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WatcherOTharizdun
(1/3/04 10:21 pm)
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Is bridge assault a TPK in the making?
I've had to modify the module heavily to keep things interesting and challenging for my group, which has now grown to 7 10th level PCs. They went in through the main entrance and followed the crater south and east, taking down the Southern Bridge Complex, Air Temple and Fire Temple, all without too much trouble. I didn't foresee the other temples and complexes putting up anywhere near an adequate fight on their own, so I had Hedrack evacuate the Water and Earth temples, and reassign Eeridik and Oamarthis. The PCs had the Air keys, but put them in the Canoness' care before they discovered their true nature. Jaroo killed and replaced Calmer and stole the keys back before the PCs realized their importance. That leaves the PCs with one entrance into the Outer Fane...

Which is why Eeridik, Oamarthis, Riu Lotass (with 3 extra HD), the glyph-covered Gray Render (with 3 extra HD), Axred the Athach (with 4 extra HD), 4 trolls and 12 elven War4s (built for archery) are now camped out on the Fire Bridge itself (which I've widened to 45 feet wide for better fighting) in tents, waiting behind a wooden stockade. They've all been given more than the usual resources and Eeridik's spell selection has been retooled.

We stopped the last session at the foot of the fire bridge, where the PCs just defeated some mooks and the chimera (upgraded to huge size and moved via wagon and a lot of tranquilizers from the northern bridge complex). All indications are that they're about to charge right up with the intention of busting heads (i.e., they won't try to approach the stockade undetected and will be seen approaching from 700 feet away - also, the guards they just killed won't be giving the safe passage signal, so the watchers at the stockade will know they aren't friends).

The Plan:
Eeridik, Riu and Oamarthis start prepping with buffs and potions as soon as the PCs are sighted walking toward them. The archers start firing on soft targets at 330 feet. At 120 feet Axred starts throwing rocks. Here the doors fly open and some trolls (haven't decided how many yet - at least 4) rush out with Oamarthis, invisible and enlarged, behind them. The trolls break off in pairs of two, each pair ordered to tackle and immobilize the party's archer and mage respectively. Oamarthis finds a good spot and starts hacking. Riu Lotass teleports behind the party using dimension door, taking the gray render with him, both inside his invisibility sphere. The gray render charges, and Riu creeps up to full attack the unaware. Eeridik flies (with a scroll, and a blessing he finagled from the Water Temple to keep him safe from the lightning towers) overhead, with greater invis, enfeebling, fireballing, and counterspelling. The archers fire at will. Axred runs out to "beat his enemies until they die" (I love the instructions the module gives for him) as soon as the others engage.

Is that overly evil? There are several mitigating factors - mainly the fact that I'm running 7 players. They're all 10th level, verging on 11th, and they've each got almost as much money as an 11th level character should have as per the DMG. Also, Eeridik and his buddies will receive no help whatsoever from the Outer Fane. Hedrack is convinced that Tessimon's failure to kill off the PCs was a fluke, and feels the Outer Fane's normal defenses could take them any day of the week. Still, he didn't want the rest of the CRM getting wiped out section by section, so he ordered Eeridik and the others to move onto the bridge and told them to deal with it themselves. They either prove they're worthy by repelling the invaders, or they die - Hedrack is content to let them do so without coming to their aid. Therefore, neither Chymon nor anyone else will be stepping out to help. The garrisons in the lightning towers have been ordered to watch and report back to Hedrack on the results of the battle, but to do nothing to interfere. So it's just the PCs and the above beasties, duking it out on the bridge.

What do you think? I'd like to play tough for this one, and not pull any punches, but I also don't relish a TPK. Think they'll be able to handle it? They're nicely balanced (Human Fighter, Elven Fighter(archer), Halfling Rogue, Elven Druid, Human Cleric, Human Wizard, and Dwarven Barbarian) and fairly skilled in the arts of war - though they're green enough that they've still got plenty of surprises coming to them. I think, if it's not too too too scary, it'll be a great pre Fane battle, especially when they read Hedrack's letter to Eeridik explaining that what they just fought through was an afterthought, and that the Fanes hold much, much more...
In addition, the letter warns that "If the door opens and there is anyone standing there but a rat-man holding my keys, I have instructed Chymon to reduce them to cinders." Is this information sufficient "here be dragons" warning? I'm pretty sure they'll get the hint and not saunter through the door right after what will surely be a taxing battle on the bridge, but if they do... well, I warned them, right? =)

