|Detrius the Blue|
Finally found a good thread to share this story. :) This literally happened two days ago, during our Anima: Beyond Fantasy game, where our group had arguably the best encounter of our 5 year career. Well, 5 for us others, little less than a year for our Newbie. Big, massive, rambling tale ahead, broken into smaller tidy-ish parts to ease reading and avoid hogging the entire thread. Also, typos certainly abound, so proceed with caution.
For those not familiar with the system, Anima is a Rolemaster type d10 and d100 exploding die system with an unique Final Fantasy and animesque feel to it, with an exceptional balance between its martial, psychic, magic and summoner classes. Pretty heavy on math though (obviously), and the attack/defense result table will make the number averse scream in terror the first time they see it. I know I did. :)
The combat itself is nicely mobile, you can move around before and after attacking, but suffer AoOs if your opponent is not on the defensive. Initiative is rolled every round, with small and fast characters trying to hit big and burly ones first and force them on defensive. Attack rolls are opposed by defense rolls, and the difference between the rolls determines what happens. If attacker wins, the defender may take damage (depending how good of an armor the defender is wearing on that part of their body) and also loses all actions, because they are forced on defensive. However, they can still defend, which leads us to what happens if defender wins. If defender still has attacks left when they win a defense, they may instantly make a counter-attack, possibly forcing the attacker on defensive. This can lead to some wicked attack/parry/counter/dodge/attack sequences. Also, the more attacks a defender has defended against, successfully or not, gives increasing penalties on subsequent defenses. Piling on is a very valid tactic in this system, though there are monsters that are resistant to this tactic.
It is very much worth trying if you love Final Fantasy and/or Anime and are not scared of math. And if you use Roll20, aRotondi has done a sheet so unbelieveably magnificient that I would marry it if I could. :D
The group I DM for consists of:
Monk-like martial artist, except, you know, good. Party's main physical damage dealer. Not much more to say, except that he is crazy good at it. Also the group's radar by virtue of possesing the only good Notice score, augmented by immense Ki Detection powers. Played by a player henceforth called Willie. Willie is a fantastic roleplayer with even better schemes, really cool and fun character builds and has been instigator in some of my favorite gaming moments. Also, he tends to die more than my other players, often because he bit of more than he could chew or a scheme blew up in his face.
Fighter/wizard hybrid that specializes in Creation magic, the most defense and healing oriented school. Truly unholy abomination of False Life-esque temporary HP, Wolverine level HP regeneration and a fricking halo style regenerating force field that has over 300HP, or about double that of normal character for that level. Did I mention that this force field fully regens every round? Obviously, the group's tank on the account of being Nuffledamn immortal, supporting the group by no-selling anything short of a tactical nuke, while creating lobotomy-bombing psychic bats and an occaisional laser cannon appendage to finish of tough monsters. Played by my Bro who is nearly as good(bad?) as Willie when it comes to cooking up shenanigans.
Hybrid of martial and summon class, group's dediated range fighter with Leo Rifle-Spear, a type of impossible weapon. Solid damage dealer, can't hit as hard or often as Tao, or as enormously as Warlock, but makes up for it with versatile summons that range from casting every single Free Access spell up to level 50 (player's can reach about level 80 on any given path) with Magician Arcana to creating mile-wide tornados with Great Beast Ziz. They are also great deal less resource intensive than Warlock's spells, since Anima doesn't so much have single-encounter adventuring days, but single encounter adventuring WEEKS if PC's get spam happy with magic. Tossing 100 Zeon (Yes, that is what the mana is called in this system) spells around stops being fun when it takes 10 days to get one of them back.
In short, the crew's dedicated combat support, especially with massive pile-on-fest that is the Emperor Arcana. Played by player henceforth called Tom, mild-mannered backbone supporting the varying levels of crazy awesome of other players. Not to say that he is without his own occasional antics, the man is a career Evoker in my Pathfinder circle and you can bet he knows how to throw nukes. Usually without catastrofic structural damage to surroundings. Usually.
Water magic specialist, which is very good all-round school with some nifty reflection themed spells. The least powerful in battle, and easily the most powerful outside of it. Water lacks big are nukes, and its single targets are merely decent. Defense wise, this wizard lacks ability to reliably block hits from really nasty critters and has to be hope they can't break his protective bubble spell. However, he possesses two grimoires that grant access to specific Light and Darkness spells allow him to both scry and teleport, respectively. No need to elaborate why this is insanely powerful, when average coach travels maybe 80 miles per day. Not to mention this wizard's actual forte, namely, being Doomsday caliber Diplomancer, that can actually try to dominate any NPC that listens to him for 15 seconds. Also, possessing every single intellectual skill really helps, especially since he decided to specialize in Geography of all blasted things. That "Teleport to any shadow in xMile Radius"-spell suddenly became lot more useful than DM originally intended.... Eh, hindsight 20/20.
