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D&D 5E Need Help with Con-Game

Chaosmancer

Legend
So, I've been ridiculously busy this past month and a half, which means unfortunately that I haven't had time to test out my dungeon for an upcoming Convention. We do Witt-con at Wittenberg University in late March, and I'd like some extra eyes on this to see if people think it is relatively balanced.

It is a 4 hour session, and I figure at least 30 minutes will be needed for people to pick out characters and go over rules. As it is a Convention game, I have no idea who will be sitting at the table, or how experienced they will be. In years past I've seen players as young as 8, but most of them are between 18 and 30, and most people seem to at least know what DnD is, even if a few haven't played 5e before.

I have a massive stable of level 5 characters (somewhere around 24 of them) of almost every class from the PHB (no Druids or Sorcerers as of yet) built using the standard array, generally keeping their starting equipment (on a few occasions I increased their armor to breast plate or half plate) and using feats. I did not grab feats for mechanical excellence, and I do not think any one has Great Weapon Master or Polearm Master.


It is called "The Tomb of the Phantom King"


Here is the synopsis the players will see at the sign-in table:

[sblock] You wake in darkness, you remember the Dragon, running through the caves. A flash of vibrant purple light. How did you get here? Where is here? You hear the staccato step of hard-heels on stone. A lazy light fills the stone room you are sitting in, and an old elf enters from a plain wooden door behind you. "Ah good, you are here. Are you ready to assist me like you promised?" [/sblock]


Here, hopefully, is my hand drawn rough map of the dungeon.

[sblock] Dungeon map 2.jpg [/sblock]

I can try and make it larger if people need me to, basic layout of room numbers (which did not show up like I wanted) is

1

2 3

5 7 4

6

Which is hopefully more useful than it looks like.

The room the players start in is not on the map. It is a featureless stone room, with the only door out leading into Room #1.


Set-up
[sblock]I figure the players will interact with the "Old Elf" who you may guess is not what he appears. The theme of this Witt-con is "Section 14: Return of the Dead Characters". The being they are interacting with is actually a Devil in disguise, the characters are dead, and their souls are being used to try and retrieve a powerful artifact found within this sealed tomb. The defenses are primed more to deal with extraplanar creatures, and so do not fully activate to deal with mortal souls. The room they are in is a Demiplane the being has attached to the entrance. The players are stuck in a loop endlessly trying to find the treasure, but being pulled back to the demiplane with no memory of the events previous when they fail. The players will of course know none of this.

The "old elf" will probably give them a fake name, be evasive about what is going on, but tell them he saved them from the Dragon and in return they agreed to venture into this Tomb to recover an artifact. He can't go because he is weak and the wards would kill him. If they attack him he will simply vanish, and while this is incredibly rail-roady, it is a con-game and they are probably expecting that. They won't trust him but they will move forward[/sblock]

Room #1

[sblock] This appears to be an altar room, the A is a large altar dedicated to the Raven Queen. The altar is made of black stone with 4 raven statues making the corners. On the altar is a tiny mechanical priest, praying in clockwork fashion towards the exit.

The room is guarded by 4-6 "Tomb Guards" which are modified Zombies.

Hp: 25 AC 16 spd: 30 ft

Immune to Poison STR +2, DEX +2 Con +3

Longswords- +5 1d8+3

Undead Constitution, same as Zombie with the roll being 1d20+3 (could go up to +5 if I feel the fight is too easy)

They collapse into dust when killed, reforming within an hour, which is why they still are here despite being defeated by the party many times[/sblock]


Room #2

[sblock] This is the "internment room", the walls are covered by whispering death masks of a wide variety of people, of all races and ages. Looking into the death mask allows the player to relive the individuals death (written on notecards which I will copy down below)

If they players smash a mask, it will unleash a terrible scream DC 18 wisdom save vs 3d6 psychic damage 1/2 on success. The mask would then reform, damaged by the blow. Some of the masks would already show signs of this damage.

It is possible the players will walk through without touching anything, but they are PCs so I doubt that will actually happen.

Some of the below death scenes can be rough, so I'll indicate the basic emotional level of them for people who don't want to go through them.

