Monday, October 27, 2008

10/25 Actual Play

This session fast forwarded the typical end-of-story wrap up and started the beginning of a new adventure. We leveled to third in the interim. Participating:

Chelsea, playing Ana the Half Elven Cleric
Chris, playing Merril the Halfling Cleric
Dan, playing Arlarond the Human Wizard
Jay, playing Therryk the Dragonborn Paladin
Jesse, playing Halma the Human Rogue
Lisa, playing Feawen the Elven Ranger
Colin was DMing but ran Lucan, his Elven Fighter

We had 2 Defenders, 2 Strikers, 2 Leaders, and 1 Controller. A pretty balanced group. Of course, the three not attending are all strikers, so it was more luck than anything...

The city of Fallcrest embraced their new heroes with open arms. Upon hearing of the events that transpired in the Scarred Caverns a celebration was thrown, with our heroes as guests of honor. Somewhat more attention was paid to Ana, the bastard child of the Lord Mayor. The party was a chance to relax, and to get paid for being heroes.

It was also a chance to hear about the local goings on. It seems a party of dwarves had been spending their days in the local watering hole. These dwarves had been in the town for a few days and nobody seemed to know why they were here or what they were waiting for. Arlarond, who had spent the evening drinking with them not long ago, made his way to the Inn and began pumping them for information.

It did not take much to discover what the story was. They were biding time waiting for their leader to show up. He was stuck in prison in Hammerfast and would send a runner when he was released and ready to meet up. At that time they would head North to find an old abandoned Giant Temple. Since no more giants claimed it the temple was newly dubbed the treasure temple.

Arlarond wasted no time. He found Halma drinking in another establishment. Halma readily offered to hire an actor to convince the dwarves that their boss needed them in Hammerfast (though this is still unknown to the party). Arlarond moved on. In turn he contacted the remaining members of the party in their respective hangouts or homes. The plan was to meet at the Wizard's Tower at sundown.

He finished in time to return to the Inn and witness the actor approach the dwarves. He played up being the runner sent from Hammerfast. The dwarves were mostly passed out drunk by this point, having been kept in supply by a generous donation from Arlarond. The actor informed them that their boss needed them to return and post bail for him. One of the dwarves was with it enough to demand proof that this runner was from the boss. Arlarond graciously volunteered himself as an impartial party to verify that the name whispered in his ear by the 'runner' was the name spoken aloud by the dwarf. Big surprise, it was! The dwarves decide to finish their one last night of drinking and leave early the next morning to Hammerfast.

There is time enough in the day for some planning and research. Ana attempts to search the castle for any information about a 'Giant's Temple' to the north, but is unsuccessful. Arlarond quizzes his master, who admits that he does not recall any such thing, but freely allows Arlarond to do research of his own in the small private library in the tower. After some diligent searching he spies a map tucked away between two bookshelves with a handwritten scrawl mentioning some larger than life ruins on a specific island in the lake north of Fallcrest.

Nightfall comes, with the gathering of the heroes at the foot of the Wizard's Tower. Preparations are made, and discussion about travel arrangements turns to boats. It is agreed that waiting until mid morning the next day (after the dwarves leave town) would be best. The next day, a small boat is hired for the journey, provisions are procured, and the journey begins. It will be days of sailing just to reach the lake. To pass the time, the two Human party members attempt to learn the ropes of sailing from the 4 man crew.

Three days out from Fallcrest the sharp eyed members of the crew, and the captain of the vessel spot a boat headed downriver. As it gets closer it is apparent that there is nobody aboard and the out of control boat is headed on a collision course with ours. Fast acting by the crew and party together push it out of the way in time to avoid disaster, and Halma leaps aboard to investigate this new mystery.

With both boats anchored near each other, the party begins to examine the derelict. Large gouges mar the deck, and portions of the railing are torn away. Exploring the lower deck illuminates part of the mystery, as 5 bloated corpses are found. Simultaneously Feawen comes to a conclusion about the claw marks, and Arlarond recognizes the origin of the poison. This boat had been attacked by a green dragon.

A quick party council agrees on two things. Make no mention of the bodies or the dragon, and take as many barrels of wine as we can load on two Tenser's Discs. Once the boat is once more unoccupied it is released to float downriver to Fallcrest. Interestingly enough, the captain volunteers a tale about a green dragon terrorizing a village in the north. He travels this way often trading goods, but has never seen one. He considers it a legend.

