Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The Most Metal Campaign of All Time

We ran through the first session of the Most Metal Campaign of All Time last night, and it went pretty okay. The start of the session was a little rough, which was entirely my own fault for not having a clearer idea of where the campaign started. I could well have started it a half hour later in the story, and everything would have been just fine. I'm running double experience on a four-person group, and we made it through four combat encounters and a skill challenge in the five hours we played. One of those encounters was a level five solo, so we managed to skip second level entirely. The solo encounter was mixed with a minor skill challenge (sort of), but it worked out. Next time, I think I'll handle the skills part of it a little differently.

We started out at the Library of Geth, a place built on the cliffs between Capp and the Fibular Wastelands. It is a fortress full of books, many of them very important or ridiculously powerful. The city-state of Sternum uses the Library as a repository for things like their census, tax records, and declarations of war. The drow from the Spine of the World use it to store their most important magical teachings. It has never, in its history, had a book stolen from it. Until yesterday.

The Library's guards are some of the best-trained soldiers in the world, but it is the opinion of the Archbishop that the retrieval of the book does not require soldiers; it requires bad-asses. The thief flew into the library, took the book, set some things on fire, killed a squad of guards with little difficulty and flew away. For this mission, the Archbishop requests audience with some of the biggest names in kicking ass. On any normal mission, one of these people would be enough. For this, they'll need to join forces, move past their differences, and learn to work together.

After beating some information out of the locals at a pub, they discover that the thief was apparently a woman in a cauldron, rowing her way through the air with a broom. She was heading south, across the Fibular Wasteland, which is where our heroes trek. Getting across the waste was a skill challenge in three parts. After the first few successes, the party met AkTakk, the leader of one of the many gnoll tribes in the area. After talking with the group (and a successful Diplomacy check, which was part of the Skill Challenge), AkTakk offered his aid to the group, sending the message along to other gnoll and kobold tribes in the area.

He informs them that he has seen the woman who flies in a cauldron before, and that she also owns a hut that walks on chicken legs, and that she has taken up residence in the southern Tarsil Mountains. This is the second time the group has heard about the chicken-hut, and it became something of a symbol for the session. ^_^ It should be noted that I basically stole Baba Yaga wholesale from Russian folklore. I think a witch who flies in a cauldron and eats babies is pretty fucking metal, so she's in.

It should be noted that I hate dragon-kobolds. In my game, they’re all dog-kobolds, and they are more closely related to gnolls than anything.

After a few failures, the group stumbled upon a group of undead gnolls and kobolds, and there was an altercation. It was a tough fight, as the kobold slingers had the high ground (they were situated on the tops of hoodoos; for those who did not grow up around Drumheller, a hoodoo is like a fucked-up backwards mountain; the big rocks are on the top, the little rocks are on the bottom. They make weird pillar things. They’re awesome. The ones in Drumheller are usually some ten feet tall). Our heroes handily won the fight, and were met by another tribe of gnolls who were coming to their aid; together, they made it to the base of the Tarsil Caves, a series of black volcanic caves that jut out from the southern edge of the waste.

The first cave shows signs of habitation, with bootprints and regularly walked paths. The heroes push further back into the caves, squeezing into a narrow choke-point and being met by a group of black-cloaked cultists armed to the teeth. I love humans as monsters, by the by. Their higher-than-average defences and their seeming habitual use of reach weapons can be devastating in a fight. This fight was particularly tough, of the four pre-boss fights; the choke point meant that only three of the characters were visible enough to hit, focusing enemy fire (I make a habit of spreading out my damage when I’m playing a story-based games. It makes the encounters tough, but not debilitating; I only go after a single character when they make me).

After dispatching the first of the Witch’s cultists, the party is confronted by the woman herself, and two of the undead gnolls she’s been keeping around. There’s a parley, from which the Witch leaves, mocking the party, to be replaced by her favourite surgeon, Scalpel. Scalpel got some basic healing powers, and kept buffing the undead up, which was fun to watch. I ran the buffs fast and loose, arbitrarily deciding that he would heal them to just above their bloodied point. The tactical decisions to be made (“Focus fire on the skeletons, or kill the healer? Oh god, they’re big and scary again...) were fun to watch from the position of an Evil God, and seeing them interact with Scalpel was a lot of fun. He was a bastard and I loved playing him.

The final encounter for the night was not, as suspected, against the Witch, but instead against the thing she has awakened with her new book. She taunts the party one more time before awakening the Colossus of Tarsil, a gargantuan creature of stone and flesh. The colossus was stolen part and parcel from Shadow of the Colossus, which is an amazing game for the PS2 should ever you get your hands on it. Basically, he’s immune to damage until you hit his weak spot. Each of the colossi in the game will have different weak spots, and each one will be activated by different skill checks. They managed to get this one turned off pretty quickly and start dishing out the damage, which didn’t take away from the fact that the fucker’s a level 5 solo and the group are all first level. The fight was tough, with burst effects that hit everyone on the map and 4d6 damage punches. I calmed down a little on the number of attacks, as they were down a player, and it was still a challenging fight, but I probably could have turned up the heat and it wouldn’t have gotten crazy. The next colossus will be harder. I hope to have at least two players drop into negatives from a boss fight.
There are some pictures of the boss-fight in action. JP will be e-mailing them to me soon. Also, I'll be talking a bit about some of the more interesting parts of the game a bit more in-depth later: the theme, the tone of the game in play, the skill challenge (and how I actually run them as opposed to how I write them), skill challenges in general, and why anyone would use a glow-in-the-dark My Little Cthulhu as a miniature.

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