It's time for another report from the Order of the Amber Die! This time they give us a peek at their table as they ran through Part 5 of Doomsday Dawn, "The Heroes of Undarin"! As usual with these blogs, if you haven't played or read this and don't want to see any spoilers, turn away now!
Following our interactions with authors from Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four of the playtest, the time had come to face Jason Bulmahn once again. Our GM did much to invest us in what was essentially a wave-by-wave grinder, and we learned later that this was also to prevent us from developing the notion that in this scenario our deaths were likely inevitable. We were told our start time had been adjusted to match the time of day during which the adventure began (late afternoon), and that we'd likely be going late into the night. While Adam will often employ Syrinscape, ambient tracks, or his own themed soundtracks, this time he had us rocking out to combat the entire evening with such as one of our ESPN favorites, "300 Violin Orchestra," and NIN's "The Day the World Went Away." Our love of immersion and role-playing is clear from many of our reports over the years, but you don't have to look far in the Order to find players who are also up for a dice-throwing, hand-slapping brawl that will go twelve session hours.
Going in, we were told that we'd be playing hardy characters accustomed to facing terrible enemies in the Worldwound. We actually had quite a bit of freedom with character creation and wanted to accomplish a couple of things: acquire more data on a paladin and cleric played at higher levels, and spotlight both the highest level single-classed wizard and fighter of our playtest run. Listed with the names of each player on the team is the year each became a member of the Order (when a player has reached 100 hours at our table).
Maarlill human wizard 12
Key Spells:Stoneskin, fly, resistenergy, mirrorimage, electricarc
Class Feats: Eschew Materials, Reach Spell, Widen Spell, Quick Preparation, Cantrip Expansion, Makeshift Wand, Focus Conservation
Yuma Hardgaze dwarf paladin 12
Class Feats: Warded Touch, Divine Grace, Aura of Courage, Shield Warden, Fiendsbane, Oath, Shield of Reckoning, Holy Wall
Best Magic Items:+2 corrosive composite longbow, +3 dwarven waraxe, heavy steel sturdy adamantine shield, +3 half-plate, cape of the mountebank, dust of appearance, feather tokens (chest, ladder)
Hofbah half-orc fighter 12
Class Feats: Furious Focus, Power Attack, Double Shot, Triple Shot, Positioning Assault, Combat Reflexes, Brutal Finish
Skill Feats: Quick Repair, Cat Fall, Quick Jump, Steady Balance, Kip Up, Quick Climb, Rapid Mantel
Best Magic Items: +3 full plate, +3 bastard sword (with holy rune), +2 corrosive long bow
Caerwynn Bastille half-elf cleric 12
Class Feats: Holy Castigation, Emblazon Symbol, Healing Hands, Align Armament, Deadly Simplicity
"The Heroes of Undarin" By The Numbers
Player Tracking Sheet
- Average time spent in character creation: 131 minutes
- Number of times a character reached 0 Resonance: 0
- Number of critical fails when overspending Resonance: 0
- Number of times a character ran out of spell slots: 0
- Number of times a character ran out of spell points: 1 (Yuma)
- Number of Hero Points used: 19; 6 (Maarlill), 5 (Yuma), 3 (Hofba), 5 (Caerwynn)
GM Tracking Sheet
- Total time spent playing "The Heroes of Undarin": 11hrs, 50min
- Total time spent preparing "The Heroes of Undarin": 6hrs, 25min
- Number of sessions spent playing "The Heroes of Undarin": 3 (session increments are 4 hours)
- Total number of Hero Points given out: 36
- Number of characters reduced to 0 HP: 10; Maarlill (4), Yuma (2), Hofba (2), Caerwynn (2)
- Number of characters killed: 4
- Wave in which the first player character reduced to 0: 2 (Maarlill)
- Wave and event in which the first player character died: wave 2, event 6 (Yuma)
- Wave and event in which the last player character died: wave 2, event 6
- Number of party rests: 0
- Uses of Reach Spell: 9
- Total range gained through Reach Spell: 215 feet
- Average range added through Reach Spell: 24 feet
- Uses of Drain Arcane Focus: 4
- Spells returned with Drain Arcane Focus: 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th
- Uses of lay on hands: 4
- Total number of hit points healed with lay on hands: 121
- Damage prevented by adamantine shield damage reduction: 194
- Total number of melee attacks made: 51
- Number of hits: 34
- Total melee damage dealt: 1540
- Average damage per hit: 45
- Number of channel uses: 7
- Total positive energy damage dealt: 1003
- Total hit points healed to party using all source: 1323
Highlights From "The Heroes of Undarin"
With the sun setting across a ruined temple deep in the Worldwound, we prepared to defend sacred ground from an onslaught of demons and undead. We had several situational tools at our disposal, and foremost among these was the ability to use an ancient stained glass window to bring Desna's will upon our enemies. Second was an altar that allowed each of us to use the god's blessing for one well-timed reroll of a d20. Between these and the assortment of terrain and antagonists featured, this was a true test of tactical skill in an edition we weren't very familiar with—thus an exceptional challenge we won't soon forget. What Bulmahn has created with this scenario is now a trial for all Order members to aspire to.
We're having to adjust to the new numerical norms in our favorite game, which is also part of what makes any playtest interesting. When a treachery demon tossed down a 44 initiative to open a combat jaws dropped, and we realized just how far we were from the days of the previous edition of Pathfinder. Go ahead and combine that with 29 TAC attacks against our wizard from a pack of dread wraiths, resulting in 15 misses. How about a single channel from our cleric, ripping 198 damage against four opponents?
Not only were divvying powerful items an important aspect of party construction for this scenario, it was at 12th level that potent items from the new era of Pathfinder truly began to shine. Don't take our word for it though, let the numbers above tell the story of a paladin's unbreakable shield and a fighter's holy sword.
The end wasn't pretty. When the players on this team joined the Order, we heard stories from the 1980s and 90s about past members who saw their beloved characters devoured by a certain demilich during five different playthroughs of the "Tomb of Horrors." If it gives you an idea of how much our GM reveres demiliches, he chose one for his Paizo messageboards avatar—that same one from the "Tomb of Horrors." Worse yet, Adam can now add four characters from this era of the Order to his gruesome tally. At least we'll have some stories for the fire pit about our wizard's ray of frost being reflected back at him as a critical hit, another character critically failing against a maze spell, and watching our cleric's body turn to dust when the demilich trapped his soul.
We learned afterward that this was the scenario in which we were supposed to die. That's fine, we understand and appreciate the value of providing data from our destruction to help produce a better game. It still stings a bit though, as any TPK would. Dropping to a 2-3 performance thus far in the playtest, we're now left with no choice if we want to finish with a winning record: We'll have to run the table!