Making Dungeons non-trivial.


Advice


When a player is playing a druid, and can turn into an elemental, how do you make an underground dungeon non-trivial other than saying, "No you can't move from room to room in a stone form because I said so."

I have always been of the opinion that the game breaks past level 4-5 for this type of a reason. Druids wanting to turn into a bird and fly in the vaulted ceilings of a dungeon to cast down spells on whatever they find, staying just out of reach. Players buying adamantite weaponry to bust through walls of a dungeon making short cuts.

At least with the adamantite hammer I can say things like, that is a load bearing wall, smash it and you will cause a cave in.

I am just not sure how to deal with the whole, let's send a druid in to scout, and then use shape stone to tunnel toward the end of the dungeon. Any suggestions?

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Lost Omens, Pawns, Rulebook Subscriber

Establish that in your campaign earthglide causes a distinct rumbling. Have elementals show up early in the game, before casters can use elemental shape, and describe it. Have enemies hear the noises the party makes and prepare for enemies.


Or consider planning around these possibilities (earthglide, adamantium, etc) and ensure that it isn't a particularly big advantage. Does it really matter if they use the door or make their own entrance?

Liberty's Edge

Its a fact of life in their world, if they're remotely smart, they shouldn't be oblivious to it, let them plan for it.


I thought they could only glide through earth(natural minerals), not worked materials/metal. If that is the case then use man-made dungeon.

I would not do this to the entire dungeon in the interest of player fun, but I would see it as a real precaution for important areas.


Players will break dungeons, it's what they are there to do. It's what the dungeons are for.

Aside from that, you can make thematically themed dungeons that are made of unusual substances. Random magma tunnels behind the walls, extreme cold, walls covered in hardened alien slime, etc. Do this in moderation; do it to make things interesting, not just to shut down one player.

However, the players will break these, too. It's what they're made for.

Many of their solutions are loud or time consuming (stone shape has a pretty small volume). Let the monsters go to them, sometimes. Adamantine maul = dinner bell.

Shadow Lodge

I'm not used to dungeons having vaulted ceilings. Who's making them vaulted? Here's a hint: creatures who build vaulted ceilings underground want that vault for their own purposes. Otherwise, it's too much trouble.

Stone shape will be loud, it's shifting stone around.

Earthglide does not prevent tremorsense, nor does it allow sight outside the stone immediately. An earthglider can be surprised by a room's contents.

Dungeons aren't static. People make noise, people carving through walls takes time. There is plenty of time for the dungeon's inhabitants to come up with a reasonable defense.


I think you have to come out of the wall to see anything outside the stone when you earth glide. At which point everything in the room goes. "AHHHHHH!" and tries to kill the druid. The druid should have a surprise round, and unless he's going to solo the encounter, he should use it to pop back into the wall and report to the party.

At best the druid is simply telling the party whats up ahead, negating the surprise rounds. Thats fine, scouting in natural terrain is one of their bags.

The party still has to fight.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

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Mogart wrote:

When a player is playing a druid, and can turn into an elemental, how do you make an underground dungeon non-trivial other than saying, "No you can't move from room to room in a stone form because I said so."

I have always been of the opinion that the game breaks past level 4-5 for this type of a reason. Druids wanting to turn into a bird and fly in the vaulted ceilings of a dungeon to cast down spells on whatever they find, staying just out of reach. Players buying adamantite weaponry to bust through walls of a dungeon making short cuts.

At least with the adamantite hammer I can say things like, that is a load bearing wall, smash it and you will cause a cave in.

I am just not sure how to deal with the whole, let's send a druid in to scout, and then use shape stone to tunnel toward the end of the dungeon. Any suggestions?

Off the top of my head:

1. Reinforce important rooms with wood or metal. Earth Glide doesn't go through those. (And a lead-lined room isn't unreasonable in a world where that's one of the few substances that also stops magical scrying)

2. Have an enemy druid or cleric cast move earth on the intruder.

3. Have the druid encounter real Earth Elementals also traveling through the walls. While the druid is alone, the earth elementals surge and attack him. Not to mention, they could, within the CR of the party, be much bigger elementals than the druid is capable of becoming himself.

4. Otherwise have the druid ambushed while he's by himself scouting. If an earth elemental doesn't belong there, the dungeon denizens should notice and attack it, or at least sound an alarm.

5. Anti magic and wild magic zones

6. Trap the walls. Moving through the walls counts as touching it, the druid is moving and thus not checking for traps, trap is triggered. Also a very reasonable thing to find in a dungeon.

