March 31, 2010

Showdown in the Upper Temple of Orcus – Part II: Grinding

[general Rappan Athuk spoiler warning]
[photos compliments of Dave the Knave]
  We left our heroes facing down a hezrou demon.  Apart from some pesky green gargoyles, he was the only threat since the party had routed the babau doormen and slaughtered the Orcus priests and their bodyguards.  To clarify something, the party had long ago found the magical backdoor into the Upper Temple of Orcus and used it for this assault.

  Most of the party knew the hezrou had successfully summoned something in the previous round, given his shit-eating grin.  So what had he summoned?  Dretches.  Lots and lots of dretches.  33 to be precise.  Given the party’s fodder count, I figured the hezrou would respond in kind and opt for the dretches rather than another hezrou.

  What followed was a real grinder of a session.  It was fun, but damn if 3.5 D&D combat isn’t as slow as hell.  Thankfully, Sam came packing the tequila to ease the pain….

  Rather than bore you with a lengthy play-by-play, here are the highlights:
   - The dretches’ physical attacks and the hezrou’s unholy blight and chaos hammer abilities thinned out the ranks of the NPC fodder, but the PC heroes were doing fairly well.

  - When the hezrou broke out the ol’ blasphemy, the players started to sweat. All remaining NPCs were paralyzed and a most of the PCs were weakened and dazed.

  - Roxxor the “chaotic awesome” half-ogre barbarian did a great Frazetta painting impression by taking to the central platform over the lava pit and chopping down dretches with ease.  Alas, he was outnumbered, and, once paralyzed by the blasphemy, was shoved into the lava. He quickly became “chaotic ash.”

  - Things looked bleak for the heroes, but here is how they saved their bacon:

 1. The cleric cast magic circle against chaos and consecrate, creating a bubble of protection from which the group could operate.

 2. The shaman (ala Green Ronin’s The Shaman's Handbook) used his rebuking ability to gain control of the dretches that were within the consecrated area.

 3. The shaman sent the dretches into melee with the hezrou, who,so enraged by their insolence, focused his attacks on them rather than the party.

 4. The wizard was able to fire off a caster level 16 (!) dismissal scroll (previously procured from a loot stash in the dungeon’s lower levels) and, wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am,  the hezrou was sent back to the Abyss, cursing the heroes with his middle fingers in the air.

  - On top of that, the dragon shaman’s (ala the Player's Handbook II) vigor aura ability kept many of the disabled NPCs from outright dying, so a few members of the fodder brigade survived the battle.

  The party has seized the temple.  Now the question is: can they hold it for 24 hours?
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