Finishing off D&D 4E in style!

Last Friday, the Greyhawk D&D 4E campaign we began in June 2008 finished. Six years and over a hundred sessions since we started, the group stopped the cultists of Tharizdun from unchaining the Chained God, and thereby stopped the End of the World.

Just as well – I’ve got another campaign running in Greyhawk on Saturdays. It would be a bit unfortunate for the other players to turn up to the next session of that and discover that the campaign was over due to the world ending!

Of the five players at the table, Martin, Rich and Adam had played since the start of the campaign. None were on their original characters, but Adam’s original character was at the table. You see, he’d initially played a tiefling warlock named Archibald, who, a few sessions into the campaign in 2008 had decided to take up an evil priest on his offer and betray the party. I’d used Archibald since then as a recurring NPC who would generally (a) want to kill Rich’s paladin and (b) make trouble for the rest of the group. I’d taken particular joy in using him to annoy Adam’s other characters. Adam’s bard wanted to make an Obsidian Horse? No problem… he’d just have to ship in the obsidian. Which then would not arrive.

Where had it gone? No idea, but as the group travelled across the Bright Desert to the Lost City (of Logan Bonner & Kobold Press), they discovered Archibald riding an Obsidian Horse…

For the finale of the campaign, which I’d adapted from Monte Cook’s Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, Archibald was revealed to be the ultimate Big Bad of the campaign. The group had been going through the Nodes of Elemental Evil, slaying the Princes of Elemental Evil so that Archibald couldn’t use their power to free Tharizdun. Upon returning to the Temple with the key to the curtain of antipathy which protected Archibald, they discovered Archibald involved in the unchaining ritual and protected by his cultists and Ogrémoch, Prince of Evil Earth Elementals.

Keen-eyed readers will notice that one of the player character is, in fact, a Bullywug Monk. (HP 172, AC 47, F45, R45, W45). This is Paul’s character – and Glomp has been a great addition to the game. He joined us late in proceedings, as the group were investigating the original Tomb of Horrors in the Vast Swamp, his home. Although originally of an evil bent (and worshipping Wastri), an encounter with a Deck of Many Things turned him to the path of Good.

Soon enough, almost all the characters were dead. Evil had won!

No, not really!

Ogrémoch had used his Earthquake Stomp to knock some of the front-line fighters prone, and they’d found themselves surrounded by cultists. Greg’s character, Elizabeth, a 30th level human slayer (HP 242, AC 41, F43, R38, W36) was the group’s real damage expert. Greg had come to the campaign late; he’d played in my other 30-level 4E campaign (using the HPE adventures), and the year of Pathfinder, but with the Sunday campaigns over, he had joined the Friday Greyhawk game. Upon regaining his feet, he started really hitting Ogrémoch, and even with over 1200 hit points, it wasn’t taking long to deal with the elemental! Greg had joined as the group chased Archibald from Greyhawk after he’d looted something from one of the crypts of Castle Greyhawk – and the group had ended up in Hommlet and then from there to the Crater Ridge Mines…

It took six rounds for the group to deal with Ogrémoch and the cultist minions with him – which took us about 70 minutes of real time – and then it was time to deal with Archibald once and for all.

I’d created Archibald as a full PC, and given him a lot of items to protect him, as I really didn’t want him going down in one hit. He was aided by a lot of cultist minions, some large earth elementals (using Horned Beast stats), a pair of Blistered Souls, which used Wrackspawn minis. Basically, they were cultists warped by contact with Tharizdun into beings of terror. Two Doomdreamer Wizards also protected him. That’s five standard monsters and about ten minions. I allowed the players to benefit from the effects of a short rest before the battle began, with the ritual to free Tharizdun failing (thanks to the slaying of Ogrémoch) and Archibald turning on them in a rage!

Early on in the combat, Archibald used the Curse of Twin Princes on Greg’s slayer. Elizabeth, it must be said, had pretty poor defences – poor enough that Archibald only ever needed a “3” on the d20 to hit her Will. The curse was pretty much assured then. What the curse did was interesting: half of the damage Archibald suffered would actually affect Elizabeth instead – and this would last for the entire encounter. Archibald did need to make an attack each time he suffered damage for the curse to work, but he only failed two checks in the entire combat, so Elizabeth took a lot of damage. How much? Somewhere over 600 points of damage. We’re not entirely sure how much.

Elizabeth survived entirely due to Adam’s bard, Max. This was Adam’s third character in the campaign. Archibald was his first; his second – Lsuj – was a wizard who left the group about half-way through the campaign when they were in Farika, an parallel world which Archibald had trapped them in. (I think, technically, he left because he was dragged into the Elemental Chaos by a fire elemental, but it was actually Adam’s idea to retire the character). Max, a noble of Greyhawk, then joined the campaign. Along the way he became Archmage of Greyhawk. His half-elven bard (HP 174, AC 46, F34, R38, W43) was really good at healing and – thanks to how 4E healing worked – could also fight.

