The PCs defeat Calastryx (and get up to some other hijinks)


I've recently run a fairly big combat (or series of combats) in my game, which I thought I would post about.

The PCs are 15th level. They had just returned from a wizard's tower on the Elemental Chaos (where they had fought three combats of 17th, 14th and 18th level, and had used up a good chunk of their dailies but still had some action points). Their return was via a teleportation circle that took them back to an earthly tower - the Bloodtower from Open Grave (which they had explored and cleared in an earlier adventure).

They had brought a large number of books back with them, and decided that the only way to get those books back to town was with a wagon. So the drow sorcerer-Demonskin Adept got onto the PCs' newly-acquired flying carpet, and headed off to town (a 2 hour trip by flight). His plan was to fly back to town, have a rest - because it was currently the middle of the night - arrange a cart and then come back to collect the books.

As he was flying away from the Bloodtower, though, he noticed signals being sent to him (via lanterns being shaded/revealed) from the foothills around the tower. Now both the player and the PC knew that the wizard whose other-planar tower they had raided, and whose carept he was now flying upon, had been a leader of the hobgoblin armies that roamed through the hills. So he (correctly) inferred that the signals were from hobgoblins who assumed him to be the wizard, flying back to town on his carpet.

The drow did not understand the signals, and in any event had no light source of his own to use to try and send a response, so he just kept going. But the suspicious hobgoblins sent up a flight of wyvern riders to check him out (I statted these as one real wyvern and one real hobgoblin, levelled up to 12th from the revised MM wyvern and from a hobgoblin leader in MV2, and as two 15th lvl minions which were wyverns-with-riders). The wyvern's, with their fly speeds of 8, were clearly closing on the carpet with its fly speed of 6, and the drow decided he would be better off trying to turn around and return to the rest of the party at the Bloodtower, rather than get chased down before he could make it to town. (In mechanical terms, I offered him two options: a 6/3 skill challenge to make it to town before the wyverns caught up, or a 4/3 skil challenge to make it back to the tower.)

The skill challenge was fairly quick and quite a bit of fun. The player tried the standard sort of stuff you would expect: Acrobatics for clever manouevring, Stealth to try and remain hidden from them after his clever manoeuvre, etc. But his rolling was poor (I remember multiple 3s and maybe a 1 as well). While on the Elemental Chaos he had managed to bottle some pure elemental fire, and as a final attempt to get away from the wyvern riders he pulled that out, used his paragon path feature to change his resistance to fire resistance, and then tried to absorb the chaotic energy of the fire to enhance the speed of his carpet. The Arcana check was another failure, however, and the elemental fire escaped (causing damage to him but as best I can recall not to any of his pursuers) and his carpet crashed to the ground (this was the 3rd failure of the challenge, and he had achieved only 1 success).

The other PCs had, in the meantime, noticed the aerial combat - they saw the explosion of flame, and there had also been a Blazing Starfall used by the sorcerer earlier on - and were gathered around the base of the Bloodtower (where the books were stacked on a canvas sheet) watching.

I rolled a % die to see how far short of the tower the carpet crashed - it came up at something around 50 squares. The other PCs delayed until the wizard could act - he double-ran (14 squares, because he has Boots of Striding) and then opened an Arcane Gate at the base of the tower, and 20 squares towards the scene of the carpet crash. (Arcane Gate continues to be on the MVP of wizard utilities.) The PC fighter and ranger went through the gate and joined the sorcerer in fighting the wyverns. Meanwhile, the PC tiefling paladin - before he could run though also - heard a clanking sound coming from the foothills near the tower and saw a phalanx of hobgoblin soldiers quick-marching down the hillside towards him. So he decided to cast Bless Weapon and stay put to defend the tower, the books and the party's rear.

The paladin pushed back the phalanx - which I had statted up as a Huge 13th level swarm - with the Strength of Ten (from his Questing Knight paragon path), but they surged back and surrounded him (using their swarm ability to enter enemy's spaces). And he also found himself under fire from hobgoblin archers hiding in the rocky ground at the base of the hills (8 14th lvl minions).

But even as the hobgoblins pressed their attack, the sorcerer and fighter were dealing with the wyverns and riders pretty handily, and the ranger was able to turn his attention back toward the Bloodtower. He used his Fiery Burst Greatbow to set one corner of the phalanx on fire. The paladin was also caught in the blast, but was able to ignore the fire damage (due to being a tiefling). But he took advantage of the fact that he was on fire to try and set more hobgoblins alight as he attacked with his sword from the middle of the phalanx. (I adjudicated this as him granting combat advantage as he attacked with wild abandon, and being able to make a skill check - maybe Intimidate? - to deal additional fire damage.)

The tide began to turn against the hobgoblins, especially as the sorcerer was able to come back through the Gate to start blasting with more fire (Flame Spiral, I think) and the ranger was continuing to rain arrows upon them. Then the PCs heard a command grunted in Goblin, and then the clank of chains falling to the ground, and saw that hobgoblins still in the hills had released their chimera (15th level, from the MM but with damage updated by me to MM3 standards).

