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[5e] Out of the Abyss and madness 
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Invisible Menace
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Post [5e] Out of the Abyss and madness
I have the "Out of the Abyss" super-adventure for D&D next. Haven't read all of it, just the early pages that mostly deal with how to navigate Underdark.

I really like the progression of madness rules. It's a not-that-slow descent to madness in a wondrous and perilous realm. Too high fantasy for Ravenloft but still nice.

As for the rest of the adventure:
I like the theme very much, I like the "bones of the adventure" (plot, NPCs, branches).
But God... that adventure needs work.

I can literally pick up an AD&D 2nd adventure, update the monsters to D&D next and ran it.
If I ever wanted to ran "Out of the Abyss" (which I do want but in the middle of a different campaign) I would have to do a lot of work. The adventure is practically barebones when it comes to monsters, at least as far as I've read and the DM needs to flesh out a lot of descriptions and devise his own mechanics (which is partially intentional and the adventure suggests how to do it).
But I really, really think the adventure would benefit for a few extra stats for NPCs like "drow mercenary" or "Bregan D'aerthe member" etc

Examples of what I mean "barebones when it comes to monsters":
VIEW CONTENT:
- Caravan of drow. 2d4 drow. That's it. The merchant and his guards have exactly the same stats, which are CR 1/4 drow. Good luck surviving the underdark buddies.
- Guards that guard the PCs that are prisoners are: about a dozen drow and about 5 drow elite warriors. There is a drow priestess and her 2nd in command priestess. All good, right?
Wrong. You have 10-15 drow of CR 1/4 + 5-6 drow of CR 5. The big priestess is CR8 can cast 5th lvl spells and her 2nd in command ... the Monster manual priest (CR2, 3rd lvl spells) with black skin, white hair and faerie fire.
Quite a gap in power, don't you think? It's either "I can take a legion" or "I have a respectable chance to kill an orc" for the drow warriors.

And dozen other examples that could very, very well benefit from throwing a few extra in-between NPC stats.
Would it be SO difficult to put in "Veteran drow warrior" and have them at CR2? Or a mid-level priestess of CR3-4?

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Tue Nov 24, 2015 9:06 pm
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Evil Genius
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Post Re: [5e] Out of the Abyss and madness
You can add the drow racial modifiers to the existing NPCs from the MM, can't you?


Tue Nov 24, 2015 11:40 pm
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Post Re: [5e] Out of the Abyss and madness
Yes. That's the lazy approach taken in the adventure. So that they didn't have to write up extra drows.
So, in a drow camp where we have 6-7 drow of CR5, if the commander (CR9) dies... the under-boss is a pathetic CR2 priestess that has gained the enmity of a couple of CR5 elite warriors.
Those two can kill her within a single round while demons break loose and wreak havoc and blame it on the demons.
And yes, in the descriptions of those two it mentions they are backstabbing schemers. The adventure makes (as far as I've read) a good job establishing character for a ton of interesting NPCs still leaving freedom for the DM.
Now, if HALF of those interesting NPCs with different agendas didn't share the exact same stats...

I mean, in some cases it's jaw-dropping. We have a society of enlightened neutral underdark scientists\philosophers that travel the underdark and use their int 18 to do experiments. Well, one of them is a troglodyte (CR 1/2) with just intel 18 and the ability to teleport out 1/day. :/
The poor Trog wouldn't survive enough if beset by 4-5 underdark enemies to use it. Same for the Orog (CR 2).
Would it be so hard to say "add 20hp to them and +2 AC. Each member can cast magic missile 2/day. Increase CR by 1" along with the "they have 18 intel and can teleport 1/day to the place of another member"?

PS. That's an interesting society BTW. A close cabal of 6-7 members not too much unlike the deep delvers of Ravenloft. I would totally move them to Ravenloft. The sinister seeds are already in their descriptions as they work in madness-inducing areas.
Actually, I would say their neutrality (instead of being evil) is because they have been driven insane.

The start of the adventure is full of such gems that could be stolen and used elsewhere. (Haven't read the rest to know)

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Wed Nov 25, 2015 1:43 am
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Jester of the Dark Comedy
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Post Re: [5e] Out of the Abyss and madness
alhoon wrote:
Would it be SO difficult to put in "Veteran drow warrior" and have them at CR2? Or a mid-level priestess of CR3-4?

alhoon wrote:
Yes. That's the lazy approach taken in the adventure. So that they didn't have to write up extra drows.

