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A Gathering of Winds - What's the Point?


Age of Worms Adventure Path

Shadow Lodge

My 6 players are just finishing the Champion's Belt. Next up is a return to Diamond Lake to deal with the events in A Gathering of Winds.

The more I read the module, the less I understand its purpose to the overall story. I sort of see how the Whispering Cairn was designed to bring the group together and all, but a return to the Cairn and the Wind Dukes - why? We are approaching the half-way point in the arc and the players know next to nothing about the Age of Worms other than what little they gleaned from the cults in TFoE. All of the other adventures have only been obliquely related to the Age of Worms. Sadly, it appears that GoW is destined to repeat this, especially because the players will know far more about the Wind Dukes than Kyuss by the end of this module. Talk about the mother of all red herrings.

My group is pretty confused at this point already, struggling to understand what the Wind Dukes have to do with the Age of Worms. A return to the Cairn, especially one loaded with Wind Duke references, is only going to confuse them further. Is there any reason (from a story arc perspective, I can see the crawl is a good one) to even play through A Gathering of Winds beyond the dragon encounter (which relates to the AoW of course) and getting the lead to Magepoint? Is there something critical beyond the conversation with Allustan the party needs from the Cairn?


Lich-Loved wrote:
Is there something critical beyond the conversation with Allustan the party needs from the Cairn?

The critical thing they need is XP and loot, so that Spire of Long Shadows doesn't instantaneously wipe them off the earth...


Kirth's right. Whatever A Gathering of Winds flaws are they need the XP. Spire of Long Shadows is quite possibly the toughest adventure in the whole AP.


I actually had Allustan run through "Gathering of Winds" by himself off-camera. Granted, he might not technically be able to handle the module by himself, but my gamers don't know that. He uncovered Icosiol's tomb and found the Rod piece while the PCs were just finishing up "Champion's Belt." I honestly didn't want to bother with the module, so I had Allustan clear it out. Not that it's a bad module. I just didn't think it would fit well into my modified campaign.

In fact, once Allustan exited the Whispering Cairn, he was ambushed by a half-illithid doppleganger (an illithid savant to boot), killed, and replaced in an effort to lure the PCs to their deaths (retaliation for what the PCs did to Zyrxog). However, when the fake Allustan discovered the Rod, it was immediately compelled to seek out the next piece... which was located in the treasure hoard of Ilthane the Black. The fake Allustan went there and was overwhelmed and tortured, though not before it used a sending to the PCs calling for aid, hoping to save itself and bring about the PCs' end in one move. The PCs came, slew Ilthane, cowed her brood, and discovered Allustan's mangled corpse... with the face of a mikly-white mind flayer, it's throat ripped out. Thus, Rod pieces #4 and #5 were claimed (another modification).

"Gathering of Winds" had a presence in my campaign, but we didn't run through it.


Perhaps one point is a return to the city where the characters (presumably if you follow the campaign as written) grew up in. It is a look back at they were and where they are going and a chance to save their hometown and be heroes. From that perspective it makes sense.

I felt the same way about the Wind Dukes and the the lack of information regarding the AoW but I plan on adding more to the adventure such as having the players actually recover the entire Rod of Seven Parts and having more encounters with Ebon Triad cult members throughout the adventure.


I should probably mention that GoW was possibly the least enjoyable adventure of the whole path, IMHO; this thread has some good ideas for handling it in variant ways. But if it's off-screen or just cut down a bit, make sure you include a whole lot of equipment- and xp-rich side treks!

RE: Spire of Long Shadows: as DM I killed two whole parties, and the third made it through only by casting speak with dead on the corpses of their predecessors to find out what was coming next. There's nothing quite like making up a party of people with complex Diamond Lake backstories and relationships, and lovingly playing them through half of the AP, and then having them

Spoiler:
mercilously wiped out to the last member within 3 rounds by some fallen celestials in what's, like, the first room!
That adventure now occupies a spot in our collective game consciousness that the Tomb of Horrors used to have back in 1e.

Andoran

Even after running my group all the way through Gathering of Winds (racking up XP and magic goodies), I nerfed the hell out of Spire of Long Shadows and it still claimed the lives of 4 characters.

How a standard 4 character party is supposed to survive that adventure, as written, is beyond me.


Cuchulainn wrote:
How a standard 4 character party is supposed to survive that adventure, as written, is beyond me.
Kirth Gersen wrote:
I killed two whole parties, and the third made it through only by casting speak with dead on the corpses of their predecessors to find out what was coming next.

