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Thread: Lancefinder - Dragons of Winter Night

  1. #21
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    Default Meanwhile...

    Several days before the death of Toede and battle at Ogreshield, the elf-blooded warrior Drake was troubled. He was needed elsewhere, for a matter of duty and obligation, and had to leave his new companions. Before he left, possibly for his death for the forces he opposed were formidable, he approached Elsebeth and dropped to one knee. He offered her a gift, a wedding gift.

    She accepted.

    That night they were married in a quiet ceremony by Arthur, and spent one night together as man and wife. Their first. Their last.

  2. #22
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    Default DM Commentary: Session 16

    Even two weeks on, I am incredibly surprised the rebel’s “test” did not end up a resistance massacre. Thankfully, the spellcasters spent a round positioning themselves while Wilder Spirit tore into one, hurting him but not killing him. It would have been extremely awkward to have to portray the Silver Fox as friendly and helpful after the PCs just murdered a dozen of his best men.

    Put mildly, this chapter of the adventure sucks. It’s a travel adventure, getting from A to B, but with little real motive for getting to B. B is not interesting and it’s not really sold or pushed. It’s hard to keep an adventure on the rails when there’s no logical reason to follow the rails.
    For the first half, the lack of any clear “event” is ignorable, but for end of the chapter the absence of a climax is pretty darn annoying. Stuff happens, it has the potential to be relevant and important, and it ends.
    The script, as given in the adventure, is that the PCs break-up the meeting at Ogreshield, which is populated by a bunch of expendable no-names despite Toede and the Blue Highlord being nearby. Then the party returns to Flotsam and saves Berem and sail off into the sunset.

    The lack of interesting NPCs at Ogreshield is problematic. It’s likely because, at this point in the Adventure Path, the names and fates of the major NPCs had already been plotted by the novels, so they couldn’t have the Green or Black Dragon Highlord in attendance. I thought about breaking canon ad making the Black Highlord one of the negotiators, if only to continue the systematic killing of the five Highlords. In the end, I decided that it worked better story wise for the players to pretend to be Toede and attack the ogres.
    Cue big change #1: the players kill Toede. It’s a lovely bit of revenge as he was their first encounter and somehow survived their second meeting. So it’s a dash of closure and feeling of progress. I also played-up and emphasised the alliance between the ogres and Dragonarmies, so the failed negotiations mean the Dragonarmies are fighting a two-front war. This is their Eastern Front, paralleling German’s attack on Russia in WW2. It helps sell the idea the events of Spring Dawning are important, that those heroes are doing something worthwhile.
    The actual negotiations were fun. Tictok doesn’t have much in the way of social skills (no one in this party really does). It was a comedy of errors and I made them work for resolution. The climax came during the “poisoning”, when an ogre at pooped-on food and gagged. Tictok immediately cried “he’s trying to poison you!” and gestured at the other ogre chieftan. Then rolled a “1” on his Bluff check. So the two interpretations from the blindingly obvious lie became a) he’s trying to get the ogre mad at the other ogre, or b) he’s trying to shift blame from his own attempt at poison. I rolled randomly on a Sense Motive while Squee cried out that their plan was failing. The results were beautiful and hilarious.

    Likewise, I suggested the existence of the King of the Deep. While I expanded on the notes dropped by Toede to foreshadow (for my group) the High Clerist’s Tower and the ogre alliance, the actual note mentioned in the adventure references events that occur in the next chapter. So, of course, my group went off looking for information on “the spring” and Istar, thinking it was important to this chapter. So I used the opportunity to suggest the presence of “the King”, who I’m presenting as a force controlling sea life allowing the Dragonarmies to dominate the seas. Like an evil Aquaman. So he doesn’t just come out of nowhere the following chapter.
    Likewise, next session during on the voyage from Southern Ergoth to Sancrist, I’ll mention lost ships and the odd behaviour of sea life.

