Nemeses: Introducing “Newman Groups” into your campaign.

Newman NEWMAN!!!

One of the more enjoyable elements of my past campaigns has been creating an opposing group of NPC’s that compete or thwart the party as their characters grow in experience and power. Seinfeld had his “Newman” and Indiana Jones had his “Belloq”; a fleshed out contra-group can add a personal and competitive feel to the gameplay more than just another nameless villain or mob-boss. Over a long campaign the relationship between the groups can evolve based on their shared experiences and conflicts and eventually lead to a final “reckoning” or confrontation.

This NPC Nemeses (Newman Group) doesn’t necessarily need to be similar in make-up to the PC’s but having similarities allows each PC to have their own specific nemesis as well. So there is a group vs group dynamic concurrent with a more personal and individual PC vs NPC dynamic.

Depending on your setting there are many ways to initiate a “Newman Group”.

  1. Opposing Gods. The most obvious mechanism for opposing groups is to have each group avatars of a pantheon or god. In Shadow World the conflict between the gods of Charon and Orhan sets that up easily.
  2. Opposing Employers. At lower levels PC’s are often just trying to survive, accumulate experience and wealth. Giving the PC’s a patron (Priest, Lord, merchant, scribe, mage etc) that assigns them tasks creates a tidy mechanism to start adventures. It’s only natural that such a patron would have an enemy or competitor that would also need their own group of henchman.
  3. The Unlife. Of course you could forgo subtlety and create an opposing group under the thrall of the Unlife. Perhaps they work for one of the 12 Adherants, the Priest Arnak or similar organization. This sets up a longer term campaign thread into the larger SW plotline.
  4. Familial or background element. Perhaps one of the PC’s has a brother, sister or family member they are at odds with. Jealousy, inheritance issues, rivalry or racial tensions could all be the spark to start the groups down the path of opposition.
  5. Friendly competition. Introducing the opposing group early only as a general competitor for a certain goal or treasure can leave the future open-ended. Later as the campaign progresses the groups could form an uneasy alliance to overcome a difficult task or transform into more serious and deadly rivalry.

The NPC group should plan, act and behave as the PC’s would. They will retreat or surrender when beaten; plan carefully when expecting an encounter with the PC’s and have their own goals, aims and desires. The more personal you make the relationship between your PCs and the Newman Group the more depth it will add to the gameplay. Once the rivalry is introduced it came become a great plot device to confound, frustrate and delight your players. Whether intentionally plot driven, random or capricious, the players will be left wondering as to the role of their nemeses when they encounter them!

Initiative, the third leg of the RM combat stool.

8.1

When it was first introduced in Arms Law the fluid concept of splitting a weapon skill between offense and defense was very compelling. It helped that RM’s d100 system provided a larger result range than the competing d20 systems that allowed for any number of modifiers to be used within that basic framework: multi-attack, drawing weapon, parry rules, combat modifiers etc. Mostly it was just intuitive and the allocation between offense and defense added a layer of combat strategy within a simple die roll.

However on facet of combat has been the subject of repeated rule revision and discussion: an effective initiative system. These solutions generally involve 2 components: a roll (d10, d100 etc) modified by the characters Qu. Whichever system is used, the purpose is to determine who will act or attack first—an important consideration in a system that can result in decisive criticals.

If you haven’t seen our weapon specific modifier table posted on the RM Forums I would encourage you to do so. You can find the document link here:

http://www.ironcrown.com/ICEforums/index.php?action=dlattach;topic=17102.0;attach=3660

RM/RMU generally sets combat modifiers at fixed rates regardless of the weapon size, speed or function. For instance, drawing a weapon is generally -20 whether you are drawing a dagger or a 2H sword. Attacking multiple foes incurs the same penalty per/target no matter if you are using a pole arm or unarmed combat. It seems like a system that models weapon efficacy with individual combat charts can better model other weapon characteristics. In fact, even the earliest RM had weapon stats for “speed” and “length/reach” but never an elegant solution for incorporating them into combat without clumsy or complicated rules.

