniently will be Region H, immediately south of L.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

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Rockopolis posted:

The thing about the demon/devil prison; don't they just respawn on their home plane when killed? If that's the case, a well-designed prison would more effective than simply killing them, because it removes them from the war more permanently than killing them would.
As for it being so poorly designed and understaffed, the celestials can't spare their best and brightest from the front lines? Low-bid contractor? It is a Guantanamo Bay reference?

I wouldn't give the writers that much credit for a political reference. The problem is even if the gods/celestials don't have reinforcements to send (and there's no indication that this is the case), it has still been literally millennia since the dungeon was shattered. In that time some sort of response could have occurred...if nothing else mortals could have been alerted to the situation to allow them to reinforce the celestials or attempt some kind of response. After all its their world that is going to be overrun with monsters and demons should the prison ever fail. Of course, as I pointed out in the past regions, reinforcements aren't actually necessary. The celestial forces still inside the dungeon are more than strong enough to cleanse it.

As far as the demons returning to their home plane, that would be a good way to explain it. However, standard rules for 3.5 are that this only applies to summoned creatures.

http://www.d20srd.org/srd/magicOverview/spellDescriptions.htm#conjuration

Note the difference between "Calling" and "summoning" effects. Essentially if an outsider is fully present on the material plane, it can be killed permanently.

Of course, it would be easy enough for the writers to state that in the world of the WLD any outsider slain simply vanishes and reforms in its home plane, but throughout the dungeon it is made clear that this isn't the case: in many cases you'll find the rotting corpses of slain outsiders, and Mah'gog is even the result of the remnants of a demonic soul trapped in its corpse corrupting a mundane squid. Of course, its always possible that when they initially conceived of the dungeon they were operating under this assumption, and they just drifted away from it.

quote:

I wonder what the smallest coherent unit of the WLD actually is. It's not even a region, it would seem.

There's a few subsections that are at least moderately sane, but they're still tied to the crazy plots of their individual regions.

Probably the "best" Region so far would still be Region I. It's not really involved in the messed up backstory of the dungeon itself and is just a bunch of crazy experiments by a drider wizard run amok. There's some low points and a bit of bad editing...but at least none of it directly contradicts itself, which is not something that can be said for most of the Regions I've reviewed so far.

oriongates fucked around with this message at 06:22 on Jan 31, 2014

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

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Rangpur posted:

Not coincidentally, Region I was also my favorite of the areas our group explored. It actually works thematically: you are basically in a Resident Evil game with the D&D equivalent of the Tyrant on your rear end 24/7. Your best hope of shaking it off, should it catch your scent, is to make a break for the territory of the other unfathomable horror wandering the halls. Also your party members are slowly mutating and the only clues you have to the solution are the scattered notes of a madman.

It still has a ton of pointless dead ends, needless amounts of WLD-standard 'because "gently caress you," that's why,' and its continued existence makes no sense with a small army of epic celestials to the South who could easy purge the place. But it is, at its heart, a strong setting for an adventure. I think it was Region N or O that sounded good too, but we never got there.

Region I was one of those sections that would have been significantly improved just by not being a part of a single massive dungeon. It would make a great setting underneath a wizard's tower where magical runoff flows, or as the dungeons of a keep with an open rift to the Far Realm or something like that.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

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Region H: Land of the Tree Huggers

Region Map:



If K and L are the "water" themed zones, Region H is "nature" themed. Anything fey, plant, or "foresty" ends up here. This region is actually very unique compared to the rest of the dungeon, for several reasons.

First and foremost: sunlight! The ceiling of this region has a large hole in it and a series of mirrors focus the sunlight from above down the hole, illuminating the whole Region with daylight. This means the region is actually full of living plants, has day and night cycles. The works.

Second: This region is actually dominated by mostly non-hostile humaniods, namely elves and dwarves. The derro have apparently done more than just cause a flood, another excavation of theirs caused part of the surface of the mountainside to fall deep into the dungeon (apparently, derro are really determined, if lovely, miners). Well, along with tons of rubble, an ancient and sacred tree fell, completely intact, to the dungeon below. The tree is actually a half-celestials Treant who is both immobile and mute. In addition, this is where the designers stuck most good-aligned (but non celestial) monsters.

This is not to say the place is all that great. The elves are led by an extremely senile and racist druid and the other elven leaders all have wonderful personality issues of their own. There are also at least two hidden evil forces at work to try and destroy the elves and for some reason the elven forces assume the steady stream of vanishing soldiers is simply deserters rather than something more sinister (seriously, where would deserters go? Every region around is so inhospitable that desertion is basically unthinkable).

All in all, the place is doomed...but at least there won't be a bunch of things trying to murder you here.

H1-H6

This area is a ridge of volcanic rock where the elves mine obsidian arrowheads and leave traps. As far as I can tell this region may have never been a part of the original dungeon, although the dungeon's enchantments still hold sway here. Not much here worth commenting on. Which, for the WLD, is a big improvement.

H7-H8

This is a former gem-mine. Baiscally just a dangerous place for PCs to go for very little reward. By now I doubt characters have any real urge to collect riches or gems.

H9-H10

Here is a small lava flow. Since there are no mephits in this one it is actually full heat lava. One of the elven leaders can be found here, studying the place to learn more about elemental fire magic. This guy is a short-tempered, somewhat trigger-happy 11th level Evoker (making him a good source of spells if the PCs can befriend him). Sadly his spellbook is pitifully tiny, he only has the minimum number of spells for most levels (the 2 free spells wizards earn every level up).

Fortunately, unless the PCs really act like assholes he won't start throwing spells immediately, and although it's tough to convince him they're friendly it's not impossible. As his studies keep him from being deeply involved in the politics of the fortress, but he still cares about his duties, he is probably the most approachable and sane of the elven leaders.

H11-H12

This place is the lair of one of the "dark forces" at work in this region, Diantha: an Erinye (and also a 7th level sorceress). Apparently she was actually a celestial originally, but was seduced by a pit fiend prisoner and fell, becoming a devil. She is one of the main reasons elven troops are vanishing. She simply snaps a few up every so often, kills them and tosses their bodies into the lava. She also has a team of Charmed sprites that serve as her eyes and ears in the region. She has also trapped one of the non-human leaders of the elves, a guardian naga, into wearing a magical collar which basically gives her control over him.

Overall, Diantha isn't actually a bad villain. Compared to the level of the PCs (11 to 13) she's extremely weak in combat, but she'll mostly stick to trickery if she can and if she can't she can easily retreat into the lava and escape.

So far this region hasn't actually been that awful at all. I'm impressed.

H13-H16

These are some watchtowers set up by the elves and are likely to be the PCs first encounter with the inhabitants of the fortress. The elves initially are not very welcoming: firing warning shots, demanding the intruders leave, etc. They are basically no threat to the PCs though, the typical elf is only a 6th level warrior. Fortunately the PCs will only become outright enemies of the elves if they really want to (murdering surrendering elves, striking first or attacking during diplomatic discussions, etc).

Considering the demonic forces that live just to the west of this Region the elves are sadly pretty much helpless against them. Since the elves rely on bows and use obsidian rather than cold iron arrows they would have trouble taking down even minor demons. Each watchtower is staffed with 6 elves, their bows do 1d8+1 damage. Against a dretch that means even if elves hit every round and inflict maximum damage they'll still require concentrated fire to kill a single demon due to the demon's DR. Seems like they should really be equipped with cold iron gear which would allow them to at least attempt to take on minor demons like Dretch and Babau.

There's a sidebar about an elven super-weapon called Lyonatar's Eye. Essentially sunlight in the area is produced by a series of mirrors which focus a beam down to a gigantic diamond on top of the elven fortress. The diamond can also be tuned via music to function as a weapon, basically a 100 charge, self-recharging light-based staff. Capable of casting spells like searing light, sunbeam, and sunburst (all with ranges increased to target anywhere within the region). This requires the full council of elven leaders working together however, and while it would be devastating against undead against demons its not that great. But then again, pelting sunbursts onto a horde of minor demons would certainly help thin them out (the eye can manage about 12 before running dry of charges)

H17-H21

Some more watchtowers here. There's also a pillar that supports the "miles high" ceiling of the dungeon (I don't think the writers have a great sense of scale, but I'm just looking for nitpicks at that point). The column has been carved out (that doesn't seem safe) to provide a southern command post where the military's second in command is stationed. She's an elven ranger-rogue and as a relatively recent arrival to the area she is also fairly sane and reasonable. Secretly she was apparently sent by the elven queen of the surface world to investigate why the elven fortress is basically hemorrhaging soldiers, despite the lack of attacks on the place. Kind of an elven spymaster/assassin/private eye.

There's a more obvious fortress as well, carved into a big-rear end chunk of rock and meant to guard against possible attacks by the derro to the south. however, since the derro never attack it's gone mostly unused.

H22-H25

This area is mostly the territory of fey, since it is the most peaceful and lies alongside the eastern wall of the region, which is also the outer limits of the dungeon itself.

This area also features another support column, and here we finally get a bit of stupidity. Remember the Diantha? Well apparently she's had a group of charmed sprites working on weakening this column which she then intends to take down with a few well placed shatter spells. The damage is concealed beneath a permanent illusion. Ignoring for the moment why the sprites would agree to this (charm isn't the same as mind control), how would they do this? Since when are sprites effective sappers for any structure, let alone a 40 foot thick column of solid rock. There's also the questionable wisdom of shattering a gigantic tower of stone, given the spell's range. Her reason is the fact that the column is used as a mount for several of the giant light mirrors and landing platforms for elven flying mounts.

Finally, there's a flower-covered tower which is the home of the queen of the fairies in this region, a 12 HD nymph.

H26-27

There's a somewhat shadowy plateau in the SE corner of the dungeon. It's the home to an 11 HD lammasu who is also a member of the elven council. He watches over the stable of flying mounts belonging to the elves, which aren't many: 2 pegasi, 2 griffins, a hippogrif, a giant eagle and a giant owl. Although theoretically of incredible value (as these are the only ways most of the elves have to reach the surface), the only protector is the lammasu.

H28-H34

We've got a few more watchtowers here. Since they're guarding the lakeside of the Region they're a bit more trigger happy. The lake-dwellers are less dangerous than the demons but more willing to make a bother. There's some more fey as well. A dryad grove, a nixie pool, and the grove of Enoriel, the head of the council.

Enoriel is deeply, deeply senile which explains a lot of the problems the fort is having.

This area is also home to the forest of the giant celestial treant. The general assumption is, of course, that the PCs aren't here to hurt the holy tree but just in case you've got serious murderhobos they have provided stats for the trees and its guards and some ideas on what happens if the PCs attack.

There's a bit of nonesense about the tree being related to some sort of procephy, or double prophecy, possibly quadrangular prophecy...it's unclear. Essentially the tree has spoken twice in the past. Both times it utters some sort of prophecy (the first time about the earthquake that sunk it down below, the second about a demon invasion from the west) and apparently there is another prophecy from an unknown source that if the tree speaks a third time then generic, undefined doom will befall someone, someplace or something. Since there's no indication of what the third prophecy would be, what conditions will bring it about or what the results will be (beyond doomy) there isn't much relevance...and no one actually remembers much of this ancient history anymore so the PCs aren't likely to learn it anyway.

H35-H40

Next we have the council tower with the big shiny diamond on top. Here we have another one of the council members, the head of the elven military. He's a half-celestial elf paladin, which you would think means he's all set to help folks and do great things...unfortunately he's mostly got a furious hate-boner against evil that he can't get to go down. He knows he's in a literal hell-hole with demons and evil all around and he is basically itching 24-7 to go on a holy crusade and kick some demonic rear end. However, every time he tries it ends in disaster and lots and lots of dead elves.

Unfortunately he's also a complete moron. For one thing, he read too many RA Salvatore novels and decided to befriend a drow (who carries an amulet that hides his evil alignment) for some reason the elves decided it was a great idea to let a drow join them in the fortress and even take over the administrative duties of the military. The paladin also cannot seem to figure out that when his second in command sometimes seems fine and other times emits an aura of pure evil...it's probably a sign of something (Diantha often uses her form as a disguise).


I think I'm actually going to cut this a little short because I've got to say I'm actually really impressed with this region. The writing is fairly tight for the most part and other than a few issues (namely involving Diantha's plans) the plot hangs together fairly well, the NPCs are written in ways that are at least moderately believable, if somewhat exaggerated. The whole thing actually seems like pretty solid "B" material. From a technical perspective its even better than Region I. That makes it really dull to pick apart bit by bit because for the most part the result is decent, if unimpressive, material. So I'll just go over some of the significant points in the Region, especially those that kind of make it fall short of being "A" grade.


No Shopping
One thing made very clear in the region is that there is no commerce here. Which makes sense, its a military fortress, not a town or city. They're not there to sell their weapons and armor to strangers. But at the same time this is the only glimpse of civilization PCs are ever going to get in this blasted place and denying them the opportunity to use some of the useless piles of treasure that are all over the place is just a missed opportunity.
Obviously a market would be silly...but maybe there's a dwarven armorer who's tired of pounding out yet another longsword with a leaf motif and wouldn't mind taking a commission in exchange for a little something. Or perhaps the elven mages could trade scrolls or potions in exchange for gems that would be invaluable spell components for their military. Perhaps the faerie queen would trade magic items for jewelry. There's opportunity here.

The Way Out

This is the big thing about this region, but it's given almost no consideration. This may very well be the first place with an actual, obvious exit...and we don't have any information about it. We know that the elves come and go on their steeds to the surface so we know travel is possible...but we don't know how high up the ceiling is (it's described as "miles" which seems utterly ridiculous but also extremely vague) which is pretty drat important or what the elven response would be to attempting to leave via their ceiling.

Everything about the region assumes that PCs will either plunge headfirst into the region's political intrigues or use the area as a base while they explore the rest of the dungeon (at which point they'll be framed while they're gone and then they'll be drawn into politics).

But at this point players have been through at least 4 other Regions and are probably already dead tired of trudging through the dungeon. Even if they do intend to explore the dungeon further you can bet it will be after leaving and visiting some real civilization.

And it's not like leaving is that difficult. Sure, the elves won't lend you one of their flying mounts...but characters here are at least 11th level. That means they have plenty of potential methods for escaping. Even if the trip involves a vertical ascent of several miles all that means is that it takes multiple spells. Any cleric or druid will have access to air walk and can probably cast it enough times for the entire party. That's a trip of 5 miles or so straight up with one casting. Overland flight obviously would do the job. Even multiple castings of flight or levitation could do it in a pinch. So why is the Region acting like there's no way for the PCs to leave?


Still, like I said, this is definitely one of the dungeon's high points...to bad by now the players will probably have experienced far too many lows to do anything other than get the hell out.

oriongates fucked around with this message at 05:40 on Feb 6, 2014

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!






Region J: A Hot Mess



So after water and wood, now we've got a place for your fire-type pokemon and I can assure you we're well back to amusing shittiness and away from dull mediocrity. This Region is called the Pyrefaust and its meant for levels 13-15. The centerpiece of this dungeon is Tyrus the Devourer of Kingdoms, an ancient red dragon. If you're thinking that sounds like quite the challenge for a party of 13-15th level characters you'd be right. I guess we'll see if there's any attempt make the encounter at all survivable.

One thing I do like about this Region is the fact that the designers actually came up with a reason why Tyrus is imprisoned rather than simply slain when he was defeated by the celestials. Apparently an unspecified "god of chaos" considers the dragon his spiritual "son" and declared that if the celestials executed him (which was their original plan) he would start a war in the heavens to avenge him. The celestials made a bargain, allowing them to imprison Tyrus for 10,000 lifetimes but allowing him to live. As far as explanations go that really makes sense...but it just makes it a bit more jarring that there is no explanation for the rest of the prisoners.

The Region is divided into "rings" which contain different monsters: Salamanders, Behirs, Fire Giants, Magmin, Trolls (god knows why), Azers, Rasts, Wyverns, and finally Tyrus himself.

My first thought is that there doesn't seem like a shape for a territory that makes less sense than a ring...but looking at the map, I honestly can't see any patterns that look like they could be described as a ring, so maybe the writers are just doing a particularly bad job of explaining the Region, especially since there is a supposedly "hidden ring" that exists throughout the entire region.

J1-J9

A quick look at this section makes it very obvious that the term ring is being applied very loosely. These are simply 9 rooms, mostly interconnected that lie in a straight line along the Western edge of the Region. It is not so much a ring as a pair of duplexes. Given the number of rooms and the number of rings, each monster faction is going to be inhabiting an incredibly tiny segment of the Region.

Despite the fact that the fire salamanders are crammed in such a tiny area and consist of about 20 individuals (the vast majority of whom are the small flamebrother version of salamanders) the writers decided to spend 4 long paragraphs describing this groups culture, caste system and leadership. They also don't seem to grasp that flamebrothers are actually a larval salamanders rather than just "low-ranking" normal salamanders.

The first room is one of the entrances to the Region, a large portcullis trap. There's a bit of ominous script on the archway and if the PCs step through the portcullis falls, sealing them in. If the trap is disarmed the portcullis will still fall, it just will do so several minutes later and won't hurt the PCs.

Of course, the writer's don't bother specifying what material the portcullis is made from, a DC for lifting, or anything of the sort. Apparently they just intend for you to never go through the gate again. This can be really tough if say one of the PCs is going ahead of the others (say a rogue or ranger scouting ahead), forcing a split in the party.

And of course it comes off as particularly stupid when you consider that this is just one of 9 different entrances into this Region. Why does this single entrance from the NE side of Region I have a fancy arch, inscription and portcullis (which has apparently never been set off in the centuries since the earthquake. Odds are good that the PCs won't even come in from this entrance and it will amount to nothing (or perhaps it will block their way back into the Region).

The salamanders the PCs encounter are, for the most part, completely no threat to PCs of this level. The flamebrothers just don't have the hit points or attack bonus to seriously endanger anyone, especially if the PCs are prepared with fire resistance spells.

We have another room where a group of flamebrothers are trying to kill a Pseudodragon. This pseudodragon was apparently imprisoned in the dungeon by the celestials because they mistook it for a wyrmling red dragon. I've insulted the celestials intelligence a lot already, but this has to be one of the worst examples of divine stupidity. A wrymling red dragon is a medium sized monster with flaming breath. A pseudodragon is a tiny, good-aligned dragon. That's like somehow mistaking a slightly larger-than-average housecat for a full grown mountain lion...except the housecat is telepathic and begging you not to stick it in the zoo's big cat house.

The next room consists of a trap set by the salamanders involving covering a massive room (the largest in the their territory) with oil and tar, then having one of their number jump into the oil and igniting the room. So...the first question is why waste their largest territory on a low-damage trap that wouldn't even threaten the other inhabitants of the Region. The second question is how the hell did monsters with a body temperature in the thousands of degrees collect enough oil and tar to cover a room and avoid setting it off (this room is also splitting the salamander territory right in half, making it impossible for them to cross from one end to the other so long as the trap is here).

The Salamander Lords who rule this region are three Noble Salamanders who may be willing to offer the PCs some kind of work (despite the fact that in order to reach them the PCs will probably have literally slaughtered every single subject these lords have). Apparently the Azer stole an amulet from them (not clear how this is possible considering all the other hostile monsters between the azer and the salamander) and the salamander lords will offer anything they own (other than their spears) to get it back. Of course, their spears (a pair of +2 spears and a +3 spear of flaming burst) are the only remotely valuable objects they own...otherwise their only valuables consist of about 1,200 gp in loose coinage and some +1 longspears belonging to their subordinates (who the PCs will have already killed).

Terrible encounter editing is rearing its head again. Most of the encounter conditions are either unexplained or completely arbitrary (for some reason, 50% of the salamanders are completely fearless). The encounter with three CR 10 noble salamanders is listed as EL 8.

J10 to J16

This is the Behir territory, the second "ring", and like the first ring it is in no way shaped like a ring. It is just a small cluster of rooms in the SW corner of the region, immediately south of the salamanders. It's unclear what Behirs are doing living in this area: it's established in the description that they hate the presence of the dragon Tyrus and are overwhelmed by the heat...but for some reason refuse to simply leave. Like the salamanders, their territory is ridiculously tiny: there is only a single room large enough for one of them to stretch to their full length, the rest are a good 10 feet too small for even one giant lizard. Although upon examination there actually seem to be only 4 behirs total.

The first three rooms are filled with a couple of feet of water which eventually becomes waist high. It's not really clear how this is possible...are these rooms bowl-shaped for some reason? Is the floor below the level of the doorways? How is the water not simply flowing out as soon as the doors are opened? The description also indicates that the behirs filled the rooms with water to help keep themselves cool...but how do they do that? They're giant snake-lizards, how are they carrying water? And from where? The behirs have apparently also created several traps in the area, another baffling ability. And I don't mean things like pits clawed in the ground or rockfalls...they've created purely mechanical traps that do electricity damage. So not only have the behirs managed to create highly sophisticated and subtle mechanical devices but they've also managed to invent amazingly high-powered capacitors. And they don't even have thumbs! The actual trap design (from a game mechanics perspective) is also pretty bad: it's an electrified floor which uses a melee attack (not a touch attack) but also allows a reflex save for half damage.

In another room we have a behir who is somehow hiding in 20 x 35 room filled about 3 feet deep with water. That's a 40 foot long, 2 ton lizard trying to be sneaky. Finally we have two behirs fighting a third, bigger, behir for possession of a chaos diamond. It's unclear why 4 disagreeable reptiles qualifies as its own "ring".

J17-J29

This area is home to fire giants and magmin. The magmin apparently worship the dragon as a god and every day they come out to praise him, their priestess using a necklace of fireballs as a holy symbol. How that's possible when a necklace mass detonates upon exposure to fire damage is unclear. It's a bit of a moot point since this is only described in the flavor text preceding this section, the priestess is never given any stats and there is no indication of the necklace being available as a treasure.

The magmin are actually a really dangerous encounter through sheer numbers: there are a total of 100 magmin and they continue to emerge from the lava and throw themselves at the PCs until they all die. With fire resistance and some decent non-fire based area of effect spells the PCs can win...but 100 opponents can easily cherry-pick a group to death, especially given the magmin's touch attack, combustion and fiery aura. The intent of the writers seems to be that the PCs should retreat north towards a bridge over the lava river...except the lava river is where the magmin are coming from. That means they seem to think the PCs should somehow retreat through the magmin horde, a feat that borders on impossible given the rules for moving through opponent's spaces.

It's also odd that the designers didn't use some of their own rules. In the back of the WLD are rules for "mobs", which are basically swarms of humaniods rather than tiny vermin. An encounter like this seems like a perfect opportunity to use those rules but they haven't been brought up (in fact, at no point so far has there been anything with "mob" stats).

Crossing the bridge brings the PCs into fire-giant territory...but more confusingly it brings them face to face with a map-feature labeled "V1", a more or less impossible to miss structure that is not at all described here. A bit of investigation reveals that it is actually the entrance to the "hidden ring" which is part of a "Map V" that is not mentioned until the very end of chapter J. There is no indication prior that there is a Map V so hopefully you read through this entire chapter in full before your PCs find this and want to know what it is.

Ignoring the secret map for now, since the PCs won't be able to open up the pyramid-thingy here without something belonging to the Azer, we have the fire giant's territory. They're forging stuff, have an unhealthy fixation on "steel" and generally act like big dwarves. Other than throwing boulders onto anyone crossing the bridge they're surprisingly not that hostile. In their forge they'll ignore any PCs walking around, and if the PCs start messing with their stuff they'll spend two rounds yelling at them to stop before actually attacking. Unusually mellow guys.

Apparently the fire giant warriors toting greatswords and boulders are also just idiots, because it turns out the giant smelters handling iron ore have invented what is by far the deadliest of weapons. A normal giant-sized greatsword inflicts 3d6+10 damage, and a thrown boulder inflicts 2d6 +10 (plus 2d6 fire damage). However an iron ingot will inflict 8d6 +15 in melee or 8d6+10 thrown. Why bother smelting them, you've already got a weapon that rivals a titan's warhammer?

Whether a fire giant is willing to completely ignore intruders or will attack and kill on sight seems to vary every other room. The fire giant queen though is surprisingly receptive to strangers wandering into her court unannounced and will even offer the PCs work, killing the leader of the trolls.

I've mentioned in the past that the encounter editing here is particularly bad, comparable to areas like Region A and B. Here's a good example, try and parse this sentence:

"Each of the gleeful shapes elementals is trapped with proximity triggers by the efreeti."

The trap the gibberish is referring to is an incendiary cloud trap, which for some reason is labeled "100 feet deep". In fact this entire encounter reads like it was written by someone with a shaky grasp of the language:

"After a statue triggers, there is a 25% chance (per statue) that it triggers as well. Whether this is a defect of the statues or not, is open for debate. PCs spotting one trap, can spot them all."


Again, the really notable thing about this area is just how few giants inhabit it. The fire giant queen apparently rules over a domain consisting of 9 subjects, other than herself.

J30-J34

This area is full of trolls...why they would at all choose to stay here is immensely unclear. In just about any other region they would thrive, but apparently they'd rather stick to the one place that is full of their most well-known vulnerability.

Fortunately (?) they have the support of an efreet who they accidentally freed when hiding from the fire giants. The efreet is a bit of a munchkin and has basically been doing nothing but granting the trolls wishes for better stats: improved regeneration, fire resistance, better natural armor, claws and spell resistance.

It's actually an interesting sort of double-bluff. By now the PCs are certainly aware of the fire theme of the Region and will probably have adjusted their spells and tactics to maximize cold damage and minimize their fire-based attacks. When they see a group of trolls they'll probably be kicking themselves for not having fireballs on hand. They may very well throw any remaining fire based magic they have at them, including magic items, only to be shocked when the trolls resist it.

The changes to the trolls seem to be +8 natural AC, Claw threat range changed to 18-20, Fire Resistance 10, +2 hp/round regeneration, Spell resistance of 17 and maximum hit points. This seems like it merits a bit more than a +1 to their CR (especially given the synergy of fire resistance, spell resistance and increased regeneration), but CR 6 is what the writers went with.

The troll leader, Fedj'ik has two fighter levels and even more buffs and resistances...despite this his CR is 7, which is the same as an ordinary, unbuffed troll with two fighter levels. The room also has a chest containing the efreet's lamp. Normally I'd point out that the chest's defenses are impossible (5 fire trap spells, one on the lock, one on each hinge, one on the lid and one on the lamp inside) due to the rules of the spell...but fire trap is such an amazingly weak spell for its level I'll let it pass (seriously, why is fire trap so drat weak?).

I will bitch about the lamp, which the text states functions "exactly as a djinni's lamp" except of course this is not a magic item that exists. Presumably they're referring to an efreeti bottle, which would make sense except the efreeti's behavior makes it clear that this isn't the case either (since he is neither forced to return after 10 minutes, or attacking the trolls randomly).

J35-J49

This is the Azer mining encampment. Like the trolls the Azer are led by a powerful magical being with a hidden agenda. This time it is an ogre mage. To the Azer he is surprisingly benevolent and kind, but apparently it is all a ruse for he intends to free Tyrus from his prison in the Region. However, the ritual to do this requires a vast number of precious gemstones. Thus he is manipulating the Azer to secure these valuables.

For some reason this section has several rooms that are unlabeled, despite having things like secret door entrances. Yet more terrible cartography. The gibberrish-filled trapped statues are here as well, the same terrible description simply copy-pasted to these rooms.

There is also a chamber related to the "hidden ring", where the PCs will see a projected image of a beautiful woman who appears with a cryptic message and a plea for help. This is actually a vampiress who is locked away in the hidden section and is attempting to trick the PCs into solving the celestials riddles (because riddles are a great security system) to free her. For some reason she's not being very helpful about it, using poetic and cryptic phrasing rather than just outright stating "turn that statue 90 degrees, you'll free me!"

This leads to a series of rooms each of which have a statue of the vampiress and a switch. A Lawful good character can flip the switch and once all 5 have been flipped the first lock on the crypt is opened. Again...seems reaaally over elaborate on the part of the celestials. We also have another case where the writers cannot be bothered to keep count of their own mcguffins.

Let me illustrate:



You see the two rooms in blue? Those are the riddle rooms. Each of them has a vision and a simple statue moving puzzle to unlock the door to the yellow areas which have statues of the vampiress and switches. Obviously the intent of the designers was to have most of the switches solved at once, but then forcing you to hunt a bit for the last remaining switch (not that the PCs have any way of knowing how many switches are needed or what the switches do).

However, every description very clearly states that 5 switches will release the lock and allow the crypt to be opened. If you count, the yellow rooms in the south, there are five already...meaning that the rooms to the north are completely pointless. Once you've opened the southern rooms with the puzzle you can access five switches right away and remove the lock...but look at the SW most yellow room, note it's lack of walls. That room is actually fully open to the rest of the Region, and it has a door that leads straight to the other 4 switches...which means you don't even have to solve the room's puzzle at all!

