Posted by : David Guyll September 02, 2013

Cast
  • Atticus (level 5 predator druid)
  • Iola (level 5 centered breath monk)
  • Nero (level 5 human evoker)
  • Perseua (level 5 human Chaladin)
  • Thoros (level 5 gnome artful rogue)
After another hour or so of walking the characters found a light at the end of the tunnel. A strong wind was funneled into the passage, slowing their advance. They could see flashes of lightning, and thunder trembled through the ground and walls.


As they neared the exit they could see that it opened up onto a circular platform about one-hundred feet across that overlooked the land below. Near the edge there was a small temple with a statue that they assumed to be Zeus, what with the lightning bolt and all. Across from it a wide stairway was carved into the mountain, leading up toward the summit. Finally, and probably the most important detail, someone was waiting for them.

He had olive-skin and a shaven head that was heavily tattooed with runes. He was clad in a suit of plate armor and wore a dark cloak, because if you could say one thing about the Elemental cult--besides their proclivity for manipulating stone and hanging out with thematically appropriate denizens--is that they are not above color coordination. When they reached the exit he simply held up both hands in a gesture of peace and, shouting over the wind, asked them to leave.

Perseus said that they might leave, but wanted to first know who he was and what his plans were. To his surprise he was given straightforward answers: the man was a scion of Tharizdun that was, along with some other like-minded individuals, in the process of liberating him from Pandora's box. Nero did not know much about Tharizdun, except that he was the thing that the rest of the evils in the box fled from when it was opened.

What was also surprising was that, after openly revealing that he was not only a servant of the bad guy, but that he was trying to free said bad guy from a god-forged prison, Perseus did turn to leave.

Maybe he thought that Tharizdun would just...scare off all the other bad things?
Confused as to why a self-proclaimed hero that had at least claimed to have fought a medusa was just walking away, Atticus stopped him and asked him why. Perseus explained that if this guy was somehow related to an ancient evil that was so ancient and so evil that the gods themselves could not kill, but merely imprison him, at least on a relative scale he was probably out of their league. Of course after a brief pep talk about courage, responsibilities, and suffering of innocents they decided to roll initiative, anyway.

Though the winds impeded their movement Atticus was still able to close the distance. He grabbed the scion and flung him towards the rest of the group. As the scion picked himself up the ground seemed to, well, flow over him. Sheathed in a thick layer of stone, he took a few swings at Atticus, clipping him. While his back was turned Perseus charged, but his sword was easily deflected. With the scion's attention turned towards Perseus, it gave Nero enough time to slam a sphere of force square in his chest, shattering much of the stone barrier.

And then it was Iola's turn. The winds not only did not hinder her, but seemed to empower her as she drew upon the fury of the storm around them. She channeled it into a lance of hurricane force that launched the scion some thirty feet away. It was pretty impressive, though her friends might have appreciated it more if the force of the blast had not also sent them sprawling. At least it momentarily reduced the winds to a nice breeze.

A wave of stone surged from the ground, crashing into Perseus and engulfing him in a crushing embrace. In its wake stood a female gnome, with long, braided hair and eyes that looked like citrines. She did not move, but stood her ground and surveyed the battlefield, her eyes scanning independently of each other. Thoros, wanting to pick on someone his own Size category, flung a dagger at her, but it barely scratched her skin.

Hoping to free Perseus, Atticus leapt at the elemental, but all he was able to do was pry a few stones loose. It was still better than when he went after the gnome: his claws and fangs could not even make a mark, and she did not even seem to acknowledge being gnawed on. The stone "armor" from the scion peeled up over his legs and body, and down his arms, compacting into a pair of small spheres that he launched at Atticus. Though only one hit it was enough to knock him to the ground, writhing in agony.

Perseus struggled against the elemental's grip but was unable to wrench himself free. Or breathe. He eventually resigned himself to praying to his father for aid, and just as he was about to black out a bolt of lightning lanced out of the sky. It struck the elemental, blasting him free without harming him in the slightest.

