TAB: 1 Victory, Included: A Silver Platter
Updated: Oct 4, 2019
Before we begin I 'd like to give a shout out to my players for not only understanding the saguaro cactus shaped situation lady luck threw me bodily into this time, but actively providing options to escape it . . . well, you'll understand in a minute.
Seeing as the group managed to clear all camps a day early they decided to go on a shopping spree. So they tree strode all the way back to Arabel (where all this nonsense started) to terrorize the good folks there. /*DM's Note: Not wanting to deal with whether or not they could find various items I invented Magic*Mart, a Faerun spanning chain of magic vendors using telepathy and teleportation to deliver orders. They were able to find any magic item (no, not artifacts) listed in the books through this chain. Anything else (such as combined magic items) they had to commission. I also gave the option of surrendering items for improvement.*/
If you've ever worked in retail then you've already experienced the chaos they wrought. At one point they took the dragon carcass they'd rolled up and jammed into their bag of holding (type 4) out of said bag of holding. In the middle of the store. With blood dripping everywhere.
In fact blood managed to spill on someone's pants causing another flashback for Zubat. This time he saw himself with a vial of red dragon's blood in his pockets. He has no idea why; hell, I'm the DM and I don't know why. He then saw himself fall and break said vial. A debacle even more complicated when he ran into a red dragon, who didn't appreciate him adorning his pants with the blood of its people. It did not end either well or quickly.
While he was screaming, yet again, about the dangers of pants, Tanic had found himself a brilliant energy rapier. For those of you NOT playing the home game, that's basically a light saber. Except it only affects living things.
And like anyone with the emotional age of a toddler he was swinging it around everywhere he went. You've seen kids with fake light sabers in the store right? Now imagine they had a real one. Now imagine they could outrun anyone in the store. It's kind of like that.
And yes, he was making the damned whooshing noises. I tried telling him I'd add it in post but he didn't believe me.
Meanwhile, Quagrim had found the magic guns aisle. And cleared it out. No, he didn't steal them (store policy requires checking of bags of holding at the front for some clearly paranoid reason). He simply drug a pile of pistols taller than himself around the store on his cape. Seriously he shouldn't have even been able to move that many pistols. But he got them all the way up to the register where he had them ring every one up. On noting he didn't have that much he removed one and asked 'now how much?'. And repeated steps 2 and 3 until banned from the store. No, they literally threw him out.
But, you can't keep Quagrim down. So he changed his hat of disguise into a sombrero, affected a passable mexican accent, and strolled right back in. I wonder where he keeps balls that size. You think maybe he wears pants of holding?
Next day they met the dwarf who recruited them and his army. After remarking on their odd behavior during the quest, he handed over a bag of 24,000 gold pieces, and waited expectantly. It didn't take the group long to realize he'd only given them half the agreed upon value. When they complained he pointed out that telling the demon about the dwarf army had forced him to accelerate his timetable and cost him far more than the 24,000 he was docking them. And then there was the time they played catch and release with one of their prisoners by leaving him in a park in Arabel. A city they knew had Zhentarim spies. Yes, his forces had found the vagabond first, but that's not the point.
They tried to argue at first but he simply asked "What part of 'keep them from finding out about the army' suggested you should tell random people about it?" They couldn't really argue with that. He did however offer them one chance to earn the rest of their money, and (after a diplomacy check by Tanic) a wayfinder for each of them. All they had to do was keep Kara Chermosk and Sergoi Meristaak (advanced to level 17, each using gestalt system) busy and not leading their armies when the battle began. That's all. Keep in mind that they were level 13 and 14.
Now, a little about how I built these two. Kara was a Fighter/Cleric of Bane 14, Holy Vindicator 10. That means she had channel smite. She also had Mithril Celestial Full Plate with the Mail of Malevolence ability added. And of course she had the Phylactery of Negative Channeling. And Greater Vital Strike. Basically she could move and hit for 11d6 (+2d6 for good creatures and 2d6 for chaotic creatures) + 4d10 damage. And she'd heal for 11d6 while she was at it. She had a +33 to hit. And a host of nasty spells. Sergoi was a Fighter 16, Hellknight 10. I gave him Felling Smash. He also had Greater Vital Strike, Greater Trip, and Vicious Stomp. He had a +35 to hit with his great sword and a +29 with his unarmed strikes. Meaning if he hit (and he really should) he'd almost definitely trip his target which would give him TWO attacks of opportunity. And Kara would get one if she was in range. Oh, and being a hell knight he could see half the party through walls. They both had Step Up and Strike. Both of their armors had Moderate Fortification. This was the dynamic duo the group went up against. The last group of 10 dwarves to go against them only saw one return, and he died shortly afterward.
And no, that little tale did nothing to dissuade the group from fighting these two monsters. There's loot to be had! They started this little adventure by following the dwarf's instructions to head to the other side of the mountain (possibly wondering if he was just trying to make sure they stayed out of the way; that's what I would have done) to a cave system that held a secret passage into the top level of the mine (where the Mayor's quarters were). This let them into a hidden vault that was empty. Nonplussed by this, they headed in. Tanic actually used a ring of invisibility to scout the quarters out, but noted as he left that Sergoi seemed to glance right at him. At which point he remembered that hell knights (like the one in his party) had detect chaos like the paladin detect evil ability. So they went back into the hall to plan some sort of dimension door assault.
The two generals on the other hand, got tired of waiting and started towards the door. The paladin noted this, at which point Quagrim grabbed Zornesk, Halona, and Minerva and dimension doored behind said dynamic duo. Bob came in the front. The rest followed suite.
