Thursday, February 20, 2014

SSoI - Session 20:Fall of the Ghostlord

Our Heroes (8th level):
  • Lt. Alex Gravis, Water Genasi Warlord (and Ivan, a released, furry little kraken ) 
  • Gartok, Dwarf Earth Warden
  • Izenheim, Dwarf Cleric of Marthammor Duin ("Temple of Sune? Here? Really?" ... "What stone lion?")
  • No-Name, Elf Bow Ranger 
  • Torin Tsai, Half-Orc Slayer
  • Xyla, Drow Vampire
The sorcerer decided that having helped force an entrance into the lion and with the greenish gas stopped it was time for him to report back and get some help. The rest of the party would press on, hoping to find the Ghostlord and put an end to him before anything else happened.

Moving into an adjacent room the team doesn't see much, but there is an open pit on one side of the room. Of more interest though are the blue and green lights hovering near the ceiling. These glowing, vaporous froms slowly drift about the upper part of the chamber. As the party observes them, some drift lower, moving in closer to our heroes. For some, feelings of despair begin to creep into their minds as they watch the fascinating display. Others feel their minds being pushed in starnge directions, as if they were going mad. There's no doubt as to the source of these disruptions and out come the weapons, striking back at these strange spirits. As the party determines the best way to attack the things, a scuttling horror emerges from the pit, antennae twitching.

The monstrosity resembles an enormous centipede made up of skeletal remains of different creatures. The undead abomination slashes into combat, with bony claws and whip-like appendages made of sharpened bone. The thing moves across floor and walls with equal ease, slicing at the party and making a horrible clicking noise.

While the rest of the team handles the wisps, the slayer and the vampire attack the bone horror, striking back as it scuttles around the room. As the last wisp is destroyed they hammer the skeletal beast into a shattered ruin.

Catching their breath the party realizes this room is a hell hole of butchery, with the bones of numerous animals down in the pit. The horrors that happened here are likely the source of the things that attacked them. Ready to leave the disturbing place, they do discover a strange thing amidst the broken frame of the osteopede - a pair of bone dice with the symbol of Tymora where the 1's should be. The slayer pockets them, a trophy of the kill.

DM Notes: The battle in the butcher room was fun. There were 2 types of wisps but all of them were minions, and the osteopede is a new monster (as far as I know) from Open Grave that's an elite. It was very mobile (until it got too close to the warden and got locked down) and has some nasty attacks but the vampire and slayer combined are just about unstoppable. It was bloodied on the 4th hit and dead on the 7th, which took all of 4 rounds to happen. The vampire opened with a 50+ point slam (POW!) and the slayer finished it with a 70+ point critical (BAM!). 

The dice are a nifty magic item that lets a player roll 3 d20's and store them for the day, using them (one at a time) in place of any normal d20 roll. This has to be decided before rolling, but if you're winding up for a big hit and have an 18 stored away, it's nice to know you're not going to miss. It's a nifty little item and this its first appearance in one of my campaigns.

Advancing through the interior of the great stone lion they come to a large room with a glowing green pit in the center. Standing near it is what can only be the Ghostlord, feared lich and their new nemesis. Flanking him are a pair of undead knights - lion knights by the heraldry they display. Also swirling through the room are a half-dozen wraithlike forms who turn hostile eyes towards the intruders.

After a brief exchange of words the party knows that there will be no negotiation, no deal-making - only a final death will stop the twisted lich from destroying them and the city. Fortunately that is possible since they have already destroyed his phylactery. Unfortunately, the lich appears to be a formidable foe, with allies aplenty. The lich begins a spell and the ranger's bowstring twangs as the undead knights move to block the walkways around the pit. Undaunted by the vast chasm, the wraiths stream across and engage the heroes first. This part of the fight is short but savage, as the ghostly knights are destroyed by the team but manage to inflict some harm with their spectral blades. A new danger is revealed as some of the wraiths manage to ...beckon ... some of the heroes towards the pit. A fall into the glowing green hell is not something the heroes want to experience, and they resist as best they can.

As the ghosts are torn apart, attention turns to the two undead knights who silently block the direct way to the lich. Clearly mighty knights in life, their power is no less great in death, reborn through the rites of the Ghostlord. They prove to be staunch guardians of the foul thing. Stymied, the team shifts its tactics as the vampire, slayer and ranger all focus on one knight as the warlord and warden occupy the other. As powerful as he is, the unliving knight crumbles under their assault.

As the focus turns to the second knight, he looses a blast of flame while the lich strikes from across the pit with attacks of cold  and with eruptions of dark tentacles that try to drag the heroes into the pit. The group divides its efforts as two powerful enemies remain and leaving either unengaged could prove to be deadly.In a mobile battle around the edges of the pit, the vampire and slayer strike. The warden attempts to lock down the Ghostlord but the lich teleports across the gaping hole, standing side by side with the knight. The ranger stands and delivers shot after shot, regardless of location, as the warlord recalculates his strategy to bring down these foul remnants.

Red Ring = Bloodied. This is a good fight.

In the end, the battered and bloodied heroes stand victorious. The slayer slams into the Ghostlord with vicious blows, and the ranger delivers the killing shot. The last knight, tied up with the warden, survives long enough to see his undead master fall - then the vampire finishes him with her customary viciousness, ending the battle.

In an adjacent room the heroes find a black orb, obviously magical and radiating necromantic power. Worn out and with all patience gone, the options seem limited. Sticking with Plan A they smash it.

Exhausted and bleeding, the heroes stagger back out into the now clear air of the night.

DM Notes - This is what a serious D&D fight should be! All 3 types of opponents had some kind of forced movement power and there was a nice big pit of magical nastiness right there in the center of the room. This made things much more tense, as no one wanted to go into the pit. There is only so much room to get around it, so the death knights ability to act like a defender (marking) and their ability to slow a target (the Ghostlord could do this too) made it very difficult to get past them. The fight went 7 rounds, and by the end of round 5 the Ghostlord and every PC except the bow ranger were bloodied. At one point one of the knights was marked, quarried, slowed, weakened, bloodied, and taking ongoing 5 damage! I would call it "appropriately climactic".

Originally I had the Ghostlord designed as a solo, but after fighting the behir twice I thought yet another solo fight would be too much, so I redid him as an elite controller, added in the death knights (down-leveled a bit) as elite soldiers, and topped it off with the wraith knight minion soldiers. This gave me some expendables to tie the party up for a round or two with the three main opponents behind them being tough customers. With the terrain situation and the powers, I thought it felt pretty cinematic and pretty balanced given the outcome. 

Structurally this is the end of part 4 of Red Hand of Doom. With parts 5 and 6 left to go I changed up the flow of the adventure and we will kick that off next time.  

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