View Full Version : [3.5] Another RHOD Journal!

2009-12-28, 01:29 AM
WARNING: Contains Spoilers!

I'm running Red Hand of Doom and decided to start up a journal as an easy reference for myself to organize my thoughts, keep tabs on what has happened, and get feedback from fellow forumgoers.

My group are a bunch of RL friends and the only ones I really play DnD with. I started the campaign early in the summer, but for various reasons the game was paused and only recently picked up again two weeks ago, with everyone rolling new characters. As such, my knowledge of the first sessions are blurry at best, and I'll only shortly summarize them. The new sessions will be described in more depth, and finally any upcoming sessions will be the most detailed.

The journal is done by the DM perspective and assumes you're familiar with the module or have a copy to follow along. Let's start the recap, shall we?

A long, long time ago...
We began the campaign in the summer with I believe 4 players, all level 5. If I recall it was something like a fighter, a monk, and two sorcerers. I allowed all books, and while there was some use of spell compendium and complete warrior, most characters stuck core. The monk is a knowledgable player who enjoys a support / healing role, generally playing a druid or bard, but I guess he wanted to try something different. The fighter is always a fighter or barbarian, and enjoys tanking and having an absurd AC via combat expertise while complaining about his damage. The two sorcerers were new to the game, one being a rather fast learner and a knack for looking up dnd resources online (straight to the glitterdusts / webs for him, hehe).

The campaign was non-setting specific. The party were mercenaries under the employment of an adventuring company called Arthur's Adventuring Services, with the employer, Arthur, finding high-paying missions for his mercenaries to complete. The party's latest mission was the investigate the secret vault of Vraath's Keep, located in Elsir Vale, which supposedly had hidden treasures indicated by a map Arthur had given them. So off the group went, treasure hunting!

The original hook is pretty generic, but in time Arthur became a fleshed out NPC with his own quirks and has become a recurring character that I use in a bunch of my campaigns. He's a smooth talker, diplomat, and ladies' man, having a knack for gaining contacts throughout the lands, which makes it easy for him to acquire clients in need of heroes for dangerous (and expensive) missions. His business is very successful and leaves him theoretically with a quite vast mercenary army under his employment, which could turn into a plot in its own right. Little does anyone know, Arthur is actually a nimblewright with class levels, making him quite powerful. He isn't fully developed yet, but the group is enjoying the character I think since he treats them with the utmost respect, pays them very well, and aids them when he can.

The party had entered Elsir Vale and was on their way to Drellin's Ferry, when suddenly they were ambushed by hobgoblins stalking the road. This is the first encounter in the module, the Marauder Attack. If I recall I played the encounter exactly as the module has it, with the regulars opening fire from the trees, the cleric going invisible and buffing / healing, the bladebearer arrogantly waiting for someone to challenge him in single combat, and the hellhounds barging forward. The majority of the group rushed for the cover of the forest, while the fighter stayed out in the open in a defensive stance, drawing the fire of all the archers and taking a beating. The fight... didn't go well for them. I had to resort to Soranna and the town guard saving their asses at the end. The fighter had an epic duel with the bladebearer, and though the bearer dished out a major beating (my notes show 40+ damage), the fighter got a good hit in and lopped off his head, which got cheers from the group.

The party makes their way to Drellin's Ferry, promptly hitting on Soranna at any chance they got. I didn't want my players chasing after my NPC so in came Arthur into the storyline, and it is revealed Soranna is in a relationship with him. It's later revealed that Arthur has other female relationships going on, and "business matters" forced him to leave early, so he summons a hired wizard to teleport him away.

The party finds out from townspeaker Norro the troubles plaguing the town and are asked to patrol the Dawn's Way road and report if there are any more hobgoblins disrupting their vital trade route. They agree, heading west along the Dawn Way, which is conveniently the same direction as their primary objective, Vraath's Keep. They take Norro's advice to visit Jorr in the witchwood, and find out his INT score is rather below average. I made Jorr into a Forest Gump type character, a total idiot with random use, who refers to himself in third person and babbles incoherently at times. This keeps him as a minor character and a noncombatant unless the players order him to fight, which suits my purposes and the group's rather well. I don't like playing helpful NPCs, and the group doesn't like sharing their glory with non-PCs.

