Have I hamstrung my PC's or should they be able to handle this?


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I'm kind of new to DMing, but the Emerald Spire dungeon caught my eye and I decided to run it for our group. I didn't want to handle a fistfull of races though and therefore I asked the players to build human or half human characters. The bulk of the players are long time gamers who regularly brag about their old exploits, so I was pretty shocked when they hit the effect on the interior of the first level of the spire and immediately ran away.
They are insisting that the level is simply impossible for them as humans (nobody went half orc). They have a monk, a ranger, a sorcerer, a paladin, and a cleric all starting at first level.
My question to the good people here is this, are they right about being completely stymied, or should they be able to handle this?


Gonna have to give some more insight into this particular dungeon. I fail to see how the lack of a half-orc or any other race could make it so their survival in said dungeon is impossible though.


Give me a few minutes to figure out how to button hide spoilers, I don't want to mess anyones game up...


To spoiler, use "[spoiIer]" before the text, and "[/spoIler]" after the text. With the correct spelling, of course.


:
The level is covered in a darkness that can't be dispelled. No light will illuminate more than a 5 foot radius. Creatures with darkvision like the goblins infesting it are fine. But anything less than darkvision can only see the 5 foot areas.
emerald spire spoiler


Father Frenzy wrote:
** spoiler omitted ** emerald spire spoiler

What?:
You mean to tell me not a single one of your casters has the cantrip Light?

Casting Light on a rock for visibility is the oldest trick in the book.


Heretek wrote:
Father Frenzy wrote:
** spoiler omitted ** emerald spire spoiler
** spoiler omitted **

Spoiler:
Apparently, it can't be dispelled. You'd need a higher level effect to cut through the darkness than Dancing Lights or Light, probably Daylight or something. Now if there was an Aasimar in the party...

I ran emerald spire for two gestalted PC's and I can attest that the first level is brutal. Both were human, would have TPKed three times on that floor alone if I didn't take pity on them.

Dungeon Spoiler Info:
Have the players even tried to scout the location at all? There's a pretty obvious back entrance that most so-called "veterans" should be able to find blind-folded. I can understand feeling frustrated at the quite honestly ridiculously ham-fisted advantages the goblins are given in this particular dungeon but its hardly grounds for a full on rage quit.

If you restricted the races before knowing the consequences it would entail then that's on you, apologize and move on, allow a race change if you think its warranted.

One Spoiler-y solution:
Seriously though these guys need to buck up, they've at the very least scouted the place far enough to know that visibility is reduced to 5 feet due to darkness, this is information that they can plan around. Smokesticks are cheap and even the playing field and even if the party spent all of their starting gold already there are more than enough plot hooks in Fort Inevitable and Thornkeep, two reasonably close locations to where they can do a side quest to gain some extra gold. They can also just go the old fashioned route and start making craft, perform and profession checks. At the absolute worst unksilled labor is worth a wage of 1sp a day and I hear that the hellknights are always looking for more bricklayers .... After all, the dungeon is not time sensitive.

In short, they're overreacting.

Silver Crusade

They're somewhat overreacting but only somewhat.

That first level is a royal pain for people without darkvision and even worse when the entire group doesn't have darkvision. Its both dangerous and, worse, really really frustrating and boring.

But there are counters.

Obscuring mist basically levels the playing field a fair bit. Now NOBODY can see anything. Slows the game down to a crawl but at least its a fairly balanced crawl.

And they can take torches. Lots and lots and lots of torches. Each one illustrates a 5 ft square. Every character carries one and you drop them all over the place. Again, takes time and can be a pain. But it kinda works.

@Heretek:

Spoiler:
Light cantrips don't work well. 5ft light, one per caster. You're better off with normal torches


:
In that case I'd just make the light function to at least create dim light in a 20 ft radius. Won't break anything, goblins still have an advantage, but the PCs will be justifiably less irritated.

Lantern Lodge

There are workarounds, but it still sucks to be human in that environment.

Spoiler:
"Can't be dispelled"...there's an interpretation question. If it can't be "permanently deactivated", that's one thing -- but if you're taking it to mean "can't be suppressed/cancelled via light spells", that's harder to deal with by far.

The dancing lights cantrip might be even more useful than the light cantrip, though you have to cast it a lot more often.

You could use a 10' pole with light stones at 5' and 10'.

But you still stand out like a sore thumb for the locals. That might be what is really bugging them.


