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Archive for April, 2010

What in the name of all that is holy is that?

Week 7 of DnD Encounters: UnderGameCafe begins the second half of the adventure, and our adventurers showed up right on time to battle evil. I had the day off, so I was a little more relaxed than usual. In fact, one of the girls who works at the store laughed that I was in my pajamas. I explained to her that they were actually my wife-made-me-go-out pants. I also picked up some fancy card sleeves before the game. I have a handful of clear plastic sleeves that some one gave me a long time ago, and have been hoarding them, re-using them, and using very harsh triage system to decide which cards I have get the card sleeve treatment. So it was something of a shock to see rack after rack of various card sleeves in all colors and designs. Also, apparently not all cards are the same size, either. Clearly I am not a card gamer. But we have no more time for that, my card sleeves bought, it was time to head down to the dungeon.

The party began to trail in as I set up our table, and I was happy to see the majority of people who have been with me since the first couple of weeks. One of the real heroes of the game, Roy, with his Dragonborn ranger Geryon was unable to make it (we miss you Roy!) but we also had a newcomer, Sloan, who played an elf ranger. I joked about how the dragonborn unzipped his hide and out stepped an elven ranger, and we were good to go.

Aside: As long as the DnD has been around, gamers have had to contend with the jarring bit of reality that intrudes on a party of characters when the roster suddenly changes. It could be for a million different reasons: a player can’t make it, a new player joins, or even an old player with a new character. These things happen all the time, and really can’t be avoided, so I think for most DMs it becomes a sort of mini-game to come up with “rational” reasons why a new guy could suddenly show up 1,000 feet beneath the earth and immediately gain the trust and friendship of these professional psychotic killers with nary a hiccup. Usually we all turn a blind eye, since the other alternatives, such as running a person’s character while they are not there, or making a person wait until their character “has a chance to enter” are all good for verisimitude, but bad for fun. And this game is about fun, so we end up with elves zippered inside of dragonborn, and everyone is happy! Now, how will I explain to Roy next week that an elf popped out of him?

Also at many locations the table of players and DMs completely changes from week to week, so it must really make some one’s head hurt to try and rationalize that. In some ways, leaving aside the in-game problems, I think the switching it up is a good thing, as it allows players to experience many different DMing styles. I can imagine that individual DMs have a pretty big influence on a new player’s first impression. On the other hand, I love my group of players, and wouldn’t want to give them up for anything. I am more than happy to run over-size groups before I would ever consider sending one of MY players to a different table. Moving on.

Down Geryon and the drow assassin Shivra (miss u 2 Richard W) but gaining the elven ranger who we’ll call Stu, the party was 6 strong and was ready to rumble, and it would take all they had to defeat week 7’s foe. The party moved in marching order towards the one unexplored door, and as the others before it opened magically as they approached, showing a small antechamber on the other side of the doors that had a tiled room with a glowing sigil in each tile. Beyond the tiles, a wooden stair rose to meet an impenetrable wall of darkness.

And so began a bout of exploratory probing of the sigil-tiles that filled the area between the door and the stairs beyond. Finding them magical in nature, and more of a ward than a trap, they turned to the darkness, casting a sunrod (road flare) into the darkness, which swallowed it. Soon the ranger and battlemind jumped across and were stumbling up the stairs into the inky darkness.

Before long much of the party was playing blind tag upstairs, until Hax became weary of the sigil mystery and stepped onto a tile. Everyone waited with bated breath… the moment dragged… would he erupt into a pillar of fire?…. what were we doing wandering around in this room up here?… and he heard a click and the sigil brightened slightly, nothing more. He tried another tile – it brightened, the first dimmed. Soon another joined him, and before you know it, kaplowee! Sealed in!

I really love traps like this. There are plenty of skill checks to make, which can give you clues, but it is a basic problem or riddle that after awhile, just clicks and the players solve it and everyone cheers and we move on. For some reason my traps always become convoluted, difficult to understand affairs (just like most things in my life hmm) and I like the simplicity of this one. In fact, it reminds me of a trap I was especially proud of in Encounter Week 3, the electric statue. The cool trap, followed by the mind-blowingly cool monster we’re about to meet, made this my favorite encounter to date, as far as encounter-design goes. Way to go Erik Scott De Bie.

As the characters were jumping across to the stairs and climbing them in the dark I had them make DC5 agility checks to avoid damage, such as barked shins, etc. One PC, I forget who, suffered 2 points of barked shin damage. Once the darkness was dispelled and the encounter proper began, the stairs became difficult terrain. This meant that for many PCs he first turn was spent moving up to the glowing blue globe which spun off sparks of blue plague-fire and lightning.

The batlemind was able to charge, and as he struck, he felt himself wrapped in the loving embrace of a poison-fire aura, but managed to put a crack in the globe. His perceptive eyes picked out the hint of a humanoid figure floating within the globe. Then the sorcerer, still angry that she was not able to intimidate the darkness, let loose with everythig she had, including an action point. The globe rocked with the lightning blast, pushed back a square. Then it was lashed by some other attack of the sorceress, this time pulling it forward 3 squares.

The rest of the characters moved forward, with the elven ranger beginning his first round of a battle’s worth of twin-strikes, every other one hitting. The rogue moved slowly up the stairs, and the ardent scaled the stairs.

More lighting flashes, the aura gathers up he majority of the party afer its pull forward, and healing potions are quaffed. The lighting arc made a point of striking characters normally out of range, like the sorceress and rogue. Soon the front line warriors were hurting, but a well placed arrow from Stu the elf finally shatters the bubble (just as he rogue is preparing to sneak attack.)

The bubble bursts, showering everyone with with energy shards and an eladrin emerges, in shining chainmail and holding a longsword that flickeered with energy. She ripples with energy, and blue flame fills her eye sockets and mouth, as she screams “Save me!” and continues to attack. She then instantly teleports to one corner of the room.

