Too much combat: problems with Pyramid of Shadows

MerricB

Eternal Optimist
I'm currently running Pyramid of Shadows, the third of the Wizards 4e adventures. It has a nice set-up, interesting locations, a great hook, and, despite all that, is falling rather flat.

Why is this? Well, in this writer's opinion, it's due to the incessant combat encounters with little chance for a change of pace.

Now, I'm not against combat in D&D. Most of my campaigns feature a great deal of combat. It's just that, in this instance, the adventure just seems to be combat, combat, combat and more combat. Now, I'll be the first to admit that we're still on the first level of the dungeon, and we've mostly been exploring north and west (away from the groups that might actually talk to the PCs), but given we've had two 4+ hour sessions of nothing but combat in this area, it's a fair amount of time spent.

Does that mean that there should have been roleplaying encounters here? No. not necessarily. What I would have liked was some exploration, something that Wizards seems exceptionally bad at including in their recent adventures. You can have empty areas if they have things to puzzle and intrigue the characters. Slightly extended descriptions of the areas would be nice. When you come down to it, the format of Pyramid of Shadows is dreadful. The numbers on the map have no relationship at all to the tactical encounters.

The other part of what I'd like to see in Wizards adventure design is this: easy encounters. Jesse Decker demonstrated in The Spire of Long Shadows the folly of putting a bunch of extremely tough encounters in a row: it makes them all blend into each other, the party want to rest after each one (even with milestones, etc.), and they're frustrating for the party. Easy encounters are great fun for the players: they get to show their power, demonstrate that they're better than they were, and provide a break between big battles. They also don't take so long; give me a room of five level 4 or 5 orcs, and the 8th level party will wipe them out in 20-30 minutes.

A related point is with terrain and special effects: not every combat needs to have them. Some times, the players like being able to maneuver their characters so they can actually use their abilities.

There are other things that are bothering me about the adventure, but that's enough for now. How have you found it?

Cheers!
 

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Agamon

Adventurer
I haven't played the adventure or even looked closely at it yet, but I agree with your points. How tough would it be, in your opinion, to change things up a bit without messing up the adventure dynamic?
 


MerricB

Eternal Optimist
Merric, have you utilized any of the role-playing aids in the first booklet?

Yes, I have - the group negotiated with the Arboreans rather than killing them. That was actually quite a bit of fun.

The problem was the next two sessions of nothing but combat (and little exploration). Related to that is that there wasn't actually a reason to meet the Arboreans again. They're fanatics, which means there isn't much common ground for negotiation. Once the PCs found another place to rest... so long, solo!

I'm hoping that the bandits will be more fun.

Cheers!
 

mac1504

Explorer
I thought this blog post (from yesterday's front page news) did an excellent job of coming up with some twists to the encounters and created some variety for running Pyramid.

I know I'm going to try a few of them out.
 

MerricB

Eternal Optimist
I thought this blog post (from yesterday's front page news) did an excellent job of coming up with some twists to the encounters and created some variety for running Pyramid.

I know I'm going to try a few of them out.

That's a great blog entry; thanks for bringing my attention to it! :)

Cheers!
 

Cadfan

First Post
I agree that its awfully combat intense, with very little downtime.

I actually liked Keep on the Shadowfell the most out of the three H# modules. Its use of small combat scenarios separating roleplaying "interludes" with plot advancement timed based on how many interludes had passed and with advice on how to roleplay the key NPCs during each interlude, was really well done and, in my opinion, remarkably easy for beginning DMs and players to understand. Plus, with each combat scenario taking place in a different region, it gave a nice feeling of space and freedom, while using the plot to pull the PCs in worthwhile directions. Not optimal for sandbox play, but honestly if thats your thing you shouldn't be buying modules. Great for just... playing D&D though, you know?
 

Hawke

First Post
Thanks for the thread, I was considering running part of Pyramid of Shadows but wasn't sure about how to advance it.

Cadfan, you said best of the H series... I agree with you on H1/H2 (haven't played 3 yet) but how do you compare that to the P series?
 

Cadfan

First Post
Cadfan, you said best of the H series... I agree with you on H1/H2 (haven't played 3 yet) but how do you compare that to the P series?
Don't know yet. Just reached level 10 in the campaign running the H modules, and am about five encounters from completining H3.
 

Phaezen

First Post
I have been running a series of Dungeon modules for my group and preparing them, coupled with my experience of 3.x modules leaves me feeling there is generally too much combat in modules for my taste. I tend to go through a module before hand and see if there any encounters I can scrap due to them not contributing to the module in any meaningful manner other than experience point quota.

Phaezen
 

Jack99

Adventurer
Thanks for the thread, I was considering running part of Pyramid of Shadows but wasn't sure about how to advance it.

Cadfan, you said best of the H series... I agree with you on H1/H2 (haven't played 3 yet) but how do you compare that to the P series?

Well, I ain't Cadfan, but IMO the P series are far better than any of the H serie. P1 in really good, and P2 is just the best by a mile. YMMV OFC ;)
 

vagabundo

Adventurer
I thought this blog post (from yesterday's front page news) did an excellent job of coming up with some twists to the encounters and created some variety for running Pyramid.

