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5E A truly horrifying Age of Worms

TheSword

Hero
@humble minion
You are right that there are some big dungeons - the wormcrawl fissure being the main one - though that is the penultimate location.

The Spire is Long Shadows is the earliest really scary undead dungeon and is probably the point I would need to have provided them with most of the tools to survive. At that point without robust defenses against the worms they’re mulch.

They would never make it back as the worms dinner takes 10 rounds max really. So it’s find way around - surgically remove, use a scrolls, potion etc or die.
 

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humble minion

Adventurer
They would never make it back as the worms dinner takes 10 rounds max really. So it’s find way around - surgically remove, use a scrolls, potion etc or die.
Yeek, that's LOT more brutal than i remember, for some reason i was misremembering it, and thinking it progressed like a more conventional disease. It's really just a slightly delayed save-or-die effect.

Yeah, so scratch everything i said about trekking back to the NPC cleric, that isn't going to fly obviously.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
Yeah, the transformation caused by those worms is nasty (1d4+1 rounds in 3.5). Without a cleric or someone able to protect the PCs from disease, that campaign is going to be harsh.
 

Mistwell

Legend
I’m surprised by the reluctance to tinker with 5e. I would have thought 6 years in people would have been more willing to set some limits for a thematic campaign.
You're suggesting running a campaign which was built for an entirely different set of rules in 5e. You've run into some issues with that campaign because 5e classes work a little differently. People are often suggesting you change the challenges to address that, and you're kinda crapping on that idea.

Except...YOU'RE RUNNING A CAMPAIGN WRITTEN FOR AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT SET OF RULES. You're already going to have to tweak the heck out of that campaign to make it work well-enough for 5e, so what exactly is this extra burden on you to tweak the challenges to address this? You know, given you're already tweaking the challenges to address other aspects of 5e?

You're in the better position, as the DM choosing to run a non-5e game under a 5e rules set, to deal with this behind the DM screen. I am surprised at your reluctance to tinker with the challenges, given you're already going to be tinkering with those challenges.

I know from experience (having run another Paizo adventure for 5e) that you're going to be tinkering with hit points, attack rolls, damage rolls, and some special abilities of challenges. It's incredibly easy for you to add something like "resistant to turning" or "resistant to radiant damage" or "acts as a 4th level spell for purposes of dispel magic" or whatever while you're converting. Why are you trying to stick this on the players when this is a job you're already undertaking?
 

TheSword

Hero
You're suggesting running a campaign which was built for an entirely different set of rules in 5e. You've run into some issues with that campaign because 5e classes work a little differently. People are often suggesting you change the challenges to address that, and you're kinda crapping on that idea.

Except...YOU'RE RUNNING A CAMPAIGN WRITTEN FOR AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT SET OF RULES. You're already going to have to tweak the heck out of that campaign to make it work well-enough for 5e, so what exactly is this extra burden on you to tweak the challenges to address this? You know, given you're already tweaking the challenges to address other aspects of 5e?

You're in the better position, as the DM choosing to run a non-5e game under a 5e rules set, to deal with this behind the DM screen. I am surprised at your reluctance to tinker with the challenges, given you're already going to be tinkering with those challenges.

I know from experience (having run another Paizo adventure for 5e) that you're going to be tinkering with hit points, attack rolls, damage rolls, and some special abilities of challenges. It's incredibly easy for you to add something like "resistant to turning" or "resistant to radiant damage" or "acts as a 4th level spell for purposes of dispel magic" or whatever while you're converting. Why are you trying to stick this on the players when this is a job you're already undertaking?
What do you mean stick this on the players?
 

TheSword

Hero
Yeah, the transformation caused by those worms is nasty (1d4+1 rounds in 3.5). Without a cleric or someone able to protect the PCs from disease, that campaign is going to be harsh.
There is that moment of panic when the worm is on their skin and they have a round to kill it before it burrows in. That’s the panic I want The players to ‘enjoy’ for a few levels before they find longer term ways of coping. The Kyuss worms are fairly scarce for the first six adventures But when they do arrive they need to make an impact. Without derailing the second half of the campaign by making them too onerous to get rid of.
 

Mistwell

Legend
What do you mean stick this on the players?
I mean you're putting the burden of a problem created by your own choice of adventures that needs to be converted to 5e on the players choices for character creation and development. You're saying "Even if you were dreaming of making a cleric for this campaign because you've been looking forward to playing a cleric, I want you to put aside those desires to accommodate my choice of adventures." Worse, if one of your PCs encounters something in the adventure which naturally would lead the PC to want to take multi-classing in Cleric, you're telling your player they cannot follow that path either.

