Sunday, April 17, 2011

Islands in the Sky: Session 2: Critical Fails, Critical Hits

Islands in the Sky, Session 2

Watch out, this is a long report, but worth it. 

We had a full complement of players yet again! I had Lisa and Joey's new characters fully statted out, and Gabby and Curtis' characters got some minor changes. Lisa wanted to play an elf archer-ranger, which was the type of character she used to play in WoW, so that was pretty easy to stat up. We call her "The Ice Queen". I gave Joey the choice between a fire genasi swordmage and an elven warpriest of Kord, (the party is desperately in need of both a defender and a leader) and he selected the swordmage "Ember". 

Gabby's character, "Khaledra", underwent a minor cosmetic change in that she went from being an Eladrin to being an Elf, which I approved from a purely min/max standpoint, as her Predator Druid is a more potent build as an Elf. Curtis' half-Orc ranger "Tarak" went from an Essentials Scout build to a traditional 4e dual-wielding Ranger build. Kevin's Revenant Avenger, whom for now we are calling simply "Avenger" is a powerful build as is, and required no changes whatsoever. 

So yeah, three straight-up strikers, a controller who acts like a striker, and a defender. Good thing we gave them some healing potions. 

So, on to what actually happened in the game. At the end of the first session a week ago, the party slew the beholder gauth and all its minions deep in the heart of the mine. As we began the session, the party was heading back to town with their loot. They headed to the Rusty Dwarf, one of two local tavern/inns, where they met a few people. Salvana Wrafton (yes, name ripped out of "Keep on the Shadowfell"), a tiefling and the owner of the Rusty Dwarf, was the first of the NPCs they met and chatted with. They met Captain Misha, an eladrin skyship captain, and her crew. They also met Griffendian, proprietor of Griff's Griffons, the island's aerie. Griffon mounts are Verys Hiladian's primary form of airspace defense. Kevin always gets into the "talking parts" and did the lion's share of role-playing here. Nearly started a fight with the pirates, erm, I mean, the skyship crew, but for the arrival of Princess Elianna, the halfling ruler of Verys Hiladian. The Princess was very thankful they slew the beholder. Some questions were soon raised though, concerning the beholder's activities.  There were numerous dead bodies in the pit below the area where they fought the beholder, but there are no missing citizens of the island. Who are these people? How did they get there? Just what was the beholder up to, anyways? 

Kevin's Avenger decided to do things his way, and no one else joined him. Having befriended Griff, and having promised to get to the bottom of the beholder-related mysteries, Avenger hopped on a griffon and set about flying around the island. He made a pit stop at the temple to the Raven Queen and prayed, whereupon Curtis played his "Divine Intervention" PlotTwist card, and the Raven Queen gave Avenger a vision of what part of the island to search around and what was waiting for him there. 

Meanwhile, Tarak, Khaledra, Ember and the Ice Queen headed back to the mine, where mining operations had ceased for the time being. They went back to the beholder's lair, and Tarak went down into the pit to investigate. Sure enough, he found a hidden door under a body in the center of the pit. The party descended the stairs and found a hallway and a door. Listening at the door they heard some monsters. They managed to sneak in without alerting the gnolls to their presence. There was a long hallway, which opened into a big wide room, followed by another big room with locked cells and prisoners. There were six gnolls: one Fang of Yeenoghu, one Huntmaster, and four Deathpledged. 

A pretty tough group for four 3rd level heroes. Tarak took two shots with his longbow... And missed. And alerted the Gnolls to their presence. 

Back outside, flying around, was Avenger. He easily located the cavern entrance, which was big enough to fly an airship into. Kevin failed his nature check to get his griffon to fly in there, however, so he just jumped off the griffon and tried to make it to the ledge. He failed his acrobatics check to jump that far but succeeded at his athletics check to grab onto some rock and shrubbery and keep from falling several miles into a watery grave. He climbed his way up and found himself facing two of the gnolls, a huntmaster and a deathpledged.  They knocked him around pretty good, but a little help showed up in the form of Griff, riding a griffon and firing his bow into the gnolls. 

Back inside, the gnolls were refusing to just run down the corridor into the party's midst. They had cover around a corner. The bowmaster critically failed his FIRST ATTACK and broke the string on his bow, rendering him pretty useless as artillery. The Fang of Yeenoghu just hung back and laughed at them, and all the gnolls joined in, taunting the heroes. The heroes eventually moved forward, and battle was joined! 

The Genasi Swordmage attempted to use his encounter power "Incendiary Sword". The power requires he throw his sword into the target square, it does burst fire damage, and the sword reappears in his hand. Joey rolled a 1. Fail. I had him roll again to see if it was a really bad fail. He rolled another 1. The sword stuck in the ground in the midst of the gnolls, and nothing happened. And it was stuck there. So now the swordmage had no sword. 

Gnolls turn. Deathpledged rushes forward, attacks Tarak, and I rolled a 20. Critical hit. Tarak uses his Disruptive Strike encounter power... And rolls a 20. 

So we just saw someone roll two 1s in a row, followed immediately by a pair of 20s. I had to rule that such an obscene display of dice-rolling deserved an equally ridiculous in-game display, so that Tarak dodged the gnolls attack and ran him straight through with both swords, killing him straight-out. 

This wound up being the turning point in the battle, although the rest of it was hard fought as well. The party used three of their four healing potions, and Khaledra's Healing Seed, a daily power. This battle was really close. It very easily could have resulted in a TPK, which would have led to them waking up shackled on board the gnoll slaver airship. However, that did not come to pass. They killed all the gnolls and rescued their hostages, whom were all, shockingly, human! 

The humans claim to be from an island called Barovia, which is ruled by a vampire named Baron von Strahd... The bodies in the pit were all from that island as well, and must be taken back to their families, lest their souls haunt the mines for an age, which would put a serious dent in Verye Hiladian's economic situation. 

Oh, and as they were headed back to town, a flight of dragonborn from
New Arkhosia landed in the town square to demand tribute from Verys Hiladian. Before the Princess could say much of anything, Avenger gave them all a lewd gesture, and they laughed and vowed to return and conquer the island. Captain Misha offered them a ride to Barovia to return the slaves and the bodies to their families. Her price: a future favor from them all. She slapped a magical tracker on Avenger to be able to find them in the future. They spent all night loading up the bodies and soon set off for Barovia...

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