    I also dropped the ending, where the heroes (despite having upset the ogres and dragonarmies) tarry around Flotsam trying to rescue Berem, some guy they’ve never met or care about who
    might be important to the story. Because the ending of the adventure can have different outcomes, Berem might have no real importance.
    Likewise, I dropped the idea of the still alive Verminaard because he was very, very dead in my game. They killed him but good. It just seemed silly to have their first real victory negated and thrown back at them, mixed with an obvious betrayal. So having him kidnap Berem seemed pointless. It’s a poor climax as it lacks drama (“hey look, some guy we already punk’d has kidnapped some red shirt NPC”). There’s no drama or tension. Especially since the PCs just have to go rescue him again at the end of the next chapter.
    Instead, I pulled over the beginning of the next chapter as a new ending, adding a dash of cliffhanger to this chapter. Everyone drown. The end. Much more interesting than having the sinking occur at the beginning of a chapter, when you get rescued ten seconds later.

    Other generic comments of the adventure include the complete lack of a description of Erewan the Shaggy. He’s given a loose personality (he’s insane) but not physical description or reason for the name. And no actual description of his insanity. Is he delusional or paranoid or does he have a phobia related to bathing? With a nickname like “the Shaggy”, it felt like a bit of a Chekov’s Gun never to explain that tidbit.

    I was also a little irked by the price of passage given for the boats. There are set prices for sailing ships in the PHB and the price quoted by the module never seemed quite right. It should cost 800 steel but instead costs 2000, so it’s almost two and a half times the normal price. Which could be justified by the risk during wartime, but just feels like a number pulled from nowhere. It just brought me out of the game as a DM, much like travel times. There are a number of times where travel time doesn’t seem to mesh with the numbers from the PHB for overland travel, which were more noticeable in a travel-based adventure. I feel bad for the poor griffons that likely had to forced march for a couple hours while flying across the Bay of Balifor.

    And then, at the very end of the game session, we had the epilogue where Drake left the group, to pursue his destiny elsewhere. Although, because of the way the timeline was working, this event actually took place a number of days before all the other events of the session. So it was really more of a flashback...
    The player who plays Drake also plays Tictok. He was familiar with the books and was really looking forward to having Tictok return to Mount Nevermind, so I used his looming death on the sea to have him betray the group (ala Raistlin) and swap to the other group. This meant Drake had to go bye-bye, so he got married and sailed off to meet his destiny, to return to the story later.
    Last edited by Jester; 12-01-2011 at 08:42 PM.

  3. #23
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    Default Session seventeen

    Inside the massive stone dragon of Foghaven Vale, Arthur hammered away, working day and night forging dragonlances. When fatigue threatened to overwhelm him, he resorted to divine restoratives to remove the exhaustion. After a couple days, Drake departed, saying only he was seeking vengeance having learned the identity of the Blue Dragon Highlord.

    After a couple weeks, Elsebeth, Derek Crownguard, and Gauraux sailed west to Sancrist isle, home and birthplace of the knights. The voyage was rough, as their commandeered sea vessel was harried by sea life, including being battered by whales and sharks while avoided by any edible fish. Looking at the other vessels docked at Sancrist, this unusual event was not unique: every vessel showed signs of damage.

    Arriving, they met with the knights in preparation for the Whitestone Council. Gunthar Uth Wistan, one of the knights vying for the position of Grand Master of the Solamnic knighthood, welcomed them into his home. They were offered warm beds and fresh food while they waited. Elsebeth, having brought the dragon orb and many of the new dragonlances, was tasked with taking a lance and the orb to the gnomes, so they could study them. She quickly rode north to Mount Nevermind, the hollowed volcano home of the gnomes. There she was re-introduced to the finest in gnomish engineering (and the gnomeflingers which had replaced inefficient “stairs”) as she toured the various gnomish guilds showing off the dragonlance and dragon orb.

    Suddenly, she heard a familiar voice behind her. It was Tictok! He quickly told her of all the problems and horrors he had encountered after their separation and how happy he was to be home and how Wilder Spirit was now dead and how they had found a dragon orb as well, but it had been lost. The gnomes took a long look at the dragon orb Elsebeth had brought, and wondered why it just looked like a big glass ball. Else looked close and something did seem odd about the “orb”: there was no mist inside, no feeling of arcane power. She gave it a firm tap and the orb easily shattered. There was a “thud” as the gnome Gnosh (whose Life Quest was to study dragon orbs) fainted.

