Wednesday, July 8, 2009


There are two ways to get to the Slave Pits; one involves taking the passage through the wights and the empty crypts to reach the Slave Pits through a secret door.

The other involves fighting the ogre at the south gate and then stumbling into the chambers of Murkelmor, commander of the Horned Hold.

It's interesting that you can completely bypass the Horned Hold's "boss fight" - and, in fact, my players did, so I've got no direct experience of how this battle plays out. (That worked out fine, though, as it allowed me to keep Murkelmor around for a role in my substantially modified finale to the module.)

Presuming that you actually run this encounter, though, Murkelmor's a bit of a beast. He's a level 7 elite, with the hit points to match, some absolutely savage at-will powers and a rechargeable heal that can be applied to either himself or his allies.

Once again, though, having a name doesn't make Murkelmor a character. He gets a couple of lines of textbook villain rant when the players breach his room, and then enters battle. This is theoretically the climax of the Horned Hold, but the players can't be invested in defeating this guy because they may well have never heard his name prior to getting here. At the point where players run this encounter, they've got a more meaningful relationship with Brugg than they do with any of the Duergar of the Hold.

Just to make absolutely sure that this isn't a satisfying showdown, it turns out Murkelmor is a runner. If he starts losing, he'll use a secret door to flee to the slave pits, and then double back looking for allies through the rest of the Hold. The dramatic clash of wills teased when the players first enter can devolve into a tedious running battle through a series of rooms they've already cleared.


[1] Forget about the secret door and forget about Murkelmor fleeing. There's nothing he'll find outside this chamber that'll be more satisfying for players than seeing him get beat down where he stands.

[2] Give Murkelmor the chance to show off either his strength or his villainy prior to the battle. Possibly have him visit the Seven-Pillared Hall and throw his weight around before players start the Hold. Maybe have him in the process of murdering one of the captives when the PCs burst in on him. At the very least have the other Duergar tell the players how scary he is. There's just no fun in defeating someone you've never heard of.


brandykruse said...

I like both the inclusion of "Improvements" and your suggested improvements themselves. You really have a handle on storytelling.

As I've said before, I like these posts better than the module itself!

Greg Tannahill said...

Thanks Crazyred!

I'd originally intended (a) not to do every single encounter of Thunderspire and (b) to not go to deeply into remixing the as-printed stuff unless there were actual errors or unplayable aspects, but I'm doing some of that after all given the feedback I'm getting.

Now if I could only get Blogger's post scheduling to start working properly again. There's something supposed to go up at 10 pm Canberra time tonight but don't be surprised if it stuffs up again and I have to put it up manually tomorrow morning.

Todd said...

If it helps at all (and it probably doesn't) "Too Many Gods" has already hit my newsreader.

Greg Tannahill said...

Excellent. Actually my worry was that it would hit too soon; it and the next post briefly flashed up on the site while I was screwing with scheduled publishing and then got taken down again.

I'm a sporadic writer; if things published at their natural pace you'd get four things on a Monday and then nothing the rest of the week. So the plan is to schedule things to no more than one a day, at 10 pm.

Todd said...

I'm much the same way, so I've been trying to set up blogger to do the same thing. I didn't take our time difference into account, so I wasn't expecting to see the next post until 10pm MY time. Glad it's working.

FalconGK81 said...

quote: "substantially modified finale to the module."

I for one hope we get to see this.

Thanks for the great post Greg. I think you make a lot of great points. My players finished Murkelmor a couple of sessions ago. I also had him fight to the death. He is a Paladin after all, I thought fleeing was beneath him.

I wish I'd thought to introduce him sooner in the module, such as having him show up in the Seven Pillared Hall bullying people around and such. My players seemed to enjoy the fight anyways.

Hugemelon said...

OK, i'm saying this here because it happened in this room quite a bit. I have a sorcerer in my party and he LOVES to sit in doorways and use stormwalk to shoot at things in the room and then shift out of line of sight. He basically uses this to never be in any danger, and rarely comes out of his hiding spots.
What would you guys suggest to do to get him to stop doing it. I can't tell him i won't allow because thats not fun, but i'd like to try to use the environment or something to get him deeper into the fights with the rest of the group.

FalconGK81 said...

@Hugemelon It keeps him using his at will only, so if he goes out of his way to setup opportunities to do this, just let him. I don't think it is particularly devestating.

If you want to challenge him, occasionally design encounters where the monsters can get around behind the party as well as in front, so that there isn't such a great place to hide. You have less opportunity to do this if you are just going to runt he modules, but you can try and change the layout of some of the combats to do this. Just don't do it all the time. Let them have their fun.

Hugemelon said...

I dont' want to stop him from doing it all together, he does enjoy it (and it's smart most of the time), but the few times i've stopped him from doing it he's been really challenged.

I'll try sneaking some mobs up behind him.... see how that goes.

I'm thinking about having more doors lock behind them as well but i can't really think of a way to make that happen in normal hallways and rooms and such.

Greg Tannahill said...

@Hugemelon - The upcoming encounters in the Well of Demons by and large aren't susceptible to that tactic, so there might be some help there.

@FalconGK81 - The short version of the modified ending is this: after the players return from the Horned Hold and do the Interlude, Murkelmor turns up in the Seven Pillared Hall with a squad of Duergar and declares that although his people have been at peace with the Mages of Saruun for nearly a generation, this unprovoked attack on the Duergar by denizens of the Hall puts an end to that - the Grimmerzhul nation is annexing the Hall and residents have three days to clear out.

Orontor then reveals that, originally, the Mages would have been able to protect the hall, but he's the last one remaining and most of his most powerful magics were stolen by Paldemar when he went rogue, along with the control amulets of almost all the Bronze Warders. If players are able to find Paldemar they may be able to recover the stolen artifacts and use them to save the Hall.

When they get to the last dungeon (the Tower of Mysteries) the three encounters there are intercut with scenes from the Hall, where the player control the residents as they organise the defence against the Duergar; a tide of dwarves rushes over the hall and many of the NPCs the players have met die bravely.

Finally the players defeat Paldemar and complete the ritual he was going to use to seize control of the Warders; an army of bronze minotaurs rises from the labyrinth and marches to the defence of the Hall. The Duergar are routed, the Hall is saved, and Orontor proposes the establishment of a new, more responsible Order of Saruun based around the principles of heroism the players have demonstrated.

(Plus a bunch of character-specific stuff unique to my group.)

Colmarr said...

My group just took down Murklemore last night. What's worse, we managed to bring the Murklemore encounter and the ogre battle down on ourselves at the same time.

I have no idea how we survived it. The DM tells me that the two combined are a level 11 encounter. We're level 6.

Anyway, back on topic - Murklemore was foreshadowed for us when we went to speak to Brugg in Rothar's taproom. He (after being bribed)told us about the Grimmerzhul and Murklemore, indicating he was a "nasty piece of work".

Needless to say, having Brugg hold such an opinion of him established Murklemore as a villain to be feared.