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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    PirateGuy

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    Default Yet Another Red Hand Of Doom Campaign Journal, Part II: The Fane of Tiamat

    School has started up again, and that means that it's time to start up The Red Hand of Doom again!

    If you'll recall, our last session had our heroes successfully defeating the Horde in the Battle of Brindol. If you're just turning in or have forgotten everything that's happened, you can read the whole thing from the start at the original thread, or just read the brief recap below.

    Our Heroes
    Spoiler
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    • Imsril the human Wizard 7/Fatespinner 2. Methodical, patient, and calm in the face of pressure. Fighting the Red Hand has given him purpose in life. A natural strategist and tactician, he's the planner of the group.
    • Sarth the human Favored Soul of Fharlanghan 9. A devoted servant of his god and defender of the Vale, he's the neutral glue that holds the group together. Until he met up with the party, he was a wanderer and a bit of a womanizer. Now... well, he still is, pretty much. He's also becoming a powerful melee combatant in his own right.
    • Gale, the elven Ranger 6/Scout 3. Impulsive and passionate, Gale can be a bit of a loose cannon. At his best, he is deeply loyal and valorous - at his worst, he is brooding and vengeful. His impulsive nature has gotten him in trouble before; it led to his death at the hands of the black dragon Regiarax. Still, he will defend his best friend Cameron to the death, and he is deadly with a bow.
    • Cameron, the human Rogue Swashbuckler 6/Rogue 3 (or so). In contrast to Gale, Cameron is light-hearted and carefree... at least on the surface. Her pleasant demeanor masks a deep-seated cowardice, which has only been exacerbated by her near-death in the battle against Varanthian the behir. (Ever since she was swallowed, she's suffered from recurring nightmares.) Still, she is deeply loyal to her friends, even if she's always looking for a way to make a quick buck and a quicker escape.
    • Jess, the human Sorcerer 9. The newest addition to the party, Jess is something of an enigma from the east. (This is mostly because her character was only introduced in the middle of the Battle of Brindol...)


    The Fallen
    • Ross, the human paladin, was Imsril's lifelong friend, loyal to a fault even though he was not the brightest bulb in the drawer. He selflessly gave his own life to rescue Cameron from Varanthian, diving down the behir's throat to heal her.
    • Blayne, the human swordsage, was a devoted "executioner" of St. Cuthbert the Mace. He was killed when he ran out alone in front of a charging wave of bugbear berserkers during the Battle of Brindol.


    Last semester, in Elsir Vale...
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    Our heroes set out towards Drellin's Ferry and were hired by Norro Winston to take care of the little hobgoblin problem in the Witchwood. They found Vraath Keep, killed Wyrmlord Koth's minions (he himself escaped), and learned of the true nature of the Red Hand. In a daring overnight ride to Skull Gorge Bridge, they defeated Ozyrrandion and destroyed the bridge.

    From there, they traveled northeast to the Blackfens (after a brief stop to earn the alliance of the forest giants) and met the Tiri Kitor. With the help of Trellara Nightshadow, they cleared the Red Hand out of Rhest in a fierce battle, during which Gale was killed. (He was resurrected with the staff of life shortly thereafter.) Imsril learned valuable intelligence regarding the Horde before killing him and returning to Starsong Hill. Their defeat of the Horde, and their kindness towards the elves, earned them an alliance and the use of their giant owls.

    A clue found in Rhest sent them south into the Thornwastes, to seek out the legendary Ghostlord and break his alliance with the Red Hand by returning his phylactery. Their plans quickly turned south when they were nearly all killed by the behir Varanthian, but they escaped with only Ross losing his life. (His body was returned to the Hammerfast Holds, and eventually back to Brindol.) They counterattacked quickly, capturing Ulwai Stormcaller (although she later escaped) and defeating the Red Hand presence. Fighting their way through the Ghostlord's undead minions, they confronted the lich himself, and successfully negotiated a deal, breaking his alliance.

    They returned to Brindol to gird themselves for the coming storm. Pursuing a false rumor given to them by Ulwai, they traveled south in hopes of finding Tyrgarun, the blue dragon, but were ambushed by Wyrmlord Koth - this time, he didn't escape. However, the whole sojurn proved to be an elaborate plot concocted by Miha Serani to reclaim Ulwai's staff of stormclouds - she joined the party under false pretenses, then fled during the night with the staff. Nevertheless, the party spent some time readying the city for battle, although they took some time away to enact a daring, teleportation-based assassination scheme on Wyrmlord Kharn, which was ultimately successful, even though he was raised before the battle proper. When it arrived, to make a long story short, they won - Abithraix the red dragon lay dead, along with Wyrmlords Kharn (again) and Ulwai, and most of the Horde.

    But Lord Jaarmath of Brindol revealed that while the Vale may have won the battle, they had not yet won the war - Azarr Kull was massing a demonic army in the Fane of Tiamat, with enough power to devastate the war-weary region. Our heroes still have work to do...


    The first session is tomorrow evening, and I'll be resuming regular recaps once we start playing. I'm really excited - the Fane is quite different from the rest of the module, and my players are going to have to adjust their expectations significantly if they want to survive. (Until now, they've had the luxury of being able to plan their attacks - now they'll be flying blind, more or less. And the types of enemies they'll be fighting is very different as well.)

    Everyone is pretty close to level 10, except for Gale and Jess. Sarth with righteous might should be interesting - he's already the only melee combatant who can take any amount of damage, so they'll need to take a somewhat different approach to combat. (They can't rely on Ross or Blayne to draw attacks...)

    Anyway, I'm really looking forward to getting back behind the screen. So, expect to hear more from me in this thread soon, and thanks for reading!
    My Red Hand of Doom campaign journal: Part I, Part II
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  2. - Top - End - #2
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Yet Another Red Hand Of Doom Campaign Journal, Part II: The Fane of Tiamat

    Horray! Its Finnally Back!

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Yet Another Red Hand Of Doom Campaign Journal, Part II: The Fane of Tiamat

    Spent the last hour and a bit reading the older campaign journals. Really enjoyed the story, thanks for putting it up here for people to read. Looking forward to the finale.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    PirateGuy

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    Default Re: Yet Another Red Hand Of Doom Campaign Journal, Part II: The Fane of Tiamat

    Session 13

    In which our heroes set off on one last mission.

    We had a bit of a rocky start. Due to scheduling problems, Sarth's player had to leave for a few hours in the middle of the session. This, combined with the three-month lapse since our last game and some really bad rules mistakes on my part (the most egregious one was with Dispel Magic), resulted in a somewhat less-than-satisfying game. It happens. We'll do better next time.

    The two-hour gap in the middle was used to resolve a bit of unfinished business left over from last semester - Gale and Cameron had announced their intention to rob the manor house of Verrasa Kaal right after the battle of Brindol. So, this recap will be somewhat temporally disjointed, because I'm ordering events as they happened in-game, not as we played them. (We framed it as Imsril asking Gale and Cameron, "So, what happened with the heist, anyway?" and them retelling it, Prince of Persia-style.)

    Without further ado - The Heist.
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    The streets were full of soldiers and citizens, some rushing to put out the still-lingering fires or deal with Red Hand holdouts, some reveling in their victory. Gale and Cameron made their way through the crowd unnoticed, towards Kaal Manor.

    They cased the place, and found the eight-foot wrought-iron fence topped with spikes to be easily surmountable. Going around to the back, which bordered a less-trafficked venue then the front, Cameron climbed over, wounding herself on the spikes in the process. Gale just jumped, and made it over easily. They sprinted towards the house and ducked into the shadows to avoid a passing guard patrol.

    They began searching for a means of ingress, but all the first-floor windows were locked and barred. Cameron climbed up to the second story, finding those windows locked and barred as well. Undeterred, she climbed onto the roof, and lowered a rope for Gale to follow. He made it up just as another guard patrol passed by on the grounds below. They remained undetected, for now.

    It was here that Cameron and Gale began to realize that breaking and entering into the house of a noblewoman and major crime lord might not have been as easy as they had expected. (I had expected for them to try to bluff their way in the front door - neither of them even has ranks in Open Lock or Disable Device, shortcomings that began to make themselves known in short order.) All the windows were locked and barred. They started considering the chimneys - all but one of them were too small to fit through without Escape Artist checks, and neither of them relished the thought of being slowly smoked like a delicious ham. The largest chimney was covered with a grate - they unbolted the grate and Cameron began climbing down.

    Note that I specifically told them that this chimney had smoke coming out of it - Cameron was sure she'd be fine as long as she held her breath. Taking damage from the heat of the chimney walls as she climbed down, she took more damage as she climbed over the fire burning in the fireplace in some sort of bedroom (actually, Kaal's bedroom).

    To those of you who say that mundane fire isn't a threat to high-level adventurers - no matter how tough you think you are, don't climb down a chimney into a lit fireplace.

    She smothered the fire with a bucket of sand left nearby for the purpose, but realized she had no way of communicating with Gale that she had put out the fire - there was another fireplace below that fed the same chimney and was still lit. She eventually decided to pull the bedspread off of Kaal's bed and use it to send smoke signals up the chimney. I wish I was making this up.

