I think that the major thing you have to consider is what are Zessith's plans for conquering the city? I see a few general categories
1. He is trying to destroy the city: The most basic and probably least likely plan of action. Strasa is not all the stable structurally and toppling a few towers into each other is pretty efficient. Not sure why exactly Zessith would do this, but at the very least it can provide a nice distraction from other plots he is going on. He probably doesn't have the troops to accomplish this in an efficient enough manner to kill the population of Strasa before they get reinforcements.
2. He is trying to take control of the city: Zessith wants to permanently establish control of Strasa, so he probably won't take out any of the key economic infrastructure, but will hit all major points of government and military. The goal would be to get the government to surrender to him and legitimize his reign, always a good start for a burgeoning warlord. I particularly like this one because you can make the Watch 'criminals' in an occupied territory. One rumor that I heard was that Zessith organized with some of the criminal underworld of Strasa to help sneak in troops, supplies and weapons, with the promise of repaying the crime lords with high ranking positions in the new government. Just a rumor...
3. He needs something that is secure in the city: Overall I think that this has to be the true reason for conquering the city and the rest is just a ruse. If he captures the city, that's great, but that ancient artifact buried deep in the hidden vaults of an arcane academy is really what Zessith is after. With it, he will be able to perform a great and powerful ritual for Zehir that will make conquering the city and surrounding area a breeze.
Now for the best part. To tie it all back together, Zessith has been misinformed. The Abiding One has lured Zessith into the city for the purpose of performing this dark ritual, but this dark ritual isn't going to unleash Zehir, but weaken the boundaries to the Far Realm or such and such. A perfect double cross scenario that I would save for the finale of heroic tier. Players love that kind of thing and will talk about it for years if you can pull it off right, even better if you get the players to somehow play into your hand (maybe it would unleash Zehir, but the player's interference causes it to work for the Abiding One).
Anyhow, back to your black dragon, I personally see it as kind of forced that the players would go after her first as opposed to Zessith, since Zessith is rampaging and Vhauglorhl is settling in. What I see as some options here is either making Vhauglohrl just a viscious monster that will destroy the city (kill everyone in it) regardless of Zessith's plans and makes Zessith look like the lesser of two evils OR Vhauglorhl is set up in between the Temple of Everlasting Storm and the council building and the players are going to have to go through her territory anways. OR another idea is that Zessith will soon realize that he needs Vhauglohrl to bust into the council building and will eventually supplicate her with enough treasure or offerings that she will perform this last favor for him. The party must kill her before this occurs, otherwise the city will be forced to make some very bad conditions of surrender (most of the government is killed, lots of people carted away for unknown ends, lizardmen are placed as the city guard, extreme martial law, forfeit the city treasury to Zessith etc.) . If they succeed, Zessith offers relatively favorable terms (government stays largely in place but answers to Zessith, martial law, city guards are mixed under control of lizardmen, but still less brutal, etc.)
I would like to know if you are planning on having the invasion succeed or not. I think it should, but it's your game. Just my 2 cps.
What exactly are you not sure how to handle?
I'm not sure, I guess. I'm more or less just brainstorming out loud at this point.
I certainly wouldn't force the players to go after Zessith or Vhauglohrl first. That's completely up to them. I'm likely to place them on opposite ends of the battle area, so the 'Watch would have to choose which "direction" to head in: going after Vhauglohrl first might allow the players the opportunity to persuade her with gifts of their own, or it would be a chance to take her down before she can wreck any more of the city.
I feel like I should expand on my suggestion that Zessith take the city. I want it to make the players angry. Angry enough to do something about it, but Zessith has the city by the balls. The Council would reluctantly give up power and try to prevent any outward unrest by telling the Watch to lay low, but I think it is ENTIRELY unreasonable to expect your players to not do something about it. The key would be to make Zessith unattainable/unbeatable at the outset. He's hidden behind too many bodyguards, too many minions, magical protections and even if you get to him, he's a monstrous combatant that chews up heroes and spits them out for breakfast. He's such a BAMF that he doesn't even care when his dragon abandons him. You need to make your party afraid of him somehow, but hate him all the more for it. Everytime they screw up when trying to attack him, he kills civilians and friendly NPCs as a reprisal.
A way that you might be able to make this happen is to have the party go on an assault to lift the siege of the Council building. They meet up with the captain of the guard who has mustered a large force of resistance fighters. He marshals the party in concerted effort to break the siege, in which the party serves as an advance force to accomplish strategic goals (your dungeon), but along the way they occaisionally see the captain being awesome (like fighting off 20 lizardmen and casually taking down some sort of big brute type character). Eventually they get to the Council building, which is absolutely swarming with lizardmen. The lizardmen are preparing to fell a tower into the council building, which will definitely break the defenses. The party is charged with stopping the sappers from planting their charges (or even better, redirecting the charges so it will fall on the lizardfolk siege), while the captain and his men defend the tower from the counterattack by the lizardmen. All is going well until the party manages to defuse the situation in the foundations, as they run topside to escape/blow the tower they see an elite squad of lizardfolk champions working their way to the front gates, perhaps even engaging in one (a tough elite), while the captain fights off another. Then from amidst the crowd of oncoming lizardmen, Zessith makes his appearance (in a way that he will first engage with the captain). The captain tells the party "Your job is done here men, get out with your lives". The fight is short and brutal. Zessith catches the captain's blade bare handed then chokes him to death as more lizard folk champions march past, slaughtering those guardsmen who are brave or foolish enough to stay. There should be 8-10 lizard folk champions between the party and Zessith by now and the situation should look bleak. Have an NPC handy to offer them a way out if they don't look for it (A good place to introduce a Styxian riverman, maybe). Hopefully your party does manage to blow the building right in Zessith's face, but it shouldn't kill him, but perhaps leave a nasty scar and a vendetta. I wouldn't have the explosion end the siege, but it would make Zessith reconsider a frontal assault. He now works on gathering up civilians for brutal demonstrations at the front of the council building as blackmail and consolidating his power in the rest of the city. He has divided and conquered most of Strasa and regardless of whether he is legitimate, he controls the city.
At this point you hand your players some thick rimmed glasses and V-neck t-shirts from American Apparel and tell them it's time to go underground if they want to take on Zessith. Now you get to mix up your players with all sorts of questionable characters with their own agendas, like necromancers, bootleggers, thieves and resistance groups as they struggle against the reptilian menace!
I want to toss in the idea that the black dragon is actually working for the Abiding One. Zessith believes he has coerced the dragon into a partnership, but it is really a partnership between the aboleth and the dragon to use the lizardfolk as pawns.
Why? Mechanically, it makes it a little easier to set up a take down order: Zessith, dragon, aboleth. It progresses the overarching story while still being a side arc, as you can delay the aboleth until much later still.
Storyline why? I think it goes back to ApokalypseShovel's #3 above. He needs them to retrive something, or do something. Zessith may want to have the town to legitimate his lizardfolk clans, thus his willingness to attack, but the dragon is requiring a service for the aboleth. The question that remains is what the dragon gets out of the deal with the aboleth. I'm a little stumped there.
Guys, this is sounding really good. I'm actually meeting with Akkarin's player today, a bit later in the afternoon, to go over some of the dungeon planning. I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but I never get to play in pen in paper games, lol; I'm always the DM. Which is cool, I mean, I like to write stories and facilitate everyone's fun, but I haven't been able to play D&D since I was like 16 years old (we're 27 now). Akkarin's player has been a good friend of mine since we were kids, and he was actually my first DM back in high school. We all moved apart for several years of college and travel, but now that we're all living near one another again, I decided to start up a 4th edition game with him. My hope is, and we've spoken about this several times, that he'll eventually feel comfortable enough with the system that he'll want to be the DM. I'm hoping that, sometime before paragon tier, we'll be able to swap out, but we'll just see how it goes.
