Sagiro's Story Hour: The FINAL Adventures of Abernathy's Company (FINISHED 7/3/14) - Page 45




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  1. #441
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    I get the impression from these combats that Dranko spends a lot of time at low hit points waiting for Morningstar to heal him... is this actually the case?
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    Quote Originally Posted by wedgeski View Post
    I get the impression from these combats that Dranko spends a lot of time at low hit points waiting for Morningstar to heal him... is this actually the case?
    It doesn't feel that way to me but Morningstar certainly agrees with you. Around this time her player was getting frustrated that there were all these cool things she could do, but she spent every fight healing other people instead. Trying to mitigate that was a multi-step process that involves a few spoilers.

    We're at the stage where monster to-hits have outpaced our AC and every monster can hit us every time with non-iterative attacks. For instance, Dranko's AC at 18th level was 34 (and I don't believe it's gone up any since then); a CR 16 greater stone golem is at +42 to hit. The highest AC in the group is a few points higher than this.

    It was around this point that I made a case for giving all the high AC boosting items to one person who could then try to draw attacks. That would probably help reduce healing and would make sense tactically, but it was seen (by the PCs, not the players) as "Dranko wants all the cool items again!" No one's character liked the idea of one person with all of the cool toys. Everyone has a medium AC instead. It makes my character optimization side twitch a little, but sometimes fairness and good group dynamics should trump tactics. I love that about this group.
    Last edited by Piratecat; Wednesday, 9th June, 2010 at 03:56 PM.
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    I've never played in a game of that high a level, but having flipped through the MMs a few times and seeing monsters with these insane full attack numbers, sometimes I wonder if there's a certain point where armor is mostly irrelevant except to keep the mooks off you while you deal with the bigger threat.
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    Yup. Other than power attack and iterative attacks, moderate levels of armor aren't much better than having no armor at all. I've considered having Dranko do an entire adventure naked, but I expect the other characters would strenuously object.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Piratecat View Post
    Yup. Other than power attack and iterative attacks, moderate levels of armor aren't much better than having no armor at all...
    After about 13th level, our group came to the same conclusion. However, since our major foes always seemed to end up being other humanoids, negating those iterative and power attacks was gold.

    One thing that seemed to really help was layered defense. Stone skin + displacement/blur + AC buffs did it for us.
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    Quote Originally Posted by piratecat View Post
    yup. Other than power attack and iterative attacks, moderate levels of armor aren't much better than having no armor at all. I've considered having dranko do an entire adventure naked, but i expect the other characters would strenuously object.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Piratecat View Post
    I've considered having Dranko do an entire adventure naked, but I expect the other characters would strenuously object.
    It would be funny -- right up until some giant cranked Power Attack to max with its Huge great axe, and crit-splashed Dranko all over the ceiling and walls.

    You can get higher ACs, with a little work. I had to tone down the AC on an ex-PC turned NPC in my D&D game, as at 18-20th, he could've had an AC that was double-digit points higher than anybody else (mithral full plate + shield + dwarven defender + battlesmith), and had DR 5 or 6/-. He would've been too effective, at least as an NPC ally (anybody that could hit him semi-regularly would be "miss on a 1" versus everyone else, and thus would slaughter the rest of the party). It might've been different if it were a PC.

    (The toned down version had AC 46 or 47 at base, IIRC; he could have had 50, easily. That's before dwarven defender's defensive stance, buffing spells, & the like, never mind Combat Expertise. Or his DR, or 300+ hp.)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Piratecat View Post

    We're at the stage where monster to-hits have outpaced our AC and every monster can hit us every time with non-iterative attacks.
    Our group has the same problem when we hit high levels. Now, it is mandatory for all characters to have items/spells that grant concealment/miss chance. Lesser Cloaks of Displacement, armor with the Greater Blurring enchantment, and mirror images are all big things for us; we usually have someone in the party who can craft wonderous items and/or magic arms and armor to accomplish these things, and we use the rules in the Magic Item Compendium to place common enchantments on items. That way, those cloaks of Lesser Displacement can still gain resistance bonuses to AC and stat boosts.

