5E Against the Giants: Campaign Journal

cthulhu42

Visitor
Post game Notes: An interesting night, and one that I've been waiting for for months. They finally reached the Temple of the Elder Eye.

Those of you familiar with the module might see tht I chose to skip the bit about the drow cleric's tentacle staffs needing to be present to summon the elder god. In the end I felt it was better for the story to give Edran an open opportunity to summon it.

I figured that, 1) Edran might have a moment of sense and choose not to do the very thing that Annabelle had warned him not to do. 2) He might summon the god and get sucked through himself, which would have been rough, but given how many nooses he's slipped it would have been just desserts. Besides, as I may have already said, they are 15th level. The gloves are off. 4) the tentacle attack would miss, which would have been rather anti-climactic, but I figured if the dice rolled that way then so be it. Or, 4) An innocent bystander might get taken.

Obviously, the result was, 4, and the bystander taken was the most innocent of them all.

It just worked out that Edran an Rufus were the only two near enough to the altar to suffer the attack. Jef would have been there, but before the tentacle attack there is a Symbol effect that permeates the temple, hitting everyone (potentially) with a random Symbol curse. Everyone managed to turn their heads at the last second and not be affected except Sai, Selendra, and Jef. Jef was suddenly terrified and fled from the altar, leaving Edran and Rufus.

I stood up, leaned over my DM's screen and pointed to Chris (Edran). You're evens. Rufus is odds. I dropped my d20.

3.

I picked it up and rolled again for the attack. Rufus has no real AC to speak of and was hit easily.

And so Rufus, the dog, is our first real, permanent death. He was an NPC, but I must say, he was a beloved NPC. He followed the party through countless adventures from probably level 5 on. The players were dumbstruck, most of them furious with Edran, some with Annabelle.

As for Edran, I have no idea how he'll deal with this. My guess is that he'll roll merrily along. But there is the outside chance that Chris will allow Edran to be deeply affected by Rufus' loss. Rufus was, after all, very much Edran's most loyal friend.

Also, it will be interesting to see what Edran wishes for. Mad Malexi has ordered him to wish for the tooth and return it to her. He is contractually obligated to do so, and defying that might very well mean his death. But Edran is as slippery as they come and just when I think he's going to zig, he zags.

And I've given Chris a week to think about it.

I'll probably kick myself for that.
 

cthulhu42

Visitor
Session 16

We begin the session with Edran about to make his wish. In fine Edran fashion, Chris makes a list of possible wishes and then rolls randomly to see which one he selects. And his wish is: To be free of all debts!

Thoradin, to whom Edran owes a large sum of gold, is stunned, not only that he now no longer wishes to collect from Edran, but also that Edran would, in his estimation, waste such a valuable thing as a wish on something so trivial.

Edran, for his part, doesn't seem fazed by the loss of Rufus, and immediately begins to restart the summoning ritual all over again! This is too much for Thoradin and he makes as if to stalk out of the temple. Krote is still reeling from the loss of Rufus. Selendra is still quite mad, Joshua is trying to help her, and Jef is cowering in a corner. Farrah is watching all of this play out, bemused.

But before Thoradin can turn to go, from another entrance storms nearly three dozen gnolls, lining up with their longbows in the eastern portion of the temple. Arrows and spells begin to fly as a pair of drow (a mage and an elite warrior) join the gnolls. The party is outnumbered, but how difficult can a group of gnolls and a couple of drow be?

Pretty hard, it turns out, especially given the fact that the party has largely neglected to heal up. Clouds of arrows take Edran, then Krote down!

Things go from bad to worse as six trolls charge in behind them, swarming Joshua.

Sai goes down! Thoradin is surrounded by trolls!

And then things go from worse to truly horrific. The remaining giants from this level, led by the disgraced Baldo, Snurre's lieutenant, now given a second chance to prove himself by wiping out the intruders, come in behind the trolls! Two frost giants, two cloud giants, and Baldo himself.

Farrah takes off running for Sai. Once she reaches him, she pours a potion of healing down his throat, grabs his satchel full of potions, and races for Krote. After reviving the barbarian, she does the same for Edran. Unfortunately, all three are woefully low on health, and after another couple of rounds, only Sai is still standing. With a frost giant bearing down on him, Sai gambles and casts, hitting the giant with a Polymorph. It works! The giant transforms into a turtle, and Sai sprints away to live another turn.

Things look grim indeed. The trolls are beating hell out of Joshua and Thoradin. Thoradin is out of his most powerful spells, and everyone is out of range of his healing. Hemmed in as he is, all he can do is fight back with all he's got.

