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

Except that the person ultimately responsible for the attacks is behind the door and they can keep sending agents to harass the villagers (which is said in the adventure will be the outcome if she's not stopped.)
So what? Partial success is a valid outcome. The village will probably be incinerated by a dragon a few days later anyway, And the party still get paid.
 

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jgsugden

Legend
Just a note: You need to check your own arrogance levels when you call something unwinnable.

You may not see the way to win, but that does not mean that 3, 4, 5 or even 6 other players putting their heads together can't come up with a solution you did not consider. Over the decades I've had entire adventures rendered moot by a creative solution of a PC. I could have fought the solution and forced it to not work with contrivance, but I learned to let the Wookie win and celebrate the victory of the group. I repurposed a lot of the material I prepared at other times, and continued on. Some of those situations were intended to be difficult challenges, but the PCs/players just outsmarted me.

Build the world that makes sense. Give your players and PCs the tools to recognize it fairly. Then let the story unfold.
 

Retreater

Legend
Just a note: You need to check your own arrogance levels when you call something unwinnable.
When the module says there are two (and ONLY two) possible solutions to a problem, both of which are beyond the levels of the party the adventure is designed for, I call that unwinnable and bad design.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
When the module says there are two (and ONLY two) possible solutions to a problem, both of which are beyond the levels of the party the adventure is designed for, I call that unwinnable and bad design.
Even in cases like these, there are complete solutions, sufficient solutions, alternative solutions, and plenty of shades of interpretation. And in all of the case you cited in the adventure you cited, I'd say that there are ways 4th level PCs can handle them if they're patient enough, observant enough, and if a DM imparts enough information for them to understand the situation. Not all groups fit that description - but being a poor match for your group doesn't equate to being bad design.
 


jgsugden

Legend
When the module says there are two (and ONLY two) possible solutions to a problem, both of which are beyond the levels of the party the adventure is designed for, I call that unwinnable and bad design.
That is the specific example you raised, and I agree it is problematic - but I also disregard any of that railroad BS and allow PCs to solve problems with problem solving. I have never, in my life, run anything handed to me without some modification, too.

However, a lot of other people in this thread are applying 'unwinnable' more broadly than this specific example.
 


TheSword

Legend
When the module says there are two (and ONLY two) possible solutions to a problem, both of which are beyond the levels of the party the adventure is designed for, I call that unwinnable and bad design.
Well two options are given. The solution to the puzzle and a way of overcoming that puzzle with magic. Hardly beyond the party.

  • They could also collapse the passageway, blocking the door and trapping the culprit inside ending the threat.
  • They could lure him out.
 

When the module says there are two (and ONLY two) possible solutions to a problem, both of which are beyond the levels of the party the adventure is designed for, I call that unwinnable and bad design.
1) It's designed for levels 1-3. My players opened it.
2) The door can be opened by a 1st level character, simply by waiting.
3) However, this is a bad idea, since what is behind the door will likely TPK a 1st level party. It's there for their protection.
4) The door isn't on the critical path, it leads to what, to use JRPG terminology, is a secret boss fight.
5) There are many quests in RotFM, including the main one, that can end in ways other than total victory for the PCs. If you don't like the PCs falling short of total victory then I would suggest playing a different adventure.
 

They could also collapse the passageway, blocking the door and trapping the culprit inside ending the threat.
One thing that hasn't been made clear - without metagame knowledge there isn't any way for the party to know "the culprit" is behind the door. So far as they are aware they have already killed the culprit, and they are just searching the location for phat loot.
 


cmad1977

Hero
Did I already say…
Play with the rules not by the rules?

Well… there it is.

Maybe it should be../
Play with the books, not by the book.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
In the spoiler tags: Rime of the Frostmaiden: Cave of the Berserkers
Page 9 Chapter 2 Adventures power level 4+
Page 124-126 Q5 Dispel Magic on flame turns off for an hour. Q6 1 one CR 4 berserker
Outside 3 are returning from a hunt. I

Again party can run away. I had the dudes just chase them to entrance giving them a clue. But then again I have 299 AL sessions under my belt and 102 Kills.
My group was a group of six mixture of level 4 and level 5.

