Saturday, June 22, 2024

"D&D Is The Best"

My family will be leaving town on Sunday, and I don't plan on bringing my'll be a couple weeks before you see much (if any) blogging from Yours Truly.  But I want to leave folks with something to chew over...

We've been continuing our play of Dragon Wrack this week...session #5 was Friday, and we put in a solid four hours, though I'd estimate the total play time prior to be something in the 10-12 hour range. Kids are having a great time, the title of this post was an un-prompted quote from my daughter towards he end of the session, after a pretty good battle between the party and some 14 elite gnolls. 

The running has gone much smoother, now that we're into the heart of the thing; I am much more pleased with the adventure than my initial impression. Yeah, there are still frustrating bits: it really needs some organization with regard to which troops are where and when and available, and responses to invaders (like the PCs). But MOST of this is there already, and I've been able to dig it out...just procedurally slower than I like (due to the lack of organization). Yet another reason not to write your adventures too big.

The time pressure aspect is great. Heck, the scenario itself is pretty great. But best, perhaps, to describe the action in specifics for the interested, rather than gush without context.

*SPOILERS* to follow.

As I wrote before, the players decided to leave the majority of the party behind in order to scout the temple-fortress of Tiamat using Salamander (elf assassin) and Potter (half-elf fighter). These are my kids' most successful PCs to date; they break them out for tougher adventures, and they've had more than their fair share of good luck in surviving. They took a total of eight party members with them, replacing Tanin and Teek among the pre-gens with their own PCs, and bringing along Carnen, Father Ellis, Goldie, Gythwynn, Hasslehoff, and Raistel...a good mix of fighting, magic, thieving, and healing. Because of their party selection, their adventure started on June 11th of the scenario timeline, the same day the Black Wing of the Dragon Army was scheduled to arrive from the south (although the players got to start their day at dawn, and the Wing wouldn't arrive until afternoon).

Not that it mattered, as they ended up waiting for the army's arrival and joining the train of orcish troops filing into the fortress. Gythwynn cast invisibility on Potter, Sal disguised himself, and the two were able to skate their way through the section reserved for the Black Wing...up until they were confronted by an officer and some troops and decided to blood themselves. This led to a frantic flight through a (fortunately) empty section of the fortress, eventually ending up in the dungeons below the main temple level. 

Despite the Black section being on alert, the training grounds were still somewhat understaffed (the Black Wing only having just arrived) and Salamander managed to bluff his way past the skeleton staff in the dungeon area as 'just another orc' informing the troops about the alert. Potter, at this point, was STILL invisible, just tagging along with Sal (i.e. staying close at hand) without breaking the enchantment. Together the pair found their way into the massive Hall of Obeisance, (rightly) guessing they were on the precipice of Tiamat's lair...and turning away as quickly and quietly as possible.

Instead they found themselves in the Court of Inquisition where the Grand Inquisitor was sharpening his knives. Un-fooled by the assassin's disguise and paltry excuse, a melee ensued with Potter breaking the invisibility spell and landing several devastating blows. The wizard was unable to get a single spell finished before being gutted (he lost initiative every round, despite using 1 segment spells). After looting the body, they first tried disguising the fighter (this failed miserably) before the assassin decided to imitate the G.I. himself. The pair then decided to split up in order to look for their imprisoned companions.

[the adventure contains 12 pre-generated characters. Players choose which character they will use to a maximum of TEN; all non-used characters are considered imprisoned and can be found and freed to create allies...or replace dead the adventure]

Their idea being to add "muscle" to the party on the inside. At the same time, they had told their companions outside the temple to wait until midnight when Sal and Potter would drop a rope down from the roof, allowing everyone to scale/invade the place from the top. At this point, they still had 4-5 hours till the appointed time.

Splitting up proved...not terribly effective. Salamander did find the Inquisitor's chambers (treasure!) and secret laboratory, along with the G.I.'s apprentice (a 12th level magic-user). Another fight ensued and the assassin had to make several saving throws versus wands (paralysis) before finally dispatching his foe. Fortunately, his bag of holding was far from full, as he carefully wrapped and stored more than a dozen potions of unknown type.

Potter meanwhile, had found himself in an upstairs shrine, before somehow managing to end up back in the Hall of Obeisance, just in time to encounter a huge congregation of Dark Priests (more than a dozen) preparing for their evening services). Running through the twisting corridors, he managed to avoid being pinched, but ended up back in the Black Wing section, where he was forced to butcher a few temple guardsmen as well as a pair of orcs guarding the armory.

