View Full Version : Dragon Smackdown: Brass vs. Blue

2007-02-26, 02:16 PM
Okay, I may regret this, but I'm going to toss out a recent gaming situation that I thought was kind of fun just to share it and get people's reactions/comments/vitrolic criticisms on things I may have done wrong.

First of all, let it be said that this is a 2nd ed. game. (Yes, I know it has it's problems, but I like it, so you'll just have to deal.) :smallwink:

The setup: The party, made up of a bladesinger (ftr7/wiz8), a fighter-priest (7/7), and a bard (9th), are headed down to a desert pyramid to retreive an artifact that a certain vampire wants, as it will make her (the vampire) insanely powerful. (She'd get it herself, but the pyramid was designed specifically to keep it safe from vamps.) The fighter-priest has been geased to retrieve the artifact, however the party's also discovered a way to destroy said artifact, which involves taking it across the continent.

So the plan is to get the artifact, then take it to where it can be destroyed, hopefully doing so fast enough so the priest doesn't die from the geas. (He's certainly willing to die to keep her from getting it, though.) Complicating matters is the fact that the vampire is also a rather powerful mage, and has already defeated the party once in the sense that she was able to kidnap the priest to geas him in the first place.

But there is hope! :smallsmile: For reasons I won't go into, there's a brass dragon hanging out reasonably near this pyramid, who has come to the area with his brothers (together they're Haltar, Zaltar, and Bahb) to avenge the death of his father by a blue dragon, who also lives nearby. They're mostly just checking things out right now, and squabbling over just how to go about it, as they're only juveniles and the blue is a mature adult. Well, the bladesinger decides to ask Haltar if he'd be willing to help out with the whole artifact destruction (basically going for the whole eagle-ride to Mordor), since it never hurts to have a dragon on your side when you're going to have an angry vampire-mage with a scrying device, teleport spell, and spells that can flatline the party if you're not careful coming by and wondering what the hell you think you're doing with that artifact she wants. :smallsmile: (The party's also managed to get their hands on a Rod of Absorbtion in a scheme that involved getting the bladesinger into a pink frilly foofy girl dress, but that's another tale that I won't go into here. :smallbiggrin: )

SO (boy, this is more setup than I'd planned), Haltar agrees to help IF they help with taking out the blue (Vericose). After weighing the options and coming up with a few ideas, they agree. And, in short, here's what happened:

The pre-battle:
Phase I: Barrels are purchased. With the help of a decanter of endless water, a drop or two of alchemist's fire, and a Metamorphose Liquids spell, the barrels are partially filled with alchemist's fire. The dragons are then turned invisible (which Vericose could only spot from 40' away) and sent out to bury the barrels in the sand near the pyramid, atop which Vericose occasionally likes to hang out. (Okay, so it's really more of a ziggurat, I guess.)

Phase II: Vericose alights atop the pyramid, about 30 minutes' flight from the party's current location. Cloak of Bravery is cast on the dragons and the priest to keep them safe(r) from Vericose's fear aura. The party is then also rendered invisible, and everyone manages to climb aboard an invisible dragon and carried out to the pyramid, landing behind a dune behind the pyramid in Vericose's blind spot. (It had also randomly been determined that he was laying such that the spot where they'd hid the barrels was behind him. Lucky PCs.)

Phase III: The bladesinger then Enlarges the invisible brass dragons to 1.8 times their normal size. The priest fills a Bowl Commanding Water Elementals with some water in preparation for summoning an elemental once things become a ground battle. The bard casts an illusion to make the dune they're on seem larger (so they're effectively hidden inside an illusionary dune). The enlarged invisible dragons take off to go to where the barrels are hidden, while the bladesinger enlarges herself as well.

The battle: Haltar, Zaltar, and Bahb pull their barrels out of the sand and begin their bombing runs. In the same round, Haltar hurls his barrel down atop Vericose (becoming visible), which breaks alchemist's fire over the blue's shoulders. Zaltar, deciding he much prefers the brute force approach to all this silly scheming (especially now that he's bigger), just lets go of the barrel (it smashes harmlessly on the side of the pyramid) and swoops down on Vericose, tearing into him with both claws, but missing with the bite.

