Saturday, September 18, 2010

After Action Report #4: Finishing Rivenroar

After the disaster for the party that was the Von Jallach Crypt, the party moved on. They didn't take an extended rest or even ask me to, figuring that I probably wouldn't let them take a third one while in Rivenroar. I actually might have in this case, given where they were at. Serd, the goblin who wiped the floor with them, wasn't liked and was more or less left to his own devices there in that crypt, but the players had no way of knowing that. So they didn't. They were in bad shape. As I think I mentioned before, I'd penalized them in exchange for not outright killing half the party. The penalty being that they lost 5 healing surges (but were at full HP) and anybody reduced below 0 healing surges would be weakened until they got an extended rest. The runepriest tried to argue, saying that if he removed a condition from someone, they should be fine. But I pointed out that this was a special circumstance and the most he could do would be to remove it for a single turn in combat or 5 minute span outside of it. Nobody except the monk and wizard were below 0 healing surges and they actually weren't even around for one session of this report. The party decided that they would instead be safeguarding the still living NPCs as well as removing villagers bodies from Rivenroar to where they could be buried outside.

First up after Von Jallach was heading up the stairs to the second floor to see what was around there. They found an unlocked set of doors and some laughter and jeering coming from behind them. Even as they listen to the door, something big thumps into it hard. They open the door, finding a beat up and bloody female tiefling there. The tiefling is a bard, a new PC added into the campaign. The players are all over the surprised hobgoblins, lizards, and goblin and the fight generally goes badly for the bad guys. Even with the bard not at full effectiveness despite being freed by the rogue, the party just walks over this fight without too much trouble.

After the fight, they find the bodies of several more villagers, all of them still warm and clearly having been killed in the last 2 hours or less. This was part of the consequences for them taking multiple extended rests. These were villagers the PCs could have saved and although at the time they kind of blew it off, I'll be sure to reintroduce it later. I'm thinking it might be fun to have a grieving son/daughter or husband/wife show up aligned with the bad guys because, for right or wrong, they believe that the PCs could have saved their loved one and didn't. I'll probably introduce this character by way of some crying and angry person in Brindol before they start on the next part of the campaign.

Anyway, they do find another still living captive beyond the bard and free her. She's been terribly beaten and is barely able to even stand, though is in no immediate danger of dying. This is where the PCs decided to have the (absent) wizard and monk escort the NPCs from the complex and gather all the dead villagers/farmers for burial while the rest of the party continues to push on the remaining goals.

The PCs make their way to the Rivenroar Audience chamber next. I hacked out the Honor Guard Crypt encounter in the interests of speeding things along. That said, the players did investigate it and were worried about a recurrance of the Portal Room encounter. They did find a Necklace of Keys for the rogue though. According to the module as written, they would have found the guard captain's son here, but I didn't want to do that right yet, so I moved him elsewhere.

The Rivenroar Audience Chamber didn't go as I'd hoped. The players, despite given the opportunity to RP with Dulan, were not interested. The Paladin tried a little, but the Paladin's player sometimes thinks he's playing in a historical fiction game instead of heroic fantasy. So it was kind of a bust. And the encounter was supposed to be reasonably difficult, but they didn't have much trouble with it either. It just didn't work on either level and I went home from that session feeling pretty unhappy with how things were going.

Starting the next week, we had a full house. The wizard and monk were both back. I introduced the wizard to a token found on Dulan's body, indicating that Dulan was a member of an arcane group called the Covenant of Ivory. The Covenant was something that the wizard's own teacher was a member of and had wanted to recruit the wizard into. I tried to do a lot of setup for later in this session. Also of note was that the PCs found that Dulan's body had disappeared. They'll be seeing him again, though they don't know it. Then the PCs went exploring. They found the scrying pool, but since they were too scared to actually touch it, they didn't actually see anything. They found the black tile sun and I played this up a lot. I want them to feel that there's a lot of bad stuff going on here. I did the same for the audience chamber, telling them that there's a definite seep from the Shadowfell there. At this point I started making stealth checks for the guard captain's son, who is shadowing the PCs to see if they're trustworthy. The kid rolled gangbusters and the PCs passive perception wasn't enough for quite a while.

The Crypt Guardian chamber was fun, because the PCs were worried that the demon (which I described as much bigger and nastier than what the module would have had you fight) would be able to get out and attack them. Or they would be pushed in there with it. It was at this point that they finally began to notice the dragonborn boy following them, but they didn't see him, only heard him. Which was made harder by the Paladin taunting the long crazed and trapped demon. They managed to talk the boy into coming over to them. More specifically, come over to the Paladin, seeing that he was decked out in symbols of Bahamut. There was actually some decent RP here, thankfully, which was fun. They got the boy to hide for a while longer and the Paladin managed not to tell the kid that his dad was dead (the kid was asking about his dad practically from moment 1). The Paladin told the boy that he'd be back in less than an hour.

Then they went into the Shrine of the Obelisk. Something funny happened here. The PCs came in and saw the dungeon tiles that had been put down, and decided that the obelisk was in fact a statue. So I ran with it. I said it was a statue of Orcus, eventually indicating that it was put up before Sinruth got there, but after the original builders had built the place. Just to add a little mystery. Given the party makeup, they actually wanted to pull it down and shatter it, so I let them MacGuyver a way to pull it down.

Before long, the party found themselves at the door heading up to Sinruth's Abode. Like any reasonable person, I moved this fight from the tiny little room where it's supposed to happen and into the menhir room. I added a few effects on the night that I didn't have in my write up. The menhirs were light absorbing, I decided, giving the room a very dark and sinister feel. I also decided, after the PCs decided to start blasting them, that they would do more damage the more they were hit and if they got up to 6 hits, a random one would burst out cold damage. The PCs very wisely stopped blasting them that after I described how the menhirs were humming (all of them) as they got hit by magic.

This fight was close. Very very close. Objectively, the PCs did incredibly well here, spending very few resources and walking away from it. Only the wizard even dropped during the fight. Of course, the reason they spent very few resources was because they had very few to begin with. The PCs walked into this fight just barely functional. Almost nobody was full HP, they had 7 healing surges between the 6 of them (and 4 of those were held by the bard). Many dailies had already been spent. On the upside, they all had an Action Point and I'd given all of them a +1 to any roll during the night for roleplaying or other things (like making me laugh). They needed every little bit of help they could get. Even then, I cut them slack by not having the menhirs damage them like I'd intended. I tried to coax some roleplaying out of them by, quite frankly, playing Sinruth like a deranged Klingon. Obsessed with battle, victory, and worthy opponents. At one point he laughed at the monk (who had just killed 4 minutes and punched Sinruth himself with a daily) and said "You are a worthy opponent! Your skull will have a place of honor in my collection!" which was fun to do and got the players in the right mood.

Eventually, the PCs put Sinruth down, laughing and enjoying the fight all the way to his last breath. They collected a lot of plot related things. A couple of maps showing other hobgoblin strongholds in the area, a note from a mysterious benefactor offering the services of the Stormcrows if Sinruth attacked Brindol to Dulan's and the Stormcrow representative's satisfaction, and the remaining museum pieces stolen from the Hall of Glory in Brindol. At this point, I leveled everybody up to 3 and called it a night.

Next time? The "Meanwhile..." night of encounters and story.