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Thread: Lancefinder - Dragons of Spring Dawning

  1. #1
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    Default Lancefinder - Dragons of Spring Dawning

    The War of the Lance, Pathfinder style. Using the 3e updates published by MWP and my own tweaks when needed.

    Started here and continued here.

    The (new) Heroes of the Lance
    The B-Team, Winter Companions
    Amaudeus male irda "sorcerer"
    Former bearer of the blue crystal staff
    Elsebeth Blackblade female human cavalier
    Honourable knight of solamnia
    Gauraux male Minotaur fighter-rogue
    Pirate and ex-enforcer to a gang
    Tictoklington male gnome tinkerer
    Inventor interested in teleportation
    Carrion Silvanesti dark elf wizard
    Black robed necromancer

    Team 2, the Spring Companions
    Wilder Spirit female Kangonesti ranger
    A savage with talons and little mercy
    Deldred Hornfell female Hylar dwarf cleric
    A dwarven princess and newly risen cleric of Reorx
    Squee male Gully Dwarf rogue/druid
    A foul-smelling creature of little brain more often animal than dwarf
    Berem male human barbarian
    Immortal and ageless man who just wants to die
    Arcus male mad gnome sorcerer
    Electrified gnome with poor impulse control

    Campaign Documents
    Player's Guide (last updated Oct 9th, 2011)
    Monsters (last updated May 31st, 2012)
    Guide to Gods (last updated July 13th, 2011)
    Last edited by Jester; 06-01-2012 at 10:13 PM. Reason: Updating campaign document dates

  2. #2
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    Default Introduction

    Figured I should do things right and start a new thread.

    Right now, one party has won the battle at the High Clerist's Tower and the other party has emerged from the underwater ruins of Istar. They're at the home stretch.

  3. #3
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    Default Session 21

    The War of the Lance is coming to a climax.
    In the West, the Winter Companions: Elsebeth Blackblade, Guaraux, Tictoklington, “Arthur”, and Carrion had found the Stone Dragon and begun forging dragonlances, which were used, along with a dragon orb, to seize victory at the High Clerist’s Tower.
    Our story resumes in the east, on the island of Karthay. The Spring Companions: Wilder Spirit (aka Wisp), Deldred Hornfell, Arcus, Squee, and the mysterious Berem the green gemstone man, were looking for their missing companion Elistan. They had defeated the Lovecraftian King of the Deep and freed the oceans from his mental control. And before that they had disrutpted negotiations between the dragonarmies and the ogres of Kern and Blode.

    Having been directed to the lair of a dragon by the mysterious bird people known as Kyrie (who were apparently at war with the minotaurs), the Heroes worked their way overland to the jungle-shrouded base of a mountain. They had seen a green dragon fly overhead, ridden by someone in green-highlighted dragon armour.

    Finding the cave, they moved inside slowly working their way through the winding corridors and previously triggered traps. They have some trouble in a cylindrical room filled with a cyclone, which pulls Berem and Deldred off their feet and batters them against the walls. Beyond that they encountered a flooded room full of ice-cold water, a room of thick mud, a cloudy room filled with poisonous gas, a maze with many exits that went nowhere and a single magical exit, and a round ring-shaped room with a rolling boulder.
    At the very end of the cave was a large opening to the outside, with a sickly bronze dragon lying on the ground. Berem all has to be held back to prevent the impulsive human from killing the dragon, as Wilder Spirit explains that not all dragons are evil. The dragon assumes the Companions are more villains here to finish him off, like the ones that just attacked and flew off with his human guest.

    After Berem and the others are convinced Clarion is not evil, the group moves closer to the exit, which leads to a large spur of rock jutting out from the cliff face. Suddenly, a huge green dragon landed and exhaled a cloud of burning chlorine gas. The group charged, with Wilder Spirit using her elven blade, WyrmXXX to hack deeply into the dragon. Berem attacked the rider only to find his lance was ready and quite deadly. The battle was over quickly as the dragon died within seconds and the green dragon highlord, Salah-Khan, was beaten into unconsciousness by Squee’s sap.

    Meanwhile,
    Palanthus has begun to arm itself, increasing the number of its guards and their armaments. More knights have begun marshalling in the city, especially after the seas cleared and grew less hostile (after the defeat of the King of the Deep), making ocean travel less hazardous.
    Weeks pass, as Arthur returns to the Stone Dragon to make more dragonlances while Elsebeth recovers from her pitched battle with the Blue Dragon Highlord. After recovering, Elsebeth assumes command of the local knights, doing her best to prepare them for the coming battles.

    One day, over a month after the victory at the Tower, Arthur returns to Palanthus with a new shipment of lances, accompanied by a familiar silver elf-dog. It is the disguised dragon Silvara.
    She tells what she can of the Oath binding the good dragons. She cannot fully describe the Oath, as talking of it is itself a violation. But she tells of its origin, how the evil dragons crept into the lairs of the good dragons and stole their most prized possession. With that held hostage, they ordered the good dragons to stay out of the coming war. But, most importantly, she believes she has discovered where the object is being held. If it can be reclaimed then the good dragons might be convinced to re-enter the war.