Thank you, gentlemen, I really appreciate the feedback. They circled the keep from the edge of the glen, with a spyglass even, so I gave them the full outline of the tower exterior, yet they didn't even try to check the fairly obvious backdoor. I'm really kind of disappointed in them.
Smoking the tower to even the field is genius. I would never have seen that coming.


Races are like a .1 out of 100 for things a GM should worry about. With that said it seems your veteran players might have been use to easier GM's, and therefore not be as good as they thought. A team of humans could have handled it if the players were skilled enough.


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Since you put the restriction on races, why not just alter the darkness effect so it's less annoying/deadly? Give light a visibility of 10-20' instead, or stash a few potions of Darkvision somewhere nearby.


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If they couldn't handle mere darkness as a bunch of humans, how the heck did they think humanity survived up to this point?

As has been already said, torches. And lots of them.
Or make a wicker 'tumbleweed' or 4 , set them alight and roll them through.
Fog.
Throw AoE effects in while standing at the edge of the dark.

In short, they shame their ancestors with their behavior.


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So you restricted the race choices to non-darkvision races, then sent them into a darkvision requiring environment?

Other than Half-Orc I mean...

You created this problem, their reaction is fair.

Imagine spending the time creating a human archer, all excited about a new campaign, and then having this sprung on you.

Sure, they might be able to muddle through with great difficulty, but it doesn't sound like fun.

Suggestion to fix: Tell people which module you plan on running, and don't place such restrictive rules on races. This was avoidable.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Starfinder Maps Subscriber

I've seen people run this adventure with the torches. It's doable. And some of them could take half-orc.

I honestly don't like the first level of Emerald Spire because it's a cakewalk for darkvision races and incredibly frustrating for everyone else.

Hmm

Dark Archive

alexd1976 wrote:

So you restricted the race choices to non-darkvision races, then sent them into a darkvision requiring environment?

Other than Half-Orc I mean...

You created this problem, their reaction is fair.

Imagine spending the time creating a human archer, all excited about a new campaign, and then having this sprung on you.

Sure, they might be able to muddle through with great difficulty, but it doesn't sound like fun.

Suggestion to fix: Tell people which module you plan on running, and don't place such restrictive rules on races. This was avoidable.

that's not fair to blame this on the DM. characters should not be tailored to a specific scenario. also as a role playing game there are almost limitless options to get around this, as people have listed above.

sure if you create an archer this encounter is putting you at a pretty large disadvantage, but PCs should not always have advantage. otherwise the game gets boring quickly.

I do agree that it may require the DM to adjust the scenario a little bit to account for this, but telling everyone "hey it's a darkness campaign so bring your darkvision" kind of defeats the point of the role playing.


There is a simple solution.

You just add a location nearby. An encounter out in the daylight. In this encounter they find a little bit of treasure, the perfect item limited resource (such as a wand with only a few charges remaining, or a box with a handful of potions) that has exactly the right spell they need.

suggestions:
Daylight or Darkvision come to mind immediately

And if you maybe make a hint for them ("Hey, you know this might seem too hard because you haven't scouted the area for alternatives yet") and then they luckily find this location and they'll even think it was there all along, then they'll think they were just missing the obvious and they won't even know you bailed them out.

But I have to say, even an ordinary group without your limitation on race would probably only have one or two PCs with the necessary racial trait to overcome this challenge. I don't restrict races and right now I have a group of 5 including a human, halfling, half-elf, dwarf, and elf. Not even one non-core race and I made no restrictions. Note that only one of these characters has the feature your group seems to need. That means that if this group faced your Emerald Spire, four of the five characters would be just as "hamstrung" as your current group.

I've never read the Emerald Spire but I find it a little hard to believe that they wrote the module expecting EVERY PC in the group to have that one feature. Are you sure there aren't alternatives available in the module? If there really are not, then this sounds like a poorly-written death trap and it's name is TPK.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Emerald Spire needs your B game or better. I can understand the frustration of "gee look at what I can do and you can't.". That said, workarounds:

Read up on "What to expect/bring to a table."
Rumors/knowledge checks: hey I hear goblins see in the dark, let's plan for that. Or did you hear, the goblins have a stronghold shrouded in darkness."

Half-orc, gnome(racial trait), sorcerer with Orc Bloodline, etc...

Not much different than full plate characters dealing with a combat on a rowboat, a nova build having more than one fight a day, caster in a silence area...adventuring is tough, challenging, and not every dungeon is designed to be nice, open, and friendly to invaders doing some B&E.

And if level 1 of this dungeon is too hard...just wait.

