D&D - The skarn and its acolytes

October 14, 2012

I suppose I should write up the combat encounters my group experienced in our last session, after spending the previous session solving the problem that led to the combats. And I don't care if that sentence made sense.

They ended up fighting a giant psychic bug that was using human thralls to kidnap members of the city to feed on. My players still aren't really clear on why this bug, who usually will only require one victim every month or so, suddenly decided to start stocking up on bodies, so I won't spoil that here.

After going through a basic fight the week before to kill one of the thralls and gain access to the lair, they then laid into the bug (which I named a "Skarn," independent of Michael Scott's alter ego on The Office, I swear) in two fairly involved combat encounters.

Initially, the skarn was in a crystalis state inside a coccoon and being defended by 3 additional thralls/acolytes. The main conceit of the fight was that if anyone attacked the crystalis (which was shooting all manner of nasty psychic spells at them) while the acolytes were still alive, the acolytes could counter-attack with a series of nasty maneuvers. Of course, things didn't go at all as I had planned, and my players didn't even lay a finger on the crystalis until all acolytes were dead, thus never experiencing a single counter-attack through the entire encounter.

The stats on the monsters are as follows:

Acolyte of Urgency, 250xp (skirmisher)
Init: +9, HP: 72, Spd: 6
AC21, Fort18, Ref19, Will16
Dagger attack (stnd., at-will), weapon
+11vsAC, 2d4+4 (extra 1d6 w/ combat advantage)
Psych up (minor, recharge 56) self
Gains +2spd, +1 to all shifts, +2 to attack and dmg and crits on 19-20 until end of turn
Rebuke of urgency (imm. react., at-will) trigger - coccoon is hit by an attack
Acolyte teleports adjected to attacker and makes a dagger attack. If it hits, target grants combat advantage to all enemies UEONT.

Acolyte of Passivation, 250xp (soldier)
Init: +5, HP: 72, Spd: 6
AC23, Fort20, Ref18, Will16
Maul attack (stnd., at-will), weapon
+11vsAC, 2d6+3 and target is marked UEONT
Chloroform (stnd., recharge 56), melee 1, poison
+9vsFort 1d4+3 target is knocked prone and stunned (save ends)
Rebuke of passivation (imm. int., at-will) trigger - an enemy within 5 makes an attack against the coccoon
Shift 4 and makes the following attack on the triggering enemy:
+9vsWill 1d10+4 and target is weakened UEONT

Acolyte of Rebirth, 250xp (controller)
Init: +5, HP: 68, Spd: 6
AC20, Fort16, Ref18, Will19
Staff attack (stnd., at-will), weapon
+11vsAC 1d8+4
Psychic shards (stnd., at-will), range 10 up to 3 targets, psychic
+9vsRef 1d6+5 and -2 Will UEONT
Explosion of life (stnd., encounter), necrotic, close burst 2, targets enemies
+10vsFort 2d8+3 and target is pushed 2
Any damage done by this attack is evenly distributed as healing between caster and any allies within the burst
Rebuke of rebirth (imm. react., at-will) trigger - coccoon is hit by an attack
Whatever amount of damage was done to the coccoon can be granted as temporary hit points to an acolyte


Cocoon, large, 500xp (elite artillery)
Init: +7, HP: 100, Spd: 0
AC19, Fort18, Ref16, Will21
Saves +2, 1AP
(If any acolyte dies, the corresponding bolt changes from at-will to recharge 56)
Bolt of surrogacy (stnd., recharge 56) range 10 psychic
+10vsWill 2d4+4 and a psychic worm is implanted in the target's mind - target is dazed (save ends), first failed save, target is dominated (save ends)
Bolt of urgency (stnd., at-will) range 10 blast 3, targets enemies psychic, lightning
+10vsRef 4d4 and pull 2 psychic bolts of energy reach out and pull you into the fray
Bolt of passivation (stnd., at-will) range 5 psychic
+11vsAC 2d6+3 and target is restrained (save ends) psychic tendrils reach up from the ground and wrap around you, attempting to subdue
Bolt of rebirth (stnd., at-will) range 10 necrotic
+10vsFort 1d12+4 target is sapped of life, half of the damage done is returned to the caster as healing
Psychic shield (minor, at-will, 1/round) close burst 1
+9vsFort 1d4+2 and target is pushed 1
Psychic bond (move, at-will) range 10
Can slide an ally up to 3

