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  1. - Top - End - #241
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    PirateCaptain

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    Default Re: Pacing a megadungeon

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    The first fight went fine, at least until the spell mishap, it was not doing anything to block the door or seal up the hole that really screwed them over as now the ghasts are freely roaming that section of the dungeon.

    It was the second fight where they just choose to turtle in the middle of a large room and get surrounded with no attempt to use terrain or stem the tide that they really got beaten up.
    I think I missed something somewhere.

    So the first fight they approached decently, just got screwed over by a bad roll with the rock-dropping.

    Second fight they just kind of stood there until they got overwhelmed.
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  2. - Top - End - #242
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    Default Re: Pacing a megadungeon

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Between expeditions, I basically roll random encounters to see if the dungeon restocks, and these tables get slowly nastier over time. This was the "pacing mechanism" I decided on.
    So a little discursion on "pacing" here.

    Pacing should be about predicting and moderating the rate at which the players make progress in the adventure. A dungeon that gets harder over time irrespective of player progress isn't a pacing mechanism.

    Pacing mechanisms need to simultaneously encourage forward progress whilst applying just enough friction that it doesn't happen too quickly.

    A progressively increasing challenge curve independent of actual progress (as you have noted your players haven't actually made any yet) doesn't encourage forward progress it does the opposite, it reduces the need to move forward to find new things.

    They are just going about it in an unexpected way where they keep turning around right before getting to the big treasures / lore dumps.
    How bright, obvious, and sparkly is the trail of breadcrumbs that says "the next room is the important one!"?

    Remember, your players all have +100 to save vs. hints. They need big neon signs.

  3. - Top - End - #243
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    Default Re: Pacing a megadungeon

    Quote Originally Posted by GloatingSwine View Post

    How bright, obvious, and sparkly is the trail of breadcrumbs that says "the next room is the important one!"?

    Remember, your players all have +100 to save vs. hints. They need big neon signs.
    I feel like this is key

    This sort of thing is basically a "Push your luck" scenario, where the possibility of greater reward is balanced against defeat by attrition if you don't turn back now.

    Which is to say, if the players don't know if a door contains Rewards or Another Tough Encounter, the fact that they turn back just before the Rewards might indicate that you've almost read things correctly. Almost.


    Lets say the PC's can do 5 Challenges before turning back becomes a good idea. If you put your treasure behind the 6th door, the point at which they probably can't deal with another challenge, then they're going to turn back at the threshold of reward because they don't know that the door doesn't lead to The Fight They Can't Win.


    Of course, the normal way to deal with this is by having the PC's gather some information, so they can know "The Treasure Hoard is stored behind the Big Red Door guarded by gargoyles", instead of looking at the big red door and saying "Wow, we barely beat those gargoyles. I don't think we can handle whatever is behind this big red door, we better turn back".
    Last edited by BRC; 2023-03-24 at 11:15 AM.
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  4. - Top - End - #244
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    Default Re: Pacing a megadungeon

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    You built the system - why would lobbed grenade weapons be better than point-and-shoot projectiles? I wouldn't want me at my back with either in tight spaces, personally.

    Anyway, sounds like you built a dungeon that was tuned for competent adventurers, and got your group instead. Consider changing one or the other until they match. Still curious how things change when you're a player.
    Indirect fire weapons halve penalties as you don't actually have to aim between your allies while picking out targets, you simply have to lob something over their heads.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Anyway, sounds like you built a dungeon that was tuned for competent adventurers, and got your group instead. Consider changing one or the other until they match. Still curious how things change when you're a player.
    More or less. I still have hope that they can learn, as foolish as that might be.

    After the first two sessions I really, really, thought they were making great progress. I guess because I couldn't hear the rage-quitting and suicidal ideation in their heads.

    Quote Originally Posted by BRC View Post
    I think I missed something somewhere.

    So the first fight they approached decently, just got screwed over by a bad roll with the rock-dropping.

    Second fight they just kind of stood there until they got overwhelmed.
    Decently; not great, but decently.

    But they really botched the exit. As Puffin Forest says, players lack object permanence, so they didn't give any thought to what would happen when they came back (for the third or fourth time).

    Simply shutting the door and piling stacks of wood from the depot across the street would have been automatic and more than sufficient for this. (Again, that's just an idea, this isn't a "guess exactly what the DM is thinking!" puzzle).

    Quote Originally Posted by GloatingSwine View Post
    So a little discursion on "pacing" here.

    Pacing should be about predicting and moderating the rate at which the players make progress in the adventure. A dungeon that gets harder over time irrespective of player progress isn't a pacing mechanism.

    Pacing mechanisms need to simultaneously encourage forward progress whilst applying just enough friction that it doesn't happen too quickly.

    A progressively increasing challenge curve independent of actual progress (as you have noted your players haven't actually made any yet) doesn't encourage forward progress it does the opposite, it reduces the need to move forward to find new things.
    "Pacing" may not be the right word.

    More like, motivation to keep moving forward.

    They don't get XP or treasure for killing random monsters, so there is no incentive there.

    As for progress, they have explored and cleared 80% of the first floor and found most of the treasure there (even if they did have to pay a ransom to the kobolds). That's hardly no progress, and I expect them to finish the first floor and gather the rest of the treasure next session.

    Quote Originally Posted by GloatingSwine View Post
    How bright, obvious, and sparkly is the trail of breadcrumbs that says "the next room is the important one!"?

    Remember, your players all have +100 to save vs. hints. They need big neon signs.
    Yeah. I really thought the players would be doing a lot more in the way of scouting, but neither their builds nor their playstyle lend themselves to it.

    Quote Originally Posted by BRC View Post
    I feel like this is key

    This sort of thing is basically a "Push your luck" scenario, where the possibility of greater reward is balanced against defeat by attrition if you don't turn back now.

    Which is to say, if the players don't know if a door contains Rewards or Another Tough Encounter, the fact that they turn back just before the Rewards might indicate that you've almost read things correctly. Almost.


    Lets say the PC's can do 5 Challenges before turning back becomes a good idea. If you put your treasure behind the 6th door, the point at which they probably can't deal with another challenge, then they're going to turn back at the threshold of reward because they don't know that the door doesn't lead to The Fight They Can't Win.


    Of course, the normal way to deal with this is by having the PC's gather some information, so they can know "The Treasure Hoard is stored behind the Big Red Door guarded by gargoyles", instead of looking at the big red door and saying "Wow, we barely beat those gargoyles. I don't think we can handle whatever is behind this big red door, we better turn back".
    Yeah. I mentioned a couple of pages ago how this is a paradox, haven't heard a great solution yet.

    The idea is for the players to push as far as they can, but how do they know before they open the door whether they can deal with the thing on the other side?

    As is, they open the door, angry the monsters up, and then fall back to rest while the monsters shore up their defenses. Not great, but I am not sure what the ideal way for them to adjust their tactics to keep it from happening is.
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

  5. - Top - End - #245
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    Default Re: Pacing a megadungeon

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    "Pacing" may not be the right word.

    More like, motivation to keep moving forward.

    They don't get XP or treasure for killing random monsters, so there is no incentive there.

    As for progress, they have explored and cleared 80% of the first floor and found most of the treasure there (even if they did have to pay a ransom to the kobolds). That's hardly no progress, and I expect them to finish the first floor and gather the rest of the treasure next session.
    Earlier on you were saying they hadn't cleared any of the major elements of the floor, and you've also said they've not actually gotten any of the major information that points them to where to go to do so, part of the dungeon is infested with enemies that they've bounced off of twice, and at least two groups or individuals in the dungeon have holds over them.

    Their failures have obviously felt far more significant than their successes (because otherwise they wouldn't have shifted over to a maximally risk-averse strategy like "get an incorporeal attacker to do it all for us"), and they still don't know what to do to proceed.

    Random monsters of escalating difficulty over time won't convince your players to move on because they'll assume that the next floor will start off even more difficult. You need the dungeon to run out of stuff to do unless they proceed.

  6. - Top - End - #246
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    Default Re: Pacing a megadungeon

    Quote Originally Posted by GloatingSwine View Post
    Earlier on you were saying they hadn't cleared any of the major elements of the floor, and you've also said they've not actually gotten any of the major information that points them to where to go to do so, part of the dungeon is infested with enemies that they've bounced off of twice, and at least two groups or individuals in the dungeon have holds over them.

