D&D 4th Edition Running Commentary on Rel's 4e Campaign (Complete 8/2/10) - Page 11





  1. #101
    Great stuff. I especially like the encounter with the spined devils... sounds like they got a surprise round? And having the broken portcullis as a limiting factor in the terrain is just brilliant. Very cinematic... I imagine somebody saying, "Hey, I think there's something back here" as they peer through the bars, then, BAM, flaming poisonous quills in the face.

    What did you do for the ettercap queen, minions, and spider swarm? Do you build them from scratch, or re-skin other monsters?

 

  • #102
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kinneus View Post
    What did you do for the ettercap queen, minions, and spider swarm? Do you build them from scratch, or re-skin other monsters?
    The minions were just Ettercap Fang Guards with one Hit Point. Which makes them more dangerous than the average minion probably but since they were only being added to the fight one at a time then no biggie.

    The spider swarm was something I found on the Compendium called a "Bloodweb Spider Swarm".

    Oddly enough for the Queen I started with a minion and just added some stuff. She was a Bloodstone Spider and I just threw her like 150 Hit Points and gave her basic attack a free Grab thrown in. Then I added a Stun to her poisoned bite with a Save Ends. The other thing that was minor but interesting was that she started the fight as Huge and got downgraded to Large (and I swapped out the mini too) when the egg sac got ruptured. That was also a milestone (granting everybody an Action Point) and I indicated that this was obviously a fatal wound to her but she was still a danger until she was out of Hit Points.

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    (a lot of ground was covered last session so I'm going to break this into parts)

    The party returned to the spiral passage and continued down deeper into the Mist. The passed more mundane shops before coming to a place where the passage leveled out and a grand entrance on the inside of the spiral was topped by an archway adorned with dwarven runes. Zanne stepped forward and read them: "The Hall of the Underking" It sounded promising and they entered.

    They found what was once probably a grand throne room that now stood in shambles, a victim of time and pillage. The imposing stone throne still stood in place but the rest of the chamber was a scattered mix of broken furniture, rubble and fallen bits of the mosaics that decorated the walls. Astavian examined the remains of this artwork with interest and noted that it depicted dwarves fighting along side a gold and silver dragon against what looked to be a red dragon.

    The others found a bench that appeared to have been recently righted and stacked upon it were some square pieces of slate, upon which were carved some more runes. Zanne read these and identified a couple of them as a recipe for some kind of alcoholic beverage. The other was a missive to a place called "Karak Dag", requesting aid and indicating that soon an offensive would be mounted against a place only referred to as "the island". Nearby these stones they saw evidence of booted footprints and also those that they believed to be the unshod tracks of bugbears.

    Suddenly the entrance to the Hall was crowded by a horde of small, pale, hungry creatures who swarmed into the chamber with murder in their eyes. The PC's leapt to the defensive. It was immediately obvious that these creatures were not all that tough individually and most fell to a single blow. But there were dozens, if not hundreds of them. And, when they got in close, their sharp claws and needle teeth were vicious.

    Zanne unleashed some hunger of her own with the Hunger of Hadar, a consuming zone of darkness that she used to block the entrance to the throne room. This killed many, but not all, of the creatures as they appeared to be somewhat resistant to its effects. They appeared less resistant to Mialain's Consecrated Ground however. As the fight wore on, the PC's noticed that sometimes rather than cower and die when struck, some of the creatures would seem to rise to the challenge and fight back harder than ever. Both Eshik and Astavian were brought to the brink of unconsciousness and still they kept coming.

    Suddenly there was a loud scraping of stone on stone and the creatures seemed to panic. Many retreated into the Hunger of Hadar, which killed some who had survived its embrace on entering the chamber. From the black flew the broken body of one of the diminutive Mist Demons and then, with a great roar, a giant stone lion burst from the darkness.

    This...thing regarded Astavian and Eshik, "So...Dragonborn...Back to finish the job?" It growled and spat these words and seemed ready to rip them apart. Astavian lowered his blade however and spoke calmly, "Many years have passed and we have no quarrel with the Dwarves. We are here at their request to recover what we can from this place that has been so long abandoned. If you are the guardian of this place, I tell you that we come in peace."

    Although mistrustful of the party (especially the Dragonborn) the "guardian" eventually seemed to agree that they meant no harm, or at least were being truthful. The PC's wished to know what it was that had happened there that had caused the Dwarves to abandon Karak Tor half a milennia ago. The Guardian led them deeper into the mountain to where the downward spiral ended in a wide promenade going north and south. It took them to the north where a large stone door blocked the way. It was held shut by what appeared to be the burly statue of a Dwarf that was melded into the stone of both the doors and floor. Behind the door were the distant sounds of battle.

