View Full Version : [4e] Campaign Journal - Stones & Shadow, Trees & Light

2009-02-10, 10:08 PM
A few of these journals seems to have popped up lately so I thought I'd join the club. If the journal gets views, I'll continue to keep it updated. If not, I'll let it die.

Updates:As a general rule, our campaign is following the published WotC adventure arc (H1, H2 etc). As such, it will contain spoilers for those adventures.

UPDATE (4 March 2009): Sessions 1-15 contain spoilers for Keep on the Shadowfell.

Session 16 is an in-between session.

UPDATE (18 December 2009): Sessions 17-35 contain spoilers for Thunderspire Labyrinth.

UPDATE (10 February 2010): Sessions 36-39 may contain spoilers for the Dragon adventure Shadow Rift of Umbraforge.

UPDATE (1 April 2010): Sessions 40 to 42 contain spoilers for the RPGA module the Woolmen's Restless Tomb.

UPDATE (2 September 2010): Sessions 49 onwards contain spoilers for the RPGA DM reward Tomb of Horrors.

Each post will consist largely of a link to the campaign 'newsletter' that I'm preparing after each session. The front page of each newsletter is the session recap. The second page is the "behind the scenes" info.

If you're only interested in the recap, feel free to ignore the second page of each issue.

EDIT: For what it's worth, I'm happy for this to be a "live" thread where people comment and question what goes on in the campaign. I don't want it to be a lonely thread with only one poster (ie. me).

2009-02-10, 10:12 PM
Session 1: Into the Thunderpeaks (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_01.pdf)

Our heroes find their first taste of adventure.


Please don't judge this journal on the quality of the writing in Issue 1. It was cut and pasted from an email summary sent to a missing player and as such is a little off. Later issues have (I believe) better writing.

You’ll note that we started the campaign with only 4 players (and thus 4 PCs). Fortunately we had the key 4e roles covered, so there were no obvious party weaknesses.

We had all played through the fan adventure Raiders of Oakhurst Reloaded before starting KotS, so we had a pretty good idea of how 4e worked, but we had each created new characters for this campaign. I went from playing Erais the Sunlord (“lazor” cleric) to playing Pieter Grimm (battle cleric)*. I had enjoyed the fluff of playing Erais, so decided to stick with the cleric class, but in the meantime became obsessed with playing a cleric of the Lord of Battle. Thus Pieter was born.

As you’ll note from this issue of SSTL, I greatly overestimated Pieter’s survivability. So much so in fact that he almost died in the very first combat of the campaign. It was a mistake that I would make a few more times before I finally got it into my thick skull that Leaders –aren’t- Defenders.

Otherwise this was a pretty “standard” start to a campaign: four adventurers in a tavern. Having said that, it was a pleasant surprise when the combat came to the PCs rather than the other way around.

*Yes, my Avatar is Pieter Grimm

2009-02-10, 10:14 PM
Session 2: Against the Kobolds (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_02.pdf)

Our heroes investigate the Kobold activities around Winterhaven.


Dek (our dwarven fighter) began the campaign as a scale-wearing greataxe wielder. After the fight with the kobolds on the road, we agreed that a great weapon fighter probably wouldn't cut it as the only defender in a party of four. He simply didn't have the survivability.

Our DM kindly allowed us to retrospectively change Dek to a plate-wearing battleaxe and shield wielder, and even kindly changed the magical scale from session 1 to magical plate so Dek could keep it. Since then Dek has been a bit of a juggernaut. If memory serves me, he's only been bloodied two or three times since.*

This was also the first session in which Shadow demonstrated the rogue's phenomenal ability to pump out damage. She has consistently done so ever since, and we accordingly take great pains to ensure that she can get combat advantage at all times.

*Written after session 14 but before session 15.

2009-02-10, 11:20 PM
Session 3: Irontooth and Grim Portents (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_03.pdf)

Our heroes deal with the kobold menace and find the first clues to a much larger threat.


The Irontooth encounter from KotS is considered by many to be a TPK waiting to happen. We didn’t struggle too much with it, and we only had 4 PCs. Having said that, there was a very nervous moment when Dek used Covering Attack to get Pieter away from a very sticky situation. Irontooth also missed with approximately half of his attacks while bloodied, and just a few more hits might easily have swung the tide. As it was, I think every PC was bloodied and the party had used every available healing resource by the end of the combat.

Fian also proved this session just how much damage a tricked-out blaster (as opposed to control) wizard can do to clustered enemies. She was generally dropping Scorching Burst or Burning Hands on 2 or more enemies per round, and the damage quickly added up. In fact, I don’t think there was a living minion in the Irontooth encounter by the end of round 2.

2009-02-10, 11:35 PM
Session 4: Strange Excavations and Hidden Cultists (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_04.pdf)

The adventurers find a “missing” husband and discover the enemy within.


I can’t speak for the other players, but I highly enjoyed the DM’s spin on the Duven adventure hook. It added personality to Winterhaven and gave it an appearance of verisimilitude. It also acted as a sort of roleplaying foil for each of the players: How does your character respond to this harpy demanding that you go out in the middle of the night to search for a husband who likely doesn’t want to be found? Pieter was the only character who was willing to accede to her demands (more out of concern for Duven’s safety than for Linoren’s approval or gold) and the others grudgingly tagged along.

That moment set a precedent that would be followed later in the campaign, and which also caused some intra-party conflict. More on that later.

The combat at the burial site was also our first real experience of how nasty the “gotcha” elements of 4e can be. The bonus damage ability of the guard drakes (almost doubling their damage output) is truly terrifying at level 1, and almost caused Pieter to be face down before the end of round 2. You’ll note that I made a special point of mentioning the monster knowledge rules on page 2 of the newsletter. :smallsmile:

Although 3e had some truly nasty monsters as well, they generally all drew from the same pool of abilities and you knew roughly what to expect. Some just had higher DCs than others. I personally really like that 4e can throw some completely unexpected stuff at you, while simultaneously giving you a mechanical ruleset to avoid the worst of the surprise.

Oh, incidentally, the longsword vignette at the end of the session recap is related to Pieter’s personal backstory, and more will be revealed later in the campaign.

2009-02-10, 11:47 PM
Session 5: Darkness under Winterhaven (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_05.pdf)

Our heroes capture Winterhaven’s darkest citizen and set off for the Keep.


By the time the party returned to Winterhaven, everyone was down to 2 or less healing surges. If I remember correctly, Pieter had only 1 left. Most of us had used our dailies. Nevertheless, I (and I believe the DM) were keen to see just how far 4e PCs could push themselves before they got into trouble. And besides, a cleric of Tempus would rush in, right?

As mentioned in session 4, a precedent had been set that Pieter was the gung-ho type and that the others tended to grumble but acquiesce, and that’s exactly what eventually happened. Not without a “fight” though, as demonstrated by the discussion in the second spoiler block.

Session 5 was also the session when the party gained its fifth member, a human warlord named Robert. I had initially advocated having a second defender but I’ve since come to the conclusion that a second leader is an amazing 5th party member. Between Dek, Pieter and Robert our group has an astounding ability to weather battles of attrition*, and it has served us well later in the campaign.

You’ll also note the mention of the seven-pillared hall, which is the main location for H2: Thunderspire Labyrinth. I was quite impressed that the DM was inserting plot hooks for that adventure before we even reached the Keep.

*2 healing words, 2 inspiring words, Pieter’s healing strike, Robert’s Myrmidon Formation, and Dek’s minor action Second Wind, Dwarven plate armour power and Boundless Endurance.

Our first intra-party spat:

Me: Pieter rises from the position where he, Dek and Fian are crouching and leans over a nearby counter. He studies a barrel of rusted iron for a few seconds, before reaching into the twisted metal and silently sliding free an ornate-looking but ill-kept longsword. He grimaces almost immediately, and carefully lays the weapon down on the counter and returns to his wary crouch.

He whispers to Dek and Fian, "I want Bairwin alive."

OOC: When Shadow returns, we have the discussion about cultists etc, with the ultimate outcome that Pieter suggests that we go down there now (after taking a few minutes to gather support from the guards if possible).

Shadow’s player (SP): "What's the big hurry? They're not going anywhere, and you look exhausted. We'll lose the element of surprise, but we'll lose that by the time you take 3 steps down that staircase."

She pauses, then gives a soft, sad smile and says gently "Imele used to say that the difference between zeal and folly is that the foolish lack wisdom while the zealous ignore it. Shove a couple of those big barrels over that trapdoor and get some sleep. We'll need it."

Me: "And Saint Daelphus said, "To see the right and not to do it is cowardice". We have no choice here. I will not leave this town at the mercy of death-cultists. We don't know what they're up to down there, nor what will happen if we let them finish. I need rest as much as you, but we will not get it here and I will not allow others to stand guard in my stead."

Comment: This exchange doesn’t come across as heated as it actually was. The exchange took place on a forum we use for inter-session stuff and after the quotes (about zealotry and cowardice) were exchanged, we both fell silent for a couple of days while we each cooled off. We then had a private out-of-character discussion about why we each wanted to do what we wanted to do and SP ultimately agreed that he was as interested as I was in how far 4e PCs could be “stretched”.

SP: Shadow sighs, then closes the trapdoor. Pieter begins to object, but Shadow quickly hisses "Oh, calm down. You'll get a chance to show off your manhood soon enough." Quickly, she continues, "But before we go charging down there, I thought you might recruit some help to guard the doorway. I want someone covering our escape, and I certainly don't want to get trapped inside." She glances at some heavy crates and sacks and gives Pieter a frustrated look.

Me: Pieter looks from Fian to Shadow, then smiles. "Thank you", he says to Shadow. "The people of Winterhaven owe you their thanks". He motions Dek to help him move the bags of flour onto the trapdoor.

I think this could have easily developed into one of those “My co-player is an idiot” thread situations, but I’m quite happy that we managed to resolve it amicably and in such a way that no one’s character needed to be compromised.

2009-02-11, 12:36 AM
Heh, interesting journal so far.

I gotta ask though - where did you get those shiny PDFs for the campaign summaries? Is that bundled with 4E modules or something?

2009-02-11, 12:42 AM
Session 6: Keep on the Shadowfell (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_06.pdf)

Our heroes delve into the Keep’s depths.


By this stage in the campaign, virtually no one had revealed their character’s backstory. I had revealed that Pieter grew up an orphan before following in the footsteps of his idol Axis (a cleric of Tempus), but everyone else had remained relatively tight-lipped about their character’s background. It was almost like a meeting of Paranoid Anonymous. So it was refreshing that Robert joined the campaign and almost immediately laid his cards on the table. It opened the gates a little, and further PC backstory information came out over the next few sessions.

The book that Pieter read from was placed by the DM in Bairwin’s temple as a sort of “free pass” to the backstory of the keep, and it helped a lot in setting up a mood for the adventure that was more than just “check out the ruined building full of goblins”. It also created a sense of urgency because it gave a sense of reality to the evil underneath the keep. It was no longer a matter of “To do: vanquish faceless evil X”.

Overall our first encounters in the keep were relatively unexciting and uninspiring. At the end of the day, goblins are goblins. Fortunately, things got more exciting later on.

It also annoyed us that the rules for the pit trap in the first encounter were significantly different to the rules in the DMG. It caused the game to grind to a halt for approximately 10 minutes while we discussed how to handle it. In my opinion, our DM sometimes tries to be too “right” and/or “fair”. I had the same flaw when I DMed my 3.5e campaign, but now I see the wisdom in just making a ruling and getting on with it. If as a DM you later feel you’ve stuffed up, you can always balance the scales by fluffing a roll or reducing a monster’s hit points. And you can discuss the ruling after the session and agree to handle things differently next time around.

2009-02-11, 12:46 AM
I gotta ask though - where did you get those shiny PDFs for the campaign summaries? Is that bundled with 4E modules or something?

No such luck :smallsmile:

The newsletters are created using Microsoft Publisher and then printed to pdf using a program called PdfDocs, both of which I have access to at work.

Unfortunately Publisher isn’t in common usage, so I need to convert to pdf for the other players and the DM to be able to read them.

PdfDocs is a pay program, but I understand there are other pdf converters available online for free (our DM uses one to convert his DDI Character Builder sheets into pdfs).

2009-02-11, 01:02 AM
Session 7: Of Torturers and Fat Goblins (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_07.pdf).

Our heroes discover the depths of goblin cruelty, and cleanse the upper level of the Keep.


Again we struggled with decision-making this session. We initially wanted to go south from the excavation room, then Dek’s player insisted we check out the northwestern area (across the other side of the keep!) instead. After some more intra-party conflict, we gave in and headed that way. After getting there we saw the blood smears on the floor and decided, “hey, heading south was a good idea after all”. Then our DM sprung the scream on us. He can be a b.stard sometimes :smallsmile:

In later sessions we’ve pretty much settled into a groove with our decision-making. If an issue can’t be resolved within a few minutes, we have a vote. With an odd number of party members, there’s almost always a clear majority. I had been a vocal opponent of the 5-person standard adventuring party but it does at least have dispute resolution in its favour.

Dek’s pushing of the torturer into the fire pit was the first “oh, cool!” moment of the campaign. While, yes it would have been doable in 3.5e, chances are it simply wouldn’t have happened. 4e does seem to me to have the edge when it comes to terrain interaction.

The secret door into Balgron’s chamber has me umming and ahhing. I like adventures that reward “good” players (including character creation), and Fian’s high passive perception certainly gave us an upper hand here. Pieter blocked the inner door by jamming his sword through the handles and our group had Balgron unconscious before his cronies could even engage. However, I can’t help but think that the secret door gave too much of an advantage. I suppose it’s a fine line for a designer to walk.

I needed to leave early this session, so I missed most of the running combat with the goblins. I’m told however, that it encompassed most of the first level of the keep, particularly once the goblins decided that the battle was lost and attempted to reach the door to the lower level.

2009-02-11, 01:15 AM
Session 8: Caves beneath Shadowfell Keep (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_08.pdf).

Our heroes tread a morally dark line, and Pieter pays for it.


It's worth noting that the party cleared the entire first level of the keep without an extended rest and without overly taxing their resources. That's 5 encounters (maybe more if Balgron and cronies is usually 2 separate encounters), a significant improvement on my experiences of the 3.5e adventuring day.

On a personal note, I’m quite happy with how this session worked out in-character for Pieter. I had always envisaged him as noble but with a hint of rage or darkness within. Mechanically, I saw his future lying towards either Kensai (reflecting a noble and good Pieter) or Pit Fighter (reflecting a morally greyer Pieter).

In that sense, the torturing of Balgron represented a step down the Pit Fighter path, and I was happy to plant the seeds for that eventuality at this stage of the campaign. Then the dice completely turned against me in the combat against the Ochre Jelly. I could have dismissed it as bad luck and forgotten about it, but I instead decided to view it from Pieter’s perspective. He had abandoned his generally righteous ways and given in to his rage over the torture and death of a fellow Tempuran, and at the very next opportunity his well-honed and divinely-granted combat skills failed him repeatedly and spectacularly. As I mentioned on page 2 of the issue, I believe I rolled three 1s in an 8-round combat. I think I hit with a total of 4 out of 10 attacks.

How would Pieter view that coincidence? I decided that he didn’t think it was a coincidence. He believes that Tempus punished him for his evil act and he hasn’t since strayed into that morally grey/black area again. He’s not necessarily destined for Kensai, but he’s well and truly on the path.

I find something immensely satisfying in having something so random as dice rolls contributing to the development of my character’s personality.

2009-02-11, 01:44 AM
This is great! Keep up the good work!

2009-02-11, 05:03 AM
Session 9: The Dead Walk (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_09.pdf).

Our heroes venture into Winterhaven's graveyard, and Pieter's suspicions are confirmed correct.


I'm a little unsure about this session from an adventure designers point of view. I don't really see the value of the graveyard encounter from a design perspective. I think the adventure could have done well enough without. In hindsight, I suspect it was included to demonstrate that rituals are now available to everyone. After all, if an elven huntress can summon skeletons, anyone can!

Despite the design queries, I was quite pleased at the time to discover that Pieter's suspicions about Ninaran were correct. When we first started investigating the cult, Pieter had succeeded at an insight roll and knew Ninaran was withholding something. At the time the cult wasn't common knowledge amongst the townsfolk, and Pieter wasn't about to break that silence for the sake of quizzing Ninaran further, but he definitely planned to keep an eye on her.

Surprisingly, Insight has proven to be quite a useful skill, which I don't think could be generally said for the 3.5e Sense Motive.

One thing that didn't work out well this session was Ninaran's attempt to flee. She had a massive lead (roughly half of the fold-out poster map) but because of the mechanics of turn-based combat, Dek managed to get into base-to-base contact and lock her down. Once he did that, it was all over. I don't think 4e has really improved on 3.5e at all when it comes to chases, but perhaps there wasn't much that could be done.

2009-02-11, 05:12 AM
This is great! Keep up the good work!

Thanks. I'll keep posting them as long as people keep reading them. :smallsmile:

5 more sessions to post and then I'm up to date and the rate of posting will slow to every fortnight or so (which is how often we play).

2009-02-11, 07:50 AM
Thanks for posting this, I'll follow it with interest.

I like the newsletters.

2009-02-11, 01:02 PM
i'll follow this as we get to those parts, we killed irontooth due to a huge quantity of luck and unloading of attacks. he did not even hit any of us!

as an aside are you still giving out an action point for EVERY encounter?!
crazy! those party members should totally get a warlord to cream maximum benefit.

as an aside leaders are not defenders, my leader (inspiring warlord) is having to double up as a defender by m/c paladin in our party of ranger archer, ranger melee, rogue, wizard, fighter and me.
it's a bit hairy!

2009-02-11, 01:15 PM
I love the newsletter you guys do, though it seems sparse on details sometimes. My favorite part of most journals is reading about the combat hijinks. I tend to skim over the other sections when I haven't actually played the module myself.

2009-02-11, 02:04 PM
One thing that didn't work out well this session was Ninaran's attempt to flee. She had a massive lead (roughly half of the fold-out poster map) but because of the mechanics of turn-based combat, Dek managed to get into base-to-base contact and lock her down. Once he did that, it was all over. I don't think 4e has really improved on 3.5e at all when it comes to chases, but perhaps there wasn't much that could be done.

How'd that happen? Someone double-running with that much of a lead is uncatchable by anyone who can't beat her speed. In fact, I made up a generic Pursuit Skill Challenge in order to figure out overtaking.

2009-02-11, 04:35 PM
as an aside are you still giving out an action point for EVERY encounter?! crazy! those party members should totally get a warlord to cream maximum benefit.

Nope. This was an experiment by the DM to see whether a slight increase in the AP rate could compensate for the missing 5th PC, and thus remove the need for him to tinker with every encounter.

It did make a difference, but I don’t think it would ultimately have been enough in the long run. As it was, we picked up a 5th PC pretty soon afterwards and went back to the usual AP procedure.

as an aside leaders are not defenders… it's a bit hairy!

I agree. Pieter took (and continues to take) a pasting every time he acts as a dedicated defender. I could probably minimise that if I took scale and heavy shield proficiency, but they’re “on my list” for Paragon.

At the moment, Pieter generally acts as a quasi-defender for our wizard, mostly because the others go haring off and leave the two of us alone! :smallsmile:

2009-02-11, 04:48 PM
I love the newsletter you guys do, though it seems sparse on details sometimes. My favorite part of most journals is reading about the combat hijinks.

The last journal I did* was a full narrative, and amounted to 40+ pages for a single (relatively small) module. As a married man with a 2-yr-old, I don’t really have the time to do that again, so I decided to keep things simpler this time around.

Although combat is usually at the heart of a D&D play session, it’s only vary rarely at the heart of the story and I therefore try to focus equally on the non-combat events. I do recognise the enjoyment that people get from the combat sequences though, which is why every combat gets at least a mention in the recap. Significant or memorable events (particularly BIG critical hits) usually get a mention in the Points of Note sidebar if they don’t make it into the recap itself.

*This was for our Raiders of Oakhurst Reloaded mini-campaign and is available over on the EN World Story Hour Forum – look for “Raiders of Oakhurst; A Memoir of Erais Gunterson”. It’s probably well and truly off the front page by now though. Alternatively, PM me your email address and I'll send you a pdf copy.

2009-02-11, 05:11 PM
How'd that happen? Someone double-running with that much of a lead is uncatchable by anyone who can't beat her speed. In fact, I made up a generic Pursuit Skill Challenge in order to figure out overtaking.

There’s a 10’ fence around the graveyard and Ninaran had much more trouble getting over it than Dek did (despite her being 2’ taller :smallsmile:). Probably not so much a system problem as a dice problem, but once Dek was adjacent to her and had her marked, her chances of escape were virtually nil, even though she was faster than him.

2009-02-11, 05:34 PM
Session 10: Beneath Shadowfell Keep (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_10.pdf).

Our heroes battle a shambling horde of undead, and find a place of solace amongst the evil.


The combat against the zombies was as close to a whitewash as I have ever seen in 10+ years of playing D&D. It started with Burning Hands against 6+ targets, and the remainder of the party hewed into whatever was still upright afterwards. If memory serves, there was only 1 zombie left standing after the first round. The second wave of zombies then duly came shambling in, but the party had more than enough time to prepare and they went down just as easily although slightly less quickly then the first lot.

I’ve heard that some parties had trouble with the zombie horde, and if that’s true I can only imagine that Fian (and especially that first Burning Hands) made the difference for us. The zombies never really recovered from that first blitz.

The necromantic traps are pretty cool in my opinion (their effect is disclosed in the next issue), but I was disappointed to learn that it took 10 minutes to disable each one. While it makes a certain amount of sense in-game (it takes a ritual to set them up so it should take a ritual to turn them off), it imposes an ultimatum on parties – jump the traps and risk setting them off or sit on your hands for 30+ minutes while you disable them – that isn’t really conducive to the style and pacing of the rest of the module.

It’s another interesting design decision that I don’t think I really agree with.

Those who read to the second page of the issue will discover a groovy quote by Helen Keller – “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

That quote is so fitting of D&D that I was dumfounded when I first stumbled across it. In some ways, I see it as a neat summary as the foundation of 4e humans’ approach to life. Yeah, sure they’re headstrong and willing to take risks (as Dek and Shadow keep pointing out to Pieter), but what are the alternatives?

2009-02-11, 08:16 PM
Session 11: Even in Death He Serves (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_11.pdf).

The adventurers meet Sir Keegan and encounter a hobgoblin patrol


The encounter with Keegan was somewhat of a disappointment, although largely that stems from our unfamiliarity with skill challenges. Our DM was quite down on himself afterwards, although I don’t think it was as bad as he thought it was.

Interestingly, we did come across the age-old problem with Diplomacy rolls. When trying to enlist Keegan’s aid, Pieter said words to the effect of “We wish to continue your quest; to prevent the opening of the shadow rift and to keep Shadrilax imprisoned beyond”. I then rolled the dice and it of course came up a 1. Even with Pieter’s impressive Diplomacy modifier of +10, that was still a failure. The DM’s interpretation of the situation? “You’re unnerved by Keegan’s appearance and stammer when you talk to him, so he’s unimpressed by your statement”.

To be honest, that miffed me a little bit. If I wanted Pieter to be shocked and stammer, I would have said so. It was somewhat emasculating. But in hindsight, perhaps I didn’t really leave the DM anywhere else to go.

I’m considering rolling my Diplomacy checks before choosing my words in future, and then using the results as the basis for my roleplaying. It’s an interesting dilemma, and one that’s been around in D&D for a long time.

Players and DMs of Keep on the Shadowfell will notice that there’s no mention of Aecris (Keegan’s sword) in this issue, and that’s because there was no mention of it in the session. The DM had replaced the pre-generated treasure with party-specific treasure in accordance with the DMG treasure rules, and I assume he removed Aecris as part of that process. Which IMO is a pity. Sir Braford’s sword from The Sunless Citadel (“Shatterspike” IIRC) was a pretty cool “iconic” weapon and I think Aecris could have been too. Particularly given the ease with which magic items can be upgraded in 4e.

Although I don’t have the KotS module myself, I understand that the combat with the hobgoblin patrol isn’t in it. I believe our DM added it for mechanical reasons (to keep our xp advancement on track) and story reasons (as another hook for Thunderspire Labyrinth; and to have Pieter discover another of the mysterious weapons he’s collecting). Ironically, it turned out to be one of the most deadly combats of the campaign so far.

Fian spotted 4 hobgoblins standing in and around and intersection and rushed forward on her own to unleash both Colour Spray and Flaming Sphere in the same round. It certainly was impressive, but unfortunately all 4 were still standing afterwards. The warcaster then dragged Fian into range with Force Lure and the soldiers wailed on her. Before we could blink, our wizard was face down and bleeding out, with a hobgoblin soldier standing immediately adjacent.

What followed was one of those moments that you remember for years (at least I will because I was the “hero” of the moment). Pieter was the only one within range to do anything meaningful before the hobgoblins’ next turn but he was at the time unarmed, having sheathed his sword to throw a javelin. Things were pretty dire. Pieter couldn’t do enough damage to take the hobgoblins out and couldn’t heal Fian enough to stop the hobgoblins simply putting her down (and probably out – she’d gone from full to unconscious in one round) again next round. All I could really think of was to put Pieter in harm’s way and hope the hobgoblins focused on him instead.

So he spent his normal actions just to reach her, and then an action point to bull rush the soldier standing above her. No one saw that coming, not even the DM.

The roll was successful and I described Pieter smashing into the soldier with his shield at full pace, pushing it away from Fian. Pieter followed up, placing himself between Fian and the hobgoblins. As icing on the cake, the soldier ended up next to the flaming sphere. Yes, Pieter took a bit of a pasting during the next round, but both he and Fian were still alive at the end of the combat. Pieter had managed to rescue Fian against nasty odds while unarmed. If that’s not a cinematic moment of glory, I don’t know what is.

I’ll never underestimate bull rushing again.

2009-02-11, 10:54 PM
Session 12: Hobgoblins and Shadow-worshippers (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_12.pdf).

The adventurers solve a difficult riddle and encounter more hobgoblins.


The combat with the zombies was again a relative walkover. If my understanding is correct, zombies are generally brutes, which have low AC and low attack values. Against our party (and particularly against Dek’s sky-high AC), that makes them spectacularly ineffective. I think we got through the encounter without taking anything other than a few hits from minions.

Just before this session, Fian’s player decided to pull out of the campaign. He was about to move out of town and had been busy with other things for quite a while. He had already missed quite a few sessions. There was a new player ready to join, and Fian’s player thought it better to bow out rather than have Fian hang around as an NPC.

So entered Soveliss. This is Soveliss’ player’s first 4e game.

We put Soveliss through a bit of an interrogation before he joined the party. After all, a strange eladrin showed up in the middle of the keep, didn’t help with the zombies, and then gave a party member their marching orders (metaphorically and literally). Who wouldn’t be a little uneasy about that? Although we all knew Soveliss would be joining us, we put on the show for the sake of verisimilitude.

The riddle proved far harder than the combat against the zombies. As soon as I heard it, I was sure that the answer was “glory”, so Pieter said it aloud. The magic mouth positing the riddle then chastised Pieter for being wrong and said we had one guess left or the treasure would be gone forever. And as we all know, there is nothing like the prospect of losing treasure for paralysing D&D players with indecision. We then spent about 15-20 minutes discussing our options. We even went back to Keegan to see if he knew the answer, to no avail.

We came up with a couple of answers, all of which sort of fit the riddle, but none of which satisfied everyone. Eventually, we asked the DM if we could make Intelligence checks for clues, and he agreed. During the ensuing discussion, the DM – intentionally, I imagine - used the word “reputation” three times. No one else seemed to pick up on that, but I managed to sway most of them around to choosing that as our guess (without actually pointing out what the DM had done). Still the debate went on, until finally Soveliss’ player said “Oh let’s get some balls!” and blurted out “reputation” in front of the magic mouth. And treasure was had by all (well, Shadow actually).

The battle against the hobgoblins was another nail-biter, because the DM had added a few hobgoblins to it from surrounding rooms and set the enemies up waiting for us. After all, the archer had gotten away earlier and we had then given the enemy 5+ minutes to prepare themselves.

Soveliss’ player showed a bit of naiveté by teleporting off behind enemy lines in an attempt to Thunderwave some hobgoblins into a pit. Of course, he then got trapped and Pieter had to run over to protect him. 4e PCs have a lot of hit points, but it’s easy to be fooled into a false sense of security by them.

At the same time, Shadow got immobilised by a Sightless One and Dek soon followed. They both spent something like 5 or 6 rounds immobilised and without an adjacent enemy. Shadow was reduced to throwing daggers (without sneak attack), and Dek was flinging around his dynamic waraxe morphed into a javelin. Shadow’s situation was especially egregious, because even after Robert granted her two extra saves (via a Martial Power feat) she was still stuck.

All but one of the enemies in that combat could impose a condition (slowed, immobilised, blinded, or ongoing poison damage). Affected by those conditions, and split into two groups by a pit, our teamwork and ability to focus fire were hamstrung. In addition, the combat included four soldiers and their high defences made life even more difficult. For a while there, it seemed like the combat (and one or more PCs) would in fact be lost. Ultimately, I think the party’s longevity is what saved us. High hp, relatively high AC, and deep healing reserves kept us in the fight long enough that the enemies simply ran out of hit points and we won “by default”.

2009-02-11, 11:38 PM
Session 13: A Warchief Deposed (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_13.pdf).

Our heroes sever the hobgoblin chain of command, and enter a chamber of statues.


The hobgoblin battle in this session was another serious combat, although I believe it was in fact 2 encounters combined into one. Notwithstanding that fact, we came through it ok largely because we were able to polish of the smaller group before the larger really engaged. Then we bottled up the larger group in a narrow corridor and took them out piecemeal.

Bottlenecking has worked well for us so far this campaign. It’s a very 3e tactic, and it’s interesting to note that despite its effectiveness, we always break out of the defensive bottleneck as soon as we can – even when it would be wiser not to. I think there’s just something about all the push and pull powers in 4e that subconsciously gets you more willing to move around, even if it’s not necessary.

The hobgoblin warchief gave us another “gotcha” moment, and I’m coming to love them more and more. Sooner or later we’ll lose a PC to one of them and I’m sure I’ll hate them then, but for now they are adding spice to combat, and I love them for it.

This particular “gotcha” was the warchief’s ability to shift his allies around. After disposing of the smaller group of hobgoblins, the party sheltered behind Dek in a 10’ wide corridor, expecting Dek’s Combat Superiority to stop the hobgoblins getting to the more vulnerable party members. The next thing we knew, 3 soldiers had shifted past Dek and each PC other than Shadow had their own personal soldier to fight. It shook the combat out of the drudgery it was threatening to become, and led to some very inspired power use.

The warchief also did a remarkably effective job of cutting up Dek. As I’ve previously mentioned, Dek has generally been almost untouchable in the campaign, but the warchief had relatively little trouble bloodying the dwarf and might (if Shadow hadn’t gotten involved) have been able to get him to unconsciousness. It was a little weird, but I felt happy for the DM that he’d finally been able to test Dek’s mettle. There had been an almost-invulnerable dwarven fighter* in the 3.5e campaign I DMed and I knew how annoying it was to be unable to harm a PC.

You will also have noticed by now that we tend to end our sessions on cliffhangers; at the start of combats rather than at the end of them. Partly that’s because we play online and can save our initiatives and positions for later reloading, but partly it’s because it’s more exciting to do it that way. Ending a session after a combat means there’s nothing imminent to look forward to the next session. Ending a session with a door slamming closed on Shadow and a huge statue swiping at Dek gives you something to think about in the time between sessions. Usually something along the lines of “just how much trouble are we in now?” :smallsmile:

* Played by the person playing Robert in this campaign

2009-02-12, 12:06 AM
Session 14: A Confrontation Nears (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_14.pdf).

Is there no end to the Keep’s zombie horde?


The encounter with the statues was without doubt our worst experience with KotS so far. To put it simply, there were far too many safe spots. We discovered that within 1 or 2 rounds of the encounter starting, and then spent the next 3 to 4 rounds attacking or disarming traps that couldn’t hurt us. Most unsatisfying and the DM eventually just moved on. He helped us a little more on the cherub trap than he probably should have, but I think by that stage he’d just had enough of that particular encounter (the players certainly had) and wanted to get on with other things.

It’s an odd encounter, and one that seems to go against WotC’s new approach that stationary traps alone do not make an encounter. They should be coupled with other things to make them dynamic. The statue chamber was anything but. Oddly, all it would have taken to change the whole encounter would be to remove the safe spots. If PCs weren’t able to get out of the humanoid’s statues reach to the north or west, there’s more chance that someone (likely a striker or controller) would try to run into the cherub alcove to the south. They would then have set that trap off and the rest of the party would have had to urgently deal with the humanoid statue so that they could rescue the drowning PC. Sooner or later someone would step too close to the dragons and then it’d be “on like Kong”.

It seems so obvious to me that I wonder how the designers didn’t see it. Maybe the playtesters were really dumb?

The next encounter gave us a couple of “oh, cool” moments, despite being yet another zombie encounter. Pieter moved into the centre of the room and waited for the zombies to swamp him before firing off his Turn Undead. It was somewhat annoying that one of the zombies got a critical hit on Pieter as he was waiting for them to crowd in. Still, he hit all his targets except one, and the immobilising effect on the non-minions meant they played little more part in the combat. Taking 14 hit points damage in exchange for inflicting a total of 20-odd, destroying a minion, and immobilising two of the nastier opponents out of reach was in my opinion a fair trade. Of course, it would have been better if that critical had been a miss :smallsmile:

The second “oh, cool” moment is the one immortalised on the second page of the issue. Pieter and Soveliss were adjacent and had a non-minion zombie each to fight. Pieter (playing the quasi-defender role I’ve mentioned earlier) took out the zombie threatening Soveliss with Healing Strike, and when Soveliss’ initiative came up he returned the favour with Chill Strike. At the time it didn’t strike me as anything terribly special, but later that night I realised what that would have looked like in a movie. Oh, cool.

So that’s the campaign so far, and I’m told we will most likely go up against Kalarel this Sunday night (in 3 days’ time). We’re low on surges, below full hp, and most of us have used our dailies. From a metagame perspective, many of the players (myself included) want to take an extended rest. In-character however, it’s unthinkable that the PCs would retreat or rest knowing they were so close and having seen that the ritual has commenced (I mean, come on, a river of blood?!).

I’ve heard that the Kalarel fight is a doozy, and I’m note sure we can take it in our current condition, but we’re going to give it a damn good try!

Interesting fact:

It's worth noting that we've gone through the second and third levels of the keep (and a bonus encounter inserted by the DM) without an extended rest. That's at least 6 encounters, and it'll be 8 if we get past Kalarel in one piece. That, to me, is a pretty amazing feat and represents a significant improvement on the 3.5e adventuring workday. I'm loving this aspect of 4e.

2009-02-12, 12:58 AM
The encounter with Keegan was somewhat of a disappointment, although largely that stems from our unfamiliarity with skill challenges. Our DM was quite down on himself afterwards, although I don’t think it was as bad as he thought it was.

Interestingly, we did come across the age-old problem with Diplomacy rolls. When trying to enlist Keegan’s aid, Pieter said words to the effect of “We wish to continue your quest; to prevent the opening of the shadow rift and to keep Shadrilax imprisoned beyond”. I then rolled the dice and it of course came up a 1. Even with Pieter’s impressive Diplomacy modifier of +10, that was still a failure. The DM’s interpretation of the situation? “You’re unnerved by Keegan’s appearance and stammer when you talk to him, so he’s unimpressed by your statement”.

To be honest, that miffed me a little bit. If I wanted Pieter to be shocked and stammer, I would have said so. It was somewhat emasculating. But in hindsight, perhaps I didn’t really leave the DM anywhere else to go.

I’m considering rolling my Diplomacy checks before choosing my words in future, and then using the results as the basis for my roleplaying. It’s an interesting dilemma, and one that’s been around in D&D for a long time.

The way I solved this problem is by causing the NPC's reaction to be influenced by the PC's words, rather than the PC's words themselves.

You see, even if you say everything right, an argument can not sound convincing. Perhaps the speaker doesn't like your face, or doubts that you are sufficiently serious about the quest. Folks can be initially skeptical about random adventurers asking them to do things, and may be hesitant, even if they fully believe the PCs, to get involved.

I've found this the most satisfying way to deal with Diplomacy checks.

Kol Korran
2009-02-13, 08:33 AM
an interesting and enjoyable read Colmarr. i personally don't like the H1/2/3 and so on modules (they offer no realy interesting character choices, way too focused on battles, almost no skill related encounters and challanges, and all in all- it's very repetitive. just keep battling one group of humanoids after the other, with side encounters) but it seems like your DM is making efforts (along with the group) to make it an enjoyable experience.

i join Oracle Hunter in his approach as a DM to diplomacy- the result of the rolls (epecially poor ones) should be mostly reflected on the NPCs responses. how are you dealing with intimidate and bluff though? those are usually more difficult to gauge (oh, you never realy used those before except for once with shadow...)

as to keegan's sword- the way it is written it is fairly lame (daily: gain a healing surge upon killing an undead) but it could have been made something more appropriate, more decent by your DM- adding radiant damage, or perhaps gaining a bonus to saving throws agaisnt shadow creatures powers. could have fitted your warlord nicely.

i think you would like the seven pillared hall- an interesting setting (not sure about the adventures there- i'm not that thrilled about them. though there are a couple of encounters i am curious to see how you deal with).

a request and a suggestion: can you edit the first post (or add to your "working post") a summation of races, classes, whatever bakcground you can give, and perhaps the main signature powers? it took me a little bit to understand even what the classes were, i only realised Fian's gender in the 6th or 7th installment.

i'd presonally like to learn more about the characters whenever possible. how does the drow Vs. eladrin issue works out? do the other characters believe in any specific gods? other than your sowrd and the prism soveliss is looking for (did he take that name out of the 3.5 ranger?) are there any other special items of interest.

that's all from me for now, except for telling you i'd keep reading. i enjoy mostly your observations part- it adds much to the brief session recap. good work. hope you'll keep doing it.

Kol Korran
2009-02-13, 09:58 AM
oh, and by the way, about your dilemma with chases. (the graveyard encounter with the huntress) a DM i played with made those into skill challanges:

- key attributes were athletics and endurance
- if the chase took place in places where one could hide then stealth (if you were the pursued) or perception (if you were the pursuer) would be a secondery skill, but only one to to successes allowed.
- some other ingenious skill uses could be made, if the player explained their reasoning (for example- knowing alleways in a city by using streetwise, or knowing how the land ahead behaved and how to use that to shorten the distance by knowledge nature)

- the amount of succeses needed was depended on the distance between the pursuer and pursued (or the complexity of the chase, for example through busy city street).
- the difficulty depended on the opponenets skill (the huntress would probalby have quite a high skill)

buuuuuttt, what about something simple for combat encounter? we used this simple system, though it is probably not the best:
- as part of your RUN action you could try to increase the number of squares you move. you do this by rolling for atheltics AND endurance.
- devide the athletics result by 5, this is how much more you run (insted of the extra 2 of the run action, which counts as a fairly light running).
- the DC for the endurance check is your athletics check -5. if you reached it- all is peachy. if not- you lose one healing surge (you tire yourself with quick bursts of speed). you always lower your atheltics check so running will be easier, and less exhausting.
fairly simple nechanics, that can give extra movement squares. adjust numbers to fit your own flavour.

hope this helped,

2009-02-13, 10:29 PM
a request and a suggestion: can you edit the first post (or add to your "working post") a summation of races, classes, whatever bakcground you can give, and perhaps the main signature powers? it took me a little bit to understand even what the classes were, i only realised Fian's gender in the 6th or 7th installment.

I'll go one better than that. I'll link the level 4 character sheets:

Edit: The DM has moved these character sheets from his server, so the links were broken. I've removed them.

Dek, Shield dwarf fighter from the East Rift (guardian fighter).

The party actually knows very little about Dek other than that he has journeyed from the East Rift (which is a LONG way) on a quest given to him by Moradin. He's actually been pretty secretive about it, but hasn't given anyone reason to doubt his good intentions.

Pieter Grimm, devout of Tempus (battle cleric).

Most of Pieter's backstory is spelled out already in the SSTL issues. One thing that came out recently but isn't mentioned in the newsletters is that the strange longsword Pieter recovered from Bairwin's shop (and another shortsword he found on a hobgoblin) have the same distinctive hilt design as Stormbringer, the bastard sword wielded by Pieter's hero Axis. Stormbringer was never recovered after Axis' death, so these copies are irresistible to Pieter.

Robert Tyrill, last heir of a fallen house (tactical warlord).

Again, Robert’s backstory has been revealed in the newsletters. There may be more to it that has currently been revealed, but I’m not privy to it.

The linked character sheet is for Robert at level 3. I don't think his player has figured out what he wants to take at level 4 yet.

Shadow, a drow rogue from Baldur's Gate (artful dodger).

Shadow was quite withdrawn when she joined the party, as you’d expect from a drow alone so far from home. We don't even know her real name. Since she fell in with us, we’ve learned that her mother journeyed far from home shortly after Shadow was born. We also know that Shadow grew up on the streets of Baldur’s gate, and only recently made the journey to Highmoon (another LONG journey) on foot. We’re not sure why yet. We do know that she grew up in the company of an eladrin named Jaelynna, who she refers to often and with warmth.

Shadow and Dek get on surprisingly well given the ongoing war in the East Rift between drow and the shield dwarfs. Mostly, that comradeship seems to be based on their mutual bemusement (and occasionally annoyance) at Pieter’s fervour. They often have private discussions in Deep speech, which has prompted Pieter to anger on at least one occasion; not because of the language, but because they are deliberately excluding the others.

Soveliss, eladrin orb wizard.

At the time of writing, Soveliss has been with the group less than 2 in-game hours, so we know very little about him. He’s aloof and arrogant, but seems to be warming to Pieter quickly. He has a rather sinister scar on his face and Pieter isn’t completely convinced of his good intentions yet. We don’t know what this prism is that he is looking for. Still, Fian vouched for him, so he’s along for the ride.

You'll note from the character sheet that Soveliss is spellscarred. No one other than Pieter knows that yet (Pieter noticed a blue glimmer in his eye after the last combat - a fluff depiction of him taking the spellscarred MC feat), so it will be interesting to see how the party reacts when he starts manifesting spellscarred powers.

PS. I’m not sure whether the name was lifted from the 3.5 iconic ranger. It’s also one of the suggested male eladrin names in the 4e PHB. When he first joined the group, the name always conjured up pictures of a ranger for me. Now, when I hear the name Soveliss, I think of the wizard :smallsmile:

2009-02-13, 10:38 PM
how are you dealing with intimidate and bluff though? those are usually more difficult to gauge (oh, you never realy used those before except for once with shadow...)

Shadow used bluff on Keegan, but I don't remember the specifics. She's used intimidate three times that I remember. First to get one of the thugs in the Gilded Lady to surrender. Second to get Agrid talking at the dig site. And finally at the start of Balgron's interrogation (although she didn't have the fortitude (or meanness of character) to hang around to the end).

In each case she was successful, so we haven't really had a problem adjudicating it. The social skills are only really troublesome when they fail...

Kol Korran
2009-02-14, 05:28 AM
thanks! good to look at the full list. i only have the most basic books, and i don't have the forgotten realms supplement, so some things are new to me, but still, it's all good.

are you allready at 4th level? i thought you were at 3rd. or is this just planning ahead?

also- the characters are close to the end of shadowfell keep, but not just there yet. if you're going as you are than i truly wish you good luck- you'll need it (though truth be told- you are far better equipped than the designers originally intended)

though i agree it's more of a "heroic" behaviour to rush in, sometime discretion is the better part of valor... if need be, you can always find some believable reason for them to back off. for example:
-Pieter makes a knowledge religion check and realises that the ritual is still not close to be finished (that's a bit of aheavy handed solution)
- Shadow (and perhaps other cautious members of the group) calls to listen to reason, and fall back. you could fall into a (prearranged) argument, in which shadow ends of persuading Pieter ("we only have one chance to do this, so lets do this right. you want Karalel to triumph just becasue you were antsy? listen to me for once, i listened to you enough")
- another argument for delaying is that you have the mirror from the dig site, which is supposedly needed for the ritual. no mirror, no end to the tirual, right? so you can delay.
- another heavy handed solution- Pieter recieves a short vision- a sowrd strikes at invisible foes, a closer look shows it growing dull. then a blur and the dull sword again striking ineffectively at the foes, and shattering. a blur again, the sowrd on a grind stone, growing sharp, a final blur and the sword striking a powerfull blow against an unseen foe that cries in dismay. if this vision doens't persuade Pieter, nothing will (will your DM agree to that? in my group i agree for anything that make a good, and plausiable story)
- something that can be used in arguments by Pieter (and other party memebrs that may have some knowledge of war, like Dek): the sayings of Sun Tzu. (you can easely find them on google). could be words from Tempus or one of his saints/generals. (though they fit the Red Knight better) Pieter can "remember" one such saying such as "the essence of victory is applying a sufficient amount of force at the right location at the right time, in a way that will disperse the opposing force" (or something to that effect, can't remember the exact phrase, and don't have time to look for it on the net.)

hope this helped. again- thanks for the links and backgrounds,

2009-02-16, 12:57 AM
Yep, we hit 4th level after dealing with the zombies, ghoul and homonculous.

We went in "as we were". In hindsight not the best decision, but I won't spoil the surprise. Newsletter should be ready in the next day or so.

2009-02-19, 12:17 AM
Session 15: A Shattered Portal (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_15.pdf).

Kalarel’s plans are shattered and Winterhaven is saved.


As expected, the combat against Kalarel went down to the wire. At one stage, both Robert and Pieter were down and had failed a Dying saving throw each. Shadow got down to low hit points before a Beacon of Hope-buffed Healing Word put her back on full. Even Dek took a beating, although he didn’t require outside healing.

But more on that later.

The combat in the cathedral was somewhat interesting, in that we unwittingly got stuck fighting in the vestibule area. Fortunately, that turned out to be to our advantage as the enemies couldn’t bring enough firepower to bear to pose any serious threat. Dek and Robert were simply everywhere, hacking things down left and right. And then Soveliss dealt the “death blow” by using Fey Step and Call of the Plague together to blow the underpriest into the open grate. It was mop-up from that point on. Call of the Plague is likely going to prove a massively useful power.

We had planned for Shadow to sneak around and ambush the underpriest when he was alone. As it turned out, Shadow sat in the wings for 3 rounds because the vampire spawn and one of the Kir-Lanan hung around the underpriest as bodyguards. When he did finally engage in such a way that he was vulnerable, Soveliss beat Shadow to the metaphorical punch. I think we would have been better off having Shadow with the main group Deft Striking the attackers from around corners.

Still, I think we only spent 2 healing surges after the combat, so we were in a position (but not a great one) to push on to Kalarel without an extended rest. And we did.

I should point out here that I REALLY do not like the designer’s decision to make PCs enter the encounter via the chains. We got unlucky with our athletics checks and four of us took 16hp damage each. Let me restate that. Sixteen! In other words, because there was no easy way to begin the encounter, 80% of the party started an already difficult combat near-bloodied.

Putting that issue aside, my comments on the Kalarel encounter are based solely on the encounter as we saw it. I’m not sure how “standard” the encounter we faced was. Kalarel was as written in KotS, and I believe the monks are from the FR adaptation article in Dungeon. I’m not sure whether the wight is a standard part of the encounter or our DM just had it in for us.

It very quickly proved to have been a mistake blowing the underpriest into the hole, because he quickly proceeded to land a critical hit on Pieter for 17hp. Together with the falling damage, Pieter was down to ¼ hit points before the end of the first round of the combat.

Dek and Shadow managed to dish something like 40 points of damage to Kalarel in a round, but he then teleported off to the ritual circle and was virtually invulnerable for the rest of the combat. The +2 defences that the circle gives him made it VERY difficult to hit him.

I have to admit that we weren’t at our tactical best in this encounter. We split up, failed to focus our fire, and used powers in sub-optimal ways. It’s actually somewhat of a miracle that it wasn’t a TPK. As it was, it took an extremely unlikely bull rush from Shadow to get Kalarel into the portal (she needed an 18 to hit, and he needed to roll 7 or less to fail his save). Like Terry Pratchett says, “Million-to-one shots always come off”.

Once Kalarel had been swallowed by the portal, the combat became much simpler. However, we’d burned so many resources getting to that point that it was still extremely close. The dark moon monks proved difficult to dispose of (more through consistently bad rolling by us than anything else) and put both Pieter and Robert down. Fortunately, Dek had a potion of healing handy to revive Pieter, and Pieter had a healing word spare to revive Robert.

The wight ran off and Dek is keen to track the creature down, but I suspect it left because the DM considered it unnecessary at that point to continue trying to kill PCs. If it had hung around and gotten a bit luckier than it had been up until that point (I think it hit twice in eight rounds), we were probably still looking at a TPK. Kalarel was down and the evil plotTM defeated, so a PC death after that point would simply have come across as excessively punitive. I’m only guessing at the DM’s motives, but if that was his thinking, I agree entirely.

For those who are reading this who have not yet reached Kalarel, a tip: Ignore him until you have taken out his cronies. He’s too tough to blitz out of the encounter, and the other creatures will cause too much damage to you while you try. Take the weak things out first, then you’ll have the luxury of focusing on the BBEG.

Kol Korran
2009-02-19, 06:45 AM
nice ending to the keep. not as the designers orignally intended with the portal and Karalel, but then again- who cares what designers intend.

i'm glad you survived (though if i get it right Pieter was "dying" at some point. you guys interperted the rules correctly. another solution to the problem though- some of the other characters could have stabilized you. it won't get you back to the fight, but it will keep you alive), but i'm sad to see Robert go. hope you'll do well in thunderspire, and keep us posted.


2009-02-20, 12:04 AM
(though if i get it right Pieter was "dying" at some point.

He was indeed. He was at 19hp when he went to Dek's aid against the monks, only for one of them to turn around and punch him in the face for 10hp and 5 ongoing necrotic damage. At which point I realised that I had one chance to make the save or he'd go unconscious.

I fell to 4 hp but made the save (commence little happy dance), and then the following round got punched in the face for another 8 hp (end little happy dance).

And to make matters worse, Pieter's unconscious/dying body then proceeded to get in the way for 2 rounds (making it difficult for the heroes to set up flanking on the monks) until Dek pulled out his potion and revived him. Once he was up, Pieter revived Robert (who went down second) and ran around and dealt the finishing blow to the last monk. :smallsmile:

Pieter is so far proving to be the Timex of the party. He takes a licking and keeps on ticking.

2009-03-02, 11:36 PM
Session 16: A New Beginning (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_16.pdf).

The Heroes of Winterhaven relax for a few days, before fate forces them to move on.


This was mostly a roleplaying and bookkeeping session, although it ended in a quick combat.

After resting overnight in the Shadow Rift Chamber, it was agreed that we wanted to track down and destroy the wight that had escaped the combat with Kalarel. The DM staged that as a skill challenge.

The skill challenge went down well, and everyone agreed that it felt better than actually playing out a search and an imbalanced combat. If I’d had my way, I wouldn’t have made the challenge as structured as the DM did (room 1, room 2 etc). That constrained his ability to tell the story, because he’d given himself a limited area within which the challenge could unfold. I also didn’t like that the actual “combat” against the wight used skills rather than attacks. For example, when we first confronted the wight, I told the DM that I would Turn it. He asked me to roll Religion. Whilst fair enough in theory, Religion is an Intelligence skill and Turn Undead is a Wisdom attack. The difference turned what would have been a success into a failure.

For any DMs planning to try this method out, I’d recommend using attacks during “fake combats” and adjust the DCs accordingly for attacks with proficiency bonuses (and enhancement bonuses if you so decide). I’d also probably raise the DC by 1 for attacks against the creature’s high defence and lower it by 1 for its low defence.

The time in Winterhaven was largely spent tying up loose ends. Pieter spoke to Valthrun about Axis and both he and Soveliss purchased rituals from the sage. Pieter also tied up his “personal quest” with Duven and Linoren. I don’t know yet whether the letter of introduction will have mechanical benefits (eg. price discounts) in the Seven-Pillared Hall, or whether it’s simply a plot point.

The visit to Bairwin was a bit of a letdown for me. I had intended it to be the equivalent of Professor Xavier visiting Magneto in the plastic prison at the end of X-men: the victor telling the vanquished that his plot had been defeated; a short but sweet moment of triumph. Unfortunately, either the DM or the other players (or both) misconstrued my intent and a prolonged interrogation resulted. We got some useful information, but it wasn’t what I had wanted. Stupid 4-person games :smallsmile:

The attack by the drow assassins/slavers was a pretty quick combat (approx. 25 minutes if I recall correctly), and didn’t pose any significant problems for us. Shadow took a bit of a pounding, but that was to be expected with two elites picking on her. Fortunately for her, I think the DM only landed one attack with combat advantage.

There was a lot of character exposition this session, although a fair amount of it took place “in secret”. Soveliss revealed to Pieter that he had been one of Szass Tam’s lieutenants during the time of the spellplague, but had had his power seared from him when a spell misfired during an attempt to “climb the ranks”. He was rescued by members of the Academy of the Bright Light (a fey organisation that combats the plots of Shar’s followers), and has come to see the error of his ways. He has uncovered a formula that will restore his power, but requires a prism that Kalarel sold to Paldemar Spellweaver. Pieter doesn’t quite believe him about his reformation. I get the uncomfortable feeling that we have a Raistlin in our midst, but for the time being Pieter and Soveliss are both headed for the Seven-Pillared Hall.

Shadow surprised us all by proposing the donation to Linora, confirming my suspicion that she has a heart of gold. She also went completely batsh.t on the captured drow, so she’s turning out to be quite a complex character. I’m interested to see how she develops further.

I also had cause for character introspection when the DM secretly told me that one of the tavernmaids at Wraftons was quite forward in her advances to Pieter and asked whether he would return those advances. My initial instinct was to say ‘no’ because Pieter is a member of the clergy, but then I thought some more on it. Tempus is the god of battle. I can’t really see him or his clergy viewing extra-marital liaisons as sinful, so I decided that there was no such prohibition. Pieter spent three nights with the tavernmaid, and they parted on good terms.

On one level I know that sounds a bit like teenagers revving themselves up (“Dude, she’s totally hot for me!”), but the DM and I are both happily married with kids, so it couldn’t be further from the truth. It came as a complete surprise for me, but it has helped flesh out Pieter’s character. He is good and kind and honourable and lawful (not the alignment), but by no means chaste. I really like how these out-of-combat issues are defining Pieter more and more as the campaign progresses.

There’s some in-character exposition currently taking place on our campaign forum about why the attack occurred and what it means for Shadow, but I think I’ll leave that for the next newsletter…

DM’s Skill challenge notes:

EDIT: Removed at my DM's request

2009-03-03, 10:29 AM
Good to see this going again!

Did Dek give any particular reason for keeping his share of the gold?

Kol Korran
2009-03-03, 12:17 PM
nice to see the group developing finally. slowly slowly we learn and see who they are. i'm waiting to see how you'd fare in the seven pillared hall and the dangers beyond, but there is time for that (the seven pillared hall holds great potential for play in my opinion, very underdone i think. i'm intirgued if your DM will "liven it up" a bit. he has done a decent job in winterhaven)

as to the skill challange... it could have been planned and played better i think. it's a minor thing and should be treated as such- 4 successes, 2 failures, 2-3 skills as prime skills, and i wouldn't even play out the battle, just decree you're won (maybe you'd lose a healing surge, but tat that point- who cares realy?) i have to warn you though. the H series is very very low on anything aside from battles (and even that mostly with humanoids). 1-2 skill challanges per module (and fairly badly written even then). no use of languages, no place set for rituals (your DM is improving the modules by a LOT), and so on...

if that fits you well. go with it. but if not- talk to your DM to prepare accordingly ane expand the scope (or just the possibilites) of the modules. it shouldn't be that hard...

one last note- i liked the touch of humanity added by Pieter's time with the tavern maden. i have characters that have more sides and depth to them than their class and backstory. i always thought of heros as normal people doing extraordinary things, but when they get to wind down they're just like everyone else (with some exceptions and possibly a higher moral code, but not necesserily a righteous one). nicely done.

that's all from me. thanks again for keeping us informed. it gets me itching to play again. (been a bit of a lull for me). keep up the good work!

2009-03-03, 05:00 PM
Did Dek give any particular reason for keeping his share of the gold?

Dek's player was actually absent this session, but the rest of us agreed that he wouldn't willingly give up his treasure. Throughout the campaign he's been the most "unprincipled" and "mercenary" of the PCs (eg. torturing Balgron and opening Keegan's tomb), so it seemed appropriate.

I sent the newsletter around yesterday and I haven't heard any howls of protest from Dek's player yet, so I assume he agrees with our decision :smallsmile:

2009-03-03, 05:21 PM
your DM is improving the modules by a LOT

I agree. I've seen a lot of posters say that KotS is boring and unengaging. Our experience has been anything but. I can only assume that's largely due to our DM's efforts.

if that fits you well. go with it. but if not- talk to your DM to prepare accordingly ane expand the scope (or just the possibilites) of the modules. it shouldn't be that hard...

I've told him about this thread, so he's probably already seen your comments. :smallsmile:

I haven't told the other players, because (1) I want to be able to put stuff in the thread that is "secret" in-game and (2) I don't want this devolving into an intra-party discussion thread. We've already got one of those on another forum.

Speaking of "secret" information, here (www.nortonweb.net/encounters/Grimm/Pieter%27s%20letter%20to%20Jacob.pdf) is a letter that Pieter wrote to a friend on Highsummer night (before he learned more of Soveliss' background and before Robert took his leave).

The DM was quite happy about it and told me that I had helped him explain some of the things that will happen later in the campaign, by which I suspect he means that some of the information in the letter is plot-relevant (I don't know which) and he was having trouble thinking of ways of getting it to the relevant NPCs.

Always happy to oblige :smallsmile:

Kol Korran
2009-03-04, 04:32 AM
cool letter. nicely written. could serve as an exposition if needed.
good fortune to you all!

2009-03-18, 11:10 PM
Session 17: Through the Minotaur Gate (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_17.pdf).

The Heroes of Winterhaven reach Thunderspire mountain, and immediately run into the Blood Reavers.


Our journey from Winterhaven to Thunderspire was relatively uneventful, as the fight with the brigands was over almost as quickly as it started. One of the brigands and his dog managed to get hits in on Soveliss, but Pieter quickly jumped in to intervene, and then Soveliss teleported away to safety.

We did learn this session that Dek is absolutely deadly if he can get adjacent to a caster. His Combat Challenge feature means he can maintain pressure on them. They either risk the Combat Challenge attack, or they can't attack. And when his CC attacks are doing 1d12+7, that's not an easy decision for the DM. Dek managed to get adjacent to both the brigand wizard and the hobgoblin warcaster this session, and both were face down shortly thereafter (the latter after a massive crit from Shadow).

Unfortunately, play devolved into an interrogation of the captured brigands after the encounter, and it's quickly becoming clear that Pieter is the only remaining PC that has any moral compunctions whatsoever. Even Soveliss was baying for the brigands' blood, to the point where he asked to borrow a dagger so he could kill them himself!

It seems Pieter's doubts about Soveliss may be well-founded...

The later encounter with the Blood Reavers was much easier than our last few encounters against hobgoblins. Lower enemy numbers and an extra level for the PCs (the +1 to attack at level 4) definitely helped, but I think tactics made the bigger difference. Soveliss and Pieter managed to bottle up the 3 soldiers in Grasping Shadows while Dek and Shadow eliminated the warcaster post haste. And then the fight was pretty quickly over, even with the hobgoblins getting their phalanx defence bonus.

I had no idea the DM was planning on making Rendil a relative of one of Pieter's acquaintances. When I wrote Pieter's backstory before the campaign, I included a couple of acquaintances as "use if you need to" fluff for the DM. One was Jacob Ettus, a magistrate in Highmoon (where the campaign started). Another was Ricki Hiltopple, a halfling merchant who I described as "having a fleet of merchantment plying the Dragonmere". Evidently she diversified into taverns, not to mention having a child or two :smallsmile:

I'll doubtless find out more next session when Pieter gets a chance to speak privately with Rendil. He mentioned this session that Ricki wasn't in the Seven-Pillared Hall but was due to visit in about a month. It will be interesting to see whether the PCs are still there then.

Our DM posted a guided tour of the Hall on our discussion forum, and it's massive. Kol Korran suggested earlier in this thread that there's more room for roleplaying there than in Winterhaven and, if anything, that's an understatement.

It'll be interesting to see which, if any, of the NPCs my co-players will engage with. Some of them tend to be the kill stuff/take loot style of players, so it may well be that the Hall only gets used as a base from which the Heroes of Winterhaven get to kill things.

PS. The party obtained an Adventurer's Charter (required in Cormyr) last session, and yes, "The Heroes of Winterhaven" is our official party name. Lord Padraig suggested it, and no one could come up with anything better!

Kol Korran
2009-03-19, 03:37 AM
nice to see you starting the second module. so shadow's mom got kidnapped by the bloodreavers, eh? i imagine that will serve as motivation for quite awhile yet...

still waiting to see when any of Dek's story will be revealed. the module offers quite a few places where that can happen i believe, and you DM sure is making an effort to integrate the character backgrounds into the campaign.

i was wondering if you could post the "tour to the seven pillard hall"? i suspect the DM have elaborated more than the module, and i'm curious to see what he cmae up with.

have fun,

2009-03-22, 05:02 PM
Here's the "tour" of the Seven-Pillared Hall:

Rendil Hiltopple is a young halfling. With short spiked hair and a permanent smile he clearly wears his studded leather for fashion rather than function.

He has a warm genuine smile and take each of you by the hand, asks your name, introduces himself and then thanks you by name. Afterward he invites you all to the Inn but say "first I'll show you round the Halls."

Although you have all smelt the stench of the city this is mixed with damp and moss. Only Dek smiles at the smell.

"The Seven-Pillared Hall, a mighty chamber, was once the market square and meeting place of the ancient undermountain city of Saruun Khel. In some ways, it still serves as a market and meeting place of sorts. Today, the Mages of Saruun provide order and safety within the Hall."


1. The Road of Lanterns
The road from the Minotaur Gate opens into the Seven-Pillared Hall at this location. This is where you saved me. Thanks again.

2. The Customhouse
This building serves as the headquarters for the enforcers employed by the Mages of Saruun to keep order in the Seven-Pillared Hall. Brugg, an ogre, leads the enforcers. There he stands all 7 foot of him.

His meant to keep the peace, but he also collects protection money, and acting as muscle for the mages.

Brugg and one of the mage’s clerks make sure to collect a 5 percent tax on any transaction for trade goods (goods bound for trade beyond the confines of Thunderspire). We have been told this could raise to 10 percent within the week as business seems so good. Who will say no I ask you? No one with sense.

The mages take turns standing watch with the enforcers, providing arcane might when called for. If you look up at the upper window you should catch sight of wizard Orontor. He is a sour-faced, black-haired, 30-year-old human he would sometime come to the Inn but recently we don't see any of the mages outside official duties.

3. The Deepgem Company
Two large stone friezes in the shape of stern dwarf faces adorn the facade of this expertly carved series of chambers.

The Deepgem Company deals in gems and precious metals, as well as fine arms and armor.

Ulthand Deepgem, an old dwarf cleric of Moradin and former adventurer, runs the business. His a good man.. well dwarf. He drinks with us often. He has many a tale of adventure from before the plagues.

4. Bersk the Wainwright
Bersk Hollon is a big, muscular, foul-mouthed man who builds and repairs wagons.

He also runs a small stable, renting out pack mules to the occasional customer who needs them. You never see him away from those Mules. I've heard rumors his closer to those animals then most men will get.. if you get me.. wink wink.

5. Temple of Hidden Light
This small shrine dedicated to Torm. The Mages of Saruun have left the place mostly unmolested. Inhabitants of the Hall often stop by to drop a few coins in the coffers and say a prayer before setting out into the Labyrinth or beyond. I even dropped of a coin before following those Reavers. I guess Torm did watch over me. I'll have to remember to say thanks at some point. The priest Phaledra tends to the shrine.

6. Residences
These brick buildings house the merchants that are permanent residents of the Seven-Pillared Hall. It shows you can make a good profit down here. Thats why my mother bought the Inn 8 years ago.

7. House Azaer
House Azaer maintains a trading post in the Seven-Pillared Hall. It was House Tyrill until recently. There were many rumors flying round about that time. It deals in surface goods, such as wine, ale, leatherwork, and woodwork, trading with the subterranean folk who come to the Seven-Pillared Hall. The trading post is a stout building made of stone blocks taken from the ruins of old minotaur walls.

Noristo runs the place. His is a tiefling merchant with a sly, sardonic demeanor and he never leaves there apart from on business. He always seems to know when someones in trouble to offer them something for their business.

8. The Pigeonholes
People who take up residence in the Seven-Pillared Hall are welcome to pick out any side chamber not in use.

These cramped chambers are known as the Pigeonholes. Most of the occupants are human, halfling, or dwarf laborers who are down on their luck and hoping to make some gold working in the Hall. Its not just those there if you look around the walls you can see the candle light coming from those tiny holes up and down the walls. They are all Pigenholes. You have to take care tho sometimes since the plague we have wall shifts and those holes.. well.. close up.

9. The Deep Stair
This passage leads to a stairway that descends to the Underdark.

10. The Halfmoon Inn
This large building sits against the side of the Hall and serves as a trading post, taproom, and inn. And my home. My aunt Erra Hiltopple, is who runs the inn but I get a major say too.

11. Waterfall
Water cascades from an opening in the southern rock wall. The gap allows rain and glacier water to form a freshwater pool and river that runs through the Seven-Pillared Hall. Sometime we swim in it but you have to take care. Brugg doesn't like us too.

12. Bridges
Two stone bridges span the cold water of the river that flows through the Hall. The bridges are sturdy and 10 feet wide, broad enough to allow the passage of large carts. The bridges have high rails to help prevent mishaps. But they do happen.

13. Chute
The river flows into a large hole in the northern wall. The chute’s ceiling immediately lowers to water level, and the dark waters disappear from sight. The water, thats another reason to take care. No one thats gone down has ever come back up.

14. Minotaur Statue
On a stone platform in the eastern part of the Hall stands a 10-foot-wide, 30-foot-tall statue of a minotaur. The bronze form has arms outstretched in a ritualistic pose. On the floor surrounding the statue, a 20-foot-diameter circle is etched with gleaming runes. The Mages of Saruun use it as a teleportation circle that connects to their tower in the northeast corner of the Hall.


15. Gendar’s Curios and Relics
The rogue Gendar trades in old treasures from the Labyrinth and anything else you might want. He is smug and greedy. His not a "normal" drow. He prefers to pay others to risk life and limb in the Labyrinth but tales tell how he used to explore himself.

Sometimes he commissions adventurers to seek out specific treasures. Gendar knows a lot about whats going on but he never gives information for free. His sometimes in the Inn to gloat about a new find.

16. Dreskin the Provisioner
A rotund little man with a wheedling manner, Dreskin makes a living by importing foodstuffs and other supplies from the surrounding community. He can get a lovely cheese but he really makes you pay for it. Gosh his expensive. I'm sure it would be cheaper to go myself.. but it is tasty.

17. Rothar’s Taproom
A heap of reused rubble and crudely cut timbers has been haphazardly turned into an alehouse. The place belongs to an ill-tempered half-orc named Rothar, who runs the establishment with a loud voice and a rude expression. Avoid it unless you like bad Ale and a blood splatted floors.

His patrons include tough creatures such as orcs, goblins, gnolls, and duergar, who congregate here when they come to trade in the Hall. Those with taste do their drinking at the Inn.

18. The Road of Shadows
This passage is 10 feet wide and about 12 feet tall. It leads deeper into the Mountains.

19. Grimmerzhul Trading Post
Enclosed by a rampart, the trading post of the Clan Grimmerzhul duergar appears as a fortress. The duergar trade rare ores, gemstones, liquor, poison, and alchemical reagents from the Underdark for goods from the surface that they can take back to their homeland to sell. If your the type of people I think you are I'd avoid them. They don't really like anyone else but their own kind.

20. The Dragon Door
This stone door is carved in the shape of a dragon gripping an orb in its claws. The passage beyond leads into the Labyrinth. The Chamber of Eyes lies in this direction. If you need to find the Blood Reavers [he says this with a much lower voice]

21. The Tower of Saruun
This stone bastion has several window slits on its upper floor, looking out over the Hall, but no visible doors. This building serves as the headquarters of the Mages of Saruun.


22. The Shining Road
On the keystone of the dark archway above this path is a chiseled a single eye. The passage beyond leads into the Labyrinth.

"Now into the Hiltopple." Its quite busy. There is a pleasant sound of chatting and drinking. "Let me get you all drinks." He shout over to a small figure with its back to you. You see his serving drinks to a very well dressed human who sits with a ledger open seeming to be trading with two stoat chainmail clad dwarfs. The short waiter is laughing wearing a slightly too large for him apron. "Agrid bring a few jugs of the special over to my table will you."

Agrid turns with a big smile, a patch over his lost eye. As he sees you the smile drops. As do his shoulders as he looks to the ground and shakes his head and moves slowly to the bar.

"Wonder whats up with Agrid? Come sit down and I'll draw you a map" dropping his voice to a whisper "to the Chamber of Eyes".

I love the idea that the Mages' tower doesn't have a door. It's a simple but effective way for the designers to say to players "the Mages are not to be messed with". Of course I firmly expect to be messing with them in due course, but in the mean time they at least sound groovy.

Likewise I expect to have to put Brugg in his place sooner or later, and I'm especially curious why he doesn't like people swimming near the waterfall. I highly doubt it's because of a civic-minded concern for residents' safety.

I also like the fact that there's only a single shrine, and that it's only "tolerated" by the Mages. That very firmly establishes the Seven-Pillared Hall as the D&D equivalent of a wild west town. The only law is the one you bring with you, or the punishments dished out by the local landowner (in this case the Mages).

I think I'm going to enjoy Thunderspire Labyrinth even more than I enjoyed Keep on the Shadowfell.

Kol Korran
2009-03-23, 04:25 AM
thanks Colmarr! that's a realy nice way to do an exposition of the place. i don't have the module with me but from what i can see your DM just taken every placxe and elaborated on it somewhat. gave th place a bit more atmosphere...
as to a comparison between winterhaven and thunderspire: winterhaven was the safe place for fairly safe adventures. thunderspire is where things realy get serious and dangerous. (again, if i remember correctly). waiting to hear more...

2009-03-23, 11:06 PM
thanks Colmarr! that's a realy nice way to do an exposition of the place... winterhaven was the safe place for fairly safe adventures. thunderspire is where things realy get serious and dangerous.

If Winterhaven and Keegan's Keep was the safe option, I dread what Thunderspire has to offer :smallsmile:

2009-03-31, 10:14 PM
Session 18: Skum and Villainy (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_18.pdf).

Our heroes explore the Seven-Pillared Hall, and then strike out against the Blood Reavers.


Dek got a lot of “air time” this session, which was good seeing he has so far been the character about which the others knew the least.

His quest to recover a lost ancestral weapon is pretty stereotypical for a dwarf, but it does give him a reason to be where the DM wants him to be and doing what the DM wants him to do. It’s almost as ubiquitous a character motivation as Pieter’s “searching for challenge and purpose”.

I think both are a neat way of compromising with your DM – give him something to work with, but something that he can use within the framework of his story, rather than bending his story to suit your character’s motivations.

The combat with the Blood Reavers was pretty one-sided, and again I think that was largely the fault of the designers. For currently unknown (to me) reasons, they chose to make a side entrance to the Chamber of Eyes that was within 10 squares of the front entrance and not hidden.

They also chose to fill it with 5-foot wide corridors. I’m pretty sure that one of the design tenets for 4e called for open encounter areas that allow for manoeuvring. Our first encounter in the Chamber of Eyes was far from that. Most of the group ended up behind Dek in a straight line simply because there was nowhere else to go.

On the “bright side”, the narrow confines did lead to a situation where Shadow was isolated behind enemy lines and the victim of a 17hp skullcrusher attack from the bugbear. The DM rolled a total of 14 to hit with the attack, and Shadow’s player calculated that he was safe AC-wise. When it was revealed that the attack targeted fortitude, his mood dropped measurably. It was just enough to hit. :smallsmile:

I must admit to some small satisfaction about this. Shadow is a “one ability wonder” – built with the philosophy that a 20 in the primary attack stat is all-important. By and large she’s been an offensive marvel, but I always suspected that sooner or later her lower Fort and Will were going to hurt her. This encounter in some small measure proved me right. I can only wonder whether the situation will get worse as we get closer to Paragon, where I expect more and more enemies to target NADs.

The only other thing that merits some mention is the Jade Macetail that Pieter picked up as his level 4 item. I knew from late 3rd level that it was Pieter’s “turn” at 4th level to get the level+4 item of treasure, and the DM asked me to give him a list of items that I would like. That list was quite lengthy, but ultimately I told the DM to pick for me – I was happy with any of them, and I liked the element of surprise.

He chose the macetail, because it was “something I want to see in play”.

Again, I think that’s a good way to play D&D co-operatively. I get an item I’m happy with, and the DM (1) gets to see an item in play that he thinks is “cool”, and (2) doesn’t have to worry about me attempting to build some uber-character that bends the rules over a barrel.

Interesting historical note:

This post was typed at work at 7 pm while flooded in. The last I looked outside before beginning to type, the water was about two and a half feet deep immediately beyond the front doors. Fortunately the front half of the office is built above ground level, and my personal office is on the second floor.

Perhaps even more importantly, we managed to find a bottle each of red and white wine to keep us company.

Kol Korran
2009-04-01, 09:52 AM
so finally Dek comes out of his shell a bit. good to see that happen.

as to your comments about the design of the chambers of eyes- the start is badly done, but the rest of it could turn up to quite an interesting fight if the DM plays it right, but i'll shush now.

as you go along this module, you'l lsee that every part of it seems like it was designed by someone else, with different concept of what makes a good adventure site. well, at least it will keep you interested!

oh, and i loved the name- Tusky... don't think it's in the original module, but quite amusing :smallwink:

good luck, and tactics, with the reavers!

2009-04-07, 07:11 PM
Session 19: In the Chamber of Eyes (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_19.pdf).

Our heroes dismantle the Blood Reavers’ power.


The comment I made last session about the narrow corridors in the Chamber of Eyes proved doubly true this session. As far as I’m aware, we ended up fighting the entire Chamber of Eyes over the space of 11 rounds in and around the small antechamber in the northern portion of the complex.

The enemies totalled 1814xp and we bested them without any of the PCs falling unconscious.

Having said that, there were a few anxious moments and we had by the end of the combat exhausted all our healing powers except Dek’s Dwarven Armour and our potions of healing. Every PC except Dek had also used their encounter and daily powers. Pieter also used his utility power Shield of Faith when the second wave of hobgoblins turned up (foreseeing a barrage of AC attacks in our immediate future).

There were a number of things that really helped us:

The narrow corridors leading into the room allowed us to easily bottleneck the enemy, which meant that only a small fraction of their melee damage was being dealt. Fortunately, the enemies with forced movement attacks (just the warcaster, as far as I’m aware) were up against Dek (with his Stand Firm ability) and he was far enough down his corridor that it was impossible for them to dislodge him back into the room.
The enemies came at us in waves. We fought the two duergar alone for a round or two. Then the warcaster and a minion joined in. Then the warchief and the dire wolf and a few more minions. It wasn’t until the “second wave” of troops from the Refectory arrived in about round 6 that we were well-and-truly outnumbered. At that point we were beginning to plan our retreat. We stopped doing so immediately after Soveliss’ Call of the Plague. It was that impressive.
The hobgoblin warcaster never (in the approximately 8 rounds he was alive) recharged any of his powers. If he had managed to get another Force Pulse or two off things could have changed dramatically – there was at least one round where a successful recharge would have allowed him to catch 3 PCs in the blast. He didn’t even recharge his Shock Staff, so he was stuck fighting Dek with basic attacks or hiding behind the hobgoblin warchief. In the end, the DM was taking full defence actions with the warcaster, hoping to tie up Dek simply by virtue of the fact that the warcaster was still alive.
Krand’s dire wolf never really got to engage. It initially tried to squeeze through the narrow corridors and bull rush Pieter back into the room so that it could get out of the tight confines. Fortunately, the combination of Pieter’s good Fort defence (18 at level 4) and the effects of squeezing (-5 to attacks) meant that it had little chance of success. It then became abundantly clear that the dire wolf was going to become a pin cushion for Shadow’s Deft Strikes, so the DM withdrew it. It never really re-engaged and we ended up chasing it down when the two remaining Blood Reavers escaped. They sicced it on us to make their getaway.
When it really mattered, the DM’s luck deserted him. In the round before Soveliss could fire off his Call of the Plague, Soveliss exposed himself to attacks from 2 hobgoblin soldiers, 1 bandit, 1 goblin sharpshooter and 1 hobgoblin archer minion. None of them hit. Soveliss’ Shield power helped (turning two hits into misses), but it’s still a good example of the point.
We rolled well. I think it was mentioned after the session that we rolled 6 or more criticals during the combat. 1 of those was by Shadow (with ensuing crazy sneak attack damage) and another was by Pieter (the bonus critical hit damage was enough to finish off the warchief). The DM rolled a couple (mostly against Dek), but nowhere near the inflated number we did.

The entire combat lasted 2.5 hours, an average of 13 minutes per round. Considering that there were 10+ combatants in play during the later stage of the encounter, that’s not a bad statistic.

The DM tells me that according to the module, the enemies in the Refectory are drunk and don’t hear the sounds of combat. He changed that once he saw that neither combat was going to be a challenge for us if handled separately. I think that was the right decision. For those who are about to DM the Chamber of Eyes, I would recommend that you either (1) remove the side entrance and the associated 5ft passageways altogether and run the encounters separately as intended; or (2) stagger the enemies like our DM did and run a massive combat.

Our version of the combat didn’t have the dynamic movement that I expect we would have seen if we’d faced Krand and the archers in the main room, but it was certainly “heart-in-mouth” stuff for a good portion of the fight (especially after we saw the reinforcements and knew that the dire wolf was out there somewhere…)

EDIT: It's quite funny how an innocuous comment by the DM can send chills up a player's spine. I remember a distinct feeling of dread when (with no Large enemies visible) the DM said. "Hang on a sec, I just need to check the rules for squeezing"...

2009-04-13, 04:16 PM
Just wanted to drop a note to say how much I've enjoyed reading your chronicles. I'm getting back into DMing after a long hiatus and this has really gotten the creative ideas flowing again.

And Kudos to your DM, he seems to have really put alot of time into all this.

Thanks for posting it all.

Kol Korran
2009-04-13, 05:14 PM
hhmmmm, i don't remember the stunted dwarf at all! oh well, all's good.
good of you to have chosen the side room, it might have gotten quite a bit trickier had you went through to the main hall, which is what i think the designer expected.

i remember when i read the module, and looked at the map and the big circle for the dire wolf, i began scratching my head- how did it even get in here? (i forgot about squeezing). i sort of assumed he was brought as a pup, and since stayed there...

yeah, i'm both worried about inconsequential things, and also i come to rather silly conclusions.
i swear i'm not this stupid all the time. just on... special occasions.

any, another threat vanquished, onwards adventurers!

2009-04-13, 06:08 PM
Just wanted to drop a note to say how much I've enjoyed reading your chronicles...

Thanks for posting it all.

No problem at all. I enjoy preparing the newsletter (it's a creative outlet for me), and once they're prepared I might as well show them to as many people as possible :smallsmile:

hhmmmm, i don't remember the stunted dwarf at all! oh well, all's good.

I'm pretty sure he's our DM's invention, placed there for Dek's backstory quest.

EDIT: The next session is 26 April. Easter got in the way and we've jiggled the sessions around a bit. So don't be concerned if there's no new post for a while... :smallwink:

2009-04-13, 11:43 PM
I'll keep reading these if you keep posting them!

2009-04-22, 12:14 AM
The next session is this weekend, but in the meantime, I thought you might enjoy one of the delicious ironies of D&D: PCs are ready and willing to battle shadow dragons, undead monstrosities and evil clerics, but confont them with the possibility of getting lost and this happens:

As the Heroes leave the shattered halls of the Blood Reaver's half the party turns to move deeper into the Labyrinth as the others head off to return to the Seven-Pillared Hall.

"Aren't we off to find the stunted Dwarf" speaks Pieter looking puzzled by his fey colleagues.

"I don't remember agreeing to that" intones Shadow with an equally puzzled look.

Dek's player (DP):
Dek pauses in stride and says "We need to get to Thain before he discovers we are hunting him. This benefits Soveliss as well, according to him. What is more those two who got away will have friends - and on the way back maybe a more important one will be there for us to capture and get information out of. Assuming they survive the fight."

Pieter nods.

"And besides, we're here now. Why go back to the Hall?"

Soveliss' Player (SoP):
well it seems like your both eager to contine on but i ask you both first this is a labraninth,i take it you have got very good directions or we are as good as lost i dont dont plan on getting lost just to save a day so? have we got good directions?
if so iam ready

Pieter turns to Soveliss. "As good as Gendar could give us. And there is no reason to think that anyone else at the hall could do better. But you have a point. Perhaps you could consult your mystic sages to determine whether it would be a good idea for us to proceed?"

Dek says "We be knowing where we are now and we are knowing the way we are going in. All we have to do is trace our steps back to here if we have a problem. Now are you saying you can not remember which turn you were taking if not, how about drawing or writing down the directions as we go?"

We took greater risks in the keep near, than this as well. And it is not the matter of just a day, but if Thane hears of us seeking him, he will be gone as will your chance to get the prism.

Now make no mistake, Moradin himself has shown Thane has committed murder. We must take him alive for questioning and get what we must from him, but ultimately he must pay the blood price.

Shadow's Player (ShP):
"Knowing, or guessing? Right now, I could do with a good bath, not forging deeper into an unknown, possibly magic, definitely dangerous maze. Especially if we don't know the path to our destination. Or are you boys thinking with your swords again?

"And I'd rather not come back to find our path blocked by a bunch of pissed-off bloodreavers."

i know its important to catch him but think on this if we get lost we might waste days even weeks someone or thing in the seven halls must know more if the right pressure is aplied thou i can use the hand ritual thou i could probally tell you we will get a shakky hand response like some risks some gains sort of thing iam not tring to make things difficult i can very easyly make some magic chalk that does not rub out to mark our path if you wish if we get lost we can back track.

Dek replies "We are adventurers not lets go somewhere for lunch, we have gone out for what about half an hour and want to return back to the Inn already." Dekalso points out he does not own a sword.

Pieter gives an ironic chuckle.

"Are the Heroes of Winterhaven reduced to this? Must we scurry back to the Seven-Pillared Hall at every juncture to ask Rendil for directions?

If we do so, we may never track down your mother, Shadow, for her captors will have spirited her away while we trudge back and forth through this mountain. And Soveliss, who knows what this Paldemar is doing with your prism while we dally?"

Pieter settles down to sit quietly against the chamber wall, his blade across his legs.

"Make your chalk, Soveliss. And then we journey onwards."

Shadow frowns at Pieter, "At present, we don't know where Eilise is. And we're more likely to find out by talking to someone than wandering blindly though a labyrinth."

She rolls her neck and shoulders loosely, and rolls smoothly to her feet. "But if we must go on, you boys get ready to march, I'm going to take a quick bath. If I must risk my neck, at least I'll be clean while doing it!". So saying, she strolls off toward the bathing room.

And then the whole thing broke down into an OOC discussion about the chalk costing 360gp to create (a level 1 magic item) and how Pieter could use Magic Mouth (or Mouths) as wayguides instead.

We'll find out which way the party heads this weekend.

2009-04-28, 12:33 AM
Session 20: Iron-feeders and Thain Cardanis (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_20.pdf).

Our heroes discover the dangers of Thunderspire Labyrinth, and Dek comes face to face with his brother-in-law’s killer.


Rust monsters still suck.

My DM excitedly informed me a few weeks ago that WotC had released rules for rust monsters in 4e and that he was looking forwarded to using them in Thunderspire Labyrinth. I felt a corresponding sense of dread. These things have been the bane of adventurers (at least those using metal arms or armour) since they first appeared in D&D. According to Wikepedia, they’ve been around since at least 1978, so that’s a long tradition of terrorising adventurers.

Their 4e iteration doesn’t disappoint, and I hate and love them at the same time.

The 4e rust monster has an at-will attack that makes an enemy’s metal armour “rusting” and causes a –1 AC penalty. That penalty stacks with itself (up to –5) and lasts until the end of the encounter. So far so good/bad. The kicker, though, is that the rust monster also has an encounter power* that, if it hits, dissolves any “rusting” armour the enemy has.

Dek got ambushed by two of the things and lost his plate armour in less than a round, going from AC 23 to 15. As you can imagine, that came as a bit of a shock.

Now for (what I consider to be) the cool bit. When a rust monster dissolves and consumes armour, it automatically creates a gp-equivalent amount of residuum. Our DM flavoured it as cutting open the monster to find the residuum in its belly. Mechanically then, the rust monster doesn’t permanently reduce party resources. It simply takes them away until you can find a ritual caster capable of re-creating the item.

Overall, I love the way the designers have implemented rust monsters, but as a player, I still hate the things :smallwink:

The stirges were equally cool, and provided a moment that leads me to believe that “game mastery” is not so foreign to 4e as some suggest.

One of the arguments against 3e was that it contained traps for new/unwary gamers, or required/encouraged game mastery to be enjoyable. WotC suggested that game mastery was not a design goal of 4e.

When stirges hit an enemy, they automatically grab it and begin to suck its blood. While grabbing a victim, they have a +4 to their AC and Reflex defences. As mentioned in SSTL, Soveliss was a repeated victim of the blood-sucking fiends, and was continuously struggling to rip them off.

It occurred to our resident rules lawyer (Shadow’s player) that Thunderwave was the perfect at-will for the situation. It targets Fort (so the stirges didn’t get their defence bonus) and the power’s push effect automatically ends the grab.

That’s a pretty clear example to my mind that rules mastery still has a place in 4e. It wasn’t tactics or roleplaying that provided the answer, but simply knowing how the rules worked and how to apply them to solve a given problem. Whether rules mastery is something that games should require is something for discussion, but I personally like that the game still provides ways for clever players to get an advantage.

The fight against Thain originally looked like it was going pear-shaped. Dek got himself surrounded by Thain and two dwarves. Pieter got charged by a berserker and hit for 15 hp, and then got critted by the same berserker's OA for 17 hp when he tried to move to Dek’s aid. 32 hp damage in less than a round smarts! :smalleek:

Both beserkers then closed in on Soveliss (Shadow was hiding in her darkness and Pieter was beyond her) and did something like 30 hp damage to the wizard the next round. The whole time, the dwarves were pounding on Dek in his temporary hide armour, and he went close to being bloodied by the end of round 2.

Fortunately, Soveliss pulled off another of his punishing Call of the Plague miracles, and pushed both beserkers into a nearby “bottomless” pit. They didn’t return, which allowed the PCs to focus on the dwarves. The combat was soon over.

Interestingly, once the Jade Macetail was in play, Pieter did very little other than control it and cast Healing Word (on himself and Soveliss). It was simply more economical for him to use his actions to recharge and use its Tail Sweep power each turn. +12 vs Reflex in a close burst 1 is a punishing ability, especially against enemies with reflex as their lowest defence.

The Jade Macetail is a very nice little level 8 item, especially seeing that it remains after the end of the encounter, and will probably be escorting the party back to the Seven-Pillared Hall.

* EDIT: I'm told that the dissolve armour power recharges on a miss, so each Rust Monster get to eat one piece or armour per encounter.

2009-04-28, 12:48 AM
If the Rust Monster transforms magic item into residuum on a 1-to-1 basis, then I know one wizard who's going to capture one and feed it all the party's magic items before killing it - for pure optimization.

If it transforms non-magical metal into residuum then WotC has totally broken their system, since a pet Rust Monster can now eat up all the mundane equipment of the goblins and such that PCs kill and carry it around as residuum in its belly. Eventually, when it has eaten enough metal, the party sleeps it, Coup De Graces it and harvests the residuum like it was candy from a pinata :smallbiggrin:

No rules for taming Rust Monsters? I will find a way, even if it is just knocking it out, putting it in a strong wooden box and feeding it metal through a slot!

That said - it is a way to make Rust Monsters suck without also making them blow :smalltongue:

2009-04-28, 08:10 AM
You're one of those players, aren't you? :smallwink:

I think an EN world poster said it best:

There's other issues then just making the items for them to devour and convert. Like can Rust Monsters even be kept in captivity, a lot of animals dont fare well. How many GPs worth of metal must they eat in a day to remain healthy? How much is that metal free cage going to cost to design and maintain? What are you using to slaughter it? How much work is it going to be to secure a breeding pair or too? They digest it, so do they need residuum to stay healthy and if so, how much?

If the PC's REALLY want to go through all these hoops to figure it out instead of, you know, adventuring, I'm sure they'll make a little bit of profit. They'll probably get more from killing people and looting their stuff then playing rust monster rancher, though.

And another made an equally valid point: It's up to the DM to decide exactly how long it takes the Rust Monster to digest the residuum it's created, so you could potentially have a very small window within which to conduct your harvest.

2009-04-28, 01:03 PM
And another made an equally valid point: It's up to the DM to decide exactly how long it takes the Rust Monster to digest the residuum it's created, so you could potentially have a very small window within which to conduct your harvest.
This is the best solution - I was just curious if WotC bothered to address it.

By the way - Rust Monster farming:
(1) Dig a deep pit and cover it with a wooden lattice. Locate the pit next to a smelter. Have a Teleportation Circle handy nearby.

(2) Find a Rust Monster, knock it unconscious (0 HP). Linked Portal back to base and lower it into the pit.

(3) When the RM awakens, begin dropping down scrap metal or other unusable metal to feed it. Before it can reabsorb the residuum, slaughter it.

(4) Store the residuum as you'd like. Note that you can now repair metalwork better than any forge with Mending, as well as creating powerful magic items. Plus, if you can figure out how to breed RM, you can raise 'em like cattle :smallbiggrin:

Anyhow, I like the idea of monsters creating residuum - I'm still working out exactly how hard it is to gather reagents by hand.

2009-05-03, 06:56 PM
As I’ve mentioned before, we do some inter-session bookkeeping and roleplaying on another forum. Thain’s capture spawned what was probably the greatest inter-party conflict (and some of the best roleplaying) the campaign has seen so far:

Weeping Thain Cardanas lays bound and bloodied at Dek's feet. As Pieter maneuvers the large Macetail into a better location it side swipes some of the creates knocking preserved supplies onto the floor. The resulting sound stirs the surviving guard who groggily awakes and curses in Dwarven as he realizes he is both bound, and captured and also employed by a sniffling wreak.

ok to busness now how do we go about this shaddow do we cut the dwawf slowly to pieces and when we have him near to death find out what we need to know in his delirium or is there a more unpleast approch?

Dek whispers to Soveliss remember you are here for a map, have a good look for it while i speak to this worm.

Dek says in dwarven to Thane "Moradin may have mercy on you if you tell us what we need to know. And I know how vile and threacherous you are Thane, so I will not make any promises until anything you tell us is known to be true. Now you know Moradin has spoken to both of us in dreams so answer our questions, as he obviously sent me to you, and you have seen your doom in those dreams."

In common, Dek then laughs and says do not be too gentle, but there are ways to gain his information. He is a coward at heart, and cowards fear amny things. Then dek finally says I pity you and what you have become Thane, you did have promise once and this is how you have ended up, worthy of pity and little else.

soveliss concentrates his arcana focussing at every point within these rooms franticly searching for a prism or map of any form

Pieter shifts from foot to foot, obviously displeased. The Jade Macetail growls like grinding quartz.

