Monday, April 19, 2010

4e PHB3 review part two, and how I used 4e Monks in a 1e module

The second part of my PHB3 review was just published over at the Eye of the Vortex.  I go over each class in detail, including one of my new favorites, the monk.  I made a couple of level 8 monks to stick into the 1e module Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan that I am running my players through.  There is a room in that module with two seemingly dead but perfectly preserved bodies, and a flask on the table between them with some powder in it.  The two are monks, using a magical potion of sleep to enhance their ability to suspend their bodily processes and appear to be dead while still remaining aware of their surroundings. 

This turned into a great encounter, as one party member reconstituted the potion and drank a little bit of it in an attempt to identify it, promptly putting himself to sleep for 5,000 years, while the other two party members in the room planned on looting the bodies of the two monks.  Hammer, the warforged barbarian, decided to just behead the bodies where they lay to prevent them from animating, but the monk he attempted to behead easily won initiative and proceeded to kick the party's butt all over the place.  In the end, only the vials of liquid light (see my last post) that Hammer was carrying ended up saving them - he succeeded in splashing both monks with the substance, and even though the monks rapidly reduced himself and Vomar the bugbear cleric below zero HP and welcomed them to unconsciousness, the monks had to deal with the suffocating liquid light.  Beautiful Bob managed to wake up from his slumber several thousand years early with the help of his friend the Gibbering Mouther (who used its psychic bond with Bob to lead him out of the dream world) and negotatiated with the monks, trading them the knowledge of how to remove the liquid light for the safe passage of the party.

One thing I learned is that a couple of monks are a deadly foe for a lower level party (the party just hit level 5 at the end of the session), with the combination of high damage output and incredible maneuverability.  The flurry of blows class feature really makes the damage add up and sends people flying around the battlefield.  Good times!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Running a 1e Module with 4e rules part two

I am running a great group of players through the classic 1e module "The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan".  The group consists of an albino Minotaur Warden nature worshiper, a Warforged Barbarian who has drank from the amniotic fluid of an elder god and is rapidly becoming a strange creature of the darkness, a Bugbear Cleric who can NOT detect magic for the life of him ("Don't worry guys.  No magic in here" is his famous line after he rolls another 2 on his Arcana check), a Half-Elf  Ardent who has formed a special connection with a Gibbering Mouther which is now following him around, and an Eladrin Rogue who is equal parts acrobatic assassin and careful combat avoider.

I talked about the process of converting some of the rooms to 4e in my earlier post about running this module; what I want to discuss now is how the module has impacted the play style of the party.  To begin with, I should say that this party is a negotiate first, fight later party, but also a party that will not hesitate to muck around with interesting objects when they find them.  In a deadly 1e dungeon crawl, this tendancy can be quite dangerous. 

One example in particular is the "liquid light" that exists in a pool in the shrine.  It will cling like oil to any surface that touches it, and, in the presence of light, it will slowly expand to completely cover the object.  It will suffocate a character that allows it to cover her mouth and nose, and it can only be driven back by complete immersion in cold water.  Total darkness arrests its spread. 

Stuff like that is why it is easy to run a 1e module with 4e rules; almost every single trap in the module has its own mechanics fully explained in the text because the ruleset did not have a unified way to deal with traps like 4e does.  Because of this textual explanation of the traps, I can use them with no conversion at all!   Beautiful Bob, the half-elf ardent, stuck his hand in to the liquid light after the party had observed its properties on various other objects that they had inserted into the pool.  He allowed the liquid light to cover his body to "see what happened".  Of course, he soon realized that he was suffocating and only some lucky guesses by the party and some quick thinking saved his life.

After many such episodes, the party is beginning to be very cautious when poking around the underground shrine.  After three out of four of the party members were sent to an unknown destination by a hidden teleporter, they all viewed the long, empty hall ahead of them with suspicion.  They got out their polearms and slowly advanced into the room, tapping and poking the floor in front of them and examining the walls and ceilings for traps.

I was chuckling behind the screen (there was nothing of danger in the hall itself, and the party had managed to unknowingly avoid a trap by not examining two alcoves that I had mentioned to them when describing and mapping the chamber) because here was a group of 4e players that might as well have been playing OD&D for a moment.  How many 10' pole-using characters of bygone days were momentarily channeled by the group? 

Even better, Tilia, the albino minotaur warden, decided not to step through the doorway that the rest of the group had dissapeared while investigating.  She examined a doorway at the other end of the hall and detected a trap.  She triggered it from a distance, observing as crushing restraints burst from the wall that would have bound anyone trying to open the door.  Then, the floor slowly opened and the restraints pushed down until anyone pinioned by the restraints would have been hurtled into a spike lined pit.

Looking down at the bottom of the pit, Tilia hurled some debris down into it.  Some of the spikes broke, revealing themselves to be flimsy wood constructions and only painted to look like metal.  In fact, it appeared that the pit only appeared to be deadly.  As Tilia puzzled over this, the trap slowly reset, the floor sliding back and the restraints dissapearing into the wall once again.  Tilia reasoned that the fake trap must conceal a secret way out, probably at the bottom of the pit.  So she triggered the trap again and leaped into the pit, searching for a secret way out while the ceiling closed over her head, trapping her in the pit.

There is no secret way out of that trap.  A fake trap is genius!  It is so strange that it will make any player stop and puzzle over why it exists.  The non-deadly trap nearly killed Tilia, who did eventually manage to climb up the side of the pit and use her hammer and spikes to slowly chisel a way up through the stone flaggings.

Ah, you gotta love old-school trap filled dungeons... no matter what system you are playing with!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Cthulhu Egg Hunt: Lovecraft Contest - Win Free Boardgame Stuff!

A Lovecraft themed week and contest kicked off today at the Eye of the Vortex.  All you have to do to be eligible for the random prize drawing giveaway ($100 worth of gift cards to Boardgames 4 Us) is vote in the poll or post a response to the contest thread describing how Lovecraft has impacted you as a gamer.  First place is a $50 gift card.

I really hope a lot of people post how Lovecraft has inspired them, because I am sure there are some crazy stories of mind-bending horror just waiting to be told.

Cthulhu Commands You to follow the link to the contest!

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