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    Default Re: The 3.5 Red Hand Of Doom Handbook for DMs [Major spoilers!] - WIP, PEACH!

    Quote Originally Posted by Saintheart View Post
    About the only other suggestion I'd have is to hand him a scroll of Haste. He doesn't have to have crafted it himself, remember, it could come from the Horde's own stores. One casting of Haste with its range and number of allies is enough to cover Karkilan and the hobgoblins, which is a nice buff partywide. Have you boosted Karkilan as well, or are you planning for Koth to be the major threat of Vraath Keep?
    Koth should be the major threat, considering it is a Wyrmlord, I might buff Karkilan with Warblade level (or two) but I am not sure. (perhaps shaving off a few racial HD)
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    Default Re: The 3.5 Red Hand Of Doom Handbook for DMs [Major spoilers!] - WIP, PEACH!

    Take note that slow is really only effective if Koth is around to support the veterans. Depending on how stealthy the party is, they may be able to catch him alone, in which case, slow isn't that useful.

    His spell selections seems okay. How exactly do you plan on playing him?
    Quote Originally Posted by Tvtyrant View Post
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    Default Re: The 3.5 Red Hand Of Doom Handbook for DMs [Major spoilers!] - WIP, PEACH!

    Quote Originally Posted by Runestar View Post
    Take note that slow is really only effective if Koth is around to support the veterans. Depending on how stealthy the party is, they may be able to catch him alone, in which case, slow isn't that useful.

    His spell selections seems okay. How exactly do you plan on playing him?
    Not completely sure, I was thinking on starting the battle with Koth debuffing the party with a Slow, letting them with Karkilan for a round, then casting Cloud of knives and generally trying to avoid the meleers. I am considering changing the Extra slot for extra spell (invisibility) so he can get the drop on the PC's.
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    Default Re: The 3.5 Red Hand Of Doom Handbook for DMs [Major spoilers!] - WIP, PEACH!

    Double post, but anyway. Let me say I'm not attempting to defend the module from beginning to end, these are just observations.

    Quote Originally Posted by Malevolence View Post
    I've played through, and attempted to run this one a few times.

    Here's some of the things that stood out that bugged me:

    Enemy tactics: For a while at least, they're practically nonexistent. I mean, they're not even focusing fire. Sure, they aren't aware of the true power of the PCs. But when enemy 1's init comes up, and they shoot someone, but they don't go down when enemy 2's init comes up they should be shooting at the same person. Not a different one. They're portrayed as elite forces. They need to at least perform common sense tactics, or they can't be taken seriously.
    Hobgoblins aren't meant to be that smart anyway. The impression I got from RHOD is that the Vale's perfectly capable of handling small groups of hobgoblins on its' own -- its the fact pretty well all the tribes of the Wyrmsmokes have combined that makes them such a huge threat, together with the dragons and the fact they're fanatically obssessed. James and Rich themselves do put out there explicitly that much of the Horde is cannon fodder.

    On the other hand, even the hobgoblin regulars on their statblocks are "conditioned to harsh discipline", so, any suggestions?

    Quote Originally Posted by Malevolence View Post
    Weak statblocks: This is always a problem in published modules, so it's not specific to this one. The more important the enemy is supposed to be, the more annoying it is when they are not well designed at all, both at whatever it is they are supposed to do and in general. Now I understand why this is so - both because the module writers were limited in the sources they can use and published modules are generally marketed to inexperienced players, whereas I and my gaming group are anything but. It still bugs me though. And by bugs me, I mean a small part of me dies when the boss's action is to cast a Lightning Bolt instead of a Slow or Stinking Cloud.
    It's an inherent weakness, because, as you say, the writers are generally restricted in the sources they can use whilst players are not - therefore Pun-Pun and any number of Lego-brick-behemoths we see trundling around optimised campaigns.

    On the other hand, I think it's a valid criticism since it would appear the playtesters/authors/whoever of D&D 3.5 didn't drill down and see what the full consequences of playing towards dominating the action economy rather than dominating the damage count would be. But: that particular boss you're talking about is Koth, who's a sorcerer and doesn't have any other offensive spells at Lightning Bolt's level. So I think that one crosses into the "limited sourcebooks to work from" territory.

    If you've got a smarter party you should be opting for smarter tactics. Personally I'd like to see some more commentary on that, since we've got good advice on better builds but not so much on better tactics at the start of the thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by Malevolence View Post
    Vendor trash: There is a lot of it. A whole lot. And due to a combination of the time pressure and the rather limited selection of casters in towns there are few opportunities to convert it into things that the PCs are likely to use. Several people have hypothesized that the module is designed for a stereotypical party, but even in that context, for example the Fighter will happily keep the +2 Str item but that +1 Frost Bastard Sword is still going to a vendor. I'm not going to break down every single instance where this occurs, only leave this point by saying that even assuming a stereotypical party, a good deal of loot is just easily transported gold that you can't do a whole lot useful with due to limited shopping opportunities.
    Yeah, the bastard sword out of Vraath Keep is a commonly-raised issue. There's a section in the Handbook at the front of the thread devoted to fix that particular problem. One of these days I (or someone a lot smarter than me) is going to sit down and restat the various treasures so it's a more balanced loadout throughout the adventure, but in general the approach should be to change the treasures to suit your party.

    Quote Originally Posted by Malevolence View Post
    Slow reactions: There are several points in the campaign where you assault an enemy base of some kind. But they react slowly to your presence, or not at all. Any decent party can just zerg the place before anyone gets ready, since you have so much time to react. They're supposed to be elite forces. They need to be faster and more eager to swarm the party, so that Leeroy Jenkins only works if you're just that awesome.
    This is particularly so in the Fane of Tiamat, where (as we mention at the front of the thread) enemy troops take a Terry Pratchett/bad AI approach and never leave their areas if somewhere nearby is attacked.

