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Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
05-28-2009, 05:39 PM
In over your head? Low level characters playing high level modules...

Anyone ever do this? When i was younger, it wasn't uncommon for us (expert, or so we believed) players to try and tackle higher level modules with our low level characters. I remember attempting the GDQ1-7 series as well as S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks at levels much lower the recommended, to name a few. We've done it with modules of every edition, the last being with the 3.5E rules. Haven't done it with 4E.

What was great about it is that it taught you to approach modules in an entirely different way. We sneaked around alot, had contingency plans always laid in place in case of discovery, and came up with some ingenious ideas that would increase our odds for our survival. In the end, it made us better players for it forced players to always think outside the box.

So my question is posed to you, my family on P&PG: Have you ever done this either as a DM/GM and/or player, and what were your experiences and possible insights gleaned with said challenges.

All rpgs experiences are welcome to share their stories.

What share you?

Moritz
05-29-2009, 07:45 AM
So you tell the players OOCly (out of character-ly) not to go to a certain part of the world because they will die. You give them warning ICly (in character-ly) to stay clear. And what do they do?

I run an open world. It's very much like an MMORPG in it's setup. For example. The characters start out in a little town called Mill's Crossing. Near to their homes, they have rats and bats to fight - 'rats and bats' are metaphors for low level monsters. They farther out they go, the more complex and dangerous the world becomes. This also applies to 'straying off the path'. For example; Well traveled roads are generally safer than pathways or the road less traveled.
So, if a player character ventures too far out, or passes beyond common areas for his level, then the danger level rises. But, they're fully permitted to do this. They're free to step in front of a rampaging chariot or jump off a cliff. I don't limit their choices, but I do warn them.

But what do they always do?

"Hey everybody, this sign says, "Danger, do not enter, Plane of Fire beyond door." Plane of fire? Sweet, let's go!" - instant death follows.

Rook
05-29-2009, 09:54 AM
I actually ran an altered version of TOMB OF HORRORS (altered a few traps, allowed saving throws, etc.) with low level characters and it was a blast. Two PCs actually managed to escape with some treasure, two were killed, one became a zombie slave, and one was permanently trapped. It definitely changed the players approach to adventures in general.

DeadMike
05-31-2009, 01:00 PM
Always fun to do with pre rolled NPC's. Especially as something to do to kill time. As in two players late, know they will be an hour late. Lets take some 3rd level NPC's through this adventure designed for 15th level characters. Person who gets killed last (no hiding) wins.

Celebrimbdal
06-01-2009, 02:09 PM
I've always found it to be a little unrealistic that D&D campaigns are usually run with very few instances of the heroes meeting something that they can't handle in a standup fight.

What I have done with some past campaigns is to expose the group to multiple plots/potential adventures that were a mixture of difficulty levels ranging from a bare few that were a little below their level, to a fair number (maybe 25%) that were anywhere from 2-4 levels above the group. I would drop clues about the power level of the villains and monsters and leave it up to the group to decide what they wanted to take on. If they bit off more than they could chew, I would do my best to leave them room to flee/escape. It made for what I feel is a more "realistic" milieu (I know, how can I apply the term realistic to a D&D campaign?) but, once, this led to a TPK. The players understood that it was their choice that killed them off, but that result still sucked.

Now I do this to a far lesser degree. Once in a while, I'll throw in an encounter to which the best response is extreme caution or simply running away. Keeps the players on their toes and mindful of the fact that there's always something bigger and badder out there... somewhere.

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
06-01-2009, 02:14 PM
My players take jobs offered, usually from the town. Sometimes these jobs aren't too difficult, other times they find themselves in over their heads, and if they're smart, run like hell. Sometimes, they can tell right up front that it's too dangerous, like dealing with a fire-breathing serpent that has caused alot of problems in a town away from any nearby help, other times, complaints of undead roaming the forest are picking of merchant caravans. PC's need to determine if they feel they have the skills to accept said jobs, but mostly, they investigate and make last minute decisions. Makes for alot of fun. I'm really bad about this when running my WFRP campaigns. he he <evil laughter continues>

DeadMike
06-02-2009, 11:31 AM
I've always found it to be a little unrealistic that D&D campaigns are usually run with very few instances of the heroes meeting something that they can't handle in a standup fight.

I know that D&D is the "popular" RPG, but man I am so sick of that game! I got burned out on that game back in the early eighties. It is really hard to be "over your head" in that game. You are either overwhelmed with no chance or walking through with no challenge. There are so many better games to play. Don't get me wrong, these are my opinions and you know about those so don't get pissed off. I would recommend giving Warhammer a shot if you are into the fantasy myth magic and monster games. Currently I am hoping to get Thoth here to GM a Warhammer FRP campaign. If you are interested, check this out http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/showthread.php?t=10353 .
Mike

Valdar
06-02-2009, 06:52 PM
I've done Tomb of Horrors with low-level characters. It's more a game of "see how far you can make it" rather than "see if you can win".

I've been trying to challenge the PCs in my current D&D game- and there is a point between "no challenge" and "no chance"- it's right about at level +2 to +4. Even-level encounters are a pushover (esp with a wizard in the party), but that +2 to +4 zone is a real grind. Not in a good way- you're basically hitting a quarter of the time and taking a dozen rounds to get through the fight. Not fun when you're having to wait your turn so you can miss.

nijineko
06-03-2009, 12:13 AM
the tomb of horrors was the original low level character vs high level setting. mr. gygax would sit in a room with a line of people out the door, and take them on four at a time, all first level characters. and he would take and destroy the character sheets of those that died. harsh. ^^

DeadMike
06-04-2009, 11:08 AM
he would take and destroy the character sheets of those that died. harsh. ^^

Not really harsh. We always destroyed any character sheets regardless of the game. Why allow people to rerun a character who died? I knew one GM who had photo albums and he took the character sheet of any characters who died and placed them in there. I think he had four full when I last saw him 17 years ago. He wasn't the type to try and kill characters, but if players got stupid... you know. Sort of like Thoth said on another thread, stand up and walk through a field you know has enemies on the other side and you will get shot.
Mike

Parzival
06-05-2009, 01:40 PM
At one time, it was standard for us to do so.

Of course, special circumstances applied. We were a very tight group that worked extremely well together, we all studied military history, and we all knew the system inside and out. It was more of a "keep the PCs from running roughshod over the adventure" thing than anything else.

Jackmoore
06-12-2009, 03:48 PM
My rifts players have several times been placed in situations they cant win. Admittedly it was more their doing than mine, but it happens none the less. And once they died I would allow them to roll new characters and place them right into the next game (Or current game if I killed the fairly early). This often places a level one character in amongst levels 4,5,6 characters. I try to be very realistic (Players say sadistic on occasion. and OK if the wife and I are in an argument I will take it out on them) and sometimes in life you come across things that will eat your face off and there is little you can do but run. However more and more its them and their mistakes or bad decisions that make the situation degrade to unmanageable. Its of of the things I like about rifts. Using the books alone and not going total GM munchkin on them I can still put them in over their heads and kick their butts or have them running with their tail between their legs.

berginyon
07-16-2009, 01:31 PM
this is so stupid, they ask you to vote with out tellihg you the question.

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
07-16-2009, 01:43 PM
this is so stupid, they ask you to vote with out tellihg you the question.
Stupid?

You're kidding, right?

Hint: What's the title of the thread?

Harwel
07-16-2009, 04:58 PM
Thoth makes polls whether the thread needs one or not. And I always vote in them. :D

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
07-16-2009, 05:02 PM
I like to entertain the mortals.

Harwel
07-16-2009, 05:05 PM
Good thing for you we're easily entertained, or else we'd be coming for your phylactery.

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
07-16-2009, 06:12 PM
Good luck finding it, for as i said earlier, finding phylacteries are the stuff of poets. he he <evil laugh continues>

Harwel
07-16-2009, 09:54 PM
Good luck finding it, for as i said earlier, finding phylacteries are the stuff of poets. he he <evil laugh continues>

Of course, if I have to play D&D, I only play Bards. You're just digging yourself deeper. :laugh:

korhal23
07-16-2009, 10:13 PM
http://i267.photobucket.com/albums/ii306/caboose11000/love.jpg

This applies to your polls too, Thoth.

CEBedford
07-19-2009, 08:58 AM
We did this once when two of my players really wanted to play and I had nothing prepared. Unfortunately the wizard player had just discovered the spell Mass Unseen Servant. So there we are, in a module 2-4 levels higher than they were. They wander into a large chamber with 14 doors leading to various other rooms and hallways.

Cue the wizard casting his fun new spell and commanding his squad of invisible servants to open all 14 doors at once. "Dick!" I said as I stared at him dumbfounded. I hadn't read the module in years and had only vague ideas what each room contained.

By the time I got done skimming each area, all occupied doors were unlocked, and there were ten rooms with monsters in them. The party is standing in a large fairly open chamber and there are ten encounters full of curious monsters coming to find out why their doors were suddenly opened.

Baldwin Stonewood
07-19-2009, 03:36 PM
We did this once when two of my players really wanted to play and I had nothing prepared. Unfortunately the wizard player had just discovered the spell Mass Unseen Servant. So there we are, in a module 2-4 levels higher than they were. They wander into a large chamber with 14 doors leading to various other rooms and hallways.

Cue the wizard casting his fun new spell and commanding his squad of invisible servants to open all 14 doors at once. "Dick!" I said as I stared at him dumbfounded. I hadn't read the module in years and had only vague ideas what each room contained.

By the time I got done skimming each area, all occupied doors were unlocked, and there were ten rooms with monsters in them. The party is standing in a large fairly open chamber and there are ten encounters full of curious monsters coming to find out why their doors were suddenly opened.

Quickly followed by a party kill, I assume?

CEBedford
07-19-2009, 05:39 PM
Quickly followed by a party kill, I assume?

We ended up Wayne's Worlding it. I let them die fighting and then rewinded to just before the spell was cast so they could rethink their approach. It was interesting too because they knew what some of the threats were but had to RP not knowing. :biggrin:

We had only been playing for 10 or 15 minutes so I didn't want to stop right then.

Panthro82
07-25-2009, 07:52 PM
I would give it a shot. I like a good challenge. You would definitely have to have serious players who used their heads though.

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
07-25-2009, 07:55 PM
I would give it a shot. I like a good challenge. You would definitely have to have serious players who used their heads though.
Yep, that's required if you wish to have any chance of living. Enjoy, and be sure to tell us your experiences.

nijineko
08-05-2009, 11:26 PM
i do this every time i dm. the players come along and find a bunch of low level monsters and expect to trounce them.... well, i will say that MY players have learned to respect low level kobolds. the hard way. and then make me so happy when they turn around and actually learn the tactics and use them on higher level monsters. ^^

Panthro82
08-10-2009, 06:00 PM
another route to go with the players running into a bunch of weak creatures and deciding to attack them is that those creatures are possibly being looked after by another bigger much tougher creature. lol consequences for your actions.

cigamnogard
08-10-2009, 06:25 PM
i do this every time i dm. the players come along and find a bunch of low level monsters and expect to trounce them.... well, i will say that MY players have learned to respect low level kobolds. the hard way. and then make me so happy when they turn around and actually learn the tactics and use them on higher level monsters. ^^

I recently encountered this approach and cannot say I was too impressed with it when the kobolds were able to place their buckets of a - fire whereever they pleased - right through a bottlekneck part of a tunnel. Check out my blogs for a more detailed account.

Lender
08-16-2009, 07:06 AM
A Gm did this to us in Star Wars. He ran "Tempest Feud," a module for 7-9th level - we were 2 or 3. I don't know if he adjusted the numbers at all, we all lived, but it was non-stop tension and paranoia. It was the most fun game I had ever played! I realized that it was the first time I was ever afraid for my character. It was the first game where in every encounter, combat or otherwise, you never knew what was going to happen. I've had characters die before in other games, but it was always just a lucky shot in an encounter that I basically strolled into knowing it was more or less something we could handle.

Others in the party really didn't like it, but they were unhappy unless you could you walk in, kill the bad guy, and get a disproportionate amount of loot.

It changed the way I run games forever. Finding creative ways to run away and escape from enemies you can't defeat is plenty exciting, as long as you don't have to run away from everything. And on the reverse, having to confront something you know you can't defeat (because of the story, or being chased into a dead-end) is really exciting, too. You just have to throw something in there (after they're already in the thick of it), that isn't going to make things equal, but still make it possible to come out on top. Or at least alive - possibly.

cigamnogard
08-17-2009, 01:42 PM
Never a big fan of it myself yet just yesterday I pulled it on my players. The party was third level and I pulled out a Hary Archer on them. The CR chart for experience does not allow for that encounter.
TPK...no, they lived one was dropped and most just about dropped, but they won.
Loot....as per the MMI and a DECK of Many Things...

MarshamSane
08-17-2009, 03:20 PM
We had the final encounter of a custom adventure horribly stacked against us. 10 story tower, had to get to the top to kill/capture the mayor of the town and his demon guards. Our level 5 asses on ground, wounded, our spells almost all used up from underground sewer clearing, panting, bloodied.

Myself and the other fighters had played as beefed up Oriental Adventures Samurais. DM was crying at our timely and useful cry of "Iajutsu" when going against a solo opponent, or even two. so he stacked the final encounter to make it so we'd never get the hits off.

So we're staring at the tower. party consiists thusly: 2 samirais, 1 bard, 1 druid, 1 fighter, 1 ranger, 1 rogue, and 1 wizard. base of a tower.


DM: the evil spire stands before you...
Me: How tall is it?
DM: 10 stories.
Sam2: Windows?
DM: on the 9th story.
Fighter: Door?
DM: One, bottom floor. Locked, and barred.
Wizard: I arcane lock it!
Party: ? wtf dude?
Wiz: buys us time in case they charge us.
Wiz: ok dimension door scroll to get behind the door?
{Spell is cast, but wiz goes nowhere}
DM: the tower seems to block all forms of teleportation or interdimensional travel.
Rogue: the roof? slatted wood?
DM: uhhh...no. thatched overtop of a wood frame.

At this point we were all young, and disapointed at the lack of options, when the Druid, a first time player, and only female our group had up to that point spoke:

Druid: Call lightning, cast at the roof, every bolt. it hasn't rained in weeks, the thatch is probably dry. if nothing else that should draw them out.

Party: {jaws dropped}

DM: I...but...you...huh?

Druid sets down PHB and smiles as if she'd been planning this the whole time

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
08-17-2009, 03:27 PM
Give that Druid extra experience. Job well done.

cigamnogard
08-17-2009, 03:42 PM
Druid sets down PHB and smiles as if she'd been planning this the whole time

Nice!

MarshamSane
08-17-2009, 03:58 PM
at the end of the session the DM didn't mind it at all, considering it wasn't 'optimized' characters winning. it was a level 5 druid, with 15 wis, and 1 level 3 spell she had been told earlier would only work outside.

cigamnogard
08-25-2009, 03:31 PM
Does she still play? She can sit at my table any time!

WhiteTiger
08-26-2009, 10:50 AM
Personally, I've never played in a campaign that was high-level and tried to survive it with a low level character. I would think that it would have to be slightly retooled so that you'd have at least a small chance of getting through it. You'd probably need some extra special magic items in order to survive it otherwise.

MarshamSane
08-26-2009, 01:05 PM
Does she still play? She can sit at my table any time!
yeah, she still plays. she lives in utah now, though.

templeorder
08-26-2009, 01:44 PM
I don't really use levels in my games. I never did much in DnD versions and i don't now. I adapt everything to something the PC's can handle (making "low level" adventures harder and vice versa) - its more about the story fitting than the level of play. As a good GM, i can pretty much adopt anything to any challenge - though a "challenge" or "level" rating is a good thing to have to at least know where the assumed starting point is and how much work i may have to do to adopt.

cigamnogard
08-26-2009, 03:03 PM
yeah, she still plays. she lives in utah now, though.
Utah eh? Well, that's a ways away from Saskatchewan. Where are you?

