Posted by : David Guyll September 24, 2011

Temple of the Weeping Goddess is a short, 0-level adventure intended to give you both an example and opportunity to use the 0-level character optional rules from this month's Unearthed Arcana article. The characters play orphaned teenagers that are sent into the Elemental Chaos to free a trapped aspect of Avandra.

Yes, that is right, kids are being send into the Elemental Chaos. At first I was both surprised and excited to see that most of this adventure takes place in the traditional extraplanar paragon-to-epic tier stomping ground, not only in the heroic tier, but without a level (or class) to your name, but both feelings quickly faded as I continued to read the adventure.

SPOILERS

Basically, the adventure opens up with the characters stealing some loot from actual adventurers off camera, utilizing a skill challenge to ideally escape without getting the hit points beat out of you (keeping the treasure even if you do). Once that gets wrapped up everyone heads back to the orphanage, where your caretaker does a big reveal in which he explains the true purpose of founding the orphanage in the first place; round up a bunch of kids to toss into the Elemental Chaos to do a job for him because he is "too physically weak". In the very likely instance that the players ask why the hell wouldn't he hire people with encounter and/or daily powers, he dismisses this with the idea that kids might have a better chance of talking to Avandra's aspect.

Okay...so the hook is pretty damned weak but hey, Elemental Chaos bitches, let's do this!


Weeell...the temple is a partially collapsed structure on a perfectly serviceable chunk of earth. So...the caretaker cannot travel here on his own because he is too old, despite the fact that it is all level terrain? If he can get up stairs, then he can walk around whatever puddles or collapsed statues that amount to difficult terrain, here. The lack of an Elemental Chaos feel could be covered up by the use of native fauna, but the only monsters to be found here are goblin pirates that got sucked into a vortex and survived, a handful of elementals, and some undead that are for some reason hanging out with Avandra's aspect. Basically a 1st-level, stock-standard bestiary that can be found in most adventures (and a mid-level cleric could potentially solo given a few days).

Really, this entire thing could take place in the natural world and you would not have to change much except for how the characters get there. Hell, drop it on an earthmote in Forgotten Realms and see if anyone notices. The actual dungeon has a lot of little things for the characters to find that can help them out later, such as an alternative exit when they have to flee, and inscriptions that give them bonuses when dealing with the aspect. I also liked that the NPCs had their own sections for their goals, motivations, fears, weaknesses, and more. These will go a long way to giving DMs a solid foundation for how to work with the NPC.

This adventure reminds me of Keep on the Shadowfell in that while you could run it as written, it both lacks the feel that I was expecting and there is just enough there to make it work if you are willing to put in the time and effort to re-work almost all of it.

For example, why not have the characters figure out that Denek is seeking the goddess themselves? Instead of running from a bunch of adventurers that they somehow conned out of a lot of money (yet do not retrieve it if they get caught), have them discover a secret room or underground archive and stumble upon the ritual necessary to open the portal to the Elemental Chaos themselves. There could have been some extensive social roleplaying going on here, and the players could have taken their own initiative to help out someone who for years had been like a father to them. Hell, have him go into the portal and have the rest of the characters follow him to see what he is up to.

I understand that there could be a time crunch on this whole thing, but he could still have divulged his desires to a character trained in Arcana or Religion under the assumption that such a skill character (or characters) could help him out from time to time. If none of that panned out, then I guess you could still stick with the original hook of an orphan caretaker looking for "exceptional people" to send into the Elemental-fucking-Chaos for a stroll. Even if you have to stick with the original hook, that still does not excuse...

Goblins.

Why did it have to be goblins? If I sent my players to the Elemental Chaos or Astral Sea and threw goblins, orcs, gnolls, hobgoblins, or really anything short of elementals, angels, or demons they would paddle my ass with all of my Monster Manuals while forcing me to walk on four-siders. It would be like the nerdiest pledge initiation in history. The author could have de-leveled some elementals or demons and thrown those at the zeroes, but since these are supposed to be teenagers it is not like you would have to have them fight and kill a threat in one encounter; it could be a recurring thing like Nemesis from Resident Evil or handled with an ongoing skill challenge. Of course sticking to critters that you would expect to find in the Elemental Chaos is a good start, but having everything take place on level terrain seems like half-assing it. This is why...

The "dungeon" should not be a two-story temple on a level island that has weathered the Elemental Chaos for decades. 

When I think of a ruined template drifting through the Elemental Chaos, I think of a weathered chunk of rock with a shattered ruin that barely perches on it. Chunks of the building and debris orbit around the whole thing, and perhaps a geyser of flame constantly shoots a spiral of slowly flowing lava out into the plane (could be a terrain feature during a fight, could be just for looks). Rocks could collide with the temple during an encounter or during a skill challenge, or be part of the terrain during a fight (like mobile, floating platforms). It is the Elemental Chaos; fuck physics and go wild with the scenery. At this level it should be the dungeon equivalent of being able to witnessing a supernova, except that you get to explore it.

And when the players finally got to Avandra? Instead of undead, why not have a bunch of angels guarding her, weakened from years of being disconnected from the Astral Sea (explaining their level 1-ness)? There could also be a demon in the mix somewhere, perhaps trying to destroy Avandra's aspect or trapped, and something the characters do frees it or allows it to get to her (and they get a chance to help defeat it).

The adventure I was hoping for is nowhere close to the one I got, and the one I got both feels like that the Elemental Chaos was tacked on for an entirely unnecessary reason (ie, because), and does almost nothing to showcase it. I really cannot recommend this adventure except as a training exercise to give the 0-level character rules a routine try.

{ 1 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Shame. Still, the Level 0 adventurers are just what I was looking for: I wanted to do a "recap" showing the start of each of the characters in my group.

    On the other hand, this should be great when rewritten, and will be excellent practice for newbie DMs. Just like the example adventure in the DMG.

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