Looking Over Dungeon Delve: The Broken Tower


It's still just cover art

Premise

An old, broken tower is occupied by hostile goblins.


Good

Having a retreat condition for the goblin minions in area 1 is appreciated. Likewise for the hexer in area 2.


The sidebar to use minions intelligently (when appropriate) is a nice reminder.


The hexer has a number of interesting/annoying-without-being-overwhelming support abilities (inflicting blindness, inflicting damage if a target moves, disorienting enemies, allowing allied goblins to make an additional attack when missed, and redirecting attacks to a nearby meat shield).


I like the random ruined statue with someone’s name inscribed on it in area 2. It’s a strong hint of history to the place before the goblin occupation (the gong in area 1 and the runes and throne in area 3 are as well, but this is the strongest as-written).


The bugbear being ready to push opponents out of the open wall in area 3 is a deliciously nasty tactic.


Salvageable

The hook is a very generic “save us from assholes that we can’t deal with ourselves” scenario with no incentives for non-heroic PCs. The easy solution to this is for the goblins to have stolen something from the woodsfolk that the PCs are interested in finding.


While the idea of expanding the adventure by adding a dungeon below the tower isn’t terrible in a vacuum (it’s basically most of Crucible of Freya’s adventure), I feel like that ought to be the main focus of an adventure involving the tower, with the goblins in the above-ground remains being a distraction. That’s especially true if using the second expansion idea of adding a magic item giving the goblins’ boss subconscious control of the undead.


As written, the hexer’s vexing cloud disorients its targets without concealing them from the goblins, so it seems more like a zone of invisible intoxicating vapors (not as elegant a name, admittedly). It is also unclear whether the -2 penalty is describing the effect of concealment or if the two are cumulative.


The sagging of the central section of area 2’s floor should be visible in the ceiling of area 1.


While I appreciate the attempt to give the hexer some personality, having it give a stupid quip each round is an annoying way to do that.


In order for the geometry of area 3’s pit trap to work, area 2’s spiral staircase must go through 10’ of solid ceiling/floor stonework (possibly with the southeast corner broken away based on the damage to area 3).


Smelly bedding having a chance to daze non-goblins who fall into it is funny, but it’s unclear why it would not affect non-humanoids. As far as I know, wolves have a more sensitive sense of smell than humans.


Bad

The boxed text for area 1 essentially describes about a dozen goblins lazing about while their immediate leader stands nearby. It starts out painting an interesting picture and then undercuts it by feeling artificial.


The tactics for the hobgoblin in area 1 are senseless. I could maybe understand waiting to sound the gong if they were expecting regular interruptions, were expected to not raise an alarm for an intrusion they can handle alone, and received a response from above in the event of sounding the gong, but not one of those is implied as-written. On top of that, continuing to fight to the death no matter what after sounding the gong makes no sense, particularly when other creatures are willing to flee in each of the first two areas.


The partial wall and wooden platform in area 2 have no apparent purpose aside from varying the terrain.


What does “[a] flicker of red light in one of the skulls focuses on you” even mean?


It makes no sense for a DC 15/17 Perception check to alert the PCs to the goblins in area 2 when they have 20/22 Stealth (for the hexer/sharpshooters, respectively) when taking 10 for the skill (a reasonable assumption since the write-up assumes they are warned and ready for the party’s arrival). Likewise for noticing the “shadow on the wall” in area 3 (DC 17 Perception vs 20 Stealth when taking 10).


Why are there semi-intelligent skeletons helping the goblins? Nothing else about the write-up suggests they have any sort of necromancy on their side.


There’s some weird geometry in area 2. Assuming there is some gap between the “nearly 10 feet tall” platform and the 10’-high ceiling, are the goblins on the platform all laying prone? How is the spiral staircase actually visible (unless it starts from the main floor instead of the platform’s floor, which begs the question of why the platform exists again), and why does it not obstruct vision? Why would the goblins add a low wall that requires them to climb over it if they want to avoid collapsing the unstable floor?


Given that the spiral staircase seemingly did not block line of sight in area 2, it is confusing why it blocks line of sight in area 3.


I’m not sure how a circle of runes can be “interrupted by a gap along one of its sides”. I think the boxed text meant it should have small gaps where it crosses the pit trap’s boundaries. I’m also unsure why neither that gap(s) nor triggering the pit trap does anything to disrupt the circle’s magic effect.


The blackblade’s sneaky ability is entirely worthless since there is no chance for another level 1 creature to be in the area 3 encounter as-written.


Having the most durable creature of the whole encounter gain additional defenses when bloodied might be fine mathematically, but it will be more frustrating in play than just giving it more health.


The throne is very confusing. Why is it there, why does it have magical gem buttons (and why can their functions be discerned with a Perception check), and why have the goblins not looted the gems in it?


Overall

This write-up has a fair bit going for it. The disrepair of the tower adds some sensible tactical hazards (I’d reskin the pit in area 3 as another bit of unstable floor that collapses into a structural space between area 2 and area 3). The gong, ruined statue, circle of runes, and throne provide hints of greater history, even if I’m not a fan of the latter as written. The bits of varying elevation in area 2 can provide an interesting tactical obstacle if reskinned to be more sensible, and the soiled bedding in area 3 is usually good for a laugh (though perhaps not for the player whose PC was affected). The hexer is an interesting variation on the usual Squishy Wizard trope, and having it retreat up to area 3 can make that encounter much more difficult.


There are also plenty of rough spots that need smoothing over, admittedly. The skeletons are a very random inclusion. The spiral staircase’s inconsistency is bad design. The stat blocks for the creatures in area 3 feel like a first draft that needed review. The ceiling height in area 2 feels like it’s lower than in area 1 just to justify not seeing the pit in area 3; it would have stood out less if area 1 also had a 10’-high ceiling followed by a 10’-high section of reinforcement between areas or if area 2 also had a 20’-high ceiling with the pit in area 3 dropping all the way to area 1. Having wolves at the top of the tower feels like an odd choice for CR purposes, though I can imagine them being someone’s pets (in which case, who they’ve bonded with should impact their tactics). The lack of any ranged attackers at the top of tower feels very strange; I would favor swapping the blackblade with one of the sharpshooters from area 2.


That all said, those aren’t difficult adjustments to make, and the rest of the encounter is worth the effort, in my mind. Just make sure to prepare some history for the tower ahead of time (especially if expanding it with an underground section).


All in all, while it’s nothing amazing, I do like this adventure, especially in comparison to Coppernight Hold. It needs some effort to shine, but I think the returns are worth it.

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