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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Troll in the Playground
     
    SamuraiGuy

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    Default [4e] Adventure Design Help (rush)

    I am DMing on Sunday and due to reasons crucial to my livelyhood (i.e. work) I don't have time to design the adventure I want to. A little background:

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    This is the second session of my first 4e campaign. The setting is a "dungeon world" where everything is underground. The overarching plotline involves differing factions (Drow, Orcs, Deep Monsters, Dwarves) battling over resources. An earthquake opened up a new, hence unexplored cavern during the 1st session and now the PCs will be exploring it looking for food sources, mineral wealth, fresh water, new trade routs, new friends, or dangers that would force the village of Respite to seal the entrance. We are 2nd level.


    I want the new area to be immense, but I don't have time to do it justice. Here are my ideas thus far:

    1) At the start there will be 2 branches.

    2) One leads deep underground toward the realm of the "deep ones" (this is a blanket term for monsters such as demons and abborations). This path would contain many natural hazzards and monsters.

    3) The second path leads upwards to the ruins of a once glorious kingdom formerly peopled by a forgotten race (possibly tiflings?). This will have man-made hazzards, puzzles, tombs and such.

    Here are my current ideas for encounters:

    The Forest of Pillars: An enormous 'forest' of naturally occuring stone pillars illuminated by magma flows stands between the PCs and wealth. This is a skill challenge. A failure indicates they are lost and have to fight monsters (what kind?) A success means... what?

    The Ancient Graveyard: The PCs wonder into a thicket of tombstones. This was once a tranquil place, but now it is inhabbited by nests of giant bugs and reptiles and possibly undead. What treasures await here? What monsters inhabit it?

    The Rope Bridge: A rope bridge so long you can't see the other end (it is v. dark underground). A skill challenge that may encorporate airborn monsters.

    The Acid Swamp: A swamp of acid that is unpassable to those who don't know the path. Perhaps the PCs can intuit the way, or perhaps there is a guide. Monsters may dwell in the swamp. What lays beyond it?

    The Grim Ferryman: An undead ferrymen, perhaps a spectre or shade, stands waiting eternally at the edge of an abyss. PCs must figure out what sort of payment he requires for his services. Failure means the PCs are attacked by undead from within the Abyss. Where does the ferryman take them? Is this a skill challenge or puzzle? May be combined with Acid Swamp.

    The Eternal Gaurdian: A ghost or semi-animate statue gaurds a tomb, speaking only a single, repeated phrase. This is a puzzle where the PCs must respond to him with the reciprocal password/phrase. How can the PCs guess the phrase? What clues are present? How can the gaurdian help guide them through his movements and disposition? Can he speak other phrases?

    Monster Encounters: No matter which way the PCs go, they will encoutner monsters. What sort of creatures would be in each pathway? How can I make the encounters interesting and varied?

    Cave In: A cave in cuts the PCs off. They must find an alternate way back or risk being trapped in the dungeon forever. A time limit is in place (if the PCs don't return in 6 days, the villagers will assume they are dead and seal off the entrance to the dungeon).

    Finally, what is the story? How does each path tie into the overaching plotline of resource battling and political manuevering?

    Suggestions for encounters or attempts to flesh out my ideas will be greatly appreciated. As you can see I want this to be quite grand, but I just don't have the time. Thank you playgrounders!
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  2. - Top - End - #2
    Troll in the Playground
     
    Yakk's Avatar

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    Default Re: [4e] Adventure Design Help (rush)

    Quote Originally Posted by Gaurd Juris View Post
    I want the new area to be immense, but I don't have time to do it justice. Here are my ideas thus far:

    1) At the start there will be 2 branches.

    2) One leads deep underground toward the realm of the "deep ones" (this is a blanket term for monsters such as demons and abborations). This path would contain many natural hazzards and monsters.

    3) The second path leads upwards to the ruins of a once glorious kingdom formerly peopled by a forgotten race (possibly tiflings?). This will have man-made hazzards, puzzles, tombs and such.
    Personally, I think it might be a better idea to move the branch-selection to the end of a session. This reduces your preparation overhead. :-)

    You can even present the branches early on, but give them a common "early trunk".

    Here are my current ideas for encounters:

    The Forest of Pillars: An enormous 'forest' of naturally occuring stone pillars illuminated by magma flows stands between the PCs and wealth. This is a skill challenge. A failure indicates they are lost and have to fight monsters (what kind?) A success means... what?
    It doesn't have to be 'and wealth', it could be simply a barrier to going somewhere. The neat thing about this kind of terrain is that it could become something more in the future, as the bounds of the region can be much larger.

