Part 22: The Bugbear BonanzaAfter the Ravenloft Vacation, the party was left where they were, and after some divining (and a few hints from me) they realized they were back on their home planet, along with what used to be a Dark Lord Domain. Thus, without any further angelic interference, they were able to teleport back to their home country, which unfortunately wasnt as nice of a homecoming as they had wanted.
Instead, they discovered that some armed mercenaries had completely eradicated the nation from existence. They had burned all the houses and the castle, raped and slaughtered the populace, looted everything worth taking, and salted all the fields for good measure. Just to drive it home, the Steward Tim crawled over to them, dying, just to explain what had happened. They tried to Raise him later, but Tims response was Fuck you, Im in Heaven now. Cant get rezzed unwillingly, after all.
But that was later. Immediately after connecting with Tim, the party had their first glance at the villain who had been bugging them throughout their entire career as adventurers. He was standing on the ramparts of the still-burning castle, and spent a good moment or two laughing at the party before Teleporting off. The party Wizard tried to get off a Disintegration, but the villain had prepared for this and had set an invisible Wall of Force in between them beforehand. The villain also didnt offer any clues, because I knew the Cleric could get off a quick Divination and learn enough to get started. That was how they learned that, in spite of appearing as a human on the castle roof, their enemy was actually the oldest red dragon on the planet.
Levels 15-20 were spent traveling among the many races to gather support for an attack on the red dragon villain, who was known to be particularly dangerous because he had collected his normally Chaotic red kin into a united force through unknown means. These levels were also spent reconnecting the characters to their backstories, which had been left mostly fallow. Fortunately, both tasks were easily completed simultaneously because the party by this point consisted of a dwarf, a gnome, a human (barbarian), and a half-elf (the halfling had moved away before Ravenloft). At this point, I forget if exploring the world in earnest led to my world-building for the first time or vice versa. Either way, before the party left for Ravenloft, all I had was a continent map on a piece of paper with some random names and races written on it. By the time the campaign ended, I had a 41 page Word document with all the details of the continents history and worship systems. This included 47 original gods spread between half a dozen regions and races.
The dragon wasnt just sitting back and waiting for the players to show up, either. While they were in the gnome lands, for instance, the party was attacked by a single-minded iron golem who was then effectively defeated by a single casting of Force Cage. Thats when the Banned Spells List got kick-started. Later, when the party was participating in what was basically the Olympics, they were ambushed in the (anti-magic laden) locker room by a half dragon. This half dragon, incidentally, was the same person who had beaten the party to a pulp and de-magicked their magic items way back at level 2; he had simply been using a Hat of Disguise to conceal his true nature, which required him to explain all this.
Anyway, like I said before, once the goodly races were organized together, they built a fleet of airships, flew north to confront the dragon horde, and recreated the ending to Final Fantasy 9 in the process. The party, in the vanguard of the fleet, was dropped down to confront the big bad villain in his special anti-magic cavern (which, as it turned out, didnt do much to help him). However, I got the last laugh, since the dragons final words were, I have failed you, Master. Over? The final act had only just begun.
Interesting way to start the 4th floor. So, once were down there, what do we see?
A troll. He attacks you on sight.
Poor, dumb asshole.
Hold on, before you kill him, arent trolls smart enough to answer questions?
Well, barely, but yeah. But normal trolls only speak Giant.
How convenient, so can I. Looks like Paul can, as well. Anyone else?
Yeah, I took Giant.
Alright, fine. So why do you want to talk to this guy?
Hes on the 4th floor, which means he has to be important, and if hes important, then he knows the layout down here.
Not knows stuffs just guard me not important.
Well, thats a shame, then, since we have no use for you otherwise.
Lets start by poking his eyes out. I always wanted to know how fast a troll can regrow those.
Roll Intimidate sheesh, alright. Hes only got 6 hit dice, you know. Please! No hurts me! No take eye!! I tell, I tell
Me not knows much but me knows da secret pass. Me learns it gud. It is epi-pha-ny
Epiphany? Whats that even a secret pass for?
Yeah, dats it now let me go, me dont know more stuffs me just low guard.
Oh, very well. Run away before I change my mind.
The troll gets up and runs up the stairs as fast as it can. I hope you guys are happy.
That all depends on if Epiphany ever comes up again.
We do tend to brute force our way through most obstacles.
The party then encounters a small pack of trolls. But thats hardly even worth mentioning at this point.
So this is a pretty big combat, being the main barracks for the bugbears and ogres, so I decided to break it up a bit. Right now all you need to worry about are four ogres and four bugbears.
How uncharacteristically nice of you.
Im being nice to me. There are a goddamn ton of enemies down here, and Im frankly getting sick of having to move them all.
A ton, you say? Maybe I should try out the Chain Lightning wand we pilfered from the Wizard of the Golden Skull.
Nice! Its just too bad the radius is so small, or Id say Chain Lightning is even better than Fireball.
The damage cap is higher, at least. The big downside is that only the primary target is hit for full potential damage.
Wizards First Roost! No!
Its just a chicken.
Its a chicken that killed a hill giant! This is the most awesome chicken we will ever meet!
Relax, Roost has a few more hit dice than normal thanks to Melenys Druid levels. You can still get to him in time.
Then get to him in time, damnit!
This next fight will be against a pack of four ogres at the southwest end of the room.
Are any of them special ogres?
Not these ogres, no.
Oh, thisll be a snap, then.
Deep Slumber! And now were done.
Oh, lets just say the last battle is against the bugbear captain, his chief lieutenant, and all the rest of the bugbears in the southeast wing of the barracks.
