Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Return to the Ruins of Adventure - Session 6: Kuto's Well

After the fight at the kobold roadblock the party returned to the civilized section of Phlan to pick up their wizard and recruit some additional help to clear out Kuto's Well. Meeting at the Dragonskull Tavern that night, Kordan (human fighter), Mikal (human warlock), Javanni (half-elven bard), and Althea (eladrin wizard) make the rounds and end up recruiting two new companions: Uthal (goliath barbarian) and Tavar (deva invoker). They are briefed on the mission and soon the whole party heads back out of the west gate and into the ruined metropolis.

Nearing the roadblock all seems quiet other than the scattering of beggars skulking through the ruins. As they close in however, the sound of many scrabbling feet is heard. Most of the party ducks into cover but Tavar is having none of that and boldly rounds a corner and faces off with 15 kobolds in a rough marching formation.

As Tavar begins blasting one group of kobolds charges him head on. Fortunately Kordan is waiting behind a corner and he steps out as they rush by, diverting some of the attention. Several of the more dangerous-looking kobold warriors move to surround and engage him while the mass rushes forward to attack the invoker who is suddenly in a more dangerous position than he realized. Mikal and Althea move up and begin blasting away at the scaly ones, thinning their numbers, as Javanni opens up with a barrage of harsh language that startles the deva as well, as she speaks draconic and can understand every word. Uthal begins weaving a path of destruction through the party, leaping and smashing kobolds aside with his mighty hammer.

Two kobolds remain at a distance. One is armed as a warrior but the other wears green robes and begins hurling orbs of sizzling green energy in to explode amongst the heroes. As members of his patrol begin to fall the robed one moves in close and unleashes a blast of poisonous vapor that hits much of the party. A renewed sense of urgency comes over our heroes and the wyrmpriest and his bodyguard are soon dispatched, along with the last of his minions.

Pausing to catch their breath, the team realizes that despite their small size these kobolds are quite dangerous and the original four members are glad they brought along some additional help. Renewed and recovered, the group moves on towards the ancient keep now in sight over the nearby ruins.

As they approach the keep that surrounds the well the party circles around through the ruins, looking for sentries and more patrols. Though the walls of the keep are crumbling they are still quite high and mostly intact, with only 2 possible points of entry through gaps and both of those are watched by a kobold warrior and some kind of watch-lizard. There are also two large gates but both appear to be securely closed. After a brief debate the group decides to attack one of the breaches, hoping to take out the sentry quickly.

The party launches several ranged attacks, hitting the guard. Wounded, he sics the guard lizard on the invaders then staggers back inside the walls, presumably to go for help. Overwhelming the beast in a flurry of strikes, the team pursues then stops, dealing with a somewhat unexpected sight.

Inside, the keep is one large open area with the remains of several wooden structures now in ruins. In the center is what must be the well, a large stone platform with a circular opening a good 20' across. Around it is some kind of wooden contraption of uncertain purpose. More surprising though is the large number of trees inside the keep, some of the quite large. Through the trees the party sees two more kobolds leading two more guard drakes towards them at a run. The team prepares for battle.

The fight is short but intense - the drakes have a fierce bite, the guards are tough, and the trees interfere with some ranged attacks, but it's not enough. The fighter, barbarian, and warlock all have nasty close-combat abilities and the bard, wizard, and invoker back them up quite effectively.

Looking around after dispatching the guards, the group determines that there are no more watchers or traps so they begin to investigate the well itself. There is an ancient, weathered stone platform about a foot high and about 30' x 20' that is topped by a circular stone wall about two feet high that surrounds the well itself. The lip of the well is inscribed with some ancient scrollwork that looks elvish but no one is sure. They can see water about 50' down but the well is very dark.

The unusual construct has some kind of platform that can apparently be lowered down the well - not a bucket or basin but a flat disc of wood suspended by ropes. The whole thing looks rickety but  should be able to bear their weight. The group decides to investigate - five of them climb on to the platform while Uthal works the winch to lower them down. Descending, the magically sensitive members of the party feel a tingling and realize there is a powerful source of magic nearby, coming closer as the platform lowers. The group soon sees a set of wooden doors set into the side of the well shaft and begins to draw some conclusions. Kordan kicks the door from the swinging platform but it fails to break and the group pauses to consider their options.

DM Notes: This was a great session after last week's getting-back-on-track game. We added two new players, I had more time to prepare and re-balance the encounters for six players, and everyone arrived more focused and ready to play. I didn't drag out the introductions because all of the players knew the plan and because I have portrayed Phlan as a bit of a melting pot of adventurers and groups so finding new help is not difficult. Combat went well as the DM spent more time reviewing his monsters in advance and the players spent some time with the character builder reviewing their abilities. The new players fit in really well, maybe the smoothest integration I have ever seen for new members of a group thrown into combat fairly quickly.

We managed to get through 2 encounters this session. I would like to get that up to 3 per session but it may take awhile. I have built most of Phlan to have 9 encounters per level plus a major quest (which gives XP = to one encounter) so that if we can do 3 per session then the PC's will level up every third session. With the schedule we  typically run that would end up being about a level a month and I think everyone would be happy with that. Adding 2 new players did not ad appreciably to combat time as far as I can tell - in fact I expect it to speed things up as the barbarian and the invoker kill things fast.

One interesting note: A book was hardly cracked this session. The extensive 4E character sheet combined with the powers  printed from the character builder means that the players have everything they need right there at hand - they don't need to look up modifiers or power details or spell ranges or any of that other stuff - it's right there on the sheet and it's easy to spot. This is a massive change from 3E. It's true that earlier editions had things like Spell Cards but they didn't have your stat modifiers and level modifiers and racial modifiers built into them built into them - it seems like a small technical detail but it greatly increases the efficient use of time in play.

Next session they should penetrate the kobold lair and we'll see how that goes - my expectations are high.


Jeremy said...

Lack of friendly fire was also a boon! ^_^

Blacksteel said...

Friendly Fire: A D&D tradition since at least 1978 - mainly with wizards and area blast spells