    The heroes set out over the sea, having paid for passage to Sanction on a small yet swift moving merchant ship. With Gauraux at the helm, they make good time, shaving a day off the trip, and easily avoid many of the larger naval vessels blockading New Sea. Two days from their destination their luck fails, and the vessel is ambushed by a larger Dragonarmy ship crewed by mercenaries, press ganged sailors, and draconians. The heroes make quick work of the dragon men and claim the new ship as their own, promising the human crew freedom if they work for them and death if they resist.

    With their new vessel and dragonarmy disguises, the Companions soon arrive at the occupied city of Sanction.

  4. #4
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    Default DM Commentary: Session 21

    I hate myself sometimes.
    I mean, I really, really do like Dragonlance. It got me into gaming, and thereby introduced me to most of my friends. The various novels kept me entertained throughout most of Jr. High and I happily bought all of the 3e and most of the 2e gaming materials (at least, all of what I could find and win/afford on eBay).
    But as I write these commentaries I really come down both the original adventures and the 3e updates. But I
    love Dragonlance, I really do. I wouldn’t have spent a year (so far) running the Chronicles adventures, with the end only now in sight. I wouldn’t have agonized over the details or spent hours writing and updating monsters or working on my campaign’s player’s guide.

    I write this near-disclaimer because I HATE how Chapter 8: Deceit (aka DL8
    Dragons of Deceit) begins.
    DL is a very railroad adventure path. But an on-the-rails campaign works if the hooks are solid, if the party really feels they’re given a good reason to stick to the rails.
    DL8 has a terrible introduction. The reason for adventuring is solid: save the good dragon’s eggs. That works. But the actual hook says “use the information on Silvara from the earlier adventure and presented in this module to make a hook”. So... there isn’t a hook. Instead, you need to read the module, really read it, and then disseminate that information to the players.

    The problem is this is such a vital moment. This is where Silvara explains the Oath, explains why the good dragons aren’t in the fight. And you’re given
    nothing to work with. And it’s a scene that isn’t in the novels, as it’s done as an aside exclusively with Silvara and Gilthanas.
    I’m not sure how much information to give. Does Silvara know about draconians? Does she suspect? It is kinda obvious when you know about the eggs. How did she find out about Sanction? How exactly were the eggs stolen? So many questions that I just can’t find a ready answer for in the actual adventure.
    I’m disappointed that the authors’ couldn’t have freed up some space – any space – to give the players a solid hook and reason to play. We’re given a big grand tour of Palanthus (one module too late to be of use to me) and a tour of Sanction including three temples (two more than my players will likely never see), plus four (FOUR!) different scenes in Sanction that happen in the very, very unlikely instance of the players being captured. But no space for information needed to actually get the adventure started.

    So, if you’re planning on running this be warned. Don’t try and run Chapter 8 blind, as you will need to read and digest the information. Read it all, think about it, look at the timing of your sessions and how fast your group plays and use that as a yard stick.

    This session began with Salah Khan, the green dragon highlord, and his dragonmount (Chockingdeath for those keeping score) being used in place of Kitiara and Skie in the rescue or Elistan (in place of Berem) from a metallic dragon lair (a brzone dragon named Clarion). Again, I replaced Kitiara as it’s more fun to give the players and enemy I expect them to kill rather than one I want to get away (which isn’t going to happen. I built Salah and Chockingdeath to be based on charging and flyby attacks, and they got locked down in the first round).
    The lair is fun, being a dungeon chase rather than a standard crawl. Although it does have the oddity of never letting the players catch the dragon they’re chasing. They catch a glimpse once but cannot catch up (despite running through hazards second) and the Highlord still manages to take out the much more powerful metallic before the PCs arrive.
    The rooms are a mix of hazards and just curious features the players might mistake for hazards. There are the interesting moments when the players cautiously poke and prod and toe a room full of mud or a flooded chamber full of normal – albeit cold – water. It makes for a longer experience than one might think as DM who knows it’s just cold water.
    Of course, at this level, most of the challenges are rather ignorable. I have five level 12 characters (instead of the expected eight level 11 characters or four level 13s) so they have a mountain of low and mid level spells. I pity the DM with the eight 11th level characters with as many as four spellcasters who can throw out over a dozen 3rd-level or 4th-level spells without even blinking. As it is, my players have no problems dumping a couple
    dispel magics on anything resembling a spell effect. Challenges like having to “break down a door atop a greased ramp” are just trivial, and even dodging the rolling bolder was quickly solved when Arcus just walked up and disintegrated it.

    There are a few weird bits in this area. How did Berem end up with a metallic dragon exactly? And the lair suffers the standard problems of 1e dungeons: there’s no place for the dragon to sleep, relax, or generally live. And he stores all his wealth under large rocks. That can’t be good for the coins or fragile items. And as there’s this giant ledge that the dragon can fly in and out of, why does he have the sprawling unnatural cave? Intruders can just come through the other door. Especially since the island is full of Kyrie.
    Many of the “traps” also seem to be implied as Clarion casting and employing spells. A little odd since it means if he’s not home his lair is undefended, and since he’d have been dying near the end and has no way of seeing what’s going on in his lair. It’s easier to just say they’re pre-prepared magical traps.

