See part 1 here.
A Nice Welcome
Amazingly, the Gnome Airship was still intact when the PCs’ own ship set in formation near it (along the Melorian’s living airship, and the Warforged chaos-propelled aerolith). Viscount Daven Sakran was joyously awaiting for them, all smiles and virginal innocence under the malvolent look of our semi-railroaded Goliath Warden.
Daeven (imagine him being played by Jake Gyllenhall as Donnie Darco): Dear Rod! It’s been sooooo long!
Rod Stone: Have you neen brewing trouble again?
Daeven (Dropping his voice): Of course, that’s the whole fun of it all, isn’t it?
So I unrolled the ship’s maps and introduced the crew (Gnome captain, Eladrin Warlock 1st Officer, Dwarven gunner and gnome crew) to the players and let them explore the ship. The areas marked as ‘secret’ were, as expected, subjected to player scrutiny.
Gnome Captain (brandishing a rolled piece of parchment): The contract clearly stipulates that you can’t go in there on the penalty of me pulling the big Lever on the top deck.
Clank: What does the lever do?
1st Officer (Smirking): It shifts the vessel and all fey-borne back in the Feywild leaving behind all non-natives.
Wrath: But your gunner is a dwarf…
Dwarf (Scratching something under his left arm sleeve): We don talk ’bout that ‘ere! Just don touch the dam doors!
After some inspections revealing nothing (I used the original DMG +5 DCs, which are 5 too high), the PCs settled in wait-and-see mode. Holy Clank set himself to guard the conference room, waiting for the 3 factions to sit. Rod stayed close to the Viscount, who kept dropping hints that trouble was about to start. I was having a ball going all Joker on Math’s Batman.
The Wrath of Melora was on the upper deck, leaning on the rails overlooking the conference room on the mid-deck. Magma was patrolling the lower deck, looking for trouble.
Looking at the map, I instantly saw the ship’s huge design flaw: stairways only started from the lower deck, one going to the mid-deck and the other going to the upper-deck.
Guess where I put the 1st Clockwork Portal bomb?
I had Franky roll a perception check to find the bomb hidden underneath the low-to-mid-decks stairs before it exploded in his face (he failed). While it was remote triggered by the Viscount, I’m not above exploiting a few coincidences. Thus Magma “just happened” to be there at the time the portal bomb exploded…
Here are the (incomplete) stats:
Portal Bombs (Lvl 14, Elite)
Trigger: By remote, timer or failed countermeasure
Explosion Attack: Burst 2,+20 vs Reflex
Hit: 4d10+6 Damage
Miss: Half Damage
Effect: A medium-sized portal to the Abyss opens in the center of the burst. A Bloodcry Barigura demon is summoned and placed anywhere in burst area. Once triggered, Portal remains open for 4 rounds and becomes a hazard, sucking objects and creatures toward it.
Countermeasures: Left to the DM. Suggestions: High DC Arcana, High DC Engineering (Dungeoneering), etc.
Portal Attack (on init): +18 vs Fortitude, Pull 4. Miss: Pull 1.
Disintegrating Aura 1: Player who start turn in aura gets attacked (+20 vs ref, 4d10+6 damage, Miss: half dmg).
Chatty: The blast destroys the stairs and the pieces are then sucked in the newly opened portal. Each passing seconds, more bits and pieces detach from the ship and are sucked into nothingness.
Franky: Oh crap, Guys!
Yan: Now we know why gnomes are such crappy airship designers.
At that point there were a LOT of minis on the 3 maps. I had the Warforged negociator and 4 of his guards (minions), I had the Melorian team: a Gith, his Shield Guardian and 2 Deva guards aides. The Count was there as was his son (both ‘special” minions) and his 4 guards (minions).
I looked at my watch and realized that it was already 10 PM. There was NO way that this fight was going to last 45-60 minutes. The players were already looking tired… Yan was almost nodding off. I was getting worried but I couldn’t call it off before it started, the players wanted a fight!
Things started slowly with Franky’s Swordmage fending off the trap’s pulling effect and fighting the Ape-Demon. Wrath climbed down from the top deck and engaged it too. During the first 2 rounds, nothing happened in the conference room. I was actually baiting my other players to leave and join the demon fight below so I could start the planned slaughter of the warforged envoys.
However, Math’s Warden spotted the Viscount trying to hide a clockwork machine (the detonator) and tackled him hard,dragging the poor boy in his nearest quarters for a good, manly smacking and strip search. That’s when I activated the Gith Mindmage, his Deva Zealots and the Human guards to assault the Warforged.
Yan: Wait, the guards are attacking? WTF!
I think the 2 rounds of delays completely caught him off guard. Totally worth it.
