This was it - the big meeting. I knew there was going to be a dragon in it, but how/what/whee was going to depend on the party and how they all got it to work.
DMing a dragon is difficult because (I like the 2nd edition versions of them) honestly, if you misjudge the party's ability it will result in a TPK. AC's well over 20, breath weapon capable of taking out every henchman/hireling, even a frontal assault is three hits and attacks on all sides include leg kicks, tail sweeps, and wing buffets so conceivably a grounded dragon will get Bit/claw/claw/wing/wing/kick/kick/tail - with the wing's hitting up to 2 flankers and the tails sweeping up to 3 back attackers. And then there is the fear aura, the breath weapon, and the magic use.
Sometimes a good idea is to sting the beast and run for your lives - which I sort of expected the party to do (There was a memorable scene where the lone fighter was hacking at the dragon's legs and the party's priest is holding up his meager belt pouch of 10 crowns and begging for the dragon to not judge the rest of the party on the action of the fighter) - but they didn't. They stayed and had a great plan and hacked the beast and to my chagrin - killed it (but not before I had taken out one PC, and 2 NPC's in the process).
At the end of the meet the party had a chance to run into the BBB (big bad boss), Vanir - who was in an "unattackable" position and the group had to sit there and put up with his presence.
Overall, a great meeting.
Write up follows:
We piled what tables we could drag in front of the temple doors, eventually also dragging the cart in place, Arnog and Haydin twisting it around so it was pressed against both portals. Norris had helped Soren to his feet, guiding the ranger back to the courtyard, a potion of extra healing going a long way to getting most of his wounds set and somewhat healed. Coruth’tae called forth a shield spell on himself. Brother Beren went into the 1st guard house and with Nelia and Kazak’s help, began trying to raise the first portcullis.
The first of the lizardmen began trying to bash the door down, but the two upended tables and the cart were preventing them from achieving it. They shoved and hissed and bashed, but to no avail. Then we heard rhythmic chanting from within and the tingle of magic filling the air. Norris whistled up a charm and cast silence on a coin, tossing it to Arnog to throw through the door. The fighter climbed onto the cart and tried to time a toss within, getting the silence coin inside the corridor. The bashing stopped and he clambered off, bracing his back along with Haydin’s on the cart. Meanwhile Beren, Nelia, and Kazak had raised the portcullis and were running over to the other guard post, working on getting that one raised next.
At that moment there was the twang of crossbow fire and Coruth’tae shouted in pain and fell to the ground, his back pierced from above. We looked and saw the same lizardman sentry that had pegged us before had crossed the top of the complex and was now taking pot shots at the party from above. Soren took aim and fired back and the lizardman hissed in aggravation and slid back from the wall.
It was at that moment that the doors to the temple area shuddered and shook and Arnog and Haydin glanced at one another. Then there was a cacophonous booming sound and the doors exploded outward, cracking one of the tables and the other one acting like a lever to hurl the cart and Haydin aside like a rag doll. Arnog picked himself up and beheld perhaps the most powerful and muscle bound lizardman ever seen before. Holding a marble stand to a statue like a battering ram, it hurled the massive stone at the fighter and caused him to rock back, nursing his shield arm and blinking in surprise at the new foe’s power. Arrayed behind were a 5 count of lizardmen, two with spears, and three wielding swords.
Coruth’tae, nursing his own pain, grit his teeth and sounded off a fear spell rocketing it down the corridor, turning two of the lizardmen away – one of them the muscled one! Arnog ran into the breach and hacked and slashed at the remaining sword wielder. Haydin climbed to his feet and shook off his pain. Soren fired arrows with the lizardmen up top who was forced to duck to avoid taking further damage. The first of the three sword using lizardmen recited a spell and Arnog was suddenly held in place. Another one called forth a spiritual hammer and let fly at Gwyn while a third cast a blindness spell at Coruth’tae. Norris sang a spell and in a flash of smoke and fire summoned – a kobold. He directed the ankle biter to charge into the breach and assaulted the first one attacking Arnog.
The fighters advanced while Brother Beren tried to dispel the magic surrounding Arnog – failing to do so. Nelia stayed hidden in the guard house, poisoning a javelin and waiting for the right time. Kazak ran out to help Brother Beren, the half orc taking his job seriously. Coruth’tae struggled to his feet and Norris was going to run to help Haydin and Gwyn against the four lizardmen when he felt a breath of “something” at his back. His initial thought was “Basilisk!!” and he slammed the door to the complex and cloister closed just as something tried to step through. A crowbar jammed under the frame in an attempt to block it. Soren watched the sentry lizardmen above work his way further toward the front, the odd arrow forcing it to stay low. His quiver was getting empty. Coruth’tae passed him a handful of arrows from his own quiver and went to see what Norris was talking about. The sentry lizardman had reached his goal and blew a horn up there – alerting any and all in the area of our presence. Damn it! We were running out of time.
