The Points of Light Campaign (D&D 4e)
Adventure #2 WOTC H2 Thunderspire Labyrinth (Level 4)
Earthday, 20th of Fireseek, 2000.
Right, three things- 1) the guys hate Gelatinous Cubes- even more than Hobgoblin Warcasters, 2) I shouldn’t have played this encounter, and 3) the guys really hate Gelatinous Cubes, but not as much as they hate Gelatinous Cubes with Wraiths. Here goes…
I tricked the guys in this encounter, well just a little-
Suddenly the adventurers are backed up, Charrak their Kobold guide stands in the middle of cavern chamber, maybe 30 or so feet across, and with half-a-dozen possible exits- which way? Charrak is… lost, temporarily of course, the little guy has got turned around, he’s not sure which of the passages leading from the chamber they should take.
I made this out to be part of the Skill Challenge- the PCs had been doing particularly well, one failure and six successes so far (I think it was 8 successes needed to complete the challenge). So the guys thought they were rolling more checks for the Skill Challenge, they weren’t, they were rolling Perception checks- and failing.
A Gelatinous Cube, which has in the last few moments (unseen) sidled up to the guys, attacks, or more accurately just lurches forward into the chamber.
Engulfing Dirty entirely in the process.
It’s at this point I came clean and told the guys that the Skill Challenge (at this point) was a charade- they were mostly okay with this- wry smiles, ‘got me’ grins et al. I said mostly okay with this- Dirty (Dave) was… I think apoplectic is the word I’m searching for- fortunately he had a mouth full of Cube…
The other players tried (mostly, again) not to laugh.
Winstanley is first to the punch, the Halfling Tumbles into position and slices at the Cube with a Sly Flourish- the goo flies. Grey smash it with a Magic Missile, while Phrenic unleashes a Steel Monsoon and then doubles up with his Lead the Attack- both of them good hits. The Cube more free-form in shape now, with loped off corners and edges looks more like a 12-sided dice.
Phrenic calls the guys to the party- “Kill!” It’s going remarkably well, perhaps this is the moment the guys overcome their unnatural fear of Cubes.
Dirty clambers out of the Cube, a little red-faced but that would be the acid, he smashes the thing with a Crushing Blow- its bloodied, and then follows up with a Brute Strike, the things is almost broken.
Just to say in one round the Gelatinous Cube is reduced to 39 HP, from full = 156 HP, not bad.
It’s at this point however that the three ragged spectral figures emerge from the walls of the cavern- Wraiths. That’s not good.
The first lashes at Phrenic, the Tiefling is necrotised- but only a little, and is left weakened, the Warlord sags, every movement an effort. The second tags Dirty, although the Dwarf’s armour absorbs some of the pain. The third fails to grasp Winstanley- the Rogue however looks terrified.
Wraith- Damage sinks.
Suddenly all of the players are giving me evil looks, I explain that it’s only a Level 5 Encounter- this news goes down like a lead balloon.
Then its the Cubes turn- the giant ooze lashes out and thumps Phrenic and Dirty, both are Slammed and left immobilised, and then… you guessed it- the Cube lurches forward and engulfs both of the guys.
Kapsard backs off and fires a Daunting Light at the nearest Wraith, the thing burns vulnerable to the prayer’s radiant power. The Priestess mutters Healing Words and Dirty, trapped within the Cube, forgets some of his wounds- although he’s still being consumed by acid, so there’s that to consider.
Winstanley shuffles into the middle of the action and whirls like a top- his Downward Spiral (the Daily powers are in full force)- he cuts the Cube badly and yet only manages to nick one of the Wraiths. The Halfling follows up with a Bait and Switch attack, somehow managing to drag the Cube further out into the open, and position it between the Wraiths and him.
Grey is momentarily sheathed in flame- his Flame Shroud, the enemies around the mage likewise suffer. All three of the Wraiths are burnt, although only slightly, and are left smouldering. Phrenic, meantime, flails in his attempt to free himself from the Cube- the Warlord burns some more, Dirty is more successful- the Dwarf again rips his way out of the ooze.
The Wraiths, all still on fire, launch their attacks- the first, now bloodied, delivers its Shadow Touch to Winstanley (even after a Second Chance), the Halfling is necrotised and weakened. The second Wraith Shadow Glides across the chamber and lashes out at Grey- the mage is also hurt and left weakened. The third wails on Dirty, who takes a little more necrotic damage, and is weakened still.