"I once believed caring was a weakness", he mutters under his breath, and then his voice trails off.

Both cleric and behemoth take up positions near Dek and Thain.

Shadow looks at Dek and Soveliss and scowls. "Are you seeking information, or just revelling in cruelty?" She crouches before Thain, lightly raises his face, and stares into his eyes. Then she shrugs and releases him. "There's no challenge or sport here. If you must kick a wounded dog to death, leave me well out of it!"

Turning her back on all of them, she spies the other dwarf, and gives him a cryptic smile. "You, though, are interesting. On your feet; we're going to talk." If there's any degree of compliance (and remember, I've got a rapier), she heads him off to another part of the complex for questioning.

Raising slowly and awkwardly the stocky dwarf returns the smile towards Shadow and look with anger at Thain.

"Love I'll tell you what you want to know. I don't think my employer is in any state to stop me." Too busy sobbing Thain doesn't seem to notice.

The Dwarf leads Shadow off towards the barracks. Pausing slightly when approaching the external doors a gentle reminder from Shadow seems to settle his mind and he continues on.

Moving slowly around the room Soveliss concentrates and then becomes frustrated. There are no other magic auras, there is no prism. Is someone lying or does Thain know.

Through teared eyes Thain speaks "But Kirdan she should have been mine, I love her, I'm so sorry I hurt her this way. It was the dreams. In my sadness I had these dark dreams" He breaks fully into sobs "I don't know why I went there and why I had the knife I'm sorry. I came here to start my own clan to go back and win her."

You gaze around and notice the supplies. The piles of weapons, spears, shields.

His body shaking, bent over bleeding "But I can help you. I know of your quest. I over heard the priests speaking even before you left. While being here I heard of the Axe I know who has it Kirdan. If I help you get it you can join my army the dark dreams say if I have an army I can get the Axe and take the clan." Trying to stop his tears and straighten up "You can lead my army?"

Pieter smiles momentarily at Shadow's words, and his expression lightens for a moment, then he turns his attention back to Dek and Thain.

He studies his companion carefully, looking for signs of impending violence.

Dek growls "Who has the Axe Thain give me the name and where to find him and If I believe you are telling me the truth then I will consider your suggestion. And who do you think has been sending you the dark dreams? You know my family and I am bred to be the warleader of it."

OOC (Dek will not kill Thrane in anger - if you look closely you can tell that Dek is filled with a cold rage, and he will not react like Shadow does - Also Dek will turn the discussion over to some one with a silent nod while Thrane is facing towards the ground)

"Then if I help you find the Axe you will represent me in gaining a clan bond to your sister?" Thain's tears stop and he seems to brighten "Oh to at last be a part of the family Khazdek. I doubted the Mistress but she proved to be right."
"If you swear on the clan ancient's then I shall tell you who has the Axe." Thain begins to nod, first slow then becoming frantic.

Pieter turn sharply to Thain at his mention of "the Mistress".

"Thain Cardanis, you are a murderer and clan-traitor. You have no right to demand any oath, let alone an oath on Dek's clan ancients." Pieter accents his pronunciation of Dek's oath name to draw attention to it.

Tell us about this Mistress and about the axe, and I will do my best to ensure that your life does not end here".

Panic quickly spreads through Thain's body and tears begin to form in his eyes again. "Sorry I should not speak of her if it angers you." Switches to looking meek. This is more the Thain Dek remembers. Hanging on, trying to belong.

"Before the wedding in my desperation I prayed for help. Moradin did not answer but dreams came to me a beautiful dark haired human. I could not see her as she stood at the depth of my dream at the dark edges but she spoke words. She spoke of revenge. Then as I ran from the Clan, expelled and alone she came again. She showed me tunnels and short cuts and led me here. Then she left me. When I overheard the scarred man speak of the Axe I knew what he was talking about. Then she came to me again this time almost as those she stood before me. I found this place the next day I knew I needed to gain the Axe then I could take an army..." Thains eyes glaze and a grin crosses his face. Even with that tears continue to flow. "Then I can smash down the clan and take Kirias for mine."

Pieter frowns. Shar again! He kneels down to look into Thain's glazed eyes. "Thain? Thain!", he says but gets no response.

The Tempuran grips his holy symbol and places it in the stunted dwarf's line of sight. Channeling divine power, he forces a burst of light from the symbol and Thain flinches with a cry. When he looks back towards Pieter, his senses have clearly returned.

"Tell me about the scarred man."

As quickly as his senses return and clarity seems to cross his face the turmoil returns. "I was leaving the Drows shop and returning to my hole on the westside of the hall. I walked past two men both tall one with a burnt face wore red robes he had an imp with him. He spoke of the Axe to the other man in robes."

"Will you also help with my army?"

"No. I won't. I fear, Thain, that your army is unlikely to come to pass."

"So, this "scarred man". Is he the burned one or the man he was talking to?"

Pieter turns to Soveliss. "These men he speaks of; the Mages of Saruun?"

Thain looks confused for a second. "No no you are wrong I've been told I will have an army. I am on a quest. I'm important like Kirdan." Then a cunning look crosses his face. "If I tell you about the man in red robes with the burnt scarred face and the wizard he spoke to will you help me then?"

"Who does your quest benefit but you? Tell me more about who gave it to you and why. Then tell me about the burned man, and we shall see what aid I might provide."

"I saw one man with a scarred face. He wore red. He was talking to one of the Mages of Saruun. He was tall with a shaved head and was thin. Very very thin. He wore purple robes and on them were small skulls, small white skulls." He then stares off. "My quest. I'm.. unsure.. without it I'm.. no its *my* quest. I need not speak of it."

um may well be but then again we havnt really spent enought time in there to know might be a travler? maybe paldemar spellkeeper.You do know this retch is insane and to let him live is gonna only be a danger to others .you let him go out of kindness and you could be killing some peasant.(sovliss looks to the pit)

Dek motions to Soveliss to come closer and whispers, I must follow dwarven rituals and traditions with a clan traitor, and I hope you will either support or not interfere in them. But you are right he is insane, but he always was slightly we only endured him woth us to try and help him, it is the nature of clan obligations, and most of the time it helps.

Pieter stands and turns to Dek and Soveliss in response to the wizard's words.

"You judge his sanity on the fact he believes he has a divine purpose? Dek holds the same belief. I journey in hopes of uncovering the resting place of a mentor two decades dead, and you seek personal power seemingly regardless of the cost. We are not so much better than Thain."

He turns to study Thain. "Shar is a seductive bitch. Perhaps her hold on him can be broken".

Thain looks up at Pieter and smiles a weak helpless smile then continues to stare off tears falling from his face.

to true the nature of shar, but her doings are contagious she obtains plessure from others pain and misery and this her servant is causing both. Don`t play with her puppet and amuse her, burn the puppet and move on. dont take my words as evil pieter they`re just damn straight truth.whatever you think of this man its plain and simple. possesed or not before he was troubled, he killed a man for a lady, plain lust. Dek do what you feel you must with this dwawf but belive me he cant be left free to wander.

Pieter shakes his head and his voice takes on a steely tone. The macetail behemoth's gnarled tail begins to swing back and forth.

"Too many captives have already died by our hands. Four in less than 2 tendays, and now you wish to make it five? When will it stop? Will it stop?"

"When do we cease being adventurers and simply become murderers? You are standing on a slippery slope, the both of you, and threatening to drag me down with you. Executing helpless prisoners is anathema. Tempus dictates that I follow the rules of war, and I have failed Him in that."

The Tempuran turns to Dek. "Thain must answer for his crimes, but please, do not allow your thirst for revenge to cast you into the abyss after him. He killed when urged by dreams, and now you propose to do the same. We will find some way to get Thain back to Underhome, and there your clan can deal with him according to law."

Dek replies:

He is not to be killed because he followed a dream. He committed murder against his clan, and for that there is a penalty, and the penalty will be a dwarven one. Unless he changes and tells us all we need to know, then all he is doing is drawing us into Shar's web. No one breaks free of Shar's gasp once lured in, the promise of power is too much to resist for the weak willed

Further I have known Thain all his life, he has always been weak willed, now he has transformed into this, I would say he is insane in some way shape or form.

Pieter sighs.

"The blood around you grows deeper by the minute, Dek. How much longer until it drowns your soul?"

Moradin is a creator, not a destroyer. He may have sent you a vision. Or it might have been Shar. Even if it was Moradin, did he ask you to kill Thain? You certainly haven't mentioned it before!

Enough. I know nothing of dwarven law. If it really requires that a murderer be executed in cold blood by any dwarf that comes across him, so be it. But do not convince yourself that you do it out of some noble devotion to stopping Shar. I am yet to see any indication from you of religious training or study of the powers of the dark mistress. Your assertion that Thain cannot be saved is an excuse, made only to justify to yourself what you have decided to do.

Do you know Shar's favourite saying? ""Love is a lie. Only hate endures." Can't you see that you are serving her?!"

Pieter's shoulders slump, exhausted. "I will not stop you, Dek. Out of loyalty and gratitude for your assistance in the past. But do not ask me to betray my ideals and follow you into damnation."

Pieter casts a pitying look at Thain, then moves out of the chamber into the hallway.

come now peiter lets not get upset with each other we all think difrently yes but to call it murder is difrent he would have died in battle if not for us prolonging his death for information.The shepard who catches the wolf does not let the wolf go why? for it will kill again.He also does not take it home for his famillys permition to kill why? for it will bite him on the way.

We run into shars doing just once and now we look for her shaddows in ever room i think maybe we are making her smile even if this may not be her doings.(soviliss shakes his head)no shar does not put people in power give then crowns make them important ,raise armies thats not her way.This is if any ,a more sinister power .

Pieter pauses in the doorway at Soveliss' words. At first it seems as that he will ignore them, but then he slowly turns.

"You spent too long in Thay, Soveliss, if you see another humanoid as nothing more than a wolf."

Pieter points at the wretched dwarf. "Does he look like a predator to you? At worst he is a dog, mistreated and led astray by his mistress. Even the lowest cur can bite and dream of leading the pack".

"You doubt this is Shar's doing? You think it coincidence that Gendar, a disciple of Shar, sent us to recover a crown from this wretch who claims to have had dreams of a dark-haired human whom he calls his mistress?"

Pieter sighs again. "But Shar's involvement is moot. Thain is a murderer. The next few minutes will decide what we are..."

I have told you of my family history - And part of it is to hold true to the laws of the clan and enforce them. I will take no pleasure in this, but it is my duty to my clan and it falls on me none of you. I will ask if you wish to part of a dwarven ritual which is meted out - not to murderers but to those who betray the clan and Moradin's will.

It would be better Thain died in battle as it would have meant he would not dealt with.

We have not tortured him, nor will I cruelly kill him. It will be a plain execution and then his remains burnt. Once that is done his ashes need to be spread in a fe different flowing streams. This is done to deny him the return to stone, so his form can not manifest again. IT the worst thing to be done to a dwarf - and he admits his crime which Moradin has shown he committed and to that there is no excuse.

Moreover Moradin knows that when something built or made is wrong it is best to be destroyed as it is not the perfection we dwarves seeking in our creations. SO While MOradin is the soul forger even he has rules which he handed down to us.

Pieter listens to Dek's words with a stony face. Then he turns and leaves the chamber.

Dek falls silent for a long time, then calls to Pieter "Maybe you are right Pieter, maybe I am too close to this and though what I suggest we do is right under dwarven law, it may not be right under your laws. How about we consider taking Thain back to Ulfhand Deepgem and he can make the ruling? If he lets Thain live though, if he crosses our path in combat again then he dies."

"Maybe Ulfhand can save this wretch from Shar, and you can start on the way back"

Dek then says to Soveliss "I agree with Pieter. Humanoids should not be lowered to the level of wolves, if we have not risen above that point then none of should be here.

tell me then me friends do we part now if we canot kill again? do we feel pity for the next rever?
do we let the next orc go free to kill again?.The next evil priest we plot to bring down do we ask his minions to go in peace and let us do our job,then again is it up to us to decide if we are aloud to kill evil priests? is it not MURDER.who gave us such powers to decide our selfs?

Dek smiles at Soveliss "It is not a question of killing, given Pieter follows a god of war, and death in combat should be seen as a glory. I suspect the death after capturing some one, it does not honour his God, by eing done in combar - or that is what I get from Clangeddin Silverbeard - But mots are battleragers and so maybe not quite centered" Deks says the last with a little laugh.

Then Dek says "And Pieter is right in a way Thain has sinned against clan but more importantly Moradin and it is for Moradin to judge not me. We are not gods, but Pieter is closer than the rest, we need to appreciate his different view on certain things. But Pieter must also appreciate ours or we should all part before we turn on each other."

Pieter smiles at Dek and gives a wordless nod that speaks volumes.

Then he turns to Soveliss. "I am no closer to the gods than you or Dek, but Tempus requires me to follow the rules of war. Combatants are foes to be destroyed, and unrepentant followers of the dark gods are too dangerous to be allowed to live. But the safety of prisoners becomes our responsibility once we take them, and remains so until we hand them into the care of another."

"Thain does not strike me as a follower of Shar, or as you say, something else. He is to my mind a pawn, led astray by some dark force. And a far greater victory can be obtained by saving him than by destroying him."

He pauses for a second, then smiles abashedly. "I do not mean to be the grandmother of the group, Soveliss. I apologise to you and to Dek for my florid rhetoric. Let's get Thain to Deepgem, and then continue our search; for your prism, my swords, and most of all Shadow's mother."

Kol Korran
2009-05-04, 04:21 AM
absolutley marvelous! quite a nice bit of roleplay. i especially liked the way each one had a believable personality, and that each one brought different arguments.
further more, it seems that this sort of a discussion has been long coming, with the past treatment of prisoners, i was begining to wonder...

my favorite say in all of this is this:

Pieter sighs again. "But Shar's involvement is moot. Thain is a murderer. The next few minutes will decide what we are..."
i'd tag it and put it on your party's site (if you have one)
as always- a good read.

2009-05-18, 09:23 PM
Session 21: Two Brands of Justice (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_21.pdf).

Our heroes dispose of Thain, meet a new companion and find a way forward.


Caelan is played by the same person who played Fian. When he decided to return to the group, it seemed silly to have two wizards in the party, so he went for a druid instead. As I comment on page two of this issue, it will be interesting to see how a 2-controller party compares to a 2-leader party. As far as I can tell, Caelan is set up with a mixture of beast form and caster powers and sits squarely between striker and leader in his secondary role. Could come in very handy, as could his ability to Wildshape into tiny creatures.

In fact, we’re currently planning our assault on the Horned Hold on our forum and I’ve already suggested sending Caelan through the Horned Hold’s portcullis in mouse form to open it from the inside.

The meeting with Deepgem didn’t go smoothly for Pieter at all. The dwarf was initially reluctant to take custody of Thain, and did so only under persuasion. For a while there I was a little miffed that the DM (who knew about the in-character conflict over the dwarf’s fate) seemed to have Ulthand leaning towards simply letting Dek kill Thain.

Fortunately, we all managed to agree that Thain should instead be exiled (which Dek said was death for a dwarf) and crisis was averted :smallgrin:

The meeting with Brugg was interesting, and I went into it fully expecting that it might prove fatal if things went wrong. I’ve got no idea what level or size (standard/elite/solo) Brugg is, but he had 3 ogres as backup and I know that ogres are outside Pieter’s reach at the moment. I took Dek along for support, but he almost proved a hindrance rather than a help.

It certainly didn't help when he called the ogres "girls".

Fortunately, it all turned out fairly well. Pieter discovered that the burned man with the imp familiar had left the hall via the Mages’ teleportation circle (which suggests a connection or relationship between him and the Mages). It also strongly suggests that Dek’s ancestral axe is with Paldemar if it is still in the Hall. Soveliss later revealed that the red-robed man was a Red Wizard of Thay, so if the axe isn’t in the Hall I suspect we’ll be heading to Thay itself in search of it sooner or later.

Brugg proved easily swayed with gold, although the information Pieter obtained probably isn’t worth the 120gp it cost Pieter to obtain it. Nevertheless, I’m hopeful that down the line when the time comes for us to confront Brugg and/or the Mages (and of course it’s coming) that a seed of doubt has been planted in Brugg’s mind. If we could buy information about the Mages from him, perhaps we can buy his (temporary) allegiance when the time comes to battle them…

Interestingly, the conversation with Brugg was a skill challenge that I never even knew was happening. I only made three rolls in the challenge (a Streetwise and two Diplomacy), and the DM later told me that he granted automatic successes for a number of reasons (two being the fact that Pieter initiated the conversation with Brugg in Giant rather than Common and the size of the bribe Pieter offered). I'm not sure how RAW that approach is, but it certainly proved that a skill challenge can be handled in a way that isn't mechanically obvious.

Something tells me the next few in-game hours are going to be very interesting. Why? Because my DM has told me that “Pieter and Shadow get some character development time very very soon”.

Which is enough to give any D&Der the shivers.

Edit: Prior to leaving for the Horned Hold, Pieter wrote this (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/files/Pieter%27s%20letter%20to%20Jacob%209%20Highsun%201 479.pdf) letter.

2009-05-26, 09:46 PM
Session 22 Into the Horned Hold (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_22.pdf).

Our heroes try their skill against the duergar fortress, and Pieter comes face to face with a ghost from his past.


Soveliss’ true colours are really starting to come to the fore.

In each of the combats this session, he caught allies in the blast of his spells (Caelan with Call of the Plague and Dek with Thunderwave in the portcullis room, and Pieter with Thunderwave in the smithy). Caelan copped a bit of a hiding from Call of the Plague (but it was nowhere near as bad as it could have been), and Pieter took 9 damage from Thunderwave (20% of his total). Dek got lucky, and Soveliss’ first Thunderwave missed him.

In each case, it was viable and not overly dangerous for Soveliss to do what he did. In general, including the ally in the blast allowed him to get an additional two enemies in, and non-mandatory nature of forced movement from powers meant that although he would damage his allies, he wouldn’t move them out of position.

Of course, all the mechanical justification in the world doesn’t really address the (to my mind) startling coincidence that Soveliss has not once in the entire campaign to date caught an ally in the area of one of his spells and yet now, less than 24 hours after the disagreement with Pieter over Thain’s fate, has done so three times in quick succession. Methinks the eladrin’s true colours are beginning to show.

Sooner or later that’s going to come to an in-character head*, but for now I think that Pieter is too busy being stunned that Axis is still alive.

When I designed Pieter’s backstory (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/files/Pieter%20backstory.pdf), I deliberately left it up to the DM whether Axis was alive or dead. Nevertheless, I decided that Pieter believed Axis to be dead and his sword Stormbringer lost. Suddenly discovering Axis alive in a duergar stronghold will provide some interesting roleplaying hooks in the immediate future.

On the mechanical side of things, the portcullis at the entrance to the horned hold provided another example of what I consider to be the elegance of 4e’s design. When we first charged into battle, one of the orcs was holding the gate up. Dek soon stepped under the portcullis, whereupon the harrier dropped it on him. At which point we had to decide how to resolve that occurrence.

Dek’s player wanted to know if he could dodge the portcullis, or even catch it. Ultimately, the DM decided that if Dek chose to catch the portcullis, it would make an attack against his Fortitude. If he tried to dodge it, it would be an attack against Reflex. If either attack succeeded, he would take damage (more if the attack was vs Fort). Deciding the attack value of the gate was as simple as looking up the ubiquitous page in the DMG (42?)*. It was a quick little vignette that was easily incorporated into the session with no more fuss than it deserved.

In the end, Dek successfully caught the falling gate, and later used the exact same trick against another orc. I realise that players interacting with terrain is not the sole property of 4e, but I honestly have to say that I have seen much more of it in 5 levels of 4e than I saw in 17+ levels of 3.5e (with those levels split 40/60) between a “standard” campaign and a dedicated swashbuckling campaign where the DM specifically promoted such tomfoolery. If 4e still comes out on top so emphatically, I believe that there has to be something in the system to create that imbalance. It goes without saying that I prefer the “interactive” version of combat.

The fight in the smithy has so far been primarily interesting for 2 reasons.

Firstly it featured a lesson that I learned to Pieter’s cost back at levels 1 and 2. AC of level+15 is simply not good enough to allow a PC to stand up to multiple attackers without risk. There were two entrances to the smithy, and the group split into Dek/Shadow and Pieter/Caelan/Soveliss to cover both. When we threw the doors open, Caelan rushed in. He promptly got hammered by 3 orcs and a duergar and was down to 9 hp by the end of the first round. This is almost exactly what happened to Pieter in the very first encounter of the campaign, so it was almost like déjà vu for me.

Secondly, it showed just what happens when higher-level 4e PCs go nova. After throwing open the doors, seeing the number of enemies, and then seeing Caelan so badly wounded, it became clear that the Pieter/Caelan/Soveliss group needed to pull out the stops or things were going to get ugly fast.

In two rounds (while Caelan summoned his Stalking Panther (D) and then retreated to use Second Wind), Soveliss fired off (no pun intended) Fireball (D), Fireshroud (E) and Thunderwave. Pieter used his Exalted Armour (D), cast Beacon of Hope (D), and then cast Consecrated Ground (D). By the time all the metaphorical explosions stopped going off, Caelan was back near full hit points, two of the enemies were down and, despite an additional duergar showing up, our half of the combat had definitely swung back in our favour.

It’ll certainly be interesting to see how the rest of the combat fairs now that things have been normalised :smallsmile:

* All credit to him, Soveliss' player has admitted to the DM that he expects that he may have to give up Soveliss at some point if the wizard "goes bad".

** I wonder whether it’s a coincidence that this information is on the page number that is well known for being the answer to “life, the universe and everything” or whether the WotC Dev team are secretly Douglas Adams fans.

Kol Korran
2009-05-27, 09:33 AM
missed the previous post when it came up... oh well.

it will be interesting to see two controllers together. i don't understand why you grouped them together when entering the smithy though.

can a druid change into small creatures? the rules say that the beastform is your own size. have you hosue ruled this? would be more fun with smaller animals though...

i liked the fact you infiltrated the duergar post in the seven pillared hall. the adventure assumes you're attacking the post, and just slaughtering them all. i'm glad you didn't go that way.

you mentioned new summoning rules. where can i find them? wizards site?

i am intrigued as to the burned man identity. i don't remember him from the module, but then again- i don't have it with me anymore so it may just be a lapsing memory.

do you guys intend to clear the hold in one go? if so, wouldn't having gone nova make everything more difficult? seems like it couldn't be avoided though.

good luck to you all.

2009-05-27, 05:42 PM
i don't understand why you grouped them together when entering the smithy though.

I don't think it was really a question of where the controllers were. It was more a question of wanting to cover both doors and Shadow needing a firm ally around whom to flank for combat advantage. That then left the decision of where to put the other 3 PCs. It was decided that the group with Dek should be the smaller group, so the other 3 went in together.

It would have worked out fine if not for our overeager druid :smallsmile:

can a druid change into small creatures?

Not normally, but one of the utility powers (level 2 I think) allows it. Caelan has that power (he infiltrated the grimmerzhul trading post in mouse form).

i liked the fact you infiltrated the duergar post in the seven pillared hall. the adventure assumes you're attacking the post, and just slaughtering them all. i'm glad you didn't go that way.

Our DM made it fairly clear to us that the Enforcers (and even sometimes the Mages themselves) respond promptly to trouble in the Hall, so a direct assault on the trading post didn't seem viable to us. Of course, we had given Brugg and his cronies 40g to get drunk with before we started our incursion, so we might have gotten away with a direct assault. Still, no need to risk it when you have Sam Fisher Shadow in your party.

you mentioned new summoning rules. where can i find them? wizards site?

I think they're in Arcane Power. I don't have them myself. The summoning spells are in the character builder and compendium, but I'm not sure that the rules themselves are available anywhere except in the book.

i am intrigued as to the burned man identity. i don't remember him from the module, but then again- i don't have it with me anymore so it may just be a lapsing memory.

I suspect he's the DM's invention, and tracking him down is going to occupy some time (not to mention leading us around Faerun). We're fairly sure he's a Red Mage, so we'll probably end up in or near Thay sooner or later.

do you guys intend to clear the hold in one go? if so, wouldn't having gone nova make everything more difficult? seems like it couldn't be avoided though.

Our goal at the moment is to find the slaves and get them out. If that requires clearing the hold, so be it. If not, we're out of there as soon as we can free them.

As for the wisdom of going nova, the Pieter/Caelan/Soveliss group was outnumbered 4 (then 5) to 3, and Caelan was down to single-digit hit points before the end of the first round. We didn't really have much option but to go nova. Still, Pieter is the only PC who has used both his dailies, so the group still has plenty of punch for dealing with anything else the hold might throw at us, so I don't think it's a huge issue.

2009-05-27, 10:41 PM
Just wanted to say thanks so much for going to all the work to post these, they're wonderful. And I'm really getting a sense for the value of weaving character backstories into the overarching plot of a campaign (and I hope to do as good a job as your fantastic DM when I DM sometime).

Also, I am eager to see the roleplay that goes on between Axis and Pieter.

2009-05-27, 11:13 PM
Just wanted to say thanks so much for going to all the work to post these, they're wonderful.

Thanks for taking the time to reply.

And I'm really getting a sense for the value of weaving character backstories into the overarching plot of a campaign

It makes a HUGE difference to how invested your players are in the campaign. Definitely worth doing, assuming your players give you some hooks to use. I and Soveliss' player were quite willing to provide them; the DM had to virtually drag them out of Dek's and Shadow's player.

(and I hope to do as good a job as your fantastic DM when I DM sometime).

Shh! He might hear you, and then we'd have to deal with him boasting about it all the time :smallwink:

2009-06-10, 11:13 PM
Session 23: Reunions (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_23.pdf).

Pieter is reunited with his mentor, and Shadow’s mother is freed from her slavery.


After a somewhat rocky start, the combat in the smithy ended relatively smoothly. Dek and Shadow kept the master smith out of trouble while Pieter, Soveliss and Caelan thinned the rest of the enemies’ ranks. When the master smith finally went down, the rest of the duergar/orcs folded pretty quickly.

Action advantage is still a pretty big deal in 4e, but it generally doesn’t become an issue until the latter stages of the combat (unless someone manages to get excluded somehow).

I must admit to a moment of dread when Shadow’s player said “Keep one alive” as the combat drew to a close. As it turns out, it was Pieter that struck the finishing blow on the last duergar, and I as a player was sorely tempted to make it a killing blow just to avoid the confrontation that would inevitably follow when Dek and/or Soveliss wanted to kill the prisoner. Ultimately, however, it’s hard to justify why a Good character would ignore a request to keep someone alive.

Pieter’s distraction talking to Axis during the prisoner’s execution was a deliberate tactic by me to avoid the remainder of the session being taken up with quarrelling. I chose to get on with the adventure in this instance, but it’s starting to “get my goat”.

Sooner or later, there will probably be a confrontation between Soveliss and Pieter, and I as a player am dreading it. I’ve experienced these things in previous campaigns and they almost always end badly. At it’s worst, it will cost me my character (either through death or leaving the group) and it annoys me that that might result because someone felt the urge to play a bad guy in a game of heroic fantasy.

Yes, I know that in trying to stop what I see as “evil play” I’m being just as closed-minded as the other guy who insists on pursuing it, but that doesn’t change the way I feel about it. I’d like to think that I’m mature enough to continue in the campaign if I have to change character over this, but only time will tell.

I’m trying hard to step back from the (ultimately somewhat childish) emotional attachment to Pieter and see this just as a story, but it’s not easy.

The second combat was interesting more for what it didn’t reveal to me than what it did. Specifically, the duergar that landed that big hit on Dek was an elite and despite some obvious clues (such as him growing to Large size when he became bloodied), not once during the combat did I think “Oh, he’s an elite”. Perhaps that’s just an indication that I was still stewing over Soveliss’ execution of the prisoner, but I think it’s also an indicator that the fluff/mechanics boundary in 4e isn’t quite as transparent as some people suggest it is.

In a similar vein, there have only been a few times during the campaign that I have consciously thought “These guys are brutes/soldiers/skirmishers etc”. In every other case, it’s been enough to consider the fluff of the creature to determine how to combat it. “This thing’s fast and dextrous – no point attacking it’s Reflex defence”.

There’s obviously something going on between Axis and Eilise, and I must admit that I certainly didn’t see that coming. I’m interested to see what the DM has in mind.

We’re doing some in-character exposition on the forums at the moment, which I’ll post prior to the next session report.

2009-06-11, 06:55 AM
Awesome! Thank you for continuing to update. I wish I had some advice to give you on your inter-characters issues. Is there anything you can think of that would ease his guilt over the execution of the prisoners? What if someone deputized him as a law enforcement officer, with complete discretion? Of course that would require a legal framework...

2009-06-11, 07:30 AM
What if someone deputized him as a law enforcement officer, with complete discretion?

I assume you're referring to deputising Soveliss. If so, all I can say is... Tempus Forbid! I can't think of a worse thing that could happen. It'd be like setting Judge Dredd loose in the Forgotten Realms :smallwink:

I think we're just going to let it take it's course. I still hold out hope that Soveliss' player is pursuing a "dark hero waiting to be redeemed" storyline. If so, it'll all work out in the end.

If not, at least it will be entertaining for everyone to read about. :smallsmile:

Kol Korran
2009-06-11, 08:43 AM
i thought you said that the player playing soveliss was going to quit his character if he went all bad... however, this isn't "all bad" yet, and might be quite accepted in some groups, soooo.. moot point.

i'd love to hear how things went with axis, and shadow's mom. i was sure she'll be kept for later. (i won't add for fear of spoilers)

P.S have you talked with the player about it? maybe you can channel his desire for cruelty (or whatever) to other avenues? such maybe the DM can agree to make his spells look more gruesome/ disturbing (and the player can decsribe the exact effect) or maybe he could "collect" parts from victims secretly (without Pieter knowing) or something disturbing like that? not sure it owuld help, but still, it might.

or maybe, you could talk to the player and decided to do some rolepalying to resolve this between characters, agreeing beforehand on the general result you wish to get to?

one of my players lieks to play the edgy, dark, slightly sadistic character, but he manages to get along with the group, including the righteous paladin dragonborn. (being a rogue and anjoying his "hobbies" as off screen of the party as possible helps a lot)

2009-06-11, 09:17 AM
i'd love to hear how things went with axis, and shadow's mom.

And you shall. I'm just planning to wait for the forum posting to finish up before bringing them across here. Wouldn't want to offer you only half the story, would I? :smallsmile:

one of my players lieks to play the edgy, dark, slightly sadistic character, but he manages to get along with the group, including the righteous paladin dragonborn. (being a rogue and anjoying his "hobbies" as off screen of the party as possible helps a lot)

It's funny that you mention this.

I theorised earlier in the thread that Soveliss' player might be interested in a Raistlin-like character. I don't have any problem with that. The problem (in my opinion) is that he's gone from Dragons-of-Autumn-Twilight-Raistlin to Test-of-The Twins-Raistlin* too soon in the campaign, without allowing the group to bond well enough that Soveliss can't be abandoned.

Ultimately, though, my opinion on how he should run his character is moot. This isn't really the place for me to address these issues, nor do I want to derail my own thread. I brought it up only from the perspective that this thread is about a player's-eye-view of a D&D campaign. And as usual with any endeavour when you sit 6 people around the table and tell them to co-operate, something is bound to go wrong.

I appreciate the advice, but ultimately we're going to need to act like adults and sort it out, whether that means (1) finding a solution out-of-character and implementing it in-character, or (2) letting everything resolve itself in-character and being adult enough about it to not let it spoil the campaign.

Wish us luck :smallbiggrin:

*For those who haven't read the Dragonlance books, Raistlin (in a nutshell) is a dark and edgy mage who starts the story ~neutral (with serious emo, superiority and anger problems) but ends the story evil to the bone**, having defeated and supplanted Takhisis, the God of Evil.

** It's not quite that simple, but you get my point.

2009-06-14, 05:59 PM
Axis and Pieter get their first chance to talk:

The “gibberish” is Axis and Pieter speaking to each other in Giant (which none of the other party members understand). It is generated by this (http://www.freewebs.com/translationcity/orctrolltranslator.htm) online translator (which the DM found and linked me to when the conversation started). I've included a translation in each quote.


Axis strides up to Pieter. In torn thin rough clothes the sheets of his makeshift plate armor and the worn smiths hammer held tight in his old hard hands he is a complete contrast to the Axis Pieter last saw.
Having the time to look him over it can be seen that the grime that covers his bald head, bare arm and beard hides many scars. A few look deep and badly healed. They years have passed hard for Axis.

"So Youmg Grenn. You fohhowij tli patl of Tinpuz."

Axis smacks his head and a slight smile crosses his face "I slip into Giant. So Young Grimm. You followed the path of Tempus. If I could cry I would to see you here."

"I'm sure you would have questions of me so ask away."


Pieter grins. "Low qouhj E mot fohhow zuql a ghoreouz ixanphi?" he replies.

Then he glances over to where Shadow and her mother stand nearby. "I doubt it is safe to have these reunions here. We should return to Terrlen Darkseeker. You will both be safe there while we deal with Murklemore and rescue Caelan's brother".

*How could I not follow such a glorious example?

Shadow's Player:

Shadow shakes her head at Pieter. "It's safe enough for a few minutes, and this won't wait. Unless you were planning on rushing through those doors right this instant?". From her expression, it's clear that Shadow thinks Pieter might have done exactly that. "Celebration can wait until later, but we're not talking of celebrations."


Axis almost smiles behind his beard. "To liar zuql worjz geviz ni botl preji amj zajmizz. E lavi jomi namy tlemgz tlizi yiarz to zurvevi tlat E an mot prouj of. E foumj ny wehh to hefi amj feglt ovir qani ny faetl amj for a wlehi"*

Bowing his head a look of shame crosses his face "E hozt ny way. E hevij heki am amenah. E kehhij wlim E waz tohj. Tli orq qleif wlo owmij ni tlim kipt ni az lez pit amj wouhj qonpiti ni agaemzt otlir trebiz em tli petz."**

*To hear such words gives me both pride and sadness. I have done many things these years to survive that I am not proud of. I found my will to life and fight over came my faith and for a while…

**I lost my way. I lived like an animal. I killed when I was told. The orc chief who owned me then kept me as his pet and would compete me against other tribes in the pits.


Pieter's face becomes serious for a moment, then lightens. "Wi wehh tahk of tlat amotlir teni, em a zafir phaqi, ovir a fhagom of tli femizt niaj E qam afforj."*

"But for now, what can you tell us of this place, and of Murklemore Grimmerzhul?"

*We will talk of that another time, in a safer place, over a flagon of the finest mead I can afford.


Axis looks up at Pieter and thanks can be seen in his eyes. "I can tell you he is battle hardened. I would have had problems with him even in my youth. He keeps his personal Theurge with him and often has a guard. I saw him once fell a Orc berserker in one swing and the fear of his wrath causes his allies to fight harder."

"The pits are guarded by two devils the worst is Durkkel. Its a vicious evil creature. I'd happily snap its neck."

"Between here and over the bridge" he points at the door to the north " is a guard room. I never got to see whats in there as I always had my head covered when we were moved through but its some thing mechanical. I could here ticking as they moved around us."

"There is also something locked up in rooms off to the east. Over the battlements on the far side. I don't know whats in there but they don't ever speak of it in front of us."


Pieter asks, "Can you tell us any of Murklemore's tricks? As you well know, Tempus teaches that knowledge of your enemy can be your greatest weapon."


"I have never seen him in full battle but I once, almost a year ago, I saw him after a battle and he seemed to heal himself by creating a fire that covered his body. It didn't only heal him it also seemed to cause harm to those slaves who stood near by him."

"Also the Master Smith made him some gauntlets that allow him to strike those that strike him."


"Valuable information that will no doubt come in handy."

And what of these devils? Are they the spined devils of which you spoke earlier?"


"Yes they are an evil breed. They torture us daily."


"Never again will they get the chance to do so." For a moment, Pieter’s eyes seem to smoulder with barely concealed ire.

“What of these ticking things?”


{Paraphrased after knowledge checks}Constructs. Axis can’t tell you enough because he was blindfolded.


Pieter frowns and turns to Soveliss. "Do you have any idea what these things might be?", then he mutters aloud, "Perhaps we should go back and ask that duergar captive?"

[No post for 7 hours :smallsmile:]


Pieters keen people sense is alerted by the reactions of a few around him at the mention of the bound captive.


Pieter glances between his companions and when no one answers, mutters to Axis, "E nuzt tahk to you about zonitlemg hatir. E miij ajveqi".

Then he turns his mind to Eilise's words, taking in her revelations (and Shadow's change of demeanour) with a sense of dread.

*I must talk to you about something later. I need advice.


"Of qourzi. Ef Iehezi joiz qloozi to purzui tlez fimj E emtimj om goemg wetl lir to protiqt lir but E wehh naki zuri tliri ez teni ef E qam."

As they move through to the Great Hall Axis clasps a hand on Pieter’s shoulder and then lets go to allow the two men’s muscular frames through the door way. "Wlat troubhiz you zo?"

*Of course. If Eilise does choose to pursue this fiend I intend on going with her to protect her but I will make sure there is time if I can.

**What troubles you so?


Pieter pulls up short. "You would leave so soon?"

Then he quickly looks around and the obvious worry on his face quickly disappears. "Enough talk. We must get you all to safety."

2009-06-15, 08:25 AM
Pretty good read so far. I especially like the session summary newsletter's format.

*hem hem* Since you're a chartered adventuring company, there is ample and legitimate cause for you to call an administrative session to determine procedure for dealing with scenarios as they come up. Treatment of prisoners is definitely one such area where the charter may be modified as actually having to deal with taking prisoners becomes a reality. Most adventurers going mainly on bug hunts feel no need to have procedures in place and prefer to wing it if they ever actually come across such a turn of events. Others, have to deal with captured sapients on a regular basis and would prefer to establish a hard and fast ruling on the matter rather than have individual trials on the spot for every prisoner's life.

In other news, what are the characters' and chartering country's views on slavery/indenture?

Kol Korran
2009-06-15, 01:56 PM
thanks for the conversation posting. liked that. loved the idea of a language generator! might use that myself...

also, not quite to point, but damn, Raistlin was a fascinating character!

2009-06-15, 10:32 PM
In other news, what are the characters' and chartering country's views on slavery/indenture?

Not sure whether this was a legitimate or rhetorical question, but the answer is: Pieter's definitely against it. He's Cormyrean, which as far as I can tell is the "nicest" nation in FR. The Charter is a legal requirement in Cormyr, so Cormyrean laws would apply.

I'm pretty sure that Caelan (Elfharrow) and Dek (East Rift) would be against it too.

Shadow is from Baldur's Gate, but she's also a drow. Up until recently she's been pretty naive, but a darker side (and more prominence on her drow heritage) has emerged in her conversations with Eilise, so I don't want to venture a guess as far as she's concerned.

As for Soveliss, well, he's as near as I can tell an ex-Red Wizard of Thay, and Thay and the Red Wizards have a long and ignoble history of slavery. Soveliss claims to have "seen the light", but Pieter has his suspicions.

also, not quite to point, but damn, Raistlin was a fascinating character!

QFT. I feel very confident in saying that Dragonlance would not have had anywhere near the popularity it had (has?) were it not for Raistlin Majere.

2009-06-15, 10:52 PM
Shadow reunites with her mother:

This conversation took place simultaneously with Pieter and Axis' discussion, so they cross-reference each other occasionally. Pieter and Axis continue to discuss issues in Giant, using the same translator as linked above.


"If it is safe to discuss the situation here" Eilise Oroviir glances around at Shadows allies "then there is much I should tell you Lythyrra. For one thing who sent those who aimed to do us harm."


Pieter glances over from his position nearby with Axis.

"I doubt it is safe to have these reunions here. We should return to Terrlen Darkseeker. You will both be safe there while we deal with Murklemore and rescue Caelan's brother".

Shadow’s Player (SP):

Shadow shakes her head at Pieter. "It's safe enough for a few minutes, and this won't wait. Unless you were planning on rushing through those doors right this instant?". From her expression, it's clear that Shadow thinks Pieter might have done exactly that. "Celebration can wait until later, but we're not talking of celebrations."

Shadow turns back to her mother. Their moment of affection past, they adopt a more formal posture. Shadow stands some two paces in front of Eilise, head lowered slightly. Though Eilise is slightly shorter than her daughter, matron and supplicant are clear.

Shadow speaks first, to explain her actions. "They already found me, Mother. Two <lesser males> bearing the mark of Shar accosted me in Winterhaven, and demanded my surrender on pain of your life. They died, but I needed to rescue you to protect myself from weakness. And to protect you, when they become impatient that I won't bargain.". She smiles a grim smile. "It would be comforting to think that they will give up now, but your words make me think this is just part of something deeper?".


Pieter looks a little shocked, then turns back to Axis. "Zli ez youmg amj enpituouz. Zo bi et, liri wi wehh rinaem", he says.

The Tempuran returns to his conversation with Axis, keeping an eye and ear on what passes between Shadow and her mother.

*She is young and impetuous. So be it, here we will remain.


"My Daughter there are a few truths I must confess I have kept from you these years. Where we come from, why we really left and mostly who has been hunting us." taking a second to firm her posture Eilise continues "I never truly told you from where we hail because I thought you may never need to know but it seems it may now be important. You were born in the Under-dark depths below Netheril. Often you may have heard us speak Netherese." Eilise drifts into and out of the dialect and Shadow instantly recognizes it as the language spoken by the two drow warriors.

"Of course the people of Netheril worship but one god and her influence was a constant bane to our priestess hood. Lothe would not stand for the worship of others and we would strike down any for the mere suggestion." she pauses again "It was a shock to me when your father began to speak of her and I am shamed to admit that I found my self unable to punish him for this as I should."


Axis laughs "But E nuzt ajnet to biemg takim by lir notlir" he winks at Pieter and steps to the side so their conversations won't over lap too much.

*But I must admit to being taken by her mother.



Shadow pauses, momentarily lost with this talk of Netheril. "Shar?", she guesses, "The Netherese follow Shar?". Eilise doesn't contradict her, and Shadow's eyes narrow, "And so Father turned from one power-mad bitch to another, but this one in secret?". Shadow thinks a moment, then guesses, "Did they find out, and exile you both?". Unconsciously, her hand reaches under her robe into a pouch, and touches the small gold locket found there. Distracted slightly from Eilise, Shadow pulls it out and looks closely at it, a slight frown on her face.


"No Daughter. Your father spoke of ascending. I took this as folly but then when he said he had had contact with her and he needed to sacrifice something dear to him I had to act."

"I had never fit in completely and to take this to the elders would have brought shame upon me. I delayed. Keeping watch over you. The night he came for you I found out he planned to sacrifice not only you and our bond but the city itself."

"He had formed a pact with not only the dark mistress but a dragon. An old thing that lived in the deserts above. Still bearing the wounds from ancient battles with the Dwarven kind the dragon Nidhoggur attacked our city bringing down the walls and giving us chance to escape."


Shadow stares at Eilise, stunned. "To sacrifice a child, ... but the city? And with a Dragon!". The locket starts to slide from her limp hand, and she catches it with thumb and pinkie just before it falls. She rolls her hand and tips the locket back in, curling her fingers awkwardly around it, as if it were a beetle that might try to escape, or bite her if she squeezes too hard. "Was he mad? What did he hope to gain?"

Then an unpleasant thought catches up with her, and she frowns. "Why are you telling me this now?". Shadow gestures at the hold, "What does Father have to do with this?".


"Because child it is he who set those to get you and it is he who had me given to those slavers." Crossing her arms a steely look forms upon her face.

"He must have turned others to his belief and be attempting to for fill his pact. I should return to the under dark. Back to our city and see what stands. I cannot allow this to continue."


"But how were you taken? Baldur's Gate is a long way from here."


"It was a few months ago. After you disappeared and I'd heard how your friend the elf was killed I was hoping you would return. Then they came to our home. They moved me across Faerun and I can only think they must have used magic. For a while I didn't know where I was but a half elf by the name of Aeron let me know we are close to the Thunder Peaks."


"The elf? Imele? First Toroy killed over me, and now Imele. Jaelynna will be shattered."


"No daughter. Jaelynna. The one you often went to visit. I know not what happened to her daughter."

Dek’s Player:

(OOC: Dek waits for an appropriate pause to interject in Deep speech)


"Jaelynna? Why strike at her? These <not-even-good-for-Lolth> must pay, and soon, or they will kill more."


"I agree thats why..." She looks at Dek "Yes Dwarf? What is it?"


Dek says in Deep speech "This dragon Nidhoggur, was it a long deep wound through the right side of his chest cavity? If it is he is the Dragon Moradin has set me to destroy. If so an evil god is involved as the axe that struck the dragon is said to carry the will of Moradin, and if so no mortal even the dragon could remove it with out divine aid.

My apologies for interrupting a reunion between mother and daughter but this confirmation is crucial to what Moradin has bade me to do."


Continuing to speak in common Eilise replies in a short manner "I didn't closely examine the thing as it was destroying my home, dwarf. I later heard a story that indeed it had once been struck by suck an axe but I don't know if it remains in Nidhoggur." She turns back to Shadow.

"Després de tots aquests anys encara em sento incòmode al voltant d'aquests nans."


Briefly, the two Drow stand as if equals. Shadow leans close and quotes privately in heavily accented elven: “'Drow know patience and conquest, not fear.' You spoke those words to me Mother, often and long ago. Though I prefer Jaelynna's words...". Shadow's voice shifts to a high elven accent, but her words are still for Eilise alone, "Do not fear the unknown, for fear blinds. Look openly into what you fear, and you will gain wisdom."

Shadow steps back, and the two Drow resume their formal posture. Shadow bows slightly, and declares in common. "Eilise Oroviir, Matron, Mother, I present my companion, who is called Dek.". Improvising, she continues "May his steady axe bring vengeance on your foes."


Eilise smiles at Shadow with warmth and gently shakes her head. "My Daughter you have grown much in strength in your travels. I take much pride in you." She turns to face Dek.

"Forgive me Dek I lived for many years in a world where the Dwarven kind were seen as an enemy and old ways die hard."