Anyway, since he's got some (3e/3.5e) DM'ing experience under his belt already, I wanted to involve him a little in the creation of this dungeon. We've accepted that he might get wind of a few storyline spoilers, but frankly, I'd like him to get some design practice in because the sooner he's comfortable with the system, the sooner I can play. Mostly, I just need his opinion on how best to run the dungeon. In previous editions, we really didn't use miniatures; we more or less just narrated through our journeys underground, and whipped out a white-board if we ever needed something to look at. Fourth edition is so miniatures-focused, though. I'm thinking the best route to take might be to narrate most of the way, then slap down encounter zones when they pop up. Maybe that sounds obvious, but at first, I was considering using all my tiles to actually create the entire dungeon setup.
But that's a lot of work.
Anyway, I may run some of these ideas by Akkarin later today, and see what sticks. I'll probably tell him that I've got multiple ideas for how this whole thing could go down, and that it'd be nice if he could give me a little input on what sounds best. After all, stuff that sounds good to us might not appeal to him. We'll see how it goes.
By the way, I do actually have a character ready to go for whenever I get a chance to play, and I can post him here whenever. Maybe I'll do that later today. I've had several concepts, actually, but I keep changing my mind: the first was a female half-orc barbarian. She had taken a spear to her belly when she was younger, which rendered her infertile. The only way, she feels, that she can help her clan now is to fight alongside the men. The orcs of her clan teased her at first; called her the "Wife of Battles", but she's proven herself to be one of the most cunning and ferocious of their warriors. No one's laughing anymore. My idea, at the time, was that her clan was at odds with Zessith's forces, and that conflict would essentially be her recruitment point.
I've kind of switched gears, though, because Barbarian doesn't really interest me as much as I thought it would. Now I'm thinking Sorcerer pretty hard. Obviously, a Storm Sorcerer fits pretty well in Strasa. I'd actually kind of like the character to act more like a Cleric than anything else. I figure he's a holy man, and sees his storm-based magical powers as gifts from Kord. Sorcs aren't normally trained in Religion, but I could make it happen with the proper background work. More than anything, though, since I'd be replacing Akkarin, I'd feel more comfortable replacing his Wizard with a Sorcerer, since they're both sort of magical AoE classes. The difference between Controller and Striker is big enough, but I think it's a much better "fit" with the group than, say, Barbarian.
Anyway, more on that in a bit.
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).
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!
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.
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).
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!
Game 7 is tonight, so stay tuned for a story update tomorrow.
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:
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 soldier...it'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 attacks...it 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.
 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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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, 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:
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!
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 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.
It should probably go without saying, but the Naurung are Half-Orcs. I decided to write up an alternate history for them because, well, I'm tired of the standard Half-Orc stories. Also, the Player's Handbook offers alternate origins for the race as well; it says Half-Orcs could have sprouted from the union of Orc and Man, but it also says that Kord created them for battle at the dawn of time, mixing the best parts of both races. So I made my own origin story. Not all Half-Orcs in the game world need by Naurung, obviously. The Naurung are closer to Half-Giants than Half-Orcs, anyway.
Lots of new info! Sounds like a fun adventure and great transition point for a new dm. I like the Naurung but im glad you mentioned they were half orcs because i would have said they were goliaths since they are essentially half giants. Low birth rate plus harsh conditions equals a doomed people though, if that wasnt your intention i would consider giving them some unusual advantage (besides the dragon protectors, they cant stop disease, exhaustion, etc) that allows their continued survival. I look forward to reading of Prince Mogr's exploits.
They are conceptually a bit closer to Goliaths than they are to Half-Orcs, I'll admit. That wasn't my intention, but that's certainly the way it ended up. I just wanted a fresh Half-Orc concept, because I was tired of all the same old stuff. You know? I included the stuff about difficulty breeding because of the old D&D rules, where Half-Orcs were sterile. And I do sort of see them as a doomed people, honestly. They aren't exactly thriving out there, beyond the Reach, but Hollowhome is a safe haven, none-the-less; a place where they can live and breed in relative safety. The Naurung have an extraordinarily strong sense of community, so the clans are really tightly-knit, and like I said, every birth is celebrated. Sooner or later, though, something will need to change for them as a people, because it's simply not sustainable forever.
Each year, they dwindle further and further.
Well you certainly said what you meant then. I don’t blame you for wanting to throw a new spin on half orcs, they can get a bit stale, im glad you clarified though. Any new updates? How did your first game as a player go?
Our first game is tonight, actually. Akkarin needed some time to find his DM groove, and we've had some scheduling setbacks, but tonight we'll finally get to play. I'm super excited, and I'll update the thread tomorrow morning, if I get the chance.
Sorry for taking a while to get the update posted; I've been pretty busy with school this week. So, yeah. Akkarin's first game went well, I think. For those who may have forgotten (I know it's been a while), the political climate of Strasa has vastly changed following the failed lizardman invasion: roughly half of the Strassan Council was killed, leaving a sort of power vacuum. Certain members of Strasa's wealthy merchant class were chosen to fill the open slots, and not everyone in the city is happy about it. Many people believe that the lizardman war chief, Zessith, was working with an organization inside the Raining City (the Thieves' Guild, if the rumours are true), and some say that the whole invasion was a plot to remove the current Council. These new merchant-class Councilors, it is whispered, were using Zessith as a kind of proxy-agent, and everything has worked out according to their grand designs.
The city watch has been largely changed and re-formed, as well: the new Council essentially disbanded the old guard, keeping only a handful of the original membership, and created a new guard from the ranks of the merchant-lords' own personal armies. These men and women are marked by the purple cloaks they wear. There are far fewer purple cloaks than there were city guards, and the cloaks tend to focus primarily on protecting the Council. A kind of lawlessness has begun to spread through the streets of the Raining City as a result.
The 'Watch has been changing, as well.
Mögr, a nauring warrior from the frozen lands of Mjörgard, north of the Reach, has come to Strasa. The Naurung believe that the Raining City is a holy place -- the earthly seat of Talos, lord of Storms and Destruction -- and Mögr has come to see it rebuilt, so that he might earn the Destroyer's favor. He fell in with the 'Watch soon after he arrived in the city.
Victoria worked with the remnants of the city guard, until it was dissolved. She worked as a battle-captain, using her knowledge of warfare and tactics to both train raw recruits, and sharpen the skills of the veterans. Formerly a Cleric of Kord, Victoria has officially swapped classes, and is now a Tactical Warlord.
Akkarin has largely lost himself in research, convinced that the Abiding One is still at work against the city.
Phedré has spent the last few months investigating the rumors against the Council, using her contacts within the Theives' Guild to uncover the truth.
And Virgil, as a former member of the city guard, was extremely upset when it was dissolved. He hates the new Purple Cloaks, and used a portion of his resources to gather up some of his friends from the old guard and form a mercenary company called the Storm Wolves. Their first official mission was to track down Vhauglohrl's lair, slay her consort, and smash her eggs -- so that's what they did.
When the game started, Virgil and his Storm Wolves were just returning to Strasa, victorious.
Phedré discovered a mysterious note, warning her of danger from an unknown source, and urging her to get out of the city. She tried to investigate a little further about it at the Thieves' Guild, but wasn't able to track down any leads. The next morning, a messenger from the Council arrived at the Roost, and urged the 'Watch to help track down some murderers who've fled into the cisterns beneath the city. The 'Watch sensed a trap right away; why wouldn't the Council just send their Purple Cloaks?