Anyway, moving on...there's a gem storage chamber which contains a massive pile of rubies sapphires emeralds and diamonds. Each gem is worth between 50 to 150 gp and the party can collect 3d6 a round...but the designers neglect to actually tell you how many gems the room contains. Not even a ballpark figure. I can only assume from the area they fill on the map it must be in the millions. This is pretty important when you consider that at this level these gemstones (diamonds especially) are very important for spell components (raise dead for instance).

The writers also mention that these gems can cut the cost for creating a magic item in half...neglecting to realize that its impossible to effectively make magic items in the WLD because there's no way to purchase reagents and materials.

They're too minor to mention every time they come up, but again I've got to reiterate this region is terribly edited. Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors are present in practically every description.

Oh and as a minor footnote it's mentioned that the azer have dug into the molten core of the earth (because the WLD writers have a worse grasp of geology than they do math and grammar) and that in about two months this region will basically sink into the lava. The PCs better get those gems out while they can.

Finally we have the encounter with the ogre mage who is apparently just on the verge of completing his ritual. Once the PCs enter the ritual chamber they have 15 rounds to defeat the azer guards or the ogre mage completes his spell and transforms himself into an elemental being of divine fire, heads towards the nearest lava pit and jumps in, swimming upstream to Region N to access a tunnel leading back to Region J and to Tyrus's glacial prison. There he'll burn himself out to melt the ice and free the dragon.

Terr'kaal is a 7th level Cleric Ogre Mage, and as always the WLD writers like to add random abilities, so he has Frightful Presence, Blindsense, fire resistance, and extra spell like abilities (polymorph, delayed blast fireball and scorching ray). This is not accurately reflected in his CR, needless to say.

If he succeeds in his ritual his fire elemental form has double HD (24 vs 12), better AC, speed attack and damage, plus keeping his special qualities, spells and spell like abilities. Despite this his CR drops by one.

J50-59

This area is the lair of the rasts (for those that aren't familiar with obscure monsters, it's a weird flying claw-covered ash-monster). They were apparently put in the dungeon by the god of fire and trained by the celestials as guard dogs. They're called Godrasts and are size Huge and have the Celestial template. Their stats are pretty badly mangled (their attack bonus is listed as +31 when it should be +23) but given the lack of optimal armor and the number of attacks they get (5) and their huge grapple modifier (correctly listed as +30) they'll probably quickly snag most or all of the party and begin draining their blood.

Remember how I mentioned those statues and switches earlier? Well apparently I was underestimating the incompetence of the designers, because there are more here. Apparently they were intending to scatter these switches and puzzles all over the region (they're really bad riddles by the way) and just accidentally put 5 of them all together with the very first one, rendering all the rest moot. So all in all, according to the map, there are about 9 switches.

There is also a Rast Queen...who actually has about the same stats as a regular "godrast". I was expecting something more like a xenomorph queen but she just has slightly higher DR and drains blood a few points faster.

J60-J71

This "ring" contains half-fiendish wyverns born from a god's hateful thought. Apparently the celestials killed most of them but for their own bizarre reasons they imprisoned the rest here.

The wyverns are actually pretty intimidating. They're size gargantuan and half-fiendish 21 HD wyverns. Because of the extra HD and their con boost from the two size increases, their poison is actually incredibly deadly (DC 29 fortitude save, making it out of reach of most 14-15 level characters (a dwarf fighter with 20 Con at 15th level has +14 to his fortitude save, meaning he'll fail on a 13 or lower). 4d6 con damage from a single sting (and with a +31 attack bonus the wyverns have no problem hitting) can easily kill even very powerful characters (that 15th level dwarf wouldn't be expected to live past 2-3 stings, and that's not even considering secondary damage).

Fortunately the wyverns are all caged. We've got one cage holding 4 at once (a group easily capable of inflicting a TPK), another that holds a single suicidally depressed (I'm not even kidding) wyvern. There are a few others scattered in other cages as well as some cages that contain the levers to unlock their cells (for some reason the levers are also in cages but the cages are open). So, while the PCs can easily avoid the fight if they pull one of these unlabled levels they're more or less screwed...the wyverns have tons of hit points, great saves, spell resistance and deadly, deadly attacks.

Later on we have a safe zone produced by a pair of petrified angels, and a couple of rooms built out of the bones of ice devils. The room contains a statue of an ice devil...which is apparently an actual ice devil. First the statue has to be melted and then the devil is freed and once it is killed the room is purified (this is important for some reason). This is practically impossible though the statue has a hardness of 20 and 500 hit points (so basically immune to non-adamantine weapons, and the majority of spells), also every 5 rounds a random cold spell is cast by the statue, hitting anyone in the room. It won't take long before players die or retreat (or just run out of spells to try and affect the thing). By the time they inflict enough damage to melt the ice the fight with the ice demon itself will probably be impossible.

The Chamber of gently caress You

This one deserves its own individual entry. We've got one of those utterly batshit celestial "puzzles" that seems to serve no actual purpose: A room with the label "the death of fire lies within" (not one for clarity, those angels). It's got a huge pair of locked double doors, although it can also be accessed via a secret door on the opposite wall. Upon entering all exits seal. Breaking the seal takes a DC 50 strength check (there is no information on the hit points or hardness of the doors), so its effectively impossible. Written on the inside is the words "the breath of flame blocks your path. Salvation lies in its destruction."

The only way to open the doors is to remove all the air from the room. There are two methods for this. The first is a trio of fireball traps on the statues of this room. These traps are "easy" (DC 28) to find, but if your rogue isn't trapped in there with you or if triggering traps doesn't occur to you then they don't work so well. The fireballs are the "safest" way to do it, triggering all three burns up all the air and inflicts around 24d6 damage (which most characters will find survivable at this level, especially with preparation against fire damage.

The second method basically involves everyone being unconscious forever, because much like the pressure rules in Region L the designers don't really think about how much damage accumulates over time. You see the room is filled with several braziers and so long as they keep burning they'll slowly consume the air. This takes about 2 hours, and after 105 minutes the PCs will start to suffer the effects of smoke inhalation. What are those effects you might ask?

"A character who breathes heavy smoke must make a Fortitude save each round (DC 15, +1 per previous check) or spend that round choking and coughing. A character who chokes for 2 consecutive rounds takes 1d6 points of nonlethal damage. "

So, that's 15 minutes, or 150 rounds. After 20 rounds the fortitude save becomes effectively unmakable (DC 35) and every 2 rounds after that the character takes 1d6 nonlethal damage. that's 130 rounds left at that point, or 65d6 nonlethal damage. Keep in mind you spend the entire time coughing and choking, it's not possible to take actions to heal. that's an average of 228 nonlethal damage.

Lets use that dwarf from my wyvern example, a 15th level, 20 Con dwarf fighter has, on average, 162 hit points. If he had max hit points every level he would still have only 225. In other words, the chance of anyone in the party remaining conscious for this time is basically zero.

Now, by a strict reading of the rules (this is from the SRD, not the WLD) its actually not possible to die from smoke inhalation. However, most of these continual nonlethal damage sources (such as cold, heat, etc) will start to do lethal damage after you hit zero (which would mean most of the non-dwarf fighters would be dead).

However, it doesn't actually make a difference whether or not the smoke damage ever turns lethal...because you're never leaving this room once you start choking. Nonlethal damage recovers at the rate of (level)/hour. So that theoretical 225 hit point dwarf would be back on his feet in an hour with 210 nonlethal damage. Anyone else is definitely going to be out for at least a couple of minutes.

But here's the thing, the doors open and air rushes back in...and they remain open for 3d6 rounds. Which means by the time anyone has even the slightest chance of waking up will still be far far too late to escape. The burning braziers also relight.

So the dwarf still has about 45 minutes until the smoke starts choking him again. he might be able to scrape together enough healing potions to get his companions conscious again (probably not though...most people will need about 100+ points of healing to regain consciousness) and maybe this time they figure they'll trigger the fireball traps...that 24d6 damage won't be lethal to most 15th level characters but you can be drat sure that combined with any remaining nonlethal damage it'll take everyone back to unconsciousness.

And now they're even more hurt than before, so no one is likely to regain consciousness. Which means the room just keeps burning up all the air, adding more nonlethal damage, opening briefly to let in more, and then locking once more...keeping the cycle going indefinitely and the PCs locked in stasis forever until some random encounter puts them out of their misery.

And so, what does this phenomenally awful room guard? Is it meant to be a prison that for some reason keeps opening its door? Is it meant to block passage to some celestial fortress? Nope. It doesn't actually seem to have any purpose. The only thing of significance is a box which can be located under the floor. The box will strike any non LG individual as though they were hit with a Holy Axiomatic Weapon (it does not tell us what type or weapon, or why it couldn't just give a number). within the box is a ring of regeneration, greater ring of energy resistance (fire), and a ring of evasion. If all three could be worn at once it would probably allow the wearer to break the cycle...but that relies on them being found and worn by someone with enough hit points to even wake up from the sheer volume of non-lethal damage.


J72: Tyrus Himself

Tyrus, the ancient red dragon, is imprisoned on a plateau overlooking the region surrounded by a magical wall of ice. The prison has weakened enough to allow him to remain awake within the prison and to use his spells (such as charm) on the creatures below (or at least so the writers claim, forgetting charm is a very short range spell). This crack also allows the PCs to enter the ice wall themselves. However, what isn't clear is where the crack actually is...There's a tunnel from Region N that connects, but the description makes it clear that this isn't the only entrance. It isn't marked on the map and the room description is far too vague to make out any details on its location.

The dragon has a major image of himself sleeping on a pile of gold while he hides in a corner, waiting to ambush the PCs. If the PCs attempt to just straight up fight Tyrus they're dead. He is miles beyond the ability of a 15th level party. The only reason his presence is at all reasonable is that the PCs can always choose to simply leave the moment they see him, or if the fight is going badly (but considering how powerful Tyrus is...that probably means half of them are dead already).

And of course, as always the tactical suggestions are utter poo poo. The writers suggest that once Tyrus engages in combat he casts mirror image (as opposed to the greater invisibility spell he has), hover in the air and cast magic missile. The ancient red dragon...casting magic missile...the spell for plinking goblins to death. really?! Several other suggestions involve spells that are good...but that Tyrus doesn't have (like chain lightning). He'll also apparently use his spell immunity (which is hardly necessary with an SR of 28) to immunize himself against lightning bolt, magic missile, and vampiric touch. The first one makes a little sense...but he's got 603 hit points. He doesn't have to worry about magic missile and any wizard stupid enough to get close enough to cast vampiric touch won't live to regret it.

The intent seems to be that the PCs will come back once they're higher level...but if Tyrus blocks the exit (or if they fail to prevent the ogre mage from freeing him) they're basically doomed. And of course, there's no mention made of the fact that Tyrus' death at the hands of the PCs will spark a divine war.

Tyrus's treasure is, of course, pure poo poo. He has almost a quarter million gold pieces which do no one any good. 345 gemstones with no value or description listed. 18 dwarven breastplates (wooooo...), 12 huge longswords, a fake mithral orb which if used to open the hiden crypt will explode. Why this exists and why tyrus has it is never explained. This CR 23 encounter with a dragon has only one. loving. Magic. Item. Guess what it is

A gemstone of fortification. Let me elaborate on just how stupid this is.

The gemstone of fortification is not in the SRD, it's an item from the Draconomicon, meant to be imbedded in the scales of a dragon and granting a fortification effect (similar to armor of fortification). For any other creature than a dragon, getting it imbedded requires at least a limited wish. At least I'm assuming that's what they're referring to, the text provides only a name: no description or source (and considering until now all items have been from the SRD this would be pretty important).

On top of that, the writers never mention in Tyrus's description the gemstone is "equipped" (which is pretty drat important) or what level of fortification it is (which is even more loving important).

So, to reiterate. After fighting an ancient dragon, the most powerful dragon in the dungeon, and looting his hoard the PCs only reward of any value is a magic item from a book that they may not have, which they cannot equip, and whose effects are not even quantified.

:suicide:


J73-J86

This area is a row of trapped statues all along the south and east corridors of the region. These are nearly impossible to disarm traps (DC 50, twice), and if you try to disarm it and fail by 30 or more (very likely for a 12th level rogue, who'll probably only have a +20 or so to disable device) you turn to stone with no saving throw. If you fail by less than 30 the trap triggers itself twice with a -4 penalty to any saves to resist it. (the damage on one trigger tends to be in the 16d6 range). Other than their obscene deadliness they're fairly boring.


V1-v8

This is the "hidden ring", a crypt hidden below this area (which is a little bizarre when you consider the entire regions seems to basically be a thin layer of stone on top of a sea of magma). It was apparently used to hold a celestial who fell in love with a pit fiend and became fallen...hey does that sound familiar? It should because its the exact same things that happened in Region H with Diantha. Except this time the celestial becomes a vampire instead of a devil.

I've already pointed out just how stupid this "prison" is, considering its locks seem to basically just be a series of zelda-style block puzzles in place of anything actually secure. I also mentioned that the vampiress has been projecting visions of herself to try and "help" solve the puzzles sealing her tomb so she can escape.

Except...she never does. You see when you enter the crypt the doors seal behind you, permanently. The only thing that can open them is a wish spell. Considering its very obvious that the seals have been removed (doing so triggers a very loud singing for 5 rounds), she should be fully aware that someone might be coming to her tomb and waiting by the entrance to get out. Instead she lurks in the final chamber and just lets the PCs get permanently sealed in there with her. The only way out is a full wish spell.

Fortunately the has a ring of three wishes (well, two wishes...or one, the text contradicts itself in several places), but apparently she cannot use it to escape (there is no explanation as to why). She wants to hire the PCs as a hit squad against the Solar (how they're meant to accomplish that is unclear) and to bring the solar back to her once he's dead (he was apparently the cause of her imprisonment).

It's kind of a sad plan actually, considering she just plans on trying to kill the PCs when they return...but how exactly she expects to beat anyone capable of taking down a Solar is unclear. She herself is a "celestial" vampire. She seems to basically just be a human with 6 fighter levels and 10 sorcerer levels and the vampire template. A combination that doesn't stand much chance against a 14-15th level party. This makes her one of the easiest "boss" fights in the dungeon.

That's all for Region J. Glad we're back to having really, really terrible content to mock again.

oriongates fucked around with this message at 06:41 on Feb 6, 2014

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!




quote:

Quick request: When you do these, can you upload a picture of the maps as well? It's a bit hard to follow otherwise.

Sure thing, editing those in now for the Regions on this thread. There's not a lot of detail at this scale, mostly because the maps for each region are pretty huge.

If you want more detail or if you want to see the maps for Regions from locked threads, you can go here:

http://www.james.neetersoft.com/wld/wld.htm

oriongates fucked around with this message at 06:17 on Feb 6, 2014

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!






We're nearing the finish line. There are about 4 Regions left (technically only 3, because Region N actually is a double-sized Region) and we're definitely in the high level zones. It's bad enough how wonky high levels can be in normal D&D, lets see how bad the WLD makes things. Both Region D and Region N are for characters 14-18, but I'll go with D first just to put off the long-haul that is Region N.

Region D: Little Gray Men



This Region is the home of the derro that have apparently been rampaging across the dungeon's infrastructure. It's not really clear how they've survived not only collapsing the mountain-top in Region H and flooding Regions K and L with an entire lake. However, it seems they have survived and they're engaged in yet more ill-advised digging.

This time it isn't at their own behest however. They serve Cthrax a Xill wizard. You see, Cthrax was cast out by his people for unspecified awfulness and he's desperate for revenge. And he's got a plan to make this happen. A lovely, lovely plan. You see he has found out about the existence of an evil, exiled god: Astakhor the Undying. However, he doesn't know how to find this god who he for some reason assumes will help him. So, he decides that the only way to locate this god is to use a Wish spell. And fortunately he knows where to find one at minimal cost: the WLD! (keep that in mind because it will sound even stupider later).

You see Cthrax knows there's a pit fiend imprisoned in the dungeon and that they can grant the Wish spell. So he naturally assumes that if he frees it then the fiend will certainly decide to grant him a wish rather than just murdering him.

So, in order to find the WLD (he apparently knew about its existence and its prisoners but not its location) he travels to multiple material planes, torturing sages and loremasters until he finds information about a sage drifting in the astral plane who might know. He locates him and tortures him for 2 years until he reveals the location of the dungeon. Realizing he could not unearth the demon's prison on his own he recruits help from the derro miners. He also tricks and murders a formorian queen, taking control of her hive. With these forces he intends to dig through the adamantine and silver vault buried deep beneath the dungeon, free the pit fiend and somehow get his Wish.

So, to lay this out more clearly. We've got a powerful wizard (11th level along with Xill abilities) who has spent years traveling between different planes searching for information. Spent two years doing nothing but torturing someone into getting the location of the dungeon. Enslaves or recruits two small armies of different races as well as several extremely powerful monsters. He then goes into a dungeon that he knows he cannot leave, which is full of some of the most dangerous and hateful creatures in existence. All this so he can free one of them, who is exceptionally hateful and dangerous, on the assumption that the creature will grant him a wish rather than obliterating him.

And he considers this minimal cost.

First and foremost, let me point out that the wish spell (especially in 3.5) is rare and powerful...but it's not some amazing and impossible to find spell. You can just buy magic items that grant you a wish: luckblades, rings of 3 wishes, scrolls. A scroll of wish is under 30,000 gp. It's not that big an investment for a being of Cthrax's abilities. There are also many other, much less dangerous and difficult to get to, creatures that can grant a wish (noble djinn's or efreets are the best, relatively low CR but both can cast the spell several times for non-genies).

And you know, even if for some reason it's particularly difficult to get ahold of a wish spell outside of the WLD...there are other creatures in the dungeon that have the spell and are much safer and easier to deal with. Let me run down the current sources of the wish spell:

*The efreeti from Region J. He can cast three of them per day, as opposed to the pit fiend's one per year, and the Xil could easily beat him up and force him to provide them (or just bribe him with aid against his foes).

*Region J also has the celestial vampiress Serratine, who Cthrax could free with minimal effort. She possesses a ring of three wishes with at least one charge remaining.

*Lord Glebshay, a glaberazu in Region G. He can cast wish once per month and is still much weaker than a pit fiend. There's also an unnamed Glaberazu imprisoned in the same Region with the demon lord.

*Vizeed, the "greater" glaberazu from Region K. He's imprisoned, but the stone cap over his prison is something Cthrax's forces could easily destroy (hardness 10, 1000 hit points).

And of course there's the Solar in Region G, he'd never grant a wish to any being like Cthrax...but frankly the odds of Cthrax getting it from the pit fiend aren't much better.

But instead of any of these relatively easy methods, Cthrax seems to insist on taking the most difficult, painful and dangerous route. The worst part is that this plot hole is almost effortless to fill. Cthrax is doing all this to find the prison of an ancient evil god to release it and wreak havoc on the planes...why not just make the WLD the prison? I mean, it seems like the most obvious solution doesn't it? I just don't understand the line of logic that missed that.

Anyway, that's it for the overview of the region. Lets look closer.

D1-D6

The Xill's mine is protected by the lava flow and several very powerful magical watchtowers capable of launching, one after the other, a fireball, lightning bolt and ice storm. Once all its spells have been used a stone golem on the tower animates and attacks. They're a fairly impressive defenses...or they would be if they were at all effective. You see, each of them only targets non-derro characters who approach within 100 feet of the tower. And the towers are all set far away from the NW entrance to the mines, which is also the only entrance.

That means the towers don't actually prevent anyone from entering the mines. They would prevent people from exploring along the lava river looking for a ford of some kind, but since no ford or bridge actually exists there's nothing to defend. If the PCs just fly, water walk or swim across the lava river they'll never be attacked, except for a single golem that stands guard at the entrance. A crappy golem that only notices intruders 50% of the time.

There are some hollow stone towers full of derro, all extremely weak (3rd level warriors) and inattentive, so unless the PCs trigger the golem or notice the towers (which are disguised as rock formations) and decide to explore they probably won't encounter anyone.

all of these derro have xill eggs in them and by the rules of this region if they're reduced to 50% or fewer hit points there's a chance of a full-grown xill chest-bursting from them.

This region does make me question why D&D has three distinct races of subterranean and assholish dwarves? Of course this Region has all three, just to make things that little bit extra confusing.

This section also introduces a new material created for the WLD. Truesilver, it's basically mithril with the properties of silver. Weapons made from it have a natural +2 enhancement bonus, and armor and shields have a +1 enhancement bonus. Tiny amounts (1/30 of a pound, a bit more than a silver coin's worth) can be used as material component for good aligned spells granting them a +2 to CL and DC. If enchanted with the Holy enhancement it is considered only a +1 enhancement for purposes of determining the price to make the item and the damage increases to +3d6 vs evil. Weapons made of truesilver are considered both good aligned and silver.

Needless to say, truesilver is some pretty amazing stuff...except that it looses all of it's special properties, transforming into normal silver, if it is ever touched by anyone other than an outsider. Meaning that every single thing that the writers just spent half a page talking about is utterly pointless. I don't think there's even a single truesilver item in the region that's being wielded by an outsider and even those weapons that are also enchanted would be useless, becoming much softer and much heavier. Even if you have a PC with the outsider type (such as an aasimar or a 20th level monk), you could never use truesilver weapons against any beings other than outsiders without them turning to crap. The material actual has no relevance to the adventure anyway, there are a few rooms with ingots or lumps of truesilver but it can't be used by the PCs and a couple of +1 truesilver weapons lying around the entrance to region that are likewise worthless.

D7-D24
This section is the home of rebellious Derro who are trying to find some way to survive and escape, but are driven mad with despair because they know they are all doomed when the xill eggs inside them hatch. The only real threat here are a few of the more dangerous traps and the possibility of multiple Xill hatchlings. There are several magic items available from some of the derro with class levels, but nothing greater than +1, because 15th level characters are all about the +1 items!

Sadly this may be the first chance many PCs will have had to get things like Bracers of Armor and rings of protection, +1 or not.

D25-D31

The path to the proper derro mine is protected by a few crappy traps, formorian patrols and apparently a group of stone giants that Cthrax got to work for him.

This brings up a question: presumably these stone giants weren't imprisoned here...so how did they get here? The "entrance" in Region A is too small, the exit in Region H is too far up (and protected by the elves). The exit in Region O is certainly giant sized but is protected by forces greater than Cthrax. In fact, it's made pretty clear that Cthrax has not actually been here that long. Shortly after he arrived he begin gradually seeding his minions with Xill eggs to produce better and more loyal servant, and the gestation for that is only 3 months. He probably arrived at around the same time longtail did, or even later, but there's no indication of how he got here or what effect his arrival may have had on other Regions.

There's also a derro factory where they produce materials for the mine. There's mention of them using "corrupted" truesilver for some purpose, presumably they aren't referring to just normal silver (which wouldn't be much use in a mine) but this is never clarified. Perhaps truesilver had some kind of plot relevance in some early draft of the dungeon and it was simply removed very clumsily.

D32-D51

This is the derro's "great hall" where most of their work takes place. There's a rather elaborate description of the process of mining, refining and casting truesilver ingots but still no indication of why the derro bother with a metal they cannot use. Considering how desperate Cthrax is to get the vault excavated you'd think he wouldn't allow his workers to spend time mining silver, true or otherwise.

I should mention I do like some of the mining monsters the derro have harnessed. Destrachan and Yrthak are used to dissolve and crush stone with their sonic attacks and dissolvers are used to melt down the rubble. Bullets are also used sometimes. However, there is one mining creature that gives me an absolute fit of nerd-rage. I'll give more details when I come to it.

Cthrax is also here, however the text makes it clear that Cthrax values his own life very highly and if attacked he will call for help and use invisibility and expeditious retreat to escape as quickly as possible. He doesn't stick around to fight unless cornered, which would be quite tough in this large open area.

If Cthrax is killed, either here or elsewhere, the "plot" of the region is basically over. He has a phylactery containing the essence of the formorian queen and if it is broken then the formorians go berserk, realizing their queen has been dead all this time, and start attacking every other creature. The dwarves and giants basically have no motivation to continue unearthing the devil's vault and will presumably focus on exterminating the formorians (and vice versa) before dying due to xill eggs. After a few weeks this will likely just be a colony of xill.

In addition to Cthrax's lair this area also has the laboratory of an evil gnome mad scientist, a 16th level Wizard. He's built a lot of mining equipment that gets way too much page-space wasted on describing. Some are mildly interesting and may be useful to creative PCs (such as a bead that releases a large amount of fresh air), but we really don't need 6 paragraphs wasted describing the gnome's malfunctioning magical sonar imaging machine.

D57-D68

This is the deepest part of the mine. Most of this is just more easy encounters with derro and formorians, as well as apparently some grimlocks. However there is one thing here I absolutely hate, and this is what first made me realize just how crappy the WLD is.

Now, if you're anything like me, when you hear of a giant dungeon that has every monster in the SRD you immediately come up with one question. What do they do with Mr. T?

For some reason, I've always really liked the Tarrasque, ever since 2nd edition and even into 3rd and 4th edition as you see more and more features getting added on to immunize him against tricks and close loopholes in his invulnerability. He's like the love child of the Hulk and Godzilla. Obviously he has to be in here, so I was very curious where he might be and what his role would be. After reading that the dungeon was designed as a prison I naturally assumed he must be one of the main prisoners. It works great, just imagine deep below the earth the tarrasque wrapped in chains of enchanted adamantine, his struggles shaking the entire dungeon and cracking its foundation.

Well, it took me quite a while to actually find him. I naturally assumed he would be in Region O since that's the only Region that goes to 20th level. Or Region N with its huge circular cell in the center. Well, it turns out he's here in Region D. Working as a glorified pit pony.

You read that right. The Tarrasque, the ultimate beast of destruction. Doing mine work.

Let's lay out all the details. Apparently years before the Xill turned up Rroliq, a 14th level derro sorcerer apparently was able to use a wish to enslave the tarrasque. That's about all there is to the story. It's never explained where Rroliq got access to a wish spell (which is fairly important considering that getting one is the entire driving goal behind Cthrax's plans), or how a wish could produce such an effect. Keep in mind a Wish spell can't even duplicate the Dominate Monster spell, let alone a version that lasts for years at a time.

The one condition of the spell is that Rroliq must stay within 5 feet of the tarrasque at all times. Now, think about what sort of hell this guy must live in. He can never go into any building with an entrance less than 40 feet or so, if he wants to crap or piss he either just does it in the dirt at the tarrasque's feet or he has to have someone fetch him a bucket. If he wants to sleep he had better hope the tarrasque doesn't roll over on top of him.

Just imagine the relative scales involved as well. The derro is about 3-4 feet tall, the tarrasque is about 70 feet long. It would be like if a mouse had to stay within one inch of st bernard's paws at all times. How does he avoid being stepped on? Even if he manages to avoid it a particularly bad trip could end up killing him if the tarrasque just happens to keep walking far enough to leave the derro behind.

And what a waste! Even with all the downsides this guy now controls one of the supreme destructive forces in the world. And what does he do with this power? He digs stuff. He's not even digging up stuff he wants to dig, he is digging for someone else. It would be like someone owning a sci-fi super-tank and using it to work for a taxi service.

And of course, the biggest issue is that this encounter is obscenely lethal for the PCs. They're maybe level 15-16 (it's really impossible to say, the leveling rules in the WLD are never clarified so there's no way to tell when a character should or should not level up throughout a region) and the Tarrasque is an obscenely difficult fight even for its 20 CR. The typical Tarrasque battle scenario involves being well aware of the monster's presence and having some chance to choose your battlefield and set the rules of engagement. It does not typically involve simply stumbling across it in a mineshaft that's not much taller than the monster itself.

Rroliq does not initially set the tarrasque on intruders, he'll simply fight to the death himself and if he dies the tarrasque returns to its natural state of murder-rage. Beating Rroliq isn't much of a challenge, he focuses almost exclusively on just area of effect evocation spells. However, the unleashed tarrasque can only be run from (if you're a dwarf, halfling, gnome or wear heavy armor, you're hosed). Given the shape of the dungeon, it'll likely head to Region H, kill all the elves, then swim through Region L before finally escaping through Region O. So, best case scenario, some of the party manage to escape from its rampage, but the good-aligned inhabitants of Region H will die defending their sacred tree and finally the tarrasque will escape into the world at large.

Killing the tarrasque is of course an impossibility. Even at level 20, characters in the WLD are so starved of magic items that they have no hope of defeating it.

D69-D80

There is nothing of significance here. Just a few miners.

The only thing worth commenting on is for some reason the writers decided to waste time by making a rat swarm encounter for level 14+ PCs.

D81-D84

This is the devil vault. Apparently the demons imprisoned here were servants of Astakhor the Undying, attacking good and evil gods alike. Once Astakhor was defeated and imprisoned the evil gods demanded that his servants be killed. Apparently the good gods decided that wouldn't do and they should just be locked for all eternity in a lightless prison beneath the earth. So amazingly it turns out that not only was killing the demons an option, it was actively lobbied for by some of the gods. Somehow the good gods decided that this was somehow merciful. Imprisoning these devils did require 4 Solars to sacrifice their lives, just to ensure that the world didn't become less evil.

