The Tomb of Rahotep
Now that the dust has settled, I want to get down some of my thought processes on putting this particular adventure together. I’ll break it out into following:
• Key lessons learned
• Basic plot
Here are my key lessons learned from all this:
• Build the adventure with interchangeable parts and keep it modular. You will not likely get to use all the material that you developed. The more flexible you make the material, the more of it you will get to use.
• Preparation is the key. You do not need a lot of material to run an OhioGame. But you do need to know it well.
• Keep the pace moving. Even if one scene goes fast, the next may not.
• Put together an initiative board. This will help with time management. Combat rounds take a long time to work through and with 9 players plus a slew of monsters, people forget when they are up. With such an item in place, the GM can implement other time management devices, like a time-limit on making a decision for an action.
• For the players, eliminate the rule that a natural 1 on the d20 is an auto-failure. In a one-shot adventure, each PC only gets so many rolls. There is nothing worse than rolling a 1 when you still could have hit/saved if the auto-failure was waived. This was suggested by Brad.
• I think 6th level PCs would be optimal for future OhioGames. They are strong enough to withstand a few encounters, have a nice spell selection (fireball!), and fighters have one extra attack.
• Never hinge the adventure on a clue. Overall, I thought I had avoided this trap. But, I really missed the boat on the opening scene. That scene should not have been left to hints that you were to work together. I should have set that up in email, and opened the scene on “even” terms.
The full detail of the plot may still not be evident to all. Here it is in a nutshell:
As Gilgeam was stuck down by Tiamat, he transferred a piece of his being into the Rod of Eternal Victory. The Reaper was able to whisk the weapon away in all the confusion of battle. He eventually took the weapon to the tomb of Rahotep. They then hatched a scheme to bring Gilgeam back. All they needed were souls of sufficient power (say 4 or so souls of about 18th level….) and a body. They then worked to bring in adventures of sufficient power to get the job done.
The plot has several inspirations:
• Necropolis by Gygax first got me in the mood for an Eyptian adventure. Combine that with the WoTC novel on the Tomb of Horrors sealed the deal (if you have not read it, pick it up – it is very good).
• The FR novel The Alabaster Staff became the other key to the adventure. It is about Unther’s desperation to stave off defeat. A more “neutral” group eventually lead by a priestess of Tiamat had a very good feel to me.
• The original draft of the adventure would have the Tiamat group encountered as NPCs.
• After seeing how large the player list was, it made sense to split the players up to a degree. This accomplished two things. First, there would be more roleplaying between the players, as their groups would have similar goals and need each other to succeed. The second item was eventually distinct probability of conflict between the groups due to the same overall goal. I figure the individual players would get more out of the spellcasters than I would.
There were multiple design issues that I had to deal with:
• Time was a major factor. Dealing with 9 18th level PCs in a one-shot adventure would be a daunting task.
• Roleplaying. I wanted to avoid being the center of the roleplaying. The more the players roleplayed amongst themselves, the more people would be involved. If I did the majority, that would leave 7 or 8 out of 9 players disengaged from the game.
• System control. I wanted to make sure one magic item, spell, or feat combination did not wreck the game.
• Material control. How could I ensure the material I developed was (1) enough and (2) would get used?
My overall approach was to make the adventure modular, interchangeable, and Core. This dealt with many of the Obstacles listed above. Once I decided to make some of the players the Tiamat group, that would help diversify the roleplaying.
I had three set encounters: the opening puzzle, the false tomb, and the real tomb. There were two fallback encounters in case things went at too great a clip. If the group failed to figure out the puzzle, then the great statue of Rahotep would animate and the rod he was holding would turn into a giant snake-like creature. The other encounter was a trap room that, to a degree, went opposite of a player’s instinct (drink from the fountain, read the glyph, walk on the mosaic, etc.). If things had gone well, this would have been the second room if the players figured out the puzzle. But after the bad start, I thought a combat would get the Tiamat PCs back into the swing of the adventure.
The trap room was build to fill time. I could add or subtract traps as needed. The other big area of flexibility was the final encounter. If the groups fought amongst themselves, Rahotep and the Reaper would play a minor role (the PCs would kill each other and provide the souls to power Gilgeam’s return). If they cooperated, Rahotep and the Reaper would take a more active role.
The last item was very important – Core rules only for the players. I trust the Core rules but not any of the supplements at that level. Using Core only meant I could use the GM Genie software without worrying that a player would have some obscure feat/item/spell that would wreck the game. I could put the PCs in and get a good feel on how they were built and what they could do.
Overall, I thought it went well. Given that the start was so rough (I almost called a “do-over”!), I am very pleased with the overall game.
The things that went well:
• Well, there was plenty of roleplaying between the players. No questions about that!
• Memorable (I believe in a good way). The conflict between the groups will keep this high in the mind of most of the players.
• I felt the adventure had a nice mix of roleplay, puzzle, traps, and combat.
• I put into play a good 80% of the material I developed. I got to use some ideas I have had floating around for a few years that did not fit into my regular game.
• No PC deaths until the final battle.
• I believe most PCs had their scene. I was very concerned about Rob’s PC, but he got the critical spotlight to overcome the Glyphs at the end.
• Given the numbers, I thought the combats moved along at a nice clip.
• After a bad start, I felt the Tiamat team rallied well and put together a great game.
• I liked the two-party approach. I made sure to split up the two strongest rules players (Mark and Chris D) between the teams. Also, the small subteams made it easier for the players to keep engaged with their own team (of 4 or 5) as opposed to trying to work with a party of 9. The table was of perfect size to facilitate this.
Things that went poorly:
• Clearly, the opening did not work as I had anticipated. I wanted a tough roleplaying scene. That did occur, but I did not anticipate the immediate disadvantage the Tiamat team would find itself in.
• Needed an initiative board so that players could keep track of when their turn was coming up.
• The game still ran too long. I think the only solution is lower-level PCs. High-level PCs take up to much time due to:
o Feats that come into play
o Magic spells and item selection
o Multiple attacks
I think 6th level PCs would be optimal. They are strong enough to withstand a few encounters, have a nice spell selection (fireball!), and fighters have one extra attack.
• I felt a few players did not get as much stage time as I would like. A nasty product of time and number of players.
Those are my thoughts. Hopefully, they will prove useful to others who decide to run an OhioGame.