The Let's Play Archive

Temple of Elemental Evil

by Bobbin Threadbare

Part 20: A Long Time Coming

So the long run campaign, let’s see…well, I’d say levels 1-7 or 8 were mostly spent fucking around and doing whatever. I remember I once had the entire capital city of the main empire kidnapped and sent floating above the landscape. The players weren’t in it at the time, they were fucking around just wandering an unsettled coast, slaughtering sealions because I didn’t realize they were useless above water until after I announced the encounter. Anyway, they wake up and they realize that dawn hasn’t come on schedule, but after some time passes, they realize it was blocked out by the giant goddamn city floating over their heads. At that point, a Monk (who they first met when he was refereeing a boxing tournament) makes a jump for it, slows down his fall in the nearby forest, and then gets them to fetch a Rod of Cancellation when they show up and offer to help. Most of the fix happens through other people since, you know, dropping a city back where it belongs is kind of out of their league, but hey, at least they get to be helpful, right?

The point where things really get to changing is when I hand the players a country of their own. See, I was inspired partly by Baldur’s Gate 2, and I figured giving them a base of operations would be a neat way to come up with new quests for them. It starts when they get a quest from the Adventurer’s Guild to go deal with an Evil King, only to discover that, for some reason, the law of succession is basically like those Underverse guys from Chronicles of Riddick: you keep what you kill. This is explained to them by the long-suffering steward, named Tim. Of course, thanks to the long string of murders, assassinations, and adventurers looking for a throne, Tim is the guy who’s actually running the kingdom.

They do a few missions for the sake of the kingdom, but after a while, I kind of got bored with the concept, and I’m pretty sure the players did, too. So what happens is that the Wizard belongs to this Prestige Class that lets him call any given spell into his spell slots, but it means he belongs to this specific organization and when they tell him to jump, he can only respond with “how high.” They get him and the party onto this scientific expedition to look into a peculiar valley up in the tropical north that is completely unscryable and tell him to chart it out. So they all get on a prototype airship and trundle on over.

As it turns out, the valley is full of a special iron blend that cancels out magic completely, and that’s why no one can see into it, since even scrying spells need that local sensor thing. In the center of the valley is this conspicuous mountain, so they all figure they’ll have a wander over and see what’s what. Oh, right, and the valley is this total Land of the Lost thing with dinosaurs because there’s a big entry for them in the Monster Manual and dammit I’m going to use it.

Incidentally, this is when the first and last character death occurs during the entire campaign, I believe. The Cleric got eaten alive by a T-Rex. And you have to admit, that’s a pretty awesome way to die, if you’re going to go. Still, I’m not too fond of killing players, so what happens next is that a bunch of the monks from the mountain come by in the night and pick the body up to Raise in the monastery.

“Hang on. The what?”

Well, of course there’s a bunch of Monks and Clerics in a remote monastery in a unique location. What kind of storyteller do you take me for? And before you ask, they didn’t bring in the other PC’s because reaching the monastery alive is how you prove your worthiness. When they eventually get to the place, each character is granted a favor by the monks for finding them; the Cleric’s favor was, naturally, to be raised from the dead. I forget what the rest got, though. Anyway, the monastery was high enough above the valley that magic could be used, so it was simple enough for the Wizard to pull out a Teleport and get back to civilization; after that, he could Teleport some of his fellows to this monastery (since you can always return to a place you visited once before) and get some real surveying going.

Or that’s what would have happened next. But that’s a story for another day. You guys finished shopping yet?

“Yes, but we still need a new Animal Companion for the Druid.”

“Hey, I know! Let’s make it another chicken, and name it—”

What is that a reference to?
Terry Goodkind’s first novel. It wasn’t too bad, aside from all the femdom S&M, but as his books progress, shit gets more and more crazy. At one point, he murders an army of pacifists with a sword that “only kills the guilty”—admittedly, “guilt” is decided by the wielder—oh, and at one point, the female lead is threatened by a chicken. But not just any chicken: this chicken is evil manifest!! I don’t think it ever did anything a chicken couldn’t, but then I never got that far myself.
So it’s a good name for a chicken, then?
“Tha’ chicken’s dynamite!”

When we left off last time, you had cleared the second floor of all living things. Based on the staircase you chose, you find yourselves in a triangular room with four doors and a passageway leading out.

I don’t suppose it matters which door we check first. What’s behind, oh, the southwest door?

Greater Temple bugbears. They don’t attack you at first, possibly believing that you work for Hardboot, who’s wearing those Greater Temple robes.

Best robes ever.
In that case, we may be able to set ourselves up before the combat begins.

…And he goes for a potion, so Attacks of Opportunity…yeah, he’s dead.
And I do believe I reach level 9! Ha, ha, level 5 spells!

Getting anything particular?
Teleport and Hold Monster are always good. Now, let’s see…oh, I can get Craft Rod now! Cool, rods are cool.
Now, what’s behind door number 2?

Even more bugbears.

I think we know how to deal with this. Guys? Block the entrance for me, would you?

Yeah, that’s the stuff.
You realize these are high-level bugbears, right? You only actually knocked one down.
Well, that’s why they blocked the entrance! There will be Fireballs aplenty today!

