We wrapped up the siege of Storm Point yesterday, putting an end to the rebel shadar-kai storyline.
I had left the previous game just as the big bad arrived to try and finish off the heroes. Opening the game this session, I started with a bit of flowery description, talking about this skeletal figure in heavy robes, one eye and one hand replaced by ghostly replicas of black fire, gripping a massive mace, mounted on a manticore, and flying out of roiling black clouds, paced by three mastiffs made of shifting shadows with glowing eyes, swooping in on them in the flickering light of the burning buildings, framed by the smashed-open gates.
There was a moment of silence, then one of the guys said, “That is so metal! That would make an awesome ’80s heavy metal album cover!”
We then had to wade through a few minutes of people riffing on that idea (“I’m gonna paint that on the side of my wagon! I’m sure to be able to pick up chicks that way!”) before play resumed.
Now, I had wanted this fight to be tough. Very tough. That’s why I placed it after another tough fight, at the end of the long siege, when resources were low. I don’t try to kill my players, but I do want the chance of death to be there. Otherwise they get no real sense of accomplishment if they succeed.
To that end, the combat was a level 10 encounter for 6 characters, at 3,000 xp. I stole Barthus from FR1: Scepter Tower of Spellgard, who is a level 6 solo, and mounted him on a manticore, which is a level 10 elite. To round out the xp, I added three shadowhounds, which are standard level 6 creatures. I changed the description of Barthus and renamed him Tolvar Shadowborn, making him cosmetically a shadar-kai lich, better fitting the fact that he was leading a group of shadar-kai worshippers of Vecna, but I left his powers the same. Just described him as being skeletal, with a huge mace, and having his left hand and his right eye missing and replaced with black fire substitutes.
All in all, I thought, a tough combination.
Then, in the first round, the dragonborn rogue commando used trick strike to drop the leader off the manticore. He then leapt onto the back of the manticore, and they spendtthe next several rounds tearing viciously at each other flying above the city.
Everyone else wipes out the shadow hounds as quickly as possible to concentrate on dogpiling Tolvar. He held his own for a while, what with dominating the dwarf fighter for a brief time and using his desecrate ground power to mess people up. And when he was on the ropes, he turned to mist and fled into the city, letting everyone chase him.
Well, by this time, the manticore had managed to ditch its unwelcome passenger, but was really hurting, and the high-mobility swordmage was really crowding Tolvar, so he got on the roof of another house to try and remount the manticore.
And the rogue knocked him off again.
So he jumped up when the manticore swooped low, and got back in the saddle.
And the cleric commanded him off again.
And that was about it for him, thanks to the fighter’s rain of steel and a nice lance of faith to put the capper on it.
The manticore kept attacking through all this, but I was plagued the whole night with bad rolls, while all the players were making great rolls. I did some damage, but not enough to even put one of them down. Really, they had had more trouble the previous fight, when I almost managed to kill the warlord.
To finish things off, they decided that they wanted the manticore as a gift for the leader of the town guard, and asked if they could use Intimidate to cow it enough to be taken captive for retraining. I told them they could, and that they could each assist the main character, but that failed attempts to assist would in fact impose a penalty – my logic being that this is a vicious, fairly intelligent, war-trained beast that is going to attack any sign of weakness.
And they rolled a natural 20.
So, they cowed the manticore, the Storm Point forces chased the disintegrating army away, and in a few days, they had a nice little ceremony where the characters were given stuff.
Now, on to the Floating Islands.