    I think you can take this a bit too far, though. It also might impact on realism. For example, I did try the "one round reaction time" against my (PbP) party at Rhest after they'd performed an underwater incursion on the town hall, and I got a bit of PM grumbling and criticisms along the lines that "These ogres have been sitting around doing several weeks of precisely nothing in the middle of a swamp, they're not expecting trouble, how come the Cylon response time?" That does make sense when you consider they're analogous to humanoids -- who do you know that can stay completely physically and mentally alert for three straight months without getting lazy?

    Quote Originally Posted by Malevolence View Post
    The dragons: I'm sorry, but I'm not impressed with any of them. The statblocks are poor, the default strategies are poor... all of these problems are fixable, but by default, they are not nearly as impressive as they need to be.
    Thus the sections on improving and fixing the dragons in the handbook. ;)

    Quote Originally Posted by Malevolence View Post
    The obviousness: Ok, I understand published modules are marketed to inexperienced players. One of my first gaming experiences was with this module, and even then I felt like the module was hitting me with a clue by four as to what the correct course of action is at any given time. It doesn't have to be that obvious. It'd be better if it didn't. Especially in regards to...

    Telegraphing: If you have a green dragon attack the party suddenly, that's a very scary moment. If you have the party able to spy on a green dragon and friends in a situation where they're hiding well out of visual range, and the dragon and friends are out in the open the party is going to take advantage of the fact that dragons are color coded for your convenience, perfectly prepare, and cakewalk right through it. One of these situations occurs in the module, one is what should be happening. Can you guess which is which?
    "Clue by four" is the most awesome statement of that meme I've ever heard. May I steal it?

    I think savvy parties and in particular PbP parties do tend to romp through the module's mysteries, mostly because the 'correct' course of action is pretty straightforward to anyone stopping to think about it. This is particularly so where the party captures Horde leaders rather than killing them and has a decent Diplomacy and/or Intimidate check, or one cleric with a Zone of Truth spell. Thus the section in the handbook about occupying parties who are back to Brindol early on the timeline. But I've seen and read threads where some parties don't do that at all, or do amazingly silly stuff in context. That's a matter of YMMV and how seasoned your players are.

    The rest of it I can only really shrug over and suggest reworking to make it not so hard to practice 'scry and die' approaches. Skull Gorge Bridge is straightforward because you can get to spitting distance before engaging. Make it so that's not practical: cut down the vegetation close to the bridge so the Horde's agents can see the party coming.

    Quote Originally Posted by Malevolence View Post
    The whole mount thing: The module kind of assumes you'll be mounted, for travel if nothing else. Ignoring campaign specific stuff such as a part of Talentan halflings riding dinosaurs along, this means dragging around what is quite honestly a liability. I've seen groups struggle with their horses as much as they have the enemies they're fighting. The mount thing also ignores that for half the level range, the party is wherever they want to be, there they are. It's entirely possible to "sequence break" and skip most of the rest of the second half of the campaign simply because for all their supposed magical might, the final area has painfully few defenses against a Scry and Fry. And even though you're underleveled, you could probably still pull it off, too. But even with nice players, it's still a flawed assumption to be making.
    See the comments about parties arriving back early on the timeline and the section on improving the Fane in the handbook. Part of the answer is either not to give the party mounts, because it makes it harder for them to get around quite as quick. Although I do agree that if the party gets hold of giant owls from the Tiri Kitor, travel around the Vale hits Spaceball One's plaid speed. 70 miles per day means they can go from Brindol to the Ghostlord's area in two days, and it makes assassination squads springing out of nowhere a lot less plausible.

    Quote Originally Posted by Malevolence View Post
    The Ghostlord: He gets his own section, even though my problem here is an amalgam of the other problems I mention. He's played up, very obviously as something you don't want to fight. You're also told IC, that he's a Blighter (read: complete push over). One of these things is not like the other. Chances are, you also still have an item that does a number on undead. I haven't seen anyone mention it, but my first thought to "powerful undead" is "use this neat powerful anti undead spell I got, maybe that's what it's there for". The result of this, the first time I tried it was a 1 HP Lich who subsequently died to a pinprick (literally, a 1 damage attack after DR). Phylactery gets smashed, and that's that. I later found out this was a lucky break, but even without it he goes straight down to 24 HP. That's what, 1-2 hits? It's more bothersome than you might think, as there are a number of character archetypes who would find the prospect of giving up their advantage on, and treatying with an evil lich, and blighter abhorrent so even given the obvious Do Not Fight sign... there's still a lot of potential PCs that'd want to fight him. Which in turn means this could come up by accident. Just as it did for me. An actual spellcaster of those levels would have destroyed us, no contest.
    See the sections in the handbook on beating the party without fighting. Blighters suck, yes, but did you try Antilife Shell (5th level for blighters; Ghostie can access it) + Unhallow keyed to Dispel Magic vs. nonevil character (again, on his list at 5th level, good for one year) + Stinking Cloud + ??? + profit? :)

    On "powerful anti-undead item" -- there's nothing on RHOD that has this effect, so presumably the party has this item at entry to the module, i.e. level 5 or 6. What item are they acquiring around 5 or 6 that can smash liches that also computes into wealth by level?

    As to spells: I don't know the SpC backwards, but any suggestions for spells to watch for or avoid the party using?

    In short: any suggestions for improvements on the book, to get rid of some of these problems?

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    Default Re: The 3.5 Red Hand Of Doom Handbook for DMs [Major spoilers!] - WIP, PEACH!

    What exactly is the issue with the frost bastard sword? I mean, you can always change it to another weapon your party specialises in, so it should never go to waste, right?
    Quote Originally Posted by Tvtyrant View Post
    I can never understand WOTC's reasoning; taking RAW as a whole is like grabbing a book filled with fortune cookie sayings and basing your life off of them.
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    Default Re: The 3.5 Red Hand Of Doom Handbook for DMs [Major spoilers!] - WIP, PEACH!