Virgil was itching to throw the request back in the Council's face, but Mögr convinced him not to. "Let's say it IS a trap," he said, "We'll be prepared when they spring it, and once they've failed, we'll have enough evidence to take them down." Virgil liked that idea, so we headed down into the sewers.
The 'Watch did come upon a group hiding out down there, but they claimed to be "Resistance Fighters", and when we mentioned why we'd been sent down there, they called us "Council Dogs", and asked, "Where are your purple cloaks?" Then the fighting began.
There were maybe 6 or 7 enemies. And they were pretty far away when we rolled for initiative. Mostly humans, but a few dwarves were there as well. As forces from both sides began to converge in the middle, Mögr sprang over the water, dove over some low cover, and made a mad charge toward the dwarves, who were armed with crossbows ("Women's weapons!" he told them as he brought his fullblade down). Mögr's first attack was a critical hit, and it basically split the dwarf in two. He then charged the second bowman (via Swift Charge), and bloodied him badly.
During all this, the rest of the enemy forces were still fortifying themselves, and the 'Watch was closing in from the other side. They clashed in the next round. The battle was over quickly enough, and before the 'Watch could even figure out the truth about the encounter, a squad of Purple Cloaks rushed down the stairs. They said that the 'Watch was under arrest, for "War crimes, and the murder of Strasan citizens". We were ordered to come quietly, but of course we did not.
I'm not going to lie. It was a hard fight. Right now, we have very few ways of dealing with minions, so that's something we're going to have to change next level when we're allowed to re-train. I will probably swap out my 5th level rage for Rage of the Crimson Hurricane, for example, and maybe replace Recouperating Strike with Great Cleave. Fortunately, Mögr was able to bring serious single-target DPS to the primary targets, while Phedré used her Blinding Barrage, and Virgil used Rain of Blows to mop up the minions.
The game session ended as soon as the fight was over, because it was getting late.
So, yeah. The 'Watch are now outlaws, set up by the Council. What will we do? Where will we go? We're still trying to figure that out ourselves.
No worries on the late post, im in school myself right now and totally understand.
Lots of questions, yeah, and very few answers at this point. Akkarin was actually kind of vague regarding the whole "City Guard to Purple Cloaks" transition; he said that the guard was basically stripped down, and replaced with people loyal to the Council. For a major plot point, it was actually kind of glossed over. That's okay by me, I mean, I guess I understand where he's going with it: the guard's been replaced by the sellsword companies loyal to the merchant lords, basically. It gives the city a completely different feel. Kind of oppressive, to be honest. And there's this very obvious "us versus them" mentality now.
The 'Watch does have contacts in the Raining City, and we do have a certain amount of political power. The 'Watch are heroes, after all; we took down Vhauglohrl, and broke the back of Zessith's invasion only a few months ago. That victory is still fresh in the minds of the people, and they aren't likely to forget it anytime soon.
This new Council, though ... isn't well liked. Rumours are flying around that the merchant lords and the Thieves' Guild were implicit in the attack on the city. Some people are claiming that they out-right facilitated it, by feeding Zessith the kind of tactical information that only high-ranking members of the city would have access to. About half of the original Council was wiped out in the attack, but who's to say that the ones who remain weren't in on the plot all along? You know what I'm saying? Maybe the ones who died were the only innocent ones, and now the Council is entirely made up of terrible people.
I don't know if you're familiar with Warcraft, but there's a situation in World of Warcraft that seems similiar to this: during the events of the original series, the city of Stormwind was completely ruined by the Horde; burned to the ground, essentially. In the years following the Wars, the master craftsmen and builders of the area got together and worked hard to restore the city to its former glory. When it was all over, though, the nobility of Stormwind refused to pay for the services of these craftsmen -- at least, not in full. For years, they lobbied the city for the money that was owed them, but the truth was that Stormwind's coffers were empty. The war had devasted everyone, including the rich. At any rate, the craftsmen and builders eventually formed a kind of thieves' guild of their own, called "The Defias Brotherhood", dedicated to striking back at the nobility of Stormwind, and stealing from them all the money that they're rightfully owed.
Sort of reminds me of that scenario, I was thinking. It's become something that's just completely corrupt. It was always there before, beneath the surface, but now it's boiled over. It's on top now, and everyone can see it.
Gotta make sure this stays off the second page.
And the campaign definitely seems to be taking an interesting turn. I kind of like the scenario where you've been spending your time protecting Strasa, and now Strasa is turning into one of your enemies. Definitely an interesting twist! It also almost seems like the campaign will continue to be in Strasa for a while, as I'm guessing the Night Watch wants to take the city back.
Keep up the recaps! Look forward to them every week!
Thanks for the updates milkducks. Still fascinating even with the changes. I wonder, though, if the new DM will be as story driven as you were, or if he's more action minded. Both have their place of course, but his gloss over some of the changes make me wonder. And I wonder how your groupo will react.
It's hard to say what his style's going to be like at this point. A lot of the changes throughout the city are ones that I sat down and talked with him about; stuff that I thought was happening behind the scenes that was ready to come to out in the open. I agree that the story needs a little fleshing out. I get the impression that Akkarin maybe wants to take the group in another direction, and I can understand that. I'm totally fine with it, honestly. I think maybe he doesn't want to mess with the Strasa stuff I've written, and would maybe feel a little more comfortable once we get away from it, and start working on the story he's got in mind.
But it's too early to tell, at this point.
We haven't played for a while, and we actually won't be playing for another two weeks. School is back in session, and we've all just been really tied up. I've been using the downtime to produce content for my YouTube channel, which, at this point, is dedicated to Call of Duty. If you'd like to check it out, here's a link: www.youtube.com/user/THEmilkducks?featur... -- In the video, I go 118 kills and 6 deaths, and I talk a little bit about how people can avoid being stuck in the situation we've put the other team in, lol.
Anyways, check it out if you'd like. And remember to rate, comment, subscribe, and favourite! >.>
I'm incorporating Strasa into my ongoing campaign - and I thought I would share this intro I wrote up to try and capture the flavour of the City. It is incomplete - unfortunately I left a section of the write-up at home, but this is the majority of it.
Strasa, The Raining City
Though rumours and hearsay are a common knowledge, none of the small party have ever laid eyes on the mythical city of Strasa. Nestled high in the mountains between two towering peaks in a deep, sheltered valley, it is said that the Raining City has been subject to a great and extended downpour that has lasted for generations. And, though the distance between Goodstead and the City is not all that great - the countryside has grown more and more dangerous with every passing year. Kobolds, Gnolls, Goblins and Orcs rove the hills in packs; extending their warrens and building strongholds out of the many small, crumbling holds and keeps littered about the hillsides. They are remnants of the Time Before the Rains, when this country was populated by many a minor Baron and Noble seeking to carve out some small part of the land for themselves.
This danger, coupled with the endless patterns of showers, torrential downpours and monsoons make the passes south of Strasa all the more treacherous. Mudslides and flooding rivers are common, giving rise to the frequent need to find new routes through the mountains; to build new roads and establish more trade routes from the southern baronies. As such, Strasa survives primarily on three major sources of income: Trade from the north, beyond the mountains where the lands grow dry and flat; Arcane Research from the many colleges established throughout the City; and finally tourism.