This section is completely inaccessible until the Tarrasque manages to dig its way through the barriers. This takes about a week after the PCs show up in this Region. If allowed to continue digging, the Tarrasque will eventually break through before the hordes of devils overwhelm it (in theory, the devils actually can't do much to hurt the tarrasque, but the more powerful devils also have their own regeneration ability) and flood the region. So, worst case scenario you've got a swarm of devils and a tarrasque spilling into the rest of the dungeon and then the world at large. Best case scenario, the tarrasque swallows the pit fiend and most of the more powerful devils. The regenerating devils are trapped within the tarrasque's stomach, indigestible but unable to escape. Finally full, the tarrasque might settle down a bit.

But essentially, once you enter this Region, which isn't likely given its location and the fact that it can only be entered through Region H (where the PCs likely have already left the dungeon) the PCs have two options that are never spelled out for them: Release the tarrasque and have it kill a lot of things (PCs included) or do nothing and allow the devils to be released in about a week, then they and the tarrasque kill a lot of things (PCs included).

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!




Mimir posted:

Cthrax, Astakhor, and Serratine are available at your local pharmacy. Ask your doctor before using any medication. Cthrax and Astakor should not be used if you are nursing, pregnant, or are planning to become pregnant. Side effects of Serratine may include Xill lung, erratic Derro syndrome, and Glebshay.

I know right? I don't know how they came up with the names they used, but they seem to be under the impression that the harder to pronounce they are the better they'll be.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!




Yawgmoth posted:

A minor point of contention: the tarrasque (at least in 3.5e) is really not that hard of a fight. I have a 12th level monk/kensai that could handle him solo in 3 rounds; our party casters could probably take him down on their own in the same or less time. As a party, it might take the majority of one round. He's just a big sack of hp and little else, sadly.

You're forgetting two main factors:

first, the party in the WLD is very, very far short of the wealth-by-level guidelines. Their AC will be poo poo because they barely have magical armor, let alone additional AC boosting items like rings or amulets. Their stats will be low because they don't have any of the boosting items available, and they probably will not even have the attack bonus needed to reliably hit the tarrasque, let alone inflicting enough damage through it's DR and regeneration to have any meaningful effect (it may be just a big bag of hit points, but it's a lot of hit points).


Second, the party are neither forewarned nor in an advantageous position. They're in tight, poorly lit quarters which help to remove the tarrasque's main disadvantage: a lack of ranged combat. You can't use flight to avoid him, or long-range attacks to hurt him from a distance while staying ahead of his slow speed.

Now, a party that can outrun him can certainly escape, but the WLD isn't exactly full of places to run too and allow him to simply destroy everything inside and break free to rampage in the outside world is hardly a "victory".

And while I'm not going to say you couldn't build one (I've learned to never doubt the efficiency of broken builds in 3.5) a 12th level character capable of outputting over 1000 damage in 3 rounds is certainly...let's call it "heavily optimized". When designing an adventure you can't assume that players are going to be willing or capable of putting that much effort into character optimization and in these circumstances the tarrasque is more than dangerous enough to be unbeatable to an average party equipped with the poo poo gear WLD offers.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!




Alien Rope Burn posted:

World's Largest Dungeon definitely like it was written by a bunch of people given a vague outline who never coordinated or communicated. It had, what, at least 17 authors? I can't tell if there's more because that's the point where RPG.net's layout runs out of space on the page to list them.

Yeah about 14 authors and the line developer Jim Pinto, who includes possibly the saddest lines ever written in the back of the book:

"I've read the majority of the text at least twice, and this book is about as good as anything I ever do is going to get. This is my magnum opus."


In the words of Dana Scully: "Doesn't that make you sad? It makes me sad."

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!




Zereth posted:

I'm sorry that actually sounds awesome.

Yeah, it's hard to come up with a good analogy for the sheer wasted potential of it all...using the TARDIS as a garden shed? Propping up an uneven coffee table with the necronomicon?

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!






Region N: Where the Dead Things Are

So, although a smattering of undead have shown up throughout the various Regions, the main "prisoners" we've seen so far have been demons, devils, or similarly dangerous outsiders. This is where that changes, because N is all about the undead. This can also be considered the "main event" of the WLD, it's a double-sized Region for high level characters that contains something called the World Eater.

This Region's level range is quite unique, not only is it very broad (14-18, so 5 levels compared to the 3-4 for most regions), but there are also no adjacent regions that "match". Region M to the West is for 9-12, Region J is for 13-15, Region K is for 10-12, and Region 0 is for 16-20. That means that no matter what direction the PCs enter the region from they'll be the wrong level, either too high, or too low. And, how exactly to the designers build a non-linear dungeon with 6 entrances and no specified "level up" landmarks to a range of 5 levels? The answer is, they don't, so it's quite easy for PCs to simply wander into challenges that are far too powerful for them.

Now, normally I'd rant about the fact that it doesn't make sense that these horrible threats are imprisoned rather than simply destroyed. With demons/devils there might be some potential excuses but it seems like killing undead would be a no-brainer. Well it seems that the intent here was not so much to simply remove the threat as to punish them for all eternity. Basically locking them away in an eternal crypt where they get the immortality they wanted but can do absolutely nothing but rot and think. Seems a little bit harsh (easy for already immortal beings to judge us for living longer), but I can at least see the logic. If only they weren't so terrible at actually designing their prisons.

Again, like half the WLD's Regions, the plot involves multiple factions vying for dominance, this time it is three groups of powerful undead attempting to take control of the gates that will allow them to access the tomb of the world eater, so they can escape and make the world pay for their imprisonment. Each of them has control of one gate, and are battling it out over the 4th. Of course, like every conflict in the WLD this stalemate has lasted for a century or more.

The intro to the section seems to be a little confused because it reiterates many rules that have previously been stated as applying to the whole dungeon (no summoning, no teleportation, etherealness, etc) as though they apply only to this Region. The area is also so full of negative energy that all undead automatically come back to life within 24+1d20 hours. This is apparently caused by the immense negative energy of the World Eater (here's a hint celestials...maybe don't put your massive death-power conduit in the same section of the dungeon as your undead prisoners. I know you like to keep to a theme, but it can go too far). Good luck turning undead here, all undead gain +4 additional turn resistance and clerics and paladins suffer -6 to charisma checks (don't ask me why the felt the need to make this two separate effects).

Bizarrely it also states that all rooms are locked from the inside, and state that getting out is a DC 30 open lock check. I don't think they know what locking a room from the inside means. It's not really made clear whether this means you can get in without trouble and the doors lock themselves, or that the doors are locked and can only be picked from the inside. Either way is a bizarre system, but since the second one means that it's just impossible to go inside a room from the outside then I'll assume the first one.

Hordes

They also bring up the Horde template here, rules for combining the multiple small/medium sized creatures into a single entity much like a swarm does for tiny or smaller creatures. This also appears to be the only region to use these rules. The rules for the Horde creatures are really bad. They must consist of exactly 30 creatures (or 90 fliers) which fill a 20x20 space. Most of the text is simply copy/pasted from the Swarm rules in the SRD, but there are a few odd differences. The writers can't seem to decide if a Horde is built as it's own unique creature with a few rules in common (as is the case for a swarm) or if the horde should be treated as a template (which seems to be indicated by a lot of the rules). A horde doesn't attack like a swarm, they can only attack a single target and they have to make an attack roll. This means that Horde combat involves a 20x20 mass of monsters that rush towards a single person, stop when the closest members are within arms reach and then make a single attack, ignoring all other targets).

The Horde's attack bonus is so ridiculously high that you wonder why they didn't just go with the auto-hit ability swarms have. The rule seems to be (it's not very clear) that the attack bonus is HD of the "base creature" x Horde members. so a horde of zombies would have +60 to hit. A swarm of Vargouille would have +90. Damage is based on the HD (apparently the HD of the horde, not the base monster), ranging from just the creature's normal damage to up to 5 times the creature's normal damage for 80+ HD hordes.

Special attacks use one less point of damage multiplier (so an 80 HD horde of wights would drain 4 levels, not that such a horde is presented. that would be a death sentence). EDIT: Note, this was typed without sarcasm before I actually read through the Region thoroughly and noticed the 120 HD wight hordes which very much do exist.

We'll start with the Western section of the Region because that's where the room numbering begins:



N1-N4

This is the western caves outside of the Region. It just brings the dungeon's geography even more into question, as the Region is described not as a part of the mountain's rock but actually a free-standing building attached to the rest of the dungeon, within this giant cave. It's a little hard to visualize honestly, but with all the different "outdoor" regions like M, K, and L, it's pretty clear almost no thought has been given to how the dungeon might have been constructed or why.

There's a couple of encounters out here: a "friendly" devourer who wants the PCs help to get into the dungeon and eat the souls of the undead inside (which is odd, since I'm fairly sure the devourer's abilities rely on negative levels...but actually reading the SRD entry for the devourer it's kind of nonsensical to begin with). It's not quite clear how a 9 foot tall zombie with a tiny shriveled person staring out of its rib cage can pull of "friendly" and convincing.

This area apparently also contains the Central Gate, which is watched over by a lantern archon, the only remaining celestial guard here. The archon is sworn to remain here and cannot do anything to warn anyone or help the situation. The archon can explain to PCs that the World Eater is breaking free and that there's plot that needs to be done. For some reason, each of the three gates has a different set up as far as defenders go, despite being within a quick job of one another.

-Central Gate: a 25 HD Iron Golem serves as the "door", basically just standing still in a golem-shaped hole in the wall, stepping out to attack anyone who touches the door. Needless to say this is far worse than just a door and a golem, separately, or at least just a door. Given the speed of the golem it would be quite easy for PCs to simply draw it away from the door, rush around it and get inside.

-North Gate: This one is an actual door which is guarded by a pair of 39 HD shield guardians. For some reason this door is not at all locked, simply requiring a DC 18 strength check to open.

-South gate: This gate is completely invulnerable to attacks from anything except artifacts or gods...so why isn't it the only gate. When you've got a gate that is literally impossible to breach, why do you have other entrances!? Let alone entrances as simple to get into as the first two. This door is locked but there's a button on the front of the gate (only DC 22 search check to find) that unlocks and opens the gate without activating the guardians: a 35 HD shield guardian and 2 12 HD gargoyles.

This perfectly illustrates everything wrong with every aspect of celestial security in this dungeon: Rather than build one invincible gate, securely locking it and setting powerful guardians to defend it they create three different gates, each of which use a different method to guard, rendering the whole thing not only more complicated but less secure. The Celestials seem to have some sort of compulsion to avoid simplicity and efficiency and must instead make sure every single prison and construction is as elaborate as possible and making sure that they never repeat the same method of imprisonment, even those methods which are clearly far more effective.

The location of the gates is also nonsensical. They're positioned on the western side of the region, opening into Region M. Now, Region M was never part of the actual dungeon itself (although it is within the protective spells). M's purpose was always unclear, but as far as I can tell it seemed to work as something like a quarry for the celestials: a place to get raw material and dump any rubble. There's no reason why the main entrances to this Region should open into M. In fact, there are no entrances at lead into the dungeon proper except for a small one on the Norther edge of Region K (which has no description and thus appears to be completely undefended). Region O has a single entrance guarded by 2 iron golems, but like Region M there's no indication it was ever a part of the actual dungeon.

So, this Region (which contains the greatest evil being held in the dungeon, something called a WORLD EATER) has 5 exits/entrances. 4 of them lead into what are essentially giant caves. Only one actually leads into the dungeon proper (or it used to before that region flooded) and it is completely undefended. So the celestials apparently decided to make 4 of the five exits lead of the dungeon, ensuring that if the undead do escape they'll basically be free (both M and O contain possible exits), and if the celestials need to get into Region N in order to deal with the prisoners, they have only a single entrance that they can use. The constructs that guard the exit are also prevented from going more than 100 feet from their gate and even the lantern archon cannot leave his post to actually warn the other celestials if there is any trouble.

N5-N15

The alls of the inner chambers are covered with runes (in Auran for some reason) explaining the purpose of the dungeon and including the names of the prisoners.

There's a lot of iconography of death gods and religions, which is pretty bizarre considering the Dungeon is meant to be generic and plug into different campaign settings as needed. However, the symbolism is very specific and doesn't allow for much room for different settings (the same goes for a lot of areas of the dungeon, the designers seem to be coming up with their own campaign material completely at random and scattering it throughout the dungeon).

Apparently the three western gates all function as part of a single legend-of-zelda style torch lock. Each of the doors leads to an antechamber with an invincible inner door (making the outer door essentially pointless) and a pair of braziers. Each of the 3 antechambers has two braziers, linked to the locks on the doors to the other two, based on the iconography of the aspects of the god of death.

So for instance, the northern door bears the image of the judge, lighting the braziers in the two southern antechambers bearing the image of the judge will unlock it. However, if you light two braziers bearing different icons a trap is triggered. Again, another sign of the massive over-complexity of the dungeon design...if the celestials didn't want anyone wandering into the region from the caves of Region M, why the hell did they build doors in the first place?

After the first impervious, invulnerable gate we have a second one with exactly the same brazier puzzle. So basically to get into Region N from Region M requires 3 gates to be opened (each in different ways), then 6 braziers lit in pairs (with each member of the pair in a different room), one after another. Then another 6 braziers lit in pairs. This manages to be horrendously complicated for anyone attempting to enter the Region legitimately, not very secure as far as preventing unauthorized entry. Topping it all off is the fact that it completely unnecessary, especially since no such security exists for the entrances from Region 0 and K.

N16-N52

This section of the Region is the "no man's land" between the undead factions. It consists of large rooms full of weak undead. It's also stated that apparently undead within the region are mostly just free to wander around. I guess it's kind of like a 1930's insane asylum, but full of zombies. Of course, that just makes things even less secure. It's not like you have to have the slightest concern for the well-being of these prisoners: seal them in concrete, weld them into steel sarcophogi, bury them under tons of rock. Why allow them even the slightest chance to escape?

This also contains what may or may not be an entrance to Region J. The description in the section summary indicates that an entrance exists, although it is one-way, and the Region J map shows a hallway connecting to N. However, once you actually look at that room description (N49) it's made clear that there is nothing but solid stone and only the illusion of a passage, this is also reinforced by the map of Region N which just shows a solid wall. Clearly another editing clusterfuck.

Several undead hordes show up in this section. Mostly extremely toothless skeletal hordes. They have a fair amount of hit points but their damage is pitiful (3d4+5, with only a single attack per round). However, there is also a wight horde which is basically a murder-machine. They have 120 HD, for a total of 480 hit points, a +90 attack bonus and while their damage is minimal (5d4+5), each hit (according to the horde rules) inflicts 4 negative levels. Considering combat with a "monster" with that many hit points is going to last forever and the wight horde is going to hit with every attack they will kill a PC every 4 rounds. Pretty much the only option is to avoid the horde entirely (difficult since they aren't just hanging around in the room where they're found) or hope you can flee the Region before the wights drain you dry.

The EL and encounter editing is pretty bad as well, probably because they're having to make up CR's for horde monsters from thin air, and probably change their mind at different points in the text.

There's also a few dragon skeletons (just skeletons, not dracoliches).

There's also a Mohrg horde, because apparently the writers just can't get enough of abusing the horde design. The mohrg horde is actually less threatening than the wight horde, but still obscene. They have 420 HD (1,025 hp) and for some reason the celestials decided that they should be armed with 30 +1 longswords, although they forgot to include them in the Morgh's stats. Their attack bonus is +215 and damage is 5d6+35. Despite this they have the saves and AC of an individual Mohrg. The paralysis ability isn't absurd (only DC 21 which could be worse at this level) but their sheer supply of hit points and the fact that they can't miss (why not just have the horde hit automatically if you're giving them a minimum of +30 attack) means they'll probably carve through most parties pretty effectively.


There's also a room in here (keep in mind, this place was built by angels with no purpose other than to imprison undead) which is covered in murals depicting every imaginable sin and vice. Every round you spend in here requires a DC 22 Will save or be drawn to try and join into the awfulness, pushing them towards the chaotic evil alignment. It's not exactly clear what being "drawn in" means, whether the affected PC begins murdering and raping right away or if they just rub themselves against the wall for an hour. Touching the walls for 5 rounds or more releases a being of pure vice (it's got identical stats to a Marilith but they never describe what it looks like and replace all the references to Marilith with the name "pure vice"). WHY MAKE THIS PLACE!?

We've got another room with a wall that drains strength while giving orgasms. Considering the decor of this Region so far has mostly resembled the love child of Hieronymus Bosch and a serial killer, plus the rather messed up traps and monsters, you'd have to wonder what sort of hosed up celestials made this place. It's especially notable because this sort of thing appears no where else in the dungeon. The other prison areas are all quite spart (aside from the overly elaborate traps) and the only decorations are those made to appeal to the celestials themselves or graffitti produced by later inhabitants.

Oh, and we've got a horde of wraiths, because the wights were not obscenely deadly enough. With 150 HD, attack bonus of +63 and a con drain of 4d6, they'll kill the average of one PC every 1-2 rounds. Don't bother trying to run either, they fly at 60 feet per round. The monk is the only one escaping, assuming he wasn't killed first.

Basically exploring this part of the Region requires that the party cleric cast Death Ward on everyone, then you spend 15 minutes exploring and once the death ward wears off run for the exit, rest for a day, rinse and repeat. Otherwise it'll just switch randomly between cakewalk fights with skeletons to being brutally murdered by energy and ability score drain. Oh, except that won't work because all these undead respawn in an average of 35 hours. So basically unless you can come up with some sort of permanent death ward, or the party cleric uses up their 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th level slots prepping extras you're all screwed.

You know, I originally thought the Horde rules looked like a fairly creative idea, but it's become quickly clear that the writers don't know what the hell they're doing when it comes to designing monsters. It's also weird to note that for the most part the hit points presented are much, much lower than average. Most of the wight hordes have 480 hp, but with HD of 120d12, that's 4 per die. The Mohrg horde has 420 HD and 1025 hit points, meaning less than 3 hp per dice. The wraiths have 150 HD and 480 hp as well, so that's a bit over 3 hp/dice. Skeleton hordes have about 30 HD and only 90 hit points in most cases. It's obvious that the designers are intentionally giving the hordes less hit points than average...so why give them so many HD in the first place?


So that completes the "unaligned" section of the Region. Considering how frigging big this one is I'm going to pace myself and split it up into segments. More to come soon.

oriongates fucked around with this message at 12:49 on Feb 11, 2014

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!




Alien Rope Burn posted:

Huh. On a related note, do we have any idea what writers wrote which parts of the WLD, or is it a mystery?

Almost impossible to say. From what I can tell the whole thing is a hodgepodge of different writers doing different things, then rewriting or altering.

For example, Sean Holland is credited with doing all of the stat blocks in the dungeon, but is also stated as writing the sections on the "harpies, mummy queen, and the lich".

Reading the acknowledgements in the back of the book also shows that the whole thing went through a lot of changes. After 3 months 4 writers dropped out of the project and were replaced by one guy, Richard Farrese. And after the "editing" was done about an entire third of the book was rewritten.

So placing the blame on anyone person is difficult. But ultimately Jim Pinto is a good scapegoat, just because the editing is definitely the dungeon's primary failing.

Also, the acknowledgements include some thanks which sounds like the most backhanded compliments I've ever read:

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!






Region N, part 2

N46-N49

This section is a "false" exit (it's still unclear whether or not it's possible to pass through this area at all). This area is basically like the western gates at the start of the entrance, including a brazier-lock.

The culmination is an illusionary exit into Region J, which is blocked by a firey skull that injures and knocks back the first two creatures per round that attempt to pass, making the fake gate difficult to get to and frustrating undead who attempt to leave. Of course, even if they get past there's no actual exit, just a solid wall.

This section is amazingly pointless for three reasons: First, there's no reason for any of the traps because of course there's no actual exit, nor any real reason to place a "fake" exit. Second, even if the exit was meant to lure undead to their death it wouldn't matter because the undead here come back to life (and killing the undead was clearly never the celestials goal in the first place). Third and finally, undead cannot approach the gate. The gate is in room 49, and room 48 contains a magical, invincible, undispellable barrier that blocks any undead from passing it. No undead would ever be able to get near the false gate to be lured in by its trickery or harmed by its traps (despite this of course the description of N 49 includes the bones of destroyed undead).

N53-N68

As previously mentioned there are 3 undead lords, but this section is the territory of a lesser warlord, a bodak calling himself the "Great Death". He's basically the nerdy warlord that all the other warlords make fun of. He runs a court run by wights and passes judgement on other undead for imagined crimes.

There are several rooms here full of skeleton hordes and wights, and in many cases the writers make it clear that there are multiple monsters but neglect to actually tell you how many.

Apparently the "Great Death" is some kind of undead Amazo: He's got the domination power of a vampire, energy drain of a wight, mummy rot ability of a mummy, crazy mind effect of an allip, stench of a ghast, and the aura of a nightshade. He also is a 26 HD bodak. He also has the very first treasure in this Region (not counting the 30 +1 longswords possessed by the mohrg horde): a +3 mithral shirt and +2 shocking burst or thundering warhammer (the weapon is given different stats in different parts of the statblock).

N69-N110

This area is under the control of the Champion of Hell, a blackguard ghost. This is basically the domain of incorporeal undead led by the ghost. It's unclear how these undead actually fight with any of the other undead in the Region, considering most incorporeal undead cannot harm other undead.

A lot of the rooms here are empty other than traps (there's another room that actively forces PCs who enter to become evil). There's another chamber with a semi-lich (a wight sorceress) who is still entombed in a coffin and unlikely to be freed. If the sorceress is freed then it turns out the celestials decided that she should get to keep her magical items. After all, when you're imprisoning ancient and powerful undead why not leave them with their potent magical artifacts? There's also St. Azamond, a 13th cleric/3rd level monk tiefling lich. Again with a wide selection of magic items he was apparently buried with by the celestials. Neither of these undead are likely to be freed however, requiring a complicated series of steps that PCs are unlikely to bother with or be aware of.

The incorporeal undead in this region are quite dangerous thanks to their large numbers (one of the first encounters is 5 dread wraiths) and touch attacks combined with their con drain. There's also CR 20 ghost (Clr 11/fighter 6) Keep in mind that PCs are probably not going to be any higher than 15th level at this point and undead regenerate in about a day and a half.

Finally we have another obscenely lethal horde: An Allip horde, although not as bad as the Wraith horde. There's also a room that contains wraiths, dread wraiths and dread wraith lieutenants (24 HD wraiths) but no indication is given as to how many of each there are.

There is at least a room that contains a very large selection of ghost touch weaponry (11, each of a different weapon), although the PCs must defeat the weapons in combat first. This room is potentially very useful when it comes to preparing the PCs for fighting the inhabitants of this region, contains many different weapons to allow for different fighting styles...except that any given weapon has a 3-in-4 chance of dissolving into nothingness. Meaning that of the 11 weapons statistically only 2-3 will survive. Better hope that you get one of the regular martial weapons and don't end up with a double-axe or spiked chain you can't use.

Vinarra herself is a CR 22 encounter a ghost Fighter 9/Rogue 1/ Blackguard 10. She also has 4 24 HD Dread Wraith bodyguards. Technically that makes this a CR 23 encounter. It doesn't involve lots of spells or anything complicated but it's still quite a fight considering the level of the PCs involved and the extremely draining fights that this area contains. Keep in mind that this region is not at all linear...within about 10-12 rooms a group of 12th level characters from Region M could wander into her domain and be faced with a CR 23 encounter. Unless they're gaining a level every other room there's no way to be prepared. Even PCs of 15-16th level could very well be killed, especially since (for unexplained reasons) Vinarra is capable of moving through the walls of this region that normally block incorporeal travel. And of course even if they're killed all of these undead will come back soon. Imagine a pissed off resurrected ghost leading her wraith hordes after the PCs that killed her.

N111-N134

This is the domain of the mummy queen, a priestess of some kind of generic death god. She believes the World Eater is an avatar of her god and is working to set it free.

Some of her most powerful servants are extremely beefy 28 HD mohrgs (making them pretty dangerous since that boosts their paralysis attack to a DC 24). Other than buff Mohrg's there's not much here. A few zombie wyverns. Some allips.

Despite the size of this Region (or perhaps because of) this is actually one of the duller sections of the WLD. There's lots of repetition and empty rooms (or rooms that are full of "boxed up" undead that will only attack if the PCs free them). The region is even more starved for loot than the rest of the WLD, without even the worthless gold and gems that filled up the rest of the dungeon. The only source of actual treasure are the named undead.

Despite this section being called "The Mummy's Tomb" it does not actually contain the mummy priestess herself. For some reason, even though the rooms are immediately adjacent the section with the mummy priestess is N181-201 (labeled as just "More Undead"). Let me illustrate with a shot of this section of the dungeon:



Rather than waiting 60 rooms or so to resume, I'll go ahead and skip to 181-201 and finish off the mummy's tomb. Like the earlier section there really isn't much here. Some more mohrg, some zombies, a few allips.

There are several traps supposedly created by the mummy that she actually would find impossible to create (such as a Holy Word trap) or that would have no affect against the undead servants of the lich lord she's placing them to defend herself against (such as symbols of death and insanity or the blasphemy spell).

The mummy herself is a 15th level cleric in addition to her abilities as a mummy, backed up by 6 12 HD allips. This is definitely a tough fight, especially since it is almost as easy for PCs fresh from a different region to stumble into this area as the first "boss"

If you check out the minimap up there you'll see that the southern end of this section is an open cave, that's the entrance to Region J (don't ask about the doors leading into solid rock, those are never explained), which has no guards and no defenses at all (except presumably the ward that stops undead from leaving the region. Region J is a 10-12th level Region, which means that mid-level PCs can simply walk right into the middle of a band of high level undead such as the 6 12 HD allips in N193, or the Mohrg barracks in the area of N198, which includes a 40 HD Mohrg "lord", who is probably a tougher fight than the mummy he serves.

Well, I'm done with the first half or so of Region N. Next we'll deal with the Prime Lich and the (oddly unimpressive) World Eater.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!






Region N Part 3: The World Eater and the Prime Lich

map:


So, This should be the last post for Region N, then we can move to Region O and finally out of this dump!

N135-159

This is the area containing the World Eater itself, but we'll deal with the side area's first. The World Eater is contained in a huge central room with 4 entrances. All 4 must be opened to get inside.

The mummy guards her entrance with an encounter that is very difficult, tougher than an actual fight with her. Even the text of the encounter stats that it is "a nearly impossible encounter"...so they know it's extremely difficult...why make it? There's no "trick" to the encounter or alternative way to bypass it. It's just a room trapped with a combo of Horrid Wilting and Energy Drain traps, that's permanently silenced and filled with 3 28 HD Mohrg who are randomly made immune to lightning bolt, magic missile and searing light. And unless they were killed earlier (and haven't respawned) backup mohrg from a nearby room arrive in 2-3 rounds.

The actual barrier around the World eater consists of 4 doors each of which must be unlocked simultaneously (they're unpickable) and a wall of force which can only be deactivated by pulling 4 levers located throughout the dungeon. It's actually unclear how the undead warlords are planning to accomplish any of this since there's a ward that prevents any evil creature from entering the chambers that contain the doors to the World Eater.

It's actually really questionable why the PCs would want to fight the World Eater at all. Unlocking it's prison is exceedingly difficult even if you know how (since it requires the party to find and trigger 4 separate levers and then split 4 ways to reach the 4 doors that must be unlocked) and while the World Eater might theoretically be breaking out I can't see how opening up its cage helps things at all. The undead lords are apparently incapable of entering the chamber even if they had the ability to unlock it. They all attempt to trick the PCs into helping them...but frankly any promises they make are so blatantly false that there's little motivation for any but the stupidest and evilest party to side with one of them. The PCs can't break the status quo without killing the world eater, but since everyone is still safely trapped in this Region there's little motivation for the PCs to try. PCs actually interested in being helpful or saving the day would simply jog back to one of the celestial garrisons and alert them to the situation.

For some reason the celestials decided that the moment the world eater's prison is opened all defenses should immediately be dropped: the stasis field that holds it in place fails, the barrier preventing undead from entering and leaving goes down and so does the barrier preventing evil creatures from entering the world eater's prison.

The World Eater itself is a 50 HD Colossal Nightcrawler. This fight is basically impossible for most groups within the level range of the Region (which maxes out at 18, so presumably PCs fighting the world eater will be level 17 or so).

The world eater itself is fairly tough, by the rules it should be at least CR 25. It's listed as being only CR 20. It's got above average hit points (500). Because of a lack of any decent magical gear the PCs likely can't hit it's AC of 41 or avoid being hit by it's +42 attack bonus (and it's +62 grapple bonus means anyone it bites will be swallowed). The huge HD also means that it's poison is DC 35 to resist.