    Quote Originally Posted by Runestar View Post
    What exactly is the issue with the frost bastard sword? I mean, you can always change it to another weapon your party specialises in, so it should never go to waste, right?
    I think it is a weapon that it's too powerful for the APL at the time they get it. Or something along the lines of that.
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    Default Re: The 3.5 Red Hand Of Doom Handbook for DMs [Major spoilers!] - WIP, PEACH!

    Quote Originally Posted by Runestar View Post
    What exactly is the issue with the frost bastard sword? I mean, you can always change it to another weapon your party specialises in, so it should never go to waste, right?
    See the "restatting treasures" section of the Handbook for the fuller discussion, but basically it's because it's a very powerful item directed at the party tank (effective +2 weapon at level 6) while the rest of the party gets close to nothing but vendor trash out of Vraath Keep. It's just the rest of the treasure, or even the sword, can/should be restatted to make it a fairer distribution of wealth. Socialism FTW!

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    Default Re: The 3.5 Red Hand Of Doom Handbook for DMs [Major spoilers!] - WIP, PEACH!

    Well, I guess that's where MIC really shines, letting you equip the party with several cheap gear.
    Quote Originally Posted by Tvtyrant View Post
    I can never understand WOTC's reasoning; taking RAW as a whole is like grabbing a book filled with fortune cookie sayings and basing your life off of them.
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    Default Re: The 3.5 Red Hand Of Doom Handbook for DMs [Major spoilers!] - WIP, PEACH!

    In my PbP of this the first encounter has gone horribly horribly wrong in a way that the writers really didn't seem to forsee. Before the encounter one of the party members insisted on running down the road as a scout (not the party scout mind you) using his ridiculous 50ft movement for several rounds then advancing at a speed relative to the party upahead. I am using restats bear in mind generally as recommended in the handbook.

    Now upon reaching the ambush he blows his whistle to warn the rest of the party and then keeps moving but due to the distance he has covered none of them actually make their listen checks. After some ineffective shooting (psychic warrior with super buffed out AC) it is clear this is an adventurer and the wolves move in, the nearest one tripping and maiming him in one round. Not a problem he anklets himself out of danger and legs it. Wolves pursue. He anklets and legs it even further away back towards the party.

    Now at this point I decided the leaders would order their men to hold. No sense wasting a good ambush and it was unlikely they could catch mr speedy anyway. The Cleric goes invisible to do some reconaissance in case there was more people around and the rest of the troops arrive setting up on the road. The bladebearer moves into the trees and both wolves remain at the ready in case of their prey returning.

    To sum up even though the party shortly after entered the encounter with their buffs up and ready for the ambush they were up against the full might of the ambush with invisibility already cast, one high level healing spell already used in patching up the psychic warrior and two charges of the anklet already spent.

    Things aren't going to well for them and it isn't like they are unoptimised.
    Party is
    -Synad Cleric who has taken lots of Summon monster spells.
    -Dwarf Kineticist blasty type, new to Psionics but still a force to be reconded with killing 5 hobgoblins turn one and denying them their massed charge.
    -Scout. Currently the player is MIA but seems like he can pretty handily off one hobgoblin per round or lay a dent into a larger target.
    -Dragonborn Raptoran Paladin. Charge much?
    -Elan Psychic Warrior. Typical gish build has all his buffs up but may be in the negatives at the moment (not sure his sheet is unclear on how many hp he has).

    EDIT:Forgot my main question...
    If such a thing were to happen with a speedy clearly an adventurer type figure buzzing the ambush and then running off back from whence he came what do you think the ambush parties reaction should be? Pursue with what little they have available, wait till their reinforcements arrive then pursue en mass, reinforce their position in readiness for a return or sit around twidling their thumbs as if nothing had happened?
    Last edited by Jair Barik; 2011-03-20 at 06:33 AM.

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    Default Re: The 3.5 Red Hand Of Doom Handbook for DMs [Major spoilers!] - WIP, PEACH!

    Quote Originally Posted by Dusk Eclipse View Post
    Ok I redid Koth feats selection and spell list, how about this

    Spells

    0th (6/day) level: doesn't matter
    1st (6/day) level Ray of Enfeeblement, Shield, Mage Armor, Grease (DC 14)
    2nd:(8/day) Wings of Cover, Cloud of Knives ( 1d4 +3), Scorching Ray (extra spell)
    3rd (4/day) Slow (DC 16)

    Feats:
    Improved Initiative, Practised Spellcaster, Extra Spell (Scorching Ray) Extra Slot (2nd level slot)
    I would give him Glitterdust instead of Cloud of Knives and Nerveskitter instead of Mage Armor (he can have a scroll, if you still want him to cast that). Otherwise looks good.

    Reply to saint will follow this post.

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    Default Re: The 3.5 Red Hand Of Doom Handbook for DMs [Major spoilers!] - WIP, PEACH!

    Quote Originally Posted by Jair Barik View Post
    EDIT:Forgot my main question...
    If such a thing were to happen with a speedy clearly an adventurer type figure buzzing the ambush and then running off back from whence he came what do you think the ambush parties reaction should be? Pursue with what little they have available, wait till their reinforcements arrive then pursue en mass, reinforce their position in readiness for a return or sit around twidling their thumbs as if nothing had happened?
    I reckon that depends on the ambush party's nous and its purposes in the area. If the ambush party's a recon group it surely would be hightailing it out of there as fast as possible, since the idea's to not engage. If the ambush party's job is to defend a particular position, I'd expect they would dig in and reinforce their position.

    Given the Marauder Attack is meant to be basically a bunch of bandits from the Hand waylaying merchants and travellers along the Dawn Way at a sweet spot, it's different again. The response depends on the leader's personality.

    I don't think they'd pursue, though: it doesn't make sense from a tactical perspective, since the scouting adventurer can really only advise two courses to whoever he's scouting for: prepare for battle, or retreat and go around. If the scout's party retreats, the ambush party gives up its ambush position for no benefit, and with plenty of other targets to wait for. If the scout's party advances, they're expecting an attack, but they still have to fight their way through what is presumably an advantageous position for the ambushers.

