MechWarrior Online: Mech Optimization – Free Wt vs KPH

January 10, 2013 Leave a comment

Hey All,

I’ve posted this before online, but thought it might be of interest here also…

Since I have a background in Aerospace Engineering (and am employed developing fighter aircraft), I have a predisposition to theory-crafting (I know, I know – I’ve got the ‘knack’). I had a bit of time this weekend so I explored the idea that at any given speed (KPH), there should be a mech variant that allows for the best survivability (most armor) and lethality (most firepower) – as indicated by the highest possible free weight.

For my purposes, free weight is calculated as the amount of weight left over after internal structure weight and engine/cockpit/gyro weight are accounted for.

HOW TO USE THE PLOTS: Pick the speed range of primary interest for your mech design (on the x-axis) and then check the variant(s) that provide the maximum free weight. For reference, the number of available crit slots for each variant is denoted beside the mech’s name in the legend. I use the crit slot info in the event of a ‘tie’ as it’s always good to have extra crit slots.

CAVEATS: The plots make no concession for hard points – which can make or break a mech.

Attached are three plots…

Plot 1: Standard Structure / Standard Engine
Plot 2: Endo-steel Structure / Standard Engine
Plot 3: Standard Structure / XL Engine

To facilitate quickly picking out which mechs can equip jump jets, I’ve formatted the curves to make all JJ-capable mechs stand out with red symbols.

WHAT I LEARNED:

  • Without this info, I tended to make Mechs that ran 5-10 kph slower than the ‘sweet spot’ (the four variants labeled on the plot are the first four variants I invested in and tweaked). Therefore, I have the opportunity to increase engine size to hit that speed ‘sweet spot’ or go up in weight class to increase lethality/survivability.
  • Based on this plot (again, not accounting for hard points), the CTF-4X is a trap due to it’s engine rating limit of 255. At a speed of 59 kph, I’m short 5.5 tons of extra armor or weapons compared to a Stalker build. Once I unlock the elites for the CTF-4X, I’ll probably sell this one off.
  • As expected, the XL Engine provides major free weight benefits (all the curves move up and also provide better separation between mechs – i.e., bigger mechs with bigger engines get more benefit). Of course, bigger mechs also tend to be more limited by available crit slots, rather than weight, so there is that.
  • I’ll probably invest in a couple of 300+ series standard engines to upgrade my fleet – specifically the Cats and Hunchies.
  • I’m having a hard time justifying keeping any engine (at least for the available mechs) below a rating of 250. Selling off a couple of those unused bad boys netted me a nice C-bill bonus.

Plot 1: Standard Structure / Standard Engine

Free Wt vs KPH - Std Struct, Std Engine

Plot 2: Endo-steel Structure / Standard Engine
Free Wt vs KPH - ES Struct, Std Engine

Plot 3: Standard Structure / XL Engine

Free Wt vs KPH - Std Struct, XL Engine

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Categories: MWO Tags: , ,

Catt’s 4E: On to Albridge

September 9, 2012 Leave a comment

Previously in Winterhaven…

At Lord Padraig’s behest, the party had descended into an ancient tomb below Winterhaven Keep in an attempt to escape the siege and get help from his adventuring companion of old, Dar Gremath in Albridge. They defeated the traps, undead, insects and monsters within the tomb, but the collapse of the tunnels behind them has made retreat to the Keep impossible. At the well-protected heart of the tomb, they find an ornate sarcophagus surrounded by bas-relief murals of mythical heroes known as the Wandering Warriors – and two stone guardians who stand as the tomb’s final defense.

The Heroes begin this session at Level 2 / 2083 XP

And now…

After a rest to regroup, restore Aranthis to full health, and rejoin Belhorn to the group, the party once again made an all out assault on the stone guardians of the sarcophagus – with Belhorn even climbing atop the bas-relief itself for an aerial assault. The dwarves dug-in to withstand the guardians’ blasts that threatened to knock them from the tomb’s dais to the pit floor 60’ below. As each of guardians was finally defeated, it crumbled into rubble. The heroes then found that the sarcophagus was completely sealed, without even a seam indicating a lid. For all practical purposes it was a solid block of veined white marble with a bluish caste, impossible to damage. But as Dau’um, a follower of Pelor, took the pedestal the eyes of the figure on the lid slowly opened and turned to him. “Speak my name” it whispered. Thereafter, the chamber grew still.

Recalling the legends from the Chronicle of Ages, Soklo was able to piece together that the fifth wandering warrior, Prator, was depicted in the scenes around the room – most telling was the bas-relief of a paladin type figure entering the gates of hell and the stories that denoted him as the “blue” warrior. As Dau’um spoke the name “Prator” a bright blue light circled the sarcophagus lid, revealing a seam. Within the sarcophagus they found all that was recovered of the hell-bound Prator; a heavy set of plate armor with a thin layer of frost on the edges, a heavy shield that was dented and bore a cold blue burnishing, and a pewter box inscribed with ancient runes and sealed with melted tin. Cedric took up the armor and shield and Akhan gingerly secured the box. Aranthis was able to attribute the runes to the Queen of Chaos and, after some deliberation, Akhan pried off the top. Inside he found a segment of rod, about a foot long, bearing a strong impression of latent magic, but otherwise unadorned.

The Heroes achieve Level 3 / 2250 XP!

