Thursday, June 2, 2011

Epic Endings and the Beginnings of Epic

*This post will contain spoilers to the Scales of War adventure path*

I just can’t leave well enough alone. Epic tier is coming along and I really wanted to get things rolling, start things off with a bang! I think the transitions from tier to tier really need to be distinct and over-the-top cool, so I put some extra work in fixing up the encounters here to make it work well. I did this by 1) making some adaptations to the combat with the emperor and 2) by changing the possibilities of the ending of the adventure as a whole! I’ve already written before about how unsatisfied I have been with the stock ending of just completing a mission (i.e. defeating the big bad) and then reporting back in to some NPC that they gave them the mission in the first place.
image from A Tyranny of Soulsa paragon tier adventure
published  by Wizards of the Coast
In this particular adventure, the PCs were sent out to the fortress of the githyanki emperor while rebel forces began a major offensive against the imperial forces (cue death star 2 scene from Return of the Jedi). Fun times was that the party had no idea the rebel forces were attacking, so they are walking through the city towards the fortress and dragon riders start flying out from everywhere and engaging in battle with other githyanki. The party sees hundreds of red dragons flying out from the castle they are headed towards and away to battle all over the city of Tun’arath. The party began the assault against the fortress (conveniently less guarded due to the rebel attacks) and worked their way through the various chromatic-themed chambers and eventually through the secret door that led to the emperor’s throne room.
The emperor of the githyanki is supposed to be a tough customer and he should be since the entirety of the war with the githyanki has been at his command so the entire paragon tier has been focused on his work. (DDI sub required ahead!) He’s a serious elite and has some handmaiden minions to help him stand against the party while they scale the steps up to the emperor’s throne. His handmaidens are pretty generic so I thought I’d soup them up a little. Even though they are minions, I tied them to the emperor’s vitality. Essentially he was extending a psionic shield to cover them (they are essentially invulnerable) and that shield granted him an element of resistance (10 all) until the hitpoints of the shield (150) were depleted. The shield could only take damage by the handmaidens getting damaged. Each time a handmaiden was damaged, instead of just dying (like a good little minion), the shield took 15 points of damage. Once the shield dropped to 0, the emperor lost his resist all and the handmaidens acted as regular minions. The connection between emperor and handmaidens made for a more dynamic encounter as well as gave the players something to think about as they were defeating the handmaidens because they thought they were just puppets being controlled by the emperor. They felt a lot less comfortable just killing them outright. 
image from A Tyranny of Soulsa paragon tier adventure 
published  by Wizards of the Coast
I can’t forget to mention the elder red dragon in the room. Literally, there was an elder red dragon in the room. So the party encountered this particular baddy before (he bit the paladin in half to be precise) so they had some serious baggage to deal with in this particular fight. I decided that the solo dragon originally designed for this encounter needed to be adjusted (since Solos had some SERIOUS problems pre-monster vault) and I just subbed in the monster vault elder red dragon (few modifications more) and ran him as the brute he was intended to be. Every round equaled a dragon breath due to some amazing recharge rolls and the party felt the wrath of a red dragon the way it was supposed to be felt.
At the end of the night, Vraxanault the red dragon villain was slain, the emperor was defeated and the scepter, which had been used to mark the party so unjustly was reclaimed. Now the party had to decide what to do with it. Supposedly it could help free the party from their mark, but they had a sneaking suspicion that things were not what they seemed. And then out of  the blue, the gnome (self-forged artificer) put on a magic ring they found and disappeared from sight. So we left the end of that night with a feeling of satisfaction, but many unanswered questions and a nagging doubt that would lead up to one of the most difficult parts of running a game...planning a bunch of stuff that doesn’t actually end up getting used in my game. I diverted the final ending of the adventure, but as always if the plot has the opportunity to go off course, it will. And that’s okay, but that story will have to wait until next time. :)

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