And then... Laurali arrives! Charging in behind the giants, clad in frost giant armor and wielding the headman's axe, she smashes into a frost giant, hacking into him! What is she doing here? How did she find them? Certainly these are vexing questions, but one thing is sure, she is doing her best to give Krote a fighting chance.

Sai is backed into a corner with trolls closing in. He Misty Steps past them and races for Krote, getting a potion into the half orc. Krote staggers to his feet even as Edran finishes the summoning ritual on the altar. He rings the gigantic triangle and shouts with victory!

And nothing happens.

And then Joshua drops, followed closely by Thoradin.

The enemy is being thinned out. The gnolls all lie dead. Laurali manages to kill a frost giant. Several of the trolls are burnt by Sai's incessant Fireballs. But they are far from out of the game.

Edran is knocked out again. And again, Farrah gets a potion into him, and then flees for her life.

The drow mage is already dead, but the warrior stands between Krote and the exit. With only a handful of hit points, the barbarian staggers toward him. The drow swings... and fumbles! Tripping and falling to the ground, he is easy prey for Krote, and soon Black Metal bites deep, killing the dark elf.

Laurali has been using her lighting strike ability, piling on damage to one of the cloud giants and Baldo. But it isn't enough. Between the remaining trolls and the giants, they take the giantess down. She falls like a tree.

With a battle cry, Krote plows into the giants and trolls, but instead of attacking, he fights defensively, doing his best to give Edran sneak attack opportunities. It is a surprisingly effective strategy, and round after round passes as the enemy cannot seem to get past his defenses.

Meanwhile, Edran is closing in, pelting away with his bow as Sai uses every last spell slot to rain fire upon the enemy. Even Jef, unable to go toward the altar for his fear of it, is able to fight a little bit, and does so as best he can. In the end, he is at least one more attack that doesn't target a PC, and he buys them valuable time.

And then Farrah is back, slipping out of the shadows to slip her dagger into Baldo! She stabs the giant leader a good shot, but Baldo turns and lays her out with a single sword swing.

Sai's Fireballs finally do in the last of the trolls, and he empties his wand of magic missiles into the last cloud giant, killing it.

Baldo is now alone, and Krote commands him to flee. But the giant will fight to the death. He swings at Krote, and finally connects. Krote falls a third time. Then Baldo is charging toward Edran. Edran fires off arrows and desperately falls back, trying to stay out of the enraged giants range. His own ridiculous movement is hampered by his wounds, but he manages to get back enough that Baldo cannot quite get to him and attack.

Only three remain. Baldo, Sai, and Edran. Krote is unconscious. Thoradin is down. Selendra has been taken down by trolls, and so has Joshua. Farrah also lies, bleeding out. Sai is down to six hit points and cantrips. Edran is one hit away from being knocked out as well. He can't get a sneak attack on the giant, and he can't outpace him. Edran draws his rapier and steps in, thrusting with all his might.

He strikes true, and the already severely wounded Baldo looks down at the yard of steel buried into him. His face contorted into a mask of hate, he falls. Dead.

Quickly, they administer aide to Krote and Farrah, bringing them back from the brink. But when Sai checks on Thoradin, his face goes ashen. Their cleric, their stalwart friend, the seemingly invincible Thoradin, is dead.

Joshua and Selendra are also dead. Laurali is dead.

In a state of shock, they know they must rest. Sai heads for the plush drow quarters and begins his ritual casting of the Tiny Hut. Edran grabs the turtle and limps towards the smithy where he tosses the giant/turtle into the lava pool. There is much thrashing as the giant returns to his true form, but he cannot make it to the edge of the pool before succumbing to the lava. He dies screaming.

Krote carries the bodies of the dead to the hut and then returns to regard the lifeless body of Laurali. He takes grim stock of the fallen. Thoradin is dead. Selendra and Joshua are dead. Laurali, his giantess friend, is dead. But he knows that perhaps all is not lost. The dead can be risen! But then he remembers Rufus. Their dog is gone. Dragged to the nether world. Lost for all time.

And that's where we broke.

Inspiration has been rolled for, with the exception of Thoradin. Ron swears that Thoradin is not coming back.

It is Harvester 15, roughly 4:30pm.

Post game notes: Well, this was a rough one on several levels.

The drow mage, invisibly, had been keeping an eye on the party, and when they went into the temple he rejoined the remaining forces of giants, trolls, gnolls, and drow mage in a nearby chamber. They then made their way to the temple for a surprise attack. Baldo, once imprisoned by Snurre for insubordination, had been given one final chance to redeem himself by his king, and the fire giant lieutenant swore that he would not fail.

