Session report - Victory over Orcus, escape from the Abyss?

pemerton

Legend
It's been quite a while since I posted a session update for my 4e campaign. A couple of our players have been buying/selling/renovating houses, which sucks up weekends, and there's been travel and work and other distractions too, so we've had trouble making quorum. And with the campaign at its climax, we've adopted a policy of only playing when all six of us can get together - other sessions we've been playing Burning Wheel.

So anyway, as I posted 5 months ago, the PCs had sealed the Abyss at the 66th layer (the Demonweb Pits), and had teleported through a backdoor to Orcus's throne room on Thantos, taking a detour via the Raven Queen to get a few power ups.

Since then we've played four 4e sessions. It took roughly two sessions to resolve the fight against Orcus, and another two to resolve the escape from his throne room.

With the Raven Queen, I gave the players each a choice of one of three potions - healing, temp hp or regeneration. In the end all chose regen except the demigod, who has an epic destiny feature that gives him regen, and who doesn't get the benefit of temp hp from Cloak of Courage, and who therefore chose temp hp instead. The debates around this didn't make me miss the buff-laden play of past Rolemaster campaigns - I'm glad our campaign hasn't featured many potions or similar buff effects.

The backdoor to the throne room went via a small chapel to Orcus, where they searched the altar and found a Violet Solitairs before going up the stairs into the secret antechamber hidden inside (as it turned out) the stairs up to the gallery in Orcus's throne room. They all chugged their potions, the dwarven fighter forced the door open with his Eternal Defender +10 STR bonus power, and then the battle was on.

The opposition was rather fierce. As well as Orcus himself (33rd level solo, with stats posted on the thread I linked to above), there was:

*Harthoon, the lich castellan of everlost (30th level elite)

*Harthoon's lich underling, a 28th level artillery gloom lich (modelled of the half-even baleful thaumaturge in MM2);

*Another underling, a 28th level death cultist with a Talisman of the Sphere controlling a 29th level Sphere of Annihilation (opp attack on entering a square or being entered, +32 vs Fort for 6d12 and OG 40);

*A marillith (28th level elite);

*A blackheart demon (29th level elite, modelled on a Blackroott Treant from MV, and described as an undead demon somewhat resembling Ometh, the Raven Queen's now-dead servitor);

*Glyphimhor, the Balor governor of Lachrymosa, who was visiting Orcus to discuss what to do about the pending collapse of the Abyss, with its source of matter sealed off (29th level elite, with the Rust-red Geysers of Lachrymosa as a recharging minor action: belches a close blast 3 of foul-smelling vile gunk that creates a zone that last til EotEnc: DT, and any non-demon that ET in the zone tacks 15 acid and poison).​

That's a level 37 encounter for 5 PCs of level 29. They were on full strength, which was generally a good thing except it locked off milestone options for rings, and the paladin's Meliorating Armour was not powered up.

The throne-room itself I designed by combining elements of the old Bloodstone module H4 with the map of the Raven Queen's palace from one of the WotC epic modules. In the four corners were four supporting bone pillars arching up to the roof, which dealt 30 necrotic to enemies coming near them and immobilised. The gloom lich was in a cloud of bone powder standing on defiled ground, giving it a buff on recharge rounds as well as some concealment. And Orcus's mighty throne was on bloodstone, for maximum crittage.

I won't try and give a blow-by-blow of the battle, mostly cause I don't remember it all but also it would be too much typing! It started out with an attempt to focus-fire on Harthoon, who was causing a lot of grief early, but then the targetting got split up as the paladin and invoker found themselves engaged with Orcus while the drow sorcerer tried to deal with the marilith and balor. And the AoEing dwarf fighter was standing in the middle of a field of demons trying to take them all on.

As should be the case in a 4e battle, the PCs came pretty close to being taken down, as Orcus's wand reduced the invoker to 0 hp, and the paladin (? maybe - I remember I tried to get the invoker, for a balrog-vs-Gandalf moment, but I'm not sure I succeeded) was ensnared by the balrog's whip, and the dwarf was immobilised by the tendrils of the blackheart demon. But at the end of the first session it seemed fairly clear that the tide would turn: though every PC (I think) was bloodied, the cleric-ranger had stunned Orcus and was about to unleash a big healing effect. And the invoker was ready to drop his domination onto Orcus. (Using the Eye of Vecna to get a +10 power up to the attack roll.)