Our initiative combat hack brings the initiative system into the offense/defense duality, includes weapon specific factors, eliminates the need for a beginning declaration phase and adds a component to combat initiative beyond “order of action”. A new tactical “triumvirate” of combat! How does it work? Let’s lay out the parts:

Initiative (Init) = (d100) + (allocated skill bonus) + (weapon speed mod) + (Qu mod)

The character rolls d100, can allocate part of their skill bonus to the roll and then adds weapon speed mod and Qu mod. It’s important to note that these are in order of importance—Qu will often be the least important modifier. The concept, like the allocation between offense and defense, means that the character can opt for a quick strike or offensive series over accuracy or even defense:  a “wild, rushed, flurry of attacks”. Obviously the character can opt to allocate none of their OB to Init.—like parrying, this adds a tactical layer to the combat without any “one-off” rules. Weapon Speeds can range from 0 to 75 and thus are the larger part of the initiative roll when historically Qu has been the predominant modifier. This adds complexity to player weapon selection beyond its ability to deal damage.

Initiative Results: Normally initiative is used only to determine order of attack/action. Under these rules the winner of initiative also sets the “combat sphere”: the area/range that is most effective for their weapon. For opponents using the same/similar weapons this won’t matter, but for weapons with different combat ranges this can have a significant impact. So while the initiative roll uses “weapon speed”, the combat sphere uses “weapon range”. As a simple example visualize two combatants; one has a halberd and the other a dagger. The halberd has a slow weapon speed and the dagger has a high weapon speed. They roll initiative and the halberd user opts to allocate a portion of their OB to the Init. roll knowing that the dagger wielding opponent will have a speed advantage.

Combat Sphere: The winner of the Init., sets the “Combat Sphere”: the effective melee distance based on the weapon reach. Basically there are 4 broad melee ranges: Hand (1-2’ unarmed, dagger etc), Short (2-4’ handaxe, short sword etc), Med. (5-7’broadsword, longsword, battle axe) or Long (8’ whip, polearm, 2H). Alternatively, you can use the Weapon Combat Modifier chart linked above and use the proximity penalties. A penalty of -20 per range category is applied to the combatant who loses the Init. Returning to the “Halberd” and the “Dagger” combatants: Halberd wins the Init and decides to attack with his full OB. Halberd is positioned for the attack at the optimal reach of the Halberd. Because Dagger lost Init. he is outside the effective range of the dagger and is at -60 (Hand to Long range -20×3). Dagger can allocate remaining OB (been reduced by 60) to parry. If Dagger doesn’t have any OB remaining he can’t allocate to parry but is allowed to attack modified by the negative OB.

Note that if the Init. results were reversed, Dagger would have moved in close to Halberd, effectively nullifying the long weapons attack advantages. In this case if Halberd survives the attack he could elect to drop the Halberd and draw a dagger, but OB would be furthered reduced by the weapon draw penalty on the Weapon Combat Modifier chart.

Parry Declaration: No parry declaration is needed at the beginning of the round: both combatants can allocate OB to the Init. roll and then the winner of the Init. can decide the OB/DB split and the loser of the Init can decide DB as a response to the winner’s attack.

Summary: Adding the “combat sphere” not only simulates weapon reach in combat but it increases the importance of Initiative beyond determining first strike. Including Initiative into the skill bonus allocation (with OB/DB) reinforces the importance of Initiative and builds in individual weapon speed. This process is easily inserted into version RM combat, adds strategic choices for the players without new “one-off” rules, models weapon advantages and disadvantages on more than just damage, simulates the factors between combatants with widely varying weapons/reach and adds a “visual” aspect to melee with combatant positioning.

Different GM-ing Styles

I am a bit of a minimalist in almost everything I do. Below is a picture of my gaming table.

The RolemasterBlog gaming table
The RolemasterBlog gaming table

At this end of  the table you can see the adventure, one set of dice, a notepad, tablet PC for the PDF rules and shades. What else does the modern GM need? Tea, but you can see liberal cups of tea around the table so that is sorted as well. (Actually through the tea is in Brian’s honour as that is what he thinks British roleplayers only drink!)

(The creatures & treasures on the table is not mine, the cleric is into summoning beasties to fight for him.)

You can also see the post-it notes on the players character sheets that I wrote about recently. I really do not like having to rummage through rule books, companions and supplements while I am playing because if I am doing that then I am not playing. The game has to stop while I try and find the answer the players  asked for.

I am not the only GM in our group and bearing in mind that both of us had to ship our games half way across the UK to get to the hosts home this is what GM#2 brought as a minimum….

The Sorcerous GM's game notes.
The Sorcerous GM’s game notes.

