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Campaign on the Precipice


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Initial post: Apr 8, 2010 10:14:41 AM PDT
Bruul says:
So we had an unbelievable session last night. Nearing the end of our quest to find the Sword of Kas and escape the demi-plane of Monadhan we found ourselves battling an undead dragon. This particular dragon had the ability to dominate the party.

Near the end of the battle both the barbarian and the battle priest are dominated and hacking away at each other. Right as were about to drop the dragon the barbarian crits the cleric taking him from 34 hp to -100 in a single shot. Despite all the tricks up his sleeve to prevent death (while dominated) he can try none of them and dies instantly. The party is down to three and the warden drops the round before the dragon finally dies to the rangers blades.

We collect the dragon's horde and the Sword of Kas as we take a short rest. As we are walking toward the portal to leave this hellish place that has killed a PC three times Kas shows up and demands his sword immediately. The warden starts to negotiate with Kas; the ranger (who has the sword) starts looking at the portal thinking to leave; and of course the barbarian distraught by his accidental murder of his friend draws his full blade fully intending to cut the vampire in half. We ended on that cliff hanger. Three 22nd level PC's against a level 26 solo vampire, 3 squares from the portal.

I see a few possible outcomes that will not end the campaign:
- They kill Kas and use the sword to activate the portal. (unlikely)

- They hold Kas off long enough to activate the portal and make a hasty retreat. (possible)

- The make a new deal with Kas, enlisting his help to get them all out of Monadhan and back to Faerun. (dependent on roleplaying)

- Kas defeats them, claims the sword and turns them into vampires to serve him. (very possible)

Any of you DM's out there have other creative ideas to keep this campaign going? I love cliff hanger stopping points. None of my players think they have a chance in Hades to of making it out of there. None of the living PC's are ritual casters or healers. Without Kas' help there is little chance of success but getting his help is pretty unlikley as well. He is the master of betrayal after all.

Posted on Apr 8, 2010 10:39:41 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 8, 2010 10:42:36 AM PDT
Coma_toes says:
Well, if the cleric died, it might just be time for a mysterious and powerful stranger to show up just in the nick of time to give the heroes the edge they need to prevail!

This person could be:
- One of Kas's former allies/lieutenants, having a sudden attack of conscience
- A lurking sneaky guy that's been tracking Kas for years, waiting for the right moment
- A hero/mercenary ported in by a powerful mage or god who has a stake in the outcome of this battle
- A dormant Living Construct re-animated by recent events.

(ooc: The cleric players new character comes to the rescue)

Posted on Apr 8, 2010 11:07:34 AM PDT
Doom says:
Really, they hold off Kas long enough to activate the portal seems the best way to go, but if you're looking for an alternate approach:

Kas strikes a bargain with the PCs, sending them into a life-temple (or some place he seriously, seriously, doesn't want to go) to recover some important artifact he wants.

Kas raises the dead PCs as vampires 'under his control'...this keeps the players with the party and able to contribute to the campaign. Give them some fun vampiric powers (and vulnerability to radiant), let them know they're subject to domination by Kas whenever he feels like it.

The life-temple is, of course, very hostile to undead, shutting down regeneration...so that basically the vampire players get vulnerability, but nothing else (hey, still beats being dead...). The life-temple naturally has plenty of creatures dealing radiant damage--there's a reason why Kas didn't want to go there, after all.

Hopefully, the players will get to the inner sanctum and enlist some sort of aid against Kas, getting the vampirism cured or otherwise negated (the temple also protects against Kas' domination power--he doesn't know that since he's never tried this before). This lets them set up a double-cross, giving them a chance to survive Kas' double cross.

Or, they retrieve the artifact, and likely get slaughtered when Kas betrays them (as he nearly certainly would, no way he's turning down powerful vampire servants, after all).

At least, that's off the top of my head something that could happen.

Posted on Apr 8, 2010 1:31:55 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 8, 2010 1:33:05 PM PDT
Bruul says:
Toes-
I'm not one to pull the whole "mysterious savior" thing on epic level characters. They ARE the saviors in my campaign. The place they are in is a demi-plane like Ravenloft. Not exactly easy to get there and even harder to get out. I don't think anyone would go there voluntarily knowing that you can't get out. Our group only went in because we knew he secret of how to get out before we entered the demi-plane.