    Elsebeth mused about how the orb could have vanished and Tictok interrogated Atlas, Elsebeth’s horse who had been guarding the orb. It had been a month or two since they had really looked at the orb after its recovery in Icewall, and many former companions could have had access: Gilthanas, Fizban, Drake, Silvara, D’Argent (the disguised silver dragon), and even current companions who might not be fully trusted, such as Carrion and Derek Crownguard. And there was always the possibility of an enemy trained as a ranger or druid…

    Returning to Castle Uth Wistan with the bad news (and Tictok), Elsebeth was informed by Guaraux of the power struggle between Derek Crownguard and Gunthar Uth Wistan. Gauraux had offered his assistance to Gunthar, having travelled with Derek and doubting his honour. They scheduled a Trial on the Question of Honour for after the Whitestone Council.

    Arthur and Carrion arrived atop undead dragons, armed with newly forged dragonlances. Arthur had managed to craft twenty of the lances over the month, and was ready to arm as many knights as possible. They arrived just in time for the Council as the elves in exile arrived from Southern Ergoth, as well as kender, gnomes, as well as a handful of dwarves who were able to break through the siege of Thorabardin. The meeting goes badly, as the attending forces are reluctant to work with each other and Arthur and Elsebeth are unable to forge them into an alliance. The Whitestone Council ends with no union.

    Sadly, with the Council having failed, the Companions were left with no clear goal. They knew the free city of Palanthus was under threat from the dragonarmies, defended by only a single fortress blocking a mountain pass: the High Clerist’s Tower. A handful of knights hold the tower and Elsebeth had earlier offered her assistance.
    Before they departed, the Question of Honour began for Derek Crownguard, with Arthur acting as a character witness against Derek while Elsebeth questioned his motives and honour. While the trial could not remove Derek’s knighthood, Gunthar sent him to the High Clerist’s Tower, to man the walls and not in a command position, and hopefully redeem himself with a demonstration of courage. Derek was furious, and shouted his way through the castle, swearing vengeance. After, then Gunthar requested Elsebeth and her companions to also head to the tower and do what they can to assist with the defence.

    The heroes tarried for a week, repairing and reinforcing their requisitioned ship. Tictok and Gauruax armoured the hull and set-up harnesses for Carrion’s zombie dragons to help tow the boat and reduce the drag from the armouring. Through skilful seamanship, the Companions made good time on the ocean voyage, and arrived at Palanthus a day-and-a-half early. They spent their time warning the city of the impending invasion, which fell on the deaf ears of complacent and spoiled citizens. Elsebeth conferred with the ageless head of the Library, Astinus, who advised her that the tower of the High Clerist was “built oddly”. He promised to speak honestly with the senators of Palanthus, warning them of the attack. Meanwhile, the rest of the group decided a visual demonstration of the dragonarmies was due. They dressed Carrion in the dragonarmour of Verminaard, the dead Red Dragon Highlord, and used Tictok’s illusions to create the image of an entire flight of dragons. Carrion and her “wing” of dragons, buzzed the central town square as the black robed wizard used her magic to blast the ground with lightning. When the town guard began to rally, Carrion took to the air. While the display shocked the citizens, they only began to man the town wall and asked for extra volunteers for the city garrison. No extra troops were sent to the High Clerist’s Tower.

    Feeling like they failed twice, the Companions rode to the High Clerist’s Tower, several days south of the city through the mountains. The tower itself rose high into the sky, rising over sixteen stories and almost a thousand feet into the air, a wonder of dwarven and human construction. But the oddness of its design is quickly apparent: the eight-sided wall has three gates to the south and the octagonal central tower has six large doors all leading to a central chamber.