    Their failures have obviously felt far more significant than their successes (because otherwise they wouldn't have shifted over to a maximally risk-averse strategy like "get an incorporeal attacker to do it all for us"), and they still don't know what to do to proceed.
    The haven't fully cleared any of the dungeon wings. They have still cleared 80% of the total area.

    It just so happens that the 20% unexplored contains (most of) the big treasures and lore dumps.


    Quote Originally Posted by GloatingSwine View Post
    Random monsters of escalating difficulty over time won't convince your players to move on because they'll assume that the next floor will start off even more difficult. You need the dungeon to run out of stuff to do unless they proceed.
    I can't possibly see my players just running in circles killing random monsters because there is no loot in it.
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

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    Default Re: Pacing a megadungeon

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    I can't possibly see my players just running in circles killing random monsters because there is no loot in it.
    No, but I can see them tripping over a more-difficult-than-expected random dungeon restock and falling into a doom spiral about it only being the first floor and not wanting to carry on because the second will be harder than that.

    Random encounters in megadungeons add texture to traversal, they don't need to escalate over time to push the players forward, running out of things to loot pushes the players forward already.

  8. - Top - End - #248
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    Default Re: Pacing a megadungeon

    Quote Originally Posted by BRC View Post
    I think I missed something somewhere.

    So the first fight they approached decently, just got screwed over by a bad roll with the rock-dropping.

    Second fight they just kind of stood there until they got overwhelmed.
    My understanding is that they miffed their spell to try to seal the sinkhole on the initial encounter (not a bad idea, just bad luck), so they retreated. The problem is that they failed to close the door behind them, so instead of the ghasts just being in the one room, they roamed out into the larger area, making things more difficult.

    The second fight, they came back, disovered the ghasts were in a room further from the sinkhole room, did a poor turtle, and got overwhelmed and retreated again.

    This does kind of raise the question: Why were these ghasts all staying down in the sink hole in the first place? Why only a half dozen in the initial room "up top", but such a fast rate of them digging their way up once someone walks into the room? I get that this is a trap, but presumably this room has been here for a long time, and yet was in this state when the party arrived.

    Remember that when designing dungeons you aren't just designing something for the players to encounter, but that also has to make sense from a "this has been here for centuries before the players arrived" pov. If the ghasts always dig up the sinkhole, then the room above should be absolutely full of ghasts. And unless no one has ever opened that door in the entire history of that door and room existing, the entire dungeon floor should be full of nothing but ghasts. Etiher that, or someone else on that floor/wing should have resolved the problem with the ghasts long ago (or more securely blocked off the door to the room).

    A logical alternative is that the ghasts feel most "at home" down below, and only climb up if they sense living things to attack, feed on, or whatever it is that ghasts do in this game. The players should be able to close a door and just wait, and the ghasts should (mostly) return down below. That's an easy way to "reset" the encounter.

    Quote Originally Posted by BRC View Post
    Of course, the normal way to deal with this is by having the PC's gather some information, so they can know "The Treasure Hoard is stored behind the Big Red Door guarded by gargoyles", instead of looking at the big red door and saying "Wow, we barely beat those gargoyles. I don't think we can handle whatever is behind this big red door, we better turn back".
    Yeah. These players seem to be absurdly information-gathering adverse though. Whicih means that the GM must employ more direct means. More on that below.

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Yeah. I really thought the players would be doing a lot more in the way of scouting, but neither their builds nor their playstyle lend themselves to it.

    Yeah. I mentioned a couple of pages ago how this is a paradox, haven't heard a great solution yet.

    The idea is for the players to push as far as they can, but how do they know before they open the door whether they can deal with the thing on the other side?

    As is, they open the door, angry the monsters up, and then fall back to rest while the monsters shore up their defenses. Not great, but I am not sure what the ideal way for them to adjust their tactics to keep it from happening is.
    Here's the "solution". You have to structure the actual layout of each "area" so that it's much more obvious that "This whole thing need to be done in one bite".

    Imagine that the adventurers are assualting a small keep, where the evil lord fancypants lives and is holding someone hostage, stolen the macguffin, performing the evil ritutal of Doom(tm), whatever. The PCs would find some means to sneak up as close as possible, then climb over the outer walls (under cover of night/spells/whatever), quickly engage the few guards in the courtyard, while maybe someone charges at the (hopefully open) door to the tower/bailey/whatever. Having secured this first stage, they continue into the building, clearing each floor as they go, right?

    The point is that they would never explore and clear the first three floors of the tower, and then upon reaching the stairs to the top floor, where the evil Lord is, doing his evil <whatever>, and then just go "Eh. That's enough encounters for this adventure. Let's go home and rest". The objective of the entire operation is "Right there". That's why they are here. They will push on, clambor up the last fight of stairs, and engage the evil guy, defeat him (hopefully), win the day, earn the treasure, stop the evil plot, etc.

    This is relatively easy in scenarios like that. It's an (in this case) four story tower, with a small courtyard around it. They know this. They know the main bad guy is in the tower. They know they have to defeat said main bad guy. Easy, right? More to the point, they know that until they get to the top floor and clear the entire tower, they are not "done", and thus they know to manage their resources to that goal. That's the absolute key bit here.

    It's trickier in a dungeon, where every tunnel maybe looks the same, and each door looks the same, and there's no easy/obvious way to know that "this is the last door to the final bad guy in this area, and the rewards are there for the taking if you win". Or heck. Even "you just defeated the guardians, and this door leads to the treasure vault they were guarding" can be tricky (unless you have a big sign on the door or something). If the players don't know when they have reached the "goal of this section of the dungeon", they have no way to manage their resources, or know when it's the right time to turn back, rest, and come back tomorrow.

    One way to manage this is to lay out the dungeon in more obvious individual "chunks" of content. So long tunnels that connect independent sections. Each section is a tighter set of corridors and hallways in which a specific set of denizens resides. These should be sized and occupied based on what role this section fills. Some may be large and heavily populated with intelligent denizens, perhaps suggesting to the players that "we need to negotiate with these people". Others may be smaller, with less intelligent (but dangerous) things, that clearly scream "we need to clear this section out". Others may have smaller group of maruading denizens, who perhaps raid other larger sections for goods/prisoners/whatever. The party may even be asked to help clear one of these sections out by one of the larger groups they've interacted with.

    The point is that if you literally physically break up the dungeon into these bits that are intended to be interated with in a single "chunk", the players will be more likely to treat it like that one tower and actually complete the whole thing. Doubly so if it's clear that a single set of "defenders" exist there, such that failing to defeat them all will cause the others to either shore up their defenses more, or flee, denying the PCs of most of the reward for going there in the first place. Once they've encountered a couple of these types of areas, they'll get the feel for it, realize this is how things are laid out, and proceed accordingly. They'll know that as long as there are more doors and hallways in this one section, they need to keep exploring until there's nothing left but long rough tunnels leading to other separate sections "off thata way".

    The other advantage of this, is that, unlike a massive complex of inter connected doors and hallways, this actually gives the players a bit of confidence that, having cleared a section, they can secure it somewhat, find a good place to rest, etc. And they only have to worry about either known things in the area they've already decided aren't a threat or the rare critters that wander into the section as a whole. And even some basic defensive tactics shouuld allow them to deal with that easily.

    Then, having rested and recovered, they can continue deeper into the larger underground dungeon. At least, this is how I often lay out very large undergound adventures. Always provide obvious logical "chunks" of content for them to interact with. If the players perceive the entire thing as one huge "thing", they're going to have a hard time navigating it.

    Quote Originally Posted by GloatingSwine View Post
    Earlier on you were saying they hadn't cleared any of the major elements of the floor, and you've also said they've not actually gotten any of the major information that points them to where to go to do so, part of the dungeon is infested with enemies that they've bounced off of twice, and at least two groups or individuals in the dungeon have holds over them.
    My reading is that they will travel into a "wing" of the dungeon, clear it 80% of the way, then turn back. But instead of returning to that same section (or just continuing to explore), they then go to another "wing" and do the same thing. Assuming a relatively logical layout of such a dungeon, it's reasonable to assume that the "rewards" for exploring in any given direction are most likely to be at the farthest point in any given area/direction, so they are... "doing it wrong".

