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  1. - Top - End - #61
    Colossus in the Playground
     
    Eldan's Avatar

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    Default Re: Worst module you've ever seen?

    Back to worst modules, the one that made the worst impression on me was some old adventure path for The Dark Eye that a friend showed me. Never ran it, I must say, but passages of it and his experience just looked terrible.

    Take everything in this thread about railroading. IT had that. Including telling you in the beginning how the story would end, the PCs running through linear story bits to get from setpiece to setpiece, overpowered NPCs that drove both sides of the plot and text that told the game master not to let the players make the wrong decision. As in almost literally "If the characters make this decision, tell them to make the other one instead. If they don't, have that decision fail and go with the other one." You get to walk from location to location and watch the famous setting NPCs be awesome at one another, with lengthy pre-written speeches that the players can't interrupt. But you get some random encounters in between.
    "Après la vie - le mort, après le mort, la vie de noveau.
    Après le monde - le gris; après le gris - le monde de nouveau.
    "

  2. - Top - End - #62
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Worst module you've ever seen?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldan View Post
    Back to worst modules, the one that made the worst impression on me was some old adventure path for The Dark Eye that a friend showed me. Never ran it, I must say, but passages of it and his experience just looked terrible.

    Take everything in this thread about railroading. IT had that. Including telling you in the beginning how the story would end, the PCs running through linear story bits to get from setpiece to setpiece, overpowered NPCs that drove both sides of the plot and text that told the game master not to let the players make the wrong decision. As in almost literally "If the characters make this decision, tell them to make the other one instead. If they don't, have that decision fail and go with the other one." You get to walk from location to location and watch the famous setting NPCs be awesome at one another, with lengthy pre-written speeches that the players can't interrupt. But you get some random encounters in between.
    For those not in the know: DSA uses a "living world" format. It´s a persistent setting that's getting updated for 1 year based on the results of 2 real life years of modules, tournaments and such. It also includes a meta-plot that is updated and included into the source books along the same intervals.

    Some, uh, 2 editions back, one of the devs stumbled across the bright idea that they could also base sorta-kinda Adventure Path on the concept of experiencing the meta-plot first hand. That proved to be as horrible as noted, same as the Avatar Trilogy for the Realms. They gave up on this concept after the second one.

  3. - Top - End - #63
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Worst module you've ever seen?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mordante View Post
    Honest question.

    Why do people play modules????
    Excellent question. So glad you asked.

    Have you ever talked to anyone about that movie you watched, or that sports ball game on TV? Why did you that?

    Same reason to run / play in a module.

    Have you ever heard tales of the fun of traveling to faraway places, or Disneyland, or whatever, and then wanted to go there?

    Same reason to run / play in a module.

    Custom content is great. Don't get me wrong. But it lacks that bond to the community, to something bigger than the "inside joke" level of connection you get from the GM's creations.

    Also, reviews. "Have you tried Ben & Jerry's new flavor of ice cream? It's simply divine!" parallels "We had so much fun running through Tomb of Horrors - you've got to try it!".

    EDIT: also, variety. Me running my custom content won't feel like me running a module. The module provides the spice of variety.
    Last edited by Quertus; 2020-09-09 at 03:38 PM.

  4. - Top - End - #64
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Grod_The_Giant's Avatar

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    Default Re: Worst module you've ever seen?

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Have you ever talked to anyone about that movie you watched, or that sports ball game on TV? Why did you that?

    Same reason to run / play in a module.
    Forgot about this-- it feels like it's largely a 5e phenomenon--but it's definitely fun to have those sorts of shared experiences.

    STaRS (and STaRS Lite)
    A non-narrativeist, generic rules-light system, by me. Now officially released!

    Grod's Guide to Greatness
    A big book of player options for 5e, by me

    Quote Originally Posted by Grod_The_Giant View Post
    Grod's Law: You cannot and should not balance bad mechanics by making them annoying to use
    Giants and Graveyards: My collected 3.5 class fixes and more.

  5. - Top - End - #65
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Worst module you've ever seen?

    I haven't run any of the 5e hardback campaigns but I've DM'd my share of Adventurer's League and, let me tell ya, that is extremely hit or miss on AL one-shot module quality. The hardback campaigns may have their issues but at least they were written by professionals and went through an editing process and had a team to kick around what worked and what didn't. When you're running AL nights at the game store, you have a fairly limited catalogue, often made more limited by not wanting to repeat material and/or what you or the guy running the event has purchased for play. Some are good, a few are really good and some... I've had DMs apologize at the end.

    One standout offender that I ran was a series of one-shots with a pretty decent premise: an ancient magical tree is giving up its mojo and the protection it gave to the surrounding forest is fading. You go in and learn that there is a now-abandoned elf city within the tree with a secret drow "mirror city" underneath it. The actual execution though was less well done. The first adventure was somewhat promising with a good blend of mystery, combat and horror -- if the players did it "right". They're given three options in the beginning and, if they picked door #3, the adventure just ended and I guess everyone goes home early. The second adventure was decent aside from weird inconsistencies. Like the first one starts with the characters seeking shelter from a storm. A lot of storm. Like "take exhaustion levels if you stay out in it" storm. That's been going on for some time, and is the hint that the tree is failing. The second adventure, a day later and a couple miles away, has a zombie army traveling down... a dry river bed? But, it was still okay and has a fun combat encounter or two. Then you get into a period of adventures that are all essentially identical. You're in the elf city (which, going back to inconsistencies, had been just abandoned -- you meet the fleeing elves in the woods -- but is presented as though it's been abandoned for eons) and every adventure has the same beats: small fight, small fight, large fight in a large temple area, stairs going down for next time. Usually an AL adventure has a mix of social, puzzle and combat to give a little something for everyone but this was all combat, and all basically the same combat, night after night after night. I like combat but even I was bored going into the third one of these.

    Towards the end, it got a little better with adding some social and puzzle/exploration parts but was utterly confusing in presentation. Parts I had to read three or four times and try to draw out to understand the intent. In one adventure, the module refers to a non-existent map for (presumably important) monster placement. It was sort of a shame because the module had some cool set pieces and I legitimately enjoyed making my own maps for some of them but it re-used the same idea and pacing over and over until it was just a slog. And, being an AL game, I was limited in my ability to change it for the better.

  6. - Top - End - #66
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    DrMartin's Avatar

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    Default Re: Worst module you've ever seen?

    I think that the Dragonlance modules deserve the cake for jumpstarting the whole legion of "put the PC on a path to a foregone conclusion" modules that followed.

    You play as the Heroes of the Lance - huzzah! except that you cannot die. There is a rule called "obscure death" or so that says that if one of the Lance character dies, they don't really die, they are fine, really. Next scene you are back in the saddle.

    As soon as you deviate from the one true path you start rolling random encounters by the dozen. Until you give up and go back on the tracks or die, and when you die, you are not really dead. Repeat until you get back on the train.

    There's one of them (one of the later ones, where the PC begin in a coastal town - can't be bothered to look into it now) where it doesn't even matter if you engage with the plot or not - the modules flat out says that whatever needs to happen will happen anyway, regardless of any PC intervention. That event is also the only thing that "carries over" in the next book.

    And this leaves aside the whole hosts of issues with the most annoying DMPC of all times, Fizban.

