Countdown to Running B4 – The Lost City!

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.

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19 responses to “Countdown to Running B4 – The Lost City!

    • Should be a wild ride (provided that no one picks a fight with the mage faction next session; I can see it now: “We attack!” “Okay, and… The Brotherhood of Usamigaras wins initiative. The guy who has Sleep memorized casts sleep, the guy who has magic missile memorized shoots the elf, and the other 11 wizards proceed to slit your throats.”)

      • Speaking of factions, I’ve been doing this thing. With factions. It’s kind of a weird, Civ-approach.

        I’ve been trying to figure how factions might gain experience and level up. And I think espionage may be key.

        –Dither

      • Exactly! I’m still trying to figure out best uses for Probe Teams in Alpha Centauri while trying out a couple Civ-clones. Fallen Enchantress is turning out to be a BUST, but it might be ’cause I’m trying to play on my laptop.

        I turned all the graphics settings to the minimum, but one turn takes TOO LONG. Ugh. There are a lot of interesting ideas in this game, but it’s just . . . not a very good game.

        I’ve finished a preliminary ‘tech tree’ for factions to use. My thinking is that because D&D is totally a post-apocalyptic milieu, a given faction might begin with access to literally any one technology on the entire tree.

        How WELL they can utilize said tech is up for grabs. I’m working on a blog post to discuss my current vision for faction development. Hopefully it can be used to model races and/or empires equally well. 🙂

        –Dither

      • Best use for probe teams, I’d say, are buying off enemy units (these can count as prototypes for upgrade purposes, I believe) and for stealing tech. They work best in that early to mid-game period where you’re likely behind at least one or more factions. Later game, I’d use probe teams to buy entire cities. One of the most obnoxious things, though, is that the Believers are always insanely warlike and they always make social engineering choices that make them immune from mind control.

      • I haven’t bought off any units or cities yet. I tend to play defensively and tech-heavy, so there’s rarely another side with anything to offer. I also tend to trade and buy a lot of tech to speed along my own research, to the point that the AI rarely has anything to offer probe teams. 😦

        I think the Believers are the one faction I’ve had to conquer consistently across every game I’ve played. After the second or third time they’ve declared war on me in a given session, I refuse Miriam’s calls. There’s only so much I can take being called a godless this-or-that.

        I was considering giving the Spartans or Believers a shot in my next session, to change things up a bit. In my last session as the Hive, I devoured most of the world, then decreased global temperatures until the seas were practically gone, and drove tanks over everyone.

        –Dither

      • What difficulty are you playing it on? I usually on Librarian with the blind research setting on; typically by the time the factions all have each other’s com frequencies, there are at least two more powerful factions and even if I’m on par with someone on one of the 4 tech paths, they have some stuff in the others that I want. If someone is refusing tech because of a secret project they’re working on, that’s when I will try to send a probe team to steal whatever it is will unlock that. I’ll also typically have a city that failed to build a secret project in time and didn’t want to retool until there was something else worthwhile come along, so I could switch that one over and undercut the project they were working on.

        I absolutely hate the Believers faction; the Spartans can be annoying, because they’re so unreliable as allies, but usually the Believers are able to stay top tier till mid-game and will usually remain one of the top powers unless they’ve pissed all of the other factions off.

        The Spartans and Believers are my least favorite factions to play. It’s ironic that even though the Believers will murder and betray you for opting for democracy, it’s not one of their restricted Social Engineering choices.

      • I’ve been working my way slowly up the difficulty ratings. I might be at Talent or Librarian. I use Blind Research too, the tech tree is more complicated than I care to navigate. :p

        Hm, I don’t know. As relentless as the AI can be in its attacks, it isn’t very creative. I make the Hunter-Seeker Algorithm one of my top priorities in every session, and I’ve been the first one to get it in every session except my latest one as the Gaians.

        Peacekeepers got HSA first, so I captured the base. I don’t know if I can deconstruct it and rebuild it in one of mine, because I’m tired of trading the base back and forth. Lol

        So like, in my current session, the Believers got jets WAY before I bothered to build any military, but with AAA tracking on my sentinels, I just kind of ignore them. They take out some of my units in the field, but that’s it.