    "When your kind and their draconic masters came here, they unleashed a terrible evil at the River Gate. Those nearby, on both sides, were killed by it...and then rose from the dead to continue fighting. They fight there still.

    The King held the doors closed while the Priests of Moradin did magic upon him to give him the strength of stone. He held this gate fast while the others escaped. The Everstone King has remained its guardian."

    Further questioning revealed that the "Guardian" (the stone lion would not tell them its name) was tasked with guarding the "Hearth". This was another large door at the other end of the promenade, sealed shut. Outside the PC's found a teleportation circle, similar to the one they suspected that the Guildmaster of the Arcanon Confederacy had used in the chambers above in order to bypass the doors there. The Guardian indicated that these "guileful wizards" had tricked him, just a couple of days prior, into letting them do their magic here and he believed that they had possibly entered the Hearth. The Hearth was where the Dwarves had secreted many of their less portable treasures when they had fled Karak Tor.

    The PC's asked if the Guardian could let them enter and it told them that its purpose was to prevent any from entering the Hearth without the key. It did not have the key. The PC's of course asked where the key was located and the Guardian replied without hesitation: "The key was held by the Warden of the River Gate."

    And he of course fell to the necromantic magic unleashed by the dragons. If the PC's wanted the Key then they would have to find a way into the River Gate and pry it from the bones of the warring dead!

    *****

    Let me say up front that this last session was one of my favorites of the campaign. This despite (or maybe partly because) some of the very worst rolls I've ever seen by players in any RPG session I've ever sat in. I mean, some of the early sessions of this campaign saw Astavian's player roll badly for most or all of a session. But this last session the bad rolls were so widespread and consistant that it was simply astounding. And the dice would prove that they could roll high right at the moments when it mattered the least.

    So the horde of little critters that swarmed into the throne room were an idea that I've been toying with for a while and decided to try out: Schroedinger's Minions. Basically I used the stats from a Goblin Blackblade but they only had 1 HP (also Resist 10 Necrotic). However, whenever one was hit, it had a 25% chance of being a non-minion. So I rolled a d4 and on a 1, that creature had 25 Hit Points.

    Well my rolls were not much better than those of the party. I rolled at least 12 times before I rolled a single 1. At least a dozen, probably closer to 20, of them died to a combination of the Hunger of Hadar and Consecrated Ground. They were dying left and right, but whenever a group of them managed to gang up on one PC (usually Astavian or Eshik) the damage they inflicted was NASTY. Astavian took 37 points of damage in one round from four of them. The PC's were relieved when they finally fled, although they dreaded whatever struck such fear into the hearts of the vile little creatures.

    When the Guardian showed up, Astavian's player said, "Well it least it isn't a Balrog!"

    The Guardian was a Sphinx. My plan was that this thing was ready to fight them but that they could initiate a Skill Challenge to talk it down and get some information. Especially considering that they hadn't had a chance to rest after battling the horde of Mist Demons, a fight with the Sphinx would have been a disaster. It turned out that (thanks to the bad luck on dice rolls) that the PC's BARELY squeaked through that Skill Challenge. It was only by virtue of being totally forthright and honest that they managed it. If they had lied to the Sphinx, even once, I think things might have gone very badly for them.

    The great news was that, because of the potential for disaster and squeaking by on some of the rolls, this Skill Challenge was tense as well as informative.

  • #104
    So the horde of little critters that swarmed into the throne room were an idea that I've been toying with for a while and decided to try out: Schroedinger's Minions. Basically I used the stats from a Goblin Blackblade but they only had 1 HP (also Resist 10 Necrotic). However, whenever one was hit, it had a 25% chance of being a non-minion. So I rolled a d4 and on a 1, that creature had 25 Hit Points.
    Great idea, will suggest this to my DM, I really like the concept of minions, but my DM is struggling to get over the 1 hit point.


    Sytonis

  • #105
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    ° Ignore Joshua Randall
    Sounds like the mist-demon minions were still rolling damage instead of dealing a flat amount? I think that is a fine change as long as you (as DM) don't mind the extra dice rolling. (One of the nice things about normal minions is that they deal a fixed amount of damage, so you only have to roll attacks for them.)