Collecting their prizes, the heroes retraced their steps to the ossuary and elected to chance venturing into the grick tunnels. After what seemed like days of travel through the winding, dark and cramped tunnels and overcoming a number of obstacles, they emerged into the bright light of mid-day – and luckily found themselves much closer to their objective, Albridge. Looking toward Albridge, they spied a pillar of smoke climbing into the clear blue sky. Hurrying to investigate, they found a farm with a burning out building. The cause of the fire was clear, since the farmhouse was surrounded by wolves and human brigands. The brigands, who were all wearing black cloaks that bore a crude circle insignia, were waving pitch-soaked torches and taunting someone inside the farmhouse.

The heroes rushed to the aid of the farmers and defeated the brigands – finding that more than one had his tongue cut out. From the farmhouse Ilyana, a half-elf woman of middle years accompanied by her two teenage boys, greeted her rescuers. After looking around the farm yard and frowning at the bloodshed, she kicked at the corpses and spluttered “My thanks, strangers. These Iron Circle jackals come to rob us. I barred my door, but they said they’d burn the house down – with me and my two idiot boys in it! You saved our lives and for that you’re welcome to rest here. If you venture on to Albridge, be careful. Find Dar Gremath or Reithann. They lead the resistance against these dogs.” Along with a few other odds and ends, the heroes collected the black cloaks from the slain brigands.

Continuing on to Albridge, the heroes found that the small town was occupied by Iron Circle mercenaries. Donning the black cloaks, they bluffed their way through Albridge and continued on, unmolested, toward Reithann’s Druid Grove north of town.

There they found a large grove of ancient trees, long separated from the forest proper and an old human druid, Reithann, living in a moss-covered lodge near a clearing in the center of the grove. With her were her apprentices Lorel (a Halfling woman) and Theren (a young human man). Reithann was firmly on the side of the rebels and believed that the first blow should fall on the bullywugs of Toadwallow Marsh. “They’re unnatural creatures, and they’re preventing Tor’s Hold from joining Albridge in open resistance.” She also advised that the elves of the wood might be persuaded to join the fight, if they could be found. The heroes decided to aid Tor’s Hold and asked for a way to identify themselves to the rebels. She gave them her symbol scratched onto white tree bark and described the route the Hold and Toadwallow Marsh beyond.

When the heroes returned to Albridge they found a host of mercenaries gathered near Dar’s stable as a result of some disturbance on the north edge of town. Impersonating mercenaries themselves, Aranthis engaged a few of the mercs and found that an uprising and skirmish had occurred near the edge of the wood. After securing an extra cloak for Akhan, the party approached Dar’s stable and quietly displayed Reithann’s symbol. With a bit of bluff and bluster to put on a show for the mercenaries outside, the party secured Dar’s aid in the form of horses and, despite his protests, bade him to forestall an outright attack on the mercenaries.

With that the heroes were on their way to Tor’s Hold, where they were welcomed by Bran Torsson and his own sons and treated with great hospitality. After a restful night and securing stabling for the horses, they set out to trace a tributary of the Winter River into the marsh and toward a large cavern.

In the face of a vine covered hill, they found the mouth of a cave atop a 10-foot waterfall that gushed into the stream they were following. As described by Reithann, they had found the entrance to the Toadwallow Caverns, The ground near the base of the hill was spongy, and clouds of insects harangued them. Scouting ahead, Akhan found that the cave mouth opened into a dank chamber. Behind a thick patch of fungus atop a pile of offal, he found two crouching froglike humanoids apparently keeping an ineffective watch. They wore poorly fitting leather armor and carried crude spears. Reporting his findings to the group, the heroes decided to try to lure the frogs out using Soklo’s bear as bait. When the bear presented itself at the cave mouth, the frogs drove it off and at the mouth of the cave were effectively ambushed by the party. Despite some reinforcing frogs and stirges, the party handily put down the monsters.

Peeking further into the cavern, Akhan found that a large dragon skull dominates the center of the cave and he heard numerous creatures shifting in the shadows. He suspects that they are well aware of the party’s incursion and are lying in wait.

The Heroes are Level 3 / 2605 XP! (522 XP this session)

Categories: D&D Tags: , , ,

Catt’s 4E: The Whispering Cairn continued

August 21, 2012 Leave a comment

Previously in Winterhaven…

At Lord Padraig’s behest, the party had descended into an ancient tomb below Winterhaven Keep in an attempt to escape the siege and get help from Dar Gremath in Albridge. They defeated the traps, undead, and insects within the tomb, but a collapse of the tunnels behind them drives them forward in search of a way out.

The Heroes begin this session at Level 2 / 1658 XP

And now…

Beyond the stone face at the end of the hallway the party found a long, dark room. The walls, ceiling and floor 8’ below were covered with decorative arrangements of bones, forming a memorial ossuary. A six inch wide beam of ebony spanned the ossuary chamber, leading straight toward a prominent carving on the opposite wall similar to the stone face behind them. But this one was of an immense skull. Below the beam, countless bones were neatly piled and stacked.

Suspecting a trap, the party spent some time examining the beam and the room. They found that at the far corner, ahead and to their right, the bones were in disarray and sunken. They seemed to have spilled into a fissure or tunnel, the top of which was just visible. From that same location, they heard the muffled rattle of bones moving deep below. Edging out onto the beam, Akhan got the sense that the ebony beam was a dangerous path. He expected it was trapped in some manner, though no mechanical triggers were evident.

From behind Akhan, Finneal launched a magic missile toward the ratting bones. Dau’um and Cedric dropped to the bones below and, sinking about a foot into them, prepared for an assault. The bones surged and scattered in a wave as a large form tunneled toward them. A grick that had been feasting on the bones below erupted from the bone pile. It was quickly followed by a second, burrowing its way from the tunnel in the corner. From above and below, the party rained down pain upon the two monstrosities and prevailed. Searching the bones, they found another skeleton in dried and cracked red leather bearing the familiar eight-point star, a rusty rapier, and 47 gp, 93 sp in coins that was over 200 years old.