What page would you have liked them to cut in order to have two new drow statblocks for 1-2 encounters?

A couple variants for big archetypes for each race (like drow matron) is all we need; a drow soldier isn't all that different from an orc soldier, a human soldier, or dwarf soldier. We don't need a dozen different soldiers that are all special snowflakes with unique powers.
Honestly, I really love that 5e is being restrained with NPC statblocks. We really don't need a repeat of 4e where we had a hundred different orcs from CR 1 to 27. We don't need drow scout, drow garroter, drow stringer, drow swashbuckler, drow arachnomancer, drow venomblade, drow warblade, and drow shadowblade (these were all real things in 4e).

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Fri Nov 27, 2015 11:30 pm
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Invisible Menace
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Post Re: [5e] Out of the Abyss and madness
Jester of the FoS wrote:
a drow soldier isn't all that different from an orc soldier, a human soldier, or dwarf soldier.

I disagree. Drow are a more powerful race. As an ogre soldier should be different than a human soldier, so should a drow soldier be more powerful than a human soldier.

The gaps in the power are huge. As I said, you have the soldier, commoner, merchant, floor-sweeper drow with CR 1/4. And then you have 25% of the population at CR5. And nothing in between. There seems to be a jump from CR1/4 to CR5 which is totally unrealistic.
Also adventure-wise, you have a backstabbing, evil race where the #2 is CR3 and has gained the enmity of several CR5 enemies.

Jester of the FoS wrote:
What page would you have liked them to cut in order to have two new drow statblocks for 1-2 encounters?

Let me see... page 22-23 for starters could easily be folded to one page by cutting out the half page of "how to deal with character death: Answer is deus ex machine or the drow raise them from the dead" and the big list of edible fungi and which ones Duergar use to make spice and which they use to make beer. And I found you one page within 1 minute of looking.

Yes, since I expected to find material that I would use for the following years, i.e. not for just 10-15 encounters but 100+, I wanted 2 new drow statblocks and I would consider them a fair trade. Did you really prefer to read how the duergar prepare their beer instead of getting a generic drow fighter/mage?

Personally, I find it insanely weird that I have to do more work to play a 5th edition adventure in 5th edition, than I would have to do to play a 2nd edition adventure in 5th edition.

Jester of the FoS wrote:
We don't need drow scout, drow garroter, drow stringer, drow swashbuckler, drow arachnomancer, drow venomblade, drow warblade, and drow shadowblade (these were all real things in 4e).


I agree we don't need all those. But a little more variety than "drow CR 1/4" "drow CR5" for the rank and file is necessary. How about the Drow Fighter\mages? They are in most adventures with drow. Now I have to fish out my Shrine of the Kuo Toa adventure, find the various drow F/M and F/C and convert them myself. Same for the Kuo Toa, although I have most of them.

It also doesn't HAVE to be a huge statblock. See the variants inside the Kuo-Toa.
There could be something like that in the adventure that would take 2 lines.
Like:
"Drow veteran: Like the MManual veteran but with chain shirt, dex 16, 16 AC and trained in stealth for a stealth+5. Use them for caravan guards, Bregan Daerthe, veteran soldiers, bodyguards of prestigious drow and as mercenaries"
Was that so hard? I did it in 5 minutes. There are NO such drow in the adventure so far. There is one acolyte though. And there's a derro savant sidebar taking 1/8th of a page.

You may say "well, you did it in 5 minutes and loved the material in the adventure, why the ruckous?"
Well, because

1. I have to do several 5-minute conversions

2. I have to make several F/M, M/T, and C/T for Kuo Toa and for Drow. So far. I guess I have to do the same for Duergar and gnomes.

3. since I have to introduce CR2-3 drow to make a world that makes a modicum of sense the encounters will change. I'll have to do ALL the encounters from the beginning. In that regard, it's worse than converting a 2nd edition adventure. 5 lvl 4 Talons are 5 CR2 talons.
A couple of CR 1/4 drow merchants with a bugbear guard are just displacer-beast meal (if the bugbear doesn't kill them first). The encounter needs ripping apart and rewriting it.

4. The main reason I got the adventure was to find more monster variants, underdark spells and perhaps a list of feats.
It was actually a bargain since I got a huge list of other info that makes Underdark come to life and helps me run adventures there. I wish I played the Spider Queen adventures AFTER reading this adventure.
I also got a great assortment of NPCs (that I have to rewrite the stats for), some of which I can use in Ravenloft.
I also got a very nice, non-linear adventure (that I have to rewrite the encounters for). Actually I would call it one of the best adventures I ever read. Just needs me to fill the gaps and that's intentional.