    Not that I'm any great military genius and that, but if buzzed by a scout, I tend to think I'd reinforce my position as soon as possible but make as many changes as possible to the configuration that the scout saw. That way I minimise my risks, in that the scout's party will be preparing for an attack at this location, but not from the directions they'd been anticipating.

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    Default Re: The 3.5 Red Hand Of Doom Handbook for DMs [Major spoilers!] - WIP, PEACH!

    That was my thought. The scout had seen 6 archers also armed with swords/spears and a pair of wolves. The best course seemed to set up a roadblock of sixe melee combatants at the centre of the road, have the 6 others hide in the forest for ambush, have both wolves hige in the forest, the Cleric go invisible and the bladebearer also hide. Anyone coming back would be prepared for the troops they had seen but not necessarily aware of the additional troops hiding in the forest.

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    Default Re: The 3.5 Red Hand Of Doom Handbook for DMs [Major spoilers!] - WIP, PEACH!

    Quote Originally Posted by Saintheart View Post
    Hobgoblins aren't meant to be that smart anyway. The impression I got from RHOD is that the Vale's perfectly capable of handling small groups of hobgoblins on its' own -- its the fact pretty well all the tribes of the Wyrmsmokes have combined that makes them such a huge threat, together with the dragons and the fact they're fanatically obssessed. James and Rich themselves do put out there explicitly that much of the Horde is cannon fodder.

    On the other hand, even the hobgoblin regulars on their statblocks are "conditioned to harsh discipline", so, any suggestions?
    Hobgoblins are as intelligent as people. That means they aren't geniuses, but they shouldn't be doing incredibly stupid things, especially if they are portrayed as being this dangerous enemy force. The Vale can deal with small groups because they have their own soldiers.

    And even in the first group, the module makes it clear that the DM should be trying to impress they're too organized and well geared to be just bandits.

    I'm not expecting miracles from the mooks here. Just basic tactics. Focus fire, kill casters first, that kind of thing. The stuff every decent group of PCs does without really thinking about it. They won't accomplish too much, because they are mooks, but they should at least be trying.

    It's an inherent weakness, because, as you say, the writers are generally restricted in the sources they can use whilst players are not - therefore Pun-Pun and any number of Lego-brick-behemoths we see trundling around optimised campaigns.

    On the other hand, I think it's a valid criticism since it would appear the playtesters/authors/whoever of D&D 3.5 didn't drill down and see what the full consequences of playing towards dominating the action economy rather than dominating the damage count would be. But: that particular boss you're talking about is Koth, who's a sorcerer and doesn't have any other offensive spells at Lightning Bolt's level. So I think that one crosses into the "limited sourcebooks to work from" territory.
    It hardly takes a large number of source books. Core only full casters wreck it rather easily. The playtesters were not especially creative though. As for Koth, most of the best spells in the game are straight from core. If Koth used Slow, or Stinking Cloud instead he would be considerably more threatening. Even given the context of limited sources, he can be drastically improved by simply employing the common sense tactic of refraining from blasting, as it accomplishes little except wasting your turn.

    If you've got a smarter party you should be opting for smarter tactics. Personally I'd like to see some more commentary on that, since we've got good advice on better builds but not so much on better tactics at the start of the thread.
    There's little to say about tactics, both because they are generally the things the army should be doing regardless, and because they are things that generally get taken for granted. It would take prohibitively long to go through and point out every single example. But as another example, Regariax would be so much better off if Saarvith did not exist. Because Saarvith does exist, Regariax is stuck using very poor tactics. Saarvith also contributes essentially nothing to the fight.

    Yeah, the bastard sword out of Vraath Keep is a commonly-raised issue. There's a section in the Handbook at the front of the thread devoted to fix that particular problem. One of these days I (or someone a lot smarter than me) is going to sit down and restat the various treasures so it's a more balanced loadout throughout the adventure, but in general the approach should be to change the treasures to suit your party.
    The bastard sword is simply one of the better known examples. There is plenty of vendor trash in the campaign. Chances are by the time you are halfway through it you will have enough +1 short swords to build a giant sword mecha. It doesn't bother me that it's a big item, or a beatstick item, because Host knows that they need all the help they can get. It does bother me that no one actually uses bastard swords. It'd be different if it were a spiked chain, or some other such two handed reach weapon.

    This is particularly so in the Fane of Tiamat, where (as we mention at the front of the thread) enemy troops take a Terry Pratchett/bad AI approach and never leave their areas if somewhere nearby is attacked.

    I think you can take this a bit too far, though. It also might impact on realism. For example, I did try the "one round reaction time" against my (PbP) party at Rhest after they'd performed an underwater incursion on the town hall, and I got a bit of PM grumbling and criticisms along the lines that "These ogres have been sitting around doing several weeks of precisely nothing in the middle of a swamp, they're not expecting trouble, how come the Cylon response time?" That does make sense when you consider they're analogous to humanoids -- who do you know that can stay completely physically and mentally alert for three straight months without getting lazy?
    Counterpoint: Who do you know that is over 8 feet tall, and can benchpress half a ton without trying? 1 round is a bit much. I mean, it takes longer than that to buff. But there's one part I remember where it says once they learn they are under attack, they spend a dozen rounds getting ready. Let's face it - the party will jump them on round 4-6, and that will be all she wrote. The Rhest area is also bigger, so there's more of an allowance here.

    My point is that after a full minute or two, you had better believe a full base of buffed up creatures is going to be swarming you from all sides if they know you are there. The solution is to either let them never realize you are there to raise the alarm, or kill them all in less than 1-2 minutes. Since that's 10-20 rounds, which is a very long time in D&D it should not be that difficult.

