CALI 4-3 Twisted Rune Overall: Rather bland adventure that seemed shoe-horned into the Calimemnon Crystal story.
Note: We ran this prior to CALI 4-2 because we felt that 4-2 makes a better conclusion to the trilogy.
DM: me (subbing for Mark B. at the last minute) AL: 14 PCs: * Haversham, half-orc fighter * Hugbot, warforged something-or-another * Brakka, minotaur barbarian * Shaal, drow sorcerer * Meliria, drow rogue (me)
A couple of the players from CALI 4-1 swapped out their PCs for a different one. (Why? I have no idea.) And we were missing a player.
Hugbot was some kind of weird brawler fighter with warlock and assassin powers, or as I put it, "Congratulations. You have combined the two most annoying parts of 4e, grappling and stealth, into a single PC."
And yes, I both DM'd and played this adventure (although as you will see, the dice gods punished me for it). Feel free to notify the LFR Police.
I modified this encounter to be more focused. The WeavePasha told the PCs about the Twisted Rune, that he suspected they had a crystal, and that they had kidnapped Jamah Huseyn. My PC (Meliria, drow rogue) had played the CALI 3-X series (and thus had made an enemy of Jamah), but the WeavePasha emphasized that despite any bad blood between Meliria and Jamah, Jamah was still a noble of Almraiven and ought to be rescued.
Encounter 2: Searching for the Twsited RuneSpoiler:Show
Quoting the adventure: "There is no significant challenge or threat for paragon level characters to track [Jamah] through the local rumor mill."
One of the PCs used an obnoxious initiative power to make everyone go before my monsters. Between Shaal (drow sorceress) blasting everything on the board for 50 lightning damage and Brakka (minotaur barbarian) charging and rampaging, one of the red arcanians was dead before it got to act and the other arcanian and death knight were bloodied.
Prior to the adventure, I wrote up an elaborate standard operating procedure (SOP) for my PC, Meliria, so I could not be accused of meta-gaming in my own favor. The first item was "maneuver to use Stunning Strike on a target of the party's choice" -- they chose the twisted priest, so Meliria dutifully took him out of the combat for a round. Unfortunately (for the PCs), the remaining arcanian summoned the earth archon, which bottled up Haversham and Hugbot near the door.
The death knight set some bookshelves on fire, but it didn't have any impact on the encounter. He did get good use out of the shifting effect of his soulsword power, and used his aura to slide prone PCs near the archon. Unfortunately I could never actually hit anything with the archon (literally: it missed every attack roll it made against prone targets), but the tactics were sound.
Poor Haversham also couldn't hit anything, but he did keep the archon occupied (marked) for the duration of the combat. Hugbot got free of the bottleneck and moved over to "hug" (grab) the twisted priest -- so the priest went from stunned to grabbed, immobilized, prone, and whatever other random lucha libre crap brawler fighters do.
At some point Meliria used Deft Strike to move past the death knight to get at the red arcanian, who was stubbornly holding on with a few hit points. Meliria is an Artful Dodger rogue (+Cha vs. OAs) and also has a feat (Harlequin Style) that lets her add +Cha vs. OAs when using Deft Strike, for a +10 to her AC -- she was at AC 37. But the death knight crit with his opportunity attack! First example of the dice gods punishing me for DMing and playing at the same time.
The rest of the party wore down the monsters, but a lot of healing surges got spent afterwards.
I offered to summarize the information the PCs could gain from the encounter, but the players wanted to role-play every scene. Huh. I didn't expect that from this group, but I went along with it.
The highlight was when Haversham (half-orc fighter) got into a religious debate with the High Inquisitor of Bane (Scene 4). Due to a complicated backstory, Haversham sees himself as a priest of Bahamut, and has some cleric multiclass feats to back it up. With an extremely high Religion check, Haversham not only held his own in the ecclesiastic conversation with the Banite, he got the High Inquisitor to admit that perhaps the god of protection was as worthy of worship as the god of war. It was a fun bit of role-playing.
As the PCs talked with each and every NPC, they learned more and more about Arkose (the lich), his pet helmed horrors, the ghost beholder, and the crystal that protected him. The PCs were plenty worried, especially about the ghost beholder.
Jamah was induced to introduce the PCs to Arkose. I offered the PCs the option to get closer to the crystal without tipping their hand. For some reason, though, the PCs adopted an aggressive stance, which led Arkose to attack before they could move in.