The bladesinger curses in dwarvish. :smallbiggrin:

Bahb sticks with the plan- and now Vericose has alchemist's fire (still unlit) on his hind quarters, too. All the brasses swoop off, and as the bladesinger is casting Fireball, Vericose breathes lightning at Zaltar, who saves for half damage. The fireball goes off between Vericose's shoulders as he's springing into the sky- magic resistance! But it still lights the fire, which explodes around his shoulders. (He's big enough that the stuff on his leg isn't touched.)

Zaltar freaks, having failed his save against the fear aura and continues to fly off while Haltar and Bahb bank around. The bladesinger hits Vericose with another fireball. No magic resistance this time, but he makes his save, and the alchemist's fire fails to ignite. Vericose lands, rolling in the sand to put out the fire between his shoulders and scrape the unlit oil off. But he's taken enough damage now to be unable to take off again.

Haltar and Bahb make a straifing run on Vericose with their own breath weapons, and Vericose tags Haltar with some lightning of his own while the party starts to run across the dunes to get close enough to help. (The bladesinger's running full out with enlarged legs, the priest is carrying a the Elemental bowl--sloshing water everywhere--and the bard is moving at half rate to maintain an illusion of a dust storm to cover their approach.) But they're going over loose sand, and it's slow going.

Long story short, the dragons land before the party can get into melee range (edit: the bladesinger has pointed out that she did make it into range to get off a Haste spell on the brasses, which improved things significantly! I'd forgotten), and a dragon vs. dragon vs. dragon melee ensues. A severely wounded Haltar, about to be very likely killed the next time Vericose can attack, simultaneously chomps Vericose's neck just as Bahb does the same, decapitating the blue and winning the day. (Okay, so I decided the decapitation thing would just sound cool at the time, since they'd killed him HP-wise.)

...The party finally arrives on scene. :smallwink:
...A severely embarassed Zaltar arrives eventually, too. The brasses give him the worst insult a brass dragon can think of: The silent treatment.

I was actually a little disappointed that the party wasn't able to get into melee. On the other hand, 14d8+7 lightning damage would probably not have turned out well. :smallbiggrin:

...So, there it is. Thoughts? (Post turned out longer than I'd planned, and I probably still left out some details, but...oh well!) :smallsmile:

2007-02-26, 03:09 PM
Seems like it was a strange plan. So, what exactly are you asking? Did you feel the Player Characters ought to have participated more in the battle? Were your Players happy with the way the encounter went?

2007-02-26, 04:26 PM
Mostly it's just a general sharing and invitation to comment. Sort of a "here's a fun thing that happened in a game I'm running" kind of deal combined with a request for a general critique, I suppose. Gaming-related show-and-tell. An opportunity to pick apart my DM's logic. (Do you think I should have even allowed the bombing strategy?) You know, the usual sort of deal. :smallsmile:

In regard to your other questions, I was sort of expecting the battle to involve the party a little more than it did- but the logical progression (dragons attacking from the same direction as the party and continuing their flight plan away from the party) kind of made that a problem.

The players were just fine with that, though--and quite pleased. Most of the fun there was the actual planning and figuring out how to get everything set up, then seeing it go off. And they didn't seem to feel it was easy, especially before it was over and they didn't quite know how it was going to turn out.

Maybe a question I could ask is what you all might've done in their place, or if they could've survived by attacking more directly.

2007-02-26, 04:53 PM
It seems weird that a dragon would be affected by dragonfear.

2007-02-26, 04:58 PM
Interesting point, but I think in this context it was reasonable that these younger Dragons might be intimidated by a more senior one.

There's not much you could have really done to prevent the 'bombing plan'. I can't really imagine it being terribly effective, but that depends on what kind of damage they caused.

I think as long as the players enjoyed the encounter, then it went well. I think they could have come up with a better plan, but it hardly matters.

2007-02-26, 04:59 PM
It seems weird that a dragon would be affected by dragonfear.

I rather thought that at first, myself, but then I didn't see anything saying they didn't--only a mention that anything of fewer HD would. So I figured it made sense. Big ol' blue, whelpling brass whose father he slew... *shrug*

There's not much you could have really done to prevent the 'bombing plan'. I can't really imagine it being terribly effective, but that depends on what kind of damage they caused.

Well a bottle of the stuff, once lit, does 2d6 the first round and 1d6 the second. I figured since it was a larger quantity (but spread over a gigantic creature) I'd make it 4d6, 2d6, 1d6. I may have been too generous with that, except for the fact that only 4d6 damage resulted, since he rolled himself out after the first round and the second barrel's worth didn't get ignited.

