The Raining City, Strasa

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As far as swapping DMs goes, it's totally fine by me.  Strasa, even though I've put a lot of work into it, really isn't "my" creation, after all.  I'm running a game in the city, but it's very much a communal creation, and that's what I love about it.  The Raining City is a collection of a lot of good ideas from a dozen or so really talented posters, and the way I see it, having Akkarin's player DM can only enhance it further.  And in any event, I've intentionally been really, really vague about the rest of my campaign world outside Strasa; my players know that the area surrounding the city is a vast marshland full of bullywugs, lizardmen, goblins, etc.  They know very little else.  I've mentioned some minor areas in the world like "Northbridge" (a border town up north, where Mal hid out after framing Phaedra for murder), but I haven't said anything at all about it.  Even though another DM may very well keep the action centered around the Raining City (and I hope he does), I've left the world completely open so that another DM isn't restrained creatively.  It's very much a blank slate, and I'd like to keep it that way.

Also, I'm not expecting to be able to play at any point, but it doesn't hurt to be prepared, just in case.  I'm constantly writing up characters anyway, and some of them really interest me.  I flesh them out because that feels like the natural thing to do, and before I know it, I've got myself a character I'd really like to play.

At this point, honestly, all my time is being poured into Vhauglohrl; I want to make that encounter as epic, dynamic, and exciting as possible for everyone involved.  Because Solo encounters tend to be, well ... boring HP grinds, to be honest, I've decided to use some variant rules for Solo encounters.  There are "Worldbreaker" Solos over on the At-Will Blog, as well as a completely new "Boss Fight" rules over at the Angry DM blog.  Both of these new rule sets have their own Pros and Cons, and I've decided to use a combination of the two with Vhaug.  I'm very near to being completed with a basic version of the creature and the fight, which I'll obviously want to present to you guys.  I think it'll be a lot of fun.  The only issue is that I essentially have to build this multi-phased creature / encounter from the ground up.

I'll keep you updated on my progress.

Okay guys, I'd really like your opinions on this.  I've been working pretty hard on the Vhauglohrl encounter, using several variant rule-sets that I found on the Angry DM and At-Will blogs that were designed to make Solo encounters more dynamic and exciting.  Both variants have their ups and downs, so I decided to use a combination of the two.  Essentially, I've split the Dragon up from a single 225 HP monster into three monsters with 75 HP each.  The players will fight Vhauglohrl in a series of consecutive phases (once Vhauglohrl, Mother-In-The-Swamp is defeated, she's replaced by Vhauglohrl, Queen-Of-Crows, who's then replaced by Vhauglohrl, "Name Coming Soon" at the end). 

Each monster is essentially a unique creature with only a few traits and abilities in common.  For example, in the beginning, Vhaug is at the height of her arrogance, and she's essentially an airborne skirmisher; when phase 2 hits, I'll reduce her flight mobility to clumsy to represent that she's taken damage to her wings, and she'll gain a new set of ground-based moves with a fewer flight options; during the final phase of the fight, Vhaug essentially becomes a brute, and her attacks get super-aggressive -- lots of push and prone effects, additional damage at the cost of lower defenses, etc.

Each creature has a transition ability that allows them to break away from the "gank n' spank" (or "surround n' pound", or whatever other people call it) that usually happens to Solos in 4th edition.  Essentially, when they're reduced to 0 HP or fewer, they escape from the pack and transition to the next phase from a more powerful position.

Worldbreaker abilities come from the At-Will blog, and I'm pretty excited to see how they work in practice.  Worldbreaker abilities enable the creature to create some massive encounter-changing event, and players have to respond by using skills or abilities appropriately.  Examples from the creator include a White Dragon that's able to summon up a howling snow storm (not so different from what I've done with Vhaug, to be honest), and a Gorgon that can splinter the earth and create huge stretches of difficult terrain while showering its enemies with chunks of rock.  While these Worldbreaker core abilities are active, the creature gains a suite of new attack powers that can only be used while its corresponding Worldbreaker ability is in effect.  Vhaug can exhale a billowing cloud of noxious fumes that covers the battlefield, for example, and while that's happening, she's able to stealthily stalk her foes or call upon the Crow Eater Tribe for assistance.

I think they're neat abilities, but I need to know what you guys think.

I've used the modified attack and damage values from the Monster Math Cruncher, so I'm pretty certain the values I have in place there are solid.  I removed a couple of the standard Black Dragon abilities, and added several, which is really where I'd like some input.  I took out Cloud of Darkness, for example, because I find it a little complicated to use, and in practice, all that happens is the Dragon sits in the cloud with impunity while it recharges its most powerful attacks, then jumps out.  I just don't like it, so I replaced it with a minor action attack (usable only once per round) called Eye of Shadow, which targets Will and temporarily blinds the target.  I figure that's a good middle-ground, but if it's not, I'm open to suggestions.

Of course, I added in the standard suite of "Solo Boosting" traits, like Draconic Alacrity and Resilience, which help make up for the action disadvantage that Solos face, as well as their lockdown vulnerability.

I'm still working on Phases 2 and 3, but I'm prepared to show you guys Phase 1 at this point.  Please, let me know what you think.

For reference: (M) is a Melee attack; (MB) is a Melee Basic attack; (R) is a Ranged attack; (RB) is a Ranged Basic attack; (C) is a Close attack; and ... I think that's it?

Vhauglohrl, Mother-In-The-Swamp
Level 4 Solo Skirmisher
Large Natural Magical Beast (Aquatic, Dragon, Worldbreaker)

75; Bloodied: Special
+9; see also Draconic Alacrity
Senses: Perception +9; Darkvision
Armour Class: 20, Fortitude: 18, Reflex: 18, Will: 18
Resist: 15 Acid
Speed: 7, Fly 7, Overland Flight 10, Swim 7
Action Points: 1

Draconic Alacrity:
Vhauglohrl, Mother-In-The-Swamp makes two initiative checks at the beginning of combat, and takes a full turn on each initiative result.  She may take one immediate action between the end of each turn and the beginning of the next.

Draconic Resilience:
Vhauglohrl, Mother-In-The-Swamp is entitled to a saving throw, at the end of each of her turns, against any effect or condition that causes her to become Dazed, Dominated, or Stunned.  She is entitled to this even if the effect or condition does not normally allow a save.  A successful save ends the effect or condition immediately.

Standard Actions:
(MB) Bite (Standard; At-Will) * Acid
Reach 2; +9 vs AC; 1d6+4 damage, and ongoing 5 acid damage (save ends).

(MB) Claw (Standard; At-Will)
Reach 2; +9 vs AC; 1d4+4 damage.

(M) Flyby Attack (Standard; 2/Encounter) * Acid
The dragon flies up to 7 squares and makes a bite attack at any point during the move without provoking an opportunity attack from the target.

(C) Strafe (Standard; Encounter) * Acid
The dragon flies up to 7 squares and makes a breath weapon attack at any point during the move without provoking an opportunity attack from the target.

(C) Breath Weapon (Standard; Encounter) * Acid
Close blast 5; +7 vs Reflex; 3d6+4 acid damage, and the target takes ongoing 5 acid damage and takes a -4 penalty to AC (save ends both).

Gas Chamber (Standard; 1/Encounter) * Acid, Worldbreaker, Zone
Vhauglohrl, Mother-In-The-Swamp exhales a noxious cloud of viridian gas that quickly spreads across the battlefield, obscuring vision and corrupting all it touches.  Vhauglohrl disappears into the fog; remove her from the game when this ability is activated.  For the duration of this ability's effect, Vhauglohrl loses the benefit of Draconic Alacrity, and acts only once per round, on her second initiative count.  This effect lasts for 1d4 rounds.  While Gas Chamber is active, all player characters are slowed, and their vision is severely limited; any creature standing more than 2 squares away from a player has concealment, and any creature standing 5 or more squares away has total concealment.  When this ability is first activated, each player is entitled to a special skill check, as a free action:
* Endurance DC 15:  Success grants the player immunity to the Gas Chamber's slowing effect.
* Insight DC 15:  Success grants the player a +2 bonus to all defenses for the remainder of the Gas Chamber's effect.
* Nature DC 15:  Success grants the player a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls, skill checks, and all defenses for the duration of the Gas Chamber's effect.
* Perception DC 15:  Success allows the player pierce the fog, and see much further than others; for the duration of the Gas Chamber ability, creatures don't gain concealment from the player until they're 5 or more squares away, and don't gain total concealment until they're 10 or more squares away.
* Stealth DC 15:  Success grants the player concealment from any enemies 2 or more squares away, and total concealment from creatures 5 or more squares away for the duration of the Gas Chamber's effect.

Lurker In The Swamp (Standard; Special) * Gas Chamber
Can only be used during Gas Chamber.  Vhauglohrl stalks and pounces on the PCs from within the fog.  Each player rolls Perception against Vhauglohrl's Stealth.  Any player who rolls lower takes 1d10+4 damage from the dragon's surprise attack.  Any player who rolls higher not only escapes damage, but can also make an opportunity attack.  After Lurker In the Swamp has been resolved, remove Vhauglohrl from the game once again.

Mother's Call (Standard; Special) * Gas Chamber
Can only be used during Gas Chamber.  Vhauglohrl summons the vicious Crow Eaters to her aid.  Place 1d4+1 Crow Eater Goblins anywhere on the map at least 5 squares away from a player character.  A Crow Eater Goblin is a small-sized minion with 18 Armour Class, 15 Fortitude, 16 Reflex, and 15 Will.  All summoned minions act on Vhauglohrl's initiative order, and can use the following attack: (M) +9 vs AC; 5 damage. [edit] Their speed is 6.

Minor Actions:
(M) Tail Slap (Minor; 1/Round; At-Will)
Reach 2; +7 vs Reflex; 1d6+4 damage, and the target is knocked prone.

(R) Eye of Shadow (Minor; 1/Round; At-Will)
Range 10; +7 vs Will; the target is blind until the end of its next turn.

Triggered Actions:
(M) Wing Buffet (Immediate Reaction, when any enemy misses the dragon; At-Will)
Reach 2; +9 vs AC; 1d6+4 damage, and the target is pushed 1 square.

Ear-Shattering Roar (No Action, when Vhauglohrl, Mother-In-The-Swamp is reduced to 0 or fewer HP; special) * Thunder
(C) Close Burst 5; +7 vs Fortitude; 3d6+4 thunder damage.  Effect: The target is pushed 2 squares and knocked prone.  Vhauglohrl, Mother-In-The-Swamp shifts up to 7 squares.  This movement does not provoke opportunity attacks.  Remove Vhaughlohrl, Mother-In-The-Swamp from the game, and replace her with Vhauglohrl, Queen-Of-Crows.

Alignment: Evil, Languages: Common, Draconic, Goblin
Skills: +9 Nature, +19 Stealth
Strength: 16 (+5), Dexterity: 20 (+7), Constitution: 16 (+5)
Intelligence: 16 (+5), Wisdom: 16 (+5), Charisma: 16 (+5)

[edit] By the way, she only has 1 Action Point because they're spread out amongst the Phases, and I didn't give her Frightening Presence because I wanted to use it on a later Phase of the fight.

[edit again]  Also, after "transition abilities" are resolved, all player characters are allowed to spend a healing surge and regain the use of one of their encounter powers.  These variant rules were intended to make Solos harder, after all, so I have no problem allowing them to shore up their hit points and regain a power after each phase.  Also, one of the biggest problems I've encountered with Solos is that everyone naturally fires off all of their abilities straight away, and then they're down to just At-Will attacks for the last 150 hit points or so; allowing each player to regain the use of an encounter power after each transition helps keep things interesting for the players, too.

Awesome idea, but I think that worldbreaker and staged doesn't mix as well as you would hope, since they are both effectively solving the same thing. If each of your stages has a worldbreaker then effectively you have a 6 stage monster. I really like the gas chamber stage but I think that it should be your stage II, not something in stage one. It would make for more distinct stages than your current stage II and III (which from your initial description, sound like they could be the same). 

