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msherman
A song from the sixties
(5/26/03 5:47 am)
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Assault on the main gate
My party attacked the main gate yesterday, and while it looked for a while like a certain TPK, it ended on a high note. The party consists of 4 7th level adventurers: Hamish, Clr7 of Pelor; Shalathal, Bbn7; Cyr, Rog7; and Chase Rog3Ftr4 (I think; I never quite remember the split right with his levels). Chase also has a cohort, Aramil, Sor2Rgr3.

The night before the assault, the party had easily defeated a group of 8 temple guards off the wandering monster chart, which I decided was from the main gate. Two of them were captured alive, and after Cyr showed them his EEE symbol (with a bluff of +23), they begged forgiveness for attacking, and offered to escort the party on to the main gate as long as "you please let us go when we get there. Just don't turn us over to Mereclar, he'll surely feed us to the Howler!" [DMs note: I decided that since the party was all 7th level, I could throw the properly advanced Howler at them. Big mistake!]

They get to the crossroads, and Cyr distracts the guides, while Hamish casts a Divination: "Which gate will give us the best chance for survival?" The reply: "As the grace of Pelor takes its leave for the day, there shall you find the easier way." Everyone understood this to mean the west gate (they had a rough map showing both gates sketched by Tymerian in Rastor), except Chase, who took it to mean that they should wait until dusk to attack. So they decide on a compramise; the west gate at dusk. They dally around for most of the day, eating a late breakfast, etc, and thankfully the wandering monster rolls are on their side today; in the previous session, they hit the chart every single 4 hour period!

Here's where the plan goes all to pieces; the previous night, Cyr had spent a lot of time practicing tying up Hamish the Cleric with slip-knots that Hamish could escape from with an MEA, and plotted a scheme where he was a prisoner they were delivering to Naquent. Today, though, they completely forgot about it, and Cyr went straight up to the gate, activating his Hat of Disguise (and relying on his Amulet of the Silver Tongue, a +15 Bluff booster he commissioned in Verbobonc), and asks the Gnoll that answers the door for an escort into the complex to see Mereclar; they have a delivery to make. Two human guards come down to meet the cart, and the rest of the party panics; Hamish rolls a -2(!) on his hide, so they can't get him into the cart in time without being seen, so he stands there with his hands crossed behind his back, pretending to be tied up! Thankfully, Hamish and Chase (pretending to guard the prisoner) stay behind the cart, while the escorts stay in the front, and they're not noticed until they get to the gate.

Once they're at the gate, Wormspike tells them to unhitch the horses and leave them outside, and bring in the cart. He doesn't want the horses to spook the howler. They drag the cart into the crossroad in the entrance hall, and Cyr and Shalathal go into the mess hall to meet with Mereclar. Cyr explains that they have the artifacts that Naquent sent them for from the Moathouse, and Mereclar is suspicious; he has no idea what they're talking about. "Do I need to get the Priest?" Cyr says, "Yeah, I guess you'd better." Mereclar asks one of the guards to fetch Terrenygit, who replies, "But boss! The smell!" Wormspike smacks him, and he goes. A few rounds later, Terrenygit appears in the hall with an escort of 6 zombies, and asks why they're here. Cyr says he has the artifacts, and heads back to the cart to get them; Shalathal moves to go with him, but Wormspike senses something up (Sense Motive vs. Shalathal) and blocks her path, leaving her within a 5' step of the Howler's reach (who's been growling menacingly the whole time).

The two escort guards go to the back of the cart with Cyr, and that's when one of them notices that Hamish appears to be tied with make-beleive rope. "Hey, what the hell?!" So Chase runs him through with his bastard sword, and all hell breaks loose. The other escort yells, "Boss! We're under attack!" The 4 party members at the back of the cart get a surprise round, but not Shalathal, since Wormspike was keeping her away from the rest of them (this caused some grumbling from Shal's player after the session, but she took it well). The zombies swarm down one side of the cart to attack the party, while the gnolls and humans start pouring in to pretty much fill up the rest of the hall. Terrenygit casts Sanctuary as his first action, and then spends next four rounds buffing himself up: Bull's Strength, Endurance, Shield of Faith, and Rage. He's up to 26 con by the time he's ready to fight!

