D&D General Is it cheesy to power down monsters? Also, has anyone done "Them Apples" from Dungeon #48?

Stormonu

Legend
D&D has done "powered" down creatures for ages. Young dragons and juvenile giants are just two cases where such things have existed since 1E.

In The Winter Tapestry (Dungeon #78) that I wrote, it's got a family of Frost giants, with a teenage son, an "8 year old" frost giant and a juvenile white dragon, all with reduced stats. So it's definitely been done before, and it can create some interesting encounters when the party isn't in murderhobo mode.

As others have said, defeat need not mean death - capture, imprisonment and like can be used to give the party a second chance to try again with making it clear that combat isn't going to be the way to victory.
 

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toucanbuzz

No rule is inviolate
Alternately, don't make the adult giants a foe that can be defeated by conventional means. They might grunt in annoyance at physical attacks, have skulls too thick for mental magic to penetrate, and treat them like noisy children. If the party wants something to play with, maybe they carry some miniature [insert monster] tokens that spring up when tossed to the ground (like tossing jacks out of a bag), and walk off grumbling about needing to buy some more human repellent or kids these days.

Around the vicinity might be clues (rule of 3 ways to find the clues) about how the giants might be incapacitated, distracted, a character flaw that can be exploited, a jealous giant willing to help them embarrass the other, and so on. But a straight up hack n slash, you're either having to fudge (and your players will know you fudged if the giant goes down with 1 critical hit) or seem unfair (unbeatable foe that 1 shots us?)
 

Starfox

Adventurer
I remember reading this scenario. To me it seems like a one-shot rather than a part of a campaign because it is potentially so deadly. I could see this as a scenario at a role-playing convention where most of the PCs are expected to die in comedic horror. If you want to use it as a part of a campaign, I would make the giants bumbling fools prone to believe anything the PCs say and to attack them like humans would attack mice, with brooms rather than swords. Basically the kind of story a 5-year old would enjoy. Adult players can usually channel their inner 5-year old if you make an early display of how the giants are, perhaps having one of the halflings escape by fast-talking a giant as the PCs approach. The cat and dog can be more typical threats.
 


Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
Lowering the stats is fine - although 10d to 3d is a big drop - my only advice is keep some lair actions/reactions in reserve in case you need to rebalance action economy on the fly or can be ignored (maybe the daughter's throw a giant bag of flour which creates an obscuring/choking cloud)
 

Quickleaf

Legend
I'm a new DM, and I've got a group of mostly new players. (Five players, two with experience, two who have played once prior to my games, and one completely new player.) We're doing some homebrew stuff. Real basic goblins and giant snakes type things. Going into the third session, the party is level 2, and I was thinking about trying to run them through "Them Apples". We're playing D&D 5E but I marked this as general as it's using first party, third party, and AD&D content.

I've been reading a lot of old Dungeon Magazine, and this is one of Chris Perkins' adventures from issue #48. It was designed for characters of level 1-3, but the main enemies are giants! 2 giants, with the potential for a total of 4, plus a mountain lion.

The thing is that it was designed to be a role-play heavy adventure. It's a play on Jack and the Bean stock it seems. Ideally the players sneak into the giant's house and get in and out undetected. Or they possibly parlay with the giants. Perkins even comes out and says if your party runs in guns blazing they'll probably get rocked.

So I've been filling in some blanks. Missing cows, evil step-mom giant.. Things that will give the players more opportunities to befriend the giants, or at least two of them. My party is also not really the shoot first ask questions later type. They tend to approach things with caution and an open mind, but with that said I know that the first rule to dungeon mastering is the same as the first rule of gun ownership. Don't point the party at anything you're not willing to destroy. A fight very well may break out.

In the adventure when the party comes into the giant's house it's currently only occupied by two teen girl giants, (Warning: Do not do an image search for 'Young Giantess' looking for reference photos. You will not find any) and their pet mountain lion. I took the Shire Giant stat block from Kobold Press' Tome of Beasts3, and tried to lower them. They only have 3d12 HP instead of the original 10 or 12d12+30, I think they're at 18 and 23 HP, down from the 120-something suggested in the book. I also lowered the dad Giant to 6d12 and he's around 35hp. I made the daughters use large kitchen utensils for their weapons and I think they're like 3d4.. It feels like it's right in the realm of "Will hit hard, but shouldn't out-right murder PCs in one blow"

What I've been worried about however is this: Is this lame? If my level two PCs do end up fighting and killing giants, is that kind of cheesy? These are supposed to be powerful monsters for higher level parties. I think the Shire Giant is a CR6 or 8 as written, so stock it would probably annihilate the PCs. They've already fought Goblins, and once they hit level three (Probably after this adventure) I planned on putting them into a big dungeon with warring factions of Goblins and Kobolds ala the Sunless Citadel. So I didn't want to do either of those monsters again now.