7. Attack the rest of the party while the druid is off scouting.

Remember: PCs ONLY have the resources of their class abilities. You have EVERYTHING IN THE BOOK. EVERYTHING. Do not hesitate to use it. Do not hold back. Don't be MEAN, but pull out all stops, and if an action has a dire consequence, don't be afraid to play out those consequences. Anyone going off to scout by themselves is always taking a big risk by separating themselves from the party. They need to be shown WHY that is risky. That doesn't mean try to instantly kill them--any of the attacks I listed above should be beatable or at least flee-able--but it does mean show them the challenge they should be expecting to face.

I have run dungeons and hazards at 19th level, let alone 6th. Characters will use their cool class abilities to do things and try to bypass obstacles. I let them. I also never hesitate in showing them exactly why the obstacles were put up there in the first place.


Remember some of the simpler things that gms and players overlook, how much does an earth elemental weigh? When he moves around does he break through the floor with his 6000lb body?

When he changes are you keeping track? 8/day isn't very often, if he's changing to suit every situation don't let them have a 15 min work day and many of your problems will naturally go away.


The floor is earth which earth elemental are meant to glide through.

As for tracking the druid will probably do as much scouting as it can without changing form. There is no reason to keep switching forms.


Mogart wrote:


I am just not sure how to deal with the whole, let's send a druid in to scout, and then use shape stone to tunnel toward the end of the dungeon. Any suggestions?

One thing you could try is do occasionally (all of the time would be heavy handed) have something “Interesting” happen to the rest of the party while the Druid is off on his own.

Another idea would be to put something other than dirt and stone in-between rooms, an underground spring or two every now and then could at the very least slow the druid down a bit. Also, dungeons don’t always have to be made of dirt/stone.

All that said, sometimes its ok to let a character do something well.


We're basically talking about scouting here, right? It's not likely they can fight the encounter built for the party by themselves.

Just wait until they get sixth level spells that LITERALLY TELL THEM WHICH DIRECTION TO GO.


If he's in a 6000lb earth elemental form and the party comes to an underground chasm in the dungeon with a rope bridge across it he has to change, if he wants to keep earthgliding he has to change again, if he wants to get back over the bridge he has to change again, the best combat forms are not elemental forms they are pounce animal forms or stuff with huge vital strike bites so he has to change again for combat.

There are a huge number of reasons a druid would have to change form and before level 20 wildshape is a very limited resource, if your having trouble with a guy staying in one form you need to vary the challenge to force him to use resources insted of coasting. Letting people have a 15 min work day or not forcing them to expend resources is the leading cause of all gm problems, at higher levels teleporting around will cause similar problems but once again it will be a limited resource which you can force expendature of.


He can shapechange into a small elemental. Nothing says he has to take the 6000lb form, and unless the dungeon is built just to counter the druid those shape changes are not likely to be used up.

Even with the bridge example the elemental can go through the ground and under the bridge.


With the bridge example he can travel 2000ft down and 200ft across and 2000ft back up while the party walk over the bridge and wait? It takes about ten mins for him to move down and back up the chasm, and he could have an encounter with some earth elementals at the bottom of the chasm that the party would never even have known about if he wasn't travelling well out of the parties way if your feeling particularly vindictive.

Honestly though there are many many ways to expend resources and that is just one example. It doesn't necessarily have to just pick on the druid as the wizard could cast fly on the druid in elemental form but if your problem is with an ability with a very limited daily usage you need to force them to expend their uses.


Here's a couple of relatvily cheap countermeasures:

1) Lead lining behind the masonry. It's primary purpose would be to prevent scrying and seal against water (same way medieval builders would use lead sheeting as roofing material), but it also stops earth glide.

2) Tunneling is a historic problem with fortifications - Sappers would burrow under castle walls, same with busting down doors. Best any wall can do is slow an enemy down in time for defenders to respond. So, make sure there's defenders who can respond, as others have suggested.

The idea being they lose the biggest advantage to tunneling - avoiding encoutners. Make it so if they mess with the walls, rather than avoid encoutners, they bleed them together, and/or get additional ones.

I haven't tried this yet myself, but you could try a Summon Monster Trap; touch trigger set to go off if anyone messes with the lead barrier, automatic reset. Set the summon monster as a Higher CR than common for encouters you want them to face. So, every time they mess with a wall, they fight a tough monster. They can't stone shape through the lead barrier, and if they lay into it with an adamantine axe, yea they cut it like butter, but they summon a giant elemental that spawns right on top of them too.


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Walls made of wood or metal are good.

A dungeon carved out entirely within a giant tree, or an icy glacier can also work.

He earth glides through a wall only to find that the adjacent room is 50 to 100 feet lower, just with a high ceiling. Say hello to falling damage.

Veins of lava. Better hope you don't have the bad luck to earthglide into one of those.

Tremorsense.

Make rooms not physically adjacent. The doors and halls connect the rooms magically, perhaps the seperate rooms aren't even all on the same plane. In other words you can't dig your way into them.

Perhaps certain walls are electrified.

