Author Topic: Diary of a DM: The Saga of the Iron Argonauts  (Read 2455 times)

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Diary of a DM: The Saga of the Iron Argonauts
« on: May 18, 2008, 10:52:49 PM »
  • 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.
Divine Descended Weaponmaster / Berzerker
The Girl (as yet unnamed)
Normal Executioner 5 / Man-at-Arms 3
Divine Descended Berzerker 1 / Harrier 7
Normal Berzerker 1 / Man-at-Arms 7
1.   2.   3.   Our Heroes head off, probably attacked by a couple more bands of snake people along the way.

4.   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.  5b.  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.   8.   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)



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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 »
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.

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: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: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 Medusaback 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?


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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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