In That Epic Struggle, Part Two
By Dwip November 11, 2007, 6:01 pm Comments (1) RSS Feed for this post

Post one in this series is here.

Let us return, then, to those D&D yore and the Forgotten Realms, and the continuation of that epic struggle against the forces of STD ogre mages and perhaps also evil.

The year is 2000. It is the dawn of 3rd edition D&D, and the people were, well, excited. I wonder, sometimes how I didn’t wreck the car getting home from taking everyone to pick up the PHB, considering that we all wanted to see it at the same time. Including the driver.

Following the disappearance of our previous heroes into the Calimport Muzad, our roster has changed just a bit:

Magnus, Half-Orc Barbarian/Cleric (Cole). An exile from an orcish tribe, and continuing Cole’s tradition of playing the party’s tank.
Garrick, Human Paladin (Kyle). Starting Kyle’s tradition of playing paladins, except for the time he played an assassin and killed Jason’s essential plot NPC. But that’s another story.
Xygonn, Human Sorcerer (Brian). Because I think all of us took a look at 3e sorcs and said “OMFG! OMFG!” a lot.
Lamen, Elven Fighter/Bard (Jason). Flunky of the Calishite noble Lady Umayyid (or Ummayid or Umashid – consistancy was not a strong point). Continuing Jason’s tradition of roguish types. Even the non-rogues are roguish.
Tanaurial Moonbow, Elven Fighter/Rogue (NPC). “Hey, who’s gonna play the rogue? Oh, let’s just make an NPC.”

These are not, to be sure, your 5th level juggernaughts of destruction from the days of 2nd Edition Skills & Powers, but they’re respectable.

A disclaimer: I don’t think any of us remembers this session at all clearly. Details may be lost in translation.

Marpenoth, 1370 DR (October)

A hidden vale in Calimshan. The party is teleported into the middle of it, observed by Lamen, who’s hiding in the trees. Everyone’s mission? Retrieve a certain book desired by both the Harpers and Lady Umayyid, held by the evil mage who lives in this place. After some strained introductions between the watching Lamen and the Harper party, various yuan-ti are dispatched, and the mage’s tower is raided. The mage himself is slain, though the book escapes.

Following clues left in the tower of Alarion the mage, the party begins tracking Tirsil Blackcloak, a blackguard in the service of Cyric. This leads them to the city of Esmeltaran in Amn, which has been occupied by the monstrous army of the Sythillisian Empire and by Cyricists led by the archpriest Koth. Infiltrating the city, Magnus meets with Gacan, an old childhood friend from his tribe of orcs, who informs him that Magnus’ archrival Glorthal now leads the tribe, and is an important figure in the Sythillisian Army who may have information on the book they seek.

The party decides that they will sneak into Glorthal’s lair in the Dahaundar Palace by disguising themselves as evil mercenaries, assassinate Glorthal, and hopefully retrieve the book. While Lamen and Tanaurial successfully make it inside, the bulk of the party, after being challenged[1], fights a running fight through the palace until they reach Glorthal’s chambers. Glorthal is killed in the ensuing battle, but the party is forced to retreat on Xygonn’s carpet of flying when the orcish general’s bodyguards show up.

Following a period of resting and refitting, the party travels to the ruined city of Shoonach, ancient seat of the Shoon Imperium, where it is expected they will find Tirsil Blackcloak and the book they’ve sought all this time. The battle is fierce, and many foes are fought, including fire giants[2], until, on the Palace Mount, Our Heroes encounter Tirsil Blackcloak, as well as Koth, Sythillis, and Cyrvisnea, the combined leadership of the Sythillisian Empire, as well as a huge black dragon. In the inevitable showdown, both parties are presumed dead after the party rams Xygonn’s flying carpet at high speeds into the dragon[3].

[1] – Or what really happened, which was something like this:

Party (disguised): We want to see Glorthal.
Orc Guard: Why you want to see chief?
Party: Uh…well…you see…that is…
Orc Guard: Me suspicious.
Party: …oh, hell. Die! *combat ensues*

This turns into a battle wherein the palace is frontally assaulted by Our Heroes, and they are ultimately saved in the ensuing battle with Glorthal and his minions by the timely intervention of Lamen and Tanaurial, who were masquerading as evil henchmen. They then barely escaped the palace by flying carpet.