He then stumbled into the lair of Umudabrutu, the ancient mount of the Black Wing's dragon lord.

Surprise was rolled and, unfortunately, Potter was surprised. Even more unfortunately, 'Blackie' (as the orcs call him) was not surprised, nor was he asleep (50% chance). Having heard the alarm horns above and now seeing a half-elf warrior, bloody sword in hand, the great beast uttered but one word ("No.") before unleashing a stream of acid at the adventurer. Potter had 61 hit points; the dragon's breath weapon did 64, reducing him to -3 (failed saving throw)...still alive, but just barely clinging to life.

Several of the PC's magic items were destroyed by the acid, including his boots of elvenkind and ring of free action. However, his ring of regeneration (just acquired from the Grand Inquisitor and worn, but unidentified) DID survive. I ruled that the ring could do nothing to heal the acid damage (acid being acid), but the ring would prevent the character from losing further hit points from pain/trauma. A perpetual state of suffering...until Umudabrutu decided he wanted a snack. At this point, the dragon was content to return to his slumber, assuming the intruder had been dealt with.

Meanwhile, Salamander was still exploring the dungeons, disguised as the Grand Inquisitor (I gave a higher chance of failure for attempting to imitate a specific individual). He bluffed his way past the skeleton crew of hobgoblins in the Green section, and found his way into a dragon cave of his own...albeit one without the dragon (the Green Wing of the army still marching back from Coeur D'Alene, and not expected to arrive till June 16th). Dumping most non-essentials from his bag of holding, Sal proceeded to search and fill the thing with all the choicest goodies he could find...after several hours spent digging through the piles (I wrote up some procedurals in the module for searching dragon hoards...given that there are several in the adventure); he'd manaaged to catalogue several dozen pieces of jewelry and fine gem stones, a number of "unusual" (read: magic) items and some 10,000+ coins of gold and/or platinum, filling the thing to bursting. He then threw the (now large) duffle over his shoulder and left through a long, natural tunnel which...after about an hour's walk through filth and excrement...exited in the the dragon pits dug outside the city walls, the designated area for the Green army to bivouac.

From there he hiked back to town, scaled the wall, pulled his sack up with a rope, and made his way back to the inn where his compatriots waited.

Now for the bit "particular to JB's campaign:" I have written before that I allow PCs to advance in level without training (after a period of rest/reflection, though only between sessions and generally once they have left a dangerous environment). However, we have an additional, long-standing house rule with regard to players who have been "zeroed out" on their HP totals: if advancement and level increase brings enough hit points to raise a character above zero HPs, then they do NOT require the mandatory week of rest (or use of a heal spell) to get back to adventuring shape. Call it our 'homage' to literary/heroic adventure fiction stuff. 

Anyway, when we calc'd the x.p. at the end of the session, we found that Potter had leveled up to 8th, based on combat experience alone. A roll of the D10 gave him another six hit points, putting his total back up to three, allowing him to 'get back into the fight.' The ring of regeneration still wouldn't function with the acid burns but the half-elf had a potion of extra healing stashed in his backpack (which had miraculous made its save versus acid) the beginning of our next session...was able to sneak away without waking the dragon.

Potter thence made his way to the armory...still unguarded at this point...where he found replacement boots, a closed-visored helm, and some Black Wing livery, before moving on. In the training hall he encountered a large troop of Black Wing soldiers marshaling into patrol groups to look for "the intruder" and was able to pass himself off as one of them, thanks to his fluent orcish and rather scarred and discolored (as yet unhealed) flesh. 

Potter spent the next several hours marching the halls before being relieved and sent to the barracks for rest, where he was able to grab a bite to eat and retire without being discovered...the other troops generally exhausted from marching all day and then the late night alert duty.

While the half-elf slept, Sal and Co. formulated a new plan of action: they would use the dragon pits as their way of ingress into the temple complex, find their missing (imprisoned) companions and sack the place from below. The bag of holding was emptied into several trunks and armoires, which were moved to a single inn room and wizard locked. The party left the city through the northern gates before first light, hearing rumors that the Red Wing was on the march and would be arriving sometime that day (June 12th). Coming in through the (still vacant) Green camp, they made their way down the tunnel to the 'hoard cavern,' and then up a set of stairs back to the main level of the temple-fortress.

