Thursday, November 27, 2008

The End of Burnt Offerings

And with that, it's over. Thistletop is cleaned out, the goblins vanquished and Sandpoint saved for the time being. The PCs are 4th level, closing in on 5th level. You certainly have the opportunity for downtime available. This is a rare chance to show off a Sandpoint free from peril or obvious threat for a few days. I advise a window of inactivity anywhere from three to five days. This doesn't need to take up an entire game session, or even close to it. It's quite possible that your party will have little interest in the day-to-day affairs of the town and won't have any personal business they need to take care of over the course of the next few days. If "fast-forwarding" through the intermission will suit your group better, do it.

When you feel comfortable returning to the adventure path, and when you feel your party has become just complacent enough to merit a jolt back to the realities of the heroic lifestyle, spring Sheriff Hemlock on them to begin The Skinsaw Murders.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

E10 (Malfeshnekor's Prison)

Here it is: the final showdown between the valiant adventurers and the big, bad monster at the bottom of the dungeon. I won't lie - Malfeshnekor is one hell of an adversary. The rough structure of his stat block is based on the young red dragon. He can tear an unskilled or overconfident party apart. This is by design. Malfeshnekor was created as an above-and-beyond encounter in the original adventure. After the PCs have dealt with Nualia, Sandpoint can be considered safe from attack for the time being. Malfeshnekor is relatively powerless to affect the outside world. If your party has a tough time of it, gently remind them of the open door at their backs. They can deal with the barghest at their leisure.

Play Malfeshnekor mercilessly. If he can afford to focus entirely on a single character, have him spend an action point and use insane rage coupled with two separate rip and tear volleys to completely decimate that character. If this is the party defender he is taking down, all the better. I won't advocate this often, since I'm not a fan of effectively removing a player from the game for the remainder of the evening, but if you get the chance kill PCs. The adventure is effectively over and the party will have a great deal of downtime over the next in-game month to recuperate, so don't worry too much about forcing them to spend money bringing their companions back to life (they should have plenty of spare gold at this point). I suggest the following encounter for a party of five adventurers:

Total: 1,500 xp (Level 7 Encounter)

One of the hidden side rooms does contain a silver coffer worth 110 gold pieces (treasure parcel 10 from level 5). Within it is treasure parcel 1 from level 4.

Stat block:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

E7 (Collapsed Treasury)

Converting this encounter had me at a mental block for quite a while. I was loathe to convert yet another monster to the 4th Edition rules set, given the number I had already committed to. WotC has a much better grasp of what makes a good monster than I do, and so whenever possible I like to defer to official material rather than create my own. Furthermore, this is yet another single-monster fight in the original version. When possible I have tried to expand fights to involve more than one monster, as solo monster fights are not supposed to be nearly as common in 4th Edition as they were in D&D 3.5.

My goals for converting this encounter were as follows:

  • Involve multiple monsters
  • Preserve the hiding-in-the-helmet exposition
  • Justify the monster's presence in a semi-aquatic area
I originally settled upon the idea of using otyughs, but they were a really imperfect solution. A few days later a friend suggested kruthiks, which I had originally glossed over for some reason. They turned out to be a much better fit (credit to LogicNinja). The Kruthik Hive Lord is large sized, making it perfect to hide under the helm. I suggest the following encounter for a party of five adventurers:

  • 1 Kruthik Hive Lord
  • 1 Kruthik Adult
  • 1 Kruthik Young
  • 3 Kruthik Hatchlings
Total: 893 xp (Level 4 Encounter)

Treasure-wise, the enormous helm is worth 200 gold pieces. Another 690 gold pieces are scattered throughout the chamber in the form of silver, gold and small precious stones (which, altogether, comprise treasure parcels 5 and 7 from level 5). Some digging also reveals treasure parcel 3 from level 5.

If your group decides to try and remove the helm from the treasury, and if you feel like making them work for it, I suggest running a relatively simple (complexity 2) impromptu skill challenge.

E6 (Crypt)

This encounter runs mostly unchanged, except for the addition of a couple more shade creatures (Wraiths, in 4th Edition). Have them make liberal use of their ability to walk through the walls of the crypt in order to flank enemies. Keep the Mad Wraith out of melee combat if possible, but try to keep it close enough to the party that they are caught within its aura. If it is hurt by radiant damage, have it temporarily retreat until it recovers. I suggest the following encounter for a party of five adventurers:

  • 1 Mad Wraith
  • 4 Wraiths
Total: 1050 xp (Level 5 Encounter)

As far as treasure goes, should the PCs investigate the sarcophagi (which, though not explicitly stated in the adventure, are undoubtedly sealed shut given the circumstances of their occupants' deaths) they discover a pair of ornate burial masks worth 30 gold pieces each, and two large diamonds resting above the eyes of one of the interred (250 gold pieces each). These count as treasure parcels 7 and 8 from level 4.

E4 (Observation Deck)

Here she is, the villain of Burnt Offerings. You can make this as dramatic a meeting as you like, but sooner or later it's going to erupt into violence. Her Yeth Hound is now, of course, a Shadow Hound. The encounter itself is fairly straightforward. Nualia has no reliable means of escape, and her entourage of nasty minions has been decimated by the PCs.

