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5E A truly horrifying Age of Worms

TheSword

Hero
So I am looking at running the Age of Worms converted to 5e and am a little concerned that ease of access to lesser restoration and the large number of undead will be easily overcome by clerics and paladins. Particularly as the campaign progresses.

My though was to have divine magic become steadily harder to perform as the campaign progresses - each spell costs progressively a slot 1 higher slot to cast at key points in the campaign. During the Whispering Cairn and Three Faces of Evil it would be 1 higher, during Encounter at Blackwall, Hall of Harsh Reflections and Champions Belt it would be 2 higher. During a Gathering of Winds 3 etc etc.

This would make divine magic extremely precious, discourage PCs playing divine classes (they would be told about the level 1 cost upfront of course) and would provide an interesting panic to the established order as the campaign unfolds. It also mirrors the portents explored in Elder Evils (of which Kyuss is referenced as one). My group frequently plays without divine characters so I don’t think this will constrain the players. However what ramifications do you think this would have on 5e and the campaign for those that know it?

[Edit: for bonus points, how does this Campaign stack up in a Greek setting, Theros/Arkadia/Odessey of the Dragonlords. I’m thinking ancient ruins, gladiatorial games, despotic kings and ancient druids.]
 
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jgsugden

Legend
It is better not to diminish particular PCs. It takes away their agency and makes them feel like they're being punished. If I'm running an undead heavy campaign, I want the cleric to feel like they're the star. To adjust, I would:

a.) Add more undead. Let the turn undead be effective, but just add some extra undead, or a second wave here and there. It gives the cleric the feeling that they're saving the group from overwhelming forces. That feels better as a player than feeling like your toys have been taken away. Ideally, you can shape encounters to create opportunities for the cleric to have an optimal use of turn undead, etc...

b.) Add in curse elements so that a remove curse is often needed on top of the lesser restoration. You need to remove the curse before you can remove the disease. This gives you some insulation until at least 5th level. If you do this, make sure there are other places they can use lesser restoration so that they do not feel their toy has been taken away.

c.) Just discourage paladins or clerics at the start of the game. I would not tell players not to play one, but if a player is thinking about making one, I'd encourage them to think about other classes that the group has not seen, like bards and druids.
 

TheSword

Hero
Age of Worms is a crazily undead heavy campaign, that goes more so as the game continues. I’m not so much worried about the Cleric/Paladin/Druid not getting to shine but rather being dominant above others. I agree that your suggestion C is always a good idea. As I said they would be discouraged from playing divine classes entirely rather than them play them and have their hands tied.

This is more a question about what impact limiting divine magic from an NPC point of view and completely removing from players has on the game?
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I'm not familiar with the mod but I wouldn't make house rules. I'd just modify encounters and how often the PCs can rest and recover if necessary. It doesn't matter if a PC can turn undead if they've already used their channel divinities for the day.

I suspect this is a solution looking for an issue - even if divine PCs are slightly more powerful, so what? Give that cleric a chance to be something other than a heal-bot. Reward a player for playing a PC that works best for the opponents they'll be facing by letting them be effective.

No one PC is going to be so much better than every other PC in 5E that it makes that much of a difference.
 

TheSword

Hero
I suspect you need to know a bit more about the campaign.

One of the tings that makes the campaign so scary in the earlier stages is the discovery of worms that burrow into a person and Turn them into undead. These are cured by casting remove disease - in 3e a fairly niche 3rd level spell that had to be memorized. In 5e It’s an all encompassing 2nd level spell that is a given for most divine spell casting characters to take.

