The fraying skin of the world

Epic Showdown in the Temple of Moradin

(Sariel: This is the session summary I wrote up last night for my friendslocked blog, to share the awesome with uninvolved friends, and to try and remember it myself. :-) It’s somewhat incoherent due to exhaustion and adrenaline buzz, probably over-focused on Alis for obvious reasons, I explain stuff that you guys know perfectly well because I was talking to people who don’t know the game, and I’m definitely missing details and may have stuff out of order, but I wanted to share, and y’all should feel free to edit in corrections or tell me to fix things or etc. :-) )

The setup: The Chaos Scar is basically a post-nuclear-fallout wasteland, only for magical fallout instead of nukes, and more of a big valley than the “sizable chunk of the landmass is desert” wasteland. Lots of monsters, lots of evil and crazy and renegade people with outposts there, all that fun stuff. The king of the region has set a bounty on dead Scar monsters, so our party — as well as other adventurers and militia-types — make periodic trips there to go hunting. This is our third or fourth trip in, and we found our way to what used to be a temple of a good god, in the process of being converted to a temple of an evil god. (Also we kind of got stuck by a tunnel cave-in and couldn’t get back out the way we came.) We made our way deeper in, found the high priest of the evil god, and got into a nice little fight which involved — among other things — said priest creating a ginormous pit in the center of the room for his evil giant insects to come out of and attack us (and try to knock us into, yay for lots of falling damage), and ultimately leaving us to deal with his bugs and other minions. We won, we took a breather, and then we looked around . . . to find out that the pit actually led into a room directly below it. Where the evil high priest was currently standing. Crazy stunts and epic rolls and daily power beatsticks were invoked, and we wrapped on a cliffhanger.

That was two weeks ago.

This week, we picked up where we left off. High priest was at about half-health or so and had some debuffs on him (yeah 4e has debuffs), but had a lot of pets around, and some weird pools of water in the corners of the room. We were down some health and some healing abilities (due to recovering a little from dropping down the pit to attack the high priest), and the dailies we’d blown, and two of us were still “upstairs” (my character can snipe with a sling from a ridiculous range, and our fighter/sorcerer had cast a spell instead of going down) while the rest were “downstairs”, but otherwise we were in pretty good shape. Yay, fightin’ time!

. . . except for one little thing. Y’see, the way the adventure was written, the PCs weren’t supposed to take the pit-shortcut down. We were supposed to go through the temple room-by-room, clearing enemies out from each, until we finally reached the boss. According to the DM, though, the writeup:
- explicitly said that the high priest’s pit would lead to the room he ran off to;
- explicitly said that the high priest had the power to control all his pets at a distance;
- explicitly said that the DM should completely ignore both of these things and not let them come into play ever.
. . . which is kind of completely stupid. So he figured that a fair tradeoff would be giving us our crazy surprise round shortcut to dump our dailies on the boss and get into position, but then letting the high priest pull those enemies from other rooms in to attack us. A couple came upstairs to deal with Alis and the fighter/sorc, and most came into the main room in waves — literally, every round for the first three rounds was a new batch of enemies.

Also, those weird pools of water? Turns out they used to be powerful sacred pools of holy water, but two of them had been corrupted by the high priest. He had a thing where, at half-health on his turn, he could teleport into one of the corrupt pools and heal a LOT, every single time he hit half-health. The PCs were supposed to start out near the two pools that were still good, which would heal us a LOT and restore some of our expended powers — but we didn’t, because of the shortcut. So the high priest got to use his pools, but we had a really, really hard time getting to our pools. Finally, the wizard worked out a crazy maneuver involving having our warden — think [defender-esque character type from another system] without the nonviolence caveat and with the ability to magically turn into a 30-foot-tall tree — fling him toward the pools, with Alis’ help, so he could magically fling the holy water back at us and get some healing done. (No, really.) Since Alis was literally 1HP away from falling unconscious at that point, she used the flinging to get into one of the evil pools at the same time, and pray to her goddess to purify it. (At this point we didn’t know that the priest could teleport every single time he hit half-health, I/Alis was just hoping to get a third pool of holy water or at least a pool of not-unholy water.) She got non-unholy water, the wizard pulled it off, and shit was amazing.

