PDA

View Full Version : D&D 5e/Next The Ascension of Taran'zuul [PEACH]



Oramac
2018-11-20, 04:17 PM
I finally decided to try my hand at writing an adventure! My group decided they wanted to try a game at 20th level, and I figured I'd try writing a one-shot for them. They gave me feedback from it, and this is what came from that.

I'm looking for feedback on pretty much all of it. RP, mechanics, flavor, everything. A couple things to note before you all rip me a new one. :)

- It's intended to be setting neutral, which is why setting isn't mentioned anywhere.
- I have a friend doing art for me, but it's obviously not all done yet. Some of the maps are my sketches as placeholders.
- I've never written any complete adventure before. Please be kind. :)

Without further ado:

The Ascension of Taran'zuul (https://www.gmbinder.com/share/-LQ44XPbeAX9CNV-x_Ic)

jiriku
2018-11-21, 02:00 AM
Hi Oramac!

Congrats on developing your first adventure. Let's hope this is an auspicious beginning for a long career of happy gaming with your friends.

I am in fact going to rip you a new one. I'll be kind. But you may not be able to sit down for a bit. Fair warning! :smallbiggrin:

THE GOOD
Making this a setting-neutral adventure and locating the action in a confined space that can easily be inserted most anywhere is a good choice -- it maximizes the potential audience for your adventure. I'm also appreciative that you've chosen to share it at all -- it's extra work to take an adventure and prepare it so that someone other than you can use it. You show a generous approach to gaming and I salute you for it. And you've got guts to put your first adventure up for public comment -- I sure don't want anyone to see the first adventure I ever made! :smallbiggrin:

THE BAD
There is a serious mismatch between your vision for this adventure and your execution of that vision. You bill it as "an epic high-level adventure" that is "designed to be beyond deadly." But the plot of your adventure is forced and unoriginal, the setting is tame and traditional, and the setup for the only combat encounter fails to deliver on the promise of an epic, deadly fight. Essentially you have a nice, short little side-trek suitable for adventurers of no higher than 6th level into which you have pasted some epic-level monsters. You could replace the liches with cult fanatics (CR 2) and make Taran'zuul a dhergoloth (CR 7) and the adventure would work just as well (better, actually).

High-level adventures are not just about using monsters with a bigger CR number. They have a different style, tone, and feel to them, and they operate on a different pacing and with different expectations. You're not quite there just yet. I would recommend that you start smaller working with the low-level stuff before you try to go epic. Crawl before you walk. Walk before you run.

THE UGLY
This adventure constantly comes up with good and interesting ideas, then abandons them before they can go anywhere. You introduce this ancient tome, but then never do anything with it. There's a missing child, but this plot thread is abandoned. The manor is rumored to be protected by traps and defenses, with beasts roaming the grounds, but it turns out to be completely empty and undefended. There's a giant magical contraption in the living room, but its purpose and significance is never explored. You do this sort of thing over and over again, teasing with an interesting idea but then never taking the time to develop it.

In fleshing out the environment, you tend to reach for the mundane and conventional even when it's implausible. For example, you assigned bedrooms to the liches - who do not sleep. Your liches fully stocked the wet bar in the dining room - but liches have no biology and no need to drink alcohol. The manor has been a longtime hangout for local children, but none of the windows are broken, there is no graffiti, and none of the games or possessions of the former servants have been stolen. None of this makes any sense.

Your genius villains are incompetent. Seriously. You bill these guys as revered members of society who are incredibly smart, yet to perform their secret ritual they publicly buy and move into a country manor that all the locals know about (don't they own any property? didn't they plan ahead for this?), promptly begin acting creepy enough to draw attention from their neighbors and scare the local kids, and for their ritual they corner themselves in a dead-end basement at the bottom of an empty manor with no protective wards, no traps, no guards, no security (not even so much as a locked door), no escape route, and with their phylactories laid out just begging to be smashed. Their magical whatsit is left sitting in the living room like an exercise machine that they bought and got tired of using, and their treasure -- including magic items -- is just sitting in their bedrooms, not even locked up. I have literally played an actual adventure in which the villain hired the local Association of Village Idiots to be his minions and they had a better security setup than this Council of Death.