Behind the scene

This plaguechanged eladrin was a fun and exciting solo enemy. Its powers were imaginative and challenging. My most recent experience with a solo enemy was the blue slime from Keep on the Shadowfell, and this eladrin was tons more fun. She shot fire and lightning and screamed and her psychic aura was a nasty surprise. This foe was a challenge to run as well, with the amount of stats it had, but it was well laid out and all tied together well. The chainmail and sword were additions of my own made for a couple reasons. One, with a larger than usual party the solo had to be “bumped up” to a challenging level, but it is hard to do when the party was going to be 5-8 people, possibly more. As a solo, it is not as easy as adding minions, which would have reduced the coolness factor of the encounter. SO I gave him a lightning sword +1 and a suit of magic chainmail. (I cant remember which type of chain I handed out, but I wish it was Joyous Chain +1, which would be perfect for the ardent, who got the item. I think I will print a second card showing Joyous Chain +1 and let him choose between the two next week.) The other reason for the items was that these would be the treasure for the encounter. I like to add the magic stuff into the encounter whenever possible, rather than under a pile of rags in the corner or in a chest. In this case it was especially difficult, as the room was empty until the globe materialized.

Back to the game, the ardent, wearing his cloak of resistance, stepped up toe to toe with the eladrin and fought with her whilst within her damaging aura, but he laughed off her madness inducing psycho-damage, and it gave the battlemind a chance to recover. The rogue had been moving inexorably forward, and now he stepped up and with a well placed blow, he gave the eladrin what she wanted, sweet release from her mortal coil. The party was victorious once again! This battle really was a challenge, and for the first half, there were some worried looks. But with the right combination of action points and daily powers, they pulled it off. By the mid-point the tactics came together and they finished her off quickly

Even with the eladrin dead, the longswod continued to flicker with an electric current of its own, and the genasi swordmage snapped it up. So began a round of trading where all of the magic items were distributed to who could use them best. So far 5 of the characters have an item, Roy and Eddie being the only members without from our core group. Let see if I have it straight: Hax has he new longsword, Ardent has the chainmail, Midge has the staff, and Battlemind has the mantle. Wait, there was one more the ardent had that cloak. He might have given it to someone. Cant remember.

As the party was busy stripping her corpse of all it was worth, the blue ghostess appeared, cradling the Eladrins head for a moment, whispering sweet nothings into her ear, before disappearing again with a wink and a nod.

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How can it mean so much?

If you are just tuning in, Part 1 can be found here.

In our last article, we discussed the history of the natural 1 and 20 throughout the life of the game, and began to get an understanding as to why it will be difficult to transfer our traditional methods of adjudicating critical hits and misses into 4e without destroying some of the fine balance the game has achieved. But before we move onto the mechanics of making such a thing possible, it is important to ask one more question: why? Why tamper with the rules at all, especially since they are written to be as balanced and stream-lined as possible?

The 4e combat rules are a thing of grace and beauty. They are stripped down to the essence of fantasy action combat, with very little excess rules-baggage in the way of its streamlined processes. By adding critical hits and misses, we are adding a layer of complexity back into the system. There is a loss of cohesion when we add rules to this sleek system, and at worst an imbalance. There is also an additional time factor spent around the table, that should be taken into account when adding or changin rules. Granted, I would estimate 3 or 4 1s and 20s are rolled all-told in an average setting, so for each of these rolls, more rolling and description will become necessary.

So why do we do it? The answer is simple, really. Combat is messy. It is bloody, slippery, gritty, hot, blinding, and dizzying. Combat is unpredictable, and any time people start swinging around big honkin’ chunks of sharpened steel, unusual things start to happen. The critical hit and miss are meant to represent the chaos and unpredictability of battle. Strange things happen when blood starts to fly.

By God its a 20, Jim, a Natural 20!

There are other more personal reasons for having critical hits and misses as well. In a small way, these rules give each battle the chance for something extraordinary to happen. Doing maximum damage on a hit is great, but not exceptional. However, when an enemy’s ears fill with blood from a mighty blow, deafening them, that is something exceptional and memorable. Finally, another reason closely tied to that, is that critical hits and penalties, and the numbers that they represent, 1 and 20, can cause great emotion around the table, and for those who roll them. These rules attempt to give meaning to those feelings people get – and the outbursts they make – when such epic wins or epic fails are rolled. It is a chance for hilarity, rage, relief, or whatever other pent up emotions can boil to the surface during an intense gaming session. To scream out “20!” seems worthy of more than maximized damage, just as the quiet mewling “…1..” that DMs have to strain to hear needs to do more than simply signify a missed attack. Heck rolling a 2 will get you that most times. To shout 1 or 20 is to shout “Catharsis!” and the game must oblige such moments with occasions of corresponding action in the game. Nothing less will do.

Egads, I’ve done it now, ’tis a 1!

The mighty 20 and villainous 1 deserve more. They aid combatants to achieve the heights of battle prowess and sink into the depth of despair when it comes to combat. Criticals keep battle real, awesome, and frightening, as they should be. And they do this with only a small impact on the flow of the average battle, and therefore fit into the modern concept of 4e Dungeons and Dragons, which is to minimize the wildly random results of previous editions. They are the spice that gives flavor to the meat and potatoes of a battle. Without further ado:

Critical Hit and Critical Miss Rules

Official rules still apply
The number one thing to remember when adding the Critical Hit and Penalty Roll rules is that all the standard official 4th Edition rules still apply. This includes for a natural 20, doing max damage every time a 20 is rolled, and a natural 20 will always hit. For the natural 1, the only rule to apply is that it will always miss.

No criticals against minions
Ignore all natural 20 and 1 results against minions. Since they are always killed on a hit, and never damaged on a miss, they are immune to the effects of criticals, and thus provoke none.

Once per encounter
Once per encounter, the first time any combatant rolls either a natural 20 or a natural 1, that combatant should roll on the applicable chart. Only a single natural 20 and a single natural 1 per encounter per combatant is allowed.

Spend an action point
The only exception to the “once per encounter” rule is through the use of action points. A PC can spend an action point to be able to roll a second, or third time on the Critical Hits chart beyond the first time allowed per encounter. In addition to, or instead, a PC can spend an action point to ignore rolling on the Penalty Roll chart for the encounter.

Critical Hit Chart – Roll a D20
1-2: Target deafened until end of targets next turn (-10 perception)
3-4: Target weakened until end of targets next turn (half damage)
5-6: Target blinded until end of targets next turn (-5 to attack)
7-8: Target slowed until end of targets next turn (movement reduced to 2)
9-10: Target pushed 1 square and knocked prone, attacker can shift 1 square as immediate reaction
11-12: Create opening, Attacker makes extra melee or ranged basic attack against target, or adjacent ally of target
13-14: Energized: Attacker gains 5 temporary hit points
15-16: Target dazed until end of targets next turn (only one action, move, minor or standard)
17-18: Target bleeding (ongoing 5 damage; Save Ends)
19-20: Double Damage – Attacker adds extra 1w (2w for paragon, 3w for epic) to the damage total.

