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 concluded from Part III.
There were still a few kobold minions left in the room, but they hadn't been able to get at them because the wyrmling was blocking the way. I decided that they'd need to make a morale check after seeing her fall, but I couldn't quickly find a reference to that in the rules. I decided that I'd make a roll against their Will on d20, and if they rolled higher, they made it. I have no idea if that was the "right" thing to do, but it kept the game moving and gave me some mechanic to determine if they were shaken by seeing this wyrmling, who was essentially their leader and master, felled so quickly. I rolled behind the screen, and all but one of them failed the check.
"These guys shriek in fear and run down the hallway," I said. "This guy, though, seems resolute, and he charges toward you."
The wizard was next in order, and Nolan's friend who played him pointed at the attacking kobold and said, "Magic Missile!" Ah, it was as if Jim Darkmagic himself had joined us. It was a hit, and all that was left were the minions who were running away from them.
Now, in the delve, there's a set of doors at the end of the chamber, but it doesn't really define what's back there. During prep, I came across a dungeon tile that had some cells along one wall. I decided to use that as an antechamber or something that the kobolds had converted into cells. In the cells were Bekar Coppernight, and a human cleric I named Taron The Cleric, in a burst of creative genius. I figured that the PCs would open the doors and rescue them at the end of the encounter, but they'd made such quick work of the wyrmling and the other kobolds who were with her, I thought it was all just a little bit ... anticlimactic. I added three more minions and two dragonshields to the room for them to fight. I figured that, if it got too tough for them, the Cleric could heal them from within his cell, and maybe even join the fight as a last resort.
As it turned out, this unexpected denouement ended up being a perfect challenge, and all the NPCs did was cheer them on while they fought. When the whole thing was over, I had the cleric heal them, the dwarf thank them, and tell them his story.
"This tower used to stand guard over the river," I said, in a gruff, dwarven voice. "protecting all who passed beneath her watch. It fell in the Great War, and it was only recently that I learned of its existence. I came here a month ago, determined to restore it to its former glory.
"I brought some fellows from Fallcrest with me, including Taron. We'd been here for just a few days when we were attacked by that foul beast and those despicable little creatures." I looked at Nolan and said, "he looks at you, and curses them in dwarven.
"Most of our friends were killed, or taken captive, and we were imprisoned here." I resumed my normal voice. "He looks away from you and adds, 'imprisoned in my clan's own tower. Can you imagine the insult of it all?'"
I looked at them, to see what they'd do.
"So...did the dragon have any treasure?" Nolan asked.
I suppressed a smile. Of course. The treasure.
"Are you asking me, or Bekar?"
"Bekar," he said.
"He looks a little disappointed," I said, and then resumed my gruff voice. "'If it's treasure you're after, I know she has a horde over there,' he says."
They collected some gold, and a Terrifying Dwarven Maul (+1).
"You spend about two hours helping Bekar properly of the bodies, but the Wyrmling's too heavy for you to move. You decide to go back to Fallcrest, where Bekar says he'll mount another expedition to come back and get rid of it once and for all." I said, planning to have Bekar eventually turn the dragon's scales into some kind of armor that will show up on market day in Winterhaven, I think.
"When you return to Fallcrest, you go straight to Douven's office to share your triumph with him. When the door opens, though, you find his wife, standing alone. Her eyes are puffy and red, and she clutches a small holy symbol in one hand.
"'Douven ... Douven is gone,' she says. 'He said that something terrible was happening near Winterhaven, but he wouldn't tell me what it was. He just said that if he didn't get there soon, it would be the end of us all!' She looks at you, expectantly." The music, which had been sort of triumphant and energized, had become soft and melancholy, another happy coincidence that I assured the kids was entirely planned in advance.
"Well, guys," Nolan's friend said, "I guess we're going to Winterhaven."
Next time: a few thoughts from behind the screen