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 Post subject: Problems with DCC47 Tears of the Genie :SPOILERS
PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2008 6:39 pm 
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Far-Sighted Wanderer
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Joined: Tue Dec 19, 2006 4:32 pm
Posts: 27
Location: Portland, OR, USA
Hello all,

I've been running my group through DCC47 Tears of the Genie for several sessions now, and I thought I would share my niggling concerns with an otherwise very well-written and challenging module. I should mention that when I am running prepared materials, I like everything spelled out so that I have to do as little planning on my own, otherwise I would be running my own scenarios. I present the following concerns, because they will have to be figured out by GMs who wish to run this module.

1) The module makes use of bonfire teleporters that transfer parties from one level of the dungeon to the next. "The bonfire teleporter is inactive until someone holding the key . . . steps into the flames. The bonfire teleporter then becomes active for 24 hours" according to the text. There is only information on traveling in one direction using the teleporters. What if the players want to leave the dungeon? I assume the "24 hours" part means that if the party rests in the dungeon for more than 24 hours that they will no longer be able to use the bonfire teleporters to leave the dungeon. Will the keys to the teleporters work to re-activate them if the party is moving in the reverse direction after 24 hours, or are they trapped? You as DM, will need to decide how this works.

2) In area 2-7 there are holes in the floor and the text says, "the holes are over 5 feet deep and connect together to form a maze of 3-foot diameter tunnels below the surface. These tunnels eventually lead to to area 2-8." The map shows the holes, but no information about the tunnels is given. I would recommend a GM take the time to map these tunnels out (even if only roughly in her head) before running this encounter. I had a dwarven PC jump in and start investigating the tunnels. It's nice to say tunnels "eventually lead" somewhere but you need more than that if a PC is exploring them, while a monster is in them looking for prey. When I ran this scenario half the combat occurred above ground while half occurred in the tunnels. Try using 3.5 edition 10' square large creature templates with 3' tunnels. Can't be done. Get creative.

3) I found area 3-5 to be highly problematic. The text doesn't give any idea of when the zombie minotaur and animated furniture attempt to attack the party. Is it the second the door to the tomb is open, or after the players attempt to make off with some gold? This is crucial, because the minotaur is a large creature, and all the hallways on this level are only five feet wide. If the creatures spring to life as soon as the door opens, the combat is going to occur in the hallways, and the minotaur is going to be squeezing and getting -4 to his attack and AC the whole combat. What about a challenge? The text says the monsters "do not chase creatures beyond this level." What's the point of chasing them on this level if the are all bottle-necked, with the primary threat greatly weakened due to having to squeeze to chase opponents.

The room is 25 feet by 25 feet, and not including the party there are already one large creature, 4 tiny creatures, 4 small creatures and 2 medium creatures in the room. If the thought is that there is going to be a big fight in the room, with an additional four to six player characters, I suggest making the room bigger.

All the animated furniture in the room has a greater base speed than the minotaur, so when my players encountered this room, the furniture outpaced the minotaur in the chase down the hall and the minotaur was impeded in his attempts to attack the party by having a bunch of furniture in front of him. All the combat occurred in the hallway. The text specifically states, "the zombie minotaur and the animated objects don't cooperate in battle." So the minotaur was having to bull rush furniture just to get at the players. So you could end up in a situation where you have vanquished the minotaur (the primary threat), and the party is left dealing with annoying furniture (that doesn't do a lot of damage but take forever to kill due to high hardnesses) left in his wake. I increased the width of the hallway to ten feet, and the combat still felt cramped and less challenging than I wanted. I would change it to a fifteen foot hallway if I were to run this combat again.

4) Area 4.1 has some issues. The hydra statue in this room has six levers. Nothing happens when one is pulled down. Things only happen if particular combinations of two levers are pulled down. Pulled down at the same time? Or it doesn't matter? If a PC pulls down one lever does it stay down? So then the PC pulls down another. Now two are down. If they aren't a combination of two that does anything, what if the PC trys to pull down a third? Does it go down too? Or can only two be pulled down at a time, and the third won't budge until another one is pushed back up? Maybe the levers spring back after being pulled down, and two have to be pulled at the same time? If the two deadly levers that fill the room with lava are pulled down, do they stay down, or do they snap back up after releasing the trap? The text says "Levers 1 and 6 are trapped, and when pulled, cause the other levers to lock into place." No mention of what happens to levers 1 and 6. The trap gives increasing damage for the rising lava each round, up to "20d6 on the fifth round before draining away. Does that mean that after increasing damage each round, the sixth round the lava is drained away and there is no damage taken? At five rounds the lava is five feet deep, and the next six seconds the lava disappears and no one takes damage? In another spot the text says "the chamber fills up to 5 feet before stopping and draining away at the start of the following round." So sixth round is the same damage as 4th round, and 7th round is the damage from 3rd round, etc.? As a DM, you'll want to have this figured out should your players be unlucky enough to spring this trap. At what point do the levers become active again? At what point can the players retry to find the correct levers to open the dungeon passageways?

