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    Canonfire :: View topic - Epic Rant: Crypt of Lyzandred the Mad
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    Epic Rant: Crypt of Lyzandred the Mad
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    Tue Jul 06, 2021 6:09 pm  
    Epic Rant: Crypt of Lyzandred the Mad

    Hey folks. I'm feeling an epic rant coming on. Recently I opened Lyzandred (volume 2 of the Lost Tombs series, if that's important) to leaf thru it again. What spurred this was White Plume Mountain actually. I was running WPM with my friends last week (one of my all time faves), and to get inside the dungeon initially you need to answer a riddle from a sphinx. Pretty standard fare. You get one chance to answer. If you don't get the riddle right, sorry about you come back next time. If PCs try to circumvent the sphinx, THEN things combative. Well as this was my friends' second trip inside I needed a new riddle. I smartly googled one real quick. Not too hard, they got it right within 10 minutes of deliberation. The game continued on. Hours of fun.

    For those who may not realize, 2nd edition's Crypt of Lyzandred the Mad, by Sean Reynolds, unlike WPM is ALL puzzles and riddles. When I say all I mean ONE HUNDRED (100) rooms of puzzles and riddles. Now I got to stop and preface this rant, that I love everything Reynolds ever wrote for Greyhawk. In hindsight however, this module is self-indulgent. I am sure Sean is a fan of puzzles and given his authorial cred, got this module greenlit somehow. Heck I suspect "Lyzandred" is a partial anagram of Reynold's name. Anyhow, the module is impossibly hard, and could not possibly be 1/100 as fun as White Plume Mountain. Here is the first puzzle for example:

    "A merchant in Dyvers has died and left 1000 pieces of gold to his three daughters and their husbands. The daughters receive 396 of this; Eceena received 10 more than Nasora and Elia received 10 more than Eceena. Jessom received twice as much as his wife, Callon got as much as his wife, and Remep got one-and-a-half times as much as his wife. Who is mamed to whom?”

    That's the first room. Now the fun part is the module allows for PC knowledge to be greater than player knowledge and rolls can be made for hints. Those puzzles that are solved without help can result in XP rewards. The smarter choice is to turn around and exit the Crypt!

    Don't get me wrong, this module is beautifully written and illustrated by Sam Wood. Aesthetically it's above par to most 2E products. But I place it below the joke Castle Greyhawk in entertainment value. It's more sadistic than running Tomb of Horrors with 1st level characters. Even Doomgrinder has a semblance of a compelling storyline to keep you interested. Lyzandred? He wants to drive your players as mad as him.

    What's the answer to puzzle #1? I don't care! Here's why. Much like with the sphinx in WPM, characters can bypass these challenges and just fight the encounter. However unlike WPM, this isn't optional. If the PCs answer wrong in Crypt of Lyzandred, they must fight the encounter anyways to activate the exits. Logically this means, right or wrong, there is no reason to answer the riddles. If a party is strong enough to just hack n slash thru the Crypt, it will save tons of game time. But again, what's the point of this Crypt? Bragging rights that you're smarter than Mordenkainen?

    Seriously though, the often ridiculed modules Puppets and Gargoyles - bad writing, art and all, can at least be played in a night. A clever DM may even make it fun to play. Lyzandred just brings back painful memories of math class, doing word problems and algebra. Kudos to you if that's your jam, but even with a group of PHD players, this module will take for-ev-er to run through without resorting to combat. DMs...your best option with this book is to part it out. Next time I run the sphinx in White Plume, I'll pluck a single riddle from Lyzandred. Preferably one without equations.

    I'm gonna stop there. Again, SKR is one of my favorite Greyhawk authors. His work on Greyhawk deities is a master class in lore. Lyzandred the Mad though is a hard pass.

    /RANT


    Last edited by mortellan on Tue Jul 06, 2021 6:18 pm; edited 1 time in total
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    Tue Jul 06, 2021 6:17 pm  

    Epic Rant and Fun discussion!!!
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    GreySage

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    Tue Jul 06, 2021 8:19 pm  
    Re: Epic Rant: Crypt of Lyzandred the Mad

    mortellan wrote:
    Heck I suspect "Lyzandred" is a partial anagram of Reynold's name.


    Probably not, since Carl Sargent first named the character (and established his love of puzzles) in From the Ashes (Campaign Book, 38). The "long-dead lich-king" mentioned in Sargent's Monster Mythology, page 80, is also probably supposed to be Lyzandred, given that they're both said to have constructed dungeons based on crossword puzzles. Both mention bound elementals, too.

