DDEX1-3 Shadows over the Moonsea GM notes and discussion

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Originally posted by Tyranthraxus:


Shadows over the Moonsea DM discussion thread




Originally posted by dipplayer:


Ran this tonight at our FLGS, for four players of level 1. Required just a few hours of prep: I read the adventure twice, looked up some riddles for the Crones to use, gathered a few minis and my dry-erase gamemat. We ran the whole thing in just under 5 hours. I streamlined some of the investigation prior to the island itself, and skipped the wolf encounter entirely. My players had not selected Factions, so I had to work in those hooks and helps in a rather forced way. But they connected the dots very well, and knew exactly where they had to go, which was my biggest concern.

My players seemed to really enjoy themselves. The biggest issue we had was that after the battle in the village, their resources were depleted enough that they didn't feel they could go out and take on the ships. They seriously considered simply staying onshore and waiting for another threat to come to them. I started to think how I would adapt the module to handle that, and struggled with it. Fortunately, they took pity on the DM and decided they could go out there. During the final battle on the ship one character was down to 0hp (his second time), but fortunately they still had the healing potions they were given at the beginning. They finally realized that the Captain was highly dangerous due to his multiple attacks, and instead of going toe-to-toe with him, they pushed him overboard! I let them enjoy this victory, but not for long, as the ship was burning and they barely escaped with Ixas' papers and only part of his treasure. I also decided that the Captain (the only pirate remaining) would eventually come out of the water and seek his revenge on the villagers, but that would happen after the adventurers had left. So they later hear rumor that the islanders were all slain.

I felt that minis and the battlemat were needed for both the Part 4 and Part 5 battles, as they were rather large-scale affairs, and hard to keep track of everyone.

It is a fun module to run. Plenty of opportunity for DM roleplay--the crusty ferryman, the crones, the inbred and sickly villagers, the madman, the little girl, etc. Lots of colorful NPCs and a good plot. My biggest quibble would be with the Lemure Devil. AC 7? 13 hp? It took two hits to defeat this "fiend." The players seemed disappointed that the fiendish protector was less threatening than a kobold.


One of my players said when we were done that the adventure was quite obviously inspired by the Lovecraft story "Shadow over Innsmouth." After reading it, I see what he means. It might be fun to read that story before running the module, to help you set the tone.

Questions?




Originally posted by obsid:


I havnt ran this yet, but I got a question (hopefuly someone else can answer!):

The big treasure pile for the adventure is listed as: "500 sp, 500 ep, 75 gp" which is easy enough to work out, but then down below under treasure it has each of the treasure's in the module listed and says under Item Name "<NPC's name treasure> (500 sp, 500 ep)" and under "GP Value" of 55. Now lets ignore the 75 gp and assume that was accounted for seperatly. Even without that, according to my PHB 1 sp = 1/10 gp and 1ep = 1/2 gp. That would mean 500 sp = 50gp and 500 ep = 250gp for a total of 300 gp, far more then the 55gp that is listed in the treasure at the end. So do we award 300gp or 55gp?

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Also a small error the main magic item found is said that its rules "can be found in the basic rules or the Player's Handbook." I eventually found it in the DM Basic rules, so maybe by basic rules they meant that, but it is no where to be found in the PHB that I could find.

Also I agree with dipplayer, the Lemure is rediciously easy and does no damage, its a CR0 creature! I can understand maybe incase it was just one person alone getting attacked by it, but against a whole party, it really should be a lot stronger to even last a round or two by itself.




Originally posted by Skerrit:


obsid wrote:I havnt ran this yet, but I got a question (hopefuly someone else can answer!):

The big treasure pile for the adventure is listed as: "500 sp, 500 ep, 75 gp" which is easy enough to work out, but then down below under treasure it has each of the treasure's in the module listed and says under Item Name "<NPC's name treasure> (500 sp, 500 ep)" and under "GP Value" of 55.