. . . but not quite amazing enough. Our setup is very much not an “optimal” 4e setup, even with an “extra” character compared to the 4e default of 5. We have one full healer (a cleric of Ilmater, god of martyrs), one very limited healer (me) who can also do lots of damage, one full tank (the warden), one half-tank (the fighter/sorc) who’d completely drained his healing surges and could only be healed by very specific magic at that point, one full glass cannon (warlock quasi-possessed by Gruumsh, orcish god of violence), and one really good crowd-control guy (the wizard). So we have two characters who’re doing the jack-of-all-trades,-master-of-none schtick, plus two more squishies, and only one real healer to keep us all up and one full tank to keep aggro. And since this fight was basically three fights’ worth of monsters thrown into one big battle, that meant some really nasty enemies, and no minions/cannon fodder so they were all hard to knock down and keep down. Oh, and Alis was KOed when she fell into the pool, and the wizard was off on his own, and like I said the fighter/sorc couldn’t be healed any more and was at single-digit health, and . . . yeah. Shit was bad.

(I feel the need to say that I’m absolutely not blaming the DM for anything here. He gave us our opportunity to nuke the high priest when the scenario said not to, his logic for combining the fights made perfect sense, and he subscribes to the Rule of Cool so if we could come up with crazy-awesome stuff like flinging the wizard and rogue in opposite directions by using our warden-turned-tree as a giant catapult, we’d have to roll for it, but he’d probably allow it. So while he was actively working to KO us, he was also actively working to keep it fun and let us be awesome, and I think he did well.)

But! Cavalry arrives! Earlier on, we’d met this good priest who’d been caught by the evil priest and tortured by his men, and helped him recover a little and all. He ran after the evil priest when the evil priest left back in that first fight, but after three waves of new enemies, the fourth wave was the good priest making it back. And he’s a cleric — a really good healer — some four levels higher than us PCs, so he could both hit okay and get us back on our feet again. The tides have turned!

. . . or have they? A combination of unlucky dice rolls from us, lucky dice rolls from the DM, and the sheer number of enemies wore us down again. We literally got to the point where we had three people not making saving throws against dying: Alis, the glass cannon warlock, and the cleric of Ilmater. (The NPC cleric took a battleaxe to the face and died. The entire table had a moment of silence, because we honestly liked him at that point, besides just from him giving us another fighting chance.) Every single turn since waking up in the pool of not-unholy water, Alis had been rolling to pray to her goddess for help, basically because I could (the DM approves of that kinda thing, he likes clerics) and she was literally ICly chanting nonstop prayers because oh god oh god we’re all gonna die I don’t wanna die not like this please—! At the point where it’s just the three of us standing, I go “Screw it, I’m not praying at the end of my turn, I’m doing the prayer first,” and roll.

[[Numbers here might be off, but I think this was roughly it.]]

I get a 16. DM said earlier that the target number to get Tymora’s attention is a 25. DM looks at the dice, looks at the priest of Ilmater’s player and the warlock’s player, and asks, “Are either of you praying too?” Warlock doesn’t pray, but is possessed by Gruumsh or a fragment thereof, that’s enough to let him roll. Priest of Ilmater says he’s praying, and because he’s worshipping a god of martyrs, he literally cuts off one of his fingers to aid his prayer. They roll successes, and the warlock gets a 17. DM decides that us two priests are going to assist the warlock’s roll, boosting him to a 22. (Technically only one person can assist a roll, but you can see where this is going.) 22 isn’t enough. DM eyes the other three players. “. . . Any of you religious enough to pray for help as you’re falling unconscious?”

We squeak our way to a 25, and the pool of water that Alis is standing in literally erupts into a column of green-glowing water — taking the form of Gruumsh’s face. (Again, Gruumsh is an evil deity; the PCs in general are Good or Unaligned, and us two priests are specifically Good. But since the warlock rolled best, we were aiding him, and he’s quasi-possesed by Gruumsh . . .) Gruumsh smiles at his warlock, and the column collapses into a perfectly, completely still pool of green-glowing water. We have our accessible holy water pool, and the three of us still standing get some healing and a power recharge.

. . . And Alis is still standing in the pool, and hasn’t used her standard action yet.

