cawatrooper Posted December 30, 2019 Author Share Posted December 30, 2019 Been on vacation for a while, but I ran a session beforehand a few weeks ago. One of my friends was in from out of town (from our previous campaign) so I made some adjustments to get him into a pretty big moment of our campaign. It had mixed results, in that one big arc really suffered for it, but the ending was great. I began our session with this prompt: Quote After narrowly escaping the encroaching guards under the Nyanzaru arena and fleeing to a briny coastal cave that Bravura found, you hide out and lick your wounds for about an hour. There’s a tense moment where you heard some crackling explosions and shouting, but you quickly realize that it is merely midday fireworks and cheering during the city’s behemoth race, distant sounds carried to you from across the bay. Despite the unconventional finale to the Melee tournament, the city-wide party appears to have continued in full swing. In contrast, one might turn to see your lot and feel pity. Sledge has wrapped in bandages the area on her abdomen where the triceratops had gutted her, and still blood is seeping through. Bravura is also tending to both the nub where the tip of his pinky used to be as well as several blunt arrow wounds, while Maylin and Akrothma sit exhausted from combative spellcasting. Ripples form on surface of the bay outside as rain begins to fall, first lightly then as a full a jungle downpour. In a bitterweet moment, you realize that in the tense escape you’ve still been wearing the festival masks that Charlene gave you earlier this morning- she still in the city, with no idea where you are or what happened to you. But despite all this, things may not be as low as they seem. Akrothma has meditated a bit on the spells that she casted, and her proficiency in magic has increased, warming herself by a bonfire she had magically created and likely wishing she could roast some corn over it. Maylin, emboldened by recovering not only the full rune (which you all may have had doubts about originally) but also additional information, sits reflecting on what she’s learned as she plays with Deathlord. And Sledge, having noticed that Bravura focused so heavily on close quarters combat during their experience in the arena, takes some time to give him some pointers on longer ranged shots, taking aim at various stalactites and bits of moss in the cavern. When the lesson is over, she opens her satchel and hands him a long grey feather- “You might’ve had a chance against me, if the fight had been fair,” she says, sticking it in his cap.. Still battered and bloodied, but feeling just a little bit better, you continue your journey south through the jungle. The heroes traveled south to Bhalig, encounter little resistance outside of some strange bestial laughter at night (the gnolls stalking them, they deduced). At last, their road turned into a ravine that led deeper into the jungle, so deep that the upper canopy of trees fully blotted out the sun, and eventually were indistinguishable from a cave ceiling (and possible were that very thing). As they traveled deeper into the Underdark, they sensed a rumbling ahead, and quickly out of the mists emerged a huge stampede! The party managed to take cover without taking too much damage, when through the mists a lonely baby triceratops struggled to keep up with the now distant herd. As the party approached it, a new monstrosity with large tentacles followed, and the heroes slunk back to the shadows. The monster ate the baby dinosaur in a single gulp, then immediately turned to Maylin. The party engaged the creature, taking advantage of their greater numbers, when they heard bagpipes in the distance (to the tune of Baba O'Reilly, by The Who). Brothar Leadfoot, veteran of the war against the Cult of the Dragon and hero who helped defeat Tiamat nearly 250 years ago (and played, once again, by my visiting friend), had joined the fight! Once a cleric of Torm, Brothar had become a king and in his age turned his talents to his true passion (as was clear in our previous campaign)- music, therefore becoming Brothar the Bard. With help from their new friend, the heroes defeated the Otyugh that Brothat had been hunting, and another dwarf, this one with greyish/purplish skin huffed up to the group. In a sing-songy Sweedish accent, he said "Hallo there friends! I am Harald. I see you helped Brothar bring down the beast. Now come, to Bhalig, and we shall feast." On the way to the city, Harald spoke with the heroes. They questioned about Xa"Ligha, and Harald had bad news- apparently, Drow assassins had killed Xa'Ligha in his sleep. In the city, the group met up with Sir Donovan, and Maylin noticed he was discussing something intently with Sledge. She listened in, and discovered that Xa'Ligha was indeed killed, but as a lich, he would be reborn soon. She spoke to the agents of Requiem, and the heroes all traveled to Queen Sieglinde, leader of the dureugar and queen of Bhalig (this section perhaps most of all suffered from my condensing of what could've been easily 6+ sessions into a single day, to accommodate Brothar's player's presence). Sigelinde quickly caught the heroes up to speed- the drow had assassinated Xa'Ligha and had taken over the mindflayer embassy, a large stalactite/stalagmite convergence tower just outside the city. There, as an advance force, they planned on preparing for a larger assault once their forced had amassed outside Bhalig in full. Inside the tower, the mindflayers had already found what they believed to be Xa'Ligha's next body, and were working on bringing the lich back into it, including a ritual that also involved the lich's phylactery- but it was unclear whether or not they'd held out against the drow, or if they'd been defeated already. The dureugar, along with forces from Amantia the queen of Fungus and Sledge/Donovan as representatives of the Knights Requiem, would meet the drow out in the open field. There, they would draw out their forces, so that the heroes could sneak into the mindflayer embassy and try to recover Xa'Ligha. Before going, the heroes stopped and saw Xa'Ligha's body, recognizing it as Nell from the Havelock Echo, the elven druid who'd disappeared mid-voyage. The plan worked pretty well at first- the dureugar and their allies got the attention of the drow invaders, while the heroes snuck past attracting little attention (and dispatching of the drow agents they did find). (I used a mass combat set of rules that I'd adapted specifically for this skirmish, in which random rolls would have various effects on the