    Okay, on to the beginning of Chapter 8.
    I opted to have D’Argent not reveal that the eggs have been stolen but instead refer to the good dragon’s “most prized possession” or “that which they hold most dear”. Normally my group plays every two weeks, and having the players spend a fortnight thinking about missing metallic dragon eggs and draconian of mysterious origin is likely to lead to a non-climactic reveal under Sanction. And questions why the super-genius dragons didn’t connect the two dots. This way I can reveal the eggs and in the very next room show the ritual, possibly at the same times players realize what is going on.

    The rest of the session flowed fairly standard. Discussion of the pros and cons of hiring a ship versus buying one outright, plus the naval fight and introduction to Sanction. As always, my players devastated my carefully levelled draconians. My party be badasses.

    Okay, a little nitpicking now.
    The boat-hiring was a little awkward in the adventure. Like the trip North from Flotsam in the Spring adventures, it was going to cost a high and arbitrary amount of money. “I’m going to charge you <number author pulls directly from his butt> steel pieces to ferry you to Sanction”. In this case 500stl plus 300stl for food (according to page 131), which is roughly 3.5stl/day for grub. How many people are they feeding exactly? And curiously, the journey supposedly takes three months from Palathas to New Sea. Frustratingly, on the very next page, it says it’s only an eight week period! 84 days versus 56 days. *sigh*
    However, if you look at the map of Ansalon, it’s roughly 1000 miles from Palanthus to Sanction from New Sea. The travel time of both a 1e and 3e sailing ship puts a journey of 1000 miles at closer to 20-odd days. Oh, and 1000 miles carries a fee of 1000sp or 100stl according to the PHB, meaning the players are being gouged at five-times the regular rate (better than the 10x rate in Dragons of Spring).
    When you consider that the PHB economy is based around the silver piece this gets even sillier. The average untrained labourer earns 1sp per day. I tend to equate this as minimum wage which earns a person around $50 a day. So a gp is $500. And the 3 1/2 stl per day for food would then be $1500. Per day. You can see why I double take.

  5. #5
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    Default

    The Companions arrived in the shadowy city of Sanction. After only minutes in the city they were already coated with a fine later of ash. D'argent, still masquerading as an elven dog, emphasized their mission: find the stolen valuables of the good dragons and bring them into the war.

    Before they departed the ship, Arthur hesitated, feeling an overwhelming presence of evil and the gaze of Takhisis. His every motion threatened to attract her full attention. Unwilling to risk the party, he remained by the boat.

    The group moved through the central slums of the desolate city, inquiring at the nature of the larger structures in the city. They were quickly told of the three temples at the base of the three volcanos: a temple to the old gods, a temple to false gods, and the dragon-headed temple to Takhisis. The temple to false gods had been converted into an arena / prison while the temple to Takhisis had become the imperial court and home of the Dragon Emperor Ariakas.

    Tictok quickly suggested that someone like Ariakas would keep the stolen treasure nearby his person. So the heroes cut straight through the city to the massive temple shaped like the hideous skull of a dragon. Approaching slowly, the group saw room for two guards at the nostril entrances of the dragon skull, but only one entrance was populated by a dragon: a very bored white dragon named Tepid. Announcing themselves as dragonarmy officers the group walked past.

    The group slowly investigated the temple, moving from room to room while Gauraux listened at doors and checked for traps. After a few minutes of checking doors, Tictok heard a noise from the entrance: a huge procession was moving up the hill to the temple. In the middle of the red-shirted draconians was a chariot pulled by scarred human slaves. Inside the vehicle was a powerful figure clad in ornate armour highlighted with red and the other chromatic dragons. Hastily looking for a hiding place, the group unlocked the nearest room and threw themselves in, stumbling upon the treasure room. They stuffed as much of the room into the item-shrinking bag of Tictoklington.

    After waiting some time with no sounds from outside, the group investigates. They find the Dragon Emperor is holding court in the large main chamber. Feeling free to explore, the group moved through the wing and discovered the bed chamber of Ariakas. They began looting and Elsebeth discovered a mirror behind a curtain in his bedroom. There was a brief flash and the knight's armour crashed to the ground. Carrion carefully glanced through the corner of her eye and recognized a mirror of life trapping! Tictok entered and asked what happened. "Don't look in the mirror!" Carrion cried.
    Tictok looked in the mirror.
    His gear collapsed to the floor.

    After and agonizing discussion and careful inspection of mirror, Carrion and Gauraux decide the only thing they can do is break the mirror. Thankfully, this releases the prisoners.
    As the Heroes are getting dressed, Gauraux hears motion outside. Ariakus is planning to retire to his bedchamber to rest! Quickly downing invisibility potions discovered in the treasure room, the party sneaks down the hall, barely escaping the gaze of the potent ruler. Moving into a guard chamber, they find a stairwell and quietly sneak down into the lower levels of the temple.

    Entering a guard chamber, the heroes dispatch the red shirted draconian warriors, that prove their skill by almost killing Gauraux. Lacking Arthur, the heroes have to rely on potions to heal the downed Minotaur.
    Beyond the draconian chamber was a large room filled with a massive copper dragon, chained to the wall. After brief conversation it was apparent the dragon had been mentally injured and it's facilities were lacking. It was being blackmailed by Ariakas, who will "smash some" for every intruder let past. D'Argent tried her best to talk her way across but it took Elsebeth swearing an oath as a knight to save the treasure for the dragon to let them past.

