Author Topic: Hard Core Optimizers: What in The Hell Does a Good Adventure Look Like?  (Read 3712 times)

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Necrosnoop110

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I keep reading thread after thread and post after post of optimizer types trashing all modules ever published as utter fail and poppycock. Can anyone of them or someone they know, show me what a well crafted adventure looks like? Any examples that I can actually take a look at? (this is not a challenge or a weak attempted at a showdown I honestly want to know what a great adventure looks like)

Thanks,
Necro 

PS - Sorry I know this is a tad off topic but figured I go to the source :)

KellKheraptis

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Convert Labyrinth of Madness to 3.5, keep the challenge, remove the Gygaxian nature, and THAT is a good adventure.  It's not just a pain to survive, it's hard to actually complete.  Granted, CoP still breaks it off in its ass, but it does that to just about everything.

For a homebrew, read up on the proper paranoid archmagi, and work backwards from them.  Remember that with the right tricks, his resources are effectively limitless, meaning it's nothing to send a cadre of well trained anything after a canny party, and relatively easy to hide his existence, at least until their CL approaches his own.  Make sure he has contingencies for EVERYTHING, but make sure ultimately he is a defeatable opponent, even if it's well into epic before it comes to light, and only by a specific set of circumstances the players can bring about.
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The_Mad_Linguist

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his resources are effectively limitless, meaning it's nothing to send a cadre of well trained anything after a canny party,
And, due to his high int score, once he notices the party's rapid gain in power level, to send something with blasphemy at them before they have a chance to get even close to his CL.
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KellKheraptis

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his resources are effectively limitless, meaning it's nothing to send a cadre of well trained anything after a canny party,
And, due to his high int score, once he notices the party's rapid gain in power level, to send something with blasphemy at them before they have a chance to get even close to his CL.

Well, if we're being realistic about it :P  If we're still keeping him as an actual BBEG instead of just a Deux Ex Machina, this isn't needed, but if he's TRUE to paranoid archmage, this is unavoidable...
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Necrosnoop110

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Convert Labyrinth of Madness to 3.5, keep the challenge, remove the Gygaxian nature, and THAT is a good adventure.
Anyone ever done this?

Eviltedzies

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One thing a previous DM of mine did without any of us players knowing was that he scaled the CR and challenge levels according to our character levels. Even if he had to nerf/buff weaker/strong creatures to do so.

Most of the time we were always even with the opponents and challenges he threw at us. Although we did learn that if an NPC looks like a badass or has a position of power...... they very likely earned that position. (AKA certain NPCS were blatently higher level.)

Besides scaling the challenges our DM also did an excellent job of keeping us somewhat on the right story path.

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kurashu

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Convert Labyrinth of Madness to 3.5, keep the challenge, remove the Gygaxian nature, and THAT is a good adventure.
Anyone ever done this?

I found some talk on ENWorld: http://www.enworld.org/forum/conversions/123535-looking-labyrinth-madness-conversion.html

Unbeliever

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Apparently my earlier post on this topic got eaten by the internet.  Weird. 

I had seen the Labyrinth of Madness update somewhere once upon a time.  But, I kind of despise LoM:  it's a combination of "what in particular am I thinking" and "all that stuff on your character sheet?  Yeah, you can't use it ... b/c I said so" which I find uncompelling.  My experience is a lot like Eviltedzies:  fairly optimized villains, sometimes by just scaling up the CR a couple of points and adding some hit points, often does the trick for us.  Although it should be noted that my group doesn't do things like spam Contact Other Plane. 

Usually, I'd just say optimize the villains a bit, which might involve a contingency or two (e.g., when they are storming the archmage's lair).  The other big thing is to create interesting environments and set-ups.  This can be simple:  in a recent high-level game the DM had Shadow Hand swordsages ambush us w/ teleport while we were in a narrow alley and they had spell support (black ethergaunt) on a roof.  Sneaking up on us took some doing, but teleport maneuvers help a lot.  It allows the PCs to use their abilities in more creative ways and also is more subtle than just giving the enemy 800 HD. 

On the level of story rather than encounters, which has little to do w/ optimization really, I'd say something that keeps everyone engaged and eventually gets the PCs emotionally invested.  If the players aren't committed to making your life hell, they will build characters that can develop such motivations naturally.  There are some CO "staples" that can wreck a plot:  Teleport and powerful Divinations come to mind.  You can either work around them (side note:  one DM who wrote a very detailed homebrew world decided to just embrace all of the D&Disms, so he had laws for royal succession in light of Raise Dead) or ban or restrict them as needed.  I sometimes even just use them to drive the plot.