    And yeah. That part just baffles me. Unless they are running into something in each area that they decide they just can't handle and figuring "we'll deal with that later. let's expore another area and see if we have better luck". But if that's the case, then it suggests that the diffiuclty in each "wing" is maybe tuned a bit too high for the group.

    If the players think that each wing is a different difficulty, this is not a totally illogical thing to do. I've seen dungeon layouts where it's like "door A leads to the easy part", then "door B leads to the middle part", and "door C leads to the final, really difficult part". So if the players explore in the wrong order, they run smack into something they can't handle. And in that case, retreating and exploring in a different direction is exactly the right thing to do. You get treasure, items, and levels that allow you to progress though the whole dungeon if you do it in the right order. I guess. Personally, I would avoid that layout, but that may be what the players are thinking is going on here.

    Hard to say for sure.

  9. - Top - End - #249
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    Default Re: Pacing a megadungeon

    My comments on the ghast room

    1) It is a reasonable assumption that on entering a room that there will contain one roomí worth of enemies.
    If it contains more it needs to be clearly signposted to the players (eg they see a scout run to the warning drum, see him pick up the drumsticks, hear him beat the big alarm, then hear reinforcements coming from a direction).

    2) Why do players turtle?
    Tactically whoever goes through the door is at a disadvantage. Against mindless enemies who will rush forward it is the optimal strategy.

    3) What is the point of rooms that contain excess mindless enemies?
    It is to punish players for turtling. You can dress it up by saying itís to provide different game play or to reward scouting or as encouraging the players to engage with the lore, but at the end of the day itís to punish players for having an effective standard operating procedure.

    4) Logistics.
    Talakeal describes the room as having an endless stream of undead. Endless essentially means infinite.
    If each ghast takes up a 5ft x 5ft x 5ft space and there are an infinite number of ghasts then you need a room of infinite size to house them while they wait to enter the dungeon. How does this waiting room map onto the rest of the dungeon levels below the current level?
    Each ghast requires magical energy to be created. Who has the infinite magical energy needed to make an infinite number of ghasts?
    What is the purpose of creating an infinite number of ghasts?
    Since each ghast is an undead it requires the body of a hunan sized sentient creature to be created. The body of every human sized sentient creature who has ever lived on this plane is an insufficient number to stock the ghast room.
    Why havenít the ghasts just swarmed out to take over the entire dungeon already?
    It is very polite of them to wait until this particular party of adventurers to knock on their door and politely ask them to come out. It is very unlucky for the adventurers that no kobold ever thought of exploring this part of the dungeon for food/water/loot/treasure.
    What are the ghasts doing in their waiting room? If they get triggered by the presence of live prey, considering their waiting room is infinitely large their detect prey sense must have infinitely range, because otherwise the ones at the back of the room wonít know to keep coming forward to become the endless stream.

    5) Climbing.
    The ghasts are described as both being clumsy and climbing out of a fissure. Are they taking climbing checks? What happens if they fall? Or does every single one of the ghasts perfectly pass each and every climb check in order for one ghast to neatly come out each turn?

    Talakeal isnít the first GM to have a room with endless enemies being summoned into it with the solution being to close the gate, nor will he be the last. My criticisms arenít of Talakeal, because this has become a fairly ingrained trope in gaming, my criticism is of the concept.
    There is related concept of the party infiltrating a military base and when the alarm is raised more enemies than the party can handle rushing in. The scenario design in that case answers all of the logistics questions and the purpose is to punish players for being unstealthy or to force them to achieve their goal in a compressed time frame.

    Further the solution (close the portal) requires a degree of meta-gaming. If you are unfamiliar with the gaming trope the obvious solution is to kill the enemies as they pass through the defile.
    Last edited by Pauly; 2023-03-24 at 04:15 PM.

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    Default Re: Pacing a megadungeon

    Well. The ghasts were described as somehow sensing living beings within a given range. So it's quite possible that once the party entered the door from the main hallway (roadway?) into the first room, ghasts started climbing up the fissure. So by the time they walked through that room (the 20x40 room), down the hall to the T intersection, turned to the right/left and went into the 20x20 room with the sinkhole, it had a handful of ghasts already there.

    It was also described that down the other side of the T intersection was a blocked door that lead to some treasure, so one has to assume that if one can seal off the ghasts before that intersection, then they could get to the treasure. It's just not clear if there is also a door between the T intersection and the room with the sinkhole/fissure. That would be really convenient, and maybe the obvious spot to block them off.

    One would also assume that whatever other creatures live in this area should have long ago sealed away this entire area, really secured. And with warning signs. Did the PCs not notice that when entering the first room? That might have clued them in to seal things a bit better when they did retreat through there. And you know, that they're entering an area with something that someone else felt the need to "seal off" in the first place.

    As to how many are below. I don't think it's "infiniite", just "more than you want to fight". An "army of ghasts". He hinted that this does tie into some theme or situation on a lower level. So presumably, if they go down at some point, and then later start running into ghasts, they (in theory) might think "hey. We're getting near to wherever that sinkhole lead to, maybe we should approach with caution".

    I do think that, if the ghasts are just attracted to living beings for some reason, but otherwise stay "down below" for some reason, then simply closing a door and waiting should result in the ghasts returning back down through the fissure, allowing for later exploratoiin while only having to deal with a manageable number of ghasts (and actually knowing a bit about what's going on now).

    Again though, his players just don't seem to be that inquisitive, nor make efforts to "figure things out" like this. Hence, why they seem to keep flailing around and bumbling into things.
    Last edited by gbaji; 2023-03-24 at 04:33 PM.

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    Default Re: Pacing a megadungeon

    Quote Originally Posted by Pauly View Post
    Further the solution (close the portal) requires a degree of meta-gaming. If you are unfamiliar with the gaming trope the obvious solution is to kill the enemies as they pass through the defile.
    No, I don't think that necessarily follows.

    In this case the attempted solution proceeded quite logically from the setup "collapse the ceiling and plug the hole" seems pretty reasonable from the characters' knowledge.

    It was just that the dice had other plans and by the time they got the information that led them to try it the rest of the fight was too scuffed for them to try again.

    Really to my mind is that the ghasts are just coming out too fast for this party, they don't have enough damage to reduce their initial numbers more than one every other round or to try a more aggressive strategy, but they did their actual strategy a little bit wrong and the numbers didn't allow for that, it was perfection or GTFO.

    If there were one or two fewer to start with (not quite enough to saturate the players if they play imperfectly) and a new one only came out of the hole on a 4+ or 5+ on a D6 they probably would have made it through but bloodied from imperfect play.

    Remember, this is the first floor of the dungeon and the start of these characters' careers, they need room to be imperfect!

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    Default Re: Pacing a megadungeon

    @Quertus: Oh, and those are some wonderful examples of environmental storytelling. I don't think my players would appreciate them, but I do!

    Quote Originally Posted by GloatingSwine View Post
    No, but I can see them tripping over a more-difficult-than-expected random dungeon restock and falling into a doom spiral about it only being the first floor and not wanting to carry on because the second will be harder than that.
    If that happens then it is game over. The players have lost. The town needs to be evacuated before it is overrrun and the dark powers below will continue growing unchecked until far greater heroes than these rise up to challenge them.

    Quote Originally Posted by GloatingSwine View Post
    Random encounters in megadungeons add texture to traversal, they don't need to escalate over time to push the players forward, running out of things to loot pushes the players forward already.
    The whole point of this thread is providing incentive for the players to keep going forward.

    My players will, if not given a time restraint, absolutely engage in 15 MWD tactics, going nova, clearing one room at a time, and then falling back to town. That is, on days when they bother to adventure at all, most days they will simply spend in town crafting and grinding money.

    Quote Originally Posted by gbaji View Post
    My understanding is that they miffed their spell to try to seal the sinkhole on the initial encounter (not a bad idea, just bad luck), so they retreated. The problem is that they failed to close the door behind them, so instead of the ghasts just being in the one room, they roamed out into the larger area, making things more difficult.

    The second fight, they came back, disovered the ghasts were in a room further from the sinkhole room, did a poor turtle, and got overwhelmed and retreated again.
    This is correct.

    Quote Originally Posted by gbaji View Post
    This does kind of raise the question: Why were these ghasts all staying down in the sink hole in the first place? Why only a half dozen in the initial room "up top", but such a fast rate of them digging their way up once someone walks into the room? I get that this is a trap, but presumably this room has been here for a long time, and yet was in this state when the party arrived.

