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Ghosts of Saltmarsh

fjw70

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That's the third older D&D adventure I can think of where the premise is "the PCs should murder a bunch of innocent people and then have to do a minor adventure to make everything okay again." I think it's probably best to modify an adventure like that in some way, because most players don't appreciate being punished or judged for accepting a game's implied play style. Generally, you want the players to feel comfortable buying into "the text says these hobgoblins are raiders and it's the excuse for a fun dungeon crawl" if you're ever going to run dungeon crawls, and pulling a bait and switch erodes trust. So it's best to just say up front, "these lizardfolk aren't evil, don't kill them" or strongly signal it.
The difference is that hobgoblins are explicitly evil and Lizardfolk are neutral. The game’s implied play style is not to randomly kill non-evil races. Even for evil races there is typically a reason to raid their home (I.e., they kidnapped someone, they are raiding passing caravan’s, etc.).
 

GibNawe

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The difference is that hobgoblins are explicitly evil and Lizardfolk are neutral. The game’s implied play style is not to randomly kill non-evil races. Even for evil races there is typically a reason to raid their home (I.e., they kidnapped someone, they are raiding passing caravan’s, etc.).
Yup.
Alignment is a useful tool.
 

Zeea

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The difference is that hobgoblins are explicitly evil and Lizardfolk are neutral. The game’s implied play style is not to randomly kill non-evil races. Even for evil races there is typically a reason to raid their home (I.e., they kidnapped someone, they are raiding passing caravan’s, etc.).
Two problems here.

1) The adventure starts with the PCs going to the lizardfolk lair, explicitly says that the GM shouldn't reveal that the lizardfolk aren't a threat and instead make the PCs find clues, and all of the clues are deeper inside the lair, which is written up like a normal dungeon. Furthermore, the description of the adventure makes it pretty clear that they think the PCs will probably kill a bunch of lizardfolk before they figure out that they're just murdering people for no reason. The PCs can short-circuit all of this by immediately demanding to speak with the chief, which they should, but the adventure is set up to look like a typical dungeon crawl, on purpose, for the sake of tricking the PCs into murdering people.

2) In modern games, negotiation before violence is preferable, and I usually retcon older adventures to work like that as well. But most of the classic 1e adventures simply won't happen if the PCs act like this instead of accepting, "this dungeon is here, we're supposed to go in and fight people without thinking through the morality, and if we act sensibly, we skip the entire adventure. And we'll feel like we're being unreasonable jerks ruining the game for everyone else, so we'll just play it as a big fight like the writers apparently wanted."

I mean, the examples below sound hyperbolic, but honestly? This is how they would all go down if I didn't modify the adventures heavily or basically ask the players to just roll with it and not examine the excuse plots for going into the dungeons too carefully.

Against the Giants: Steading of the Hill Giant Chief: "Okay, jackass nobles, you're demanding that we go and commit genocide against hill giant raiders in their own home? We'd prefer to ambush the raiders outside the home so we don't have to fight giants on their own turf and probably kill children because Gary Gygax had some messed up ideas, and also, we're going to attack you for threatening to kill us for no good reason." The entire dungeon would be skipped.

White Plume Mountain: "Okay, so a bunch of rich guys had some weapons stolen, they hanged innocent servants out of suspicion and raided other people to look for them, now they're claiming that some dude sent them a message saying that they're in White Plume Mountain and taunting them? Yeah, sounds like a hoax or an attempt by someone to use the situation to direct us at some innocent monsters living in a cave somewhere, and besides, we're not going to work for assholes who murdered servants. Actually, we're going to raid their homes in retribution for murdering innocent people over some stupid swords." Entire dungeon skipped.

The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth: "There's some treasure in a cave? Cool, but we checked and there's also sapient beings living there that haven't raided or done anything wrong, and we don't want to end up in a pointless fight with them for the sake of someone's political prestige." Entire dungeon skipped.

