Monday, February 27, 2012

Knights of the Tarnished Dagger: Part 1

So a long while back, I read an article by Quinn Murphy over at the At-Will blog and it got my gears churning a bit in terms of game design. The article in question is entitled Horizon: The Darkness Within, which you should read because it is pretty cool. The general premise is that a character in the party is being corrupted by some dark being who is granting them abilities (very warlock like), but unlike the warlock these impressive power come with a very specific cost to the character in question. I remember reading this particular article and really enjoying the mechanical, story-infused ideas that just started brewing as I saw the possibilities for what I could do with such an interesting concept. Then I started reading the Dresden Files series of novels.

If you've never read the Dresden books you should, if only for their depiction of the Faerie Courts alone. The TV show is available for  streaming on Netflix, but is not nearly as good. I digress.

In the novels, there is a particular organization of characters made up of a collection of fallen angels who are bound to thirty ancient coins (the pieces of silver given to Judas to betray Jesus in the Bible). These demons attach themselves to a host when they come in to contact with the coin and eventually convince them to give the demon control through a series of sweet promises. Many mortals were taken over by these particular demons who offer incredible power in exchange for greater influence. They way it played out in the novels was AWESOME and just meshed really well with the idea that I was developing and that is when I decided to create my own set of NPCs and mechanics behind an organization of warped, evil creatures who would offer power (both through flavor and mechanics) to try and gain greater influence over a player character. That was when the Knights of the Tarnished Dagger were born; creatures who were once so beautiful and honorable, but who had fallen from grace and become a real threat to the known worlds.

I wanted to create a document with options for DMs to offer to their players in the hopes of creating dynamic choices for their players and this is essentially where I ended up. I've attached a pdf which explains the background of the organization and the mechanics for how a character makes movements further towards or away from the darkness along with the first of the Knights and a set of powers associated with the Knight that he or she could grant to the character as they fall further under his or her control.  In the coming weeks I am going to release the individual members of the organization a few at a time with a background of the character and the special powers and abilities they have to offer their host as well as a template for applying to an NPC monster or character that a DM could potentially introduce into their game to show how the Knights are at work or to use as a possible adventure seed for a villain in their own campaign.

I look forward to feedback on the idea. Give it a look over and please, feel free to steal ideas from this to use in your campaign. If you have a different take on a particular part of the story, tear my idea apart and run it your way. Part of the fun of planning your own campaign and being the captain of your own story is being able to take creative control and personalize things so they fit the world the way you see it and really owning it for your players. Besides, all good ideas are "borrowed" and tweaked from other great minds. :)

Click here for the compiled pdf that introduces the story of the Knights, explains the mechanic, and also includes the first of the Knights: Anduren, the Black Blade, perfect for tempting a roguish character with foul powers over the darkness. **Caution, meddling with foul powers of darkness may invoke Magic Missiles™**

Monday, February 20, 2012

Can a Green Dragon Be A Hazard?

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

Last week, I talked about some of the preliminary modifications I am making to the last adventure of the Scales of War, The Last Breath of Tiamat. One of my major complaints with the adventure is that it essentially comes down to a grind of fighting a guardian room (which is actually kind of interesting) followed by a combat encounter with a solo dragon of each of the chromatic domains of Tiamat. Each of these solo dragons is essentially the same with only terrain effects and damage keywords to differentiate them. That just isn't very interesting to me. So my thought was to change the dragons, who were originally solo monsters, into hazards. So they have no hit point totals and cannot be affected by status effects, but are still a dramatic and dynamic threat to the party. Then the question becomes, how do the party uncover the means to defeat the dragons and disrupt the draconic ward keeping them from confronting Tiamat? I decided that instead of the ward being powered by the chromatic brood mother dragons themselves it would be powered by an enormous gem carved in the shape of an eye that was conspicuously missing from the statues that marked the entry to the five separate side chambers.