    Remember that when designing dungeons you aren't just designing something for the players to encounter, but that also has to make sense from a "this has been here for centuries before the players arrived" pov. If the ghasts always dig up the sinkhole, then the room above should be absolutely full of ghasts. And unless no one has ever opened that door in the entire history of that door and room existing, the entire dungeon floor should be full of nothing but ghasts. Etiher that, or someone else on that floor/wing should have resolved the problem with the ghasts long ago (or more securely blocked off the door to the room).

    A logical alternative is that the ghasts feel most "at home" down below, and only climb up if they sense living things to attack, feed on, or whatever it is that ghasts do in this game. The players should be able to close a door and just wait, and the ghasts should (mostly) return down below. That's an easy way to "reset" the encounter.
    There is an army of (mostly mindless) undead on the next floor down awaiting the return of their dark lord. The recent earthquake the previous month collapsed the ceiling, leaving them buried in the sinkhole.

    Those that were buried had no initiative to dig themselves out, until they sensed living creatures nearby, at which point the started digging themselves out as they succumbed to their hunger to feed.

    Once there were no longer any living creatures nearby, they returned to ambling about aimlessly.

    I don't believe anything living has been in this room since the floor caved in; if there was, it was probably kobolds who would have swiftly fled through their own tiny tunnels upon discovering the undead.

    Quote Originally Posted by gbaji View Post
    Imagine that the adventurers are assualting a small keep, where the evil lord fancypants lives and is holding someone hostage, stolen the macguffin, performing the evil ritutal of Doom(tm), whatever. The PCs would find some means to sneak up as close as possible, then climb over the outer walls (under cover of night/spells/whatever), quickly engage the few guards in the courtyard, while maybe someone charges at the (hopefully open) door to the tower/bailey/whatever. Having secured this first stage, they continue into the building, clearing each floor as they go, right?

    The point is that they would never explore and clear the first three floors of the tower, and then upon reaching the stairs to the top floor, where the evil Lord is, doing his evil <whatever>, and then just go "Eh. That's enough encounters for this adventure. Let's go home and rest". The objective of the entire operation is "Right there". That's why they are here. They will push on, clambor up the last fight of stairs, and engage the evil guy, defeat him (hopefully), win the day, earn the treasure, stop the evil plot, etc.

    This is relatively easy in scenarios like that. It's an (in this case) four story tower, with a small courtyard around it. They know this. They know the main bad guy is in the tower. They know they have to defeat said main bad guy. Easy, right? More to the point, they know that until they get to the top floor and clear the entire tower, they are not "done", and thus they know to manage their resources to that goal. That's the absolute key bit here.
    Your players are not my players.

    My players are very risk averse and take every opportunity to fall back and rest.

    They absolutely go back to town one room away from the final boss in a keep like that because they want to "be at full strength" before they engage him.

    Quote Originally Posted by gbaji View Post
    My reading is that they will travel into a "wing" of the dungeon, clear it 80% of the way, then turn back. But instead of returning to that same section (or just continuing to explore), they then go to another "wing" and do the same thing. Assuming a relatively logical layout of such a dungeon, it's reasonable to assume that the "rewards" for exploring in any given direction are most likely to be at the farthest point in any given area/direction, so they are... "doing it wrong".

    And yeah. That part just baffles me. Unless they are running into something in each area that they decide they just can't handle and figuring "we'll deal with that later. let's expore another area and see if we have better luck". But if that's the case, then it suggests that the diffiuclty in each "wing" is maybe tuned a bit too high for the group.
    This is more or less correct.

    It's not that it is too hard, it's just that the players are risk averse and don't want to engage in a fight where it looks like there is a possibility of loss.

    Of course, this is kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy, as by giving all the monsters forewarning that they are coming and plenty of time to shore up their defenses, its makes these fights much harder than they need to be.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pauly View Post
    My comments on the ghast room

    1) It is a reasonable assumption that on entering a room that there will contain one roomí worth of enemies.
    If it contains more it needs to be clearly signposted to the players (eg they see a scout run to the warning drum, see him pick up the drumsticks, hear him beat the big alarm, then hear reinforcements coming from a direction).
    Correct. When the players first entered the room, I described the floor being collapsed and them seeing vast numbers of undead below, most partially buried and digging themselves out, climbing their way up.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pauly View Post
    2) Why do players turtle?
    Tactically whoever goes through the door is at a disadvantage. Against mindless enemies who will rush forward it is the optimal strategy.
    That really depends on where you do it.

    If you set up around a chokepoint, yes. If you do it in the open, you are just going to get surrounded and beat down.

    In the first encounter the players moved into the ghast room and effectively choke-pointed themselves. In the second encounter the players never tried to move up and seize the chokepoint and let the ghasts come to them at their leisure.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pauly View Post
    3) What is the point of rooms that contain excess mindless enemies?
    It is to punish players for turtling. You can dress it up by saying itís to provide different game play or to reward scouting or as encouraging the players to engage with the lore, but at the end of the day itís to punish players for having an effective standard operating procedure.
    That's a very strange way of looking at it.

    Yes, if there weren't a variety of encounters, dominant strategies would emerge. That doesn't mean the only reason to vary encounters is to avoid dominant strategies, let alone "punish" people for using them.

    But really, can't you say that about anything and everything?

    Why do groups of monsters exist? To punish players who don't use area of effect spells.
    Why do large single monsters exist? To punish players who do rely on area of effect spells.
    Why do poisonous monsters exist? To punish players who aren't immune to poison.
    Why do non-poisonous monsters exist? To punish players who are immune to poison.

    Etc. Etc.

    Also, I don't think this party has ever had anything resembling an effective standard operating procedure. My players tend to huddle together in freight, but this is seldom an effective strategy, nor do they actually build their characters or formulate tactics to capitalize on a tight formation.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pauly View Post
    5) Climbing.
    The ghasts are described as both being clumsy and climbing out of a fissure. Are they taking climbing checks? What happens if they fall? Or does every single one of the ghasts perfectly pass each and every climb check in order for one ghast to neatly come out each turn?
    Did I describe them as clumsy at some point? If so my apologies, that is my inner creative writer major taking over and turning the prose purple.

    In my system ghasts are "28 days later" style runner zombies, no slower or clumsier than a living person.

    Yes, it would have been more realistic to roll for reinforcements, but a steady rate much easier to keep track of and stops the players from getting screwed over by RNG.

    Quote Originally Posted by gbaji View Post
    Well. The ghasts were described as somehow sensing living beings within a given range. So it's quite possible that once the party entered the door from the main hallway (roadway?) into the first room, ghasts started climbing up the fissure. So by the time they walked through that room (the 20x40 room), down the hall to the T intersection, turned to the right/left and went into the 20x20 room with the sinkhole, it had a handful of ghasts already there.

    It was also described that down the other side of the T intersection was a blocked door that lead to some treasure, so one has to assume that if one can seal off the ghasts before that intersection, then they could get to the treasure. It's just not clear if there is also a door between the T intersection and the room with the sinkhole/fissure. That would be really convenient, and maybe the obvious spot to block them off.
    There was a door between the T intersection and the ghast room.

    There was not a door between the T intersection and the larger waiting room outside.

    Quote Originally Posted by gbaji View Post
    One would also assume that whatever other creatures live in this area should have long ago sealed away this entire area, really secured. And with warning signs. Did the PCs not notice that when entering the first room? That might have clued them in to seal things a bit better when they did retreat through there. And you know, that they're entering an area with something that someone else felt the need to "seal off" in the first place.
    As I said twice up-post, I don't think the kobolds have been in here since the floor collapsed. They did, however, actively collapse a nearby stairwell, and explicitly told the PCs that it was because it was too dangerous to go down there, and that it was the domain of the "bone-people".

    Quote Originally Posted by GloatingSwine View Post
    Really to my mind is that the ghasts are just coming out too fast for this party, they don't have enough damage to reduce their initial numbers more than one every other round or to try a more aggressive strategy, but they did their actual strategy a little bit wrong and the numbers didn't allow for that, it was perfection or GTFO.
    I still don't get why you are saying this requires "perfection" or "exactly the right strategy".

