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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    BlueKnightGuy

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    Default Red Hand of Doom is Still Cool, Right?

    Sit down and buckle in, everyone, because those crazy hobgoblins are at it again...

    (MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD! If you are one of my players, stop reading! If you're unsure if you're one of my players, you're not.)

    Red Hand of Doom has been one of my favorite published modules ever written, ever since I discovered it years ago. These days, I'm playing Pathfinder rather than 3.5, which adds a little more work in running the module, but nothing too excessive.

    I'd like to thank Saintheart for his marvelous RHoD Handbook, which has been an invaluable resource. Special thanks also go to Antariuk, whose maps have been handed out to all my players instead of the provided ones.

    Without further ado, our lineup is as follows:

    Spoiler: Cast
    Show
    Caliden Linalda, a human rogue sword-and-board combatant, native of Witchcross and member of the House Kaal Elite Guard.
    Restatted in chapter 2 as a TWF ranger.
    Eliora Fel, elf wizard with emphasis on summoning and controlling enemies, native of Brindol and apprentice to Immerstal the Red.
    Lendon Varols, human cleric of St. Cuthbert with emphasis on support and controlling enemies, native of Marthon.
    Garyl Varrion, human barbarian, native of the Marth Forest.
    Left the game after session 2.
    Martin Longheart, human fighter wielding a polearm, native of Brindol.
    Joined in session 3.


    It's worth noting that I have a very inexperienced group on my hands: while I introduced the barbarian and cleric's player in 3.5, they jumped on 4e and 5e when they came out and have been playing them exclusively ever since. The wizard's experience is mostly in 5e, but she picks up new systems quickly. Only the rogue's player has much experience with Pathfinder, so I've been relying on him to help teach the others. For this reason, you'll notice that I advocated the group stay close to the traditional "nuclear party." Additionally, I started them at level 6 instead of level 5. They get a few more toys to play with, the encounters are a little more forgiving, and I can upgrade the bad guys if need be, since I'm already going to be under the hood anyways.

    We're playing once per week whenever we can schedule a conference call, and I generally cancel the game rather than run without someone for a session ("disappearing plague" is my pet peeve).

    Spoiler: Setting Off
    Show
    Our cleric of St. Cuthbert has long desired to go adventuring and make a difference in the world. When he heard of the haunted Vraath Keep, he decided to make the journey west to put a spirit to rest. Hiring the barbarian as a bodyguard (with the barbarian more interested in looting the legendary vault of Vraath Keep rather than putting down ghosts), they set off.

    In Brindol, they joined with two more travelers: a member of the House Kaal Elite Guard, traveling with a young wizard. Lady Kaal had heard rumors of bandits and raiding parties along the Dawn Way outside of Drellin's Ferry. With a vested interest in keeping the Vale a profitable place to do business (and always interested in making Lord Jarmaath look incompetent and out-of-touch), she dispatched one of her elite retainers to survey the situation, rally the Drellin's Ferry militia, and resolve the situation. She even hired a young wizard to provide backup, in case he needed an extra edge.

    Note: Since we're just starting off, rather than working with existing characters, I went out of my way to get everybody integrated into the setting. My hope is that it will help them become more invested in the setting as the campaign unfolds.

    Spoiler: Marauder Attack
    Show
    Right off the bat, the first fight did not inspire confidence. Nobody was ready for the game when it came time to roll dice, and we spent most of the first session making characters. I was frustrated (having let the players know a month in advance and being reassured by everybody that they would be ready to play), but took it as an opportunity to help everyone become acquainted with the rules.

    As the encounter began, things went to hell in a handbasket quickly. The archers began whittling down the party's hit points, while it became quite obvious that the wizard had selected no area control spells or the like, instead casting whip of spiders and attempting to wade into melee. The cleric, likewise, forsook his spells and put his questionable feat choices (point blank shot and precise shot) to use with his crossbow.

    The only combatant I added to the fight was a hobgoblin sergeant, rebuilt as a teamwork-based fighter. With him granting teamwork feats to the other regulars (and the barbarian unable to roll above a 4 on an attack), things began to look grim. Things got worse when the second wave showed up (so much so that I pulled the cleric, having him putz around in the farmhouse for a few rounds instead of wading straight in).

    The cleric went down, with the party mired in rough terrain on the side of the road, surrounded. The rogue was doing quite well (being the only well-built character on the field), but everyone else was suffering. Things came to a head when we learned that the barbarian had decided not to buy any magic items, because "I hate that part of character creation." He had been insisting that 5e was the superior system all the way through the session, and it was becoming apparent that while he liked being at the table with us, this was not the game he wanted to be playing.

    Session 1 ended there, with me realizing what a poor job I had done preparing my players for this game and system.

    Spoiler: The Comeback
    Show
    Session 2 was cut off abruptly by real-life issues, but Session 3 marked the party's grand comeback. Everyone hit the books (with the rogue's player taking the lead in helping everyone). With my permission, nearly every character saw significant rebuilds (except the barbarian, who displayed a complete lack of interest in doing any reading or homework for the game).

    The issue was avoided when the problem player's work schedule changed, forcing him to bow out. I invited another player, who rolled a polearm-wielding fighter to replace him after the fight.

    Combat resumed with the cleric making his presence known. The barbarian failed his save and was paralyzed by hold person, then was summarily executed by the hobgoblin bladebearer (rebuilt as a warblade).

    The wizard cast spiked pit, trapping the hobgoblin sergeant and crippling the Red Hand forces' ability to coordinate. She then cast summon monster, bringing desperately-needed reinforcements to bear.

    With the rogue flanking the hobgoblins, using a summoned boar as a buddy, the Red Hand forces were mopped up without too much more trouble. The rogue has taken an archetype that gives him medium armor, and combined with his dexterity and shield, he has a VERY high armor class that proved too much for the hobgoblins.

    Spoiler: A New Challenger Approaches
    Show
    The group looted the Red Hand, marveling at their expensive gear and taking note of the unusual holy symbol of Tiamat carried by the enemy cleric. They found the remains of a butchered merchant caravan, including one guard who was still alive: the fighter. With him rescued, they set about interrogating their two captives (the bladebearer and cleric).

    Spoiler: Interrogation
    Show
    What followed was perhaps the most incompetent bit of interrogation I've ever seen. The party began with threats of torture, mutilation, and death (led by the rogue), then rolled poorly on his intimidation. The hobgoblins, being the fanatics they are, were unimpressed and invited the party to do their worst. So they gutted the warblade.

    They then turned their threats to the cleric, who proved even MORE stubborn. When it became clear that intimidation and torture wouldn't work...they doubled down with more threats of intimidation and torture. The cleric laughed and spat in their faces, a fact for which they killed him.

    The party left the encounter knowing nothing useful.

    Spoiler: Reaching Town
    Show
    If I had feared the botched interrogation would set the tone for this group of roleplayers, I was pleasantly surprised. They greeted Sergeant Hersk cordially (despite the rogue deciding that the place looked suspiciously tranquil), and were shown around town. They opted to stay at the Old Bridge Inn, since it had Hersk's recommendation, reasoning that a local favorite would be a better place to get the lay of the land.

    There, they learned the history of Vraath Keep, and decided that the place was most definitely haunted. That evening, they were approached by Norro Wiston, and took his offer with some suspicion. They agreed to locate the source of the hobgoblin problem and report on their numbers, nothing more. Some excellent rolls followed (combined with some harsh, well-reasoned arguments), and they talked him up to his upgraded reward for their help.

    With the hook of a seasoned woodsman on the table, they set off to find Jorr Natherson.

    Spoiler: The Hydra
    Show
    The hydra looked spooky and talked a mean talk (and ate the wizard's summoned boar surprisingly quickly), but it was quickly wolf-packed and destroyed by the party. The fighter was upgraded via enlarge person, and the rogue got into a flanking position after they lured it onto the causeway. The hydra was dead in two or three rounds.

    Spoiler: Jorr Natherson
    Show
    The encounter with Jorr went well. On ThiagoMartell's advice, I ran him essentially as Clint Eastwood's character in "The Gran Torino."

    "Who the hell are you? Get off my lawn!"

    The party loved him.

    Spoiler: The Vraath Keep Approach
    Show
    With Jorr leading the way, they approached Vraath Keep and were there by late afternoon on Day 2. Jorr pointed out signs of recent hobgoblin passage, and they surveyed the ruined keep as they planned their attack...


    I'll be updating weekly as we play. Thanks for reading!
    Last edited by Dravda; 2016-03-17 at 02:51 AM.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Feb 2015

    Default Re: Red Hand of Doom is Still Cool, Right?

