The World's Largest Intro
Original SA post
Just a bit of context, I was one of those idiots who bought this book back when it was the most expensive RPG book printed. My gaming group at the time was supposed to chip in on it, but that never happened. Oh well. But that might help explain some slight bitterness I have towards the book...but bitterness that is well deserved. Fortunately I'm also attempting to do something constructive with that and I've been tinkering with the WLD and trying to rebuild it into something usable and posting the "adjustments" on my blog. So at least I'm accomplishing the noble goal of making the internet a bit more full of words.
PART 1: The World's Largest Intro
So, the book starts with a fairly bland "history" lesson about angelic beings from the heavens sent by the gods to build a dungeon to imprison evil. The dungeon is an epic disaster of poor planning. First one earthquake rips the dungeon in half, letting in a river of magma, then derro come in and colonize it. After that, there's another earthquake this one allows drow in, plus tearing a hole in the dungeon's ceiling. Finally, derro cause a cave-in (apparently although the dungeon can contain demons, devils and undead it's not dwarf-proof), not only collapsing part of the dungeon but flooding it as well.
Needless to say the biggest question is "why?"
Why imprison these things rather than killing them?
Why pick such a
Why, after disaster strikes, do the gods who ordered the place built not help the angelic jailers trapped inside the dungeon?
There's no answer and the designers are pretty straightforward in saying that they didn't care about logic or reason when it came to designing the dungeon.
Next we have the "Ecology" section where the writers basically say that there isn't going to be any sort of dungeon ecology that makes any sense (especially given that everyone is trapped inside the dungeon) and they're fine with that. eh, fair enough I suppose. it's not like most dungeons (especially big ones) work out logistically.
What is annoying is they come right out and say that they don't expect you to actually run the world's largest dungeon as one big dungeon. Considering that's the only reason that anyone would actually buy the product I find that pretty stupid.
They also come out and admit that the they did not actually include every monster in the game. Just one of every "category" (so they have a sphinx, but not every type of sphinx, they've got dragons but not every single color, etc). To quote them:
Fanatic completism took a back seat to making the dungeon fun and useful
On the one hand I feel like it would be stupid to try and cram every single monster in the SRD in here and quality would be better than quantity. On the other, it's one of the main advertising points of their 100$ book so and it becomes pretty clear that they didn't deliver "quality" either and a lack of monster variety is actually one of the book's biggest problems.
The intro states that the scale of the dungeon is 5x5 squares but then recommend changing it to 10 x 10 for some reason.
There's some discussion of things like the consequences of using artificial lights in the dungeon, how sounds apparently obey completely random rules and DMs are encouraged to use this as an excuse to arbitrarily screw players or justify the way it's possible to have a massive battle in one room without alerting anyone in adjacent areas.
They talk about justification for the sheer number of traps (to get around the immunities of the various entities that the dungeon was made to imprison). Nothing bad here but it becomes especially ironic after you read into the dungeon since many of the traps you'll find would not work on
of the creatures the dungeon is made to imprison (poison for instance).
Then there's a few standard rules regarding walls, doors and secret doors. Their rules regarding lockpicks are worth mentioning:
There are generally 20 tools in a given lockpick set. For each lockpick that is damaged or lost the PC suffers a -2 circumstance penalty to his Open Lock check. Thieves tools are generally so delicate that only a DC 25 or 20 (blacksmith or locksmith) check can fix them. usually a rogue just buys new tools. In the
World's Largest Dungeon
that may not be an option
Sounds like a useful rule to keep in mind...until you remember that the penalty for not having tools at all is only -2. That means that any lockpick set with a couple of broken tools is literally worse than nothing. But since there's no actual rules for breaking lockpicks there's not much to worry about.
--More Terrible Rules--
So, now we're at the "house rules" for the WLD. The first thing they mention is that no form of teleportation or extradimensional travel will function, except teleportation functions built into the dungeon itself. It waffles a bit with creature abilities and short range powers like dimension door, suggesting that they're limited to 100 ft and line of sight.
The terrible house rules really start with Experience Points. Apparently the design of the WLD just can't handle the normal XP system:
I love how they encourage you to not play their giant mega-dungeon as a giant mega-dungeon. There's also no guidelines on
during an adventure PCs should level up.
Next we've got lots of
summarizing the different regions, how to read room descriptions, etc.
So, here's a great example of a good idea that the WLD writers completely screw up. Encounter conditions are essentially a list of keywords describing generic room conditions. Now, I will say that this is a great idea, it saves space reprinting similar traits room by room and collects these conditions in one place where it can be easily consulted.
However, in execution they manage to completely screw things up. Many of the encounter conditions are applied completely at random. And even when they might have a purpose there aren't enough details to be useful.
For example, a common condition is Concealment, giving all creatures a miss chance...but it's rare for there to be any explanation for
these creatures gain concealment: magical darkness, fog, smoke, weird illusions, etc. Which is pretty damn important.
Many of them are also incomplete when used in the rooms themselves. For instance conditions like Echoes X means that noise in the room penalizes Listen Checks by X amount...but most entries lack any actual modifier.
There's a mention of the lava that flows through the dungeon, However, apparently it is not actually lava: it is being "fed" on by an everpresent horde of magma and steam mephits who absorb the heat and poisonous fumes, reducing the lava to a relatively minor annoyance, dropping the damage from 20d6 for full immersion to 6d6.
Then there's region "W" a series of empty, generic rooms that can be stuck anywhere in the dungeon. These will never be used by anyone, being universally bland and pointless.
There are sidebars scattered about pointing out how the inescapable nature of the dungeon ruins several core classes and spells.
*The designers claim that wizards get hosed by the dungeon (due to a lack of new spells as they level up) and also point out that spells like web or entangle should be banned as they're "too powerful" in a place like the WLD, claiming they've prevented monsters from having the spells (a lie, the first Region has a kobold wizard with Web). There's actually a decent number of spells, but the writers forget that there's no way for wizards to get those special inks they need to scribe their spells and the issue of material components is never addressed at all.
*druids get the real shaft and the designers just say that you shouldn't allow them at all. The main problem is that because of the anti-teleportation effect their summoning spells are either banned or one-way (summoned creatures come in, but don't leave and you lose any control over them after the duration ends). Also, no chance of any new animal companions in most of the dungeon (rangers have this trouble too).
The introduction ends with some of the worst advice ever:
Wow, there's not a suggestion on there that I don't think is stupid and most of them actively piss me off.
What's even worse is that without the ability to take 20 (let alone take 10), Region A is going to be hell for most players. Despite the fact that the Region is for level 1-3 characters it's full of magical traps...meaning that the DCs are in the mid to high 20's. Even a trap-focused first level rogue isn't going to have a Search bonus higher than +10 or so...meaning that the odds of them managing to find, let alone disarm, any of the traps in the very first region are low indeed.
That's the end of the intro, I'll start sifting Region A for some interesting tidbits (obviously we're not going room by room here).
Descent into Region A
Original SA post
Part 2: Descent into Region A
Region A is the first part of the WLD and claims to be designed for starting characters. But before you get to that there's Region Z (for Zero), not technically a part of the dungeon it's a basic kind of "hook" to get the PCs involved.
Region Zero basically consists of the PCs stumbling across the corpse of a dead titan. The titan is decomposed but odorless and has a +5 Gargantuan Halberd and Chain Shirt (neither of which resize). The titan also has 500 lbs of notes in his pocket and scattered around. The notes are in a dead language that no one can read, so the authors don't bother including any details as to the contents (because apparently the authors of the WLD forgot that spells like Comprehend Languages exist and are available at level 1). This is something that they often forgot, because they love to fill room with ancient writings in non-human languages and completely fail to acknowledge the possibility of the PCs translating them.
The background (which will be completely lost on the PCs) is that this titan was assigned to guard this entrance to the dungeon and has died of old age while doing its duty. Seems like perhaps he might try and secure a replacement at some point...but whatever.
--Region A itself--
So, the backstory is basically that a were-rat sorcerer by the name of longtail who has put together a small army of kobolds, orcs and troglodytes and descended into the dungeon in order to find an extradimensional prison within that holds a horde of fiendish beings so that he can unleash them and conquer, yadda yadda yadda.
Upon arriving in the dungeon longtail and crew are, of course, trapped. Longtail abandons his army (why bother bringing them then?) to descend into the depths of the dungeon to find the prison. Meanwhile, without his leadership his humaniod army fractures and begins bickering among each other, dividing the area into different camps. Before it explodes into all-out war longtail finds and opens the prison but (shockingly) cannot control the fiendish monsters inside. The fiendish creatures swarm the Region and wipe out the majority of the humaniods. This about when the PCs are meant to show up: in the middle of a swarm of demonic creatures and paranoid and violent humaniods.
The PCs find their way down a tunnel and come to a huge, unlit room deep below the earth. It has two doors, both of which open into a pitch black, silent void. Anything that goes through does not come back out again.
Now, when you look at this alongside Region Z do you notice a problem? What are the odds of the average group of adventurers actually going
the WLD during the first session. Both of these "encounters" just seem designed to encourage PCs to waste time. First we've got a titanic (literally) corpse, clad in hefty enchantments and carrying mass quantities of notes in an unknown language and then we've got a room with two doors, both of which open into an empty void and from which no one who passes returns. Now, the GM knows that the titan is just a bit of scene dressing and that both doors actually open into the same large room beyond and that there is nothing for the PCs to do but go forward. The PCs on the other hand will probably spend forever trying to puzzle out what the heck is up with the titan, trying to decide which door they should go through and searching the room for traps, secret doors or clues.
Before I get to the crappy stuff I will say that I actually kind of like the plot of region A. It's definitely a high point among the other Regions and it makes an effort to make the region more than just killing, killing and more killing. Many of the humaniods are paraniod and violent, but others are terrified, depressed, or reluctantly willing to negotiate. There's plenty of room for roleplaying and the PCs aren't forcible funneled towards certain choices or alliances.
That said, it's heavily outweighed by the bad stuff. First and foremost Region A is
. It is a hell of a meat-grinder. And not in the evil-funhouse sense of the Tomb of Horrors, it's just full of challenges that far outweigh most PCs abilities. Lets give you an example:
After passing through the dark rooms the PCs come upon the abandoned remnants of the orcish camp in the first rooms. There's a couple of weak, wounded orcs who are too tired to fight but too ornery to be helpful. There are two obvious exits from the camp: The first, to the north, has a burning hands trap on the door. Fortunately a d4 damage isn't going to do more than scorch anyone but it's going to be annoying to impossible to disarm due to it's magical nature. The burning hands trap guards a room full of rotted sacks and barrels that contain only black mold (that's right, have some Con damage!). The next room contains yet more containers full of black mold and an Acid Arrow trap. That's right, acid arrow against first level PCs: that's an average of 14 damage with a find/disable DC of 27! All of this guards a room that contains nothing but some crappy rope (and since it's a dead end the PCs will have to go back through at least one of the traps).
The other way out (and the only actual exit from the area) involves an encounter with a fiendish darkmantle (grappling + flight + magical darkness = very annoying fight). And then it switches straight from annoying to lethal with a fiendish rat swarm!
Yep, it's a CR 3 swarm right off the bat. Keep in mind that swarms take half damage from most weapons, can attack multiple opponents, and auto-hit. And since it's fiendish it can't be hurt by torches and is literally immune to most 1st level spells, and has SR 5. Oh, and since they're fiendish the writers replaced filth fever with Devil Chills, because 1st level PCs need all the ability score damage they can get!
And before they can make it into the dungeon at large there's another fun encounter, this time with Fiendish Stirges, because you probably still have some Con points left in you.
Now, some people enjoy a good killer dungeon. However, keep in mind that the selling point of this book is it's length. It's meant to be a single huge dungeon to get people from level 1 to level 20. Part of the idea is running your character from a scrub at the start all the way to an epic badass at the end...something that's severely undermined if you have to keep replacing PCs every few sessions. It doesn't help that since no one can actually
this remote, mostly sealed dungeon, new characters are going to be hard to justify.
More Region A
Original SA post
Part 3: More Region A
Remember how the dungeon starts off with a fiendish darkmantle, fiendish rat swarm, and fiendish stirges? Well, get used to it, because these are the bulk of the monsters in this section. Sometimes the rats are dire rats rather than swarms, and sometimes the darkmantles have more HD but you will get absolutely sick of seeing more of these three. They also significantly outnumber the humaniods in the region, each of which are clustered in small groups in the dungeon. Darkmantles especially make up the bulk of encounters
That's the most common complaint about Region A, the complete lack of creativity when it comes to monsters. And it's not like there aren't plenty of choices for low CR animals and monsters that could be used: wolves, dogs, spiders, centipedes, hyenas, boar, snakes, etc.
It gets so bad there's a series of rooms which are nothing but darkmantles of increasing size and HD. Starting with A88 you've got five fiendish darkmantles, Then you've got 7 more in room A89. Then you've got five more darkmantles, but these have
. Then you've got 6 more in A91, but with 3 HD. Then, just to mix things up...
4 regular darkmantles!
And remember what I said about being brutal? These are EL 6-8 encounters for a party that is (at best) level 3. Encounters that involve blankets of magical darkness and flying creatures with blindsight.
So...lets see if we can find some other notably bad areas...How about the troglodyte lair:
Keep in mind that troglodytes are pretty tough for low-level monsters: they've got 13 hp on average, multiple attacks, and decent AC. Now, add on a permanent -2 penalty to pretty much all rolls while you're in their territory. One of the PCs first encounters in this area is an ambush featuring 6 of these guys.
The cartography here is also exceptionally bad. There are two a33's in the adventure, one referring to the actual room a33 on the map, the other apparently referring to the 4-way intersection marked A, B, B. And rooms A31, 32, 35 and 36 where the stench is exceptionally intense? Well, except for the first one, each of those rooms are behind secret doors that the troglodytes have never found or entered.
Oh, and A31 starts out with 8 Fiendish Stirges. Because everyone loves more ability damage!
A34 is listed as EL 2, despite the fact that it includes a CR 3 opponent (incorrectly listed as CR 4) backed up by 4 wounded troglodytes.
A52 is also a real gem:
Now, if you touch the throne at all you must make a DC 14 will save or suffer a Confusion effect that lasts for 30 days - your Wisdom score. This takes effect any time you're under stress which is defined as whenever you're in combat or you must make a skill check. that's right, for over two weeks for most players you will now go insane whenever you attempt to do pretty much anything. This makes most any skill checks impossible and combat insanely difficult. It also has it's own, unique confusion table. You remember how with normal confusion there was a chance to act normal? not here. You'll either attack an ally, become nauesated, cower in fear, flee at top speed, or twitch uncontrollable (-2 to attacks/saves/skills/ability rolls). And again, for most people this is a 2-3 week affliction.
Of course, DC 14 isn't too high (unless you happen to be a 1st level fighter, rogue, ranger, or barbarian), what if you succeed? well, that means you sense "something strange" has happened. That's right, touch the throne and you're hit with an unavoidable curse which you probably will not be aware of. And of course if the entire party touches it then next time someone attempts to look for traps they'll go nuts, which will probably the the cue for everyone else's curse to trigger leading to them murdering one another or fleeing wildly into the depths of the dungeon. Oh, and since it's not technically a trap or even magical it's basically undetectable.
Region A loves deadly traps guarding absolutely nothing at all (or just more traps). For instance, A79 features a scorching ray trap (find/disable DC of 27 and an average of 14 damage) which guards several barrels covered in black mold. The only contents of the barrels are some vinegar. Yay, vinegar!
A83 features a 6th level
trap! It's a potential TPK right there and it guards....a completely empty room. At least there are some burned bodies here to warn you that the area is dangerous. This is not the case for the door at A87 which is trapped with not only a scything blade but also a lightning bolt trap (also 6d6 damage). This one guards a room full of mundane weapons and armor, a couple of doses of poison and the possibility of a couple of masterwork objects.
Later (A94) we have an empty chest guarded with a scorching ray trap. The authors make sure to point out the room is trapped, not the chest and anyone approaching to search the chest for traps will be targeted. Not that it matters since DC 27 is pretty far out of reach for low level rogues who aren't allowed to take 20.
A105 features another fireball trap (this one with no warning), but at least it contains some scrolls, potions and magic items. In fact, this small cache of treasure is the biggest in the entire region. The dungeon is extremely stingy when it comes to magic (or even masterwork) items, something that will really hurt the PCs in many encounters.
Room 106 is especially bizarre...it has a celestial rune that if a lawful or good PC stands on it they're healed 2d8+3 damage and cleansed of poisons or ability score damage. Chaotic or evil characters suffer 2d8+3 damage. Meaning chaotic good or lawful evil characters are apparently healed and damaged in equal amounts. There are similar rooms in the area as well.
Next time I'll check on some of the awful NPCs in Region A.
Region A NPCs
Original SA post
Part 4: Region A NPCs
So, last update I showed just how brutal the traps could be in Region A, now is the time for the NPCs.
There are 4 major NPCs: the three humaniod faction leaders and longtail himself.
Now, Yrkak (the trog leader) isn't so bad. He's a 2nd level cleric and would be a decent 1st level "boss" fight if it weren't for the unavoidable sickness effect that fills his section (and the lethal ambush that's found right outside).
Next we have Boyikt, the kobold leader and 4th level wizard, who I actually approve of. He and his kobolds (4 2nd level warriors) are shacked up behind heavy cover and are a pretty deadly fight. The upside is they're pretty willing to negotiate and they aren't going to be chasing anyone down. So PCs fighting him will end up with bloody noses but if they talk they could get a very helpful ally.
But then the WLD craps its pants with the orcs. Now, orcs are a time-honored low-level opponent, but the WLD decided they apparently just weren't tough enough. The orcs are basically a trap encounter, you encounter them holed up in a couple of rooms at the end of a long hallway. Once the orcish guards spot anyone approaching they retreat out of the hall and basically sit out of sight with readied actions to take down anyone who comes in.
This is the first part of the trap. PCs who expect the orcs to be a decent, low-level fight are going to be in for a nasty surprise. There are 8 orcs waiting in that room, 7 of them are 3rd level warriors and the 8th is a 3rd level barbarian. Anyone who rushes in to attack is going to be basically carved to pieces.
So, the obvious answer is negotiate right? The orcs aren't coming out and they should be willing to talk. Indeed they are, but all they'd be willing to do is allow passage into their small territory to speak to their leader: Orghar.
Now, Orghar is
willing to negotiate. And the moment anyone mentions teaming up he'll attack. Orghar is a 5th level barbarian, so raging he has over 50 hp and can do enough damage in one attack to cut down most first and 2nd level PCs in one hit (if he's power attacking he'll be doing 1d8+8 to 1d8+13 damage).
Oh, and if the PCs are wounded or seem at all hesitant or weak then the other orcs join their leader in the fight. So, to reiterate: that's a 5th level barbarian, a 3rd level barbarian, and 7 3rd level warriors. Up against PCs of levels one to three.
So really both fighting or negotiation will probably lead to a dead PC or four. Basically the only answer is just walking away and leaving the orcs be.
Then we've got Longtail himself, the wererat sorcerer.
First, let's cover the rooms leading to Longtail. The first is a fiendish owlbear that makes Orghar look tame. As a fiendish creature it's got DR 5/magic (there's perhaps 2 magical weapons in this Region, one is Orghar's axe), energy resistance, and SR 10. As an owlbear it's got 3 attacks and improved grab. This alone would be an impressive boss fight, but it's just the appetizer.
You see, next is the chapel where all these fiendish monsters come from, it's currently inhabited by longtail's familiar: an imp. Now, that may not sound too awful, but an imp is actually an extremely lethal encounter for low-level PCs. Invisible, flying, fast-healing, and packing damage reduction, an AC of 24 and a poison sting. It would take forever, but the imp could probably take the entire party on by itself.
But the imp doesn't need to ping the party to death, because longtail will take care of that. Longtail is a natural wererat and a
7th level sorcerer
against a team of 1-3rd level adventurers. The one saving grace is that he's incredibly poorly "built" as a character. He has only a single offensive spell (magic missile) and the tactical suggestions (casting shield, expeditious retreat, and eagle's splendor) are terrible (as opposed to casting shield, fly, and invisibility or blur).
However, if he's played with even a sliver of intelligence by the DM then the encounter is going to go incredibly poorly for the PCs. Longtail may have only magic missile for offense, but he gets 4 missiles per casting and can cast it 6 times per day (assuming he's cast shield). Even if 24 missiles aren't enough to deplete everyone's hp he could let his imp and his cantrips finish them off.
Defensively he's a tank. With shield his AC is 23, concealment from the blur spell, and and with flight he can stay out of melee reach and his DR makes him immune to pretty much any ranged weapons PCs will have available unless they manage a critical hit.
Of course, the designers knew that the "boss" of the region was a werecreature, surely they put some silver weapons around the place for PCs? Perhaps some of the humaniod leaders had some made for insurance or payback against Longtail? Nope. There's exactly 3 silver weapons in the entire region. They're all daggers and all located inside one room: an airless, pitch black chamber.
So, basically unless you play longtail as an utter moron (which seems to be what the designers assumed...or maybe they're just not that smart), he can easily wipe the floor with most parties and even if he doesn't he'll certainly manage to escape (and maybe leave some lycanthropy as a parting gift).
B is Apparently For Goblin
Original SA post
Part 5: B is apparently for Goblin
So, Region A had a fairly interesting premise and lots of opportunities for the PCs to roleplay with the various humaniods but it was brought down by extremely uncreative encounters and several that were waaay out of the league of the expected number and level of the PCs
Region B is the zone for levels 4-6 (one of two, the other is Region E to the north of Region A), and like Region A it has a theme: goblins! Because they've got to stick them somewhere before the PCs get too high level. Like Region A (and indeed many Regions) this area features multiple hostile factions that have recently suffered a shakeup prior to the arrival of the PCs. Fortunately, it doesn't feature the overpowered magical traps or the high level boss encounters, but it makes up for it with stupid ideas and general lameness. Lets lay down the backstory:
So, originally this was apparently a place where experiments were performed by angels on the inhabitants of the dungeons, to better understand the nature of good and evil. Apparently this was approved of by the LG and NG angels, but CG and LN ones were fine with it so they went ahead and allowed it to continue. Because that sounds plausible.
So, after the dungeon was ruined gobliniods moved into this area and basically fought among one another for centuries but never managed to completely kill any other group off. The goblins mostly dominate through sheer numbers but they never have the opportunity to really take over due to the superiority of the bigger species.
Recently the goblins have undergone a religious awakening, discovering a new god (Norendithas Stoneshaper the quick thinking, smiter of foes!) and ousting their old king and forging an alliance with the hobgoblins which allowed them to push the bugbears to the edges of their territory. However, rebel goblins still dedicated to the old ways have splintered off and carved out a chunk of the region of their own. So now there's the holy goblin empire (w/hobgoblins), the rebel goblins and the remaining bugbear forces.
Confused yet? Well, it gets worse.
You see Argliss the new goblin king is actually a doppleganger! And the new religion is a fraud! Now, compared to your average goblin a doppleganger is really damn charismatic, so it's not terribly shocking that he managed to lead a rebellion and overthrow the old king. It's the details that make it mind-numbing. Here's the history:
You see, apparently at some point a cocatrice from Region C wanders into the NE portion of Region B where it encounters a goblin hunter and petrifies him. At some point later, the stoned corpse of the goblin hunter is found by other goblins. Now, keep in mind that this is just a statue of a regular goblin caught just before he died. The one significant feature is it's extremely lifelike stonework. Now, this inspires the goblins to form a new religion, eventually leading to the overthrow of their king and a civil war.
There's two problems with this:
First, it's stupid. Unlike orcs, goblins are not any dumber than humans so while the statue might be noteworthy it's hardly worth considering it as a religious icon. Especially when you consider that there are two divine spellcasters among the goblins, both follow the old ways and are part of the rebel camp. This means that the goblins kicked out people capable of performing actual miracles to worship a completely mundane, but well-carved, statue of a life-sized, terrified goblin. Oh, and to top it off, if the goblins are really that into statues this region is full of them. There are three other statues (B16, B 34 and B45), created by the celestials and featuring actual supernatural phenomena.
Oh, and to top it off, the cartography of the dungeon makes it impossible for these events to have actually occurred. As I mentioned before, the statue is found in the NE of the dungeon, the goblin empire is SW. Lets trace the path:
The green area is the territory of the religious goblins. The aqua is the location of the statue. The purple path is the only route through the region to reach the statue. The first red X is a place called "The killing grounds" and features six ghoul paladins. The next is a place filled with bugbear traps (ironic since the bugbears wouldn't be able to reach the area either) plus a few locked doors between them.
In fact, B118 features a lowered portcullis which can only be raised by a lever in the room behind it (meaning that it's impossible for anyone from the goblin area of the dungeon to enter from that side without destroying the portcullis somehow). That not only makes it inaccessible to the goblins, but also to the PCs...in order to get to the statue at all they would have to enter Region C along one of the two SE passageways (both are controlled by the rebel goblins) and loop back around to get into B.
So, not only can these goblins not reach the statue they apparently worship, it would never have been discovered in the first place and indeed never been created at all because no goblin hunter would be able to make it to this area. Oh, and as a cherry on top: the cocatrice from C would have to have made it through several locked doors in order to reach this part of the dungeon to turn anyone to stone in the first place.
Original SA post
Part 6: Stupid Sideplots
Before we get to Region B's individual sections, there are some sideplots that deserve mentioning.
First is the halfling rogue Bartleby and his search for what is only referred to as "the artifact". Now, there are two conflicting stories behind this. The first states that during the rebellion and ousting of the old kind the doppleganger Argliss lost an artifact of his, it's not something he considers essential but he wants to avoid having it fall into the hands of his enemies. So he struck a deal with the halfling to search for it in exchange for protection. The second version of the story says that the artifact belonged to the goblin king and that it is in fact the entire reason for the doppleganger's coup. Unfortunately the king somehow hid the artifact and Argliss has sent the halfling to find it. Doesn't make a lot of sense when you consider that Argliss is a literal
Bartleby himself is one angry little dude. His entry implies that he doesn't have any intention of honoring his bargain with Argliss (odd that Argliss would choose to take his help when he is...again...a mind reader) and that he knows how to enter and leave the dungeon. But don't worry about your players finding this out from him, he'll refuse to answer any questions if captured (because it's not like spells like charm person or detect thoughts exist).
So, as the the artifact itself, what is it? Well, there's no definite answer, the book basically leaves it up to you but does provide some terrible suggestions:
*A clay golem would be a powerful tool for PCs, except of course even with the manual you still need half a ton of clay and 1,600 gp in rare ingredients which will be...difficult to purchase while trapped in a giant dungeon. Since it also requires a cleric to use it is of absolutely no use to Argliss (in fact, there are no clerics in the region remotely high enough level to use it).
*A medallion of thoughts is pretty much the definition of something Argliss doesn't need, the only thing more ridiculous would be him searching desperately for a hat of disguise.
*A necklace of adaptation could potentially be useful to the PCs in a few regions, but there's nothing to justify the fuss being made over it by the NPCs.
*A phylactery of undead turning is actually completely useless to anyone but the PCs in this region. Argliss is, again, not a cleric and in fact the only clerics in this region are evil and thus do not turn undead.
*The rod of cancellation is possibly the only one that might be considered important enough to everyone to search for, but considering how few magic items the WLD gives PCs I'd be very reluctant to give them an item whose only purpose is to destroy magic items.
The other little sidequest is the Key. Apparently when the rebellion hit the Celestials tried to seal off the Region. What exactly they were trying to close off is unclear: Region F was a prison for minor demons so it hardly seems worth the effort, but if they were trying to seal off Region B then they kept the key on the wrong side. Of course, since the dungeon is a square it didn't actually seal anything off it just means you can't go directly from B to F and must detour (either A-E-F or C-G-F). The passages from B to F are sealed with unbreakable, unpickable and un-knockable doors (boy, perhaps they should be using these on all those demonic and undead prisoners) which will blast you with an 8d8 sonic damage trap (DC 31 to find/remove, out of reach of most rogues of this level). I can kind of understand that they want to make sure that PCs don't wander from one region to another freely so it makes sense to have a "quest lock" like this. But it's still kind of a dick move to blast anyone trying to pick the lock with a trap that the rogue probably won't find.
The upshot is basically that no-one is actually going to be moving directly between B and F, because the key is hidden in Region C behind a ridiculous number of traps and "tests of character". By the time the PCs have it (if they ever find it) they'll be already higher level than Region F is designed for, rendering the whole exercise rather pointless.
But, I think we can thank the designers for making it less likely that anyone will actually go to Region F at all, because that place is a huge pile of crap and best avoided completely.
Next we'll be doing the abandoned "testing" portion of the Region.
The Abandoned Halls, B1-49
Original SA post
Part 7: The Abandoned Halls, B1-49
Okay, so remember how Region B was supposedly a celestial laboratory where they performed behavioral experiments on their demonic and undead prisoners. The place is full of so-called "puzzles" and traps (oddly enough, many of them mechanical and not nearly as overpowered as the traps in Region A). So after Region A this will probably be a chance for your party's rogue to actually do something for once. On the other hand they'll probably get really tired really fast.