    /rant begins
    The Dragonlance modules were terrible but a lot of people thought that they were a great idea - my wild guess is, without ever trying to play or GM them. I don't know if that is true, but i kind of consider them as the root of all the metaplot-based-evil that followed, that amount to players being spectators to event that affect the world where they have only marginal say in - or rather to stories that focus more on the world than on the individual characters, while still having the players play those individual characters! which in my adult age I call now a waste of precious table time. Go play microscope for that kind of experience, I say!
    /rant ends

    Other horrible, horrible modules are Mortal Remains, Damnation Views, and the adventure in the Vade Mecum for Chtulhutech. Can't comment on further adventures as that all I've read from the gameline. The villains get away because they have to play a role in the next book, success is always meaningless, story awards that need to be paid with XPs (seriously: as a reward the character get a military award of some kind, which grants them a bonus in social situations....but only if they spend their hard earned XP for it, as if they bought the boon at character creation. Otherwise you get nothing from it. Great reward). Plus a really indelicate way of handling and presenting very sensitive topics about personal violence make for a quite unpleasant read too.
    Hector Morris Ashburnum-Whit - Curse of the Crimson Throne - IC / OoC
    Bosek of Kuru - A Falling Star - IC / OoC
    Gifu Lavoi - Heritage of Kings - IC / OoC

  7. - Top - End - #67
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: Worst module you've ever seen?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mordante View Post
    Honest question.

    Why do people play modules????
    I wondered that myself before I bought Lamentations of the Flame Princess. The referee's booklet for that game gave a simple answer: because you want ideas you wouldn't think of yourself.

    Boy did LotFP module deliver on that front.

    The problem with the few WotC modules that've passed through my hands through the years, is that they don't have ideas like that. If the feeling I get from reading a module is "I could've come up with this in my sleep", it is worthless to me.

    The next, harder part is to actually use the module as written and playtest it. Most people give up on modules at this stage, because they don't have guts to run something that'd transcend or transgress their own tastes. It's hard to put faith in something you wouldn't have thought of and wouldn't normally do. It's very rewarding though when that nets unexpected positive reactions from your players.

  8. - Top - End - #68
    Librarian in the Playground Moderator
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    Default Re: Worst module you've ever seen?

    Worst would probably be a dungeon where EVERYTHING was miskeyed; it's been a long time, and it was fan-made, so I'm not going to link it, but I didn't realize it until I was in-play and fixing that **** on the fly SUCKED.

    Worst published? Ruins of Adventure. Most of it was OK, and we had a ton of fun... but the graveyard key was off 90 degrees... So, if you had a layout of

    AB
    CD

    Room A would be keyed as room C, C as D, D as B, and B as A. But for a much larger and more complex setup. Everything else was fine, and it led to an amazing rooftop fight between our Monk and an Assassin.
    The Cranky Gamer
    *It isn't realism, it's verisimilitude; the appearance of truth within the framework of the game.
    *Picard management tip: Debate honestly. The goal is to arrive at the truth, not at your preconception.
    *Two Tales of Tellene, available from DriveThruFiction
    *The One Deck Engine: Gaming on a budget
    Avatar is from local user Mehangel
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  9. - Top - End - #69
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    BardGirl

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    Default Re: Worst module you've ever seen?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mordante View Post
    Honest question.

    Why do people play modules????
    In my case, I use the basics of the module to provide a coherent plot, while heavily customising it to fit the group.

  10. - Top - End - #70
    Librarian in the Playground Moderator
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    Default Re: Worst module you've ever seen?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mordante View Post
    Honest question.

    Why do people play modules????
    Time and maps.

    Let's take some of my favorites, like Keep on the Borderlands. While it's missing a lot of information (like what is going on, how everyone interrelates, and so on), it's got enemies set up, it's got the area around it, it has NPCs in the keep... all things I don't have to write up. It saves me time.

    It also has maps, which I really hate working on. I'm seldom satisfied with them, I don't like making irregular rooms, lots of stuff. A module has maps.

    I've done off-module stuff many times. But unless I've got enough spare time to make such things, I prefer to borrow them.
    The Cranky Gamer
    *It isn't realism, it's verisimilitude; the appearance of truth within the framework of the game.
    *Picard management tip: Debate honestly. The goal is to arrive at the truth, not at your preconception.
    *Two Tales of Tellene, available from DriveThruFiction
    *The One Deck Engine: Gaming on a budget
    Avatar is from local user Mehangel
    Written by Me on DriveThru RPG
    If you need me to address a thread as a moderator, include a link.

  11. - Top - End - #71
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default Re: Worst module you've ever seen?

    I have two answers and both of them have already been said so I will elaborate on them in a way that explains them in a little more detail. We'll start with the big one.

    The Tomb of Horrors is possibly the poster-child for adversarial gaming, and I hate it. I'm most familiar with the 3.5 version so I'll go through some of the highlights from it:

    Spoiler: Tomb of Horrors
    Show
    Possible locations for the tomb include six different iterations on "The middle of nowhere". The description calls it a "Thinking person's module" which is a lie. It says that the players will benefit from playing it, which is a damned lie. It then insinuates that the players may find the module immediately to their liking, which - on this particular scale - is a statistic.

    The module begins with a "Screw you!" to trying to think laterally by using spells like Ethereal Jaunt - doing so results in getting attacked by demons. Oh and the demons also reset any traps anyone trips? But otherwise they do nothing. Okay.

    Interior features have impossible break DCs for a normal party. Pretty standard. Nothing stopping you hitting them with sticks until they break as long as you can deal at least 6 damage (for the doors) or at least 9 damage (for the walls) at least some of the time on an at-will attack. So to clarify, this is a thinking person's module where you can't use your spells to bypass things but you can hit things with sticks. Good, good, just checking.

    Blah blah blah you're on a hill and the place looks like a skull if you make a hard int check; this is a useless piece of information.

    If you search, you can find the way in. Failure means you've failed to get in and have to go home, I guess? Anyway, you find the way in but unless you decide you're going to make another search check after you've already found your way in, with no indication that you should do so, sike, you have entered the false tomb of Tal Ra... wait no wrong setting. It's a fake entrance, it's a trap, if you can't hit a search 24 or don't think to try (which, okay, that one's on you; it's the Tomb of Horrors, search for traps guise) you take 16d6, reflex 23 half, damage. Yeah all of you. You're level 9. Failing that probably means you're pretty badly injured, potentially even dead, and the cleric can't cast heal because you're only level 9. Did I mention that you're level 9, so failing the reflex save is almost a gimme? Oh, and it implies that flunking the disable device check (of course it's DC 24 too, which your average rogue at that level stands a non-negligible if small chance of failing) causes the thing to collapse on you all anyway.

    If you search, you can find the way in. Failure means you've failed to get in and have to go home, I guess? This time, though, it's the real deaSIKE IT'S ANOTHER FAKE. This one has a trap that, if you set it off, hits you with another 12d6 damage and may just trap you forever if you don't have a good way of escaping. This is another DC 23 reflex to avoid, and a DC 30 strength check to break free, which is the same strength check that will take you straight through a wall. The trap doesn't have hardness and hit points unlike the wall, so after taking the 12d6 damage from being crushed you'll have to... hit the wall with sticks, rather than the actual trapping bar? Whatever. You escape the fake Tomb of Horrors.

    If you search, you can find the way in. Failure means you've failed to get in and have to go home, I guess? This time, though it's the real deal. No, really. I promise. Welcome to room 3

    There's some cool stuff that you can find here and it's sorta relevant to the excuse-plot but anyway get ready to take 20 on more search checks because why would this room not be trapped? These are basically the phantasmal killer of traps: they're reflex then fortitude, but if you fail both saves, you... okay, you take some CON damage, but it's a substantial portion of enough CON damage to kill you. There are five of these buggers, so you have to sit around and wait for the rogue to deal with them if you're not the rogue. Strangely, a truenamer is an oddly compelling party member just so you can add a random +5 to each of SO MANY SKILL CHECKS DEAR GOD.