Iola reveled in her new found power. She darted about, easily dodging the elemental to go after the gnome. The gnome still did not move, and it felt like she was striking a stone wall. Nero decided to take a crack at her next, channeling a wave of thunderous energy through his fist as he swung. She shifted every so slightly, deflecting his blow and striking him in the arm.

Having learned their lesson by proxy Atticus and Perseus decided to keep their distance from the gnome, focusing instead on the elemental, while Iola tried her odds with the scion. She conjured up a cyclone of wind that focused the entirety of the surrounding storm into one point. It tore the platform to shreds, flinging stone about and the scion over the cliff.

The battle finally turning in their favor, the platform violently shook as it began to pull away from the mountain. The elemental seemed to "dive" underground, while the gnome continued to stand there. Iola pushed the cyclone into Thoros, launching him to the safety of the stairs, while Nero managed to catapult himself with a downward-aimed thunderwave. Everyone else just used good old-fashioned legwork to leap to safety.

They hunkered down on the steps to rest for a bit before finishing their trek up the summit. It was surrounded by a ring of fluted pillars topped with an elaborately decorated entablature. Similarly decorated stone thrones formed a ring inside the pillars. A dark-robed figure stood at the center, flanked by a pair of elementals. He was holding a black sword that he pointing it at a someone lying on the ground: his skin was cloudy white, and vibrant gold patterns lightly pulsed over his skin.

It was Perseus's father.

Behind the Scenes
Another fun session with evocative, dynamic combat. I was happy that I was able to leave it on a cliffhanger, especially since Beth had been waiting to see if/how her character's father would feature into the game. I had planned on ending the game in another handful of sessions, but...who knows, I am starting to think of more stuff. I might be able to keep it going longer than I thought.

One thing I love about 4th Edition is that it is really, really easy to make mechanics that evoke a concept.

The scion was normally a melee beater. He could use a Minor action to give himself temporary hit points (stone armor), but could expend it to make a powerful ranged attack. This gave players a choice: tough it out in melee, or risk getting hit with a nasty ranged attack. They could also try using daze/stun effects to force him to choose between attacking or replenishing his stone shield.

The gnome was also pretty powerful in melee: she had an Immediate Interrupt attack when struck in melee, and when she did not move gained weapon resistance. This made ranged attacks, especially magic ones, useful against her...which was why I also made it so that if a magic ranged attack missed her by a wide enough margin that she could redirect it into someone else.

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

  1. This sounds like a ton of fun! I really enjoy reading your after-action reports from each session, it really helps give insight into the game, how you run it and how your players enjoy it. On average, how long does a typical session last for you guys?

    (Also, somewhat off-topic: I just noticed that your link to Homebrew on the main banner link is misspelled "Hombrew". Y'know, in the banner that flips between the five different tags. Just thought I'd mention!)

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  2. We try to go for a two hour block, but with all the socializing I think we end up getting about an hour and a half in, maybe an hour and forty-five minutes.

    Also, whoops! I'll get that changed!

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  3. Only two hours? And that works well for you guys? Though they haven't gotten together in a while, I try to aim for four hours with my typical D&D group, and the horror group I play with goes for about the same. Is it just a matter of short windows of time or is that a conscious decision by the group?

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  4. We play around two hours because of work, transportation, children, etc. However, I think that because we play for such short bursts, we can keep these sessions going pretty regularly.

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    1. @Doc: Thanks for the info! I guess that's a smart way to do it; it's often difficult to dedicate the whole evening to a 4-hour gaming session but it's probably somewhat easier to get 2 hours in here and there. Something to consider, for sure!

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  5. I would like doing longer sessions, but shorter sessions also make it easier to plan stuff because I do not have to think too far ahead. Personally I think a weekend game would rule, but I am so very, very old.

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    1. Haha, I somehow doubt that. You're only as old as you feel, right?

      Weekend games are something of the past for me too, I'm afraid, if only because the missus isn't as interested in taking part and would be loathe to let me go for a full weekend of gaming. But I do have fond memories of full-day games where we liberated (or conquered) empires in single session. Ah, those were the days...

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  6. Sometimes when my friends or family ask what my husband and I do on the days that we game, I tell them that we are fighting evil. Everyone can relate to that.

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  7. Except evil people. They might not take too kindly to that.

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