    It's a lot of work and gold, but it does help prevent damage so that our resident healer can have fun too.
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    Sagiro’s Story Hour, Part 315
    The Crimson Maw

    The Company resembles a collection of bloody pincushions.

    Had it not been for Morningstar's mass heal seconds earlier, half the party would certainly be dead. As it stands, everyone has survived, not counting the hapless elemental standing point-blank, and most of Grey Wolf's dire wolves. One of these has miraculously dodged both of the guardian beast's final explosions; Grey Wolf scratches it behind the ears and feeds it some jerky from his pack before it vanishes.

    Without benefit of a second mass heal, the party blows many charges of a wand of cure serious wounds to patch up their injuries. Feeling more himself, Dranko looks at the corpse of the beast and then at his fellows.

    “We are some bad-ass rats!”

    Now the debate turns to the prospects of a Five Minute Adventuring Day. It's still morning, but the party has blown a great deal of firepower, especially in the healing department. They'd very much like to go into the Crimson Maw at full fighting strength, but it's possible that their battle with the dog-toad has been noticed by the goblins, or that its death has triggered some internal alarm. And of course, every day lost means another tick of the doomsday clock, with the Black Circle's latest plot to rescue Naradawk Skewn looming at midnight.

    After five more minutes of heated debate, they decide to risk delay and take a day to recuperate. This also gives them time to examine the monster's chain and jeweled collar, both magical, as well as to explore this cavern more thoroughly. Regarding the chain itself, it's enchanted to place a constant dimensional anchor on whatever it constrains. And on the collar, it turns out that one particular inset ruby radiates the same strong magic as the red glass mirror. Flicker estimates that the other gems on the collar, if carefully removed, are worth upward of thirty thousand gold pieces.

    Morningstar looks thoughtfully at the splattery remains of the monster. “It's troubling that the goblins are powerful enough to capture and tame this thing.”

    Dranko fishes a blanket from his pack. “Maybe the goblins look through the other side of this, and now they'll see that there's nothing sitting on their portal.” He arranges the blanket on the mirror, trying to make it look, at a casual glance, like a “faux monster butt.”


    * *

    On Aravis's behalf, Morningstar shoots off a sending to Pewter. Not wanting to blow tongues just for this, and thinking it would be good to work out some kind of feline code, they settle on this:

    Hey Pewter. We are well. Are you? One meow for 'dire peril,' two if 'danger,' three if OK, four for 'have info, come soon.”

    The return sending is three meows, followed by a pause, followed by 22 conversational-sounding meows that Morningstar is, alas, not able to understand.

    Their attention now turns to the mirror. Ernie's true seeing uncovers nothing illusory or concealed, but Kibi's analyze portal (spoofed via limited wish) is quite revealing. He learns that in order to open the portal, one must hold the magical ruby from the collar and speak out loud the words “Maglubiyet's Fortress.” He also gets a brief glimpse of the other side, though this is somewhat less enlightening. His view is looking straight down, as if from the top of a tall building, at a rocky red landscape, hilly but otherwise featureless. What he finds strange is that his own point of view seemed to be moving.

    The Company's only other interesting activity that day is the exploration of a naturally-concealed fissure along the left wall of the cavern. They spend a few wind-walked hours exploring, as the narrow crack leads to a tall vertical shaft with an ancient ladder. At the bottom this tube empties into a large connected complex of natural caverns with narrow footpaths, and these lead to more areas long-ago occupied by goblins. Like the ruins above, these ancient goblin caves have been abandoned for centuries.


    * *


    Heroes' feasted and wind walked, the Company activates the portal early the next morning. Ernie is still solid and flying via his magic shield, so that he can hold the ruby.

    “Maglubiyet's Fortress!”

