Dinner for Dragons

Twisting Halls Part 3

The party finished the previous session by killing Kurrash the bugbear and his goblins. They enter the next room from the door to the west.

The party opens the door to a large chamber. The stench of death fills the air. A necromancer, Malarath, is seen looming over the open box which he took from Traevus’ wagon. He acknowledges the party just long enough to recognize their presence. “This is who Traevus sends to destroy me. Pathetic. Kill them all.”

Three animated skeleton’s make their way toward the party and engage them in battle. The animated corpse of a large Ogre is also in the room, but cannot make his way to the party because of his allies. As the party dispatches a skeleton soldier and incidentally hit Malarath with an area attack. This draws his ire, which causes him to strike the party with a large, powerful area effect of his own, which also strengthens his remaining undead allies.

The party focus’s its efforts and dispatches another skeleton. To avoid another large area attack, the party hastily kill Malarath before dispatching the rest of his minions. Once Malareth falls, the third skeleton soldier is finished off, and the Ogre Zombie is dispatched.

The party searches the room and finds some magic Cloth Armor and Rod Implement, along with some gold which is split between the members. The box that Traevus had sent the players to retrieve for him contained a skull seething with dark shadow magic.

The players spend some time searching the remainder of the room, looking to see if they can divine the intentions of either Malarath or Traevus from the remaining items. After some deliberation, it is decided that the best course of action when returning to Fallcrest would be to have the skull destroyed at the temple there.

Not forgetting the bargain they made with Farallax, the fledgling white dragon, the player stops at his chamber on their way out and retrieves the reward promised, a set of magic Hide Armor. The players agree it is best to leave the temple and make camp to recover their strength before heading back to Fallcrest and confronting Traevus. Now that the challenge is complete, they all feel stronger from the experience.

That wraps up the Twisting Halls adventure. The players were successful, and have reached level 2. We concluded the night before heading back to Fallcrest, which will lead us into the next adventure: The Dungeon of the Ghost Tower. This is adventure will be a direct follow-up to the story told here.

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Twisting Halls Part 2
The Party continues their journey into the temple

We left the party at the conclusion of the Chess room last session and picked up from there. There was only one door to go through, so the party did so.

The party opens up the door leading away from the chess room. The adjoining room contained an alter to the dark god Baphomet as well as a large statue of the deity. A smaller statue of the high priestess occupied another corner. Occupying the room were four members of the Fallcrest guard. Three were armed with halberds and one with a long-sword. The guards quickly moved into a defensive position, using the lengths of their halberds to their advantage.

During the fight, it was found that one of the guards was an impostor, a Doppelganger who was posing as one of their own. When it appeared that the tide of battle was turning against him, he attempted to escape, but to no avail. The remaining guards continued to fight until the death.

Searching the room and ransacking the corpses, the party found a Potion of Healing, which was given to Xavier, as well as some gemstones placed as the eyes of Baphomet. The party took the gemstones to sell and split the proceeds between the members. Sir Gwendolyn also procured some candles from the cursed alter, which did not have any monetary value.

A pretty straight-forward combat. This one took forever, as the guards were all soldier monsters, which have high defensive values. Since our party doesn’t seem to have the best luck with the dice, there were many misses. However, the party prevailed and moved on.

The party was then faced with a choice of two paths. They chose the path leading to what was clearly a storage area. This was confirmed when opening the door to reveal large stacks of crates in the room. Additionally, two Goblin cutthroats occupied the room, and engaged the party, regardless of the Sharn’s attempts to speak with them about establishing a collective bargaining union.

The two goblins were dispatched quickly, but the noise from the fight had alerted third Goblin cutthroat and their Bugbear commander in the adjacent rooms. The third goblin fell quickly to the might of the party. The bugbear, named Kurrash, was a different matter. He handily took down Benicia’s spirit companion, Cullen, with a single blow. Basking in that success, he made his way to Xavier and brought his fury down upon the Dragonborn. Kurrash’s efforts, however, were in vain. The might of the party was simply too much for the Bugbear, and he fell before them.

Standing over his foe, Xavier reached down and claimed Kurrash’s Blood-drinker Greataxe as his own. The remainder of the party searched the crates in the storage room. Unfortunately, nothing of significant value was found. The remaining path is clear to the party. Malareth will be next to speak for his actions.

This battle was the best we’ve had so far in my opinion. Compared to the last fight, the cutthroats were easy. Skirmisher type monsters have high mobility, but it was of limited usefulness in the smaller room. Their defenses crumbled for the party. The Bugbear, however, was much more dangerous. In addition to having much more HP, he hit like a truck. There were a few close calls for Xavier. Fortunately, everyone was on their toes and were able to focus him down quickly.

