That’s right, this writeup will include two sessions. This is for two reasons. First, it will get us up to date. Second, the last session was rather short.
Present for both of these sessions:
- Nox, Changeling Swordsage
- Reza, Dwarf Cleric
- Nonnie, Halfling Sorcerer
- Eretri, Aasimar Warlock
So, we teleport as close as we can get to the destination. This means the giant landmark at the base of the Storval Plateau, the Storval Stair.
Note to self, when you have 4 players, one can fly at will, one can levitate at will, and one can spider climb at will, having giants send a “landslide”-type attack down a staircase at them is, well, ineffective to say the least.
The four giants at the stair dealt with, the party makes the final hike (about a day, rather than two weeks) to the Iron Peaks and Jorgenfist.
On reaching the valley, they sent the invisible-and-flying-at-will Warlock to scout ahead. He found a guard tower, and a whole crapload of giants camped around the fortress. He also managed to spot a small group of harpies guarding the front gate, occasionally flying out over the cliff to the southeast.
As such, he decided to explore said cliff, finding that it dropped down to a river below. Two cave entrances led into the cliff face.
As he returned to the party, they spotted something else as well. The dragon that they had left back in Sandpoint flew by overhead, completing his own journey back. It landed in a cave up in the mountains, north of the fort. It was decided that they would deal with him later.
I’ll note here that, while the fortress is excruciatingly detailed, and full of creatures and rooms, there is virtually nothing on methods of infiltrating the fort, and/or what the creatures do when you attempt this (including the masses of giants around the outer wall).
The group decided to explore the caves in the cliff face, suspecting they led into the fortress. Judicious use of Invisibility Sphere allowed them safe passage to the cliff face. They explored the first cave…
…and were attacked by three drakes.
Got some good treasure out of it, though.
The second cave proved to be what they were looking for, however, as it led deeper into the cliff.
Aside: this second cave was supposed to have an encounter in it. The encounter was against 3 level 6 creatures, and should have been easy (PCs are level 11 at this point).
But I didn’t run the encounter. Why, you might ask? Well, because this is the cave.
Not a problem, right? Tight spaces, but easy for a party of 4 to fight 3 enemies.
Well, these enemies are Gargantuan size.
And you can’t even fit one of them in the cave without squeezing rules!
So, yeah. Fight ignored for sake of sanity.
In the caves, the party fights some Redcaps. Little reason is given for this, but they’re sufficiently vicious. After Reza performs some healing, and the redcaps recoil, the group manages to drive them all off by waving around her holy symbol. Neat.
As they get to the end of the caves, they come out into a small natural cavern. In here is a Kobold. Kobold level 12 Barbarian, actually. It roars and gets ready for a fight.
Nox wins initiative, and runs around the kobold with her new Ring of Fire maneuver. Fire explodes around her.
This is when I notice something in the Kobold’s equipment list.
Necklace of Fireballs. Type IV.
Now, for those who don’t have the 3.5e rulebooks memorized, a necklace of fireballs is an interesting item.
You see, when a necklace of fireballs is worn by someone who fails their save against a magical fire attack (close enough), it also must make a reflex save (save bonus of +7).
On a failed save, every bead on the necklace explodes simultaneously.
Kobold: fails save.
Necklace: fails save.
At this point, Nox is panicking. She’s about to be caught in who knows how many fireballs!
She panics. Until she realises she has evasion.
So, a type IV necklace contains nine spheres, with the following damage:
- 1 – 8d6
- 2 – 6d6
- 2 – 4d6
- 4 – 2d6
Nox makes all but one of the saves, and takes 6d6 damage.\
Our kobold friend, however… well, she has 9 fireballs going off on her neck. Yeah, no save there.
36d6 damage later, and we have one charred kobold. “As the fire clears, you see the charred remains of a kobold standing there, black except for the eyes. Its eyes blink twice, and then it crumbles to ash, Wile E. Coyote style.”
Nox is very proud.
So, after looting the Kobold’s +3 Shortspear ( ), we continue. We once again send the warlock out scouting. He finds a group of ogres, a couple stone giants, and 9 imprisoned dwarves to the east, and a small group of stone giants, a concerned female stone giant elder, and a secret door to the north.
First things first, the party decides to rescue the dwarves. The ogres all fall with a single acid ball, and the stone giants don’t put up much of a fight. Nox still finds herself missing having the Barbarian meat shield, though. Reza is beginning to run low on healing.