Shaal (sorcerer) quickly discerned that the crystal made Arkose indestructible, so the PCs resigned themselves to what is now a cliche of LFR: you spend the first several rounds of combat not allowed to attack, because you have to make Standard Action skill checks. (I suppose this is slightly preferable to goblin hexers and crossbow turrets, but only slightly.)
On the party's orders, Meliria used Spinning Blade Leap to attack a helmed horror, then shifted over to the crystal, Action Pointed, and used Thievery to Open The Case (stage 2). This was literally the only successful and relevant turn Meliria took for the entire combat; never piss off the dice gods!
Haversham (fighter with Religion trained) and Brakka (barbarian with Dungeoneering and Nature) made most of the skill checks to disable the crystal. Hugbot attempted some stealth shenanigans against the helmed horrors, but found out they have Truesight. He then grabbed Arkose, but the lich teleported away with Shadow Walk.
Arkose made excellent use of Freezing Claw to immobilize PCs away from the crystal. In particular, he caught Meliria while she was back by the helmed horror she had initially attacked near the entrance, where she remained immobilized for three or four rounds. I just could not make the save, and I forgot that she had an amulet of passage (the quest reward from CALI 3-X) which has a Daily teleport power. I also crit'd my own PC at least once, maybe twice, with beholder eye ray attacks.
Once the ghost beholder arrived, the encounter became complex, with overlapping auras. At the start of a PC's turn, he'd get blasted by the beholder, and at the end of a PC's turn he'd take necrotic damage from the lich. (Oh yeah: Meliria quaffed a potion of resist necrotic since she learned her lesson about nasty auras from the Vile Essense / Spider That Waits in CALI 4-1. That saved her easily 50 points of damage, or about 2.5 healing surges.)
At some point, Haversham (fighter) used a Daily power to grant himself threatening reach with his polearm, then kept the helmed horror 2 squares away. If it tried to move closer, it provoked an OA which stopped its movement. If it tried to move away, it provoked an OA which stopped it movement. If it shifted, it took a hit from the fighter. Eventually the helmed horror resorted to improvized ranged attacks against Haversham, none of which could connect. Good job by the PC to nullify one of the monsters.
The encounter dragged on (I let it go too long, past the point where it was a foregone conclusion), and the PCs dropped Arkose. They were shocked when he popped back up on the next round thanks to his phoenix sash. (My monsters use their magic items if they can.) But the lich quickly got pounded down again, and the ghost beholder couldn't make it through the portal fast enough to avoid a second death.
The PCs were victorious, but I did make them sweat and use up a lot of surges. The players reminded me that Haversham had to save everyone from death with a Daily cleric power that let everyone regain hit points as if they had spent a surge.
The PCs didn't understand why they'd want to flood the lair to kill (1) the Janessar, good guys; (2) the fire genasi's slaves, innocents; (3) the stormsoul genasi, who was quite helpful to the party; or (4) the harem-woman with the random Almraiven nobleman, neither of whom was actually evil. As a DM, I didn't understand why flooding the complex was presented as the best option, so I told the PCs they could put the Banites to the sword if they had enough surges left (they did), and then escort everyone else out or chase them away as appropriate.
The WeavePasha was happy to get another piece of the crsytal, the PCs were happy to have survived, and I was happy to go back to being just a player for CALI 4-2.
Frankly, almost all the roleplay scenes are meant to be optional depending on the interests and time of the players and DM.
Correct. Pick and choose the parts of the adventure that work best for the actions and interests of the players.
Of all of the CALI adventures, this one is the best designed for PCs (and DMs) to go "off the rails." Much of the adventure is intended to provide the DM tools to customize the experience for the players at the table.
Those groups who like to explore, investigate, or complete an adventure through roleplay without combat, should find everything they need for a more free-form experience. This adventure works just fine with a straightforward approach, but I suspect many groups will enjoy having the tools to complete the objectives in a creative way (not that there's anything wrong with the "roll initiative" approach).
Played this less than 24 hours ago at AL 20... was told after we finished the mod that the party was "off-script".
Encounter 1 - Party met with the Pasha and was informed that an item that the Pasha had an interest in was located in the city of Almraiven but had no further information other than a name of "Blinky" (Names have been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty)
Encounter 2 - Using the resources the party at its disposal coupled with the party's ability to gather and acquire knowledge, the party was able to located the residence of Blinky.