MalcolmSprye

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Apparently my earlier post on this topic got eaten by the internet.  Weird. 

I had seen the Labyrinth of Madness update somewhere once upon a time.  But, I kind of despise LoM:  it's a combination of "what in particular am I thinking" and "all that stuff on your character sheet?  Yeah, you can't use it ... b/c I said so" which I find uncompelling.  My experience is a lot like Eviltedzies:  fairly optimized villains, sometimes by just scaling up the CR a couple of points and adding some hit points, often does the trick for us.  Although it should be noted that my group doesn't do things like spam Contact Other Plane. 

Usually, I'd just say optimize the villains a bit, which might involve a contingency or two (e.g., when they are storming the archmage's lair).  The other big thing is to create interesting environments and set-ups.  This can be simple:  in a recent high-level game the DM had Shadow Hand swordsages ambush us w/ teleport while we were in a narrow alley and they had spell support (black ethergaunt) on a roof.  Sneaking up on us took some doing, but teleport maneuvers help a lot.  It allows the PCs to use their abilities in more creative ways and also is more subtle than just giving the enemy 800 HD. 

On the level of story rather than encounters, which has little to do w/ optimization really, I'd say something that keeps everyone engaged and eventually gets the PCs emotionally invested.  If the players aren't committed to making your life hell, they will build characters that can develop such motivations naturally.  There are some CO "staples" that can wreck a plot:  Teleport and powerful Divinations come to mind.  You can either work around them (side note:  one DM who wrote a very detailed homebrew world decided to just embrace all of the D&Disms, so he had laws for royal succession in light of Raise Dead) or ban or restrict them as needed.  I sometimes even just use them to drive the plot.
This may not be the thread to ask it in: but can't a GM "balance" CoP by making the "lie" condition as bad as possible? e.g. Your players are spamming CoP every day, making things silly.  When the 1 in 10 chance for a lie comes up, you tell them the wrong situation for the attack(don't say no attack, or their default preparation may suffice).  Also, how are players at mid levels(or even high) getting up to the 40 Int needed to avoid failing a DC 16 Int check ever.  The 8 Int and Cha penalty for failing isn't damage, so restoration type spells won't cure it.  Plus, inability to cast arcane spells is harsh.
If they're contacting lower level stuff... the chance for lie goes up.  If relying on CoP makes their lives easier most of the time, but threatens(or achieves) a TPK a small, but significant portion of the time, they may think twice.

KellKheraptis

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Having a War Weaver among the enemy does wonders for inflating challenge without inflating CR/loot.
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Unbeliever

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Apparently my earlier post on this topic got eaten by the internet.  Weird. 

I had seen the Labyrinth of Madness update somewhere once upon a time.  But, I kind of despise LoM:  it's a combination of "what in particular am I thinking" and "all that stuff on your character sheet?  Yeah, you can't use it ... b/c I said so" which I find uncompelling.  My experience is a lot like Eviltedzies:  fairly optimized villains, sometimes by just scaling up the CR a couple of points and adding some hit points, often does the trick for us.  Although it should be noted that my group doesn't do things like spam Contact Other Plane. 

Usually, I'd just say optimize the villains a bit, which might involve a contingency or two (e.g., when they are storming the archmage's lair).  The other big thing is to create interesting environments and set-ups.  This can be simple:  in a recent high-level game the DM had Shadow Hand swordsages ambush us w/ teleport while we were in a narrow alley and they had spell support (black ethergaunt) on a roof.  Sneaking up on us took some doing, but teleport maneuvers help a lot.  It allows the PCs to use their abilities in more creative ways and also is more subtle than just giving the enemy 800 HD. 

On the level of story rather than encounters, which has little to do w/ optimization really, I'd say something that keeps everyone engaged and eventually gets the PCs emotionally invested.  If the players aren't committed to making your life hell, they will build characters that can develop such motivations naturally.  There are some CO "staples" that can wreck a plot:  Teleport and powerful Divinations come to mind.  You can either work around them (side note:  one DM who wrote a very detailed homebrew world decided to just embrace all of the D&Disms, so he had laws for royal succession in light of Raise Dead) or ban or restrict them as needed.  I sometimes even just use them to drive the plot.
This may not be the thread to ask it in: but can't a GM "balance" CoP by making the "lie" condition as bad as possible? e.g. Your players are spamming CoP every day, making things silly.  When the 1 in 10 chance for a lie comes up, you tell them the wrong situation for the attack(don't say no attack, or their default preparation may suffice).  Also, how are players at mid levels(or even high) getting up to the 40 Int needed to avoid failing a DC 16 Int check ever.  The 8 Int and Cha penalty for failing isn't damage, so restoration type spells won't cure it.  Plus, inability to cast arcane spells is harsh.
If they're contacting lower level stuff... the chance for lie goes up.  If relying on CoP makes their lives easier most of the time, but threatens(or achieves) a TPK a small, but significant portion of the time, they may think twice.
Possibly, but I'd rather just ban the spell (or similarly restrict it).  What you're talking about is making it more costly to use, and if you drive the cost up sufficiently where they don't want to actually use it, you've effectively banned it.  It reminds me of those potentially cool magic items (often artifacts) that involve random rolls, some of which will totally ruin your day.  They seem fun, but the catastrophe conditions make them undesirable. 

