Author Topic: Diary of a DM: The Saga of the Iron Argonauts  (Read 2424 times)

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Diary of a DM: The Saga of the Iron Argonauts
« on: May 18, 2008, 10:52:49 PM »

Right then, I’m about to get back into the DM’s chair with my face-to-face group (first time for a couple of years, so I’m really looking forward to it), and I thought it would be interesting to start up a “Diary of a DM” thread (similar to the CO Diarys, or Oaksparr’s thread).  Not least because I'd like to get some feedback on my encounters as a go along...

The game we’re playing is Iron Heroes – the no/low-magic alternate game Mike Mearls did for Malhavoc before WotC poached him.  The act of poaching him meant they rushed IH to the printers, so it’s a wonderful game that unfortunately has quite a few holes.  It’s being set in Mythic Greece (if you’ve seen the Jason and the Argonauts or Clash of the Titans films that’s a good indication), and we’re using quite a few house rules to get exactly the game we want:

  • Inserting the Star Wars Saga Condition Track (my group like “realism” – they loved Grim N Gritty when I ran that a couple of years back – but this time we’re going for “heroic realism”)
  • Adding in Healing Surges and Second Winds in place of the IH Reserve Point mechanic – essentially merging the Star Wars and 4e mechanics.  Limited to 1/encounter for hp healing, but they are also used to fuel Second Winds to move them up the Condition Track.
  • Liberal swapping of Feat Mastery ratings allowed (i.e. one of the Berzerkers in the party has swapped Armour Mastery for Social to get the Gladiator and Overwhelming Presence feat chains) – because I don’t like pidgeon-holing my PCs if they have a cool concept.
  • No iterative attacks for extra BAB (a la Star Wars).  TWF has been rewritten as per Star Wars – this is intended to encourage a fluid mobile combat making use of IH’s stunts and challenges, and just generally being more tactically interesting.
  • Destiny Points (also from Star Wars) given to the Primary Characters (see below), with the slight modification that they can be spent to grant tokens (of your choice) rather than Force Points.  Partly this is to encourage a bit of collaborative story-telling by having them tell me what they want their destiny to be.

The intention with all this is to capture the feel of the classic Greek Heroes, create tactically interesting combats, and is also intended to create characters who aren’t tied to “per day” mechanics – this is a party that is almost completely encounter based (healing being the one exception), which far better suits my Dming style.


To start with there are only 2 players (we should probably recruit), so I’m having them each start with 2 characters.  The “primary” character is each descended from one of the Greek Gods (Hercules-esque) and is given a significant power boost (+4 to one stat, +2 to two others, +1 to all Feat Mastery ratings, and a bonus Trait chosen by the DM).  Then they each have a “secondary” character in a support role.

We’ve had the character creation session so far, starting at level 8:

Divine Descended Weaponmaster / Berzerker

This is the one with the Social feats.  His main trick is to use the Gladiator feat chain’s “finishing move” to give an auto-critical threat, and the Cleave feat chain to get a cleave attack whenever he scores a crit.  In addition he has the Berzerker’s rage abilities for a massive Str & Con boost.  When he’s built up his tokens and special abilities he gets to about +20 attack roll and I expect him to be the biggest damage dealer.  In addition, he has the Savage Appearance trait which allows him to force adjacent opponent’s to attack him instead of his allies – very much the party tank.

The Girl (as yet unnamed)
Normal Executioner 5 / Man-at-Arms 3

Tyro’s backup, a small child intended to spend a lot of her time shouting encouragement to Tyro (that’s what gives him his Gladiator tokens), but in-between that she’s an ok archer and the stealthiest member of the party.  She also has the Venom Mastery feat chain (meaning she harvests poison from dead creatures with poison attacks, and uses that to brew poisons of her own – likely to be lathered onto Tyro’s axe).

Divine Descended Berzerker 1 / Harrier 7

The other divine character, wielding the classic Greek combo of heavy shield and short sword he is basically a mobile spring attacker with Sneak Attack.  Has a +17 to hit, but his Tumble and Jump skills are through the roof so stunts will likely bring him up to Tyro’s level.  Although he won’t be dealing as much damage, his mobility and high AC make him extremely hard to kill, so it should all even out.