    Anyway there is a chest marked 4 on the map, and naturally it is trapped oh my god I am so surprised. But you can't detect this trap by searching around the chest, oh no. You have to search the inside of the chest for traps, and you can only actually find the treasure if you fall into the trap anyway so really now. It is a very slightly stronger version of the other poisonspikepits because this one deals slightly more damage if you fail the reflex save and whatever happens with the fortitude save - 3d6 instead of 1d6, which is not hugely relevant except that you are likely to lose most of your hit points from the CON damage so depending on what class you are this may actually kill you. I have no idea off the top of my head what goggles of day are but if you decide to search the trap for treasure you get some of them. Joy!

    Attempting to go into door 5 will teleport you to room 7 unless you enter the correct code first. Fortunately despite the riddle which I suspect is supposed to lead to this outcome being completely opaque, you can press as many buttons as you like in whatever order until you get it right because this is a thinking person's module so brute forcing it is obviously encouraged because that's what smart people do. You can then go to room... 11. I don't know what's with the numbering here.

    If you attempt to climb into the giant opening in the wall, marked 6, you die.

    In room 7, there is...

    What do you mean "Could you elaborate on that?" You die! It's not a trap so there's no search DC and there's no save. You. Die. There is nothing to suggest to the players that the opening is deadly. "Strong transmutation" could mean anything, good or bad, so detect magic won't cut it (although it will tell them that something's up at least); charitably speaking, a very paranoid party with more spell slots than they know what to do with can use one of those divine-intervention divinations like augury to check up on the weird not-a-trap but outside of that, there's just no real way to work out that the hole in the wall is actually a minor artifact that kills anyone who touches it.

    Anyway. In room 7, there is one way to get out of the room: deliberately trigger the pit trap and take an obnoxious reflex save or fall into the room below. Fortunately, 10d6 is not deadly even if it's not nothing. You then have to fight 8 monsters with 13 hit points each, which I'm guessing are CR... oh, 1/2 each? I don't have my Libris Mortis on me and of course this module doesn't give you the stats for its own encounters because why would it? Anyway, so you fight an EL 5-I-guess encounter, which you should stomp except that these things sound incorporeal from the name. I have no idea if they are 'cause I can't have a look at the freaking stats and anyway you then have to climb out of the pit and then make some implausible skill checks and go to room 13, but before we deal with that there's another room you can go to from room 3 and it contains a CR 11 monster.

    This is a thinking person's module, so of course room 8 contains a melee bruiser monster with no useful actions other than attack, charge and full attack. It has 199 hit points and a decent AC (but also attack bonuses higher than your AC has any right to be). If you can't face getting hit by 4 attacks at +24 and 2 at +22, each doing 2d8+10 for the primaries and 2d6+5 for the secondaries, then you can go to town on this thing's mediocre will save and hope it doesn't roll good and eat your face. It is large-tall so enjoy having to cast defensively if it stands next to you, but it's not really a complicated encounter, just a difficult one numbers-wise if you try to hit it with sticks rather than casting like, any ref-or-lose or will-or-lose spell. They do make ref-or-lose spells, trust me.

    Anyway so you kill the gargoyle - assuming you didn't just brute force door 5 and skip this whole fiasco - and you get a special hint that you can only get for killing the gargoyle that you're not supposed to have to fight because you're supposed to do the clever thing and skip to room 11. Whatever. Note that room 7 is next to room 13 and nothing else, but room 8 borders room 3, so I'm bouncing around because I am reading this module in order even though reading this module in order makes no sense, Jesus guys you could have numbered this dungeon better I swear to god why are you even allowed to desi...

    So complex 9 actually borders room 8. Anyway, it has two separate mechanics for how to open the secret doors: one is that you must take a DC 25 search check to discern that one exists, and the other is that you must simply guess how the door opens. It is implied that you only have to do the second one of these and not the first? Maybe the search check is a backup for if you can't psychically discern the actions you need to do? Or maybe you do actually need to do both? Okay, so the text that's throwing me is "The essence of this secret door complex requires this level of attention to avoid making the navigation of this area nothing more than a mathematical exercise", which definitely implies that you need to do the guessing game, but it's not clear whether the search check is a prerequisite to making the guess or a backup if you fail the guess?

    If I were DMing this, I would probably allow the player to just guess how the door opens as many times as they liked, and attempt the search check if they need a hint. For example, the first one is "Pull down", so I might give the hint "You find a ridge at the top of the wall that you can just about reach up and put your fingers in." The player can attempt to pull the wall down whether they've found the hint or not. That's a reasonable way of doing it, but I have no idea if that's the intention or not.

    Of note is door G: there are seven studs, and pressing studs 1 and 7 causes the door to hit you in the face. Opening the door requires you either to press 1 and 7 and activate the trap, or press all of the studs... therefore including 1 and 7, which will also activate the trap. You literally cannot open this door while it's trapped without it trying to whack you one, but the game acts like you can get through without setting off or having to disable the trap (DC 26). While "Stone door +10 (2d6)" is the attack routine of the gods, it's not really relevant here, though. Oh no.

    What's relevant in complex 9 is that while you're making your way through 11 rooms, 7 of which have cruel and unusual secret door opening mechanics, you're being shot at by this attack routine: arrow +15 (1d8)/*3. You can disable it, but it comes back in 1d4 rounds, and of course, that means that when you reach the next room, you can be trying to disable that room's trap and then this room's trap will spring back to life and start shooting you again. While you're making DC 25 search checks and faffing about working out which way to open the door or which buttons to press and getting hit in the face with a door, unless you have a clever way of dispelling a caster level 20 effect that keeps the traps resetting (you are one level away from that truenamer I insisted you bring being genuinely able to do this), you are spending a minimum of 20 actions getting shot up by magic arrows. The traps take twice as long to disarm as they'll be out of commission for, so there's no point in it. If you have an AC of 26, quite respectable at this level, and if you pass every check to open every door first time, and then use that hint to guess the right action to open that door, you will still take about 8d8 points of damage (I'm assuming you can run through every unlocked room helter-skelter) and there's not a lot you can do about it (protection from arrows won't work, they're magical). Assuming you can't pass a DC 25 search check on a 1, this could take a lot longer. Complex 9's only saving grace is that it's skippable by using the goddamn cloud door - enter the code or don't, either way is better than this.

    Riddled with arrows, you and your party stumble into hall 10. There's a not-trap that can't be searched for (again) but this one makes you wis-or-lose just for being near it. Did I say lose? I meant kill your own party, silly. There's some real traps too. Meh. There's another archway, archway 10A. If you step through it, you go back to room 3 and all your stuff goes to room 33. No, it's not a trap either, you can't search for it, and there's no way to work out what it does with logic or dice. The game notes that "While cruel, it is most entertaining for the DM" to force people back to the starting room, naked. Yikes. 10B is an optional encounter, which doesn't prevent it from dominating creatures even if the DM decides it's not there (see the notes on hall 10 at the start of this paragraph - I assume it's 10B doing that). It's CR 4, so apart from the dominate effect (you're ninth level, no you don't have mind blank), no big deal.

    So, you can be in 11 for one of two reasons: you just went there from 10, through an illusion which offers no save so there's no way to realise it's an illusion except by trying to climb through holes in the wall which IIRC killed you back at hole 6, so the module just has you guess which undetectable effects you need to crawl through and which ones you can't, or because like a frickin' sensible person you put in codes for the first mist gate (5 which is the one with a code, not 10A which is the prelude to a bad hentai) and walked through it. There's a statue. By allowing it to crush your property - which there is basically no indication that you should do, and no reward for doing the first two times leaving you with no reason to believe that you should do it a third time - you are given an invisible object which you might have no way of finding, although at least the riddle is kinda obvious here.

    There are two doors 12. Both are trapped with high search DCs and slightly more forgiving Disable Device DCs than some of the other traps - 28 and 20 - and they make 1d6 spear attacks at +23 for 1d8 points of damage each, to all creatures in a 30 ft cone. It's not much, but just another drain on your resources (if we assume you got hit by that 8d8 damage, the rest of the party ran through and took some scratches, and you got hit by the chest trap that there is no good way of not getting hit by, you're already down something like a 4th, some 1sts and a few 2nds just from the traps that are practically unavoidable, and if you fell for that first entrance you're down a lot more slots. The whole party taking 3d8 more is no small deal). Bonus points for the utterly gormless look on the face of the guy triggering the trap in the illustration. Oh, and the doors are both fake. There's no room 12.

    To reach room 13, you either crawl through another goddamn hole in the wall what did I tell you? or you get here from room 7, the one with the pit trap which is actually sounding quite a lot safer than all the nonsense in complex 9 and room 10. Room 13 makes murmurings about a secret door into room 12, but we just got done establishing that there's no room 12. Anyway, if you try to enter room 12 through a secret door, it triggers "the annoying falling trap" that... puts them in room 13 and does d6 damage to them. I do love that even this module now admits that it's annoying. Anyway, there's three chests here. One has the same no-the-trap-is-INSIDE-the-chest malarkey from before in it; this one just fires d8 shots at each target at +18 for 1d4+1 which is still an extra cure light wounds or lesser vigour or whatever being burned per person, or thereabouts, so don't fall for it. The other two just summon monsters at you rather than actually interacting with the trap rules so naturally you can't disable them. One contains 12 snakes which count as tiny vipers except when they don't, and the other one summons a bone golem that naturally doesn't even pretend to use the bone golem statistics. One encounter is a job for a well-aimed burning hands while the other is immune to magic which means that it's immune to anything interesting you could possibly wish to do to it but this is a thinking person's module AMIRITE. There's no defence against these spawning except not opening the chests.

    To reach room 14, now that the three possible timelines - walk through the mist after disabling it, walk through without disabling it, or run through room 8 and complex 9 - have converged, naturally you walk straight through another hole in the wall in room 10. This one is a black sphere just to add insult to injury: the very same thing that kills you with no real way of knowing about it in room 3 is necessary to continue the plot, also with no real way of knowing it, in room 10. This, this is what NigelWalmsley means when he says this:

    Quote Originally Posted by NigelWalmsley View Post
    It's a series of "what number am I thinking of" challenges where if you don't guess the right number every time your character is deleted.
    There is no logical way for a player character to realise that the hole in the wall in room 3 is deadly or that the hole in the wall in room 10 is necessary to advance without busting out a divination spell that should not be necessary to speak directly with your deity on the matter, and the existence of the spell augury is no excuse for this kind of adventure design. There is no logical decision that you can make at character generation or in play which will tell you which of those holes is deadly and which you have to enter to continue - there are tests you can do on hole 6 in room 3 that strongly imply it's dangerous, but nothing that will confirm that the black orb in room 10 is safe beyond the kind of doubt that becomes reasonable after you've spent two seconds in a room with two fake entrances where literally everything is trying to kill you.

    Whatever screw it room 14 there's traps, they do 2d4 str drain and 2d4 str damage if you set them off but they're not too hard (21) to disable so whatever. There's also some silver you're unlikely to be able to carry all of, let alone spend. Woo. The altar tries to kill you twice (one max lightning bolt and one regular fireball, 28 to disable but reflex 14 so at least the rogue with their evasion should be fine if...

    Wait, DC fourteen reflex? What kind of 13-int wizard is maximising lightning bolts? Whatever I don't care any more there's a door of mist stuff and if you go in you make two will saves one is vs opposite alignment and the other is vs genderbending no really. Both DC 20. If you go through again you get your alignment back but take d6 damage, third time gets you your gender back but does the naked-at-the-start thing, and then the cycle repeats yaaaay. You have to go through the damn thing twice if you want to leave the completely pointless room it leads to, there's a slot that's the right size for a coin or flat gem, so you start looking for the coin or flat gem which will open it and then eventually you start stuffing random objects in it you find that you need to put any magic ring in it and guess what there's no indication at all that you need to do that woooo. Before you go check out the urns: one's empty and one summons more stuff to fight aww yiss.

    Entering room 15 is mandatory to progress but destroys your magic ring so boo, then there are 3 traps and one of them you have to fall into in order to reach door 17 and there is no indication that you need to trigger the third trap. I SENSE A PATTERN. Anyway, if you do what you would logically assume to be the right thing which is to avoid all the traps, you go to door 16 which is another trap and will kill you if you're chucked in without fire immunity or strong fire resistance (or fire resistance 1 and a healthy disregard for RAI). Yaaaaay! Anyway, once you escape door 16, you have no indication of where to go next until you deliberately go into the third pit trap. Both door 16 and door 17 have identical obnoxious statblocks - open lock DC 41 among other things - which means you have to bash both of them which would be a real problem if it weren't for the fact that you can explicitly take as long as you need in the Tomb and even rest there (which is a good thing because it would be even more impossible if you couldn't). Anyway so you go through door 17 and into room 19 but before you do, let's have a look at the other place you might go if you don't realise there is a secret door in the pit trap.

    Room 18, much like door 16, doesn't go anywhere. It instead contains a lich which is possibly the most obnoxious encounter in the entire tomb of horrors and it's nothing to do with the lich. CR 13 encounter versus a level 9 party, whatever, fine, that sucks but it's not the worst part. The worst part isn't that the lich needs to take concentration checks to cast if someone holds an item that doesn't exist either (presumably they renamed the mace found in the room and forgot to change it in one place). The worst part is that if you beat the lich, the DM is encouraged to pretend the dungeon is collapsing on the players and start counting slowly down from 10, as if to give them a timer by which they need to be out of the Tomb - presumably by running back through complex 9 among other places - or be crushed under the rubble. There is no save against this effect, which is actually an illusion, unless a player specifically calls your bluff. Those who revert - I think you mean resort - to true seeing can also see through the illusion, because obviously you're spending your highest-level spells on something that you're having to guess is relevant in this circumstance. Anyway, they get out of the tomb, and then you are encouraged to ask them "Aww, did you guys find the adventure too hard?"



    THIS IS NOT A THING YOU SHOULD BE ENCOURAGING! The module goes OUT OF ITS WAY to tell the DM "Please be a jerk to your players at this juncture." Oh, and one of the items they loot is a fake treasure map because EVEN THE LOOT IS OBNOXIOUS.



    Right anyway. You instead bypass this by - sigh - falling into a pit trap at an opportune moment, find door 17, mosey off into room 19 and there's 3 vats, one damages you a tiny bit no spot no save, one contains a gelatinous cube no spot, and those are the two that actually hold the key you need while the other is pointless. You beat the hell out of a CR 3 jelly cube and combine the two bits of the key into the First Key. There's a secret door on the side of the wall - no stats specified to open it - which leads to a corridor containing pit 20, which you can just walk through, except for the last section of it which is a trap. It's a fairly obvious trap, though, since it's a giant pit filled with spikes which just happens to have a path wide enough for a medium creature to walk through, so if you get caught by it, that's all you. It shoots you and your allies for a few d8s of damage if you do set it off, but with a disable device DC of 20, it's one of the less likely ones to get you. There's nowhere to go but room 21.