If you're playing a game that extends beyond this one AP, as we were, let 'em die! This was a great excuse to bring in some semi-retured characters from yesteryear to try and salvage something from the expedition! In honesty, despite 2 TPKs in the Spire, in retrospect none of us would have altered that outcome -- it adds a LOT to campaign "realism" to have a place deadly enough so that PCs aren't guaranteed success.

Andoran

Kirth Gersen wrote:
If you're playing a game that extends beyond this one AP, as we were, let 'em die! This was a great excuse to bring in some semi-retured characters from yesteryear to try and salvage something from the expedition! In honesty, despite 2 TPKs in the Spire, in retrospect none of us would have altered that outcome -- it adds a LOT to campaign "realism" to have a place deadly enough so that PCs aren't guaranteed success.

I've already killed sooo many characters in this adventure path; every player in the group has lost his or her original character and a few are on their 4th or 5th character. Check out the AoW obituary thread, it's been rough for my crew.

It seemed that if I didn't nerf it, the Spire would just turn into a never-ending PC meatgrinder, and the story would never progress.


Cuchulainn wrote:
I've already killed sooo many characters in this adventure path; every player in the group has lost his or her original character and a few are on their 4th or 5th character. Check out the AoW obituary thread, it's been rough for my crew. It seemed that if I didn't nerf it, the Spire would just turn into a never-ending PC meatgrinder, and the story would never progress.

Gotcha.

Spoiler:
We had a cleric-induced TPK (except for the flame striking cleric) to prevent the zombie apocalypse at the end of "Champion's Belt," but other than that I pulled some major punches at the end of "3FoE" (that Ebon Aspect should really be like CR 10, not 6, and it came when the party has just defeated the Faceless One... automatic TPK without any dice needing to be rolled, if I'd left it as-is). I also nerfed the hell out of the oculus demon in "GoW" when I realized its gaze and infinite free-action eyebolts would destroy the whole party without them ever being able to attack it. I felt both were unfair -- lone super-powerful, unbeatable monsters that *poof* appear out of nowhere, with no warning, and kill the whole party without any chance of survival whatsoever, or any chance to even flee -- sort of a "rocks fall, everyone dies" scenario.

OTOH, I'd decided in advance that when they hit the Spire, the gloves were off... and I foreshadowed it repeatedly, to give them fair warning.

Shadow Lodge

Thanks for the advice, all. Spoilers below!!

I forgot to mention a few things. My group has been playing together for 20 years or more, they know the game pretty well. Since they also have 6 characters, I have made a few adjustments to the modules so far, mainly giving certain foes max HP or adding more mooks to the fight. Also, the group plays through an entire module at one level below the recommended starting level (so they have played completely through Champion's Belt as 6 level 8 characters). At the end of each module, I level the group to something appropriate for the start of the next module and make sure they are approximately where they need to be for WBL. Thus from an XP and WBL standpoint they should be ok regardless if they run GoW as written or not.

If I skip GoW, my group will jump from 8th to 13th (I would say 12th, but SoLS is so deadly that we will do 6 13th level characters), which is a large jump indeed. They can handle the bigger characters without issue, so my primary concern is what the characters will lack if they skip the story elements of GoW. I think all that they will miss is the piece of the Rod of Seven Parts and of course they will need to get information from Allustan to direct them to Magepoint.

I can see a couple of ways I could advance the story without GoW and explain the character's power gain:

Option 1: Post CB Montage
Based upon my character's actions in Champions Belt, it is exceedingly likely that they will fail to fully thwart Loris' plans. I could see an off-screen montage where the characters deal with the longer-term ramifications of their failure under the arena, returning to follow up with Allustan after they put things aright. This gives a plausible reason to advance the characters significantly and hand out appropriate wealth without having to deal with the Wind Dukes again. Upon returning to Diamond Lake, they can hook up with Allustan, learn what they need to know about Magepoint and deal with the dragon before setting off for the SoLS.

Option 2: CB Aftermath adventure
I may run a custom scenario rather than GoW in order to deal with the problems created at the end of CB. While this custom module would not account for a full run through GoW, this module plus a lesser montage would bridge the gap nicely. Once complete, the characters can return to Diamond Lake as mentioned in Option 1 above.

Of the two of these, I like Option 2 much better. Can anyone point me to a thread that discusses running a custom CB-failure aftermath adventure? Also, if anyone has any great ideas for this, I would love to hear them!


Lich-Loved wrote:

Option 1: Post CB Montage

Based upon my character's actions in Champions Belt, it is exceedingly likely that they will fail to fully thwart Loris' plans.

If you have a copy of Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk, you could have them hunt down Loris, and find the clues/items/info they need there.


