4e Reavers of Harkenwold Toadwallow Cavern: Spoilers

User avatar
AnimeSensei
Minotaur Lord
Minotaur Lord
Posts: 3444
Joined: Sun Oct 27, 2013 2:03 pm
Location: South Weber, UT

Re: 4e Reavers of Harkenwold Toadwallow Cavern: Spoilers

Post by AnimeSensei » Mon Jan 29, 2018 5:45 pm

Very cool role reversal idea! I'm gonna steal it someday. 😎
106 Resin and 159 Dwarvenite Sets/Packs Owned

User avatar
fnordfriendly
Orc
Orc
Posts: 168
Joined: Wed May 21, 2014 11:37 am

Re: 4e Reavers of Harkenwold Toadwallow Cavern: Spoilers

Post by fnordfriendly » Mon Jan 29, 2018 5:27 pm

Enough lava... back to the Toadwallow Caverns. Here's the full revealed map, without minis. In addition to presenting the cave layout, I'll provide analysis of what I think is a remarkable example of 4e encounter building.

Image

That's it - not too flashy, but it has one very interesting setpiece - a gargantuan dragon skull in the center of the cavern. To sum up the cavern's purpose and backstory, it's inhabited by chief Gloorpk's bullywug tribe. The Iron Circle bad guys have hired Gloorpk to harass the steading of Tor's Hold, so they're too busy to aid any resistance effort made by the other occupied villages of Harkenwold.

Enter the do-gooder adventurers, looking for work. A local druid suggests they can help to fight the Iron Circle by taking out the bullywugs of Toadwallow Cavern, thereby freeing up the fighters of Tor's Hold to aid in the resistance.

Toadwallow Cavern is a nice small dungeon romp. In the module, they've cleverly designed three unique encounters within the same space. For us Dwarven Forge enthusiasts, that means you get at least a night or two out of a single setup, and it's unlikely you'll have to build something else for that night's game. And the encounters are unique and memorable, each with their own challenges.

Image

The first encounter starts when the party shows up at the cave mouth. It's ten feet up, and the mouth is a waterfall. There are four beefy, non-minion bullywugs defending it, along with three stirges in a nearby pool. The short cliff plays an interesting part in the battle. The PCs have to climb it, while the bullywug sentries prepare to ambush them if they aren't stealthy enough. In our battle, the first one was not stealthy, and was rushed by all four bullywugs. The battle was brutal, and the controller-ranger managed to use the drop to level the playing field.

In this first encounter, the layout cleverly restricts the battle to just the cave mouth. There are more enemies within, who have a chance to prepare while they wait to see the outcome of the first battle. See how the sightlines are restricted to just the entry cavern, concealing the dragon skull beyond (purple lines). As long as the sentries contain their space (green semicircle), the party must deal with them before moving further in. The fact that the second encounter won't trigger until they move inside the cave gives them the option to take a short rest before moving on.

Image

The second encounter is against chief Gloorpk, a spellcaster and his toadie minions. A couple of gray oozes lurk in the pit, and will assist when the battle begins. Not only does the skull make for a nice memorable set piece, it is hollow, and can fit a medium creature inside. From under the skull, the creature has superior cover (+5 to all defenses), and can trace line of sight and effect from any part of the skull's space. Gloorpk starts inside - very hard to hit due to his already high defenses. The party is swarmed by minions while Gloorpk uses potent ranged magic from under the skull's protection.

It was great. The party had to decide whether to try lifting the skull to get him out (provoking op attacks in so doing), to destroy it (I gave it 400 hp, AC 1 and provided only cover at 200 hp), or to try pulling him out. It was a great opportunity for creative tactical play. They ended up sliding him out with an effect that required him to make a saving throw, and finished him off after that.

That's the end of the second encounter - the big bad is defeated! But there's one more encounter. While the PCs are searching the cave, they hear a loud croak from outside the cave. Gloorpk's lieutenant and a war party are returning with a captured halfling boy, and they see dead bullywug bodies outside the cave. The party now must defend the cave from the war party, for a cool role-reversal encounter. That's tomorrow night's game, so we'll see how it plays out. They have already dragged the dragon skull to the front of the cavern, and they'll have their ranger inside pelting the bullywugs as they advance.