Where does the lava drain to? Holes in the corners? Area 4-2 the chapel makes mention of an unhallow spell protecting the worshippers with a resist energy spell, "a precaution against the lava fountain in area 4-1 should magma flood into the area." Since the levers are frozen once the lava trap is activated, I'm assuming this would only happen if the players destroyed a wall leading to the chapel. What if they break a wall leading to area 4-3? Lava kills the drakons, all their captured animals, and drains into the pool, I'm assuming.

5) Vshassra, in area 4-2 has "Charming gaze . . .as charm person." So I'm assuming that unlike a regular gaze attack, where "each opponent within range of a gaze attack must attempt a saving throw each round" that charming gaze only targets "one humanoid" as stated in the Charm Person spell. Can she charm a new player each round? Whether her ability works one way or the other, will greatly affect how this encounter goes down. If the gaze works on everyone in the party at once, every round, they're in deep doo-doo unless several of them can consistently make a 19 will save. As a DM, figure out for yourself how her ability works before running this encounter.

4-2's text description describes "pillars of dark purple rock" but none are shown on the map. As a GM, be sure to figure out in advance how many pillars there are, how big they are, and where they are, when mapping the room for the players, or you'll be scrabbling at the last second when a player asks, "Where are the pillars you mentioned? I don't see them on the map you copied from the module."

6) 4-5 is the "Watery Corridor of Death" but nowhere on the map is the area of the "large pool" delineated. Where does it start? Where does it end? The text for the doors at the end of the corridor states "the passage continues for over sixty feet before coming to a dull set of purple stone doors." Is the entire passage underwater? I don't get that impression. At the end of the corridor is a pit trap in front of a door with a puzzle on it. Are the players lapping water figuring out the puzzle? The pit opens and all the water goes down the pit, drowning the Salamander at the bottom who is there to threaten the players? I don't think so. Clearly the pool ends before the doors, but you as a DM, need to figure out where that is.

The map shows the location of the two porticullis traps. Do these also map the beginning and end of the pool? Do the porticullis traps drop into the water, or do they drop on dry ground just on either side of the water? Better figure this out in advance of questioning characters. It seems that characters could climb the porticullis traps above the level of the water to avoid getting shocked. Which brings up my next question. According to the text there are 3 lightning snake traps. So when the text says 5d6 damage, I assume this is multiplied by three? 5d6 for each of the three traps? This seems like a tremendous amount of damage. I keep reading the text and wondering if the three traps together don't do 5d6 total. You'll need to make a decision on this part.

7) Area 4-6 is the weakest part of the module in my opinion. Isn't it D&D puzzle design 101 that puzzles shouldn't have solutions that are English words? The text says the words are in "ignan," but the riddle is printed in English, and the players have to figure out what word in English to leave up on the doors to open them. Lame. There are 100 some letters up on the impregnable door, and the solution is to remove all but a few that spell a particular English word? Lame. What does this have to do with the theme of the module? Clearly the door is placed to provide an obstacle that only a thinking party can get past, but I highly recommend coming up with a better puzzle than what is provided if you choose to run this module. Since figuring it out only gets you dropped in a pit to be attacked anyway, I'm not sure what the point is. Once the puzzle is solved, "3 rounds later the locks melt." Well, the same lava melting the locks is melting "a series of iron bolts in the floor in front of the doors, causing the floor to open up." Does this process take 3 rounds as well? Or is it instantaneous? If it takes 3 rounds, I can't see a party member waiting for this to happen. I imagine they would back up from a heating-up door to see what will happen next. If no one is standing in front of the door when the pit opens up, that kind of defeats the purpose of the pit. I vote for having the pit open up right away, so at least one party member suffers in the pit. That's the point of it, right?

8) I haven't run area 4-7 yet, but I have some concerns. The text describes "twin canals of lava bisecting the chamber." These are not indicated on the map. As a DM you will need to figure out where these canals are. Crucial to how this encounter goes down. If I understand the quickened spell-like ability of these Efreeti, then they can both let off 4d6 scorching rays as a free action every round of the combat. Wow. Really? Every round? Am I not understanding how this is supposed to work? They have "Quicken Spell-Like Ability (scorching ray)" and they can cast scorching rays "at will." I'm not even sure how my players 8th level characters could handle this room at full strength, much less heavily weakened by all the preceding rooms.

I'm off to GM a session in this module. If I have any more insights I will post here.