    The other good thing about rolling damage for minions is that it allows them to deal max damage on a crit. Of course, with normal minions that deal fixed damage, you can simply double the damage on a crit.

    The interesting thing about minions, to me, is how carefully their defenses have to be balanced against the party. If the minions' defenses are too low, the PCs will mow them down super quickly (well, if the players don't roll crappy) and the minions won't be a threat. If the minions' defenses are too high, the PCs will not be able to kill them quickly enough and the minions will deal a lot of damage -- more than expected for their XP value.

  • #106
    Quote Originally Posted by Rel View Post
    Plus Astavian's player totally digs it anytime he gets to smite a Mist Demon.
    100% true. He hasn't even gotten to the part where Astavian pretty well hoses himself to keep trying to kill a mist demon.

    My rolling was so bad, I would have averaged better with d6s over 4 or 5 rolls. I had about 3 of 4 rolls come up a 3 on a d20. Once it was to aid another and I need a 4. It was really annoying. I don't have to tell you the only time I rolled worth anything was on stupid initiative, and Rel rolled higher every time.

    The session before, I was fine and stunted to land on/charge/thundering sword the spider queen. Awesomely cool, then the stunted sheet of fire that Zanne threw out to toast the swarm and finish the spider queen as Astavian stood on top of her was very cool.
    But this time, nothing was going to roll right. It was probably lucky that we fought a pile of minions so I had a shot at hitting them anyway.

    I rolled well when it mattered one time and one time only: the first Diplomacy roll when Astavian was confronted by the sphinx. I had exploding 6s get me to a 32, which contributed to the bacon-saving challenge.

    That's the way dice games go. I'm thinking of taking my d20s to the driving range to the tee...

    As far as damage taken and inflicted, I feel like my character's name should be Bruce Willis, but it rarely feels over the top, just tense.

    As we get to part 2 here, I really enjoyed how I got to play Astavian, even in the face of the worst rolling ever. We kept joking how "May 11th is a day long remembered.." for crappy dice rolling.
    Im in ur helmet, Daddy, collectin ur bownteez

  • #107
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sytonis View Post
    Great idea, will suggest this to my DM, I really like the concept of minions, but my DM is struggling to get over the 1 hit point.


    Sytonis
    Another idea that I've had as a variation on the normal Minion rules is to allow them to take two hits or one Crit before they go down. So basically after the first hit they are bloodied and after the second they fall. But if the first hit is a Crit then they still go down in a single blow.

    Quote Originally Posted by Joshua Randall View Post
    Sounds like the mist-demon minions were still rolling damage instead of dealing a flat amount? I think that is a fine change as long as you (as DM) don't mind the extra dice rolling. (One of the nice things about normal minions is that they deal a fixed amount of damage, so you only have to roll attacks for them.)

    The other good thing about rolling damage for minions is that it allows them to deal max damage on a crit. Of course, with normal minions that deal fixed damage, you can simply double the damage on a crit.
    Yeah they did 1d6+2 damage or 2d6+2 if they had Combat Advantage. I might have considered making these fixed numbers if I had thought about it. But in practice is was hardly onerous since they killed so many of the minions before they ever got a chance to take a swing that it was the exception rather than the rule to have more than one or two attacking in a single round.

    The interesting thing about minions, to me, is how carefully their defenses have to be balanced against the party. If the minions' defenses are too low, the PCs will mow them down super quickly (well, if the players don't roll crappy) and the minions won't be a threat. If the minions' defenses are too high, the PCs will not be able to kill them quickly enough and the minions will deal a lot of damage -- more than expected for their XP value.
    Well I ditched XP so that's not a concern. And when it comes to encounter design I'm not bothering to run them through the Encounter Calculator thingy on the DDI anymore. I mostly just wing it and it works out pretty well most of the time. These minions had fairly crappy defenses and I knew that the PC's would hit them reliably. Their threat was much more in the fact that some of them would not go down in one hit and that there were TONS of them. I think in total they killed close to 40 of them.

    On the other hand, this encounter had a built in "safety valve" with the arrival of the Sphinx. Which is not to say that there was no danger. But the danger was more in the form of how much of their resources might be used if they had to fight the Sphinx rather than from dying to the Minions themselves.

  • #108
    Quote Originally Posted by Rel View Post
    Another idea that I've had as a variation on the normal Minion rules is to allow them to take two hits or one Crit before they go down. So basically after the first hit they are bloodied and after the second they fall. But if the first hit is a Crit then they still go down in a single blow.
    If I ever run 4e again, I'm pretty sure I'll use 50/50 minions. Whenever they take damage, roll a d6 and they die on a 1-3. This gives them a little more survivability, and more importantly takes away the predictibility.

