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💯 {Staff Pick} [Let's Read] Diablo II: Diablerie

FrivYeti

Yeti On The Lam!
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Where the hell does all that come from? Because it's been a long time but I don't recall any of the wank fantasy material from the video game, but then this would be the most creative these slackers have gotten in the whole book so far and that would just be a shame.
Ashaera is rather lightly-clad in the video game, although I'm not sure she's much less dressed than, say, Kashya. Alkor's terrible dialogue does appear to be lifted from his quotes, so that's on Blizzard, but the rest is all the writer of this Act.
 

Max

A dapper chap without a doubt
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Alkor's terrible dialogue does appear to be lifted from his quotes, so that's on Blizzard, but the rest is all the writer of this Act.
Huh. I seriously did not remember the potion of "Relax Frosty Bitch". You'd think that might have stood out. A little. But no! The only line from him I can actually recall is that "Damnit, I wish you people would leave me alone!" greeting.

I guess I just never talked to him much... for some reason.

PS. OK, yeah, Asheara is basically a competitive bodybuilder with a boa (a literal one used as a figurative one)... But still!
 
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Terhali

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You know, that's fair. You only said that the MOST cringeworthy stuff was out in the jungle, not that all of it was, and boy does it get worse. (Buffer advantage! I already know how this book is going to handle the Fetishes. Spoiler: Not well.)
To be fair, when I said the worst part was beyond town I'd forgotten just how bad Alkor was. Like Max, I avoided talking to him even more than the rest of the NPCs. In retrospect the whole of Act III needs a deep rewrite.

Learning that Natalya was intended as an Assassin preview is interesting, and makes her presence in the video game less of a stupid thing than a sadly missed opportunity.
 

Lysus

Unbelievably Fancy Ostrich
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Continuing on the poor editing and planning note, it wouldn't surprise me if this act was helmed by a different writer than the previous acts, hence the sexism issues suddenly coming to the fore.
 

FrivYeti

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It does seem likely, and it would feed back into all those sections being duplicated.

Act III, Part III: Spiders! Spiders!

Alright. As we get started, I have decided that I am not going to even bother trying to figure out PC levels at this point. It took everything we had to keep them at Level 21 by the end of the previous Act. They’re definitely going to hit Level 25 and cap out less than halfway through this Act even if I slow down their XP even further, so let’s just take it as read that the levels absolutely do not matter or make sense and stop tracking them.

Our first region is the Spider Forest, which I'm sure you will be happy to know has two editing mistakes right out of the gate. The first is that we are told that "the Spider Forest as a Wilderness Region", rather than is a Wilderness Region, but that's pretty poetic. Also, the header for Act III regions in the wandering monster tables is on the wrong page, so fifteen regions are in Act II by mistake. This doesn't actually change anything. It's just dumb.

Monsters here range from CR 1 to CR 8. Notably, each encounter has a whopping 39% chance of being CR 1 bat demons (I mean, they claim to be CR 1, but check back to Diablerie for why that’s wrong), then a 40% chance of CR 2 enemies, then an 8% chance of CR 4, 11% chance of CR 5, and only a 2% chance of CR 8. And of course, even if we pretend that the players are somehow still only Level 17, CR 8 enemies aren't capable of building a legal CR-equal encounter so it doesn't matter.

The Spider Forest also nets us the following description, and the following spelling error (bolding mine.)

The Spider Forest said:
The chitter of countless insect strikes a strange symphony with the croaks of toads and lizards. Small snakes and lizards cross your path ahead. Nameless green birds cast shadows as they fly above. Of course, the short baskets, chests, and stone stashes offer more interesting opportunities for treasure and reward. Thick vegetation hampers your progress as you move about, and you must be careful not to entangle yourself in the countless vines and roots. In other places, the remnants of stone buildings offer likely places to ambush or be ambushed.
Note that this is about a third of the total descriptive text, and it’s all this choppy and stream-of-consciousness.

Oh, and since this area is full of rushing water, thick vegetation, and great ambush sites, there’s rules for any of that, right?

Hah! Of course not. It’s just the same featureless wilderness rooms, with perfectly impassible streams that you cannot jump over or swim through. Any nod to terrain features being a thing back in Act II are not being maintained here.

The main thing of note here is that there is a quest that demands fighting a unique monster, and it’s suggested that you can roll one up as part of the first random encounter the players meet, or design one as a Fixed Encounter that they have to find. Note that this is a quest the players will not know about until they kill it, so… I hope they kill it instead of running away.