He almost didn't.

For reasons unknown to me, the PC's had failed to heal between fights, so when the enemy came, they were flat footed. Krote went down the first time without even laying a hit on a single bad guy. All in all, it was an example of egregious PC hubris or just plain oversight. Either way, they were sitting ducks, especially with Selendra insane and useless, and Sai already down 78 hit points from the temple's symbol effect.

I had planned, if the battle was going badly against them, to have Laurali, the storm giantess, show up. It turns out she was much needed, but even she couldn't survive the onslaught. She did probably tip the balance in the PC's favor though.

At one point every single player controlled PC was down and it was up to the NPC's from there. For a moment I thought to have Farrah run for her life, but there were too many enemy for her to even make it to an exit, so she went on potion duty, which was another huge help.

My ultimate plan was to have any survivors wake up in cells, prisoner's of the giants and drow. But as it was, they managed to win the day. But only just.

And the cost was severe! Three dead NPCs and one dead PC. Thoradin was a tank, with a 23 armor class, but even he was no match for the giants, and once he was down, he failed three death saves in a row! Brutal!

And Ron swears that Thoradin is not coming back. This is definitely a problem, as he is invaluable as a healer. But apparently Thoradin is so fed up with Edran that he'd rather stay dead than to deal with him anymore. To add insult to injury, their only means of resurrection at the moment is a scroll that Edran has been hanging on to. The idea of Edran bringing Thoradin back to life is more than the dwarf's pride can stand.

Hard to blame him, really.

But! And this is a big, “but”, as we were wrapping for the night, and Ron had already left, Chris remembered that I allow the expenditure of all remaining Hero Points to immediately stabilize! I had totally forgotten that rule, and that might make a huge difference. At this point, I don't know if Thoradin had any Hero Points to spend. If he did, there may well be a ret conned death.

Personally, I hope he does.
 

cthulhu42

Visitor
Session 17

We begin the session with Edran and Krote returning to the Tiny Hut where Sai looks over the bodies of the fallen. As they enter, all of them are shocked to see Thoradin sit up and look around! No resurrection magic had been cast on the cleric, and yet he lives. Not only that, Thoradin's hair and beard have now turned snow white, and in his hand he holds a pure white axe emblazoned with the symbol of Clangeden.

Once the shock wears off, Thoradin tells his friends that he has visited Clangeden and been found worthy in his god's eyes to return to the material plane with a personal boon: an axe forged in the Clangeden's own fires.

The party must rest to get them all at full strength. Thoradin begins to Raise Dead on his fallen comrades, and within 32 hours Laurali, Selendra, and Joshua all live again.

This is quite a lengthy rest, so of course Edran slips away to explore. He finds the rest of the lair empty, with only clues as to what creatures lived in the newfound areas.

At some point Krote notices that Edran has been talking to Rufus as if the dog is still there. Questioning Edran about this only results in doublespeak.

Edran does let it be known that he was supposed to steal the final tooth and give it to Mad Malexi, but he is now freed of that contractual obligation by his wish. Thoradin sends a Sending to Annabelle relaying that information, as well as informing her that Edran intends to steal from her as well. The second part of the Sending is hardly new information, but the news about Malexi might be unknown to Annabelle.

At last, nearly at full capacity, they open the double doors that lead into a downward sloping hallway. They follow it as it corkscrews deeper into the earth, finally finding themselves in a labyrinth of natural tunnels.

Edran does a quick scout and stumbles upon a red dragon asleep atop a pile of treasure, included in which is something that looks like the tooth! He creeps forward to steal it, but finds out the hard way that the dragon and it's treasure are merely an illusion, under which hides a gorgon that engulfs Edran in it's petrifying breath. Edran shakes off the petrification and bolts for the party, the gorgon hot on his heels. The gorgon manages to catch the entire party in a second breath, but only Sai succumbs to the dread effect.

With the entire party bashing the thing, the gorgon is quickly put down and Thoradin uses a Greater Restoration to un-petrify their wizard.

They enter the large chamber to check out Edran's story, and find a large bolder against the north wall. With a mighty shove, Laurali and Krote push it aside to reveal a massive chamber with... a red dragon sleeping atop a pile of treasure!

The party watch as Edran sneaks closer. He spies yet another object that must be the tooth and makes as if to grab it. But the dragon has only been pretending to sleep. With a sly hiss, the beast wonders aloud what such a delicate morsel is doing in his lair.