    The tower itself had been sealed since the Cataclysm, requiring a follower of the Gods to unlock its doors. Investigating, Arthur touched one of the gates and they Companions quickly realized it was unlocked. Despite the knights’ protests that the tower is a holy site (as they counter that are accompanied by the chosen prophet of the gods’ return) they group ventured inside. They found the central chamber, and at its heart a large dais topped by an empty fitting for a globe-shaped object. Looking above, they saw a long hollow shaft that led sixty feet into the tower and ended with a floating platform.

    Curious, Tictok flew up the shaft and discovered (seemingly) that it was designed to look straight and got wider and larger. The platform was massive, on the same level on a huge cavernous floor with cyclopean archways. On the floating platform was a mountain of treasure, all curiously large, and dominated by a massive dragonorb! The rest of the group flew up, and as they ascended, Tictok realized they were actually shrinking. Doing some quick comparative math, the gnome realized he was approximately five inches tall!

    Abandoning plans to roll the dragonorb off the floating platform, the group ventured upward, hoping to find the treasure elsewhere. The first floor they reached proved fruitless but the second revealed the familiar large chamber (now eight times smaller). They entered and quickly discover it was a maze without walls, teleporting them throughout the chamber. Tictok bypassed this challenge by teleporting directly to the doorway to the platform then grabbed the orb.

    Now armed with an actual orb, the group readied for the battle. Their troops were spread out across the wall as the enemy army advanced. The knights were outnumbered three-to-one. Toctok prepared some additional fortifications as he and Arthur used spells from a distance, only to realize the enemy also had spellcasters who were readied to dispel enemy magic! The enemy advanced again, meeting walls of fire that block their passage and a hail of arrows. Undaunted, the blue dragonarmy charged!

  4. #24
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    Default DM Commentary: Session Seventeen

    This past session sucked!
    Much of that was me as a GM, but also what I had to work with. So I'm a little bitter. Hence the "Negativity Alert". You have been warned.

    There are some great modules in the
    Dragonlance Saga. “War” is not one of them. Some suffer for the lack of defined plot or reliance on the novels for inspiration. Dragons of War suffers because of the rules and conventions of the game.

    The first half looks good on paper. Attend the Whitestone Council, then go to Palanthus, and finally head to the High Clerist’s Tower where a titanic battle happens. And, likely to address earlier module’s criticisms of railroading, the first half of the module is very open: you can sail to other islands, explore, and generally make your own way to Palanthus or the HCT.
    However, there’s no real reason to wander off the rails. There’s no map provided to players so that can venture to the island of Cristyne, and no hooks in the adventure to push them in those directions. And much of the rest of the adventure depends on a couple hooks built into the main storyline, so if you do take advantage of the openness, the module goes out of its way to get you back on the rails for the main storyline.
    Meanwhile, nothing of note happens at the Whitestone Council. It happens, people fight, and the PCs essentially get sent to the gnomes. It’s been foreshadowed for two full chapters and it’s basically a non-interactive cut scene with no chance to talk or interact or roll dice. I had my players actually retell their story (where the grey boxed text says the group told the council their adventures). But after that, I all but forced the conflict that ended the council. It felt arbitrary and uncomfortable, especially since the PCs have saved so many asses in attendance and have such high Diplomacy scores, and with the trouble that is brewing.
    There’s also the Dwarf Problem. The Hammer of Kharas is very much needed and was a huge plot point earlier and is hyped in other places as required for the dragonlances, yet no reason is given for its absence. Why wouldn’t the dwarves bring it? I justified this as Thorabardin being besieged and surrounded and difficult to escape, so they didn’t risk the envoy carrying the hammer being captured.

    Meanwhile, there is the politics. You’ve likely been dragging around Derek Crownguard for two chapters and in the books he’s competing for the position of Grand Master with Gunthar. But not much is made of this. There’s a missed opportunity to either try and win over Derek and get him in the big chair, or find ways of taking Derek out and supporting Gunthar. I added this in, but didn’t do nearly enough with it. I also did very little with the NPC commanders at the tower. Thankfully, I’ll have time to change this with the start of the next session. Really bring Derek and the other knights to the forefront. Create some interpersonal tension in the middle of the battle and siege.