    Room 21 contains two types of trap: the perturbation trap which can be disabled and has a 50/50 chance to go off each round, presumably including while you're trying to disarm the damn thing. It's DC 14 to avoid falling prone and taking a damage - a whole one! This is slightly more annoying when you're fighting the random snakes in some of the treasure coffers in this room, which are naturally unavoidable if you want to loot the room. They're weak but annoying, since they're 4 EL 1, 3 EL 2ish and 3 EL 3 encounters, in one room, which means a lot of rolling initiative and faffing about but not much anything else.

    Room 21 also has two tapestries, one of which must be moved to reach the next room and there's no way to work out which. If you try to cut one of them down, or if you try to look behind one and the perturbation trap - you know, the one that I was laughing at a moment ago because it deals an entire point of damage? - goes off, probably because you decided that it was easier to get out of the room than bother disarming the damn thing because naturally there's no indication that it has a special interaction with the tapestries, anyway, if it goes off when you're holding one, or you tear one by mistake or try to cut one down, reflex or die. It's a neat DC 28 to spot either trap, 28 to disarm the perturbation trap, and you can't disarm the tapestries. While the perturbation trap has a save DC of only 14, you don't need to fail your save against it to get hit with the bigger whammy of the tapestry reverting to green slime and killing anyone in a 10-by-20 area unless those creatures manage a DC 24 reflex save (your daily reminder that you are level 9 at this point). Oh, and there's another door 12 in this room because we totally needed another door 12 - remember that it's the only obvious exit to the room. There's also one in corridor 21A alongside a bunch of pit traps because we totally needed another door 12. You guise, we needed another door 12, and one of the pits has a monster in for good measure.

    Please help.

    Cavern 22 confuses anyone there who doesn't hold their breath, which is odd, because holding your breath isn't normally effective against mist-plus-nasty-effect spells (such as stinking cloud, the obvious one for it to be effective against), but does allow a DC 17 will save, which isn't trivial unless you're the cleric or something in which case you can be relatively confident. Anyway, the effect lets you save each round to end the effect the round after and become immune for 24 hours, so it's not that bad - you're not likely to do more than a little damage to yourself and those around you. There's also a monster in cavern 22. I assume she's a little below level-appropriate, but I don't have her statblock to hand. She might cause some problems, but not much. Then it turns out that Cavern 22 is a wholly unhelpful room, but no logical deduction could have told you as much, no surprise.

    Door 23 is a fake door, behind which is a secret door, in front of which is a secret trapdoor. It's very clever at doing something entirely obnoxious. If you don't think to look for the door, you're stuck, and if you don't think to look for the trapdoor, you get led up another stupid path, 23A. God I hate this. In 23A, you now need a DC 25 spot check - search won't do it! Gods I miss Pathfinder skills sometimes - to notice that the doors are double-hinged, meaning that they can swing both ways. Moving past the bisexual doors (I'm sorry) which provide you with no actual information about what's about to happen even if you do notice they're double-hinged, you go into a corridor and get gassed with no search or disable device or anything and it's DC 20 fortitude or fall asleep, but it's special asleep and people have to drag you out of the gas before they can wake you up, oh and a monster suddenly appears out of nowhere and it's a stone golem - CR 11 - only it relies on running you over instead of hitting you but it is unlikely to fail its overrun so it basically always tramples the entire party every round and even if you avoid the overrun you take damage, joy, and if you somehow manage to defeat that while half your party is asleep, you get to progress to 23B and 23C but they're not explained at all so I don't care about them and will assume they contain nothing but fluffy bunnies, but by now my players will be expecting the bunnies to be either trapped or trying to eat them so there's no hope, really.

    So assuming that you did do the fake door/secret door/trapdoor thing correctly you end up at door 24, which is made of steel because adamantine is too expensive for the demonicus ex machina to replace each time which I don't believe for one moment because the percentage of parties that make it here is so low, and WBL 9 for each person high enough, that you could replace as many of these doors as you needed, but whatever, never mind. The door is made of steel so it's hardness 10 hit points 60 which means that it's greatsword time 'cause that's easier than a DC 45 open lock check and turning away any fourth- or lower-level spells and remember if you turn ethereal the demons will eat you. But this is a module for smart plays rather than just kicking in the door, as you will recall. There are also three slots in the wall, and you might be able to work out from the dimensions that they're meant to hold swords - and indeed, inserting three swords does open the door, and while the ring fiasco leaves you with every reason to think it'll crush your swords, it doesn't. When you're inside the room, you can't open the door with the three swords method again, which is a pity because it swings closed and locks itself again in 5 rounds, again with no indication that this is something that happens or that it will crush anything short of adamantine that you put between it and its hinge to stop it doing that even if you anticipate it. This includes the party fighter if he can't make a DC 30 strength check which of course he can't, not reliably anyway.

    Room 25 - we're most of the way done, I know it's painful - is one of the worst rooms in the place. There are some pillars which aren't trapped so you can't search them for traps and find anything but if you touch them you have to take a DC 22 will save or float away. At 25A, there's also a face with a hole in its mouth which looks identical to hole 6. It isn't. If you go near it, you get a reflex save or a strength check, DC 20 (the fighter's reflex may well be better than his strength check, why you give us that option...) unless you're floating from a pillar in which case screw you. If you fail, or if screw you, then you're sucked in and spat out at... hole 6, and you'd better believe your equipment goes to area 33. At 25B there's also a face with a hole in its mouth which looks identical to hole 6. It isn't. If you go near it, you get a reflex save or a strength check, DC 20 (the fighter's reflex may well be better than his strength check, why you give us that option...) unless you're floating from a pillar in which case screw you. If you fail, or if screw you, then you're sucked in and spat out at... area 27A. But your stuff goes with you to area 27A. Where's area 27A? No idea, but I'll keep it in mind.

    At 25C, there's some charred remains and a gem of wishing. Naturally, it's a cursed item, and it rolls for initiative - at no specified bonus - when used; anyone who doesn't roll better than it or who does but can't get out of the way takes 200 fire damage, with 70 damage being the consolation prize to anyone who can pass a DC 23 reflex save - because it's not half damage, you better believe that evasion doesn't work! It also perverts your wish so that it's not actually helpful. This is the first of multiple pieces of loot that is actively trying to kill you. You also have to loot the room if you want to find the loot that lets you progress, and hit the crown with the sceptre on the throne (there's a crown and a sceptre both on a throne at 25D) because why not? Oh and if you do it wrong, with no indication of which way to do it is right, you save or die, fort 23. Before you leave, check out rooms 26 for one sweet sweet empty room, and a mummy lord with a ring of fire resistance hidden on one finger and a giant obvious gem on its face. Stealing either requires the PCs to fight it - I recommend taking the ring first but since you have no indication that the damned thing will come to life other than "It's in the Tomb of Horrors, of COURSE it's trying to kill you", you have no way of knowing that and your attention is deliberately drawn to the huge gem on its face. Anyway, whatever, you end up fighting a CR 15 enemy. You're probably still level 9 at this point, maybe level 10? Have fun. I particularly think that a creature normally vulnerable to fire wearing a resist fire ring on its middle finger is totally classy.

    Anyway, room 27 is the obvious place to go after rooms 26, assuming you haven't figured out that you have to hit the crown with the sceptre on the throne yet. Room 27 has a snazzy exterior - not my wording - and some crossed swords and shields on the walls. Turns out they're constructs, which are EL 12 and if you're shunted to 27A - did you think I forgot? You have to solo them unless your team jumps in to save you. They're CR 4 each which seems roughly right. There's some treasure here, some of which is useful, but I'm pretty sure the 0-charge wands are just there to troll the players.

    Anyway, so you hit the throne with the... I'm trying to find literally any indication that the players have access to which tells them that they need to hit the crown with the sceptre on the throne and drawing a blank - look, you go to room 28, and it's very pretty, and there's That Damned Key in the room.

