Last Friday, we had another Post Tenebras Lux game. Almost full attendance; one person couldn’t make it.
The session was a little strange, in that the events in it existed for a meta-game reason, rather than for an in-game reason. See, the party was traveling back to Brindol, where there was going to be a market fair, to spend some of their treasure before heading down to the Thornwaste to investigate rumours of the return of the Ghostlord. While prepping for the game, I saw in my notes that I had not distributed a large amount (480 gp worth) of the monetary treasure they should have received in the previous level. That would put a significant damper on what they could and could not buy, so I decided they needed to have a cash injection before the market fair.
Now, I couldn’t just hand them the money – I’d already done something like that to adjust the balance of magic items during the great player shuffle – which meant I needed an adventure on the road from Witchcross to Brindol. The standard convention is a party of bandits or wandering monsters, but I wanted something more interesting, something that could fill an evening of play, and not just revolve around combat.
They had stopped at a roadside inn on their trip to Witchcross, and I decided to use that as the adventure site. I did some looking through the books, looking for an interesting threat, and came up with corpse vampires, from Open Grave. Now, the party is pretty heavy against undead, but corpse vampires aren’t vulnerable to radiant damage – it just turns off their regeneration for a turn (more on which later). This was going to be the only fight in the day, so I figured I’d make it a tough one: two corpse vampires and four zombies*.
The setup was that a corpse vampire had come to the inn and slaughtered everyone, producing a few zombies and a new corpse vampire in the process. The two vampires were now hiding in the inn, getting ready to head on to Brindol and the rich feeding there. One hid down in the cellar, lurking in the hanging hams and cheeses and onions from the cellar ceiling beams, with two zombies in beer barrels. The other hid up in the attic, under the eaves, with a pair of zombies under the dustcovers with the furniture. They would act to attack isolated characters who wandered in, but otherwise wait to get the drop on the whole party, and reinforce each other if needed.
The first part of the evening was spent with the party leaving Witchcross and making their way back down the road to Brindol, shadowed for the first little while by the unicorn they had glimpsed in the Witchwood. When they got to the inn and made their Perception checks, they noticed the quiet and the fact that the door was ajar. They approached stealthily, half the party circling around back to come in through the kitchen, and the other half keeping an eye on the innyard. Inside, they found a great deal of slaughter, and went to work investigating.
I had made up a set of detailed notes on the kinds of clues they would find in the inn with various skill checks – not a skill challenge, just a set of skill checks. Unfortunately, I then left this list at work, and had to wing it. It didn’t go badly, as I could remember most of the salient points from making the list, but it didn’t have the depth of detail that I could have had with my notes in front of me. Oh, well.
Anyway, they wound up sending the avenger down into the cellar to check on things, and he rolled an amazing Perception check, spotting the vampire hiding in the ceiling beams, and an amazing Stealth check, so the vampire didn’t spot him. Surprise round for the party. Everyone squeezed down into the basement, and took care of the vampire very quickly – more quickly than I had anticipated, in fact. I had decided that, if one vampire was attacked, the other would join the fight (with zombies in tow) on round 3. The vampire went down on round 2, after soaking up several concentrated Striker assaults.
The zombies lasted a little longer, and we wound up with the Sorcerer facing the newly-arrived reinforcements alone at the top of the stairs. She used a nice, sustainable area attack to augment her cover from the bar she was hiding behind to hold the undead off until everyone downstairs finished off the zombies and came scooting up to join her.
And that’s when I realized that I had forgotten about the vampires’ regeneration ability.
Too little, too late. The remaining vampire kept getting blasted with radiant damage, keeping the regeneration from kicking in. They put it down in a couple of rounds, and mopped up the zombies afterward.
Now, the way the encounter wound up split in half, when I had planned on it doubling up, and the way I had forgotten the regeneration certainly made it an easier fight than I had intended, but that was all my fault. I’ll know better next time. I handed over the treasure (robbed from the bodies of the inn victims) an the xp, and the party said some prayers over all the corpses, piled them in the common room, and burned the inn to the ground to prevent any of the dead to come back.
And that was pretty much the evening. I think it went well, and all the players seemed engaged in the murder-mystery/horror miniplot. Everyone seems to be liking the move away from straight dungeon crawls and the opportunity to use their skills in different situations.
*1,200 xp, a level 5 encounter for six characters.