2007-05-12


Adventure: Before the Storm
Sessions: 2007-05-05, 2007-05-12
Player: Dave Zhang
PC: Tyrian
Status: Human Paragon 1/Wizard 1/Human Paragon +2/Master Specialist 4/Fatespinner 2

On Slaying Vampires: Three Case Studies

From the teachings of Tyrian, Master of the Elements

Ah, the vampire. They’re tricky foes; while they lack the sheer toughness of dragons and the impressive abilities of bodaks and other undead, they are notoriously difficult to permanently destroy, unless one is properly prepared for it. Consider the following case study, from my younger days some thirty years ago.

I was a young lad of twenty-one years, and was in Flamekeep at the time, due to my friendship with Flamelord Blaze, then a High Priest. As some of you more learned in history may remember, this was near the climax of the Warforged Revolts. Blaze had asked me to take care of a couple of vampires hiding in the forests of southern Thrane. He personally attempted to do so not half a week previously, but failed. Let’s review his circumstances and results as a first lesson:

Case 1: Antinua

In his case, he had three companions. One was a student of the natural powers (Anson), one was a dabbler of forces both arcane and divine (Sovelom), and the remaining two were of little consequence. They struck through the first layers of defenses (including a giant purple worm) without real injury, but were massacred (save Blaze) by the first vampire, a wizard by the name of Antinua. The events were as thus:

The group failed to notice Antinua due to her invisibility and clever positioning (corner of the roof); she used the element of surprise to isolate the most dangerous of the group, Blaze, by encasing him in spherical wall of stone. Next, Sovelom invoked a control winds effect around the remainder of the group, attempting to fortify a defensive position within the eye of the arcane tornado, but that simply made their concentrated positions a ripe target for a cloudkill spell. While the poisonous gas did not manage to outright end the lives of any, it did sap their vitality enough such that the ensuing maximized greater fireburst did.

By the time Blaze burst from his stone prison, his companions had all fallen. Seeing the threat level of this vampire, Blaze had decided to retreat and regroup, but was concerned for the bodies of his allies. Only Sovelom was noticeably morally upright, however, so Blaze retrieved (and later raised from dead) only him. Still, the delay was enough for Antinua to conjure Evard’s black tentacles. Here, Blaze was lucky, for the Silver Flame blessed him with the ability to travel unimpeded despite any and all obstacles, and thus he was able to retreat back to Flamekeep with little personal damage.

There are three points to be learned from here:

  • Be vigilante, even against invisible foes. Had they noticed Antinua before she could effectively separate the group, they would have had access to Blaze’s healing magic, and at least one other adventurer would have survived the greater fireburst. From there, the two of them may have defeated Antinua.
  • Avoid defensive tactics. Defensive tactics usually are performed at the expense of sacrificing offense, and when this is done, the enemies will respond by further resolving their attacks.
  • Possess a reliable escape route. Had Blaze been anyone else, he too would have been in mortal danger due to Evard’s black tentacles, but he did not have an infallible escape route prepared. For this purpose silent teleport and silent dimension door are optimal, though against less observant foes invisibility will suffice.

Case 2: Antinua, revisited

My companions numbered six: a jade phoenix mage by the name of Siivrell, a war weaver named Nebu, a monk named Mike, a priest named Cade, a telepath named Teferi, and a berserker named Ankya.

Building upon the knowledge of Blaze’s experience, I casted see invisibility on myself, and Antinua’s initial ambush was not successful. In fact, I reacted before she did and casted two spells before she could invoke anything, thanks to a dagger Blaze gifted me. My first spell, an empowered fireball, was wholly unsuccessful due to her active fire shield. My second, an ice ball, however, was able to penetrate her innate resistance and managed to damage her significantly.

Ankya charged into the room, but was unable to locate Antinua (again, due to Antinua’s invisibility). Thus, she instead waved her banner with a mighty cry, which spirited myself into casting a third spell: another iceball. This was sufficient to destroy Antinua, and she reverted into a thin cloud of gas. But don’t let this fool you! Vampires, in this state, can return to unlife should they rest in their coffins for a night. In order to truly atomize them, the gas needs to be gathered and prevented from entering any coffins. Here, I used the spell stone shape to morph a sphere of stone around her essence. Rather poetic, since she had previously used this trick against Blaze. Trapped there, she was helpless, and utterly put to final rest in two hours.

  • Vampires morph into invulnerable gas when “destroyed.” Attacking the gas with either weapons or spells will not work.
  • The gas needs to be trapped for two hours to send a vampire to its final death. Wood and cloth is insufficient to trap gas, but stone and iron (and raw magical force) are. In this state, the vampire is also helpless though, unable to physically attack or tap magic.