Few know quite when or how - but Strasa sits upon a waygate; a nexus into the elemental plane of water from whence pours and endless torrent. Growing initially as a focal point for travellers, pilgrims, mages at study and finally adventurers. This combination, or so it is told, led to an influx of wealth and an economy that would not be easily doused by the unusual weather. When one layer of the old city was washed away or flooded, the intrepid settlers would build upon the ruins - growing ever skyward. The towers would creep to new heights, and the people would build their homes anew - or so it was said.
Now, as it grows late in the summer and our heroes find themselves navigating the steep and water-logged passes leading into the mountains, they cannot help but wonder at this strange, ancient City. It has been over a century since the rains last paused - but it is said that Strasa is much older still than that. Only those amphibious or adventurous souls powerful enough to brave the dark depths are able to plumb the ancient ruins and foundations of the Raining City - and who knows what they will find. Crushed by the pressure of cold, frigid waters, what ancient tomes or relics still survive to tell the story of the City's mysterious past.
Mysterious, indeed, is Strasa - and it is that which brings these brave Adventurer's to its gates.
For a day, the party trek hard across the valleys between the towering black peaks of the mountains. Here the land is boggy and perpetually waterlogged under foot. Some slopes, usually to be expected devoid of any scrub or plant life are found surprisingly green and verdant. Many rivers and streams flow through these valleys, pooling into great lakes that force these heroes off track for hours at a time. Others still flow ever down wards, back the way they had come - heading into the hills and lowlands. Some twenty of thirty miles to the south, beyond Goodstead lies an enormous, sprawling marshy woodland - home, apparently, to untold numbers of Lizardfolk and other beasts.
But such is not their destination - at least for now. They travel onwards and upwards against the current, sometimes forced to fjord rivers and streams ranging from mere inches deep to fifty yards across and as deep as a tall man at the centre. These prove dangerous crossing against the fast flowing waters, but nothing untoward befalls the party. They simply grow weary, wetter and colder - even though it is supposedly still summer.
They camp the night under a rocky outcrop beside a tall stand of pines that shelters them from a cold wind. The wood here is always damp - and lighting a fire even in the shelter proves to be all but impossible. Each twig and branch must be labouriously dried before it will burn - and it is all they can do to build a blaze barely big enough to dry their clothes and return some warmth to aching hands and toes. The night is grim and cold, spent with cynical thoughts of turning homewards - but when the first light of morning finally lights the overcast and grey sky the Adventurers are finally greeted with their first glimpse of the Raining City - tall grey spires of stone that tower, innumerable against the dark sky but visible despite the grim weather. So high do some of them reach that they scrape the very clouds and their tips are hidden from sight. It is a sight that leaves jaws open in wonder and words dying on the tongue.
Galvanised by the sight, the heroes throw on damp clothes, don dripping armour and mount their sodden horses once again and press on through the trees towards the final ridge that stands between them and the City - eager to find shelter and a warm meal at long last. As they near the crest of the muddy hill, more and more towers materialise from the mist - filling the horizon between two gigantic peaks with clawing grey fingers of granite and marble of a variety of width, shape and height so great that it boggles the minds of these heroes; men who have never seen buildings of such magnitude or multitude.
Now they reach the ridge and can see below them Strasa in all its glory. Rising from a most enormous lake that laps at the steep, stony slope some hundred feet or so below them, the Raining City is - at water level - a most complicated and bewildering tangle of canals, bridges, boats, floating walkways and squat stone buildings perched atop one another as rights might climb over their fellows to stay away from the rising tide. At least from a distance, the City appears to have been built quite literally upon the remnants of its own former incarnations - constructed over generations to form a strange, multi-layered sprawl of communities wrapped around the spindly granite towers that loom overhead.
Eager to explore and, of course, to find shelter - the heroes negociate down the final, steep slope until they run along the edge of the great lake. Here the waters twirl and dance with endless eddies - as if this body of water literally wells up from the very ground as well as falling from the heavens in curtains. From there, the party need not venture far before they find themselves upon a muddy, rutted and well travelled track. A makeshift dock has been erected here, stretching out across the water allow for several ferries to be drawn back and forth on chains and ropes across the expanse of water to the City. Though in places the outskirts of Strasa extends as far as the solid ground of the valley slopes, here seems as good a place as any to cross.
The ferryman and his crew are dressed in long coats of hide and leather, with wide brimmed hats that droop under the weight of a constant soaking but seem to serve well enough to keep the rain from eyes and faces. Amongst the men that crew the wide, flat bottomed barge are one or two stranger types: Tall, blue skinned creatures with gangly limbs and a fine webbing between their long fingers and toes. They are watersouls, a type of elemental folk known as Genasi.
We did play, yeah. I've been reluctant to post about it, though, because not very much happened. Akarrin, by his own admission, didn't spend a lot of time writing up this last session (even though we had almost a month of down time in-between games). And that's not a big deal, but our last game was pretty underwhelming. I'll see if I can bullet-point it for you:
We've been framed for the killing of these Strasan citizens, and apparently for war crimes. We killed the Purple Cloaks who tried to apprehend us, but weren't able to get any additional information about what's going on. After we defeated their ambush, we decided we probably had a few minutes to go over our options before we left the cistern.
Virgil urged us to act quickly against the Council. They're expecting us to be brought in and tried as traitors; if we show up with naked steel in hand, we can take them totally by surprise. My character, Mogr, sees the whole situation as a challenge from Talos (Kord), but he's not as eager to charge in and start lopping heads off (despite the fact that he's a Barbarian, lol). As the Prince of Hollowhome, Mogr understands that you need more than a crown and scepter to rule; you need to win the hearts and minds of the people. That's the problem with this Counci; nobody likes them -- they dissolved most of the original guard and replaced them with sellsword companies loyal to their coin; rumors abound of ties to the Thieves' Guild, and some say that these new Councillors had a hand in orchestrating Zessith's bloody attack on Strasa in the first place; an open resistance has begun to take root throughout the Raining City, in fact ...
Mogr believes that it isn't time to act just yet. He believes the group should temporarily flee. The 'Watch are heroes to the people of Strasa: they were well regarded, in fact, even before they saved the city from Vhauglohrl and Zessith. These people will know the truth about us. They will remember who we are and all we've done for the Raining City. They will know that the charges against us are false -- that it's just an attempt by a corrupted Council to sweep us away, and keep us from interfering with their affairs.
So here's what Mogr believes are our options: Attack the Council and take them by surprise. The problem here is that you risk the whole thing looking like a coup; We could also stay in the city for a while, join the Resistance, and work to slowly take them down. The problem here is that we're putting our friends and family at risk by association. The Council will undoubtedly strike back against the people we love if we stay, if even just in an attempt to keep us from having any place to hide; Finally, we can just leave for a while. We have the element of surprise at this point -- we could use it to strike, sure. But we could also use it to slip out of the city undetected. Again ... the people will know the charges against us are false, so the Council can say whatever they want. Nobody's going to believe it anyway, right? While we're away, the Resistance will continue to grow. Discontent with the Council will continue to rise. And eventually, the people of Strasa will call for these guys to be taken out of power -- they'll cry out for someone to help them, and whisper to one another that they wished the Raven Watch would return ... and then we would. We could sweep back into town, save the day, and it would be at a more appropriate time.
That was Mogr's idea, anyway. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was probably the most fun we had all night. That, like, 5-10 minute conversation amongst the group about what we should do, where we should go, etc.
