Sombrefell Hall playtest: first 2 waves, 0 damage.


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So, yea, I'm kind of posting this to find out if there's something basic I'm doing wrong, because the first two waves of Sombrefell Hall did nothing to any of the PCs.

Part of this might be because some of the party members are playing combat classes. For example one is a monk, using Wholeness of Body to meet the requirement for ability to heal. Others have used Cleric Dedication feats to gain healing abilities. I don't know if this has unbalanced the scenario.

So, the players arrive at Sombrefell Hall, and are allowed in to meet the Professor and Lucvi. They agree to stay in the hall and wait for him to finish his work, and some party members note there's something suspicious about him - although they also notice how naive he is to be leaving 5 armed strangers to wander around his house on the strength of an anonymous note. One of them happens to directly ask the Professor if the hall has a basement, and notices his panicked denial, so they start searching the entire place for an entrance. They do not actually find the trap door, but they do find the journal under his pillow.

At this point our "cut-up" player decides to go all in. He busts into the Salon and shouts at the Professor that Ramlock is at the front door. The Professor turns ghost-white and asks how he knows that name, and cut-up denies having ever said it. This causes this Professor to panic, thinking either that he is now hallucinating during the day or that whatever is inhabiting his brain has potentially spread. He explains the background to his students and the PCs and considers sending them all away, but cut-up explains he read the name in his journal. The Professor is naturally angry about this but at the same time relieved that what he suspected hasn't come true.

Having then nothing in particular to do (which could have been even more so if they'd missed their Perception checks to find the journal, because they did also miss several others, including the trapdoor and the notes in the bookshelf), the PCs were considering returning to town to fetch help for the Professor, so I had the undead attack begin immediately to avoid the PCs potentially leaving and then coming back to find him torn to bits.

So, the PCs opened the door to the knocking, saw the Ghasts, and triggered initiative. The ghasts moved forward to attack, constantly missing the player ACs of 20+. Meanwhile, the PCs did devastating damage to them. Two of the PCs also moved into flanking positions by the sides of the door, counting on the ghouls not knowing that they had AoO and could strike them as they entered the door (because the space outside the door was in their reach, although with cover). Some of them tried and failed Acrobatics checks to use Swift Leap to bypass the PCs.

(There was a rules question that come up here: when a movement mode such as "swift leap" says it does not trigger reactions, does that include Readied actions?)

The PCs then decided to barricade the front door, and to send the students to barricade the trapdoor to the basement (apparently thinking that undead might be coming out of the basement, not having been down there).

There was a major problem here, though. I was really grateful when the PCs barricaded the front door, because they had previously talked about setting a watch outside it. The adventure gives no details of how the monsters approach the mansion. So the second wave, having only melee attacks, could easily have been torn apart by long range attacks while still outside and walking towards the mansion. Fortunately the PCs did not do this.

When the second wave arrived, they unbarricaded one half of the door and opened it. And there came the problem. Essentially, three PCs stood one square inside the door with AoOs or readied actions. Given that it wasn't clear whether or not the ghasts know they have done this, the first one entered and was slaughtered by reactions. The second one entered, missed its rolls, and was killed on the next round.

In the meantime, the two Vampire Spawn decided to use their climb speed (not Spider Climb, as in the adventure, since they don't have it) to move around the mansion. However, the map doesn't have any windows, and had there been any windows the PCs would have immediately asked about shuttering them, so instead they went and broke the vista window in the study (which is not mentioned in the study description nor on the map). The PCs promptly closed and locked the unbarricaded half of the door and prepared a similar kill-zone at the 5' door of the salon. So, rather than just rushing the PCs, I had the vampire spawn start tearing up the books that the Professor and the students had been working on in the Salon, in an attempt to prevent the PCs simply bulwarking the whole encounter. However, as it turned out several PCs were able to simply walk up to them and kill them thanks to really high combat rolls.

In the meantime, the Ghasts - which had been planning to flank them at the front door - didn't actually manage to break it down in time and fell to the same technique.