The result is a fight that goes like this:

Queen of the Swamp. Skirmisher. I would make her flyby attack recharge 4 or 5, so she can use it often, but not every round. At this point she's toying with the party, testing their limits. When she gets 'killed' she becomes "Lurker in the Swamp" flies up into the air spews out tons of acid smoke and dives into the water.

Lurker in the Swamp. Lurker. Popping in and out of hiding, she picks at the party. This is her most dangerous stage and she's fighting tactically and using minions to absorb attacks and damage. I would make her need to get out every few rounds to spew out more acid smoke, at which point she is more vulnerable. When she is finally beaten here she lets out a roar and attempts to fly away, but one of her wings is broken or damaged and it simply ends up blowing away the smoke before she crashes back into the playing field bloodied and broken as the "Swamp Monster"

Swamp Monster. Brute/controller. With damaged wings hampering flight and swimming, Vhauglorhl fights a desperate battle on land. She is brutal and does a lot of forced movement. Her acidic blood oozes out at those who strike her and she tears up the terrain, blasting holes with her remaining acidic bile. If she can disable enough of the party (particularly any with range) she limps away to fight again. 

Before you tell me any more about the fight, tell me about the terrain. I'm imagining a large square sort of island arena, composed of ruined buildings, crisscrossed by waterways and bridges with taller ruined buildings around the outside that can provide perches for Vhauglorhl to fly between. I expect you have your own knowledge of what it will look like, but I'm just throwing that out there. You are putting a lot of work into this, and I think it will show. Good luck!
Give your players awesome loot: Loot by Type
Thanks for the input, Shovel.  I think you're spot-on about the Worldbreaker powers.  It was a fear of mine that I was over-complicating the fight, and I'm glad you called it out.  I was actually thinking of using the Gas Chamber as a sort of transition power, at first.  It wasn't until later that I decided to go full-on Worldbreaker with it.  Dragons, in my vision of the world, are really primordial beings; their race was infused with the elemental stuff of creation at the dawn of existence.  Dragons, to me, are essentially the embodiments of certain elements.  I don't try to explain away their ability to breath fire or acid with biological mumbo-jumbo; to me, they're basically massive elemental furnaces, and that's just how it is.  Black Dragons have within them the very essence of shadows and acid, so I want to play up abilities that show that as often as possible.

I see the fight as basically going like this: Mother-In-The-Swamp, wherein Vhaug is essentially this haughty and arrogant skirmisher (maybe a bit of artillery) that toys with the PCs with flyby and ranged attacks; this transitions to Queen-Of-Crows, wherein Vhaug realizes she can't push the 'Watch over the way she's accustomed to, and summons up goblin minions while capitalizing on her superior speed (lots of shifts, and if there's water -which I hope there is, but I haven't gotten that far into the terrain development yet- then lots of Aquatic movement as well); finally, stage three is essentially the way you described it -- lots of forced movement and brutal attacks.  In some ways, not as dangerous as phase 2, since there's less of an emphasis on defense and strategy, and more of an emphasis on brutal, overpowering assault.

As the fight progresses, I see Vhaug start to lose control of the roiling chaotic elements that churn around inside her.  Each phase gets more and more overtly "acid and shadow" powers.  By the end, yeah, there's acid blood bursting out as immediate reactions, maybe an aura; we'll see how it goes.

Today is actually my 27th birthday, so I can't be on here very long.  When I wake up in the morning, and I've got a coffee in my hands, I'll try to be a lot more specific, and answer your questions a little better.  Until then, thanks as always for all the input, Shovel.
Give your players awesome loot: Loot by Type

Okay, I'm back.  Even though I've been super busy lately, I've managed to build up a concept that I'm pretty happy with.  I appreciate your input Shovel, but I wanted to pull back and write up the rest of the adventure on my own, so as not to spoil anything else for you or anyone else reading through the thread.  We'll be playing this weekend, so I'll have a full review available on Sunday (or Monday, depending on what else I have to do this weekend).  I can, however, paint you guys a quick picture of what's currently happening in Strasa:

Only a few short hours have passed since the Warlord, Zessith, led a daring, full-scale invasion against the raining city.  Open conflict has more-or-less ended, but pockets of resistance still remain.  Their leaders have pulled them from the front lines, and are attempting to consolidate their strength before pushing back against the lizardmen (in much the same way that the 'Watch is holding out temporarily inside the Temple of the Everlasting Storm).  Up on the hill, the bulk of Zessith's forces have begun their siege of the Council chambers.  The warlord seeks to crack the tower's shell, and force the remaining Councilmen to legitimize his rule, ending the Strasan resistance (on paper, at least).

Below Cecil's Wall, the poorer sections of the city have been devastated.  Vhauglohrl, the self-styled Queen-of-Crows, has made a roost of its ruins.  Her Crow Eater goblins have spread through the area like a plague, dragging survivors out into the street to be dealt with: half of everyone they find are killed outright; a quarter are simply maimed (their legs broken, so that they can only kneel before the Mother-In-The-Swamp, and their fingers crushed, so that they can never raise a sword against Her); another quarter are brought before Vhauglohrl herself, to be devoured -- only the lucky ones are eaten right away, of course: the unlucky ones are tied to bits of rubble and tossed into the canals, to be consumed once they're properly "pickled".

The Crow Eaters haven't pressed past Cecil's Wall, however.  Shortly after the invasion began, the necromancers of the Ferryman Institute opened the doors of their vaults and released dozens of skeletal warders.  These undead creations aren't perfect defenders, though; they were meant to be used as a labour force, capable of working underwater indefinitely.  As such, they are only capable of understanding very simple commands.  They're doing a fine job of defending the streets (in fact, the area between Cecil's Wall and the Council's Hill is almost completely free from conflict), however, they aren't always capable of distinguishing friend from foe.  Civilians in the area are completely safe, so long as they remain in their houses, but anyone out on the streets (especially those visibly armed with steel and magic) is likely to be confronted by the undead.

Essentially, I've split the city up into 3 sections with 3 completely different "styles":

Council Hill: Fighting in this section of the city is mostly against Lizardmen, culminating in an encounter with Zessith, himself.  Minor quests in the area involve seeking out and rallying pockets of resistance, to aid the 'Watch in lifting the siege.

Strasa Proper: This is the "main" section of the city, where the Roost, the Temple of the Everlasting Storm, the Ferryman's Institute of Practical Necromancy, and the Brazen Foal exist.  Thanks to the Ferrymen, this section of the city is relatively free from open conflict.  If the 'Watch it traveling through it, however, they're likely going to have to fight some skeletons -- this is essentially just a "buffer zone" between the Hill and the area beneath Cecil's Wall.  There could be some minor quests, but I haven't thought of many yet.

Beneath Cecil's Wall: Fighting in this section of the city is mostly against goblins, culminating in an encounter with Vhauglohrl.  Minor quests in the area involve locating and rescuing survivors, preventing canibalistic rituals from taking place, etc.

So, yeah, that's the basic outline I've formed for the adventure.  I don't anticipate the group will make it all the way to Zessith or Vhaug in one session; we only play for a few hours at a time, and combat takes a while in 4e.  I expect they'll get pretty close to either major villain, depending on which direction they take, but not all the way to the end.  Anyway, let me know if you've got any questions, comments, or suggestions.  I'm always open to ideas.

I don't know if you are still looking at this, but this is a great time if you wanted to give one of your players a DMing experience. Since you've already split it up, you could easily add another section that's under the control of your aspiring DM. Just tell Akkarin the basics of what's going on in the other sections and give him some reign to make things happen.

That being said, you continue to impress me with your story and design! Good job!
Give your players awesome loot: Loot by Type
Game 7 is tonight, so stay tuned for a story update tomorrow.
Game Seven

I tried to get this up for you guys yesterday, but Sundays are pretty busy around here.  Anyway, better late than never:

Well, Game 7 almost didn't happen: Victoria is my wife, and our babysitter fell through about half an hour before we were supposed to play.  We tried calling around for a replacement, but we couldn't make anything happen on such short notice.  In the end, we decided that she would stay here with our son, and I'd go run D&D.  I have some experience playing a Cleric, so I figured I could manage Victoria in combat while running the monsters as well.  We wanted her to be there, obviously, but the alternative was to call off D&D entirely, and since Virgil has to drive like 45 minutes into town just to play, I really didn't want to do that.  Anyway, Game 7 was a lot of fun, even though I had to run Victoria.

Here's a quick re-cap of what was going down in the city when the game started (taken directly from my game notes):

Only a few short hours have passed since the warlord, Zessith, led a daring, full-scale invasion against the Raining City.  Open conflict lasted only a short while, as the Lizardmen, alongside Crow Eater goblins, and the infamous black dragon, Vhauglohrl, cut through the streets with little effort, leaving only corpses in their wake.  Pockets of resistance still remain on Council Hill, but their leaders have temporarily pulled them from the front lines, hoping to consolidate their strength before launching a counter-offensive.  These men are led by the dauntless Captain Sternheart, who miraculously survived the initial attack, and has been skirmishing with the lizardmen for several hours.

Never-the-less, up on the Hill, Zessith and his tribes have initiated a siege of the Council building.  The warlord seeks to crack the tower's shell, and force the remaining Councilmen to legitimize his rule, ending the Strasan resistance -- on paper, at least.

Down below Cecil's Wall, the docksides have been utterly devastated; Vhauglohrl, the self-styled Queen-Of-Crows, has made a roost of its ruins.  Her Crow Eater goblins have spread through the area like a plague, dragging survivors out into the sterets to be dealt with: reports indicate that fully half of everyone they find is killed outright; another quarter are simply maimed (their legs broken, so that they can only kneel before the Mother-In-The-Swamp, and their fingers crushed, so that they can never raise a sword against Her); the rest ar ebrought before Vhauglohrl herself, to be devoured -- the lucky ones are eaten right away ... the unlucky ones are still alive when they're tied to bits of rubble, and tossed into the canals, to be eaten once they've been properly "pickled".

The Crow Eaters haven't pressed past Cecil's Wall, however.  Shortly after the invasion began, the necromancers of the Ferryman Institute opened the doors of their vaults, and released dozens of their skeletal workers into the streets.  These undead servants have proven invaluable in keeping the area between Cecil's Wall and Council Hill free from conflict with the invaders, but they aren't perfect defenders; they were created to serve as a labour-force, capable of working underwater for indefinite periods of time.  They are only capable of understanding a very limited set of commands, and as such, have a difficult time distinquishing between friends and foes.  Civilians in the area are safe, so long as they remain indoors, but anyone caught out into the streets (especially those armed with steel and magic), should expect to encounter the Ferrymen's de facto guardians sooner or later.

At this point, I presented the players with a couple of major quests:  The first was presented by First-Councilor Hagen (who had been honouring the Watch during the festival of Storm's Harvest when the invasion began -- he was injured by the explosion, and taken into the Temple along with a large number of other Strasans); he asks the players to end the warlord's siege, and save the remaining Councilmen.  In return, he promises that his men will skin the hide from Zessith's wretched body, and the finest craftsmen in Strasa will forge a masterwork set of scalemail from it (+2 Drakescale Armour of Poison Resistance).  Furthermore, Horace Durham, High-Cleric of the temple, asks that the players remove the goblins from the dockside as quickly as possible.  He claims that the Crow Eaters are an affront to Kord, because they worship a false god; Vhauglohrl.  She and her goblins are also a much larger threat to the people of Strasa at this point -- Zessith is an evil warlord, but his men aren't dragging women and children out into the streets to be slaughtered, maimed, or eaten.  He issues a bounty of 7 gold for every goblin slaim, and one-hundred times that amount (an additional 700 gold) when Vhauglohrl is slain.

I pointed out to the players that this adventure isn't "time sensitive", meaning that they don't have to worry about Zessith taking over the Council building if they choose to go after Vhaug first, or worry about Vhaug killing half the people left in the dockside if they want to break the siege first.  I want them to do whatever feels natural and fun, without having to worry about that kind of stuff.  So, armed with that information, they decided to go after Vhauglohrl first, since she and the Crow Eaters are presenting a more immediate threat to the Raining City (Zessith is preparing a siege on Council Hill, but there are also pockets of resistance there -- meanwhile, dockside is a bloodbath).

