Ripper DMing: Temple of Elemental Evil I-III

Apparently a lot of us bloggers are running the classic module "Temple of Elemental Evil", myself included. This is my very first true fantasy game that I have ever ran. Normally I've only DMed in the realm of Ravenloft, thus I am kind of struggling with the new ruleset. Of course I am also experimenting with things. My biggest change is that we are going to be using the training rules. Not for every level, as I feel that that is too excessive, however levels that grant the players either Weapon Prof. or a None Weapon Prof. will require training time and money.

We completed our third game last Sunday, and completed the Hommlet section of the Mod.. I had no hardcopy of this module, but painstakingly updated it to 2e by retyping the entire thing out.


I have grown sick of CN alignments, my players are addicted to this one and it really throws a wrench in my games. I replaced CN with Neutral Evil to see how that goes. So far, so good.

Shannon is our only Fighter, and an elf.
Summer is trying out the Cleric class again, seeing if she can keep this one alive.
Ryden is once again playing a mage, he wasn't too thrilled with me about forbidding the Warrior/Mage subclass but I have always felt that that class should not be.
Kim is trying out the Thief class, she is new to the class and an inexperienced player. All of the above players are playing elves with the exception of my wife who is playing a human witch class which is also a first for the table. She is trying out the NE alignment, which to me is easier to live with then Chaotic Crazy.

The odd thing is that we've got 2 mages, I do not expect both of them to survive. Protecting one mage is hard enough, nevertheless trying to keep two out of danger.

I ran into my first problem early. I had granted my wife access to the spell of "Burning Sphere" and she became a one-man-gang. In the moathouse, she single handedly routed the thieves living in the uppermost section of the moathouse with a single spell. The leader instantly surrendered after all of his men were wiped out in just a couple of rounds. I was going to modify this spell, however she talked me out of it as she played the spell as written in the handbook, and it is balanced by the fact that she can only use it once per day. I am trying to stick as close to CORE as I can, and while I find that spell to be excessive, it is still Core. We decided that we'd have to really pay attention to room dimensions and where everybody was at, which is tough because I refuse to play with miniatures.

I, at first, questioned if the moathouse was actually a 1st level adventure, and once again I screwed myself. I had everybody roll a 1d6 with the two highest scores being started at 2nd level. Well everybody but poor Kim rolled a 6, lucky them. Thus all but 1 person became 2nd level just like that.

I think that they probably could had entered the moathouse insantly, however I wanted them to gain another level, or at least get close to 3rd before attempting it. I had them protect a wagon out of Hommlet escorting a child up to Verbonce and then bringing fresh supplies back into town as in my version I had the Thieves of the Temple completely cripple the town by not allowing anything in or out. The party did this task with no problems.

I'm not used to playing off of a module either. Many of the descriptions are so long winded I honestly don't know what to do about them and I think that I am going to ignore them completely. It is just that I'm used to having all of the facts in my head, and running off a script, while much easier in the Prepping Department, is much harder for me to remember to factor in. This is such an advanced story, remembering everything is very difficult for me.

I had the spies of Hommlet attack, punishing the hamlet for bringing supplies in by burning fields during the night. This forced the hamlet to admit the secret of the Moathouse and have the adventures go check it out. I had tricked them into hiring a spy to accompany them, as well as the father of a missing boy. Elmo the Ranger, their greatest ally in Hommlet was injured while fighting the fire, so he couldn't go with them.

The moathouse itself took two games to complete. They quickly completed the upper level of the moathouse, making fun of me because they tried to run away from a Giant Snake and I had it batter through the rotten door. My wife said that the snake was to much of a wimp to knock the door in, and I get razed by it to this day. Apparently my wife isn't scared of a giant snake, which I looked up in the module to determine its size, and it is only as big as a boa, but it was a Rattler that size! Not scary to my wife. Oh well, the snake still bashed in the door and sacrificed its life to give the party the XP I wanted them to have before heading downstairs.

The dungeon itself gave them some serious challenges but didn't overwhelm them like I thought that it would have. It took two games to complete, and Kim got a lot of use from her thief. I did change a few things on the fly, and gave Shannon a better sword because they were exploring very well.

The finale turned out really well, the bad guys were not overwhelmed like the ones upstairs, though the wizards kept the boss on the run, forcing him on defense at the first possible time. He was able to buy his life, and turned over a list of all of the spies in Hommlet.

The next game had the players track down the spies, the mole had escaped and was able to warn the others. They had believed that they had him charmed, he and the others holed up in the tradingpost. The players devised a method of getting them out so that they could be arrested, sending a local child over there to get some intel, however when he didn't return they realized that they had unwittingly given the badguys a hostage, which made the situation even worse.

They were able to breach the walls, save the hostage, and were even able to arrest one of the badguys! Next game they will make their way to Nulb, and I've got to figure out what I want to do there.


Anonymous said...

Training is a drag when it brings the party back to town just to level up.

Then again training costs are assumed in the treasure outlay and if you don't charge them they'll have way too much money.

You could always charge them just to spend proficiency slots. Divorce training from levels entirely. M-Us still need to pay to learn new spells of course.

M-U spells are powerful. But remember she can't cast many in one day. If they leave to rest you roll random encounters. And if they get tired of being attacked by giant ticks and killer frogs, remind them that camping out is dangerous when there are monsters out there.

Random encounters are the penalty for poor play. They take too long doing something and waste time? They make too much noise? They blow all their resources in one fight and have to stop to rest? Roll for a random encounter.

On the other hand, if they're very effective they will minimize their random encounters.

Wandering monsters are a penalty, by the way, because they don't carry any treasure. They're as tough to kill as a monster in its lair but the only benefit to killing it is a little bit of XP.

RipperX said...

I don't think that Random Encounters are a penalty at all. I just use them to keep things moving and make the world appear to be alive. It is also fun running them, it gives you a chance to think on your feet and enjoy the scenery. If used correctly, Random Encounters can add a sense of ambiance to the world, however I also run random encounters where there is no combat or attack, maybe a farmer on the road fixing a wagon, or a very weak and minor ghost who is just capable of making noise.

XP is worth camping out for, in my opinion. I have been toying with an idea about sleep deprivation from lack of quality rest, but it really hasn't gone past that point.

Anonymous said...

Wow a second level party was able to take on a 10th level Thief and 7th level Assassin with Dust of Disappearance who were holed up in their store, had time to prepare and knew they were coming. That must have been some plan, because most old school DMs would have wiped the floor with the party.

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