Carefully approaching the skull from the bones below, the mouth dropped open revealing a tight alcove. In a guttural whisper, a voice spoke in an ancient tongue. They pieced together a rough translation of the message as “Sacrifice that of greatest value.” Though they tossed various items into the mouth, each was unceremoniously expelled and they heard “sacrifice … unworthy” in the same ancient tongue.

Knowing that their task was urgent and their options few, Akhan grasped the lower teeth of the skull and pulled himself in – not knowing if it would mean his own death. The mouth slowly ground closed, but as it did, a cantilevered stone in the back of the alcove slowly opened providing admittance to a Chamber beyond. The rest of the party followed.

This cavernous chamber consisted of a circular stone walkway around a deep chasm. Bluish light reminiscent of a late summer’s day filtered down from the ceiling about forty feet above. A quiet sighing breeze seemed to continually blow around the chamber. Four wide galleries framed the walkway, their walls covered with enormous bas relief vistas. Like spokes of a wheel, four bridges spanned from the circular walkway to a central pedestal – though two had collapsed with age. Sitting majestically upon the pedestal was an immense sarcophagus half encircled with a final bas relief vista serving as a backdrop.

The heroes found the central pit to be about 60 feet deep, ending in a featureless basin. They found that each of the four perimeter galleries portrayed a different scene. Though the sculpting appeared stylized from a distance, as the heroes approached, the images shifted and distinct impressions of movement became apparent.

The first gallery depicted a peaceful scene featuring several men relaxing in an idyllic country setting. Dozens of perfect circles filled the frame around the men. As the heroes drew closer, twisted shapes seemed to emerge from the sculpture’s edges and coalesced to form monstrous creatures, evil dragons, and demonic figures. As the creatures encroached upon the men in the scene, the circles in the frame seemed to burst one by one. This depiction struck a cord with the party as an ancient legendary theme – the peaceful civilizations of men in conflict with an ever-present threat of outside forces of beasts, evil and chaos.

The second gallery depicted a scene of seven proud noble warriors presenting seven regular fragments of a rod to a council of superiors. The central figure, who was obviously not a warrior, seemed to raise the parts above his head, where they coalesced into a single rod. From the carved glyphs on each of the seven warriors, the party identified them from the myth of the “Wandering Warriors” – men who abandoned the escalating war with Chaos to secure the secrets of a fabled segmented rod.

The third gallery depicted an epic battle between men and demons, Law and Chaos. As the image seemed to shift, the central figure (the mightiest of the Wandering Warriors) used the rod to impale a mighty demon – an entity that looked like a cross between spider, man and wolf. Finally, the Wolf-Spider, Rod, and Warrior vanished into a flaming rift that opened in the ground.

The fourth gallery depicted a lone Wandering Warrior armed with a mighty longsword and heavy shield, descending into the rift in search of the lost mighty warrior. As he entered, the rift seemed to transition into a stylized representation of the gates of hell. Crowds lining the rift were portrayed reaching out to him in various poses of anguish and grief, imploring him not to go.

Up a short step on the central pedestal rested a white marble sarcophagus, much more ornate than the one in the tomb of colored lanterns, complete with a sculpted humanoid figure carved into the lid. On a freestanding curved wall shielding the sarcophagus, a beautifully carved bas relief depicted the same warrior wearing a simple ancient garment, wielding a mighty longsword and heavy shield. At the feet of the warrior were numerous slain dragons. Over the figure’s head was a balanced scale, indicating a champion of justice. To the warrior’s left stood a cloaked demonic figure with two long curved horns tipped in darkest red. On each side of the bas relief, framing the scene stood an armored warrior, shield and sword at ready.

As Finneal stepped onto the central pedestal, the two armored warriors stepped from the bas relief and attacked. They were quite formidable and used knockback attacks to keep the intruders from the sarcophagus. But each time the party retreated, the guardians slowly returned to their places in the bas relief.

Working in concert and retreating when necessary, the party slowly whittled the two down until they decided to make an all out assault on the tomb’s protectors – but as the first of the guardians was bloodied, it blasted the group with an area knockback effect that sent the party flying and sent Aranthis to the edge of the pedestal. Missing a reflex save to catch the edge of the pedestal, she fell to the bottom of the pit, unconscious and at death’s door. Dau’um quickly braced a rope and dropped to the pit floor below to administer aid.

The Heroes end this session at Level 2 / 2083 XP (425 XP this session)

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Catt’s 4E: The Whispering Cairn

August 16, 2012 Leave a comment

Previously in Winterhaven…

In their exploration of the ancient tomb below Winterhaven Keep, the heroes begin to uncover its mysteries. They find evidence of the living and working spaces of the sculptor and architect who designed it and led its construction. They a find a facsimile of an ancient artifact, the Seven Segment Rod. They trigger mechanisms and magical devices, but so far the way out has eluded them. Worse, one of the ancient mechanisms failed, leading to the collapse of the tunnels that led back to Winterhaven Keep.

The Heroes begin this session at Level 2 / 1442 XP

And now…

With time for a short breather, the heroes faced at least two clear choices. Continue on past the blue lantern to the carved face above – or descend into the ragged chittering opening below the green lantern.

Just then, Akhan emerged from the billowing dust from the collapsed hallway that led back to the keep. He explained that he and Martigen had given up the idea of breaking through the siege line and were returning when the hallway back to the keep began to collapse. He was able to make it through, barely. Since the collapse separated them, he was unsure if Martigen escaped back toward the keep or was trapped. Belhorne encouraged the heroes to push on while he returned to poke through the rubble.