SUGGESTIONS
Scale way back. Creating a 20th level adventure is the Olympics of D&D and you're not even on the varsity team in school yet. Set a challenge for yourself that's more appropriate for your experience level. I'd suggest you aim for suggested PC level range of 4th-6th, with cult fanatics summoning a dhergoloth like I mentioned. Don't rush to hammer out a second draft, but rather slow down and expand on the ideas you invented and discarded in the first draft. What's this about the book? What happened to the missing child? Which beasts roam the grounds, and what traps and guardians protect the upper floor of the manor? And think through the choices you're making as you flesh out the environment -- look for opportunities to add exotic and unusual elements. Avoid the conventional and the mundane.

Learn to work with a sense of real time, rather than forcing the PCs to arrive in the nick of time regardless of their choices. For example: Melindor grants the party access to this tome he has, which describes the summoning ritual. Reading it, they can learn that the ritual requires 12 hours to cast, must be begun exactly at noon and finish exactly at midnight, and can only be performed on the three nights before, after, and during the new moon. This provides an in-game time limit the players can work against, it makes the ritual take long enough that they can try to interrupt it, and if the players interrupt the ritual but are forced to retreat the villains can attempt to perform the ritual again on the following day, trying up to three times before the moon grows too full and the opportunity is lost.

Oramac
2018-11-21, 12:32 PM
Thank you!! I really appreciate your help. I was sitting when I read this. I think I may stand for a little while.

Iíll respond to a few points with my intent to see if I can get a little more detail in there, but overall I would tend to agree with you. I started writing this at 20th level because my group wanted to play at that level, not because I thought I was ready to write an epic level adventure. Also because I thought it sounded like a fun challenge.


THE GOOD
Making this a setting-neutral adventure and locating the action in a confined space that can easily be inserted most anywhere is a good choice -- it maximizes the potential audience for your adventure. I'm also appreciative that you've chosen to share it at all -- it's extra work to take an adventure and prepare it so that someone other than you can use it. You show a generous approach to gaming and I salute you for it. And you've got guts to put your first adventure up for public comment -- I sure don't want anyone to see the first adventure I ever made!

Thank you! I really just need something to kill a session or two while the groupís second DM gets prepared to run Curse of Strahd. Making it neutral was a necessity.


There is a serious mismatch between your vision for this adventure and your execution of that vision. You bill it as "an epic high-level adventure" that is "designed to be beyond deadly." But the plot of your adventure is forced and unoriginal, the setting is tame and traditional, and the setup for the only combat encounter fails to deliver on the promise of an epic, deadly fight. Essentially you have a nice, short little side-trek suitable for adventurers of no higher than 6th level into which you have pasted some epic-level monsters. You could replace the liches with cult fanatics (CR 2) and make Taran'zuul a dhergoloth (CR 7) and the adventure would work just as well (better, actually).

High-level adventures are not just about using monsters with a bigger CR number. They have a different style, tone, and feel to them, and they operate on a different pacing and with different expectations. You're not quite there just yet. I would recommend that you start smaller working with the low-level stuff before you try to go epic. Crawl before you walk. Walk before you run.

Definitely a valid point. My main concern with making it a bit railroad-y (and I hate to use that term) was that the adventure needed to last only 4-6 hours in real life. I figured the final battle would take about half that time, so there wasnít a ton of room to make a big sandbox of stuff to explore.

I agree that it should have a more open feel to it, and include a lot more potential for exploration and random encounters, especially in and around the manor.


This adventure constantly comes up with good and interesting ideas, then abandons them before they can go anywhere. You introduce this ancient tome, but then never do anything with it. There's a missing child, but this plot thread is abandoned. The manor is rumored to be protected by traps and defenses, with beasts roaming the grounds, but it turns out to be completely empty and undefended. There's a giant magical contraption in the living room, but it's purpose and significance is never explored. You do this sort of thing over and over again, teasing with an interesting idea but then never taking the time to develop it.

All great points, and things I thought of, but not nearly to the depth I should have. The missing child, for example, is included as a clue to the disintegrate trap on the front door, but wasnít really explored much beyond that.
There are traps, but admittedly not many of them, and not nearly dangerous enough to really challenge a 20th level party. I had intended to put more in, but wanted to get feedback on the overall adventure first.
The contraption in the living room was, admittedly, a bit of a macguffin to prevent the party just teleporting straight into the manor and skipping everything else. But again, you make a valid point that it needs a lot more fleshing out and history around it.


In fleshing out the environment, you tend to reach for the mundane and conventional even when it's implausible. For example, you assigned bedrooms to the liches - who do not sleep. Your liches fully stocked the wet bar in the dining room - but liches have no biology and no need to drink alcohol. The manor has been a longtime hangout for local children, but none of the windows are broken, there is no graffiti, and none of the games or possessions of the former servants have been stolen. None of this makes any sense.