So, by itself the world eater would be basically an extremely difficult to unbeatable encounter for a group of standard level 17 characters. Of course that wasn't bad enough, so once the doors to it's prison is opened a wave of negative energy hits everything in the dungeon. We're not talking the region by the way, we're talking the entire dungeon, killing most of the weaker inhabitants and hitting the PCs with 4 unavoidable negative levels to start the fight off. All undead hordes get max hp (which, given how low they were already means they'll be around 3-4 times the normal amount on average) and all other undead increase by 4 HD and gain a permanent unholy aura effect. All dead non-outsiders in the dungeon become undead and all undead except the three warlords become loyal to the world eater.

There are spheres full of celestial tools meant to help fight the world eater in this room, but they're contained in spheres that are difficult to break (hardness 10, 50 hp) or open (only possible by a LG PC making a DC 25 will save). The actual contents of the sphere range from potentially somewhat useful (+1 undead bane mace, a room-wide attack spell that only targets undead) to not worth the effort (12 potions of cure light wounds, scroll of divine favor, wand of magic missiles) to worth jack-poo poo (12 vials of holy water, wand of ice storm). Plus there's one sphere that's corrupted and adds an extra negative level to all creatures in the dungeon.

In addition the room has the encounter conditions of Cover and Concealment (meaning that on top of everything else the World Eater has a 20% miss chance). Desecration 14 (effectively any turn attempts are useless), and full of Stagnant Air which means that any given round a PC has to make a DC 15 Fort Save (which increases by 1 for each round) or lose their turn to coughing and choking.

And topping everything off, any undead in the region immediately converge on the room to help out the World Eater.

So, this is a game that frankly the PCs are best off not playing. If they find themselves in this Region the very best option is simply to leave and maybe pass a bit of info along to the celestials.

N160 to N180

This is the territory of Invistis, the Prime Lich. Because he knows the mummy priestess is great at taking control of undead he mostly defends himself with loads of traps and construct servants.

The lich's constructs are actually quite scary (which means that allying with the lich is probably the only reliable way to survive a fight with the World Eater), for instance one of the first is an Alloy Golem, a 54 HD Iron Golem which is nearly as tough a fight as the World Eater itself. It's listed as CR 16 even though a 54 HD iron golem would be at least CR 23. Other than the alloy golem there are several Iron Golems (some with bonus HD), extra buff shield guardians, and lots of traps.

Invistis himself is an 18th level wizard Lich. In fact he's the first lich, the first wizard to figure out the formula for lichdom. Despite this the celestials decided that not only should the bury him with a vast number of powerful magical items (seriously, Invistis has more personal magical items than every single encounter in the dungeon put together, not counting that bunch of 30 +1 swords) but they'd also bury him with his spellbooks (10 total). That's right, the guardians of light and justice decided it would be great to imprison the wizard who invented lichdom with his book of spells. Hell, I wouldn't bury him with paper, let alone a spellbook.

That said, those spellbooks are probably going to give any wizard players spontaneous orgasms. After struggling through the WLD with only your level-up spells and the occasional crappy scroll, this is the greatest treasure a wizard could conceive of.

The Rest

There's not a whole lot in the rest of the Region. We've got an area with several undead trapped in stasis (mostly some 32 HD dread Wraiths and a 24 HD devourer). There's a homunculus wandering around another room who has no real reason to be here (I think someone just realized they forget to check the homunculus off their list of "all the monsters!"). There's a place where a group of elven adventurer's died (the idea that they actually survived getting in here is basically unbelievable, based on the wizard's spellbook they're only 5th-6th level). The exits to the East are for some reason devoid of the extremely elaborate locks and traps that you find in the west side, and are guarded by only a single standard Iron Golem.

However, it does contain possibly the stupidest thing in the entire WLD. I may have said this before but dear god this time I mean it.

There is a room tucked away in the far Eastern part of the Region is a small room containing 4 iron golems. The golems are guarding a door in the eastern wall that requires a DC 45 open lock check to get open. Once opened it's revealed to be a false door and just opens onto a blank wall. A DC 30 search check reveals a slightly different rock in the wall. If a knock spell is cast on the stone then it opens a small cache containing a bone scroll case. I don't think any words can properly express how stupid what is inside is, so I'll allow it to speak for itself:



I don't think I can bring myself to say anything more about this Region. Thankfully there is only one left now. We're almost out people!

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

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Zereth posted:

The celestials who built the WLD are completely insane aren't they.

In all honesty, if that was the actual concept it would make everything make so much more sense and improve the dungeon immeasurably. However, all indication is that they're meant to be completely normal.

A dungeon designed by different groups of celestials with extremely different philosophies would be interesting as well (after all, the chaotic good guardinals would certainly have different opinions on how prisoners should be treated than the LG archon), especially since the completely neutral, ultra-lawful Inevitables were also involved in the dungeon's creation. It'd actually be a very cool way to differentiate some regions from others: the inevitable might have a clockwork/steampunk style dungeon with lots of machinery, doors that open only at precise times, strict and organized grid patterns to cells. The guardinals might have a larger, more natural area that they created, allowing prisoners more freedom while still hemming them in with guardian monsters and magical wards. etc, etc.

Unfortunately that doesn't hold up. It's like every other room was designed by someone different, who cared more about winning awards for "most creative use of a spinning blade" than actual effectiveness. The Slaad really do make the most sense.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

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InfiniteJesters posted:

Sometimes I wonder how well things like Tomb of Horrors and WLD would work in Dungeon World, where there's less statblocks to get in the way.

Does this make me a bad person?

I've converted tomb of horrors to some simpler systems, mainly Savage Worlds and PDQ, and it actually works quite well. Probably because the original Tomb of Horrors never really bothered itself much with statblocks anyway. It was more or less like an adventure game, full of "if-then" situations and generally mainly relied on the players killing themselves. The WLD on the other hand...

I don't know about dungeon world myself, but I would imagine that a simpler system would probably improve the WLD a lot. If nothing else it would probably shorten it by about 20%-30% since there wouldn't be so much word-count taken up by monster stat-blocks. Ivistis' stats alone take up about a full page.

I did give running the WLD a try once with PDQ's Quester's of the Middle Realms, although it never got terribly far. Honestly the biggest problem is that most light systems aren't designed to be quite as long-running as D&D (at least in my experience), and the WLD is already far too long-running for D&D itself. But still, can't make it much worse, can it?

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

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Robindaybird posted:

Honestly even if DW and such would reduce the bulk of the book, the person running it would have to do much redesign on everything I don't think it's worth the effort.

Yeah, playing it through with a different system really assumes that the problem is with 3.5. And while 3.5's system isn't doing the dungeon any favors, once you strip it away you're still left with a massive heap that ranges from mind-numbingly terrible to mediocre at best.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

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Region O: The Bit That's Cold

Here we are. The end. Now, there have been a couple of other places where the PCs could potentially exit the dungeon. Region M had a small blurb stating the DM might want to stick an exit somewhere around there. Region H has its giant hole in the ceiling. However, this is the "official" exit from the dungeon. Region O is the highest level Region (16-20) and has the only exit that can simply be walked out of.

Like J, H, K, and L this is one of those environmentally themed levels. This time the theme is cold stuff. The whole place is bitterly cold, which doesn't really matter because by now Resist/Endure elements will certainly be something the whole party is going to be covered in.

It was also apparently never intended to be a part of the dungeon, it was simply some nearby caves at the foot of the mountain the dungeon was built into, but the earthquake opened up the walls between the dungeon and this area. Despite that, the dungeon's magic still extends to this area, making it impossible to simply teleport or plane shift out.

map:



So, you'd expect that the ultimate final region of the dungeon would be epic and impressive. If you came in from the West you've just battled your way through several ancient undead warlords, the first lich in existence, and possibly the World Eater itself. If you came from the south from Region L you just battled a demonic kraken and his army of aquatic monsters (and you'll die since Region L's level range is significantly lower than O's). So, naturally Region O must be really, really amazing. Maybe the factions this time are warring forces of good and evil dragons, maybe there's an army of celestials coming into "cleanse" the dungeon and they're perfectly willing to eliminate anyone "tainted", maybe it's the opposite and a small army of demons and devils are attempting to make a bid for freedom, held back only by a few staunch defenders guarding the final exit.

Sadly, the truth is much lamer. You see, apparently Region O was originally defended by a titan, the brother to the titan corpse PCs found all the way back in Region A. However he was overpowered and imprisoned in ice by a frost giant shaman and his clan. Apparently the frost giant knew of the nature of the dungeon and that he now controlled one of the only exits from the place. He figured that he and his clan would act as toll keepers and get rich off of the inhabitants. Anyone who wants to leave must pay him their magical items to escape. Unfortunately this plan hasn't really worked out: not many of the dungeon's inhabitants have actually found the place and those who have don't really have much in the way of wealth to offer, and so the giants just kill them. Despite this disappointment they're still camping here.

If that sounds like a fairly dull premise you'd be right. This region is basically just a slog through enemies of varying levels of beefiness until you reach the exit and are done. It's entirely unimaginative and really involves little more than carving through walls of HP. Many encounters are with low to mid powered humaniods and giants whose CR is buffed through numbers or class levels. For example, one of the first encounters is with a patrol of 10 standard frost giants. While this is hardly a trivial encounter, it basically is just a group of enemies who will smack the PCs with melee attacks turn after turn while the party depletes their HP, or the wizard/sorcerer utterly destroys them.

Since almost all monsters here are of the "brute" variety (giants and humaniods, sometimes with fighter or barbarian levels) and rely more on numbers than individual power, their non-Fort saves are pitiful and spellcasters will definitely dominate. A sorcerer with Mass Hold Monster can turn this entire region into a cakewalk.

O1-O9
This section really illustrates the above point, it's primary feature is a tribe of renegade bugbear slaves that belonged to the giants in the past. This is a group of 12 bugbears who you will likely fight all at once: 4 6th level fighters, 3 6th level barbarians, 2 6th level rangers, 2 6th level rogues, and a 6th level cleric. Another group consists of 4 fighters, three barbarians, and five rangers all of 6th level. Their chieftain is more powerful warrior (13th level barbarian) but since he'll probably be fought solo he doesn't really present much of a challenge either to a tactically minded group, or any spellcaster with Hold Person memorized.

Now, will these fights cost the PCs some hit points? Sure, there's enough enemies that a few will definitely get hits in, especially since the PCs AC is much lower than it should be due to a lack of magic items. But unless a spellcaster is stupid enough to get surrounded or a rogue is very unlucky no one is going to be severely hurt and at 16+ level healing is a fairly trivial task. This Region also doesn't have any major "timed" events or wandering dangers so it's quite easy for PCs to retreat, rest and come back later.

In fact, this area is almost a 3.5-hater's perfect example of the perceived problems with the system. It allows spellcasters to dominate over all other classes due to the weak enemies, threats that can't kill a PC are basically meaningless due to powerful healing magic, and there's not really any reason for a "full day" of adventuring when it's so easy to retreat and rest once you've run out of high level spells.

O10-O19

This area is the lair of some frost worms. It also used to be the lair of a group of winter/frost cultists whose presence is indicated by a few murals and shrines. These have no significance whatsoever as far as I can tell.

The frost worms (two of them) have a 7 extra HD, making them moderately challenging compared to the giants and bugbears. But one of the other big issues with this area is that it's theme is just so god-damned obvious. Within minutes of arriving in this Region (and especially after dealing with other "themed" regions throughout the dungeon) it's going to be clear that this is a cold-themed location and that the PCs should prepare accordingly. Region J had this problem as well, but at least being forced to set aside fire-based spells is at least mildly limiting as they represent a large portion of the direct-damage arsenal of mages and sorcerers.

Here, all the party clerics have to do is make sure that they use all their 2nd level slots on Resist Energy and any enemies that can't be easily taken down with a save-or-suck spell can be easily torched with fiery effects since practically all of them have the Cold subtype and will be taking double damage.

There's also a group of 12 6 HD frost mephits. At this point the PCs may start to feel like bullies picking on the little kids at school.

Oh, and there's a 24 HD fiendish megaraptor and it's friend, an 8th level Frost Giant ranger. And in another cranny we've got a pack of 5 18 HD winter wolves.


O20-O30

This is the large open area to the south that borders the water and the large interior cave. The biggest threat is the giant's animal trainer, a 12th level Frost Giant druid who could probably give the party a halfway decent fight.

The biggest risk of this section is the fact that there aren't much in the ways of walls or distance, so if you get in a fight with one group of giants you're probably getting in a fight with all of them in short order. Still even with several waves of reinforcements the fights should not significantly challenge a group of high-level PCs.

O31-O45

This area is the domain of an Ice Devil who apparently escaped from the dungeon proper and just decided to hang out here for a while. The devil has a few renegade frost giants serving him and a few 12-headed Cryohydra. For some reason a single ice devil is powerful enough to give this area the Cold Dominant, Enhanced Magic (ice) and Impeded Magic (fire) planar conditions. Still the devils here at least gives the area a bit of complexity.

The Ice Devil has a few bone and horned devils as backup, and Colossal Purple Worm with 36 HD who is clearly another one of those monsters the writers threw in when they realized that they were missing any encounters with one in the previous Regions.

The ice devil himself is a 24 HD Gelugon. I've noticed that the more a particular area relies on simply adding HD to its inhabitants the worse it probably is. Although the Gelugon is a decent fight, his servant (an 18th level bugbear sorcerer) is probably the most dangerous fight in the section.

O46-O60

This is the home of the frost giant tribe. For some reason their chieftain is masquerading as the titan who used to guard this place. It's never adequately explained why he would want to do this.

There are also a few HD-bloated monsters as well. A 20 HD gargantuan black pudding and a 31 HD gargantuan Remorhaz.

There's also a 5th level frost giant ranger who is also a were-polar bear, which is interesting at least.

Other than that there's not much beyond some frost giants with class levels (mostly barbarians and fighters). Given their low will saves a PC with Mass Charm Monster could build up quite an army of allies.

The frost giant chieftain is, admittedly, going to be a pretty tough fight. He's a 19th level frost giant cleric. He's got spells and plenty of hit points, but presumably by this time the PCs are all 19th or so level themselves...the odds don't favor the frost giant, especially since he's likely a solo fight.


And that's really it. The exit is just a big hole in the northern wall of the dungeon (which the cartographers forgot to mark the encounter on the map) and leaving doesn't really require fighting the frost giant shaman. In fact, with just a few mass invisibility spells or something similar the PCs could easily sneak past the giants and leave without much of a fight at all.

If you think this region seems short you're right. It has 60 rooms making it the shortest Region in the book (although Region H comes close). In fact if you just so happen to move in a straight line towards the exit you can make it there in under 8 encounters. There really isn't much to say here. It doesn't have much worth ranting over or insulting but that's mostly because there really isn't much to talk about. It's solidly mediocre.

This Region has the same problem as the other potential exits from the dungeon (M and H) in that it's extremely anti-climatic. Region M is little more than wandering around a big rock pile and maybe finding a cave or a tunnel that leads out. Region H is a relatively peaceful encounter with elves that the PCs will likely leave behind immediately as soon as they realize how easy it is for them to simply leave the dungeon here. Region O is full of encounters that vary between painfully slow fights where you have to carve your way through opponents with massive quantities of hit points or fights that are over in moments if the party spellcasters are on the ball.

None of them have any kind of "conclusion" to the dungeon's plot, no epic confrontation with escaping evil, no "You Suck" speech to the incompetent angelic guardians. Some of those are possible in other regions but you still have to find some way out and then it just kind of...ends.

But to be fair, at this point that's all any PC is going to want after having to deal with the nightmare that is the WLD.

So, finally completed the WLD, and thank god. Next time I think I'll dedicate myself to a write up for a game I actually enjoy

I'll leave you with the depressing words of Jim Pinto, line developer and editor of the WLD:

"I've read the majority of the text at least twice, and this book is about as good as anything I ever do is going to get. This is my magnum opus."

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

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Mimir posted:

World's Largest City, then?

LALALALA!! I can't hear you!!


quote:

So, what's in O59 of the WLD?

Who is the real Barcellos?

What is the fate of man?!

O59 is the place where the titan Barcellos is imprisoned. The "real" Barcellos refers to the fact that the frost giant shaman is impersonating the titan (it is never explained why or how he is doing this). The impersonation has absolutely no effect on the plot, the PCs have no idea who Barcellos is and they can't really free him without killing the shaman first.

The "fate of man" is a mystery that was never revealed and likely was meant to be written out of the dungeon's plot entirely. You see occasional places where the writers were clearly trying to make some kind of allusion to some deep connection between the celestials and mankind, and that the dungeon has some kind of grand purpose beyond simply a prison. This is never elaborated on or explained. In fact you also get places that very explicitly state that the dungeon existed before humans, for instance Region N has a sidebar making it clear that none of the undead in the Region are actually humans, instead being some kind of pre-human precursor race (this seems to be purely cosmetic, they all speak modern Common and behave exactly like humans).

My best guess is that these are just remnants of plot ideas that were intended to be written out but never got fully excised.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

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I've had a couple of days to recover from finishing up the WLD. To get the taste out of my mouth I think I'll try some games I actually like, so I think I'll do a series on the PDQ system.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

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Tasoth posted:

PDQ is the system for Dead Inside, right?

Yep, Dead Inside, Zorcerer of Zo, Jaws of the Six Serpents, Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies and others. None of the games are particularly huge so I can probably do each of them in a couple of posts.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

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PDQ: It's Not Just For God-Games!

PDQ is one of my favorite systems and one of the first systems that really got me to experiment with playing outside of the standard D20/D&D paradigm. Needless to say they'll be a fair amount of fanboying going on here, but I'll try to avoid glossing over flaws and gushing too much over the things I really like. I figure after the disappointment that is the Hercules and Xena RPG and the painful slog of the WLD, I deserve to talk about a game I like. So there.

This is kind of the prelude to actually talking about the various PDQ games out there. Since they all work on the same basic system I'll go ahead and lay that out first and then we can jump into the nuttier stuff.

PDQ stands for "Prose Descriptive Qualities", but needless to say I'll be using the acronym from now on. I always dread explaining the title to others because it sounds really pretentious. Let's pretend it stands for "Pretty drat Quick" because it's a really streamlined little system. PDQ is a rules-light RPG with a strong "DIY" philosophy. This means the game doesn't give you a bunch of set skills/abilities/traits/etc, instead players and GMs are encouraged to come up with their own traits. There are several other systems with similar ideas (FATE's Aspects is one of the most well known), but in PDQ's case there are practically no predetermined traits (the exception tends to be "type" Qualities related to specific game settings)

The core rules for PDQ can be found for free online: http://www.atomicsockmonkey.com/freebies/di/pdq-core.pdf and some people seem perfectly thrilled to just play with these basics. Myself I prefer a little bit more crunch to my PDQ games, but we'll get to the more involved systems later.

Qualities
The central conceit of the PDQ system are player-defined Qualities. A Quality is any significant trait and falls into two categories: Strengths, which are inherently positive, and Weaknesses, which are inherently negative. In most cases, when the game refers to Qualities its talking about Strengths.

Each Quality has a Penumbra which is basically the range of actions a Quality will help with. There's no specific range that games are "supposed" to have, it's just up to the GM and the players to decide whether a Penumbra is fair. Narrowing or broadening the penumbra of Qualities helps to give a game more focus and can help adjust the "power level". For example, in some games it would be totally fine to pick a Quality like "Warrior" or "Fighter", which would generally represent your ability to kick butt. However, your GM may decide he wants characters to be painted in less broad strokes and require more specialized Qualites and would require a character to define themselves as a "Swordsman" or "Archer". Alternatively, a Quality like "Pirate" could represent fighting skill in certain situations or with certain weapons but also covers other skills.

My favorite example of how you can narrow or expand a Quality is the "Ninja" Quality (appropriate since the Ninja Burger RPG uses the PDQ system).

In a realistic game the Quality "Ninja" would basically represent skill with disguise, infiltration and possibly the use of assassination tools like poison or garrotes.

In a fantastic/cinematic game "Ninja" covers all of the above as well as acrobatic ability, fighting with exotic weaponry, keen instincts, speed, etc.

In a completely over the top game "Ninja" could include not only all of the above but also ninja magic, mental conditioning to resist interrogation or mind control, running on water and up walls, and probably a lot more.

Quality Ranks

Qualities are Ranked to indicate how useful they are to the character. The ranks are as follows:

*Poor [-2]
*Average [0]
*Good [+2]
*Expert [+4]
*Master [+6]

Weaknesses are always Poor [-2] Ranked, Strengths are always Ranked between Good [+2] and Master [+6], although damage can lower them. In general you'll only have an Average [0] Quality listed on your character sheet if one of your Strengths has been damaged and reduced to Average [0] Rank. However, if you're taking an action that isn't covered by either a Strength or a Weakness then you're treated as Average [0]

The number in brackets is the bonus a Quality adds to a 2d6 roll to determine success or failure.

Character Creation

Basic PDQ characters are extremely bare-bones. Most of the later generation PDQ games (those made after Dead Inside) give a bit more options when it comes to building characters. However for now I'll stick with the basics.

You get 4 Quality Ranks to purchase Strengths. Each Rank gives you a Quality at Good [+2] Rank or can be used to improve a Quality by one Rank up to Master. So you can basically have 4 Good [+2] Ranks, 2 Good [+2] and one Expert [+4], 2 Expert [+4], or a single Master [+6] Rank and one Good [+2] Rank. You also have to choose a single Poor [-2] ranked Weakness.

And that's it. You've just finished a character. However, most games have a few extra steps as I mentioned.

Task Resolution

When the GM wants to set a difficulty for tasks that are not being actively opposed they use the PDQ "Master Chart", assigning tasks a Rank just like Qualities.


There are two ways to go from there:

Simple Situations: If you have a relevant Quality whose Rank is higher than the Rank of the task you're attempting and there's nothing in particular stopping you from focusing or taking your time then you succeed. So an Expert [+4] thief can pick a Good [TN 9] or lower Ranked lock without making a roll under normal conditions.

Complex Situations: If you're dealing with a task whose rank is equal or higher than your Quality Rank or you are under stress, a time crunch or danger of being shot/stabbed/etc then you're dealing with a Complicated Situation and you have to roll. You roll 2d6 and add any bonuses or penalties from relevant Qualities. If the final total is equal or higher than the TN you've succeeded.

If a character is facing active opposition from another character both characters roll and whoever rolls higher wins, or it's resolved as a Conflict (see below). Much like FATE, you can easily stat up just about anything as though it was a character.

Conflicts

This is the combat rules, but they can be used for any type of drawn-out, opposed situation where you don't want to resolve things with just one roll. In a conflict everyone takes turns (going in order of highest relevant Qualities) being an attacker. When you make an attack you describe how you're attempting to harm/disadvantage/stop/etc your target and they describe how they're trying to avoid/stop/endure your attack. These descriptions are used to choose which Qualities will apply. Both attacker and defender roll 2d6 and add relevant bonuses/penalties. If the attacker wins they inflict damage equal to the difference in the roll. If the defender wins they've avoided the attack. There are a few small Conflict specific rules

*You can Flip Out to get a +2 to your offensive action, but you take a -2 to all other rolls until your next turn. Conversely you can Play It Cagey to get a +2 to all defensive reactions in a turn, but you suffer -2 to your offensive roll and any other rolls you make until next turn.

*If you want to target multiple opponents you can do so at a -2 per extra target.

*If you've got a Strength focused specifically on defense (Iron Jaw, Dermal Plating, etc) then you can choose to ignore all but one point of damage from a successful attack...the downside is that one point goes straight to that defensive Quality and makes you easier to hurt going forward. On the other hand if you've got a relevant Weakness (Bruises Easily, Not in the Face!) then you take 2 additional points of damage the first time you're hit in a Conflict.

I actually find it interesting how much depth there can be once you grasp how Qualities and applicability interact. It's easy enough to just try and add up as big a bonus as possible and just trade 2d6 rolls until someone is taken down, but there's surprising tactical depth if you keep in mind that it's possible to manipulate the scene to try and maximize the Qualities you can use but minimize your opponent.

For example, say you've got a soldier with Good [+2] Marksman and Expert [+4] Buff As Hell fighting a Master [+6] Kung Fu Fighter. If he just takes advantage of his high Expert [+4] Quality he'll be at a disadvantage against the Kung Fu Fighter's higher Rank. However, if he pulls out a his sidearm and opens fire he'll be rolling with a lower bonus (+2 vs +4), but unless this game is one where martial artists can catch bullets his opponent won't be able to defend with his Quality at all.

Damage

Damage is one of the areas where PDQ tends to stand out and it's one of the more polarizing aspects of the game. If someone doesn't like PDQ, it's probably because they don't like the damage system.

Characters do not have hit points or health boxes or anything like that. Instead a character takes damage to their Qualities. Each point of damage reduces a Quality of the character's choice by one Rank (so Master drops to Expert then to Good, Average and finally Poor). Once all Qualities have been reduced to poor any additional damage forces you to Zero Out and you've lost the Conflict, or at least you can't participate any further.

The victim gets to choose where the damage Ranks are assigned and this is one of the areas where the system trips some people up. It's important to note that damage is purely an abstraction, not necessarily something that has to be justified with in-game logic or effects. Lets say you have Big Bob. He's got the Qualities Good [+2] Street Fighter, Expert [+4] My Badass Motorcycle, and Good [+2] Secret Knitting Hobby. Now, if he's jumped in his house by a rival gang member and takes 3 points of damage to his Good [+2] My Badass Motorcycle Quality bringing it down to Poor [-2]. This doesn't mean that down in his garage his bike suddenly starts hemorrhaging oil and miraculously repairs itself when Big Bob recovers. The bike is unaffected, but if Big Bob tries to hop on his hog and escape his attacker's he'll still be rolling poorly.

There are two types of damage, both work exactly the same during a Conflict scene, but they recover at different rates.

Damage Ranks (called Wound Ranks in newer PDQ games), represent actual injury or rarely some form of lasting non-physical trauma (such as extreme mental shock or spiritual anguish). At the end of a Conflict characters recover all Damage Ranks if there is not going to be any further danger in the near future and they have an opportunity to recover at their leisure. If the situation is still dangerous and another Conflict could potentially happen soon you instead recover 1d6 damage at the end of the Conflict (this may be modified by Strengths like Quick Healer or Medic).

Failure Ranks basically represent everything else. In short they're "stress". Whether this stress is caused by being exhausted, frustrated, unbalanced, etc. Outside of combat, most damage takes the form of Failure Ranks. At the end of the Conflict all failure Ranks are automatically recovered.


And really that's about all there is to the Core Rules. There are no special rules for magic or the supernatural since the assumption is that it will be handled by whatever specific PDQ game you decide to run. There's only the slightest rules for experience and advancement for much the same reason.



Monkey Ninja Pirate Robot

I'm throwing this into the same post as the Core Rules because MNPR is probably one of the simplest PDQ games. It's more or less a wacky board game turned into an RPG via the application of PDQ's rules. In a lot of ways this is to traditional RPGs what Kingdom of Loathing is to MMORPGS. Given that it's one of the first PDQ RPGS and is a super-casual game it's fairly roughly put together.

Setting

MNPR is not worried about a setting. It's basically the modern world but with the logic of a cartoon. But the "real" world isn't really important. The important part is the struggle between Monkeys, Ninjas, Pirates and Robots to control the power of uranium (each faction uses it in different ways). All four factions also oppose Aliens, little gray men out to steal Earth's uranium for themselves. With that in mind it doesn't matter where or how the characters get together and fight one another or outside forces.

Characters
Each character has a "Type" (one of the eponymous factions) which determines a few basic things about them.

Monkeys: Monkeys are "hakuna matata" types. They like hanging out, chilling and having fun. Generally they get along okay with Pirates, don't like robots and don't give a toss about ninjas. Of course they hate Aliens. They use uranium as fertilizer for their bannana trees (which has the side effect of granting them human intelligence, speech, and a special ability called Monkeyshines. Monkeys can get a +2 bonus to a social situations once per session.

Ninjas Ninjas are inscrutable assassins. They're sneaky and mysterious. Generally they don't care about monkeys, don't like pirates (of course), like robots and hate aliens. Their Ninja Magic is powered by uranium. They can also get a +2 bonus to a physical situation once per session.

Pirates Pirates are a lot like monkeys, but more likely to set things on fire. They're frat boys with boats and eye-patches basically. Pirates don't like Ninjas, like monkeys, don't care about Robots and hate Aliens. Pirates value uranium as valuable booty, but it's radiation does also make them more cunning and tricky. They can call upon a +2 bonus to business/professional rolls once per session.

Robots Basically a cross between Data and Doc Brown. They're intellectual but also focused on upgrading and improving themselves and gathering new data. They like ninjas, don't like monkeys and don't care about pirates, and hate aliens. They use uranium as a power source. Their logical minds let them get a +2 bonus to a mental roll once per session.

