11
Jul
10

DnD Epicness

Yeah, so I’m an even bigger nerd than you thought: I play Dungeons and Dragons. Well, technically I don’t play the RPG Dungeons and Dragons, published by Wizards of the Coast ever since they bought out TSR. I’ve been playing with Paizo rules (with some throwbacks where we deem 3.5 better) for a few years now, and am currently a paladin in a campaign from Paizo’s Pathfinder setting (Curse of the Crimson Throne, in case you were wondering). Last night we had a few epic moments that I felt should be recorded for posterity.

Background: The point of the campaign is to depose the evil queen of Corvosa, who is possessed by the evil headwear she found in the pyramid under Castle Corvosa, the Fangs of Kazavon or Midnight’s Teeth, which actually contains the soul of the dragon warlord of old, Kazavon/Midnight. Along the way, we have found out that it would be a good idea to pick up Serithtiel, the sword wielded by the paladin who slew Kazavon way back when in what was probably an epic quest. The sword now resides in Castle Scarwall, formerly the base of Kazavon the Conquerer, where its wielder was later killed by the orcish hordes Kazavon had originally taken power by defeating. It has been steeped in evil for 800 years, and our delightful DM decided that this was a good time to pull out the Tome of Horrors to amplify the terror and weight of evil in this place. Thus far, our party (Simon (Paladin of Iomedae 10, my character), Janai (Summoner 10), The Storyteller (Bard 3/Rogue 2/Arcane Trickster 5), her baby silver dragon cohort Nimbus, Kairis (Barbarian 4/Frenzied Berserker 6) her pseudodragon cohort Majenko (Sorceror 4), Fizbjorn (Cleric of Shelyn 10)) along with two evil clerics and their pet chain devil (the Fangs of Kazavon is sacred to their god, so they want to help get it off the queen and into a temple) have constructed a Battle Standard, which I must hold with two hands in order to generate a thirty-foot bubble in which the untainted (and only the untainted) may remain untainted from the environment (though we still have to roll Will and Fortitude saves against taint from evil undead encounters), fought some undead things (including the Dread Wraith of Mandraevus, the paladin who had wielded Serithtiel way back when, whose god is now dead and replaced, coincidentally, by my own god, who was a mortal contemporary of Mandraevus), and in general had decent luck wandering the castle.

Now, on with the show.

So, we’re in this tainted castle, where my Paladin needs to hold onto a Battle Standard with both hands lest the party take taint just from being here and we get to the castle kitchens. The ovens are still warm in spite of the castle having been uninhabited for 800 years, the smell of burnt pork prevalent, and the ash shadows of humanoid creatures in each oven. We begin to examine the room, The Storyteller, with an insane spot check, along the cabinet wall, and Kairis with an even insaner spot check along the oven wall. Suddenly, flaming apparitions sweep the room. These are haunts of the fire sub-type, and even our cohorts make their will saves to disbelieve, so no one takes fire damage. Then, the shadows detach from the oven walls… And Kairis takes down one flaming ghoul per round, thus making the baby ice dragon and large water elemental (summons) feel a little useless.

Finding nothing more of interest, we proceeded to check the leftmost of two doors in the north wall. It leads to a courtyard with a whole bunch of minotaur skeletons wielding great axes, who, even if they didn’t notice the door opening, notice it closing, as it is a lot louder. I immediately suggest that Kairis stand in that door, and I in the other, as a bottleneck, with the polearm-wielding cleric behind one of us, and the several casters in the party next back. This is agreed upon, and thus Kairis winds up raging and frenzied (and thus, although reduced to one HP at one point, never in danger of dying), Kairis flattens her opponents, and I (although rolling badly to use the flat of my blade to be more effective against bone creatures) also do my fair share. (Not less; it’s just that Kairis took more than her fair share.) After some discussion and a look at the map we had thus far compiled of the castle, we decided to cross the courtyard and check out the other side.

As we gather in the courtyard, an umbral dragon steps out of a niche in the east wall. Well, damn.

Oddly enough, I roll high for once. (I usually roll horribly on initiative, and I’ve only got a +2 modifier.) This is obviously one of the four evil creatures mentioned in the poem that led us to this place (something about a waiting in its kennel with deadly breath), so I decide to get epic. How far am I? Fifty feet? Perfect. I run forward, planting the Battle Standard as a move equivalent alongside my move action at the twenty foot mark (hooray for dirt courtyards!), charging it with holy energy to allow us to be protected by it for a minute without personal contact with me as a swift action, spend two action points for an extra standard action in the middle of my run, cast Mark of Doom, activate Boots of the Battle Charger to allow me to charge my move speed as a standard action, charge the remaining thirty feet, screaming a challenge, and Smite my foe. (Mark of Doom: opponent takes 1d6 damage per hostile action they make, rounds per caster level no save, no spell resistance, Pal 2. Yes, it is awesome for boss fights.) I roll averageish, which is not good against dragons; my sword dings off its nose.

