Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Stony Black Heart of the Fetid Swamp, Part 1

When we last saw our intrepid band, they had just awakened by the side of the road in town, near the library. Their friend the head librarian was shaking them and asking if they were all right. Mungo Sandybanks was looking on with concern. The girls quickly determined that neither they, the librarian, nor Mungo knew how they had gotten there. Once the girls filled the librarian in on what had happened, he guessed that the tiny glowing pixies had taken them from the forest back to town.

After a couple days of rest, the librarian informed them that another shard had been located. He and Mungo directed them toward a swamp three days' hike from town. Near the end of the first day's travel they came to a small abandoned-looking structure next to a crossroads. They heard a cackling laugh which the ranger identified as a hyena. She then proceeded to rattle off the complete lore entries from the Monster Manual on both hyenas and gnolls thanks to some ridiculous Nature checks. After she noted that "gnolls often decorate their armor and encampments with the bones of their victims", the paladin noted some crude decorations made of bones near the structure.

2 gnoll claw fighters (level 6 skirmisher, 500 xp)
2 gnoll marauders (level 6 brute, 500 xp)
2 hyenas (level 2 skirmisher, 250 xp)
Map: The Crossroads from the D&D Miniatures Starter Set

Having spotted the signs that the gnolls were about, the girls tried to go around one of the big boulder piles to get the drop on the structure. However, the gnolls had already had the same idea and the paladin wound up startling one of the claw fighters who was lying in wait behind the rocks. The gnolls won initiative - as the claw fighter swung at the paladin and moved away, one of the marauders came out from behind the other rocks and the rest of the monsters came out of the structure. Somehow they managed to cluster themselves perfectly to all eat a fireball from the wizard.

For a couple of rounds the paladin and the warlord formed the front line, holding off about half the enemies each while the ranger took opportunistic stabs and the wizard blasted away with fire shroud and scorching bursts from the rear. Then as the warlord got too damaged some slick shifting allowed her to swap places with the ranger. The ranger bit off a bit more than she could chew, even going down at one point, but a stand the fallen followed by an inspiring word from the warlord got her up and she took out two gnolls and a hyena with a massively well-rolled dire wolverine strike. After that, the rest was just cleanup.

I kept trying to single someone out for the gnolls' pack tactics, but the girls stayed tightly clustered near the rocks and kept shifting around whenever anyone (except the paladin) got too many enemies on them. The paladin I just couldn't hit reliably due to her AC. Still, since this was a level+2 fight for four 5th-level characters it was pretty tough.


Jay said...

We fought gnolls too. . .Are they the best 5th level monsters or something? Our gnolls were not as effective with a wizad in the party either. In fact, in general terms, our combat was pretty much like yours. Wizard did a ton of damage, melee fighters did their job and kept the rest safe, even to the point of dropping below 0.

And it was a blast!


Gregor LeBlaque said...

Welcome, Jay

The only real prep I've done for this campaign is to list some cool monsters I wanted to use during the first dozen levels or so. Gnolls are definitely on the list. Their whole pack hunter shtick really comes to life in 4e.

One thing I noticed is that their abilities that key off bloodied status, especially the fact that some of them are off the gnoll's status while others are off the target's status, makes them some of the trickiest 4e monsters I've run thus far.