Part 31: Filling in the Gaps 2: More Magic, More Heroes, More UndeadFilling in the Gaps 2: More Magic, More Heroes, More Undead
We've gotten a bit further into the game at this point and things are starting to head toward a climax. With that in mind, there's a few things that have been tossed in our direction with the expectation that we'll know why they're important, we've gotten some new spells to play with, and ran across several very dangerous enemies that could use some more explanation. As usual, we'll start with magic.
Rip has gained access to his final tier of magic at this point, but both the good and bad news is that it won't take long to describe.
Clerical Magic - Level 6
Heal - cures blindness, disease, feeble-mindedness, and restores a character up to their maximum hit points minus 1-4 HP. Even if it weren't the only spell available, we'd probably be filling every slot with it anyway. It's even worth casting outside of using the fix command, which is saying something.
Ishmael, on the other hand, has gained two levels of spells although some of them are pretty limited for a Red Robed mage.
Arcane Magic - Level 7
Delayed Blast Fireball - in tabletop, delayed blast fireball is identical to the regular fireball spell except that you can cause the spell to go off from 1-5 rounds after the casting time and each d6 gets a +1 bonus added onto it. In the Gold Box games, however, it's measurably more awesome. Instead of having a casting time the spell goes off instantly, and it appears to either have a higher cap than regular fireball or to just ignore caps altogether. I've seen damage well up into the 90s and low 100s from high level wizards casting this spell. It's insanely good, and due to being a higher level spell will go right through globes of invulnerability. As soon as it becomes available, all my bonus spells go to this one. Both Red and White Robed mages may cast it.
Mass Invisibility - just like invisibility, except that it works on multiple targets. It'll basically turn your entire party invisible if you cast it. Can be a worthwhile spell to get a surprise round, but I'd rather just drop 14d6 damage on their heads. Red Robe only.
Power Word Stun - causes one creature to be stunned and unable to act for a duration based on how much HP the target has. It's ineffective on targets with more than 90 HP, but anything else will be stunned from as few as 1d4 rounds to as many as 4d4 rounds. This spell uses current HP, so it can be used on strong targets that have been knocked down or to disable physically weak targets with strong special abilities. No saving throw allowed, either, so this is a pretty handy way to pick off mages and the like. It's almost worthwhile to keep one or two of these tucked away among your selection of fireballs. Red and White Robe shared.
Arcane Magic - Level 8
And this is the level where Ishmael gets the shaft.
Mass Charm - the same as the 4th level spell Charm, except that it hits a lot of targets. According to tabletop rules this will work on creatures with a combined total of up to twice as many levels or HD as the caster, within a 30 foot cube. All enemies save against this spell at a -2 penalty. Could be useful to take apart enemy lines, but you would then be unable to kill all the enemies for their sweet sweet experience points. White Robe only.
Mind Blank - protects the target from all spells that affect the mind, including charm or feeblemind. Supposedly lasts for 1 day, so if you're not doing much else with your 8th level spell slot this is a good enough investment. Unfortunately, very few enemies actually use mental effects so the spell doesn't shine as it might. White Robe only.
Otto's Irresistible Dance - compels the target creature to range uncontrollably, making it suffer a -4 to its armor class and fail all saving throws for subsequent spells. A pretty good disabler if you can get it to work. It's supposed to allow for no saving throw, but I've seen it fail before. White Robe only.
Power Word Blind - strikes the target blind with no saving throw, so long as it has less than 100 HP. Supposedly the duration of the blindness varies based on the HP of the target, but in game terms it's essentially permanent. Unfortunately, it can be negated with either of two third level spells: cure blindness or dispel magic. It's not a very good spell, but if you've got nothing else to do with a turn you might as well give it a shot. Red Robe only
That does it for magic in this game, so we'll turn back to the High Clerist's Tower and the Dragon Pit to explore a couple of things brought up there. First off
Who is Sturm, and why does anybody care about his corpse?
During the ransacking of the High Clerist's Tower, one of the things that kept being brought up was that the enemy had Sturm's body. What the game didn't do, assuming that we were all intimately familiar with the Dragonlance setting, was explain exactly who this Sturm was.
