Author Topic: Shadowgate: DM report  (Read 684 times)

Offline Sjappo

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Shadowgate: DM report
« Topic Start: November 28, 2011, 08:58:40 AM »
I've been DM-ing a one-off adventure for my usual group. Normally I don't DM but our regular DM deserved a break and I wanted to get back in the DM chair for some time. I've DM-ed 2nd edition a lot and have some experience with 3E as a DM. 3.5 I only know as a player. Just wanted to share this experience with you guys.

I used this opportunity to show my group some up scale options powerwise. My chacacters are usually the most powerful of the lot and I wanted to show them what could be done without going overboard. That means fixing or recreating most monsters.

Shadowgate is a homebrew adventure placed in a homebrew campaign world. Since it is a one-off the campaign world doesn't really matter. This adventure doesn't involve much intrigue and stuff. I encourage a kick-in-the-door style of play to keep the action flowing. I've adviced the players of this and of my love for the undead.

Hook
A mysterious mist has settled on a small loggers community, Readoak. Nothing has been heared from Redoak for months. No-one entering the mist has ever been seen again. A wealthy merchant has hire to group to investigate since his brother is living in Redoak.

Players
Razor: Feral dwarf cleric 5 (hunter type god) Pounces a lot and cuts things to ribbons with his claws. Has Zen-archery as backup and a feat that lets him heal negative levels/ability damage with turn attempts. Player seems to have forgotten that he is a cleric and can actually cast.
I actually made him his character and it forced some of the other players to rethink and upgrade their characters just to compete. Finally.

Cheech: Feral half-giant fighter 4. Spiked chain specialist. 20-ft range combined with lots of AoP is a lot of fun it seems. Especially if the DM feeds you mooks once in a while.

Paul: Human Paladin 6. Sword and Board. Specialised in turn undead, which is highly useful in an undead heavy adventure.

Sanchez: Human Druid 6. Is playing his PC as a wizard. Completely seems to forget he can wildshape. Had some trouble designing an AC so didn't bring one  :twitch Died a lot.

Sand (or Sandy): Centaur fighter 4. Archer. Not really very effective. I let him dump his monstrous humanoid levels in favour of fighter levels. This player had only played in 2 sessions and is not part of the regular group. He has played with us a until a year or so ago. Just getting his gaming fix I guess.
« Last Edit: December 14, 2011, 01:09:39 AM by Sjappo »
"You know you count as artillery when it would be easier to use divination magic to locate your target than a spot check"

Offline Sjappo

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Re: Shadowgate: DM report
« Reply #1: November 28, 2011, 08:58:53 AM »
Session 1

Players:

Razor
Cheech
Sanchez (didn't do much)

They group meet up with their informant, Harry the Crab, who informs them of a possible assignment. The PC's agree to go meet this merchant in a high-up establishment. My players, being their usual arrogant self, try to bully their way into what is essentially a high standard gentlemen's club. As soon as they start being polite they are escorted to mr. Taylor.

Mr. Taylor explains to them the assignment. Find his brother Sweyn Taylor in Redoak and bring him back. Or indisputable proof of his demise. O, and end this curious mist. His trade in valuable wood and hides is suffering. The players, having learned their lesson, are very polite but negotiate very hard. They walk away with a good contract and some nice goodies up front.

The PC's leave the next morning for Redoak with a borrowed horse and carriage and a guide. Both borrowed from mr. Taylor. They arrive at the edge of the mysterious mist some 2 weeks later, after an uneventful trip. At this point the guide bids them farewell. Redoak is about 4 days by carriage from where the mist starts.

They stay about a day at the edge of the mist to observe. The mist seems to expand during the night and contract during the day. But it is slowly creaping forward, about 10-20 meter per day. Once they see haltingly moving creatures moving about in the mist. The PC's hail them, but to no avail.

After a good nights rest the party decides to go for it and they enter the mist. Visibility drops to 60 - 100. The world becomes black-and-white, cold and damp. Fortunately physical exercise is just around the corner.

 The party is following the old traderoad and is progressing nicely when ... ambush!

Border Patrol

1 spellstiched ghast
2 corpsecrafted ghasts
10 ghouls
5 shadows (I decided before that the shadows would move underground and attack the next round if next to a PC. Since the PC's moved about a lot they didn't combat all shadows)

The party is taken unaware due to lack of scouting and scouting capabilities. The spellstiched ghast opens the offensive with a well-placed fireball. Which surprises the players a lot. Not much damage is done, of course. The ghouls charge the PC's from both sides of the roads. The corpsecrafted ghasts serve as leaders to each group of 5.

Round 1:

PC's win initiative.
Identification of the monsters fail due to no-one having put any points in knowledge skills.
Razor countercharges and kills one ghoul. Cheechfinds a strategic position and uncoils his chain. Sanchez buffs himself and moves into a protected square.
5 Ghouls and one ghast charge Cheech. 5 AoO later all ghouls are dead and the player playing Cheechis gloating. The ghast is still alive but failed to reach Cheech. Unfortunately he ended his turn in chain reach.
The ghouls and ghast with Razor surround him and get some hits in. His dwarven blood (high Fort saves) save him from paralysis and he takes some minor damage.
The spellstiched ghast fires a spell at Sanchez but to no avail.
The shadows move into position, one next to Razor.