Thus begins a sort of parlay between Edran and the dragon which goes okay until Edran blurts out fact that he want's Tiamat's tooth. The dragon is enraged to hear the name of the mother of evil dragons in a puny half-elf's mouth, and after a second and then a third repeat, the battle is on.

The battlefield is huge and the dragon has the benefit of flight. With it's movement, legendary attacks, and breath weapon, it presents a difficult challenge. Sai uses a Haste on Laurali, but even with her doubled speed she is hard pressed to catch the dragon. Poor Krote only gets a single attack against it the entire fight, and Joshua and Selendra don't fare much better. Edran struggles to get a sneak attack, but must settle for underwhelming bow shots when the beast isn't chewing on him. Edran is badly wounded, Selendra is knocked out, as is Jef. But Thoradin, Sai, and Laurali, with her lightning blast, begin to pile on the damage. Just as the wurm is considering fleeing from the battle, Sai rushes forward and unleashes another Lightning Bolt. The great beast shrieks in defiance, takes a staggering step toward Sai, and then falls, dead.

And that's where we broke for the night.

It is Harvester 17, roughly 3:00am.

Post games notes: Well, obviously Thoradin had some Hero points left, and as I said before, I allow the expenditure of all remaining Hero Points to stabilize when bleeding out. Given that this was a bit of a ret-con, I decided to first have Thoradin visit Clangeden in the god's realm. This was good because Edran had once visited Clangeden on his own plane and forever after lorded it over Thoradin's head, claiming (falsely) to be an avatar for the dwarf god. This was a constant sore spot for Thoradin, so it was good to finally let him get one up on Edran. Not only did Clangeden allow Thoradin to return to the material plane, he favored his priest with an axe of legendary power. This is the first +3 weapon seen in any of our 5e games, plus it has a few other bells and whistles. So Thoradin was a pretty happy dwarf, despite it costing him his remaining Hero Points.

The dragon fight was tough, but not crazy deadly. He was able to use his flying movement to take advantage of the large battlefield, staying out of melee range for the most part. But even so, the party members that could reach him with magic and missiles managed to put him down.

One huge advantage for the party was the Hero's Feast that Thoradin conjured for them before heading down to the lower level. The Feast negated the dragon's frightening presence, and probably made a huge difference in this battle. It was pure luck that he did that, as I think it's only the second time he's cast that spell. I think, after dealing with a couple of drow in the Temple of the Eye battle, he was worried about poisons. Little did he know that the fear immunity granted by the feast would be so valuable!

I did neglect to use lair actions, which was an unfortunate oversight, and partially due to inadequate prep. But...live and learn.
 

cthulhu42

Visitor
Session 18

We begin the session with the the party recovering from their fight with the dragon. Thoradin begins healing rituals while Edran scours the loot. He soon finds the tooth and picks through the magic to be found via his wand of detect magic.

Thoradin casts a second ritual healing and Sai begins to cast a ritual Tiny Hut. Thoradin has time to finish. Sai does not.

The first thing they notice is a slow moving ooze of lava entering the cavern and spreading. It is slow but sure, and soon enough the entire cave floor will be covered. Soon afterwards, King Snurre makes his apperance, walking without care through the lava, flanked by a pair of fire giants and followed by a fire giant dreadnought. Before them run four hell hounds. Snurre has arrived for his final attempt to slay these interlopers.

Thoradin calls out a warning to them to flee and be happy to retain their worthless lives, but Snurre is caught between the heroes and his drow overlords. For him there will be no retreat.

The hell hounds and the two fire giants charge and the battle is on.

The hell hounds get off one or two good shots, but they are no match for the party. Laurali's lightning strikes and Sai's Ice Storms wipe them out. Krote closes with Snurre as the rest of the party focus on the fire giants and the dreadnought. But backup soon arrives for the giants in the form of fie elite drow warriors. They walk through the lava unhurt and proceed to harrie the party with crossbows and swords. Fortunately for the heroes they are still under the effect of Thoradin's Hero's Feast, making them immune to the drow's poison.

Back and forth the battle rages. At one point Sai Polymorphs one of the firte giants into a turtle. Things are looking good as the second fire giant falls, even though Krote is taking a hell of a beating.

And then Eclavdra arrives. She appears as if from thin air in the chamber, along with another lesser drow priestess. But there is not just one Eclavdra, but rather five of them!

The lesser priestess casts an Insect Plague while Eclavdra hits Sai with a Harm. Eclavdra follows that with a Flame Strike which knocks Sai out.

The polymorphed giant returns to his true form, but is quickly killed.

All through the cavern the battle rages. Thoradin does his best to keep his friends on his feet and he almost loses his own life, falling unconscious in the area of another Insect Plague, but Selendra is there to pour a potion down him.