    See, the thing about the key of antipathy, AKA That Damned Key, is that if you try to touch That Damned Key, you need to take a DC 23 will save or you decide never to touch the key again. And one look at the key tells you that it fits door 29, so either someone's gotta pass a will save or they need to mess around with telekinetic stuff or something like that and it's NOT EVEN THE RIGHT KEY BUT YOU CAN ONLY TELL THAT WITH A SEARCH CHECK, so someone has to have the bright idea of taking a search check to make sure that the stupid key actually fits the door it's meant to and THEN pass a DC 30 check. Again, there is no real indication that a creature should attempt that search check, particularly since searching the wrong thing in this stupid dungeon can get you thrown out at hole 6 with all your stuff in location 33 because that's okay now!

    Door 29 is the mithril valves but they're not actually mithril because that's also too expensive for the gotcha anti-ether demons to maintain and I swear I am not making this up. Anyway, trying to put That Damned Key in the obvious keyhole deals 2d10 electricity damage to you, and trying to use the First Key deals 4d10, no save, no search (except MAYBE the search that shows that That Damned Key isn't the real key, but there's no such search for the First Key), no disarm... the real key is the same freaking sceptre, with again no indication that it should be the key, oh, and one end opens the door but the other spits you out at, say it with me, hole 6, with your clothes at, say it with me, location 33, unless you pass a DC 23 will save. The sceptre itself goes back to 25D rather than 33, as a nod to the fact that you need it to open the lock without a DC 45 check.

    ...this isn't real mithral. It's definitely not real adamantine. If you have a greatsword and enough patience you can bash it down. If you have a morningstar, a strength bonus, and patience, you can bash it down. Right?

    HAHA NOPE. Because they realised that would work. They realised that they didn't want you taking 20 on that open lock with a +25 from somewhere, either. Every time you fail an open lock check by more than 5, or deal damage to it, not only does the throne pike off back to where it was to start with, requiring a DC 45 open lock check to get back down, but the entire room floods with blood in 4 rounds; spamming healing spells can stop it but the players don't know they can do that because it's a door and is not normally a valid target for healing spells. Unless you can either make a DC 45 open lock, or you can break the door in 4 rounds + however long it takes to drown (and your damage will go down underwa... uh, underblood?) - and I think the latter is more realistic - you're all dead unless you figure out exactly what the correct key is for the door, with no indication discoverable by the player characters. This isn't intelligence. This is sheer inane guesswork. Four left...

    Room 30 is described as a "False Treasure Room" which fills me with hope. I hope it fills me with determination too because I wish I could save my game between these two killer rooms. The room is antimagic except that all the room's own stuff works fine because of course. There's an efreeti in urn 30A who isn't necessarily out to kill you and is your one chance to use diplomacy in *checks* the entire dungeon? But who might also just kill you depending. If you open sarcophagus 30B there is another piece of loot which is trying to kill you. Now you can take a DC 15 K (arcana) check to reveal that this broken stick was a staff of the magi, but no check will tell you that if you take it out of the sarcohpagus, in an antimagic field, that the staff of the magi which is ALREADY BROKEN will visit upon you the effect of the staff's retributive stike, which deals FOUR HUNDRED points of damage to the poor sod who takes it out - reflex half. Creatures within 10 feet take the same, within 20 but not 10 take 300, and 30 but not 20 take 200. Actually the damage is never specified because the number of charges the staff has when it was broken isn't either, but I assume it's meant to be at full charge? Anyway, so a character with evasion or maybe a barbarian passing the save in the outermost zone can survive this explosion, but since most of the room is within 30 feet of 30B, almost everyone will die horribly. 30C is three chests. Don't bother, they're all trapped and the only one with anything valuable in has gems that look 5000 times as valuable as they are because they're only actually worth 1cp each. 10,000 gems are... 100gp. Glamered to look like 500,000. Because get wrecked, that's why. There are also two giant statues, 30D, with auras of overwhelming evil and strong transmutation, with their weapons raised... yeah sike they're not trapped. If you move one of them out of the way you can find the Real Way to the Final Boss...

    Or you can just go from corridor 21A - that's before the mithril bleed door, gas chamber with a golem, the throne, or the CR 15 encounter because sike, the treasure that tries to kill you, the other treasure that tries to kill you, the screw-you pillars, all of that nonsense - straight to 31 by breaking the damn wall down. Why do you have to break the wall down? Because exit 31 is monodirectional: it only allows you to escape after you killed the boss but can't get back past the throne which went back to its old position when you decided to beat up a door, but doesn't allow you a shortcut into the boss's office. Unless you break down the wall which you can do because the walls in this place suck. But in order to do that, you have to guess at your way through, but hey, it's no less feasible than doing this the way you're meant to...

    Crypt 32 is another fake because of COURSE IT IS. Whatever. You have to use the first key, and then you have to not use the first key or you'll set off a trap, and then you can use That Damned Key if you like but if you turn it three times clockwise you'll set off a different trap, and if you try to open the lock and fail then you set off the same trap as the first key, but if you try to open the lock and SUCCEED then you set off the same trap as That Damned Key.

    The First Key Trap - no that's its name - is search 32/disable 37 so Imma call it: it's unavoidable without passing the reflex save. Bright side, it's a dc 14 fireball so no huge deal.

    The Crypt Trap - which is set off by successfully opening the lock with either the real key or an open lock check. It can be found but not disabled, it never misses, and it deals 20d20 damage to each target in 3/4 of the room. I think that the literal only ways to bypass the trap without getting hurt are to set it off telekinetically or summon something that can use a key (and pass the will save to use That Damned Key)... or use Knock, as this is one of the few doors at this stage in the game which is actually susceptible to it. The search DC is 30, so you should notice it by taking 20, at least. The module itself acknowledges that anyone hit by the trap is presumably dead - the trap is CR 6, just like its pathetic cousin the First Key Trap. Anyway, successfully setting off the crypt trap reveals a mithril ring, which on a strength check that a venerable wizard can make if he takes 20 (and which therefore does not need to be called for), opens the door to...

    Crypt 33. The last room. The real deal. The final resting place of Acererak the Demilich.

    Sike.

    See, he's actually on his fortress on the negative energy plane and this entire place, this entire, stupid, horrible, Pelor-forsaken place is one big distraction. Forget the two fake entrance paths, the multitude of fake doors, the fake crypt, the other fake crypt, the third fake crypt, the my god is there a fourth fake crypt, THIS ENTIRE PLACE is the fake. Thank your lucky stars that there is, again, no way for the player characters to know this and the module even acknowledges that they will almost certainly go to their graves thinking that they have died at the hands - uh, if he had any - of Acererak himself. What's left isn't Acererak. It's not even a demilich, even a lich, even an undead. It's a construct, with DR 20 ignored by two specific weapon qualities - keen and vorpal, both of which are useless against a demilich and useless against this thing apart from the fact that it has that DR for no discernible reason - and immunity to magic. This construct does nothing interesting, instead choosing to Save or Die (but not a death effect?) the PCs one by one, once per round, fort 23, targeting whoever can actually hurt it first. If there are more than 8 PCs for some reason, it stops doing that after the 8th and spams blasphemy which some of the PCs might be immune to but if not it has caster level 3d6+6 so whether or not it kills you is based on something basically entirely out of your control, have fun. If a character is defeated by the construct, and then the construct dies, they need to take a DC 18 will save or it swallows their soul - else it's just trapped as per soul bind. Again, because screw you, that's why.

    Once you defeat the damned thing, you pick up your treasure, and enjoy your new items like your lovely new swords, which OH WAIT THEY'RE CURSED -2 SWORDS, and that cute +2 shortspear which is obviously trying to kill you because this wouldn't be the tomb of horrors without a Cursed Backbiter spear.