    The players, on average, kill the ghasts half again as fast as they "spawn". They absolutely can, and did, beat them in a straight fight and then blocked off their reinforcements with a wall of tentacles.

    The problem was that they did *nothing* to permanently seal off their entrance, not even close the door.

    This wasn't some special riddle or extraordinary puzzle, they just had to do something. Pile up furniture, jam the door shut, conjure a wall of stone or the like, blow up the hall with dynamite, dig a pit, etc. etc.
    Last edited by Talakeal; 2023-03-24 at 06:38 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    I still don't get why you are saying this requires "perfection" or "exactly the right strategy".
    Because it does. By your own reckoning if they had been literally one step backwards from where they were in the first fight, meaning they could be attacked only by one enemy at a time, they would have been able to kill ghasts until their dice rolling arms got tired.

    The margin for their ability to position was that narrow that it made the difference between being able to thin the enemy down long enough to think of a solution and panicking because they were being chewed to bits .

    The players, on average, kill the ghasts half again as fast as they "spawn". They absolutely can, and did, beat them in a straight fight and then blocked off their reinforcements with a wall of tentacles.
    And half as fast again is nowhere near fast enough to allow them to develop any breathing room to think about what they're going to do next. And no, they did not beat them in a straight fight, you can tell because of how they were forced to retreat on both occasions.

    The problem was that they did *nothing* to permanently seal off their entrance, not even close the door.

    This wasn't some special riddle or extraordinary puzzle, they just had to do something. Pile up furniture, jam the door shut, conjure a wall of stone or the like, blow up the hall with dynamite, dig a pit, etc. etc.
    Of course they didn't, they were running away! And so once again because of another for-want-of-a-nail imperfection in their play they are worse off in that area than they started.

    If you'd wanted them to take solutions like that you also need to make sure you've extremely obviously described how successful they are going to be, like describe the door as very heavy with an iron facing on the inside with futile claw marks so that it's really obvious the ghasts can't just smash through it. Hell, have them unbar it to go into the room in the first place.

    Remember, your players are as information averse as they are risk averse, you need to be heavy handed with it.
    Last edited by GloatingSwine; 2023-03-24 at 07:59 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GloatingSwine View Post
    Because it does. By your own reckoning if they had been literally one step backwards from where they were in the first fight, meaning they could be attacked only by one enemy at a time, they would have been able to kill ghasts until their dice rolling arms got tired.
    I don't follow.

    Most fights will be drastically harder / easier if you make a small adjustment in tactics.

    I don't see why that implies that they have a singular solution or demand perfection.

    Quote Originally Posted by GloatingSwine View Post
    The margin for their ability to position was that narrow that it made the difference between being able to thin the enemy down long enough to think of a solution and panicking because they were being chewed to bits .



    And half as fast again is nowhere near fast enough to allow them to develop any breathing room to think about what they're going to do next. And no, they did not beat them in a straight fight, you can tell because of how they were forced to retreat on both occasions.



    Of course they didn't, they were running away! And so once again because of another for-want-of-a-nail imperfection in their play they are worse off in that area than they started.

    If you'd wanted them to take solutions like that you also need to make sure you've extremely obviously described how successful they are going to be, like describe the door as very heavy with an iron facing on the inside with futile claw marks so that it's really obvious the ghasts can't just smash through it. Hell, have them unbar it to go into the room in the first place.

    Remember, your players are as information averse as they are risk averse, you need to be heavy handed with it.
    I am not sure if you are picturing the situation correctly.

    In both fights they killed 100% of the ghasts who were attacking them and then blocked off the reinforcements with a wall of tentacles.

    They were never panicking and running for their lives; they cleanly won the fights (albeit taking more damage then they would have with better positioning) and were at the leisure to stop and catch their breaths and consider the battlefield unoppsed.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    I don't follow.

    Most fights will be drastically harder / easier if you make a small adjustment in tactics.

    I don't see why that implies that they have a singular solution or demand perfection.
    Sure. But your scale looks more like "Success - die - die -die -die - die - die". Make a single mis-step, and you're off the victory track. Whereas something more like "How the **** did you do this well - **** that's awesome - Victory with a bonus - Victory - just success - let's call it a draw - ouch that hurt - run away! - die - die - die" might be a better scale to aim for.

    EDIT: Also, on another topic, at an abstract level, "massively defensive front line, ranged DPS back line" certainly sounds like it ought to be a not just workable but strong unit. And

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Indirect fire weapons halve penalties as you don't actually have to aim between your allies while picking out targets, you simply have to lob something over their heads.
    Ceilings certainly give me huge penalties to those "attack rolls". I'd argue you'd rather have me behind you with a gun than a grenade in tight spaces.

    EDIT2:
    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    @Quertus: Oh, and those are some wonderful examples of environmental storytelling. I don't think my players would appreciate them, but I do!
    This is a great place to apply that calibration skill I mentioned. Your players might not understand any of those hints? Then you put "success" at "understood nothing". Or, rather, at "understood nothing, plus made X additional mistakes". Then, for every fewer mistake they made, and for every thing they understood from these environmental clues, that just increases the level of success from just "success" to "wow factor". That's the way you should design your dungeon, and your encounters, for this group. Where the only things they need to do to succeed are the things where, if they declare actions that would fail the victory conditions, you'll ask, "Um... why are you eating the uranium while whizzing on the electric fence?".

    That said, "why are you playing a defensive front line and a ranged back line" isn't really a question one should ask with the confusion of hearing a "???"-rated strategy. Nor are "why are you building a high defense character rather than a high DPS one?" or "Why are you building a defensive character who is good at filling a space?" (and I really hope that the monsters have been eating extra penalties to shoot past her, too), even if "why are you shooting at the target past the giant rather than the one in front of the smaller front liner to avoid the extra penalty?" might be.
    Last edited by Quertus; 2023-03-25 at 06:10 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    I
    I am not sure if you are picturing the situation correctly.

    In both fights they killed 100% of the ghasts who were attacking them and then blocked off the reinforcements with a wall of tentacles.

    They were never panicking and running for their lives; they cleanly won the fights (albeit taking more damage then they would have with better positioning) and were at the leisure to stop and catch their breaths and consider the battlefield unoppsed.
    The side that is forced to quit the field and achieved nothing and left its opponent in a stronger position than before it started did not "win the fight".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Sure. But your scale looks more like "Success - die - die -die -die - die - die". Make a single mis-step, and you're off the victory track. Whereas something more like "How the **** did you do this well - **** that's awesome - Victory with a bonus - Victory - just success - let's call it a draw - ouch that hurt - run away! - die - die - die" might be a better scale to aim for.
    I think maybe you are taking Bob's bitching at face value.

    Keep in mind, Bob measures success by a percentage of how far above the average WBL he is (so going from 160% wealth to 158% wealth is a loss in his book).

    Now, this game is a bit less structured due to the mega-dungeon format and the multiple expeditions per game session, but my players are always above WBL, have never TPKed (except a few times when we started a new game and nobody on either side of the screen understood how the characters worked yet), and typically only suffer a PC death or lose a battle and are forced to fall back about once a year. That is way less than virtually any AP or campaign journal I have ever read.



    Now, there is an issue with this particular game that I am not quite sure how to solve. The idea is that the players push themselves as far as they can and then rest up, as they are racing against a looming clock that (hopefully) only exists to keep them from doing the same sort of 15 MWD shenanigans they did in my hex-crawl game a few years ago. The problem arises when they are unsure if they can push on, enter into a last fight, get in over their heads, decide they couldn't do one more, and then because of the smart-reactive monsters the forum advised I use as a pacing mechanism, end up feeling bad because they ran away and made the monsters better prepared in turn.

    Note that this doesn't happen every time, sometimes they find an easy fight in the last room and clear it, and sometimes they decide to turn back anyway (which is how they have missed a lot of the treasure and lore in the last room of a wing).

    And this is an issue that I would love some advice on solving, but I don't think this means that the game is a horrific string of defeats as you put it.


    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    EDIT: Also, on another topic, at an abstract level, "massively defensive front line, ranged DPS back line" certainly sounds like it ought to be a not just workable but strong unit.
    You sure? I think having your lines of fire pass through your own allies sounds like a terrible tactic.

