My ToEE playthrough notes

Discussion in 'The Temple of Elemental Evil' started by anatoliy, Jan 9, 2021.

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  1. anatoliy

    anatoliy Established Member

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    It has been a while from the last ToEE playthrough. I think it was 2004 when I played whole game, not just first part. Now I decided to play it again and take fresh look at game design.

    This post is about my thoughts on the playthrough.

    I decided to start from level 4, from Nulb, after the Moathouse. It can be easily done by using quickstart_module.py quickstart() function.

    Balance
    Simply compare output of Fighter with Strength 18 vs 15 – the difference is huge! Attack difference is 2 and damage would be 2 or 3 with two-handed weapon. The 10% hit difference and damage are like easy vs normal difficulty.

    Why does this point matter?
    Because it changes motivation and satisfaction from challenge in combat. How motivated Player would be to use additional tactics like Grease or Total Defense if there are no challenge at all?

    How overpowering and boring it would be to wear Belt of Ogre Power +4 STR and have 22 or in some cases even 24 strength score?

    Scores max out consequence
    Monster Manual in D&D 3.5 is designed to be used with PC of average statistics. Which are Point Buy 25 or Elite ray: 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8. Would you play ToEE with such abilities?)) (Well, I do actually)

    Most of Players given opportunity would take at least one ability to be 18. Plus, few 16 to complete superhero build.

    This leads to consequence of wanting more "tough" enemies. To set max-out HP for monsters, or even dumb down experience awards in settings. Otherwise, it is quite boring.

    Game designer looking at such picture would limit access to strong equipment and lessen the loot.

    Elite ray play
    PC using Elite ray stats are far more modest and weaker in comparison to max-out superheroes. And they will need all advantage they can get.

    Player of such party would constantly think how to improve statistics. There are two ways: via equipment and via magic.

    Broken trade in ToEE
    Although I love ToEE I also admit that trade mechanics in the game is completely broken.

    Rules as written are quite strict – sell 50%, buy 100% of merchandise price. In ToEE it depends on Apprise. If PC has 4 in Appraise it would sell with 52% and buy with 148% of price. Plus, hidden and not obvious way of 50% sell to incorrect merchants. Moreover, gems are sold with same logic, not 100% of its worth.

    In addition – loot is scarce (false, see one of my next posts), and traders have very tiny stock. Backpack is small, you cannot move cheap loot easily.

    It all leads to very logical consequence – almost nobody would rely on planning to buy magic equipment, wondrous items, or wands.

    Wands vs constant resting
    Imagine your Cleric has Wand of Cure Light Wounds, and your Wizard has Wand of Scorching Ray (4d6 ~ 14 avg dmg, not OP). It completely changes the game!

    You do not need to constantly rest after few battles, simply heal using wand. And your Wizard is not useless burden with several Fireballs.

    Broken enemy radius
    ToEE has no 5ft grid. So, it is not immediately apparent that NPC and PC take only 20 inches radius, which is 3.3 ft square.

    Say you are having encounter in 10 ft corridor. The obvious choice would be to position your melee combat PC in front, and do not permit foes going behind them to hurt weaker casters or even flank. But with 3.3 ft it wont work. AI pathfinding will calculate route to fit these 3.3 ft passage between PC easily. I saw this very often.

    Being modder I fixed that in my play by setting minimum 30 inches radius for medium NPC and 24 for small NPC. It improved tactical play immensely.

    Experience awards
    In ToEE quest experience award of ANY quest depends on PC current level. So, if you complete some tiny easy quest being level 15 the reward would be same as you defeated a Dragon. How balanced is that?

    IMHO all quests should have predefined experience amount, not dynamic.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2021
  2. anatoliy

    anatoliy Established Member

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    Smith giant head quest
    Hill Giant CR is 7.

    So, this quest requires party to defeat CR 7 (plus Brown Bear btw) just to get masterwork items, which are by RAW supposed to be freely accessible from level 2??

    IMHO it is bad design.
    It should open Smith to trade magic weaponry, not just masterwork items.
     
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  3. Allyx

    Allyx Master Crafter Global Moderator Supporter

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    RAW medium creatures occupy a 5 ft square (60 in.), whereas 2 small creatures can occupy the same 5 foot square (30 in.) I wonder how those settings would affect the game play from a mechanical point of view.
     
  4. anatoliy

    anatoliy Established Member

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    Small are essentially same as medium - occupy 5ft space. https://dungeons.fandom.com/wiki/SRD:Table_of_Creature_Size_and_Scale

    There is one room at Level 1 Temple dungeon - Banquet Hall (119 in AD&D ToEE), where lot's of goblin and Ogre reside. Now, after altering minimum radius it changed completely. I blocked passages to left and right of the broken table and defeated them easily even being on level 4 (plus only 4 PC).
     
  5. anatoliy

    anatoliy Established Member

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    Room with ghasts and ghouls (AD&D 118: 118. HALL, 10' x 30')
    It's like 14k gp pure loot (no sell penalty) and +1 shield. How about that??

    And btw - I just wen from level 4 to level 5. By RAW (PHB II) I should have received 14k gp in gold and loot. In reality perhaps 3k.
     