I'd love any advice or suggestions, especially if any of you have run this adventure before. Thanks
I have not run that one! His work has touches of whimsy to it & often includes a (smart) option to "talk to the monsters" - I think those are common threads you can see in his adventures.

Btw, I've run a bunch of Chris Perkins stuff from Dungeon mag converted as 5e one-shots:
  • Wards of the Witching Ways #11 (his first adventure! I spiced it up a bit)
  • A Wizard's Fate #37 (little classic dungeon)
  • Redcap's Rampage #54 (tons of fun and hilarity)
  • Umbra #55 (Planescape custody battle that I have special fondness for, became a 2-shot).
  • Dragon's Delve #62 (a fantastic dwarf dungeon with a good story & fun with all-dwarf party, became a 2-shot)
  • Scourge of Scalabar #74 (very Jules Verne inspired)
Overall, the trajectory of the works of his I've run is that he improves - a lot! The one you're running, "Them Apples" is earlier on from #48, so I'd anticipate it requiring less work than those earlier two, but probably will require some adaptation at the core level. The story revisions you're doing sound like a good start, and can really elevate his earlier work into something awesome.

About the HP / damage downgrading... Consider the point of the adventure using Hill Giants for a 2nd level party. That's terrifying. And that player anxiety provokes/inspires a different approach to the situation. It drives them to explore other options and think outside of the box. So long as you make it clear "here there by hill giants" and don't spring it on them once they're locked inside or something, I think that's the right spirit to run the adventure in.

Edit: Having skimmed over the adventure now, I fully agree with the review on tenfootpole - it's organized like a typical location based adventure with typical room descriptions (everyone did this at the time & probably was part of the Dungeon acceptance guidelines), when it's supposed to be a charming fairytale feel. This is something I think Chris has spoken of... in my words it's "an adventure knowing what it is" and designing towards that, rather than emulating accepted design feel/layout.
 
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Starfox

Adventurer
Btw, I've run a bunch of Chris Perkins stuff from Dungeon mag converted as 5e one-shots [...]
Chris Perkins was the editor of Dungeon Magazine for a long time - I have had the honor of getting a personal letter of refusal from him. He has loads of experience and is overall a good guy.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
I have not run that one! His work has touches of whimsy to it & often includes a (smart) option to "talk to the monsters" - I think those are common threads you can see in his adventures.

Btw, I've run a bunch of Chris Perkins stuff from Dungeon mag converted as 5e one-shots:
  • Wards of the Witching Ways #11 (his first adventure! I spiced it up a bit)
  • A Wizard's Fate #37 (little classic dungeon)
  • Redcap's Rampage #54 (tons of fun and hilarity)
  • Umbra #55 (Planescape custody battle that I have special fondness for, became a 2-shot).
  • Dragon's Delve #62 (a fantastic dwarf dungeon with a good story & fun with all-dwarf party, became a 2-shot)
  • Scourge of Scalabar #74 (very Jules Verne inspired)
Overall, the trajectory of the works of his I've run is that he improves - a lot! The one you're running, "Them Apples" is earlier on from #48, so I'd anticipate it requiring less work than those earlier two, but probably will require some adaptation at the core level. The story revisions you're doing sound like a good start, and can really elevate his earlier work into something awesome.

About the HP / damage downgrading... Consider the point of the adventure using Hill Giants for a 2nd level party. That's terrifying. And that player anxiety provokes/inspires a different approach to the situation. It drives them to explore other options and think outside of the box. So long as you make it clear "here there by hill giants" and don't spring it on them once they're locked inside or something, I think that's the right spirit to run the adventure in.

Edit: Having skimmed over the adventure now, I fully agree with the review on tenfootpole - it's organized like a typical location based adventure with typical room descriptions (everyone did this at the time & probably was part of the Dungeon acceptance guidelines), when it's supposed to be a charming fairytale feel. This is something I think Chris has spoken of... in my words it's "an adventure knowing what it is" and designing towards that, rather than emulating accepted design feel/layout.

yeah I went and dug out the old mag and the point is made that a clever players can get through without combat (and that the Hill giant antagonist will hunt the PCs down if they harm his family). On that basis leaving the Papa giant as too strong for the PCs reinforces the need for creative play.
Also the two daughters are called out as being Ogre sized (ie use Ogre stats)
 

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