5/16/19 – 1st session
7 players! 3rd level start.
1 sorc, 1 arcane trickster, 1 Battlemaster fighter, 1 Life cleric, 1 Paladin, 1 Barbarian (of some sort that gets +radiant damage), 1 rogue/fighter.
Over half of the character sheets were made at the table, so we lost some time there. The party decided to bash through the front gate, and then split up to engage the two patrols of skeletons. They defeat the skeletons handily, although some take damage. The two roguish types mostly don’t participate, exploring the building nearby.
The group then splits into 3: The sorcerer and the rogue/fighter go check the next center building, while the other two groups check the buildings towards the edge. Both groups decide not
to do anything with the buildings full of bats. The sorc & rogue check the inside of the building, even lighting it up, but fail to spot anything (a DC 15 perception check would have let them look through roof boards to spot the skeletons hiding motionless on top, but they didn’t get it). The 3 sneak-attacking ambusher skeletons jump them as they move towards the right group, doing substantial damage to the fighter/rogue (I think he dropped to 3 in this fight). They run towards the right group, which deals with the skeles. The left group runs to help, but is too far away. They start taking fire from the keep, and everyone abandons the search (missing the building with 2 healing potions and a giant spider).
The group moves up through the keep, easily splattering the two skeletons on the top floor. They pretty easily figure out that the half-skeleton impaled by a spear-sized arrow was put there by a ballista, and some good stealth rolls let them grab the loot from under it. They try to trick the skeletons into firing early, but fail, as the skeletons are ordered to wait for a good target (in their ADA role). The Paladin runs on up to make himself visible, and people stack up in the stairs or hide behind him. The ballista fires and misses by 2, and the skeletons are killed before they can fire again.
The group then checks the basement, where hilarity ensues as nobody can land a single attack roll against the swarm of venomous snakes for about 2 rounds aside from the battlemaster, who plays very conservatively and pours oil on them from the stairs (it gets lit, 10 total damage). The group then takes a long rest, getting to watch a dragon fly overhead, get shot at by ballista bolts, and then get forced down and way off to the side. There are some mutterings about maybe helping it, but I don’t plan for it to show up again…. But they now have evidence of why a strategic aerial assault is a bad idea!
We ran a bit low on time on the next part – I need to review # of encounters and compress a bit to fit everything into a night, as the game ran for 4.5 hrs and I want to keep it at 4. They ascend into the valley, taking the central route. The group splits into three AGAIN, and the ones who lag behind (cautious) get attacked by 4 vampire bats. The bats actually land some decent hits despite being stirges with 8hp each.
They twig on to the skeletal brontosaurus creature I described (no name given, just description). The fighter/rogue sneaks towards it, and makes a perception check to see 3 skeletal velociraptors stalking him. He runs back to the group, and the raptors are killed quickly. The group then decides that they have a one-in-one-hundred year shot at killing a gargantuan creature, so they take a quick break while I find a stat block for one. I use a brachiosaurus block I found online, but remove the natural armor and increase dex by 2 (AC still only 9). They kill it with the barbarian tanking damage…action economy is against it.
After this, they go and encounter the boss. I bump boss hp by 50% on the fly, and add a skeletal mage (with +50% Hp) and a regular skeleton. The Javelin of Lightning knocks the cleric to 0 and gets their attention! The skeleton mage goes down first, then the regular skeleton, then the horse, then the boss. Because I’m using the horse’s mobility, there’s a lot of running around chasing it and trying to reposition. The fighter/rogue likes to sneak, then use his whip at 10’ range to proc sneak attack. The Battlemaster (a halfling) uses a lot of time sneaking around on the open field and generally not being useful. The sorc pretty much just used chaos bolt, magic missile, and fire bolt.
At no time in the entire session did any of the monsters have to make a saving throw of any time. There was zero crowd control usage.
I skip the very last encounter (6 disembodied horse heads in the stables) and identify the loot for them.
6/13/19 2nd session
- I have a party that wants to smash down doors, kill big monsters, and ignore warnings. Plan accordingly.
- Big damage gets their attention. Spell/AOE damage is the only thing that reliably hits. Give multiattack out more freely.
- I need to prep spell descriptions for spellcasters instead of having to look them up.
