Every Sunday night, I run my 20th level D&D 4e home campaign. Most of the time, I prepare my own adventures. For those other times, I modify heavily. What follows is the session we ran last night, complete with DM commentary…
Through the Desert (Part 4 – The Finale)
As I write this, I’ve yet to run the encounter. Generally, I prep my adventures in WordPress, so when Monday comes, I’m nearly ready to publish the post. With that in mind, tonight, I aim to kill them all.
Why? You might ask. For one, I dallied a little longer than I’d expected in the desert and had to skip a section of my plan to get them to the shadowfell. Two, I really wanted to push the PC’s to the limits and get a benchmark for a TPK as we head into epic tier. Three, I felt the party was feeling pretty smug right about now, as I’d intended them to feel, and wanted to show them; We’re entering epic tier now, the rules have changed.
Last session, the players had just crossed a 30 ft river of lava with all 12 refugees and three sheep in tow. As they helped the last of the common folk across the river, they started on their way only to see a charging Nightmare Beast bearing down upon them in a cloud of dust.
The party is half level twenty and half 21 right now. A level 25 solo should be enough to kill them all… but I know my group better than that. So, my Nightmare beast has:
aura 10. This is a fear effect. Targets all enemies who start their turn within the aura. The target must face their own nightmares. Roll a d20, on a roll of 9 or less a Deepspawn Nightmare appears adjacent to the target and attacks them. If the Deepspawn Nightmare kills a creature while within the aura, that creature rises at the beginning of its next turn as a Nightmare Beast Spawn.
I haven’t yet read Sly Flourishes’s Running Epic Tier Games, but plan on it soon. Apparently it opens with these three lines.
Be kind to them at Heroic
Be even-handed at Paragon
Be a bastard at Epic
At face value the above aura definitely ranks as “bastard,” but when you account for all the refugees and sheep, its outright ruthless. I don’t expect there to be any happy faces at the table when I’m through with them.
Encounter 1 – 1 x Nightmare Beast (DSCC, pg. 78), ? x Deepspawn Nightmare (P2 Demon Queen Enclave, pg. 17), ? x Nightmare Beast Spawn (DSCC, pg. 79)
As you fall you feel anger, despair, hatred, remorse, all within an instant then a glimmer of peace before your soul is ripped violently downward through the blood soaked ground. You claw at your corpse, but your fingers no longer feel the natural world and you are sucked downward. You pass the strata in a blur, then continue to plumet through a lake of lava, yet you feel no heat. Suddenly the ground erupts before you, a large mass receding away as you continue to fall, breifly disoriented. Below you, a mass of grey clouds writhing with crackling energy. All around you see a sunset of darkness and the souls of your falling comrades. Demons fly about in a frenzy, eager for an easy meal. Its then you realize your weapon is still in hand, yet it looks different, more a part of you now than ever before.
At this point I gave each player their Shadowfell Boon. I wanted the shadowfell to represent who the characters are and where they came from, but I also needed something that would make up for killing them all. These traits stack with their primary weapon.
- Asterion the minotaur fighter got a Carnage Weapon.
- Chi Kal the thri-kreen druid got an Earthfall Totem.
- Akmenos the tiefling warlord got th Unconquered Standard of Arkhosia.
- Gashix got Dreamheart.
Encounter 2 – 2 x Abhorrent Reaper @ 1/2 HP (Dungeon Delve, pg. 137), 3 x Shadowclaw Nightmare (Death’s Reach, pg. 9), 12 x Blood Fiend Martyr (Death’s Reach, pg. 41)
Tactics: The Martyr’s go for the nearest soul and latch on, hoping to devour it completely. Remember the villagers get hit twice, they’re done. Three martyrs ride the Shadowclaw Nightmare’s and use them to attack the players (all but Chi Kal). These are so the players can attempt to mount the shadowclaw during free fall.
Mounting a Shadowclaw:
- Shadowclaw must not be currently mounted.
- Acrobatics DC 20 (move action to grab the harness).
- Athletics DC 20 (move action to mount the shadowclaw.
Of course the rider will have a -2 to all attacks unless they have the mounted combat feat, but hey, at least they’re not falling now right? The shadowclaw, will attack whoever killed their rider, if unmounted.
The Abhorrent Reapers are there with a purpose, they seek out the players amidst the chaos and charge in with cunning ferocity. These guys go after the most “successful” members of the party, most likely Chi Kal.
The thri-kreen however gains a fly speed during this encounter equal to his speed +2 as long as he’s in beast form. This will hopefully allow him to shine like the skirmisher he is; destroying lots of minions with his swarminess, saving lots of peeps and attaining level 21 at the end of the encounter.
Because there is no terrain in the sky, I put some hazards in at random to make it interesting. Each round. there’s a 25% chance (1 on a d4) of a hazardous cloud appearing beneath them, they have two rounds to maneuver out of the way before it damages all creatures passing through it.
- Creatures without a fly speed automatically move 8 squares downward every round.
- This can be reduced to 4, or increased to 12 with an Acrobatics check DC 20 (move action).
- Moving up is impossible.
- Moving left or right is considered difficult terrain.
- Acrobatics DC 20 (move action) negates the difficult terrain.
- There’s little fear of hitting the ground during this encounter, they’ll be falling for a few minutes. (Skill challenge to hit the mark and land where they want to.)
- Each falling character records on the board how many squares they’ve fallen.
It’s the day after the game now. I’m free to comment how I will, but I just scored Mortal Kombat for $30 bucks and am loving the story mode. So here’s just some quickies for ya.
- The minotaur began the encounter with only five surges, used them all and took over 500 damage before dying.
- Suri finally used her encounter power that makes everyone bloodied. I didn’t realize I’d turned it into an attack roll. I was seriously sweating when they rolled against the Nightmare Beast, could have ruined everything. but I’m happy to see it used (even if it did delay the inevitable).
- The party only lost two refugees during the nightmare battle.
- During the free fall fight quite a few more refugees were lost forever as their souls were consumed by shadow demons.
- The only refugees that remain are;
- Davram, Solphi, Jennifer, Ilsa, Hubert, and Chadwink.
On a final note. Never Underestimate Your Party.
I was amazed at how well the party survived, and how close they were to defeating an encounter designed to kill them. They almost made it.
Next week, they encounter the Raven Queen.