Young Dragonborn Girl -> Bad

[sblock] You kick down the door in desperation, the rotted wood crumbling. Beyond lies the ancient Shrine, and you pray your ancestors wards still hold true. The Hungry Dead howl as they crash into the barrier, blackened claws stopping in midair. Your heart thunders as they pour in, seeking a weakspot. You pray to Tiamat, for it was greed that led you here, and only silence greets you. Silence. The Dead had ceased their wailing. A thin human walks tall amongst them, his eyes flashing red...Your friend gestures you forward, you glance at the Dead, but they are leaving. Tentatively you walk forward, shy. He says everything will be fine, you bare your neck...Pleasure, deep and fulfilling, as he drinks your blood, and cold takes you. [/sblock]

Young Dragonborn Man -> Neutral

[sblock] You burn, the poison throbbing thru your veins. You wonder who paid for it, a jilted lover, a scorned noble, it doesn't matter. Your swan song awaits. You step jauntily on stage, your lute grasped tight. Not for the first time you're glad your palms cannot be sweaty. Your music fills the hall, men weep openly as you play. By the end, you can barely hear or see, but you feel the applause shaking the stage as you fall.[/sblock]

Dwarvish Man -> Neutral

[sblock] You sigh as you feel the stone. Precarious, too many different angles. Nowhere to dig without dropping more of the tunnel on top of your head. You sit back down and take a long swig of your flask. Least the others were quick enough to avoid the collapse. It takes three days before you're desperate enough to try anyways, but being crushed by stone is better than starving. [/sblock]


Middle-aged Dwarvish Woman -> Bad

[sblock] You're standing in the chantry, cold from blood loss. One hand grips your holy symbol, the other a make-shift club. The doors shudder. You don't need to last long, the acolytes will get the children to the tunnels. You don't need long. The doors burst open, you charge forward screaming a prayer. Their spears pierce your arm and legs, but it doesn't matter, you were dead already. 5 seconds, 6, 7. Your club shatters as another spear bites deep, a silver glow erupts, the hammer of the Reverend Mother in your hand. 11, 12, 13. Three more spears burst out your back, silver with blood, your Goddess supports you. You laugh, she won't let you fall til they're safe. 20, 25, 30. Silver light envelops you, as your mother embraces you and leads you home.[/sblock]

Young Orc Man -> Neutral

[sblock] You're laughing, blood surging in your veins as your third spear snaps. You leap back as the beast's heavy tail swings for you. As large as a house, the massive scaled thing watches you. It's bleeding from the spears jutting from its soft sides. Your left arm dangles uselessly from an earlier encounter with its tail. All that's left is your dagger, you charge, screaming, as its tail swings into your periphery-- [/sblock]

Middle-Aged Orcish Woman -> Bad

[sblock] You limp to the execution block, head held high. Your back is marked for the first time. Torture, hoping to break you. The Dwarf with the scroll is talking, you ignore him and stare at their leader, the one who denied you honorable death in combat. They push you, try to make you kneel.You refuse, you are Shatroful Mabrotnosh ("Cave Queen") and you will not die kneeling before Dwarves. One of the ones behind you a hammer. The sound of your knee shattering is like the cracking of stone. You struggle to stand, and grin through the pain as you see the leader flinch as a second blow shatters the other. As the axe comes down, you stare fearlessly at him, "Skraefa!" (Coward!). [/sblock]

Young Human Girl -> Bad


[sblock] You're running, bare feet bleeding, breath ragged, the trees of the forest blurring by. The howls of your pursuers ring out again, fear burns bright and hot in your chest. You can't stop, you won't stop. You saw what they did to Molly, Andrea, Cerise, you won't be next. The cold wind freezes your tears to your face. You hear their heavy steps behind you, as a break in the trees reveals a cliff ahead. Hope dies a sobbing death in your chest, but fear doesn't. You don't hesitate. You're flying, free in the darkness, where they can't catch you.[/sblock].

Older Human Man -> Neutral

[sblock] You look around at the spoils of a life well-lived. The walls are hung with sumptous rugs, three ever-burning lanterns cast a warm glow across dark wood cabinets filled with gold and fine wines. You hear the soldiers yelling below, as you gently hold a vial of Worm Venom. I was a good run, you had a lot of fun, you toast the grinning mask on the far wall, and down the poison in a single swig.[/sblock]

Old Gnomish Woman -> Good

[sblock] It's hard to see, you're used to the black void to your left, you lost that eye in the raids long ago, but the fuzzy, dim shadows that dominate your vision. That's new, and they obscure the faces of your grand-children. Your ears ares still sharp though, and you float on their sweet, sad voices as they sing quieter-
quieter-
quieter....[/sblock]

Young Gnomish Man -> Funny?