Encounter 3 - Posing as a group of Jehova Witnesses, the party managed to enter the foyer of Blinky's residence. While providing a diversion and maintaining the Jehova Witness ruse, two of the party members were able to sneak away and conduct a thorough search of the house. The party was able to acquire the name of a tavern located within the seedy side of town as a clue.
Encounter 4 - Using the Writ from CORM 1-1, the party conducted a "Raid and Bust" operation posing as Almraiven Police at the tavern. The party breached the tavern from both the front and back entry points. The party swept and cleared all floors of all workers and patrons. The party then separated people that fit the description of Blinky then used Perception and Insight to determine if any of the people were Blinky but was unsuccessful in finding Blinky. Using Intimidate, the party acquired information that the person we were seeking was last seen in the administrative district in town and that Blinky has been meeting with a hooded Water Genasi here in the tavern.
Encounter 5 - Using the party's ability to gather knowledge, the party finds that the Water Genasi works in the administrative district and that a person fitting the description of Blinky was escorted by some "rough" looking people to a seldom used building within the district.
Encounter 6 - The party approaches the building and does a quick reconnaisance. The building has two doors but no windows. It was decided by the party to do a "SWAT-like" breach of the building. Using the rituals: Arcane Lock, Status, Telepathic Bond and Passwall, the party Arcane Locked both doors, put up Status and Telepathic Bond so we can talk to each but still remain "silent" during the breach, then through a sidewall used Passwall as our breach point. In two columns the party swept and cleared the building until we made contact. Under the cover of surprised, the party charged in and was able to subdue the suspects and recovered Blinky. Unfortunately, during the ensuing combat, a fire broke out and destroyed the building.
Encounter 7 - The party questioned Blinky but grew frustrated because he gave no further information as to where the item we were searching for. We then handed Blinky over to the Pasha for further interrogation but did not yield any more information. The party then returned to the administrative district to follow the second lead which was the Water Genasi. The party was then successful in finding out the residence of the Genasi.
Encounter 8 - Upon entering the residence of the Water Genasi, the party located a secret door that lead to a series of tunnels that ended in a large cavern. Unknowingly, the party uncovered an undead terrorist cell. After a lengthy combat, the party apprehended post-humously a large undead aberration, an undead arcanist and several automatons and other servants. Fortunately, the party found the item, we were originally commissioned to recover among some of the contraband that was seized in the name of the Pasha of Almraiven.
She finally gets a handle on the realms pantheon and how to subvert it to her will (well at least try to anyway) and then some Jehova guy shows up... Being a realms deity is like being in spanish soap opera..
But awesome "off script" run from the description. I am assuming it was "fun"(tm)?
To DME, or not to DME: that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous powergaming, Or to take arms against a sea of Munchkins, And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;No more;
But awesome "off script" run from the description. I am assuming it was "fun"(tm)?
In the aftermath of the adventure, yes it was truly a lot of fun... it felt like old school DnD were the players derived the course of events rather than being directed by the usual LFR adventure.
In the moment of playing the adventure, I am not so sure because the players were concentrating on achieving the objective. It was refreshing to have several players "improv" the adventure... each player building upon what the other player did then having the adventure move forward on a natural course based on the party's improv. Just not sure if any of the players had the wherewithal to reflect that what we were doing was cool and fun.
If it matter any, this was played at a convention where the players do not normally play LFR together... so having that chemistry with somewhat strangers is also cool.
Played this tonight, and several of us completed the major quest. This raised some questions about the story awards. Spoiler:Show
Each of CALI 4-1, CALI 4-2 and CALI 4-3 give the story award WISH 03. Does each instance of WISH 03 count as a seperate wish? Or, since the story awards all have the same name and code (WISH 03), do you only get one wish for playing one of the mods, and the other two overlap?
It seems to me that the intent would be to give players who finished all three mods...three wishes, but another player present believes they overlap, and we need to play different CALI mods to get additional wishes.
One wish for successfully completing the trilogy CALI4-1, CALI4-2, and CALI4-3, in any order. One wish for successfully completing SPEC4-3. One wish for successfully completing SPEC4-4. One wish for sucessfully completing ADCP4-2.
Dan Anderson @EpicUthrac Living Forgotten Realms Calimshan Writing Director Living Forgotten Realms Epic Writing Director
Meet me at TotalConfusion: http://www.totalcon.com/RolePlaying.html
Typo report: on page 45, the story awards listed as being needed for the major quest bonus are CALI15, CALI17, and CALI19. I believe this should be CALI13, CALI15, and CALI17. Note that the correct awards are shown on page 47.