There are five different directions that the party could choose from in their attempt to bring the ward down and open the path to Tiamat and the party decided to go after the green dragon first, since they were reflecting back on which dragon exarch they faced over the course of the Adventure Path (they got it wrong too, Chillreaver the White came first). So in the first chamber, they faced a group of dragonborn defenders in a room full of coins and a piston-like hazard in the center of the room. They tore the defenders apart, which was quite satisfying since I decided that one of the defenders should be the former black exarch of Tiamat who they already defeated once. Having been raised by Tiamat, he was really annoying to the party and defeating him was very sweet. The hazard in the center of the room didn't make any difference in the combat (I should have made it cover the entire room so it would have a greater effect on the combat and created a lot more dynamic movement) and the party was really just grinding down some hit points from the creatures.

After that came the first of the draconic brood mothers, a great green dragon of poison. As they entered the room, they saw the chamber open up from a well chiseled section of structured tunnels to a more cave-like interior filled with mist. The haze clung to a pool of water that extended out in front of them with all kinds of fetid swamp life floating including a large quantity of torn up trees that all collected towards the central section of the pool. On this haphazardly created nest of torn-up wood was seated an enormous and grotesquely swollen green dragon. The thing I gave the most detail was the oozing pustules that covered the underside of the dragon. There are twenty evenly distributed all about the belly scales of the dragon and some kind of foul greenish fluid oozes out all across the mid section of the dragon. There are also two pale dragonborn warriors (vampire lords) seated on the wings of the dragon conversing with her. So as the party walks in, they can see this monstrous creature resting in the center of the pool and prepare to assault the dragon like we do every time it comes up. What they don't know is that instead of the usual solo fight with a dragon, this dragon is different. This dragon is a hazard.

This dragon (who I named Uxin'lothtor) is protected by the same wards that energize the defenses of Tiamat and that the only way to defeat the dragon is to remove the gem eye which is seated in one of the egg sacs drooping from the dragon's stomach. Since the creature has no hit points, every attack they make against the dragon has no effect against its defeat. What I set up instead, was that every time the party made a successful attack against the dragon, I rolled a d4 and that numbered attack was removed as an option until the end of the dragon's next turn. When multiple attacks were made against Uxin'Lothtor and the number is rolled more than once, then nothing happens the second time. So the dragon could feasibly lose all of it's options for it's turn or potentially just one. There is a little bit of swing there and it worked really well in terms of their being a realistic impact on the way the battle played. This hazard also took advantage of the fetid swamp water that the dragon nests upon. A creature knocked prone in the swampy water had to succeed at a difficult endurance check or accidentally swallowed some of the poisonous swill. This means they take ongoing 30 poison damage (save ends and they cannot make a save against until they are no longer in the water).

So the party can't actually kill the dragon the usual way. I figured something much more difficult and really special than a regular combat encounter was worthwhile at this point in the game. In order to defeat the dragon, they needed to locate the gem carved like an egg midst the actual eggs in the disgusting sacs all over the green dragon. Mechanically, the way I wanted to represent this was that the party could try and attack the eggs. Each one when destroyed caused the dragon pain, thus suggesting that they should pursue this route of attack as the means to weaken and eventually destroy the dragon.

There were 20 egg sacs attached to Uxin'lothtor. If a party members wanted to attack (or search) one of the egg sacs I rolled a d20+x (x=number of times the eggs have been attacked thus far). If the result was 25 or higher, the egg targeted was actually the gem eye. (Attacking an egg uses same defenses as Uxin'lothtor with a +2 bonus). Burst attacks gained a +1 to this roll for each square of the burst that covers the dragon. This was something I didn't think of ahead of time and had to improvise quickly to deal with once the wizard figured out about the eggs. Once the last of the eggs was destroyed, Uxin'lothtor began to thrash about (save ends). Each turn she thrashes about, any creature in the watery bog took 50 damage from the thrashing logs and was knocked prone. I allowed characters who wanted to ready an action to make an acrobatics check to attempt to dodge the logs as they began to jump about. The party rogue brought that one up and it turned out pretty cool.Once Uxin'lothtor saved, she fell dead. Since the green dragon was unable to move it wasn't necessary for the party to actually defeat the dragon, but they chose to do so because they really are quite thorough.