There are plenty of problems with the this part of the Region, first and foremost the "tests" here only actually work if it's assumed that the demons are actually wandering freely through the halls which seems a tad...unsecure. Second, none of them actually "test" anything, except maybe pattern recognition, because almost every test has the same form: you enter the room, the door closes behind you, there's something in the room and if you dare to interact with it then you trigger a trap.
Let's do a quick summary of the notable rooms in the region
Many of the room descriptions basically dictate what actions PCs will take upon entering the room (or even just opening the door). This one compounds that sin by attempting to make use of the word "circumambulate". The oddly high-flown vocabulary is at odds with the clumsy grammar in many of the room descriptions.
Now, within the room is a gem-studded idol and it is supposedly meant as a test of intelligence. The door is trapped (dropping a stone block), The floor is made of black tile with 2-foot wide strip of white marble down the center leading to the idol. If you walk along the white tile or step completely outside into the black tile a trap is triggered. The only safe path is walking along the border of black and white with one foot in both. There's no indication of this at all, but if you make your find traps roll you can determine how it is triggered. Third, the idol is trapped (indiana jones style pressure plate). Of course if you take the idol outside the room it turns to dust and all the traps magically reset and a new one appears.
That's it. That's the test. There are no clues or puzzles, just DCs for finding the traps. It's even more ridiculous in context: why would a demonic prisoner (whether one wandering the halls or deliberately placed in the room) care at all about some jeweled idol? Even if they had some reason to try and get it the final trap on the idol itself is a poison dart trap...one thing that every single entity the dungeon was designed to imprison (demon, devil and undead) would be immune to.
despite the fact that this room claims to have 4 doors it actually features 7. It's also huge (80x50) and after all the doors seal themselves the PCs are trapped inside...until they find the hairline crack in one mirror in the NW corner. That's it. There's literally nothing else that happens or could happen in this room. Beyond intense boredom there's no danger in the room and there's literally nothing but time to search the massive room over and over again until the trigger is found. Unless of course the only PCs with a high enough Search modifier happen to be trapped outside the room in which case it will remain sealed for eternity because there is no method to open the chamber from the outside, no any timer that will eventually reset the trap. Again, the way this is meant to be a "test" is questionable at best.
This room features a "path" of wobbly stone discs from one door to another. Navigating them is a DC 20 balance check (meaning most non-agile PCs will likely fail). Touching the floor other than the discs causes the doors to seal and the room to flood. This takes 2 minutes and in the meantime the PCs can try and find the release mechanism (surprisingly low at DC 17). Apparently the celestials felt the nature of evil could best be examined by testing the acrobatic abilities of demonic entities.
Room has veins of gold in the walls (fake of course), which if touched will seal the room and release poison gas. The trap is disarmed by pressing a series of hidden buttons in sequence (ie a Search and then Disable Device check). Again, notice that the trap uses poison (something the prisoners of the dungeon are pretty much universally immune to) and seems to be based on the idea that evil outsiders and undead are irrationally attracted to shiny objects.
Thinking about it, these chambers would be much funnier if you assume that the angelic forces are simply baffled by Evil and designed the tests and traps out of some bizarre confusion.
The new testing chamber is almost built my lord...but how shall we design the test?
Well, Evil and chaos disrupt the natural equilibrium of the world, so surely it will show in these monster's attempts to balance themselves.
on wobbly stones m'lord?
Indeed! And is greed not also evil? surely upon seeing a hint of gold these abominations will snatch up picks and commence mining!
But really, the idea that these were somehow designed as tests or traps for the prisoners of the dungeon is ridiculous. They work fine for adventurers desperately trying to fine some clue as to the nature of the place, or scrabbling for treasure but that's not the purpose of the area.
This room will seal itself if you enter it and inside is a set of iron chains which must be solved in order for the door to be opened. That's right, the celestial's amazing test is basically a big sliding ring puzzle
Again, this puzzle just wastes your time until it's solved (DC 20 disable device or 21 Int check), the one danger is extreme cold (something that again
harm any of the intended prisoners).
This room doesn't feature any celestial traps, but again shows there's nothing to be gained by interacting with anything in this section. It contains a well, which is trapped with an alarm causing goblins from B70 to possibly hear and come running, arriving in 4d4 rounds. Of course, B70 is faaar out of range of an alarm's alert (not even considering the many solid walls in the way). The path from B13 to B70 is about 1600+ feet, meaning the goblins will be moving at 20-40 mph.
Come into this room and the door shuts behind you. Oh, with all of these automatic doors you may be wondering how long it takes for the door to shut (will it shut immediately after the first person steps in?) or what happens if a door is held or jammed open. These are excellent questions that the dungeon in no way attempts to answer. Considering that by now most PCs should have realized that over half the doors are going to seal them in they'll start trying to block or hold them open, it's a pretty damn important question.
Anyway, this is yet another "door closes, make a DC X check to get it open" and again, there is absolutely nothing beyond that: PCs go in and they keep rolling until they get out (or if their appropriate stat isn't high enough) they're trapped forever with no hope of escape. Makes you wonder why more of these chambers aren't permanently sealed with dead goblins inside.
This room is also designed as nothing but a waste of time, just in a slightly different way. It has an illusion of an illusion. Anyone casting detect magic will find a faint aura of illusion magic...but anyone who succeeds at a DC 40 spellcraft roll realizes that there is no illusion! The text of the room makes it clear that the DM is simply intended to keep the PCs guessing about what this actually means (which is nothing).
Oh, and there's a pedestal with a fire trap scroll which will trigger a fireball trap.
This room is really only worth mentioning because it features this amazing crime against descriptive language:
This room is covered in wands hanging from the walls, dozens of them. Each has a fake magic aura and does nothing except for a single wand of burning hands with one charge. Any chaotic or evil creature touching a wand is cursed in an unspecified manner (screw you chaotic good PCs!).
Why do this? Because Celestials are dicks apparently.
This room has a pedestal (pedestals are a very common feature of this region), which is empty. However, detect magic will reveal invisible arcane marks which are a puzzle. examining the puzzle for an hour and making a couple of intelligence checks will reveal how to open the secret door to B55. Which is great except there's no trick to opening B55, it's just extremely difficult to find...and there's no way the puzzle could reveal how to find it unless it also came with a map of the region (which would be much more valuable).
Don't you love it when room descriptions take away control from your PC? Especially when it involves inescapable traps. This is another time-wasting trap. Just find the hidden panel to open the door.
By the way, apparently the sack actually contains holy water, it's never mentioned if the coins are fake, illusionary, or whatever.
This room is full of rubble and claims that PCs will realize it's a great place to store supplies. It's actually the worst place to store supplies in the entire dungeon because it's the only place that includes an official chance for those supplies won't be here when they return.
This room features two doors. When the inner door is opened the door you came in from originally shuts and locks itself and a giant spiked wall begins closing in. Amusingly this trap is absolutely no threat at all because only the door you came in from closes: you can simply step into the room you just opened and wait until the spikes close and retract (at which point the first door opens). Of course, even if you just sit there there's not that much risk apparently giant crushing walls inflict only 1d8+4 damage.
This is probably the worst room in this section. The diagram on the wall claims to show the proper way to move on the floor (alternating tiles). It's a lie and requires a DC 30 check to figure that out (although this does not tell you what the correct order is). The correct order is to stay on the same color you start on. There are absolutely no clues or indications of this. Stepping on the wrong tile inflicts Dex damage, fire damage or reduces your movement speed depending on the color.
Success on this incredibly lame puzzle gives possibly the worst reward ever: if you pull down the tapestry and wrap it around your body it melds to you and becomes a permanent +2 ghost touch breastplate. You can sleep in it and it is half the weight of a normal breastplate. That might be good for a fighter...until they find better armor. For say...a bard, druid, monk, rogue, ranger, sorcerer, or wizard. Or even just a dex-focused barbarian or fighter.
The only way to remove it is a break enchantment spell. Remember this is a level 4-6 area, break enchantment is available at level 9 at the earliest. That means if say a wizard or sorcerer solves the puzzle they're "rewarded" with a 25% spell failure chance, -4 to attacks, strength and dex rolls and reduced movement for at least 3-5 levels!
The terrible decisions here truly boggle the mind and quite frankly I can't imagine anyone wanting to continue with the dungeon after completing this section. Next time I'll continue with the gobliniod camps.
Finally, some actual encounters!
Original SA post
part 8: Finally, some actual encounters!
of Region B was trying desperately to be a sort of D-list Tomb of Horrors: lots of traps and "puzzles" with very few actual enemies. Of course it did not manage anything nearly as clever as the Tomb and ended up being just a lot of automatically closing doors and annoyed PCs.
However, if your players are still willing to talk to you after the first section then they'll come into the Region proper which, while still very stupid, is at least less dense with frustrating encounters.
The thing that stands out the most in this area is the absolutely
dungeon design. It really does seem like it was made with a random dungeon generator and then sub-sections assigned practically at random. I've already shown that the goblins for instance could not possible reach the statue that they're meant to worship (and in fact, neither can the PCs). Another great example are the bugbears and goblins.
The red is the northern portion of the goblin kingdom, the blue is where the bulk of bugbear forces are located, safely sheltered from the goblins, the purple is where the bugbear leaders and shaman live.
You may note...there's no direct connection between the blue and the purple region. That means that if the bugbears wish to see their leaders (or vice versa) then they must travel far to the East, loop around and head west again to reach the area where they've apparently decided to set up shop.
Now, also recall that the bugbears and goblins are at war, but there is practically no separation between the two...just one long hallway which features no traps, no barricades, no guard posts. There's nothing to stop either side from simply walking into the other's territory. And remember, since the purple section houses the most important bugbear leaders, there's absolutely no way for them to get reinforcements should the goblins discover the secret door their hiding behind (the one that they have to use should the bugbear leaders ever want to communicate with their followers at all).
Room 67 (the big one around the middle of the picture, is supposedly the bugbear's "last line of defense". It's a heavily trapped room and apparently the plan is to retreat there should all be lost and hole up in room 68.
So, to be clear, in the event that the goblins attack them and they cannot win their plan is to retreat
towards the goblin stronghold
and then hole themselves up inside an empty room with
instead of taking the exit to Region A, which as far as they know is empty and hospitable (as the humaniods and feindish critters arrived only recently). No wonder they're losing the war.
Next is the holy goblin empire, which deserves a whole post to itself just because of the monumentally bad advice it includes.
Original SA post
Region B: goblin zealots
So, the next part to Region B is the territory of the "holy goblin empire" which covers most of the southwest section of the Region. The individual room descriptions are pretty dull and the only NPC of note (Argliss, the "goblin" king) is pretty uninteresting (a 1st level doppelganger rogue). Most of the rooms are just full of various goblins.
What makes this section noteworthy (and terrible) is the tendency of the writers to give out free special abilities and ignore or break rules. They often assign feats without checking prerequisites and tend to give fighters the ability to rage like a barbarian, make random groups of goblins Fearless, etc.
The real kicker is the goblin troops themselves...you see part of the theme of the holy goblin empire is that they're expertly trained by hobgoblins to use military tactics and special skills.
The standard goblin troops are 1st level Fighters who have Power Attack and Improved Sunder, despite having a Strength of 12 (something the writing says is due to their training by the hobgoblins)...although considering a strength of 13 meets the prerequisites and has the same modifier I don't really see why they couldn't have just given the goblins that extra +1 instead of houseruling the feats.
Of course for 1st level fighters armed with shortspears (which are incorrectly listed as having 1d6 damage rather than 1d4) Power Attack and Sunder are quite possibly the
feat choices available...seriously, with 1d4+1 damage how the hell are they going to sunder anything? They couldn't even manage to break own of their own spears. And Power Attacking when your attack bonus is only +3 is a pretty poor bet.
Their "elite military tactics" are even worse. You see, when the goblins face an enemy they form into square formation, 4 goblins wide and move together. This seems to a sad attempt by the writers to emulate "military" combat but they completely fail to actually think how it'll work during play.
You've got small groups of weaklings (the goblins) facing down a smaller group of powerful enemies (the PCs)...so rather than surround their opponents and take advantage of their numbers and teamwork the goblins apparently form into tight ranks meaning that only 3 goblins can attack a single foe at a time, they can't flank and any goblins not in the front row will simply do nothing. And they're sitting ducks for any area of effect spells.
Oh, and then comes the "tactics" section which...well every single one of them basically fills you with a boiling hate for the writers. So rather than comment I'll simply share:
Region B: The Rest
Original SA post
Region B: The Rest
For the most part, the rest of Region B is fairly unremarkable. The hobgoblins don't have their own territory (in fact, there appear to be maybe a dozen hobgoblins in the entire Region, so one wonders how they were ever players at at all) and the only other faction is the rebellious goblins who are pretty much just as boring as the regular goblins.
Although the name of the section: "Heathen Goblin Rebels" is a great name for a band.
The North-East section of the dungeon contains theoretically "neutral" rooms mostly filled with monsters, but randomly some rooms will be under goblin control, others trapped by the bugbears despite the fact that neither team could reasonably hope to get to these areas. It's still pretty uneventful however except for B111, "The Killing Grounds"
B111 is like a perfect snapshot of what's wrong with the entire dungeon. It's poorly balanced, full of weird house-rules, awful editing, poorly implemented encounter conditions, little understanding of the rules, poor cartography, and hate for the PCs:
The room is a large chamber that blocks the way to the "untamed" section of Region B (and as mentioned it blocks access to the goblin's new "god"). The place itself has
Ambush, Concealment, Cursed , Desecration , Echoes , Fear , Fearless, Haunted, Hazardous Footing , Negative Energy, Unhallowed 
What does all this mean? Well, some are meaningless (for example, giving Fearless to an encounter that only includes undead) but essentially it boils down to this. Your enemies get +4 to Hide and Move Silently, all Will saves have +5 to their DC, undead get +6 Turn Resistance.
In addition, all PCs have to make a roll to resist being shaken (DC 14, turned to 19 by the Cursed effect), must move at half speed (or possibly suffer damage) and can't make free five-foot steps and clerics/paladins suffer -4 to Charisma rolls (mainly penalizing turning attempts even further). Oh, and if they stay in the room long enough they take 1 point of damage per minute. The concealment also gives all PCs a 20% miss chance against any non-adjacent monsters which can't be evaded because it's never actually described how it works (darkness, illusions, fog, etc).
If the room itself wasn't bad enough it contains six ghouls who are "corrupted" paladins. What's a corrupted paladin? Well, that's a good question because the writers don't seem to be very sure themselves. The ghouls have 4 HD, so it seems like they're 2nd level...but it's unclear what their actual class is.
They've got some inverted versions of the paladin abilities: dark blessing (Cha bonus to saves), Smite Good and detect good. They've also got an aura of fear, requiring PCs to make a second fear save upon entering the room except a DC is never provided (if it works like normal class abilities the DC would be 13, boosted to 18 by the Cursed effect on the room). There's no indication of the radius or duration of the effect either. However, they also have spellcasting abilities which a paladin shouldn't get for several more levels.
Because they haven't already screwed up the CR system enough, they apparently also have an additional +4 natural armor and Spell Resistance of 14. Despite all this they're supposed to be CR 3.
On top of everything they've got magical equipment: +1
longswords and +1
chain shirts (despite the fact that there is no such thing as unholy armor). So, in addition to everything already going against the PCs these guys have magic weapons that inflict +2d6 damage to any good characters. But hey, they could be really useful loot for evil-aligned players and even neutral character's wouldn't turn up their nose at a +1 weapon even if they never use it against a celestial. The WLD is extremely stingy with magic items so a magic sword, any magic sword, could be considered very valuable. Oh wait, never mind, their +3 equivalent magical weapons (and armor?) turn to dust after they die.
Because fuck players, am I right?
Fortunately, there's no problem because this isn't an encounter the PCs could actually get to. The designers sealed this section behind a locked portcullis that they didn't seem to realize can only be opened from the wrong side and doesn't include any alternative passageways from within the Region.
So, what's next. Should I go based on alphabetical order into Region C or by level and go with Region E (the other level 4-6 Region)?
Region E: Time To Feel Pointless
Original SA post
Region E: Time To Feel Pointless
Have you ever had a game with NPCs so powerful and omnescient that you wonder why they even bother giving your party a quest? I'm not talking about having big, powerful characters who have to delegate smaller tasks so they can battle cosmic evils...I'm talking about seemingly all-powerful NPCs who send PCs out on missions while completely refusing to get off their own butts and do anything.
Well, that's what Region E is all about. This is the Celestial Garrison, where one of the remnants of the original Celestial guardians of the dungeon are hiding out...apparently doing nothing...for the past few centuries.
This is one of the two possible routes following Region A, meaning that it's designed for PCs of level 4-6. However, like Region A, the designers seem to be completely unable to design appropriate challenges, the "hostile" encounters in the region are almost all at least EL 6, with most being EL 7-9. The "peaceful" encounters are far, far higher of course.
So, rather than go room-by-room I'll try and highlight some of the more ridiculous features of the place.
Region E and F seem to indicate that the celestials have some kind of major "thing" for making transportation far more complicated than it has to be.
You see, there are several rooms in this region with no entrances or exits, instead accessible only through a magical door. This isn't an enchanted archway or gate...it's literally an enchanted door, not attached to anything at all, that must be carried around and activated by command word. This makes it perhaps the most awkward and cumbersome form of magical transportation ever...I can't imagine anything less convenient than literally carrying around a large doorway (it weighs about 150 lbs). And somehow the celestials still managed to lose this supremely important, irreplaceable magical doorway. Makes you wonder why they didn't just enchant a normal, immobile door...or used the Locate Object spell (at least one of the Celestials is a 6th level cleric and could easily cast it).
None of the above is actually necessary though, because it states quite clearly in the All-Door's description that all the Celestials know that the door was originally located in room E18 and checking room E18 shows that...it's still there. So it seems that the door isn't so much lost as it is simply that the celestials do not seem to car to wander down and pick it up.
Or it could just be that the Celestials just don't give a damn, despite what the description of the all-door states. Looking at the different rooms accessible by the all-door (most of which are mislabeled), there's not really much in them that's worth having. One room is a library containing a history of the dungeon, another is a room full of completely mundane adventuring gear, a third has some minor magical clothing (none of much value to any celestial, a room that is full of many, many potions which all become potions of poison as soon as they're removed from the room, a hidden bunker with some mundane weapons and a couple of non-cursed potions, and a room with trap-making supplies. The one room of any interest is a forge that allows the smith to enchant a weapon with a enhancement bonus of +1 to +5 for 24 hours by sacrificing a
permanent hit point
for each +1 bonus. Needless to say that won't be seeing much use.
So, considering the amount of effort and trouble to find the All-Door and discover the command words to its various rooms..there's almost nothing behind it worth finding.
One of the odd features of this Region is a set of Wards that block it from Region I. The wards ensure that any evil creatures attempting to pass through must make a DC 40 Will save. However, these wards must be constantly charged with magical ward-staves which keep the DC high (it drops gradually, 1 per day, if the wards are not renewed). This takes eight hours of concentration by an outsider or divine spellcaster and any attempt to charge more than one ward a day inflicts a negative level or requires a use of channeling positive energy. Since there are 8 wards and the celestials currently have only 4 staves they're forced to hand the staves off on a cyclic shift to keep them from exhausting themselves.
The staves can also "transport" the user...but there's never any rules for what this means.
So, these wards are clearly essential and it's very important that the celestials keep them charged...or else nothing will happen. The wards only protect intrusion from Region I, which contains nothing but drow and some minor aberrations, none of whom have the desire or ability to attack the celestials in Region E. Now, there are definitely some dangerous forces in other regions but none of them are laying siege to the celestials and even if they wanted to attack they could easily do so from the East or South.
*The bad guys*
This place is overrun with small factions of monsters. You've got "the shadow king" and his group of...shadows. Not one but two competing packs of barghests. Some random vermin and a few NPCs: a necromancer and an "inhuman" wizard (whose race is unspecified and completely undescribed). In another region these might be dangerous and interesting forces at work (even if they're fairly small)...but here they're really out of place because of...
*The Good Guys*
There are two main "celestial" forces (really only one, but the writers seem to keep forgetting that Inevitables are in no way Good aligned): the inevitables and a few random celestials of various types. The inevitables have strayed from the garrison's purpose (because again, they're not in any way Good) and have started recruiting warrior-slaves to aid in the dungeon's defense and competing with the other celestials for things like the ward-staves to keep things going. Thus they are divided, weakened and under siege by the forces of evil.
Or they would be if it weren't for the fact that these outsiders represent some of the most powerful beings in the WLD. There are
Maruts (including an enhanced 19 HD one) and two 22 HD Leonals. These guys could not only easily keep Region E clear of evil beings (it's especially egregious that there's a force of Shadows hanging out in the territory of a Marut titled "Slayer of The Unliving") but they could quite likely take on the entire WLD.
Even if you assume the rift between the Celestials and Inevitables is unhealable the celestials almost all have class levels (all are at least CR 10) and could easily defeat any opposition in Region E and the surrounding Regions, join up with the other celestial forces in Region G and take down pretty much every single challenge in the dungeon.
So...what are the PCs meant to
here. It's unclear. It mentions that the celestials will reward the PCs for retrieving items hidden behind the All-Door but there's no way for the PCs to find out the command words without being given them and the celestials already seem to know where the door is anyhow. They could find the ward-staffs for the celestials...but again that's easily possible for the celestials to do on their own.
Really the only thing that seems like the PCs might accomplish is pointing out that the celestials could just get off their asses and solve their problems on their own.
The Worst Region in the Dungeon: Appropriately, F
Original SA post
So, it’s been a few months since my last post but I’m going to try and finish up my section-by-section review of the WLD. Region F certainly deserves mention because it is truly one of the worst ideas in the whole dungeon. Like I mentioned in past reviews I’ve been attempting to rewrite the WLD to make it more usable. Region F I decided was not worth saving and had to be scrapped. You’ll see why.
Monster-wise Region “F” seems to have a Greek theme going. The primary inhabitants are minotaurs, lots and lots of minotaurs. If you remember my reviews for Region A way back when you’ll remember that one of the biggest problems was that the encounters were extremely repetitive and just an endless parade of fiendish rats and/or darkmantles. Well, Region F makes it look downright creative in comparison. Like I mentioned they seem to be trying for a “Greek monsters” theme but didn’t realize until they finished that there aren’t really that many greek-themed monsters of an appropriate power level (not that this stops them from throwing in a CR 12 Rakshasha who doesn’t fit either the power level or the greek trappings).
So what you end up with are about 40 encounters with minotaurs about 3 encounters with a small group of harpies, a single shadow, an 8-headed cryohydra, a minotaur bodyswapped with an elf, a Gynosphinx, an assassin vine, a rakshasha sorcerer, a medusa fighter, a dragonne, and about four manticore encounters. That’s right, about 55 or so encounters, 80% of which are minotaurs.
If that seems like a small number of encounters for a dungeon of this size then you’d be right. In fact, this section has SIXTY! empty rooms. Not rooms that are detailed, but empty. I mean rooms that don’t have numbers, descriptions or
. This section is so obviously unfinished that it’s really just sad. Hell, even if they wanted to stick with the greek theme there are plenty of level appropriate options that could have been used: chimeras, satyrs, centaurs, nymphs, etc. Not to mention the many, many interesting mythological monsters of greek myth that could have easily been statted with just a modicum of effort. Greek mythology is one of the best out there and D&D owes so much to it thematically, it deserves more than this half-assed effort.
There’s also nothing resembling a “plot” or purpose to this Region. There are two minotaur tribes that have recently undergone a schism (so basically just like the goblins of Region B), but they’re not actively at war, and frankly the distinction is pretty minimal. One tribe might trade with PCs (probably not), the other will basically attack on sight. That’s about it. And of course there are a ton of editing errors and bad encounter conditions. For example, most of the minotaurs appear to be randomly immune to fear.
But all of that pales in comparison to the primary feature of this region:
The Warp Gates
. You see, the celestials apparently weren’t satisfied with the all-door when it comes to needlessly inconvenient means of transportation. You see there are 10 doorways in the dungeon marked with extremely tiny magical glyphs (which seem impossible to interpret or identify, even if they’re found). Opening the door requires you to roll randomly to see which of 10 rooms the door opens into somewhere in the dungeon. Now there are two main problems with that:
1) First, according to the description the door will close automatically after someone steps through (there are no rules for what, if anything, can stop this). This means that the moment anyone has stepped through the party is likely scattered across the dungeon. If more than one person goes through then the situation is made even worse.
2) If anyone other than a
characters steps through one of these doors then they get hit with a random "side effect"
As you can see, these effects range from minor annoyances to status effects that last for hours, to save-or-die effects. In fact, death is probably not even the worst option. You can fix that with a Raise Dead spell which your cleric might have access to at some point during this region's level range. No one will have the Heal spell you need to cure Insanity or Feeblemind for at least another 3 or 4 levels.
That's right. If you decided to make the horrible mistake of playing any character alignment other than Lawful Good you will be punished for walking through a door. Even if you are LG the party is going to be scattered all over the dungeon and many gates pop you out right next to dangerous encounters like that 8-headed hydra (imagine trying to fight that solo while still recovering from whatever the warp gate decided to do to you).
Even further proof of an incredible lack of thought put into this section: every single monster (like all those minotaurs scattered across the dungeon) is not LG and many of them are in places that would inevitably require them to use the warp gates. Why are there not petrified or insane minotaurs all over the dungeon? Some of them have the "warp keys" that allow you to set the gates to non-random locations but that doesn't protect them from the gate's side-effects.
All in all, I've got to say this is winning so far as the worst Region in the entire WLD...possibly the worst module (certainly the worst commercially available module) I've ever seen.
Region C: The Final Option
Original SA post
Still slogging through the WLD, aka the money pit. Region F was a frothing mass of everything that could ever be done wrong in professional adventure design, so presumably things can only improve going forward. Going by level, Region C is next on our list, designed for characters of 7-9th level.
Region C: The Final Option
This entire region was apparently built to hold a powerful demon, a premise that will start to sound familiar because it is reused for Region G, N and probably others. The demon Falortuligo, presumably spawned by some sort of random name generator, was not let loose by the earthquake that rocked the dungeon, although minor demons in nearby cells were freed. About 50 years ago the goddess Myruun (a goddess of the ocean, travel and vigilance) summoned her small collection of holy warriors to the dungeon, leading them to this Region. They establish a garrison in this section and when the demon Falortuligo (try and pronounce it, I dare you) does break free they fight to the last man to slay it. The demon bashes his way through to Region B before the paladins finally slew it. This is all witnessed by Aurum, a wizard who came on his own, drawn by a vague premonition, and bore witness to the paladin's final moments.
Ridiculous name aside, I kind of like this Region's plot. Powerful demon breaks free and engages in an epic battle with paladins serving the goddess of lighthouses (which, if you think about it would be a great symbol for paladins to follow). It begs the question, since the gods are obviously aware of the dungeon why aren't they doing more about it...but then so does every other aspect of the dungeon's backstory.
Of course, this glimmer of good writing soon craps itself and dies. You see, it turns out Aurum didn't come on his own, he was also called by the same goddess (for some reason named Merunda rather than Myruun). So, he comes down to the dungeon, meets Myruun's knights and decides to hang out around here doing his wizard thing, until his experiments with extraplanar travel accidentally bring him into mental contact with Falortuligo, who apparently is also called "Ash" sometimes...for reasons. The demon claims to actually be an angel who is imprisoned along with a within the dungeon (there was actually an angel trapped along with the demon, driven mad now by the torture of imprisonment...notice how overly complicated this is starting to get?). So Aurum befriends the entity, believing it to be an angel and they swap magic tips. One of them turns out to be a trick that ends up weakening the demon's prison. It breaks free and the followers of Myruun/Merunda die putting it down. So...to recap: the goddess knows the demon is down there and sends her followers to go down and die to keep it from escaping...but she is also the one who contacted the wizard Aurum and instructed him to travel there, presumably knowing that he would be the one to free the demon. So she sends her only followers to die unknown and unmourned under the earth and just to make sure it happens she sends along the guy who'll kill them as well.
I'm beginning to think that the entire backstory of the dungeon revolves around the gods being moronic asshats.
If PCs are coming from the level-appropriate direction, the first place they'll likely visit is the former garrison of the Order of Myruun. Unfortunately they're all dead, leaving this section painfully boring.
The first major "feature" of the garrison is a large zone created by the wizard's experiments, a field that covers several rooms and allows ethereal travel. Of course, there's no means for the PCs to identify this field, they won't have any spells or items that grant etherealness, and even if they trudge back here after picking up a spell like that then they'll find that it's completely pointless...there are no special rooms that can only be accessed via the ethereal, no traps or hazards to bypass or treasures to find. There's only one reason why this field exists...so that the ethereal filtcher from room C3 is as annoying as it can be.
