log in or register to remove this ad

 

WotBS WotBS critiques for Zeitgeist planning?

UnknownAtThisTime

First Post
@Morrus , @RangerWickett et al:

Would you folks like to use this thread for our (maybe just my!) specific comments and critiques of the WotBS saga for possible use in how Zeitgeist is planned or written? I have a couple very general observations that MIGHT be of interest, even though I have only run a couple adventures and read through a few more.

The reason I ask first is that I do not want to be critical for the sake of criticizing, and I have been a staunch supporter of WotBS so for. I hesitate to bring forth a topic that may be interpreted negatively. Thoughts?
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Dude, I love critique. In fact, I could even go for a bit of vitriolic ranting. With all the furor that WotC's gotten in the past year over D&D, I'm a little jealous that no one hates my work.

But yeah, please let us know your suggestions. I can't guarantee we'll follow through, but we'll take them into account.
 

Truename

First Post
Dude, I love critique. In fact, I could even go for a bit of vitriolic ranting. With all the furor that WotC's gotten in the past year over D&D, I'm a little jealous that no one hates my work.

But yeah, please let us know your suggestions. I can't guarantee we'll follow through, but we'll take them into account.

Okay, here's one. My group just finished playing through the Fire Forest (4e). I loved this adventure on paper, but in practice it dragged a bit. We talked about that tonight and decided it was for three reasons:

  1. The Fire Forest feels like a distraction from the main quest (get the case to Seaquen)
  2. In the 4e version, the party spends three levels inside the forest. That's a long time in the same scenery.
  3. There isn't a lot of variety or opportunity for roleplaying.
 

UnknownAtThisTime

First Post
Skill Challenges

In the 4e conversion of WotBS, there were by my opinion, a lot of Skill Challenges. It seemed like there were more skill challenges than needed.
 


Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
We're definitely dialling right back on skill challenges in :z:. In fact, one discussion we're having is considering the possibility of not having them at all, and getting a bit more pre-4E with skill based encounters.
 


OnlineDM

Adventurer
I think they mean not being as formal with the skill challenge structure (X successes before 3 failures, primary skills are A, B and C, etc.). And I agree - that's a good idea.
 

Zinovia

Explorer
Even out the level curve. If the AP is 12 adventures long, dedicate 4 adventures each to heroic, paragon, and epic tier play. The WotBS conversion rushes you into paragon by the early part of adventure 4, and spends too many adventures in epic. I adjusted leveling in my own game so they will be starting adventure 5 at level 11.

The different tiers of play are supposed to feel distinct in the amount of influence the group has, and the scope of the challenges they face. In heroic tier they are dealing with more local problems and are not widely known. Paragon play involves actions that can effect entire nations, while epic ramps it up so that the fates of worlds, planes, or the universe itself are at stake. It isn't just a matter of fame and influence; each tier change sees a significant power boost to the characters' abilities.

We need some planar travel starting in paragon, and continuing through epic.

Because of the rush to level the group fast, WotBS 4E has too many filler encounters in the early modules, and spends longer in some locations than is justified by the plot. I did my own conversion of the first 2 and a half modules based on the 3.5 version. There were far fewer encounters than there are in the official 4E version. My group hit 2nd as they were about to face the ambush at Haddin's house, and 3rd after the Fire Forest. That was probably too slow, but fit the amount of material I had.

Some of the added scenes in module 1 are good, and would have been worth keeping. The Fire Forest is such a unique setting, that with the very strong feel and the challenge of surviving there, it is best to not extend the experience there. At that point in the story the group is all afire :p to get to Seaquen. Spending too long in the forest feels like dragging out the story. OTOH at least the 4E version has some info on the 100+ mile journey between the end of the forest and beginning of the swamp. I had to make that stuff up out of whole cloth.

Put a clear historical timeline in the DM campaign notes, or in the player handout. The players may not read it, but at least it answers basic questions about the world in a place where it can be easily referenced. Too much of the WotBS history is scattered around in different modules, and it is a challenge finding it. Questions I was asked by the players in the first adventure are only answered in the intro to the 7th module. This wasn't secret information, but just basic history.

Include a Dramatis Personae summary of the main NPCs. Do this in the campaign guide for those NPCs that matter throughout the course of the adventure, and rulers of major cities, or nations. Include one in each module detailing the NPCs that matter there. That would help immensely when it comes to answering questions like "How long has this guy been king?". I wound up making up surnames for Leska and Kreven, since they weren't mentioned anwhere in the early modules, and fudging a lot of historical information. Stuff that I really should know as DM.

Make sure your maps are consistent between modules. Entire rivers move from one side of the mountains to another on different WotBS maps. I had to pick one version and make my own submap of Dassen based on it. The one in mod 4 is inconsistent with the continent map.

Balance and playtest your encounters. There were some significant flaws in monster and encounter design, but I realize that we were all new to 4E at the time.

Names could be improved a lot, but that is a personal foible of mine. I renamed probably a quarter of the NPC's in WotBS because they had weird names. In some cases they were funny, in others just hard to pronounce. I couldn't begin to say Innenotdar, so called it the Innotdari Forest. Indomitibility became Tenacity. Megadon, Iz, Onamdammin, Steppengard, and many others received different names.

Don't have as many (if any!) NPCs that travel with the party. Some of them are too much like DM PCs that steal the spotlight and plot hooks from the PCs where they rightly belong (i.e. Torrent). Others are just extraneous. When the NPCs traveling with the group begin to outnumber the PCs then there is an issue. As is possible with 5 NPCs potentially tagging along with the group when they finally make it to Seaquen. Some of them have only the most tenuous of reasons for being there, such as Three Weeping Ravens (who also has a silly name - one of him would be fine, but three?).

