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.
Ah babysitter trouble. We have the fortune (or misfortune I suppose if you dont get along) of having her mother in town so our babysitter is fairly reliable, and free. Well I hope you all have fun, I look forward to hearing how they fared.
Hah, yeah, my mother lives nearby and is our babysitter, too. Unfortunately, she's a child abuse investigator for the state, so she often gets called out at odd ours of the night to investigate allegations of abuse or neglect. Typically, we try to schedule our D&D sessions on weekends where she isn't on call, but we weren't able to avoid that this time, and she was really busy. Anyway, we will be playing tomorrow night, and I'll let everyone know how it goes, lol.
I just used a variation of your encounter with the fire elementals last night with my group in a one off. It went really well...with a few changes I almost killed our defender with the encounter bursts, and had 2 of the other 3 bloodied. We also had a monk who stayed clear of all zones and I rolled terribly against him. I think he took 6 points total from auras.
Hey Ibaum, I'm glad I could help! Feel free to use anything you see in here, and be sure to let me know how it goes.
Okay, so last night was really cool. I don't have time right now to go over the whole session, but it was awesome. The group had two fights before Vhauglohrl that softened them up pretty well, so when they got to the Queen-Of-Crows, they really had a challenge. At one point, Phaedra only had a single Healing Surge left, so she had to be really careful about her positioning. The fight was very difficult, but everyone agreed that it was difficult in a fun way, rather than difficult in a frustrating way, you know what I mean? Those big, multi-phased solo fights wouldn't be good for every solo, necessarily, but for Vhaulgohrl, it worked really well.
Phases 1 and 2 were hard, and the group took a lot of damage. In phase 3, they were hurting about as much as they could be, but Vhaug was grounded, so they could finally get ahold of her properly. Virgil, Phaedra, and Akarrin all rolled amazingly high initiative (higher than either of Vhaug's), and, in an amazing display of outright savagery under fire, were able to burn her down from 75 hp to 0 before she even got to move in phase 3. Which was awesome and actually really good for them, because they wouldn't have lasted many more rounds.
Anyway, I'll go over the whole thing later. Right now, I must have coffee!
Okay, I've finally made time to do an update! I know that it's a bit later than I'd promised, but I think anyone who's been following along with my reviews is used to that at this point. I procrastinate, alright; it's what I do, lol. At any rate, here's a re-cap of the last session:
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.
Okay, so, it's official; Akarrin will be taking over as the DM for this group in the next month or so! He spoke to me on the phone the other day, and explained that he'd come up with a couple of different story arcs that he's pretty happy with. We talked about how best to transition from me to him, and I think we've decided that after Zessith dies would be as good a time as any. If I had to guess, I'd say that'll happen in 2 sessions (the next game will likely see the group head back to the Temple of the Everlasting Storm, rest up, make their way toward Council Hill, and maybe fight some lizardmen before the night is over -- the game after that is almost certainly when they'll come face-to-face with Zessith and end the invasion).
His story will likely pick up a month or two later (in game time), when the city is in the process of rebuilding. The Raven's Watch will be seen as great heroes to the people of Strasa and the surrounding areas, and new adventurers will be drawn into their ranks from all around. Akarrin believes his character should get heavily involved in researching the Abiding One, whom he believes is connected in some way to the attacks -- this takes him out of the group temporarily, to be replaced by my character, but it also means he's available in-game in case we need him for anything (like Create Magic Item rituals, or something).
Aside from my character (who I'll describe in a moment) joining the 'Watch, we'll also see a transformation in Victoria: basically, she's not very happy with her character. The whole "Healic" idea sounded great to her at first, but in practice, it's just not a whole lot of fun. There's no doubt that she's effective, and she plays her role really well, but the core concept just isn't very exciting to her, and we've talked at length about changing her around. Not only is the playstyle underwhelming, but the concept is actually at odds with the way she envisions her character. Victoria is a cleric of Kord, who is a diety of Storms and Battle, but she's sworn an oath of pacifism, and essentially never deals damage in combat. It just feels ... strange, I guess. I've noticed it, and she has too. She wants something more in-line with the way she imagines her character.