    Then the group went to Palanthus. By the timeline in the book, they’re at the end of Winter Come or beginning of Winter Night, buuut the battle for the HCT begins at the end of Winter Night and start of Winter Dark. So there’s a month of dead time and
    nothing to fill it. This is a bit awkward. If I were doing a campaign inspired by the War of the Lance modules, I would have filled this with sidequests or personal tasks. As it is, I could/should have done more with the downtime such as random encounters or hijinks on the high seas.
    Reaching Palanthus is also a big moment that falls flat, as you’re not given anything to do. It’s THE city of the setting and it makes a cameo appearance because it had scenes in the books. You show up and are shown to Astinus (via grey boxed text) who gives you some semi-important information. But there’s no way to talk to the senate, no names of other Palathian NPCs, and no way to rally more troops. There’s nothing to do in the city. With a month to kill, I should have done much, much more with the city. But this scene came 3/5ths through the session, so I didn’t have time to stop and research or plan. I’d recommend reading up on Palanthus for other GMS and planning some side scenes in the city. Had I thought ahead, I would have at least read and re-read the chapters with the Palathian politics to get a feel for names and characters.
    Instead, I jumped time ahead and had the battle occur weeks earlier.

    Then comes the HCT battle. Which isn’t a battle, as it uses a simplified resolution rather than a mass combat ruleset. I tried to muddle my own mass combat rules into place, using the standard rules only hand-waving numbers (each mini equals 10 troops and just increase the scale by 10). This proved disastrous as the armies moved so slooooowly when scaled up. The enemy army inched its way across the battlefield while defensive archers peppered them with arrows. Huge DMing mistake. There were just too many minis as a DM to manage so it was slow, and the melee characters were bored while the spellcasters did all kinds of funky things to try and delay or kill the enemy.
    That said, as disastrous as it was (so disastrous I called the game early to rework my approach) it was better than the alternative. Which is the HCT becomes a giant dungeon crawl with 90% empty rooms. You wander through, exploring very, very slowly until you find the dragon orb and other MacGuffin (the board game piece or crown fragment) at which point you auto-win the battle. Playing the module straight would result in the group rocketing through the tower – likely weeks before the army arrives – and winning the second the enemy force attacks. It’s the definition of anti-climax.
    Given how fast my group blows through dungeons and chances into the solution, I’m sure if I went that route we would have been able to finish “War” in a single five-hour play session.

    The map for the HCT made me want to kill myself. I had to call a “smoke break” to compare the copy in the book with a copy from the original module, seeing which stairs went where and what floor could be reached where. Spiral staircases skip floors and descriptions are scattered between the generic lettered rooms and the specific numbered rooms so you have to flip back and forth. It’s a bit of a nightmare. (It doesn’t help that the maps for the HCT are several pages before they key in a very curious section. Ditto the map of Palanthus and related sidebar.
    If you plan on running through this, I’d recommend having both copies of the map, with some labelling and colour coding of staircases. Really read through the text and see how a party would move through the tower. I relied on photocopies of the maps from my book, but finding a PDF would be handy for the high resolution maps that can be printed out and referenced.
    The teleporting maze was also a little odd. It’s mapped very weirdly. It’s described as a big chamber but mapped like a maze of corridors. I’d have liked to have seen two maps of that floor, one with a layout of how to draw the room as a battlemap for minis (the player view) and a second with the teleporting maze and how they’d move through it.

    I’m a little more negative than normal because the session was so “meh”. No combat save the failed mass combat, a problematic puzzle that made them jump through hoops before they bypassed it in seconds, and several big locations where they were just supposed to watch me talk and move onto the next scene.
    If I had to do it again, I’d focus more on the role-playing situations and expand the first half, adding a couple small combat encounters as mood breakers, such as a ship board fight and possibly a joust or tournament. I’d emphasise the politics at work and tensions between the races, giving each race a couple problems or grievances and things they want done, which can partially be resolved. All stuff I should have thought of or work I should have done had I not been fixated on testing my mass combat idea and playing through the battle.