Or...if you want more casual/laid back, hand wave challenges that stump the party. Depends on your campiagn difficulty/style/expectations. What makes more fun to you and your group is what I'd consider.

Good luck!


If it's any consolation, it's just the first level. Our party of humans survived it well enough.


I heavily disagree with alex. You're not being overly restrictive at all

Plus half-orc is a half-human race with darkvision.

What happens if you're playing a game and somebody falls off a building because it collapses, and nobody can cast feather fall? Is it the DMs fault nobody took that ability? Should he have to warn them of all impending dangers during character creation?

If it's truly becoming a problem in game, either have a scroll of darkvision or sunlight pop up somewhere or have them find a map.

You did nothing wrong. Odd races can be more harmful than good for a DM who is new.

The Exchange

Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Would they all have taken a race with dark vision? Unlikely, so they would still need a plan.

The Exchange

I find the emerald spire stupid in general. Why, are you being penalized for your choice of race, when everyone should have the right to play as whatever race and class you want? Consider that it starts at lv 1, a bunch of brand new players could just walk in and get screwed over.

About torches - who exactly without metagaming or prior knowledge would bring enough torches to light an entire dungeon. Each torch weighs 1 lb. Its not the cost, its the weight.

Goblins are hard enough to hit as it is, they don't need to have permanent concealment to do hit and run on the party even better.

A little screwing up with visibility for varied encounters is fine, I.e occasional fighting in mist, deeper darkness, but not an entire session on it, and not when the characters are too low lv to have solutions to that.

Its not fair to the players, period. Now if the GM warned them before hand, its going to get very dark, and you might want darkvision and the players didn't listen, its their loss. And you should have at least let them play everything in the CRB, I.e dwarf, would have added another darkvision race to pick.

Ah, I'm getting too old for dungeon crawls. And people say I'm paranoid when I keep rolling characters with darkvision.


Unless there's something of vital importance in the dungeon, it's totally in character for them to turn around and leave. A goblin rogue could murder all of them. Easily. With a sling.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Dancing lights conjures up to 4 lights which cast light as torches, can be moved at will, and is on most casters' spell lists.

Spoiler:
With a 5' radius each, this can light up a decent area in the Spire's first level, allowing PCs without darkvision to see decently, if not well.

Scarab Sages

If light will only go 5' then they could arrange several lights, ala Dancing Lights. Maybe they can come back with that spell, or put torches at the end of poles to have reach so they can see a little farther.

No sight is frightening to players. I ran Frozen Wind a few weeks ago and outdoors has heavy snow conditions which allow only 5' vision as well, and the players were too afraid to go outside. So now I use fog clouds as much as possible.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

My party has a changeling, gnome, half-elf and aasimar. The changeling witch brought Dancing Lights and they all had torches. With some clever arrangement of the lights, they made it through without too much difficulty. If the whole mess of goblins had been alerted at once, I can see how the level could have been much more difficult but it didn't come to that. Once they reached the end, everyone got a little peeved that the aasimar completely forgot they had Daylight. :P

In short, there are many ways to play the game, and darkvision is not required. That said, if your players really want to change their race, it's certainly worth considering. Roleplaying is a collaborative affair, after all.


I hated this level. This was probably made worse by the fact that our GM read the "light doesn't illuminate past 5'" thing as "if you get more than 5' from a light source, you can't see it anymore". This meant that apart from the one half-orc in our party, everyone had to be right next to something in order to see it. This also meant that my squishy 1st-level sorcerer was utterly worthless for the entire session.


Ummmm....The race restriction actually INCREASES the chance of having a darkvision race (considering core races only). The only other race with darkvision is the Dwarf, so you're going from a 2 in 7 chance to a 1 in 3.

That being said, does low-light vision apply here at all? If my torch illuminates 5', does that mean that low-light races can see 10' (dim light)?

Poor Humans...They've got it so rough.


Well that's just poor rules interpretation. Being effectively blind is significantly worse than only being able to see 5 feet.

The Exchange

Race choice is more then that. Some concepts may be tied to race, like maybe a dwarven cleric who wields his battle axe and wears a kilt instead of being in robes, and holding a prayer book. I'd find it weird to have a human in a kilt, to say the least.

Also, when he asked his players to build human or half human characters, he may have given the players non-humans are not welcome in the region(matter of player misinterpretation- but yes it can lead to misunderstandings).

I.e, its easier for a half elf to pass for a human, whereas for a half orc to pass for a human, its a lot harder. The OPs statement may have caused his players to choose races that were either human, or could pass for human, which would unintentionally exclude half orcs.