        Usually I ally with them in the early game, we squabble a bit. I’ve noticed they tend to stay in the game longer as the difficulty increases though.

        –Dither

      • Librarian is kind of the watershed difficulty. With a decent start, I can consistently win on Librarian. The difficulty below Librarian is too easy, I find, while the difficulties above Librarian are nightmarish.

        At the higher difficulty levels, the factions that tend to do the best are the Gaians and the Believers. Sometimes the Spartans are able to play the field well enough that they can get a stranglehold, especially if they get a good start, and Yang can potentially be a thorn, but the Spartan’s resource penalties and the Hive’s economic penalties keep them from being too big a threat. The Believer’s aggressive use of probe teams (and everything else) lets them overcome their general tech retardation. Their morale bonuses can also make quite the difference in combat, especially early on.

        I think that as a Player faction, the Morganites have extra sleeper potential on the highest difficulties; their hab restrictions will keep you from being constantly on your toes to prevent drone riots; by the time you can expand your max populations, your cities ought to have sufficient infrastructure to keep the drones in line.

      • Also, the chopper + droptroop combo is potentially gamebreaking if you’re into conquest. Choppers are so good for wiping out city defenses. Especially if you can get Blink Choppers that bypass city defense bonuses.

    • For whatever reason, choppers are one of the last things I get–even after orbital spaceflight and other stuff. (Not sure how it works out on the tech tree, I just know I usually get choppers LONG after I’ve sunk development into jets.) Droptroops are da bomb.

      I’ve been experimenting with building bases closer together. Fresh out of Master of Magic, I had this idea in my head that AC bases required 3 squares separation as well. I’ve started building my AC bases 2 squares apart and doing a lot better.

      Actually, I’ve been itching to try Morgan on a higher difficulty now that I think I have a more solid defensive strategy worked out. One of these sessions I want to attempt the “Buy the World” victory.

      –Dither

      • Yeah, one of the things about AC is that hard population limits early on mitigate the detrimental effects of colonies being close together, and by the time that you get the late game population booms, the economic, scientific and psych bonuses provided by those people who are not in the fields are generally more bountiful than any one square could produce on its own.

        You do get choppers after jets, and there’s a bit of a bug where if you customize too much stuff and you still have older units whose designs haven’t been retired, your unit slots will be too full and you won’t get choppers showing up in your unit lists automatically. This doesn’t usually happen until you get gravships and hovertanks, but I tended to muck around with custom units enough that it can be an issue earlier.

    • In my current session as the Gaians, I was lucky enough to land on a mountainous, non-volcanic island. I built and garrisoned my bases just far enough apart there’s only a couple places to land troops, and those I have covered — I just turtle-d up while ignoring the other factions.

      My society is BIZARRE. IIRC, it’s Police State, Planned economy, Power ideal, and Cybernetic future. I researched the tech that eliminates the detriments of Police State and Cybernetic future, so my army is sweet.

      I’m fighting a three-front war against the Believers, the Hive, and the Peacekeepers. Believers keep moving to repeal UN Charter, Peacekeepers keep moving to unite behind Supreme Leader, and Morgan is twiddling his thumbs and providing me an economy bonus.

      It’s a funny ol’ world.

      –Dither

      • The police rules in the game can lead to some bizarre SE choices. Mid to late game, there’s usually too much to lose in experimenting with different combos, especially if you’ve built a high efficiency economy. But there are some merits to weird things like Thought Control Free Market Police States; it kinda makes me think of “They Live”.

    • I’ve seen the term “population boom” used on the ‘net, and I’m sure I’ve seen it in-game, but I don’t understand the mechanic. I’ve beaten a few sessions at this point. Can you explain the significance of pop’ booms and what they have to do with the game’s strategy?

      –Dither

      • Population Boom happens when you’ve either entered a golden age or have the Cloning Vats. When a city experiences a Population Boom, its population will increase by 1 per turn until a)hab facility capacity is reached, b)food capacity will be exceeded by the population growth (you won’t boom into starvation), or c)the circumstance that led to a Population Boom ends.

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