Orcus was defeated by the invoker: Compel Obedience (AoE domination) plus Forced Submission (save ends domination) stopped him using his attacks against the PCs, and Eye of the Sun (a high level conjuration daily, in the fiction channelling Pelor's radiant power) finished him off (a kill-steal from the paladin of the Raven Queen).

Once Orcus went down - and his huge aura of auto-damage with him - the mopping up still took quite a while but there was that growing sense of inevitability that 4e players and GMs will be familiar with. Harthoon was taken down, although not before using his Disdain ability to teleport the paladin into immobilisation by one of the bone pillars. The remaining demons were killed, the invoker took control of the Sphere of Annihilation, and in the end the last enemy standing - the gloomlich - was killed by the dwarven fighter, using the reach of his polearm to avoid having to enter the cloud of bonedust.

The third session began with the PCs at 30th level, and with the players debating (mostly in character) what to do next, and how to escape. There was a long discussion about whether and how to destroy the Wand of Orcus. In the end the invoker merged his Eye of the Sun with the Sphere of Annihilation - turning it into a mixture of a black hole and Pelor's sun in Hestavar (it now does 6d12 radiant followed by OG 40) - and ran it over the Wand.

As the PCs (except for the invoker, who was maintaining concentration on his Sphere) took a short rest, the throne room started to collapse. A falling bone pillar caused a rift in the Abyss, all the way down to the bottom, and collapsing of the roof revealed Glyphimhor's Chaos Barge that he had used to travel to Everlost from Lachrymosa.

Out of the rift flew a Gibbering Orb (27th level solo) and a Beholder Eye of Chaos (29th level elite), while lower down in the rift could be seen a great Kraken (29th levle solo), a Dreadnought (28th level solo) and a flight of 6 Zovvuts (27th level skirmishers) - a level 36 encounter.

This fight lacked the desparation and all-out character of the struggle against Orcus, but still had some amusing moments. The fighter got knocked into the rift (I think by the Beholder) and landed on the Dreadnought, which he solo-ed for a few rounds before stepping through the Astral Gate that the invoker/wizard conveniently opened for him. When the drow sorcerer/bard/epic primordial turned into a Huge Primordial he could hear the siren's call of the Heart of the Abyss coming from the rift, but sadly chose to ignore its promise of much power.

Once the PCs had finished off the orbs and the Kraken (which grabbed the barge but wasn't able to seriously damage it) - at which point we also move from the third to the fourth session - the Dreadnought and Zovvuts had made it up to the top of the rift. At which point there was quite a bit of knocking prone, and discussion of falling rates through Abyssal rifts - in the end the PCs boarded the barge and powered up its Anarch Spheres and with a successful skill challenge outran the Dreadnought.

They then travelled upwards through the Abyss for 41 days. The plan was to travel to Mal Arundak, on the 100th layer of the Abyss (the Barrens), because they knew there would be a teleport circle there that they could use to get out of the Abyss (given that it is impassable by ordinary means at the 66th layer). They also thought they might offer to evacuate the angels living there, given that the Abyss now seemed to be collapsing in on itself.

As they approached Mal Arundak they could see that it was no longer under siege from an army of demons. They also "heard" a telepathic communication from a Demon Queen, Oublivae, who offered to trade them two bits of information in exchange for their barge. The premise of her information swap was that all lost things end up in the Abyss, and in particular on her layer, and she could tell them where to find two lost things that they might seek - the city of Intikash (which was the homeland of Malstaph the wizard/invoker when he was in human rather than deva form), and the dead (mortal) body of the Raven Queen.

There was little interest in visiting Intikash from anyone but Malstaph, but after discussion it was agreed that securing the Raven Queen's body might be important. After all, they knew at least one being - a human hermit called Ezra (borrowed by me, back in Heroic Tier, from the LotFP module Death Frost Doom) - who could learn the name and history of a being from touching its dead body. (Oublivae herself was initially also urging the point that the Lattice of Heaven cannot be rebuilt until all broken things have been restored, but that didn't go down so well as a talking point because not even the invoker (who serves Erathis, among others) is that keen on restoring the Lattice of Heaven.)

