Looking Over Book of Challenges: Blown Away
A series of landings and stairs in a windy underground chamber overlook a ravine where some slaadi lurk.
After so many encounter write-ups used the limp excuse of “uneven ground” to deny normal movement, it’s refreshing that “[O]ne can run or charge on the level platforms” here “despite the litter of stones that covers them.”
Adding the Reflex save modifier from cover to the Fortitude save to resist the wind’s effects for characters using the battlements is an elegant way of modeling their protection.
The slaadi all have some magic items and/or potions that are not just mathemagical or healing potions.
Having the minion slaadi flee or surrender if the leader is slain is nice.
Despite claiming this encounter write-up “doesn’t deal with the source of the wind”, it does provide a handful of possible explanations for it. Picking one or using them as inspiration to come up with a different reason for the wind can help to fit the encounter into greater context.
Why are we bothering with a DC 5 roll to hear “howling winds” through a door in an EL 22 encounter? The wind at the door is strong enough that just peeking through makes the viewer “find it hard to stand up straight or even breathe”. Just mention that the PCs hear a continuous muffled howl through the door when they approach it and be done with it.
Having completely intact battlements at every platform while missing large chunks of the ravine-side battlements on the stairs strains my suspension of disbelief. Perhaps there is a real phenomenon where natural weathering would cause that to happen, but I think having some evidence of past violence (including some spots of damage at the platforms) would make it much more believable.
I can understand the slaadi keeping their at-will buffing spells active at all times prior to being encountered, but assuming the same for limited-use spells of 15-minute duration feels wrong. Since the spells in question are mathemagical stat increases, I’d just roll those into the slaadi’s base stats.
The first boxed text is so valueless that I suspect it was put in boxed text just for page layout reasons.
The text claims “[t]he PCs can start at either side of the map”, but the second boxed text clearly assumes they’re at the northeastern door.
Repeating the rules for wind hazards is especially worthless here because the text refers directly to the relevant core rules section as well. On top of that, it forgets that flying creatures have different formulae for distance blown by and damage taken from the wind than grounded creatures.
The rules for using the battlements state “if a character attacks or aims a magical effect at a target or area on the other side of the battlement, he loses that cover”, followed immediately by “[c]haracters attacking from behind a battlement or moving while looking over the battlement can claim half cover”. The second condition seems like it would override every likely instance of the first, so I’m not sure why the first was mentioned at all.
If the slaadi have decided this site “is a good place to ambush unwary travelers”, that implies there was some degree of regular traffic through here before the slaadi arrived. Why are the battlements on the stairs in such disrepair, then?
Why do the slaadi all carry missile weapons that cannot be used in the area because the winds are too strong? Despite referencing the relevant section of the core rules, the writer apparently missed reading them because the rogue slaad’s tactics include attacking with its bow.
There’s a pretty drawing between the last couple of stat blocks, but I have no idea what it’s supposed to represent, so I assume it’s merely filler for page layout reasons.
The advice for scaling the challenge is just about changing the number of creatures.
If Thrice Be Damned was a hot mess, this is a mess that someone forgot in the microwave for a week. Everything from the contrived conditions of the area to the over-complicated stat blocks that take up nearly two full pages to describing tactics that can’t actually work screams to toss this encounter aside.
There are some nice bits buried in here, like the implied advice to apply the Reflex save benefits of cover to any saves that the cover would help against or the different idea seeds for why a large underground chamber might have such strong winds. It’s absolutely not worth digging through everything else in the write-up to find them, but for people mad enough to do so, there is that minor compensation.
All in all, this encounter closes out the book with a forgettable whimper. At least Thrice Be Damned tried to have an impressive sense of weight to it; this one barely even tries to be more than a random encounter table result.