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  1. #1
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    Default Lancefinder - Dragons of Winter Night

    This continues the adventure started here.

    Campaign Documents
    Player's Guide (last updated October 8th, 2011)
    Monsters (last updated May 31st, 2012)
    Guide to Gods (last updated April 24th, 2011)

    The players of Wilder Spirit and Tictok swapped characters, with Wisp's playing choosing to play Carrion, the dark elf wizard. We'll meet Toctok's player's new character next session.

    * * *

    The Companions stood over the wreckage of the Red Dragon Inn, searching the rubble for any sign of their mission friends: Tictoklington and Wilder Spirit. Gauraux insisted that no bodies meant they were not dead. Arthur shifted some rubble with mental magic, imagining the raise pile might conceal Tictok huddled inside his indestructible bubble, only to have the rubble collapse under the movement. Moving one last piece, the oracle discovered a star shaped pendant covered in gems clutched tightly in stone reptilian hand. Picking-up the jewel, the irda saw brief flashes of memories: a beautiful forest, horrible nightmares, himself, a meeting at an inn, and draconians. Arthur remembered having seen the jewel before, worn by the Lady Alhana Starbreeze.

    Fleeing the city, the heroes fought their way through the mob of panicked civilians. Gauraux helped an elderly couple after their cart was taken by a band of thugs. Scared, the ruffians fled, while Elsebeth helped the couple to their feet.
    Overhead, dragons strafed the streets allowing dragonfear to spread panic, while breath weapons damaged buildings. Ash and soot filled the air, blanketing people in a coating of grey. Arthur was surprised as a fiery blast demolished a structure beside him, toppling atop him. He was pushed out of harm by the quick actions of two young knights: Brian and Aran, who were crushed to death beneath the building.

    Along the way, the group discovered they were being followed by an elf maiden, one of the librarians who had previously helped them find information on the dragon orb, stolen by the renegade wizard Feal-Thas. The elf revealed herself to be a wizard, recently tasked by the Tower of High Sorcery with recovering the stolen orb. Derek Crownguard, a Solamnic knight the group had met days earlier, balked at allowing a magic user to accompany them, especially one who wore the black robes!
    Reluctantly, the group allowed the elf, nicknamed Carrion, to join them.

    The group headed south, following the road with other refugees. They had not travelled far when they group was waylaid by a large green figure: a hungry troll taking advantage of the parade of injured and weary travelers. Arthur and Carrion made quick work of the troll with a stream of acid and fire, while Elsebeth and Gauraux sped its demise. It did not stay dead for long, as Carrion resurrected the beast as a hideous skeletal monster! The group’s new wizard companion was not just a black robe wizard… but a necromancer!

    Upon reaching the nearest town to the south, Bazin, they discovered a thug collecting “protection money”. Elsebeth paid the “toll” for the refugees behind them. After resting for the day, the group continued south to Zeriak, where they investigated Icewall Glacier, being warned of the ice barbarians as well as the thanoi. They learned the leader of Zeriak had also struck a bad deal with the dragonarmies for protection, supplying them with furs and food in exchange for being left alone. The group purchased many heavy furs to protect themselves against the cold, and set out to the south. Before long, even the furs were not enough, and they had to resort to magic to protect themselves from the chill.

    The group explored slowly, wandering across the white wasteland aimlessly, discovering only a peat mine. Using Arthur’s animate familiar to scout, the followed tracks from the peat mine, and discovered a group of minotaurs torturing an ice bear. After slaying the bull-headed warriors, and confirming the minotaurs’ allegiance to the dragonarmies, the Companions switched to following nearby bestial tracks. The tracks lead to a boat, curiously resting atop the glacier. Confused, the companions investigate until bodies of ugly walrus men and ice barbarians are found. Gauraux soon realizes the boat sails on ice, sailing on ski-like railings.
    Gauraux and the others set to work repairing the boat, using scraps and magic. Then, with little warming, a storm struck. Smashed by ice and wind and snow, the group retreated inside the ship, where they waited for the blizzard to abate for day after day after day…
    Last edited by Jester; 05-31-2012 at 06:18 PM.

  2. #2
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    Default DM Commentary: Session Nine

    This session had a big problem, in that one of the players was M.I.A. Thankfully, it was the player who would be introducing a new character (his previous character having been ingloriously killed off camera the previous session). So, rather than introduce two brand new characters, I got to focus on one new character and introduce the second later.

    This session began at the siege of Tarsis, where the adventure really begins. I did my best to describe a city under seige and the horrors of war. I also took this opportunity to twack the two NPC knights (Brian and Aran) rather than let them fester as unplayed NPCs for multiple sessions. In the books they died fighting the dragon highlord and/or Sleet. They never had much character, and would be terribly bland. So I killed them here, which forces Derek Crownguard to accompany the heroes. It gives a better reason for their joining forces when he doesn't have his loyal posse around.