Lizardfolk are usually portrayed as neutral, but hill giants are usually portrayed in early writeups as generally being afraid to mess with armed humans because they know it's dangerous, so it makes every bit as much sense for the PCs to go into the hill giant steading and try to talk to the chief. Which immediately leads to a nearly unavoidable total party kill in most situations. If they've played that adventure, then they go into Danger at Dunwater where the adventure explicitly sets the lizardfolk up as looking like a threat and has them attack people trying to explore the dungeon that the module says the PCs _have_ to explore, they have every reason to assume this is just another tactical dungeon fight where they're supposed to shrug and accept that AD&D 1e adventures are kinda fucked up on the moral and common sense fronts, and that making too big of a deal of things would be causing problems and being difficult players.

EDIT: I just realized you could probably do a French Revolution inspired campaign by stringing together all the adventures that have nobles and royals being clearly evil and then telling the PCs to react to those evil nobles like they react to evil wizards or goblins who do the same things. And if you take the Gygaxian logic from Against the Giants, you can even have the PCs kill human kids who are using toy swords to attack them and give them full experience. Uh, so basically...Danger at Dunwater is a much better adventure than G1, and deserves a lot of credit for helping to push the game toward being better, but it really should have just straight-up had an introduction that said, "By the way, this is not a fucked up excuse plot genocide dungeon adventure, so role-play your characters as actual good-aligned people. We understand why you could think that if you've played most of the other modules that came out in the past few years before this one, but this is different."
 
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GibNawe

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Why not skip the adventure?

Go to lizardman lair, make contact/investigate, avoid combat, negotiate with chief. Ah, big croc! Treat it as an interlude and bridge, not an adventure in itself. Could you run the whole thing in thirty or forty minutes of real time ?
 

Zeea

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Why not skip the adventure?

Go to lizardman lair, make contact/investigate, avoid combat, negotiate with chief. Ah, big croc! Treat it as an interlude and bridge, not an adventure in itself. Could you run the whole thing in thirty or forty minutes of real time ?
I think this would work out very well, personally. The only thing that needs to be modified would be ignoring the thing where the DM isn't supposed to signal to the PCs that the lizardfolk aren't a threat. Do the opposite, make it clear, and you instead could have a fun, peaceful underground town crawl where you meet different lizardfolk in the lair, make some friends, get to see some cute lizardfolk kids, and maybe pick up some extra sidequests. (In fact, this has convinced me that I want to run this series for real now.)
 

fjw70

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Two problems here.

1) The adventure starts with the PCs going to the lizardfolk lair, explicitly says that the GM shouldn't reveal that the lizardfolk aren't a threat and instead make the PCs find clues, and all of the clues are deeper inside the lair, which is written up like a normal dungeon. Furthermore, the description of the adventure makes it pretty clear that they think the PCs will probably kill a bunch of lizardfolk before they figure out that they're just murdering people for no reason. The PCs can short-circuit all of this by immediately demanding to speak with the chief, which they should, but the adventure is set up to look like a typical dungeon crawl, on purpose, for the sake of tricking the PCs into murdering people.

2) In modern games, negotiation before violence is preferable, and I usually retcon older adventures to work like that as well. But most of the classic 1e adventures simply won't happen if the PCs act like this instead of accepting, "this dungeon is here, we're supposed to go in and fight people without thinking through the morality, and if we act sensibly, we skip the entire adventure. And we'll feel like we're being unreasonable jerks ruining the game for everyone else, so we'll just play it as a big fight like the writers apparently wanted."

I mean, the examples below sound hyperbolic, but honestly? This is how they would all go down if I didn't modify the adventures heavily or basically ask the players to just roll with it and not examine the excuse plots for going into the dungeons too carefully.

Against the Giants: Steading of the Hill Giant Chief: "Okay, jackass nobles, you're demanding that we go and commit genocide against hill giant raiders in their own home? We'd prefer to ambush the raiders outside the home so we don't have to fight giants on their own turf and probably kill children because Gary Gygax had some messed up ideas, and also, we're going to attack you for threatening to kill us for no good reason." The entire dungeon would be skipped.

