Thursday, July 3, 2014

Nightscale - A Peek Behind the GM Screen

So here you have the cover artwork for the Forge of Fury module, minus logos and other cover elements. Upon reading the module for the first time I immediately took issue with the image. Not only is the environment not a cave, Nightscale herself looks bigger then the medium-sized stats within the module. Minor quibbles to be sure, but it still bothers me to this day.

So when it came time to convert Forge of Fury to Pathfinder rules, and to accommodate a larger AND higher level party - I knew Nightscale would need to be addressed.

Immediately I knew I would crank her size to large, but then how to raise her challenge rating (CR)? I found some old D&D 3.5 starts for a CR 11, male black dragon. Now when using stats from 3.5 directly in Pathfinder, it is advised you lower the CR by 1. This would take the dragons down to CR 10. Well, I found CR 10 black dragon stats built for Pathfinder and decided to just use those. She should be a suitable challenge for a party of six to seven, 6th level PCs. For the most part she was, I just played her stupid - which is a shame, because dragons are anything but.


Attacking from the depths of the Black Lake, Nightscale's armor class raises +4, due to being mostly submerged. Nightscale can breathe underwater indefinately as well, so really, she has no reason to leave that extra protection at all. She could use her breath weapon, swim down the underwater river and attack the party from the rear, and repeat this process. But I always want dragons to be big and tough and after her first (and only) use of the breath weapon had her burst out of the water to engage two members of the party in melee. I mean, she does have six attacks when using all of them in a single round. My first mistake. A clever dragon would have used her natural habitat and her advantage gained by it, to stay alive, kill these intruders and add their shit to her hoard.

Not only that, my second mistake was to let her stay in melee too long. The fighter hit harder than anticipated and when she did decide to return to the lake, the rest of the adventuring party had arrived to support their friends.

Nightscale was wounded and her thoughts went to her treasure. She wouldn't let them have it. She again appeared out of the water and climbed up onto the small island in the middle of the lake where her hoard was strewn about. She began to kick it all into the depths of the Black Lake where she could retrieve it later if needed and these air breathers would have a very hard time getting to it. Next thing she knew, one of the spell-casters was on the island with her. She turned her full fury upon him, yet this was another mistake. A smart dragon would have fled. She does have an underwater tunnel which leads out of the mountain and could get away clean. But again, I wanted Nightscale to instill fear. But the wizard had a bunch of mirror images going and they took some of her fury and the wizard lived. Arrows from the shoreline was the end of Nightscale after that.

Foolish me. I wanted Nightscale to escape and become a returning villain. But I pushed it too far. I always do when playing a dragon. But hey, the players had a blast and they feel awesome after slaying their first dragon so that's pretty cool.

One of the players gave me an idea on how to continue Nightscale's legacy though ... so maybe all is not lost after all.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Idalla, the succubus - A Peek Behind the GM Screen

Area 49:) Idalla's Den
A member of a previous expedition into Khundrukarr, a cunning and malicious wizard, died near this spot. Before he died he summoned and bound a succubus to this room with the condition that she is stuck there until someone of good intentions (any good alignment) attacks her or gives her enough verbal permission to leave the room. The succubus, who calls herself Idalla, doesn't know why the wizard summoned her or that he is dead. She does know she is fucking bored and will do just about anything to get out of the room.

I was super excited for the PCs to meet Idalla. It almost worked in Idalla's favor too.

The heroes of the Shinning Scorpion had just fought over a dozen orc and dwarf skeltons just outside the old library, which happens to be the room where Idalla was bound. She heard the paladin, Steelheels, descimate almost all of the skeletons at once with prayer and blessings, powered by her god. Idalla was then able to prepare herself for someone's arrival. She used her natural ability to detect alignment and literally got tingles when she felt the paladin's goodness.

At this point the party decided to rest in the great hall and Idalla was left to plan for their return. The next day the Shinning Scorpion debated where to continue their exploration of the Foundry level and the paladin, Steelheels, walked in the direction of the old library. She began to call up her ability to detect evil when the remainder of the Scorpion called her into another direction. Almost discovered Idalla.

When the Scorpion had finally reached her, Idalla had changed her shape to appear as a human woman. She knew the party members that had opened the door to the library were not good, but she begged them to rescue her from a wizard who had trapped her here. She claimed that he used her for experiments on extending life, which would explain how she was here after 100 years. She easily took the minds of those who she first interacted with and sent them to bring their "good" friends to her to beg for release and rescue.

Idalla was set to banter back and forth with the PCs, she had many lies and a few half truths ready to go. But the party pretty much attacked her on sight. Maybe it's their past encounter with Ned, back in Saltmarsh, that they no longer trust anyone found in dungeons and ruins. Either way, she did have a lot of free time on her hands, due to being bound, and had gained much knowledge on Khundrukkar and some of its current inhabitants. She had read the whole library multiple times, the things of value learned, she could have shared if the PCs had just talked her up a bit. But their near immediate attacks really pissed her off. She focused all of that attention onto Steelheels once she strode into the room.

Good vs. evil. Although Idalla did her best, it wasn't enough. Steelheels did not fall for the seduction of the demon. Not even with her enchanted kiss did Idalla sway Steelheel's blade. Powered by her god, the holy blade sent Idalla back to whatever hell she spawned from.