    Not much else of note happened this session. I included the troll "random encounter" as a quick combat break in the middle, and included the minotaurs to emphasise they were not nice. I didn't have time to include a thanoi skirmish, as we were running late in what was supposed to be a short session.

    My players felt quite lost in this session, as there's no real clues to tell them where to go. They're meant to just wander into Icewall and wander aimlessly until the plot hooks them again, which isn't very satisfying from a player perspective. I asked them which direction they were going (SE, S, SW) and made that seem like it was important, the illusion of free will.

  3. #3
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Jester
    I also took this opportunity to twack the two NPC knights (Brian and Aran) rather than let them fester as unplayed NPCs for multiple sessions. In the books they died fighting the dragon highlord and/or Sleet. They never had much character, and would be terribly bland. So I killed them here, which forces Derek Crownguard to accompany the heroes. It gives a better reason for their joining forces when he doesn't have his loyal posse around.
    Have you read Dragons of Highlord Skies? That novel really fleshes out Brian and Aran. It actually made Brian Donner one of my favorite DL characters! There's also some really interesting stuff regarding the orb at Icewall that I'm trying to figure out how to incorporate into my own game...
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  4. #4
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Tauren_Kai-Jere View Post
    Have you read Dragons of Highlord Skies? That novel really fleshes out Brian and Aran. It actually made Brian Donner one of my favorite DL characters! There's also some really interesting stuff regarding the orb at Icewall that I'm trying to figure out how to incorporate into my own game...
    No, I didn't have time to read Dwarven Depths or Highlord Skies before the game. I've been slowly re-reading the initial trilogy though, and those are on my list.

  5. #5
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    Default Session Ten

    After four long days trapped by a blizzard, the Companions emerged to a bright, clear winter day.

    The group was still on the barren icy wasteland known as Icewall Glacier. They had spent the last few days repairing their damaged ice boat, a ship with skis designed to skate atop the ice. Their new wizard “friend”, Carrion, sent her undead minions to work on the exterior, while the rest of the heroes repaired the damaged hull from inside. After a short bit of repairs, aided by Gauraux’s naval instruction, the ice boat was soon up and skiing again.

    After a few hours of sailing, another boat came alongside their vessel. Much larger, this new boat was crewed by armed and angry ice barbarians. The Companions braced for a fight. Then, an elf emerged on deck. The elf’s head was shaven and he was lightly armoured and immediately recognized by Gauraux as his old sailing mate, Drake, a Silvanesti expatriate. Drake hailed the ship and introduced the Companions to the chieftain of an Ice Barbarian tribe, Harald. Regaling the barbarians with the rescue of an ice bear, assault on minotaurs, and discovery of the downed ice boat, the nomads soon welcome the Companions, and asked them to visit their village.

    After a short journey they reached the camp: hide tents at the intersection of a sheet of ice and a cleft in the glacier, the far side was protected by a fence of whalebone. The Companions quickly relaxed in the warmth of peat fires and cooked food, and shared stories of their adventures and quest. Upon hearing of the dragonarmies of the north, Harald told of foreign forces, mostly minotaurs and humans, that had claimed Icewall Castle to the south. More importantly, Harald was able to give the Companions directions to the castle. While resting, Arthur met the camp’s wise man, an aged descendant of the old healers of the tribe. After some conversation and teachings, Arthur helped the old man regain his faith and restored the gods to Icewall. All was well until scouts reported an army amassing several deals to the south, an army of minotaurs and thanoi led by a dark elf atop a white dragon. An attack force. Becalmed by poor winds, the barbarians realized they must fight and the Companions offered to help. Over the following days the two groups worked to fortify the camp as best they could. Then the enemy forces arrived.

    The Companions had prepared themselves well. Arthur created several walls of fire to funnel the vast thanoi and minotaur forces into narrow spaces. Carrion unleashed horrible necrotic energies while directing her undead minions to strike. Drake moved with supernatural swiftness, swirling and spinning his double-bladed weapon. Elsebeth readied her lance and charged through her foes, scattering them like falling snow. The battle was long and fierce (especially after Drake saw Carrion’s massive undead troll for the first time and swiftly killed it). At one point, minotaur reinforcement moved to flank the camp on ice bears while the leader of the force, a minotaur warrior of remarkable presence, rallied the remaining troops. But the minotaur champion was quickly felled by Gauraux and Elsebeth, but not before his troops began to overwhelm the ice barbarian defenders. The battle went well but could not be won, the opposing numbers were too great.

    Then, miraculously, the winds finally picked-up. Retreat now an option, the barbarians fled while the Companions held the line as long as possible (while Carrion has her undead drag away the corpse of an ice bear to use as an animated pack animal). The ice boats sailed away. The dragonarmies had won the day, but it was a pyrrhic victory.