Infiniti2000
Brother of Venom
(1/4/04 12:35 am)
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ezSupporter
Re: Is bridge assault a TPK in the making?
I think your plan is quite good, but I expect nothing short of total anihilation. I don't think your party stands a chance against such a well-prepared, well-organized and powerful force. Even had you not boosted the enemies, your group has no hope of surviving.

Why are they so well organized? What is the force holding them together and making the bad guys fight with such a well-timed concerted effort? If you wish to keep all these same bad guys, you need to include some of their faults, such as the trolls breaking out early or the athach getting pissed at one of the guards for eyeing his gems.

Why did you boost the bad guys AND group them? One or the other, but not both would be more than a sufficient tactics. I recommend only grouping them so as to have bigger, but fewer battles.

Knowe Remorse 
Tolling Bell Cultist
(1/4/04 3:03 am)
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Re: Is bridge assault a TPK in the making?
of course...

divination spells before the assault on the bridge would fortell of the players imminent death.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of All Who Threaten it.

WatcherOTharizdun
(1/4/04 2:45 pm)
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Hmm, maybe you're right...
Although I've always been impressed with the way my group has taken down big baddies in the past, this encounter's sheer number of lesser evils will surely add up to some problems. However, I'm loathe to separate them, since so much work has already gone into the prepping, and since they've already found the CRM empty and seen the tents and the stockade waiting for them. I think I'll de-boost the bad guys and have the trolls switch to regular melee, instead of their evil orders from before. If the trolls start swinging at the party tank they'll be more of an annoyance than a threat.

I might also remind our party cleric of his magic 8-ball spells. He has yet to use them.

Killiak 
Deathmantle Cultist
(1/4/04 3:15 pm)
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Re: Hmm, maybe you're right...
Remember, Trolls aren't stupid. IF they can't hit somebody, they will try somebody else unless ordered otherwise

Mr Kaze
Ebon Hand Cultist
(1/4/04 4:28 pm)
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Re: Is bridge assault a TPK in the making?
Okay, putting myself in your players' shoes, here's the problems I have in accepting this scenario (beyond waiting for the and my companions to roll 27 attacks and such from one turn to the next... yikes!) [Revisions first, justification at the bottom]:

If the players haven't seen any of the bridges yet, then they should all be 45' wide. If the players have seen some of the bridges (which look ~15' wide to me), then the singular fire bridge should not be 3x larger than the others for no reason other than "that's how wide the Athatch's arms are." Dwarves don't build for Athatches and the temple doesn't seem to have any readily available architects to call its own... You might be able to get away with 30' wide before your players start crying foul on this point.

The stockade is an interesting idea, but where'd they get the materials for it, when did they build it and who did the building? (These are the easy questions.) Now, given the abject lack of people well versed in Knowledge: Engineering and Architecture, how many fireballs (range = 400' + 40'/level) do you think it'll take to turn that stockade from a good idea to a bad idea?

Now we get to the zoo.

Gray doesn't belong in a last-stand with the temple -- he's only an "inhabitant" that "does not attack those dressed in Temple garb..." Gray only tolerates the temple; it is not loyal to it. It's not bright enough to go into military service (Int 3) and it's a long way from its native "Temperate Marshes" to be bodyguarding an adopted creature, espeically an evil cultist, let alone an Evil Outsider from the Bleak Eternity of Gehenna. Any player with a Monster Manual handily available will have problems at this point.

Also, about that Barghest, in order to get those 3 extra HD -- which gives him +3 str, +3 con and +3 armor -- you'll need to find 3 creatures with 9+ HD, 3 with 10+ and 3 with 11+. I don't think the temple has those kind of creatures just lying around that can be fed to the Barghest, especially not given where they're at. Furthermore, even if he gets to feast on the entire party, them all only having 10 HD each are going to do him no good. There's no profit left for the Barghest here: Oamarthis is going down with his employer -- time to split. (If you want to keep the Barghest, then have him running tactics with the Duergar and only the Duergar.) Once again, if your players figure this one out, their suspension of disbelief will collapse on your campaign.

