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Thread: Lancefinder - Dragons of Winter Night

  1. #31
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Edmonton, Alberta

    Default Session Nineteen

    Arcus, Deldred, Wilder Spirit, and Squee awoke in a large chamber, most surprised to be alive. Squee informed them they had been rescued by blue-green elves with webbed feet: sea elves. They took the drowning heroes and placed them in an air-filled room, something that looked like it was once a ball room, but was now partially collapsed and covered by kelp and fungi.
    After they assessed the situation, the Companions realized they were missing Elistan and the other sailors on the ship, save the helmsman Berem who seemed rather unhappy to be alive.

    The group began exploring the ruins, wandering through the submerged corridors and discovering several flooded chambers, what were essentially moon pools, granted access to the outside and revealing that the heroes were in a sunken building! They wandered and smashed their way through several secret doors (Berem having no patience for searching for hidden latches) looking for signs of occupancy. Squee trampled through an alchemical lab and stole a red robe from the owner. Then they found their host: a sea elf woman and a red robed wizard. The sea elf (Apoletta) explained that she had brought the heroes underwater because it seemed fate had chosen them to help the sea elves, they were unlike anyone she had rescued before. Apoletta explained that evil forces had declared war on the sea elves (or dimernesti). Sea dragons swam at the forefront of armies of merrow (aquatic ogres) and sahuagin (fish men). This formidable force was bolstered by numerous undead lacedons (aquatic ghouls) who were being raised by the King of the Deep: a horrible newcomer to the Blood Sea from an unknown place. The King was forcing his will upon sea life, causing it to attack seagoing vessels and giving the dragonarmies an unassailable maritime advantage. All the sea elves knew was that the King had something to do with “the Pit of Istar”: a bottomless trench that was once the heart of the sunken city, formerly the Temple of the Kingpriest, now lying at the very base of the Maelstrom.

    Recalling the recovered dragonarmies missive that mentioned “the spring”, the Companions assumed it was related to the King of the Deep and his power over the undead or sea life. They volunteered to investigate and see if they could do anything to stop the King. The red robed wizard, an alchemist named Zebulah, offered to make a few potions of water breathing to supplement Deldred’s spellcasting. Three days passed as potions were brewed under the assistance of Arcus.

    Apoletta wished the heroes luck and lent them dolphins, to speed their journey to one of the caves at the edge of the Pit of Istar. Reaching the entrance of the cave, the Heroes found it guarded by three massive underwater ogres (known equally as merrow or yrasda). The heroes launched into battle, with Squee wildshaping into a giant octopus that proved surprisingly deadly! Arcus demonstrated the lightning magic worked just fine underwater. The orgres rushed forward to grab at Wilder Spirit and her lion Fu (who was less then pleased with being underwater). Halfway through a fight a huge shark, a megalodon, joined the fray, and attempted to swallow Wisp whole.

    The Heroes progressed into the caves, wandering in circles through the kelp and coral filled caverns. They encountered the ghost of a sea elf that spoke in curiously conflicted phrases and a merrow spellcaster who was busily preparing a squad of lacedons for battle: a force that proved effortless for the heroes to scatter. They found a long chamber filled with unnatural cocoons filled with corpses, being altered and corrupted into becoming ghouls. The Companions dispatched the proto-ghouls in their cocoons.

    Moving on, the Heroes stumbled in on three hideous crones looting the body of a fallen sea elf warrior. They rushed to attack but the hags were faster, trapping the Heroes in a web. The magical webbing did nothing to stop Berem and Squee from rushing forward, although hag magic blinded the druid-octopus. Arcus blasted the hags with lighting as Berem pounded away recklessly, the sailor having little concern for his safety. The hags responded by dispelling the magic permitting Wilder Spirit to breathe underwater, but Deldred soon set that right by renewing the enchantment, but not before the cleric cast silence on Berem’s hammer preventing the hags from using their magic. Undaunted, the hags focused their gaze on Squee who fell catatonic from the unnatural curse. Arcus and Deldred finished off the hags, despite the seeming loss of their shape-changing gully dwarf companion.