    So Gale climbs down (taking damage from the hot chimney) and they peek out the doors from the bedroom - one leads to a study, the other to some sort of grand central staircase. They search the room, checking the desk for interesting papers, but all the drawers are locked. Gale finds a secret compartment, which is not only locked, but also trapped - a yellowish gas begins to come out of the desk. (A custom poison I whipped up - primary effect, nauseated 1 minute, secondary effect, unconscious, DC 20. Also, the trap triggers a magic alarm to the guards.) Cam makes her save, but Gale doesn't. They hear footsteps, and duck into the adjoining study just before the guards start banging on the door.

    They realize that they've walked into a dead end - the door they just walked through was the only door. However, Gale's elven senses begin to tingle - they find a hidden door behind one of the bookshelves, and dart inside before waiting a moment for Gale's nausea to pass. (He made the second save.)

    The secret door led them into a staircase, which took them down for a few flights before leading them into an underground room, filled with the nitty-gritty of Kaal's intelligence network - shelves filled with files containing dirt on hundreds of Brindol's most prominent citizens (the PCs included) and an enormous crystal ball. Cam and Gale go right for the intel, but it's written in either code or another language. They steal the files on the PCs, before realizing that they might as well paint targets on themselves. They instead pull out enough files to make it seem plausible that their five files might have been pulled at random. (We're talking about a hundred here - and they're big files. Thank the gawds for Heward's Handy Haversack.)

    Cameron makes the mistake of touching the crystal ball - a panel in the wall silently slides open, and out glides an invisible stalker. It dices up Gale before either of them knows what's going on - Cameron actually manages to kill the thing, but Gale's at -9 and she's already blown all her healing. She makes an untrained heal check, which I fudge, because having Gale die right now would be an enormous pain in the ass.

    However, she's also triggered another alarm, so a pair of guards come down the stairs. She hides Gale's unconscious body, and crouches behind the shelves. She ambushes the first guard and kills him, but the second manages to knock her out with the flat of his blade (she was already badly wounded.)

    They wake up chained to a wall in a featureless stone room. After a while, Lady Kaal herself walks in, and begins tallying up the damages they've incurred, and how much it will cost to pay her back. (Resurrection of the dead guard, summoning another invisible stalker, her antique heirloom bedspread...) Kaal explains that she can't just kill them and sell their stuff, as they have the awkward status of being national heroes... but she makes it very clear that she expects her money back, with interest. They're reluctant to agree, until she explains that she's not above killing them anyway... she then pummels them into unconsciousness and they wake up back in their rooms.

    So, the Heist was a colossal failure - they're about 10,000 gp in debt to a powerful crime lord, and they were lucky to escape with their lives. I gave them 750 XP for the mission - then docked them 500 for being such complete numbskulls.


    Now, the actual saving-the-Vale part of the adventure.

    Spoiler
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    We resumed during the meeting with Jaarmath in which he was explaining the threat posed by the Fane. Of course, all the players were interested in hearing about was loot - they were very happy when Jaarmath's servant carted in a wheelbarrow full of potions and scrolls looted from the battle. They immediately began identifying the stuff they had taken off of various Wyrmlords, &c. during the battle, and planning a shopping trip in Dennovar.

    Jaarmath, of course, was just sitting there.

    I know it's really exciting for PCs to get new equipment, but... the first time we're playing in months and within ten minutes everyone's flipping through the DMG and the MIC. I wanted to get right to the action, considering our time constraints, so I didn't even bother trying to role-play this item stuff, which is pretty boring to me even under the best of circumstances.

    Maybe it was just the three-month lapse, but I was having trouble getting anyone into character. I dropped hints that they might want to be saying their goodbyes to loved ones in Brindol, but only Gale did so.

    The next day, after a long argument about where to teleport to (they tried scrying on Miha Serani again, but she was long gone) they teleported to Vraath Keep, mounted up on phantom steeds, and set off.

    Then came the random encounters. Oh, sweet Kord, the random encounters. 20% per hour? Really? The module suggests limiting it to three per day, regardless of rolls - I would limit it to one, given the opportunity to do this over.

    They first encountered a group of six blackspawn raiders - Imsril cast glitterdust and it was pretty much over. They tried to capture one of the blinded ones, but in his attempt to run away while blind, he stumbled off the edge of the trail and over a 250-foot drop. Ow.

    They next came across a small cave. Their reaction was priceless -

    Jess: Is this the Fane of Tiamat?
    Cameron: I don't know. Where are we?
    Sarth: What's a "fane", anyway?
    Gale: *looks it up*

    They were very disappointed to learn that it was merely the home of one very surprised troll, whom they torched without too much trouble.

    A few hours later they came across a patrol of ogres - I didn't even bother rolling for initiative. Jess blasted them to cinders with a fireball and they kept riding.

    (I'm glad that they were on phantom steeds. I couldn't have dealt with several days of travel like that. Also, everyone but Jess and Gale leveled to 10.)

    Without further ado, they crested a ridge and saw before them the stone dragons of the Fane of Tiamat. They were understandably edgy about just walking through the front door - Imsril summoned some floating eyes and had them scout around. He sent one up to the cave that they saw - this alerted Tyrgarun, who promptly ate it. Tyrgarun began doing his voice-projection thing, "I am the wrath of Tiamat" and so forth, but the party was having none of it. Imsril sent in two more eyes, one trailing the other, and they realized what they were up against.

    They began casting fly on each other as quickly as possible - Tyrgarun realized what was going on and decided not to stick around and wait for the adventurers to buff up. He charged, and the battle was on.

    The fact that everyone was flying made the battle interesting. Sarth flew up to meet Tyrgarun head-on, without buffing himself significantly, and got a face full of lightning for his troubles. (Fortunately, he had picked up lightning resistance as his next Favored Soul thing, so that helped.) Cameron flew up to flank, Gale feathered him with arrows, Jess hid and started buffing, and Imsril cast dispel magic.

    This wasn't as effective as he had hoped, because I screwed up and had him rolling against Tyrgarun's SR (which was 21) instead of his CL (which was 13). So, he should have dispelled all of Tyrgarun's buffs in the first round, but instead he only took out his mage armor. That was my first mistake.

    Sarth tried to cast divine power and failed the Concentration check (!), Imsril flew up behind him to give him stoneskin and failed his Concentration check (!!), and Tyrgarun took advantage of how nicely they had lined up with each other and blasted them with his breath weapon.

    The breath weapon of a young adult blue dragon does 10d8 damage. I rolled 10d10. That was my second mistake.

    Both Sarth and Imsril failed their saves and were instantly killed. Cameron, Gale, and Jess realized that the tides had turned, and began to flee, while Tyrgarun laughed mockingly and began feasting on their corpses.

    The mood at the table was grim - two characters down, trapped in the middle of the Wyrmsmoke Mountains (no teleport or phantom steed). Gale and Cameron began talking seriously about fleeing the Vale, while Jess raised suspicions by using her sending stone to communicate with some mysterious contact. Imsril and Sarth fumed that the others hadn't managed to nab their bodies, or at least parts of them.

    It was then that I realized my mistake, and sheepishly announced it to the group. Relieved, uproarious laughter, followed by some well-deserved punches.

    Rewind. I re-rolled the damage. Sarth and Imsril were now at -2 and -7, respectively, but they were still alive. Cameron drank a potion of invisibility, while Tyrgarun turned on Gale, who had managed to crit him the round before. Cameron healed Imsril, who healed Sarth, who dispelled the rest of Tyrgarun's buffs - this is when I realized my first mistake - and suddenly the battle didn't look so dire after all.

    Tyrgarun flew back across the chasm to drink a potion, but Cameron was having none of it, and charged across after him, sneak attacking and wounding him badly. Jess, having spent most of the battle buffing herself to improved her ranged attacks (reduce person, haste (on everyone), &c.) launched a carefully aimed orb of fire, which burnt the dragon to a crisp.

    They celebrated, and explored the lair, finding Tyrgarun's massive hoard. While identifying some items, Gale heard a hobgoblin patrol passing below - he managed to catch the pass phrase, but couldn't understand it (it was Infernal), so he scratched it into the dirt with phonetic symbols. Imsril cast comprehend languages, read the phonetic symbols out loud to himself, and understood.

    And that's how they entered the Fane of Tiamat. They made their way to the foyer, to be immediately attacked by two blue abishai and two wyvern zombies. The abishai were annoying, but not much of a threat, especially considering Sarth's electricity resistance. However, they did manage to get off two nice spells - one cast a major image of an approaching hobgoblin patrol, which incited much nervousness and preparatory casting before it was successfully disbelieved. The other hit Cameron with a suggestion to "protect the foyer" - she immediately full-attacked Sarth, who had a fire shield up at the time. She took thirtysomething damage from the fire shield, almost killing her, and nearly brought down Sarth in the process.

    The zombies, on the other hand, posed little threat, and a divine power'ed Sarth smashed them to little tiny bits.

    And that's where we wrapped up for the night.


