John "The Gneech" Robey (the_gneech) wrote,
John "The Gneech" Robey
the_gneech

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"Dragon!" *scatter*

We started the last chapter of Red Hand of Doom last night, in which the heroes must travel to the Fane of Tiamat and prevent Azzar Kuul from completing his ceremony to summon the dragon goddess and let her run amok. First, the party got a new member in the form of a dwarven cleric named Braegli, recruited by Sellyria Starsinger to provide extra healing support since she was too old to come along and help in person. Sorrana, former captain of the guard of Drellin's Ferry, also joined up, having gained a level during the battle of Brindol. In order to save days of riding back across Elsir Vale, they used a custom teleport spell created by Immerstal the Red to carry them back to Drellin's Ferry (where it all started). The teleport went smoothly enough (other than dropping hantamouse unceremoniously into the river), but once they were at the town they discovered an occupational force consisting of a fire giant, a minotaur, and a handful of hobgoblin veterans, living it up on the stores of the Old Bridge Inn. [1] Well of course the players were having none of this, so after attempting to set up a distraction with a cart full of burning debris (which was only semi-effective, due to some seriously blown Spot checks by the hobgoblins), they went charging in. Dawngreeter Michael, sirfox's gnoll cleric, basically soloed the minotaur and a couple of hobgoblins, while the rest of the party wailed on the fire giant and his pair of hobgoblin flunkies.

For a "warm-up encounter," this could have ended badly for jamesbarrett's bard-barian, who kept rolling piddly damage against the giant while getting hit twice a round for 3d6+15 each time. The shot that would have instantly killed him, the giant instead chose to hit Captain Soranna with, one-punching her out of the fight, but not killing her outright. The rest of the party was there by then to provide healing and gang up on the giant, and he went down shortly after that. Having dispatched the Drellin's Ferry occupational forces, the party traveled on to Vraath Keep, where they found Old Warklegnaw in residence and a dozen dead hobgoblins scattered about. Over some, uh, delicious-thank-you-very-much-no-I-couldn't-possibly-have-seconds boar stew, Warklegnaw told them a bit about their destination and offered to toss them across Skull Gorge in order to save them having to go around. Fortunately, thanks to laurie_robey's newly acquired mass fly spell, this was not necessary.

The next two days were spent in hard riding, uneventful except for the occasional sighting of dragon patrols. On the third day, as they actually started riding up into the mountains, the long-anticipated attack came. Regiarix, the black dragon from the ruins of Rhest, and Abithriax, the red dragon who'd wreaked so much havoc (and slain both laurie_robey's sorceress and Captain Soranna), attempted to ambush them by flying in low from relative cover. Fortunately for the heroes, their longtime ranger companion Jorr managed to make an amazing Spot check as Regiarix made his approach, giving the party a few rounds to scatter and buff themselves up for battle.

(hantamouse: "Run for the woods!" the_gneech: "Um, there are no woods. It's mostly scrub and patches of rock." hantamouse: "NO WOODS?!? What'll we do for cover? That changes everything! Not having woods is like being naked!" the_gneech: "Well, guess what?" jamesbarrett: "You're naked, dude.")

To be at least a little merciful, I did put a tree nearby. ;) It didn't help.

Thus began the grudge match. Regiarix, having been rather brutally disciplined for having parleyed with the party in their initial encounter instead of just plain killing them (and for having let them acquire the Ghostlord's phylactery), was not about to make the same mistake again. Not that he could parley anyway, with his tongue having been torn out. He opened up the fight with his acid spray, but was fairly quickly dispatched thanks to searing light from sirfox, several well-placed arrows, and jamesbarrett's burning desire to earn the title "Dragonslayer." (He's got two, now!)

Abithriax was more of a challenge. He also opened up with his breath weapon, an 8d10 inferno that again one-punched Captain Soranna [2] and put some serious hurt on laurie_robey. This time, laurie_robey returned the favor thanks to a scroll of cone of cold purchased pretty much for just this purpose — Abithriax blew his saving throw and took double damage (10d6 x 2, baby!). However, Abithriax didn't seem to notice this, as hantamouse had distracted him by hitting him with his shiny new dragon-bane bow.

Abithriax used a tail sweep to knock hantamouse's archer down and was preparing to do the old "bite +24 (2d6+9) and 2 claws each +22 (1d8+4) and 2 wings each +22 (1d6+4)" routine, but a well-placed tumble allowed hantamouse to scramble away while sirfox critically-hit the dragon with another searing light, doing something like 42 points of damage. Abithriax hit the archer and the cleric with another flame breath attack, but then Braegli (the new guy) cast blindness on the dragon, which threw it into a panic. hantamouse opened up on him with the dragon-bane bow, leaving the dragon at 1 hit point. At this point, Captain Soranna, revived with a cure potion, took him down with a shot from her own bow, getting cheers from around the table.

Having taken care of these last loose ends, the party patched themselves up and continued their journey. The came to a rise where they could see the Fane of Tiamat's looming menace of the far side of a valley, and noticed that for the first time since they'd arrived in Elsir Vale, it was getting cloudy. And that's where we broke until next week.

-The Gneech

[1] This encounter wasn't in the module as written; I put it in to replace the very dull random encounters of the Wyrmsmoke Mountains. The book doesn't mention anything about the post-horde state of Drellin's Ferry, which struck me as a notable omission. Thematically, having "come full circle" and now moving into the big finish, it seemed to me that a little time spent revisiting familiar places would add to the emotional impact. Still, considering how often I have to completely retool modules, Red Hand of Doom has been remarkably usable straight off the shelf.

[2] Being 6th level in an EL 11 party, she is the weakest link.
Tags: adventure, dungeons & dragons, gaming
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