  • #109
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    (this will get us caught up to present)

    The PC's asked the Guardian if there were any way to get to the River Gate since The Everstone King still blocked the way. The Guardian replied that it might be possible to descend from the "Upper Defenses". That would be the ledge on which they found the rotting catapult and nest of the spined Mist Demons. Mialain did some quick calculations based on her mapping and estimated the distance from there to the ground outside the gate to be between 200 and 300 feet. A hell of a climb.

    The group had, between them, 200 feet of rope and so Eshik did some scrounging among the shops along the Promenade and came up with another 50 feet of chain that had survived in usable condition. They'd have to hope that was enough. They bedded down on the hard stone once again, trusting that the presence of the Guardian nearby would be enough to keep those smaller Mist Demons at bay.

    Rested they ascended once more to the passage where they had fought the spined Mist Demons and made their way out to the ledge. Eshik offered to descend ahead of the rest and fasten the rope to the cliff face with pitons in order to make the descent easier for the others. They all doffed any armor that would hinder their climb and Eshik lowered himself over the edge.

    Mialain and Zanne both nearly lost their grip and had to catch themselves, cruelly injuring their hands in the process. But all made it down to another ledge where Eshik waited for them before making the remaining descent. As he waited he peered down into the Mist below and made a pair of discoveries. First, the Mist below seemed thinner than he thought it should be and thought that there might be some kind of clearing in the Mist. And as he looked for some explanation for this phenomenon, he saw the winged form of another of the Mist Demons ghosting along some 50 feet below.

    The group had a whispered conference and it was decided that Eshik pounding in further pitons would certainly attract the Mist Demons and thus they would attempt to make the descent quietly. This would also make it more difficult but there was little that could be done for that. Cautiously and quietly they made their way down. This time it was Eshik who nearly fell. He managed to catch himself but not before a panicked cry escaped his mouth. Moments later the alterted Mist Demons emerged, laughing from the murk and began to fire off volleys of their quills.

    Eshik, Mialain and Astavian were already on the rope and could do little to defend themselves. But Zanne was still up on the ledge and began to fire off spells at the creatures to distract them from attacking her friends. This worked rather well and a moment later one of the creatures landed on the narrow ledge, face to face with her.

    The other Demon kept up its attacks upon those hastily climbing down. Eshik was getting close to the ground with Mialain not far behind when the Demon had a diabolical idea. It swooped over to the cliff above Astavian and, with a single swipe of its claws, severed their rope. Miraculously all three managed to keep their grip on the rocks nearby but the climb down just became MUCH harder.

    Above, Zanne was giving ground and unleashing spell after spell upon her adversary. It slashed at her with its claws, preferring to stay in close as it pressed her toward the edge of the precipice. The other demon below fell away from the cliff and dropped even with Astavian, continuing its cruel laugh as it fired another volley of poisoned spines at the helpless Dragonborn. Astavian, still some 70 feet above the ground, would not stand for this. With a roar he leapt out from the face of the cliff and grabbed the leg of the surprised Mist Demon some ten feet away. Its spines dug through his scales and into the flesh below but the Paladin kept his grip, swinging on the creature and trying to pull it down to the ground with him.

    Eshik finally reached the ground intact to find himself inside a "bubble" in the Mist. For some strange reason the air was fresh and clear of the corrupting substance. Above him, Mialain called upon her link with nature and the small vines and scrub that grew amid the cracks on the cliff became much larger, giving her ample handholds for the rest of her descent. With renewed confidence she moved closer to the ground, only to lose her grip and fall the last ten feet.

    Zanne was driven nearly over the edge of the cliff 100 feet above and fell to the ground right at the edge. As the Mist Demon loomed over her she peered through the murk below and saw Astavian climbing the Mist Demon and hammering his fists in an attempt to break its wings. She saw an opportunity to help and...rolled right off the ledge, kicking herself away from the cliff and towards the Dragonborn.

    Astavian called upon ever ounce of his strength as he hammered at the spiny Demon. And yet despite his efforts, its wings remained intact and it even managed to climb higher into the sky. Suddenly the Warlock was falling past him, her arm outstretched, wishing only to touch the smallest part of the Dragonborn...but she failed.

