Blood Sweat and Tears - Court of the Storm Lord

Holy Shit-Snacks; what an experience!

Playing through Court of the Storm Lord in my live “flay-test”, the dungeoneers’ understanding of the map really only occurred through the lens of my own interpretation; I explained how things worked and the dungeoneers took that at face-value without spending much of their own time with the rules. Thus it was largely a test of the rules as I understood them, not as they were actually written.

Enter the Play-by-post!

Submitting a map to this kind of rigor is a very humbling experience, but as an avid Fourthcore Team Death Match fanatic, I’d have it no other way. Perhaps I developed a thick skin during my time at the Ontario College of Art and Design (having had my work dissected and ridiculed daily), but I personally revel in somebody telling me my work sucks, and then working to hone it into something better. This kind of attitude is something that I think is necessary for anybody looking to craft a FTDM map. FTDM sits well outside of the game as it was intended to be played; as such, tremendous care needs to be taken when taking a map from its original inception to the realization of its intended play-experience. There is a myriad of corner-cases and peculiarities that only rigorous testing and an open-mind can expose and address.

Overall I was quite pleased with how Court of the Storm Lord played. Generally what I think is needed is some serious streamlining. The less rules clutter we can achieve on our maps, the better these things will run (especially in live play). I’ve decided on the following additions/eliminations/revisions:

Critical Hits:
One of the things that I took from playing on Graham’s excellent Minecart Massacre map was just how fun the lava plume on critical hits was. I’ve decided that such an effect is warranted on Court of the Storm Lord. Thus I’m adding the “Fury of the Gales” terrain power to the map.

Fury of the Gales
Trigger: you score a critical hit
Effect: Slide a dungeoneer 2 squares.

Funnel Cloud:
As it is, this defining feature isn’t in play enough. Thus it is now a 5x5 area (affecting the outer ledge) that moves a flat 5 squares each round.

Also, I’m adding the following terrain power:

Blood Sacrifice
Minor action
Effect: You take 10 damage. The Funnel Cloud moves 1d4 squares in the direction of your choice (either clockwise or counterclockwise along its prescribed path).
 Special: this damage cannot be reduced or avoided in any way.

Ice patches:
The ice patches are cumbersome and underwhelming. They are particularly unnecessary given the change to the funnel cloud. They are axed.

Magic Items:
The real star here is the cursed Lodestone; it really deserves to be an element of every match. The other items, while adding some flavor, really are not necessary. They are being axed.

The first dungeoneer to reach the top of the central column curses a dungeoneer of his/her choice with the Lodestone.

Also, the lodestone slows its victim now…. Mwa ha ha

The map isn’t particularly large, but it plays much larger than it is. With the tower, stairs and different elevations, there are many issues with line of sight on this map. This was the reasoning behind the free teleportation power.  Also, in the original design the staircases didn’t occupy the space on the ground level; dungeoneers where free to run underneath them. I edited this out for clarity’s sake (the wording was clumsy and you could potentially have two different dungeoneers occupying the same space at different elevations). I’m not sure what serves the map better: clarity or freedom of mobility. I’d like to hear everyone’s thoughts on this issue.

Also, there are no hard corners and the stairs are difficult terrain.

The obelisks are an extremely potent aspect of this map. The persistent condition of blindness caused many dungeoneers to cleanse themselves in the purifying winds of the central pit (both in live play and PbP)! I believe that a large part of my PbP team’s victory stemmed from building dungeoneers with reflex defense and blindness mitigation in mind. I’m quite happy with the persistent nature of the penalty, but perhaps a less severe condition is in order (or at least one that promotes more violence instead of curtailing it)? As such, I’m going to change the Call Lightning power to the following:

Call Lightning
Standard Action (1/round)
Range 8 (one or two creatures)
+6 vs. Reflex
Hit: 3d6+5 lightning damage and vulnerable 5 lightning.
Miss: You die
Special: the vulnerability conferred by this power is permanent and cumulative. If a creature with this vulnerability dies in a pit, all such vulnerability is removed.