The humans readied clockwork limpet mines and threw them on the Warforged guards. The mines did nothing for a full round and then…
Limpet Mines: + 20 vs Reflex. Hit: Mine sticks to metal-wearing targets, flashing. At the start of user’s next turn the attached mine explodes, automatically dealing 4d8+6 Lightning damage to target and slowing living construct targets(Save ends), 1st failed save: Dazed (Save Ends) 2nd failed save: Stun (Save Ends)
Yan (After they exploded): Ahhhh! Don’t you dare throw one at me man.
Chatty: Why Yan, when have I ever screwed you over?
When I realized that Math was not going to join the fight (he focused on interacting with the Viscount who wasn’t a combatant), I tried being more generous in letting him do story stuff in each round. He recovered a few Limpet mines from him and discovered that the Viscount’s body was covered with Arcane runes. Rod failed to identify their function.
Math (In character, fuming): I bet your father put these on you to protect you!
Viscount (Sitting numbly with a blank look, mouth bleeding): Boom! We’re all going to die! It’s going to be beautiful.
Yan: Phil’s in full psychopath NPC mode again, someone get his meds!
I really was into that NPC… and he did nothing else but taunt people and spew gibberish all fight long… and he survived!
Yan’s Cleric-Fighter kept most of the monsters busy, rejoicing in such a target-rich environment. Rod joined the fight when the Viscount was taken in charge by the Count who escaped the carnage. The Warforged envoy (a Destroyer) fought savagely and was down to his last HP when he retreated to his quarters, vowing to rekindle the war unless The Prophet (Clank) personally explained this treachery.
Yan: I’m a bit busy keeping you alive sir, I’ll get back to you, promise!
Quick Cinderella, clock’s ticking!
Wrath rejoined the mid-deck fight while Magma kept the Bar-Igura busy. When the space-sucking portal was abut to wink out of existence, it was already 11h30 and I was thinking of starting to wrap it up. But then I noticed that the Demon had a climb speed, so I had it climb to through the hole of the second deck’s ruined floor and run down toward the Viscount and his father… going for the NPC kill.
The player’s energy levels were still high and they all refused my offer to photograph the map and call it a night.
I’m glad we didin’t because what followed were 2 of the best “recoveries from potentially bad situations” that made the night so cool.
First, with Franky stranded on the lower deck, I explained to him that he could use his back-mounted “Bungee javelin” (a daily ‘anti-fall from airship’ device that all PCs wear) to jump through the floor’s hull breach, let the javelin shoot into the underside of the ship and try to control his return spring-back trajectory to end on the top deck.
Chatty (Still using the hella-hard DMG1+5 DCs): Just roll an acrobatics check and land on the top of the ship as a free action if you succeed.
He rolled a 1.
Franky: So I fall off the ship right? Man!
Chatty: Hmmm…. no… you…
(Inspiration struck: I was going to let him get to the top of the ship, missing his turn but I’d introduce a story complication)
Chatty: Okay, you fail to control your return bounce and you crash into the front prow figure… However, you get a glimpse of what’s in the front “secret room” of the ship through a opened hatch before climbing up to the upper deck. (I told him what he saw, away from all the others).
Franky: Are you shitting me?
He he he. No I’m not telling what he saw.
The second game-saving element came for Math’s PC. He spent a long time dealing with the Viscount and missed out on killing the mooks. When he managed to join to fight the Shield Guardian and Mindmage, he managed to miss two back-to-back attacks, starting the now familiar rise to frustration that is 4e’s ‘wait for 20 minutes, wiff your die roll” routine.
Math: Man this sucks, I did nothing all night.
Chatty (to himself): Let it slide…
In the following round, I had the Bar-Igura charge and try to reach the Count who was apparently trying to cover his son from attack.
Chatty: All right, so the Demon has 2 slam attacks, so if I strike the Swordmage and the Count, I don’t trigger the Aegis right?
Franky (Crestfallen): Yeah…
Chatty: All right I roll against the Count now.
Math: Wait! I can interrupt with this power! (He rolled… and missed again) FUCK!!!!
Chatty: Okay then he strikes the Count, he’s likely to die guys.
Math; WAIT! The power says that I’m the target of the attack even if I missed.
Chatty: You saved the Count’s life!
I don’t know if Math was mollified, but story wise, it was an awesome save, the Count WILL be grateful.
Six seconds later, the demon was a pool of smoking abyssal goop.
Slow Motion: All heroes stand with their heads low, breathing heavily. They are tired, spent and hurt. Then, a resounding clap echoes, then another one.
Fade to black
(Fading dialogue) Gnome Captain: What, other bombs? Screw the cargo, we’re going home!
Time: a quarter passed midnight.
- 3d maps rule!
- More lower level monsters makes for happy defenders
- Making failure lead to complication remains my favorite DM tool.
- Mixing story scenes with fight scenes is risky business. I didn’t plan for Math to spend so much time with the Viscount, I’ll reward with cool treasure parcel.
- I’m addicted to Cliffhangers