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Monday, January 12, 2015

The Rise of Tiamat - Varram the White

We got in another special "bonus session" of The Rise of Tiamat yesterday at the store as part of my intense quest to get the adventure finished by March. We went three hours instead of two, in what turned out to be a bit of a slog through the Tomb of Diderius.

The heroes are looking for a dwarf named Varram the White. He is one of the five wyrmspeakers of the cult. Apparently he got himself into some trouble with yuan-ti while looking for his stolen white dragon mask.

I've been reading up more on rules and what my PCs can do so I am prepared for questions (I still had a major flub or two, though). The paladin took oath of the ancients. I asked him who his god was, and it turns out he never picked one. Today he told me it was Mielikki, the Forest Queen. I am going to look this god up and add in a little stuff here and there in upcoming sessions so his character feels more fleshed out. It seems obvious that the Emerald Enclave would want him to defect from the Order of the Gauntlet.

For the sake of clarity I am going to list the party here along with their faction:
  • (Harper) Elf Rogue: In real life, played by Dark's dad.
  • (Zhentarim) Gnome Rogue: Middle Schooler. We joke that his character lives in a garbage can.
  • (Zhentarim) Elf Rogue: Middle Schooler. Often does "combo moves" with the gnome, throwing him at stuff to get Inspiration.
  • (Order of the Gauntlet) Half-Elf Paladin: Middle Schooler. Oath of the Ancients.
  • (Order of the Gauntlet) Half-Elf Fighter: The player is about 25 years old, knows the rules pretty well.
  • (Harper) Elf Sorceress: The player is in 4th grade and she loves her little black dragon, "Sparky".
Almost an entire party of elves! I've never run a group where all the members have darkvision. They never light torches.

15. Bridge

We had left off on a mossy bridge that spanned over a cavern (a 120 foot drop). When crossing it, you need to make DEX checks or you might fall in. Worse, there's lizardfolk and yuan ti waiting to ambush the adventurers.

What followed was a drawn-out conflict with the heroes very carefully advancing on the bad guys across the bridge. To speed things up, I had a few lizardfolk try to cross to engage the heroes in melee. They fell in.

19. Hatchery

This room is a pit full of newly hatched snakes (one giant swarm/monster). Some yuan-ti watch over them. Our stealthy heroes did some sneaking and then got the jump on these monsters.

When the gnome rogue was hit with a fear spell, he dropped his dagger of venom into the pit! Snakes swarmed all over it. Ever-helpful, Dark the dragon sorceress turned invisible, went down and retrieved it. The gnome was cured of his fear by the paladin (his real-life brother) with a heroism spell.

These encounters would have been pretty dull if not for these fun little moments. I tried to bring them to life but it didn't quite click like I wanted it to. Too many combat encounters! Also, I just never liked yuan-ti, so it's hard for me to get into it.

17. Yuan-Ti Quarters

This room has a pressure plate in it. If stepped on, a dart trap goes off hitting everyone. There's a few bad guys in here, who were getting thrashed.

It's starting to become an issue where the bad guy's plus to hit is too low. +3 to hit isn't too useful vs. the paladin, who has an AC of 18 or 19. And further, the party has three rogues who each have multiple abilities to minimize damage. While I don't want to penalize them for good tactics, I do feel the need to start running my monsters in a more clever manner.

On top of that... my dice were really cold tonight. In the end, a lizardman purposely stepped on the plate and triggered the dart trap and only one PC got his by the darts, and he was able to nullify the damage.

Each room in this place has at least some kind of gimmick, but after getting through the tomb, the yuan-ti stuff feels tacked-on and really just kind of odd.

A player noted that this dungeon is very Indiana Jones-y, almost explicitly. There's a rolling boulder trap, entrance similar to the exterior of the grail locale in Last Crusade, an "only the penitent shall pass" type trap, and a room full of snakes. He's right! It is pretty blatant.

I don't mind.. I love Indiana Jones. They made this tomb different enough that it works as a D&D dungeon.

22. Temple

The heroes came upon the final area. The leader of the yuan-ti has the dwarf (Varram the White) tied up on an altar. The adventure says that the yuan-ti will try to trade the PCs Varram in exchange for goods and services.

But the heroes never got the chance. They peered in and saw the set-up. Their plan: Have Dark twin-cast Greater Invisibility and cast it twice, thus making 4 of the 6 members of the party invisible.