    I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes for you.

    I'm running RHoD in Pathfinder too but I started at level 1 and play once a month (or so) so we're two or three sessions from actually starting the adventure.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    BlueKnightGuy

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    Default Re: Red Hand of Doom is Still Cool, Right?

    Spoiler: Vraath Keep Approach
    Show
    The party snuck up close to Vraath Keep, recognizing the danger the gardener's shack posed and wisely staying clear. The wizard cast invisibility on the rogue, and he was off to scout the keep. Peering around, he found the hobgoblins at their dice games with Karkilan watching, as well as spying the worgs and their riders (beating a fast retreat when I described the worgs stirring from their sleep and sniffing the air suspiciously). Not wanting to open any doors while invisible, he didn't locate Koth or the manticore.

    A plan was hatched: they would kick in the door to the stables first, eliminating the worgs and their riders. They hoped to be able to discreetly take on the defenders in groups, rather than fighting the entire keep at once.

    It went poorly. The goblins and worgs were killed efficiently, but an alarm was raised in the process. Slamming the stable doors shut, the party reconsolidated and prepared to receive a charge, planning to bottleneck the Red Hand's superior numbers in the doorway. Unfortunately, this gave the Red Hand time to gather in the courtyard, weapons at the ready.

    The rogue (foolishly) made the first move, opening the stable door. A fusillade of readied attacks hissed through the doorway, injuring the fighter. Wyrmlord Koth himself was there and lobbed a fireball into the stables for heavy damage (lightning bolt is a weak choice anyways, and I statted him as a draconic sorcerer with red dragon heritage. He gets improved damage when casting fire spells).

    Injured, surrounded, and backed into a corner, the party's tactics promptly went to hell. Some baffling choices followed, with the rogue (still uninjured -- evasion!) trying to jump out of the doors to solo the entire encounter by himself. The fighter drank a potion of cure light wounds. The wizard cast summon monster III to help even the fight, while the cleric channeled his healing. None of them, except the rogue, made any effort to spread out.

    The Red Hand made them pay for their poor tactics. Still clustered up in the stables, they were hit with ANOTHER of Koth's fireballs, bringing multiple party members down to single digit hit points. Karkilan rendered the summoned boar into bacon in one turn flat, and the rogue failed a save against Koth's blindness spell.

    At this point, they finally decided to beat a retreat. With castings of spider climb and fly, they barricaded the doors (finally), smashed a hole in the ceiling, and made a fast exit. Humbled and bloodied, they returned to town.

    Spoiler: Return to Drellin's Ferry
    Show
    By the time they reached town, the party had reframed their embarrassing defeat into a victory. They had located the source of the raiding parties AND their leader, which is what they had been paid for! If Drellin's Ferry wanted their help removing the problem, the party would need more support.

    Grudgingly, the town paid them another 500 gold apiece for their help in clearing the keep altogether, and sent Captain Anitah along with two of her guards (4th level fighters).

    Note: the party had gotten well and truly trounced during the fight. I took pity on them and decided to give them some backup. The two guards were built as sword and board fighters, while Sorannah was built as an archery fighter.

    Spoiler: Vraath Keep, Round 2
    Show
    This was a completely different fight. The party moved quickly and efficiently, ambushing the two sentries Koth had posted on the walls and bull-rushing those in the guard towers out front.

    With the exterior neutralized, the party stormed into the keep itself. The fighting was fierce, with the remaining hobgoblin veterans pulling speedbump duty as Karkilan waded in with his axe, Koth providing fire support and the manticore watching idly, eventually contributing when Koth ordered it to.

    Sorannah performed quite well here, using readied actions to disrupt Koth's spellcasting, which saved the party's hides (they fixated on Karkilan early, rather than the caster boss).

    The party fighter was nearly absent for the fight, deciding to run across the roof of the stables, down into and through the hobgoblin barracks, and finally come up around the fight behind Koth. It took him several rounds, but when he was finally in position, Koth was dead in a single round.

    Karkilan was overwhelmed, and the hobgoblin troops were cut down handily. The manticore exacted a heavy toll, injuring the cleric badly, knocking one of the guards unconscious and killing another. When it realized that it was alone on the battlefield, it attempted to flee, but was chased down and killed by the rogue after the wizard cast fly on him.

    Victory was theirs!

    Spoiler: Aftermath
    Show
    This next scene is where the game finally "clicked." The party began to search the place, going through Koth's notes and journals (they executed him out of hand, remembering their poor results with interrogation before).

    When I handed them the Red Hand map, everyone's eyes lit up. It was one of the moments DMs live for: where the group stops feeling self-conscious about speaking in-character, where they truly suspend disbelief and become immersed in the setting. They pored over every detail, conjecturing how big a force they must be up against if it was referred to as a "horde", noting the location of the Red Hand's staging area, and taking immediate notice of the bottleneck presented by Skull Gorge.

    After briefly debating the ethics of closing the Dawn Way, the group decided that the possibility of delaying the Red Hand's advance far outweighed any benefit that having the road open would bring.

    They also noticed the ominous note on the southern part of the map: "Ghostlord." Immediately, they began asking questions about what that could possibly mean, which prompted me to ask for knowledge (local). Several handy checks later, and they had the complete story about Urikel Zarl, and far ahead of Chapter 3. I was quite pleased about this outcome. Being able to foreshadow the character in advance will make finding his phylactery later on much more poignant.

    After gleefully looting the vault underneath the keep, they bid Captain Anitah and her surviving guard farewell. The ferry folk returned to town, while the party insisted on going ahead to assess the growing threat for themselves...

    Spoiler: Old Warklegnaw
    Show
    This encounter went very well. The group was absolutely charmed by Warklegnaw, and fell in love with him immediately. After giving him the gauntlet back, they enlisted his help in fighting off the Red Hand. Warklegnaw, delighted that someone needed his help, shared his keep and his food with them before setting off in the morning to go find the rest of his clan.

    Spoiler: Bridge Approach
    Show
    The party reached Skull Gorge Bridge on day 5 (fretting about the timeline they'd found on the map), and were dismayed to see that the Red Hand had gotten there before them. Suitably impressed at the sight of a green dragon acting as a guard dog (and wondering who would have the power to compel such service), they assessed the bridge for a weakness.

    Remarkably, the fighter had taken ranks in knowledge (architecture), and it paid off for him. He was able to easily spot the weak point on the bridge, on the near side. A meager 40 points of damage dealt to that spot would be sufficient to collapse the bridge, and the cleric had prepared stone shape for this exact purpose, which would deal 50.

    A plan was hatched, and we concluded the session with everyone eager to see if their daring strategy would pay off...
    Last edited by Dravda; 2016-03-09 at 06:12 PM.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Starbuck_II's Avatar

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    Default Re: Red Hand of Doom is Still Cool, Right?

    You could have been nice and give the Barb Automatic progression subsystem. That way he gets no magic items, but still appears relevant. But he left so I guess it doesn't matter.

    http://www.d20pfsrd.com/gamemasterin...us-progression

    So instead of magic items: at 5th level, he gets +1 deflect AC, +1 resist Saves, attune a weapon or armor to +1.

    Less variety but no searching.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    BlueKnightGuy

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    Default Re: Red Hand of Doom is Still Cool, Right?

    Bookmarked, thank you very much! This will come in handy.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Red Hand of Doom is Still Cool, Right?

    Koth is pretty deadly for an unprepared party. I killed the huntsman (that was persuaded to assist them) and 3 out of 5 party members with him.

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Faily's Avatar

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    Default Re: Red Hand of Doom is Still Cool, Right?

    Always a joy to read RHoD logs! Especially since I ran it for Pathfinder too. Looking forward to the confrontation with the dragon. ;)
    RHoD: Soah | SC: Green Sparrow | WotBS: Sheliya |RoW: Raani | SA: Ariste | IG: Hemali | RoA: Abelia | WftC: Elize | Zeitgeist: Rutile
    Mystara: Othariel | Vette | Scarlet

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    BlueKnightGuy

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    Default Re: Red Hand of Doom is Still Cool, Right?

    A few thoughts, as I start planning ahead on fleshing out future encounters and filling in gaps in the story...

    Spoiler: The Lizardfolk
    Show
    I've been considering making the lizardfolk more of a threat. As-written, they're pretty uninspiring, and an entire hut of them could plausibly be butchered by a single PC. They're supposed to be numerous and skilled enough to at least "vex" the Tiri Kitor, according to the module, and Saarvith will be relying on them as his spies.

