Tomorrow night – hopefully – I will run my party through the closing stages of the Into The Wilds adventure. According to the spreadsheet I use for tracking XP, it will be the fifteenth session in this adventure, though we only get about two-and-a-half hours at a time to play, so that isn’t too bad.
The main problem with the party I’m running is its size. When everyone is at the table (and that’s only been on five out of the fourteen sessions to date), there are 9 PC’s. That’s a lot.
Given this adventures is designed for 4-6 PC’s, I had to do some re-alignment to ensure that the combats and other encounters were entertaining, meaningful and balanced. With such a large party, this is best achieved by adding opponents. Luckily, the Trailblazer rules from Bad Axe Games (a great supplement for a 3.5E era DM) include rules for creating encounters on an XP budget basis, which allows me to judge at which point the combat starts to go too far.
For specific creatures (e.g. Azubal in the Goblin spires, the Witch-Doctor in the Vale of Dolls, etc.) I have modified their characteristics – HeroForge is a DM’s best friend under such circumstances!
There’s been some great encounters and great role-playing across the last few weeks, so here are a few moments to share with everyone:
The Bat Riders
On more than one occasion, the party were harassed by goblins riding bats. The party includes a Halfling swashbuckler, who was small and light enough for the Half-Orc Barbarian not to notice when she ran up his back and used him as a launching pad to get up close and personal with the goblin whilst avoiding the nasty biting bats.
The Rainbow of Colours
We have a traditional Gnome Illusionist on board also. Week One, with bats and goblins dropping in from out of the sun, he sighed and cast Colour Spray at a couple of likely targets. The player, in casting this spell, shouted out “Taste The Rainbow!” at once prompting cries of “Skittles!” from around the table. He is now called Skittles almost universally, and his original name is forgotten and unremarked.
The Flying Druid
Whilst assaulting the Goblin encampment, the Bat Riders took to the air to defend their territory. During one fight, a Bat Rider swooped in to grab an invader and carry him off. However, he picked up the Druid, who (whilst in the bat’s cruel claws) used his Animal Empathy ability to bring the bat under his control. Result: it was the Goblins, not the Druid, who ended up plastered all over the scenery.
How to Win Friends and Influence Vampires
Although the party is numerous, they sometimes have difficulty in hitting the broad side of a barn with a banjo. So, for the climactic encounter with Azubal, I turned him down somewhat and made him a half-vampire (I forget which book that’s in, it’s a template) but upped his Fighter levels to retain him at CR5. Result: a foe who can be hit, but who still has DR and a fair few hit points to back it up. I was also using the Solo Monster and Elite Monster rules from Trailblazer, which meant that he had even more hp to absorb when the Barbarian and Fighter waded in with two-handed weaponry.
Or so I thought.
We have with us a Dread Necromancer, who can Rebuke Undead. And Azubal counted as undead. The Necromancer rolled high enough not merely to Rebuke, but to Control Undead, and sent Azubal for a walk in the sunshine. Whilst everyone else was enjoying watching him get a Tan with Extreme Prejudice, I was busy rolling Will Saves (and failing!) to get him to break the Control Effect. After his excursion Outside, he managed to get back in the shade, but with a bagful of hp missing and that made him easy pickings.
“Uh… We’re the Bad Guys… Honest!”
So, they get into the Dwarven complex and find a dormitory full of Lady Aborn’s troops. At this point, they didn’t know who they worked for, so they started to ask them questions about troop numbers, who was in command, and so on, all the while pretending to be reinforcements of the same force. It was going well, and they learned about Lady Aborn’s perfidy… until the Barbarian got bored and started the attack early!
Dinner Fights Back
The party get into the Valley of the Flesh-Eaters, on the trail of adventurers kidnapped for food. They get to the Fire Pit, where the dancers are hitting frenzy point around the fire. The Dread Necromancer then decides to cast Summon Undead and make a skeleton walk out of the fire pit towards the uncomprehending natives. Result: scared out of their wits and running, screaming, for cover.
Curse of the Witch-Doctor
The climactic battle against the Witch-Doctor (enhanced to a Level 6 Cleric to improve challenge) was very back and forth. He cast Summon Skeletons and managed to get a dozen best – at which point the Dread Necromancer cast Rebuke Undead and managed to Control about half of them. Result: skeletal civil war and a Witch-Doctor left without meatless shields. His Death Touch domain ability took out the Fighter, and Hold Person kept the Barbarian out of the way. He even cast Blindness on the Necromancer, in an effort to make him drop control of the skeletons.
It didn’t work.
There you have it. The party have managed to get all three keys and have opened the pedestal which leads to Area 4-1. And that is where the game ended up last time.
A big thanks to everyone involved in writing and producing this module. I’ve enjoyed running it and feedback from the players has been universally positive. Although there have been a lot of changes I’ve had to make to account for the sheer number of players who might be present, it hasn’t been very difficult to bend into shape.
As usual when I DM, I’m plotting and planning. The whole purpose of Into The Wilds (and the next adventure – see below!) is to get them ready to for Red Hand of Doom. As such, there have been hints and fore-shadowings all the way through. The Goblin priest in the first section, for example, had drawn red hands amongst the rest of the scribblings on his wall. Azubal had a letter inviting the Goblin Riders to join the Horde. When the Half-Orc burst into the cannibal Witch-Doctor’s room, the shocked villain screamed that “the Horde had come for him,” before realising that it wasn’t them.
Anyway, the party have spent very little time in Wildsgate, other than for shopping and sleeping, so I have no compunction about it being the first victim of the Red Hand when that module starts. Sorry chaps, but that’s the way it is. Wildsgate has become expendable.
Before all that, however, I have another treat for the players. I’ve been busy back-converting DCC54 Wyvern Mountain from 4E into 3.5E (and scaling the encounters for a party of nine 3rd – 5th Level PC’s). I’m quite pleased with the result, the conversion process was not as tricky as I’d feared and the encounters are interesting and varied. I’ve thrown in a couple of extras to make more of the Ice/ Cold theme (there’s an Ice Dragonne lurking as a Wandering Monster on the Iceheart Trail, for example) and there are also references to the Red Hand adventure to come. If anyone’s interested, I will post our experiences of Dragon Hill… erm, Wyvern Mountain over on the forum for that module, and put a link in here for convenience.
I am also willing to make my conversion notes for that module available if it doesn’t break any rules and there is anyone who wants to see them.