"Gathering of Winds" gives you chance to tie up loose ends. The PCs are able to confront the black dragon that was behind the lizard man attacks on Black Wall Keep (and that should be a pretty spectacular battle.) Also, it gives the PCs a chance to return home, and visit with Alustan. In my campaign, he started out as the group's main advisor. At this point, the PCs have to save HIM. It's almost like "graduation" when he says to them, "I have nothing left to teach you - you're on your own now."
I had a group of refugees from the destroyed Emporium planning a trip to Mage Point. The PCs decided to ride with them as "body guards". Later, I had this same group travel to Red Hand (they joined Price Zeech's freak show, and helped the PCs secure tickets to the banquet).

As for the Wind Dukes - they were powerful champions of Law, so they wouldn't want to see Kyuss return to power. Maybe their artifacts are resurfacing due to coincidence, and maybe not? Perhaps some "higher power" is trying to help Law defeat Chaos once again... I tried to tie things together better by making the Wind Dukes who retired to the Prime Material plane after the battle of Kesh be the original founders of the Order of the Storm. They bred with humans and elves, creating a powerful bloodline that resulted in many generations of heroes. The PCs could be the last of this ancient bloodline.

Other things to consider: the True Ghoul is a really cool character. I got some good roleplaying out of him. My guys knew he was bad, but grudgingly agreed to let him "help" them for a while, since they had a common goal. His 'ghoul light lantern' is a cool magic item.

The fight with the Noble Salamander was hilarious! ("sorry to stab you in vitals like that, ol' chap. Couldn't be helped... magical compulsion, you know...")

The fight with the shadow spider was terrifying.

The fight with the elder black pudding was terrifying.

The fight with the demon at the end was terrifying.

If you skip the adventure, you'll miss out on some cool encounters, even if they don't advance the main plot arc. In my opinion, it's worth taking the time to make these work for your campaign.


DMR wrote:
"Gathering of Winds" gives you chance to tie up loose ends. ... If you skip the adventure, you'll miss out on some cool...

I'm of the same view here. I have a group just entering the Whispering Cairn after an energetic, evening long battle with Ilthane. I'm quite excited about the prospects of the power of the backstory of the Wind Dukes to propel the characters along, tying them all into an arc of history that is much bigger than the current events of their lives. I've made the Seekers an important part of the motivation of new characters who have entered the group post-Champion games, and the ancient relics of the Wind Dukes, and the powerful assistance they might give, has become quite a strong motivator for the new comers. The few original characters are thoroughly wrapped up in the home coming and a highly anticipated visit with their ambiguously powerful sage about the wormy news from the Free City.

There is no need to rush to the wormy climax. Take some of the GoW author's good points (posted in the archives of these boards) around trimming a bit of excess out of the module, recraft the demon as others on these boards have suggested, and I think you have a great linking story-line, bridging personal lives, epic time scales, inter-generational relationships. Though this is in plot a straight up dungeon crawl, I think the backstory it gives is rich for the role play.

Of course, this ll just raises the stakes for character death in SOLS, so hopefully we are not all is for big TPK disappointment! Good luck, whatever you choose.

Andoran

DMR wrote:

"

The fight with the shadow spider was terrifying.

I swapped out Flycatcher for the Spider-made-out-of-chains demon (can't think of its name) that appeared in one of the Dragon Editions about the same time. The Demon used the same tactics as Flycatcher, but instead of fading into shadow, it ucoiled into lengths of animated chain that screetched and crawled over the walls and ceiling (very Hellraiser). It kidnapped the party's Favored Soul, and tortured him for 3 days while the party went looking for the "Marquis of the River."

DMR wrote:
The fight with the elder black pudding was terrifying.

This turned out funny for my group. The Dwarf Barbarian was bored, and curious, so he decided to poke the black pool in the middle of the floor...

DMR wrote:
The fight with the demon at the end was terrifying.

This was a tough fight for the party. The demon's use of mirror image caused them to waste a lot of their firepower, but in the end, the survived without any casualties.

DMR wrote:
If you skip the adventure, you'll miss out on some cool...

Admittedly, the group had fun. The Marquis had them paranoid. They knew he was going to turn on them, but they weren't sure when, and he was just useful enough to them that they didn't immediately say, "screw it" and attack him.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

This is also when it gets very clear that things are getting personal. If you want your players to know more about the backstory, use Ilthane to do it. Also, consider the PCs loosing some people close to them to solidify their need to continue with the main story.

This the last game in the Diamond Lake area and kind of transitions where the PCs are going now. I used it to kill off some of the NPCs, to make it more personal as well as cleaner on my end. Allustan did not survive, and he was not the only one kidnapped. Each PC has someone important to them taken, and frankly the group cared more about THOSE NPCs than they did Allustan. Despite my best efforts, they never really trusted him due to the situation with his brother. He was already a corpse when the PCs found him, which Ilthane tauntingly pointed out, but they did rescue some other NPCs that were important to them.