Critical Miss Chart – Roll a D20
1-2: Attacker weakened until end of next turn, Endurance check DC 15 + 1/2 level to avoid
3-4: Attacker loses 1 healing surge or takes 5 points damage, Heal check DC 15 + ½ level to avoid
5-6: Attacker knocked prone, Endurance check DC 15 + 1/2 level to avoid
7-8: Attacker drops weapon/implement, Endurance check DC 15 + 1/2 level to avoid
9-10: Attacker damages weapon/implement, -2 to hit/damage until short rest, Athletics check DC 15 + 1/2 level to avoid
11-12: Attacker stumbles 2 squares in any direction, taking OAs along the way, Acrobatics check DC 15 + 1/2 level to avoid
13-14: Roll the attack again, if it hits, good, if it misses, roll again on the penalty chart with d12
15-16: Attackers encounter or daily power is not expended if used to make attack, no other effect
17-18: Make a basic attack against same target in place of this failed attempt
19-20: Amazing recovery, roll on the critical hit chart, target is affected by roll, but not by damage of missed attack

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How can it mean so much?

Natural 20 – and its evil twin, the natural 1 – have been around as long as Dungeons and Dragons, but its effects on the game have varied as wildly as almost any other aspect of the game. The natural 20 was first ordained as an official roll in the 3rd edition, who went on to so brazenly bestow glory upon the natural 19 or even lower in some circumstances. With a certain combination of mechanics it is possible to get a 3rd edition attack to crit (with a confirmation!) on a roll of natural 16 or even lower which was ridiculous – 20 is sacred. Luckily I never dealt with anything 19 or lower, and in some ways, 19 feels like the little brother of 20, almost like it should be one and a half extra damage or something. 20 is king, though, and nothing less is as meaningful.

The formative years

In my game, begun around 1982-ish, there were critical hits and penalties from about the beginning. A friend’s older brother passed down much in the way of really old DnD stuff, including a chart for criticals, our first experience with what it means to roll a natural 20, but even before that, I can remember us crooning “20!” with gusto whenever we rolled a natural 20. My first chart was out of a Dragon Magazine of the era. I should look it up, but if I remember correctly, it was a percentile die to determine the effects of the roll. It was useful, but I wanted to condense it into a more manageable number of effects, and so I paired it down to a list of 20 items. Thus was begun the second 20 die roll, not to confirm, so scorned in 3rd edition, but to roll the effect. The result was anywhere from double damage to beheaded (double twenties.)

As far as I can recall, the natural 1 has never been codified into the rules officially, with the single exception being something about weapon breakage in the Dark Sun campaign. I have however always used the natural one penalty roll, and it has changed much less in its effects than the 20. The penalty roll (known in some circles as the critical fumble) in those halcyon days would result in some exceptional pain and hilarity on the part of the PC to roll it, and possibly his allies. These varied from injuring self to injuring others, with lots of slips, breaks, and spills in between.

That critical hit and penalty roll table became the first two pages of a big black notebook called House Rules. The tables were modified in small ways over the course of many years, but as far as I can recall, they were never re-written. At some point this notebook was lost, and with it much of my early work. I still wish I had the excellent drawing and stats for my npc race of ‘Felic’ but I digress…

Dawn of a new era

We finally got official critical hit rules in the 3rd edition. They were good: “double-damage” meaning rolling an extra weapon die of damage. I used the rulebook version for crits minus the afore-mentioned “confirmation” roll. The double damage was a good effect, and in many ways, I believe it was what people without their own critical hit charts were doing all along.

The confirmation roll – most maligned roll in the game. The only attack roll no player has ever wanted to roll – the whole idea behind it was bad. An attack roll is supposed to be a glorious moment, rife with the perpetual fear of missing. In fact, I would bet missed attacks have sold more new dice sets than any advertising campaign did. Players LOVE to hit, but their fear and disgust at missing is truly a shame to behold. So much effort, thought, planning, creativity, so agonizing and – pfft, miss, next? To have someone roll that 20, and then to miss on the confirmation is tantamount to torture, and will not be condoned. On the other hand, if I ever were to be in a situation where Natural 16s were a critical, you bet I would make them confirm. Such a bad rule the confirmation roll, the worst in 3.0 in my opinion.

Behold the wonder of the critical hit, a natural 20! “YES! THOKK HAS MISSED ALL NIGHT NOW HE WILL FINALLY SLAUGHTER!” Thokk, please confirm that crit. “WHAT?” Roll to hit again. “OOOO_KAAAAYYY I ROLL A …three.” IM sorry, its not a crit.

That is a case of the mechanics of balance superseding fun and also the natural flow of the game. 20’s have to be important or something glorious is lost. Potentially important might have worked, except it was couched in the terms of an attack roll that that seems to say. “So you got a 20, big deal, now roll again to prove it.”. Never once have I as a DM asked for a roll to be confirmed. The extra die of damage was nice though, and never seemed overpowered, and I am glad they went with doubling only the base roll and not the modifiers, as that would be both confusing and hellish to behold in some cases, where the modifiers outweigh the base damage.

Instead of using or creating a penalty roll chart, I would improvise on natural 1’s, varying between fell prone and dropped weapon as appropriate. I didn’t use any damaging effects because it added too much negative randomness. I have always agreed with 3rd editions efforts to lessen the impact of sudden, inescapable random acts, like level drain, save-or-die poisons, etc. Especially ones where a single die roll could change the course of an entire battle or PC life… against the PC’s Falling prone or dropping a weapon, on the other hand, actually opened up NEW options. The players, however, never fully appreciated the humble power of the natural 1. Even as charging enemies are falling flat on their faces to come skidding to a halt with their necks exposed, players would grumble that missing is bad enough, but to miss AND drop your sword was unbearable. One time, two players lost their crossbows during a single encounter while firing long-range over a chasm, chortle-chortle.

Ooh new and shiny

Decapitated!

Soon after the loss of the crossbows (which for better or worse took place right after a rust monster denuded the party of much of their metal weapons and armour) the players and I all started looking around for other options, and came across Game Mastery Cards which we used to great avail until the end of our 3rd edition campaign. These decks of 52 cards contained a vast trove of affects, categorized by the type of attack, and they varied from the mild to the insane, but usually landed just about right. The cards were an instant success, and we played them with gusto. One of the things that made these cards great, and an improvement over any of my old charts, was that the affects on each card were divided by what type of attack it was: i.e. melee, ranged, magic, or natural.

FUMBLE!

Truly, these cards are basically a larger, better organized version of the original d20 chart. They are also optimized for the 3rd edition era rule-set. This is both one of its strengths and one of its weaknesses. It allowed for a very well made sub-set of rules to slide into the 3rd edition rule-set with a very minimum of disturbance. The cards were made for 3rd edition DnD and they worked so well, they improved upon the original rules without causing any negatives. Sadly all things must pass, and so has 3rd edition slipped, like a sandcastle at high tide, into the eternal spotlight of my cherished memories as a great system of yore. These decks of cards, scuffed and worn, will be retired with the system that bore them.

The tactile feel of a card game is a great addition to the game, and the critical hit and penalty system is the perfect place to include it. In the next edition DnD we also have a growing “card-game” sub-set of rules, namely the powers, but other things as well, so it is only a matter of time before some enterprising indie publisher tackles the card set, if not game Mastery who did the originals for 3rd Edition.

The new deal

The 4th edition of the world’s most popular (out of the bedroom) role-playing game, Dungeons and Dragons, is the game we play and discuss in these parts; no more, no less. And when 4th edition came sweeping across the horizon, few rules were left unchanged, including critical his. (Sadly, natural 1’s missed out again on official codification. So much hope, to be forgotten again, the humble 1 on on a d20.) These are the best rules yet for a natural 20, and are meaningful while not tipping into any extremes.

A natural 20 does max damage, rather than double. And what is double damage, really? Well, it does in fact average out to max damage: If an average die roll is half the total, i.e. 3 for a six-sider, 10 on a d20, then we take that average and multiply it by 2 (for double damage that is) then we arrive at the same math: max damage. So, this elegant rule is correct on multiple counts: giving the streamlined benefit of “double damage” and it even saves us time by alleviating the damage roll, AND it does the math for us – max damage means no adding of die rolls. This rule highlights the principles of 4th edition: to improve the game by streamlining and simplifying the complicated, tangled web of previous editions into a unified whole.

On the other hand, it lacks the… ‘zest’ of the old rules. The wacky, hilarious events that took place with the cards, or even before with the charts is distinctly missing from these rules. Where are the blindings, limb-severings, and decapitations? Merely max damage means nothing extra, which is something the 20 implies: not just best, but extra. Well, as a matter of fact 4e has us covered there too. Most magic items such as weapons and implements do a bonus damage of some sort on a critical. Many of them do an extra die or 2, so we even get to scratch our dice-rolling itch too. Still, they were magic items not an innate function of the natural 20, which lessens the meaningfulness of the bonus. Fresh from 3rd edition and used to our wonderful card system, the new rules felt distinctly underwhelming. Having played with them for some time now, the official critical hit rules for 4th edition sound better and better every day.

When our group switched to 4th edition, we tried out different variations for our critical hit and penalty rolls. We started with the rules as written, but wanting more flair, we quickly switched over to the card system.

Where do we go from here?

The cards won’t work. There are two major reasons we can’t use the cards. The first is that the effects are too ‘rules-specific’ and require hand-waving over 50 percent of them. Usually I replace the impossible card (dex damage?) with some version of falling prone, heh… These cards could be adapted though, and put into 4th edition, so this is a surmountable objection. We could even print our own cards with a card-stock capable printer. I have recently discovered card-game style card-protectors which make for great cards. Even regular paper will work with the right card protectors, perhaps with an interesting design on one side.

The real problem, though, is the increased rolling of d20s. Between close bursts and area attacks, which most classes have access, the sheer number of attack rolls has increased, especially at the lower levels. This has resulted in cases where in a single turn a player has suffered multiple natural 1’s and or 20’s. For the 1’s. at least, this will not do. The multiple and wildly varying effects of rolling critical hits and using the old system is not conducive to a semi-realistic or even movie-action style combat. With every character slipping, dropping, deal major damage, slicing appendages off, the battles we have had using the cards in our 4e game are beginning to look like an Abbot and Costello skit with samurai swords.

For our Druid especially, who makes it a point to attack as many enemies (and sometimes allies!) per round as possible, she is quickly becoming less than enamoured with our system, but at the same time, I am loathe to give up something that to me has defined the game as long as I have played it. Doing max damage on a crit is something that I feel works, and works even better the more times it happens, in that, you already know the damage it will inflict, as opposed to other systems where each natural 20 adds another layer of complexity – in 4e rolling a 20 strips away complexity.

And finally, there is the simple fact that we are rolling “to hit” for so many more things this time around, besides traditional attacks. No longer do we make saving throws, instead attacks are made. If you are caught in a trap, you don’t save vs. poison as in the old days; instead poison makes an attack against your fortitude, for example. So what if that little poison-tipped needle rolls a natural 1, does it fall prone, damage self, or drop weapon? No, again we have a break between past incarnations of the critical hit and penalty roll rules and what works with the new rule-set.

So, playing by the rules for natural 20 is a win-win, but no so with the lonely 1. This roll is the one that is causing so much anxiety and grief with players and dungeon masters, and for good reason. “Isn’t missing bad enough?” they whine and mewl, while the DM scratches his head and ponders how a rolling boulder can fall prone.

I bet you were hoping to have an inspired solution once you arrived here at the tail end of this post, but I am about to disappoint you, fair reader. I am in a conundrum. The players would be happy to ditch the penalty roll rules, and use the official critical hit rules, but I cannot let the natural 1 go so easy. Maybe it is a sense of symmetry, but the natural 1 must remain a force in my game, for better or worse.

How to do it?

In part 2 concluding the series I will describe how I plan to overcome the obstacles, at least temporarily, in a manner that I think stays true thematically to what the natural 20 and natural 1 represent, while balancing them towards the 4h Edition system. It will also hopefully be a system that can easily integrate both into the the core rules without disturbance, and also into the personal spectrum of my game, and mesh with the player’s aspirations and reservations. The 20 should represent something above the norm, and the 1 should spell some minor disturbance to the rhythm of combat.

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That's a lot of blood

The penultimate encounter of Keep of the Shadowfell is upon us. Before our game began (and also as a means to stall while I looked for the cathedral poster-map) I gave a short run-down of the adventure. We had a guest player, Kirby, join us, and he played the return on Mad Martigan, staff wizard, so a little history of the game might be helpful. Also, as the Keep on the Shadowfell will undoubtedly become 4th Editions seminal introductory adventure, it was good to reflect for a moment on the history of past incarnations, such as The Keep on the Borderlands, The Village of Hommlet and others.

