Author Topic: Paragon Adventure: Escape from White Cliff  (Read 2079 times)

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dither

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Paragon Adventure: Escape from White Cliff
« on: October 28, 2010, 07:42:52 PM »
1/12/2011: revised format and moved previous encounter descriptions further down in thread

...

I'm designing a Paragon adventure for the group I'm in, to give the DM a break and let him play a little. One of my goals is to make heavy use of Skill Challenges, to give our two rangers and one rogue a chance to do something other than stab/shoot things, and to challenge the party to think and work together in new ways. That means low- to no-monsters in the first dozen encounters.

I'm lifting a number of concepts from the Half-life series, in particular, I'm designing a series of Set Piece encounters.

The first thing I did was go through my copies of the 3.x Fiend Folio and Monster Manual 2 to find monsters that I thought needed more love. Based on the monsters I picked out, I determined that I would need to run an adventure that allowed me to mix heavy arcane and fair folk elements.

I used sticky notes to cover a section of the wall in my room with my favorite picks of the monsters I picked out, came up with a magic school as the setting, and a major planar breach as the main source of conflict. The first set of encounters I want to design are based around the concepts of "class rooms," "spatial distortions," "laboratories," and a "troll."

In keeping with the Half-Life inspiration, the adventure will begin with the characters receiving a tour of the school facility from a crusty old magic professor. He will become increasingly anxious as he leads the characters through the school, culminating in him locking them in his classroom in a far wing of the school before rushing off to attend to some emergency.

Note: Encounters are designed to be modular so while they have a distinct starting point, the characters are able to progress through them in almost any order, with limited restrictions. It's recommended that the DM prepare the five encounters in a given encounter cluster and play them out in the order that is most sensible for the group.

Encounters 1-5
encounter elements: spatial distortion, classroom, troll, laboratory

As the characters progress through these encounters, they witness several "scripted events" of the arcane university's security officers teleporting into dangerous scenes and dying due to mis-aimed teleports. The party acquires much of their early treasure through this method. After the first encounter group, security figures out what it's doing wrong and stops sending people in.

[spoiler]encounter 1: Between a Lock and a Hot Place
Characters are locked (with an Arcane Lock) in a teacher's office when explosions begin rocking the school. One explosion blasts a hole in the wall, the ceiling caves in, a dimensional rift/distortion forms between the office and the adjacent classroom, and wrackspawn begin crossing the thin planar boundary via planar breach.

Characters can attempt to close the rift at any time (before or after combat) but only have until the end of the fight to disable the arcane lock before the ceiling caves in and forces them to escape through the burning ceiling. If they disable the arcane lock, they proceed to encounter 5: Down the Rabbit Hole and go through this group in reverse order.

encounter 2: Students Under Fire
After escaping through the burning ceiling in the previous encounter, the party hears yelling for help and discover two students trapped in a burning room. When they go to investigate, more wrackspawn appear and attack. If the party rescues the students, the students provide them with some background on the school and show them a(n otherwise secret) passage that leads to encounter 4: Rifter Madness.

Recommend skipping this encounter if the characters are going through the encounters in reverse order -- from encounter 4 they can either go backward through the other encounters (from 2 to 4 to 3...) or go to encounter 5 and then skip back to 3, then to 4, etc.

encounter 3: Confronting the Nightmare
There's a skill challenge leading up to this encounter, no matter which direction the players come from, which requires Insight and Nature checks to avoid psychic attacks from a psychotic (not to mention psychic) troll lurker (think Freddy Kreuger) that's stalking the party. Depending on how they do on the challenge, the party may be affected by by the troll's curse before engaging it in combat.

The curse (Curse of Burgeoning Ineptitude) causes them to take damage when they roll a natural 1, and as it progresses (like a disease in 4e, it has different 3 progressively worse stages) they take damage for simply failing dice rolls. The troll, a solo monster is accompanied by a shadow, which helps round out the encounter to be 2 levels higher than the party (solo is a level lower than the party, shadow is an elite two levels higher than party).

encounter 4: Rifter Madness
This is a pretty standard encounter with a wrackspawn sergeant for the players to take out their aggression on. Until they take out the leader, he keeps guiding in more minions through a pair of planar distortions. Alternatively, an Arcana-inclined character can attempt to seal off the distortions to prevent reinforcements from coming through.