  2. #32
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Edmonton, Alberta

    Default Session 19: DM Commentary

    Let me start by saying a rogue-druid wild shaping into a giant octopus is DISGUSTINGLY broken. But it was such a rare opportunity I let the player have fun with it. I’m just glad he didn’t have combat reflexes…

    As I’ve mentioned before, I emphasised King of the Deep much earlier, so he comes out of left field a little less. And I also made him a little more “Aquaman” in his control of sea life, to make this part of the Adventure Path more important to the overall tale and less of a throw-away side battle.
    The players were latched onto this aspect, as it had come-up in both prior chapters. However, “the spring” hinted at previously (in Flotsam and at the start of this mod) isn’t really detailed. At all. Instead, the King of the Deep is powered by his connection to ten petrified priests (or a dozen, the mod seems to vary the numbering at times). I didn’t catch this absence when planning but thankfully, players were late, the game was slow, and the session was called early. So they never reached that encounter, and I can think of some way of adding a “spring” to the adventure for next time.

    Which is good because the death statue encounter didn’t seem particularly interesting, being a whole bunch of high CR critters that are low damage & AC but high hitpoints, but who can blind, potentially leading to a very slow slugfest with a super-high miss rate. Yes, they can be insta-killed by sundering, but that’s a rare feat/tactic, and the gems are extremely high hardness so it might be impossible for parties relying on lots of low-damage attacks or, ironically, even by sunder-specialists as the gems cannot be bypassed by adamantine. Sunder builds don’t have to be high damage as gear has such low hitpoints.

    One thing that came up was the question “How do sea elves breathe in the blood sea? Isn’t it gritty? Like breathing in a dust storm?” I had no good answer for that...

    I removed the invading yrasda from Zebulah’s Refuge. It made wandering through the underwater area a needless dungeon crawl. Why was no one else defending it? Why were Zebulah and Apoletta just calmly chatting? It was just odd, a bunch of experience padding. I found it interesting that the first question people would ask Zebulah “Did you know a dozen ogres are in your home??” wasn’t answered in the quick text.
    (I also used the name “merrow” instead of “yrasda” as that was the SRD term, making it the much more common and well-known aquatic ogre. Plus easier to pronounce.)
    I removed dragonlances, the dragon orb, and the magical fountain from the Refuge. The lances were needless, as the party already had one from Silvanetsti (why they were lesser dragonlances is another mystery); having six more seemed superfluous. No party has seven characters proficient in lances. Ostensibly it would help in the old mass combat event, but that’s not really mentioned in the 3e update. And the orb seemed excessive. They already have an orb (which they can’t use). Why is there an extra dragon orb? It serves absolutely no purpose.
    The fountain would be handy for groups without divine spellcasters, but my group could easily manage its own water breathing. And making reliable underwater breathing so accessible removed much of the sting of being underwater. It’s like having an adventure in a giant dark cave and having a fountain of liquid light at the beginning. Furthermore, I liked the option of dispelling water breathing in a fight (which the sea hag witches did). It was a nasty yet fun/evil tactic. I also wondered how to justify an ancient and potent artefact-level fountain that conferred water breathing in a mostly landlocked city (save a river passing nearby).

    I was really disappointed by Zebulah’s Refuge. It’s a great example of a terrible 1st Edition dungeon. There’s no logic, just a whole bunch o’ rooms connected by long, winding hallways. He has a bedroom, but no kitchen or place to cook food. The structure is supposedly a surviving building, but it’s a sprawling complex of disparate rooms and long hallways devoid of windows. Who builds a house like that? There’s so much negative space. I described it as having a number of other rooms that were sealed off for being flooded, just to attempt to justify the weirdness.
    If I were doing a campaign inspired by these adventures, I’d re-draw the Refuge, perhaps using a map of an actual manor complex and blocking off two-thirds of the rooms. I’d also spend more time in Istar. It’s an interesting idea, this sunken city that’s been taken over by elves and has pockets of breathable air. It might be interesting to have the Refuge spread out over multiple buildings separated by stretches of open water. It’d be interesting to meet more of the sea elves (this is the only time they don’t seem to meet the ruler of a nation, I’m surprised Apoletta wasn’t a princess) or take part in the actual underwater battle.
    The 1e adventure supposedly has a map of the city used for a mass combat fight, so using this might work, although one would expect there’d be more damage from the flaming mountain. I might have the city separated into surviving fragments divided by ridges and chasms. Make the players use that Swim skill a little!