Natan Linggod 327 wrote:

If they couldn't handle mere darkness as a bunch of humans, how the heck did they think humanity survived up to this point?

A marvelous technological breakthrough called 'fire', which appears to be ineffective in that situation.

(My current GM loooooves darkness, and I'm playing a human. GOOD TIMES.)


hector212121 wrote:
Unless there's something of vital importance in the dungeon, it's totally in character for them to turn around and leave. A goblin rogue could murder all of them. Easily. With a sling.

See this? It is entirely correct.

Telling your players 'Play at least part-humans' and then springing this on them as seriously uncool.

There ARE potential workarounds, sure, but if your players want to go look for an easier source of loot, I can't blame them even slightly.


Sounds like a fun challenge, I'd be personally disappointed in any player that gives up instead of rising to it..

In addition to out fireloving or concealmenting the goblins, or finding darkvision consumables, research/scouting to determine limits and alternatives to the darkness, opening a dialogue with the gobs to negotiate safe passage and info on other areas of the dungeon, finding out if they have a deal to allow anything else through their area and disguising as that, disguise self's as goblins and bluff through it, tower shields and full defense to just turtle through the area...


Cult of Vorg wrote:

Sounds like a fun challenge, I'd be personally disappointed in any player that gives up instead of rising to it..

In addition to out fireloving or concealmenting the goblins, or finding darkvision consumables, research/scouting to determine limits and alternatives to the darkness, opening a dialogue with the gobs to negotiate safe passage and info on other areas of the dungeon, finding out if they have a deal to allow anything else through their area and disguising as that, disguise self's as goblins and bluff through it, tower shields and full defense to just turtle through the area...

Well, this is the sort of thing that encourages players who enjoy "fun challenges" to go completely off of the rails.

Maybe the players' solution is to buy lots of torches and light up the area and maybe the players' solution is to buy a few gold worth of firewood and light up the area. Maybe the players' solution is to hire a construction crew to seal up the doors (and forget about the whole shebang) and maybe the players' solution is to hire a demolition crew and see if some more "windows" will solve the darkness problem.

That sort of thing isn't really what you want to have to deal with as a novice DM (and usually isn't the type of thing that you'd want your adventure to invite, much less require).


If they have half-elf in the party then they should be fine. Low-light vision should double the radius of any light source. 5-foot Radius should illuminate 4 grid square and low-light vision turn that into 10 grid square. Since they have 5 people in the party that is potential 20 / 50 square being illuminate if they spread out. They could also just throw or lay down torch on the floor too.

Once they knew there are Goblins inside, the Paladin could probably use Detect Evil to find their general direction.


Vutava wrote:
I hated this level. This was probably made worse by the fact that our GM read the "light doesn't illuminate past 5'" thing as "if you get more than 5' from a light source, you can't see it anymore". This meant that apart from the one half-orc in our party, everyone had to be right next to something in order to see it. This also meant that my squishy 1st-level sorcerer was utterly worthless for the entire session.

This, with the 5' distance, is what my GM implied as well. We never even considered leaving a trail of torches.

Liberty's Edge

I think banning elves, dwarves, gnomes and halflings may be a bit much. I understand (and agree with) your desire to keep things simple; I generally limit PCs to core races or PFS-legal races.

If I don't impose some sort of limit right at the start, players often want to build some sort of undead android tarrasque ot something.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Theconiel wrote:

I think banning elves, dwarves, gnomes and halflings may be a bit much. I understand (and agree with) your desire to keep things simple; I generally limit PCs to core races or PFS-legal races.

If I don't impose some sort of limit right at the start, players often want to build some sort of undead android tarrasque ot something.

The other thing accomplished by this limitation was removing size as an issue. This is probably why the beginner box limits race to human, elf, and dwarf.

To get back to the original question, I don't think you did anything unreasonable. I think the writers of the module were nuts to include such strict magical darkness for level 1 characters. Your players should be annoyed, just not at you. When I ran that level, we just made it normal darkness.


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Spoiler:
The key here is that each light source illuminates a huge-sized box, effectively - the source square plus all adjacent. Yes, a party member 4 squares away will be obscured by darkness due to the level effect, but dancing lights effectively fixes most fights. If that's all you do as a sorceror, you've accomplished enough.

Literally every party I've run this for has had more problems with the difficult terrain than the light effects, and I've run this floor at least 3 times, played it once.

tl;dr: they're overreacting unless they triggered the event.