Akarrin indicated that if we left, the people would likely side with the Council on the issue, however. I can't see the reasoning behind that, but he's the DM. Still, though, we decided it would be best to take off and learn more before we decide to take action. We need more information, frankly. On the way out of the cistern, we were approached by Captain Sternheart (who you may myself, but added as an NPC when Phedre decided to play a rogue). Sternheart was wearing a Purple Cloak, and Greenbottle's a known-associate of the Thieves' Guild, so we weren't sure what to expect. Sternheart explained that he's working as a Resistance fighter from within the Purple Cloaks, trying to learn more information. And Greenbottle revealed himself to be a Resistance fighter as well. They knew tha we had been set up, and offered to help us slip out of the city -- they said the Resistance has its eyes on a new location for its headquarters, a few miles outside the city, but it's currently occupied by hobgoblins. We told them we could take care of it, and that we'd meet them at that location in several hours.
The moment we left the cistern, and headed out into the streets, we were apparently spotted. Not even by guards, by the way: we were POINTED OUT to the guards by a citizen, who recognized the cloaks we wore (Virgil skinned the Dire Wolf we fought in like Game 3, and had cloaks fashioned out of the pelt for all of us). It kind of bothers me, as the former DM, because I have always written and explained that the people of Strasa really love the 'Watch ... and I'm not totally sure how they know that the Council's looking for us ... but he's the DM, and if that's what happened, I'm not going to argue. So we began a Skill Challenge, and Akarrin needs more work on Skill Challenges, that's clear, but he's new to 4th Edition and I had the same issues at first.
The challenge was to get out of the city while being chased by the guards. This should more or less have just been played out as a series of skill checks, because basically one of the only relevant skills is Athletics. Phedre tried to use Stealth to sneak into the crowd during the commotion, but Akarrin didn't want us to split up (we thought splitting up would be the best option, because individually, we had a greater chance of escaping, but again, that's fine), so the crowd of citizens actually blocked her path. I delayed my action, choosing to go after all the other characters in my group: I knew that Virgil had a high Athletics check, but Phedre was being hassled, and I didn't know yet how well Victoria would roll, so I wanted them to go first. It turns out, yeah, only Vigril rolled well. So, with the Purple Cloaks closing in, I had Mogr stand in the way and use Intimidate to draw their attention. I figured I had the best Athletics and Endurance of anyone on the field, and if I absolutely had to, I could fight these guys a round or two, then break away and keep running.
Mogr drew the guards in for a round while everyone else made off, and I ended up toppling over some carts and food stands in front of the Cloaks before turning tail and running as well. I quickly caught up to the others, and we were making progress against the guards, when we saw a butcher up the street walk out of his store; he saw us running, recognized us, and signalled for us to head down into his basement. We decided to go for it, and as soon as we went down the stairs ... he closed the door and locked it. And suddenly, we were in a fight against a group of Purple Cloaks that were lying in wait for us.
What? How did this guy know we were being chased? Did the Purple Cloaks like SCRY the situation or something, lol? And have their guys not only cut us off, but hide down inside a butcher's basement where we may or may not even try to take refuge? Anyway, we fought these guys off pretty handily. I had mentioned to Akarrin that he'd probably want to use more minions than I do, because when he was playing, the group had access to a wide variety of AoEs that could obliterate a whole field of minions (that's why I didn't use them a whole lot), but with the Wizard replaced by my Barbarian, we're much more single-target-focused. He ends up using A LOT of minions, though, and we have the potential to completely wreck them when we're prepared for it. Which we were.
Anyway, that's basically everything that happened. We're losing a lot of our momentum, as a group, and that's what bothers me, to be honest. This is what always happens to me, lol. The reason I always have to be the DM is because nobody else wants to do it. I like DMing, though. I honestly do. It's just that ... I'm 27 now, and I haven't been able to be a player since i was like 16. I want to play more than just about anything, but it always falls on my shoulders to run the group.
Gotta BTTT! Any further adventures in the land of Strassa to relate? Those of us who have followed it for all this time are still interested!
As a matter of fact, yes. We're playing tomorrow night. It's going to be good, I think. Virgil's player has a new girlfriend who's in to the same kinds of things he is, so she's coming along to meet everyone, and watch the game. She's considering making a character (she has some experience playing Pathfinder, but not 4e), so that's going to be interesting, too. I'll let you guys know what happens.
Also, and I guess this is a bit of shameless self-promotion here, lol, but since I've not been DM'ing this D&D group, I've actually been spending a lot of time developing my YouTube channel. I'm still busy going to school full-time, and watching our son during the day (we're due to have another baby in December, too), but I've been working pretty hard to put out content twice a week for a little over a month now. I'm a competitive gamer, and my channel focuses on Call of Duty, primarily. My goal is to help people understand and develop their playstyles, increase meta-knowledge with information on maps and weapons, etc. For being such a small, new channel, it's actually growing very quickly. If anyone's interested in that, please swing by and check it out. Every comment, rating, subscription, etc helps me grow.
Here's a link, lol: www.youtube.com/user/THEmilkducks?featur...
The game was fun tonight! Unfortunately, Virgil's player was sick, so not only did we not get to meet his new girlfriend, but I had to end up playing both Virgil and Mogr. I have a very strong understanding of Fighters in general, and I'm far-and-away the player with the most 4e experience, so I didn't mind taking on that extra baggage. I made some risky choices early on in an encounter with him that paid off short-term, but ended up hurting a lot over the course of the fight, lol. I maintain that it was a good move, but the battle played out in a way I couldn't have expected, and it ended up biting me in the end. But whatever; we survived, lol.
More info tomorrow.
Thanks to everyone that posted in this. I'm going to be running Strasa for my game also, although not with 4e, I’m going to use a grittier, low magic, system. I feel like part of the fun of the setting is the oppressive nature of the wet and cold, the Strassan's struggle for survival in this uncomfortable place. 4e characters are too powerful to experience that element of the setting, drop a quick fastidiousness charm and you'll stay dry for week.
I’ve been compiling the information in the thread into an ‘official’ version for my game, adding my own stuff as I go. Here is a low magic explanation as to why people might stay in a place like this and a bit about how their behavior has changed to accommodate the rains, some of which comes from previous posts.
You and me both, bug. We're actually supposed to play tonight, but we'll see how that goes. The game's seriously lost its momentum, which is a shame. This is why I'm always the GM, lol. Don't get me wrong, I think Akkarin's getting a lot better, but the pace of the game has slowed down tremendously. People are losing interest, you know? Even I'm starting to lose interest.
We're also all extremely busy. My wife and I, especially. We're only a few final steps away from buying our first house, my school semester is just about to end, and we're only 2 or 3 weeks away from having our second child, lol. It's all coming together really quickly, and it's hard for us to get time to do anything.
At any rate, if we play tonight (and again, we're supposed to), I will let you know what happened in a post tomorrow morning.
Thanks for continuing to show interest, guys. I know it's been really spotty lately.
So, one of the biggest issues right now is that we're all strongly focused on melee. We've got Mogr (the Rageblood Barbarian), Virgil (the One-Handed Weapon Talent Fighter), Phedre (the Artful Dodger Rogue), and Victoria (the Tactical Presence Warlord). On bigger maps, with a lot of room to move around, we're super effective: Mogr is just so fast, and so mobile, that he can easily blitz past enemy defenders to strike at the artillery in the back. He's incredibly focused on charging, and hits like an absolute truck while he's on the move, so it's a great strategy. Enemies near the front lines clearly want to turn back to help their artillery, but it's often too late; once Virgil sinks his teeth in, there's no shaking him off.