- Instead of one large enemy, use 3 medium enemies, or have a “mate” or something around.
- I need to use some crowd control to help them learn to use it.
First half of forest of monsters
I handwave the team cutting through the razorvine hedge because there’s no time crunch and they can Fire Bolt at will and have plenty of cutting implements. They deal with a horde (13) of zombies pretty easily, although Dmitri the Barbarian takes several hits thanks to his reckless fighting style. Tib the Paladin rolls several 1s and doesn’t do much damage. Adrian the Sorcerer spends his spell slots pretty freely. It takes most of the party 2 or 3 rounds to figure out that every time someone stands still, a zombie hand reaches out of the ground and prevents him or her from moving (AC 9, 4hp, or STR DC 10 to shake free). Some fun is had after the battle with zombie hands as back-scratchers, projectiles, etc.
The group approaches the cross-covered mausoleum with four gargoyle-like statues (yes, they are) on top. Two people plink at them once each, but neither attack hits, so they don’t do anything more. Adrian the Fighter/Rogue climbs up to the top and starts poking at one. He hears a noise behind him, but when he looks, nothing’s moving…but one of the other gargoyles is in a slightly different position than before. I guess most of the people at the table have seen Dr. Who (I haven’t) and associate this with the Weeping Angels. It worked well.
Dmitri the barbarian climbs up, and right as he reaches the top, Corwin the arcane trickster says “I open the door.” The gargoyles animate. The two in the back corners leap overhead and land next to Corwin, but don’t do much damage. He ducks inside. While most of the group deal with the other 3 gargoyles (slowly… Ratel the Battlemaster spends his time throwing daggers for 1d4+3 damage instead of using a melee weapon, while Adrian the sorcerer spends pretty much all of his spell slots), Adrian the Fighter/Rogue engages in a duel with the gargoyle he was next to. He decides to tackle it and push it off the mausoleum, and wins the strength check, then he keeps trading blows with it. Several times, he decides to punch it with his off hand attack (2 damage, reduced 1) instead of stabbing it…for reasons of cool.
The rest of the group ends up holding their attacks “Until he’s almost dead” while he continues to fight it. Once he’s dropped to 7hp, they step in and kill it. Corwin, meantime, has spent this time alone inside the mausoleum (a safe resting place). I then use the 3x5 card he dropped off while walking past me in the middle of the fight.
Stop investigating the room and set up a scene of being sacrificed. When aprty opens door, minor illusion of a demon standing over me. “You see a large red winged demon standing over the unmoving body of Corwin, his bloody hand holding Corwin’s heart. He looks up at you with red feral eyes and howls.
There were some pretty dumbfounded expressions from the party members, who had just finished blowing all their spell slots on the gargoyles. Dmitri rages and charges in, and then Corwin’s player says “I cancel the illusion and stand up cackling.” Dmitri: My hammer’s still swinging. “I stand up and move away while laughing.”
The group investigates, but doesn’t do anything with the big polished silver mirrors. They do find some potions (climbing, healing x 2, holy water x2). So far nobody has used a single consumable the entire game. One of the characters started messing with one of the crosses mounted on the wall, but stopped when the Zealot Barbarian and the Paladin both pulled out their holy symbols (crosses, we are in ~14th century Europe). I rolled a d20 and got a 20, so when he woke up the next morning, he decided to check it again, and found that it was concealing a silver longsword. The barbarian’s character uses Rage-generated advantage to win an arm wrestling contest for the longsword, and gives Adrian the fighter/rogue the Javelin of Lightning instead.
They approach the edge of the graveyard, and a couple of people quickly twig on when I describe the bone pillars, a staple Castlevania foe. “You might want to get ready to duck.” The first one rolls poorly on initiative and doesn’t get to go, but the second one lights up Dmitri for 22 points of fire damage in a single round.
The group continues onwards, running into a bunch of spider webs high in the trees. They spot them from far away, and light the webs on fire. The spiders pretty much die (I don’t roll much for this- 12hp spiders falling 40’ from flaming webs just die), and the group ends up lighting several trees on fire.
This definitely qualified for one of my pre-determined triggers, so a few minutes later they see the werewolves approaching (at least one party member figured out that werewolves would be around). I had two shamans (cast as level 5 druid but with fewer slots) and 4 regular wolves, but with adjusted damage resistance vs. the MM.