The PCs were concerned, however, that if they relinquished the barge before travelling to the site then (i) travel might be challenging, and (ii) Oublivae, being a demon queen, might betray them somehow. They also weren't sure why exactly a demon queen would want a chaos barge. The session ended with the negotiations still up in the air.

Our next D&D session is likely to be in mid-October. In the meantime hopefully we will get in a bit more BW, or maybe some MHRP.
 

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MoutonRustique

Explorer
Thank you very much for the report!

Although there are many things of interest, the two that stuck with me were : "And Orcus's mighty throne was on bloodstone, for maximum crittage." and "and discussion of falling rates through Abyssal rifts."

Especially the latter. It's weird what sticks in the mind... But anyway, a great read, thanks! :)
 

Scrivener of Doom

Adventurer
I'm very glad you're posting again! I was looking at the PDF I made of your other session reports a few days ago and wondering when I might be able to add another chapter. Great stuff! :)
 

Awesome stuff, [MENTION=42582]pemerton[/MENTION], as always. Amusing to note, both of our PCs in our respective games topographically altered the Abyss. After defeating Dagon, my players pulled the plug from the Abyssal Sea at the bottom of the Abyss, thus draining it and the River Styx. The Bladesinger then cast a a Raise Land Ritual (10 mile radius mote) on the top layer of the Abyss, and controlled/disrupted its magic with a Hard Arcana DC. The other two PCs had to fight off wave after wave of demons pouring onto them while this was going on so the Ritual wouldn't be disrupted. The idea was to leverage the loss of hydrostatic pressure throughout the Abyssal Layers (and from its bottom) and have the massive mote of land pancake the Abyss, triggering its utter collapse. Yeah. I know. But it was cool.

So...

1) What happens in your game when the Abyss collapses?

2) The only primary antagonist left is Vecna?
 

pemerton

Legend
The idea was to leverage the loss of hydrostatic pressure throughout the Abyssal Layers (and from its bottom) and have the massive mote of land pancake the Abyss, triggering its utter collapse.
Cool. In my case, as per an earlier posting, they leveraged the second law of thermodynamics!

It's like Marvel Universe science.

The only primary antagonist left is Vecna?
And Miska the Wolf-Spider, who is trapped on Carceri. (He was trapped in the Crystal of the Ebon Flame in Mal Arundak, but was released into Carceri when the PCs trapped Ygorl in the crystal instead.)

Because the 7th part of the Rod is embedded in his body, the Rod can't be assembled until he's defeated. This is a point of contention, because assembling the Rod is prophesied to bring on the Dusk War. But the invoker has been tasked since 2nd level to assemble the Rod, by the Raven Queen and Erathis.

The Raven Queen is probably also viewed as an antagonist by one or two PCs (the dwarf and drow)!

What happens in your game when the Abyss collapses?
That particular brand of chaotic evil is removed from the world. So it makes establishing the Lattice of Heaven easier. This is an outcome that most of the PCs seem not to want.

So what we're really heading towards is the question of paradise on (existing) earth, which is what the drow in particular wants, or a Ragnarok-style ending of the current world via the Dusk War and some sort of rebuilding (via the Lattice of Heaven, or something else).

Dunno quite what's going to happen, but I enjoy a good campaign endgame.
 

S'mon

Legend
Cool stuff Mr P - by coincidence Glyphimor also featured IMC recently, where he ambushed the PCs, beat them up and killed one of them - a deus ex invoked from (what's left of) Shar prevented TPK - http://frloudwater.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/session-89-2781484-glyphimors-trap.html

11864855_10207132118410174_1979092333229122787_o.jpg

My Glyphy broke the rules by being a 27th level Solo who does double the damage of a regular Elite Balor; with a Crit in round 1 that was enough to kill a PC straight off.
 

pemerton

Legend
[MENTION=463]S'mon[/MENTION], I like your solo balrog - he also looks good in visuals.

