A blog about my 2nd edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons campaign using Paizo's Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path.

Please note that there are spoilers throughout.

Monday, February 15, 2010

2E Rise of the Runelords - Session 10

Session 10: Burnt Offering Finale

This adventure was played on February 14, 2010 and featured:
- Toran Stargazer, a human thief,
- Vicoren Brightshield, a human priest of Desna,
- Arug, an Alaghi pitfighter,
- Gabriel Solomon, a Chelaxian swashbuckler,
- Sephara 'Na, a half-elven magic-user, and
- Cabell, a dwarven wayfinder (fighter/thief)

Summary: The party returns to Thistletop and ends Nualia's threat to Sandpoint.

1. In Sandpoint: The group starts off in Sandpoint digging around for information about Titus Scarnetti. They don’t learn anything new but continue to hear rumours about his involvement in the fires that destroyed a number of nearby grain mills.

Toram buys an engagement ring and approaches Shayliss’ father, Ven Vinder, to ask his permission to marry his daughter. Ven threatens the young thief and chases him out of his store.

2. Vile Chapel: The party returned to Thistletop and continued to explore the dungeon below the goblin fort. The new dwarven wayfinder quickly proves his worth as he discovers a secret door that leads to a deeper dungeon level. The party decided to ignore the secret stairway for the meantime and enter a vile chapel to Lamashtu the demon goddess. They encounter a pair of ferocious, flying, black hounds. After a couple of failed saving throws, Gabriel and Cabell flee in terror from the fearful howling of the hounds. Arug’s mighty fists appear ineffective against the flying beasts but Toram quickly shoots a couple of magic arrows that put the hounds to sleep.

3. Deeper Darkness: Proceeding down the secret stairway, the party comes to an ancient cave complex. The dwarf again proves his worth as he discovers a deadly trap and deactivates it without harm to the party. Entering a nearby door, the party is confronted by the beautiful and deadly Nualia and a pair of her flying hound pets. A fearsome battle ensues. Many saving throws are failed against the hounds fearful howling leaving only Sephara the magic-user and Toram the thief facing the servant of Lamashtu and the hounds. Sephara brandishes the wand of fire and casts a fireball and her opponents. Realizing that the fireball only caused minor damage, Toram quickly retreats and slams the door shut. The party regroups in a room explored earlier and quickly prepares to defend themselves. Nualia and the hounds quickly appear in pursuit of the party and battle is rejoined. After a hard fought battle the party eventually prevails.

4. The Beast from Beyond: The party continues to explore the ancient complex and discover Malfeshnekor, a fearsome barghest. Fortunately the beast from the lower planes is bound to the room so the party quick retreats after the barghest shows how fearsome it is by nearly killing Arug the fighter in one round. A suggestion spell enables the party to negotiate with the barghest and offer Nualia’s body in return for grabbing the unconscious Arug.

5. Finally Some Treasure: Proceeding down the final set of stairs the party finds the sunken remains of a former treasury and after chasing off a giant crab gathers some treasure.

6. Back to Sandpoint: Returning to Sandpoint, the party finds themselves as heroes once again. Father Zantus is saddened that the party was unable to capture Nualia and the party does not tell him about the final fate of her body. The father is pleased, however, that the party was able to recover the remains of Father Tobyn from the chapel of Lamashtu.

7. Up Next: There are a number of avenues for the party to pursue:
- They are invited to Scarnetti Manor for dinner;
- Brodert Quink believes he has discovered the location of another Thassilonian ruin;
- They are still looking for the locksmith’s missing key;
- There is still the mysterious priest of Nethys;
- The headmaster of the school & orphanage is missing a locked book; and
- the opera “The Heroes of Sandpoint” premiers in a few days.

Bodycount: 4 Yeth Hounds, 3 Shadows and Nualia.

Treasure: 3,500 sp, 630 gp, 40 gems (10 gp each), a gigantic gold-plated domed helmet (200 gp), an amulet of protection +1, Nualia’s sword, her armour and a seven pointed star medallion, 20 pp.


Yay! We finished the first published adventure.

I was much happier with the level of difficulty of the encounters this session. They were difficult when I wanted them difficult and easy when I wanted them easy.

I was worried about how the party would deal with the Yeth Hounds but they did okay. The failed saving throws against the hounds fear effects kept the players on their toes.

I added a second yeth hound to the encounter with Nualia and it definitely made the encounter more difficult.