Jorr begins leading the group over to Vraath's Keep. On the way, they fight a hydra in the swamp. The fight could've been rather deadly, but not with the two sorcerers in the group -- a couple fireballs after, they were strolling onward.

Finally, they reached Vraath's Keep, and we called it. That's when the campaign was paused for a long time.

Session 1: Vraath's Keep, Skull Gorge Bridge

All new characters were introduced and the story was picked up where we left off. Characters start at level 6, 32 point buy, half standard wealth, all books allowed. One player groaned at the 32pb, claiming it was way too underpowered -- my group of friends have a habit of rolling ridiculous stats, and this dude was notorious to having the highest stats of all. I remember one campaign he was a paladin with scores like 18, 18, 16, 16, 14, 12. Not an exaggeration. But I stuck to my guns and explained why I advocated 32point buy, citing that it wasn't underpowered, and that characters should have some "low" stats. Still, I let them roll their health. The half WBL was a way of controlling the campaign a bit more, besides, I more than make up for it with my loot drops scattered around the campaign.

The characters were: Colgan (sorcerer6), Ezekiel (crusader6), Tiberius (cleric6), Fiberius (paladin6), Ett (binder6). They are all the original players of the first sessions, with one extra (the paladin). The knowledgable sorcerer switched to binder, which is a very neat class and he's very into the RP behind it. I convinced the fighter player to try out crusader since he loved tanking, and after much prodding he caved in and now loves it. He also managed an insane 71hp somehow, which is nutty. The monk switched to cleric, aiming to take Radiant Servant of Pelor next level. Mad heals taken to another level, combined with the nutty tank, I knew I had work ahead of me!

Now, for this session, I admit I wasn't prepared at all and hadn't looked at the module in ages. When we all met to play I was scrambling to read just a little bit ahead of the group, taking any moment that they were introducing themselves or planning thing to prepare things myself. I'm used to running improvised games so it wasn't a problem, but keep in mind things probably could've been smoother if I had an hour prep time to make some quick notes.

So the party wakes up at the crack of dawn, having camped not far from Vraath's Keep. Jorr stays behind to watch the horses and the camp, while the adventurers move towards the keep.

I made some minor changes to the keep encounter, and I probably would've made more if I had more time. This was done in the precious seconds / minutes I'd have as they planned how to approach the keep: I changed the north / south towers to be in slightly better condition, adding a staircase inside it to reach a higher floor in them, and putting two hobgoblin regulars in both of them. I added an extra worg and its rider in the stables, and a worg rider patrol that was stationed beside the western wall. I also decided to bump Koth up in power, making him sorcerer7 for extra hp / spells / saves, and changed his spells known to: lightning bolt, dispel magic, glitterdust, mirror image, scorching ray, silent image, mage armor, shield, ray of enfeeblement. I also gave him a scroll of major image. That made him more formidable, and able to deal with a variety of PC tactics against him.

The group cautiously approached the keep, staying in the cover of the treeline while observing things. Tiberius spotted hobgoblins in the northern tower, while Fiberius became curious about the garden shack. With a successful knowledge: history check, Ezekiel recalls the story of the keep. Colgan sends his raven familiar into the air to scout, and it flies high above the keep, telling his master that he sees humanoids and wolves in the stables, and more beyond the western wall. It's also instructed to scout the shack, and flies through a broken window, later reporting that it spotted shiney metal inside (a hoe and some shiney copper pieces, but it was a lure for the PCs to investigate). Fiberius and Ezekiel go over to the shack to find what shinies are inside, and as they do so, it collapses on them. They quickly retreat to the treeline again while the worg riders on patrol head over to investigate.

As the hobgoblins check the wreckage, the party decides it's time to go in there rambo style! Fiberius, Ezekiel, and Ett charge in, the paladin doing a bajillion damage with his charging smites, and Ezekiel drawing heavy aggro from any survivors due to his iron guard's glare stance and stone vise manuever. Tiberius hangs back and buffs the party, while Colgan notices archers in the southern tower and decides to take them out with force blasts aimed at the top of the partially collapsed tower, causing it to collapse on top of them. The patrol is decimated in seconds and the party moves beside the ruined gates, readying actions to attack enemies that dare exit the keep.