    The mirror loses its reflective property and becomes an opaque shimmering red. They step onto it, and descend through.

    Unexpectedly, they don't stop descending. All seven of them find themselves in free-fall, solid as rocks and plummeting like them as well. Ernie's fly spell seems to be failing him.

    Splat! They land on a hard rocky slope, badly bruised. A few bones are broken. Lesser folk would have been dashed to pieces. High above them a horizontal red disk zips into the distance, soon vanishing into the hazy red air. Given Kibi's glimpse of the previous day, it's likely that the portal was moving even as they emerged. Their telepathic bond is still intact, meaning that the portal did not strip them of all enchantments.

    Ernie groans, stands, and when the party has collected themselves, casts a mass curative. The terrain around them is as Kibi expected, little red rocky hills that make it hard to see very far in any direction. But almost immediately they hear guttural voices sounding from the other side of the nearest hill, not more than fifty feet distant. Kibi immediately casts a silent veil to make them all look like – what else? – rats. They scatter like rodents, with Ernie and Dranko moving toward the voice. Kibi activates tongues and listens to the voices.

    “Are you... sure? Over... there?”

    “Yeah! I can't believe you... didn't... hear it!”

    The speech of the goblins is punctuated with gasping breaths.

    Ernie crests the nearest hill and sees three goblins soldiers. They wear red and black uniforms with the symbol of Maglubiyet's Fist prominently displayed. They are lugging enormous packs on their backs, bulging at the seams and towering over their heads. Swords are belted to their sides. They look exhausted, and their sweaty clothes and dog-tired expressions speak of a truly crappy day.

    It's about to get much worse.

    Ernie rushes forward, and if the goblins are surprised to see a rat here, they don't have time to react. The rat swipes with a fore-paw and the head of one goblin is shorn neatly from its shoulders. Ernie cleaves into the next one, sending it reeling. Dranko's whip trips the wounded goblin and deftly snaps the neck of the third.

    Lying on the ground still bound to his heavy pack, badly wounded, and staring at the severed head of his fellow, the surviving goblin croaks, “I surrender! I surrender!”

    Morningstar approaches and casts mind probe, stealing answers to her questions straight from the poor goblin's mind without it even knowing:

    • The goblin, Garogg, is a grunt, and has never heard of Maglubiyet's Fang.
    • The Iron Tower is several miles away; Garogg indicates a direction. He doesn't know anything about its specific defenses, though several thousand goblins are camped in its immediate vicinity.
    • Garogg doesn't know when the army is being deployed. He has orders to be prepared to move out on very short notice. If there's a signal to muster, he doesn't know that either. His commander will tell him.
    • The Champion of Maglubiyet is, he assumes, the war-chieftain Glemiyal. Garogg has never seen Glemiyal's face, but his mind contains an image of a tall, heavily-armored goblin with a glowing red sword. He guesses Glemiyal is quartered in the Iron Tower.
    • As far as Garogg knows, there are no other living things in the Crimson Maw besides goblins. And, apparently, rats.
    • The command structure is fairly standard for large armies. They operate in small platoons of twenty, with twenty such groups comprising companies of four hundred. The companies are grouped into four or five divisions, each of which has (he guesses) between ten and fifteen thousand goblins. His division is called Selkik – all of the divisions are named for great goblin heroes.
    • The goblins camped in the Crimson Maw have no need to eat or sleep.
    • Garogg was not born here; like all the goblins, he was born in the Underdark.
    • The goblin army has many hundreds of highly trained sorcerers and clerics. He doesn't know if any of them are capable or raising the dead.
    • He was walking around with the other two goblins, because the three of them had gotten into some unauthorized fisticuffs. Now they're being made to run circuits with full pack as punishment.
    • It will be about an hour before his commander notices his failure to return.
    • It is highly unusual for a soldier to go missing here in the Maw.
    • He can't think of much that would explain a random goblin's death. Sometimes goblins do kill one another in arguments, but that's very rare. There are two levels of punishment here: for minor infractions, circuits with full pack. For major transgressions, heavy objects are tied to the offender, who is then thrown in the lake.
    • Garogg doesn't recall what it's like to feel fear. Even now he's having trouble remembering why exactly he surrendered. He does think he felt fear before being quartered in the Maw, but the memory of that is dim.