Each of the four factions has a trait called Mojo which is kind of like the "hero points" of the system. Mojo is gained either by exemplifying your character's Type (a robot who takes the time to download the library of congress for example) or beating someone else up and taking their mojo, highlander-style. Well, it doesn't actually have to be violent, you just have to overcome a semi-formal Challenge with another mojo-user. A Challenge can be any sort of Conflict from a fist-fight to a cook-off. To engage in a Challenge you must formally challenge the opponent and they must accept. Once a challenge is accepted, attempting to back out or run away forfeits all of your Mojo.

Character Creation

Step One: Pick a Type (see above)

Step Two: Pick a Goal. Basically this is your reason for not just sticking around at home eating bananas, meditating, collating data or polishing your peg. A Goal can be basically as specific or vague as you want. Once per session you can get a +2 bonus to a roll made to pursue your goal.

Pick Your Qualities In addition to the standard 4 Strength Ranks and one Weakness, each character also has an Average [0] Type Quality. So you're an Average [0] Monkey, or Average [0] Ninja, etc.

Starting Mojo Everyone starts with 1d6 Mojo points. Mojo is "flavored" so Monkeys get Monkey-Mojo, Pirates get Pirate-Mojo, etc.

And you're ready.

Mojo Rules

Mojo is used as both a power source and as a form of experience to improve your character.

There are some uses of Mojo that are universal, allowing you to add extra dice to a roll (adding it after the roll costs more), adding a flat +2 bonus. Recovering damage ranks. Some uses are much more specific, giving you a ranged attack that targets anyone you can see, sensing the nearest character of your Type, or even asking yes/no questions of the GM that must be answered truthfully or blocking other characters from using Mojo.

There are also Flavored Mojo powers that can only be used with the right flavor of Mojo and by the right Type. So a Monkey can only use Pirate Mojo for universal powers, but can use Monkey Mojo for his special Monkey powers.

Monkeyshines
*inflict -2 to a character's roll in a business or professional situation.
*to force a target to mimic your next action.
*to inflict a -2 penalty to an action involving a complicated machine, computer or similar advanced process. This works on any actions taken by a Robot.
*Spend 2 Mojo and sacrifice your action to negate any attempts to damage (whether Damage Ranks or Failure Ranks) until your next turn.

Ninja Magic
*Spend 3 Mojo to become invisible. This grants a +4 bonus to any actions that benefit from stealth and lasts until you draw attention to yourself in some way.
*treat just about anything (smoke, wires, treetops, etc) as though it were a solid surface for one turn.
*Spend 2 Mojo to force a target to immediately obey a simple command. If the command is iffy or risky to the target the ninja has to make a roll with their Type Quality vs. the target's highest mental or psychic Quality. The command lasts only one turn.
*fill an area with smoke.

Pirate Tricks
*apply a +1 bonus to damage.
*summon a Good [+2] Parrot for 1d6 (plus Pirate Rank) turns. The parrot obeys your commands as long as it's around.
*inflict a -2 to an opponent's mental action.
*Spend 3 Mojo to force everyone to start singing a shanty. All non-pirates lose their next action.

Robot Upgrades
*force a machine to do the opposite of what it's operator is trying to accomplish (accelerating a car will slow or stop it. turning left will turn right, saving a file will delete it, etc).
*detect any enemies within Middling range.
*Spend 1 Mojo to interlock with another robot or robots (who must also spend 1 Mojo). The combined robot will have all of the component robot's Qualities.
*release a limb to act as an independent character. You can transfer any Quality Ranks you wish into the limb, but it must have at least one Rank of the Robot Quality.


Improvements
You can also spend Mojo to increase your Qualities or buy new Qualities at Good [+2] Rank. This is fairly expensive (4 Mojo per Rank), so it won't happen a lot unless you're really good at Challenging opponents without burning any mojo yourself. Improving your Type Rank requires Mojo of the appropriate Type and you can also purchase a new Type using appropriately themed mojo (so a Monkey with 4 points of Robot Mojo could become a Robot Monkey)

If you should run into "negative" Mojo (basically by losing a Challenge when you have no Mojo left) your Qualities will be lowered to produce the Mojo you need. You get half the Mojo back from each rank (so 2 Mojo per Rank rather than 4) and have to surrender any owed Mojo to the winner.


The Aliens

The aliens are bizarre interstellar assholes who come to Earth to hassle the locals, mutilate farm animals and probe things. Aliens want uranium for unkown reasons.

Aliens are exceedingly tough, having a trait called Alien Invulnerability which reduces Damage Ranks (not Failure Ranks) suffered by the aliens from damage by terrestrial Types. The reduction is equal to the alien's Type modifier. So a Good [+2] Alien ignores 2 Damage Ranks from every attack. A Master [+6] Alien ignores 6. Overcoming this reduction requires multiple terrestrial types attacking the alien together (or a single character with several Type Qualities). 2 Types can overcome a Good [+2] Alien, 3 can overcome an Expert [+4] Alien and all four are needed for a Master [+6] Alien.

Aliens have their own flavor of Mojo:
*spending 2 points lets them communicate with anything within Middling range. This doesn't grant control, but the communication is universal...they can communicate with people, cows, trees, cars, toothbrushes, etc.
*Spend 1 point of Mojo to emit a wave of TK force, knocking down anyone who can't beat a Good [TN 9] task.
*Spend 2 Mojo to drain 1 point of Mojo from the target and inflict a -2 to all physical actions for 1d6 Scenes. It's possible to drain more, but the alien must sacrifice additional Mojo themselves. This only works on helpless or completely surprised foes.
*Spending 1 point to slip through openings the size of a golf-ball.
*Spending 1 point of Mojo and an action allows mental communication with a number of other Aliens equal to the Alien Type modifier (so an Expert [+4] alien can mind-talk with 4 other aliens). This goes up to Far range. If using this power against a terrestrial with the Alien Type can allow the Alien to spend an extra Mojo and force them to obey a short command or see an illusion of the alien's choice.

Non-aliens can get Alien Mojo from Challenges, but using it causes aliens to become aware of their presence and experience minor, weird psychic phenomena. If the PC takes the Alien Type Quality using Alien Mojo they gain the benefits of the Type but every session the GM can give the player certain conditions they must follow or lose their Alien Type quality, up to the Type modifier. This is encouraged to be used primarily for silly, bizarre behaviors. These conditions should be revealed only the the player with the Alien Type and kept secret from the other players. Examples are:

*For the next five minutes you must speak with a strange accent.
*For the rest of the session you cannot use a door.
*For the next five minutes your character things (other player) is Lassie and reacts to them appropriately.

Extra Bits

There a few additional rules of interested scattered through the GM chapter.

Type Kings

Each of the Types has a "King" that is the theoretical ruler of the Type and the epitome of the Type's traits. These guy's have a Type Quality ranked at King [+8]. To become a Type King you must have a Master [+6] Rank in the Type and Challenge them for leadership. If you win you attain the title. In addition to their high bonus, Type Kings can create "Toys" which are basically objects with Qualities (see below).

Type HQs

Each Type has one or more headquarters (the Monkey Haus, Ninja Hut, Pirate Ship, Robot Factory and Alien Muthaship). The HQs have Qualities like characters. So a Robot Factory might have Good [+2] Security Systems, Average [0] Secret Escape Tunnel, or Expert [+4] Giant Laser On The Roof. In general each HQ has as many Quality Ranks as there are players in the group, and the players should get the opportunity to assign the Qualities as they wish. Alternatively a player can assign the HQ a Poor [-2] Weakness instead (usually to weaken an opposing Type's HQ). The GM then selects a Strength and a Weakness. The group creates one HQ for each Type in the party.

Uranium

Uranium is basically solidified Mojo and can be used a couple of different ways. It can be eaten for healing, sold or traded to other characters, or converted into untyped Mojo which must be used immediately, it cannot be retained.

Toys

These are basically items with Qualities. They either have a Good [+2] Strength, or an Expert [+4] Strength and a Poor [-2] Weakness. Toys can be lost, traded, etc and whoever is using it gets the benefit of the Toy. Toys can't be used to absorb damage/failure ranks but the player can choose to "drop" the Toy to reduce an attack's damage by the Toy's modifier. The Toy is on the ground and potentially up for grabs for anyone.

Vehicles

Like HQ's and Toys these are basically objects statted up as characters. In addition to adding the bonuses of their Qualities to the pilot's rolls the pilot can assign damage ranks to his vehicle's Qualities or split them up between himself and his vehicle. Vehicles are, intentionally, not crazy powerful. A combat-focused character can easily cut a car in half or take down a tank.


The rest is mostly generic suggestions on GMing styles, different ways to play the game and building adventures. None of it is mockable or unusual, and by now I'm sure all of us are fairly familiar with the content of these chapters.

Next: Dead Inside

oriongates fucked around with this message at 12:34 on Feb 17, 2014

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!






PDQ started with basically two games. I've already covered Monkey Ninja Pirate Robot which is basically meant to be a fast-and-loose completely goofy, more-or-less settingless game about beating up aliens and eating radioactive waste.

The other game is more or less its polar opposite. It's a game about losing what's most important, suffering, pain, rebuilding your life and using the opportunity to explore a world you've never been able to see before. No we're not talking about breaking up with your girlfriend in college, we're talking about losing your soul. We're talking about being Dead Inside.



Described as "The Roleplaying Game Of Loss and Redemption", it's all about folks who have lost their soul and their journey to try and find it again or build up a new one from the tattered remains. It's also described as a deliberate inversion of the standard "kill things and take their stuff" formula of RPGs because the easiest way to rebuild your soul is through good deeds, making it a game of "healing people and give them your stuff".

A quick browse through the book's art and the title would probably give the impression that this game is goth as hell


CRAAAAWLIIING IIIIN MY SKIIIIIIIIN

However, appearances are deceiving in this case. Dead Inside has horror elements and some dark/bleak themes but at its heart Dead Inside is an urban fantasy game which has a lot in common with stories like Neverwhere, Mirrormask, or Coraline. It's more about being "weird" than scary and the "soul-cultivation" mechanic encourages positive, optimistic actions by the players.

Chapter 1: Being Dead Inside

In the context of this game "Dead Inside" means that you're a person without a soul. There are a lot of ways that someone can lose their soul. You might have been born without one or suffered a spontaneous loss. However, it's more common to lose it through self-destruction (drug addiction, wallowing in excess, and generally turning yourself into an awful person) or through the sudden loss of something or someone immensely important to you (losing a child violently is a good example), the failure of a life-long dream can also cause soul loss. Finally it's also possible for a supernatural entity to steal or (more likely purchase) your soul.

Losing your soul has two main effects:

First, you feel bad. Apparently the real world is essentially the spiritual equivalent of Siberia: cold, barren, and hardly livable. The human soul provides insulation against this terrible place and without it you're basically standing naked in the cold. Empty hollow pit inside that can never be filled. You can't properly interact with normal people anymore and your emotions are just faded echoes of what they used to be. Goth, goth, goth, poo poo bats.

Second, you can perceive things you couldn't before. Although the human soul provides insulation and protection it also blinds normal people to the spiritual world. With your soul gone you can now see portals to the spirit world, ghosts and the effects of magic and the supernatural. With this awareness comes the ability to manipulate the energies of the soul and perform supernatural feats yourself...if you had any actual soul-power to fuel them.

So, this all sounds pretty weird and it gets weirder. Part of it is because Dead Inside sees the soul a little differently than most definitions. Although the game talks about losing your soul as though it was a unique, concrete thing, you eventually learn that this isn't quite how it works. The soul is more like water in a jug. It can be divided up, consumed, poured out, transferred to another container or spilled on the ground. Normal people have a thick, sealed jug. You can't get to the sweet, sweet soul juice inside, but it's also protected from the outside world. It's tough to effect an ordinary person with supernatural abilities and in turn they can't use the energy stored inside for any particular purpose. However, when that jug is shattered you're left with only the tiny drops collected in the biggest fragment. You can easily access the soul-energy now but you barely have any left. And likewise, you're now vulnerable to outside influences. In the context of the game getting your soul back means "rebuilding" the jug. It'll never be as strong as it once was though...but you can build it bigger than before.

There are several ways to go about getting the soul energy you'll need. The majority are positive: using soul-cultivation is the slow and steady path: do a good deed, help someone and you can create soul-energy. That's the preferred method, but the spiritual bleakness of the Real World makes it difficult, it's much easier to cultivate new soul energy in the Spirit World. Alternatively, the Dead Inside can follow signs from the Imagos, a sort of Jungian spirit-guide to go on quests or journeys to help restore their soul (faster, but more dangerous than soul cultivation).
You can also steal souls from others. "Eating" ghosts is one way (ghosts have minimal defense against spiritual attack), or even attempting to steal or sucker someone else out of a soul (ignorant Average People would make tempting targets but their natural spiritual defenses make them tough targets). This is bad karma though and you tend to lose some of the soul energy to soul decay. If an entity bought your soul from you then buying it back (or stealing it back if you were cheated) is fine and doesn't garner any negative soul marks.

Chapter 2: The Real World and the Spirit World

This is where the game took an unexpected turn the first time I read it. I was expecting something like Vampire or Mage, with the supernatural lurking out of sight of the mortal world and the Dead Inside suddenly thrust into a world of back alleys, nightclubs, sewer people, etc. etc. In actuality players are strongly encouraged by the game to leave the Real World as soon as possible, and it's fairly easy.

The Real World

Like I mentioned before, the Real World sucks if you don't have a soul. Dead Inside assumes that the Real World is basically just the ordinary mundane modern world. There's some weird stuff out there...but surprisingly not a whole lot. Spiritually aware entities find the real world inhospitable and Average People are tough nuts to crack for spirit predators. Most supernatural abilities are also heavily penalized in the Real World (the exception is Second Sight). There are a few "native" inhabitants of the Real World, but other than Average People, almost all of them only live there part time and prefer to stay in the Spirit World (although a Real World Sourcebook Cold Hard World goes into more detail on the Real World and playing the game there):

*Average People have intact soul-shells and are blind to the supernatural. These shells are extremely tough to crack, but when they do they shatter and they become Dead Inside. It takes a really powerful entity or the spiritual leverage of making a bargain with them to do it though.

*Dead Inside We've talked about these guys already. You're one of them. They have limited mystical abilities, but the most significant and obvious is that their Second Sight is active now that their shell is broken and they can see the supernatural forces around them. Given how spiritually bleak the Real World is it can take a surprisingly long time before the Dead Inside realize they're not just undergoing some kind of neurological or psychological breakdown.

*Ghosts: Ghosts are bundles of once-living soul energy with the remains of a personality tagging along. They usually have some kind of unfinished business holding them here. Because they're basically floating wads of soul power they're tempting targets for soul-eating and so they often "hid out" in the Real World. They're insubstantial in the Real World but semi-corporeal in the Spirit World.

*Zombis Zombis are dead bodies without a soul (just as the Dead Inside are living bodies without a soul). They don't hang around the Real World long because they tend to start decomposing without a high level of background spirit energy. Zombis have no emotions left, but their lack of either a soul or biology means they're actually quite intelligent and and very strong. In the Spirit World they can, and do, stick around for centuries, usually pursuing intellectual goals. They also tend to lack morals and usually fuel their unlives by eating ghosts or spirits. If you die while still Dead Inside you become a Zombi. Once this happens you're basically a lost cause: a Dead Inside can heal, a Zombi can only die.

*Sensitives These guys are living humans with excess soul-energy. Some people are born this way but many were once Dead Inside. Once a Dead Inside "rebuilds" their soul, they can put the blinders back on and become Average People or they can become Sensitives. These guys have increased spiritual powers and when they die they automatically become ghosts.

Magi A Sensitive who cultivates enough soul power can become a Magi, basically having "two" souls (effectively a larger pool of soul energy). They have the most impressive spiritual powers and prefer to stick to the Spirit World and pursue the goal of achieving immortality. If a Magi dies they become a ghost and a Zombi.

The Spirit World

The Spirit World is kind of a hodgepodge of different influences like Jungian psychology or Lovecraft's Dreamlands. It is closer to the source of all soul-energy and thus has a greater "background radiation" of power. That means that when the Dead Inside are here they don't have quite as much gnawing pain or howling cold in their hearts. They can feel more emotionally connected and their choices lead to a greater chance for soul-cultivation (or decay). It also means that supernatural powers of all kinds are stronger here and generally if you want to succeed at anything magical or supernatural you had better try it here. Trying it in the Real World is just a waste of Soul Energy, especially since crossing over is almost child's play for most supernatural beings.

The "geography" of the Spirit World is extremely simple. There are only five places. The central place is the City, a giant metropolis that's full of strange people and places. To the East is the Wood, an ancient forest. To the South is the Waste, a desert. To the West is the Sea. To the North is the Mists. The City is the home of 99% of civilized spirit world inhabitants. Outside of its bounds weird creatures and even spiritual predators are common. The Spirit World has a few "natives" as well (along with plenty of immigrants from the Real World):

*Free Spirits: These are a lot like ghosts: just wisps of soul energy with a mind and personality. However, unlike ghosts they were never alive to begin with. They have a kind of Pinocchio-syndrome, hoping to become "real" enough that they (like ghosts) feel the pull into the Source and eventually be reborn as mortals. Of course others are just assholes or tricksters.

*Qlippoth: These are the really nasty critters. They have no motivation but to prey on the souls of others and what they eat doesn't get absorbed, it gets destroyed and it reduces the total soul energy in the universe. They seem to just want to destroy the Source to end their pain. If a Zombi is completely drained of their spirit energy in the Spirit World they'll produce a Qlippoth.

*Tulpas These are artificially created spirits. They're made usually by Magi and powerful Sensitives as servants. They have the same abilities as Free Spirits and if they manage to break free of their creators that's what they become.

The City

The City is the place where most things are happening in the Spirit World. It's basically an amalgam of every city in existence and represents the iconic, archetype of "Cityness". The place is always shifting and changing, but generally speaking the higher one goes vertically the more modern the city becomes. The bottom floor of a building might look like something from the 80s or 90s. A few stories up and the cell phones and computers get smaller, TVs become bigger and flatter and so on. Go belowground and the opposite happens. A few floors down you're dealing with pre-electrical and eventually pre-industrial. Eventually it's all just caves and flickering torches. The city is connected by The Train whose appearance shifts to match its surroundings (far enough below it's a giant snake). Of course, there's also taxis.

Like Sigil, just about everything here could be a Gate taking you either to the Real World or some other location in the Spirit World. Nothing stays the same on its own. Stability is only possible through the will of powerful entities like Sensitives or Magi. Because of this travel is more about association than actual location. Here's a map:



Commerce is common in the City, but different from normal trade. Money is, of course, meaningless here. Instead barter is the rule, trading unusual goods (especially the relatively stable goods from the Real World) is common, but so is exchanging memories and dreams or even raw soul energy. The nature of the Spirit World allows anyone who wants to trade (including humans) to coalesce insubstantial goods into symbolic items that can be traded. There are two ways it can be traded. Sharing trades allow you to experience the memory or feeling but it is retained by the other party. A vendor selling the memory of biting into a slice of pizza when you're really, really hungry can allow his customer to experience that sensation without losing it himself (and thus can sell it to others). Then there are selling exchanges which are for keeps. This is how you sell actual items, vital secrets (to ensure they're not traded again by the seller) and soul-stuff.

Imagos

These guys are a unique inhabitant of the Spirit World. They manifest differently to different people and their goal seems to be helping the various entities pursue their agendas: the dead inside to restore their soul, the Sensitives to achieving a higher state of existence, Ghosts to move on and Magi to become immortal. Everyone's got a different opinion on exactly what they are or what their purpose is. Normally you never know if you met one.

Several Imagos are just reflections of yourself. Whether there's one for everyone or it's just one entity in many guises is unknown.

*Animus/Anima: This is the feminine aspect of males or the male aspect of females. They mainly appear to guide or complicate your attempts to pursue relationships with others (romantic or otherwise).

*Shadow The animal part of you. The part that cares only about food, shelter and sex. Most Dead Inside have very powerful shadows, because this is where the soul-energy lost from soul rot (through bad karma) goes. However, the shadow is amoral, not evil. It just cares about fulfilling needs and survival.

There are also "collective" imagos, that are viewed as being more universal:

*Child The child represents the future, rebirth and salvation. Needless to say, he's a big deal for the Dead Inside.

*Father/Mother: fairly self-explanatory. You can see the old-fashioned psychology that these two sprang from. The Father drives intellectual and spiritual pursuits while the Mother is more concerned with emotions and intimacy, especially with sexuality.

*Trickster This is that rear end in a top hat who's always shaving, conning, tarring, or harassing everyone in those faerie tales.

the Wise Old This guy is all about wisdom and experience. You can be sure when he talks to you you'll hear the voice of Morgan Freeman.

There's also two other Imagos who fall in between universal and personal:

*The Voice This guy is all about proclamations of essential truths. They're there to tell you want needs to happen. The Voice is a prophet/seer figure.

*The Nemesis Not everyone has one, but this is your personal rear end in a top hat. Magi have it particularly bad: their Shadow is also their Nemesis.



Next: The Dead Inside and what they can do

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!




Cardiovorax posted:

Dead Inside is a surprisingly fun and optimistic game for having the premise that you're a soulless abomination and life sucks and is sad and boohoohoo. :qq: I've never actually played it, but it's a fun read just for how many of your expectations it subverts.

One of the things that helps is that there's no "sheeple" vibe you get with games like World of Darkness and Everlasting. Average People are blind to the supernatural but they're not helpless prey (since it's extremely difficult to affect them supernaturally) or pawns of supernatural conspiracies. Their blindness is more of an evolutionary adaptation, like a cave fish. Half the point of the game is that an Average Person can lead full, happy and complete lives and that's part of what the Dead Inside are striving to have again.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!






Dead Inside Part 2: Playing The Game

So, I've covered the basics of the setting, so how about the mechanics? This part is where Dead Inside is at its roughest. It's one of the first PDQ games and when you compare it to the games that come later you can definitely tell that there's some rough patches and not-quite-right bits, especially in regard to the soul mechanics. A "2nd edition" version updated with material taken from later games like Truth and Justice and Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies would be a real improvement.

Chapter 3: Creating Characters

Dead Inside character creation is definitely a bit more in-depth than MNPR, there are 8 steps:

Step 1: Personality Come up with a word or phrase to sum up your character's personality. This could be something like their star sign, blood type, Myers Briggs, etc. Similar personality types have a bonus when dealing with one another.

Step 2: Backstory This is your character background. For the most part it's just fluff but along with it you must pick your Virtue and your Vice. The virtues are Integrity, Hope, Fortitude, Generosity and Courtesy, the Vices are Hypocrisy, Despair, Cowardice, Avarice, and Cruelty. The Virtue/Vice traits are part of the soul cultivation and decay mechanics that come up later. In situations where one or the other draws you towards a particular action you may have to roll to resist it. You can also invoke your virtue once per session to grant a +2 bonus to a roll or automatically overcome a Vice check so long as you can explain how it applies.

Step 3: Soul Loss How you lost your soul. No mechanical effect here, but it could determine if some of your soul is still out there waiting to be retrieved or if there's no choice but to start again from scratch.

Step 4: Discovery This is the moment you realized that you had no soul and that the weird things that have been happening aren't just a mental breakdown. It's often a way to tie characters together by having multiple people involved in this breakthrough. Maybe you're all members of a support group that realized their problems are different from everyone else's for example.

Step 5: Qualities Pick your Qualities. Like normal you get 4 Ranks of Strengths and one Good Weakness.

Step 6: Type Like MNPR, everyone has a Type Quality. The default assumption is that everyone will be a Dead Inside. It's possible to introduce different Types into play, but most aren't meant to be "balanced" against one another (a Sensitive is objectively better than a Dead Inside for instance). You can only be one Type at a time but this might change. As a Dead Inside you're penalized on social interaction in the Real World and if you die you'll become a Zombi. If you restore your soul you'll become a Sensitive (or return to being an Average Person).

Your Type is an Average [0] Quality. The game goes into a little detail on the supernatural abilities Dead Inside have but I'll save that for later.

Step 7: Soul Points If you're Dead Inside you start with a single, solitary soul point. Don't spend it all in one place.

Step 8: Miscellany Anything else you want to include about the character.


Chapter 4: Game Mechanics

Obviously the basic mechanics are identical to those found in the PDQ core rules so I'll stick with the new ones:


Soul Points

Soul Points work a lot like Mojo from MNPR (although they aren't "flavored"). They can be used in many of the same ways as Hero/Fate/Luck points from other games (bonuses to rolls, recovering from injury, helpful coincidences, etc) but unlike most meta-game currency these events are actually a part of the supernatural abilities of the different Types. Soul Points can also be used in more obvious ways as well.

Probably the biggest problem the game has is that so much hinges on Soul Points. They are the focus of everything and there are so many potential uses and demands on your Soul Point supply that it can be overwhelming. Here's the different roles Soul Points play in the game.

*"Hit Points": You still take Damage/Failure ranks like normal, but supernatural characters can attack one another's souls directly, stealing soul points and adding them to their own (this is the favored method of Qlippoth especially). If you run out of soul points then you Backslide and your Type Quality is reduced by one Rank (so an Average [0] Dead Inside becomes a Poor [-2] Dead Inside). If your Type is reduced below Poor [-2] then you Husk and become a Qlippoth (although Mages and Sensitives will regress to lower stages of power, Mage>Sensitive>Dead Inside>Qlippoth). This means that, especially for Dead Inside, it's essential to keep enough Soul Points to avoid being taken down in Spiritual Combat.

*Currency: Soul Points are a common form of currency in the Spirit World as everyone has them and their value is universal. If you're asking for anything other than a "sharing" transaction you can bet you'll probably be paying in Soul Points. Especially if you haven't been in the Spirit World long enough to collect any permanent objects of true value.

*Meta-game bonuses: Like more common "fate/hero/et" points you can use Spirit Points to help turn around a crappy roll, succeed at someone that would normally be too difficult and keep fighting despite injuries.

*Fuel for Abilities/Powers: Somewhat linked with the previous, if you want to do anything with your supernatural powers you'll typically be paying a Soul Point cost especially if you're in the Real World.

*Character Improvement: Soul Points are also used as the exp for the game. Collect enough Soul Points and you can increase your Type Rank, For humans once you reach Master [+6] Rank you can do it again to ascend to a higher spiritual state (Dead Inside to Sensitive, Sensitive to Mage and potentially Mage to Immortal). Qualities are gained or improved by sacrificing Type Ranks in turn (which is a bit of an odd way to do it, since Type Ranks are purchased with soul points it's unclear why Qualities aren't simply purchased directly though them as well).

Clearly this is a lot of demands on your Soul Point supply and its especially frustrating when your natural motivation will be to improve your Type Quality as quickly as possible (in-game because you desperately want your soul back, out of game because it rewards you with much better abilities). The game motivates hoarding Soul Points and spending them on Type Rank ASAP, rather than doing neat things like flexing your super-natural abilities and exploring the potential of the Spirit World. Let alone improving your mundane abilities.

Improving Qualities especially is ridiculously expensive. If you want to buy or improve a Quality it costs a number of Type Ranks equal to the bonus of the Quality. So if your Dead Inside accountant wants to pick up a skill like Good [+2] Gun Training to help deal with the supernatural monsters that he's been forced to interact with he'll first have to buy his Dead Inside up from Average [0] to Expert [+4] (this costs 6 Soul Points) and then sacrifice both of those new Ranks and go back to being Average [0] Dead Inside. If he wanted to raise that from Good [+2] to Expert [+4] Gun Training then he would need to already be a Master [+6] Dead Inside and send himself back to Poor [-2] to afford the cost in Type Ranks. It's not even clear how one could actually raise a Quality to Master [+6]. It's more or less impossible to justify improving your character as a Dead Inside (since it works directly counter to re-growing a Soul), and if you're a Sensitive or a Magi the powers granted by your Type are generally to powerful to damage in exchange for improving your other traits.

Conversely, if you do hoard your Soul Points for fixing your soul then that will happen surprisingly quickly. You can reach Master [+6] Rank in your Type from Average [0] with 12 Soul Points. So long as you're in the right place it costs only a single additional Soul Point for a Master [+6] Dead Inside to restore their Soul. What seems like it should be the basis of hefty story arc of redemption and restoration becomes the plot of basically a single adventure.

This also brings up a fairly common item in the setting called a Soul Egg, which is basically an enchanted item that lets you store Soul Points for safe-keeping. It seems to be fairly common for people in the setting to use them and for the life of me I can't figure out why. There's no maximum number of Soul Points that you can have stored yourself and there seems to be no reason to try and store them externally. Sure, if the soul points aren't on you they can't be Soul-Taken from you...but then again if you run out of Soul Points you'll be dead. Plus it allows your Soul Points to be stolen much easier by anyone who can physically access the Soul Egg, plus it makes you vulnerable to people using Powers against you through the egg.