This was my first combat designed using a hazard with a specific countermeasure in order to disrupt it instead of a major monster. It was more than a little weird and was honestly more confusing than I had hoped it would be. I explained the mechanic to the party at the very end (after they had officially finished up the dragon by destroying the eggs. They commented on how the idea was pretty cool, but that it was something that they just never thought about. They were using daily attacks and seeing it have no effect and started to feel stupid because they just didn't understand what they had to do. When they did figure out that there was something else going on and successfully destroyed the last of the eggs as the dragon was dying they, more than a little perplexed, commented, "Wait, it's not even bloodied, how is it dead?"

This method may have broken the paradigm a little bit more than I original anticipated. The idea that a monster can't be defeated in the usual means is so against what they have come to expect and to make a change at the eleventh hour like this was a little jarring I think. One encounter down, I have hope that with the expectation that the brood mothers themselves will be a different challenge and require some lateral thinking.

After defeating the green dragon and catching their breath, the party decided to pass through the mouth in to the black dragon, but the chamber for the black dragon, Auth'lothtor, and the guardians keeping her safe will have to wait for next time.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Year of the Dragon

It is, in fact, the year of the dragon now and what a year it is shaping up to be!

My epic tier campaign is finishing out our last adventure in the Scales of War Adventure Path, which puts them directly into conflict with the mother of all chromatic dragons herself, Tiamat. Epic Tier play has gotten a lot of attention in the last year from bloggers putting up all kinds of ideas on how to address the issues around the most broken of the tiers of play in 4th Edition D&D and using all the benefits of all that iidea space along with three years of DMing experience, I’m reworking a great deal of the final adventure to give it more panache and a strong finish to a campaign that will hopefully be worth remembering and celebrating.

I’ve talked already about the issues that have come up with railroading the party, which my party actually really likes, as well as with drawing their character stories onto the rails of our game and making it a unique and special experience as we finish up and for the most part it has not taken a great deal of effort to make those changes really click well.

The Last Breath of Tiamat, the final adventure of the Scales of War Adventure Path, is going to need a little more work than my usual fare. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of good starting material to work with here. Small party of heroic adventurers infiltrating an enemy bastion, sneaking behind enemy lines through a great black gate, trying to avoid detection and seeking the means to finally defeat their greatest enemy. It is cliche, but proven. On top of that a nasty draconic ward that is essentially one or two-shot deadly that can only be disabled by defeating the draconic guardians imbuing it with power, sets up a very strong (if simple) dungeon that could be pretty cool for an epic tier party to cut their newly level 30 teeth on before facing the big momma herself.

It could, in theory, do this, but unfortunately the adventure as written just turns into a grinding battle of solo dragons that are essentially the same other than switching out damage keywords and different trappings with some flavorful hazards and traps. That doesn’t sound like the exciting and interesting end to a three year venture to me. Now I don’t want to spend a ton of time picking out what really ticks me off about this since it was obviously written WAY before people were playing at Epic level and a lot of lessons have been learned in that time. What I do want to do is show just what I did to make this adventure at the end of Epic Tier just a bit more epic.

I really wanted to keep the iconic components of the adventure all together. The setting and story is all staying, but I am going to establish a few things that will set the tone a little differently as well as set the time frame that the party has to complete the task. Tiamat is pretty much all, but defeated at this point. Her alliances have failed her, her army is scattered and her home forces are divided with in fighting as the mother of betrayal is betrayed at last. So what does a god do when everything looks down? Blow up the universe of course! I thought it would be more interesting (and this is in my home campaign cosmology so bear with me now) if Tiamat’s realm was situated in the Elemental Chaos. Sure, she is one of the divine, but if any god would be set up in an elemental infused hellhole it would be her. So given this information, I thought, if Tiamat was going to try and pull one last F U to the planes she’d probably try and take out big brother while she is at it. 