    Observations:
    Spoiler
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    • Seriously, WTF with those random encounters. I shouldn't have run that by the book.
    • Imsril keeps wanting to rest when he's not full up on spells. I keep having to remind them that they're under time constraints here. If they only fight two or three battles a day, they might not make it in time. This is staying my hand from boosting these encounters as I normally would - there's a lot of them.
    • I must be doing the regeneration rules wrong. Blue abishai only take normal damage from good-aligned weapons and holy water. Does this really mean that there's no other way to kill them so that they stay dead? If so, this is going to be a pain in the ass, since the party lacks both of those things.
    • I've been playing Shadowrun over the summer, so it's hard for me to get excited about a hack-and-slash dungeon crawl. Maybe I'll get back into the swing of things, but I might end up yanking some of these combats before it becomes a slog.
    My Red Hand of Doom campaign journal: Part I, Part II
    Love the Third Amendment?

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
    Draz74's Avatar

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    Default Re: Yet Another Red Hand Of Doom Campaign Journal, Part II: The Fane of Tiamat

    Quote Originally Posted by kjones View Post
    [*]I must be doing the regeneration rules wrong. Blue abishai only take normal damage from good-aligned weapons and holy water. Does this really mean that there's no other way to kill them so that they stay dead? If so, this is going to be a pain in the ass, since the party lacks both of those things.
    No, you got it right. The game is really strongly built around the idea of every party having a Cleric.

    The easiest way to fix this would be to have the party find a Wand of Align Weapon, which the Favored Soul can use effortlessly. Of course that means the pre-battle buffing process gets even longer ...
    You can call me Draz.
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    Also of note:

    I have a number of ongoing projects that I manically jump between to spend my free time ... so don't be surprised when I post a lot about something for a few days, then burn out and abandon it.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    d13's Avatar

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    Default Re: Yet Another Red Hand Of Doom Campaign Journal, Part II: The Fane of Tiamat

    It's baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack ~

    =)

    Seems like a great session despite the drawbacks... Keep it comin'
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    I'll have a signature one day...


    Thanks Mr. Saturn for the awesome Pokeatar

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Titan in the Playground
     
    MindFlayer

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    Default Re: Yet Another Red Hand Of Doom Campaign Journal, Part II: The Fane of Tiamat

    Well, I'm hooked. When's the next game?
    Anemoia: Nostalgia for a time you've never known.

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    AslanCross's Avatar

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    Default Re: Yet Another Red Hand Of Doom Campaign Journal, Part II: The Fane of Tiamat

    Good to see you back. I know how it feels to make screwups due to forgetting the rules. It happens to the best of us. >_o

    The heist was hilarious. I was wondering what they had hoped to get out of it overall.

    Spoiler
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    I'm actually planning on running that many random encounters on the way up (or at least until the players' life signs begin to drop), as it's a long, slow trek and kind of gives the PCs a nagging suspicion that the entire horde that Kharn led against Brindol was actually not the whole thing. Skullcrusher ogre cavalry mounted on war elephants, mountain trolls (MM3), teams of skullcrusher ogres sledding down the scree-covered slopes, Hobgoblin Warsoul Retinues (MM5)---Pretty much a "one does not simply walk into Mordor" deal.


    I seriously laughed when Tyrgarun ate the eye. Wonder what that must have looked like up close.

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    I'm planning to buff up the Fane encounters a lot. You might want to see if there are ideas you can yoink:

    -Great Temple of Tiamat: 2 abyssal drakes instead of the wyverns. (My actual plan is for an EL 12 encounter: 1 abyssal drake, 2 mezzoloths and 4 canoloths. The yugoloths need love.)
    -Cavern of the Guardian Spawn: Bluespawn Godslayer. Along with a few other dragonspawn. Three Razorfiends? Seriously?
    Last edited by AslanCross; 2009-08-30 at 05:48 PM.


    Eberron Red Hand of Doom Campaign Journal. NOW COMPLETE!
    Sakuya Izayoi avatar by Mr. Saturn. Caella sig by Neoseph.

    "I dunno, you just gave me the image of a nerd flying slow motion over a coffee table towards another nerd, dual wielding massive books. It was awesome." -- Marriclay

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    PirateGuy

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    Default Re: Yet Another Red Hand Of Doom Campaign Journal, Part II: The Fane of Tiamat

    Draz: I'm honestly a little ashamed that I didn't think of that as a solution. Part of the problem, I think, is that they haven't even conceived of the possibility that the abishai are vulnerable to good-aligned weapons and holy water - during the battle, they spent some time trying out every possible energy type. (They had all of them except sonic.) To be honest, I don't blame them, because who does that? So I'll have to come up with some other way to convey this information to them. Any ideas? (None of them have any ranks in Knowledge: The Planes.)

    Lycan: We'll hopefully be playing every Saturday. I try to do the write-ups on Sunday morning. That being said, we're all very busy people and our schedule will certainly lapse at some point.

    AslanCross:

    w.r.t. random encounters:
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    I like your idea quite a bit. I might have done something like that had I realized how the journey to the Fane was going to play out, but I just didn't think about it and wanted to get to "the action", that is, the Fane and the battle with Tyrgarun. The other problem was that they weren't walking, they were riding phantom steeds, so it was by no means a long, slow trek. One might legitimately question the validity of using phantom steeds in the mountains, but again, I sort of wanted to get the journey over with.


    w.r.t. Fane encounters:
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    When I'm designing adventures, I usually plan one or two big encounters per day - I prefer encounters in which the party must fight for their lives to ones in which the party is more or less assured victory, but at the cost of 20% of their daily resources. However, it's pretty clear to me that the Fane is designed with the latter principle in mind. So, I'm loath to buff up Fane encounters for two reasons - I don't want to encourage them to rest after every battle, but I don't want to kill them. I can do the former by reminding them of their time constraints, but...

    At this point, exact dates become important. Azarr Kull opens the portal on Day 55, unmodified. It is currently Day 51. The question is this: does the time bought by the party (destroying the bridge, &c.) count for this purpose as well? If so, the portal opens on Day 61 instead, and they have plenty of time.

    There's maybe 10 major encounters left in the Fane of Tiamat. Let's say that the final battle will take place on its own day - if the portal opens on Day 55, they'll need to clear 3-4 encounters a day. In this case, I shouldn't change the encounters - they're hard enough as is. If the portal opens on Day 61, they've got plenty of time.

    But, I still don't want them resting after every encounter! So I'm honestly not quite sure what to do.


    As for the overall purpose of the Heist... careful readers may recall that at one point, Cameron sought out Lady Kaal to inform her personally of the threat posed by the horde. She went to some trouble to find the Lady (including buying a new dress!) but was basically blown off - Kaal was insulted by the idea that there was something happening in the Vale of which she was not already aware. Cameron was very insulted by this, and my portrayal of Kaal during the war council did not improve her image in Cameron's eyes. So, they were doing this primarily to stick it to Lady Kaal - stealing her personal fortune was merely the means of doing so. (They're lucky they didn't actually manage to find her personal fortune. It was very well protected - Kaal employs a mind-controlled ettin for the purpose, along with a host of deadly traps.)

    Unfortunately, the eyes do not transmit data real-time - they observe, and then report on their findings. So Imsril did not get to see the inside of a dragon's mouth... this time, at least.

    I should also mention that I modified Tyrgarun's treasure pretty thoroughly, since the default stuff is both lame and useless. Here's what they got:
    Spoiler
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    +2 Parrying Quarterstaff
    Quiver of Energy
    Boots of Striding and Springing
    Runestaff of Size Alteration
    Pearl of Power (3rd Level)
    Robe of Useful Items (Patches: 10 100gp gems, Minor scroll of *, Potion of CSW, 2 x Iron door, pair of war dogs, silver coffer, 2 x portable ram, rowboat, window, pit, ladder)


    Identifying items is becoming a real pain. I'm considering allowing identification with a spellcraft check or something similar, because I want them using this stuff!
    My Red Hand of Doom campaign journal: Part I, Part II
    Love the Third Amendment?

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Lizardfolk

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    Default Re: Yet Another Red Hand Of Doom Campaign Journal, Part II: The Fane of Tiamat

    I homeruled identifying magic items as a function of the appraise skill. The DC I set at 25 +1/5000 gp in value(round down). Identify and Analyze dweomer spells gave a competence bonus to the appraise skill for identifying magic items.

    Now probably this wont work in your current campaign, as it is unlikely that anyone has invested in the appraise skill, but it could be easily modified tobe done via spellcraft or a knowledge skill. The beauty part is that for cursed items you can set the DC higher, and if they don't make it reveal false information.


    Another thing you might want to consider is adding more dispel functions to the horde. Changing 3rd level spell like abilities to dispel magic, or 3rd level spell slots works really well on parties that focus heavily on magic. My party in another campaign greatly fears Babau demons, which eat up parties buffs, making the fights much harder.

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    Default Re: Yet Another Red Hand Of Doom Campaign Journal, Part II: The Fane of Tiamat

    Quote Originally Posted by kjones View Post
    Draz: I'm honestly a little ashamed that I didn't think of that as a solution.
    Meh, I only thought of it because I once had to fix a no-Cleric party this way after they got TPK'ed in the Test of Might when they met a Slaad with DR 10/lawful. So don't feel too bad. (I didn't have a Favored Soul in the party either, but I surely did have UMD!)