    The caves had some interesting moments, but not as many as I’d like. My group missed a couple of the wackier rooms but did spend a while wandering in circles. I wanted to use the room full of jelly fish, so I might start with that next time, arbitrarily moving it across the dungeon.
    There were secret doors but no descriptions. Who built them anyway? It’s a cave, and not one of those natural ones conveniently inhabited by dwarves. Very odd…
    I removed the lacedon fight and just did it narratively. It was an odd encounter in 1e and doesn’t work as presented in the 3e update, as large numbers of low level foes just don’t present a challenge: they cannot hit PCs and a single AoE devastates them. It’s just a speedbump encounter. And at level 11-13 the resources spent will not be missed. You just cannot have the same amount of small incidental encounters each draining a few spells.
    The witches were fun but could have been tougher. My group is potent and, again, had a sneak attacking huge celestial octopus. But after the witches were silenced I had them use their gaze on Squee, figuring he was unlikely to miss two saving throws (since his Fort save is super-high), but he botched both. So now he’s catatonic for three days. Oops.

  3. #33
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Edmonton, Alberta

    Default Session Twenty

    The hero moved into the chamber beyond the hag's lair. They had spent limited magical resources to revive the unconscious Squee. Revived, the druid barely turned back into the deadly giant squid.

    The chamber was actually a deep shaft, seemingly endless. A deep bottomless chasm. Above was the hideous aberration known as the King of the Deep. Below was a curious portal leading... somewhere. Energy leaked from the portal, a spring of dark power, flowing into the water where it was collected by ten statues, resembling petrified Istarian priests, and focused in a single point to be absorbed by the King.

    The heroes swam down, attacking the statues with lightning magic and a barrier of conjured magical blades. The statues glared at the champions, their empty eye sockets opening into a terrifying void. Squee caught a bad glimpse at the eyes and was struck blind. Berem rushed forward, charging through the blade barrier to attack a statue, only for the statue to strike and knock the raging human back into the swirling blades.

    Arcus and Deldred made quick work of the statues, the disruption in the flow of magical energy harming the King. Then, there was an aquatic cry as a yellow-skinned draconian swam into view riding atop a dragon turtle. It was Gildentongue returning for revenge. Spells flew as Arcus struck the two repeatedly with lightning that did nothing, the draconian having prepared for the fight. However, he was not prepared for Deldred's deadly magic or being hammered into the blade barrier by Berem. The massive turtle did its best to scald the heroes with its steaming breath. But its thick hide was nothing to Wilder Spirit's claws.

    After having defeated the dragon turtle and Gildentongue, the group was hailed as heroes by the sea elves. The King of the Deep's death ended his animation of the fallen and control over sea life. The Companions returned to the surface and were deposited in a floating raft.

    The first ship to come across them is the Butcher, a pirate ship. At first the captain and crew were considering sinking the dingy or abandoning a prisoner on board, but the captive, Bas Ohn-Koraf, the minotaur former first mate of the Perechon recognizes the heroes and asks their help.

    The captain of the Butcher, Mandracore, was an old enemy of Bas' captain, Maquesta. Mandracore made the mistake of showing off his captive on Mithas, and the minotaur emperor ordered the pirate to settle the matter in the arena. Bas' tells the Companions that Maquesta knows the location of Elisan, missing since the Perechon sank. She'll tell, if they agree to be her champions against Mandracore.