"That is no longer my life as my daughter reminds me." She bows low bending at the waist. "Well met Dek" Eilise speaks in Dwarven an ancient greeting of respect. The others can't make out the words but the meaning is clear.

Turning she addresses the group. "And a thanks to you all is over due. I am indebted." She moves to Axis's side although she stands with a power which shows perhaps he stands by her side.

"Axis and I will escort these poor retches outside to your guide as I believe you are pushing forward." Looking up at Axis he nods and returns to the kitchens to free the other slave there.


Pieter watches the exchange between Eilise and Axis, and then follows the Tempuran.

There's much more plot exposition in Shadow's conversation with her mother than there was in Pieter's conversation with Axis.

I consider that insightful. On my reading of it, Pieter - despite being the brash human - was not willing to have such a conversation deep in enemy territory. His priority was to make sure everyone was safe, and then take his time to learn Axis' history.

Shadow, conversely, wanted answers straight away and was potentially willing to imperil others to get them.

Or perhaps it simply goes to drow culture and its continuing effect on Shadow; that when presented with your matron, you are at her liberty, not vice versa.

2009-06-17, 05:27 AM
Session 24: Poisonous Flames (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_24.pdf).

Our heroes are sorely tested by the Horned Hold's defences.


There's been a lot made by various posters on various message boards about "4e thinking"; that frame of mind that concentrates solely on what mechanical abilities your character has under the 4e rules to the exclusion of what your character might reasonably do in "real life". We had our first encounter with 4e thinking this session.

When confronted with the locked doors leading into the guard post, everyone used established powers and/or abilities (Str checks, LOS teleports, etc) to get inside. Even the most creative solution (my use of Split the Sky's push effect) was well within the mechanical ambit of the rules. After the combat, the DM revealed that the module expects that one of the PCs will block the view ports with their shield (thus negating incoming fire) while the party rogue/locksmith gets the doors open.

In hindsight, it's a pretty basic idea, and I'm surprised we didn't come up with it. I'm not entirely convinced it was a 4ism that we didn't. Specifically, I'm not sure that we would have come up with that solution in 3.Xe. It's an interesting issue.

The combat in the guard post was at the high end of "equal to party level", yet it probably came closer to killing characters than most of the other combats in the campaign. In large part that was due to Shadow and Soveliss getting into the room ahead of the rest of the party, allowing the duergar to maximise their damage output while the PCs' output was at less than 50% (because most PCs had no target to attack).

To be honest, I'm surprised that either of them survived. First Shadow, then Soveliss, then Pieter were reduced to single digit (or less) hit points, and it was only timely applications of Healing Strike or Healing Word that kept PCs in the fight.

When Pieter eventually went down, Dek had to use the Heal skill to trigger his second wind. Things are definitely too close for comfort when you're forced to resort to those sort of tactics.

The favourable terrain was the other big factor. The party spent approximately 3 rounds getting through the doors, which gave the defenders a leg-up (and a chance to pound Shadow and Soveliss). When the party did manage to get inside, they were:

Forced to fight in a tight block that made them sitting ducks for the Theurge's spells. The newsletter does not do justice to just how much of a pain this guy was. For 3 rounds in a row, the theurge rendered 80%+ of the party either Blinded or Dazed and Slowed. It's only due to Dek's remarkably arsey rolling while Blinded that we got through those rounds. As Shadow's player later commented: "Why take blind-fighting? He hits every time while blinded. Dek doesn't need Blind-Fighting, he needs a blindfold".
Within the guard area of the arbalesters, meaning that each of them were getting to fire twice per round.

As it was, we managed to pull through, but after a short rest almost the entire party had exhausted their healing surges and daily abilities (both inherent and item), so there was little choice but to retreat and lick our wounds.

One good thing to come from the combat was Soveliss' teleport into danger to rescue Shadow. It's not something that I would have expected from the character, and it's something I can "hang my hat on" in establishing a detente between Pieter and Soveliss. Unless something majorly nasty happens in the immediate future, the party will be together for a while yet.

2009-06-17, 06:07 AM
Session 24: Poisonous Flames (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_24.pdf).

Our heroes are sorely tested by the Horned Hold's defences.


There's been a lot made by various posters on various message boards about "4e thinking"; that frame of mind that concentrates solely on what mechanical abilities your character has under the 4e rules to the exclusion of what your character might reasonably do in "real life". We had our first encounter with 4e thinking this session.

When confronted with the locked doors leading into the guard post, everyone used established powers and/or abilities (Str checks, LOS teleports, etc) to get inside. Even the most creative solution (my use of Split the Sky's push effect) was well within the mechanical ambit of the rules. After the combat, the DM revealed that the module expects that one of the PCs will block the view ports with their shield (thus negating incoming fire) while the party rogue/locksmith gets the doors open.

In hindsight, it's a pretty basic idea, and I'm surprised we didn't come up with it. I'm not entirely convinced it was a 4ism that we didn't. Specifically, I'm not sure that we would have come up with that solution in 3.Xe. It's an interesting issue.

The combat in the guard post was at the high end of "equal to party level", yet it probably came closer to killing characters than most of the other combats in the campaign. In large part that was due to Shadow and Soveliss getting into the room ahead of the rest of the party, allowing the duergar to maximise their damage output while the PCs' output was at less than 50% (because most PCs had no target to attack).

To be honest, I'm surprised that either of them survived. First Shadow, then Soveliss, then Pieter were reduced to single digit (or less) hit points, and it was only timely applications of Healing Strike or Healing Word that kept PCs in the fight.

When Pieter eventually went down, Dek had to use the Heal skill to trigger his second wind. Things are definitely too close for comfort when you're forced to resort to those sort of tactics.

The favourable terrain was the other big factor. The party spent approximately 3 rounds getting through the doors, which gave the defenders a leg-up (and a chance to pound Shadow and Soveliss). When the party did manage to get inside, they were:

Forced to fight in a tight block that made them sitting ducks for the Theurge's spells. The newsletter does not do justice to just how much of a pain this guy was. For 3 rounds in a row, the theurge rendered 80%+ of the party either Blinded or Dazed and Slowed. It's only due to Dek's remarkably arsey rolling while Blinded that we got through those rounds. As Shadow's player later commented: "Why take blind-fighting? He hits every time while blinded. Dek doesn't need Blind-Fighting, he needs a blindfold".
Within the guard area of the arbalesters, meaning that each of them were getting to fire twice per round.

As it was, we managed to pull through, but after a short rest almost the entire party had exhausted their healing surges and daily abilities (both inherent and item), so there was little choice but to retreat and lick our wounds.

One good thing to come from the combat was Soveliss' teleport into danger to rescue Shadow. It's not something that I would have expected from the character, and it's something I can "hang my hat on" in establishing a detente between Pieter and Soveliss. Unless something majorly nasty happens in the immediate future, the party will be together for a while yet.

Ouch... I don't think I would have thought to put my shield up to block the arrowslits either... I'm having a hard time imagining it without copious amounts of sunder rolls/bolts piercing through the shield...

About how many duergar were you all up against in that encounter?

Though I noticed that you used the wrong spelling of boar for what it was and for the pun to work properly. Unless the dwarf that you're getting the boar back for is a bore....

(I'd just like to maintain that if it gets to be an issue in the future, sitting down and hashing out some rules in character is a good idea before parting ways.)

...I'm definitely introducing my friends to these newsletters of yours.

Kol Korran
2009-06-17, 07:17 AM
first of all, by shadow's exposition (including Dek's comment), i think we're finalyl seeing glimpses of the future. i haven't read beyond H3 and some of P1, so i have no idea how far you are heading, but it seems your DM is planning for the long run...

i quite liked your description of the "battle at the bridge/ guardroom". nice to see how you guys handled a tough situation, though it seems that it got tough mostly to your choices (or shadow's to be exact). i should check the theurage sometime. sounds interesting.

i wasn't quite surprised by Soveliss move, the player does sound liek a team player. but it is nice that it also comes to play in his character.

one question that occured to me. why sdid you choose "stones & shadow, Trees & light" as the title for the newsletters? any special significance or meaning? just curious...


2009-06-17, 05:45 PM
About how many duergar were you all up against in that encounter?

If I remember correctly, there were 4 duergar (3 guards and the theurge) and 2 arbalesters. Not an overly large number, to be honest, but the room was quite crowded once we tried to fit the combatants in.

In fact one of the greatest frustrations for me during the combat was that I couldn't physically get Pieter's macetail within range of the enemy because there wasn't an available 2x2 space.

Though I noticed that you used the wrong spelling of boar for what it was and for the pun to work properly. Unless the dwarf that you're getting the boar back for is a bore....

Right you are! I got it right in earlier issues, then seem to have lost the pun in Issue 23 and 24. Microsoft Publisher won't let me cut and paste table text for some reason, so I'm stuck typing the quest section out each session.

...I'm definitely introducing my friends to these newsletters of yours.

Thanks! Hope it inspires, educates and/or entertains them. :smallsmile:

one question that occured to me. why sdid you choose "stones & shadow, Trees & light" as the title for the newsletters? any special significance or meaning? just curious...

I'm glad you asked! :smallsmile:

I thought about the name for a while shortly after the campaign started (when I decided to do the newsletter). Ultimately, I wanted a name that reflected the characters and the campaign.

My original proposal was "The Dalelands Gazette" (because the campaign started in Highmoon), but the DM told me we'd quickly be moving into Cormyrean territory.

I then considered "Shadow & Light", because of the echoes of Good and Evil (always a theme in a D&D campaign), and because of the implied reference to Shadow and Pieter.

Having hit upon the "refer to the characters" idea, I then expanded to Stones and Tree, Shadow and Light"; referring to Dek (Stone), Fian (Tree), Shadow (duh) and Pieter (Light).

The final revision was to the existing title, turning Stones and Shadow into a pairing (to represent tyranny and/or oppressive darkness), and Trees and Light into another pairing (to represent freedom and life) while maintaining the reference to the original characters.

Fian's no longer with the campaign, and Soveliss (despite being an Eladrin) has little to do with "Trees", so the newsletter title is somewhat of a misnomer now, but it's stuck for almost a year so I don't want to change it now. :smallamused:

EDIT: For those who are interested, here's Pieter at level 6:

====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&DI Character Builder ======
Pieter Grimm, level 6
Human, Cleric
Build: Battle Cleric

Str 19, Con 12, Dex 14, Int 8, Wis 14, Cha 13.

Str 16, Con 12, Dex 13, Int 8, Wis 14, Cha 13.

AC: 21 Fort: 19 Reflex: 18 Will: 19
HP: 54 Surges: 8 Surge Value: 13

Insight +12, Religion +7, History +7, Diplomacy +12, Heal +10, Athletics +11

Acrobatics +4, Arcana +2, Bluff +4, Dungeoneering +5, Endurance +3, Intimidate +4, Nature +5, Perception +5, Stealth +4, Streetwise +4, Thievery +4

Cleric: Ritual Caster
Human: Weapon Proficiency (Bastard sword)
Level 1: Shield Proficiency (Light)
Level 2: Skill Focus (Diplomacy)
Level 4: Toughness
Level 6: Battle Awareness

Cleric at-will 1: Priest's Shield
Cleric at-will 1: Righteous Brand
Human: Sacred Flame
Cleric encounter 1: Healing Strike
Cleric daily 1: Avenging Flame (retrained to Beacon of Hope at Level 3)
Cleric utility 2: Shield of Faith
Cleric encounter 3: Split the Sky
Cleric daily 5: Consecrated Ground
Cleric utility 6: Bastion of Health

Ritual Book, Terror Bastard sword +1, Exalted Chainmail +1, Healer's Brooch +1, Potion of Healing (heroic tier), Jade Macetail (heroic tier), Symbol of Divine Reach +1, Light Shield, Javelin (2), Adventurer's Kit

Gentle Repose, Magic Mouth, Brew Potion, Battlefield Elocution
====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&DI Character Builder ======

2009-06-22, 11:20 PM
After retreating from the Horned Hold, Pieter and Axis finally get a chance to speak privately:


Eilise turns to Shadow with a serious look to her eye. "I would like to stay and help you daughter but I fear what waiting here might do. I need to be on my way. It’s a long journey to the north from here and I know not these passages. Axis is willing to come with me." She turns to him.

"I'll make sure you get there but from my memory if we travel this way or out on land its not an easy path to where you head." he pauses to look at Pieter "I do need a few hours here first my Lady. I think I have a debt of honor and great respect I need to fulfill. I need.." He seems to almost break down. Eyes welling his shoulders slumping. He coughs clearing a stuck throat and stands straight again. "I feel I need to speak to Grimm."

Bowing to Eilise he beckons to Pieter to sit with him.

Eilise turns back to Shadow. "And you daughter do you return to the fight?"


Pieter looks up from his place against the tunnel wall. He glances momentarily at Terrlen, then fixes his eyes on Axis. For a moment it seems as though he will not rise, but then he slowly gets to his feet.

The two Tempurans move off down the tunnel.

Pieter walks with Axis a short distance down the tunnel, his mouth set in a grim line.

When he is sure that they are out of earshot of the others, he turns to study the old priest. When he finally speaks, his tone is harsh, "What lies between you and the drow that would cause you to set off into danger so soon after achieving freedom?"


Seeming shocked Axis pauses before answering. "Of all the things for you to ask this is but one I would not expect."

"Perhaps its the company I have been keeping but I see nothing wrong with a Drow? I go to assist one in need."

You can tell that there is something else that his not saying.


"One in need?" Pieter barks an unamused laugh and tosses Axis' earlier words back at him, "But E nuzt ajnet to biemg takim by lir notlir".

"You would head off into the unknown after 23 years simply because you are taken with her?"


Pieter can see Axis is becoming angered. "Boy I've done things I would never dream I could do. I have killed another man for the food he had.

I know I am not who you remember but when I had lost all hope..." He stops and starts again beginning to pace slightly.

"The dreams of Stormbringer came to me. They hounded me and brought me hope. Then after months of recreating her in every weapon they made me craft; nothing. Then the dreams left me and she left me and hope left me.

I became enraged and when the devils pushed me I pushed back. But due to the years I am not as swift and their needles poisoned me. That Drow saved my life. In secret she nursed me and in days I was back to health.

I have been in slave pits. I've sat in my corner and watched people die knowing if I help the same will befall me but she helped me."

He stands still and faces Pieter. "You say I'm free. Perhaps in body. And then only for hours. If I am to be truly free I must regain my honor. Regain me."


Pieter's shoulders slump.

"I see. Then I must lose you again. The gods are cruel to toy with us so."

He laughs again, less angry and more resigned this time. "I promised you fine mead, and instead we have cold tunnels and colder words. I missed you Axis, more than I could ever express."

He pauses, clearly struggling with his thoughts. Then he rushes on, "It is foolish of me to think it after the brief time we spent together, but you were the father I never had. I have pondered countless times your every word and gesture, your mannerisms and actions. I molded myself after you with every passing day.

You fear what you have become? Fear not. You have not changed. You are still the brave and honourable man that faced down a horde of greyskins to save a caravan of children."

Pieter smiles, hesitantly.


Axis smiles and this time tears form. "Then you must forgive me my boy, for if I knew I meant so much to someone I would have fought harder to return."

Hesitantly Axis steps forward towards Pieter and begins an attempt to embrace him which turns into adjusting his make shift armor. "But do not fear for I am sure we will not be able to deal with this alone and once I know what is happening I shall either return or I shall call for you."

"You know Pieter seeing you standing here I truly could not be more proud if I were your father. You truly always were my brightest and my best."


Pieter stands deathly still for a moment, eyes lowered. Then he looks up and a grin splits his face from ear to ear. He wrenches Axis into an embrace so fierce that it's lucky the old man is wearing plate mail.

When finally Pieter lets go, he makes eye contact again. "I do not care what you have done since last we met. You have nothing to repent or beg forgiveness for. Your pain and self-flagellation is atonement enough. All that matters is that you are here now."

Pieter glances back toward the group and catches sight on the strange newcomer. His hand immediately goes to his weapon, but then he relaxes. There is no sign of animosity in the discussion with the strange steel man. He turns to Axis. "Should we return?"


Axis slaps Pieter on the back "Lets us away". He heads back to the group.

I certainly didn't expect Axis to run off again so soon after we discovered him, but from a metagame perspective it's probably for the best. It leaves Pieter free to chase whatever leads the DM dangles before us and also allows Axis to be used as an adventure hook later in the campaign.

I'm not sure whether Stormbringer was meant to play a larger part in the discussion, but it seemed contrived to dwell on the mention of the sword when there were clearly much greater emotional issues between the two men to be resolved.

Kol Korran
2009-06-23, 12:28 AM
those posts of conversations and such are a real gem, thanks for posting them.
it seems that you might meet shadow's mom and axis sometime later in the long campaign. but it was cool to insert them here, added an unexpected peace of roleplay in the middle of a rough fighting sequence. realy nicelt done.
i've said it befor,e i'll say it again- kudos to your DM.

thanks for the explenation of the name. i guess now you have the "tree" again, with Cailin in the group (i hope i haven't mistyped his name). hay, you can even add "fire" for soveliss- it gives heat, but it also burns...

but you're right, it's best not to meddle with the name too much.

looking forward for the next installment,

2009-06-23, 12:48 AM
Shadow's gonna have a wittle bruddah? :smalltongue:

2009-06-23, 06:02 AM
kudos to your DM.

I just got an email from my DM about this thread: "God I love that forum of yours :)"

You're making him very happy, which is no doubt good for all of us :smallwink:

Shadow's gonna have a wittle bruddah? :smalltongue:

LOL. Now that would be an interesting twist!

2009-07-01, 08:29 PM
Woah, time-travel, dude!

Actually, not really, but I've just edited post #62 (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=6116999&postcount=62) to include a letter Pieter wrote to Jacob prior to leaving for the Horned Hold.

I mentioned to the DM during the session that Pieter left a "scroll" with Rendil before they set off, but I haven't had a chance since then to pen the actual letter (until now).

2009-07-05, 11:12 PM
Session 25: An Unreliable Guide (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_25.pdf).

Our heroes bid farewell to a companion, then set off into the depths of Thunderspire Labyrinth.


We lost Shadow this session. Not through death or illness, or even paralysis or petrification. Her player simply (I believe) got bored of playing her and wanted to try something different. He’d been vacillating about changing characters for quite a while, so I wasn’t really surprised when Shadow indicated she was going with Eilise in search of her father.

Despite that, and despite accepting that the prime aim of the game is to have fun, it still disappoints me a little that Shadow’s gone. She was one of the more fully fleshed PCs in the campaign, and (just as importantly in my opinion) was one of the original four. Of that number, only two remain: Dek and Pieter. It will be interesting to see how the plot continues if/when Dek and Pieter are “forcefully retired”.

Shadow’s player did say at one stage that he only wanted to change characters for “an arc or two”, but it remains to be seen whether Shadow ever reappears.

We had a short session this week (2 hours that became 2.5), so we only managed to get through a skill challenge and a combat.

The skill challenge was interesting from a sociological perspective more than a mechanical one. We convinced Terrlen to take us in search of the back entrance* to the Horned Hold, and the DM then told us, “Right, we’ll have a skill challenge. How do you each contribute?”

It was quite jilted, to be honest. The DM and I conducted a post mortem and I think it largely boils down to the fact that only some of the group knew the improv paradigm that the DM was aiming for (in which everyone can write the story). The DM and Sov’s player have known each other for decades, so Soveliss was onto it straight away. I didn’t get it at first but finally twigged towards the end of the challenge. The other players never really got it, I don’t think.

By way of example, my first attempt at involvement was:

Pieter thinks back to his studies at the seminary, and seems to remember that minotaurs constructed their labyrinths so that downward-leading passages head towards settlements. He suggests we head downwards [Roll a History check].

While it fits within the schema, it does nothing to really create a story.

Before my next turn, I realised that the DM wasn’t telling the story and deduced that he wanted us to. My second attempt was:

As we move through the tunnels, we come across an iron gate secured by a rusting chain. Pieter sheathes his sword and then, bracing himself, attempts to bust the gate open [Roll an Athletics check]

The second attempt not only offers a way to advance, it offers a problem for other characters to interact with. If Pieter had failed to bust the gate open, someone else could have tried to pick the lock (thievery) or navigate a way around it (dungeoneering). As it was, Pieter failed his Athletics check. The DM ruled that he did bust open the gate, but lost a healing surge for his efforts. At that point, another player could have (presumably) tried a Heal check on Pieter to cancel the “failure” in the challenge.

Although this particular skill challenge didn’t shine brightly, I’m more convinced than ever that the system has a lot of potential. Next time round the DM is going to explicitly state that he’s handling storytelling control to the players. I’m interested to see what we’ll come up with.

The combat against the slimes and werewolf was a bit run-of-the mill, despite having a lot of potential

Pieter got engulfed in the first round and took 23 points of damage from the other heroes trying to get him free (“You love me. You all REALLY love me” :smallsmile:). I really wish the others had read the wording of engulf before attacking (the DM posted it in chat). We also made the mistake mentioned in SSTL in assuming that engulf acted like a grapple. Ultimately, that didn’t make a huge difference though.

The main reason the combat went so well (and was a little un-dramatic) was that the DM’s dice deserted him. The slimes and ooze only hit 4 times total IIRC (once against Terrlen), and Terrlen himself only hit twice (once against a slime).

Terrlen (a level 8 elite) was attacking twice a round for most of the combat, so he missed with something like 8 out of 10 attacks. He never rolled above 10. As a result, it very quickly became 5 PCs beating up a surrounded werewolf who couldn’t hit us back.

To be fair, he was almost continuously marked and under the effects of Illusionary Ambush, so he was facing some pretty serious attack penalties (-2 vs Dek, -6 vs Bengi with concealment, -4 vs everyone else). Even so, there were at least 3 occasions where he missed by only 1 or 2, which made Soveliss’ player very happy. A lot is made sometimes of how a –2 doesn’t make that much difference. All I can say in response to that is that when it does make a difference, it makes a difference.

If only the DM would roll so co-operatively when I cast Shield of Faith…

*Yes, there were smutty jokes.

Sidetrack re: Druid at-wills:

While on the subject of powers, I’ve come to the conclusion that Grasping Claws is a very odd power. A slow effect on a melee power is a good fit for a defender, or maybe even a leader, but it doesn’t make much sense to me on a controller like the druid. At best, all it does is make the monster sit there and attack the druid. Unfortunately, druids (especially predator druids) aren’t really built to take that punishment.

I’m generally loathe to optimise other people’s characters (at least more so now than when we started the campaign) but I’m considering suggesting that Caelan’s player swap it for Pounce or Savage Rend. Both strike me as better powers for a predator druid.

Does anyone have any insight or advice?

2009-07-06, 08:53 AM
Tagging to read later. :D

Kol Korran
2009-07-12, 12:43 PM
just making sure- Benji is a warforged? a bit suboptimal for a warlock, no? and how can he teleport? some power i don't know about or remember?

as to the skill challanges- my players are a bit stumped with them as well, but so was i when i began, still getting used to them- but you're right, they have a lot of potential. i do think they should come more often than they are stated in the H modules (which it looks like you DM is doing). the more skills challanges you try, the better the players will get at it i think, though i'd suggest one or two of them partially guided by the DM for the players to see the potential.

2009-07-14, 03:40 AM
just making sure- Benji is a warforged? a bit suboptimal for a warlock, no? and how can he teleport? some power i don't know about or remember?

Yep, Bengi (pronounced with a g, not a j) is a warforged vestige pact warlock. The racial bonus to Con sits pretty well with warlock.

It hasn't been explained yet how exactly a warforged came to exist in the Forgotten Realms, although it sounds like there's a background there waiting to be explored. Here's how he was first described:

Unhurriedly, a golem walks into the camp, stopping just on the edge of the light. It stands head and shoulders even above the humans, and is formed of matt grey metal and what looks like deep brown wood, covered with lines and arcane sigils in red, blue and orange. Covering this, or perhaps inlaid, is what appears to be a strong chain mesh. A long, rune-carved hilt rises from behind the golem's right shoulder, with the matching blade extending down behind its left leg. Pieter estimates that if the golem stood directly in front of the sword, the crosspiece could be seen above the metal head.

Overall, I believe the 'rule of cool' plays a large part in Bengi :smallsmile:

He teleports via powers. I know one of them is Fey Switch, and that there's another one, but I'm not sure off the top of my head what the second one is.

2009-07-15, 05:31 AM
Session 26: Murkelmor (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_26.pdf).

Our heroes confront the leader of the Grimmerzhul.


Murkelmor is a monster. There’s no other way to say it. Actually, I think I put it pretty well in the issue itself: he’s an engine of destruction. He pretty reliably hit Dek (AC and Fort) and was dishing out some pretty shocking numbers.

We did some sums after the session and realised that Dek went through 136 hp in that encounter: 1 surge boosted by Healing Word for +17hp; 2 surges from Cloak of the Walking Wounded; 1 surge from Second Wind, and 100% of his normal starting hit points. If you add in the 2 hp that Pieter’s consecrated ground healed to get him back on his feet just prior to the end of the fight, it’s 138 hp.

Most of that was dished out by Murkelmor. Like I said; an engine of destruction. No one else in the party would have had any chance at all of surviving that.

It must be said that part of the problem we faced with Murkelmor is that we managed to bring two encounters down on ourselves by a relatively poor attempt to sneak in the “back way”. The increased number of enemies hampered our ability to focus-fire Murkelmor, which in turn meant he was alive and doing damage for longer.

The DM tells me that the two encounters combined count as a level 11 encounter. Which we survived at level 6. I’m impressed.

Having said that, there were a few things in our favour:

Murkelmor didn’t engage until round 3. He spent the first 2 rounds moving from his “throne room” to the area where the combat was happening. Those 2 rounds would IMO easily have swung the battle.
The theurge was very liberal with his targeting. In fact, he probably did almost as much damage to the orcs as we did.
The layout of the encounter (which I believe is officially known as the south guard post) ultimately worked in our favour. By about round 6, most of the PC’s were in the western side of the room and most of the enemies were in the eastern half. Which presented a perfect opportunity for Soveliss to teleport over and unleash Call of the Plague and then spend an action point and use Thunderweave.
We were fresh. No one had used dailies. And it was just as well, because I think we used all of them.

It’s hard to summarise just how close this combat was. There were a number of rolls where I consciously thought “this will determine the outcome of the combat”; usually involving attacks on Pieter or Dek while they were at low hit points. Most of those rolls went out way.

At one point, I sent the DM a private message asking if Murkelmor was close to death. He seemed to have been bloodied for an eternity. The DM replied “he’s at ¼ hp”. My response? “You’ve won”.

As it turned out, I was wrong. Pieter managed to get Murkelmore in the Consecrated Ground, and shortly afterwards Bengi moved in to get him in the area of Armor of Agathys. Between the two, Murkelmor was automatically taking 10-15 points of damage at the start of each turn, and that eventually took its toll. In fact, it was Armor of Agathys damage that dropped him. And we all breathed a sigh of relief.

This combat demonstrated both the best and worst of 4e.

The worst? It took approximately 4 hours to play out. That's a lot of time to devote to something that only takes approximately 3 minutes in-game.

The best? The combat was suspenseful in a "will we survive this" way from approximately round 6 until it ended at about round 14-15. Out of game, that was about 2.5 to 3 hours. I'm amazed and impressed that an encounter remained suspenseful for that long. I consider it a good indication of the balance of the system.

The major lesson learned was never underestimate auto-damage from powers like Avenging Flame, Armor of Agathys or Consecrated Ground. They can really make the difference over the course of the encounter. I went back through our chat logs the next day. Consecrated Ground had done 75 points of damage overall to various combatants. Armour of Agathys had done 40.

I also learned that it's not really feasible to have two "action sinks" active. At one stage Pieter was trying to sustain his Consecrated Ground and direct his macetail at the same time. It was impossible to sustain the zone, move it to prime location, have the macetail attack, and attack with Pieter in the same round. The macetail didn't make a single attack (because I couldn't find an action to spare), and ended up just being a target for the theurge's area effects. About all it did was provide flanking to Caelan.

So all up, a thrilling session for the players. On the downside, Caelan’s brother is still missing :smallmad:

Kol Korran
2009-07-15, 09:47 AM
i was wondering how this would play out... glad to hear you made it, if barely. i remember a few points in this module where i read the stats and so on and thought "ok, this could easely kill some of a normal party". this was the first. that Duergar is one mean bastard. good for you!

now lets see how you deal with the other... "points of interest"... (wishing you well, honestly)

2009-07-29, 05:45 AM
Session 27: Exodus (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_27.pdf).

Our Heroes finally free (most of) the villagers of Winterhaven, only to discover new threats.


Pretty much all of the first column of this issue is fictional; even more so than the average session report in a D&D campaign recap thread. After the massive combat against Murkelmor and his cronies the previous session, everyone pretty much agreed that unless there was something else spectacular in the Horned Hold, it would be an anti-climax to play out those encounters. By unanimous decision, the DM hand-waved the slave pit encounter. Of course, that wouldn’t do for Stones and Shadow, Trees and Light, so I took a little authorial licence and decided what should have happened.

Valthrun’s presence in the Seven-Pillared Hall did not come as a complete surprise, as Terrlen had earlier told us that he had been in and out of the Hiltopple Inn in previous tendays (the FR equivalent of a week). Of course, how the sage managed that during the time that we were in Winterhaven was a bit of a mystery. His companion Aleya (played by our new player) was more of a shock, especially as she had been sent by Pieter’s superiors. She would not (or could not) say how they knew where Pieter was, which is cause for some concern for him.

Aleya told Pieter that she had been talking with Valthrun in Winterhaven and next she knew she was standing with the sage in the Hall. Strange.

Of most concern, though, was Terrlen’s assertion that Valthrun had predicted two tendays earlier that a group would arrive in the Hall to help Terrlen, and that the group would include a human priest and a human war leader. It seemed pretty clear that the priest was Pieter and we assumed that the war leader was Robert.

Putting aside the fact that Robert was no longer with the party, it was nevertheless of concern that this prediction was made before the party even arrived in Winterhaven. Obviously, there was more to Valthrun than met the eye. This was confirmed when he apparently teleported himself and the rescued villagers out of the Hall while the party was talking with Orontor. How in Tempus’ name did the ale-loving sage of a small village exercise such potent arcane power? Pieter is now convinced that Valthrun warrants further investigation.

It’s good to have the “Rescue the Slaves” quest (mostly) out of the way and move onto something a little different. To be honest, I think that hook in Thunderspire drags PCs around past the point at which it stops being enjoyable and becomes annoying. Missing the slaves by a few days at the Chamber of Eyes is ok. Missing them again at the Horned Hold is just annoying. Prior to this session, I had been concerned that I would lose interest in pursuing the slaves further because I had simply had enough of chasing after them. However, so much stuff happened this session but I’m keen to forge deeper just to try and figure out what the hell is going on.

Who/what is Valthrun and why is he so interested in the party? Who is Aleya and why has she been sent to join Pieter? What is Paldemar up to? Can Orontor be trusted? Who was the kobold that approached Caelan and what is the “organisation” that its note claimed was behind the Grimmerzhul? Will the party get (or have to) fight Brugg after all?

I’m feeling really revitalised at this point, and can’t wait to see what happens next.

2009-07-29, 06:34 AM
Heya, interesting journal you've got there (I've only read 2 of them, but the last one contained something of interest to me).

You mentioned in session 27 that Clerics (I assume Pieter is the group Cleric?) doesn't have many things that grant saves, but a simple feat can fix that. Mark of Healing from Eberron Player's Guide allows the target of a healing power used by you (or when you use Heal to allow a target to use his/her second wind) to make a saving throw. I'd ask your DM if you could retrain something into this, or take it as your next feat (it's heroic tier, EPG p 91).

Hope you guys continue to have fun with the game!

Kol Korran
2009-07-29, 08:48 AM
Valthuran does provoke interest now... your DM keeps adding some good stuff...
also- good decision to waver the rest of the battles. utterly pointless. nice description though- i liked how the panther leaped on the devil to bring him down!
the well is a hard place, prepare well.
also- you guys now have 2 controllers, and 2 strikers... you and Dek will be juggling fireballs just trying to keep everyone alive! good luck to ya. i'd suggest every party member to invest in 2-4 healing potions. true- they don't heal much, but it's better than nothing.

as to the mark of healing suggestion- it's realy something that is an integral part of the flavour of Eberron, but you could probably refluff it, (odd effect of the spell plague?) and use it. wouldn't have been my preference, but that's just me. go with whatever you feel works.


2009-07-30, 06:22 AM
Mark of Healing from Eberron Player's Guide...

I wouldn't have thought of this if you hadn't mentioned it, but now that you do I remember hearing about it on a podcast (Tome Show I think). You're right. It's an amazing feat.

However, I'm already planning to take Righteous Rage of Tempus for Pieter, and I don't think I want to push the power envelope so far as to take another feat that is widely considered on-the-edge-of-too-powerful.

Plus, I don't really like mixing flavour too much (like Kol says). Thanks for the suggestion though. If this were an Eberron campaign (warforged warlock notwithstanding :smallconfused:), I'd take the Mark of Healing in a heartbeat.

nice description though- i liked how the panther leaped on the devil to bring him down!

Thanks. I initially had Dek as the jumper. It's much more in line with his playstyle, but then I thought "jumping on a creature with poisoned spikes isn't as impressive when you're encased in 1 inch of steel", so I changed it to Caelan :smallsmile:

also- you guys now have 2 controllers, and 2 strikers... you and Dek will be juggling fireballs just trying to keep everyone alive!

Nice metaphor.

I really would have preferred a defender or leader for the 6th slot, but *shrug*. We'll just see how we go. The good thing about 4e is that if things go bad they take a while to go bad. We're unlikely to see a "round 3, you're all dead" scenario, so if the party makeup isn't working, there'll be plenty of time to mess around with multiclassing and Enchant Item to address the healing issues.

2009-08-03, 07:05 AM
Just thought I’d share this little bit with you. In my opinion it’s an example of 4e rituals done right. The first quote is Soveliss’ players description of what the eladrin wizard does.

soveliss takes the map and studies it well looking for hidden meesages within the old parchment. Taking from his pouch two incense sticks and smal vial of metalic blue powder. After carefully dusting the parchment he lights the insence and ihales deeply, exhaling from his nostrils apone the parchment.Hes eyes glaze over and he mentally pulls images into his head of the maps maker and who directly intended it for us.

There isn’t a single mention in there of which ritual Soveliss is performing. It’s all description rather than crunch. I suspect there was some crunch behind the scenes, of course.

And the DM’s reply:

Soveliss pulls deep into the map that came with the note. Reaching into the parchment he feels the fabric of the magic that holds all things in place and he reads the history he finds there.

An image forms in his minds eye. A giant bronze figure of a Minator, stiffly it moves and brings a huge mace smashing down blocking the view. The mace fills the image and fades and blurs. Searching for other stories Soveliss sees a Tiefling male. He stands head bowed. Nodding he is receiving orders but who from. The figure issuing the orders is just out of view. Perhaps if Soveliss pushes against the magic. Weaves it this way, moves it like this. The Tiefling blurs and his shape breaks into tiny shards that scatter. With his will pushed to the limits Soveliss pulls the shards back. Deeper. Sharper. A man gives orders to a bowed figure. We are behind the man. He stands tall and bald. A thin boney head. Long purple robes come to focus. They are covered in tiny white skulls. Printed at equal intervals. He turns to leave and shows a thin hard face. Deep black set eyes. Gaunt and hard. With a cold stare there is a spark of evil in his eye that Soveliss knows well. With a last pull of effort Soveliss knows this is the person who created the letter and map and the images fade and only darkness can be felt.

Soveliss opens his eyes. The incenses has burnt down to the stub.

The ritual in question is Read Object, which also seems to be a perfect example of how a ritual can be useful and flavourful.

We know (from our interrogation of Thain) that the figure in the purple robes is Paldemar, and I recognise the bronze minotaur from the Seven-Pillared Hall. As for the tiefling, now he's a complete mystery.

2009-08-11, 06:27 AM
Session 28: Laughter in the Darkness (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_28.pdf).

The Well of Demons begins to reveal its secrets.


After a relatively heavy “plot and roleplay” session in the Seven-Pillared Hall last issue, it was perhaps expected that this session would be almost all combat. And it didn’t disappoint.

The combat against the phalagar, chokers and ghouls has the potential to be a truly frightening display of synergy. Notably, both the phalagar and the chokers are grabbers, which imposes the Immobilised condition. So what, you say? The ghoul has an attack that stuns an immobilised target (save ends).

Stunned is a bit of an odd condition in 4e. Most 4e conditions leave the PC with something to do. It’s part of 4e’s “keep the players involved” motif. Stunned is an exception. If you’re stunned, you do nothing. Nothing. It’s a good indication of the rareness of the effect that we had not yet seen it imposed in 27 sessions. So when the DM pulled off a phalagar grab/ghoul stun combo, I felt a certain sense of ominous foreboding. As Greg Tannahil comments in his Eleven Foot Pole blog post about this encounter, “**** just got real”.

Fortunately, that moment chose itself to justify my picking of Sacred Flame as Pieter’s third at-will. Those familiar with the cleric will know that (at least prior to Divine Power), there were only two melee cleric at-will powers. Which means that a human melee cleric is forced to take a ranged power as his third at-will. Which left Pieter with the choice between Lance of Faith or Sacred Flame. Lance of Faith is a great buff (it grants an ally a +2 to attack), but Sacred Flame struck me as the power that could make or break an encounter. It grants a saving throw.

When Bengi got paralysed, Pieter was being throttled by one of the cavern chokers on the ceiling, 15ft up. He couldn’t reach the damn thing with his sword, so had little choice but to rely on either a javelin or Sacred Flame. The javelin was more likely to hit, but Sacred Flame offered that tantalising chance at prematurely ending the warforged’s stun condition. So I went for it.

I knew when taking Sacred Flame that it was never going to be a reliable mode of attack for Pieter. His low-ish wisdom (14; which is low for a cleric) and focus on primarily enhancing his sword meant that Sacred Flame was only ever going to get used in dire straits. Straits don’t get any more dire than stunned.

And it worked. Bengi got to make a saving throw and he passed it. His stunned condition lasted all of 2 initiative counts, and he didn’t lose a turn. If memory serves, he then ganked the ghoul. That’ll teach it to mess with Tempus :smallsmile:

The combat with the gnolls was notable only for two things:

First, the absolute savagery with which the hyenas tore Pieter a new one. The DM was rolling like a man possessed. Out of 7 hyena attacks against Pieter, I believe he rolled below 14 only once. Coupled with his justifiable use of hunting dog tactics (ie. they all jump on the same target – Pieter) and the hyena’s damage bonus when attacking an outnumbered target, Pieter took in the vicinity of 30-35 damage per round for two rounds straight. He went from 7 healing surges to 3 as a result of one combat. It was vicious. Don’t kid yourself about what are the real dangers in this encounter.

Secondly, Soveliss caught Tusky in the area of a thunderwave and critted the poor beast. I had been looking for an in-game reason to bring Pieter and Soveliss together for a “chat” about saving Shadow etc, but too much water passed under the bridge in-game before the two characters could find time alone. So I let it go. Now, there’s a valid reason to progress that aspect of party dynamics.

Now, I suspect from Soveliss’ player’s voice during the session that the damage to Tusky was probably an accident, but Pieter doesn’t know that. It’s funny how time heals wounds. I’m actually quite enjoying the interplay between the two characters now.

2009-08-25, 05:54 AM
Session 29: The Fury of Demons (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_29.pdf).

Our heroes uncover a demonic shrine and rout its defenders


Not terribly much happened this session, mostly because the combat in it took so long.

We had a small vignette to end the “taming of Tusky” skill challenge, but I believe that we had already officially succeeded at that before the session started. The rest was mostly just roleplaying interactions with (or about) the massive boar. As can happen when people get it in their mind to be a little silly, Tusky started out weighing about 300kg and ended the night at 7 tons.

Soveliss initially stayed well-clear of the dire boar (obviously aware that the beast remembered his earlier thunderwave), but had a remarkable change of heart once the gnoll demonic scourge appeared and attacked him. At that point, the hulking wall of muscle that is Tusky was welcomed by our dark wizard.

The combat against the gnolls and tieflings was a bit of a disappointment, despite the DM adding 3 hyenas and 2 death pact gnolls to spice it up. The narrow confines of the central corridor meant that we had Dek at one end of the corridor holding most of the enemies at bay.

The tieflings managed to teleport in to savage Caelan, but once they were in they couldn’t really get out again, so most of the 8-round combat was fought within the same 5x2 square space. It’s something that I find odd with the 4e modules that we’ve played so far – movement was such a clear aim of 4e design yet the modules seem to rehash the same old tired room configurations and little to no opportunity for terrain interraction. I’m hopeful that the problem is confined to Keep on the Shadowfell and Thunderspire Labyrinth, both of which I understand were in development during the wider design of 4e itself.

The Barlgura proved a disappointing opponent, as have so many other brutes we’ve encountered so far. Their low attack value seems to make them extremely unreliable and I’m starting to doubt their place in an encounter. As far as I can tell, unless they have allies to buff their attacks (with Aid Another or otherwise) or manage to get next to a squishie, they achieve very little in a combat other than acting as a meat shield/distraction for other monsters.

Keen readers of the campaign journal will note that the back page of this issue takes a different format to previous issues. The DM had decided that he won’t be awarding xp as dictated by the DMG. Rather, he’ll pace level advancement as he considers appropriate. Ultimately, I suspect this will mean that we advance faster rather than slower. Playing only every second week and being relatively slow at combat sessions, our rate of advancement is quite slow (we only just reached level 7 after 13 months of play) and I think the DM wants to increase it rather than decrease it.

For those who are interested, here’s Pieter at level 7:

Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder
Pieter Grimm, level 7
Human, Cleric
Build: Battle Cleric
Background: Cormyr (General) (Cormyr (General) Benefit)

Str 19, Con 12, Dex 14, Int 8, Wis 14, Cha 13.

Str 16, Con 12, Dex 13, Int 8, Wis 14, Cha 13.

AC: 23 Fort: 19 Reflex: 18 Will: 19
HP: 59 Surges: 8 Surge Value: 14

Insight +12, Religion +7, History +7, Diplomacy +12, Heal +10, Athletics +11

Acrobatics +4, Arcana +2, Bluff +4, Dungeoneering +5, Endurance +3, Intimidate +4, Nature +5, Perception +5, Stealth +4, Streetwise +4, Thievery +4

Cleric: Ritual Caster
Human: Weapon Proficiency (Bastard sword)
Level 1: Shield Proficiency (Light)
Level 2: Skill Focus (Diplomacy)
Level 4: Toughness
Level 6: Battle Awareness

Bonus At-Will Power: Sacred Flame
Channel Divinity: Turn Undead
Cleric at-will 1: Righteous Brand
Cleric at-will 1: Priest's Shield
Cleric encounter 1: Healing Strike
Cleric daily 1: Avenging Flame (retrained to Beacon of Hope at Level 3)
Cleric utility 2: Shield of Faith
Cleric encounter 3: Split the Sky
Cleric daily 5: Consecrated Ground
Cleric utility 6: Bastion of Health
Cleric encounter 7: Strike of Judgment

Ritual Book, Terror Bastard sword +1, Healer's Brooch +1, Potion of Healing (heroic tier), Jade Macetail (heroic tier), Symbol of Divine Reach +1, Light Shield, Javelin (2), Adventurer's Kit, Agile Finemail +2, Everburning Torch, Residuum (Any) (200), Sanctified Incense (Religion) (20), Alchemical Reagents (Arcana) (20)

Gentle Repose, Magic Mouth, Brew Potion, Battlefield Elocution

I’m still a little torn between where to head with Pieter in Paragon. I had originally intended heading for either Kensai or Pit Fighter, but have more recently decided to pick something that accentuates Pieter more as a leader than a damage-dealer. I have the feeling that as the only leader in a 6-PC party, it will be needed. I’m currently leaning towards Purple Dragon Knight (FRPG), but Battle Chaplain (DP) is also pretty attractive.

If there are any good/interesting paragon paths out there that people think I might be interested in, let me know.

2009-08-25, 08:25 AM
Are you planning to multiclass Fighter, Paladin or Warlord in the next few levels? If not, you won't technically qualify for Purple Dragon Knight but this is an easily waived restriction.

I think both the paths you are looking at are interesting. Battle Chaplain seems to offer more of a Fighter vibe, but in my opinion its level 12 and level 20 powers are not as impressive.

If you do go Battle Chaplain, retrain out that Shield Proficiency first.

Kol Korran
2009-08-25, 09:49 AM
i missed the previous update. welcoem to Gnoll and demon's ville!

a little note: the last update leads me to a broken page. so i can't realy see it. can you fix that?

there is a variant in the DMG of XP distribution: it takes 10 points to get a level. each "normal encounter" get you 1 point, difficult ones 2 points, simple ones no points. ending a quest gives you 1 or 2 points. on average every 8 encounters yougo up a level, which is what was intended.

but yeah, that might be too slow for you folks. that also means that the DM will have to dismiss many of the encounter in the modules, so as not to bog you down. of this i highly approve- many of the battles in the module contribute nothing to the story or atmosphere, they are just battles for XP. i hate these kind of encounters. they feel like such a collosal waste of time.

as to the battle with the teiflings and the modules not having enough space... yeah, that problem isn't going anywhere. all the modules consider the adventures to be 3.5 dungeons, with one or two large spaces to vary. and not much use of terrain or whatever (mostly, there are some exceptions, mostly in H3) ihad a 28x19 battle mat for my encounters, and i use most of it for most encounters. i feel that terrain should matter, distances should matter (suddenly a long bow is a good idea), and tactical movement should matter.
oh well, i'm done ranting about the module.

as to PrCs. i wouln't go with Purple Knight just because it's 20 level power is based on Cha, not your strongest suit. battle chapalain is a solid one, but if you're willing to dip into warlord, there might be a few others:
- battle commandor: nice PrC, i love the "bolt of genius" utility power. it can be used for higher level powers as well.