So there they were, the party was arrayed in all its might, hiding in shadows a the foot of the stairs leading up and out of the evil underground cathedral. Who could know that below this ruined keep lay such a monstrous chamber? The dark voice of an evil ritual echoed up to them as they descended the stairs. Fillipe the druid crept forward in invisible beast form to survey the enemy. She could hear more than she could see, but she detected a figure near her but on the other side of a wall from her as well as 4 barbarian berserker axe-maidens, and a priest of Orcus engaged in a ritual sacrifice as a dais on the far end of the room. Blood drained in rivers from the dais, to meander through the chamber before dripping down through a large hole in the floor of the central athedral. It would take hundreds of sacrifices happening around he clock to supply the amount of blood in this chamber.

Mad Martigan had a moment of horrifying realization as he thought of his capture and imprisonment in the prisoner’s cells on the first floor of this dungeon. He shuddered to think where he would have ended up, and vowed to destroy the evil of the cathedral. Each character to survey the wickedness that abounded had a personal reason for wanting to see it destroyed. Merely 100 years ago Orcus had proclaimed war on the world of D’ Erte and the ruin he and his armies wrought on the world were immeasurable.

The battle began with a fire hawk materializing before the closest berzerker, who screams in shock and rage at the sudden blistering interruption. With the atack, the druid became visible and the initiative count began. Poppy was the first to go and she opened with her big daily power storm of shards, which rained down upon the Priest of Orcus and two of the berserkers, wreaking much havoc and damage. By her side, Stella Luna Gabriella pulled out her hand crossbow and took cover behind a jutting wall.

Then the Thokk charged the nearest barbarian foe and two primal warriors stood toe to toe, breast to heaving breast, great axes locked haft to haft as they fought with brutal strength alone, each of their muscles bulging, straining against the other. It was an outcome only one could survive. For many rounds these two fought around a glowing blue pillar. First on one side, then the other. Many combatants came and went during this battle throwing their weight to one side or another, but eventually Thokk slew the berzerk axe-maiden, even as her sister was hacking at his back.

Next to go were “monster X” which tured out to be vampires. These wretched undead were little more than beasts. There clothing was tattered, old, and crumbling, and they ran on all fours to leap up and lash out with steel-strong claws. The ranger heard doors open near her, and she realized she stood next to a set of heavy double doors. Making her strength check, Tara shouldered the doors open to find two of these feral vampire spawn slavering at the door, about to ambush her. She stabbed one through the heart and it was instantly slain. His lion Glimmer clawed ineffectually against the other vampire.

Then the wizard, hiding off to one side, was ambushed by another spawn, who raked claws down his back, 5 lines of red for 5 points of damage done, necrotic that is. So began another epic struggle, one on one, as the wizard would step back and fire spell after spell against the clacking jawed vampire spawn, who would shrug of each attack after the next, and was only slain when Thokk, having slew his foe, charged it. Thokk’s blade cracked the stone floor beneath the spawn’s neck, much to Mad Martigan’s relief.

The priest of Orcus dashed forward with his heavy skull-shaped mace and swung about him, missing Thokk on his first attack, but soon Cordelia was to howl in rage and charge him with her own brand of stormy primal power. She bellowed like thunderheads and struck like lightning until all about her was smoking ruin. But the priest gave as good as he got. First, when his wounds bloodied him sufficiently he called upon Orcus to guide his mace, dashing it against the storm barbariam with mighty force. Then, at long last, as he fell with Cordelia’s axe embedded within his skull, he cried out to Orcus from lolling lips for one last boon. An unnatural strength bulged his flaccid arms and the axe shot forward into Cordelia’s thews. She would’ve fallen had not Stella Luna placed Melora’s grace upon her.

Stella risked her neck to keep the two barbarians standing, and a third axe-maiden almost seized her as a result. Instead it was Poppy who absorbed that mighty war axe’s blow. She reeled back, but it was cunning that landed her out of range of the axe’s next swing and allowed her to raise her singing bow and send shaft after shaft into the barbarian. After each arrow, another step back. Before her heels rubbed against the first step leading out of the cathedral, her toes felt the hot life-blood of her attacker pump its last.

Felipe leapt into the fray, daring her attackers to come near her as she dropped a flame seed at her own feet. She stood wreathed in flame, but two axe-maidens charged and kept her pinned between their whirling blades. Felipe gave as good as she got. She exploded into a horde of insects to harry her opponents, then transformed into a boar to gore one by stabbing the axe-maiden’s heaving breasts with ivory tusks, pawing her as she fell to the ground, the other one running for easier prey.

Tara slew the second vampire in the doorway and dashed through the dark room the spawn had come through, but was ambushed upon exiting the second set of doors. A dark creeper crouched in the shadows and sliced at Tara as she emerged through the doors, but Tara sensed the attack and leapt over the blade and skidded to a halt. She turned and engaged this new enemy. It was described as a small gnomish figure wreathed in shadows and bearing a long sharp dagger. In short it was a gnome gone bad. With sinister glee it leapt from shadow to shadow and struck out with its knife.

But Tara’s attention was drawn by yet another mysterious figure to emerge from the shadows. Ninaren the elf stepped out of shadows with her longbow drawn. Her bow was impossibly crafted of glistening ice, like a curved icicle in her hands. She surveyed the battlefield. Then hooking her bow over her shoulder, she drew the spirit knife. It seemed to have a heat of its own, and curving waves of spiritual energy rose off it like hot breath on a cold morning. But no heat came from the knife, only a chilling cold. She lunged at Tara who had disturbed her silent observation, stabbing her with the knife. Tara cried out in cold anguish but replied in kind, two flickering short swords struck out, tracing twin lines of red on Ninaren.

Ninaren glared at the Tara and said she looked forward to slaying her. Then with a twisted smile, she struck out at the golden cub Glimmer panting at its masters side. The spirit knife struck the cub, destroying it instantly. The knife took the cub’s spirit, which was enclosed in the magic statuette so when Glimmer was killed, the statue did not appear back in the wooden case in Tara’s pack as was customary, but instead it appeared hovering in the air on the point of the spirit knife. Ninaren scooped it up and retreated.