While this was happening, one of the regulars in the tower sounds an alarm, and Koth springs to action, casting mage armor / shield / fly on himself and mobilizes his troops into the courtyard. No going to the war room and wasting 5 rounds picking up his map, he'd have been dead before he finished. The hobgoblins are aware of the adventurers waiting beside the gate (the regulars in the tower shout their intentions), so instead the minotaur commands them to stay in the courtyard behind him. At this point I also added the bladebearer from the first encounter to the group, and quickly changed the hobgoblin's knowledge of the keep -- Koth was aware of the trapdoor in his room and looted some plunder from the vault below, though the most valuable things were hidden from his search. I decided to add a trap pit in the courtyard that would drop anyone down into the vault, which coincidentally became the manticore's home (it had shinies in there!).

So when the party readies their action at the gates, Koth's troops mobilize in the courtyard and the wyrmlord casts a "wall of stone" to block the gate, but Tiberius hears the spell being cast and reports that it is merely a major image. Fiberius charges through at the minotaur, killing him in one blow by driving his blade through the beast's chest and knocking it's heart out through its back, but accidentally falling into the trap in the process. Ezekiel rushes through next, beating the bladebearer in a duel of wills (intimidate check from ToB, I told the player about it a couple days earlier so I thought it would be neat to add here -- bladebearer didn't have any ranks in intimidate though hehe) also falling through the trap. The paladin and crusader had to get up and deal with a surprised manticore, while the rest of the group entered the courtyard and mopped up the rest of the mooks with some quick fireballs from Colgan and vomitted flames from Ett. All that were left at this point was Koth, two archers in the towers, and the manticore. Koth responded by flying high into the air and firing a lightning bolt that hit both Tiberius and Colgan, followed by archer arrows which surprisingly knocked the cleric unconscious and left the sorcerer barely hanging in there. The manticore barraged Ezekiel and Fiberius with spikes, and both weren't looking good either. Ezekiel and Fiberius fought back, however, and soon after the manticore was down. Above, Koth made Colgan a non-threat by glitterdusting him, while Ett revived Tiberius with his healing belt. When Ezekiel and Fiberius joined the party in the courtyard shortly after, Koth decided it would be a good time to retreat, and promptly flew off to the north.

I think the fight went really well, and my spontaneous changes added some nice twists to the fight. The party later scoured the Keep, finding the map in the war room and a bag of holding in the barracks which I misread from the module (it was a bag holding gold). I then changed the loot found in the vault, spontaneously trying to cater it towards the classes involved: a vicious longsword (the crusader was sword/board), a greatsword of divine wrath, staff of life, a crystal of fire energy assault, a crystal of (something forgot), +1 full plate of retribution, +1 steel shield, +1 mithral chain shirt, and a bunch of useful divine / arcane scrolls. I think I went a bit overboard and would've changed the loot into something different if I had more time. Colgan and Ett didn't find much in the loot, so I kept in mind to find something more suitable for them in the future.

The party heads back to Drellin's Ferry and tells Norro what they had seen at the Keep and show him the map they took. They conclude that the hobgoblins seek to invade the entire area, which startles the townspeaker, and he tells them that he will be holding an emergency meeting immediately. A few hours later, Norro approaches the party once more and requests that they blow up the skull gorge bridge, which, according to the map, should delay whatever army the hobgoblins have long enough for the town to fully mobilize. The party asked for assistance to pull this off, and not having even read the bridge part yet, Norro added that the town's wizard will be supplying shrunk barrels of alchemist's fire to assist in blowing the bridge up, "but whether or not it works is uncertain as we've never tested it before." So the next day they set off to blow up a bridge.