If there's mroe you want your players to know about Kyuss, then if nothing else, Ilthane could have been boasting of stuff (anything you want the PCs to know) to an abductee who passes the info on. Use this opportunity to get your group caught up on where you want them to be.


Lich-Loved wrote:

Can anyone point me to a thread that discusses running a custom CB-failure aftermath adventure? Also, if anyone has any great ideas for this, I would love to hear them!

Here are a couple of threads dealing with the aftermath of failure in the Champion's Games - ie. what happens when everyone gets transformed into wights; not talking about the party losing an earlier match or anything:

A Very Bad End To The Champions Games
What happens if they fail?

I use this map of Greyhawk for the Free City - it's a great resource since a lot of the Free City maps in the magazines are laid out exactly the same as corresponding areas on this map - see the map of Midnight's Muddle, for instance (not sure if that was in a Dungeon adventure around this point in the AP, or a Wormfood article from Dragon, but it's somewhere) - all those buildings are there if you look for them. I even keep a copy offline that I have added more red dots and location labels to, so that areas where the PC's have been are represented (ie. the Green Dagger gang's hideout, the Sodden Hold, the Cold Iron forge, Aunt Fanny's house, Eligos' Manor, the party's old watering hole (the Couatl's Quill), Theldrat's Locksmithy, etc...) Anyhow, after fleeing the arena quicker than almost all the wights and making a run to Eligos' Manor, the party had some stuff they wanted to do around town before bugging out for Diamond Lake - checking in with some nearby temples to good deities, checking in with some city guards to make sure they know what's coming, visiting Iquander the head librarian (who they had made friends with before) to rescue him and hopefully learn more about what the heck is going on, and rescuing one PC's aunt who lives in the city.

All I did was to build some groups of wights at an appropriate EL to throw at the party on the way to and from these various missions. Anyone they met up with who might have been able to help turned out to be the lowest possible underling who'd been left to "mind the store" while their superiors attended the big finale of the Champion's Games, so they had it pretty tough. Which seemed appropriate for a metropolis where the majority of the population has just recently been converted into undead monsters...

Groups of wights I threw at the part included various combinations of:
- regular wights per Monster Manual
- wights with the elite array and 4 extra HD
- slaughter wights (Libris Mortis)
- one enlarged wight with the elite array and 4 extra HD
- one wight with the evolved undead template, the elite array, and 4 extra HD

The 2 best parts (to me; not necessarily to my players) were the battle outside the library where 3/4 of the party was frightened and running away (or else sealing themselves into an alcove behind a wall of fire) from the slaughter wights while the rest had to climb up to the roof and haul their dying allies up with a rope of climbing while shooting wights off the wall, and also the moment when the rogue's nagging Aunt Fanny turned around and they realized the meat she'd been chopping up for tonight's stew was really the neighbour's kid, and that she herself was really now an evolved wight - this was just after she nagged at them from the kitchen to close and lock the door behind them, and just before she dropped her cloudkill on them and called her "friends" to come down from upstairs... Enclosed cloudkill effects area great place for wights to battle humans - the no Con score thing and the ability to reroll concealment checks really come in handy! I had some of the wights recognize the Champion's Belt worn by the rogue and fly into a killing rage (merely used as a descriptive term here - not talking about the barbarian's class ability) at one point too, jabbering on about how these were the heretics who slew the beloved Apostle etc., which I thought was sort of a nice touch.

I don't know if these are necessarily "great" ideas, but that's how I handled it. It was enough to drive them out of the city towards Diamond Lake, and I think the players had a good time.

As for the original question - what's the point of going back to the whispering cairn? - I'm not really sure. They pretty much have to if they want to find Allustan though, and finding him is the reason they are returning to DL... That's probably enough for my players. They'll likely just be glad to see what's in the rest of that cairn down the hallway that was blocked in their first run through, I'm hoping...

Good luck,

Kang


briguy wrote:
...Take some of the GoW author's good points (posted in the archives of these boards) around trimming a bit of excess out of the module, recraft the demon as others on these boards have suggested...

I've been searching the archives and haven't been able to find the author's points you mentioned, nor the demon rework suggestions you mentioned... Any chance you (or anyone else) could post a link or 2 to those? I'm gearing up to start running AGoW and this stuff sounds like it'd be great to read through first!

Thanks, & sorry for the double post...

Kang


Kang wrote:
I've been searching the archives and haven't been able to find the author's points you mentioned, nor the demon rework suggestions you mentioned... Any chance you (or anyone else) could post a link or 2 to those?