EDIT: Thinking about it more, I believe they didn't delve too much on stats and encounter levels because... the whole adventure is fluid level. You get a "you may start this at level 1. Or you could start it at 3rd. Perhaps even more." In the beginning. The adventure is full of suggestions and little commitment.
They actually seem to EXPECT me to do a lot of the work as in "we provide the frame you provide the flesh and bones". They give me more info on how to DESCRIBE the adventure and the motives of NPCs than on how to play the encounters.
Frankly they're more into the "look, this encounter should be difficult. Whether you play it with 1st lvl chars or 8th lvl chars. Adjust accordingly." or "This encounter should be kinda hard for beginners in the underdark and easy for veterans. Whether you consider 2nd lvl characters as beginners or 5th lvl, it's up to you. "

I am actually glad WotC took that path and I hope this adventure sells well so that the model of "Here's the idea, here's the motives, here's the NPCs. Here's a guide on what power the NPCs have. Now if you want to run this adventure in AD&D, or 8th edition D&D on your spaceship... you have to change minor things"


I couldn't resist though. Here's a Fighter/Mage. Generic.
VIEW CONTENT:
Fighter/Mage
AC 14/18* hp 44 (8HD)
proficiency bonus+2
str 16 dex 12 con 12
int 14 wis 10 cha 10
skills: Arcana+4, athletics+5, perception+2
saves: int+4, wis+2, str+4, con+3

*18 with shield spell active

Action Surge: 1/day
Practiced cantrip: +5 to magic attacks
Multi-attack: 2 sword

2x Sword+5~>1d8+3
Firebolt+5~>1d10

Active spells: mirror image

DC 12, hr+5, 5 prepared spells
0: firebolt, light, mage hand
4 1st: shield, burning hands
1/2 2nd: Mirror image, blindness, hold person C

longsword, chain shirt

Challenge 3, 700 XP [+15% XP encounter]
For Drow: Change hold person with web, change strength with dexterity, increase AC to 15/19, change weapon to rapier and damage to 1d6+3, proficiency in stealth (+5) add the drow spell-like abilities, darkvision and magic resistance and give him or her the drow hand crossbow.
Increase CR to 4 (1100 XP).

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Last edited by alhoon on Sat Nov 28, 2015 10:18 pm, edited 4 times in total.



Sat Nov 28, 2015 7:22 am
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Post Re: [5e] Out of the Abyss and madness
Anyway... huge rant about the one thing I didn't like (Which doesn't have to do with Ravenloft) in an otherwise excellent adventure path, one of the best adventures I've ever seen aside, let's get to why I opened that thread in the general forum instead of the other forums:

What can be leeched to Ravenloft
The Underdark is presented as majestic, exotic, beautiful, interesting and dangerous. It's not the "Dangerous" Underdark of the early 80s where you could just flop on a trio of mind flayers or a beholder. While not as safe as overland travel, it is possible to cross large distances reliably. But there are hidden dangers. More or less, the "new" underdark can lure you into a sense of false security that you suddenly pay dearly. From lighting a torch inside the wrong cavern causing dozens of tree-sized fungi to explode, to yes stumbling on the very rare (but existing) mind flayer troupe.

Anyway, to things that can be useful in Ravenloft:
- Below Arak, according to the Gaz is a large complex of caves that seem out of a dark fairy tale. The book could help you flesh them out.
- If you want to drop in an underdark domain (I know I do after reading just the first 2 parts) this adventure book has material worth checking out.
- A large, large, large assortment of mad NPCs. Covering ALL the range from totally insane to able to hide it. Want a Power's check path that leads to madness or something? You'll get plenty of inspiration here.
- Last but not least: We don't get just the madness rules from the DMG. We get an expanded "madness rating", that progresses and slowly strips a character from his sanity adding permanent madness flaws.

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"You truly see what a person is made of, when you begin to slice into them" - Semirhage
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Sat Nov 28, 2015 9:49 pm
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Jester of the Dark Comedy
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Post Re: [5e] Out of the Abyss and madness
alhoon wrote:
Jester of the FoS wrote:
a drow soldier isn't all that different from an orc soldier, a human soldier, or dwarf soldier.

I disagree. Drow are a more powerful race. As an ogre soldier should be different than a human soldier, so should a drow soldier be more powerful than a human soldier.

