Sunday, August 17, 2014

One-Shot: Den of the Werewolves

Den of the Werewolves: An Eberron Adventure for 6th Level Characters

Candlewood is a small village in Breland, right on the border of the King's Forest. It contains about 100 people who mainly make their living on surrounding farms, with a few artisans who work with wood and leather brought in by local loggers, huntsmen, and trappers, the most prominent of which being one Conrad MacDougal. It's a quiet, peaceful place... until recently. A couple of mysterious disappearances have occurred in the past few weeks - first, a young woman named Maria, and then the village blacksmith Monroe.

The PCs arrive one day in Candlewood and are greeted by the mayor, Conrad, and a few other concerned citizens, including the families of some of the disappeared ones - officially, at least. In reality, the arrival of such brave and powerful adventurers brings the attention of the entire village. Mayor Jacobi is quite friendly but rather all business; he explains the situations and asks the PCs to investigate the disappearances, ask around, look for clues, and find the missing villagers - or their bodies. By asking around and investigating, the PCs discover that both Maria and Monroe were seen going into the forest before disappearing after hearing some mysterious noises. Conrad warns the PCs not to go into the forest, that it’s too dangerous, but they presumably don’t listen and he then insists on guiding them through the area for their protection.

Conrad leads them through the woods for about an hour; he is a nice, jolly man and likes making conversation. He leads them into a small clearing; to one side is a large patch of bare dirt and a shovel laying on the ground. He picks up the shovel and starts digging; after about ten minutes he reaches into the hole, hefts something out, and turns around and throws it on the ground. It's a naked human male that seems to have been decomposing for over three weeks. Conrad says that this is the werewolf that bit him, and that he himself is the one the villagers have been seeing. However, he claims not to be responsible for the disappearances - he says another werewolf is stalking the woods, from the same tribe as the first, out for revenge at him killing its brother. He implores them to come with him to eliminate the werewolf tribe before any more disappearances.

If the party believes Conrad's story, he asks them to help him eliminate the werewolf tribe to save the village. If they don't believe him and either try to kill him or report him to the village, they will probably succeed and he will die. If they kill him, they are attacked by a second werewolf (Lupita) leading two others on their way back, confirming his story. They will be unable to find the wolf tribe on their own, and a little over a week later they hear that a village on the border of the King's Forest has been mysteriously destroyed, all its residents either killed or disappeared. They will have to track the wolves back to their tribe, but the wolves will have increased in number and the party won't have Conrad's help, so their success is slim unless they get creative.

Assuming the party believes Conrad and helps him, he says to go after them immediately so as to surprise the werewolves during the day when they're sleeping. However, while they're talking in the clearing, they are attacked by three werewolves. Their leader, Lupita, identifies Conrad as the man who killed her brother and refused to come into the fold after being transformed, and says something about getting him out of their way so their plans can succeed unopposed. After defeating those three, Conrad says to take one alive - they'll need it to find the rest of the tribe. Lupita is fierce and loyal - she won't give her new tribe up easily. It's up to the PCs to interrogate her and get her to lead them back to her family. She may give them some information, that there are eight or ten werewolves in the tribe. She also warns them that going up against Chief Zylo will be certain death, especially if they kill her.

When they eventually arrive in the large clearing, most of the werewolves are sleeping on the ground (if at night) or sitting around eating a fresh kill (if day); two are patrolling the outside area. The wolves apparently prefer not to use their human forms, as all of them are hybrids. A number of apparent children are present in the group as well. It's up to the PCs to formulate a plan of attack - Conrad is no tactician. If one of the wolf guards survives the surprise round, he howls and awakens the tribe. However, about half the wolves stay behind and protect the children rather than charging their attackers, including a very large one carrying a tribal staff.

Once half the wolves are dead and the party approaches the rest with the children, the large leader speaks to them. He implores them to stop, that these are the last lycanthropes in Eberron and what the party is doing will be genocide; the survival of this race is at stake with their plan. The werewolves planned to attack the town on the next full moon (in about a week) and convert as many villagers to werewolves as possible, then continue growing their race from there. It's up to the party to decide what to do from there, but Conrad wants to slaughter them all and the party may have to stop him from attacking if they choose to spare the wolves. It is possible to talk the leader into taking the tribe away from the village and abandoning their plan in exchange for their lives.