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Also I agree with dipplayer, the Lemure is rediciously easy and does no damage, its a CR0 creature! I can understand maybe incase it was just one person alone getting attacked by it, but against a whole party, it really should be a lot stronger to even last a round or two by itself.
1) Always use the treasure summary at the end. The adventure got edited to bring it in line with treasure guidelines that came out after it was written and it looks like the line in the text got missed.

2) This is also another issue with the rules changing. When the adventure was written (before the final rules) it was a slightly tougher fight (as the creature had damage resistance). I usually balance the new creature by having it attacking the first player to climb up the ravine (so they are alone, but help is nearby).




Originally posted by ackir:


I ran Shadows Over the Moonsea tonight and wanted to share some things for people looking to run this. First, be aware that this adventure took the most prep work of any of the first three Expeditions and ran the longest. A big part of that is related to the fact that there are two roleplay heavy "mystery solving" sessions back to back.

I trimmed up the cast of Part 1 pretty significantly in order to keep my players from being overwhelmed with information. I merged the important knowledge of Delacrae Gentleblossom (knowledge of moon cycles), Fillistrom Wunderkundoodle (knowledge of phalanges collected by Knight Burral), and Seranolla the Whisperer (knowledge of storms every four days) into one character. I flavored her as a Medicine Woman/Apothecary. This created a nice little triangle between Yip (& the Kelemvorites), Knight Burral, and this new character. It seemed to work in that when they would learn something new and follow up with someone else it would dig up something new to take back. They never really dead ended and once they established a timeline it gave them a sense of urgency.

I ran all of the encounters in Part 2 and they didn't feel necessary. The father/son duo confirmed what they already knew. The direwolf encounter while interesting doesn't really add anything to the story. The ferryman just felt weird. I had a hard time grasping why he hung out on the main land at all. I settled on the idea that he was really greedy and liked bartering/tricking passersby for better tools or interesting things which seemed to fit with his theme later.

Part 3 was a lot of fun. At this point the players were suspicious so they thought the crones might be up to something, they thought Verik might be involved, and they even thought the little girl who shadows them was not what she seemed. Everyone had their own opinion, so it was fun watching it unfurl and have them all be right! As above, I had a hard time convincing the players to head out to the cultist ship, so I brought the ship to them with some storytelling-over-realism-fiat as it came close to shore when it was obvious the attack failed. The battle on deck was pretty crazy.

I really liked this adventure a lot. I get to run this again at a local gaming convention later this month, so I'm excited to improve my performances as a DM and see how a new group of players reacts to the same information.




Originally posted by Skerrit:


ackir wrote: Seranolla the Whisperer (knowledge of storms every four days) into one character.
Being that Seranolla is a Faction contact who reappears in multiple adventures, you might want to warn the players that you combined her with another NPC into a new NPC so that when Seranolla reappears and says the PC worked with her before, they are not confused.




Originally posted by Uthrac:


Ran this last night. Group has a regular Call of Cthulhu campaign going, and they felt this had a similar investigative feel. However, some drawbacks ...

1. As with CoC, the "best" thing for the PCs to often do is to be spectators. They didn't like the Folk at all, and didn't feel particularly motivated to help them. There was no real hook for them to explore the woods or interact with the NPCs other than simple curiosity. So, battle 1 started off fine (kill 'undead'), but after two rounds, they witnessed the powers of the villages and were much less interested in helping out. Similarly, the "optimal tactic" on the ships is for the PCs to stand around, let the opposing sides soften each other up, then join the fray. Unfortunate that "do nothing" is at least as viable, if not better than, "get involved."

2. Stat block errors aside, whenever a monster has spellcasting abilities or special attacks, a brief paragraph on tactics would be very helpful. While a throwback to earlier editions is to just provide a spell list, I have yet to play with a DM who has read through all the spell options for the NPC and put together a decent tactic for using them. (So far, every spellcaster we've run into has just thrown Magic Missile. Yawn.) A simple, "Cast Hold Person so that his allies can gang up." or other primary tactic would be very helpful when adjudicating how NPC 'spellcasters' will use their resources to thwart the PCs.

