Looking Over Dungeon Delve: Planar Bandits
Rumors of githyanki sightings bring the party to a ruined fortress full of them.
The fact that the adventure starts with the party hearing rumors is an immediate positive. Not only does to force connections with greater context, it also leaves the PCs reasons for wanting to investigate as something for the players to define.
The ideas for expanding the adventure are mostly just one encounter each, but those four can all be used together to roughly double the scope of the adventure. Given that, I won’t even be harsh on the one that’s just “the PCs encounter a pair of bears in the wilderness”.
The fifth idea for expanding the adventure, adding a haunt of undead beneath the fortress that the githyanki are afraid of, is a nice idea.
Having a local adventurer’s corpse in area 1 means more connections to greater context, which is almost always a plus in my eyes.
Using warriors as a significant part of all three encounters gives the players chances to learn how they work and then use that knowledge to their advantage later on.
The gish’s stat block is good as a streamlined representation of a warrior with a couple of notable spells.
Using a portcullis trap to split the party is a classic that I love. Granted, the PCs may have ways of trivializing it by EL 13, and the delay in its drop undercuts its usefulness, but even just forcing the PCs to waste an action dealing with it or forcing them to move into a vulnerable position to avoid being trapped on the wrong side can be a big difference-maker with how front-loaded combat tends to be in Dungeons & Dragons.
I’m not sure what the pool’s magic power is supposed to represent, but it ought to be possible to notice some hints that it isn’t mundane water under inspection (subtle scintillating sheen or sparkles, surface movements that seem incongruous with the surrounding conditions, a soft voice that sounds when the surface is disturbed, etc.).
As usual, if the magic item in area 2’s chest can be used by the mindslicer, it should be used by the mindslicer.
Apparently, raising the 20’-wide portcullis in area 3 is about the same difficulty as making a running jump over a 5’-high pit wall in area 1. I find that hard to believe, especially when the DC to break open a 5’-wide gap in the portcullis bars is only two points higher.
While I can imagine there being cases where a character would want to jump out of the pit rather than climbing, I don’t see the need to list DCs for both standing jumps and running jumps. I don’t see a real need to list either, frankly, since I don’t recall any other cases where that’s done for an offset that’s given a DC for climbing.
I rather like the sense of gradual escalation in this adventure; the first encounter is with a number of melee fighters, then the second is with a number of melee fighters supported by two ranged creatures, and the final encounter is a number of melee fighters supported by many ranged attackers and a potentially-disruptive trap. Taken together with all three encounters having the same warriors, it has a satisfying feel of letting the players leverage knowledge from a previous encounter while adding a new unknown.
The creatures are also fairly flexible in terms of being changed; while doing so is likely to be closer to replacing than reskinning because githyanki have a fairly distinctive feel, none of the environments are set up to really exploit their teleports/flight or psychic abilities.
The adventure forces itself into greater context naturally, but even more can be done on that front with little difficulty by coming up with a history for the fortress and perhaps placing some additional hidden treasures accordingly.
All in all, this is a surprisingly well-designed adventure despite its simplicity. It may not have the big high points of The Raiders’ Hideout or Deceitful Descent, but it’s just a solid work that does many little things well.