Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Return to the Ruins of Adventure - Session 3: Goblin Hewing

Dusting themselves off after the goblin ambush, the party prods their prisoner into leading them to Whiteye's lair. Along the way he pleads with them to let him go once he shows them the front door. As they venture deeper into the ruins the heroes are on alert for ambushes, but the tied-up goblin still manages to pull one off, leading them into a goblin watchpost just as the party agrees to be lenient with him. "Oh thanks - uh, look out."

Goblin warriors appear from the ruins and charge as one goblin stays back and begins firing off spells. He opens with a cloud that obscures the small humanoids, but this doesn't save them from Althea's Thunderwave which blasts goblins in all directions, killing three. Several of the warriors are made of tougher stuff though and the battle continues for a full 30 seconds. The goblin hexer and the eladrin wizard trade a few spells and Althea ends up blinded. Mikal fires off many eldritch blasts and curses as he and the fighter and the swordmage cut down the remaining gobbos with help from the bard. In the end, Kordan and Dave the Swordmage go after the Hexer directly, with the fighter shield-bashing him senseless and the swordmage lightning luring him out of the rubble and into the street, where despite his attempts to flee he is quickly slain.

Resting for a moment, the bard figures out that the staff given to them by the beggars is magical Mnemoic Staff and hands it over to the wizard. Kordan and Dave brutalize the prisoner a bit to clarify the situation and he agrees to lead them directly to the lair, no more tricks.

Marching through the rubble the group comes to yet another partial ruin. Their goblin prisoner informs them that this is the lair, pointing to a set of steps leading down to a closed door. He waits as if expecting to be released until the party informs him he will be set free when the fight is over. The goblin pleads briefly then, crestfallen, sulks at the back of the party.

Moving down the steps, Kordan and the Swordmage take the lead with Althea, Mikal, and Javanni behind them, weapons ready. They kick open the door and see a large room with several big piles of rags and a small group of goblins playing dice in the middle. Having achieved surprise our heroes take several actions:

-Mikal blasts the nearest goblin
-Javanni shouts orders then viciously mocks one of the goblins, who starts to cry
-Kordan impales a goblin with a thrown javelin
- Althea Thunderwaves the whole mob
-The swordmage steps forward and the floor collapses, dumping him into a pit

Frustrated by the pit the party bogs down for a round or two but their attacks have slain the goblin guards so they have a chance to work around it. The swordmage and then the bard climb out, the warlock and fighter jump over it, and Althea teleports past it. Gobby the prisoner is questioned and threatened rather severely about the pit and his lack of mention that it was there, but he worms his way out of it. Then the swordmage takes a crossbow bolt to the shoulder and battle is rejoined.

The goblin HQ seems to be down to 2 warriors and the chief, Whiteye, who is clearly very angry at this intrusion. Combat goes on for some time with goblins dancing in and out of the rag piles and several party members taking a beating but in the end the chief falls to their efforts as does one of his warrior bodyguards and the other turns to flee. He makes it through several rows of hanging curtains, tapestries, and goblin laundry before opening a secret door and fleeing down an escape tunnel, where he is shot in the back by a magic missile.

Adhering to tradition, the heroes ransack the lair and loot the bodies, pausing briefly before they head back to civilization to claim their reward.

DM Notes:
  • The prisoner ended up playing a larger role in this little expedition than I had expected and I was playing him on the fly pretty much the whole night. I may have to work up some standby "prisoner personality templates" for the future in case it happens again. "Self-centered goblin prisoner" isn't tough to do at this point for me but to make them different it might help to have some notes on hand - honor-bound prisoner, whiny disgruntled priosner, cold murderous prisoner, happy klepto prisoner - just some notes on goals, revenge/thanks attitudes, and actions when left unwatched for a brief time, probably scribbled on an index card should be enough.
  • The mechanics are going pretty smoothly now for everyone as everything works in a similar way. At this level, the characters actually have more options than a similarly leveled PC in older editions with 2 or 3 at-will powers, a basic melee attack, a basic ranged attack, an encounter power, and a daily power, plus a possible alchemical item or two.
  • Thunderwave is a horrific minion-sweeper. I can pretty much guarantee that if any bad guys are near each other when the fight starts then the minions among them will be dead by the end of round 1. Some say the wizard is underpowered compared to other controllers - I don't know but she is doing just fine so far.
  • Some tactics are becoming quite regular: The fighter likes to throw a javelin to mark a target to open the fight then charge that target on round 2 and he has developed a nasty shield bash as a secondary maneuver. The Warlock like to curse as a minor action then hit that cursed target with his eldritch blast, later collecting the energy as temp hit points when that creature dies. The swordmage prefers to charge up on his targetsfor a basic melee attack and lightning lash/lure them if they are any distance away.
  • The bard is interesting in that his regular attack is "Vicious Mockery" which is a damaging ranged attack that hits pretty hard but which we visualize as a string of profane insults (especially against goblins) that crushes their morale - it's an endless source of humor during fights as the content of said insults is speculated upon. He also has a lot of bonuses just for being nearby, especially when using action points, which after 4 straight encounters made regular appearances in this session.
  • I was thinking we would get through 3 encounters this session and some of the party would level up, but we only managed 2 so 4 members of the party are at 800-something XP's and the Swordmage is at 700-something. The ambush lasted 5 rounds and the boss fight lasted for 9, so there was a lot more time taken on these than the earlier encounters. I still have 3 encounters planned for the Slums, but if they finish off any two of them then everyone should make it to 2nd level.
  • Running through this I am still not sure about the money and magic items. The guidelines in the DMG seem very stingy especially with low-level items. I know my players are not going to be interested in making magic items so I may place more low-level items in future areas and encounters just to make sure everyone has some interesting things that aren't weapons or armor. One of the problems right now is that at level 1 there isn't any way to go below the party level - we're as low as you can get! Alchemical items might work here and taking our the alchemist in the ruins who is supplying stuff to the monsters could be a cool encounter.
  • 4 or 5 Players is a really good number for D&D (probably of any edition) - enough variety to cover all the traditional jobs in a party, but not so many that we have annoying levels of niche overlap. Not so large that someone can sit back and do nothing, but not so small that if someone gets up to get a drink we have to pause and wait. It's going very well.
This Friday it's back to Necessary Evil as we attempt to get on a regular schedule of alternating games each week. I've been running games on Saturdays every other week for the last 9 years so it's really refreshing to have a weekly game again and players who are interested enough to make it work.

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