June 21, 2013 Session
D&DNext Playtest (June release with Legendary Dragon)
We continued our 8th level playtest from the previous session. (The PCs were investigating why the region around Winterhaven had been plummeted into an unnatural Winter during the Summer. Previously they had traveled to the mountains where they believed a White Dragon was laired. Months before they saw it fly over Winterhaven with a strange glowing blue crystal clutched in its claws. They had entered the mountain through a cave on the mountain, and they had defeated 4 Hill Giant look outs before finding an ice maze that they needed to navigate to go further into the mountain).
Mystra (High Elven wizard – evoker), Jaden (Human barbarian), Rynlore (Human nature paladin) and Elifar (ranger) rested for the night before entering the ice maze. Before they could move on, Elifar decided to check on their mounts, and a new character emerged from the shadows. (Elifar sat out this part of the session to make room for a rogue/assassin) The stealthy Wood Elf named Levos (rogue/assassin) introduced himself to the party telling them that he had been sent to investigate and help end the unnatural winter. Together the party set off into the ice maze.
The ice maze was unnaturally cold, but quiet. Levos checked the ground for tracks and found that there were claw marks that they could follow. The walls to the huge maze were solid ice, reflecting light nearly perfectly. After 10 minutes of travel (and after making 2 DC 15 Con saves vs. 1d6 cold damage), the party heard some growling. As soon as he heard it, Levos cast a minor illusion of Rynlore walking slightly ahead of the group. Just then, the ice maze guardian turned the corner and pounced (reskinned gargoyle with 72 hit points and +7 to hit; it also added 1d6 cold damage to each attack. What made this creature a little more difficult was that when it moved into view, its image was reflected off of two other surfaces so it looked as if 3 of the creatures were there – DC 20 spot or listen to determine real one). Jaden acted first, but he could not perceive which image was real, so he stepped up and readied an action…attack the beast when it moved up within 5’ of him. The beast struck at Jaden, completely ignoring the minor illusion, hitting once with a claw. Then the beast leapt back and the images shifted in the dimly lit area. As a result, Rynlore could not perceive which ice guardian was the real one either so he just moved forward and took a defensive stance. Mystra was not going to mess around. She flung a fireball and was able to injure the beast, but more importantly, the fireball melted the ice of the walls which distorted the images of the beast, now everyone knew where the real beast was standing. Levos fired his longbow and missed the mark, but in a few more rounds, the party was able to take down the ice beast, which exploded into damaging fragments of ice shards when it was killed.
The party continued within the ice maze as Levos guided them. Mystra determined that the unnatural cold in the maze was magical, and if they found the center of the maze, they might be able to disable the effect. As they searched, they took more cold damage, but within 10 minutes they came upon the center of the maze. A 30’ magical rune was inscribed on the ground so Mystra studied it attempting to neutralize the magic it exuded. She had a tough time at first so the party took more damage from the cold. While Mystra struggled to work out the ancient runes, the rest of the party decided to build a fire with some skins and torches that they had. The fire provided a little warmth which mitigated some additional cold damage, and eventually Mystra was able to counteract the magic. (At this point, most of the PCs had only suffered minor wounds, but Rynlore, who had a tough time with his saving throws due to bad luck, was at nearly ½ damage. The party used this opportunity to take a short rest to warm up and heal wounds.
After about 10 minutes of travel in the maze, the party emerged in a cave. Levos scouted ahead in the dim light and found 3 Frost Giant youths (only 99 hp each), they had heard sounds form the maze so they were picking up their huge great axes as they started toward the maze exit. Levos remained stealthy, so the giants didn’t even see him. One of the giants confronted the rest of the party, and the party sent Rynlore up to parlay. This impromptu roleplaying was a fun moment in our game. Rynlore was able to make the giants pause and listen to him. Then, when they seemed puzzled and nearly ready to attack, he used his perform skill to play them some songs. They asked him if he knew the song about the Old Jarl from the North, and (using folklore or the new packages equivalent) Rynlore knew it! He played it and then played another song they requested and then Jaden asked if the giants had any wine or spirits. With that, one of the giants took out a huge wine skin and passed it around. Jaden and Mythra (who were both offered wine) took fake sips. Soon, all three giants began drinking and the party was able to gain some information about their king, the crystal and the dragon deeper inside the mountain. Cautiously, after hitting a high note and performing admirably (transfixing the now drunken giants), Rynlore and company followed Levos, who had already slid down an icy shoot that the giants used to move supplies from this room into the king’s chamber.