Sturm Brightblade was one of the Heroes of the Lance, and pretty much the only one of them to actually die at the hands of an enemy during the War of the Lance. He was the heir of a long line of Solamnic knights, but his father was killed and his mother forced to flee with him during a peasant uprising. He grew up near Solace, and as a young man went off to Solamnia in search of his heritage. During this time Sturm encountered a being known as Vertumnus, the Green Knight, who infected him with a touch of wild magic and offered him a choice as to whether he would become a proper knight or walk along a different path. Shortly afterward, Sturm uncovered wrongdoing on the part of another knight named Boniface Crownguard and challenged him to a duel. The wild magic offered Sturm a way to victory, but he rejected it and lost to the much more experienced knight. Sturm left Solamnia in disgrace, still a squire who had not been granted entry into one of the orders.
Sturm's next major adventure took him to his family's land accompanied by Kitiara Uth Matar, sister of the Majere twins and herself a descendant of the Solamnic knights. The two got along about as well as a house on fire, leading to Kitiara seducing Sturm out of spite since she was pleased at the idea of shattering his ideals. Unbeknownst to her, however, she had also conceived a child at the same time. Sturm eventually confronted the man responsible for his father's death, at which point Kitiara saved his life by shooting the man in the back when he was about to kill Sturm. Sturm was able to recover his ancestral weapon, the Brightblade, which was said to never dull or tarnish and would not break until its wielder did. He parted ways with Kitiara at that point, before realizing that she was pregnant. Kitiara carried the child to term in secret, then left him with a foster family. Her bizarre sense of humor led her to name the child Steel Brightblade.
During the War of the Lance, Sturm had a brief romance with the princess of the Sylvanesti elves that left a mark on her heart for the rest of her life and left him with a magical elven jewel. His later adventures included retrieving a dragon orb with the other Heroes, as well as with three other knights. One of those knights turned out to be Derek Crownguard, the son of the man Sturm had publicly accused of dishonorable behavior. Once the dragon orb was recovered the party split, with Sturm accompanying Crownguard on a journey into Solamnia. Once they arrived Crownguard lost no time in accusing Sturm of insubordination and cowardice, but the trial didn't quite go as Crownguard hoped. Sturm was stripped of his position as a squire, but in recognition of his actual deeds was appointed a Knight of the Crown and given command of a body of other Knights of the Crown who were sent to hold the High Clerist's tower. Crownguard was in overall command of the effort, however, and managed to get himself and most of his men killed in a suicidal charge against the dragon armies.
Sturm was left as the highest ranking knight in the Tower, with a mob of draconians and evil troops outside accompanied by dragons. When Tasslehoff Burrfoot discovered another dragon orb underneath the tower, Sturm volunteered to serve as a distraction while the dragon orb was used to lure the dragons in so that they could be slaughtered. While serving as a distraction he confronted the Blue Dragon Highlord, who stabbed him through the chest while he was immobilized by dragon fear. This Highlord was none other than Kitiara, the mother of his child. Sturm died a hero, as the plan succeeded and the High Clerist's Tower held until reinforcements could arrive. He was interred there in honor and celebrated as a great knight.
So, in short, one of the greatest heroes of the War of the Lance just had his body stolen to be turned into a hideous undead perversion of his former self. In addition to probably being a powerful death knight, such a creature would demoralize and dishearten great swathes of the populace. It'd be kind of like if George Washington had come back to life to fight for the British during the War of 1812.
Within the Dragon's Pit the party encountered a Death Dragon, which had the distinction of being one of the single most powerful and dangerous enemies seen thus far. The Adventurer's Journal describes them as an occasional outcome of powerful dragons dying, with their will being so powerful that their dead and rotting bodies remain animate. A more likely explanation, however, would be that we were intended to be fighting a dracolich.
Similar to a lich, a dracolich undergoes a magical process to turn itself into a powerful undead being with the cooperation of evil wizards. The process likewise involves a phylactery and a potion, with the dragon's spirit transferring to the phylactery if the process is successful. The phylactery must then be brought within 90 feet of a reptilian corpse (one dead less than 30 days), with the creature's previous body being considered ideal. The wizard who facilitated the transfer must then cast magic jar on the corpse, which becomes the dracolich's new body if it fails a save versus spell.
If the dracolich is transferred into another body than its own it will become a proto-dracolich, and must devour at least 10% of its original body to transform into a full dracolich. Should the dracolich be slain it will return to its phylactery unless killed outright by powerful magic such as power word kill. At this point it can be given a new body in the exact same way. Dracolichs maintain much of the power of their original form, but receive bonuses to armor class, a more effective fear aura, a paralyzing gaze, and the ability to inflict an additional 2d8 of chilling damage when using physical attacks. Dracolich can also paralyze opponents with their physical attacks, and maintain the breath weapon they had as a living dragon.