(Explaining the return of Akhan and the disappearance of Belhorne for this session.)

Finneal dropped a light source down the shaft and it fell about 60′ or so before it hit the ground. Though the light was dim, the party could see the skittering of spiders crawling across the floor. They even caught a quick glance of a few insects that appeared to be much larger. After Finneal effectively froze the area below with ice based spells, the party descended by rope down the web strewn shaft.

At the bottom, they found themselves surrounded by dozens of bas-relief figures similar to the one on the sarcophagus lid in the room above. The figures, covered in webs and damaged, seemed to stare disapprovingly from the walls. Many sported crossed arms and stern expressions. Most were damaged and a few were missing heads or hands. Just to the north, the party found an intersection.

To their left was a large chamber. Eight man-sized stone tombs, each about four feet tall were arranged in two rows. The far walls tapered in somewhat around a short stone stage. A red marble statue of a powerfully built warrior wielding a cylinder-headed maul stood precariously on the crumbling stage. The party was able to identify the statue as a representation of the Guardian of the Veil, a mythical figure who stands sentry between the lands of sleep and wakefulness – and death and life. The bones of a long-dead corpse, possibly human, lay sprawled out near the statue by the farthest of these crypts. The corpse man’s skull had been utterly crushed. Tattered remains of red leather armor were found among the bones. What killed him was not known, but the stone maul Guardian and his stone maul sparked the party’s imagination. A thorough search turned up a silver ring worth about 50 sp.

To the right off the main hall was another large chamber. A hardened orange paste filled the room and spilled out from a basin lip across the room. Thousands of tiny spiders skittered and tunneled through webbing so thick that it had coalesced into a chalky substance. A huge webbed mass completely filled the far corner of the room. Judging by the spiders spilling from it, it was an enormous nest. Entering the room, the party was attacked by two Deathjump Spiders, a Doomspinner Spider and numerous spider swarms. As the swarms burrowed their way into the armor of the fighters, Finneal jumped into action – doing more damage to the party than a lucky DM could have hoped for and even managed to miss the angry swarms a time or two. The Doomspinner targeted Akhan and, drawing the hapless ranger in with a web, proceeded to bite and sting him into submission. Despite the lucky breaks, the party wore the insects down and ultimately squashed them. They then searched through three oblong lumps completely covered with orange sludge and webbing to find the skeletonized remains of three long-dead human figures in soiled red leather armor. An eight-pointed star symbol marked the left breast of each moldy suit of armor. Amongst them they found potions of healing and a gem worth about 100 gp. Exhausted and short on healing surges, the party retreated to the room below the shaft and bedded down for an extended rest.

Continuing down the hall, the party found stairs descending to chambers that were completely submerged in water. The still water was clear and the party made out the area below to be some sort of bath house. Finneal elected to search the waters below and tethered himself to the rest of the party with a rope. After a quick review of the drowning rules he entered the water and found hollowed out bones. He was able to escape the ambush of an underwater ghoul through effective use of his staff, which blasted the fiend back and immobilized it. He was able to bait the ghoul out of the water where the party quickly dispatched it. They found that it was garbed in algae covered robes bearing the familiar eight-pointed star symbol. Among the bones below, they found another skeleton corpse garbed in algae-covered leather bearing the star and retrieved a Harmonic Songblade that would be of use to Aranthis.

Having cleared the chambers below, the party returned to the tomb above and ascended the shaft above the blue lantern. Having lit all the lanterns, they found the stone face with eyes closed and lower jaw open – open large enough to permit access to the dark hollow chamber beyond.

The Heroes end this session at Level 2 / 1658 XP (216 XP from this session)

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Catt’s 4E: Beneath Winterhaven… continued

July 21, 2012 Leave a comment

Previously in Winterhaven…

At Lord Padraig’s behest, the party had descended into the tunnels below Winterhaven Keep in an attempt to escape the siege and recruit help from Dar Gremath in Albridge. In the chambers below they found a heavily trapped tomb of unmistakeably ancient construction. Though it is laced with traps and undead, they explore the tomb in hopes of finding some answers to its mysteries – and, perhaps, another way out.

And now…

Surmising that it’s their only path forward, the heroes begin a thorough search for the red lantern. At the base of the sarcophagus, they notice circular scrape marks on the floor, as if it once faced a different direction. It takes a colossal effort but they manage to turn the sarcophagus to point down the passageway with the yellow lantern. On doing so, they hear a great rumbling from the end of the hall. Under the yellow lantern, the five-foot circular slab of stone that Aranthis noted earlier is descending. A gust of wind blows up through the hole causing the chamber to clamor in a chorus of whispers and howls.

Upon descending to the chambers below, the heroes find that the walls are covered in ruined bas-relief images similar to the slender figure upon the sarcophagus lid. Nearly a dozen stand in poses of deference, almost as if they are paying homage to the visitors. Many extend their hands in adoration, their faces awash in adulation. Several are broken, lacking hands, arms or heads. About 15 feet to the south, a dark passage framed by an elaborately carved arch is blocked by a large stone block. It obscures most of the passage and only a little of the hall is visible beyond. The stone block is roughly 10 feet wide by 2 feet deep by 8 feet tall, and nearly seals off the passage to the south. A large niche about the same size as the block opens in the ceiling of the arch above the slab.

Squeezing half her body between the top of the stone slab and the peak of the arch, Aranthis gains a decent view of the hallway beyond. Along each wall she is able to make out a handful of alcoves spaced at regular intervals. Though the stone slab is far too heavy to lift, the heroes decide to work together to topple it. Too late they find that it rested upon a pressure plate that triggers when the weight of the slab is removed. A noxious yellow gas fills the room from valves hidden within the mouths of the adoring bas-reliefs lining the room’s walls. As the slight breeze carries the vapors up the shaft to the chamber above, the heroes hurry down the hall, further into the chamber.