Here is the stats I used for Nualia:
Nualia - Aasimar w/ spell abilities of 3rd level cleric and +1 toughness
(source Planescape App2 pg 7)
Alignment CE
AC 2
Mv 12
HD 3+6 (28 hp + 7 from medallion)
Thac0 15 Falchion & 16 Claw
#AT 1 Falchion & 1 claw
Dmg 1d6+3 & 1d6+1
SA Spells, Lamashtu's Mark
SD +1 bonus for surprise
1/2 damage from fire & cold
+2 save vs charm, fear, etc.
+1 saves from medallion
MR 10%
ML fearless (20)
Equipment: +1 Falchion, + 1 Banded Mail, Sihedron Medallion, Gold Unholy Symbol (100gp), 20 pp

Lvl 1: Curse (CT 1 round, Dur 6 rounds) PHB 198, -1 attack rolls and morale
Protection from Good (CT5, Dur 9 rounds) PHB 201, -2 attack rolls, +2 saves

Lvl 2: Silence 15' (CT5, Dur 6 rounds) PHB 206

Lamashtu's Mark: 1/day, when striking an opponent impart a deformity, save vs spells or loose 1-6 from a random attribute for 1 day.

Sihedron Medallion:
+1 bonus for saving throws
1/day - Aid spell (PHB 202) +1 hit & saves and 1d8 temp hit points

The players were voicing some concern about the level of treasure but they had missed a couple of secret doors. I gave them some metagame knowledge about this fact since I thought it unlikely that they would return to Thistletop.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Conversion Note Keeping

My home is a Mac home. During my years of investment banking, I would not want to even count how many hours I spent dealing with the instability of Excel and frozen computers while trying to run complex financial simulations.

I am a subscriber to a number of Paizo product lines. One of the nice things about being a subscriber is that in addition to having a hardcopy mailed to me, I also receive a pdf of the product.

I learned today that Preview, the default Mac pdf reader, lets me annotate and mark-up pdfs. I'm sure that many (if not most) other Mac users already knew this but it was a major discovery moment for me. I spent this afternoon transferring my conversion notes for the remainder of Burnt Offerings into the pdf file.

I also have the 2E Core Rules 2.0 Expansion CD and we are keeping a campaign wiki. Besides the dice (which I will never give up) I am slowly going over to managing the game entirely using digital documents. This is quite a step for me. :)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Encounter Design

The party recently encountered a large bugbear. In 3.5E terms it was a bugbear with 1 level of ranger - CR 3 and part of an EL 2 encounter. Now I have no real deep experience with 3.5E and a good feel for that editions CRs and ELs but I believe that an EL 2 encounter is one that is appropriate for a second level party that would use up something like 25% of their resources.

In converting the bugbear I used a leader bugbear from the Monstrous Manual and the method described in the DM Options: High Level Campaigns to add +1 toughness. So he looked like:

Bugbear Leader (AC 3, Mv 9, HD 4+4, hp 27, Thaco 15, #AT 3/2 footman's flail, Dmg 1d6+5, SA -3 surprise penalty for opponents, SD nil, MR nil, Morale 13)
I figured he would be fairly tough.

He was dead in 3 rounds. He did manage to knock Gabriel the swashbuckler unconscious in the process however. I can tell already though that if I want a dangerous and dramatic fight I either have to make single monsters tougher or increase the number of monsters in the converted encounters.

2E Rise of the Runelords - Session 9

This adventure was played on February 4, 2010 and featured:
- Toran Stargazer, human thief
- Vicoren Brightshield, human priest of Desna
- Arug, Alaghi pitfighter
- Gabriel Solomon, Chelaxian swashbuckler
- Sephara 'Na, half-elven magic-user

Summary: They quickly regroup in Sandpoint and return to Thistletop finding the dungeon beneath the fort.

1. The Cathedral: As the party returned to Sandpoint from the previous sessions adventure, they stopped at the Cathedral for some healing from Father Zantus and to check in with Vicoren on the progress of exhuming Nualia's grave. They learn that Nualia's grave was empty.

2. Mixed News: Sheriff Hemlock finds the party and informs them that Justice Ironbriar and the guardsmen from Magnimar have departed citing that there was "no apparent need" for them to remain in Sandpoint.