We paused after the second encounter with the players decidedly unimpressed. I presume that the later encounters with fliers and incorps will make things somewhat more interesting, but as it is, melee only attackers who can be blocked are likely to fall before pure defense strategies. Or is there another way to prevent this?


That's about how the whole thing went for us too. We didn't have to exert any effort until wave 4. We lavishly expended resources and never ran out. One of our characters survived to the end taking only a single hit the whole time (a natural 20 that wasn't a crit because it otherwise wouldn't have hit). One of our clerics expended a total of two spell slots. If we had optimized our spell use, I feel confident we could have done the whole adventure twice without dying.

And we didn't use defensive tactics as well as your team is.


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Waves 1 and 2 went very easily for my party as well. We had a Cleric, Fighter, Paladin, and Divine Sorcerer. The Cleric and Divine Sorc both took wands of Searing Light as one of their magic items, and the Sorc absolutely obliterated one of the vampire spawn with a crit on the wand. I think one attack from the total of 9 ghasts (for however many rounds) actually hit the PCs. And the vampire spawn were dead right about when they got to the bottom of the stairs.

The later waves are a bit more challenging.

Quote:
There was a rules question that come up here: when a movement mode such as "swift leap" says it does not trigger reactions, does that include Readied actions?

A Readied action goes off as a Reaction, so yes, Swift Leap would bypass it. That also means that you can't take a Readied Action and an Attack of Opportunity in the same round.

Liberty's Edge

Yeah, Waves 1 and 2 are basically meaningless.

I mean, my party didn't take zero damage, but I think one Channel Energy and one 1st level spell got used for healing the whole two fights, and the Channel Energy was overkill and used to damage undead as well.

And my party was two full Clerics, a Paladin, and a Druid, so all healers as requested.

Wave 3 is a trifle trickier, and Waves 4 and 5 are actual fights, but the first two are not meaningful in any way.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32

Waves 1 and 2 are nothing, same experience here.

Right now the power disparity between similar levels as such that gangs of weaker monsters are not real issue for PCs. Such opponets are not worth the 2030 XP they award.

On the oter side, higher level monsters become too much of a threat really fast. Party level+2 bosses do the same thing to PCs as PCs to PL-2 minions...


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Laik wrote:


On the oter side, higher level monsters become too much of a threat really fast. Party level+2 bosses do the same thing to PCs as PCs to PL-2 minions...

I kinda like this. It's much nicer than never having a BBEG be able to stand alone toe to toe with the whole party.


Yes, I found the first two waves a joke, wave 3 tickled, wave 4... would have been scary with 1.2 dying rules (we were using 1.1), but overall too easy by far. The boss... was quite obviously a boss, and the players had hundreds of hit points worth of healing left (3 clerics, a staff of healing, at least one healing domain if not two... if they mostly used bursts, which they did, they had literally thousands of potential points of healing in that party. Most of which would also damage the module's foes at the same time!)

The entire module felt like a bit of a joke, honestly. 3 clerics & another healer made damage a non-issue, and the other disabling effects weren't anywhere near potent enough to make up for that.


Am I the only one who managed to Drain a player in wave 2?
He's not getting rid of it anytime soon either.

Couple of them have Ghast Fever (not that it'll matter) and there have been three paralysis so far (all short lived). Couple of Frightened1. One Trip.

I'll let you know how wave3 goes, I am sure not pulling punches after Jason gave me his blessing on the stream.


I am having the same thing happen in my game. I think, and I'm not sure about this, that the first two waves are mostly just supposed to get you to waste your resources a bit. Use a blast spell, take a dent, use maybe 1 potion. It's just to get the ball rolling.

Like for instance the first wave of ghasts were mostly ineffective, maybe got a strike or two in. Second waved, fireballed, first half of 3rd wave fireballed by different party member, and then 2nd half was lightning bolted. Invisible creature was color sprayed and then ganged up on by everyone. That's where we had to stop.

