Monday, May 11, 2015

DM's Play Report from Blackstone I: Assault on Tolmar- Last Days of a Seven Year Campaign

  The War against the Redcaps is Won!


Previous update is found here.

The Campaign
  Seven years old. AD&D 2e Skills and Powers.

The Players and Characters
  Je.: Stardust, 13th level Thief. Armed with a pair of +3 Daggers of Returning and a sneaky disposition. Party scout.
    - Deacon Samarr,  6th level cleric henchman. Rescued from a Hill Giant slave pit, he is loyal to Stardust and her friends. Focused on healing and abjurations.
    - Sir Raleigh the True, 4th level fighter henchman. Gained from a Deck of Many Things, he is perfectly loyal. A halberd specialist and armed with a +7 halberd!

Ja.: Mournglow, 11th level mage. A true generalist and the party's planner. The list of NPCs who owe him favors needs to be printed in 8 point font. Double-sided.
    - Whitestar, his Arcane Servant familiar.

A.: Doomsman the Destroyer, 12th level Fighter. A barbarian and grandmaster with the two-hander who is skilled in a number of melee combat styles. One of the deadliest men on the planet. His magical scabbard carries both Gatekeeper, the sword of that seals the planes, and Magekiller, which is just what it says on the tin. Lord of the North, Guardian of the Pass, and party leader. He thirsts for combat.

S.: Ember, 11th level Fire Elementalist mage. Wields a flaming silver short sword of shapechanger slaying. A true master of fire magic he is the hot-head of the group.
    -Flint, his Fire Spirit familiar.
    -Redfire, 5th level Fire Elementalist henchman. He has died three times, each from a giant's boulder.

N.: Darkwalk, 8th/9th Cleric/Magic-user. Also a skilled fighter, he is the voice of caution. He carries an Talisman of Ultimate Good that keeps reappearing in his backpack each time he tries to give it to the Pope.
    -Suregaze, his Elven Dragonling familiar.
    -Starwing, a 3rd/3rd/3rd fighter/cleric/magic-user henchman. Leader of the henchman, she has a calm demeanor and a knack for leadership.

Previously

  The party has spent 3 days lurking about the ruins within the city of Tolmar. In addition to the major attacks (detailed in the entry at the link near the top) they have ambushed a patrol or two. So far, all of their activity has been limited to the northern half of the city, formerly called Upper Tolmar. The party has been hiding in various bolt holes within the city while their henchmen strive to make it appear the party is camping outside and making repeated assaults over/through the walls.

  After resting and regaining spells the party decides they must strike at the heart of the enemy. The former Main Square of the city is now a hub of evil; the four corners of the square now hold the Tower of Necromancers (northwest corner) the Temple of Unlife (NE corner), the Fortress-Cathedral of the Slaughter-God (SE corner), and the High Church of the RotLord (SW corner). The party decided to assault the Temple of Unlife.

  As the party began to leave Upper Tolmar, divided from Lower Tolmar by a wall and a 20' escarpment, there was a minor fight as Whitestar, Mournglow's familiar who was scouting, was attacked by an imp. The party arrived in 3 rounds to find Whitestar wiping ichor from his miniature sword. Darkwalk healed up the Arcane Servant and the party continued.

  The party crept up to close sight of the mausoleum-like Temple of the Ghoul God to see - the low-level acolytes gather outside! The ritual of Blotting Out the Sun was about to begin. The party waited until the doors opened then struck with a Fireball. This wiped out the acolytes as the party charged inside. The party was met with mid-level priests just inside the doors, forcing them to halt their assault and fight. The High Priest of the Undead Demiurge stood by the foul altar wearing his Crown of Worms and guarded by 9 of his top priests. While the guards wielded the ceremonial bardiches of the deathpriests the High Priest wielded the infamous Staff of Death, a foul artifact carved from the thighbone of a shadow dragon.

  Doomsman hurled his Maul of Thunderbolts and struck the High Priest - but the Maul spun away instead of returning! The thunderclap revealed a shimmering aura cloaking the entire altar area and the casters decided to refrain casting attack spells on the leadership!

  As the party fought a swarm of 40 ghoul-rats poured through slots in the floor. Darkwalk turned most of them and Ember dealt with the rest as Doomsman cut down evil clerics like he was playing whack-a-mole. Stardust did her thing and threw her Daggers of Returning at the High Priest - they, too, spun away instead of returning! Stardust made her Awareness check and realized that the troops of the Temple of Slaughter were formed up and preparing to charge. She darted to the main doors, shut the massive portals, and dropped the adamantite bar into place just in time!

  The evil priests were casting nasty spells left and right, including one using a Spectral Hand from a magic item!  The party was using counter spells, Magic Missiles, and Cures at a prodigious rate.

  In the meantime Doomsman had fought his way to the steps of the altar, shrugging off a bolt of negative energy from a priest, making saves versus 4 more spells, and generally rolling 18+ on every d20 he touched, the jerk. Mournglow and Darkwalk both cast Dispel Magic on the protective aura around the altar, bringing it down in a flash of foul smoke. Doomsman was hacking his way through the evil hierarchy and now the High Priest was the target of spells. The next round the High Priest was struck down by magic!

