Kingpinmaker, Game N + 2, Part Two
So, the rest of the night was taken up with the Assault on Devil's Tor, which, like a lot of encounters that I make up rather than stealing from Paizo books, suffered from a lot of flaws in design. These were compounded by a few flaws in execution, for a very long, frustrating fight.
Barbie led them to the secret tunnel into Devil's Tor where the party, precariously picking their path through a floor of razor sharp stalagtites (? -mites? whatever), upset a
bat stirge swarm.
I had originally planned on them encountering a bat swarm, and then was going to reward Genny's player with a giant heaping pile of bat guano from which to make gunpowder, but the Black Goblin's player received a package from Frog God Games earlier that day and in it was a copy of Tome of Horrors 4. I decided to teach the Black Goblin a lesson about his profligate ways and decided to use a monster from the book, found stirge swarm and, voila!
Well, those stirges f@&$ed them up good. I think only one, maybe two, characters avoided their blood drain and poor Giles O. Beck, I think it was, lost 10 points of Con! There was much gnashing of teeth and consternation, especially with the movement reduction, and the party was only saved when Symoreel pulled out some spell I'd never seen from one of the splat books that created a mini-maelstrom of electricity like out of Terminator 2 that drove the stirges away.
Finally, the party found themselves near the bottom of a giant crater in the middle of Devil's Tor. Below them, they could see a giant pool of white putrescence; above, they could see a winding path to the top of the tor, some caves, and two shelfs near the top that jutted out into the center of the crater.
From one, they could glimpse the harpy from the earlier encounter, banging a ritualistic rhythm on some drums; on the other they could see a wooden scaffolding. As the party scouts watched stealthily from the bottom, they saw two flying strix carry out a naked Toby Poodlecock and hold him in place as a eight-foot-tall strix wielding a nasty-looking falchion tied him to the scaffolding so he was spread-eagle, facing down, his lashed limbs the only things keeping him from falling into the roiling puddle of poo.
By the banging of the drum, and the gathered strix celebrants the party scouts could make out, they realized they didn't have much time. Potions of invisibility were quaffed, the stealthy party members started stealthily sneaking ahead, and the clanky party members waited and readied their ranged weapons.
And then Brother Makao stepped out into the crater and rolled a 1 on his Stealth check. Now, I know that a 1 doesn't automatically mean a failure, but Brother Makao didn't have a very high Stealth modifier and the players all drew in their breaths in nervous anticipation...so I had the strix notice them, interrupt the ritual, and attack.
Here's where all of the design flaws came into play. First off, I am nowhere near good enough of a DM, nor mathematician, to pull off a 3-D fight with many different layers and over 20 combatants. Second off, I had looked up some irl tors and had come up with a height of 800'. The party started the fight 500' below where the sacrifice was and, in retrospect, never had a chance. Third off, I had forgotten to tell Barbie's player a couple of things. Fourth off...well, I could mea culpa all day but essentially:
An invisible Giles started climbing directly up to the shelf with Toby. Barbie and Genny snuck out and started walking the path that led around the edge of the crater. An invisible Esmerelda snuck out after them. Brother Makao stepped out, tripped, and dislodged a large rock that crashed down the inside of the crater, alerting the strix. Brother Makao starts running DOWN the winding path towards the poo, hoping to distract the strix from the sneaking party members who were already climbing up the path. Buck Rogers, clanky as all get out, followed him down. I don't remember what Symoreel did.
For the first couple of rounds, the strix attack Buck and Brother Makao down below. The giant strix cleric summons a gigantic vulture demon which menaces the party doing some kind of crazy dance before Esmerelda dispels it to shouts of victory. The harpy flies out and sings her captivating song. Giles climbs invisibly. Genny and Barbie reveal themselves and shoot at the harpy. More strix show up, but attack Genny and Barbie. Symoreel blasts the harpy with a fireball The giant strix cleric casts some more spells. More strix show up. Giles, this entire time, climbs invisibly.
At some point, Barbie realizes that there are two different types of strix, ones with a blackish-blue coloration and ones with a purple-red coloration, like her dear George. Then she realizes that the next band of strix warriors flying down are LED by George! Ohmygod! They squawk at each other in strix as the demon-summoning and fireballs exploding all around them and Barbie learns that the all the strix tribes of Devil's Point have been strong-handed together into a giant confederation of all the winged devil tribes that is ruled over by--a cult of Pazuzu! But George isn't happy about this, and he is easily persuaded to call upon his brethren to revolt against the tyranny of the Black Talons! Birdman revolution!
Meanwhile, Giles keeps climbing. Around this time, Brother Makao, who has the Run feet and can move at 250' per round starts running up the path. Barbie and Genny jump on the backs of Symoreel and a strix and they start flying about, fighting Black Talon strix in mid-air.
Meanwhile, the eight-foot tall demoniac of Pazuzu with the falchion has been preparing his ritual sacrifice of poor Toby Poodlecock and, as Giles finally, invisibly makes it to the top of the ledge, disembowls poor Toby whose entrails spill out dangling down into the crater. The demoniac plays in Toby's viscera and blood and channels Toby's ebbing life power into summoning another vrock! which would have been a lot more ass-kicking if Esmerelda hadn't dispelled it again! Huzzah!
Anyway, I know there's a lot I'm missing in here, for example, at one point Buck Rogers summoned an angel, but to wrap it up, demoniac of Pazuzu kills Toby, flies away. The party, with their new friends in the Red Banned Band, kill all the Black Talons. Giles spent most of the game climbing the wall and Brother Makao spent, I think, four or five rounds just running. Design flaws. :(