The Seven Dwarves (D&D 4e)
Adventure #1 WOTC DCC54 Forges of the Mountain King (Level 1)
That was a blinding first session of play, only three combat encounters but all of them were great in their own way. The entire scenario is being played for kicks- a bit or relaxation time between sessions of our core campaign (WOTC Core Modules), the guys are loving the Dwarves- and Dave has got the joke. A Party full of PCs that are all grumpy(-ish) Dwarves… what’s not to love.
Right then, now I want to tell you why Goodman Games scenarios are better than WOTC Core scenarios, in this session we played through three encounters, although the second one was a titanic affair, however even the first encounter serves to demonstrate why Goodman Games beats WOTCs Core scenarios.
The first encounter was with five Fire Beetles- first up how mad is that- five Fire Beetles, I guess the guy who wrote the module is just lazy- but no, five Fire Beetles make for much fun, and lots of danger- five area effect attacks each delivering 3d6 fire damage. If I had put all five Beetles on the board from the beginning then the likelihood is that the PCs were going to suffer a lot of damage- so that’s the first point; Goodman Games do danger.
The second point is the guys are fighting in and around an area which has a bunch of Dwarf statues, and a hole in the ground- nothing overly dramatic but wait for the second encounter in which the guys get to fight an Ogre on a ledge with a seventy foot drop into a fast flowing river, and rocks… Goodman Games do danger, I think I may have already made this point.
Next up the Dwarf statues make the sound of a dirge or a chant as the wind blows through them- only the noise of the chant is being stifled by the fact that the statues mouths are full of stones. The second party removed the stones from the statues mouths- and thus the chanting got louder, and all of the PCs got a bonus to their attacks, and also if there were guards close by they would have heard the noise. Goodman Games do dynamic, and interesting, and different, and a bit (not a lot) clever.
Next up there are four statues in the encounter, three point in the one direction- the other… points somewhere else, and after the secret button is found on the ‘different’ statue and pressed- the place on the cavern wall at which the statue was pointing opens up, a secret door. Within a skeleton of a dwarf and some cool stuff to find, including a clue to a future trap and some strange iron fillings (they come in handy much later). Oh and there’s a bunch of money and a magic weapon- all in the very first encounter. So, my point is- nasty monsters that are dangerous, but beatable; a cool environment to fight in and to investigate; a cool secret door with stash aplenty (a reward befitting the players efforts); and some clever stuff- clues for later on in the adventure, and a cool alarm/bonus system.
WOTC in comparison don’t seem to think much about making each location somewhere special, or different, or complex, or clever- or rather when they do it all seems a little sterile, a little bit too much like they thought about it purely in game terms rather than figured out a story. Goodman Games scenarios are infinitely more rough and ready than WOTCs offerings, and in these first modules are a lot less conversant with the rules of 4e. That said they’re richer and with more layers- more things to find, to do, to investigate and worry over; they make it easy for the DM and the players to get involved with the story, or if story’s not your thing then with the exploration dynamic- the finding of clues, the solving of puzzles etc. with Goodman Games exploration is almost always rewarded.
That’s why Goodman Games rocks.
The second combat, as I said earlier, was just a titanic affair- it’s a long time since a TPK has been so much fun, the players at the end were laughing in the aisles. Obviously a good kicking also generates a metric tonne of motivation- the Rescue Committee are out to destroy all before them, and hopefully at some point spring the captured Dwarves.
Note the second group has decided on a less charge-first-worry-about-it-later approach, it seems they wish to stay alive. That said the encounter with the Zombie Hulks almost proved deadly for one or two of the players, if I could have got one of the guys with a double hit- a smash from both Hulk’s then I’m sure I would have sent another PC an extra six feet under.
Goodman Games modules are just beautiful and nasty, I realise it’s simple stuff but it just plays much better than WOTC, even dungeon hacks like this one.