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D&D 5E Do You Tinker with Adventures to Make Them "Winnable"?

Retreater

Legend
@billd91, you're correct in identifying the adventure.
the solution is kind of out there in the open for them to see.
Except that the solution is something that can only be cast by a single (not exceptionally common) character class and also a higher level spell than what the adventure is written for.

Then leave it up to them whether they want to push on with a useless fight or retreat and see if they can find some magic weapon (or silver or whatever) that someone is willing to trade or sell.
Right. And if that happened a few times, that would be fine. But nearly 1/3 (or more) of the quests are incompletable at the suggested party level - either they don't have access to specific spells, magic items, etc. And when they don't get treasure (or XP) from the quests they don't finish, it's just like running into a brick wall.
Out of curiosity, did these things actually stymie your players or are you worried they might? If you're worried, I've found that players can be both far cleverer (and stupider, sillier, and more bizarre) than I expect. You know your players better than I could, but is it possible you're underestimating them?
They spent about half the session trying to deal with one of the unstoppable things the Cave of the Berserkers where the barbarians can't go lower than 1 HP unless you cast dispel magic (which you get at 5th level) or stone shape (which you get at 7th level) on the brazier - and they're 4th level, as suggested by the adventure. They came up with reasonable ideas to try, fought a desperate and unwinnable battle.

I could tell they were getting frustrated. It seems like every other session there is an unwinnable mission in this adventure. Luckily, they had a chance random encounter of an NPC follower with 160 HP, immunity to normal weapon damage, two attacks per round dealing an average of 16 points per hit. Without him, they'd have TPK'ed several times. But it's completely anti-climactic and takes the spotlight off the 4th level party. (Another reason why this adventure is really, really badly written - despite many claiming it to be one of the "cream of the crop" adventures for 5e.)
 

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billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
@billd91, you're correct in identifying the adventure.

Except that the solution is something that can only be cast by a single (not exceptionally common) character class and also a higher level spell than what the adventure is written for.
Alternative solution:
They could wait until after dark and see what the moondial points to. And if it points to an inconvenient spot, use mirrors to redirect the moonlight to the half moons.
 

Zaukrie

New Publisher
I tinker with every adventure.....every one of them. (maybe not a one shot, maybe)

However, there are situations that certain PCs of a certain level cannot manage. Those I might leave in. But, I'd never make them critical to the future of the adventure......
 
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kenada

Legend
Supporter
@billd91, you're correct in identifying the adventure.

Except that the solution is something that can only be cast by a single (not exceptionally common) character class and also a higher level spell than what the adventure is written for.


Right. And if that happened a few times, that would be fine. But nearly 1/3 (or more) of the quests are incompletable at the suggested party level - either they don't have access to specific spells, magic items, etc. And when they don't get treasure (or XP) from the quests they don't finish, it's just like running into a brick wall.

They spent about half the session trying to deal with one of the unstoppable things the Cave of the Berserkers where the barbarians can't go lower than 1 HP unless you cast dispel magic (which you get at 5th level) or stone shape (which you get at 7th level) on the brazier - and they're 4th level, as suggested by the adventure. They came up with reasonable ideas to try, fought a desperate and unwinnable battle.

I could tell they were getting frustrated. It seems like every other session there is an unwinnable mission in this adventure. Luckily, they had a chance random encounter of an NPC follower with 160 HP, immunity to normal weapon damage, two attacks per round dealing an average of 16 points per hit. Without him, they'd have TPK'ed several times. But it's completely anti-climactic and takes the spotlight off the 4th level party. (Another reason why this adventure is really, really badly written - despite many claiming it to be one of the "cream of the crop" adventures for 5e.)
I’ve seen the early part of this adventure described as a mini sandbox (because the players can decide how they want to go about doing things and don’t have to do all of the missions). Sometimes you can’t do everything in a sandbox and have to come back later. That’s just how those things work.

Are the players aware of what counts as a milestone and how advancement is tied to it? The obvious strategy would be to leave and come back once they’ve completed another mission.
 

Retreater

Legend
Alternative solution:
How I interpreted it: It's always "after dark" because there is no sun.
But, yeah, they didn't make the connection about how to open the door, that it was connected to the other feature. And it's really a nebulous connection at best. I guess they could've waited a few weeks to open the door?
 

