Remember what I said before about being ready to bring my A-game to the Chaos Scar?
I seriously underestimated this adventure, and that’s saying something. The Chaos Scar isn’t just challenging, it occasionally borders on the ridiculous! I mean, yes, we did succeed, but it was pretty rough going.
The encounter begins as we scale down web-covered walls into the lair of the “ghost spiders”. Actually, we should have just used Benny’s 100′ of rope, but we failed to indicate our intentions clearly to Jeff.
(This isn’t the first time something like this has happened; see my Scales of War report for details.)
Anyways, even as Jeff began to place the enemies, we ran into some trouble; a slime lurked among the webs, waiting to attack! It engulfed Sammo, Tim’s Seeker, inflicting 9 acid damage, restraining him, and, of course, 5 ongoing acid.
Here we go again…
Even worse, on the ground, we had quite a force arraying itself, with spiders of various sizes, ranging from minions on up, and their insectile master. Phase Spiders, to be exact.
I managed to narrowly avoid being engulfed by that darned slime as well, only to fall down into a pool of water. I threw a rock at the slime, and, naturally, missed.
-Seriously, that keeps happening! +7 to hit isn’t that bad, but every time I hurl a rock with my Giantkind Gloves, I roll something ridiculously low, like a 4.
Still, marking it did help Tim in the end, so that wasn’t too bad. What was bad, however, was before I could take my second turn, a spider hit me with a web, pulled me onto a narrow ledge adjacent to it, and I got hit with “Immobilized (save ends)”.
Not good for a Defender! I’ve been having some rotten luck with Benny; I don’t think there’s anything wrong with his build, it’s just that the encounters seem bound and determined not to let him do much of anything!
While I was dealing with that nonsense, Josh and Chuck encountered something that’s quickly becoming the bane of my 4E experience; immediate actions!
You see, the minute you step into a space adjacent to a Phase Spider (yes, even the minions!), you get an immediate interrupt attack vs. Will. If it hits, you are teleported a few spaces away, and your attack is very likely negated!
I understand that, in many encounters, enemies die before they can present a proper challenge to PC’s. Giving enemies the ability to act before their turn comes up mitigates this factor. However, it’s simply too common for my liking. PC’s can act when it’s not their turn, but most of the time, these are Encounter abilities. When it can be used every turn, it just gets obnoxious. I’m sure you can point to things like Combat Challenge or Riposte Strike, but there are ways around those.
Not much you can do, knowing that by merely stepping into attack position, your attack can be negated, even if you roll a 20! And I’m not even going to discuss creatures like the Displacer Beast!
Chuck maintains that encounters like this challenge you to change tactics, but it’s hard at low levels to prepare yourself for something like this. Sure, I can accept not being able to react to every problem that comes up, but when you only have a few cool tricks to draw on, having them be useless really blows.
Adding insult to injury, I failed to save from being immobilized not once, but twice, leaving me unable to do anything more amazing than attack the spider next to me. Having used my Daily last session, I didn’t have much to work with. My Encounters were a charging attack and a close burst, and my At-Wills are Threatening Rush and Knockdown Assault.
While being able to mark multiple enemies is nice, I’ve yet been able to put Threatening Rush to any use, and Knockdown Assault is pretty lackluster (as we will see).
The fight wasn’t going too badly, thanks to the Swordmage’s abilities; in addition to close burst attacks to clear away minions, teleporting comes in handy when you’re grabbed by spiders! Still, Tim was running into some difficulties.
Once he escaped the slime, he fell in the water. Moving through the water caused him to come into contact with a nasty piece of terrain; a glowing meteorite that inflicted hefty damage (radiation?) just by being near it!
On top of that, he was having some bad luck with his attack rolls, never a good thing.
Chuck came to my rescue by killing one spider, and using his Daily to give himself reach, allowing him to help me kill mine. In retrospect, while I was leery about using my Encounter Powers against my enemy, I should have used the power of my Gloves as well as my Half-Orc Furious Assault to try and kill the thing faster. Although it didn’t help when I missed it one turn, used an action point, and missed it again!
And of course, the instant I made my save against being immobilized, I got bit, and hit with slow (save ends)! Argh!
By this time, the party was focusing on the insectile humanoid, who had a really high AC. I could have rushed in and dealt some nice damage, but my inner Leader said “Wait! If you knock it prone, they will be able to hit it!”.
Stupid inner Leader. Yeah, I knocked it prone alright, to the tune of 4 damage. The next person to attack missed anyways, and then the creature stood up. Argh again!
It went down before I got another action, and I have to say, I felt pretty useless this encounter. Tim didn’t fare much better, but that doesn’t really make me feel any better. I’m not bitter, and I did have fun, but not nearly as much as if I’d actually been able to use my abilities!
Hitting level 4, I thought long and hard about how to tackle these issues in the future. Failing saves is bad, and there are worse status effects for a Defender than immobilize (like daze or stun!). Still, I’m hoping those won’t come up as much.
I decided to take Skill Power for my Feat, allowing me to grab Grit and Spittle, which allows me to trade a healing surge for a bonus save against everything affecting me, once per encounter (and as a minor action, no less!). Here’s hoping that will pay off.
