Monday, October 26, 2009

Campaign Journal #5- Lair of the Giant Snake

The party began the night’s adventure atop the mountains they had flown to after Henri crashed their boat along the rocky canal leading to the sea. While traversing the craggy landscape they had a pair of encounters; a trio of flying hipprogriffs were attacked by Glee the moment that they came into range, and then Romulus and Henri were surprised by a dire lion during their watch when camping. Neither battle was intended to be particularly challenging, though some hijinks ensued when Henri turned invisible and fled, leaving Romulus to deal with the enormous lion on his own. He scored a paired a criticals which probably saved his half orc hide.

For the first time they are also doing some traveling with young Fiona and some accommodations had to be made for the infant turned adventurer. Due to her entertaining whistling and ability to cast
Lullaby, Lela has been chosen to be the primary caretaker of the child. Which is sort of funny because while trying to figure this all out Lela suggested that they put the kid in the Bag of Holding (a move which would have killed her). As a bard Lela may be many things, but maternal she is not. If it was not for the insistence of Mgabwe that the child is worth a large sum of money I suspect that they would have abandoned her by now. Even so, I have little faith in the party’s ability to prevent anything but an unfortunate ending for the poor child.

Another development that I have been enjoying is that of Mgabwe naming his scythe The Horizon. He has been working it into battle conversations and issuing ominous warnings such as “There is blood on the Horizon” and “It looks like a red Horizon.”

The party was excited at the prospect of traveling to the temple that they had seen from the valley, and which was once again visible to them across the rocky plateaus that they now moved across. The way there did not seem easy; rough terrain, aggressive natives, and the added encumbrance of carrying around a fussy child. Henri was leading the faction that wanted to return to Bowerstone, get paid, and regroup. Romulus wanted to do the opposite; seize the opportunity, and raid the temple. After much discussion it was decided that the party would head back to town for supplies and then come back to loot the temple. At least that was the plan. Plus, it was also mentioned that Lela had her big whistling debut back at the Bandit Mask in Bowerstone in about two and a half days, an appointment that she did not want to miss.

Sticking to the edge of the mountains that bordered the valley they began to make their way South and back to town. As they were moving, a very keen Spot check by Mgabwe revealed a large cave opening further into the mountains. Upon some examination the party discovered that the opening was in the shape of a large snake’s mouth and that there was a medusa guard standing watch over the area. Utilizing the stealth that is the trademark and strongpoint of the group, they snuck up on and made quick work of the lone guard. Once again they were faced with a decision, however this one would not be won by the conservative Henri as the rest of the group has every intention of exploring the cave.

From the outside they could hear the steady hiss of snakes, and noticed that small serpents were all over. Once inside it was obvious that this was not an entirely natural cavern. There were stone arches depicting scenes of large snakes, stone blocks marked the footpath, and about 40 feet into the tunnel the pieces came across a hewn stone column. The column rose up to about hip height and the top of it had a shape snaked indentation several inches long. It radiated magic but the PC’s were unable to make any sense of it so they continued along the corridor and eventually found themselves in a large, square stone room with three doors on the wall opposite of where they entered. Al’londia and Glee double teamed the doors; Al’londia would use her Search to find traps, and then Glee would try to Disable them (he had put some ranks in when leveling up). They did a good job for the most part, only setting off one of the three traps. They were a bit disappointed to find that none of the doors led anywhere. Behind all three was nothing but stone. What was going on here? After an exhaustive search of the room the party located a fourth door hidden amongst the stone. Al’londia assured the party that it was not trapped but when it was opened there was a loud crack of thunder as a large Earth Elemental appeared in the center of the room and began to pummel the PC’s with it’s earthen fists of stone. An Earth Elemental is a good match up for this party since it is immune to all the sneak attacks and criticals that constitute a bulk of the party’s damage. It put up a good fight but was outgunned six to one and was reduced to a pile of dirt after several rounds. Despite the party being banged up and the protests of Henri they continued to explore the complex, moving through the secret door and further into the darkness.

As they reached the end of the hall the party arrived in a room containing an extremely large reflecting pool. About 40 feet wide and well over a hundred feet long, the pool was lined by a massive collection of statues. Hundred of statues ringed the pool, and all of them were extremely realistic and bore the likeness of young males. As they neared the edge of the water they noticed a very large shape inside the pool, huge and stretching almost the entire length of the water. Also shining up at them from below the surface was the glimmer of various gems, gold, and other items of presumably great value. Knowing that whatever was in the water was probably going to try and kill them the party smartly moved back to the hallway to regroup and plan a strategy. A plan formed, they moved into battle formation and cautiously approached the still water. Romulus and Mgabwe were to be the point men, while the others stayed in the rear (Glee would normally be in the front as well, but he was very injured and opted to play the role of archer in this fight). The moment that they reached the edge of the water the liquid began to swirl and an ENORMOUS snake emerged from the water, looking to feast on the puny humanoids who had dared to disturb him. They didn’t even bring gifts to win his favor.

The gigantic snake was fun to make, I cobbled it together from a variety of sources including the Legendary Monster template from Monster Manual II (which I had never before employed). It had a ton of hit points, a pretty high AC, good saves all around, a single strong bite attack with acid damage, acidic blood (which did acid damage anytime it was injured in melee), and a frightful presence power. I figured it would be a good fight for the PC’s, I wouldn’t have been surprised if one of them did not make it out alive. The battle started and everyone but Mgabwe was affected by the frightful presence (low Will saves, another weakness of the group) resulting in a group of shaken adventurers. Mgabwe attracted most of the snakes attention, which is a good thing since he has the highest AC once his Mage Armor and Shield get going, but still was hanging on death’s door by the end of the fight. Aside from absorbing damage, the party’s Abjurant Champion did little else. His power attack was resulting in a bunch of misses. The two archers, Glee and Al’londia, also did little in the way of damage. Lela provided some good support from the rear in the form Inspire Courage and Ironskin Chant. The heavy lifting was done by Romulus and Henri.