    With all that in mind, I'm considering statting up a lizardfolk scouting party or two, possibly a pair of rangers escorted by a druid? Anyone have any thoughts or suggestions?

    Spoiler: Varanthian
    Show
    Varanthian, I am almost certainly going to change to an adult white dragon. The omission is too glaring, and while the picture in the book is awesome, the completionist in me needs my fifth dragon. I read a handbook a few years ago (source, anyone?) that had a brilliant idea: she has a tattoo of a Red Hand across her face. Even more than the others, Varanthian is a fanatic, dedicated to Azar Kul lock, stock, and barrel. Her fanaticism explains why a white dragon is willing to go so horribly out of its environment for a mission.

    Spoiler: The Spy
    Show
    Before the battle of Brindol, I'm considering adding what may end up being an entire new chapter, with Miha Serani promoted to a major antagonist. Miha will engage in a series of sabotage attacks on Brindol just before the battle, forcing the PCs to get to the root of the problem. Credit to Glyphstone for the inspiration, as well as the first encounter idea. (Obviously, this all goes down the toilet if the PCs kill her on their first meeting)

    The first encounter will be with hellwasp zombies (bestiary 3) delivered to one of the temples (possibly Wee Jas, also explains why they get so heavily sidelined). The zombies are delivered as bodies in need of funeral rites, wrapped in shrouds to hide their nature, before lurching to life and attacking. Upon being attacked, the hellwasp swarms will issue forth and cause chaos.

    Second idea, for a scene near the walls, Miha has successfully smuggled in several vats of roiling oil (Bestiary 5), disguised as garden variety oil to be boiled and poured from the walls during the battle. As the PCs walk below the walls, there is an "accident" up above, causing the massive ceramic pots to tumble from the parapets and down onto the PCs. The sinister nature of the incident becomes clear when the oozes leap up and attack.

    Any more thoughts? I could do with one or two more saboteur encounters before the party tracks her down and catches her red-handed (perhaps with another nasty monster in tow).

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Faily's Avatar

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    Default Re: Red Hand of Doom is Still Cool, Right?

    Spoiler: Re: Varanthian
    Show
    I originally wanted to make Varanthian a White Dragon too, as I also felt that the missing White Dragon was a big shame. However, the more I looked at the encounter and the stats of an appropriate CR White Dragon... yeah, a Medium White Dragon just isn't as intimidating as a Huge Behir who can easily take up a lot of space in the battle and dominate it with its long reach and corner the PCs.

    So what I did, I made Varanthian a Half-Dragon (White) Behir. It boosted up the CR a little to provide more of a challenge, kept the size of the monster for its originally intended threat, and gave it the Dragon-flavor I felt was lacking in the original stat-up which was Half-Fiend Behir.
    RHoD: Soah | SC: Green Sparrow | WotBS: Sheliya |RoW: Raani | SA: Ariste | IG: Hemali | RoA: Abelia | WftC: Elize | Zeitgeist: Rutile
    Mystara: Othariel | Vette | Scarlet

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    BlueKnightGuy

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    Default Re: Red Hand of Doom is Still Cool, Right?

    Actually, what's nice about white dragons is that at my target of CR 10, I can make an adult, who is Large-sized. Not as cool as Huge, but the white dragon has a few advantages. Her AC is 3 higher (11 higher if she has time to cast mage armor and shield!), and she has more hit points. Attack routines are otherwise comparable (losing the Swallow Whole for a few iterative attacks).

    Splitting the difference and making her a half-white dragon is a pretty good solution, though.

  11. - Top - End - #11
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    ClericGuy

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    Default Re: Red Hand of Doom is Still Cool, Right?

    Yeah, that's about how I'd expect it to go with people who lack system mastery in 3.5/pathfinder. Vrath Keep in particular is deceptive, as the Manticore and Koth are much more dangerous than the rest of the defenders, and they're the least likely to be even noticed, much less targeted. It is very common to have people blow away something relatively weak, using all of their surprise and early actions and have a fully organized, coordinated attack shred them.

    I like how you are rewarding retreat, regroup, return behaviors. Players love it when they get their ass kicked, regroup and then return the favor (well, they love it when the make the comback. The losing and retreating part can be pretty grim for a bit), and people used to traditional D&D encounters when they are expected to win sometimes are really bad at pulling off a retreat when they get in over their head.

    Skull Gorge is a tough fight, with more stuff they're likely not really ready for (flying dragon supported by archers with near infinite healing potions). If they survive and thrive through that fight, they'll likely do ok going forward. I'm glad to hear that they are engaged in the story arc now, because they'll need that engagement when bad things happen in future. Rhest can be tough, Marked for Death is just brutal when it rolls around, etc.

    Regarding the lizardmen. I've seen them engaged more in two ways.

    1. My party when I played it burned down a village at night to lure out RHOD defenders and learn something about their tactics. That got us an encounter (after alarm bells rang from the tower) with a whole lot of lizardmen, who came at us from all directions - land, sea, swamps with a hob advisor or two and the dragon+wyrmlord sailing in at a key moment. We were much better prepared for the black dragon+archer when we assaulted Rhest, although of course the defenders knew something was going to happen and were also fully alert. For us the nasty surprise was the Greenspawn attacking from underwater while the dragon was attacking from above on the approach. Still, this all let us fight a bunch of smaller fights, instead of one big fight. On the downside, the lack of surprise and our lack of raw firepower allowed the dragon+wyrmlord to escape after we mauled them in the followup encounter, taking some of the precious eggs with them.

    2. Party uses disguise or alter self plus draconic plus party diplomat to actually talk to the lizardfolk, who likely aren't all that thrilled with the RHOD presence. You could probably learn a lot if you got their attitude to friendly and offered to remove their offensive presence from the Lizardfolk lands. Party can also perhaps disguise themselves as a lizardfolk delegation to safely approach either the tower or the main stronghold (which has ogres and whatnot for guards, not the sharpest knives - it'll likely work until the mindbender gets a detect thoughts up and running)
    Last edited by Seward; 2016-03-12 at 02:21 PM.

  12. - Top - End - #12
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    BlueKnightGuy

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    Default Re: Red Hand of Doom is Still Cool, Right?

    Good thoughts on the lizardfolk! The possibility of allying with the lizarfolk is an unconventional one, but I like it. They may revere Regiarix, but they're probably still not too happy about all these mammals moving into their swamps (and even commanding their dragon-god; blasphemy!)

    Session 5 is done, and I must say, Skull Gorge went remarkably smoothly.

    Spoiler: Speed, Surprise, and Violence of Action
    Show
    With the cleric, rogue, and fighter sporting invisibility (and the wizard staying hidden in the woodline), the battle began. The wizard has been very fastidious about keeping herself stocked with scrolls and the group stocked with potions, and it has been consistently paying off. The rogue charged the nearest hellhound, attacking and breaking his invisibility while the fighter received a fly spell to go take out the near watchtowers.

    As they did this, the cleric had identified the weak point in the bridge and was making all due haste toward it, ignoring everything else.

    The hellhound engaging the rogue died without doing much of anything, and the second one bolting across the bridge did nothing to help. While its scent made it aware of the invisible cleric, it was not aware of the bridge's weak point and thus not aware of the danger the group posed. The dragon flared his wings and spewed acid onto the rogue, who passed his save. It also clipped the cleric, injuring him, but failing to stop him.

    As the hobgoblins on the far side of the bridge gathered their weapons and the wizard began trading missile fire with one of the near snipers, the cleric cast stone shape.

    At first, nothing happened.

    Then, there was a deep rumbling sound. The bridge came loose first at one end, with the cliff face crumbling beneath it. A watchtower fell into the abyss, taking a screaming hobgoblin sniper with it, and then the other as the centuries-old edifice failed catastrophically. The hobgoblin reinforcements were halfway across the bridge at this point, throwing them to their deaths. The portrait of destruction was complete as the dust settled, the far side caving in as well to drop the two anchor towers on the far side into the chasm. The party let out a cheer.

    Ozyrrandion howled in anger, intent on vengeance. He swooped in, discharging another breath weapon and injuring the cleric, missing the rogue entirely, and melting his only remaining ally (the hellhound).

    The dragon only intended to stick around for a single full attack, hopefully to kill the cleric, but even that was too much. With a summoned boar and the rogue flanking, the fighter charged in to power attack. After receiving an enlarge person, the fighter enjoyed his unsurpassed battlefield control.

    Ozy rolled poorly on his single full attack, only dealing minor damage to the rogue (who was the only one he could hit), and by the time his next turn came around, he was below 30 hit points.