Spiritual Abilities and Powers

As spiritually awakened individuals Dead Inside have access to Abilities and Powers. It's not quite clear what makes something an Ability vs. a Power (for instance altering the environment or yourself is an Ability, altering someone else is a Power), but the two do function differently. An Ability is something that is effectively part of the Penumbra of your Type Quality and can be done simply with a roll (usually at a penalty based on the strength of the Ability). Powers require both a roll and the expenditure of Soul Points.

Each Type has a different set of Abilities and Powers and the cost in Soul Points or the penalty to your Type Roll is different for the different Types. For example, all types can perform Soultaking. Dead Inside and Free Spirits roll at their Type -2 (so an Average [0] Dead Inside is a Poor [-2] Soul-Taker), Mages and Sensitives suffer no penalty to their roll and ghosts and Zombis suffer a -4 penalty. On the other hand the Power to Change Others is available only to Sensitives (for 3 Soul Points) and Mages (for 2 Soul Points).

In the Real World all powers and abilities become more difficult and more expensive, with the exception of Second Sight and Opening Gates to the Spirit World. It's also worth noting that "passive" Second Sight is the only Ability that the Dead Inside start out knowing how to do. In order to use any other Powers or Abilities they must either see someone else use it or have the process explained to them in detail (so long as it's one that the Dead Inside are capable of).

Abilities

*Change Landscape: This lets you alter some feature of your immediate environment as well as simple telekinesis. Common examples are like what you see in the first Matrix movie, creating a door in a blank wall, bricking over a window instantly, etc. Spending Soul Points or taking additional downshifts might be required for major changes (such as creating an entire building from nothing). Making this permanent requires sacrificing a Type Rank.

*Change Self: Basically reshaping your body in just about any way. This could be used for disguise, changing into different creatures or just to be weird (growing knife fingers, turning your eyes pitch black, etc). In most cases this grants a +2 bonus to an existing Quality or gives you an Average [0] Quality that lasts for a scene or so.

*City Navigation: This lets you find your way around in the City, which is important because most locations tend to "drift" around the place.

*Movement: This takes two forms: Dream-Leaping and True Flight. Dream Leaping involves heavily bending physics as far as movement goes. You can walk on walls, stand on water, jump impossible distances, etc. True Flight just lets you freaking fly and is typically at a higher penalty.

*Open Gate: This lets you open a gate between the Real World and the Spirit World, or to connect different locations in the Spirit World.

*Second Sight: Passive Second Sight is never penalized and can be done automatically without being learned and it basically lets you perceive the use of Powers/Abilities and other things that are invisible to normal perception such as ghosts and spirits. Active Second Sight is used for things like object reading, clairvoyance, etc.

*Soultaking: The basis of spirit combat. This ability lets you directly attack another's Soul Points and take them for your own.

Powers

*Bind: This is used to force someone else to obey you. It's difficult to use against beings with a body (Dead Inside, Zombis, Sensitives, Mages) and requires that you have a Soul Egg with one of their Soul Points in it. It's much easier against Ghosts and Free Spirits, and if it is used against Tulpas it's possible to take control of them permanently.

*Enchant: This lets you create a magical object. The process is essentially the same as purchasing Qualities for yourself but they're stored instead in this external object, although some have unique powers (like Soul Eggs or Stones of Light which are healing items). Unless a Type rank is sacrificed enchantments are only temporary.

*Healing: Spend a soul point and you get back 1d6 Damage/Failure Ranks.

*Luck: Spending a soul point before rolling to roll an extra d6.

*Supercharge: This lets you use a Quality you have in a magical way. For instance, someone with Good [+2] Marksman might be able to curve bullets and make them fly around corners or through glass without breaking it. Someone with Good [+2] Persuasive could convince someone they're seeing or perceiving something that isn't real or even use it on inanimate objects or forces.

*Ward: This has several uses. Offensively you can force bad luck on someone and force them to reroll if their roll is successful, it can also be used to counter other magical abilities, prevent Spirits/Ghosts from traveling through solid objects, and keep Qlippoth back.

There are also a few Powers that can only be accessed by Mages and Sensitives: Change Others, Create Object, and Create Tulpa.

Chapter 5: GMing Advice

Much of this is fairly standard so I won't go into detail. There's discussion of the different "levels" of play (Dead Inside, Sensitive, Mage) and also on what to do with characters who want to try playing one of the other Types. Generally Dead Inside, Ghosts and Free Spirits are roughly equal in power. Sensitives and Zombis stand about equal as well and Magi are a full step above all the rest.

There are also rules on using the Imagos, which are fairly interesting. The Anima/Animus for instance represents the character's perfect "complement", a nerdy, frail bookworm would likely be complemented by a strong, confident body-guard type. A brutish physical sort might be complemented by a compassionate intellectual like a doctor or nurse. Accepting your Anima/Animus and forming the Syzygy to overcome your own limitations is part of the essential transformation of a Sensitive into a Magi. The Shadow will stalk the characters and feed on any soul points lost of Soul Decay, the shadow can then, in turn, offer those soul points back to the character to be used on feats to save their lives or pursue base goals...but this causes more soul decay. When a Sensitive becomes a Mage their shadow is released (Mages cast no shadow) and becomes their Nemesis, conquering your Shadow is the final step (theoretically) into becoming a True Immortal. Non-mages may have no Nemesis but there does exist a ritual that allows you to embody the Imago and become someone else's nemesis, which gives you Soul Points whenever you cause trouble for the target (especially if your actions cause them to lose Soul Points).

There's a quick bestiary which contains stats for some spirit world animals and rules for creating stats for Qlippoth.

The main topic of interest are the rules for awarding soul points as well as soul growth/decay. The main way to handle it is through the Virtue/Vice rolls. When a character is faced with a situation that calls him to follow one or the other he first must decide what he wants to try and do. If he chooses to resist his Vice or follow his Virtue, he automatically gets two "ticks" towards soul cultivation, if he chooses to resist his virtue or pursue his vice he gets two ticks for decay. Then you roll to see if you actually succeed at resisting. So even if a drug addict gives in and gets high, he'll get at least some credit for trying to avoid it, likewise someone who tries and fails to overcome his urge to help an innocent in danger doesn't get as much credit as someone who leaps into the fray immediately. After the results are determined you get a chance to explain why your character failed to live up to their Virtue or resist their Vice and depending on the quality of the explanation they may earn up to two additional ticks. Good roleplaying can earn additional ticks.

Most other actions are worth one or two Ticks. Overall anything other than your Virtue or Vice is going to involve a fairly slow progression, so those are typically what PCs will focus on. This also makes soul-taking more tempting as you can earn one or more soul points in exchange for one or two ticks (which are 1/5th a soul point each). The biggest barrier for soul-stealing for the newly Dead Inside is the fact that they'll probably suck at it with their low Type Quality and penalties due to their Type.


So that basically wraps it up. In conclusion it's a creative setting and concept, but the mechanics clearly need an update and the Soul Point system especially is interesting but flawed.

Next: Would people like me to provide details on the Dead Inside Setting Expansion Cold Hard World, or move on to the next game Questers of the Middle Realms.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!




Motion carried!



As I mentioned in the Dead Inside summary the game is actually meant to have very little involvement with the Real World. As soon as a Dead Inside finds a gate or learns how to open one on their own, they'll probably stick around the Spirit World and never look back. The benefits are obvious: Soul Points are earned faster, powers and abilities are easier and less expensive, you don't suffer penalties to social actions there, and the yawning, frigid void at the core of your very being howls a bit quieter as well. Relatives and friends may pull you back into the Real World from time to time...but frankly until you get your soul back your friends and family will probably avoid you or attempt to have you institutionalized.

But what if the players and GM find the Real World setting intriguing and want to play a game with more focus "back home", well that's what Cold Hard World was created for. It's meant to give suggestions on how to play in the Real World as well as providing a bit of clarity on areas the core book glossed over.

The change between the Spirit World and the Real World is fairly significant and it has a pretty deep effect on the tone of the game. Playing in the Spirit World is mostly about discovery and healing, playing in the real world is more a matter of conflict and survival. Because powers are so limited and soul cultivation is so slow the Dead Inside typically must resign themselves to finding their original soul (if there's any left), taking soul energy from others, or trading with more powerful entities for soul energy.

Chapter 1: Real World Recap

This chapter goes over the effects the Real World has on the Dead Inside and other Types, and how Powers and Abilities are influenced. This was briefly covered in the original book but it's given greater focus here. There's also mention of Places and Times of Power, which will be explained further later, but they're essentially areas or times when the Spirit World is closer and the supernatural is more active.

First it goes over the different ways Types are affected by the Real World and how they're perceived by Average People.

*Dead Inside: Average People see dead inside as strange at best, and usually they instinctively feel there's something wrong with them. Dead Inside are hit with a penalty to all social rolls in the Real World. In Places/Times of Power Average People can tell there's something deeply wrong with the Dead Inside and will usually assume they're high or crazy. Animals tend to avoid them and plants wilt around them within a week or so.

*Free Spirits/Ghosts: Both of these Types operate the same. They're invisible to Average People and they can freely move through matter so long as they're not blocked by a ward. In Place/Times of Power they may be perceived as vague forms of light or shadow. A powerful spirit or ghost can apparently possess someone by phasing into them and using the Bind power (however, neither has the Bind power. Presumably this is a unique exception but there's no guide for the cost). Most animals can see them and react appropriately.

*Imagos appear to Average People only in dreams and will never take physical form in the Real World although they may appear as visions or voices on the wind to supernatural entities.

*Magi: Average People generally will not notice Mages cast no shadow and they find Mages to have a magnetic personality (they receive a bonus to social rolls). Animals love them.

*Qlippoth are almost unknown in the Real World. Qlippoth from non-humans (spirits/ghosts/zombis) cannot survive in the Real World except near portals to the Void. Qlippoth from humans (Dead Inside, Sensitives, Magi) can only survive if they can manage to feed on soul energy within moments of their "parent" husking and they require double the normal soul points to sustain themselves. Given the limitations of the Real World and the resistance of Average People to Soultaking this means that only extremely strong Qlippoth can manage to survive for long and those that do are even more ravenous. A Qlippoth in a human form is visible to Average People, but when they're "shadow form" they're invisible. Animals can perceive both forms and are immediately terrified.

*Sensitives: People tend to find them particularly intense, but Sensitives only get a bonus to social rolls in Places and Times of Power. Animals find them oddly intriguing and will tend to hang around them.

*Tulpas: Tulpas are always invisible to those without Second Sight, even in Places and Times of Power. They cannot normally possess anyone.

*Zombis: Like Dead Inside but more-so. In addition in the Real World their flesh starts to decay and they have to spend a Soul Point every week to avoid getting worse. Even then people generally think Zombis are desperately ill, at best.

We also get a sidebar mentioning that if you're playing in the Real World you may want to establish that animals have Soul Points (if not a "true" soul), generally between 1-5. Taking soul points from an animal is easier since they lack the shell Average People have, but it will always kill the animal in the process and is a Soul-rotting action. Still, given the relative ease of access to animals, lack of legal protections and the ease of soul-taking on them you can bet that most Dead Inside in the real world have soul-drained a few strays in their time.

There's also a decently-researched sidebar on the Dead Inside and the modern mental health profession. It points out some common ailments that a Dead Inside might be diagnosed with but also makes clear that the loss of your soul has no physiological consequences: all tests will show you as completely healthy and prescription medication designed to help balance the brain chemistry of an unhealthy individual will certainly mess you up. It also makes clear that this is advice for the game, and not real life. Take your meds people.

There's also a small, but much appreciated, section on "supernatural history" pointing out that no Hitler was probably not a Dead Inside and that the gods of old myths aren't all ancient Magi and that for the most part the history of the Real World is guided entirely by the actions of Average People. Sure you might find some supernatural stuff at the weird fringe of history, but for the most part their impact is minimal.

Soul cultivation

Next it clears up how Soul Cultivation and Decay works in the Real World. In the original Dead Inside rules you still marked ticks against both, but generally you didn't accrue points unless you were in the Spirit World. However, that's adjusted for a game focused on the Real World and instead Soul Decay happens at the same rate (-1 soul point for every 5 ticks) but Soul Cultivation happens twice as slow, requiring 10 ticks to equal up to a Soul Point. This means that unless you're constantly being pressured by your Virtue/Vices Soul Cultivation is going to be a painful ordeal. A Dead Inside who intends to use this as his primary source of soul accumulation had better be prepared for a long hard road. He'll likely have to transform his lifestyle: devoting himself to charity and helping others while diligently avoiding any negative acts.

More likely, this change will push the Dead Inside into actively hunting sources of Soul Points. They may not go so far as to start soul-taking, but they'll probably start doing work for supernatural beings who need something done in the Real World in exchange for a hit of soul-blood, or start plotting to take down nefarious supernatural beings and loot their territories of Soul Eggs. Expect things in the Real World to be more tense, action-focused and less able to be solved supernaturally.

Powers and Abilities in the Real World

Related to the above using Powers/Abilities in the Real World is hard. Abilities now cost a Soul point to use at all and they suffer an additional -2 penalty, Powers suffer a -2 penalty and the Soul Point cost is doubled. On top of this, the low-power level of the Real World means many powers are more limited and muted:

*Bind: You just plain can't Bind Average People outside of Places/Times of Power. Even then its limited to mild suggestive effects.

*Change Landscape: This only works on "invisible" features of the environment. You can make it hotter or colder, conjure a breeze, etc. You can't directly transform objects or structures but you can do things like weaken or strengthen an door or wall.

*Change Others: This will never work on an Average Person, regardless of the circumstances.

*Change Self: Normally you're limited to minor cosmetic changes, but major changes are possible at Places/Times of power.

*Create Objects: Objects created will not remain if they're not in a Place/Time of Power or not held by a living being.

*Enchant: Enchantment is only possible at places/times of power and the cost is still higher there. Only objects with "invisible" effects function in the Real World.

*Healing: Can only be used on an Average Person at places/times of power.

*Movement: works normally (other than the additional difficulty and expense) but are unlikely to be noticed by Average People, and even then are likely to be rationalized.

*Soultaking: Really, really difficult against Average People. First, it costs an extra Soul Point (on top of the normal Real World charge) to "crack" their Shell and even then it requires a successful roll beating the target's roll by seven or more. A successful soultaking attempt will also automatically incur 5 ticks of soul decay (it's worse to do it to an Average Person due to their ignorance and the consequences of making them Dead Inside). The reward is 8 soul points (5 after you consider the initial cost), but this is still a tough situation when you consider that even a Master [+6] Mage will probably have to spend a Soul Point or two on Luck to succeed (and if the roll fails you lose any soul points you've invested).
Soultaking with a contract is much easier since you only have to beat an Average [7] roll with your Soultaking ability by one like normal. And it's technically not in and of itself a soul-rotting action so long as you were clear about the conditions and no deception was involved. Even then it's usually much less so than the consequences of forcibly cracking an Average Person.

*Supercharge: This can only work with "invisible" effects outside of Places/Times of Power.

*Ward: You can only offensively Ward an average person in a Place/Time of power.

Chapter 2: Lay of the Land

By default there isn't a whole lot of motivation for Supernatural Types to hang around in the Real World...their powers are weaker and costlier and they rarely fit in. Those who do hang around tend to be weak (after all, an Average [0] Dead Inside or Ghost has such minimal powers to begin with that Real World or Spirit World doesn't make much difference) or to be hiding out from enemies in the Spirit World. However, there is an interesting optional rule to allow a greater Real World focus: if a human falls asleep in the Spirit World they wake up back in the Real World.

Those who do hang out in the Real World tend to band together and make sure they have a Place of Power that they can stick around to keep at least some power available to them.

Places of Power

Places of Power are areas where the Spirit World is closer and there is a greater amount of energy available. It's not as "rich" as the true Spirit World but it does remove the additional downshifts and soul point costs of using Powers/Abilities.

Places of power are usually those where great emotional events take place (nurseries, theaters, battlefields, morgues, etc), "in between" places (crossroads, shorelines, doors, etc) or good old sacred sites. Not all of these places are automatically ones of Power, but they're good starting points to look for one.

Times of Power are more controllable, but obviously less reliable. They include beginnings and endings (notably births and deaths...human sacrifice is sadly the easiest way to arrange one), rites of passage, and in-between times (dawn/dusk for example).

All this actually has an interesting effect on the supernatural in Dead Inside. It becomes more difficult and more costly, but at the same time more *magical*. In the spirit world a pissed off mage only has to glare at you and your mouth will seal shut. In the Real World if that Mage wants to hit a victim with something nasty he'll probably have to sacrifice an animal to score some extra soul points and perform a ritual in a graveyard or at dusk. The additional layer of ritual and paraphernalia gives more of a traditional magic feel, while using supernatural power in the Spirit world is much more like lucid dreaming.

Other Places

*Anomalies: Anomalies are vortexes visible only to second sight. They drift through the Real World and the Spirit World sucking up small, out of the way objects and animals (this is where those socks go) and eventually dumping them in one world or the other. Anomalies can be "hitched" by supernatural beings as a form of transportation.

*Desmesne: These are places of power that belong to someone specifically, referred to as the Lord or Lady. Within the Desmesne its possible to Change Landscape much easier, and they can block other's attempts to change the Desmesne. They can also restrict the place's function as a Place of Power selectively to only work for certain Abilities or Types, or even only for themselves and those they designate. This means you've got a tremendous advantage within a Desmesne against any outsider. It's possible to turn a place of power you already have a personal connection with into a Desmesne with a relatively common ritual.

*Side-Step: A side-step is a place that exists within the Real World but which Average People cannot perceive or will ignore. Some are even limited only to certain Types. Within a Side-step it's also impossible to open Gates to the Spirit World.

*Threshold: These are proto-places of power. They haven't become one yet, but because of that they have a great deal of potential and can be transformed into a Place of Power or even specific sites like Desmesnes or Sides Steps.

*Verge: These are kind of the opposite of a Place of Power, often caused by extreme amounts of soul-rot and negative actions. This is a place where the Void is closer to the Real World, making it sort of like a Place of Power for the Qlippoth (and its the only place where Qlippoth without bodies can survive in the Real World). It's possible to "break" a verge and let the Void pour in, but these breaks scab over in a few hours.

Groups of Power

Generally speaking there aren't supernatural cabals and conspiracies guiding the world. It's tough enough to affect a single Average Person when they want you to...trying to guide a whole nation or world of them is basically impossible. However, safety in numbers is still a fact of life and there are a few gangs of supernatural Types who have decided to hang together in the Real World for various reasons.

The Beautiful People One thing they don't have in the Spirit World is Hollywood and some people feel like it's better to be a big fish in a small pond than try and stand out among the craziness of the Spirit World. These are Free Spirits who have slipped into the Real World and have managed to perform a special ritual granting them a human body. It lets them be seen by Average People, but it restricts their abilities as well so that whenever they perform a supernatural feat it warps their body in some appropriate way (for instance glowing eyes for active second sight) and must be corrected with Change Self.

Cryptozoo Revue Free Spirits on the other side of the coin as the Beautiful People. They spend their time basically screwing with Average People, taking the form of lake monsters, hairy people, mermaids, etc and trying to catch attention. Then they get together and compare their "admirers" Since they're usually invisible this is limited to Places and Times of Power, or by making "puppet shows" using local materials to fabricate photo ops.

Gothiks These guys are mostly clueless Dead Inside who believe they're vampires. The bizarre things that have happened to them and their new abilities basically just led them astray before they could be taught any better by more experienced supernaturals. If one of them dies and turns into a Zombi it only reinforces the idea. Many of them will only Soultake as part of a bloodletting, but some rationalize their abilities as "psychic vampirism". They often (but not always) have a self imposed or psychosomatic weakness related to vampiric folklore.

Helots of the Darkling Glass These are your world-ending nihilists. They're basically ready to break the world and let it slide into the Void...they're ready but they lack any real capability to make that happen. They often hang around Verges and attempt to shatter them or create Qlippoth but generally this just ends up killing them and reality is hardy enough to shrug off a few cracks. Most of these guys are Dead Inside or Zombis who haven't been able to work up the guts to turn their lives around and just decided that the only way they'll feel better is if there isn't anymore anything. Since their formation they've organized a bit more and sold out a little, trading one-ness with the void for a bit of cash and a dangerous reputation.

Interfaith Inc... This is a small (about 100 people) group composed mostly of Sensitives of a religious bent from a variety of different faiths. Although they all have their own interpretation of the Source and the nature of the Spirit World they've seen enough to know that they have more in common with one another than they do with the Average People who make up their own faith. They also know that their perspective gives them an opportunity to lead and protect their respective flocks with greater ability. Setting aside their differences they work together to advance the spiritual knowledge of mankind. They mainly focus on the hard facts they've learned that certain actions "grow" the soul and others harm it and trying to lead as many as possible to embrace the one and avoid the other. They especially focus on helping out any Dead Inside they can.

Noumenal Search and Rescue Basically these guys are sort of like an animal right's group that focuses on Spirits and Ghosts. Since Ghosts are already dead and Spirits never lived in the first place (and many were once simply Tulpas), a lot of soul-hungry types see them as easy and relatively morally justifiable prey. These guys try and make sure that non-bodied Types are able to defend themselves against those who would eat (or sell) them. It's a really tiny group, only about 2 dozen and are usually Sensitives.

Ordo Scalarum This is a team of Magi, making them some of the biggest dogs in the kennel. Unlike most Magi these guys base their operations in the Real World. They mainly concern themselves with keeping Magi from blowing each other up and generally try and make sure civility reigns among the higher ranks of the supernatural entities. They also take care of arranging for funerals for mages...a difficult task since the mage's spirit takes the form of a ghost and their body a zombi...and both hate one another.

The Phenomena Project These guys are mostly clueless Average People along with a mixture of Sensitives and Dead Inside who don't know any better. They're dedicated to finding proof of the supernatural and sharing it with the world. They're well funded but their "talents" (the Dead Inside and Sensitives) tend to disappear into the Spirit World once they figure out what's actually going on.

Soulmarketeers This is a group of traveling salesmen who specialize in trade between the Spirit World and the Real World.

Spookleggers These guys are like the Ghost Busters, except they're usually zombis or dead inside, and instead of trapping ghosts they eat them and sell the soul-juice to others. They also make use of bad puns, such as going after spirits with Boo!-merangs.

Worldspacklers These guys are dedicated to sealing up cracks in the Real World that let the Void leak in. Closing Verges and wiping out "negative" places of power. Naturally they're dedicated enemies of the Helots.

Chapter 3: Seeds and Scenarios

This chapter is a bit more GM advice, mostly pointing out the various issues and concerns that the Real World will force on players. There's also snippets of small scenario and story seeds.

Chapter 4: Cosmos Reloaded

These are some ideas for alternative settings for Dead Inside, which are fairly interesting.

Stable Ground

This flips the standard migration patterns of Dead Inside, making the Real World the "place to be". Ghosts and Zombis want to be near the living, Free Spirits want to be like them and Mages and Sensitives want the stability and influence that comes from it. The Spirit World is a madhouse of lunatic beings and chaotic terrain with the Imagos always meddling and pestering at everyone. Think Wonderland with a slight dash of Lovecraft.

Those who come to the Spirit World will find it difficult to leave as both the opening of gates is more difficult and the inhabitants of the crazy place refuse to let them escape. Meanwhile in Places and Times of power gates may open that allow the lunatic spirits into the Real World. The Real World is less magical, but that's a good thing, you have a chance to catch your breath, eat a meal that doesn't grow eyeballs and sleep in a bed that doesn't go for walks.

Astralia

This version makes the difference between the Real World and the Spirit World more extreme, by making the Spirit World a place that cannot be entered bodily. Supernatural beings can project their consciousness into the Spirit World while in Places or Times of Power, but their bodies remain behind.

This allows the spirit world to remain an important source of experience and improvement, but the Real World is still very important since your body will be sticking around. You've got to make sure you can make rent, buy food and not tick off the neighbors too badly.

The rules for travel to the spirit world vary from Type to Type. Zombis can't do it at all and have to hang around the real world, making them much more dangerous as they're likely desperate for Soul Points. Ghosts and Spirits can travel freely through gates as they have no body. Dead Inside can project but this leaves their body defenseless both physically and psychically...a ghost or spirit can easily possess the hollow shell. Sensitives work the same but the spirits have a tougher time getting control.

Mages are unique in that they can "split" their consciousness between both worlds, basically dividing up his Type Rank between his real and spirit forms.

It is also possible for beings capable of projecting to send their astral body traveling through the Real World as though they were a ghost or spirit, but this requires a Place or Time of Power and you cannot leave the place (or your soul returns to the body once the time is over).

Magic In The Streets

This version turns the "urban fantasy" elements up a few notches. Here the Spirit World and the Real World aren't really separate...it's just difficult to find the magic underneath. Instead the Real World is full of Side-Steps, places the ordinary Average People can't see or notice, but are still physically present. Likewise, supernatural beings don't stand out a lot. A Free Spirit that looks like a monkey in a business suit probably just appear as a hairy dude. The prevalence of supernatural abilities will depend on where you are, different areas represent different levels of magical strength and the magical "geography" of the city becomes more important.

This version starts as a possibility for urban fantasy, but quickly spirals into suggesting the possibility of low-key superheroes, super-tech, pulp action and so on. Of course, if you've got Truth and Justice that'll certainly do the job a bit better...but there's a certain appeal to the idea of a Dead Inside dressed in a cape leaping from rooftop to rooftop keeping his Soul Points up by saving people from muggers.

Mysterious Escapes

While the standard Dead Inside assumption is that there's something terribly wrong with you, in this version its the world that's broken. Think Jacob's Ladder the RPG, or Silent Hill.

This is generally meant for one-shots, basically come up with a theme or mystery for the players to unravel as the world starts to unravel around them. The PCs might find out they're ghosts who have been imprisoned inside a Soul Egg all along, or all aspects of a Mage's consciousness as it splinters while dying. They're caught in virtual reality. Experimented on by aliens. etc.

For this one the GM secretely selects a Type (assuming the PCs actually fit with any of the standard Types. The game starts in the Real World and the PCs will find themselves transitioning back and forth to the Spirit World. There's an example

*All the players are secretly Tulpas and the ultimate goal is becoming a Free Spirit. In place of a Type everyone gets a Corporate Quality at Expert [+4] (typing, Pass the buck, brew coffee, etc) and a weakness related to why they can't quit their job. The only powers are Luck, Ward and the Corporate Quality which has elements of Second Sight and Supercharge. All NPCs are Tulpas as well and their job is to keep the PCs working, except one is an Imago there to help liberate them. As the PCs awaken to the truth the shell of the office starts cracking and revealing the weirdness underneath and the characters realize they've never actually left the "office" in their lives. The Cube meets Office Space.

It occurs to me that a Dead Inside exploring a particularly bleak stretch of the Spirit World would be a great interpretation for the plot of Silent Hill 2.


Well, that's it for Dead Inside. Next we've got Truth and Justice!

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!




Appoda posted:

Just wanna say thanks for finishing this, I really enjoyed the write up. The basic premise of the game gave me idea for a campaign of my own, and at the beginning of your presentation, you said you had some ideas on how you could improve WLD. Assuming you're not completely sick of WLD and the banner quote alone doesn't make you gag, what would you have changed? Anything aside from obvious things, like giving useful treasure and not filling 90% of the dungeon with garbage or utterly one-sided encounters?

Also, is there anything else like WLD in size? As bad as it was (or because it's so bad), I kinda like really ambitious adventure modules like this. I know World's Largest City is out there, and I certainly haven't read up on everything F&F has to offer, either.

Awesome, glad to hear it.

Back when I had more free time and ambition for pointless side projects I actually did a series of blog posts where I went room-by-room trying to see if the WLD could be salvaged. I managed to complete Region A and B. If you want to see my composure crumble as I try to slog through the mess you can read it here: http://z-toast.blogspot.com/search/label/World%27s%20Largest%20Dungeon

In a more general sense, here are my recommendations.

The Dungeon as a whole Here are the main problems I have with the dungeon itself.

Layout I always found the fact that you'll inevitably miss a good chunk of the Regions to be BS. The dungeon really should be reorganized in either a linear pattern, or top down. This would give greater control over level progression (since you don't have to worry about low level PCs running into high level areas or vice versa). Also the fat is in dire need of trimming. There are Regions that are not worth keeping around, especially since many of them are redundant to each other level-wise. I would say the following Regions have enough potential to be kept around with heavy modification, and roughly in the proper "order"

*Region A
*Region B
*Region I
*Region K (only if you really want a water section)
*Region O (If you drop all the extra class levels and HD and delete a couple of high level monsters this makes for a decent mid-level region. of course remove the "exit")
*Region J
*Region N and/or Region G (with a more powerful demonic presence)

Region H isn't so bad, but it really doesn't fit the theme of the WLD as a whole. Region M and C are basically pointless. Region D really sticks out as well but you could include it as a "side" region splitting off from the linear path. Region E is just the same as G, but without the slim justification of rogue demons.