battle including casualties and reinforcements, as well as the heroes being able to contribute from afar). The heroes entered the embassy and found themselves in a relatively straightforward tower carved from rock (I'd had to cut a ton of what originally had been a fully fledged dungeon). Perhaps most important of all, they'd periodically come across a balcony with a ballista, allowing them to fire upon the battle and help turn the tide. Occasionally, drow would retreat back toward the tower, but none had yet caught up with the heroes. However, at one point, the heroes came across a chess puzzle (again, one I'd adapted from a previously existing puzzle). They figured it out and moved upward. Near the top of the tower, the heroes found a penultimate room full of slaughtered mindflayers and drow alike, with a door leading to the top of the tower's final floor There was also another ballista, which Bravura used to turn on what they might've recognized as a Beholder that had joined the battle below (randomly spawned via dice roll. I probably shouldn't have had it on the table, but I never expected the heroes to engage it, even so). The baloon-like creature began to float toward the tower, and the (horribly under-leveled) heroes immediately recognized the dangerous situation they were in. Maylin used some thieves tools to pick the lock to the final room, and they entered to find a mindflayer performing a ritual before a sarcophagus, with a chest on it. The mindflayer said he was nearly done, and that he needed help. When the heroes mentioned the beholder approaching, the mindflayer became horrified. "If that is true, than you must help me defend Xa'Ligha- he's the only way we're getting out now." The room was a large rectangle, with a balcony all the way around and a raised altar in the back (where the mindflayer was performing the ritual). After a few minutes, the heroes heard a buzzing sound, and began to smell burning wood- the Beholder using its incineration beam on the roor. As small chunks of wood began to fall away, spiders began to pour into the room, easily dispatched by the heroes. As the beam continued to burn down the door, more and more enemies of increasing size slid in- large spiders, drow, driders, etc. The heroes held strong, but took serious damage. As the entirety of the door began to fall away, the Beholder's incineration beam shined into the room- over Brothar's head, as he stood in the middle fighting a drider. Past Bravura, sniping drow from the stairs. Near Akrothma, as she tried to stop a drow from stealing the chest on the sarcophagus (containing Xa'Ligha's phylactery). And right above the mindflayer, and descending. As the beam lowered, dangerously close to the mindflayer, the heroes slew the remaining drow in the tower, yet the Beholder advanced. The beam disentigrated the Mindflayer, yet Akrothma looked up and noticed the lid to the sarcophagus had been opened. And there, standing next to Brothar, was a new orange-skinned mindflayer. (At this point, I told Brothar's player to take one of his old cleric spells and that he could cast it at the highest level. Then, I put on Immigrant Song by Led Zeppin, Brothar's combat anthem from our previous campaign). Brothar cast Guiding Bolt, an old favorite of his, absolutely blasting the Beholder, as the other heroes began laying into it, too. The new Mindflayer turned to Brother. "Good shot, old friend," he said. (After a few seconds of confusion, my players one by one gasped as they realized that Xa'Ligha the lich was actually the Ulthar Cat, my gnome warlock from the Rise of Tiamat campaign.) Akrothma opened the chest, revealing a ring inlet with a canary yellow diamond- once known to belong to the Ulthar Cat in the event of a needed Revive spell, as all of his teammates once had of varying colors. Alongside the Ulthar Cat and Brothar, the heroes brutalized the Beholder, causing the drow below to retreat back to the Underdark. "Now, we have much to discuss", said Xa'Ligha The Ulthar Cat. __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Overall, I have really mixed feelings on this session. First, it was incredibly rushed, but it was so to accommodate for Brothar's presence played by his original player- and that ending paid off really well. Second, I know that having some NPC show up in the end to save the PCs is a terrible idea, though that's why I tried to give the power to Brothar rather than the Ulthar Cat- even if he's not a regular PC, he at least wasn't the DM. Plus, despite the slightly cheese way to end the fight by giving Brothar a massively overpowered spell, all players agreed it was a very cool moment, along with the Ulthar Car reveal. And to be honest, the PCs held their own pretty well. I could tell during the fight that my players felt utterly hopeless and upset at the perceived balance of the fight, with more and more enemies pouring in as a freakin Beholder still waited outside. And I do feel bad that this is how the fight came across, but also it was kind of what I was going for. I had never intended for the Beholder to enter the fray in the tower (instead for the Drow to just break in), but I tried to adapt, and in doing so I only planned on making the Beholder a cinematic part of the experience- his incineration ray was never intended to cause the players harm as long as they weren't stupid, and Xa'Ligha's spawn timer was actually tied to the defeat of the drow in the room on part of the heroes (as was the Beholder's full entrance, as was adapted to). Even so, I felt the drow I was using were a bit poorly balanced. I went off CR alone, but their armor class seemed a lot higher than it should've been. I think the biggest problem was that Xa'Ligha's resurrection/Beholder appearance were both tied to something that really is technically arbitrary, so it felt like the heroes' part was a lot smaller (which is totally a fair interpretation of that). I believe I've learned a lot about encounter design from my mistakes with this session, yet, to be sure... yet, it was still a good time for everyone. The mysteries of the plot are laid a bit more bare now, and the world feels all the more connected to our previous campaign. I guess a lot of this feels like ripping a band-aid off, and I think my next session really needs to go smoothly, but I've been preparing for it. Something a lot more down to earth- a travel session, followed by a more traditional goblin dungeon. And most importantly, my players are very ready to play again. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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