Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Blingdenstone Enhanced

The Blingdenstone adventure that is packaged with the DnD Next playtest is quite good, conceptually speaking. It's sandbox-y, providing 6 short adventures that can be accomplished in any order, with a combination  of combat, dungeon-crawl, exploration and role-playing.  There are also a number of places to add extra adventure hooks that can allow things to spin off into a larger campaign - which is what I may do if it holds our interest.

That being said, there are a number of weak points, too.  The maps in particular are lacking, notably the Town Center map in adventure 3.  The overall cavern map is pretty sparse, too - but it fits with the sandbox ethos in that it lets you develop quite a few of the details as you see fit.  The encounter and tunnel maps are a nice shout-out (well, copied from, to be honest) to the old blue maps - these ones come from Vault of the Drow, I think.

The adventure has quite a bit of material in it, and the organization isn't that great.  The occupied sections of the ruins aren't presented first, but are interspersed with other caverns, and random encounters for specific caverns are only detailed in their entries, which are all scattered in the first 5 or 6 pages of the module, so the first thing I did to make it easier to run was write myself out a couple of reference pages.  These will allow me to track events in Blingdenstone more easily and keep me from having to constantly flip through the adventure to reference things.  Having this kind of cheat sheet is essential to running a sandbox, I find - if only because it allows me to respond almost instantly to things the group wants to do.

Ultimately, I put together 3 reference sheets.

Blingdenstone Summary Sheet

Orc Summary

Gnome Summary

The orc summary is basically just compiled information from the adventure - crib notes, essentially, where I can track how many have been killed and look them up.

The Gnome and Blingdenstone Summary are a bit more interesting.  The whole idea behind this adventure is the reclamation and rebuilding of Blingdenstone, so what I wanted to do was set up a system where the gnomish position, and the gnomes themselves, get stronger as the different adventures are completed, or get weaker if the characters dawdle too much, fail to complete adventures or certain random events happen.

The main thing here is stats for individual gnomes, because curiously enough, other than the stats for the guide to the Wormwrithings in Adventure 2, there are no stats provided for the gnomes anywhere in the module.  In some cases, the gnomes can be expected to fight alongside the PC's (such as when orc raiders attack the barricades), so having stats for them is important.  I'm also tracking the number of healthy/injured gnomes in Blingdenstone, the same way I'm tracking the number of orcs.

As you can see from the sheet, successfully completing some adventures causes additional gnomes to arrive, or the gnomes to get better equipment or more HP and morale.  This is a bit more bookkeeping, but it makes the impact of the party more obvious and concrete.  I'll also stat out the major NPC's for use in the events, but for the moment, I'll treat them like normal gnomes.

I also added a couple of cool things to the summary - enlarged Blingdenstone and Underdark encounter tables and a random major event table which can alter things in the city in a major way.

Other things I'm doing that I'll detail more later:

Stat out the major NPC's.

Rework the Wormwrithings (Chapter 2) encounters to reduce repetition.

Add more adventure hooks to Mantol-Derith (Chapter 6)

Reduce XP values of monsters substantially (20% of current, approx)

Rework the pregens, add a couple of new ones.

Enemy activity page for the drow chick.

Update Town Center Map for digital tools.

Modify Journal notes to make them more interesting.

Add Cult of Urlden adventure hooks

Change encounters in Chapter 3 (more zombies, more skeletons, wight from drow to gnome king).

8 comments:

  1. Wow, very cool stuff you have here. This should come in very handy for running the adventure. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yeah, this stuff turned out pretty well. Reading it over it still needs some polish, and there are couple of things I think I'll change, but I'm overall happy with it. Stay tuned for reworks on a couple of the Chapters (2 and 3, specifically).

    ReplyDelete
  3. "In some cases, the gnomes can be expected to fight alongside the PC's (such as when orc raiders attack the barricades), so having stats for them is important."

    This. Thank you, that was bugging me so badly. I'm planning on starting the adventure tomorrow for the first time, and as I've been reading through this was the first thing that occurred to me. I contemplated stealing 3E's svirfneblin and converting, but now I don't have to. Muchos thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm glad it was helpful. Are you going to try the stuff from the extended sheets, like the random events and gnome morale? Let me know how it works - I don't have our next game until next week, so I have to wait a bit to really playtest it all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's been put back a day (mostly at my request so I can get my confidence on). It's a definite yes on the gnome morale -- I think that's perfect for sandbox stuff, and an elegant way to make the players really notice they're impacting their environment. The random events I'm not positive on; not because I think they're lacking, but because I might not get around to needing them to keep the players interested. I've got them printed out and ready in case I do, though.

      If they get to Chapter 3, I'm also planning on using the alternate map you provided -- the other one is just bad. Oh, and the orc chart is getting used, of course. I'm still not sure why something like that wasn't included in the provided material. You'd think after running the adventure even once basic things like an orc tracker and svirfneblin stats would be standard includes.

      Delete
  5. I'm glad you think it looks helpful. It really seemed like a no-brainer to include reference sheets and stats - it really doesn't seem like the adventure was actually playtested. But still, I really like the focus on sandboxes.

    I also don't think that the events would be necessary to keep everyone engaged, but I felt like creating something that would force the players to react, rather than just letting them pick what they want. And I wanted to add a feeling of genuine danger - one bad event and the party will be in a hurry to accomplish more of the goals.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Well, we are playtesting it :)

    I'm about to run this on I like the tracking sheets, and random encounters and stuff. I noticed you have two different rolls for the injured gnomes in the infirmary though, in one place it's d4 gnomes, in another it's d10. As it's written in the plural, I'd rather have 2 d something or d something +1. I'll probably go with 2d4. Minor quibble, I know.

    I'm also concerned with what I've been reading is the ease of combats elsewhere, and wondering if I should buff up the monsters somehow. Double hp, or whatever.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Ah, yeah, I'll check out the injured gnomes recovering. 2d4 is a good idea - keeps at least a few rolling out all the time.

    I ran a second session on Monday - combat is really swingy. A solid hit or two can take down a PC, and the monsters are very weak, considering hit and damage bonuses that 1st level pcs can throw down.

    I'm thinking that raising monster AC by 1 or 2 across the board, adding +50% hp and dropping XP to about 25% of listed would solve the problems.

    ReplyDelete