Commerce I know a lot of the dungeon's problems come from the fact that you're sealed in...but I actually assumed that would be the case even before I got the book and I kind of like it. It brings to mind old-school dungeon crawler and roguelike games like Eye of the Beholder or Nethack. But, what is essential is that there's something for the PCs to do with all that treasure they collect, and more importantly a way for them to get gear that suits them. It's no good being a Fighter who's already dumped Weapon Proficiency, Focus and Specialization on a Bastard Sword only to find out that there isn't a magical one until level 9...and that's just a +1 weapon. Find an excuse to shoehorn agreeable NPCs with an interest in trade. An elven wizard willing to trade scrolls and potions or recharge wands in exchange for gemstones and rare monster giblets. An ancient celestial forge-golem that will activate and magically enhance a weapon if enough divine scrolls are burned inside it's furnace-belly. A goblin merchant with some decent bodyguards who travels between different humaniod groups in the upper levels and barters.

Leveling Definitely use XP, because the writers idea of just "leveling up" at appropriate times doesn't work because there are no "appropriate times". I would just suggest cutting xp rewards in half once the PCs are above the appropriate level range. This gives motivation to keep delving deeper and should stunt leveling enough to keep things relatively sane.


As far as suggestions for the specific Regions (at least for the keepers)...

Region A This place needs to have it's traps dialed down several notches. Replace the magical traps with mechanical ones. Also, my personal suggestion for any mechanical traps in the dungeon (unless they're obviously made by newer inhabitants) is to make blades/spears/arrows silvered and/or cold iron. This not only makes the traps make more sense but its a good way to supply the PCs with sources of improvised weapons that can be used against demons and devils. That's especially important here considering that the boss is a wererat. Go through the list of animals and come up with some good substitutes for fiendish stirges/darkmantles/rats.

Region B I personally swapped some statues around and changed locations to make the whole new religion of the goblins a bit more feasible. The gygaxian trap region needs to just be sealed off or heavily updated.

Region I This Region mainly just needs a reason for the PCs not to leave ASAP, since it is just plain nasty (but otherwise fairly interesting). A linear or top-down dungeon can definitely solve this, especially if the exits are covered in some kind of flesh-wall and the PCs need to track down a suitable alchemical or magical substance to get past.

Region K As an "outdoors" style Region this Region needs to be much, much bigger. I'd say increase the size by a factor of 2 or 3 at least. Perhaps this was an area where the celestials kept truly gigantic prisoners (drowned or killed by the floodwaters), so you can scatter giant chained bones here and there. And for god's sake give the dragon a decent hoard. The larger scale will also make it easier for PCs to avoid notice by the dragon when they first set foot inside and give you more room to include a decent population of tritons and merfolk and turn them into proper allies.

Region O You might make this an "extension" of K rather as part of the "big mother" storage. If you reduce the number and class levels of giants it could work as a good mid-level region. Come up with a good reason for how the frost giants got in and why this area is so cold. Possibly replace the frost giant shaman with an Ice Demon who's producing the cold through some sort of magical artifact or weapon. Also, include a white dragon. this dungeon is sparse on dragons.

Region J Like O and K this could be part of a single large area. Perhaps the fire-based entities in J and the frost based ones in O are in conflict and Region K is the "neutral ground" between them with the green dragon keeping them both out for now. Region J needs to either be much bigger or have a lot of its population culled however, too many different critters in too many locations. Perhaps the artifact used to keep Region O frost shrouded is what's keeping the dragon in J imprisoned, meanwhile the frost and fire giants are both preparing for an eventual war.

Region N/G Either one of these has the design needed for a "final" Region. I would probably only include one or the other. Given the celestial vs demons theme of the dungeon and the massive problems with N I would go with G. The Demons here need a power boost to make the besieged celestial garrison more believable (the demon lord should certainly be at least a Pit Fiend, if not something obscene like a Fiendish Pseudonatural Tarrasque. You might even include D in here as an "offshoot" region where enslaved dwarves are trying to free yet more dark forces.


But overall, the biggest thing is that GMs are just going to have to be able to improvise and improve things room by room as they're found. The place is just riddled with crappy stuff. Switching to a different system could help, because at least then you'll be changing the stuff already.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!






Truth And Justice

Truth and Justice is a game for PDQ super-heroes. It was my first PDQ game and still my favorite super-hero game. It takes a couple of steps back from the "DIY" aspect of the system, as it provides a fairly hefty power list, many of which have specific mechanical effects. I actually think this improves the DIY aspect however, because it's a great showcase of the different things you can do with PDQ's relatively simple Quality system. That said, this is still one of the earlier PDQ games and it still features its share of bugs.

Chapter 1: Superhero Genre

The first part of the book, 14 or so pages, serves as an introduction to the Superhero genre and the different tropes and terms that have sprung up around it. A useful resource for those who aren't as familiar with them, but not much "game" material. Still, its a good way for non-comic fans to figure out what things like "silver age" and "four color" mean. The gist of it is that Truth and Justice is, at its heart, designed primarily for classic "Capes" style superheroes where you don't worry overmuch why the guy in tights is punching criminals rather than directing his abilities towards economic improvement, and the bad guys will probably self-identify as "evil" and laugh maniacally while lowering you into shark tanks.

Chapter 2: Truth and Justice Rules Overview

Much of this is going over the basics from the PDQ core rules, however there is one significant difference. Instead of just having Qualities characters now have both Qualities and Powers.

Qualities are mostly unchanged, however there are several "special" Qualities that work in a unique way. Qualities operate on the "normal" scale, meaning the scale that humans, animals, cars, etc. all work on. You might have Qualities that represent super-human or non-human abilities, but if they operate on the Normal scale then they're probably still Qualities. For instance, you could take a Quality like "Aquatic" (because who wants to waste a power on that?) to let you swim and breath underwater, or a Quality like Claws to have a set of claws for fighting, climbing, etc (of course Claws can also be a Power, think the difference between Beast and Wolverine).

Powers represent superhuman abilities which operate on the Super Scale. Powers are Ranked just like Qualities (Poor/Average/Good/etc), but they represent abilities that no human is capable of and unlike Qualities if you lack a Power you can't "wing it" (although you can twist your Powers to fit different situations). At their core Powers still operate much like Qualities. If you want to punch someone with Expert [+4] Super-Strength then you roll 2d6 +4. However, there are often additional bonuses or abilities granted by Powers beyond their bonus to your roll.

Stunts are what you do when you want to use a Power in a way not covered by the Power's penumbra, typically to emulate a different Power. For example, a character with Expert [+4] Body of Flame might use a Stunt to emulate the Flight power by producing a jet of flame. Someone with Super-Speed might vibrate at high speeds to emulate a power like Phasing. etc. Someone with a Master [+6] level Quality can also perform Stunts, such as a Master [+6] Martial Artist using meditation techniques to stop their heart, etc. These are called "Spin Off" Stunts. It's also possible to invent powerful, individual moves called Signature Stunts (such as the Human Torch's Nova trick, or Black Bolt's Master Blow). Typically Stunts have a Rank several steps below the Power's Rank, but this can be increased by spending hero points.

Hero Points We were just talking about these. We all know what hero points are by now. In Truth and Justice hero points are used in all the standard ways (boosting a roll, recovering from injury) as well as making declarations about the game world or fueling Stunts. They're gained by acting in-genre. So a super-hero will gain Hero Points by saving people, being self-sacrificing, showing mercy and nobility, etc. meanwhile villains gain Hero Points (or Villain Points) by performing overly-elaborate plans or traps, gloating, and so on. All characters have a rating called MAX which represents the maximum number of Hero Points that they can hold onto at a time. As you earn Hero Points your MAX will increase, and it can be decreased for character improvement. This means that characters can remain viable even if they never increase their Power or Quality Ranks (as many comic book characters are fairly static) because they'll have a much higher MAX than characters who spend their MAX to gain new abilities or skills.

We'll go into more detail on all of these in later chapters.

Chapter 3: Characters

Truth and Justice has 9 steps to making your character:

Name This is your "real" name, as opposed to your "cape" name.

Background Your character's history, often with a focus on the "non-heroic" bits. Superman's background would focus on his arrival on earth, growing up in Smallville and coming to Metropolis to work for the Daily Bugle.

Motivation Your hero's primary driving goal. "Rid Gotham of Crime" for instance. Your motivation will compel you to act on it, but in exchange it will earn you more hero points.

Qualities Characters in Truth and Justice have more abilities than your standard PDQ characters. They get 5 Quality Ranks and one Weakness. It's worth noting that your Weakness isn't typically going to be things like Kryptonite or the color yellow, these are special traits called Vulnerabilities or Limitations, which are covered later.

Origin Where you got your powers from.

Powers Everyone gets 3 Power Ranks, which work the same as Quality Ranks (so you can have one Master [+6] Power or split that up into multiple weaker powers. Because just having a Power can be a big deal it's possible to "split" your Power Ranks into two Average [0] Powers. Average [0] Powers don't have a bonus to your roll, but they still give you access to Super-Scale abilities: Average [0] Flight isn't very fast but you can still friggin fly! Average [0] Super Strength doesn't give a bonus to hit, but it still gives a boost to your damage and lets you lift things that a normal human can't. If you really want to push it you can split an Average [0] Power into two Poor [-2] Powers (meaning a really incompetent super-hero could have up to 12 Poor [-2] Ranked Powers), to represent powers you have but can't really control well.

If you decide that Powers aren't your thing you can also exchange them for Quality Ranks. The formula for this is oddly overcomplicated but it basically boils down to this: turn any Power Ranks you want to sacrifice into Average [0] Powers, then for each Average [0] Power sacrificed you get 2 Quality Ranks. So a character go full "super-normal" gets no Powers, but will get 17 Quality Ranks (5 normal Ranks + 12 from sacrificed Powers). You can also choose to sacrifice only a portion of your Powers if you want to play a "weaker" superhero who still plays with the big boys.

Hero Points Everyone starts with 5 Hero Points and 10 MAX.

Codename Your super name.

Uniform Describe your costume

Miscellany Anything else you want to note down. This is a good place to describe any Qualities or Powers that aren't self-explanatory.


Next we go into the rules on Hero Points. It's worth noting that your Hero Points don't "refresh" from session-to-session, the pool is tracked continuously and refilling the pool requires performing significant deeds or falling victims to your flaws. You earn hero points for following your Motivation without hesitation as well as performing heroic acts in general. You can also earn Hero Points by accepting negative consequences. If you have a Vulnerability or Limitation then you earn hero points if you're hindered by it, and extra points if you manage to cleverly overcome it. The GM can also invoke what's called a Revoltin' Development, where they inflict some unavoidable plot-induced misfortune on the character(s) in exchange for a hefty chunk of hero points.

Hero Points are used to declare facts (this bar has a basement, Me and Melting Man were college lab partners), fuel Stunts, add a bonus to rolls, recover damage, or call on a "trophy" from a past game (basically letting you use a plot device from a previous story to help out now).

Whenever you earn a hero point you mark a "tick", and once you have Ticks equal to your MAX then you reset and your MAX increases by one. So characters with extremely low MAX will return to acceptable levels fairly quickly, and those with a higher MAX will start to slow down.

Your MAX is spent mostly on character improvement. You can turn a regular Stunt into a Signature stunt with a MAX point, purchase or improve Qualities and Powers. In desperate times its possible to sacrifice a point of MAX for a hero point, but this isn't a great deal.

Chapter 4: Superpowers

Truth and Justice uses an Intensity Chart to provide basic guidelines on what's possible with Powers.



Want to see how much weight a super-strong or Telekinetic can left, check that column. Same for the speed of a character with Flight or Super Speed. As you can see the fairly low range of modifiers hurts the system a bit. Things typically ramp up massively between Expert [+4] and Master [+6] and the power level doesn't really scale to the ridiculous levels some super-heroes reach. Personally I use an expanded chart that goes above Master based on the newer rules provided in PDQ#.

If you want to have some power-based flaws you can pick up a Limitation or Vulnerability.

A Limitation is some kind of restriction on your power's use. Mind Control that works only on men would be a good example or Flight that is limited to no higher than 10 feet off the ground. If your power's limitation restricts you in a significant way during a Scene you get a Hero Point. If you can come up with a good loophole or workaround for the limitation this increases to two hero points. For instance, if you've got a super-hero whose Super-Speed depends on nearby electrical current fighting villians out in Amish country he'll earn a hero point every time he can't use his power (assuming it would be useful in the conflict). However, if that hero rigs up a dozen potato batteries and fills a backpack with them then he'd be able to use his powers again and earn an extra Hero Point for being clever. If you want your power to have a Limitation you just make a note of it.

A Vulnerability is more severe. Vulnerabilities are purchased using Power Ranks. And yes, this means it's possible to create a superhero with nothing but a Master [+6] Vulnerability. The reason for this is that Vulnerabilities are a huuge source of Hero Points. Every turn you're exposed to your vulnerability you lose your action, take damage equal to the Vulnerability's modifier (minimum 1) which ignores any defenses and you gain 1d6+ modifier Hero Points. So captain Vulnerable might have a Master [+6] Vulnerability to Bullets which means he'll be crippled if he's ever shot...but the guy will earn an average of 10 Hero Points every time. Some special powers come with "built-in" Vulnerabilities which do not give bonus hero points.


Powers

Although the DIY theme is still going strong there's a fairly long (14 pages) list of different Powers or special Qualities. I won't go over each one individually, instead I'll mention some of the highlights and point out some of the strengths and weaknesses.

Gadgets/Gadgeteering/Super-Gadgets/Gadgeteering In general you can take any Quality or Power in the form of a Gadget, basically giving it the Limitation "can be lost/stolen". Gadgets are purchased as Qualities and represent "cutting edge" or "near future" technology. You can get a jetpack or a laser gun as a Gadget, but these things are still "normal scale", so a jetpack won't let you break the sound barrier and the laser gun is effectively just a gun with a bigger special effects budget. Gadgeteering is a Quality that can be purchased to allow you to trade hero points for Gadgets. Gadgets produced with Gadgeteering are not "built in" Qualities so you can't absorb damage with them and they have no story protection. Super-Gadgets and Super-Gadgeteering works basically the same but using Super-Scale effects rather than normal scale.

Invulnerability Invulnerable characters do not take any Damage Ranks from most normal-scale threats. They don't even need to roll. They can still be affected by Failure Ranks however (so you can't shoot someone whose invulnerable, but you may be able to get him in a wrestling hold). Extreme normal scale threats (being hit with a missile or by a train) can inflict Failure Rank damage. The only way to inflict lasting injury on them is with Super-Scale attacks, which inflict damage Ranks like normal. Invulnerability is a neat idea, but its a power that's open to abuse because there's no reason to take anything higher than Average [0] Invulnerability. Higher ranks only add a bonus to your roll to resist super-scale damage or extreme normal scale damage, but you could just put all the other ranks into other defensive abilities like Super-Armor which grant bonuses which scale to your rank.

In general, PDQ doesn't do great with powers that have "absolute" effects such as Invisibility, Invulnerability or Phasing.

Sidekick/Super-Sidekick This is a special type of Quality or Power which basically gives you a backup character. Taken as a Quality every rank you put into the Sidekick Quality gives him more ranks to design his Sidekick, ranging from 4 Ranks to 6. Super-Sidekicks are built the same way, except they also get Power Ranks equal to the number of Power Ranks invested in the Sidekick.

Super-Armor This is a bit fiddlier than invulnerability but it does grant a scaling benefit. Against normal-scale threats Super-Armor reduces damage by an amount equal to 7 + the modifier of the Power. On the super-scale it reduces damage by an amount equal to the modifier. So a character with Expert [+4] Super-Scales would reduce normal scale damage by 11 and super-scale damage by 4. Obviously, on the normal-scale this is very close to being invulnerable anyway.

Super-Scale Attacks This includes just about any form of offense-focused power. Beams/Blasts/Bolts of whatever as well as Super-Strength. Against normal-scale inanimate objects these powers get bonus damage equal to 7 + power modifier. Against normal scale opponents inflicting this bonus damage requires you to spend a Hero Point. The exception is super-strength which inflicts that extra damage for free. This tends to make attack powers fairly over-powered (for perspective your average character without Super-Armor or Invulnerability can take 12-16 Damage Ranks without zeroing out). One good hit from a character with even a low-ranked power can take out opponents without dedicated defensive powers. Just like Invulnerability, investing just enough for Average [0] Super-Strength is a great way to "game" the system. The +7 bonus to damage for just half a rank is a huge up-front benefit.

Super-Speed And of course here we've got the Power with the biggest potential for abuse, because it grants extra Turns. You get extra actions equal to the modifier of the Power. Combined with the fact that it can be used both defensively and offensively and the potential for powerful Stunts, Master [+6] Super-Speed can be used to end most conflicts before they start...7 actions a turn means most opponents will never even have a chance to try and beat you. In short, don't gently caress with the Flash.

Vehicle/Super-Vehicle Sort of a cross between a gadget and a sidekick. Like a Sidekick Vehicles have their own Qualities (or Powers) which the PC can take advantage of when piloting the vehicle.

Meta-Powers This is one of the weirder categories of Powers. A Meta-Power is actually a large collection of powers that all spring from the same source and are effectively treated as a single power. This is how you represent Heroes with obscenely broad powers like Sorcery, or just characters with a ton of powers like Superman. It's actually possible for the same power to be either a normal Power or a Meta-Power depending on how it's interpreted. For instance, some people with Telepathy basically just get to talk mind-to-mind with others...and then you've got people like Professor X. Likewise, a character like Quicksilver has Super-Speed as a Power...but the Flash definitely has it as a Meta-Power.

Mechanically, Meta-powers have no "core" power use and instead allow you to use all the sub-powers as Stunts, basically letting you use them for free as though they were 2 Ranks lower than your Meta-Power's level (so Master [+6] Meta Powers would give all the sub-powers at Good [+2] Rank, with the option to boost them with Hero Points). Because of this you generally don't want to bother taking meta-power unless you have at least as many powers as Superman or Martian Manhunter and you don't really want to bother investing in a Meta-Power at below Expert [+4] Rank.

Along with the benefits, Meta-Powers are required to have a Limitation or a Vulnerability tied into them and unlike normal Limitations/Vulnerabilities these grant you no bonus Hero Points.


Despite some of the criticisms, most of the powers are very open to alternate interpretation and the loose, DIY nature of the game at least makes it very easy to "fix" problematic powers. The powers described above are the ones with the most "baked in" mechanics, most of the rest are simply described with a variety of interpretations and possible concerns to be addressed.

Stunts

Powers in Truth and Justice are usually quite flexible and when you want to try and pull something off outside of the Power's normal penumbra then you're doing a Stunt. Spin-Off stunts are the most common and they represent altering the Power's normal function or form, so long as the use has at least a believable relationship with your original Power. In many cases common stunts practically become secondary Powers for a hero. Normally you perform Stunts at two Ranks lower than the base Power at no cost, with the option to spend Hero Points to increase the effective Rank (including going higher than the original Stunt). So a Good [+2] Flame Blast power would normally be "stunting" at Poor [-2] Rank (say if you wanted to use it as a jet, or to produce a concussive explosion).

Signature Stunts are exceptionally powerful but very specific Stunts that a hero has perfected. Signature Stunts cost at least one hero point to activate, but in addition to the "spin off" value of the stunt you add the base Modifier of the Power. This means that it's pointless to make Signature Stunts for Good [+2] or Average [0] Powers, as the hero point cost will actually grant no benefit (for Good [+2]) or increase have a negative effect (for Average [0]). However, for Expert [+4] or Master [+6] ranked powers the boost is impressive (for 1 Hero point an Expert [+4] Power grants a +6 bonus as opposed to +2. A Master [+6] Ranked power would grant +10 as opposed to +4).


Chapter 5: Super-Scale Conflict

This chapter is, for the most part, just the normal Conflict rules from PDQ core. There are a few new ideas though:

Story Hooks The first time you take damage to a particular Quality or Power in a Scene, the GM marks it as a "story hook" related to the Quality. Basically this means that the GM is expected to come up with some minor plot, complication or event related to the Quality. Since the first Qualities to take damage in a conflict are often non-combat related (such as Ace Reporter or True Love) this tends to ensure lots of drama from a character's "normal" lives springing up to conflict with their crime fighting. There are no strict requirements for when a story hook occurs and ultimately it's more of a suggestion on how to shape the plot rather than a strict requirement.

Light Posts and Lamborghinis This is a fairly simple rule. If you want to use some kind of destructible improvised weapon or other extreme collateral damage (throwing a car at someone, collapsing a building, etc) then you get a +2 bonus to your attack.

Scale effects generally speaking, if a PC operating on the Super-Scale is taking on a non-powered NPC then they can usually treat it as a Complicated situation rather than a Conflict situation. For example, a Good [+2] Telepath wants to get past a security guard (with the Qualities Good [+2] Watchful and Good [+2] Marksman) they would normally have to engage in a Conflict and the telepath would have to disable the guard by inflicting enough Failure Ranks to zero them out. However, under this rule they can simply treat the NPC as an obstacle with a TN rather than a character that must be fought. Since the guard has no Qualities related to resisting mental intrusion it's an Average [TN 7] Task. The telepath rolls 2d6+2 and so long as he beats a 7, he can simply bypass the guard (putting them to sleep, mind controlling them to leave, clouding their senses, etc). This is only for minor NPCs, full-scale "super-normal" villians should always be treated as Conflicts.

Chapter 6: Gamemastering

As is always the case for these sections the advice is decent but not exceptionally different than what you would expect to find in any other super-hero book.

There are also rules for allowing the PCs to work together to create a Headquarters (much like the rules presented in MNPR).

Next we have rules for Plot Devices or Macguffins. Generally speaking they're meant to drive the plot and be used by NPCs, however if the PCs get ahold of them they can call upon them in later stories as Trophies. Using a Trophy requires some hero points and generally these devices have functions that work outside of the normal bounds of Powers/Qualities...they just work. These are things like Moon Lasers, Cosmic Accessories, Power Neutralizers, etc.

There's a quick section regarding different "power levels" you can use to build your villians and NPCs and a small list of sample NPCs.

Chapter 7: Second String Supers

This is one of three "sample" super premises for your Truth and Justice Game. Second String Supers is the more light-hearted setting, focused on the "animated" style of super-heroes with a strong episodic theme.

The premise is that the world's mightiest heroes are being called away into space to fight an alien armada on the edge of the galaxy before it can threaten Earth. The PCs are all B and C grade supers who have been reluctantly recruited by The Dragon Knight to defend his city of Drakesburg in his absence. The chapter provides a list of NPC allies and villians as well as a simple write up of a "season" worth of episodes.

As the goofier, light-hearted setting this one has some of the best NPCs. These are my favorites:

*The Orange Ogre This guy was a professional wrestler whose natural mutant abilities triggered after a severe head injury in the ring. As a result he's a huge (7 foot plus) orange-skinned monster with brain damage. The Orange Ogre is basically caught up in the delusion of Kayfabe (the scripted "reality" of the wrestling world) and believes all his actions are part of his wrestling persona. He's stuck as a "Heel" and thus must act the part of the villian, but really wishes he could switch to a "Face" and believes that if he defeats a major opponent like the Dragon Knight he might be allowed to do a Heel-Face turn.

Expert [+4] Wrestler, Good [+2] Gambler, Good [+2] Party Animal, Good [+2] Shocking Appearance, Poor [-2] Delusional. Good [+2] Invulnerability, Expert [+4] Super-Strength

*The Philatelist A riddler-esque criminal whose crimes all revolve around postage. She's a complete nut with a stamp obsession and who likes playing games with the authorities. She doesn't have a complete write-up but she does have the Meta-Power Expert [+4] Stamp and Mail Schticks. Basically she can do anything so long as there's a component of the postal system, stamps or stamp collecting. For instance, if she slaps enough postage on an opponent she could teleport them to another location. She can mail herself out of prison in an envelope, pull just about whatever she wants out of a mail-box.

Chapter 8: Supercorps

This is the second super-hero setting. It's the near future and mega-corps effectively rule the world. The PCs are "Super-consultants" who work for a meta-human consultancy firm who works for hire for the different mega-corps when they need super-human resources beyond those metas they have on their payroll. The setting has traces of Aberrant and Shadowrun, and is actually a fairly unique concept for super-heroes. Well, heroes is a bit of a stretch.

To enhance the feel of the setting there are no aliens, other dimensions, lost civilizations or magic. Superhumans are typically the product of mutations (born or by accident), scientific "upgrades", or even intensive self-improvement. Or at least that's the public perception, there's always the possibility of more out there.


Chapter 9: Fanfare For the Amplified Man

This is the most unique of the three super-settings. Basically this is a world that has only a single source of super-powers and the traditional super-hero tropes are extremely thin on the ground.

All super-heroes were gifted "normals" who have done something exceptionally heroic and self-sacrificing and thus earned a device called an Amplifier that grants them superhuman abilities. The abilities are always themed in some way towards the character's exceptional act. So basically it's got a sprinkling of Aberrant, Exalted and the Green Lanterns.

Your Amp gives you the ability to earn and spend Hero Points, access to your Powers (it's possible to use Powers without your Amp but they're greatly weakened), allows you to communicate in any "living" language and allows you to communicate with other Amp Weilders telepathically.

In this setting there are explicitly no aliens, no magic, no ancient super-tech (or any super-tech outside of Amp weilders), no super-normals, and no super-villians. There are a small number of Amp weilders in the world and they are all altruistic individuals.

This isn't a traditional super-hero game, it's basically a big "what if you had the powers of X, how would you change the world". The PCs are given abilities no one else have and challenged to find a purpose for themselves. It even points out that it's very unlikely that Amp weilders will ever be good crime-fighters since there simply isn't enough exceptional crime in a normal world for an individual with powers to have more of an impact than the police already have.



And there we go. That's basically it for Truth and Justice. Since I feel like it's hard to do the game Justice without some good examples does anyone have any super-human characters they'd like me to stat up? Existing ones or original characters are fine.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!




scissorman posted:

Also, you mentioned that there is a newer version of the rules (PDQ#?), is there a version of Truth&Justice with the updated rules available?

The answer is a little complicated...

PDQ# is a newer set of rules, but it's not quite a "second edition". Essentially PDQ# is the set of rules created for Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies. It includes several significant modifications to the Core Rules however like Techniques (specializations of Qualities), an expanded Master Chart that takes Target Numbers above Master rank, the addition of "Core" Qualities, and somewhat heftier rules for XP (called training points). However, the system itself is still very "swashbuckler" focused, for example it ditches the normal Conflict rules and replaces them with Dueling rules that are pretty much designed only for one-on-one fights (or one-vs-a group of mooks).

Really, each PDQ game is different enough from every other version that you could call them different editions. PDQ# just has the distinction of being one of the most recent, introducing the most new ideas, and generally being considered the most polished edition of PDQ.

Now, there is a set of rules called PDQ2 (or PDQ Too!) which basically is PDQ# with all the buckles and swashes removed. It uses the original Conflict system and slightly tones down the level of cinematic-ness, but it incorporates the new ideas like Techniques, Training Points, Core Elements, etc. This wasn't made by Chad Underkoffler (the guy who made PDQ and has written all the games we've covered so far), but by Mike Fiegel, the writer of the Ninja Burger RPG (which we'll be covering soon).

PDQ2 has so far been used in only two products: Vox, written by Mike Fiegel, and the PDQ edition of Achtung! Cthulhu, written by me for Modiphius

So far, there hasn't been any sign of earlier PDQ games like Truth and Justice or Dead Inside getting a 2nd edition, although there are a few fan conversions.


Now, onto character examples...


Stilt-Man

Okay, Stilt-man has gone through some upgrades but just for maximum ridicule we'll go with the earlier versions. Since he's well known for his incompetence we'll use slightly downgraded stats (4 Quality Ranks, 2 Power Ranks) compared to regular superheroes and villians, about the right level for a Powered henchman. Since his suit is meant to be bulletproof we'll make it Power Armor (a form of Super-Armor that also allows you to create "subsystems" as Stunts). Since he doesn't seem to produce much in the way of real Super-Gadgets we'll make him a normal gadgeteer, the Stilt-Suit is probably just a one time inspiration combined with stolen tech.

Qualities: Expert [+4] Gadgeteer; Good [+2] Disguise; Good [+2] Kicking; Expert [+4] Balancing Auto-Gyros; Poor [-2] Overconfidence

Powers Good [+2] Stilt-Suit; Average [0] Super Strength (Limitation: Part of the Suit)

Stilt-Man's Stilt-Suit is a suit of Power Armor that grants him the effects of Super-Armor (reducing normal-scale damage by 9 and super-scale damage by 2) and has a variety of built in gadgets (including his 2nd power of Super-Strength) that are available as Stunts, starting at Poor [-2] Rank: environmental defenses, adhesive proofing, fast movement, long-range kicks, a defensive electric charge, and height adjustments. Since they rank as Poor [-2] Stilt-man will often have to rely on Villian Points to be effective.