encounter 5: Down the Rabbit Hole
This is a chaotic battle that takes place in one of the schools "elevation chambers." The entire room is affected by generalized levitation magic, which allows characters to walk out into open air -- but the magic's a bit wonky and there's lots of debris spinning through the air at high velocities. More wrackspawn ambush the characters here, and large boulders provide temporary cover while careening around the room.
[/spoiler]

Encounters 6-10
encounter elements: library (student), plague spores, open rift, possessed students

Encounters 11-15
encounter elements: elven hunters, razor vine, meadow, faerie swarm

Encounters 16-20
encounter elements: satyr, security tower, spore haze, dungeon

Encounters 21-25
encounter elements: swamp, vine horrors, fhorge, shriekers

Encounters 26-30
encounter elements: wooded area, spriggan, assassin vines, atrium

Encounters 31-35
encounter elements: dorms, wortlings, siren plant, orcwort

Encounters 36-40
encounter elements: greenvise, mess hall, kitchen, hunting hounds

Encounters 41-45
encounter elements: wicker man, hunting lodge, rune circles, trigger-happy paladins

Encounters 46-50
encounter elements: red dragon, waterfall room, library (main), possessed paladins

Encounters 51-55
encounter elements: dryad, waterfall, aquatic ooze, lake

Encounters 56-60
encounter elements: bluff/cliff, wendigo, jermalaine, cave

Encounters 61-65
encounter elements: puff ball, wererats, giant fallen hollow trees, meenlocks

Encounters 66-70
encounter elements: library (teachers), myconids, faerie lord, lord's demesne
« Last Edit: January 12, 2011, 10:17:23 PM by dither »
"Stuck between a rogue and a bard place."

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dither

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Re: Paragon Adventure: Escape from White Cliff
« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2010, 05:59:52 PM »
I've finished basic descriptions for the first 10 or so encounters, and I realized that the density may be ... a bit much. I'm thinking that I'll go ahead and design the next batch of encounters, and later during the design process, cut about half the encounters, keeping only the coolest ones for mood and pacing.
"Stuck between a rogue and a bard place."

vanity
Read my webcomic!
Dither's Amazing Changing Avatars

[spoiler]
Quote from: Shadowhunter
Quote from: Flay Crimsonwind
"Vegeta! What does the scouter say about Dither's power level?"
It's over nine thousand!

Quote from: Bauglir
Quote from: Anklebite
Quote from: dither
Well blow me down! :P
A SECTION OF THE CAVERN HAS COLLAPSED!
dither, Miner, has died after colliding with an obstacle!
[/spoiler]

Amechra

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Re: Paragon Adventure: Escape from White Cliff
« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2010, 07:38:34 PM »
Looks neat.
[spoiler]Fighter: "I can kill a guy in one turn."
Cleric: "I can kill a guy in half a turn."
Wizard: "I can kill a guy before my turn."
Bard: "I can get three idiots to kill guys for me."

On a strange note, would anyone be put out if we had a post about people or events we can spare a thought for, or if its within their creed, a prayer for? Just a random thought, but ... hells I wouldn't have known about either Archangels daughter or Saeomons niece if I didn't happen to be on these threads.
Sounds fine to me.
probably over on "Off-topic".
might want to put a little disclaimer in the first post.

This is the Min/Max board. We should be able to figure out a way to optimize the POWER OF PRAYER(TM) that doesn't involve "Pazuzu, Pazuzu, Pazuzu".
[/spoiler]

My final project for my film independent study course. It could do with a watching and critiquing

dither

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Re: Paragon Adventure: Escape from White Cliff
« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2010, 08:01:10 PM »
"Stuck between a rogue and a bard place."

vanity
Read my webcomic!
Dither's Amazing Changing Avatars

[spoiler]
Quote from: Shadowhunter
Quote from: Flay Crimsonwind
"Vegeta! What does the scouter say about Dither's power level?"
It's over nine thousand!

