Posted on April 29, 2011
The Acts of the Lords of Rannick, XVI
If I had made this ‘dungeon’, I would have been annoyed that everyone bypassed the kewl rooms I’d made; but actually I think the Route One approach is clever given that the party can’t sleep. The dungeon can’t be explored and beaten through attrition – the players have their day load of spells and that’s it. In this situation, I think it is a good choice. Plus, I didn’t make this ‘dungeon’ so I don’t really care.
The downside, however is that any of the boss-fight-mitigation items usually strewn around a dungeon are also bypassed. “What’s that? Chester Copperpot almost made it up the stairs with this Frying Pan of Boss Bane? Well let me carry that for you Chester and I’ll see that you did not die in vain.” I’m exaggerating a little, but dungeons typically have something that will reward their clever use. I like that, I think it helps people play beyond their stat sheet. Part of that otherwise clever plan means bypassing things that may help which means the fight took longer than it may have had you been optimally geared for it. Which sucks because so many people were incapacitated – Lonny and Arradin to the extent that JIM and Noe didn’t get to play at all last night.
In the normal run of play, I want people to play, so something will come along to make incapacitation temporary: If the party solves the problem, it will be over quickly, if they wait for someone else to solve the problem, it will take longer, but it’ll still be a temporary set back. Maybe you’d happen into a wandering cleric or a friendly ally or whatever. It wouldn’t take you out of the game for long. Not being able to do anything is the worst form of punishment the game can hand out. I’d rather there was some alternative.
Not so in Boss fights; if you can’t solve your own problems, no-one is going to do it for you. For there to be risk, there has to be real consequences. Rhoswen was capable of TPK’ing the party, even though she wasn’t maxed out for damage. She was a vicious and vindictive bitch who knew plenty about the party due to her scrying and cast her targeted spells accordingly. At one point they had only two characters active… two and a half if you count Badonk. That’s really how it should be for a boss fight, but it is still regrettable that some people couldn’t do shit. That sucks.
Some days you’re the guy left standing on the top of the tower in triumph, some days you’re the Stoat. It is a shame, but the triumph of the victor is in direct proportion to how many other people didn’t make it. To be the last man standing and know that feeling requires everyone else to be not-standing. So here is the story of how Corwin emerged triumphant.
Queen Rhoswen’s Castle; PIXIE PROBLEMS/Rhoswen’s Hubris/Rhoswen’s Fall.
We left the intrepid band scattered after their fight with Tenzekil. Lonny, Corwin, Dagfinn and Albedon had made their way into Rhoswen’s castle, with Arradin and Torgor befuddled outside and Badonk and Kerplak missing at various stages of their excursion so far…
Badonk’s unicorn finally made it to the rendezvous point a little while after Corwin’s who arrived a little while after everyone else. Taking the same path that Corwin took, Badonk arrived on the scene of the party’s fight with Tenzekil, looked over the bodies and then continued into the forest. You will recall, no doubt, that Corwin got everyone pretty badly lost on the way to the Castle, so Badonk actually cut down the time between him and the rest of the party.
As he approached the Castle, the gnome barbarian spotted two pixies, hauling Kerplak along towards the Castle, weighed down by a bag of weapons. Upon seeing him they winked out of sight and abandoned their haul. Badonk woke Kerplak up from his magically induced sleep and the two of them carried the weapons, recognisable as Arradin and Torgor’s collection.
Progressing further towards the outline of the castle, they found Arradin, sitting looking glassy eyed against a tree lining a path that lead to the gate of the thistle-castle. Torgor was there too, but seemed pretty out of it. After talking to and re-arming the confused Arradin, they proceeded to the steps of the castle and listened to the sounds within. They heard the last few minutes of the other party’s progress – Corwin finding a trap, Corwin opening the doors and Corwin throwing a spear through the illusory crying Rhoswen. Other than that, they just heard Lonny moving and Dagfinn being Dagfinn.
They caught up with the others, after pausing to indulge their Gnomish curiosity at the pit trap’s edge – it is deep, there are vines and it ends in a stone floor – and were apprised of the situation as the illusion of Rhoswen wandered around weeping in the background. Lonny went out to guard Torgor, because someone should and the others decided to forgo the rest of the first floor and head up the stairs.