    Part of the problem, I think, is that they haven't even conceived of the possibility that the abishai are vulnerable to good-aligned weapons and holy water - during the battle, they spent some time trying out every possible energy type. (They had all of them except sonic.) To be honest, I don't blame them, because who does that? So I'll have to come up with some other way to convey this information to them. Any ideas? (None of them have any ranks in Knowledge: The Planes.)
    Just give 'em the wand (and a way to identify it) and see if they figure it out from there?

    Identifying items is becoming a real pain. I'm considering allowing identification with a spellcraft check or something similar, because I want them using this stuff!
    Either a friendly Level 1 Dragonfire Adept NPC, or the Artificer's Monacle item from the MIC would be my recommendation. But yeah, not being able to identify loot is a pretty crippling weakness, especially in RHoD.
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    Default Re: Yet Another Red Hand Of Doom Campaign Journal, Part II: The Fane of Tiamat

    Quote Originally Posted by kjones View Post
    w.r.t. Fane encounters:
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    When I'm designing adventures, I usually plan one or two big encounters per day - I prefer encounters in which the party must fight for their lives to ones in which the party is more or less assured victory, but at the cost of 20% of their daily resources. However, it's pretty clear to me that the Fane is designed with the latter principle in mind. So, I'm loath to buff up Fane encounters for two reasons - I don't want to encourage them to rest after every battle, but I don't want to kill them. I can do the former by reminding them of their time constraints, but...

    At this point, exact dates become important. Azarr Kull opens the portal on Day 55, unmodified. It is currently Day 51. The question is this: does the time bought by the party (destroying the bridge, &c.) count for this purpose as well? If so, the portal opens on Day 61 instead, and they have plenty of time.

    There's maybe 10 major encounters left in the Fane of Tiamat. Let's say that the final battle will take place on its own day - if the portal opens on Day 55, they'll need to clear 3-4 encounters a day. In this case, I shouldn't change the encounters - they're hard enough as is. If the portal opens on Day 61, they've got plenty of time.

    But, I still don't want them resting after every encounter! So I'm honestly not quite sure what to do.
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    They don't know when Azarr opens the portal! You can force them to expedite matters either way by the whole "it's gonna happen any moment now"-shtick and "the faster you stop him, the less Dragonspawns appear"-shtick.

    It's not like all the adversaries are somehow still; if they leave the Fane and "come back tomorrow", more enemies are going to be around and every day they take is simply going to result in tougher encounters. If you make this clear for them, I don't think them being too cautious is going to be an issue.
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    Default Re: Yet Another Red Hand Of Doom Campaign Journal, Part II: The Fane of Tiamat

    Quote Originally Posted by kjones View Post
    AslanCross:

    w.r.t. random encounters:
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    I like your idea quite a bit. I might have done something like that had I realized how the journey to the Fane was going to play out, but I just didn't think about it and wanted to get to "the action", that is, the Fane and the battle with Tyrgarun. The other problem was that they weren't walking, they were riding phantom steeds, so it was by no means a long, slow trek. One might legitimately question the validity of using phantom steeds in the mountains, but again, I sort of wanted to get the journey over with.
    True; sometimes it does get tedious and both DM and players want the story to move forward. My party's lack of an arcane caster is going to make it difficult for them to get there at least for the first time, though.

    w.r.t. Fane encounters:
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    When I'm designing adventures, I usually plan one or two big encounters per day - I prefer encounters in which the party must fight for their lives to ones in which the party is more or less assured victory, but at the cost of 20% of their daily resources. However, it's pretty clear to me that the Fane is designed with the latter principle in mind. So, I'm loath to buff up Fane encounters for two reasons - I don't want to encourage them to rest after every battle, but I don't want to kill them. I can do the former by reminding them of their time constraints, but...

    At this point, exact dates become important. Azarr Kull opens the portal on Day 55, unmodified. It is currently Day 51. The question is this: does the time bought by the party (destroying the bridge, &c.) count for this purpose as well? If so, the portal opens on Day 61 instead, and they have plenty of time.

    There's maybe 10 major encounters left in the Fane of Tiamat. Let's say that the final battle will take place on its own day - if the portal opens on Day 55, they'll need to clear 3-4 encounters a day. In this case, I shouldn't change the encounters - they're hard enough as is. If the portal opens on Day 61, they've got plenty of time.
    Spoiler
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    I don't think it makes sense for Azarr Kul's plans to get delayed by the destruction of the bridge and whatever delays Kharn's horde get bogged down in, as Azarr Kul's devil horde is likely his failsafe plan. On the other hand, you could have it such that it's the horde's defeat that triggers Azarr Kul's decision to start summoning the infernal army.

    But, I still don't want them resting after every encounter! So I'm honestly not quite sure what to do.


    Good points with the timelines. I did forget that my party is pretty tenacious and dishes out so much damage that threats with less than 70 HP aren't really threats regardless of their CR unless they have serious magical support.


    As for the overall purpose of the Heist... careful readers may recall that at one point, Cameron sought out Lady Kaal to inform her personally of the threat posed by the horde. She went to some trouble to find the Lady (including buying a new dress!) but was basically blown off - Kaal was insulted by the idea that there was something happening in the Vale of which she was not already aware. Cameron was very insulted by this, and my portrayal of Kaal during the war council did not improve her image in Cameron's eyes. So, they were doing this primarily to stick it to Lady Kaal - stealing her personal fortune was merely the means of doing so. (They're lucky they didn't actually manage to find her personal fortune. It was very well protected - Kaal employs a mind-controlled ettin for the purpose, along with a host of deadly traps.)
    Ah, I see then. It's still funny that they decided to do it at all, though.

    Unfortunately, the eyes do not transmit data real-time - they observe, and then report on their findings. So Imsril did not get to see the inside of a dragon's mouth... this time, at least.
    ...Now I want to make a lolcat-style image of my blue dragon figure saying "U sent ur magic eye 2 skowt, but I ated it. ):"

    I should also mention that I modified Tyrgarun's treasure pretty thoroughly, since the default stuff is both lame and useless. Here's what they got:
    Spoiler
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    +2 Parrying Quarterstaff
    Quiver of Energy
    Boots of Striding and Springing
    Runestaff of Size Alteration
    Pearl of Power (3rd Level)
    Robe of Useful Items (Patches: 10 100gp gems, Minor scroll of *, Potion of CSW, 2 x Iron door, pair of war dogs, silver coffer, 2 x portable ram, rowboat, window, pit, ladder)


    Identifying items is becoming a real pain. I'm considering allowing identification with a spellcraft check or something similar, because I want them using this stuff!
    I'm definitely going to change Tyrgarun's treasure too. I'm planning on putting the character's "ultimate weapons" in it, though I'm not so sure yet.

    Btw, MIC has additional rules for identifying magic items.

    A DC 30 Knowledge Arcana check is enough to recall studies about items, so they can figure out what it does.

    The lowly detect magic allows Spellcraft checks to identify magical auras, but if the character exceeds the check by 10 or more, he could figure out what it is altogether (at least what it does, how to activate it, and how many charges)

    A DC 25 Spellcraft check can be used to identify potions. No retry, though.

    A character who exceeds his UMD check to activate a magic item and exceeds by 5 or more can identify its purpose, means of activation and charges.

    I use these. Very helpful in that we don't need to wait for Linny to prepare Identify or Analyze Dweomer.


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  14. - Top - End - #14
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    Default Re: Yet Another Red Hand Of Doom Campaign Journal, Part II: The Fane of Tiamat

    Keep em coming. I love reading about this campagin.

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    Default Re: Yet Another Red Hand Of Doom Campaign Journal, Part II: The Fane of Tiamat

    Tehnar: That's a good way to make the Appraise skill useful. I probably will do something like this, but I feel badly for not implementing these rules until now - my players will probably be angry about all the money they "wasted" on pearls.

    Draz: I forgot to include it in the above list for some reason, but included in Tyrgarun's treasure is that monocle from MIC that lets you Identify 1/day.

    Of course, first they have to identify that...

    Eldarial: The module has provisions for reinforcing defeated monsters - basically, Azarr Kull can summon a couple of extra dragonspawn and some other minor outsiders every day. The cost of defeating them would probably be one or two high-level spells, so reinforcements in and of themselves do not pose a compelling reason to not stop and rest.

    Perhaps it's worth coming up with a different level of extraplanar reinforcements. Regardless, it's certainly worth coming up with a specific plan as to what will happen when Day 55 rolls around.

    Suggestions? It should be bad, but opening the portal should not in and of itself spell defeat. Perhaps demons don't start coming out for a couple of days (and I concoct some means of their closing the portal). Perhaps demons pour out - and immediately march to some rallying point outside the mountains. (But then the party might just chase after them...) The module doesn't really seem to plan for this contingency, but it seems to me that even if Azarr Kull manages to open the portal, if the players can defeat him before his demonic army destroys Brindol, the army itself will collapse without leadership.

    Aslan: I don't think I'm going to delay Azarr Kull's plans due to the slowing of the Horde - it just doesn't make sense. However, it also seems a little unfair that if the Battle of Brindol had been earlier, the players would have more time to defeat Azarr Kull, since they can't really do anything about the Fane of Tiamat until after the Battle of Brindol!

