Expedition to Castle Ravenloft in the 13th Age: Session 3

This is an actual play broadcast of Expedition to Castle Ravenloft using the 13th Age RPG.

A Mysterious Stranger collapses in the forest beneath Aniel, He bears a letter from the the Burgomeister of Barovia, pledging the town’s wealth to anyone who can save them from the rising tide of undead that threaten to destroy the town.

The Elves of Aniel don’t recognise the name of Barovia and it does not appear on any map that the party has seen. It’s up to the party to get to investigate and decide their course toward the future!

Our characters are are:
Ember, the human fighter–played by Bryant (@gamercow)
Kenthis, the human sorcerer–played by John
Heinrich, the human cleric–played by Pierce (@sorcerer_blob)

It’s one of those mysteries that I feel perfectly confident playing a PC, but playing NPCs leave me flailing. Pierce’s interrogation of the Vistani had me scrambling. His questions were too good!

When the players entered Ravenloft, I wanted to play a scene where I described a deer in Barovia and ask the players to tell me how deer in the Dragon Empire are different. I had this idea that I could involve the players in establishing that they have crossed into another world, but I feel that it fell flat…

As the party enters town, I wanted to try a montage scene. I’ve read a few in the Tales of the 13th Age organised play adventures and they sounded like they could be fun, especially leading into a fight. Seemed like this could be a good way to build some momentum! Everyone like it, so we’ll do that again sometime.

I made a monster version of Ashlyn to use in combat:

Ashlyn, Paladin of Pelor and the Last Lightbringer.
3rd Level Wrecker
Init +5

Longsword +8 vs AC—10 damage and the target takes a -4 attack anyone that they are not engaged with until the beginning of Ashlyn’s next turn.
Undead Hunter: On a natural even hit against undead, Ashlyn deals 20 damage instead.

HP 45;  AC 19, PD 13, MD 17

Detect Undead: Ashlyn knows the location of all undead in near range, but she does not know their number, type, or strength.

When we came to her fight, I used her as a sort of time. I would make an attack roll on her initiative, but when she missed, a villager died and rose as a zombie mook to trouble the players. I liked it well enough to do something similar again.

The Lightbringer’s are an order of undead hunters. The group enjoys the support of the Church of Pelor, but they aren’t solely comprised of paladins and clerics. Anyone willing to dedicate themselves to the aims of the Lightbringers may join. One of the benefits of joining are learning more effective ways of fighting undead.

Ashlyn’s Detect Undead ability replaces her racial trait. I expect that if the players choose to join the order that I’ll be negotiating similar substitutions or altering their existing traits, maneuvers, and spells. I’m not working ahead on this because I might never use the prep and, besides, I’ve been pretty comfortable riffing on the rules so far.

I feel pretty bad talking Heinrich out of using Turn Undead. It was totally appropriate! Even so, he inflicted horrific casualties on the zombie mob.

The Deathlock wasn’t supposed to be a combatant for so small a group. I threw it in as color to get the players back in the fight, but Kenthis focused on it. As it happens, they had no trouble with the extra monster.

Deathlock
3rd Level Caster [Undead]
Init +6

Enervating Ray +8 vs PD—One nearby target takes 10 damage.
Natural 16+ Hit: You are weakened for 1 round.
Death Knell +8 vs PD—One close target loses a recovery and the deathlock gains one of the following benefits:

  • If the deathlock is staggered, it regains half of its hit points.
  • If the deathlock is not staggered, it may use the escalation die until the end of the battle.

Limited Use: Death Knell can only target a dying creature or one infected with Strahd’s necromantic plague.

HP 45; AC 15, PD 13, MD 17 (21)

Turn Resistance: The monster gains a +4 bonus to Mental Defense against Turn Undead. If the monster would be destroyed by Turn Undead because the cleric rolled a natural 20, it may attempt a hard save to instead take damage equal to half its maximum hit points and be dazed (save ends).

Turn Resistance is something you can see a lot of in 3rd edition D&D, but I dislike purely numerical bonuses. I nearly didn’t include it. What changed my mind was the ability of the Turn Undead spell to destroy undead outright. The +4 bonus reduces the margin of success by one category when determining how Turn Undead affects its target. This looks like the purely numerical bonus that I generally despise, but it shifts narrative that flows from the spell’s described effect for that result.

More to come…

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~ by Hunter Rose on August 4, 2014.

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