Friday night’s game was exciting. I only had two encounters planned for the whole night, and by god that was enough. The big one was something I’ve been eager to do for a while, and felt now was the time to kick it off: First big fight with a dragon.
My entire campaign has been about Dragons; but it’s been about dragons that people believe to exist, but have never seen. Dragons are wonderful in that aspect…you don’t have to see one to know they’re real. You see it in the Kobolds, in the cultists with the 5-heads of Tiamat tattooed on them. The entire Empire that the players run around in was built up on the teachings of Bahamut, in preperation for the fabled time when Tiamat and her kind return from the East to wreak havok. But you know, the really awesome part about Dragons: what seems to be ages upon ages to the civilized races, is merely just an annoying moment of patience for draconic elders.
And believe me, I made sure when Dragons announced their return in my campaign, it was a big deal. Originally, the characters were heading out to the city of Monolith that stands as a beacon and testament of the Empire on the far eastern borders. It had developed into a major fort city and trading hub, as it’s the first civilized city the pioneer colonies out in the Wastes can return to in order to exchange their relics and artifacts found in the ruins for goods and supplies. It’s also nestled in a valley between the Ivoryspire Mountains; so it’s a perfect trade hub between the feuding Dwarven clans and various nomadic tribes that live in the icy regions.
However, the never made it, as they had landed in a town called Fellhaven, that appeared to be under the corrup influence of a local cult. When this session had begun, it was roughly a month after the players had entered a custom-tailored Keep on the Shadowfell for my campaign, and had stopped the rift between their world and the Abyss from opening up. In my storyline, it’s believed that Tiamat was enslaved in the Abyss, and was conspiring with the chained God Thurizdun to rip open the portal for her return. But now, the rift is closed and the temple of Bahamut has been rebuilt, thanks in part to the collaborative efforts of the players who donated a large sum of their rewards to the local village to rebuild. Let me take this time to appropriately give the middle finger to anyone who says there is no role playing in 4E.
As the World Burns….
Anyways, yeah, big Dragon fight. The characters had begun a new day in the town of Fellhaven, which has now been restored and thankful for the heroes help, with chaos and clatter. The streets were filled with troops marching out in the direction of Monolith. Reports came in that the city was besieged by an assault of dragons, burning down a few towers and neighborhoods before flying off into the night. Rumors are spreading that a legion of Dragonborn, all bearing the colors of Tiamat, are marching towards the West. The players were given a tough decision: Head to Monolith and prepare to fight, stay in Fellhaven to protect the people and the waves of Refugees fleeing the city, or flee deeper into the Empire for further protection and to prepare for the coming war.
Upon their decision to stay, they were greeted by a fleeing Dwarven alchemist by the name of Ogleby. He pleads his plight to the players…a crippled dwarf, whom was happily married and owner of a nice bar, lost everything including his beloved in the Dragon attacks. He remembered a White Dragon, bursting through his bar walls, slaughtering his wife and stealing the amulet forged on the night of their wedding. Despite his crippled leg and lack of fighting skills, he turned from his studies under the goddess Erathis and recanted old prayers to Kord, swearing bloodlust and revenge.
He informs the players that he has been tracking the White Wurm a great distance; and that while he was unable to fight he could lend aide in the form of alchemical assistance (in this case, Alchemists fire, including a clip of Crossbow bolts for the halfling rogue.)
If you guys could only see the look on their faces….
I’d like to take this time to give myself a pat on the back for accomplishing one of my goals in this campaign: I wanted to run a Dragon-themed campaign that encountering a dragon was a BIG DEAL. None of this deus-ex-machina crap where “Oh, this guy who’s been helping us was a dragon the whole time, and now he had a quest” kinda thing. I also totally avoided the young 3rd level dragons. Instead, I took my level 7 players and threw them against a big, menacing level 9 Elite Solo. And for the record, no holds. If he got multiple attacks, by god he took multiple attacks. Made damn sure to ice blast everyone I could in a single shot, right out the door. You know the fight is going well when the players roll the dice, slam their fists on the table and yell “FUCK!” because they rolled a 2. Or even better, a total of 22….when the AC is 23.
Looks around and the quiet stares
What? Am I not allowed to take evil glee in trying to kill some of my players? It’s time to put the Kobolds and Goblins away….I’ve taught my players how to play, how to work as a team, how to come together and put their brains as well as brawn to work. Now, it’s my turn to stomp a few faces into the mud.
Not that it wasn’t rewarding for them. One of my buds, the guy who’s been playing the Tiefling Warlord this whole time, has decided he wants to be a Veteran when he hits Paragon level. One of the things he keeps talking about is wanting to break one of his horns in half in a big fight. I gave it to him. He delivered the killing blow by running under the White Dragon, and tossing a hand axe right into its neck, critting and delivering the death nail. Problem was, he was under a dragon at the time. Tried being polite and giving him a roll, which failed. So I picked up a handful of dice and rolled damage….that was awesome.
AFTER the fighter finally lifted the damn body off of him, I rewarded him with a broken horn. The best part of it? Despite beating the shit out of my characters, and breaking the Tiefling’s horn by having the dragon fall on him, the whole thing ended with players high-fiving and screaming and cheering. Rummaging through the dragon’s horde, they found some Dwarven ale (gotta love the Horde creation rules). I thought it was very cool to see my players sit around and role play having a drink while sitting amongst the dead body. After all, it was their first dragon fight.
Now, to start thinking up what’s next.
Interestingly enough, the players aren’t wanting to march ahead to the war at this time. Instead, they have decided to stick around and help out the village. Taking their large sums of money they’ve been collecting over the past few adventures, instead of seeking to buy new magical items or gear they’ve decided to purchase a building. I’m not joking; they saw all the trade goods they’ve looted from the Dragon and decided to open shop. Even more impressive is they’re not doing it for riches or income, but to help out the economy. Also, since it appears their town is going to be getting an influx of refugees, they want to be able to help keep the economy afloat.
I ended up giving the Halfling bonus XP for going as far as suggesting that the now orphaned boy they met and saved in a past adventure should be offered to run the store, since he was working with his dad’s traveling trader business before he was murdered by the local cults. They also turned down the reward money from Ogleby, handed him his heirloom back and asked him to stay and help the boy, possibly even open up an alchemy shop and forge at their store.
SERIOUSLY, how can I say no to that? The players are becoming movers and shakers and not by the right of the sword; but by leading and assisting others. They’re giving up their money and rewards to help shape the world around them. So, I’m thinking it’s time to reach back and pull out some old ideas for this new edition. No kidding, I’ve pulled out my old AD&D books, and I’m coming up with ideas to spend the next several gaming sessions having the players literally establish themselves as leaders of this area.
Some thoughts include:
- In AD&D 1E, at level 9 and 10 a lot of classes got Freeholds and attracted followers. I’m thinking of allowing my players to start working towards the establishment of a single, large Freehold at the town in exchange for their duties and services for the Empire. I’m talking that whole “Clear the area of monsters in a 20 mile radius” kind of concept. I’m thinking the actual establishment of the Freehold should arrive about the time they hit Paragon Level.
- In the mean time, I’m probably going to dive into past editions and settings for tables and charts of reference for things like the costs of goods, training, building etc. I’m not really sure if any published 4E material has such references…