The most amusing thing here are the ring binders on the left. They are the RMC PDF rules! The blue clipboards are our character sheets and everything in between is either companions or plot notes.

The only way I can get away with my ultra light gaming is in the pregame preparation. It doesn’t really take that long to make sure that each character has their spell lists printed out with their character sheet. I also try and preempt and rule questions. I look up the rules and the copy and paste the actual wording into a Word document. I then have a single compendium of the rules at hand with the book and page numbers in case we want to look further. In this game there was a risk of characterskills falling, drowning and being poisoned so I had all those rules to hand.

I also maintain a pdf of the charts and tables I use the most. This takes the place of the GM’s screen. I have found that there is one chart that I had not added to it that we have used twice recently so I have updated my PDF to include it.

None of these things take very long. I am pretty sure every GM reads through their game notes before a session and at that time to just check any rules that you cannot remember takes but a moment. What it saves though is at least an hour of lost game time when you add it all up over three days of gaming.

Another plus point is that combat runs really quickly now. In a RM game I played in for 15 years or so each combat round used to take up to 45minutes and we were not a massive party. In one day my players had seven combats and fought 18 creatures ranging from a couple of osquips through half a dozen  skeletons and an 8th level Hook Horror.

A hook horror
A hook horror

I know my game is combat heavy, it is a consequence of playing so infrequently, but there is no way we could have done so much in a single day running from the crate of dead tree.

But then that is just how I am happiest doing things.

RM Optional Rules: Alternate Skill Rank Bonuses & Aptitude Bonuses

I’m a bit off track with blog content but wanted to continue on the subject of skills that both Peter and I have discussed in the previous blog entries. All of these “rule snippets” are part of a larger “No profession” system that we use within the SW setting. While rules like “skill atrophy” can be used as a standalone option they are put of a broader rule ecosystem that allows for balanced character creation without the arbitrary limitations of the professions system. There are several other parts that might be worth exploring as options:

8.1  Skill Rank Bonuses

These rules use an alternate skill bonus progression. This progression follows a normal distribution curve where gains start low and then slowly increase per rank, peak and then slowly decline. This follows a more realistic learning curve, pushes the cost/benefit slope higher and avoids lower level players accumulating a handful of levels (leveraged by stat bonuses) to generate a broad range of skills with minimal investment. Note that we also use unlimited skill progression with stepped cost. So it is possible for a low lvl player to be a “prodigy” by dedicating all of their DP’s to a single skill and at the opportunity cost of all others.

# Ranks Bonus Total Bonus
0 -25 -25
1 1 1
2 2 3
3 3 6
4 4 10
5 5 15
6 6 21
7 7 28
8 8 36
9 9 45
10 10 55
11 9 64
12 8 72
13 7 79
14 6 85
12 5 90
16 4 94
17 3 97
18 2 99
19 1 100
20 1 101

+1/rank after 20th

7.1     Skill Aptitude Bonuses

Since we don’t use professions we don’t have traditional professional skill bonuses. Instead the players get “aptitude bonuses” they can place on any skills. Players can choose from 3 options to assign Skill Aptitude Bonuses. Each character gets a total of 6 points that can be used in ONE of the following choice

  1. +1/skill rank to each of 6 separate skills
  2. +1/skill rank to 3 separate skills AND a +2/skill rank to 1 separate skill
  3. +3/skill rank to 1 skill

 

RM Optional Rules: Skill Qualification

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This is sort of an alternative answer to one of the issues that Brian highlights in his post Skill Atrophy. The part that really struck a chord with me was the comment about higher level characters becoming more generic as they learn a broader range of skills once they have maxed out their core skills.

I really hate ‘generic’.

Having said that the character design criteria I ask my players to aim for is a well rounded character who could have survived to reach level one. I like characters that have some kind of answer to the problems of healing, being cornered in a fight or lost in a hostile environment. I don’t want everyone to be the same but also don’t like characters that are pretty one dimensional.

Where as Brian has aimed to slow the number of new skills bought by higher level characters by effectively levying a maintenance tax on the skills the characters already have. The more skills and ranks you have the more development points must be spent in maintaining those skills.