No problem Kang. This is a useful old thread, with a number of helpful comments on tweaking the Gathering of Winds.

We're going through the trap I am hoping to devise to to replace the Abyssal Ghoul (as Wolfgang Baur suggested in the thread above), next Friday. Aside from the CR 12 trap listed in the pathfinder beta rules, has anyone got something clever and CR12-ish they can recommend? I've gone through the index for Dungeon magazine, but nothing helpful from the old campaign workbook...

Shadow Lodge

After reading some of the other threads on GoW I have decided to remove the module altogether. I will still have the PC's return to Diamond Lake to rescue their former teacher from the clutches of Illithane so they will still have the satisfaction of returning the many favors Allustan has done for them in the past as well as bring closure to their time in Diamond lake.

As far as what I am doing in the interim, the party did fail to stop Loris' plans and they were suitably shocked and terrified at the outcome of the Champion's Games. The party has decided to stay in the Free City to help rectify the situation. I have taken Kang's advice and will run the ensuing effort in a Heroes of Battle-style adventure. It turns out that this approach fits perfectly with the story theme and gives the characters a chance to remedy a situation they could have prevented. It also gives me the chance to use some of the more outrageous undead in the various Monster Manuals.

Perhaps when they are finished with this adventure and return to Diamond Lake I will find a way to take the best parts of GoW (and there are good parts to it) and make it into a mini-module that is more focused on the AoW.

Thanks to everyone for the advice!


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Modules Subscriber
Lich-Loved wrote:


As far as what I am doing in the interim, the party did fail to stop Loris' plans and they were suitably shocked and terrified at the outcome of the Champion's Games. The party has decided to stay in the Free City to help rectify the situation. I have taken Kang's advice and will run the ensuing effort in a Heroes of Battle-style adventure. It turns out that this approach fits perfectly with the story theme and gives the characters a chance to remedy a situation they could have prevented. It also gives me the chance to use some of the more outrageous undead in the various Monster Manuals.

This is of course an easy way to give them the XP and stuff needed for the later parts of the AP, as well.

Stefan


I dont think my party will care to much about the sword of lightening and whatever the other one is, but they may care about the rod of seven parts. For those that plan to dump the adventure, how do you plan to bring those back into the story later on?


Lich-Loved wrote:

After reading some of the other threads on GoW I have decided to remove the module altogether. I will still have the PC's return to Diamond Lake to rescue their former teacher from the clutches of Illithane so they will still have the satisfaction of returning the many favors Allustan has done for them in the past as well as bring closure to their time in Diamond lake.

As far as what I am doing in the interim, the party did fail to stop Loris' plans and they were suitably shocked and terrified at the outcome of the Champion's Games. The party has decided to stay in the Free City to help rectify the situation. I have taken Kang's advice and will run the ensuing effort in a Heroes of Battle-style adventure. It turns out that this approach fits perfectly with the story theme and gives the characters a chance to remedy a situation they could have prevented. It also gives me the chance to use some of the more outrageous undead in the various Monster Manuals.

Perhaps when they are finished with this adventure and return to Diamond Lake I will find a way to take the best parts of GoW (and there are good parts to it) and make it into a mini-module that is more focused on the AoW.

Thanks to everyone for the advice!

Could you post your thoughts on how to contain the undead so they don't spread to the rest of Breland and beyond?


The PCs are actually suppposed to be descendents of the wind dukes. In Lord of the Rift it is revealed to them that they have the blood of the lords of Aqaa running through their veins. In this respect it is nice that they have visited the tomb in A Gathering of Winds and reclaimed some of their heritage, such as the swords of the wind dukes.

Of course, they don't know that at this time, so their motives for going into the tomb are just to free Allustan. Once they've done that, there is no reason to continue, other than the fact that this tomb might hold some powerful 'artifacts' that might hel them in their quest.

Shadow Lodge

wraithstrike wrote:
Could you post your thoughts on how to contain the undead so they don't spread to the rest of Breland and beyond?

Well...