So when the party first entered her base they heard her talking in desperation to her former allies through a communication scry in her main lair. After exploring for a bit though, they hear her again echoing through the halls saying, “Fine then prepare to die you, motherless slug.” With a mighty roar, they feel the entire hall reel and buck and an enormous magma geyser infused with the full power of the elements began to not only roar, but pulsate in the center of the main chamber. They got the sense that the living volcano this domain is built upon is ready to blow, but an eruption on this scale would be larger than any ever recorded in history. With a quick Arcana check, the wizard was able to tell that this explosion will be so tremendous that it will destroy Tiamat’s palace, but not only that it would rip through the planes. After an additional Arcana, Religion, or History check they were able to tell that the target of this explosion will be a domain of the Astral Sea, but given the positions of the cosmology the Primary Material Plane lies right between the two so it would be blasted through devestating the world and leaving a giant hole just seeping into the Elemental Chaos. Essentially, and I know I’m going to have to frame this repeatedly to my players because it IS convoluted, if they are unable to stop Tiamat before the eruption of the volcanic fortress, the entire fortress will be destroyed in a titanic blaze of glory that will also devastate the Mortal World and reach all the way to the Astral Domain of Bahamut, levelling it and potentially killing Bahamut, Kord and Moradin. From what they can tell, they only have 10 hours left.

So that sets the framework for the ending of our campaign with world shattering consequences. Can the party brave the danger, defeat their enemies and save the wold one last time!?!  We’ll just have to see how it plays out.

In the coming weeks/months, I’m going to post the changes I made to the draconic guardians that the party needs to overcome in order to gain access to Tiamat and a bit after that I’ll include my final changes to the Dark Queen of Dragons herself. I’ve also got a couple of other projects I have been working on much more long term that will be popping up in the coming weeks/months and conveniently they are all dragon themed!

Thus begin the Days of the Dragons. May they be long and dangerous.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Take Two Creatures and Call Me in the Morning

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

The folks over at Roving Band of Misfits wrote a post that got me thinking. We know it is always a dangerous thing when a DM starts thinking. They proposed a new method of creating solo monsters with a dynamic that changes over the course of a combat. Specifically, the idea was that instead of it being one one monster with a ton of hit points, why not create two monsters that are overlaid and both take actions while one creature takes damage at a time. Once one creature is killed, they only get one set of actions which creates a dynamic change in the combat.

For the final battle of my adventure, I thought I'd give it a whirl. Solos have had a lot of problems for a LOOONG time and the technique presented by the Band of Misfits was a novel approach to the concept. Implementing the idea is pretty simple and they detail the principles behind the idea in their blog post linked above.
image from Deviant artist Pale Drow

For me, this worked in to a major battle sequence I put together involving a Drow king (I know, right?!?) who had usurped the Efreet of the City of Brass while allied with Tiamat's forces. I used two templates to construct the Solo beastie. I started the idea that basically due to his new mastery of the elemental forces of fire, the drow king had taken command of the fire armies and formed a spectral suit of armor made of the flesh of Efreet noble. So I used an Efreet elite as the first stage of the solo monster. His AC is higher and he has a fly speed, but as he takes damage his hitpoints will be depleted.  His hardened fleshy armor slows him down a bit and he is less reflexive too. Once he is bloodied, certain effects kick in and he is constantly getting worn down until those final hitpoints are chipped away and all that is left is the final stage of the creature.

To make matters worse, he will have a second initiative account as the Drow King himself (also an elite Drow taken from Monster Manual 3). While the first stage is active, both monsters will be making attacks against the party which is a pretty dangerous threat. They will also be unable to do damage to the Drow King until they damage his elemental armor and once that fall away, he will lose an initiative action making him more desperate and more dangerous. I cranked his damage when this happened to decrease the number of actions taking place, but increase the threat making him feel more deranged and more dangerous as he got backed into a corner. At least that is all how I designed him to operate as a monster. I specifically chose two elites that were also leaders and had aura effects to give buffs to their allies (in this case a horde of elementally imbued Drow minions who were rampaging against the party attempting to catch them alight with flames from the elemental chaos), but as always happens things don't always go according to plan.