The spiked pits are cumbersome and underwhelming; I’m changing them to work the same as the central pit. As such, humiliation now knocks you prone.

Ring of the Ram:
This is no longer a magic item, but a terrain power usable by any dungeoneer atop the central column.

Primordial Cyclone of Devastation
Area burst 1 within 10 (all creatures in the burst)
+6 vs. Fortitude
4d8+5 lightning and thunder damage and slide the target 2d6 squares.

Teleportation Sigils:
I can’t believe how badly I worded this power. Instead of creating teleporting/respawning that was random (and thus increasing the threat of the funnel cloud), I had inadvertently created determined teleporting on steroids. Not only could you actively telefrag a target, you could potentially telefrag up to four targets! There is definitely something very fourthcore to this, but it takes the threat out of the funnel cloud (excepting the chance of teleporting into it), which is a defining feature of the map. I’m fairly happy with how the in-game fix worked out. It still gives dungeoneers the chance to improve their placement, but the random chance keeps the threat of the funnel cloud alive (and injects an element of risk/reward).

I would like to thank Mr. Ross for his great insights and for helping me to slaughter my many sacred cows!

Anyways, please blast away with your own criticisms and insights! I’m eager for the punishment!




  1. Great writup! Now for feedback.

    Fury of Gales: I love the idea of things happening on crits. Really, I just love crits! There's very few places on the map where a 2 square slide won't get you the same effect as a 1 square slide. This might be excessive, especially with a map with so much hazardous terrain potential, and the ability to slide any dungeoneer.

    Mobility: I think in PbP and Live Play, you want ease of clarity above all. Anything that slows your players down on their turns will take away from the fun they should be having in your matches. Additionally, to help with line of sight, maybe having a "Line of Sight color" area for each level would be especially helpful. Then it's mostly a priority thing: Bottom(blue) can see Mid(green), but not Top(red), but Top(red) can also see Mid(green). I'm not saying that's how it should be, but some method of easily determining LoS would greatly help.

    Primordial Cyclone: I like this change a lot. The one thing i don't like is again what situation will there ever be where you will need to slide someone more than 1-2 squares? 2d6 is nuts. Also, the damage is pretty high too, so you'll be sliding corpses around. It seems the intention is to definitely slide someone to their deaths, so maybe something like:
    Hit: You slide a target into the nearest pit. This slide can not be reduced by any means.
    Miss: 10 damage, and slide target to a non-hazardous square.
    Here you definitely get to bring the pain for being king of the hill, and even if you miss, they still take some damage and slide.

    I started to find in my matches, that as the DM, rolling dice slows things down, especially on other people's turns, so I am moving towards flat damage hazards, or maybe an even/odd result to still mix things up. 4d8+5 will take at least 5-7 seconds of adding when you could be killing. Even 8 damage if even, 12 if odd is much quicker math :)

    Overall I like the changes. Keep up the good work!

    1. Mobility: Oh shit, color coding Line of Sight like in Tannhauser! (boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/25261/tannhauser) Brilliant!

      Cyclone: 2d6 is "nuts"? I think you have now justified going to 2d12! You want nuts? Let's get nuts! But yeah, lower damage is probably a good thing. Maybe NO damage? Just thinking out loud.

      Dice Rolling: Yes! Every second a DM rolls a die is a second the dungeoneers are not killing each other. There's a ffamous Gygax quote about him never killing characters, just presenting them interesting situations where they find ways to get themselves killed.

  2. I think you guys are right about reducing the damage on primordial cyclone.

    How about something like this?

    Hit: 10 lightning and thunder damage and slide 2d6.
    Miss: 5 lightning and thunder damage and slide 1.

    I want to keep some of the damage alive (mostly to maintain the synergy with the obelisks)

    The line of sight colour is a cool idea. I'm just selfishly hesitant to affect the aesthetic of my map...but it might be a necessary evil.