Curious carvings that seem to represent a stirring tempest cover the walls of the ten-foot-wide passage. At ten-foot intervals, small alcoves flank the passage, and each contains a humanoid figure with cupped hands, the figures stand roughly seven feet tall. A faint wind plays within the passage, but it’s difficult to tell where it’s coming from. With a detailed search the heroes find that the breeze is a result of soft currents of air emitting from the statues’ cupped hands. They find that the currents are strong enough to hold tiny objects, like a gold piece, aloft.

Continuing on toward the third and final set of alcoves, they find that the passage grows unnaturally cold as it opens into a huge chamber. Within the chamber, a huge 20 foot square dull gray stone pillar reaches from floor to ceiling with deep recessions in its west and east faces. These look to be the basins of fountains. However, the western basin and area around it is completely overgrown with mold. Two open doorways face across from these fountains to the east and west.

Electing to handle the mold on his own, Finneal rushes forward – though the air around him grows cold and his breath hangs in the air. He sees a glint of metal in the mold. Upon closer inspection he sees that half submerged in the mold of the western basin is a chainmail sleeve and a withered hand, still and outstretched toward a piece of carved metal. Unfortunately, his intent to clear the mold with fiery magic does not produce the expected results. The brown mold consumes the fiery blast, quickly growing up the gout of flame to encompass him entirely. Changing his tactics, he begins to drop icy spells that just as quickly destroy the mold.

Clear of mold, the withered corpse appears to be an unfortunate tomb robber who was overcome by the heat sapping effect of the mold while attempting to retrieve the carved metal object. The chainmail, though worse for wear, is useable. Almost everything else is deteriorated, including a leather sack so old that it tears at the touch. But among the leather remains, he finds three shattered statuettes and another three that remain in excellent condition – a grand palace, a slim spire with eight connected smaller towers of different heights, and what looks like a grand stadium (each worth 50gp). Finally, he recovers the object of the thief’s desire, an elaborate lantern of carved metal with red glass panes.

With the mold cleared, the fountains slowly begin to flow with fresh clean water. In a flash of inspiration, the heroes place one of the statuettes in the cupped hands of the statues in the alcove. It floats and pirouettes slowly on a cushion of air.

Beyond the mold and through the open doorway to the west, the heroes find a wide chamber with no other exits. It must have been the crypt of an important figure. A large stone sarcophagus rests in the south east corner, its top slid aside. Beyond the sarcophagus is a bas-relief of a robust, long-nosed bald humanoid figure with outstretched hands. The figure wears a lovingly sculpted wind-tossed robe that gives it the appearance of a triumphant god. The sarcophagus has been plundered and lies empty.

Through the open doorway to the east, the heroes find a large chamber with no other exits, its ceiling aglow with what looks like natural sunlight. The light illuminates a series of worktables, vises, spinning wheels, and blocks of unfinished marble that identify the room as a sculptor’s workshop. Lying in the middle of the room is a huge unfinished statue of an imposing bare-chested warrior wielding a staff-like rod in its left hand. The bald figure looks similar to the bas-relief on the sarcophagus upstairs, but is clearly meant to be a different person. Otherwise, the workshop is empty and all that remains are bits of furniture and parts of more elaborate sculpting tools. The daylight coming from the ceiling is a permanent magical effect.

The heroes gingerly remove the wooden staff. Though obviously crafted by a skilled artisan, it is of a very simple style and does not appear to match the ornate style of the statue itself. Finneal and Aranthis notice only six grooves cut at regular intervals around the cylindrical shaft. With some use and magic, they are able to identify it as a Staff of Frost.

Retracing their steps, the heroes climb back to the tomb and push the sarcophagus to face the green lantern. As they do, they hear a great rumbling from the end of the hall below the lantern. A loud groaning noise is followed by very unsettling vibrations in the ground. The tremors grow. The sound of stone scraping and metal bending is apparent as cracks begin to form on the floor at the end of the hallway. Soon after, the rumbling increases in intensity until they hear the crushing fall of heavy stone and the snapping of something metal. There is a loud crash and then silence. A large irregular opening can be seen at the end of the green hallway and dust billows up from the collapsed section of the floor. Shortly thereafter the heroes hear another rumbling cave-in from behind them, from the direction of the keep.

Quietly at first, and then growing in intensity, the heroes hear skittering from below. They ready actions to attack as the cacophony of noise reaches a crescendo – and a veritable geyser of living bugs, mostly spiders, shoots up into the air from below the green lantern. The swarms are quickly thinned by the heroes’ attacks, Finneal’s bursts of magic doing much to thin the swarms. Two swarms ultimately encompass Cedric and Belhorn, scurrying around, in and through their armor. Two large arachnids climb from the ragged hold and leap beyond the fighters to take on the mage and druid. With a bit of collateral damage, the bugs are ultimately squashed.

With time for a short breather, the heroes face at least two clear choices. Continue on past the blue lantern to the carved face above – or descend into the ragged chittering opening below the green lantern.

The Heroes end this session at Level 2 / 1442 XP (442 XP from this session)

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Catt’s 4E: Beneath Winterhaven

July 14, 2012 Leave a comment

Previously in Winterhaven…

The heroes had defended Winterhaven Keep against the onslaught of wave after wave of monsters. The turning point came when they slayed a young red dragon that had unceremoniously breached a main wall of the keep. With the hordes now entrenched for a drawn out siege, Lord Padraig has escorted the heroes to the crypts below the keep – a portion of which has also fallen away. He hopes that through the new-found tunnels below, the party can escape the siege and recruit help from an adventuring buddy, Dar Gremath, in the nearby town of Albridge.