Getting to Cecil's Wall was basically a skill challenge, but I hid that fact from the players, and basically allowed them to tell me how they planned to get across the city.  It was a complexity 6 challenge, and every 2 successes, I presented a "twist".  The first one came pretty quickly, after Phaedra scouted ahead for the rest of the group with Stealth, and Virgil used Perception to spot a gap in the skeletal patrols.  The Watch was moving up a dark alley (did I mention it was night time?  The conditions outside are Low-Light, so only Phaedra can see without the aid of a light source) when they heard some quiet voices coming from the street, up ahead.  Phaedra scouted up once again, and had a look at what was going on:

She saw four figures around the corner: one was an overweight fellow, obviously nervous, carrying a lantern and serving as a lookout for the others; another was a wiry man with hard, mean features.  Everyone seemed to listen when he spoke, but they seemed motivated more by fear than respect.  The remaining two looked like hired muscle.  Pretty nondescript, really.  All but the lookout were hunched over some dead bodies, searching them for valuables.  Phaedra told the others about the looters, and they all moved up the alley to confront them.  Wanting to take the men by surprise (or just scare them off entirely), Phaedra flicked a dagger at the lookout's lantern, and sent it crashing to the ground.  The man flipped out, and the leader stood up immediately, drew his daggers, and called out through the darkness, proclaiming that he wasn't afraid.

Virgil stepped forward into view, and the two men had a pretty brief conversation; essentially, Virgil told them to bugger off, and the leader told him the same.  The wiry man told the Watch that they had permission from the Guild (ie: the Thief's Guild) to scavenge up whatever they could, and so they have every right to keep whatever they find.  The conversation quickly turned into violence (I actually had anticipated the group would try to use Diplomacy or Intimidate to deal with these guys, but violence works just as well, lol) -- it was a pretty anticlimactic fight, though, since all four looters were just Level 1 Human Rabble Minions: Virgil charged the lookout during the surprise round, and essentially cut the man in half; Phaedra leapt over the fallen bodies and cut down their leader; Virgil's turn was next up, so he used a multi-attack encounter power to finish off the other two goons.  The fight was over essentially before it even started ... Akkarin and Victoria never even got to move.

The Dungeon Master's Guide says I need to parcel out a certain amount of treasure throughout each level, and so I decided there was going to be 470 gold available here.  But gold, I figured, was boring.  It would be more interesting to give them actual loot that added up in value to 470 gold.  All in all, the group found a Whitewood Wedding Band, several simple brass bands, a heavy wooden drinking stein, a polished mahogany broach, a set of 10 silver buttons ornately designed in a floral pattern, and an old chess set (the figures representing the armies of the Brother Kings, Veras and Hadrias, who went to war with one another over their father's kingdom after his passing), along with about a hundred gold pieces.

The group argued for a little bit about what to do with all the treasure.  Virgil wanted to keep some of it (like the stein), but I think that had more to do with Virgil's PLAYER wanting it, rather than what the character Virgil actually wanted.  In the end, they decided to figure it out later, and continue on toward Cecil's Wall (see, that's what's fun about treasure, rather than gold -- Gold would have just been written down and divied up later, but treasure actually promotes discussion amongst the group).  Their fight with the looters, however, and their subsequent argument over the stolen goods, had attracted a skeletal patrol, so now everyone had to roll for initiative.

The fight went pretty well.  It was four standard Skeletons (level 4 Soldiers), and they dished out a fair amount of punishment.  Every character has grown leaps and bounds, and they're all so much more effective at their individual roles.  I realized right away that I'm going to have to re-tune some future encounters because I hadn't realized how effective they now were at level 4 (they skipped level 3 completely, if you remember, so this is new territory for all of us).

After that fight ended, they pressed on toawrd the dockside, and after a few more skill checks, they saw a figure moving through the shadows down the street, toward them.  Phaedra moved up ahead, and took advantage of her natural Low-Light vision to scout the figure out: she saw a young woman, stumbling through the darkness, dressed in rags.  In one hand, the woman held a dagger, and steadied herself against the buildings, while the other hand clutched at an open wound in her belly.  Phaedra relayed this information to the others, and Akkarin called out to the young woman, asking if she needed help.  She raised her dagger defensively in response, pain clearly visible now on her tattooed face (at this distance, they determined she was an elf -- likely escaped from dockside), and the woman collapsed on the ground.  The 'Watch moved up, and Virgil used his Heal skill to try and stabilize her condition.  When she came around, Phaedra spoke to the woman in elvish.

The elven girl told Phaedra that she and her children had attempted to flee to the Temple when the invasion began, but were cut off by Crow Eaters.  She explains that she tried to save her children, but the goblins dragged them off, back toward the docks, and that she barely escaped with her own life.  She coughs up blood in between sentences, and admits that she wishes she'd been the one who'd been taken instead of them.  She begs the players to save her two children.  So at this point, I give the players a minor quest to do just that.  Virgil asks his man, Thomas (whom he hired in the previous session to sort of follow them around and help out) to escort the young woman back to the Temple of the Everlasting Storm, and get her the aid she requires.  The Watch then pressed on toward Cecil's Wall, which was looming not so far away now.

When the group finally reached the Wall, they noticed that almost every entrance was being guarded by the Crow Eaters.  Conflict, they determined, was inevitable, so they rushed in to fight at a location with a nice choke-point they could use.  The fight was a hell of a lot easier than I expected it to be.  See, I wanted to use a lot of weaker goblins, rather than a handful of higher leveled ones, because that sort of fits with the whole "strength in numbers" tactic that goblins always use.  So I had a level 3 goblin brute, two level 1 lurkers, 4 level 1 minions, a level 2 skirmisher, and a level 2 artillery.  Lots of enemies, but honestly, they weren't a threat to the group at all; their attack ratings were so low, they had a tremendously difficult time even landing hits, and their damage wasn't great, either.  Add on top of that that Akkarin now has access to some new control powers (like being able to immobilize two enemies with one attack, blinding ranged attackers so they aren't immediately threatening, and creating a field of spinning blades that will auto-kill any minions who try to attack from a space adjacent to him), and the fight was just a push-over.

Which is fine, because that's where we ended for the night.  I believe we'll be playing again next weekend, so I'll use my time during the week to adjust the next several encounters before the Vhauglohrl fight, so they're a bit more difficult.
In addition to working a bit more on the Vhauglohrl encounter, I've designed a few new goblins from the ground up, in an effort to challenge the players a bit more on their way through the docks.  I could have just leveled up (or leveled down) existing goblins, or even re-skinned other monsters completely, but I felt like creating something new would be a lot more interesting.  I've come up with two new goblins -- the Goblin Lurker and the Goblin Soldier (great names, right?), whose job it is to exemplify their combat roles, since I felt like the existing goblins didn't do a very good job of that.  Anyway, PEACH, basically:

Goblin Lurker
Small Natural Humanoid – Level 4 Lurker – XP 175
Initiative: +10 – Low-Light-Vision – Perception: +4
HP: 45; Bloodied: 22
AC: 18; Fort: 16; Ref: 17; Will: 16
Speed: 6; see also Goblin Tactics
(Melee Basic) Short Sword (Standard; At-Will) *  Weapon
+9 vs AC; 1d6+4 damage, and the Goblin Lurker makes a secondary attack against the same target.  Secondary Attack: +7 vs Reflex; the target is knocked prone.
(Melee) Sneak Attack (Standard; At-Will) * Weapon
Requires Combat Advantage; +9 vs AC; 2d8+4 damage.
(Melee) Go For The Throat (Standard; At-Will)
Requires Combat Advantage; +7 vs Reflex; 1d6+4 damage, and the target is grabbed (until escape).  While grabbing a creature, the Goblin Lurker loses the ability to use Short Sword, Sneak Attack, and Go For The Throat, but gains the ability to Butcher.
(Melee) Butcher (Standard; At-Will) * Weapon
If the Goblin Lurker begins its turn with a target grabbed, it makes an attack against the grabbed creature: +9 vs AC; 3d6+4 damage.  Miss: Half damage.
Goblin Tactics (Immediate Reaction, when missed by a melee attack; At-Will)
The goblin shifts 1 square.

Goblin Lurker notes: Okay, so the reason he's got a Sneak Attack ability instead of the more standard Combat Advantage trait is because I thought he might churn out a bit too much damage with Butcher if he got to add in an extra 1d6.  The way he's designed now seems a little more round-a-bout, but I think it works.  Essentially, when he's got Combat Advantage (which he can potentially gain with his Short Sword attack, even if he's not capable of setting up a flank), he can either Sneak Attack for 2d8+4 damage, or he can attempt to Go For the Throat, dealing only 1d6+4, but also initiating a grab.  This sets him up to potentially Butcher his target the next round, which is his most devastating attack.  Basically, he's got choices beyond just "get behind them and deal extra damage".

Originally, Butcher was called Strangulate, and it targeted Fortitude at a +9 to attack.  The idea was that the Goblin Lurker grappled his opponent, then chocked the living daylights out of them.  I think that concept works well, too, but in the end, I decided to call it Butcher, and have it target AC at a +11 -- it's like he initates a grapple, then repeatedly stabs at close range to open up a serious belly wound.

I tried to design this guy by looking at a number of existing Lurker monsters that I felt did a good job of representing their role.  Specifically, I took a lot from the Poisonscale Collector -- a lizardman who uses a "combo system" similar to the Goblin Lurker to initiatve progressively more powerful attacks.  He starts off with a melee basic Dagger attack, which gives his target ongoing poison damage; he follows this up with a melee Blinding Poison attack, which can only target someone taking ongoing poison damage, and blinds the target in addition to dealing damage; finally, he finishes it all up with End Strike, which can only target a creature who can't see the Collector (ie: someone who's blind) and deals a lot more damage than his other attacks.  Essentially, this is the same way the Goblin Lurker operates.

Next up ...

Goblin Soldier
Small Natural Humanoid – Level 4 Soldier – XP 175
Initiative: +4 – Low-Light-Vision – Perception: +4
HP: 55; Bloodied: 27
AC: 20; Fort: 16; Ref: 16; Will: 16
Resist: 5 Acid
Speed: 6; see also Goblin Tactics
(Melee Basic) Hand Axe (Standard; At-Will) * Weapon
+11 vs AC; 1d10+4 damage, and the target is marked and slowed until the end of the Goblin Soldier’s next turn.
(Melee) Shield Bash (Minor; recharge 5 6)
+9 vs Fortitude; 2d8+4 damage, and the target is knocked prone or pushed 1 square (Goblin Soldier’s choice).
Goblin Tactics (Immediate Reaction; when missed by a melee attack; At-Will)
The goblin shifts 1 square.

Goblin Soldier notes: Okay, so this guy's your basic soldier.  I took some abilities from existing Soldier-class monsters around level 4 (the mark and slow melee basic effect is from a Hobgoblin Soldier, and the Shield Bash is from a Dwarf Hammerer), so I think it's well-balanced.  He seems like he could use something more, but maybe that's just because the Lurker's entry is a lot bigger.  I toyed around with the idea of giving him a "Challenging Shout"-style attack that marked targets in a burst 3 or something, as an encounter power.  I still haven't ruled that one out.  As is, though, I think he's a pretty decent Soldier.

General Note:  Also, all of my numbers come from Asmor's 4e Monster Math Cruncher.  It's really easy to use; you just plug in your monster's level, role, and ability scores, and it tells you what it's defenses, attacks, damage, etc should be.  So if any of the numbers on the monsters seem too high, or too low, let me know, but understand that they are "correct" according to the Math Cruncher site.