This section really illustrates two things. First, the dungeon designers are still, amazingly stingy with magical items and supplies. Here's what passes for "treasure". The Ethereal filcher has a pile of quartz and colored glass with a total value of 55 gp. In a random room is a rod that was transmuted into wood via magic...the rod was originally a greater metamagic rod of silence but only a wish or miracle spell can restore its power now. In another is a pile of rusty weapons which includes a masterwork warhammer (keep in mind, the minimum level for this region is 7). Another room has a secret compartment full of duty rosters and work assignments. An atach guards a treasure hoard consisting of 5 10 gp gemstones. In a pile of ashes the PCs can find 13 stone arrowheads and a piece of obsidian that might be worth 50 gp if fashioned into a pendant. The most valuable objects in this section are a set of two stone chairs, each worth 1000 gp...which doesn't matter because even if there were anyone the PCs could sell or trade them to, they probably don't have the means to drag a pair of half-ton stone chairs through the dungeon.
In fact, throughout the entire region there are only a few pieces of actual, significant treasure. One is a longsword hidden under a DC 30 secret tile, with two DC 50 locks (and remember, no taking 10 or 20 in the WLD). It's a +3 anarchic, unholy, flaming, keen longsword so it's amazing if one of your PCs is chaotic evil...and kind of lame if no one is. The other is a necklace that is actually a circlet of persuasion...but it doesn't radiate magic so the PCs will likely think it's one of the dozens of useless trinkets scattered throughout the region. It states the PCs could cast identify on it to figure out its function...except they can't since there's no way they'll have access to the supply of 100 gp pearls the spell demands. Well, I tell a lie, since there are some gnolls toting some magic items, a couple of pieces of magic armor, a few 1st level potions, and a +1 throwing greatclub. Given that the PCs should be 9th level by the time they leave this region they'll be lucky if they each have a magic weapon by now, and there's basically no chance it'll match with their preferred weapon type. Oh, and there's also a -2 cursed longsword that is enchanted to identify as a +3 vorpal longsword. The one exception is the treasure horde of a young black dragon, which does contain some decent supplies...although many are annoyingly restricted like a necklace of health that only fits small characters, or a scabbard of keen edges that only works for longswords and as a final "fuck you" a ring of wishes...with 0 wishes remaining.
The second is that it was a terrible idea to try and cram
monster into the dungeon. Aside from the mostly irrelevant backstory with the paladins, this region can be basically summed up as "random monsters". If there was a monster that the writers couldn't make fit into an earlier region its here. But since most of these random critters are not suitable encounters for a 7-9th level party, most of them have been arbitrarily decked out with extra HD. The ethereal filcher is 12 HD from its normal 5. A 14 HD cockatrice. There's a Dire Bat with 6 extra HD. a Large Rust monster of 14 HD (because who doesn't want to lose their weapons and armor?) as well as random monsters like an atach, hill giant, ochre jelly, gnolls, etc.
The atach encounter in particular is bizarre. The thing is 20 feet tall, which means that either the doors in the dungeon have suddenly expanded to gigantic proportions without the writers telling us, or the poor thing is having to squeeze its way through man-sized doors somehow.
Ultimately, this region is entirely pointless and just serves as a repository for misfit monsters. The backstory has no real effect on the area, and any events of significance have already occurred. This is little more than a place for players to wander the halls, fighting monsters and collecting pitiful amounts of loot. But at least its not Region F.
Region I: The Halls of Flesh
Original SA post
Before I get into Region I, I should mention that I'm noticing that the Level guidelines are beginning to become more and more wobbly. You see, the problem is that the dungeon designers decided to make the whole thing a massive square, aligning regions by a grid pattern. Like so:
Now, the problems with this should have been obviously, but apparently they were lost on whoever organized this. First, since the dungeon design isn't anything like linear, the players are likely going to miss huge chunks of the dungeon. There are two potential exits: Region O (the "official" exit, as the highest CR section) in the top right, and Region H, two regions down (below the lake). Depending on where the PCs travel they could end up reaching the exit in as few as 6 Regions, missing about 2/3rds of the dungeon.
And of course, the other problem is the fact that the level-guidelines are only loosely linear. So, if your players
manage to hit up every Region in the dungeon then a good chunk of them will be "underleveled" (there are about 9 regions that are redundant in terms of what level range they're designed for). Running around blowing around monsters dramatically weaker than you could be fun for a while, but it'll get old when its the majority of the dungeon. And the reverse is true as well. It's extremely easy for players to stumble into regions they aren't ready for. A third level party could easily go north from Region A, take a right turn too soon and find themselves in Region F, designed for 7th level characters by sadists. Likewise Region F connects directly to Region J, which means it goes from 9th level all the way to 13th.
Anyway, dungeon design rant over. On to Region I...the squishy bits
Region I: The Halls of Flesh
So, Region I is a section of the dungeon coated entirely with living flesh. Icky, but interesting at least. Needless to say, this regions "theme" is aberrations and oozes. The sticky situation is caused by...you guessed it: crazy wizard. This time, a crazy Drider wizard. You know the drill here. horrifying experiments, lots of awful creatures made from other awful creatures. Most of the drow and driders are now just eking out a meager existence in the region while the aberrations run amok.
I'd like to mention that the writing here is some pretty terrible purple prose, even for RPG writing, and it's kind of painful to read. That said, at least the concept is slightly more original than some of the other regions. There isn't a war or anything going on, nothing about some trapped demon that's now lose, or anything of the sort. Just a whole lot of awfulness.
It's also got the interesting feature that healing here is extremely fast: hp are recovered every hour rather than every day. However, people badly injured in the Region will likely suffer mutations and disease runs rampant through the place. This region is apparently also lit using continual light tiles...something that was conspicuously absent from the description of every other section of the dungeon.
The Region is themed for aberrations, but those don't tend to fit neatly into it's 7-9th level range. So one of the first encounters listed are large groups of Chokers (CR 2) and Gricks (CR 3). For some reason the writer decided to compensate for this by spending 5 paragraphs describing the culture and concerns of these mutated chokers. Something that could have been done in one paragraph and didn't need to be done at all, since they amount to little more than fodder. It also doesn't take long for the WLD's terrible editing to strike, the very first encounter is with the "choker leader". This is its statblock:
Not very helpful is it? The room's description claims its EL 6...but that's all we know.
There are some bright sides though. There's a +1/+2 Axiomatic, Bane (shapeshifters) two-bladed sword, which might be a great find if there just happened to be a non-chaotic PC who decided they would use two-bladed swords. There's also an intelligent, 10 HD, babbling Black Pudding, which I have to admit is a far more interesting creature than just an ordinary encounter with extra HD.
After that is a handful of easy choker encounters. And another encounter with a "Choker leader". This one actually has a stat block. Presumably this is a different leader than the one from I3, since it's HP and damage don't match. It's also not clear if this is the choker leader (the intelligent, cunning one) that was talked about in the intro to the section because it has the same Int 4 as all the other chokers.
This is the Grick territory (all of three rooms, so hardly an impressive domain). Despite how small this section is the writers decided to give every grick a random mutation on a d20 chart and its own random encounter table.
Amusingly, one encounter involves the writer suggesting the GM take inspiration from the movie
28 days later
. Of course this is an encounter with half a dozen tentacled worm monsters so I'm not entirely sure how it overlaps with a zombie movie.
It's topped off with an encounter with 12 4 HD gricks and a pair of Large 6 HD gricks. Despite their numbers this encounter is probably not nearly as deadly as the writer seems to want you to think it is. If the PCs are 7th level they'll have plenty of ways to deal with creatures this "dangerous"
Next we've got a Dark Naga (apparently actually a drow permanently shapechanged into a dark naga) who bosses around several Cloakers. Then there is the inner sanctum of the drider wizard. It's got a few objects of special stupidity. First is a chamber full of spell components. These components have been tampered with so that if you attempt to use them the spell goes disastrously wrong as determined by a 1d20 roll. Of course, if the PC spellcasters have already spent 7+ levels in the dungeon they're clearly all outfitted with spell component pouches so there's no reason for them to mess with any of these materials anyway.
The inner sanctum is also guarded by perhaps the worst security system ever. It's a magical lock that asks two questions. The first "who is master of this place", the answer is of course "mahir" the name of the wizard who lived here. The second is "how many of Mahir's brood still live within these haunted corridors" wow...that's a strange question...it manages to be almost impossible to answer now, but much simpler when Mahir was still alive. Of course, the PCs have no possible way of knowing the answer...but apparently with a Bluff check they can get the magical lock to spill the beans on how many of mahir's servants came to the dungeon, how many were killed in the disaster that created the flesh-halls and what happened to the survivors of the accident.
So, Mahir created a magical lock that is intelligent, capable of speech, capable of tracking the whereabouts and status of himself and any of his servants seemingly without limit...but did not make it intelligent enough not to give people trying to get inside clues to its own riddle!
Sadly, I've got to say this Region is actually probably one of the high points of the dungeon. Aside from the bad writing and the awkward encounters there's a fair bit of creativity here. The place isn't just a mass of plain stone corridors, the writer definitely encourages creative encounter design rather than the "open a door, here are some monsters" philosophy you see in a lot of other places and while there are some over-inflated low-CR creatures there's also a lot of heavily customized or custom creatures that involved actual creative work from the writer as opposed to copy-pasting stuff from the srd.
The "main event" of the Region is the Twins, a pair of major mutants who are essentially unkillable: both will reform in a matter of days if slain. They're interesting template fusions: a Fiendish Half Dragon Gibbering Mouther and a Fiendish Chimera (with a few extra random abilities thrown in). They're interesting, but although the region plays up their unstoppability, it won't really matter too much to the PCs. Players will certainly not be spending days on end in the region, and once gone they're unlikely to return. The only other inhabitants are drow and aberrations so there is no one to "save", and the only method of destroying either of the Twins involves a great deal of effort and risk (a magical ritual that can easily go haywire). Ultimately, the best solution is just to walk away and leave the region to it's craziness after you've thoroughly looted it.
So, Region I gets a solid C, and becomes the first Region in the dungeon so far to qualify as Acceptable!
Region G: The Gods Must Be Stupid
Original SA post
Region G: The Gods Must Be Stupid
? For those who don't recall, it was a "celestial garrison" where a large band of the original Celestial and Inevitable guardians of the dungeon are "under siege" by forces of evil vastly, vastly weaker than them. We're talking about a band of 4 Maruts who can't seem to handle about half-a-dozen shadows and a pair of 22 HD Leonals who seem to have trouble routing a couple of packs of Barghests. The Celestials of Region E couldn't be bothered to kill their own enemies, find their own "lost" artifacts (some literally only rooms away), or indeed to anything at all for themselves.
Now, if the Celestials of Region E seemed to have spent the last few centuries sitting around and doing nothing, the Celestials of Region G have practically tied themselves down to their chairs and blindfolded themselves instead of putting forth any effort at all to handle the evil that is overwhelming the dungeon they're meant to guard.
This region starts off with a big chunk of backstory which doesn't do a good job of fitting into the rest of the module. The original premise was that the WLD was, for the most part, setting neutral and could be dropped into any campaign setting or use no campaign setting at all (since the players will be trapped in the dungeon the entire time). Halfway through the book we're being told that just a few thousand years ago the world was ruled by a demonic overlord, angels taught elves and dwarves the ways of military combat and after the angels and demi-humans defeated the demon lord they imprisoned him in the dungeon (it's not clear whether the dungeon was already around before then, or if it was created to house this overlord and his minions). Because for some reason you can't just kill the bastard.
Really, this info dump serves no purpose. The PCs won't ever learn most of it, it's not particularly interesting and it doesn't really inform the plot of the region. It just boils down to "there's a powerful demon and his minions in this section. the minions are trying to break him out and the angels are trying to stop them". i.e. basically the entire plot of the dungeon.
Here the demons apparently destroyed enchanted crystals that fuel the lights, traps and wards in this region (note, this is the only region which seems to use this kind of power source, as there's never any chance for the PCs to fiddle with such things in previous regions), so the leader of the angels created a new power source using his own body, conveniently preventing him from helping out with the situation. Now, it's important to note that the angelic leader is a
. That means he's a CR 23 badass, and the number of threats in the dungeon that he could not destroy by himself can be counted on one hand with fingers to spare. However, instead of simply wiping out the demons he decides to hook himself up as a power source to replace those enchanted crystals.
Oh, and just to be clear, the Solar is not the only power source available. You see there's an artifact called the
Sacred Flame of Aranas
which has the ability to fuel the wards and lights in this Region (by the way, just to be clear it is only
that the Solar is keeping going, he is not sacrificing his life force to keep the whole dungeon contained, only the remaining traps in Region G and the prison of the demon lord). Now, keep in mind that a Solar has the spellcasting ability of a 20th level cleric and a crap-load of spell-like abilities. He has access to Wish and Miracle (the first is even a SLA, so it won't consume any XP). Even if the dungeon's anti-teleportation spells might be powerful enough to stop him from simply calling the artifact to hand it would be child's play for him to locate the artifact and there is literally nothing in the Region that could stop him from getting it.
But lets say, for the sake of argument, that its utterly unthinkable to allow any of the wards on the demon lord to weaken or lapse even for a moment. The Solar can't take the 5 minutes or so it would take to grab the flame and must immediately begin holding up the dungeon infrastructure himself. Now, the angels here know that the flame exists and that it can power the dungeon in place of their leader's life force. They've been here for
since the demons broke free. So, how weak are the forces of good that they cannot storm the demon's stronghold and return with the flame, and instead must rely on a band of 9-12th level PCs to help them? Lets to a quick headcount.
We've got...39 Hound Archons, including one with 4 levels of Paladin. Wow, that seems like a lot. And that's just the "stationary" encounters, not including the dozen-or-so that must be patrolling to account for random encounters. Now, that's a huge force of celestial badasses...but to be fair they're up against greater demons and committing their entire force to a battle might be too risky. It's understandable that these guys might just be barely able to hold onto a long-term stalemate...who else have we got?
Oh, look some Trumpet Archons. i.e. CR 14 celestials with the spellcasting power of a 14th level cleric on top of super-human stats and 12 Outsider HD? Each of whom easily outclasses any one of the PCs at this level? How many of them are there? 3
, I say at least because there are several random encounters that also include Trumpet Archons, meaning there are likely at least twice that number. And I'm not even including the Trumpet Archon stationed near the demon lord's prison helping to keep it stable. This is getting...less plausible...to say the least.
Now, finally, we've got a few Astral Devas. Despite also being CR 14 Astral Devas aren't quite as buff as Trumpet Archons as they lack the 14 spellcaster levels (but that's the fault of 3.5's CR system, not the WLD writers for once). So, how many is a "few". Why about
. And again, not including random encounters which can include up to 4 Devas per encounter.
So, we've got angelic forces consisting of the equivalent of 3 14th level clerics with super-powers, backed up by 12 super-fighters who have more spell-like abilities available than the party sorcerer has spells known and they're backed up by 3 dozen hound archons. How exactly are the celestials going to be looking for help from a party of humans who are just getting into double-digit levels at this point? What is there that they cannot accomplish that the PCs can? The answer is nothing, they simply seem content to let their leader die as they sit on their thumbs.
Oh, and to top it off the whole crew is led by the Solar's 2nd-in-command, a Planetar.
Now, how about the forces of evil that have broken free and the angels seem helpless to contain? There's a fair number of Dretches, but those things wouldn't even make the hound archons blink. CR 2 demons do not bear mentioning, especially when Astral Devas can lay down a 6d8 Holy Smite spell at will.
Well, there are a few Babou, who kind of fill the same role as the Hound Archons. They're marginally tougher, but there are only 17 of them and the 2-to-1 number advantage means that they don't really measure up to their celestial counterparts.
There's a handful of Vrock, about 5 of them. Needless to say that even if they were all working together its doubtful if they could measure up to even one of the Trumpet Archons. There's also a succubus who doesn't even rate consideration.
So, what about the major demonic lieutenants who have stolen the flame of mcguffin and are set on freeing their dark lord? Well, we've got one of each of the "mid-range" demons: a Hezrou, a Bebelith, and a Glaberazu. Only the Glaberezu comes anywhere near the power level of just one of the Trumpet Archons, let alone 3 backed up by a team of 12+ Astral Devas. The Planetar could potential take on all three at once, by himself.
And it's not like it would be hard for the angels to march on the demonic forces and take back the artifact. The Angels control areas G1-G33 and the demons G76-G97. Now you might think that sounds fairly far apart...but you aren't taking into account the World's Largest Dungeon's crappy cartography. Here's an illustration:
The blue is the celestial's territory, the red is the demons. The green line is the quickest path from the Solar's throne room to the location of the Flame (yes it goes over a river of lava, but everyone other than the Hound Archons can fly, and WLD lava produces no radiant heat or toxic gasses). For those keeping count the distance traveled would be roughly 700 feet. With a fly speed of 90 ft and sufficient buffs (no problem for a 17th level cleric) the Planetar could quite easily fly into demon territory himself, ignoring anyone trying to stop him and simply grab the artifact and leave...the whole process would take less than 3 minutes to go there and back.
And what about the demon lord himself? The guy buried in that huge cosmic bubble right in the center of the Region, the guy who once ruled the world and who this very dungeon may have been built to contain? He must be a truly epic opponent right? A Balor at the very least, if not one with extra class levels or HD, hell maybe even a custom-built demi-god demon? Someone that the PCs could be challenged by even if they faced him with the aid of numerous celestial allies.
Lord Krasveshk is a Nalfeshnee, with 4 extra HD and the Improved critical feat, and that's it. I mean that literally too, the writers didn't even remember to increase his attack bonus to account for the extra HD. His stats and special abilities are identical. He's backed up by an unnamed Hezrou and Glaberazue that were apparently imprisoned with him. That puts this world-shaking evil two ranks down from the top of the demonic hierarchy. In fact, Krasveshk is not even the most powerful demon in this Region! There's actually a Marlith who, bizarrely, seems to be working for him rather than vice versa. The only reason I didn't mention the marlith earlier is because she seems perpetually occupied with scrabbling at a wall of force and is not located with the rest of the demonic forces.
So, to sum up, we've got demonic forces which would be extremely tough customers for PCs of the recommended level (which is remember, 9-12). However, compared to the celestials stationed here they're little more than a speedbump. And if the PCs either convince the celestials to get off their feathered asses and do something, or grab the flame on their own then they'll succeed at releasing a Solar. A Solar backed up by dozens of lesser celestials and his Planetar second-in-command. At this point the question becomes...what is the purpose of the PCs anymore? By the end of this Region they're pushing level 13 and that still makes them bloody useless compared to the vast celestial powerhouses here. If the PCs have already been to Region F and can hook up the two Celestial forces there really isn't anything to do but wait around while the angels clean house in the WLD because there is not a single thing that could possible stop them. Of course, the WLD's writers don't address this in the slightest and the assumption seems to be that after being freed from centuries of inaction and with their demonic enemies defeated all the celestials decide that they've earned a nice long nap.
Region M: Whole Lot of Nothing
Original SA post
Region M: Whole Lot of Nothing
The second Region within the mid-level range, designed for levels 9-12. It's tucked away in the upper left corner of the WLD, and honestly odds are pretty good that most groups won't find it. After looking through the WLD you'll find that there are really only two types of Regions: There are the claustrophobic regions consisting of 100+ rooms, connected by corridors and put together with the same amount of planning as a randomly-generated dungeon and then there are the Regions that consist of a huge, mostly empty, space, with occasional caves or rooms scattered around the edges. Region M is the second type.
Region M is basically one huge cavern, which is somehow still a part of the dungeon. For some reason, after carving elaborate hallways and structures throughout the bedrock in the rest of the dungeon the celestials apparently just decided to frak the hell out of this area, leading to a huge, unused section of the dungeon, full of rubble and rocks and the source of the lava flow that has split the place in two since the various disastrous earthquakes.
This region's pretty much just kind of "here". there aren't any significant threats to the safety of the WLD or the world, any special treasures or prizes to be won. This is pretty much just space filler because they needed another region to complete the 4 x 4 grid.
For some reason the designers of this section decided that entries should be numbered starting from the NW corner (the only part no one can enter from). Just to make things more awkward.
The Great Lava Flow
As mentioned waaay back in the intro (
), the lava isn't really lava...or it sort of is, sort of isn't. It's basically just a big mass of magma and steam mephits, constantly rubbing up against one another in an inappropriate fashion. Depending on how you interpret the extremely vague description the mephits either make up the lava entirely or they simply live inside of it and somehow the presence of hundreds or thousands of these burning hot imps make the lava colder and safer rather than the other way around. This means that a 9th level party with Resist Elements cast on all of them will likely be able to swim the lava river with only a few minor burns. Throw on a Protection From Evil and the mephits won't be able to bother you either.
There are a few minor places of note along the lava river: the source (which is about a mile off the edge of the map), a lava whirlpool, and, believe it or not, whitewater lava rapids. Given that the lava is so mildly dangerous and the fact that they decide they need swimming hazards for lava you have to wonder why not just make it a river? That way they wouldn't have to come up with some bizarre reason why it's "safe" and they wouldn't have to shove all the water-themed creatures into a couple of regions where no one is likely to go.
There are also a couple of islands in the lava.
: an island where the drow magically dump their trash. Because apparently its easier to pile your trash on an island in the middle of a lava river rather than just tossing it into the lava itself. Apparently this island in the center of lukewarm lava is the ideal place for a pair of shambling mounds to thrive. Then we've got the
where Earthblood flows up and is ignited by the lava ("you mean oil?", "I mean Earthblood!"). The fumes generated by this are several times deadlier than the lava itself. Finally we have
where we have 12 shocker lizards who have, according to the text, been trapped here for centuries. You know, I know they decided not to worry about anyone having to eat or drink in the WLD but they never mentioned that it makes anyone ageless...meaning that these must be the most inbred lizards ever.
The Valley Of the Demon Wind
This dramatically named section is the portion of the cavern on the far side of the lava river. This area is full of high winds that apparently are actually the product of a crazy air elemental named Aphnitern. Apparently Aphnitern was some kind of evil air elemental godling that was trapped in the dungeon and has since gone insane. This fellow is an Elder Air Elemental with 48 HD. Keep in mind that the PCs are supposed to only be around 10th level at this time. This qualifies as probably one of the more lethal encounters in the whole dungeon, compared to the PCs level. Just like the longtail encounter from Region A the only thing that makes it remotely survivable is that the "tactics" suggested by the writers are among the worst possible. There's also one 32 HD roc and two 26 HD rocs. Because apparently 3 normal rocs was just too easy an encounter for a group of PCs climbing a cliff.
And of course, the WLD continues its fine tradition of not understanding that PCs need magical equipment in order to be remotely effective. For instance, there's a treasure cache in the valley which includes a rusty masterwork short sword, a broken ruby (both pieces worth 250 gp now) and a non-magical ring with the name of an ancient king on it that would be worth 10,000 gp to a historian...which makes it completely useless when trapped in the dungeon. There's also a 5,000 gp diamond that at least might be used for a spell component...if you happen to search in just the right place in this huge open expanse. The only real reward for these extremely over-buffed encounters is a decent magic battle axe and a suit of enchanted leather armor.
Despite the name, the main feature of the valley is actually a mountain, the Dark Crown, where a Cloud Giant Cleric lives with a group of Arrowhawks. The cloud giant isn't instantly hostile and apparently is looking for a way out of this Region. How he has failed to find his way out of what amounts to a single giant cave that takes up maybe 1 square mile is not explained. It's worth noting, if the PCs do fight him the only treasure is another masterwork weapon, a few 50 gp gems and a wand of mirror image with 11 charges.
Finally we've got 6 Greater Air Elementals, former followers of the "demon wind", making this another extremely tough encounter for PCs who are probably just stepping into level 10. As a reward there are a few random gems of minor value, a suit of +1 chainmail and a masterwork shield.
There's apparently a ledge here. There's not actually much indication of where this 80 foot ledge is supposed to be, what it separates and why we care. There's the ruins of a watchtower which serve no purpose but to waste time, something explicitly stated in the description. There's a pile of rubble with a leather lace hanging out which only serves to lure people there so it can collapse. Despite the fact that this trap could only have been placed intentionally the rubble trap guards nothing, has no purpose and is not even close to anyone or anything that might have set it. It's just a bit of utterly random "fuck you".
Quite the name. Looking at the map it's worth noting that their depiction of a "canyon" is basically identical to the mountains nearby. Can you find the canyon?
Despite the dramatic title the only things here are some random monsters: some belkers and achaierais. One of the achaierais has 18 HD, because adding more hit points long ago replaced creativity in the WLD. Their lair contains art objects that are, as always, worthless to anyone trapped inside a giant dungeon plus some even more useless coins. The only actual "treasure" is a scroll of fireball and web (hey, remember way back in the intro when the designers said web spells should be banned and claimed there wouldn't be any in the dungeon?).
There's also some Xorn's (who have 21 HD, just because) protecting a "spring" of Earthblood, which is basically the mountain crying because the celestials hurt it so much making their dungeon. Although the earthblood itself is caustic and mostly worthless (it'll burn as a torch for days at a time...woooo) However if you ignite a large enough quantity of the stuff it becomes pretty much the most toxic poison gas known to man (DC 32 fort save or you take 6d10 damage +2d6 con damage).
The Open Plain
Apparently this area extends several miles to the north, making it larger than the entire rest of the dungeon. It contains absolutely nothing other than random encounters, some more belkers, some bones, and a 30 HD xorn.
This area is the home to a "city" of driders and their drow slaves. However, it basically takes up about 1/5th of the whole region, making really more of a glorified summer camp of spider-people, at least compared to all the other settlements in the WLD. Basically these guys are the remnants of the drider and drow from Region I. While the open areas to the north are full of overpowered monsters with inflated HD this area is fairly boring, with just regular driders, some invisible servants and a few drow.
The one thing you would hope to find at a place like this might be some nice loot, unfortunately the WLD continues to disappoint here. The most valuable object are daggers of venom carried by...oddly enough...drow slave-guards. The driders themselves use mostly non-magical equipment but apparently they arm their slaves with magical armor and weapons. At least their most "trusted" slaves. There are a few nicer magical items here and there...but I've got to say I hate it when designers of mega-dungeons throw in enchanted weapons of the type least likely to be used by characters: enchanted longspears, greatclub, or double weapons are all excellent examples of this annoying trend.
For the most part though I found this area even less compelling than the big empty wilderness. You've got a a group of evil monsters who have enslaved...a bunch of equally evil humaniods. They sit in this distant corner of the dungeon, bothering no one else and just slowly dwindling in population until eventually they go extinct. The only reason to get involved is just a general "kill them, take their stuff" mentality or perhaps a desire to just put the whole lot of them out of their misery.
This also has one of the longest freaking room descriptions in the dungeon: M65, the laboratory of a drider sorcery. describing it takes four damn pages. If it takes that long to sum up the contents of a single room then you are over-complicating things.
Finally the developers mention that you might decide to include a way out here. Seems a bit anti-climatic considering that at this point PCs are just getting into double digits...and if you do let them leave good luck convincing anyone that they should go back inside.
Region K: All the water monsters have to go somewhere right?
Original SA post
Region K and L: All the water monsters have to go somewhere right?
Region K map:
Now that we're in the mid-levels, there aren't enough inter-connected monsters for the developers to keep making Regions themed on creature type or races (excepting one "undead" themed region that's still to come), so now they're taking a page from video-games and starting with "elemental" themed levels. Regions K and L are both watery areas and here you will find every single goddamn monster with the aquatic subtype crammed into two sections. Region K is levels 10-12 and Region L is levels 12-14. You may notice that the level ranges are starting to break down as Regions no longer interconnect neatly and the developers make no attempt to block or restrict access from one Region to another. For instance, if you head west from K you'll run to Region J which is for levels 13-15 or if you go north you'll drop right into Region N (the undead one I mentioned) which is for 14-18. You can even easily head NE without passing through other regions and drop right into Region O for levels 16 to 20.
Anyway, both Regions are big open spaces like Region M. Apparently derro miners managed to break through the ceiling of the Region into an underground lake, collapsing the entire space and flooding it. Celestials are great for looking impressive and delivering holy messages from on high, but apparently they suck as contractors. You'd think someone would realize it's a bad idea to build underneath a lake...on top of a fault line...miles under the earth.
This led to many of the demons and devils imprisoned here drowning to death (making the derro far better than the celestials when it comes to defending the world from evil), however their evil corpses turned into corrupt sediment making the place mildly evil. Apparently if you have a big enough body of water creatures with the aquatic subtype will simply begin to show up out of nowhere. In addition to a green dragon and some hags there are apparently both Merfolk and Tritons living in Region K. Presumably because of the evil mud in the water both are somewhat douchier than normal, but not outright evil.
Just like Region's A, B, E, F, G, and probably more to come, this region is divided up among multiple feuding factions currently stalemated against one another and the PCs come in screaming "Wild card, bitches!" and screw everything up. This region does actually have a bit of a further twist, in that forces from Region L are actually preparing to invade and screw things up as well. There's even a countdown that begins as soon as the PCs arrive in Region K, in just about a week a massive force of sahaugin and merrow led by a half-fiend Kraken are due to invade and reshape everything in this region! Of course, this is mentioned
nowhere in Region K
. The timeline of the invasion is found as a Sidebar for room L18, so unless the GM reads through all of K and all of L as soon as the PCs enter the Region they'll be unlikely to spot it.