IMC, the Free City is Waterdeep (a coastal metropolis) and the arena is located outside the walls proper, just outside the South Gate. Inside this gate is the South Ward, a huge group of lower-income houses. In summary, what happens is that 15,000 or so wights pour from the stadium hungry for the life force of the living. Some flee into the countryside, but most head into the city and begin causing havoc. It doesn't take long for the city guard and other interested powers to learn that their city is under attack, and they put a contingency plans into motion:

(1) The sewers are closed and grates are dropped by the Plumbers Guild.
(2) The militia is mobilized and gathers in Virgin's Square, which is in a somewhat removed portion of the city relative to the undead.
(3) Tens of thousands of ordinary citizens flee the South Ward, heading north. In their rush to flee, a number of fires begin (probably from uncontrolled smithies, cooking fires and dropped torches). Behind this fleeing mob is the wight horde, killing everyone they can find. However, the South Ward is densely inhabited and it just takes time for the wights to kill that many people. Additionally some people barricade themselves into their home and although they are eventually overcome, they delay some of the wights while the undead root them out.
(4) By the time the military is really ready to deal with the issue, about half of the South Ward is under undead control and a number of large fires, whipped by the coastal winds, are spreading throughout the ward.
(5) Wizards are coordinated and large stone and/or iron walls are conjured into key locations to block roads and thoroughfares, effectively limiting the undead to the South Ward area. Where such magical help is not readily available, barricades are thrown down and manned by troops and a cleric or two. Militia take up position in the houses nearby, so the only way deeper into the city is through these fortified positions. Clerics place Hallow spells with Death Ward embedded in these fortified areas and in other areas where the military expects a battle. All of these fortifications are initially placed well outside the immediate area threatened by the undead.
(6) The fires become extremely deadly for the undead army and basically do most of the work in killing them off. While initially accidental, the military sees how powerful simply scorching the city is. With walls of iron and stone preventing expansion deeper into the city plus the city's own walls, the South Ward becomes a crucible for the undead. The militia sets blocks and blocks of the city on fire to further contain the spread of undead. Citizens are pressed into action to keep the flames from spreading deeper into the city but spellcasters also manipulate the winds, weather and the fires themselves to keep burning as long as possible and sweeping toward the undead horde.
(7) Several pitched battles are fought as the undead try to break out of the ring of fires and magical walls that are slowly closing in on them, but their defeat is only a matter of time. After 6 solid days of fighting, the bulk of the undead are vanquished.

This victory is not without its costs. About 50,000 citizens are killed, the entire South Ward is destroyed by fire, leaving another 40,000 homeless. Portions of the Trade and Dock Wards are also completely destroyed and will need to be rebuilt.

While a horde of self-propagating undead may seem insurmountable, keep in mind that a very large D&D city has tremendous resources in terms of financial wealth and most importantly magical power to thwart such an attack. For all of their power, the wights cannot fly (so they have very limited intel on where the people are or the military is and what they are doing), are unable to craft tools of war, are completely unskilled with weapons they do find, they cannot climb effectively and they are largely unorganized. Their worst weapon is that they can level drain, but judicious use of hallow spells and death ward can do much to blunt this ability. Wizards can make a great deal of stone or iron walls in a day, which allows the horde to be channeled to points where the military is strongest and ready to deal with them. Couple all of this with flying spellcasters that can operate above the horde with impunity and you can see how the battle may not be so cut and dry as it initially seemed.

Now, I still think that the city would be hard pressed indeed if it were not for the fire strategy that mostly arose by accident, but in my version of the battle it just so happened that the accidental fires were the military's biggest ally and their use of a "scorched earth" strategy was the tipping point that allowed victory, albeit a costly one. And of course, many wights went into the countryside and some slipped into the city ahead of the barricades, so the city is going to be troubled for many years to come by these escapees; the victory was by no means complete.


Very interesting, Lich-Loved. I was unable to run the wight catastrophe, but I was sold on the idea that 15,000+ wights swarming out of the arena would spell doom for Waterdeep/Free City/whatever. I was planning on using mob rules from DMG II when running that scenario, and a wight mob's DC to shrug off the level drain is in the upper 20s I believe. Not only would ordinary citizens be completely doomed, but even seasoned guardsmen and adventurers would be hard-pressed to pass that save. The wights would multiply exponentially within a matter of roughly 30 minutes, and within 12 hours, all of Waterdeep would be overrun, and those who survived would be running out of Waterdeep on foot, possible being chased by hundreds of wights. Powerful spellcasters like Maskar Wands and even the Blackstaff would have to flee, as there would simply be too many wights to deal with.

Given the mob rules, I'm actually glad that my group thwarted Bozal. I really didn't want to have to ruin Waterdeep in my campaign, but it would have been fun trying to fix the problem. Retaking Waterdeep after that catastrophe would be an epic undertaking spanning weeks of in-game (and months of out-of-game) time in my campaign.