The stairs continued up, but there was a door, presumably one floor up, and through that door floated a jaunty melody, skilfully played by some violinists. Dagfinn became convinced that this music may turn magically charming at any moment… this is a big time for a Bard. They train their whole lives to upstage some douchebag trying to use magical songs, even though the other person is almost certainly a bard. I’m not sure any other class has such obvious in-class one-upsmanship. There is counterspell, I guess, but that gets spread between a few classes. The entire class of bards is like a VH1 Divas live show where everyone wants to be Aretha and just blow everyone else off the stage. This insight is key to understanding what followed…
They opened the door, Badonk boldy advancing. Inside, dozens of masked fey of all sorts danced a lively waltz to the violin music as three pixies on a small stage played tiny violins. Several of the masked fey detached themselves from their partners and offered to dance with the newcomers. Pixies, gnomes, satyrs and elves all tried to convince them to dance. No-one took them up on it because apparently the party are members of stuffy old Reverend Moore’s congregation and don’t understand that sometimes, kids just want to dance. That didn’t stop Badonk from dancing though; in fact, Badonk couldn’t stop Badonk from dancing. He felt an irrepressible urge to shake his thing and started doing so.
Dagfinn began stuffing things in his ears, because he worried that this was the danger he’d been waiting for while Arradin, Corwin, Albedon and Kerplak made their polite excuses and headed for an exit. Arradin lifted and carried the writing Badonk. Dagfinn approached the stage and whipped one of the tiny violins out of the hands of the pixie and dashed it against the stage, smashing it into tiny pieces. (What does one sarcastically play for a violinist who just lost the tiniest violin in the world?)*. That tore it.
The pixies disappeared and then Dagfinn began experiencing sharp stabbing… stabs perilously close to his most beloved instrument. He backed off and began yelling “Pixie problems!”. Albedon cast a Web over the dancers, catching almost all of them, but at that point several of the party members, including the elven mage realised that the strands were passing through the dancers, not draping over them. The dancers were apparently illusions. Again.
Badonk (bouncing back from his bout of boogie and released by Arradin), Kerplak and Albedon continued to move into the hallway adjacent to this little ballroom while Corwin, Dagfinn, and Arradin came over to deal with the pixie problem – or at least the bard slashing at the air with his rapier yelling “Pixie Problem”. As unlikely as he was to ever hit anything, never the less Dagfinn’s rapier started whacking against things until he suddenly and catastrophically sliced the spine of one of the nearby pixies. There was a pained yelp and a light thud as the pixie fell to the floor, crippled yet still invisible. Fortunately, the pixie’s pain did not last long as Arradin, wildly scything the area around her killed it. Dagfinn had meanwhile picked up a dose of the poisonous Greenblood Oil.
Outside the ballroom, Kerplak had discovered a long, irregular and dimly lit hallway. Above him, several figures hung, suspended from the ceiling by vines obscured by the shadows. On the wall were paintings that moved and changed, each telling a grisly story: in one Rhoswen cursed Nymphs into hideous hags, in another she changed gnomes into pigs for dinner table, in another she changed elves into songbirds for her own amusement.
Badonk moved further into the hallway to the closest door and listened. Hearing several people moving somewhere behind the door, he opened it to reveal a tower with stairs ascending and descending. From an upper level came a small patrol of Spriggans running to engage the intruders. Badonk cast Dancing Lights in its glowing humanoid outline form, sending the first none-too bright Spriggan guard towards it, while the other three tried to get at Badonk. Albedon stepped up to start casting Rays of Frost, but was plagued by an inability to land many rays. Still, pew pew, right? Kerplak moved up to provide missile support and ably shot crossbow bolts into the gaping wounds that Badonk was carving with his sword. The fight was one sided, to say the least. Badonk was able to shrug off the effects of the Greenblood Oil.