I fully agree. Iíd originally wrote it as an abandoned manor that was taken by the council, but my friend doing the art put so much time into making the map amazingly detailed and pretty that I wanted to kinda validate that.
That said, I agree that the mansion should have a more abandoned, graffiti-filled feel to it. No arguments there.


Your genius villains are incompetent. Seriously. You bill these guys as revered members of society who are incredibly smart, yet to perform their secret ritual they publicly buy and move into a country manor that all the locals know about (don't they own any property? didn't they plan ahead for this?)

A good point, and thankfully, one that it easily fixed.


promptly begin acting creepy enough to draw attention from their neighbors and scare the local kids

Also good, and easily fixed.


and for their ritual they corner themselves in a dead-end basement at the bottom of an empty manor with no protective wards, no traps, no guards, no security (not even so much as a locked door), no escape route, and with their phylactories laid out just begging to be smashed.

To the first part, yes. The rest though, Iíd partially disagree. There are traps and locked doors, and the contraption in the living room is specifically designed to prevent teleportation. That said, I do agree that the wards and traps are not up to par for an enemy of this caliber.
The phylactery being used as a material component and thus making Taranízuul vulnerable was due to the requirement of this only being a 4-6 hour one-shot. Killing him and then having to go through the process of finding/destroying his phylactery seemed like it would take way too long for a one-shot.


Their magical whatsit is left sitting in the living room like an exercise machine that they bought and got tired of using, and their treasure -- including magic items -- is just sitting in their bedrooms, not even locked up. I have literally played an actual adventure in which the villain hired the local Association of Village Idiots to be his minions and they had a better security setup than this Council of Death.

Good points. Again, due to it being a one-shot, I hesitated to put a lot of combat in it, simply so the whole thing could be completed in the allotted time frame.
That said, having more minions and puzzles and such is definitely a good idea.

Thank you again for your feedback!! I really do appreciate it, and I think Iíll be able to sit down ok here in a few hours, maybe.

jiriku
2018-11-21, 07:58 PM
Thank you!! I really appreciate your help. I was sitting when I read this. I think I may stand for a little while.

Iíll respond to a few points with my intent to see if I can get a little more detail in there, but overall I would tend to agree with you. I started writing this at 20th level because my group wanted to play at that level, not because I thought I was ready to write an epic level adventure. Also because I thought it sounded like a fun challenge.

Let me give credit where credit is due. You delivered the game they asked for in a tight time constraint! I attempted something similar when I was new to making adventures for D&D and my friends wanted to play at 20th level. I would... not like the share my attempt. Suffice to say it was not this good.


The missing child, for example, is included as a clue to the disintegrate trap on the front door, but wasnít really explored much beyond that.
There are traps, but admittedly not many of them, and not nearly dangerous enough to really challenge a 20th level party. I had intended to put more in, but wanted to get feedback on the overall adventure first.
The contraption in the living room was, admittedly, a bit of a macguffin to prevent the party just teleporting straight into the manor and skipping everything else. But again, you make a valid point that it needs a lot more fleshing out and history around it.


To the first part, yes. The rest though, Iíd partially disagree. There are traps and locked doors, and the contraption in the living room is specifically designed to prevent teleportation. That said, I do agree that the wards and traps are not up to par for an enemy of this caliber.

Possibly I must retract some of my butt-ripping. I don't see any reference to a teleportation block or a disintigrate trap in the copy I read. Looking closer, I see that the first two pages have an extra column of text off the viewable area of the page -- I can just see the edge of it, but can't read it. If there are teleportation traps and disintigrate traps in there, then I must heartily approve of them. Turning PCs into dust is just good clean fun and every DM should do it. So, just to be aware, perhaps some users on some browers may not be able to view GM Binder correctly, and I should be mindful that content I view from GM Binder may have extra columns I can't see.


Some general suggestions:
Old abandoned mansions are OK as settings for lichly summoning rituals. I give them a C-. Consider as an alternative a persistent mordenkainen's magnificent mansion (or a series of linked demiplanes, which amounts to the same thing) located inside the abandoned mansion -- players would have to find and force the invisible door to enter, and within the mansion you could define the appearance however you wanted. Go crazy with illusory infinite planescapes, walls of blood or bones, an elaborate wizardly lab full of bizarre experiments -- the works. Populate it with summoned and bound demons, undead, golems, local village children possessed by dybbuks, or worse. Trap it with glyph of warding and symbol spells and you've got a wickedly difficult nut to crack.