I like that the second encounter seems like the last, with a surprise third encounter. It's also unavoidable, since they are pinned inside the cave. After defeating the war party, the PCs are faced with a new option - return to the quest-giver druid or return the halfling boy to his family in another area, sending the story in potentially different directions.

User avatar
fnordfriendly
Orc
Orc
Posts: 168
Joined: Wed May 21, 2014 11:37 am

Re: 4e Reavers of Harkenwold Toadwallow Cavern: Spoilers

Post by fnordfriendly » Thu Jan 18, 2018 4:43 pm

AnimeSensei wrote:
Wed Jan 17, 2018 10:44 pm
fnordfriendly wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 10:09 am
We went to Flagstaff for 7 days and played a few games...
I've driven in Flagstaff in the winter. I would stay inside and play games too! The roads were so bad!
It was really warm. We booked a house for the week hoping our kids could get some snow to play in. We got no snow, but we did go on a number of cool hikes. There's a cinder cone called Strawberry Crater, north of Sunset Crater. You have to take miles of 4WD roads to access it, so it's pretty isolated. The lava was very red-colored, I had to go solo because my family was too tired from all the other hikes we'd don that week... so I had the place to myself. :D

Image

Image

Image

User avatar
AnimeSensei
Minotaur Lord
Minotaur Lord
Posts: 3444
Joined: Sun Oct 27, 2013 2:03 pm
Location: South Weber, UT

Re: 4e Reavers of Harkenwold Toadwallow Cavern: Spoilers

Post by AnimeSensei » Wed Jan 17, 2018 10:44 pm

fnordfriendly wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 10:09 am
We went to Flagstaff for 7 days and played a few games...
I've driven in Flagstaff in the winter. I would stay inside and play games too! The roads were so bad!
106 Resin and 159 Dwarvenite Sets/Packs Owned

User avatar
fnordfriendly
Orc
Orc
Posts: 168
Joined: Wed May 21, 2014 11:37 am

Re: 4e Reavers of Harkenwold Toadwallow Cavern: Spoilers

Post by fnordfriendly » Mon Jan 15, 2018 10:09 am

Saxon1974 wrote:
Sat Jan 13, 2018 9:58 am
Looking good fnord! Who's playing the pixie?

I agree there is something to be said for 4e, I think it gets a bad rap. It's especially well suited for tactical encounters using terrain.

When the next play report?
Hey, buddy! When we first moved to AZ, I DM'd Keep on the Shadowfell for my wife and my dad. He was asking when he gets to play again, so I threw together a game for us to play over winter vacation. We went to Flagstaff for 7 days and played a few games... I was hoping to test it out on my kids again, but they didn't bite. I guess I didn't incorporate enough Pokemon into the module!

Now we're continuing Reavers, since my dad wanted to keep going with it. He's playing the dwarf knight, and really enjoying that defender aura that I hated as a DM when Jeff used it in our Astaeo game. Jeff is the pixie in this game. It's just the four of us right now, you're welcome to join in if you're available. We're playing Monday or Tuesday nights at my place, not sure if every week or every other.
dice4hire wrote:
Thu Jan 11, 2018 8:55 pm
True, 4E is all about niches, though most classes do dabble a bit in a second role. It is indeed a simple system to play especially for casters, who have a very very reduced ability to pull rabbits out of their hats spellwise like they do in other editions. I remember the literally thousand spells a wizard could access in 3E/3.5E. Wow, just wow!!! Rituals do not even come close to making up for that.

But DF has helped out 4E games immensely, as you can see the dangers that brute could push you into. Being able to say "What you see on the map is what is there" has helped our games immensely.
Just the distinction between a spell and a ritual was a cool mechanic in 4e, IMO. I liked the push, pull, slide rules a lot. I can't wait for the Dungeon of Doom module, I might have to convert it to 4e!

Saxon1974
Orc
Orc
Posts: 290
Joined: Mon Jul 01, 2013 6:25 pm

Re: 4e Reavers of Harkenwold Toadwallow Cavern: Spoilers

Post by Saxon1974 » Sat Jan 13, 2018 9:58 am

Looking good fnord! Who's playing the pixie?

I agree there is something to be said for 4e, I think it gets a bad rap. It's especially well suited for tactical encounters using terrain.

When the next play report?

