Part One, of history and things to come
I have to admit I’ve never used a beholder before in battle in all my years dming. They were simply too powerful and risky to use. The eye rays had multiple way to insta-kill the PCs and none of them were fun to watch, to inflict, or I imagine, to have beloved characters disintegrated or turned to stone. Beholders were more mythical, either legend, rumored, or somehow kept indirect and in the shadows of the campaigns. Besides which, most of my campaigns never reached a level where a group of PCs had any hope against the full might of a Beholder Eye Tyrant.
Luckily for us, with 4e came a design change away from instant random events more towards skill and tactics which is one of the reasons I love it so. No longer will a medusa’s stare instantly slay the character a player has spent months or years working on with the roll of a single die. The 4e medusa offers 3 chances to save each with a 50/50 or better odds. Big change, and as the medusa goes,so goes the beholder. His eye stalks were still devastating, as we shall soon see, but none of them instantly killed the joy of any players. And what is even better is the Beholder Gauth featured in the Monster Manual 2, a level 5 elite. Perfectly suitable for a party of level 4 characters, about to turn 5. In fact, his will be the encounter that puts them over to 5th level.
DM Aside: Level 5 Beholder Gauth was actually a medium size creature, and my miniature was large, so… I ended up customizing the creature to Large Beholder Gauth a level 7 elite. Thiese added levels also gave him increased hit points which allowed him to last a bit longer. With the 2 fire bats, this made the encounter “challenging” but not “hard,” and as the PCs would be at full power, I wasnt worried about over-powering the encounter. In fact just the opposite – I worried that I needed 3 fire bats. Heh heh, not necessary…
The party stood in the smoking ruin of their deeds, their foes slain and the evil machinations thwarted. The ghost of the keep’s last commander, Sir Keegan, came to them and congratulated them for closing the rift. They then counted their loot and left the dungeon. The loot they received was thusly:
Predator’s Hide +2
Elven Cloak +2
Firestorm Arrow +2
Freezing Arrow +2
Total 525 gp per PC to date.
They also retrieved the spirit dagger, which they would soon discover was not intended as a combat weapon, but was for ritual magic. Hoping to revive Delphina, they went to her cabin first, and found the forester still watching by her side as she slept. They then returned to town and a band was playing, actually the Bronzebottom Brothers on drums and brass horns, and they were celebrated as “Heroes of Winerhaven.” They were honored guests at a feast given by Lord Padraig, and afterwards the party split up – half went to Valthrun the sage, while Poppy and Thokk had more business with Lord Padraig, pertaining to a certain message from Keegan.
When Poppy delivered Keegan’s message, that the Keep should be rebuilt, Padraig responded that he would love to rebuild the keep, but that his was a poor village – however, he would sell them the keep and lands there-abouts for a low price of 1,000 gold if they agreed to rebuild the tower and maintain the lands surrounding. They would even be knighted as lords of the realm, upon completion of the tower. Its lands should extend for as far as the eye can see from the top of the tower. Poppy and Thokk put their money together, and Thokk intimidated the old lord down to 900 gold and a tax of 100 gold per year.
Meanwhile, Valthrun studied the dagger and discovered the blade to be of dwarven manufacture – made in the magma forges beneath the ancient dwarven city of Forge Helm, now called the Damned Mansions. He then briefly described the history of fated Forge Helm.
The dwarves woke beneath the Dawnforge mountains and spent many millenia digging their way up to the surface, creating great mansions and wondrous caverns and mines along the way. They emerged under the skies of D’ Erte from the mighty peak of known as Forge Helm, and this mountain fastness became the greatest and only citadel of the dwarves, all other dwarven dwellings were mere colonies to great Forge Helm. From the depths of the magma seas to the hollowed mountain of Forge Helm, the dwarven nation spanned vast expanses.
The city fell when Moradin and Gruumsh fought during the great war of a century ago. The orcs had a host of unprecedented size, with alliances between goblins, kobolds, ogres and even teh giants, they broke through the defenses of Forge Helm and the armies fought in the carved tunnels of the dwarves. Bitter was the fighting, great were the losses, until finally the dwarves and orcs called upon their deities for aid. Moradin and Gruumsh grappled in Forge Helm, using the vast Central Court as their battlefield. Three times Moradin threw Gruumsh down, shattering age old buidlings as he rolled across the city.
Each time Moradin would bellow laughter and signal for Gruumsh to rise and try again. The final time, Gruumsh feigned to rise, but instead grabbed his black spear Cruex and stabbed it into the tiled boulevards of Forge Helm, breaking the city in two and driving the shaft down, down all the way to the magma pits. The eruption of lava and flame destroyed every living creature in the citadel and left it a smoking ruin.
