Thursday, September 8, 2011

Converting A1-Slave Pits of the Undercity -part 3

Last time, I thought I had solved my encounter problem, but thinking about it today I wasn't so sure. I spent some time trying to combine encounters, or find a way to make meaningful yet fast encounters happen, and I just ran into walls. I wanted to build the encounters to force the party to move quickly and limit rest periods. I was imagining combining multiple encounters worth of XP into a single superencounter, and coming up with alternate systems to allow PCs to recover surges without taking an extended rest. They all seemed so clunky. I tried to model the dungeon navigation as a skill challenge with similar clunky results.

Ultimately I got frustrated and decided to scrap that plan and approach the problem from a different angle, just to get a different perspective on the situation and get my creative juices flowing. To do that, I made a schematic block diagram of the dungeon. As shown below, it shows how the rooms connect to each other, and lists important information about the flow of the adventure without getting bogged down in the cartography of the dungeon itself.
This layout made it easy for me to see the optimal path through the dungeon. I was worried that a party would have to face 12 or more encounters in order to succeed. I was wrong. The critical path through the dungeon only has 4 encounters in it! A clever and cautious party could get in, save the slaves, and get out along a very short path. If they linger too long, or engage too much of the opposition they will draw a lot of attention to themselves and fail. That's okay. The narrative elements of the mod should encourage this type of play. The players will know that they have a very limited time frame to complete this mission, and they should know that failure is possible.

Instead of trying to combine encounters and make it possible for the party to face every encounter within the allotted time, I am going to stat out ALL the encounters with the understanding that they will NOT be able to face all of them. If they run headlong into every room with swords swinging, they will probably die. If they do a little bit of recon and try to avoid unnecessary encounters, they have a chance to succeed.

In preparation for the next step of the process, actually choosing individual monsters, I have made two lists. One list shows each room, the target level of the encounter and the XP budget. Another list shows the types of monsters in the original mod with lists of Dark Sun appropriate monsters to use for my conversion.