Case 3: Lucan

Lucan, unlike Antinua, did not possess arcane talents, though he could use wands and scrolls of various sorts. His preferred method of approach, however, is with an evil artifact sword that he came to possess. He attempted to strike me with it, but again, I noticed him first and acted first. This time, however, I casted Otiluke’s resilient sphere, trapping him inside the force prison. Those of you who have been taking notes will remember that Otiluke’s resilient sphere only lasts for a few minutes, and that Lucan had not yet been reduced to gaseous phase.

But vampires have an additional weakness, one that is more debilitating than coffin dependency. They cannot stand the light of the sun, and is destroyed within seconds upon direct exposure. Teferi, the telepath, invoked a beam of sound, shattering a hole through the walls of the castle, and shining the sun upon Lucan. With this, he was painfully returned to the state of nothingness to which he belonged.

In summary:

  • Always react faster. Life-and-death combat situations depend vitally upon it. When outclassed, it at least gives you the opportunity to retreat and regroup, and against a manageable foe, it ensures that he dies before killing you.
  • Fight vampires during the day. Through brute force or trickery, if you can shine the natural light of the sun upon the vampire, then he is instantly destroyed.

Player’s Notes:

Bah. This was too long.

Adventure: Before the Storm
Sessions: 2007-05-05, 2007-05-12
Player: Dave Zhang
PC: Blaze
Status: Paladin 2/Cleric 7/Fist of Raziel 1

PC: Tyrian
Status: Human Paragon 1/Wizard 1/Human Paragon +2/Master Specialist 4/Fatespinner 2

A Mission for Tyrian

Blaze, High Priest of the Silver Flame and incognito personal confidante of the Keeper of the Flame, paced the floors of his office restlessly. He succeeded in his quest to destroy the bridge and the warforged lieutenant, thus providing critical delays to the advance of the enemy armies, but had uncovered something more troubling in the course of doing so.

The Lord of Blades, through means of an evil artifact, was controlling a local vampire. Rather, several local vampires. Blaze and his erstwhile companions had traveled to the lair of Lucan, the vampire, but met with great difficulties. Perhaps they should have rested after that battle with the guardian purple worm, but Blaze himself had insisted on traveling further, that no time would be lost before the advent of the living construct army. And that had cost the lives of three of his compatriots.

And the most disturbing part was that the vampire who felled so many heroes wasn’t even the master. She was Antinua, a citizen of Aundair who had previously trying to slay that powerful undead. The next time adventurers face Lucan, they would not only have to contend with Lucan and Antinua, but also Taris and Anson. Blaze felt some little comfort in knowing that he saved the most morally upright of the group though, a House Lyander human-turned-kobold by the name of Sovelom.

***

A knock sounded on his door.

“Come in.”

Orilam, the elf waif he rescued some three years ago on the plains of Talenta, entered. Orilam was not who he expected to see. “It’s you? Where’s Nugeph and Rood?”

“Her Grace, seeing the imminent threats of the warforged of Breland, has reassigned most of the Inner Guard to reconnoiter the enemy. Only a skeleton crew is left here,” replied the girl pensively. “I apologize in advance for any mistakes I may commit.”

“Oh, sorry Orilam. I’m just in a bad mood because of recent events. What do you have to report?”

“Craftsmen around the city are working around the clock on forging new weapons, aided by priests who remove their weariness from lack of sleep. The Crown Knights are training all willing city inhabitants in the ways of the crossbow and spear. Our militia currently numbers 10,000 strong, and within the week that number should increase to 30,000. Should the Flame bless us with six weeks to prepare before the upcoming battle, every man and woman over 15 will possess a crossbow and basic training in its use.”

Blaze nodded. “Well, onto the bad news now. How much time do we actually expect until the attack?”

Orilam bowed her head. “Reports on that are spotty. The enemy being warforged and not needing to sleep, they could force march and be upon us within four days. Possibly even faster for the vanguard. Rood reported yesterday that there are rumors within the lower ranks of the warforged army of awaiting reinforcements of some sort.”

‘Ah, yes, reinforcements,’ thought Blaze. There was some small chance that his cause would also be augmented by the dragons of Argonessen, but dragons are a long-lived people and slow to react. He dared not place too much faith on their support, despite the promises of that young gold he rescued.

“Oh!” spoke Orilam, as if suddenly remembering something. “Tyrian checked in this morning, reporting success.”

“You got that right, Sugar!” pronounced the haughty human of some twenty years, appearing instantaneously beside the elf hand, and playfully giving her a slap on the rump. “Perfect success, Blaze! Our stores of weapons-grade adamantine has increased by 253 pounds, and mithral by 177 pounds. And some exorbitant tonnage of steel. Those warforged are walking mines!”

“Um…” stammered Orilam, sporting a deep crimson blush. “Sir Tyrian, could you please remove your hand?”

“But why, Sugar? You know you like it, and Blaze here isn’t dumb enough not to know our relationship.”