3. The Rusty Dragon: The party then returned to the Rust Dragon to rest before returning to Thistletop. At the Rusty Dragon they meet three dark cloaked travellers. The leader is Vale Temros and the three are part of a group called the Black Arrows. They hold Fort Rannick to the northeast of Sandpoint and guard the lowlands from incursions of Ogres and Giants from Hook Mountain and the Storval Plateau. They had pursued a group of half-ogres and stopped at the inn prior to returning to Fort Rannick.

4. Thistletop: Returning to Thistletop, the party continued to explore the goblin fort. They find various storage rooms, the chief's quarters and Shadowmist the warhorse (which they later return to the merchants in Sandpoint for the reward), and two stairways down to the dungeon below. However, they do not find any real treasure.

5. Dungeon: Descending the steps they find a conference room with evidence of planning the goblin raid on Sandpoint. In the next room they find a female magic-user who is studying some ancient scrolls, stone tablets, etc. They quickly jump her and take her prisoner.

Proceeding further into the dungeon, the party battles, a tentacled beast, a large bugbear who they find committing various carnal acts upon a group of female goblins, and Orik the mercenary who quickly surrenders and decides to thrown his lot in with the party. In a torture chamber the party finds Shalelu and a badly burned Asreal (a former PC). Rescuing the prisoners the party then returns to Sandpoint.

Body Count: A Tentamort, a large bugbear and four female goblins.

Treasure: The party recovered the bugbear's equipment, a wand and potion from the captured magic-user and the 300 gp reward for returning Shadowmist.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Levels and Looking Ahead

If you are one of my players, are a player in a Rise of the Runelords campaign, or want to play in a Rise of the Runelords campaign STOP reading now!
Following my previous post about XP and level advancement, the next step was to look at the future adventures and see how those target levels mesh with the combat encounters. All this conversion work becomes mute if the players lose interest after a third TPK.

So, looking at all six of the published adventures, layering in the two levels per published adventure baseline and taking a quick glance at the major/most interesting potential combat encounters (and what a possible conversion might look like) we get:

#1 Burnt Offerings
Level 1: Goblins, Tough Imp
Level 2: Goblins, NPCs, Tentamort, Yeth Hounds, maybe a barghest

#2 Skinsaw Murders
Level 3: Ghouls, Ghast
Level 4: Cultists, Flesh Golem or maybe a Scarecrow Golem, Lamia

#3 Hook Mountain Masacre
Level 5: Half-Ogres, Ogres, Lamia Noble
Level 6: Ogres, Trolls, Annis Hags, Ghost, Stone Giants

#4 Fortress of the Stone Giants
Level 7: Stone Giants, Mummies, Red Dragon
Level 8: Stone Giants, Lamias, a Skeleton Warrior

#5 Sins of the Saviors
Level 9: Glabrezu demon, white dragon, elementals
Level 10: Lich, succubus, iron golems, stone golem

#6 Spires of Xin-Shalast
Level 11: Cloud giants, storm giants
Level 12: rune giants, lamia nobles

Level 13: The big bad guy - an NPC magic-user

Everything looks pretty good up until level 6 or 7 when Stone Giants become the main enemy. From that point on the giants are just too tough for the targeted 2nd edition characters. A couple of possible solutions are:

1. Use 1st edition giants. With the bump in relative power that 2nd edition characters get vs 1st edition characters and the lower power level of 1st edition giants vs 2nd edition giants, the relative power levels might make the encounters survivable.


2. Replace the type of giants with weaker ones. Replace the stone giants that appear at level 6 or 7 with hill giants and later replace rune giants with stone giants.

Besides the problem with giants, the other encounters look survivable - some are tough though.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Converting 3.5E Adventures to 2E - XP

One thing about 2E versus older versions of AD&D was how experience points were rewarded. OD&D, B/X, BECMI, 1E AD&D, all had definitive systems for rewarding XP. I always found the 2E system to be much more ambiguous. Yes there were some rules and some optional rules given but there were no real examples given and lots of DM discretion.

I haven't played a lot (read hardly any) of 3rd edition. My understanding is that level progression is much faster than in earlier editions. The first published adventure in Rise of the Runelords, Burnt Offerings, is written for 3rd edition characters to advance from 1st to approximately 4th level. While I haven't been keeping an accurate tally of what XP would have been earned by the current PCs using any of the older systems, it definitely feels a lot faster.

