Sunday, April 15, 2012


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

Musing over the battlefield
Two and half years of real life game play. Miles of dungeon complexes. Thousands of monsters slaughtered in the hope of the greater good and future glory. All of it comes down to this final battle. If I screwed this up, all that came before would be forever tainted by the shadow of a weakened final boss.

No pressure. Fortunately, I have the benefit of those who have come before and found many of the potholes in Epic Tier combats. Fighting the gods (or demon lords or such), needs to feel different than fighting orcs, so my goal was to use the lessons learned from major end battles I've heard of already to make the final boss fight of my campaign really shine.

So to start things simply, the party finally disabled the disintegrator beams that prevented their upward movement toward Tiamat and took to the air with the wizard's Mass Fly spell. As they moved upward towards the platform (held aloft by a vertical pillar of magma), the music swelled (literally, I'd been prepping a playlist for some time) and they could hear a commanding female voice rise above the cacophony of the roaring energy column. Cresting the edge of the platform, they can see that it is almost entirely made of valuable stones and metals and not just your regular gems and treasure, but 5 foot wide gem stones forming a mosaic of colorful tiling that stretches across the platform with clusters of same colored stones forming circles around five gem-studded statues of heads of different chromatic dragons.

I constructed and painted this using the Hydra from
Reaper, and wings I picked up separately.
These dragon statues play a major role in the encounter and I wanted them to augment Tiamat's own abilities as well as deflect the attention of the party as they began to engage with the final boss. Each of the statues was granting some kind of boon to the dragon queen and while at least one of them stood, she had some pretty substantial resistances. The party quickly came to grips with the fact that they were going to need to deal with the statues before they could engage with the dragon queen, herself. I made a sheet with stats for each of the statues (which had no offensive capabilities themselves) with the skill checks and combat stats necessary to destroy the statues through combat or use of skills. I kept that sheet in front of me with each of the statues mechanics so that as the combat rolled out I could remove the reminders and give the party a physical sense of accomplishment.

Initiative cards posted for all the glory!
So with the terrible dragon head statues imbuing Tiamat with fell power, the party notices the gilded throne perched amongst the statues and seated upon it is a ravishingly beautiful woman. Atop her head is a crown with five spikes of glimmering gems and she is without a doubt the Queen of all Chromatic Dragons. She banters with the party making all kinds of sweet promises and informing the party of their inevitable doom, but the party knows better and as she becomes fed up with their insolence her form ripples revealing her true furious draconic form. And the last ROLL FOR INITIATIVE of our D&D4E experience commenced!

I commissioned some incredible artwork from James Stowe of my party standing together in their full Epic glory for our last session. I used the images to make special initiative cards for each party member. I also printed them a full sized glossy of the group shot as a gift. I also made initiative cards for each of Tiamat's heads. Statting out Tiamat herself was a real challenge. There was the official version of Tiamat, which was a good base, but was still based off of  the original damage values (pre-MM3 update) and just felt 'meh.' I used some updated monster math to balance out her damage numbers and put some serious punch to her attacks. I also added some other effects to make the combat a little more dynamic, but having a solo monster that had five sets of attacks and five different places on the initiative track got complicated. Suffice to say, it's a big stat block.

Many Headed Draconic Split!
With this much stat block, it is really easy to get lost and forget important things. I normally run my game using my computer, but this week I printed everything out. I did this to remove any barrier between the players and myself and I wanted to make sure I had all the powers, interrupts, and nuances of what this powerful epic monster could do directly laid out in front of me. I have basically been reading and reworking this monster for close to two months, so I was pretty aware of just what she could do, but I'd take any help I could get. I started posting the image of the stat block directly here on the blog, but it was just so massive it ended up taking up the bulk of the page, so I decided to put it together here as a pdf to simplify everything.

The battle was a truly epic venture as Tiamat went through transitions every time the party thought they had finally come to the end of  their foe. The party used every epic trick they could think of to match the unfathomable strength of the chromatic dragon queen. When Tiamat finally split into her five enormous draconic forms, the wizard opened up with Meteor Swarm and included all five of the draconic forms in a blast of cosmic might. Hitting three of the five dragons of Tiamat's strength she rolled 241 damage. Yes.  She then used her powers as an Archmage to speed her actions, recall the spell and use an action point to do it again for 226 damage. Yes.

Epic characters of Epic Proportions
Even before Tiamat split, the dwarven barbarian took on his true form as a primordial (that's him in the picture as the storm titan) and the dragonborn runepriest had burst into his platinum draconic form (the gnome is riding him in the picture). All in all, the entire party (except the wizard and the paladin) dropped below 0 hit points and most stayed under bloodied the majority of the battle. I was averaging 80+ hit points of damage per hit with a critical hit that did 200 damage which was interrupted by the gnome artificer who saved the paladin's life. The paladin kept Tiamat focused on her with various effects and I think overall, the dragon took over a hundred radiant and necrotic damage from violating the divine challenge.

The party used the tactics they mastered over 30 levels. Blood was shed both theirs and that of a god and in the end, Tiamat fell. With Tiamat gone, the party was left with the problem of how to stop the self-destruct sequence that Tiamat initiated to fire a blast of elemental power through the mortal world to strike out at Bahamut one last time. I hadn't actually planned out how this could happen. I decided to see what the party would do and their decision was to use the platform itself as a great stopper over the magma geyser to block the explosion and channel it downward. This would still destroy Tiamat's domain, but would spare the rest. The party dropped the platform and summoned the white dragon brood mother they had rescued just the week prior. The white dragon flew off with them while the wizard prepared some teleportation magic to get them free and from the distance of Bahamut's astral domain, they watched Tytherion explode in a burst of elemental energy.

Thus ended our campaign. The heroes were lauded by the forces of good. They were also granted one final meeting with the now truly dying Bahamut whose life was truly bound to the life of his sister, but was convinced that her death was worth his own. Living the two would have been locked in constant combat, but in true death they both find peace and their ages-old conflict would finally end.

We paused and reflected on what could have happened to the characters as they went off to fulfill their epic destinies and discover new adventures beyond this one, but that is an entirely different story.

From left to right:
Kildrak Stormborn (dwarven barbarian), Kydan (dragonborn runepriest), Hermy Blackhand (half-elf paladin), Xune (drow rogue), Muffi Greasemonkey (gnome artificer), and Bettledex (human wizard)


  1. Great post! I especially like that you show actual people playing/prepping (in this case, yourself), instead of the usual shots of minis on a grid.

    And what a classy vest!

    1. Thanks man. I would have showed my players too, but they all got really nervous as soon as I started taking pictures of them. :) It was a great ending. Now I'm itching for the next big thing.