We were back on the Floating Island this past Sunday, now hopelessly adrift in time.
Well, maybe not hopelessly. But still. Adrift in time is not encouraging. And faced with a fire elemental and four hellhounds can be a real downer*.
It wasn’t as bad as all that, though. Even though I got the rules for auras wrong, and dished out extra fire damage for multiple overlapping auras*, the gang managed to tear the elementals apart fairly quickly. Indeed, the fire elemental (a level 12 controller) didn’t get to unleash his best attack at all before dying. The hellhounds gave the group more problems, because of the huge raft of hit points each had.
After that, they made their way up toward the only shelter they could see on this island: the temple with the crystal spires at the top of the central hill. I ran this as a skill challenge, with them trying to make their way through the driving rain and wind, each turn taking a half-hour, and requiring an Endurance check to keep from losing a healing surge from the effort and harsh conditions. I considered throwing in a chance of lightning strikes, as well, but they’d already been through three encounters, and I knew what was waiting for them at the temple.
What was that? Well, a blue dragon*. And a network of smaller crystal spires that kept arcing lightning across the battlefield.
Now, the group was fairly beaten up, and I had some doubts about their survivability, but I didn’t want to pull any punches on this fight. Dragon fights are supposed to be tough and memorable. On the other hand, the warlord was out of healing surges and down to about 75% hit points, and I’m pretty sure the daily powers in the group were all gone. Maybe one or two left.
But that’s okay. If the players start feeling that the DM will never kill them, then the spice is gone from combat. It was a real threat, and they had to deal with it. If they fell, so be it. I wasn’t going to be vicious, but I was going to play the dragon as smart and deadly as I could. I made one concession to the party’s depleted condition, and that was starting the dragon on the ground. Blue dragons are artillery monsters, and I had originally planned to sit it up on the side of the temple where it could blast away with it’s lightning with impunity, but I put it on the ground in front of the temple instead.
Which made a huge difference in the fight. Once the fighter got up close to it, it was stuck. A bad tactical choice got it a little breathing room and it took to the air, but then the cleric trotted out his command and brought it back down, thanks to his elven accuracy power to reroll the attack. Once they got the dragon surrounded, it was quickly bloodied, and the warlord had managed to duck into the temple doorway, where he kept using his powers to get other characters to thump the dragon*.
At this point, I pulled out the dragon’s frightful presence power, which stunned the adjacent party members, including that blasted sticky fighter. The dragon then took to the air, and used an action point to blast out some more lightning at the group. Next round, it flew away to lick its wounds*.
So now the party is resting in the temple, hating the dragon with all their might. And the dragon is resting in a hidden lair, hating the party with all its might.
You know what that means, right?
*Fire elemental firestorm, 4 hellhounds, 1900 xp, a 7th-level encounter for 6 characters. Back
*One of the players said he thought I was doing it wrong, but I thought I was doing it right. He didn’t press, and I looked it up later. He was correct: similar auras don’t stack their effects. Sorry, guys. Back
*I scaled the adult blue dragon, normally level 12, down to level 11, which set it at 3000 xp, or a level 10 encounter for 6 characters. Tough for a 7th-level party, but not insurmountable. Back
*In what I consider to be perfect warlord fashion. Back
*I gave the party a third of the xp for driving the dragon off in their weakened condition, because I thought that was a pretty impressive accomplishment. If they manage to take it out, they’ll get the full xp on top of that. Back