Normal Berzerker 1 / Man-at-Arms 7

Damocles’ backup, wields a Longspear with various abilities to increase his threat range.  When push comes to shove he can use his Hafted Weapon Mastery feats to TWF with the spear like a Quarterstaff and start Raging.  A few points behind Tyro and Damocles in the to-hit stakes (+12 to hit), and only moderate damage dealing, but he’s intended to provide a secure base for the two main characters, and to stop opponents getting within striking distance of “The Girl”.

Overall I’m very happy with the party – it’s well balanced in terms of combat roles and (hopefully) reasonably balanced against one another.  I have souped them up quite a lot though, so I’m expecting to bump up opposing CRs by a couple of levels.  But, saying that, the Destiny Points give them the choice of either “Get out of Jail Free” card or the ability to Nova – meaning I don’t have to worry too much about causing a TPK (I hope…).


I’m setting them up to start from the city of Thrace on the northern shore of the Aegean sea, with the city’s patron deity being Ares (god of savage warfare).  That ties in nicely with all the Berzerkers, and with the fact that Damocles has chosen Phobos (god of fear, and Ares’ son) as his deific patron/parent.  Tyro is likely going with Ares himself but his choice isn’t locked in yet.

The long-term plot arc I have in mind is to have an evil prince plotting against the city.  Cursed by the gods (not sure why yet) and cast out of Thrace he’s now a mutant with a grudge, and an army of mutants.  I’m expecting to make them an army of snake or reptile people (they’ll all have poison – making use of the condition track and giving the girl plenty of ingredients for her poisons in return).

My players also expect to fight a lot of the classic greek monsters – we’re basically doing a tour of greek mythology – so minotaurs, hydras, medusas, etc are all intended to feature.

So, roughly speaking my plan is as follows:

1.   Heroes are called to the Temple of Ares by the High Priestess, but as they enter the temple they hear shouts of battle – the High Priestess is under attack by assassins (some of the snake people).

2.   Our heroes gallantly leap in to save the day, after which the High Priestess gives them their mission – recent events make it clear the city is under some sort of curse (crops failed, wells dry, etc), and this assassination attempt only confirms it.  The Priestess will tell them that a younger priestess was sent to consult the Oracle and ask for advice, but has not returned.  The Heroes are to go in search of the missing Priestess and visit the Oracle themselves.

3.   Our Heroes head off, probably attacked by a couple more bands of snake people along the way.

4.   They reach the Oracle, but get only confused responses from her.  Ultimately the “Oracle” will abandon the pretence, throw back her hood to reveal a headful of snakes.  That’s right, she’s a medusa!  More on the medusa encounter later…

5.   After killing the medusa the party will find the real Oracle held prisoner deeper within her temple.  She will tell the heroes they have a destiny (here I introduce my players to the destiny points :D), that a new Golden Fleece has been found in Colchis and that the Heroes must go there and acquire it.  If they fail, it will mean doom for Thrace!

5a.  If they’re suffering from some ill-effects of the medusa’s gaze the Oracle will also tell them that the blood of a hydra will cure them – she will tell them it’s cave is located in the middle of a marshy island.
5b.  If they’re hydra hunting I plan for them to find a mated pair of hydras living in a cave.  The twist in this is that the swamp that the hydras live in is full of pockets of flammable gas, which the hydras ignite with their breath weapons (making getting to the hydras in the middle of the swamp very dangerous).  But if they’re smart, the PCs will also be able to set fire to the gases under the hydras and burn them, so it’s not all me being cruel ;)

6.   Eventually they get back to Thrace having failed to find the missing priestess, but shortly after they news arrives that she has been captured by the King of Colchis, and he sends a ransom note for her release.

7.   Our Heroes are sent to Colchis to petition the king, who tells them that they can have the priestess, as well as the Golden Fleece, if they perform 3 Labours for him.  The first labour I’ve already got planned as a Cyclops harassing Colchis’ shipping lanes that the Heroes must kill (I’m planning on making the Cyclops a Dungeoncrasher, but he only gets AoOs and the like from the front, so it will be a case of having to out-maneuver him since he’s lethal if you attack him head on).  Not sure what the second will be, but the third will be a Minotaur under the King’s Palace (the reason they kidnapped the Priestess is because they have to sacrifice her to appease the minotaur, if the heroes can’t kill it there’s no way they’re letting her go).

8.   Not all is right at Colchis though – the King has a sinister advisor (Grim Wormtongue by any other name) and his own daughter warns the Heroes not to trust him.  Once they complete their labours he seems shocked, but throws them a feast and promises to present them the fleece the next morning.

