Part 2: In Pale Mountain's Shadow


Doomsday Dawn Game Master Feedback

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Reporting feedback from my run of Part 2.

TL:DR
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1) Players had an "okay" time overall, but the rogue was frustrating to both play and GM for.

2) Tactical combat was fine, but often the players felt their classes did not give them enough breadth in ways to deal with situations. Both the alchemist and the sorcerer had to burn many resources just to consistently contribute.

3) Liked exploration but not how it was executed in the module. Did not enjoy the way it forced me to draw maps in specific ways.

4) Very little narrative until the very end.

Preparation
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Exploration: Exploration was surprisingly not that hard to prepare. I liked it.

Maps: I don't mind drawing maps, but I hated the way the "draw your own maps" thing was handled in the module. The descriptions for B1, B2, and B4 were so overly specific and presented in a big paragraph that made it annoying to reference. It would have been better off as an itemized list or a small diagram. If a map has to be that specific, then you're better off just having the map in the adventure.

FormatI also strongly believe the module presents information very poorly in the format. I always believed modules made terrible reference documents because all of the important information is buried in a huge block of text. Having to pause the game while I search for a skill check DC lost in a page of text feels really awful. I never understood why rooms and encounters can't have stat blocks that quickly summarize items and creatures in the room while also listing important skill check DCs.

Hero Points
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I gave out the basic 2 hero points to each character at the start of the adventure. However, none of the PCs used them. From our past experiences with 2nd Edition's hero points, we felt like hero points are better off saved for when a character is dying.

Characters
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Players complained that you couldn't buy a +1 weapon with the wealth that was provided. They also complained that the equipment chapter does not include a general "adventurer's kit" that has all of the standard adventurer gear. This was annoying as they had to waste a lot of time tracking trivial piecemeal purchases of mundane adventuring items.

1) human fighter: Used a warhammer and shield. He was the highest damage dealer in the party. He was also the one who took the +1 weapon at the start of the adventure. The player seemed to have a lot of fun during the session, which is good especially as it was also his birthday. He spent his magic items on armor.

2) goblin sorcerer: She had the celestial bloodline. On my side of the table, the character came off feeling like she had little impact on the party. Almost all of her spells kept failing or missing. The character felt like a worse cleric in every way, and she lacked the proficiencies to contribute anything beyond the limited number of spells she could do in a day. She spent her magic items on a staff of healing and a wand of magic missile (which she didn't use for some reason).

3) half-elf alchemist: He ended up being a huge asset during non-combat encounters as he had excellent skills in Arcana, Religion, and Occultism and had spent his skill feats on Multilingual. Despite having Extra Resonance (which cost him two ability boosts because the feat requires a good Charisma), he ran out of resources after only two Overall, it seemed like he was burning through a lot of resources just to have a consistent contribution to the team.

4) half-elf rogue: This character ended up being frustrating for both the player and myself. The rogue used a shortsword and had feats for frightening opponents so she could sneak attack them. However, the sneak attacks required so much set up for very little pay off. Sneak attack and the increased number of trained skills did not make up for the loss in proficiencies and damage options that other non-spellcasting classes have. Despite loving the rogue as a concept, the player felt like she was at a handicap compared to other classes. I personally got irritated with the mechanics due to Sneak and other rolls having the Secret trait, requiring me having to waste time rolling her skill checks. Even though I asked for her bonuses ahead of time, it still was a pain. It's not the player's fault as the character needs these rolls in order to function. I'd never want to GM for a party of rogues.

Encounters
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At the start of the adventure, I had Lady Vord give the party the choice between a +1 hammer, +1 shortsword, or a +1 dagger. The party agreed to have the fighter take the hammer.

Exploration: The party got lucky and did very well on the Survival checks despite the highest bonus only being about +4 or +5. While no critical successes, they managed to get to the tomb in 6 days with 3 days to spare.

B1: This encounter went pretty well. I actually really liked the hyena special abilities to knockdown and drag foes. That was a lot of fun to do, and it surprised the party. The terrain had little to no effect on the encounter. Because the hyenas had no reactions, it made no difference that the PCs couldn't Step. One of the PCs had a feat that let them Step in difficult terrain that was useless as a consequence.

