Monday, September 8, 2008

C9 & C10 (Thistletop Exterior)

The rigged rope bridge and fight with the goblins outside the hideout now form a single encounter. This has been done for two reasons: first, the rope bridge trap by itself is not very tactically interesting at all. Once spotted by the PCs (likely with their Passive Perception scores), it's not challenging to simply send two PCs across at a time. The other reason is that putting goblins and goblin dogs at one end of the bridge forces an interesting tactical dilemma on the PCs. Do they fight on the bridge and get bogged down, with only a couple party members fighting the goblins at a time? Or do they figure out a way to get past the goblins somehow?

Fighting the goblins with ranged weapons is a losing prospect. Not only can the goblins fire back (with surprising accuracy), but most ranged powers do not have enough range to reach across the length of the bridge. If the goblins find themselves overpowered at range, they simply retreat within the walls of Thistletop and inform Ripnugget, if he hasn't already heard of the attack. The onus is on the PCs to make it inside Thistletop. The goblins have the home turf advantage. I suggest the following encounter for a party of five adventurers:

Total: 1,200 xp (Level 6 Encounter)

The goblin dogs and Warriors begin the fight outside the walls, playing Killgull. They stop once they see the PCs and attack them immediately (though the one holding the gull-on-a-string continues to absentmindedly hold the string until he realizes he needs his other hand for something). The two goblins in the eastern guardtower (C15) rush downstairs to warn Ripnugget and protect the throne room while the goblins in the western guardtower (C13) are awoken by the battle on round four. After tossing the pickles off the tower, they join the fight by peppering the PCs at range. If the PCs head inside without killing the pickle thieves, they are quick to assume that the PCs will come to murder them next. Panicking, they scramble onto the outside of the guardtower and try to climb their way down and to safety. They do not join the fight in the throne room.

Stat block:

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Thistletop Fortress

And so we near the finale of Burnt Offerings: the assault on Thistletop. I'm going to quickly go over the changes being made to this final dungeon before I dive into the encounter write-ups.

The first floor is being split into three encounters, plus a skill challenge. The pickle thieves in the guard tower are now combined with the goblins playing Killgull. The goblin dogs from the exercise yard are mustered by a pair of goblins from the barracks and the two commandos from the eastern guardtower, who mount a defense just outside the throne room. The remainder of the goblins in the fortress are part of the encounter with Ripnugget. Dealing with Shadowmist is now a skill challenge.

The second floor prominently features a fight with Bruthazmus and the goblin wives. Orik and Lyrie are holed up together in the research room as a single encounter. The cave area has been altered to replace the tentamort with up-to-date monsters, and the chapel contains Shadow Hounds, which are a decent replacement for the Yeth Hounds.

The final floor begins with a trap encounter (an expanded version of the scythe-pit trap). The fights with Nualia and Malfeshnekor remain largely intact, as does the fight with the undead in the crypt room. The hermit crab no longer resides in the ruined treasury, which is instead inhabited by a group of kruthiks.

By this point it is very likely that the party has reached level 3, or will very soon. They will hit level 4 before the end of the dungeon. Be sure to keep track of your treasure parcels appropriately.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

C6 & C7 (Gogmurt and Tangletooth)

Tangletooth growls menacingly at anyone unfamiliar approaching Gogmurt's lair. Have the goblin make a dramatic appearance by stepping through the bramble wall as it parts for him, igniting his dagger in supernatural flame in the process. The PCs should immediately get the feeling that this goblin is different from the others they've fought so far.

I suggest the following encounter for a party of five adventurers:

  • Tangletooth (use the Cave Bear stat block from the Monster Manual - note the errata increasing the bear's damage to 2d8 + 5)
  • Gogmurt, Goblin Druid
Total: 900 xp (Level 4 Encounter)

Treasure parcel 3 can be found at the back of the lair, amongst Gogmurt's alchemical supplies.

The cave bear makes a surprisingly good stand-in for a leopard in this fight (though you should still describe Tangletooth as a firepelt), and it is an elite monster to boot, making this an appropriately challenging fight. Gogmurt posed a few interesting design questions. No druid class currently exists in 4th Edition, but that's not really a problem. One of the best ways to approaching monster conversion in 4th Edition is to start by making a list of what might be called "signature" abilities. The list I made for Gogmurt included the following: a love of fire (he's a goblin, after all, and employs produce flame and flame blade in the original adventure), his ability to move through the bramble walls and, of course, his animal companion. I also wanted a chance to try out some of the new Kobold monsters presented in Dragon #364, and this looked like a great chance to try out the Kobold Wild Mage stat block (modified for a goblin).