9.   During the night his daughter wakes the Heroes and tells them the king is sending assassins to kill them.  She leads them through secret passages to the Fleece, and then a running battle ensues as our Heroes head for their boat (attacked by more snake people on their way)

10.   They return to Thrace with the Golden Fleece and are proclaimed Heroes.

That’s what I’ve got planned so far.  I’ve done it before where I’ve planned campaigns really far ahead and then the game has never lasted that long, so what I’m trying to do here is limit myself to this one plot arc.  If the game ends there, the players are heroes and it’s all good.  If the game continues from there then there are various hints at the evil prince (snake people keep attacking them, Medusa sent to capture the Oracle, sinister adviser to the King of Colchis) that I can develop into a longer campaign – basically, snake people launch all out war and the Golden Fleece is used to cure those poisoned by the snake-people (without it Thrace would surely fall).

So, I'm planning on keeping this thread updated with reports as I go along, and requests for help with encounter design (e.g. once I click post here my 4e-style Medusa is getting posted).


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Re: Diary of a DM: The Saga of the Iron Argonauts
« Reply #1 on: May 18, 2008, 10:54:29 PM »

So, here we get to a big part of why I wanted to start this thread – I’m planning on remaking the various monsters I’m using in the style of 4e, and I’d really like to get feedback on what I come up with.

This is planned as being a CR 11 encounter - so it should be pretty tough.  CR 11 means a mixed pair of 10+8, which I'm further dividing into a two mixed pair (9+7 and 7+5).  The Medusa is CR 9, 3 Elite snakes make for a CR 7 (meaning 6 elite snakes) and then 8 minion snakes as the CR 5.

I’m planning on an extensive rewrite of the Medusa for this, in order to have her use the Condition Track for her gaze attack.  Basically, her gaze will inflict Persistent conditions, ultimately turning them to stone, rather than a single all or nothing save (which players hate, and rightly so).  Saying that, I still want them to be terrified of her gaze, so I’m going to cheat a little – I’ll give the players an NPC guide to show them the way to the temple, and the Medusa’s first action will be to turn the guide instantly to stone.  That way hopefully they’ll just think that they’re passing their saves and still be terrified of her (mwahahahahaha!).

The fight will take place in the main chamber of the Oracle’s temple, they will speak to her across a river before she reveals herself, and then once she throws the hood of her cloak back and turns their guide to stone a horde of snakes will swarm out of the river.  There will be plenty of alcoves and pillars for them to hide behind, so after seeing their guide petrified I'd expect them to hide, then it will be a case of them fighting off the snakes while the medusa prowls around trying to get a good look at them.  Once they get past the snakes the river is easy to jump and the medusa won't last long once they get up close and personal.

Both the medusa and the snakes are having poison attacks, but I'm changing them to just deal bonus acid damage.  I think the gaze attack is enough for them to have to deal with, but I want there to be plenty of poison for The Girl to harvest after the combat (gives her plenty to use from the start, so I won't feel bad if a fair number of the encounters don't give her any poison to harvest).

MEDUSA                                                 CR 9
Medium Monstrous Humanoid 10

Initiative +2                     Senses: Listen +1, Spot +8, Darkvision 60 ft.
HP 55; Bloodied 27
AC 17, Fort +4, Ref +10, Will +8
Speed 30 ft.
Head of Snake’s (full-round; at-will)
Make a full attack using the snakes of her hair
8 attacks +13 melee (1d4)
Poison: DC 18 or take 2d6 acid damage with each hit
Petrifying Gaze
Turn an opponent to stone with a gaze, the power of the attack depends upon how long you spend looking at the target.
(swift action; at-will): DC 20 Fort save.  Success = no effect, Failure = 1 Persistent condition.
(standard action; at-will): DC 20 Fort save.  Success = 1 Persistent condition, Failure = 2 Persistent conditions.
(full-round action; at-will): DC 20 Fort save.  Success = 2 Persistent conditions, Failure = 4 Persistent conditions.
Feats: Ability Focus (Petrifying Gaze), Ability Focus (poison), Skill Focus (disguise), Weapon Finesse
Skills: Bluff +16, Diplomacy +18, Disguise +19 (+21 acting), Intimidate +3, Move Silently +3, Spot +1
Abilities: Str 10, Dex 16, Con 12, Int 12, Wis 13, Cha 16

Design Notes: The party's Fort saves are in the range of +10 to +12, so there's a 40-50% chance of them failing against her gaze attacks.  I've also buffed her social skills up quite a lot for the talking bit while she's pretending to be the Oracle.  The big change is the varied action gaze attack, which I really like as it makes her more deadly the better a look she gets.  If she has to move to see you it's not too bad, but let her full-round gaze you and you're in trouble!

