Back for another installment? Good, I have one for you that I enjoyed, maybe not for the reasons that might be initially the most apparent. I know, cryptic right? Now that you are confused lets continue.
After our last encounter, fighting all things tree-like and nasty we were closing in on one of the homes of the evil hags. For those of you just now reading this for the first time, the evil hags are our immediate but maybe not ultimate nemesis’. They control large amounts of influence over lesser creatures whom they dominate or encourage to join up with them for their own horrible plans.
We, The Order of Teralon, feel that by eliminating the hags/witches we can rescue the true monarchy in the form of a brother and sister of the assassinated former king and return them to rule over a land sorely in need of its proper rulers.
So…we have been gathering information bit by bit with nearly every horrible monster we eliminate either by clues left by them or by snippets of information provided by our current some-time employer Rumpelstiltskin. We have also been gaining our strength, Meta-Game-Moment – we are now 17th level – we started at 1st, so that when we finally do meet the hags/witches we might actually stand a chance of coming out of the encounter alive. For if we should fail all of Teralan will remain in the grips of the evil hags forever.
After emerging from the dark forest we enter into a small clearing that empties almost right up against the walls of a small keep. It is a small keep and maybe keep isn’t the right way to put it. Let me describe it for you. It was between 80-100 feet square and its walls were about 35ft. tall. In the corners of the walls where you might think a gargoyle might be, wolves (I believe) were there instead.
Once we came into the clearing there was maybe 30-50 feet of walkway before you came to a 10ft. wide earthen bridge that spanned 10ft.or so over nothingness that separated the keep and the surrounding lands. More planar anomalies at work here. No big surprise.
Once we made our way into the open 4 gnoll archers appeared on the walls, 2 on either side and normal sized wolves appeared from inside the open gate to the keep. We were in for a quick start to this fight, no parlay, no smarmy or sarcastic remarks on either side, no pretending to be anything but who you are. They were clearly the villains, the usurpers, the evil doers. We were the heroes, those that restore balance and right and the good guys. For Vythrik, played by yours truly, there was also The right hand and most favored of Kord. I will explain later about how Vythrik really does believe that now.
Often when we get into a situation where we have to place ourselves on the map, we know there is going to be combat or a skills challenge, we aren’t really sure which. We also, for whatever reason I am not sure why, group ourselves in a tight-packed group. This makes us wonderful targets for things like archers and area burst effects. Sometimes I wonder if we will ever learn.
We place ourselves on the map and march up in a cluster so conveniently for the archers who now have a surprise round of attacks on us we are now berating ourselves for doing so, and for good reason it turns out. The archers have powers like we do, like all folk in 4th edition do, and one of theirs allows them to hit in close burst 2 which either was able to hit all of us or all of us except Alvo because of one of his abilities that allows him to move first if he didn’t get the highest initiative roll.
Before we even got to act for the first time many of us were bloodied or severely hurt. This was not going well for us already and we hadn’t even started. Usually we get in a couple of rounds before we realize we’re humped, then muck our way through to victory. With determination and a lack of good sense we pressed forward taking the fight to the evil-doers.
I am going to take a step back here and give you another tidbit. After our last Terralon gaming session a friend of mine whom also runs our other Wednesday game mentioned maybe swapping out some of the powers I currently have in favor of more front-line agro powers. I said like I always do, “I need to look at the character builder, but since you have conveniently printed out the new sheet I will take a look.” At first it looked good to me with lots of damage-dealing powers but with almost no healing. This was a big change for me since with my previous character build all of my encounter powers gave some sort of healing or saving throw and/or some useful benefit. Now I think only one of them did.
Once our DM found out he mentioned we should have told him we “re-skinned” my character before we just showed up with him so that he could plan accordingly. You see, our DM, knowing I have lots of healing abilities took that factor into consideration when he made this encounter. Now everything would be all wonked up and we may not survive because there wasn’t enough healing to go around.
I switched back to my original character and the carnage continued, both sides doling out lots of damage in the opening moments of combat, giving no quarter and expecting none in return. The early salvos are usually pretty standard with big beat stuff aimed at incapacitating or controlling more than outright elimination of the opponent as they usually just can’t happen with the amount of damage that could be done .vs how many hit points the person has.
So after our initial scary start in which most of the party got bloodied (losing more than half your hit points ~ indicated by a red ring ~) in the early rounds we regrouped and decide on our new plan of attack – divide and conquer. Addrick, leaped, literally into action by scaling the walls to the upper catwalk where 2 of the 4 archers were reigning down arrows of doom upon us. Rhogar, our dragonborn sorcerer and Alar our elven ranger engaged the other 2 archers on the opposite side of the wall giving those of us not so good at ranged combat an opportunity to get up close and personal with the wolves and whatever else may lie inside the keep.