    Thus the sections on improving and fixing the dragons in the handbook. ;)
    Those sections try, but honestly do not really succeed. Mostly because they stick with the same tactics. Which still don't work.

    "Clue by four" is the most awesome statement of that meme I've ever heard. May I steal it?
    It's not original. Asking if you can steal it is like asking if you can use the color red.

    I think savvy parties and in particular PbP parties do tend to romp through the module's mysteries, mostly because the 'correct' course of action is pretty straightforward to anyone stopping to think about it. This is particularly so where the party captures Horde leaders rather than killing them and has a decent Diplomacy and/or Intimidate check, or one cleric with a Zone of Truth spell. Thus the section in the handbook about occupying parties who are back to Brindol early on the timeline. But I've seen and read threads where some parties don't do that at all, or do amazingly silly stuff in context. That's a matter of YMMV and how seasoned your players are.

    The rest of it I can only really shrug over and suggest reworking to make it not so hard to practice 'scry and die' approaches. Skull Gorge Bridge is straightforward because you can get to spitting distance before engaging. Make it so that's not practical: cut down the vegetation close to the bridge so the Horde's agents can see the party coming.
    I'm not even talking about scry and die here. It doesn't even take that. I mean it just outright tells you in some way, in advance that you will be fighting [insert serious opponent] soon, which means you come in fully prepared for them.

    With the bridge for example... Alright, they're guarding the bridge. I get that. Why are there not troops patrolling the bridge area, so as to not make it so you can hang out at the edge, see everything, move back and buff (or move further back and rope trick to come back in the morning) and then take them out? Clearing the vegetation would kind of do the same thing, but guards shouldn't be just standing there.

    See the comments about parties arriving back early on the timeline and the section on improving the Fane in the handbook. Part of the answer is either not to give the party mounts, because it makes it harder for them to get around quite as quick. Although I do agree that if the party gets hold of giant owls from the Tiri Kitor, travel around the Vale hits Spaceball One's plaid speed. 70 miles per day means they can go from Brindol to the Ghostlord's area in two days, and it makes assassination squads springing out of nowhere a lot less plausible.
    I think you're missing the point here.

    See the sections in the handbook on beating the party without fighting. Blighters suck, yes, but did you try Antilife Shell (5th level for blighters; Ghostie can access it) + Unhallow keyed to Dispel Magic vs. nonevil character (again, on his list at 5th level, good for one year) + Stinking Cloud + ??? + profit? :)
    Anti life shell means you can't get within 10 feet of him. So weak beatsticks sit it out. But that's about it. The Unhallow thing is interesting, but it doesn't really take buffing up to kill him. Stinking Cloud is nice, but the party should be prepared for standard tactics (save or lose casters) anyways. And his DCs are only 18 for that spell. Which means he casts it about as well as a level 6 caster would. You'd think a CR 13 caster would have a primary stat higher than 20. Much closer to 30, actually, and that's before counting any Wisdom bonuses the Lich gets for being a Lich. D20SRD is down so I can't check exactly what mental stats it gets. End result is he doesn't do a lot.

    On "powerful anti-undead item" -- there's nothing on RHOD that has this effect, so presumably the party has this item at entry to the module, i.e. level 5 or 6. What item are they acquiring around 5 or 6 that can smash liches that also computes into wealth by level?
    On the contrary. Every single party that goes through RHoD will have an item that will instantly reduce the lich to low, or 1 HP. They will do so because the item is placed in Vraath Keep, and the DM is specifically instructed to go out of his way to make sure the party finds it. Now it's possible that the party has used up all 7 charges either at the bridge, or in the second part, but if there is even 1 left that lich is dust even in a weak party. And if you did use all 7 charges that soon, you have worse problems. It's also possible you will have an uncreative party, that only uses the Heal spell for well... healing, but the first thing I thought when I learned there was a Lich in there is "Oh, so that's what the Staff of Life is for."

    As to spells: I don't know the SpC backwards, but any suggestions for spells to watch for or avoid the party using?

    In short: any suggestions for improvements on the book, to get rid of some of these problems?
    Most of the good spells are in core, so not really. Some SC spells are liable to provoke kneejerk reactions, but are not nearly as remarkable as they sound. For example, some people freak out about Ray of Stupidity, a spell that instantly takes out any animal. But animals weren't going to put up much of a fight anyways at those levels. They might not even be able to reach the party at all, because the party is flying and they are not. Others freak out about Mass Resist Energy, because it negates small amounts of elemental damage. But small amounts of elemental damage were already trivial, that's why Fireball is not a good spell and Slow is. Still others get annoyed with Conviction and Mass Conviction, claiming it makes saving throws too high. But given that one good spell landing will, at best take you out of the fight you kind of need high saves in order to stand up to casters. And that works both ways - enemy Clerics can cast this spell so that their forces aren't so easily one shotted by a save or lose.

    Going all the way through with improvements would take quite some time. Time that I don't really have right now. It would be easier if you picked a fight, or section and I went through that and showed what I would do to improve it.

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    I think it is easy to pick apart the campaign's flaws and how 'easy' it is but in general I think it is much better that it is doable for a party without the need for serious optimisation. Not everyone optimises and those parties who don't optimise are less likely to have a GM who will decide to optimise the creatures within it.

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    Default Re: The 3.5 Red Hand Of Doom Handbook for DMs [Major spoilers!] - WIP, PEACH!

    Quote Originally Posted by Jair Barik View Post
    I think it is easy to pick apart the campaign's flaws and how 'easy' it is but in general I think it is much better that it is doable for a party without the need for serious optimisation. Not everyone optimises and those parties who don't optimise are less likely to have a GM who will decide to optimise the creatures within it.
    A fair number of the complaints I raised assume the context of an unoptimized party. Stupid enemies still are not going to impress anyone, especially when said enemies are supposed to be taken seriously. Even given that it is a published module and is therefore being marketed to inexperienced players, there are still marked flaws to be pointed out. Yes, the list grows longer when you have an experienced group running through it, but that was a secondary point.

