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Difficulty levels for Shadows of Tanglewood

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  • Difficulty levels for Shadows of Tanglewood

    I know Shadows of Tanglewood is listed as an adventure for 4-6 1st level characters, but I wanted to ask you guys... did that seem right? My group of 6 were nearly wiped out by the wolves at the beginning, and while part of that could be inexperience with both the system and the characters (on everyone's part), I feel like the fight was overpowered for the anticipated player level. I had to nerf the wolves hard after realizing the party might not be able to handle it. Wolves are classified as moderate level enemies, and corrupt wolves would be even higher, so I'm just wondering how everyone else handled it.

  • #2
    Re: Difficulty levels for Shadows of Tanglewood

    I haven't ran the adventure yet, but from what I've read, it does seem a little strong for a group of new players. That's why I'm letting this be the 2nd or 3rd adventure for my group - since all of them are new to RPGs.

    Some tips:
    • Wolves can't climb as well as a humanoid can. Climb a few trees, plink them slowly with rocks, branches, or equipment. If they stay up the tree long enough, is it really worth the effort from the wolves? Hint that especially if they use the Stay Aware stunt. My players use it all the time because I use it as an avenue for hints. For example, I threw a Thrall Vampire at my group on their 1st adventure. On the Stay Aware stunt, I said their character can see a bit of sunlight around the corner of a tunnel.
    • ‎I would imagine even corrupt wolves have a sense of preservation. If half of them or even a few are down, they'll escape. A few days worth of food isn't worth the loss of half the pack.
    • ‎Wolves are ambush / pack hunters, so they'll attack opportunistically. Wait for one person to separate from the group, then gang up. If not, spend actions positioning the wolves for a good burst. If one wolf is hit, consider having that wolf retreat while a healthier one covers the front lines. It's not like they're all rabid and will attack recklessly... unless you want them to.
    * An opposed test between Strength (Intimidation) vs Willpower (Morale) would be cool from the players too. Perhaps a bonus for something creative there is 1 less wolf on a success with additional wolves lost per point of outcome.
    * I was also thinking of not revealing all of the wolves at once too (so the players won't see you adjusting the total number of wolves on the fly). Some are decoys, while others hide in the shadows waiting for an opportunity - perhaps when a player gets too close and 1-2 of them can charge at once (Ready + Charge). Of course, players can spot them with a good enough Perception roll.

    As for further into the adventure, there will be times when Fey Sprites will come into play.
    * Capitalize on their tricky nature and have them use Stunt Actions (Major action to Knock Prone, Skirmish, Disarm, etc.) or play hide and seek.
    * Fey Sprites have a Defense of 16 so they're not easy to hit. Consider reminding the players of Flanking from the Attack Rolls Modifier table. Also, characters (and enemies) get a +3 Attack Roll bonus if they surprise the target. Hint, somehow, that players get an advantage when surprising the enemy.
    * Again, think about self-preservation. For the sprites, is it really worth a battle to the death?
    * Also, consider what it means for an NPC to be at half health. If 0 means death for a minor NPC, half health from 15 is pretty scary.
    Last edited by Sentinel Ark; 09-26-2017, 02:17 PM. Reason: Thought of more points, edited for clarity

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    • #3
      Re: Difficulty levels for Shadows of Tanglewood

      Thanks for the reply!

      The morale thing had occurred to me while running it, as well. I wasn't sure how bad it would be to actually run the fight as written until I started hitting the party, so I had to improvise on the fly. My players are clever, but not experienced, so I ended up dropping the armor back to basic wolves (a 1), halving the hp, and having some of them flee after their side took enough casualties. I had the wolves coming from two sides, since the book mentions at one point that they distract the enemy by drawing attention to one point and having the rest of the pack come up behind. The players enjoyed the fight, they just had a lot of trouble with it.

      I also appreciate the ideas for the fey sprites they'll have coming up. I will definitely be using those. A lot of my players picked things for more role-play heavy sections, so a fighting heavy intro to the game is sort of like throwing them into the deep end in this instance.

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      • #4
        Re: Difficulty levels for Shadows of Tanglewood

        It sounds like you handled it well! As long as you and all of your players are having fun, then that's all that matters.

        Since your group is RP-heavy (like mine), remind them that they can earn Conviction by acting in accordance to their Calling/Destiny/Fate. It's an exceptionally powerful resource that can grant additional actions, healing, rerolls, and defense.

        I also reward them Conviction for really good RP moments or when they're creative. If they're really creative, I like to reward them with a d4 inspiration die to be used immediately for their roll. It's like a +2-3 bonus to the roll, but random (they can get a 4! ...or 1). It feels more fun especially since I allow the d4 to count as doubles to qualify for stunt points.

        I took a look back at my notes for Shadows of Tanglewood:

        Nemain is a great way to introduce a chaotic/insane NPC (think Smeagol/Gollum). Perhaps dance is her escape to purify herself from the corruption. If the players dance with her, she can be saved. If you don't dance, you get shanked. Does Florin and Nemain know each other too? That might be interesting.