Back in the webbed-up, illusioned-up, pixie-d up ballroom, Lonny arrived. Having made sure Torgor was at least compos mentis enough to not eat his own hand or anything daft, he’d backtracked and followed the noise coming from up the stairs. Seeing Arradin, Corwin and Dagfinn flailing at thin air, he cast Invisibility Purge and revealed the pixies. With the fight suddenly on, Albedon and Kerplak came to assist while the no-longer raging Badonk wheezed his way through to join the rest. The combatants piled in on the suddenly visible pixies and started piling on the damage. Not that they were particularly prone to taking damage – their damage resistance to weapons made them difficult to whittle down. The pixies started making a break for it, but Dagfinn managed to get around them and block their escape route by blocking the doorway out of which they were trying to flee. Albedon froze one to death after Dagfinn had grappled it. The other was brought down, eventually, when everyone focused their attacks on him.
Kerplak rifled through the dead pixies belongings but found only tiny daggers, tiny bows, tiny arrows and some Greenblood oil. The pixies hadn’t done much damage and Badonk had essentially waltzed through his fight with the Spriggans, so they were in pretty good shape to carry on.
The doorway that Dagfinn had been blocking led to an irregularly shaped room, a combination pantry, kitchen and dining room. From the far side of the kitchen came the discordant tootling of a horn pipe. This music is impossible to truly describe, because everybody heard something different: Albedon and Arradin panicked and ran, terrified, away from the source of the noise. Dagfinn, Kerplak and Badonk laid down and fell asleep. Lonny wasn’t hearing it though. He cast that handy-dandy Suppress Charms and Compulsions, which allowed him to return two of his party mates to normality. Advancing into the kitchen, they were confronted by two satyr cooks who did not take kindly to the intrusion. Lonny and his re-awakened party members made short work of them.
The satyrs were duly looted as the party composed itself… all except Albedon whose headlong hand-flapping, girl-shrieking, panicked flight sent him careening down the spiral staircase and into a Stair of Minor Concussion, against which there are no saves. He came to a few minutes later, when the fight had been joined upstairs.
Upstairs everyone shot of in different directions – Badonk and Kerplak to investigate a set of doors that led to a rooftop orchard, Corwin to a kitchen cabinet where he started looting the silver spoons and napkin rings and stuff like that (making Corwin the only person to have profited from entering Rhoswen’s castle so far), Arradin to check out the eerie paintings. Lonny and Dagfinn meanwhile were busy rounding everyone up trying to get everyone back on Attack Plan A which was basically Route One to Rhoswen.
Back up the spiral staircase, Corwin, Badonk, Kerplak, Arradin, Lonny and Dagfinn entered Rhoswen’s throne room. The chamber was round with stairs up and down and a dais with a bramble throne on it. From the ceiling hung vines with small pale flowers and from these were suspended cages with colourful songbirds inside. The rest of the room was dominated by two rows of pillars that reached up to a vaulted ceiling high above.
Rhoswen was there, her gnarled black staff nestled in the crook of her arm as she gazed intently into a mirror by her throne. Beside her, a swirling mass of shadow spun endlessly in place; an odd corruption of an air elemental tied to this realm of shadow. So, you’ve got a potent spellcasting Villain looking into a mirror and a shadowy Air Elemental. Who is the obvious first target? About half the party decided that the mirror was some kind of imminent threat and so started attacking it. Arradin and Badonk rushed forward after Kerplak had plinked a bolt at it to no effect. Rhoswen gave us her Villain speech, which I’m going to say bypasses the usual six second limit of speaking in combat, because otherwise… I mean, no villain speeches? Imagine Batman in strict 6 second rounds –
Batman: The game is up, Joker.
Joker: So, you found my lair, eh Bats? Well, it’s too bad for you Gotham City wi-
See? It wouldn’t work. I think Villains get a special dispensation to generate some hubris before you get to killing them.
“Challenge me in my own realm, will you?” she sneered, “The Second-born know their doom has arrived and you’re the best they could send?” She gestured toward the mirror that everyone took such a dislike to. “Look there, if you dare,” she taunted. In the mirror images of a raging battle between the Fey Conclave’s forces and her Fellnight army, as well as the citizens of Whartle huddled in their homes, frightened as mist and shadow closed around them. “This prison can no longer hold me. Your sad tale ends here, your minds shattered and souls cursed for all eternity.”