Conrad, human werewolf (afflicted) Ranger 4, human form
Conrad seems like any other jolly woodsman. He is a mountain of a man, almost seven feet tall and with enormous muscles and a huge brown beard. His protective armor is wrapped beneath a plaid flannel shirt, and his axe and shield are simple yet functional. He is genial and friendly, eager to meet new people and carry on conversations about any topic.
CG Medium Humanoid (Human, Shapechanger)
Str 20, Dex 15, Con 17, Int 8, Wis 14, Cha 7
HD 4d10+12 (52 hp)
Initiative +2 (+4 in forest)
Speed 20 ft.
AC 19 (+6 armor, +1 shield, +2 dex) Touch 12 FF 17
BAB/CMB/CMD: +4/+8/20
Attack: Battleaxe +9 (d8+5/x3) or power attack +7 (d8+9/x3)
Full attack: Battleaxe +7 and shield bash +6 (d4+2 plus bull rush) or power battleaxe +5 and power shield bash +4 (d4+4 plus bull rush)
Favored enemy: humanoid (shapechanger) +2
Favored terrain: forest +2
Combat style: Weapon and Shield
Hunter's Bond: Companions
Feats: Two-Weapon Fighting, Power Attack, Endurance, Shield Slam, Improved Shield Bash
Spells prepared 1-0+1
1: Cure Light Wounds
Change Shape
Fort +6, Ref +6, Will +3
Equipment: masterwork breastplate, masterwork light spiked wooden shield, +1 battleaxe

Conrad, human werewolf (afflicted) Ranger 4, hybrid form
Unfortunately, Conrad has more trouble controlling his transformations than many other werewolves, often transforming every night regardless of the moon. He regresses to a primal state and stalks the woods for prey, but retains enough of his mind to avoid attacking people. This might not hold true if he transforms due to combat damage.
CG Medium Humanoid (Human, Shapechanger)
Str 18, Dex 15, Con 14, Int 8, Wis 14, Cha 7
HD 4d10+8 (48 hp) 40
Initiative +2 (+4 in forest)
Speed 20 ft.
AC 23 (+6 armor, +1 shield, +2 dex, +4 natural) Touch 12 FF 21
BAB/CMB/CMD: +4/+9/21
Attack: Battleaxe +10 (d8+6/x3) or power attack +8 (d8+10/x3)
Full attack: Battleaxe +8 and shield bash +7 (d4+2 plus bull rush) and bite +4 (d6+2 and trip) or power battleaxe +6 and power shield bash +5 (d4+4 plus bull rush) and power bite +2 (d6+4 and trip)
Favored enemy: humanoid (shapechanger) +2
Favored terrain: forest +2
Combat style: Weapon and Shield
Hunter's Bond: Companions
Feats: Two-Weapon Fighting, Power Attack, Endurance, Shield Slam, Improved Shield Bash
Spells prepared 1-0+1
1: Cure Light Wounds
Change Shape
DR 5/silver
Fort +7, Ref +6, Will +3
Equipment: masterwork breastplate, masterwork light spiked wooden shield, +1 battleaxe

Werewolf Soldier, human werewolf (afflicted) Fighter 2, hybrid form
Some of these warriors were once Candlewood villagers; others were born werewolves and raised by the tribe. Regardless, they are all fearsome and fearless combatants.
CE Medium Humanoid (human, shapechanger)
Str 18, Dex 16, Con 17, Int 7, Wis 14, Cha 8
HD 2d10+6 (26 hp)
Initiative +3
Speed 20 ft.
AC 23 (+4 natural, +3 dex, +6 armor) Touch 13 FF 20
BAB/CMB/CMD: +2/+6/19
Attack: Falchion +7 (2d4+6/18-20) and bite +2 (d6+2 and trip)
Power Attack: Falchion +7 (2d4+9/18-20) and bite +1 (d6+3 and trip)
Bravery +1
DR 10/silver
Feats: Power Attack, Furious Focus, Cleave
Fort +6, Ref +3, Will + 2
Equipment: Masterwork falchion, masterwork breastplate