On smaller maps though? With smaller engagement areas? We struggle. Last night was probably the closest we've ever come to a total party wipe. We had been out in the woods, working with the Resistance to track down a hobgoblin camp several miles outside of Strasa. The plan was to clear the hobgoblins out, then set up a Resistance Headquarters in the area where we can train new recruits and launch attacks against the Council. In the game we played last time, one of the hobgoblins had sounded a horn on top of a building before we could stop him (I mean, he did it in the first round of combat -- we never had a chance to stop him), so enemy reinforcements were en route when the last session ended. This game started pretty much right where the last one left off.
It's been a while since we played, and Virgil wasn't there last time (I played his charater, in addition to Mogr). So even though we had a few rounds to prepare before the hobgoblin reinforcements closed in, none of us realized, I guess, that we were all sitting right around bloodied. Like I said, it's been a while since we played.
So, like I said before, we really need some space when we play. Mogr needs some room to set up charges, Phedre needs room to set up flanks, etc. Virgil and Victoria tend to push right up the middle, but they're the exceptions. In this scenario, we really didn't have much elbow room. I mean, we had a pretty big map to play with, but all the fighting took place in a small corner of it, and we didn't have much of an opportunity to move. Nearly all of the enemies had area attacks. We took massive amounts of damage very quickly. There were guys with flails that dealt 15+ damage to everyone in the party, pushed us back, and knocked us prone. They also had a "no roll required" attack that dealt 5 damage to everyone. There were hobgoblin war casters who could deal area damage. And there was some kind of leader, who kept dazing us, and allowing all of his allies to shift 3 squares as a free action.
AND all of these guys have that hobgoblin Phalanx ability, so they get a bonus to AC when they're adjacent to their allies. And since they can't really HELP but be adjacent to their allies, since the encounter area's so small, we had a hard time landing hits.
When we don't have a lot of room to move around, this kind of an attack force just obliterates us. There's not a whole lot we can do. We just kept getting pushed, proned, and dazed. My wife wasn't there last night (she's 9-months pregnant, and very close to being ready to deliver our second child), so I played Victoria in addition to Mogr. I did everything I could to keep us upright, but every member of the party dropped at least once during the fight.
We won, but it was incredibly messy. That was the harshest fight I've probably ever been in. Not because the enemies were over powered or anything, or because we weren't prepared, necessarily, but because the encounter area was too small. All the enemies started on basically the same section of the map, and since we're all essentially melee, we all met up in the middle and then got locked down.
One of the things I started doing, before I stepped down as the DM, was to have the group start in the center of a large-ish map, and have enemies pour in from all sides, rather than the opposite side of the map. That way, your group has to develop an effective plan on the fly. They don't just have everyone move up and meet in the middle, you know what I mean? It makes the fight more dynamic and interesting.
When we're in a small area like that, and all the enemies are basically standing side-by-side, it's especially rough for Phedre, who can't move past anyone to set up a flank. I keep track of everyone's damage output during gameplay (because that's just the kind of person I am, lol), and typically, Phedre's right up there next to Mogr, but last night, she did about 1/3 of his damage. I think Mogr dealt like 165ish damage over the course of a few rounds, and she dealt maybe 53? Even Virgil and Victoria dealt 80+. But that's because she uses a low [W] weapon, and the fact that Rogues rely on their sneak attacks to deliver their Striker damage. She got a sneak attack in on the first round of combat, and I think that was it.
But anyways, we won. Akkarin rolled for loot, and I picked up that Horned Helmet (which allows you to deal an extra 1d6 damage on a charge) I've been after since I rolled up my character, lol. Mogr's very much focused on charging. He's using a Vanguard weapon already (which deals extra damage on a charge), and I fall back on Howling Strike to deal the majority of my damage. At this point, I think that, with all of my modifiers and equipment, my At-Will Howling Strike damage on a charge is like ... 1d12 + 2d6 + 1d8 + 7. Something like that? It's pretty high, lol.
But yeah, I rely on charges. When I can move around a lot, they work out really well for me. Most of my encounter and daily powers don't even hit as hard as my At-Will Howling Strikes, so I choose those powers based on utility. I pick powers that will allow me to be more versatile and effective. It's working out pretty well for me. I don't think there's been an encounter yet where Mogr hasn't been on top for damage. But again, it's hard for Phedre to compete when she can't reliably get Combat Advantage. I know she's capable of out-pacing Mogr given the right set of circumstances.
Oh! I forgot to mention that Virgil has a new girlfriend, and that she came to watch us play last night. She's really cool. I think she fits in very well. She's said that she'd like to make a character and start playing with us, so we're all pretty excited about that. She's got some 3.5 and Pathfinder experience, I think, but last night was the first time she's seen 4th in action. I think that anything she makes would be good, as long as it's ranged, lol. I know Virgil likes Rangers, and I'm partial to Sorcerers, for whatever that's worth. I've been reading through the classes this morning, and I've been thinking that Invoker might be nice, too. Anyway, whatever she decides will be awesome. I just think we need more range and area damage, and sorcerer fits that bill nicely.
Sounds like fun... one thing that you may need to look at is that the "new" DM tends to see a fight like that and go "Aha! I finally challenged them!" and then carbon copy that encounter one bazillion times. You guys are INCREDIBLY melee based though.. without writing the potential new party member's character for her, point out that she is likely to be able to really shine in situations like the one she watched, since it is a glaring lack in your group make up.
But if she decides to be a Charisma based paladin.. well, then you have your work cut out for you! Hobgoblins in particular can be a big mess, in my experience, because of that Phalanx ability that even the minions have. (The other low level monster with out of control TPK ability is the Etter-cap)
Good to be gaming, harsh that you guys basically got caught with your pants down (starting a couple of points off of bloodied is ALWAYS bad!)
Something to check for your Rogue player is that she can get CA with a couple of her powers, and I think you can also use a Standard Action (not good all the time, but can be good with an Action Point) to Bluff an opponent, granting CA until the end of your next turn (check the write up... it's been a while since a player Bluffed me in combat!)
Phedre has a number of tricks up her sleeve to help her maintain Combat Advantage even when she can't flank. The issue I've been seeing, though, and this is probably my biggest complaint with Akkarin as the DM so far, is that he never takes the bait. She's got a feat called Opportunity Knocks, for example, that says whenever she hits with an Opportunity Attack or is missed by an opportunity attack, she gains Combat Advantage against that enemy. She's an Artful Dodger, so this feat is right up her alley. When I was the DM, I loved when she used it. She understands the importance of maintaining CA to keep her damage output high, and she's taken a feat that allows her to take a gamble: she can intentionally provoke an attack of opportunity, and she's betting (hoping) that she won't get hit. If she's right, she'll gain CA. If she's wrong, not only does she not get CA, but she also takes a hit.
I think that's a good trade-off. When she uses it on me, I think that's great. But when she uses it on Akkarin, he almost never takes the bait. And don't get me wrong, I can see how a perceptive or tactically-minded monster would pick up on her trick and play a little more reserved, but sometimes she'll only try to use it once in an encounter, and her enemy will just refrain from making an attack. That's the worst possible outcome for her. It punishes her for taking a feat she's not going to get to use, wastes her move action while she dashes into a position that won't grant her anything, and she ends up hitting for ... not very much at all.
I've taken a Fighter multiclass feat on Mogr, too, which allows him to attack an enemy who shifts or attacks an ally of mine once per encounter. It's pretty bad ass. You know how many times I've been able to use it? Once. Once in about four encounters. It was last night, and I'm pretty sure the only reason he allowed me to do it is because we were getting absolutely torn up out there. Any other time, he'll focus fire on me, and refuse to move away. I mean, that really irritates me, to be honest. I know it really irritates Phedre when he does it to her, too. You can see it on her face, and gameplay immedlately stops being quite as interesting.