Next up will be Malareth. While he isn’t hugely difficult, it will be a bit more of a jump in difficulty. Hopefully the party is ready for him and his goons.

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Enter the Twisting Halls
Enter the Twisting Halls

My party started their Twisting Halls proper adventure last night.

After reaching the cavernous entrance to the temple, the party searched for signs of activity and chose to enter the less-active looking entrance to the north. Upon opening the door and entering, they were greeted by Kobalds performing maintenance on the various shrines and doing what minions do. The nearest such Kobald led the players to Farralax, a fledgling white dragon, after the players questioned him about his master.

The mage Sharrn was the first to speak with Farralax, and was not very reverent with the dragon and angered Farralax. This almost escalated to the point of attack, but fortunately Benecia and Gwindelyn managed to take control of the situation. Eventually after some conversation, a bargin was struck between the players and Farralax. Each player “contributed” 10 gp to the dragon’s horde, and the party as a whole commited themselves to killing Maraleth, with the promise of set of magic armor when the task was complete, and safe passage further into the temple.

From Farralax’s lair, the party chose to move through the doors to the south.

Oh, the skill challange. I’m still having a tough time navigating NPC encounters. This was by far my worst encounter of the night. I had a rough time with the dialog, and wasn’t very effective at leading the players into trying different things. It seemed like diplomacy checks were all the players could come up with, and were more focused on making the same case over and over again, but more reasonable. Needless to say, I abandoned the skill check encounter architecture. I need to figure out better ways to play NPC’s and lead characters where I want them to go. I need to spend more time during preperation scripting dialog and thinking about how to lead players to the conclusions I need them to reach.

Entering the room, the players immediately noticed the rug in the room, which stood out by not being covered in filth. It was obviously a trap, and was identified as such, but no one in the party possesed the skills to disarm it. Keeping that in mind, the party focused on the foes in the room. Two Dire Rats and four Goblin Snipers occupied the room. Benicia’s wolf companion, Cullen, immediately engaged the first Dire Rat while the Slayer Ari engaged the other on the opposite side of the trapped floor.

The rats used this position to block movement of the other players, forcing them to use only ranged attacks, or in the case of the Fighter Xaviar, attempt to jump over the trap. Xaviar’s attempt failed, but he managed to save himself from being damaged by the trap. The Goblins safely returned fire from the corners of the room.

At one point, Sharrn attempted to use Mage Hand to move the carpet covering the trap and drop it on a Sniper to obstruct his view, but the Sniper proved too dexterous for this tactic and nimbly avoided it.

Fortunately for those attacking, the rats were unable to land a hit and spread their debilitating Filth Fever. And were dispatched in due time. With the rats out of the way, and freedom of movement restored, the partymade short work of the remaining Snipers.

The party then took a short rest and searched the room. Xaviar took the rug to try and recover some of the gold given to Farralax. Gwindelyn took notice of the statue that was in the southern part of the room and found the script scrawled into the back of the statue. Fortunately, he speaks Dwarven and was able to decrypt the ominous passage.

This combat went very well I thought. The rats were a solid, but not overwhelming challenge for the fighters to tank, and the Snipers made great fodder for the party’s Mage. I thought it went well, and I was able to handle the few curve balls the players threw at me, including the Mage Hand trick.

After some deliberation, the party went through a set of double doors to the west. Inside, they discovered a room with of tiles of alternating colors of dark and light. Against the west wall of the room stood four statues. Gwindelyn took the lead into the room, and after attempting to walk straight forward, reeled from an attack directed at his mind.

At this point, the statues animated and began to move. The party quickly learned the rules of the enchanted room, which restricted movement based on the rules of the chess piece position the player entered the room on. Sharrn quickly dispatched three of the pawn statues while Xaviar held the attention of the Queen and Knight pieces to prevent the Queen from unleashing her devastating attack against the rest of the group. The Rook was attacked and tanked by the wolf Cullen.

After a few rounds, Cullen and Benicia dispatched the Rook with a combined assault, Ari dispatched the final remaining pawn. Gwindelyn and Sharnn dispatched the Queen and Knight from a distance while Xaviar routed their attention towards him.

As the statues crumbled, the players took a short rest. They must now decide where to go next.

We ended the night at the conclusion of the Chess room. The players really enjoyed this room. It wasn’t particularly challenging for them, but I believe that was mostly due to their tactics working in their favor. Xaviar was able to route the Queen, preventing her from attacking three adjacent players, which is would have turned the tide rapidly.