User avatar
dice4hire
Minotaur Lord
Minotaur Lord
Posts: 2490
Joined: Thu May 02, 2013 7:13 pm
Location: Nagoya Japan

Re: 4e Reavers of Harkenwold Toadwallow Cavern: Spoilers

Post by dice4hire » Thu Jan 11, 2018 8:55 pm

True, 4E is all about niches, though most classes do dabble a bit in a second role. It is indeed a simple system to play especially for casters, who have a very very reduced ability to pull rabbits out of their hats spellwise like they do in other editions. I remember the literally thousand spells a wizard could access in 3E/3.5E. Wow, just wow!!! Rituals do not even come close to making up for that.

But DF has helped out 4E games immensely, as you can see the dangers that brute could push you into. Being able to say "What you see on the map is what is there" has helped our games immensely.
A pretty decent Docent of Valoria

User avatar
fnordfriendly
Orc
Orc
Posts: 168
Joined: Wed May 21, 2014 11:37 am

Re: 4e Reavers of Harkenwold Toadwallow Cavern: Spoilers

Post by fnordfriendly » Thu Jan 11, 2018 8:40 pm

dice4hire wrote:
Thu Jan 11, 2018 7:19 pm
I still play 4E and did not make the plunge into 5E. Bought the books, looked them over and then sold them. Cannot relaly critique 5E. I like 4E for its movement and its ease of play and modding. It is so easy to take a monster statblock, change a few words, and have a completely different monster. 4E seems far more resiliant to the DM messing with players also, with pushes, pulls and other effects than other editions are.

I have had some of my best combats in D&D by having random effects inthe combat, like random teleporting of all monsters and players each round. Very tactical, and that tactical combat works great with terrain like 5E. To me other editions it is just too easy to be a potted plant and sit in one square the entire combat, and indeed sometimes it is very difficult to get out of that one square.
In 4e, everyone has a role in combat - for PCs you're a leader, striker, controller or defender. Sometimes a combination, but usually you have a job to do, and your party depends on it. Monsters too - brutes, soldiers, skirmishers, lurkers, controllers... anyone could still do anything, but you're exceptionally good at your thing. With no real multiclassing, this could sometimes get tedious pushing that same button over and over, but at the same time it offered niche protection for your character.

User avatar
dice4hire
Minotaur Lord
Minotaur Lord
Posts: 2490
Joined: Thu May 02, 2013 7:13 pm
Location: Nagoya Japan

Re: 4e Reavers of Harkenwold Toadwallow Cavern: Spoilers

Post by dice4hire » Thu Jan 11, 2018 7:19 pm

I still play 4E and did not make the plunge into 5E. Bought the books, looked them over and then sold them. Cannot relaly critique 5E. I like 4E for its movement and its ease of play and modding. It is so easy to take a monster statblock, change a few words, and have a completely different monster. 4E seems far more resiliant to the DM messing with players also, with pushes, pulls and other effects than other editions are.

I have had some of my best combats in D&D by having random effects inthe combat, like random teleporting of all monsters and players each round. Very tactical, and that tactical combat works great with terrain like 5E. To me other editions it is just too easy to be a potted plant and sit in one square the entire combat, and indeed sometimes it is very difficult to get out of that one square.
A pretty decent Docent of Valoria

User avatar
fnordfriendly
Orc
Orc
Posts: 168
Joined: Wed May 21, 2014 11:37 am

Re: 4e Reavers of Harkenwold Toadwallow Cavern: Spoilers

Post by fnordfriendly » Thu Jan 11, 2018 6:55 pm

ForestZ wrote:
Thu Jan 11, 2018 5:43 pm
I've lived through every edition's encounter building process. 5ths is a little reminiscent of 3rds, but not nearly as bad, thank goodness. That said, it's a far cry from 4ths. But 4th was all about balance, down to its core, which made encounter building so easy. That was its strength, *and* its weakness IMHO, as it lost a lot of flexibility. But all editions with flexibility in design suffered from not knowing exactly how powerful any group of monsters were. But yes, recapturing that RP spirit was what eventually caused me to examine all the warts of 4th edition and decide to move past it. But I still mine the books on occasion for ideas!
Very well articulated, and a great summation. Matthew Colville did a youtube video for his channel that gave some ideas for using 4e monster mechanics to spice up 5e combat. Toward the end, 4e monster and encounter design was pretty well streamlined, and we saw great content coming out in Dragon and Dungeon. I wish 4e did a better job with multiclassing. 5e does well with curbing the dependency on magic items, which is one for the 'pros' column.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests