Dateline – Storm Point

Sunday was the latest installment of the Storm Point game, and saw the breaking of the siege of Storm Point.

After defeating the demons who broke through the city’s magical protections last time, the gang went back to the skill challenges protecting the city. They had reached a tipping point, though; failing the magical protection skill challenge took it off the table, and that meant they didn’t need to spend a character’s attention on it each turn, giving them effectively one more body to deal with the other skill challenges. This allowed them to start gaining some traction, and in about an hour and a half after start of play, they had succeeded in the majority of the skill challenges, which was the cue I was looking for to unleash the endgame encounters.

So, with the besieging forces in disarray and trying to quit the field, the enemy commander sent one of his lieutenants to lead a squad of ogres and orcs to burst a side gate, opening a way for the general to enter the city and deal with these pesky kids heroes*. The fight took pretty much the rest of the evening, but fresh from my experience with the end of the Post Tenebras Lux game, I warned them going in that this was one of two final fights to end the siege. This meant that they husbanded their resources a little more carefully, and didn’t immediately drop all their dailies on this combat. It made for a more careful, conservative fight which, coupled with the fact that some of them were down a few healing surges thanks to their actions during the siege, meant it took a little longer than it otherwise might have.

Boy, did they ever start hating that vampire shadar-kai witch, especially since she twice got to use her blood drain ability to jump back up in hit points. Only her vulnerability to radiant damage made them happy.

And, as the last foe dropped, and they stood panting by the ruins of the gate, the enemy general arrived on his manticore mount with an escort of shadowhounds. Fade to black.

Tomorrow is Rememberance Day here in Canada, and the gang has decided that, after the memorial services honouring the members of our armed forces that have fallen is service, we’re going to spend the afternoon finishing off the siege. Maybe we’ll even get to the start of the next adventure, when our intrepid heroes visit the Floating Islands, and ride one through the perpetual storm at the heart of Thunder Lake. I created that scenario for their second adventure, but they never got around to it, what with one thing and another, and they’ve been anxious to finish up this storyline so they can get there. I’ve kept the basic structure of the adventure, but beefed up the encounters to reflect the fact that the characters will be 7th level instead of 2nd.

I’m looking forward to it.

*Three ogre savages, four orc pyromaniacs, and Laundae Ethari, a vampire shadar-kai witch I found in the Monster Builder. 2,102 xp, a level 8 encounter for 6 characters. Back

Dateline – Storm Point

Been pretty quiet around here, hasn’t it? Don’t worry. Things should be picking up again fairly soon.

Anyway, last night we had the latest installment of the Storm Point campaign. We joined our heroes in the middle of the siege of Storm Point, after they had just failed the skill challenge to ward the city against magical assault, which allowed the enemy to summon in a squad of demons to wreak havoc in the town. Most of the characters were out of action points, having spent them for rerolls in the siege skill challenges, and several of them were down healing surges and suffering penalties to die rolls because of lack of sleep.

Now, the past couple of sessions were fairly abstract, dealing with things through skill challenges and roleplaying, with little actual combat played out. I decided that I wanted this session to open with a tough, knock-down, drag-out fight. As it turned out, because of several things*, the fight was all we had time for.

As I said, I wanted to make it tough, but I knew that the party was a little low on resources, so I created the encounter as 9th-level for 6 characters, with 3 canoloths, 3 runspiral demons, and a needle demon (2,200 xp total). I then scattered the runespiral  demons through the neighbourhood that I layed out using the very pretty city tiles from Rackham, put the canoloths in an open plaza, and hid the needle demon out of sight.

The party rode in on their hippogriffs, so I gave them perception checks to see if they could spot the demons, and they found them all except the needle demon. They decided to concentrate on the individual runespiral demons first, and swooped in on one. And, of course, that’s when the needle demon popped out and dominated a couple of them and had them leap from their flying hippogriffs head first to the paving stones.

Well, that got their attention, as did the fact that I had the unengaged demons set fire to buildings or eat civilians on their turns. They ganged up on the needle demon and one of the runespiral demons, while the ranger took on another runespiral demon from the air with his bow. Once they had put those three down, they went after the canoloths.

I had a string of crappy rolls in the fight, which made the remaining demons much less of a threat than they might have been, but it was somewhat balanced by the dazed cleric who could not roll a successful save, despite the extra opportunities granted by the warlord. In the end, the party defeated the demons and organized the citizens to put out the fires, and then we were done for the night.

I hadn’t expected the siege of Storm Point to last more than two sessions, but people still seem to be having fun, so I’m not too upset about it. Next session should see us to the end of the siege and (hopefully) the climactic battle with the commander. I’m willing to push it one session farther than that if I need to, but if it looks to run to three more sessions, I’m going to have to take some action to wrap things up.

But for now, it’s working, and people are enjoying it.

[[EDIT: Corrected name of the runespiral demons.]]

*Including the Winnipeg Zombie Walk, which went right by the store where we play. Back

Dateline – Storm Point

This past Sunday was the latest session of the Storm Point campaign, featuring the siege of Storm Point by an army of mixed humanoids led by shadar-kai heretics worshiping Vecna. We didn’t finish up the siege in one session, so we’ll have to get back to it next game.

I patterned the siege after the skill challenge I used for the defense of the mines last session. I varied it a little, because I wanted to accomplish a few very specific kinds of things:

  • Time pressure. I wanted the characters to feel that there just wasn’t enough time to do everything.
  • Resource pressure. I wanted the feeling of scant resources.
  • Random siege length. I wanted to have the actions of the characters determine just how long the siege goes on.

I also didn’t want to have the option each turn for the characters to kill attackers – in a siege this size, I felt that the impact of killing a few dozen besiegers just doesn’t tip the scales that much.

So, I decided to run the siege as a series of skill challenges, with eight-hour rounds. If a character worked more than a single round in a row, he had to start making Endurance checks – failure cost one healing surge and imposed a -1 (cumulative) penalty on all rolls. This, I felt, would make for some interesting choices, as the players try and decide whether they should take a nap or spend another eight hours manning the walls or whatever.

It worked, too, in that the players were all trying to push their characters as far as possible without sleeping, but saw their effectiveness diminish as they stretched too far. It also allowed for the Endurane skill to really shine for those who had good scores: Thrun the Anvil, for example, went three whole days before even starting to slow down.

The siege itself I broke into two phases: preparation and the siege itself. I set up a range of skill challenges in the preparation phase, each of which granted an advantage during the siege phase; things like training a command squad, laying in stores, reinforcing the walls, seeding the surrounding area with traps, and scrying on the approaching army. I gave them three days to get as much accomplished as they could, and they managed all of the preparatory challenges.

There was a longer challenge available, as well, one that I expected to run through the bulk of the siege. The Wizard was researching a mystical weapon created by the Bael Turathi tieflings in their war against Arkhosia. It was a set of runestones that could be used to unleash violent destructive energy in a wide area, and was called The Lightbringer. The DC on this challenge was tougher, and the Complexity higher than the other challenges. The swordmage and the cleric jumped all over this challenge.

And botched it. The experiment blew up, badly wounding the characters and killing the Wizard. The party paid to have him resurrected, but all the research notes and volumes were destroyed in the explosion.

Once the siege was established, I gave the party a list of nine different tasks that they could spend their time on, each one a skill challenge. This was stuff like planning, wall defense, blockade duty in the harbour, magical defense, leading a sally party, maintaining civil discipline, etc. The catch was that, every task they didn’t work on in a given round, automatically failed. When they succeeded in a task, they could either take the success or erase a failure. Failures also imposed some minor penalty, like costing a healing surge or giving a penalty to another roll.

To help alleviate the inevitable mathematical downslide this set-up produces, one of the tasks (Command) allowed the characters to remove a failure previously acquired in another area, and didn’t suffer from the possiblity of failure. Their success in the preparatory phase also gave them a command squad that they could assign to one of the tasks.

Now, the accrual of three failures on any given task results in something bad happening, but not in the failure of the siege. A certain number of challenges (which I’m not going to spell out here) need to fail for the siege to break the city. But, for example, if the party acquires three failures on the Magical Defense task (which they did just as we wrapped up for the evening), a band of demons is conjured into the city and begins wreaking havoc. They’re going out to fight them, now, and a few of the characters are very tired.

Breaking the siege will happen if they manage to succeed in a few key tasks, which will trigger the final battle, or after a certain amount of time, when off-stage developments will catch up with things.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with the way the set-up has been forcing the party to make some hard choices during the siege, and dealing with the consequences. The players seem to be having a good time with it, too. We went all evening without a single combat, and everyone was engaged and involved in the game.

Of course, next time starts off with a nasty demon fight just to make up for things.

Dateline – Storm Point

Sunday was the most recent installment of the Storm Point game. We had a full house, less one, and I’d warned everyone that this sessions was going to be the defense of a fortified mine against a band of hobgoblins, part of the army marching on the town of Storm Point.

I decided that I was going to use the rough skeleton of the skill challenge created by Mike Mearls in his Ruling Skill Challenges column. I liked that it allowed a wide range of characters to contribute meaningfully to the defense of the mine, doing different things in different ways, so I filed off the serial numbers, put in my own required plot elements and big bad guys, and ran it.

It worked quite well.

Part of the challenge involves preparing for the battle, and it provides a nice set-up where the group just can’t get everything done that it needs to – there are too many options, and not enough time or resources. The players definitely felt that pressure, knowing that for everything they did to prepare the defenses, there was something not being done. And the things they chose to do had a real impact on the actual defense of the keep.

Now, the Warlord in the party came up with his own option, not using one of the ones provided in the skill challenge, deciding that he would, instead, train one of the defending units to be a command cadre, allowing him to pass orders and implement tactics more readily. I liked the idea, so I let him do that, giving him a +2 bonus to his rolls in the Tactical Command skill challenge during the defense.

The Cleric managed to get another unit on its feet with his Heal skill, so the boys were able to fully man both the battlements and the gates, while still keeping the trained command cadre intact. And the Fighter managed to fortify the gates a little better, the Swordmage sorted out some good healing potions, and the Ranger and Rogue made a scouting flight on their hippogriffs to assess the enemy forces.

Yeah. Those hippogriffs.

So, after that, I ran the challenge mostly by-the-book from the article, except that the archers weren’t mounted on hippogriffs, and I changed the leader to a shadar-kai rather than an oni. The undead attack was detected early on by the Cleric, and he and the Ranger and the Rogue on the parapets managed to drive them off fairly easily, and they used their healing potions to keep from losing the squad of defenders up there. The defense of both the walls and the gate were much easier without having to worry about air cavalry, and I wrapped things up with a big battle against the hobgoblin command (beefed up a bit to make it a good fight for the party) and the shadar-kai leader*.

The battle was tough, with a couple of the guys coming dangerously close to dropping, but the group has got very good at trading off healing and being targets, so they managed it without actually losing anyone, though I decided that they were going to lose one squad of defenders for every three rounds that the battle went on. It lasted five rounds, so they lost one squad.

Not bad.

The basic structure of the skill challenge was good, and it gave me a nice starting point to describe the battle and improvise when the characters wanted to try something not covered by it. Everyone felt that they were contributing to the success of the battle, and they had fun.

I’m planning on doing something similar for the next couple of sessions, which is the siege of Storm Point, and the end of this portion of the campaign arc.

I’m looking forward to it.

*4 hobgoblin soldiers, 1 hobgoblin archer, 1 hobgoblin warcaster, 1 hobgoblin commander, and 1 shadar-kai battle lord warrior*, 1,800 xp, a level 7 encounter for 6 characters. Back

*Found him in the Monster Builder, which I am starting to love. Back

Dateline – Storm Point

Not a whole lot of plot progress in this session of the Storm Point game.

I gave my players the option at the start of the session of continuing with the attempts to delay the advancing army or jumping ahead to the next phase of the adventure – the defense of the dwarf mines near Storm Point. They decided to stick with the army, but wanted to devote their efforts toward clearing the path of the humanoid force of civilians and livestock, both to keep the civilians safe and to deny the enemy the resources. There was even some discussion of burning the fields in order to do the whole Russian-falling-back-to-Moscow thing that messed up both Napoleon and Hitler.

They decided not to go quite that far, though.

So, the flew around on their hippogriffs, warning people, and generally clearing the line of advance. I threw one encounter with a raiding party at them, and then recalled them to the mines.

Couple of interesting observations from the game. First, the addition of the hippogriff mounts did a fair bit to enhance the group’s combat effectiveness. Even the characters that didn’t use the mounts a whole bunch were able to drop out of the sky on the first round and attack, which they liked. And having a couple of extra targets on the table helps to dilute the damage that the enemy dishes out.

And hippogriffs bite really hard.

The raiding party was a 7th-level encounter for my players*, which is a party of six 5th-level characters. I expected it to be a tough, desperate fight, but it was pretty much a cakewalk. I’m going to have to take a closer read of the DMG and PHB rules for mounts, and check out the info on companion creatures in the forthcoming DMG2 to make sure I’m handling things right. I imagine that I will need to add some extra monsters to the fights where the hippogriffs play a role.

The other observation is a little more unsettling. It seems my players are one thin excuse away from vicarious Vietnam flashbacks. After killing the raiding party, they decided to drag the bodies back into the path of the advancing army. Fine. Then they started talking about arranging the bodies as a warning. Okay… Then they started talking about mutilating the corpses in graphic and obscene ways to instill fear in the enemy.

I drew the line at this point, stating unequivocally that doing so was an evil act*, thereby crushing their desire to recreate Apocalypse Now in my heroic fantasy game.

I swear, I gotta get those guys to watch less TV and fewer movies.

And that was it for another session.

*2 dire boars, 1 ogre savage, 6 orc warriors, and 1 orc eye of Gruumsh, 1,900 xp. Back

*”It’s not evil. The American forces did things like this in Vietnam.” Pause. “Okay. I see your point.” Back

Dateline – Storm Point

Subtitle: Maybe Now My Players Will Stop Whining For An Update. Also, Hippogriffs.

Yeah, I’ve been kind of letting the update slide, mainly because I was at GenCon this past week. Now, I’m home and I’m getting caught up on stuff, including prepping for a Post Tenebras Lux game tonight and putting up this post.

The Storm Point game was the Sunday before GenCon, and we had a full house for it, which is always fun. Of course, it generated a lot of cross-talk and diversions, but it was still fun.

In the previous session, the characters had uncovered a planned attack on Storm Point by an army of mixed humanoids, headed by a cabal of shadar-kai. Out of game, I gave the players the option of defending Storm Point; exploring nearby ruins for treas… I mean, items to aid the defense of the town; or leaving the defense to the town officials and going on with another adventure, letting the attack happen in the background. They chose almost unanimously to defend the town.

So, I divided the attack into four phases:

  1. Scouting the advancing army and trying to delay it.
  2. Defending a dwarven mine that’s about a half-day out of Storm Point.
  3. Defending Storm Point during the siege.
  4. Breaking the siege.

I intended to have each phase take one session, running it in very episodic fashion, with a little narrative to fill in the gaps. I built what I thought would be a suitable number of events for the first phase to fill a session, and set up a quick outline of what sorts of effects success and failure in each event would have.

And, of course, my players managed to break my planning in two.

First off, they didn’t get through more than about two of the events that I had set up – simple skill challenges to track the army and scout its composition. They managed to walk right into an ambush by a sentry party*, which was a pretty good fight, and by then it was getting to be close to the end of the evening.

While I was trying to decide whether to run another session on this phase or jump ahead to the next phase, I described the camp of the enemy army to them. Trying to give them an impression of how the disparate humanoid groups fit together, I told them the goblin area was a maze of tiny tents and small campfires, while the orc section had larger hide tents in numerous small groupings, and the gnoll area was hard to spot because most of the shelters were camouflaged. The centre of the camp had a permanent shadow over it, where the shadar-kai were.

Then I described the hobgoblin area. I told them about the orderly rows of tents, the cookfires set up near long mess tables, the array of banners. And, because the next phase has a wave of hobgoblins mounted on hippogriffs, I described the corral of hippogriffs*.

You see it, don’t you? I knew it was going to happen as soon as I mentioned the hippogriffs, but by then it was too late.

Nothing would do for my players but that they get the hippogriffs for themselves.

My first instinct was to say, “Nope. Way too many hobgoblins and such for you to get there.” But then I thought about it. Why not let the players have some hippogriffs? It’s a good thing, in my opinion, both to try and say yes to players and to let them have some of the cool that all too often seems to be the province of NPCs or enemies. I was going to have a wave of hobgoblin cavalry mounted on hippogriffs assault the defensive wall of the dwarven mine. Why not let the players nip that in the bud and claim the hippogriffs for themselves?

So, I made them work for it. It was too late in the evening to start another fight, especially one as big as this was going to be, so I let them do it as a skill challenge. They worked up a convoluted plan involving distracting some sentries, creating a diversion elsewhere, and using Thrun as a bowling ball. With some very good rolls, they managed to not only snag one hippogriff for each of the characters, but also to chase off the remaining ones.

In the end, I like the way it worked out.

So, now I’m looking at what they accomplished. They didn’t get to do a lot of delaying of the army, but they did steal a valuable resource and show the enemy that they are vulnerable. I figure that will give them a bit of a delay, but not all that much. The big bonus is that now the party has hippogriffs and the enemy doesn’t. Together, this means not much time to prepare the defenses of the mine or Storm Point, but the fight has a reduced threat without the air cavalry.

All in all, a win, I think.

* 3 goblin sharpshooters, 2 gnoll marauders, 2 hyenas, and a dark creeper. 1,325 xp, a level 6 encounter for 6 characters. Back

* Because if I hadn’t, next phase everyone would have wanted to know where the hell the hobgoblins had got their hippogriffs and why hadn’t they seen any at the camp. Back

Dateline – Storm Point

Finally got together for another Storm Point session this past Sunday.

We’d left the previous session with everyone somewhat beat up from the wraiths, and they spent the first part of the session trying to decide if they should try and find a place inside the villa to hole up for an extended rest, or to retreat and find someplace in the forest to camp for an extended rest. No one thought they should push on, which was interesting to me – obviously, they felt that they’d taken some serious hurt. Listening to them discuss it, it seemed to me that the issue was less about how injured they were, and more about the fact that they had pretty much all used up their daily powers*.

If they had retreated and hidden in the forest, I was planning to let them use one of the skill checks mentioned in previous reports to find a concealed camp site. However, upon return, the forces in the villa would have been reinforced.

And there was no way in hell I was going to let them find a safe spot inside the villa to rest.

They decided on a fairly subtle plan*: rather than go wandering the halls, looking for someplace to rest, they pried loose a couple of planks in the ceiling and climbed up into the room above, which was an abandoned indoor garden, with dead plants in pots and planters everywhere. It was sparsely visited, judging by the signs on the floor, and the door was swollen and stuck, but it showed some signs of being opened in the not too distant past.

This is where they decided to camp.

I figured that the shadar-kai and their minions were searching the building after the noise of the battle, so I rolled a d6 to see when they would happen on this room, multiplying the result by 30 minutes. So, an hour and a half into the rest, an ogre kicked down the door.

The fight did not go the way I expected.

See, I wanted to simulate hordes of humanoids, backed by a pair of shadar-kai. My plan was to have a base bunch of monsters* attack and, every time a minion was slain, another would join the fight the next round. This replenishment would stop once the two shadar-kai were killed.

So, what went wrong? Well, one thing was that I let the players level up between the last game and this one. That let the fighter take the power rain of steel, which is one of the better mook erasers in the game. In general, though, the minions just weren’t enough of a threat to the party. They didn’t hit often enough, or do enough damage when they hit, to really be much of a factor in the combat, especially after the swordmage’s opening round of multiple area of effect attacks.

Also, I  made a mistake in trying to get the shadar-kai into the fight. They shadow jaunted into the room, past the dwarf fighter corking the door, to attack from behind. This left them the main focus of all the other characters in the room, and they got spanked in about three rounds.

In that time, I got another wave of pretty much every group of minions – and two waves of the ogre – and had the orcs bash holes through the lath and plaster walls to let the rest of the minions into the room. It was too little, too late, though, and the fight just wasn’t as tough as I’d planned it to be. Something I’m going to have to keep in mind with using minions in the future*.


Afterwards, they smashed the altar to Vecna in the main court, cleaned off the blood that had been used to mark the place with his holy symbol, and searched the villa. They found a teleportation circle, whose symbols they have noted down, and a chest of money and magic items sent by Tolvas Shadowborn to aid in an assault against Storm Point.

Hopefully, they’ll be able to do something about that.

*This is something I’ve noticed more and more in 4E. Resource managment is spread among all the characters, where in previous editions it was primarily the concern of spellcasters. Now, characters can keep on going if they’ve used up their big daily powers, but they start to try and assess what sorts of challenges lie ahead, and figure out if they need to refresh that particular resource. Healing surges are almost a secondary concern, at least in the groups I’ve run. Back

*At least, by their standards. Back

*A shadar-kai witch, a shadar-kai warrior, eight goblin cutters, eight hobgoblin grunts, five orc drudges, and an ogre thug – 1,524 xp; a level 6 encounter for 6 characters. Back

*WotC has noticed that the minions just weren’t as much of a viable threat as they might have planned. The minions in the MM2 now have roles and a little more in the way of effective powers. Back

Dateline – Storm Point

Last night’s Storm Point game advanced things very little, for a few reasons. First, we got an even later start than our usual late start. Second, one player had to take off early because of an emergency. Third, the single combat encounter went on a loooooong time.

They had found their way to the old eladrin ruin that’s being used as a temple by the shadar-kai who have brought the local humanoid tribes together into an army.  The temple itself is a large villa-style manor, covered in ivy. All the plant life around the temple had died, with the life apparently drained out of it.

Not wanting to make a frontal assault on the building*, they snuck around to the back and found a less-used door. The lockpicks failed them, so they applied the dwarf to the problem, smashing the door in**. Inside was a fairly cramped hallway, and a number of wraiths that attacked***.

The fight was tough for the party, both because it was a couple levels above them and because of the environment. The close quarters meant the group was packed tightly together, and the insubstantial, phasing, shift-six-squares-as-a-move-action wraiths were able to dart around and attack out of walls and stuff. There were doors in the hallway, but the party didn’t want to open them, worried about drawing more monsters in to the fight****.

They won, but are now considering holing up some where for a long rest.

They also built themselves another skill challenge this game, with everyone pitching in to sneak around to the back of the temple, using things like Stealth (an obvious choice), Nature (to understand how to move in the environment and hide tracks), Perception (to follow game trails), and Athletics (to lift fallen trees out of the way). Again, I am happy that they’ve adopted this habit for themselves, and are using skill challenges when they want to accomplish things, not just when I drop one in the adventure.

Anyway. As I said, not much advancement of the plot, but some progress made.

*Which surprised me, let me tell you!

**Phew. I was getting worried that they had mellowed.

***2 mad wraiths, 4 wraiths, 1,300 xp, a level 6 encounter for 5 characters.

****”Don’t open the door! Who knows what’s on the other side?” “Well, a couple of wraiths, for certain…”

Dateline – Storm Point

Another Storm Point session this past Sunday. Almost a full house – Dan couldn’t make it, so Milo used the magical plot device we had set up last session to vanish into the Feywild.

This session saw the group make it to the temple in the Trembling Wood. They ran afoul of two patrols while trying to sneak up on the temple, but managed to dispatch them without raising the alert level of the temple inhabitants.

For the patrols, I used a mix of different humanoid creatures: a gnoll huntmaster, an orc berserker, two hobgoblin soldiers, and two dark creepers*. The reason for the mix was to show that the shadar-kai are indeed drawing together disparate tribes of humanoids and getting them to cooperate, which point my players picked up on very nicely.

The first encounter came as they were resting. The group has set up a standard procedure for finding a camping spot each night, running it as a skill challenge with each party member contributing from his expertise. The fact that the group actually asks for a skill challenge makes me think that the skill challenge rules are a good idea. I run it as a complexity 1 challenge of the party’s level, and award experience accordingly. I also use the results to give me an idea of how camouflaged and safe the site is.

Well, the gnoll huntmaster spotted them resting inside a partially-buried eladrin house in the middle of the night, and the fight was on. The party was going to (I think) use the natural choke point of the house’s doorway to control the fight (which may not have worked all that well), but one of them ran outside to fight, and that plan was done for. That turned the choke point to the patrol’s advantage, as the dark creepers tied folks up blocking the door and taking opportunity attacks at those trying to squeeze past.

Still, they managed to defeat the patrol in a flurry of very silly roleplaying**. Once the fight was done, they relocated their camp (another skill challenge) and holed up again.

The next day was spent trying to find the temple without alerting the temple. This was a longer skill challenge (complexity 3), and saw some creative use of skills, including using Bluff to lay false sign to divert the patrols. Unfortunately, they got two failures in the first four rolls, which triggered an ambush by a patrol.

I was a bit of a bastard setting this one up, placing the characters along a deep stream, surrounded by the orc, the hobgoblins, and the dark creepers. The gnoll was on a hill with good cover across the stream, and focused his attacks on enemies that were adjacent to multiple monsters, earning extra damage. The eladrin ranger fey stepped across the swift-running stream to fight the gnoll on his own, which created a kind of interesting side battle, while the rest of the party dealt with the melee combatants. There were some good moments, including a the dragonborn rogue stumbling blindly into the stream after a dark creeper blew up in his face.

We left the game with the party looking out on the overgrown eladrin villa, surrounded by blighted plants, that is being used as a temple by the shadar-kai in their army-building endeavours. Next session, they start their infiltration.

*1,025 xp, a level 5 encounter for 5 characters.

**Wherein it was determined that the only word in the dark creeper language is, “stabby.” Only pitch and intonation allow one to interpret meaning. Also, the hapless orc berserker’s name was Kevin.

Dateline – Storm Point

Last time, I talked a little bit about the adjustments I was making because of a player on extended hiatus. Well, just to prove that I shouldn’t bother trying to plan things, he came back this session. I met with him before the game to talk about how we should handle it and we came up with the following story:

His character, a young human swordmage, has managed to gain an apprenticeship with an ancient and powerful eladrin swordmage. Training takes place at the eladrin’s sanctum in the Feywild. This master swordsman is very demanding and somewhat whimsical, and only allows his student leave at certain random times, and is prone to summon him back very abruptly. So, this allows the swordmage to pop in for a session through the magic of his mentor, and then get popped back just as suddenly, which allows for the character t come into play only when the player is there to play him.

Yeah, it’s kind of cheesy, but it addresses my primary concerns about the situation, namely that there is an in-game believable reason for the character to come and go session by session, mitigating somewhat the burden of multiple characters being played by one player.

It does create a bit of a situation in the encounters – do I build them for five characters, or for six? Do I adjust them when the sixth player shows up? I decided that, from now on, I’m going to build them for five characters (at least until we get six characters on a regular basis), and not adjust them if the extra character shows. Adding him in will make the fight easier, and will reduce the individual experience point awards. So, that means that when he shows up, the encounters are easier, which makes his contribution to the group a little more meaningful.

And I’m giving all characters the same experience point awards, whether they are in the session or not, so that he won’t fall so far behind as to be useless to the group.

The game itself was a little… let’s say scattered. It had been a while since most of us had seen our prodigal player, so a lot of the time was spent socializing and catching up. Also ordering and consuming food. I had expected the group to make it to the temple and begin scouting it this session, but no go. I realized fairly early on in the session that it just wasn’t going to happen, so I tried to drop some hints about the increased freqency of humanoid tracks in the area, and the fact that there were more than one type of humanoid group stomping around. This gave them some more information about the shadar-kai and their plot to organize the local humanoid groups into an army.

And then I threw a couple of fights at them.

I tossed a party of orcs at them on the plains, and ambushed them with gnolls and hyenas in the forest. The orcs were tough to put down, but not all that exciting in the fight. The gnolls and hyenas were a lot more fun for me, with their powers focused on swarming a single target and putting it down. I managed to give a couple of the characters some bad moments with those, and only the fighter’s Tide of Iron and the warlord’s Wolf Pack Tactics managed to control the positioning to give some relief to the targets.

And that was about it for the game. They managed to make it into the Trembling Wood near the temple, so that’s where we start next time.

And I’ve got some interesting things set up at the temple.