The Athatch may join the group if the Duergar successfullly uses diplomacy and bluff and probably half of his gems to move him about. I'd hestitate on advancing him further -- the modern Athatch is CR 8, not 7. Adding 4 HD, he could get another 2 feats (Weapon Focus: Morningstar, Improved Critical: Morningstar) and another ability point (Con +1, giving him another 18 HP) with his CR going up to 9 and his multiple morningstar attacks going up to +16ish each (with the Weapon Focus). But that's assuming that the Duergar can convince him that "the temple isn't going to get summarily annihilated by this band of adventurers, we just need to collect the gems on the bridge before those nasty greedy thieving adventurers get there; yes..." But with a crimped bridge, he may do okay.

Is the Duergar genuinely loyal to the temple? Duergar don't blithely follow non-Underdwarves to certain death, so it seems a bit out of character for this Duergar's loyalty to carry him out of the mountain and into the open air -- don't forget daylight penalty! -- for a random cult of world-detonation... that's made up mostly of humans, elves and freakin' Frogs.

And, of course, everybody who's been bought is going to turn against the temple the millisecond Eeridik-head hits them with a fireball from on-high. (Stick with Lightning Bolt and/or Scorching Ray.)

But I think the biggest problem with this setup is that you're advancing the temple past the CRM. You've still got an Outer Fane, Blasted Yard, Inner Fane, and Elemental Node to plow through. If your players survive this encounter, those will either be unimpressive or need to be suitably advanced in a similar fashion with the result of you coming back here every session asking if you're about to wipe everybody out again. ;) But if you don't advance those encounters, then all of the other fights are going to pale in comparison to this one massive rough-and-tumble on the bridge. So the generalized advice would probably be "don't spike this fight, the characters shouldn't get the extra experience that it would entail as it'll off-balance the remaining ~50 pages of the adventure."

So I'd avise pulling the Gray, not advancing the Barghest -- maybe having him D.Door himself and the Duergar out of combat (and the temple) if things start going badly, maybe advancing the Athatch (that's an awfully big meanie), and not expanding the bridge to make fighting easier for the, well, honestly, Athatch with its 45' armspan. To make things run faster, I'd pull 4-6 of the elves and feed them to the wights in the blasted yard as "motivation" for those who are hoping to hold the line (and it'll make this combat go faster).

But never -- ever -- drop a fireball on the hired help. Remember that the Athatch can reach up, too.

About reminding your casters of their spell selections: Don't. Choice of spells tells you about the genuine capacity of the players to fend off encounters like this. If they've not chosen to prepare a Divination, ever, it'd be a bit creepy if they got done with their last fight of last session and said (in an ominously DM-ish voice), "Well, there's the next section of the adventure up ahead of us. Boy am I sleepy. If ya'all don't mind, I'll just take a nap and swap out my spells to use these other spells I've never used before in my life." Once again, the suspension of disbelief would come crashing down on the campaign. Yuck. If, however, any of them do have long-range spells still prepared, an Int check might be in order to remind them after all of that close-quarters fighting that "long" range is a whopping 400' + 40' per level -- so the wizard can safely lob fireballs at the temple's cheesy stockade from far outside of the range you note that you intend to engage the PCs at. But if they're out of fireballs etc and dumb enough to jog up to a last ditch fortification with an Athatch towering out from behind it, then they're probably just getting what they've got coming to them.

And now you know my opinion.
::Kaze (would likely be counting combat rounds by the number of shot-drinks consumed...)

WatcherOTharizdun
(1/5/04 12:55 am)
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Good Advice
You bring up a lot of good points. On rereading the Render's info, it definitely makes no sense for it to go along with Riu to attack from behind, and ecology-wise it really is a sore thumb in the camp. Pulling it is probably a good idea.

The bridge width isn't a problem. They've seen bridges before but never asked about width, so I can make all the bridges 45 ft wide and be done with it. On a side note, I widened it mainly to make the idea of an encampment on the bridge plausible - not to maximize the pain dished out the the Athach.