  And the Staff of Death lashed out, striking on the the Death priests. That priest turned to ash and the High Priest laughed in delight as he was returned to full health! The High Priest then triggered the power of the Crown of Worms, blasting Doomsman and Stardust with a Mind Blast. Doomsman finally failed a save and was...
  [roll the dice]
  Enraged! Wait, what? The one save he failed made him better at fighting!
  What a jerk.

  The Staff of Death pattern - the High Priest was struck down, the Staff of Death drained the life force of another Death priest fully healing its owner - happened again before Doomsman finally faced him in melee and all the other priests were dead. Doomsman hit with a flurry of blows, the High Priest's staff lashed out and touched Doomsman!

  And, yet again, he made his save. He did, though, lose 1/2 his full hit points (really messing with him, as he had taken damage) and this was enough for the Priest to be at full health. Doomsman repeated his attacks, struck down the High Priest for the FOURTH TIME! The Staff of Death lashed out and -

  Doomsman parried it! The Death Priest fell.

  It was a great moment for the players!

  The party quickly caught his body on fire, not caring to touch any items on his body.

  Stardust searched the ground floor, quickly finding and sealing two side doors. Moments later something big tried getting into one of them. The pounding on the front door indicated the troops of the Master of Massacres had brought in a battering ram. The party gathered around and Mournglow cast Teleport.

  He made the targeting roll easily, landing them back in their hidey-hole where they could see the Tower of Flying Beasts, which they had destroyed days earlier. As everyone got healed up (and Darkwalk used scrolls of Remove Curse on everyone because Death priests). the party observed the beehive of activity around the Death temple, including the Champion of the Slaughter God flying around fearlessly directing searches.

  Acting on a hunch the party sent a Whispering Wind to the Champion, offering him something they felt he couldn't refuse - a duel of honor. As the Champion began flying, alone, toward them, Darkwalk used a long-cherished scroll to cast Regenerative Heal on Doomsman (he normally has no access to this spell).  

  The Champion landed and the terms were agreed upon: if the Champion fell his arms and gear belonged to Doomsman; if Doomsman fell his companions could keep his weapons, gear, and body but must depart Tolmar and never return. Then the battle was joined.

  Now, to repeat - Doomsman is a 12th level Fighter and Grandmaster in the two-handed sword/greatsword. He has 3 attacks per round, gets a free parry per round (from a style) and does one die larger damage. His was using the sword Gatekeeper, which is +4 normally. He is wearing a Girdle of Stone Giant Strength (+5/+10). he has a magic item that can cast an automatic Heal if he is reduced to 0 or less h.p. once per month.

  The Champion was built as a 13th level specialty Cleric using Skills & Powers/Spells & Magic/etc. He has THAC0, hit points, etc. as a fighter, is a grandmaster in the long sword, and fights with a +4 longsword and a +3 short sword of quickness, giving him 3 attacks per round with the long sword and 2 attacks per round (one in 'segment 0') from the short sword AND a free parry from a style. Essentially, he gets a 'free' attack before initiative, a parry, and 4 attacks, allowing him to theoretically parry every one of Doomsman's attacks and still strike twice, once with the short sword and once with the long sword. He wears Gauntlets of Might (+4/+7). He Regenerates 7 h.p. per round and has the innate ability to go Berserk (+4 to hit, +6 to damage for 10 rounds and +20 h.p., but no parry) 3 times a day and has a blessing of the evil War God so that once per week if he is reduced to 0 h.p. or less he is instantly Healed.

  I made this as closely matched as possible. While the Champion hits more often when Doomsman hit he does more damage. 

  The fight lasted 8 rounds, a long time at this level. Doomsman's dice deserted him for the first 5 rounds; he hit as often as math decided but his damage was low and he was getting hit a lot. Then, well, he hit. A lot. And did a lot of damage, enough to trigger the Champion's Heal. Then the Champion hit a lot and triggered Doomsman's Heal. And then the dice turned and two rounds later the Champion is dead. 

  The entire party agrees it was the toughest, closest fight of the 7 years of the campaign.

  The party immediately beheaded him and then burned him, after getting his gear. 

  After healing up Doomsman again the party was essentially out of most spells (except for Ember's "backup Fireballs". Yes, multiple). They decided to mix it up and leave the city and camp beyond the walls. As they are setting up camp they hear a horrifying roar/bellow from the city. 

  The camps under watch when - there is another  horrifying bellow/roar right by the camp and a cloud of black mist envelopes them. Everyone makes their saves but still lose some hit points. OK, for some of them a LOT of hit points. As the mist clears they see - the Horned One!

  Aside: The party has long assumed the Horned One is a hobgoblin chief with a horned helm. I have gently encouraged this. In truth, he is a hobgoblin, but one born of two survivors of whatever-it-was that destroyed the capitol of the Emerald Empire centuries before; a being born and raised in the Shadow of the City, the area of fear and darkness that festers many miles northwest of Tolmar. The thing before them, however, is 7' tall, has massive goat-like legs ending in cloven hooves, and a set of horns growing from the sides of his head. 

