Expedition to Castle Ravenloft in the 13th Age: Session 5

Unfortunately, Google Hangouts On-Air wasn’t not working that evening. We played anyway, but there wasn’t a recording for us to share. I’m pretty upset about that for several reasons, not the lease of which is that we took on a new player, Aaron (@wolfsamurai).

Since you can’t watch session 5, you should check out his videos until our session 6 hits.

Pierce (Heinrich) has been keeping a pretty thorough log of the game as we play. LAcking a video, I give you his written account of session 5, followed by my usual notes.

SESSION 5

7/23/14

We begin the session with a new player, but with a character that has conveniently (for all of our sakes since new character introductions when a campaign is already underway are usually awkward affairs) been with us all along. We are joined by Raghnar, a human fighter who has been dead for 200 or so years and has been suddenly brought back to life without explanation by the Priestess to fulfill some sort of vague prophecy. In his life before, Raghnar was a hired gun, a mercenary. Played by Aaron.

In weighing our options and in catching back up with Kenthis who previously had put himself at odds with most of the patrons (and citizenry) of the hamlet of Barovia, we realize that we have more than a few avenues that we can pursue in our investigation and attempts to aid the region.

We eventually opt to help the paladin Ashlyn find her fellow Lightbringers that were last planning on investigating Barovia’s church as the source of some of the hamlet’s woes. It’s at this time that we are also reminded, however strangely, that the Barovians seem to be fairly strictly monotheistic, something that Heinrich doesn’t quite seem to grasp.

With Ashlyn in tow, we head to the church on the outskirts of town and see a handful of strange, naked and pale creatures feasting on the corpse of a decayed zombie that is half-heartedly fighting back. We take note of our surroundings, and we are out in the open and at the intersection of what seems like two main roads. Our best bet is a full-on attack, so that is what we opt for. Kenthis has ideas of dispatching the pale fiends silently, and soon finds himself privy to their teeth and claws. We’ve encountered a feral pack of ghouls. Through some efforts, and some amazing feats of heroism from Raghnar and Ember, the ghouls fall to our blades and spells and we are able to recover and press onto the church.

The church itself is quite large and possesses large stained glass windows every so often. Kenthis and Raghnar scout about the various windows, seeing what they can as the burly fighter lifts our party sorcerer. Meanwhile, Ember hears strange ritualistic chanting inside, and him and Heinrich are incensed. This is clearly heresy, and it is all they can do to contain themselves from confronting it directly while their allies scout about.

Kenthis and Raghnar’s scouting bears fruit, and they are able to see a number of zombies inside as well as a couple of deathlocks near interior trap doors, a spell-casting undead that we had encountered before. They also find the chapel’s graveyard and a cellar door at the back of the church. After returning to the group proper, they share the reports of their scouting with us and with Ashlyn’s guidance, we decide to go the cellar door route.

We head down through the cellar door into a pitch black basement and find a very small area lit by dim lamp light. This dim area appears to be an alchemist’s laboratory and has a stone slab with built-in restraints that are now empty. We are also barely able to see a stairway leading up, presumably to one of the trap doors seen in our scouting attempts. In addition to the small lit area, it seems that the front half of the basement area is magically pitch black. Heinrich responds to this by lighting a torch so Kenthis can better inspect the alchemy lab and area, and Heinrich spots a pale face floating within the inky darkness. Immediately after skeletons begin to march forth while a large dark shape lurks in the shadows. Ashlyn recognizes the gear hanging from two of the skeletons as her former companions.

A battle ensues with Ember engaging the skeletons and protecting Ashlyn from their wrath. Heinrich targets some of them and the creature in the shadows with Turn Undead and is able to greatly damage several of the reanimated undead. Heinrich’s actions lure out the creature in the shadows and it focuses on him.

We soon learn that this creature is a “Blasphemy,” and we can tell that it used to be a man except strangely stretched out with matte black skin. It has an unhinged jaw and needle-like teeth.

Raghnar rages and murders several of the skeletons and Kenthis’ mighty spells are able to bring down several more. The battle rages on for a few more moments, and it seems several times as if Ashlyn or one of us will fall to the undead forces. Luckily we persevere.

When the Blasphemy falls, we are able to hear screaming coming from upstairs, presumably in the chapel-proper. There is a loud discharge of dark, magical energy and the upstairs is unusually silent now. No chanting, nothing. Then, out of nowhere, we heart loud shuffling as feet begin to move from the pews…


Ghouls/Ghasts

All ghasts are ghouls for this game. Using book stats from page 225 with the following changes:
Ghouls have turn resistance (+4 MD per tier).
C: Ghoul Vomit +8 vs PD—Poison. Move action. 1-2 close targets are stunned for 1 round and contract Ghoul Stench
Limited Use: This attack only be used once per battle, but it recharges when the ghoul succeeds in using Pound of Flesh.

I was really surprised to see that the book’s entry for the ghoul didn’t already contain a vomit attack. Ember got stenched and the party hasn’t had the time to figure out how to mask the curse. Of course, apart from smelling like he has taken a dip in the Bog of Eternal Stench, we haven’t decided what the game effect will be but as a magical malady, I’m treating it as a magical item against Kenthis’ limit. (More on magical afflictions HERE)

The players spent some time investigating the church from the outside and decided that it would be best to approach from the cellar. Of course, the official map didn’t have a cellar door, but I liked the idea and so I put one in. The players were much less depleted for having short-cut to the big monster of this chapter, but I’m OK with that.

Doru, the Blaspheme

5th Level 2X Wrecker [Undead]
Init +7

Blasphemous Bite +10 vs AC—36 damage and is infected. The target must also succeed at a last-gasp or lose 1 recovery.
Natural 16+: This attack targets PD instead and damages the armor if it hits (-1 AC until the armor is repaired or replaced. The armor is destroyed if the penalty reaches -3.).

HP 144; AC 21, PD 15, MD 19

Erratic Charge: The blaspheme cannot be intercepted.
Plague-Eater: At the start of the blaspheme’s turn, each nearby infected PC takes 5 damage and the blaspheme regains the same number of HP.
Damage from a critical hit dealt to the blaspheme may be redirected to a nearby undead instead.

Monsters go down faster in the 13th Age, so a satisfying monster is one who gets to use his signature moves at least once in a dramatic fashion. The powerful bite of the blaspheme felt right as I ran him and he got to chew through Ashlyn’s armor too.

The Plague-Eater ability, on the other hand, was not satisfying. This led to a discussion (after the game) about regeneration in 13th Age and how troll regeneration was boring. I’ll have to come up with something better.

One thing that I learned by this point is that the players can virtually always handle more than the standard calculation for encounters suggest. I’ll probably be steadily upping the ante until I find the level that feels right. I’ve already done one big round of revisions, but I’m looking to do another while I work the balance out.

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~ by Hunter Rose on August 6, 2014.

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