Romulus may have delivered the death blow against the giant snake, but it the was snobby and somewhat cowardly Henri that really did the damage in this fight. From the safety of the back lines he hurled lightning bolt after lightning bolt at the creature and over the course of the battle probably did around 80 points of damage. I know that the blaster/evocation focused caster gets a bad rap for under utilizing the potential power it could have, but I think that view is wrong. When you are trying to kill something being able to do a lot of damage consistently is a real asset. In theory an arcane caster who has a whole bunch of “save or die” spells sounds like a great idea, but sometimes enemies make their saves and then that turn has yielded nothing. If you are not ultra optimized the chances of this happening gets even higher. In contrast to it’s flashy persona, the evoker is actually more of the slow and steady type. Plus, shooting lightning at something is pretty bad ass and a lot of fun. That’s what wizards do!

The moment that the creature was killed the entire cave started to rumble and shake, falling down all around the PC’s and sending them scrambling from the place. It was obvious that spending more time there would be extremely hazardous to them, so I was very interested how they would play it. On one hand they are clearly very attached to the idea of life and dying inside a collapsing cavern with a giant snake carcass does not seem at all appealing. On the other hand there was a large amount of treasure that was just there for the taking. Romulus is the one that I suspected would go for some treasure before departing, however that option was taken from him. Mgabwe was wearing Henri’s Cape of the Montebank (odd how Henri never seems to have it on, it has become a favorite item of the party) and the moment that the cave in started he grabbed onto Romulus and teleported them to end of the hallway, effectively denying Romulus the chance to risk his own skin for the sake of some gold. The rest of the party followed suit to the exit. I had them make several increasingly more difficult Reflex saves to avoid the falling rocks, they did okay with it. Near the exit a large chasm had appeared, they needed to find a way across. Mgabwe had a use of Fly left and grabbed Glee and Lela and brought them across, Al’londia cast Jump on herself and made it over, Romulus had no problem leaping across the span. Poor Henri did not fare so well. With one 3rd level spell left he planned on flying across, however he failed his concentration check to cast with rocks falling all around him and lost the spell. He then tried leaping across and succeeded only in jumping to the bottom of the pit. Ultimately he was aided by Mgabwe and a rope. As the last of them ran from the cave it collapsed entirely, sealing off the insides and all the treasure with it. It also made quite a ruckus as it did so.

Knowing that the situation they caused would not go unobserved the party decided to get back to town as quick as possible. They had been moving for only a short while when they noticed a group of medusa coming down from the mountains, hot in pursuit. Henri threw up a Wall of Fire to slow them down, while Lela used the much mocked Pyrotechnics to smoke them out and blind them. The tactic worked and they were able to put some more distance between them and the pissed off monsters. After several more hours of moving I had them make Fortitude saves, which several of them failed. If they chose to go on they would be fatigued, so they opted to make camp for a bit.

The normal watch routine when they camp is Mgabwe first, Al’londia second, and then Henri and Romulus taking the final watch. Despite an excellent Listen check from Al’londia she did not notice the very stealthy medusa sneaking up on their makeshift camp. The medusa was unarmed and struck several times at Al’londia, doing some damage before she could yell out for help. The following round Al’londia was unable to avoid the glare of the creature (she failed her Fort save) and was turned to stone. With the rest of the party getting to their feet and joining the fray they got a good look at their assailant. Dressed in a cloak with tattered wrappings over all of her flesh, she also wore a gold necklace in the shape of a snake, with two diamonds for eyes. With it being five on one she did not last long, though clearly she had done her job with the stoning of Al’londia. Henri showed off his new spell and Dominated her and then Mgabwe took care of the rest, execution style. (As a monk the medusa had an excellent Will save vs. enchantments, but a roll of 2 doomed her.)

After the skirmish they decided to throw Al’londia into the Bag of Holding, though they had to remove a bunch of great axes to do so. Unable to part with such fine weaponry Mgabwe chose to carry it all on his broad shoulders as they hustled back to town. Ignoring all fatigue and obstacles in their way they made great time and strolled into town early in the morning. Despite their appearance they barely drew a look from the townsfolk, clearly the people here are used to seeing such sights.

It wasn’t until they reached the safety of Bowerstone that I reminded the party that they had forgotten to search the medusa who attacked them while they were camped out. Romulus attempted an argument but immediately scrapped it when he realized that no, they had not searched her. Needless to say they felt like quite the foolish adventurers and immediately introduced a plan to go back and get it. It was late, we stopped there.

This week’s installment was an interesting one. For one, very little progress was made in the grand scheme of things. Each week I usually have an idea of where the adventure will end, and this week I was way off. A reason for that was that there was a lot of combat, and there was also a lot of inter party planning and discussion. The latter of which is one of my favorite things. I think that I could observe scheming PC’s all night and not get sick of it. The night was also interesting because it was the first adventure since the majority (5 of 6) of characters have leveled up to 10, with several of them adding key new powers (Henri added a 5th level spell, Lela can now cast Cure Serious Wounds). They are also getting better at team tactics and figuring out the roles that each should play in the party. As a DM I like all of these, it seems like progress.

1 comment:

snow said...

Man. I miss this campaign so much! Hope to see you guys all sooner rather than later. P.S. I'm so jonesin for dnd i'm starting a campaign here with my friends, who are also roleplaying virgins. We're rolling characters tonight. It's not gonna be the same, but we'll still have fun.