Which makes perfect sense if there isn't another good way to deal with this problem. But there is, and you'll already be doing the work involved with adjusting the challenges as the DM. So why not take that way to solve the problem?
 


The toys of players are there for them to enjoy. Do not mess with them.
Talk to your players. If you intend it to be more challenging. Talk to them first.
Use the rest variant rules. If need be. Short rest is 8 hours. Long rest is a week.
 

Coroc

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.
I see your point, that is tough to balance. Are your players more "grognard" or more modern, like e.g. "every skill has to work all time otherwise I feel nerfed to the point of no fun"?
Depending on that there might be a different solution:

As I understand the big bad oomph effect of the setting is very similar to "The Strain" series, an apocalyptic scenario with vampire like beings infecting others by the means of worms which they cough up into their victims face. Btw this one is a very good analogy to what is going on with Corona IRL atm. if it had turned out much worse.
If you can, watch it on some streamer.

But back to topic, so like with "The strain" the "Zombies" might not count as undead at all but rather morphed and controlled by the worms, and eager to spread and multiply the affliction.
So let the lesser restoration work, even at low level, but there are only so many spell slots to cast it.
(Even for me as a grognard, as much as I like an extra challenge by some condition e.g. exhausted or diseased, I also want to have access to a "let it go away" solution after some time.)

But make it that the "worm-zombies" are not of the type undead at all, but rather hosts for the worms, so trivializing anything by turn undead will not help because it will not work.
 

Yeah, I don't really get it. You want the path to be more challenging, then make it more challenging. Holding a gun to the players' heads and saying, "Don't you dare pick a divine caster or I swear I'll shoot your kneecaps off" just seems like the opposite of fun to me.

Arbitary restriction of classes from the Player's Handbook is a old and tired relic of 2nd edition and needs to remain there. It was abandoned in third edition and for good reason, it screws over players with no real benefit. There are far more interesting ways to create mood and theme without that.
 

TheSword

Hero
I see your point, that is tough to balance. Are your players more "grognard" or more modern, like e.g. "every skill has to work all time otherwise I feel nerfed to the point of no fun"?
Depending on that there might be a different solution:

As I understand the big bad oomph effect of the setting is very similar to "The Strain" series, an apocalyptic scenario with vampire like beings infecting others by the means of worms which they cough up into their victims face. Btw this one is a very good analogy to what is going on with Corona IRL atm. if it had turned out much worse.
If you can, watch it on some streamer.

But back to topic, so like with "The strain" the "Zombies" might not count as undead at all but rather morphed and controlled by the worms, and eager to spread and multiply the affliction.
So let the lesser restoration work, even at low level, but there are only so many spell slots to cast it.
(Even for me as a grognard, as much as I like an extra challenge by some condition e.g. exhausted or diseased, I also want to have access to a "let it go away" solution after some time.)

But make it that the "worm-zombies" are not of the type undead at all, but rather hosts for the worms, so trivializing anything by turn undead will not help because it will not work.
There is that moment of panic when the worm is on their skin and they have a round to kill it before it burrows in. That’s the panic I want The players to ‘enjoy’ for a few levels before they find longer term ways of coping. The Kyuss worms are fairly scarce for the first six adventures But when they do arrive they need to make an impact.
Thanks I have heard good things about the strain. A good dose of body horror. That could be an interesting way of resolving the undead issue.

The players are grognards and are more than happy playing one of the other 8 characters. As I said we haven’t had a cleric in the game since 5e started. They very rarely take one or two levels in a class to power game. So if a player is going to be a Paladin, they play a Paladin - they don’t really take two levels of Paladin to get a boost.

I guess this is why I got frustrated at the start and why comments like the last few aren’t at all helpful. Because they are projecting their impressions of how d&d should be played from an ideological standpoint - don’t mess with player character choice... “you’re killing their dreams, man!” When I’m actual fact if it built tension and helped create a good story I’m pretty convinced my players would be fine - and either way I’d talk to them first.
 

TheSword

Hero
Yeah, I don't really get it. You want the path to be more challenging, then make it more challenging. Holding a gun to the players' heads and saying, "Don't you dare pick a divine caster or I swear I'll shoot your kneecaps off" just seems like the opposite of fun to me.