Played by our little Newbie, who has wonderfully shenanigans prone mind as well. He also possesses the dubious honor of being the only player to lose a character in every single game we have played, mostly due to bad decisions like forgoing Cast Defensively at a really bad time... Though this character is an exception. Well, ending in a wheelchair for 6 months courtesy of a draconic tail smack and being only mostly dead is still better than being dead-dead. Besides, the Warlock healed that right up.
And now, the Tale so Far, the Scheme, and the Encounter
Our crew of mercenaries and one adventuring wizard had managed to get themselves involved in a tussle with a mysterious cult headed by an enigmatic figure who worships Jedah the Puppetmaster, Shajad of politics, intelligence and control. As it happens, the same entity worshipped by our Wizard. They distrupted a kidnapping operation ordered by the Arch-Duke of the kingdom, to save the beloved of Arch-Duke's rebellious son. In doing, they got themselves a vengeful enemy in Black Knight Germand Rozenkratz, a fabled mercenary who single handedly routed a sieging army. After disabling one megazombie enemy sent by the cult, the group quickly homed in on and disabled a kidnapping organisation run by the cult, likely to harvest blood from Gifted to make Zeon potions. After brief but grueling battle, the cult is several thousands of gold in the hole, since players wrecked four stupidly expensive megazombies. Not to mention nabbing a Gift detecting artifact.
After this, one sane faction in the cult is pursuing ceasefire, since it turns out players and the cult do not have opposing aims. Just business that got out of hand; attack on cult operation, attempted retaliation, counter-retaliation and now very bloodthirsty Black Knight. Not worth spending even more resources just to eliminate people that stand a decent chance of eliminating cult's precious assets.
Players take the deal, but one player (Willie, naturally) decides that it would be best to eliminate the Black Knight who is currently pursuing false lead given by the sane faction. They toy with an idea of Scry&Fry solution, but settle on ambushing him on the road and hoo boy do they cook a scheme to do that.
Players start putting their heads together and figuring how to ambush the Black Knight, since they are not 100% confident in their chances of taking him head-on. So, their very first idea is the classic pit trap, with some magic web working as a lid on that particular can. They teleported way ahead of Black Knight, since the man is traveling on foot, at quadruple speed when compared to a horse carriage. They are now pretty sure our friend Germand is not actually human, but some type undead. With estimated 8 hours to go until contact, and Zeon to spare because of an immensely powerful Zeon storing crystal, they start plotting.
Now, Newbie has often jokingly threatened sassy party members with teleportation to the moon, as he did when now when they were weighing in ideas. Usually blurt like this would pass without comment, but now there was a whole bunch of thoughtful "hmm"-s.
There were just 3 gigantic problems with the plan: 1. The spell is called Travel by Shadow, so naturally it needs Shadow A and Shadow B as entrance and exit 2. Yes, moon would have shadows, but it is way too far to reach with that spell 3. There aren't that many shadows in space, even less those that are obvious from the ground.
Players start thinking through other plans, but then Bro says:
Bro: "What if I would create a monster that could go to space? Like, lizard with big tail that opens like fan. It would curl a bit, its back to sun and reflect its shadow on the tailfan."
The "HMMMM"s intensify. Number crunching spontaneous monster creation time!
We sped the process up a lot, but they only needed to know if creating monster like that would be possible. Answer turned out be yes, even if there was some serious underestimation concerning the distance that beast would have to teleport at the time.
Newbie: "But how can I aim for it if I'm not sure where it is?"
Bro: "Eh, I'll give it psychic power to connect its senses to you. That way you know where to aim"
I triple checked numbers after the game, and well, it works. They now have a new monster in Warlock's repertoire, Interplanetary Teleport Beacon Sunbasker. Sure, few retcons were needed to make the math check out, but they could have done that if we had had 3 hours of number crunching to spare, but I didn't want to bog down the session.
Also, I'm quite new to Anima and have houseruled that it is possible for Creation wizard to create psychic monsters. Mentioning this because I'm not 100% if this is RAW, but it is what we are going with. It has not unbalanced the game too badly either, mainly removed some tanky foes that could have been killed with other ways.