Large Animal
Hit Dice:
   6d8+21 (48 hp)
Initiative:   +2
Speed:   20 ft. (4 squares), climb 20 ft., swim 20 ft.
Armor Class:   15 (+2 Dex, +4 natural –1 size), touch 13, flat-footed 13
Base Attack/Grapple:   +4/+16
Attack:   Bite +12 melee (1d6+8)
Full Attack:   Bite +12 melee (1d6+8)
Space/Reach:   5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks:   Constrict 1d4+12, improved grab
Special Qualities:   Scent
Saves:   Fort +8, Ref +7, Will +3
Abilities:   Str 26, Dex 15, Con 17, Int 1, Wis 12, Cha 2
Skills:   Balance +10, Climb +19, Hide +8, Listen +5, Spot +5, Swim +16
Feats:   Improved Natural Attack (bite), Toughness, Weapon Focus (bite)
Challenge Rating:   4 (2 base +1 advanced HD +1 poison attack)
Constrict (Ex): On a successful grapple check, a constrictor snake deals 1d4+12 points of damage.
Improved Grab (Ex): To use this ability, a constrictor snake must hit with its bite attack. It can then attempt to start a grapple as a free action without provoking an attack of opportunity. If it wins the grapple check, it establishes a hold and can constrict.
Poison (Ex): A viper snake has a poisonous bite that deals an additional 2d6 acid damage unless the target succeeds on a DC 16 Fort save with each bite attack.

Design Notes: Basically advanced some Constrictor snakes to large size and gave them a poison attack.  That means if they get a grapple on someone it'll be quite nasty, but just about every attack from the party will be an auto-hit so they should make short work of them.  They just need to provide enough of a threat to keep the party on the back foot long enough for the medusa to get some gaze attacks in.
Medium Animal
Hit Dice:   
1 hp (minion)
Initiative:   +3
Speed:   20 ft. (4 squares), climb 20 ft., swim 20 ft.
Armor Class:   16 (+3 Dex, +3 natural), touch 13, flat-footed 13
Base Attack/Grapple:   +1/+0
Attack:   Bite +4 melee (1d4–1 plus poison)
Space/Reach:   5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks:   Poison
Special Qualities:   Scent
Saves:   Fort +3, Ref +6, Will +1
Abilities:   Str 8, Dex 17, Con 11, Int 1, Wis 12, Cha 2
Skills:   Balance +11, Climb +11, Hide +12, Listen +5, Spot +5, Swim +7
Feats:   Weapon Finesse
Challenge Rating:   1

Design Notes: Your basic medium vipers knocked down to 1 hp minions for ease of tracking (which I was doing waaaaaaaaaaay before 4e did it :P).  Basically no threat to the party so will just Aid Another and flank for the brutes.  Also provide easy Cleaves for Tyro (coz I'm not all evil).

So, does all that sound balanced to you?
« Last Edit: May 19, 2008, 12:05:14 AM by DaveTheMagicWeasel »


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Re: Diary of a DM: The Saga of the Iron Argonauts
« Reply #2 on: June 28, 2008, 02:42:38 AM »

Not sure if anyone read the first installment of this, but it's as good a place as any to get my thoughts down.

One of my players (Tyro) has been working evenings lately, so we only just got round to having the Medusa session this week.  So, first session only came a few weeks ago:

Session 1

They began by fending off an attack on the high priestess ny a bunch of assassins, during which one of the assassins revealed he had a pair of snake-like teeth (although he missed every time in spite of using Improved Feint to try and guarantee it).  Then they headed off in search of the missing priestess, fighting off a Numidian raiding party that they stumbled upon coming on shore.

Big lesson of the raiding party encounter was that the 4e style minions really strain credibility (and my players are of something of a simulationist oersuasion).  Having a pair of 100 hp champions going at them toe to toe, whil all around their troops fall to the slightest scratch, felt very artificial to them.  And the Death Strike warchief ability copied off of 4e Orcs had them looking at me like I was cheating.  And I felt like I was screwing them over because the ability foiled the spring attacker's schtick.  Not good.