    Ernie consults briefly with Morningstar over the mind-link, then kicks the goblin savagely in the kneecap. Morningstar casts modify memory to give the goblin a different recollection of the past few minutes. Garogg now believes that the other two goblins killed each other in a heated argument, and he himself was injured trying to get between them to stop the fight. He has no memory at all of deadly rats.

    The Company watches stoically as Garogg gets painfully to his feet, unable to put any real weight on the busted knee. He throws off his 75-lb. pack, takes a few steps, then looks back, conflicted. With a sigh – and presumably a good idea of what will happen if he returns unencumbered – he again shoulders the pack, winces in pain, and hobbles away over the rocks.



    * *


    The sky is uniformly red, with no sun or other celestial bodies to explain the source of light. There are high mountains at the edges of their vision, and no signs of buildings. Everything here is red, dull, irritating, monotonous, and hot. Each member of the Company feels unusually tense and uncomfortable. Dranko grumbles that if the Crimson Maw prevents sleep, they won't be able to regain spells. Morningstar, a professional, disproves this theory by dropping immediately to sleep. That's one worry out of the way, at least.

    Ernie tries another wind walk, but the spell simply fails. The Crimson Maw itself seems to suppress the ability to fly. So, on foot, the cluster of rats scurries off in the direction of the Iron Tower.

    After a slow hour of marching the Company begins to hear the noise of a crowd. The sound steadily increases until the party crests a hillock and sees before them the edges of an armed camp. They are not high enough for a true bird's-eye view, but the camp is filled with dozens of small, crude tents and hundreds of goblins. A large group of soldiers is performing calisthenics with startling discipline. Other goblins, all in identical uniforms, are talking or resting. What's most immediately odd about the camp is the absence of cook-fires or the smell of food.

    Rather than sneak through the tents, the Company opts go around, keeping a large enough distance that the nearest goblins won't hear stray rocks or see loose scree sliding down from the ridge. Soon the camp is well behind them, and the party makes good time sticking to the ridge-line. Ten minutes later they again hear approaching goblins, this time a few dozen feet below them, heading toward the camp they had recently left. These are in fancier versions of the standard goblin uniform, and one of them has a handful of papers. Morningstar listens with tongues, and soon ascertains that these are mid-level officers on an inspection tour. They are talking idly of the combat-readiness of the divisions, and which companies will be deployed as scouts once the invasion begins.

    Finally the Company labors up a particularly high peak on the ridge and gets a decent look around. They see a sprawling encampment below, at least five thousand goblins moving amongst a small city of tents. There is still no sign of the Iron Tower. As the rats catch their collective breath, Dranko spies a small number of running goblins crest a hill on the far side of the camp. Two head to a command tent in the center of the goblin mass, while other others continue onward, soon vanishing from sight. Several minutes later there's a flurry of activity, orders are issued, and about thirty goblins start climbing the hills ringing the camp. These take up sentry positions along the ridges, one of them not more than a hundred yards from where the party is watching. It lifts a spyglass and looks around on both sides of the ridge, and others of the hastily-deployed sentries are doing the same. The rats take shelter behind a boulder.

    “Maybe,” Flicker whispers to Dranko, “the goblins have discovered that your blanket is not actually a huge monster butt.”


    ...to be continued...
    Last edited by Sagiro; Wednesday, 23rd June, 2010 at 05:17 AM. Reason: fixed typo

  • #450
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    What are the levels of the party at this stage? And how far behind is this update now?

    Really enjoying the story and looking forward to learning more about the Maw.

    Thanks for sharing.
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