Back to story at hand, in-game, the wizard's have huddled together for a long time, giggling maniacally in regular intervals. Out-of-Game, the two others are like "we are actually doing this?".
They are not too hard to persuade, and everyone agrees that the plan is so awesome that it is worth the shot even if it fails. Which does leave one large hurdle, Wizard's middling Magic Projection. Wizards only use one skill for attack and defense, and ours has paid more attention to Summoning, Control and Magic Accumulation than actually landing spells. So, they need to bring BBEG's defenses down, and a lot, for this to work. Here is their plan:
1. Willie's Tao will spend the entire time spamming Ki Detection, giving them about 8 minutes to prepare for battle, more than enough. In battle, he will likely go first, and he will try to force Germand on the defensive.
2. Bro's Warlock creates Sunbasker and commands it to form sense link and teleport, as it turned out in number crunching, 600 miles straight up. This is done about a minute before encounter, to keep unnecessary zeon drain on them minimum. In battle, Warlock is almost immortal so he can afford to try and land additional hits. He can also step on the pit trap without triggering it, so if boss falls in it, all the better for the team.
3. Tom's Warrior Summoner starts to invoke Emperor, so he can make obscene amount of attacks that with luck could even kill the boss outright. If not, that beating will tank bosses defenses something fierce.
4. Newbie's Wizard will accumulate every drop of zeon available, buff Tao Willie's Tao with Liquid Body spell, and go last in the fight to land that Travel by Shadow with maximum chances of success.
Everyboy agrees that even if this fails miserably, it was worth the try for awesome factor alone.
Bro: "So, we are basically going to do the the whole Special Beam Cannon routine?"
*Chuckles and affirmative murmurs from rest of the group"
Flabbergasted DM: "Oh its very "special" beam cannon all right...
Willie notices two ki auras reminiscent of undead or Nemesis users approaching. Nemesis is basically the opposite of Ki, so it sticks out like a sore thumb for those who can detect it, and now the group is worried. Germand was supposed to be accompanied by two highly advanced undead, so those auras are probably them. At the time, they did not know about the Nemesis ability to weaken all supernatural detection attempts, so their original Scry&Fry idea would have tanked.
This time, it made it so that the Ki Detection would have picked him up from 150 feet away instead of an half a mile away. Fortunately, Willie had very good notice check as well and did manage to buy enough time to send Sunbasker to the right position.
Soon, Germand notices the players as well, and starts accelerating, tripling his speed. Players note that there is something very wrong about the way he his moving, which looks like someone hammering skip button on DVD. Janky, unnatural movement that seemingly even disappears on occasion. Willie's Tao recognizes highly advanced mastery of Nemesis as the party rolls the Initiative:
Only thing that would made that Iniative any better would have been Tom going before boss. As it stands, if Willie makes a successful hit, this thing is in the bag. If everything else works out, that is.
So, Tao surges into action, fortified by Liquid Body and Weightlessness inducing Ki power, takes his spot on top of the concealed pit trap and with the help of Newbie extends one of his arms in armor piercing lunge attack. It is a very solid roll. Germand rolls his Defense skill, Block to be exact.
The roll is 98. It explodes.
Another 9!!? Another explosion.
Final roll is 34.
The total is 173 points in Germand's favor. Not only does he get a Counter-Attack, he gets it with +80 to the attack.
He frameskipped just at the right moment to parry the lunge and put himself in range for killing blow. Germand hefts his gigantic two-handed mace above his 8,5 foot bulk.
Newbie: "Don't worry, the Liquid Body halves the damage from impact attacks unless it can damage energy."
GM "Guess what he can do? His mace is wreathed in Nemesis right now"
Willie: "Oh jeez"
(Every high level character can extend their aura to their weapons, it is as mandatory ability here as the Big Six items are in Pathfinder)
GM: "Roll Ki Detection, this decides whether or nor not you have any chance of survival"
Willie: "UH OH. *rolls 281* Good enough?"
GM: "You notice an abnormal amount of Nemesis in Germand's shadow, IT is the true weapon!"
GM: "A Lance of shadow erupts from underneath you, roll Defense!"
*Few rolls later*
GM: "Okay, that's 139 over your roll, let's see where it hits"
Roll is 99. A Headshot.
GM: "198 points of damage, to the head. "
Willie: "135 LP. May I remind everybody that killing Rosenkratz was my idea :D"
GM: "Your head is ripped off and impaled as if on a pike."