Another thought I had is to have the spirit of my cleric still be with them. Have their healing surges gain the benefit of the cleric's Healers Lore, or allow the "spirt" to use non-offensive abilites like Healing word or Utility powers. Limit it to one action every round or something. Not sure if that would come off as cheesy.

Doom-
I like where you're going with this idea. To take your direction, one scenario I thought of is that Kas either makes a deal or turns them into vampires. Either way, my thought is that while Kas can cast and use rituals he may not have access to a ritual book that has the ones he needs.

It just so happens that the whole reason we went to Monadhan in the first place was to reach the private demi-plane sanctum of a powerful lich ritualist who has been working on an epic ritual for Tiamat to be used against Bahamut. That's where the portal goes.

So Kas may enlist/enslave the party to help him clear out the Lich's lair to gain access to the rituals contained there. Since we were on that mission in the first place my next adventure is still more or less intact with a few changes to the reason we are there.

The greater issue is that we will be without a leader/healer for that entire adventure. I'm not sure how 4e will run at 22-23rd level with no healer. It will be way harder than ever intended, even with Kas there taking and dealing alot of the damage. I really hope he turns them into vampires because I can give them regeneration to sorta off set the lack of healing.

Posted on Apr 8, 2010 7:39:18 PM PDT
Andrew says:
Divine intervention?

Depending on deity, PC could come back as a Revenant (Dragon #376). "For most, death represents the gateway to the afterlife or the end of a natural existence. Yet for some, the Raven Queen bars passage, turning their souls back to the world. For these rare few, fate has other plans..."

Short one on one session with deceased character, skill challenge perhaps to bargain for their life, and spontaneous rebirth.

Posted on Apr 9, 2010 11:05:37 PM PDT
Doom says:
Guess I got confused...are you the GM for this, or a party member?

If a party member, then 'hold off Kas and break for the portal' will be best supported by your GM, since it requires the least amount of effort for him.

Don't underestimate the defensive encounter abilities of a high-level party, you should easily have enough 'that doesn't work' interrupts and 'take another save' abilities to survive the hopefully few rounds necessary to get to choppa, as Arnie would say.

Posted on Apr 10, 2010 3:10:20 PM PDT
Bruul says:
Doom-

I'm both the DM and I run the now dead cleric. We play this out on sunday. I'm hoping they try to strike a deal with Kas. I read a bit more about him and he seems like a pretty honorable vampire. He's called the "Betrayer" because of what he did to Vecna with the Eye and Hand and all that.

I've talked with my players a bit these last few days, they pretty much told me what they plan on doing.

Barbarian player: "I'm gonna take his head off!"

Ranger player: "I'm gonna head for the portal."

Warden player: "Were not gonna make it."

With that as the vibe, I'm looking forward to sunday afternoon with great anticipaction. It could go so many ways.

Posted on Apr 12, 2010 5:44:21 AM PDT
Coma_toes says:
Ah, I didn't realize that you were both the DM and the cleric. In talking with Kas, you do have one important bargaining chip: The soul and corpse of the cleric - depending on the alignment of the PCs.

Kas: "I'll let you pick two:
-You can keep your friend's corpse (or else I raise him as an abomination)
-You make it through the portal safely
-You keep the sword"

seems like a tough choice

Posted on Apr 12, 2010 8:50:24 AM PDT
Bruul says:
Well we played it out last night and the the result...TPK.

I began the session with re-capping right up to where the Kas steps out to collect this prize and we we rolled initative. Somehow I rolled a 2 for Kas so even with his +20 he was on 22 and all of the PC's beat him. The Eladrin headed for the portal as I predicted. The Warden surprised me by attacking rather than trying diplomacy, it paid off as he rolled a crit on his best daily power right out the gate resulting in a prone and stunned Kas. The barbarian moved in launching right into his Winter Phoenix Rage followed with a action point Storm of Blades. He missed for half damage on the rage and then critted on the first swing of the storm of blades getting a crit and hit out of it. Kas lost his first round of actions due to the stun but made his save.