And, as we discovered in the last session, Max could also turn into a dragon!

Max managed this due to his Epic Destiny: Draconic Incarnation. It seemed that Max was a reincarnated dragon, who took his true form during this final encounter. It also means that the Archmage of Greyhawk is a dragon! Tread very, very carefully around him! Unfortunately, I didn’t know this when I was bringing in miniatures for the evening. Martin had a half-painted dragon from the Reaper Bones kickstarter, so we used him instead. I’m using some of the Bones minis for terrain, the dungeon tiles are from the Dwarven Forge kickstarter, and the rest of the minis are generally D&D Miniatures except for a couple that come from the Pathfinder range… We’ve been playing for quite some years now, but the past decade has been very, very good for accessories at a reasonable price!

We play at Martin’s place, which means that Martin has been at every session… except one, a month ago, when he was in Sydney and we played at Greg’s. Martin is also on his third character, as I recall. Riardon was an Eladrin Psion (HP 161, AC 43, F42, R48, W48) who has been the bane of my monsters due to one completely broken Psion power: Dishearten. When you spend 2 power points to empower it, Riardon would affect a 15′ x 15′ area with the power, and inflict a -9 attack penalty on all the creatures within! As Riardon had about 18 power points and most combats would only go 6 rounds or thereabouts, it could utterly shut down several or all of the monsters. If we ever return to 4E, I’ll veto the use of any power that gives more than a -2 penalty to attack rolls – they’re just too good.

However, having so many monsters did help keep Riardon somewhat in check, especially with a lot of them having high Will defences. The cultist minions had AC 45 and Will 45, so they managed to survive quite a bit longer than I originally expected. Martin had quite a long stretch of pretty lousy rolling in this final battle, but finally managed to get some good rolls as the battle entered the final stages.

Archibald himself had pretty good defences – AC 46, Fort 43, Ref 44 and Will 48! I very much enjoyed using Claws of the Magpie against Adam’s character, as he’d used it so much on my monsters over the years of the campaign. Amusingly, Adam had trained away the power recently, and so couldn’t use it against several of the monsters here with really annoying auras, as it shuts down auras and means the target can only use at-will and basic attacks!

While the four characters fought Archibald and his minions, one character was pretty conspicuous by his absence. Rich’s paladin, Drakuld. Where was he? Well, as the others had rushed up to engage Archibald, Max had exchanged places with one of the Blistered Souls, and it had attacked Riardon. Drakuld ran back to engage the Soul whilst Riardon went after the cultists. As a paladin, Drakuld’s strength was in locking down the big bad as the strikers (Glomp and Elizabeth) took it down. Fighting without them was proved to be a slow process.

Eventually, Rich decided that he could abandon the Soul and he ran up to join the rest of the group. At this point, Archibald began to die, repeatedly, only returning each time on his next turn and annoyed the players more and more. At least it gave them a chance to take out the other monsters. Along the way, Max ran out of healing to use on Elizabeth, who, as noted, was taking an insane amount of damage from the Curse.

It should be noted that two of the characters were actually female; Rich’s Drakuld was as well. Greg had chosen for his character to be female, but Drakuld had been gender changed due to a cursed item some sessions back. Adam apparently could have reversed the curse at any point he chose, but he’d found the situation too amusing.

Drakuld was the longest-running character in the campaign. Rich’s first character had died as they explored the caves around Castle Greyhawk – using sections of Castle Zagyg to fill them in. So, he’d begun playing his Paladin sometime in late 2008. Now, at 30th level, it was a force to be reckoned with.

The combat lasted nine rounds, but it took a fair while to resolve, especially as Adam had a very complicated character. His draconic form was knocked prone at one point, and he didn’t bother standing back up; he needed his actions for other things! Then there were the dice being rolled and some of the players weren’t that quick at arithmetic as I was. Also, the damage being dealt could be extremely high – over 100 points in many instances, especially as there were several criticals in the battle. The time taken? About two hours.

Finally the last of Archibald’s servants was slain, and it was only then that Archibald was out of tricks. The group gathered around him, and slew him.

And that’s how the campaign ended. The world was saved, and Archibald the Traitor was no more. Six years of a D&D campaign ended in an epic battle.

In two weeks, we’ll start having a look at the new Dungeons & Dragons. We’ll play through the Starter Set adventure, The Lost Mine of Phandelver, to get a feel for the system, and after that – towards the end of the year – we’ll start up a new Greyhawk campaign. This time, I think, set in Onnwal, where the characters are rebels fighting against the Scarlet Brotherhood.

But for now, it’s a very big thank you to everyone who has participated in this campaign. It was a big one, and we’ve finally finished it!

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