    I’ll discuss how I’m dealing with the battle next time, taking ideas I previously had and tweaking.
    Oh, and I also added the element of Solamnic ships being harried by sea life. Which, of course, is a reference to the effects of the King of the Deep, to make it seem like the other group is having an impact on the war. And making it so the underwater scenes aren’t throw-away encounters.

  5. #25
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    Default Session Eighteen

    The dragonarmy forces charged towards the High Clerist's Tower, weapons raised and howling warcrues. The heroes marshaled the forces in the Eastern courtyard, rallying them as draconians scaled the walls and forced their way through the doors into the courtyard. Elsebeth rode throughout the courtyard, charging draconians with her lance while giving short, inspiring speeches. The knights flocked to her banner, motivated to continue the fight. A half-dozen elite draconians attacked, including a bozak spellcaster.

    After defeating the draconian commander of the first assault, the heroes only had a moment to rest before screams and cries indicated the central gate was now under assault. Moving, they bolstered the defences as Arthur devastated a small patrol of kobold archers while Gauraux and Elsebeth engaged a number of more skilled human mercenaries who were cutting through the knightly defenders. Sensing victory, the heroes allowed themselves a moment of pride.

    Then, suddenly, a half-dozen undead soldiers, led by a black-armoured figure atop a skeletal horse: the famed Lord Soth. The undead smashed though the knight's line, ignoring Arthur's defensive wall of fire. Elsebeth engaged the dark knight, and quickly fell under his unholy sword, which flamed with unnatural fire as the death knight smote the goodly knight. Straining to keep the female warrior alive, Arthur expended much of his divine might keeping the Knight of the Sword upright. Meanwhile several skeletal champions attacked Gauraux, overwhelming the minotaur. Realizing she could not withstand Soth's blade, Elsebeth did the only logical thing and attacked the death knight's sword, shattering the weapon after two savage blows!

    Weaponless, Soth had to rely on his magic and unnatural touch, but there was only a wizard and oracle standing. He moved to attack, but Elsebeth was soon back on her feet. After a long, pitched battle, the Death Knight fell, blasted by the positive healing power of Arthur who extended the last of his potent healing magic offensively.

    Injured and weary, the group retired, but found no rest. The dragonarmies gave them no respite, no time to recover magic or heal wounds. The onslaught was irregular but unending.
    Last edited by Jester; 12-31-2011 at 10:30 PM. Reason: Fixing many typos and expanding

  6. #26
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    Default

    Wow. Did your guys kill Toede and Soth?
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  7. #27
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Tauren_Kai-Jere View Post
    Wow. Did your guys kill Toede and Soth?
    Yeah...
    Toede needed it. The off screen death was fine for novels but unsatisfying for a game. Players are the heroes and don't like NPCs doing what they couldn't.

    Soth... He downed half the party but the healer went all out to keep the alive and bring them back, then pumped a heal spell into Soth making the touch attack and getting past spell resistance (which had stopped all his previous attacks). They'd done really well against him.
    But graveknights (which are kinda the Pathfinder equivalent of death knights) aren't easy to kill unless you destroy their armour. And they didn't. So a couple days later, Soth will rise and return to his keep. Killing someone like him is not as easy as a few lucky shots.

    If making Soth for a straight update I would have upped his CR a couple points, but I ddn't want to TPK the party for what amounted to a filler encounter showing off a Name character.

  8. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jester
    Yeah...
    Toede needed it. The off screen death was fine for novels but unsatisfying for a game. Players are the heroes and don't like NPCs doing what they couldn't.
    I'm not sure if I'm going to deliberately set my guys up to off Toede in my play-by-post War of the Lance game, but if it happens I'm fine with that. They'll have earned it. He's been a constant pain in their butt since they met him on the road to Solace. I think he's escaped their custody twice since the initial encounter. My Neidar monk player actively hates the character of Toede OOC and is definitely gunning for him in-game. If he dies in my game too I suspect it will be on camera.