It seems to me that their attack bonuses might be a bit off.  From the DMG rules update, last page, their attack should be level +5 vs AC, the soldier level +5 vs NADS, and the lurker level +3 vs NADS.  Thus the soldier's attacks are too strong...or at least the MBA/Hand Axe attack is.  The calculator may be giving a proficiency bonus (axes are +2), but my understanding is that is not supposed to happen.  Now, that doesn't make it over powered.  But considering the lurker is supposed to be the damage dealer, I'm more afraid of the's got minor and standard attacks with a better hit rate, and may also have combat advantage from working in conjunction with the lurker, giving it a +13 to hit (20% more accurate than suggested) with a more damaging attack than the lurker will usually get.  The other reason I fear the soldier more is that the lurker has to chain his takes at least 2 rounds to get going, and that only if it starts with CA.  The soldier can put out more damage in that same amount of time, assuming it gets a recharge.  It's unlikely that the lurkers will survive that long as they can be hit on a 6 or so (2 half level + 3 prof + 4 ability + 1 magic weapon + 2 CA = 12 against 18).

Also, I might recheck their HP.  The same document has the formulas.  They both seem a little high, especially the lurker (5 hp).  The soldier seems closer (just 2-3 hp), but doing the math he'd only have to have a 15 CON which isn't out of the question.  The lurkers could equate to an additional round each to knock that 5 hp off, the soldier is probably fine.

Hope that helps, and sorry for the long first paragraph.  Also, and this is nitpicky editing, your soldier is listed as being a "humanoir."  I figured you copied/pasted so you may want to fix the source.
Hah, thanks, Ibaum.  I'll fix that right up.  I'll also double-check the DMG Rules Update (thanks for the link, by the way).  It could be that the Monster Math Cruncher was built using old numbers, and hasn't been updated (it doesn't take into account proficiency bonuses, or anything like that).  I really appreciate the input, and I'll be sure to post Vhauglorhl's final entries here in the next day or two, as well.

[edit] Oh, as far as their damage output goes: The calculator gives Low, Moderate, and High damage suggestions for At-Will and Limited attacks (Limited attacks do more damage than At-Will, of course).  I built the Lurker using Low suggestions from the At-Will category for the most part, and used the Low Limited suggestion for its Butcher ability.  For the Soldier, I used Low At-Will for its Hand Axe, I think, and Moderate At-Will for the Shield Bash (technically, I should have used a Limited expression, but that would have been way too high).  I'm open to fixing the numbers a bit, if they seem off.

Okay, I'm hoping to have Vhauglohrl's final phase entry up tonight, at some point.  For the moment, all I've got finished are the first two phases: Vhauglohrl, Mother-In-The-Swamp, and Vhauglohrl, Queen-Of-Crows.  During Phase One, Vhaug is essentially an artillery-class monster: she has a powerful area attack, and has good maneuverability in the air.  Her Gas Chamber ability now functions as a transition effect between phases.  When Phase 2 begins, Vhaug has changed into a Skirmisher-type monster, with a lot more ground mobility.  Her wings are damaged at the end of Phase One, so even though she can still fly, her mobility changes to Clumsy.  Her final phase, which, again, should be up tonight, is called Vhauglohrl, Last-Of-Her-Clutch.  In that phase, she loses her ability to fly completely, and turns into a Brute.  Her attacks are a lot more vicious, and I'll likely add a damage aura as well.  Her defenses, however, drop back down a little to compensate.

In case anyone didn't read when I explained how multi-phased solo encounters work before, when one phase ends and another transitions in, all player characters are allowed to spend a healing surge and regain the use of an encounter power.  Multi-phase Solos are a hell of a lot harder than standard solo encounters, of course, so this helps balance the playing field.  Also, giving players back an encounter power each phase helps prevent everyone from just spamming At-Wills for the last two phases, which is usually what happens in standard solo encounters.

Anyway, I'll give each phase its own post, so it's easier to read.  Here's Phase One:

Vhauglohrl, Mother-In-The-Swamp
Large Natural Magical Beast (Aquatic, Dragon, Wordbreaker)
Level 4 Solo Artillery – XP 875
Initiative: +11; see also Draconic Alacrity
Senses: Perception: +9; Darkvision
HP: 75; Bloodied: Special
AC: 18; Fort: 18; Ref: 18; Will: 18
Resist: 15 Acid
Saving Throws: +5; see also Draconic Resilience
Speed: 7; Fly: 7; Overland Flight: 10; Swim: 7
Action Points: 1
Phase One
This entry represents Vhauglohrl in the first of three consecutive phases.  Her maximum hit points and action points are split between these phases, and when one phase ends, the next one immediately begins.  During Phase One, Vhauglohrl is never considered bloodied.
Draconic Alacrity
At the start of combat, the dragon makes two initiative checks, and takes a full turn on both initiative counts.  Vhauglohrl takes a full set of actions on each of these turns, and her ability to take an immediate action refreshes on each initiative count.
Draconic Resilience
The Dragon is entitled to a saving throw, at the end of each of her turns, against any effect or condition that causes her to become Dazed, Dominated, or Stunned.  She is entitled to this saving throw, even if the effect or condition does not normally allow a save.  A successful save ends the effect or condition immediately.
Standard Actions
(Melee Basic) Bite (Standard; At-Will) * Acid
Reach 2; +11 vs AC; 1d6+4 damage, and ongoing 5 acid damage (save ends).
(Melee Basic) Claw (Standard; At-Will)
Reach 2; +11 vs AC; 1d6+4 damage.
(Area) Choking Darkness (Standard; At-Will) * Necrotic, Poison
Area Burst 2 within 10; +9 vs Reflex; 1d10+4 necrotic and poison damage.  Miss: Half damage.
(Close) Breath Weapon (Standard; Encounter) * Acid
Close Blast 5; +9 vs Reflex; 3d6+4 acid damage, and the target takes ongoing 5 acid damage and a -4 penalty to AC (save ends both).
Move Actions
(Close) Wing Buffet (Move; Encounter)
Close Burst 2; +9 vs Fortitude; 1d6+4 damage.  Effect: Each target is pushed 1 square.
Minor Actions
(Ranged) Eye of Shadow (Minor; 1/Turn; At-Will) * Gaze, Pyschic
Ranged 10; +9 vs Will; the target is blind until the end of its next turn.
(Melee) Tail Slap (Minor; 1/Turn; At-Will)
Reach 2; +9 vs Reflex; 1d6+4 damage, and the target is knocked prone.
Triggered Actions
Gas Chamber (No Action; when Vhauglohrl, Mother-In-The-Swamp is reduced to 0 hit points or fewer; special) * Acid, Poison, Worldbreaker, Zone

The dragon exhales a noxious cloud that spreads across the battlefield, obscuring vision and corrupting all it touches. 

Vhauglohrl, Mother-In-The-Swamp disappears into the fog; remove her from the game when this ability is activated, and replace her with Vhauglohrl, Queen-Of-Crows, in a space no less than 6 squares away.  This ability affects the entire battlefield, and lasts for 1d4 turns.  While it is in effect, all player characters are slowed, and their vision is extremely limited; any creature standing more than 2 squares away has concealment, and any creature standing 5 or more squares away has total concealment.  Special: Vhauglohrl and her allies are immune to the negative effects of this ability, and each player character is entitled to a special skill check to stave off a portion of its effects:

Endurance 15: Success grants the player immunity to the Gas Chamber’s slowing effect.
Insight 15: Success grants the player a +2 bonus to all defenses while Gas Chamber is in effect.
Nature 15: Success grants the player a +1 bonus to all attack and damage rolls, skill checks, and defenses while Gas Chamber is in effect.
Perception 15: Success allows the player to pierce the fog, and see much further than normal – for the duration of the Gas Chamber ability, creatures don’t gain concealment from the player until they are 5 or more squares away, and they don’t gain total concealment until they are 10 squares away or more.
Stealth 15: Success grants the player concealment from creatures standing 2 or more squares away, and total concealment from creatures 5 or more squares away.

Vhauglohrl, Queen-Of-Crows
Large Natural Magical Beast (Aquatic, Dragon, Worldbreaker)
Level 4 Solo Skirmisher – XP 875
Initiative: +11; see also Draconic Alacrity
Senses: Perception: +9; Darkvision
HP: 75; Bloodied: Special
AC: 20; Fort: 18; Ref: 18; Will: 18
Resist: 15 Acid
Saving Throws: +5; see also Draconic Resilience
Speed: 7; Fly: 7 (Clumsy); Overland Flight: 10; Swim: 7
Action Points: 1
Phase Two
This entry represents Vhauglohrl in the second of three consecutive phases.  Her maximum hit points and action points are split between these phases, and when one phase ends, the next one immediately begins.  During Phase Two, Vhauglohrl is never considered bloodied.
Draconic Alacrity
At the start of combat, the dragon makes two initiative checks, and takes a full turn on both initiative counts.  Vhauglohrl takes a full set of actions on each of these turns, and her ability to take an immediate action refreshes on each initiative count.
Draconic Resilience
The Dragon is entitled to a saving throw, at the end of each of her turns, against any effect or condition that causes her to become Dazed, Dominated, or Stunned.  She is entitled to this saving throw, even if the effect or condition does not normally allow a save.  A successful save ends the effect or condition immediately.
Arrogance Unchained
Vhauglohrl, Queen-Of-Crows makes saving throws against immobilized, slowed, and restrained conditions at the start of her turns, as well as at the end of her turns.
Standard Actions
(Melee Basic) Bite (Standard; At-Will) * Acid
Reach 2; Vhauglohrl, Queen-Of-Crows shifts 2 squares before and after making the attack; +9 vs AC; 1d6+4 damage, and ongoing 5 acid damage (save ends).
(Melee Basic) Claw (Standard; At-Will)
Reach 2; +7 vs AC; 1d6+4 damage.
(Melee) Spring Attack (Standard; At-Will)
Vhauglohrl, Queen-Of-Crows moves 7 squares and makes a Claw attack at any point during that movement.  The dragon does not provoke opportunity attacks from its target, but she does provoke opportunity attacks from other creatures, when appropriate.
(Close) Breath Weapon (Standard; Encounter) * Acid
Close Blast 5; +7 vs Reflex; 3d6+4 acid damage, and the target takes ongoing 5 acid damage and a -4 penalty to AC (save ends both).
Move Actions
Mother’s Call (Move; Recharge 5, 6)
Vhauglohrl summons her the Crow Eater Queensguard to her aid.  Place 1d4+1 Crow Eater Goblins on the map at one or several pre-determined locations.  A Crow Eater Goblin is a small-sized natural humanoid minion, worth 43 XP, with 18 Armour Class, 15 Fortitude, 16 Reflex, and 15 Will.  All summoned minions act on Vhauglohrl’s second initiative count, have a speed of 6, and can make the following attack as a standard action: (Melee Basic) +9 vs AC; 5 damage.
Minor Actions
(Ranged) Eye of Shadow (Minor; 1/Turn; At-Will) * Gaze, Pyschic
Ranged 10; +7 vs Will; the target is blind until the end of its next turn.
(Melee) Tail Slap (Minor; 1/Turn; At-Will)
Reach 2; +7 vs Reflex; 1d6+4 damage, and the target is knocked prone.
Triggered Actions
(Close) Ear-Shattering Roar (No Action, when Vhauglohrl, Queen-Of-Crows is reduced to 0 or fewer HP; Special) * Thunder
Close Burst 5; +7 vs Fortitude; 3d6+4 thunder damage.  Effect: The target is pushed 2 squares and knocked prone.  Vhauglohrl, Queen-Of-Crows shifts up to 7 squares.  This movement does not provoke opportunity attacks.  Remove Vhauglohrl, Queen-Of-Crows from the game, and replace her with Vhauglohrl, Last-Of-Her-Clutch.

I’ve been following your storyline and I have to say that you’re game sounds like it would be a blast to play in!  I really like how you’ve used the city and added to it. I can’t let you call your creations Goblin Lurker and Goblin Soldier though! How about Crow Eater Cutthroat and Crow Eater Talon or something like that?