I didn't really want to prevent the strategy--it's the most fun for me when a player comes up with an interesting solution or something I didn't expect, after all. But on the other hand I didn't want it to make the combat a snap. (Of course, it helped that they were bombing an unmoving dragon who was also rather outnumbered.) Maybe I should've made Vericose just a liiittle older. :)

I think they could have come up with a better plan, but it hardly matters.

Well, speak up, then. :)

F.H. Zebedee
2007-02-27, 12:54 AM
Pretty nice. Yeah, that's one of those combats where the dragons really had it fall on them. Without the enlarge bolstering their physicals and a couple other buffs, they would have been SIGNIFICANTLY weaker, probably lossworthily so. So I think it was kind of one of those: Set it and Forget it! Matches, where it's all in the preperation, and IF that Blue had survived the other dragons and taken them out, a TPK could have resulted rather quickly. So it worked the suspense angle nicely.

2007-02-27, 01:06 AM
There's really only one thing that strikes me as odd about this battle, and that is this:
Vericose lands, rolling in the sand to put out the fire between his shoulders and scrape the unlit oil off. But he's taken enough damage now to be unable to take off again.(emphasis mine)

Dragons can't fly after they've sustained a certain amount of damage? Since when? I don't think this drastically turned the battle one way or another, so it should be fine, but that kind of houseruling does have the potential to seriously impact how things work, in general.

The alchemist's fire thing is fine, it seems like a reasonable extenstion of the rules (and, most importantly, it doesn't sound like your players were pushing for the "it should be like napalm, OMG!!!1! angle). But the flight thing could be more serious, in the long run.

2007-02-27, 02:35 AM
That might be a difference between 2nd and 3.5. Flight combat rules in 2nd dictate that when a creature reaches 50% HP, it can't fly. (It won't crash, but it has to land.)

2007-02-27, 03:50 AM
why did they get rid of that rule? That seems like a good rule to me, for nonmagical flight at least.

2007-02-27, 10:29 AM
I'm told it was in the Draconomicon, too. (At least that's what the bladesinger's player tells me. ...Hey, wait a minute. :smalleek: :smallwink: )

2007-02-27, 11:19 AM
why did they get rid of that rule? That seems like a good rule to me, for nonmagical flight at least.
Well, because it can easily lead you down a logical progression to location-based damage and all the badness that comes with that. If dropping a dragon's hitpoints below %50 means he can't fly...why can't one just attack the wings? If you lose flight after taking damage, how come all your other abilities still work fine? Etc. I mean, from a certain perspective that rule does make sense, but the 3.5 combat system is a bit too abstract to use it, IMO.

2007-02-27, 11:38 AM
I might house-rule it to 75%, myself.

2007-02-27, 02:26 PM
Well, speak up, then. :)

Well, given that they were able to get hold of these Barrels of Alchemist's Fire, then I imagine they might have been able to acquire Heavy Lances and Saddles for Dragons. Maybe even high quality or magical Heavy Lances. A three way Invisible Charge Attack would have netted them (3D6 x 2) Damage, minimum, but that depends on a number of other factors relative to the plan they executed (such as Riding Proficiency, Weapon Proficiency, Chances of Hitting, Damage Relative to the plan they executed).

The Dragons wouldn't even be strictly necessary, so long as the Player Characters were invisible, flying, charging and using Heavy Lances.

2007-02-27, 04:19 PM
In the party's defense, they weren't able to get hold of Barrels of Alchemist Fire, they were able to get hold of empty barrels, which they then filled with water and turn into alchemist fire through the use of a spell that only required a few drops of AF as a component. (This they had actually acquired on another continent, actually, and the spell required the ingestion of it. Made the bard rather sick, too.) :smallsmile:

Frankly, they were lucky even to find barrels, as the nearest place was only a small town on the edge of the desert, and they had little time to go on a quest to find someone who could make a dragon-sized saddle for them due to the time pressures of the geas.

...Plus, in my world anyway, dragons would find the idea of being saddled quite repugnant. :smallwink:

2007-02-27, 04:50 PM
I am very glad you had a dragonfight, and heartily support any dragon vs. dragon encounter.
... well, he said he was inviting comments. They didn't have to insightful.