Conclusion: I'm going back to my own way of doing minions - 1 hp but have DR (5/- for a goblin, 10/- for an orc, and so on), so I still don't have to track hp for each one but they can take a few hits.  I used that for a long time before the players even noticed I was doing it, which imo proves it's a good rule.

Session 2

First thing my players do is ruin my plans.  Straight off the bat they say is "we're gonna steal the Numidians' boat and get to the oracle's quicker".  Well, that blew away a couple of on-the-road encounters I'd prepped right there, including an ambush by more snake-people (I'm putting that one in the folder for later ;) ) and my plan to have them run into two of the priestess' injured guards who would relate how they were ambushed by snake-people and that they had captured the priestess.

So, thinking on my feet, I let them sail most of the way, but they had to come to shore to walk the final stretch to the temple itself.  Whereupon they came across the scene of afore-mentioned ambush, finding the other two guards dead and using various survival checks to work out what happened (i.e. the Snake-people attacked them on the ford, seemingly coming from out of the river itself to make their attack).  Once they get back home they'll find the other two guards.

Moving on, they came to the Temple of Aphrodite, wherein lives the Oracle.  At the entrance they found two stone statues either side of the door.  I probably gave away too much in describing how unusually realistic they were, coz I could see in their eyes they knew what was coming.

So, they enter the temple and find a hooded figure barricaded in the main hall, breaking down the door they find a huddled figure, who stands and introduces herself as the Oracle, though refuses to drop her hood.  They're already suspicious from finding the realistic looking statues and my players basically enter weapons drawn.  Realising the gig is up, the Medusa throws back her cowl and raises her arms to the heavens, whereupon the torches throughout the temple chamber burst into flame and the sound of hissing fills the chamber as her snake minions emerge from hiding.

The Medusa

At this point I should probably mention I changed the medusa from what's posted above.  In mythical descriptions of the medusa she is depicted with a snake tail rather than legs, but the fact is never mentioned in D&D mechanics.  So, I decided she should have a poisoned tail attack.  I used the 3.5 medusa, gave her the 4e medusa's better ability scores (she needed them to use the tail to any worthwhile degree, and to qualify for the Multigrab feats), changed the gaze to a 3 saves vs slowed/paralyzed/petrified a la 4e, and then added on 6 levels of Totemist, bound a Wormtail Belt and took the Barbed Stinger and Multigrab feats so she had a very nasty for anyone that tried to get close.

[spoiler]MEDUSA CR 9
Medium Monstrous Humanoid 6 / Totemist 6
Hit Dice: 12d8+36+6 Totem Avatar (96 hp)
Initiative: +5 (NB: goes first, kills NPC for effect)
Speed: 30 ft. (6 squares)
Armor Class: 25 (+5 Dex, +4 natural +6 Wormtail)
Touch 15, Flat-footed 20
NB: Cannot be flanked (narrate as snake hair is always watching in every direction)
BAB/Grapple: +10/+23
Attack Standard, at-will (and for AoOs), cannot be used as part of a full-attack
Stinger +18 melee (reach) (1d6+8, 20/x2) + Poison: DC 17 vs 1 condition.
Imp Grab: Free action grapple check
Petrifying Gaze Standard, at-will
Close blast 5, blind creatures are immune (and requires LoS). DC 22 Fort save vs slowed.
Save 2: DC 22 Fort save vs paralyzed.
Save 3: DC 22 Fort save vs petrified
This is an ongoing effect, being hit by an additional gaze next turn forces an extra save; failure means 1 further step down the “track”.
Full Attack: +14 melee (1d6+5) + Poison: DC 17 vs 1 condition
Special Attacks: Petrifying gaze, poison
Special Qualities Darkvision 60 ft.
Saves: Fort +11, Ref +15, Will +10
Abilities: Str 20 (+5), Dex 21 (+5), Con 17 (+3), Int 12 (+1), Wis 17 (+3), Cha 22 (+6)
Skills: Bluff +21, Diplomacy +23, Disguise +21 (+2 in character), Intimidate 23, Sense Motive 18
Feats: Aberration Blood (+2 grapple), Inhuman Reach Barbed Stinger, Multigrab, Greater Multigrab, Improved Grapple (B)