    I think the chess monsters from Dragon #358 represent a better handling of the general idea of "player characters caught in a giant chess game" than you find in the Crypt of Lyzandred module.
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    Wed Jul 07, 2021 7:39 am  
    The rest of the story

    Jessom worked hard to build his father-in-law's merchant business and with his wife Elia earned 42.6% of the inheritance.
    Nasora- being pretty but not very bright- recently married Dyvers ne'er-do-well Callon; who was more than happy to get his 122gp cut.
    Remep, the merchant's former head of security was recently promoted to Chief Caravan Officer, inherited 50% more than his wife Eceena.
    Eceena, in her usual bitchy entitled way, was pissed off Elia, Jessom and Remep inherited more than she did; so she started an affair with Callon.
    Remep, catching the infidelity In flagrante delicto, beheaded the two and dumped the bodies for the animals of the Gnarley.
    He married Nasora soon afterwards with a combined inheritance of 574gp and lived happily ever after.
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    Wed Jul 07, 2021 8:50 am  

    "Who is mamed to whom?" What kind of marriage was this?
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    Fri Jul 09, 2021 9:53 pm  
    Re: Epic Rant: Crypt of Lyzandred the Mad

    mortellan wrote:


    What's the answer to puzzle #1? I don't care! Here's why. Much like with the sphinx in WPM, characters can bypass these challenges and just fight the encounter. However unlike WPM, this isn't optional. If the PCs answer wrong in Crypt of Lyzandred, they must fight the encounter anyways to activate the exits. Logically this means, right or wrong, there is no reason to answer the riddles. If a party is strong enough to just hack n slash thru the Crypt, it will save tons of game time. But again, what's the point of this Crypt? Bragging rights that you're smarter than Mordenkainen?

    I'm gonna stop there. Again, SKR is one of my favorite Greyhawk authors. His work on Greyhawk deities is a master class in lore. Lyzandred the Mad though is a hard pass.

    /RANT


    Um, I'm a little confused by your wording here. You say that if the PCs answer "wrong" in Lyzandred's dungeon, then they have to fight the encounter to activate the exits. Doesn't that mean that if the party gets the answer right, the exits are activated without combat? How is that any different from getting past the Sphinx without combat if the party gets the answer right, but they have to fight it if they get it wrong?

    As for the general style of the dungeon, it sounds really badly designed. White Plume Mountain implied that Keraptis was trying to lure in adventurers he could use as slaves, the Tomb of Horrors implied that Acererak was trying to lure in people his traps didn't just massacre, the Temple of Elemental Evil is full of often mutually hostile factions all intriguing with each other to conquer the surrounding lands, the Ghost Tower is where the Gem of Souls was hidden, the Lost Caverns are where Iggwilv hid her most precious treasures, including a copy of her Demonomicon...

    ...so what's the premise of Lyzandred's crypts? I Googled the module and it implies Lyzandred has some underlying scheme in mind.
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    Sat Jul 10, 2021 11:35 am  
    Re: Epic Rant: Crypt of Lyzandred the Mad

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    ...so what's the premise of Lyzandred's crypts? I Googled the module and it implies Lyzandred has some underlying scheme in mind.


    Lyzandred is an ancient Baklunish survivor of Suloise atrocities, and he's made it his unlife's goal to separate dangerous magic from dangerous people.

    "If the worst offenders were those who hungered for magic and power, why not use those things as a lure and bring potentially dangerous people to him before they became a threat? The demiplane was suitable for building a secret labyrinth intended to trap and kill the unwise and the unwary."

    I like Lyzandred as a character, but I agree that some work is needed to turn the raw list of puzzle-rooms in this module into an entertaining adventure. This is noted in the adventure itself—there are one hundred encounters detailed in the module but the labyrinth only has 50 rooms in it, and the intent is that the DM choose which encounters they like best, leaving the others for another expedition (Lyzandred is constantly changing his rooms around).

    There are some plot hooks supplied that might help. Zagyg, when he was a relatively low-level mortal adventurer, ventured into Lyzandred's crypt and ended up becoming Lyzandred's apprentice for a time—it's not stated but it's likely this was why he multiclassed from pure fighter to a mage. So one possible hook is Zagyg himself, or one of his friends or agents, sending the PCs into Lyzandred's crypt looking for something Zagyg left behind—some key to an ongoing adventure, or perhaps an important momento that might help control or contain Zagyg's madness long enough for him to be more lucid or useful, or perhaps something that would help unlock a new level of Castle Greyhawk. Other members of Zagyg's adventuring party were not chosen by Lyzandred, or perhaps they wisely decided apprenticeship to a mad lich wasn't their best option, but they too might have memories of the crypt and reasons to guide parties of adventurers toward it.

    Lyzandred is also partially responsible for the creation of the Pits of Azak-Zil, and it's possible that a party of adventurers might venture into his crypt to talk to him about possible cures for the plague of undeath there.

    Adding additional antagonists, beyond the traps of Lyzandred's crypt and Lyzandred himself, might also help spice things up. The mages of the Star Cairns are given reasons to despise Lyzandred beyond feelings of avarice toward his treasures. Many other factions of Oerth, from the Seekers to rival adventuring parties to Iggwilv and Iuz to the Scarlet Brotherhood, might come to Lyzandred's crypt to race the PCs for Lyzandred's treasures. This might open up some more options in each room—should the PCs try to solve the puzzles alone, ask their rivals for help, fight their rivals off, or wait to see if their rivals can solve the puzzles for them?