Grand Lodge

Light Consumption:
Inside the structure, a magical effect swallows up light. Any light source, no matter how strong, illuminates only a 5-foot radius. The Azlanti builders created this magical effect to activate once night had fallen, but it is permanently stuck in its night setting.
Anything beyond the 5-foot area is darkness. Ranged combat and melee attacks with reach have a 50% miss chance unless the attacker has darkvision. Creatures without darkvision take a –4 penalty on Perception checks that rely on sight.
The descriptions of rooms talk about all the features of each room, but because of the lighting the PCs might not learn all this information at once. Adjust the read-aloud text to match what the PCs can see.

Just as an FYI, the author for this level of the Emerald Spire is someone named Lisa Stevens, who is the CEO of some obscure, little company named Paizo, IIRC. ;)

I can, sort of, understand the GM who thinks that the 5' limit is absolute, but I think he (or she) is taking it to extremes. I played it online, and got into an extended discussion with the GM on this very thing, as adjacent light sources should allow the light to continuously travel between them, as they suppress the darkness for their own square. He thought otherwise, that the 5' was it. Talk about ways to truly neuter several classes or builds.

Just FYI: Each of the 16 levels in the Emerald Spire were written by different authors, so each one is different, besides some overarching concepts/plot lines.

Another thing to think about for this particular level: Making it goblins makes it a challenge. Making it kobolds would have been a virtually guaranteed TPK, even with darkvision races, unless you have a darkvision trap handler. This would probably rank right up with the true Tucker's Kobolds lair, in that case.

Grand Lodge

Serisan wrote:

** spoiler omitted **

tl;dr: they're overreacting unless they triggered the event.

Are you sure it should be a 9 square box, not just a single square per light source?

The impression I get form the module text, and other GMs I have played it with seem to agree, that each light only illuminates its own 1x1 square, not a 3x3 area, or should it be 2x2, using an intersection?


Text says 5 ft. radius. I.e. each light source should illuminate a circle with diameter of 10 ft. So it should be a 2x2 square on the map.


alexd1976 wrote:

So you restricted the race choices to non-darkvision races, then sent them into a darkvision requiring environment?

Other than Half-Orc I mean...

Half-Elf can get darkvision, too as an alternate racial trait.

Other things that can help:
- summon monster with things that increase CL or duration
- obscuring mist to impair the goblins as well
- mount: Horses have scent
- knowing they have no dark-vision they could have taken blind-fight to compensate.

veteran players should come up with more than scream with rage.


No Dwarves? I would have dropped the campaign.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Pffft!
Light is a cantrip that any self-respecting spellcaster would include in his spell selection. As a cantrip, he can use it an unlimited amount of times. Duration: 10 minutes per level.

What's stopping him from preparing several dozen light pebbles every hour or two and tossing them in various squares ahead of him? While the pebble is still bouncing ahead, archers could ready an action to shoot as soon as an adversary becomes visible. Scatter around enough of these light pebbles, and a fairly large area becomes visible.

From the party description above, both the sorcerer and the cleric should have access to the light cantrip/orison.

This, in addition to the other suggestions made previously on this thread.

Contributor

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Wheldrake wrote:


What's stopping him from preparing several dozen light pebbles every hour or two and tossing them in various squares ahead of him?

The spell text, unfortunately!

"You can only have one light spell active at any one time. If you cast this spell while another casting is still in effect, the previous casting is dispelled. If you make this spell permanent (through permanency or a similar effect), it does not count against this limit. Light can be used to counter or dispel any darkness spell of equal or lower spell level."

Not that Light ain't helpful, you just can't scatter it around via pebbles.


I ran this for mostly humans, with one dwarf. Dancing lights and patience was the key. Even when the dwarf was separated from the rest of the party

Spoiler:
due to the rubble trap,
they were able to fight their way back to him. The darkness was a hindrance but the enemies are goblins, so just don't use optimal tactics and the PCs should be resourceful enough to get the job done.

Though the larger issue is that this is just the beginning, so if this challenge scares them, wait until they get to the drowned level...


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Andrew Mullen wrote:
Wheldrake wrote:


What's stopping him from preparing several dozen light pebbles every hour or two and tossing them in various squares ahead of him?
The spell text, unfortunately!

Oh, buggers, didn't read that far down.

Torches, then. Some of the high-strength guys can carry an awful lot of them, and they're cheap.
Though I still like the idea of rolling a light stone through a room and preparing archery to shoot at what becomes visible.

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