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!


  1. Traps are something that I under-utilize. I need to start thinking some cool ones up. I fell into a trap once and ended up in a cell for the ENTIRE session.


    BTW, you've been added.

  2. Damn, this is a good read.. keep em coming !!

  3. By the way, how did you get your players to explore the traps instead of just rolling for arcana/thievery checks? Or are they old-school players?

    I would want my players to handle it the way your players do but the newer mindset just wants to make a skill check for the trap.

  4. This is great stuuff. It sounds like you are having more luck running C1 than I ever did. It was one of my least favorite modules as a player and GM. But the way you describe sounds like a blast.

  5. @anonymous - when a trap is triggered or disarmed in a particular way that is specified in my notes, I require my players to tell me what they are doing when they roll a skill check. If they are looking in the wrong place, they won't succeed. Often, they have detected the presence of traps, then had to spend a while interacting with the environment before they figured out what triggered them. By requiring the players to provide specific descriptions of what they are trying to accomplish, the group has naturally slid into an old school play style.

  6. @tim - deciding to run the module backwards, from the top down, with no poison gas, has really helped.

  7. Wow, for some reason it never occurred to me to run 4e traps in a 1e way. That sounds really fun. Tamoachan is a great module, or at least I remember it as being great back in the day.

  8. I really hate the 10' pole approach to traps. If traps are that trivial that a pole sets them off, then they really aren't very threatening, are they?

  9. Do you have the 4e stats you could publish for the creatures, etc.?

  10. eheh now seems that Tamoachan will be released for 4e in neverwinter adventure

    I think that will be less complex than original one.
    Maybe did yu have convert some stats that you can share?


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