Arbitary restriction of classes from the Player's Handbook is a old and tired relic of 2nd edition and needs to remain there. It was abandoned in third edition and for good reason, it screws over players with no real benefit. There are far more interesting ways to create mood and theme without that.
Do you always have to get what you want all the time? Is unlimited choice really good for creativity?

Incidentally, negatively affecting divine spell casting on a increasing scale as the campaign progresses is not limited to 2e. It was released at the end of 3.5 in the Elder Evils book, which features... wait for it... the Age of Worms.

If a DM has an invisible creature but you don’t have the see invisibility, faerie fire or true seeing spell is your DM screwing you over or are they just presenting a challenge requiring an alternative way of fixing it?

From the Madness of King George...

“Who can flourish on such a daily diet of compliance? To be curbed... stood up to...
in a word, thwarted exercises the character, elasticates the spirit, makes it more pliant.”
 
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Azzy

Newtype
Yeah, I don't see the point in nerfing or limiting the access to certain classes when the easiest way to solve the issues is to modify the adventue path. There have been some really good ideas to that end strewn throughout this thread.
 

TheSword

Hero
I mean you're putting the burden of a problem created by your own choice of adventures that needs to be converted to 5e on the players choices for character creation and development. You're saying "Even if you were dreaming of making a cleric for this campaign because you've been looking forward to playing a cleric, I want you to put aside those desires to accommodate my choice of adventures." Worse, if one of your PCs encounters something in the adventure which naturally would lead the PC to want to take multi-classing in Cleric, you're telling your player they cannot follow that path either.

Which makes perfect sense if there isn't another good way to deal with this problem. But there is, and you'll already be doing the work involved with adjusting the challenges as the DM. So why not take that way to solve the problem?
This is the first time I’ve ever seen not doing something described as a burden...

I know it’s going to be tough, but can you guys try not to do the dinner dishes. It will be a challenge I know but please try and suffer the load.

You’re also totally projecting your view on what my players think. Which I don’t believe is even close to the mark.

Having restrictions increases inventiveness, creativity and tension. Necessity is the mother of invention.

I am aware I could make creatures immune/resistant to some player’s powers or make players spells and abilities ineffective to defend against some of the creatures. However I think this causes more harm than just saying don’t play those characters.

It is better to know and make informed decisions rather than find out that lesser restoration doesn’t work, oh and neither does turn undead, oh and by the way if you don’t use your spell slots for healing you’re party will die and it will be your fault. I’d rather remove them from the equation and free them up to play something they can enjoy more - and take account of this in the campaign. For instance there is already an item that can cast heal once a day in the campaign.
 
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Var

Explorer
Agreed on the premise, I'm the first guy in favor of a more gritty and deadly campaign.
Mathematically speaking there is no difference between rolling a Skill Check at +7 vs DC12 and then slapping on a -5 to make it harder vs the same Skill check against DC17 without the penalty. People just like challenges, not penalties.

Example time:
Rather than raising the stakes by literally chopping the limbs off the PCs and have them fight Goblins like that, just leave the PCs in one piece and use Bugbears instead.

You can pick that hill to die on and just do whatever you want anyway. But you came here asking for opinions and "do not nerf" is the obvious summary so far. What would you like to hear at this point?
Nerfing Divine Casters, big no no according to feedback, but you do you.
Removing Divine Casters, weird in an Undead campaign, but okay whatever floats your boat. It doesn't break anything, not every 5 man party is gonna have every class anyway.
Fixing the couple minor things causing the problem to begin with (basically doing DM things), probably both the ideal way and easiest to do.


There appears to be some invisible component that makes you want to desperately avoid something like a 5 Cleric Party trivializing your campaign. Why? You have all the time in the world to prepare for that and just not let it happen. Have a little faith in yourself to find a sensible solution.
 

Coroc

Hero
.....

There appears to be some invisible component that makes you want to desperately avoid something like a 5 Cleric Party trivializing your campaign. Why? You have all the time in the world to prepare for that and just not let it happen. Have a little faith in yourself to find a sensible solution.
Ahm, the game should be a nightmare for the players not for the DM no?

The 5 cleric party : "The five from the cloister" instead of "The three from the gas station"
Tbh. me and no DM I know of would be happy to have that constellation except in a very tailored adventure.