    I'm going to hold off on modifying encounters until they get a little deeper into the Fane - they've only fought one real Fane battle, and it actually went pretty badly for them. (Suggestion TK FTW.)

    Also, thanks for pointing out the MIC rules - I had forgotten about them. I'll probably use those or some variant.

    Olo: Thanks for the support. I do it for the fans.

    Really, I'm keeping this journal as both a personal log, so I can come back later to this excellent campaign, and because I was inspired to run this by reading the campaign journals of others. RHoD is a really excellent module, and I want to spread the good word.

    So, things I need-
    • A plan for what happens when the players fail to defeat Azarr Kull before he opens the portal to Avernus
    • A way to get the party to figure out that abishai are vulnerable to good-aligned weapons
    • A set of skill-based magic identification rules


    Next game is Saturday, and I'm looking forward to it already.
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    Default Re: Yet Another Red Hand Of Doom Campaign Journal, Part II: The Fane of Tiamat

    Session 14

    In which our heroes wend their way deep into darkness.

    It's a beautiful Sunday morning as I write this - I brought my laptop outside to the park across the street, where there's a softball game in progress. There's a Jewish family watching, with yarmulked kids and a terrier dog. The catcher looks like he's about sixty - his wife is sitting next to me, cheering him on. There's at least five outfielders, but nobody seems to mind. One of them just made a diving catch, and everyone, including the batter, gave him props. I feel so... American.

    But you guys don't care about things that happen outdoors - you're here to hear about Dungeons & Dragons! Well, have I got a story for you.

    You'll recall that last session, the party breached the Fane of Tiamat and defeated the guardian monsters in the foyer - but the abishai continued to regenerate inexorably.

    Here's what happened:
    Spoiler
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    Cameron and Gale were assigned to "pummeling duty" - their job was to keep hitting the abishai so they would stay down while the rest of the party could figure out what to do. They iterated through energy types, and realized that they had tried everything except sonic. Sarth cast sound burst, but the abishai kept healing.

    The players were well and truly stumped. The conversation went something like this:

    Sarth: We could throw them into the chasm...
    Gale: They have wings.
    Jess: We could cut off their wings first...
    Cam: They'd just regenerate them.
    Me: You guys just need to re-align your thinking.
    Imsril: Oh, come on!

    At first, they didn't see how this hint helped - they didn't have any good-aligned weapons! But then Imsril remembered that while Sarth had righteous might cast, his natural weapons counted as good-aligned. So Sarth cast righteous might, and pummled the beasts into goo.

    The foyer was quiet once more, but the silence was shattered by a scream that came from the door to the west. Imsril picked the lock (!) and they swung open the door to find... the torture chamber.
    Spoiler
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    Those of you who are familiar with the layout of the Fane of Tiamat might be thinking "wtf?" right about now. Let me explain - Gale's player brought his girlfriend, who was visiting from out of town, to the game. You may remember her from the session with the Ghostlord encounter - she played a dwarf of the Shining Axes named Carla, a dungeoncrasher fighter. I realized that the torture chamber was a perfect opportunity to re-introduce her character (leveled to 9) without too much fiat. I would just say that she had been captured during the Battle of Brindol. However, I wanted to get her playing as soon as possible, so I just swapped the positions of the barracks and the torture chamber. This worked fine, unless you start wondering why there's a secret tunnel from the torture chamber to the barracks... but I like to think that there could be reasons for that.

    The Torture Chamber
    The party found themselves face-to-face with the bone devil, Terilanyx. The scream they heard was coming from inside one of his infernal torture devices - they could see that it was their old friend, Carla the Dwarf! Initiative was rolled.

    Gale, Cameron, and Sarth rushed into the room, but Terilanyx cut off Cameron from the rest of the party with a well-placed wall of ice. Imsril rescued her with benign transposition, then cast teleport to escape to the foyer (nearly rolling a mishap in the process!).

    Meanwhile, Carla broke free of her restraints, and charged into the wall of ice, punching a hole in it. Sarth, still under righteous might, punched a hole of his own. Terilanyx fought back for a round, which may have been a mistake, as the next round he found himself surrounded by Gale, Cameron, Carla, and Sarth, who bashed him to bits.

    Carla, who had been naked for the duration of the battle, reclaimed her equipment from another cell and explained her plight to the rest of the party. Gale found the keys to the cells, and in searching through them, found a secret door to the north. Imsril picked the lock (again! What rolls!) and they ventured through the darkness.

    The Barracks, or, Blackspawn Raiders Kind Of Suck
    They emerged into the barracks, and were beset immediately by six blackspawn raiders. These proved to pose little threat - Jess toasted half of them with an empowered fireball, and Cameron and Carla mopped up the rest, though one managed to turn invisible and attack Imsril before he was found. He blasted it with an orb of acid, and then smacked his forehead when he remembered that not only were these creatures immune to acid, but that he had been reminded of this the round before when Gale's corrosive bow had no effect. Gale found another secret door to the north (damn those elven senses!), and they found themselves at a decision point - which way to go?

    "Secret doors are more interesting," said Gale, and they ventured through.

    The Great Temple of Tiamat
    They emerged from darkness into an opulent chapel devoted to Tiamat, guarded by five wyverns. Gale ran out into the room and was quickly surrounded by three of them, but quick thinking and a confusion spell from Imsril saved the day. Carla and Cameron dispatched the other two quickly, while Jess's fireball dealt with the rest, but the damage had been done - both Carla and Gale had been poisoned. Sarth hit them with bear's endurance and resistance, and they shook it off.

    At this point, Imsril was beginning to run low on spells. Realizing that they had little sense of what, exactly, they were up against, they decided to exercise prudence and rest before venturing further. They returned to Tyrgarun's lair, reasoning that it was as safe a place as they were going to find in the Fane, and rested, giving Imsril a chance to identify their newly acquired loot. +20 to Knowledge (Arcana) came in useful here, since I took the opportunity to remind them of the rules in the back of the Magic Item Compendium regarding item identification. (Thanks AslanCross!)

    The next day, they re-entered the Fane. The guardians of the foyer had been replenished somewhat, a trio of blackspawn raiders and a wyvern zombie, but these monsters were defeated with little difficulty. The party pressed on to the temple, where Gale found yet another secret door (Tiamat loves 'em!), through which they ventured.

    They Attacked The Darkness
    (I modified this encounter - the inhabitants of the lair now consisted of one blackspawn stalker, one bluespawn burrower, and one greenspawn razorfiend. For those unfamiliar with the former two, the stalker is a dragon-spider thing, and the bluespawn burrower... burrows.)

    This three-tiered cavern, unlike the others they had been through, was pitch black - Imsril cast light on Carla's axe. The first thing they noticed was the thick webbing covering the ceiling, which nearly snagged Imsril, as he was (as always) flying everywhere. Jess torched it with a fireball, and they heard an angry shriek from the darkness - sticky globs of viscous goo came flying out at them, wrapping around Cameron and Carla and holding them fast.

    The blackspawn stalker came charging out of the darkness, narrowly missing Gale - he ran further into the cavern to attack it from a safe vantage point, and wounded it badly, but found himself face to face with the greenspawn razorfiend, who critted him with a savage wingblade to the face. Carla broke free as the bluespawn burrower emerged and swept its tail, emitting an electric shockwave that zapped the whole party (save Gale).

    Gale finished off the stalker with some well-placed arrows, and Sarth ran up to heal him, while Imsril blinded the razorfiend with glitterdust. The burrower let loose with another shockwave before diving back underground.

    Carla helped Cameron break free, and the two of them quickly took down the blinded razorfiend as it tried to pounce on Gale. They waited in the darkness, hoping that they would be able to hear the burrower coming before it emerged, but it burst out from the ground, grappling Carla and shocking her badly. But the creature was outnumbered and outgunned - even with its electric defenses, Sarth and Cameron bashed it to a pulp.

    We ended the session there for the night.


    Observations:
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    • Carla was a welcome addition to the party. I didn't spend a lot of time re-working encounters to account for her presence, but I think it worked out OK. The last encounter, with the dragonspawn, felt well-balanced - Carla and Gale were both nearly killed, and the shock factor of these new monsters combined with the darkness and mitigating terrain had my players on edge.
      The obvious question, then, is what to do with Carla, since the main motive to bring her into the game was to give Gale's girlfriend a character. I don't see any good in-game reason to pull her out of there, but I'm not crazy about running her as an NPC. One possibility that I was considering was to have her turn on the party at some inopportune moment, as a result of a post-hypnotic suggestion implanted in her by Azarr Kull during her torture. I can't decide if this would be too much of a cheap shot, though... thoughts?
    • We're getting close to the end. Finding all the secret doors meant bypassing a good half of the Fane, which is fine by me. We could easily wrap this up in one more session.
      This means I need to start thinking about what I want to do with the final battle. Azarr Kull's build is pretty good as it is, though I'd want to re-work his spell selection, of course. But I think he deserves some better minions than a bunch of abishai.
      I also need to figure out how to protect him from save-or-suck effects - I'm pretty sure that Imsril is keeping a feeblemind in reserve.
    • I'm less than enamored with this act overall. The other acts had interesting, open-ended battles - I guess I was hoping for a little more than a straight-up dungeon crawl. The sheer number of combat encounters is starting to wear on me a little.
      Still, the dragonspawn encounter was fun, as was the osyluth encounter - all those delicious SLA's! Greater Teleport at will gives you all sorts of neat choices. I think that for the next session, I'll put a little more work into tweaking the encounters for my party, especially if Carla sticks around.
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    Default Re: Yet Another Red Hand Of Doom Campaign Journal, Part II: The Fane of Tiamat

    Glad to see the MIC rules came in handy. :D


    1. Abishai.
    I was snickering as I was reading that. Bashing duty. Heh.

    2. Carla
    I don't think it's too much of a stretch that the torture chamber and barracks were swapped, although it does make slightly less sense when you think of where evil overlords usually put the barracks. Still not a horrible way to bring her back. Tip:
    Spoiler
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    Azarr Kul has dominate person as a domain spell, and he could've cast it before they met.