    Maybe if they were using volley fire that could arc over their allies; but direct firing through your allies in a confined space is just asking for trouble IMO.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    That said, "why are you playing a defensive front line and a ranged back line" isn't really a question one should ask with the confusion of hearing a "???"-rated strategy. Nor are "why are you building a high defense character rather than a high DPS one?" or "Why are you building a defensive character who is good at filling a space?" (and I really hope that the monsters have been eating extra penalties to shoot past her, too), even if "why are you shooting at the target past the giant rather than the one in front of the smaller front liner to avoid the extra penalty?" might be.
    Yes, of course the penalties apply both ways.

    Not sure if I follow the rest of what you are saying here.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    @
    That really depends on where you do it.

    If you set up around a chokepoint, yes. If you do it in the open, you are just going to get surrounded and beat down.

    In the first encounter the players moved into the ghast room and effectively choke-pointed themselves. In the second encounter the players never tried to move up and seize the chokepoint and let the ghasts come to them at their leisure.



    That's a very strange way of looking at it.

    Yes, if there weren't a variety of encounters, dominant strategies would emerge. That doesn't mean the only reason to vary encounters is to avoid dominant strategies, let alone "punish" people for using them.

    But really, can't you say that about anything and everything?

    Why do groups of monsters exist? To punish players who don't use area of effect spells.
    Why do large single monsters exist? To punish players who do rely on area of effect spells.
    Why do poisonous monsters exist? To punish players who aren't immune to poison.
    Why do non-poisonous monsters exist? To punish players who are immune to poison.

    Etc. Etc..
    .
    Fall back and fight defensively is the best strategy against mindless enemies with overwhelming numbers. The fact that your players implemented the strategy poorly doesnít change the fact that it is the optimal strategy for the situation.

    You are conflating two different issues.
    Why do enemies with different properties exist? To give players a variety of challenges.
    Why is there an endless stream of enemies coming out of a gate that can be blocked/destroyed? To punish players for being passive. If they do not go forward and destroy the gate they will eventually be overwhelmed. Even if they play perfect defense they will eventually lose, so if they choose a passive option they will be punished.
    Functionally there is no difference between an endless stream of enemies and one enemy with infinite HP, and both are designed to punish players for not choosing the GM approved method of dealing with them.

    You said there is range on the Ďsense livingí for the ghasts. Which in theory allows the players to lure out small groups of ghasts, chop them up with turtle tactics then rinse and repeat. Doing this could allow them to secure the sinkhole and then use that to set up a turkeyshoot of the ghasts on the level below.
    However the way the encounter has been run itís an endless stream of ghasts, no matter how far the party retreat from the portal more ghasts keep coming.

    And as I side originally my comments were more towards the gaming trope of endless enemies coming out of a gate that has to be destroyed than any particular comment to you or about your players.
    Last edited by Pauly; 2023-03-27 at 06:21 AM.

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    Default Re: Pacing a megadungeon

    Quote Originally Posted by Pauly View Post
    Fall back and fight defensively is the best strategy against mindless enemies with overwhelming numbers. The fact that your players implemented the strategy poorly doesnít change the fact that it is the optimal strategy for the situation.
    Depends on how "overwhelming" their numbers are and what, more importantly, what the terrain looks like in comparison to the enemies ability to bypass it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pauly View Post
    You are conflating two different issues.
    Why do enemies with different properties exist? To give players a variety of challenges.
    Why is there an endless stream of enemies coming out of a gate that can be blocked/destroyed? To punish players for being passive. If they do not go forward and destroy the gate they will eventually be overwhelmed. Even if they play perfect defense they will eventually lose, so if they choose a passive option they will be punished.
    Functionally there is no difference between an endless stream of enemies and one enemy with infinite HP, and both are designed to punish players for not choosing the GM approved method of dealing with them.
    You aren't exactly wrong, you are just phrasing it in a way that makes it sound like adversarial GMing / railroading.

    By the nature of the scenario, some approaches just aren't going to work by the rules / setting logic, regardless of how the GM feels about it. You just aren't going to successfully burn a fire elemental, or poison a golem, or suffocate a skeleton, or stab a troll, or talk down a wild animal, or decapitate a lernean hydra.

    The reinforcement mechanics are an abstraction, I agree there, but they are a reasonable one for representing a situation the players could very well find themselves in where they are facing a much larger enemy force but who can't bring those forces to bear all at once; robbing a bank while the militia is being called, a king calling for his palace guard, hit and run tactics against a legion, a fortress full of enemies who have to exit the keep a few at a time, or, in this case a horde of undead that takes time to dig itself out of a collapsed building.

    And yeah, literally infinite enemies are an abstraction, and one that I would not actually play out; if the players set up a meat grinder I would stop after a few dozen kills. Likewise, literally infinite HP is silly, but a monster with too many for the PCs to realistically whittle down is possible (if not balanced without mitigating factors) but regeneration or immunity to broad swathes of attacks is not unheard of.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pauly View Post
    You said there is range on the Ďsense livingí for the ghasts. Which in theory allows the players to lure out small groups of ghasts, chop them up with turtle tactics then rinse and repeat. Doing this could allow them to secure the sinkhole and then use that to set up a turkeyshoot of the ghasts on the level below.
    Indeed they could.

    Although this does raise the question of just how "mindless" mindless undead are; I would imagine they can recognize the "hunting calls" of their fellows and be motivated to investigate different moans.

    Their life sense ability has the same range as their normal senses, they can just tell if things are alive or not with it. Being half buried in a collapsed building when a group of heroes kicks in the door probably alerts all of them who are near enough to the surface to dig themselves out.


    Quote Originally Posted by Pauly View Post
    However the way the encounter has been run itís an endless stream of ghasts, no matter how far the party retreat from the portal more ghasts keep coming.
    That is not the case. They can, and did, get out of range.

    Of course, once they are dug out and the doors left open, they will mill about the area.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Ceilings certainly give me huge penalties to those "attack rolls". I'd argue you'd rather have me behind you with a gun than a grenade in tight spaces.
    I suppose it depends on just how tight the space is.

    Assuming a decently high ceiling, I can't imagine thinking its easier to shoot a target in close combat without risking their opponent than simply tossing an object over the pair's heads.
    Last edited by Talakeal; 2023-03-27 at 09:30 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    This is more or less correct.

    It's not that it is too hard, it's just that the players are risk averse and don't want to engage in a fight where it looks like there is a possibility of loss.

    Of course, this is kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy, as by giving all the monsters forewarning that they are coming and plenty of time to shore up their defenses, its makes these fights much harder than they need to be.
    Honestly? Some of the posters seem to have a problem with this, but I do not. Twisting around reality to make absolutely insane tactics "succeed" only enables more poor behavior. At some point, you do just have to draw a line and say "if you do something so monumentally stupid as this, there will be negative consequences" and let the chips fall where they may. And yeah, fighthing your way right to the doorstep of the main bad guy and then turning around and leaving to go "rest in town" is pretty much the stereotype of "really bad tactical decision".

    You fight you way through the bbeg's minions specifically to get a shot at taking out the bbeg. Stopping at that point is lunacy.

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    There was a door between the T intersection and the ghast room.

    There was not a door between the T intersection and the larger waiting room outside.
    Got it. Wasn't clear from your previous posts where the door actually was. Um... In this case, it's even more "easy" than it might have been. They can block that one door, bottle up the ghasts in the room with the sinkhole, and can even then access the other side of the T intersection to explore that (which apparently leads to some treasure potential). You don't even have to close the sinkhole, just the freaking door.

    I'm boggling my mind tring to figure out why they can't figure out this very very basic tactical idea. There's clearly nothing actually in that room other than a route to the "hordes of undead down below". So "sealing it off" can happen anywhere between that sinkhole and the T intersection and still provide the party access to everything else in the area they may want to explore. So.... what's the problem?