By this time the last of the spawn had fallen, and Felipe was free to charge towards Ninaren, pouncing but missing the powerful elf. With one last laugh, Ninaren taunted the heroes, insisting they were no match for her. She then dashed through their midst, avoiding each of their attacks to leap up and grab a dangling chain over the pit in the floor. Even as she slid down the chain both Poppy and Stella leapt to the hole’s edge and fired upon her. Incredibly Stella Luna’s slender bolt struck Ninaren in her hand, knocking her from the chains to plummet nearly 3o feet to splash down into a pool of blood at its base.

With Niaren gone, the party had earned a few moment’s respite. They could hear the echoing resonance of yet another chanting ritual coming from the pit below. It was rising in crescendo, and even Ninaren splashing into the pool of blood did not interrupt the dark ritual. The party quickly searched the cathedral, setting free the few chained prisoners behind the sacrificial alter. Inside the alter they found a ritual scroll of panther tears, and in a locked drawer in the alter was a pair of magic glasses of reading which allows a wearer to read any language.

Below them, the chanting rises to a screaming and they know it is time to end this dark stain in the world once and for all. As one, they grab ahold of the chains and slide down into the final deepest chamber of the Keep on the Shadowfell, there to deal with Kalarel and his cult of Orcus and hopefully to seal the gateway to the Shadowfell once and for all.

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Psychic squids from another dimension

Week 6, the half-way mark. This week was the dividing line, the the dark crease between beginning and end. Week 6 was also a a time for us to each reflect personally, about what’s behind, and what’s in front, perhaps. And what better way to separate that gulf, that lonely expanse of personal space than with these nightmares come to life? Prone, bloodied, probed and penetrated deeply by the weapons of heroes. It shatters the mind to consider what psychic damage these stains in reality could cause. But let us begin at the beginning of the encounter…

Roy returned with his character Gayron, and it was good to have the twin-strikin’ ranger back. Even if he is a dragon-born, heh. (Actually the dragonborn, are new to 4th edition, and I despised them initially, due at least in part because they were a race that could never exist in a Middle Earth type world. My experience with different types of fantasy has grown over the years to include all manner of the fantastical, but in some dark corner of my brain lurks my subconscious, actually a Tolkein rules-lawyer, who catalogues and loathes any instance in the game that goes against the spirit of the Lord of the Rings. I have convinced it to grudgingly include the high magic of the First Age and the Silmarillion)

The party, 7 in all, set out in marching order towards the next encounter and the door magically opened upon approach. They moved into the room and looked around. I described the madness inducing aberrations who materialized, and so began a battle the likes of which could never be fully described without threatening to tear the last shreds of sanity from those who read the account, so mind-bendingly jarring were they. But I shall try…

Like a mass of tentacles, warped, slithering, spiking about in some macabre twisting frenzy. The tendrils would strike out, slap about, and slash at the struggling champions of virtue, sending them into psychic shock from the curling edges of reality that struck them with each tentacled tendril. They wept tears of blood, and heard through ears filled with blood as their brains quaked from the attacks from the Outer Realm. Oh, and oops, they are also insubstantial, like an octopus from another dimension.

These horrors, these stains of insanity, materialized and started slinging tendrils of madness. They came in 3 varieties, there were 2 melee lashers, 3 tentacled thought-eaters, and the tentacle captain a Pulsar, who stayed back and launched long-ranged tentacle mind-spikes. The encounter began, as usual, with Torak using his special ability to dash forward before initiative count. He did so to good effect, as he was to spend much of the combat immobilized, starting with he pulsar’s first attack.The dragonborn and rogue took the madness to the right. After the ranger softened him up with twin strike the rogue finished him on his with a massive sneak attack. the assassin, sword mage and ardent went up the middle, while Midge stayed just inside the door, launching lightning bolts, frost-hammers, and intimidation. Then the thought-eaters went, and they slowed or immobilized a great portion of the party, then dealt damage, focusing on the sword-mage.

My second mistake of the night happened next. (forgetting they were insubstantial for the first half of the first round was my first mistake. Luckily the rogue’s damage – over 30 points – would still have slain the freakazoid when added to the damage the ranger did, but I did have to take back the bloodied status that Midge thought she inflicted upon the pulsar.) I believe it was Richard who (thankfully) brought up the fact that the monstrosities were vulnerable to psychic attacks, which I had completely missed! I really need to work on my comprehension abilities when it comes to the monster stat blocks, especially for the oddities found in this adventure. So, I went back through and added the correct damage for Torak’s attack, which in fact bloodied the lasher who was lashing him; indeed, the lasher became the lashed.

Torak had a lasher to contend with, and the swordmage had a lasher and a thought-eater on him. He quaffed a potion on his turn, and also accepted healing from the ardent Kantash. The tendrils whipped him fiercely but her persevered. The dragonborn concenrated on the pulsar, and the rogue came forward to engage the lasher. Soon both lashers were down, and another tentacle-slinger soon followed, leaving a single thought-eater and the pulsar. They too were soon sent back to whatever hellish dimension that spat hem out, and the party engaged in some good old fashioned searching for awhile.

During the battle, the dark spectre had appeared on the balcony, silently watching the battle unfold. When one of the characters picked up the staff, the blue ghostess appeared on the balcony, and for a few second she seemed to relive some attack upon creatures in the room. The room was looted, and Torak was even gobbled up by the iron maiden when searching it, but the swordmage was able to break him out before taking further damage. Torak came out holding a healing potion as his reward.

It was interesting to encounter such strange creatures. While they do no pass the Tolkien Test, it was fun to imagine a horror-goth inter-dimensional psycho-beast from Realm X, or 6. Thinking back, I probably should have upped it by one more pulsar, which would have made this a really challenging encounter, but it was still challenging. Week 6 was a nice, casual battle with mind-warping monstrosities. No dailies or action points were spent, and no one was knocked unconscious, which was good and bad. Good for the players, as they didn’t get to see the special ability of the fell taints to feed on the unconscious and dying, which would have been very very bad.

And now we have crossed that great divide, and I look forward to next week, number 7, as we continue our journey to find out about Halaster’s Lost Apprentice. It has been pretty great so far.

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Last week we ended on a cliff-hanger. The elven ranger was scouting ahead and entered a large dark room filled with statues. Just as Thokk entered the doors slammed shut, trapping the two within. So this week the map was set up from the beginning.. The statue was a huge animated stone aspect of Orcus, prince of the underworld. He was described as being in plate armour and wielding a great sword, while ‘gainst one wall stood two large statues of Knights in plate with the heads of dragons. And finally, in an alcove across the room, were four cherub statues holding vases above their heads built into niches in the walls. The players recognized instantly that they had entered a room full of multiple traps.