    He used a withdraw action, vowing revenge as he left. Due to his reach, though, the fighter got a single attack of opportunity...which he used to confirm a critical, cutting the dragon down as he tried to flee. Ozyrrandion let out a final howl as he was defeated.

    Thoughts: the party did quite well here, identifying the most tactically efficient way forward and pursuing it. The rogue's high armor class has saved his life several times at this point, and is allowing him to act as a "tank" even more than the fighter, who is focused on reach and power rather than defense.

    The group got lucky in the sense that Ozyrrandion's attack routine was essentially a flop, and that in the 1 round described before the bridge collapsed, the hobgoblin reinforcements couldn't make it across. The group's original plan was to run in, collapse the bridge, and run away, but upon seeing the dragon alone with only a hellhound for backup, quickly changed gears to take him down.

    Once again, never underestimate the PC "wolfpack" against a single large, impressive enemy. Ozyrrandion was reduced from full health to a smoking pile of lost hit points in only two turns.

    Spoiler: Return
    Show
    After a cursory look around to loot (most of the gear was lost when the majority of their foes plummeted into the gorge, the group decided to return to Drellin's Ferry rather than confirm the size of the force they suspected at Cinder Hill. Forced marching to make it there in a single day (with the cleric using his channel to remove fatigue), they arrived in the evening.

    They wasted no time finding Norro Wiston, telling him that he was in massive danger and demanding their money. They hoped to scare him into action, but overestimated his ability to react well to stress, and were unhappy to see him freeze up with panicked indecision.

    The next day, after meeting Teyani Sura (they didn't so much as get her name before sending her packing back to Brindol), they had a meeting with the town council. Iormel was brow-beaten into silence, Kellin was shouted down with fiery and dramatic threats of "utter doom and wanton destruction of humanity", and after a few nice Diplomacy rolls, the town was evacuated. Norro even tried to push the evacuation off a day, but they insisted that everyone had to be gone within 24 hours.

    Spoiler: The Next Step
    Show
    As they watched the miles-long caravan of refugees leaving Drellin's Ferry, the party was at a bit of an impasse what to do next. They'd missed the importance of the roadblocks (a very underwhelming hook, I must agree), and so needed Wiston and Captain Anitah to stress the importance of getting those roads open so that reinforcements could arrive (but couldn't a messenger, like, skirt AROUND the roadblocks, and then if they returned with reinforcements, wouldn't the reinforcements be enough to bust those roadblocks themselves?). The party agreed, and decided to set off via boat. I was delighted, obviously, because it meant I wouldn't have to railroad them into their first fight with the razorfiend.

    Spoiler: Level Up!
    Show
    For simplicity's sake, I am allowing the group to level once at the end of each chapter, which should keep them roughly on the correct power level. Anytime they level, they also have the opportunity to rebuild or tweak their characters, if they're unhappy with what they have.

    To my surprise, it was the rogue's player, my veteran, who wanted a rebuild. With my permission, he rebuilt to a ranger with a similar focus on two-weapon fighting. He wasn't too sad to see sneak attack go, especially since he picked up some nice wilderness survival abilities, which will serve him well for the rest of the campaign. He definitely went more offense-oriented than defensive, losing the shield for a kukri, which brings his AC down into the low 20's. I intend to make him regret it. >:D That high AC has been the cornerstone of his playstyle so far, and he will be in for a rude awakening without it.

    The change that strained disbelief the most was the inclusion of his animal companion, a large-sized wolf (Boon Companion feat), which I hand-waved as being left in town.

    Spoiler: Random Encounters
    Show
    The rest of the session was taken up by a pair of random encounters they rolled while poling their way up towards Lake Rhestin. On Day 7, they encountered a Red Hand patrol (hobgoblin troopers and a blood ghost berserker). The hobgoblin troops were butchered en masse by the polearm-wielding fighter, while the blood ghost got a single good hit on the ranger's new animal companion (taking out nearly half its hit points) before being killed.

    A brief interrogation followed, much more successfully than the last one, with the party asking one of the captured troopers what they were doing there, and attempting to glean intelligence on what the Red Hand would do without Skull Gorge Bridge. However, it soon became apparent that this guy was not privy to decision making, and was operating out of contact with the larger forces.

    Funny quote of the session:

    Ranger: "What will the horde do, now that Skull Gorge Bridge is destroyed?"
    Hobgoblin: "Skull Gorge Bridge has been destroyed?!"
    Group: "Yeah, this guy doesn't know anything."

    The next encounter was something a little different. I rolled a green hag on the random encounter table, and had her in disguise as a beautiful elf, washing clothes on the side of the river. Upon seeing the party poling their way up the stream, she asked them curiously what they were doing in "her" swamp and demanding a toll of 500 gold to pass.

    Obviously, that wasn't going to fly, so the party tried to ply her with questions, but she became impatient and reiterated her desire for money, or "something bad might happen to you."

    Once again they refused, and she retreated into the trees. Several hours later, they came across a massive cobra (an emperor cobra: the result of a second random encounter roll) asleep on a log that was stretching over the river. The ranger passed a wild empathy check to realize that the thing was asleep and wanted no trouble, so they elected to beach the raft and carry it around the snake.

    The hag, watching from nearby, decided now was time to act. Using ghost sound to create the sound of a roar, she startled the snake awake, off the log and onto the boat with the party!

    A brief but tense fight followed, with the hag giggling at her own cleverness and using pyrotechnics to harass the party as they dealt with the snake. Wolfpack tactics and some bad rolls on the snake's part meant it was dead in two rounds, and the hag took a magic missile from the wizard. Deciding she'd had enough, she used invisibility to dive in the water and escape.

    Determined not to let her get away, the ranger and the wizard set off on a high-speed pursuit, with the (blinded) fighter staying behind with the cleric. In spite of their determination, the hag's combination of a swim speed and invisibility was impossible for the two to match. If I had wanted to be a real bastard, I could have punished them for splitting the party by having the hag lead the two into a THIRD random encounter, but the session was winding down by that point.

    Annoyed, the party regrouped and resolved to keep an eye out for the "elf" as they continued. The important part of this encounter is that they are not going to get a chance to rest again before the razorfiend encounter: they have become accustomed to burning out on the first encounter of the day, confident that they are allowed to rest before choosing another engagement.

    Session 5 ended with the group approaching the Blackfens on the evening of Day 8...

  13. - Top - End - #13
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    ClericGuy

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    Default Re: Red Hand of Doom is Still Cool, Right?

    The fight you described with the dragon is typically how it goes when the dragon actually gets stopped. It goes from full health to being in trouble, and the party does something clever or gets lucky as it flees. Generally they have exactly one chance to stop it, as it can withdraw 300' or run 600', and that's so fast it can often simply outrange even a bow or fireball after a second round, or if it can't, it can find full cover in the nearby forest on the Drellin side of the cave or in the hills on the other side.

    Kudos for the party for focusing on the goal. They essentially took the hobgoblins out of the battle, at the risk of splitting the party, but had the combat gone badly for them they could have retreated while still accomplishing the objective (although possibly leaving a comrade behind).

    Your rogue-to-ranger player sounds like he has the most system mastery. Don't be surprised if you find it difficult to exploit the AC weakness of his rebuild and of the wolf. There should be opportunities (the RHOD has a lot of ranged combatants who can hit AC20) but if he knows how to play a light infantry, the 50' move speed of the wolf and close-range blender of a ranger (he did take favored enemy dragon and goblin right?) may limit how many full attacks you're able to inflict. From the sound of it he looked at his party and said "ok, we're now doing ok on spellcasting utility, scouting and such. We need more offense". Rangers are quite good at covering the rogue scouting role, their only weakness being lack of trapfinding, which isn't a big deal in RHOD.

    In the end, if AC becomes too much of a problem, well, Ulwai Stormcaller has a +2 mithril breastplate which is ideal for boosting a ranger, if he makes it to chapter 3, and he should be able to find other basic AC items along the way (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels has magic bucklers if he's willing to suck up a -1 with offhand to have the option to boost his AC a couple points in an emergency, and +1 amulet or ring should be the sort of thing he can just buy in Brindol, ditto scrolls of barkskin or whatever)

    Negotiations with the lizardmen usually don't focus on the fact that killing the dragon is a goal. The party I saw focused on eliminating the horrible mammals and glossed over the idea that anything bad might happen to the dragon. When it died (lit up by a fireball while fleeing, kind of obvious), well, lets just say they didn't use the lizardfolk disguise again. They traded diplomacy and bluff out for intimidation when exiting the scene.
    Last edited by Seward; 2016-03-14 at 10:48 AM.

