Monday, June 15, 2009

Fun with Death & Doom

(And frost, too, come to think of it.)

Last Friday's session of Is This Foul? was pretty combat heavy. Beyond a little exploration and the usual scenery chewing, two fights took up almost the entire five hour period. In retrospect, I probably it was probably too combat laden; I set up said combats mostly because I was curious about how they'd play out, forgetting that at least one player has very little interest in combat, and the rest do fine without it.

On the whole, though, it worked out rather well. We had a guest with us, running an NPC, so the combat-focus was probably good for keeping her from getting too lost in references to backstory and the ever-more convoluted plot. And, of course, I had the always antic-prone Halden to keep things interesting, by nearly getting himself killed and attacking his brother (one of the PCs) at slow moments.

I was fairly pleased with how the fights themselves turned out, too. Both were interesting, and quite different from each other. The first involved three high speed "grave wolves" zipping around outside the radius of their (single) light source, based very loosely on the harrier class from Iron Heroes. Though well within their capabilities, it was tough enough to put Halden into serious danger, prompting some amusing attempts to protect him from his own idiocy by the more responsible members of the party.

The second was one of the most interesting pure combats in 3.5 that I've ever run. (I've run plenty of combats that were interesting for plot or character reasons, but it's unusual for me to engineer something that holds my attention just on tactics.) I set an ice golem, from Frostburn, in front of a stone door -- thus, a fairly likely candidate for the "vaults" they're looking for in the tunnels they were exploring -- and the PCs on a ledge across the ice cave from it. Normally, this critter is CR 9, but I cranked up its HD into the territory where CR calculations for such things get a little wonky. Suffice to say, it was well out of their league, even with five level 10 PCs and a level 13 NPC along for the ride.

Luckily, it didn't take them long to figure that out. Kheriim, their mage blade, summoned a fire elemental, and when it smashed that in one hit they became very cautious about engaging it directly. Which was smart, because a few of the lower-hp characters could have very well died after but a single lucky hit, and even Ax (level 13 and a warmain to boot) could only handle a few rounds next to it.

Instead, they figured out a bunch of ways to fight it without getting close to it. Tricks with runes, the aforementioned fire elementals, a dancing-sword type spell, alchemist's fire, and running away really fast were the order of the day. There was also some talk about pulling it away from the door long enough to try to get through it, though they were lucky enough to take it out just as they'd decided to pull back and regroup. In short, they sat down and started thinking, a much better result than I've ever gotten out of all of the "level appropriate" fights I've thrown at them over the years.


  1. That is the type of event I like to see, a complete discard of anything "level appropriate".

    I think the most gratifying combats are the one where you defeat the impossible enemy through being clever. Everyone likes to feel clever afterall.

  2. Yep, I agree with Zzarchov and wish to subscribe to his newsletter.

    And this was a classic use of an over-powered monster. They saw it was over-powered, had the time and room to maneuver and plan, but it sounds like they didn't take too much time with it and it didn't bring the game to a halt.

    "Level appropriate" fights are just grinds. "I miss, I miss, I hit for 12 damage..." That's why Rukmini hasn't seen many. ;)

  3. Yep. I like having control over how tough the fights are -- randomly setting down a monster you *think* is going to be fine and having it turn into a bloodbath isn't cool -- but average fights are boring. I'm not interested enough in combat itself to put up with too many of them.

  4. 3E does the Glass Cannon and Balanced enemy types well. The Meat Wall archetype? Not so much. By RAW more hp > more HD > more offensive power. *blech*

    GJ hitting the sweet spot "We're all gonna die!!" and TPK Odd'.