    3. Dragonspawn
    My players were very traumatized by their first encounter with the Bluespawn Burrower (this was in another campaign set in Faerun). It burrowed under the cleric, grabbed her, and dragged her under. She was lucky I gave her enough air to survive for a few rounds, else she would've "drowned." She managed to stop the beast from shredding her by just making the grapple checks she needed to Bestow Curse on it.

    I've always wanted to run a Blackspawn Stalker, as I felt it would give combat another dimension. Likely I'll be adding one myself.

    4. Dungeon Crawls
    Spoiler
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    I don't particularly care much for dungeon crawls either, but my own tweaks to the Fane included replacing a lot of the more mundane creatures with outsiders. The story element of the Talons of Tiamat is also going to be resolved here, when the PCs face up against the minor Rakshasa lord who was leading the agents. I placed him in the Outer Sanctum disguised as a hobgoblin.

    One thing I could not wrap my head around was the Night Hag in the kitchen. It seemed to be waxing silly IMO (outsider gustatory habits notwithstanding), given the seriousness of the story. Glad you didn't have to deal with it.


    5. Azarr Kul
    Spoiler
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    -Having an implanted dominate go off seems to be the optimal solution here, although the players need to notice that she's acting kind of strange.
    -One thing I'm considering doing in this encounter is cutting out several of the abishai and just giving Kul one Abishai advanced into Large size, as well as his two Erinyes concubines.
    -Other suggestions: Bezekiras or Nessian Warhounds, which might be better considering there's still a fight with an angry five-headed dragon coming up.


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  18. - Top - End - #18
    Colossus in the Playground
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    Default Re: Yet Another Red Hand Of Doom Campaign Journal, Part II: The Fane of Tiamat

    That was amusing Solid session, though the fights are sounding mostly sorta pushoverish. Ah well, I guess that comes with quantity.

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    By the reinforcements, I meant moving creatures from the other encounters around the Fane and pulling stuff from the patrols inside the Fane and so on.

    It's not like the creatures just sat in the rooms waiting to be slaughtered; they have feet and they'll figure out some have died and replenish the guard. As long as there are troops left, the hallways will be full within an hour at most since their last departure. This would pretty much ensure they won't be resting unless absolutely necessary.


    As for Carla, well, you could somehow play it off the poison (as it wasn't actually removed, just worn off; maybe this particular poison happened to have longterm effects or something). Wyvern poison is rather potent anyways so dying of it wouldn't even be unplausible; 2d6 Con is a lot.

    Of course, some Dominate-effect would be more devious and effective, but I'm not sure how much the players would appreciate it; seems too well planned that she's being tortured just as the PCs appear there and she gets saved while still under the effects of the dominate. Feels sorta like a Xanatos Gambit in there...unless Azarr Kul personally ensures that all prisoners are under the Dominate-effect or something.
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  19. - Top - End - #19
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    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Yet Another Red Hand Of Doom Campaign Journal, Part II: The Fane of Tiamat

    Your journal (along with AslanCross's and Saph's) has inspired me to start my own RHoD campaign. I may start a thread after a couple of sessions.

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    PirateGuy

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    Default Re: Yet Another Red Hand Of Doom Campaign Journal, Part II: The Fane of Tiamat

    Ok, I've been doing some planning. Here's what I want to do.

    With Azarr Kull:
    My greatest fear here is that the players will manage to take him down in one round. The silence effect on the altar should help with this - hopefully, it will keep them off-balance for long enough to give Kull a chance to buff up a bit.

    I reworked his feat selection, since Weapon Focus, Ability Focus, and Craft Wondrous Item are all basically useless. I instead gave him standard "anti-climax-prevention" loadout - Lucky Start, Unbelievable Luck, and Survivor's Luck. This gives him 4 luck rerolls, which can be applied to initiative or (more importantly) saves. It also gives a +2 to his worst save, which is good as his reflex save is seriously wanting.

    I re-selected his spells thoroughly (although I didn't pay too much attention to the lower-level ones). Contingent Energy Resistance (thank you SpC) for fireballs, Freedom of Movement for tentacles and solid fog, Remove Blindness/Deafness for glitterdust, and Spell Resistance (after he casts non-personal buffs, of course) and Dispel Magic twice for general usefulness. Hopefully I've covered most of the bases here.

    Total spell list is here, followed by ideal order of casting:
    Spoiler
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    6th - antilife shell, mislead
    5th - righteous might, flame strike, spell resistance, wall of stone
    4th - air walk, confusion, freedom of movement, divine power, contingent energy resistance
    3rd - hesitate, contagion, cure serious wounds, dispel magic x 2, prayer, wind wall
    2nd - bear's endurance, bull's strength, cure moderate wounds, hold person, invisibility, remove blindness/deafness
    1st - bane, command, cure light wounds, disguise self, divine favor, protection from good, sanctuary

    Antilife Shell
    Freedom of Movement
    Air Walk
    Bull's Strength
    Bear's Endurance
    Spell Resistance
    Divine Vigor (the feat)
    Righteous Might
    Divine Power
    Divine Favor


    The other thing I'm most worried about is Dispel Magic, since each casting will likely strip away ~50% of his buffs. I toyed with the idea of giving him a counterspelling companion, but settled for a ring of counterspells loaded with dispel magic, which struck me as not unreasonable. Is there any way to assure a greater chance against dispels? Or even immunity? Spell Immunity would be perfect, but dispels don't allow SR.

    His biggest weaknesses right now are his relatively low HP and his low reflex save. I'm not sure what else I can do here.

    With Carla:
    I decided that Terilanyx and Azarr Kull enchanted her with a powerful curse that can be triggered with a command word. I want to have the clerics in the altar room below the inner sanctum trigger her - it should make what would otherwise be a relatively boring encounter much more interesting.

    So, this might be it! Wish me luck.
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    Default Re: Yet Another Red Hand Of Doom Campaign Journal, Part II: The Fane of Tiamat

    Quote Originally Posted by kjones View Post
    The other thing I'm most worried about is Dispel Magic, since each casting will likely strip away ~50% of his buffs. I toyed with the idea of giving him a counterspelling companion, but settled for a ring of counterspells loaded with dispel magic, which struck me as not unreasonable. Is there any way to assure a greater chance against dispels? Or even immunity? Spell Immunity would be perfect, but dispels don't allow SR.
    Ring of Enduring Arcana (from CMage) is the other standard suggestion. Makes his Caster Level +4, but only for purposes of resisting Dispel. 4000 gp, IIRC.

    EDIT: But Ring of Counterspells (Dispel Magic) is a fine method too.
    Last edited by Draz74; 2009-09-11 at 11:08 PM.
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    Default Re: Yet Another Red Hand Of Doom Campaign Journal, Part II: The Fane of Tiamat

    Quote Originally Posted by Draz74 View Post
    Ring of Enduring Arcana (from CMage) is the other standard suggestion. Makes his Caster Level +4, but only for purposes of resisting Dispel. 4000 gp, IIRC.

    EDIT: But Ring of Counterspells (Dispel Magic) is a fine method too.
    I could stack that with a Candle of Invocation, for extra lulz... I toyed around with placing some spellglyphs (or whatever they're called) from MIC, or even a Symbol of Spell Taking (might not be its actual name, SpC), specifically to counter these things... but I want this battle to be challenging, not impossible, and the silence effect will cause enough problems on its own. (None of the casters have Silent Spell, of course.) I think the Ring of Counterspells is enough. He can always "recharge" it during the battle.
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    Default Re: Yet Another Red Hand Of Doom Campaign Journal, Part II: The Fane of Tiamat

    Session 15
    In which our heroes clear the path

    This was a good session, if a bit brief - I've been battling a cold and decided to cut it a bit short. I wanted to hold off on the final battle (and the aftermath!) until I'm feeling my best.

    You'll recall that last session, the party rescued their old friend Carla the dwarf from the torture chambers of Terilanyx, and pressed on deep into the Fane, ultimately defeating three dragonspawn in a dark cavern.

    Here's what happened:
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    After slaying the dragonspawn, the party healed up and decided to press onwards. There was the minor issue of the five-foot climb between "tiers" of the cavern - Imsril and Jess flew, Cameron and Gale scrambled up easily, and Sarth... well, Sarth had a little trouble. With no ranks, a small strength bonus, and a large armor check penalty, Sarth could not, for the life of him, climb up this five-foot slope! Gale and Cameron used Aid Another - he still couldn't do it! Eventually, they stopped laughing and lowered him a rope.