After another round or two the phalanx was defeated and all the PCs had made it back to the base of the tower (there was a bit of confusion for a round as the drow was parked at the tower end of the Arcane Gate surrounded in darkness). I then put down a d6 next to the chimera, set to 3, and announced the start of a countdown. At the same time I indicated that the PCs could see a red speck, glowing like a cinder, in the distance above the hills, but rapidly getting closer. Before travelling to the Elemental Chaos they had already seen evidence that a firedrake had visited the Bloodtower, and so the players worked out what they could see - and the meaning of the countdown - without much trouble.

In the last round of the countdown, I gave the players the option of spending their PCs' standard action to either regain 2 encounter powers, or to spend 2 healing surges. All took up the opportunity to regain encounter powers rather than attack, except (as best I can recall) the paladin, who kept up the fight against the chimera. As a result, the chimera was still alive when Calastryx landed and breathed on the PCs. The players got quite a shock when I showed them the picture of a 3-headed dragon - and from the fact that (as they could see from the relevant page of the MV2) that it was a named dragon made them understandably anxious.

It only took 1 more round for the PCs to drop the chimera, but the fight against Calastryx took several rounds (4, from memory). Her breath didn't play as strongly as it might have, because in the fairly open terrain the PCs were spread out making targetting tricky - and two of the PCs (the chaos sorcerer and the tiefling paladin) had fire resistance. But Rip and Tear (bite attack with reach 3 against up to 3 targets) was a winner!

The players had been hoping that, once they bloodied her, they might kill a head or two, and got a big shock when another head grew - giving her another breath and another Rip and Tear.

Calastryx's dowfall was the PC fighter. He managed to lock her down with OAs and his feat that lets him immobilise a target that he hits with his polearm. The wizard also put a Wall of Fire on top of her (after stripping her fire resistance with his Divine Philosopher encounter power) so that she wouldn't have enough movement to fly off.

She broke out of this trap by using her bite to toss the fighter two squares away (push 3 on a hit, minus 1 square for being a dwarf), and was able to break away into the air and start roasting and chewing on the sorcerer, ranger and wizard. But the wizard was able to have his dragonling familiar breathe a Thunderwave onto her, pushing her back to the ground. And the fighter (14 squares away) was then able to double move and charge, hitting her and locking her down once again.

Things were getting a bit dicey for the PCs as far as healing was concerned - the sorcerer and ranger were both out of surges, and the dwarf started the fight with Calastyrx having only two left. But clever management of their healing resources saw them through - the dwarf second-winded (with his Cloak of the Walking Wounded), opted to use his remaining daily item power for his dwarven armour rather than his symbol of shared healing (he is a Warpriest of Moradin), while using his Healing Word to keep the paladin up. The ranger (who is also a hybrid cleric), meanwhile, used his Healing Word to revive the wizard (who had been chewed into unconsciousness) which was crucial for the subsequent Thunderwave manoeuvre.

So in the end the PCs hung on, and Calastryx was defeated. There was a brief attempt at negotiation - initiated by her, and followed through on (although ineffectually - a very poor Bluff check) by the drow - but the other PCs were determined to keep going. As the player of the fighter put it, "This 3 headed monstrosity is going down!"

After the combat finished, the PCs took a short rest. The paladin used his last Lay on Hands to help the drow, and the drow also used a surgeless healing item that the party has (if you lie down and place the Healing Star of Pelor upon your chest for the duration of a short rest, you regain hp as if you had spent a surge) - the encounter was a milestone, and so he had regained a daily item use to let him use the star. This took the drow close to full hp. The wizard and paladin both had enough surges to heal to full, and have (I think) 1 and 2 left respectively. The fighter I can't remember, but I think is unbloodied but with no surges left. The ranger, on the other hand, has 13 hp and no surges.

The fighter and paladin then went back into the Bloodtower to bring down the last of the books. Meanwhile, the two arcanists and the ranger remained at the base of the tower. The sorcerer did some sort of awareness check (I can't remember exactly what) and I told him that he could feel chaos energies in the area, coming out of the Bloodtower (leaking through the teleportation portal) and also leeching out of the dead body of the dragon. The PCs decided to try and harness this energy, and channel into an item so as to enchant it. There was then some discussion about what items they might try for, and how they might go about it. I had brought my recently acquired copy of Heroes of the Elemental Chaos to the session, and showed the player of the sorcerer the Gift of Flame alternative reward. He liked the look of it, and without consulting the other players had his PC leap up onto Calastryx's body and cast a Cyclonic Vortex (? 13th level sorcerer encounter power) to summon the chaotic energies to him.