[sblock] Steam whistles and gears clank as you pull the lever. The hydraulic springs are holding pressure to acceptable levels, and you dash over to the valve between the two tanks. Pulling out your ring of wrenches, you find the 3/4 inch one and begin opening the tanks to mix the chemicals. Golden and scarlet liquid fill their respective tubes and begin to drip down as you run to the spark stone and begin calibrating the charge, as long as you don't... "oops" --
The explosion is the last thing you see.[/sblock]

Ancient Elvish Woman -> Good

[sblock] Morning sun and birdsong. Even as your bones ache and crack, the sounds makes you feel young again. You carefully pick your way through the brush, supporting yourself with a yew staff. Finally, you see your destination. Raelorliackle, the Heart Tree. Smiling, you greet each other, and peace settles over you. Slowly, you lower yourself against her trunk, which cradles you. The Song of the forest sends you down the The Path.[/sblock]

Young Elvish Man -> Neutral

[sblock] You enter the room, the smell of violets and rosemary filing your senses. Your lover reclines on your bed, ruddy candlelight flowing across their bare skin. They smile at you, inviting you to enter. Pain explodes through your chest, you stare in disbelief at the bloody sword bursting through you. You look toward your love, whose smile only grows wider, colder, and then darkness claims you. [/sblock]

Young Tiefling Boy -> Bad

[sblock] You cough, your lungs burning, as you struggle against the heavy iron chains. Everything is smoke and fire, the village men have left, leaving you bound and staring at your mother's corpse. Demonchild. You cough again, the smoke filing your nose and throat. Only way is to purify with fire. The fire doesn't hurt though, not much, even as your shirt catches alight. If you could get out of the chains, cough, cough get...away....smoke........mother....[/sblock]

Older Tiefling Woman -> Neutral

[sblock] The wieght of steel is comforting, a physical bulwark to compliment your devotion. The town is burning, the devils, your cursed kin, cavorting amongst the carnage. You say a prayer to the Lady of Hope as you draw your blade, a shining nimbus of light piercing the smoke and darkness. You know this is where you die, fighitng Infernal power as you have for so many decades. Their leader steps up, a sword of black flame. You thank the Lady, for giving you this chance to end your infernal blood. You cross swords with your father, the impact cracking the stone. The fight lasts for hours until you slump in the sunlight, covered in blood, and your soul ascends.[/sblock]

[/sblock]


Room #3

[sblock] Black iron cages are buried in the stone, only their top third exposed. They are spaced about 5 ft apart, spread throughout the room. A moaning wailing sound emenates from them. The cages are filled with masses of tortured soals.

AC: 10 HP to drive off 30

They threaten the area next to the cage with opportunity attacks, or if someone tries to peer down inside.

2d4 attacks at +3 dealing 1d6+1 per attack and attempted grapple
Strength to escape DC 8+ #of attacks that hit
Con to resist aging from draining attack DC 8+#of attacks that hit

Destroying the cage unleashes the entire mass in a necrotic burst, Con Save vs 8d6+8 and DC 16 vs Aging

It is possible to jump from top of cage to top of cage and avoid the souls. [/sblock]

Room #4

[sblock] This room is a massive library. Their is a dead creature that looks something like an Albino Drider in a back corner, killed by the players in a previous run through. One of the players will have a mysterious book in their inventory from this room. I have a list of potential books the players can find searching through the shelves. Depending on time I could add information here or something else to slow them down beyond the clues that they have been here before.[/sblock]

Room #5

[sblock] This room is actually a series of smaller rooms partitioned off. Depending on how characters enter the room they could need to solve a "riddle"

1) (leading from Room 2 into Room 5) Two Angel statues stand on either side of a stone door, above the door it says "Only the Faithful may pass beyond the Gates" this is in reference to the doors leading into Room 6.

2) A stone door without guardians, opening it reveals a massive Bone Naga. If players shut the door quickly the creature wil not attack, entering the room or attacking it will start a battle

3) Two angel statues stand on either side of a stone door, above the door it says "Show your devotion to pass". This path leads to the library, and references another item the players will have, which they need to present for the door to open. Trying to force the door causes the statues to strike.