At the later stages it is a given that the players gain defenses against this - usually immunity to disease through some method or another - otherwise they would become worm food. Though at early stages it is a big part of the feel and difficulty of the campaign.

believe me a paladin, and a cleric (or even a druid) would trivialize this game for the first half of the campaign. In my opinion. It isn’t about them being more powerful than the rest of the party... it’s them having resources that trivialize core components of the game

I’m hoping for specific discussion relating to the Age of Worms not so much general principles of limiting campaigns. I’m also absolutely in favor of house rules where they improve the style and theme of the game.
 

humble minion

Adventurer
If you're concerned that the 5e spellcasting model might trivialise
the worms, it might seem to be a simpler fix to make curing the worm infestation more difficult rather than banning, crippling, or rewriting core classes of the entire game. Perhaps Remove Disease only works against this particular disease when used in conjunction with rare and expensive herbs (and only when they're freshly picked...), or blessed silver powder, or some other difficult/inconvenient/expensive component? Or maybe it also requires (for example) a use of Channel Divinity in addition to the spell, or it has to be cast on hallowed ground? Or maybe the worm gets a saving throw, or the spell is not guaranteed to work for some other reason? Or even rule that each spawn of Kyuss attack infests the victim with 1d3 or 1d4 worms, each of which requires a Remove Disease of its own?

(I'm just throwing some ideas around off the top of my head here, it's a looong time since i read Age or Worms and I never played/DMed it)

edit: though having said that, I do remember a lot of the complaints around Age of Worms at the time it came out was that it was so undead-heavy and PCs who were rogues or bards or enchanters or whatever could often find themselves feeling pretty useless while the clerics powered through everything. This is less of a big deal in 5e, rogues etc are more useful against undead and 5e clerics get less Channel Divinity uses than 3e clerics got Turn Undead, but it still might be an issue. You might want to add a few more living enemies in here and there, just to keep things varied.
 
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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
It's one thing to say that a cure disease is a "mere" 2nd level spell (or 5 points of LOH), but that just changes how much you need to push resource management. Sure you can cure 1 or 2 (or 10) people but what about 20?

Or as @humble minion just adjust the disease. Make a chance of backlash - every time someone tries to cast cure disease they need to make a saving throw themselves.

There are a lot of ways of dealing with this, the last resort imho should be nerfing classes.
 

Having played AoW in 3.5, clerics or paladins with the right prestige class could definitely make things easier for the party. Plus, cheap wands and scrolls... But the campaign was still a meat-grinder.

Characters seem more durable in 5E, but with fewer spell slots and magic items, I don't think clerics or paladins would be any more unbalanced than in the original.
 

Talltomwright

Explorer
Rather than changing the PCs and their spells at all could you instead rule that Greater Restoration was required to counteract the effect you mentioned (since its evidentially a powerful magical effect and not a natural disease.) 5th level spell with 100gp of diamond dust material component. Also as more magic users discover the application of that spell across your campaign world demand for diamond dust will go up and its cost will rise sharply.
 

Var

Explorer
Wouldn't the usual opponents being undead already cancel out with the Cleric ending up to spend a lot of his resources on dealing with the worms?
The one thing I'd adjust is turn Undead. Honestly just take it away from Clerics or make it not work on Undead created by worms. It's one of the subfeatures of a subfeatures that does nothing 95% of the time and is pretty broken when it matters. Channel Divinity is pretty good without it for most Clerics, it's not going to hurt them any feelings.

Not to mention that the tired old trope of Paldin/Cleric vs evil is thematic if nothing else. Straight up making the classes less viable or discouraging them is a bit iffy when it makes perfect sense for them to be there.

Lesser Restoration is not exactly uncommon:
Classes: Bard, Cleric, Druid, Paladin, Ranger
Outside of Clerics and Druides, who'd still like to do other stuff with their Spellslots, a second level choice is no joke for a Bard and a rather big expenditure for a half caster.

If you want it to be harder to get rid off don't make it a mundane disease.
Switching the worms to a Curse (Classes: Cleric, Paladin, Warlock, Wizard) will compete with Spirit Guardians/Fireball/Haste and really hurts. Greater Restoration is a massive step up and consumes 100GP worth of diamonds. Your players will scramble for consumables to save their slots for other stuff, even if you let Lesser Restoration work.
It's also possible to scale it as already suggested. The worms coming from a Zombie bite will be weak enough to handle with Lesser Restoration. A stronger Undead like a Wight infecting someone will require Remove Curse first and then Lesser Restoration.
 