…How did the Glitterdust do?
Looks like…yep, all but one of the bugbears in the room are blinded.
Naturally, most of them won’t have a chance to attack us between the bottleneck and the Fireballs, but it’s good to think strategically, Paul.

That was enough for me. I just hit level 9. That means another d6 of Sneak Attack damage, and…let’s see…oh, right, I can take Improved Two-Weapon Fighting now.
Four attacks per round is nothing to sneeze at.

“What? We don’t even look like demons!”
“Scorpp cares not what ye be! Ye shall not come here and disturb me!” Scorpp then releases his pet worg and commands it to attack. Roll initiative…alright, Paul, you’re first.

I’ll use my Fascinate ability to keep him from attacking!
And the DC is based on a Perform skill check, which is better than most spell DC’s before rolling the dice. Goddamn, this skill is horribly broken for combat use.
And don’t forget it bypasses spell resistance. I think Fascinate will be incredibly useful come a certain few combats in the future…

Lewis, go ahead.
Slay Living.

He makes his save. Roll for regular damage.
Fortitude is the favored save for giants, right? How come you tried that spell on him?
Because no matter how high their saving throw is, there is always a 5% chance they will die outright, and that is a chance worth taking.

How come they always keep surrendering?
Because they don’t want to die? A remarkably high percentage of intelligent monsters don’t want to die, you know.
Well, yeah, but it always seems to end in pain anyway.
Pain or smokebombs.
Can we get on with this? “What can you tell me about the temple, Scorpp?”
“Scorpp once be part of da elite guard of da Great Temple. Me knows lots of stuff fo what be down dere. Lots of bad stuff.”
“Anything in particular?”
“Dere be some of dem bugbears, ogres, more hill giants like me, and a couple-tree o’ dem two-headed things, ettins methinks they be called.”
“How much? Of all of them?”
“Lessie, dere be more bugbears than fingers ‘n toes if me reckons correct. Many o’ dem ogres down dere, too, and lots and lots of us hill giants. But dey all da serious types. Dey not want to have fun and relax. Dey not know da good life like old Scorpp!”
A fun-loving hill giant? Can he come with us? Can we keep him? Oh please oh please oh please!
No! I mean, the module might say you can, but hill giants have an ECL of 16, and that’s even before you factor in Scorpp’s character levels! I know ECL is bullshit to keep players from using monster races, but Scorpp will seriously break the game if I let you have him.
Aw. Can we kill him for his stuff, then?
But you guys are on friendly terms with him now. That would make it an Evil act, not just Chaotic.
I vote we have Wizard’s First Roost do it, then.

Well, he’s already evil manifest, right?

Let me explain. The timing of some script or other is broken here, and Scorpp will shout the above line constantly and forever as soon as you attempt to leave the room peacefully. There are two ways around this problem: first, kill him before he can surrender. Second, convince him to come along with you as an NPC follower. Scorpp is incredibly broken, and while I’m doing my best to pimp out my party, I really am trying to avoid breaking the game completely in my favor. As such, my intent was to kill Scorpp for his gold rather than bring him along to pound my enemies into puddles of goo. Unfortunately, this broken script made that goal much harder than I expected.

Luckily, one game bug served to fix another. See, every time Scorpp said his line, initiative was rerolled and, if the chicken went first, it would get to attack Scorpp even though there was no time to even click on the guy to let another character swing at him. Scorpp’s HP was down in the 20’s, so it became a matter of holding down 1 long enough for the chicken to peck the guy to death. I’m really starting to like this rooster.

…And, so, Wizard’s First Roost flies up and pecks out Scorpp’s eyes, burrowing even deeper as Scorpp screams and wails helplessly.
Now I’m getting Ender’s Game flashbacks.

3000 gold for a single kill, though? Pretty nice.

Oh, one other thing. You notice a heavily modified magic crossbow leaning in one corner of the room, next to a certain scroll.

So? We take it.
Hang on, that sounds familiar. *Flip* *Flip* Aha! The gnome from level 1 asked us to get him “a heavily modified crossbow and a scroll of Control Plants!”
Oh yeah! We should get his things back to him.

*One long, annoying walk later*

“We finally found your equipment, Wonnilon!”
“Cool, thanks! Although, come to think of it, you guys have probably gotten farther than me in order to get all my stuff back. You can probably use this Control Plants scroll more than me. Here, take it.”
“My gracious thanks, Wonnilon.”
Well, that was worth the trip.
XP is always worth the trip.

Since we went upstairs anyway, I suppose we could try one of the other staircases to explore this time.

Much like the last staircase, this one brings you into a room full of doors, although this one is hexagonal in shape.

Go left!

Er, howdy.

The troll suddenly realizes that you do not work for the Greater Temple and attacks.

Oh no, a troll. Whatever shall we do.

…The troll was carrying a key and nothing else.

Pff, okay. How about the next door to the left?

…And this troll was also carrying a key and nothing else. The key looks slightly different, though.

We don’t even need keys, we’ve got a Rogue! This next door better have something good.

Depends. Would you call an ettin “good?”