When the door behind him opened and there stood…Zoltan. What the?!?! Zoltan smiled at Norris, winked, and then throw a vial at the bard. The crystal shattered on his skin and he was afflicted with painful blisters as the potion of Elvenbane sluiced across his body. Racking in pain, he shouted out his fury and ran in. Zoltan then hit him with a vial of acid, which the bard was able to wipe partially on the wall as he grappled with the gypsy. The two of them went back and forth, arms wrapped about one another, trying to beat each other to death. To Coruth’tae’s eyes though it looked like Norris was fighting himself. NO – it wasn’t an illusion – doppelganger!!
Between Gwyn and Haydin (and the kobold!!), they had taken down one of the priests and the last spear wielding lizardman, but the last two priests were trading damage with the group as well as healing spells with one another. Brother Beren was attempting to get closer to help when the two priests each clapped their hands together and a wave of black energy flew up – and SIX of the formerly dead lizardmen shuddered, rolled over, and rose up as zombies! Kazak was pulled down and lizardmen strength beat the half orc to unconsciousness. Two more wandered into the guard post and assaulted Nelia, the 16 year old thief shouting and gurgling, unable to drive the undead beasts away. They turned to assault Soren next who had taken careful aim and shot the lizardman sentry on the wall in the head at long last!
Brother Beren shouted out to Tyr and his power burst against the zombies – dropping four of them to shadows and dust. Arnog was still held. Coruth’tae went into the hall but Norris and his double were unidentifiable as different. Finally Norris pulled his head back and head butted the double – and since he was helmed and the doppelganger wasn’t – it was metal on flesh and the shape shifter was stunned. Hand axes came out and he chopped them hard into the running flesh and form of his double. Coruth’tae checked Norris to be Norris (with a dagger hilt to the head to verify it was really a helm and therefore really Norris) and then went back out to offer what aid he could.
The fight was running away from the lizardmen and the call on the horn to aid still hadn’t materialized yet. One of the remaining spell casters hissed out some words and summoned a monster – causing a gelatinous cube to appear! The translucent horror burst into being around Gwyn, Haydin and the doughty kobold – the paralytic ooze making the latter two freeze up and cease moving. Our dwarven fighter grit his teeth under the pressure and acidic slime, hacked his way forward with his scimitar, and tore his way OUT of the gelatinous cube, pouring his anger and fury on the priests.
The fear spell that had affected the two other lizardmen was beginning to wane and it was at that moment that Arnog was showing signs of breaking the holding enchantment on himself. And then there was the crashing of trees and splintering of woods and the prodigious bulk of a green scaled, 72’ foot long drooling angry dragon landed at the gate of the complex. The great beast curled its front claws over the top of the barbican, its serpentine neck pushed its head low as it shouted out, “I’ve been called!! Who are you and why do you assault the lizard men?!?!”
Most of the group sidled towards the side door out of the courtyard and towards the cloister – not wanting to chance running through the portcullises and under the dragon itself. It began to inhale deeply when Coruth’tae came forward and tried to speak with the tremendous beast. There was some talk of humility and an attempt to kiss up to the dragon. It contemplated the words and then offered the party the chance to live and leave if they would, “Give up all their treasure, every coin, every gem, now!!”
And then Arnog had control of his limbs, spun towards the dragon, shouted out a valorous cry, and threw his armor class to the wind to hack at the mighty beast’s lower legs. His sword struck scales and bounced off. He hacked and slashed and tore and twisted but the dragon’s hide was too thick. Brother Beren tried to offer the dragon the 10 crowns he had, begging for forgiveness, but the lizard was furious and assaulted Arnog, battering the fighter about and his mighty teeth and jaws ripping through his platemail and crushing his muscled body within.
Gwyn heard the two lizardmen coming back from down the long hall, the fear spell gone. The gelatinous cube was right behind him, but it was a summoned creature. So he redoubled his efforts and between his hydraspear and “Elfsplitter” he was able to take down the last lizardman and the cube disappeared with a “pop!”
The dragon was wroth and angry and Gwyn and Soren quickly traded some gear and then the ranger took aim and timing the beast’s inhale for a use of its breath weapon let fly our potion of Feign Death. Perfect shot. The potion bottle whistled against the dragon’s teeth, burst open, and broken glass and eldritch potion shot into the dragon’s mouth and down its throat.
And then it passed out.
According to Coruth’tae, the dragon would most likely wake up in about a minute – but that gave us ONE solid minute to flee…or attack. And attack we did!
Arnog hit the dragon twice, then his ring of rapidity flared to life and he hit the dragon TWICE more! Arrows were shot and swords were slung. The crackling burning flare of a lightning bolt arced from the grey elf’s Staff of Power – the final charge now used, and tore across the dragon’s supine form. Brother Beren withdrew his scroll of Mass Cure Moderate Wounds and standing as close as he could with the party cured most of the wounds on everyone – even surprising us all by waking up Kazak (who was bleeding to death and unconscious – but not dead!) from under the dead lizardmen.
