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Friday, March 16, 2012

Improving the World's Largest Dungeon: Region F cannot be salvaged.

So, when I originally created my new map of the WLD to give it a more linear, less sprawling layout I placed Region F after region B. F was the same "level range" as C and it fit the new layout a bit better. However, now that I'm done with Region B and I've been reading through Region F to try and work things out I've come to realize something...Region F cannot be saved and it must be deleted. 

This may seem extreme, after all both A and B were riddled with problems and I still managed to do something with them didn't I? Well, that's true...but the problems with Region F run much, much deeper. It's not a matter of tackling the issues room by room, in order to make F work I would have to basically rip it apart and start practically from scratch.For those who might want to hear me rant a bit here are my reasons:

The Warp Gates: Region F is called "The Maze" and that name certainly fits...it's full of minotaurs and it's got lots and lots of of twisting corridors and dead ends. But that wasn't enough for the designers, in addition to these standard difficulties they created a system of warp gates. Warp Gates look just like ordinary doors (except for extremely tiny symbols engraved on the doorjamb) but when you step through one it will lead you to another randomly chosen warpgate somewhere else in the dungeon. By itself that would be a pain...randomly popping the party all over a huge dungeon Region is going to be a nightmare both for the party and the DM. However there are two things that make it even worse...
   The first isn't immediately apparent because it's not part of the description of the Warp Gates found at the start of the region. But once you read each room description it tells you that once a creature passes through the door of a warp gate it will close behind them. First of all, this is pretty bad design because it doesn't address the obvious questions (what happens if someone tries to block the door or leap through before it closes for instance) but the biggest problem is that this automatically splits the party. If someone goes through they'll end up in a random location throughout the dungeon, the door will close and there's only a 1-in-10 chance that when it's re-opened it will lead to the same place. 
   If that wasn't bad enough there are side effects to using the warp gates. Anyone other than a Lawful Good character will be stricken by some unpleasant and random effect. These effects range from various status ailments (lasting anywhere from rounds to hours) up to permanent insanity, feeblemind, petrification or death. That's right, if you didn't roll up a Lawful Good character when you started this dungeon several regions back then you now have a 20% chance of being forced to save against a character-destroying effect. In fact, being killed is probably the best outcome...at least that can be fixed with a raise dead spell, something a cleric might get in a level or two. If you're hit by insanity the lowest level spell that can fix that is Heal...and since this region is supposedly rated for characters of 7th to 9th level there's not much chance of anyone being able to fix you anytime soon. 
   So let me give you an example...a party of 4 adventurers...a paladin, a rogue/bard, a cleric and a wizard...come into Region F via F22. They come across a door that's a warp gate. The rogue/bard checks for traps...he notices the runes on the door but is able to tell that it's not trapped (the gate doesn't count as a trap). The wizard detects magic and reads strong conjuration...but that's all he can tell. The paladin is impatient and volunteers to test the doorway...after all they've got to go somewhere. He steps through and is transported to room F43. He's not harmed at all but the gate closes behind him. Alarmed he turns around and opens his gate which has reset itself to room F62 with no sign of his companions. Meanwhile his companions open the door (which has reset to F90) and see no sign of the paladin. They're confused and call out through the door a few times but of course receive no answer (the paladin meanwhile is waiting to see if any of his companions appear in the room with him). Finally the bard gets frustrated and steps through the door, hoping to be transported to the paladin. He steps through and the door closes again...unfortunately he made the mistake of not making a LG character so he steps through and becomes exhausted (failing the DC 20 fortitude save). The door near the cleric and wizard has set itself to F23 and the bard's door now opens to F37. So now this group is scattered through three different parts of the dungeon, separated and only the paladin can actually step through any of the doors without risking death or status ailments. Any attempts to find each other will almost certainly lead to them being more lost than before or running into dangers on their own (for instance the paladin is only two doors down from the lair of an 8-headed cryohydra). 

The warp gates alone would be a good reason to toss this entire region into the trasheap but that's not the only problem. 

Wasted Space: On top of confusing layout and random teleporters-of-doom Region F is just mostly...nothing. A quick survey of the region shows at least sixty empty rooms. And I don't mean rooms that just are marked as "nothing here but bones and dust. Nothing of interest". I mean rooms that are not even marked at all, not given any sort of description or notation. For example if you come in from one of the southern doors of Region F you could wander through 8 or 10 rooms before you reach one that has a description. Empty rooms connect to empty rooms and it's all just so...dumb. I mean obviously not every room is going to be full of treasure or monsters...but at least give us some sort of idea what we're looking at when the party opens a door. Even if you've got to mark several rooms as identical. This is just sloppy unfinished work. 
  And of course those rooms that are not empty are going to probably be full of minotaurs. Minotaurs after minotaurs after minotaurs. If you thought Regions A and B were uncreative with their hordes of darkmantles and goblins then prepare to see the light because they're veritable thriving biospheres compared to F. Almost every single encounter in F is minotaurs...you could count the other encounters here on a d12. And the other creatures mostly just seem to be thrown in at random when the designers couldn't fit them into other parts of the dungeon. A cryohydra here, a sphinx over there, a raskshasa (massively overpowered at CR 12) and some harpies for good measure. This leads to the final problem. 