A couple words of advice since I don’t remember how much D&D 4E you have run. With such a high damage minor on the soldier I would be wary of making it a recharge power. The reason I mention this is that its entirely dice dependent, ive had games where ive recharged powers every turn for 6 turns-making that power way more effective than intended, and games where it never recharged and was practically worthless. So in my games now I either relegate them to minor annoyance powers or bump their power up and turn them into an encounter power (possibly with a recharge condition).

My second comment is I would be leery of putting 3 phases on a low level solo. Especially at that level its perfectly likely that your group is going to completely explode through 1 phase (probably the first, maybe the second) without her getting to do practically anything in it. So if there were any powers/abilities you really wanted her to use I would consider dropping it to 2 phases and just use the coolest powers. Otherwise you could see a whole phase of neat abilities just get completely bypassed by 75 damage in one round. At higher levels it’s at least a little more difficult to do that to a solo in one round, barring optimizing.

Since you’re mixing AngryDMs solo and the Worldbreaker solo you may want to consider adding ability rolls to combat her attacks in the second phase (not against the worldbreaker environment, you took care of that already) since that’s essentially her Worldbreaker phase and that seems to be the standard for their solos. Maybe change the worldbreaker effect to last 1d4+1 rounds to make sure she gets a little use out of it and having it fade when she transitions again. Just my 2 cents, im very interested to see the results no matter what you decide to do, keep it up!

Thanks for the input, Andal!  I absolutely will not be calling the goblins "Goblin Lurker", "Goblin Soldier, etc, lol; those are just placeholder names while I work out the details.  In fact, even their abilities are more-or-less placeholder names for the time being.  Originally, I think the Lurker's melee basic attack was called "Low Slash", because it's supposed to represent a quick slash to the legs, that could potentially trip the target to the ground (knock them prone).  In the end, I decided I was spending more time than I needed to "fleshing out" the names of everything, so I changed all the attacks and creature names to really generic placeholders.

I totally understand what you're saying about the group potentially burning through a 75 HP phase really quickly.  Under most circumstances, I think I'd agree with you, but this group isn't exactly what I'd call "DPS-focused", and they're not anywhere near the bleeding edge of optimization.  I'll give you a quick run-down of the players, in case you aren't familiar with them:

Virgil is a sword-and-board fighter.  His damage is pretty low, but he's about as sticky as you can possibly be, with lots of multi-attack powers.  He tends to output decent damage-per-round, only because he gets Combat Superiority immediate reactions almost every round, since I'm forced to try and shift away from him.  He does a very good job of being a fighter-defender, honestly.  I know he's packing a bow, but he's very little threat to Vhauglohrl during phase 1, unless the group can get her on the ground (Akkarin almost certainly can).  If Vhaug ends up getting locked down by Virgil, phase 1 comes equipped with a Wing Buffet power that will push everyone away, even if it doesn't deal damage, allowing her to take flight again.

Victoria is a healic.  Her damage output, under most circumstances, is 0.  Obviously, she's been known to toss out a Sacred Flame if someone needs an immediate saving throw or something, but she tends to stick to Astral Seal, because it's very accurate (with a built-in +2 bonus to attack), lowers defenses (which makes Astral Seal even more accurate), and because it's a pretty decent source of surgeless healing (even after the nerf).  She's equipped with Command, which could potentially force Vhaug to move 6 squares toward the ground, and Bane, which she'll likely use to lower the dragon's defenses once the group has her surrounded.  At any rate, Victoria isn't contributing to the DPS race in any meaningful way, really.

Akkarin is a staff wizard.  I often have a difficult time hurting him, because he's very good about positioning himself so that enemies have to move through Virgil's area, and because he's got a whole host of defensively-oriented, powers like Staff of Defense, that just deny my attacks.  Most of the time, very little damage gets through to him.  He's going to be dangerous in this encounter, not because he's capable of tremendous burst-damage, but because he's packing a lot of powers that slow and immobilize (which is another reason I can never get to him with melee attacks -- he stops them dead in their tracks before they can close in), which are going to keep Vhauglohrl from using her superior mobility.  If I'm not mistaken, Immobilize will also drop her out of the sky, right?  I'll have to read up on that.  Anyway, even though he's very control-focused, he just doesn't deal a lot of damage.

Phaedra, the eladrin rogue, on the other hand, is capable of dishing out a lot of damage in a very short amount of time.  She's not very well optimized, in my opinion, but rogues are powerful right out of the box, you know what I mean?  She's capable of dealing the most damage (upwards of 25-30 with a good Sneak Attack), but I'd also say she's probably the weakest character tactically.  She's also got a pretty average Will score, so Vhaug's likely to hit her with Eye of Shadow at every opportunity, because she's much less of a threat when she's Blind (and the wording on Eye of Shadow keeps her Blind until the end of her next turn, rather than Save Ends -- do you think that's a good choice?  I don't want to Blind-Spam her or anything, but that's Vhaug's best defensive option against her).  Vhaug also comes equipped with a Reach 2 melee knockdown attack, so that should help cut down on the rogue's ability to flank her.

And that's just phase 1.  In phase 2, she's a hell of a lot more mobile, but she's mostly ground-based, meaning she's much more likely to get locked down by Virgil.  She does have an increased Armour Class during phase 2, however, so that may help combat that.

Anyway, I'm not sure this particular group will be able to burn through her phases as quickly as others might, so I think the three-phase model works well for Vhauglohrl.  I'm still working on it, though.  Thanks again for your input, I really appreciate it!

I didn’t really think you leave them with such terrible names but I thought I would offer something up in case you were having trouble coming up with something. I did know what was in your group but I was unsure of builds so that helps clarify things.

You certainly know you’re group better than I do, I know ive been surprised by how much damage low damage groups hitting with 2W encounter powers, action pointing, and smashing with dailies can do before though so I wanted to give you a heads up.

The blind is a good counter to anyone frankly but I would really caution against focusing it on her exclusively or she’s just going to get frustrated (ive also made this mistake, it may be smart for the monster but it sucks for the player). I would probably hit her with it once every other turn at most, barring times Vhauglohrl misses or Phaedra does a ton of damage-definite motivation to blind her at that point. Knocking Vhauglohrl prone will cause her to drop to the ground, taking appropriate fall damage which could be significant. Stunning her does the same unless she has hover, I don’t believe immobilizing her will have the same effect. As far as save ends versus until end of next turn-end of next turn is nicer right now. At low levels there arent a lot of ways to grant extra saves so bad rolls could keep someone blinded for a while. At later levels save ends becomes the nicer option as there are many ways to grant saves and theyll likely have saved against it before their turn even starts. So I guess it all depends on if youre trying to be nice or mean. I look forward to seeing how the fight works out.

Okay, so this is the dragon's final form -- Vhauglohrl, Last-Of-Her-Clutch.  Essentially, she loses the ability to fly altogether, gets re-classified as a brute, and turns the battlefield into a churning elemental vortex.  At this point in the fight, Vhaug's been beaten pretty badly, and the roiling, primordial elements of acid and shadow that reside within her start leaking out.  She loses her Breath Weapon attack, but gains an aura which does basically the same thing (minus the standard damage); this is because the swirling arcane energies within her body are spilling out into the world, corrupting everything it touches.

She loses her Eye of Shadow gaze attack, and pretty much all of her mobility.  In fact, at this stage, I don't imagine she's moving around the battlefield much at all -- I imagine she's trying her hardest, and just barely containing the elemental chaos that's churning around inside of her.  She gains a couple of Minor Actions, one of which allows her to pull her enemies closer (into the aura, basically).

There's also a new immediate action thrown in.  It triggers whenever she's hit by a melee attack.  I think it accomplishes its job pretty well.

Finally, I added in two abilities that have been suggested to help keep those long "grindy" fights a bit shorter: Overdrive, which Vhaug can use at any time to add in 2 extra damage to her attacks, and Death Burst, which deals 4 Acid damage in a burst -- both of these abilities damage Vhauglohrl, as well, and she cannot resist, reduce, or negate it in any way.  Basically, I can amp up her damage output whenever I feel like I need to, and the fight is reduced in length in return.  That's a pretty good trade-off, in my opinion, because if the players absolutely burn through phase 3, I'll Overdrive and Death Burst every round, for some extra damage.

Anyway, here she is:

Vhauglohrl, Last-Of-Her-Clutch
Large Natural Magical Beast (Aquatic, Dragon, Worldbreaker)
Level 4 Solo Brute – XP 875
Initiative: +11; see also Draconic Alacrity
Miasma (Acid) aura 3: Creatures that enter or start their turns in the aura take ongoing 5 acid damage and a -4 penalty to AC (save ends both).
Senses: Perception: +8; Darkvision
HP: 75; Bloodied: Special
AC: 18; Fort: 18; Ref: 18; Will: 18
Resist: 15 Acid
Saving Throws: +5; see also Draconic Resilience
Speed: 7; Swim: 7
Action Points: 0
Phase Three
This entry represents Vhauglohrl in her third and final phase.  When this phase has ended, Vhauglohrl has been defeated; assign XP accordingly.  During Phase Three, Vhauglohrl is always considered bloodied.
Draconic Alacrity
At the start of combat, the dragon makes two initiative checks, and takes a full turn on both initiative counts.  Vhauglohrl takes a full set of actions on each of these turns, and her ability to take an immediate action refreshes on each initiative count.
Draconic Resilience
The Dragon is entitled to a saving throw, at the end of each of her turns, against any effect or condition that causes her to become Dazed, Dominated, or Stunned.  She is entitled to this saving throw, even if the effect or condition does not normally allow a save.  A successful save ends the effect or condition immediately.
Overdrive (Free Action; At-Will)
Vhauglohrl, Last-Of-Her-Clutch deals an additional 2 damage on her attack, and takes an equal amount of damage, herself.  Vhauglohrl cannot resist, reduce, or negate this damage in any way.
Standard Actions
(Melee Basic) Bite (Standard; At-Will) * Acid
Reach 2; +7 vs AC; 1d10+4 damage, and the target takes ongoing 5 acid damage (save ends).
(Melee Basic) Claw (Standard; At-Will)
Reach 2; +7 vs AC; 1d10+4 damage.
(Close) Frightful Presence (Standard; Encounter) * Fear
Close Burst 5; targets enemies; +5 vs Will; the target is stunned until the end of the dragon’s next turn.  Aftereffect: The target takes a -2 penalty to attack rolls (save ends).
Minor Actions
(Close) Death Burst (Minor; 1/Turn; At-Will) * Necrotic
Close Burst 5; +5 vs Fortitude; 4 necrotic damage, and Vhauglohrl, Last-Of-Her-Clutch takes an equal amount of damage.  Vhauglohrl cannot resist, reduce, or negate this damage to herself in any way.
(Close) Elemental Vortex (Minor; 1/Turn; At-Will)
Close Burst 5; +5 vs Fortitude; Vhauglohrl, Last-Of-Her-Clutch pulls the target 2 squares.
(Melee) Tail Slap (Minor; 1/Turn; At-Will)
Reach 2; +7 vs Reflex; 1d6+4 damage, and the target is knocked prone.
Triggered Actions
(Melee) Caustic Blood (Immediate Reaction, when a melee attack hits the dragon; At-Will) *Acid
+5 vs Reflex; 1d6+4 acid damage.

Awesome! Now tell me about the fighting arena Smile
Give your players awesome loot: Loot by Type
As it happens, I've just finished putting the final touches on it, Shovel.  It's a much larger battle area than the group's accustomed to, but Vhauglohrl needs a lot of room to move around; she's got a great swim speed, a flight speed for two-thirds of the encounter (so she can access areas of the map the players likely cannot), and she needs to keep utilize everything she has to prevent getting locked down by the group.  Essentially, there's an 8x16 area that will serve as the primary fight location.  I'll flesh it out later tonight with cover options, terrain powers, etc (I'm all ears for that stuff, by the way).  This area is flanked by ruined buildings that serve as the zone boundaries.  A couple small areas jut out on either side, as well. 