- sword marshal: less of a leadery type, more focused on hitting things with the bastard sword

- Commando Captain (you could refluff it as the commander of an elite, Tempus chosen battle unit)- works well by supplying movement, and combat advantage to allies. superb with a rogue.

- earthfast brigadir (you can play it as coming from your friendship from dek)- a great endurance giving PrC.

- platinum warlord is falvourfull, and you can easely refluff it for your ends.

hope this helped, and please fix the link if possible,

2009-08-26, 07:01 AM
Are you planning to multiclass Fighter, Paladin or Warlord in the next few levels? If not, you won't technically qualify for Purple Dragon Knight but this is an easily waived restriction.

'Battle Awareness' (Pieter's level 6 feat) is a fighter multiclass feat from Martial Power that is akin to allowing you to use Combat Challenge once per encounter (along with giving training in one Fighter skill).

If you do go Battle Chaplain, retrain out that Shield Proficiency first.

I certainly plan to :smallsmile: although I'll probably retrain LSP out at level 11 (so there's no level where I don't have the proficiency at all).

In fact one of the attractions of the PP is that it "refunds" me two feats that I otherwise would have spent on Light and Heavy Shield Proficency, allowing me to spend them on more "groovy" feats.

a little note: the last update leads me to a broken page. so i can't realy see it. can you fix that?

My bad. I somehow convinced myself that this was session 30 when it was in fact only session 29. The URL in the link was therefore to a non-existent issue. It's fixed now.

as to PrCs. i wouln't go with Purple Knight just because it's 20 level power is based on Cha, not your strongest suit.

I originally felt the same way, and then realised that almost all of the power's effects are "Effect" rather than "Hit", so Pieter's low charisma doesn't really impact on the power much at all.

I'll have a look at those others you mentioned. They sound interesting.

2009-08-26, 10:32 AM
Welcome back! Thank you for continuing your journal.

You mention your group discussing ways to speed up combat; I just wanted to comment that giving bored players control of monsters will only slow things down as they usually haven't been introduced to the stats/abilities ahead of time. I feel the DM is the best prepared to run them as fast as possible.

2009-08-27, 02:42 AM
I just wanted to comment that giving bored players control of monsters will only slow things down as they usually haven't been introduced to the stats/abilities ahead of time. I feel the DM is the best prepared to run them as fast as possible.

To a certain extent I agree, but we're really addressing two issues at the same time:

the length of combats (which we're addressing in a number of ways); and
players getting bored when it's not their turn in combat.

Giving players a monster to control is mostly aimed at #2, but the aim is for it to be helfpul to #1 as well. We play via maptool, so it can be quite time-consuming for the DM to adust monster hps and status effects. This way, he can (hopefully) just leave that up to the relevant player and move on to the next point in the initiative order.

We'll see how it goes.

2009-09-04, 08:30 AM
Just a quick post to note that the next update might be a few weeks away because my son Ewan was born at 3:04 am on 4 September 2009.

Ok, this post has nothing to do with the campaign really, but some things you just want the whole world to know... :smallwink:

2009-09-04, 08:49 AM
I guess thats an ok reason... ;-)

Major Congrats! Have you bought him his first set of dice yet?

2009-09-04, 01:09 PM
Just a quick post to note that the next update might be a few weeks away because my son Ewan was born at 3:04 am on 4 September 2009.

Ok, this post has nothing to do with the campaign really, but some things you just want the whole world to know... :smallwink:


I just finished getting up to date. I am eager to hear what your group thinks of a six-person party, since I will be running a 6-person party in less than a month's time. In addition, speed of combats is even more important to our group, since we only meet about once a month.

Some thought I have had for speeding up encounters:
a) have only players who's turn it is speak, unless they directly address another player. This accomplishes two things: 1) Less distracting background chatter. 2) Less retconing of actions due to party input.
b) have a designated initiative reminder-er who is not the DM - I will have enough things to worry about, initiative is something the PCs can easily handle, and it gives someone something to keep track of off turn.
c) Print all my monsters from the DDI Monster Builder. This way, I have all the blocks on one sheet and I don't have to flip wildly through books to find what I need whenever a PC makes an attack.
d) have a mini-block for each character outlining their Defenses and their passive Perception, passive Insight and passive Knowledge. This way, I can say "the monster hits your AC by 4" rather than "Does a 32 hit your AC?".
e) make terrain matter - by adding cool features of terrain of level, the PCs may get more involved in their precise placement.

I do not, however, agree that giving PCs control of a monster will make combat any faster - from what I can tell, it will bog down combat and potentially create awkward situations where the Players are forced to separate OOC knowledge from IC knowledge. Even if its not on purpose, I doubt a PC controlling and enemy Iron Golem, for example, will want to get anywhere near it, lest it unleash its breath weapon. So it ends up coming down to - actively ignore the knowledge and get hit OR use the knowledge and stay away, not getting hit. If the players are good at separating knowledge, than it might work a bit better.

Woah, sorry to clog your thread with this massive wall o' text :smallredface:.

2009-09-23, 08:50 PM
Long time reader first time poster :D

We play over the tintanet using a VTT (mapTool) so it handles initiative order for us.
Also it uses tokens that display (for the DM) almost the complete monster stat block and player tokens which show their passive and defense values... its a cool app.

[not to hijack further but...] I agree that cool terrain makes a good encounter into a great encounter but the one thing our group doesn't need is to get more involved in their precise placement :)

2009-09-25, 05:18 AM
Session 30: A Hall of Harsh Reflections (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_30.pdf).

Our heroes struggle with the ritual leading to the sanctum of the Well of Demons.


My opinions are mixed about this session.

The central area of the Well strikes me as a good example of “area design”. There’s lots of foretelling (the blood in the ritual circle, the bloody smear and marks on the wall - can anyone say Indiana Jones? - and of course the murals) that I imagine are part of the printed module.

The combat the party heard prior to entering the area also gave a good hint that “we’re almost there”, although I’m not sure whether it’s part of the module or the solely DM’s inclusion.

Unfortunately, instead of galvanising the party into action, it seemed to turn us all to treacle. We studied and restudied every clue, wandering in circles without doing anything meaningful. After approximately 1.5 hours session time*, the party had moved maybe 200ft. It was more than a little annoying for me personally, and I think it even got to the DM a little because suddenly Tusky was snuffling around a doorway that (in retrospect) the boar had no reason to be interested in (seriously, it was a room filled with mirrors and two distant undead – what could possibly have been of interest to a dire boar?).

The DM tried to alert us to a change in the murals around the entrance to the room, but we apparently didn’t take any notice. I suspect that by that stage I’d had enough of inspecting murals and just wanted to get on with something. As a result we were taken by surprise by the mirrors’ attacks.

The encounter is an interesting one from a design standpoint because it’s a combat that isn’t really a combat. It’s more of an extended puzzle, with some bad guys thrown in as a complication. I like that design approach, and think it could have been really enjoyable.

However, I do have some concerns about it from a metagame perspective. The first is that it wasn’t clear to me from the DM’s descriptions (I’m unaware whether the module is more specific) that it was looking into the mirrors that was causing the attacks. In the absence of that knowledge, there’s no reason for PCs to close their eyes.

Obscure clues aren’t necessarily a bad thing as long as they are not determinative of the outcome but in this case the mirrors are attacking at +13 vs NAD, with the average PC defence being approximately 19 (give or take one). Again, high monster attacks values aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but it must be borne in mind that one type of mirror is “you’re trapped in a room from which there is no exit”.

Against a party that didn’t realise they could close their eyes and ignore the mirrors, I cannot see how this encounter could not end in a TPK (by which I mean half the party trapped forever in the oubliette and the rest killed by the mirrors and/or boneshard skeletons).

Fortunately for us, after Dek and Pieter disappeared into the oubliette and Caelan got teleported around like a ping pong ball and savaged by the boneshards, the rest of the party began minutely studying the murals outside the room until they figured out how the challenge worked. Boneshard skeletons were defeated, the ritual mask obtained, and Pieter and Dek freed.


Of course, having learned the hard way that clues are important in the Well of Demons, we then returned to our start-of-session behaviour and began minutely investigating anything that could even remotely be a clue. We started the session perhaps 5 minutes behind the Blackfangs (we heard them fighting the guardian), but we then spent more than an hour investigating walls and doors and tracks and skeletons and – you get the idea.

Who knows what they’ve been up to in that time.

We now have two of the sacrificial components; the mask and “life energy”. Soveliss is doing his best to convince Dek and Pieter that Tusky needs to be sacrificed to save Caelan’s brother. As you might imagine, neither is particularly receptive to that idea.

Dedicated readers (ie. those who made it to page 2 of this issue) will note that the wand Soveliss discovered was a pre-spellplague wand of Chain Lightning. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before, but I know as a player and PC that Chain Lightning was Soveliss’ spell of choice when he was a red wizard of Thay before the spellplague. Its reappearance is no doubt portentous, but Pieter does not know in-character what spell the wand contains, so I’ll just have to stay mum and see how things unfold.

*Admittedly, we did spend close to 40 minutes sorting out technical problems with VOIP software.

Note on playstyles:

Overall, there were some interesting bits to the session but I ultimately found it unsatisfying. I had a bit of a chat with the DM about it afterwards (inspired by the DMG2) and came to the conclusion that I’m not an Explorer player.

I’m very interested in overcoming challenges and obtaining enough information to make the right decision, but I don’t want to spend overly long periods of time doing so. As such, a session that revolved entirely around investigation of inanimate objects wasn’t really my cup of tea. Still, the DM said “at least 2 people enjoyed it” (I suspect he means himself and Sov’s player), so I just have to suck it up and play through it occasionally. That’s part and parcel of playing a co-operative social game. :smallsmile:

Kol Korran
2009-09-25, 10:54 AM
first of all, i missed your former update, so i know this comes out late but... Congratulations! one ofthe players in my group fathered twins about half a month earlier, and now we all play at his house, since he needs to be present to help and all. none of us complain- they are adorable!
i'm sidestepping. again- congratulations, and welcome to the world Ewan.

Caelan is going to have a really tough time if you guys are intending to finish the well before resting, but i guess with your hooks, it makes sense. this wasn't really accounted for in the module. the party is expected to rest here i think.

"life energy"? don't remember that one. might be your DM is looking for you to make interesting choices. can't Benji get below 0 and deactivated? maybe that could work as well? otherwise maybe try and find more gnolls, and take one captive. save Tusky!

as to play styles. don't worry, this kind of exploration doesn't come too often in these modules.

nice to hear from you again,

2009-09-25, 10:58 AM
Save Tusky! Please don't let them sacrifice him! He's too cute awesome to die!

Maybe "life energy" doesn't mean all of something's life energy. Maybe sacrificing some healing surges will do?

I see your point about studying the inanimate objects. How did your party beat the skeletons blindfolded?

On an unrelated note, I wonder if they make rattles with a set of dice inside? That would be the most adorable thing ever.

2009-09-25, 05:59 PM
welcome to the world Ewan.

Thanks! But don't forget Eve (the DM's daughter) :smallsmile:

"life energy"? don't remember that one. might be your DM is looking for you to make interesting choices.

lol. I love having this thread. All your responses prompt the DM to admit when he's changed something from the modules. :smallamused: It's instructive to be able to see the DM "behind the scenes".

as to play styles. don't worry, this kind of exploration doesn't come too often in these modules.

I just had another brief conversation with the DM about it, and I now suspect that it's not the exploration per se, it's the inefficiency with which we did it. We spent probably 2.5 hours of a 4 hour session exploring an area no greater that 10,000 square, and acting on none of the opportunities (ie. doors) we found in the area. I think it was the indecision that annoyed me more than the exploration.

I responded similarly to the riddle in Keep on the Shadowfell. I enjoyed the challenge, but once we were on our last guess and perseverated for about 25 minutes, it got very annoying.

How did your party beat the skeletons blindfolded?

I believe the combat against the boneshards took place in another curtained-off area, so the PCs were able to open their eyes again. I also suspect that the DM dropped them earlier than their stats would suggest, because the skeletons went down incredibly quickly compared to the gnoll that Dek and Pieter were fighting.

It was probably a good decision by the DM. As the mantra goes: Keep the game moving.

2009-09-25, 10:12 PM
When things are moving too slowly for my Cleric I either pretend I know what I'm doing or my character is the one pretending, and we just do something. I give things a perfunctory glance, then open the door, move into the room, jump down the hole, etc.

I've played too many games where everything is analyzed into oblivion; I feel like it too often passes a point that the characters would actual think to get into these precautions. After enough years of gaming I can enjoy falling for rpg "traps" and dangers.

Kol Korran
2009-09-26, 03:45 AM
in the game i play (as a cleric of the red knight) my play style is slightly exploratory (with spells mostly, speaks with dead, divination and so on. oh, we play 3.5E), but the main aspects of my play are roleplay, and plot development. i care far less for the fights, and mostly buff and heal my party members in them. there have been one or two sessions so far when i went bananas because of no actuall "my stuff" happening, but that's just me.

i think that i for example might have gone a bit bored in some of the shadowfell keep fights, though your DM does seem to pepper the game with enough spice for everyone!

oh, and i do greatly apologize- welcome to the world Eve as well! sorry to have missed that on first reading.

2009-10-07, 06:10 AM
Session 31: Blood and Screams (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_31.pdf).

Our heroes investigate, and activate, the ritual at the centre of the Well.


If last session was a low for me personally, this session was a high.

Both of the encounters this session had a de facto “clock” to them; not in the sense that “something bad will happen after X rounds” but in the sense that “we’re low on surges and time and still expect to have a few tough encounters to come – we can’t waste resources on meaningless battles that we don’t have to fight”. And the Well’s siderooms are perfectly tailored to that.

In both encounters, the aim is to get the ritual component (dagger and bell). Neither encounter requires you to actually destroy the monsters to obtain the items. Neither encounter contains creatures that utilise the grab, slow, or immobilise mechanics. It’s almost as if the designer wanted parties to race through these encounters dodging, rather than fighting, the demons within.

And it works perfectly if you play them that way.

Perhaps the surprise of the session came from Dek and his magical boots. Back towards the start of KotS, after Ninaran almost escaped the party in the graveyard, Dek’s player purchased boots that increased the dwarf’s run speed. Before this session, I don’t think they had been used since. However, when faced with the room filled with howling pillars, Dek took off in search of the bell. With his boosted run speed and sky-high AC, he was in and out in 2 rounds*.

That would have been that had the DM not rolled three crits in a single round against the PCs (Aleya and Pieter) guarding the door. Still, we would have taken much more damage than that if we had engaged in a standup fight with the evistros and barlgura inside.

It was a great feeling to “circumvent” challenges and to constantly monitor the party’s remaining surges against the challenges to come. I personally think we’re in the same territory we were in before facing Kalarel – not really up to the challenge but unable in-game to justify not pressing on. Hopefully the outcome will be the same.

I mentioned to the DM today that the escalating tension in the Well of Demons is going to be very difficult for him to top. I'm actually concerned that the Paldemar arc of the adventure will be a bit of a let-down. He told me to wait and see. I have faith. :smallsmile:

*We did some quick calculations during the encounter and realised that Caelan could have done it in a single round. His run speed is 10 and with Bengi’s new Boots of eagerness, he could have moved 10 + 10 + 10 (boots) + 10 (AP) and still have had a minor action left to grab the bell. He could have been in and out of the room before the pillars could even react, but of course he was in no condition to be risking himself like that.

Kol Korran
2009-10-07, 07:53 AM
i was wondering how you'd deal withthose challanges, i mostly thought they aqre annoying, but you've dealt with them splendidly!

waiting to see what comes up next...

2009-10-14, 04:08 AM
I thought you might be interested in a glimpse at the discussion that resulted when Soveliss tried to convince the other Heroes of Winterhaven to sacrifice Tusky to power the Well’s ritual.


”It seems to me that as soon as the item are sacrificed in the magic circles they must once again apear in the rooms for protection a test you might say for the challengers to gather. So therefore I ask you all this: if we spend time gathering these items and time it seem is short indeed are we prepared to add the incorrect component to the ritual and lose the items which will take us valuable time to regather?
These gnolls have paid good gold for victims to sacrifice so why didn’t they just cut their hand a little bit and drop a few drops of blood? “

He looks to Dek “COME NOW are we really gonna kill Caelen’s brother over a dam pig?!


Dek looks harshly at Soveliss and says "You seem to forget yourself. The “damn pig” belongs to a priest of Moradin and the pig has intelligence of a sort, and he is gigantic for his size. Moradin's hand has touched this pig in some way. I will not willingly defy his hand any more than Pieter would or could reject Tempus or something Tempus has touched!

Moreover, we undertook to rescue Tusky and return him, and he was a captive just as much as Caelen's brother. The ritual may require humanoid blood, or even humanoid blood from a "good race" as the gnolls would not have paid good gold for a sacrifice if they could have just killed the DAMN PIG as you called him!

I believe there is more risk in failure by using the pig than there is in one of the other possibilities."


Pieter looks up.

"I agree with Dek. Let us not make a sacrifice that cannot be undone until we are sure that it is required."


”Ok, I see. This ritual is all in your hands. Just give me directions to assist and ill try help - far short of touching a single drop of my blood that is. I’ll add no more comments because of course in 100 years I’ve never touched a ritual, unlike Dek who’s a master of knowledge.”


“Soveliss, I raised issues as to why the boar may not be acceptable. That is all.

“As you indicated we may only get one try at this and I am sure if the boar was acceptable to summon the guardian then the gnolls would have used it. Gnolls tend to be greedy and would keep gold before spending it. I never claimed to be an expert; just pointed out fallacies in your desire to sacrifice the boar. Obviously some one sees those potential problems and does not want us to make a mistake either" says Dek, looking to Pieter for support.


Pieter smiles, then turns to Soveliss.

"I have no doubt that you know more about ritual magic than Dek and I put together. But I also have no doubt that you are willing, perhaps even eager, to take distasteful steps simply for convenience. I am not."

The Tempuran glances around the party. "Now is not the time for this discussion. We have rooms to investigate and a bell and dagger to find. Perhaps some information will present itself to resolve this dispute for us."


"Or a sacrifice"

There is a pause, and the golem's eyes glow a soft purple, "You have chosen to risk yourselves for the half-elf." Bengi raises both hands indicating six fingers. "And to preserve one dark god over another." It gestures to the temple. Bengi's gaze turns briefly to Soveliss. "Is then a pig a surprise to you?"

(Insight: Bengi is amused by something)


Pieter looks to Bengi, eyes flinty. When he speaks his voice is passionate, but it is clear that he is quoting someone else's words.

"We do what is right, because it is right. Some would not be so brave, and would skulk in their rooms content to live a life free of risk. But theirs is a life devoid of meaning, devoid of greatness. Our civilisation is built upon the backs of those who dared to act, and stands firm against evil upon the shoulders of those who dare to do good, no matter the cost. When they no longer dare, then we are lost."

Pieter's tone changes, his memory clearly spent, and he looks around the group, studying faces for signs of weariness or second thoughts. "We go to rescue Caelan's brother because if we do not, if someone does not, then a day will come when no one stands against the growing darkness. When the task seems too hard or the price too high. When the light fails and all we hold dear is lost."

He pauses. "Someone must stand. I will stand".

Pieter lets his words settle, still looking at his companions, then he turns back to the golem.

"And do not mistake me, Bengi. I have no love for Baphomet. Could I tear this temple brick from brick, I would do so. But I cannot, so instead I will content myself with spoiling whatever foul scheme Scarmaker has for this place."


Before even Pieter can recover from the emotion of his passionate declaration, Bengi's flat voice responds, "Can the circles be tricked?"


Soveliss sniggers at Bengi’s remark then looks at him seriously. “You were just making fun of their drops of blood idea, weren’t you? I can never tell with your face.”


"This ritual is Baphomet's choice. Perhaps there is another way."

"The door becomes a portal. If Baphomet itself were watching, it would not let its enemies through. There is a great magic that ties the ritual together."

The golem turns its gaze on Soveliss, "Even you cannot match that magic. Perhaps even the Mages of Saruun cannot. But even a tiny cut can fell a giant. Where is that cut?"

"The magic is of the gods, not of mortals." Bengi's gaze turns from Soveliss to Pieter and back again. "Magic is like life and machine. Each can be shaped by those who see. Think together on this riddle. Find some threads. Perhaps it will turn to our methods."

Finally, Bengi turns fully to Pieter, and nods in deference. "But we should seek the dagger now, while the half-elf might yet breathe."

As it turned out, we did make a life sacrifice to the circle, Bengi siphoning Dek’s life energy into the magic circle to power the ritual (2 healing surges – ouch).

2009-10-20, 05:53 AM
Session 32: Within Baphomet’s Halls (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_32.pdf).

Our heroes best the guardian of the Well, capture Maldrick Scarmaker, and finally rescue Caelan’s brother.


This session was a bit of a strange one.

The dragon encounter, which by all rights should have been one of the most climactic encounters of the campaign so far – after all, it was our first encounter with a dragon – struck me as a little forced and nerfed.

It seemed clear (to me at least) that the DM was trying VERY hard not to get a TPK, even going so far as to have the dragon listen to reason (ie. Diplomacy checks) even while Dek and Aleya were hacking into it with waraxes and fullbades. It’s odd when a DM has the bad guys actively try to avoid combat with the good guys (and it was the first time ever that the DM let Pieter negotiate without disadvantage with an enemy that Dek was actively taunting/attacking – the last time that happened, we got picked up by Brugg after a rumble with the duergar in the Hiltopple Inn).

I don’t know the dragon’s stats nor whether we could have bested it (I’m inclined to believe that the DM did what he did for good reason), but the overall result was that the encounter was (for me) an unfulfilling mish-mash of the combat rules and skill checks.

I was happy when the dragon abandoned its attack, mainly because it felt like an encounter that we couldn’t (or rather the DM wouldn't let us) lose. The only real question was whether Aleya’s player would succeed in what appeared to be an attempt at achieving his character’s suicide-by-dragon. Our avenger really needs to learn that some fights don’t need to be picked. Perhaps Pieter better pull his fellow tempuran aside for a little chat :smallsmile:

By comparison, the combat with Maldrick and his cronies had enormous helpings of storytelling awesome. There wasn’t anything mechanically “wow” about it, but all of the individual pieces just came together to create a scene of truly epic proportions.

Dek charging alone into the midst of a room full of enemies, gaining and holding 5+ enemies’ attention with come and get it. Aleya getting smashed against the cauldron (and nearly falling in, which could have resulted in her death). Bengi teleporting in to rescue Caelan’s brother, only to be felled by Scarmaker (and with such a cinematic power!). Soveliss ruining Scarmaker’s day with the Stinking Cloud. To top it all off, Pieter critted with strike of judgment, doing 29 points of damage with what would be his only use of the power during level 7.

The encounter just had so much cool stuff going on that it was difficult to squeeze it all into one column of text. I’m sure I haven’t done it justice at all.

Scarmaker’s papers revealed that Paldemar is scheming to destroy the Hall by controlling the Labyrinth’s massive minotaur statues, known as bronze warders, one of which stands in front of the Mages of Saruun’s tower in the Hall itself.

It also didn’t escape Pieter’s notice that the Cyric-worshipping Scarmaker was accompanied by dark moon monks, dedicated servants of Shar. He intends to soon make some (possibly pointed) enquiries about why.

2009-10-20, 09:22 AM
TY for another update.

I agree about the dragon encounter... it seems undefined.

2009-10-30, 10:23 PM
As is often the case, we decided to deal with some of the 'interlude' roleplaying between sessions. We briefly did what we could to help Aeron, Caelan's brother (which was difficult, because the DM had pegged it as a "brotherly love" issue and stuck to his guns), and then turned to the issue of the captured Scarmaker and tiefling.

This was the result:

Soveliss looks around to the party.You know if there not going to share any information about this key with us i could always look into the keys use and past a little bit alot like i did with that map seems we have plenty of components around i could put to good use we might find out its use and even who used it or where to use it.(sovilisses eye brow raises)really we have no use for these captives then.

Dek stares back at Soveliss and says we do not kill captives with out serious cause. First you want to sacrifice the boar now kill in cold blood as and when it suits you.

You need to step back from the abyss before your feet as I can feel you slipping away from the gods of goodness.

(soviliss chuckles) our my dear dek you have scores of years about you but still you have so much to learn these captives are killers there just not criminals i dont have death on my mind for the sake of plesure,when i make a decision its because of the posible outcomes.these captives are followers of gods whos intentions are no more than misery,pain and death.Yes we could take them back for a trial but as we have seen the halls have no laws,yes we could return them to the city then for JUSTICE,but its far and much can happen on the way ,ambushed ,overun what ever happens if we lose them,then its as bad as us just heading to the nearest village and killing them ourselfs.We have two followers of what we see as a good god ,cant these followers make a judgement here,or are you saying the law of the land is higher than that of cleric of a good god?

OOC: Dek follows Moradin who is Lawful Good.

You mistake law and goodness - these evil beings were doing the will of their god, according to your comment they did nothing wrong as the will of their god is greater than the law. while there are similarities, between law and goodness thee are many differences.

Furter The will of Tepus is different to the will of Moradin, and while they may agree on some things they do differ. who is to say has greater importance - for me the will of oradin is what matters not the will of of Tempus so our good cleric effectively opposes what you would claim to be the rule of gods. Due to this las govern you no matter what god you follow.

If you wish to only follow the rule of your god, then join your god where he resides, otherwise we work within the boundaries of what we have here and now.

so infact what your saying is when we return to the halls you will pass the burden to other?or will you gaurd them in night and day for weeks till thay can be judged?This is all i ask dek?for there is a difrence between keeping to the laws of the land and general just making a good judgment your self.We dont ask for permision and pappers of every evil creature we come across to kill them but we do ,we know its right and we are saving lifes so there for we do what we must.(no anger shows in soviliss eyes he just looks to be enjoying the debate)

Pieter watches Dek and Soveliss for a moment, smiling, then he holds up a hand placatingly.

"Be calm, Dek. Your reserve is admirable and it warms my heart, but I fear on this occasion Soveliss is right. Scarmaker and his accomplice are not pawns, unwittingly deluded and led astray by Cyric. The gnoll knowingly sought power and favour in the service of a dark god; that much is clear from his papers and the ritual he was performing even as we found him. Tempus' will is clear. Knowing servants of the dark gods shall be shown no mercy, for they cannot be trusted. Scarmaker and the tiefling must die."

"I will not attempt to debate Moradin's code with you, for I am not as versed in his commandments as the Foehammer's, but surely these cultists are ill-made*?

Pieter pauses and appears to re-consider.

"Think on it. If your code requires that they be kept alive and delivered to higher authorities, then I will heed your wishes, just as you heeded mine when the stakes were higher still."

[*OOC: In case it's not self-evident, this is a reference back to the debate about Thain, where Dek said traitors needed to be killed because they were "ill-made"]

Dek looks hard at Pieter and then says "Ah, so that is the rub of it, You believe Tempus sits higher in some hierarchy than Moradin. No one should be judge, jury and executioner as you have pointed out to the rest of us ay every turn before now. I notice you said your wishes, I can see now that "Your wishes" are of conevenience. Do as you will with that prisoners, but know that you gave your word with the dragon and you made that undertaking involving the rest of party.

And for myself, that is binding so we must unbind the evil beast. Now I could suggest we return at full strength and unbind it, at that time if the dragon survives the unbinding we can deal with it as needed, As it will surely try to slay us when it is freed.

In future consider others and how it impacts on them when making commitments on behalf of us all.

Dek pauses and then says "Ill-made or not" you insisted that those who were so should not just be killed, but brought to justice. You are more alike to the rest of us than you want or care to admit Pieter, but there is good in you so I do not hold this against you. As if we do kill them, the party as a whole should decide and not just one of us, it has to be a consensus view.

With that Dek smiles to Pieter showing there is no malice meant and then he turns to study the Holy symbol of Moradin that he recoevered and he starts to sing softly in Dwarven while cleaning and polishing it. (With out a religous roll required Pieter would be able to tell it is a litany or chant to a diety)

Bengi speaks, "Let me question each. It is not torture. I do not seek to bring pain. Sometimes the dying speak more freely than the living."

He turns to Dek, "Honour is not the only binding. I do not trust the dragon's honour. But it is only small, for a dragon. It will not fight us because it will die. It knows this. That will bind it when honour will not."

There is a pause. "One day we may need to fight it. That day is not today. It might not offer gratitude, but it will not fight us today."

Pieter is calm through Dek's tirade, as if he expected it. Then he hears Bengi out wordlessly.

When he speaks to Dek, his voice is soft.

"You are overeager to see some slight to Moradin in my words. I did little more than convey to you Tempus' will and offer to aid you if your code did not permit you to follow it. Do not be so prickly with your allies, Dek.

"I opposed Thain's execution because I believed him a victim of Shar's treachery, not her willing follower. Search your memory* and you will recall my words: unrepentant followers of the dark gods are too dangerous to be allowed to live. My position now has nothing to do with convenience." Pieter barks out a laugh. "Nothing to do with me ever is, as you and Shadow have often pointed out".

"If you believe some good is to be achieved by taking Scarmaker back to the Hall, or that Moradin's commandments require it, then I say again: I will aid you. If neither, then let Bengi ask his questions" - here Pieter pauses - "within reason, and then we will send their souls to rightful judgement."

Pieter again falls silent, thinking.

"As for the dragon, my word is no less a bond than yours, but I thought I was careful not to promise to free the beast. And I seem to recall you being too busy hacking at it to make any promises". Pieter smiles. "But if I allowed the rush of battle to confuse my words, if we are sure that I made the promise you believe I did, then I agree: that promise must be honoured."

[OOC: Literally, this is a direct quote from the Thain discussion :smallwink:]

(SOVILISS LAUGHS) promises or or no promises any decision was made because we needed to make them now all of you get over it and stop turning on each other if we need to make lies we do it easy. promises lies there all the dam same in the end we make them for good deads .(turning and walking away you all hear soviliss mutter ) religion. never understood it. i never will. kills more than a plague but brings so much joy.

While not wanting to appear rude, Dek carries on his litany, Pieter would realise the process will long and lengthly to cleanse the holy symbol and Dek appears to be very deeply involved in the ritual.

Pieter studies Dek for a long time, then his mouth opens to begin a question. He changes his mind and turns to Bengi.

"Ask your questions." The Tempuran draws his sword. "And then we end it. We'll discuss the dragon later".

The Gnoll begins to twist within his bonds. Struggling against rag blocking his canine stout he seems to be trying to rouse his Tiefling comrade.

Bengi steps toward Scarmaker and stands over him. Arcane energy flickers between them, and the gnoll slumps unconscious. (OOC: curse, plus eye of vestige CdG). Reaching down, the golem wraps a clawed hand around Scarmaker's neck, braces itself, then lifts the gnoll from the floor and carries it towards a brazier. Bengi places Scarmaker in front of the brazier, not close enough to cause immediate damage, but close enough to be distinctly uncomfortable.

Bengi turns to Pieter and his sword, "You might not need that.". He indicates Scarmaker, "Can you rouse it, now?"

As the stunned Gnoll begins to waken, Bengi speaks, but in a language incomprehensible to most: <You are dying, gnoll. I have touched your life. It is slowly fading.>. Bengi pauses a moment to let Scarmaker digest this, then continues. <I want to hear you speak.>

<But can your ears take to hear what I have to say? If you have ears? Do you have a brain? Cyric will drive you insane you need the strength of one like me. I hold strong for my master and follow those that send me his word. Can you say the same of your master?> He breaks in to a short high pitched manic laugh as foaming spittle begins to form in the crease of his jaw. <He will freeze those stone bones of yours into such beautiful grotesque shape that even your tin brain will ... SNAP> He laughs again.

With the increasing volume the Tiefling begins to stir. Slowly she gazes around. When her eyes fall upon Bengi holding Scarmaker, panic forms in her voice as she begins to repeat "No no not me don't kill me not me"

<Faithful follower? You are a tool. Used then discarded. Lord of the Temple? Champion of Cyric? Fuel for the braziers.> As he speaks, Bengi tweaks the magical link between them. At each tweak, Scarmaker feels his life being drawn away, feels the declaration of his feebleness. Scarmaker's confidence is attacked and battered, and he is stung to fight back.

<You are pawn. Forgotten servant with lowly task. Weak follower of weak god.> Bengi glances at the key, as if noticing it for the first time. <You do not even know what that is for.>

<Do not mock my power stone man I was gifted this key to allow me free access to tower. I come come and go to worship my lord. I gladly follow the word passed down and do his bidding. Can you say the same?> As he snaps back spittle flies out. <I have knelt in the temple and heard him speak the words of Cyric. He has told me Cyrics wishes. Have you heard a profit speak the divine teachings. Do you even have a God? Or are you lost?>

The Tiefling shouts out "I've never been. I've seen it used but never been. I can help you. Over here. I'm useful don't put me down, don't kill me."

Bengi doesn't turn his head, but somehow the whisper is directed to Pieter even as his face stays focused on Scarmaker. "He has spoken of the key. And of his master. Is that enough?"

Presuming an answer, Bengi adds, "Perhaps you will speak to the woman. I will finish this.".

Pieter moves briefly to Bengi's side. He pauses, puzzled, for a second and then leans in close to the featureless side of Bengi's head and whispers where an ear would normally be. "Find out how to use the key. Once you know, end it quickly and painlessly".

Then he turns to the Tiefling. He places the point of his weapon firmly against the floor and then crouches down to bring his eyes even with hers. He studies her without compassion for a moment and then speaks gently, as though comforting the ill.

"Your life is already forfeit, for your involvement in Scarmaker's and Paldemar's schemes and for your willing obeisance to the dark gods. But tell us what you know and your death will be quick and as painless as I can manage. I will pray for you and perform the rites of absolution and maybe your soul will avoid going to its dark master when you pass."

Panic over comes her face. Her eyes dart. She speaks fast seeming to search for words quickly in a rush. "What can save me? What if I convert? What good is me helping if I only die? How can I get out of this now I'm caught? Your a follower of ... " she pauses as if trying to remember the name ".. a God. Can he help me?"

There is no gloating, no last word. The golem simply detaches the great sword from his back and raises it point-down, even as Scarmaker continues to spit condemnation. Seeing the blade descending, the gnoll attempts one last insult, but it comes out as a pitiful wheeze as his life-force is snuffed out. By the time sword-point pierces his chest and drives through his heart, Scarmaker is already dead.

Without comment, Bengi strips the gnoll's garments and examines them for any missing valuables. Then he cleans his blade. Finally, the golem lifts the naked carcess and tosses it into the nearby brazier. Turning his back on Scarmaker, Bengi walks to where Pieter is speaking to the tiefling, and stands quietly behind him.

Pushing back on her heels the tiefling move backwards screaming. She tries to move away from the golem and Pieter. "No no no I will convert to your word. I will tell you how I saw it work. The key, the stone, that thing. Don't let him kill me. I'm not a monster like Scarmaker. You should let me live. Keep it away from me.. please.. I beg you .. I beg your God." She shouts out to the other "You can't let them kill me.. you can't... I know Scarmakers notes say how to use the key but I can tell you where!"

Pieter glances at Bengi and grimaces. He shakes his head briefly, then turns back to the Tiefling.

"Your fate is sealed, and all that remains to be determined is who waits to claim your soul once you cross over. Will Cyric welcome you into his arms, or will he cast you eternally to the madmen, murderers and liars that roam his domain? I believe we both know the answer."

Pieter reaches out to lay a calming hand on the woman's forehead. Throughout everything his voice is calm, almost pitying. "Tell us where to use the key. Repent your sins, take your chance to atone while it still stands, and maybe the righteous gods will save you from the everlasting fate you have earned for yourself."

Pieter slowly stands and graps his evil-looking sword in both hands. His stance is firm and, for those who can see it, his face is filled with sad determination.


[OOC: Diplomacy: (1d20+14)29]

With desperate determination she struggles to her knees and looks up and Pieter. Tears flood her eyes and she pleads with all her worth. "I can tell you.. neigh I will tell you but do not take my life. I can change? I can become something else. I do not need the drug that is this power I am granted by the pact. I can do away with it. Become pure? You will help me won't you father? If I tell you where the key is used?" She breaks down stiffly bent over wracked with emotion and desperation. "Its the giant Minotaur its a focus to the key. You don't have to stand on its base just let the key see it and it will hum. Then there are the words and it will take you. Please spare me... please don't cast me to the flame.."

Pieter's pose slackens slightly, and he whispers, "The words. Tell me the words to activate the key."

Her eyes brighten with hope. Sniffling she blurts "I don't know them but if I saw them I would." She turns on her knees offering her bound hands "Cut my bonds father and I will go through Scarmakers notes and find the words for you. It might take me some time but we can head back to the Halls and you can speak to me of your God. I'll be pure. Thank you for sparing me. Oh thank you. You are a good man. Such a good man."

Bengi has already retrieved the notes and is skimming them looking for the words. He does not hand them over to the tiefling.

Pieter gets the distinct feeling that the golem is waiting to see how Pieter will deal with this plea for mercy.

At this point, we decided to take a break for 24 hours. Dek's player is based in the UK (the rest of us are in Australia), so most of this had taken place while he was off line. We decided to give him a chance to interrupt if he wished.

Dek stirs and says Moradin would save one soul against damnation if at all possible, but no that I doubt either Moradin or Tempus would have you just now as you are changing faith to save your life not your soul.

Hand her the Notes Bengi and lets be done with this.

The golem ignores Dek's suggestion and continues flicking through the notes a page at a time, while also paying attention to Pieter and the tiefling.

Pieter whispers to the crouching woman, "I absolve you."

And then his sword is moving. The tiefling has time only for her mouth to form an 'O' of surprise before the black blade passes through her neck. Her headless body collapses at Pieter's feet.

The tempuran, unmoving, watches it silently until the rapidly growing pool of blood nears his boots. Without warning he casts the blade aside to clatter noisily on the floor of the temple. He steps back from the blood and drops to his knees.

"Find those words" Pieter says to no one in particular.

Then without another word, and seemingly oblivious to the reactions of those around him, he retrieves flasks of oil and incense from his pack and begins to administer last rites.

This was not an easy scene for me to play out, but it was at the same time quite compelling. After having created such drama over Thain's fate, I deliberately laid some groundwork at that time to hopefully avoid intra-party conflict later on. Hence why Pieter makes the distinctions between victims and followers of the dark gods.

Unfortunately, I think Dek's player missed the distinction (or perhaps he wanted to make mischief :smallsmile:) and we therefore ended up in another potentially emotionally-charged discussion about prisoners.

It would have been easy (and my personal real-life preference) for Pieter to have followed the same route he had with Thain - advocate for the prisoner's lives. But I felt there was much more character growth to be had from pursuing the other course. How would Pieter go about executing someone who needed to be executed? The fact that the prisoner was a woman made it even tougher to deal with.

Ultimately, I like to think that Pieter did what he had to, even though it was distasteful to him. It will be interesting to see how the scene affects Pieter's interaction with the other party members, particularly Bengi and Soveliss, both of whom have a dark streak...

2009-10-31, 04:53 AM
Not brotherly love mental trauma ... mind you could be seen as the same thing depending on the family :smallsmile:

2009-10-31, 12:29 PM
That was a great scene, both in the climactic battle and the truckload of RP that followed. Thanks again for another astounding update!

2009-11-01, 12:08 AM
That was a great scene, both in the climactic battle and the truckload of RP that followed.

Yeah, one of the great things about long-term plot lines that are "against the clock" is that they have a huge payoff when you finally complete them successfully.

Although the "chase the slaves, chase the slaves, chase the slaves" (I think it lasted from level 4 to level 8) got a bit annoying at the end of the Horned Hold, the final payoff in the Well of Demons has been well worth it.

Hopefully Paldemar can be just as good...

As for the RP, I can't help but notice that all of the big roleplaying threads on our forums concern what to do with prisoners. I'm starting to think that the DM is throwing them at us on purpose :smallbiggrin:

Not brotherly love mental trauma

P.S. For those who haven't twigged yet, nortonweb is my DM. He's been avoiding posting but I seem to have lured him out of hiding over the last level or 2. :smallwink:

Kol Korran
2009-11-01, 10:45 AM
damn, i keep missing updates!
if you remember i was curious about how you'd deal with a certain encounter? well, the dragon and the force ball and traps was it. if i'm not mistaken it was a green dragon in the module (whose powers work SO much beter for the encounter) but that's another thing alltogether.

the encounter was brutall to my opinion mainly because you're allready after a whole lot of stuff. and the characters are seperated (in a game that promotes team work). and there are traps. i honestly think this encounter has a very high chance of killing one character, possibly more. maybe that's the idea. some encounters are at times designed to be killers, and wizards are known for that especially with dragon encounters...

so i think your DM was justified in his way, though maybe it could have been handled better- like fighting lesser creatures representing Baphamot or such.

i wish you could have detailed on the battle with scarmaker, it sounded awesome.

thanks for the RP bit. i'm trying to persuade the other players in my group to also "talk" off screen, but no luck so far.
oh, and why you have "many" (only 2 i think) prisoner dillemas? mostly because you took prisoners in the first place (i commend that), and because those are convenient stopping points between sessions.

that's all from me,

2009-11-01, 03:39 PM
damn, i keep missing updates!

lol. You really should subscribe to the thread then. In the 'Thread Tools' box at the top of the page. You'll get an email notification when the thread is updated.

thanks for the RP bit. i'm trying to persuade the other players in my group to also "talk" off screen, but no luck so far.

It really does depend on your group. I think the reason we're so keen to do it is that we have two quite comfortable writers (myself and Bengi's player) in the group. If it was up to the others, there may not be so much of it :smallsmile:

2009-11-03, 02:47 PM
It's very interesting what you're doing with 4E (really, you're doing so much more with it than I though possible), and how your GM manages to combine character background with the pre-created adventures. I'm following this. :smallsmile:

2009-11-03, 03:34 PM
Thanks for the kind words! Happy to have you on board.

Appropos of nothing, here's Pieter at level 8:

====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
Pieter Grimm, level 8
Human, Cleric
Build: Battle Cleric
Background: Cormyr (General) (Cormyr (General) Benefit)

Str 20, Con 12, Dex 14, Int 8, Wis 14, Cha 14.

Str 16, Con 12, Dex 13, Int 8, Wis 14, Cha 13.

AC: 24 Fort: 21 Reflex: 19 Will: 20
HP: 64 Surges: 8 Surge Value: 16

Insight +13, Religion +8, History +8, Diplomacy +14, Heal +11, Athletics +13

Acrobatics +5, Arcana +3, Bluff +6, Dungeoneering +6, Endurance +4, Intimidate +6, Nature +6, Perception +6, Stealth +5, Streetwise +6, Thievery +5

Cleric: Ritual Caster
Human: Weapon Proficiency (Bastard sword)
Level 1: Shield Proficiency (Light)
Level 2: Skill Focus (Diplomacy)
Level 4: Toughness
Level 6: Battle Awareness
Level 8: Battle Healer

Bonus At-Will Power: Sacred Flame
Channel Divinity: Turn Undead
Cleric at-will 1: Righteous Brand
Cleric at-will 1: Priest's Shield
Cleric encounter 1: Healing Strike
Cleric daily 1: Avenging Flame (retrained to Beacon of Hope at Level 3)
Cleric utility 2: Shield of Faith
Cleric encounter 3: Split the Sky
Cleric daily 5: Consecrated Ground
Cleric utility 6: Bastion of Health
Cleric encounter 7: Strike of Judgment

Ritual Book, Terror Bastard sword +1, Healer's Brooch +1, Potion of Healing (heroic tier), Jade Macetail (heroic tier), Light Shield, Javelin, Adventurer's Kit, Agile Finemail +2, Everburning Torch, Residuum (Any) (200), Sanctified Incense (Religion) (10), Alchemical Reagents (Arcana) (10), Symbol of the Holy Nimbus +2

Gentle Repose, Magic Mouth, Brew Potion, Battlefield Elocution
====== Copy to Clipboard and Press the Import Button on the Summary Tab ======

2009-11-12, 07:11 AM
Session 33: A Dark Communion (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_33.pdf).

Our heroes make difficult decisions in the Temple of Baphomet and then move to confront Paldemar


This session was a short one for me because I had to leave halfway through to attend to family issues. Fortunately, what I did experience was a blast.

The interrogations and executions in the temple were a great opportunity for roleplay and highlighted the difference between Bengi (emotionless and unattached) and Pieter (emotionally torn and responsible). I personally felt that the scene was quite pivotal, because it showed another side to Pieter - a hard side where previously he had been the compassionate and forgiving "mother" of the group.

The decision to free the dragon also made clear the different motivations in the group. For example, Caelan wished to free it simply because it was a natural creature, whereas Bengi wished to free it because his "inner voices" (his vestiges) were telling him to free the slaves - and the dragon was a slave to its compulsion.

The party then spent some time in the Seven-Pillared Hall obtaining information from Orontor to prepare for the showdown with Paldemar. Unfortunately, we still haven't quite got our heads around how skill challenges are supposed to work (probably because of the overall dearth of them in published adventures) and the encounter was a little stilted but still overall fun. It's quite gratifying how much inside knowledge you can get from a wizard when you can prove to him that his partner intends to betray him.

The highlight of the "session" (we actually ret-conned it on our game forums afterwards because by that time of the actual night I and another player had left) was the confrontation with the manifestation of Cyric. I knew there could be something special about conversing with the God of Lies, and the DM didn't disappoint.

Soveliss continues to have a dark streak, and it now looks like he's dragging Bengi down with him. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.

Kol Korran
2009-11-12, 08:46 AM
yay, thread subscribing works!

i'd love to hear mroe about the meeting with the menifestation of Cyric. that intrigues me quite a bit...

2009-11-12, 09:02 AM
Thanks for the kind words! Happy to have you on board.

Appropos of nothing, here's Pieter at level 8:

Colmarr, have you thought about Moment of Glory instead of Concecrated Ground? My Cleric just made that choice at lvl 5 and I'm very happy with it. Reading your journal, and seeing that your group moves around as much as mine, I think you might really be impressed by it.

2009-11-14, 10:03 PM
Colmarr, have you thought about Moment of Glory instead of Concecrated Ground?

No, because it doesn't show up in my version of the Character Builder. It's been a while since I updated it. I'll look into it.