My Glyphimhor had the enhanced crit range ability from the Demonomicon, and from memory I think I did get one crit in, but didn't actually get to drop or kill a PC. I think the only PC who actually went down in the Orcus fight was the invoker, as a result of being hit by Orcus's wand.

My Glyphimhor also wasn't as pretty as yours, being a 3 sq x 3 sq cardboard token with a letter B written on it.
 


S'mon

Legend
[MENTION=463]S'mon[/MENTION], I like your solo balrog - he also looks good in visuals.

My Glyphimhor had the enhanced crit range ability from the Demonomicon, and from memory I think I did get one crit in, but didn't actually get to drop or kill a PC. I think the only PC who actually went down in the Orcus fight was the invoker, as a result of being hit by Orcus's wand.

My Glyphimhor also wasn't as pretty as yours, being a 3 sq x 3 sq cardboard token with a letter B written on it.

I have writer-artist Kimberly Pauley in my group, she takes great photos! :D Also I find 4e works well throwing some cool battlemats & minis into my pack, and a variety of stats* in my folder, even if the actual battle-of-the-session is pretty well improvised/ad hoc like last session's three-way conflict...

11988479_10153548763896698_157039182903005985_n.jpg


I'm lucky in that I have a couple Paizo Large-size Balors I can use for regular Balors, letting me keep the Huge WotC version for Glyphimor. Doubling his hp & damage worked great in an unfair sort of way; my group is Striker heavy but weak on Control so the archer Ranger Lirael & Warlock Dhaunayane were looking for any way to slow G down for even a round. Our Slayer Jareth is tough enough to go toe to toe with G, since Slayers have Fighter resilience, but our melee Ranger Paelias was not...

*Elite & Solo stats, mostly - Minions these days I either improvise entirely, or base off a far-lower-Level standard monster, typically just take a standard monster's special ability.
 

Cool. In my case, as per an earlier posting, they leveraged the second law of thermodynamics!

It's like Marvel Universe science.

Very much so. Pulp science-ey. I mean, we know that each layer of the Abyss is sort of several siloed dimensional spaces and not a building (therefore subject to load dynamics) or composed of continental crust dynamics. But screw it! Marvel Universe science is much more fun.

And Miska the Wolf-Spider, who is trapped on Carceri. (He was trapped in the Crystal of the Ebon Flame in Mal Arundak, but was released into Carceri when the PCs trapped Ygorl in the crystal instead.)

So what we're really heading towards is the question of paradise on (existing) earth, which is what the drow in particular wants, or a Ragnarok-style ending of the current world via the Dusk War and some sort of rebuilding (via the Lattice of Heaven, or something else).

Dunno quite what's going to happen, but I enjoy a good campaign endgame.

Let us hope for the latter. It is many times over more interesting (at least to me)!

+1

Cool stuff Mr P - by coincidence Glyphimor also featured IMC recently, where he ambushed the PCs, beat them up and killed one of them - a deus ex invoked from (what's left of) Shar prevented TPK - http://frloudwater.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/session-89-2781484-glyphimors-trap.html

My Glyphy broke the rules by being a 27th level Solo who does double the damage of a regular Elite Balor; with a Crit in round 1 that was enough to kill a PC straight off.

@S'mon, I like your solo balrog - he also looks good in visuals.

My Glyphimhor had the enhanced crit range ability from the Demonomicon, and from memory I think I did get one crit in, but didn't actually get to drop or kill a PC. I think the only PC who actually went down in the Orcus fight was the invoker, as a result of being hit by Orcus's wand.

My Glyphimhor also wasn't as pretty as yours, being a 3 sq x 3 sq cardboard token with a letter B written on it.

I've always had a secret love affair with cool models and miniatures. I think they're incredible. But its a love affair complicated by my minimalist leanings (in all things but my prose...). I don't like having lots of "stuff"...even if it is nifty stuff. So while I can admire how awesome your balor miniature is (and likely a collection of them), my games inevitably are kindred to pemerton's; "The terrifying specter of the 3 * 3 creature wades into your midst, dominating the battlefield with his square edges, leering at you with the horrific "B" on his torso."
 

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