Water meets the board on one side of the field, and on one side, and several docks jut out into the area at both locations.  The docks are pretty small (2x4 squares each), but I think they'll be great for mixing up melee, since Vhaug can fly from dock to dock, if she has to, and keep the 'Watch from flanking her.  If really pressed, or afraid to take to the skies, she can always back up into the water, and swim around the map behind cover from buildings.  Doing so will give the group a bit of a breather, so they can spend healing surges and reposition themselves, but it'll also give Vhauglohrl the element of surprise (once behind those buildings, there won't be any line of sight, so she should be able to make a hide check, and the players won't know where to position themselves until she strikes).

During Phase 1, she's mostly on the wing, and extremely mobile.  She's got a nice area ranged power that doesn't deals decent enough damage, and will prevent the group from clustering up.  If she's got them far enough spread out, it's possible she'll swoop in for a bite attack, using her superior reach to keep away from opportunity attacks while she's swooping low.  Phase 1 ends with the Gas Chamber world breaker, and Phase 2 immediately begins.  Players will be able to use their skills to gain temporary bonuses during this transition.

Phase 2 is arguably Vhaug's most dangerous form; her defenses increase, her mobility is still formidable, even though she's unlikely to attack from the air because her flight's been reduced to clumsy, and she can summon goblin minions to the battlefield.  She'll be very tough to lock down during this phase, because Spring Attack will allow her to attack Virgil and bypass his dreaded movement-preventing opportunity attacks.  This phase ends with an Ear-Shattering Roar, and Phase 3 begins.

Phase 3 is where Vhaug has been terribly damaged by the 'Watch, and her mobility shrinks down to nothing.  She's still capable of moving around quite a bit, but her powers suggest a different strategy: I think it would be best for her to hunker down, and try to utilize her aura and burst powers to full effect.  I'm considering changing the aura around a little, or the bite attack, because the ongoing 5 acid damage they both offer won't stack.  I'd like the aura to cause ongoing 5 acid, so maybe the bite can cause vulnerability?  I could always change the aura to poison damage, so they would stack, and honestly, half the team has poison resistance already (since they've been gearing up to fight the lizardmen), so it's not as dangerous as it might sound.

Any updates?
As a matter of fact, not just yet.  We were supposed to play this last weekend, but our baby-sitter fell through again, so we rescheduled it for this coming weekend.  So we'll be playing Session 8 tomorrow night.  I'll update the thread either on Sunday or Monday, depending on how long my list of things to do around the house is this weekend, lol.
Ah babysitter trouble. We have the fortune (or misfortune I suppose if you dont get along) of having her mother in town so our babysitter is fairly reliable, and free. Well I hope you all have fun, I look forward to hearing how they fared.
Ah babysitter trouble. We have the fortune (or misfortune I suppose if you dont get along) of having her mother in town so our babysitter is fairly reliable, and free. Well I hope you all have fun, I look forward to hearing how they fared.

Hah, yeah, my mother lives nearby and is our babysitter, too.  Unfortunately, she's a child abuse investigator for the state, so she often gets called out at odd ours of the night to investigate allegations of abuse or neglect.  Typically, we try to schedule our D&D sessions on weekends where she isn't on call, but we weren't able to avoid that this time, and she was really busy.  Anyway, we will be playing tomorrow night, and I'll let everyone know how it goes, lol.
I just used a variation of your encounter with the fire elementals last night with my group in a one off.  It went really well...with a few changes I almost killed our defender with the encounter bursts, and had 2 of the other 3 bloodied.  We also had a monk who stayed clear of all zones and I rolled terribly against him.  I think he took 6 points total from auras.

Anyway, thanks for the inspiration.

Hey Ibaum, I'm glad I could help!  Feel free to use anything you see in here, and be sure to let me know how it goes.

Okay, so last night was really cool.  I don't have time right now to go over the whole session, but it was awesome.  The group had two fights before Vhauglohrl that softened them up pretty well, so when they got to the Queen-Of-Crows, they really had a challenge.  At one point, Phaedra only had a single Healing Surge left, so she had to be really careful about her positioning.  The fight was very difficult, but everyone agreed that it was difficult in a fun way, rather than difficult in a frustrating way, you know what I mean?  Those big, multi-phased solo fights wouldn't be good for every solo, necessarily, but for Vhaulgohrl, it worked really well.

Phases 1 and 2 were hard, and the group took a lot of damage.  In phase 3, they were hurting about as much as they could be, but Vhaug was grounded, so they could finally get ahold of her properly.  Virgil, Phaedra, and Akarrin all rolled amazingly high initiative (higher than either of Vhaug's), and, in an amazing display of outright savagery under fire, were able to burn her down from 75 hp to 0 before she even got to move in phase 3.  Which was awesome and actually really good for them, because they wouldn't have lasted many more rounds.

Anyway, I'll go over the whole thing later.  Right now, I must have coffee!

Okay, I've finally made time to do an update!  I know that it's a bit later than I'd promised, but I think anyone who's been following along with my reviews is used to that at this point.  I procrastinate, alright; it's what I do, lol.  At any rate, here's a re-cap of the last session:

Game 8

Going into the game, I let the players know essentially what lay ahead of them: two encounters with the Crow Eater Goblins, and another against Vhauglohrl, herself.  I told them because I wanted everyone to be aware of what was between them and the big dragon encounter they're all looking forward to.  See, we don't all often get together outside of D&D anymore, so when we do gather around a table, we have a strong tendency to just sit and chat for a while.  Sometimes we wander off-topic for an hour or more.  And sometimes that's totally fine.  Tonight, though, everyone wanted to fight a dragon, and I knew that if we didn't focus on progressing through the area, we just wouldn't have time to fight her.  Even knowing this, we still ran about an hour over our normal stop time.

From a design-perspective, I knew I had to turn up the volume for the first 2 encounters this session.  The group had already faced 2 encounters in the last session, but hadn't lost many of their resources, because my goblin encounter at Cecil's Wall was pretty weak.  As I said before, I thought it'd be fun to have a lot of weak goblins against the party, but I quickly realized that level 1 and 2 monsters just ... aren't threatening to the party at this stage: they can't hit Virgil unless they roll a 16 or higher; Phaedra can essentially one-shot any one of them; and between Akarrin and Victoria's debuffs and zone control, even when the goblins do try to capitalize on an opportunity, it fails.  So, I knew my next 2 goblin encounters had to be tuned differently.  Essentially, I had to use fewer, higher level goblins.

Initially, the High Cleric of the Temple of the Everlasting Storm had offered a bounty of 7 gold per goblin the group slayed.  Since I was now comitted to using fewer total goblins, I increased the bounty to 15 gold per goblin.  A small change, but I thought it was necessary.

The first encounter was with a goblin hunting party that was slinking through the docksides, looking for survivors.  It consisted of a Kobold Slyblade (re-skinned to be a goblin by taking away Shift, Trap Sense, etc, and replacing them with Goblin Tactics), and 3 Deathjump Spiders.  The spiders all have tremor-sense, so I figure they'd be good "trackers".  This group stalked the 'Watch from the rooftops for a while, before making their move.  The fight was fun, I thought; the spiders are so tremendously mobile that the group had a difficult time locking them down.  Phaedra took a few early hits, and had to be healed.

Because the spiders are so quick, the action sort of moved away from my Goblin Slyblade, who took a few turns catching up to everyone.  Even when he was basically in range to make a move, I kept him hidden behind a wall for a round or two, because the conditions weren't right.  I knew I only had one good chance to use him -- If I rushed him out into combat at the wrong moment, he'd stand no chance.  So he waited, and I used the spiders to draw combat back to him.  When I saw that Virgil was going to make a play for him, I delayed his turn momentarily, and allowed Virgil to put himself in harm's way.  The goblin was able to get combat advantage by flanking with a spider, and opened up on the defender with Twin Slash: 2 short sword attacks landed, both with combat advantage (so, extra damage per attack), and since both attacks hit, Virgil took ongoing 5 damage.  He went from full HP to bloodied in a single round.

Because they were too busy dealing with the remaining spiders, the group couldn't take out the Slyblade before his next round, and he got another 2 successful attacks in on Virgil, who dropped.  Now, because Phaedra had needed a lot of healing early on, there was none left for Virgil, and the party went defenderless for a round or two while they wiped up the resistance.

When it was over, they made their way further into the docks, and located the primary goblin camp.  Phaedra snuck up ahead of the group to do some scouting: from up on a nearby rooftop, she could see that the goblins had errected a crude tent, and that they were holding captives inside (all spun up in spider webbing).  The group gave her the signal, and she gained a surprise round against the goblins, using Blinding Barrage to send a hail of daggers through the top of the tent.  This attack took out multiple minions, and another Goblin Slyblade dropped down to bloodied.  On the first round of actual combat, the Slyblade got dropped.  That was bad for me, because he was essentially my force's entire offensive line.  It was a great move by Phaedra, taking him out early by surprise, but the encounter was much less challenging because of it.

When the group defeated the goblins at the camp, they freed the survivors (including the elvish woman's 2 children), and pressed on to face Vhauglohrl.

The dragon was waiting for them when they approached the docks.  She seemed calm, and completely un-phased by the presence of the Raven Watch.  She spoke in the language of Men, but her voice sounded like a mix between that of an old woman, and the hissing of a snake.  She asked the group what they hoped to accomplish, and told them that their efforts against her were futile.  She told them that the Crow Eaters were nothing to her; just insects that scurry about her feet, hoping to capture even a moment of her affection.  If she is afraid of the 'Watch at all, she doesn't show it.

Phase 1 was probably the hardest of the encounter, simply because the group had a hard time reaching her.  She kept on the wing for 95% of the phase, at least.  Her Burst 2 Choking Darkness attack was her biggest threat, at this point.  The group really had to spread out to avoid getting caught in the zone.  More than a couple of times, Phaedra either didn't move on her turn, or moved into exactly the wrong place, and I was able to catch 3 people at once with the attack.

Akarrin used Icy Rays to immobilize her at one stage, but she was flying over the water at that point, so instead of crashing onto the primary battlefield, she ended up dropping into the water.  The group did use that time wisely, though; they applied a few important buffs, and used second wind, when necessary.  She moved under the water on her turn, and came up in another part of the map.  She utilized this tactic a few times during the fight, because it allowed her to move around the map without taking hits in the air from the party.

When she was down to about 11 hit points, I decided to land her.  I knew she could only take like 1 more solid hit anyway, so I wanted to get as much damage out as possible during the time I had left.  She landed next to Victoria, used a Bite attack, tail slapped her, then burned an action point to Claw her on the ground.  At that point, Virgil charged in and took the fight to phase 2.

In Phase 2, she was on the ground the whole time, but stayed incredibly mobile.  She harried the group for several rounds, manipulated them into good positions, and unleashed her breath weapon against as many players as possible.  The Gas Chamber effect was still up when we transitioned into Phase 3, so that phase wasn't very long at all, in comparison.

The group was hurt pretty badly, though.  Their powers were essentially used up (except for the ones they recharged with each phase end), and I know Phaedra only had a single Healing Surge left.  Thanks to the power recharging mechanic during transitions, Victoria had plenty of Healing Words to go around, so it really was the Healing Surge barrier that the group was up against, more than anything.  Which is good!

Phase 3 was looking pretty bad for the players, but they all rolled really well for their initiative.

I actually don't roll initiative for my monsters, by the way.  To minimize the amount of rolling I need to do, I just have monsters "take 10" in their initiative.  So if they've got a +4 to initiative, they have a 14.  If they've got a +10, they go at 20, and so forth.  Since Vaug gets to act twice in a round, and her initiative is +11, I had her go on 21 and 11 (taking 10 and taking 0, I guess).  That worked well for me.  Anyway, back to the fight:

So Vaug's highest initiative was 21.  On her turn, I planned on using Frightful Presence immediately.  I had intentionally placed that in the third phase because I was certain Victoria was going to use Moment of Glory very early on to give everyone 5 Resist All and sustain it through the encounter with minor actions.  So in Phase 3, Vaug could use Frightful Presence to stun her, thus preventing her from keeping the buff active for the remainder of the fight.  If you've seen Vaug's final phase, you know that it's pretty chaotic: she's got an AC-reducing, on-going acid damage aura 3; she's got a minor action power that pulls everyone within 5 squares by 2 (so they're in the aura); another minor action attack that damages herself as well as everyone within 5 squares; and finally, the ability to damage herself for extra damage on all her attacks.