And I'll post some excerpts from the Cyric encounter later (when my kids are asleep :smallsmile:)

2009-11-15, 03:26 AM
Its a lvl 1 daily. Its from Divine Power so should be in your Builder.

2009-11-15, 06:06 AM
i'd love to hear more about the meeting with the manifestation of Cyric. that intrigues me quite a bit...

As you wish!

This was the common intro that all PCs saw:

As our Heroes step forward to examine the magic circle closer collectively they get the filling of tripping as if of a raised flag stone. When they look up everything has changed. Not in major ways.

They are fixed still to the spot. Not quite unable to more more like unwilling or as though the message to move once it reaches their legs in ignored.

The room is out of focus and each one sees the others as well as the walls as if their eyes were adjusting to a bright light. Sounds reach them as if through water. Then there comes the voice. Sickly it laughs, then it changes to a uncontrolled screeching laugh the sound that would echo through the halls of the old asylums.

Out of the blur steps a figure. Crisp he stands. Its a young boy dark of hair with a mad grin he cackles, then the figure is an old man spittle and drool burst forth and a crackling backing laugh is emitted and its a primal ooze, full of the elements and mad fury. Its is all these things it sways and changes it is more and madding blur of bend figure deformed and normal yet all howl with an insane laugh.

Then the boy and he stays. Released from the insane barrage.

He smiles and in a high keen voice edged with bitter humor. "Come, come what do you think of me? What do you think of yourself?" He smiles and again and as i a switch thrown he bend double screaming in anger spit foamed with blood spilling forth down his chin "You know nothing - nothing of anything!"

Then back to the boy clean of face "The secrets of the tower come at a price of your sanity. Your minds are fragile in my hands. You must pay for the right to enter this place." He move as if to step close to you. You go to step back but are still held fast by yourselves. "So I ask again..." as he strides forwards he changes again. This time the image is one you have seen before. One you know well. For it is yourself. But the face is twisted. Mad. Beyond help. ".. what do you know of yourself? I know your deepest deepness. So tell me. Tell me what I do not know?"

Then each PC saw different things.

Bengi saw:

Bengi stares at the ever-changing image. The golem is not quite sure what to make of this, and perhaps this is mutual, for the images reflect not just Bengi's fleshless countenance but also the echoes of souls within him. Bengi lets the voices in his head float free, wondering if they will pair up with the chaotic images before him.

From within he feels fear, and rage, and myriad emotions. Unsure of what to make of it, he continues to watch and wait.

Overwhelmed by the flood of visions, Bengi stands stunned. The golem is familiar with machines and with magic auras, but this is beyond his ability to categorise. Is this an illusion? A manifestation? An avatar?

But before the golem can think, it must withstand the assault. As Dek draws on the strength of the mountains and clan traditions, so the golem draws on his enchanted nature to weather the assault and buy himself time (Endurance: (1d20+13)28) to analyse the vision before him (Arcana: (1d20+13)20).

{assumption - it's more than a simple vision or spell that can be dismissed}

Even the question bothers Bengi: "What don't I know?". It feels like a trick, or a trap. The golem opens its arcane senses and delves deep into its memories, seeking some clue to understand what is truly before it (Religion (1d20+7)10).

DM: [Meta stuff, but no success]

No useful wisdom is forthcoming, but still the golem stands under the assault. Images and thoughts whirl and flicker, changing faster than the eye can follow. Bengi feels his senses being overwhelmed by the mad and hungry god's assault, yet one small part still remains, watching.

Then all of a sudden, there is a moment of insight. Bengi's point of calm is not reflected. It is unique. The mad god fears it, seeks to overwhelm it, dominate it. FInally, there is a target. Something to struggle against; to fight.

Bengi summons his will and bolsters it with his magic. But he does not project it outwardly. Rather, he forces it inward, to slow the images, to bring them to a halt, to be still. And just as Bengi had first sought to join his images with those of Cyric's, the stillness inside is forced back against the visions outside, pressing back against the mad god.

From within, Bengi speaks. No words are heard outside his mind; none are needed. "I know what you do not know. You do not know Patience. Or Calm. Or Peace." Bengi gathers his strength and endurance for one final push. It is like trying to hold a sheet of steel still in a gale, and yet he strives, his very stillness an act of divine defiance. If the golem could smirk, he would. "You cannot know these things or find them. I can." (Endurance: (1d20+13)15)

The sounds goes quite and Bengi focuses. He feels the voices, the life energies of those he is bonded with. Those beings whom through purpose or accident are the core of Bengi's abilities. They bring him to a point of peace. Then a shock. There is something else inside here. Bengi had been aware of some changes since the dealings with the Deaugar but this is diff..

"Oh dear.." the voice comes as if from inside Bengi jarring and mocking "I can see.." there is the feeling that someone is moving parts of Bengi around. On the inside. "our fireside curiosity has been a bad boy! I take it you are a boy. I can find some pact bound energy here that really doesn't belong. Does your Tempuren now what you have been upto?"

A jarring force almost makes Bengi's knees buckle. A feeling of something being pulled out of him. A quick check shows minor damage but nothing missing.

"Thank you for the tour" the form of Bengi twists its features into a unnatural sharp toothed grin. "In return I will give you a gift. A gift of knowledge that you don't know."

Unknown to the Heroes of Winterhaven each of their visions speaks at the same time yet every member of the noble band only sees and hears their own corrupted mirror image.

The mocking stone and metal form leans forwards its runes glow a deep dark red "Your friends inside" one of his three thick fingers points to Bengi's chest. "They hate you now. You did something they can't forgive and they plan to tear you apart from the inside."

Bengi stands lost. Fear is not an emotion that comes readily to a golem, and yet he is filled with it. His thoughts are filled with madness and hostility, a clamour of aggression.

Feelings overwhelm him. He tries to turn himself off, to return to passivity, but he cannot. The voices, the images, will not let him.

Almost by accident, Bengi turns his arcane senses on himself, seeking to separate the parts of the cacophony within. His battered, confused senses gradually notice flaws, irregularities. Something foreign moves within him, stirring souls to action. A memory twinges, and Bengi's body moves without conscious awareness, raising one of the potions to his lips and draining its magic. {consume potion of clarity, spend healing surge}

The effective is dramatic. For a moment, the golem perceives Cyric's influence, like a purple madness darting about within his souls. Then the insight is gone, but it is enough to give Bengi the strength to fight back. Gathering his will, he seeks out the foreign madness and begins to craft a mental shield against it.

{Arcana (+2 bonus from Pieter): (1d20+15)19}
{Reroll: (1d20+16)22}

The shield holds briefly, then begins to falter. And then another voice speaks, "Mine". It is a strange presence, a dark presence, and Bengi feels it possessively gathering the shattered parts of his mind and soul. Slowly, other voices join it, more human. "Mine, mine, mine". The thought that is Bengi itself is drawn in, and he feels pain - true pain - as the jealous presence and Cyric war for his mind. Yet they prove the stronger, and in the end the voices are united in their common defiance of the god of lies.

Outside, there is an echoing clang as the metal body collapses to the stone floor.

Quickly shoring up his mental defenses against the insane influence of Cyric. With each mental block, with every strengthening thought the pressure eases off. Until before him floats a purple ball of light like a willow the wisp. It darts to and fro before spiraling off towards the magic circle. There it begins to spin building speed it sparks and flashes then stops. It leaves a young man dressed in black an angry look upon his face.

More to come later

2009-11-15, 06:20 AM
Pieter saw:

Pieter squeezes his eyes shut to avoid the spittle-flinging image before him. He plants his sword firmly on the ground and begins to pray.

"Our Lord of Battles! Thou who ordainest, thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword! Harken to your servant in his time of need."

Cyric's gibbering grows louder and Pieter repeats the prayer over and over, until the cleric is shouting to overcome the din. When Pieter's eyes open, they are full of fervour even though his face shows the strain of combatting the forces compelling him to speak.

"You shall not have... ", he whispers. [Religion: (1d20+8)15]

The image of Cyrics insanity flickers through half a dozen forms each cowering. Each with mouth wide in a silent scream.

Then as Pieter looks up the transformations slow and fade back to the twisted form of himself. Eyes wide mouth wide he c.ocks (silly swearing filter!) his head and turns to look down. The scream sounds out piercing. Then turns to a cackle, and to a laugh. The face breaks into a toothy grin.

"Oh dear you squirming worm. You rely upon that fool Tempus far too much. He didn't come with Lathander, Tyr and Sune did he. No he was too scared." He laughs again. "Oh I know our kind quite well" he taps his chest "now shall we continue or shall I take your mind now?" bent forward slowly extending a sharp pointed tongue a feeling like ice moves across Pieter's forehead. "Hummm very tasty."

DM (later):
Still upon his knees Pieter looks up as the Cyric tainted form of himself leans towards his ear.

"I'll tell you a secret." The form changes. Out of the corner of his eye Pieter sees. Then realizes. Moving back and twisting he sees who it is. His mother. Its her hair and eyes. Just like those who cared for him as he grew described her to him, but she is perfect. Its his mother.

"Oh my baby. Is that you." The face is kind and loving. A smile breaks and in a peaceful sweet lullaby voice "Oh how I hated you. You took my life from me. My darling baby I wish it was you that died in that fire that day."

Pieter leans in as the figure begins to speak, his arm reaching out to embrace the vision.

Then he flinches as if slapped. "Mother?! No! They told me you loved me. That you wished me to live, thrive and be strong. And I have. I have! Mother!"

Pieter lunges for her, searching her face for a sign of forgiveness.

[OOC: Insight (1d20+13)31]

Abruptly, Pieter's panic subsides. An icy calm descends on him like the covering of a Neverwinter river, pregnant with the threat of violence. He slowly rises to his feet. He looks again deep into his mother's eyes and what he saw is still there, hidden in the depths of her pupils. Floating in that sea of black is a tiny spark of madness. Even here, Cyric cannot hide his true self.

"I see you, Prince of Lies. Come out of there. She is not yours to play with, and nor am I. I see you!"

The image of Pieter's mother freezes. A chime sounds out as if two crystal goblets had met in celebration and the thinnest of cracks forms about the illusion's eyes. Spreading out through the face and body a cloud of dust forms and blows back towards the center of the magic circle.

Then in almost slow motion the dust falls to the ground. As it reaches its resting point it begins to build the form of a young man. Black high boots first, then black clad legs. Once the head with angry face and slick back hair forms Pieter is sure this is Cyric.

[OOC: well that's a success. Such a good one I'll be giving a +2 to the next check. Your 3/2 next one decides it. Pick your skill and intent wisely ]

That +2 is the one referred to above in Bengi's recap, and Bengi's last check was the final success in the challenge.

2009-11-15, 03:23 PM
Dek saw:

Dek stands firmly against the visions of Cyric, and says "Mad god with Moradin behind me I can endure anything you try, the mountains were here before you and will be here when you are gone, and like the bones of the world your madness can not outlast the thrength of Khazdek" And with that Dek steels himself against the tainted madness of Cryic and prepares to endure anything he can throw at him.


As Dek steels himself the twisted mirror image that is Cyric bursts into laughter and drops to his knees. Laughing so hard he needs to place a hard on the ground as support.

"Oh dear that old thing. His always drunk you know. I'd bet he doesn't even remember making the mountains." he stands and his face changes. A deadly look crosses it. "So a challenge!"

What proceeds is a barrage of sounds and sights. Deks ancestors flash past in grotesque postures beardless and bloody or naked as a baby. Dek's sister half dressed, throat slit gurgles in a muffled scream for Dek to help. Calls to Dek. Begging where he could be.

It seems to continue for an eternity. Then it slows. Dek's brain hurts. His muscles ache but he withstood. "Humm interesting..."

Deks eyes widen slightly and he murmurs to himself "moradin would have shown me this if it was true" calling on his steadfastness that Cyric could not break. Dek looks intently at the vision of his sister and after a while he stirs and says "Mad one the cuts do not appear real, but more like a picture drawn by you or one of your followers in a cruel parody of reality" (this would of been a heal check)


Dek then squares himself and says "Cryic your madness means you are unable to undertsand the Soulforger or the faith his followers have, I denounce and reject you for all the falseness you rely on. Step back from me andbring no longer your perversions of reality, because surely in your madness you can not tell th difference between a truth and a lie. Mad god of lies be done with this."

The desperate figure of Kiria lowers her hands. She reaches up pushing her fingers into the wound "Do you think so?" blood bubbles at her lips "I thought it quite good." The fingers push deep and take grasp and pull. Blood begins to pour out and Dek realises as it pours it seems to be dissolving the image. The figure is pooling quite fast until it is a mass of now congealing blood. As if like some obscene ooze it makes its way to the magic circle. Once there it begins to pile up. Blob by blob, dripping and falling and forming the figure of a young man dressed in black.

[ooc: excellent work Troy great use of a skill. Plus a success too. Good work. For that and everyone else's roleplay I think I will grant you all an action point. Thats to the four of you.]

Soveliss saw:

Soveliss trys to grinn at the twisted image of cyric.

"Really i am surprised its not in your power to know everything. i suppose everyone and everything has its limits. This pleases me. Though what ever you say we cant possible belive because you live for lies and your mind works not like anyone can work out."

"So i give you something that is pure truth,within the eye of justice you have bent minds who once served the causes of good within the lands.Their ideas of good now are as twisted as your mind and i for one do not like it. So you want to know something, well know this: untill i just felt your evilness i hadn't thought on it,but now that i have i am going to remove them from this world so they're closer to you Because you have twisted their mind their magic weakens and slowly mine grows. There will come a day when i will overcome them and send them straight to you with red ribbons as a gift."

ooc: (iam trying to give an answer he couldnt have know till i just decided it. so i am treating this skill challenge a little like a lock on a door can i combine arcanna 15 with thievery 5 divided so say a skill of 9+d20 =23)

As Soveliss speaks the grin on Cyric's face slowly melts as his face turns to one of a wizened old man. As he speaks a thin line of drool slips from his down turned mouth. "I must say that I wasn't aware of these 'facts' but can I say I do enjoy gifts." Soveliss notices the man seems to be running a thin white powder from one leathery hand to another. Its particles twinkle in the light as they fall between fist and out stretched palm. "As you were kind enough to offer me a gift I will give you a gift in return."

The old hands keep moving the dust as the old man continues to speak to Soveliss.

"Hold out your hand young Eladrin. Quick or you won't catch it." the powder sparkly drifts to the ground. "Oh dear. That was your prism. The thing you seek... oh what was it for now. Yes yes to get back your power. Power." he laughs.

"Get it back? You never had it you fool. You were the least strong of your fellows, least willing to go as far as you should. Oh you try to make up for it now but I know. I know the truth. You are weak. You are nothing. Power? Prism? Nothing. It won't work and you won't find it. You know why you lost your power? You were too weak to hold onto it. So the truth. Your gift." He leans heavy on a walking stick. Suddenly looking similar to a tutor whom Soveliss studied under before the plague came. "You're powerless and weak and always will be."

SP: (this was after the challenge was officially won)
Soveliss smiles once again.

"Good attempt there. You so very nearlly had me mad, but then again if i went mad id only be as powerfull as your students. It's a focus point; i can find others, but as for your followers do you only gather those who can be defeated so easily? I just wonderd if you do that on purpose so you can gather there souls? Oh by the way what power do souls give you? I am intrested there and how it works?"

A line of drool stops in mid drop. "but.." his fingers start to break away in to the same powder as was falling from his fist but this powder moves towards the magic circle. Sparkling the crumbling moves up his hand then his arm until his whole body travels as dancing powder rebuilding at the magic circle as a young man dressed in black.

And then everyone shared this ending:

The Heroes realise once again they can move, once again they are fully aware of each other and all of them see the young man dressed in black wearing a purple silk blouse.

"I suppose you may now enter this Tower. But mark my words you shall never leave. Your minds will crumble and your vows will break. I, Cyric, shall feast upon your sanity until nothing remains! I am not held where others may think and my ally is great."

That last bit worries me... :smallwink:

Kol Korran
2009-11-17, 06:31 AM
i loved how each one had a part tailored for them. i did something similar with a group of mine which was in haunted caverns who long ago belonged to worshipers of the Fury (Eberron god). thanks for sharing!

i know Cyric only from 3.5, where, if my memory serves- he wasn't mad at all. was actually quite the intellectual scheming bastard. i guess it changed in 4th ed. what's the story behind him now? (i don't have the FR books) i think the DM is building him up to be something more substantial then Vecna in the module.

oh, and good luck with the tower! i just love some ofthe creatures abilities there!


2009-11-17, 03:14 PM
i know Cyric only from 3.5, where, if my memory serves- he wasn't mad at all. was actually quite the intellectual scheming bastard. i guess it changed in 4th ed. what's the story behind him now?

4e Cyric information can be found here (http://forgottenrealms.wikia.com/wiki/Cyric). He's not mad as a hatter, but he's not entirely sane either.

Colmarr, have you thought about Moment of Glory instead of Concecrated Ground?

I hadn't, but now I am :smallsmile:

I must admit to being unsure exactly how the sustain would work. Do you reposition the blast? Place it back in the same spot? Or is there no further blast and the targets affected by the very first blast keep their resistance?

2009-11-17, 03:50 PM
4e Cyric information can be found here (http://forgottenrealms.wikia.com/wiki/Cyric). He's not mad as a hatter, but he's not entirely sane either.

I hadn't, but now I am :smallsmile:

I must admit to being unsure exactly how the sustain would work. Do you reposition the blast? Place it back in the same spot? Or is there no further blast and the targets affected by the very first blast keep their resistance?

No further targeting, sustain minor keeps all the initial targets (and you!) protected.

2009-11-18, 04:18 AM
Session 34: Assault of Bronze (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_34.pdf).

Our heroes press deeper into Paldemar’s tower and encounter their first bronze warder.


This session was essentially one big combat and its aftermath. We were a little late starting (I was 15 minutes late) and we finished about an hour early, but the intervening time essentially revolved around breaching the tower’s defences and figuring out exactly what Paldemar was up to.

The combat with the norkers, enigmas and the bronze warder was interesting and full of promise. It was enjoyable but unfortunately didn’t really sing. Not through any fault of the DM or the players; a strange confluence of events robbed the encounter of all of the things that could have made it shine.

The Warder had one great opportunity to use its Trample ability on 3+ PCs, only to be stopped in its tracks by a Combat Superiority OA from Dek.

The Enigmas of Cyric plugged Dek with their “no you can’t use your good powers” attack, but when he found out that making his save would incur the dazed condition as an aftereffect, he decided that he didn’t want to save and voluntarily forewent his saving throws against it for the rest of the encounter. I’m not sure that I agree with his logic (he wanted to be able to take his Combat Challenge immediate interrupts) or that I would have let him do so, but it removed an element of “coolness” from the encounter. The second enigma couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn, so it was even less of a concern.

Surprisingly, the most notable thing in the encounter was the DM’s run of luck against Dek. Normally almost untouchable, Dek was bloodied by the end of the third round. Fortunately, he then activated his cloak of the walking wounded, and was then safe.

On the mechanical side of things, the re-introduction of minions in the form of the norker grunts exposed some mechanical problems that we haven’t really had to deal with yet. Bengi’s new infernal pact means that he gains 11 temporary hit points whenever a cursed enemy dies. His rod of reaving means that he can automatically kill a minion as a minor action, thus gaining the temp hp. In this encounter, I believe that he took a total of 6 damage that weren’t temporary hit points.

I suspect the problem lies with the Rod of Reaving, but part of it must be due to the vulnerability of minions to auto-hit damage effects. It will be interesting to see how the grunts fair in the upcoming temple combat when both Pieter and Bengi are be expected to pull out their auto-damage auras (consecrated ground and armour of agathys).

Speaking of the temple combat, that promises to be very interesting…

One thing that I felt went extremely well was Paldemar's notes. There was very little information in them that we didn't already know (except for the obvious Revenge of the Giants hook) but they served to confirm all of the information that we had, by hook or by crook, gained. It was, at least for me, a massive confirmation that we had done things "right" and it was gratifying to see that.

Now we just need to make sure we don't all die in the temple.

BREAKING NEWS: I see that WotC have erratad the rod of reaving so that it doesn't affect minions. Talk about serendipity...

Kol Korran
2009-11-18, 06:47 AM
interesting session. waiting to see how your next one will turn out...

2009-12-08, 01:28 AM
We had our final session of Thunderspire Labyrinth last weekend (30 November 2009) and I'm just putting the finishing touches on issue 35 of the SSTL campaign newsletter.

In the meantime, here's a letter (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/files/lettertoJacob14Highsun1479.doc) Pieter wrote to Jacob before the Heroes of Winterhaven set out to confront Paldemar.

Just like Pieter says, it's hard to comprehend just how much these adventurers have gone through in the last 6 days. And things get worse.

But that's a story for another post :smallsmile:

2009-12-16, 08:35 PM
Session 35: Through a Portal Blind (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_35.pdf).

Our heroes confront Paldemar, and find themselves a long way from home.


Well, I certainly didn’t see that ending coming!

The fight in the temple was everything I thought it would be. Minions left, right and centre, casters at the back, a rampaging berserker and two warders, and shadowblades slinking around trying to shank those who were foolish enough to wander off on their own.

The DM divided the temple into two encounters (the southern half and the northern half) and started them a few rounds after each other. On the one hand that was strange in a dramatic sense: why did half the bad guys stand there watching their mates getting hammered? On the other hand, it allowed for a stand-up knock-down fight against an enormous number of enemies. I can live with the DM’s decision, but I think I personally would have wanted some form of narrative justification – such as that the northern worshippers were needed to stabilise the portal or something similar.

In hindsight, it’s quite interesting to me to note that as we moved further into the temple, we unthinkingly formed what is known in Blood Bowl as “the pocket”. Dek and Aleya were up front smashing norkers and trying to reach the Enigmas. Pieter was on one flank and Bengi on the other. Caelan and Soveliss hung around a little at the back and took whatever shots they could.

It worked surprisingly well, and the combat went easier than it perhaps should have. I suspect that’s to do with the large number of minions, although there was one norker grunt that survived 2 rounds of our concerted efforts to kill it. It was right on the verge of earning a nickname when Bengi cut it down. Bear in mind that a combat being “easier than it perhaps should have” is not necessarily a bad thing. The overall mood during the combat was high. There was no animosity among players or between the DM and the players. Everyone reacted vocally to crits – the DMs or ours - and everyone seemed to be having lots of fun, so the encounter was a wild success by that measure.

Then Paldemar showed up and almost put half the party on their arses in the first round. That got me a little excitable, I must admit. Fortunately, the return fire from Soveliss (and I think Dek and Caelan) was particularly heavy, and Paldemar disappeared back into the portal pretty quickly. I think he was only on the map for 2rounds, but did enough during that time for me to breathe a sigh of relief when he was gone.

And then I realised that the DM had set up the classic “do you chase the villain into the unknown” dilemma. Bastard :smallsmile:

Sure enough, we all barrelled off after him (almost a foregone conclusion with Dek in the party and Soveliss chasing his prism) and found ourselves in the Shadowfell. Given all the talk of Michael the Burnt being a Red Wizard, I had suspected we’d be visiting Thay, and the image the DM showed us could easily be 4e Thay (which is pretty much Tolkien’s Mordor), so imagine my surprise when Bengi advised we were in the Shadowfell and couldn’t re-open the portal we’d come through. Um, not cool dude.

Unfortunately, we all have families to hang out with over the Christmas break so there won’t be any SSTL sessions until the new year. Then we need to figure out exactly how to get through an enemy camp and over a river of lava, recover Soveliss’ prism and Stormbringer (STORMBRINGER!), defeat Paldemar and possibly Michael the Burnt, and then get home.

All in a day’s work…

2009-12-16, 10:06 PM
... awesome. That is just really really awesome. Sounds like a fantastic session. I may have to steal some ideas from your DM for an upcoming campaign... :smallbiggrin:.

Kol Korran
2009-12-17, 02:31 AM
sounds like an epic battle. your DM sure has a sense of timing!

it seems that you may vanture off the normal H-adventure route for awhile. from the setting and the picture i'm fairly sure in what adventure you ended up with.

that adventure was one of the most railroady adventures i've ever seen, but your DM shows a great ability of vastly improving written modules. which sounds very, very promising considering the shadowfell.

thanks for the update, and have a merry christmas!


2009-12-17, 05:25 PM
it seems that you may vanture off the normal H-adventure route for awhile.

I suspect we might be off the H-P-E path for quite some time in fact. The DM is particularly taken with Revenge of the Giants, so that will likely occupy us for levels 12-16 (IIRC). There's some space to fill in between where we currently are (level 8) and then, so I suspect there'll be some other WotC adventures and few home-brew ones.

Who knows where we'll end up after that.

from the setting and the picture i'm fairly sure in what adventure you ended up with.

You're one step ahead of me then because I've got no idea what's going on :smallsmile:

Don't spoil it though. The surprises are half the fun!

2009-12-17, 05:44 PM
The fair ground maybe the same but the ride will be completely new :D

2009-12-17, 05:45 PM
And I expect nothing less! :smallbiggrin:

Kol Korran
2009-12-18, 10:54 AM
Don't spoil it though. The surprises are half the fun!

have i spoiled anything this far? don't worry.

2010-01-23, 06:11 AM
Session 36: In the Slums of Umbraforge (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_36.pdf).

The Heroes of Winterhaven find themselves in unfriendly company.


This session consisted mostly of exploration and roleplay, as the session recap reflects.

Fortunately, the tent city of Umbraforge wasn't as uniformly hostile as we had initially feared, and it wasn't overly hard for us to blend in. Of course, we're nowhere near Paldemar yet and the approach to the tower itself is heavily guarded, so there's still plenty of time for things to go wrong.

It came as a shock to both me and Bengi's player when an ogre mentioned a community of golems in the southeastern corner of town, and even more of a shock when they all turned out to be warforged like Bengi. It will provide some good roleplaying opportunity for Bengi's player as the previously-unique golem comes to terms with the fact that there are many others like him.

I didn't like the references to Eberron and the City of Doors. I'm not sure why. I think the purist in me just prefers the various campaign settings to remain separate. Having Eberron referred to in a realms campaign just seems jarring.

Of course, having said that, I loved it when some of the golems referred to themselves (and Bengi) as Sons of Acererak. If you don't know Acererak, google him. I have goosebumps just thinking about where the DM may be going with that one.

This session also gave Caelan a small opportunity to shine. Shortly after reaching Umbraforge, we learned that the head honcho of the tent city was the ogre Brakk. We knew we'd need to get past him to get into the tower, so we needed an explanation for who we were, where we were from, and what we were doing in town. Most of the PCs are crap at Perception and Streetwise, so it looked like we were in trouble. Fortunately, Caelan's high Perception allowed him to overhear enough conversations in the crowded marketplace for us to piece together a cover story that we were mercenaries from a nearby town known named Karfel. It's no War and Peace, but it was enough to prevent Brakk killing us instantly.

The combat with the ogres (2), trolls (2) and an orc alchemist was interesting mainly for the extreme prejudice with which we terminated it. Pieter and Dek managed to flank one of the trolls and the combination of Pieter's healing strike and righteous brand and Dek's waraxe put some serious hurt on that now-not-so-jolly green giant.

Just as I was feeling happy about pulling off that combo (Dek's player was away so I was playing both PCs), Bengi stepped forward and pulled off some combo (the details are sketchy) that hit almost every enemy for about a gazillion damage each. Hyperbole of course, but you get my drift.

And then Soveliss teleported into range and did the same thing. A different combo of powers (I think his was call of the plague and fire shroud), but the result was the same. Everything nearby took a metric ton of damage.

They surrendered after that :smallsmile:

And in the middle of it all, it occurred to Sov's player that Pieter was going to get blasted by the call of the plague (1d10 + 1d10 + 5). His response? "Pieter, you'll heal"!

I honestly don't know how I'm going to justify those two becoming friends or even trusting compatriots...

Kol Korran
2010-01-23, 09:28 AM
first of all, welcome back! my group is about to get into a month long break.

secondly- the link leads to session 35. not 36.

2010-01-23, 06:21 PM
the link leads to session 35. not 36.

Fixed. Can you tell it's been a while? :smallredface:

Kol Korran
2010-01-24, 05:02 AM
yep, it has been awhile. welcome back:smallamused:

seems like a meeting full of interesting conversations and roleplay. should have been interesting to hear.

what is that about a slain deva?

oh, and i totally agree with your dislike of trying to mesh campaign worlds, especially eberron (of which i'm a fan) and FR, which are so different, and don't mesh well at all. though if it should be done, than Sigil, the city of doors is the way to go. it supposedly connects to EVERYWHERE, but still, it is annoying.

as to soveliss- you guys don't have to be friends. you can tolerate his presence as a sort of necessary evil.

oh, and karalel was michael the burnt son? how did you guys get up to that conclusion?

a faithfull reader,

2010-01-25, 09:05 PM
oh, and karalel was michael the burnt son? how did you guys get up to that conclusion?

We found an anonymous note in Kalarel's possession that referred to Kalarel as "my son". Then we later found a note in Paldemar's tower from Michael the Burnt.

Soveliss compared the handwriting and is convinced that Kalarel is Michael's son.

He seems to be right, because we've heard more than once in Umbraforge that Michael's son hasn't been seen around for some time. Ironic really, given that we pushed Kalarel back into the shadowfell portal. He (or bits of him) must be around here somewhere :smallsmile:

2010-02-03, 10:09 PM
Session 37: By the fires of Creation (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_37.pdf).

The Heroes of Winterhaven explore Umbraforge further, then find a way into Michael the Burnt’s tower.


This was another exploration/roleplay-heavy session and, to be honest, it felt strained. Our DM has confided to me that he thinks we don’t want freedom but prefer to be railroaded. I’m not convinced he’s right, but it is true that the session didn’t really have any drive.

For me, that stemmed largely from the fact that our explicit objective – to reach and kill Paldemar – was blocked by an impenetrable tower and guards, and there was no easy way for us to investigate alternatives. We were, after all in the middle of a tent town filled to the brim with evil-inclined mercenaries, ogres and trolls, with Kir-Lanan wings flying sorties around the tower. In those circumstances, you can’t really just saunter into the local bar and ask around for the guy that knows a back way into the fort.

After the DM voiced his concerns, I suggested to him that it might have been better to let us catch and kill Paldemar in the Shadowfell cave, but have no immediate way of getting home. That way we would be forced to investigate Umbraforge for solutions, but wouldn’t have the clock running against us while Paldemar discovered we weren’t back in the Hall (he’s had plenty of time now to travel back and forth and make that discovery). In response, he gave me some very good and valid reasons why he hadn’t done it that way. And to be honest, I’m not sure I would have done it that way either without the benefit of hindsight.

If anything comes from the experience, I think it’s the realisation that exploration and immersion require the PCs to have enough time to experience them. Time pressures (real or imagined) focus the players on goals to the detriment of exploration.

I get the feeling that Bengi’s time in the spotlight is coming, and I’m looking forward to it. Pieter has been in the spotlight for most of the heroic tier (largely because I was one of the players that gave the DM the most usable background story – see earlier in the thread) and it’s probably time for him to step back a little and let one or more of the other PCs steal the show for a while.

In other news, I’ve commissioned a sketch of Pieter from artist Storn Cook, and I’m all atwitter about it to be honest. I’ve got that “little kid before christmas” feeling, which is highly embarrassing. At the end of the day, it’s just a picture, but it will certainly be nice to have a picture that is not something else that I’m using as a representation of my PC, it will actually be Pieter.

I’ll post the image once I have it – which might take a while…

2010-02-09, 11:15 AM
Wonderful! Only adjective I could come up with. It took me a few days to read all the way through, but still wonderful. I have linked this thread to my son and his group of friends told them it was required reading to learn how to really role-play. We just finished up KoS and it wasn't anywhere near this exciting or entertaining. I am trying to convince them that this is what gaming is all about, build your character from the book, but then bring that character and world to life.

Kol Korran
2010-02-09, 01:11 PM
i must say that some of what you says echo from my experience with my group. we're all fairly seasoned roleplayers, who mostly prefer to put the emphasis on interaction and roleplay. however, we meet once every two weeks at best, sometime less...

we've often found that we're all eager to accomplish something, to advance the game, move on (myself included), over letting things slow down a bit and enjoy the ride.

we've tried to slow things down a bit two- three times so far, with not any impressive success.
this frustrates me too, just wanted to say i feel part of what you say. i know the situations are fairly different (hmmm, maybe not that different- we're in the middle of an enemy held territory trying to incite the locals to revolt, and solve some mysteries on the way).

hope your campaign goes better. :smallwink:

2010-02-09, 04:35 PM
Wonderful! ... I am trying to convince them that this is what gaming is all about, build your character from the book, but then bring that character and world to life.

Thanks for the kind words!

Good luck with your son & co. Don't be too hard on them. Roleplaying is all about understanding and acting on desire and feelings. It takes a fair amount of emotional maturity to express those things openly, even when they're an imaginary character's feelings and desires.

I find it helped me create and helps me play Pieter by asking a few basic questions:

1. Why did Pieter go adventuring?

He grew restless and felt he wasn't serving Tempus to his utmost by staying put in a cushy city-post. He felt he needed to challenge himself. The latter is why he's so impulsive and gets frustrated with the more restrained (some would say cowardly) approached showed by Soveliss, Shadow and recently Bengi.

2. What is Pieter's "aim" when interacting with his companions?

Pieter's goal is to keep them all safe, both physically and spiritually. The former explains why he leans towards Defender. The latter is why he has such trouble with Dek and Soveliss :smallsmile:

3. What are Pieter's goals?

Pieter's goals at the start of the campaign were to find out what happened to Axis, and to recover Stormbringer. He's completed one of them, and appears to be on the cusp of the other. He'll do some serious thinking in the near future, but at this point in time I believe he's going to be hanging around - primarily to make sure Soveliss doesn't put his prism to evil use.

Of course, never forget that some people are simply not the interractive roleplayer type. They're in the game for the hack and the slash. I'm not sure there's much point in trying to "convert" that type of player. They're certainly not lesser gamers. Expose them to a different style of play and see if they like it. If not, let it go.

i must say that some of what you says echo from my experience with my group. we're all fairly seasoned roleplayers, who mostly prefer to put the emphasis on interaction and roleplay. however, we meet once every two weeks at best, sometime less...

we've often found that we're all eager to accomplish something, to advance the game, move on (myself included), over letting things slow down a bit and enjoy the ride.

I think it comes down to player type as much as anything. I have a strong Storyteller bent but am much less of an Explorer. As much as investigations can be engrossing, it can be a bit frustrating if the end result is that the story doesn't actually progress that session.

Of course, that puts too high-brow a focus on it. The simple fact is that I also highly enjoy the combats! :smallsmile:

2010-02-21, 09:20 PM
Session 38: Two Mages Down, One to Go (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_38.pdf).

Our heroes press further into Michael the Burnt’s tower, finally cornering and defeating Paldemar Spellweaver.


We spent almost all of this session locked in combat with shadar-kai and mages of all stripes.

The combat with the shadar-kai at the base of the tower was a rough-and-tumble affair, dominated mostly by the shadar-kai’s ability to turn invisible or otherwise blind their enemies. It made it hard to nail them down, so there was no real sense of cohesion among the PCs. Conversely, the shadar-kai are generally low-damage so they weren’t really landing any knockout punches either.

That’s something that I’ve noticed recently (specifically while reading the Eberron Campaign Guide); monster damage doesn’t really scale at all with level. There are level 22 elite soldiers that do 2d6+5 damage. I would have though that’s so low as to be laughable at the level. It hasn’t really proven glaring for us yet, but it will interesting to see how things work out as the campaign progresses.

The shadar-kai witch was easily the highlight of the combat, her beshadowed mind power left Dek wandering around blind for large portions of the combat and seriously hampered Bengi’s ability to make ranged attacks. Not that the golem really minds mixing it up in melee. However, despite some hijinx with the witch and her pet Anaxim hound, the combat was effectively a speed hump. We knew that bigger stuff was coming and that we would get through the shadar-kai sooner rather than later.

After finishing them off, we went in pursuit of the fleeing Paldemar. There was no way we were going to let him get away a second time.

We caught him on the second level of the tower with Michael’s wife Malachi, a shadar-kai witch. It was a strange combat in that the enemies consisted of two elite casters (Paldemar and Malachi) and two brute guardians for them (2 anaxim hounds).

The DM was smart enough to keep the hounds near their charges, but unfortunately one creature per caster (even if that creature is large) is simply not enough to stop the caster from getting swamped, particularly when you have as many teleporters as the Heroes of Winterhaven have. Of course a blood-crazed dwarf is icing on the cake and nothing will ever stop Dek getting to his targets, no matter how many OAs he provokes.

When/if my turn to DM comes up, I’m going to firmly remember to include a screen of minions and/or lower-level flunkies whose sole purpose is to act as a speed bump between the PCs and BBEG casters.

The combat was exciting, but not as tense as it could have been. The anaxim hounds were neutralised by Pieter’s curse of misfortune (I think they hit three times out of 15+ attacks over three rounds), and Paldemar and Malachi were outgunned without their guard dogs’ assistance.

Let me digress here to say that curse of misfortune was the runaway winner for “most amazing” power this session. It really did neutralise the hounds. It probably prevented something like 50-hp-worth of damage from the hounds' lightning spikes alone. All for a level 1 daily. Not once did I regret retraining beacon of hope. I’m not sure I see how it can be a Str and implement power but hey, WotC published it…

Pieter unfortunately represented those three hits that the anaxim hounds did manage to land and he also copped some collateral damage from Paldemar battling Bengi, Caelan and Soveliss. He ended up on 7 hit points and blocked by Malachi from spending healing surges. Things looked a bit tense, but fortunately he managed to avoid getting hit for a turn (to refrains of “brave, brave sir robin!”) and Aeron healed him up again next turn.

Dek critted Malachi twice for 52 hp each time, which is something I can’t quite get out of my head. He is without a doubt one of the most effective characters in the game, and for some reason his player wants to swap to Paladin :smalleek:

Malachi and Paldemar fell within 2 rounds of each other, and the last anaxim hound (who was meant to be guarding Paldemar but chased Soveliss into a side corridor) fell shortly after. It seemed like it wasn’t a terribly difficult combat – which was a little disappointing – but in hindsight looking at everyone’s hit points at the end of the session, maybe it wasn’t as easy as I thought it was. Pieter took a beating, as did Soveliss and Caelan (although to a lesser extent). Still, we were more than capable of advancing to confront Michael, so we did.

No word on the character portrait commission yet, but Storn did warn me it would take a while, so I’m waiting patiently.

We played again last night (session 39), so it hopefully shouldn’t be too long until the next update.

2010-02-25, 02:42 AM
Remember that character portrait I commissioned?

It arrived:


Best $45US I ever spent. It not only matches with how I pictured Pieter, but it adds details to him that I never even considered.

Now, if only I could convince the other players to have their PCs done :smallbiggrin:

2010-02-25, 04:51 AM
Edit: If only I could figure out how to post the image here.

You're familar with imageshack (http://imageshack.us/)?

2010-02-25, 06:01 AM
You're familar with imageshack (http://imageshack.us/)?

Yeah. I had the file already hosted but apparently the webpage was using a URL designation incompatible with the boards. Someone on the board issues forum was able to sort me out.

Original post edited to include the picture. Thanks for the help!

Kol Korran
2010-02-25, 12:23 PM
Originally posted by Colmarr
It not only matches with how I pictured Pieter, but it adds details to him that I never even considered.

may i ask what details were added? how this portrait affects how you percieve Pieter?
i'm curious...


2010-02-25, 02:33 PM
Remember that character portrait I commissioned?

It arrived:


Best $45US I ever spent. It not only matches with how I pictured Pieter, but it adds details to him that I never even considered.

Now, if only I could convince the other players to have their PCs done :smallbiggrin:
That's pretty sweet.

I'm really tempted to get someone to do a favorite character of mine, but I guess I'm cheap. What lead you to commission this portrait?

2010-02-25, 04:06 PM
may i ask what details were added? how this portrait affects how you percieve Pieter?
i'm curious...


It's the little things like the scabbard strap across the chest. It's kind of obvious in hindsight but in my mind's eye there was always just a scabbard across the back. I hadn't really thought about how it got there.

The layering of the tunic and the finemail is another. The finemail sits under the tunic but has a separarate piece that goes across the shoulders on top of the tunic. I'd never really thought about that.

But mostly I think it's the textures (eg. the pants, the cape, the creases in the tunic) that bring it most to life for me. Unless you have a keen artist's eye (I don't), that's the sort of thing that you don't include when you're imagining something.

I'm not a huge fan of the purple gloves and holy symbol, but I didn't specify otherwise, so fair's fair :smallsmile:

What lead you to commission this portrait?

I'd come across Storn's work in an EN world thread years ago (before the SSTL campaign commenced), and the idea of commissioning a portrait from him has been lurking at the back of my brain for a while.

There are other artists and sites (such as AvatarArt) that do character portrait, but it's pretty hard to find somewhere that will produce a colour portait of this quality for such a low price.

I know $45US isn't that low. In fact, it's more than a 4e book, but it's a great price for an original piece of art, and I'd much rather give up my FRPG than give up this portrait :smallwink:

2010-02-25, 04:36 PM
It looks pretty good :)

But the symbol on the helmet, the amulet and the belt looks weird, not like I would envision the Tempus symbol. With the flaming blade instead it would look much more badass in my view :)

2010-02-25, 04:49 PM
It looks pretty good :)

But the symbol on the helmet, the amulet and the belt looks weird, not like I would envision the Tempus symbol. With the flaming blade instead it would look much more badass in my view :)

Yep, that occurred to me. I think there was a miscommunication.

I gave Storn some direction in relation to Pieter's holy symbol (a symbol of the holy nimbus), and suggested that a sword across a hollow circle would be a good representation, the circle being the nimbus, and the sword being Tempus.

I suspect he misconstrued the 4e magic item designation "holy symbol" with the general phrase "holy symbol", so you see the same symbol recurring in the picture.

Fortunately, none of those items were tailor-made for Pieter in game, so there's no reason why they should specifically match Tempus' symbol. I did specify that Tempus' holy symbol was on the shield (and provided a link to the 4e FR wiki), but the shield ended up pointing away from the viewer :smallbiggrin:

2010-03-03, 11:05 PM
Session 39: A Troubled Bloodline (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_39.pdf).

Michael the Burnt’s power comes toppling down and Pieter and Soveliss find what they have been searching for.


This session was almost entirely one long combat, with some scrambling around in a volcanic-eruption-shaken tower at the end.

The combat against Michael and his goons was full of threats and boasting on both sides, and I realised to my chagrin that most DM’s will never manage to say anything impressive when talking through one of their NPC villains. Players of PCs generally simply aren’t interested in letting the villain sound groovy or tough. They’re too busy making their PCs sound groovy and tough.

I’m not necessarily of that camp, so I noticed that whenever the DM came out with a good defiant quote for Michael, the recipient PC always had to have the last word, and it was never a simple “No!” or “Never!”. It was always the adventurer equivalent of “Nuh uh! My dad’s stronger than your dad!” It got a bit annoying for me by the end of the combat, so I can only imagine what it felt like for the DM. Sometimes, the PCs should just let the bad guy be cool and groovy. That way it’s more of an achievement when you do beat him.

I’m not sure of Michael’s mechanical stats, but I know he was an elite and I’m rapidly beginning to consider them one of the best weapons in a DM’s encounter-creation arsenal. We’ve fought a lot of them throughout the campaign (Kalarel, the duergar slave master, Murkelmor, Paldemar, Malachi and now Michael the Burnt) and our experience of them is that they’re bigger and tougher and more deadly than a normal enemy, but not so out of whack that they radically change the encounter dynamic. They sit very nicely within the “this is a bad guy to watch out for” meta.

We haven’t really had a combat with a solo yet (the dragon encounter in the Well of Demons was fudged enough that it doesn’t count), so I’m curious to see how they work out. I suspect that an encounter consisting entirely of a solo would be boring or a grind, but that a smattering of minions and standard enemies in the same fight could make for a very interesting encounter.

The biggest trick in Michael the Burnt’s arsenal was a recharge power called Far Realm Phantasm, which only did marginal damage (1d6+4) but also denied the target a standard action on it’s next turn. The power targeted Will, so was deployed against Dek every chance that Michael got. Losing your standard action is not quite as bad as stunned, but it’s still a pretty potent ability that drew a lot of attention to Michael. Bengi copped a dose of it later in the encounter but by that stage things were in mop-up so it wasn’t quite as threatening.

While Dek, Bengi and Soveliss were busy clustering around the BBEG (as seems to be their habit), Pieter and Caelan were off dealing with the shadar-kai. Now, that wasn’t entirely intentional. Pieter ran off to grab Stormbringer as soon as he saw it (ie. the 3rd initiative count in the encounter) and when Caelan spotted a shadar-kai hiding in the shadows nearby he charged in. Another shadar-kai soon emerged and the two adventurers decided to finish them off before moving into the main melee. They actually worked quite well together, with Caelan’s manoeuvrability keeping the shadar-kai flanked and Pieter happy to drop Righteous Brands on the opponent (should that be victim?) and let Caelan be the attacking batsman*.

Soveliss had applied his Salve of Power to Pieter before the combat, and Pieter used it to recast Curse of Misfortune. Unfortunately, it proved nowhere near as effective as it had in the Paldemar combat, only preventing one hit against Dek – a hit that would only have done 5 damage anyway. Hopefully that’s a good indication that the power isn’t as over-the-top as I feared last session.

In the aftermath of the party arriving in Waterdeep, questions have been asked about why the portal worked for Pieter. It seems clear that he’s somehow part of Michael’s bloodline but the PCs (including Pieter) have no idea what the connection to Michael the Burnt is. Due to a DMing mixup during session 38 the truth is known to the players, bit I think I’ll maintain the story mystique here as long as I can, only revealing the truth when it becomes know to the players.

The DM said after the session that if anyone wants to change or alter their character, now is the time to do it. Bengi’s player has been talking of bringing Shadow back and Dek’s player has been considering a paladin for a while. And surprisingly, Soveliss’ player is considering making some fairly significant changes to his character. I’m fairly happy with Pieter, and don’t see a need to alter him beyond what is allowable under the retraining rules.

