Posted by : David Guyll December 25, 2012

First things first, if you are looking to run The Mud Sorcerer's Tomb, you might as well get the Dungeon magazine supplement from the 3rd Edition update: you get the maps, neater-looking handouts, and some art to go along with it.

Since Josh did not show up for our Dungeon World campaign, we tried giving this a shot with just two people: Melissa as a dwarf monk, and Kamon as a human rogue. Past editions seemed to require parties of 3-4, so it would be interesting to see how two fared (especially lacking the traditionally mandatory healer).

We had just under two hours to play, and in the interest of trying to gather something resembling playtest feedback I skipped the backstory, motivation, and initial contrived word puzzle, starting them inside the dungeon.

So it was a little irksome when, immediately after they walked into the first room and I wrapped up the read-aloud text, they got hung up on the fact that I guess green marble is not a thing that exists. I initially took it at face value, because in a world with wizard-based animal hybrids and fantastic extra-planar metal, the realistic colors of marble seem like a pretty inconsequential thing to argue about.

Of course, Wikipedia seems to disagree.

Fast forward 1d6 + 3 minutes and they are actually exploring the room. It consisted of four pillars, two 80-foot long pools, a small square pool at the eastern end, and an iron bell. They overlooked the pillars entirely (which had mud sorcerer runes on them or some such), instead asking about the long pools. I said that the water looked clear, but that they were filled with hundreds of bleached bones.

This marked the second time-sink of the session as a combination of skepticism and paranoia ran rampant. Were the pools filled with bleach? Acid? How was the water still clear after who knows how long? Oddly, none of these theories included what, from my experience, would be the more common concern of "animating and attacking", or approached anywhere close to the actual truth: they were merely "ritually prepared so as to prevent magical tampering".

Melissa threw in some hair to see what would happen, and when it neither turned blonde nor dissolved went over to punch the bell without hesitation. I found this strange, because normally percussion instruments are triggers for traps or monstrous reinforcements. No inspection, no skills, just violence. Fortunately for them it only caused the square pool to drain, which revealed a black key stuck at the bottom.

Personally I always assume that pits are harbors for traps, hazards (molds are a favorite), and/or monsters like oozes or undead that happened to fall in, so I was both surprised and concerned for their sense of self-preservation when Melissa lowered Kamon down to get the key with, again, nary a Search check in sight. Anywho, with key in hand it was off to the next room...

...which had acid-weeping, eye-covered walls. Oh, sure, there was also a hidden door but with the entry fee pegged at a DC 25 Intelligence check there was no way that they were going to find it unless Kamon rolled very, very well on both dice (he did not). This is about the time I wished that there were rules for taking 10 and 20. Not wanting to call the game on account of not being able to locate the single hidden door that would let them keep having fun, I just told them where it was and had them take the acid damage to open it. Truly I doth giveth and taketh away.

The fourth room contained four statues of humanoids with various animal heads, a black pillar, and three sealed iron doors. The very simple trick is that you rotate the elephant statue in the middle of the room so that it points at a door, which causes it to open (presumably accompanied by a Legend of Zelda chime). They figured this out pretty quickly, giving each door the finger in turn so that they could check out what was on the other side, before deciding where they would go.

Since the first two doors lead to small rooms, they investigated them first. Door number one had a stone face, beyond which they could see a passage through a 1-diameter opening. Unable to squeeze through or find any way to open it, they eventually left it alone. The second door had a patch of bare earth, which Melissa eagerly dug into. Her efforts were reward with a coffin, which contained a corpse clutching a letter that I read to them despite no one knowing Taalese, and some treasure that they would never get to spend because it was just a playtest run.

They were about to leave when I, in a fit of wanting to see how they fared against some actual monsters, reminded them about their black key and the black pillar. Melissa searched the statues, giving the cat-headed female the Indiana Jones treatment, while Kamon found a keyhole in the pillar and gave it a spin. This activated the statues, causing a moment of hilarity where, from Melissa's character's point of view, the statue lashed out at her seemingly due to her unwanted attention.

Even more laughable was that the battle took about four rounds. Only one golem managed to land a hit, but Melissa's Iron Root Defense softened the impact of this one-time victory. I guess in hindsight I should have used all three golems, but I erred on the side of caution because they lacked a healer (and a couple more characters to round things out).

After that non-event I was not about to pull any punches with the mummy crypt, because mummy-punches prevent you from healing and I, being on the other side of the screen, find it delightfully malevolent. They attacked as soon as the characters entered, but both characters made their Will saves against despair and proceeded to breezed through the encounter without taking any hits at all.

To be fair I stopped reading their resistances right after bludgeoning, satisfied that Melissa's punches would deal half damage. Had I kept going I would have seen that all of their attacks dealt half damage. Well, except for Melissa's ki-powered, double-damage-dealing fire-cones, which is what she ended up using when she realized that her unarmed attacks were not very effective.

The room lead to a short hallway that split both north and south, with another stone face at the intersection. This one had ear-alcoves, and in true Gygaxian fashion one contained something useful, the other a trap. Melissa guessed the ear with the green key, but then went ahead and triggered the trap anyway. She made her save, but Kamon got a face full of dagger-covered door. It was a bit depressing, for me, that the first and only time he got hurt was because of the actions of a fellow party member, and not because of golems or giant hit-point sapping mummies.

After Kamon recovered they spotted a green basalt pillar in a room to the south, which sparked a conversation about basalt and if it could be green. They happily suggested alternative substances that were both basalt-like and green, but I adamantly repeated the adventure's flavor text until they dropped the subject. Suspecting a theme with pillars, keys, and colors, they opened it up and looted a cursed necklace that they had no way of knowing was magical and treacherous, pocketing it like so much worthless treasure that they would never be able to later redeem because, again, one-shot.