The fight took place in a roughly 8x15 room with the kidnap victims sort of scattered about. These victims could be woken up and freed (successful DC18 heal check as a full-round action), and could then take a single action on the turn of the person who woke them up (to either flee or help wake up additional victims). There were 10 victims in total and working towards freeing a handful of them really helped out my players in the second encounter...

Once the cocoon had been defeated, it split open to reveal a half-developed skarn grub/flying thing hybid. It thrashed about and sent its whole nest toppling down from its perch in the rafters below a bridge into the rapid waters of the river below. Everyone got a quick rest somehow (I like to keep my encounters separate; there's no need to punish my players for the sake of story), and they were off fighting the real boss:

Crystalis Skarn, large, 1250xp (solo skirmisher)
Init: +8, HP: 350, Spd: 6
AC21, Fort18, Ref17, Will21
Saves +5, 2AP
Frantic leap (move, at-will)
Move your speed, ignoring rough terrain and occupied enemy squares, you gain a +2AC to OAs for this movement
Psychic wail (imm. react., recharge 456) close blast 3, trigger - skarn is hit by an attack
+8vsWill 2d6+3 and push 2
Cracking claw (stnd., at-will) melee 1
+11vsAC 1d10+5 and target receives a cumulative -1AC (save ends)
Double claw (stnd., at-will)
Make 2 successive claw attacks if both hit, target is knocked prone
Melt mind (minor, recharge 56) range 5, psychic, acid
The attack does not provoke OAs
+9vsRef 1d6+2 acid/psychic dmg and make 2 subsequent attacks
+9vsFort ongoing 5 acid (save ends)
+9vsWill target is dominated (UEONT)
Breath of despair (stnd., recharge 56) close blast 4
+9vsWill 2d4+4 and target gains -2 to att and dmg (save ends)
Paralyzing bite (stnd., at-will) melee 1
+8vsAC 2d10+2 and target is stunned (save ends), gain a +2 to attack vs prone targets for this attack

The real hook of this battle was that they were fighting on the broken nest floating down a river in the dark. A river full of precarious rocks waiting to be collided with. So while trying to deal with a giant angry psychic bug, the players also had to work on avoiding rocks as they floated down the river. Rocks that, when collided with, would begin to break apart their make-shift watercraft and possibly send victims that had not yet been woken up over the side and to their watery deaths.

Players could use perception to look ahead for rocks if they had low-light vision (which no-one ever did), or the rocks would eventually get close enough to be noticeable. Players or woken-up victims could also construct a make-shift rudder off the back of the nest and make athletics checks to steer it (the greater the athletics check, the greater the crafts angle versus the flow of the river).

I think the whole thing worked out pretty great. Right of the bat, the skarn got knocked into the river and had to spend an entire turn getting back aboard using its under-developed wings. The players judiciously used a team of victims to start steering the craft towards the shore immediately, which allowed them to mostly avoid the rocks, though one collision did end up sending one victim to its doom and caused a second to roll dangerously close. I think the rocks added a good amount of tension and got the players to think about stuff other than just whittling down the HP of the boss.

The only problem was that I think I confused some of my players a little bit concerning the direction of the boat in relation to the direction of the river and where exactly the rocks were coming from. I could have definitely used a second zoomed out map where I was able to edit the position of the boat and draw in rocks as they appeared in order to make all of those issues a little clearer.

And now with the first quest winding down, I've got to come up with more non-combat and combat elements to keep the players interested. Vampires, corrupt priests and shady black market wizards will abound.

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