Every Sunday night, I run my epic level D&D 4e home campaign. I prep my adventures in WordPress, then add to it and post it the day after we play. The intent is an adventure you can easily steal, with commentary at the end on how you might make it better.
Last time we gamed, the players left The Bleak Fallows to report their horrific findings to the Raven Queen. We’ve had a break from this campaign for two weeks now. One of our players is on vacation, he’ll be missing tonight’s game too. That, mixed with my curiosity of what has happened to Zvomarana over the last four in-game days, has led me to the decision to run a side quest.
Remember Zvomarana? Samantha Umbra reported, out of breath from having ran the entire distance, that Zvomarana, the holiest of the Raven Queens temples, was about to be attacked by an undead army. That was four days ago in the game world. How has the temple fared? Have they fallen yet, or do they still hold fast against the horde of undead beating at their door? These are questions I’ll let the players decide tonight.
To skip my need to create pregen characters, I’ll let the players use their current characters, BUT… they can’t play their own. Each player will also control five groups of twenty soldiers. Four hundred men, four heroes, against a horde of undead.
The goal here is to determine one of three outcomes:
- Zvomarana falls to the undead horde.
- A few hopeless men fight on against overwhelming numbers.
- Against all odds, Zvomarana stands firm.
Three outcomes means three encounters, 2 combat and one skill challenge. Each failure counts against the possibility of Zvomarana standing against the attack. The temple only has one real hope of success; they have mortars.
Encounter 1 – We Need More Time!
In this encounter, each player will be in charge of protecting a single tower against assault, while the engineers set up the mortars. Unfortunately, the horde has catapults and undead flying abominations. The catapults must not be allowed to attack the towers, but the engineers must be protected. The catapults must move 20 squares before they can attack, and must have at least one Undead Militia adjacent to them for them to do anything.
- The players must individually decide how to divide their troops. How many of their five stay on the tower, and how many assault the catapults?
- They must also decide whether their hero stays with the tower, or assaults the catapults.
- Secretly roll 1d6 per tower; that number of Undead Militia (same stats as Zvomarana Militia) assault each tower, the difference remains with each catapult. Those attacking the tower gain a fly speed of 8.
The heroes need something to fight. I can’t quite wrap my head around how they would fit into a large scale battle like this, so each Undead troop will have a general. These Generals join together to defeat the heroes.
- Players must choose at the beginning of the encounter whether to fall in with the troops, and count as a two Militia Allies for the encounter; or they may participate in the battle against the Generals.
On the sixth round of combat, the horns of Zvomarana sound retreat.
Skill Challenge: Fall Back!
The Undead army vastly outnumbers the Zvomarana troops. Whether the sabotage against the catapults was successful or not, the horns have sounded retreat. If only it were that easy…
The goal here is to see how many of the remaining Militia make it safely back to the temple before the gates are closed. The players must use their social skills at least twice at a moderate difficulty to order their troops back to safety, after that any creative use of a skill is allowed. 6 successes before 3 failures. The third and every failure after removes one Militia token.
Encounter 2 – Zvomarana’s Last Stand
They sure better hope their mortars are up and running.
Any catapults that remain attack the Mortars relentlessly. Any remaining generals attack the heroes. The Horde presses forward, attacking (at a -2 penalty) those atop the wall whenever possible. Beginning the second round of combat, a loud roar is heard as a Dracolich swoops onto the battlefield. Beginning the fourth round of combat, a battering ram gets assembled outside the gates and begins to attack. +24 vs AC; 1d10+10 damage. The door has AC 10, hardness 5, and 40 hit points.
I wanted to use a Dracolich, but hate all its stun effects. So for this encounter I’m going to try Sly Flourishes recent tip, Making Stun and Dominate Not Suck. Basically, anytime the Dracolich stuns a target, they take a -4 penalty to all defenses and gain vulnerable 15 all, but can still take actions.
Adventure done and run. I’ll say this, large scale battles are tough.
I had three main goals for tonight’s adventure. First, I wanted the players to gain some respect for their allies. Second, I needed to know what happened to the temple of Zvomarana. Lastly, I wanted to experiment with large scale battles and learn what works and what doesn’t.
Well I learned something, that’s for sure. All in all, I think the story told was a good one, but the implementation was rocky.
- The scene opened with four generals sharing what may be their last meal together. They talk of the impending horde attack and what steps they’ll need to take to have any hope of success.
- I used this opportunity to explain the special rules of Militia combat and the two different focuses for their troops; the catapults and mortars.
- The players used this opportunity to explain their characters to one another.
- While the generals were still talking, a messenger reported the enemy generals were mockingly calling for a duel.
- The players all decided to meet in combat deep inside the enemy ranks. The undead army formed a tight circle around the combatants and dealt 1d6+6 damage to any pushed into them.
- The distraction created by the generals fighting gave the perfect opportunity for the Militia to do their work. They became a ticker within the initiative order.
- On the Militia’s turn, the soldiers took turns attacking and defending. The higher initiative attacked in round 1, then defended in round 2, then attacked again in round 3, and so on.
- The undead enemies were all dead shortly into round 5. The Militia retreated at the end of round 6.
- 2 catapults remained, 2 mortars remained
- The skill challenge became getting away from the frenzied undead horde after watching their undead generals slain. They narrowly escaped being mobbed by the army and got back inside the temple in the nick of time.
- Atop the wall, the remaining Militia members rained arrows down upon the undead horde. They had to roll an 11 or better to hit and killed 1d10 minions with each success. The players did well enough to have nearly ten Militia still standing.
- The mortars had to roll a 9 or better and destroyed 3d10 minions with each success.
- They had two rounds to attack before the catapults rolled onto the field.
- The catapults could instantly kill militia members atop the wall with a successful attack (burst 1).
- The Dracolich was a pushover. He got knocked prone and immobilized within the first round. On the ground, he couldn’t escape, some of which was due to his stuns not stunning. The players seemed to have little problems hitting, even with a -4 penalty.
- Though some felt the fear of death, it wasn’t what I would call a victory of “overwhelming odds.”
I’m not done with large-scale battles just yet. Tonight was an experiment. Like any good experiment, the point is to learn something. Until next time, keep learning!