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12 May 2002 @ 04:16 pm
Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil!  
On Friday we played the first game in Rebecca's new D&D Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil campaign. She's set it in her existing Infinite Sea background, which folds elements of Bujold's Barrayar into a fantasy setting and transmutes it with Rebecca's magic into something special.



I had intended to play my classic cleric, with a high strength so that she could act as a secondary fighter, but it seemed a little dull, and the party was already fight-heavy. So the day of the game I started running ideas, and then boom, a concept arrived. Aasimar, cleric from a family rumored to be descended of the gods. The women are Daughters of the Sun, and it is their calling to bring light to the dark places of the earth. I wanted elf as her aasimar race, and with a little help from evilhat and her DM's guide, I was able to pick a subrace, Wild Elf, that let me turn the Very Flawed Heroic template into a character that was a little clumsy, moderately strong, smart, and healthy, and with a wisdom and charisma that were more than merely human. I took Magic and Fire as her domains, and Valimar was ready to descend into the temple and cleanse it of Evil!

The rest of the party is cyranocyrano's fighter, a Del (the Vor equivalent in Infinite Sea) lord, the Marquis of Carabas, who has gathered around him an odd collection of ragtags that includes princessmei's Teta, a rogue/sorcerer from the streets, and Bruce's bardbarian, Sundun. From the evidence of the first session, it's a pretty well balanced party; lacking a bit in magic, maybe, but three of us can use magic items and we intend to use them to make up for it. We are a very alert party -- I have a +9 on Listen and Spot checks, and the bardbarian and rogue are as good or better -- and fast, even in armor. My cleric had been the slowest at 20, but I put a lot of my starting money into Boots of Striding and Springing so that I wouldn't slow us down, and we all now move at 30 or 40.

The session was an excellent balance of roleplay and fight. We began by sailing to the island that Hommlet was on and doing the hang around the village and pick up rumors routine. Sundun and Valimar both have superb gather information and other social skills, so we picked up plenty; a tunnel from a house in the village to the keep, ochre cloaked sorcerers being seen in the woods, and most interestingly, we spooked a shapechanger out of her shop. Sundun sang for our supper, and did so with such verve he may have attracted supernatural attention.

A lot of the stuff we picked up probably needs to be investigated, especially the shapeshifter, but we were eager to get into combat, so we opted to sail for the island that the Gatehouse was on to investigate. Our first battle was classic, in the style I think we hope to maintain: a great listen roll picked up the sound of breathing in the tower, Teta snuck ahead to scout and returned with news of a sleeping black dragon. Valimar put up a silence spell and we went in, where spot rolls picked up the second dragon on the wall. We handsignaled a modified plan, flanked the first, smaller, dragon, attacked from surprise and killed it before it got an attack in. We moved immediately (still under silence) to the wall where the second was sleeping, the fighter and bardbarian climbed the wall and flanked it while the rogue and cleric aimed from below, and attacked again from surprise. It wasn't quite perfect; the dragon fled rather than attack, and our distance weapon rolls went badly. But for a small 3rd/4th level party, overwhelming two dragons, even very small ones, with not an injury among us was a very fine beginning.

It was an interesting experience; in my previous D&D campaigns, I had all but memorized the Monster Manual, and I knew exactly what to expect of opponents. I've only brought and read the Players Handbook of 3rd Ed, so for the first time I looked at a dragon and really had no clue whether my party was overmatched or not. But we decided that now was the time for discovery.

The rest of the expedition went well, if not so spectacularly. We dispatched an grey ooze with what can only be described as overkill, took out a couple of gnolls, and then ran into a demonic dog on the lower level. It howled and panicked both our fighters, leaving Valimar and Teta facing off against a creature that we rapidly discovered had enough damage absorption that I couldn't affect even if I maxed and Teta was doing an average of 1/2 point of damage. I had a moment of player/character conflict -- I was convinced that Teta and I should pull back, that we had no chance with our fighters out of the fight for a minimum of four rounds. It's something I really need to work on; I tend to be a little easily convinced we are about to die, and I need to enter more into the spirit of the character, who is a warrior of the Shining One who will only retreat from evil in great extremity. But after a bit of OOC back and forth, I went with the character and moved around behind Teta. She switched to fighting defensively and absorbed the demon dog's attacks while swatting down the rat-bats that had come to join him, and I kept pumping healing into her to keep her from dying. Eventually our fighters came out of the panic and came back to join us, and after a round of attacks the dog decided retreat was wisest. Which wouldn't have saved him -- Sundun is as fast as it was and the rest of us were right behind -- but it turned out the bastard could fly too, so we saw our second opponent disappear into the sky.

I was out of healing, so we decided not to go back down into the cellars despite none of us being down more than a few points, and instead to sleep on the boat and come back in the morning. Except that when we got outside, we saw our ship listing and sinking. It seems that the dragon had snuck back under the sea and holed it, eating a couple of the crew. It may sound odd, but while as a character I was pissed, as a player I was very pleased. It means we'll really have to think strategically and long term to succeed in the campaign, and that's the sort of thing that keeps a game interesting. And I wasn't too chagrined about being outsmarted, as we had reason to believe that the dragon had fled for good, give the 63 points of damage we had put down on it, when 54 had killed the other.

We weren't in immediate trouble, as we managed to salvage food from the galley and Valimar can purify plenty of water. And we still have two rowboats, so once we are finished cleaning out the gatehouse, we'll row back to Hommlet. We'll need to take precautions to avoid losing them, though.

I was pretty pleased with my play, though it's amazing how rusty I am at playing a cleric. It took me several minutes to remember silence when we were considering how to take out the dragon, and I've been a long-term believer that silence is *the* most useful low level cleric spell, bar healing. It's saved my butt many a time. Facing off against a wizard who can sleep your whole party? Silence! Trying to sneak past those nasties that can eat you without blinking? Silence! And with the new, wonderful abort-to-heal cleric ability you can take it without compromising your healing skill.

Everyone enjoyed it so much we are going to try to make it a weekly game, though not next week as Rebecca has an interview in Portland
 
 
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Cyrano: cardcyranocyrano on May 12th, 2002 07:16 pm (UTC)
I had not realized the literary tradition involved in this campaign.
Would I enjoy the campaign more if I read some of the books or if I didn't?
Lauratavella on May 12th, 2002 07:22 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure it makes a difference -- the Barrayar stuff is more inspiration then a close imitation. They are great books, though, worth reading. I've got most of them and can lend.