    Moving beyond the heroes might five large room, each is filled with metallic spheres: brass, bronze, copper, silver, and gold. The evil dragonarmies had stolen the unborn children of the good dragons!

    Beyond, Gauraux spotted someone moving from down the hall. Following, the black robed man was seen carrying a brass egg to a massive changer. Inside was a large red dragon and a dark cleric. In horror, Gauraux watched as they finished a dark ritual on the dragon egg which swelled unnaturally and burst revealing the wriggling forms of a half-dozen infant baaz draconians! The draconains were really the corrupted offspring of the good dragons!

    Waiting down the hall, the heroes waited for one of the group to leave. The foul cleric was the first, and Gauraux buried his axe into his back. Yelping, the dragon and wizard moved to attack. Elsebeth, mounted on D'argent, charged the dragon for devastating damage while Tictok luckily managed to turn the wizard into a toad. The battle won, the group teleported away to the dragon isles where they told the good dragons what had happened.

    Enraged, the good dragons renounced their Oath and happily agreed to join the war. Elsebeth said they had to rescue the captured copper dragon, Cymbol. The dragons agreed and let the heroes mount them and flew south. They eventually arrived in Sanction, a metallic wave of dragons. Chromatic dragons flew down and there was a brief battle in the sky, good dragons versus evil. Quickly, the day was won and spring had truly arrived. Finally, the land had hope.

  6. #6
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    Default DM Commentary: Session 22

    Picking up from last session the Winter Companions had arrived at Sanction, also know as the worst place for a city ever. Three volcanos and lava flows. The air quality would be lethal. Justifying its existence to the players without violating their suspension of disbelief was tricky.

    This adventure has a fairly understated plot. The heroes get captured by the dragonarmies and freed by the Shadowpeople (or captured by the shadowpeople who they convinced to help). Aiding the heroes, the shadowpeople help the heroes sneak into the back entrance of the temple where there heroes discover the truth behind the Oath.

    However, there's no encounter hard enough to result in the player's capture.
    There's precious few other encounters provided and little description of the city. There's a scene provided for after the heroes spend a day in Sanction and another after they spend a week. But it's unlikely any group of adventures will spend more than an afternoon in the city. So the four pages of encounters are rather wasted.
    Likewise, the shadowpeople's aid seems unlikely to be incurred. My group, like most groups, went right to the big obvious temple. It's the home of Ariakas and a temple to Takhisis and is shaped like a dragon head. It's pretty much a giant flashing "go here" sign. My group didn't even consider the other temples for more than a minute.

    This is a shame. It would have been nice to work in a bit on gaining the shadowpeople's aid and support in the war. Only now I consider having them be allies of D'argent who she suggests meeting with. Perhaps they told her the eggs were in Sanction.

    The rest went smoothly as the group explored the temple, stole treasure, and beat up draconians. The encounter with the magic mirror was tense and hilarious. And I added some suspense by having Ariakas almost encountering them and having to beat his initiative to escape through a doorway.

    I revealed the Oath and origin of the draconians back-2-back for maximum effect, which worked well.

    The aerial fight was a blast. I upped the scale and said medium minis were large and large were huge with each square being 10 feet, so dragons could take advantage of their fast flying. I halved the maps into layers, one 30ft up and used Chessex dice boxes for halfway between layers, so the group took advantage of the 3D space.

  7. #7
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    Default Session Twenty-Three

    Victory had been won, and the green dragon highlord lay defeated. The Companions set to work interrogating him, learning of the Dragon Emperor Arakias and his Crown of Power, which conveyed magical protection. Salah-Khan spoke of the likely locations of Ariakas, depending on how the war to the west was going. The Companions also told their story to the curious the bronze dragon, Clarion, who listened intently before telling his tale, which included the revelation of the theft of the good dragon eggs.
    The heroes kept Salah-Khan captive and returned to the minotaur isle of Mithas.

    After returning, the group spent the next month helping the former privateer Maquesta Kar-Thon secure her new role as Pirate Queen. In repayment, she arranged a meeting with the imposing Minotaur Emperor: Chot Es-Kalin. Minotaurs believe “might makes right” and Emperor Chot showed the scars of many fights in the great arena proving his strength and thus his right to rule.
    The powerful minotaur seemed uncertain of their motives, especially their request for him to remove his troops from the dragonarmies. Chot boasted that the minotaurs would never be slaves again, as now they would be conquerors. Deldred brought in Salah Khan to discuss the true role of the minotaurs in the dragonarmies, and their subservient role after the Dark Queen's victory.
    Chot was not happy. He stepped forward and twisted the Highlord's head backwards. The once proud warrior-assassin Salah-Khan limply fell to the ground. Growling, Chot agreed to withdraw his support and troops, but refused to engage the dragonarmies unless their vessels sailed into minotaur waters. The minotaurs would remain neutral.

    Sailing west on the flagship of the new Pirate Queen’s fleet, the Companions arrived in Kalaman. After two weeks on the boat they were glad to reach land, especially Deldred. Surprisingly, the entire city knew of the heroes, calling them by name and asking questions. They were brought to the finest inn and given the best food and drink, all free of charge. It turned out that the bronze dragon Clarion arrived at the city, and spread tales of the great heroes and their victories in Silvanost, Balifor, and the Blood Sea.
    The next day was the Spring Dawning festival and the entire town celebrated the Companion’s achievements. Plays were watched, snacks were consumed, and Deldred easily won a drinking competition.

