Last weekend, I started a 4E campaign for my son Nolan and his friends. The plan is to take them through the entire Keep on the Shadowfell module, and then probably into Thunderspire Labyrinth, with possible detours into various level-appropriate Delves, or something from Monte Cook's awesome new project, Dungeon-a-Day, if it makes sense to incorporate it into the campaign. This is continued from Part II.
Well, okay, it wasn't a dragon, exactly. It was a White Dragon Wyrmling ... but the mini I had for it was the young green dragon from the D&D minis starter set, and when I put it on the map, the excitement and apprehension that rippled through the three of them was just awesome. It made me excited for the day that they're near 20th level, and they're ready to fight the Black Dragon that I have a strong feeling is going to attack and destroy large parts of Fallcrest.
I reached back behind my DM screen, and grabbed my Sonos controller. I'd been playing some soft Celtic music since we began, but I'd queued up something special for this final encounter: the soundtrack from the Two Towers began to play, originality be damned.
"This isn't as scary as this mini looks," I said, "but it's still pretty scary to your characters. You hear the cracking of ancient tile and the scraping of giant claws. The room gets colder as you see a white dragon wyrmling come around this corner. Do any of you speak Draconic?"
They all looked at their character sheets. None of them did.
"Can we make, um..." Nolan's friend looked at his sheet, "...some kind of check to see if maybe we catch the basics of the language? I mean, what if Draconic shares some language roots with Eladrin?"
Normally, I wouldn't allow something like that in combat except as a standard action with a substantial penalty for the circumstances, but this was one of those instances where the opportunity to give a player something cool and fun - and reward his clever thinking - was too good to pass up. They all made Nature checks, but none of them rolled better than 11.
"Sorry, all you know is that this dragon is pretty pissed that you're in her lair, and the Kobolds down here," I pointed to the end of the corridor, "are coming toward you, now."
"Oh! It's a she!" Nolan's other friend said. "That's so cool!"
"The dragon moves her head back and forth on her long, slender neck. She cocks her head to one side and then to the other. Her lips curl back, as she slowly opens her mouth."
I glanced up at them. Their eyes were all wide.
"She rears back, and a blast of freezing cold dragon breath surrounds you!"
As I rolled for each of them, Nolan noticed the change in the music. "Did you do that on purpose?" He said. I told him that I had.
"That's really cool," he said.
"Okay, the wyrmling's freezing breath fills the chamber, but Immeral and Koka flinch away in time to avoid any real damage. Kika, you weren't as fast, and take," I rolled damage, "17 cold damage, so you're slowed and weakened." In a happy coincidence, the music swelled.
"Wow we totally lucked out," his friend said.
"Totally," the other agreed.
"Speak for yourselves," Nolan said. "I'm bloodied."
The fight continued, the wyrmling getting a few good hits on them, but missing more often than not.
"Can I flank her?" Nolan's friend, who was playing the halfling, said.
"If you can figure out a way to get behind her," I said, "sure."
The encounter as written in the book takes place in a simple 12x4 room with nothing but a magical bearskin run on the floor, but I have this cool dungeon tile that has these little statues down the long sides of the room. I decided that it would create a better throne room than a plain, empty rectangle, and it would give the PCs and monsters a few places to grab cover, so I used that when I put the encounter together. At the moment, the PCs were in a line, facing the wyrmling. On either side of her, there were statues that blocked movement through the chamber.
"But you can't move through these statues," I said.
"Can I try to make an acrobatics check to swing around them?" He said.
I thought for a second. "Um, I think that would be athletics," I said, "but yeah, of course you can try. If you miff the roll, though, he consequences will be ... dire. Either way, you'll provoke an attack of opportunity."
He looked up at Nolan and their other friend. "If I get behind her, I can get out of reach of her claws, and I do all kinds of cool stuff when I'm flanking someone."
Yeah, this kid is really into being a rogue.
They agreed that he could go for it. I decided that this was incredibly difficult: DC 20.
"Make an athletics check," I said. Then, "are you sure you want to do this?"
But the die was out of his hand. It rolled across the table in front of him and landed at the edge of the map: 19.
"What's your athletics bonus?" I said.
"Plus 1," he said.
"Well, I can't believe you pulled it off, but you did it."
"YES!" He said, with a major fist pump.
"Let's see if the Dragon hits you, as you leap away," I said. She rolled a four.
"As you crouch down to leap away, she looks down at you and snorts contemptuously. She slashes at you with her left claw, but when it snaps closed, you've already lept through her grasp! You lock your hands around the neck of this statue, and spin around it, tucking your feet in and avoiding the wyrmling's bite. You let go of the statue, somersault in the air, and land on your feet behind her."
"That was so cool," Nolan said.
His friend and I both nodded. I realized that I was having a lot of fun visualizing the action in my head, and describing it to them all as evocatively as possible.
They ended up killing the dragon shortly after that, thanks to Nolan's successful use of his Daily Power, a Brute Strike that hit for 23.
"Drawing on all your strength, focus and training, you pull your maul back and let out a mighty Dwarven battle cry as you swing it around your head. The wyrmling's eyes narrow, then widen in surprise as you land a mighty blow right on her skull. She howls in rage as the force of your attack slams her head against the wall. She lets out a short, sharp, yelp of pain, and then collapses to the ground," I tipped the mini over on its side and after a brief but dramatic pause I added, "you have killed the dragon."
The three of them cheered.
"Yeah, baby! That's what happens when you mess with the Dwarves!" Nolan said. We all laughed.
Concluded in Part IV...