I was hastily trying to read ahead on just how they could blow up the bridge, which I might add was rather difficult to do in a hurry. I arbitrarily decided ahead of time that the barrels I gave the group would only do half the total damage to the bridge and the group would have to dish out the rest, not a problem with a caster involved after all. While the party discussed plans, I added a level of mindbender to Ozyrrandion to give him the Mindsight feat from LoM, which I thought was flavorful for a cruel dragon and fitting for someone who is guarding a crucial bridge. I put some extra hobgoblins in the encampment, including a wizard5 with dispel magic (gotta have dispel magic!), and Koth, who recovered from the incident at the keep and was the reason for reinforcements at the bridge. Ozyrrandion guarded the bridge from underneath it, using his mindsight to snoop out trouble.

When the party reached the treeline and saw the hellhounds and archers in the watchtowers, they decided to buff Ezekiel with invisibility and fly, hand him the explosive barrels so he could place them in the middle of the bridge, then wait until he was out of harm's way before blowing it all up with a fireball. So Ezekiel flew up into the air and landed on the bridge... And he heard a voice in his head asking, "What are you doing?" He ignored it, and started placing down the barrels one by one, when the voice said, "Stop," and a flapping of powerful wings. Ignoring it still, he places the last barrels down, only to be bull rushed off the bridge by an angry green dragon. The dragon begins making rounds past Ezekiel, bombarding him with his acid breath or flyby attacks. The barrels are set off accidentally by a breath attack and the bridge bursts into flames, but still stands, though partially broken. An alarm is sounded and the rest of the group springs into action, taking care of the two hellhounds and the goblins in the watchposts. The group stays on their end of the bridge, not wanting to risk being caught on the wrong side when it collapses. Ett quickly dispatch any hobgoblin regulars trying to rush over the bridge with lines of fire, while Colgan works on knocking down the bridge, and Ezekiel retreats to get healing from Tiberius. Koth, having buffed himself again, takes to the sky and tries to stop Ezekiel's retreat with a dispel magic, but fails his check. He flies over to the party's side, and staying 30ft. into the air, knocks them up a bit with a lightning bolt. Ezekiel flies up and grapples Koth, who can't stay aloft with that much weight, and they fall to the ground, where Koth is promptly curb-stomped. Ozzy tries his best to hurt the group with hit and run tactics, but Tiberius' healing is just too much, and outside of the breath attack he can't do too much until the cleric gets low on spells. Barrages of arrows from the encampment prompts the party to stay out of line of sight until Tiberius blocks them out entirely with a windwall that the wizard5 goblin fails to dispel. Eventually, Ozzy hovers in the air to deal with a cocky Ezekiel, and while he's pounding the crusader each round, the 71hp tank merely leaves the fight and gets healed for over 40hp by Tiberius, at which point the dragon decides it would be best to retreat for a bit. Finally, the bridge is destroyed, and the party decides to retreat as well.

This fight was a little worse than the Keep fight because the primarily melee group didn't have much melee to fight. Ozzy was the biggest threat and he stayed in the air, and the other hobgoblins were mostly archers that they group didnt want to cross the bridge to engage with. They also hated on me for not destroying the bridge instantly with the barrels, but then again it wasn't supposed to be that easy in the first place and I warned them that it may not work. Still, I kept Ett happy by throwing 13hp regulars over the birdge that he could instantly incinerate, and everyone else still got to massacre 2 hellhounds and 2 hobgoblins in the watchposts, as well as get revenge on Koth.

Session 2: Cinder Hill (You're Screwed)

Only Ezekiel, Tiberius, and Ett could make it to this session. It turned out to be alright since they didn't need to handle any of the big encounters. Instead, it was more focused on some solid RP. I'm also happy to say that I had a full hour of prep time in advance, and was pretty organized on running the attack on Drellin's Ferry if it came to that.

The party puts Koth's body into a bag of holding and then they hastily retreat back to Drellin's Ferry and report what happened to Norro. There is another town meeting which the party attends, and the townspeople must decide on what to do about the impending threat. The thoughts on what to do is divided; some argue that the hobgoblin intelligence of drellin's ferry is outdated at best, pointing to the map's question of whether they can use the ruined dwarf bridge, and stating that they could easily wipe out whatever hobgoblin invasion that would attack. Other say they should evacuate immediately and head east for help. With the party's help, Norro decides that the best option is to send couriers to get help from Brindol, but not to evacuate just yet. Instead, the party is to scout the enemy's troops to see whether they can be defeated or whether they should evacuate. Jorr mentions he's seen plumes of smoke coming from an area labelled "Cinder Hill." The party sets out the next day to investigate the area, Jorr leading the way to a shallow point in the skull gorge ravine to cross now that the bridge is gone.