  6. Allyx

    Allyx Master Crafter Global Moderator Supporter

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    Huh, they must have changed it from 3.0 to 3.5, I could have sworn 2 small allies could occupy the same space.
     
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  7. Sitra Achara

    Sitra Achara Senior Member

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    Are you sure we're playing the same game? ;)

    About the giant: his real world CR is obviously less than 7, and CR in general is BS, especially at higher levels, and doubly so when played by an AI.
     
  8. anatoliy

    anatoliy Established Member

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    I don't know. I have Elite ray (15 max on any ability) 4 PC: Wizard, Cleric, Paladin (Bastard sword + shield), Fighter (Glaive). On level 4 I have replayed like 10 times hoping to affect Glitterdust and Grease. No masterwork items yet.

    Obviously if I'd have 5 PC superheroes it would be much easier.

    Perhaps that is the case - you are comparing superhero party to CR and it indeed looks differently.
     
  9. anatoliy

    anatoliy Established Member

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    During design of zmod modules I was thinking about the gap between RAW game design experience and superhero builds.

    The difference is in game satisfaction. Overall I trust Wizards of the Coast.

    There are several ways to counter superbuilds.
    1) Deny play. Obviously won't do.
    2) Enchant monsters. Interesting.

    I'm considering such balance rules:
    If any pc has 16 in primary Stat - increase AC of all monsters by one and HD by one. 18 - by two etc.
    If any pc has con 16 along with other Stat 16 or more - increase attack of all monsters by one plus several points of bonus damage.

    For caster npc - increase spells DC.

    Superfluous pc after 4 would grant Summon monster with same as this pc level as additional foe.

    Such approach perhaps would present superheroe party adequate and interesting challenges.
     
  10. Shiningted

    Shiningted I want my goat back Global Moderator

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    Elite array. I generally need a 17 min in my main atrribute, but I can accept an 8 and some 10s. The Hommlet conversational gambits generally can be done by someone with ordinary social skills.
    Why not? I say, explore that option. People click on the starting circle with some ridiculously OP build, refuse to let them play. They'll only unbalance the whole game, then complain on here about it and blame you.

    I heard recently about one ToEE player who murders the LN vignette NPCs for their gear - I'd totally end the game at that point on such a player. In fact, KotB has such a feature - kill the gate guards, and the game immediately ends, complete with appropriate endslide.
     
  11. anatoliy

    anatoliy Established Member

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    That is why you are Head Writer in our pack))

    Not sure. Player could invest thought and time to create his PC and then what? Deny play? A bit too harsh I'd say.

    Moreover - Pathfinder had same issue I suspect, they simply increased NPC stats))

    P.S. Everyone wants to be superhero. I guess it is inevitable.
     
  12. Shiningted

    Shiningted I want my goat back Global Moderator

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    Harsh? What is this word you use ? ;)

    D&D lets you be a superhero, but you have to earn it by leveling up ;)
     
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  13. Allyx

    Allyx Master Crafter Global Moderator Supporter

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    They did, but PC's also gain a noticeable buff. 1st level Pathfinder Characters start play with 2 character traits (each about 1/2 as powerful as a feat) these can be used to add flavour to your character or tailor them to be better suited to the adventure you are playing in.

    Skills were compressed into a shorter list and these compressed skills did more (EG spot+search+listen became perception, pick pocket+open locks became sleight of hand, move silently+hide in shadows became stealth).

    Instead of gaining X +Int mod x4 skillpoints at level 1 and non-class skills only gaining 0.5 skill ranks per point spent in it, you got a X +Int mod skillpoints at level 1 and putting a single skillpoint into a skill at level 1 gained a +3 training bonus if it is a class skill.

    You also gain feats more often, 1 per 2 additional levels instead of 1 every 3 levels, each class also has a highly powerful capstone ability at 20th level.

    All in all I'd say PC to NPC/Monster balance is about equal in both Pathfinder and D&D 3.5e individually, but Pathfinder compared to 3.5e is the more powerful system.
     
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  14. Nightcanon

    Nightcanon Garrulous Halfling

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    The vast majority of these issues are known features/ bugs of a twenty year-old ruleset, compounded by the fact that a computer game won't stop you bending the rules as far as you want to. Complaining that the game is made too easy by being allowed ready access to high level ability scores, and then complaining that a mod that makes masterwork items available after a tricky encounter rather than simply activating once you get to second level is a particularly muddled bit of thinking.
    There's literally nothing stopping a player from setting their own restrictions (25pt buy, or strict random characters, no re-rolls or reloads) if they want to.
    This is now a 17 year old game, that is still worth playing largely due to efforts of the modders here. Coming here to complain to them about the faults of third edition D&D (that's two editions out of date, by the way) is... bizarre.
     
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  15. Sitra Achara

    Sitra Achara Senior Member

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    The usual strategy with the HG is web/entangle, then kill from afar (bonus options: reach weapon + enlarge person, distract with summons, charm bear, etc). Very doable at level 3/4, perhaps even lower if you use a scroll or sthg.

    As for the rest: I think it's better, and much easier, to just inform players that the module was designed and balanced for elite array/25PB, and let them choose how to have their fun by themselves. Some will agree, many will think 25 is a bit low and set it to 30/32, others will play with all 18s - everyone has their fun, including you when players complain about balance and you tell them to fuck off.
     
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