We spoke the other night about changing Victoria from a Cleric to a Warlord, and I think she's really excited about it. We went over some other options, like changing her stats around and making her a strength-based cleric or a war priest, but Warlord is a lot more appealing to her. She'll still be a "cleric" for all intents and purposes, but her class will be changed to warlord. To facilitate this change, she'll likely switch from Kalashtar (who make excellent Healics, but terrible Warlords) to Human, which isn't really a big deal; everyone basically sees her as a human anyway, but she can read minds. I've even essentially described the Kalashtar as cousins to the race of Men, in the same way that Eladrin are kin to Elves. She'll lose the power of telepathy, unless we can come up with some kind of a trade, like she gives up the human's third at-will ability in exchange for telepathy. I dunno. I don't think she minds either way, but it'll be her decision.
Also, I ran a game a few years ago that only lasted like 2 sessions; she played a warlord in that and really enjoyed it, so I think she knows what she's in for and she's actually really excited about the idea of returning to that class.
I've decided to play a half-orc barbarian. The character, Frrauc (Frow-k, but you kind of have to roll the R), comes from the great northern plains, where only the stubborn survive. The winters are unnaturally cold, and have been so for generations, but the summers can be quite pleasant. Thick, bristly grass (more weeds than true grass, really) is all that really grows, although knobby, twisted trees rise up occasionally as well. The earth is hard-packed and rocky; unfit for growing crops, and so the wild folk who live there tend to be pillagers, who gather together to raid southern villages or enemy tribes for the supplies they need to survive.
The nomadic tribes of the area consist of both Men and Orc, and the two species mate frequently; to secure alliances, usually, or to strengthen both tribes. So half-orcs are common, and are treasured by both races (they offer savagery and endurance to the Mannish tribes, and bring a measure of deadly human cunning to the Orcish tribes). There are dozens, if not hundreds of different tribes in the region, each with their own customs, dialects, and beliefs, but collectively, the people of the region known to the south as the "Tribe of the Old Worm". This is because the entire area is presided over by an old White Dragon called Boreandr, who demands that "his people" offer him tribute and sacrifice, or face annihilation.
Boreandr is not completely unlike Vhauglohrl; both dragons have set themselves up to rule over "lesser beings". Maybe it's just the way I imagine a world where beings like that exist, but I think that kind of practice would be common amongst chromatic dragons.
At any rate, Boreandr may be a terrible tyrant, but he's also like a great white shield to the Tribe of the Old Worm; without his protection, the southron peoples would surely come together under the banner of some Lord or another, and strike back at the barbarians in their homeland. As long as Boreandr is around, however, he won't allow any such pitiful bands to cross into his territory and attack his people.
Frrauc is a member of the Naurung, an Orcish tribe under the banner of the Old Worm. Her father, Gaurz, was the tribe's chieftain. By orcish standards, he was as clever as they came, and still as strong as an ox, even in his old age. He had many wives, and many sons. Among them were the likes of mighty Ulmgurrath; Nulmgathi the Biter; and Urtogg, the Eater-of-Men. Her brothers were great warriors, there was no doubt, who had come to recognition throughout the region for their daring raids and unquenchable fighting spirit -- but none of them were as cunning, or as dangerous as Frrauc. Of all of Gaurz's children, Frrauc was the most like him. If the customs of the tribe had been different, he would have seen that she was his rightful heir, but that was not to be.
You know what? This is getting long, so I'll just cut it short for now, lol.
The basic idea is that the Naurung also worship Kord, as they do in Strasa, except they know him as "Talos", and see him more as a god of destruction and warfare. They believe that Strasa is a holy city, and members of the tribe are known to travel south, through the Pillaged Lands, to the raining city on sacred journies from time-to-time. When Frrauc hears that the city has been attacked, she undertakes such a journey, in hopes that she will earn Talos' favor by protecting the greatest of his cities. She falls in with the Raven Watch because they are the strongest and most honoured among the mannish peoples of Strasa, and that's where she feels she belongs.
Congratulations on 3,000+ views, guys. That's pretty great!
So, we'll be playing again this weekend. I've got a lot of work ahead of me, but I'll keep everyone up-to-date on my progress. I think I've got two sessions left (this one, and then the next) before Akarrin and I switch places. I'm getting super-excited about that, too. We're getting together later this week to sort of talk a bit about his campaign (his idea, by the way). We both want to make sure that everything transitions over well, so I'll let him in on a few of the little secrets of the campaign world that I've been keeping, and he'll let me in on some of his plot, so I can help the transition from my end.