She didn't get to do any of that stuff, though, because Virgil, Phaedra, and Akarrin all rolled over 21 on their Initiative.

Phaedra went first, gained Combat Advantage (actually, I allowed her to use her Rogue First Strike ability at each transition, provided she had higher initiative than Vaug, since technically, it was a new encounter), and dropped the dragon by about 20ish hit points.  Virgil went next, and he was all hopped up on Villain's Menace (he used it during the first phase, and I allowed him to continue using it through the rest of the phases, since it's technically also still the same encounter), and he ended up scoring a critical hit!  He also rolled pretty much max damage on his bonus die, and sank 30 damage into Vaug.  Akarrin went next, and used an action point to send to volleys into the Queen-of-Crows.  In the end, he dealt exactly enough damage to kill her.  She would have gone next in the initiative, and unleashed hell on the party, but they were able to take phase 3 down before she could even act.

The group was pretty excited.

I will post more later, maybe tomorrow.  It took me about 45 minutes to write this, lol.  I need to drive into town now, and pick up A Dance with Dragons at the bookstore.  I'll be spending the rest of the day reading it, I think.

Anyways, hope you enjoyed the recap.
Okay, so, it's official; Akarrin will be taking over as the DM for this group in the next month or so!  He spoke to me on the phone the other day, and explained that he'd come up with a couple of different story arcs that he's pretty happy with.  We talked about how best to transition from me to him, and I think we've decided that after Zessith dies would be as good a time as any.  If I had to guess, I'd say that'll happen in 2 sessions (the next game will likely see the group head back to the Temple of the Everlasting Storm, rest up, make their way toward Council Hill, and maybe fight some lizardmen before the night is over -- the game after that is almost certainly when they'll come face-to-face with Zessith and end the invasion).

His story will likely pick up a month or two later (in game time), when the city is in the process of rebuilding.  The Raven's Watch will be seen as great heroes to the people of Strasa and the surrounding areas, and new adventurers will be drawn into their ranks from all around.  Akarrin believes his character should get heavily involved in researching the Abiding One, whom he believes is connected in some way to the attacks -- this takes him out of the group temporarily, to be replaced by my character, but it also means he's available in-game in case we need him for anything (like Create Magic Item rituals, or something).

Aside from my character (who I'll describe in a moment) joining the 'Watch, we'll also see a transformation in Victoria: basically, she's not very happy with her character.  The whole "Healic" idea sounded great to her at first, but in practice, it's just not a whole lot of fun.  There's no doubt that she's effective, and she plays her role really well, but the core concept just isn't very exciting to her, and we've talked at length about changing her around.  Not only is the playstyle underwhelming, but the concept is actually at odds with the way she envisions her character.  Victoria is a cleric of Kord, who is a diety of Storms and Battle, but she's sworn an oath of pacifism, and essentially never deals damage in combat.  It just feels ... strange, I guess.  I've noticed it, and she has too.  She wants something more in-line with the way she imagines her character.

We spoke the other night about changing Victoria from a Cleric to a Warlord, and I think she's really excited about it.  We went over some other options, like changing her stats around and making her a strength-based cleric or a war priest, but Warlord is a lot more appealing to her.  She'll still be a "cleric" for all intents and purposes, but her class will be changed to warlord.  To facilitate this change, she'll likely switch from Kalashtar (who make excellent Healics, but terrible Warlords) to Human, which isn't really a big deal; everyone basically sees her as a human anyway, but she can read minds.  I've even essentially described the Kalashtar as cousins to the race of Men, in the same way that Eladrin are kin to Elves.  She'll lose the power of telepathy, unless we can come up with some kind of a trade, like she gives up the human's third at-will ability in exchange for telepathy.  I dunno.  I don't think she minds either way, but it'll be her decision.

Also, I ran a game a few years ago that only lasted like 2 sessions; she played a warlord in that and really enjoyed it, so I think she knows what she's in for and she's actually really excited about the idea of returning to that class.

I've decided to play a half-orc barbarian.  The character, Frrauc (Frow-k, but you kind of have to roll the R), comes from the great northern plains, where only the stubborn survive.  The winters are unnaturally cold, and have been so for generations, but the summers can be quite pleasant.  Thick, bristly grass (more weeds than true grass, really) is all that really grows, although knobby, twisted trees rise up occasionally as well.  The earth is hard-packed and rocky; unfit for growing crops, and so the wild folk who live there tend to be pillagers, who gather together to raid southern villages or enemy tribes for the supplies they need to survive.

The nomadic tribes of the area consist of both Men and Orc, and the two species mate frequently; to secure alliances, usually, or to strengthen both tribes.  So half-orcs are common, and are treasured by both races (they offer savagery and endurance to the Mannish tribes, and bring a measure of deadly human cunning to the Orcish tribes).  There are dozens, if not hundreds of different tribes in the region, each with their own customs, dialects, and beliefs, but collectively, the people of the region known to the south as the "Tribe of the Old Worm".  This is because the entire area is presided over by an old White Dragon called Boreandr, who demands that "his people" offer him tribute and sacrifice, or face annihilation.

Boreandr is not completely unlike Vhauglohrl; both dragons have set themselves up to rule over "lesser beings".  Maybe it's just the way I imagine a world where beings like that exist, but I think that kind of practice would be common amongst chromatic dragons.

At any rate, Boreandr may be a terrible tyrant, but he's also like a great white shield to the Tribe of the Old Worm; without his protection, the southron peoples would surely come together under the banner of some Lord or another, and strike back at the barbarians in their homeland.  As long as Boreandr is around, however, he won't allow any such pitiful bands to cross into his territory and attack his people.

Frrauc is a member of the Naurung, an Orcish tribe under the banner of the Old Worm.  Her father, Gaurz, was the tribe's chieftain.  By orcish standards, he was as clever as they came, and still as strong as an ox, even in his old age.  He had many wives, and many sons.  Among them were the likes of mighty Ulmgurrath; Nulmgathi the Biter; and Urtogg, the Eater-of-Men.  Her brothers were great warriors, there was no doubt, who had come to recognition throughout the region for their daring raids and unquenchable fighting spirit -- but none of them were as cunning, or as dangerous as Frrauc.  Of all of Gaurz's children, Frrauc was the most like him.  If the customs of the tribe had been different, he would have seen that she was his rightful heir, but that was not to be.

You know what?  This is getting long, so I'll just cut it short for now, lol.

The basic idea is that the Naurung also worship Kord, as they do in Strasa, except they know him as "Talos", and see him more as a god of destruction and warfare.  They believe that Strasa is a holy city, and members of the tribe are known to travel south, through the Pillaged Lands, to the raining city on sacred journies from time-to-time.  When Frrauc hears that the city has been attacked, she undertakes such a journey, in hopes that she will earn Talos' favor by protecting the greatest of his cities.  She falls in with the Raven Watch because they are the strongest and most honoured among the mannish peoples of Strasa, and that's where she feels she belongs.

Congratulations on 3,000+ views, guys.  That's pretty great!

So, we'll be playing again this weekend.  I've got a lot of work ahead of me, but I'll keep everyone up-to-date on my progress.  I think I've got two sessions left (this one, and then the next) before Akarrin and I switch places.  I'm getting super-excited about that, too.  We're getting together later this week to sort of talk a bit about his campaign (his idea, by the way).  We both want to make sure that everything transitions over well, so I'll let him in on a few of the little secrets of the campaign world that I've been keeping, and he'll let me in on some of his plot, so I can help the transition from my end.

It's going to be pretty cool.

Sounds like your players had a lot of fun with the dragon encounter, the first giant solo encounter of a campaign always has a lot of potential to propel the game forward and it certainly seems to have in this case. Your character sounds pretty interesting, a nice injection of history from a prior unknown area. Will you be continuing updates or will your transition to a PC kill that? Either way, thanks for keeping us updated, always interesting to see what happens in other people’s games.

Thanks, Andal.  I think Frrauc's a really interesting character, and I'm beyond excited to start playing her.  I've developed her backstory and personality a bit since that last post, and I've changed around the area she comes from as well (although the basic premise is the same).  I'll probably end up posting her complete character, history and all, in the next few weeks.

As for posting in this thread, well, that's really up to everyone else.  This thread's been pretty dead lately.  I enjoy writing out my campaign journals, and sharing my ideas, but sometimes it takes me like an hour to write one up, you know?  I like to hear what people think, what suggestions they have, answer questions, etc.  When a week or two goes by and I see I'm still the last poster, I lose a little steam.  I certainly can continue posting campaign journals after the transition (though they'll obviously be from a player's perspectve, rather than a DM's), but I'd have to know that people were interested.

Having said that, I do really enjoy writing everything up.  Could be I'll end up writing it all out even if nobody ever posts but me, lol.

I have two more games to run until we officially transition DMs: Game 9 is this evening, and will see the players rest up after the Vhauglohrl attack, press their way through central Strasa (still inhabited by the Ferryman's undead guardians), and meet up with Captain Sterheart at the foot of Council Hill.  Doesn't sound like a lot, but there's a few skill challenges, some RP, and plenty of fighting to be had.  My last game will be in about 2 weeks from now, and it'll see the group pushing up Council Hill, facing Zessith and his personal guard, and breaking the siege of Strasa.

Akkarin's spoken to me about his plans for the story after that, and they're really good.  I'll keep them under my hat for right now, though.
Last night's Game 9 was a lot of fun.  I was kind of worried that it'd feel like a bit of a lull, since we fought Vhauglohrl in Game 8, and they'll be up against Zessith in Game 10, but I think everyone had a blast.  My wife couldn't make it because she was feeling pretty under the weather due to the pregnancy, so Virgil played Victoria as well as his own character.  I'm really coming into my own in terms of running combats and designing monsters, I think, so I'll want to sit down with Akkarin before he takes over as DM and tell him a bit about what I've learned.  A lot of stuff is trial and error, so if I can tell him where I feel like I've failed from a design perspective, I think we'll all benefit in the long run.

I won't do a full write-up this morning, but one will be up soon, for sure.
Glad you're having fun with it, and hope your wife feels better.  We look forward to reading your updates.  It's always interesting to see where this is going.
Well personally im definately interested in seeing more, a player perspective would be cool as well. Very curious to see what direction the game takes. Even if only I and Ibaum post im fairly sure there are many more people viewing who just dont feel like they have a constructive comment to make but enjoy reading about it.
Hey guys, I didn't mean to leave you hanging for a game update, but the forum ate my post last week, and I haven't had the time, energy, or inclination to sit down and write up another until now.  Let me just say, first of all, that Game 9 was a lot of fun.  I didn't expect it to be, because it's sandwhiched between two big games (Game 8 was the showdown with Vhauglohrl, and Game 10 deals with breaking Zessith's siege), but I was really pleasantly surprised at how well it went.

I think I mentioned before that my wife, Victoria's player, couldn't make it.  She's pregnant with our second child, and occasionally feels pretty ill.  She's fine, but you know, pregnancy.  I decided it would be best to play without her, because the game's nearing its end, and I don't want to leave the party hanging (plus, Virgil has to come from out of town to play, and it's not fair to cancel on him at the last minute).  In the end, Virgil volunteered to play his character and Victoria, and it went really well.  Turns out, when the party tank also controls its healer, it's a pretty good setup (for the tank, lol).