White Plume Mountain: "Okay, so a bunch of rich guys had some weapons stolen, they hanged innocent servants out of suspicion and raided other people to look for them, now they're claiming that some dude sent them a message saying that they're in White Plume Mountain and taunting them? Yeah, sounds like a hoax or an attempt by someone to use the situation to direct us at some innocent monsters living in a cave somewhere, and besides, we're not going to work for assholes who murdered servants. Actually, we're going to raid their homes in retribution for murdering innocent people over some stupid swords." Entire dungeon skipped.

The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth: "There's some treasure in a cave? Cool, but we checked and there's also sapient beings living there that haven't raided or done anything wrong, and we don't want to end up in a pointless fight with them for the sake of someone's political prestige." Entire dungeon skipped.

Lizardfolk are usually portrayed as neutral, but hill giants are usually portrayed in early writeups as generally being afraid to mess with armed humans because they know it's dangerous, so it makes every bit as much sense for the PCs to go into the hill giant steading and try to talk to the chief. Which immediately leads to a nearly unavoidable total party kill in most situations. If they've played that adventure, then they go into Danger at Dunwater where the adventure explicitly sets the lizardfolk up as looking like a threat and has them attack people trying to explore the dungeon that the module says the PCs _have_ to explore, they have every reason to assume this is just another tactical dungeon fight where they're supposed to shrug and accept that AD&D 1e adventures are kinda fucked up on the moral and common sense fronts, and that making too big of a deal of things would be causing problems and being difficult players.

EDIT: I just realized you could probably do a French Revolution inspired campaign by stringing together all the adventures that have nobles and royals being clearly evil and then telling the PCs to react to those evil nobles like they react to evil wizards or goblins who do the same things. And if you take the Gygaxian logic from Against the Giants, you can even have the PCs kill human kids who are using toy swords to attack them and give them full experience. Uh, so basically...Danger at Dunwater is a much better adventure than G1, and deserves a lot of credit for helping to push the game toward being better, but it really should have just straight-up had an introduction that said, "By the way, this is not a fucked up excuse plot genocide dungeon adventure, so role-play your characters as actual good-aligned people. We understand why you could think that if you've played most of the other modules that came out in the past few years before this one, but this is different."
I adapted Danger at Dunwater for 4e and have run it for 1e as well. The Lizardfolk are portrayed as the enemy and the PCs do go there expecting a fight and usually do get into a few fights, but the groups I have run eventually realize what is going on and talk to the chief, make amends, etc. So the adventure can play out as intended without wiping out all the Lizardfolk and no one felt cheated.

On the Hill Giant adventure, again the hill giants are attacking nearby settlements, caravans, etc. so they need to be stopped. I have never run this adventure in 1e but have run it for 4e. Again hill giants are explicitly evil creatures and I do not recall the cowardly hill giants of early D&D (maybe that was an original D&D thing but I don’t recall seeing that in 1e) and given that they are evil I wouldn’t expect a party to try to negotiate with them. So again there are reasons to invade the lair and kill them (I.e., stopping invaders, defeating evil, etc.). Evil is a real thing in D&D.
 

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
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Also depends very much on the setting. If I ran it in Eberron I get the feeling the hard part would be convincing the players that there's any possibility that the lizardfolk wouldn't be open to dialogue.
Heck, in my Eberron game the PCs negotiated with a cranium rat hive.

They drew the line at neogi, though.
 
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junglefowl26

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Validated User
Interestingly, from the discussions I have seen around the internet, accidentally skipping the entire adventure by figuring out the lizardfolk aren't the bad guys early on and solving things peacefully seems to have been really common, possibly even the most common way that adventure went down.
 

Inqy

World Breaker's Sigh
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Thinking on it, it seems like the adventure could use an intrigue subplot to fill out the social side of the adventure if the PCs are getting too successful with the diplomacy-fu too fast.

Maybe I’ll have the Koalinth ambassador be horribly murdered and add a mystery sub plot?
 
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