    After all, the standard assumed party only effectively contains two members even though there are technically four bodies there. Of course things designed for two people are easy for four. But this isn't about poking fun at beatstick classes like Fighters and Rogues. It's about RHoD.

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    Default Re: The 3.5 Red Hand Of Doom Handbook for DMs [Major spoilers!] - WIP, PEACH!

    Quote Originally Posted by Malevolence View Post
    Going all the way through with improvements would take quite some time. Time that I don't really have right now. It would be easier if you picked a fight, or section and I went through that and showed what I would do to improve it.
    Now you're talking.

    All right, since you're on limited time (pity), there are two areas which we haven't discussed in detail so far and which might use some suggestions for improvement:

    - The sniper attack before the battle with Wyrmlord Kharn
    - The red dragon's run over Brindol.

    Any thoughts on these?

    Quote Originally Posted by Malevolence
    On the contrary. Every single party that goes through RHoD will have an item that will instantly reduce the lich to low, or 1 HP. They will do so because the item is placed in Vraath Keep, and the DM is specifically instructed to go out of his way to make sure the party finds it. Now it's possible that the party has used up all 7 charges either at the bridge, or in the second part, but if there is even 1 left that lich is dust even in a weak party. And if you did use all 7 charges that soon, you have worse problems. It's also possible you will have an uncreative party, that only uses the Heal spell for well... healing, but the first thing I thought when I learned there was a Lich in there is "Oh, so that's what the Staff of Life is for."
    *facepalm* I didn't see that at all. Well, that definitely needs a mention! Thanks for pointing that out.

    EDIT: Actually, while we're at it, I haven't done up a section on making the Ghostlord combat-ready. Got some quick-ish thoughts on that, a shorthand build?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Saintheart View Post
    Now you're talking.

    All right, since you're on limited time (pity), there are two areas which we haven't discussed in detail so far and which might use some suggestions for improvement:

    - The sniper attack before the battle with Wyrmlord Kharn
    - The red dragon's run over Brindol.

    Any thoughts on these?
    Sniper: This one's hard to save, mostly because it's a weapon user with poison. Poisons for the most part have low DCs, and parties at this point are going to be highly resistant to poison or immune outright if they know what they're doing. That leaves him as a guy who doesn't do any real damage. But weren't there some casters around that area? The encounter can be salvaged through them. Have them spam Grease, Glitterdust, etc. Aside from being standard caster tactics, it also sets up the bonus damage dice, so the sniper can actually hurt things. Throw in stuff like Slow too, even though it doesn't directly help so that the party can't fight back so effectively. It'd also help to give him a Swordsage level or something instead of one of the Ninja levels to get Assassin Stance.

    Dragon: The dragon isn't too bad... but it isn't good either.

    In a RAW game, with a regular party I'd make the following changes:

    Remove Awesome Blow, Flyby Attack, and Wingover. They aren't that good. Replace with Knockback, Knowledge Devotion, and one other feat. Maybe a metabreath.

    Replace Grease with Nerveskitter. DC 13 isn't impressing anyone. Neither is +0 init.

    For the love of all that's unholy, get the dragon man a damn Conviction pot. His saves are terrible. Especially with the bad init he's going to be popped off by a save or lose in one shot and that will be all she wrote.

    Swap some skills around so that the dragon has Knowledge: Local, that way it can actually use Knowledge Devotion. If set in Eberron, Arcana would also be a good idea (Warforged PCs).

    For strong PCs definitely go for the next highest age category. Scintillating Scales is nice, so he doesn't get one rounded by a decent gish, or Shivering Touch. This also gives one more first level spell and a second level spell. I dunno, Protection from Good and Mirror Image? If the party is really strong, give the dragon Wraithstrike. It will only be getting one, or two attacks a round at most anyways, so it's not as dangerous as you might think.

    Make the extra feat Improved Initiative. Speed is key.

    *facepalm* I didn't see that at all. Well, that definitely needs a mention! Thanks for pointing that out.

    EDIT: Actually, while we're at it, I haven't done up a section on making the Ghostlord combat-ready. Got some quick-ish thoughts on that, a shorthand build?
    The Ghostlord is impossible to save, without changing his nature. The reason why the Ghostlord is the worst Lich ever is because he is a Blighter, and also a Lich. It isn't possible to just be a plain Druid Lich, which would be worse than a living Druid, but still far better than a Blighter. If he were some other type of Lich, he'd be fine.

    His minions are more of a threat than he is. Though any intelligent party will deduce that if they are going to see someone who calls themselves the Ghostlord and potentially fight that person they should do something about Ghosts and come in well prepared.

    But the best thing I can think of for the Ghostlord to do is a Sudden Maximized Flame Strike... which is not very impressive. His DCs are far too low to go the save or lose route, his other stats far too low to go the Bite line + melee route... He just doesn't have anything going for him. As cool as he looks, this is but a facade of false dreams.

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    It isn't possible to just be a plain Druid Lich, which would be worse than a living Druid, but still far better than a Blighter. If he were some other type of Lich, he'd be fine.
    What do you mean? Druids can be liches.

    How many encounters with the blighter actually degenerate into combat anyways? I thought it was quite apparent he was not meant to be an opponent.
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    Default Re: The 3.5 Red Hand Of Doom Handbook for DMs [Major spoilers!] - WIP, PEACH!

    Quote Originally Posted by Runestar View Post
    What do you mean? Druids can be liches.

    How many encounters with the blighter actually degenerate into combat anyways? I thought it was quite apparent he was not meant to be an opponent.
    And then they lose all of their abilities and become even worse than Blighters.

    To answer your question:

    Any party who has a strong reason to not work with an evil Blighter Lich. That's just about every good aligned PC, any Cleric of Pelor or a similar deity, any Druid.
    Any party who realizes they have him by the balls now, what with having his phylactery and all, whereas they would almost certainly not have such an advantage if they came back later. So any cunning or intelligent character.
    Any party who recalls any number of the obvious advantages they have, such as him being a Blighter, and therefore being weak or the party having a Staff of Life, which is only not a potential OHKO tool because Heal cannot reduce undead below 1 HP.