That's my biggest issue right now.
Here's another quick example, lol: My ability to strike at an enemy who shifts away or makes an attack that doesn't include me as a target functions just like the Fighter ability, but doesn't require a Mark. It's pretty neat, and since I have almost no other Immediate Actions at my disposal right now, it's a really beneficial way for my to increase my DPR. But again, I just never get to use it. One time, Virgil had an enemy Marked, and I was adjacent as well. So that enemy is in a serious bind: if he attacks Virgil, I get to attack him; if he attacks me, Virgil gets to attack him; if he tries to shift away, we both get to make immediate attacks; if he tries to move away, we both get Opportunity Attacks. It's nasty. So what does the guy do? He basically just burns his turn and does nothing.
I try to bounce off of Virgil as much as possible. That's something I have a lot of fun with, I just wish it ... worked, you know? We like to tag team enemies whenever possible. If he's got a target Marked, I'll intentionally provoke an Attack of Opportunity by moving straight away from the guy. The idea is that this monster will attack me, get hammered by Virgil, and then I'm open for a Charge. Basically, I'm opening myself up to some possible damage in exchange for essentially turning my move action into extra damage. I think that's a fair trade off.
But again, he never goes for it, lol. He'll just not attack me when I move away. I guess that's okay, because it still opens me up for a charge, but it's frustrating to continously get shut down on stuff like that.
Sounds like a newbie dm mistake, he's focused on beating you using the outside knowledge he has instead of trying to provide you with a fun memorable encounter. Hopefully he is a quick learner. Sorry to hear you guys are losing momentum though, it happens to us every year right around this time because of the holidays and peoples vacations. Hopefully you can reinvogorate the game.
Virgil's decided he'd like to change his character. There's nothing wrong with Virgil, but he's the kind of player who likes to switch things up all the time. Frankly, the fact that he's stuck with Virgil for this long is amazing. Story-wise, we'll just have Virgil fade into the background of the Resistance a bit, and a new character from their ranks will join our squad. We spoke at length about his thoughts on a new character; at first he was pretty excited about Swordmage, but I know it's not something he'd enjoy. That's a class that requires a lot of in-depth knowledge and finesse, and like I said before, he's the kind of guy who likes to change things around all the time. It just doesn't suit him. I think we're pretty sold on Dwarven Earthstrength Warden at this point. He intends to go full two-hander (Mordenkrad, I think), and he's pretty excited.
We'll see how that goes.
His new girlfriend, who I may have mentioned wants to play with us, has decided to make a Razorclaw Shifter Archery Ranger. Virgil's player says he might work on her a bit, and see if she'll want to switch to an Elf, but Razorclaw Shifter's solid, in my opinion. It'll certainly help us in the range department, which is something we sorely need.
Anyway, pretty exciting. More news when I have some.
Hey, guys! Just a little update, since we haven't been playing much lately. It's really just been a matter of scheduling: last week my wife and I had another baby, and I had my finals for this semester; this week, we're closing on our home, and moving in. So yeah, super busy. Virgil's player also moved to another town to start a new job, so he's been away, as well. We're still planning on playing again soon, but it may have to be after the first of the year. I don't see any other way we can really swing it.
Like I said before, Virgil's swapping out his character, and he'll be playing a Dwarven Warden when we pick up next. I know he's planning on using a craghammer and a shield, and basically making a mini-game out of seeing how many times the game's going to legitimately allow him to add his Constitution modifier to damage (Crippling Crush, Crushing Earthstrength, various Warden powers, etc). Seems pretty nasty, but we'll see how that goes. He asked me to sit down with his girlfriend and help her develop her character last weekend. I think she's going to work out really well. We like her a lot, actually. She DID end up going with Elf instead of Razorclaw shifter. She said wasn't attached to Shifter at all, but thought the rest of us might think Elf Ranger was cliche. I explained that we didn't. I mean, we're all basically playing cliche roles, lol. I'm a Half-Orc Barbarian, after all.
Well, I'm a Nauring, but whatever. We don't get to roleplay as much when Akarrin's DM'ing, so sometimes even I feel like he's just a Half-Orc. Actually, that leads me to something else I wanted to talk about: now that my semester is over, and everything's starting to calm down around here (as much as it can, anyway, with a new baby in the house), I've been writing stuff up again. I'm really anxious to get back behind the DM screen. Akarrin wants to finish up the story he's telling, and that's cool, but I'm going to work on stuff in the meantime. I'm actually planning on writing up an entirely new campaign setting, with all new races and deities and stuff. Really excited about it.
The first race I'm writing up is the Naurung, actually. Mogr's race. In the game we're playing now, the Naurung are essentially just Half-Orc re-skins. I've built them from the ground up, though. I have a thread up on the Homebrew section of the site, but maybe I'll just go ahead and post it here, for you guys to critique? You've always been really helpful in the past whenever I've been designing stuff, and the Naurung ARE tied to the Strasan campaign through Mogr.
Here's a link to the Homebrew thread: community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/758...(PEACH).
I'll just re-post the information from the opening post here, though.
RP and racial background stuff behind the spoiler.
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 complicates their biology to a certain degree, as one in every ten Naurings are born sterile. The North claims the weakest and youngest amongst them each season, but the Naurung continue to endure, together. Few civilizations can boast of communities with bonds as strong as the Naurung's.
The are a fierce and independent people, however; naturally suspicious of the Southron races.
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 with enough sense to stand aside when they come. 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 an 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, Shiver) watches over the Naurung, and bring their terrifying wrath upon any who would dare strike back at them. Their interest in the Naurung could easily be compared to the affection a master shows for his favorite pet. The Naurung are a nomadic people, with only one permanent settlement: Hollowhome. In the Time-Beyond-Remembering, scholars say that Hollowhome was a dwarven fortress-city, but the dwarves have long since fled; driven aback by the giants of old, most like, through the deep roads their ancestors 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 now 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 in Mjörgard), they can hear the massive, ancient bells ringing down in Hollowhome.
Additional information on favored classes:
References to Auril, Talos, etc are because the race was originally just a re-skin of Half-Orcs that I did for a game I was DM'ing. In that world, I was using a lot of the old Forgotten Realms deities, so that's why they're references in the write-up. I'll likely change that stuff around when I'm totally finished. Anyway, I'm working on my own Homebrew world now, and this is my first attempt at writing up the Naurung as their own, independent and original race. This is actually the first time I've ever tried to Homebrew a race, so I'd appreciate any input you could give me.
Oh, and for what it's worth? I'd say the Naurung heavily favor Primal classes, and Martial as well. I can see some Divine classes, like the Rune-Priest, specifically, but their culture really isn't one that supports Paladins, Clerics, and the like. Their racial bonuses don't lead them toward the Arcane, either, which is good, because I can't imagine a Naurung Wizard, or Bard. Rune-Priests aside, I'd say their spiritual leaders are Shamans and Druids. Fighters, Wardens, Barbarians, Rangers, Rogues, Warlords, etc, are all right up their alley.
OP, I'd love to run this game for my summer campaign, would anyone like for me to keep a log of what all my players do?
Any new developments in the Raining City? Or has it dried up?!
I can't play D&D til this summer, so for the moment, it's dried up for me. Content will be coming from me in May, I can assure that!
Hey, namph! I've had a great time reading about Milkducks campaign, and I would more than enjoy reading about your adventures in the Raining City. I'm looking forward to your game this summer!