Blaze rolled his eyes. True, he knew about Tyrian and Orilam, and didn’t disapprove. But he did repeatedly tell Tyrian to restrain himself in public.. and especially in the presence of the other members of the Inner Guard. It could cause… morale problems.

‘Ah, well,’ thought Blaze, ‘it’s just me here tonight anyway, and it sounds like Tyrian really did pull off a stunning success.’ “Mission report, Sir Tyrian.”

Tyrian grinned widely at his girl, and gave his report without changing hand positions. “Worked just like I planned. Waved a caravan of mithral-gilt iron in front of a company of warforged, and they took bait. Lured them into a nice valley, with nowhere to hide from my Fireballs.. and, well, the rest was just salvage their metal.”

“Casualties on our side?”

“Two scouts got pincushioned. I’ve recovered their bodies, cremated them, and informed the families.”

Blaze nodded. This was good news. “Tyrian, you’ve earned yourself and Orilam a half-day vacation. Report to me at 6 am sharp tomorrow morning.”

Tyrian grinned. “You’ve got it, Boss!”

***

“Tyrian, I have another mission for you. Extremely dangerous. Involves slaying multiple vampires. Are you interested?”

Tyrian raised his eyebrows expectantly. “Well, now, I’m so glad you asked. Us bros haven’t done a job together since that Aerenal expedition eight months ago. This’ll be great!”

Blaze hesitated. “I won’t be able to join you this time, Tyrian. With warforged army poised to attack at any moment, it’s already a huge risk sending you out. And in fact, I’m giving you a time limit. Teleport back here exactly three days from now, no matter what the status is with the vampires. Your top priority in this mission is to return alive exactly three days from now. Is that understood?”

Tyrian nodded.

“Good. Now, I have some gear for you.” Blaze took out a small knife. “I found this little thing in Xen’drik not long ago. Here, catch!”

Tyrian reached out with his right hand to try to grab it by the handle, but fumbled and dropped it. He sheepishly picked it up. “But…”

“Yeah, I know you don’t like to use weapons. But this one’s special.”

Tyrian detected a sudden movement in Blaze, and instantly reached out his left hand, readying a spell.

“See?” smiled Blaze, as he replaced his weapon in its sheath.

“Improves my reaction, eh? Impressive little piece. Thank you.”

“I have some more stuff for you to pick up with our quartermaster. Here’s is a map to the vampire’s lair, as well as a partial map of the inside. It’s probably safest to teleport to near this point on the Lightning Rail, and travel the remainder distance on horse. Also beware guardian monsters outside the ziggurat–last time I had to face a giant purple worm. Oh, you may also run into some of my former companions. There’s a human monk named Mike, an undead halfling named Alia, and a gnome named Teferi. Beware that they may be less… reliable… than you’d hope.”

Tyrian raised an eyebrow. “How unreliable are we talking here? Is it worthwhile for me to… reduce the risk, so to speak?”

Blaze shook his head, “Oh, no, no. I just meant that they may be prone to craven tendencies and may ‘be busy’ just previous any climactic battles, but I doubt they’d actively work against you. Again, remember that your life is more important than any objective here.”

“Will do. I’ll be there before noon.”

Player’s Notes:

Oops, made a mistake originally… Human Paragon makes me lose a caster level, so the earliest I can take Fatespinner is 9, not 8.

Oh dear. Vampire planar shepherd? O_o Really, *really* need to win initiative against him (which fortunately shouldn’t be hard).

So, Tyrian makes a really good team with Blaze, since they have mutually complementary roles and abilities: Tyrian is slow, low-AC, and poor saves, while Blaze is fast (in Cervidal mode), high AC, and uber saves. Tyrian covers the reacting first in every encounter, and can use Warning Shout from a scroll to make Blaze not flat-footed (and hence capable of casting Delay Death). In terms of the four classic roles, Blaze covers Fighter and Cleric, while Tyrian covers Wizard and Rogue/Monk.

The campaign is more or less zarked if Tyrian gets Vampirified. We’d all have to play monks or rogues the next time around.

Tyrian’s base stats:

  • Str: 9 (-1)
  • Dex: 8 (-1)
  • Con: 14 (+2)
  • Int: 16 + 2 (leveling) + 2 (paragon boost) = 20 (+5)
  • Wis: 14 (+2)
  • Cha: 10 (0)

Adventure: Before the Storm
Session: 2007-05-05
Player: Rachel Reddick
PC: Taris Talandro
Status: Ninja 1/Swashbuckler 3/Ninja +4/Duelist 1/Ninja +1

We reached the ziggurat today. The lake the others mentioned has been replaced by a bone field. Ugh. Allia seemed delighted, and promptly set up for more tea. The name-changing gnome decided to stick around with her. I think he’s waiting for more of those fanatical followers of his to arrive.

