Thursday, June 10, 2010

Return to the Ruins of Adventure - Session 4: Innfighting

(Ah, the end of May means the end of school for the most part around here and with 4 kids in 3 different schools (4 different schools next year) our routine goes straight to heck as field days and art shows and award ceremonies suck up 3- 5 days and nights a week. We're now in the first week of summer and trying to establish the summer routine and getting the blog rolling again is one of my goals.)

Anyway, we last left our heroes outside the lair of the once-feared Whiteye the goblin chieftain. Their prisoner/guide had been dumped into the pit that he failed to warn them about, and they had identified several magic items - all in all, a good day. Now they decided to head out to the Bell tavern and shake down Nat Wyler for his guild dues.

Making their way through the Slums of Phlan, they eventually come to the inn they seek. The Bell is a homey-looking structure, obviously repaired sometime in the recent past but solid-looking nonetheless. Smoke is rising from the chimney, but there are no horses outside. Looks perfect for a bit of strong-arming, so they enter.

Inside the place is nice enough - wood floors, wooden tables and chairs and some booths. It looks as though they were looted from ten different establishments that they called home before this place but none of them are broken. There is a long wooden bar that is polished in some places, scratched in others, has a few head-shaped dents in it, and in at least one spot appears to have burned. There is no visible barkeep or waiter, but three orcs are drinking loudly at one table.

Kordan calls out for a barkeep and pounds on the bar but no one answers. Steering clear of the orcs, Javanni and the fighter move down the bar and spy pout the rest of the main room, seeing no other patrons. Kordan eventually goes behind the bar and liberates some drinks for the others. While he's there the biggest orc yells for him to send some his way and the fighter yells back to get his own. The orc shrugs and cuffs one of his drinking buddies, who goes behind the bar and gets a few more bottles too.

Still curious, some of our heroes go to the kitchen where they find a single human barkeep/cook (he's multiclassed!) huddled in a corner. He says that he hates the orcs and they've been there for hours and are mean to him. He's hoping that they will go away soon but right now he's very afraid. Not terrible concerned with his morale problems, Kordan and Javanni ask about Nat Wyler and the barkeep confirms that Nat owns the place but he's rarely around now and that he himself pretty much runs the Bell day-to-day. he doesn't know where Nat lives but he knows he has business in the ruins and that takes up most of his time. The party leaves the cook and retires to the common room to discuss options.

Back in the taproom they ask the big orc if he knows Nat Wyler, but he does not. he assumes some human owns the place as they are likely the only ones who could pull this off, but he doesn't really pay attention to that kind of thing. He's busy training and drillng over at the big temple across the river. He and the boys break away every once in a while for some drinking and this is a place they like.

Returning to their original mission, the party realized they aren't likely to run into Nat at the inn and their orders were to teach him a lesson, so they decide to burn down the bar. They hustle the terrified innkeeper out along with some of his belongings and the strongbox from the bar. Then they warn the orcs of what they are about to do, preparing for violence. The orcs load up on more bottles and kegs and head on out the door, except for the leader. He stays inside and watches as the party starts to set the fire.

"No no no" he says - "This is how you burn a place down" and proceeds to tear up padded seats and pile the stuffing in a corner, douses some of the place with alcohol and generally demonstrates his considerable knowledge in how to set something on fire. Then they all leave the inn together.

Standing outside watching the fires take hold, the orcs and our heroes part ways as almost friends. The leader gives his name as Thrugg Bullneck, and he wasn't upset about being rousted out of the bar as he figures it's some human dispute and well, maybe humans aren't that different from orcs after all if they're willing to set each others places on fire. Agreeing to spread the word on who and why the Bell was set ablaze and with much fist-bumping, the orcs head off towards the river.

The party makes sure the inn is burning well before they decide to head back into civilized Phlan as it is near sundown when the gates close for the night. As they turn to go they see a party of 4 human adventurers standing in the street gazing open-mouthed at the burning Bell. Then their gazes focus on the people walking away from the blaze. Weapons are drawn and incantations begin as 2 fighters, a rogue, and a wizard take exception to the group's activity.

This was one of the toughest fights the party had faced., with opponents as capable as they were and well-acquainted with working together. Opponents were marked on both sides, magic missiles and thunderbursts were unleashed, and much shifting and sliding was done each round. Mikal the Warlock was down and dying at one point, and all of the party was bloodied during the fight, but a well-timed critical strike took down one of the opposing fighters and after that the 5 to 3 numbers advantage for our heroes was telling. Battered and bloodied, in the end they stood victorious over their attackers.

Returning to Phlan they just made it in before the gates were closed for the night. Making the rounds the next day the council awarded them with the promised Sun Blade and a 100gp reward for the head of Whiteye. The Guild awarded them a favorable rating for future business and more gold. Having gained a ton of valuable experience, some magic weapons, and a decent amount of gold, the party contemplates their next challenge in the Ruins of Adventure.