At which she withdrew into one of the wooden pillars and reappeared at the foot of the stairs heading up a few seconds later. The shadowy air elemental charged forward and met Lonny, who called down the power of Torag and smote it, smote it clean back to the plane of air, where it floated, stunned for a little while at how hard it had just been hit.
Everyone else focused on Rhoswen at the foot of the stairs and she coughed out a few nasty spells on people. Then another Rhoswen appeared in front of the throne, flinging magic missiles about, then another air elemental. Lonny was the last to interact with one of the Rhoswens and the first to see through the spell – these weren’t the real Rhoswens at all! Tricksy elveses.
Vindictive too – Kerplak was struck blind, something which would slow down or maybe even put an end to any other crossbowman’s career. Not Kerplak though. He just kept his finger on the trigger and let the bolts fly. The air elemental swooped over to start smacking him and Dagfinn came over to help dispatch it.
Meanwhile Arradin, having tried to break the mirror, got her sword stuck in the frame, which on closer inspection was covered in all sorts of moving eyes that were apparently watching what was happening in the room. She managed to yank it out and then went over and smashed the jaw of the first Rhoswen, eventually cutting her down.
Before long the second one was gone too. Which was about the time the Spectral Goosing came out. A spectral hand started handing out Vampiric Touches. This got everybody on their guard and eventually it strayed too close to Badonk, who dismissed it with a flick of his sword. Whenever a Rhoswen appeared, she was set upon by everyone who could reach her, with Dagfinn (I think) shoving his rapier in her mouth at one point and slicing her tongue pretty atrociously. Once again, she stepped into a pillar and disappeared.
Corwin had been sucking it up so far. He just hadn’t been able to land hits with his spear. He jumped up on the dais and covered the mirror with some of the tablecloths he’d nicked earlier, then stuffed the thing in his handy haversack.
Tired of having Rhoswen elude them, Badonk began raging. A furious gnome barbarian would evidently make a great sommelier, because Badonk has the “Scent” rage ability, allowing him to sniff things out. “Arrrgh Gnnh. I’m getting.. hrk… rich oakiness, polished wood floors and…gruh… hints of a chocolatey smoothness… faaagh!”. Using this, he pin-pointed the pillar closest to the left of the dais as the one Rhoswen was hiding within. Lonny, picking up on this used his Wood Shape 2nd level Artifice domain spell to open up a gap in the pillar which revealed not only the hollow interior, but Rhoswen’s middle too, into which Corwin stuck his spear. It was a good hit – right in the kidneys – but Rhoswen disappeared again.
Dagfinn set the pillar alight, while Corwin hoped that Tenzekil had packed a saw in his handy haversack, reached in, pulled one out, then set to sawing through a pillar. Arradin tried pushing the pillar over (didn’t work) and then started Power Attacking it, joined by Badonk. Kerplak – still blind, still willing to endanger everyone with his weapons – got out his gnome hooked hammer and started flailing around with it, striking it against the pillar and creating a hollow thud. By this time, everyone realised that the pillars were hollow and that Rhoswen was using them to mini-teleport. The pillars became everyone’s new inanimate enemy, now that the mirror was gone. Rhoswen was far from on the run, continuing to Vampiric Touch people just as Lonny was channeling heals, then put some oomf into it and cast Curse on Badonk, rendering him 50% likely to stare vacantly into space every time he tries to do something. Not done making friends, she then cast Baleful Polymorph on Arradin. Arradin couldn’t withstand the spell and turned into a hedgehog.
Hidden from the party, Rhoswen seemed to have the upper hand: she cast Entangle, covering the floor with grasping vines, Baleful Polymorphed Lonny into a Stoat and then set three shadowy balls of Ball Lightning about the room to hunt down everyone who wasn’t incapacitated in some way.
It was at this point that Albedon reappeared, shaking off his bout with unconsciousness. After trying and failing to dispell the Entangle, he cast Wall of Fire across the row of far pillars that Dagfinn, Badonk and Corwin were attempting to hack down. This was enough to force Rhoswen from her hiding place after which everyone able to converged on her.