  14. - Top - End - #14
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    BlueKnightGuy

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    Default Re: Red Hand of Doom is Still Cool, Right?

    Good thoughts on all! It will be interesting to see how the new build plays out...and the party's approach moving forward.

    Another thought I just had for Chapter 3, why not replace the Ulwai's opera with something a little more plot-centric? I figure instead of an abstract about Tiamat killing good dragons, it's an opera chronicling Azarr Kul's rise to power, which is a perfect opportunity to give the players a little background on their enemies.

    Spoiler: The Epic of Azarr Kul, Son of the Dragon
    Show
    An Opera by Ulwai Stormcaller

    Act I
    Scene 1: Featuring a gory sacrifice of a screaming maiden to a terrible blue dragon.
    Scene 2: In which Azarr Kul, as a young warrior, shows he is destined to lead his tribe. He meets and strikes up a friendship with the impetuous warrior, Hravek Kharn.
    Scene 3: In which Azarr Kul and Hravek Kharn discover the Fane of Tiamat, and learn Azarr's true destiny. The two hobgoblins swear fealty to Tiamat.
    Scene 4: In which an impressed Tiamat sends the white dragon Varanthian to Azarr Kul's service. Azarr Kul receives a vision of glorious conquest in Tiamat's name.

    Act II
    Scene 1: In which Azarr Kul returns to take rulership of his tribe, naming them the Kulkor Zhul (People of the Dragon).
    Scene 2: In which Azarr Kul conquers other hobgoblin tribes and gains the service of a green dragon named Ozyrrandion. Wyrmlord Koth is introduced as a bumbling, pompous braggart.
    Scene 3: In which Azarr Kul conquers the goblins, and gains the alliance of a black dragon named Regiarix.
    Scene 4: In which Azarr Kul allies with his most powerful rivals, the Stormcaller tribe, and names their leader (the beautiful, cruel, and clever Ulwai) a Wyrmlord.
    Scene 5: In which the red dragon Abithriax offers fealty to Azarr Kul. Azarr Kul's father, the dragon Tyrgarun, tells him how proud he is of him. Azarr Kul rejects the praise for himself, swearing future glories to Tiamat.

    Act III
    Scene 1: In which Azarr Kul's army, united under a glorious red hand, go forth to crush the cowardly, treacherous humans and elves. Azarr Kul's longtime friend and leal servant of Tiamat, Hravek Kharn, promises to deliver the Elsir Vale to his friend by summer's end.
    Scene 2: [unwritten]
    Scene 3: [unwritten]
    Scene 4: [unwritten]
    Scene 5: A triumphant Azarr Kul and Hravek Kharn stand victorious, and the two friends embrace as brothers. Thanking him for his aid, Azarr Kul then addresses his people, telling them that this victory is only the first, and soon the People of the Dragon will spread Tiamat's glory all across the world.
    Last edited by Dravda; 2016-03-28 at 01:30 AM.

  15. - Top - End - #15
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    ClericGuy

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    Default Re: Red Hand of Doom is Still Cool, Right?

    Any time you can bring in stuff that makes the NPCs more than just targets full of hitpoints to knock down by the PCs is a good thing, doubly so if it brings in enemy motivations/backstory.

  16. - Top - End - #16
    Eldritch Horror in the Playground Moderator
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    Default Re: Red Hand of Doom is Still Cool, Right?

    Watching this with interest, for obvious reasons.

    For Miha, you might need to present her as slightly more competent/skilled than I did, if you want your group to take the bait - they seem a bit more genre-savvy than mine was, and a beleagured fellow adventurer in need of backup might go over better than a classical damsel-in-distress. Only the cleric will be able to cast Detect Alignment spells, and I doubt they'll be genre-savvy enough to scan her for both Good and Evil (let alone Law and Chaos), so Undetectable Alignment will still serve her well.
    Last edited by The Glyphstone; 2016-03-17 at 01:12 AM.

  17. - Top - End - #17
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    BlueKnightGuy

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    Default Re: Red Hand of Doom is Still Cool, Right?

    Funny you mention it, Glyphstone, I'm thinking about scrapping Miha entirely. Or, rather, making her a red herring.

    I know my players well enough to tell right now that they'll see right through her crap. "Damsel in distress" displaying "unusual interest" in the group? She's a spy/doppelganger/succubus/pod person. To throw them off the trail, I'm going to include her as-written, except that she actually IS a traveling sorceress who was accosted by a drunk a few nights before.

    The REAL aranea (name undecided) will be another adventurer already helping the clerics (good call there). I'm thinking a swashbucklerous (yes, that's a word now) treasure hunter who starts chatting up the PCs to learn their plans, while cheerfully sharing his own alibi (he was traveling from Dennovar to search for lost artifacts in the Wyrmsmoke mountains when the Red Hand happened).

    The real problem with the encounter, as-written, is that it has too much work put into very specific parts, and players can smell that a mile off. In order to avoid drawing attention, both the clerics need names, and there needs to be two or three more interesting refugees, at least.

  18. - Top - End - #18
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    ClericGuy

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    Default Re: Red Hand of Doom is Still Cool, Right?

    Heh. My party avoided her because we were using low-tier magic to travel much faster (a mix of force marching horses+healing and druid spells to make the terrain easier). We weren't going to let a random NPC tag along, the burden on our spell slots would have been too high even if we were inclined - and we would have noticed if she tried to use her "mount" spell to keep up and track our progress.

    If you do use her, her most important attributes are her Whispering Wind spell and her Sending scroll. Passing information on where a party will be soon can alert the blockaders or help set up Marked for Death type encounters, and passing information on their tactics, to, say, the mindbender in Rhest can help them defend, although if she is out of whispering wind range, you're limited to 25 words, so choose wisely.

    Our GM just had her go to Brindol and cause trouble, and she showed up to fight for the final showdown and likely helped skew some of the social encounters there against us with a week or two of preparation with us doing other things.

    I kind of like the idea of having the shapeshifter/sorcerer being somewhere else and having the Rescue encounter being some other woman who has reason to tag along and maybe sell info to the highest bidder. One cool thing about that option is that the PCs can maybe win her over, and use her to sell MISINFORMATION - or if they treat her badly she can screw them over at some point. Start her out as indifferent-greedy and let the PCs reap what they sow. If the party has female or gay-male characters you could also change up the gender, which might help blunt the obviousness of the trope.
    Last edited by Seward; 2016-03-17 at 03:04 PM.

  19. - Top - End - #19
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    BlueKnightGuy

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    Default Re: Red Hand of Doom is Still Cool, Right?

    All good thoughts. I'm probably not going to have the spy travel with the party (for the meta reason that it will slow down combat), but they will most certainly cross paths again at Brindol.

    Without further ado, here's Session 6:

    Spoiler: The Razorfiend
    Show
    Upon spying the remains of the giant owl, the group approached cautiously. Sure enough, they were ambushed by the razorfiend, which had been snoozing nearby. It caught the fighter, ranger, and the ranger's animal companion wolf in a breath weapon right off the bat, then proceeded to put its Spring Attack to good use.

    The wolf ate an AoO getting close to the razorfiend, which confirmed a critical and knocked him down to negative hit points. The ranger was livid, and the group engaged wolfpack mode. The razorfiend avoided the worst of it all with spring attack, but its AC was simply too low to be avoiding major damage, and it went down after only one more hit on the fighter.

    Thoughts: Despite the fight going (relatively) smoothly, the group has never seen an enemy heavily using spring attack before, and they were unprepared for it.

    Spoiler: Killiar's Hunters
    Show
    Furious at the razorfiend's confirmed critical on his beloved pet, the ranger gutted the thing out of anger, and was surprised to find a ring inside! ("Wait, I was actually MEANT to do that?!")

    The group recovered the owl's bracelet and was just divvying up the razorfiend's "hoard" when the Tiki Kitor approached. I was a little antsy about what they would do to the Tiri Kitor, since I made no effort to have the elves phrase their questions politely, but things went relatively smoothly. The party explained their presence quickly and succinctly, immediately offering up Lanikar's ring before it was asked for and rolling nicely on their Diplomacy (Killiar went from unfriendly to friendly).

    Killiar invited them to Starsong Hill to speak with his leader. Despite the fact that the group has been keeping an anxious eye on the timeline, they agreed to meet with the elves.

    Spoiler: Starsong Hill
    Show
    The meeting with Sellyria was well-handled, if somewhat uninspiring. They rolled quite poorly on her impression of them, leaving her indifferent. Trellara was made friendly, and they immediately picked up that she knew Lanikar and offered condolences.