The two other PCs - the wizard and the ranger - just looked on with shock and a degree of dismay, as he had done something similar earlier that day on the Elemental Chaos which had caused a bit of mayhem, and the player weren't very surprised when I mentioned they could see something flying from the hills towards them. At first they looked like bats, but as they got closer it was clear they were too big to be bats - they were actually 4 mooncalves (3 large, 1 huge - the large stepped up from 10th level in MV2 to 14th, and the Huge unchanged from its MV2 stats).

The PCs had plenty of time to position themselves, and the ranger took cover behind some rocks while the wizard got read to Magic Missile them at range as the sorcerer continued to try and control the chaotic energies. (In the circumstances, his Cyclonic Vortex has become a zone dealing 10 damage plus 10 fire damage to any other creature that enters it - sustain move, but if he spends a standard action then he also has to make an Arcana check - what happens if the Arcana check fails isn't entirely clear, as he hasn't failed one yet!) Only the wizard knows Deep Speech, so only he can understand the telepathic ravings of the mooncalves, as they signal their irritation at being robbed of a chimera to hunt, and their desire to use the focused chaotic energies to open a doorway to the Far Realm to permit more mooncalves through.

When the session ended, the PCs had brought down one mooncalf using ranged spells and archery, but the wizard had been grabbed by another one, while a third had attacked the ranger but been driven off by a Disruptive Shot. (The sorcerer had also rolled two 1s, and in addition to the normal consequences for a Chaos Sorcerer, I had him roll on the Gift of Chaos chart from Heroes of the Elemental Chaos to add some extra randomness into the situation.) The huge mooncalf hadn't yet attacked, as it had been kept at range by being slowed after being hit by Twist of Space. And the PCs are hoping that the two defenders will hear the sounds of battle, and also their cries for assistance, and come down from the Bloodtower to help them.

Anway, fairly combat-centric stuff but quite a bit of fun! The mooncalves are a bit of an added extra on top of what I had planned, but I was reminded of them when flipping through the MV2 to get Calastyrx's stats, and the player of the sorcerer was just asking for trouble, doing what he did. So I thought I would give him some.

(Also - [MENTION=6668292]JamesonCourage[/MENTION] - I told youa few weeks ago that I would let you know what happened in the "waves of attacks with minions and others" combat that I was planning to run).

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This sounds quite awesome, and showcases the versatility and power of paragon level characters.

Well done with the challenges there. I like the creative use of powers for things other than combat.


Pretty cool stuff. Thanks for mentioning me, I enjoyed reading it
This sounds quite awesome, and showcases the versatility and power of paragon level characters.
Thanks both.

Well done with the challenges there. I like the creative use of powers for things other than combat.
The player of the sorcerer in particular is into using his powers to do all sorts of non-combat stuff. Including a recent fixation on trying to make magic items out of chaos energy.

When the PCs were in the tower on the Elemental Chaos, at one point the drow tried to force chaotic energy into a gem, to create a Polyglot gem of speaking Primoridal. In the course of the attempt, as the power threatened to overwhelm him, he used Slaad's Gambit (a reactive psychic attack) to try and take mental control of the chaos. And succeeded, but Slaad's Gambit also has a teleport effect, and he found himself teleport to the hidden room within the tower - which then led to a hunt for him by the other PCs, even as he searched the hidden room and found the lich's physlactery, protected by a Symbol of Death. . .

He's a good player to GM, always pushing things along, and I'm still enjoying 4e as a robust and flexible system for adjudicating this sort of stuff. (For example, I don't need detailed rules for what a chaos sorcerer can or can't do with bottled elemental fire - when it comes up I can just use the DC and damage charts and run with it!)
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So the moral of the story is... there's always a bigger dragon-mooncalf-fish??
I guess so!

In the ill-fated negotiations with Calastryx, she stated that the PCs had already killed two of her children - the players had already speculated that the chimera might be her offspring, and one of them quickly worked out that a hydra they had fought earlier in the campaign, while making their way through the same hills/mountains, was probably the other one. So the PCs are gradually working their way up the family tree.

I was hoping that the PCs and Calastryx might reach some sort of alliance - based on a balance of terror around the closeness of the combat outcome for both sides - so that a bit more of the backstory I had worked out for Calastryx could emerge. Things turned out a bit more combatty then I had envisaged. (Though in the case of the mooncalves, combat is all I had in mind - the real stakes there are whether or not the sorcerer can keep his crazy vortex going whilst contributing much-needed firepower, or will the whole thing go haywire!)

But besides mentioning her children, when Calasytryx spoke she also indicated that she was looking for Osterneath, an NPC that the PCs are also looking for (on a mission from Kas), and that is probably enough to try and hang some future reveals/complications on.

Where do you live? Can I join your group? Seriously.

I hear paragon gaming is hard. They took on Calastryx when they wanted to rest and still came out ahead. :)


Knight of Solamnia
Not to go on a tangent... (Oh, who am I kidding?)

Mike Mearls confirmed that the name Calastryx was inspired by Dragonlance's own Malystryx. :cool:

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