    The next day the Companions were surprised with an invitation to the Whitestone Council. The uneasy alliance of humans, dwarves and elves was reconvening by the front line to establish a renewed offensive. Even the elves had come along to negotiate. After angry discussion and more indecision, Arcus took the initiative to teleport the entire council to Silvanost, all to prove to the Silvanesti ambassador the Heroes had indeed aided their people. This included the elven princess Alhana Starbreeze, who was overseeing the reconstruction of Silvanesti, still bearing the scars of Lorac’s nightmare.
    Shamed by Alhana Starbreeze who named the heroes "friends", the ambassador quickly agreed that the elves would join the renewed offensive. Unwilling to let the Silvanesti alone fight for the elves, Porthios, prince of Qualinesti, agreed to also send troops.
    With the war going well, the heroes planned their next move: sneaking overland to Neraka, capital of Taman Busuk, center of the dragonarmy’s territory, and the very heart of darkness.

    Before the group could depart, a massive shadow appeared over the city of Kalaman: a flying citadel. A small keep wrenched from the ground and floating on a spur of rock atop magical storm clouds. Exiting the flying structure was a blue dragon and rider, the Blue Dragon Highlord – also known as Drake the Traitor. He gave an ultimatum: surrender the Green Gemstone Man and have the good dragons submit to the will of the Dark Queen. Failure would result in the destruction of Kalaman and any other cities that resisted.

    The Heroes decided to fight. Arcus was supplied with sketches and landscape paintings and reports from scouts, to enable him to teleport into Taman Busuk. Teleporting to the mountainous region, the Heroes moved southward. After passing through a small, occupied town they came across a slave caravan. They rescued the captured slaves, despite a mild earthquake that cracked the earth asunder and half-submerged Deldred in lava.
    With the freed slaves in tow they reached the occupied town of Jelek, and met with the head of the local resistance: the Hidden Light. The resistance leader, nicknamed the Butcher because of her actual occupation as the town butcher, told the Companions there was no easy way to Neraka. Hammered by lance-wielding knights atop metallic dragons, the dragonarmies had pulled back for a meeting of the surviving Highlords. The Butcher also said that an old befuddled wizard advised her that the best way to Neraka was in the opposite direction, to the southwest. Curious, the Companions followed the advice and discovered a small unremarkable path into the mountains.

    Following the path, they came across a massive curled dragon, sleeping in the sun. Its golden scales were dull and worn with age. Sleeping atop the dragon was a bearded old wizard: Fizban the Fabulous. He chastised the group for poor manners after waking him and agreed to accompany them.
    The path they were following led to an aged and forgotten city. It was divided into eighteen sections, each with a subtlety different style of architecture. In the middle was a sizable black slab of rock, worn and pitted. Arcus walked onto the surface and a glowing doorway appeared, a portal to an unknown place. Inside was a massive entryway leading to a giant-sized throne. A voice announced they had entered a place of challenges, that they would be tested.

    The first test was a challenge of wisdom.
    The Companions struggled through a flooded tower, trying to discover the way out, which was reportedly the way up. This proved challenging as the tower looped back upon itself, twisting like a möbius strip. In each of the Tests a gem was required. In this test it was hidden in an alcove behind a row of clay golems. Not wishing to fight the half-dozen golems, Arcus simply used the enchantment Mage Hand to levitate the stone to them.
    They followed the flowing water around, discovering a table of enchanted food that held Squee and Deldred captivated before they were pulled off. There was a room full of bewitched dwarves desperately trying to paint a room between fits of dancing caused by an enchanted music box, which resisted Arcus’ attempts to disintegrate it. Finally, Squee hit upon the idea of aiding the dwarves in their task, which greatly decreased the time painting.
    While exploring, Squee accidentally released a captured elven spirit bound to a painting. The spirit followed them for some time, before attacking when the heroes were distracted. Despite seemingly being slain, she returned again. The heroes quickly deduced she was bound to the painting and destroyed it.
    Finally, the Heroes discovered a secret door in the library. They struggled for some time to open the sealed door but eventually deduced the secret. This led them to a spiral staircase leading up and down. They emerged through the top of the tower and returned to the throne room in a flash of light.
    Last edited by Jester; 04-14-2012 at 05:28 AM. Reason: added details, corrected some grammer, and generall tightning

  8. #8
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    Default DM Commentary: Session 23

    Here we go, the penultimate chapter of the War of the Lance / Chronicles adventure path.
    Too bad it's lame.

    It's not a bad adventure, it's just superfluous. It's a travel adventure at a level when groups routinely travel via magic. The module has the group teleported a few days north of Neraka, or flown like in the books. My party was high enough level to teleport themselves.
    It's an awkward level range to have an A to B travel story, when the party has had teleport and overland flight for three levels (or more).