Soulmelds (4 shaped, 2 bound, 4 essentia):
Wormtail Belt (Totem) (4): grants tail attack
Totem Avatar (Arms): Grants Improved Grapple feat
Girallon Arms: +2 grapple & climb
Threefold Mask of the Chimera: Can’t be flanked[/spoiler]

The battle started with the medusa using her surprise round to petrify poor young Endios, the groups' NPC guide, with a single glance.  Admittedly, this was violating the rules presented above, but I still wanted them to be sufficiently scared of the medusa's gaze, and killing an NPC to instill that fear was my method of choice.  In hindsight, I should have petrified him by the book and let it drag out for 3 rounds as he tried and failed the various saves, whimpering all the while.  Ah well, next NPC I victimize will be suitably pathetic about it.

Caliopi (the girl got a name btw) won initiative and fired off a sneak attack into the bitch's flank, while the rest of the supposedly heroic characters huddled behind a pillar with their eyes closed.  Not surprisingly, poor Caliopi got the gaze with both barrels and promptly found herself slowed.  Meanwhile, all of the PCs were swamped by swarms of snakes (I filled the board with low level snakes, incapable of hitting the PCs, but able to Aid Another on grapples for the smaller number of more powerful snakes).  Tyro did what Tyro does best and cleaved through 4 snakes in a single turn, but Leandros began the first in a sequence of incredibly poor grapple rolls.  Over the course of the battle poor Leandros was pulled to the floor, constricted, and then dragged towards the medusa.  By the end, he was bruised and paralyzed.

For a couple of rounds the tide was going against the PCs, and I was really worried that I had a nascent TPK on my hands, but then one player pointed out an omission - we had forgotten that Berzerkers get 5 fury tokens if they see a friend defeated.  With Endios and Caliopu turned to stone two friends were defeated, meaning all three of Tyro, Damocles and Leandros should have had 10 fury tokens at the time.  The belated granting of the tokens saw Tyro carve a bloody swath through the remaining snakes, Leandros briefly break out of the grapple, while Damocles came over all heroic.

Tumbling through the crowd of snakes our intrepid hero leaped the river running through the chamber and headed for the Medusa.  As her snake tail whipped out from the folds of her skirt he passed his tumble check and thrust his sword into her ribs.  It was a good hit, combining a full-attack stunt, a skill challenge, and the expenditure of fury tokens.  But it wasn't quite enough to drop her (although she was now two steps down the Condition Track).

The counter-attack was swift, the snakes swarming all over the new threat to their mistress, wrappi9ng their coils about him so as to give her an easy hit.  Her tail swung at her grappled prey (I let Damocles' player roll the randomiser for which grappling opponent she hit, so he only has himself to blame).  With her spike plunged firmly through his gut she proceeded to hoist him into the air and threw him straight into the approaching Tyro.  Thinking those two opponents dealt with for now she turned to Leandros to push him to paralyzed with another gaze.  However, as Tyro struggled up from the ground, Damocles succeeded on the DC 35 Tumble check (and he's only an 8th level PC), sprang to his feet as a swift action before leaping back over the river and striking once more at the Medusa.  As a narrated to him how his blow had just failed to down her he remembered that one of the options from his chosen Child of Faith Trait is a 1/day +4 damage bonus to a single attack.  And with that, what had seemed a very minor ability turned the tide of the entire encounter.

Cpnclusion: All inall, I think it went very well.  When she finally dropped they both leaned back in their seats and breathed an exhausted sigh of relief - always a sign you've given them a good challenge.  All of the tricks I worked into the creatures came into play - the pillars for the PCs to hide behind, the mass grappling by the snakes to drag victims towards the medusa (Leandros had barely had his hp scratched, but still had a very scary moment as they dragged him out of his hiding place to her), and the edusa got to throw someone round with her tail.  It also succeeded in giving Damocles his share of the spotlight, as his mobility kept him out of the snakes clutches.  No-one else was able to get past them, but he succeeded and got the BBEG kill glory.

Delving into the inner chambers of the Temple they found the real Oracle, a blind young woman, bound and gagged in her chambers.  Shellshocked by her experience she stops thanking them just long enough to tell them that the blood of the medusa herself will cure Leandros' paralysis, but that the other two, and her erstwhile guards, required a more potent mixture - the medusa's blood must be mixed with the blood of a hydra.  Fortunately, she knew just where one lived - a swampy island out to sea.