    Traveling north, they found seven hobgoblin clerics meditating around an altar, lost in concentration. Jess and Imsril took advantage of their inattentiveness by blasting them with fireballs - this took out all of the clerics and one of the warpriests. Assured of an easy victory, they strode forward into the room...

    Four wraiths emerged from the walls and glided towards them, their shadowy touch cold as ice. At the same time, the surviving warpriest shouted, "Bow before the will of Tiamat!" in Goblin, and Carla turned towards Cameron with a glassy stare.

    Cameron realized what was happening, but it was too late - Carla attacked, and would have wounded her badly if not for the stoneskin spell she still had active. (Remember this - it becomes quite important!) Cameron returned the attack, not pulling any punches - she hadn't trusted Carla in the first place, and now that she had been corrupted by the Red Hand, she could never trust her. While the rest of the party battled back the wraiths, Gale attacked the warpriest, but the hobgoblin retaliated with dominate person, ordering him to drop his weapons, fall to the ground, and bang his head on the floor. Imsril tried dispelling Carla's mind control, but the spell had no effect.

    Jess, Imsril, and Sarth managed to destroy the wraiths without taking any Con damage, and Sarth felled Carla with a blow from his quarterstaff, leaving her unconscious but alive. The warpriest charged, but was easily dispatched - Sarth took the opportunity to stabilize Carla with cure minor wounds.

    The party was then faced with a problem - what would they do about Carla? Cameron and Imsril wanted to kill her. As far as they were concerned, she was now The Enemy. Gale hoped to try to save her somehow - just because dispel magic had no effect didn't mean that other, more powerful spells would also be ineffective. Jess was indifferent - she didn't know Carla from before, wasn't there when they faced the Ghostlord together. Sarth was indifferent, but in a more deliberate, True Neutral way - whatever decision was made, he would accept.

    They compromised by beating her senseless, taking her stuff, and leaving her in a rope trick.

    Their attention then turned to the strange vertical shaft with bright flashes emitting from the top. Imsril considered investigating; he reconsidered and sent his familiar, Nymeria. She came back to him with a tale of dragon heads emitting enormous gouts of energy, and an armored figure on a platform.

    "Let's check out that secret door we found", said Gale.

    Venturing west, they found the secret door to the treasury, and entered, finding five enticing chests protected by a barbed devil. Jess quickly discovered that it had no resistance to electricity by critting with a Lesser Orb thereof. Gale fired arrows, Sarth buffed himself... and Cameron charged. Straight through the trap at the top of the stairs. And flubbed her save. Then she was hit by the barbed devil. And grappled. And failed her will save against the fear effect.

    Cameron was now at 1 hit point, grappled, panicked, and on the other side of a deadly energy vortex that triggered whenever anyone climbed the stairs. (If not for stoneskin, she would have been dead several times.) Fortunately, Imsril had benign transposition prepared, and he swapped her with Sarth, who was more suited to dealing with this kind of punishment.

    Jess and Gale kept blasting the creature, and while it did hurt Sarth badly by impaling him on his barbs, they finished off the foul creature quickly. Sarth walked back through the energy vortex, mostly unperturbed - his fire and electric resistance protected him well. Gale used his anklet of translocation to teleport to the other side and check out the chests - he found that they were all locked and trapped.

    Nobody in the party has any ranks in Disable Device.

    They argued for a while over what to do - Imsril wanted Sarth to trigger the traps, Sarth was not so keen on this. They decided to leave the chests for the time being, and keep exploring.

    They went through another door, and stumbled into Azarr Kull's private bedchambers. Two erinyes sprawled languorously on the bed, their danger concealed by their beauty. One unsuccessfully tried to charm Sarth, but Imsril responded by casting a stinking cloud into the room. He made both checks to overcome SR (!), and one of the erinyes failed their fort saves. The redhead, who made her save, teleported out immediately - the other one stumbled around for a few rounds, retching and sustaining a whupping from Sarth's quarterstaff, before she teleported as well.

    Searching the bedchambers, they found the keys to the chests in the treasury. Imsril used his anklet of translocation (popular item in my group) to teleport past the vortex, and tried the black key in the black chest. This triggered the trap.

    "I cast celerity, and step back," he said.

    "Really?" I said. "You're using celerity to gain a move action?"

    "Hmm... nah, forget it. I'll just make the save," he said.

    I started to pick up dice.

    "Crap, you're picking up a lot of dice there. I'm going to cast it," he said.

    He backed up, and the chest was enveloped in a blast of acid.

    "Is the key still on the lock?" I said.

    "You bet," I said.

    "OK," he said, "I turn the key." This, of course, triggered the trap again.

    Eventually, they hit upon the idea of using mage hand to open all the chests, triggering the traps harmlessly. Imsril loaded up the loot into his haversack, and teleported back across the vortex.

    They examined the summoning room to the north, and destroyed the summoning circle for good measure. Finding themselves at a decision point - did they want to rest, explore the rest of the Fane, or confront Azarr Kull? - they decided to explore, and headed back through the temple to the upper Fane.

    Trying doors basically at random, they found the council room, with its bas-relief depictions of the Fane ravaged by dragonkind. Gale used the head of an adamantine arrow to carve a mustache onto one of the dragons, while Jess used acid splash to carve some graffiti.

    They tried the next door, and found themselves face-to-face with half a dozen of Tiamat's finest - five clerics and two warpriests in the priest's quarters. The clerics, scattered throughout several cells, turned themselves invisible, while the warpriests cast divine power. "Aha! Invisibility!" the party cried. "We just found a lantern of revealing - we can deal with this!"

    Except none of them had any lantern oil. Oh well.

    Anyway, the priests didn't pose too much of a threat - they came out of invisibility to attack or cast spells, which missed or were saved against, and were picked off. One of the warpriests got off a flame strike, but Imsril and Jess responded with fireballs, and Sarth and Cameron finished them off.

    We wrapped up there for the night.


    Observations:
    Spoiler
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    • I'm leaving out the kitchen encounter entirely. I agree with AslanCross - it's kind of silly.
    • Sarth's failed climb checks at the beginning reminded me of a favorite trick of mine - to spice up a journey with some apparently minor hindrance that turns out to be a real pain in the neck. Works well for small, deep streams (who takes Swim?), narrow ledges (who takes Balance?)... hours of fun. I commented that had they known of this glaring weakness, the Red Hand would have dispatched with all their guardian monsters, traps, etc., and protected themselves by means of a series of five-foot walls, and the Vale would be doomed.
    • I was honestly surprised by how willing the party was to kill Carla. They weren't exactly bosom buddies, and she did betray them - but it wasn't her fault, and she had helped them before, not to mention fighting for Brindol during the battle. I think they were under the impression that I was doing this because I didn't want to run her as an NPC, which is not entirely wrong, but I think their actions were slightly metagame-y. I mean, if she wasn't an NPC, they definitely wouldn't have risked killing her. On the other hand, if she wasn't an NPC, I wouldn't have done it.
    • Stoneskin saved Cam's life twice tonight - against Carla, and against the barbed devil. That girl is a regular Karma Houdini. I'm considering giving her some luck feats as bonus feats to reflect this. Once the campaign is over, I'll tally up all the times she's narrowly escaped death.
    • My last campaign revolved heavily around the presence of summoning circles - but in that one, they didn't really do anything, at least during the campaign. My players must think that I have a fetish for them.
    • The next session will definitely be the last. They'll probably be rested for the battle with Azarr Kull, and will be all set to nova and whatnot. I'm still very curious as to how they'll deal with the silence effect. I don't think they have much of a comprehensive plan yet, beyond that Imsril mentioned wanting to dimension door everybody up at once.
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    Default Re: Yet Another Red Hand Of Doom Campaign Journal, Part II: The Fane of Tiamat

    Hmm. It seems that compared to all the previous chapters, this one seems rather tame in comparison, though I understand that keeping the encounters faithful to the book is definitely more favorable than letting them get killed and having to go through an excruciating process of DM fiat-insertion. Here's to hoping for an epic struggle with Azarr Kul.


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    Default Re: Yet Another Red Hand Of Doom Campaign Journal, Part II: The Fane of Tiamat

    Hey if your designing traps they should actually do something. Kill people, help kill people, slow them down (drain resources), or keep them from getting the treasure.

    If they are on treasure chests its to late for them to aid in combat, killing people is really hard, draining resources is possible, but there are a lot of ways to get around it when you know its coming. Or even after if its just HP damage. Keeping your enemy from yoinking the loot? Thats easy, just have your trap break it.

    All traps on treasure chests should break the loot.
    Last edited by Lamech; 2009-09-13 at 11:12 AM.
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  26. - Top - End - #26
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    Default Re: Yet Another Red Hand Of Doom Campaign Journal, Part II: The Fane of Tiamat

    Quote Originally Posted by Lamech View Post
    Hey if your designing traps they should actually do something. Kill people, help kill people, slow them down (drain resources), or keep them from getting the treasure.