The Shadow Hound is there merely to provide reliable flanking, since its teleport movement allows it to be wherever it is needed. Have Nualia make sound use of her Burning Eyes ability to move characters into melee who wouldn't normally want to be there, and then hit the defender (who probably has a poor Will defense) with Shared Nightmare. I suggest the following encounter for a party of five adventurers:

Total: 1250 xp (Level 6 Encounter)

Nualia's golden holy symbol is found here (worth 110 gold pieces), and it along with the ancient manuscripts also lying around the room (500 gold pieces) count as treasure parcels 5 and 9 from level 4. Treasure parcel 1 from level 5 is also here, the Sihedron Medallion worn by Nualia (treat it as an Amulet of False Life +2, but do keep track of who is wearing it).

Stat block:

Monday, November 10, 2008

E3 (Trapped Hall)

This is a better trap than the goblins' chest in that it can create some tactically interesting situations if a character triggers it, and can involve a number of party members in overcoming the challenge. In fact, in 4th Edition, what was originally a single trap can now become four separate traps, each posing its own hazard to the party. I suggest the following encounter for a party of five adventurers:

Total: 600 xp (Level 2 Encounter)

This hallway has been lengthened to six squares and the slashing cage trap now occupies three of them. The portcullises drop down on either side of the trapped area, and the pit is now 15 feet in length. All three squares are subject to the slashing glaive attacks. See the stat blocks below for full details on the augmented series of traps.

Stat blocks:

D15 (Research Room)

At this point, unless the party has made stellar efforts to remain unnoticed throughout their assault on Thistletop, both Orik and Lyrie have decided to fortify this room. Play this encounter with a careful eye for the characters involved. Lyrie is described as hot-tempered and pessimistic. Orik has a good deal of resolve and a sound sense of self-preservation, but also harbors unrequieted feelings for Lyrie. Both of them will opt to surrender if things turn out badly.

Keep Lyrie at range and have Orik occupy the party in melee. Have Orik lock down strikers when able. Make sure Lyrie saves her Cunning Manipulation for when it can best be used - a multi-target daily spell, for instance. I suggest the following encounter for a party of five adventurers:

Total: 950 xp (Level 5 Encounter)

Treasure parcels 7, 8 and 9 from level 3, as well as treasure parcel 3 from level 4 are found in this room, whether as part of Orik's or Lyrie's equipment, or research materials scattered throughout the room.

Stat blocks:

Sunday, November 9, 2008

D12 (Chapel to Lamashtu)

The chapel now contains three hounds, which use the Shadow Hound stat block. Though Shadow Hounds do not fly, the indoor environment doesn't really favor flying creatures much to begin with. The hounds attack as soon as the PCs enter the chapel by any route.

The most effective way for the hounds to fight is as a single-minded unit. Their ability to teleport gives them unrestricted movement. Each round, have them select a vulnerable PC as their target. They should all teleport adjacent to that same target and attack. This strategy can reliably bring a PC down to bloodied in a single round. The party's leaders will need to be on their toes, and the rest of the group will need to focus their attacks on a single hound at a time in order to defeat them before they cripple the party. I suggest the following encounter for a party of five adventurers:

  • 3 Shadow Hounds
Total: 750 xp (Level 3 Encounter)

D6 - D8 (Not-Tentamort Hunting Grounds)

The tentamort doesn't exist in 4th Edition (and in fact was a 3rd-party monster in D&D 3.5). I originally designed this encounter to feature a pair of Azure Jellies, but it was pointed out to me that Grells are the closest analogue to the tentamort (credit to Jamie Lovett). I still like the idea of including an Azure Jelly to spice things up, so I've kept one of them.

Have the jelly drop down from the ceiling into the central chamber right after the PCs enter the room. The grell should be floating somewhere nearby.

In running the monsters, try to keep them attached to or grabbing a PC for as long as possible. Keep in mind that they can still use their attacks while attached to or grabbing a character. This has the potential to be a difficult fight if handled well. I suggest the following encounter for a party of five adventurers:

Total: 1,200 xp (Level 6 Encounter)

One of the goblin corpses still remaining in the caves holds treasure parcel 2 from level 4.

D2 (Chieftan's Harem)

You have a real opportunity here to demonstrate to your players that goblins of either gender are roughly equally depraved and bloodthirsty. Bruthazmus is found in this chamber, along with a pack of goblin wives.

Despite Bruthazmus' experience as a hunter and trapper, he sticks to melee in this fight, knowing that the close quarters of the harem chamber do not favor ranged combat. To that end, Bruthazmus now possesses a frightening array of melee abilities. The goblin wives act as a single entity, wreaking havoc where able and setting characters up to be attacked by Bruthazmus. They have been turned into the goblin version of a kobold horde. I suggest the following encounter for a party of five adventurers:

Total: 1,250 xp (Level 6 Encounter)

Bruthazmus and the goblin wives have treasure parcels 2 and 5 from level 3 on them. If one of your players is in need of a magic longbow, this would be a prime opportunity to present them with one.

Stat block:

C24 (Treasury)

The treasury chest in this small room sports a nasty surprise of a trap. Unfortunately, this trap once again runs counter to the design philosophy of 4th Edition encounters; it challenges only a single party member and isn't tactically interesting. It would be a shame to leave it out, though, so I've bitten the bullet and converted it anyway. The stats for both the trap and the associated tetanus disease are below.

The chest itself contains treasure parcel 4 and any portion of treasure parcel 10 you decide to allocate here.

Stat blocks: