Things I’ll need to address tonight in running B-4: the Lost City.
-Character pool: B/X is a high mortality system, and B-4 is very sink or swim (find food and water within a day or two or die) and opens with some pretty dastardly traps and an encounter that may be out of depth for 0 xp characters. My thought for this is have a group of characters who stay outside of the pyramid and keep watch while the others investigate. This also puts some additional pressure on finding food and water to bring back to their friends and may strain potential faction relations. Alternatively, other members of the missing caravan may straggle in later. The big problem with this setup is that there’s a decent chance that the original characters will all die off and have no one to replace them but Cynidiceans.
-Again, the high mortality of B/X. While I like this aspect of the game, Lost City’s setup makes it challenging, especially even getting inside, as the only way into the pyramid is right into the middle of a nest of fire beetles. I hate how shields work in D&D (literally every fighting style that makes use of shields, the shield makes up the lion’s share of your defense, not the measly +1 bonus to your worn armor), so I’m using an optional shield rule that will allow characters to sacrifice a shield to soak any one attack; that will at least keep folks alive long enough to get out of the 1st room of tier 2.
-Lost City is balanced for 6-10 characters, while I may have 4 players tonight. I’ll probably give everybody two characters, maybe 3, borrowing from the DCC funnel. Seriously, the fire beetles will probably take out two characters at least; even though they’re only 6 HP each, they do 2d4 damage and have AC 4, meaning they won’t be super easy to hit and will probably kill one character per hit, especially if I make people roll for their level 1 hit dice.
-Deciding whether the the Cynidiceans speak a language that the player characters can understand. If the weird people in masks are speaking gibberish until characters can pick up the language, it changes a lot of the underlying expectations and concepts explored in the module.
-Keeping factions straight. This shouldn’t be too big of a problem since there are only 3 factions that the party will certainly have to deal with, and it will be a lot of fun – I actually really enjoy roleplaying NPC characters. The big challenge here will be trying not to have the followers of Gorm constantly snarking about how Gormless their rivals are.
-Figure out an end-game. Where does this go? No matter what happens, what the players accomplish, how much loot they managed to scrounge, they’re still stuck out in the desert. I won’t have to come up with this for awhile, but at some point there needs to be a way to leave if the party doesn’t want to just settle down and become Cynidiceans. When I’d fused this with Tower of Zenopus, I’d addressed this by setting Cynidicea below the port town at the bottom of a series of caverns off the eastern ghoul tunnels, making it the “lost city” rumored to be deep beneath the ruins of Zenopus’ Tower. Of course, I don’t know that I want to run through Tower of Zenopus as a prologue for this. If one of my players wasn’t someone from my Zenopus game last year and this weren’t planned to be something of a short term game, that would absolutely be the direction I’d go, but I may just stick some sort of magic exit creating swizzlestick somewhere in the city.