K1-K10: Hag Lair
For some reason the numbering starts in the Northern part of the Region, even though PCs are meant to enter from the West or the South. This particular stretch of beach is home to a coven of hags. They seem to mostly stick to a small selection of rooms that survived the deluge, which is important since they can't really leave. Anyone standing on the beach is in sight of the green dragon Thorodin and supposedly can see him as well (it's not clear how, there's no mention of lighting and thorodin's lair is quite distant). The green dragon will spot them (technically there's a spot check, but the DC is 25 + the lowest Hide score in the group. Thorodin's Spot is +23.)
This is the case for all the stretches of beach K1, K46 and K65, so unless the PCs just happen to enter the region from the one entrance that doesn't exit onto the open beach one of their first encounters is pretty much certain to be a fight with a oddly-buffed Adult Green dragon. I'll go into more detail on Thoridon later, but suffice to say they didn't do a great job.
So, the Hags (who will attack the PCs immediately if they kill Thorodin, since they'll be obviously at their weakest at that point) inhabit this small areas on the NW side of the dungeon. The beach sections are just a few traps, a water naga and (randomly) a pair of ravids. The ravid encounter mentions that they'll use their powerful animate object ability...except it never details what objects are actually in the room that might be animated. The one exception is a ring of shooting stars which they state has a 20% chance of being animated and spraying sparks in a random direction, the writers forgetting that animate object only works on non-magical objects.
before continuing, here's a perfect opportunity to showcase yet more shitty WLD cartography:
Take a look at K3 and K4, by simply wandering a few feet south you suddenly end up in K25, and then if you decide you want to take a dip, you jump to K13. Note, there are no barriers between these areas.
next we have room K5, which is almost comedic. You see, the has apparently got their talons on a bronze dragon when she was very young and have been keeping her here for decades, presumably waiting for her to grow old enough to challenge Thorodin. They have her permanently dominated through a special ritual and artifact, and for some reason put an enchantment on her that makes her take the shape of a human. As a result she's gone insane and believes that the other hags are her sisters. She sleeps on a ledge in this room and the only thing that keeps Thorodin from noticing her is some vines blocking his vision (apparently he's never bothered to investigate in the decades that the bronze dragon has been here). The enchantment is set to be removed should anyone other than the hags come into the room.
So, as soon as the PCs enter, a ledge above them crumbles as she involuntarily shapeshifts into full bronze dragon size, collapsing the balcony she's resting on and falling on anyone below. Although she's totally insane, she's still basically good and if the PCs try and avoid conflict she'll talk with them. Apparently the hags stole her eggs (even though they got her as a child...and who's the father?) and traded them with the drow wizard who created Region I, however they claim that Thorodin stole the eggs, so the bronze is willing to team up to take him down. Not that it matters, because short of mass invisibility it is basically impossible to get to this area without Thorodin spotting the PCs and attacking. Makes you wonder how the hags ever come to visit their imprisoned bronze dragon.
This area also contains two new magical...well, things I guess:
The Crystal of Vile Attraction
. The first is a magical crystal buried under the sand on the beach, which attracts people to it at varying ranges. Once you're within 10 feet you have to make a DC 25 Will save to avoid doing whatever you can to possess it. This would be kind of a neat magical trap if it's effects weren't quite so strong. DC 25 is an extremely high DC to throw at mid-level players (a 10th level fighter's base will save is +3. If he's invested a fair amount into it, it may go as high as +6 or +7...meaning only an 18 or a 19 on their roll will succeed. even a 10th level sorcerer/wizard probably doesn't have a bonus higher than +10, meaning a 75% chance of failure). That means that as soon as the party comes across this object then anyone who isn't a cleric, monk or paladin is probably going to start murdering one another. Of course, someone might try and dispel it...but the WLD writers never included a CL for the item so there's no indication of the DC for dispelling. According to the write-up, there isn't any duration on the effect or any "re-rolls" for the save. Once you fail, to all indications, you permanently become willing to kill to possess the crystal.
Necrojade Poison is a part of an
over-elaborate prison for what is described as a "zombie lord" (who apparently died long ago, as there is nothing but bones in the room). The door is sealed with a magical lock that can only be opened with a DC 30 use-magic-device check. The room is a perfect sphere with a 3 foot deep layer of mist. The bottom of the sphere is blocked by a wall of force to make a floor (because apparently it's easier to carve a perfectly spherical room and give it an enchanted floor rather than just carve it flat in the first place). Hanging from the ceiling is a set of manacles that are enchanted to grapple anyone who comes within 10 feet and begin melting them with acid. Once the manacles snatch someone blades along the wall begin spinning and
continue spinning for 100 years
. Avoiding these blades (which automatically knock you back into the room) takes a DC 25 jump check (keep in mind, most people who don't have jump as a class skill have probably an average of +0). Now, this would be ridiculous enough but it gets worse. The gas filling this room is Necrojade poison, I'll let the designers describe it for you:
Done reading it? Are you weeping yet? If not, let me explain the key points.
designed a poison with the explicit intent of immobilizing undead, that just so happens to also be extremely lethal and turn the living into wights. Because, forces of good, amiright? On top of that, because of the way the poison is designed
it doesn't work on undead
. It's penalties to speed and athletics abilities is based on how much Constitution damage the target suffers. Even if the poison gets around the immunity undead have to both poisons and fortitude saves, they have no Con score and thus never take any Con damage and never suffer any penalties.
So, we've got a room with a set of regenerating, acid-producing animated manacles, a circle of spinning blades that will keep going for a century and magical gas intended to (but not actually) reduce an undead creature to immobility. All of this is meant to imprison a zombie lord, and the traps are designed to (quoting) "...play upon the zombie lords insatiable hunger and plodding mobility." Of course, they could have gone a much simpler route and just stuck the damn zombie underneath the
invulnerable and permanent force wall
that they used to make the goddamn floor!
This most stupid of rooms is
lethal for PCs. The manacles have an extremely high grapple score and a most people will die if trapped more than a few rounds within the necrojade poison. Even if they are proof against the poison in some way it's still extremely difficult to escape, since a DC 25 jump check is out of reach to most characters of 10th level without a Jump spell or Boots of Striding and Springing. The one saving grace is that the traps are extremely easy to detect, so hopefully the PCs will open the door, notice the traps and decide that the non-magical suit of plate mail that is the room's only contents is just not worth the effort.
I'm impressed there's so much terrible material in just the first 10 rooms so far. I'll try and speed it up. Next we've got a room with magical doors that give different, random benefits depending on which door you go through, bizarre and very pointless. The next room is the hag's den which is basically the designers attempting to replicate a horror movie set with very mixed results. The hags themselves apparently sleep in stone pillars here, guarded by a merrow sorcerer. each of the hags (one of each flavor) is a sorcerer of varying degrees of ability. This is actually a pretty brutal fight since the hags can see through the stone of their pillars and cast spells while inside (the PCs would naturally have no idea), so each of them will emerge fairly buffed up with spells. There's also a gray render living nearby. And finally a group of merrow who serve the hags hanging out on the beach. Since its explicitly noted that Thorodin can see this area and will attack as soon as he spots someone, its unclear why the merrow aren't smoking puddles.
K11 to K24
The western underwater sections of this region is inhabited by a band of merfolk. They apparently went to a mountain lake to meet a lillend who was sent by their god to guide their people to a new age of enlightenment. apparently their god was too lazy to have its divine messenger appear anywhere near his people, but if there's one lesson the WLD teaches it's that gods are worse than useless. The lake collapsed just when the merfolk arrived spilling them and the llilend into the dungeon. The green dragon captured the lillend and the merfolk have just been sitting here inbreeding for centuries. The southern end is occupied by tritons, who apparently came here on purpose and plot to take down the dragon.
the two tribes are not hostile, but basically avoid each other, not speaking for centuries. It's up to the PCs to break this gridlock.
Which brings up another issue with this region: size. Now, the Regions of the WLD are quite big, for dungeons. However, when compared to any open area they're actually fairly small. A quick measurement shows that they're a bit less than 900 feet wide in both directions, which means they're roughly the size of a couple of city blocks
the merfolk and tritons inhabit the western "bay" area of the dungeon, which measures roughly 250 x 750 or so. For comparison imagine two communities of a dozen or so members each, living within (and never leaving) a single walmart super-center for centuries without interacting with one another.
Although theoretically a viable "faction", neither the merfolk or the tritons represent any significant power in the Region. The merfolk consist of only 5 warriors and 1 cleric, most of their members dead after the dragon decided to randomly attack one day. The tritons don't number much larger, only about 9 or so members.
The tritons have been mining yet another random magic "thing" here: Tanaa'ryl. It's apparently a mineral made of compressed demon bone. At first it seems kind of cool, it looks like glass with veins of glowing molten metal running through it. However, the benefits are extremely minor. weapon critical hit ranges are increased by 1 and armor will ignore the first critical hit in a fight. They'll also possibly ignite flammable objects on a critical hit (not much concern in a water-region). And the downside: growing madness. Every day it's used you have to make a Will save or take a point of wisdom damage, if your wisdom drops below a certain level (starting with 9 or less) then additional side effects crop up. The tritons are aware of this, but apparently think that tiny boost to critical hit probability is worth it and have been forging it into armor and weapons. The text explicitly notes that if they're convinced to be friendly with the PCs they might trade some of these with them, but will never reveal the side effects (because they're dicks apparently).
Of course this would be more of a concern if Tanaa'ryl was capable of inflicting more than one point of wisdom damage. The stuff inflicts one point of damage per day...which just so happens to be the recovery rate for ability score damage (twice that with good rest). So if your Wisdom is an odd number, you basically never have to worry about the side effects.
This is pretty much Thorodin's domain, since he can see everything in the area from his liar. Despite that it's pretty packed. There's a couple of outcast "heretic" merfolk (pointing out that their god has really screwed them over) living under water here. There's a pillar that randomly projects a magic circle against evil. A tendriculos hanging out with a couple of merrow zombies, some will o the wisps, a giant croc, and a chuul. There's also a mist that targets anyone touching it with a combo of chill touch, confusion, crushing despair, and an unspecified Suggestion spell. And a roper that's somehow disguised as a willow tree...because that's certainly going to be plausible.
The tritons have been trapping the bog with spear traps designed to launch spears at Thorodin. A valiant effort, if utterly useless given Thorodin's AC and DR. Speaking of it's time to address Thorodin himself.
Like I mentioned at the start it's basically impossible to avoid combat with Thorodin and he will inevitably be one of the PC's first combat encounters in this region. He is an Adult Green, which wouldn't be a bad challenge for a group of mid-level characters under normal circumstances. However, given the environment, Thorodin can easily slaughter most characters. The ceiling is high so he can fly freely through pretty much the entire Region, he has the flyby attack and hover feats meaning he can easily stay out of melee reach and hit and run spellcasters or melt them with his breath. Should he need to escape he simply can dive underwater or (since the entire region is pitch black) fly out of reach of the character's vision. So, needless to say he would be an extremely tough encounter for a group of level 9 characters who have just stumbled into the Region.
But of course that wasn't enough, so the designers decided that they would add buffs to Thorodin entirely at random. He gets a +4 to his strength bonus, his damage reduction is increased to 10, his spell resistance is increased by 3 (meaning a 9th level caster has a 75% failure chance against him), damage from his breath weapon is increased by 4d6, his frightful presence DC is increased by 4 and he has a host of immunities: fire, illusions, lightning bolts (specifically lightning bolts, not electricity), polymorph, mind-affecting magic, magic missile, and silver (???). These changes are completely unexplained and so terribly random its difficult to tell which are intentional and which might just be the writers making mistakes. But apparently all of these changes only deserve a +1 to his CR.
Of course, the designers can't make an overpowered "boss" without crapping themselves at least a little in the process. Thorodin's sorcerer spells are just about the worst possible choices. He's only 5th level so his selection is fairly small and he decided to waste it on some of the least useful draconic spells ever: enlarge (only affects humaniods), hold portal (useless for anyone), and shocking grasp (he's got daggers for fingers, why does he need a shocking grasp spell?), arcane lock (this and hold portal together? lots of preparation when you consider there are no doors anywhere nearby, let alone ones he would care about locking), see invisibility (already has blindsense), and whispering wind (he lives in a cavern that he can shout across and is too large to leave).
Likewise, Thorodin's tactics are equally poor but at least semi-believable if he's overconfident. Very likely he'll end up killing or driving off most PC groups as soon as they enter Region L, the area is just too advantageous for him and PCs are unlikely to have the firepower needed to take him down at this level (especially when you factor in his many immunities). The writers mention that he might be elsewhere when the PCs arrive but there really isn't anywhere else for him to go. The area is so small that all he can really do is decide to take a dip in the water near his lair which is hardly any further away. It's implied that the PCs might recruit the merfolk and tritons to help fight the dragon, but both groups are basically helpless against him and the best they could do is absorb one acid blast before turning to sludge.
And of course, as an additional "fuck you" the only magical item in Thorodin's "hoard" is a ring of water breathing. To be fair, it's quite useful in this region but you kind of hope for a bit more than that.
I'll continue Region K shortly, then on to L.
Region K continued
Original SA post
Not to dogpile but I'm not sure how
could realistically have thought that a hojillion-page dungeon crawl using EVERY MONSTER EVER could actually wind up being anything more than an unfocused mess, d20 system or no.
I was young and foolish, I thought it would be a neat mountain to climb with my group in high school and the bastards promised to split the cost with me...never did. The bitterness over that 100$ is what still drives me to this day.
Region K continued
This region blows its load kind of early. Thorodin is kind of the "boss" of the region and the hags follow as the second biggest threat. Both will be encountered very shortly after entering. Thorodin will attack as soon as he spots the PCs, which won't take long, and the hags will follow almost immediately, knowing that they're no match for anyone who can kill Thorodin but assuming the battle will put the PCs at their most vulnerable. Together they are almost certain death for a level appropriate group.
But if you're very lucky (or you wandered in from exploring several higher level regions already) then you might just be able to survive these two fights. That doesn't actually leave much to do. Thorodin had a few locoath servants who'll likely just flee if their master dies, the PCs can also free the lillend he has imprisoned.
The lillend is trapped in a gilded cage, unable to escape because a nearby altar radiates antimagic in a 50 foot radius, a former celestial security system. The entry for this room suggests that if the PCs destroy the altar the lillend can free herself, however the altar is quite durable (10 hardness, 200 hit points), although it is vulnerable to unholy water or tanaaryl weapons. When the altar is destroyed it explodes, hurting everyone nearby. Sadly, it didn't seem to occur to anyone that it might be easier for the PCs to simply break the bars of the cage, since the average iron bar has the same hardness and only 30 or so hp. It's not even clear how the lillend would free itself if the anti-magic field is removed, she can use the knock spell but there is apparently no door to the cage (otherwise the developers would presumably note the DC to pick the lock).
K43-45: the Abyssal edge
This is the easternmost section of the Region where the water gets deep (it's not clear why it gets deeper...even with the walls collapsed the dungeon should still have just about the same level in all areas. maybe the celestials decided they needed to carve a couple of basements here). There's a deep well where a "greater glaberazu" (why he's "greater" is unclear as his stats are identical to a normal one) who apparently absorbs memories and life energy through dimensional cracks and was imprisoned in a collapsing well trap...oh god, it just doesn't make any sense. Basically he's in a deep underwater pit and anyone within 20 feet suffers 3 negative levels temporarily. However, he doesn't actually want to fight. He'll try and trick the party into letting him travel with them by posing as a celestial and if they reject him or doubt him he'll simply teleport away and leave, presumably to be encountered again later.
There's also a sunken ship which apparently was dragged down here when the lake rushes it. It's a bit odd when you realize that the opening into the dungeon was wide enough for an entire ship to be sucked through intact...but there is no sign of it and no opening left to escape through. It can't even be that far from the surface, you'd think there might even be a bit of daylight.
oh, and a mutated gargantuan water spider with an acid spray attack that seems to have just been ignored by the other entities in the area.
This is the last intact piece of the original structure in the area. It's basically the result of someone jotting down random encounters which range from moderately challenging (4 gray oozes) to completely pointless (a single thoquaa). other encounters include a permanent acid fog, an angelic bedroom, a few traps, a dying harpy, some merrow, acquatic elves, and a huge scorpion. The rest of the area is more of the celestials overly-elaborate traps. Here's some examples:
*The Crystal Pits: This room contains two large pits, which used to house demons imprisoned underneath crystal caps. If the caps were ever broken the doors close and a giant stone roller rolls up and down the length of the room, crushing everything not inside one of the pits. When I say "crushing" I mean it inflicts 10d6 crushing damage. While that certainly hurts, it definitely would not kill any demon of significant power and while the doors are functionally impossible to open (DC 40 strength check) they do open automatically after an hour. Since the crystal caps have been smashed at some point in the past the trap will trigger whenever anyone goes in or out of one of the pits (which contains nothing).
*the chain cell: This door is covered in symbols (which require a DC 25 decipher script roll, because apparently celestials don't actually write in celestial) which provide a vague description of the former prisoner "gatarana, whose strength comes from the earth". The room contains 8 animated chains which will attempt to grapple people in pairs, and once grapped they will pull the victims into the air and stretch them until they die. This is quite lethal (together the chains seem to inflict 2d10 damage a round, and they have an impressive grapple bonus. escape seems to require breaking the chains, which will take quite some time (hardness 10, 30 hp)).
*Fire Cell and Ice Cell: This one is labeled "stenarri, creature of fire" and "abhonet, creature of ice". Basically each one is designed to channel heat and cold into the other, so the fire monster weakens the ice monster and vice versa. As far as celestial prisons go this one isn't actually that badly thought out. However, it doesn't actually matter since both inhabitants are dead, the rooms are empty and the only noticeable effect is that the temperature of both rooms will stabilize if the equilibrium is thrown off, at the rate of 1 degree per round.
*Blade Cell: This room is unlabeled, but apparently held a "flesh demon" (because that's totally a thing) which was pinned to the wall with magical daggers. the room is full of +1 daggers of different materials. These are : gold, silver, brass, cold iron, adamantine, holy diamond, lawful coral, chaotic granite, good wood, and evil opal. there is no further explanation for any of that.
*Water Cell (by the way, these are the titles of the room in the dungeon itself): This room once imprisoned "rifidar, creature of air", who escaped at once point (I think you'll see why). This chamber's door is blocked by a permanent Wall of Force effect, except it only targets free-flowing water, making it impossible to bring any water in or out of the chamber. After someone enters the room it begins to flood, the water held in place by the wall of force. After it fills the room the water freezes. You may ask yourself, "in what way does this help imprison a creature of air?" and "why not just make it an actual wall of force, one that might stop the air demon from just walking through?" These questions apparently never occurred to the designers.
*Empty Cell: This cell imprisoned a succubus. She's gone, but apparently her demonic stank remains producing an Emotion (friendship) effect on anyone inside. Because the writers didn't seem to get the memo that 3.5 doesn't have an Emotion spell anymore. also apparently they think a 10 lb cold iron chain is worth 3,000 gp (note, a 10 lb silver chain in one of the other rooms is only worth 500 gp).
*Chains of Remorse: another really elaborate prison. the celestials need to learn that simpler is often better. This is a circular corridor around a central room, the corridor walls are mirrored and anyone inside is targeted by a Confusion effect every round. if they attack someone randomly while confused they'll actually strike the mirrored wall which reflects the damage back to them. If they find and open the door in the central chamber then a gust of wind knocks them inside where they fall down a 100 foot spiked pit trap, although they might catch themselves on one of the chains that stretches across the width of the pit. The pit is full of demonic corpses chained here being constantly shown scenes of torment and horror, which causes anyone inside it to become Shaken and Staggered. The walls are completely unclimbable so only flight or levitation could allow escape. There is a 12 charge wand of cure moderate wounds at the bottom though!
*Unstable Cell: this one belonged to "baphon, lesser demon of the blighted realms" who was apparently a half-fiendish greater gorgon and it has been badly damaged by the earthquake. 2 rounds after the room is opened the ceiling collapses and any characters within are trapped underneath magically dense rubble. This only inflicts 8d6 damage but there's no indication of any way to free anyone trapped...so presumably they're just doomed.
*Eternal Charm: This cell contains the petrified remains of an erinyes, who got caught by that gorgon from the last room.
*Scorpion Cell: This one has a big scorpion, mutated by nesting in the rotting corpse of a demon. It's odd that the celestials imprison so many of these demons, it's made very clear that it's quite possible to simply kill them...but apparently this is better for some reason.
*Scales of Perserverance: This room contains a checkerboard patter of red and black floor tiles and a stone see-saw in the middle. red tiles weight 3 lbs, black weigh 5 lbs. When the seesaw is perfectly balanced the floor becomes electrocuted. This was apparently a "recharging" station for inevitables...who don't require "recharging" and who don't absorb or resist electricity in any way. so basically this is just a stacking game that electrocutes whoever wins it. If you decide to load all the red tiles on one side and all the black on another this opens a secret hatch revealing a gem of lightning, which basically operates like an electrically themed staff.
*gemsect lair: This room has a chest that's full of bugs that look like gems, called gemsects. This swarm has no actual stats however, the writers say it has the stats of a "summon swarm (beetles)" spell, which doesn't exist (summon swarm summons only bats, rats or spiders) and in fact, there are no stats for a beetle swarm in the standard srd.
That's it for Region K, since it's so closely interconnected I'll jump straight to L after this.
Region L: Because Water Levels Are Always The Most Fun
Original SA post
Region L: Because Water Levels Are Always The Most Fun
If there are any groups that have explored the entire WLD I would say that Region L probably ranks as their second most hated Region (and that's only because Region F gave me a new appreciation for just how terrible dungeon design could be).
While Region K was basically a large beach with some bays and bogs, Region L is 80% deep, open water. Also, since the Pcs are trapped in a dungeon that means they have no access to boats or rafts. Flight is impractical (fly only lasting for minutes, and overland flight only targeting the caster) and water walking would make actual combat with aquatic enemies difficult.
That means swimming is more or less the only option. And let me remind you that swimming suuuuuucks. Fortunately by 12th level, most parties will have easy access to long-term water breathing (one casting by a 12th level cleric keeps a party of 4 sucking agua for 6 hours), but most PCs will not have positive swim scores, especially those that have been investing their skill points in a giant dungeon crawl. So lets review the basic swimming rules.
You've got to make a swim check to move, minimum DC 10. This is a 50% chance to not go anywhere at all for many PCs, and even on a success your movement is reduced to 25% (that's about 10 feet a round as a move action, 15 feet as a full move). And since most combat will take place with creatures below the surface you get a chance to experience the wonders of underwater combat:
1) pitch darkness, there's no light in this area at all to begin with, visibility is even lower underwater.
2) no effective ranged ability. throwing weapons don't work at all, bows and crossbows suffer a -2 per 5 feet of distance.
3) slashing and bludgeoning weapons inflict half damage.
4) almost everything you're facing will have a swim speed, meaning they will be blazing along compared to you.
And even better in many places the water is deep enough that pressure and cold become issues. spending more than half an hour at that depth is likely going to be lethal all by itself...and remember it takes you 6 seconds to move 15 feet assuming you succeed at your swim check.
The best you can say is none of this is directly the fault of the WLD designers. These are all standard rules and it sucks to hang out underwater in any version of D&D. But perhaps they should have considered this before making a Region that is 80% underwater.
They seem to be aware of this as they provide a list of different reasons for how the GM might convince and/or force the players to actually explore this region rather than just turning back. Ultimately though, I don't think anyone will be particularly enthusiastic about this place. PCs will hate it because they're basically crippled (and one dispel magic away from drowning), and DMs will hate it because tracking movement and encounters in 3 dimensions is a pain.
But of course, since it is the WLD, they had to come up with something to make everything worse. You see, the corrupted demon dirt is even worse in this region and it actively taints anyone in the area. Every 24 hours spent in the Region PCs must make an increasing Will Save (10 +1 per day), to avoid having their alignment shift one step towards evil. Once they become evil they begin carrying out random suggestions by the demonic taint, indulging in whatever monstrous act the GM decides. But that's, shockingly, not the bad part.
The bad part is the mutations. You see every time you fail a saving throw, you gain a random mutation and permanently lose 1d3, 1d4 or 1d6 points of charisma (irreversible short of a wish). If you just so happen to be a sorcerer or a bard, I hope you're ready to get shit on, because there goes your core stat. What's more, the mutations themselves range from pretty nice (+5 natural armor, +1d6 strength and con, spell resistance) to really, really shitty (you breath water but not air, 1d4 permanent negative levels, 5d20 damage).
You know, when you've got a structure like the WLD where everything is organized based on specific level ranges and characters are meant to be in it for the long haul, it would be a good idea not to wildly alter the party's power level completely at random. A fighter who gets lucky takes a hit to his charisma and might end up with +2d6 to strength and con after a couple of failed saves (of course he's evil now). A sorcerer who gets unlucky could
lose access to their spells
. What is the character meant to do at that point? commit seppuku? there really isn't much alternative.
This is the lair of some sahaugin, who originally came here seeking a magical artifact called the watrazor, until they were beaten up by the bigger monsters in the region. now the remnants basically suck up to the kraken to avoid being killed. The sahaugin have been pretty much just sitting for 400 years, hoping to get ahold of the pieces of the watrazor. They've got one (a +2 spear) and know where one of the others is.
although it would be a pain to try and collect it, and it has a stupid name, the complete watrazor is a hell of a weapon. It's a 4-pointed trident (yes, I know) that is +5 aquaticbane (which would matter, except you need to have beaten pretty much every important aquatic opponent to get it) icy burst, wounding trident. It functions as a trident of fish command and 3 times per day you can cast control water, crushing hand and dismissal, once per week you can cast imprisonment if you're underwater. It also ignores any regeneration ability, always inflicting lethal damage.
This area is full of demon-bones and lacedon, some with class levels. Much of it will be completely ignored as it occurs on the lakebed which is 400 feet below the surface, apparently the celestials put all of their basements right here, or for some reason decided not only to build their prison beneath a lake, but also directly
a giant empty cavern.
The random encounters in this area really do a good job of illustrating the half-assed nature of the dungeon. Here are some highlights.
*a pod of 3 fiendish orcas with a tentacle sticking from their backs. This gives them an extra attack a round (no information on the attack's damage).
*12 dire bats whose sonar is so powerful that each group of 3 bats produces a sonic attack equivalent to a soundburst each round. (no indication if this takes an action, what CL it is or what the save DC is)
*breaking a demon bone can also have similarly poorly written effects: a fireball spell which "targets everyone in the area" and an Earthquake spell "affecting water as if it was earth"...which after reading the earthquake spell I can see it somehow knocks people down in the water and opens fissures
in the water
that remain for 1 round then close, killing anyone still inside (how one would stay inside is unclear).
This area is the territory of the Kraken Mahg'Gog, who fills more or less the same role as Thorodin in K, serving as the "boss" encounter of the Region. Amusingly the Kraken was once a perfectly normal freshwater squid, trapped in the dungeon after the lake broke through. Apparently it decided to make a nest inside the skull of Krukak, the most powerful demon trapped in the Region. The squid became possessed and over the centuries has continued growing larger and larger, taking the final form as a half-fiend Kraken.
I've got to say, I actually really like that backstory. The only downside is there is no reasonable way for the PCs to find out about it and I feel like the writers missed a real opportunity to have an artifact or ritual capable of banishing the demonic spirit possessing the kraken, turning it back into a tiny squid.
Mah'gog will spend a lot of time trolling the PCs while they're in this section, using his ability to sense them at great distances and control weather to make things tough for them.
L9 is a set of protective wards that would need to be repaired in order to cleanse the region of the tainted sediment. There's not much actual motivation to do this however, since it doesn't remove any of the dangerous inhabitants of the Region and they're the real threat. The sediment is a long-term issue that frankly the celestials need to clean up. For some reason this encounter occurs
below the surface. Keep in mind that until now the dungeon has been more or less level. For some reason this area is
further down, and since the wards are down there they would have had to have been placed there when the dungeon was created.
Actually getting down here and repairing the wards is practically impossible. at 800 feet down the pressures are intense and according to the rules at the start of the Region, characters take 1d6 damage per minute for every 100 feet down you are, plus 1d6 cold damage per minute from hypothermia. Assuming the PCs can take 10 on swim checks (and assuming taking 10 would be a success, which is far from guaranteed for some) that's 150 feet moved per minute. going from the surface you hit 150 feet, take 2d6 damage (2d6 +1d6 cold), then next minute you take 4d6 (3d6 +1d6 cold), then 5d6 at 450 feet down, then 7d6 at 600 feet down, and 8d6 at 750, finally topping off at 9d6 when you hit the bottom. So just getting down to the bottom is a total of 35d6 damage (or an average of 123). Now, a healer obviously has time to patch people up in between rolls but that eats up time, which just means more damage (a 14th level cleric's Cure Critical wounds spell can just manage to wipe out 1 minute's worth of damage at 800 feet). The best bet would be to make it all the way to the bottom, then hit everyone with a heal spell (goodby all your 6th level spell slots) but good luck on having anyone without at least a d8 HD and a good Con score survive the trip to the bottom. Don't expect the party wizard to make it past 600 feet without a healing spell every minute. And of course if you happen to be in a party with a dwarf, halfling or gnome then the slower swim speed is going to make things even worse (that's 100 feet/minute, or a total of 44d6 damage by the time you reach the bottom).