Quote from: Bauglir
Quote from: Anklebite
Quote from: dither
Well blow me down! :P
A SECTION OF THE CAVERN HAS COLLAPSED!
dither, Miner, has died after colliding with an obstacle!
[/spoiler]

dither

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Re: Paragon Adventure: Escape from White Cliff
« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2010, 07:29:41 PM »
I've changed a bunch of stuff, and actually have a ton more encounters than I have listed here. I'm going to have to totally reformat the first post in order to accommodate the changes. I have, let me think ... three "encounter clusters" of five encounters each, and some of the stuff in the first post has been shuffled around. When I find some time, I'll go ahead and update it here. Probably around the same time I transform my handwritten notes into digital notes. :p

Incidentally, I've also created a PSD file (with layers!) to create quick-and-dirty pentagon-style encounter clusters. I'm doing some interesting things with these pentagons...

edit: relevant blog post
"Stuck between a rogue and a bard place."

vanity
Read my webcomic!
Dither's Amazing Changing Avatars

[spoiler]
Quote from: Shadowhunter
Quote from: Flay Crimsonwind
"Vegeta! What does the scouter say about Dither's power level?"
It's over nine thousand!

Quote from: Bauglir
Quote from: Anklebite
Quote from: dither
Well blow me down! :P
A SECTION OF THE CAVERN HAS COLLAPSED!
dither, Miner, has died after colliding with an obstacle!
[/spoiler]

Shylock88

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Re: Paragon Adventure: Escape from White Cliff
« Reply #5 on: December 15, 2010, 09:27:26 PM »
cool stuff

dither

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Re: Paragon Adventure: Escape from White Cliff
« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2011, 09:31:37 PM »
I'm going to modify the first post in this thread to add in new stuff, here's the original content of the first post in case anyone was looking to it for ... whatever reason. Lots of stuff changed. :D


Encounter 1: Between a Lock and a Hot Place
[spoiler]Explosions rock the school, and one of the walls in the room is blown open, showering the characters in masonry and flaming body parts. Large gaps in the floor an ceiling reveal classrooms above and below them, and they can see across the gap into another room, where at least one student is breathing his last. If they speak to him, he gives them one of two rings of friendship, telling them his fiancee was headed to the library, and the ring should lead them to her. He wants her to know he's dead, and for the PCs to give the ring to her. [Minor quest - find the library]

There's an Arcane Lock on the door, which the PCs can try to disable. They have a choice to either speak to the student or attend to the lock (try to gauge which of the two they're more focused on) and once they've either begun to disable the lock, or they've finished speaking to the student, an enormous spatial distortion appears in the center of the room and starts wreaking havoc. The spatial distortion has two main effects, as an elite trap: it automatically slows each character at the beginning of their turn, and it makes an attack against each character (targeting their lowest defense) -- on a hit, it teleports them 3 squares in an unhelpful direction and dazes them.

An Arcane-trained character can temporarily disable a spatial distortion with a simple skill challenge. The PCs can either try to get through the Arcane Lock (set up to be a difficult skill challenge of medium complexity) or they can climb through the hole in the ceiling to the classrooms above to escape the distortion. Below them is a dead end. In the rooms above, they navigate rubble and narrow spaces (squeezing in places) while sustaining fire damage and occasional collapses -- grabbed/immobilized by falling rubble.[/spoiler]

Encounter 2: Hot Feet and Choking Smoke
[spoiler]Once the party has cleared the previous encounter by climbing through the rubble to escape the spatial distortion (if they defeated the Arcane Lock they instead go to Encounter 10: Sweet, Sweet, Poison Dreams), they quickly find themselves in danger: smoke is gathering in the classroom they've taken cover in, and the floor beneath them is growing hot! They must move quickly to find a way out! Somewhere safer, anyway.

The main feature of this next area is a thick, choking smoke. Characters are slowed while in the smoke, unless they elect to make Endurance checks against being blinded, dazed, and immobilized (save ends), as they cough their lungs out. (It's a choice they get to make each round! :)) To encourage PCs to take the risk (or at least keep moving), they take 5 damage per tier (10 at paragon) at the beginning of every turn inside the hot, smoky room.