So, there we have what is called “epic fail.” The dragon goes next (all the people with no initiative bonuses rolled well, I guess; Janai follows, and he has the same Init. mod as I do), and strikes at me six times. This brings me down to 15 HP (and I should be fine, at that, so long as I withdraw next round), and thus the dragon takes 6d6 damage. (I love that spell.)

Oh, and Fizbjorn casts Prayer. It helps us a little, but doesn’t pierce the dragon’s spell resistance, so it’s only half as effective as it should be.

Now, while you know the rest of this battle is going to be fairly epic, you think you’ve heard the most epic single action of the battle so far. Well, you’d be wrong. Janai calmly casts Charm Monster. Roll to overcome spell resistance: 17 on the die. Dragon rolls to resist. Keep in mind, the dragon only has to roll a 4 or better to do so. The DM decides in advance to fudge the roll by rolling twice and taking the higher. (He’s an honest DM like that; he won’t just roll until he gets what he wants or ignore the die in favor of what he wants to happen unles it’s insanely important to the story.) He rolls 2 and 3.

“It is so important to me right now that you not kill each other,” he says to the dragon. Roll Bluff to convince the dragon of his sincerity (he has a +26, so that’s a given), roll Cha to convince the dragon to do something it doesn’t want to do (18 on the die). “Or the rest of the party, for that matter. I realize we may look like champions, but I was sent out by my dark master to find the sword Serithtiel, in order that we may destroy it. My companions and I have tricked this paladin into helping us get through this castle untainted.” Glare at paladin: “Continue to help us and we’ll let you live when we leave.” Roll Bluff on dragon to lie, roll Bluff on paladin to communicate without words that this is an act; roll 15 or higher each time, which makes up for my own pitiful Sense Motive check to receive that message (I have a good modifier, but not good enough to help a 5). Go into the dragon’s lair to talk to it some more, notice a compulsion on it, convince it to let the cleric cast Dispel Evil, thus freeing it from the compulsion that bound it here. It leaves immediately, calling out as it does so that it will wait to talk to us outside the castle, and gives us its hoard as payment for freeing it. Now, this is a pitiful hoard for a Mature Adult Dragon, as it’s been stuck for the last 300 years in this evil place no one has gone to for the last 800 years, but let me repeat that: it was so grateful that it gave us its hoard.

I’d like to mention that this is not the first time Janai has charmed a ridiculously powerful monster for us, and each time has managed to manipulate it in a friendly enough manner that it remained our friend even after the charm wore off. We are now friends with two of the most legendarily dangerous creatures in the myths of the Shoanti people as well as something that could eat them for breakfast. He also yells at the castle, after we feel the universe move in response to the dragon’s leaving, “Just you wait. By the time I’m done with you, you’re going to be my summer home!” He’s going to be the most epic character of us all by the time we’re through, even if the rest of the world thinks it’ll be The Storyteller (with her +23 Perform: Oratory, insanely high (often critical) rolls to perform, and Leadership so high she has a baby dragon for a cohort).

Also, in great Paizo fashion, I can easily tell that the dragon’s name was generated in the following manner: come up with a cool phrase in a foreign language and corrupt it until it’s recognizably a single name. Specifically, it is named Belshallam, which is kind of obviously derived from a Semitic language (“ba’al” in Hebrew, but “bel” in most other Semitic languages including Aramaic, Phonecian, and Akkadian, means “master” or “lord;” “shallam” looks like a mix of the Hebrew and Arabic words “shalom” and “salaam,” which mean “peace,” although it’s probably just “shalom” altered to no longer be a word.) Yes, this extraplanar, naturally evil dragon, which literally breathes death (technically, it breathes negative energy equivalent to a Harm spell), is named “Lord of Peace.” Oh, irony.

I can’t make the <HR> tag work for some reason.