Ravenloft is pretty similar in needs for parties w/o paladin and clerics, just to add to the horror.
If you say it is players choice e.g. to play a pally in Ravenloft, then it is DMs choice that Domain lord pays a personal visit to said pally, as soon as he is aware of him, or is that unfair game for you?
Isn't it better to communicate upfront a selection of feasible classes to give everybody the possibility to shine and make things more balanced and challenging? I see the latter as the better option (no matter what the additional motivation of @TheSword for it is).
 

Var

Explorer
Ahm, the game should be a nightmare for the players not for the DM no?

The 5 cleric party : "The five from the cloister" instead of "The three from the gas station"
Tbh. me and no DM I know of would be happy to have that constellation except in a very tailored adventure.

Ravenloft is pretty similar in needs for parties w/o paladin and clerics, just to add to the horror.
If you say it is players choice e.g. to play a pally in Ravenloft, then it is DMs choice that Domain lord pays a personal visit to said pally, as soon as he is aware of him, or is that unfair game for you?
Isn't it better to communicate upfront a selection of feasible classes to give everybody the possibility to shine and make things more balanced and challenging? I see the latter as the better option (no matter what the additional motivation of @TheSword for it is).
There's only a problem with a 5 Full Caster Party if you let it be one. Pretty sure I can build a more annoying party than 5 clerics from a DM perspective, being lazy - 4 War Wizards ending every encounter before the other side gets a turn and a Divine Soul Sorcerer to add some healing.

And I still fail to see how 5 Druids/(Divine Soul) Sorcerers would be any less problematic with the same amount of Spellslots to blow on trivializing encounters.

The OP's concerns are purely mechanical. If that Paladin in Ravenloft has RP repercussion and needs to be reflavored as Crusader or whatever to fit, has no impact on encounter balance.

Still his campaign and his choices. He can do whatever he wants, have everyone die to worms two days in the campaign, bite into his desk if he ends up with a Druid and a Bard rather than a Paladin and a Cleric (doing exactly the same thing), whatever - no matter to me. Just inclined to call bs here. He's not achieving the goal he claims to be aiming for by doing the stuff he apparently is dead set on doing anyway.
The only way to realistically achieve what he is out to accomplish would be a ban on Paladins + full casters altogether. No more Fireballs killing all the Zombies before they get to bite anyone to begin with and the other 5 or so classes with access to the Spells his concerns are all about.
Easy, problem solved. 😬
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
The suggestions seem to be in two camps...

- Make the worms more powerful/harder to resist/remove.

- ignore the problem and roll with it.

Have I missed something here? I’m not seeing an engagement with the idea of removing diving magic from players hands, rather just a blanket refusal to contemplate it.

It isn’t removing wizards from Hogwarts... it’s removing specifically tooled mage-killers from Hogwarts.
Yeah, you've missed a number of suggestions, such as undead that become more dangerous when they resist effects like turn undead. Or my suggestion to let the worms be easy to remove but have it result in a lingering after effect until higher level removal abilities can be used.

I'm not refusing to contemplate removal of divine magic. In one of my responses to you, I described it as "the most straightforward option". However, I then went on to demonstrate that it doesn't really address the problems you've stated you'd like to solve.

For starters, you're expanding the definition of divine magic very wide (including celestial warlocks and favored soul sorcerers) to achieve your ban. Those are officially arcane casters, not divine. Secondly, you aren't modifying bards or rangers, both of which leave some big gaps. You've outright stated that lesser restoration is a big issue for you, and when I pointed out that bards can cast lesser restoration as of level 3, your response was effectively that any bards might not take lesser restoration because they're spontaneous casters. Celestial warlocks and favored soul sorcerers are also spontaneous casters, so why are they banned while the bard gets a pass? Also, rangers are divine casters but they aren't banned because reasons?

The Age of Worms is about Kyuss, a deity, trying to take over. Yes, I used to own the issues of Dungeon that it appeared in. I've played through part of it, and read through it as well, though admittedly that was a long time ago.

If you look at it from a purely mechanical perspective then yes, it is like banning mage killers from Hogwarts.

If you look at it from a story perspective however, it is like banning wizards from Hogwarts. Who stands to lose the most from the rise of Kyuss? Who would naturally be standing on the front lines to oppose Kyuss? Clerics, paladins, and druids. Those classes have a vested interest in opposing Kyuss, either because their deity is against what Kyuss is doing or because Kyuss is upsetting the natural order with his undead.
 


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