Random Blogness: 2nd Edition-isms

The kuo-toa attack.

At long last, I finally managed to get gaming again. Well, technically I started a Spirit of the Century game a few weeks ago, but it was held in near-100 degree heat and thus ended when my brain got fried after the first conflict. This time, I got a full session done as three of my friends and a host of NPCs approached the end of my long-running Night Below campaign. Night Below is a big boxed set for 2nd edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, and today marked the official conversion of the group over to the Pathfinder rules set. For the most part, the conversion has gone smoothly, although there are a few differences in game design that crop up here and there. For one, I’m not giving out 35,000gp a pop, since I use a low-treasure model for the game. The other big difference is that 20 low-level monsters simply are not a threat to a high-level group.

As of now, the group ranges in level from 9 to 13, with the PCs being at 12th level. One of the encounters called for a group of 20 kuo-toa (skum in my Pathfinder conversion, since there’s not a huge difference between the monsters’ roles) to fight the group. In 2nd edition, this isn’t a deadly encounter, but it’s somewhat dangerous because the PCs didn’t have a ton of hit points or resources, especially since abilities mostly leveled out after 9th level or so. In Pathfinder, hit points continue to increase linearly, and so does damage. So while a 2nd edition group might get worn down by lucky rolls from the kuo-toa, a Pathfinder group doesn’t break a sweat against them. In this case, the monsters were aided by a madness-causing stone obelisk, but once that obelisk was destroyed, the entire group of monsters got eliminated in literally one action, entirely wiped out as the group’s 13th-level sorcerer ally tested out his new elemental blast ability.

There’s no real value judgment or edition warring to be done here – it’s just a difference in game design. AD&D heroes were still vulnerable against groups of a few dozen weaker monsters. Heroes of 3rd edition D&D or Pathfinder are almost never going to lose against a horde of low-level foes unless there is a higher-level villain using them to run interference. It’s comparable to the difference between the book and movie versions of Lord of the Rings – in the books, the Fellowship of the Ring could take down a few dozen orcs at great risk to themselves. In the movies, they mow down monsters left and right, especially near the end (you know, after they’ve gained some levels).

The group insisted on grinding through all the perils of the Sunless Sea in this campaign in hopes of being as powerful as possible before the final battle. Now they’re done, and have gained some allies along the way, including a group of four lovely devil-hunters that they met this session. So next time I run the game, they’ll be waging all-out war against an island full of aboleth, derro, mind flayers, devils, and worse. And that will be an epic battle that should tax the PCs’ abilities, since it’s a horde of high-level critters going after them.

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