As the encounter panned out, the elemental minions didn't survive very long. One well placed Chain Lightning spell nuked the entire room and killed all, but two of the minions. So the leader effects weren't that useful as a whole. The effect of the change was pretty cool. When the first creature's set of hit points were reduced and it went from being bloodied to being non-bloodied and the defense numbers were suddenly really different, the party really responded to that. It was dynamic and different and I like how that played out. The one thing that didn't work so good was the sheer quantity of hit points. This was entirely a mistake on my part. Both halves had the same massive bucket of hitpoints where I probably should have had the Efreet starting creature have the bulk of hit points so that as soon as he dropped and lost his magical armor he would have felt more like a glass cannon. The fact that he had just as many hit points to go after the first piece disappeared made for a slug match of a combat. That's really a different conversation and part of the design dynamic of Epic Tier. Overall generating a Solo creature that is a real threat in this level of play was really interesting in a story sense, but I'm definitely giving it another crack to see how it would play out with more dynamic hit point totals.

The next time I try using it, I'm going to have a gnome creature (leveled up from heroic) whose spirit is trapped in time and stuck inside an iron golem construct. I'm going to balance the hit points more skewed the way they should with the gnome creature with less hit points up front and once defeated the iron golem with more hit points to deplete. Combining a brute and a lurker should prove interesting. More on that later.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


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

I asked one of my players to write out a narrative for the final battle of our current adventure because of how completely he had neutered the fight by his actions, which I described in my last post. I debated for awhile what to do when he completely busted up my plans and I thought about running the combat encounter but giving the NPC of Bahamut to the party to use against the final boss, but I decided that it would just end up feeling like a grind so handing the reins over to the player as a reward for his creative thinking seemed the logical answer to my problem. Handing over creative control of the story on such a large scale was really hard, but made for a very interesting end. He’s a natural storyteller (he’s a DM too) so I knew this would be a rewarding experience for him, but I had NO IDEA what was coming for me. I thought I would post this so you could see how the narrative summation of a final fight that was just going to be a drag mechanically ended up being really worthwhile and made a very neat story moment in our campaign.

Time, Kildrak?! Time is a theory of the utmost worthlessness to me. My whole existence has been dictated by time. The time that has passed, the time that will pass and the moments by which we define time that are circling our presence at this instant. We have but to reach out into the ether to dispel all that time can construct around us. My very existence was purposed so that in a single moment, a singular fragment of history, the planes could breath and in that breath consume my life and in the very next exhale an essence more powerful than I could ever hope to be. My life has been spent waiting in and on time, so no Kildrak. I will not rest now upon this spire with you for I am needed. We are all needed as we have always been. The strength that lifts is only supplement to the strength that sustains, and that is what I ask of you now. That is what I ask of all of you. Stay your wounds, and steal your weapons a bit longer from the sheaths for which I know they so hunger for so as to give solace to your aching hands and the burdens that bite tear at your backs. And do not this deed lone for Bahamut, but for all those whom you fight for. For a brother. For a father, mother, and queen. For a soul, for a conscience, and even for glory, Kildrak. For what greater glory is there to be had in this life or the next then to go gnawing and ripping into the dark from which you tire, only to beat it back with less strength than whence it’s entrance gripped you. We all tire. We will always tire. The powerful play goes on and we may contribute a verse. What will your verse be? And how loud will you proclaim it?”

And with that I tore my feet from the ground which they so yearned to rest upon if only for a moment longer. Like weights they tired with the fight that only fear can bring to pull me down. Yet my wings beat on, taking me closer and closer to the clash that was inevitable. Where I would stand by my god’s side and embrace him in life or death which ever might come first, for to deny my god would be death.

I neared the flaming falls and as I burst forth through them I felt the searing pain that I knew awaited me in their fiery grasp and yet as I burst forth from the falls, the fire licking at my scales with a thirst unquenched, a renewed sense overcame me at it’s burning hands met my skin, and I thought to myself, “If I am able to feel this much pain, then in the reverse I must be able to feel this much elation.” And it all came back to me. My past life… my wife standing on the Arkhosian temple steps… my companion and friend Basix as he once was… I had felt happy then. And I would feel happy again someday. I would overcome this pain and in a day that once shined so bright, but was now so dark, so sheltered by the tendrils that reach out from the recesses of lost hope to obscure the eyes of faith, I would rejoice. I would smile again in the presence of my compatriots and in the halls of fellowship and for that I flew on renewed by what once hurt me, but could never hurt me again.