    They were most interested to hear of the Red Hand's presence in Rhest, and concluded that they must be up to no good. A lot of effort went into trying to secure an alliance then and there, but Sellyria wasn't having any of it, though she did invite them to attend Lanikar's funeral the next night.

    Afterward, the ranger stayed behind to speak with Trellara, offering her words of sympathy. Trellara's grief was slowly crystallizing into ice-cold rage, and she confided darkly that she wanted the Red Hand to pay for what they'd done. She made an intriguing offer: though the Speaker was not interested in fighting a human war, if they could make a strong impression amongst the community and help drive the threat out of Rhest, she might be able to galvanize enough support to go to war. The ranger thanked her for this information and was on his way to bed (it was long after dark at this point).

    The group spent the day at Starsong Hill, preparing for their expedition into Rhest. The wizard spent the day purchasing and copying spells into her spellbook, while the cleric met with Ilian Snowmantle and volunteered his services casting healing spells free of charge (but rolled too poorly to make the other cleric friendly: guess a faux pas or two happened in there). The fighter and the ranger spent the day making gather information checks, learning the lay of the land.

    Lanikar's funeral was unremarkable. Nobody had any perform skills or anything, so I opened the floor up for any skills the group might want to argue as being usable. The ranger volunteered his craft (woodworking) skill he'd put a few ranks into, and got a measly 13 in making some handmade flutes. Nevertheless, the Tiri Kitor were appreciative of the gesture and the fascinating look at human craftsmanship.

    For those counting, they are sitting at 6 AP right now: 2 elves impressed, 2 points for generosity, 1 point for a dead razorfiend, and 1 point for hitting a DC 10 at Lanikar's funeral. That wooden flute might clinch the alliance for them...assuming they drive the Red Hand out of Rhest without letting the razorfiend at the hatchery escape.

    Spoiler: Infiltration
    Show
    Day 10 saw the group setting off for Rhest in an elven canoe. Asking for some giant owls to ferry them was briefly considered, but shot down because 1) they didn't want to be spotted approaching, 2) they REALLY didn't want to fight a black dragon in the sky and 3) they didn't want to test Sellyria's patience. Not in that order.

    After observing the lake city for a bit and debating on the best way to approach the city, they decided to test the Red Hand's defenses. Sneaking up on one of the huts, they attacked from ambush and slaughtered the inhabitants. After mopping up the lizardfolk (who posed no threat, and were all killed in one shot), the session concluded with them waiting to see what the Red Hand's response would be.

    Thoughts: I've left the lizardfolk in the huts the same. If they kill enough enemies to provoke a response, I'm going to run an encounter with some leveled-up lizardfolk trackers.

    Spoiler: Player Theories
    Show
    The ranger's player began spitballing ideas on the Red Hand's motivation after the session was done. Trying to puzzle out why the Red Hand was apparently occupying Rhest, since it seemed to have no tactical value whatsoever, he came to two conclusions. 1) They valued it for its seclusion, meaning they were hiding something there. At this point, he went wide-eyed and wondered if it was something to do with the Ghostlord (whom they'd seen marked on the Red Hand's map). He hypothesized that maybe they'd stolen the lich's phylactery or something and were hiding it here, while I struggled to maintain my poker face.

    His second theory was also playing on the seclusion, but also considering the recent greenspawn infestation. He wondered aloud if the Red Hand were perhaps breeding razorfiends in there, since the city was an ideal combination of swampy, secluded, and fortified.
    Last edited by Dravda; 2016-03-19 at 12:46 AM.

  20. - Top - End - #20
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Red Hand of Doom is Still Cool, Right?

    Nice to hear that the Ranger is putting two and two together and getting four. I suspect my players may manage that too, but I remember a few previous groups I DMed for (not RHOD but other adventures) regularly came up with answers like three or seven.

  21. - Top - End - #21
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    BlueKnightGuy

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    Default Re: Red Hand of Doom is Still Cool, Right?

    Session 7!

    Spoiler: Espionage and Infiltration
    Show
    Having concluded the last session with a strike on a lizardfolk hut, the party laid in wait to see what kind of reprisal they would provoke. As they waited, the ranger shared his theories with the group, who agreed that they all sounded plausible. In the interim, they saw a group of lizardfolk go into the town hall and have a bad time, then watched with interest as the dragon and a goblin in bright armor left. Now, they concluded, was the time to act.

    They discussed fiercely how to infiltrate the town, ranging from invisibility to disguise self. After some debating on the rules (both casters had to reread their spell lists), they decided that the fighter and the cleric should be disguised as lizardfolk using magic, while the wizard and the ranger hid under a tarp (the ranger's animal companion kept on hand with a carry companion spell). Loaded down, they began paddling a lizardfolk raft towards the center of the lake.

    Pleased that they were not challenged on their approach, they decided to hit the belltower first to silence the sentries they'd seen. With two groups identified (one on the top floor, and one at water level), they split up to take both groups out simutaneously.

    Spoiler: The Belltower
    Show
    As the ranger climbed the side of the tower, invisible, the cleric and wizard lurked out of sight of the water level entrance as the fighter greeted the hobgoblin garrison inside (still disguised as a lizardfolk). The hobgoblin bladebearer (rebuilt as a warblade with White Raven and Diamond Mind disciplines) rose and assumed a hostile stance, yelling at the "lizardfolk" in Goblin to leave and take their complaints to the town hall. Upon seeing the blank look on the fighter's face (who didn't speak Goblin), he switched to broken Draconic (which the fighter also didn't understand).

    As he took a step forward to help the hobgoblins with their game, they drew swords and attacked. Hearing the sounds of battle, the ranger dismissed his carry companion spell, dropping his wolf below the bell to prevent the hobgoblins from using it. The rest of the fight saw him neatly cleaning up the sentries above, while the rest of the group struggled with the garrison below.

    The wizard opened with web, ensnaring the hobgoblins as the fighter kept them bottlenecked in the doorway. Though he was in no danger from the veterans, the bladebearer's pearl of black doubt stance worked wonders on him (especially since he had trouble rolling above a 4), while the bladebearer for his part neatly demonstrated the potency of martial maneuvers even balanced against Pathfinder characters.

    With the cleric in a desperate race to heal the fighter of the damage he was suffering and the bladebearer miraculously avoiding every spell thrown at him, the wizard eventually just resorted to using Koth's 5th-level wand of magic missile, whittling him down a dozen hit points at a time. The bladebearer cursed and gnashed his teeth at the "cowardly witch," but couldn't get through the fighter to kill her and was eventually killed. As the ranger finished up and joined the group downstairs, the mop-up went swiftly.

    The group had successfully cleared the belltower, and all without allowing the alarm to be raised. After a brief looting session, they attempted an interrogation of the still-breathing bladebearer. This one almost went better: they goaded him into talking, and he gloatingly told them that "Regiarix" would kill them all. Instead of exploiting the opportunity, however, they decided he was unlikely to tell them anything and killed him. Oh well. >>

    Spoiler: To the Town Hall
    Show
    With a waterbreathing spell divvied out, the group narrowly passed their Survival check to navigate the lake bed and found themselves in the town hall. They came up through the floor in Regiarix's lair, the ranger moving ahead first to scout. He discovered the dragon's hoard and gleefully scooped it up into their bag of holding. When he discovered an odd chain necklace strung with lion teeth, his eyes went wide and he began silently mouthing to the rest of the party "This is it! This is it!" His suspicions were confirmed when the wizard cast a quick detect magic, finding a strong aura of necromancy. In the bag it went, with the rest of the loot. A brief but fierce debate began, whispered as loudly as they dared, but they decided that the fate of the phylactery could wait until they'd cleared the building of hostiles.

    As the group emerged into the back of the town hall, chuckling that they had entered from the rear and thus looted the dragon's hoard first, the fighter botched a Stealth check against the ettin waiting in the next room. The door opened, and he took a surprise hit to the face. The ettin was quickly wolfpacked and killed, but the damage was done.

    Ogres began streaming in as Nurklenak joined the fray. Nurklenak I recast as an alchemist, since hobgoblins are supposed to hate and fear arcane casters (something I want to play up), but have a strong tradition of alchemists. Laughing madly, Nurklenak threw a poison gas bomb into Regiarix's lair, hurting the fighter and nauseating him for several rounds (which effectively took him out of the entire fight).

    Things looked grim until the cleric revealed that he was good for more than just bandaging wounds as they happened and cast a game-changer: holy smite. All hostile forces present were severely injured, with one ogre blinded and Nurklenak's retreat conditions triggered. Opting for the better part of valor, he ran upstairs to rouse the rest of the ogres and cover his retreat.