    You limp out of the tomb, bruised, battered, but oh, alive, alive oh!

    Then the stupid frickin' demons put it back the way it was when you found it.

    Epilogue:

    In the days that follow, you decide to go on a treasure expedition, using your new map which leads to an exciting new adventure location. However, you can't find it, and spend a while traipsing around in the desert, and come across a random encounter. You try to draw your greatsword but just draw that stupid -2 sword again. You sigh and try to fight with it anyway. The cleric stabs himself with the frikkin' spear. You're dejected and drained. You wish that you could go home.

    As if it heard your prayer, the stupid goddamn gem explodes for 200 fire damage and puts everyone out of their misery.

    Tomb of Horrors: Fin
    Last edited by Unavenger; 2020-09-12 at 09:58 AM.

  12. - Top - End - #72
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    Default Re: Worst module you've ever seen?

    Ugh. The Tomb of Horrors is flawed at an even more fundamental level, though. There are two things that can make an advantage slam to a halt: excessive traps that make players paranoid, and puzzles. ToH has both, and they're exponentially bad in combination. The players need to make guesses and experiment and play with things to solve the puzzles...but it's the ToH, so they're afraid to touch anything.

    The three sessions of the Tomb of Horrors I played are among the worst gaming experiences I've ever had.
    Last edited by Grod_The_Giant; 2020-09-12 at 09:43 AM.

  13. - Top - End - #73
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    Default Re: Worst module you've ever seen?

    Yeah, there's a reason when someone says a DM is "Gygaxian", they're not complementing them.

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    Default Re: Worst module you've ever seen?

    Quote Originally Posted by unavenger
    <hilarious ToH rundown>
    Bad as that is, it's salvageable. Just need to add some things mostly, like search and spot check DCs and puzzle clues, readjust some DCs given. Basically just have to file the Gygax serial number off and remake the encounters with an eye toward "the PCs are supposed to win in the end." It'd still be a meat-grinder but a fair one.
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    'Something Rotten in Kislev' for Warhammer

    A scenario that starts with you dying and being raised as undead and told to go on a mission. Which involves dealing with a elf necromancer and his Dwarf, zombie wife in order to find out where the big, bad guy is. Getting to him involves fighting an utterly lethal tiny dragon and then reaching the bad guy......who effortlessly captures you, humiliates you and then tortures you to death ! ( Complete with gloating notes from the writer telling the G.M. that is the bit that they get to enjoy)
    And that's how the scenario ends.
    Last edited by comicshorse; 2020-09-12 at 03:46 PM.
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    Spoiler: Quote in Spoilers for ToH Spoilers
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    Quote Originally Posted by Unavenger View Post

    Riddled with arrows, you and your party stumble into hall 10. There's a not-trap that can't be searched for (again) but this one makes you wis-or-lose just for being near it. Did I say lose? I meant kill your own party, silly. There's some real traps too. Meh. There's another archway, archway 10A. If you step through it, you go back to room 3 and all your stuff goes to room 33. No, it's not a trap either, you can't search for it, and there's no way to work out what it does with logic or dice. The game notes that "While cruel, it is most entertaining for the DM" to force people back to the starting room, naked. Yikes. 10B is an optional encounter, which doesn't prevent it from dominating creatures even if the DM decides it's not there (see the notes on hall 10 at the start of this paragraph - I assume it's 10B doing that). It's CR 4, so apart from the dominate effect (you're ninth level, no you don't have mind blank), no big deal.



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    The first room in the dungeon has a hidden poem which is supposed to help players with the rest of the dungeon, except they are all way to cryptic and are there just for the GM to be smug about a-là "not my fault you are not brainy enough". One infamous line is "Shun Green if you can", which is usually thought as referring to the green demon face with the sphere of annihilation inside.

    I have another theory.

    The first arch which teleports the characters in the tomb proper has yellow, blue, and orange stones. The infamous one which teleports you back to the start naked and adds your equipment to the dungeon's hoard has Russet, Citron, and Olive - all rather obscure colours - which are what one gets by adding a dash of green to respectively Orange, Yellow, and Blue.
    So "shun green" should be giving the hint that you should avoid the arch with the green-tainted stones, since you already saw the "normal" one with the basic colors.

    Obvious, hu? Tomb of Horror baby!


    The problem with tomb of horror is not that is full of traps - is that they are not "clever" traps, they are mostly just mean and brutal.
    Hector Morris Ashburnum-Whit - Curse of the Crimson Throne - IC / OoC
    Bosek of Kuru - A Falling Star - IC / OoC
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    Wow, I didn't realize ToH was that bad. I'd heard about the statues mouth, which I think is the most famous one, but it's also probably the only one that teaches an actually valuable dungeoneering lesson (albeit too harshly): Don't stick your hand in places you can't see properly. Gary really was just butthurt his players weren't dying enough, huh?
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    It was meant to be run at a tournament, by many tables at the same time, and see who gets farther. It's Takeshi's Castle: the Module
    Hector Morris Ashburnum-Whit - Curse of the Crimson Throne - IC / OoC
    Bosek of Kuru - A Falling Star - IC / OoC
    Gifu Lavoi - Heritage of Kings - IC / OoC

  19. - Top - End - #79
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    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default Re: Worst module you've ever seen?

    Quote Originally Posted by DrMartin View Post
    It was meant to be run at a tournament, by many tables at the same time, and see who gets farther. It's Takeshi's Castle: the Module
    Needless to say, with the amount of dumb luck and guesswork that goes into it, it fails at that job too. It's a contest of luck, not skill.




    The other thing, though, is that there's nothing stopping a sufficienctly dedicated adventuring team just bashing their way through most of the walls into the end of the tomb. One of the false entrances (I believe false entrance 2? The one on the right of the map...) even makes a decent jumping-off point to begin your mining expedition. The reason, in fact, for the bleeding door and the planechasing demons is because the dungeon knows full well that it loses the moment you don't play the game by the dungeon's rules... and not playing by its rules is far, far easier than letting it lead you through trap after trap after trap, half of which TeChNiCaLlY aren't traps so you can't search for them. If it wants to play Global Thermonuclear War, challenge it to a nice game of chess instead. Or just flood the place.

    Yeah, it defeats the object, but the only real winning move in the Tomb of Horrors is not to play. It says something that I would have problems defeating it despite having read it because there are too many dumb gotcha moments for one person to remember.

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    Default Re: Worst module you've ever seen?

    I've always considered playing Tomb of Horrors like it was part of an actual home game to be sort of like dropping a live-fire military exercise & obstacle course on a casual weekend LARP. It's a hardcore personal skills timed challenge, not a real module that's meant to be played as part of your home game.

    It doesn't help that basically every "update" to a new edition has changed it by making weirdly different assumptions about the purpose, difficulty, and challenge of the adventure on top of failing to examine and account for the differences in the editions.
    Niven's Laws, #5
    If you've nothing to say, say it any way you like. Stylistic innovations, contorted story lines or none, exotic or genderless pronouns, internal inconsistencies, the recipe for preparing your lover as a cannibal banquet: feel free. If what you have to say is important and/or difficult to follow, use the simplest language possible. If the reader doesn't get it then, let it not be your fault.

  21. - Top - End - #81
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    Default Re: Worst module you've ever seen?

    Quote Originally Posted by Unavenger View Post
    Needless to say, with the amount of dumb luck and guesswork that goes into it, it fails at that job too. It's a contest of luck, not skill.
    Also, the nature of it makes any "tournament" pretty uninteresting. You can't outsmart it, and there aren't a variety of viable strategies. All you can do is throw bodies at the problem until you've got corpses lying on every trap.