B2: The encounter rules do not make it clear how awareness works at the start of combat when someone (or something) uses Stealth for initiative. Only one PC beat the quicksand's initiative, so I ran the the encounter assuming that only someone who beat its initiative sees the quicksand before it acts. Only one PC fell into the quicksand and was quickly pulled out. I did like the quicksand rules. However, group all agreed that persistent damage is insanely annoying as each character has to make up to 4 rolls a turn in attempt to get rid of it. The DC also feels incredibly unfair. I would have preferred a system where you only roll once a turn, but can spend an action to reduce the DC by 5, resulting in a flat DC 5 check if you spent an entire turn trying to remove it. After combat ended, I just ruled that all the damage stops because I didn't want to waste another precious 10 minutes on it. Most of the party's resources were tapped out after this encounter.

B3: The party made their checks to notice, identify, and stealth past the gnoll camp.

B4: The climb was very tough. But because they made good time, it didn't matter that they lost almost an hour. The manticore fight was annoying for the party because it was a high health flying enemy. The party could not deal much damage to it from range. It could fly out of the range of the alchemist bombs and the sorcerer's spells kept failing or missing. The alchemist entangled it, but that only reduced its movement speed as the creature had no After it pinned two party members and started to run low on quills, the manticore went in to try to kill one of them. That's when the fight turned around as the fighter got a couple of lucky criticals. When the manticore got low on health, it flew away and the party decided to just

B5: The alchemist spoke Gnoll and told the gnolls that the manticore was heavily wounded and that the gnolls could probably kill it for revenge if it appeared again. This and a great Diplomacy check persuaded the gnolls to take their leave.

C1: The rogue found the letch and discovered the trap on it. She was able to bypass it so she could open the door safely.

C2: The mute rogue took one look at the room, said "f*** that" in sign language, and proceeded down the hall. Because the countdown clock probably wasn't hidden there, the party felt no need to enter a room that obviously had a monster or trap hidden inside and probably led to a dead end.

C3: The party did not discover this room. I described the hallway leading to it as emitting some heat, so they avoided it and proceeded to C3. It was probably for the best as we were starting to run low on time.

C4: The encounter's description overcomplicated what is actually a fairly simple and boring "puzzle." The puzzle basically boils down to "perform four skill checks. If you got a gem, the DC is lower." Despite the party having no gems, the alchemist had great Arcana, Occultism, and Religion checks. The rogue also helped out. I really loved the fact that the rogue could help by using Thievery. I would love to see this in future adventures as rogues often get left out in what are commonly seen as "mage only" non-combat encounters.

C5: The party slaughtered the mummies as each was well equiped to deal with them. Despite missing most of his bombs, the alchemist devastated the mummies as each mummy took 11 points of fire damage from the splash damage that normally only did 1 point of damage. This is ontop of the persistent damage that some of the mummies suffered. The rogue had ample opportunities to stealth and take advantage of flatfooted enemies. The divine sorcerer finally got to use all of her anti-undead spells. And the fighter was dishing out huge amounts of damage.

The party was suspicious of Mabar at first, but eventually let him go. We had some time to spare for roleplay (which they enjoyed).

C6: The party was more terrified of the mummy than the mirror. Afterall, from successful Occultism checks about the Dark Tapestry, they knew the mirror was dangerous and knew right away not to do anything with it. With only 5 minutes left, I had to tell them, "After staring at the mummy for a solid 10 minutes, you are certain that it will do exactly what all mummies should do. Nothing." The party grabbed the gem and the treasure, and got out of Dodge.

With more than two days to spare, the Night Heralds were unable to catch up with them.

Other Notes
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1) The players seemed to have an "okay" experience overall. Though, both the rogue and I found many mechanics such as Secret rolls and persistant damage very annoying.

2) I really hate the abundance of Secret rolls in this game. It takes the fun away from the player because they aren't rolling anything. It adds to the hassle of GMing. And it breaks the flow of things since I have to either ask the player directly for their Stealth bonus or obtain this information ahead of time. It's not fun for the player. It's not fun for the GM.

3) I did like the exploration rules. However, I do not believe they were executed well in the adventure. All of the encounters were bunched up after most of the exploration was already completed.

4) Like with part 1, the narrative felt lacking. Almost all of the encounters had nothing to do with the story. The tomb was a little bit of a let down as it was basically just 1 trapped door, 1 lame puzzle, a mummy fight that the party slaughtered easily, and a couple of unrewarding optional combats.

5) Minor Point: I can't say I'm a fan of the "preview" of the antipaladin as it has many of the same problems as the normal paladin with having smite get replaced with a lame, situational reaction. Also, would prefer if the antipaladin was lawful evil as a tyrant makes a more suitable rival for a class all about justice and righteousness.

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