Luck was with them as they encountered no patrols, despite the place still being on alert. Finding their way back to the throne room, Sal deduced that there may be SEVERAL un-guarded dragon hoards worth plundering, and they cautiously launched a systematic approach to finding these. Still disguised as the Grand Inquisitor, a squad of frost goblins were bluffed into letting them past, where they discovered the assassin's theory was indeed correct and they uncovered another hoard...though a paltry one in comparison to the earlier offerings. Still, the use of detect magic allowed the group to sus out any enchantments buried in the pile, and they spent a good deal of time collecting the best the hoard had.

Potter, meanwhile was awakened and fed, before being assigned to patrol duty again. "Our spies tell us the Allied host will be here in three days time, and we still need to drill and prep. The Red Wing should be arriving this afternoon and we don't want to look like fools!" On patrol circuit, the half-elf was able to sneak away as they passed through the Grand Hall and hid himself in an empty antechamber, trying to figure a way out of his predicament.

20 minutes later, the sounds of booted feet entering the Hall heralded the arrival of a motley crew of adventurers, reuniting the invaders.

After swapping stories and sharing intel, "the Plan" continued: the group made their way to a new section of the fortress, intent on finding the red dragon's hoard before the Red Wing arrived. What they encountered instead were mailed duergar clad in blue livery...soldiers who were not fooled by the inquisitor's act. Spurning caution, the party cut down the dwarves and then descended a stairwell which did, indeed, lead to a much larger hoard. Overjoyed, the party began looting the place of gems, jewelry, detectable magic and valuable coins, while Potter (quite healed by his clerical companions) kept a lookout at the top of the stairs. 

The attack, however, would come from below: a side passage through which streamed a dozen or so duergar soldiers.

The melee that ensued went well for the, "heroes," and minimal damage was sustained. After inspecting the corpses for loot, they hid the bodies beneath piles of copper and silver, and spent another hour or so filling their bags of holding (the party had two) to capacity. However, rather than escape through the (presumably empty) blue dragon pits, they decided to once again go back to the main level and seek out the final hoard, deciding it was probably the biggest prize in the place.

Again avoiding patrols, they investigated the one section not yet explored...and blundered into the gnolls guarding the Red Gate. Horns were sounded and battle was joined...and then 10 more gnolls up from the training grounds below attacked from both the flank and rear of the party. Sacks were dropped, loot was scattered. The battle was fierce (elite gnolls are no slouches), but a well-timed (and well-placed) fireball from the mage wiped out half the beastmen. The remainder died to the last, stoutly passing their morale checks. 

And that's where we left off. 

It is almost noon on June the 12th. The fortress is in a state of alarm. Although currently under-staffed, the Red Wing is fast approaching. The party is currently standing in the midst of a massacre...and 120' away from the stairs that lead down to the hoard they've been searching for. Lord Hurneth, high comander of the Red Wing, will arrive at the fortress at approximately 2pm. When he does, it will be astride Usumgallu, his ancient red dragon. Tired from the long journey, the huge red will crawl through the gate and go down to his hoard, hoping for a good rest. If he finds his hoard disturbed (or in the midst of being looted) he is likely to be...unhappy.

[Lord Hurneth will be at the head of his elite soldiers: some 300 gnolls, brigands, ogres and officers, as well as 100 of the hell-fueled Red Berserkers, his crack terror troops. These will quickly take up residence in the section designated for their wing]

Escaping from Usumgallu's cavern through the dragon pits (as Salamander did the evening before) will be problematic, as the Red camp will be occupied by the remainder of Hurneth forces, including hill giants, trolls, and another five red dragons. Prospects for survival in that direction appear...grim.
; )

[something-something 'enough rope to hang themselves'...]

All right, that's enough. Apologies for the length of the post but, as I said, I'll be out for a while. I doubt we'll be getting in another session before we leave, so notes like these will help me remember the situation when we get back into town. Thanks for the indulgence, and I'll write when I get back.

Current Party Status:

Salamander (9th level assassin): 26 of 52 hit points
Potter (8th level fighter): 54 of 67 hit points
Carnen (10th level fighter): 77 of 92 hit points
Father Ellis (10th level cleric): 49 of 54 hit points
Goldie (11th level bard): 84 hit points
Gythwynn (5th/9th fighter/magic-user): 33 of 40 hit points
Hasslehoff (12th level thief): 33 of 52 hit points
Raistel (11th level magic-user): 34 of 38 hit points

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a lot of fun. I appreciate your kids are focused on the loot (and level gain) before the mission.