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A Different Kind of Red Menace [gaming]

Well, just because 4th edition is on the way, doesn't mean 3rd edition don't work. After a month or so of no gaming due to schedule conflicts and general life-being-a-pain, we finally got together again and I started a new mini-campaign running The Red Hand of Doom.

RHOD is probably WotC's iconic moment in 3rd edition; when it came out, several people hailed it as being an instant classic on par with Temple of Elemental Evil for enduring quality and generally setting the standard. (Some people would argue that Paizo's adventure paths in Dungeon magazine beat it, particularly "Age of Worms" -- I won't get into that here. "AoW" does look very cool -- unfortunately, as it'll never see hardcover compilation, it's sort of an apples/oranges comparison. But I digress.)

RHOD has a structure similar to Icewind Dale II, for those who've played that -- an army of evil humanoids is descending upon civilized lands and it's up to the heroes to turn the tide. The cover says it's intended to take characters from levels 6-12; the inside says levels 5-10. Which one is correct? Hard to say. We only got through the introductory teaser fight last night, and that was a pretty hefty slog for a party of five 6th-level characters. Granted, there's a lot of multiclassing and LA going on, so the party is not the most optimized you'll come across, but they're no pushovers.

Right now there's not a lot of characterization or group dynamic going on ... in order to get right into the action I just said, "You guys have been adventuring together for a while and you've got a treasure map. Go!" Who the characters are and how they relate is yet to be determined. There is no "GM's PC" right now, and I don't know if one will turn up. There is a tag-along NPC in the adventure who may or may not join up depending on how things go, but without wanting to give too much in the way of spoilers, his skillset would be a bit redundant with the group as it exists right now. If this group does have a weak spot, I'd say it was lacking in either a dedicated cleric, or a dedicated rogue. A scout might work, tho. Maybe I'll send them a Celedras-variant for support if they need it.

-The Gneech


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 29th, 2007 04:58 am (UTC)
Well, sometimes I get the impression from WotC is that if they could get people's 1st/2nd/3rd eds to spontaneously stop working they would. (O noes, my d20 doesn't work NEmore.)

As for the campaign, not to disparage, but don't they almost all open up with the plot of the invasion of evil humanoid/dragon/daemon/disembodied purple tentacles? Oh sorry, that last one is the old game, Maniac Mansion, not AD&D
Oct. 29th, 2007 12:41 pm (UTC)
I wouldn't say "almost all," but certainly many do.

Nov. 28th, 2007 05:45 pm (UTC)
i picked up this adventure to take a look, after your sterling recommendation. i keep meaning to get a game together...

it's certainly well-written. but it's very video-game-like. maybe all d&d is like that now? like, the pcs start at level 5 or 6 and end at level 10-12... one month later. in the end, the pcs are being seriously consulted by ruling nobles about military defense... because they have so much experience leading siege defense? no, a month ago they were the same level as the dozens of sergeants the army has, and presumably they were first level characters a month before that. but, as mentioned, they're among the most powerful allies the defenders have, now.

that and, the opposing army is insanely well-financed. the adventure explores in some impressive detail where both sides got their various allies (beyond leaving it unclear why the bad guys know all of the vale's obscure ancient secrets and the good guys, who actually live there, know none). but i want to know where tribes of raiders who live in the wastes and have apparently no economy to speak of get thousands upon thousands of masterwork weapons?

and that just leads me to focus more on the peculiarities inherent in the game system itself, i guess. like, it's great that hobgoblins can have character levels now, but why are they basically the same as pc character levels? don't they have different cultures, and shouldn't that lead to some differences in the paths they pursue? (but you can't know anything about hobgoblin culture, naturally, because they all wear "evil" tshirts and so you can't treat them as equals except across swords). to be fair, this adventure sometimes does pretty well in that regard, implying that there are some specific sets of figher feats that have a notable place in hobgoblin culture (e.g. the "bladebearer"); but i kept wondering if that was really supposed to be a cultural thing or just "this combo gives lots of bonuses, and will be some nice variety." and most of the "boss" villains did seem to have their own prestige levels and weird histories, at least. i may just be confused that they have hobgoblin monks. :) then again the cultural place of monks in d&d was always a little confusing, to me, in general...
Nov. 28th, 2007 05:56 pm (UTC)
Well, D&D has always been pretty video-game-like ... or maybe video games are D&D-like? The PCs being consulted by leaders is just a genre convention that is kinda hard to get around without. (Why did Gandalf pick Bilbo to accompany Thorin Oakenshield? No reason is ever given that I can recall.)

I figure the financing of the army comes from the various dragons' hoards, and possibly gifts from Tiamat. Having a goddess on your side makes a big difference! :D

FWIW, the peculiarities of the story are largely game system artifacts, particularly level-based-game artifacts. Heroes get exponentially more powerful as they level up, so their foes must do the same. A skill-based system a la GURPS or HERO would probably clear up a lot of that, but for some reason nobody seems much interested in writing adventures for those!

-The Gneech
Nov. 28th, 2007 10:59 pm (UTC)
gandalf had a thing for hobbits, right? and all the dwarves seemed convinced he was a skilled burglar. but i always read them as thinking of him as something like a mascot. :)

yeah, so basically reading this adventure made me think about how weird level-based systems are. :) but it seems adequately plausible, to me, to have a years-long epic with lots of between-adventure downtime that spans the same level range, and that would make it easier for me to suspend disbelief. maybe part of my problem is d&d having done away with level training; now you just magically *pop* up to the next level as soon as you hit the x.p. total. :)

(dragon-hoard financing makes sense; they even talk about how fanatically devoted to the cause the dragons are. but that still doesn't quite explain who made all those weapons... is there a hobgoblin city somewhere filled with hobgoblin master weaponsmiths? i guess there must be.)
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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