Ideas on 3-4

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Encounter 3-4:
Spoilers for 3-4 week 14, for DMs only:

Intro: Mountain Climbers
As usual, there is some information in the first section on page 8. However, it really doesn't do what has happened justice. In 3-3 the PCs started down the Ringing Mountains, leaving the Forest Ridge behind. Now they suddenly are down below in the Tablelands and not too far from Tyr. Woah!

If you have read the Verdant Passage novel, this descent/climb is an incredibly deadly journey. Thus, you may want to begin by describing the trip down or even conducting a mock skill challenge to simulate some of what happens on the way down. Rockfalls, altitude sickness, the difficulty of spending a night on the near-vertical surface, attacks from Athasian raptors, and other bits could paint the picture and make it less jolting to suddenly be done with the mountains.

Now they reach the Tablelands:
On page 8 the boxed text tells us they hear falling stone, the sky darkens, and presumably they turn to see the Wastewalker's forces have caught up with them. This may be a bit strange to some. The PCs have gone underground, through the Forest Ridge, down the Ringing Mountains, only to have their nemesis right there?

You may want to provide some skill checks to allow the PCs to see Ssurans looking for them. Or maybe a Dust Devil passes by the PCs as they descend, letting them guess that they are being watched. Or, maybe you give the PCs to make skill checks to evade a larger force, perhaps tricking it into heading in a different location and leaving them to face fewer foes. A simple option is just to expand on the concept of the storm approaching. Have them see the storm far off as they descend. As they near the end of their climb the storm moves closer as if tracking them.

The Battle:
In theory, this battle should be a bit easier than last week's and set the stage for a very difficult final battle. To that extent, it will play best if you let the PCs reserve a few tricks (daily powers, daily magic item uses) this week so they can spend them next week.

The Twisted Ssurans are simple to run and seem to have reasonable damage and average-to-low defenses. The burst affects all creatures, which can make things interesting. In addition, you may want some way of marking the remaining zone, since it will affect play.

The Sandwarped Ssurans have a powerful charge. The good news is you can decide to do it or not depending on the current challenge level. If the PCs are having an easy going, shift and then charge a foe. If the PCs are having a difficult time, either just fight or charge while provoking OAs from adjacent foes. The death effect can be pretty huge if the PC lacks a backup weapon. However, the Twisted ones would leave a short sword (or similar more Athasian weapon) behind. A standard action is a high cost to getting back a weapon in a challenging combat.

Both Ssurans can fly, which allows them to fly-charge from their starting position, retreat to the top of the rock or behind it, and to fly above the cloud (four squares). The wings could be Sunwarped alterations.

The Devil is a strong foe with good defenses and attacks. A good idea is to see how things go before using Stinging Sands. This lets you gauge how efficient you need to be with the attack and whether to pull punches a bit or really use positioning to blind and damage many PCs. The map is small, so the capacity for big pain is there. As you may have seen in a previous encounter, the recharging Gale Blast is absolutely brutal as you could attack everyone in the party with this small map. Use it as needed. Of course, Grasping Winds is very cool with the Cloud (see below). Very importantly, remember that the devil won't act until the second round.

The Cloud will affect all creatures except the devil, including Ssurans. PCs may be able to exploit that, which is cool. Also, passive perception should let them know what it does... the danger is really what the Devil can do with their Grasping Winds attack to put PCs in there. The cloud blinds and does ongoing, making it a strong option for the Devil and also making it useful by all creatures as a barrier to limit the number of melee attackers that can get to them.

Overall, it looks like a good encounter.

Dressing it up:
You may want to have the Ssurans shout for reinforcements, swear to kill the vile wielders of arcane magics (the PCs), and so on to stress their motivation. You may also want to re-skin the death of the Ssurans a bit, explaining the effects as effects due to exposure to Sunwarped Flats. As described in Dungeon 179, "Sunwarped flats are areas where the blazing rays of the red sun interact with the remnants of powerful defiling magic to create pockets of highly unstable terrain where everything from the land to creatures to magic quickly mutates."



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An excellent summation and some fantastic ideas.  Thanks, Alpha.

"As the good archmage often admonishes me, I ought not let my mind wander. It's too small to go off by itself"

Danilo Thann

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All of chapter one I had kes'trekel dogging the party leading groups of Ssuarns back onto the trail and such. I made it obvious it was an agent of the Wastewalder. Tomorrow is time for him to reappear.
I'm second from the left in the picture.


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Thanks, Afet! Kedrith, the flock idea played well for me!

Follow my blog and Twitter feed with Dark Sun campaign design and DM tips!
Dark Sun's Ashes of Athas Campaign is now available for home play (PM me with your e-mail to order the campaign adventures).

Thanks, Afet! Kedrith, the flock idea played well for me!


Even we havn't had a flock following the PCs, they could start arriving after the battle with the Gith, and begin dogging the players as they go through the pass.   

"As the good archmage often admonishes me, I ought not let my mind wander. It's too small to go off by itself"

Danilo Thann

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