I made a mistake here, and realized it while driving home. Greater Invisibility is a concentration spell. You can only have one of those going at the same time. I don't think a single caster can have two Greater Invisibilities running concurrently.

I wasn't too concerned because we were just about out of time and I wanted to get the room done. I did not want another long, boring fight with yuan-ti. Plus, I wanted to see this play out. I'll look it up and talk to them about concentration next time we play.

The invisible rogues moved into position and just stabbed away, killing the yuan-ti before she even knew what was happening. Then the paladin strode in from the entrance.

From the other yuan-ti's perspective, they just saw their leader die a bloody death out of nowhere, and then a paladin confidently marched into the room.

They wanted no part of this paladin and his incredible powers, so they surrendered. The heroes removed Varram from the altar.

The Fate of Varram the White

The PCs have Varram. It turns out that he lost the white dragon mask (one of the lamer things about Tyranny of Dragons is that the PCs spend a lot of time chasing after dragon masks that they can't actually obtain).

The group healed Varram, questioned him, and then argued about what to do with him. Dark's real life dad wanted to kill Varram. Dark vehemently objected, and made a very heartfelt plea to the group to keep him alive. She actually asked, "Are we a bunch of murderers?"

The gnome agreed with her. But her dad and the other rogue just went ahead and slit Varram's throat.

If I was a player in this group and that 4th grader made that speech, there is no way on God's green earth that Varram is dying and my character would fight any PC that tried to kill him.

It was a bit of a bummer. She was legit upset when this happened. She actually made a comment about quitting the group.

She was back to normal a few minutes later. Her dad bought her a My Little Pony doll and it seemed like the whole thing had been forgotten.

Player Art

Dark throwing a gnome.
Dark and the gnome do drawings in a notebook when it's not their turn. Sometimes they give me drawings to keep at the end of a session. Above is an image that the player Dark drew. It depicts Dark throwing the gnome rogue at a bad guy, a situation that happened in a previous session (I think it was in the fight with the tile chimera from last session. The chimera was on a ledge ten feet up so Dark chucked him up there). I asked the player of the gnome to make me one, hopefully I can post it here in a week or two.

The heroes found two protection scrolls as treasure. In 2nd edition AD&D, as a kid, I never understood protection scrolls. Any PC can cast them, apparently. I'd better read up on them.
They also found the Dragontooth Dagger, or as we call it, the Daggertooth Dagger - The dagger made from the tooth of a dagger.

This Wednesday, the heroes are going to go to the Sea of Moving Ice. But prior to that, they're going to deal with the first of the three assassin encounters in the book. I cooked up a pretty epic encounter, if I do say so myself.


Unknown said...

Well when they next go the council meeting. You can at least have almost everyone there disagree with what happened to Varram. Almost all of them prefer that Varram be taken in alive. Some of them straight up disapprove if he is killed. Like the Dwarf.

It will backfire hard if they kill Neronvain given that he is the Elf Kings son.

Also is it just me or does Dark's dad tend to just ignore what the group wants and do his own thing with prisoners.

Sean said...

Unknown: I was looking at that on the council scorecard. A number of them wanted Varram alive.

Dark's dad is pretty much the party leader and his character is a pretty grim fellow.

Unknown said...

Even most of the ones that approve if you kill him prefer if you take him alive.

Anonymous said...

Man, Dark's dad is one ruthless heartless mofo in the game. Doing that in front of his daughter?

Sean said...

Anonymous: What ended up happening was that Dark's dad changed his attitude. By the end of this campaign, his character had maintained his "gritty-ness" but had turned over a new leaf (check out the final session where he saves Sparky's life). Now in Elemental Evil, his new character is lawful good and would never do anything remotely evil.

Harmony 2.0 said...

My group just ran this session today. Our DM let us find the book the Librarian was looking for. We took it back to her, she was thrilled and imediately disappeared. In her place a box appeared that we soon learned could be turned into a boat by pouring water on it. Our ranger did just that in the Temple. The boat crashed down in the middle of the room, greatly injuring two of the lizard folk. We then fought the battle your group avoided. We are planning to resurect Varrum at the start of the next session. Knowing my group, I fear Varrum will suffer the same fate your group dealt him.

Sean said...

Harmony 2.0: That sounds awesome. Poor Varram, the guy is just doomed. I imagine groups all over the world find out that the mask is gone and they just take it out on him.