IK


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 Post subject: Re: Problems with DCC47 Tears of the Genie :SPOILERS
PostPosted: Sat Oct 18, 2008 8:29 pm 
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Ill-Fated Peasant

Joined: Sat Oct 18, 2008 6:12 pm
Posts: 3
Hi IK,

I hope you’re enjoying the module despite the problems. I’ll start addressing them now:

1. The bonfire teleporters are two-way. Read the descriptions of the first areas on levels 2, 3 and 4. For example, in Area 2-1 it says “PCs can use the bonfire teleporter here to transport themselves back to the first level of the dungeon.” It says roughly the same thing in Area 3-1 and while not spelt out the same goes for Area 4-1 (read the last paragraph for example). In retrospect this should have been clearly spelt out in the previous sections (but it's still there). :D

2. That was an oversight on my part since in the playtest my players didn’t go down into the holes until after Sxilortha was dead.

3. This is meant to be a weird encounter fight, not a challenging one. In retrospect I would have made the encounter even easier by reducing the hardness of the animated objects. The minotaur (and objects) attack as soon as the PCs enter the room.

4. The pillars remain in the down position until pushed back up. This should have been made clear (sorry). The walls were drawn on my map quite clearly but left out by the professional cartographer. The walls (and floor) remain red-hot for 6 hours after the lava drains away (read the third paragraph down starting “One round after the wall drops…”). The lava drains away in the 5th round and deals no more damage. That might sound a bit crazy, but it’s a fantasy game after all and I doubt PCs will be that unhappy. There are holes in the floor but these are hidden until the 5th round.

5. Vshassra’s abilities were taken from another Goodman source (I didn’t make up the creature). The gaze is a supernatural ability, so works like any normal gaze attack. The purple pillars were clearly marked on my map but left out by the professional cartographer. Don’t ask me why, because I don’t know.

6. The ends of the pool were clearly marked on my map but left out by the cartographer. The trap deals 5d6 damage total. Disabling one copper snake disables them all (in retrospect the trap should have said this).

7. Mmmm… I’m going to have to disagree with you here. Some GMs I know would not have had a problem with the puzzle like this. Nowhere does it say puzzles shouldn’t have English solutions, especially if the people playing the module are English speakers. It may not sit well with some people, but D&D is a fantasy game not a realistic linguistics exercise. Neither my playtesters nor the developer had any problems with this puzzle, which just goes to show you that you can’t please everyone. However, I understand your criticisms and knew that it was one part of the module people might have issues with. As for the trap, it activates straight away, dropping PCs into the salamander-pit (this is the thematic link to the puzzle you were asking about).

8. The canals of lava were clearly marked on my map but weren’t included. In retrospect, I should have shaded the canals in (which is what I do for all my maps nowadays). The efreet are tough creatures, but that’s the point. It’s the final fight at the end of the adventure, so it should be the toughest. Save for their armor and weapons these monsters are unchanged from the efreet in the 3.5 Monster Manual.

Thanks for listening.


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 Post subject: Re: Problems with DCC47 Tears of the Genie :SPOILERS
PostPosted: Sun Oct 19, 2008 1:50 pm 
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Far-Sighted Wanderer
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Joined: Tue Dec 19, 2006 4:32 pm
Posts: 27
Location: Portland, OR, USA
Phil,

Thanks so much for your responses. I'm greatly enjoying running the module, and except for the issues enumerated that I found problematic, I think it is very creative and well-done. I realize that the teleporters are two-way, but the emphasis on them only being active for twenty-four hours made me wonder if they could be activated in reverse, not just used in reverse. That's too bad about the map confusions.

The only thing that has really not worked for the players at this point was the key to the bonfire teleporter in area 3-7. They were all used to the defeat-boss-monster-wait-for-teleporter-key-to-appear pattern, and then were utterly confused when such a key did not appear when the defeated the elemental. Obviously that is the point, but after much game time was given over to the issue, and even with the help of a very well-conceived six-question Commune spell, they still didn't have a clue as to how to operate the bonfire they now knew was the teleporter. I had to nudge and nudge and nudge them before they searched the white bonfire and found the key. They thought it was impossible that any party could figure that out on their own. That was their take on it, but I'm curious what experiences other groups of PCs have had.

IK


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 Post subject: Re: Problems with DCC47 Tears of the Genie :SPOILERS
PostPosted: Sun Oct 19, 2008 4:40 pm 
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Ill-Fated Peasant

Joined: Sat Oct 18, 2008 6:12 pm
Posts: 3
Ah yes, the bonfire teleporter in the hand room. I'm interested to know why your players didn't start poking around with the bonfires?

Ambiguity and vagueness is not good in a module, and it's something I've improved on since. Also, since I wanted that old dungeon style feel like one might have playing through Tomb of Horrors, I put in several traps and puzzles that I normally wouldn't even consider for my homebrew campaign (which is an Ice Age campaign with not a desert in sight). If I were to write the module again, I would change several key things. I'll certainly think about your issues and take your criticism on board when writing my next module.


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