    First off, I started with the Minotaur Emperor. Mostly because I wanted to acknowledge their allegiance with the Dragonarmies, and their role in the war. Like breaking the meeting at the end of chapter 10, it helps justify the eastern heroes having an impact on the war. I also jumped ahead, as this groups was significantly less far along in the timeline. They could have easily have made it to Neraka by the 2nd of Winter Dark.

    Curiously, the bulk of this is a test. Yup, they're being tested by the gods now, after they've proven themselves a half-dozen times.
    Really, the entire reason for this adventure was having the same number of adventures for the western Heroes of the Lance as the eastern, despite far less interesting elements in the novels. Although, at this part of the book, the two groups had been reunited. It might have worked better splitting the tenth chapter (Balifor and Flotsam) into two adventures, padding the former. Or a big adventure on the Minotaur isles, getting them out if the war.

    It's also awkward getting the party on the rails, to the Ruins of Godshome / Glitterpalace. It's the wrong way, and there's only the one hook: the young white stag. Which really drags the party by the nose; if they don't go in the right direction it gets ill, and even divine healing can't cure it. If the player's don't remember the significance from the stag very first adventure (IF they encountered it, which my party did not), they might say "too bad stag" and head right to Neraka essentially skipping an entire module. At this point, the first adventure could have been a year previous, or longer.

    Instead if the stag, I used Fizban, or rather the suggestion of his advice, and had the direct route being blocked by an army (or five). The players know it's a rail-heavy adventure, and they know I don't force them or penalize them for jumping the rails. They're willing to follow the obvious hook. But I'm lucky that way.
    If doing an adventure more inspired by the modules I'd focus this adventure on getting past the army, with fight patrols, or disguising as dragonarmy officers and having social encounters, or navigating the hazards of hellish mountains. And Glitterpalace. But having options.

    On a more positive note, I love the opening.
    It's great to have the party recognized as heroes, and a chance for fun social interactions. I had some plays reselling the battle of the High Clerist's Tower, dramatizing the fight between Elsebeth and Drake. And I had Deldred engage in a drinking contest. Fun stuff.

    And the return of the Whitestone Council was nice, a chance for redemption after their past failure to organize a unified resistance.
    I had an interesting moment where I was just bringing in Alhana into the meeting when Arcus' player asked if he teleport everyone to Silvanost to prove its reclamation. Which worked much better so I retconned it, but had I waited another 10 seconds it would have been much smoother. Oh well.

    I had the players enter the Test of Wisdom, as it was the one I had read the most. It played surprisingly well. They searched everywhere, wandered in circles, and discovered the circular nature fairly late. And they managed to solve most of the problems fairy well, but not too easily.
    (I need to go back and write more description of the test into the adventure journal. Grew slack at the end of the log.)

    There are four problem areas in this Test.
    The first is that the way out is up, which is not explained anywhere to the players. The catch is that to go up you actually go down. However, if you don't know out is "up" you'll automatically go down as the exits to towers is the ground floor. I think there's a little dungeons-are-always-underground logic going on, and the writer assumed people would escape the dungeon by going up.
    The second is the dwarf encounter. First, there's the oddity of where they came from and where they go after. Plus, there's the fight aspect, which often leads to battemaps and slow play. The text has them start fighting without warning, so you enter and the exploration grinds to halt. Plus, most players tend to fight to the death after attacked, so there's unlikely to be a peaceful solution found. I had the dwarves threaten first and not attack outright. Replacing them with dwarf spirits (but not obvious as such) that cannot rest until their task is competed might work better, and allows them to keep coming back thus making the non-combat solution more necessary.
    The Nalfeshnee fight is also nasty. A likely TPK if a fight breaks out. I had to emphasize that they were overpoweringly powerful, especially since the description isn't instantly recognizable.
    Lastly, there's the hidden door catch. The players are told the exit is up, but they'll quickly recognize that up and down cannot be trusted. However, to get out they need to first get to the 3rd floor (technically the lowest) and then look for a secret door. It's likely the party will explore the entire dungeon before they start looking for extra doors. It's
    likely hidden so players would see more of the dungeon but feels like a bit of a dodge: the players feel smart figuring out the puzzle of up not being up, but the real solution and exit is unrelated.


    That's it for this session, three more to go. Give or take. Reaching the epic climax. I'm really looking forward to it. Ariakas. The return of Soth. A fight against the Dark Queen.
    As always, if you have any questions or comments fire away. If I need to expand any sections let me know, so I can add details before I submit the logs to the Nexus (likely not the Commentary).

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
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    Default Session Twenty-Four