I decided to start with the Scion of Flame template to bump Gogmurt to elite status. This makes all of his attacks fire-based (including all of his Wild Magic powers and his dagger). I removed the Body of Flame ability and Wild Teleport and replaced them with the ability to heal Tangletooth once and his free movement through the bramble walls. The random nature of the Wild Magic effects meshes well with the Pathfinder imagining of goblins, and Gogmurt should also feel plenty druid-like to the party.

Stat block:

C5 (Goblin Dog Kennel)

There's one more Goblin Dog here than in the original adventure. The goblin dogs begin the fight leashed to wooden stakes in the dirt, but the presence of potential threats and/or food is more than enough incentive for them to pull the stakes free (a move action for the Goblin Dogs) at their first opportunity.

Any fight here creates enough noise to alert Gogmurt to the party's presence. I suggest the following encounter for a party of five adventurers:

Total: 500 xp (Level 1 Encounter)

C4 (Refugee Nest)

The majority of the refugees who ended up here are poorly equipped and are unable to put up much of a fight. A handful have seen a fight or two, though, and take advantage of their numbers to overwhelm the PCs, flanking whenever possible. When the fight starts going badly for the goblins (and it undoubtedly will), have a couple of them panic. PCs who understand the Goblin tongue are able to make out phrases like "We're done for!", "Run for your lives!" and "Longshanks are here to kill us all!"

I suggest the following encounter for a party of five adventurers:

  • 8 Goblin Cutters
  • 3 Goblin Blackblades
Total: 500 xp (Level 1 Encounter)

Navigating the Nettlewood

Before the PCs even come across Thistletop, they run the risk of getting rather lost in the tangled maze of the Nettlewood. While Thistletop is easy to locate simply by heading to the coast and following the shoreline, it is difficult to access from below in such a manner. It is very likely that your party will head through the wilderness to the goblin fortress. To do so they will have to defeat a skill challenge, or accidentally stumble across a bloodthirsty hobgoblin patrol (these hobgoblins have no connection to Thistletop and are nothing more than bandits keeping an eye on the nearby highway).

Skill Challenge: Navigating the Nettlewood

Setup: The Nettlewood is a tangled, confusing mess of trees and brambles. To make matters worse, the sun overhead is obscured by a natural canopy, making travel direction difficult to gauge. Thistletop is here somewhere, but too many missteps and trouble could find the party first.

Note: This skill challenge is practically identical to the Lost in the Wilderness sample skill challenge presented in the Dungeon Master's Guide.

Complexity: 2 (6 successes before 3 failures)
Level: 2 (250 xp)
Primary Skills: Endurance, Nature, Perception

Endurance (DC 11): You forge ahead, shrugging off the snagging nettles and ever-growing weariness from your continued trek through the forest. At least two of the successes gained in this skill challenge must be from this skill in order to complete the challenge. A failed check indicates that all members of the party lose one healing surge, in addition to counting as a failure for the challenge.

Nature (DC 11): You're able to advise your companions on how to deal with the hazards of the Nettlewood, picking out the best-used trails to follow and avoiding dead-ends and briar patches. At least one of the successes gained in this skill challenge must be from this skill in order to complete the challenge. A failed check indicates that all members of the party lose one healing surge, in addition to counting as a failure for the challenge.

Perception (DC 6): You point out an obscured path for the party to take, or notice a hidden patch of nettles that you ought to avoid. Using this skill doesn’t count as a success or failure for the challenge, but instead provides a +2 bonus or –2 penalty to the next character’s Endurance or Nature check.

Success: You finally come across one of the entrances to the goblin warren leading to Thistletop. While the trek was challenging, you are more or less in one piece. Thistletop awaits.

Failure: After one wrong turn to many, you stumble out of the tangled undergrowth and into a clearing. A number of burly goblinoid creatures turn towards you and chuckle to themselves, drawing nasty-looking weapons in the anticipation of another set of victims.

If the PCs fail the skill challenge, they need to contend with a pack of hobgoblin bandits. I suggest the following encounter for a party of five adventurers:

  • 2 Hobgoblin Archers
  • 3 Hobgoblin Soldiers
  • 1 Hobgoblin Warcaster
Total: 900 xp (Level 4 Encounter)

Soon after they contend with the hobgoblins, they manage to find the entrance to the goblin warren and Thistletop. The party does not need to complete the skill challenge a second time.