NAP Playtest Report 2
Battle for the soul of the module
This session picked up where the last stopped. With the party having recently charmed one of the spectres they met in the library. Once again, I am going to only hit the highlights, in am effort to preserve some of the mystique of the dungeon of this module. Then I'll do a brief retrospective of the things that need to change or not. On with the report.
The party spent a long time dealing with the magical status in front of the chapel, eventually pulling them down
The specter walked into the throne room and reported a skeleton with a crown on its head. It was dutifully ignored.
The party found the King's old bedroom and liberated a chest from ice. This summoned a magic mouth which taunted them in a dead language.
They commanded some dryads and were introduced to Lady Rose. She is the nature witch who wishes to free her husband from the grip of undeath.
They recovered the magical codex, the Arcanum Tenebrae.
The explorer triggered a lighting trap on a door, nearly dying.
The main lesson from this session is encounter frequency. As I stated last report, I am using the standard encounter rate of a 1 on a d6, rolled ever 2 turns; with a few special actions causing a direct roll on the encounter table. This works okay, but not all the events on the encounter table are all that punishing or interesting. If feels bad to roll the same 4 wraiths multiple times. The encounter table is going to get split up into a "normal" table and "special" table, with a roll on the special table being a result on the normal table. This will allow me to further curate events that cause special random encounters. That way things that should cause some sort of thematic reprisal vs just causing monsters to pop up.
The second thing also has to do with encounters. One of the actions that causes a direct encounter roll (no d6 check) is if the players travel through 3 previously explored rooms. This proved difficult in practice because "explored" isn't actually very well defined. Does explored mean sent a single undead in? Do you have to do something in a room? I made a ruling in the session, that being simply visiting a room counts as explored. But I not willing to stand by that now that I have thought it over. It also generates far too much paperwork for a referee. So away it goes.
Lastly I'm noticing a tendency for monsters to have a leashing behavior. Meaning that several rooms and locations have monsters that will not chase out of them. This means that any room can usually be solved by going in and out quickly. This needs to change. A few key locations will need and order of battle while a few monsters are going to have their leashes taken off, letting them chase unprepared players further.
Well Functioning Parts
The rooms that have obvious guardians are doing their jobs. Players avoid them or waste resources dealing with them. Notably, the riddle statues in from if the chapel ate almost 6 full turns with the players trying to not activate them. The guards to Queen's Tower also ate a staff charge. Albeit, on accident.
Some of the magical effects are doing a similar thing. The anti-magical viewing field in the Kings and Queen's marital chamber almost caught one player off guard.
Lastly, "bear trap" style traps still work. The best way to get a player to do something fun is to place a bear trap with a sign saying "don't stick your hand here" and they will then proceed to do that every time.
Bonus: Mass Battles
Had a chance to run one of the possible mass battles this scenario could produce. Namely, a siege of Icewyrm Keep, and the skeleton horde attempting a final desperate push to break the siege.
This went, poorly for the Skeletons. Total Human victory. Most of this is up to my own ineptitude as a wargamer. But it's also revealed a more wholiistic problem: enemy variety.
Undead are cool, but there are way too many. I'm going to diversify the enemy forces by once again altering the set up slightly. The king himself is getting bumped from being an undead thrall of the lich, to simply being granted an undead army by his "advisor (the lich)" To bolster his existing allies. These will likely be two tribes of subjugated orcs and goblins. It will add some teeth to army in a way that skelemans do not, while still being an obviously chaotic actions. The battle is going to be re-run in a week or so with this new army. We'll see how it turns out.
But that's all for now! Until later,