    The ranger jumped back into the water to swim around the side of the building and up to the roof to try to head Nurklenak off. His wolf took the water as well, harassing ogres from the water as the Jaws theme was cued up. Inside, things looked grim: the cleric and wizard, both low on spells, faced down a half dozen ogres with the fighter incapacitated and the ranger MIA.

    Still able to soak up hits, however, the fighter ran into the doorway with the cleric, keeping the ogres bottlenecked where they could only attack one at a time. On the roof, the ranger found a wounded Nurklenak drinking a potion of fly to escape, and scored a critical hit that diced the mad bomber in half.

    The fighter finally overcame his nausea and waded into the combat proper. With the ranger joining them, it was shaping up to be a long (boring) mop-up, so I had the ogres flee in terror with Nurklenak dead and no other commanders present to keep them in line. The party let out a cheer as the enemy forces broke and fled, with the wolf companion hunting them down one by one.

    Spoiler: The Hatchery
    Show
    Despite his independent streak, the ranger thought better of trying to solo the hatchery and waited for his party to finish searching the town hall. The note they found from Ulwai confirmed their suspicions about the phylactery (setting off another heated debate which was tabled until they cleared the rest of the area).

    The razorfiend hatchery was breached, and the group spotted the razorfiend lurking in the water before it noticed them. The razorfiend got a single good hit off before being destroyed, the hatchery being a killing jar, pure and simple. They went to smashing the razorfiend eggs and rolled handily to find them all.

    Nearly an hour had elapsed (in-game), and I had rolled only 1 hour for Regiarix' and Saarvith's hunting trip. They would be back soon. The group brought up what to do: the cleric and wizard were both nearly out of spells by that point, but everyone was at full hit points and the ranger and fighter were confident in their abilities. The ranger, especially, was anxious to ensure they secured the Tiri Kitor's alliance, and was in no hurry to see the Red Hand's two commanders escape (since they had no reason to stick around anymore, with everyone and everything dead, broken, or stolen).

    I have a policy of confirming that players know what they're getting into. I think it's hilarious if poor decision making leads to a catastrophe, but not if poor DM communication leads to that same disaster. So this time, I asked them, "Are you sure you want to face a double helping of BBEG, with both of your casters basically dry?"

    The answer: a resounding "yes" from the two warriors, with the two casters too unsure of themselves to speak up to the contrary. Well, they asked for it.

    Spoiler: The Phylactery
    Show
    So far, the phylactery has generated fierce debate. The cleric favors destroying it, with the fighter (a devotee of St. Cuthbert as well) in fervent agreement. The ranger replied that this would only anger the Ghostlord, and a knowledge check from the wizard confirmed that he would, indeed, feel the pain of it being destroyed. The wizard also confirmed that the box it had been in was affected with obscure object: the phylactery was hastily stuffed back inside until they could come up with a plan.

    At this point, the cleric insisted that the thing had to at least be taken to a church and stored somewhere safe. The ranger argued that they should return it, but lacked a persuasive counter to "why wouldn't he just kill us once he has his immortality back, then?"

    The wizard has so far not taken a side, and the fate of this phylactery rests solely upon the ranger's ability to make a convincing argument to the others. He has (privately) discussed going behind his party's back, taking the phylactery out of its scry-proof case during his watch to let the lich see that they have it. I intend for something horrible to happen if he does this. (Ghost lions in the middle of the night? Zombie animal messenger bearing a note that simply reads "GIVE IT BACK" scrawled over and over in insane, spidery lettering? The sky's the limit)
    Last edited by Dravda; 2016-03-26 at 03:09 AM.

  22. - Top - End - #22
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    GreenSorcererElf

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    Default Re: Red Hand of Doom is Still Cool, Right?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dravda View Post
    I have a policy of confirming that players know what they're getting into. I think it's hilarious if poor decision making leads to a catastrophe, but not if poor DM communication leads to that same disaster. So this time, I asked them, "Are you sure you want to face a double helping of BBEG, with both of your casters basically dry?"

    The answer: a resounding "yes" from the two warriors, with the two casters too unsure of themselves to speak up to the contrary. Well, they asked for it.
    And this is how people die. Never, ever, ever continue when you're out of spells. EVER. Both casters are empty but the brutes want to keep going because "waugh, hit points!" Do they even have ranged weapons? TPK imminent. Oh, and good on you for proper communication, exactly what I'd recommend.
    Last edited by Fizban; 2016-03-26 at 08:09 AM.
    Fizban's Tweaks and Brew: Google Drive (PDF), Thread
    A collection of over 200 pages of individually small bans, tweaks, brews, and rule changes, usable piecemeal or nearly altogether, and even some convenient lists. Everything I've done that I'd call done enough to use in one place (plus a number of things I'm working on that aren't quite done, of course).
    Quote Originally Posted by Violet Octopus View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Fizban View Post
    sheer awesomeness

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    BlueKnightGuy

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    Default Re: Red Hand of Doom is Still Cool, Right?

    Yep, Regiarix is a cautious soul, so he's going to stick to strafing runs while Saarvith peppers the enemy with arrows. With a handful of elf bane and human bane arrows at his disposal, plus favored enemy bonuses against both types, I foresee at least one death at Saarvith's hands before they retreat. The only one with any kind of significant ranged ability is the wizard (with her wand of magic missile), so she may be targeted first. Saarvith can't breathe underwater, so I doubt Regiarix will pursue them alone once they flee underwater.

    The real trick is going to be how they pull off the ambush itself. Both Regiarix and Saarvith are fairly perceptive, but if all goes well, the party will have one chance to trap them inside the building at close quarters before they take to the air. Hopefully they are able to capitalize on it.

    One way or the other, this will be a learning experience.

  24. - Top - End - #24
    Eldritch Horror in the Playground Moderator
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    Default Re: Red Hand of Doom is Still Cool, Right?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dravda View Post
    Spoiler: The Phylactery
    Show
    So far, the phylactery has generated fierce debate. The cleric favors destroying it, with the fighter (a devotee of St. Cuthbert as well) in fervent agreement. The ranger replied that this would only anger the Ghostlord, and a knowledge check from the wizard confirmed that he would, indeed, feel the pain of it being destroyed. The wizard also confirmed that the box it had been in was affected with obscure object: the phylactery was hastily stuffed back inside until they could come up with a plan.

    At this point, the cleric insisted that the thing had to at least be taken to a church and stored somewhere safe. The ranger argued that they should return it, but lacked a persuasive counter to "why wouldn't he just kill us once he has his immortality back, then?"

    The wizard has so far not taken a side, and the fate of this phylactery rests solely upon the ranger's ability to make a convincing argument to the others. He has (privately) discussed going behind his party's back, taking the phylactery out of its scry-proof case during his watch to let the lich see that they have it. I intend for something horrible to happen if he does this. (Ghost lions in the middle of the night? Zombie animal messenger bearing a note that simply reads "GIVE IT BACK" scrawled over and over in insane, spidery lettering? The sky's the limit)
    This entertains me greatly. Considering this has been the reaction to both your group and mine, immediately upon finding it, it must be a fairly common reaction. So why did the writers not even consider the remote possibility that it would happen, even in a sidebar of some kind?

  25. - Top - End - #25
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    GreenSorcererElf

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    Default Re: Red Hand of Doom is Still Cool, Right?

    Saarvith can hold his breath and Regi has blindsense to guide him (so he won't get lost looking for them after surfacing for air), while the players have only so much Water Breathing left, and no water mobility spells mentioned. What weapons do they have? Swimming with just the skill is laughably slow, ranged attacks are nigh impossible, and melee attacks with non-piercing weapons take a massive penalty (-2 hit and 1/2 normal damage). Even with piercing weapons, with no water mobility he can just strafe them underwater without ever being caught. If the pair do actually play it cautious, the player's best chance of survival is hiding inside the lair behind the threat of that magic missile wand until such time as the dragon leaves.

    That of course is assuming they do play it that safe. And isn't there some line about them attacking the elf camp later if forced to retreat, giving the players a second free chance to kill them? Seems to happen a lot anyway.
    Fizban's Tweaks and Brew: Google Drive (PDF), Thread
    A collection of over 200 pages of individually small bans, tweaks, brews, and rule changes, usable piecemeal or nearly altogether, and even some convenient lists. Everything I've done that I'd call done enough to use in one place (plus a number of things I'm working on that aren't quite done, of course).
    Quote Originally Posted by Violet Octopus View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Fizban View Post
    sheer awesomeness

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    Default Re: Red Hand of Doom is Still Cool, Right?