Sergoi (who had already smote Tanic by random roll) started things off by hitting Tanic, who then used Shadow Duplicate to literally save his life. Figuring I couldn't use felling smash I continued the attack and hit on the third strike. Tanic activated his second use of shadow duplicate, which I realize now he shouldn't have been able to do. I also shouldn't have made more than one attack because felling smash requires you to make only one. But water under the bridge. The last attack hit with a nat 20 . . . and confirmed with same. The crit card blinded Tanic permanently. If he hadn't had Tremor Sense he would have been completely screwed. It was the last thing to go right in the fight.
Well, for me anyways.
Kara then smacked the crap out of Zubat for trying to cast a spell against her. Sergoi also took offense at this and attacked the mage on his next turn. And rolled a 1. And what fumble card did he get? The one that said he gave the mage his great sword! Just gave it to him. I'm the DM and I'm at a loss as to how this happened.
And Zubat, sensing that his agro meter had just maxed out, used transposition and ran out of the room. With the sword. Shit had clearly gone sideways at this point. But we're not done yet, because after I awarded Zubat 1,000 bonus xp for that brilliant maneuver it was Kara's turn.
Up till now she'd been healing herself for almost all the damage she'd been taking, courtesy of her armor. But now everybody crit her. Let me say that again; EVERYBODY FUCKING CRIT HER. She took over a hundred and thirty damage in half a round. And the absolute worst part was that when the paladin crit, his card said he automatically grappled her. Again, I'm the DM and I have no clue how that happened. Tiny fucking Kobold. Huge, well trained warrior of Bane. On his best day the paladin had no chance of grappling her. But now he didn't even have to fucking roll! ARGH! What's that? Why is it so important?
Perhaps because this group is already so over-geared that characters 1 level higher are envious. They had too much. They didn't need more. I had planned on these two teleporting away and giving the group the xp for the fight only. But now she couldn't cast Word of Recall without a certainty of earning herself a slew of AOO's. And losing the spell. I did have her burn a hero point to take an action and ungrapple herself. (I prefer to picture it as her brushing the kobold off like dirt on her sleeve) Sergoi then moved next to her, at which point Quagrim burned a hero point to hit her. And knocked her out. Now she couldn't cast at all. Sergoi didn't have the ability.
I explained the issue whilst glaring mightily at Christian, who seemed to be trying (and failing) to not look smug. Dave then pointed out that as a high level cleric of Bane, the deity would be keeping an eye on Kara. No doubt he'd teleport her out of the situation once she fell unconscious. So I had Sergoi make a DC 15 reflex to grab her and be teleported with. He succeeded. They are now being punished for their failures. I swear I am this close to buying new crit and crit fumble decks and burning the old ones in front of them as a warning.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, the depressingly quick end of the fight. Well, after Halona healed him (returning his eyesight in the process) Tanic decided to Peter Pan right into the magic windows of the now vacated quarters. The ones I warned him had dwarven runes on them. Needless to say he had an abrupt re-acquaintance with the floor.
While rubbing his bruised brain dome he noted a scroll on the table and inspected it. As it turned out it was a scroll of Clarion Call. This information barely parted from his lips before the scroll was snatched out of his hands. "Dibs" the gnome squeaked before blowing out of the room and heading up the stairs at the end of the corridor. He found himself on the roof of the mine. We'll leave him there for a moment. I'd say he won't fall, but lord knows what might occur once he bores.
Meanwhile the rest of the party followed the booming sounds coming up the stairwell from the lower level. Where they found 12 cannon with 48 cannoneers servicing them. These were all level five characters with rapiers, who didn't even notice their approach what with all the noise and powder smoke. I'm quite sure you can hear the rogue's grin from where you're sitting as you reading this. One of the cannoneers tried to hide inside one of the cannons. The dice said the cannon was loaded. So Quagrim (through Bob) fired the cannon at the Zhentarim armies. This was a good news bad news proposition. On the up side he splatted the poor bastard hiding inside into paint. On the down side he missed the army completely. But this gave Tanic an idea. So, after the demise of the various cannoneers, he collected and loaded every rapier (that's 48 pointy metal sticks) into a cannon and fired it at the enemy army. His aim was much better. I know he technically couldn't sneak attack from outside of 30 ft but it was funny as hell so I let him. He did 1,008 damage spread amongst 48 victims.
Or would that be 48 blood clouds? I guess it doesn't matter.
Meanwhile the gnome was being treated to a very different sight. The dwarf armies were losing the battle.
/*DM's Note: I had actually built four armies and had them fight 3 battles at varying levels of power when this whole campaign sized side quest started. Being that it only took 2 rounds to subdue the generals Quagrim managed to show up just when things had taken a turn for the worst for his allies.*/ Without wasting a moment the gnome used the scroll in his grubby little mit. And began narrating an edited version (interspersed with criticisms of the Zhentarim Cannoneers) of the battle. As the dwarf leading the paladin contingent fell he noted that the dwarf leading the main army seemed to get pissed. It went something like this. "Uh oh, the dwarf general seems pissed. Probably shouldn't have knocked his brother down. He's reached the front lines and . . . oh that's terrible. Ugh, I didn't even know a demon could bend that way! Now he's got one of them by the leg. He just . . . I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it myself folks; he just hit a summoner with his own demon! Now he's pummeling some poor bastard with legs. Oh god I can't look. Surely that's against some kind of convention somewhere. . ." And on and on it went. Interspersed with this were comments about rogues sneaking up on demons, causing some level of paranoia on said demon's parts.
No fooling, that was the turning point of the battle. The pincushioning from the cannon also helped.