Wednesday, 23 July 2008

4ed Campaign -- Session 3 -- 19th July 2008

In which some salient lessons about the conservation of Daily powers are learned, the party's dice fail to escape the doom-curse which seems to have been placed upon them, and the brilliant power of a minion mob is made evident.
Roster
Elumai - Eladrin Wizard 1
Berend - Dwarven Fighter 1
Alarik - Dwarven Rogue 1
Krakd - Dragonborn Cleric 1 (DMPC)
Bolstered by the activation of the arcane circle, the party turns their attention to the waterfall. Alarik slips through the curtain of water into a convenient shadowy corner on the other side, there to spy a walled complex hammered out of the granite and lit by flickering torches. Kobolds lie in wait there... lots of kobolds. Alarik is spotted by an armed kobold skulking in the shadows nearby, and retreats towards his friends, hoping to pull the creatures out into the open... but Berend has other ideas, charging into the cave with a battle-cry falling from his lips. He is quickly surrounded by skittering, stabbing kobolds, and the rest of the party has no choice but to engage the enemy.

The mob applies egregious wounding to the dwarven fighter, darting in and out of range of his weapon and creating opportunities for their more powerful allies to flank him and attack him even more viciously. Berend is laid low within just a few seconds, collapsing to the ground in a chaos of kobold bodies and flashing blades.

More kobolds pour from the complex to engage the intruders. A Wyrmpriest shuffles out of the shadows, muttering entreaties to Orcus under his breath and bolstering his allies, and then finally Irontooth himself appears, a heavily armoured hobgoblin wielding a massive battle-axe. He goads the characters and raises a cheer from the assembled kobolds as he charges into combat with Krakd, the dragonborn dangerously exposed by his efforts to keep Berend alive.

The subsequent appearance of kobold Dragonshields, who have quietly flanked the party and are now poised to attack Elumai, signals impending doom for the characters. First Krakd, then Alarik fall under the relentless assault, bleeding slowly to death on the cold stone. Elumai abandons the heroic notion of dragging one of her compatriots from danger when it becomes obvious she is the last one standing and now faces multiple enemies -- including a barely injured Irontooth and his priest -- without any hope of rescue or aid. She has no choice but to escape back through the waterfall, leaving her friends to whatever dreadful fate the hobgoblin has in store for them.

Not even stopping to catch her breath, she retreats to town and arrives at Winterhaven exhausted, but intact. She immediately throws herself on the mercy of Rond, begging for aid even as the honorable warrior calls for assistance. He is quickly convinced by her charms, and agrees to arrange a meeting with Lord Padraig in order to persuade him that her friends are alive and only await rescue.

Elumai and Rond are accepted by Padraig's butler, and enjoy a private audience with the town's patron in a comfortable drawing room. Padraig refuses at first to budge from his stated position: an assault on the kobolds would leave the town recklessly undefended against other dangers... or against a kobold counter-attack. However, Elumai's cunning grasp of local history, Padraig's reluctance to be spoken of in the same breath as certain other foolish councilmen, as well as her demonstrable power at conjuring a map of the kobold lair in the very pile of his carpet, are enough to persuade him otherwise. He agrees to raise a militia of guardsmen and certain willing farmers, to set off the following day.

Meanwhile...

Alarik, Berend, and Krakd are awoken some indeterminate amount of time later as the freezing waterfall washes over them. They have been stripped of their equipment and weapons, bound at the hands and feet, and placed in the back of a rolling cart. Carefully looking around, they see that they are being led as part of a large procession consisting of hobgoblins and kobolds, with Irontooth overseeing, towards the standing stones of the arcane circle.

With utmost precision, Elumai chooses this moment to attack. The six men under her command stream forward through the trees, distracting the hobgoblins while the wizard executes what is becoming her signature maneuver: a pre-emptive Freezing Cloud. It dispatches a few kobolds immediately, giving her friends the opportunity to slip their bonds and grab a weapon. Berend grabs Irontooth by the throat, and the two of them lock in a sinew-straining struggle, the dwarf attempting to immobilise the hobgoblin while dodging blows from his massive axe. Despite the relative inexperience of the town guard, and the compromised positions of the characters, the fight appears to swing in the party's favour.

However, it's around this moment that one of Elumai's command takes the opportunity to kill the kobold he is facing... spilling the dragon-kin's blood into the sacred circle. The runes immediately flare into life, throbbing with unearthly energy which more than one character recognises for exactly what it is: a summoning ritual. Elumai orders one of the farmers accompanying her to attack the circle, and he overcomes his own terror to obey her orders, bringing his pitchfork to bear on the glassy runes buried in the earth. Energy spits and crackles from the runes as he digs... desperate to prevent the arrival of some new monstrosity...

2 comments:

Wedge said...

3rd session in, then, and now we have 15 or so hours of 4E under our belts.

This one was interesting. I knew Irontooth and his cronies were a challenge for any party, but even after balancing the encounter down for 4 players, the fact that most of their Dailies were gone by the time they engaged the kobolds made the outcome not so much inevitable as... well, yeah, inevitable. Attrocious luck on the d20's, and way better luck from behind my side of the screen (high Initiatives, excellent attack rolls), made the encounter even more of a slow train wreck.

We all knew what was coming, really. Luckily, none of the characters had actually *died* by the time Elumai the wizard made her escape, giving me the freedom I needed to whack together a rescue scenario. I threw together an ad-hoc skill challenge to enable her to persuade Padraig that he should just get over it and send her back in with some help to clear out the lair. This was a major hit. Suddenly the d20's turned around and Elumai could just about have convinced him to do anything she wanted. I let all the players participate in the challenge despite their characters' absences, by suggesting ideas and so-on to Jo, Elumai's player, and the whole thing just took off from there. Even one skill challenge highlights the framework for the master-stroke that it is, giving direction and purpose to any roleplaying scene and letting everyone get in on the fun. (I used the original RAW, by the way; the errata will have to wait for a bit.)

The rescue is ongoing and won't be resolved for a couple of weeks, unfortunately. Elumai has several minions at her disposal (town guard + farmers), the hobgoblin-reinforced kobolds are fending off the assault, Irontooth remains practically uninjured, and the summoning circle is imminently going to bring... something else into the fight. I give the party a 50/50 chance of pulling this one out of the bag, and we're going to let any character deaths stand this time around.

A very fun session, with everyone learning a few more lessons about 4E I think. Can't wait for the next one!

DM said...

I know this a pretty old post, but I've been reading your whole campaign so far. I just wanted to say I think it's amazing the way you turned a total party kill into a cool scenario and an interesting battle.

Hottrot