    Thanks for the shout-out, Dravda. I hope my maps serve your game well, if you need something custom just shoot me a line.

    Since I'm pretty busy right now I'll put this thread on my reading list, but I'll try and give some feedback soon.
    "No matter how subtle the wizard, a knife between the shoulder blades will seriously cramp his style." - Steven Brust
    Fallschaden. (Red Hand of Doom Materials!)

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    BlueKnightGuy

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    Default Re: Red Hand of Doom is Still Cool, Right?

    Glyphstone: I agree, it is a strange oversight. I'm also hesitant to have the Ghostlord simply show up at Brindol, since he's meant to be an overwhelming encounter all on his own, without Kharn and the other surviving wyrmlords there to back him up.

    Fizban: Those are actually good points. While Saarvith likely won't make much contribution underwater (-2 penalty to ranged attacks per 5 feet of distance and all), Regiarix has no reason not to just skim the water over and over, breathing acid and retreating. With a 60-foot range, he could even stay outside of the fighter's impressive reach, not to mention out of sight in the murky water. I could make this a REAL pain for my players.

    As for retaliation, I don't believe I'll have the Red Hand pursue it. The book recommends having them come after the party at Starsong Hill if the party gives the Red Hand a black eye, but since at this point the hatchery is destroyed, the garrison has been wiped out, AND Saarvith's hated supervisor is dead, the two have no reason to stay and will likely beat a retreat for friendly lines when given a chance.

    Antariuk: My pleasure, the maps have been a great help! I'm looking forward to any feedback you have.

  28. - Top - End - #28
    Eldritch Horror in the Playground Moderator
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    Default Re: Red Hand of Doom is Still Cool, Right?

    You might consider using the Ghostlord as a third-party agent entirely at Brindol, assuming the phylactery gets busted. If the Hand loses their control over him, he might decide to take revenge by sending his legions to Brindol anyways and just indiscriminately slaughtering anything they encounter, human or hobgoblin. No need to pit the party against the Ghostlord personally, but a few encounters against various undead, and narrative of other undead also killing the attackers, could orchestrate his 'rogue' status effectively. I did something similar, though my Ghostlord waited until the most opportune moment to backstab Kharn, nuking him in the final BBEG fight as he was about to deliver the deathblow to a PC.
    Last edited by The Glyphstone; 2016-03-27 at 11:15 PM.

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    BlueKnightGuy

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    Default Re: Red Hand of Doom is Still Cool, Right?

    That's a really good idea, actually! The backstory given to the players already describes him essentially destroying a city with his ghost lions. There's no reason to think he wouldn't try to do to Brindol what he did to Rhest, if provoked, and waiting until the Red Hand attacks just ensures that he can kill two birds with one stone.

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    BlueKnightGuy

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    Default Re: Red Hand of Doom is Still Cool, Right?

    We had a very quick but productive game last night. Here are the results:

    Spoiler: The Ambush
    Show
    The session began with a quick discussion of how exactly this ambush would be laid. After some debate, they decided to wait inside the town hall on the second story (at water level), and let the goblin and dragon come to them.

    The wizard beat Regiarix and Saarvith for perception, hearing them land on the roof before the Red Hand heard the party. Regiarix heard the party moving below as they crept into position, and Saarvith called out for the missing sentries, as well as Nurklenak.

    Hearing no response, the two Red Hand commanders alighted on the roof of the hatchery, seeing their worst fears confirmed. The rogue crept up onto the third story with fly active, but was noticed by Saarvith. He took a readied action arrow for minor damage, and the fight was on.

    The group all (foolishly) abandoned their covered position downstairs and ran up onto the third story. Regiarix took off, ending up FAR off the map with Saarvith peppering the group with arrows. With very little to do, the fighter and ranger both took to the air while the cleric and wizard readied their meager ranged options.

    Regiarix' breath weapon was a flop: both the fighter and ranger saved and protection from energy took care of the rest. Saarvith, however, was doing fearsomely. Peppering the fighter and ranger, then the ranger's animal companion, the party had no real way of harming either of them.

    Regiarix got too close on his one breath weapon run, allowing the fighter and ranger to each score a hit, as well as the cleric getting off an admonishing ray on Regiarix, but after that he stayed well away. When the wizard made her appearance on the roof with a borrowed +1 goblin bane heavy crossbow, Saarvith snarled in anger and focused his attacks on her.

    She took heavy damage the first round (Deadly Aim + Favored Enemy + a stack of elf bane arrows), but foolishly elected to remain on the roof to take a second shot. On the next pass, Saarvith scored a hit with Manyshot and she was dead on the spot.

    Finally recognizing that they were fish in a barrel, the party finally retreated inside, bringing the wizard's corpse with them. The two enemies made a few more passes around the building, badly injuring the ranger's wolf companion as he foolishly stood in a window. Once everyone was clear of the windows, the party readied actions and braced for an attack.

    The standoff continued for a few more rounds, but with Regiarix unwilling to enter the killing jar that was the town hall, Saarvith eventually decided to cut his losses and order a retreat. Flapping away, the two were soon over the trees to the southwest and out of sight.

    Spoiler: Aftermath
    Show
    The party's reactions were mixed. The fighter pointed out that they had accomplished their mission in destroying the hatchery, butchering the Red Hand garrison, and forcing their commanders to retreat in disgrace, but the cleric was less optimistic. They had, until now, prevented ANY enemies from escaping alive. Until now, they were completely anonymous. Now, two important enemy commanders knew who they were and were leaving to report back. The ranger pointed out that they could at least be cautiously optimistic that Saarvith wouldn't be a commander for too much longer, and they boarded their raft for home.

    On the way, the cleric used their staff of life to bring the wizard back from the dead. She had regained her bearings sufficiently by the time they arrived back in Starsong Hill.

    Spoiler: Starsong Hill
    Show
    The party was greeted as they arrived by Trellara, who was anxious to know how the mission went. With their success reported, she took them to see Sellyria immediately. The High Speaker informed them that they had done well and upheld their part of the bargain. And with Trellara rallying support for the war in their absence, they had come to a conclusion: they would send their hunters to help. The humans of the Vale would not stand alone against the Red Hand.

    Notes: For those counting, the party ended up with 9 alliance points: 2 for dead razorfiends, 2 elves made friendly, 2 for kindness, 2 for defeating the Red Hand...and 1 for a DC 10 check made at Lanikar's funeral. That alliance was won by a wooden flute.

    Spoiler: The Next Step
    Show
    Afterward, the party gathered for a somber reflection on what had occurred. The wizard was shaken by her ordeal, despite the aftereffects having been resolved already, and had changed. The ranger, too, was having a crisis of faith.

    A fairly cool roleplaying encounter followed, to which I'm sure I won't be able to do justice here. The ranger asked why the cleric believed in St. Cuthbert, and why the gods seemed to answer his prayers but not the ranger's. Why, he asked, hadn't his prayers been answered when his brother had been taken by bugbear slavers years ago?

    The cleric counseled him as best he could, and with that, the ranger headed into the woods alone. Bandaging his wolf companion, he set the beast free. The fight with the dragon had taught him that war was no place for someone he loved. While he spent time alone, gathering his thoughts, the party regrouped and began to prepare for the mission that had initially brought them there: taking down the Red Hand's roadblocks.

    Notes: Some really awesome roleplaying at the end of that session, and the game even panned out perfectly for the mechanical changes everyone wants to make. Everyone is leveling up to 8, giving them the opportunity to rebuild if they desire.

    The wizard has been unhappy playing a prepared caster (despite doing well at it), and is going to rebuild to an arcanist with the twilight sage archetype, representing how changed she is from her death experience. Mechanically and thematically, she'll be very similar to how she is already operating, but with a little more versatility (spontaneous casting means more spells per day, but fewer unique spells prepared). The Consume Life ability is very flavorful and represents her brush with death nicely, although this all comes at a critical cost: the Battle of Brindol will take place at level 9, limiting her to 4th level spells instead of 5th.

    The ranger, for his part, is dismissing his wolf companion (who has been having difficulty contributing in a few of these last fights) and will be gaining a giant owl companion (mechanically, either an eagle or a roc). He hopes it will be more useful and versatile than the wolf (and spare the ridiculous image of a horse-sized wolf riding through the Blackfens on a raft with them).

    The cleric has been having difficulty finding his role, and is rebuilding to focus more on his spellcasting, rather than trying to be both an archer AND a cleric. This isn't going to see a significant change in his playstyle, only his effectiveness.

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