Laurali swings through the illusionary Eclavdra's, trying to find the right one. Snurre takes Krote down to a single hit point, but the tough barbarian refuses to go down, and between he and Edran they finally slay the mighty fire giant king.

Snurre is dead. His lieutenants are dead. The dreadnought is dead. But the party is barely hanging on even as they finally figure out who is the true Eclavdra. They surround her, but her drow warriors come to her aid. Down goes Edran, then Farrah, then Krote. Eclavdra uses a spell to seemingly teleport away. The remaining drow are severely wounded but they are determined to die for the glory of Lolth and take as many of the surface dwellers with them. They stab down on the unconscious forms of Edran and Farrah, killing both of them outright. Then Laurali is there, her mighty axe swinging. Swiftly she cuts down the last of the drow.

With two of their members dead and Thoradin without even a Revivify to aid them, and the lava still slowly but steadily encroaching, they know they must get out. Sai begins to cast Teleportation Circle while the rest of them gather their dead and scoop as much treasure as they can into their bag of holding.

Feeling the heat of the lava as it oozes toward them, Sai finally completes his spell. With a last look at the last lair of the giants, they step through, teleporting to Maldrave.

It is Harvester 17, 3:30 am


Post Session Notes: Thus ends our run through of Against the Giants. Obviously I cut the final level somewhat short, but I could tell that my group has been suffering a bit of giant fatigue for the past few sessions. It took us eighteen weeks to get through the thing, and frankly, I was getting a little sick of giants as well.

Also, I figured it would be a good time for a final boss fight. Snurre and Eclavdra, finally going head to head against the heroes that had been causing them so much grief. Plus, the party had taken the tooth from it's guardian, and Eclavdra could not have that. I liked the idea of having hert dam up the lava river that runs through the NW section of the lair, effectively flooding the lair. This also put a clock on the last battle, as well as forcing them to use magic to escape. It was only through good fortune that Sai had a single 5th level slot left and a prepared Teleportation Circle available to use. Had that not been the case, or if Sai had been killed, it might very well have been a TPK.

Speaking of good fortune, the fact that Thoradin randomly chose that day's morning to cast Hero's Feast was probably the difference between success and failure. It made them immune to the dragon's fear ability as well as the drow's poison. Had that not been the case things might have gone very differently.

As it was, Edran died and so did Farrah, so it was a decidedly hard fight.

Some thoughts about the module: Overall I enjoyed running this classic, and I think my group dug it too, although we're now all pretty sick to death of giants. Giants are big bags of HP and they pack a hell of a whollop. Their lack of magic was pretty evident though, and the party not having to worry overly much about spell attacks made things a bit easier, if a bit predictable.

If I have any advice for DM's considering running this module it would be this: Ambush, ambush, ambush! Once the giants get wind of the party, have them gather at a good spot with plenty of room to move about, and hit the PC's with serious numbers.

The NPC's in this module can be fairly interesting, and several of them have found their places as semi-permanent members of the party, while others have become hated enemies. The Oni, the Rakshasa, and Obmi are all on the party's hit list.

Last but not least: Grapple! It won't keep a PC from attacking, but I was able to seriously screw up a few PC plans by havingg the giants grapple them. In fact, I probably didn't use it enough myself. In that last battle they could have easily nabbed a PC and tossed him into the lava.

The module suggests that the PC's should level up about three times over the course of this adventure. My group leveled four times (11 to 15). They started out with only four party members to split xp between, but as they progressed and picked up NPC combatants along the way, the xp got a little thinner as it was divided among them all. Definitely give the NPCs an xp cut. If I hadn't done so my group would probably be 16th or even 17th level now.

There's a LOT of magic items in this module and a LOT of monetary treasure. I played it “as is” with only a few exceptions. Personally, I'm not too worried about it, but other DM's might be, so I suggest an in depth read through to really inventory all that lewt.

I'm glad I ran this adventure, and this 5e version was a serviceable one, with a few exceptions (I sure wish they'd have resized it for 5e giants), but most of the problems were easy fixes. You do have to put some thought into it to elevate this from an old school hack n slash grind, but as a setting for your story there are enough interesting NPCs to do that.

One last note, as I mentioned before, I buffed every single creature in this module to max hit points. This absolutely made for a longer experience. I'm guessing we could have run this thing in about 12 to 14 sessions had not the battles been so tough due to very healthy giants that took a long time to put down before they put a serious hurt on the PC's and used up a lot of their resources.

I give Against The Giants three and a half stars.
 

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