Fireballing the stockade from the beginning of the bridge is a fine idea, but it's up to the PCs - I'll let them know how wide open the bridge is and how easy it will be to see them coming (the only deterrent I can think of to that tactic is that it would certainly warn the camp that there's trouble). Assuming the wizard remembers his spell ranges, they might just do that, and more power to them. In any case, I expect the stockade to end up in flames one way or the other - as soon as I said "wooden" our wizard's eyes lit up. As for how the stockade got built, it's not a detail I've concerned myself too much with. There's been ample time (the PCs recently spent a long time crafting and such in Verbabonc) and the resources could've been procured. While I haven't got a resident engineer around, I'm not sweating it.

As for the motivations, I've tweaked them. They're more loyal/fearful and more likely to fight together than run. This is something the PCs have no reason to question, and I think it's just as believable if you haven't read the module. I also don't see any reason to sacrifice creatures to Riu to advance him - I'm not interested in keeping the creatures and challenges in the CRM equivalent to the way they were written, I'm interested in bumping them up since I'm running 7 PCs. Why bump them in the first place? Well, it's true that I could leave things as is, and the xp would tend to equalize things, etc etc, but that doesn't mean it will be at all exciting. I intend to change a lot of the encounters in the future, especially in the Outer Fane (though I don't intend to advance too much in the OF, just tune their tactics). With 7 players, you either throw the bad guys at them in coordinated groups or you watch them take down each bad guy one by one without even trying. That's most of the reasoning behind the bridge garrison: leaving them isolated would mean watching them get vaporized without any real challenge.

Overall I think the move was a good one. My group thought it was pretty cool when they saw it, and I'm sure when the fight finally does occur I'll have settled on a setup that promises for a well balanced brawl. As I adjust to the precise power output of my party, I most likely won't need to post here asking if I'll TPK them, though I thank you for the advice.

Also, as far as telling them about augury, I'm certainly not going to suggest they cast it before going across the bridge, but at the same time I will be able to encourage the cleric to take all the spells he's got access to into account before the next encounter occurs. He's new and he might have overlooked some options.

Infiniti2000
Brother of Venom
(1/5/04 6:42 am)
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ezSupporter
Re: Good Advice
"I don't intend to advance too much in the OF, just tune their tactics"

If you see anything else, please post in the Outer Fane Tactics thread. There are many of us who would like to use the Hive Mind to make the OF as tough as possible, without actually boosting the critters there.

"With 7 players, you either throw ..."

A side comment, I have 6 (had 7 until the CRM) and I've never had trouble challenging the players and I've hardly boosted anyone (minor hit point increases or stat changes is about all). Making some spell selection changes and using the BoVD helped a lot. Otoh, they've tended to allow the bad guys time to group, so your assessment is still accurate.

"As for how the stockade got built, it's not a detail I've concerned myself too much with."

That's reasonable. However, there's always room for additional ideas, and in that line of thought: Perhaps a number of townspeople from Rastor were 'drafted' as a labor force? These people might still be in the stockade doing finishing touches as the party attacks. This suddenly makes the fireball-from-a-distance approach infeasible. Alternatively, the workers might have been sent to the OF as additional slaves, given to Riu or Thrommel, or any number of choices.

WatcherOTharizdun
(1/5/04 3:36 pm)
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genius!
I love the idea of the workers from Rastor being on site. Hopefully they won't get toasted, and that will inject some nice RP into the scenario, as well as giving it more reality. I can also give some background to the players about the baddies they just fought with through the surviving Rastorians. Assuming they don't just toast from afar. I'm trying to brainstorm some ways to let the PCs know there may be something afoot other than just the inevitable fighting - perhaps the sound of hammers clanking coming in from the stockade? Maybe Eeridik yelling at them to work faster, etc, to give them the idea that not everyone at the stockade is there by choice (well, neither are Eeridik and the others, but you know what I mean). Thanks Infinite for the great idea!

msherman
Crimson Coil Cultist
(1/5/04 6:36 pm)
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Re: genius!
Throw one of the workers off the bridge into the stalagos while the party is watching.