This seemed to work pretty well. As you recall, Alvo, our gnome Sword Mage has the ability to move his speed if he doesn’t have the highest initiative in the party – which is more often than not the case. He had already moved into the midst of the pack of wolves at the entryway to the keep so that he could deal with them all at once. I think he took out 3 or 4 of the 5 of them in one attack. They were minions fortunately. I closed about 10 feet to deal with the one wolf between Alvo and myself.
Once the wolves were dealt with Alvo advanced into the inner area just on the inside of the walls and found that there was a group of 3 gnolls coming from the left and quickly moved over to engage them. Once into position he marked all 3 of them with an attack and was holding his own. ~ At this point I will state that we mark certain effects on creatures with rings so that we can tell what effects they have on them. In Alvo’s case, grey is used for his mark ~
At the same time Alvo is dealing with the group of 3 gnolls on the left, I believe Addrick was able to use a power called summon ally to get our Alar our elven ranger on the catwalk to help him deal with the archers there and allow him to bypass coming in the through the front door.
Our dragonborn sorcerer took to the air to get a better idea of what was on the other side of the wall and to eliminate him being close to the rest of us and thus possibly prone to another burst area attack. I, Vythrik, had still not gained entry into the hallway beyond the front gate. I was kept busy healing and dealing with a lone wolf (not named McQuade) and eventually a gnoll archer that our sorcerer had caused to fall off the catwalk above to the ground below, and the tender embrace of my maul – whom I have lovingly named Trixie. (Not really)
At some point Alvo either came back outside on his own or was forced outside and was engaged with a gnoll heavy-hitter on the path leading to the entryway into the keep. Addrick and Alar were repelled by a gnoll sorcerer off the catwalk some 30-40 feet back to roughly go crashing through the trees which happily broke their fall (and maybe some of their bones) to our left, knocking the monk unconscious. I was on the right and our sorcerer was up above me on the right.
We were all pretty banged up by this point and I had to do my job and help keep us from going under (unconscious) so we could prevail in this fight. I had a great encounter power I wanted to use but thought I needed to be bloodied (below half my max hit points) to use. WRONG! I misunderstood the explanation of the power thinking I needed to be bloodied to give the benefit it bestowed upon all it effected. I found out but only after I tried to get hit…3 times by moving past enemies and letting them attack me. After I did all that I asked for some clarification and was told that I only needed to be bloodied to get the benefit myself (which was a healing surge) but that all my allies within 5 squares of me would get it regardless. At this point I dodged a bullet three times, but my luck of not getting hit was only getting started.
The battle raged on with more of us lining up near the center path we originally came up on. Alvo was there. I joined in and the bugbear I was fighting, originally from the catwalk above, followed me over to join in plus another of the bugbear heavies that was guarding one of the gnoll spell-lobbers. Once our archer was able to act he spent his one healing power on the monk and brought him around who then joined in the fray. Our ranger slowly made his way out of the trees but stood back and let his arrows do most of his talking.
After these guys had been brought to The Order of Teralan justice we assaulted the keep en masse, with the Addrick and Rhogar going to the right and Alvo leading the way to the left closely followed by me and the Alar.
The monk being all about speed and movement quickly closed the distance between him and his intended prey, the sorcerer on the right, but to his dismay fell right into the trap laid out in front of him. The trap was an electrical field of force that halted all movement until disabled. Once that happened our dragonborn sorcerer and human monk made short of the guy.
On the other side we encountered one last heavy before trying to engage to last remaining sorcerer. As our monk called out the trap he encountered we thought it a good idea to search for traps as well. Good thing to as we discovered a nasty pit trap filled with acid. Once the sorcerer knew we knew about the trap and intended not to blindly chase his down, triggering the trap, he ran for dear life.
As combat had concluded I was able do a tally of how many times in a row I was missed and came up with a count of…wait for it….13! What started with my bumbling around trying to get hit 3 separate times lasted the rest of the encounter. Vythrik might now have some belief that Kord really is looking out for him. I am fairly sure that he is in for a rude awaking the next time he does get hit. Of course, now that I have said this my DM with devise great punishments for me. 🙂
We ultimately gave chase but he was now where to be found; what we did find was another skill challenge. We came to a dead-end hallway that the sorcerer had traveled down (we think) leading to a large locked door. The floor was covered in symbols written in a foreign tongue. Once symbol per 5ft. tile. Fortunately we had a linguist in the party and soon discovered what the letters were. Once we knew that we were able to discern the code to gain access to the room beyond – Rumpelstiltskin Open (then hit the return tile represented by an “X”).
It only just now dawned on me why the entry code would be Rumpelstiltskin Open; it is because this was the home he grew up in. He told us this but followers of Kord are not as well know for their brains as their brawn.
As the giant doors opened before us we were greeted by a terrible and awesome sight, that of one of Rumpelstiltskin’s hag sisters and her whole crew of nasties. From what we could make out there were several minotaurs, a man who changed into a giant wolf – maybe I can get swallowed whole again, and some other terribleness that I could not determine what they were.
More to come…