Retreater

Legend
I’ve seen the early part of this adventure described as a mini sandbox (because the players can decide how they want to go about doing things and don’t have to do all of the missions). Sometimes you can’t do everything in a sandbox and have to come back later. That’s just how those things work.

Are the players aware of what counts as a milestone and how advancement is tied to it? The obvious strategy would be to leave and come back once they’ve completed another mission.
As someone running it, I'd say half of the adventure content is a sandbox, then another quarter of it has absolutely nothing to do with the main plotline.
And yes, I've told them "you have to 'complete' the dungeon or solve the issues to reach the next level" - full metagame transparency. The issue is that they keep running into issues they can't solve, so they get no XP (or even decent treasure rewards), so there's no way to gain power to come back later.
And I guess even if they did, it would be unsatisfying to spend their gaming time constantly retreating and then coming back later to try to deal with things you couldn't a few levels ago. A couple of times would be fine, but to have several sessions of game time "wasted" with no progress in character power, wealth, or advancing the story, it just seems not fun for adults with careers, families with small kids, etc., who are only able to carve out a little over 2 hours a week to enjoy the hobby.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
How I interpreted it: It's always "after dark" because there is no sun.
But, yeah, they didn't make the connection about how to open the door, that it was connected to the other feature. And it's really a nebulous connection at best. I guess they could've waited a few weeks to open the door?
They didn't get the connection? The inscription on each of the half moon symbols on the moon dial say right out "Unlock the tombs of the half moon" and each of the tomb doors has a different half moon on it.

I guess in the question of "Are my players inclined to be puzzle solvers or ass kickers" you really do have a clear answer.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
As someone running it, I'd say half of the adventure content is a sandbox, then another quarter of it has absolutely nothing to do with the main plotline.
And yes, I've told them "you have to 'complete' the dungeon or solve the issues to reach the next level" - full metagame transparency. The issue is that they keep running into issues they can't solve, so they get no XP (or even decent treasure rewards), so there's no way to gain power to come back later.
And I guess even if they did, it would be unsatisfying to spend their gaming time constantly retreating and then coming back later to try to deal with things you couldn't a few levels ago. A couple of times would be fine, but to have several sessions of game time "wasted" with no progress in character power, wealth, or advancing the story, it just seems not fun for adults with careers, families with small kids, etc., who are only able to carve out a little over 2 hours a week to enjoy the hobby.
Are there any limitations to the berserkers’ invulnerability? Can the PCs lure them away from the brazier and kill them once they are beyond its protection?

Nothing you describe sounds problematic to me, but what I want and expect out of a game are different from what your group seems to want. From the sound of it, the adventure in question seems better-suited towards some styles of play than others.
 


Retreater

Legend
@kenada
Dealing with the immortals...
Yes, the group can grapple them, tie them up, carry them out into the frozen wastes, and then execute them. Now they have no idea that this plan would work, but they have at least learned to start grappling and binding them - they just can't kill them with the knowledge they have.
 





Retreater

Legend
Nothing you describe sounds problematic to me, but what I want and expect out of a game are different from what your group seems to want. From the sound of it, the adventure in question seems better-suited towards some styles of play than others.
Inherently, there's nothing wrong with a sandbox-style of play. I think the main issues spring from the milestone XP implementation in the adventure and the lack of good information sources about what resources the party should have.
 


iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Grab a shovel, and let's get diggin! We'll push the mangy bastard in and bury him right good!
Exactly. A pickup group of tier 1 PCs ran afoul of a wereboar in a random encounter in one of my games. They had no magical or silver weapons. They grapple-proned and disarmed him, then tanked what few hits it could land while blasting with spells.

Players will tend to figure out a solution, now or later.
 


Retreater

Legend
The adventure in question sounds like it is probably best stripped down for parts.

Maps or locations that might be usable etc.
Yeah. I messaged my players today. I asked them what they thought the main story of the adventure is, what are their characters' goals and motivations, and how would they wish the story would resolve. Once I get responses, I'm going to attempt to curate something resembling a cohesive narrative from the parts in the adventure, shoring it up with extra material. Then I'll address and re-write the solutions to be feasible, identify a singular villain (individual or group) and give them motivations.
As it is, I agree it's better just as a grab bag of isolated one shot adventure locations. The module itself has three different villain factions that don't even play into each other and the titular villain's scheme is thwarted halfway through the book.
 


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