    The battle in the arena is fierce, with every attack cheered by the minotaur audience. The Companions have to be the first to claim three golden rings. One is atop a greased pole, another at the base of a pit, and a third on the neck of a giant tiger. Wilder Spirit's beast Fu struggles with the tiger as the tawny beast savages both. Mandracore cuts up Berem and Squee as two of his pirate lackeys assault Deldred and Wider Spirit. Things get bad as Arcus turns into an air elemental to recover the ring inside the pit spraying its contents across the field: green slime! Squee is coated and badly dissolves, barely surviving. One of the pirate flunkies, a skilled alchemist, hurls bomb after bomb at the heroes.

    Finally, the pirates fall.

    The newly crowned pirate queen: Maquesta Ka-Thon agrees to help the group find the missing priest. She reveals he remained on his raft and currents would have carried it north, to the island of Karthay. The group heads north on Maquesta's new ship. Squee flies ahead to scout and encounters the bird folk known as Kyrie. They tell of a man in white taken by a dragon to the north. As the group searches for a landing site a green dragon flies overhead, ridden by an armoured figure!

  4. #34
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Edmonton, Alberta


    DM Commentary: Session 20
    Some days you just feel bad for a player.
    In this case it’s the player of “Squee” the gully dwarf rogue-druid. The last two sessions have been me kicking the character again and again and again. He charges into the fight with sea hag witches and gets hit with their gaze attack (which was all they could do as he’s grappling all three. Stupid wildshaping into an octopus…), which has a one-two punch: fail one save and get a debuff, fail a second from a second attack and go unconcious. He fails the Will save but there’s no way he can fail the Fort save as he has a Con of 20. Oops, that’s a “natural 1”. So he does fail and is now catatonic for 1-3 days and has the potential to die.
    But I’m a nice DM. I let him spend a Hero Point in conjunction with a
    dispel magic to get back into the game (but not the fight). Next fight, they charge the death statues who unleash their blinding gaze on the party. Mass saves by everyone and, again, Squee can only fail on a “1”. And he rolls that. So now he’s blind for the mega boss fight.
    Then the final fight of the session, in the arena of the minotaur capital. There’s a pit full of green slime, which I added just because spikes would have been “meh”. It’s a CR4 hazard so no biggie. The party drops 2nd level spells to start camp fires, there’s no way it’s anything but flavour. Except Arcus unknowingly sprays it across the battlefield and no one has Knowledge (dungeoneering) so I can’t justify telling what it does or how to remove it. I even give Deldred (a dwarf) and straight Int check as it’s a common underground menace and they’re high level. No go.
    But it’s no biggie as Squee has the aforementioned 20 Con and the slime deals 1d6 Con damage a round. He can take it. Except he’s solo-ing the big bad pirate king and I roll a “6”. His max hp takes a 36hp hit and he’s been pounded a few times. So Squee dies. Thankfully no one in my game every uses their Hero Points so he has a couple spares and can “auto stabilize” and avoid death. I rule that Hero Points mean he cannot die from hitpoint loss but 0 Con will still kill him. He squeaks by with lots of Con but hovering around -27hp.
    I felt bad for the player. But not too bad as he worked with it, and it was hilarious watching all the bad rolls.

