Ok, we just finished up the Sunken Ziggurat adventure last weekend. My players had high praise for this module. As DM, I thought it was a little rough around the edges, but most of my headaches running the adventure had to do with a party that was maybe a little too overpowered for an adventure of this level.
My party began with Into the Wilds (DCC #28 for players 1-3) at 1st Level, found and killed everything, plus got double experience for the vampiric goblin and walked away with 4th Level stats. Then they tackled Talons of the Horned King (DCC #36 for players 3-5), gypped themselves out of some experience by refusing to fight the holo-simulated white dragon, but walked away with a sizable amount of treasure at 6th Level.
So they started The Sunken Ziggurat (DCC #23 for players 5-7) maybe a level higher than they should have, but they still didn’t exceed the “scaling up parameters” (7 or more characters and/or higher than 6th level) presented in the adventure.
Here is a quick run-down of the PCs:
Level 6 Paladin (Human, LG)
Level 6 Rogue (Half-Drow, N)
Level 6 Cleric (Dwarf, LG)
Level 6 Wizard (Human, LN)
Level 6 Fighter (Human, LG)
Level 6 Monk/Sorcerer (Wild Elf, LG) Now officially categorized as a “Smonk”
So. 6 players, each Level 6th. They were sent to investigate the source of a plague wind and put a stop to it if possible.
Cake walk. The Cleric cast Water-Walk on most of the party to get to the island. Merrow went down quickly. Rogue swam around to find all there was to find. Storm and plague spirits at top of pyramid were more of an annoyance than a threat. Spiders had element of surprise but were no match.
Dust Brothers easily dispatched. Ditto Monstrous Centipedes. Party had the sense to leave the Lammasu Head behind, gleaned enough info from it to restore moon altar. Tried Hawk Token on the gate first, killed the Fiendish Giant Eagle easily enough, actually took more time to get rid of the last remaining Dust Brother. Tried the Lion Token second, so no Fiendish Bison. But I’d also like to point out one of my biggest pet peeves of the module: where oh where is the “Scorpion Token” located? I had all the counters made up and everything, and try as I might, I could find NO MENTION of where the PCs could possibly locate said token before they faced the portal. In retrospect, I should have placed it out on Merrow Island or something, but the missing reference caught me completely off guard.
Anyhoo, since the party had dispatched the spiders on the upper level so easily, I gave the Scorpion Man a Fiendish Scorpion Swarm instead of his 12 small scorpions. That was the most challenging thing the party faced on that level. Scorpion Man went down before his swarm did (although if it was a summoned swarm, shouldn’t I have dissipated it the moment Scorpy expired?)
Much to my own disappointment, because the trap in the upper level required the deposit of silver coinage, the normally sticky-fingered Fighter didn’t even touch the Coin Devourers. I can’t remember if it was the Cleric or the Paladin who Turned the Shadows. The Cleric did end up taking some serious Wisdom damage from the Maddening Cacophony throughout the chamber.
The Tablet Golem went down more quickly than I had hoped. Engraver and Son put of more of a fight but were ultimately subdued. Party used Circle of Protection From Evil to ward off second Scorpion Man’s fiendish swarm.
The Hollow Spawn were pretty worthless in a fight, but there were at least two or three Confused characters who crossed the threshold in the Hall of Music. Because the cacophonous instruments were not listed in the Hollow Ones' individual “possessions” list, I missed those items in the PC search check.
Liar of the Hollow Master was a fair fight. The Greater Shadow did damage, but not as much as I had hoped. The PCs broke down the bronze grating BEFORE they even thought about touching the Gaseous Form Trap in the Chamber of Icons.
I was worried that the Chamber of Winds Puzzle was too complicated, but the party got it right on their second try. I must say that I thought the puzzle solving portions of this adventure were written extremely well - just difficult enough to challenge my players but not insurmountably difficult.
They got past the warded stair trap down to level four on the first try.
Area/Level 4 & 5:
Paladin knew what to do about the Green Slime (Remove Disease). Nobody went near the water’s edge as the party worked it’s way over to the Weeping Maiden. Because I described the water in the trough of the Cleansing Chamber as “stagnant and scummy” no one washed their hands to avoid the Bestow Curse Trap (the only trap in the whole adventure the Rogue failed his search check on) – which SERIOUSLY crippled the party (much to my delight). Then came the Living Tears and the Weeping Maiden.
