Saturday, January 21, 2012

I Use My Rituals to Bypass Your Encounters, Sir!

***This post contains spoilers for the Scales of War Adventure Path. You have been warned.***

My gaming group is getting SO CLOSE to the end of epic tier in our Scales of War game. I decided to impose a very Fourthcore style time limit on my players since they have a bit of a time crunch. I told them that they have two more gaming sessions to bring down the shielding ward and give an army access to the city, a second ward blocking out reinforcements would be broken and the armies of good would be caught between two armies at once. I dropped that on my party and watching their eyes bulge was priceless.

Image from the Adventure, Test of Fire by WOTC
So this past week (Friday night) they fought their way a secret dungeon delve and discovered a portal that led them to the fabled City of Brass in the elemental chaos. There they were seeking to free the occupied city, which had been taken captive by the draconic forces of Tiamat allied with a Drow kingdom (I pulled that one in on my own to tie in a player's backstory). So they enter through a portal into an abandoned primordial temple in a wrecked district of the city and are trying to find the rebel forces. As they worked their way through the city, they encountered some of the occupied rebel forces and were brought into an expectant council to negotiate a temporary alliance.

While planning out their approach of the palace, they realized they were going to have a hard time sneaking through the heavily patrolled streets. I was also aware of this. I had 5 different combat encounters planned out for all the trouble they could potentially get in to in the city! As they were planning their approach (especially wary of the time limit) the wizard piped in, "What about my Linked Portal ritual? We couldn't teleport in naturally, but now that we are inside?"

I hadn't thought of that. So the Efreet rebel leader got their mages to whip up a circle and given the coordinates they whisked themselves across the city. I couldn't let them get all the way to the palace, so I made up an anti-teleport field within the palace level of the city (which kinda makes sense for security reasons) and I had the teleport drop them into a temple......full of drow.......who had converted the temple to Lolth. I thought, "YES, this will get them!" And immediately the drow in my party drops into immediate bluff mode and makes like she is a returning commander with prisoners to be interrogated. She rolls a 20(!) on her bluff check with a stupid high modifier and next thing you know the whole party is making fake torture sounds in the back room while the "Commandant" interrogates her newest acquisitions. They then all quaffed potions of invisibility and ducked out the door while the wizard cast a mass fly spell on their invisible forms.

So an invisible flying party of adventurers blasts their ways past three of my planned encounters. Then as they are approaching the final wall leading to the palace of the city, they notice (gasp! passive perception) that there is a shimmering field glowing in a bubble over the wall. One good arcana check later and my anti-magic shell is revealed. So now I've got them! They have to go through that glorious gate with fifteen foot tall dragon-spawn warriors standing next to it. Then the wizard mentions, "What about my Passwall ritual? I could make a tunnel through the wall!" So they flew down to a partially abandoned building next to the wall and the wizard blasted a magical hole through the wall. On top of that, the wizard cast Seeming on the party (since she was feeling super fancy at this point) and they all appeared like Drow as they walked right in to main bulwark of the Charcoal Palace in the City of Brass. Another two combats bypassed.

At this point, my jaw just dropped and all I could do was smile. I had been beaten at my own game at every corner (not that I was adversarial in any way, oh no!). I was so impressed with my players' creative thinking on a level they had never tried before that demonstrated their true mastery of the game. 28 levels in and they have made this game their own. This is what makes Epic Tier truly epic. Once characters gain a complete understanding of how the game functions and how to manage the story and really become adventurers of merit that are worth becoming heroes of legend and song.

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