    Zanne had been prepared to grab the Paladin and use her Etherial Stride to get both of them closer to the ground where the fall might not kill them. But her aim was off and her grasp missed Astavian by inches. As she shot past she thought to herself, "Looks like we're going to have to do this the hard way..." And Teleported back up to where Astavian struggled with the infernal creature. Zanne suspected that there was no way it could remain aloft under the weight of both of them. She reached out to grab the Paladin's belt...and missed again. A moment later she landed in a crumpled pile next to Mialain, having, thanks to her Teleport, fallen more than the distance from the ledge to the ground.

    Miraculously however she was alive. This would certainly not have been the case were she not wearing the Catstep Boots that had been a gift from King Klo of Opkhar. Instead she was only hovering at the brink of death. But since she had fallen directly next to Mialain, the Cleric of Melora only had to extend her arm to provide a healing touch to the fallen Warlock.

    Eshik meanwhile was firing his crossbow up at the Mist Demon with which Astavian still struggled. But the creature was managing to climb still higher despite carrying the full weight of the Paladin on its back. Eshik watched helplessly as his friend was borne up into the obscuring Mist and he could no longer get it in his sights.

    But it did not vanish for long.

    An instant later the Mist Demon and Astavian both reappeared as they were snatched out of the sky by steel claws. The flapping of metallic wings was all around the Paladin as his spine wrenched from the sudden change in direction. Although the Dragon had slowed their fall, he still hit the ground with a bone jarring thud as he rolled away from where Steelslicer ripped the Mist Demon in half and feasted upon the upper portion of its body.

    Astavian managed to rise to his feet, bloodied and battered. Then he spoke in Draconic, "It's good to see you, Steelslicer."

    ******

    The Skill Challenge for descending the cliff was a simple one but the group still managed to bring some creative solutions to bear. I thought it was very smart of Eshik's player to go in search of some chain to extend their rope. And Mialain's idea to have the plants grow to provide more handholds was inspired.

    The key feature of this battle was the PC's collossal bad luck. There were several extremely cool stunts that took place, some of them with a pretty good chance of success. The high roll during any of them was a 4. I have seldom been rooting harder for a stunt to succeed than Zanne's skydiving attempt to rescue Astavian from the back of the Mist Demon. But when they roll a 4...well stuff just fails.

    I think it was very gratifying to see Zanne's Catstep Boots save her from another Death By Falling event. Especially since she upped the ante by adding an extra 30 feet to the fall by way of the teleport.

    So having Steelslicer show up when she did seems like somewhat of a deus ex machina. And to some extent it was. But she has a reason to be here and I was also having Astavian roll a "luck roll" each round for her to show up and help them out. Yeah, until that last one, the high roll there as a 7 I think.

    I can only hope that their luck takes a turn for the better when they have to enter the River Gate next session and fight a big pile of undead!

  • #110
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    ° Ignore Legildur
    Quote Originally Posted by Riggs View Post
    ...even in the face of the worst rolling ever. We kept joking how "May 11th is a day long remembered.." for crappy dice rolling.
    It must have been something to do with the planets, as our group suffered similar issues at that time - we made hard work of simple encounters through very, very poor rolling.
    Games and Caden
    Kurt the Purger (Human Clr5) in Rhun's ALPHA ToEE RG OOC

    Caden - Halfling Artful Dodger Rogue 5
    Str 10, Con 12, Dex 18, Int 9, Wis 14, Cha 18
    AC 20, Fort 14, Ref 19, Will 17
    HPS 41/44, Bloodied 22, Surge 12 (67/day)
    Speed 6, Init 6
    Acrobatics 13, Athletics 7, Bluff 11, Perception 9, Stealth 11, Thievery 15
    Passive Insight 14, Passive Perception 19
    Deft Strike, Sly Flourish
    Second Wind, Second Chance, 2 APs, Positioning Strike, Bait & Switch, Tumble
    Blinding Barrage, Downward Spiral, Cloak of Resistance

    Gnarul - Human Earthstrength Warden 1
    Str 18, Con 16, Dex 12, Int 8, Wis 12, Cha 10
    AC 18, Fort 16, Ref 14, Will 13
    HPS 31/33, Bloodied 16, Surge 8 (1012/day)
    Speed 6, Init 1
    Athletics 6, Endurance 5, Nature 6, Perception 6
    Passive Insight 11, Passive Perception 16
    Immediate Actions: Warden's Fury (Interrupt), Warden's Grasp (Reaction)
    Weight of Earth, Strength of Stone, Thorn Strike
    Second Wind, Action Point, Earth Spikes
    Form of Winter's Herald + Attack

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