4) A single angelic statue stands near this door, one a plaque it says "Ask Permission". The statue itself is unresponsive, but after the players make enough noise an old man will open the door. He is a guardian spirit and caretaker assigned to this place. He is not a full NPC, more of an automated spirit. The room (and the halls heading to room 6) is full of angelic statues. I plan on playing this by ear, but he will probably allow them to pass, as they are not fiends which is what he was created to guard against.[/sblock]
If things have been going too smoothly, the halls to room 6 will be trapped with animating statues, which should slow them down a little bit.

The door to room 6 is massive and made of black iron. Embossed on it's surface is a massive raven. If the players missed the message of "only the faithful can pass" I can place it here again. Multiple things might be acceptable as "faithful" depending on the players, but each player will need to pay lip service in one way or another to get the doors to open.

Room 6 and 7

[sblock] I haven't fully written up the description of this room, but within it is a massive number of statues depicting priests and priestesses, facing the doors. In the center of the room is a massive Black Iron Reaper, which comes to life and begins attacking the players. Visually I want the statues to get shattered during the fight, and potentially offer the players cover for clever tactics.

I'm worried this thing is too tough, but it is a solo monster potentially going against six LV 5 characters, who culd all have access to magic depending on the party comp.

Reaper (Huge size)

AC: 18 HP: 150 spd: 30 ft

Resistant to non-magical damage and immune to poison.
Advantage on saves against magic
STR: +5 DEX: +2 CON: +5

Fear Aura- DC 13 wisdom vs Frightened, reroll end of every turn, immune if succeed

3 scythe attacks, range 15 ft +8 for 4d4+5 slashing, double dice for Crit and crits on 19

@ 1/2 health

Necrotc Aura: Iron cracks and a dread aura of death seeps out. 15 ft aura 2d6+5 necrotic damage when starting turn within aura

Once defeated the Reaper shatters, but the players may noticed the statues begining to repair themselves.

There is a single sliding door at the far end, once opened the players see a massive room hundreds upon hundreds of feet in every direction filled with treasure chests.

Some of them are open, especially those closest to the door.

Opening the wrong chest leads to an explosion of purple light, and they would be reset to the beginning of the Tomb, hearing the elf ask them the same question he asked the first time.

The correct chest is hidden in an alcove that gets covered up when the door slides open. To find it they would have to close the door behind them.

It is potentially a riddle they will not solve, and failing once will probably be the end of the game. However, if it was an easy riddle to solve, they would have done so on a previous excursion, and I think it would be more unfair to have there be no solution other than to forver repeat this.
[/sblock]


Thank you for the time reading this and any advice you are willing to offer, especially in terms of the final fight
 
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aco175

Legend
I would change the final encounter with the reaper to deal radiant damage rather than necrotic. This was players who are suspicious already can get more clues that the 'elf' in the first room was a fake. Also, make the riddle more on the easy side for the players to get. You want the players to have a good time at the convention and doing away with the idea that the characters with high Int would have gotten the riddle on one of the first few attempts. This hand waves some notions, but gives the players more fun, which is always good, especially in a convention environment.

I like the premise of the module and the places where there are clues to solve the riddle about them already being dead. Are the characters supposed to defeat the final reaper and then return to the 'elf' only to find out that they were duped, and then fight him. Or, is that part next year's module?
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
I haven't decided on that yet. I don't think there will be time to go and confront the Elf, but I've never run a series of modules before either and the idea is a little tempting. I started with idea just being a cool premise for an otherwise standard dungeon crawl. You're right in that I don't want the players to feel cheated by the riddle, but if they just rush in a throw open a chest I think it should still pop them. I'm expecting them to be suspicious and maybe even want to roll investigation or something, which may still reveal the fact that there is something odd about the door. It won't be a perfect fit over the alcove. I don't know, I'd hate for them to see the riddle and say "that was it?" and be disappointed almost more than I would hate for them to get it wrong and feel disappointed after a big boss fight.

I hadn't considered the radiant damage, that's a good idea. Playing into the idea (that I think I mentioned) that the various statues are meant to come to life as actual angels and clerics in the presence of a fiend. The statue cracking and breaking could be revealing a more light based entity instead of being a death void like I had first thought.
 

aco175

Legend
Focus on the closing scene and how the end is going to affect the players. Is the final fight with the boss monster planned to be the final and a quick wrap-up where they find the treasure and handwave them going back to the 'elf' and that's all. Maybe place the riddle on the hidden chest in the final room. The players get a riddle before the final fight and the quick wrap-up.