Scattered throughout the room are patches of actual fire, interspersed with areas of weakened floor. Walking through fire deals damage and sets a character on fire, walking on weakened floor prompts a Reflex attack that threatens to grab and immobilize a character, while walking between the fire and the weakened floor, the PCs have a random chance of (randomly) triggering either an explosion that rocks the room sends them sliding around the room (Reflex attack to slide them into hazardous terrain) or a collapse that leaves them pinned under rubble.[/spoiler]

Encounter 3: Students Under Fire (Optional)
[spoiler]Once the PCs clear the previous encounter, they find themselves in the hallway, but quickly become aware of coughing and some yells for help coming from an adjacent room that is also on fire. If they choose to brave the smoke and fire in another room, they can rescue two students (named Fritz and Lazlo) who give them some basic advice about the school and some healing potions. This encounter features most of the same hazards as the previous one, with a smaller room, and the added challenge of rescuing one or both NPCs (more tangible rewards for saving more NPCs).[/spoiler]

Encounter 4: Cold Storage, Or Living In The Fridge
[spoiler]Whether the PCs choose to save Fritz and Lazlo or not, the hallways only offer them a temporary place to stop (not even 5 minutes to catch their breath), as collapses have left the hallways largely inaccessible. The party will have to take a trip through the cold storage chambers, where the students and teachers preserve experiments.

The characters must navigate cramped (squeezing) and cluttered (difficult terrain) chambers in the cold (ongoing cold damage without protective gear), with periodic tremors sending experiments crashing and splashing down on their heads. Halfway through, they notice (unless they fail a Perception check) that a gelatinous cube is stuck blocking the doorway between rooms and must be "swam" through. Attacking or "killing" the gelatinous cube has no effect, as the cube retains its form in the sub-zero temperatures. It's pretty much just an obstacle, but the party might feel better after wailing on it? Maybe chopping it up causes it to deal less damage, as they wade through corrosive Jello, rather than immerse themselves in it.[/spoiler]

Encounter 5: Cold, Dark Echoing Hallways
[spoiler]Finding themselves in on the other end of the collapse from where they started, it isn't long before the characters find themselves wandering down what appears to be an endless hallway. All sources of natural light flicker out and when the dark settles in, the PCs begin hearing evil whispers (psychic damage, plus thrown against walls) and receive deep, nasty wounds from out of nowhere (weapon damage). The darkness itself is like a translucent, supernatural soup, that slows characters moving through it.

They've wandered into a fey demesne, which mirrors and translates a short stretch of the hallway and a singular room, making what appears to be a hallway and two rooms. Four sconces along the hallway burn with green flames, and one character can stand adjacent to the flame to avoid taking damage from the darkness. Exploring either room reveals (identical) sets of lab equipment, and small alcoves filled with mirrors and candles, that seem at odds with the arcane labs.

An average skill challenge of medium complexity reveals that the characters are in a fey demesne, the green flames are protective and reminiscent of will 'o the wisps/corpse candles, and that the mirrors are creating the pocket dimension, and the candles are the power source. Attacking the mirrors causes a mirror-image of the character to interrupt the character with a vicious attack, and removing or destroying any of the lab equipment or candles causes them to disperse like smoke, only to reform the next round.

The key to escaping the fey demesne (either discovered by clever exploration or beating the skill challenge) is discovering that the reflection of one of the candles (all the same, strange green color) is blue, which requires a combination of Arcana, Nature, and/or Perception to find. Discovering the blue flame in the reflection prompts the will 'o the wisp to attack the party in a rage, but slaying or negotiating with the creature will cause the hallway to revert to the Natural world.[/spoiler]

Encounter 6: Confronting the Nightmare (Bypass)
[spoiler]Though the darkness is gone and the hallway has reverted to its natural state, it would seem that the PCs are still in peril -- the evil psychic whispers and attacks from out of nowhere continue, though they are close to discovering the source. The creature that is stalking the characters can only attack one character psychically at a time, and can only make claw attacks against them when they're in an area that's dark enough to provide concealment.

Through a short, twisty corridor, as the characters clamber over some rubble (difficult terrain) and maneuver some fallen masonry (squeeze), they're attacked by falling rubble, though it becomes obvious that the creature stalking them is deliberately trying to harm them by pushing obstacles on top of them and into their way. They can choose to confront the monster now (a troll), or they can grin and bear the abuse until they reach the next encounter (Encounter 7: Down the Rabbit Hole).

If the party confronts the troll, they find that it has terrible claws and psychic fear attacks (troll is an elite lurker/controller) that prefers to target victims singly. They must battle it across several rooms and two levels, as it ducks around corners for cover, uses its fear attacks to send them falling to the room below, and shreds anyone it can catch by themselves. (Inspired by Freddy Kreuger from the Nightmare on Elm Street series.) Defeating him reveals that he's stashed a whole pile of mutilated corpses, which they can search for treasure.

