Part 18: Putting Out the Fire Nah, I went last time. Make Bob go instead.
Alright. Let me tell you guys about planning.
Back when I started DMing, I began by using a beginners module I found among my dads stuff, which I had to adapt personally from 1st edition to 3rd. I decided to include all the best loot, because Im soft-hearted like that, and my players found basically all of it before the dungeon was over. Unfortunately, 3rd edition D&D was the first to really start experimenting with game balance, and the module included a bunch of +1s and a +2 weapon just there for the taking. Checking the price sheets later, I realized just how much more these weapons were worth compared to the PCs, and resolved to fix my mistake. Mind you, if I was doing it today, Id let them keep their measly 5-10% accuracy boost and not give them anything good for several more levels, but at the time the players were mauling the hell out of the enemies and I blamed the weapons. Luckily, my players (also mostly new) agreed with my reasoning when I explained myself.
Heres how I fixed the problem: a mysterious stranger attacks them on the road, hands them their asses, and then uses a mysterious artifact to drain their magic weapons. I never really explained why, but it was obvious the guy was working for someone bigger. I figured I could always flesh it out somewhere on down the line, once they were powerful enough, but it would be several years before I finally made the grand reveal. Several real years. Id go on to pull out the mysterious villain card a couple more times in the interim, but for the most part the players just forgot about the incident.
So after the PCs returned from Ravenloft (long story, talk about it later) to their personal nation (same deal), they found out the place had been burned to the ground while they were gone. The whole country. Rape and pillage, murder and salted fields; basically, the place was wiped off the map. Only then did the villain choose to reveal himself, laughing and standing on top of their burning keep. He stuck around just long enough to gloat, then Teleported off. This served its purpose of pissing off the players quite effectively.
The villain himself revealed nothing, but after some scrying, the PCs discovered he was an ancient red dragon who had used some kind of magic to unite his kind and spread terror and destruction across the landscape. Levels 15-20 were spent gathering support from among the nations of good races, support which finally manifested as a massive fleet of airships in a blatant rip-off of Final Fantasy 9. The PCs were delivered into the main chamber of the villains lair, and after a quick couple of rounds (sadly common throughout the campaign), the final villain diedbut not before revealing that he was working in the name of the Duke of the Nine Hells himself, Asmodeus. Levels 21 and above were spent gathering the artifacts necessary to defeat him, which eventually came to pass as a blatant rip-off of Kings Quest 6. I can go into details later.
So you may be asking, what does all this have to do with planning? Well, heres the thing: Id always wanted to lead a campaign to destroy Asmodeus in an epic conflict ever since I read his entry in my dads 1st edition Monster Manual, which occurred well before 3rd edition even existed. So although it took well over ten years, and over half that playing a single campaign of D&D, I got my wish. Now that is what I call planning.
Speaking of planning, I believe we have all our buff spells ready. Hal, if youd like to start out the festivities?
You know, something just doesnt seem quite right about casting a Fireball spell into a room full of Fire Temple dudes.
Why? Aside from the priests, they arent really fireproof. I believe that hydra isnt even firebreathing.
Oh, well in that case
So you guys arent going to even bother speaking with the high priest? Arent going to hear what he might have to say about you killing the Earth Temple priest?
Here, let me show you what were missing, *ahem* Ah, so hes dead, just as planned! Wait, youre here to kill me too? Nuh uh, Imma kill you first! Am I wrong?
Lewis Sound Bursts the Hydra to death.
Goddamn thing didnt even take one turn.
Behold the glory of a bottleneck. Its good it didnt take a turn, though, since it would have taken 5 at once if we let it.
Looks like I can get four enemies at once if I place the Confusion here. What are the two in the back, by the way?
Ill tell you if it comes up, now let me roll saving throws. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit.
Ooh, sounds like you found a real winner there.
The High Priest runs forward, as if to attack, but he seems to forget what he was doing mid-stride.
