This post is part of a series that chronicles our current D&D 3.5 campaign.
To say that last Friday’s game wasn’t intense would be a bald faced lie… it just wasn’t intense for the reasons I planned for.
This time around I won’t go into details of our actual story. First because it get so complicated at times that I would need to add 500 words to the post just to explain what transpired.
Second, I realized that some of these have tended to turn into Story hours (i.e. the time it takes to read them, HA HA!) and I’d rather make these into the actual craft of Dming.
I will however, discuss the highlights of the game and what worked and what didn’t, because this was one of the most polarized games we had in a long time. The 1st half was incredible, and the second half collapsed under the weight of a badly planned and delivered scene.
Stef (the 1/2 dragon barbarian player) was missing this week. We also started the game pretty late (6h30 PM) as Math finished a bit later than usual.
We started the game with the PCs coming back from their last adventure in the Norse-inspired world of undying Heroes and heading to their current Headquarters in besieged the City of Ptolus.
There they met a new character, a Cleric of the Ancient Dragon gods. This character, played by Franky’s brother Mike, was the new addition to our group following our decision to add a sixth player as discussed here.
Before the game, when I discussed character choices with Mike, he was more than willing to take on the much needed role of the party’s healer. However, based on PM’s experience in our D&D for Newbie game, Mike told me that he’d prefer to play a healer version that wasn’t overly penalized for healing other players.
Putting on my ‘tweaking classes for cooler characters’ hat, I mashed up a pair of variant rules that Graham and I had discussed at length on Gtalk to make the basic Cleric more fun to play. Here’s what Mike got:
- Take a basic cleric.
- Make all ‘cure X wounds’ spells castable as a swift action, provided the cleric has access to spells at least one level higher than the cure spell in question. (i.e: Cure Light wounds becomes a swift spell when the cleric reaches level 3 and gains level 2 spells and so on).
- Make turn undead deal 1d6 damage per cleric level to all undead within 30′ (Will save for 1/2) (Variant taken from Complete Divine).
Also, I gave Mike’s character a Mithril Breastplate to provide maximum Armor Class without making the character slower (because slow clerics are boring to play).
Anyway, when the new character was introduced, I started the scene by blowing up the top of the Player’s Headquarters (a Tower housing the city’s Celestials)…
As the characters ran outside to see what had caused the blast, I described how a red glow was receding from the top of Ptolus’ thousand feet high Spire and how the top of the Tower had been blasted to bits. The Death-Star-like beam was featured a few more times in the upcoming fight, merrily blasting away at some of Ptolus’ Real Estate.
As hinted in the previous paragraph, Demons were waiting for the people fleeing from the tower.
As a request from one of my players to have a fight with numerous mid-level threats to make for a spicier fight, I set up a fight with 2 Canoloths (Dog demons with a 20′ long paralysis inducing barbed tongue), 2 Mezzoloths (Fighting fiends with some spell-like abilities) and 2 4-armed Arrow Demons (deadly archers).
My choice for these monsters was theme-related (the bad guys in my version Ptolus are Drow and Demons/Yugoloths). I also wanted to design an encounter that featured complementary Monster roles like the Dungeonscape sourcebook describes (and is probably a good glimpse into the encounter design philosophy of 4e).
In that Sense the monsters had the following roles:
- Canoloths: Controllers
- Mezzoloth: Bruisers
- Archer Demons: Artillery
The fight started with the Canoloth and character locking horns, while the Mezzoloths sent a Cloudkill right where the heroes stood (that spell is awesome as it forces Players to adopt different strategies to get out of the cloud ASAP, that thing is Toxic!).
Math’s Arcane Archer (Aravard) got paralyzed, grabbed and bitten in the first round…. which didn’t bode well for him.
At that point, while I knew that the cleric had the means to free Math’s character from a paralysis that would outlast the fight, I proposed to use the 4th edition’s rule that such special conditions allowed a saving throw each round. I decided to go for that so that should the other canoloth get lucky and paralyze another party member, things would remain interesting.
Plus, I didn’t want to overwhelm Mike with too many duties in his 1st high-level D&D 3.5 game (he played a low level game twice so far. We DMs must nurture our newbies if we want to keep ‘em! Don’t worry he get’s his share later).
Bottom line, the Canoloth who captured Math was promptly killed by the Eric’s Crusader. Math’s character saved on his next round, losing only one round to the paralysis.
Math’s night was saved with just the right amount of frustration to spice things up! Yay me!
I’ll let the picture my players took show the early fight in all it’s glory!
From top Left to Bottom right: Aravard the Arcane Archer, Cruguer the Blue-clad Crusader, the Canoloths (Doggies!), Cixi the Iron Hero Archer climbing the building to get out of the Couldkill (Red Sqwire), Arrow Demon on left Roof (Green archer), Mike’s Cleric getting transformed in Swiss Cheese by the Arrow Demon, Inigo Firenze the Swordsage engaging the Mezzoloth, the other Arrow Demon awaiting for a character to emerge from the poisonous fog and the last Mezzoloth getting ready to cast the second Cloudkill.
The fight was a great success, fun-wise. The players had a hard time and generous numbers of Action Points were spent.
Here are the most memorable highlights:
Mike’s cleric was pummeled very badly. So much so that he used his swift healing spells mostly on himself.
At one point, Yan’s character and both Mezzoloths were sitting close to each other. So much so that Yan told Mike to go ahead and cast Flame Strike on everyone, so confident he was that his Swordsage would save and evade the pillar of holy flames.
Well Yan missed his save and went well into mortal negative Hit Points territory … (that when I reminded everyone that we were using a variant Death and Dying rule). Fortunately, Yan’s character managed to make his save and Mike’s cleric promptly used his swift Cure to bring him back to near full Hit point in the same round (that was so cool!).
Math’s Arcane Archer cast a Swift fly spell and grabbed Eric’s Crusader and both landed on the roof of the left building, helping Cixi fight to the very dangerous Arrow Demons.
Cixi got nearly killed by a volley of arrows from the Arrow Demon. She used a full attack and failed to drop the Demon. Then later in the turn, Franky asked me if we could backtrack and let him use an action point to get a bonus attack. I decided to allow it because Cixi would have probably died. He scored a solid hit and the Arrow Demon dropped.
Yeah, I’m a softie, but I think that was a good call.
Finally, near the end of the fight, Eric asks me if he could jump down the building onto a Mezzoloth and attack it. I ruled that he could provided he rolled a jump check to drop on the monster and get the equivalent of a charge bonus. Eric not only managed to ace the jump check, he also rolled a critical hit!
Talk about a Crowning moment of Awesome!
He was so happy that he got up his chair, shouted ‘IN YO FACE’ to us all and promptly mooned us!!!!!!!!!!
No I don’t have a picture of that lying around… and let’s all thank the lord I don’t, the image is so seared in our brain a reminder is not necessary!
The fight thankfully ended, the heroes victorious and the players (and DM) still a bit shaken.
By that time the evening was already passed the 9h00 PM point. It was a long fight but a fast paced one.
So I decided that I would play out the next scene which was mostly a Roleplaying one…
…Which ended up blowing in my face, well in part.
I’ll go into more details in my next post as I got a good reminder that even the tamest groups will rise against railroads when they lead away from what they are willing to accept.