Now that you're down there actually repairing the wards requires a ritual cleansing (which is completely undetailed) and the spells consecrate, dispel evil, glyph of warding and imprisonment. So you had better have reformed the watrazor, the only source of the Imprisonment spell at this level.
Oh, and you may have noticed that the 3rd spell on that list is glyph of warding, a cleric only spell with a casting time of 10 minutes. 10 minutes at 800 feet deep.
that's 90d6 damage
(not to mention 10 Concentration checks with a DC of 10+damage suffered, so an average of DC 41), while the party's healer is occupied. And to be clear, it's not a matter of just having the spell, the ritual demands that it be cast.
I don't want to say that it's literally impossible for a 14th or so level group to actually repair these wards, but if there's a way I can't think of it. Damage reducing spells like Stoneskin just don't get rid of enough damage, the nature of the dungeon prevents etherealness or similar effects and spells that would shield you from the pressure (like forcecage or resilient sphere) would also prevent the casting of the spell you need.
So, I'm comfortable saying that no average party is going to be able to get down there, repair the wards and live at least not without the DM coming up with some special spell or plot device to make it happen. Hmm..one exception, a cleric with Still and Silent spell polymorphed into a giant squid (polymorph does not specifically adapt you to the environment of the shape, but given it grants subtypes like Fire and Aquatic, a fair GM would probably allow it) could potentially make it to the bottom, cast a Stilled and Silent version of each spell and use the watrazor for imprisonment. They would probably just manage to make it near the surface before Polymorph's duration expires. so, I guess not technically impossible...just massively improbable.
Of course, there doesn't seem to be any way that the PCs would be aware of the ward's existence or the requirements to repair them in the first place, so a bit of a moot point.
Other than that there's a fight between a giant squid and a dire shark, a pod of evil porpoises led by an insane aquatic elf, and some scrag. There's a set of magic armor and a spear designed to function underwater (+2 hide armor with no penalty to Swim, a +1 buckler that gives +4 to swim skill, and a +3 spear that suffers no penalties underwater. however, these are all found around 800 feet below the surface, so anyone that far down clearly has no difficulty with swimming.
Then we've got Mah'gog. Mah'gog is fairly tough, he's a 2nd level Fighter, half-fiendish kraken. Just like Thorodin he's harder than his CR would normally indicate due to the environment. His reach with his tentacles is 30 feet (or 60 with his longest arms). Although he's pretty slow (swim of 20), he's still at least twice as fast as anyone but a monk or a character with freedom of movement. His Combat Reflexes, high attack bonus, long reach and relative swiftness means he can simply keep drifting away and hit people with his long tentacles, smack them around with attacks opportunity and never let them get a melee attack in. Ranged attacks are almost impossible for anyone outside of his reach (at 65 feet the penalty for ranged attacks is -26) and spells are going to have a tough time getting through his SR 32 (taking an 18 or higher on the spell penetration roll for characters of 14th level), not to mention his spell like abilities. If this was a landbound fight, or one from shore to sea, it wouldn't be crazy hard but Mah'gog has the luxury of lurking below and making anyone who wants to fight him come to him (and he has plenty of ways to make life painful on the surface if he feels like it).
Of course, the right party could be a game changer. freedom of movement is probably the best option, drastically upping both speed and damage potential. Mah'gog's AC is fairly low and with preparation this fight drops to just "challenging". I'm not going to say it's as bad as Thorodin or Longtail, at least the PCs are likely to have the resources they need to make this combat happen, even if they need to be pretty damn canny to put the pieces together.
And of course, although he has a vast supply of gems and gold, Mah'gog's treasure is pretty bare on useful magic items: a 1st level potion (enlarge), a lens of divination (there is no such item, but presumably they meant a lens of detection...a very minor magic item), a +2 chainmail sized only for a halfling (because so many halflings wear medium armor), a -2 cursed longsword, a divine scroll containing mostly the spells needed to restore those wards mentioned above, a wand of invisibility with 8 charges, a strongbox filled with gold and silver coins (not magical, I only mention this because the writers never actually say how many coins are in the damn box), one of the pieces of the watrazor, a hiltless blade that can cast dismissal once per day. And a cursed ring of clumsiness.
So that's one minor potion, a suit of armor no one can likely use, a barely charged minor wand, and a minor wonderous item. And two cursed items. Also, it takes 30 minutes per item and a search check to possibly find these (everyone rolls on a d20 table). The depth of mah'gog's lair is never established (which should be pretty fucking important), but if it is even 100 feet below the surface the damage from the pressure will kill you before you can locate even a single piece of treasure. (30d6 pressure + 30d6 cold).
Fuck you WLD. Fuck you.
Oh, and in addition to Mah'gog's lair we get a sidebar here about the kraken's plans to take over Region K (something that would have been good to know back when you were actually still in K). Here is the timeline, counted since the PCs entered Region K:
3 days later: Mah'gog uses control water (he doesn't have that ability actually) to force a bunch of spherical traps (basically magical naval mines) into the merrow's coral dam
4 days: The sahaugin send scouts into the coral dam
5 days: the sahaugin plant acid bombs in the dam's foundation, opening gap. (it's unclear why this is done over the course of 3 days, you'd think it would be easy enough to do all of this on the same day, and far better).
6 days: the sahaugin plant more bombs, but the merrow catch them this time. The dam is destroyed but the sahaugin leader is killed. Simultaneously the kraken uses control water (which again, he does not have) to raise the water level in the northern swamps of Region K and the water elemental in his service will pull the muck and soil into the deep water, forming a channel to the northern tidal pools. Well, first and foremost given the fact that Mah'gog's darkvision only extends 60 feet, the kraken would have to actually be in Region K to do this, and there is no section of Region K referred to as the "northern tidal pools" or indeed as "tidal pools". Presumably this means that they intend to widen the channel that bridges the two main bodies of water in K. How this is meant to happen without interference from the hags or Thorodin is unclear.
7 days: Mah'gog attacks the dam, along with his locath and a dragon turtle (who is in a different part of Region L). Together they wreck the dam and the merrow surrender, agreeing to serve Mah'gog.
8 days: Mah'gog, lacedons, scrags, merrow and an aboleth and a dragon turtle all rush through the channel and attack the merfolk and tritons. The aboleth dies in the fighting, the merrow, tritons, merfolk and locath are decimated. The lillend and water naga are also killed.
No mention is made at all of Thorodin or the hags and keep in mind that the merfolk and tritons consist of about 14 individuals altogether, making this entire plan overkill. I've also been searching and there is no mention in Region L of merrow or any sort of "coral dam". The only merrow are found in Region L, in the service of the hags. They do not have a coral dam, and there are only a small handful of them as well.
Looking this over it's clear that this entire "invasion plan" was written for a
completely different version of Region K
. One with a lot more tritons, merfolk and merrow and one without the three hag sisters or the two dragons. What makes this worse is that this plan is threaded all throughout Region L. The place is full of aqautic warriors preparing tools and weapons for the invasion of Region K...and it doesn't work at all because K is now completely different. And let me be clear, these two regions are so closely linked that they might as well be one double-sized Region, they are that closely tied together and the editors still failed to realize that the two don't link up properly at all anymore.
Wow, this is probably the worst editing mistake so far. An entire plot for two regions is invalidated because the left hand wasn't listening to the right.
Region L Continued: The Big Wet Nothing
Original SA post
Region L Continued: The Big Wet Nothing
So, with the realization that the entire invasion plot-line is more or less invalidated by changes made to Region K, what is left in L?
This section is the lair of some Locathath, who are apparently actually Sahaughin who mutated into Locathath from the lake's taint. Because apparently it would be unbelievable for Locathath to have just stumbled their way into this underground lake like the sahaughin, tritons, merfolk, merrow, hags, aquatic elves, and scrag all seem to. 8 underwater races migrating to a single nearly inaccessible underground lake would simply be laughable!
Apparently these Locathath are actually led by an insane aquatic elven cleric who recently showed up and defeated their leader in single combat, taking over the tribe. Other than the elf, all the locathath are just 2nd level barbarians, making them practically a non-existent challenge. There's also a trapped pair of statues that come with some rather bizarre giberrish. I'll post it in the writer's own words because for the life of me I cannot figure out what deep message they're trying to send.
There is also at least one room where the writers seem to have forgotten that they were underwater, describing things like a foul stench filling the air at multiple points.
They also can't seem to decide on the alignment for the Locathath. The first few dozen Locathath are all listed as NE (although as barbarians they should be chaotic). However, the personal bodyguard of the elven cleric are all listed as true neutral (the standard alignment for Locathah, although again, they should be Chaotic). Their leader, the former chieftain beaten by the elf, is described as "Sha'ag...a strong warrior with a compassionate heart...", despite an earlier description mentioning that the locathah have no concept of personal names or property.
The elven cleric has been preparing naval mines for the assault on Region K, made of shark hide stretched over bamboo (where the hell are these people getting bamboo?). The mines are enchanted with spells that go off when touched. Since they're extremely obvious (10 feet in diameter), covered in magical symbols, and do not move or trigger without being touched its not really clear what these are meant to do...if there were boats involved, or even giant monsters like whales then these spheres might serve as a decent barrier...but the inhabitants of Region K are all human sized swimmers who can move freely underwater and the only giant monsters are on the kraken's side (himself for instance). In fact, its not even clear how these spheres are meant to be moved into Region L since they basically explode on contact and no one on the kraken's side has any equivalent of telekinesis. Perhaps some kind of bellows to squirt jets of water at them? Squeezing squids?
This is the area the PCs are most likely to enter the Region from, it's kind of the miscellaneous zone. You've got a big whirlpool in the center, some giant squids, a mass of wooden planks floating on the surface along with some seacats, some dire sharks, etc.
It turns out the whirlpool is actually a greater water elemental who is just sitting in one place constantly transforming into it's vortex form for 10 rounds, waiting 10 minutes to recharge and doing it again. I'd say that's the most boring existence I'd ever heard of, but I have no idea what water elementals would actually do for fun. The description of the encounter states that the whirlpool will draw people down to the bottom here (about 500 feet), ignoring the fact that a greater water elemental's vortex is 60 feet tall at best. It's not actually clear at what depth the elemental is floating, which is pretty important since it'll attack if PCs approach within 60 feet.
A lot of these encounters seem to assume the PCs will be swimming along the surface of the water, which is actually fairly odd. If the PCs are going to brave this place they'll almost certainly have water breathing enchantments and swimming under the surface is much better at that point.
There's also apparently a stand of bamboo near an outcropping of dry land. There's no indication how it grows underground. I guess its cave bamboo?
Somehow a chunk of the dungeon sank intact here and the enchantments keep the water from flooding in forming a series of air-filled rooms. This room contains something called "amberspore fumes" which inflict little damage but can cause your voice to go higher for 2 hours, giving you a spell failure chance.
The next room is covered in engraved scorpions, and apparently stepping on a scorpion's eyes will trigger what is effectively a poisoned caltrop trap. I've mentioned this before, but sometimes it bears repeating. What exactly is the purpose of this room? The damage is so minor that anything with DR can ignore it (meaning any of the demons, devils or undead the dungeon was meant to contain) and the poison delivered by the caltrops would also not affect a single entity imprisoned here. There's also a random key to some watchtowers in Region H. Since the key carries no identifying marks, there's no sign of who left it here and this area has no direct connection to Region H (let alone the watchtowers) this is basically just a tease.
There is a prison that held a demon with a vulnerability to jade, who was apparently crushed to death during the collapse (ie a far more effective solution than eternal imprisonment).
The next room contains tiny little carved eyeballs over each surface. There's 4 daggers stuck in the chest of a lizardman skeleton, victim of a trap that never reset. But the eyes target anyone entering with beams of fire, dispel magic and eyebite spells. Another room contains some spiked chains which once held a demon, now dead, which animate and attempt to imprison anyone who touches them. Another room is trapped with a Maze spell, which basically just means the PCs have to wait 10 or so minutes before they're popped back out.
There's also a celestial guard room with a rather bizarre trap (because all the other ones have been so normal, did the celestials outsource this section to slaad?): a table sits on the ground with chairs around it. One leg of the table is bolted to the floor and it is blocking the door of a cupboard. Now, the cupboard has an "obvious" fireball trap that triggers whenever someone touches the door. It's not made clear how this is "obvious" (the search DC is still 20), which also has an "obvious" method of disabling (a button under the table). However, pushing the button triggers a sunburst and causes the table to swing around, slamming the pusher into the wall. According to the description, the safest way to open the cupboard is to simply allow the fireball trap to trigger.
So apparently the celestials made a storage cupboard which can only be opened by allowing it to explode in their faces. I know most celestials are going to have no trouble surviving a fireball, but it still seems to be one of the worst forms of security ever, especially since anything that can survive a fireball could easily survive the sunburst and table smack and the door isn't actually locked in any way.
The cupboard contains a portion of the watrazor which functions as a +2 spear that ignores regeneration, which actually makes it almost as valuable as the completed artifact to most groups.
There's also a vault door that used to imprison some kind of demon prince, but now actually keeps the water from flooding in, so any attempts to open it cause the air-filled caverns to flood. Despite the fact that the door supposedly held a super-demon, the DC for its locks is only 20.
This area apparently held some kind of massive, hundred foot long demon, but like most of the other demons this one died under tons of rock, the rubble forms an island in the center of the lake. Apparently several hundred years ago elves from Region H invaded and attempted to wipe out the sahaugin, failing miserably. Apparently though they discovered a sacred sapling from their holy tree on the island and left a small detachment here to protect it. Since the place is so awful and dangerous they now use "sapling duty" as a punishment for outcasts and criminals. Most do not make it to the island, dying on the boatride over from attacks by the monsters here. It's not clear why Mah'gog tolerates their presence on the island, the place is utterly tiny, about 200 feet wide, and it would be utter simplicity to kill everyone here.
The taint in the area has been mutating the elves and its become even worse since they unearthed a huge, evil black diamond. The elves have become evil, insane and mutated so the whole place is basically full of elven Splicers. Most of the encounters are with random nutty elves. There's also a mine (because setting up a mine when you're on a tiny island in the middle of a lake is a great idea). The elves will basically creep the PCs out briefly before being messily slain, since they only have a handful of class levels each (the most powerful are one 5th level sorcerer and one 5th level fighter). The only real encounter of significance is the Aboleth who lives in the lake, lairing in a cave below the water, who has some sorcerer levels in addition to its normal powers.
There is one small group of relatively sane elves led by a 7th level elven sorceress who basically just wants to leave, but thinks everywhere else is too dangerous (too be fair, she's not too wrong).
The sapling itself is actually the remnants of a demon prison in the form of a tree (for some reason) that managed to sprout up from the rubble. Apparently the elven sages and clerics are too stupid to tell and just assumed that it came from the sacred tree because it glows.
I'm moderately impressed that the writers managed to link up Region H with Region L this well, or I would be if it weren't for one important fact. You see, there is no barrier between H and L, the southern shore of the lake is just a part of H. And H is one of the ways out of the dungeon, because there is a massive hole in the ceiling, allowing in sunlight in and nurturing the "nature" theme H has going. Now, the furthest edge of Region L is no more than 1800 feet or so from the hole in the ceiling, so when the sun is up there should be more than enough light to at least dimly light the entire region and the light should even be visible from Region K. Apparently the writers forgot about that (or maybe there wasn't a hole when they were writing L) and so the moment PCs cross the southern border of the Region they shift from pitch darkness to daylight.
This is the southern part of the Region are home to anything that didn't really fit into the rest of the place. You've got an elf with an insanely long name (Manipanilua Catchichotum). There's the final piece of the watrazor, buried under thousands of pounds of rock. Basically this would require help from some sort of massive creature or similar excavation ability. The author suggests move earth, because they don't know the rules and don't seem to be aware move earth only affects soil and clay, not rock. Transmute Rock to Mud would be effective though.
The writers in general seem to have only a shaky grasp of the rules. There's another encounter here with a Kyton hanging from the ceiling who plans to leap on any swimmers or flyers, grapple them and then sink to the bottom of the lake with them. The text indicates that the writers think that the devil doesn't need to breath and so plans on suffocating his victim. However, outsiders do still need to breath...meaning the kyton will likely drown as the chains drag him to the bottom. Another encounter features an evil shrine created by the kyton at the bottom fo the lake, which of course he never would have been able to do.
There is also what appears to be a waterfall, but is actually a zone of reverse gravity causing water to fall upwards, hit the ceiling and splash back down. Also some magical underwater lilypads with bubbles of air around them.
And a dragon turtle. He's not doing much, just mostly hanging out. Being a big turtle. It apparently really wants a black pearl (as far as I can tell, no such thing exists in the region). The dragon turtle also has a piece of the watrazor...wait a minute...
One with the sahaugin, one in the sunken air filled rooms, one in the hands of Mah'gog, one buried beneath the rocks and one with the dragon turtle. The watrazor was supposed to be in 4 pieces: a spear and 3 extra blades. They can't even keep track of the number of pieces of their own damn artifact. They've got two spear pieces. The sahaughin chief has a spear, and the air-filled chambers also has a spear, both with different functions and stats. This book is such a piece of shit.
Well, that is it for Region K and L. After this I'll go back to following level guidelines which conveniently will be Region H, immediately south of L.
Region H: Land of the Tree Huggers
Original SA post
Region H: Land of the Tree Huggers
If K and L are the "water" themed zones, Region H is "nature" themed. Anything fey, plant, or "foresty" ends up here. This region is actually very unique compared to the rest of the dungeon, for several reasons.
First and foremost: sunlight! The ceiling of this region has a large hole in it and a series of mirrors focus the sunlight from above down the hole, illuminating the whole Region with daylight. This means the region is actually full of living plants, has day and night cycles. The works.
Second: This region is actually dominated by mostly non-hostile humaniods, namely elves and dwarves. The derro have apparently done more than just cause a flood, another excavation of theirs caused part of the surface of the mountainside to fall deep into the dungeon (apparently, derro are really determined, if shitty, miners). Well, along with tons of rubble, an ancient and sacred tree fell, completely intact, to the dungeon below. The tree is actually a half-celestials Treant who is both immobile and mute. In addition, this is where the designers stuck most good-aligned (but non celestial) monsters.
This is not to say the place is all that great. The elves are led by an extremely senile and racist druid and the other elven leaders all have wonderful personality issues of their own. There are also at least two hidden evil forces at work to try and destroy the elves and for some reason the elven forces assume the steady stream of vanishing soldiers is simply deserters rather than something more sinister (seriously, where would deserters go? Every region around is so inhospitable that desertion is basically unthinkable).
All in all, the place is doomed...but at least there won't be a bunch of things trying to murder you here.
This area is a ridge of volcanic rock where the elves mine obsidian arrowheads and leave traps. As far as I can tell this region may have never been a part of the original dungeon, although the dungeon's enchantments still hold sway here. Not much here worth commenting on. Which, for the WLD, is a big improvement.
This is a former gem-mine. Baiscally just a dangerous place for PCs to go for very little reward. By now I doubt characters have any real urge to collect riches or gems.
Here is a small lava flow. Since there are no mephits in this one it is actually full heat lava. One of the elven leaders can be found here, studying the place to learn more about elemental fire magic. This guy is a short-tempered, somewhat trigger-happy 11th level Evoker (making him a good source of spells if the PCs can befriend him). Sadly his spellbook is pitifully tiny, he only has the minimum number of spells for most levels (the 2 free spells wizards earn every level up).
Fortunately, unless the PCs really act like assholes he won't start throwing spells immediately, and although it's tough to convince him they're friendly it's not impossible. As his studies keep him from being deeply involved in the politics of the fortress, but he still cares about his duties, he is probably the most approachable and sane of the elven leaders.
This place is the lair of one of the "dark forces" at work in this region, Diantha: an Erinye (and also a 7th level sorceress). Apparently she was actually a celestial originally, but was seduced by a pit fiend prisoner and fell, becoming a devil. She is one of the main reasons elven troops are vanishing. She simply snaps a few up every so often, kills them and tosses their bodies into the lava. She also has a team of Charmed sprites that serve as her eyes and ears in the region. She has also trapped one of the non-human leaders of the elves, a guardian naga, into wearing a magical collar which basically gives her control over him.
Overall, Diantha isn't actually a bad villain. Compared to the level of the PCs (11 to 13) she's extremely weak in combat, but she'll mostly stick to trickery if she can and if she can't she can easily retreat into the lava and escape.
So far this region hasn't actually been that awful at all. I'm impressed.
These are some watchtowers set up by the elves and are likely to be the PCs first encounter with the inhabitants of the fortress. The elves initially are not very welcoming: firing warning shots, demanding the intruders leave, etc. They are basically no threat to the PCs though, the typical elf is only a 6th level warrior. Fortunately the PCs will only become outright enemies of the elves if they really want to (murdering surrendering elves, striking first or attacking during diplomatic discussions, etc).
Considering the demonic forces that live just to the west of this Region the elves are sadly pretty much helpless against them. Since the elves rely on bows and use obsidian rather than cold iron arrows they would have trouble taking down even minor demons. Each watchtower is staffed with 6 elves, their bows do 1d8+1 damage. Against a dretch that means even if elves hit every round and inflict maximum damage they'll still require concentrated fire to kill a single demon due to the demon's DR. Seems like they should really be equipped with cold iron gear which would allow them to at least attempt to take on minor demons like Dretch and Babau.
There's a sidebar about an elven super-weapon called Lyonatar's Eye. Essentially sunlight in the area is produced by a series of mirrors which focus a beam down to a gigantic diamond on top of the elven fortress. The diamond can also be tuned via music to function as a weapon, basically a 100 charge, self-recharging light-based staff. Capable of casting spells like searing light, sunbeam, and sunburst (all with ranges increased to target anywhere within the region). This requires the full council of elven leaders working together however, and while it would be devastating against undead against demons its not that great. But then again, pelting sunbursts onto a horde of minor demons would certainly help thin them out (the eye can manage about 12 before running dry of charges)
Some more watchtowers here. There's also a pillar that supports the "miles high" ceiling of the dungeon (I don't think the writers have a great sense of scale, but I'm just looking for nitpicks at that point). The column has been carved out (that doesn't seem safe) to provide a southern command post where the military's second in command is stationed. She's an elven ranger-rogue and as a relatively recent arrival to the area she is also fairly sane and reasonable. Secretly she was apparently sent by the elven queen of the surface world to investigate why the elven fortress is basically hemorrhaging soldiers, despite the lack of attacks on the place. Kind of an elven spymaster/assassin/private eye.
There's a more obvious fortress as well, carved into a big-ass chunk of rock and meant to guard against possible attacks by the derro to the south. however, since the derro never attack it's gone mostly unused.
This area is mostly the territory of fey, since it is the most peaceful and lies alongside the eastern wall of the region, which is also the outer limits of the dungeon itself.
This area also features another support column, and here we finally get a bit of stupidity. Remember the Diantha? Well apparently she's had a group of charmed sprites working on weakening this column which she then intends to take down with a few well placed shatter spells. The damage is concealed beneath a permanent illusion. Ignoring for the moment why the sprites would agree to this (charm isn't the same as mind control),
would they do this? Since when are sprites effective sappers for any structure, let alone a 40 foot thick column of solid rock. There's also the questionable wisdom of shattering a gigantic tower of stone, given the spell's range. Her reason is the fact that the column is used as a mount for several of the giant light mirrors and landing platforms for elven flying mounts.
Finally, there's a flower-covered tower which is the home of the queen of the fairies in this region, a 12 HD nymph.
There's a somewhat shadowy plateau in the SE corner of the dungeon. It's the home to an 11 HD lammasu who is also a member of the elven council. He watches over the stable of flying mounts belonging to the elves, which aren't many: 2 pegasi, 2 griffins, a hippogrif, a giant eagle and a giant owl. Although theoretically of incredible value (as these are the only ways most of the elves have to reach the surface), the only protector is the lammasu.
We've got a few more watchtowers here. Since they're guarding the lakeside of the Region they're a bit more trigger happy. The lake-dwellers are less dangerous than the demons but more willing to make a bother. There's some more fey as well. A dryad grove, a nixie pool, and the grove of Enoriel, the head of the council.
Enoriel is deeply, deeply senile which explains a lot of the problems the fort is having.
This area is also home to the forest of the giant celestial treant. The general assumption is, of course, that the PCs aren't here to hurt the holy tree but just in case you've got serious murderhobos they have provided stats for the trees and its guards and some ideas on what happens if the PCs attack.
There's a bit of nonesense about the tree being related to some sort of procephy, or double prophecy, possibly quadrangular prophecy...it's unclear. Essentially the tree has spoken twice in the past. Both times it utters some sort of prophecy (the first time about the earthquake that sunk it down below, the second about a demon invasion from the west) and apparently there is another prophecy from an unknown source that if the tree speaks a third time then generic, undefined doom will befall someone, someplace or something. Since there's no indication of what the third prophecy would be, what conditions will bring it about or what the results will be (beyond doomy) there isn't much relevance...and no one actually remembers much of this ancient history anymore so the PCs aren't likely to learn it anyway.
Next we have the council tower with the big shiny diamond on top. Here we have another one of the council members, the head of the elven military. He's a half-celestial elf paladin, which you would think means he's all set to help folks and do great things...unfortunately he's mostly got a furious hate-boner against evil that he can't get to go down. He knows he's in a literal hell-hole with demons and evil all around and he is basically itching 24-7 to go on a holy crusade and kick some demonic ass. However, every time he tries it ends in disaster and lots and lots of dead elves.
Unfortunately he's also a complete moron. For one thing, he read too many RA Salvatore novels and decided to befriend a drow (who carries an amulet that hides his evil alignment) for some reason the elves decided it was a great idea to let a drow join them in the fortress and even take over the administrative duties of the military. The paladin also cannot seem to figure out that when his second in command sometimes seems fine and other times emits an aura of pure evil...it's probably a sign of something (Diantha often uses her form as a disguise).
I think I'm actually going to cut this a little short because I've got to say I'm actually really impressed with this region. The writing is fairly tight for the most part and other than a few issues (namely involving Diantha's plans) the plot hangs together fairly well, the NPCs are written in ways that are at least moderately believable, if somewhat exaggerated. The whole thing actually seems like pretty solid "B" material. From a technical perspective its even better than Region I. That makes it really dull to pick apart bit by bit because for the most part the result is decent, if unimpressive, material. So I'll just go over some of the significant points in the Region, especially those that kind of make it fall short of being "A" grade.
One thing made very clear in the region is that there is no commerce here. Which makes sense, its a military fortress, not a town or city. They're not there to sell their weapons and armor to strangers. But at the same time this is the only glimpse of civilization PCs are ever going to get in this blasted place and denying them the opportunity to use some of the useless piles of treasure that are all over the place is just a missed opportunity.
Obviously a market would be silly...but maybe there's a dwarven armorer who's tired of pounding out yet another longsword with a leaf motif and wouldn't mind taking a commission in exchange for a little something. Or perhaps the elven mages could trade scrolls or potions in exchange for gems that would be invaluable spell components for their military. Perhaps the faerie queen would trade magic items for jewelry. There's opportunity here.
The Way Out
This is the big thing about this region, but it's given almost no consideration. This may very well be the first place with an actual, obvious exit...and we don't have any information about it. We know that the elves come and go on their steeds to the surface so we know travel is possible...but we don't know how high up the ceiling is (it's described as "miles" which seems utterly ridiculous but also extremely vague) which is pretty damn important or what the elven response would be to attempting to leave via their ceiling.
Everything about the region assumes that PCs will either plunge headfirst into the region's political intrigues or use the area as a base while they explore the rest of the dungeon (at which point they'll be framed while they're gone and then they'll be drawn into politics).
But at this point players have been through at least 4 other Regions and are probably already dead tired of trudging through the dungeon. Even if they do intend to explore the dungeon further you can bet it will be after leaving and visiting some real civilization.
And it's not like leaving is that difficult. Sure, the elves won't lend you one of their flying mounts...but characters here are at least 11th level. That means they have plenty of potential methods for escaping. Even if the trip involves a vertical ascent of several miles all that means is that it takes multiple spells. Any cleric or druid will have access to air walk and can probably cast it enough times for the entire party. That's a trip of 5 miles or so straight up with one casting. Overland flight obviously would do the job. Even multiple castings of flight or levitation could do it in a pinch. So why is the Region acting like there's no way for the PCs to leave?