    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    This wasn't some special riddle or extraordinary puzzle, they just had to do something. Pile up furniture, jam the door shut, conjure a wall of stone or the like, blow up the hall with dynamite, dig a pit, etc. etc.
    Yeah. Agree. This wasn't really rockeet science. I was speculating that the closest door to block was in the hallway between the first (20x40) room and the T intersection. Which would make sealing the whole thing off also mean sealing off the other end of the intersection as well. Um... The way it actually is? Not sure why that's at all difficult or confusing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pauly View Post
    You said there is range on the Ďsense livingí for the ghasts. Which in theory allows the players to lure out small groups of ghasts, chop them up with turtle tactics then rinse and repeat. Doing this could allow them to secure the sinkhole and then use that to set up a turkeyshoot of the ghasts on the level below.
    However the way the encounter has been run itís an endless stream of ghasts, no matter how far the party retreat from the portal more ghasts keep coming.
    Yup. Even with the current screw up condition, there are a number of intelligent ways to nibble away at the ghasts to clear them out in manageable chunks, to eventually secure just the part of the dungeon they are coming up from (the room with the sinkhole). Whether they'll want to sit there and turkeyshoot the ghasts as they come up *forever* at that point, is a matter of speculation. But the point is that they don't really need to do this at all. There's nothing to gain here (maybe some experience?).

    When someone describes something like this, it's pretty clear that the objective is to seal off the entrance so the ghasts can't come up and get you. That's kinda objective number one, right? And honestly, I kinda get the initial screw up (badly failed spell). But everything since? That's just poor tactics and frankly just not having a clear "what are we trying to achieve" objective in their own minds.

  21. - Top - End - #261
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    Default Re: Pacing a megadungeon

    Quote Originally Posted by Pauly View Post
    Why is there an endless stream of enemies coming out of a gate that can be blocked/destroyed? To punish players for being passive. If they do not go forward and destroy the gate they will eventually be overwhelmed. Even if they play perfect defense they will eventually lose, so if they choose a passive option they will be punished.
    Functionally there is no difference between an endless stream of enemies and one enemy with infinite HP, and both are designed to punish players for not choosing the GM approved method of dealing with them.
    The situation as described reminds me of the infamous 'puzzle with one solution'. Which is, as far as I know, a thing to be avoided in play.

    Also: it's easy to see all the possible solution from GM's seat of perfect vision and understanding.

    It's hard to see all the possible solutions when you are boots-deep in ghast guts, thinking 'this might be the last one!'.

    That's why I avoid general tropes associated with PC games (e.g. endless stream of enemies, locking progress behind upgrades/single item).

    Quote Originally Posted by BRC View Post
    I think I missed something somewhere.

    So the first fight they approached decently, just got screwed over by a bad roll with the rock-dropping.

    Second fight they just kind of stood there until they got overwhelmed.
    Experience suggest it's relatively simple to condition players to shut down solutions when previous attempts did not fare well.
    Last edited by Lacco; 2023-03-28 at 02:46 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kol Korran View Post
    Instead of having an adventure, from which a cool unexpected story may rise, you had a story, with an adventure built and designed to enable the story, but also ensure (or close to ensure) it happens.

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    Default Re: Pacing a megadungeon

    Quote Originally Posted by gbaji View Post
    Yup. Even with the current screw up condition, there are a number of intelligent ways to nibble away at the ghasts to clear them out in manageable chunks, to eventually secure just the part of the dungeon they are coming up from (the room with the sinkhole). Whether they'll want to sit there and turkeyshoot the ghasts as they come up *forever* at that point, is a matter of speculation. But the point is that they don't really need to do this at all. There's nothing to gain here (maybe some experience?).

    When someone describes something like this, it's pretty clear that the objective is to seal off the entrance so the ghasts can't come up and get you. That's kinda objective number one, right? And honestly, I kinda get the initial screw up (badly failed spell). But everything since? That's just poor tactics and frankly just not having a clear "what are we trying to achieve" objective in their own minds.
    At this point the sinkhole is the only known path to the lower levels. So dropping the ceiling in on it wouldnít be high on my list of options as a player. Also the ghasts are a foe that are going to have to be defeated eventually anyway and are available to be defeated now, and there is no sign of a push-this-magic-red-button to kill all the ghasts device.

    I donít agree that sealing off the entrance is necessarily the clear objective.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gbaji View Post
    Got it. Wasn't clear from your previous posts where the door actually was. Um... In this case, it's even more "easy" than it might have been. They can block that one door, bottle up the ghasts in the room with the sinkhole, and can even then access the other side of the T intersection to explore that (which apparently leads to some treasure potential). You don't even have to close the sinkhole, just the freaking door.

    I'm boggling my mind tring to figure out why they can't figure out this very very basic tactical idea. There's clearly nothing actually in that room other than a route to the "hordes of undead down below". So "sealing it off" can happen anywhere between that sinkhole and the T intersection and still provide the party access to everything else in the area they may want to explore. So.... what's the problem?
    Takaleal's players are incurious about the world to begin with, but in this sort of situation I don't think many people would reasonably assume "just shut the door" would actually work because the expectation is that the ghasts will just smash it down because that's what happens in (non-comedy) zombie apocalypse movies in this sort of situation. The normal expectation would be that any barricade not very explicitly described as fortified or reinforced in some way would only be very temporary indeed.

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    Default Re: Pacing a megadungeon

    My notes for the room:

    "The Vertex Stash:

    20' x 20'. A medical supply room that has long since been looted. The floor has collapsed into a giant muddy sinkhole. 8 ghasts lair in the room, and 1 more will dig itself out of the mud each turn that they detect the presence of prey. There are an effectively unlimited number of them, and if the room is not secured somehow they will wander about randomly; add a pack of ghasts to the random encounter table for the first floor."

    Quote Originally Posted by Pauly View Post
    At this point the sinkhole is the only known path to the lower levels. So dropping the ceiling in on it wouldnít be high on my list of options as a player. Also the ghasts are a foe that are going to have to be defeated eventually anyway and are available to be defeated now, and there is no sign of a push-this-magic-red-button to kill all the ghasts device.

    I donít agree that sealing off the entrance is necessarily the clear objective.
    The sinkhole was not the only known path to the lower level, honestly, its not really a path at all as it is a huge pit of mud the PCs would have to dig through.

    I haven't drawn the second floor in detail yet, but I am pretty sure when I do the room with the ghasts in it is going to be entirely blocked off as part of a larger cave in, I don't think the PCs will have to face their full numbers, although if they do they will be much stronger at that point and better equipped to do so.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lacco View Post
    The situation as described reminds me of the infamous 'puzzle with one solution'. Which is, as far as I know, a thing to be avoided in play.

    Also: it's easy to see all the possible solution from GM's seat of perfect vision and understanding.
    This is always a weird phenomenon to me.

    If you put an unusual obstacle in the player's path, they think of it as a puzzle with a single solution.

    My shards of hate encounter that splits like a hydra when killed was a classic example of this; its a standard fight where beating him to death doesn't work, but suddenly all of the dozens of ways one would bypass an encounter without beating it to death within the games normal rules (stealth, trickery, crowd control magic, trapped it, diplomacy, etc.) suddenly disappear from the players mind and instead they fixate on finding that one magical "puzzle" solution that they think the GM wants from them. I have had similar situations where the PCs failed to pick a lock and assume its a puzzle rather than simply trying to break the door down, magic their way past, find an alternate route, find a key, ask to be let in, etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lacco View Post
    That's why I avoid general tropes associated with PC games (e.g. endless stream of enemies, locking progress behind upgrades/single item).
    Reinforcements are a fairly abstract mechanic, but I don't see them as simulating a "video game" so much as any situation where the enemies have a large pool to draw on but lack the mobility to deploy them all at once.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    This is always a weird phenomenon to me.

    If you put an unusual obstacle in the player's path, they think of it as a puzzle with a single solution.

    My shards of hate encounter that splits like a hydra when killed was a classic example of this; its a standard fight where beating him to death doesn't work, but suddenly all of the dozens of ways one would bypass an encounter without beating it to death within the games normal rules (stealth, trickery, crowd control magic, trapped it, diplomacy, etc.) suddenly disappear from the players mind and instead they fixate on finding that one magical "puzzle" solution that they think the GM wants from them. I have had similar situations where the PCs failed to pick a lock and assume its a puzzle rather than simply trying to break the door down, magic their way past, find an alternate route, find a key, ask to be let in, etc.
    Although it can also be a case of "I wouldn't start from here". Especially if you're already fighting something, non-fighting solutions other than "run away" might not feel like they're properly accessible any more.

  26. - Top - End - #266
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    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post

    This is always a weird phenomenon to me.

    If you put an unusual obstacle in the player's path, they think of it as a puzzle with a single solution.