Germand: *Putting on my best boss voice* "Ars Magnus: Umbra, Attack of Shadows. You did not think I impaled people with my mace did you?"
*There are approriately shocked gasps from the crew, this is the first Ars Magnus they have come across that was not Warrior Summoner's Rifle-Spear.*
It is now Germand's turn, and we rule that the suddenly weighty corpse sets of the trap. Germand takes an aumbrage to this trickery and decides to put on a show with his last attack this round. But first...
Germand: "Nemesis, Magic Cancellation!"
Bro: " What!"
GM: "You lose 50 points of Zeon from all of your spells, your force field is down 100hp"
Well, Bro did make a back-up character just in case, but this is still the first time he is even moderately scared about his survival. Germand then decides not only to cut down the Warlock, but every single tree in 30ft. radius. He extends his shadow 30ft. up, and scythe blade forms on the end, with various other blades in the middle.
Follow up roll is 48, really bad news for Warlock, and Bro decides to pour every single fatigue point he can into a desperate last ditch Block.
*One decisive roll later*
GM:" You beat his attack roll by 3, and are not blown away by the impact, make a Counter-Attack"
Bro:"YES! I'm pretty sure bones on my arm fractured and just instantly regenerated."
Warlock attacks, and HITS, exceeding defense roll by 33. But.....
GM: "No damage"
Germand has AT 10 armor, so players have to beat his attack rolls by flipping 100 to deal even 10% damage. But Germand has already defended twice, so he has total of -50 to his defense roll of 215.
Tom: "My turn: EMPEROR!"
*One bad-ass roll later*
GM: "That is a total of FIFTEEN attacks, roll them first, I'll substract them from the Defense roll. Bro, can you keep count of total attacks done?"
What does the Emperor summon look like? Well, in this case, a gold armored skeleton sitting on a golden throne, with the attacks coming from horde oily, muscly men in masks. Why yes Tom is a fan "What if Emperor had text-to-speech device", why do you ask?
In the chaotic mosh pit that ensues, horde of oil drenched musclemen throw kicks, elbows and punches while Umbra whips madly around germand, trying to shield against every attack.
GM: "Your Base Damage is reduced by -30, to half. Nemesis: Noht, is shielding from excessive damage."
Far, far too few hits land considering the sheer volume, chipping only 3 to 10 hp when they DO land. But, they are whittling him down, little by little. Until the very last attack, when Germand defends with whopping -310 to his defense.
GM: "The last attack is a flying knee strike that shatters Germands helmet, revealing a skeletal skull with glowing eye sockets. 54 points of damage"
Note, no criticals or anything, Nemesis is fun like that...
Tom: "Damn, can't do one those again. That many attacks and he is still not down, if we don't finish him off this turn we are done for."
Bro: "Good thing we actually put this plan to motion, we could NOT have done this any other way."
The moment of truth, if Newbie fails his Magic Projection roll, or Germand actually by some miracle makes his save, its GG TPK.
Newbie: "Ok, let's roll *219 total* Yas!"
*Germand rolls his Defense with -330...'
Rolls an 8. Total difference 326!
GM: "Now the save"
Roll is 146, not bad in the least. But not even close to the 270 required by the Travel by Shadow that has hand extra 360 zeon pumped into its 250 base cost.
GM: "You hit Germand with the spell! He starts sinking into his own whirling shadow utterly stunned by this turn of events! And when you look through the eyes of Sunbasker, you see him look bewildered, trying to speak where there is no air. He then looks down to see Gaia from space, an the last thing YOU see through Sunbasker's eyes is Germand's skeletal face, frozen into voiceless scream.."
Group: "WE DID IT!!!"
After that, there was the burial of our Tao, Cyrille, eternally beautiful even in horrid death. The group gained enough XP to instantly level, because why shouldn't they after pulling of something like that!?
What I particularly loved about this encounter was how critical every member of the crew was. Wille to keep watch, Bro to create the beacon, Newbie to actually teleport and Tomto make sure Newbie actually hits. In Pathfinder terms, they just beat a boss that they had no business tackling yet, like APL 10 group facing of against CR 18 monster. With a lot pluck, luck, and downright devious cunning.
Well, that's hardly the first time my group has done something like that, but this is the first time it was a true group effort where they all o their part. This time was not Willie sticking his somewhere where he REAAALLy should not have. THAT particular bit of campaign of wrecking nonsense needs its own thread....
TL:DR: Group deals with an insurmountable opponent, by teleportin it into the fricking Low-Earth Orbit.