Werewolf Mage, human werewolf (afflicted) Transmuter 4, hybrid form
Wherever this strange one came from, its natural gifts supplement its magical training quite well, granting him more survivability than your average spellcaster.
CE Medium Humanoid (human, shapechanger)
Str 15, Dex 16, Con 18, Int 20, Wis 12, Cha 7
HD 4d6+16 (40 hp)
Initiative +6
Speed 30 ft.
AC 18 (+5 natural, +3 dex) Touch 13 FF 15
BAB/CMB/CMD: +2/+4/16
Attack: Bite +4 (d6+3 and trip)
DR 10/silver
Bonded object: amulet
Battleshaping +1
Spells prepared 0-4 1-4+2 2-3+1 DC 15+level
0: Resistance, Acid Splash, Bleed, Mage Hand
1: Burning Disarm, Enlarge Person, Color Spray, Ray of Sickening, Grease
2: Aboleth's Lung, Ghoul Touch, Spectral Hand, Mirror Image
Feats: Spell Focus (Transmutation), Improved Initiative
Fort +6, Ref +5, Will +6
Equipment: Amulet of Natural Armor +1, Cloak of Resistance +1

Lupita, human werewolf (natural) Slayer 6, hybrid form
This lithe and deadly warrior dresses in studded leather for agility and is fond of dastardly poisons and backstabbing. She is Zylo's loyal mate and has two children with him. Her twin brother was also a werewolf, but he was killed after attacking and infecting Conrad, leaving Lupita out for revenge.
CE Medium Humanoid (human, shapechanger)
Str 15, Dex 20, Con 17, Int 12, Wis 10, Cha 6
HD 6d10+18 (78 hp)
Initiative +10 (+12 in forest)
Speed 30 ft.
AC 23 (+4 armor, +4 natural, +5 dex) Touch 15 FF 18
BAB/CMB/CMD: +6/+8/23
Attack: Scimitar +12/7 (d6+6/18-20) and bite +3 (d6+1 and trip)
DR 10/silver
Favored Target +2
Terrain Mastery (forest) +2
Poison Use
Sneak Attack +2d6
Feats: Weapon Finesse, Dervish Dance, Improved Initiative
Fort +8, Ref +10, Will +2
Equipment: +1 scimitar, +1 studded leather, blue whinnis poison x2, giant wasp poison x2

Zylo, human dire werewolf (natural) Druid 7, hybrid form
The patriarch of the wolf clan, Zylo's age and origin are unknown. He is a massive nine foot tall black-furred monstrosity, far greater in stature and might than the average werewolves. He is obsessed with achieving a return of the lycanthropes on Eberron and will do anything to make it happen.
NE Large Humanoid (human, shapechanger)
Str 22, Dex 15, Con 19, Int 12, Wis 22, Cha 14
HD 7d8+28 (84 hp)
Initiative +6
Speed 20 ft.
AC 22 (-1 size, +5 natural, +2 dex, +1 dodge, +6 armor) Touch 12 FF 20
BAB/CMB/CMD: +5/+12/24
Attack: Spear +11 (2d6+10/x3) and bite +6 (d8+3 and trip) or bite +11 (d8+9 and trip)
Wolf domain
DR 10/silver
Spells prepared 0-4 1-6+1 2-4+1 3-3+1 4-2+1 DC 16+level
0: Detect Poison, Flare, Guidance, Mending
1: Entangle, Hydraulic Push, Obscuring Mist, Cure Light Wounds, Produce Flame, Mudball, Hunter's Howl
2: Chill Metal, Flaming Sphere, Resist Energy, Lockjaw, Bloodhound
3: Aqueous Orb, Poison, Wind Wall, Aspect of the Wolf
4: Cure Serious Wounds, Moonstruck, Strong Jaw
Feats: Improved Trip, Improved Initiative, Lightning Reflexes, Weapon Focus (Bite), Dodge
Fort +9, Ref +6, Will +11

Equipment: +1 spear, +2 hide armor

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Horned Warden: A Paladin Archetype for Pathfinder

Paladins are called to serve the ideals of law and good, and the horned warden is no different. Rather than taking up shining steel to guard the values of civilization, however, this paladin finds his calling in the arms of Mother Gaia. Nature needs a sworn guardian just as much as the world of men does, and the horned warden is blessed with druid-like abilities to safeguard the wilderness.

Alignment and Code of Conduct: In addition to the standard paladin code, a horned warden must respect and cherish nature and protect it against all who would do it harm. He must not take more than his share from the natural world, nor may he slay an animal for a purpose other than food or clothing or to protect others from it, and then only after attempts to pacify it have failed.