The only other way to go was north, towards a pillar-filled hallway. To the west they could see a suit of armor with blades for hands guarding a door, so opted to head east. Given my track record so far, I was both not sure why they were afraid of it, or why I even bothered including it. This lead to a larger room with decidedly less harmful-looking rugs and tapestries, but only because neither had played older D&D editions or read up on the subject of carnivorous furniture. Kamon decided to cut down the tapestries, which were in fact harmless. Unfortunately this involved walking across the rug, which was not.

The rug forced a Wisdom save, and if you failed you got sucked in. On the plus side you can be saved by a handful of spells, including a few staples like dispel magic and fly. On the downside no one in the party had access to magic of any sort (though, I mean, who would think to cast fly on someone trapped inside a rug?). Melissa made the save thanks to a +5 modifier and advantage against magic, but Kamon did not. Eh, we were out of time anyway, so it was basically a wash.

As playtest adventures go I think the only thing that we learned was that the monsters are really easy to hit, and were really unlikely to do any hitting. Damage, when I got to roll it, was pretty high. Melissa's character had 116 hit points, and the giant mummy was more than capable of knocking almost half of it off with a single touch.

Speaking of the giant mummy, I think it was mostly fine. Its combination of a low AC and lots of hit points make it seem like you are hacking away hopelessly at a horrifying monster that lacks any internal organs to fret about. The rotting touch and fire vulnerability are likewise staples, and the despair ability is okay. The problem is that the despair is really the only thing it does before just pounding away at the characters. 4th Edition gave them curses and despair auras that penalized characters, which are both things that help differentiate them from the other heavy-hitters.

The stone golem on the other hand was pretty boring. It has a laundry list of abilities that they just ignored because Kamon had a magical sword and Melissa had a class feature. Since no one could cast spells they also did not have to worry about golem almost spell immunity, and its associated guessing game. This made the golem very similar to the giant mummy: both were Large creatures with a lot of hit points that try to hit you with their bare hands. The only major difference is that a stone golem can apparently cast slow on you for some reason.

4th Edition golems could randomly go berserk, knocking enemies aside as they rampaged about. They also exploded when they died, leaving a pile of rubble that hindered movement. I think that, especially in the case of the deathsplosion, both of those help separate them from the mummy, and more importantly other golems. Well, maybe not clay, but certainly the flesh and iron ones. I would also consider making them resistant to slashing weapons, magical or otherwise.

Martial Damage Dice needs a less specific name, especially when they can be used for things that are not damage. It also feels kind of clunky, especially when paired with the Martial Damage Bonus. I get that "mundane" classes need neat toys in order to keep up with wizard spells and monster hit points, but why not give damage bonuses on all attacks? Instead of getting both dice and a bonus that only works on one attack per turn, why not just have do something like 4th Edition's multiple weapon damage dice.

As it stands, by level 10 a fighter can reasonably be doing 28 damage with a longsword, 20 Strength, 5d6 of Martial Damage Dice, and a +5 Martial Damage Bonus. Change it do a short sword and it becomes 27 damage, and with a dagger it is still 26. If a fighter instead starts doing 2[W] with each attack and you strip out the flat Martial Damage Bonus, she instead starts dealing 31 on average with a longsword, 29 with a shortsword, or 27 with a dagger. It is not much, but creates a wider range of damage results while allowing a player to roll more dice.

Or, as another option, why not allow the fighter to roll multiple weapon damage dice and keep the highest? It helps ensure higher damage without adding too much swing to the results.

Not a fan of all skills scaling at the exact same rate. I like the randomness of the skill die, but think that skills should start at something like a d4 or d6, and players should have to pick ones to scale up. I also think that instead of going up to a 1d12, that players should start rolling multiple dice and picking the highest. So, 1d4 becomes 2d4, then 2d6, then 3d6, and so on. Something that helps reduce the swingyness of it.

So, yeah, not much playtest feedback. We will give this another shot sometime later in the week, hopefully with a larger window of time, definitely with a wizard and cleric in tow (maybe just with a wizard and cleric?). Or I might just toss them in a necropolis filled with dracoliches and Asmodeus just to see how it all goes down.

{ 3 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. This is a little off topic, okay not a little its a lot, how is the H2 conversion coming? We, my group and I, have enjoyed your conversion of H1 very much, Thanks.

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  2. Actually for those that read this and care, when the playtest docs started rolling out I felt that the first two adventures were not really representative of the way people "normally" play, and were not even particularly interesting even if all you wanted to do were stress-tests.

    So, I started working on the original run of 4th Edition adventures as a way to give people something that both had a more compelling story, as well as what I thought people were more likely to "typically" do.

    The first one was easy because I already had an extensive rehash for 4th Edition. The second one, not so much. I was being pretty ambitious, wanting to add in some more races and class features for the warlock and sorcerer (Baphomet pact and demon bloodline, respectively), but then the next packet removed both classes entirely and changed the cleric.

    I pulled the extra content, feeling that adding non-playtesting stuff was not really useful for the purpose of playtesting, but then I heard mention that an actual beholder would get added to the mix, and some more stuff would change, so figured that I would wait until the packet dropped before doing any extra work (also, holidays).

    So, the short of it is that I am about a third of the way done, I AM going to be working on it again starting tonight, and hopefully have it out in by the end of January, as I am also writing content for a Dungeon World fanzine, running more playtests, and recovering from the holidays.

    That being said, I am going to release it in chunks as it gets done, so instead of having to wait for the whole package, expect the Horned Hold in the next few weeks, followed by a drastically overhauled Well of Demons and adventure resolution.

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  3. Oh, also, the first part (up to the Chamber of Eyes) was posted. You can find it here: http://daegames.blogspot.com/2012/10/d-next-thunderspire-labyrinth-part-1.html

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