Still, like I said, this is definitely one of the dungeon's high points...to bad by now the players will probably have experienced far too many lows to do anything other than get the hell out.
Region J: A Hot Mess
Original SA post
Region J: A Hot Mess
So after water and wood, now we've got a place for your fire-type pokemon and I can assure you we're well back to amusing shittiness and away from dull mediocrity. This Region is called the Pyrefaust and its meant for levels 13-15. The centerpiece of this dungeon is Tyrus the Devourer of Kingdoms, an ancient red dragon. If you're thinking that sounds like quite the challenge for a party of 13-15th level characters you'd be right. I guess we'll see if there's any attempt make the encounter at all survivable.
One thing I do like about this Region is the fact that the designers actually came up with a reason why Tyrus is imprisoned rather than simply slain when he was defeated by the celestials. Apparently an unspecified "god of chaos" considers the dragon his spiritual "son" and declared that if the celestials executed him (which was their original plan) he would start a war in the heavens to avenge him. The celestials made a bargain, allowing them to imprison Tyrus for 10,000 lifetimes but allowing him to live. As far as explanations go that really makes sense...but it just makes it a bit more jarring that there is no explanation for the rest of the prisoners.
The Region is divided into "rings" which contain different monsters: Salamanders, Behirs, Fire Giants, Magmin, Trolls (god knows why), Azers, Rasts, Wyverns, and finally Tyrus himself.
My first thought is that there doesn't seem like a shape for a territory that makes less sense than a ring...but looking at the map, I honestly can't see any patterns that look like they could be described as a ring, so maybe the writers are just doing a particularly bad job of explaining the Region, especially since there is a supposedly "hidden ring" that exists throughout the entire region.
A quick look at this section makes it very obvious that the term ring is being applied very loosely. These are simply 9 rooms, mostly interconnected that lie in a straight line along the Western edge of the Region. It is not so much a ring as a pair of duplexes. Given the number of rooms and the number of rings, each monster faction is going to be inhabiting an incredibly tiny segment of the Region.
Despite the fact that the fire salamanders are crammed in such a tiny area and consist of about 20 individuals (the vast majority of whom are the small flamebrother version of salamanders) the writers decided to spend 4 long paragraphs describing this groups culture, caste system and leadership. They also don't seem to grasp that flamebrothers are actually a larval salamanders rather than just "low-ranking" normal salamanders.
The first room is one of the entrances to the Region, a large portcullis trap. There's a bit of ominous script on the archway and if the PCs step through the portcullis falls, sealing them in. If the trap is disarmed the portcullis will still fall, it just will do so several minutes later and won't hurt the PCs.
Of course, the writer's don't bother specifying what material the portcullis is made from, a DC for lifting, or anything of the sort. Apparently they just intend for you to never go through the gate again. This can be really tough if say one of the PCs is going ahead of the others (say a rogue or ranger scouting ahead), forcing a split in the party.
And of course it comes off as particularly stupid when you consider that this is just one of 9 different entrances into this Region. Why does this single entrance from the NE side of Region I have a fancy arch, inscription and portcullis (which has apparently never been set off in the centuries since the earthquake. Odds are good that the PCs won't even come in from this entrance and it will amount to nothing (or perhaps it will block their way back into the Region).
The salamanders the PCs encounter are, for the most part, completely no threat to PCs of this level. The flamebrothers just don't have the hit points or attack bonus to seriously endanger anyone, especially if the PCs are prepared with fire resistance spells.
We have another room where a group of flamebrothers are trying to kill a Pseudodragon. This pseudodragon was apparently imprisoned in the dungeon by the celestials because they mistook it for a wyrmling red dragon. I've insulted the celestials intelligence a lot already, but this has to be one of the worst examples of divine stupidity. A wrymling red dragon is a medium sized monster with flaming breath. A pseudodragon is a tiny,
dragon. That's like somehow mistaking a slightly larger-than-average housecat for a full grown mountain lion...except the housecat is telepathic and begging you not to stick it in the zoo's big cat house.
The next room consists of a trap set by the salamanders involving covering a massive room (the largest in the their territory) with oil and tar, then having one of their number jump into the oil and igniting the room. So...the first question is why waste their largest territory on a low-damage trap that wouldn't even threaten the other inhabitants of the Region. The second question is how the hell did monsters with a body temperature in the thousands of degrees collect enough oil and tar to cover a room and avoid setting it off (this room is also splitting the salamander territory right in half, making it impossible for them to cross from one end to the other so long as the trap is here).
The Salamander Lords who rule this region are three Noble Salamanders who may be willing to offer the PCs some kind of work (despite the fact that in order to reach them the PCs will probably have literally slaughtered every single subject these lords have). Apparently the Azer stole an amulet from them (not clear how this is possible considering all the other hostile monsters between the azer and the salamander) and the salamander lords will offer anything they own (other than their spears) to get it back. Of course, their spears (a pair of +2 spears and a +3 spear of flaming burst) are the only remotely valuable objects they own...otherwise their only valuables consist of about 1,200 gp in loose coinage and some +1 longspears belonging to their subordinates (who the PCs will have already killed).
Terrible encounter editing is rearing its head again. Most of the encounter conditions are either unexplained or completely arbitrary (for some reason, 50% of the salamanders are completely fearless). The encounter with three CR 10 noble salamanders is listed as EL 8.
J10 to J16
This is the Behir territory, the second "ring", and like the first ring it is in no way shaped like a ring. It is just a small cluster of rooms in the SW corner of the region, immediately south of the salamanders. It's unclear what Behirs are doing living in this area: it's established in the description that they hate the presence of the dragon Tyrus and are overwhelmed by the heat...but for some reason refuse to simply leave. Like the salamanders, their territory is ridiculously tiny: there is only a single room large enough for one of them to stretch to their full length, the rest are a good 10 feet too small for even one giant lizard. Although upon examination there actually seem to be only 4 behirs total.
The first three rooms are filled with a couple of feet of water which eventually becomes waist high. It's not really clear how this is possible...are these rooms bowl-shaped for some reason? Is the floor below the level of the doorways? How is the water not simply flowing out as soon as the doors are opened? The description also indicates that the behirs filled the rooms with water to help keep themselves cool...but how do they do that? They're giant snake-lizards, how are they carrying water? And from where? The behirs have apparently also created several traps in the area, another baffling ability. And I don't mean things like pits clawed in the ground or rockfalls...they've created purely mechanical traps that do electricity damage. So not only have the behirs managed to create highly sophisticated and subtle mechanical devices but they've also managed to invent amazingly high-powered capacitors. And they don't even have thumbs! The actual trap design (from a game mechanics perspective) is also pretty bad: it's an electrified floor which uses a melee attack (not a touch attack) but also allows a reflex save for half damage.
In another room we have a behir who is somehow hiding in 20 x 35 room filled about 3 feet deep with water. That's a 40 foot long, 2 ton lizard trying to be sneaky. Finally we have two behirs fighting a third, bigger, behir for possession of a chaos diamond. It's unclear why 4 disagreeable reptiles qualifies as its own "ring".
This area is home to fire giants and magmin. The magmin apparently worship the dragon as a god and every day they come out to praise him, their priestess using a necklace of fireballs as a holy symbol. How that's possible when a necklace mass detonates upon exposure to fire damage is unclear. It's a bit of a moot point since this is only described in the flavor text preceding this section, the priestess is never given any stats and there is no indication of the necklace being available as a treasure.
The magmin are actually a really dangerous encounter through sheer numbers: there are a total of 100 magmin and they continue to emerge from the lava and throw themselves at the PCs until they all die. With fire resistance and some decent non-fire based area of effect spells the PCs can win...but 100 opponents can easily cherry-pick a group to death, especially given the magmin's touch attack, combustion and fiery aura. The intent of the writers seems to be that the PCs should retreat north towards a bridge over the lava river...except the lava river is where the magmin are coming from. That means they seem to think the PCs should somehow retreat through the magmin horde, a feat that borders on impossible given the rules for moving through opponent's spaces.
It's also odd that the designers didn't use some of their own rules. In the back of the WLD are rules for "mobs", which are basically swarms of humaniods rather than tiny vermin. An encounter like this seems like a perfect opportunity to use those rules but they haven't been brought up (in fact, at no point so far has there been anything with "mob" stats).
Crossing the bridge brings the PCs into fire-giant territory...but more confusingly it brings them face to face with a map-feature labeled "V1", a more or less impossible to miss structure that is not at all described here. A bit of investigation reveals that it is actually the entrance to the "hidden ring" which is part of a "Map V" that is not mentioned until the very end of chapter J. There is no indication prior that there is a Map V so hopefully you read through this entire chapter in full before your PCs find this and want to know what it is.
Ignoring the secret map for now, since the PCs won't be able to open up the pyramid-thingy here without something belonging to the Azer, we have the fire giant's territory. They're forging stuff, have an unhealthy fixation on "steel" and generally act like big dwarves. Other than throwing boulders onto anyone crossing the bridge they're surprisingly not that hostile. In their forge they'll ignore any PCs walking around, and if the PCs start messing with their stuff they'll spend two rounds yelling at them to stop before actually attacking. Unusually mellow guys.
Apparently the fire giant warriors toting greatswords and boulders are also just idiots, because it turns out the giant smelters handling iron ore have invented what is by far the deadliest of weapons. A normal giant-sized greatsword inflicts 3d6+10 damage, and a thrown boulder inflicts 2d6 +10 (plus 2d6 fire damage). However an iron ingot will inflict 8d6 +15 in melee or 8d6+10 thrown. Why bother smelting them, you've already got a weapon that rivals a titan's warhammer?
Whether a fire giant is willing to completely ignore intruders or will attack and kill on sight seems to vary every other room. The fire giant queen though is surprisingly receptive to strangers wandering into her court unannounced and will even offer the PCs work, killing the leader of the trolls.
I've mentioned in the past that the encounter editing here is particularly bad, comparable to areas like Region A and B. Here's a good example, try and parse this sentence:
"Each of the gleeful shapes elementals is trapped with proximity triggers by the efreeti."
The trap the gibberish is referring to is an incendiary cloud trap, which for some reason is labeled "100 feet deep". In fact this entire encounter reads like it was written by someone with a shaky grasp of the language:
"After a statue triggers, there is a 25% chance (per statue) that it triggers as well. Whether this is a defect of the statues or not, is open for debate. PCs spotting one trap, can spot them all."
Again, the really notable thing about this area is just how few giants inhabit it. The fire giant queen apparently rules over a domain consisting of 9 subjects, other than herself.
This area is full of trolls...why they would at all choose to stay here is immensely unclear. In just about any other region they would thrive, but apparently they'd rather stick to the one place that is full of their most well-known vulnerability.
Fortunately (?) they have the support of an efreet who they accidentally freed when hiding from the fire giants. The efreet is a bit of a munchkin and has basically been doing nothing but granting the trolls wishes for better stats: improved regeneration, fire resistance, better natural armor, claws and spell resistance.
It's actually an interesting sort of double-bluff. By now the PCs are certainly aware of the fire theme of the Region and will probably have adjusted their spells and tactics to maximize cold damage and minimize their fire-based attacks. When they see a group of trolls they'll probably be kicking themselves for not having fireballs on hand. They may very well throw any remaining fire based magic they have at them, including magic items, only to be shocked when the trolls resist it.
The changes to the trolls seem to be +8 natural AC, Claw threat range changed to 18-20, Fire Resistance 10, +2 hp/round regeneration, Spell resistance of 17 and maximum hit points. This seems like it merits a bit more than a +1 to their CR (especially given the synergy of fire resistance, spell resistance and increased regeneration), but CR 6 is what the writers went with.
The troll leader, Fedj'ik has two fighter levels and even more buffs and resistances...despite this his CR is 7, which is the same as an ordinary, unbuffed troll with two fighter levels. The room also has a chest containing the efreet's lamp. Normally I'd point out that the chest's defenses are impossible (5 fire trap spells, one on the lock, one on each hinge, one on the lid and one on the lamp inside) due to the rules of the spell...but fire trap is such an amazingly weak spell for its level I'll let it pass (seriously, why is fire trap so damn weak?).
I will bitch about the lamp, which the text states functions "exactly as a
" except of course this is not a magic item that exists. Presumably they're referring to an
, which would make sense except the efreeti's behavior makes it clear that this isn't the case either (since he is neither forced to return after 10 minutes, or attacking the trolls randomly).
This is the Azer mining encampment. Like the trolls the Azer are led by a powerful magical being with a hidden agenda. This time it is an ogre mage. To the Azer he is surprisingly benevolent and kind, but apparently it is all a ruse for he intends to free Tyrus from his prison in the Region. However, the ritual to do this requires a vast number of precious gemstones. Thus he is manipulating the Azer to secure these valuables.
For some reason this section has several rooms that are unlabeled, despite having things like secret door entrances. Yet more terrible cartography. The gibberrish-filled trapped statues are here as well, the same terrible description simply copy-pasted to these rooms.
There is also a chamber related to the "hidden ring", where the PCs will see a projected image of a beautiful woman who appears with a cryptic message and a plea for help. This is actually a vampiress who is locked away in the hidden section and is attempting to trick the PCs into solving the celestials riddles (because riddles are a great security system) to free her. For some reason she's not being very helpful about it, using poetic and cryptic phrasing rather than just outright stating "turn that statue 90 degrees, you'll free me!"
This leads to a series of rooms each of which have a statue of the vampiress and a switch. A Lawful good character can flip the switch and once all 5 have been flipped the first lock on the crypt is opened. Again...seems reaaally over elaborate on the part of the celestials. We also have another case where the writers cannot be bothered to keep count of their own mcguffins.
Let me illustrate:
You see the two rooms in blue? Those are the riddle rooms. Each of them has a vision and a simple statue moving puzzle to unlock the door to the yellow areas which have statues of the vampiress and switches. Obviously the intent of the designers was to have most of the switches solved at once, but then forcing you to hunt a bit for the last remaining switch (not that the PCs have any way of knowing how many switches are needed or what the switches do).
However, every description very clearly states that 5 switches will release the lock and allow the crypt to be opened. If you count, the yellow rooms in the south, there are five already...meaning that the rooms to the north are completely pointless. Once you've opened the southern rooms with the puzzle you can access five switches right away and remove the lock...but look at the SW most yellow room, note it's lack of walls. That room is actually fully open to the rest of the Region, and it has a door that leads straight to the other 4 switches...which means you don't even have to solve the room's puzzle at all!
Anyway, moving on...there's a gem storage chamber which contains a massive pile of rubies sapphires emeralds and diamonds. Each gem is worth between 50 to 150 gp and the party can collect 3d6 a round...but the designers neglect to actually tell you how many gems the room contains. Not even a ballpark figure. I can only assume from the area they fill on the map it must be in the millions. This is pretty important when you consider that at this level these gemstones (diamonds especially) are very important for spell components (raise dead for instance).
The writers also mention that these gems can cut the cost for creating a magic item in half...neglecting to realize that its impossible to effectively make magic items in the WLD because there's no way to purchase reagents and materials.
They're too minor to mention every time they come up, but again I've got to reiterate this region is terribly edited. Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors are present in practically every description.
Oh and as a minor footnote it's mentioned that the azer have dug into the molten core of the earth (because the WLD writers have a worse grasp of geology than they do math and grammar) and that in about two months this region will basically sink into the lava. The PCs better get those gems out while they can.
Finally we have the encounter with the ogre mage who is apparently just on the verge of completing his ritual. Once the PCs enter the ritual chamber they have 15 rounds to defeat the azer guards or the ogre mage completes his spell and transforms himself into an elemental being of divine fire, heads towards the nearest lava pit and jumps in, swimming upstream to Region N to access a tunnel leading back to Region J and to Tyrus's glacial prison. There he'll burn himself out to melt the ice and free the dragon.
Terr'kaal is a 7th level Cleric Ogre Mage, and as always the WLD writers like to add random abilities, so he has Frightful Presence, Blindsense, fire resistance, and extra spell like abilities (polymorph, delayed blast fireball and scorching ray). This is not accurately reflected in his CR, needless to say.
If he succeeds in his ritual his fire elemental form has double HD (24 vs 12), better AC, speed attack and damage, plus keeping his special qualities, spells and spell like abilities. Despite this his CR drops by one.
This area is the lair of the rasts (for those that aren't familiar with obscure monsters, it's a weird flying claw-covered ash-monster). They were apparently put in the dungeon by the god of fire and trained by the celestials as guard dogs. They're called Godrasts and are size Huge and have the Celestial template. Their stats are pretty badly mangled (their attack bonus is listed as +31 when it should be +23) but given the lack of optimal armor and the number of attacks they get (5) and their huge grapple modifier (correctly listed as +30) they'll probably quickly snag most or all of the party and begin draining their blood.
Remember how I mentioned those statues and switches earlier? Well apparently I was underestimating the incompetence of the designers, because there are more here. Apparently they were intending to scatter these switches and puzzles all over the region (they're really bad riddles by the way) and just accidentally put 5 of them all together with the very first one, rendering all the rest moot. So all in all, according to the map, there are about 9 switches.
There is also a Rast Queen...who actually has about the same stats as a regular "godrast". I was expecting something more like a xenomorph queen but she just has slightly higher DR and drains blood a few points faster.
This "ring" contains half-fiendish wyverns born from a god's hateful thought. Apparently the celestials killed most of them but for their own bizarre reasons they imprisoned the rest here.
The wyverns are actually pretty intimidating. They're size gargantuan and half-fiendish 21 HD wyverns. Because of the extra HD and their con boost from the two size increases, their poison is actually incredibly deadly (DC 29 fortitude save, making it out of reach of most 14-15 level characters (a dwarf fighter with 20 Con at 15th level has +14 to his fortitude save, meaning he'll fail on a 13 or lower). 4d6 con damage from a single sting (and with a +31 attack bonus the wyverns have no problem hitting) can easily kill even very powerful characters (that 15th level dwarf wouldn't be expected to live past 2-3 stings, and that's not even considering secondary damage).
Fortunately the wyverns are all caged. We've got one cage holding 4 at once (a group easily capable of inflicting a TPK), another that holds a single suicidally depressed (I'm not even kidding) wyvern. There are a few others scattered in other cages as well as some cages that contain the levers to unlock their cells (for some reason the levers are also in cages but the cages are open). So, while the PCs can easily avoid the fight if they pull one of these unlabled levels they're more or less screwed...the wyverns have tons of hit points, great saves, spell resistance and deadly, deadly attacks.
Later on we have a safe zone produced by a pair of petrified angels, and a couple of rooms built out of the bones of ice devils. The room contains a statue of an ice devil...which is apparently an actual ice devil. First the statue has to be melted and then the devil is freed and once it is killed the room is purified (this is important for some reason). This is practically impossible though the statue has a hardness of 20 and 500 hit points (so basically immune to non-adamantine weapons, and the majority of spells), also every 5 rounds a random cold spell is cast by the statue, hitting anyone in the room. It won't take long before players die or retreat (or just run out of spells to try and affect the thing). By the time they inflict enough damage to melt the ice the fight with the ice demon itself will probably be impossible.
The Chamber of Fuck You
This one deserves its own individual entry. We've got one of those utterly batshit celestial "puzzles" that seems to serve no actual purpose: A room with the label "the death of fire lies within" (not one for clarity, those angels). It's got a huge pair of locked double doors, although it can also be accessed via a secret door on the opposite wall. Upon entering all exits seal. Breaking the seal takes a DC 50 strength check (there is no information on the hit points or hardness of the doors), so its effectively impossible. Written on the inside is the words "the breath of flame blocks your path. Salvation lies in its destruction."
The only way to open the doors is to remove all the air from the room. There are two methods for this. The first is a trio of fireball traps on the statues of this room. These traps are "easy" (DC 28) to find, but if your rogue isn't trapped in there with you or if triggering traps doesn't occur to you then they don't work so well. The fireballs are the "safest" way to do it, triggering all three burns up all the air and inflicts around 24d6 damage (which most characters will find survivable at this level, especially with preparation against fire damage.
The second method basically involves everyone being unconscious forever, because much like the pressure rules in Region L the designers don't really think about how much damage accumulates over time. You see the room is filled with several braziers and so long as they keep burning they'll slowly consume the air. This takes about 2 hours, and after 105 minutes the PCs will start to suffer the effects of smoke inhalation. What are those effects you might ask?
"A character who breathes heavy smoke must make a Fortitude save each round (DC 15, +1 per previous check) or spend that round choking and coughing. A character who chokes for 2 consecutive rounds takes 1d6 points of nonlethal damage. "
So, that's 15 minutes, or 150 rounds. After 20 rounds the fortitude save becomes effectively unmakable (DC 35) and every 2 rounds after that the character takes 1d6 nonlethal damage. that's 130 rounds left at that point, or 65d6 nonlethal damage. Keep in mind you spend the entire time coughing and choking, it's not possible to take actions to heal. that's an average of 228 nonlethal damage.
Lets use that dwarf from my wyvern example, a 15th level, 20 Con dwarf fighter has, on average, 162 hit points. If he had max hit points every level he would still have only 225. In other words, the chance of anyone in the party remaining conscious for this time is basically zero.
Now, by a strict reading of the rules (this is from the SRD, not the WLD) its actually not possible to die from smoke inhalation. However, most of these continual nonlethal damage sources (such as cold, heat, etc) will start to do lethal damage after you hit zero (which would mean most of the non-dwarf fighters would be dead).
However, it doesn't actually make a difference whether or not the smoke damage ever turns lethal...because you're never leaving this room once you start choking. Nonlethal damage recovers at the rate of (level)/hour. So that theoretical 225 hit point dwarf would be back on his feet in an hour with 210 nonlethal damage. Anyone else is definitely going to be out for at least a couple of minutes.
But here's the thing, the doors open and air rushes back in...and they remain open for 3d6 rounds. Which means by the time anyone has even the slightest chance of waking up will still be far far too late to escape. The burning braziers also relight.
So the dwarf still has about 45 minutes until the smoke starts choking him again. he might be able to scrape together enough healing potions to get his companions conscious again (probably not though...most people will need about 100+ points of healing to regain consciousness) and maybe this time they figure they'll trigger the fireball traps...that 24d6 damage won't be lethal to most 15th level characters but you can be damn sure that combined with any remaining nonlethal damage it'll take everyone back to unconsciousness.
And now they're even more hurt than before, so no one is likely to regain consciousness. Which means the room just keeps burning up all the air, adding more nonlethal damage, opening briefly to let in more, and then locking once more...keeping the cycle going indefinitely and the PCs locked in stasis forever until some random encounter puts them out of their misery.
And so, what does this phenomenally awful room guard? Is it meant to be a prison that for some reason keeps opening its door? Is it meant to block passage to some celestial fortress? Nope. It doesn't actually seem to have any purpose. The only thing of significance is a box which can be located under the floor. The box will strike any non LG individual as though they were hit with a Holy Axiomatic Weapon (it does not tell us what type or weapon, or why it couldn't just give a number). within the box is a ring of regeneration, greater ring of energy resistance (fire), and a ring of evasion. If all three could be worn at once it would probably allow the wearer to break the cycle...but that relies on them being found and worn by someone with enough hit points to even wake up from the sheer volume of non-lethal damage.
J72: Tyrus Himself
Tyrus, the ancient red dragon, is imprisoned on a plateau overlooking the region surrounded by a magical wall of ice. The prison has weakened enough to allow him to remain awake within the prison and to use his spells (such as charm) on the creatures below (or at least so the writers claim, forgetting charm is a very short range spell). This crack also allows the PCs to enter the ice wall themselves. However, what isn't clear is where the crack actually is...There's a tunnel from Region N that connects, but the description makes it clear that this isn't the only entrance. It isn't marked on the map and the room description is far too vague to make out any details on its location.
The dragon has a major image of himself sleeping on a pile of gold while he hides in a corner, waiting to ambush the PCs. If the PCs attempt to just straight up fight Tyrus they're dead. He is miles beyond the ability of a 15th level party. The only reason his presence is at all reasonable is that the PCs can always choose to simply leave the moment they see him, or if the fight is going badly (but considering how powerful Tyrus is...that probably means half of them are dead already).
And of course, as always the tactical suggestions are utter shit. The writers suggest that once Tyrus engages in combat he casts mirror image (as opposed to the greater invisibility spell he has), hover in the air and cast
. The ancient red dragon...casting magic missile...the spell for plinking goblins to death.
Several other suggestions involve spells that are good...but that Tyrus doesn't have (like chain lightning). He'll also apparently use his spell immunity (which is hardly necessary with an SR of 28) to immunize himself against lightning bolt, magic missile, and vampiric touch. The first one makes a little sense...but he's got 603 hit points. He doesn't have to worry about magic missile and any wizard stupid enough to get close enough to cast vampiric touch won't live to regret it.
The intent seems to be that the PCs will come back once they're higher level...but if Tyrus blocks the exit (or if they fail to prevent the ogre mage from freeing him) they're basically doomed. And of course, there's no mention made of the fact that Tyrus' death at the hands of the PCs will spark a divine war.
Tyrus's treasure is, of course, pure shit. He has almost a quarter million gold pieces which do no one any good. 345 gemstones with no value or description listed. 18 dwarven breastplates (wooooo...), 12 huge longswords, a fake mithral orb which if used to open the hiden crypt will explode. Why this exists and why tyrus has it is never explained. This
encounter with a dragon has only one. Fucking. Magic. Item. Guess what it is
A gemstone of fortification. Let me elaborate on just how stupid this is.
The gemstone of fortification is not in the SRD, it's an item from the Draconomicon, meant to be imbedded in the scales of a dragon and granting a fortification effect (similar to armor of fortification). For any other creature than a dragon, getting it imbedded requires at least a limited wish. At least I'm assuming that's what they're referring to, the text provides only a name: no description or source (and considering until now all items have been from the SRD this would be pretty important).
On top of that, the writers never mention in Tyrus's description the gemstone is "equipped" (which is pretty damn important) or what level of fortification it is (which is even more fucking important).
So, to reiterate. After fighting an ancient dragon, the most powerful dragon in the dungeon, and looting his hoard the PCs
reward of any value is a magic item from a book that they may not have, which they cannot equip, and whose effects are not even quantified.
This area is a row of trapped statues all along the south and east corridors of the region. These are nearly impossible to disarm traps (DC 50, twice), and if you try to disarm it and fail by 30 or more (very likely for a 12th level rogue, who'll probably only have a +20 or so to disable device) you turn to stone with no saving throw. If you fail by less than 30 the trap triggers itself twice with a -4 penalty to any saves to resist it. (the damage on one trigger tends to be in the 16d6 range). Other than their obscene deadliness they're fairly boring.
This is the "hidden ring", a crypt hidden below this area (which is a little bizarre when you consider the entire regions seems to basically be a thin layer of stone on top of a sea of magma). It was apparently used to hold a celestial who fell in love with a pit fiend and became fallen...hey does that sound familiar? It should because its the exact same things that happened in Region H with Diantha. Except this time the celestial becomes a vampire instead of a devil.
I've already pointed out just how stupid this "prison" is, considering its locks seem to basically just be a series of zelda-style block puzzles in place of anything actually secure. I also mentioned that the vampiress has been projecting visions of herself to try and "help" solve the puzzles sealing her tomb so she can escape.
Except...she never does. You see when you enter the crypt the doors seal behind you, permanently. The only thing that can open them is a wish spell. Considering its very obvious that the seals have been removed (doing so triggers a very loud singing for 5 rounds), she should be fully aware that someone might be coming to her tomb and waiting by the entrance to get out. Instead she lurks in the final chamber and just lets the PCs get permanently sealed in there with her. The only way out is a full wish spell.
Fortunately the has a ring of three wishes (well, two wishes...or one, the text contradicts itself in several places), but apparently she cannot use it to escape (there is no explanation as to why). She wants to hire the PCs as a hit squad against the Solar (how they're meant to accomplish that is unclear) and to bring the solar back to her once he's dead (he was apparently the cause of her imprisonment).
It's kind of a sad plan actually, considering she just plans on trying to kill the PCs when they return...but how exactly she expects to beat anyone capable of taking down a Solar is unclear. She herself is a "celestial" vampire. She seems to basically just be a human with 6 fighter levels and 10 sorcerer levels and the vampire template. A combination that doesn't stand much chance against a 14-15th level party. This makes her one of the easiest "boss" fights in the dungeon.
That's all for Region J. Glad we're back to having really, really terrible content to mock again.
Region D: Little Gray Men
Original SA post
We're nearing the finish line. There are about 4 Regions left (technically only 3, because Region N actually is a double-sized Region) and we're definitely in the high level zones. It's bad enough how wonky high levels can be in normal D&D, lets see how bad the WLD makes things. Both Region D and Region N are for characters 14-18, but I'll go with D first just to put off the long-haul that is Region N.
Region D: Little Gray Men
This Region is the home of the derro that have apparently been rampaging across the dungeon's infrastructure. It's not really clear how they've survived not only collapsing the mountain-top in Region H and flooding Regions K and L with an entire lake. However, it seems they have survived and they're engaged in yet more ill-advised digging.