Alright, contributors and fans of the Raining City, I'll be running a game set in this damp setting on Sunday. I'll post an account of the whole affair after, but until then, I've been thinking about the city's criminal element. Since the flooded levels of the city are by-and-large disregarded, I thought it would be cool yo introduce the thieves guild as "The Divers." Their MO is underwater infiltration and exfiltration. Thoughts?
I like that idea a lot. It can lead to a lot of places and is a good mixup from the older generic thieves guilds of most games.
I'm picturing them as fully mundane humanoids with little to no magical assistance. They dive in, swim to the first or second level below the water line, proceed with ingress, and pilfer only what they know won't be ruined by the water. They sometimes work alone, keeping their take small, and sometimes work with teams and waterproofing equipment to handle larger or more delicate scores.
Their initiation includes a trial where a prospective recruit must pick as many locks as he can while holding his breath for at least five minutes underwater. Obviously, some candidates can't make time, and rarely a stubborn one comes along who doesn't think about coming up until it's too late.
Hey ,you know, whatever floats your boat, magical or not.
How prominent are these thieves going to be? Big bads or occasional annoyances?
I think on the spectrum of thieves, from the rank amateur (pickpocket) to the artiste (solo bored phantom), the Divers are the working professionals. They're the second story men, but it just so happens their second story is totally submerged.
I think it should be a small circle, maybe only a few dozen members.
Well, that was a disaster. That's what I get for picking up someone elses story and for running a game with a rules lawyer who really just wanted to fight everything. Chasing thieves and a tragically self-aware golem couldn't save that train-wreck. I'm not even going to write it up. The shame is too great.
Mine didn't even make it past the first session. We started and then nobody could show up. My shame is great because I would've loved to see this get going.
Hey guys! Remember me? Our last game fell apart when I abdicated the "GM Throne", but now I'm starting up another game, and I want it set in the world of Strasa. Not in Strasa, specifically, but in a town or village near enough by that travel between the two places isn't uncommon. Some of my players from the last Strasa game will be players again, so I was thinking of throwing a spanner in the works and having this new story take place maybe a hundred years before the first game. Strasa will still be there, obviously, the Abiding One will still be lurking beneath the streets, and even Vhauglohrl will be present (she's defeated by the Raven Watch in the future, of course, but she can still be a thorn in this group's side).
I was even thinking of including Granger, the NPC bartender who ran the Brazen Foal tavern. I know it's set a hundred years in the past, but Granger was an adventurer himself; there's no reason why he can't be in possession of a magic ring that prevents him from aging, or be under the influence of life-preserving sorcery, or whatever. Maybe he's just a child in this new story, and the exploits of this new group are what inspire him to become an adventurer in the first place? Maybe one of my new players is a Fighter, and Granger is a local Man-At-Arms, who trains him to wield a sword a shield?
Either way, I think expanding on the world of Strasa is a good thing. I'd like the area where this new story takes place to be a few days away from the Raining City on horseback, so it's far enough away that it doesn't get mired in Strassan politics, but it's close enough that people from the village can go back and forth whenever they want (Strasa is a huge trading hub, after all, and a cultural mecca).
I'd like the town to be "small-ish", especially compared to Strasa, and have a completely different culture. Maybe inspired by the French? I like the name "Oliver" (pronounced "Olli-VARE", because it's French-ish).
Anyway, just wanted you guys to know I'm still around, and I'm still interested in fleshing out this world. Let me know what you think of my ideas, and if you've got anything to add, toss it my way for sure; you guys are always a huge source of inspiration for me.
One of my players (a guy who did not play in the first Strasa game we ran) came over today to talk about character generation. I explained to him everything that had happened in the previous game, and he asked if it was okay for his character to be from Strasa. He likes the idea of being a mercenary who came to the nearby region of Verterre (where Oliver is located) after he was forced to leave Strasa.
We worked for a while on his character concept, and I think he's got a pretty cool story: basically, his character was a foreman in charge of the workers down in the aqueducts beneath Strasa. The longer he worked down there, the more and more he noticed that his workers were beginning to act ... oddly. Eventually, things got so strange that he was forced to do some independent investigation. Further and further down he went, surveying the natural cave tunnels that led down into the Underdark. That's when he began to lose his mind.
It was subtle, really. He didn't out-right go crazy, or anything like that. But he began ordering his teams to dig in odd directions, deeper and deeper. Water swept down these newly-created tunnels, creating a series of underground rivers. His character crawled down into the deepest pits, pickaxe in hand, and chipped away at ancient stone walls, as the whispers in his mind urged him to do. Eventually, he tore apart one final wall, and a wave of black water came rushing through. He was swept away in a current that nearly drowned him, deep in the cold, dark earth.
He had unleashed the Abiding One. Now it was free to rise up from the blackest seas of the Underdark, and lair beneath the Raining City of Strasa. Its mind brushed up against his, and he temporarily lost sanity. He swam for his life, and only managed to escape back to the surface by the slimmest of margins. He ran to the Council, to warn them, but when he arrived, he found that they were as cold and dark as the world he had just escaped.
They were already under the Abiding One's control.
They held his daughter before him, and told him to leave Strasa. Leave, and she would not be harmed.
And so, what choice did he have? He left. If he ever told anyone what had happened, she would be killed. And who would believe him, anyway? Did he even believe himself? Maybe he really was insane? Maybe it was all just an illusion, brought about by his time in the deep, dark world beneath Strasa.
At any rate, he left. And now he is a mercenary -- dead inside, and willing to fight for anyone with enough coin to fill his pockets.
Glad to see you back milkducks. I actually just ran a bit of Strasa as a one off after I dropped it in my homebrew campaign world. Thanks for all your work with it.
The new campaign sounds interesting. Granger should be active, an npc that they can run into. He's got a ring that slows aging.
Best of luck with it.
The game's coming along nicely, I think. We're still a month or so away from being able to start playing, but everything's going well. We're setting the story a hundred years before the events of the last game, and we won't actually be located in the Strasa, but in the nation of Verterre, which borders the Stormlands in my version of the game world.
Verterre's King and Queen were betrayed by their treacherous Viceroy, and assassinated by violent revolutionaries who want to overthrow the monarchy. The Prince has gone into hiding, and the Viceroy's agents are searching everywhere in an attempt to find and eliminate him. As political alliances break down, Verterre finds itself on the brink of war with a neighbouring kingdom. Noble and Merchant lords are taking advantage of the power vacuum and clawing their way to the top of Vertesian society, using their vast resources to hire personal armies of mercenaries and cut-throats to protect them.
One character is an Eladrin Paladin, who served as a member of the Queensguard, who's sworn an oath to avenge her death and restore her son to the throne. Another character is a "Shifter" Avenger who was actually born human, but drank the blood of the wolf as a sacred rite upon entering the inner circle of his Order, the House of Scales. He is an agent of Justice, sworn to uphold the sacred balance and to hunt down those who would upset it. We also have a Halfling Bard, who came to Verterre in chains, to serve as the personal entertainer of a cruel and terrible noble woman. He has since been freed from the bonds of slavery, and is trying to find a place for himself in this strange new land. Then we have a Warlord from the Raining City, who had once been a construction foreman in charge of building the maze of tunnels that twist and turn beneath the streets of Strasa. His mind was touched by the Abiding One, who warped and twisted his thoughts. He was later forced to leave Strasa, and now operates as a mercenary captain in Verterre.
We may have one more player, but we haven't settled on a character concept yet.
It's going to be a lot of fun, I think.
Your combats will be slow with two leaders in a party of four. I would look into hybriding the Warlord with a striker or controller.
I like the setting you're developing here. Hope it's fun for you guys.
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