    Having reluctantly fled, the Companions headed south to Icewall Castle. There they hope to find the dragon highlord they briefly glimpsed at the end of the failed battle. Finding the keep atop a high tor of ice, the group slowly began the long, treacherous climb up the sheer wall of ice. Halfway up the clifface, there was a terrifying crack signaling avalanche. The torrent of ice and snow almost killed Drake and Gauraux, but the duo somehow managed to cling to the wall. They were rescued by rope thrown by Else and the others (who had used magic to traverse the height). The avalanche proved to be a hidden blessing: the ice slide revealed a hidden passage leading up into the castle, and the sentries who had been watching the ascent believed the heroes slain and buried.

    Partway through the icy cavern, the group saw a brilliant gold shine hidden in an icy wall. Investigating, they discovered a dragon frozen in the ice, and even more surprisingly was a knight mounted atop the beast. A knight clutching a damaged lance. They managed to free the lance and carried it with them as they emerged in the courtyard of Icewall Castle. Gauraux and Arthur (who had disguised himself as a minotaur) attracted the attention of the few guards patrolling the courtyard, and effortlessly dispatched them. With the castle unaware it was breached, Gauraux locked all the doors opening onto the courtyard then sabotaged the locks; there would be no reinforcements.

    Searching the rest of the rooms, they swiftly discovered the Highlord’s chamber. He was distracted by burning notes while pacing. Guaraux crept into his room, silent as ghost, while behind him the group moved to strike!
    Last edited by Jester; 09-14-2011 at 08:13 PM. Reason: Revision

  6. #6
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    Default Session 10: DM's Commentary

    I actually had this game a good month ago, but got distracted and lazy and never wrote-up the log. This will be the second of two logs I get done tonight, as my next session (#12) is tomorrow.

    The hard part about the beginning of Dragons of Winter is the lack of direction. You know (if you go to the library) that Feal-Thas has a dragon orb in Icewall Castle.
    However, you're not really given a good reason to go to the library. Nor do you really know what a dragon orb is, so getting one is uninteresting. But even if your party is excellent (like mine) and really grabs ahold of the dragon orb hook, there's still few directions for the party.

    I worked around the first problem (the library) by hinting at its existence several sessions earlier, and setting it up as the reason for visiting Tarsis in the first place. But once my part reached Icewall they hit a wall. They had no idea where to go. The snide response to that is "Icewall Castle of course" but they had no idea which direction it was. The adventure just assumes you wander around, bumping into the pre-ordained encounters based on how long you're on the glacier and eventually the plot directs you to your destination. However, that doesn't give you much choice.

    I tried to give my party the illusion of choice. I used the random encounters and other pre-written encounters to seed the area, saying there was footprints and smoke in the distance and the like. I gave the party the choice of which encounters to interact with then gave them the boat, which they would have stumbled over regardless of direction. The end was established, but they chose their route.

    The big battle here was the fight at the ice barbarian camp. The tricky bit is there are waves and waves of cannon fodder with the impression there are hundreds more fighting at the side with NPCs. However, at the level the PCs are at, they have a surprising amount of
    fireballs and other spells they can use to nuke the heck out of large armies. My party wanted to stay and fight things out, figuring they could easily take a few hundred nameless NPCs.

    The big change this session had was the addition of Drake. He's played by the same person who was running Tictok and is a great role-player. He's also read the books, which influenced some of Drake's motivations and background. I'm really looking forward to shocking the party with Drake later.

    --edit--
    I wrote my last couple summaries quite quickly and never felt they reached the quality I expected. So I did some editing and expansion.

    I had a few other thoughts regarding Dragons of Winter.
    Climbing the mountain is a deathtrap. Too many rolls make failure almost inevitable. It’s incredibly high. But the mod doesn’t mention magic. There are many places where only a single solution is presented – typically the mundane – and other solutions aren’t considered. So what might be a lengthy hazard that fills a great deal of time in one game is a speedbump as another party casts
    levitate and ignores it.
    I also always wonder how the various minotaur forces get to and from the castle. I doubt very much Sleet carries each and every one up and down. Also, there is another exit / entrance (Sleets, accessible via the underground tunnels) as well as the stream’s exit. Neither of these are mentioned; it would be much easier to just come at Sleet via her lair, kill her while fresh, take the orb and leave.
    Later, it also does not mention magic for the cliff by ice mountain bay, and expects the party to take many hours descending and even longer clearing a path through the ice for the ship with axes. Yeah… Arthur (the oracle with the flame mystery and enough fire magic to kill three Sleets) cleared a path in hours.
    Last edited by Jester; 09-14-2011 at 08:15 PM.

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