Oramac
2018-11-22, 12:33 PM
Let me give credit where credit is due. You delivered the game they asked for in a tight time constraint! I attempted something similar when I was new to making adventures for D&D and my friends wanted to play at 20th level. I would... not like the share my attempt. Suffice to say it was not this good.

Thank you! I went into it fully expecting it to be mediocre at best. But if the group has fun, I'll call it a success. Then change everything about it, of course! (The whole group knows it's a playtest too)


Possibly I must retract some of my butt-ripping. I don't see any reference to a teleportation block or a disintigrate trap in the copy I read. Looking closer, I see that the first two pages have an extra column of text off the viewable area of the page -- I can just see the edge of it, but can't read it. If there are teleportation traps and disintigrate traps in there, then I must heartily approve of them. Turning PCs into dust is just good clean fun and every DM should do it. So, just to be aware, perhaps some users on some browers may not be able to view GM Binder correctly, and I should be mindful that content I view from GM Binder may have extra columns I can't see.

Hmm. Interesting. It worked fine for me. Try this link (https://www.gmbinder.com/share/-LQ44XPbeAX9CNV-x_Ic) maybe. I'm still learning to use GMBinder as well.


Some general suggestions:
Old abandoned mansions are OK as settings for lichly summoning rituals. I give them a C-. Consider as an alternative a persistent mordenkainen's magnificent mansion (or a series of linked demiplanes, which amounts to the same thing) located inside the abandoned mansion -- players would have to find and force the invisible door to enter, and within the mansion you could define the appearance however you wanted. Go crazy with illusory infinite planescapes, walls of blood or bones, an elaborate wizardly lab full of bizarre experiments -- the works. Populate it with summoned and bound demons, undead, golems, local village children possessed by dybbuks, or worse. Trap it with glyph of warding and symbol spells and you've got a wickedly difficult nut to crack.

I really like that idea! The spell only lasts 24 hours, so I'll have to come up with a reason to make it permanent, and for the PCs to be able to enter without being allowed, but I definitely like it. Also, I'd also started playing with the idea to make the villagers loyal to the BBEG too. Still mulling on exactly how I want to implement it, but I like that too.

Seriously, thank you for your help. I really appreciate it!

jiriku
2018-11-22, 02:08 PM
Hmm. Interesting. It worked fine for me. Try this link (https://www.gmbinder.com/share/-LQ44XPbeAX9CNV-x_Ic) maybe. I'm still learning to use GMBinder as well.

Using this link I can now see two additional pages that I couldn't see before. Everything between section 7 and the stat block for Taranzuul was missing in the first version. There's still some text I can't read on the page with the manor map. It's two paragraphs of text that appear printed directly on top of the map. It begins with "When the players arrive at the manor..." and spills off the right-hand side of the page.


The spell only lasts 24 hours, so I'll have to come up with a reason to make it permanent, and for the PCs to be able to enter without being allowed


Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion]You and any creature you designate when you cast the spell can enter the extradimensional dwelling as long as the portal remains open. You can open or close the portal if you are within 30 feet of it. While closed, the portal is Invisible.

I note that the spell doesn't say the portal can't be opened from the outside, only that it is invisible. But the easy route would be for access to be restricted only to loyal lieutenants who bear a special planar key. Steal a key, gain access.


Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion]Also, I'd also started playing with the idea to make the villagers loyal to the BBEG too.

Excellent! The easy way would be to make them vassals of one or more of your council members. After all, a lich who is also a high-status member of the community can have hirelings, paid mercenaries, perhaps even living descendents who themselves occupy positions of power within the family holdings. A lich or its descendents may hold title to the land on which the village is located, and may actually be its rightful lord and master and able to command the obedience of the villagers by law.

Villagers could misinform the players, make them waste time by chasing after red herrings and false leads, or even lead them into an ambush. Or welcome them with open arms, put them up in the finest rooms of the inn, then rob them and steal away their gear when the PCs lower their guard. Meanwhile, a disloyal villager might secretly approach them and warn them that they're being deceived. For example, maybe they get pickpocketed or robbed and when they catch the thief, he offers information to buy their mercy.

Or perhaps it's all in the open. They ride into town expecting aid and information, only to see the banner of the head council member flying proudly from a flagpole in front of the town meeting hall. Suddenly the players (if they're paying attention) will realize that they've walked into a band of the enemy's loyalists, and if they don't quickly improvise a cover story they'll tip their hand to the villagers who will of course go running to their masters to warn them of the adventurers.