    I think a highly lethal tournament module could potentially be pretty interesting. But it would have to be in the vein of Red Hand of Doom or something, where there's enough going on that different approaches to problems are viable and people can make decisions that demonstrate skills. So instead of a tomb of random numbers that kill you, Acererak has assembled a legion of undead, demons, necromancers, and other horrors and is marching on your peaceful village. You have to figure out some combination of fortifying your stuff, destroying his stuff, and recruiting allies that prevents him from killing everybody. That's potentially interesting for a tournament, because different character builds or tactics could result in different levels of success. But in Tomb of Horrors, even the "smart" strategy is just "how much expendable chaff do you have" and "how expendable is your chaff".

  22. - Top - End - #82
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Worst module you've ever seen?

    Quote Originally Posted by comicshorse View Post
    'Something Rotten in Kislev'
    Hm. Ok, a bit of lateral thinking on my part:

    Basically, we had a shift in gaming culture along the way. Previously, it was enough to pitch the characters against a scenario and they either "beat it" or died. We then experienced a change towards the "epic story", with more of a plot and the characters meant to solve that plot. That lead to more changes as RPG systems were adapted to allow the "heroes" to survive to the end and solve that plot. For example, your regular Paizo AP is build in such a way that the characters can survive and beat it.

    Basically, those are all tales of victory, even when you are on the defense in Act II.

    Something rotten is the polar opposite, it is a tale of losing, even when being on the offense in Act II.

  23. - Top - End - #83
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    Default Re: Worst module you've ever seen?

    Quote Originally Posted by Florian View Post
    Hm. Ok, a bit of lateral thinking on my part:

    Basically, we had a shift in gaming culture along the way. Previously, it was enough to pitch the characters against a scenario and they either "beat it" or died. We then experienced a change towards the "epic story", with more of a plot and the characters meant to solve that plot. That lead to more changes as RPG systems were adapted to allow the "heroes" to survive to the end and solve that plot. For example, your regular Paizo AP is build in such a way that the characters can survive and beat it.

    Basically, those are all tales of victory, even when you are on the defense in Act II.

    Something rotten is the polar opposite, it is a tale of losing, even when being on the offense in Act II.
    While it's true that the culture's changed, I don't think what comicshorse describes has ever been anything close to standard. Even the worst "GM vs players" adventures I've seen usually doesn't make a humiliating defeat obligatory (just very likely).

  24. - Top - End - #84
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    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default Re: Worst module you've ever seen?

    Quote Originally Posted by Spriteless View Post
    Worst module I read was some free sequel to the lost mines of Phandelver. Started with the ghosts of the humanoids the PCs slaughtered in the original module coming to attack the PCs, as a way to teach PCs that slaughtering humanoids is bad.
    if you slaughter humanoids wholesale, you not only get xp for them, they return as ghosts and you get xp twice!!

    best way to teach an aesop
    Last edited by King of Nowhere; 2020-09-13 at 07:09 AM.
    In memory of Evisceratus: he dreamed of a better world, but he lacked the class levels to make the dream come true.

    Ridiculous monsters you won't take seriously even as they disembowel you

    my take on the highly skilled professional: the specialized expert

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    Default Re: Worst module you've ever seen?

    Quote Originally Posted by King of Nowhere View Post
    if you slaughter humanoids wholesale, you not only get xp for them, they return as ghosts and you get xp twice!!

    best way to teach an aesop
    Sounds like the lesson is, "take all your humanoids captive; bring them to Phandelver to execute them". Unless (again, or as I said in another thread) you're a real Determinator, and know to optimize your wealth per XP ratio. Getting XP without treasure is suboptimal.

  26. - Top - End - #86
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    Default Re: Worst module you've ever seen?

    Quote Originally Posted by Batcathat View Post
    While it's true that the culture's changed, I don't think what comicshorse describes has ever been anything close to standard. Even the worst "GM vs players" adventures I've seen usually doesn't make a humiliating defeat obligatory (just very likely).
    Point being the reverse of the usual Act Structure.

    Normally, we have something akin to "Engage, Parry, Riposte": The characters find themselves in a village under sudden siege, manage to heroically stop the first wave, are under pressure killing the mounting waves and finally manage a breakthrough by going out and killing the opposite warlord.

  27. - Top - End - #87
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    Default Re: Worst module you've ever seen?

    Madness At Gardmore Abbey (4E).

    ...Well, it's not about the quality of the whole setup (it's apparently decent), but it's about the inherent "anti-Simulationist" philosophy of the 4E system that it was made on which triggered me, HARD, in a decisive manner.

    Long story short, a bit more than a decade ago I procured my first RPG rulebook set as a late bloomer (4.Essentials, and I still love the Defender's Aura and Disrupting Shot power concepts), during a family union trip in Honolulu.
    Soon after that I ordered the module in question from Amazon due to nice reviews in general and started to read it, albeit with a catch; just right before that I found out about the existence of the OGL and the 3.X SRD, and my hidden "Simulationist" instincts flared up like a nuke (and is passionately blazing up ever since).

    The final trigger was me reading up the adventure's contents and witnessing a certain scene in which the stat block of a previously established Paladin NPC ally "transform" from a NPC type into a Monster type.
    Right that moment, something in my consciousness changed forever; whether it was a general appreciation of the "Gamism > Simulationism" nature of my first RPG ruleset detonated to smithereens in a napalm rage (apart from the minuscule rule parts that I still think of rather fondly), or my budding realization of a general love of verisimilitude (which probably has lots to do with my ironclad INTJ personality) explosively blooming up with dedication, I still cannot distinguish clearly...
    Below are the things I personally care when rating whether I consider a RPG rule as a favorite or not, in order;

    • Legally guraranteed for free commercial redistribution (OGL, CC-BY-SA, etc.)
    • All game entities (PC, NPC, monsters, etc.) generally follow the same creation structure and gameplay rules (with some obvious exceptions)
    • Martial and Magical character archetypes do not completely overshadow each other in common situations (combat, exploration, socialization, etc.)

  28. - Top - End - #88
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    Default Re: Worst module you've ever seen?

    Yeah, I am a huge fan of transparency over mechanical presence as a PC or NPC. I don’t mind too much if an NPC uses an NPC statblock, but he should use the same stat block regardless of whether he’s in the party or not. If he’s going to change, it should be some sort of natural growth or the like.

    When my PCs adopted Erky Timbers, and they leveled to a point an adept with turn undead would be a hindrance, I “leveled him up” into a cleric. But that was a “level up,” not a shift based on changing his category as ally or enemy.

    If he ever reveals his true colors as an evil agent of Acererak, he’ll still have the same stats.

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    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default Re: Worst module you've ever seen?

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Getting XP without treasure is suboptimal.
    but is it worse than not getting those xp in the first place?
    i mean, if we assume that the laws of the universe are rigged to give you level appropriate encounters, i can see the point of not wanting to faced harder encounters with insufficient equipment. in which case you could just spend all those free xp scribing scrolls.
    thinking about it, you can spend some of those xp scribing scrolls and sell them to turn xp into gp. then you can keep the wbl consistent indefinitely
    In memory of Evisceratus: he dreamed of a better world, but he lacked the class levels to make the dream come true.

    Ridiculous monsters you won't take seriously even as they disembowel you

    my take on the highly skilled professional: the specialized expert

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    Default Re: Worst module you've ever seen?

    Quote Originally Posted by King of Nowhere View Post
    if you slaughter humanoids wholesale, you not only get xp for them, they return as ghosts and you get xp twice!!

    best way to teach an aesop
    You lightened my day! I think I might have to dig through my DMs guild freebies just to share that with the author now.
    yo

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