View Full Version : [3.5/Path] Levels-long Gauntlet

2010-10-31, 09:12 PM
So. I am running a levels long gauntlet for a party of 8th level with intention to get them to level 15 or higher by the time they finish. It is basically a tower shaped out of a mountain by the wizard tower master that has various levels. I would like input on how to make this a difficult challenge for optimized characters while still making the encounters appropriate for their level. All Pathfinder books are allowed, and 3.5 books are allowed with the exception of things alright converted. That is, for example: you cannot be a 3.5 Druid, you have to be a Pathfinder Druid.

The Party:
One Wizard that intends to go Archmage at the appropriate level.
One Fighter/Swashbuckler/Dervish.
One Catfolk Ranger.
One Eldritch Chain focused Warlock.
One Psion, discipline undecided.

I have no clue as of yet what they plan to do for healing. The group seems the type to just charge in though, so traps will be deadly for them, especially without a rogue.

The Plan:

Each layer of the tower is themed after a specific plane of the multiverse, starting with Carceri and ending with a living demiplane of the aforementioned wizard's own creation. There should be about one layer per level, with the players reaching the top around level... 16 or so. I have not decided on every plane I am going to use yet, though I know Acheron, The Beastlands and the Abyss will make an appearance. Any feedback on fun planes to use would be awesome.

So far, for the first level I plan to make it laid out like a winding prison, with bodies of the previous parties that tried to get through the layer frozen inside of the cells. The end of the layer will have a locked gate that the only way to open it is with a series of keys found in rooms throughout the layer. All while having to defeat the occupants of the place, of course. I am thinking of using Kythons (BoVD) and Bone Devils as jailers, with perhaps a Fiendish Cryohydra at the end.

Thoughts? Should I put more traps? More minions and less big bosses? Any ideas if/how the keys should be hidden?

2010-10-31, 10:16 PM
hmmm, itd be tough to balance something like that out. Personally, i would probably have some kind of undead jailor holding the keys, or maybe 4 different jailors, each roaming a wing of the prison with some lower level undead or demons or whatnot cleaning/patrolling.

2010-10-31, 11:20 PM
Undead jailors... I like. An undead of CR 10ish does not come immediately to mind, but I will think about it. Thanks.

2010-11-01, 12:33 PM
Anyone else have any thoughts on this?

2010-11-01, 12:43 PM
They're going to enter that tower at a low level and leave at a high level? Where are they finding time to rest and train?

Though that may be a personal preference thing, I'm not really one for "ding!" leveling. I think it's something that should happen in between adventures.

2010-11-01, 12:48 PM
Consider how you'll keep the gauntlet on track. As they level, they'll acquire access to teleport and plane shift, which will allow them to bypass significant portions of your gauntlet.

I'd recommend that each level of your tower (or at least the higher levels) should actually be on another plane, rather than just be modeled on one. Further, each level should contain a macguffin of some kind that's warded against magical detection and needed to open the gate to the next level. This will give players a reason to go wandering around each level of the "tower" and hunting for the macguffin, rather than just skipping ahead -- they have to hunt through the tower level (rather than teleporting) to find the macguffin key so they can go to the next level, and they can't plane-shift from level to level because they don't know how to find the next level of the tower without using its internal gates.

Do expect that they may use their magic to exit the tower altogether, especially if they need a breather or if they decide they need some specific item to proceed and they can't acquire it in their current level. This is fine, as long as the plot provides some compelling reason for them to return to the tower in a timely fashion.

Think about the answers you'll provide when they use powerful divination magic to ask questions about the tower, especially spells like discern location and find the path, which can potentially be used to bypass sections of the dungeon. Spells exist that can defeat some of these divinations and travel spells (e.g. dimensional lock, guards and wards, hide the path), but even those can be dispelled, so you should design your tower in such a way that powerful divination and travel magic doesn't render large portions of it irrelevant.

Consider also placing populations of friendly and indifferent creatures in the tower, beings who are trapped there or have taken up residence for whatever reason. This gives players of the more social classes people to talk to and negotiate with, and also gives you the opportunity to introduce shopkeepers and NPCs who can be the "voice of the DM" and allow you to exert in-character guidance on the party. These groups of neutral/friendly characters also provide a convenient means of introducing new PCs if you have new players join your group or if existing characters die and need to be replaced by new characters.

2010-11-01, 06:27 PM
Interesting thoughts, and a few things I didn't think about at all! :smallbiggrin: Thanks, jiriku, I will definitely have to look into hide the path.

2010-11-01, 09:03 PM
I'd advise giving the Big Bad multiple appearances throughout the course of the gauntlet, and let the party fight him at the end. Try to emphasize how strong he is compared to the party at the start, make him stop the party dead in their tracks, force them to find a new way through the level when they thought they had completed it, and generally make him do anything you would hate if you were a player. This will make it extremely rewarding when the party finally kills him.

2010-11-02, 07:14 AM
Interesting thoughts, and a few things I didn't think about at all! :smallbiggrin: Thanks, jiriku, I will definitely have to look into hide the path.

Another option is to have the item-that-must-be-found be carried by an NPC/monster/etc. Yeah, they can follow a path, but if the carrier is wandering, they wander, too.

2010-11-02, 12:50 PM
Another option is to have the item-that-must-be-found be carried by an NPC/monster/etc. Yeah, they can follow a path, but if the carrier is wandering, they wander, too.

I have this mental image of a key carried inside the guy of a purple worm, and a hero who intentionally lets himself be swallowed by it, twists about frantically in its guts trying to find the key before he's crushed and digested, and then teleports out to safety, covered in goo but victoriously holding the key aloft.

That is an awesome mental image.