Matrix Sorcica

Adventurer
Why not try it out first, and adjust as you go (i.e. as the campaign progresses, the undead gets turn resistance, it takes greater restoration etc.). Besides, AoW can't become more horrifying than it was for rogues in 3.5 already.
 

TheSword

Hero
Having played AoW in 3.5, clerics or paladins with the right prestige class could definitely make things easier for the party. Plus, cheap wands and scrolls... But the campaign was still a meat-grinder.

Characters seem more durable in 5E, but with fewer spell slots and magic items, I don't think clerics or paladins would be any more unbalanced than in the original.
I DM’d the first time round with a different group about 10 years ago in Pathfinder and the cleric and Paladin wiped the floor. It just wasn’t very scary. I wished I’d put the restriction in first time round.

The difference with 5e is the Paladin curing disease at level 1, lesser restoration at level 3, and the nature of spell memorization being you can have the spell without expending a slot. Not to mention turning undead being very effective because of the reduced saving throws of enemies (though this can be helped with turn resistance).

Regarding other methods of making the worms and undead scarier I’m not sure how requiring multiple castings makes things better in a campaign where the worms are relatively common. The cleric/Paladin will just get frustrated having to use spells more than once.

No changes means paladins and clerics overshadow other characters. Making the worms harder to turn penalizes the clerics and paladins and potentially another player if the Ps & Cs don’t successfully remove a worm.

Better to go without and then all players are in an equal boat.
 

jgsugden

Legend
Age of Worms is a crazily undead heavy campaign, that goes more so as the game continues. I’m not so much worried about the Cleric/Paladin/Druid not getting to shine but rather being dominant above others.
I understood this when I wrote my comments. You're not getting my point. Limiting the PCs is a giant "%$#@ you" to the players. Enhancing the requirements to deal with them, or upping the challenge to account for their strengths (a bit) let's the players continue to enjoy the game without necessarily feeling like you're punishing them. You have to execute it well, but it is a better option than diminishing their magic.
 

TheSword

Hero
Wouldn't the usual opponents being undead already cancel out with the Cleric ending up to spend a lot of his resources on dealing with the worms?
The one thing I'd adjust is turn Undead. Honestly just take it away from Clerics or make it not work on Undead created by worms. It's one of the subfeatures of a subfeatures that does nothing 95% of the time and is pretty broken when it matters. Channel Divinity is pretty good without it for most Clerics, it's not going to hurt them any feelings.

Not to mention that the tired old trope of Paldin/Cleric vs evil is thematic if nothing else. Straight up making the classes less viable or discouraging them is a bit iffy when it makes perfect sense for them to be there.

Lesser Restoration is not exactly uncommon:
Classes: Bard, Cleric, Druid, Paladin, Ranger
Outside of Clerics and Druides, who'd still like to do other stuff with their Spellslots, a second level choice is no joke for a Bard and a rather big expenditure for a half caster.

If you want it to be harder to get rid off don't make it a mundane disease.
Switching the worms to a Curse (Classes: Cleric, Paladin, Warlock, Wizard) will compete with Spirit Guardians/Fireball/Haste and really hurts. Greater Restoration is a massive step up and consumes 100GP worth of diamonds. Your players will scramble for consumables to save their slots for other stuff, even if you let Lesser Restoration work.
It's also possible to scale it as already suggested. The worms coming from a Zombie bite will be weak enough to handle with Lesser Restoration. A stronger Undead like a Wight infecting someone will require Remove Curse first and then Lesser Restoration.
I agree about Turn Undead, being able to channel twice per short rest makes undead much weaker. Having the big bad cower in the corner for a minute is not a look.

While I agree that there are other classes that have lesser restoration, only the cleric Paladin and Druid can do it easily from level 3 without really sacrificing it. As you say a bard is sacrificing a very limited number of spell choices, and rangers don’t get 2nd level spells until 5th level and have a reduced number of slots. They also don’t have all the other anti-undead powers - smite, turning etc.