The heroes start this session at Level 2 / 1000 XP!

And now…

Deep below Winterhaven Keep, the collapse of a stone floor and wall revealed a ragged hole in the earth that dropped into a lower open area. Dust still hung in the air from the recent cave-in. The heroes dimly heard the sound of quiet sighs coming from the darkness. Finneal lit up a stone and dropped it into the darkness, dimly illuminating a 30 foot drop into a worked stone hallway that extended northward into darkness. The hall below was quite large – four could easily walk abreast in it. It must have been a trick of the wind, but a faint breeze brought with it whispers – a hollow sighing that was almost life-like.

Wanting no part of a descent into an obviously unstable ruin, Mad Martigen and Akhan decided to trust their fates to scrabbling through the enemy line under the open skies. With luck, they’d meet up with the team on the other side. The rest of the party, reinforced with the recently knighted Cedric of Winterhaven, secured ropes and began their descent.

The hall before them extended northward into darkness. The walls bore mosaics of horizontal bands of simple geometric patterns at waist level. In places the bands revealed startling detail, but in others were eroded by the rigors of time. Flakes of ancient paint, hues of brilliant purple and dull mustard, clung to the walls, hinting at what must once have been a riot of color. Beyond the rubble from the collapsed wall above, a thin coat of dust coated the floor.

Just inside the darkened corridor, the hallway branched into two shallow unremarkable alcoves in the eastern and western walls. Continuing on, the hallway north intersected with another that ran east and west. The walls bore significant damage either from ancient quakes, storms or the age-old construction of the very Keep above. From behind the heroes the wind picked up, and a chorus of almost human whispers rose from the darkness.

Fifteen feet down the east passage, a huge pile of collapsed rubble blocked the passage from top to bottom. From the mass of stone and earth, it would have taken weeks to tunnel through the densely packed debris. The passage to the west ended in an alcove, empty except for an ancient and strange magical device resembling a standing mirror – now shattered.

Continuing north, the central hallway opened into a large chamber with grand wings that led to the east and west. The whispers from the intersecting passages became a chorus in this massive chamber, eerily echoing off the walls. To the west, three short stairs led to a wide marble dais, but the far end of the wing was obscured by darkness. Across the chamber to the north yawned a twenty-foot-wide open arch draped from top to bottom in translucent cobwebs. Columns framing the arch disappear upward into darkness. An eerie green light dimly flickered beyond the webs to the north, casting strange shadows about the chamber. To the east, huge slabs of cracked masonry and irregular piles of scattered debris choked the wing, giving the appearance of complete collapse. Burial alcoves, filled with bones were still visible among the rubble.

As Belhorn began to knock the cobwebs aside, two gargoyles dropped from the darkness above and ambushed the heroes. Amid the sudden rush of wings, a host of skeletons clawed their way out of the loose rubble and dirt. Two of these began to radiate heat and suddenly burst into flames! They launched fiery orbs at the party. After a pitched battle, the heroes were victorious but confounded by a single gargoyle, now reverted to statue form and resistant to damage. At the inventive prompting of Aranthis, the party hoisted a massive boulder above the creature. Upon taking damage, it emerged from its stone form and was quickly overcome.

The heroes found only rusty equipment on their foes. Soklo and Finneal thoroughly investigated the area within and beyond the rubble, finding hundreds of bones and bone fragments – and a decaying backpack. It contained an elaborate lantern of carved metal with indigo glass panes. They also found an intricately carved armband of unmistakable elven craftsmanship, bearing a repeating leaf motif (100gp) and what appears to be a marble index finger broken off a statue.

With time to investigate the west wing, Finneal discovered that the wide dais spanning the end of the passage was framed by a faded fresco that wraps around the south, west, and north walls. From the center of the dais, the wall painting made it appear that he’s stand within a massive room with seven short hallways radiating outward from him. A gleaming brightly colored lantern was painted as hanging from a chain at the end of each hallway. The lanterns spanned all the colors of the rainbow. Aranthis recalled a legend about seven warriors, each with a standard represented by a different color, fighting together to overcome the ancient forces of hell and chaos.

With a flash of magical fire, Finneal cleared the central arched passageway of cobwebs and the heroes made their way north toward the green flickering glow. A short way down the arched passage, a wide stairway descended into an immense domed chamber. The dome reached its apex about thirty feet over the center of the room. At the bottom of the stairs, a green-paned lantern containing what looked like a torch cast a weird, murky light about the room. Countless chips of glass and shiny bits of metal inset into the chamber’s domed ceiling reflected this light, giving the impression of green pale starlight. Motes of dust reflected the pale green light and looked almost like fireflies dancing in the air. Unlike the rest of the cairn, the room was completely silent.

Like the fresco above, seven short tunnels branched from the chamber in all directions, extending some thirty feet before ending in rounded walls. At the end of each passage, a thick chain dangled from a ceiling lost in darkness. The chains bore colorful but unlit lanterns, but two held nothing at all. Judging by the fresco, the red and indigo lanterns were missing. The heroes placed the indigo lantern in its proper place, leaving only one.

Directly below the peak of the dome, atop a circular platform sat a marble tomb. Carved into the lid was a milky white bas-relief figure. It was tall, bald, and carved to be cloaked in a simple garment of flowing cloth. Though the figure looked human, it struck the heroes as ancient. It’s left hand was curled into fist and the right was palm up, with the thumb turned in and all but the index finger (which was missing) extended toward the foot of the tomb. The figure was carved with an amulet at its neck, inscribed with an unusual rune. The marble finger was a perfect match for the broken digit, and showed that the index finger curls to the thumb, leaving three straight digits.