MarshamSane
08-26-2009, 09:39 PM
Now I'm in Bremerton, WA.

but at the time of that game we both lived in oregon.

wbrandel
08-27-2009, 11:27 AM
Back when I played AD&D we did that all the time. sometimes we would win, sometimes survives, and other times die a spectacular death. ahh the rewards for winning. doing that taught us not to be stupid but to fight smarter, stack the deck in our favor. when I started DMing I started to do the same things, put the players up against something they couldn't handle just to see if the knew about the better part of valor. I do not do this to kill PCs but to force the players to come together as a team to ensure party survival and because it is fun for me to see how I can challenge my players.

nijineko
08-27-2009, 02:44 PM
I recently encountered this approach and cannot say I was too impressed with it when the kobolds were able to place their buckets of a - fire whereever they pleased - right through a bottlekneck part of a tunnel. Check out my blogs for a more detailed account.

well, i should qualify that i do not use cheese in my tactics... unless i'm dealing with munchkins. then they will learn all about how i can still hit an ac 40-50 with a certain number of first level kobolds.

usually, the players have entered the kobold's territory, where they have already had years to work on their defenses, and practice tactics together. on occasion, it'll be a single or small number of single digit above 1st level kobolds who have some clever equipment, and skill focus in trap-making or the like.

XeroDrift
10-08-2009, 10:41 PM
Gotta love Toths polls...

Anyway, any GM worth his salt can modify any module to any group, if you cant... well maybe you should pick up a character sheet and get crackin...
--- Merged from Double Post ---

ahh the rewards for winning.

but the most memorable times are those where epic failure is evident. If you dont believe me, think back on your gaming history, do you most vividly recall finally defeating the ........ or when the entire quest was foiled because a door fell on you...

cigamnogard
10-09-2009, 06:57 PM
gotta love toths polls...

Anyway, any gm worth his salt can modify any module to any group, if you cant... Well maybe you should pick up a character sheet and get crackin...
--- merged from double post ---


but the most memorable times are those where epic failure is evident. If you dont believe me, think back on your gaming history, do you most vividly recall finally defeating the ........ Or when the entire quest was foiled because a door fell on you...

both :)

TheYeti1775
10-13-2009, 11:10 AM
My going through TOEE in 1E.
At 2nd Level we decided to act on some information about Nulb, prior to taking out the Moathouse. That in turn led us to be 'recruited' by the Temple. We were an all Neutral based with no Good alignments in the party. That saved our butts.

We ended up playing the role of sabetours and while 'serving' the Fire Temple. Talk about nerve wracking for the characters. Most of us players had been through TOEE prior to this but it was a quite a stretch for us doing it this way. Prior methods had been primarily a beat down the door approach and leave no surivors.
When the module is based on taking you 1st - 8th when you are near the end point at 3rd it makes for a fun challenge. :eek:


Would I do it again, heck yeah. It makes ya think of new ways to try things. Really brings life to all those non-combat skills you develop.

XeroDrift
10-15-2009, 12:21 PM
It can be fun to play a character that is lower in level than the others in the party, you have to be much more wily and when you accomplish anything at all it seems amazing.

templeorder
10-16-2009, 09:21 AM
You have to be careful though that the other players don't end up having to expend precious resources to protect you (unless that enhances the story). I've been in that position in older DnD groups and a couple times there was resentment because the other players felt that the character was a liability and it was better they played a lesser role and soaked up XP to make them survivable... and in turn they felt like that character was now more of a liability then a addition.

lomifeh
10-18-2009, 01:40 PM
What this brings to mind is the idea of scaling monsters to fit the group. Has anyone ever taken a module and scaled it down?

XeroDrift
10-21-2009, 04:41 PM
What this brings to mind is the idea of scaling monsters to fit the group. Has anyone ever taken a module and scaled it down?

Most certainly, it's rare that I don't modify SOMETHING in a game I run, although I rarely use pre-made adventure modules, I like to come up with my own stuff, so my modifications are more in the gameplay area

templeorder
10-22-2009, 08:31 AM
What this brings to mind is the idea of scaling monsters to fit the group. Has anyone ever taken a module and scaled it down?