Shalathal takes two rounds of full attacks from the Howler, the second putting her at -11hp -- luckily, we started using the AU death rules (disabled from 0 to -CONBONUS, dead at -CON) in the previous session. Aramil (hiding inside the cart) casts Invisibility on Cyr, who makes his way back to the mess hall and starts feeding potions to the unconscious barbarian. Chase lets himself get surrounded by mooks, and starts killing them one at a time; he thought this was good strategy at the end of the fight, but I think it was a real waste of the party's second string fighter. Hamish cast Sanctuary on himself, and then Prayer; in the next round, Mereclar gets on the Howler, and with a full round Ride action, jumps it over the cart to start attacking the rest of the party. Aramil hides, and I fudged the Howler's will save vs. Hamish's Sanctuary, but Mereclar starts wailing on him with two swords.

It's around now that Hamish's player says, "I think we may have screwed up, guys. We probably should have buffed up before we entered the gate." :o

With Shalathal dropped, Wormspike decides that he needs to clear the field of battle so that he can get involved with the rest of the party, so he starts dragging the cart and commands all the guards who are currently back there with him to help. Meanwhile, more guards start showing up, first from the guard rooms at the sides, and then a few rounds later from the barracks. Thankfully, there were only two guards in room 9, since 8 of them were dealt with the night before out on the road.

Terrenygit's Sanctuary expires, so he casts Command on Hamish: "Surrender!" Hamish does so, and Mereclar leaps off the howler and ties his wrists. Here's where I threw the party the second gift, which I'm sure was the only thing that kept this from being a TPK: Mereclar and the Howler were just outside the main doors at this point, in the entrance cave. The howler hasn't seen the light of day in a while, and certainly not while not being ridden by Mereclar, so like any dog would in the same situation, he rolls a morale check, which comes up a 6 (I roll most dice in the clear; the only die I rolled hidden this session was that first will save for the howler vs. sanctuary, but I'm pretty sure no-one noticed that). The howler takes off, and Mereclar's _pissed_.

Terrenygit starts to take advantage of his Rage, and moves in to attack Chase. Shalathal's awake again at this point, thanks to Cyr giving her every single potion he had, and she starts cleaving away at the mooks, 3 at a time. Hamish casts a Command of his own on Mereclar, "Flee!" This buys him two rounds; Mereclar takes a full move down the road after his howler, and then the next round comes back, cursing the whole way. Aramil, still hiding in the back of the cart which is now in the middle of the mess hall, blasts Wormspike with a wand of magic missile (5th level), and Wormspike realizes he's there, and spends a round ripping the top off the cart so he can get a good attack in next round. Cyr steps in to save the day, blowing his invisibility on a sneak attack to kill the Ogre.

At this point, Terrenygit's Rage wears off, so he tries a few spells: Hold Person against Hamish, whose bonds have been cut by Shalathal by this point, Tharizdun's Touch against Chase, another Hold Person against Chase, Blindness against Shalathal, but 3 of them are saved against, and the 4th provoked an AOO which he couldn't concentrate through. He finally casts his second Rage (off the scroll), and screams in Troglodyte, summoning his two guards from room 13, who can be seen running in the next round, and make it to fighting range the round after that. Hamish and Chase succumb to the Stench, but by this point, it's all mop-up; Terrenygit and Mereclar are stabilized and taken prisoner, but Hamish forgets to check on the effects of that rage; 2 rounds later, Terrenygit dies as his con bonus dissappears. At least they've got one prisoner.