Game 9 marked a turning point for me as a DM, as well.  See, I create a lot of my monsters from the ground up.  Some of my monsters are re-skins, and some are just mathematically adjusted, but almost none are the way they're presented in the books.  I try my very best to make sure my math's correct, and that I'm not making things overpowered.  And actually, I feel like a lot of my monsters are actually underpowered, because I overcompensate for anything I feel may be too strong.  At any rate, I decided to take off the kiddie wheels on Game 9: where I'd normally use the Low damage expressions for a monster, I used the Medium expressions instead, and sometimes I used the High stuff.  Basically, I made combat a lot more challening, and they noticed it.  In a good way, I think.

Game 9's outline is pretty simple: the party returns to the Temple of the Everlasting Storm, where they are greeted as heroes by the refugees for defeating Vhauglohrl.  The fight is not over yet, though, of course.  On Council Hill, Zessith and his men are preparing to lay siege to the Council Tower, and even though that place is built like a fortress, it's only a matter of time before he cracks its shell.  The party rests up, and heads out to stop him first thing in the morning.

Since its on their way to the Hill, they decide to check in on the Brazen Foal.  The find it locked down pretty tight.  Being a tavern full of ex-adventurers, it's a fairly safe place to be in a time like this, and there are a large number of refugees holed up there looking for protection.  Granger, the tavern owner (remember that guy?) tells the party to watch their backs, because he feels like this whole invasion happened just a little too smoothly -- he believes that Zessith had help from someone on the inside.

Keeping that in mind, the 'Watch said goodbye to the Foal and headed up toward the Hill.  They had several encounters with undead guardians from the Ferryman's Institute, both of which were pretty hectic.  The first was with a group of re-skinned Blazing Skeletons (they did cold damage instead of fire).  The skeletons appeared on both sides of the battlefield, so Virgil had to choose which side to lock down.  Phaedra went first, though, and rushed off toward the nearest two, dealing Sneak Attack damage and hurting one of them pretty badly.  These guys have damage auras though, which come into effect when someone starts their turn inside melee distance, so on their turns, they dished out as much ongoing cold damage as they could, and pressed in close to maximize aura damage.  This means that Phaedra took a hit on their turn, and once her turn came up, she took 5 ongoing cold damage, and 10 aura damage (inside 2 auras).  She was down to less than bloodied in the blink of an eye.

It didn't take long to mop up those skeletons, but they managed to really bring the hurt while they were around.

The second encounter was with some ghouls that climbed their way up out of the canals.  Those guys move really fast, immobilize on a hit, and have the ability to stun immobilized targets.  Frankly, I didn't get off many stuns (which is probably a good thing for the players' enjoyment), but the encounter was still really rough.

The final encounter happened once they reached Council Hill.  They ran into a patrol group of Lizardmen, consisting of a Poisonscale Magus, two Poisonscale Collectors, and a Blackscale Bruiser (given threatening reach, and I changed his tail swipe from a standard to a minor, because I felt like he was really unimpressive).  This fight was awesome.  Phaedra ran up ahead and used her daily item power to toss a dagger at the bruiser, weakening him and delivering ongoing damage.  That turned out to be a good move, because he was still weakened when he landed a critical hit on Virgil, and could only manage half damage from it.  The Poisonscale Magus has a minor action attack that targets players taking ongoing poison damage; it slides them 3 squares and slows them.  I used the hell out of that ability, to keep Phaedra and Virgil away from the thick of combat, allowing my monsters to move a bit more freely around the map to target Akarrin and Victoria.

Phaedra ended up dropping, but it was on the very last round of combat, so it didn't amount to much.

Anyway, Game 10 is scheduled for this Saturday night, and it's to be the last session I DM for a while.  I've changed my character around a bit, and I'll post it up here when I get a chance for everyone to check out.  I'm pretty excited about it.
Very cool.  Looking forward to seeing your character and hearing how the DM transition goes.
I just want to throw this out there that I think you have a lot more readers than you think. Your summeries are amazing and I think I'm safe to say that everyone greatly anticipates your next post. I really hope you continue to post them after you become a player.
Hey guys!  Well, our 10th Session has come to an end.  It was a fun night, not only because it was my last session as a DM for a while, but because we actually got to play 10 games in a row.  That hasn't happened since high school, lol.  Actually, our group today is very much our group from back in the day; the only difference is that now we're all married to each other.  Other than that, it's pretty much all the same.  We split for a few years after school; I traveled the world and lived in Australia for a few years, while everyone else went to college here in the States.  None of the games we tried to play in those years stuck: players flaked out, stories fizzled, etc.  So getting 10 games in a row is noteworthy for us.  My wife and I made a cake and ordered some pizzas to celebrate.  Virgil brought us in some hot wings from this bar up by his place.  So there was a lot going on.  Even though the session was short, it drug out for longer than our regular games, to be honest.

There isn't a whole lot to say about that final session, because it was mostly just combat.  The group met up with Captain Sternheart and the remainder of his holdout forces at the base of Council Hill.  Together they made a strong push, through the thick of lizardman resistance, toward the tower where the Council of Strasa was being laid to siege by Zessith.  After skirmishing with lizardmen through the streets (and losing some of Sternheart's holdouts who fell in battle), the 'Watch finally confronted the rebel warlord, Zessith, who seemed entirely too calm.  He explained that his men could have cracked the tower's shell at any point in time, but they had been waiting for the 'Watch to arrive ... and fall into the trap they'd set.

Barrels exploded all around the battlefield, and poisonous gas filled the air.  At the same time, the black altar to Zehir that Zessith had constructed began to pulse with otherworldly power.  In game terms, the battlefield took on an effect for 2d4 rounds (ended up being 5); each player who begins its turn takes 5 poison damage.  In and of itself, that's not a big deal, especially since Virgil and Victoria have equipment that grants resistance to poison, and Victoria still had her Moment of Glory daily that could grant everyone 5 damage resistance.

The group rushed in early, however, and got spread out, so she wasn't able to hit everyone with the daily.

Also, several magic circles appeared around the battlefield which amplified the powers of Zehir's faithful.  Any lizardman standing in the circle gained a +5 bonus to damage rolls with attacks that have the poison keyword, and a +2 bonus to all attack rolls.  Furthermore, any enemy of Zehir (the 'Watch) standing within the circles gains Vulnerability 5 to poison for as long as they're within the zone.

So standing in the circle is a really, really bad idea; the poisonous fumes in the air that normally do 5 damage per round now do 10, and the ongoing damage being passed around by the Magi also gets bumped up to 10.  Some of it could be bypassed, but it was still really deadly.

In the end, however, Zessith and his forces were put to the sword.

I know it doesn't sound like a lot, but that took forever.  It was well past 1am when we stopped, so I wrapped things up as soon as they knicked his head off.  There's going to be a "time skip" in between my last game and Akarrin's first; something like 2-3 months of time will have passed in game, so I gave the players a brief rundown of the stuff that's happening in Strasa during that time.  We also talked a little about what each of the characters might be doing.

The biggest change was that about half the Council had been killed in the attack, leaving a gap in the city's power structure.  New Council members were quickly selected, however, from Strasa's thriving merchant class.  These merchant-lords come to be little-loved by the people, however, and many begin to loudly complain of the way that Strasa is now being run.  It is also whispered that the Thieves Guild was involved somehow in Zessith's surprise invasion ... the most common rumor is that these new merchant-lords are either members of the Guild themselves, or in their pocket, and that the plan all along was to have Zessith remove the current Council so that the Guild could replace the losses with their own people.

And the city itself lies in partial ruin.  The poorer sections of the city, on the lower side of Cecil's Wall were devastated by Vhauglohrl and her Crow Eaters.  The rest of the city held up well enough, but the bodies piled high in the streets took weeks to clear.  Strasa is not without allies, however; folks from all over the area have come to help rebuild the city.  Some work out of the goodness of their hearts, while many others demand coin and favors.  The merchant-lords of the Council are quick to grant favors, but slow to grant coin, however.  Even many of these workers have begun to grumble about the new Council, in fact, as the prospect of getting paid for their hard work and generosity seems to shrink in the distance.

I'll add more in a bit, especially in regards to my character who will be joining next time we play.  But right now, I've got some work to do around the house.

Prince Mögr, Son of Brasch.

In the north, beyond the furthest reaches of human civilization, lies Mjörgard; howling and frozen.  It is a desolate and inhospitable land, called "home" by only one people - the Naurung.  They had once been Men, the stories say, who laid with the giants in the Time-Beyond-Remembering.  They are a hale and hearty people, half-again as large as men, and well-suited to the natural conditions of the north.  Scholars speculate that the mingling of Giant and Mannish blood complicated their biology to a certain degree, as one in every ten Naurings are born sterile.  Beyond even that, the Naurung are plagued by almost unsustainably low birth rates, and the torturous conditions of the north claim the weakest and youngest among them each year.  Because of these issues, every birth is celebrated amongst the clans.  Few civilizations can boast of communities with bonds as strong as the Naurung.

They are a fierce and independent people, however.

Mjörgard is a hard and frigid land, incapable of sustaining crop growth, so the Naurung are raiders by necessity.  In the lands of the Reach, their clan banners are well-known and well-feared.  Naurings rarely take more than their communities require, however, and almost never cut down those who stand aside from the conflict.  In truth, most of the villages gave up resisting the attacks generations ago, and now simply pay tribute to the Naurung on every moon-turn.

The Naurung pay tributes of their own, however.  In the highest Mjörgardian peaks, amongst the tall stone spires of Rassal, the abandoned City of Bells, lives an old white wyrm called Boreandr, who commands both respect and admiration ... and demands sacrifices of wealth and blood.  The Naurung are not an especially intelligent people (though many are cunning); most cannot read or write, so the vast majority of their traditions and history are passed down through the generations by song and story.  Boreandr, like most great wyrms, measures his vast lifetime in centuries, and has warped the stories of the Naurung over the course of many long generations -- many now believe that he is the avatar of Talos, the god of storms, destruction and savagery, and so happily pay tribute in return for his favor.  In return, Boreandr (and his consort, the wicked she-dragon called Shiver) watch over the Naurung, and bring their terrifying wrath upon any who would dare strike back at them.

The Naurung are a nomadic people, with only one permanent settlement: Hollowhome.  In the Time-Beyond-Remebering, scholars say that Hollowhome was a dwarven fortress-city, but the dwarves have long since fled; driven aback by the giants, most-like, through the deep roads their anscestors carved from stone and fire.  Now it is home to the Naurung.  The cavernous entrances to the city sprout up all around the base of Rassal, the fabled City of Bells that rises from the tallest and oldest peaks, and serves as Boreandr's roost and throne.  The Naurung are forbidden to ascend the mountain, or step foot in Rassal, but when the wind howls (and it often howls), they can hear the massive, ancient bells ringing down in Hollowhome.

Prince Mögr is a Nauring warrior, descended in an unbroken line from Ymirius, the first Thane of Hollowhome.  His devotion to his people and his Gods is unquestioned, and his battle spirit is unquenchable.  When tales from the south reached Mjörgard -tales of the invasion of Strasa- Mögr and his people were infuriated; amongst the Naurung, Kord is considered to be a southron depiction of Talos (opposite side of the same coin), first amongst the Nauring Gods, and Strasa is a holy city.  To prove his devotion and his skill, Prince Mögr sent off on a sacred pilgrimage toward the Raining City, leaving his people and his family behind, in hopes of securing Talos' favor by helping its people rebuild.

More to come.

In regards to the deities of Mjörgard, I've decided to use the Deities of Fury from Forgotten Realms: Talos (The Destroyer, the Storm Lord, God of Chaos, Storms, and Destruction); Auril (The Frostmaiden, Queen of Air and Darkness, Goddess of Winter); Malar (The Beastlord, the Black-Blooded Pard, God of Hunters, Skinchangers, and the Moon); and Umberlee (The Bitch Queen of the Depths, Goddess of the Sea).

I'll be honest, these are all evil deities, but the Naurung mostly worship them out of fear of retribution, rather than admiration.  The Naurung are not an evil race, but they believe that the Gods are fearsome, jealous beings, and need to be placated by offerings of blood and wealth, or they'll turn their terrible wroth upon the world in spite.  In their eyes, people who believe the Gods are just and benevolent are naieve.

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