The second round there was another crit form the Ranger when he realized the rest of the group was gonna stay and fight. The Warden didn't get another solid hit the rest of the battle but still did 6hp each miss due to his Hammer Rhythm feat. The barbarian kept coming with rage strikes and encounter powers until he was down to at-wills. Once Kas got to go on the second round he opened with dominating the barbarian and then proceeded to do regular damage to the party for the rest of the battle.

Honestly, I thought that they had him with such a strong opening. It took everything they had to bloody him. From that point on it was a slow agonizing creep to TPK. They just wouldn't give up or change strategy. I had Kas taunt them with promises of un-life, tell them that they don't ALL have to die, even told them that he would allow them to follow him through the portal. They weren't having it. They fought to the last.

The battle ended with the Warden and the Eladrin on their second death save as the barbarian fell. I had them roll one more round of death saves, the Warden failed and died, then the Ranger and Barbarian awoke to their new unlife on the other side of the portal. I had every intention of running the next adventure as Kas did not have a ritual book to cast the plannar portal ritual before my Ranger player stole my thunder by reminding me that if Kas grabbed all of the Cleric's and Wardens gear (which he had) that he had the Cleric's ritual book and there was really no need to even bother with the Lich ritualist. At that, I declared the campaign a TPK and we had a very somber rest of the night.

We re-hashed the battle a few times. It really came down to the dice. If the PC's had hit a few more times with their good powers they would have had him. Another crit and they would have had him. A few less recharges on the dominate and they would have had him. A few more saving throws and they would have had him.

They had him down to about 150hp at one point. Pretty good for a three man party with no leader. If they would have had the cleric, it would have gone the PC's way easily.

Now we are trying to figure out what to do until Dark Sun comes out in august. I bought Revenge of the Giants a few months ago and this group has a history with Against the Giants so I may do that to fill up the next few months. At this point, everyone agreed a week or two off was a good idea to let this defeat digest. Starting one shot 12th-17th level PC's could be a really fun chance to try something they may not want to run for a full 1-30 campaign. I guess we'll see in the next few weeks.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 12, 2010 10:37:17 AM PDT
Coma_toes says:
Sounds Epic, like D&D how it's meant to be.

The party's also missing a controller - they're usually looked down upon but a good controller can really shut down a solo baddie sometimes (or even a dominated ally!)

Posted on Apr 12, 2010 11:30:02 AM PDT
P. Gurdgiel says:
Personally, at that level of play I'd probably let story win out over mechanics and find some way to bring them back - most likely by having Kas reanimate them and use them for his own endgame that is forwarded by them completing their original quest.

On one hand, I understand wanting to keep the threat there, but that has the feel of a TV series canceled before it's final season or a series of books that never gets it's ending for some reason. It's just not a lot of fun in my opinion.

Posted on Apr 12, 2010 1:49:14 PM PDT
Bruul says:
Coma-toes-
It was epic and any other character would have turned the tide. Leader or Controller.

PG-
Have to agree with you there. It was very anti-climantic. I gave them plenty of opportunity to back off and make a deal, but they pressed on. They thought they could win and so did I after such a great start. I could have fudged something to keep it going but it would have felt forced. I thought about what Kas wants and it has nothing to do with the Tiamat/Bahamut struggle. Two of them are now vampires, not enough to keep going with the camapign as vampires. I'm okay with it as DM. I'm totally ready to try out some new characters. Going a full 1-30 isn't something I've ever done before. For my group, if I pulled my punches or altered things just so they could win it would cheapen the victories they do win. So I usually let the chips fall where they may and see what happens. If that puts another TPK notch in my DM screen, so be it. At least they know that things will always turn out they way they were meant to rather than the way I wanted them to.

We're planning on doing a "party building" session where the group will determine what the party has been doing during the heroic tier that we will not be playing out. We will be taking on PCs that are the decendents of the original group that made it through Against the Giants back in 2e. There is already enthusiasm for this idea so we'll roll with the punches until Dark Sun where the players are eagerly expecting gritty death filled adventures. They were joking about their third DS PCs making it to retirement last night.

Posted on Apr 16, 2010 8:25:07 AM PDT
davrion says:
Depending on how much the group is into roleplaying, you could have a known NPC show up to help them ("run into the portal!") and hold off the opposition. Then kill off this NPC to drive home that their choices led to this NPC's demise (and have other NPC's aware of this fact too). May not feasible for a specific campaign, but it may give the players some motivation and some indirect nudging as well.