Bonus side note: In my second DnD campaign ever, Janai’s player was the DM. It was his first time DMing, so he went with a published campaign in a setting he knew well (Eberron: Eyes of the Lich Queen). There’s an early boss fight in that campaign in which the party (I’m recalling level 6 at the time, but it’s been a while) encounters a Dragon Mummy, an undead creature that can paralyze the party fairly easily and is in general pretty powerful. I won initiative (odd, since as I said before I tend to roll poorly on init., but at least then I had a high init. mod.), and couldn’t act because I was paralyzed. The party cleric went next and turned undead. This shouldn’t work at our level against this thing, but he rolls insanely high and the Dragon Mummy hightails it away from a 6th level party and hides in the corner while the casters finish killing it at a distance. Unexpectedly finishing a difficult encounter in a ridiculously easy fashion has since been known to our group as “one-shot dragon mummying” or just “dragon mummying.” Janai’s player observed that this was the fourth or fifth time this party has dragon-mummied something in this campaign, the second time via Charm Monster. If you’re familiar with Pathfinder adventure paths, here’s some others:

  • To find the legend that led us to Castle Scarwall, we had to become members of the Sun Tribe of the Shoanti barbarians. This consisted of three steps, in two of which we dragon-mummied the task:
    1. Win the right to try by having one member of the party win a pain/endurance game called “sredna” (sp?) in which two people tie leather thongs to their heads and pull. Kairis didn’t even pull back, and just stood stoically while her opponent hurt himself too much to continue. That’s not the dragon-mummy moment.
    2. Become honorary Shoanti by recreating the feat of a legendary hero, getting swallowed by the legendary (demiurgal to the Shoanti) Great Red Wyrm, Cindermaw, and coming home. Dragon mummy moment: Janai cast Charm Monster, and we rode it back to the Sun Tribe encampment.
    3. Become a member of the Sun Tribe by passing their test of manhood (kinda like becoming Jewish by being Bar Mitzvahed): Each party member must move a stone totem with a spherical base up a ridge, keep it upright for a day, move it to the next ridge up, and keep it upright for another day. Oh, and this is in the wilderness, so stuff attacks you. Dragon mummy moment: Janai’s eidolon (essentially a manifestation of his soul, so not cheating at all) wove among the totems, holding them upright, while we relaxed for the most part and fought off a bunch of Bulletes at one point. Bonus epicness: one Bullete unable to act because ever time it leapt onto the ridge, it was bull-rushed off by a summoned Infernal Bison… which then, as the last action of the combat, leapt into the air, arcing gracefully downward to ram the Bullette, horns first, using the rules for damage from falling massive objects. This damaged the Bison sufficiently to dismiss it, of course, but also handily killed the Bullette.*
  • To find an artist who had info we needed, we had to gain the favor of the bandit king holding him. He made us participate in a blood sport in which teams of up to eight (the opposing team did have eight) have to carry a pot-bellied pig across a court to a pit containing a starving wolverine. Weapons were against the rules, killing either wolverine loses you the game, and some other things were “frowned upon” by the gnome barbarian serving as the bandits’ executioner. First team to get three pigs into the opposite pit wins. Dragon-mummy moment: we (mostly Kairis and I) bull-rushed and tripped the entire opposing team into a single square in a corner between the wall and the wolverine pit, and stationed one person to block the remaining square. Rules as written, they were incapable of standing up. Then our party members just walked back and forth with the pigs. Bonus: Bandit King yells, “Best two out of three!” and sends his executioner in. We did the same thing, but Kairis picked up the executioner and held him by the ankles over the wolverine pit, trying to get him to forfeit. (He refused and was mauled to death.) Then we did the same thing as the first round. “Best three out of five!” “Um, sir? We’re out of pigs and the wolverines are all stuffed.”

There were other times, but I can’t recall any offhand in sufficient detail to write up. There were also other epic moments, but this note is about dragon-mummying, so I’ll separate them out.

One thing I must brag about is, in a variable labyrinth, we decided to mark alternate room entrances by having someone go into room B while the party stayed in room A, pulling the lever that rotated rooms once per round. I stepped into the other room, and as soon as the room turned, a door opened and a Dark Sphynx (meant for the entire party to spend at least a couple of rounds fighting) walked in. I made it my Smite target and took full advantage of the fact that I had just gotten to a high enough level to use iterative attacks. I rolled fairly well, killing it in three rounds. The epic part is what the rest of the party saw (part of the beauty of it: I didn’t roll that well on initiative, but better than the person pulling the lever): Simon walks into a room. They turn the room four times. When it comes back, Simon is wiping ichor off his sword, a crumpled corpse of a creature the Kno: Arcane-heavy party recognizes as something meant for all of them to fight before him.

*It was at this moment that we realized the rules for falling weight damage could also make a Tarrasque short work for a level 15 or higher Summoner, should he be able to get the Tarrasque near a cliff: the damage from an Elder Earth Elemental falling on a creature is 300d6. It’s technically possible to roll as low as 300, but the average roll would be 900, and I’ve never personally gotten under 1,000. For reference, a Tarrasque has 800HP.

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