  Everyone but Stardust was sleeping and no one has had a chance to learn spells. Doomsman, sans armor, grabs his sword and wades in. The Horned One wields a two-hander in one fist and they start fighting. Mournglow activates his Wand of Conjuration, Darkwalk is digging into his packs for scrolls, Stardust is hurling daggers, and Ember is prepping his few spells.

  The beginning of round 2 the Horned One breathes on Doomsman and paralyzes him! Luckily the Wand of Conjuration goes off and summons a Stone Golem. Darkwalk rushes up and drags Doomsman back out of melee and begins to pour an Elixir of Health down his throat. Ember fires off a Magic Missile, Stardust is looking for an item to help out, and the golem misses.

  In round three Ember gets off his go-to max damage spell, Torrential Fireball. This is sto-, uh, borrowed from HackMaster 4th and is, essentially, just like Fireball except d8 damage per instead of d6. Under 2e rules once per day a fire elementalist may ad 1d4 to the effective level of a Fire spell they cast and my modified honor rules mean you can guarantee that this adds 4. So when the chips are down Ember can do 14d8 fire damage.
  Like now.
  He didn't mind including the golem because everyone knows stone golems are immune to fire. Unfortunately, this is how he learned that the Horned One is immune to fire.

  By the end of the round the Horned One has destroyed the stone golem! The party has done very little to the Horned One.

  Round three: Doomsman has been un-paralyzed by the Elixir and wades in again. He and the Horned One trade a lot of damage. Ember and Mournglow both toss more Magic Missiles. Stardust keeps throwing daggers. At great personal risk Darkwalk casts Stoneskin on Doomsman.

  Round four: The Horned One bellows again, this time surrounding the entire area with Solid Fog. The party is convinced they are in trouble.

  Round five: Darkwalk casts Dispel Magic; the Fog parts to show the Horned One finishing a potion.

  Round six: The Horned One charges Doomsman and hits, tossing him 30'! The Stoneskin saves him from certain death, but is used up. Another flurry of missile weapons and everyone but Ember is now out of spells.

  Round seven: Doomsman closes again and hurts the Horned One a lot, but bot enough. The Horned One's first counter attack knock Doomsman to 3 h.p. Before he can strike again Ember uses his last spell, a Magic Missile and the Horned One dies.

  The party rejoices.

  They use a lot of charges, scrolls, etc. to heal everyone at least a bit and then camp until dawn again.

  Darkwalk burns most of his Cleric spells to heal everyone and they begin to investigate. The Horned One is now - a big, tough-looking hobgoblin in armor that cloaks him with an illusion and makes him immune to scrying. He is still obviously heavily mutated by magic, though. And, luckily, still very dead. They discover that he had placed a magic item on one of the Champion's swords and used that to track the party.

  There is obvious fighting in the city and they see scattered groups of humanoids and even a few individuals slinking from the city. They grab a few for interrogation and learn a great deal;

  - After the attack on the Tower of Flying Beasts a number of goblins and hobgoblins had defected.
  -The head of the Necromancers had died suddenly the morning of the assault on the Temple of Death (they realize whose imp Mournglow's familiar had killed), throwing the necromancers into confusion and internal fighting for leadership.
  - After the Champion's body was found Alzozel ('Creepyhead') had ordered the Slaughter God troops to leave and then flew off himself.
  - During the confusion the priests of the Plauge God had simply vanished.

  The party had been working on the Horned One's power base for years; destroying the alliance with the Giant Lords; wiping out the Band; slaughtering the Pack; the capture of the northern fortress; the death of the Lord of Necromancers; the assault on the Temple of Death; the death of the Slaughter God's champion. The Horned One's only chance of maintaining his power had been to destroy the party himself, something he had almost pulled off.

  The party returned to their real base, gathered their henchmen and hippogriffs, and flew to the Horned One's fortified island. It was essentially deserted. Stardust and Darkwalk made quick work the the various physical and magical traps and the party got to the treasure vault to find quite a bit of loot. The highlights of the haul were:

  -about 350,000 g.p. value of treasure
  -a slew of minor (+1/+2) magical weapons and armor
  - A Mirror of Mental Prowess
  - A Book of Infinite Spells
  - a +7 two-hander
  - the Sceptre of Goodly Might

  The party was very happy that the in-game 15 year, real life 7 year, quest to break the power of the Redcaps was complete. They are concerned that so many villains got away, of course, but the general agreement was that the entire party will now "retire" to run their various feudal lands.

  I must admit - it was an emotional afternoon. The Blackstone 1 campaign has been running for over 7 years and was the primary campaign. When we began my oldest son was 11; he starts his first full-time job this week. Our fourth son practiced penmanship re-writing his character sheet. This campaign has covered nearly 1/3rd of my marriage! It was a big day!

  And Good Triumphed!