As usual, Ett heads off to a secluded spot in town to do his 10 minute ritual to bind a vestige while Tiberius and Ezekiel go off to buy / sell. This time, however, he is spotted by a robed dark-haired female who watches him with great delight. When he is done the ritual, she smiles at him, telling him when the time is right, "their kind" will paint the town red with blood, and when that time comes she will look for him so they may "have fun together in the name of Erythnul." She leaves, and Ett meets up with the rest of the party. The mysterious stranger is actually Jarett, a cleric/rogue worshipper of Erythnul, who mistakened Ett's binding for some sinister practice (she has no knowledge of binders). They've never been to Jarett's Sundries yet or they might bump into her.

Before they head into the witchwood, the party decides to visit the Old Ones clearing. There they meet a wizened elf named Avarthel, who attests his cynical demeanor to his long years. From him they find out about forest giants that may yet live in the witchwood, and hints of chromatic dragon broods in the surrounding areas.

While journeying through the witchwood, I threw a random encounter at them. Gray Render, CR 8 I believe? Ya, it was a bit too much, but they handled it! The stupid beast knocked up Tiberius a bit, then grabbed and massacred Ezekiel, but couldnt outdamage Tiberius' healing while his health was chipped away by Ett summoning lightning, Tiberius using his morningstar, and Jorr being J-J-JORR SMASH! I figured Tiberius would make the encounter way easier by exploting the creature's +4 Will save, but it never happened. Had the beast not sutbbornly held onto Ezekiel with its grab, things could've been worse. Oh well! No pain no gain right? :smalltongue: Ezekiel wanted to find the render's lair, and our faithful mildly retarded ranger was able to track it down. Inside the small hole it called home, they found a couple stinky half-eaten corpses, as well as some gold pieces, a ring, and a mace (for Ett). I haven't decided what the items do yet!

Continuing on, they cross the gorge at a shallow point and on top of the ridge they get a view at the cinder hill encampment. Thousands of troops. Iron-clad giants. Dozens of worg rider patrols. DRAGONS IN THE MOTHERTRUCKIN' SKY! What's worse, the army was already on the move, and heading southeast into the witchwood! Ya buddies, you're screwed. They decided against going rambo against these dudes, and high-tailed it out of there. Unfortunately for them, they were spotted by someone... As they were climbing up the cliffside on the other side of the gorge via grappling hook, they ate a fireball that cut the rope and made them fall. That hit alone brought them quite low, and they went on full alert, but they were fortunate -- the aggressor was actually a flying / invisible wizard that didn't look back after he shot his fireball, just went off to warn people. Still, I played it round by round to keep tension up, and they were quite on-edge.

This wizard is actually going to encounter the group again in the future. The party hasn't looted Koth's body yet, but when they do, they'll notice he has a letter explaining a certain trio of mercenaries hired to take care of the pesky individuals that destroyed his position at Vraath's Keep. These trio are drow, and they had a brief but badass encounter with the party in a totally different campaign that never had time to finish, so I brought them over here instead. The group loves to hate them, so I hope those feelings will be renewed once they find out what they're up against.