Confused? Ha! Nice work, Hal. So how many buffs did the High Priest have on?
He had just cast Righteous Might. He would have attacked this turn.
Actually, with all Alrrems damage resistance, you only deal 6 damage. Still, thats enough to take him to Dying.
Sweet! Mark one more for me!
Ill fire a Deep Slumber at the werewolf dude with the weird radius thing.
Not very helpful, but I know what youre talking about. And he fails his save and falls asleep.
Ha! And here I thought the hit dice limit was restrictive.
William, Lewis, Paul, and Suzie, you all get to level up.
Level 8 for everyone, hurrah!
But I died once, remember? Ive only just reached level 7.
Plus Ive spent like a levels worth of XP on building magic items at this point, so itll be a while for me, too.
The rest of you can start raising your skills, at leastoh, wait, I almost forgot, theres still a sleeping wereworlf and a troll to worry about.
Gather up, everyone. Time to beat werewolf when hes down.
Killing the last runaway bugbear dropped me out of combat, and getting all those levels made me forget about this poor bastard completely, even though he was pulsing with Sleeping notices the whole time. Oh well, no harm done.
I figured Id add Charm Monster. Anyone else get anything special?
Just the usual stat bonus for 8th.
Hows the loot?
Well, aside from the Full Plate Armor and assorted money you got from the lesser monsters, Alrrem has three spell scrolls, a magic warhammer, magic chainmail, and a magic shield. You also find a Darkwood buckler in his personal chest.
Not terribly useful to us, but I think well get plenty of cash for all that.
What does Darkwood do, anyway?
Half the weight, considered masterwork, and an additional -2 to Armor Check Penalties. Bucklers are also fairly nice in that you can still use your off hand to attack while wearing one.
Really? I should try using it, then.
So whats next for you guys?
Well, the High Priest is down, but the altar still needs to be cleared. Lets get some rest first; I believe well need as many Protection from Energy (Fire) spells cast as we can manage.
Fortunately for you guys, the altar is just across the hall from the High Priests quarters. As you approach the center, you see a powerful man in full armor stand up and draw his weapon. I am Bassanio, Commander of the Troops for the Fire Temple. What is your business here?
Were bein here to kill ya, lad!
Melenys turn. She decides to use Ice Storm on the side altars for some reason. And oh, all three salamanders die.
Oh, if were doing that, then William should run up next to the main altar and attack what he may or may not see there. For some reason.
Also for some reason, Ill attempt to cast Dismissal on the other side of the altar.
Damn. Well, buckle up, kiddies.
Noble Salamanders have the ability to cast Fireball three times per day, and they certainly love using it in this case. Id say my inability to survive its constant use caused more reloads than for any other single combat. Even still, Meleny managed to die again when her Resistance wore off before the Fireballs did.
Lets say two Magic Missiles for the normal Salamander and two for Mr. Fireball over there.
I thought you were supposed to be Mr. Fireball.
Well, yeah, but even I dont cast em every single turn, especially in the Fire Temple itself. Its something to aspire to.
Either way, the four Magic Missiles deal enough damage to thoroughly kill both remaining combatants. Congratulations, guys, you won looks like Hardboot gets his 8th level, too.
Oh, sweet. I think for this level Ill pick Phantasmal Killer and Greater Invisibility. Nothing quite like save or die spells, even if they do get two chances.
Since Hal is busy, Ill ask about loot for him.
Since I imagine youre heading back to town to Raise Meleny, Ill just tell you what you found. Bassanio has a Rope of Entanglement, magic splint mail, and a +1 Flaming Sword. The chest behind him contains a Minor Ring of Fire Resistance and Frost Brand.
Frost Brand? Wait, seriously?
Thats a Greatsword, as I recall, yes? In that case, Ill be using that.
So is this why you took Greatsword Proficiency back at first level?
No. But I admit, a +3 Frost weapon will be excellent practice until the real reason shows up.