    Okay, onto the actual adventure design.
    I did a lot of tweaking to this half of the chapter.
    The final fights of the underwater arc are so-so. The fight with the petrified priests / death statues is meh, as the statues don’t really do anything. They blind and smack, but don’t really deal enough damage to be a threat. The 3e book versions are high CR and designed to be low-damage & low-AC but high-accuracy & high-hp, so they’ll nickel-and-dime players and just take a long time to die. A textbook boring fight. And there’s no “spring” as hyped in the prior chapter (although, in re-reading, it looks like the fountain of water breathing in the ruins of Istar was supposed to be the spring, although this doesn’t mesh with the letter read by the players which suggests the spring is controlled by the dragonarmies and the key to victory. I blame two different module writers not coordinating as well as they could/ should have.) There’s also the auto-kill gems in the statues. Which is cool except there’s no way the players will know this and the gems have a sh*ttonne of hp and hardness (so much so even adamantine won’t cut through). So it’s almost faster to just smack the statues than try and destroy the harder-than-diamond gems.
    The whole adventure suffers from being an underwater adventure designed exactly like a landbound adventure with no 3D elements or areas that actually require swimming. They even have a ledge around the edge of a pit!
    So I changed the fight. First, instead of some normal room I made the fight take place at the base of the Maelstrom. The fight took place over 3 layers, each was 20-feet apart. The maelstrom shrunk over the layers and ended in certain squares the vortex would pull people to the side and/or suck them down (swim check to avoid with a DC set by how close to the middle they were. I like fights with an interesting terrain hook. And by having the fight at the base of the maelstrom I could hint at the portal to the Abyss at the bottom and tie that into the “spring” which I made a trickle of Abyssal energy from the portal which was focused by the statues and used to sustain the King of the Deep outside his normal demonic environment. And instead of having Gildentongue (disguised as Kitiara for some reason) attack later, it made sense to blend those two fights together at said cool location.

    This adventure really likes jerking the PCs around: Kitiara shows up! The players get to fight her! OMG that is so cool. Only… it’s not her, it’s a trick. That’s really just being mean to the players. There’s no in-world reason for Gildentongue to be disguising himself (that isn’t a justification). I don’t like dangling something in front of the players and then yanking it away. If the authors wanted a villain the players would have been excited to beat-up and kill, they should have emphasised Gildentongue – which I did, as he made three prior appearances and I always reminded the players where they knew him from. But probably should have done even more.

    Then the heroes have saved the underwater world. Yays. They get to the surface, get captured by pirates they could kill with a fraction of their resources (again, they’re level 11-13, so they could teleport to safety, craft magical boats, or kill everyone on the boat with an area of effect spell that only targets people) and are taken to a remote island in the middle of nowhere to be champions for the captain they met for 30-seconds. They win a duel, she becomes pirate queen, and then they go off to save Berem (again), only this time from Kitiara who is scripted to flee before dying.
    None of that is particularly exciting.

    I considered re-writing this whole section with a bit about disrupting the minotaur alliance with the dragonarmies, or possibly backing a rival to the minotaur emperor and aiding his victory in the ring. Which might be cool and plays-up the minotaur connection to the dragonarmies.
    Instead, as I wanted to play the adventures as close to the originals as possible, I replaced Berem with Elistan (who the party cared more about, and as a PC is playing Berem) and moved the duel to the minotaur capital to show it off a little. This fits with the idea of the adventure path, which is showing-off the highlights of the world, so I felt justified. It meant I could do a little with minotaur culture and such. I just wish I could have found a map or some more information on the city. But my players were itching for the duel anyway and were uninterested in city exploration, although a few mind-catching elements might have helped.

    I’m keeping the final exploration of the dragon’s den pretty close to the original with one minor tweak: I’m skipping over the needless gnome tower (fun but superfluous) and the other little random encounters that just seem like xp padding. Exploring a dragon’s den behind someone else, and seeing all the traps already triggered is kinda cool. However, instead of Kitiara or my BDH (who is being saved for a potential rematch in the final session) I’m making it Salah-Khan the Green Dragon Highlord.
    I always thought it was a little odd the Green and Black highlords never made an appearance, especially as the PCs walked right through one’s territory (black). I’m using green as I just found a nice big green dragon figure at a Michael’s craft store and needed and excuse to use it.

    If I were running a Dragonlance-reimagined campaign, a revised WotL, I’d have a sub-chapter set on the minotaur islands, based around breaking the dragonarmy-minotaur alliance. A tour of those islands and the capital. There’s a story there.

  5. #35
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Edmonton, Alberta

    Default To be concluded....

    Continued here:

    So if you want to ask me any questions, comment on what I've done, or tell me I've full of manure feel free.


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