Shadow Lodge

Crust wrote:
Very interesting, Lich-Loved. I was unable to run the wight catastrophe, but I was sold on the idea that 15,000+ wights swarming out of the arena would spell doom for Waterdeep/Free City/whatever. I was planning on using mob rules from DMG II when running that scenario, and a wight mob's DC to shrug off the level drain is in the upper 20s I believe. Not only would ordinary citizens be completely doomed, but even seasoned guardsmen and adventurers would be hard-pressed to pass that save. The wights would multiply exponentially within a matter of roughly 30 minutes, and within 12 hours, all of Waterdeep would be overrun, and those who survived would be running out of Waterdeep on foot, possible being chased by hundreds of wights. Powerful spellcasters like Maskar Wands and even the Blackstaff would have to flee, as there would simply be too many wights to deal with.

This is a perfectly fine interpretation of how things would happen. No one really knows how such things would actually play out, which is a Good Thing, as it allows the DM to do whatever he wants with the outcome. I think either approach is plausible and readily defended from a logical standpoint. In fact, I considered going your route and had the same misgivings you did about destroying a major city, so I split the difference and came up with my scenario - things get ugly enough for the characters to know how badly they failed and the loss of life and ruin is foreshadowing what will happen everywhere if the Age of Worms comes to pass.

Meh, there are no good ways to handle it should the PCs fail and every DM will need to devise something of this sort. I believe I have found the way for my game and I hope others can find something palatable for theirs.

I should also mention what the PCs will be doing through all of this. If you own the Heroes of Battle splatbook, then you already know, but if you do not, I plan on the PCs running through a series of event-based encounters that give them them the opportunity to take place in various battles and skirmishes over the 6 day siege of Waterdeep (think Curse of the Crimson Throne's Edge of Anarchy module but with undead everywhere). I have adventures into the sewers to aid the Plumber's Guild, rescue missions for someone important holed up inside a building, leading squads of men in battle, the desperate holding of defensive positions against hordes of onrushing enemies and the dealing of one-of-a-kind undead menaces created by the burst of necromantic energy at the arena. I also foresee a showdown with Loris Rakim, in which he may be defeated or flee to the Wormcrawl Fissure if he is routed from Waterdeep.


Sounds great, Lich-Loved. You know, when faced with such a horrible disaster, I think the middle ground you found is about as good as it gets. Very detailed, and I especially liked your attention to the sewer details, the magical walls, the fire (which makes perfect sense), and your use of Heroes of Battle. Ultimately, I would have gone your route or a similar route. I wouldn't have wanted to throw away Waterdeep.


I'm using Westgate in place of the Free City because I didn't want to risk destroying Waterdeep, so there is a lot less heavy hitters to deal with the initial outbreak and no unified group to deal with the undead. Each noble and merchant house will think on its safety first before joining forces.

Also, there are several features that make the situation a lot different(and worse) than an average zombie apocalipse. Just take a look at the Wight mental stats. They are intelligent, capable of forming strategies and retreat from losing battles. This can be really dangerous if you play them with the mentality of "Let's turn the maximum number of people into Wights to give power to our master, Kyuss" than just "Let's feed". It's very possible that they retain the memories they had in life, so they know the city layout as much as any resistance they might face(and know were their family and loved ones live, so they can join them in the glorious service of Kyuss).

The Energy Drain ability of the Wights is deadly to anyone not prepared. There is no save to resist the negative levels, only to see if they become permanent 24 hours later(if you survive that much). And very few people would survive a Wight mob, trying to escape its grapple while automatically losing a level each round. Death Ward's duration is only 1 min./level and Hallow's casting time is 24 hours, so even if you have several Clerics capable of casting these spells, it might not make a difference with a threat this size.

In my campaign, I made the Wight infestation even more dangerous making it work like Vampire Spawn/Vampire mechanic. Humanoids with 4 or less HD turned into average Wights when slain, while humanoids with 5 or more HD gained the Wight template and retained their class abilities. You can imagine how any strategy begins to fall down when the Wights start "recruiting" spellcasters to their side(and yes, my players hate my guts with the intensity of a thousand suns).


Westgate, eh? Now that's an awesome idea. I was eager to game in Waterdeep, but thinking back, I wonder why I didn't consider another coastal city. I guess Eric L. Boyd had some influence there. ;-)

With that in mind, I can see how the saving/retaking of Westgate would be difficult. One might imagine the Blackstaff and/or Larael taking direct action, possibly calling upon the other Chosen, some never-before-scene ancient undead ultra-lich who was once a former lover, or Mystra herself in the aiding of Waterdeep. I'm not sure if Westgate enjoys the same perks. The most powerful spellcaster that I know of in Westgate is the vampire Manshoon clone.

I always likened the infestation to 28 Days Later, where the "zombies" are highly mobile, alert, and have a sense of direction and memory. They're certainly not ambling around mindlessly like in the Romero films, and they certainly are sprinting and dodging to get to their meals.

