Friday, February 28, 2014

SSoI - Session 28: Airstrike!

Our Heroes (10th level):
  • Lt. Alex Gravis, Water Genasi Warlord (and Ivan, owlbear paratrooper) 
  • Gartok, Dwarf Earth Warden
  • No-Name, Elf Bow Ranger 
  • Torin Tsai, Half-Orc Slayer
  • Xyla, Drow Vampire
Note: Full Attendance! Just to restate, standard 4E encounter balance is built around a 5-man party. I stayed with this as we had six players when we started. So I build for five - if six show up they have an advantage, five is even, and if only four show then they are at a disadvantage. If only three or less can make it we just don't play that week.

This worked really well for much of the campaign but we're down to five players now and two of them are involved in an organization that has out of town weekend events fairly often. That means that quite a bit of the time I either have all five or I have only three. With six players it just meant a weaker party sometimes, but now it means no game. Add this unusual wrinkle in to the usual job/kid/family/holiday schedule complications in trying to get six adults together regularly and we had a very spotty latter half of 2013. I haven't fully solved it at this point so it was good to have a full team this time.

As the last of the fire's from Abrithiax's rampage are stamped out the bucket-brigading townsfolk raise a cheer for our heroes. Appreciating the appreciation is short-lived though as a telepathic contact comes in form Lord Cartwrtight that the western gate is under heavy bombardment. Some hellish green flame is being catapulted in and it's clinging to everything it hits and even the gatehouse is beginning to melt under the assault. He asks the heroes to risk an airborne trip outside the walls to destroy the infernal siege engines that are behind the attack. naturally, our heroes agree. Whistling for the owls, they leap into the saddle and are airborne in minutes.

They easily spot the launching point of the blazing green hellfire, but as they angle towards it other winged shapes are rising to meet them. As the gap closes they become familiar leonine beasts - manticores!

While a few combatants hang back and shoot, an aerial joust shapes up between the three biggest manticores and the four close-combatant party members, slashing and striking as they flash past each other hundreds of feet above the ground. Thinking outside of her usual melee box Xyla focuses her glowing eyes on one manticore and dominates it, sending the beast to attack one of its own. Aiming for the wings, the slayer and ranger both manage to send manticores spiraling down out of the fight, sometimes temporarily, sometimes for good as two of them plummet straight into the ground to their deaths! One beast gets tangled up with the slayer who goes after the wings (hey it worked the first time) and then realizes his mistake as the manticore, the slayer, and the owl all begin falling from the sky. He manages to break free before impact, but it's a near thing. 

Stay in formation!
Blasting through the manticores, the party reorients themselves, climbs back up out of bow range as they cross over a group of hobgoblins, then dives down over the artillery site. Leaping free they take stock of the opposition - dwarves! Strange dwarves with infernal symbols operating large mechanical siege engines - Charduni? No, Duergar!

There are 3 of them, one working each machine, plus a clear leader type shouting orders and one tough-looking customer with a big warhammer who is already eyeballing the party in general and Gartok in particular.

Starting things off right No-Name plants an arrow in the leader with his usual style as he gracefully leaps from his mount. The evil dwarf staggers back but is then charged by the slayer who is winding up for a ferocious fullblade strike. Desperate, the dwarf summons a legion devil between him and the onrushing half orc. One swipe of the blade cuts the devil in half, the follow through bloodies the duergar, and a final slice puts the dwarf down for good - and the fight has only just begun!

Gartok moves to engage what is clearly the duergar champion and the two go at it like angry blacksmiths, hammers ringing. He is aided by Xyla who is happy to meet a victim that doesn't drop at the first hit - finally a challenge! 

Gravis and Ivan, quickly joined by Torin and No-Name, begin attacking the artillerists to put a stop to the bombardment. They prove to be no weaklings themselves as they back off and team up, wielding frost-weapon morning stars and tossing explosive devices whenever the heroes group up. It's an unpleasant new tactic, as the dwarves are willing to grit their teeth and drop bombs in close, counting on their innate resistance to fire to protect them form the worst of it. The battle is mobile, shifting in and around the massive siege engines. The explosions take their toll but the defenders of Brindol are not deterred and one by one the duergar fall, leaving only the champion upright.

