Posted by : David Guyll August 27, 2013



CAST

  • Atticus (elf druid 5)
  • Ben's gnome (gnome artful dodger rogue 5)
  • Iola (wood elf centered breath monk 5)
  • Josh's new wizard (human evocation mage 5)
  • Perseus (human Chaladin 5)
Now that they had a chance to breathe, they could see that the first room was a wide marble hall, with a ceiling supported by fluted pillars, and the center featured a very much vibrant tree with golden leaves and apples. There were two exits to the north and east flanked by statues, with another pair of statues along the west wall (some of which Perseus recognized as distant relatives).


The pair of statues without an entrance seemed suspect, so Josh's wizard examined the wall for lingering earth-magics. He did not find any, but when Atticus gave it a mundane once over he noticed some faint imperfections that indicated this wall might have been magically sealed up a long time ago, more recently via mundane means, or maybe with magic that just did not register to Josh. In any case they could not find a secret door, so resulted to a good old bashing.

Unfortunately as he and Perseus tried to force their way through, it split into a pair of earth elementals.

If the Elemental Eye had a book of tricks, this would be one of the older ones.
They figured that there would be a trap: Perseus acted first, delivering a literally earth-shattering blow that split the elemental open, causing rocks and a person to come tumbling out. They could not tell the race or gender because it was wearing dark robes with a hood, and since it was not moving they decided to ignore it for now. The elemental did not seem deterred, and gripped Perseus with a crushing, stony tendril. Atticus tried clawing the other one apart, but was barely able to make a scratch.

Iola leapt into action next, also literally. She launched herself across the room and came down with both feet on what she assumed was the head of one of the elementals, stomping it into the ground like Mario on a goomba. She then leapt off of it and knocked the other one away from Perseus with a spinning kick, freeing him from its grasp. Josh's wizard followed up by lobbing an explosive sphere of force that further scattered both them and pieces of them across the room.

The figure shakily stood up, glancing about in confusion. Despite my frequent mentions no one paid it any heed and kept hacking, blasting, and punching at the elementals until they were reduced to rubble (and uncut gems).

Precious, precious elemental guts.
It was only after the fight was over that they remembered that there was someone else there. Unfortunately at that point she had pulled back her hood to reveal a scaly face, with a head covered in writhing, hissing snakes.

Why did it have to be snakes?
Despite being slowly turning to stone, Iola managed to bridge the distance and give her a one-two combo. Perseus brandished his shield, which he had polished to a mirror-shine just for this occasion (however improbable). His tactic worked, causing her to avert her gaze, giving the rest of the party time to attack without being subjected to it. Ironically the greatest danger was when Josh's wizard conjured up a whirlwind that sucked Atticus away while he was crushing her in a bear hug (he refused to let go, even with her save-penalizing poison).

Iola ended up getting turned to stone, while Perseus called on some divine aid to cure himself before rushing back into the fray. Since Josh's wizard was still sustaining the whirlwind, Atticus simply let her go, causing her to fly across the room and crash into a wall. Finally free (for the second time if you count the elemental), the medusa tried to make a break for the temple's entrance, only to catch a dagger in the head from Ben's gnome (who might not have had a name since he made it just before, and kind of while we were playing).

He strode in, yanked his dagger free, and in one smooth motion wiped it off before sheathing it. He had been watching them for most of the battle, safely waiting outside to see how things went.

Why? It is not like we are playing 3rd Edition.
He introduced himself, and after some pre-party Mandatory Awkward Conversation decided to team up with them to hunt cultists.

(NOTE: Defeating a monster is worth some serious brownie points, especially when it has the added effect of restoring a petrified party member. It is also one of the few instances where kill-stealing is both acceptable and encouraged.)

With that out of the way, Perseus and Atticus decided to scout ahead while the rest of the party continued to check out the hall and scoop up gems. Initially there was nothing particularly interesting about the passage, but the further they went the colder it got: frost began to coat the walls, and they could see their breath in the air.

Eventually they found the source of the cold. Kind of. Something had...torn a hole in the wall, and freezing wind was pouring out of it. They went back to fetch Josh's wizard, hoping that he could discern the nature of the phenomenon. When he could not detect any magical auras, he just poked his head through. His light spell had very limited range, and all he could see was that there was a black wall about ten feet beyond the hole that likely extended well beyond the range of his magic.

Unwilling to try climbing out to interact with it (the pit seemed to be bottomless and there was nothing to hold on to), they just kept going, and that is where we called it.

Behind the Scenes
So after some back and forth, we decided to switch Epiro from D&D Next to 4th Edition. On one hand the public playtest is petering out in September anyway, and on the other hand there is virtually nothing about Next that interests us: the only reason we dealt with it this long was to pitch in our two cents to try and shape the game. Without that factor at this point all we can do is wait and hope that things change or get added that will appeal to us.

Or not. We still enjoy 4th Edition, and have about three, maybe four other gamesnot counting board gamesthat we can still play.

Given how I tend to run 4th Editionflexible powers, approximate distances instead of a map, making up and changing monster stats on the fly (including adjusting hit points and powers), Dungeon Master intrusion, probably over-powered magic items, etcwe had considered 13th Age (and even Numenera despite the major shift in style and tone), but with the lack of a druid class and the monk still in beta, I felt that things would go smoothest if we just stuck with 4th Edition.

How did it go?

It was great. In my past reports I kept stating that yeah, we had fun, but not because of anything to do with the system. Actually, if anything it made it more difficult to have fun: characters within a class are too similar (and melee classes feel largely the same with their "roll to attack, roll damage if you hit" routine), monsters died too fast and/or did not do enough, per-day spells and magical healing wreaked havoc with pacing (especially since characters have virtually no capability to heal otherwise), the recent removal of skills, etc.

4th Edition's system adds to the fun. I can focus on running the game and making things up without worrying that I am going to accidentally kill the party. The math makes it very easy to peg a monster so that it is challenging as I want it to be, and the monsters last long enough and do enough damage so that they can actually cause tension and excitement. Characters have a variety of things to do, and they are not reliant on magical healing in order to keep going.

I am pretty sure this is the first time I have ever used a medusa, and you know what? I'm was happy with the reveal, especially since anyone who started their turn within ten feet automatically got hit with its gaze attack. What I also liked about it is that instead of making a single save to see who just immediately died, that they had a chance to react to it, be affected by it, and try to deal with it: Melissa tried making an Endurance check to give herself a bonus on her next save, while Perseus used one of his prayers to get a save bonus.

Of course after the fight was over I just ruled that she turned back to normal: forcing the party to walk all the way back to town just to fix her would be one of those pace-wreaking issues I mentioned above.

{ 2 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. This makes me happy. 4th Edition does add the fun and I'm really happy to hear that your group had such a great time with the transition. D&D Next sounds more and more like just a revisit to 3rd Edition rules and, frankly, that interests me not at all. I'll stick with my fun, thanks. :D

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  2. That is my position, too. If 5th Edition can offer up this sort of experience then I might switch (depends on how everything fits together).

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