I also retrained Knockdown Assault. Proning enemies can be useful, but not always. It’s one thing if you have Draconic Arrogance, or you can knock something prone on top of real damage, but sacrificing all but some token damage for a status that might not help you, is kind of bunk.
I was originally thinking to use it as part of a nova turn; knockdown to action point, and use something nasty with Headsman’s Chop. It’s still a nasty idea, but one that should wait until I have better ways to knock an enemy down. It works ok for Vahn and Bonesnap, but for now, it’s not so great for Benny.
The treasure includes a level 4 and a level 5 item. I decided on a belt. It was a tough call, as the belt that inflicts 1d8 damage to an enemy that is grabbing me can be handy; but I’ll let Tim have the level 5. For now, I’m taking a Venom Belt. 5 resist poison and an Encounter bonus to saves versus ongoing poison.
I considered getting Plate Armor, but I figured I should wait until I get +2 armor. Especially with this campaign about to go on hiatus for awhile!
Hail the Heroes!
Chuck’s adventure proved to be one of the cooler things printed in Second Edition. There was a series of boxed set adventures, complete with an audio CD, set in the original DnD setting, Mystara. I’d owned and ran one of these, Night of the Vampire, with somewhat mixed results. It was a nice adventure, but a bit linear, and the players weren’t really prepared to fight a vampire, a creature that’s ridiculously hard to kill in DnD.
I mean, honestly, you’d have an easier time slaying one of those “sparkly” vampires from the Twilight universe!
We were told last time that in order to fight the Remorhaz (well, what we think is a Remorhaz, anyways) that we’d need the Shield of Lavv. To help us on our way, we were given an old legend (“The Song of Halav”) and a half-completed map, made by a previous band of heroes.
There were several puzzles and riddles in this adventure, which took the place of the usual Skills Challenge by forcing us to quickly scan over both map and saga (the map is atrociously drawn, and, sad to say, about equal to real maps I’ve seen players make in the past!). The saga is mostly a red herring, however, the real clues are on the map, but this isn’t evident at first.
Bypassing the traps was highly reminiscent of the third Indiana Jones movie, where, to evade them, we would have to perform strange actions (Tim avoided one trap by rolling on the ground pretending to fight phantom enemies!) or shout out a password.
On occasion the traps would reset, forcing us to call out the password each turn. The actual encounter was pretty tough, as we had to fight six animated statues. We missed the clue that would bypass the encounter (if there was one), so it turned into a pretty tough fight, with our characters backed into a corridor with little room to maneuver, and both the Sorcerer and the Bard in the front line!
An item I’d picked up earlier proved to be very helpful to the encounter, although we realized it a bit late. We took some hefty damage before I had a chance to show off my Storm Sorcerer powers; I mostly have area attacks with minor control elements, such as pushing, sliding, or knocking things prone. They hadn’t been all that useful up until now, but that all changed.
The turn where I used Spark Form to shift through and attack the statues, only to turn around, and with an action point, fire off my close blast Winds of Change really shifted the balance of the fight, and thanks to a critical hit, I got to fly for a little bit (always a nice feature).
Although I still think Wild Sorcerers have more fun. Ah well.
One earlier challenge, however, I think was probably the most memorable, as the clue to one trap referred to one of several kinds of animals. The intent was to make us mimic the actions of an animal to evade the trap…but Serge is the kind of Warforged that is always thinking outside of the box.
I love utility items with a passion. Making my character self-sufficient is a high priority. For example, often in games, characters need to travel long distances, but the care and feeding of mounts is always a pain. So several of my character were quick to grab a Bridle of Conjuration.
With a simple, “I’ve got this”, Serge proceeded to summon his riding horse, presenting it as the solution to the riddle, which caught our DM completely off-guard. Laughter ensued, and we struggled to breathe for several minutes!
I then sent my horse up on ahead to trigger the next trap; it’s not a common tactic in this edition, but in 3.5, summoned monsters often took hits for the team by triggering traps! Unwilling to let a damn horse beat his dungeon, Chuck massacred my hapless steed. Not that I blame him; I’ve done a lot worse to pets in my day!
The Rejects being the misfits that they are, we muddled along, but there’s a lot more to explore down here! It’s a strange kind of game; the kind of things you’d expect a party of heroes to handle with ease tend to be such a production with this party that I keep expecting to hear the Benny Hill theme!
Skill Challenges border on the ridiculous, as our party never seems to have the right skill for the job. Serge rivals the Bard for “party face” role, as he’s trained in Bluff, Diplomacy, and Intimidate…and he’s a Warforged, a golem-like creature that has a hard time understanding humanoids in the first place!
We’re going to meet a TPK sooner or later, but until that happens, it’s guaranteed to be a blast!
And likely, even then, we’ll all come back as Revenants (a Revenant Warforged?! You can’t be much more of a Reject than that!).
- Chaos Scar (Mis)Adventures: “Mud in the Water” (weebeegamers.com)
- D&D Encounters Dark Sun (Week 13) from Dungeon’s Master (dungeonsmaster.com)
- November and Beyond from Points of Light (daegames.blogspot.com)