As a Gadgeteer Stilt-man can produce a variety of normal-scale devices, usually as temporary modifications to his suit. He'll typically have an Expert [+4] Gun (raygun or gas gun), and one or two Good [+2] or Expert [+4] ranked gadgets depending on the situation.

Stilt Man has sacrificed one Average [0] Power for two Quality Ranks.


Green Lantern

Obviously there are a lot of different interpretations of the green lantern character. I'll go with the most straightforward, John Stewart from the Justice League cartoon. If we were going for one of the higher powered green lanterns like Hal or Kyle he would probably have to be statted up as a Veteran or World Class hero.

Obviously the Power Ring is going to be a meta-power, the big question is what Limitations it should have. In JL cartoon we don't see the color yellow being a limiting factor and in the modern day this isn't a big deal in most of the comic's I've seen. So that'll be an optional limitation, something that GL can have as a source of Hero Points but not "built in" to the meta-power. Since the power ring is so powerful there will be two built in limits: Willpower and Recharging.

Qualities: Expert [+4] Indomitable Will, Expert [+4] Former Marine, Good [+2] Architect, Poor [-2] Inflexible

Powers: Master [+6] Power Ring

The Power Ring is a meta-power with very few limits: Energy constructs, translation, super-scale attacks, Invulnerability, Flight, life support, scanning abilities, etc. These all default to Good [+2] but can be boosted with Hero Points. However, the ring's effects are limited by the user's Willpower, meaning you can't Stunt higher than the rank of your Willpower based Quality (so John is limited to Expert [+4] effects normally). If you want to go higher you've got to spend not only the Hero Points on your Stunt, but Hero Points to temporarily increase Your Willpower Quality. The second limitation is Recharging: every 24 hours the ring goes without recharging it's Rank is reduced by one and any Damage Ranks absorbed by the Power Ring cannot be recovered until you recharge.



Doctor Strange is a tough one...partially because I'm not actually very familiar with the character but from what I've seen he tends to serve as more of a plot device than a protagonist, and like all good plot devices he has whatever powers the plot demands while still needing the help of the main character(s) to solve the situation. I'd probably stat him up as a World Class hero, giving him 4 additional Quality Ranks and 2 additional Power Ranks. Here's my best attempt, ignoring powers that exist purely as plot devices.

Qualities: Expert [+4] Surgeon, Good [+2] Martial Artist, Expert [+4] Intellect, Master [+6] Ritual Magic,

Powers: Master [+6] Sorcerer Supreme; Expert [+4] Mystic Artifacts

Ritual Magic is a Quality that covers the magic Strange does outside of Conflicts or to resolve mystic tasks. Sorcerer Supreme is a Meta-Power which potentially (at the GM's option) can cover about anything but typically can be used for super-scale attacks and defenses (including "binding" attacks that inflict Failure Ranks), astral travel, teleportation, illusions, and expanded powers of perception. The limits of the Power are Strange's dependency on words and gestures and that his powers don't operate "automatically", if he doesn't know an attack is coming he can't defend against it. Mystic Artifacts operate essentially the same as Super-Gadgeteering, but rather than creating the devices Doctor Strange simply equips himself from his personal arsenal of magic.

An alternative way to approach Sorcery would be to allow it to do basically anything but only in the form of specific spells (which must be purchased as Signature Stunts). This means all of Strange's effects would be incredibly powerful (minimum modifier of +10) but he's limited by the repertoire of spells and will likely have a fairly low MAX as he would have spent a hefty chunk on his Stunts.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!








All the previous products have been written by Chad Underkoffler, the inventor of the PDQ system. Questers of the Middle Realms is the first licensed PDQ game by Tim Gray. I really like Tim's PDQ stuff because he tends to think about things a bit more "mechanically" than Chad. He's a bit more of a traditional game writer to Chad's stronger story-gaming philosophy. The games he writes definitely have their own feel and help fill out the PDQ system with different ideas. I tend to find that combining elements from systems written by the two of them produces good results.

Introduction

QMR is a comedic fantasy game which tends to waver back and forth between "light-hearted fantasy" to "straight out D&D parody". The setting is fairly bare-bones but has some interesting aspects. The world is called Median, with all the action taking place on the continent of Ludor, also referred to as the "Middle Realms"

The standard term for adventurer's in the setting is Questers (which I always seem to want to spell as Questors for some reason...) and of course there's plenty of dank ruins and ancient tombs to explore and treasure to loot.

Rules

So, we've got the basic PDQ core rules that all the games have shared so far.

Character Creation

Since we're dealing with a D&D-style fantasy game there are of course, Races. Your race takes the form of a free Good [+2] Quality and an mandatory Poor [-2] Weakness. So an elf has Good [+2] Elf and Poor [-2] Elf. Humans are an exception, having no racial Quality. Instead they get a free Good [+2] Personality type Quality and no racial weakness. (all characters also get a Poor [-2] Weakness of their choice, so non-humans will have two Poor [-2] Qualities. In addition to providing it's bonus to certain rolls, most races can take a point of damage to their racial quality in exchange for a bonus of some kind. I quite like QMR's take on the different fantasy races:

Elves Elves in Ludor are immortal...and we're not talking immortal in the Tolkien sense of the word, we're talking about Highlander style immortals. They can be hurt, knocked out, stabbed through the heart but they'll get better. The only thing that kills an elf is complete bodily destruction (burned to ashes, crushed to paste, digested). Since they're so long lived elves are really jaded and hedonistic and generally have a reputation among other races as untrustworthy assholes.

If you're killed then you can take a damage rank to your Elf Quality to come back to life, restoring all Qualities to Average [0], this takes at least an hour or so. Elves can also take a point of damage to their Elf Quality to prove their superiority to other races, giving you a huge bonus to a single roll so long as it can be explained through reflexes, great age and experience and so long as there's a witness from one of the "lesser" races to show off to. The Elf Quality also grants nightvision and helps you maintain your style and composure.

The elven weakness is their inability to resist interesting sensations and experiences, and a really, really unsavory reputation with the other races. They're also limited to no more than 5 fortune points at once, compared to 10 for everyone else.

Dwarves

Dwarves are literally made out of earth and stone and then given the appearance of flesh. New dwarves are sculpted from stone by their leaders and then brought to life. Dwarven society resembles a Gentleman's club (no, not a strip club) and while other races think they're prone to drinking and fighting that's just because the alcohol they need for a "buzz" is enough to knock most others unconscious and what they consider a pleasant sparring season will leave humans with broken bones.

The dwarf Quality helps resist injury, seeing in darkness, and aids with mental focus and stone-work related tasks. The Quality is also an "armor" like Quality which can cancel the damage from an attack in exchange for one point of damage to the Dwarf Quality.

The dwarf weakness relates to their high density and lack of flexibility. Their lack of genders and sex-drive also means they can't really comprehend social interaction driven by romance, sex, or parenting.

Orcs
Remember how I mentioned elves were immortal? Well, elves don't breed quickly but when they just won't die even one baby every couple of decades will eventually lead to a population explosion. To solve this problem the gods created the orcs, a species designed to hunt and cull elves (eating them to ensure no regeneration). That was a long time ago however, there are still some "traditionalist" orcs, but most of them just want to be taken seriously by the other races but they're still having some trouble grasping this whole "civilization" thing.

The Orc quality covers strength, wilderness survival, and keen senses (receiving a big bonus for scenting elves).

The Orc Weakness covers being ignorant of proper behavior, lack of education and the vulnerability of their keen senses to being "overloaded"

Hoblings
Hoblings are the settings hobbit/halfling equivalent. In Ludor they are the product of some unknown god transforming an unknown rodent species into humaniods. They're small, somewhat hairier than normal and very driven by appetite.

The Hobling Quality aids in situations where being small is helpful (sneaking, avoiding attack, etc), keen survival instincts and resisting things like poison or hostile magic. Hoblings are also very lucky and can take a damage rank to their Hobling quality to get the equivalent of a free fortune point that must be used immediately.

The Hobling Weakness covers the downsides of being tiny (resisting injury, lacking strength) and the difficulty hoblings have with resisting their appetites. Hoblings also have the best racial disadvantage ever: They're delicious. Just about anything that would eat a person finds them nearly irresistible.


After Races comes your Personality Hooks, which take the form of a Virtue and a Vice just like Dead Inside. These aren't as essential to the game's concept however and are freely defined. The virtue just has to be some positive character trait and the Vice is a negative one. These aren't Qualities but they do serve as a way to earn extra Fortune Points

Next are your Qualities. Everyone gets 5 Qualities they can pick freely, however you can't take "skill-based" Qualities at a rank higher than Good [+2]. So for instance, you can have Master [+6] Strong (since that's an innate feature) but you'd be limited to Good [+2] Swordsman (since that represents training). It is possible to have "stacking" Qualities that add up higher though (like Good [+2] Swordsman and Good [+2] Knight). This is meant to represent the fact that starting level characters are somewhat new to the adventuring lifestyle. In addition to your free Qualities you also get a Good [+2] Homeland Quality representing the country you came from, and a Good [+2] Organization Quality to represent your current or past membership in some relevant organization. PCs are encouraged to make up their own organizations.

So, all told PCs will have 8 Quality Ranks and one or two Poor [-2] Weaknesses.

Everyone also starts with one Fortune Point. You can spend them for a guaranteed good roll (roll 6+1d6 in place of 2d6), a +2 bonus to your roll, recovering 1d6 failure ranks or 1 Damage Rank, or dictating a plausible coincidence. You can gain fortune in game by following either your Virtue or Vice (it's not important that you be good, just be yourself), succeeding at a major challenge, doing cool stuff, or getting screwed by the plot. You can't hold more than 10 at once though.

Loot

As a dungeon-fantasy game gear and money is a bit more important to QMR than it is in other PDQ games. Objects that have Qualities but are not a part of your character are called Props. Props won't take damage for you and they can be permanently lost (unlike gear taken as Qualities which has plot armor). Props cover not only gear (like a Good [+2] Sword), magical gear (like a Good [+2] magic sword!) but they also include money and valuables (Expert [+4] Giant Diamond or Good [+2] Sack of Coins). There are a few different types of props:

Bonus these just add any Qualities to your roll. If you've got a Good [+2] Sword and you try and chop up an orc you get to add that +2 to your roll.

One-Shot You can get the bonus to one roll (or sometimes for a Scene) and then the prop is used up. These include things like potions, scrolls, alchemical bombs, or valuables that aren't easily "divisible" (for instance a Master [+6] Elven Crown can't just be chopped up for multiple purposes, at least not without losing a lot of value)

Plot-Point These are typically magical items and they can be invoked for an effect once per Session.

Slow Burn These are Props whose bonus can be "split up" among multiple uses. Each use gives a flat +2 bonus and decreases the prop's Rank by one, being used up once the Prop goes below Poor [-2]. So a Good [+2] Bag of Gold could grant a +2 bonus to 3 rolls or used up all at once for a +6 bonus.

Functionally the main difference between magical and non-magical items is that magical items typically grant a bonus to rolls that normally you wouldn't get from that sort of item, or let you do things that normally aren't possible. For example, in terms of fighting you could have a Master [+6] Perfectly Crafted Blade or a Master [+6] Enchanted Mace of Smiting and both would grant the same bonus in fighting but the magical weapon might allow you to do things like fire energy bolts, attack everyone in an area, ignore certain defenses, etc.

In addition to using a prop for a bonus you can get rid of the prop with a Dramatic Exit, getting a big bonus to a defensive roll in exchange for losing the prop (so long as it makes sense in context).

Divine Favor

I quite like how QMR handles gods, it's a bit more traditionally pantheistic than other fantasy games and the gods are represented as fairly neutral rather than strictly good or evil. The five Greater Gods are taken from Mesopotamian mythology and there is an undetermined number of lesser gods that are meant to be created by the players as the game goes on.

Once per session each player can choose to come up with a named god related to a particular event the group is involved in. The player gets a Fortune Point for this and the new god is added to the list of deities. Everyone involved gets a point of positive or negative Favor, depending on what exactly they were doing. For example a player might decide that he's dedicating his arena fight to Testosteroes, god of Oiled Muscles and snag +1 Favor with Testosteroes and a fortune point. However, if they were crashing a male model fashion show that might be -1 Favor.

Anyone can call upon Favor from a god (although priests do it best). Using favor works sort of like casting a Miracle (see below), but instead of producing a magical effect you get the benefit of a spent Fortune Point, so long as it's relevant to the god's interests. So Testosteroes could help in rolls to appear impressive or glistening, feats of strength or manliness, but not to help you pick a lock or sail a ship.

If you keep getting negative favor you will face some trouble. Once you're at -2 Favor you might start finding yourself on the bad end of some nasty miracles whenever near a place relevant to the god. The intensity of the miracle depends on the amount of negative Favor, which is reduced by one every time it happens.

Magic

There are three types of Magic in QMR: Miracles, Thaumaturgy, and Mysticism. All share some features in common but also have their own fairly distinct rules. First, in order to do magic you must have an Arcane Quality. Arcane Qualities are purchased as normal Qualities but they're one Rank lower. So if you spend one Rank on an Arcane Quality like "Holy Wrath of Jojo" then it would be an Average [0] ranked Quality, two Ranks gives you Good [+2] and so on. Arcane Qualities are marked with a *.

The effect of the spell are based on a magic Intensity Table much like the one for Truth and Justice, just toned down to less super-hero levels. for example, weight goes from a couple of pounds at Poor [-2] to a sailing ship at Master [+6]. Casting a spell involves two rolls: an effect roll to see if you succeed (this is also your attack roll if you're trying to hurt someone) and a fatigue roll to see if you can cast your spell without suffering any ill effects. The TN for these is based on the Rank of the effect you're going for. You can choose to lower your effective rank to produce an easier and less taxing spell, or even increase it above your Arcane Quality but you'll automatically fail the fatigue roll and you'll probably suffer some unpleasant side effects.

Thaumaturgy is your basic "spellbook and wand" flavored magic. In order for Thaumaturgy to work you've first got to have at least a couple of objects with a mystic connection to what you're trying to do. Particularly strong or weak connections might give a bonus or penalty. Locations with particularly strong affinities might also grant a bonus to your magic. Spellcasters with this flavor of magic add intellectual-type Qualities to their effect roll, and stamina or endurance type Qualities to their fatigue roll. If they fail a fatigue roll they suffer Failure Ranks.

Thaumaturgy can also go wild if you roll double 1's on the d6, or if you're "overcasting" it'll go wild on any doubles.

Mysticism represents supernatural abilities that you get through pure mental effort. This could be psionic-style effects, or something more like ki mastery. It's based on willpower and is less flexible than the other two flavors and generally allows narrower Qualities. Like thaumaturgists they suffer failure ranks if they fail a fatigue roll.

Miracles are related to the Favor aspect above. If you're a priest you probably have a Quality called Ordination for a particular god. Ordination guarantees you a certain minimum level of Favor (equal to the bonus of the Quality, regenerating 1 Favor per day if you drop below it). So a Good [+2] Priest of Colgate (god of smiles) would have 2 Favor automatically and if he drops below 2 he'll regain one per day until he's back up to 2.

Priests can use their favor the same way anyone can (as a kind of virtual Fortune Point), but they can also use it to power Arcane Qualities. Priests add their Favor (rounded up to the nearest even number) to their fatigue roll and if they fail they lose a point of favor. Their effect roll is influenced by qualities related to charm, smooth talking and butt-kissing. Basically the more you can sweet talk the god the more powerful your spells are.


Setting



Ludor is divided up a lot like your standard "video game levels", which fits the game's conceit fairly well

Ar-Karap Desert Big, sandy and full of nomads. It's got a single city ruled by a (former) grand vizier Jafar Doom. He's evil, but in a kind of laid back, casual way. Sure he's guarded by the animate skeletons of those who tried to interfere with his rule, but for most people in his city life is pretty good.

Arrganarr This is the setting's equivalent of Mordor, a volcanic wasteland surrounded by a mountain range. This is a land ruled by evil beings and savage human tribes. However, they still trade with the rest of the world because it's tough to grow food in an blasted obsidian desert. The trade city of Shiny Gate is the only place where outsiders tend to show up because the city watch strictly enforces nonviolence from the monstrous citizens.

The League of Groth This is the kingdom of goths (technically the principalities of goths). Lots and lots of black lace, decadent nobles and nighttime parties. They like seances and vampires.

Helongor A rugged frontier sort of place. Their elite warriors are the Weasel Riders who, obviously, ride giant weasels into battle.

Kadink This place is terrible, partially because it's basically a giant swamp full of toxic snakes and diseases and partially because everyone is basically paranoid and spying on each other all the time.

Ko-Sha This is the setting's equivalent to Waterdeep or Sharn. The mandatory huge semi-independent metropolis that attracts adventurers like flies. Home of the Classic Inn, which is known as the place to go to meet shadowy figures in corners.

Logrin This is fantasy equivalent of Britian. A small, tea-loving island nation with a powerful navy. Also faeries.

Orthedia This is basically "medieval times" the country, lots and lots of knights who love to go on quests and wear lots and lots of armor.

Scata This is kind of the fantasy equivalent of Scotland. They wear kilts and are practically infested with supernatural and spiritual pests.

Tek Wei Obligatory Asian section. Lots of bureaucracy, advanced levels of clockwork and craftsmanship and persistent dragon motifs.

Valharia Viking country!

Wochilat Fantasy subsaharan africa combined with a bit of ancient greece. Lots of philosophers and home to the Great Library which employees custodians who are basically the librarian equivalent of Indiana Jones.

Yrisiel Forest This is the ancestral home of the elves. Considering the sort of things ancient elves get up to in order to amuse themselves it is a nasty, nasty place.

The Plains of Plap This is a place where stuff falls from the sky. Just..stuff. Most are just household objects of some sort but occasionally you get larger, more unusual, or living. No one really knows why.


Creatures

QMR has a few guidelines on creating monsters as well as several already statted up. Generally creatures that are larger or smaller than humans have a Size Quality and Weakness (Good [+2] Large for a horse or lion up to Master [+6] Large for whales and the like). They also usually have a Type Quality (Grazer, Scavenger, Predator for animals). Plus there's a few "common Qualities" that can be just bolted on to modify creatures or create new ones. Examples are things like Dead or Energy Drain (an Arcane Quality that lets the attacker recover damage when they inflict it). There's also a few different ways poison can be handled in PDQ. There are also a few "template" Qualities that can be plopped onto a critter that work a lot like Racial Qualities. There's Empyrean (divine beings), Nether (infernal ones), and Dread (sort of like Dire Animals, bigger and nastier than normal). Here's some of the more interesting creatures both from the main book and the min-expansion the Book of Bewildering Beasts:

The Were-platypus:
Good [+2] Scavenger, Good [+2] Strong, Good [+2] Endurance, Expert [+4] Swimming, Good [+2] Blindsight, Expert [+4] Damage Resistance (silver ignores this Quality), Good [+2] Poison Spur; Poor [-2] Confusion, Poor [-2] Slow on Land

Dragon (generic)
Master [+6] Large, Expert [+4] Predator, Expert [+4] Intelligent, Expert [+4] Willpower, Good [+2] (Personality Trait), Expert [+4] Keen Senses, Expert [+4] Breath Weapon* (arcane quality, based on mysticism); Expert [+4] Flight, Expert [+4] Long-Lived, Good [+2] Tough Hide, plus one to two Good [+2] Dragon Magic qualities. Poor [-2] Large, Poor [-2] Vanity

Dread Rabbit
Good [+2] Small, Expert [+4] Grazer, Good [+2] Dread Creature, Good [+2] Gnawing Teeth, Expert [+4] Sensitive Hearing, Good [+2] Digging, Good [+2] Jumping

Mildew Monster (like a rust monster, but for nonliving organic material)
Good [+2] Agility, Good [+2] Quick, Good [+2] Keen Senses, Good [+2] Tough Hide, Good [+2] Persistent, Expert [+4] Rot (dissolving organic material), Expert [+4] Sense Organic Matter, Good [+2] Arcane Resistance: Disease. Poor [-2] Intelligence

Sensorius: an evil floating sphere with numerous stalks each ending in a different sense organ, each with a different magical ability.
Master [+6] Multiplied Senses, Average [0] Flight, Expert [+4] Intelligence, Expert [+4] Will, Expert [+4] Malevolent, Good [+2] Bite, Good [+2] Tough Hide. Poor [-2] Arrogant, Poor [-2] Too Much Magic Crap

The arcane abilities range from Good [+2] to Master [+6] depending on the individual sensorius' power. The central eye produces an antimagic field, automatically negating any lower-ranked magic and resisting all others. One eye stalk hypnotizes, another grants telekinesis. One ear fires destructive beams of energy and the other encases victims in wax. One nose fires mucus, the other fires wind blasts. One tongue fires acid and the other can be used to learn more about whatever it touches. One finger enrages the target (guess which) and the other can make melee attacks targeting pressure points.



And that pretty much wraps up Questers. Next will be the Zorcerer of Zo. I'm skipping Ninja Burger for now. Partially this is because there's not much mechanical difference between it and "vanilla" PDQ-core, and mostly because I seem to have lost my pdf copy.

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oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!






Zorcerer of Zo

ZoZ is a fairytale game and setting for PDQ. In fact, it's technically a "lite" version of PDQ called "The Good Parts". As hard as it is to believe that PDQ could get lighter.

ZoZ is kind of a weird RPG book, it's got a light set of rules to provide a framework and then the rest is half setting and half actual-play summary of the author's own campaign. It'd probably make for a great intro to RPGs, but it's a little unusual.


Chapter 1: Fairytales

Like he did with Truth and Justice Chad goes into a bit of a discussion on the "genre" of fairy tales. He goes into common elements of the stories. It's interesting in a TVtropes sort of way, but for the most part it's not exactly required reading. Even if you can't exactly write an essay on the nature of fairytales you probably have enough familiarity with the common traditions to create your own.

Chapter 2: The Zantabulous Land of Zo

Now we're into the setting. In case you haven't figured it out somehow, Zo is pretty clearly inspired by Oz. In fact, the setting can be summed up as a fairytale hybrid. Almost every major character is a combination of two existing fairytales.

The land of Zo consists of 5 smaller countries: Azul, Giallo, Rosso, Viola, and Zo itself. And yes there is a color theme going on here. Talking Animals exist and fall into the category of humaniod, bipedal, clothe-wearing (and yes, there are categories, I told you the first chapter gets pretty analytical). The book also informs us that if two talking animals have children together the child will be the same species as the parent that shares their gender. Thankfully it does not attempt to theorize on talking animals having children with humans.

Azul

This is the woody area the empire, both the "enchanted" and "deep, dark" variety. Rather than being a single kingdom like the other 4, Azul is actually two Counties: Cobaltia and Indigon (yes, Zo really loves its color themed names). the heir to Indigon has vanished and until it is proved that they are either alive or dead the two can't be combined into one kingdom.

Giallo

This is the farm country and the primary exporter of brave and honest country-folk for fish-out-of-water adventures and coming of age stories. Its royal line died out decades ago and no new ruler appointed by the Empire, so while technically united it's effectively ruled by individual dukes, earls, counts, earls, etc. So basically this is the fairytale equivalent of the Dalelands or the Hundred Kingdoms.

Rosso

It's time for pirates and musketeers. Rosso has got your maritime needs covered. They're also the loud, boisterous and will likely be portrayed via a Brian Blessed impression.

Viola

This country is mountainous and it's where you get your foggy peaks and dwarf mines. Just off the country's coast is the Island of Forgotten Toys, home to a large living toy population. It's also mentioned that Viola is the most accepting of Living Toys and Talking Animals as citizens, apparently elsewhere there's a fair amount of prejudice.

Zo Proper

Here we've got the cosmopolitan section of the empire. Big cities and lots of emerald spires. It's also got traces of willy wonka, with flowers full of syrupy nectar which can be dried and eaten as candy.

The Deathless Wolf

One of the major setting elements is the Deathless Wolf, Shaykosch. The Deathless wolf is a hybrid of Koschei the Deathless and, of course, the Big Bad Wolf. He's basically a force of immortal evil that shows up every few decades to terrorize the empire before being put down by a hero. Of course he inevitably shows up again.

The Zorcerer

The ruler of the empire of Zo, but no one actually knows anything about the Zorcerer (including gender or species). It's basically left for the GM to determine, although there are several suggestions such as the Jack of tales, someone from another world (i.e. the real world) or Zolion, the founder of the empire (a cross between Aslan and oddly enough the Cowardly lion). The only thing known for sure about the Zorcerer is that they command the unique forces of Zorcery...although there's no definite idea of what Zorcery is, just that it's immensely powerful (maybe...)

Chapter 3: Zorcerer of Zo Rules

The rules here are the "Good Bits" version of PDQ, basically the standard core rules with a few extras trimmed off. Namely stuff from the combat/conflict options like Armor-Like Qualities, attacking multiple targets, flipping out/playing cagey.

You've also got Hero Points which work much like those from Truth and Justice, except there is no equivalent to MAX. Instead character improvement is handled by Learning Points. Learning Points are earned by failing at tasks, which I've always felt is a great way to handle XP. Characters may also choose "Special Moves" which are basically specializations of one of your Qualities, giving a bonus for a specific move like "Two Handed Strike!" for Swordsman. Many of these ideas will eventually evolve into the PDQ# system.

Magic is handled very simply and falls into two categories:

*Gifts This is a fairly narrow Quality that lets you do something that you couldn't normally do (this also includes things like magical objects). Something like Speaks With Animals or See In The Dark.

*Magic Star Qualities These are the "spellcasting" Qualities. Generally this is a normal Quality like Singing or Herbalism, but marked with a * to indicate that you can perform magical feats with the Quality. Like Arcane Qualities in QMR, these Qualities start one Rank lower than normal (so starting from Average [0]).

When attempting to use a Magic Star Quality the GM should determine if the use is meaningful or gratuitous. If it's meaningful then the GM and player should come up with a Cost or a Catch. A Cost means that something is sacrificed in order to perform the magical feat, whether it is a literal or metaphorical loss. A Catch is some kind of limitation to the spell that allows it to be undone. Catch's are especially used for powerful or long-lasting magic.

Chapter 4: ZoZ Characters

Character creation has 6 steps:

*Name Pick a Name

*Background and Nationality Come up with a background and decide on which kingdom you hail from (or if you're someone coming here from the normal world.

*Qualities In ZoZ everyone gets 6 Quality Ranks and one Poor [-2] Weakness.

*Special Move You can (if you want) pick out one Special Move attached to one of their Qualities.

*Hero Points and Learning Points Everyone starts with 5 Hero Points and 1 Learning Point

*Miscellany anything else


Next we've got a collection of significant Zo NPCs.

*Alphonse, Count of Cobaltia: This guy is a somewhat benevolent power-hungry dictator. He's a combination of Bluebeard from the Fables comic, and Vlad Tepes.

*The Blue Hood: The possible heir to Indigon and a rebel fighting against the tyranny of Alphonse, she especially likes robbing his tax collectors and redistributing the wealth with her 22 Happy Bandits. She also has some kind of mysterious connection with the Deathless Wolf. She's a combo of Red Riding Hood and Robin Hood.

*George Pieman: a young man spoiled by the relative affluence he enjoys as the son of Rosso's royal pastry chef. He heads up a small gang of rogues who enjoy drinking and bullying. He's a combination of Georgie Porgie combined with the Jack of Hearts.

*Shawn Gruff: a talking goat who has spent most of his time as a thief in Azul. However, recently a brother of his was killed by trolls while guarding a bridge and Shawn has sworn vengeance. Obviously he's got the billy goat gruff influence, combined with the Grey Mouser.

*The Stitchwitch: A witch whose magic focuses on the use of thread and needles. She's one of the ugly witches and is the terrifying combination of Baba Yaga and Pinhead from Hellraiser.

*Timothy, The Marquis De Carabas: This guy's a Talking Cat who lives in Giallo and rules the Carabas region. Although he's a good ruler he's a bit too refined and urban for the rustic area he governs. He's a combo of the Puss in Boots, the Marquis of Carabas from Neverwhere, and Lord Percy/Kevin Darling from Blackadder.



The rest of the book details the Actual Play report of Chad's ZoZ campaign which eventually transformed into the game. It features the characters of Horace Hogg (the 4th little pig who left the farm to learn magic) and Deril, a crocodile with an LED clock display on his stomach.

It's an interesting perspective on how the campaign setting developed. One interesting example is the religion of Lionism. At one point Horace and Deril are in a chapel where Count Alphonse is planning to forcefully wed a princess and claim the kingdom. The players get curious as to what the chapel is actually for and Chad basically has to come up with a state religion for Zo and decides on Lionism, the worship of Zolion, the foe of the Deathless Wolf.

That said, it's fun but not really something I can just summarize for a Fatal and Friends review, so that'll be it for Zorcerer of Zo. Next will be Jaws of the Six Serpents

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