    EDIT: Although thinking back on the conclusion of DoAu I think the dwarves of Thorbardin captured him with a bunch of other Dragonarmy troops after the final battle with Verminaard. Hmmm. I smell a plot-motivated jailbreak brewing...
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  9. #29
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    Default Session 18.5

    Meanwhile, while attacking the dragonarmies from above, Tictok is hit by dispelling magic and plummets fifty feet to an uncomfortable crunch, creating a dogpile of illusionary Tictoks pre-programmed for injury. It takes some hours for the gnome to sneak though No Man's Land back to the Tower.

    Days pass. Knowing spellcasters require time to recover, the dragonarmies attacked irregularly but frequently. Fatigue set in as the knights on the wall were cold, hungry, and tired. Arthur and Carrion managed to rest long enough to memorize and prepare a few spells, but not many. Gauraux, in the meantime, approached Tictok with the idea of mining the dragonarmy camps with some kind of explosive. Working as fast as he could, before Tictok could finish a wave of a hundred kobolds surged onto the field, peppering the area with arrows. The rolling mass of reptilian bodies struck fast and hard. Tictok and Arthur slowed the kobolds down with magic while Carrion blasted them with magic. The kobolds reached the gate and forced their way though damaged gaps, swarming over Gauraux and Elsebeth. Finally, the kobolds were dispersed and slain.

    With the extra time, Tictok managed to finish the mines. The group, save Elsebeth, flew invisibly over the draconians and planted the mines. Gauraux explored a few tents and discovered the officer's quarters with orders and references to the return of the dragons and an assassin!

    Meanwhile, Elsebeth was meeting with the Lords commanding the battle. While arguing over the course of action, a young rookie knight humbly interrupted. He had a message for Else, from Derek Crownguard: he wanted to meet her at the wall. Elsebeth met with "Derek" who revealed himself as a draconian assassin, when he stabbed Else in the chest. More angry than injured, the knight quickly dispatched the assassin.

    Returning, having planted the mines, the rest of the Companions used the stolen orders to repel enemy attacks (which were aided by the chaos caused by the exploding mines).
    Things were going well until the dragons arrived, attacking and striking at the walls. Suddenly, there was a blue dragon hovering over the main gate, bring ridden by a fearsome rider. The Blue Dragon Highlord had arrived. He challenged a young knight, one who had just earned his spurs, to single combat. Fearful yet sad, the young knight was compelled to refuse until Guaruax asked if he could appoint a champion. The youth asked Elsebeth who happily accepted.

    Else rode to the top of the wall where the Blue Dragon Highlord landed. He removed his helmet and revealed his face. It was Drake! The former companion last seen at the Foghaven Vale. Who left about the same time the dragon orb went missing. The entire time he had been with them he was gathering intel and planning betrayal.

    Saluting and toasting his opponent, Drake readied for battle. Elsebeth charged, lacking mercy and ready for the kill. She struck with her sword, aiming to shatter Drake weapon as she had Soth's. Drake avoided the attack and responded with a deadly series of slashes and attempted to knock Elsebeth's weapon from her hand. The one prompted a retaliation, but Else fumbled badly, twisting the grip on the weapon making it harder to attack. Drake swatted the weapon from her hand. Seeing potential defeat Elsebeth kicked her weapon off the wall and stepped backwards into the air, falling 40 feet to the ground. Drake ran down and finished off the injured warrior.

    Meanwhile, Gauraux and Arthur decided the dragon was not part of the "single combat" and attacked viciously. The assault ended when Drake threatened to join that fight. He mounted Skie and took to the air. Inside the tower, Carrion had other plans, and was busy trying to use the orb discovered in the tower. Finally, she forced the orb under her control and called the three nearby dragons to her. Heedless of the danger, the dragons rushed into the dragon trap that was the Tower of the High Clerist. Outside the walls, the draconians, not being true dragons, were driven mad by the orb and fled, halving the opposing army. Victory was assured!
    Last edited by Jester; 01-04-2012 at 11:09 AM.

  10. #30
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    Default DM Commentary: Session Eighteen (times two)

    Let's jump right into the first of the two big twists: yup I killed Soth. As I mentioned earlier, Soth is such a big Name, it felt like a shame not to even give him a single scene. And it made his appearance at the end less dramatic, as he's one of many. It's Soth! And the Blue Dragon Highlord! And the Dragon Emperor! And the freakin' Queen of Darkness!!
    Its crowded.