    Having been returned to the throne room of Glitterpalace, the lobby of their divine tests, the heroes were amazed by their lack of injuries and the restoration of their abilities. They had passed the Test of Wisdom through lucky guesses and had been rewarded with a blue gemstone, one of the three needed to complete their challenge.
    Now they faced the Test of Heart or the Test of Valour.
    *
    Stepping through the magical doorway they entered the swampland of the Test of Heart. A foul bog on a series of connected plateaus above a seemingly bottomless void. Dim purple light provided little illumination, although barely enough to see. A shape moved to the east, a person who seemed oddly familiar.
    Investigating, the Companions found themselves in a skeletal forest which gradually began to resemble the nightmare woods of Silvanesti, the elven kingdom travelled through mere months ago. Bleeding trees and unnatural sounds filled the air.
    Progressing, the Heroes encountered a procession of the dead: failed soldiers who were doomed to march in an endless looping procession for eternity, continually bearing the shame of their defeat. Shockingly, the group recognised Elsebeth, Elistan, Bupu, and other familiar faces, bemoaning their damned stated and advising the party that they would soon be joining the hopeless procession.
    *
    After saying some simple words, the Companions moved on, ignoring the gloom from behind them. They entered a vast marshland. As they moved they sunk deep into the boggy mud, with boots continually threatening to be left behind. Wilder Spirit looked down and realized the root that had caught her foot was really a skeletal hand! Suddenly, bony limbs reached out from all across the bog, grasping at the heroes and trying to drag them down into the ooze. Wilder Spirit fought against the pulling limbs, as they grabbed at her belt and breeches. Squee turned into a dire bat and flew away, grabbing at Wisp and Deldred to pull them from the muck as Arcus shapeshifted into an air elemental to free himself.
    *
    Moving deeper into the marsh, the Companions neared the edge of the plateau. In the distance they could see a white pavilion, glowing brightly. It was separated from their plateau by a hundred-foot gap. Approaching the edge, spirits began to rise from the marsh. One was a massive dark shape, as big as an ogre. Defending themselves as best as they could against the ethereal attackers, the party was soon weakened from their unnaturally cold touch. Wilder Spirit was repeatedly drained by the large phantom, being brought to the very brink of death while Arcus was beaten into unconsciousness. It was an unwinnable fight, as even the repeated brilliant holy light of Deldred could not stop the undead threat, and more spirits continually rose every few seconds.
    Somehow still standing, Wilder Spirit urged Squee to flee, to get to the pavilion and get the gem. Reluctantly, the simple gully dwarf flew ahead over the chasm. Grabbing the brilliant red gem there was a flash of white light and Squee had a vision: he saw Berem meeting with a sad young woman before a cracked pillar. The two figures joined and all that was left with a single white gem, the third gem needed to complete their trial.
    *
    All four awoke. Wilder Spirit had regained her vitality, and was no longer seconds from death. Squee nervously looked at the third challenge. They had faced a howling ghost in the Test of Wisdom, and an unwinnable army of wraiths in the Test of Heart... what awaited them in the test dedicated to courage?
    *
    They entered and found themselves in a large throne room in a Solamnic keep. Outside was an army of draconians laying siege to the structure. A young girl sat on the throne, one Elsebeth Blackblade. While the siege was likely topical, their host was from the past.
    With draconians hacking away at the door to the chamber, the group fled through a secret door into a glassteel globe. Deldred paused long enough to stoneshape the passage behind them closed, preventing their being followed. The globe dropped down a long shaft, falling an unknown length before coming to a rest in the crypts of Vingaard keep, resting place of the Blackblade family and various other knights. The tombs were filled with the knights slain by the Cataclysm. The vast crypt was a mixture of rough natural caverns and hewn stone reinforcing the walls and carved chambers.
    *
    Advancing into the dark chambers, the heroes examined the sarcophagi but did *not touch the resting places. Carved on the lids were knightly symbols. From inside faint whispers could be heard: “Are you the one?”
    Moving down the darkest corridor the heroes navigated over several large clefts from a natural chasm that cut through the tomb. Wind built and howled eerily through the gap. Beyond the first chasm were three suits of armour. As Deldred approached they rose up, fuelled by the spirits of dead knights. “Are you the One?” they asked. “Yes,” Deldred replied, not knowing what they were truly asking. They attacked, their gaze sapping the strength from their opponents. After a brief scuffle, Deldred and Wilder Spirit convinced the knight haunts that they were on the same side. The knights let them pass.
    *
    Continuing onward, the group passed into a large chamber of coffins and into a large hall with a single massive door on one side. Inside that far chamber was a pair of thrones occupied by the long dead spectres of the lord and lady of Vingaard keep. As the Companions neared the thrones, waves of undead knight haunts rose behind them in a silent procession. “Are you the One?” the dead lord asked. The Heroes inquired into which one, and learned it was the One who caused the Cataclysm and brought death and fire to so many. The Heroes asserted they were definitely not “the One.”
    The lord then asked, “Then who is?”
    *
    The Companions stumbled over the answer before remembering the tale of Lord Soth, the death knight who fought the Western Heroes at the High Clerist’s Tower. They said he was to blame as he failed to stop the Cataclysm. Being told that this Soth was not fighting on behalf of the Dragonarmies, the lord vowed to send his undead soldiers to bring him to justice. With that, the Heroes passed the Test of Valour. Before they returned to Glitterpalace they saw one last vision: the Dark Queen Takhisis blocking passage, standing between worlds. After blasting the party with fire a brave hero stepped forward wielding a dragonlance. The champion glowing with white light held the Queen back, distracting her long enough for victory to be achieved, for the heroes to return to Glitterpalace. With all four gems being retrieved they passed the test of the gods and awoke on a large, dark circle of glass. Above was a dim night sky reflected below in the obsidian like surface of the glassy ground. They heard a divine voice coming from all directions offering them advice and comfort. Overhead, the stars shown brightly save for the two empty voids where two constellations were absent: the Platinum Dragon and the Queen of Darkness. As the voice ended one of the constellations returned briefly to the stars before vanishing again.
    *
    Exiting the small vale in the mountains, the Companions realized they were not where they had entered Glitterpalace: they had been transported several dozen miles away and were within striking distance of Neraka. They exited the vale and passed through a misty forest planning their next move when dark shapes appeared overhead. Two dragons landed nearby while several others circled overhead. Suddenly, the chromatic colouring faded revealing brilliant metallic scales! Elsebeth Blackblade, clad in shiny gold-plated armour descended from one of the dragons and saluted her fellow heroes. A very happy Tictok congratulated everyone for being alive.
    *
    Reunited and together, for the first time in the flesh, the Heroes of the Lance planned their next move. One group was needed to infiltrate the city and find the secret hidden underneath. Meanwhile, someone had to get into the throne room of the dragonarmies and kill the Dragon Emperor or the war would continue. The two groups divided and departed, ready to end the war once and for all!