    In short, more parties than you might think. Which is why the other people discussing it essentially admit that the solution is to fake out the party into making him seem dangerous even though he is not.

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    Default Re: The 3.5 Red Hand Of Doom Handbook for DMs [Major spoilers!] - WIP, PEACH!

    Some thing I have found interesting is the Victory Points scores overall. It should be the case that if the party have done well throughout the game they should win the BoB if they take out Kharn so here is a look at victory points from my perspective (feel free to chime in if there's anything you disagree on)

    Overall there is 74 VP.
    The party needs 40 VP to win at BoB.
    Realisticly this is more like needing 66 VP total with 32 needed to win as if Kharn isn't killed the party loses anyway.
    So before Kharn the party needs to get 32 points.

    The 3 points for drellin's ferry is pretty much a given all things considered unless the party grossly underestimates the size of the horde and decides the best option is to stand and fight.
    2 points for road blocks are pretty much guaranteed.
    5 points for the elf alliance, this should be gained so long as the party didn't fail horribly at diplomacy
    2 points for the hatchery
    5 points for the ghost lord (wether done by diplomacy or killed)
    2 points for the hill giants
    4 points for holding the dawn way
    2 points for the sniper

    Now these are all the obvious hard to miss things that the party should accomplish without too much difficulty, this comes to a total of 25 points of the 32 needed. This should probably be covered by killing some Wyrmlords or dragons throughout the course of the adventure though or alternatively by points from the defence council or one of the side quests.

    So a good party should easily have the points by the battle with Kharn.
    The only realy problem I can see is if the party has no interest in non combat encounters in which case they will likely gain more points for offing commanders but lose out on alliance points or evacuation points and such like.

    However there is one point where an 'unusual' party can completely screw themselves over. Namely the Kiri Tor Elves. Specificly if they decide to ignore the elves and their related problems or the party has an active dislike of elves (I know some players who will attack elves on account of them being elves). For whatever reason if they don't sort out the elf problems they really begin to lose out.
    They automatically lose 5vp for not getting the alliance
    They definitely don't have the owls
    If they ignore the hatchery as a result of this then they also lose 2vp there + 6vp for the two commanders there (Unless they turn up at BoB)
    They won't find out about the ghostlord so that is another 5vp lost plus 3 more for Varanthian.
    So they can easily end up losing 21 points from ignoring the elves and have to do really, really well everywhere else to have any hope of winning (plus they will be fighting two extra waves in streets of death).

    So Vp wise it is in my opinion easy to achieve so long as you don't ignore the events of the swamp (at which point everything goes down hill).

    On an unrelated note what are peoples thoughts on the dragon colours?
    I know Varanthian is picked on a fair bit already but what about the other dragons? Is there a better way to do the colours? Abithrax is important to the BoB so he stays but Tyragun's placement doesn't gell with me. Okay he is Azur Kul's dad so there is plot relevance there (though the party may miss that) but it seems... wrong. The final dragon battle (big T excluded) is a blue dragon and the big bad is a half blue dragon... it just seems to me that there is something not right here.

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    Default Re: The 3.5 Red Hand Of Doom Handbook for DMs [Major spoilers!] - WIP, PEACH!

    That's the thing about VP. Since there's so many, and you need so few you'll succeed unless you are deliberately trying to fail. And even if you do miss 35 or more, you still get one final chance to kill some commanders to make up for it.

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    Default Re: The 3.5 Red Hand Of Doom Handbook for DMs [Major spoilers!] - WIP, PEACH!

    Agreed.
    Out of curiosity is Azarr Kul's portal a response to the battle of Brindol or the long term goal? It seems unclear within the book (or I'm looking at the wrong part) as to wether or not Azarr delays starting his portal until he has seen the result of BoB or if he begins day 45 regardless of what other events occur. The thing is if he always begins it day 45 it is actually to the parties benefit to let Koth escape, not take out the bridge and ignore the forest giants. They can easily get the required VP anyway, from what I have seen it is likely they will still reach Brindol in time and as a result of the seige starting earlier they will hear of Azarr sooner and have more time to deal with him. It isn't a significant amount of time but it is a few potentially valuable days gained from the seige occuring sooner.

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    Default Re: The 3.5 Red Hand Of Doom Handbook for DMs [Major spoilers!] - WIP, PEACH!

    And then they lose all of their abilities and become even worse than Blighters.
    There is definitely nothing in the rules prohibiting undead druids. Yes, they abhor undead and abberations, but that does not stop them from becoming one. In fact, there are a few cases of lich druids in various FR splatbooks.

    So for the same cr13, you could have a human lich druid11. Enough to wildshape into a large animal and fight with bite of the werebear active.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Runestar View Post
    There is definitely nothing in the rules prohibiting undead druids. Yes, they abhor undead and abberations, but that does not stop them from becoming one. In fact, there are a few cases of lich druids in various FR splatbooks.

    So for the same cr13, you could have a human lich druid11. Enough to wildshape into a large animal and fight with bite of the werebear active.
    That sounds like something that would get a PHB thrown at you, or a DMG depending on your point of view. Kind of like Pun-Pun, in that it's technically legal, though instead of being stupidly broken it's just stupid.

    With that said, Druid 11 would put up far more of a fight.

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    Default Re: The 3.5 Red Hand Of Doom Handbook for DMs [Major spoilers!] - WIP, PEACH!

    I just changed the Blighter casting to add levels of existing casting, re-open their original Druid casting, and add Blighter spells to their list. I did this for the Ghostlord and it worked pretty well. Granted, the party should not have fought him, but it was a memorable encounter at least.
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    Default Re: The 3.5 Red Hand Of Doom Handbook for DMs [Major spoilers!] - WIP, PEACH!