3. A few riddles for the crones would have been nice to include, rather that having a dice-rolling exercise ... with more dice rolling on a split result.

Overall, the reaction to the adventure was "Meh ..." from a group that typically enjoys these types of adventures.

Also, our group has noticed that none of the DDEX adventures have been particularly designed for replaying, since each have been geared towards exploration/investigation - and once the player has wittnessed the solution, there isn't much point in playing the adventure again.




Originally posted by fba827:


Hi,
I am preparing to run this module on Saturday. It does have several good parts and flavor, though after my initial read, I had a couple knee-jerk thoughts. I thought I'd toss it out there in case I was missing something.

1) The "Moon" and "Storm pattern" is possible to figure out from the clues at the start, but not the location of next attack target. So, the party basically is just going to travel the road until they find a likely target between the last attack and phlan, correct?

2) The wolf encounter seems to offer nothing to the plot, but does provide a opportunity to use animal handling (which i am fine with since that is a comparatively less used skill so people who invested in it should see some opportunity to use it). For that reason, if i don't believe anyone in the party has animal handling i will likely skip it, conversely, if someone in the party likely does have animal handling, then i will use it, but combine it with meeting Gilfron having his son find the pups playing in the bushes nearby which in turn has the wolf mother come out shortly thereafter.
does that seem reasonable?

3) The islanders make comments about not liking outsiders. So why have a ferry? on top of that, why is Warsh the ferryman? he is one of the least social NPCs of the village? I am considering replacing the ferry with a random fisherman who knows of a small village on the island and offers to take them over (making comments about how the islanders are crazy and keep to themselves). And then have Warsh be a crotchy old guy who is on the island beach and is the first one to see/interact with the party as a counter point to Elisande who is intrigued by the party.

does that seem reasonable? Or am i breaking something by shifting warsh from ferryman to guy who hangs on the beach for his introduction?

4) I'm still not totally clear on the connection between tiamat and devils - i.e. why the islanders worship 'the five headed sea monster' and get a devil watching over the island or the pirates being sent to a place in hell. this detail probably won't come up, just i feel like i am missing something, maybe i'll catch it on a second reading or there is some background lore that i just don't know (which is quite possible as i don't actually know much at all about the FR setting)

5) it seems quite possible to never uncover who these pirates are, and therefore it is quite possible for the pirates arrival to seem totally random as they join the fray.... did anyone who has run this before have a big "what the heck?" moment from the party or is it a bit more obvious when it plays out in a session?

6) both of the combats seem big. but at the same time, both of the combats could have the pcs hang back. a totally viable tactic is to just hang back passively. i will let the pcs approach it however they want but something in me just cringes at the thought of pcs being able to just be bystanders. this isn't a question more so just my knee-jerk reaction/comment about the only real issue that i have with this module.

7) it seems very easi to not want to protect the village once the innocence of the villagers is seen. that's all well and good, but the actual mission is for the pcs to stop the attacks before they get to phlan (protecting the village is just an option in the process). any good ways to reinforce/remind the pcs of that initial mission as motivation to stay involved if the PCs start to not car what happens to the village? (short of reminding them out of character)

anyway, again, all this is just random initial thoughts off of one read through. i may catch more when i read it again. but just tossing it out there in case people who ran it before had some thoughts/insights.





Originally posted by Skerrit:



1) That is concievable, though since the ferry isn't right off the road (otherwise people wouldn't know its there), you might require some checks to find it, potentially decreasing the time they have to investigate in the village before bad things happen if they do poorly on those checks.

2) Truthfully part of the reason for the wolf encounter is because this was one of the first adventures, so we wanted to be sure to highlight some encounters that you could solve without fighting (using skills, RPing, etc...) If you are short on time, skipping it will not drop anything away from the plot.

3) The islanders have a ferry because sometimes they need to get supplies from the mainland. Warsh is the ferryman because he is one of the original villagers from way back and can be trusted to go to the mainland, that and he's super anti-social so random travelers who do come to trade will not have any desire to go to the island.