I know I'm going to try a few of them out.

blog said:
The harpy and the sahaugins cooperate - but why? They don't have to eat! They do it because there's some satisfaction to be gained, either in killing or in cooperation itself. The ettin and the charnel lord work together for the same reason.

Ewwwwwww. Now that's just grosss..

This module should be renamed: H3, The Pyramid of Swing

Good blog, though.
 
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Dimitris

First Post
I'm currently running Pyramid of Shadows, the third of the Wizards 4e adventures. It has a nice set-up, interesting locations, a great hook, and, despite all that, is falling rather flat.

Why is this? Well, in this writer's opinion, it's due to the incessant combat encounters with little chance for a change of pace.

Now, I'm not against combat in D&D. Most of my campaigns feature a great deal of combat. It's just that, in this instance, the adventure just seems to be combat, combat, combat and more combat. Now, I'll be the first to admit that we're still on the first level of the dungeon, and we've mostly been exploring north and west (away from the groups that might actually talk to the PCs), but given we've had two 4+ hour sessions of nothing but combat in this area, it's a fair amount of time spent.
..

Hi Merric. My opinion is that if you choose a system with the emphasis in combat, most probably the products you will get, will emphasize in combat as well.

I hope that WotC designer will understand eventually your point. If the combat is all we want then we could just play DDM.

Dimitris
 

Jack99

Adventurer
Hi Merric. My opinion is that if you choose a system with the emphasis in combat, most probably the products you will get, will emphasize in combat as well.

I hope that WotC designer will understand eventually your point. If the combat is all we want then we could just play DDM.

Dimitris

D&D is a combat focused game. Has always been. If you are playing it differently, you are a minority. WotC doesn't cater to minorities. That's what the 3PP's are for.

:cool:
 

Dimitris

First Post
Do you think that to be with the majority is always the best choice ? :)
I prefer to be where I would like to be.

In my campaigns we have set up battles with 300+ miniatures (Merric remembers, he had some photos in his site :) ). It was fun. But when I make a survey (after 85 sessions) on what sessions my players enjoyed the most, the combat sessions were not within the top-5.

Dimitris
 
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Jack99

Adventurer
Do you think that to be with the majority is always the best choice ? :)
I prefer to be where I would like to be.
Of course. I am not saying one should aim for being with the majority. I am simply pointing out that WotC has to cater to the majority, considering their position.

In my campaigns we have set up battles with 300+ miniatures (Merric remembers, he had some photos in his site :) ). It was fun. But when I make a survey (after 85 sessions) on what sessions my players enjoyed the most, the combat sessions were not within the top-5.
Notice I never really said anything about my personal preferences. IMO there is no right or wrong way to play D&D, but that doesn't change the fact that D&D is a game centered around combat. Does that mean that some might not prefer otherwise? Hell no. And while I love combat, there are many other aspects of D&D I enjoy a lot as well. Just as an example, we played 5 hours last night, and there was no combat at all. Just roleplaying with a few skill checks here and there.
 

FourthBear

First Post
A related point is with terrain and special effects: not every combat needs to have them. Some times, the players like being able to maneuver their characters so they can actually use their abilities.
I've whined about this in the past, but in the H modules I think there's far too much use of terrain and special effects that hinder PCs (especially when the opponents are unaffected by them). I would welcome more terrain and objects in the encounters that the PCs can exploit to speed combat along.
 

Rechan

Adventurer
Of course. I am not saying one should aim for being with the majority. I am simply pointing out that WotC has to cater to the majority, considering their position.
Even if it's the majority, too much of anything is never good.

Which is PoS's problem. The PCs are stuck in the same dungeon for 3 levels. Every room is a fight.

There's no lull, no opportunity to go back to town, no to and fro. There's also not that intriguing a quest. It's three levels of "Fetch this".

It's like being inside a house where every room is different in some interesting way. Even if each room is interesting in its own right, if you're locked inside that house, eventually you're going to want to get out and go outside.
 
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Obryn

Hero
Hi Merric. My opinion is that if you choose a system with the emphasis in combat, most probably the products you will get, will emphasize in combat as well.

I hope that WotC designer will understand eventually your point. If the combat is all we want then we could just play DDM.

Dimitris
Hooray! Edition bashing! Just what we needed!

...Anyways, IMHO it's not the system, it's the format.

Trust me - many of the latter-era 3.5 delve-style adventures, like Expedition to the Demonweb Pits, were basically big encounters strung together. Heck, I know of some players who've said that's all there is to some Paizo adventure paths (like Age of Worms), too. If your adventure is designed as a series of combat encounters, it can easily turn into ... a series of combat encounters. No matter the system.


I've just started running Pyramid, but I think it has some great potential for role-playing opportunities. It does, though, take some work due to its no-escape-from-the-dungeon setting. I found the pages on negotitation and factions very helpful, and I plan on using them as much as possible.

-O
 


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