Please put the combat encounters inline with the main story, or at least adjacent to it, rather than 40 pages later. Too often the description of an area is split between the main text and the tactical encounter section. The delve encounter format leads to too much flipping back and forth, and causes more problems than it solves. I have been unable to find answers to what an area looks like without flipping between the main section and the encounter section, and sometimes find important details after it is too late to make use of them.

Detail what NPC's drop in the way of treasure. It is tedious having to make all that stuff up for every single villain in the game. Give them money, jewelry, and potions that fit with the treasure bundles, and then magic items can be left more vague (i.e. a 12th level magic item). That's pretty minor, but makes me reminisce about the old days when the full description of the room, and answers to questions like "What's in the chest?" were included in the module.

Please don't take any of these criticisms amiss. I have enjoyed playing WotBS with its broad scope and story. I hope that you can continue in that tradition with Zeitgeist.

Edit- Holy wall of text Batman!
The TLDR version:
* Don't split descriptions of an area between the main text and tactical encounters section. Consider keeping encounters in-line with the main story text.

* Fewer, if any NPC's that travel with the party for long periods of time.

* Pronouncible names

* Even number of adventures per tier of play.

* Detail monetary treasure found on bad guys and in areas.

* Don't pad the adventures with meaningless repetitive combat encounters.

* Add planar travel at the appropriate levels of play.
 
Last edited:



Bercilak

Explorer
I'd like to second Zinovia's point about not splitting the combat encounters from the main story. While I don't mind having a separate section that shows the maps and the stats, it was annoying to sometimes find that essential descriptions of a room were in the main adventure text and at other times they were listed in "features" in the appendix.

I also like the idea of fewer NPCs that tag along with the party. One every now and then (an essential guide, the walking MacGuffin, etc.) is fine, but too often the Burning Sky npcs feel like attempts to make the campaign feel more like a novel than an adventure.

Fewer encounters with more variety. My players have occasionally made comments about: "A third encounter of Ragesian soldiers? Really?" Maybe make the battlefields more dynamic--fewer holes for people to fall in and more fiddly bits that players or monsters could use to their advantage.

--Berc
 

UnknownAtThisTime

First Post
We're definitely dialling right back on skill challenges in :z:. In fact, one discussion we're having is considering the possibility of not having them at all, and getting a bit more pre-4E with skill based encounters.

Then I feel better about starting the thread already. I don't hate SCs per se, but man it just seemed like overload there.
 

UnknownAtThisTime

First Post
Again, I want to echo two toher suggestions already offered:

1) the notion of not having "so many" NPCs that tag along, and NPCs in general.

2) The encounters appendixed from the story.

I am glad some of my suggestions are at least shared by others.
 

Jhaelen

First Post
Yes, it is. I'm not a fan of how skill challenges work.
For me they work like a charm, but I don't like the way they're written up in published modules.

When I'm using them in my game, they're much more free-form. So, I wouldn't mind if they were just presented as an outline describing what they're supposed to achieve and what potential outcomes for (partial) failures might be.
 


LightPhoenix

First Post
1) the notion of not having "so many" NPCs that tag along, and NPCs in general.

I on the other hand appreciate having them; with only three players, balancing becomes a real chore. NPCs allow me to focus more on the prepping the game than on prepping the combats.

It's probably way to much work for relatively little payoff, but I think it would be neat if each adventure had (depending on how Zeitgeist is written) a brief section for each NPC outlining their part in the adventure, including possible outs for those that don't want them. Or, if Zeitgeist is NPC-light, possible NPCs who might join and reasons why.

Reading through WotBS, I've been thinking about writing such a document up.
 

UnknownAtThisTime

First Post
I on the other hand appreciate having them; with only three players, balancing becomes a real chore. NPCs allow me to focus more on the prepping the game than on prepping the combats.

I run it with three PCs as well. So my perspective is with so many NPCs, the party itself becomes 'overwhelmed'. Different strokes for diffwerent folks. I have had no trouble adjusting encounters by removing baddies/replacing them with minions.

LightPhoenix said:
It's probably way to much work for relatively little payoff, but I think it would be neat if each adventure had (depending on how Zeitgeist is written) a brief section for each NPC outlining their part in the adventure, including possible outs for those that don't want them. Or, if Zeitgeist is NPC-light, possible NPCs who might join and reasons why.

Reading through WotBS, I've been thinking about writing such a document up.

I think this is a great suggestion.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Again, I want to echo two toher suggestions already offered:

1) the notion of not having "so many" NPCs that tag along, and NPCs in general.

I find this confusing. They're completely optional and excludable. Why deny them to those groups who find them useful?

You can use them as little or as much as you want to. As the DM, you make that call. Including them allows people who would make a different choice to you the option; omitting them gives those people no option.

I can't get behind the concept of excluding options because 100% of the customers won't use them. Better to include them and let people choose to not use them.
 

UnknownAtThisTime

First Post
I find this confusing. They're completely optional and excludable. Why deny them to those groups who find them useful?

You can use them as little or as much as you want to. As the DM, you make that call. Including them allows people who would make a different choice to you the option; omitting them gives those people no option.

I can't get behind the concept of excluding options because 100% of the customers won't use them. Better to include them and let people choose to not use them.

I don't disagree with your logic. If I were you I might make the same point, and might also disregard my suggestion. And naturally, as I am running it, I am removing those that don't mesh well with our play.

However, understand this:
1) Objectively, so far WotBS has "a lot" of NPCs. Whether used by the DM or not, simply having them adds overhead to the game planning (as well as adding many positive things such as a rich setting and deep and complex environment).
2) when those NPCs carry information or plot hooks, it is not easy to "exclude" them.

Perhaps there is a more happy medium. Perhaps not. I defer that to the authors (and publisher) to decide, but wanted to share my opinion.
 

Advertisement2

Advertisement4

Top