Class Skills: The horned warden does not gain Knowledge (Nobility) as a class skill; he replaces it with Knowledge (Nature), Knowledge (Geography), and Survival.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: The horned warden is prohibited from wearing metal armor or using metal shields. If he uses such a prohibited item, he cannot cast spells or use any of his supernatural or spell-like class features (including base paladin class features) for as long as he uses it and for 24 hours thereafter.

Smite Evil
Rather than dealing double damage on the first hit against evil dragons, evil outsiders, and undead, the horned warden’s smite deals double damage on the first hit against aberrations, constructs, and undead. He may use smite evil against aberrations and constructs as if they were evil, regardless of their alignment. This ability alters the existing Smite Evil class feature.

Wild Empathy
The horned warden gains this ability at 2nd level, as the druid class feature. This ability replaces Divine Grace.

Trackless Step
The horned warden gains this ability at 3rd level, as the druid class feature. This ability replaces Aura of Courage.

A horned warden treats all spells on both the paladin and ranger spell lists as paladin spells, and may prepare ranger spells in his daily spell slots. This ability replaces Channel Positive Energy.

Nature Bond
At 5th level, a horned warden forms a bond with nature. This bond takes the form of a single cleric domain, selected from the following list: Air, Animal, Earth, Fire, Plant, Water, Weather, or an Animal or Terrain domain. When determining the powers granted by this domain, the horned warden’s effective cleric level is equal to his paladin level. A horned warden that selects this option also receives additional domain spell slots of each level he can cast (1 through 4), just like a cleric. He must prepare the spell from his domain in this slot. He does not gain access to higher-level domain spells than 4th level, and they are not considered to be part of his spell list. This ability replaces Divine Bond.

Favored Enemy
At 8th level, a horned warden may select one favored enemy, as the ranger class feature. This enemy must be chosen from the list of Aberration, Construct, Outsider (Evil), or Undead. The bonuses granted by the horned warden’s favored enemy do not increase as he goes up in level. This ability replaces Aura of Resolve.

Venom Immunity
At 11th level, a horned warden gains immunity to all poisons. This ability replaces Aura of Justice.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Walrus, a Bear, and an Elephant Walk Into a Dungeon...

...and proceed to utterly wreck the level 11 party.

Myru the Slayer, Isaac the Inquisitor, Ada the Sorcerer, and Xavier the Bard have just been given a quest to travel to a nearby abandoned temple to retrieve an artifact. After a 12-hour journey on camelback across the desert, they arrive and are greeted in the first room by a level-appropriate encounter. It proves to be somewhat difficult but survivable; they retrieve some treasure and heal up before the next room.

Here's where things take a turn. We players were thrilled to roll nothing above 20 on the random monster table used for this particular dungeon, and so we are greeted in the second room by a walrus, a bear, and an elephant, all completely ordinary - and all CR 7 against us level 11s. We figure it to be an easy fight and don't even start buffing ourselves up before stepping in.

Contrary to our expectations, we all roll incredibly low on our Initiative checks, and the animals all roll very high. (This is to become a pattern this fight.) In the first round, the walrus rushes over to us, clustered just outside the doorway, and tramples over us all, knocking us prone and doing some decent damage. The elephant comes over and stomps on Isaac, while the bear moves over and prepares to attack whoever gets up first. Now we are stuck between the animals with nowhere to go. Isaac gets up and gets grabbed by the bear's maw, immobilizing him; Myru tumbles around to the other side of the elephant hoping to get some flanking; Ada casts a lightning bolt at the elephant, doing near-minimum damage; and Xavier starts inspiring courage while laying on the ground.

The second round progresses in a rather similar fashion to the first. The walrus tramples the three of us still stuck outside the room again; the elephant moves back and tramples Myru to the ground; and the bear starts eating Isaac, keeping him grabbed so that Myru's flanking hopes are in vain. The bear falls soon after, but for the next few rounds the walrus and elephant continually trample us, keeping us prone on the ground and unable to fight at our best.

It must be noted here that the DM has rolled, out in the open, 17 or higher on 90% of his d20 rolls.

Eventually Isaac stands long enough to slay the treacherous walrus, but it is too late -  Myru, faced with this massive elephant to fight all alone, has been trampled into a small pile of gore on the ground. Isaac and Ada finish off the elephant in retribution for Myru's tragic and terrible death. Having lost a key party member in the second room and faced with the prospect of going through the rest of the dangerous dungeon down a man, the party abandons the quest and retreats back to the city from whence they came.

And that, children, is why you never judge an encounter by its CR.