We open in a hallway, near a set of double doors (with a particularly nasty lock on them) as the party hears the unmistakable sounds of a dragon bearing down on them. Our Heroes:
- Dar Bloodmane, Shifter Paladin
- Lt. Alex Gravis, Water Genasi Warlord
- Zarra, Drow Vampire
- Gartok, Dwarf Earth Warden
- Izenheim, Dwarf Cleric of
- The Elf With No Name, Elf Bow Ranger (who was waiting outside by the sky-boat since his player was absent)
The party braces as a large white dragon races around the corner. A surprisingly mobile fight - given the constricted terrain - breaks out as the dragon leaps into the middle of the group and lashes out at them, taking hits on the way in, and dishing them out in all directions. In a blizzard of blades, breath, claws, and tailslaps the "drow", the cleric, the paladin, and the dragon itself are all bloodied. Then Gravis gives a signal and Dar rears back and unleashes a devastating riposte with his sword that kills the beast outright*.
Resting a bit after this vicious skirmish, the dwarves use the ice key to unlock the doors. They are greeted with a solid sheet of ice, possibly filling the entire room beyond, but with a keyhole - and now the ghost dwarf mouths "fire" and "key". Realizing there is more work to be done the dwarfs are all fired up! The Paladin has used this time to sever the dragon's head and pack it in a bag - he wants a trophy.
Somewhat battered and needing to recharge even more, the group decides to return to the teleportation circle room and take an extended rest. All seems quiet until the man on watch hears voices outside the outer door - sounds like a patrol of some kind! Not wanting to fight in their less-than-fully-recovered state someone (I can't remember who started it) suggests getting the dragon head out and using it. A couple of skill rolls later and the guards - debating whether to open the do-not-open door "hey I know we're not supposed to go in there but it looks like someone's been messing with that door" - are confronted with a jerked-open door and a roaring floating dragon head! Surprised (and not all that eager to die for the cause in my opinion) they retreat back up the passage and the party has a quiet time the rest of the night though the paladin is troubled by strange dreams where a disembodied dragon head tells him he's not very nice.
That's Gartok and Dar holding up a white dragon head while the Vamp, the Warlord, and Ivan the pet owlbear watch.
After their rest the party explores farther up the main corridor and ends up discovering a forge - a forge with frozen flames! One also with a tiefling, an ogre, and some flaming skeletons! Battle begins!
The flaming skeletons and the tiefling team up but the fiery bone things are quickly dispatched by the Paladin, as the Cleric and Vampire tear into the ogre while the Warden locks down the tiefling. The ogre manages to wound the Vamp by dipping a javelin into the frosty flames and then nailing her with it, prompting the vampire frost immunity discussion again (see session 3) as he is finally brought down by the paladin as he attempts to flee. Remarkably the dead tiefling appears to have a flaming key on a chain around his neck. This is scooped up quickly by the dwarfs as the party catches its breath.
DM Notes: This one was a lot of fun despite the anticlimactic dragon fight:
*He did 63 points of damage - in one hit, from a 4th level Paladin. It was amazing and this is where I started to realize the power of the Tactical Warlord. This fight lasted two whole rounds! I resolved to run my dragons better than this in the future.
The dragon head started talking in a kind of slow-guy voice (think Ord from Dragontales if you have kids of a certain age) about how they were mean and Dar wasn't a nice Paladin and how everyone was mean to him, spurred on by the use of the thing as a morale-breaker on the wandering guards. We were all laughing pretty hard after that happened so the head kind of turned into a borderline NPC for a while there.
It also showed some thought on the part of the players outside of the stats/skills/powers structure and we handled it just like in any other version of the game - tell me what you're doing and let me think about what happens. Morale has not been much of a factor in most of our 4E games but this seemed like an obvious case for it. The lack of morale rules in the game doesn't mean it's not a factor - it means it's not a standard attack and defense mechanic - but is up to DM interpretation, and sometimes the monsters run!
I originally thought the key thing was kind of cliched but I realized that although it's pretty common in shooter games we haven't really done all that much of it in D&D, and the players seemed to like having these little sub-quests so if I ever work up my own mega-dungeon I will probably include stuff like this in moderation. Also, it helps that it was pretty obvious - there were no language rolls or special items needed, someone just needed to speak dwarf and they could figure it out. A more universal solution might be to have the imprisoned dwarf spirit show an image of the key rather than saying it - it's magic, right? This would remove all chance of not having the right asset in the party to solve the problem.