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.
HOW NOT TO PLAY A DRAGON-
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.