Overall, I think the skill challenge room was the only encounter I didn’t run well. I need to improve my NPC interaction with the players. I feel pretty comfortable in combat encounters now, so at least there is that.

The only other note I have about this session is that Ari seems to not be engaged. She sat on the floor and looked at real estate listings on her phone the whole game, only coming up to make a quick combat strike on her turns to whatever was close to her. This is her first exposure to D&D, and isn’t a fan of fantasy or have a gaming background, so this may not be something I can overcome. I’ll attempt to adjust the campaign to try and get her engaged in the story, but I’m not terribly hopeful for success. It may just not be her cup of tea.

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Retro-Post: First Encounter
First Encounter

Well, last night my group started their campaign.

From our last session, the player who had created the Half-Orc Scout had lost his character sheet. Fortunately, he and his girlfriend (the Tiefling Warlock) had found their sheets from a previous campaign and were able to use those. Our Half-Orc scout became a Dragonborn Fighter, which was kinda nice because we needed someone filling the defender role.

We started with the first encounter in the 4e Red Box dungeon master guide, which consisted of the characters coming to an ambush at a crossroads on the way to the abandoned Twisted Halls temple.

Well, I should probably step back a touch further. I started the campaign in an Inn at Fallcrest (which I probably could have named for the players, but didn’t). I then tried to initiate some backstory roll-playing to try and get some insight into the characters being played I learned, to which I only had some limited success in coaxing people to share any details they have come up with.

Two characters which had been rolled for a previous campaign had decided they were kindred spirits due to there minority status in the world, and were in search of employment due to a maligned adventure that had left them penniless. The tiefling warlock is named Sir Gwendolen Von Cherries and the Dragonborn Fighter is named Xavier Conqueso. Sir Gwndolen is being played as a male by a woman, and the character is naturally homosexual.

My wife’s character, Benicia the Druid Sentinel, decided to play the part of a woods guide that was between employers and seeking a new party to guide. Benicia’s player hasn’t played D&D since 1ed was new, so the game is basically new to her again.

Our Slayer, Ari, is by far the newest to the game. This is her first exposure to any sort of table-top RPG, and isn’t even a big fantasy genre fan. She isn’t really ingrained in nerd culture like the rest of the group. However, she’s giving it a fair shake so far, and I’m hoping she starts to get into it. I don’t know if that will happen or not. May just be a square peg in a round hole kind of situation.

Our Eladrin Mage is named Sharn Arravel. He didn’t offer up much backstory other than his character is Pan-sexual, which he was having fun with. Yes, we have an odd group. This is this players first playing of 4ed, but he’s played other editions of D&D, as well as a number of other table-top RPGs.

Well, back to the Inn…

Since nobody did the solo encounter from the Red Box players book, I improvised a story opening about Traevus and his hijacked caravan, and pointing them to the temple. Sharn was pretty insistant about trying to find out what we were trying to recover. I skated around the issue more than I should have, and didn’t handle it too well, stating that Traevus is refusing to say. He tried to roll an insight check, which I resulted in seeing that there was more to what was being told than what Taevus was giving the players. Fortunately, he didn’t try and roll a diplomacy or intimidate check. However, I want to try and use the conclusion to the story to hook into the next adventure, so I was going to be stubborn about it.

Still, I wish I would have thought of something better to draw attention away.

Anyway. Attack at the crossroads on the way to the temple. It’s a very simple encounter, consisting of two Goblin Cutthroats and two Wolves. I was glad we did this simpler encounter before making our way to the temple, as it was a better way of cutting our teeth on things. The first possilbe encounters inside the temple would have been much more dire. This gave my new players an introduction to the basic mechanics, which was much needed. Plus, for some reason, the dice was not on the players side, which could have been disastorous against harder monsters. First three attack rolls from players were 1’s .

Sharrn and Gwendolen were the most entertaining, as they started taunting each other as they missed during their attack rolls. I found it very entertaining, as it was the most role-playing we saw all night, and is the beginning of a naturally developing dynamic between the two characters that can influence things to come.

Sharnn was also insisting on using his minor action to use Mage Hand to “throw dirt at the Goblin”. I insisted that he couldn’t blind or damage him with the sand because Mage hand wasn’t dexterous enough, but that it would upset the Goblin and him more likely to target Sharnn. In hindsight, I should have had him roll unmodified against the moster’s DEX (a failed roll would have been the monster shielding his eyes) for a chance to blind. I don’t feel too bad about not doing that however, as we weren’t using Mage Hand correctly anyway since the monster wasn’t adjacent, and he would have had to perform the action by the end of a second turn (minor to summon and pick up sand the first turn, move up to 5 squares and free action throw sand during the second turn).