The night began with the surprise sweep of Orcus’ blade, who rolled a 1. Normally, my npc’s fall prone on the roll of a natural 1, however this was not appropriate for Orcus, so I described how the ranger saw the blade coming and leapt up to land on its edge, driving it into the stone of the floor, dulling its blade (-1 to hit for rest of encounter.) This mattered little, as the blade got no more attacks before the statue was destroyed on the next turn. The druid discovered that the dragon-head statues spewed bursts of flame, and ended within the close blast of them. With an acrobatics check she leapt back and avoided being attacked. Since the traps were all obvious from the beginning, the players were cautious of their movements, and no unnecessary losses were inflicted.

Finally only the cherubic alcove needed to be crossed to continue onward, so the two barbarians stepped forward and set it off. Magical pink barriers formed closing off the alcove from both the main room and the door. The water spilled forth from cheubic vases. The first round the water rose 3 feet in the chamber. Both barbarians failed disable checks: arcana for the genasi, and thievery for the half orc. The cherubs were described as being both mechanical and magical in nature: gears caused the arms holding the vases to rise and lower, while arcen runes about the statue described the magic of drawing the summoned water and its surprise occupant.

The seeker made a fateful choice, and by allowing an ally to attack and injure her (for 1 hp of damage) she ricked her mountebank’s cloak into teleporting her into the chamber. She attempted a check using her thieve’s tools, and rolled a 1. She dropped half the tools into the swirling waters. The thieve’s tools would only provide +1 until recovered. Outside the barrier, Tara, Felipe, and Stella attacked the wall, trying to break the seal. I ruled it would take 6 turns for the 3 of them working together to make some small gap.

Aside:

There were a surprising number of 1’s rolled tonight, most people rolled multiple 1’s, including myself. I was rolling especially bad, if it wasn’t a 1, then it was definitely going to be less than 10 all night. I think I got a 15 once, but all the rest were under 10 or 12 or so. Bad dice. It wasn’t just me though. One person rolled two 1’s on a single close burst attack. This was madness. it also shows a weakness of the critical penalty roll: the multiple target burst attacks call for so many attacks, that the likelihood of a 1 is vastly increased.

The water went to the six foot mark. Everyone failed their checks except Poppy who with thievery disabled a cherub by unhinging the arm mechanisms. Then the genasi recovered the tools, and the half orc discovered he could attack them. The next round, it went to the nine foot mark, and the massive whirlpool began, knocking them all from side to side. They would suffer big negatives to all their actions, and would take some damage. Three rounds later, the others broke through the same round they had destroyed the last cherub, and within moments, all that was left was a puddle near the door.

All in all, the room was fun, and required just the right amount of thinking to be engaging and even hilarious at times. My only complaint with the room is that all of the traps are so obvious, but the water trap at least still had to be dealt with even upon discovery. Orcus got nothing but his initial surprise attack, and was then summarily executed by ranged attacks. The fire-breathers never even stood a chance. It would be fun to spring on the unwary, by having the statue wait to attack until within range of the dragons as well, or even until a few members made it accross the room to the cherubs, but to a suspicious group, it was more an excercise in how to best to beat it, which in this case was also fun.

Time for pie.

Moving on, the doorway they crashed through with the water trap led directly into the third to last encounter area of the adventure, the pen-penultimate, which I let the players know. There is a climbing crescendo of cinematic climax happening here, and I wanted the players to have a clue how to conserve their powers, and knowing they were nearing an epic final encounter helped them ration. Even still, a few dailies got expended during the opening rounds.

The party heard the grumblings of humanoid voices, and kicked the door in. The druid had prepared by turning invisible and got a free round of movement into the room. She chose to come very near them.

Guarding the penultimate encounter “Cathedral of Shadow” is the Hobgoblin garrison. The party had recently had their first encounter with hobgoblins, the big and bloated cousins to goblins, warlike and cunning in nature. They had also fought in two recent undead battles: first zombies, then skeleton, so I decided to replace the original encounter with a rear guard unit of hobgoblins, that included all the highlights of the rooms the party passed through empty. There was the war-chief and war-caster, 2 guards, 4 grunts, and an archer. 1002 exp or so. The main body of hobgoblins had gone to search for the invaders while the party rested in Sir Keegan’s sanctum and could return at any time

Initiative was rolled, the enemy leaders went first, followed by the archer. The war-chief called his men to formation as a minor, and one was caught in Felipe’s opportunity attack, raked, but her cover was blown. The barbarians moved forward, first Thokk, who scorned all opportunity attack and moved up to the war-chief to smash into him with an avalanching strike of mighty doom. The war-chief was rocked to the core by the blast, but was not yet bloodied. Cordelia came forward, and she dealt her devastating howl of blood-curdling destruction. Poppy popped her big shard attack and destroyed a minion and damaged the war-chief, who was now bloodied.

Felipe launched her major daily attack, exploding into a thousand butterfly-winged long-tusk boar swarm. Yes, thats right. Minions exploded, war-caster and war-chief were both cauight, as were the guards. Bleeding ensued. The fight continued, with two minions charging the seeker. only one made it, the other being slain by Poppy’s spirit battle-baboon, Chelsey. (Ok I just made that up, since she hasn’t decided, but is leaning bunny-wards – shudder.)

The momentum began to turn towards the players quickly. The minions dropped. The war-chief was almost dropped as well by a concerted effort of the party(1 hp), leaving the hobgoblin archer, the two brutes, the war-caster. When the war-caster’s chance to act came around, he gave up his staff-fighting and blasted them with a wall of force, including the war-chief in his blast area, and killing him in the process. The archer, harried by the golden lion cubs, sheathed his bow, drew his sword, and slew one of the cubs. It vanished, and returned as a statuette in the case Tara carried.

The hogboblin grunts retreated and the party wore them down quickly, dispatching first one, then the other. The war-caster was backed into a corner, and pounced upon by the druid. Imagine being gored by a thousand boar-faced butterflies, it was not a pretty end for the war-caster, but he deserved no better.

Finally the battle was over, and they were prepared to open the chest. It was trapped with a poisonous needle, but the needle’s attack missed the ranger who was attempting top disarm it, and the chest was opened to reveal a bounty of treasure. 176 gold pieces, a set of magical gauntlets of giantkind, a potion of dragonbreath, and a scroll of Tenser’s Floating Disk.