Absolutely. I use pre-made materials mostly for maps, but i interject my own encounters all over. You can scale down in a lot of ways. Less of one type, substitute different creature, make it a 'weaker' version of itself, make it illusion, add a weakness and information on exploiting it, add items of protection to be found, etc. Lots of ways exist of scaling up or down, but its more about making the flavor suit your campaign for continuity (for me anyway). Most pre-made adventures from systems are built on a level system of some sort. This means scaling is pretty easy to acheive... its the adventures that made for smart players that are more difficult to scale :lol:.

XeroDrift
10-23-2009, 03:31 PM
I'm old school, my maps are simple and quickly drawn on a piece of paper as a point of reference (you are here, they are there and here are some terrain features) I despise the grid maps and miniatures that everyone seems to be so in love with these days, they are terribly limiting and no one seems to notice.

cigamnogard
10-23-2009, 06:58 PM
I'm old school, my maps are simple and quickly drawn on a piece of paper as a point of reference (you are here, they are there and here are some terrain features) I despise the grid maps and miniatures that everyone seems to be so in love with these days, they are terribly limiting and no one seems to notice.
Limiting? Yes, all those hours spent painting the figs have limited me to less time with my family...I guess.

XeroDrift
10-26-2009, 11:19 PM
Limiting? Yes, all those hours spent painting the figs have limited me to less time with my family...I guess.

Lol, see? People just don't get it.

Rathor
10-29-2009, 03:07 AM
Rolled a dungeon randomly.Killed a kobold was killed by a bear less then a 1/4 of the way through.It was a level 5 dungeon and a level 1 dwarf.

cigamnogard
11-02-2009, 06:17 PM
Damn bears!

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
11-02-2009, 08:54 PM
I was killed by a polar bear once. It sucked.

templeorder
11-03-2009, 08:15 AM
I too had a character mauled to death by a bear. My own fault, we encountered it, it chased an NPC off, my character thought he could kill the bear to show off his prowess (like 7-8th level fighter), went into cave, took 40+ damage in 2 rounds, left screaming. Bear followed, ate me in front of the whole group outside the cave.

Now i think i am in over my head as a GM. I have less time to GM and its suffering, the group play is suffering and i need a break. At least until the first of the year. Argh.

XeroDrift
11-03-2009, 01:38 PM
I was killed by a polar bear once. It sucked.

Did this precipitate your rise as the undead? And did you begin your undead career as "Private Toth-Amon" or is Arch-Lich a religious rank?

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
11-03-2009, 05:31 PM
Ha, no, i was pulling the strings of a dwarf at the time. I would have loved to allow this idiot fellow dwarf in the party to get eaten all by himself but then all those months infiltrating would be for not. Had to try to save him, but alas, two polar bears against two low level dwarves really didn't match up.

XeroDrift
11-05-2009, 01:21 AM
Ha, no, i was pulling the strings of a dwarf at the time.

That just made me realize that "Lord Puppeteer of the Marionettes" or plain "Lord Puppeteer" might be a worthy title to which an Undead Master might aspire. Unless of course the obvious puppeteering aspect of Lichdom already encompasses such seemingly trivial mortal categorizations.

Eryiedes
11-16-2009, 08:18 PM
I never hosted a single GURPS games where the players weren't in over their heads....usually to an insanely ridiculous degree!
Keeps 'em on their toes....not to mention freakin' paranoid!

Peace & Light (...& Naaawwwww, that's okay...you go first!)

Pushkins
11-20-2009, 12:21 AM
Out of 20+ years of playing D&D maybe 7 of those games in the multitude were Stock modules. For those, gah I am sure we tried them at every level, too young, and WAY to advanced.

I do recall a venture to the temple of elemental evil with characters too low for it, we all died..

However, I play more of a home spun campaign and adventuring, where there can often be entities or circumstance the characters are confronted with that are beyond their means. This is where you need to learn to beat feet or wish for a miracle and be a hero, which often leads to going out in a blaze of glory.

The characters that do survive, often make a very good role-playing character