The Drow Trio:
Drow Swashbuckler 3 / Fighter 2 / Dervish 4 (EL 11)
Hit Dice: 9d10+9 (54hp)
Speed: 35 ft. (7 squares)
Armor Class: 21 (+5 Armour, +5 Dex, +1 dervish), Touch: 16, Flat-footed: 16
Base Attack/Grapple: +9/+9
Attack: +1 Frost Scimitar +16 2d6+6 (18-20 x2)
Full Attack: +1 Frost Scimitar +14/+9 2d6+6 (18-20 x2), and +1 scimitar +14/+9 1d6+6
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5ft.
Saves: Fort +8, Ref +11, Will +5
Abilities: Str 10, Dex 20, Con 12, Int 20, Wis 10, Cha 10
Skills: Heal: 8, Concentration: 11, Knowledge (Religion): 7, Spellcraft: 7
Feats: weapon finesse, weapon focus (scimitar), dodge, mobility, combat expertise, two-weapon fighting, improved two-weapon fighting, spring attack
Combat Gear: +1 frost scimitar ("twinkie"), +1 scimitar ("icingcake"), mithral breastplate
Special Abilities: Grace +1, Insightful Strike, AC Bonus +1, Movement Mastery, Slashing Blades, Dervish Dance 2/day, Fast Movement +5ft, Dance of Death, Drow Racials (immune to sleep, +2 WILL vs. magic, SR 20, Light Blindness)
Dervish Dance: +1 Frost Scimitar +16/+11 2d6+8 (18-20 x2), and +1 scimitar +16/+11 1d6+8

Drow Duskblade 6 (EL 8)
Hit Dice: 6d8+6 (30hp)
Speed: 30 ft. (6 squares)
Armor Class: 18 (+5 Armour, +3 Dex), Touch: 13, Flat-footed: 15
Base Attack/Grapple: +6/+10
Attack: MW Guisarme +11 2d4+4 (x3)
Full Attack: MW Guisarme +11/+6 2d4+4 (x3)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./10ft.
Saves: Fort +6, Ref +5, Will +6
Abilities: Str 19, Dex 16, Con 12, Int 16, Wis 12, Cha 10
Skills: Concentration: 12, Knowledge (Arcana): 9, Knowledge (Religion): 9, Knowledge (Nobility): 9, Knowledge (Nature): 9, Knowledge (History): 9, Knowledge (Geography): 9
Feats: Power Attack, Combat Casting, Combat Expertise, Arcane Strike
Combat Gear: MW guisarme, mithral breastplate
Special Abilities: Arcane Attunement 6/day, Armored Mage (medium), Arcane Channeling, Quickcast 1/day, Spell Power +2, Drow Racials (immune to sleep, +2 WILL vs. magic, SR 17, Light Blindness)
Spells Known (6/7/4):
0- acid splash, disrupt undead, ray of frost, touch of fatigue
1- ray of enfeeblement, shocking grasp, true strike, swift expeditious retreat
2- dimension hop, swift fly, see invisibility
Arcane Strike (sac'ing a lvl 2 spell) + Shocking Grasp: MW Guisarme +13/+8 4d4+4 +5d6 (x3)

Drow Focused Specialist Conjurer 6 (EL 8)
Hit Dice: 6d4+12 (24hp)
Speed: 30 ft. (6 squares)
Armor Class: 14 (+4 Dex), Touch: 14, Flat-footed: 10
Base Attack/Grapple: +3/+2
Attack: Never!
Full Attack: Nope
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5ft.
Saves: Fort +4, Ref +6, Will +5
Abilities: Str 8, Dex 18, Con 14, Int 21, Wis 12, Cha 10
Skills: Concentration: 11, Spellcraft: 14, Knowledge (Arcana): 14, Knowledge (Religion): 14, Knowledge (Planes): 14, Knowledge (Nature): 14, Knowledge (History): 14
Feats: Spell Focus (Conjuration), Augment Summoning, Improved Initiative, Sculpt Spell
Combat Gear: nothing
Special Abilities: Rapid Summoning, Drow Racials (immune to sleep, +2 WILL vs. magic, SR 17, Light Blindness)
Spells Prepared (4/5+3/4+3/3+3):
0- detect magic, dancing lights, ghost sounds (x2)
1- grease (x2), mage armor, benign transposition (x3), silent image, enlarge person
2- glitterdust (DC 18), ice knife (DC 18), baleful transposition (DC 18), cloud of bewilderment (DC 18), dimension hop, invisiblity, mirror image
3- icelance (x3) (DC 19), haste, dispel magic, fly

May need to lower the dervish down, actually.

The party returned to town and explained what they saw, and finally it was settled; the town would have to be evacuated. This is where we called it.

Next session? Invasion time, baby! GLORY TO THE RED HAND!