So, I’m still attempting to catch up on my notes for the Blacktree Chronicles, but I want to instill good habits with the new game I just started. I’ve discussed the Slaughtervale background, so I’ll spare you the world pitch and introduce you to our beloved cast. The premise here is that the characters are slaves newly escaped from the residuum mines of Harzushad, the largest city in the efreet nation of the Ash.
Here they are:
- Bradis –a human wizard, trained in frost magic in hopes of combating the efreets, but ended up captured before his tutelage could be complete. Currently uses a spellbook that was stolen by…
- Hrung –an irascible goblin rogue.
- Odd Whispan –a gnome warlock (star pact) who stumbled into his strange powers literally by wishing on a star. He is still unraveling the powers he now possesses.
- –a human cleric, filled with the godspark. (The power of the gods has been fractured by the Great Storm. No gods exist, but their essence lives within “chosen” denizens of the Slaughtervale)
The first scene started with –come on, this is me!– a skill challenge. The party had just escaped. Their master’s dogmen and riot hounds give chase. The players actually just barely failed this challenge, running through alleys and the sewers into a ritual ground until the dogmen caught them there.
The first combat went smoothly. First, let me say that Fantasy Grounds is awesome. Awesome. I had built what I thought to be a pretty cool map in Dundjinni, and so we were rewarded with some great moves. Brandis thunderwaved one of the riot hounds into molten lava, Hrung took and dealt brutal damage, Odd Whispan sniped the field, and Samson stepped up with critical heals and wrecked house with lance of faith.
This battle reinforced something about encounter design. 4e really rewards you for putting effects on the field. This battle was really fun because you not only fought your enemies, but potentially the environment as well. Most crucially, you can use the environment against your foes! Hit someone with sword? Fun. Hit someone into lava? Hilarious. Really.
The party dispatched the dogmen and made their way from the Ash to the Dust. The Dust is hostile land filled with choking, swarming dust, and the players were at risk of contracting dustmouth or worse…and then a windsoul genasi floats down to them bearing toobis (cloak-scarves that protect the wearer from the worst of the Dust). He introduced himself as Siral. He tracked down the characters after their escape because, well, he was the one that helped to engineer the escape. He fancies himself something of a freedom fighter and sought to shame the Lord Radumanshal, highest of the efreet lords save for the sultan himself. Radumanshal has never had slaves escape…until now. Siral warned the players that Radumanshal would never stop hunting them for the shame and embarrassment they have brought them. The players would need to flee to the sunken colonies of the south and hope for the best.
Heading south, night brought with it a dust storm. Even in protective gear, it would be impossible to survive out in the open. Skill Challenge! The party spotted a group of rocks in the distance and struggled over to get at them. This skill challenge went even smoother than the first, it didn’t take long for everyone to get into the flow of how they work.
They found a burial cairn for shelter. The storm didn’t subside, though. It intesified, kicking up black sand and letting thunder peal over the blasted landscape. Runes that adorned the cairn’s stones began to glow. There was a flash of light…
and the group of escaped slaves found themselves staring into a new darkness, that of the Shadowvale, the Shadowfell echo of the Slaughtervale. They emerged from the cairn only to find themselves attacked by two deathjump spiders. The dailies came flying loose here, and the arachnids found themselves stabbed, blasted, and finally burned to a crisp by Bradis’ Flaming Sphere.
It was now up to the players to figure out what they were doing in the Shadowvale, and what they were going to do while they were there.