Depends on if it realizes we’re here to kill it.

…And Sneak Attack makes it 30.
The ettin dies.
Holy shit, Suzie. Leave some for the rest of us, why don’t you?
You should have seen what she did in the last solo session. I gave her a mission to free a serving maid from her overbearing boss for the sake of her fiancé. Not only did she do so, she also stole everything of value from the mansion, knocked out every servant and guard, and even managed to steal the owners’ wedding rings so the couple could use them.

Various other monsters would fall along the way, including shaman-led ogre packs,

And another carrion crawler (also dead in one hit).

Oh? Oh! OH! Open the door! Quickly!
What’s the big deal, dude?

…Lying on the sarcophagus is what appears to be a vampire, based on his pale skin and prominent—

Wake him up! I wake him up!
“Wha—what’s happening? Who are you?”
“I am Alistor Keystone, Cleric of Pelor. These are my cohorts and companions. As for you, I could wager a good guess.”
Oh, I bet you could. “Please, tell me! Who am I?”
“You are Prince Thrommel of Furyondy. You disappeared several years back after the Battle of Emridy Meadows.”
“Yes, yes, that seems right. I am Prince Thrommel. Although the last thing I remember is that I was on a campaign in the south. I remember being awakened in the early morning by some small noise. Red-robed figures had entered my tent! I cried for the guard and reached for Fragarach, but I succumbed to some evil sorcery before I could attack!”
Proof positive that status effects are the best effects in D&D.
“Let’s see, and the year was 573. I was to marry the honorable Lady Jolene of Veluna soon after. How is milady? What news of Jolene? How long have I been gone?”
“As I recall, the year mentioned in the module was 579. I don’t recall what Jolene has been up to, however.”
She withdrew from public view soon after Thrommel went missing. Let’s just say your character would know that, and so you told him. “It is 579! By all that is holy, six years is too long to be away. I must return to Chendl at once!”

“Hey, mate, if you can wait 8 hours, we can get ya out of here in real style.”
“That would be most kind.”

A side note about Prince Thrommel: Thrommel is carrying the best weapon in the game: Fragarach. He also has some of the best gear around, including a Belt of Giant Strength, magic plate armor, a magic shield, a Ring of Protection, and a certain magic amulet. And the best part? The Humble NPC’s mod means I can take it all and he won’t bat an eye. Still, like I said, I’m not trying to cheese this game completely, so I leave his equipment be and merely steal his two scrolls of Bull’s Strength and his backup dagger.

“No reward is necessary, Prince Thrommel.”
What?! Yes it is! A reward is very fucking necessary!
I was trying to be humble so he could insist.
Well, don’t act humble when it puts the good shit at risk.
So what now?
Now we wait. It shouldn’t be that hard, we’ll just have Hal build more goodies for us.

And I’ve got just the things in mind!

So according to the walkthrough I’ve been using, if you Teleport Thrommel to Hommlet and wait exactly 14 days, his reward crew will show up on your next trip to Nulb, guaranteed.

I can now report that this is accurate.

“And you would be?”
“I am Lord Grundwell, a Marshall of Furyondy, and these are my companions from that fine country and from Veluna as well. Are you the one we’ve been looking for?”
“I am…”
“Then we have been entrusted to reward you for the rescue of Prince Thrommel, who is currently in Mitrik, chief city of Veluna, where he is pledging himself to her Noble Ladyship Jolene of Veluna.”
“How nice for him. You mentioned a reward?”
“I have been instructed to give each one of you the following items: a potion of Cure Serious Wounds, a Ring of Protection +1, and 2000 platinum pieces.”
I just peed myself a little. Excuse me.
“Um, gross. Finally, to you alone, Alistor Keystone, to show his infinite thanks, Prince Thrommel has asked me to give you the magic sword Scather, near twin to his own Fragarach. May you use it well.”
Yes! YES! YEEEESSSSS!! Bwahahahahahaha!

Oh my god. Will you guys calm down, please? I haven’t even told you the “best” part.

Wait, a bastard sword? But I’m almost certain the module called Scather a greatsword.

Well, it’s a copy of Fragarach, right? And Fragarach is a bastard sword, so I decided to modify Scather just a bit. For “verisimilitude.”

Oh dear, a -4 penalty to hit, whatever shall I do? Oh, I know.

I’ll never miss anyway. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

Let me add a few final notes of my own. First off, while Scather is an awesome weapon in both the 1st and 3rd edition pen-and-paper modules, I’m pretty sure it’s not “never misses the target” awesome. Instead, this seems to be the game’s interpretation of the Brilliant Energy weapon property. What Brilliant Energy normally does is it bypasses nonliving material, such as armor and shields, although it is still stopped by natural armor and is completely worthless against constructs and undead. Thus, it’s useful, but hardly broken, and in the wrong kind of campaign, it can even be more a hindrance than anything. Much more useful is the weapon property “it never, ever misses ever,” though it’s reportedly still useless against constructs and undead. Add in those other properties, and our Chaotic Good Cleric will always strike back when hit, will never miss, and will deal full damage each and every time.

Let me just thank everyone again for picking a party alignment adjacent to Chaotic Good.