As the three heroes made preparations to head for "Hydra Island" she told them that she could see they had been marked by the gods, and told them that a new Golden Fleece had been found in the city of Colchis, and that they were destined to win possession of it.  If they failed in their quest, all of Thrace would burn.

So ended Session 2.
« Last Edit: June 28, 2008, 02:50:27 AM by DaveTheMagicWeasel »


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Re: Diary of a DM: The Saga of the Iron Argonauts
« Reply #3 on: June 28, 2008, 03:09:49 AM »
All of which brings me to:

Planning Session 3[/u]

So, the obvious course of action here is that the three of them hop in their boat and head for Swamp Island.  They do however have an unguarded blind Oracle to think about with snakepeople on the prowl, so it's possible they could throw me again.  It may well be that they escort her back to Thrace before heading after the Hydra.  If that happens I will probably use my unused snakepeople ambush encounter as they're on the road heading for the boat.  With the Oracle to protect there should be a good running retreat to their rowboat, followed by snakepeople swimming after them and trying to climb into the boat.  Meaning Str checks for rowing to oppose their Swim checks to see if they can outrun the snakes.

That actually sounds like fun, so now I'm hoping they do take her to Thrace.

But, whether they do or they don't, they will sooner or later be sailing towards Swamp Island.  I'm going to take the opportunity to throw them a little sidequest.  I'm planning on the ship being attacked by an as yet undefined sea monster.  The monster is going to snap their mast into pieces and leave them becalmed before it's driven off, forcing them to drift onto an island they happen to be near at the time.

At this point no doubt your railroad alarm bells are ringing.  Let me be clear, if they drive the beast off before it snaps the mast, they can avoid the whole sidequest, but the creature will be specifically going after the mast so their chances are slim, the encounter will be more about driving the beast off (it'll withdraw when they get it down to c. 50% hp, making a very high CR encounter a little more manageable).

The reason for the creature going after the mast specifically is that it's in league with the inhabitants of the island.  When they first land in the dead of night they will be set upon by a pack of feral humans after their flesh.  But in the morning, when they head for the woods in search of a tree for a new mast, they will find a peaceful tribe that offers to help them.  If they ask about the "other trive" they will be met initially with silence, but the natives admit that they are in fact cursed by the gods - each night they descend into bloodthirsty beasts, pale imitations of the hideous monster they worshipped (nb: worshipping the monster is what got the gods so angry).

That puts a timescale on how quickly they need the mast sorted.  I'll likely give them the chance to Diplomacy/Intimidate the natives into giving them a hand - if they succeed they get it done in a day and are given a symbol of the tribe's friendship, a totem that will keep away the monster.  If they fail, they won't be able to finish the mast in a single day and will have to fend off another night's worth of attacks.

The charm to protect against the monster is also laying the groundwork for later - once they've got the Golden Fleece and the whole of the Colchis army/navy is pursuing them, they can sail through the cursed waters and watch their pursuers get ripped apart by the monster.

In fact, all that will probably take more than a single session (even if no-one reads this, writing it down and justifying my choices is helping get the creative juices flowing), so designing the Hydra itself should probably take a back-burner.  Instead, my main focus will be:

- what is the monster?
- what are the feral/semi-monster humans like?
- what could the tribe ask for as a favour/payment for their favour?

I'm not sure how to answer those, one will likely lead to the other.  Currently I'm drawing a blank on what monster I can use that will translate into cursed human versions of itself well.  If anyone has a suggestion I'd be all ears????

Hmmm... but for the third, maybe the tribe know where the secret to lifting their curse is, but they are unable to get it.  They ask the PCs to help them, and while they perform that quest the tribe sets to on building the mast.  But then, I need to work out how such a curse would be lifted?

So, yeah, any bright ideas out there?


  • Bi-Curious George
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Re: Diary of a DM: The Saga of the Iron Argonauts
« Reply #4 on: July 18, 2008, 09:51:30 PM »
Not sure if you still need a solution to the feral people problem, but perhaps the cure they need is a difusion made from a sacred fruit or root of the gods. I was going to say its located off the island but since the boat damage is what stranded them here that wont work. So how about have it on a secluded and dangerous part of the island. Perhaps its the only tree of its kind on the island and its at the top of one of the island's mountains guarded by harpies or something.

Its gotta be something hard to get or too tough for the tribe to attempt to retrieve it themselves.

Perhaps they believe this will cure them but it might just postpone the effects for a day and then they will revert right back to their original problem.
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