        The Wood Elemental can perhaps be persuaded to join the players if they can do something for him. Perhaps a gallon of untainted water? A story? If someone has Plant Shaping, perhaps a heal to rid the corruption? Maybe Nemain and the Wood Elemental are not friends. How might that work out?

        If these NPCs recruited, have one of your players use them in combat. As long as they are playing to the NPC's beliefs, you can just handle the RP for them.

        In the Main Forge, with a group of 6, you'll be going up against a Fey Reveler and 9 Mechanical Fey Sprites. Even mechanical, they like to play tricks. Perhaps when a character is reduced to 0 health, the sprites knock the character out instead (1 HP and not dying but unconscious for 2d6 minutes). When knocked out, 2-5 Sprites will abduct the character, and play hide and seek within the mansion (if not explored yet). Or if explored, the sprites hold the character high in the air and demand the heroes leave or their friend drops to their death.

        In the Shrine of Shadow, have a back up plan for if the party experiences a TPK. They'll be going up against 9 more Fey Sprites (with a Fey Reveler and Dartis). Maybe the heroes are just knocked out instead, and when they wake up, they're in chains and imprisoned. Now they have to escape. Is Deradiz and Dartis nearby? What happens if Dartis keeps wearing the mask? Maybe Deradiz wants more followers so he can perform a ritual to summon Gravicarius.

        The encounter in Shadows of Tanglewood are brutal, but I like it. It forces the players to find ways to make combat easier (scouting, asking questions, preparing, etc) or seek other routes to victory (diplomatic).

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        • #5
          Re: Difficulty levels for Shadows of Tanglewood

          For anyone else reading this for ideas before they run Tanglewood I went with the cool suggestions listed in the rest of this thread but with a few extra twists:

          1) At the outset I had Florin hint to the party that the woods are dangerous and that its far safer in the trees which had the party (of which there are only three) thinking about how they could use the terrain to their advantage in every encounter.

          2) I also used the dancing suggestion with Nemain. I had the idea of there being a formal dance for the last day of autumn which symbolically shows Anwaren's death and rebirth in the spring. I had it so that the dance starts out with one person performing part of the dance and then pausing for their dance partner to perform the next part allowing a Int(Cultural Lore) test to recognise what's occurring. I guess if you want to make it more symbolic you could have it as a four person dance where Nemain is dancing the part of Anwaren and three PCs dance the parts of Aulora, Gola and Braniel. That wouldn't have worked with my group as the warrior and expert didn't want to get anywhere near the crazy crying fey and left it to the Rhy-Red Panda adept who would only dance on the top of the standing stones out of reach of Nemain!

          3) I described detritus around the forge expecting the PCs to use it and barricade Clickclack and the Clockwork Sprites in so they wouldn't get swamped in the final fight. Instead they came up with the novel idea of "pie crimping" the door / windows to their frames using Plant Shaping - Woodcraft. As the rules don't say exactly how Plant Shaping (Woodcraft) works, I'd ruled previously that it temporarily makes wood soft so it can be shaped by hand without tools.

          4) I embellished the history surrounding the Ebban Mask. With an Int(Historical Lore) the PCs recalled an ancient tale about a Darkfiend that was only finally defeated by javelins made of Heartwood (it's not in the book I just made it up, think oak meets tropical hardwood i.e. iron hard, never rots and its the colour of blood). Heartwood is also super rare and only found in the very heart of the Pavin Weald, so they couldn't just nip outside to find one. In addition I added lots of hints of Ebban slipping into madness induced by the mask, pictures of the skull draw and rambling comments on the walls about needing to destroy it (I probably over did that bit) and I had the dinning room converted into a crude wood workshop with tiny offcuts and shavings of Heartwood. Not enough to make a javeiin but enough to make 1d5+5 arrow heads with Plant Shaping - Woodcraft and then an easy Dex(Crafting) test to swap the arrow heads.

          The back story to this bit is that Ebban found the skeleton of the Darkfiend and realised what it was. Retreating, he recalled the ancient story and decided to obtain enough heartwood to construct a weapon and use it to shatter the skull believing (incorrectly) that it would negate its affect. Instead I've decided that it only diminish its powers. So, he dispatched men to obtain the Heartwood but during the time it took he was slowly corrupted. On returning to the skeleton he was overcome by the corruption and instead returned to the manor with the skull (and dropped the weapon).

          This set the PCs up with a weapon which they could use to shatter the skull with called head shots with their bows which I decided would be one or two levels of difficulty higher depending on how Dartis was standing / impossible if you could only see their back. I gave the mask/skull separate stats so it could be damaged.

          Finally, if the PCs were overcome in the fight they would have had been tied up and taken to the site of the rest of the Darkfiends skeleton where handily there is still the weapon constructed by Ebban laying in the underbrush - remember Heartwood doesn't rot or corrode. Plus, the heartwood is a bane so it doubled any damage caused to the wearer of the mask.


          With these adaptions the game went pretty well. My PCs shattered the mask/skull without resulting in the death of Dartis and they are now transporting the skull pieces back to Aldis which I'm going to us as their introduction into the Sovereign's Finest / the parts are going to act as a beacon to evildoers they meet on the road to the capital.

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