I have been using an "XP Budget" to reward experience points. I know that I want a PC fighter to advance by 2 levels per published adventure (therefore, six adventures = 12 levels). Using fighters as the baseline means that some other classes will advance faster and others slower. Reading through each adventure, I pick 5 or 6 milestones. Each milestone then becomes worth one-fifth or sixth of the required XP to reach the target level for that adventure. If the PCs go off the rails and find new and creative ways to deal with things other than by following the milestones, I can just adapt the milestones.

For example, one of the milestones in the first adventure was rescuing Ameiko from her half-brother, Tsuto. This was one of six milestones I had in the first adventure. I also knew that I wanted a PC fighter to reach 3rd level by the end of the first adventure which requires 4,000 XP. Each milestone is then worth 4,000/6 = 667 XP.

I have also been awarding bonuses based on interesting circumstances. For example, when Toran the thief was caught in a compromising position by Vin Vender with the shop owner's daughter, Toran received bonus XP for extricating himself from the predicament.

I have been using a rule that if a character dies, the new character begins with an XP total equal to 50% of the previous characters XP. This makes the punishment for death equal to about one level at lower levels and maybe two levels at higher level. At lower levels, this penalty can easily be made up with sidequests. At higher levels, it is much less likely to have players die so I don't mind the slightly harsher penalty - at least not yet... we will see how it works if it actually happens.

Monday, February 1, 2010

2E Rise of the Runelords - Session 8

Note that there are spoilers for Paizo's Rise of the Runelords adventure path.

Session 8: The Goblin King

This adventure was played on January 27, 2010 and featured:
- Toran Stargazer, human thief
- Kurzek Irontusk, half-orc fighter/thief
- "The Wanderer", Shoanti druid
- Arug, Alaghi pitfigher
- Goalrath Shadowmoon, elven cleric of Sarenrae
- Gabriel Solomon, Chelaxian swashbuckler
- Sephara 'Na, half-elven magic-user

Summary: A quick recoup in Sandpoint and then back to Thistletop.

I. Heard Around Town: The party quickly tries to regroup for a rapid return to Thistletop before the goblins are ready to counter-attack. While they are in Sandpoint they hear the following:
a. Titus Scarnetti is blocking Ameiko taking her father's seat on the town council;
b. Titus is also blocking town funding for bricking up the passageway below the glassworks that leads to the ancient catacombs;
c. A patrol made up of some of the guardsmen from Magnimar have reported seeing signs of goblin activity;
d. Brodert Quink (the sage) is very excited at having discovered what he believes to be the location of ancient Thassilonian ruins;
e. Cyrdak Drokkus, proprietor of the Sandpoint Theatre has been working on an opera based on the Heroes of Sandpoint. It is to premier in a few days;
f. Aldern Foxglove has postponed his trip to Magnimar until after the premier of the opera and has offered to escort Sephara to the show;
g. The party met Farmer Grump who was well into his cups at the Rusty Dragon. Earlier in the day, he had brought a load of grain to town as mysterious fires had claimed the Soggy River Mill, the Biston Pond Mill, and the Cougar Creek Mill - leaving the Sandpoint Mill as the only one in the area; and
h. They asked for Nualia's grave to be exhumed.

II. Thistletop: After cautiously crossing the treacherous rope bridge, the party explored much of the ground level of the crude fort at Thistletop and fought many goblins. The final encounter came as the party entered the goblin throne room and fought the goblin leader, his giant lizard steed and the rest of his retinue made up of four bodyguards and a shaman.

Body Count: 10 goblins, 2 goblin dogs, 2 goblin commandos, 4 goblin bodyguards, 1 goblin undershaman, 1 giant lizard, 1 goblin chief. Alas, no PCs this time.

Treasure: The party recovered assorted coins from the bodies of various slain goblins, and a dented crown, a key ring and a potion from the goblin chief, and a wand and a whip from the goblin undershaman.

DM Notes:
We had six players for this session. For the first time in a while all of the original five players were able to attend and one of the players brought a friend that was interested in joining. Things were definitely slower with that many people.

I felt that the first party of the session was very rushed. Two of the players really wanted to do some poking around the town of Sandpoint for some roleplaying and information gathering, while the rest were quite intent on getting to the dungeon. I gave them one or two quick roleplaying opportunities and then abstracted out the rest of the information gathering. I will have to figure out a way to get everyone on the same page in the future.

The conversions for this session were very straight forward. Various goblins and a giant lizard - all from the Monstrous Manual.