The party rested for five minutes, while listening to the loud chanting echoing up the wide staircase the hobgoblins were guarding. At the base of the long stairs an ornate carpet could just be glimpsed.

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Afternoon turned to dusk on another Wednesday, and the dungeon beneath Game Cafe began to stir with life once again. There were five giant green tables lined up like sarcophagi in an ancient tomb. Decorations of fantastic nature covered the walls. Soon the tramp of many feet brought crowds to gather about those tables and the air became thick with the riotous battles taking place. So began week five of Undermountain, another packed house, with five dm’s, and another packed house.

Down by two characters, the doughty dragonborne and divine deva, who decided to stay in the spiral staircase for awhile “We’ve got your back!” (We hope that Roy and Dana can make a quick return to the game!) the party must face the challenges of the inner chambers of Halaster’s Lost Apprentice with merely six adventurers. There was the drow assasin Vishnu, the halfling sorceress Midge, the genasi swordmage Hax (alot), the human (-sh) ardent KantASH!, half-elf barttlemind Tordak the Bold, and human thug …uhhh Eddie. Oh yes, Stilgar desert-walker. These brave lads and lasses, trapped from escaping by a tunnel collapse, chose to press on!

And so they entered the chambers of the apprentice, and discovered its magical nature. A magic mouth spoke in some strange voice warning them of danger, and the party began snooping and poking about with many skill checks, and had soon picked the area clean of anything of value. which led to the assassin peeking through the slightly ajar door into the bedchamber. Soon the party had lined up in marching order and the swordmage kicked the door open. This led to the… how to describe it, the macabre scene taking place on the torn up bed in one corner of the room. The official description reads thusly:

AS you enter, cold seeps across your skin as you see two shadowy forms on the bed: one a lithe female composed of blue mist, lying beneath a formless creature of black smoke. At first, they appear to be romantically embracing, but then it becomes clear that the female ghost is struggling to escape while the other seems to be drawing her essence into itself – feeding on her.

They're not frakkin' around here.

Aside – I had trouble reading this aloud. Was I describing what I thought I was describing? Is this ghost-f@&#king?? Is this non-consensual ghost-f%$#king??? For some reason, the true meanaing of that text eluded me until I actually began to read it aloud. Naturally I was trying to paint a visual image, as I always do when describing a scene or location, and as I read on, my improvisational moves and voices and descriptive additions became more and more erratic. Then, as the paragraph ended, and we were told of it actually NOT being what we though it was (ghost-f***king) but that the black ghost was sucking the life force out of the blue ghost. It was imagery that helped resolve the scene, and someone Dave or Jenna perhaps, mentioned that the essence was being sucked out like the Dementors in Harry Potter. Ah yes, that is exactly what was happening, just a little “romantic embrace” while soul-sucking. We need a Patronus here.

This event provoked the battlemind to charge forward in outrage to the bedside as a free action before rolling initiative. As he approached he saw the black thing hiss and retreat out of the chamber, leaving marks in blood on the wall behind. The blue ghost(ess) collapsed into the tattered mattress and soon faded away.

Then – rats, rats, rats everywhere! And a homunculus! Small rats medium rats and giant rats, and a clay scout homunculus. And they came in waves, oh how they came in swarms and hordes from all sides. Squeaking and squealing and hungry and bearing their dagger-fangs The large size of the party drew even more giant rats until they were nearly surrounded by these ferocious rodents of unusual size. Their staggered initiative, and the fact that they began in concealed locations (including openings in walls) meant that during the first round of combat more rats and more rats and more rats (and a homunculus!) kept appearing until that tiny chamber was nearly full. Tordak was surrounded. They boiled out of the walls and under the bed and he was bloodied quickly, striving to defend himself. But he never gave up, and though he was knocked unconscious, he was soon back on his feet and by battle’s end took an incredible 45 points of damage. He received his moment of greatness badge, and I hope to give out one a week for the best move of the night until all PCs have had one. This is the second or third one so far.

The party had a difficult fight ahead of them, as they had no area affect or burst attacks. They had to cut them down one by one. The sorceress, out of harms way in the hallway, unleashed a barrage of lightning bolts that steadily depleted the rat population. The ardent Kantash strode forward and struck rats with his pole-axe right and left. He clove a path of rat pelts to the fallen battlemind, and inspired the warrior to rise again, healed. Then he went on to cleave more pelts, and heal more too. The rogue Stilgar soon found combat advantage and struck against a dire rat but he was too close to the rat swarm and took much damage from their swarming attacks.

The humunculus remained hidden until the start of round 2, when he unleashed a flank attack against the assassin, then flew up into the corner of the room. It turned out to be a bad move, as on the assassin’s turn he roasted him single-handedly, even while dazed, by spending an action point to hit him with two big attacks. The clay scout fell crumbling down to the ground, destroyed by the sweeping shadowblade of Vishnu. A flurry of attacks took place as the PCs tried to focus on the two sturdy dire rats while avoiding the rat swarm. The dire rats soon fell, blasted apart by lightning bolts, by Stilgar’s bludgeoning sneak-attack, and the mad attacks of the Ardent.

Minions had been steadily dropping by one or two each round until only one stood, my indomitable R-2 unit I stole from my son’s Star Wars mini. (He tells me it is actually an r$ droid).What can I say, he brings me luck, and sometimes nothing else will do, but most of the time its just that I need something small. This lil bugger of a minion was incredibly tough: he had been targeted every round of battle, and was the last enemy standing – only to be finally slain while making a kamikaze rush past the party.

Another battle won. Dead rats lay everywhere, in fact the floor was slick with the matted blood and fur of the hundreds of verminous corpses piling up in the room. (Thanks to the tweeter we have at the table, we try to incorporate the official tweets of Wizards during the event.) In better circumstances a rat-tossing contest might occur, or even a rat-bag fight (much like a pillow-fight, except fought with the bloated corpses of rats of all sizes great and small) but at least now the party knew they wouldn’t starve. Could one warm a cup of rat-stew over those blue-flaming candles, one wonders…

Anyhow, the night was won, the rooms were searched, the corpses looted (makes nice under-garments) and the treasures were gathered up. Healing surges were surged, using the “5-minute rest encounter” trick of getting the 1d6 healer bonus. I just had them add 3, and we were done.

It was another fantastic night, with a fantastic group of players, a fantastic venue, and and a fantastic D&D Experience. Can’t wait until next week.

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