The adventurers slid down the 100’ smooth icy slide onto an icy surface in the king’s chambers. They slide across the room and each of them were able to stop before smashing into the wall or each other. This alerted two winter wolf pets and the Frost Giant king himself. The king was not pleased. Wielding a glowing greataxe, he stomped forward getting closer to the adventurers. In this battle, Mystra used a maximized fire wall to injure the foes and keep them at bay. The others moved and attacked in turn, Levos firing under the crotch of the giant to hit and kill a winter wolf on the far side (sneak attack – isolated strike – vs. some cover…nice shot), and Jaden hacked down the other winter wolf. The Frost Giant took multiple attacks at Rynlore hurting him badly, and then to avoid the wall of fire he moved to attack Levos hurting him badly. Levos disengaged and let Jaden and Rynore engage, while Mystra zapped the giant with a lightening bolt and a few other spells over the next rounds. At one point, the giant attacked both Jaden and Rynlore, and Rynlore used his interposing shield to turn a critical hit into a normal hit against Jaden. That made a huge difference. After about 6 or 7 rounds, the party took down the king and they found about 200 platinum and 240 gp. Jaden grabbed the giant’s great axe and it magically resized itself so that Jaden could wield it comfortably. The group also took the giant’s crown. As they rested and repaired themselves Levos and Mystra noticed that one of the south walls had a 20’ section of pure ice as a wall. They could see a blue glow deep in the distance through the ice wall. This was the source of the powerful magic that turned Summer to Winter in this region.
As the party discussed whether or not they should turn back to find a place to take an extended rest, they saw a white dragon on the other side of the ice wall. It flew from deeper in the cave to a position 20’ from the wall and peered at them viciously. Then, it rushed forth and burst through the wall attacking the party with it’s icy breath. (Here is were I ran the white dragon as a Legendary creature using the Legendary actions and the Lair actions from the most recent Legends and Lore article). This was a nearly even match for the party at this point in the adventure. It lasted about 9 rounds. I used every action the dragon could use including healing 5 times for 20 points each. The dragon had to retreat at one point (trying to bait the group to move closer to its actual nest and 10’ wide, deep ravine. It planned to use its tail attack to smash PCs into the ravine, but lucky for the group – Rynlore particularly) it missed on two occasions. The dragon also used a flyby attack to breathe upon Jaden and Rynlore (both Levos and Mythra wisely stayed close to the entrance of the cave to be well away from their melee specialists). Eventually, Rynlore killed the beast, but he was under it when he attacked it and it fell directly on top of the paladin reducing him to 1 hp. By the end of the battle all spells were used and the group was exhausted. (Although I used the Legendary Actions for the dragon, I didn’t use any lair hazards. If I had, it would probably been an even more deadly fight and I’m sure at least one or more of the PCs would have gone down).
In the dragon’s lair, the group found 4,100 gp, a magic longbow, a bag of holding and a pouch with two stones (later identification will show that they are Ioun Stones….1 clear spindle (sustains person so that he/she doesn’t need food or water) and 1 dusty Rose Prism (+1 AC)
After finding the treasure, the wizard investigated the large blue crystal that seemed to be the source of the unnatural Winter. Stepping back, the rogue fired an arrow at it, chipping it, and then the wizard used his last recall to summon the strength to fire a 2nd level magic missile at the crystal (rolling all 4s). The crystal shattered and the magic dissipated. The group had succeeded and restored the region to summer again.
Running the Legendary White Dragon was fun. It really made the creature much more fearsome. I especially like how it can act at any time in the round. This added a sense of surprise and unpredictability to the encounter. In fact, the first time I interrupted and acted with a tail swipe and regeneration some of the players got really animated. They were frightened. With some better rolls on my part, the encounter could have been more difficult, and if I remembered to use terrain hazards in its lair that would have definitely made it more difficult. Even so, it was a worthy challenge for the party especially after they had depleted resources fighting the Frost Giant King just before.
Since it was the first time running the Legendary rules, it did take me a little more time to make decisions, but since the encounter was only with the lone dragon, it didn’t bog down the game. The legendary actions make it like running 3 monsters rather than 1 monster because the DM can interrupt the initiative order to do 2 or 3 actions/moves using the legendary actions.
The spell resistance and the automatic save feature (4x) for legendary also solves the problem with polymorphing, dominate, etc. It also requires the spellcasters to think differently when attacking the legendary creature. Here’s where spells like magic missle, melf’s acid arrow, scorching ray, and buff spells, etc. become more desirable than fireball, lightning bolt, polymorph, etc. In fact, the wizard in our group ended up using magic missile often to guarantee doing damage. He also used stoneskin to buff the paladin, which made a huge difference. Some don’t like that the automatic save takes the randomness out of the encounter, but I liked it.
One of the reasons why 8th level in particular is a bit more challenging is because the melee PCs don’t gain the benefit of additional damage from deadly strike until 10th level. I suspect that playing 10th level PCs will feel a bit less challenging even when fighting more level appropriate monsters since the PCs gain that boost. We’ll actually level up the PCs to 12th for our next session.
Overall, we are still enjoying our experience. Yes, the math is wonky sometimes, and the balance is not quite right, but it seems like things are progressing. Quite definitely, the barbarian’s rage is too powerful, but other than that, we didn’t have any other problems this session.
A Brave Knight of WTF - "Wielder of the Sword of Balance"
Rhenny's Blog: http://community.wizards.com/user/1497701/blog