    So I brought in Soth now so he has some spotlight. If he appears at the end, it will be less packed with new backstory and Lore requirements. Because you need to tell the players the story sometimes. It's not just a skeletal warrior, it's Lord Soth the fallen knight who failed the prevent that Cataclysm, as revealed by a Knowledge (nobility) check.

    After my failure with mass combat, I thankfully had an idea how the armies would react to the magical terrain being generated and where they would attack. I could see enough moves ahead that I knew how to plan the next session. So I had two courtyard battles planned. Well, two and a half. One wing of the army went one direction (the first draconian fight) and the second wing went another direction (a smaller human fight that led into the Soth encounter).
    The first session-ette was basically three back-2-back encounters with one being the epic fight against Soth, four skeletal champions, and a spectre. It was nasty. Elsebeth was level-drained and beaten down and Soth used "smite good" to great effect. But after dropping the first time, Elsebeth was smart enough to sunder Soth's sword, disarming him and making him far less of a threat (but not so little that a little devastating blast and spectre-ing couldn't drop her again).

    I wanted to emphasise that "war was hell" so I denied the heroes rest. No regained hitpoints and a check required to regain spells. And I made everyone make Fortitude saves to avoid becoming Fatigued.
    So resources were low for the second half.

    One of the things I did was try to emphasise the personality of the knights involved in the battle, to add some small opportunities for role-playing. I also introduce the knight who would be challenged by the Blue Dragon Highlord early, emphasising his eager-eyed yet rookie nature. So it wouldn't be a "who?" situation when he was challenged.
    If I had more time or felt the battle/siege would last longer (since the end date is set by the arrival of dragons and use of the orb more than anything else) I would have also added concepts for food rationing and such.

    At the start of the second session I used a kobold mob, basically statting-up kobolds as a huge swarm. Which is fun it sketchy according to the rules. It was an interesting encounter, but would have been more fun had the kobolds been able to reach the melee combatants earlier.

    I threw in a couple small filler sections. The first was a player-initiated mining of the battlefield. Which allowed the sneaky rogue and techie gnome to have a little spotlight time. And the second was an assassination attempt by the dragonarmies, mostly to give the false impression the prophecy of Elsebeth's betrayal on the wall was fulfilled. So the actual betrayal to come would be more of a shock.

    Finally, I ended with the arrival of the dragons, the duel on the wall, and activation of the Dragon Orb.
    This all got squished together for game logic. Once the dragons arrived, the Dragon Orb was going to be used. But the dragons were needed to fly the challenger to the wall. And the rest of the party was going to sit out on the duel, so it made sense to have a couple fiddling with the orb while the duel progressed, and I also imagined some people might interfere with said duel.

    I changed the challenge from some no-name dragonarmy officer back to the Blue Dragon Highlord. The adventure changes this because, of course, they couldn't risk Kitiara dying too early in the adventures, and probably didn't want to spoil the twist of her being the BDH for people playing through the adventures before the novels.
    I also changed the identity of the BDH because having it be Tanis' ex makes no dramatic sense when Tanis doesn't exist.
    I was discussing the problem of the BDH with my wife (the player of Wilder Spirit and Carrion) and a friend (player of Tictok and others), who had both read the novels. I was going to be using them to aid the plot, killing them off in the Red Dragon Inn during the Tarsis incident. Because they could be forewarned and had time to make new characters. While brainstorming the idea struck, since the characters were ad-ons, one could be a traitor and the BDH in disguise, having travelled with them to find their weaknesses and such. And since "Tictok" wanted to be part of Nevermind and with the group at that moment it was easy to pull (and justify) a switch. And Drake, the traitor, was born.
    The BDH landed, I had him challenge the knight, and when the battle began I put down Drake's mini and watch the surprise roll over faces (2/3rd, as one guessed but to his credit kept quiet). Beautiful moment.

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