4) Tiamat's home plane is the nine Hells and she is served by evil dragons and devils. She's not going to send a dragon when a lowly devil will do.

5) It can happen if the players are not especially interested in RPing or investogating. If it happens, I suggest just having the crones or Verik just being a bit more forthcoming with some missing info.

6) That's certianly possible, but easily dealt with by having some of the enemies attack the PCs.

7) You can always have pirates say things like "First this Island, then on to Phlan!"




Originally posted by HeresyDM:


Skerrit wrote:
2) Truthfully part of the reason for the wolf encounter is because this was one of the first adventures, so we wanted to be sure to highlight some encounters that you could solve without fighting (using skills, RPing, etc...) If you are short on time, skipping it will not drop anything away from the plot.
My party was very happy with themselves that they were able to get out of the encounter without fighting the worg, especially the rogue who had a very nasty encounter (and has developed a nice rp phobia) with the worg in 'The Screams at Dawn' mission in 'Defiance in Phlan'.




Originally posted by fba827:


So I ran this on Saturday. A couple random thoughts on how it went for me...
Overall, I think the group enjoyed it.
Random comments...
* I was HIGHLY amused at the start when the players heard "Ghost Pirates" and were very very excited at the prospect of facing ghost pirates (esp since these villains were hinted at during a prior adventure), only I knew that they were about to get "scooby-doo-ed" ;)
* The party never actually investigated the island or learned about the islanders or rallied the islanders. This may have been partly due to time as the -players- knew some sort of combat would happen and we were already near our alloted time slot for the session, so in the interest of streamlining that may have been a meta choice.
* the party never learned about who/why the infernal pirates were
* the party never leaned about the schism of the dragon cult (the ship was burning, they grabbed loot and ran. i admit i should have had the 'journals' with the loot but since we were rushing (really rushing) at the end, i was just looking at the "loot" list and forgot about the journals as we were diving up treasure)
* In the interest of time, rather than Warsh taking them across on the ferry, I had a random fisherman who was willing to give them a lift on his boat. This saved time in terms of needing to convince Warsh to take them over and made it much easier to just say "sure i'll take you over. just know that those islanders don't like outsiders much. one of them named warsh sometimes likes to trade tools but thats about it"
* I DID use the wolf encounter (despite being pressed time) as we had some nature oriented characters in the group. And they did "get it" quickly enough to just get out of the way. I didn't make them do extra animal handling beyond keeping the horse from bucking. Just the act of getting out of the way (I did this for the interest of time). So at most it took about 5 minutes of time just being able to talk it out with a couple checks to keep horses under control.


But, again, over all, the players seemed to like it. Even with the let down of there not really being ghost pirates, they seemed to enjoy it well enough and during the next adventure (ddex1-4 later that night at the next session) with all the undead they kept joking about 'i hope these undead aren't really just kobolds in disguise'
wink.gif
)





Originally posted by fba827:


Oh I forgot to add, the two handouts that I made ahead of time that seemed helpful (and saved time during the session itself) ...
(a) a rough drawing showing the coast, a bit of the iron road leading up to phlan, and the 4 prior attacks noted, and phlan. this map is what i showed when the knight of the black fist was talking to them. it helped them visualize what was being said.
(b) a rough drawing of the island (very rough just showing the water, the landing, the fire pit, the fircle of huts around the pit, the barn, the smokehouse attached to one of the huts, and the tree line. again, it just helped save time and helped the party visualize.




Originally posted by sigfile:




fba827 wrote: Even with the let down of there not really being ghost pirates, they seemed to enjoy it well enough and during the next adventure (ddex1-4 later that night at the next session) with all the undead they kept joking about 'i hope these undead aren't really just kobolds in disguise'
wink.gif
)
The undead are getting their revenge for that one. Did you search the kobolds in Dues for the Dead? They each had a skeleton inside.

The Lemure was the result of a rule change - that explains a lot. We simply moved it to the shipboard encounter, where it emerged from the water stalking those who broke the agreement. It made for a nasty surprise for those hanging back, but was weak enough to go down without causing too much of a problem.
 

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