I think the issue in my group was as soon as I told them to make a party of Healers they immediately assumed they were fighting undead, and they were right.

Granted that may have been the point. It seems they wanted to test how well players who are specifically prepared for something will do. The answer is very well.


Yea, we did notice that the Fireball spell doesn't have the note attached to it, like it does in most editions, that it doesn't actually set fire to things. So there was a bit of consideration whether fileballing the Vampire Spawn in the salon would actually set fire to Sombrefell Hall. I figured that isn't intended but it was a bit of a chuckle :)


Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

Waves 1-2-3 were basically non-entities to my group too. Reasonable tactics on the part of the party, and absolutely abysmal roles on my part as GM (waves 2 and 3 practically died to crit failing channel saves... I think I had 8 rolls in a row of 4 and under....) Now the party is using reasources up at a very good clip, so I'll be curious to see how the last waves go. One of the PCs was expecting vampires (the rest of the PCs thought he was paranoid) and basically coated himself in garlic before the waves started, which help make some extra choke points.

Did get a crit drain off on one character. Hit him with a second one, but I can't tell if it's stackable. I'm thinking its not given how other stackable conditions are written.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

huphz:

Waves 1 and 2 are low difficulty, so they should not be much of a challenge.

Regarding readies actions, since it takes 2 actions to ready an attack, it is a fatiguing activity, so your party would suffer from fatigue penalties.

I'd have to check more on how readied actions work to see whether or not Swift Leap would trigger it. If they are classified as reactions, then no, it would not be triggered by Swift Leaping.

As for fireball, I would rule that if it doesn't specifically say it sets things on fire, it won't, but that's debatable.

NielsenE:

Condition penalties are not stackable


If the PCs set watch outside they wouldn't have to ready, though. If a PC with darkvision set watch outside the mansion they would potentially see the waves approaching from wherever-they-are-coming-from-that-the-adventure-doesn't-mention and have plenty of time to raise a warning or fire ranged spells or items at them before they could get into melee range.

Arguably the ghasts and vampires would have to be moseying down the road at low speed or _they'd_ be fatigued by the time they got to the mansion, though.. ;)


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Oh my god. And also all of my player's character's gods.
THE POLTERGEIST.

A permanently invisible, incorporeal creature with resistance to positive energy and ranged attacks.
I finally got cornered and thought it'd end soon when I realised...
"Wait... I can Step through this wall."
So I did.
And I did it again. And again. Sneak through, TK storm. Sneak through, TK storm.
Each time shaking off whoever had me Sensed.
That poltergeist brought the combat to an astonishing 15 round duration... And barely dealt any damage!

That was horrible to GM.
On the other hand, I ended up playing the Benny Hill theme.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

One thing to point out, that Poltergeists automatically succeed on Sneak checks because they are invisible. So if it is Sneaking every round, it automatically becomes Unseen (even if it was previously Sensed), and the PCs are flat-footed to its attacks (-2 AC).

It's easy to miss that and the 2-point AC penalty can make a big difference in the Playtest.


I did remember the flatfooting but not the auto-success. Regardless, it has a +10 to stealth, and fooled pretty much everyone anyways.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I only mention it because I forgot both in the quasit fight during Lost Star. Well, I forgo the flat-footed part--I didn't even realize the second until I reviewed the rules later.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Quote:
In the meantime, the two Vampire Spawn decided to use their climb speed (not Spider Climb, as in the adventure, since they don't have it) to move around the mansion. However, the map doesn't have any windows, and had there been any windows the PCs would have immediately asked about shuttering them, so instead they went and broke the vista window in the study (which is not mentioned in the study description nor on the map).

The map shows windows in areas D6-8 & D10-11. The fact that they are not shown in areas D4 & D11 is puzzling, however. One would also think there would be windows in the second-floor bedrooms, but alas, residents have to make do with balconies. Perhaps the doors to the balconies are glass, that would make some sense.