Bad Encounters/Bad Writing/Bad Editing: The endless hordes of minotaurs are not only painfully boring...but they're senseless as well. The minotaurs are all over the dungeon, which means that they're using the warp gates. Of course several are noted as having warpkeys which allow the gates to be set to specific locations...but these keys don't protect from the lethal side effects of the gates...why are there not petrified or insane minotaurs all over the dungeon? Like the other parts of the WLD the editing is atrocious...in addition to the bad encounter conditions there's a whole lot of incorrectly labeled CRs. And of course there's the ever-present question of just what is the purpose of this area? Randomly teleporting doors? If this is meant to be a prison why not just...I don't know...not allow your prisoners to wander the halls to be randomly teleported in the first place (And wouldn't having escaping demons teleported at random across the region make it harder to track them down and recapture them). Even if we assume that these teleporting doors are more reliably than locked doors why not have the teleporters just loop back into the prisoner's own cell so they can't ever escape? And why, why WHY are we punishing those who chose to make their heroes Neutral Good or Chaotic Good (or any variety of Non-good for that matter. Shouldn't that merit a warning at the start of the book?). Heck, not even all of the celestials were lawful good, and not even all of them were celestials (inevitables were part of the dungeon's construction as well). It's just painfully bad.

If Region F has taught me one thing it's to appreciate Regions A and B...hopefully the rest of the WLD looks better in comparison as well because F is depressingly bad. It is not worth the effort to save and it's staying in the garbage. 

I'll look over the map and see which region to swap out for F. Probably C or E depending on what seems to work the best.


  1. I think the teleporter doors are interesting if you completely ignore the ill-effects and auto-close features, and am thinking of using them in another maze I'm interested in making.

    Those easy fixes don't change the fact that the rest of the writing/encounters are so bad.

  2. The teleporting doors could work in a smaller dungeon or one that is a bit less deadly (where the focus is on exploration more than combat) but it definitely needs the right GM (one who can handle splitting the party) and the right players (who won't intentionally spray themselves all across the dungeon).

  3. My party are painfully close to region "F" they are each a few hundred xp off hitting 5th. I've been gaming with some of the guys for up to 15 years now and they are all seasoned rp'ers so the one thing I didn't want to do was guide any decisions they make... One of the best things about WLD for me so far is the unknown of which direction the party will head... I am of the same mindset as "Rek" if the lads do decide to carry on north into region "F" (I have allowed access through the door near room B28) then I will remove the ill effects or at least adjust the table so there are no character destroying effects, I will also assume the party hold the doors open for each other untill the last one passes through the portal. With all the creatures already bought and paid for from the d&d mini's range and 10 metal minotaurs based and ready to be dry brushed, the party will eventually encounter region "F" even if I have to re-write the whole region :)

  4. I also forgot to mention our gaming table consists of 6 party members and me running a npc pure healer cleric they are as follows

    Father Jeremiah Able (npc pure healer cleric of illmater ran by myself)
    Gunthar Greybeard (A fierce greataxe wielding dwarf)
    Jenson Steel (A armour clad longsword and shield defensive human fighter)
    Kaine Mikaels (A human greatsword wielding Paladin of Torm)
    Byson Shortbeard (A dwarven duel handaxe wielding ranger, who fights alongside his faithfull bull mastiff war dog "Sheba" that he summons from his precious Onyx figurine (that I placed in region "A" so he was not bereft of a animal companion at 4th lvl)
    Layton Bennett (A human rogue "locksmith" specialist tasked with the unenviable duty of clearing a rout through the dungeon, aswell as being the party leader)
    And finally our newest member
    Horlick (A half elven sorcerer addicted to the sleep spell!) hence the unusual name!!!
    We also had my cousin playing a human Barbarian named "Grom" who recently died in region "B" the first party death! He will be bringing a Elven Druid into the mix soon Although bringing him into the party may be a task, a deserter from region "H" possably... So although the party may enter region "F" at 5th I'm hoping the strength in numbers will swing the balance a bit.

  5. Good luck with region F, let me know how it works out. If I were forced to run it I know I would definitely remove the negative effects and probably have resets only happen if the doors are actually closed (maybe have some doors weighted to slowly swing closed on their own, but definitely not snapping shut). I would also perhaps try and re-frame the effects as a bug rather than a feature. Something has gone wrong in this part of the dungeon that is causing space to twist and warp...something perhaps caused by one of the dungeon inhabitants or some malfunctioning security device and something that can potentially be repaired (opening up the region for more traditional exploration).

  6. The party luckily declined heading north in our most recent session, instead after resting up in room b31 they headed to room b45 were they found the trapped idol and so left it alone. They then got slightly burned in room b44 (namely the ranger who wanted the blink dogs corpses removing from the foul Worgs) they then headed north to room b46 were the mighty barbarian "Grom" shouting a war cry to Tempos charged in and engaged the bugbears, some Roleplay ensued after one of the bugbears surrenderd and he asked if they would meet aughkin to try and form a pact rather than his warmonger son Sharpfang (I made him Aughkin's son as a twist as a ambitious son usurping his father)... They then dealt with room b48 (I left this room as is but gave a more in depth description if the tapestry saying a angelic figure reaching to the heavens whilst being clawed into the earth by demons, wearing a translucent breastplate almost the same colours as the grey clouds and slate in the picture itself. I also painted some floor tiles red white and black so the party had a visual aid to the puzzle) our Ranger Byson navigated the room and was badly drained by all the effects, he then did the worst of all possible outcomes and wrapped the cloak over his shoulders... Leaving our duel wielding dwarf unable to duel wield in his new ghost touch breastplate! I was thinking of making the sword in room b17 a ghost touch longsword and having the name on it a command word to release the breastplate... Unfortunately though my party are very scepticle of me helping them out in dire situations and prefer to just ride out any bad consequences... If they decide to head east through the undead region I'm going to implement your idea of the ghouls instead of goblins, if they head west hopefully they will form a truce with Aughkin, either way I'm really enjoying your posts on WLD and hope there are more to come mate.