I would suggest that if the characters are only allowed to invest development points into skills they have used or have actively sort out training for you could slow the spread of new skills. You cannot keep putting points into a new weapon if you never actually use it or seek out a trainer. Rather than leveling up becoming a supermarket sweep of grabbing new skills you can only improve the skills you have really been using. If your characters have been doing a mission based upon stealth, subtefuge and politics then their stealth, subtefuge and political skills should improve at the end of it.

The characters skill set or CV (resumé?) then reflects the characters history and experience.

As part of our character sheets we use a grid like sheet that has the skills cost, name, stats and then one box for every rank. If you are learning a skill you line through the skill rank box, if you have learned the skill you line though the box in the other direction to create an X in the box. Using a skill qualification system you can use a similar notation. line across the box if the skill has been used (and is therefore eligible to buy more ranks in), a second bar across the box if you have spent DPs to learn it and finally a vertical line down if the skill has been learned. The whole thing then makes a plus or minus symbol thus ±.

I see two advantages to my version. The characters skills reflect the reality of the way the character has been played and secondly levelling up becomes faster. If there are only so many skills you are eligible to buy and they are either ones you spent time and effort learning in game or the skills you have been using then spending those ‘next level’ DPs will be quicker and easier.

I will be doing something similar to this in my levelless RM variation I will be running as my next campaign. In that your character sheets will list every available skill, as you use skills you can mark them as used. When the party would normally rest/train/try to gain experience you make an attempt to imporve the skills (gain a rank) by rolling against the skills you have marked. That is basicaly what one does in Runequest and Call of Cthulhu.

Finally, you will always get someone who is unlucky with the dice, the person whos stats go down and not up when doing stat gain rolls. I can imagine Mr Unlucky spending countless DPs just trying to maintain his skills while lucky players never lose out and streak ahead of him in capability.

RM Optional Rules: Skill Atrophy

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While RM and it’s various iterations focus on obtaining and learning skills much less attention has been paid to the slow erosion of skills due to lack of use: “Skill Atrophy”. Many RM skills should require continuous practice to maintain that ability or sustain the peak level of performance. Taking a handful of ranks over a few levels and then ignoring the skill shouldn’t guarantee performance in perpetuity.  Skill atrophy also addresses several issues with the RM skill system:

  1. “Min/Max skill rank bonuses”. Many players will run a skill just up to the +5/+3 rank bonus inflection point. This gives them the most bang for the buck and when tied to stat bonuses can give them a solid bonus for most skill checks.
  2. Higher level skill bloat. Once most core skills are maxed out (skill rank +20), PC’s will turn to obtaining ancillary or non-core skills. While they may cost more DP’s, the +5 bonus gets them a better return than adding a + ½ to a fully developed skill. Thus higher level characters tend to homogenize into a jack of all trades.

Skill atrophy incrementally reduces skill ranks IF the character doesn’t take at least 1 new skill rank in that skill when they level up. So even high level characters with 20+ ranks in a skill and who gain very little in taking an additional rank will need to continue spending DP’s to maintain the skill.

Skills are assigned a skill atrophy percentage of 5%, 10%, 20%, or 25% that sets the amount of atrophy and the minimum threshold the skill can’t be reduced below. If, at level advancement, a current skill doesn’t gain a new rank than the skill atrophy modifier is applied. The result is always rounded down and the skill ranks can never be reduced below a level that the atrophy percentage is less than 1. So an atrophy mod of 5% means that the skill won’t reduce below 19 skill ranks while a 25% atrophy mod means the skill could slowly be reduced to 3. For example, a skill with 15 ranks and an atrophy level of 10% will lose 1 rank at each level advancement that the skill is not increased until 9th lvl, where it won’t atrophy any further.

Skill types and atrophy. In general learned knowledge (lore skills) have little or no atrophy while skills that require top physical performance or specialized training (athletics) will atrophy faster. While individual skills in categories may have differing atrophy rates, general suggestions are as follows:

Lore Skills: No atrophy or 5%.

Trade skills: 10%

Crafting: 10%

Social: No

Performance: 10%

Physical or athletic: 10% or 20%

Endurance: 20% or 25%

Combat skills: 10% or 20%

Mental skills: 20%

Magical Skills: 5% or 10%

Spells: No

Directed Spells: 10% or 20%

Special Skills: 5% or 10%

Option 1. Atrophy still applies but instead of requiring an additional skill rank, allow a character to expend 1 DP to “maintain” the skill IF they don’t take a new skill rank in that skill.