Crazy Step Two: Alis has a power that explicitly lets her hit two targets with an attack, by bouncing a sling-stone off one to hit the other. Alis loads her sling with a magic bullet and a vial of Gruumsh-water and hurls it at an enemy, bouncing the vial off to land in the hands of the cleric of Ilmater, who’s across the room from her and the pool. That vial can get any of our three downed PCs back on their feet and able to fight, and Alis has a few more empty vials on hand and is really freaking good with her sling.

. . . except that the cleric of Ilmater goes down on the next enemy’s turn. Crap.

Warlock pours the potion down the cleric’s throat, and the DM gives a really awesome description of the cleric getting a vision of Ilmater thanking him for his sacrifice and suffering, and taking up the severed finger. Cleric is up, and has a two-shot healing power back. Fighter/sorc is going to perma-die on his next turn; Alis manages to fling another vial at him such that it pops open right above his head, and enough Gruumsh-water lands in his mouth for him to be back up. Warlock drops, and cleric-player has an OOC crisis of “my character wouldn’t use divine healing on him, he worships GRUUMSH” (we didn’t ICly know the exact scenario at the time), before we remember that the warlock was holding an ordinary healing potion that the cleric can pour down his throat. Warlock’s back up, complete with awesome vision involving his pet dog (which is both his tie to humanity/good and a tie to Gruumsh). Wizard crits on his save against death, and is back up, complete with awesome vision involving casting the Raise Dead ritual on himself while, y’know, dead. Alis is immobilized, but at full health and she can still fling vials, and since she’s standing in the pool, she can get her “hit two people” power back for free. We’re fading fast, but the warden crits on his save against death, and is back up, complete with awesome vision involving wilderness symbolism. (We were amazed at how many death-crits we got, although to be fair, among the lot of us we probably rolled about a million of them.) Warlock pops his daily power — and crits, killing the evil high priest.

. . . enemies are still a problem, though. We have a duergar (evil dwarf) turned giant duergar to deal with, plus maybe five or so other enemies, at least one of whom had literally not been hit all session. Alis gets another Gruumsh-vial out — killing the giant duergar in the process — but I outright told the DM that he could and should hit me again (since I was literally in the best shape of anybody) — and that hit drops her from full HP to zero. She’s dying again. Everyone is on their last legs . . .

. . . but thanks to some more very lucky crits, a DM rule involving one-shot utility cards and floating to-hit bonuses that let us turn some misses into hits, and general party awesome, we get the group down to one single enemy, which the warlock successfully intimidates into dropping its weapon, thus ending the combat.

We are now about 200XP or so away from our next level-up, having earned something like 800+ from this fight alone. We came within a few hundred XP of doubling our total in a single fight. The session which was supposed to run 4 hours wound up running almost 8. DM has promised me an awesome flavor-vision like the others got, since I was sad that I didn’t recover from dying in time to get one, and has also promised the party some really good rewards for getting through the fight. (And that next session will be scheduled as a pure-RP one; that is, if we start a fight, it’s gonna happen, but otherwise he’s going to give us the session to ICly recuperate, discuss the fifty or so character secrets that came out during this fight, deal with townspeople and etc, advance plot, all that fun noncombat stuff.)

Awesome Things Sariel Forgot In The First Writeup And Just Remembered:

  • Dorfin uses Funneling Flurry to push two enemies into the pit. One fails his save against falling and takes damage. One makes his save, but DM allows Dorfin to make a Strength check to step on his hands and force him to fall. Dorfin crits, and does max damage with gravity on a 40+-foot drop.
  • Bienzar stays up and at near-full health for almost the entire fight, despite flinging himself across the room via tree, and getting rid of one of the good healing pools, and the DM throwing melee fighters at a squishy controller, and . . .
  • Darwin becomes a tree. We switch his little plastic pine tree mini for a very big plastic pine tree. DM forgets that the tree is a PC and therefore forgets to attack Darwin for a good two or so rounds with a good ten or so enemies.
  • Gradiz rolls crit after crit after crit on Honest Abe the Precision d20.
  • DM alternates between crits and crit-fails, or ghetto crits and ghetto crit-fails.


aschoenf Sariel

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