    The players need a reason to cross it, and some ability to determine which way they want to go (so they have a goal).

    You can use something like this as a "route" skill challenge. You accumulate successes to navigate along the route you want to go. Too many failures and you get extra "annoying" encounters. Or, alternatively, successes lets you pick one of two encounters to engage in -- while failure throws you into an encounter without preparation.

    The Ancient Graveyard: The PCs wonder into a thicket of tombstones. This was once a tranquil place, but now it is inhabbited by nests of giant bugs and reptiles and possibly undead. What treasures await here? What monsters inhabit it?
    Do you want cliche or not? :-) No undead would avoid the graveyard cliche.

    ... bats make good encounters for your first 3 situations.

    KRUTHIK could make an interesting insect-like (actually reptile) enemy. Or they could be re-skinned.

    The various humanoid races make good bad guys.

    The Rope Bridge: A rope bridge so long you can't see the other end (it is v. dark underground). A skill challenge that may encorporate airborn monsters.
    What about a vine bridge, or a root bridge, instead? Less "who made it". :)

    The Acid Swamp: A swamp of acid that is unpassable to those who don't know the path. Perhaps the PCs can intuit the way, or perhaps there is a guide. Monsters may dwell in the swamp. What lays beyond it?
    Are you talking about encounters, or adventures? :-)

    The Grim Ferryman: An undead ferrymen, perhaps a spectre or shade, stands waiting eternally at the edge of an abyss. PCs must figure out what sort of payment he requires for his services. Failure means the PCs are attacked by undead from within the Abyss. Where does the ferryman take them? Is this a skill challenge or puzzle? May be combined with Acid Swamp.
    You could stat things up with multiple different routes to a solution. Players may latch onto the first one they think of, or you hint about. . .

    Monster Encounters: No matter which way the PCs go, they will encoutner monsters. What sort of creatures would be in each pathway? How can I make the encounters interesting and varied?
    The DMG has a walkthrough on a bunch of encounter templates. An encounter with a bunch of low-level skirmishers will feel very different than a minion and soldier force protecting rear-artillery.

    Cave In: A cave in cuts the PCs off. They must find an alternate way back or risk being trapped in the dungeon forever. A time limit is in place (if the PCs don't return in 6 days, the villagers will assume they are dead and seal off the entrance to the dungeon).
    So, cosmologically, what makes a "villiage" different from a "dungeon" if everything is underground? Or do you not care? :-)

    ...

    Beetles, Bats, Kruthik, Undead (Skeletons and Zombies), goblins, kobolds, Scorpions, Halflings (possibly re-skinned), Drakes, Elves (possibly reskinned), wolves (maybe reskinned), Humans (possibly re-skinned), Jellies, Rats, Hobgoblins, etc.

    Toss in some higher level monsters for spice. You can make a group of 5 level 2 characters fight a level 5 or 6 encounter, and expect them to be at risk of dieing, but probably succeed. (watch out for level 5 or 6ish Brutes and Soldiers, however, as they can be nasty).

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Troll in the Playground
     
    SamuraiGuy

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    Default Re: [4e] Adventure Design Help (rush)

    Quote Originally Posted by Yakk View Post
    Personally, I think it might be a better idea to move the branch-selection to the end of a session. This reduces your preparation overhead. :-)

    You can even present the branches early on, but give them a common "early trunk".



    It doesn't have to be 'and wealth', it could be simply a barrier to going somewhere. The neat thing about this kind of terrain is that it could become something more in the future, as the bounds of the region can be much larger.

    The players need a reason to cross it, and some ability to determine which way they want to go (so they have a goal).

    You can use something like this as a "route" skill challenge. You accumulate successes to navigate along the route you want to go. Too many failures and you get extra "annoying" encounters. Or, alternatively, successes lets you pick one of two encounters to engage in -- while failure throws you into an encounter without preparation.
    This was my general plan for the area. The idea of choosing encounters is a good one. Maybe this will be the very first thing the PCs encounter.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yakk View Post
    Do you want cliche or not? :-) No undead would avoid the graveyard cliche.

    ... bats make good encounters for your first 3 situations.

    KRUTHIK could make an interesting insect-like (actually reptile) enemy. Or they could be re-skinned.

    The various humanoid races make good bad guys.
    Yes, KRUTIK, my thoughts exactly. I couldn't remember the names of them, and will probably use them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yakk View Post

    Are you talking about encounters, or adventures? :-)
    One can lead to the other! You think this hook deserves a session devoted to it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Yakk View Post
    You could stat things up with multiple different routes to a solution. Players may latch onto the first one they think of, or you hint about. . .
    Good point. That will cut down on frustration and make them feel more clever.