The rest of us decided to go on in, and see what we could find. As we approached the entrance, we were attacked by this gigantic purple worm. No eyes; it could sense things well enough that my disappearing trick wouldn’t have done any good.

Ah, what would be do without Mike, though? He was the first to attack, the first to be bitten, and the first to be swallowed. I will admit that Blaze followed soon afterwards. He said that he was just trying to rescue Mike. Hm. He didn’t seem to have planned to get swallowed… but he did cast a spell to get him and the monk out of the creature’s innards. Neither of them looked very good afterwards… well, I skewered it a bit (as much as you can skewer a worm bigger than you are), Anson’s eagle and air elemental whacked at it and Sovalem zapped it into submission. Since he’d heard that they occasionally swallow valuable things in their tunneling, we sliced open its stomach. In addition to some gold, we found an immovable rod. Push a button, and it stays where it is. Even in mid-air. I’m sure that will come in handy.

After that, we entered the ziggurat. Sovalem and I worked to disable a couple of traps, and we even found a sapphire amulet and some black dust. Sovalem’s out of whatever he needs to identify what they do, since they’re both magical. Blaze is trying out the amulet… I hope he doesn’t hurt himself accidentally that way. Paladins. He’s almost as likely to get himself hurt as Mike.

After that, we met this elemental, except its element was evil or something. Big, black, nasty thing. We surprised it, so I used my bracers and, with some difficulty, found a weak spot… and Sovalem zapped it. It liked the zapping less than the skewering, and went for Sovalem — hard. His head just snapped back and — well, that would have been it, except that Anson cast that instant reincarnate spell of his. Blaze finished off the elemental, and then I turned back to see… a female kobold?! I think Mike got lucky in his reincarnations; at least he stayed the same gender! Ugh! I think I’ll just avoid the question of “what will you reincarnate as next?” by not dying. There’s a plan. But this is going to be almost as confusing for all of us as for Sovalem, since he — she? — is a different gender but pretty much the same person otherwise… and the kobold thing. May the Flame have mercy…

Otherwise, we took the downward fork in the stairs, since Lucan was known to be upstairs before, and we didn’t want to go after him until we knew we wouldn’t be attacked from behind.

We met a group of mummies, and destroyed them. We met a bunch of vampire spawn, whom we quickly destroyed. One of them was apparently familiar to the rest — he used to be dragonborn or something.

We’re just preparing to go on — I certainly hope that this works out, since we still haven’t met Lucan himself yet. I think we’re going to try to get him on our side, by giving him the amulet from the keep, and then just go get him if that doesn’t work.

And I wonder. There was another person, a wizard named Antinua, who was also killed by Lucan. From what the others say, she’s probably a vampire now. Ugh, what a horrible fate. She’s certain to be under Lucan’s control. But, if you don’t want to be a vampire, if you become one against your will, do you actually become evil? I mean, Allia’s undead, and she’s not evil, just childish. She’s more interested in tea with her skeletons than anything else.

Maybe part of the reason I’m speculating about this is that I don’t really want to need to face an undead wizard…

Player’s Notes

I’m looking forward to the next session. New character vs. old character? Could be interesting. And, given that this is Eberron, and alignments are difficult to predict, I wonder if Antinua could still have her good alignment, despite being a vampire under Lucan’s control… hm… that would make things interesting indeed…

In any case, I suspect that Taris is going to be rather ineffective if this comes to a fight (which it probably will) except for the “I vanish” and “I use deathstrike bracers,” which she can only do about three times anyway. I seem to recall that Antinua didn’t have see invisibility at the time she died… although she probably had a scroll for it… oh, dear. I anticipate eagle+elementals, wind+zapping and alter-self+power-attack+light of the flame (ie, “light of venya” etc. in Eberron) to be the strategies of choice.

More Player Notes

Everything above this was written prior to last Saturday’s session… oh, dear. I suppose I will summarize here:

Taris, Blaze, Anson, and Sovalem go up the stairs. They meet Antinua-turned-vampire. Antinua casts Blaze into a stone dome. Taris, who’s not good with undead, watches Antinua turn invisible. She relays this information; Sovalem casts his… her windy spell-thing. This has no effect, since before we can do much else, Antinua casts cloudkill (we all take Con damage) and then a Sudden Maximized flame spell — I think it was flame burst or something. Take 90 points of damage, reflex save for half. Sovalem and Taris take half, and die anyway. Anson takes full and dies, although he would have survived had he made his save. Blaze escapes by casting fly on himself, breaking through the stone with an adamantine shard, taking reflex save for half on a lightning bolt, grabbing Sovalem the kobold and carrying her body out while flying as fast as he can manage.

Vampires 2, party 0.

The rest of the session turned into character-building… with no XP loss, thanks to DM mercy.