This session gave rise to a number of jokes about brute force, ignorance, and the frontal assaults of castles.

[2] – This sequence went something like:

DM: You see a number of giants coming towards you up the street.
Party: Attack! Kill! Maim! Hack! Slaughter! Charge!
DM: The giants are throwing boulders. Magnus, you get hit. Take some damage. Also take some fire damage.
Cole: Whoa, whoa, whoa. The giants are on fire!? You never said they were on fire!
DM: Uh, my bad. Slipped my mind. Anyway…
This survives in various permutations of the phrase “also, the giants are on fire.”

[3] – The carpet vs. dragon matchup went about like this:

DM: All four villains are flying at you on board an enormous black dragon. What do you do?
Party: We’re so screwed. We’re wounded, running out of spells, and these guys are enormous. This will end badly.
Xygonn: Wait. Let’s work this out. Our carpet goes, what, 80 feet in 6 seconds or something? So that ends up as… *various bogus mathematical calculations are performed here, rendered accurate by the lateness of the hour and the lack of desire to actually fight this combat* …something like 90 miles per hour. Let’s crash this thing into the dragon and wipe them all out.
DM: …
Party: Sounds like a plan.
DM: Uh…roll to hit?
Xygonn: Sure thing.
DM: Well, uh. You hit. Everyone dies. Now let’s all go to bed while I attempt to comprehend that.

This game was, as I said, our first foray into 3rd Edition D&D. As a whole, I regard it as an unmemorable failure, although certain parts of it were really great moments in our history as a group. In particular, the assault on the Dahuandar Palace and the fire giant encounter will live in either fame or infamy. The carpet vs dragon matchup will have to settle for infamy. As a whole, however, it says something that, in the six years from November of 2000 to November of 2006 when I did the research for this, between three of us, there were three wildly different accounts of what went on, with large stretches of “I have no idea what happened there.” What I’ve presented here is likely at least 50% longer in reality, save that nobody now remembers any of it.

So what went wrong? I have a few ideas:

– We attempted to reprise an epic and well-loved campaign (detailed in part one) with a new set of rules, new characters, and a new plot.

– The rules created a situation where characters of similar levels in the new game were vastly inferior in power to the characters in the old game, and people missed this.

– The characters in this new game, while not shabby (Magnus and Lamen in particular), couldn’t compete with the legends built up by Shador, Clyos the Minotaur, Kink, and company. There was much envy of the old game, which I probably should have found a way to reprise.

– The game as a whole suffered from my, as the DM, having an epic backstory to the whole campaign in my head that was pretty good, but ultimately flawed because I transmitted very little or none of it to the players, who then I imagine felt railroaded. The book, in particular, had some greater significance beyond being a plot device (though I forget what, now), but all the characters knew was that other, greater forces than themselves wanted it. Too, there was a lot going on in both Esmeltaran and Shoonach that just never came out in play, and we all suffered for it. I’m quite guilty of breaking that cardinal law of DMing, which says that if your story is that cool, the players should know about it too.

– In addition, my DM logic failed me severely in this game. A secret jungle grove filled with snakelike yuan-ti is cool, but is wildly out of place in desert Calimshan. The fire giants needed to be on fire. And seriously, why the hell were four powerful lords of evil ALL riding a huge black dragon, and why was there a huge black dragon there in the first place? And what was I thinking letting them ram it with a flying carpet?

I like to think I’ve learned from these sorts of mistakes.

Join us next time for Part 3 in our story, wherein yet another group of heroes solves the troubles of Amn, one hobgoblin at a time.

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Comments on In That Epic Struggle, Part Two
avatar Comment by Weave #1
November 11, 2007 at 4:03 pm

I have to admit, the 2nd edition Fireballs was like godly. You could fire off one down a hallway and take out about 100 kobolds. 3rd edition just seems so weak… The little of it that I’ve experienced.