    Quote Originally Posted by Jair Barik View Post
    Agreed.
    Out of curiosity is Azarr Kul's portal a response to the battle of Brindol or the long term goal? It seems unclear within the book (or I'm looking at the wrong part) as to wether or not Azarr delays starting his portal until he has seen the result of BoB or if he begins day 45 regardless of what other events occur. The thing is if he always begins it day 45 it is actually to the parties benefit to let Koth escape, not take out the bridge and ignore the forest giants. They can easily get the required VP anyway, from what I have seen it is likely they will still reach Brindol in time and as a result of the seige starting earlier they will hear of Azarr sooner and have more time to deal with him. It isn't a significant amount of time but it is a few potentially valuable days gained from the seige occuring sooner.
    On this one, the way I understood it is that the portal is his ultimate goal and isn't affected by how far back the battle of Brindol is pushed. The campaign against Brindol is to establish a foothold in the Vale, the portal is to make that foothold impregnable.

    In other news, I've added some quick fixes to the treasure and Ghostlord sections to try and take account of the issues Malevolence identified. It's still not pretty in there yet, and I haven't got round to the other sections of the battle of Brindol yet, but I will.

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    Default Re: The 3.5 Red Hand Of Doom Handbook for DMs [Major spoilers!] - WIP, PEACH!

    Quote Originally Posted by Saintheart View Post
    In other news, I've added some quick fixes to the treasure and Ghostlord sections to try and take account of the issues Malevolence identified. It's still not pretty in there yet, and I haven't got round to the other sections of the battle of Brindol yet, but I will.
    Heal can't kill in 3.5. It can reduce the Lich to 1 HP, but not below that. Of course doing 1, or 20 something damage is not that hard, as the Ghostlord has rather low saves for the level, and nothing in the way of defenses except an easily bypassed, and not very high DR. And that is how many HP he will have left after one zap. Hell, a Magic Missile could do it, and no one can seriously claim blaster casters are a power build.

    It's also certainly possible to smash him without those things. Just a Heal zap makes it easy, such that even a weak party could do it.

    Really though, while the Ghostlord being ran down easily is a problem in the sense of him supposed to be tough, it's not so much of a problem in the sense of plot breaking. After all, the rest of the module proceeds in much the same way as if you had simply handed him back his phylactery. You even get full XP for doing so, so the only thing you miss out on is his own personal treasure.

    The biggest thing that'd fix him though is actually giving him some level appropriate stats. Ok, he can cast DC 18 Stinking Clouds. So can a level 6 caster, which is lower than the PCs at this point. Difference is, the Ghostlord is about double that level. Wis 26 or 28, by virtue of 18 base + lich +2 + level up + +4 or +6 item goes a long way towards making him dangerous, as it means his spells will actually land on people, instead of being laughed off by everyone.

    Edit: Something else I've noticed.

    Varanthian: As stated further up, like Ulwai, Varanthian doesn't need a lot of restatting because she's a significant challenge on her own to the PCs. Her Spell Resistance makes her dangerous, and her large number of natural attacks allow her to address action economy problems. I've not seen many campaigns yet where Varanthian wasn't responsible for at least one PC death or serious injury, so she doesn't need to be touched other than dealing with the most optimised parties. In that event, maybe only consider giving her a spellcasting class or two on top, but this is really getting to the insane point and shouldn't be necessary.
    Not sure if I'd agree with that. I seen a campaign where she got scaled up a lot, the party was rather weak and suboptimal, and they still did fine. I'd have to track down the game it happened in, but she was advanced by multiple HD which means better stats all around, and more SLAs. Come to think of it, most of the major encounters were scaled up by several CRs, and the weak party still ran over them.
    Last edited by Malevolence; 2011-03-25 at 09:01 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Malevolence View Post
    That sounds like something that would get a PHB thrown at you, or a DMG depending on your point of view. Kind of like Pun-Pun, in that it's technically legal, though instead of being stupidly broken it's just stupid.

    With that said, Druid 11 would put up far more of a fight.
    It is a pure-classed npc. They tend to be quite weak for their cr, and you are pretty much expected to go out of your way optimising them if you want them to be a decent challenge.

    I am tempted to use non-associated class rules in tandem with a powerful monster instead of human. Something like green hag druid11 would be cr 11 or 12 (depending on whether you round cr up or down). Plus, you get tons more hp and better stats overall to stand up to the party better.
    Quote Originally Posted by Tvtyrant View Post
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    Default Re: The 3.5 Red Hand Of Doom Handbook for DMs [Major spoilers!] - WIP, PEACH!

    Quote Originally Posted by Runestar View Post
    It is a pure-classed npc. They tend to be quite weak for their cr, and you are pretty much expected to go out of your way optimising them if you want them to be a decent challenge.

    I am tempted to use non-associated class rules in tandem with a powerful monster instead of human. Something like green hag druid11 would be cr 11 or 12 (depending on whether you round cr up or down). Plus, you get tons more hp and better stats overall to stand up to the party better.
    That rule has an exception, and that exception is pure casters. The problem is that Blighters are not full casters, and are instead infinitely worse than them. Making him a monstrous caster certainly helps, but also requires changing his history a bit.

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    Default Re: The 3.5 Red Hand Of Doom Handbook for DMs [Major spoilers!] - WIP, PEACH!

    Quote Originally Posted by Malevolence View Post
    That rule has an exception, and that exception is pure casters. The problem is that Blighters are not full casters, and are instead infinitely worse than them. Making him a monstrous caster certainly helps, but also requires changing his history fluff a bit.
    Fixed that for you.

    (Blighter is pretty easy to re-fluff as just being an evil druid.)
    You can call me Draz.
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    Also of note:

    Work on my homebrew system, CRE8, is still marching slowly onwards. I think I can see the light at the end of the tunnel -- an Alpha release -- in the distance now. Read my Design Goals here.

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