I must admit to some curiosity though about other classes and races or even DMing, so I have tentatively suggested that I (or Bengi’s player; the past-DM in the group) could run a short sidetrek dealing with events parallel to the main plot. One suggestion was that we could flesh out the Night of Creeping Doom mentioned in Pieter’s backstory. Another was that we could deal with what Shadow is up to half a world away. The idea hasn’t taken immediate purchase (in the sense that no-one’s jumping up and down with excitement at the prospect), so we’ll have to see how it pans out.

* Cricket players will know what I mean.

We’re taking a one session break from 4e this weekend at the DM’s request to play a game of 3:16 Carnage Among the Stars. Let me know if you want me to do up a post for it, or if you’d prefer that this thread remain dedicated to SSTL.

2010-03-27, 04:09 PM
Session 40: Furriers and Woolmen (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_40.pdf).

Our heroes discover that Waterdeep's City of the Dead contains things not-so-dead.


We discovered this session that a 4-melee 1-ranged party isn't the ideal split for dealing with enemies that have an offensive aura. The Chillborn aura, particularly the way it "stacks" with auras on other Chillborn, meant that we had little option but to stay behind Dek and attack them from afar. The other option was for the meleers to move in and take 20 cold damage per turn before the zombies even attacked back. It's understandable why that wasn't really an option.

That 4-melee 1-ranged summary isn't quite accurate; Soveliss is ranged and Bengi spends more time at range than in melee, but the warlock is the sort of "ranged" character that is never really far from the action. He was just as hampered by the chillborn aura as the true meleers were. Fortunately, Pieter had his cleric anti-undead leanings to rely on and was able to contribute meaningfully via repeated application of Sacred Flame.

Still, it's good to have your weaknesses exposed in a non-crucial fight so hopefully we can do something to address it before it really gets us in hot water.

Our investigation of the sarcophagus was part of a skill challenge that we didn't even know about until the DM said "That's one success". I'm not sure how I view this one. It's good that it has fitted in seemlessly (if the DM hadn't said it, I wouldn't have realised it was a skill challenge at all), but I'm also a bit confused as to exactly what the skill challenge was about. I don't recall a "goal" or a "challenge" being set to which the skill challenge could apply. Maybe I wasn't paying enough attention. At least we're doing well at it (3 successes so far as I can tell) :smallsmile:

I understand that this storyline is from a Living Forgotten Realms adventure, and I originally had some disappointment about how little we'd gotten through in our 4-hour session. But then I realised that we'd spent close to two and a half hours dealing with Ariadne, the watch, miscellaneous shopping and ritual talk then meeting with Hornhand. Once all that's taken into account, the fact that we only got through one combat encounter isn't so bad. We've never been the fastest of players (some are worse than others) but it's not off-the-chart slow.

We're playing again tonight, so hopefully the next update won't be as long coming as this one was!

2010-03-27, 05:01 PM
lol the skill challenge was for the part of the adventure I kept repeating to make sure you all got.
You were not just asked to clear out the tomb but to find out why they were there in the first place. I'll do a flash back scene tonight to try to push that home.
The "find out why" is the skill challenge.
Its modern D&D its never #just# a dungeon crawl :smallsmile:

Kol Korran
2010-03-28, 04:21 AM
i missed update 39 when i came up. so out of the shadowfell and into waterdeep? you guys move a lot! i see soveliss multiclassed to an artificer, but wha did Dek multiclass into?

Pieter of Michael's bloodline? now that is ineresting... was kalarel your brother? (next time you meet he'll have a mask on and say "Pieter, (rasping breath) I am you father!")

2010-03-28, 03:09 PM
lol the skill challenge was for the part of the adventure I kept repeating to make sure you all got.
You were not just asked to clear out the tomb but to find out why they were there in the first place.


Mind you, after that little Valthrun bombshell you dropped, you probably could have revealed that Daundratha was Szass Tam and I wouldn't have heard you...

what did Dek multiclass into?

Cleric. He was thinking of restatting as a paladin, but couldn't find a build that really appealed to him. I personally am glad. I can't think of any build of Dek that could be more suited to this particular party than the one he is.

Pieter of Michael's bloodline? now that is ineresting... was kalarel your brother?

That thought has occurred to us - if Michael is Pieter's father, then he's killed his brother (Kalarel) and tried to kill his father (Michael). That kid's got issues! :smallcool:

Kol Korran
2010-03-29, 02:27 AM
What did Dek multiclass into?
Cleric. He was thinking of restatting as a paladin, but couldn't find a build that really appealed to him. I personally am glad. I can't think of any build of Dek that could be more suited to this particular party than the one he is.

(sigh) once again there are similarities between your campaign and mine. if you'll remember, there is a dwarf fighter in my party who very, very much resembles Dek in his attitude.

however, even though he has the greatest fort save of us all (3.5), on all the critical saves he has rolled a 1- auto fail. so far he had been turned to stone twice, died out of massive damage once, and there might be a few things i don't remember.
we're also playing in forgotten realms, but the player, since he isn't familiar with the setting, decided his dwarf doesn't worship any god for now.
due to the streak of rolls of 1's however, he now assumes he must have angered the gods. soooo, he decides to become religious, with a vengence! in the following meeting he is supposed to work in a forge ruled over by hostlie forces (quite a bit of subterfuge for that, but i digress), and forge his new holy symbol. then, he's gonna massacre all of the Zhents responsible for the forge and free the slaves. (which also takes quite a bit of subterfuge, but i digress again). as far as i understands it, he is going to act "preachery" in all just without actually taking the class.

so yeah, we have our dwarf as a (pretending) multiclass cleric as well.

2010-03-29, 04:07 AM
so yeah, we have our dwarf as a (pretending) multiclass cleric as well.

It's actually not that surprising, because D&D dwarfs have a long and proud tradition of worshipping Moradin. Their traditional lawful good leanings probably help.

2010-04-06, 06:31 AM
Session 41: Maddening Whispers (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_41.pdf).

Our heroes push deeper into the Furrier’s guild crypt, and discover that someone has been there before them.


This session was heavy on combat and relatively light on everything else. Largely that was due to our relative newbieness at fighting undead. Having said that, it was a difficult combat (1600xp worth of PCs versus 2900 xp worth of baddies) so it should have been expected to take a while. When you add a mad wraith and its dazing aura to the mix, especially against a party that is overwhelmingly melee-oriented, the expected time-per-combat increases significantly.

The first full round of combat showed that Pieter’s defences (AC 25/24 Fort 23 Ref 21 Will 22) aren’t quite where they need to be if I want to play him as a quasi-defender. He got pummelled by both mummy guardians and a “dominated” Dek and went from full hp to 19 in a round.

I’ve always known that he was a little light on for constitution and armour class, so that has never really come as a surprise. My build for him has always included picking up scale and heavy shield proficiency in early paragon (once his Constitution gets the level 11 bump). Hopefully he’ll survive long enough to get there!

On top of all that damage, Pieter was dazed which meant he had to choose next turn between healing himself or attacking the enemy. Fortunately, the action point mechanic solved that dilemma and he was able to use both divine power and healing strike to lay down some pretty serious damage (16 radiant to one guardian and the mummy lord and 24 radiant to the other guardian) heal himself (for 20 hp) and gain regeneration 5 (which cancelled out the wraith’s whisper damage for the rest of the encounter).

We discovered during this combat that radiant damage makes fighting undead much easier. Of course, anyone who’s ever taken part in a 4e D&D forum discussion about undead knows that, so we can’t plead ignorance. However, knowing that radiant damage helps and knowing just how much it can help are two different things. Three of the four enemies had regeneration 10 which could be “turned off” for a round with radiant damage. The fourth had an area 5 aura that dazed enemies. The aura could also be turned off with radiant damage.

We made our knowledge checks against the mummies, and blocked as much of their regeneration as we could. Unfortunately, Pieter’s the only PC with real access to radiant damage, and even he has to rely on encounter powers and dailies to get it. His one radiant at-will (Sacred Flame) is so unreliable that it can’t really be counted on.

Also unfortunately, we first encountered the mad wraith through the side of a sarcophagus and the DM ruled that hearing its maddening whispers was not enough to give us the full information a knowledge role would ordinarily reveal. When the wraith did emerge, we were so busy with other things that we didn’t make another check, even though the DM reminded us to. Knowing that we could turn off that aura would certainly have changed the face of this encounter. Oh well, c’est la vie.

I’ve decided it’s worth looking through the character builder to identify consumables that allow you to deal specific types of damage. I’m also seriously considering picking up the Bless Water ritual so that Pieter can create holy water. Being able to throw holy water at that wraith or deal splash radiant damage to the mummies would have come in very handy.
On the metagame front, it looks like we may be picking up a 5th player (the wife of one of the players) after all, which I personally think is good news. I’ll record more as things develop

Kol Korran
2010-04-06, 06:57 AM
i have only played 4E once, and that was for 3 levels, so maybe i don't know what i'm talking about, but...
there are various magical weapons that deal energy damage to creatures. if you have the money, then maybe you could buy a few such simple weapons?

also, check out what energy type you guys deal, especially soveliss (wizards are known for energy attacks, no?) maybe you allready have one ore more energy types covered.

as to Holy Water, i see no real need to buy the ritual, just buy a whole lot of flasks. for those energies you guys didn't cover, maybe some simple alchemical items? though i heard those are too expensive to for their effects.

one last word: i suggest you guys think of ways protecting from energy damage as well as dealing it. an encounter with undead who deal necrotic damage, or devils/ demons that deal fire damage can be made much easier this way. other than buying armors/amulets i have no ideas.

glad to see you posting. still following, though i'm a bit confused since you left the shadowfell... oh well.

2010-04-07, 06:22 AM
i have only played 4E once, and that was for 3 levels, so maybe i don't know what i'm talking about, but...
there are various magical weapons that deal energy damage to creatures. if you have the money, then maybe you could buy a few such simple weapons?

They've already been mentioned during my discussion with Bengi's player, but permanent magic items are a little too expensive to justify corner-case use like I'm suggesting. Unless of course the energy type fits a planned build anyway (like Wintertouched cheese or a Hellfire Blood tiefling with a flaming sword).

also, check out what energy type you guys deal, especially soveliss (wizards are known for energy attacks, no?) maybe you allready have one or more energy types covered.

Between us we cover a pretty wide range, including acid, lightning, thunder, fire, radiant and psychic. However, many of those are only from encounter or daily powers. It's not so much the ability to inflict a damage type that's the issue; it's the ability to inflict it meaningfully for the duration of an encounter.

A party in which every member carries a flask of holy water has the capacity to shut down a mummy's regeneration (or a mad wraith's aura) for 5 rounds before you even consider the PCs individual powers, and those five flasks cost one fifth of the price of a permanent weapon of the relevant type.

as to Holy Water, i see no real need to buy the ritual, just buy a whole lot of flasks.

The attraction of having the ritual mastered (which is dirt cheap at 50gp) is that you can create holy water on relatively short notice and on demand. You're not beholden to the nearest temple if you suddenly find you'll be facing undead soon.

Having said that, I just took a look at the ritual again and notice it has a duration of 24 hours, suggesting the Holy Water created with the ritual expires, even though holy water purchased as an alchemical item doesn't. Weird. I'm pretty sure my DM would resolve that inconsistency one way or the other.

one last word: i suggest you guys think of ways protecting from energy damage as well as dealing it. an encounter with undead who deal necrotic damage, or devils/ demons that deal fire damage can be made much easier this way.

Yep, we're on to this too (at least some are). Bengi has resist fire and necrotic and I just picked up Forgemaster's Gloves for Pieter (resist 5 fire). Not sure whether the others are looking into it. I know that Dek's player, for example, tends to focus on items that will boost his damage :smallbiggrin:

still following, though i'm a bit confused since you left the shadowfell... oh well.

Confused by what?

We jumped into the Shadowfell portal and somehow ended up in Waterdeep. Not sure exactly how, but I suspect it's a by-product of not having Michael's key but having someone of his blood. I personally picture it as the portal flailing around like a runaway garden hose and depositing us in a random location, but I could be wrong and Michael could be loose in Waterdeep somewhere.

We reported what we knew about giant activity in the north to the Waterdeep guards (and Pieter told Ariadne so she could warn her master) and then we waited to see what would happen next.

We then got approached by the Furriers and Woolmen guild to clear out their crypt, and that's what we're up to now. It's not clear yet exactly what's going on in the crypt, but the reference to the exarch of vengeance, the animation of the guildmembers' corpses as Chillborn and the desecration of the sarcophagus and ceiling fresco suggest that there's a necromancer at work who has a grudge against the guild or one (or more) of its members.

2010-04-20, 07:27 AM
Session 42: Cleansing the Tomb (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_42.pdf).

Our heroes destroy the last undead despoiling the Furriers’ and Woolmen’s tomb


We started relatively late this session, with the end result that we only got a single encounter done, with about 45 minutes left over at the end for roleplaying and other general exploring of Waterdeep.

The combat in the tomb was notable mostly for the illusionary wall. Interestingly the RPGA module states that (as per usual) an insight check allows you to determine that the wall is fake. However, making the check does not allow you to see through it; only pass through it. That led to the interesting situation where Pieter knew the wall was fake and that something(s) on the other side were throwing fireballs. One of the great joys of playing D&D via Maptool is that when Dek stepped through the wall, no one could actually tell what he was seeing in there. In turn, when Pieter followed him through, I found that he was one square off being in a perfect position to drop consecrated ground so that if would catch both flameskulls, a tomb guardian, and 2 archer minions. As it was, I had to be content with getting the flameskulls and the minions.

I wasn’t terribly concerned by that outcome, because the minions had in some ways been my intended target. The skull lord could resurrect the damn things as a minor action, but putting them in a zone that dealt automatic radiant damage at the start of their turn effectively nullified that ability – which seemed like a good trade to me.

The desecrated body of Vogu Sarwin is the most macabre thing I’ve ever encountered in a D&D adventure, and I’m not sure how it made it into a LFR module that could conceivably be played in an official setting by a 13-year old. Fortunately, we don’t have any in our group and I imagine the DM would have toned it down if we did.

Everyone seems to be getting revved up by the impending move to paragon tier. A lot of talk has been flashing backwards and forward about paragon paths and feats. Dek seems likely to go for Dreadnought, focusing on his already strong suit of “unbreakable”. Interestingly, the last few sessions have revealed a real weakness in his Reflex and Will defences. The DM continues to target his AC, which I see as a bit of a quixotean quest, but I suspect he’s doing it to make the game fun for Dek’s player. After all, he’s put a lot of work into making Dek tough to hit. It would be “cheating” to just ignore that totally.

I’m still angling towards Battle Chaplain for Pieter. I’ve veered away from Kensai/Pit Fighter because neither PP does much at all for Pieter as a leader. Dek and Bengi can dish out damage, so I see little point in trying to win that race. What they can’t do is be the group's dedicated leader, so I’ve decided to maintain Pieter’s focus in that direction. Unfortunately, there aren’t many battle cleric PPs, but Battle Chaplain has some nice tricks to it.

Bengi’s player has a list of 4 that he’s considering, only one of which is actually a warlock PP. As the best optimiser in the group, I’m interested to see what he can come up with. Regardless of which PP he takes, I know he’s aiming for the ability to hand out saves, which is something I’ve been worrying about lately. It’s a good example of how teamwork plays an important part in 4e.

We've also been doing quite a bit of forum roleplaying since the session ended; the first real roleplaying in quite a while. This one is between Pieter and Soveliss in a quiet moment. I’ll spoiler it to save space:


Pieter looks over at Soveliss, then moves to join the eladrin. The tempuran's arms rest in his lap, a posture of ease and openness, but there's a deliberateness about it, as though it hides a deeper reservation.

"You are changed since you found your prism, Soveliss. Do you care to tell me how?"


Soveliss looks to Pieter and smiles. This my friend is simple. I felt lost without the prism. I knew great evils lurk within our realm and I felt powerless to do anything about it. Now with my new found knowledge I know that someday I’ll have enough power to defeat those evils that would make most men cower. Though the prism hasn’t given me this power it has revealed much of a secret and lost knowledge that I now hold, and hopefully someday, maybe with my new friends’ help, I’ll achieve these powers.

As I might have mentioned to you before ,I’ve been a member of an organisation for many decades that seeks to cleanse all evil from these lands. Unfortunately over the centuries it has become a little corrupt and now those members in its highest seats of power have indeed become corrupt themselves. Many have even fallen to Orcus’ gifts believing their powers can still do good though they’re evil themselves. Ill not take the gifts of Orcus ever. I spit at him, though one day I will stand against his servants.


Pieter blinks in surprise at the mention of Orcus, but hears Soveliss out.

"This knowledge the prism holds; is it pure? There is something unclean about that crystal, something that makes me very uncomfortable. Are you sure that you are not walking the path of those who were corrupted?"


Nothing passes your guard does it, Pieter? Yes the prism holds some malice. It also seeks to protect the information it holds for it cannot be taken lightly. Though trust me my friend; seeking the forms that those of my higher order have taken would not have taken me so many years, and thou the prism is not entirely what I expected it to be, it is a way to defend myself against evil in these lands.

We have always seen a little differently since we met. You see evil and try to quench the flames. I see evil and see what damage would happen if the flames spread and burn those all around. Yes, always someone gets burnt but such things happen. If I can completely extinguish the fire with only a few burning in the process, then I believe i have done good.


"We have been through a lot together, you and I, over the last few tendays, and I have learned that the world is not as black and white as I once thought it was. Perhaps it is your influence." Pieter laughs. "I have seen the change in you since Michael's tower. I notice your spell wardings during battle and the enhancements you provided to Bengi and I in the tomb. I appreciated your assistance in cleaning the sepulchre."

Pieter pauses, as if deciding whether to continue.

"I will be blunt," he rushes the words out as if afraid he will not otherwise be able to say them. "Since leaving Winterhaven, I have watched you closely, and was dismayed by what I saw. I feared that you were beyond redemption, and had become the thing you say you most wish to vanquish. I feared that I would need to act against you to prevent you claiming the prism. But when the time came, I could not."

Pieter smiles. "Perhaps Tempus held back my hand. Now I see a brighter potential in you, Soveliss. I am glad I did not act."

Pieter stands and hurries to the door, embarrassed at having spoken so openly.

It’s not quite a detente given Soveliss’ almost-chilling comments about letting a few burn, but the eladrin has been acting in a much more party-friendly way since regaining his prism (mechanically represented by him becoming a hybrid wizard/artificer) so there’s some hope that the friction between the two characters will begin to ease up.

2010-04-28, 07:01 AM
The next day:


Early in the evening of the 24 Highsun (the following day from the funeral of the late Guildmaster of the Furriers and Woolmen) the Heroes are settling in for an evening of bardic entrainment as Aeron practices for the final day of a tournament he had entered.

The place is busy and full as usual. Thoat the minotaur bouncer sits by the bar as Tessele Swiftwater, her hair pulled back, busily keeps the waitresses moving and the beer, wine and food flowing.

Caelan is just telling the group how the prize his brother competes for is a residency at the temple of the Selûne with the Oracles of the Moon and some of the highest Brads in Faerûn when the doors of the Daggers Rest open and a tall thin woman dressed in a fine evening gown made of flowing elven silk enters. Lifting the edges of her dress over the slight raise in the step her half orc bodyguard stumbles slightly to avoid catching his foot on the over abundant and delicate looking fabric. She drops the hood of her over cloak showing a high styled head of dark hair studded with jewels and a firm business like face. Quickly she scans the room and in seeing Pieter and the group a pretty smile crosses her face.

"Pieter" she raises her hand and moves swiftly towards the groups table knocking plates and mugs with the wide pleats in her dress. Her half orc watcher apologizes and picks up after her. Half turning to giggle a sorry she moves to Pieter. Bending forward and coming close to "falling" out of her dress she embraces the Tempurean. "Oh it is so wonderful to be able to see you again." The sweet smell of wine on her breath is clear as is the distinct undertone of tobacco.

"I'm afraid I can't stay too long we are returning from a trade talk and Brendan.. oh.. Master First mariner Brendan" she smiles "Asked that I call upon you to convey his thanks for your actions yesterday. Also to let you know" she attempts to lower her voice "the matter with the giants is being discussed." raising her voice again "He wanted you to know that there are a few, just a few, reports that could support what you are saying but the guilds have a few other matters at hand at present."

She pauses. "I think that was it. We will be away for almost a ten day with talks in Amn but we will be back for the Autumn Equinox Fleetswake when... Oh oh yes. Your invited. "she turns to the half-orc "Jadan do you have those invites. Here. Its held on the 2nd Eleint. Its a great night but you must come in fancy dress." Laughing "Oh Pieter it will be a treat to see you all "Grimm" in fancy dress"


Pieter looks momentarily surprised, then embarrassed.

He rises from the table and smiles. "Ariadne. All me to introduce you."

He gestures at each of his companions around the table and give their names in turn . Then he introduces the well-dressed visitor. "This is Ariadne Cooper, wizard and adviser to Master First Mariner Brendan of the Master Mariners’ guild, and a very dear and old friend.”

He turns back to the obviously tipsy wizard. “Ariadne, I would like to visit with you tomorrow if I may? To discuss your research on the other issue we discussed…”


"Perhaps a late lunch, Pieter? There is a wonderful bakers that does the best bread next door to Nathalan's Menagerie. Then perhaps you can come in to the Menagerie to help me pick out a dress for the talks in Amn? Lady Ilira is bound to have some new stock in. And what are your friends planning on doing? Your all invited to the dance too." She looks as if about to sit down when Jadan the bodyguard catches her eye.


Pieter laughs. "I fear you place too high a value on my sense of fashion, Ariadne."

"But nevertheless, yes, I will meet you at the bakers when Timehands third tolls in the afternoon"

He holds his hand out to Jadan to take the invitation.


Watching their departure, the golem comments, "Many clothes, at times forgotten.". Bengi seems amused, more so at his own thoughts that what has transpired.

I'm not sure what information I've provided about Ariadne in this thread before. She is grew up with Pieter at the Orphanage of the Hearth in Highmoon, but went her own way and ended up a wizard and adviser to Master Brendan of the Guild of Master Mariners.

When Pieter arrived in Waterdeep, he almost immediately went to visit Ariadne to ask her opinion on why Michael the Burnt's portal would have opened for him. That's the "other issue" Pieter mentions.

During that first meeting, Pieter also formed the impression that Ariadne was more than just an "adviser" to master Brendan, and that impression was to soon be confirmed.

2010-05-05, 07:45 AM
3 days later, the party are relaxing in a tavern when:


The Daggers Rest is heaving. Getting to the bar is such a chore Tessele Swiftwater is just supplying a constant top-up of drinks to the party of heroes after the help they provided Thoat with the gang of trouble makers the night before. Thoat himself is more respectful after a slight altercation with Bengi who relived his own bouncing days on that night.

They sit and share a moment of comradery discussing the news that both Areon and Caelan will be leaving to travel to the residency won by the young bard.

The odd person bumps into the back of one of their chairs then apologizes when a chair is dragged up and pushed to the table. An old voice but full of energy catches everyone's attention "You sit there old chap. I'm off to speak to that young filly Swiftwater about a drink and if she has a inclination to share her bed for the night." A man with metal and dirt covered overalls is forced into the chair as the old man in worn heavy robes and messy gray hair moves into the crowd clutching his tankard and pipe.

"Oh" the man smiles sitting a little straighter in the chair and brushing himself down. "Hello I'm Thomas, you can call me Tom." He holds out his hand. "Is there a Ben Gee here... I'm told you have something for me to fashion? An item out of a particular metal I'm told?"


Pieter barely registers as Toms sits down, his eyes instead glued to the older man moving off into the crowd. The tempuran gets up and follows urgently.

"Valthrun!", he calls over the din of drinkers.


Valthrun turns and jambs his pipe between his teeth. Take a long draw he smiles a yellow toothed broad grin and nods towards the bar. Striding forwards the crowds make way for the pair.

Slamming his tankard on the bar in a jolly fashion "Tessele you glittering green eyed beauty will you not provide you old love with a tall measure of your exquisite nectar and once your done a beer would be wonderful." Valthrun leans over the bar in an attempt to playfully reach out for the Inn keeper.

"You old rogue as I've told you a thousand times what happened in the past is the past those were my wild days. I'm older and wiser. Now its a full tankard for you. Pieter your not with this villain are you?" They both laugh as Vlathrun picks up his beer.


Pieter's voice is flat, almost threatening when he replies. "No. I am not."

He reaches out to gently but firmly grab Valthrun's drinking arm. "I will not be played with like a toy, sage. You owe me an explanation."


Valthrun reaches out with his other arm and take his drink.

"How so young man?" The gray wizard leans his head forwards towards his held hand and plucks the pipe from his teeth. "Your a strapping lad and I've been known to dabble... I think... but I'd much rather play with Tessele here."

Pieter notices out of the corner of his eye a change in the demeanor of Tessele Swiftwater as she picks up on the priests manner.


"You claimed to know Axis, but he maintains the Valthrun he knew would long since be dead. You told Terrlen darkseeker to expect us before we even met him or you. You teleported Aleya to the Seven-Pillared Hall and the villagers from it to Winterhaven. You recommended us to Daundratha Hornhand. You somehow made it across the continent from Winterhaven in less than a tenday, and you bring with you someone who asks about the metal that Bengi has never told you about."

"You are no simple sozzled village sage. Who or what are you?"


"Well my firm handed lad in that I must agree." He gulps down the last of the ale. "I am indeed not a simple sozzled sage yet I'm sure if you were to reach into your pouch and pull out a couple of dragons a bottle of Zzar and I could be more so on my way." he jiggles his mug.

"Now you have asked me about quite a collection of things there and I must say to an untrained eye it might seem quite confusing but if you know what your looking for its all quite simple..." he appears to conjure a Mages Hand which proceeds to empty and refill his pipe. It returns to his mouth and a spark relights it as he beings to puff give off a sweet burnt wood smell and a blue green smoke. "Ahhh now then.. where was I oh yes.. Zzar." the last word is shouted "I remember drinking it with a saucy young thing. You know I think she may have got me drunk to take advantage me. But who would blame her. Now what was her name... what was it let me think... oh" a sharp look crosses his face.. "headache... didn't you offer me a glass of Zzar Pieter?"


"No. I didn't. I tire of your fumbling, because I know it is a ruse."

Pieter releases Valthrun's hand and forces himself to calm down. Finally, he speaks softly but firmly. "Either you and your cause are worthy and I will help, or they are not and I will not. Explain yourself, Valthrun, or I am done with you."


For once his face seems serious if but for a brief while. Everything Pieter has experienced lets him think that Valthrun is being honest when he speaks.
"Every story I have told, every action I have made, every time I have seen you is true. There is no ruse to me. There is no play apart from that which is my life. I sit in tavens and I drink and I meet people. A lot of people. Some I bed" he winks across the bar "if I'm lucky. Some I help, if I can. Some help me, if they can. Some people are good. Some are on their way. I eat the food they serve and I return to my tower."

Pausing he seems to be searching for a thought. Then the sharp look returns and he takes a few deep draws on his pipe. "Cause. I have the thought of a cause.. no a concern maybe.. I like to help people I think.. especially people with pretty sisters. I'll even help those with angry pretty sisters but I wouldn't help the sister. I think."

A few extra puffs and he brings the tankard to his lips realizing its empty. "I'm sorry you seem upset Pieter. Perhaps a drink will make you happier. I mean I should point out you are the ones following me around after all."


Pieter scowls. He reaches out towards Valthrun, then changes his mind and reaches for Stormbringer. Then he hesitates.

Without another word he turns on his heel and walks to the door of the tavern, pausing only at the group's table to mutter "I'll be back" before disappearing into the night.

I have to admit that the DM played Valthrun masterfully in this encounter. His response to Pieter grabbing his arm (ie. changing hands and continuing to drink) is vintage Valthrun and impeccably shows the essentially "slick" nature of the NPC. Nothing nails Valthrun down, and as this encounter shows, that drives Pieter nuts. He likes his world black and white, and Valthrun has so far refused to be categorised.

2010-05-06, 08:10 AM
That sounds like some fantastic RPing! You must all be having such a blast!

2010-05-07, 07:36 AM
That sounds like some fantastic RPing! You must all be having such a blast!

Yeah. While I'm not convinced that online combat via applications like Maptool will ever be as much fun as sitting around a table with your friends, I'm a strong believer in forum-based play-by-post for roleplaying encounters. It lets players ignore their usual shyness and bring out their inner storyteller.

All of the really awesome roleplaying scenes in the campaign (that I can think of) have occurred on the forums.

2010-05-07, 07:43 AM
Session 43: Revenge of the Necromancer (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_43.pdf).

The necromancer furthers his vendetta against Waterdeep’s guilds.


I’ve heard it said that the best way to build your PC is as an orphan with no friends. That way the DM has no one to use against you. I never believed it until this session. Just joking!

Anyone’s who’s played D&D long enough will know that NPCs with a connection to your PC are plot-bait, and when I included Ariadne in Pieter’s backstory I knew that could end up going badly wrong. Interestingly, of the three NPCs I gave the DM to play with (Ariadne, Ricki Hiltopple and Jacob Ettus), Ariadne was the one I least expected would play a part in the campaign. After all, she was in Waterdeep, half a world away. What could possibly happen to her? :smallsmile:

The combat at the ball was interesting mainly for the painful lesson about just how annoying/dangerous a horde of minions with status effects can be. When Pieter got surrounded by three ghouls, all of which could immobilise with a basic attack, I knew my chances of being able to reach Ariadne were slim, and I was proven right. Pieter didn’t move a single square in the first 4 rounds of combat, and it was only when I dropped Consecrated Ground out of desperation (knowing it would automatically kill the ghouls) that he finally got to move. Of course, by then Ariadne was down and all Pieter could do was rush to see whether she could be saved.

What happened next is, I think, insightful into why the campaign is so enjoyable for me. I asked the DM, “Can she be saved?” His reply was, “Story-wise, no, but if it’s important to you, yes”. That’s almost the exact response that he gave when Pieter wanted to save Bairwin underneath Winterhaven way back at level 2, and knowing that the DM is going to give you that ownership of the important parts of your character’s story is a pretty nice feeling.

In this case, I saw the fun to be had from a vengeance-mad Pieter tracking down a necromancer through the streets of Waterdeep and Ariadne met her untimely fate. We still haven’t ascertained whether or why the ghost specifically sought her out, but rest assured that some “pointed” questions will be asked when the showdown comes.

Hopefully immobilise won't be as big an issue for us in the future as it has been to date. With the addition of Nala, we're now split half and half between ranged and melee PCs, which is refreshing after the early levels where the party wizard (Fian and then Soveliss) was the only ranged attacker. The added versatility should help us deal with a wider variety of situations.

The encounter with the ghosts on the fugue ship was fun, largely because of the metagame aspects of it. For those not familiar with this LFR module, the only way to converse with the ghosts is to let them possess you. Bengi’s player took one, I took another, and Sov’s player took the last.

Bengi’s player manifested a bookish scribe who seemed perpetually in need of something to write on. He spoke to us more to get us to leave him to his writing than anything else. I got the ghost who had been gutted and hung with his own entrails. The LFR possession card suggested I was having trouble breathing, so I hammed it up and put on as gravelly a voice as I can manage. Note: it's hard to keep that up for a while. I still had a sore throat the next morning.

Sov’s player’s ghost was continuously coughing up petals, and had that sort of morose affectation that serious flu sufferers have. The encounter was a lot of fun, so much so that the DM threw in an extra treasure parcel for good roleplaying and the rest of us were too busy enjoying the performances to take much note of exactly what information we were gathering. We had to have a forum get-together after the session to try to jog each other’s memories.

2010-05-07, 07:45 AM
Brugg in the bar??

Also our group seems to get itchy if they go more than an hour "at the table" without killing something :D

[edit after your last session post]

And of course the roleplaying of the ghosts and the questions asked was outstanding :)

2010-06-12, 09:21 PM
Brugg in the bar??


And of course the roleplaying of the ghosts and the questions asked was outstanding :)

Brugg in the bar was fun, mainly for the fact that that Dek was busy picking a fight with three ogres while Pieter was madly trying to get them both out of there alive.

The encounter with the ghosts was also entertaining, largely on a "presentation" rather than content basis. There wasn't that much good interraction IMO, but the three players controlling the ghosts certainly each did a great job bringing the scene to life.

Another update should be posted soon. In fact, I've got two almost ready to go.

2010-06-14, 06:25 AM
Another update should be posted soon. In fact, I've got two almost ready to go.

Excellent!! :-)

I'm really enjoying your game write ups.

2010-06-14, 07:10 AM
This looks great. Kinda makes me want to write my own 4e Campaign Diary.

2010-06-14, 07:24 AM
Cool! I've been following your campaign for a while adn have thoroughly enjoyed it so far:smallsmile:

2010-06-15, 04:57 PM
Thanks for the kind words all. As alms for the pilgrims, I give you:

Session 44: A Watery Grave (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_44.pdf).

The Heroes of Winterhaven search the sunken Ardent Purveyor and recover the priceless Lantan Collection, drawing ever-closer to uncovering the necromancer's identity.


I missed almost all of this session, so unfortunately the commentary on this instalment will be a little less insightful* than it usually is.

The questioning of Virko and the "invasion" of the burning Master Mariner's guildhouse was a relatively easy and entertaining skill challenge. Although we're still having trouble getting them to really flow, I am coming to love skill challenges more and more. They so beautifully cover the no man's land between combat and pure roleplaying. For those times when you don't want to focus too much on the specifics or paint too complete a picture, they fit perfectly into your session.

I still think theres a bit of a disconnect within our group about how to run them. The DM generally leaves his descriptions loose (perhaps even minimal), and I believe he's hoping that we as players will step into the gap and paint the picture for him. But there's still reluctance on the players' part; that old-school mentality of "you paint the picture and we'll interract with it". To put it another way, we players aren't going to try to pick the lock until the DM tells us that there's a lock to pick.

I'm not sure that mentality really applies (or at least needs to apply) to skill challenge. Sometimes it's only important that you get from A to B. There's no reason that it has to be the DM who decides how. I keep reminding myself to help the DM more with this - I got a taste for it while playing our mini-session of 3:16 Carnage among the Stars (http://gregorhutton.com/roleplaying/3-16.pdf) - but when session time rolls around, I fall back into bad(?) habits.

I'm not sure what possessed the other players to do a deal with a priestess of Umberlee so that we could go and explore a sunken ship in ... Umberlee's Cache. I mean, really?! Fortunately, I think the DM was content to let this RPGA module play out as written, otherwise his gygaxian leanings would have had us strapped by fiendish chuuls to underwater altars awaiting sacrifice. Seriously guys...

But, as usual, the Heroes of Winterhaven got the job done, despite Pieter having an abysmal (or is that abyssal?) combat against the sea wraiths (missing 5 out of 6 attacks, I believe). We gratefully returned to dry land and discovered that Dardan Morn's chest contained the Lantan collection! Clearly Morn was the captain who had sailed to Amn to recover the priceless pieces, only to lose his life and vessel on returning to Waterdeep harbour. His log named his only son Azu, and suspicion quickly fell on Azu for the recent crimes against the guilds.

We had just enough time left for a discussion of what to do with the Lantan collection. No consenus was reached (and still hasn't been at the time of writing - 1 "real" month later), but Pieter and Soveliss quickly fell into dispute about whether to press on or rest. This campaign would be so much more cohesive (but perhaps not nearly so much fun) if not for that odd couple!

* Yes, that was tongue-in-cheek.

I'm halfway through the next session write-up, so it should be posted by... let's say Friday/Saturday. Then our next actual play session is scheduled for 27 June 2010.

I'm experimenting with converting the newsletter file format from .pdf into .jpg or another internet-friendly format so that I can embed them in posts rather than just hyperlink to off-board hosting. I just need to (1) figure out how to do it in such a way as to avoid screwing with the forum page width, and (2) make sure the mods aren't going to disapprove of me taking up their storage allocation :smallwink:

2010-06-16, 06:43 AM
I actually like the pdf format, so i hope that it continues to be an option.

And yeah, I would never have thought to go to a priest of Umberlee...

2010-06-21, 06:22 AM
Session 45: In Downshadow Lies Death (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_45.pdf).

Our heroes finally manage to track down the necromancer, and a confrontation nears.


I realised while typing this one up just how awesome this story arc is. We have:

A planar tomb
TWO personal quests for vengeance (Morn's and Pieter's)
Machinations of the Masked Lords of Waterdeep
Recovery of a priceless lost treasure
A costume ball where ghouls emerged from the decorations
Diving on a sunken wreck in the middle of a sea wraith swarm
Mutilated ghosts that possess others in order to communicate
Duplicitous guilds that may or may not be trustworthy
A dude with sores that weep blue fire
The son of the Open Lord, who seems to be trustworthy, but look what his daddy's buddies get up to.
A city buried in the Underdark beneath Waterdeep

If this is what high-heroic has to offer, I can't wait to see paragon.

Pieter's solo pursuit of Morn proved to be a bit of a bust. I had Pieter go haring off on his own because it fit his character - he's always been the most hot-headed of the party, and the necromancer had just killed one of his oldest friends. He wasn't going to sit around and let time go by.

Unfortunately, the module(s) on which this arc is based don't provide any mechanism for the PCs to track down Morn before his attack on the marketplace, and the DM - who is normally more than happy to leave the beaten path - wanted to keep things simple this time. The roadblock annoyed me at the time and the DM snapped in reply "What did you expect, to make two rolls and pay 50gp and find him?"

In all honesty, no I didn't, but I did expect that the search for Morn would constitute a skill challenge and that the adventure would pursue the necromancer vigorously. My metagame expectation was that Pieter would hopefully be able to advance that challenge without the other PCs (but then get stuck) or that he could attempt the challenge himself and possibly fail.

I expected too much, and was putting my play priorities (exploring Pieter's brash side) ahead of the DM's (keeping his preparation job simple for the time being), which was pretty selfish really. But what's just as interesting is that I made assumptions about how the adventure and system would handle certain events. As it turned out, I was right, but 2 in-game days early. I'm sort of pleased by that, and I believe it shows that I'm starting to 'grok' 4e.

The battle in the marketplace was in fact a skill challenge, and it worked quite well. The default assumption was "yes, you are hacking up zombies, but what else are you doing?" I really liked it. It offered a full canvas to interract with (a marketplace full of stalls, militia, civilians and undead) rather than some of the other skill challenges I have seen that offer only one point of interraction (usually an NPC) and as it turned out we succeeded easily. What more could you ask for?

We descended into Downshadow via the well in the Yawning Portal tavern, which was a bit of a metagame thrill for me (it's the tavern in NWN: Hordes of the Underdark) and then commenced our search for the necromancer. The hunt for Morn was another skill challenge, and again it offered a large canvas to paint with. There were merchants and civilians to quiz, arcane lore to identify which reagents Morn would need, athletics checks to negotiate rubble on the outskirts of Downshadow, and then a final Stealth check to approach Morn's holdout undetected.

Which proved of little benefit, because we then got our arses handed to us.

Actually, that's a bit of an overstatement, but the simple fact is that the L+2 combat pushed us pretty close to the brink. In large part that was due to the marrowshriek skeletons. Through a combination of a minor-action at-will AoE daze power, grabbing attacks and absurdly high recharge rolls (I think the DM recharged 13 out of 17 times with them), they had most of the party dazed for most of the encounter and actually cost us 3 PC turns (Dek was stunned for 2 turns and Pieter for 1).

The last time we encountered AoE daze was against the mad wraith in the tomb and it had a similar effect. Unfortunately, we haven't quite got the hang of focus fire yet, something we will need to really get a handle on as we move into paragon.

2010-06-30, 07:13 AM
Session 46: Live by the Sword... (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_46.pdf)

Our heroes track down the Necromancer, and Ariadne is avenged.


This session was one big combat that lasted approximately 3 hours, as tends to happen for our showdowns. I'm not sure whether it's us or 4e, but combat is never quick. I know that RPGA games assume 1 hour per combat, and I haven't heard any outcry about how that isn't enough time, so I can only assume that it's just us that is slow.

The combat pointed out a number of intriguing things.

Firstly, Dek is very vulnerable to Will attacks. The blaspheme disciple was having absolutely no trouble hitting with his words of undeath power, and slowly chipping away at Dek's hit points. He wasn't the biggest hitter in the combat, but it's just as worrying when you know you're on low hit points and almost-guaranteed damage is coming up in the initiative order.

Secondly, against enemies with high attack stats, there's very little you can do to defend yourself. Morn was attacking at +20 against defences ranging from 22 to 27. I'm not sure whether that's simply a function of being high level or whether he's a special case, but it was pretty shocking when he rolled a total of 21 and Maptool announced it as a "fumble" (a roll of a natural 1). Ironically, on some of the few occasions that Morn missed, it was because he was attacking prone targets with ranged attacks and taking a -2 attack penalty.

Thirdly, power (and character theme) choice can significantly impact on your party's ability to deal with some enemies. I've mentioned before that we're not kitted out with the sort of radiant damage that allows you to deal optimally with undead. This session showed that it's a little worse than we had initially thought. Half of Nala's powers involve poison damage and many of Soveliss' powers deal necrotic damage, both of which undead are immune to.

Fortunately, we appear to be coming to the end of our sojourn among the not-quite-dead and we'll soon move on to fight big tough guys with elemental buddies. Perhaps we need to make sure no-one is too heavily dependant on elemental damage of a single type...

The combat was an enjoyable one, and one of the players commented that it had him on the edge of his seat for 4 hours. That's obviously a good thing. I can't say that I completely enjoyed the session because I flubbed almost all of my attack rolls and Pieter ended up unable to escape the combat with the boneclaws for fear of opportunity attacks. When I finally did summon up the courage to try to move, Pieter ate 40+ damage for his temerity. With threatening reach 3, basic attacks that deal 1d12+10 damage and the ability to land successive opportunity attacks during the same movement action, boneclaws are excellent at keeping PCs pinned down.

There were some highlights though. Consecrated Ground was ridiculously, brain-numbingly successful, keeping both Dek and Pieter fighting long after they should have been dead (not unconscious - dead). Surely it needs errataing. And I actually elicited cheers around the virtual table when I fired off Mass Cure Light Wounds and healed everyone but Nala for 20+ hit points. I think that's a pretty clear indication of how close this combat was.

The only real disappointment was that Pieter (the PC with the most personal grievance against Morn), never got to actually engage the necromancer. But that's also a pretty clear indication of the differences between literary stories and the sort of freeform stories you get from a roleplaying game. Viva la difference.

2010-06-30, 08:29 AM
Sounds exciting, though it is a shame that Pieter didn't get to fight against Morn personally. But, as you say, that's the difference between freeform story games and role-playing games.

Kol Korran
2010-06-30, 09:29 AM
a good exciting battle, with many close moments is always a good thing! :smallbiggrin:
in my RL group, i came to a sort of an opposite low point to what you described with Pieter, with my own cleric Bruthus. the group have seen influences of a priestess of shar called Esvele ever since... 4th level (we're 12th level now). Bruthus developed quite an obssesion to learn more of her, and to get rid of her, due to the damage she was causing the realms. i looked for clues everywhere and linked many atrocities, as well as other events to her. fought many of her minions.
so finally we get to a big room with several guards, and a tear in the weave fueled by some undead chanters in cages above a pit. angry i storm to the pit's end to destory the undead, when Esvele, who has heard us and have been waiting, cast a Destruction spell. "poof!" goes Bruthus, and i sit down watching my friends fighting the guards and priestess, while i do nothing...
a bit of an anti climax for me, yep. ces't la vie, non? worse things happen you see...

on another note: still glad to see you guys going strong. i wonder where you'll go afterwards. i'm still intrigued by the story of the dragon linked to Dek...

2010-07-07, 06:06 AM
Sounds exciting, though it is a shame that Pieter didn't get to fight against Morn personally. But, as you say, that's the difference between freeform story games and role-playing games.

"poof!" goes Bruthus, and i sit down watching my friends fighting the guards and priestess, while i do nothing...
a bit of an anti climax for me, yep. ces't la vie, non? worse things happen you see...

Part of me thinks that the DM should reward players who get so involved with the story by allowing that story to play out as the player intends - not necessarily letting the player win the showdown, but at least letting the player confront the villain.

It's a hard choice for a DM to make - do you run the challenge objectively, or do you bend and tweak it to make the best story. There are advantages either way I suppose.

i'm still intrigued by the story of the dragon linked to Dek...

You might be waiting a while. I think Dek's story is planned to play out in high paragon. Which could be interesting given that his player keeps mentioning a desire to play a paladin instead :smallsmile:

2010-07-07, 06:08 AM
Session 47: Into the Maelstrom (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_47.pdf).

As momentous events build in the Frozen North, new heroes rise to confront an insidious foe.


I've taken over the DMing reins in our SSTL campaign on a short-term basis only. The game is described as a "one-shot" but at this stage is looking like it will take two sessions to complete.

This is the intro I gave the players:

The commander’s office is warm; a welcome relief from the stinging air outside. Even during Summertide, Neverwinter is a chilly place. Now that the seasons have turned, the streets of the city are permanently coated in frost and icicles grow dangerously on eaves.

Duran Gilean, commander of Neverwinter’s garrison, looks you up and down before gesturing towards some waiting chairs. His companion, a plump man dressed in azure robes and reeking of tobacco, remains standing at one end of Gilean’s desk.

“Thank you for coming”, Gilean welcomes you. “You must wonder why I have summoned you.”

Gilean takes a breath before continuing. “You are obviously aware of the recent increase in hostile activity in the region. Neverwinter’s forces are stretched uncomfortably thin, and now word has reached me of a new threat; one my guards are ill-equipped to handle. Apparently some sort of rift has opened up in the mountains.”

Gilean glances at the robed man, who continues.

“The “rift” is in fact a portal to the elemental chaos.” He pauses for an uncomfortably long time, and you get the distinct impression he is waiting for some sign that you don’t know what he’s talking about. He eventually continues.