Right then, Ill hold off the captain with my magic bullshit sword.
Ill take his lieutenant. William, do you think you could hold off everyone else?
Yeah, sure. I think we might want one of those spike trap things the Druid can cast.
Its Spike Stones at this point.
So she casts Spike Stones. That means 1d8 unavoidable damage for every 5 feet they move.
And he takes 35 damage, ouch. He basically runs right up to Big McLargeHuge and keels over immediately from the blood loss.
Maybe we should convince them that they need to do six more laps and let them murder themselves.
Whelp, that was the last one.
You seriously used a full 50 charges of that wand?
Yep! Great investment, wasnt it? I suppose Ill build myself a level 10 version once we get back. Until then, Chain Lightning for everyone!
But youre not 10th level yet.
Soon enough. Soon enough.
Good, I finally reached level 10.
The Ogre Chieftan fails his save, and is paralyzed.
Perfect! Now get over there and coup de grace him, Suzie!
This seems like such a broken spell.
Well, thats why they made it so the target can make another save every round.
On the other hand, if we had coordinated better, we might have killed him instantly just now. As it is, theres still a good chance well manage it before he can even get a hit in.
Hardboot and Meleny both reach level 10.
Ha! Told you it wouldnt be much longer.
Lets see, Ill need Shout to make the Rod of Thunder and Lightning, and lets say Feeblemind. There might be a caster or two I could use that on.
In this room, you see the commanders of the Temple guards and soldiers. Both are well aware of who you are at this point, and they begin by summoning in a set of four large elementals. Aside from them, you also have to deal with the two bugbear bodyguards and their quasit familiars.
I guess this is the best time to drink the Protection from Elementals potion.
The what? When did we get that?
We picked it up from the stone minotaurs chest, remember? You were wondering what single potion would be worth a guardian?
Ah. Well that makes sense, then.
WIZARDS FIRST ROOST! NNOOOOOOOOOOokay, Im over him now. So what should we get next time?
Well, if youre going into town after this, I may as well just tell you. Theyre Boots of Speed.
They are now Williams boots.
I never remember to use all this Haste stuff you guys give me. Hell, I hardly remember to Rage half the time.
Well, you should. Haste is incredibly powerful in the right hands. Hands like yours.
A polar bear?! Get that!
So weve moved on from slaughtering one endangered species to slaughtering another. Go figure.
Name him Po.
Thats not very creative.
Well, I was planning on that name for the next panda, but this happens to be more convenient.
Hot damn, I actually killed something with a Phantasmal Killer. I figured theyd have to fail both saves eventually.
There, see? Slay Living may be Touch range only, but only one save to fail means its highly effective.
Which should mean Big, Alistor, and Josephus all reach level 11. You are officially overleveled for this campaign.
Oh, theres at least one or two total bullshit moments to come, whether at level 10 or 11.
A shame about Po. But then hes no Wizard's First Roost. I shouldnt expect so much from a polar bear.
I should note at this point that, in the original game, your level was capped at 10. You could still get more XP, but there was no point to it aside from spending it on building items. With the Co8 mod, the cap is now 20, but the spell selection is slightly gimped. You see, a lot of the 6th level spells were in the game already, since you fight higher-level enemies, but if they didnt have them, you dont get them, either. For instance, Alistor cannot memorize a level 6 domain spell, because his two options (Blade Barrier and Fire Seeds) dont exist in the game. This may be different with the New Content pack, which Im not using, but at least there are enough options to make the trip worthwhile. Harm alone is a very good spell option; at 11th level, itll deal either 110 or 55 damage and bypass Evasion.
Well, this rooms a bit different.
Are you looking for someone?
She is looking for her master, Hedrack. She says you shouldnt be here, and he will be displeased that you are.
I am not afraid of this Hedrack.
She seems to give up on you at this point, already assuming that hell kill you when he sees you. She avoids talking to you from then on.
That was disappointing. What about the other one?
The other woman looks somewhat dazed, like shes not all there. However, she responds just like the first one, telling you that you shouldnt be in this room.
I do not fear your master! Are you alright? Is he enslaving you?
She almost says something, but then her dazed look returns. She explains in a monotone that she is here to serve her master and wants nothing more.
So shes probably spellbound. What do we do about this?
Oh, I know, Ill just use this conspicuously placed Dispel Magic scroll. Step aside.
The spell works, and the charm is broken. She breaks down into tears as she regains her right mind for the first time in months.
Now that you have regained yourself, may I ask your name?
Her name is Paida. She was with an ambushed caravan that was headed to Hommlet and wound up in Hedracks hands.
Dear lady, we may have entered this place without such intent, but rescuing you shall now be our top priority!
Shes glad to hear it. Her husband is the wainwright in Hommlet, and she would be grateful if you could bring her back.
Hal, can Hardboot arrange for a Teleport spell?
But were not finished down here! Just tell her to keep out of trouble, and we can finish off this wing before we go back.
I cast Confusion! See, Paul? This wont take long at all.
Hold Monster on the unconfused one.
If 37 knocks him down, I Cleave the one in the middle. 36 damage.
Thats enough to end it.
Right, everyone get to collecting the treasure whilst I warm up the Teleport.
Och, I tell ya lad, some money would go sweetly aboot now.
You realize this guy is just a wainwright, right? Youd clear him out if you asked for 100 gold pieces, and youve got over 200,000 between the five of you.
Och, fine, boot next time ya get a loved one captured, ya best not be askin fer oor help!
I, er, never asked for your help, actually. Im certainly glad you helped, but hadnt asked for it.