    If they are on treasure chests its to late for them to aid in combat, killing people is really hard, draining resources is possible, but there are a lot of ways to get around it when you know its coming. Or even after if its just HP damage. Keeping your enemy from yoinking the loot? Thats easy, just have your trap break it.

    All traps on treasure chests should break the loot.
    First of all, I didn't design these traps, they're in the module.

    I see your point, though, and I don't necessarily disagree with you in general... but in this case, nobody in the party had any ranks in Disable Device, so the only way they could have gotten this treasure at all was to trigger the traps. If I'd wanted to be cruel, I could have had the traps destroy the treasure, but in that case, there would have been no way whatsoever for them to get the treasure, so I might as well have left it out (unless I wanted to make the point that someone in the party should have Disable Device... it's a class skill for both Cameron and Gale).

    AslanCross: Chapter V is designed differently than the rest of the module. The closest comparison that I can give you is the Ghostlord's lair, but the Ghostlord's lair is front-loaded - the tough encounters (Ulwai, Varanthian) are near the entrance, and there's no "final boss" battle.

    The problem, with my group at least, is that large numbers of low-level opponents pose very little threat. They can't hit the party, they can't save against the party, they can't withstand more than one or two hits from the party. A lot of these encounters are built like that, and there's just not that much point to them.

    So, as always, I'd recommend tweaking the Fane to have a smaller number of difficult encounters instead of a large number of fairly easy encounters, as is the case right now.

    Don't get me wrong, some of these encounters are still fun even if they don't pose that much danger to the PCs. Terilanyx, the osyluth in the torture chamber, didn't deal that much damage, but he was big and scary and threw around walls of ice and everyone had a good time. The six blackspawn raiders in the barracks, on the other hand... not so much.

    The easiest way to do this would probably be to combine these encounters. I don't mean throw them all together into one room, but rather have waves of reinforcements arrive.

    But I must admit to being a little disappointed with this chapter. One of my favorite things about this module is how everything that happens matters, since it's all leading up to the Battle of Brindol, but as my players have shown, you can bypass most of the Fane with basically no consequences. (Although they did double back and have now covered most of it...) I really like the big, wide-open battles (Vraath Keep, Skull Gorge Bridge, Rhest, most of the Battle of Brindol) because they are so tactically interesting from the players' perspective, but Chapter V is completely different.

    Still, fighting Azarr Kull should be fun. Question: If you dimension doored up a 100-ft shaft only to find that you couldn't talk, what would you do? My fear is that the casters will decide to run away, stranding the non-casters.
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    Default Re: Yet Another Red Hand Of Doom Campaign Journal, Part II: The Fane of Tiamat

    I'm greatly enjoying your journal Kjones! I'm about to start a RHoD on these very boards this month so there's a lot of good stuff in here. You seem like an excellent DM and have a good feel for your players' skill and the kind of games they enjoy.

    Question. My party will consist of only 3 players. They're good roleplayers, but don't optimize their builds (just the way I like it!). I'm having them start as 4/4 gestalts. Do you think this is a reasonable level? I will, of course, be modifying encounters based on their level and abilities. I want to challenge them, but not kill them.

    Concerning chapter V. When I read through the campaign book I feared the last chapter would be a bit of an anticlimax as well. The entire module builds up to the Battle of Brindol. Chapter V feels like a bit of an afterthought, or maybe an idea for a new campaign instead of a proper ending.


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    Default Re: Yet Another Red Hand Of Doom Campaign Journal, Part II: The Fane of Tiamat

    BoonL> I only started with two players. What I did was that I had them play two characters each instead. Action advantage is very important in D&D in general and in RHOD in particular. The PCs I'm handling are hardly optimized (though admittedly the inclusion of psionics and ToB does make dealing damage a lot easier), so I've noticed that even if I ramp up the encounters they're still able to deal with them fairly well. My concern is that if you allow Gestalt, it might become far too easy. Conversely, they might find that while they do have a lot of options, they can only do so much in one turn, and that their low-level abilities might not do much when compared to those of a character who is "only" one level higher.

    I think it would help a lot if the defenders of the Fane react more to an incursion like the denizens of the previous locations. Vraath Keep, Rhest, and the Ghostlord's lair (Especially the Ghostlord's lair) all have very detailed plans regarding alarms going off.

    By contrast the Fane has its guardians dozing off reading PlayGoblin on the toilet. They seem to be completely caught off guard and there are neither patrols nor serious incursion countermeasures. The only person who seems to react to intruders is the Night Hag.

    Now if the DM would take time to draw up regular patrols, alarm systems and response tactics, then the Fane would seem more like the militant cult stronghold it's supposed to be. Its defenders should be much more in the know about what Azarr Kul is trying to pull off and what is at stake, so they should fight desperately to keep the adventurers at bay. At this crucial juncture, likely with the knowledge of his advance horde's loss at Brindol, Azarr Kul should definitely be more careful.
    Last edited by AslanCross; 2009-09-14 at 08:53 AM.


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    Default Re: Yet Another Red Hand Of Doom Campaign Journal, Part II: The Fane of Tiamat

    Quote Originally Posted by AslanCross View Post
    BoonL> I only started with two players. What I did was that I had them play two characters each instead. Action advantage is very important in D&D in general and in RHOD in particular. The PCs I'm handling are hardly optimized (though admittedly the inclusion of psionics and ToB does make dealing damage a lot easier), so I've noticed that even if I ramp up the encounters they're still able to deal with them fairly well. My concern is that if you allow Gestalt, it might become far too easy. Conversely, they might find that while they do have a lot of options, they can only do so much in one turn, and that their low-level abilities might not do much when compared to those of a character who is "only" one level higher.
    Thanks for the advice. Action advantage was exactly what I had in mind. I enjoy running slightly smaller parties and making them gestalt is an easy way to make them survive those incredible odds. While this works fine for me in self-created games, I'm not too sure about it playing this module.
    What I'm mostly worried about is what level to start them off at. On the one hand, they are a lot stronger than regular characters, so having them start at level 4 makes sense. On the other, they are down 1-2 players and greatly surrounded most of the time.

    Quote Originally Posted by AslanCross

    Now if the DM would take time to draw up regular patrols, alarm systems and response tactics, then the Fane would seem more like the militant cult stronghold it's supposed to be. Its defenders should be much more in the know about what Azarr Kul is trying to pull off and what is at stake, so they should fight desperately to keep the adventurers at bay. At this crucial juncture, likely with the knowledge of his advance horde's loss at Brindol, Azarr Kul should definitely be more careful.
    Another perfect example of this is the party resting 8 hours before facing Azarr Kul. I know he's busy summoning those deamons, but he shouldn't be completely oblivious to the fact that his entire lair just got slaughtered.


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    Default Re: Yet Another Red Hand Of Doom Campaign Journal, Part II: The Fane of Tiamat

    AslanCross and BooNL, you are both correct regarding the defensive capacities of the Fane. Were I a better DM, I would have forseen this better and planned accordingly.

    However, I will point out that even if Kull knows that the Fane is being invaded, there's not all that much he can do. He can slowly summon reinforcements, weak ones - three blackspawn and an abishai per day. Maybe it would do well for Kull to have a better source of reinforcements - I had some of the dead wyverns come back as zombie wyverns, but that didn't help all that much.

    I will also note that if Kull has 24 hours to complete the ritual. If he can pull this off, he wins, or at least has made the party's job much more difficult. At this point, perhaps he is just thinking, "**** it, I'll finish this ritual or die trying." But this does not really excuse what is otherwise pretty blatant stupidity in his defense of the Fane.

    As I observed before, I think the real problem here is that the Fane is very large, and has a bunch of encounters that don't really add anything. If I were to redesign the Fane from the ground up, I would include:
    • Tyrgarun, of course, and the trap on the front door
    • The foyer, more heavily defended
    • The torture chamber, more or less unchanged
    • The barracks and the priest's chambers, merged into a single area somehow
    • The temple, guarded by the dragonspawn from the cave (I think my selection of dragonspawn worked out pretty well)
    • The treasury, guarded by the barbed devil, combined with the bedchamber - put the erinyes in the Inner Sanctum with Kull himself
    • The inner sanctum, of course


    So this leaves out the kitchen, the altar beneath the Inner Sanctum, the cave (not thrilled about this, but I like the temple and wyverns are just lame at this level), and merges the barracks and the priest quarters. I think this would result in a much tighter, more satisfying Chapter V.

    EDIT: BooNL, 3 4th level gestalt characters can probably handle the module. However, AslanCross' statements regarding action advantage are spot-on - many times, the party will find themselves in trouble due to sheer numerical disadvantage. However, I cannot agree with his advice to have each player play two characters, as this severely hinders roleplaying. ("Ok, which one of you is talking right now?") I would recommend including a 4th character as a DMPC. As long as you create him to fill a support role, one that the party lacks, and don't use him as a self-insert character, you should be OK. The module even contains several possible characters that could fill this role - Jorr and many of the NPCs from Drellin's Ferry in Chapter I, Trellara Nightshadow or Killiar Arrowswift from Chapter II. These characters can, of course, be re-statted to taste.

    I urge you to at least consider this option.
    Last edited by kjones; 2009-09-14 at 11:09 AM.
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