In conventions the time is always against you and DMs running the module need to be able to chop off parts to get to the final with a good part of time left, maybe an hour out of the four scheduled. DMs could chop off the riddle to save time, or make another encounter easier or even get rid of it and tell the players that there is just a hall to the last place, provided that there is no important info that the need to give the players.
 

I think those parties that go the route of rooms 2 & 5 will take longer than those going 3 & 4 (I did get that right that there are two paths to finishing right?)

I would remove the passage between 4 & 5, if the parties try to go to every room, there is no way they will make it through all the rooms in a 4 hour slot unless you just read them the clues and they don't do any role-playing.

My rule is a 4 hour con slot adventure should have 2 combats and 1-2 role playing scenes. Several of your role-playing scenes have potential for combat, so it will really depend upon what the parties do.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
Focus on the closing scene and how the end is going to affect the players. Is the final fight with the boss monster planned to be the final and a quick wrap-up where they find the treasure and handwave them going back to the 'elf' and that's all. Maybe place the riddle on the hidden chest in the final room. The players get a riddle before the final fight and the quick wrap-up.

Might be exhaustion talking, but I don't quite get what you are suggesting here.

Place a riddle in the final room, but give them the riddle before the big fight? I'm not following.


In conventions the time is always against you and DMs running the module need to be able to chop off parts to get to the final with a good part of time left, maybe an hour out of the four scheduled. DMs could chop off the riddle to save time, or make another encounter easier or even get rid of it and tell the players that there is just a hall to the last place, provided that there is no important info that the need to give the players.

This I completely agree with, and though I won't like it, I am more than willing to cut complete areas if necessary for time.



I think those parties that go the route of rooms 2 & 5 will take longer than those going 3 & 4 (I did get that right that there are two paths to finishing right?)

There are at least two paths to finishing, and I agree that 2->5 is likely to go faster than 3->4 and to be frank, I'm partially tempted to rearrange and cut the dungeon to make it a single linear path. I spent a lot of time on those death scenes and I really want people to go through that room, but I think giving them a meaningful choice in path is the better option for right now.


I would remove the passage between 4 & 5, if the parties try to go to every room, there is no way they will make it through all the rooms in a 4 hour slot unless you just read them the clues and they don't do any role-playing.

Part of my thought proccess with that hallway is that players who want to explore every room are going to try and do so anyway, and backtracking through rooms they finished to get back to the other side felt like it would take longer and be weird. So, a path between them. It also affords me the opportunity to balance the paths a little. If 2->5 goes too fast, I can drop a hint and try directing them into 4, which will help me not be forced to finish early. I can always cut the path if I need to, or simply quantum the final rooms if we're getting too close to the deadline. Cheap, yeah, but better than not giving them at least some kind of ending.


My rule is a 4 hour con slot adventure should have 2 combats and 1-2 role playing scenes. Several of your role-playing scenes have potential for combat, so it will really depend upon what the parties do.

The joy and frustration of con games. Luckily this is a local convention, and we tend to get a lot of the same people, so I've got at least some expectation that exploring the masks or looking through the bookshelves is going to be something the players focus some time on, but yeah, uncertainty can really make it hard to strike the right balance. Don't want them to speed through any more than I want it to drag on.


So, does everyone think the Reaper looks good for a solo encounter at level 5? I was really worried that I'd made it too powerful.
 

Harzel

Adventurer
So, does everyone think the Reaper looks good for a solo encounter at level 5? I was really worried that I'd made it too powerful.

Several questions:
  • Does Fear Aura require the Reaper's action or is it always on?
  • Does Necrotic Aura require the Reaper's action or is it always on (after 1/2 HP)?
  • Is there a save against Necrotic Aura?
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
Several questions:
  • Does Fear Aura require the Reaper's action or is it always on?
  • Does Necrotic Aura require the Reaper's action or is it always on (after 1/2 HP)?
  • Is there a save against Necrotic Aura?


The Fear aura is a one off at the start of the fight. After that it will not be rolled again, that's why I didn't give it a range (or at least I intended not to give it a range)

The damage aura (thinking or changing it to radiant) is currently always on with no save, which reminding myself how much damage that is, I might lower the damage down.
 

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