The Ball Lightnings… Balls Lightning?… converged on her defensively, zapping Dagfinn, Corwin and the reasonably together Badonk. Albedon moved in to try to hit her with spells and Kerplak blindly made his way to the other end of the room. Rhoswen and our heroes traded damage, the furious Queen healing herself as Badonk hit a run of inactivity and just stared at her. Corwin, however, snatched the Crook of Cildhureen from her and bolted up the stairs, grabbing Arradin the Hedgehog. Albedon followed closely behind. Realising her peril, Rhoswen stole some of Dagfinn’s vitality which left him in low health, he fumbled with his weapon, cutting himself terribly and fainted from the sudden blood loss.
With Badonk once more staring into space, there was only a blind gnome launching crossbow bolts at various noises and a Stoat to prevent her from leaving. She left, running up the stairs after her beloved Crook.
Upstairs, Corwin found himself in Rhoswen’s personal chambers, all silk pillows and expensive decor. As he pondered the meaning of the pink crystal in the ceiling, Albedon arrived and cast Dimension Door, taking them both to the top of the tower. There they found a faerie circle suitable for the kind of rituals that they imagined the Fey Conclave thought they were probably talking about. Corwin didn’t know what to do with the staff, so he gave it to Albedon… who wasn’t sure either and plumbed the depths of his Arcane knowledge for some clue.
Badonk, meanwhile had a respite his curse and quickly poured a potion of healing down Dagfinn’s throat, reviving him before the Unthinkening set in again. Dagfinn healed himself again, then ran upstairs to join the others. In Rhoswen’s chamber, he found Rhoswen getting ready to board a crystal disc that had descended from the ceiling. She conjured up an air elemental to herald her arrival.
On the roof, Corwin stood poised to strike with his spear as the crystal disc dropped into the room below. Meanwhile, after combing the darkest recesses of decades-worth of eldritch study, Albedon believed he understood the function of the staff as the key to the realm and holding it aloft called upon the Fellnight realm to become a prison once more. A wave of arcane energy passed through the tower radiating out towards the borders; all felt it, from the furious Queen to the blind gnome, even the Hedgehog.
Dagfinn and Corwin tried to prevent Rhoswen from reaching the platform, but were unable to, the crystal disc delivering her close enough that she could leap up. Her shadowy air elemental expanded in size, becoming a violent whirlwind – it passed over Albedon, attempting to blow him clean off the tower’s edge but Albedon quickly held on to the carved floor of the magic circle.
Corwin, leaped up beside Rhoswen and caught hold of her. She squirmed to get out of his grasp, and then flailed wildly when she realised what he had in mind, but could not escape his vise-like grip. Stepping to the edge of the tower, he hurled her from the edge, sending her plummeting 130feet to the wicked barbs of the courtyard walls below. She hit them with tremendous force, run through in half a dozen places, and died instantly.
The air elemental fled and Albedon calmly stepped off the roof, casting Feather Fall and slowly descending to the courtyard to examine Rhoswen. When he arrived, dozens of Rhoswen’s servants – satyrs and Spriggans – fled the castle in a panic, throwing down their arms and shedding their armour as they fled for the trees.
On the roof… Corwin was stuck. The crystal disc didn’t respond to being chipped at with a spear tip and the windows below were too small to climb back through. Dagfinn, meanwhile, got to looting the Queen’s chamber, finding half a dozen bottles of exquisite wine and three sets of beautifully made jewelry. Once he had finished purloining these treasures, he attended to Corwin, trying to flick a rope’s end up to the roof.
Percy the Raven was sent to find the blind Kerplak and helped steer him in the right direction as he felt his way up the stairs to Rhoswen’s room.
And that’s where we left them: Corwin triumphant, but trapped on the roof top; Dagfinn, beat up but bejewelled; Albedon, examining the fate of a fellow elvish magic user; Badonk, deeply interested in the air in front of his face half of the time; Kerplak, being steered around by a Raven perched on his head; Arradin, a woodland creature clad in adorable armour; Lonny, a burrowing creature with a mean streak.
*Tiny sad tuba. Pmm-bmmm.