The few survivors of the dwarves retreated north to defend the resting places of their fathers and miraculously held out until the war ended and the orcs retreated. They named this citadel Hammerfast, and it was across the Nentir Vale, a fortnight’s ride from Winterhaven.
The other unusual thing about the Spirit Knife is that the divine magic which imbues the blade is of Eladrin origin. Valthrun suggests heading to Hammerfast to discover who forged the blade, and how to release the trapped spirits within. So saying, the party returns to the tavern and they discuss riding together towards Fallcrest along the King’s Road. The Bronzebottom Brothers agree that they would be willing to go to to Fallcrest with the party as escort, but only if the party has mounts to keep up with the Dwarves hardy mountain-yaks. (They can also provide milk or meat as a minor action.)
Felipe handles the procurement of their mounts. She successfully retrieves the Hobgoblin slaver’s wagon, complete with iron slave cage, and buys two sturdy mules to pull it. With that done, the party retires to their room at Madame Gilroy’s for the night. When dawn arrives they will set out to Fall Crest.
Also many healing potions were bought: 6 for Tara, 2 for Thokk, 2 for Poppy, 2 for Felipe, and 2 for Mad Molly. Additionally, the Bronzebottom Brothers sold Molly a stick of magic chalk, and 3 magic nails to Tara.
Part two, the BeholderThe city of Fallcrest, capital of the Nentir Vale, was three days by wagon caravan. On the second night they stopped at the Welcome Wench in the unwalled village of Hommlett.
Spending the evening at the Welcome Wench, they talked amongst the patrons and tried o gather information. Felipe spoke with Elmo and learned that he was paid to report traffic on the king’s road to a certain noble of the region. Tara spoke to the innkeeper but learned little. AS she once ran a tavern, she helped out all the way until midnight’s closing up of shop.
The Bronzebottom Brothers were passed out drunk in the kitchen, and rumours of bandits were the only news of importance in the inn. All except Tara retreated to their upstairs bedroom. At midnight, Poppy, Molly, and Felipe all made perception checks (DC 30) to hear sounds of a scuffle, and some kind of muffled monster’s roar. They had a movement action before rolling initiative. Meanwhile Tara saw the front doors burst open and a great mass covered by a black sheet entered the Welcome Wench. The sheet was pulled off as to fiery bats swooped through the gaping door.
The beholder entered the room and immediately burnt three villagers to a crisp. Two bats entered behind him.one swooping left, the other right down the center. Poppy fired an arrow, drawing first blood on the beholder. Then she placed her spirit companion Vulpex next to him. Next to go was Thokk who charged all the way across the inn to attack the beholder.
The beholder then turned his eye on Thokk, immobilizing him, then gashing him with his long fangs, before moving off, raising twenty feet into the air. Thokk and the vulpex both attacked as the beholder moved past. Felipe moved downstairs, but fired her crossbow from a distance, fearing that her fiery powers would do no good.
One of the fire bats swooped and attacked Thokk, setting him afire. The other bat had streaked across the room and now swooped down, getting Poppy, Stella, and Molly in a single swoop as they stood lined up along the railing. This bat continued to swoop down getting one or two PCs in each attack. This could have one very badly for Sella, but she kept being missed. Poppy and Molly, however, each suffered some severe burning. Molly fired magic missiles into the beholder while trying to avoid the worst of the fire bat.
Tara went next. Having the spirit knife in hand, she ran across the inn, up the stairs, and leapt onto the beholder, stabbing the spirit knife into it for minimal damage. The ranger then hung from the beholder. The beholder retaliated by turning a telekinetic eye-stalk on Tara, pushing her 3 squares to fall to the floor. Then it fired its fire-ray, engulfing Tara in flames, and finally with a rolling of its central eye, it immobilized Tara.
Thokk and Tara launched missiles at it while the beholder turned its attention on Felipe. Poppy made a wild dash across the room to save Thokk from the firebat who dropped him to zero. Poppy poured a healing potion down his throat and then fought off the firebat that now accosted them both. Eventually Thokk would drink another potion, and both of them would spend their second winds.
The party focused their fire on the beholder, and he was no match. Bloodied by their attacks, he sought to immobilize the PCs and destroy them with his eyestalks, but the PCs split up and attacked him from all sides. Finally Thokk slew the ghastly beast and the battle turned to the firebats.
Wounded and suffering, the battle was far from over. The bats continued to swoop, setting the PCs on fire with each successful attack. By the end of combat practically everyone was bloodied, though Thokk was the only one to drop below zero. On the other hand, rarely does a battle pass without Thokk taking a short nap at some point during the melee.
The battle ended, and the survivors began poking their heads out of the burning cinders. In the aftermath of the battle was much fire damage to the tavern, and many concerned and angry questions.