This time it isn't at their own behest however. They serve Cthrax a Xill wizard. You see, Cthrax was cast out by his people for unspecified awfulness and he's desperate for revenge. And he's got a plan to make this happen. A shitty, shitty plan. You see he has found out about the existence of an evil, exiled god: Astakhor the Undying. However, he doesn't know how to find this god who he for some reason assumes will help him. So, he decides that the only way to locate this god is to use a Wish spell. And fortunately he knows where to find one at minimal cost: the WLD! (keep that in mind because it will sound even stupider later).
You see Cthrax knows there's a pit fiend imprisoned in the dungeon and that they can grant the Wish spell. So he naturally assumes that if he frees it then the fiend will certainly decide to grant him a wish rather than just murdering him.
So, in order to find the WLD (he apparently knew about its existence and its prisoners but not its location) he travels to multiple material planes, torturing sages and loremasters until he finds information about a sage drifting in the astral plane who might know. He locates him and tortures him for 2 years until he reveals the location of the dungeon. Realizing he could not unearth the demon's prison on his own he recruits help from the derro miners. He also tricks and murders a formorian queen, taking control of her hive. With these forces he intends to dig through the adamantine and silver vault buried deep beneath the dungeon, free the pit fiend and somehow get his Wish.
So, to lay this out more clearly. We've got a powerful wizard (11th level along with Xill abilities) who has spent years traveling between different planes searching for information. Spent two years doing nothing but torturing someone into getting the location of the dungeon. Enslaves or recruits two small armies of different races as well as several extremely powerful monsters. He then goes into a dungeon that
he knows he cannot leave
, which is full of some of the most dangerous and hateful creatures in existence. All this so he can free one of them, who is exceptionally hateful and dangerous, on the assumption that the creature will grant him a wish rather than obliterating him.
And he considers this
First and foremost, let me point out that the wish spell (especially in 3.5) is rare and powerful...but it's not some amazing and impossible to find spell. You can just
magic items that grant you a wish: luckblades, rings of 3 wishes, scrolls. A scroll of wish is under 30,000 gp. It's not that big an investment for a being of Cthrax's abilities. There are also many other, much less dangerous and difficult to get to, creatures that can grant a wish (noble djinn's or efreets are the best, relatively low CR but both can cast the spell several times for non-genies).
And you know, even if for some reason it's particularly difficult to get ahold of a wish spell outside of the WLD...there are other creatures in the dungeon that have the spell and are much safer and easier to deal with. Let me run down the current sources of the wish spell:
*The efreeti from Region J. He can cast three of them per day, as opposed to the pit fiend's one per year, and the Xil could easily beat him up and force him to provide them (or just bribe him with aid against his foes).
*Region J also has the celestial vampiress Serratine, who Cthrax could free with minimal effort. She possesses a ring of three wishes with at least one charge remaining.
*Lord Glebshay, a glaberazu in Region G. He can cast wish once per month and is still much weaker than a pit fiend. There's also an unnamed Glaberazu imprisoned in the same Region with the demon lord.
*Vizeed, the "greater" glaberazu from Region K. He's imprisoned, but the stone cap over his prison is something Cthrax's forces could easily destroy (hardness 10, 1000 hit points).
And of course there's the Solar in Region G, he'd never grant a wish to any being like Cthrax...but frankly the odds of Cthrax getting it from the pit fiend aren't much better.
But instead of any of these relatively easy methods, Cthrax seems to insist on taking the most difficult, painful and dangerous route. The worst part is that this plot hole is almost effortless to fill. Cthrax is doing all this to find the prison of an ancient evil god to release it and wreak havoc on the planes...why not just make the WLD the prison? I mean, it seems like the most obvious solution doesn't it? I just don't understand the line of logic that missed that.
Anyway, that's it for the overview of the region. Lets look closer.
The Xill's mine is protected by the lava flow and several very powerful magical watchtowers capable of launching, one after the other, a fireball, lightning bolt and ice storm. Once all its spells have been used a stone golem on the tower animates and attacks. They're a fairly impressive defenses...or they would be if they were at all effective. You see, each of them only targets non-derro characters who approach within 100 feet of the tower. And the towers are all set far away from the NW entrance to the mines, which is also the only entrance.
That means the towers don't actually prevent anyone from entering the mines. They would prevent people from exploring along the lava river looking for a ford of some kind, but since no ford or bridge actually exists there's nothing to defend. If the PCs just fly, water walk or swim across the lava river they'll never be attacked, except for a single golem that stands guard at the entrance. A crappy golem that only notices intruders 50% of the time.
There are some hollow stone towers full of derro, all extremely weak (3rd level warriors) and inattentive, so unless the PCs trigger the golem or notice the towers (which are disguised as rock formations) and decide to explore they probably won't encounter anyone.
all of these derro have xill eggs in them and by the rules of this region if they're reduced to 50% or fewer hit points there's a chance of a full-grown xill chest-bursting from them.
This region does make me question why D&D has three distinct races of subterranean and assholish dwarves? Of course this Region has all three, just to make things that little bit extra confusing.
This section also introduces a new material created for the WLD. Truesilver, it's basically mithril with the properties of silver. Weapons made from it have a natural +2 enhancement bonus, and armor and shields have a +1 enhancement bonus. Tiny amounts (1/30 of a pound, a bit more than a silver coin's worth) can be used as material component for good aligned spells granting them a +2 to CL and DC. If enchanted with the Holy enhancement it is considered only a +1 enhancement for purposes of determining the price to make the item and the damage increases to +3d6 vs evil. Weapons made of truesilver are considered both good aligned and silver.
Needless to say, truesilver is some pretty amazing stuff...except that it looses all of it's special properties, transforming into normal silver, if it is ever touched by anyone other than an outsider. Meaning that every single thing that the writers just spent half a page talking about is utterly pointless. I don't think there's even a single truesilver item in the region that's being wielded by an outsider and even those weapons that are also enchanted would be useless, becoming much softer and much heavier. Even if you have a PC with the outsider type (such as an aasimar or a 20th level monk), you could never use truesilver weapons against any beings other than outsiders without them turning to crap. The material actual has no relevance to the adventure anyway, there are a few rooms with ingots or lumps of truesilver but it can't be used by the PCs and a couple of +1 truesilver weapons lying around the entrance to region that are likewise worthless.
This section is the home of rebellious Derro who are trying to find some way to survive and escape, but are driven mad with despair because they know they are all doomed when the xill eggs inside them hatch. The only real threat here are a few of the more dangerous traps and the possibility of multiple Xill hatchlings. There are several magic items available from some of the derro with class levels, but nothing greater than +1, because 15th level characters are all about the +1 items!
Sadly this may be the first chance many PCs will have had to get things like Bracers of Armor and rings of protection, +1 or not.
The path to the proper derro mine is protected by a few crappy traps, formorian patrols and apparently a group of stone giants that Cthrax got to work for him.
This brings up a question: presumably these stone giants weren't imprisoned here...so how did they get here? The "entrance" in Region A is too small, the exit in Region H is too far up (and protected by the elves). The exit in Region O is certainly giant sized but is protected by forces greater than Cthrax. In fact, it's made pretty clear that Cthrax has not actually been here that long. Shortly after he arrived he begin gradually seeding his minions with Xill eggs to produce better and more loyal servant, and the gestation for that is only 3 months. He probably arrived at around the same time longtail did, or even later, but there's no indication of how he got here or what effect his arrival may have had on other Regions.
There's also a derro factory where they produce materials for the mine. There's mention of them using "corrupted" truesilver for some purpose, presumably they aren't referring to just normal silver (which wouldn't be much use in a mine) but this is never clarified. Perhaps truesilver had some kind of plot relevance in some early draft of the dungeon and it was simply removed very clumsily.
This is the derro's "great hall" where most of their work takes place. There's a rather elaborate description of the process of mining, refining and casting truesilver ingots but still no indication of why the derro bother with a metal they cannot use. Considering how desperate Cthrax is to get the vault excavated you'd think he wouldn't allow his workers to spend time mining silver, true or otherwise.
I should mention I do like some of the mining monsters the derro have harnessed. Destrachan and Yrthak are used to dissolve and crush stone with their sonic attacks and dissolvers are used to melt down the rubble. Bullets are also used sometimes. However, there is one mining creature that gives me an absolute fit of nerd-rage. I'll give more details when I come to it.
Cthrax is also here, however the text makes it clear that Cthrax values his own life very highly and if attacked he will call for help and use invisibility and expeditious retreat to escape as quickly as possible. He doesn't stick around to fight unless cornered, which would be quite tough in this large open area.
If Cthrax is killed, either here or elsewhere, the "plot" of the region is basically over. He has a phylactery containing the essence of the formorian queen and if it is broken then the formorians go berserk, realizing their queen has been dead all this time, and start attacking every other creature. The dwarves and giants basically have no motivation to continue unearthing the devil's vault and will presumably focus on exterminating the formorians (and vice versa) before dying due to xill eggs. After a few weeks this will likely just be a colony of xill.
In addition to Cthrax's lair this area also has the laboratory of an evil gnome mad scientist, a 16th level Wizard. He's built a lot of mining equipment that gets way too much page-space wasted on describing. Some are mildly interesting and may be useful to creative PCs (such as a bead that releases a large amount of fresh air), but we really don't need 6 paragraphs wasted describing the gnome's malfunctioning magical sonar imaging machine.
This is the deepest part of the mine. Most of this is just more easy encounters with derro and formorians, as well as apparently some grimlocks. However there is one thing here I absolutely hate, and this is what first made me realize just how crappy the WLD is.
Now, if you're anything like me, when you hear of a giant dungeon that has every monster in the SRD you immediately come up with one question. What do they do with Mr. T?
For some reason, I've always really liked the Tarrasque, ever since 2nd edition and even into 3rd and 4th edition as you see more and more features getting added on to immunize him against tricks and close loopholes in his invulnerability. He's like the love child of the Hulk and Godzilla. Obviously he has to be in here, so I was very curious where he might be and what his role would be. After reading that the dungeon was designed as a prison I naturally assumed he must be one of the main prisoners. It works great, just imagine deep below the earth the tarrasque wrapped in chains of enchanted adamantine, his struggles shaking the entire dungeon and cracking its foundation.
Well, it took me quite a while to actually find him. I naturally assumed he would be in Region O since that's the only Region that goes to 20th level. Or Region N with its huge circular cell in the center. Well, it turns out he's here in Region D. Working as a glorified pit pony.
You read that right. The Tarrasque, the ultimate beast of destruction. Doing mine work.
Let's lay out all the details. Apparently years before the Xill turned up Rroliq, a 14th level derro sorcerer apparently was able to use a wish to enslave the tarrasque. That's about all there is to the story. It's never explained where Rroliq got access to a wish spell (which is fairly important considering that getting one is the entire driving goal behind Cthrax's plans), or how a wish could produce such an effect. Keep in mind a Wish spell can't even duplicate the Dominate Monster spell, let alone a version that lasts for years at a time.
The one condition of the spell is that Rroliq must stay within 5 feet of the tarrasque at all times. Now, think about what sort of hell this guy must live in. He can never go into any building with an entrance less than 40 feet or so, if he wants to crap or piss he either just does it in the dirt at the tarrasque's feet or he has to have someone fetch him a bucket. If he wants to sleep he had better hope the tarrasque doesn't roll over on top of him.
Just imagine the relative scales involved as well. The derro is about 3-4 feet tall, the tarrasque is about 70 feet long. It would be like if a mouse had to stay within one inch of st bernard's paws at all times. How does he avoid being stepped on? Even if he manages to avoid it a particularly bad trip could end up killing him if the tarrasque just happens to keep walking far enough to leave the derro behind.
And what a waste! Even with all the downsides this guy now controls one of the supreme destructive forces in the world. And what does he do with this power? He digs stuff. He's not even digging up stuff he wants to dig, he is digging for someone else. It would be like someone owning a sci-fi super-tank and using it to work for a taxi service.
And of course, the biggest issue is that this encounter is obscenely lethal for the PCs. They're maybe level 15-16 (it's really impossible to say, the leveling rules in the WLD are never clarified so there's no way to tell when a character should or should not level up throughout a region) and the Tarrasque is an obscenely difficult fight even for its 20 CR. The typical Tarrasque battle scenario involves being well aware of the monster's presence and having some chance to choose your battlefield and set the rules of engagement. It does not typically involve simply stumbling across it in a mineshaft that's not much taller than the monster itself.
Rroliq does not initially set the tarrasque on intruders, he'll simply fight to the death himself and if he dies the tarrasque returns to its natural state of murder-rage. Beating Rroliq isn't much of a challenge, he focuses almost exclusively on just area of effect evocation spells. However, the unleashed tarrasque can only be run from (if you're a dwarf, halfling, gnome or wear heavy armor, you're fucked). Given the shape of the dungeon, it'll likely head to Region H, kill all the elves, then swim through Region L before finally escaping through Region O. So, best case scenario, some of the party manage to escape from its rampage, but the good-aligned inhabitants of Region H will die defending their sacred tree and finally the tarrasque will escape into the world at large.
Killing the tarrasque is of course an impossibility. Even at level 20, characters in the WLD are so starved of magic items that they have no hope of defeating it.
There is nothing of significance here. Just a few miners.
The only thing worth commenting on is for some reason the writers decided to waste time by making a rat swarm encounter for level 14+ PCs.
This is the devil vault. Apparently the demons imprisoned here were servants of Astakhor the Undying, attacking good and evil gods alike. Once Astakhor was defeated and imprisoned the evil gods demanded that his servants be killed. Apparently the good gods decided that wouldn't do and they should just be locked for all eternity in a lightless prison beneath the earth. So amazingly it turns out that not only was killing the demons an option, it was actively lobbied for by some of the gods. Somehow the good gods decided that this was somehow merciful. Imprisoning these devils did require 4 Solars to sacrifice their lives, just to ensure that the world didn't become less evil.
This section is completely inaccessible until the Tarrasque manages to dig its way through the barriers. This takes about a week after the PCs show up in this Region. If allowed to continue digging, the Tarrasque will eventually break through before the hordes of devils overwhelm it (in theory, the devils actually can't do much to hurt the tarrasque, but the more powerful devils also have their own regeneration ability) and flood the region. So, worst case scenario you've got a swarm of devils and a tarrasque spilling into the rest of the dungeon and then the world at large. Best case scenario, the tarrasque swallows the pit fiend and most of the more powerful devils. The regenerating devils are trapped within the tarrasque's stomach, indigestible but unable to escape. Finally full, the tarrasque might settle down a bit.
But essentially, once you enter this Region, which isn't likely given its location and the fact that it can only be entered through Region H (where the PCs likely have already left the dungeon) the PCs have two options that are never spelled out for them: Release the tarrasque and have it kill a lot of things (PCs included) or do nothing and allow the devils to be released in about a week, then they
the tarrasque kill a lot of things (PCs included).
Region N: Where the Dead Things Are
Original SA post
Region N: Where the Dead Things Are
So, although a smattering of undead have shown up throughout the various Regions, the main "prisoners" we've seen so far have been demons, devils, or similarly dangerous outsiders. This is where that changes, because N is all about the undead. This can also be considered the "main event" of the WLD, it's a double-sized Region for high level characters that contains something called the World Eater.
This Region's level range is quite unique, not only is it very broad (14-18, so 5 levels compared to the 3-4 for most regions), but there are also no adjacent regions that "match". Region M to the West is for 9-12, Region J is for 13-15, Region K is for 10-12, and Region 0 is for 16-20. That means that no matter what direction the PCs enter the region from they'll be the wrong level, either too high, or too low. And, how exactly to the designers build a non-linear dungeon with 6 entrances and no specified "level up" landmarks to a range of 5 levels? The answer is, they don't, so it's quite easy for PCs to simply wander into challenges that are far too powerful for them.
Now, normally I'd rant about the fact that it doesn't make sense that these horrible threats are imprisoned rather than simply destroyed. With demons/devils there might be some potential excuses but it seems like killing undead would be a no-brainer. Well it seems that the intent here was not so much to simply remove the threat as to punish them for all eternity. Basically locking them away in an eternal crypt where they get the immortality they wanted but can do absolutely nothing but rot and think. Seems a little bit harsh (easy for already immortal beings to judge us for living longer), but I can at least see the logic. If only they weren't so terrible at actually designing their prisons.
Again, like half the WLD's Regions, the plot involves multiple factions vying for dominance, this time it is three groups of powerful undead attempting to take control of the gates that will allow them to access the tomb of the world eater, so they can escape and make the world pay for their imprisonment. Each of them has control of one gate, and are battling it out over the 4th. Of course, like every conflict in the WLD this stalemate has lasted for a century or more.
The intro to the section seems to be a little confused because it reiterates many rules that have previously been stated as applying to the whole dungeon (no summoning, no teleportation, etherealness, etc) as though they apply only to this Region. The area is also so full of negative energy that all undead automatically come back to life within 24+1d20 hours. This is apparently caused by the immense negative energy of the World Eater (here's a hint celestials...maybe don't put your massive death-power conduit in the same section of the dungeon as your undead prisoners. I know you like to keep to a theme, but it can go too far). Good luck turning undead here, all undead gain +4 additional turn resistance and clerics and paladins suffer -6 to charisma checks (don't ask me why the felt the need to make this two separate effects).
Bizarrely it also states that all rooms are locked from the inside, and state that getting out is a DC 30 open lock check. I don't think they know what locking a room from the inside means. It's not really made clear whether this means you can get in without trouble and the doors lock themselves, or that the doors are locked and can only be picked from the inside. Either way is a bizarre system, but since the second one means that it's just impossible to go inside a room from the outside then I'll assume the first one.
They also bring up the Horde template here, rules for combining the multiple small/medium sized creatures into a single entity much like a swarm does for tiny or smaller creatures. This also appears to be the only region to use these rules. The rules for the Horde creatures are really bad. They must consist of exactly 30 creatures (or 90 fliers) which fill a 20x20 space. Most of the text is simply copy/pasted from the Swarm rules in the SRD, but there are a few odd differences. The writers can't seem to decide if a Horde is built as it's own unique creature with a few rules in common (as is the case for a swarm) or if the horde should be treated as a template (which seems to be indicated by a lot of the rules). A horde doesn't attack like a swarm, they can only attack a single target and they have to make an attack roll. This means that Horde combat involves a 20x20 mass of monsters that rush towards a single person, stop when the closest members are within arms reach and then make a single attack, ignoring all other targets).
The Horde's attack bonus is so ridiculously high that you wonder why they didn't just go with the auto-hit ability swarms have. The rule seems to be (it's not very clear) that the attack bonus is HD of the "base creature" x Horde members. so a horde of zombies would have +60 to hit. A swarm of Vargouille would have +90. Damage is based on the HD (apparently the HD of the horde, not the base monster), ranging from just the creature's normal damage to up to 5 times the creature's normal damage for 80+ HD hordes.
Special attacks use one less point of damage multiplier (so an 80 HD horde of wights would drain 4 levels, not that such a horde is presented. that would be a death sentence). EDIT: Note, this was typed without sarcasm before I actually read through the Region thoroughly and noticed the
HD wight hordes which very much do exist.
We'll start with the Western section of the Region because that's where the room numbering begins:
This is the western caves outside of the Region. It just brings the dungeon's geography even more into question, as the Region is described not as a part of the mountain's rock but actually a free-standing building attached to the rest of the dungeon, within this giant cave. It's a little hard to visualize honestly, but with all the different "outdoor" regions like M, K, and L, it's pretty clear almost no thought has been given to how the dungeon might have been constructed or why.
There's a couple of encounters out here: a "friendly" devourer who wants the PCs help to get into the dungeon and eat the souls of the undead inside (which is odd, since I'm fairly sure the devourer's abilities rely on negative levels...but actually reading the SRD entry for the devourer it's kind of nonsensical to begin with). It's not quite clear how a 9 foot tall zombie with a tiny shriveled person staring out of its rib cage can pull of "friendly" and convincing.
This area apparently also contains the Central Gate, which is watched over by a lantern archon, the only remaining celestial guard here. The archon is sworn to remain here and cannot do anything to warn anyone or help the situation. The archon can explain to PCs that the World Eater is breaking free and that there's plot that needs to be done. For some reason, each of the three gates has a different set up as far as defenders go, despite being within a quick job of one another.
-Central Gate: a 25 HD Iron Golem serves as the "door", basically just standing still in a golem-shaped hole in the wall, stepping out to attack anyone who touches the door. Needless to say this is far worse than just a door and a golem, separately, or at least just a door. Given the speed of the golem it would be quite easy for PCs to simply draw it away from the door, rush around it and get inside.
-North Gate: This one is an actual door which is guarded by a pair of 39 HD shield guardians. For some reason this door is not at all locked, simply requiring a DC 18 strength check to open.
-South gate: This gate is completely invulnerable to attacks from anything except artifacts or gods...
so why isn't it the only gate
. When you've got a gate that is literally impossible to breach, why do you have other entrances!? Let alone entrances as simple to get into as the first two. This door is locked but there's a button on the front of the gate (only DC 22 search check to find) that unlocks and opens the gate without activating the guardians: a 35 HD shield guardian and 2 12 HD gargoyles.
This perfectly illustrates everything wrong with every aspect of celestial security in this dungeon: Rather than build one invincible gate, securely locking it and setting powerful guardians to defend it they create three different gates, each of which use a different method to guard, rendering the whole thing not only more complicated but less secure. The Celestials seem to have some sort of compulsion to avoid simplicity and efficiency and must instead make sure every single prison and construction is as elaborate as possible and making sure that they never repeat the same method of imprisonment, even those methods which are clearly far more effective.
The location of the gates is also nonsensical. They're positioned on the western side of the region, opening into Region M. Now, Region M was never part of the actual dungeon itself (although it is within the protective spells). M's purpose was always unclear, but as far as I can tell it seemed to work as something like a quarry for the celestials: a place to get raw material and dump any rubble. There's no reason why the main entrances to this Region should open into M. In fact, there are no entrances at lead into the dungeon proper except for a small one on the Norther edge of Region K (which has no description and thus appears to be completely undefended). Region O has a single entrance guarded by 2 iron golems, but like Region M there's no indication it was ever a part of the actual dungeon.
So, this Region (which contains the greatest evil being held in the dungeon, something called a
) has 5 exits/entrances. 4 of them lead into what are essentially giant caves. Only one actually leads into the dungeon proper (or it used to before that region flooded) and it is completely undefended. So the celestials apparently decided to make 4 of the five exits lead of the dungeon, ensuring that if the undead do escape they'll basically be free (both M and O contain possible exits), and if the celestials need to get into Region N in order to deal with the prisoners, they have only a single entrance that they can use. The constructs that guard the exit are also prevented from going more than 100 feet from their gate and even the lantern archon cannot leave his post to actually warn the other celestials if there is any trouble.
The alls of the inner chambers are covered with runes (in Auran for some reason) explaining the purpose of the dungeon and including the names of the prisoners.
There's a lot of iconography of death gods and religions, which is pretty bizarre considering the Dungeon is meant to be generic and plug into different campaign settings as needed. However, the symbolism is very specific and doesn't allow for much room for different settings (the same goes for a lot of areas of the dungeon, the designers seem to be coming up with their own campaign material completely at random and scattering it throughout the dungeon).
Apparently the three western gates all function as part of a single legend-of-zelda style torch lock. Each of the doors leads to an antechamber with an invincible inner door (making the outer door essentially pointless) and a pair of braziers. Each of the 3 antechambers has two braziers, linked to the locks on the doors to the other two, based on the iconography of the aspects of the god of death.
So for instance, the northern door bears the image of the judge, lighting the braziers in the two southern antechambers bearing the image of the judge will unlock it. However, if you light two braziers bearing different icons a trap is triggered. Again, another sign of the massive over-complexity of the dungeon design...if the celestials didn't want anyone wandering into the region from the caves of Region M, why the hell did they build doors in the first place?
After the first impervious, invulnerable gate we have a second one with exactly the same brazier puzzle. So basically to get into Region N from Region M requires 3 gates to be opened (each in different ways), then 6 braziers lit in pairs (with each member of the pair in a different room), one after another. Then another 6 braziers lit in pairs. This manages to be horrendously complicated for anyone attempting to enter the Region legitimately, not very secure as far as preventing unauthorized entry. Topping it all off is the fact that it completely unnecessary, especially since no such security exists for the entrances from Region 0 and K.
This section of the Region is the "no man's land" between the undead factions. It consists of large rooms full of weak undead. It's also stated that apparently undead within the region are mostly just free to wander around. I guess it's kind of like a 1930's insane asylum, but full of zombies. Of course, that just makes things even less secure. It's not like you have to have the slightest concern for the well-being of these prisoners: seal them in concrete, weld them into steel sarcophogi, bury them under tons of rock. Why allow them even the slightest chance to escape?
This also contains what may or may not be an entrance to Region J. The description in the section summary indicates that an entrance exists, although it is one-way, and the Region J map shows a hallway connecting to N. However, once you actually look at that room description (N49) it's made clear that there is nothing but solid stone and only the illusion of a passage, this is also reinforced by the map of Region N which just shows a solid wall. Clearly another editing clusterfuck.
Several undead hordes show up in this section. Mostly extremely toothless skeletal hordes. They have a fair amount of hit points but their damage is pitiful (3d4+5, with only a single attack per round). However, there is also a wight horde which is basically a murder-machine. They have 120 HD, for a total of 480 hit points, a +90 attack bonus and while their damage is minimal (5d4+5), each hit (according to the horde rules) inflicts 4 negative levels. Considering combat with a "monster" with that many hit points is going to last forever and the wight horde is going to hit with every attack they will kill a PC every 4 rounds. Pretty much the only option is to avoid the horde entirely (difficult since they aren't just hanging around in the room where they're found) or hope you can flee the Region before the wights drain you dry.
The EL and encounter editing is pretty bad as well, probably because they're having to make up CR's for horde monsters from thin air, and probably change their mind at different points in the text.
There's also a few dragon skeletons (just skeletons, not dracoliches).
There's also a Mohrg horde, because apparently the writers just can't get enough of abusing the horde design. The mohrg horde is actually less threatening than the wight horde, but still obscene. They have
HD (1,025 hp) and for some reason the celestials decided that they should be armed with 30 +1 longswords, although they forgot to include them in the Morgh's stats. Their attack bonus is +215 and damage is 5d6+35. Despite this they have the saves and AC of an individual Mohrg. The paralysis ability isn't absurd (only DC 21 which could be worse at this level) but their sheer supply of hit points and the fact that they can't miss (why not just have the horde hit automatically if you're giving them a
of +30 attack) means they'll probably carve through most parties pretty effectively.
There's also a room in here (keep in mind, this place was built
with no purpose other than to imprison undead) which is covered in murals depicting every imaginable sin and vice. Every round you spend in here requires a DC 22 Will save or be drawn to try and join into the awfulness, pushing them towards the chaotic evil alignment. It's not exactly clear what being "drawn in" means, whether the affected PC begins murdering and raping right away or if they just rub themselves against the wall for an hour. Touching the walls for 5 rounds or more releases a being of pure vice (it's got identical stats to a Marilith but they never describe what it looks like and replace all the references to Marilith with the name "pure vice").
WHY MAKE THIS PLACE!?
We've got another room with a wall that drains strength while giving orgasms. Considering the decor of this Region so far has mostly resembled the love child of Hieronymus Bosch and a serial killer, plus the rather messed up traps and monsters, you'd have to wonder what sort of fucked up celestials made this place. It's especially notable because this sort of thing appears no where else in the dungeon. The other prison areas are all quite spart (aside from the overly elaborate traps) and the only decorations are those made to appeal to the celestials themselves or graffitti produced by later inhabitants.
Oh, and we've got a horde of wraiths, because the wights were not obscenely deadly enough. With 150 HD, attack bonus of +63 and a con drain of
, they'll kill the average of one PC every 1-2 rounds. Don't bother trying to run either, they fly at 60 feet per round. The monk is the only one escaping, assuming he wasn't killed first.
Basically exploring this part of the Region requires that the party cleric cast Death Ward on everyone, then you spend 15 minutes exploring and once the death ward wears off run for the exit, rest for a day, rinse and repeat. Otherwise it'll just switch randomly between cakewalk fights with skeletons to being brutally murdered by energy and ability score drain. Oh, except that won't work because all these undead respawn in an average of 35 hours. So basically unless you can come up with some sort of permanent death ward, or the party cleric uses up their 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th level slots prepping extras you're all screwed.
You know, I originally thought the Horde rules looked like a fairly creative idea, but it's become quickly clear that the writers don't know what the hell they're doing when it comes to designing monsters. It's also weird to note that for the most part the hit points presented are much, much lower than average. Most of the wight hordes have 480 hp, but with HD of 120d12, that's 4 per die. The Mohrg horde has 420 HD and 1025 hit points, meaning less than 3 hp per dice. The wraiths have 150 HD and 480 hp as well, so that's a bit over 3 hp/dice. Skeleton hordes have about 30 HD and only 90 hit points in most cases. It's obvious that the designers are intentionally giving the hordes less hit points than average...so why give them so many HD in the first place?