    Quote Originally Posted by Yakk View Post

    So, cosmologically, what makes a "villiage" different from a "dungeon" if everything is underground? Or do you not care? :-)
    The difference is that it's a section of dungeon where people have decided to make their homes. It's safer and you are able to survive there. Topographically it isn't much of a difference, it's just a less hazzardous space.


    Still need ideas on what the PCs may discover regardless of where they search. Some more specific mechanical ideas would be appreciated as well!
    Click the spoiler to see all the great games I design:
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    Who Beats Who? the hilariously geeky game of hypothetical battles.

    Who has two thumbs (up) and a board game coming out from Rio Grande? This guy. Gladiators (Rio Grande)

    PIZZA IN SPAAAAACE! Cambridge Games Facotry and Spoiled Flush Games Cosmic Pizza coming soon.

    Matrix Solitaire, likely the best Solitaire game you will ever play.
    Spoiled Flush Games

    Twitter... where I talk about game design and beer.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Troll in the Playground
     
    SamuraiGuy

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    Default Re: [4e] Adventure Design Help (rush)

    Shameless bump. The more specific the better.
    Click the spoiler to see all the great games I design:
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    Who Beats Who? the hilariously geeky game of hypothetical battles.

    Who has two thumbs (up) and a board game coming out from Rio Grande? This guy. Gladiators (Rio Grande)

    PIZZA IN SPAAAAACE! Cambridge Games Facotry and Spoiled Flush Games Cosmic Pizza coming soon.

    Matrix Solitaire, likely the best Solitaire game you will ever play.
    Spoiled Flush Games

    Twitter... where I talk about game design and beer.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Trog's Avatar

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    Default Re: [4e] Adventure Design Help (rush)

    An idea on the "branches":

    Have the two adventure paths intersect at a couple of points along the way. This way you dont limit the direction the players take to either one or the other. Instead you can have, say, 4 different areas to explore. Encounters or small series of encounters at each. At the beginning they have two choices: 1 or 2. After both of these they then have 3 choices: 3 or 4, or head back to one of the first areas that they didn't choose. Likewise after areas 3 & 4 maybe.

    so the path looks a little more like:

    start< 1 >< 3
    start< 1 >< 3 > final encounter
    start< 2 >< 4

    this way you don't make a completely unused section and you give the PCs more choices. For example: Choice 1 is possible to defeat but really hard. Easier with an item they might be able to find in Choice 3. Choice 2 gives a clue as to how to get to choice 3 and also gives away the location of choice 4. Choice four has the key to a puzzle in area 3. Putting together all the pieces from all four areas leads to the final encounter. Something like that, if you follow me.


  6. - Top - End - #6
    Troll in the Playground
     
    Yakk's Avatar

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    Default Re: [4e] Adventure Design Help (rush)

    You are in a rush. So stop being fancy.

    Grab your MM. Pull out your DMG. Look for level 1 through 4 encounters in the MM (many of the above races have them). Look through the encounter-builder, and grab some patterns that look pretty (wolf pack, leader/defenders, etc).

    Pick one of your ideas to start with -- say forest of pillars.

    Do you have your character's back stories ready? Find some motivation to go to the other side of the forest of pillars, ideally one that is specific and could lead on to more things. Include a reason why they think they might succeed.

    Now, lay out some encounters in the Forest of Pillars -- a line would do!

    It is a skill challenge, but an extended one. They have to make endurance skill checks (or lose a healing surge). Then they make a skill check to advance through the pillars.

    So:
    First everyone does an Endurance check. Failure = lose a healing surge.

    Then everyone does a skill check.
    More failures then successes: Sucks to be you. Group encounters the encounter at the front of the line, but it is boosted (it ambushes you, it is stronger, etc).

    Twice as many successes as failures: Players are given an option between the front two encounters. The other one is discarded!

    Failures <= Successes < 2*Failures: Fight the encounter at the front of the list.

    Along the line, have some "settlements". These can generate side-quests that could let you bypass parts of the line. You reach a settlement when it comes up in the encounter order. Possibly the party will have to negotiate for shelter. . . (Some "rest stops" might not look very rest-stop-y even!)

    Stick one every 4 or so encounters along the path. :)

    The heat of the forest makes resting away from settlements difficult. Dunno how exactly -- you can fudge it? :)

    That provides a reasonably quick "dungeon crawl" between two locations, in which the mechanics of the skill challenge have immediate, concrete effects on the player's encounters. :-)

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