Adrian the fighter-rogue sees them first and climbs a tree. He spends a couple of round sniping early in the battle before throwing the Javelin of Lightning at one, then jumping down onto it and trying to stab it. He’s marginally effective but definitely cinematic. The wolves bite Tib (the paladin) and Dmitri (the barbarian). Two wolves go down, and Tib is reduced to 0 by a combination of Heat Metal on his silver lance and some hits. Dmitri got hit by Hold Person but broke free, and then he got Slowed later. A couple of the party members also got Entangled. Despite all the crowd control, the team was winning, and so one of the shamans makes her speech, offering them a deal: She won’t activate the curse of werewolf transformation on the two people who are bit, if they agree to let the juvenile wolves hunt and harry them all the way to the snake-headed witch’s domain (I am not sure if anyone noticed that bit). After a bit of discussion, the group and wolves agree instead on them challenging the pack alpha (or the one who’s filling that role now) to a fair fight in exchange for being able to move on un-attacked.
That’s where we left off. I’m going to run a simulation with dice rolls to see if the Pack Lord has a chance of taking on 3 PCs at a time, or if he’ll just limit it to two enemies. The group will be going in with some resources expended (spell slots, smites, 2/3 barbarian rages gone, etc.).
[Note: I did this and showed the two PCs winning with less than 7hp left]
7/11/19: 3rd session
Forest of Monsters, Part II
We start off with the duel against the pack lord.
(“Svalbard” Werewolf, Pack Lord CR 8 (equipped)
Size Medium (but Powerful Build)
AC 18 (Breastplate + dex 2 + shield 2)
STR 20 (+5) DEX 15 (+2) CON 18(+4) INT 13(+1) WIS 12 (+1) CHA 14 (+2)
Saves: Cha +5, Con +7
Skills: Perception +6, advantage on smell & hearing checks
Damage resistance: Non-magical weapons that aren’t silvered
2 axe attacks + bite
Returning Greataxe +8/+8 to hit, 1d12+5 damage plus
Bite: +8 to hit, 1d8+5 damage; If claws hit, advantage on bite attack roll; curse or
Ranged Returning weapon +8 (disadvantage beyond 30’, max range 60’) for same damage. Functions 1/round
Advantage when rolling against grappling, shoving, etc.; Able to wield a heavy weapon in one hand
Returning Greataxe: functions as base weapon, but is magical; can be thrown and returns once per round. Also allows bearer to always know which way is north.
Breastplate of Fire Resistance.)
I gave the party some time to figure out if they wanted to switch gear around or do anything else as they travel through the woods, and they did not (they later realized that they could have tried to sneak in a casting of Bless, or moved healing potions around). The paladin also blew half of his Lay on Hands topping up Dmitri instead of having the cleric spend a spell slot.
Deep voice, broad open stance. “I shall show these young ones what a true battle is like – not some capped-claw spar!”
You see a big werewolf, probably close to seven feet tall. His shoulders are broad and well-muscled, and his grey-tinged brown fur carries several white streaks marking old scars, including one that crosses his left eye, which seems to have a permanent squint. He carries a greataxe in one hand and a shield in the other, and is also wearing an orange-tinted breastplate. “If I triumph, you will see how to fight against greater numbers instead of as the hunters. If I fall, you will see how others may hunt you, and learn in turn that you might live and grow stronger.”
The rest of the party takes seats along one edge of the arena, while Tib (HOrc Paladin) and Dmitri (Dwarf Zealot Barbarian) enter the arena and introduce themselves. Svalbard’s initial axe throw catches them by surprise, as they’re just
out of range after their first moves. He gets one more throw in before they close to melee. The combatants also figure out that the silver weapons they are using are “just” normal damage (weaker werewolves). Svalbard taunts them some and calls out instructional moments to the werewolf juveniles watching:
“Always prepare at least one surprise.”
“A true warrior uses not only his muscle, but his speed and his mind. Watch as they try to flank me, and as I in turn try to outmaneuver-them.”
“Find the weakest enemy; single him out and kill him first!”
“See, he moves to protect the weaker one and distract me. They fight not as individuals, but as part of a pack.”
