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D&D 4E Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun - 4E style


Eternal Optimist
Last Friday, my 21st level 4E campaign wandered into the Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun. I sat at the table with a copy of the original AD&D module, two pages of 4E stat-blocks I'd created that afternoon, taking between 2-3 hours to do so, and my dice. [MENTION=1613]grodog[/MENTION] will possibly find this of some interest.

The wilderness section of Tharizdun was underwhelming. The basic problem is that there is a very confusing system of paths leading to valleys (done on a hex grid), but there are very, very few actual encounters: only about 4 of the 20 or so valleys have encounter areas, and the chance of random encounters is about 1 in 20, rolling once during the day and once at night. After my players blundered into the third or fourth dead-end valley (and their "map" was pretty bad), I'd had about enough of that and had the ranger of the group start making Nature checks. Depending on the number, he took them to either an interesting valley or the Temple. He rolled poorly, so the group got to meet the griffons and the tribe of orcs.

The orcs were avoided, the griffons - not so much. A party of 21st level characters against regular griffons isn't in danger, so they became level 20 Rimefire Griffons, and an entertaining encounter eventuated. The party won fairly easily, but there were a couple of moments - especially as not all of the party had ranged weapons.

Then came the temple proper, and the Great Encounter.

When you get down to it, the Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun doesn't really have much meat to it. Exploring the temple is mostly boring - the creatures there are, with a few exceptions, not much of a threat and there are a lot of empty rooms. The interesting parts - the actual cyst and what leads up to it - are great, but there's a lot of empty rooms to get through first. But the first encounter, as the band of norkers, gnolls, trolls, ogres and giants defend their stronghold... that's great. Gygax sets out how the waves of creatures will appear - with the DM determining when the leaders will get there - and the actual battle evolves on an epic scale. We took a couple of hours to get through it. Three PCs and one companion PC against over SIXTY enemies.

As you might expect, most of the enemies were minions, mostly between levels 18-21. Some were a bit scary; the norker slave of MM3 in particular: "An enemy adjacent to the grunt takes extra damage from the grunt’s allies’ attacks equal to twice the number of grunts adjacent to it." Paul rushed into the room with his bullywug monk to engage the enemy archers he could see, and was quickly surrounded by norkers - eight of them. They needed very high rolls to hit, but several of them did and Paul took about 80-90 damage. He burst into a flurry of unarmed attacks and slew the norkers, and retreated back to the group where the companion cleric healed him.

That initial room had about 30 combatants in it. I think one might not have been a minion, but most of them were. Before they were done, another 10 norkers charged up from below. And then came the trolls.

Three troll minions and one Giant Troll elite brute.. But, if you "killed" them with something that wasn't acid or fire, they just fell over and next round stood up and kept fighting. The group realised this after the first one got up again, and looked for fire attacks. A Psion, Ranger, Monk and Cleric had ONE fire attack between them - a helm of brilliance. That killed two of the trolls, but the other two kept fighting. Paul finally ignited a flaming torch and started using that, and that was enough to put paid to the trolls.

More gnolls and norkers arrived. And the Giants - first hill giants, and then the Mountain Giant lord (another elite brute). The party started using dailies, and Josh's ranger got off a really good set of hits on the giants, although he was hit hard in return. Martin's psion controlled the Mountain Giant to protect the party, and finally the battle was over. From below, they could hear the sound of lesser humanoids scurrying away in fear, not willing to go up against those who had slain their leaders.

We'll continue the adventure in a fortnight's time.

So: big fights with lots of combatants in 4E? Yeah, it can do it. It might have taken me a few years to get the skill to do it properly, but I'm there now.

A few notes:
* The battle took about 2 hours and about 14 rounds. So, under 10 minutes per round, 3 players (plus companion run by Martin) and a DM.
* We didn't use miniatures, instead a piece of paper with a sketch map of the initial enemies which we annotated as players moved around and the monsters followed
* Adding up dice was a problem for some players, as well as a few character sheet issues. There's a reason I design my own rather than use the Wizards one, but that is what all my players used.
* We did Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure in three sessions a month or so ago. It'll probably be 2-3 sessions for this adventure as well. From here, we move into the final part of the 4E version of Tomb of Horrors. (The sequel to Return to the ToH, not the conversion of the original). The idea is that the gateway to Acererak's domain lies through Tharizdun's domain, which will then set up Tharizdun as the Big Bad for when they reach 30th level. Or, at least, his servants.

We started this campaign when 4E first came out. It's had a lot of interruptions, but it's great to see it at these levels.


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First Post
Excellent play report. Would you mind linking or copy/pasting into this thread. I'm hoping we can turn it into a repository for Epic game play examples and DMing philosophy/styles.


Really good points regarding classic adventures. There was a Living Greyhawk re-issue of this adventure for 3E, which is probably what I would use if I were to run it for 4E. It did away with some of the boring aspects and distilled the action. There was a similar situation in the 3E version where an alarm can be raised, resulting in the vast majority of foes pouring into wherever the PCs are... that was a really crazy combat for us.

I do like large battles in 4E. I ran one for my Dark Sun home campaign when they entered the city of Raam. I wanted the city to be suitably chaotic, so I presented various factions (two noble families, an enigmatic group - the Veiled Alliance, the foes) and they all showed up at a merchant compound when the PCs came to claim an ancient book. There were a few non-minions in each faction to give the fight some meat, but the rest were minions showing up in waves. During the battle each side would offer to work with the PCs (in exchange for them pledging to their side), and their response influenced how they acted. I gave players control of any allied minions, giving them tactical responsibility and keeping me from making all the roles. I think in total it was something like 80 minions and it was really surprisingly fun. I had been prepared for possible failure and apology, but it remains one of my favorite sessions. The battle ended with the foes getting the book and the PCs escaping through ancient sewers with the Veiled Alliance. Pretty excellent. The battle itself was perhaps an hour and 20 minutes, which was perfect for the session.


Great stuff!

After reading the recent Lair Assault, Pit of Madness, I'd be sorely tempted to use it to inspire an update of the Black Cyst area of WG4.

Of course, I just love my PCs fighting aspects.... :)

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