The two lizardmen had finally run back down the hall – but on seeing almost everyone dead, and the one that had been very strong was now normal as the 3 strength spells it was ensorcelled under had worn off, they decided that attacking the party was a bad idea and ran off again back the way they came. Gwyn grabbed the paralyzed Haydin and hoisted him on his shoulders.
The dragon stirred and it threw off the effects of the involuntary potion with a roar. We struck at it hard and fast, Arnog using the last effect of his ring of rapidity again – hitting the dragon another 4 times. It pummeled the fighter with its claws and smacked the group about a bit, but its eyes fastened on Coruth’tae and his lightning wielding power and it’s head snapped down and it BIT the grey elf! Half of the illusionist went into the dragon’s mouth, his legs kicking. Then it threw its head up and snapped its jaws forward and swallowed Coruth’tae, crunching down and killing our mage and friend with bone splintering finality.
And in doing so it ground the Staff of Power in its mouth to wood pulp and released a single retributive strike.
Blowing its head apart in a 25’ ball of white hot burning fire.
The group was stunned. Coruth’tae was killed, gone – but had somehow also killed the dragon in his final moments. We had only minutes (maybe less) before the horde of remaining lizardmen arrived from the alarm call (as well as the dragon’s roaring and the party’s fight with it). We scooped up the odd claw and tooth to prove what we had done, grabbed Nelia’s body to bring back to Rigil Blackshadow, bid our bowed heads and farewell to Coruth’tae, and then ran out of the complex and into the swamp perhaps three minutes (barely) ahead of anyone coming to investigate the call.
We ran on beyond endurance through the cloying swamp and eventually the borders until we came at long last to Eider. The guards let us in and we made our way to Baronet Wodenlach’s manor to clear up the last of the bounty and inform the nobleman of what had happened.
It was on arrival when we came, filthy, saddened, tired, hungry, worn out, and was presented before Baronet Wodenlach in his study, that we saw that he had a guest. A man in his 40’s, brown hair long and going to grey in places, handsome and keen eyed, and smiling. And the Baronet looked at us and clapped his hand on the stranger’s shoulder and welcomed us back and introduced us to his new friend and visitor, Vanir.
It took GREAT restraint on both Gwyn and Soren to not draw weapons and attack the slaver-mage. Wodenlach seemed odd and off, taking most of Vanir’s suggestions to heart and not exactly being himself. It was Vanir’s interest in Coruth’tae and his whereabouts that most interested the mage who grew cross at learning the grey elf was not here and had died in the swamp. The group was then dismissed and we went into the hall to talk.
There was much talk about rushing in and taking the mage out now, but the Baronet was our friend and there were 6 of his guards in there. And it was thought to be stupid – there would be a time and a place. And what if Wodenlach WAS under a spell? Would we have to strike him as well? Norris suggested we go see Blackshadow, inform the thief master of what had happened, return Nelia’s body, and tell him of our concern over treachery concerning Vanir.
The half-elf took Soren, Haydin, and Gwyn with him, while Brother Beren, Kazak, and Arnog went to the Sunken Boardwalk to relax and wait. The row boat ride across was short and Norris was able to bring his two friends with him. Haydin spoke of his time and accorded himself well and there was some lamenting over Nelia’s passing. Blackshadow reminded us that we were going after lizardman bounty – not dragon slaying – Damn it, Nelia’s a 16 year old girl! We apologized and told him of how things had not gone the way we expected and he seemed to accept it.
Norris then spoke of Vanir and Wodenlach’s strange behavior. Possibly a charm. Rigil doubted it, as Wodenlach was pretty strong willed normally PLUS he had a amulet to prevent such charms on him (the group could not remember seeing it). Could be a potion or maybe some sort of poison. He didn’t want the group ANYWHERE near Wodenlach or Vanir and suggested that Norris go back and get his three friends and bring them here as his guests for a single night.
Norris went and on finding his companions he brought them back via the same rowboat when the man’s eyes glazed over and he suddenly lifted his oar and went to strike the group. Arnog caught the flailing oar with one arm, brained the boatman hard across the temple, and tossed his unconscious form overboard and into the bay. Brother Beren was horrified and wanted to know WHY and Arnog explained that there was no excuse. If it was a spell it wasn’t going to end just then, and if it was a hired killer, he deserved to go swimming with the fishes. It was then that Brother Beren began to suspect that our young fighter was not either Lawful or Good. Chuckle.
We made it to the island (with less skill but we made it there) and Rigil welcomed us all. He offered us rooms to sleep in and told us that he had dispatched two of his best to spy on Wodenlach and Vanir and would learn a bit more of what’s going on. We were safe from prying eyes as no scrying could get through the wards on the island so we could sleep without worry (in a keep filled with thieves, assassins, thief-mages, sellswords, bounty hunters, and poisoners – hahahah) and decide what our next step would be in the morning.