    My shards of hate encounter that splits like a hydra when killed was a classic example of this; its a standard fight where beating him to death doesn't work, but suddenly all of the dozens of ways one would bypass an encounter without beating it to death within the games normal rules (stealth, trickery, crowd control magic, trapped it, diplomacy, etc.) suddenly disappear from the players mind and instead they fixate on finding that one magical "puzzle" solution that they think the GM wants from them. I have had similar situations where the PCs failed to pick a lock and assume its a puzzle rather than simply trying to break the door down, magic their way past, find an alternate route, find a key, ask to be let in, etc.
    I feel like this depends heavily on the player in question, and where their mindset sits at the moment.


    In my mind, it's a line between "Puzzle" and "Scenario". A Scenario is about Finding A Solution when one is not immediately obvious. For example, a locked door. There are all sorts of ways to get through a locked door. You should approach such a scenario thinking about Ways To Get Past A Locked Door (Diplomacy, magic, breaking it down, finding a key, ect)

    A Puzzle on the other hand is more of a riddle-made-manifest, the goal is to find The Answer (not just An Answer), and in doing so, you inevitably need to get inside the head of the puzzle-maker, whether Watsonian or Doyalist.

    A good example is in Lord of the Rings, the gate to Moria, "Speak Friend, and Enter" is a puzzle to the Fellowship, but from a Watsonian perspective, it wasn't intended as a puzzle, but as straightforward Instructions.


    In tabletop games, the puzzle-maker is usually the DM sitting across from you, and if the DM has made a puzzle, part of the mindset is that they want you to solve the puzzle they built. There are plenty of otherwise fine GM's who will become an obstinate block if you start approaching their Puzzles as Scenarios, trying to circumvent the intended challenge instead of finding the answer, either because the GM already blocked off alternate solutions, or because they will come up with a reason why it won't work as soon as you try it.

    The "Phenomenon" as you describe it is mostly from that "Get in the puzzle-maker's head" thing, where once the players assume they're dealing with a Puzzle, they limit their solutions to "Solutions interesting enough to be worth making a puzzle over". If they expect every mundane solution to be blocked (because it's not much of a puzzle otherwise), they aren't going to waste their time trying anything they don't imagine the GM would find interesting enough to bother making the solution to the puzzle.


    Like, let's say you've got an archmage's library, with a big sturdy door that says "ENTER, YE WHO SEEK THE MEANING OF WISDOM"

    If this is a PUZZLE, then the key is probably in a hollowed out dictionary on the shelf, specifically the volume that contains the W's, because that's a fun solution to the puzzle. It's probably NOT "Dance the Macarena" because that makes no sense, nor is it "Break the door down", because "Break the door down" isn't a puzzle solution.

    If this is a SCENARIO, then "Break the door down" might be valid.

    If your PC's switch into Puzzle mindset, they're going to disregard all the boring solutions like "Break down the door".


    As a mildly related example of how this sort of mindset can work, I was in a mystery game. My PC in this case was part of the criminal underground, and at one point I mention knowing some goblin arsonists for hire, just as an irrelevant, offhand thing.

    Later, those two goblin arsonists show up as NPCs. It turns out they were the cuplrits.

    I'd assumed that those goblins didn't exist until I made my offhanded comment, and the DM decided to bring them into the story. It turns out he already had a pair of goblin troublemakers associated with the orcish mafia set up as the cuplrits of this particular mystery. Maybe he hadn't previously decided that they were arsonists for hire that my PC knew, but it made enough sense that he just worked that in.

    I had disregarded them as suspects because I unwillingly metagamed and assumed that those NPCs had not existed until I created them. Therefore, they COULDN'T be the culprits even though they made perfect sense in-universe.

    It's the same thing. Once you stop viewing the problem as a scenario and start seeing it as a puzzle, you start letting your decision-making be guided by metaknowledge like "What would the GM consider a sufficiently clever solution to the puzzle"
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    Default Re: Pacing a megadungeon

    A good litmus of a puzzle is if there is an intended solution, or even really a single "optimal" solution.

    In a good situation, the GM shouldn't really know how the players will approach it or deal with it.

    It's really really easy to unconsciously turn a "situation" into a "puzzle" by assuming that what you think is the obvious answer to the situation into the only one that will work. Often that's just because you're only considering things from the perspective of the PC-encounter interaction, rather than the situation as a whole.

    I think a pretty good way to block that is:

    1. Don't design a solution at all.
    2. Try to think of at least three valid ways the party could get past the situation.

    In the door situation, it's easy to just find ways to dismiss solutions. "Well, you can't break down the door, it would make too much noise." At some point if you do this enough, you're funneling things into a single solution. And that makes it a puzzle, even if you didn't intend it to be. That doesn't mean approaches can't have downsides.... it just means that you need to be careful with how extreme the downsides are.
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    Default Re: Pacing a megadungeon

    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    A good litmus of a puzzle is if there is an intended solution, or even really a single "optimal" solution.

    In a good situation, the GM shouldn't really know how the players will approach it or deal with it.

    It's really really easy to unconsciously turn a "situation" into a "puzzle" by assuming that what you think is the obvious answer to the situation into the only one that will work. Often that's just because you're only considering things from the perspective of the PC-encounter interaction, rather than the situation as a whole.

    I think a pretty good way to block that is:

    1. Don't design a solution at all.
    2. Try to think of at least three valid ways the party could get past the situation.

    In the door situation, it's easy to just find ways to dismiss solutions. "Well, you can't break down the door, it would make too much noise." At some point if you do this enough, you're funneling things into a single solution. And that makes it a puzzle, even if you didn't intend it to be. That doesn't mean approaches can't have downsides.... it just means that you need to be careful with how extreme the downsides are.
    I suppose it depends on how broad these various ways are.

    Also, I wonder how "kill it" fits as an optimal solution, or if it is exempted entirely by way of being the average PCs default MO.
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    Default Re: Pacing a megadungeon

    at my old age, the only "puzzles with one solutions" that i can stomach at the table are when you bring a fun, physical puzzles for the players to solve IRL as a change of pace. :D

    If players have to rely on their skill to solve the puzzle, go all the way with it. If it's in character, treat it like you treat any secret door or any other "roll to progress story" kind of roll. Otherwise try to frame the puzzles as evolving situations to interact with or clear choices to make, they tend to engage players more in my experience.

    for the situation you described, of the players zooming into only one possible solution and ignoring all other approaches, that's where a nicely placed out of character commentary from the GM can save a lot of time and bile. And it can always begin with "well, consider that, to your characters, (who live in this world and have good situational awareness of their surroundings, far beyond what my words can convey) , this or that thing are obvious: do you wanna take another approach, maybe?"

    I mean it's a fine line to walk, depending on the table, but if it's clear to your players that as a GM part of your job is to be honest with them, it's a "just a little goes a long way" kind of thing. Was listening these days to a podcast where they talk about this topic specifically (puzzles derailing the session, especially in the time-limited context of a one shot): https://www.gauntlet-rpg.com/fear-of...ky-blind-spire around minute 11.
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    Default Re: Pacing a megadungeon

    Quote Originally Posted by DrMartin View Post
    for the situation you described, of the players zooming into only one possible solution and ignoring all other approaches, that's where a nicely placed out of character commentary from the GM can save a lot of time and bile. And it can always begin with "well, consider that, to your characters, (who live in this world and have good situational awareness of their surroundings, far beyond what my words can convey) , this or that thing are obvious: do you wanna take another approach, maybe?"

    I mean it's a fine line to walk, depending on the table, but if it's clear to your players that as a GM part of your job is to be honest with them, it's a "just a little goes a long way" kind of thing. Was listening these days to a podcast where they talk about this topic specifically (puzzles derailing the session, especially in the time-limited context of a one shot): https://www.gauntlet-rpg.com/fear-of...ky-blind-spire around minute 11.
    Problem at my table is weak egos. They take hints as calling them stupid or trying to trick them.

    In said ghoul encounter, at one point Brian killed the last ghoul standing between him and the door, and I thought it the perfect time to move up, claim the chokepoint, and end the encounter.

    He killed it, I said "and then what?" he said "nothing, my turn is over," I said "are you sure?" and he said "Why?" and I said "Because its a great chance to move up and make progress rather than just treading water and being surrounded" to which he got mad and said I was trying to trick him into leaving the safety of the group.
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