Days later as the party entered the lake, they saw the expected shape far away in the sky. Knowing what they did about the reality of a green dragon in the area, the party points the boat to shore and ushers the crew below decks. Before too long they are staring down the charging gullet of a large green dragon.

The battle was long. Highlights:
- We were bunched up on a 15 x 50ish boat. Had the dragon felt sporting he would have waited until we reached the shore to attack, but he took advantage of the situation and charged while we were still almost 100 feet away. The boat was moving about 2.5 feet per second. Less than 2 miles per hour.
- The dragon had a mental ability that compelled the target to move 10 feet in a direction of his choosing. This meant that no place on the boat was safe from being ordered to step off and into the lake.
- All of his attacks afflicted some status effect or another. We were doing awful at saving. Everyone had some sort of status on them most of the fight except for Feawen. Being the primary ranged attacker she managed to stay out of the clump. One might thing Arlarond would also have stayed back, but he ventured out over the water in his floating disc, and was hit in the first pass with the breath weapon.
- The Clerics are both ranged attackers, obviously Feawen the ranger and Arlarond the wizard could attack from afar. That left the three melee classes. Lucan has an enchanted trident so he could stay back a few squares. Therryk chose to stand at the bow and attempt going toe to toe with the dragon, and Halma took a different approach...
- His Daily ability blinded the dragon, and then he ran and jumped from the boat and attacked in the air with is action point. He spent a few rounds in the water after that, since the dragon stunned him and a few others with his fear ability. He got dragged under the barely moving boat and lost a healing surge for the trouble. Arlarond was knocked from his disc and took a dip too, as did Feawen, Therryk, and Merril at some point during the fight.
- Surprisingly in spite of the constant poison damage, the slowing from the after effect, and the fear debuff we kept dealing damage. The dragon moved onto the ship and began going after different targets. The boat crept towards the shoreline, and was only stopped from beaching by the timely action of Halma dropping anchor. His second attempt at glorious action was thwarted by his relative inexperience with sailing. An attempt to cut a rope and cause the boom to knock the dragon in the head was less than effective, but we much appreciated his not allowing us to crash into the shore.
- With most people bloodied and Merril and Ana out of healing magic the party was feeling pretty grim when surprisingly one last arrow from Feawen sent it pinwheeling towards the water.


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I was in the player's seat for this and the next few games, which is nice for a change. We spent quite a bit of time role playing the town action, even getting momentarily bogged down in that D&D constant, over planning. For some odd reason it was buying a boat that did it this time. Goes to show that you never know what will set it off.

The dragon fight took up most of the rest of the time. I did not expect it to last that long. Most of the difficulties from this fight were due to the terrain. Granted, fighting a dragon in any circumstances should be difficult, but considering that there was nowhere on the boat safe from his slide ability and no way for us to not be bunched up, his breath weapon and dragon fear were especially effective. Later in the fight with both of those not recharged he flyby attacked several times, which is still rotten since his melee attacks also add poison damage.

The entire theme of the fight was status effects. We were experimenting this session with pipe cleaner rings to represent conditions. We started with pink on the dragon to represent the Hunter's Quarry (the Pink Ranger, hur hur) and yellow for the Divine Challenge. Then we got hit with the breath weapon and most of the minis on the boat had a green (poison) and orange (slowed) ring. Add red for bloodied and yellow for the fear debuff and the wizard could barely be seen behind his rings. Someone suggested the players keep the rings instead of their minis, and that is how we finished. The dragon had a couple status rings and the DMPC, but most players were wearing theirs on their fingers the rest of the fight. It was kind of a . . .less than ideal test for them, since the dragon caused a lot more status effects than normal, and in my mind the primary function should be to mark enemies so the players can see at a glance which ones are marked, bloodied, etc.

We were more worried than we should have been about colliding with the shore. At the bottom of every round Colin redrew the shore 3 squares closer and moved all the water treading PC's 3 squares away. Luckly the DC's for climbing aboard were only a problem for the full plate, heavy shield Paladin (me). Halma had the anchor in his hand originally in an attempt to leap onto the dragon (again), and hook it to him. I think had we not been careening out of control towards the shore he may have tried. It is funny, because it added that bit of desperation, I think. While I would have *loved* to fight on open ground, having a hole torn in the ship would have sucked.

This was my first FAIR dragon fight playing D&D. I did fight a red dragon once in a 10th level game, but he was. . .a pain in the ass, I guess. This dragon was a tough, exciting, dangerous fight, and a score for 4e, in my opinion.

Jay

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