+1 KellKheraptis.  Really, even just a dedicated buffer/condition remover of some sort could work well, depending on how common stuff like True Seeing is in your party (another spell I don't really like, but what're you gonna do).

The_Mad_Linguist

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This may not be the thread to ask it in: but can't a GM "balance" CoP by making the "lie" condition as bad as possible? e.g. Your players are spamming CoP every day, making things silly.  When the 1 in 10 chance for a lie comes up, you tell them the wrong situation for the attack(don't say no attack, or their default preparation may suffice).  Also, how are players at mid levels(or even high) getting up to the 40 Int needed to avoid failing a DC 16 Int check ever.  The 8 Int and Cha penalty for failing isn't damage, so restoration type spells won't cure it.  Plus, inability to cast arcane spells is harsh.
If they're contacting lower level stuff... the chance for lie goes up.  If relying on CoP makes their lives easier most of the time, but threatens(or achieves) a TPK a small, but significant portion of the time, they may think twice.

1) Asking questions about previous questions.  When there's a less than 0.02% chance that you believe a lie is true, there isn't much damage a single lie can do.
2) Take 10.  You can take 10 on ability checks.
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MalcolmSprye

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This may not be the thread to ask it in: but can't a GM "balance" CoP by making the "lie" condition as bad as possible? e.g. Your players are spamming CoP every day, making things silly.  When the 1 in 10 chance for a lie comes up, you tell them the wrong situation for the attack(don't say no attack, or their default preparation may suffice).  Also, how are players at mid levels(or even high) getting up to the 40 Int needed to avoid failing a DC 16 Int check ever.  The 8 Int and Cha penalty for failing isn't damage, so restoration type spells won't cure it.  Plus, inability to cast arcane spells is harsh.
If they're contacting lower level stuff... the chance for lie goes up.  If relying on CoP makes their lives easier most of the time, but threatens(or achieves) a TPK a small, but significant portion of the time, they may think twice.

1) Asking questions about previous questions.  When there's a less than 0.02% chance that you believe a lie is true, there isn't much damage a single lie can do.
2) Take 10.  You can take 10 on ability checks.
1)I'm sorry, my reading of CoP led me to believe you made one roll for the entire spell, not one for each question.  If so, there's nothing that stops them from lying about previous answers.
2)Unless the GM rules that mentally asking questions of an enormously powerful extra-planar being counts as a distraction. : "When your character is not being threatened or distracted, you may choose to take 10."

PlzBreakMyCampaign

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I tracked down the links but no one seems to have posted a Lab of Mad 3.5

Can anyone prove me wrong?
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An interesting read, nice to see a civil discussion
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The_Mad_Linguist

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1) Asking questions about previous questions.  When there's a less than 0.02% chance that you believe a lie is true, there isn't much damage a single lie can do.
2) Take 10.  You can take 10 on ability checks.
1)I'm sorry, my reading of CoP led me to believe you made one roll for the entire spell, not one for each question.  If so, there's nothing that stops them from lying about previous answers.[/quote]
If you roll once for the entire spell, than every question you ask for the casting is answered with the same truth value.  You lead with "Is one plus one two", and don't care at all about the chance of lying.

Quote
2)Unless the GM rules that mentally asking questions of an enormously powerful extra-planar being counts as a distraction. : "When your character is not being threatened or distracted, you may choose to take 10."
You can't be distracted from the thing you're doing by the very thing you're doing, man. 
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Necrosnoop110

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Labyrinth of Madness: Semi-official Errata