At that point session 1 ends. We only have 4 hours of playtime every other week. What was supposed to be a quick startup ended up costing nearly 3 hours. Players had fun but that was not as planned. We could not finish combat due to this.

Lessons learned:

  • Players take way more time for non-combat encounters than you think. Even if you try to take this into account.
  • Firing fireballs at players is fun.
  • As is surprising experienced players with non standard monsters. It cut down on the meta gaming and made them wish for more points in knowledge skills.
« Last Edit: December 14, 2011, 03:17:23 AM by Sjappo »
"You know you count as artillery when it would be easier to use divination magic to locate your target than a spot check"

Offline Sjappo

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Re: Shadowgate: DM report
« Reply #2: November 28, 2011, 04:12:43 PM »
Session 2:

Players:

Razor
Cheech
Paul

We decide to just remove Sanchez from the encounter and substitute him for Paul.

Round 2:
Cheechhits the Ghast, bloodying him. He shifts his position somewhat to try and get the spellstiched ghast in trange as well. Doesn't work though.
Razor rips a ghoul to shreds but is still surrounded. He decides to stay put.
Paul attacks the spellstiched ghast but misses.
The ghast with Cheechtries to run but fails. The AoO he provokes puts him at -1. The spellstitched ghast uses Vampiric Touch on Paul but hits his mount instead.
Razor is in a lot of trouble. The ghouls and ghast get some hits in and do minor damage. But he fails one of his saves and is paralyzed. One of the shadows pop up and drains him of some strength.

Round 3:
Cheechswitches targets and plows into the spellstiched ghast, bloodying him. He calls to Paul to go help Razor.
Razor, being paralised, does nothing.
Paul rides up to the undead fighting Razor and turns undead. He has a feat which lets him destroy undead he turns by expending an other turn attempt. He is lucky with his roll and kills of all remaining ghouls, the ghast and the shadow.
The spellstiched ghast is stuck. Anything it does will provoke an AoO, killing it. Doing nothing will see it dead on Cheech's next turn. I decide to let it cast a spell. The resulting AoO kills it.
The 4 remaining shadows leave the scene.

Combat ends and the players take some time to heal back up. They examine the bodies of the dead Ghasts en Ghouls but fail to identify what makes them special. Low knowledge again.

After learning everything they could from the scene, nearly nothing, they pack up and go on. The rest of the day and the following night and day  pass uneventful until the they come upon a river. The river is fordable, of course, and they start crossing it. Cheech takes the lead with the rest on the cart following.

When Cheech nears the other side of the river he hears an other cart approaching. This one comes from the north, just travelling through the bush. Cheech and Razor take up ambush positions and wait for the cart to arrive. Paul does a detect evil and anounced that they driver on the cart, and indeed the horses drawing the cart, are evil. He also senses that the mist in which they have been traveling for some time has a slight but detectable evil aura. It feels like an evil background radiation.

When the cart arrives it proves to be drawn by two zombie horses and driven by one skeleton. They make quick work of the low level undead and examine and examine the content of the cart. Bodyparts. Legs and torsos, mouseheads and complete corpses. Some nearly intact, some mere skeletons, some obviously fished out of some pond.

The PC's are baffled by this discovery. They clear the cart out of the road and continue on. A small road, nothing more than a forest path, forks of from the traderoad to the south. They've been told that this road leads to RedOak. So they start following it. They make camp about one hour later.

Lessons Learned:
  • The players start to resent me calling for knowledge checks. They are veteran players and expect to recognize any monster I throw at them. Not so this time. Tough luck for them.
  • On a similar note, the players are baffled by the wide range of CR of the encounters. One was reasonably tough, the other a pushover. They are used to published encounters in which every encounter is approximately level appropriate.
  • Although they seem to get that something evil has taken over this forest and the settlement in it they are unwilling to give up their cart and the guise of being traveling traders. I didn't understand, and still don't. Proof that players are unpredictable even in small things.

All in all a decent session. Most players had their cool moment.
« Last Edit: December 14, 2011, 03:18:32 AM by Sjappo »
"You know you count as artillery when it would be easier to use divination magic to locate your target than a spot check"

Offline Sjappo

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Re: Shadowgate: DM report
« Reply #3: December 14, 2011, 01:42:13 AM »
Session 3:

Players:
Cheech
Razor
Sanchez
Paul (player was late and just jumped in halfway combat)

After an quiet night the players start down the forest road toward Redoak. They expect to be traveling about a full day. Around noon they hear a loud splash coming out of the bush from the direction of the river. They stop to investigate. Cheech, Sanchez and Razor sneak toward the noise. After some skillchecks with single digit result it is concluded that they cannot sneak worth shit. Except for Sanchez. So the Druid takes the lead.