“It was first reported by a traveller who glimpsed fire in the sky three nights ago. Commander Gilean sent a guard contingent to investigate, and they did not return. I scryed on the area with my magic last night, and discovered the true source. Fortunately, the portal appears to be small at the moment, smaller than a wagon. Judging from the snowmelt in the area, I can only assume it leads to a part of the elemental chaos dominated by fire.”

Gilean rises from his seat and paces around the desk, cutting the wizard off.

“Berolin reports no scorching around the portal, so we have concluded that the area beyond the portal is not immediately deadly. But the portal has been open for days now, and Berolin tells me that some force is keeping it open. No wild portal lasts so long. I fear that someone or something has plans for that portal, and I want it closed.

“Berolin cannot close the portal from this side. I need someone to venture through the rift, discover what’s on the other side, and find some way to close it. Obviously it would be foolhardy to send my people on such a task. A group with your… special talents is needed.”

“Will you help us?”

The main campaign arc is heading for the WotC published mega-module Revenge of the Giants, so it made sense to have a one-shot that the normal DM could link into the campaign at some future time. Keen-eyed readers will notice that this issue of SSTL (unlike previous issues) doesn't include an in-game date. It might be happening just as the main PCs are recovering from their battle with Morn. It might happen two weeks afterwards. Or it might already have happened.

One of my main reasons for agreeing to be DM (aside from the fact that I quite enjoy the DMing role) is that I was curious to see what 4e was like from the DM's perspective, and in that regard the session was quite successful. I learned a lot, including:

Skill challenges are hard to pull off.

The adventure is based on the level 16 encounters (titled "Eye of Flame") from the Dungeon Delve book. As anyone who's ever inspected the book knows, Dungeon Delves are little more than combat after combat. I wanted to experience more than that so I inserted a preliminary skill challenge based on the overland travel skill challenge from Siege of Bordrin's Watch.

Given my past criticisms of that challenge, I didn't use it as written. Rather I adopted its complexity (4 successes before 3 failures) and kept a close eye on its recommended primary skills (Nature, Endurance, Perception and Stealth).

I then winged it from there. First, I gave the party the choice of how to approach the challenge and briefly outlined the options; did they want to climb the mountain (less exposed but physically harder) or ascend one of the glacial valleys (more exposed but less physical). The party chose the former and I structured the challenge accordingly. The party ended up with 4 successes (two athletics, one nature and one perception) and one failure (endurance).

I was quite... overbearing in some respects. I didn't want the skill challenge to devolve into each player checking their character sheet for the highest modifier, so I wasn't shy about outright calling for a specific skill. The failed Endurance check came when Tiana was climbing the mountain, and was only rolled because I specifically told the player too. After all, a frail eladrin climbing the side of an ice-covered mountain must be at some risk. When Tiana failed the check, it counted as a failure and cost her a healing surge.

Otherwise I let the PCs do whatever they wanted based on the circumstances as I then described them. The athletics checks were obvious choices given the situation. Once the PCs reach the peak of the cliff, the shaman's player wanted to roll Nature to find their direction - he succeeded and I described them moving off in the right direction, avoiding an unstable snowdrift. Finally, they reached the clearing and its ring of ad-libbed trap stones. Tiana identified them as such with an Arcana check (no success or failure) and Varos discovered the path through with a successful Perception check.

The only time I told a player they couldn't make the check they wanted was when An's player wanted to roll Acrobatics to ascend the cliff.

I was overall happy with the way the challenge went considering it was my first time running one. Perhaps I was a little too controlling in prompting certain checks, but I attempted at all times to primarily portray a scene and allow the PCs to respond to it. For example, if Ox (to whom An'Sar'Ius was tethered) had failed an athletics check, then An'Sar'Ius would have gotten his Acrobatics check to avoid falling rocks.

I was surprised how low the DCs for skill challenges are. DC 20 is child's play for a reasonably skilled 16th level PC. That does give options for unskilled PCs, but it also poses a difficult decision for rules-loyal DMs. Either you increase the complexity of the challenge (to increase the opportunities for failures), or you resign yourself to PCs breezing through simple challenges to which their skills are suited. Given my previous criticism of high-complexity challenges, that's a very difficult choice.

Overall, I was pleased with skill challenges. I think they have a lot of promise and are unfairly criticised in some circles.

Resistances are problematic

I've heard it said before that resistances are problematic because they either do too much or do too little. This session proved that. I won't comment on the system as a whole, because this adventure is at the extreme end of the scale - lots of fire creatures and advance warning to the PCs that they're going to be there.But it did demonstrate that if the PCs know that elemental damage is coming and have the ability and inclination to prepare for it, they can trivialise it.

I think the PCs have resisted something like 95% of the fire damage dealt to them so far. Even what should have been unthinkable (stepping into the pillar of fire) proved little more than an inconvenience. Garth took 20 hp fire damage (resisted 10) and will take a further 20 per turn he's in there (resisting 10). At that rate, he'll survive 13 rounds standing in the middle of a column of fire, which is not only a little silly, it's anti-climactic.

4e IS skewed in favour of the PCs...

You don't really get a feel for how powerful well-made PCs are until you're the DM who's just come up with a cunning plan for next round only to see it dashed by a flurry of immobilised, slowed, dazed or stunned. I lost count of the number of times my plans were thrown out of whack in the first encounter because one of the monsters had an adverse condition placed on it.

Further, some monsters simply do insufficient damage to challenge PCs. The problem is exacerbated when using old (such as Monster Manual 1) monsters against up-to-date PCs. Newer monsters have nifty effects and special rules. Older ones can sometimes be sacks of hit points that don't really achieve much. Fire giants should be awe-inspiring, but the redhead in the second encounter quite simply got his arse handed to him. It's not so much that he got beaten so profoundly (he was after all blocking a passeway against an entire group of adventurers); it's that he didn't do anything interesting before dying.

In preparation for next session, I'm going to modify the monsters in accordance with Greg Bilsland's rule of thumb: for paragon and epic tier monsters from MM1, double the flat damage (ie. the 5 in 1d6+5) of their attacks (or triple it for brutes). It's a simple and easy to administer "fix" that will hopefully give the monsters the little extra punch they seem to need.

... but that's ok because it's so easy to make or run another encounter

This is what impressed me the most: how much easier to run 4e is than the 3.x editions. Monsters and encounters are so much more streamlined and there is a clearer and more uniform set of mechanics that handles everything else.

When we ended the session, I was a little down about how poorly the monsters were performing in the second encounter (ps. it's not over yet!). Within 5 minutes, it occurred to me that I could easily prepare a different encounter and how little preparation time had actually been wasted on the encounter that "went wrong". That realisation almost immediately dispelled whatever quasi-doldrums were remaining.

I distinctly recall spending in excess of an hour and a half preparing an encounter for my 3.5 campaign that the PCs dismantled with barely a thought. It wasn't the beating that stung; it was the fact that I had spent so long preparing my own beating. There are no (or at least much less) problems like that with 4e.

So far I'm really enjoying being back in the DM seat. I'll let you know how the next session goes.

2010-07-07, 07:28 AM
But you have to give the seat back :D

2010-07-26, 04:28 PM
Session 48: Eye of Flame (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_48.pdf).

The Frozen Steel overcome their opponents, and close the Eye of Flame.


My overall impressions of DMing 4e this session were quite similar to those of last session. Characters (or at least mid-paragon characters) are still juggernauts that more-or-less run riot through encounters that consist solely of MM1 monsters.

However, there were a few things that came into focus during the session.

Minions are fiddly

The last encounter featured 5 azer minions, and I struggled to think of the best way to use them. The azer's fire aura never came into play because a PC was never adjacent to two of them, and their sole attack (which does fire damage) would normally have been (almost-)completely negated by the fire resistance of the PCs. More on that later.

I had a few of them take the new Aid Attack action to give the fire giant soldiers a +2 to hit, but I'm pretty sure that by the time the giants' initiative rolled around I forgot about the +2 altogether.

Of the five minions, only one of them was killed by a melee or ranged attack (Ox killed one if I remember correctly). The significance of that is that I can't even really say that the presence of the minions was costing the PCs actions. They were getting picked off by area and close attacks that the PCs probably would have used anyway due to the roiling melee.

I'm sure there's a trick to using minions effectively, but I'm not sure exactly what it is yet.

Monsters need to be versatile

While it's true that adding versatility to a monster makes it harder for the DM to play it, it also gives the DM more opportunity to tailor a monster's behaviour to the situation in the encounter. In the last encounter of the delve, none of the monsters had more than 1 non-basic attack. Of those non-basic attacks, all of them were encounter powers except the forgecaller's flame burst, which was recharge 6 and only recharged in the dying rounds of the fight.

That made things easy for me to run, but it also made it relatively boring. When initiative rolled around, I (and the players) knew the fire giants would be attacking with their greatswords and the forgecaller would be using her single-target nuke.

On top of the lack of powers, there was little opportunity for the monsters to manipulate the PCs. Only the air archon had a forced movement effect, for example. That lack of manipulation meant that I was always only reacting to the PCs, and we all know how that sort of combat ends.

Defenders supported by leaders are tough nuts to crack.

As a rough estimate, I would guess that Garth was the focus of approximately half of the monster attacks in this combat, largely because he was handing out his mark like candy. Despite being on the receiving end of 2 soldiers, a skirmisher and an over-levelled artillery opponent, he still didn't go down.

That experience is consistent with how Dek has stomped his way through the SSTL campaign. While there have been occasions where the fighter has been overwhelmed, they usually coincide with significant Will attacks (Dek's glaring weak spot) or with other PCs being sufficiently threatened that Pieter can't keep up the healing on Dek.

This combat, Garth was the only one really in trouble, and Varos had enough juice to keep him going. I got close, but missed out on the cigar.

Despite the increased hit points in 4e, monsters still go down fast.

When we started the session, both salamanders in the second encounter were blooded. One was on 34 hit points and the other approximately 20. They were separated from the PCs by the pillar of flame, and I assumed I had 2 or more rounds left to play with them. Neither survived the first round.

The fire archon lasted a little longer because he had more hit points, but once the salamanders were down and the PCs were able to focus fire, its days were clearly numbered. It used its cinder burst power, and then had it triggered again by its death throes before the round was over.

It's really easy for a 4e DM to "cheat"

After running the first two encounters, I knew that the PCs fire resistance was swinging things too far. The fire-themed monsters simply couldn't overcome it, and it was seriously screwing with their expected damage output.

So I made an on-the-spot decision to allow the forgecaller's flame burst to "dispel" the fire resistance of PCs caught in the blast. I described the inferno battering against the wards, causing them to collapse one by one. No one really batted an eyelid, although at least one of the players suspected what I had done.

There's nothing that says I couldn't have done the same thing in a D&D 3.5 game, but I'm almost certain I wouldn't have. That edition (and its regulated monster creation and spell lists) always struck me as sacrosanct. The designers and general public have made a much bigger deal about 4e being malleable; about the DM having the power (or even responsibility) to change things on the fly, so I didn't think twice. I knew I and the players would enjoy the encounter more if it was finely balanced, and I was right.

It was definitely interesting, and fun, to get into the DM's chair for a few sessions and take the "new" edition for a test drive, but I'm equally happy to be going back to Pieter and continuing his adventures. Now I just need to make sure he's as effective a leader as Varos, or else I'll never live it down.

2010-08-01, 09:34 AM
Oh dear.

Just finished a session and we're not doing terribly well in the Tomb of Horrors so far....

[Is it mean to drop teasers like that?]

2010-08-01, 11:11 AM
Oh dear.

Just finished a session and we're not doing terribly well in the Tomb of Horrors so far....

[Is it mean to drop teasers like that?]

Yes. But less so if you plan to post a journal about it. :smallwink:

2010-08-06, 10:38 PM
Session 49: The Pull of Forgotten Memory (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_49.pdf).

The Heroes of Winterhaven garner fame in Waterdeep, then journey to Acererak's tomb.


This was a most unusual session for us. It lasted almost five hours, and didn't include a single combat. More importantly, not once was that lack of combat problematic. The scenes and situations involved were just incredibly gripping. Along with the big combat set pieces (Kalarel, Murklemor, Paldemar), I think this my favourite session of the campaign so far.

As I mentioned a few posts ago, the necromancer series of RPGA Living Realms modules contain an awful lot of stuff that is intrinsically cool. What I didn't realise until the session just past was how fitting they were to 4e D&D at the end of heroic tier.

The modules bring the PCs into contact with the movers and shakers of Waterdeep, and in the process the PCs can make powerful friends and enemies. But more importantly the modules have the PCs recover the Lantan collection, a folio of documents recording technological marvels stolen from Waterdeep two decades earlier and long thought lost. The Lantan collection is inherently Waterdhavian. It's the sort of find that makes for local heroes, but on a regional/citywide - rather than villagewide - scale. The PCs who return the Lantan collection are going to be recognised and loved wherever they go in Waterdeep. They're not movers and shakers on a worldwide scale, but when they talk in and around Waterdeep, people should listen. And that's exactly where you want your PCs to be at the end of heroic tier.

We were paranoid about returning the collection, fearing an ambush or betrayal that didn't arise. Instead, our DM allowed us to have a triumphant handover at the base of Timehands, surrounded by a mob of adoring citizens and the heads of most of the important entities in the city. As I mentioned at the time, it felt a lot like the scene at the end of A New Hope where Luke, Han and Chewie get their medals. I would have been happy to end the session there. It was a very cool feeling.

Of course, that would have meant a very short session so we pressed on. Mixed in with the Lantan collection were the notes referring to what we all knew (outside the game) was Acererak's tomb, the fabled and nightmarish Tomb of Horrors. Bengi was obviously interested in exploring it, feeling a calling (the titular pull of forgotten memory; my words not his) but I know from speaking to the DM that's only part of the attraction.

Our DM has recently decided to limit the sources that are available to players when choosing feats, powers etc. Bengi fared the worst from that change, losing access to three feats that he planned on taking (two of which were Two-fold Curse and the Eberron-specific Mark of Scribing). Whether out of mischieviousness or curiosity, the DM told him he could have permission for those feats if the group made it through the tomb of horrors.

Now that's a perfectly justifiable decision in game. After all, the Tomb is the domain of the archlich Acererak, who in the campaign created the warforged and Bengi. But I'm not sure that was why the DM made the offer. I think he just wants to see us suffer!

I'm not sure why Soveliss is so keen to visit the tomb. His recovery of the black prism from Michael the Burnt's tower has resulted in him showing a renewed interest in necromancy (not surprising given his Thayan heritage), and the eladrin's desire to delve the tomb of an archlich is not reassuring. Nala is openly suspicious of him (especially humourous given that Nala's player and Sov's player are married), and Pieter would much rather not enter the tomb.

In fact, were I a stickler for character, Pieter never would have entered the damn place. But as I have said before: players control their characters rather than the other way around. I knew that Bengi's player was keen to explore it and (the foolhardy) part of me wanted to experience the tomb, so I told Bengi's player what he needed to say to get Pieter to enter the tomb. Specifically, he needed to press Pieter's loyalty buttons. It made for a very interesting scene, with me sending private whispers to Bengi's player as the conversation went back and forth. Maptool has recently instituted a "so-and-so is typing" message, and the DM commented during the session "I know you're all whispering to each other because I can see the typing message but nothing is coming up in chat!"

The tomb itself has me worried. Until we triggered the second trap, I was reasonably confident we could get through without too much trouble. After all, it's just a matter of being careful, right? Then we discovered that the trigger to the second trap was an invisible latch that you couldn't accidentally trigger. In other words, only people who were actively searching for the trap could fall afoul of it.

As I mentioned to the DM afterwards, that's just dickery of the highest calibre. If being incautious gets you in trouble, and being cautious gets you in just as much, then the whole Tomb looks like it might just be a crap shoot. I'm suddenly very very concerned. As Pieter said to Bengi at the end of the session, "This makes no sense. Why hide a trap so that only those who look for it are caught by it? Something sinister is afoot here. Are you sure you wish to proceed inside, or that what is in there - if anything is in there - is worth the obvious risk. Perhaps Nala was right."

Only time (and the bodycount) will tell.

2010-08-10, 04:14 PM
For some time now, it's been in the back of my mind that Pieter promised to write again to Jacob before the end of the month of Fading. At the time, that gave him almost two months (a period I specifically picked to allow for slow overland travel of messages from Thunderspire to Highmoon).

Then we ended up in the Shadowfell and whisked my malfunctioning portal to Waterdeep, and the promise slipped Pieter's mind until just before he was due to set off for Neverwinter. By that stage it was 11 Fading, and there was next to no chance of a message reaching Highmoon overland before the end of the month.

Fortunately, Pieter has contacts in the temple of Tempus and a deep purse:

His Excellency
Jacob Ettus
Highmoon Courts-of-law

11 Fading 1479

Your excellence,

I apologise for contacting you in this manner without prior making your acquaintance. It is to entirely due to my oversight that we have not yet met, for I have been the ritualist in residence at the Lord of Knowledge’s shrine in Highmoon for this past month. I can only repeat my apologies for not delivering the contents of this message to you personally, and hope that you will understand (as I am sure a great man in your position must) the pressures and responsibilities of office.

Prior to my arrival in Highmoon at the behest of Oghma’s high priest Arrol, I was an acolyte at Oghma’s shrine in Suzail. It was while studying there as an adolescent that I met a young priestess of Tempus named Elizabeth Warrell. I had not heard from Elizabeth in more than a decade until last night I received a sending from her.

Her message went as follows. I apologise for the abbreviated language. As I’m sure I do not need to explain to one so educated as your excellence, the sending ritual only allows limited communication. It would be impetuous of me to try to infer the expanded form of the message, so I must content myself with conveying the sending exactly as it was received. I assure you my memory is quite good, and there is no chance of error whatsoever:

Message soon for Jacob Ettus. Magistrate Highmoon. Deliver by armed courier urgently. From Pieter Grimm. Have received payment. Will forward later.
I hesitate to include those last phrases but I feel beholden to convey the messages exactly as I received them, so I must.

You will no doubt notice the reference to armed courier, and may be wondering why this missive arrives by simple messenger. I trust you are not overly concerned by the inconsistency, but I believe that Elizabeth is not aware that I have left Suzail. Hence she believed an armed courier was necessary for the long overland journey, when in fact it took only a short walk across town to deliver her message.

A second sending from Elizabeth arrived shortly afterwards.

Axis alive. Recovered Stormbringer. Giants moving against north. Shadowfell mercenaries involved. Notify king to contact Renaer Neverember in Waterdeep. Great danger. Do not delay.
I must admit to never having received such a momentous sending. Can it be true? The relic blade Stormbringer recovered, and giants marching against the north? If so, we live in times unmatched since the Plague itself. I beseech your excellence to take me into your confidence in these matters. As a servant of Oghma, it pains me to have such glimpses of great events and not be able to record them fully. I am a lowly ritualist, but I am well educated in all manner of fields and disciplines, and no doubt even a great man such as yourself can take some use or benefit from my lifetime of study.

I hope to hear favourably from your excellence on the morrow. If I should not, then I remain ever your servant,

Ellance Fallion

Interestingly, the 4e version of sending requires a target "that you know", and none of the ritualists Pieter has contact with personally know Jacob. Fortunately, the DM lets me play quietly with story elements around the main plot, so Ellance just happened to be in town.

Of course, it helps that when I write these little things, I leave the DM plot crumbs such as Elizabeth (and through her the church of Tempus and presumably Archbishop Cormyr) now knowing that Pieter has Stormbringer...

2010-08-24, 12:40 AM
Hi all.

Sorry for the lack of significant updates lately. I haven't forgotten you: we've had to miss a few sessions through ill-health.

To tide you over until this weekend (our next session, fingers crossed), here's an exchange that took place shortly after Caelan fell into the Tomb's second pit:


Pieter hauls Caelan out of the pit, loosening his grip on the rope only once the druid is safely back in the tunnel. The tempuran wipes a trickle of sweat out of his eyes, then turns to Bengi.

"This makes no sense. Why hide a trap so that only those who look for it are caught by it? Something sinister is afoot here. Are you sure you wish to proceed inside, or that what is in there - if anything is in there - is worth the obvious risk. Perhaps Nala was right."


Bengi nods slowly, then turns to stare up the tunnel. Pieter notices the soft glow of his eye sockets, and wonder anew whether the golem sees the world in the same way as creatures of flesh and blood.

The silence grows long.

"Bengi?" There is no response.

"Bengi?" Pieter pauses uncomfortably, unsure what the golem is playing at, and feels himself getting annoyed. But before he can decide how to act, Bengi speaks, "You are correct".

Pieter looks up at the golem, confused. Bengi still stares down the corridor, but at least he seems to be reacting again. "Correct? About what?".

The golem finally turns to face the others. "We do not know what is within. Except a death-trap. But this is not capricious. It is a test of mettle. A culling of the weak." Bengi seems about to say something else, then pauses. Instead its voice has a touch of grim amusement, "Does that offend you?".

Bengi glances back down the tunnel. "I also. It seeks slaves / victims. It has baited the trap with riddles and half-truths, and dares me to follow. We are here. We could leave and return a century hence, and it would still wait and call." Bengi straightens proudly, or at least parodies a human doing so. "But we are here now. I would be reckless. Have you come to a beast in a lair, and slain the 'dragon' that swallowed you?" The golem's glowing eyes first meet Pieter's, then Dek's, then Soveliss', and then Nala and Caelan also.


Soveliss smiles. "All the better to test our skills. Let'ss make sure we use them all - and between us we have many. The treasure and knowledge here is already ours; you lot just haven't planned on what to do with your share yet.


Dek looks around checking the stone work for anything out of the ordinary.

"Bengi, you have followed and now you require us to follow. With our skills and also I am sure somewhere in your memories are echoes or reminders of this place, we may avoid the worst of the pits. However, I am not the best suited to finding these traps so some one else will need to look for them. Lead on."


"We`ve come this far, and although I am not best suited to find the traps and solve the riddles in this treacherous place, I think this is a good chance to see clearly into the hearts and intensions of my new-found companions".

The dragonborn looks at Soveliss, then Bengi.

"I have the mettle and a new-found curiosity of what lies at the end of this evil place...."


Pieter sighs, shifting Stormbringer so that it hangs more comfortably across his shoulders. He looks from Bengi to Soveliss.

"I have no yearning for ancient secrets or dark power, and no desire to lose my life in pursuit of either. But you are my companions, and I will not abandon you now. Let us seek out Bengi's dragon and slay it."

Pieter looks down into the pit at his feet, and sees the poisoned spikes shimmering in the half-light.

"Never turn away from a fight," he mutters to himself.

Nala is turning out to be a bit of a goody-goody ally for Pieter, having taken Soveliss and Bengi to task over why they wanted to journey into the plaguelands just to investigate a lich's tomb. It was made all the more entertaining by the fact that Nala's player is married to Soveliss' player :smallwink:

I've never really been the sort of player to back away from a challenge, and that's certainly not how I've played Pieter in SSTL, but I can honestly say that first corridor of the tomb has me wanting to pack up and leave. The idea of hiding a trap so that only smart adventurers trigger it has me chilled to the core.

It essentially means that you can't be too careful or not careful enough. You need just the right amount of careful to make it through the tomb.

2010-09-02, 07:57 AM
Session 50: In Acererak’s Domain (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_50.pdf).

Our heroes continue their investigation of the Tomb of Horrors, before finding themselves in a very strange chapel.


Note: our group is going through the RPGA DM reward Tomb of Horrors, not the newly-released retail re-write of the Tomb.

I'm not quite sure what to make of the Tomb of Horrors so far. Part of me thinks it should have been called the Tomb of Confusion and Paranoia. There's been an abundance of both, but a real absence of Horror. We haven't lost a PC (or even looked like losing one) or encountered anything other than the devourer that could be considered lethal.

Of course, it's entirely possible that we're bumbling our way clouseau-like through the Tomb, avoiding the worst of its snares and denizens by sheer luck - more arse than class, if you will - because I don't exactly feel that we know what we're doing. For example, we spent most of the first session trying to apply every line of the Tomb riddle just to the first corridor.

Then we spent ten minutes crushing gems in the gargoyle statue without any idea what it did, just because it was there.

Which brings me back to the first point about the Tomb of Confusion and Paranoia. The main reason the Tomb is so memorable is that its metagame forces you to engage in a series of puzzles to which you can (if you are lucky) figure out the how but almost never the why. Why exactly does the mist-archway have glowing keystones that act as a combination lock? Why is there a four-armed gargoyle that crushes gems? What's the purpose of the big hall full of spheres? The meta answer appears to be "to drive players batty", but there doesn't really seem to be an in-game answer, other than perhaps "it's all there just to kill adventurers".

Halfway through the session, the DM described to us a surrounding feeling of malevolence and I - half in jest - said it was stored in the tomb by previous players focusing their anger and frustration at Gary Gygax. I'm not sure now how much I was joking. Tomb occupies a strange spot in the D&D world. It's a massive left turn where almost other turns are to the right. It's a puzzler's paradise (or nightmare), but it's one that has no real self-justification in the game world. It takes heroes and turns them into over-cautious 10-foot pole wielders.

The Tomb can make sense in a campaign focused on exploration, but in a campaign dealing with bigger threats and PC characterisation, it's a proud nail. I'm happy to have gone through it in the same way that I'm happy to have visited Cairo. It's nice to say you've been, but you don't necessarily want to go again.

2010-09-19, 11:19 PM
Hrm, I did not realize you were posting in this thread again. Interesting to see you in the Dming seat.

2010-09-28, 04:37 PM
Hrm, I did not realize you were posting in this thread again.

I never stopped. There were just a few... sporadic... posts :smallsmile:

On that note, without further ado:

Session 51: What wealth in danger lies (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_51.pdf).

Our heroes continue their exploration of Acererak's tomb, encountering their first animate opposition.


I'm writing this entry for session 51 a few days after having completed session 52, so it's a little strange trying to think back about what we did and how I felt. I can say with almost complete clarity that session 51 was the session of D&D in which I've had the least fun for quite some time.

In part that's a reflection of how Tomb of Horrors and my wants from a D&D game don't see eye to eye. I want high adventure and heroics. Tomb provides riddles, paranoia and an abundance of crucially-important minutia (which feeds back into the paranoia). However, that's only part of the story. The other (larger) part is that I had pretty persuasively convinced myself that I wouldn't enjoy the session. So of course I didn't.

It's lucky that I took as long to write up session 51 as I did. If I had written this recap before playing in session 52, that insight would probably have escaped me. Perhaps not so much "lucky" - after all, the delay was caused by the lack of fun - as karmic.

I've often said that players control characters, not the other way round. Perhaps I should take that a step further and point out that the person who most influences how much you enjoy a D&D session is not the DM (assuming he's not a complete turd). It's not your co-players (assuming they're not complete turds). It's you. By allowing myself to enter the session with such a negative outlook, not only did I not enjoy the session, I probably adversely impacted the other participants' enjoyment.

Learn from my mistake - don't do it. Focus on the positives and convince yourself that you're going to enjoy the session (or at least not hate it). You and everyone else will have a better time if you enter the session with a good outlook.

Mechanically, the most notable thing about session 51 was the enormous amount of loot that it threw at us without us having had to do anything particularly dangerous to obtain it. At first, that seems like a mistake, but in reality it's best summed up by this email from the DM:

Well like I said in my other email, not only do I have some lvl 11 [treasure parcels] to drop I think I missed everyone's lvl 10 [parcels]

The end result was an amazingly large find of magical loot scattered throughout the Tomb. As much as it served a mechanical purpose (getting us back on the wealth by level curve), it also served a perhaps-unintended story purpose (explaining just why it is that adventurers are willing to enter what is so obviously a death-trap in the midst of a city of crazed cultists).

After all, not every Forgotten Realms adventuring party contains a golem that was created by the evil ol' demilich himself. But more on that next time.

PS. Neither my DM nor my co-players are turds, complete or otherwise. Just in case your mind went there.

And for those who are interested, here's paragon Pieter:

Pieter Grimm, level 11
Human, Cleric, Battle Chaplain
Build: Battle Cleric
Background: Cormyr (General) (Cormyr (General) Benefit)

Str 21, Con 13, Dex 15, Int 9, Wis 15, Cha 15.

Str 16, Con 12, Dex 13, Int 8, Wis 14, Cha 13.

AC: 28 Fort: 24 Reflex: 22 Will: 24
HP: 85 Surges: 8 Surge Value: 21

Insight +14, Religion +9, History +9, Diplomacy +15, Heal +15, Athletics +15

Acrobatics +7, Arcana +4, Bluff +7, Dungeoneering +7, Endurance +6, Intimidate +7, Nature +7, Perception +7, Stealth +7, Streetwise +7, Thievery +7

Cleric: Ritual Caster
Human: Weapon Proficiency (Bastard sword)
Level 1: Shield Proficiency (Light) (retrained to Armor Proficiency (Scale) at Level 11)
Level 2: Skill Focus (Diplomacy)
Level 4: Toughness
Level 6: Battle Awareness
Level 8: Battle Healer
Level 10: Greater Divine Fortune
Level 11: Heavy Blade Opportunity

Bonus At-Will Power: Sacred Flame
Channel Divinity: Turn Undead
Cleric at-will 1: Priest's Shield
Cleric at-will 1: Righteous Brand
Cleric encounter 1: Healing Strike
Cleric daily 1: Beacon of Hope (retrained to Curse of Misfortune at Level 9)
Cleric utility 2: Shield of Faith
Cleric encounter 3: Split the Sky
Cleric daily 5: Consecrated Ground
Cleric utility 6: Bastion of Health
Cleric encounter 7: Strike of Judgment
Cleric daily 9: Divine Power
Cleric utility 10: Mass Cure Light Wounds

Ritual Book, Symbol of the Holy Nimbus +2, Potion of Healing (heroic tier), Jade Macetail (heroic tier), Agile Finemail +2, Phylactery of Action (heroic tier), Potion of Resistance (heroic tier), Nail of Sealing (heroic tier), Augmenting Whetstone (level 6), Light Shield, Javelin, Adventurer's Kit, Everburning Torch, Sanctified Incense (Religion) (10), Alchemical Reagents (Arcana) (10), Cloak of the Chirurgeon +3, Stormbringer, Forgemaster's Gloves (heroic tier), Black Iron Wyvernscale Armor +3, Circlet of Mental Onslaught (paragon tier)

Gentle Repose, Magic Mouth, Brew Potion, Battlefield Elocution, Hand of Fate, Enchant Magic Item, Magic Circle

2010-10-12, 06:25 AM
Session 52: Find the False (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_52.pdf).

The Heroes of Winterhaven continue their exploration of Acererak's tomb, before seemingly encountering their host.


Like I mentioned in my post about session 51, this session was the one in which I cast aside my Tomb of Horrors funk and decided that I was going to do my best to enjoy things. And I did. When I mentioned the outcome to the DM after the session, he flippantly replied, "Yeah, it had a combat". There might be some truth to that, but it had occurred to me long before the combat that I was actually having fun.

There's no real reason for that. The corridor behind the "ring-activated door" was no different really to the opening corridor of the tomb (ie. full of pit traps). If anything, it's actually less interesting because it doesn't contain the bizarre and ominous mural that the first corridor does. But nevertheless I decided to pay attention, contribute and interract with whatever was put in front of me. Unsurprisingly, that active involvement greatly increased my enjoyment.

I particularly enjoyed the broken golem (warforged) at the bottom of the pit - a clear reminder that in our campaign Acererak is more than just a lich-prick who wants to kill adventurers - and the strange voice behind the locked door. Given the weirdness of the Tomb, I wouldn't be surprised to find out that the singer was princess Vespa* and that by turning away we've doomed her to an eternity locked in the Tomb. Either that or some horrendous death-machine. Could be anything really.

The encounter against the false Acererak was a little confusing because the decoy's "crown" was in fact a separate entity modelled on a blaster trap. Even though the DM was saying things like "the crown attacks Dek and Caelan", I think it's the first example we've had in the campaign of an enemy mounted on another enemy, so perhaps it's not entirely my fault I didn't figure it out sooner. Either way, I (and maybe others) was splitting my damage from the rest of the party and both the crown and the false Acererak survived a round or two longer than they should have.

Which proved costly. Acererak's aura 5 was inflicting ongoing necrotic damage, and his Shadow Storm zone (which pretty much filled the room) was dealing 10 psychic and necrotic damage per turn to anyone inside it. Dek and Caelan were therefore taking 15 damage per turn before a dice was rolled, and Pieter was taking 10 (he has resist 10 necrotic). Add to that the lightning attacks from Acererak and the fear blasts from the crown and it's not truly surprising that at one stage Dek, Pieter and Caelan were all at negative hit points. Bengi was still relatively healthy but wasn't going to take out Acererak on his own. And Soveliss was still fleeing in terror from the mist (he failed two saves, so spent a total of 4 rounds out of the combat).

Getting back through the mist required Soveliss to make an endurance check (to hold his breath) and then survive the mist's attack against his Fort. Neither endurance nor Fort are Sov's strong points, so his successful passage through the mist probably ranks up there with Shadow's bull rush on Kalarel for sheer arsey good luck. Once he got into the room, he revived Pieter through hybrid artificer goodness, and with Consecrated Ground (my power of choice for "omgwtf, we're in trouble" moments) then in place, it was just a matter of time before Acererak fell.

This combat was probably as close to a TPK as the encounters against Kalarel or Murklemore. If Sov had succumbed to the mist again (removing him from the combat for another 2 rounds), Bengi would likely have been close to (or at) unconsciousness and one or two of Dek, Caelan and Pieter would have reached negative bloodied (and thus death). In those circumstances, it's strange that the tension wasn't as bad for this encounter as it was for those others. The only thing I can put it down to was the speed. Kalarel and Murklemore were grinding combats (in the attrition sense, not in the negative MMO sense). False Acererak just blasted the crap out of us, and we were in over our heads before we knew it. Fortunately, lady luck turned up to the session and we live to fight another day.

* A cookie to the poster who can tell me what she's likely to be singing.

2010-10-16, 08:33 PM
Any tips for running, a map tools online 4e game?

2010-10-16, 10:20 PM
Any tips for running, a map tools online 4e game?

I'm proably better off leaving that to my DM to answer. He's the Maptool whiz (although I've lately been earning a deputy badge by using the drawing tools to mark zones and so forth).

The highlight for me is the LoS feature. It's a strange feeling to play a game of D&D and not be able to see that creature that's around the corner that your companions can see. Of course, in MT, like in real life, there are ways to get around it if you want to, but I personally don't want to. Be aware though that Maptool judges LoS from the centre of a square, not the edges. We get around that by using a "LoS check" in which you're allowed to move one square, look, then move back. It simulates 4e LoS pretty well.

MapTool will really sing if you know someone good enough with code. This is a picture of the last moment of the two-session Eye of Flame dungeon delve I ran:


The Maptool icons on the Forgecaller tell us that it is bloodied, quarried, marked by Garth, prone and immobilised. No wonder then, then at the time the screenshot was taken it was also dead.

The buttons on the left are macros that the DM wrote, one for each power or common action that the PC possesses. There's a lot of code involved (I had to fumble about to modify them when I wanted to upgrade some of the enemies), but they make the game sing when they work well.

About the only tip I'd personally be able to give is not a mechanical one. Be aware that if you macro-ise everything like we have, your players will know when you're "cheating", because it won't be a macro. That's not a problem if they're happy for you to adjust on the fly, but if they're the type to argue small points, your better off not using macros (or finding better players :smalltongue:)

2010-10-20, 04:30 AM
Any tips for running, a map tools online 4e game?

Where to start. Ok with mapTool you don't need to know how to code but the more you are willing to learn the more you will get out of it. Don't expect (even if you do what I suggest next) not to have to put at least a little time into it.

So first port of call should be the mapTool forums. Focus in on the frameworks topics and try some 4E frameworks. Don't use the first you find download a few and try them out for size. Some are all the bells and whistles and some are quite sparse. Work out which you prefer. We use a heavily modified by me version of Veggiesama's Framework (http://forums.rptools.net/viewtopic.php?f=58&t=16429&sid=dc492afd5a3986f9294ff232284f7f65).

One thing you do need to do is don't expect on your first session to get much play that session will be working out how to get everybody to connect...

Oh and the mapTool forums are full of nice people who are willing to help but make sure you search for an answer first before you ask :)

2010-10-29, 08:45 PM
Alright so we are finally getting this show on the road I have suggested your mod to my dm. We are going to try some trouble shooting tonight.

2010-10-29, 10:42 PM
Alright so we are finally getting this show on the road.

Excellent! Have fun with Maptool - it has some amazing functionality.

Which reminds me, I'm two sessions behind on the write-ups. Better get back to it!

2010-11-09, 04:56 AM
Session 53: Behind Green Tapestries (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_53.pdf).

Our heroes descend into areas of the Tomb filled with slime.


I think an anthropologist or psychologist could base a PhD on observing this session. In every "encounter", one player or another (or multiples of us) exhibited some strikingly out-there behaviour.

First was Dek's player's obstructionism. In my opinion there's a real failure of verisimilitude when a PC actively tries to stop another PC from killing an enemy just to prevent "kill-stealing". Fortunately, in low-pressure environments, it's also quite funny. I was almost literally stunned with Dek's player pushed the last ooze behind cover and then explained he had done it so that Soveliss couldn't kill it before Dek did. My first instinct was to decry the action as silly (ok, perhaps my wording would have been stronger than that...), but then the DM started laughing and I couldn't help but join in. Does that mean we're not taking Tomb of Horrors seriously enough? Maybe, maybe not, but I suppose there's only so long a group of gamers can repress their natural yahoo before it comes leaking to the surface.

Second was my paranoia over the elongated pit trap. Even when faced with a 25' wide pit trap filled with poison-coated spikes, I still came to the conclusion (without the benefit of being able to see a tell-tale smirk on the DM's face) that there was something we weren't seeing. My brain immediately jumped to the infamous - and time-honoured - invisible wall over the pit trap (to stop people from trying to jump across it), but as it turned out there was instead a teleport-stopper (which defeated Bengi's attempts to get across) and a fusillade of iron spikes. I think it's probably fair to say, based on my continued paranoia in the Tomb and my rants against its play-style, that I am an emotionally-(over)invested gamer.

Third was the encounter with the green slimes, where no one wanted to leave the room until it was pointed out that the rocking was too great to avoid (push 1d6 in a room that was approximately 6 squares across) and that there was seemingly no end to the number of green slimes that might appear. They weren't having an overwhelming effect on us at the time, but if they continued to appear at the rate of 2-3 per round (and they would have), it wouldn't be long until we were overwhelmed. Fortunately, we pulled out just before things got crazy.

Finally, there was Caelan's player (for this session it was the same person who plays Bengi) attacking the green slime engulfing Pieter even though I had specifically mentioned (remember, we had fought green slimes before and the text of the power comes up in our Maptool when it is used) I would take half the damage, that the engulf was not a grab, and that it could not be ended other than by a save. His explanation? "I thought that forced movement would break the engulf". Bengi's player is normally the most mechanically-minded and correct of us, but I suppose rules mastery sometimes gets in the way of your ability to just accept things as they are.

Notwithstanding the anthropological value of the session, it was overall pretty fun. Bengi and Soveliss got most of the way towards some character goals (picking up an Ebberon mark feat and learning the ritual to become a lich (!) respectively). Dek got to hoard his kills (and they were many), and I got to double-guess Gary Gygax twice (the pit trap and realising that the "other" door in the green slime room was a fake intended to get us to re-enter it). We got a nice collection of high-liquidity loot. And we didn't lose a PC, which is always a good thing.

Especially in the Tomb.

2010-11-26, 06:40 AM
Session 54: The Prisoner (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_54.pdf).

Our heroes find an unfinished area of the tomb, and discover that not all of the denizens of the Tomb of Horrors are willing servants of Acererak.


The focus of this session was the encounter with the cave siren, but I might leave that for a moment and touch first on the massive iron door. I'm not sure whether the door - and more specifically its locking mechanism - is part of the original Tomb of Horrors, but it posed a significant issue for me during our exploration.

Those who have been reading long enough will know that my cleric Pieter Grimm now wields the bastard sword Stormbringer, the former weapon of his mentor Axis. Axis fell defending a young Pieter from orc raiders and both priest and weapon were lost for over twenty years. Pieter was briefly reunited with the long-enslaved Axis in Thunderspire Labyrinth and then recovered the old priest's weapon for Michael the Burnt's tower in the shadowfell. Long story short? Stormbringer is mechanically a paragon tier artifact of custom design, but it means much more to Pieter than its mechanical potency.

And then he's asked to slide it into a hole in a door that radiates 'hunger' in the Tomb of Horrors. The same Tomb of Horrors that already ate one of his javelins (the 'devourer' in the entrance corridor) and a magical ring (the sealed door in the chapel). Understandably, I wasn't terribly impressed with that idea, so Pieter initially refused to use Stormbringer as one of the door's keys. More on that next session, but it meant that the Heroes of Winterhaven were forced to explore in another direction, which led us into the siren's cave.

It was a pleasant surprise after rectangular room upon rectangular room to find a natural cavern hidden in the back of the Tomb, and in hindsight the sudden change in architecture did a good job of indicating that the encounter in the room was different from the others in the Tomb. Just as the walls there were different from the walls elsewhere, the occupant of the room was different from the traps and monstrosities occupying the rest of the Tomb.

The DM played up the siren's melancholy well, and it was Bengi's player who first decided to roll Insight to determine whether she was sincere in her apologies. At the time, the DM laughed and pointed out that it was the emotionless golem who first picked up on the siren's sadness. Yes, it probably should have been Pieter (the most 'good' character of the party and the one with the best Insight), but in the time it takes for initiative to roll around, I often forget to act on suspicions and thoughts I have while waiting for my turn. Oh well, Pieter is obviously rubbing off on Bengi!

Unfortunately, Bengi's arcana and intimidate rolls were abysmal (I don't think he rolled above a 5) and we ended up failing the ensuing skill challenge, leaving Dek and Soveliss no option but to kill the siren. Not that they ever really wanted to avoid that, of course.

2011-01-05, 08:03 AM
Session 55: Into the Columned Hall (http://www.nortonweb.net/encounters/sstl/Session_55.pdf).

Our heroes near Acererak's tomb, but still have a few obstacles to overcome.


The collumned hall is an interesting 'trap' in that it poses some very curious puzzles. The first thing that most adventuring parties will notice when they enter are the demon faces on the northern wall. Assuming they've had some sort of interraction with the devourer in the first corridor of the Tomb, then they will almost immediately know that they don't want to mess with these two either.

But it's not immediately apparent how they are intended to be threatening. After all, players who've made it this far have already learned the devourer's trick and how to beat it - ie. don't stick anything in its mouth. So the immediate reaction to their presence is one of puzzlement, and maybe a vague feeling of dread. After all, if Gygax has proved anything by now, it's that he can trick you into doing some very very silly things.

I'm not sure what caused Bengi's player to touch the pillar. I'm half convinced it was an initiator's act, intended to provoke something. There's not much fun to be had in walking through a massive hall filled with columns and not touching anuthing. Gygax probably knew that. So Bengi ended up floating through the air, and I had Pieter try to save him. Maybe I'd caught the initiator bug too, because I'm not usually the type to attempt Ethan Hunt-like shenanigans. It didn't work, more's the pity, but at least I felt cool doing it.

The study of the throne, crown and sceptre occupied a significant portion of this session. It was so obviously booby-trapped that no one wanted to be the first to touch it. Putting on the crown and not being eaten (ooh, it just occured to me that it might have been a mimic) or obliterated came as a great relief, although we then found ourselves in the position that the crown needed to come off but we didn't know how. When Soveliss' player suggested using Mage Hand, it seemed like a great idea. And it was, until some lax phrasing proved our undoing. Who would have thought that asking the hand "Which end of the sceptre should we touch to the crown?" would be misinterpreted as referring to the carving on the throne...

My guess is that the DM has played one to many games of D&D in editions where wishes get perverted.

Still, it was in the spirit of the Tomb and Pieter managed to succeed at his first save against the ongoing 20 damage that the mistake caused, so no death no foul.

I'm a little disappointed that we didn't examine the amber gem more closely, at it strikes me as the coolest thing in the collumned hall. The more I think about it, the more I wonder what it was. Although the charred bodies around it certainly don't bode well, I can't help but note that nothing else in the tomb looks obviously dangerous. Perhaps the one thing that does look dangerous actually isn't. Of course, that could be Gygax playing with my mind. After all, if we've learned anything by now, it's that (say it with me) Acererak is a prick.

Having posted this session, I don't plan on posting further entries in this thread. I said in the first post that I'd continue as long as it got views/replies. Now seems an appropriate time to stop.

For those who are interested in continuing to read about the campaign, I'll continue posting about it in my blog (see my signature below). In fact session 56 is already posted there.

To everyone who has read along and posted queries or comments (especially the kind souls who offered praise to the players or DM), thanks for your time!

2011-01-05, 10:02 AM
Aw, I didn't realize I should have been posting "cool stuff!" all the time :smallfrown:

So... I guess I take it to the blog, eh? For what it's worth, I usually only read your commentaries - the adventures are less interesting to me than your reaction to them.

2011-01-05, 11:43 AM
Thanks for keeping this thread up as long as you have Colmarr. I really enjoyed it, although i probably should have posted at some point. I'll be keeping an eye on your blog though, i particularly enjoy your series dealing with Scales of War, as I don't think its an adventure path I'll ever run, but its interesting to see where it goes.

2011-01-07, 04:18 AM
Aw, I didn't realize I should have been posting "cool stuff!" all the time :smallfrown:

lol. That did sound a bit emo, didn't it :smallredface:

Mostly it's because of the extra effort of cross-posting. The primary advantage of a forum is the opportunity for discussion, but as there's not much of that going in it's easier for me to just keep it to the blog (and besides, there's always the comments section of the blog).

And yes, please continue to read them on the blog. The commentaries aren't going anywhere.

Thanks for keeping this thread up as long as you have Colmarr. I really enjoyed it.

You're very welcome.

2011-01-07, 08:53 AM
I too have really enjoyed reading this- thanks Colmarr for continuing it for so long!
I guess I'll check out the blog!