There’s some moving around and attacks of opportunity on both sides. Tib’s weapon is a
Dmitri gets dropped to 0 despite his resistance. Tib moves in and heals him, and the damage mounts on both sides. Dmitri gets dropped again (having started the fight with only one Rage). Svalbard has 10 hit points left and plays cautious, moving back and throwing his axe. He drops Tib to -4, but then another player remembers that Tib is a Half Orc and can instead be dropped to just 1. Tib gets to go, then Svalbard goes again and would likely kill him with his 3-attack routine. I point out to the party that “If you’re going to cheat, now’s the time.” They don’t seem to figure out a way to do so, and Tib moves forwards to attack… he hits, and does exactly 11 damage, defeating Svalbard.
At the end of the combat, there is exactly 1 hit point left on the field between three combatants.
The group loots the body and moves away from the village to rest. The dice are kind and they are undisturbed. During discussion of “who gets the Breastplate of Fire Resistance,” we determine that:
-Tib is wearing full plate armor despite it not being in his starting gear, and his AC should have been two points lower.
-Tib had Great Weapon Master and could have re-rolled at least 3 “1 or 2” rolls with his 1d12 lance during the duel.
Fixed. Tib’s player doesn’t keep track of the details very well.
The group then moves on and fights a pair of Shambling Mounds. Corwyn (Arcane Trickster) gets critted in the first round and dropped to 0, but Ratel drags him away for safe healing. The mounds go down (I think I dropped their HP by 15 because it was getting boring).
The group then comes to a stream, but I have it mapped out so they get super cautious (except for Adrian the rogue, who washes his head in it). Anyway, they end up not fighting the Black Pudding.
A little ways further on, they fight a trio of leaf ambushers (stats above), who move around a lot during combat. Their damage and AC is anemic, so it’s a nice easy fight. After the Shamblers, I think everyone enjoys having something that takes bonus damage from fire and resists only piercing damage. They are at least sneaky, so they get to go first.
After that, they approach the lair of Crotalisa, the medusa. They do some history checks and figure some things out, and I probably should have planned for that in advance. It’s a big set of ruins with walls of varying heights. They advance very carefully, eyes down, and end up successfully finding and killing a swarm of snakes – a big change from session 1! I have some rattlesnake rattle sound effects pulled up on my phone, and cue them whenever the snakes move or when Crotalisa taunts them. Some of them think that it means there’s another big rattler somewhere out there….
Adrian the rogue splits off to one side and spots a very large snake (constrictor). He moves away from it, then Medusa climbs up the wall behind him and hits him with two arrows for near-maximum damage.
Off to one side, Ratel the halfling Battlemaster who’s super cautious ends up constricted by the snake and slowly works to kill it, while Corwyn the Arcane Trickster helps.
The remaining players move down a hallway towards the Medusa and Adrian the rogue, finding another swarm of snakes in the process. The cleric drops Bless on the barbarian, the paladin, and the sorcerer. Adrian the rogue runs away. Medusa moves in close to melee with Dmitri the barbarian, who hasn’t raged yet. Sword hit, sword hit, and snake bites deal over half his max HP in one round. He then critically hits her for 60 points of damage while looking. A few other people move up, I don’t remember the details, and then Dmitri fails his next CON save and is restrained. There’s some discussion that characters may indeed not survive.
Earlier, the sorcerer had used Prestidigitation or something to conjure up a small mirror that he was carrying around, facing out. Medusa saw it and was slowed, so she backed off some. Dmitri passes his 2nd save, but Tib the barbarian fails his first one after looking at her so he could attack/smite.
They end up killing Medusa, and then Tib fails his 2nd save and is turned to stone despite Bless. The other snakes are dealt with, and the one potion of Remove Curse is used to de-stone Tib.
Medusa is looted (Short sword +1 to rogue, Stone of Good Luck to barbarian, 2 scrolls of Sleep that I forgot about to the sorc, ring of swimming to I don’t remember who). Adrian the rogue cuts off Medusa’s head and wraps it in some cloth before putting it in his pack. I’m not sure what to do with that yet.
The group levels up!
Next time: The cave, and dealing with the tremendous level 5 power spike. Extra attacks, fireball, and bigger cantrip damage.