As I reached the fallen form of Bahamut lying below the hideous behemoth form of Namissi, I could view his breast plate of platinum scales still heaving. Though they were scarred and blood birthed from many wounds about his newly risen body he still had breathe in him. It was so clear what I had to do.

I call now,” I spoke aloud to myself, “upon that words that time has forgotten to be recalled now to my soul. Oh though we all may one day slip into the eons that pass into forsaken corners of space that time destroys and turns to dust I stand HERE! NOW! IN THIS MOMENT! I command all that is in me to exist not only from this moment to the next, but to turn the wheel of time and act upon the levers that will continue to turn forevermore! FOR THAT IS NOT DEAD WHICH CAN ETERNAL LIE! AND WITH STRANGE AEONS EVEN DEATH MAY DIE!!!”
Kydan, Dragonborn Runepriest, illustrated by Symatt
I would like to say that I then charged at Namissi with every part of me that would move, but I do not think there was enough within to gather the strength to me. I charged at Namissi with as much strength as a man charges the earth when falling. I was so unaware of all around me that I’m not sure how hard I hit Namissi, all I know is that it was enough for my blow followed true and the ancient runes bound in my body ignited and I turned with my open palm to Bahamut and as the healing light burst forth to drench the Platinum Dragon in radiance, I saw my god rise.

To his full form he rose, but he did not stop there. It seemed he had become more now in his resurgence than he was before in life. His anger was reformed, his rage re-ignited, and his spirit as violent as a Tarrasque!

Forward my god sprang, his powerful wings beating and breaking the air itself. Namissi was bewildered for but a fraction in time, yet that was all it took. That was all I needed. Like my god towering over me, my conscience and fortitude was set ablaze. Bahamut’s head reared back and forth, striking and biting he tore forward at the giant blue exarch of Tiamat. Their claws and teeth clashed again and again. Their blows were like thunder, their moments like water. Ichor seeped forth from the many wounds they exchanged. It was then that I ruptured onwards to aid my Lord in battle. I felt my body grow in stature as my weapon found its mark on the exarch. Together we fought though my body was weak my spirit spurred me onward, begging my muscle for just a moments more energy. Just enough to finish what had begun.

In an instant though the battle rounded on us as Namissi’s strength seemed to double. His ferocity was impossible, his fury unstoppable. He knew he was the final exarch. The final hurdle between us and Tiamat and his queen would have a show of him before his body adorned the ground in defeat. A defeat that had seemed inevitable only seconds ago. My strength was failing me. I was failing me. I begged and pleaded with my body to continue but I was broken. Time had won. Kildrak was right I had to rest.

Stand little one! Stand as you can. On your knees if you must, crawl if it is all you can rally, save do not cease. He is almost overtaken!”

My body is breaking within me Bahamut…”

As it should, as it has, and as it will again before your time is through. But that time is not now.”

I wish to…”

Do not wish. Wishes are for those who cannot gather the strength to try! You and your patriots have tried and succeeded a thousand fold. In some ways more than I.”

My weapon is too heavy; my shield is a weight to the grave.”

Then cast them off and fight with your body and soul! The fight is ours as long as we never give up.”

I feel the defeat in the corners of my essence, hiding and waiting for the darkness to come so that they may rise up and drag me down.”

Defeat is in all of us little one. It always will be. You must learn to not run from it, but set after defeat and burn it! Let defeat be the fuel that spurs you on! You and your compatriots have done the impossible so many times before and I ask it of them and you again! Spit in the face of impossible and take to defeat like a battering ram!!!”