The heroes thoroughly investigated the end of the hallways and around each lantern.

Securing the green lantern and finding a flickering everburning torch inside, Belhorn returned it to its proper place at the end of the green hall. It casts a green pall into the domed chamber.

Aranthis found that two of the halls, the yellow and green ones, had a circular seam in the stone floor, about 5′ in diameter, under the lanterns . The ceiling of each was barely visible, 40 feet above.

Down the blue hall Soklo discovered the crumpled skeletal remains of a humanoid. The bones were quite old and networked with small fractures and breaks. The fractures were consistent with a hard fall. The ceiling seemed to be higher than the other passages (50 feet high). Upon close inspection, the heroes found a passage near the top that appeared to open to the northeast.

Belhorn and Aranthis climbed the chain to the top of the shaft and found a passage extending into the shadows to the northeast. Perhaps seventy feet away it abruptly ended in what looked like a stone carving of an enormous human face. As Aranthis approached the face, she found several long scratch marks on the floor, as if something had been dragged toward the dead fall behind. Suspecting a trap, she continued her approach. With a grinding noise, the eyes opened and a blast of colors assaulted her and Belhorn. Likewise, the mouth opened and a powerful wind began to blow from it. Despite the dazzling effect, Belhorn avoided being stunned and noticed that one color, green, was missing from the light show. He yelled to the group below to light all the lanterns. As they did, the dazzling lights focused down to a single color, red – the color of the one missing lantern.

Hoping to find the red lantern, Cedric ran to the sarcophagus and threw his shoulder to the lid. Upon lifting it an orange noxious gas escaped. The amulet on the lid flared with an orange light and, touching the gas, ignited. A quick rush of air followed by a hot burst of flame enveloped the dais and Cedric. After withstanding the fire burst, Cedric scoured the inside of the sarcophagus – but found it empty.

Dazed, Belhorn and Aranthis withstood the diminished lights and hurricane force wind to carefully retreat to the dead fall. Belhorn was able to set a grappling hook and begin his awkward descent with a stunned Aranthis under one arm. After a momentary slip, he caught the rope and avoided a deadly fall. The two descended to the waiting arms of the group below.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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Catt’s 4E: The Siege of Winterhaven

July 1, 2012 Leave a comment

Deep in the peacefulness of the night hours, Akhan the Ranger became alert. The wooden chair in this small gatehouse in Winterhaven didn’t make as comfortable a resting place as he had first hoped. Muffled, from just outside the gatehouse, he had heard shuffling and low, urgent, guttural whispers. Something was not right. Climbing to the tower top, he looked out beyond the castle wall and was stunned by the sheer number of goblins, kobolds and orcs before him. With little hint and no warning, these normally unorganized and undisciplined rabble had not only gained a foot hold at the base of the wall, but were quietly positioning a crude battering ram to assault the gate! Looking around, he saw that the sentries on the western wall were all slain.

Across the keep, Soklo the Druid, awoke from an unsettling dream – a dream of whispers and thumps in the night. The stone wall at his back was cold to the touch. Reaching for a blanket, he felt only the dew-covered, short-cropped grass. Muffled, from just beyond the wall behind him, he also heard unfamiliar tramping and grunting. Upon cresting the wall and seeing the horde, he wasted no time calling an alarm to rouse the keep.

Aranthis the Bard awakened to the yells from the wall. The gentleman who owned the well-appointed rooms she had rested in for the night was already up and obviously shaken. At his urging, she too arose to the defense of the castle.

Taking up positions at the top of the walls, the trio began to defend the castle in earnest – felling goblins one after another.

Finneal the Wizard awoke to the sounds of the battle and children sobbing. The children of his good friend were huddled in a corner of the room and were looking fearfully at the door. With a quick word of comfort, he also took a position on the wall.

Dau’um the Cleric and Belhorn the Fighter awoke to a commotion. An authoritarian voice was urgently rousing men in the barracks. Through a groggy haze they made out the words “Attack” and “To Arms!” as the commander at arms threw helmets at sleeping men and dragged them from their bunks. They too took up defensive positions on the western wall.

A skittish horse almost trampled Martigen the mad Dwarf as it danced around the stable and through the hay where he made his bed the previous night. At a thundering boom that shakes the main gate, it rears up. Martigen, still reeling from the prior night’s revelry, ran to the gate to meet the force.

The party’s attacks and able leadership of the keep’s defenders quickly dealt with the immediate threat of the battering ram. They then turned to thinning the goblin troops scaling the wall. The goblin archers below release volley after volley at the top of the wall but were dealt harsh blows by the keep’s ballistae. As the dust settled, a sole minion fled toward the tree line – and was unceremoniously beheaded by an orc warlord as he tried to escape.

Having thwarted the initial onslaught, the defenders had time for a short rest. Surveying the damage below, almost 30 goblins lay at the base of the keep wall. Amongst them, Mad Martigen sat sharpening his axe. Two scattered piles of corpses, goblin archers, flanked the field of battle, having been decimated by the ballistae.

Surveying the troops amassed at the tree line, Akhan noticed that intermixed with the goblin rabble were kobolds and some more disciplined troops. Here and there small groups of hobgoblins, bugbears, orcs and even a few gnolls could be seen, segregated from the main force. He could pick out an orc warlord or two by the whips and blows they leveled on the goblin rabble. Forcing their troops to choose between the whips and the keep, the warlords inspired another charge at the walls.