Using RM’s professions, skill atrophy reduces skill bloat at higher levels by requiring characters to continually invest in their critical skills. When using a “No Profession” system, this further enforces the need for characters to focus on core, “defining” skills that in effect creates professions without the need for arbitrary pre-defined classes.

The NPCs of Daggerdale

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My players have been working their way through the Doom of Daggerdale module. This was one of the things I have converted over to Rolemaster. Not only did I have to convert Hook Horrors and the Nightshade/Wood Wose creatures but there are three significant NPCs in Daggerdale. These are Randle Morn, Caldoran The Razor and Tren Hoemfor.

The first that the Players meet is Randle Morn the displaced Constable of Daggerfalls, the traditional ruler of the town and Dagerdale. According to the module Randle is a 7th level fighters/6th level thief. In my conversion I have made him a 10th level Rogue. This gives him the strength in combat as well as the breadth of skills. You can use the standard generic NPCs for him and just give him +5 Chain mail (AT14), +10 full shield (+35/+25), a +5 long sword and a +10 long bow. In my world these are all superior quality non-magical weapons. I chose to give him the leadership and public speaking skills required to inspire a band of 200 men to continue to fight a partisan war against the Black Network.

Tren Hoemfor is a D&D 7th level fighter. This translates into a Rolemaster 10th level fighter with Chain (AT13), a +10 broad sword and two interesting magic items.

The first is a Cloak of Displacement. I have made this a Daily Item that casts Displacement I once per day (5th level Guises, Illusionist Base). I made this decision because I did not want to introduce a magical item into the game that I would regret if it fell into the players hands!

The second item is a Ring of the Ram. This ring in D&D does 1, 2 or 3d6 damage in the form of a ramming attack depending on how many charges are used. My version is again a daily item embedded with Vacuum I (3rd level Gas Destruction, Sorcerer Base) three times a day this  delivers a single impact critical severity B. I thnk the damage it delivers is slightly less than the D&D version but it does not have a limited number of charges so on balance I think it is on a par.

The third and final NPC is Caldoran the Razor. I am not going to give you his complete stats but a general outline. In D&D he is a 6th level Mage. I have made him a 10th level human Archmage. The interesting thing about archmages is that they can pick their ten base lists from any profession and any realm. I this case I chose the Alchemist list Liquid Gas Skills that enables him to create potions. The eaty of this list is that it allows him to create potions. I have then given him a substantial stock of potions from his own spells (1st to 3rd level and those of his allies. What I have aimed for is to massively extend his pool of powerpoints and therefore how dangerous a foe he is without having to resort to giving him powerful magic items. Potions are inherently single use and in someways force players into making choices. If they use the potion now then it is gone or save it until they really need it. As it is they have no way of telling what any of these potions do without testing them the most basic way of holding your nose and swallowing it down.

I am a big fan of low level spells. I think there are some really cool powers in there that often get over looked by bigger and more powerful spells. Another option is of course you can give potions to somebody else and there is no skill involved in use it. In Rolemaster you need a certain skill to invoke a rune or scroll. Potions are just glug it down and hope for the best!

As it is Calderan is still alive and kicking and a danger to the PCs so I cannot go into much more detail. Once he is done for I will share what his stock of potions was and how he used them.

RM Combat Hacks: Enhanced Riposte

Welcome to my 1st RM Combat Hacks post! While RMU is developing cool new combat expertise options, I thought I would introduce a few rule tweaks that we’ve used over the years. Our options don’t require adding new skills and can be used with every version of RM. I thought I’d start with a simple one that has worked well in years of playing.

Enhanced Ripostemelee7

While riposte was added as a secondary skill in RM2 the rules allowed for a combatant to Full Parry and still be allowed to make a +0 attack. Enhanced Riposte allows the combatant to Full Parry and make an attack, but if the attacker misses, the defender is allowed to make an attack with a bonus equal to the attackers result and the minimum number needed for a critical result. The attacker cannot use any allocated parrying DB against the Riposte.

Ex. Taor a 3rd lvl Bard is in combat with a 5th lvl Evil Paladin. Feeling that he is over-matched, he elects to Full Parry in the hopes that his friends will show up and save his bacon. He allocates all +28 of his OB to Full Parry along with his +10 DB. The Evil Paladin attacks with +75 Longsword. He rolls a 14 for a total of 89 less Taor’s 38 Parry/DB for a final result of 51. The Paladin needed an 87 to generate a crit result on Taor. Taor does take 4 pts of damage but can now make an attack at +36!