It was over in the next instant. Namissi’s rage was so all-consuming on Bahamut and I that his blindside was turned on his conquerors. As Namissi threw all he had against us, Kildrak, Muffi, Bettledex, Hermy, and Xune came like the fires of all the Nine Hells down upon his form as arrows, magic, swords and hammers falling together in harmony, breaking into the back of the beast. Their aim was true, their swings flawless. The raven’s wings enclosed and snuffed out the light of Namissi blow after blow. Sparks flew as iron and metal clashed upon tooth and scale. The littlest creatures can often pack the hardest hits. Rage as I had never seen before poured out of the dwarf’s maw. His hammer falls rivaled Erek-Hus’ deathly swing. Spells flew hitherto birthing rocks and flame anew in life. Bettledex manipulated the very world surrounding us and bid it to rise up against the final exarch. And from Xune’s crossbow, a single bolt: an ancient and most sacred artifact, The Arrow of Fate. She loaded the arrow of bone and with well timed precision and aim that only falls from those most… cunning, she fired it directly into the beast’s belly and he was cast down upon the ground beneath us. Namissi was fallen.

So that's how our session is starting this week......

I love Epic Tier D&D.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Can YOU Heal a God?

*Warning, this post contains spoilers from the Scales of War adventure have been warned.*

So you know that moment when you think you have them by the throat and it all turns around and suddenly you find yourself scrambling to cover your butt? Yeah, that happened in my campaign.

We started a session with a knockdown, drawn-out fight against an evil Drow king who had usurped the throne of the Efreet in the City of Brass and was infusing his troops with elemental fire immediately followed by a battle against a fire infused white dragon that they had to fly through a waterfall of fire to even gain access to. The PCs were down to a handful of healing surges, tons of daily powers spent and half of them were still bloodied and after all that, I planned on ending the session by having the PCs witness the defeat of Bahamut who they had just helped raised from the dead with a gargantuan blue dragon (who happens to be the blue exarch of Tiamat) stand over the fallen unconscious form of the dragon god. The party was going to have to make some tough choices now! Face the exarch of an evil god with pretty greatly reduced resources and possibly face character death or take the time to rest and leave Bahamut at the mercy of a hideous foe. I had my evil cackle all ready too.

Immediately, the dragonborn runepriest bolts through the fire waterfall and streaks through the air to save his patron deity. The rest of the party is licking their wounds trying to gather their wits and we start to tear down for the night with the runepriest all by himself outside and he is flipping through his character sheet and says, "Can I do something real quick?"

"Sure," I respond because I figured whatever he had to say or do really quick wouldn't greatly impact the way the encounter picks up the following session having no idea what would come from this simple round of actions. What harm could it do, really?

The runepriest then proceeded to attack Namissi and used his Rune of Awakening on Bahamut. With a single attack, Bahamut regained all his hit points...

...Once I recovered from the shock of that revelation.... the runepriest used Rune of Hero's Resolve grant Bahamut (who is undoubtedly his ally) temporary hit points equal to his current hit point total. So Bahamut has his full hit point total and then once again...

Man, I didn't see that coming.

So we ended our session with my jaw dropped for the second week in a row. I honestly never expected something like this and again I was taken aback by how great it was. How powerful is a story that grows out of a divine character who finds himself housing the divine spark of a god who is murdered and given the chance to bring him back to life and now once again  uses new found strength to respond to the threat and strike back a blow against the mortal foe of his god and restore his god to strength as well.

Now, I've gone back over my decision to let the healing roll and with how I'm going to make this work and I think it is pretty cool. I've debated whether or not it makes sense that a divine character could in fact heal the god he gets his healing from and if he were a cleric or paladin, I might not have allowed it, but the runepriest is a pretty interesting dynamic. He gains his power from the ancient, runic language he works through. So the ancient words he is using to restore Bahamut would technically be older than the dragon god himself so HECK YES it will bring him back to full hit points with temporary hit points equal to his maximum.

What I have decided to do is essentially turn the narrative reins over to the runepriest's player and I'm going to have him write out the story of how he and Bahamut take down the evil exarch. I'm not going make the rest of the party sit through a slog fest of two mighty Solo beasties going at each other since there will be over 3,500 hit points on the board (more if you account for the healing the runepriest could still dish out). So as a reward for creative planning and use of powers, my player (who is also a DM in his own right) will finish out our story for this piece of the adventure (which is terrifying), but also exciting because a big cinematic ending is perfect for this series of adventure and will lead into a great "cutscene" sequence that will set me up for the hook for the last adventure of the campaign.