Once again the party handily thinned out the attackers. Using the scaling ropes against the foes, Belhorn and Dau’um joined Martigen at the base of the castle walls to take the fight to the goblins. With this second charge turned aside, the warlords – one sorely wounded from a ballista bolt – slowly withdrew. The number of goblin dead now exceeded 70, with but a few more keep defenders slain. Having turned aside the charge, the defenders settled in for a second short rest.

Then the leaves beyond the tree line shook as something massive pushed its way through the forest. The trees at the edge of the dense forest toppled, and a huge serpentine form emerged from the brush. It spread a mighty pair of wings and with a tremendous leap, lumbered into the air – the force of the gusts sending nearby kobolds tumbling.

Aranthis noticed a handful of defenders break ranks and run for cover, disheartened at the sight of the red dragon. She saw this would leave the massive ballistae atop the turrets unmanned. With her encouraging words, she stemmed the tide of retreat and restored hope to the defenders – who for the most part returned to their posts.

The young red dragon dove toward the castle attempting to grab, bite, burn or otherwise dislodge defenders from the walls. With a fiery breath, one of the western towers erupted in flame. Embolden by their god gone to war, the kobold troop rushed to the attack.

Just then a youth in robes with a gnarled staff joined Finneal atop the western tower. Furiously casting his one spell, magic missile, at the dragon, he quickly succumbed to arrows. Finneal administered aid to the youth, saving him from a quick  death.

With various spells and attacks the party brought the dragon down from the skies. On more equal footing, they engaged the beast directly with axes, hammers and arrows.

In a last desperate attempt to flee, the dragon jumped aloft. At that moment Akhan fired a well-timed ballista bolt, followed by an arrow, at the dragon. The dragon now 40′ above the defenders took an ungainly lurch as the bolt lodged in its side, just below the wing. With the following arrow, that wing completely crumpled. Unable to control its flight, the dragon careened into the keep wall. With the tremendous impact, the western wall shuddered and collapsed. The dragon, stunned, tried to regain its feet in an awkward dance of fury and pain. The few remaining kobold troops, seeing that their god fallen, broke ranks and fled. The dragon’s vicious death throes were ended by attacks from Soklo, his bear and Dau’um.

Though stunned by the dragon’s death, the warlords spy the collapsed wall and send in an elite troop to take advantage of the new breach – two bugbears and a team of goblins.

On the field of battle before the castle of Winterhaven, the heroes stood alone and turned aside this final assault.

Their initial battle plan spoiled by the heroes, the larger force finally broke off and withdrew to the tree line to regain their strength. Akhan saw that they were erecting pickets and appeared to be settling in for the long haul. The garrison of the keep manned the breach in the wall while the folk of Winterhaven began hasty repairs.

At the heroes return, the defenders sent up a cheer and reveled in the successful defense of the keep. Amid their grimy and bloody faces were white-toothed smiles and even laughter as they jested about the dragon’s fateful dive.

“Ho, ho! It never saw that bolt a comin’! Hit ‘im like a hill giant’s stone, it did!”
“If ever the very stone of the wall could be dented, that woulda done it for sure.”
“Did ya see that muddled dance, he did!”

With the immediate danger turned aside, Lord Padraig approached. His obvious relief conflicted by the weight of rebuilding the keep’s defenses against the next inevitable assault.

“My friends, we couldn’t a held this castle without your heroic actions. You’ve bought us some time and for that, I’m sorely grateful. My men and I are in your debt.”

“However, I fear our victory may be short lived. Even now the vermin lurk just beyond the tree line, marshalling their strength – even though the loss o’ that flyin’ beastie is sure to have dealt them a serious blow!”

“We should be able to hold the breach, but now our need is to break this siege – and we won’t be doin’ that holed up like rats. I need ye to break through their ranks and rally the militia at Albridge. Find me old adventuring mate, Dar Gremath, and bring him to our aid.”

Just then a hand maiden ran up to Lord Padraig and whispered to him. With a grim look to the party, he bid them to follow. On the way, he yelled to one of the men at arms “Throw open the keep’s armory and bring me the best o’ what we got!”

As they wound their way to the lowest floor of the keep, Lord Padraig shared.

“A wall and portion of the floor deep below the keep has given way. I fear it’s been undermined by tha horde.”

However, upon arrival it was sure that the expanse below was not a newly dug tunnel.

Just then from behind Lord Padraig, a kindly quiet ancient man approached, intoning to himself in a quiet whisper.

“The hopes of men torn with woe.
longed for freedom from their foe.
The seven best, bold and bright,
tasked to end the hated blight.”

Arnathis recognized it as an ancient verse, sometimes still quoted as part of a child’s rhyme.

Padraig, with deference, introduced the old man as Father Zachary, the spiritual leader of Winterhaven.

Father Zachary stepped to Finneal with a gnarled staff in his hands. His eyes wet and his robes blood stained.

“Twas my son whom you saved. He asked I give this to thee. Though he has lost heart for battle perhaps it may still be of some service.”

With that he presented a staff to Finneal.

The ragged hole before them dropped away into darkness, providing access down into some lower open area. Dust still hung in the air from the recent collapse of the wall.

Examining the hole below, Lord Padraig turned to the heroes with a glint in his eye and laid out his newly formed plan.

“Tho’ curious this may be, it may be tha break we’re lookin’ for. With some luck the chambers below will lead beyond the line and give ye clear passage to Albridge. If ye’ll but agree to rally them to our aid, you can take these arms and my blessing. We’ll defend the walls ’til your return!”

The Heroes end this session at Level 2 / 1000 XP!

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