A Farewell to 3rd Edition – Part I

Earlier today, I ran my final homebrew 3.5e D&D session. There are still a few Savage Tide sessions to go, but I don’t anticipate that I’ll be creating my own adventures for 3.*e any more. The players were stupendous – they defeated everything I threw at them, and managed to surprise me with things I really didn’t expect. This post is part one of a series of three, which will describe the campaign and the sessions – with pictures to help liven things up!

Campaign Background

In 2002, my 3e Greyhawk campaign had become so popular that I had a number of players wanting to participate that couldn’t be accomodated in the main group… well, not without pushing its numbers out to 10 or more! As the campaign had recently shifted days from Friday night to the weekend, I found that I was able to start up a campaign on Friday nights for the extra players. Searching around for a campaign setting, I decided on the County of Ulek, a quiet Celtic-themed place in the World of Greyhawk that my main PC of my AD&D days had come from.

As that campaign progressed, and I inserted The Keep on the Borderlands into the action, I decided that the Priests of Chaos in that adventure served the Fhoi Myore, a group of malignant spirits inspired by the second Corum series by Michael Moorcock. A main strand of the campaign became the plans of the Priests to return the Fhoi Myore to Ulek and start a reign of terror. However, before much more than a year had passed in this campaign, player movements required it to be abandoned, with much of the story left untold.

In late 2005, two of the players from that original Ulek campaign had joined my Sunday afternoon campaign, now set in the Great Kingdom, which was now winding down. I still wanted to tell the story of the Fhoi Myore, so for the new campaign, we began anew in Ulek, although a few (10!) years had passed in the setting since the original campaign. NPCs from the original campaign reoccurred, and I added a few new ones. The players played new PCs, of course, and some of their PCs appeared as NPCs, giving them the thrill of knowing they’d added something to the campaign.

As the campaign proceeded into 2006, Nathaniel, another of the players in the original Ulek game, joined the group. Due to the state that he’d left his PC from the original game – and the relative levels of the PCs at the time – he was able to restart the game with his original character, Sir Willem of Copperleaf.

Sir Willem had possessed a stormy relationship with his father, which had made his father, Baron Copperleaf, an ideal foil for PCs in the early part of the campaign. Nate missed the bits where his father actually appeared in the campaign, although he was much amused by Willem’s father’s actions.

Unfortunately, the press of work caused Dave to pull out of the campaign, so I only had two of the original participants left.

Fast forward the campaign to March 2008 and this final session: the PCs are now 16th level. They’ve spent much time thwarting the plans of the Fhoi Myore, and are currently exploring a maze that the Priests of Chaos have built to aid the Fhoi Myore gain domination over the World of Greyhawk. Sarah and Nathaniel are the original players, and Greg and Adam are new to Ulek (although not to my campaigns – Greg’s been playing 3e with me for over 7 years!)

The final conflict against the Fhoi Myore was brewing – they knew what they needed to destroy them forever, it was just a case of bringing it to pass…

Preparation

Almost all of the sessions in this campaign have been played at Sarah’s house, but I decided that the final session should be held at my house, to minimise distractions from Sarah’s housemates, to keep me in close proximity to all my D&D material (minis, books, etc), and just because my place is cool!

I’d spent the past fortnight thinking about the campaign’s ending, but on Saturday I got down to actually writing down the encounters and setting up my room. By Saturday evening, I’d manuevered the tables into position and set up the initial encounter.

(Click on the picture to see it in a greater size).

To the right of the picture you can see the shelves that hold my games. Playing D&D for over 25 years has meant I’ve collected one or two books, although my purchases were curtailed greatly during the 2e era when I really didn’t have much money. 3e? I’ve bought a lot of that, as this photograph shows:

Bottom shelf: AD&D modules and boxed sets. 2nd bottom shelf: 1st-3rd edition rulebooks. 3rd bottom shelf: 3e era Dragon magazines & Dungeon magazines. 4th bottom shelf: mostly 3.5e rulebooks… which are also in the left bookshelf. Above that, a few of my boardgames!