Labyrinth of Madness: unofficial conversion, EN Forum

Labyrinth of Madness: unofficial conversion, direct file link

Midnight_v

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I been thinking about the ops question for a long time...
I think you either have to make one from scratch
or
You can do something like take 3 decent (interesting) campaigns, connect them to where there are many subplots, to allow player freedom. Then you have to optimize the encounters.
You have to decide clearly, Where the mooks show up, When the Mooks plus elites show up, when/where, the Squad of elites get fought (mirror match basically), and how the Leader(boss) will be fought.
I find the best way to deal with CoP is to have a multitude of thing going on in your world.
I also think it has to embrace the D&D-ism's mechanically. This is why I loved Frank and K's Tome Series so much they build a World around the existing mechanics in many ways, ends up being an "awesome setting".
Still my example is like what Unbeliever mentioned. Assassinating the king in D&D is like killing a vampire or a tarrasque, you have to kill him, destroy the body, trap the soul, and cast a wish wishing that anyone who wishes for the body summons a entropic reaper instead (or some such nonsense) you get the idea. Also you'd have to wish that anyone divining as to "Who killed the king" gets a garbled message of "Thier own name, killed the king".
Shit like that.
Here's the deal though. . . only SOME people in a game world are aware of the high workings of high magics and psionics. Not everybody, so while at low levels somethings works, at higher levels some of the same things WON'T work because the only way you are allowed to stay in the ranks of the mighty is if you're actually aware of "How the game is played" so to speak.
So some dudes have Secret Meeting vaults that defeat (via the rules, NOT fiat!), some dude have had thier name scrubbed out or some such by truenamers, and some of them just mind blank and mindblank the messengers, and elites, an mini-bosses.
Thats only SOME dudes... and if you over do it yeah it becomes "You banned divination" so its a thin line just remember "SOME", not most, not all, just 1 Knightly order, 1 Ninja (ahem Swordsage) clan, or 1 Villian....who has a secret lair named "No where", and has a name like "You're Mom"   ;)
Still you gotta let the player use thier powers as best they can.
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Sobolev

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1) Asking questions about previous questions.  When there's a less than 0.02% chance that you believe a lie is true, there isn't much damage a single lie can do.
2) Take 10.  You can take 10 on ability checks.
1)I'm sorry, my reading of CoP led me to believe you made one roll for the entire spell, not one for each question.  If so, there's nothing that stops them from lying about previous answers.
If you roll once for the entire spell, than every question you ask for the casting is answered with the same truth value.  You lead with "Is one plus one two", and don't care at all about the chance of lying.
[/quote]

I guess I've never heard anyone play it as "Lie" meaning "Has to lie about everything no matter what".  I feel that a reasonable DM would tell you the truth to your 1 plus 1 question, and then wait for a more opportune time for you to be undercut.
Quote
2)Unless the GM rules that mentally asking questions of an enormously powerful extra-planar being counts as a distraction. : "When your character is not being threatened or distracted, you may choose to take 10."
You can't be distracted from the thing you're doing by the very thing you're doing, man. 
The general concept of all of these rules is "are you under stress".  I personally think it would be incredibly threatening to be playing with the cosmos and asking silly questions about one and one.
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MalcolmSprye

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1) Asking questions about previous questions.  When there's a less than 0.02% chance that you believe a lie is true, there isn't much damage a single lie can do.
2) Take 10.  You can take 10 on ability checks.
1)I'm sorry, my reading of CoP led me to believe you made one roll for the entire spell, not one for each question.  If so, there's nothing that stops them from lying about previous answers.
If you roll once for the entire spell, than every question you ask for the casting is answered with the same truth value.  You lead with "Is one plus one two", and don't care at all about the chance of lying.

I guess I've never heard anyone play it as "Lie" meaning "Has to lie about everything no matter what".  I feel that a reasonable DM would tell you the truth to your 1 plus 1 question, and then wait for a more opportune time for you to be undercut.
Quote
2)Unless the GM rules that mentally asking questions of an enormously powerful extra-planar being counts as a distraction. : "When your character is not being threatened or distracted, you may choose to take 10."
You can't be distracted from the thing you're doing by the very thing you're doing, man. 
The general concept of all of these rules is "are you under stress".  I personally think it would be incredibly threatening to be playing with the cosmos and asking silly questions about one and one.
[/quote]
Exactly: you're not asking these questions of a computer.  You're asking them of a vastly intelligent extra-planar being.  The reason given for them lying is that it IRRITATES them to be  bothered, not some weird magical compulsion to tell nothing but lies.  So if a being like that decides it wants to lie to you, it may answer some of your questions truthfully, and some not.  After all, the best lies contain an element of truth.  Given how smart and knowledgeable these beings are supposed to be, you can bet they know how to gull you.

The_Mad_Linguist

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o if a being like that decides it wants to lie to you, it may answer some of your questions truthfully, and some not.
If it decides it wants to lie to you, it'll roll a 91-99 and lie to you.  That's how it works.


And if I'm talking to the machine god of pure logic and order, it damn well better act like a computer.
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