They explored the rest of the main gate complex, and found the two letters and the dwarven book. Hamish seems convinced that this must be one of the temples, and they know it's not Air (since the two guards they set free said they'd head down to the south gate and see if they could find work with the Air temple), and they know it's not Earth because the letters both refer to the earth temple as a not-ally of the main gate forces, and they know it's not water because, well, there's no water around. So Hamish is certain this is the fire temple... man, he's in for a big surprise! :) They split up at one point while searching other parts of the complex, and Cyr and Chase were alone in the Ore Crusher room, so I had the Spider drop in to attack. Cyr got poisoned in the surprise round, but one tumble and a sneak attack later, and the spider was paste. Hamish scoffed when I marked down the CR1 encounter on my XP chart for Cyr and Chase, but Chase got the last laugh -- without that half share of a CR1, Chase wouldn't have levelled this session!

I only gave them half XP for the Howler, since they definitely didn't defeat it, and it really shouldn't have run away. If I were to do this over, I think I'd just use a standard 6hd howler; there's really no reason an advanced howler is needed here, I don't think. Everyone levelled except Cyr. I chatted with them after the session, and let them know how much of a gift I gave them with the howler bolting, and how by rights that should have been a TPK because they're tactics sucked so bad; I'm hoping they learn from that without me actually killing anyone to drive the point home. :\

Infiniti2000
A guitar
(5/26/03 3:26 pm)
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ezSupporter
Re: Assault on the main gate
Sounds fair enough. I think you have it right in that you should not feel bad about giving them gifts now. The purpose is to let them learn how to really use their characters and let them have it in the Outer Fane. Just make sure you don't hold back when they enter the Outer Fane, TPK or not. If they have not learned by then... :)

Anyway, sounds like a fun battle. Do you use any splat books? Did you use the reaction chain at all?

msherman
A song from the sixties
(5/26/03 4:45 pm)
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Re: Assault on the main gate
Nope, no splat books. I'll be converting to 3.5e when it comes out, and told the players that they could rework some levelling decisions when the new books come out, so some of them will be taking some of the new PrCs then; I expect Cyr might end up as an Arcane Trickster, Chase is interested in Shadowdancer, Aramil's going for Arcane Archer, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Hamish take Hierophant (that's a Cleric PrC, right?).

I'm not going to bother reworking any of the characters from the module with the 3.5e PrCs, because it seems like a lot of work and I don't want to use any splatbook PrCs, which most of the BoB versions use. I figure the extra power the PCs get from the new PrCs will be easy enough to balance by just playing the opposition without the kid gloves, at least until the finale, when I do plan to add a second Prince (Yan-C-Bin), if all goes well.

I did prep with the reaction chain from the BoB in mind, but that kind of went by the way-side when the party's actions got Mereclar, Wormspike and Terrenygit already there before the fight even started; the bells never even got rung, since so much of the fight took place in the mess hall that the guards from the barracks could hear the fighting through the door.

Siobharek 
A guitar
(5/27/03 1:29 am)
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ezSupporter

Re: Assault on the main gate
well, msherman, stick around and the conversion work to 3.5 might get done for you... :)

Siobharek
...it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

madfox
A guitar
(5/27/03 1:45 am)
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Re: Assault on the main gate
Quote:
He doesn't want the horses to spook the howler.


:rollin Am I the only one where this strikes a laughing nerve? I mean, a beast 4x the size of a horse that lives of meat spooked by mere horses :rollin

As for those so-called gifts, I would not feel too bad about them. Even though a howler is a bit more intelligent then a dog, it is chaotic evil and such behaviour might be normal for it. It is not as if such a creature truly cares for Mercelar. As for the will save, sometimes one has to give the PCs a small break. Personally, I might have been a bit harsher though, because the PCs had made some pretty big blunders. Then again, my players expact me to be harsh and so they are more alert for stupid behaviour and they would have fled long before that time ;)

msherman
A song from the sixties
(5/27/03 5:15 am)
Reply
Re: Assault on the main gate
Quote:
Am I the only one where this strikes a laughing nerve? I mean, a beast 4x the size of a horse that lives of meat spooked by mere horses
Heh. I worded that poorly in my report; in the game, I believe the words Wormspike used were, "Better tie those horses up out here. Howler might think they're dinner." :)

In fact, we completely forgot about those horses, and now the party's spent at least half an hour with the gate barred, inside, while the horses are tied up outside. I think the Howler's been back for dinner. That's a nice little kick in the pants for their tactical blunders.