Battered but not beaten, the champion suddenly grows to the size of an ogre, slashing out with his spiked beard and laying about with rapid strikes from his hammer. If he can't save the others he can at least destroy these upstarts. Xyla and Gartok take some hits but the rest of the party rushes in after felling the last engineer and under the weight of those  attacks the dwarf staggers. Torin goes for the killing stroke, misses, but an incredible shot from the ranger deflects his blade into the massive champion finishing him after all. 

Realizing that the Red Hand army is all around them the group sets about destroying the hell-forged artillery and then escapes on their owl companions before the hostile forces can react, winging back over the walls of Brindol to safety.

DM Notes: This was a pair of battles in unusual conditions to change things up. First, the aerial battle with the manticores to try out the 4E flying combat rules. They worked pretty well but are very risky as "proned" = "falling" if the target is flying. This made for a very three-dimensional fight as the party does have some proning attacks. Some of the manticores had grab attacks which  led to some tricky situations as the grabbed character prones the grabbing manticore, sending both of them downwards. The mants have lots of ranged attacks too which meant they didn't have to close and our melee monsters had to work a little harder to jump on things. Even given that the fight only lasted 4 rounds, and these were not minions.

Exchange of the game:

DM: "...and these manticores attack the ranger" 

Gartok's player: "Yeeeeeeah yes yes yes!"

Gravis' player: "You're a terrible defender."

The duergar fight involved a new opponent for them and had a time limit, though they didn't know this had an actual mechanical element. It is night, but they are dropping in on a unit in the middle of the enemy army. Now that army has given the dwarves plenty of room to work, but if the engines stop firing and sounds of fighting break out, they will come to investigate. So, after the firing stops and combat starts, the party has ten rounds unmolested. After that, soldiers from the nearest units start coming to investigate. As it turned out it didn't matter as that fight only lasted 6 rounds, plus a few more to destroy the artillery. All the rest of the Red Hand got to do was shake their fists as the PC's flew off. 

Duergar are fun in 4E. This was my first run with them and I'm looking forward to more. The poor hellcaller died on round 1 but he did get to pop his fun power:

It didn't matter as the slayer still killed the devil AND the hellcaller but doing the facial expressions and (very short) conversation (BAMF! Yes o mighty mast-ACK!) as this all happened was quite a bit of fun.

The artillery crew had some fun stuff too.

Now these particular duergar had resist fire 5, and the champion had resist fire 10 - note the damage can exceed that pretty easily, but desperate times you know. The champion at one point was shouting at them to target him so the attackers would be getting hit as they ganged up on him and was just gritting his teeth as the 5-6 points punched through his tough hide and the push let him get some movement in that didn't provoke OA's - it seemed like a perfectly evil dwarfish thing to do. 

Also note: This pair of battles does not appear in the original adventure. I am freelancing quite a bit for the siege to make it appropriately climactic, to use some of the things 4E does well, and in some cases just because I want to. 

Everyone seemed to have fun, the good guys won pretty handily and the western gate was saved.


Jeremy said...

DM: "...and these manticores attack the ranger"

Gartok's player: "Yeeeeeeah yes yes yes!"

Gravis' player: "You're a terrible defender."

Hahahaha! There's a marked difference between how Steve plays his "Nobody goes down if I can help it" defender and Dave plays his "Is Will bloodied yet?" defender.

Scrivener of Doom said...

I so thoroughly enjoy your blog, Blacksteel. I finally caught up on the Red Hand actual play reports and they were excellent. Thanks for posting.

Blacksteel said...

Thanks Scriv - I mainly do it for myself and my players but I'm always happy to know someone else is getting something out of them too.

Guillaume Chaudemanche said...

Hello, is this the last post from this campaign ? I'm currently DMing a 5E version and find your summary both useful and very pleasant to read.

Blacksteel said...

Hi GC - Well it's the last one I published - let me look at my notes and see if I have anything else - and good luck on your run!