So that completes the "unaligned" section of the Region. Considering how frigging big this one is I'm going to pace myself and split it up into segments. More to come soon.
Region N, Part 2
Original SA post
Region N, part 2
This section is a "false" exit (it's still unclear whether or not it's possible to pass through this area at all). This area is basically like the western gates at the start of the entrance, including a brazier-lock.
The culmination is an illusionary exit into Region J, which is blocked by a firey skull that injures and knocks back the first two creatures per round that attempt to pass, making the fake gate difficult to get to and frustrating undead who attempt to leave. Of course, even if they get past there's no actual exit, just a solid wall.
This section is
pointless for three reasons: First, there's no reason for any of the traps because of course there's no actual exit, nor any real reason to place a "fake" exit. Second, even if the exit was meant to lure undead to their death it wouldn't matter because the undead here come back to life (and killing the undead was clearly never the celestials goal in the first place). Third and finally,
undead cannot approach the gate
. The gate is in room 49, and room 48 contains a magical, invincible, undispellable barrier that blocks any undead from passing it. No undead would ever be able to get near the false gate to be lured in by its trickery or harmed by its traps (despite this of course the description of N 49 includes the bones of destroyed undead).
As previously mentioned there are 3 undead lords, but this section is the territory of a lesser warlord, a bodak calling himself the "Great Death". He's basically the nerdy warlord that all the other warlords make fun of. He runs a court run by wights and passes judgement on other undead for imagined crimes.
There are several rooms here full of skeleton hordes and wights, and in many cases the writers make it clear that there are multiple monsters but neglect to actually tell you how many.
Apparently the "Great Death" is some kind of undead Amazo: He's got the domination power of a vampire, energy drain of a wight, mummy rot ability of a mummy, crazy mind effect of an allip, stench of a ghast, and the aura of a nightshade. He also is a 26 HD bodak. He also has the very first treasure in this Region (not counting the 30 +1 longswords possessed by the mohrg horde): a +3 mithral shirt and +2 shocking burst or thundering warhammer (the weapon is given different stats in different parts of the statblock).
This area is under the control of the Champion of Hell, a blackguard ghost. This is basically the domain of incorporeal undead led by the ghost. It's unclear how these undead actually fight with any of the other undead in the Region, considering most incorporeal undead cannot harm other undead.
A lot of the rooms here are empty other than traps (there's another room that actively forces PCs who enter to become evil). There's another chamber with a semi-lich (a wight sorceress) who is still entombed in a coffin and unlikely to be freed. If the sorceress is freed then it turns out the celestials decided that she should get to keep her magical items. After all, when you're imprisoning ancient and powerful undead why not leave them with their potent magical artifacts? There's also St. Azamond, a 13th cleric/3rd level monk tiefling lich. Again with a wide selection of magic items he was apparently buried with by the celestials. Neither of these undead are likely to be freed however, requiring a complicated series of steps that PCs are unlikely to bother with or be aware of.
The incorporeal undead in this region are quite dangerous thanks to their large numbers (one of the first encounters is 5 dread wraiths) and touch attacks combined with their con drain. There's also CR 20 ghost (Clr 11/fighter 6) Keep in mind that PCs are probably not going to be any higher than 15th level at this point and undead regenerate in about a day and a half.
Finally we have another obscenely lethal horde: An Allip horde, although not as bad as the Wraith horde. There's also a room that contains wraiths, dread wraiths and dread wraith lieutenants (24 HD wraiths) but no indication is given as to
of each there are.
There is at least a room that contains a very large selection of ghost touch weaponry (11, each of a different weapon), although the PCs must defeat the weapons in combat first. This room is potentially very useful when it comes to preparing the PCs for fighting the inhabitants of this region, contains many different weapons to allow for different fighting styles...except that any given weapon has a 3-in-4 chance of dissolving into nothingness. Meaning that of the 11 weapons statistically only 2-3 will survive. Better hope that you get one of the regular martial weapons and don't end up with a double-axe or spiked chain you can't use.
Vinarra herself is a CR 22 encounter a ghost Fighter 9/Rogue 1/ Blackguard 10. She also has 4 24 HD Dread Wraith bodyguards. Technically that makes this a CR 23 encounter. It doesn't involve lots of spells or anything complicated but it's still quite a fight considering the level of the PCs involved and the
draining fights that this area contains. Keep in mind that this region is not at all linear...within about 10-12 rooms a group of 12th level characters from Region M could wander into her domain and be faced with a CR 23 encounter. Unless they're gaining a level every other room there's no way to be prepared. Even PCs of 15-16th level could very well be killed, especially since (for unexplained reasons) Vinarra is capable of moving through the walls of this region that normally block incorporeal travel. And of course even if they're killed all of these undead will come back soon. Imagine a pissed off resurrected ghost leading her wraith hordes after the PCs that killed her.
This is the domain of the mummy queen, a priestess of some kind of generic death god. She believes the World Eater is an avatar of her god and is working to set it free.
Some of her most powerful servants are extremely beefy 28 HD mohrgs (making them pretty dangerous since that boosts their paralysis attack to a DC 24). Other than buff Mohrg's there's not much here. A few zombie wyverns. Some allips.
Despite the size of this Region (or perhaps because of) this is actually one of the duller sections of the WLD. There's lots of repetition and empty rooms (or rooms that are full of "boxed up" undead that will only attack if the PCs free them). The region is even more starved for loot than the rest of the WLD, without even the worthless gold and gems that filled up the rest of the dungeon. The only source of actual treasure are the named undead.
Despite this section being called "The Mummy's Tomb" it does not actually contain the mummy priestess herself. For some reason, even though the rooms are immediately adjacent the section with the mummy priestess is N181-201 (labeled as just "More Undead"). Let me illustrate with a shot of this section of the dungeon:
Rather than waiting 60 rooms or so to resume, I'll go ahead and skip to 181-201 and finish off the mummy's tomb. Like the earlier section there really isn't much here. Some more mohrg, some zombies, a few allips.
There are several traps supposedly created by the mummy that she actually would find impossible to create (such as a Holy Word trap) or that would have no affect against the undead servants of the lich lord she's placing them to defend herself against (such as symbols of death and insanity or the blasphemy spell).
The mummy herself is a 15th level cleric in addition to her abilities as a mummy, backed up by 6 12 HD allips. This is definitely a tough fight, especially since it is almost as easy for PCs fresh from a different region to stumble into this area as the first "boss"
If you check out the minimap up there you'll see that the southern end of this section is an open cave, that's the entrance to Region J (don't ask about the doors leading into solid rock, those are never explained), which has no guards and no defenses at all (except presumably the ward that stops undead from leaving the region. Region J is a 10-12th level Region, which means that mid-level PCs can simply walk right into the middle of a band of high level undead such as the 6 12 HD allips in N193, or the Mohrg barracks in the area of N198, which includes a 40 HD Mohrg "lord", who is probably a tougher fight than the mummy he serves.
Well, I'm done with the first half or so of Region N. Next we'll deal with the Prime Lich and the (oddly unimpressive) World Eater.
Region N Part 3: The World Eater and the Prime Lich
Original SA post
Region N Part 3: The World Eater and the Prime Lich
So, This should be the last post for Region N, then we can move to Region O and finally out of this dump!
This is the area containing the World Eater itself, but we'll deal with the side area's first. The World Eater is contained in a huge central room with 4 entrances. All 4 must be opened to get inside.
The mummy guards her entrance with an encounter that is very difficult, tougher than an actual fight with her. Even the text of the encounter stats that it is "a nearly impossible encounter"...so they know it's extremely difficult...why make it? There's no "trick" to the encounter or alternative way to bypass it. It's just a room trapped with a combo of Horrid Wilting and Energy Drain traps, that's permanently silenced and filled with 3 28 HD Mohrg who are randomly made immune to lightning bolt, magic missile and searing light. And unless they were killed earlier (and haven't respawned) backup mohrg from a nearby room arrive in 2-3 rounds.
The actual barrier around the World eater consists of 4 doors each of which must be unlocked simultaneously (they're unpickable) and a wall of force which can only be deactivated by pulling 4 levers located throughout the dungeon. It's actually unclear how the undead warlords are planning to accomplish any of this since there's a ward that prevents any evil creature from entering the chambers that contain the doors to the World Eater.
It's actually really questionable why the PCs would want to fight the World Eater at all. Unlocking it's prison is exceedingly difficult even if you know how (since it requires the party to find and trigger 4 separate levers and then split 4 ways to reach the 4 doors that must be unlocked) and while the World Eater might theoretically be breaking out I can't see how opening up its cage helps things at all. The undead lords are apparently incapable of entering the chamber even if they had the ability to unlock it. They all attempt to trick the PCs into helping them...but frankly any promises they make are so blatantly false that there's little motivation for any but the stupidest and evilest party to side with one of them. The PCs can't break the status quo without killing the world eater, but since everyone is still safely trapped in this Region there's little motivation for the PCs to try. PCs actually interested in being helpful or saving the day would simply jog back to one of the celestial garrisons and alert them to the situation.
For some reason the celestials decided that the moment the world eater's prison is opened all defenses should immediately be dropped: the stasis field that holds it in place fails, the barrier preventing undead from entering and leaving goes down and so does the barrier preventing evil creatures from entering the world eater's prison.
The World Eater itself is a 50 HD Colossal Nightcrawler. This fight is basically impossible for most groups within the level range of the Region (which maxes out at 18, so presumably PCs fighting the world eater will be level 17 or so).
The world eater itself is fairly tough, by the rules it should be at least CR 25. It's listed as being only CR 20. It's got above average hit points (500). Because of a lack of any decent magical gear the PCs likely can't hit it's AC of 41 or avoid being hit by it's +42 attack bonus (and it's +62 grapple bonus means anyone it bites will be swallowed). The huge HD also means that it's poison is DC 35 to resist.
So, by itself the world eater would be basically an extremely difficult to unbeatable encounter for a group of standard level 17 characters. Of course that wasn't bad enough, so once the doors to it's prison is opened a wave of negative energy hits
in the dungeon. We're not talking the region by the way, we're talking the entire dungeon, killing most of the weaker inhabitants and hitting the PCs with 4 unavoidable negative levels to start the fight off. All undead hordes get max hp (which, given how low they were already means they'll be around 3-4 times the normal amount on average) and all other undead increase by 4 HD and gain a permanent unholy aura effect. All dead non-outsiders in the dungeon become undead and all undead except the three warlords become loyal to the world eater.
There are spheres full of celestial tools meant to help fight the world eater in this room, but they're contained in spheres that are difficult to break (hardness 10, 50 hp) or open (only possible by a LG PC making a DC 25 will save). The actual contents of the sphere range from potentially somewhat useful (+1 undead bane mace, a room-wide attack spell that only targets undead) to not worth the effort (12 potions of cure light wounds, scroll of divine favor, wand of magic missiles) to worth jack-shit (12 vials of holy water, wand of ice storm). Plus there's one sphere that's corrupted and adds an extra negative level to all creatures in the dungeon.
In addition the room has the encounter conditions of Cover and Concealment (meaning that on top of everything else the World Eater has a 20% miss chance). Desecration 14 (effectively any turn attempts are useless), and full of Stagnant Air which means that any given round a PC has to make a DC 15 Fort Save (which increases by 1 for each round) or lose their turn to coughing and choking.
And topping everything off, any undead in the region immediately converge on the room to help out the World Eater.
So, this is a game that frankly the PCs are best off not playing. If they find themselves in this Region the very best option is simply to leave and maybe pass a bit of info along to the celestials.
N160 to N180
This is the territory of Invistis, the Prime Lich. Because he knows the mummy priestess is great at taking control of undead he mostly defends himself with loads of traps and construct servants.
The lich's constructs are actually quite scary (which means that allying with the lich is probably the only reliable way to survive a fight with the World Eater), for instance one of the first is an Alloy Golem, a 54 HD Iron Golem which is nearly as tough a fight as the World Eater itself. It's listed as CR 16 even though a 54 HD iron golem would be at least CR 23. Other than the alloy golem there are several Iron Golems (some with bonus HD), extra buff shield guardians, and lots of traps.
Invistis himself is an 18th level wizard Lich. In fact he's the first lich, the first wizard to figure out the formula for lichdom. Despite this the celestials decided that not only should the bury him with a vast number of powerful magical items (seriously, Invistis has more personal magical items than every single encounter in the dungeon put together, not counting that bunch of 30 +1 swords) but they'd also bury him with
his spellbooks (10 total)
. That's right, the guardians of light and justice decided it would be great to imprison the wizard who
with his book of spells. Hell, I wouldn't bury him with
, let alone a spellbook.
That said, those spellbooks are probably going to give any wizard players spontaneous orgasms. After struggling through the WLD with only your level-up spells and the occasional crappy scroll, this is the greatest treasure a wizard could conceive of.
There's not a whole lot in the rest of the Region. We've got an area with several undead trapped in stasis (mostly some 32 HD dread Wraiths and a 24 HD devourer). There's a homunculus wandering around another room who has no real reason to be here (I think someone just realized they forget to check the homunculus off their list of "all the monsters!"). There's a place where a group of elven adventurer's died (the idea that they actually survived getting in here is basically unbelievable, based on the wizard's spellbook they're only 5th-6th level). The exits to the East are for some reason devoid of the extremely elaborate locks and traps that you find in the west side, and are guarded by only a single standard Iron Golem.
However, it does contain possibly the stupidest thing in the entire WLD. I may have said this before but dear god this time I mean it.
There is a room tucked away in the far Eastern part of the Region is a small room containing 4 iron golems. The golems are guarding a door in the eastern wall that requires a DC 45 open lock check to get open. Once opened it's revealed to be a false door and just opens onto a blank wall. A DC 30 search check reveals a slightly different rock in the wall. If a knock spell is cast on the stone then it opens a small cache containing a bone scroll case. I don't think any words can properly express how stupid what is inside is, so I'll allow it to speak for itself:
I don't think I can bring myself to say anything more about this Region. Thankfully there is only one left now. We're almost out people!
Region O: The Bit That's Cold
Original SA post
Region O: The Bit That's Cold
Here we are. The end. Now, there have been a couple of other places where the PCs could potentially exit the dungeon. Region M had a small blurb stating the DM might want to stick an exit somewhere around there. Region H has its giant hole in the ceiling. However, this is the "official" exit from the dungeon. Region O is the highest level Region (16-20) and has the only exit that can simply be walked out of.
Like J, H, K, and L this is one of those environmentally themed levels. This time the theme is cold stuff. The whole place is bitterly cold, which doesn't really matter because by now Resist/Endure elements will certainly be something the whole party is going to be covered in.
It was also apparently never intended to be a part of the dungeon, it was simply some nearby caves at the foot of the mountain the dungeon was built into, but the earthquake opened up the walls between the dungeon and this area. Despite that, the dungeon's magic still extends to this area, making it impossible to simply teleport or plane shift out.
So, you'd expect that the ultimate final region of the dungeon would be epic and impressive. If you came in from the West you've just battled your way through several ancient undead warlords, the first lich in existence, and possibly the World Eater itself. If you came from the south from Region L you just battled a demonic kraken and his army of aquatic monsters (and you'll die since Region L's level range is significantly lower than O's). So, naturally Region O must be really, really amazing. Maybe the factions this time are warring forces of good and evil dragons, maybe there's an army of celestials coming into "cleanse" the dungeon and they're perfectly willing to eliminate anyone "tainted", maybe it's the opposite and a small army of demons and devils are attempting to make a bid for freedom, held back only by a few staunch defenders guarding the final exit.
Sadly, the truth is much lamer. You see, apparently Region O was originally defended by a titan, the brother to the titan corpse PCs found all the way back in Region A. However he was overpowered and imprisoned in ice by a frost giant shaman and his clan. Apparently the frost giant knew of the nature of the dungeon and that he now controlled one of the only exits from the place. He figured that he and his clan would act as toll keepers and get rich off of the inhabitants. Anyone who wants to leave must pay him their magical items to escape. Unfortunately this plan hasn't really worked out: not many of the dungeon's inhabitants have actually found the place and those who have don't really have much in the way of wealth to offer, and so the giants just kill them. Despite this disappointment they're still camping here.
If that sounds like a fairly dull premise you'd be right. This region is basically just a slog through enemies of varying levels of beefiness until you reach the exit and are done. It's entirely unimaginative and really involves little more than carving through walls of HP. Many encounters are with low to mid powered humaniods and giants whose CR is buffed through numbers or class levels. For example, one of the first encounters is with a patrol of 10 standard frost giants. While this is hardly a trivial encounter, it basically is just a group of enemies who will smack the PCs with melee attacks turn after turn while the party depletes their HP, or the wizard/sorcerer utterly destroys them.
Since almost all monsters here are of the "brute" variety (giants and humaniods, sometimes with fighter or barbarian levels) and rely more on numbers than individual power, their non-Fort saves are pitiful and spellcasters will definitely dominate. A sorcerer with Mass Hold Monster can turn this entire region into a cakewalk.
This section really illustrates the above point, it's primary feature is a tribe of renegade bugbear slaves that belonged to the giants in the past. This is a group of 12 bugbears who you will likely fight all at once: 4 6th level fighters, 3 6th level barbarians, 2 6th level rangers, 2 6th level rogues, and a 6th level cleric. Another group consists of 4 fighters, three barbarians, and five rangers all of 6th level. Their chieftain is more powerful warrior (13th level barbarian) but since he'll probably be fought solo he doesn't really present much of a challenge either to a tactically minded group, or any spellcaster with Hold Person memorized.
Now, will these fights cost the PCs some hit points? Sure, there's enough enemies that a few will definitely get hits in, especially since the PCs AC is much lower than it should be due to a lack of magic items. But unless a spellcaster is stupid enough to get surrounded or a rogue is very unlucky no one is going to be severely hurt and at 16+ level healing is a fairly trivial task. This Region also doesn't have any major "timed" events or wandering dangers so it's quite easy for PCs to retreat, rest and come back later.
In fact, this area is almost a 3.5-hater's perfect example of the perceived problems with the system. It allows spellcasters to dominate over all other classes due to the weak enemies, threats that can't kill a PC are basically meaningless due to powerful healing magic, and there's not really any reason for a "full day" of adventuring when it's so easy to retreat and rest once you've run out of high level spells.
This area is the lair of some frost worms. It also used to be the lair of a group of winter/frost cultists whose presence is indicated by a few murals and shrines. These have no significance whatsoever as far as I can tell.
The frost worms (two of them) have a 7 extra HD, making them moderately challenging compared to the giants and bugbears. But one of the other big issues with this area is that it's theme is just so god-damned obvious. Within minutes of arriving in this Region (and especially after dealing with other "themed" regions throughout the dungeon) it's going to be clear that this is a cold-themed location and that the PCs should prepare accordingly. Region J had this problem as well, but at least being forced to set aside fire-based spells is at least mildly limiting as they represent a large portion of the direct-damage arsenal of mages and sorcerers.
Here, all the party clerics have to do is make sure that they use all their 2nd level slots on Resist Energy and any enemies that can't be easily taken down with a save-or-suck spell can be easily torched with fiery effects since practically all of them have the Cold subtype and will be taking double damage.
There's also a group of 12 6 HD frost mephits. At this point the PCs may start to feel like bullies picking on the little kids at school.
Oh, and there's a 24 HD fiendish megaraptor and it's friend, an 8th level Frost Giant ranger. And in another cranny we've got a pack of 5 18 HD winter wolves.
This is the large open area to the south that borders the water and the large interior cave. The biggest threat is the giant's animal trainer, a 12th level Frost Giant druid who could probably give the party a halfway decent fight.
The biggest risk of this section is the fact that there aren't much in the ways of walls or distance, so if you get in a fight with one group of giants you're probably getting in a fight with all of them in short order. Still even with several waves of reinforcements the fights should not significantly challenge a group of high-level PCs.
This area is the domain of an Ice Devil who apparently escaped from the dungeon proper and just decided to hang out here for a while. The devil has a few renegade frost giants serving him and a few 12-headed Cryohydra. For some reason a single ice devil is powerful enough to give this area the Cold Dominant, Enhanced Magic (ice) and Impeded Magic (fire) planar conditions. Still the devils here at least gives the area a bit of complexity.
The Ice Devil has a few bone and horned devils as backup, and Colossal Purple Worm with 36 HD who is clearly another one of those monsters the writers threw in when they realized that they were missing any encounters with one in the previous Regions.
The ice devil himself is a 24 HD Gelugon. I've noticed that the more a particular area relies on simply adding HD to its inhabitants the worse it probably is. Although the Gelugon is a decent fight, his servant (an 18th level bugbear sorcerer) is probably the most dangerous fight in the section.
This is the home of the frost giant tribe. For some reason their chieftain is masquerading as the titan who used to guard this place. It's never adequately explained why he would want to do this.
There are also a few HD-bloated monsters as well. A 20 HD gargantuan black pudding and a 31 HD gargantuan Remorhaz.
There's also a 5th level frost giant ranger who is also a were-polar bear, which is interesting at least.
Other than that there's not much beyond some frost giants with class levels (mostly barbarians and fighters). Given their low will saves a PC with Mass Charm Monster could build up quite an army of allies.
The frost giant chieftain is, admittedly, going to be a pretty tough fight. He's a 19th level frost giant cleric. He's got spells and plenty of hit points, but presumably by this time the PCs are all 19th or so level themselves...the odds don't favor the frost giant, especially since he's likely a solo fight.
And that's really it. The exit is just a big hole in the northern wall of the dungeon (which the cartographers forgot to mark the encounter on the map) and leaving doesn't really require fighting the frost giant shaman. In fact, with just a few mass invisibility spells or something similar the PCs could easily sneak past the giants and leave without much of a fight at all.
If you think this region seems short you're right. It has 60 rooms making it the shortest Region in the book (although Region H comes close). In fact if you just so happen to move in a straight line towards the exit you can make it there in under 8 encounters. There really isn't much to say here. It doesn't have much worth ranting over or insulting but that's mostly because there really isn't much to talk about. It's solidly mediocre.
This Region has the same problem as the other potential exits from the dungeon (M and H) in that it's extremely anti-climatic. Region M is little more than wandering around a big rock pile and maybe finding a cave or a tunnel that leads out. Region H is a relatively peaceful encounter with elves that the PCs will likely leave behind immediately as soon as they realize how easy it is for them to simply leave the dungeon here. Region O is full of encounters that vary between painfully slow fights where you have to carve your way through opponents with massive quantities of hit points or fights that are over in moments if the party spellcasters are on the ball.
None of them have any kind of "conclusion" to the dungeon's plot, no epic confrontation with escaping evil, no "You Suck" speech to the incompetent angelic guardians. Some of those are possible in other regions but you still have to find some way out and then it just kind of...ends.
But to be fair, at this point that's all any PC is going to want after having to deal with the nightmare that is the WLD.
So, finally completed the WLD, and thank god. Next time I think I'll dedicate myself to a write up for a game I actually
I'll leave you with the depressing words of Jim Pinto, line developer and editor of the WLD:
I've read the majority of the text at least twice, and this book is about as good as anything I ever do is going to get. This is my magnum opus.
Afterword: Design Flaws and Thoughts
Original SA post
Just wanna say thanks for finishing this, I really enjoyed the write up. The basic premise of the game gave me idea for a campaign of my own, and at the beginning of your presentation, you said you had some ideas on how you could improve WLD. Assuming you're not completely sick of WLD and the banner quote alone doesn't make you gag, what would you have changed? Anything aside from obvious things, like giving useful treasure and not filling 90% of the dungeon with garbage or utterly one-sided encounters?
Also, is there anything else like WLD in size? As bad as it was (or because it's so bad), I kinda like really ambitious adventure modules like this. I know World's Largest City is out there, and I certainly haven't read up on everything F&F has to offer, either.
Awesome, glad to hear it.
Back when I had more free time and ambition for pointless side projects I actually did a series of blog posts where I went room-by-room trying to see if the WLD could be salvaged. I managed to complete Region A and B. If you want to see my composure crumble as I try to slog through the mess you can read it here:
In a more general sense, here are my recommendations.
The Dungeon as a whole
Here are the main problems I have with the dungeon itself.
I always found the fact that you'll inevitably miss a good chunk of the Regions to be BS. The dungeon really should be reorganized in either a linear pattern, or top down. This would give greater control over level progression (since you don't have to worry about low level PCs running into high level areas or vice versa). Also the fat is in dire need of trimming. There are Regions that are not worth keeping around, especially since many of them are redundant to each other level-wise. I would say the following Regions have enough potential to be kept around with heavy modification, and roughly in the proper "order"
*Region K (only if you
want a water section)
*Region O (If you drop all the extra class levels and HD and delete a couple of high level monsters this makes for a decent mid-level region. of course remove the "exit")
*Region N and/or Region G (with a more powerful demonic presence)
Region H isn't so bad, but it really doesn't fit the theme of the WLD as a whole. Region M and C are basically pointless. Region D really sticks out as well but you could include it as a "side" region splitting off from the linear path. Region E is just the same as G, but without the slim justification of rogue demons.
I know a lot of the dungeon's problems come from the fact that you're sealed in...but I actually assumed that would be the case even before I got the book and I kind of like it. It brings to mind old-school dungeon crawler and roguelike games like Eye of the Beholder or Nethack. But, what is essential is that there's something for the PCs to do with all that treasure they collect, and more importantly a way for them to get gear that suits them. It's no good being a Fighter who's already dumped Weapon Proficiency, Focus and Specialization on a Bastard Sword only to find out that there isn't a magical one until level 9...and that's just a +1 weapon. Find an excuse to shoehorn agreeable NPCs with an interest in trade. An elven wizard willing to trade scrolls and potions or recharge wands in exchange for gemstones and rare monster giblets. An ancient celestial forge-golem that will activate and magically enhance a weapon if enough divine scrolls are burned inside it's furnace-belly. A goblin merchant with some decent bodyguards who travels between different humaniod groups in the upper levels and barters.
Definitely use XP, because the writers idea of just "leveling up" at appropriate times doesn't work because there are no "appropriate times". I would just suggest cutting xp rewards in half once the PCs are above the appropriate level range. This gives motivation to keep delving deeper and should stunt leveling enough to keep things relatively sane.
As far as suggestions for the specific Regions (at least for the keepers)...
This place needs to have it's traps dialed down several notches. Replace the magical traps with mechanical ones. Also, my personal suggestion for any mechanical traps in the dungeon (unless they're obviously made by newer inhabitants) is to make blades/spears/arrows silvered and/or cold iron. This not only makes the traps make more sense but its a good way to supply the PCs with sources of improvised weapons that can be used against demons and devils. That's especially important here considering that the boss is a wererat. Go through the list of animals and come up with some good substitutes for fiendish stirges/darkmantles/rats.
I personally swapped some statues around and changed locations to make the whole new religion of the goblins a bit more feasible. The gygaxian trap region needs to just be sealed off or heavily updated.
This Region mainly just needs a reason for the PCs not to leave ASAP, since it is just plain nasty (but otherwise fairly interesting). A linear or top-down dungeon can definitely solve this, especially if the exits are covered in some kind of flesh-wall and the PCs need to track down a suitable alchemical or magical substance to get past.
As an "outdoors" style Region this Region needs to be much, much bigger. I'd say increase the size by a factor of 2 or 3 at least. Perhaps this was an area where the celestials kept truly gigantic prisoners (drowned or killed by the floodwaters), so you can scatter giant chained bones here and there. And for god's sake give the dragon a decent hoard. The larger scale will also make it easier for PCs to avoid notice by the dragon when they first set foot inside and give you more room to include a decent population of tritons and merfolk and turn them into proper allies.
You might make this an "extension" of K rather as part of the "big mother" storage. If you reduce the number and class levels of giants it could work as a good mid-level region. Come up with a good reason for how the frost giants got in and why this area is so cold. Possibly replace the frost giant shaman with an Ice Demon who's producing the cold through some sort of magical artifact or weapon. Also, include a white dragon. this dungeon is sparse on dragons.
Like O and K this could be part of a single large area. Perhaps the fire-based entities in J and the frost based ones in O are in conflict and Region K is the "neutral ground" between them with the green dragon keeping them both out for now. Region J needs to either be much bigger or have a lot of its population culled however, too many different critters in too many locations. Perhaps the artifact used to keep Region O frost shrouded is what's keeping the dragon in J imprisoned, meanwhile the frost and fire giants are both preparing for an eventual war.
Either one of these has the design needed for a "final" Region. I would probably only include one or the other. Given the celestial vs demons theme of the dungeon and the massive problems with N I would go with G. The Demons here need a power boost to make the besieged celestial garrison more believable (the demon lord should certainly be at least a Pit Fiend, if not something obscene like a Fiendish Pseudonatural Tarrasque. You might even include D in here as an "offshoot" region where enslaved dwarves are trying to free yet more dark forces.
But overall, the biggest thing is that GMs are just going to have to be able to improvise and improve things room by room as they're found. The place is just riddled with crappy stuff. Switching to a different system could help, because at least then you'll be changing the stuff already.