Drow are also a PC race now. Their racial abilities are technically within line with other races. So the common drow will be a commoner that is CR 0.
The standard drow in the MM is the soldier.

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Sun Nov 29, 2015 11:52 am
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Post Re: [5e] Out of the Abyss and madness
Nah, every non-elite drow in the adventure so far, from the cooks, to the merchants, to the mercenaries, guards, torturers etc are the MM drow.
This is Forgotten Realms and drow here are heavily based on Salvatore's work. When Drizzt, and Entreri and all say "the drow cook is a trained killer" the developers translate it to "all drow are CR 1/4". What's not based on Salvatore, is based on 2e material that had the random drow as a 2HD monster.

But again, I fall in the trap... this is about the Ravenloft-able things.
Once I find time to read the adventure, I will open a different thread in the "Roleplaying games" and we can discuss the D&D-ish aspects of it to our unbeating heart's content but let's keep that about Ravenloft, fair?

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Sun Nov 29, 2015 1:00 pm
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Post Re: [5e] Out of the Abyss and madness
I think you should keep reading.

I loved the adventure, and consider it the high water mark of all of the adventure books that have been produced for 5th Edition thus far. It is both a setting book and an adventure, in that you have great descriptions of all of these cultures and places and how to play in them and have your characters experience them, and in amongst everything you have this ongoing story. Further, the story is non-linear, in that the PCs can choose which piece of geography the want to go to next, each of which has implications and a smaller adventure in place, with side-tracks and stuff to play in, as well as the macro-adventure and ongoing madness themes that keep occuring. For example, I can't get the Kuo-Toa location's plat genesis out of my head.

VIEW CONTENT:
So, in that section of the adventure, the settlement has broken into two factions, one abandoning the traditional religion for the worship of (I think, if I remember) the Demogorgon and it culminates with a group of fish people chanting as a major sentient sacrifice is going to take place when a giant demogorgon rises from the deep to destroy everyone. Very cool.

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Tue Dec 08, 2015 10:29 am
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Post Re: [5e] Out of the Abyss and madness
I am at the Kuo Toa at the moment.
What I like most about this awesome adventure, that is one of my top 3-4 adventures ever is...
that I can play it piecemeal.
I can play JUST the Koa Toa changing a few things. Or I can play a trek in madness infested Underdark and a drow pursuit from adventure point A to B just because. Although usually it's my PCs that chase drow, but the mechanics are the same.

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Tue Dec 08, 2015 3:38 pm
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Post Re: [5e] Out of the Abyss and madness
Yup, it is string on many levels, I think it is destined to become a classic.

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Tue Dec 08, 2015 5:49 pm
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Post Re: [5e] Out of the Abyss and madness
The war of the spider queen, another classic in the underdark, by Gygax... was not even close to this one. THIS one is indeed one of the best adventures I've seen.
Except of the fact that I have to make like 2 dozen generic NPCs...

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Tue Dec 08, 2015 9:25 pm
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Post Re: [5e] Out of the Abyss and madness
alhoon wrote:
The war of the spider queen, another classic in the underdark, by Gygax... was not even close to this one. THIS one is indeed one of the best adventures I've seen.
Except of the fact that I have to make like 2 dozen generic NPCs...



That could help, certainly, I am pretty comfortable running generic folks on the fly in 5th, depending on their purpose, I guess. That being said, they have done a tonne of prep for the DM, and frankly, if I never get to run this adventure and just use it as a sourcebook for the Underdark, it is worth my money.

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Thu Dec 10, 2015 10:00 am
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Post Re: [5e] Out of the Abyss and madness
I agree on the sourcebook and it also has a nice "let's steal this part!" benefit.
However: I disagree they did a lot of work for the DM. No, they did not. They presented a very nice idea... that needs tailoring for the parties, the levels etc. I doubt many could play the adventure "as is" like most of D&D adventures I've played.
The premise behind this very nice adventure seem to be this: "Our idea takes the party from A to B through one of several possible paths. Here's some help on how you could get your party from A to B to help you tell your own story. "
I can say that I like it and I like it a lot. But... it needs a lot of work from the DM.

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Thu Dec 10, 2015 12:59 pm
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Post Re: [5e] Out of the Abyss and madness
Hrm. It's been a little bit since I read it, I'm trying to think about what I would have to change to run it, I'm struggling a little bit.

And this is from a person who is currently running Feat of Goblyns...now that needed a lot of work.

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Fri Dec 11, 2015 11:02 am
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