Albany Game Day 14: Crucible of the Gods

Albany Game Day is a semi-annual local event in Albany NY. Last session, I ran Revenge of the Iron Lich and it was the best game I’ve ever run! Based upon that experience, I signed up to run two Fourthcore events for AGD 14. In the morning, I ran the second table for C1: Crucible of the Gods and in the afternoon I ran Grind 4E.

Crucible of the Gods is a 1st-level game designed as an introduction to DMs and players to Fourthcore D&D. Fourthcore aims to create challenges for the players and not just the characters that they play. The result is a uniquely difficult dungeon delve that often inspires lively game-play under pressure.

Caution: If you plan to play one of these games, turn back! Here be SPOILERS.

C1: Crucible of the Gods

In Crucible of the Gods, the party must prove their worth by completing the trials within the ziggurat and lighting the divine brazier. To fail would be to allow the Gods to drown the world in saltwater.

I ran C1 once before during the playtest but it ended quickly in disaster. I was anxious to run it again and hopeful for a better experience all around.

Because I was running the second table for C1, Jen (@CaffPaperCuts) & I synchronized our start and we were off! There were five people at my table and only two of them had brought their own characters (with alternates). The party was composed of a wizard, a cleric, a rogue, and two fighters.

A player’s handout was provided which provided necessary background on the four gods behind the Crucible and detailed four special encounter powers: the divine boasts.

For each of the four gods was a unique encounter power that players could take advantage of. When attempting an action associated with one of the gods, they could invoke a boast to try to earn their favor. If the player succeeds, they gain an action point and an additional benefit. If they fail, they suffer a penalty until the end of the encounter and may not attempt that boast for the remainder of the adventure.

A: Mouth of the Crucible

The group began cautiously outside of the ziggurat. A search for traps turned up a golden key. They party then moves inside.

B: Hall of Portals

There was a thorough examination of the room. One player went so far as to look for patterns in the stone floor to get in indication of which portal, if any, may be safe to pass through. A torch was sacrificed to discover that the portals are indeed one-way. Someone had drafted a rumor that all of the portals lead to dungeons from which there is no escape. With no further clues, no-one was inclined to test that rumor.

The thief successfully opened the door with the proper key, but his selection was dumb luck.

C: The Great Hub

The cleric examined the murals and read the lips of the moving images.

The wizard discovered that the three short, white pillars are the target of a divination and the party reasoned that the trial requires placing objects upon them.

The rogue made nothing of the empty, stone-filled archway.

D: Asar Segt’s Trial

In this room, the party correctly deduced the nature of the trial. They threw themselves into the a skill challenge to complete construction of a clay golem.

This first skill challenge is easily passed. The players made extensive use of Asar-Segt’s divine boast to earn extra successes on the challenge. The party suffered no failures and quickly moved on to complete the invocation, which activated the golem.

The golem rose and revealed the hidden altar where they found a crystal skull etched with the symbol of Asar-Segt. The wizard detected strong warding magic and advises caution. He picked up the clay humanoid figure from the foot of the altar.

The wizard concentrated on the figure in an attempt to control the golem but fails to move it. Meanwhile, the impatient thief grabbed the skull!

The skull rose into the air, out of the thief’s hands, and siphoned the soul of one of the fighters before it disintegrated. The lifeless fighter fell dead, only to be replaced by his ‘brother’ (another fighter) in the next trial.

Frustrated, the party continued on to…

E: Kotaresh’s Trial

The party entered a hexagonal room and was sealed within. To exit they had to solve the puzzle of the faces. They had previously located a hidden tablet that bore a clue to the puzzle, but they didn’t heed it well. (The assumption was that the God of Trickery might have planted a false clue.)

The players had a lot of trouble with this puzzle. After five incorrect choices, they narrowed down their choices to one oo two faces. With only a 50/50 chance of success, the party opened the eastern exit.

E2: The Gauntlet of Flame

This long room features three niches on the north and south walls. On a raised platform against the east wall was another altar with a crystal skull.

The cleric, rogue, and one of the fighters stayed behind as the wizard and the other fighter searched the new room for traps. They located three pits and traversed the room with no harm. Eager to escape, they ascended the steps to the altar.

Suddenly, where the altar had been there was a large marble elephant on a rolling platform. It crushed the wizard and fighter to death and then proceeded to cross the room. The rogue and the second fighter dodged into the Gauntlet but the cleric remained in the hex room. The elephant crashed into the hex room and broke through its false floor. The rogue also fell through the floor and was impaled to death on the pikes below.

The shaken survivors had no time to recover. A large golem appeared wielding burning skeletons and the remaining traps sprung into action. From the ceiling, spurts of burning wraiths flamed and the ceilings of the niches began to slam down and retract in random order. Each time a crushing block fell, it revealed a skull from within it that blasted the nearest dungeoneer with a ‘death ray’.

The dungeoneers manage to push the golem into a pit and petrify him with a wand they found in another room. However, the room wore them down to such a point that when the golem climbed out of the pit, it made short work of them.

The party had scored 35 points before the penalties for dead dungeoneers. The final score was -265.

They had found a secret room which I have not mentioned and, within it, they rolled the reapers dice. The results were Ruin, Vision, Wraithward, Pestilence, and Snakes Coil.

The players were overly cautious through the whole game. They did not know each other and, sadly, the party lacked that spark that makes for a rollicking, high-energy game. In fact, one of the players was incredibly detail-oriented and obsessed in looking for clues in the most obscure places, despite my assurances that what he was asking for was irrelevant to the task at hand.

The trap gauntlet performed beautifully and presented quite a challenge for the two surviving players. Asar-Segt’s trial, however, seemed to pass too easily because of Asar-Segt’s divine boast. Apart from the additional successes the boast also grants the player an additional rumor, which I had to confirm as true or false. Since four of the five players succeeded at the boast, they managed to draft all but one of the rumors. In practice, I think that it was too easy to gain the benefits of the boast. The next time I run the game, I may treat the boast as once per encounter for the party, not per player.


~ by Hunter Rose on September 15, 2011.

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