Note that if the Paladin had generated a critical result, Taor would still be able to make the normal +0 attack per the Full Parry rules.

As this example shows, it’s possible to generate a Riposte attack bonus HIGHER than the combatant’s actual OB. This reflects the mechanism of the riposte—drawing the attacker in and even taking slight damage to create an attack opening from an over-extended opponent. Obviously, a GM can limit the Riposte bonus to the combatants OB.

For lower level players this gives them an additional tool against a superior opponent and if the attacker rolls very poorly, could give the PC a considerable Riposte bonus.

 

New Topics and Blog Contributors Needed!

I’m a bit behind on posting up new blogs but I’ve come up with 4  basic titles/topics for my  upcoming contributions. So even with a continual stream of new ideas or inspiration I’m going to try and stay within my own topic guidelines! The four I’m focusing on:

  1. Shadow World Spin Cycle: Re-purposing other gaming material to fill in content in SW.
  2. RM Combat Hacks: Optional rules and ideas for adding additional depth to RM combat.
  3. SW Adventure Hooks: Adventure “hooks”, ideas and starting points for SW adventures using the SW Master Timeline and other threads “dangling” in Canon material.
  4.  SWARM. “Shadow World Alternate RoleMaster”. My own rule set for No Profession Character Law for use in the Shadow World setting.

With that in mind Peter is looking for new Blog writers & contributors. Do you want to write short posts on RM or RM related topics? Let Peter know!

It is Game Recovery Week!

I am back from my weekend of gaming and these long weekends take their toll on this poor old GM. I feel this is game recovery week when I try and get over the effects of too little sleep and the diet of a 18 year old student. Gone are the days when I could game until 3am night after night!

The game went well, the evil magician escaped but following the antics of the players he is going to have to do some serious remodeling at home! The party are all spell casters and when faced by their third locked door resorted to using a pair of lump hammers and entering rooms like some kind of police raid. What was interesting was how often some of the situations turned on a single lucky dice roll.

The first instance of this was a situation where the party were bottled up in a small chamber, arrowslits and murder holes pointed into the room and before them were some heavy stone doors. Out side the room firing in were skeletal warriors under the control of our villain.

The priest tries casting repulsions and on a roll of 97 (base spells roll) destroys every single skeleton at the first invocation of his gods name (Torm, if you are famiiar with the Forgotten Realms panthion). That gave the lump hammer wielding front row the break they needed to get at the doors. I had expected that killing zone to pose a real problem for the players. Their first attempt was them getting as close as they could and then casting Sleep and waiting for the sounds of falling bodies. Two spell casters wasted sleep spells before they spotted the archers were undead.

The second dice roll was a perception roll. The bad guy was on the run and trying to make his escape with his more precious posessions. In the romm next door the party were searching for any sign of him, believing they had killed everything in this part of the underground chambers. At the first attempt one of the players made an open-ended perception roll of over 320! So much for the quiet get away.

It was not the slickest ‘dungeon’ clear out I have ever seen but I am beginning to see the start of the party gelling together. Several times they failed to communicate and we had people either casting completely contradictory spells. The Warrior Mage cast sleep on one foe just as the Sorceress cast Vacuum on the same target. In the next fight the same two clashed again by both preparing can casting Sleep VII and a Sleep VI on the same target. These at least started the conversation about working together.

It also highlighted the weakness in that the party have no real healer, the cleric doesn’t have any serious healing spells, just concussion ways, and the seer who has been playing the role of healer only has first aid and some herb lore. The party also lack a scout or thief. This time they got away with using lump hammers and they had left locked doors alone until they had probably killed all the other minions. Their approach is not so good if you are worried about maybe trying stealth for once!

The only creature left alive as far as the players know was a huge worm type creature trapped at the bottom of a pit. It looked somewhat like this…

A Giant Bloodworm

The party managed to gather up all the evil magician’s healing herbs, that comprised most of the ‘treasure’ in the adventure, and throw it down the pit. They knew the magician was performing dark rituals to create animated wooden effigies to do his dirty work. When they found his ritual chamber they gathered everything including the herbs, threw it in the cauldron and tossed the lot down the pit.

I suspect the party could do with a better herbalist as well!