A room that allows one in, but magically prevents leaving until something specific has been done.

The dungeon is 'alive' and shifts around. Sure you can scout through walls, but good luck finding your way back if you split the party.

All that said, don't completely nerf a good strategy. They've come up with something that works, let them benefit from it occasionally.


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Don't get hung up on restricting the player's powers, just focus on creating a realistic NPC response.

Unless the whole party is capable of earth glide, the druid will always be on his own when attempting this. That makes it a scouting function with all of the (considerable) risks of being away from the party.

Have the NPCs respond realistically. Let him use his neat toy, and you can probably (legitimately) catch him making a mistake with it. He might poke his head into a room with too many creatures to handle. One of them might be a mage who conjures (gasp) an earth elemental to follow him.

Depending on your encounter design, the most a solo PC can usually do is bring back good intel or end up raising the alarm or getting killed.

If there is a full caster anywhere in the dungeon, start playing him actively. Heck, even a martial bossman should be as active. They paid the cost to be the boss, never let the players just waltz in and kill them.

This kind of thing is a key to good GMing. As you get higher in level, you're going to have to learn to cope with powers that make your old style of play obsolete. Just try to arbitrate things are realistically and fairly as possible, and keep an eye on whether the players are excited or bored. If they're bored, you need to start surprising them, not taking away powers.


Evil Lincoln wrote:

Don't get hung up on restricting the player's powers, just focus on creating a realistic NPC response.

This.

Trying to 'counter' the PCs and 'nullify' them as the DM is purely adversarial and not the mindset that you want.

Rather have the NPCs react as they would to knowing that something is there...

Maybe the party has to deal with multiple encounters simultaneously as the one that the druid popped in and out on is now braced for invaders and sent for reinforcements.

-James

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

Go Legacy of Fire, and have walls made of living brass, or something to that extent. You could have the wall filled with small rips in reality. He could go through, but would he want to risk it. Whatever you do, make sure to flavor it well. Flavor is everything.


It appears you have defeated my wall... The floor eats you.


12GaugeMage wrote:
It appears you have defeated my wall... The floor eats you.

like this!


-On the other side of the wall is a natural cave, take 10d6 falling damage. (If they didn't see this one with tremmorsense, they deserve it)

-A spider-monster has woven a web in this chamber, you are entangled.

-Your movement has disturbed a natural gas pocket. Natural gas floods into the room and is ignited by the torch. Everybody takes fire damage.

-You have disturbed an eldritch horror imprisoned in the rock. Roll initiative.

-This dungeon is built on a cloud, jack-and-the-beanstalk style. No earthglide.

-You emerge in reverse gravity and smash into the ceiling, take falling damage.

-Oh, yeah wizeguy? Disenchanter attacks. Run the maze like a good rat (Not for actual use :P)


Mogart wrote:

When a player is playing a druid, and can turn into an elemental, how do you make an underground dungeon non-trivial other than saying, "No you can't move from room to room in a stone form because I said so."

I have always been of the opinion that the game breaks past level 4-5 for this type of a reason. Druids wanting to turn into a bird and fly in the vaulted ceilings of a dungeon to cast down spells on whatever they find, staying just out of reach. Players buying adamantite weaponry to bust through walls of a dungeon making short cuts.

At least with the adamantite hammer I can say things like, that is a load bearing wall, smash it and you will cause a cave in.

I am just not sure how to deal with the whole, let's send a druid in to scout, and then use shape stone to tunnel toward the end of the dungeon. Any suggestions?

MY DM agrees with you and asked a player in my group to stop being a Druid. Personally I think this is a shame and is not necessary.

I can see why you might be frustrated (and why my DM was) you may have spent hours creating a dungeon only to have the players bypass it after 30 seconds thought.

However [layers have cool abilities that let them do the impossible, be creative and have a good time.

Its your job to try and challenge them.

----

Getting through a dungeon when you have a Druid is trivial at low to mid levels. So make new challenges.

"Get to the end of the dungeon" You mean where the Dragon is sleeping? Maybe a Dragon with a stone shape spell? Make the challenge AT the destination not about GETTING to the destination.

Earth glide druid - monsters with earth glide. Magical traps in the walls. Wooden beams push into the walls (cannot glide through wood and much to solid to break it out quietly (except of course if he has warp wood - but so what if he HAS? He had a cool idea to overcome a puzzle you set).

Flying along the ceiling just out of reach? That's what archers and spell casters are for.

You KNOW what the abilities of your players are thus you can come up with ideas to limit them.

-----

I think the fundamental thing is that the game does not 'break' at level 6+ it just becomes all about the magic. Magic and magical means prevent other magic users making things trivial.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Earth Glides into a room designed to challenge a whole party. Grapple monster gets him. He's stuck until the party can rescue him.

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