Only the initial encounter was to be indoors, with the others taking place in the forest above. So, I arranged the dungeon tiles and D&D Miniatures for the first encounter on the table, and placed the wilderness tiles and subsequent minis behind my screen for later use. My editor vetted this all in advance:

After working out the details of the encounters, I placed the important monster details down on index cards, so that I wouldn’t have to flip between pages on books during the encounters. I also simplified the high-level spellcasters I was using; there was no way that they’d survive long enough to cast every spell, so I assumed they’d already used a few buff spells, and then just noted down the important attack and defense spells they’d use in the combat. Here’s the BBEG for the first encounter:

You may note that the Firestorm damage is 60+3d6 rather than 16d6… I used a trick that had been used in the Delve in 2007 of simplifying the damage. As I wasn’t going to be using a computer, this would save a lot of time. I’m fastat adding up numbers, but 16d6 tests even me.

So, everything was set… all I needed were the players!

The First Encounter

My place is about 30-60 minutes’ drive from everyone else (Greg’s closest, Adam’s the furthest), but to save on petrol money – and because not everyone has a car – Adam volunteered to drive everyone out. This required some co-ordination, and I was astonished to find them arriving at 2:15pm, only 15 minutes after we had agreed to meet. I led them upstairs to my room, we set up, and soon we were away.

From left to right: Greg, Sarah, Nathaniel, and Adam.

The PC’s:

  • Greg – Abigail, a 16th level Azurin Incarnate.
  • his cohort, Mialee*, a 12th level elven Wizard (*not her real name)
  • Sarah – Lavena, a 16th level human Fochlucan Lyrist (bard/rogue/druid)
  • Nathaniel – Willem, a 16th level half-elf Knight (champion of C.L). (original human, was reincarnated)
  • his cohort, Johanna, a 13th level human Cleric
  • Adam, Ragnagor, a 16th level dwarven Soulknife (with a few other classes)

The PCs had spent the past few sessions wandering around the maze and always missing the centre room, so I took pity on them and sent them right to the centre. (They’d visited about every other room, anyway!)

Facing them was the High Priest of Chaos… who turned out to be Willem’s father! Sarah was not surprised (“oh, that’s why he was so annoying!”), and Nate was delighted… he’d finally have his revenge on a parent who had been nothing less than cruel to him, and had turned his beloved sister into a host for the Mistress of Winter (who the PCs then had to kill).

Willem won initiative, activated his Boots of Speed, and charged directly at his father, leaping the pit in the way… although the altar stopped him from attacking during the first round. His father responded by casting firestorm at the other PCs and letting the Ogre Fighters (13th level!) try to bull rush him into the pit. The first Ogre Fighter got Willem into the right position, but the second failed the opposed check and left himself open for retaliation.

Abigail flew into the centre of the room, and launched acid and fire at one of the Ogres, reducing it greatly in hit points. Then she discovered what all the undead could do, as they erratically charged her: successful hits from the “Blasphemes” (see Libris Mortis) dealt a substantial amount of damage, dealt 1-6 Strength damage, and dazed Abigail for a round. Eep. One also charged Ragnagor, and a lucky natural 20 dazed him as well.

Greg works out where his Wizard’s fireball should be aimed…

The action came fast and furious. Willem accounted for one of the Ogres, and his father took cover on the other side of the altar, launching a mass inflict moderate wounds to hurt Willem and Abigail, and to heal his Blasphemes. Meanwhile, Johanna was using Quickened Turn Undeads to batter down the Blasphemes’ hp. (We’re using the variant rule where Turn Undead does 1d6 damage per level of the cleric, Will save for half). I rolled poorly on the saves… even with +19 on the save due to Unhallow, I kept rolling 1s and 2s!

Lavena moved up to help Ragnagor, and got dazed herself for her trouble. Abigail reached 0 Strength and a seemingly permanent state of dazement, but her intelligent Ring of Memories was still active, launching scorching rays at the Ogres and the Blasphemes.

Finally, Turn Undead did for the Blasphemes, the second Ogre fell, and Willem faced his father, and slew him as he called upon his dark gods. And there was much rejoicing!

With the stronghold of chaos overcome, the PCs headed back to the surface, where they found the armies of Chaos and Ulek poised to battle each other… but it’s getting late, so I’ll deal with that tomorrow.

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