Their intelligence is also huge. Think of the lurking boss types who would rally those troops. Any necromancer or evil cleric could whelm a sizeable horde to threaten this or that. Think of a mob of wights rampaging through the arena, turning minotaurs, orges, and other monsters and animals into undead. I agree that some of those wights would stand apart as boss types.


Crust wrote:
Westgate, eh? Now that's an awesome idea. I was eager to game in Waterdeep, but thinking back, I wonder why I didn't consider another coastal city. I guess Eric L. Boyd had some influence there. ;-)

I'm running the Age of Worms in Forgotten Realms, but changed several locations from the suggested in the Overload(Eric L. Boyd conversion is so awesome that made me want to DM this Adventure Path over any other).

I placed Diamond Lake on the southern shore of the Redwater Lake(between Westgate and the Lake of the Long Arm), near the part of the Trader's Road that connects Reddansyr and Starmantle. Diamond Lake is a great setting and I already used Daggerford in a previous campaign, so I placed the whole city in there.

In my opinion, Alhaster and Redhand fitted better in the Border Kingdoms, because I plan to continue the campaign after the conclusion of the Age of Worms and I really want to put Powers of Faerûn in good use. I want to give the chance to the players rule and forge a stable kingdom that would become part of the setting in future campaigns.

Crust wrote:
The most powerful spellcaster that I know of in Westgate is the vampire Manshoon clone.

I must admit that one of the great advantages of using Westgate as the Free City in case of a "bad ending" is to see all the jaws dropping around the table when the sun sets and ALL the vampires of the Night Masks decide to retake the city while been led by the vampire Manshoon clone.

Maybe I should create a topic with all the changes that I made in my version of the Age of Worms instead of hijacking this thread. ^^


Mewzero_hgc wrote:
Maybe I should create a topic with all the changes that I made in my version of the Age of Worms instead of hijacking this thread. ^^

I actually already created one. It's the "Other Modules in Age of Worms" thread. And please post, because I'm DMing a similar scenario in my own campaign, where the PCs recently cleaned out a spawn of Kyuss infestation and are now rebuilding the land and taking lordship (modified Expedition to Castle Ravenloft). The group now resides in Castle Bloodthorn (formerly Castle Ravenloft), and they're ruling over the nearby village of New Dawn (formerly Barovia). I was amazed to see how you were doing the same thing, but I suppose it is hinted at in the modules, the PCs ruling Alhaster in the aftermath of Zeech's fall.

The Age of Worms is a better canvas than vanilla ice cream. ;-)


I am running in the Realms as well. I placed the entire adventure in the Shining South and made the "Free City" Unther. The Free City is of course an oxymoron for the peoples of the lands of the South as Unther has been making slaves of these people for millenia :-)

When my characters play the Champion's Belt, Gilgeam will be there watching the game (he is not dead yet in my campaign). If the PC's fail and the arena crowd suddenly turns into thousands of Wights, Tiamat will take that opportunity to attack Gilgeam (since his power will be seriously diminished by losing so many followers) and the characters get to witness his death as well as the death of the Metropolis of Unther before they run for their lives.

Even if they prevent the crowd from turning, I will probably still have Tiamat attack but this time with her forces in tow. That scenario will end with the characters trying to locate Eligos as they flee the city as it will be ripped apart by these two gods and their forces battling one another.

The best part about using Unther is that it falls to near ruin anyway in FR canon so I am not destroying anything that is not already a mess.

Shadow Lodge

*casts thread necromancy*

Just a word back to those that are interested or facing the same issue...

My players had a great time trying to hold off the wight horde and tangling with the transformed Loris. On the second day of the siege, they scraped together their gladiatorial winnings and used Planar Ally to summon a Astral Deva to help them for 12 days. With an at-will Holy Word, the Deva can render harmless all wights in an 80ft diameter for 1d10 minutes. She then bashed them with her +3 Mace of Disruption. Given the dozens of other clerics capable of this same approach in the city (not to mention the use of Planetars by higher ranking clerics), the wights were hard put to it indeed. The outcome was pretty much the same as the one I gave above, though the characters believed that the acquisition of their ally played a decisive roll in the victory.

Now that the players have seen the power of angels against the undead, I am fairly certain they will endeavor to secure another Deva for their expedition to the Spire of Long Shadows. This will ensure all undead with 11 HD or less are basically removed from every battle and all other undead must contend with a powerful foe. I may even have to bump up the difficulty of the scenario depending on how things play out initially.


Now that is awesome. Well done to you and your group!

The party wizard in my Age of Worms group recently called a tulani eladrin from Exalted Deeds as his planar ally. Very, very effective in so many ways.

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