Posted on Apr 18, 2010 12:13:11 PM PDT
Drummer4.0 says:
OK, so I see that this thread hasn't been touched in a while, so I'm just going to spill out what's on my mind here (instead of starting my own thread); please don't eat me!
So I'm running the same campaign that Bruul is (or was) here, but an interesting detail has come up that I haven't seen in this game before. We're running the Siege of Bordrin's Watch adventure, and there's a group called the farstriders who are sent on the most dangerous mission in an effort to stave off an orc invasion. They are going to die. That's what the adventure says. So naturally, I introduced this group of NPCs to the party, and they got along fine.
...However, our infernal warlock fell in love with the other party's warlock, Jen. And our warlock isn't ordinary. He's mentally unstable. And a scarecrow. Nevertheless, their love persisted, and now they are on their seperate missions.

And my warlock's player knows nothing of what's to come. MWAHAHA. Luckily he's my best RPer, so when the corpses are found, he has a good reaction that we'll all remember.
What I'm wondering about though is whether or not he will truly go insane after this loss... Only time will tell. Boy, can't wait for two weeks from now...

Posted on Apr 18, 2010 6:48:27 PM PDT
Bruul says:
Drummer,
All the Farstiders don't get killed, only Jen. Lol. Too bad for your player's PC. They actually come up a few more times in the adventure path. Their last appearance is late in the paragon teir, Garaitha's Anvil I think (level 17).

Posted on Apr 19, 2010 6:19:41 AM PDT
Drummer4.0 says:
Seriously?! I need to re-read that adventure. I'm pretty sure it says they all die.
..."Their statistics are not necessary, since they are all slain in their attempt to seal the nexus..."
Yep. They all die. Too bad for my players...

Posted on Apr 19, 2010 12:15:22 PM PDT
Bruul says:
Maybe it is a different group I'm thinking of. Megan Swiftblade and her crew show up a few more times for sure. I know she's in the The Temple Between, Mottled Tower and Garaitha's Anvil at least.

Posted on Apr 19, 2010 12:44:12 PM PDT
That definately sounded epic and at least your guys went down fighting - first an undead dragon then Kas...not easy foes!

Posted on Apr 19, 2010 12:50:28 PM PDT
Bruul says:
I was Nathan. If that darn barbarian didn't crit so hard, the cleric would have lived and they would have been able to defeat Kas. It happens (shrug). I really was looking forward to taking on Tiamat at level 30...

Posted on Apr 20, 2010 6:18:43 AM PDT
Drummer4.0 says:
I know! I can't wait for that (probably going to have to wait a YEAR...)
But it will be fun!

...Any other tips for running Siege of Bordrin's Watch I should know, Bruul?

Posted on Apr 20, 2010 10:15:34 AM PDT
Bruul says:
The best part of that adventure was the end where they fight in the really tall room that fills with boiling water as orcs keep pouring in at the same time. I'd recommend not being a slave to the dice and have the orcs show up when and where you want them rather than how the adventure is written. What ever fits your sense of dramatic tension. When we played it, the party was fighting all the way up to the point they had to make a quick run up the ladder leaving the big-bad to be boiled alive. Very memorable. "The battle of the boiling orcs" we called it.

Our group also got very attached to Kalad and even raised him in a later adventure when he died helping us. Pretty rare for PC's to spend their gold to raise an NPC.

Posted on Apr 21, 2010 3:42:01 PM PDT
Doom says:
Wow, my players always want to kill NPCs, sometimes PCs too...and stray animals...and inanimate objects that might turn animate some day. :P

Posted on Apr 21, 2010 4:49:31 PM PDT
Bruul says:
Doom-

Lol. I've DM'd a group like that before. My current group has pretty mature tastes so killing each other and the friendly NPC's is pretty rare nowadays. Have you ever put a statue in a room and the players just insist that it's gonna animate any second and attack them?

My TPK actually had pretty good timing. My schedule just changed at work to nights, so now my Sunday sessions have to move to Friday to keep my fiance happy. This change has me losing the Warden player and gaining two old players back. The same two that I had lost last year. Funny how things work out. Best part is that the friction in the group was between the guy I'm losing and the guys I'm getting back.
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Initial post:  Apr 8, 2010
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