The dwarves are thankful and eager to help, but the group sends them back through the redcap tunnels to the cave in the cliff. They give the dwarves a couple of holy symbols to drive the redcaps off with.
The path still continues east, but with this done, the group heads to the secret door to the north.
And they find a boss-type stone giant. He’s big and tough, but he goes down eventually. Resources are getting low.
The small room they fought this battle in open up to a pit in the middle of the fort. From across the pit, they hear someone calling. It’s the stone giant elder that Eretri had spotted before. She beckons for them.
Flying and spider-climbing, the group crosses the pit. The elder (Conna) leads them to a side room, an altar currently haunted by her dead husband’s spirit. The other giants rarely come here.
She asks the party what their purpose is. Of course, their answer is to destroy Mokmurian. This is what she wanted to hear, and offers her aid. While she can not oppose him directly, she tells the group how to find him (and the easiest route to get there), and offers to cast some spells for them.
All the party wants now, however, is a safe place to rest. The small room behind the secret door is determined safe enough, and the party rests.
Just before this point, I began to realise something.
This dungeon is long.
I mean, we skipped the vast majority of encounters, we aren’t yet halfway through the encounters that are left, and the party has exhausted most of its resources.
Look, Wolfgang Baur, if you read this, I enjoy your writing. I think you make some interesting encounters, and fun story. And I love most of your monster design.
But not every room needs a combat encounter.
And especially not a tough combat encounter.
And when the fortress is this tightly packed with encounters, yet there is no information on what happens if you kill some and an alarm is raised, the adventure is missing something. Seriously, take out one or two of the encounters, and add in some detail.
(And, just so nobody thinks I’m exagerating, if you were to fight every encounter in this area [by taking the direct route through the front gates and then pissing off Conna and getting lost and wandering inside], you would fight 31 battles, including 2 red dragons and a Stone Giant with 15 levels of Wizard, yet not including the redcaps, drakes, the “3 gargantuan monsters in a tiny cave bettle”, red dragon from Sandpoint, or the librarian. Yeah. That’s a lot, when the system is built for 4 encounters per day.)
In any case, that’s where we stopped game 16. Before game 17, here’s a hickory smoked intermission (strong language, almost definitely NSFW).
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
With the party rested up, they backtracked to follow the path Conna had laid out for them. As they came to the room where the dwarves were rescued from, they spotted two stone giants holding a group of dwarves prisoner.
Wait… didn’t we do this before?
Nox and Eretri sneak in to see if it’s the same ones, and soon realise that the forge fires aren’t giving off heat.
Illusions! Conna has apparently been busy during the night. The bodies of the giants and the ogres in the next room are gone, as well. Not even blood stains remain.
4 sleeping giants are easily dispatched in the next room, and they come to a hallway leading south. On each side of the hall is a troll, behind a stone wall, stabbing at the party through cracks in the wall as they walk by. Fight, death, woo! Nonnie manages to catch nobody but himself in an acid ball, as he attempts to fore it through a slit in the wall.
And they get to the stairs down.
In the lower level, the walls smooth out, looking now like worked stone. This is no natural cave. But things also get weird now.
The first room has weird shimmery walls that make it impossible to judge distance. It also manages to reduce whoever fails a save to one size category lower. And there’s a giant in here.
Two or three hits destroys the giant, and everyone gets back to normal, moving on to the next room, which is full or acrid smoke coming from a mysterious cauldron.
Sigh. I seem to be ranting a lot about this dungeon.
This smoke is evil. It requires a Fort save every round that you’re in it, or you’re blinded and nauseated for as long as you stay in, and 1d6 rounds afterwards.
It also only affects good creatures, which means only 2 of our party, but most of a normal one.
And you’re supposed to have a fight in here against a CR 11 Stone Golem.
Yeah, a fight where most of the party can be useless based on a single save, which you need to make every round so you will eventually fail. That’s great encounter design there. at least there’s a bit of a hallway between this and the reduce person room, so you can retreat for a couple rounds.
Admittedly, there is another way to pass by the golem, but it is highly unlikely that the party would currently be disguised as giants.
And we end off with a room full of zombies. Four hill giant zombies and a special headless zombie lord.
The headless lord didn’t even get to attack. When the regular zombies have 183 hit points, you would think their far stronger leader would have more than 74. He died in one round.
- It is very easy to overdo things. Number of encounters, viciousness of hazards in an encounter. Moderation is great. Keep this in mind while designing next campaign.
Next game is Sunday, finishing off Book 4, and continuing on.