Nameless berserker, “That does not hurt anymore.” Andy hits in the face. “You can’t hurt me anymore!” Sandoval pumps four bolts into him. “I said that is not going to work. Time to die. And my friends have snuck behind you!”

(DM notes. Ok. I did draw the map badly. I can not do justice to fight. But smart move on shoving the enemy down the fissures. Good move on the sanctuary spell.) The fight is long. The group flees but both Andy and Gold Fine do not escape. They are killed. The rest of gang flees to Caer-Dineval. Andy and Gold Fine bodies are recovered by the Adventure League Body Snatchers team. The Group goes to the house of Morninglord in Bryn Shander to raise them.
 



Retreater

Legend
I finally got direct feedback from my players. I was making assumptions about how they were feeling about the adventure. As it turns out, I was completely correct.
They explained that the one-shot quests felt unfair, but worse of all, pointless and only there as an XP grind. The treasure is worthless, the few pieces of gold can't be spent anywhere (and there's nothing to spend money on anyway). There's no motivation to do any of the quests.
Sounds like I've got some bigger problems to work on....
 

Reynard

Legend
I finally got direct feedback from my players. I was making assumptions about how they were feeling about the adventure. As it turns out, I was completely correct.
They explained that the one-shot quests felt unfair, but worse of all, pointless and only there as an XP grind. The treasure is worthless, the few pieces of gold can't be spent anywhere (and there's nothing to spend money on anyway). There's no motivation to do any of the quests.
Sounds like I've got some bigger problems to work on....
I always feel like WotC has the worst on-boarding and so with Rime I made my PCs a "peacekeeping" force of the Council of Speakers. Their job is to wander around the 10 Towns making folks feel safe mostly to keep up the appearance that the Speakers can do something about the unending winter. Of course they find problems and have to solve them.

I also had the PCs roll randomly to see which town they came from (unless like the barbarian PC it was self evident in their background) and made sure when they went to that town to tie whatever quest was there to them personally. I didn't throw out the hunt for chwingas or the serial killer, I just didn't make either one of those quests central to the party motivation.

Avernus was equally poorly done. I have never met a group of players who would respond positively to their PCs being pressed into service by the town guard. I just had them have history in Elturel and a reason to follow breadcrumbs back to Baldur's Gate.
 

I finally got direct feedback from my players. I was making assumptions about how they were feeling about the adventure. As it turns out, I was completely correct.
They explained that the one-shot quests felt unfair, but worse of all, pointless and only there as an XP grind. The treasure is worthless, the few pieces of gold can't be spent anywhere (and there's nothing to spend money on anyway). There's no motivation to do any of the quests.
Sounds like I've got some bigger problems to work on....
It's important to understand what motivates your players, and tailoring your hook, and indeed your adventure selection. In particular, when it comes to using milestone levelling, it should be invisible. Players shouldn't think "I need to do this to level up" because they don't know what the trigger is. It's for players who want to go round being generally heroic, and be periodically told "you have gained a level". I used it because my players voted unanimously in favour of that system, but it sounds like your players should be using traditional xp.

For me, I developed the characters in the villages, so the players felt like they wanted to help those people, even though they where poor. Even so, one of the quests Lake Monster they just looked at each other, said "nope" and moved on. But that's my players, who tend not to be interested in vast piles of gold (which can itself be a pain sometimes).

I did tweak the treasure a bit, specifically in The White Moose I made a bow from one of the tombs +1 when repaired (using appropriate toolset or mending spell), and replaced the pet mummy with a Moon Sycle +1 and a scroll of Moonbeam (as a hint, although my players didn't need it). However, note that increasing the treasure makes the fights in chapters 3 and 4 rather easy, and you might need to buff the creatures involved or run the chapters at a level lower than recommended. I also made +1 weapons and armour available to buy at outrageous prices from The Dwarven Valley after chapter 4.
 
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