The teetering Cube, teetering on the edge of existence, flails wildly at Dirty and Winstanley- and contrives to miss both.
Kaspard’s Divine Glow encompasses the area, the Cube is wrecked, the ooze filled balloon bursts- Phrenic staggers out of the wreck of the monster. One of the Wraiths is caught in the Glow, it too suffers. The Priestess isn’t done however, she hoists her magical holy symbol high, and invokes Bahamut- two of the Wraiths are burnt in the radiant surge- spun backwards and slammed into the walls of the cavern, and immobilised- they’re also both bloodied.
Gelatinous Cube- Did I mention the guys hate them?
Winstanley’s Sly Flourish is mostly for show, a hit, but for very little damage (weakened and insubstantial- a terrible combo). Grey’s Magic Missile is likewise fairly ineffective. While Dirty’s Reaping Strike (a crit) delivers 8 points of damage- a massive hit in comparison to the first two.
The guys really don’t appreciate this, particularly as one of the Wraiths then starts regenerating… grab a coffee, this could go on a while.
The first Wraith however holds station, immobilised (and on 1 HP), it’s also still on fire. The second Wraith- similar, although only bloodied and now no longer on fire. The third Wraith is in full motion, it lashes out at Dirty again and makes sure the Fighter stays weakened.
Kaspard unleashes her Hands of Radiance, alas only one of the ghostly appendages finds its mark- still it’s enough to slay one of the Wraiths- only two to go. Grey hits another using his Wand of Icy Rays- the Wraith is immobilised and prevented from getting close to the guys. Phrenic supplies a few Inspiring Words to Dirty, the Dwarf is suddenly in fine fettle, then the Tiefling lashes out with his Leaf on the Wind attack- a hit, and yet still the two Wraiths stand. Dirty’s Reaping Strike connects and changes nothing- the guys are getting worn down.
The Wraiths of course fight back, and again Phrenic and Dirty are caught with their Shadow Touch attacks, both are again necrotised, Phrenic is now bloodied, both are still weakened.
The players are doing a significant amount of swearing at this point.
Winstanley stabs with a Sly Flourish, Phrenic delivers a Viper’s Strike, while Dirty cuts (and crits) again with his Reaping Strike- all of the adventurers attacks are on target, and still the two Wraiths are standing, and they’re now both regenerating.
Dirty falls for a Wraiths Shadow Touch again, the Dwarf is furious.
Winstanley stabs with a Sly Flourish, Phrenic delivers a Viper’s Strike, while Dirty cuts (and crits, yes- again) with his Reaping Strike- all of the adventurers attacks are on target, and still the two Wraiths are still standing, almost unmarked, they’re now both regenerating.
If you’ve been paying attention you will recognise the above paragraph, you’ve seen it before- that’s because the turn plays out exactly as before.
And still the Wraiths fight on- Dirty and Phrenic are hit again, and both weakened still, Phrenic is now struggling to stay on his feet- the Warlord is on 2 HP.
Winstanley manages at last to throw off the malaise, the Halfling is no longer weakened, he spins out a dagger with a Sly Flourish and the second Wraith falls.
The DM is temporarily deafened by the cheering.
The last Wraith standing is hit by Grey’s Magic Misiile, stabbed by Phrenic’s Viper’s Strike and then thumped by Dirty’s Reaping Strike- its bloodied, just. The undead creature tries to get away, and is thumped again by Dirty, the Dwarf however suddenly comes to his senses.
The Wraith moves away again, and the canny Dwarf resists the temptation- he lets the undead terror depart, and then sags and a little and then drops to his knees- exhausted.
Several of the guys, by which I mean the players- not the PCs, are spent- they hated that, although not perhaps as much as I did- remind me never to combine weakened with insubstantial- it’s a deal breaker.
Strangely, much later on down the line, this fight is one of the half-dozen that the guys still talk about today, the fight the guys loved to hate.
The players look deflated, almost defeated. Nearly an hour and a half around the table and other than a puddle of Ooze they have nothing at all to show for their efforts.
That said they can now get on with the Skill Challenge- and then get down to beating the crap, and the location of the Grimmerzhul fortress, out of the Duergar.
Onwards, back into the Labyrinth, Charrak the Kobold leading the way.