I also love this line:

Asshattery said:
Most of the residents of the docks have little in the way of useful advice to offer, except for Natalya.

Natalya: "I'm having fun just watching you run from place to place searching for a Golden Bird. Some heroes you are."
Okay, so, (a) most of the residents of the docks actually have a lot of useful advice on that quest. Deckard Cain sends to you Meshif, who sends you to Hratli, who sends you to Alkor, who uses the bird. And (b) that is not useful advice, that is open mockery.

You know, if the writer of this section believes that open mockery is useful advice, that would actually explain a heck of a lot.

Our unique encounters are (a) a unique Thorned Hulk and five minions (approx. a CR 10 encounter), and (b) a unique Sucker and six Sucker minions (also CR 10, but slightly more experience.) This might suggest what level we’re expected to be, except for the CR 17 boss we just fought. This area also contains the Arachnid Lair, a full-size dungeon which, as you might expect based on the name, is mostly full of angry rogues and fallen.

Wait.

Nope, my math is right. 6 out of 10 encounters in the lair are either Flesh Hunters or Warped, and just under 4 in 10 are actual angry spiders in one of three varieties. Good times. Monsters here range from CR 2 to 8, and mostly fall in the 2-4 range, and there's nothing else interesting here - not even the special chest the area has in the video game. A sidebar suggests dropping the Jade Figurine here instead of on a random unique monster, which reproduces bad advice from the previous Act just in case you thought things were going to be entirely new and bad.

Once you spend some time running around with a magic bird (hey, remember how you weren’t supposed to waste time with sidequests?), you will finally get the real quest - find all three of Khalim’s lost body bits, merge them with his magic flail, and use that to break the mind-controlling orb that now controls the people of Kurast.

For now, this means delving into the Spider Cavern (a totally different place from the Arachnid Lair that uses the exact same wandering monster chart) to find Khalim's Eye. Which is a literal eye.

Unlike the Arachnid Cave, the Spider Cavern actually has a map! And despite being the cave that is plot-important, It's pretty tiny and uses 5-foot squares instead of 10-foot ones. Each room has a chance of triggering a random encounter, but it is real unclear how many rooms there are because it's a big-old cave. There could be as many as 15 rooms, or as few as six.

This area has three fixed encounters, none of which are on the provided map. They are the usual level of stupid. One is the exit. One is a trap that requires a DC 15 Spot roll to see, and a DC 15 Reflex save to avoid, and deals 2d6 damage (oh my, they're up to two dice.) The trap is a dead tree that lands on your face. Underground.

The final one is a chest containing the Eye, which is guarded by a CR 6 flame spider and his entourage of four Flame Spiders and two Poison Spiders. This is a CR 11 encounter, which means that the encounters in this area are close to approximating the same amounts! New and exciting! Now if only the random encounter tables could do the same.

With a literal eye now in your pocket, we're ready to move on. Who knows what terror awaits in the depths of the swamp…

Next Time: Racism!
 

Terhali

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In the video game, you have to kill a little time before Cain gives you the Collect the Body Parts quest, usually by stumbling upon the Golden Bird quest. Does the book make any effort to explain why Cain stands by the docks staring at you vacantly when you reach Kurast, instead of immediately imparting his time-crucial knowledge to the party?
 

FrivYeti

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Hah, nope. There's no reason given why Deckard waits until after the Golden Bird quest is done to give you your plot-critical mission. He does take a moment to chide them for running around dealing with sidequests, even though no one gave them a real quest yet.
 

Terhali

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Cain chides the party for spending time on the sidequest he helps them complete.

"Hey Cain, we found this weird-looking Jade Figurine and wondered if it might be a clue to where we can find Mephisto, can you take a look?"

"It's just a worthless hunk of cheap jade, you idiots, now go to the Spider Cavern and find the Eye of VecnaKhalim! You're going to need all his surviving body parts if you're going to defeat a Prime Evil!"

I lost track. Are the PCs high enough level to kick Cain's bony old behind yet?
 

FrivYeti

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The PCs could have kicked Cain's bony old behind back in Lut Gholein. He's a Level 20 Sorcerer who can't cast high-level spells.

*EDIT* More specifically, near the end of Lut Gholein is the point that any given PC caught up with Deckard level-wise. The party as a whole could have taken him midway through the Act, even if we let him cast with Intelligence instead of Charisma.
 
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