First off let me say that I thought the Weeping Maiden had a crappy spell list. What sort of incorporeal creature prepares “Water-breathing?” So anyway, I gave her the Weather domain instead of the Water domain (better spell selection that still fit the story). The Horrific Appearance came in handy, but the Malevolence attack never worked. The paladin smote evil and the ghost disappeared for nine rounds which the PCs spent casting three Lesser Restorations on the Rogue.
When the ghost reappeared they ran away and rested inside a rope trick for 8 hrs. Then they went to explore the rest of the area.
I described the boiling fire skull as emanating a dull red glow. Naturally, my party assumed that it might be a magical flaming weapon and sent the Rogue in after it. So we had our first Serpent Fury battle. Someone already mentioned in this thread that there is no tail attack listed in the creature’s stats. Seeing as the tail has two appendages, I gave it two tail slaps that it could only use during a full round attack. This was my second biggest pet peeve about the module – having to do the homework on a monster proprietary to the adventure.
But we digress. Considering how well they had done at the earlier puzzles, I was surpirsed that I had to keep dropping hints on how to sanctify the Altar of Storms (when I mentioned that although the only available Maiden was incorporeal, her bones may not be, they FINALLY got it!). But not before the party cast Water Breathing on themselves and searched through the muck on Level 5.
Then the Rogue caused a ruckus by removing the spearhead from the Heart of Tiamat – UNDERWATER! So I gave him a second round of acid damage from the splash as it diluted in the water an then came the never-ending parade of Serpent Furies and the Storm/Plague/Madness spirits!
The ensuing fight lasted two more sessions! At the end of the day, they had slain 8 Serpent Furies, 3 Storm Spirits, 5 Plague Spirits, and 5 Spirits of Madness (all of which I gave them half-experience due to their self-inflicted crises/monster generators. Experience-generators are another pet peeve of mine, but let's save that for another rant.).
In the meantime, they sent the Paladin back - ALONE - to collect the Maiden’s bones. So I made it as difficult as I could. She cast Darkness on her own bones and then pelted the Paladin with magical hail (Ice Storm, Weather 4). When she got tired of the Paladin’s Turning attempts (+4 Turning Resistance? No chance in hell), she cast Silence and used her Silent Spell feat to fritter away her lower level spells. The Wizard came to check up on the Paladin’s progress and managed to dispel the Darkness, but not the Silence. Then she cast Obscuring Mist, and I made the Paladin take 2 Full Round Actions (which I still think is a bit generous) to collect ALL of the Maiden’s bones and finally plug the Storm Spirit generator. The Storm Spirits did the most damage with their lightning bolts, though the Cleric took some serious Wisdom damage from the Madness Spirits’ flyby attacks.
It took a few tries for the Rogue to wedge the spear head back into the heart, and the Cleric had roused the Hydra by then. The Hydra laid the pain on the Rogue before it went down (unflankable foe, no Sneak Attack damage), but it did go down in 4 or 5 rounds.
So thanks to the PC’s own stupidity, this was actually a rather challenging adventure after all. The party ended up over a thousand points shy of 8th Level, so they’ll at least start The Volcano Caves (DCC #19 for players 7-9) at the appropriate level.
I was also able to use the encounter with the Moon deity to help the Wizard shift his alignment to Lawful Good (he used his own flesh to sanctify the final altar) so he can turn his eye toward a prestige class that requires that alignment. It helped that he was blinded by the Moon apparition and had to use the Wish spell to regain his sight.
So if I use Talons of the Horned King
as the benchmark for a perfect 10
, that would give Into the Wilds
a solid 8.0
and the Sunken Ziggurat
at best in my book. I thought the adventure was well written, but I found it necessary to tweak the game mechanics (lack of tail attack info, missing icon, etc.) to a degree I found burdensome. But that’s just me. Like I said, the players would probably rate it higher than I did. They definitely had fun with it, which is the main thing!
Thanks again, Goodman Games!