Running X2 Castle Amber

I'm planning on starting this Friday night and I'm not sure if I should...even though the party is on their way already...

I've never played or run this classic module, but I decided to try it with ACKS.  Here's the party: 5 4th level characters (Paladin, Explorer, Blade Dancer, Thief, Fighter), 1 1st level character (Elf Spellsword), and 3 Henchmen (Mage 2, Fighter 1, Fighter 1).  Only 25 levels total, with an average of 2.8.

The module suggests levels 3-6, though much of what I've read is that it is definitely geared toward the high end of this.

I have plans to moderate some of the save or die encounters, and to reduce some of the power of the combat encounters.  I wasn't planning on lessening the treasure.

My players are experienced and intelligent, though the campaign thus far has largely been in standard dungeon-bashing (e.g., Stonehell, Sakkara).

Am I sending my PCs off to TPK-land? Any advice you can offer me?

I played a PC through Castle Amber, using AD&D, set in Judges Guild’s Wilderlands campaign. My character was a cleric/fighter/magic-user, I would guesstimate around 5th level with other party members 6th or 7th level. I don’t remember it being particularly difficult, but I’m sure we avoided unnecessary combat. I do remember having bags and bags of amber afterwards.

I have the module in PDF but have never read it. I suspect a TPK is a distinct possibility if your players are of a mind to “clear” the adventure. I suspect the module assumes you have a 5th or so level cleric AND mage as well as some magic weapons. Certain encounters may be much deadlier without one or more of those.

Also, I believe the d’Ambrevilles are pretty much all mages … although I’m sure we worked with or avoided some of them, the party I was a part of was particularly good at killing mages. My character was well-equipped with wands taken from slain mages.

X2 is totally TPK land. When I ran my group through it 25 years ago I wound up killing about 12 PCs. You'll need a mechanism by which new PCs can arrive, or a relatively easy way to bring them back. You might also give each PC 4 fate points (from the upcoming heroic companion) so that they can be spent on the failed saving throws, but I imagine they'll run out of them before the end of the module.

I considered running Castle Amber in ACKS, since it's the only Moldvay module I've never run. Then I realized that it branches off into a huge hexcrawl. The map of Averoigne is composed of about 600 12-mile hexes, which equals about 2400 6 mile hexes, or twice the size of a standard ACKS region. In ACKS, I think that makes this module an intro to a "wizards from an alternate universe conquer France" campaign, rather than a magic funhouse dungeon crawl. Especially with my players. That sounds like it would be a cool campaign (especially if you used Guns of War to make Averoigne a pike-and-shot world), but it's not the one I wanted to run.

I know nothing of X2, and should defer to those who do.

But I know in general, running published LotFP and OSR adventures and rolling up dungeons using ACKS charts, I've been impressed by how much a party of level 3 or above can punch above their weight class by recommended level.  With the right mix of dogs, accumulated miscellaneous magic, healing magic and proficiency, your guys might be able to pull it off.

But if X2 is that much of a meatgrinder I may have to check it out.  My guys have had it too easy for too long!

It's not so much a grinder as it is a scenario where every other room provides situations where bad things (and occasionally cool things) can happen easily due to a failed saving throw, sometimes for doing things that would seem somewhat mundane and not scream out to the players "Danger, do not touch!".

Thanks for the comments - though I just checked this forum again after I trapped them in the castle on Friday night! So far, the combat has not been an issue at all (and I agree with Dave that ACKS characters are stronger than equivalent-level B/X characters).  I also flat-out decided that they get a 2nd save for anything that requires a save.

I guess we'll see what happens.  My players would be upset if a TPK happened, but they're also fully aware it could happen.

We're about 2/3 through.  They went in with 10 - they're down to 4.  I had the 2 players who lost PCs make new characters who they met in the Castle (though, unfortunately, they're only 1st level).

I'm looking ahead to the encounter with the 100' colossus.  I'm not too worried about them defeating it (the adventure gives a fairly easy way to defeat it), but it's technically worth 44,000 XP.  I'm thinking of awarding *only* 22,000 XP, given that they can potentially defeat it in a single round with a tool given to them by an NPC.

You're a hard and cruel man to kill 6 of 10 PCs then only give them half XP for killing the colossus!

Have you read the Clark Ashton Smith story about the Colossus and Gaspard du Nord? It's a classic.