D&D - The Hounds of Fire and Ice

March 29, 2012

All right, so the plan is that if I don't write anything during the week, I will sit down and make sure to write something Thursday night, so there is something to read at the end of the week. I don't feel like locking myself into a schedule yet (seeing as nobody is actually reading this business yet), but it still seems good to get myself into some constructive habit of writing.

So anyway, I haven't talked about D&D in a long time and way back when I had promised to do some write-ups on previous encounters I had run that were particularly successful. What comes first to mind was a puzzle-type fight against 8 wolf statues, but, looking in my box-o-D&D stuff, I can't find my notes on that battle or the battle after it.

Oh well, I dunno how useful a long list of stats is anyway.

The basic premise was that the players entered an 8x8 square room with 8 wolf statues more or less randomly distributed about the room and each facing a random direction. I let them sort of get situated and then closed the door and started the encounter. I think they were around level 3 at the time, but seeing as I have no stats, I guess this basic premise could work on any level.

At the start of the battle, and at the top of every round, all the wolf statues would breathe a column of either ice or fire into all the squares directly in front of them unless the beam is blocked by another statue. 4 were pre-designated as ice and 4 as fire. Also at the top of the round, certain statues would animate to become flesh and blood wolves, that would jump around and do focused damage, still holding the property of being ice- or fire-based (ie, resistant to one type, vulnerable to the other). And the statues can only be damaged when they're animate. When the wolves were inanimate statues, however, players could move them around on a move action, either turning them 90 degrees or moving them 1 space for a cost of 2 movement. It is also important to note that the columns of fire and ice from the statues could harm animate wolves as well as the players. In addition, when a wolf did die, it left behind a residue of elemental power, a player who moved through the residue could imbue his next attack with that element, and if a wolf moved through it, it either harmed or healed them depending on their element.

So, anyway, the animation sort of went through a rotation and progressively got harder as the battle went on. The first round 1 animated to introduce the general concept, then on the second round, the first became a statue and 2 different wolves animated. 2 rounds later, 3 different wolves animated while the 2 went back into hibernation. 2 rounds later it was 4, with the 2 that hadn't animated, plus 2 move that were the first to animate, and then I think I kept it at 4 or stepped it up to five, I dunno.

The wolves had 2 or 3 different attacks. I'm pretty sure there was a pounce attack - sort of jump your speed and knock prone sort of thing - and then probably a bite attack and then they might have also had a breath attack when animate, as well.

The reason this ended up working so well, probably, was that it wasn't too complicated conceptually. It didn't have a hundred different gimmicks to it like a lot of my other fights. And the central concept was just solid and really kept people on their toes. The wolves were constantly moving around and turning back into statues in different places, so players constantly had to look around and make sure they were safe. And, on the other hand, they had opportunities to do significant extra damage by molding the battlefield how they wanted it. There were a couple occasions where a player moved the statues around to masterful effect, and it just really feels good to conquer a spatial reasoning problem like that in such a definitive way.

Speaking of over-gimmicky, I can briefly (ha!) describe the next fight of the evening, as sort of second phase, where the last wolf became the suit of armor with a sword shoved down the face-plate. The fight began when someone pulled the sword out. It was a single-target fight where the premise was that this knight had 8 or 10 orbs floating around him (half fire, half ice), protecting him from all damage, but in order to attack, he had to use the orbs. And when he ran out of orbs, he went into a regenerative phase and became vulnerable.

So, anyway, he could use the orbs to perform big explosive melee attacks, or bigger explosive area attacks, or create adds with them, or use them to teleport players briefly to the planes of fire or ice, where they had to solve a skill challenge. But the orbs didn't necessarily get used up under certain conditions, like if he missed his melee attack, or blah blah blah, it was a little over-complicated and also I think the players were left with nothing to do on occasion. Also single-target boss fights just have a hard time being more entertaining than fighting off hordes of creatures.

Two paragraphs is brief, right? I wish I had my notes, because this encounter happened, like, a year ago, and I'm sure my details are off, but seriously, the wolf encounter was solid. And I'm outta here.

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