Overall, this all seems good - a tactically minded party should be able to defeat the first waves quite easily. The first wave is a warning, the second is a warm-up, and its easy for the team to expend too many resources, thinking these are the main fights.

You players played it cool, and were rewarded for it.

Byron Zibeck wrote:
One thing to point out, that Poltergeists automatically succeed on Sneak checks because they are invisible.

Not quite. They automatically roll 20 on Hide and Sneak checks - pretty much the same, but not quite.


a nat 20 is a crit success for their sneak checks assuming a 30 beats their perception DCs and a normal success if it doesn't. So isn't that an auto success?


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Ediwir wrote:

Oh my god. And also all of my player's character's gods.

THE POLTERGEIST.

A permanently invisible, incorporeal creature with resistance to positive energy and ranged attacks.
I finally got cornered and thought it'd end soon when I realised...
"Wait... I can Step through this wall."
So I did.
And I did it again. And again. Sneak through, TK storm. Sneak through, TK storm.
Each time shaking off whoever had me Sensed.
That poltergeist brought the combat to an astonishing 15 round duration... And barely dealt any damage!

That was horrible to GM.
On the other hand, I ended up playing the Benny Hill theme.

I had to finally derp-play the poltergeist to just end the encounter because it was getting late and people have to sleep, you know? But honestly, I could have worn everyone down with that one creature, if we'd wanted to play through that incredibly slow, annoying grind. I wish I'd thought to snap some pictures of my players' faces during that battle so Paizo would have some visual feedback on what "Nope. Just nope." looks like.

Edit to Add: I despise having to derp-play things. I hate a choice between having to run something like it lacks the common sense that the gods gave gravel and destroying all the fun at the table.

Silver Crusade

Apparently the resistance to positive energy on the poltergeist is a bug.

http://paizo.com/threads/rzs42a4j?Poltergeist-resistances-correct#3


I ran it all the way through, and then we closed the session early.
Thanks for noting the bug, but as they only healed him twice, it wouldn't have changed much. It's just... I hate incorporeals now. And I know my players will focus fire on any incorporeal that shows up the instant it happens now.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I'm not looking forward to the incorporeal fight when I get to it this weekend. I'm guessing groups really have to be set up to deal with an encounter like this for them to have any chance at all?

Liberty's Edge

Githzilla wrote:
I'm not looking forward to the incorporeal fight when I get to it this weekend. I'm guessing groups really have to be set up to deal with an encounter like this for them to have any chance at all?

Not really. It helps, but isn't 100% necessary. The difficulty to find the creature is only DC 20 and the party is full of Clerics, making the average Perception somewhere north of +10. So finding it is quite doable. And once you find it, it has Resistance, but not to the point of being unkillable. It's a tougher fight if you lack both Ghost Touch and Force damage, but you definitely have Channel Energy to soften it up.

It can get dicey if you get too tactically inventive with the Poltergeist (getting too squirrely with hit and run tactics through walls, mostly), but with a -1 Int Mod on the creature in question, that's probably unrealistic and unfair.

The Shadows are nastier statistically and offensively, but not being invisible hurts them a fair bit in terms of being 'unbeatable'. You can just whack at them until they fall, or ready actions if they choose to hit and run.


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Don't forget that if it does anything but HIDE or SNEAK that it becomes sensed to people as well. Rule found in the SNEAK action that this is the case for invisible people.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Chess Pwn wrote:
Don't forget that if it does anything but HIDE or SNEAK that it becomes sensed to people as well. Rule found in the SNEAK action that this is the case for invisible people.

Unless it uses its last action to Sneak and become Unseen. :-)


As soon as we sensed the poltergeist we blasted it with faerie fire. After that the encounter was much easier.


Two of my players had see invisibility, so it was not hard por they to pin point the poltergeist.

Had already seen the bug correction about positive.

So they used 2 actions heals so the miss chance from concealed couldn't affect they. They killed in 2-3 rounds

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