DM Notes:

  • I had planned the orcs in the inn as a combat encounter but the party didn't attack them or insult them and I had ruled they were more interested in drinking than in starting a fight but would respond if their god, their tribe, or their leader were insulted or if they were directly threatened. The party did none of these things and actually managed to have them help burn down the bar! I awarded full XP for this one and I imagine Thrugg will have to make a return appearance somewhere down the road.
  • The human adventuring party was also planned as a combat encounter and was a little less dependent on PC attitudes. I had a skill challenge back-up plan if they claimed that the orcs had set the fires but as it turned out I didn't need as my players were only too happy to draw steel on these guys.
  • This was the toughest fight of the campaign so far because human NPC's can DO SOMETHING INTERESTING! The mage had mult-target attack spells and a dazing attack, the fighters had reach weapons and could mark, and the rogue could sneak attack and daze his targets, all of which paid off immensely in actually making the party feel like they were threatened. After so many goblins fights that were not all that lively for the DM this was a serious breath of fresh air. It lasted 7 rounds, everyone was bloodied at some point, and 2 characters dropped below 0 HP's -the warlock and the wizard - because the fighter and the swordmage had defenders of their own to deal with, enabling the rogue to strike as he pleased and the wizard to target the backfield instead of the front line. If I had added a 5th member to the opposing party it could have gone very badly, so the DM learned some things here too.
  • Some rules questions did come up here and I didn't want to spend a great deal of time looking them up during the fight - do marks and curses remain when their creator drops unconscious? The warlock had multiple curses out, dropped below zero for a round, then was pulled back up a round later - are his curses still out there? I have to dig through a few things and find this as it can make a difference in how the fight goes. Magical zones and things could have the same thing happen.
  • The party is a little light in magic at this point but has more gold than the guidelines for 4th suggest, so I'm calling it even. Level 1 skews a little weird anyway because there are no items at a lower level than the party, the weakest you can do is same-level. Actually monsters work the same way, so Level 1 is a strange spot to be anyway.
  • All in all it was a good session with some funny RP with the orcs, a good fight, and my in-the-past-usually-good-aligned-and-including-a-paladin-party not being so strongly good this time hanging out with orcs and burning down a bar - it's like a Shadowrun campaign! Anyway the party is 2nd level now and the next expedition will probably be into Kuto's Well.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

4th edition Sidetrack - Warlords

I've been reading through the Martial Power books and while Fighters and Rangers and Rogues are all fun the thing that has stood out to me the most is the class that is new for D&D 4, the Warlord. Now he can cause about as much damage as a fighter with many of his attacks though he's a little less durable but his "thing" is that a lot of his abilities boost other party members in some way. He can heal, he can give bonuses to attacks and to damage, he can help people move faster than normal, and he can even let people act when it's not their turn. It's a fascinating class to me and it's a little like the Paladin used to play in our groups in 1st and 2nd edition - up front hitting stuff but also able to heal and do some minor magic and turn undead. A warlord has powers like "Rub Some Dirt On it" which lets him heal a small amount as a minor action with a touch. A lot of his attack powers are something like "Seize the Opening - do double damage with your melee weapon and a nearby ally can make a free attack with their weapon" or "Rallying Strike - Do normal damage with a melee weapon and everyone within 25' can heal 5 points + your Cha modifier." I am convinced that this is an awesome thing to have in a D&D game and I am betting it would have been cool back in the old days too.

I am a little disappointed no one took one in my current campaign but the leader type class that was taken is a Bard, and I have been very impressed. His powers just reinforce the idea that hit points are about a lot more than physical damage capacity. That has always been the case, but 4th takes the idea and runs off with it like no other edition has. "Vicious Mockery" is a ranged, damage-casing attack for a bard and it is hilarious to see it in action with a good group. More about bards in another post.

The other leader types in the game are Clerics and Shamans and they do their thing just fine, but "Leader" has mostly been translated as "Healer" and with the Warlord (and the Bard too to a degree) this is just not the case. It's more like "Catalyst" as they make the whole party better, period, and are not just reactive defensive save-types like Clerics often have been - healing, curing, dispelling, etc.

Anyway, if you don't play 4th but have a chance to look at a 4th ed PHB take a look at the Warlord and see if there aren't some ideas there worth adapting to your game. Maybe it's a variant of Paladin - instead of bonuses to saves for himself maybe he grants a bonus to hit for allies within 10'. Maybe his holy avenger grants a healing aura instead of a dispel magic aura. I've had a few thoughts in this direction myself but I have yet to do anything concrete with it. We'll see what happens when my basic game gets rolling again next month.