4E D&D: Save the Princess, Pilot Episode

  • Aka (1st-level red panda hengeyokai slayer)
  • Mirai (1st-level human cleric/shaman hybrid)
  • Sho (1st-level spirit-folk cursed swordmage)

Even by pipe, which extended all the way underneath the Singing Spirit Mountains, the journey from Asuka to the edge of the Stolen Land of Eternal Rain had taken nearly two weeks.

Heavy rain and thick mist greatly impeded their vision; during their trek towards the edge of the crater that served as the border of kappa territory, it took them a while to realize that they'd wandered into the withered remains of a seemingly abandoned village.

They inspected a few buildings, but only found various types of fungi infesting most of them. Unsure what dangers the fungus might pose to them, Mirai wanted to just keep walking and get out as soon as possible, but Aka spied an object in one of the houses.

It glinted in what meager sunlight was able to penetrate the clouds, and was perched on a stone altar at the back of an exposed room. Whatever it was, it looked to be made of solid gold, and while fungus crowded much of the room she felt that she could maneuver across without disturbing it.

Though the fungus didn't react, the zombies nestled within did: about halfway across a trio of rotten corpses, caked with mushrooms and fungal frills exploding from their faces, tore themselves free and lurched towards her. They were unexpectedly fast and strong: Aka only managed to get a single swing in before they pummeled her into unconsciousness.

Mirai called upon wind spirits to revive her, and once she was back on her feet they were able to hack, blast, and incinerate the zombies. Once they were destroyed, Aka was able to safely cross the room and retrieve a golden cat figurine. It looked valuable, but rather than take what they could get and leave, Aka and Sho wanted to—in spite of Mirai's protests—continue searching the village for additional treasure.

Worse, they also decided that splitting up in a mist-choked-fungus-zombie-ruin was a good idea: ironically Mirai found a jade dragon stattuete clutching a pearl, Aka found nothing, and Sho ended up rousing a fungus zombie of considerable size and horrid shape. As it lumbered towards him, its body split open, revealing something like a maw filled with broken ribs for teeth.

Sho was able to shout for help before the monstrosity was upon him, scooping him up in its wide. jagged mouth with a clump of arms and tearing into his flesh. He slipped through space, teleporting out of the creature's mouth, but he didn't make it far and was so severely wounded that he could barely stand.

Fortunately, Aka arrived before it could strike again. Hacking at what passed for its back she inflicted considerable damage, but her attack inadvertently freed several incomplete-yet-still-ambulatory zombies. Worse, the rest of the zombie mass turned upon her, rendering her unconscious with its powerful bite.

Sho did his best to distract it with his magic, preventing it from killing Aka. When Mirai found them he again called upon the spirits to revive Aka before unleashing them upon the zombie mass: once it was destroyed, it was a much, much simpler matter for them to finish off the stragglers.

The characters didn't have long to celebrate: thanks to the mud and mist, they heard the next group of zombies before they could see them. They wasted no time fleeing, stopping only when night finally fell, after which they took shelter beneath the largest rock they could find.

Behind the Scenes
The last time I'd played in a 4th Edition-by-the-books campaign, Melissa was behind the screen. That lasted exactly one delve before we implemented the half-hp-houserule in the interest of speeding things up, and then we quickly hacked the game into something that would eventually serve as the foundation of FrankenFourth.

I'll probably have to do that here, though the party is doing a fine job slaughtering monsters 1-3 levels above their own. I have been using a rule I created during the original A Sundered World campaign, in which the characters make Endurance checks while camping in poor conditions: a really good roll means they regain most or all of their spend daily resources, good roll means they regain some, and a poor roll means they not only gain nothing, but lose something (like healing surges).

For the monsters, I just used existing ones with a few tweaks to their appearance and abilities:

  • Gunba: For the rank and file fungus zombie, I used normal zombies (level 2 brute) without the zombie weakness. Think Last of Us clickers, but they can see normally and don't make any noise.
  • Big Gunba: Started with hulking zombie (level 4 brute), remove zombie weakness, when bloodied produces 1d4 zombie minions, after fight characters wounded make a save to see if they get a disease. Big gunbas are made from numerous corpses that have fused together: they look like oblong masses with arms and legs sticking out every which way.

In both cases I could see giving them a spore cloud attack, either as a breath weapon (per encounter or recharging), or something that happens when bloodied and/or when slain.

Really though, the two reasons I'm running this is to actually play through the setting, fleshing it out for later publication using FrankenFourth and/or Dungeons & Delvers, and figure out exactly how many abilities a character needs to satisfy Shane.

In a post-game discussion, Shane admitted that while he likes the options his character has (which amounts to a handful of class features, four at-wills not counting basic attacks, two encounters, and one daily), he thinks it might be a bit much. So, that gives me a range of 4-8 things. Maybe the next time we playtest FrankenFourth, I'll start them at 3rd or 4th level, see how that goes.

Adam mentioned wanting fighters to have more interesting things to do. Melissa seems perfectly happy with the slayer since it mostly makes basic melee attacks, which is a FrankenFourth design goal: if you want a complex fighter, choose exploits and/or multiclass, but if you just wanna make attacks and deal damage, that's fine, too.

In the interest of giving them more complex things, Adam's going to comb through various 4th Edition books, and even some of our Dungeon World classes, to provide concrete examples of what he would like a FrankenFourth fighter to be able to do.

If you're curious about FrankenFourth and/or Dungeons & Delvers, you can find public alpha documents here and here respectively.

We've added most of our stuff to Tabletop Library and Payhip.

A Sundered World is out (and also available in dead-tree format)! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Beastmaster is also out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

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