  10. #10
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    Oct 2004
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    Default DM Commentary: Session 24

    This session ended DL 13, the penultimate adventure in the War of the Lance. This session was all about the divine test at Glitterpalace.

    My party blundered through the test of wisdom, and ended up fighting through the test of heart and talking through the test of valor.

    The depressive marsh atmosphere of the Test of Heart seemed really inspired by the Neverending Story (book and/or movie). It was atmospheric and interesting but didn't seem to have much of a point.
    If the party goes one way, they meet with forsaken dead and had to make a fairly low saving throw against depression. Failure means they join the forsaken procession. Neat, but it doesn't do much but stop someone from playing the game. Getting someone out from the enchantment requires an almost impossible
    dispel magic or break enchantment check OR a high DC diplomacy check which also starts combat. Not a very hard combat, but an unending one. So if the party lacks a diplomancer (or it was the diplomancer that failed their check) the PC is gone. There's some rule oddities here. The diplo check is DC 30 with a bonus based on what the player says of +5 to +15, with the +5 being "something quick and funny". So, really not even trying. Why not a DC 25 with a bonus of +0-10?
    This is just me nitpicking, as the scene itself is solid and affords some role-playing potential, especially if there was some fallen PCs or NPCs.

    However, when the PCs enter the zone they see a shape (described as "familiar") that goes in the *opposite* direction, so they're almost certain to follow and miss the cool parade of failure. Instead, the second way leads to a scary forest, which explicitly starts looking like Silvanesti. So it has a "been there, done that" feel. And beyond that is a marsh where the PCs sink a few inches into the bog, which does... nothing really. There's no mechanical effect. They're just in mud.
    I moved the procession to have the cooler encounter rather than the mud, but it might be fun to riff more off of Neverending Story and have mental state determine sinking or not, with the PCs getting stuck unless they think positive and keep trying.

    Beyond that is the undead battle. I went with pure wraiths after a skill challenge with grasping arms. One dread wraith (CR 13, so a fair fight) and two accompanying wraiths and two more spawning every round. It was a slaughter. Dread wraiths be nasty.
    There's some awkwardness here. The original module has no advice or alternatives for getting across the 100 foot span, but thankfully the revised version does with something that ties back into the theme of "heart". But, at this level, a mere 100ft chasm shouldn't be too troublesome, so long as the magic users made it past the undead and other challenges. I had an air walking cleric, air elemental sorcerer, and a rangers/rogue/Druid wild shaped into giant bat.

    The Test of Valour followed.
    There's some oddities here. Your're in the throne room of Vingaard keep watching it be sacked by the dragonarmies, which must have happened a few weeks back, but anachronistically there's a young Sturm Brightblade present despite his being 30 or so at this point. But that's no the problem. The first is the assumption the players know who Sturm is (3/4 of my table wouldn't) and the second is not having been to Vingaard keep or having it mentioned, its appearance lacks any dramatic or narrative effect. It's just a place. Why li'l Sturm is even there isn't really clean.
    So the heroes escape in a pretty cool yet really weird glassteel ball into some catacombs filled with dead knights. They've all been there since after the Cataclysm since they're concerned with who killed them and their master ("the One") but giant crazy underground dungeon construction is just the kind of thing that stopped with the Cataclysm, so it must have been a giant empty tomb prior.
    This is the Test of Valour, but is really the Test of saying "no" and knowing Dragonlance lore. You face a small army of ghostly knights if you ever says "yes" to their question. And the solution to the other big riddles (the knight's oath and who caused the Cataclysm) are tricky to answer for anyone who didn't read and absorb the novels.
    It's a bit of a frustrating Catch-22, as the player's shouldn't have been expected to read the novels, the characters wouldn't know what happened 400 years prior and half a continent away, and everyone's been blaming everyone else for four centuries. And if they answer badly they face an EL 17 encounter. And that includes 64+ strength sucking knight haunts (or 64+ paralyzing revenants). Even the player at my table who had read the books choked and stumbled on this question.

    Then the adventure ends and some clues are dropped and not much has been gained. There's been no real story progression. Although I had a chance to do some more Fizban foreshadowing.

    I ended with arrival of the other groups of PCs and choosing of roles. Unlike the original adventure, I wanted to have both groups have some small chance to shine, and some mission to accomplish. One group goes underneath the temple with Berem and the other faces Ariakas (and likely Drake).

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