    Lyzandred has been rearranging his dungeon for centuries and the module tells us—but doesn't go into any detail, leaving this to the DM—that previous adventurers may have left behind clues and hints. You could go further, and have the goal of the adventure less about Lyzandred's obsessions and more about recovering journals and equipment left by previous parties, not just Zagyg and the Company of Seven but the quasi-deity Diancastra (from Monster Mythology, which hints at an encounter between Diancastra and Lyzandred) and other groups the DM devises. But in any case, parties who find Lyzandred's puzzles too difficult may find hints left by earlier groups.

    One very interesting element in Crypt of Lyzandred is the dying call: instead of dying, characters who are on the verge of death have the option of accepting a geas to serve Lyzandred for a time, and in this way he gains agents to work his will on Oerth and actors to populate his puzzles. This can obviously lead to further adventures if a player character agrees to do quests for the lich in exchange for not dying, but also it's another potential hook to justify exploring the dungeon: family or allies of a missing person may send the PCs into Lyzandred's crypt to locate someone who disappeared, who turns out to be working off their debt to Lyzandred. Or perhaps the missing person has information relevant to the PCs' quest. Perhaps the PCs can buy off the debt by agreeing to do important tasks for Lyzandred, or simply talk to the debtor inside the crypt.

    In general, Crypt of Lyzandred is a collection of pre-made dungeon-fillers, meant to be selected from and arranged as the DM chooses, strung together with story hooks of the DM's choice. It's not going to fit everyone's style of play, but if you like the idea of filling a dungeon with weird puzzles, it's done a lot of the work for you. If not, the basic bones of the idea of a non-evil lich luring powerful and dangerous people into his maze is a decent one, and you could conceivably fill the maze with encounters from other sources you like better. It's written in such a way that you're expected to customize it.
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    Sat Jul 10, 2021 4:35 pm  
    Re: Epic Rant: Crypt of Lyzandred the Mad

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    Um, I'm a little confused by your wording here. You say that if the PCs answer "wrong" in Lyzandred's dungeon, then they have to fight the encounter to activate the exits. Doesn't that mean that if the party gets the answer right, the exits are activated without combat? How is that any different from getting past the Sphinx without combat if the party gets the answer right, but they have to fight it if they get it wrong?


    Yeah maybe I explained badly. If you guess wrong with the sphinx in WPM, it doesn't attack you. It is neutral. It waves good bye and expects PCs to go home. The PCs can either find a way around the sphinx, which will anger it, or they can leave unharmed.

    In Crypt and I could be wrong, every encounter will attack or harm you if the answer is wrong. If right, yes, the exits activate and no harm is done. Defusing a time bomb by clipping the right wire is just as riveting and takes less time.

    I don't hate puzzles and riddles per se, it's just that a whole module of them is more fun to read than play thru in my opinion.
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    Mon Jul 12, 2021 9:41 am  

    It was designed to be modular, so cutting down the number of rooms from 50 to something more manageable is possible. Since it all takes place in a demiplane, you can also steal rooms from other modules, to get something more suited to your and your group's tastes. I know that's not what we buy preconstructed adventures for, but it's a way to salvage it, if you like the idea of it.

    I personally don't care for the insertion into Zagig's past. I feel it was more of a pump up for the barely-before-mentioned Lyzandred. I am also not fond of the comment about Acererak and the demon head with the sphere of annihilation. I know it was probably meant as a funny line, but it lands flat with me.
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    Mon Jul 12, 2021 1:48 pm  
    Re: Epic Rant: Crypt of Lyzandred the Mad

    rasgon wrote:

    Lyzandred is an ancient Baklunish survivor of Suloise atrocities, and he's made it his unlife's goal to separate dangerous magic from dangerous people.

    "If the worst offenders were those who hungered for magic and power, why not use those things as a lure and bring potentially dangerous people to him before they became a threat? The demiplane was suitable for building a secret labyrinth intended to trap and kill the unwise and the unwary."


    So this genius mastermind's plan to separate people from their powerful magic is to lure them into a maze full of nigh-impossible riddles that many people might just use their magic to simply hack or blast their way through without wasting time on the brainteasers?

    And if they do solve all the riddles, no matter how weak they are, they can just get ahold of anything and everything that might already be in the lair?

    I'm...not sure that's the wisest course of action.
    GreySage

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    Tue Jul 13, 2021 6:29 am  
    Re: Epic Rant: Crypt of Lyzandred the Mad

    CruelSummerLord wrote:


    So this genius mastermind's plan to separate people from their powerful magic is to lure them into a maze full of nigh-impossible riddles that many people might just use their magic to simply hack or blast their way through without wasting time on the brainteasers?


    It's bigger than that. Through his maze he gains agents who then work his will in the Flanaess. The maze is something of a recruiting tool, testing adventurers' abilities and wearing them down to the point where they have no choice but to accept Lyzandred's offer and pledge to serve him rather than die. And if they do manage to escape without servitude, maybe that means they deserve their power. If not, maybe Lyzandred's agents can stop them another way.

    Not every room has a puzzle. Some are just combat.

    Also, he may be a genius mastermind, but he's also insane.
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