Quote:
well, msherman, stick around and the conversion work to 3.5 might get done for you...

Siobharek, were you planning to add the new PrCs in the 3.5 DMG to some of the characters during that conversion? I'd assumed that you'd just stick to mostly the same class selection in the module, only making changes where things needed to change to keep the character the same (ie: rangers). Either way, I definitely plan to use (and help with) the conversion work going on here. If there aren't any extra PrCs for the converted bad guys, though, I'm not too concerned with the fact that I'll be giving extra PrC access to the players, anyway. In sunday's game, Hamish used Spellcraft to recognize Terrenygit's Rage spell, and there was a definite feeling of, "hey, we don't get splatbooks but the bad guys do!" when I explained that it's a spell he's never seen before, it's not on his cleric spell list, and he won't find it in the PHB.

Edited by: msherman at: 5/27/03 5:50:37 am
Siobharek 
A guitar
(5/27/03 11:30 pm)
Reply
ezSupporter

Re: Assault on the main gate
msherman, I am indeed referring to Andorax' initiative of converting the entire adventure to 3.5. I think that one example gave the sorcerer/cleric in the recovered temple the Mystic Theurge PrC, but other than that IMHO obvious addition, I think the idea is to keep it as close to the original as at all possible.

Quote:
In sunday's game, Hamish used Spellcraft to recognize Terrenygit's Rage spell, and there was a definite feeling of, "hey, we don't get splatbooks but the bad guys do!" when I explained that it's a spell he's never seen before, it's not on his cleric spell list, and he won't find it in the PHB.
Erm, why would Hamish be able to identify Rage if his character has never been exposed to it before? The way I see it, PHB spells are known spells (as in at least you have a chance to know of it), but anything else is teh DM's call. What if Rage was a spell developed by teh cult of Thrazdun? Should Hamish then know of it? I'm not disputing your call, more what I perceive as meta-thinking on the part of your players.

Siobharek
...it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Edited by: Siobharek  at: 5/27/03 11:38:36 pm
msherman
A song from the sixties
(5/28/03 5:14 am)
Reply
Re: Assault on the main gate
Yeah, that's a good point about the spellcraft. The PHB doesn't say anything about that, so I've always assumed that it worked for all spells; Wizards can recognize spells not in their spellbooks, can't they? The PHB just says "Identify a spell being cast", which implies that clerics can even recognize wizard spells. I've always interpreted spellcraft as a general knowledge of the art and science of magic, so even if he couldn't recognize Rage by name, per se, he'd be able to identify the elements of it, and Rage certainly seems like an appropriate name for him to assign to it internally.

Regardless, I just realized after some googling that I've been doing Spellcraft all wrong -- I've been allowing it as a free action. It seems that it should require a ready Standard action to use. That means it will be coming up much less often in the future.

Infiniti2000
A guitar
(5/28/03 5:40 am)
Reply
ezSupporter
Re: Assault on the main gate
Both those points have been hotly debated topics in the rules/magic forums (you might be able to find threads on them), so don't spend too much time with them until after 3.5e comes out, which may clarify them. The two points I'm talking about are (1) can a cleric use spellcraft to discerrn wizard spells or even newly developed spells, and (2) can you use spellcraft as a responsive (free) action.

In my game, I say yes to the first one, no to the second. The first one is not a big issue as knowing it is a rage would very rarely be helpful. I would never let them read the spell (if it were a custom spell), but would tell them generally what it did. The main reason I say no to the second is because of time. I can't have everyone yelling "spellcraft!" whenever a spell is cast. It would be absurd.

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