There is a secret passage, found by digging in the rubble, that leads to the area of Encounter 8, that makes it possible to bypass both this encounter and Encounter 7. The troll doesn't know about it and doesn't care, but if he catches anyone digging around in his lair, he'll happily tear them to pieces.[/spoiler]

Encounter 7: Down the Rabbit Hole (Bypass)
[spoiler]Either after the party has defeated or evaded the troll from Encounter 6, they reach an "elevation chamber," which they will be familiar with from the tour they were given. This is a large, circular room that the wizards use to travel between floors of the university. It quickly becomes obvious that traversing any length of this chamber is dangerous, and it's impossible to go more than one floor at a time without some measure or preparation or protection.

The levitation magic of the chamber is out-of-whack, and is made worse by the presence of a spatial distortion right in the middle of the chamber. Rubble, corpses, and other debris ricochet around the room, providing temporary, if unstable, footing (or projectiles). It's incredibly difficult to fall to one's death in this chamber, as one will likely be battered and perforated long before they make it to the floor -- and the magic providing the levitation effect is unlikely to cause anyone to fall any great distance anyway.

It's possible to avoid this chamber entirely if one finds the secret passage in the troll's layer in Encounter 6.[/spoiler]

Encounter 8: Talk About Yer Fixer-Upper
[spoiler]The next encounter takes place in a hallway, and is more of a gauntlet than a true encounter. Three powerful spatial distortions have turned classrooms and laboratories into one long passage, filled with rubble that the PCs must cross. Flanking a nearly hundred-foot long span, are three craters that threaten to send characters sliding to their doom. A distortion sits in the center of each of the craters, and between the three of them, the room shudders and shakes, making it easy for characters to stray from the narrow, winding path between them.

It is possible, though dangerous (and it requires some digging), to reach this area from the hallways in which the troll lurks from Encounter 6. He doesn't know this, and doesn't care, but id he's alive when the PCs try to dig their way down into this chamber, he'll happily rend them to tiny, tiny pieces.[/spoiler]

Encounter 9: Poison Gas, Or Seasonal Allergies
[spoiler]This room features a combination of a spatial distortion and a planar breach. A single classroom, which the characters must traverse, is larger on the inside than it is on the outside, and features a small grove of trees in the middle. The normal classroom might be eight by ten squares or so (fifty feet by forty feet) and cluttered with stuff, the room has doubled or tripled in size with the Fey Wild pushing it out of the way to make room for itself in the middle.

The room features patches of mushrooms that release poisonous spores, which might easily be avoided, if not for a combination of two things: the spatial distortion has returned to wreak havoc on the party's progress in this room (sliding them around the room all willy-nilly), and second, the trees are blooming, and sending out an itchy, blinding pollen. The distortion slows their overall forward movement, and the pollen leaves them vulnerable to becoming confused and wandering in the wrong direction.[/spoiler]

Encounter 10: Sweet, Sweet, Deadly Dreams
[spoiler]The final encounter in this section (or the second one), follows a similar thread to Encounter 9: the room has been widened to permit a small grove of trees in the center, where some siren-like plant creatures dwell. They (or it) are rooted in place and draw characters towards the middle of the room (trying to move around the outside of the room to thwart the encounter only drops the characters on the other side of the room, without making forward progress). Many students are lying on the floor of this room, seemingly asleep, in a strange spiral pattern radiating from the grove of trees in the center.

The trees, when the characters approach, exude an effect that mimics the Sleep power, first slowing characters, and then putting them to sleep when they fail a save. Characters who fall unconscious on the ground are subject to necrotic damage, as the roots of the tree drain the life out of them -- which prompts them to wake and try to escape again, though they'll be continually assaulted by the trees' Sleep-like effect until they escape. Characters can wake one another and help each other across the room, and not all the students have died. The characters may search bodies for loot and try to drag survivors to safety.[/spoiler]



"Stuck between a rogue and a bard place."

vanity
Read my webcomic!
Dither's Amazing Changing Avatars

[spoiler]
Quote from: Shadowhunter
Quote from: Flay Crimsonwind
"Vegeta! What does the scouter say about Dither's power level?"
It's over nine thousand!

Quote from: Bauglir
Quote from: Anklebite
Quote from: dither
Well blow me down! :P
A SECTION OF THE CAVERN HAS COLLAPSED!
dither, Miner, has died after colliding with an obstacle!
[/spoiler]