Mr Kaze
Tolling Bell Cultist
(1/5/04 7:05 pm)
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Re: genius!
I'd say "tie the workers to the front of the wall to get some nice soft meat-shields to protect the fragile wood..." but
1) Doesn't look like anybody in the party is Lawful Good enough to really balk at this and
2) By standard rules, the PCs would probably just spend a couple of days gathering remains and casting "Raise Dead" anyway.

But if you're reading this thread and in a similar situation with a lower-level and generally more squeamish goody-goody party, don't hesistate to put hostages between the temple and the characters. (Really is a great idea for the de facto evil temple.)

::Kaze (marks this down as another good reason -- above and beyond "Everybody who died when the temple fell last time is back again because some total @$$wipe went through and did a Raise Dead on every last bloody one of them" -- to enforce a stricter statute of limitations on the resurrection magics...)

Knowe Remorse 
Tolling Bell Cultist
(1/5/04 7:42 pm)
Reply
Re: genius!
isnt there a 5000 gp cost on raise dead? Kinda expensive to rez all those villagers.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of All Who Threaten it.

Mr Kaze
Tolling Bell Cultist
(1/5/04 9:03 pm)
Reply
Re: genius!
Hrm, don't remember that price tag being there in 3.0 (and haven't checked back since -- but 5K in diamonds it is). Yeah, I suppose that would put any kind of honest to Good-ness party in a quandry unless they had a few copies of Tulian's Eye lying about...

Hooray! It's a fiendish strategy after all!
::Kaze

WatcherOTharizdun
(1/5/04 10:13 pm)
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hostages! <raises OF security alert to "orange"
My party is definitely on the side of good, they'd certainly balk. However, members are also on the intensely utilitarian side of good. That is to say, they (one in particular) would quickly decide that since the temple is going to destroy the world if they don't stop it, the villagers are acceptable losses. Aaaahhhh...Tymerian might do the trick. They were rather chummy with her. So Eeridik kidnaps some able bodied villagers, bags Tymerian just for giggles, makes them build the stockade, and then ties them to the walls they built to rot. I like =).

Knowe Remorse 
Tolling Bell Cultist
(1/5/04 11:58 pm)
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Re: hostages! <raises OF security alert to "orange&q
any Good deity, unless really chaotic, would seriously frown upon the party massacreing villagers held against thier will.

Clerics best be doing some serious repentance and begging for atonement if they knowlingly and willingly kill villagers to kill bad guys as well.

IMC those clerics would probably be without a deity real fast.

Its one thing to charge in and hope to save some rescuers, but willingly fireballing innocents for the greater good will be a pretty tuff case in any Good deity's day in court.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of All Who Threaten it.

Infiniti2000
Brother of Venom
(1/6/04 6:41 am)
Reply
ezSupporter
Re: hostages! <raises OF security alert to "orange&a
Kaze, it's 5,000gp in 3.5, it was 500gp in 3.0.

Don't forget to have Eeridik bite Tymerian and a couple of those villagers. Make sure you have a good idea of when the next full moon will occur, though, as it will limit the party's timeline to eliminate the stockage and cure the villagers of lycanthropy.

Mr Kaze
Tolling Bell Cultist
(1/6/04 8:37 am)
Reply
Re: hostages! <raises OF security alert to "orange&a
Raise Dead $$: "Well what's an order of magnitude between friends?" :)

Before dishing out the mixed blessing of lycanthropy on the peasants, perhaps we should ask the other troops -- the Athatch? -- if they'd like it, too. DR 5/Silver across the board might throw the PCs for a bit of a loop.

::Kaze ('s just thinkin' off the top of his head at this point)

Infiniti2000
Brother of Venom
(1/6/04 9:15 am)
Reply
ezSupporter
Re: hostages! <raises OF security alert to "orange&a
As the one who converted Eeridik to 3.5, let me assure you that statting lycanthropes is nontrivial. With that in mind, beware doing it too much. However, one key point is that you do not gain the DR 10/silver unless you are in hybrid or animal form, and you do not change until the first full moon.

Anyway, the reason I mentioned it was not to make the encounter at the stockade any more/less difficult, but to give the players some additional interesting opportunites after that, in particularly some RP opportunites and even possibly to drain them of gold (it will cost money to cure the villagers).

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