Bone Fishers

So, the PC's "sneak" trough the forest until they come upon a small pond. On the othet side of the pond they see a cart, drawn by 2 skeletal horses, 4 Skeleton archers and a large zombie whcich turns out to be a zombie Hillgiant. The Giant is holding one end of the rope. The other end of the rope appears to be tied to something in the water. That something is moving about under water and slowly working its way towards the PC's. They PC's creep closer and watch. They are about 60 feet away from the Giant at this point.

When the unseen "fish" closes to about 30 ft the PC's feel an unnatural cold fall over them. It's so cold that most of them take some cold damage. The "fish" stops moving abruptly at this point and seconds later the rope goes slack. Combat commences.

The giant and the skeletons see the rope go slack and start looking about. They fail to spot the PC's due to the ever present mist. The PC's, loath to give away their position, do nothing. Unknown to them the submerged "fish" (a Bleakborn) is closing in. It springs from the pond and attacks the nearest PC.

I'm a bit fuzzy on the details of the combat so no blow-by-blow account.

The PC's start wailing on the Bleakborn damaging it severely. The Bleakborn does some damage in return and has his annoying draining aura. All PC's have some hits now and some, especially the Druid, are getting close to dying. The Giant and the Skeleton archers join the fun and start firing into the melee. The Druid summons some crocs to grapple the Bleakborn. After that the druid retreats to escape further harm.

Next the PC's manage to get the Bleakborn to below 0 HP, so it collapses. At this point I make a big mistake, which is ultimately for the best. I forget that the Bleakborns draining aura stays active when it dies. It also continues healing, which I didn't forget.

As soon as the Bleakborn collapses Razor and Cheech start toward the Giant and the Skeletons, skirting the pond. Sanchez stays behind, for now, to keep the Bleakborn down. He ties to burn it, which makes it heal faster, bad idea. He decides then to just have 1 croc chew on it to keep it down, Then he and his other croc join the fun on the other side of the pond.

At this point the player playing Paul enters. We plop Paul down on the battlefrid, near Cheech and Razor, and continue on.

Sancez stays on the safe side of the pond and start firing spells. Notably a flaming sphere. Not a really dangerous but very annoying spell. The croc crosses the pond and attacks the giant. Cheech, Paul and Razor keep walking. The Skeletons fire upon them but to no great effect. The Giant starts bashing the crocs skull.

Cheech and Razor have some trouble getting into position when they finally come within range of Skeletons. Then Paul comes within turn range and fires of an turn undead. His check is not great but his HD roll is pretty good. He ends up destroying all Skeletons and the 2 horses in one fell swoop. Annoying the heck out of Razor and Cheech.

The lone Giant is no match for 3 bruisers and one Flaming Sphere and is soon slain. By Paul who shaves of the last 2 HP, essentially killing all monsters in this battle himself.

That leaves the Bleakborn. The PC's are not sure what to do with it. So they sprinkle some Holy Water on it and beat it to a bloody pulp. Not wanting to draw this out much longer I declare the Bleakborn slain.

Combat has ended and the PC's start healing back up. After that they investigate the scene and find that the cart is filled with bodyparts, just like the last one. Not sure what to do with it they abandon it and go back to their own cart. They continue down the road.

RedOak

It's near sundown when the PC's enter RedOak. It takes them almost 2 sessions to realize this. They come upon some logs, neatly stacked along the river. Next they see some structures in the mist. One near the river, which turns out to be a boathouse next to a pier. Next to the boathouse is a small field which houses some undead horses. They leave the horses be for the time being.

The other structures, somewhat away from the field and the boathouse, turns out to be a field smithy. When they examine the smithy they see an other structure which is an abandoned barrack. The next one they see seems to be a bar or inn of some kind. It is boarded up and the front door is barricaded. They listen at the door and hear some faint but insistent scratching noises from inside.

They leave the noises be for now and decide to go and sleep and regain spells and powers. They decide the boathouse is a good place to rest.

Lessons learned:
  • When you are traveling toward a small logging and fur trapping settlement and you see some logs stacked near the river before entering a small settlement you are there. Sjeesh. It took them 2 session to figure out that they had indeed arrived in RedOak. I mean, seriously?
  • Me forgetting the Bleakborns draining was a good thing. If I hadn't the croc grappling the Bleakborn would have died in 2 rounds, Sanchez wouldn't be able to assist in killing the Giant and Skeletons and one or maybe more PC's would have stayed behind to deal with the Bleakborn. The Giant and Skeletons were very much able to murder one or two unassisted PC's.
  • Bleakborn Contingency Healing is weird. It doesn't say how to defeat it. I knew this and winged it. Worked out fine I think.
  • You need a decent scout in a party. Sneaking with a -2 due to low dex and armor is not sneaking. Fortunately both the Giant and the Skeletons were pretty much deaf.
  • Never ever shack up and give a DM 2 weeks to prepare an assault on your shack. Really a lesson for next time but still. Insert evil laughter here.
« Last Edit: December 14, 2011, 03:14:43 AM by Sjappo »
"You know you count as artillery when it would be easier to use divination magic to locate your target than a spot check"