It makes too much sense for clerics and paladins to be there. A bit like Clerics and Paladins in Curse of Strahd. It’s easier with them of course but scarier without those easy go too.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Like others have said, change the mod not the classes.
  • The undead have turn resistance, legendary resistance or are just straight up immune. Heck, have turn undead be a power up - it enrages them and give them advantage on their next attack. :devilish:
  • Throw more undead.
  • Require something other than cure wounds to heal the affected such as greater restoration.
  • Limit resting so that the PCs have to better balance resources.
Nerfing class abilities completely should be last resort.
 

TheSword

Hero
I understood this when I wrote my comments. You're not getting my point. Limiting the PCs is a giant "%$#@ you" to the players. Enhancing the requirements to deal with them, or upping the challenge to account for their strengths (a bit) let's the players continue to enjoy the game without necessarily feeling like you're punishing them. You have to execute it well, but it is a better option than diminishing their magic.
I get what you’re saying. But I’m saying don’t have full divine casters or paladins. If those classes aren’t in the party (not the game just the party) then the players aren’t being nerfed!

I am absolutely not saying nerf any players abilities!
 

NotAYakk

Legend
Is it possible to rotate things?

Make the worms aberrant, and the resulting animated corpses actually puppet-golems, glowing with energy from the far realm.

The cults to evil deities are actually being manipulated by older powers.

This undead-that-is-not-undead might add some horror to the game. And it lets you manipulate the monster stats to add madness and mutation effects to it, instead of necrotic energy and the like.

Mixing in some "traditional" undead would also work. Make sure that the "worm puppets" are visually distinct from normal undead. And swap out some BBEGs.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
I wouldn't make divine spells cost a higher slot. That's a big nerf that doesn't really address the entirety of the issue. Paladin cure disease would be unaffected. Turn undead would be unaffected. Neither of these resources use spell slots. At the same time, you're nerfing effects that won't unbalance the campaign (like the Zone of Truth spell, which is no better in this campaign than any other).

I agree with those who've suggested simply modifying the effects to your tastes and leaving the classes unmodified.

For example, in a zombie campaign I ran, I modified the undead so that effects like Turn Undead caused them to enrage if they saved successful. This changed it into a high risk / high reward ability that wasn't the go-to you'd expect in a zombie campaign.

You could modify the worm disease so that it can be cured by lesser restoration but leaves an unpleasant after-effect (maybe a curse). Only greater restoration can remove it without causing the after-effect.
 

Stormonu

Legend
I would agree with not changing the PC's abilities or disallowing classes, but you can change some of the undead abilities and tactics if you want to change the power curve.

  • Send in undead in waves. If the PCs aren't judicious about turning, they may waste using the ability too soon (or too late) instead of when most needed.
  • Remember turning is broken as soon as the PC damages the undead. While allowing them to possibly make a powerful alpha strike, if the undead can weather initial attacks, they're dangerous again.
  • Turning lasts only a minute. Afterward, the undead can return to pester the PCs (especially if they are making themselves easy to find with light & noise). Really dangerous if the PCs are still engaged with other enemies when the undead return (or they wait to ambush PCs)
  • Judicious use of turn resistance. The "worms" may give the undead a +2 (+1d4) bonus to turning - sort of like a bless/blight effect. Legendary undead could automatically succeed it with use of a legendary ability. You could designate "Leader" undead in groups that may have aura abilities that buff nearby undead saves or allow them a second save
  • The "worms" may require stronger magic to be used to remove effects or heal injuries caused by the undead. You could require PCs to research these effects (possibly with GP costs attached), adding either exotic components ("tail of worm"), higher level spells or saves against worm-induced effects (see Tomb of Annililitation's treatment of the "Death Curse" for ideas).
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
Like others have said, change the mod not the classes.
  • The undead have turn resistance, legendary resistance or are just straight up immune. Heck, have turn undead be a power up - it enrages them and give them advantage on their next attack. :devilish:
I definitely like turn resistance (like with the lich) for upper-tier undead monstrosities. But legendary resistance like with the lich or vampire might be enough to fit the higher bill rather than immunity. If the turning fails even once, chances are they aren't going to try again against that particular undead critter.
 

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