My other big screw-up of the night (in my opinion) was not handling Benicia’s familiar properly at all. I knew she had one, but I didn’t know how it worked. We didn’t place a token for it, and didn’t do anything with it. She contributed well with her healing powers, but next time we’ll bring the wolf into it. It didn’t really come up until we were trying to figure out how the mechanics of Combined Attack worked.

The Combined Attack dispute was if two attack rolls were needed to be made (one for player and one for familiar) and if the character’s attack missed, would he still take damage from the familiar. It doesn’t work that way, as the familiar’s attack is triggered from a successful hit by the player (granting a free action move plus familar’s basic attack).

Overall, the encounter was a success. We were very slow, which in addition to an unavoidable late start, resulted in only the one encounter being played that night. We only had one player fall unconsious, which was good. I was rolling much better for the monsters than the players were, so I was pleased that it was just the once that someone fell.

I’m looking forwared to our next session. I learned alot from this first encounter as a DM, and could feel myself getting more comfortable throughout the session and know the next session will be even better.

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Retro-Post: Character Creation Night
Character Creation Night

So, I figured I’d blog my D&D campaign, and remark on any notable things that happen.

A little background. I’ve never played D&D or any other pen & paper RPG, although I have watched and listened to the Penny Arcade D&D podcasts/livestreams. It looked fun, and my wife wanted to play, so I thought I’d take a shot at starting a campaign with some co-workers.

For Christmas this year, I dove right in and purchased the following D&D items:

Red Box (Starter Kit)
Dungeon Masters Kit
Monster Vault Box
Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms
Heroes of the Fallen Lands

I also purchased a pound of dice, as I had none, and one month of DDI to try it out.

I spent a few weeks reading through the Red Box material and most of the DM book, until I had a basic understanding for most of the rules.

I invited 5 players to my game, and we had a character creation night last Friday. I think it went reasonably well, although it probably could have been better organized. Myself and two of my players have had next to no experience with D&D. Two others had played a few adventures, and I’m still not sure how experienced they are. The last player was familiar with 3e and other pen and paper games, but not with 4e in specific.

We first started trying to do character creation via pen and paper, but found that I (or anyone else) wasn’t familar enough with the process to guide everyone through very well. It was kinda a mess. I should have read the players guide first before attempting to do it this way.

We ended up firing up a laptop and using the DDI character creator to simplify things. Since I didn’t have a printer (something I rectified over the weekend), we couldn’t print the sheets made yet.

One who is not a gamer of any sort, was so new that she had no clue about the various class and race paradims, even though they are pretty well established across the fantasy genre. She slowed things down a bit and I think was overwhelmed to the point that she just started picking things after a bit when it came to power selections and feats. I think she was a bit bored by the end of the session, but hopefully wasn’t too disuaded now that this part is over.

Naturally, the player of other pen and paper games spent a lot of time trying to convince me to switch games. That’s fine and good that he holds that opinion, but I actually like many things about the 4e ruleset, and am not really looking to switch. I think he was bored by the end of the night as well.

The other players seemed reasonably interested and entertained during the evening, including my wife, which is important . The two who had played before had brought a PHB, which I wish they hadn’t as I think it confused things a bit. I was trying to keep things restricted to the essentials books for now, but they kept suggesting feats from the other book to people. Which wasn’t helpful since we were using the DDI quick essentials character and modifying. Much of the stuff out of PHB wasn’t available in those selections.

By the time we were done with character creation, it was too late to start anything, so we retired for the evening. I guess we’ll see if we lost anyone before then.

We ended up with the following characters:
Eladrin Mage
Half-Elf Sentinal
Human Slayer
Tiefling Warlock
Half-Orc Scout

I was hoping to see a defender class in there as well, but I guess we’ll see if we can make due without one.

The big takeaway I came away from here was that the players books were not that useful. Since we only had one set floating around, they slowed things to a crawl. It seems that a DDI subscription and access to the character creator can wholely replace the players books. Maybe I’m wrong about this, but I feel like I could have saved that $40.

Next session we’ll start playing. I’m sure there will be some major hiccups there as well, but hopefully it will go OK. We’ll being doing the Twisted Halls from the Red Box, and I feel reasonably prepared for it. Hope it goes well.

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